The six-month nuclear agreement among Iran and the “5+1” countries has been described as a breakthrough, a departure, a disaster or a betrayal, depending on the speaker. Much of the language of the agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 reeks of imperialist arrogance.

Whatever one’s attitude toward the agreement, however, it is essential first and foremost for all progressive forces to unite and make a clear call to end all the criminal sanctions and attacks on the sovereignty of Iran and the imperialists’ targeting of the Iranian population.

In examining this interim agreement, we should first look at the reasons why Iran and the U.S. signed it, and who benefits.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany are the “5+1.” The U.S. and its allies based their approach on the repeated charge that Iran’s developing nuclear energy leads to production of nuclear weapons, which they allege is an ominous threat to world peace.

All six nations involved in the talks with Iran have used nuclear energy for more than 50 years. All but Germany have a nuclear weapons arsenal. The U.S. has the largest such arsenal “ready to deliver,” is the only one that has ever used nuclear bombs on people, and U.S. imperialism continues to routinely threaten first nuclear strikes against countries that have no such weapons.

There is a clear meaning to the term every U.S. president since Truman has used: “All options are on the table.” U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers and Trident nuclear submarines, capable of destroying all life on earth in one launch, prowl the seas, including the waters directly off the coast of Iran.

The Geneva talks were based on the premise that the U.S. and its allies would ease sanctions strangling Iran’s economy; in return, Iran would freeze and then roll back its nuclear technology development. This is the imperialists’ goal, even though the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed, guarantees each country the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

U.S. sanctions legislation has demanded that every country in the world participate in a blockade of Iran or face severe U.S. trade, banking and insurance sanctions. The global blockade resulted in undermining Iran’s currency by more than 60 percent and oil production by more than 50 percent.

No demands are made on Israel, the U.S. proxy in the region. Israel possesses 100 to 300 nuclear weapons and has not signed the NPT nor ever submitted to an inspection.

 Terms of the agreement

It is worth reading the short, 1,500-word “Joint Plan of Action” signed with Iran. It begins with this outrageous assertion: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Of course, none of the 5 +1 have ever agreed to any similar pledge.

In order to gain access to $7 billion of the more than $100 billion of its own funds seized and frozen in accounts around the world, Iran must agree to undergo daily and unannounced inspections of its modest nuclear energy program. This includes its reactors, production workshops, storage facilities, uranium mines and mills, and all records of these facilities.

Developing nuclear weapons requires enriching uranium to more than 90 percent of the fissionable U-235 isotope. Iran must agree to not enrich its uranium to more than 5 percent and to dilute its limited stock of uranium already enriched to 20 percent.

The agreement stipulates that accepting these intrusive measures on Iran’s sovereignty will lead to a six-month pause in efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales and suspension of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s auto industry and spare parts for Iran’s civil aviation.

The agreement will allow Iran to purchase, with funds the U.S seized, food and agricultural products, medicine, medical devices and pay the tuition of Iranian students studying in universities abroad.

Lifting even a little of the thick, strangling web of sanctions shows just how invasive and targeted the sanctions are.

Sanctions began with 1979 Revolution

In evaluating this agreement, it is essential to know that U.S. hostility and U.S.-imposed sanctions began long before Iran revived its nuclear energy program.

After the revolutionary overturn of the brutal U.S.-imposed monarchy in 1979 fundamentally decreased U.S. influence in the entire region, the first U.S. sanctions on Iran began. The anti-imperialist upheaval — with a radical Muslim religious current playing a leading role — transformed Iranian society. It also liberated Iran’s oil and gas resources from the unequal contracts serving the giant oil corporations of Exxon, Mobil and Shell.

U.S. strategy since 1979 has been to destabilize the Iranian state and sabotage Iran’s economy in order to again dominate the country’s rich resources. Washington has used industrial sabotage, assassinations of political leaders and scientists, and military encirclement.

In 1979, Washington seized $10 billion of Iran’s own money held in U.S. banks. Over the years, Wall Street has seized billions in other Iranian assets that now total more than $100 billion in frozen funds. U.S. pressure included economic ruptures through the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Export-Import Bank and cancellation of hundreds of contracts.

Long before Iran revived its nuclear energy development to meet growing energy needs, the U.S. made every attempt through sanctions to block Iran’s ability to build oil refineries to refine its own oil and gas. Iran was a major exporter of crude oil, but was forced to import refined oil products at far higher costs.

Finally in 2011, after completion of seven new refineries, Iran ceased being a gas importer. But sanctions blocked Iran’s plans to export refined gas.

By developing its economy independent of Wall Street theft and domination and controlling its own resources, Iran was transformed within three decades from an underdeveloped country into a modern state with a highly educated population. While capitalist relations prevail, the population was still able to win guaranteed, comprehensive, free medical care; free education, including university; a modern infrastructure; and housing with full electrification.

Women’s education has improved from majority illiteracy to full literacy. More than 60 percent of university students are now female.

The Iranian revolution has enraged Wall Street and all the forces of reaction and feudal power in the region by providing political and material support to the Palestinian liberation struggle, the Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation and the Syrian government resisting regime change.

Along with failing to destabilize Iran, the U.S. has utterly failed to stabilize its rule in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, despite massive destruction. Its plans for a quick overturn in Syria have also met determined resistance, despite billions of dollars in funds, equipment and training of mercenary forces.

As its economic position declines, Washington planners are trying to shift their overextended military power further east to confront China’s growing economic position. Overwhelming sentiment in the U.S. against another war has also pressured Washington to try new tactics.

Washington’s broken treaties

The U.S. government’s record of 200 years of unequal and broken treaties with the Indigenous nations of North America shows that diplomacy and talks have always been used as a form of warfare. For Wall Street, intervals of peace are preparatory periods for the next war.

More recently, in 2003 the U.S. agreed to relax pressure on Libya if that country gave up nuclear ambitions. By 2006, all sanctions on Libya were ended and many economic deals with the West opened up. Yet in 2011, the U.S. and NATO engineered the destruction of Libya.

The outcome of the continuing nuclear talks in Geneva won’t change the basis of U.S. corporate power’s decades of hostility towards Iran.

That Washington actually did sign this interim agreement with Iran, however, has shown that imperialist plans to totally destroy an oppressed country have fallen short. If the imperialists can’t outright steal what they want, it means at least a limited victory for the oppressed.

These treaties have similarities to the class struggle represented in every union contract. Even with a strong union, workers are never paid the full value of their labor under capitalism. Nevertheless, it is a struggle and a victory to win even a minimal, signed union contract.

The Iranian government has years of experience in U.S. duplicity. In 2003, Iran’s then President Khatami, with current President Rouhani as the chief negotiator, voluntarily suspended nuclear enrichment and for two years allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to make intrusive inspections, with the expectation that the imperialists would cut back on sanctions. President George W. Bush nevertheless ratcheted up new sanctions, listed Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil” and one of the three nations targeted for regime change.

Sections of the U.S. ruling class might well look to sign an agreement with some Iranian forces that U.S. strategists believe might make an accommodation with imperialism or that they could utilize to open up a deeper struggle inside Iran. Washington would seize on any internal instability in Iran as an opportunity for a new offensive.

Other powerful U.S. corporate forces that have a far more profitable stake in war and militarism will attempt many ways to sabotage even this short-term agreement. Israel and Saudi Arabia, as dependent U.S. proxies in the region and whose position and billions of dollars in military equipment is based on their role promoting war and instability, are both threatened by any form of agreement with Iran. New U.S. congressional sanctions may put an end to even this minimal thaw.

What does Iran gain?

Immediately following the agreement, France’s Peugeot, Citroen and Renault auto manufacturers, along with representatives of German, South Korean and Japanese car makers, announced they were sending executives to an automotive conference in early December in Tehran, considered the starting gun in a race for post-sanctions business.

Before the latest round of U.S.-imposed international sanctions, France shipped semibuilt cars to Iran as “kits” for assembly by Iranian companies such as Iran Khodro and SAIPA.

More than 100,000 autoworkers were laid off as sanctions hit Iran’s biggest manufacturing industry, forcing plants to operate at less than half capacity.

The six-month agreement “will have a pretty swift impact in a sector that is a big source of Iranian jobs — so this is more than just symbolic,” said Thierry Coville, an Iran specialist at IRIS, a French international relations think tank.

Iran is planning how to get beyond the six-month interim agreement and is looking to expand its contacts beyond Peugeot and Renault to prevent future trade restrictions. There are also contacts at the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce. India announced plans to accelerate an Indian port project at Chabahar to access Iranian goods coming via Afghanistan. The leading Turkish pharmaceutical company, Abdi Ibrrahim, is looking at sales of medicine and medical devices. (Reuters, Nov. 29)

Iran’s long struggle for sovereignty over its resources and its own future will at least gain some breathing space in this round of diplomatic war. If the continued talks are sabotaged, then the people of Iran will again learn by their own experience what imperialism is.

By raising the many difficulties imposed by past sanctions, the anti-war movement here can stay focused on demands to end all the sanctions and war threats against Iran.

December 23rd marks the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve. Dissatisfaction with its track record has prompted calls to audit the Fed and end the Fed.  At the least, Congress needs to amend the Fed, modifying the Federal Reserve Act to give the central bank the tools necessary to carry out its mandates.

The Federal Reserve is the only central bank with a dual mandate. It is charged not only with maintaining low, stable inflation but with promoting maximum sustainable employment. Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high, despite four years of radical tinkering with interest rates and quantitative easing (creating money on the Fed’s books). After pushing interest rates as low as they can go, the Fed has admitted that it has run out of tools.

At an IMF conference on November 8, 2013, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers suggested that since near-zero interest rates were not adequately promoting people to borrow and spend, it might now be necessary to set interest at below zero. This idea was lauded and expanded upon by other ivory-tower inside-the-box thinkers, including Paul Krugman.

Negative interest would mean that banks would charge the depositor for holding his deposits rather than paying interest on them. Runs on the banks would no doubt follow, but the pundits have a solution for that: move to a cashless society, in which all money would be electronic. “This would make it impossible to hoard cash outside the bank,” wrote Danny Vinik in Business Insider, “allowing the Fed to cut interest rates to below zero, spurring people to spend more.” He concluded:

. . . Summers’ speech is a reminder to all liberals that he is a brilliant economist who grasps the long-term issues of monetary policy and would likely have made an exemplary Fed chair.

Maybe; but to ordinary mortals living in the less rarefied atmosphere of the real world, the proposal to impose negative interest rates looks either inane or like the next giant step toward the totalitarian New World Order. Business Week quotes Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office: “We’ve had four years of extraordinarily loose monetary policy without satisfactory results, and the only thing they come up with is we need more?”

Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, calls the idea “harebrained.” He is equally skeptical of quantitative easing, the Fed’s other tool for stimulating the economy. Roberts points to Andrew Huszar’s explosive November 11th Wall Street Journal article titled “Confessions of a Quantitative Easer,” in which Huszar says that QE was always intended to serve Wall Street, not Main Street.  Huszar’s assignment at the Fed was to manage the purchase of $1.25 trillion in mortgages with dollars created on a computer screen. He says he resigned when he realized that the real purpose of the policy was to drive up the prices of the banks’ holdings of debt instruments, to provide the banks with trillions of dollars at zero cost with which to lend and speculate, and to provide the banks with “fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed’s QE transactions.”

A Helicopter Drop That Missed Its Target

 All this is far from the helicopter drop proposed by Ben Bernanke in 2002 as a quick fix for deflation. He told the Japanese, “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.” Later in the speech he discussed “a money-financed tax cut,” which he said was “essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman’s famous ‘helicopter drop’ of money.” Deflation could be cured, said Professor Friedman, simply by dropping money from helicopters.

But there has been no cloudburst of money raining down on the people. The money has gotten only into the reserve accounts of banks. John Lounsbury, writing in Econintersect, observes that Friedman’s idea of a helicopter drop involved debt-free money printed by the government and landing in people’s bank accounts.

“He foresaw the money entering the economy through bank deposits, not through bank reserves which was the pathway available to Bernanke. . . . [W]hen Ben Bernanke fired up his helicopter engines he took the only path available to him.”

Bernanke created debt-free money and bought government debt with it, returning the interest to the Treasury. The result was interest-free credit, a good deal for the government. But the problem, says Lounsbury, is that:

The helicopters dropped all the money into a hole in the ground (excess reserve accounts) and very little made its way into the economy.  It was essentially a rearrangement of the balance sheets of the creditor nation with little impact on the debtor nation.

. . . The fatal flaw of QE is that it delivers money to the accounts of the creditors and does nothing for the accounts of the debtors. Bad debts remain unserviced and the debt crisis continues.

Thinking Outside the Box

Bernanke delivered the money to the creditors because that was all the Federal Reserve Act allowed. If the Fed is to fulfill its mandate, it clearly needs more tools; and that means amending the Act.  Harvard professor Ken Rogoff, who spoke at the November 2013 IMF conference before Larry Summers, suggested several possibilities; and one was to broaden access to the central bank, allowing anyone to have an ATM at the Fed.

Rajiv Sethi, Barnard/Columbia Professor of Economics, expanded on this idea in a blog titled “The Payments System and Monetary Transmission.” He suggested making the Federal Reserve the repository for all deposit banking. This would make deposit insurance unnecessary; it would eliminate the need to impose higher capital requirements; and it would allow the Fed to implement monetary policy by targeting debtor rather than creditor balance sheets. Instead of returning its profits to the Treasury, the Fed could do a helicopter drop directly into consumer bank accounts, stimulating demand in the consumer economy.

John Lounsbury expanded further on these ideas. He wrote in Econintersect that they would open a pathway for investment banking and depository banking to be separated from each other, analogous to that under Glass-Steagall. Banks would no longer be too big to fail, since they could fail without destroying the general payment system of the economy. Lounsbury said the central bank could operate as a true public bank and repository for all federal banking transactions, and it could operate in the mode of a postal savings system for the general populace.

Earlier Central Bank Ventures into Commercial Lending

That sounds like a radical departure today, but the Fed has ventured into commercial banking before. In 1934, Section 13(b) was added to the Federal Reserve Act, authorizing the Fed to “make credit available for the purpose of supplying working capital to established industrial and commercial businesses.” This long-forgotten section was implemented and remained in effect for 24 years. In a 2002 article on the Minneapolis Fed’s website called “Lender of More Than Last Resort,” David Fettig noted that 13(b) allowed Federal Reserve banks to make loans directly to any established businesses in their districts, and to share in loans with private lending institutions if the latter assumed 20 percent of the risk. No limitation was placed on the amount of a single loan.

Fettig wrote that “the Fed was still less than 20 years old and many likely remembered the arguments put forth during the System’s founding, when some advocated that the discount window should be open to all comers, not just member banks.” In Australia and other countries, the central bank was then assuming commercial as well as central bank functions.

Section 13(b) was eventually repealed, but the Federal Reserve Act retained enough vestiges of it in 2008 to allow the Fed to intervene to save a variety of non-bank entities from bankruptcy. The problem was that the tool was applied selectively. The recipients were major corporate players, not local businesses or local governments. Fettig wrote:

 Section 13(b) may be a memory, . . . but Section 13 paragraph 3 . . . is alive and well in the Federal Reserve Act. . . . [T]his amendment allows, “in unusual and exigent circumstances,” a Reserve bank to advance credit to individuals, partnerships and corporations that are not depository institutions.

In 2008, the Fed bailed out investment company Bear Stearns and insurer AIG, neither of which was a bank. Bear Stearns got almost $1 trillion in short-term loans, with interest rates as low as 0.5%. The Fed also made loans to other corporations, including GE, McDonald’s, and Verizon.

In 2010, Section 13(3) was modified by the Dodd-Frank bill, which replaced the phrase “individuals, partnerships and corporations” with the vaguer phrase “any program or facility with broad-based eligibility.” As explained in the notes to the bill:

 Only Broad-Based Facilities Permitted. Section 13(3) is modified to remove the authority to extend credit to specific individuals, partnerships and corporations. Instead, the Board may authorize credit under section 13(3) only under a program or facility with “broad-based eligibility.”

What programs have “broad-based eligibility” is not clear from a reading of the Section, but it isn’t individuals or local businesses. It also isn’t state and local governments.

No Others Need Apply

In 2009, President Obama proposed that the Fed extend its largess to the cash-strapped cities and states battered by the banking crisis. “Small businesses and state and local governments are having serious difficulty obtaining necessary financing from debt markets,” Obama said. He proposed that the Fed buy municipal bonds to cut their rising borrowing costs.

The proposed municipal bond facility would have been based on the Fed program to buy commercial paper, which had almost single-handedly propped up the market for short-term corporate borrowing. Investors welcomed the muni bond proposal as a first step toward supporting the market.

But Bernanke rejected the proposal. Why? It could hardly be argued that the Fed didn’t have the money. The collective budget deficit of the states for 2011 was projected at $140 billion, a drop in the bucket compared to the sums the Fed had managed to come up with to bail out the banks. According to data released in 2011, the central bank had provided roughly $3.3 trillion in liquidity and $9 trillion in short-term loans and other financial arrangements to banks, multinational corporations, and foreign financial institutions following the credit crisis of 2008. Later revelations pushed the sum up to $16 trillion or more.

Bernanke’s reasoning in saying no to the muni bond facility was that he lacked the statutory tools.. The Fed is limited by statute to buying municipal government debt with maturities of six months or less that is directly backed by tax or other assured revenue, a form of debt that makes up less than 2% of the overall muni market.

The Federal Reserve Act was drafted by bankers to create a banker’s bank that would serve their interests. It is their own private club, and its legal structure keeps all non-members out.  A century after the Fed’s creation, a sober look at its history leads to the conclusion that it is a privately controlled institution whose corporate owners use it to direct our entire economy for their own ends, without democratic influence or accountability.  Substantial changes are needed to transform the Fed, and these will only come with massive public pressure.

Congress has the power to amend the Fed – just as it did in 1934, 1958 and 2010. For the central bank to satisfy its mandate to promote full employment and to become an institution that serves all the people, not just the 1%, the Fed needs fundamental reform.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her blog articles are at

Abby Martin speaks with former genocide investigator Keith Harmon Snow, about the whitewashing of human atrocities in the Middle East and Africa and how western powers profit from genocide.

Watch the video below to get the full story.

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Now that Madiba is dead…

beware the icon makers
they will say he was great
they will laud his calls for peace
they will wring their hands and cry
speaking only of the man
disregarding the people
explaining away the movement
pretending the revolution was won
they will deny their guilt
denying their privilege
obscuring his birth in the pains and the blood of his people
denying the capital crimes
of neoliberal friends of apartheid still alive
now that Mandela is dead

they will say no one else will come
they will wink that we still organize
they will pretend that de Klerk was his friend
they will ignore the birth pangs in Jo’burg today
pretending to honor him with deceitful silence
in the face of Capetown shanties and Manenburg misery
and Durban oppression
while former murderers still prey
and bougie negros still play
while lying bishops still pray
and corporations still rape
and the people in South Africa still die
like people across the Global South
as the Revolution dies as Madiba’s children live in squalor
as the wine growers awake in shacks
as the homeless sleep beneath the floors of stores—after hours
when they will not be seen while they are still being sold

beware the speakers of phrases that lie
they will disremember liberation struggles
that have yet to be won
they will pretend that Mandela belonged to them
denying the people to whom he belonged

remember to remember Chris Hani
remember to remember Robben Island
remember to remember the South African Charter
remember to remember that icons created by oppressors
will never liberate the people
remember to remember that they are still killing Martin
remember to remember that they are still killing Malcolm
remember to remember that Assata still lives
remember to remember that our liberation will be sold to us for profits
unless we work for it with our minds and our actions
then we will remember Mandela as he was
for he will live inside us
and the lies will no longer deceive
because the struggle will continue
and the last will be first at last

From M Thandabantu Iverson,

Forwarded by Ezili’s Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network

The French planned operation in the Central African Republic is a part of the ongoing inner-imperialist rivalry between France and the United States for control of post-colonial Africa, Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire, told RT.

President Hollande has said that France will take immediate military action as sectarian violence escalates in the Central African Republic.

 Earlier the UN Security Council voted to allow French troops to join an African peacekeeping force.

 Fresh clashes between local militias in the capital Bangui have killed about 100 people and wounded scores more.

RT: Shouldn’t France have taken action earlier as the violence there has been escalating since March when the president was toppled? Why now is this suddenly an issue?

Abayomi Azikiwe: This is something that has been planned now for several months. The French already have troops inside the Central African Republic, [in] the capital of Bangui. They’ve admitted to at least 650 troops who have been there for considerable amount of time. They claim they are there to protect France’s interests as well as French citizens. This is a former French colony.

We also have to keep in mind that this is not the first time that France intervenes in the affairs of the Central African Republic or other former French colonies on the African continent. So this is something that has been anticipated now for several months. At this point they feel very strongly that they have the backing of the UN Security Council in pursuing this effort.

RT: Do you think that the French-led troops are even capable of taking control over the situation in the country? Is foreign intervention an answer?

AA: No, foreign intervention is not the answer. I don’t believe that France has the capability of normalizing the situation inside the Central African Republic. France is only pursuing its own national interests. It’s also competing with the role of the United States on the African continent. The US has intervened extensively over the last several years in Africa in numerous countries. There is the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) that has thousands of troops right now involved in operations all over the continent and even off the coast of both East and West Africa.

So France doesn’t want to be left out of this new scramble for Africa. People have to keep in mind that the Central African Republic has very important strategic resources such as gold, diamonds and uranium, which are essential to the overall international economic system. So this is a part of the ongoing inner-imperialist rivalry between France and the United States for control of post-colonial Africa.

RT: You mentioned that France is acting in its own interests. But from the outside it definitely looks like a repetition of what we’ve seen in Mali, where local authorities called for French assistance in curbing the Islamic insurgency. Why is Paris so interested in helping France’s former colonies out?

AA: Well, they are not interested in helping the former colonies out, they are interested in pursuing their own economic, political and strategic interests, and [interests] of the opposition in the Central African Republic, which has requested French intervention. But the Seleka government, which is there in power now, has a very small margin of support inside the country, and Seleka itself is not a uniform coalition. It is composed of four different former rebel organizations.

The leader of the group Michel Djotodia is Islamic and the Muslim population there constitutes less than 20 percent of the overall demographics inside the Central African Republic. They can utilize the fact politically that Seleka is a Muslim-dominated coalition, which is trying to control the government there, but by no means is it Islamic or Orient in terms of this political outlook inside the country. You also have competing forces outside of Seleka. Some of them are still loyal to the former president François Bozizé who himself was overthrown earlier this year.

Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire

 The White House refusal to recognize China’s new air-defense identification zone (ADIZ) is a knee-jerk reaction that reveals an astounding ignorance of historical, legal and geopolitical issues in Asia and the Pacific. The US-Japan Security Treaty, as a defense agreement to protect the Japanese homeland against foreign invasion, was never intended for settling boundary conflicts, as in the current cases of the Senkaku-Diaoyu islets dispute with China, the Tokishima-Tokdo tussle with South Korea and the Northern Territories-South Kurile claim against Russia. Washington should not poke its long nose into these bilateral matters of limited local concern, just as Japan should never militarily intervene in the U.S. border problems with Mexico.

If anything should cause Washington to desist from war-mongering, it is the Japanese claim that there exists no islets dispute whatsoever. Tokyo maintains the pretense that the Senkaku-Diaoyu issue is just being exploited by Beijng for energy-exploration domination of the seabed and that the controversy will soon blow over like a summer squall. This diplomatic posture is, in reality, contradicted by the dispatch of battle-ready Japanese warships and fighter aircraft to the surrounding waters and airspace.


Japan has drawn its own ADIZ, modeling it after the 1945 airspace map drawn up by the U.S. occupation force.  The Japanese claim includes not just those barren rocks but also a vast swath of far inside the continental shelf, which is claimed by China and South Korea. In 2011, Beijing and Seoul filed a joint position paper and complaint with the United Nations against Japanese encroachment across the continental shelf.

Rejecting the World Court

The quickest resolution to the Senkaku-Diaoyu quarrel, along with the overlapping air-defense zones, is to bring a territorial case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world court that handles international boundary disputes at The Hague. The ICJ requires sovereign parties involved in the dispute to accept the court’s jurisdiction and abide by its ruling. Japan’s rejection of an ICJ case therefore indicates serious weaknesses in its territorial claims under existing international law.

The U.S. is thus backing a sure loser under the UN Law of the Sea, rendering its support for Japanese control over the Senkaku an untenable and probably illegal act of maritime aggression and territorial expansionism. For a nation that from its very inception has supported freedom of navigation and national sovereignty, Washington’s bias toward the Japanese claim runs counter to America’s traditional standards of maritime law.

Before proceeding, as someone born on Japanese soil it is difficult not to be arguing instead in Japan’s defense against hostile neighboring countries. Protection of one’s native land is paramount, especially when considering the fact that Japan has so little acreage compared with its gigantic neighbors. By the same token, for its national honor, Japan should relinquish any territory that might still be illegally held as a vestige of the colonialist policies of the past 120 years. The seizure and renaming of those tiny islets was a disgraceful act of international deception, which harms Japan’s postwar policy of legitimate self-defense under international law.

Logic of Air Defense Zones


China’s recent move to declare an air-defense zone is not precedent-setting, since the U.S., Japan and South Korea have already imposed their own arbitrary ADIZ boundaries in the East China Sea. Under ADIZ rules, which by the way are not regulated by any international treaty, civilian aircraft are required to notify the relevant national air-traffic authority of its flight plan and aircraft number.


These security measures are especially needed over disputed maritime areas to avert the shoot-down of a civilian aircraft mistaken as a military intruder. The potential for the deliberated downing of a passenger jet was highlighted in the missile that struck KAL007 in 1983, when a Korean Airline jet was flown on a CIA espionage mission over a Soviet air-defense base on the Kamchatka Peninsula, just north of Japan. An air-defense zone is therefore sometimes necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation and to discourage harmful incidents by intelligence agencies or terrorist hijackers.

There is a darker side to this airspace dispute, which none of the parties are willing to admit. Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, during his last year in office, led an ultranationalist team of civil engineers to plan the construction of a helipad, capable of landing light aircraft, on the largest islet Uotsuri. Donations for Tokyo’s Olympic bid were allegedly misappropriated in 2012 for the quasi-military project, according the city press.

Ishihara’s intervention in the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute was initiated much earlier, back  in 1996 with the construction of a lighthouse on the islets, intended to enable boat landings, by the Japan Youth Federation. This rightist organization was created by a Ginza-based yakuza group whose members are “zai-nichi” or ethnic Koreans, specifically descendants of collaborators with the Japanese colonialist occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1895 to 1945. The ethnic gangster group provided campaign funds for Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Ishihara in spite of his racist agitation against third-world immigrants from Korea, China and the Philippines.

Manchurian Memories

More worrisome perhaps from the Chinese historical perspective is the potential for covert sabotage of one of Japan’s own passenger jets. A violent plane crash, blamed on Beijing, could rally international support for invoking the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to launch a counterstrike against Beijing. Then notorious precedent for false-flag attacks was set in the 1931 Mukden Incident, when Imperial Army officers bombed the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railroad (Mantetsu). The clandestine operation provided the pretext for an outright military invasion of northeast China . Soon after the plot was exposed in the world press, Japanese Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, former head of the Mantetsu, led the 1933 walk-out from League of Nations, which marked the actual start of World War II.

 The legacy of the Manchurian covert operation is also a major chapter in the family history of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather Nobusuke Kishi became the finance and economy minister of the puppet state of Manchukuo as a direct beneficiary of that false-flag attack. Inside Manchuria , Kishi sponsored the infamous bioweapons Unit 731, which launched mass-murder attacks on populous cities with bubonic plague and Hanta virus. Simultaneously, Kishi served as wartime head of the Munitions Ministry, which developed an atomic bomb program on Konan ( Hungnam Island ) in northern Korea and inside Fukushima Prefecture .

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is an unrepentant admirer of his grandfather Kishi, often quoting his forebear on the necessity of nuclear weapons for Japan . The naval standoff around the Senkaku-Diaoyu islets, as a provocation campaign, is connected with the continuing nuclear armaments program centered in Fukushima Prefecture, where the military ran uranium and thorium mines in the late 1930s, under a secret project codenamed BUND-1.

The pall of secrecy is being reinforced by the Liberal Democratic Party, which has just rammed through a state secrets law aimed at suppressing whistleblowers and journalists on grounds of national security in foreign affairs. While the Senkaku-Diaoyu clash serves as a news diversion from the massive radioactive releases from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, the maritime conflict also serves as a rallying point for Abe’s calls for “nuclear capability”.

The postwar “peace” Constitution, forbidding Japan from war as an instrument of state policy, was drafted with assistance from Americans aiming to prevent a repeat of the wartime horrors. However, a by-now forgotten point that needs reminding is that the United States was a de facto ally of Japanese militarist aggression in Manchuria, where U.S. Army observers and railway engineers with the Harriman-owned Union Pacific Railway were stationed until just before the Pearl Harbor attack..

Statements by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in support of Tokyo’s claims on the islets reveal a deep-seated split between the Pentagon’s global military agenda and the State Department’s traditional support for democracy and sovereignty.

Deceptions in History

Tokyo’s claim to the Senkaku group is based on the principle of “terra nullis”, a Latin term that means the site was uninhabited and unclaimed until discovery by Japan. On historical record, however, the Diaoyu group was registered as part of Toucheng Township in northeast Taiwan, the closest land mass to those islets (140 kilometers versus 170 km distance from Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture).

Japanese “discovery” of the islets in January 1895 happened to coincide with the seven-month-long First Sino-Japanese War. That conflict ended in April of that same year with the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, under which diplomats of the defeated Qing Dynasty ceded the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan to Japanese rule.

While that treaty, drafted and signed under coercion, did not specifically mention the Diaoyu group, those islets formed the critical flank for subsequent Japanese naval operations, which began in June against resistance from the newly declared Republic of Formosa. Japanese cruisers and troop carriers had to cruise past the Senkaku isets to attack the offshore Pescadore Islands in the Taiwan Strait and then proceed to the southernmost tip of Taiwan. In short, capture of the Daioyu was an integral step in Japan’s first war against China and in preparation for its military takeover of Taiwan.

Roots of American-Japanese militarism

Taiwan was the victim of aggression from the first joint U.S.-Japan military operations decades prior to the Nine-Power intervention against the Boxer Rebellion, which destroyed Beijing and Tianjin at the turn of the century. The punitive Taiwan Expedition of 1874 was organized by American Civil War veteran Gen. Charles Le Gendre, while the Japanese invasion forces were led by Saigo Tsugumori. These real-life figures inspired the fictional characters for the film “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise in the role of Capt. Nathan Algren (modeled after Le Gendre) and Ken Watanabe as Katsumoto (Saigo Takamori, Tsugumori’s elder brother).

In contrast to the romantic Orientalism of that Hollywood version of events, the actual historical figures were not traditionalist practitioners of the warrior code known as “bushido.” In fact, Le Gendre and the Saigo brothers were military modernizers and aggressive imperialists responsible for the slaughter of Taiwanese aboriginal people who established the guidelines for Japanese expansionism into Korea and China.

Since the 1879 visit to Japan of retired President and Civil War hero Ulysses Grant and as continued by Theodore Roosevelt during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, the United States was firmly allied with its fellow republic, Meiji Japan , against a “backward” East Asia . The American view of republican Japan conveniently ignored the “deep-state” power of a coterie of militarist aristocrats and war industrialists who stood above the law from the 1868 Restoration until the 1945 defeat. The Cold War and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam led to the revival of the military-industrial complex known as the “zaibatsu”, which is now, at this very moment, proceeding to eliminate the democratic rights of a cowed Japanese public.

The Pacific War of 1941-45 was therefore a rare rupture i the historical cooperation between the hegemonic powers of West and East. The rise of China now threatens to upset this longstanding alliance between Washington and Tokyo, and so their joint military forces are mobilizing at the “strategic pivot” to roll back unwanted challenger. The fulcrum of the pivot, around which the entire Western Pacific now turns, is the Senkaku islets, where American and Japanese naval and air forces have a formidable strategic and tactical advantage over the People’s Liberation Army.

Meiji Japan’s spectacular victories over the navies of Qing-dynasty China and tsarist Russia, along with the capture and colonization of Taiwan and Korea, were made possible by top-of-the-line battleships built at Scottish shipyards with loans from J.P. Morgan bank and with gunnery training from British and American officers. Ever since those days of gunpowder and glory, the domination of continental Asia remains a vital part of the globalist agenda of the financial and political elites in New York, Tokyo and London. The threat of another world war arises from these global centers, and certainly not from a defensive Beijing, Pyongyang or Moscow.

Maritime Resource Rivalry

In its policy paper on the Senkaku non-dispute, Japan’s Foreign Ministry claimed that China never claimed sovereignty over the islets until oil resources were discovered in the vicinity in the late 1970s. The credibility of this claim, however, was overturned by a 2012 revelation from LDP veteran Hiromi Nonaka, an expert on security affairs, in his recollection of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka’s unexpected query to Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai in September 1972.

Aides from the Foreign Ministry were reportedly taken aback by Tanaka’s off-the-cuff question to Premier Zhou about China’s position on the islets dispute. Given the urgency to normalize relations with the US and Japan, while negotiating for an end to the Vietnam War, the Chinese statesman suggested a deferral of the Senkaku negotiations until the unspecified future, according to Nonaka, who was present at that historic summit. Foreign Ministry spokesmen have since claimed that the diplomatic archives contain no record of this exchange, which is certainly not the first or last time that the historical record disappears in Tokyo.


Taiwan left out


Even among diehard supporters of Taiwan independence, Beijing and not Taipei has been recognized as sovereignty holder in the bilateral dispute. As a former LDP parliamentarian, Shintaro Ishihara organized the Blue Wave club of Diet members who supported Taiwan independence. In wake of the Tokyo subway gassing, however, Ishihara resigned from the Liberal Democrats due to media disclosures of his role in founding the Russo-Japan College, which was run by the subway sect Aum Shinrikyo as a front for smuggling weapons of mass destruction from a collapsing Russian economy. His close partner in creating the doomsday sect was the late Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe, father of the present prime minister.


Despite his verbal support for an independent Taiwan, Ishihara never acknowledged that the Senkaku islets or disputed Yonaguni Island were part of Taiwan, and instead focused on opposing mainland China as the sovereign power and sworn enemy. Ishihara’s bluster and antics on the islets have united the Chinese worldwide as never before, a backlash with negative ramifications for Japan’s economy as well as its diplomacy.  The landing by Hong Kong activists on the islets lends even more support for a united Chinese claim on the Diaoyu as a part of Taiwan Province.

A note in passing: Yonaguni, famed for its mysterious underwater “pyramid”, is the southernmost island of the Ryukyu chain, and was traditionally controlled by Taipei. In the 1970s, then President Chiang Ching-kuo sent Taiwanese jet fighters on flyovers to assert Taipei’s territorial claim over that small inhabited island

Maritime Markers

Today, the barren outcrops are far more important as markers for 200 nautical mile maritime economic zones, under the UN Law of the Sea, than for their land value. The countries of East Asia are vying for fishery resources and more importantly the mineral and petroleum deposits below the seafloor.

Chinese and Korean claims to the East Asian continental shelf add up to about 1 million square kilometers of maritime area, excluding the Paracel and Spratley archipelagos, which are disputed by Southeast Asian nations.


In contrast, Japan’s ever-expanding Exclusive Economic Zone comprises 4.5 million square kilometers, a dozen times larger than Japan’s landmass. While fixating the news media on the Senkaku-Diaoyu confrontation, Tokyo has quietly laid claim to more than 30 islands and atolls on the far ends of the North Pacific, along with the 200-mile oceanic zone around every reef and outcrop.

The Senkaku islands comprise only about 9 hectares of steep rock jutting out of rough seas. In comparison, the land area lost to the Fukushima nuclear disaster within the exclusion zone amounts to some 3,000 square kilometers. More than 33,000 Senkaku archipelagos could fit inside the radioactive dead zone.

A die-hard supporter of nuclear power, Prime Minister Abe is willing to throw away millions of dollars “defending” a remote fringe of the East China Sea while failing to provide compensation and living expenses, much less alternative land and homes, to 160,000 evacuees from radioactive areas of Fukushima in the Honshu heartland. The current emphasis on national security and nuclear capability are completely out of kilter with the increasingly harsh conditions faced by the Japanese people.

Winners and Losers

The islets conflict has also permanently harmed Japan’s chances of ever recovering from Russia two of the four disputed islands of the South Kurile chain, which are lush with vegetation and once inhabited by Japanese fisher folk, who have lived in exile on Hokkaido since the war’s end. Provoking China and South Korea, while alienating Russia, have wrecked any hopes for regaining the Northern Territories.


The only winner in the islets dispute is the Chinese navy, which by now has overwhelming and unquestioning domestic support for naval modernization and fleet expansion.  Tokyo’s confrontational attitude has resurrected painful memories of past atrocities and imperialist arrogance during the two modern wars against China. It is just a matter time before an aging and less agile Japan slips badly, and the Chinese forces move in – hopefully for no more than those tiny outcrops.

The strategic pivot policy promises only costly military spending and humiliating setbacks ahead. Japanese policymakers should accept a world court judgment, if only to prevent future losses of legitimate national territory, which is more vulnerable than any military strategist is ready to admit in public. The long-term interests of Japan and the US are better served by a maritime security treaty and resource partnership with China and Russia, not a self-defeating rivalry against these East Asian powers.

If a strategic retreat is not implemented sooner than later, the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute could rapidly escalate into the last battle of the Pacific War and the first shots fired in World War III. Diplomacy, as the art of compromise, is needed more than ever to prevent the unthinkable.

Yoichi Shimatsu, a Hong Kong-based journalist, is former editor of the Japan Times Weekly in Tokyo .

This article was published in July 2013

Today is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday, but forget the crocodile tears from the U.S. government about Mandela’s poor health. Imperialist diplomacy with all of its sugar-coated phrases is nothing more than a form of historical perjury.

Nelson Mandela’s arrest in 1962, which led to 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment on Robbins Island, was based on the work of the CIA. The CIA and National Security Agency worked as partners with the racist, apartheid regime’s vicious military and intelligence services.

Mandela was a leader of the African National Congress (ANC) that organized civil resistance and an armed struggle against South Africa’s white racist apartheid regime. The United States and the other western capitalist governments supported the racist, fascist apartheid regime.

Mandela was labeled a terrorist by the United States. So was the entire ANC. Even as late as 2008 the U.S. State Department had to pass special waivers so that Mandela or any ANC leader could visit the United States because he and the ANC were still on the “terrorist watch list.”

The ANC’s struggle for Black majority rule and the liquidation of apartheid received critical support from Cuba, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. The ANC had an active alliance with South African Communist Party in the struggle for Black majority rule.

Even after the fall of the apartheid government ANC members applying for visas to the USA were flagged for questioning and forced to ask for waivers to enter the country. Former ANC chairman Tokyo Sexwale was denied a visa in 2002

In an act of shameless duplicity, the various leaders of the U.S. imperialist government have pretended that they were always opposed to Mandela’s imprisonment.

In 2007, Barbara Masekela, South Africa’s ambassador to the United States until the year prior was denied a visa to visit a dying cousin living in the United States.

U.S. Imperialism was the enemy of African Liberation

The CIA and NSA spy services—with the full collaboration of such transnational corporations at IBM,  Kodak and many others—worked at all levels and for decades for apartheid and against the African National Congress activists who were routinely murdered, tortured and sentenced to life terms in the hell holes of South Africa.

The ANC was labeled and treated as a terrorist organization and pro-communist by the CIA and successive U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican alike. Congress, too, was an enthusiastic cheerleader for this vile partnership with the planet’s most disgustingly racist regime.

The House of Representatives only voted to call for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1986 when it was clear that the fascist apartheid regime’s days were numbered, leading the United States and Britain to abruptly shift course and broker a negotiated end to the white supremacist system. A mass worldwide anti-apartheid movement had completely isolated South Africa. Dick Cheney voted against the House resolution in 1986, pointing out that the U.S. government was still retaining the ANC on the official  U.S. “terrorist list.”

The U.S. and Britain knew the end had finally come for the usefulness of the apartheid government when its seemingly invincible military was decisively defeated by the Angolan army and thousands of Cuban volunteers in the historic battle of Cuito Canavale.

As Mandela said, “When Africa called, Cuba answered.”

Shameless duplicity

In an act of shameless duplicity, once Mandela was released from prison, each successive U.S. administration  has pretended that the United States was always opposed to Mandela’s imprisonment and stood with him against apartheid.

After getting out of prison, Mandela came to the United States to meet President George H.W. Bush on June 25, 1990. He was being touted as a hero and a champion in the fight against racism. The U.S. government, working through propagandists in the corporate-owned media, tried to instill a society-wide case of amnesia about the fact that they were the defenders of apartheid and directly responsible for Mandela’s imprisonment.

But one reporter had the gall to ask an unscripted question.

Bush’s press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, was asked in the days before the June 25 meeting with Bush whether the president would apologize to Mandela for the U.S. role in his arrest.

Fitzwater was angry and caught off guard. He said, “I just don’t like it when people question our motives on blacks or on Mandela because of an incident that happened 20 years ago in another administration.”

Today, on Mandela’s 95th birthday and when the U.S. government celebrates Mandela, will any of the corporate media expose the bloody role of the CIA, NSA and other U.S. intelligence services in their war against the African liberation movements?

Nelson Mandela is a beacon for the oppressed. He is a hero and he will be remembered as such. Not true for the CIA and NSA which worked as the spy service for the racist, apartheid regime as it hunted down and captured Mandela and captured or killed his comrades.

The (interim) nuclear agreement that was signed on 24 November 2013 by Iran and the so-called P5+1 group in Geneva is questionable on a number of grounds.                                               

 The Irony and Absurdity of the Negotiations: When the Guilty Tries the Innocent

The underlying logic for the Iran nuclear negotiations was (and continues to be) altogether preposterous: on one side of the negotiating table sat major nuclear powers who are all in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires them to have either dismantled or drastically reduced their nuclear arsenal; on the other side, an NPT–compliant country (Iran) that neither possesses nor pursues nuclear weapons—a fact that is testified to both by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Yet, in an ironically perverse way, the culprits have assumed the role of the police, the prosecutor and the judge, shamelessly persecuting and prosecuting the innocent for no other reason than trying to exercise its NPT-granted right to peaceful nuclear technology.

This obviously means that Iran is essentially negotiating under duress. Largely shut out of normal international trade, and constantly threatened by economic strangulation, it is essentially negotiating with a bullet to its head. As an astute observer of the negotiations has pointed out, “Iran voluntarily agreed to the [nuclear] deal the same way that a robbery victim voluntarily agrees to give up valuable possessions” to save his/her life (source).

The Imbalance between what Iran Gave and what it Took

To reach the interim deal, the Iranian negotiators agreed to a number of concessions with very little reciprocity in terms of relief from sanctions. These included: limiting its enrichment of uranium to only 3-5 percent purity, from the current level of 20 percent purity;rendering unusable its existing stockpile of 20 percent fuel for further enrichment; not using its more advanced IR-M2 centrifuges for enrichment; not activatingits heavy-water reactor in Arak; and consenting to highly intrusive inspections.

This means that under the deal, the Iranian negotiators have agreed to more than freezing Iran’s nuclear technology; perhaps more importantly, they have reversed and rolled back significant scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs of recent years. One can imagine the feeling of disappointment (and perhaps betrayal) on the part of the many dedicated scientists, engineers and technicians who worked so hard to bring about such scientific advances; only to see them dishonored or degraded by reversing and freezing them at a much lower level.

In return for these significant concessions, the U.S. and its allies would agree: to unfreeze less-than 7 billion dollars of Iran’s nearly 100 billion dollars of oil revenue frozen in bank accounts overseas; to consider easing sanctions banning trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and auto industry; andto suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on insurance and transportation services for the drastically reduced sale of Iran’s oil.

The most crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil and banks, which served as the financial facilitators of international trade, would remain intact under the proposed interim deal.

 Threat to Iran’s Sovereignty

 A careful reading of the interim agreement reveals that the Iranian negotiators gave up more than scaling down and freezing their country’s nuclear technology and/or knowledge. More importantly, if implemented, the deal effectively places Iran’s nuclear program (through IAEA) under total control of the United States and its allies. This is no speculation; it follows from the interim deal’s vastly invasive inspections regime, which is described under the subheading “Enhanced Monitoring”:

- Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of the adoption of these measures.

- Steps to agree with the IAEA on conclusion of the Safeguards Approach for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.- Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification, Interim Inventory Verification, Physical Inventory Verification, and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records, at Fordow and Natanz.

- IAEA inspector managed access to: centrifuge assembly workshops; centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and, uranium mines and mills.

The fact that provisions of “enhanced monitoring” tend to infringe upon Iran’s national sovereignty was implicitly acknowledged by theWashington Postwhen it reported on the morning following the signing of the deal (24 November 2013) that, according to Western officials in Geneva, the Iranian concessions “not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran” to make any changes in its nuclear technology “without being detected.”

 Another indication of Iran’s national sovereignty being threatened is the interim deal’s establishment of“a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs. . . . This channel could also enable: transactions required to pay Iran’s UN obligations; and, direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad.” Although the financial channel would be using Iran’s own money, currently frozen abroad, it would not be controlled or managed by Iranians—sadly reminiscent of Iraq’s “oil for food” neo-colonial deal under Saddam Hussein.

Did Iran Have to Give up so Much to get so Little?

Deprived of more than half of its oil exports/revenue, and largely locked out of the international banking and/or trade system, the Iranian economy and its people are already gravely suffering from the ravages of economic sanctions. Additional sanctions, which are pre-packaged and frequently brandished as Damocles’ Sword in the background of the nuclear negotiations, are bound to further depress Irans economy and the living conditions of its people.

 Under these circumstances, Iran basically faced (or faces) two options. One option would be embarking on the path of a war economy, as it has, in effect, been subjected to a brutal economic war by the United States and its allies. This would be similar to the eight years (1980-88) of war with Iraq, when at the instigation and support of regional and global powers Saddam Hussein launched a surprise military attack against Iran. The other option would be compromising its legal and legitimate rights to peaceful nuclear technology in order to appease the global bully (the U.S.) and its minions in the hope that this may prevent a further tightening of the noose of economic sanctions around the neck of the Iranian people.

 During the eight-year war with Saddam’s Iraq, not only did the Western powers and their allies in the region support the Iraqi dictator militarily but they also subjected Iran to severe economic sanctions. With its back against the wall, so to speak, Iran embarked on a revolutionary path of a war economy that successfully provided both for the war mobilization to defend its territorial integrity and for respectable living conditions of its population. By taking control of the commanding heights of the national economy, and effectively utilizing the revolutionary energy and dedication of their people, Iranian policy makers further succeeded in bringing about significant economic developments. These included: extensive electrification of the countryside, expansion of transportation networks, construction of tens of thousands of schools and medical clinics all across the country, provision of foodstuffs and other basic needs for the indigent at affordable prices, and more.

Despite its record of success, this option is altogether ruled out by today’s Iranian ruling powers. There are a number of reasons for this aversion to a regimented war economy. A detailed discussion of such reasons is beyond the purview of this essay. Suffice it to say that many of the revolutionary leaders who successfully managed the 1980-88 war economy have now become business entrepreneurs and prosperous capitalists. Having effectively enriched themselves in the shadow of the public sector economy, or by virtue of the political/bureaucratic positions they held (or still hold) in various stations in the government apparatus, these folks have by now lost all appetite they once had for the radical economic measures required by a war economy. Instead, they now seem eager to strike business and investment deals with their counterparts in the West.

More than any other social strata, President Rouhani and his administration represent the interests and aspirations of this ascending capitalist–business class in Iran. Representatives of this class wield economic and political power through the highly influential Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture (ICCIMA). Ideological and/or philosophical affinity between President Rouhani and the power-brokers residing within ICCIMA is reflected in the fact that, immediately upon his election, the president appointed former head of the Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Nahavandian, a U.S.-educated neoliberal economist and an advisor to former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, as his chief of staff.

 It was through Nahavandian and the Iran Chamber of Commerce that, in September 2013, an Iranian economic delegation accompanied President Rouhani to the United Nations in New York to negotiate (behind the scenes) potential business/investment deals with their American counterparts. The Iran Chamber of Commerce also organized a number of economic delegations that accompanied Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif to Geneva in pursuit of similar objectives in Europe.

It is understandable, therefore, why major factions within Iran’s ruling circles, especially the Rouhani administration and their allies and co-thinkers, have no stomach for a regimented, war-like economy; and why, instead, they opted for compromises over Iran’s nuclear program. The question remains, however, why did they make so many concessions in return for so little? Did they have to compromise as much as they did?

 Two major reasons can be identified for why they could strike a better nuclear deal in Geneva than they actually did. For one thing, President Rouhani’s and his team of negotiators’ liaison with the P5+1 group got off on the wrong foot: they showed their hand prematurely by approaching the negotiations with a sense of desperation and an attitude of eagerness to reach a deal.

Indeed, it is fair to argue that President Rouhani condemned Iran to an unsound or flawed deal long before he was elected. He did so during his presidential campaign by pinning his chances for election on economic recovery through a nuclear deal. This was a huge mistake, as it automatically weakened Iran’s bargaining position and, by the same token, strengthened that of the United States and its allies. By exaggerating (perhaps opportunistically) the culpability of his predecessor in the escalation of economic sanctions against Iran, he committed two blunders: one downplaying the culpability of the U.S. and its allies; the other (and by the same token) placing the onus of reaching a nuclear deal largely on Iran.

 Secondly, whereas the U.S. and its junior partners constantly brandished the so-called “stick” of additional sanctions in the background of the Geneva negotiations to extract more concessions from Iran, the Iranian side does not seem to have effectively used its country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region to resist the one-sided concessions. While the United States and its allies have in recent months experienced a major setback over the Syrian crisis, Iran and its allies (Russia, Syria, Hezbollah and, indirectly and minimally, China) have by the same token experienced success. And while the results of the U.S. military adventures of the past dozen years or so have been chaos and civil war in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, Iran remains a relatively stable and an ascending regional power, indeed, a powerbroker—sanctions-induced economic distress notwithstanding.

It is thus altogether reasonable to argue that had the Iranian negotiators (a) not gone to Geneva with such an openly eager attitude to reach a nuclear deal, and (b) taken more effective advantage of their country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region, they could have struck a better nuclear deal than they actually did. For example, while agreeing on the freezing of their nuclear technology was (under the circumstances) unavoidable, they could more strongly argue that there was no reason for them to roll back Iran’s scientific achievements from 20 percent enrichment of uranium to 5 percent—20 percent enrichment is both NPT-sanctioned, or legal, and required for the Tehran Research Reactor, which manufactures medical isotopes.

 Likewise, while agreeing to more intrusive inspections of nuclear sites was (again, under the circumstances) inescapable, Iranian negotiators could reasonably resist allowing inspectors access to and monitoring of their country’s centrifuge assembly workshops, or its uranium mines and mills. Furthermore, the Iranian team could, again quite reasonably, insist on making the elements of the “final agreement,” which is supposed to remove all of the sanctions against Iran, more specific. As they now stand, these elements are so vague, fluid and inconsistent that they seem to be crafted in order to be broken.

 Regime Change From Within

Ever since the 1979 revolution in Iran, which significantly undermined the U.S. influence in Iran and elsewhere in the region, the United States has been on a “regime change” mission in that country. Its efforts in pursuit of this nefarious goal are rather well established. They range from instigating and supporting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, to training and supporting destabilizing terrorist organizations to attack Iran, to constant war and military threats, to efforts to sabotage the 2009 presidential election through the so-called “green revolution,” and to systematic escalation of economic sanctions.

Not only have these imperialistic schemes fallen short of their goal of “regime change” in Iran, they have, in fact, driven that country to become a major power in the region, which has further thwarted the geopolitical plans of the United States in the area. While the U.S.–supported mercenary forces in Syria as well as its allies in Ankara, Cairo and Riyadh have experienced serious setbacks in their efforts to overthrow the government in Damascus, the Iran-Russia-Syria-Hezbollah alliance has (by the same token) gained strength and prestige in recent months.

 Having thus failed at its plots for “regime change” in Iran from without, the U.S. (or more precisely, a major faction of its ruling powers) now seems to have opted for regime change (or reform) from within; that is, through political and economic rapprochement with Iran. Even some of the U.S. alliessuch as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israelthat have always been wary of Iran’s radical influence in the region, and who initially opposed vehemently the Iran–P5+1 nuclear agreement, are beginning to see the “moderating” or “stabilizing” benefits of the success of this tactic.

What has made this option more promising (to the U.S. and its client regimes) is the rise of an ambitious capitalist class in Iran whose chief priority seems to be the ability to do business with their counterparts in the West. These folks literally mean business, so to speak; for them, issues such as nuclear technology or national sovereignty are of secondary importance. As mentioned earlier, they are the staunchest supporters of President Rouhani and the unquestioning supporters of his lopsided concessions in the nuclear deal. Also as mentioned before, it was the representative delegations of this class of Iranian capitalists that accompanied President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif to the United States and Europe in order to negotiate business/investment deals with their counterparts in the West.

To be sure, the jingoistic factions of the U.S. ruling circles, headed by the beneficiaries of war dividends and the Israeli lobby, continue to push for direct military intervention and/or further economic strangulation of Iran. But the leaders and/or beneficiaries of non-military industries such as oil, automobile, airlines, agriculture, and the like are lobbying the Obama administration for economic and political rapprochement with Iran.

Which of these two major factions of the U.S. ruling powers (Proponents of regime change from within or from without) would succeed, depends largely on the process and/or outcome of nuclear negotiations. While making threats of additional sanctions, the hardline or militaristic faction seem to be for now sitting on the fence: if Iran continues to make more one-sided concessions, which would basically mean giving up its right to a level of uranium enrichment that is necessary for its peaceful domestic needs, they would soften their positions and gradually lower their shrill and menacing voices. On the other hand, if Iran does not relent on its legal and legitimate enrichment rights, and insists that the U.S. and its allies need to reciprocate Iran’s interim concessions by lifting the sanctions, they would further harden their positions by calling for additional sanctions and/or military intervention. Under this latter scenario, proponents of rapprochement with Iran, having failed in their tactic of regime change/reform from within, would most probably join the hardliners, thereby embarking, once again, on the long-standing policy of regime change from without—back to square one, so to speak.

So, how would all of these new developments on both the Iranian and the U.S. side affect and/or be affected by the interim nuclear deal toward a “comprehensive final step”?

 Problematic and Uncertain Future of the Interim Nuclear Deal

Components of the interim agreement are so vague, inconsistent and even contradictory that it makes them subject to divergent interpretations and, therefore, potential breaches of the deal in the future. This explains why soon after the agreement was signed conflicting understandings of it began to surface. While the Iranian president and his team of negotiators have frequently declared that the agreement acknowledges the country’s right to uranium enrichment, the U.S. side, headed by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, has vigorously denied that right.

Equally vague and (potentially) problematic is the meaning of the “elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution.” According to Iran’s negotiators, the “final step” would “Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions,” as it is, indeed, stipulated as such in the interim agreement. However, the agreement immediately adds that the final step would

“Involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.”

And it is this ambiguous and condition-laden (“mutually defined enrichment…, mutually agreed parameters…, agreed limits on scope…, for a period to be agreed upon”) sentence in the interim deal that is frequently highlighted by the United States as governing the status of the “final step.”

This is an indication, as pointed out by Gareth Porter (among others), “of uncertain U.S. commitment to the ‘end state’ agreement.”

U.S. reservations or unfaithfulness toward a clear, comprehensive and sanctions-free final deal, Gareth Porter further points out,

“came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night [23 November 2013]. The officials repeatedly . . . referred to the negotiation of the ‘comprehensive solution’ outlined in the deal . . . as an open-ended question rather than an objective of U.S. policy” (source).

It is this ambiguous, unsure and noncommittal U.S. approach to the nuclear deal that serves as grounds for the pessimistic conclusion that the deal is facing an uncertain future.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007) and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). His latest book, titled Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis: Parasitic Finance Capital, is forthcoming from Routledge Books.

Britain: Racism, Social Decadence and Moral Deterioration

December 6th, 2013 by Dr. Ismail Salami

 Britain is gradually plunging into the depths of moral deterioration and social decadence day in and day out as it refuses to make concrete efforts to curb the escalating trend of racism and hate crimes.

A recent egregious instance of racism in Britain is the brutal murder of an Iranian man named Bijan Ebrahimi at the hands of a group of extremist thugs who beat him unconscious and set fire to his body in Brislington, Bristol while he was still alive. Bijan was a disabled Iranian national who was wrongly labeled as a pedophile by neighbors “after photographing youths he suspected of vandalizing his treasured hanging baskets.”

“Whatever the cause of it, there were a number of neighbors who were hostile to Mr Ebrahimi and alleged he was a pedophile,” the prosecutor said. “There is in fact no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.”

Although Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan has recently owned to a “collective failure” on the part of statutory agencies and others to protect vigilante murder victim Bijan Ebrahimi, there is barely any ground for justifying their failures.

Lee James, 24, pleaded guilty to murder and was given a minimum sentence of 18 years. Norley pleaded guilty to assisting an offender and was given four years. That is the kind of justice meted out to a pair of killers in Britain.

It is reported that after murdering Ebrahimi and burning his body, James told his girlfriend: “We sorted him out. We took care of things.”

James told police he had kicked Ebrahimi “like a football… I had so much anger in me”.

Bijan Ebrahimi who moved to the UK in 2001 made several calls to police in the 48 hours before his murder, but “those calls were not responded to”.

Bijan’s sister Manizhah Moores recalls her brother as “a kind man whose main interests at home were caring for his stray cat and for his flower baskets. Unfortunately he was also subjected to horrendous bullying by bad people on a daily basis. Call it racism, call it prejudice – it doesn’t really matter what you call it, the things our brother was subjected to were barbaric. They included setting his home on fire when he lived in West Town Lane [an area of Brislington, Bristol], causing our beloved, softly-spoken brother to slip further and further into depression.”

Bijan is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, a tragic sense of racism and hatred is permeating through the very fabric of the British society, eating it away like a kind of canker.

Racism, which in fact an abject form of dehumanization, has a rather long history in Britain and there are groups and organizations who capitalize on racism and other forms of discrimination as a means to achieve their diabolical goals and paint an untrue picture of a race or religion.

One of the most notorious racist and hate groups in Britain is English Defense League AKA EDL which has been sowing seeds of hatred across the country against the Muslim community in particular by launching physical attacks on the Muslims and their Islamic centers. A former EDL leader, Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley Lennon) used to be a member of the fascist British National Party known as BNP. Interesting, the BNP has worked in league with EDL and other racist groups in Britain and made concrete steps towards seeking to stamp out all vestiges of Islamic culture within the British society.

Their shared agenda includes the following tenets:

1) They are implacably opposed to the Labour/Tory regimes’ mass immigration policies which, “if left unchecked, will see Britain and most of Europe colonized by Islam within a few decades.”

2) They believe that “Islam is by its very nature incompatible with modern secular western democracy.” So, they deem fit to antagonize it in all forms and by all means.

3) They believe that the burka and the building of further mosques in Britain should be banned. 4) They demand that Islamic immigration be halted and reversed. 5) They are diligent in promoting Islamophobia in Britain.

Unfortunately, racism is on the rise in Britain and the authorities are terribly remiss in taking responsible measures in order to stymie the violence springing therefrom. According to a BBC report, only between 2007 and 2011, nearly 88,000 racist incidents were recorded in Britain’s schools. Data from 90 areas shows “87,915 cases of racist bullying, which can include name calling and physical abuse. Birmingham recorded the highest number of incidents at 5,752, followed by Leeds with 4,690. Carmarthenshire had the lowest number with just 5 cases.”

With racism being institutionalized across the country, there is little hope for the burgeoning of multiculturalism, hybridity and the possibility of a reliable future for immigrants and the like.

The Bijans of our time are the victims of blind prejudice and loathsome ignorance of those who consciously choose to relegate some people to the category of subhumans and put themselves instead on a pedestal of supremacy.

CIA Central In Mandela’s Arrest … Labelled Him a Terrorist Until 2008

Everyone from President Obama to the mainstream news is lionizing Nelson Mandela.

But the New York Times reported in 1990:

The Central Intelligence Agency played an important role in the arrest in 1962 of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress leader who was jailed for nearly 28 years before his release four months ago, a news report says.

The intelligence service, using an agent inside the African National Congress, provided South African security officials with precise information about Mr. Mandela’s activities that enabled the police to arrest him, said the account by the Cox News Service.


Newsweek reported in February that the agency was believed to have been involved.


At the time of Mr. Mandela’s arrest in August 1962, the C.I.A. devoted more resources to penetrating the activities of nationalist groups like the African National Congress than did South Africa’s then-fledgling security service.


A retired South African intelligence official, Gerard Ludi, was quoted in the report as saying that at the time of Mr. Mandela’s capture, the C.I.A. had put an undercover agent into the inner circle of the African National Congress group in Durban.


Indeed, Nelson Mandela was only removed from the U.S. “terrorist” list in 2008.

Mandela was highly critical of U.S. foreign policy.  And anyone – even U.S. citizens – critical of U.S. policy may be labelled a bad guy.

The world is remembering Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who spent 27 years in prison on his way to defeating apartheid and becoming South Africa’s first black elected leader.

Now joining us to talk about Nelson Mandela and his legacy is Glen Ford.  He’s the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. He also colaunched, produced, and hosted America’s Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated black news interview program on commercial television.

More at The Real News


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

The world is remembering Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who spent 27 years in prison on his way to defeating apartheid and becoming South Africa’s first black elected leader.

Now joining us to talk about Nelson Mandela and his legacy is Glen Ford. He’s the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. He also colaunched, produced, and hosted America’s Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated black news interview program on commercial television.

Thank you for joining us, Glen.


NOOR: Now, Glen, Nelson Mandela obviously had a tremendous impact on South Africa and the world. Can you talk a little bit about his contributions?

FORD: Nelson Mandela, to both foreigners and to South Africans, is really a kind of embodiment of the South African liberation struggle. He is the spawn of a royal [koUs@] family from the Transvaal. He became a lawyer. And he was one of the founding members of the African National Congress’s youth wing. So this struggle has been his life’s work. He figured prominently in all of the milestones of the African National Congress’s rise to power. He was arrested in the 1956 great Treason Trial, when the South African white regime basically captured and detained all of the leadership of the anti-apartheid movement, including people from all races.

He was a founder, along with members of the Communist Party, of the armed wing of the African National Congress, the Umkhonto we Sizwe, which means spear of the people. So he’s not seen just as the world statesman that most foreigners and Americans think of him as, but he was one of those who were instrumental in launching the armed struggle in South Africa. In 1962, while running the armed wing and also making contacts all over the world on behalf of the struggle so that there would be support for this growing movement, he was captured and sentenced to life in prison. That was in 1962. And he did not emerge from prison until 1990.

But it’s important to understand that in the latter half of the ’80s, the white regime, which was fraying at the edges, which was under constant assault both from the oppressed nonwhite majority within South Africa but also militarily in Africa–it had suffered defeats at the hands of the Angolans and their Cuban allies in Angola, and the myth of South African military invulnerability had been shattered–the regime seems to have suffered at least a crisis of morale. And that finally resulted in Mandela being released without conditions in 1990. All of the parties that had been banned by the white regime were unbanned and made legal. And then we enter into this crucial period with Mandela now the unquestioned leader of not just the African National Congress but the resistance as a whole, this period from 1990 to 1994, when the negotiations begin in earnest as to what a free South Africa, a majority-ruled South Africa is going to look like. So when we talk about Nelson Mandela’s legacy, his legacy is the South Africa that we see today. And to speak of his accomplishments, we have to speak of the state of South Africa.

NOOR: Glen, I wanted to ask you about Nelson Mandela’s relationship with United States. He was on the U.S. government terrorist watchlist until as recently as 2008.

FORD: That’s right. And the United States government, which was a fast friend of apartheid, a loyal supporter of that regime, as were the Israelis, the United States designated as terrorist whoever the white apartheid South African regime designated as terrorist. And that of course included all of the resistance, all of the leaders of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party who were partners, along with COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, in this great struggle against that regime. The United States would simply designate as terrorist whoever their allies the South Africans did. And somehow they grew so deep into the habit that they forgot to take Mandela’s name off the list until only a few years ago. He was officially a terrorist to the United States even as he was the president of South Africa.

NOOR: And, Glen, talk about what Mandela’s legacy means today. Ronnie Kasrils, who was a fighter with the ANC, just republished an introduction to his autobiography, Armed and Dangerous. Can you tell us about the significance of this?

FORD: Ronnie Kasrils is a friend of mine, and we’ve had extensive conversations about that critical period in South Africa from 1990, when Mandela and other political prisoners were released and the political parties that had been banned were unbanned, and 1994, when he finally had the first nonracial elections, which resulted in Nelson Mandela becoming president. During that four years, the parties, the resistance, those three main actors, were struggling with the question of shall we make this an easy transition for those who are in power, that is, the white minority and the corporations, domestic and multinational, that they defend, shall we avoid at all costs the kind of bloodbath that people had been expecting in South Africa before whites would relinquish power by making a deal that does not live up to our ideals, does not live up to the 1955 Freedom Charter, which had been the document, as far as South Africa’s people were concerned, the embodiment on paper of what the resistance was all about, shall we compromise with this document, which called for the nationalization of all the mines and the redistribution of the land in South Africa. That is a fundamental change. Or should we go, at this stage, at least, for a simple transition of government through a simple one man, one vote deal?

They chose, that is, the ANC, the South African Communist Party, and COSATU chose to make it an unfinished revolution, a change in regime, but not a change in the relationships of economic power, so that we had what’s been called the sunset clause. And the sunset clause was an agreement with the whites that the white civil service would be allowed to keep their jobs, well, for life and that there would be no nationalizations of the mines and the multinational corporations. That is, the economy would proceed as normal and the bloated bureaucracy which had been a welfare system for especially the Boer whites would remain in place. In return, blacks would get the vote.

What we have seen since that time is a South Africa that has made some progress in terms of providing housing, but was operating from such a deficit of services and resources to the overwhelmingly poor black majority that no transformation has taken place, and by many measurements the living conditions of the masses of people have gotten worse. So South Africa is now in a crisis that the deal that was made with this sunset clause, which puts much of the resources of South Africa out of reach of the state because of that agreement, starves the state of the resources that it needs in order to serve the people and make good on the promises of the revolution. So as we talk about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, that contradiction, which is coming to a head, is also part of his legacy.

NOOR: So, Glen, I want to end with just your final thoughts on what this revelation by Ronnie Kasrils means for the future of South Africa.

FORD: It was not so much a revelation but a conversation that Ronnie Kasrils and other members of the ANC and the South African Communist Party had been having for some time as they wrestle with the question of did we lose our nerve, did we in fact call the revolution prematurely, did we lack confidence in the masses of people, that they would stick with the revolution even in the face of this threatened massive bloodletting by the whites, did we compromise too much and lay the groundwork for the suffering that we see all around us. And Ronnie Kasrils has decided that the answer is yes. And he, as a veteran and a former member of the government under Nelson Mandela, says that he’s going to own up to the mistakes that he made, and he challenges others in the South African leadership to do similarly.NOOR: Glen Ford, thank you so much for joining us.FORD: Thank you.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


Accusing politicians or former politicians of “breathtaking hypocrisy” is not just over used, it is inadequacy of spectacular proportions. Sadly, searches in various thesaurus’ fail in meaningful improvement.

The death of Nelson Mandela, however, provides tributes resembling duplicity on a mind altering substance.

President Obama, whose litany of global assassinations by Drone, from infants to octogenarians – a personal weekly decree we are told, summary executions without Judge, Jury or trial – stated of the former South African’s President’s passing:

“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again … His acts of reconciliation  … set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.

“I studied his words and his writings … like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, (as) long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him …  it falls to us … to forward the example that he set:  to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love …”

Mandela, said the Presidential High Executioner, had: “… bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”(i)

Mandela, after nearly thirty years in jail (1964-1990) forgave his jailors and those who would have preferred to see him hung. Obama committed to closing Guantanamo, an election pledge, the prisoners still self starve in desperation as their lives rot away, without hope.

The decimation of Libya had no congressional approval, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s dismembered. Drone victims are a Presidential roll call of shame and horror and the Nobel Peace Laureate’s trigger finger still hovers over Syria and Iran, for all the talk of otherwise. When his troops finally limped out of Iraq, he left the biggest Embassy in the world and a proxy armed force, with no chance of them leaving being on even the most distant horizon.

Clearly learning, justice and being “guided by love” is proving bit of an uphill struggle. Ironically, Obama was born in 1964, the year Mandela was sentenced to jail and his “long walk to freedom.”

Bill Clinton, who (illegally, with the UK) ordered the near continual bombing of Iraq throughout his Presidency (1993-2001) and the siege conditions of the embargo, with an average of six thousand a month dying of “embargo related causes”, paid tribute to Mandela as: “a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation … a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was … a way of life. All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived.” Tell that to America’s victims.

In the hypocrisy stakes, Prime Minister David Cameron can compete with the best. He said:

“A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.

… Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life.

On Twitter he reiterated: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time.” The flag on Downing Street was to hang at half mast, to which a follower replied: “Preferably by no-one who was in the Young Conservatives at a time they wanted him hanged, or those who broke sanctions, eh?”

Another responded: “The Tories wanted to hang Mandela.You utter hypocrite.”

The two tweeters clearly knew their history. In 2009, when Cameron was pitching to become Prime Minister, it came to light that in 1989, when Mandela was still in prison, David Cameron, then a: “rising star of the Conservative Research Department …  accepted an all expenses paid trip to apartheid South Africa … funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime.”

Asked if Cameron: “wrote a memo or had to report back to the office about his trip, Alistair Cooke (his then boss at Conservative Central Office)  said it was ‘simply a jolly’, adding: ‘It was all terribly relaxed, just a little treat, a perk of the job … ‘ “

Former Cabinet Minister Peter Hain commented of the  trip:

“This just exposes his hypocrisy because he has tried to present himself as a progressive Conservative, but just on the eve of the apartheid downfall, and Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, when negotiations were taking place about a transfer of power, here he was being wined and dined on a sanctions-busting visit.

“This is the real Conservative Party … his colleagues who used to wear ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ badges at university are now sitting on the benches around him. Their leader at the time Margaret Thatcher described Mandela as a terrorist.” (ii)

In the book of condolences opened at South Africa House, five minutes walk from his Downing Street residence, Cameron, who has voted for, or enjoined all the onslaughts or threatened ones referred to above, wrote:

“ … your generosity, compassion and profound sense of forgiveness have given us all lessons to learn and live by.

He ended his message with: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” Hopefully your lower jaw is still attached to your face, dear reader. If so, hang on to it, worse is to come.

The farcically titled Middle East Peace Envoy, former Prime Minister Tony Blair (think “dodgy dossiers” “forty five minutes” to destruction, illegal invasion, Iraq’s ruins and ongoing carnage, heartbreak, after over a decade) stated:

“Through his leadership, he guided the world into a new era of politics in which black and white, developing and developed, north and south … stood for the first time together on equal terms.

“Through his dignity, grace and the quality of his forgiveness, he made racism everywhere not just immoral but stupid; something not only to be disagreed with, but to be despised. In its place he put the inalienable right of all humankind to be free and to be equal.

“I worked with him closely … “ (iii) said the man whose desire for “humankind to be free and equal” (tell that to the Iraqis) now includes demolishing Syria and possibly Iran.

As ever, it seems with Blair, the memories of others are a little different:

“Nelson Mandela felt so betrayed by Blair’s decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq that he launched a fiery tirade against him in a phone call to a cabinet minister, it emerged.

“Peter Hain who (knew) the ex-South African President well, said Mandela was ‘breathing fire’ down the line in protest at the 2003 military action.

“The trenchant criticisms were made in a formal call to the Minister’s office, not in a private capacity, and Blair was informed of what had been said, Hain added.

‘I had never heard Nelson Mandela so angry and frustrated.” (iv)

On the BBC’s flagship morning news programme “Today” former Prime Minister “Iraq is a better place, I’d do it again” Blair, said of Nelson Mandela:

“ … he came to represent something quite inspirational for the future of the world and for peace and reconciliation in the 21st century.”

Comment is left to former BBC employee, Elizabeth Morley, with peerless knowledge of Middle East politics, who takes no prisoners:

“Dear Today Complaints,

“How could you? Your almost ten minute long interview with the war criminal Tony Blair was the antithesis to all the tributes to the great man. I cannot even bring myself to put the two names in the same sentence. How could you?

“Blair has the blood of millions of Iraqis on his hands. Blair has declared himself willing to do the same to Iranians. How many countries did Mandela bomb? Blair condones apartheid in Israel. Blair turns a blind eye to white supremacists massacring Palestinians. And you insult us by making us listen to him while our hearts and minds are focussed on Mandela.

How could you?” (Reproduced with permission.)

As the avalanche of hypocrisy cascades across the globe from shameless Western politicians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflected in two lines the thoughts in the hearts of the true mourners:

“We are relieved that his suffering is over, but our relief is drowned by our grief. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”






“Mandela deserves great credit for ending racial apartheid in South Africa, but his legacy includes the continuation of mass poverty

‘The mood here in South Africa is terribly somber.

This was the day that everyone knew would come. And in the last few months Mandela’s been in hospital four times.

But it’s hard to come to grips with the loss of someone who has ruled in a moral and spiritual way just as much as in a political way in his first five years as the president of the Democratic South Africa in 1994 to ’99.”

More at The Real News


Patrick Bond is the Director of the Center for Civil Society and Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Bond is the author and editor of the recently released books, Politics of Climate Justice and Durban’s Climate Gamble.


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Nelson Mandela has passed away. The larger-then-life anti-apartheid figure is leaving behind the legacy of being South Africa’s first black president. Here to give us his perspective on his life is Patrick Bond. Patrick is the director of the center for civil society and a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.Thank you for joining us, Patrick.

BOND: Jaisal, the mood here in South Africa is terribly somber. This was the day that everyone knew would come. And in the last few months Mandela’s been in hospital four times. But it’s hard to come to grips with the loss of someone who has ruled in a moral and spiritual way just as much as in a political way in his first five years as the president of the Democratic South Africa in 1994 to ’99. Prior to that, Mandela prepared the country for democracy.

He was released in February 1990 after 27 years in jail, and he skillfully maneuvered the negotiations so that at least political democracy, one person, one vote in the unitary state was one, whereas the prior rulers, the Afrikaner Nationalist Party, had tried all manner of gimmicks–Jim Crow laws and property-based voting–and had done their best to weaken ANC, also through slaughtering thousands of ANC activists in the period between 1990 and ’94. Mandela drove through negotiations, occasionally breaking them off, and showed the stature of someone who could forgive on a personal level, arrange the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and also inspired the nation to do an extraordinary job of transiting from racial apartheid to a more normal democracy, albeit one with worsening inequality, worsening unemployment, worsening ecological conditions. And these too will be part of Mandela’s legacy.

NOOR: And, Patrick, can you talk more about this economic legacy that the African National Congress has left behind?

BOND: Yes. Well, the African National Congress will probably rule, thanks to how strong Mandela put together the coalition in 1994, for many years. It may be that in 2019 they face their first electoral challenge, and that will come because of policies that were adopted during Mandela’s time. I happened to work in his office twice, ’94 and ’96, and saw these policies being pushed on Mandela by international finance and domestic business and a neoliberal conservative faction within his own party. And that faction’s been outed when former minister of intelligence and minister of water Ronnie Kasrils, probably the country’s greatest white revolutionary ever, has made a major confession in a new edition of his autobiography, Armed and dangerous, in which he says, we were absolutely incapable of dealing with the period of 1990 to ’95, ’96, in which the left agenda, and possibly a socialist current that had been strong when the Soviet Union was a major benefactor–and when in 1990 the Soviet Union fell away, it looked like, as Ronnie Kasrils has put it, the confidence of the left within ANC had completely collapsed. And that meant that many concessions were made that if one looks back at them perhaps needn’t have been done. And that’s why Kasril’s statement does leave a shadow on Mandela’s government. He basically says that as a ruler Mandela gave in way too much to rich people. So he replaced racial apartheid with class apartheid.

NOOR: Patrick, can you tell us more about some of the details that Ronnie Kasrils has revealed in this writing?

BOND: Yes, indeed. It was really about this critical period just before the 1994 elections, and it included an International Monetary Fund loan to the incoming government that was arranged as the outgoing one had a transitional executive committee. And that loan called for the standard structural adjustment conditions at just about the same time, late 1993, the final constitution was agreed upon that gives property rights extraordinary dominance and also gave the central bank, the South African Reserve Bank, insulation from democracy–in addition, an agreement to prepay the apartheid debt, which Mandela for so many years, in the spirit of sanctions, indeed hand-in-hand with Martin Luther King, calling in the early 1960s for the United Nations and big international corporations to pull out of South Africa. And yet, unfortunately, Mandela felt the need to repay the loans–$25 billion worth–that were coming due as he became president in 1994. He later bitterly remarked about those loans having set back the cause of delivering desperately needed services. And in all of that time, one saw the distinction between the radical Mandela, who had endorsed Marxism back in the 1950s, as particularly the Freedom Charter of 1955 called for the expropriation of the mines and banks and monopoly capital and their sharing for the people as a whole–. When Mandela came out of prison in 1990, he said, that is the policy of the ANC and a change in that policy is inconceivable. But it was only a few months later before–I certainly witnessed that in Johannesburg in that transition period, 1990 to ’94–major compromises were made with big business. And big business basically said, we will get out of our relationship with the Afrikaner rulers if you let us keep, basically, our wealth intact and indeed to take the wealth abroad. And so exchange controls were relaxed very soon after Mandela took over. And just as he left office in 1999, big businesses said, we now want to take our money out of here forever. So they relisted from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to London, New York, and Australia. So this is the great tragedy of capital flight. Big business never really believed in Mandela, never truly invested in the country. And there were more symbolic victories, like the Rugby World Cup that was won with Mandela promoting especially the Afrikaans-dominated team. And that was to great symbolic effect, but didn’t do much for delivering services and redistributing wealth. Our wealth redistribution was the second worst of major countries after Brazil, and now is much, much, much worse, is the worst major country in the world. A GINI coefficient that fell from about 0.56 to 0.67, meaning very, very extreme inequality, got much worse during Mandela’s government.

NOOR: And talk more about this inequality. It’s quite remarkable that a people breaking the bonds of apartheid are now facing greater inequality than they faced during apartheid.

BOND: Well, that’s right. And in a book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes this quite well. I think she in a sense describes the shock and awe of winning a victory and many people believing that these great leaders like Mandela, many of his colleagues were not only as sophisticated in getting the democracy–one person, one vote–that was always demanded, but also that they would deliver the Reconstruction and Development Programme–the promise is about 150 pages.

Soon thereafter, one of the other competing politicians, Gatsha Buthelezi, renamed this RDP–rumors, dreams, and promises. And, unfortunately, if you go through it, as I’ve done on commission from the African National Congress and audited that RDP, it was really only the more conservative elements that Mandela allowed to push through. His first major interview, for example, he said nationalization is not in the RDP. In fact, it is there on page 80. So this was one of the small indications that Mandela didn’t really have the agenda of redistribution. He wanted to manage a very tumultuous society where white Afrikaners, especially the generals in the army, did pose a major threat and where white business seemed to be, in the conditions of neoliberalism of the 1990s (with no other opposing force on the left in the world to work with), quite dominant, and pleasing big business was really the order of the day.

NOOR: Now, what are South Africans doing today to challenge the corporate grip on their government, on their economic policies? And what proposals are being discussed to decrease this continuing inequality?

BOND: Well, I’ve been spending a little bit of time with the trade unions in Johannesburg. Their leaders, like ['[email protected]@.'], considered the most powerful left leader in the country, have not been in the least intimidated by the African National Congress’s continuing neoliberal policies, and they continue to oppose them very vocally.

In addition, the protests that continue at the grassroots level at probably about the highest rate per person in the world have typically demanded access to services–water and electricity, decent housing, and clinics for better medical care, and better schools, recreational facilities, waste removal. And these protests, they often pop up, and they fall back down. But you do get a sense being in this country for even a short amount of time that whether it was Nelson Mandela encouraging people to exercise their democratic muscles or just that pent-up demand that during the 1980s, when widespread resistance to apartheid intensified and a honeymoon of a small degree with Mandela nevertheless leading to widespread discontent at this state of affairs, where public policy is much more pro-banker than pro-people. And I suspect these will continue.

And maybe without Mandela’s overarching symbolic power and the glue that he represented in keeping this very diverse alliance within the African National Congress together, with that era now passed it may not be too long before the long-predicted split between the different factions of the ANC occurs, with somewhat corrupt and nationalist and Zulu ethnic faction currently in power continuing and more left-wing trade unions dropping out. In 2008, a similar split occurred when those close to Thabo Mbeki dropped out, and they got about 9 percent of the vote in the next year’s election. And it may well be that not in the 2014 but in the 2019 election, whoever is Jacob Zuma’s successor will face quite a challenge and the aura of claiming Mandela’s mantle will continue. That mantle, by the way, has been even claimed by the center-right party, the Democratic Alliance.

And I think everyone is mourning. There’s no question that this is a great tragedy, the death of a founder of a nation. And yet I think South Africans do a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations as to what kind of new power bloc might emerge, and even a new party from Steve Biko’s former partner, Mamphela Ramphele, called Agang, has just come up. And these are the sorts of things that make the situation fluid even though the African National Congress still commands about 60 percent of the popular support.NOOR: Patrick Bond, thank you for joining us.BOND: Thank you.

NOOR: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Copyright The Real News Network, 2013

Nelson Mandela has become one of the most publicised icons of liberation struggle in modern times, in Africa certainly, but even in Asia and South America. He will be popularly mourned and saluted by millions of people around the world and his passing will no doubt be hailed as the end of an era. Most associate his name with other greats like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi, but unlike these other patron saints, the ever smiling Mandela didn’t make enough enemies to be assassinated.

Nelson Mandela is to be respected for the part he played in trying to reconcile the inequalities and conflicts between the racial and economic divide that has troubled his country, a process that is nowhere near complete. Despite the veneer of apparent congeniality between black and white South Africans today, careful observation of social and political discourse and private conversations reveal that the racial mistrust and prejudice still runs deeply as ever and the injustices persist. Not that Mandela is to blame for the persistence, it’s just that civil war [that’s what the liberation struggle was] never ends with real forgiveness, justice and love, but always with grudges, bitterness and a lingering wish for revenge after the dust settles; and there’s not much leaders of liberation struggle can do about that.

In reality Nelson Mandela was a created icon of liberation struggle, a creation of the real movers and shakers of the global scene for a larger political agenda. Without the interest and obsession of foreign imperialist powers in South Africa’s massive mineral wealth, Mandela would have been forgotten in his jail [where he served a sentence for treason and terrorism] until the day he died or was released on humanitarian grounds in his twilight years.

Without all those billions of dollars of international sponsorship, fanning the flames of revolution through Mandela’s ANC party, and without the international limelight given to political activists in their frenzied aim of toppling the country and removing the hard-nose, anti-British, Afrikaner government, Nelson would have continued to be the relatively unknown and powerless leader-in-exile of an organization that had been divided and ineffective for decades while Britain controlled his country. It was only after the hard-nose, anti-British, Afrikaner government of South Africa liberated itself from colonial slavery to Britain, and powered itself into the prime position as an independent superpower on the African continent that the mega-powerful military industrial complex of the United States and Great Britain summoned the UN and their European allies to support the struggling ANC party and re-colonize his country.

The hidden motive behind the sanctions for crippling and replacing the independent-minded Afrikaner government of South Africa was the same as the strategy and motive for toppling the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In South Africa, the real global political players were slowly losing control over international trade and markets in strategic minerals. It was never really known [or admitted] outside the old government intelligence circles in South Africa that control over international trade and markets in strategic minerals strengthens the quest for global dominance. While South Africa was a British colony, that control was securely in the hands of the mega-powerful Anglo-American military industrial complex. But the Afrikaner government [having lost the war of independence against Britain half a century before] was slowly wrestling loose from imperialist control. Another civil war was needed to restore control. This time it was both black against white and black against black – Mandela’s ANC party also fought a relentless and often violent battle for supremacy against the Inkatha Freedom Party of the rival Zulu tribe.

Mainstream media created the myth that Nelson Mandela brought democracy to South Africa. But long after democratic governments had been established by and for European settlers and gradually duplicated for the other ethnic groups in the country, the vast majority of Mandela’s people were still living relatively undisturbed in vast rural areas under the dictatorship of tribal chiefs and their councils of warlords. Nelson Mandela and his ANC party fought for the privilege of taking over the democratic system established by the Europeans. Even today, the tribal chiefs in South Africa retain their authority, rights and privilege by tradition, not as a democratically elected office.

The harm that was done to the country as political violence evolved into a culture of crime and hatred will not be easily undone, not by Nelson Mandela’s ANC party. Given the character and vision of this tenacious man, he would have changed the attitudes of the people if he could. But, as the hard facts and evidence show, he was only a much photographed figurehead and very much sought-after-celebrity, but never any real transforming power. His influence over his followers and enemies was not nearly as great as the media has made out or he would no doubt have created a really great nation out of that troubled region in troubled Africa. In reality, Nelson Mandela’s rainbow republic still struggles to rise from the heap of human misery. It still staggers under the load of an opulent, gold and diamond studded crown of corrupt, super rich, upper-class back and white political supremacists.

Without realizing it, Nelson Mandela had helped his country become another minion of the United States rather than of Britain. The extent to which his organization bowed to its international patrons can be seen from the fact that his was the only government ever to voluntarily dismantle a nuclear weapons program; something established [possibly with help from Israel] as a guarantee of self-preservation by the independent-minded government of the Afrikaner legacy. His ANC party has become the key hired agency in Africa that enables the USA to achieve its unrivalled position in the world today.

Mandela was a man of courage, dignity and grace, ever optimistic and compassionate about his people, but neither he nor his party could fix all the problems created by foreign governments that schemed and plotted, connived and lobbied in their efforts to create enough chaos in the country to bring it to it’s knees and force upon it the status of a gold-plated banana republic. Did Africa’s icon of liberation really improve the lot of indigenous South Africans? Free, indeed, yes, South Africa’s people are free, free to be poor, free to be unemployed, robbed, raped and diseased. Many of his people would say they are definitely NO better off!  But now they have their very own patron saint and that will keep them voting for his ANC party as long as his name is engraved upon it.

Ukraine: Orange Revolution 2.0?

December 6th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Ongoing Ukrainian protests bear its earmarks. Whether it succeeds remains to be seen.

Ordinary Ukrainians are being manipulated. Internal street thugs are involved. They’re militants. They’ve been recruited to cause trouble. They’re mostly young. They’re Western oriented.

Washington’s dirty hands are involved. Color revolutions are a US specialty. At issue is eliminating independent sovereign states.

It’s co-opting former Soviet Republics. It’s drawing them into NATO. It’s increasing American dominance.

It’s using EU membership as bait. It’s doing so despite no tangible benefits. Promises made to be broken substitute. Weakening Russia is prioritized.

So-called spontaneous uprisings are manufactured. Ukrainians should know better. They’ve been through this before.

Memories are disturbingly short. Washington manipulated Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution.

Ordinary people ended up losers. Promises made were fake. Exploitation followed. Once deceived should have been enough.

Good sense isn’t a man on the street attribute. PT Barnum allegedly said “(t)here’s a sucker born every minute.” Con men, corporate predators, and ruthless nations take full advantage.

Ukrainians were had once. They’re being set up again.

Awakenings usually come too late to matter. Shutting stable doors after horses are stolen won’t get them back. What’s ahead remains to be seen.

Washington developed manipulating tactics through years of trial and error. They’re down to a science now. Often they work.

Rand Corporation strategists were involved. In the 1990s, they developed the concept of “swarming.” It relates to communication patterns and movements of bees and other insects.

They’re applied to military conflicts and street protests. Key US organizations are involved. More on swarming below.

The usual suspects include the National Endowment of Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House, the Open Society Foundation, and other corporate groups.

They serve US imperial and corporate interests. They exploit ordinary people doing so. Various activities are ongoing in different countries.

Different strategies are featured. Sustained mass protests are one step removed from revolutionary violence.

So-called color revolutions mask dark intentions. Ordinary people are easy marks. They’re manipulated like pawns.

Ukrainians are protesting against their own self-interest. Succeeding assures harming their welfare.

Whether Ukrainian officials succeed in calming things remains very much up for grabs. Daily images aren’t encouraging.

Opposition elements allied with Western interests. On December 4, Russia Today headlined “Ukraine opposition vows to maintain protests, PM calls to end violence.”

Opposition MPs blocked parliament. They demand President Viktor Yanukovych’s government resigns.

A Tuesday no confidence vote failed. It fell 40 votes short of a majority. It didn’t affect Yanukovych. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and cabinet ministers were targeted.

Yanukovych tried to quell public anger. So did Azarov, saying:

“We have extended our hand to you.” He erred adding “if we encounter a fist, I will be frank. We have enough force.” Honey catches more flies than vinegar.

He accused opposition elements of an attempted coup. They have “an illusion” about toppling the government, he said. “They have a plan. It includes taking control of Ukraine’s parliament by force.”

Deep-seated internal problems persist. Poverty, unemployment and widespread corruption need addressing.

Ukrainians are justifiably angry. Allying with troubled EU economies won’t help. Their best interests lie more East than West.

On Tuesday, Yanukovych flew to China. He did so to discuss a bilateral trade deal. He hopes to sign it. He’ll head to Russia next.

Moscow offers Ukraine tangible benefits. So do China, Iran and other non-Western states. Washington and EU intentions assure greater trouble than already.

It’s hard making ordinary Ukrainians understand. Even Western oriented ones. They have an illusion of EU-aligned future prosperity. Hard lessons often are learned too late.

According to Russia Today, “Ukraine is sending government delegations to both Moscow and Brussels to discuss economic ties.”

Kiev want “considerable (EU) aid to compensate for Ukraine’s losses.” Brussels won’t offer “any special treatment or review” alliance terms. Sticks substitute for carrots.

On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin attributed Ukraine protests to attempts to undermine its government.

“As far as the events in Ukraine are concerned,” he said, “to me they don’t look like a revolution, but rather like ‘pogrom.’ ”

“However strange this might seem, in my view it has little to do with Ukrainian-EU relations.”

Putin called protests pre-arranged. He believes opposition elements intended them ahead of February 2015 presidential elections. They jumped the gun, he thinks.

Ukrainian presidents serve for five years. Yanukovych was elected in 2010. He hopes for another term.

Putin called ongoing protests a “false start due to certain circumstances.”

Video footage shows “how well organized and trained militant groups operate,” he added. People are being manipulated.

“They say that the Ukrainian people are being deprived of their dream. But if you look at the contents of the (EU) deal – then you’ll see that the dream” is more illusion than reality.

EU terms are “very harsh,” Putin stressed. They involve sticks, not carrots.

“I want to stress,” he added, “that regardless of the choice of the Ukrainian people, we will respect it.”

Dark US and other Western sources accused him of pressuring Yanukovych to back down.

Russian Federation Council international affairs committee head Mikhail Margelov blames Brussels for Ukraine’s refusing an alliance deal.

“Brussels mistook Ukraine for some microstate, for which joining the European Union means making history,” he said.

“And it is mostly Brussels rather than some pressure from Russia that is to blame for Kiev’s decision not to sign the agreement in Vilnius.”

Ukraine is a “coveted prize,” he added. Brussels thinks inviting a former Soviet republic is too high an honor to refuse.

No matter that membership minuses way exceed pluses. Ukraine benefits most by turning East. Brussels offers little incentive to do otherwise.

On December 4, a Ukrainian delegation left for Moscow. At issue is restoring trade and economic ties.

A Brussels visit will follow. John Kerry is currently there. He didn’t surprise. He lied claiming “very powerful evidence” shows most Ukrainians want an EU alliance.

“We stand with the vast majority of the Ukrainians who want to see this future for their country,” he said.

Unacceptable meddling in other nations’ affairs is longstanding US policy. Doing so includes spreading malicious misinformation.

Western Ukrainians favor an EU alliance. Why they’ll have to explain. Eastern Donbas region and Crimean Peninsula ones are opposed.

Most Ukrainians favor a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Two-thirds oppose joining NATO. They do so for good reason They’re against global militarism.

They don’t want Ukraine involved in NATO wars. The Atlantic Alliance serves America’s imperial ambitions. Ukrainians oppose compromising good relations with Russia.

Current street tactics resemble 2004. In 1997, RAND Corporation researchers John Arquilla and David Ronfeld developed them. They titled their concept “Swarming & the Future of Conflict.”

It involves waging war by other means. It exploits the information revolution. It takes full advantage of “network-based organizations linked via email and mobile phones to enhance the potential of swarming.”

In 1993, Arquilla and Ronfeldt prepared an earlier document titled “Cyberwar Is Coming!

They said “warfare is no longer primarily a function of who puts the most capital, labor and technology on the battlefield, but of who has the best information” and uses it advantageously.

State-of-the art IT techniques use “advanced computerized information and communications technologies and related innovations in organization and management theory,” they explained.

Information technologies “communicate, consult, coordinate, and operate together across greater distances.”

Cyberwar today is what blitzkrieg was to 20th century warfare. In 1993, Arquilla and Ronfeldt focused on military conflicts.

In 1996, they studied net and cyberwar. They did so by examining “irregular modes of conflict, including terror, crime, and militant social activism.

In 1997, they developed the concept of swarming. They suggested it might “emerge as a definitive doctrine that will encompass and enliven both cyberwar and netwar.”

They envisioned “how to prepare for information-age conflict.” They called swarming a way to strike from all directions.

Effectiveness depends on various elements able to interconnect using revolutionary communication technology.

What works on battlefields proved effective on city streets. US-instigated color revolutions achieved regime change in Serbia (2000/2001), Georgia (2003), and Ukraine (2004), and Kyrgyzstan (2005).

Other efforts fell short. Color revolutions reflect America’s modern day new world order strategy. They followed the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Proxy and direct hot wars rage at the same time.

US strategy is multi-faceted. Subversion, mass surveillance, and destabilization play major parts. Successful swarming tactics accomplish coup d’etats by other means.

Anti-Iranian Green Revolution efforts failed. Street protests and clashes followed June 2009 elections.

CIA elements instigated black operations. They did so to destabilize Tehran’s government. Regime change plans haven’t changed. What happens going forward bears close watching.

Ukraine is currently in the eye of the storm. Protests have been ongoing since November 21. They show no signs of ebbing.

Ukrainian independence is at stake. Key is holding firm against US-led Western interference. It’s doing it nonviolently.

It’s transforming Ukraine responsibly. It’s initiating popular reforms It’s turning East more than West. It’s acting before it’s too late.

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

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

Visit his blog site at 

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.

The United Nations Security Council has announced sanctions against the Central African Republic (CAR) and has also given the French a big green light to use its military, as well as spearhead African Union forces in order to put down violence and restore “security, law and order” in the former French colony.

French President Francois Hollande announced “immediate” action yesterday, deploying 250 new army troops to join an already existing 600 troops currently stationed in that country.

The UNSC also imposed an arms embargo on the landlocked, mineral-rich African state and asked the United Nations to prepare for a possible peacekeeping mission, presumably to rescue the country from chaos under its new Muslim leader Michel Djotodia, who came into power in March ousting the French-backed junta of President Francois Bozize.


French state-owned and government-friendly media, December 5, gave all-day headline coverage to President’s Hollande’s call for war in the little heard-of Central African Republic (CAR). So what’s the background on this?

This desperately poor former French colony in central Africa is known to French for its former dictator – “Emperor” Bokassa – who before being overthrown provided a large gift of diamonds to “his friend”, French president of the day, Giscard d’Estaing for helping organize the 1977 ceremonies enthroning the “Emperor” with a robe by Pierre Cardin and 100 000 pieces of gold and silver plate decorating the “imperial” palace. Although today’s white expatriate French population is small, estimated at no more than 600 – 1000, deaths among these expatriates would be as“unseemly” as in the imperial days of the colony.  More important in fact, apart from the very small amount of diamonds and gold produced by the CAR, the country was promoted by many players – especially French, Canadian, Chinese and British – to hold impressive, or possibly huge quantities of uranium.

The French state-owned geological bureau, the BRGM, alongside Swiss and German mining interests (notably Uranio AG) had since the 1970s identified the Bakouma region in north central CAR as holding “potentially large uranium resources” at low depths, easily mined by open pit techniques. Relatively nearby coal or lignite resources might also theoretically be developed to provide cheap (if not “low carbon”) energy to operate uranium yellowcake conversion, before export.

Reaching a peak in 2009-2010 but falling away very fast after that, with uranium prices and the fond hopes of the so-called “nuclear renaissance”, several global mining resource promoters and traders were active with the Bakouma play, and other uranium asset plays in southern Africa.

The Uramin (ou UraMin) Corp. founded by Stephen Dattels and James Mellon and listed in Toronto and London, in 2005, featured the Bakouma uranium play among its portfolio of African uranium resources. UraMin was unsurprisingly registered in the Virgin Islands, to avoid taxes, but more surprisingly was bought out by Areva’s then-CEO Anne (‘Atomic Annie’) Lauvergeon in a deal struck in 2007 but only finally executed in 2011. The amounts paid by Areva varied from the first airing of the deal in the press, at about $470 million, to the probably final sum paid by state-owned Areva of $2.5 billion, according to French newspaper ‘Le Monde’ in a 13 January 2012 report.

Shortly after the sums were finally paid in late 2011, Atomic Annie was unceremoniously sacked as Areva CEO by then-president Nicolas Sarkozy in the dying days of his regime. Parisian political gossip claimed that Atomic Annie had been “ungenerous” in the commissions or kickbacks paid to long-time Sarkozy dealmaker and close political friend, Patrick Balkany, who had flown with Lauvergeon in her Areva Gulfstream on several dealmaking visits to Bangui, capital of CAR in 2008, and to neighboring Congo DR, where French-backed CAR junta leader or “president” Francois Bozize (photo, left, with ex-President Sarkozy) operated numerous cross-border trades with the local dictator. Balkany, in December 2013 has been charged by the French justice system with bribery and corruption on affairs unrelated to the CAR.

Following the 2011 Fukushima disaster – fatal for the image of nuclear power as “clean, cheap and safe” – the bottom fell out of the uranium market. Lauvergeon, even in 2007, had paid an extreme high price for low-performing, or in Bakouma’s case non-performing uranium assets. She had to go.


While still in power at Areva, and still in favour with Mr Sarkozy, Lauvergeon used the “large Bakouma prospect” as a key element in her corporate strategy to develop southern African uranium resources, and linked energy resources especially coal. With cheap coal to power uranium enrichment facilities – producing “almost zero carbon” uranium fuel – this can fuel dangerous and expensive nuclear reactors in “climate conscious” democracies, like France. Believing public opinion to be utterly stupid was a major help to the Areva strategy, promoted by France’s servile press and media as Areva’s “green energy” strategy.

Areva’s Trekkoppje mine in Namibia also purchased from UraMin, the same year 2007 as the Bakouma purchase, for the global sum of $2.5 billion, was developed on the basis of Areva’s belief that the mine’s huge water needs could be supplied by cheaply desalinated water, using coal energy for desalination, at a seaboard location for 200-kilometer inland pipeline transport to the mine site. Areva also believed that the very low uranium-content ores at Trekkopje could be efficiently exploited, and that world uranium prices would hold at more than $50 per pound (current Dec 2013 price, about $36).

In all cases Areva… was wrong.

By the end of 2011 it announced write-downs of 1.5 billion euros on its entire south African mining “portfolio” of operations, and specifically Trekkopje, as well as a 800 million euros loss on its nuclear operations. Areva’s losses on its wheeler-dealing in CAR were never disclosed, but no mine development of any kind ever started in CAR, whereas at Trekkopje some initial mine development work was started, before the project was abandoned or “mothballed”.

Areva’s southern Africa strategy was not only driven by the fond hope that uranium prices could or might attain $75 a pound, as world reactor orders and projects leapt into high gear, but also due to its intensifying security concerns at its two giant uranium mines in Sahel Africa, in Niger. Since 2009, and increasingly, hostage taking for ransom, and suicide attacks on Areva personnel and installations have incurred costs to Areva – denied by the corporation but reported in the French press – of at least 30 million euros simply for the “repurchase” and liberation of hostages. Spilling over to neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauretania, Algeria, Libya and Chad, Areva is opposed by regional and local insurgents ranging from irredentist Tuaregs to Al Qaeda jihadists and fundamental Christian bandit insurgents from as far away as Uganda. Areva’s relations with the local French-backed juntas controlling Mali and Niger, in particular, are also “troubled”. This resulted on October 27, 2013 in the Niger junta refusing to further cooperate with Areva, and the closure of its giant Arlit mine. The junta helped itself to 500 tons (1 million pounds) of uranium to “cover its expenses” but its booty has not yet been sold.


CAR is comparable to another former French colony – Haiti – due to its extreme poverty and the extreme corruption and barbarity of its juntas and dictatorships, or “governments” ruling with French backing. CAR may have considerable agricultural potential, its mineral resources may be larger than so-far proven, but “saving the country” requires large-scale, long-term investment which is unlikely to materialize in a poverty-wracked country subject to anarchy, rebellion and near-genocide.

Hollande’s claim, on French government-owned and government-serving media, that France’s armed intervention in CAR was supported and encouraged by “other European countries”, meaning Germany when it concerns hoped-for payments to France for its gung-ho remake of French colonial history, is unlikely to be anything but political grandstanding by Hollande. Interest in a low population, if large land area country, with no infrastructures and landlocked in the interior of the African continent can only be low. Other European countries are very unlikely to provide troops, and US military involvement is very unlikely. This will be an all-French show, ending with another French-chosen and French-backed junta.

Almost certainly, the “patriotic minded” media of France will be whistling tunes about Bakouma’s vast reserves of uranium when they are not touting diamonds littering the streams and rivers of CAR. In fact the diamonds are few and far apart, and the reserves of uranium are low grade. Much of the data provided by Uranio AG and UraMin is criticised as “fantasist” by more-polite geologist who do not want to use other and harsher words to describe the material that was fed to Areva – for $2.5 billion of French taxpayers’ money. Straight down the drain!

There exist rigid criteria for a serious scientific journal to accept a peer-reviewed paper and to publish it. As well there are strict criteria by which such an article can be withdrawn after publication.

The once-respected  Elsevier Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology has apparently decided to violate those procedures and has announced it is  retracting a long-term study on the toxic effects of Monsanto Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)—GMO Maize–it published a year ago.

The bizarre announcement comes only six months after Elsevier created a special new position, Associate Editor for Biotechnology (i.e. GMO), and fills it with a former Monsanto employee who worked for Monsanto’s front-organization—the International Life Sciences Institute—which develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GM foods and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations. Sound like something wrong with this picture?

 Some Background

In its November, 2012 issue, The Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology published a paper titled, “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.” by Gilles-Eric Séralini and his team of researchers at France’s Caen University.[1] It was a highly important study as it was the first and, astonishingly, still the only long-term study under controlled conditions of possible effects of a diet of GMO Maize treated with Monsanto Roundup herbicide.

Seralini submitted his study results to the respected journal following a rigorous four month review by scientific peers regarding methodology and such. Seralini’s group tested more than 200 rats of a diet of GMO corn over a period of a full two years at a cost of €3 million. The study was done in absolute secrecy to avoid industry pressure.

 The publication created an atomic blast rocking the entire edifice of the GMO industry. Pictures of test rats with grotesque cancer tumors appeared in newspapers around the world.

Seralini’s group studied the effect of a Monsanto GMO maize diet on the rats for much longer than Monsanto had in their study submitted to the EU European Food Safety Authority for approval. They did their study for the full two year average life-time instead of just 90 days in the Monsanto study. The long time span proved critical. The first tumors only appeared 4 to7 months into the study. In industry’s earlier 90-day study on the same GMO maize Monsanto NK603, signs of toxicity were seen, but were dismissed as “not biologically meaningful” by industry and EFSA alike. [2]

 It seems they were indeed very biologically meaningful.

The study was also done with the highest number of rats ever measured in a standard GMO diet study. They tested “also for the first time 3 doses (rather than two in the usual 90 day long protocols) of the Roundup-tolerant NK603 GMO maize alone, the GMO maize treated with Roundup, and Roundup alone at very low environmentally relevant doses starting below the range of levels permitted by regulatory authorities in drinking water and in GM feed.” [3]

 Their findings were more than alarming.  Mammary tumors that developed in rats fed GMO corn and/or low levels of Roundup. From the paper “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” published in Food and Chemical Toxicology

 The Seralini study concluded, “In females, all treated groups died 2–3 times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was visible in 3 male groups fed GMOs. All results were hormone and sex dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls; the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments. In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5–5.5 times higher. This pathology was confirmed by optic and transmission electron microscopy. Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3–2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls…” [4]

 Monsanto on defensive 

Monsanto and the related GMO industry immediately went on a war footing to control the potentially fatal damage from the Seralini study. Suddenly, with worldwide attention to the new Seralini results, the EU Commission and its EFSA was under fire as never in their history. How they reacted was worthy of a bad copy of an Agatha Christie murder novel. They piously announced that they had passed the Seralini study on to their EFSA scientific panel for evaluation.

 The Brussels EU scientific food regulatory organization, EFSA, was under the gun from the damning results of the long-term Seralini study. EFSA had recommended approval of Monsanto’s NK603 Roundup-tolerant maize in 2009 without first conducting any independent testing. They admitted that they relied on “information supplied by the applicant (Monsanto).” EFSA also admitted that the Monsanto tests on rats were for only 90 days. Seralini’s group noted that the massive toxic effects and deaths of GMO-fed rats took place well after 90 days, a reason why longer-term studied were obviously warranted. [5]

The EFSA concluded at the time of its initial Monsanto NK603 approval in 2009 that, “data provided [by Monsanto-w.e.] are sufficient and do not raise a safety concern.” The Brussels body added, “The EFSA GMO Panel is of the opinion that maize NK603 is as safe as conventional maize. Maize NK603 and derived products are unlikely to have any adverse effect on human and animal health in the context of the intended uses.” [6] Oops!

Now comes this guy Seralini and puts EFSA and the entire regulatory control process for GMO under grave doubt.

 The EU Commission was on record stating that no independent non-GMO industry long-term studies were needed on animals to test their safety. The EU guidelines for testing stated, “Toxicological assessments on test animals are not explicitly required for the approval of a new food in the EU or the US. Independent experts have decided that in some cases, chemical analyses of the food’s makeup are enough to indicate that the new GMO is substantially equivalent to its traditional counterpart…In recent years, biotech companies have tested their transgenic products (maize, soy, tomato) before introducing them to the market on several different animals over the course of up to 90 days. Negative effects have not yet been observed.” [7]

The “up to 90 days” is the key statement. Seralini’s study only observed serious tumors and other effects after 120 days in their two-year study.

EFSA Coverup

On November 28, 2012, only a few weeks after the study was published, EFSA in Brussels issued a press release with the following conclusion: “Serious defects in the design and methodology of a paper by Séralini et al. mean it does not meet acceptable scientific standards and there is no need to re-examine (sic!) previous safety evaluations of genetically modified maize NK603.”   Per Bergman, who led EFSA’s work, said: “EFSA’s analysis has shown that deficiencies in the Séralini et al. paper mean it is of insufficient scientific quality for risk assessment. We believe the completion of this evaluation process has brought clarity to the issue.” [8]

EFSA argued that Seralini had used the wrong kind of rats, not enough rats and that the statistical analysis was inadequate. By these standards, all toxicity studies on glyphosate and GMOs should be retracted because they used the same type and approximate number of rats as those in the Séralini study.

At the very minimum, the “precautionary principle” in instances involving even the potential for grave damage to the human population would mandate that the EU Commission and its EFSA should order immediate further serious, independent long-term studies to prove or disprove the results of the Seralini tests. Refusal to re-examine its earlier decision to approve Monsanto GMO maize, no matter what flaws might or might not have been in the Seralini study, suggested the EFSA was trying to cover for the GMO agrichemical lobby at the very least.

 Many members of the EFSA GMO review panel had documented ties to Monsanto and the GMO industry, a conflict of interest to put it mildly.  Corporate Europe Observer, an independent EU corporate watchdog group noted about the EFSA response, “EFSA failed to properly and transparently appoint a panel of scientists beyond any suspicion of conflict of interests; and it failed to appreciate that meeting with Europe’s largest biotech industry lobby group to discuss GMO risk assessment guidelines in the very middle of a EU review undermines its credibility.” [9]

 New blood at Elsevier

 While the official EFSA statement seemed to take pressure off Monsanto, it clearly was not enough so long as the Elsevier journal study could circulate and be cited around the world.

Then, out of the blue, in May 2013, six months after the Seralini study release, Elsevier announced that it had created a new position, “Associate Editor for Biotechnology.” The person they hired to fill it was Richard E. Goodman, a former Monsanto employee who in addition was with the Monsanto pro-GMO lobby organization, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) which develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GM foods and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations.

As one critical scientific website posed the obvious ethical sham of hiring Monsanto people to control GMO publications, “Does Monsanto now effectively decide which papers on biotechnology are published in FCT? And is this part of an attempt by Monsanto and the life science industry to seize control of science?”[10]

Then on November 24, 2013, six months after Goodman took control of GMO issues at the Journal, Dr A. Wallace Hayes, the editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology decided to retract the study by the team of Professor Séralini.

The reasons for the extraordinary retraction a full year after publishing are in violation of the guidelines for retractions in scientific publishing set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a member. According to the guidelines, the only grounds for a journal to retract a paper are:

•          Clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct (eg data fabrication) or honest error;

•          Plagiarism or redundant publication;

•          Unethical research.

 Séralini’s paper meets none of these criteria and Hayes admits as much. In his letter informing Prof Séralini of his decision, Hayes concedes that examination of Prof Séralini’s raw data showed “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data” and nothing “incorrect” about the data, and that the retraction was solely based on the “inconclusive” nature of the findings on tumours and mortality.[11]

As Claire Robinson of GM Watch points out, “inconclusiveness of findings is not a valid ground for retraction. Numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, which are often mixed in with findings that can be presented with more certainty. It is for future researchers to build on the findings and refine scientific understanding of any uncertainties.” [12]

Elsevier, the publisher of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, is one of the giants in worldwide scientific publications. And they are apparently not so rigorous when it comes to making money over scientific principle. In 2009, Elsevier  invented an entire medical journal, complete with editorial board, in order to publish papers promoting the products of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck. Merck provided the papers, Elsevier published them, and doctors read them, unaware that the “Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine” was simply a PR vehicle for the drug giant Merck. [13]


[1] Séralini, G.-E., et al., Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem. Toxicol. (2012),

 [2] Ibid.

 [3] Seralini et al., Op. Cit.

 [4] Ibid. 

 [5] European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms on applications (EFSA-GMO-NL-2005-22 and EFSA-GMO-RX-NK603) for the placing on the market of the genetically modified glyphosate tolerant maize NK603 for cultivation, food and feed uses and import and processing, and for renewal of the authorisation of maize NK603 as existing product, The EFSA Journal (2009) 1137, 1-50.

[6] Ibid.

[7] GMO-Kompass, Food Safety Evaluation–Evaluating Safety: A Major Undertaking, February 15, 2006, accessed in

 [8] EFSA, Séralini et al. study conclusions not supported by data, says EU risk assessment community, EFSA Press Release, 28 November 2012, accessed in

 [9] Corporate Europe Observatory, Op. Cit.

[10] Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, PhD,  The Goodman Affair: Monsanto Targets the Heart of Science,

May 20, 2013, accessed in

[11] Claire Robinson, Journal retraction of Séralini study is illicit unscientific and unethical, GMWatch,, 27 November 2013, accessed in


[13] Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, PhD,  The Goodman Affair…

Hollywood Without the Happy Ending  

Call it the Jason Bourne strategy.

Think of it as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) plunge into Hollywood — or into the absurd.  As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency’s moves couldn’t be have been more far-fetched or more real.  In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world’s most infamous jail.

The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.”

Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the CIA had selected a few dozen men from among the hundreds of terror suspects being held at Guantanamo and trained them to be double agents at a cluster of eight cottages in a program dubbed “Penny Lane.” (Yes, indeed, the name was taken from the Beatles song, as was “Strawberry Fields,” a Guantanamo program that involved torturing “high-value” detainees.) These men were then returned to what the Bush administration liked to call the “global battlefield,” where their mission was to befriend members of al-Qaeda and supply targeting information for the Agency’s drone assassination program.

Such a secret double-agent program, while colorful and remarkably unsuccessful, should have surprised no one.  After all, plea bargaining or persuading criminals to snitch on their associates — a tactic frowned upon by international legal experts – is widely used in the U.S. police and legal system.  Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence.

Hollywood in Langley

In July 2010, at his confirmation hearings for the post of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper explained the use of private contractors in the intelligence community: “In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War… we were under a congressional mandate to reduce the community by on the order of 20%… Then 9/11 occurred… With the gusher… of funding that has accrued particularly from supplemental or overseas contingency operations funding, which, of course, is one year at a time, it is very difficult to hire government employees one year at a time. So the obvious outlet for that has been the growth of contractors.”

Thousands of “Green Badges” were hired via companies like Booz Allen Hamilton andQinetiq to work at CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) offices around the world, among the regular staff who wore blue badges. Many of them — like Edward Snowden — performed specialist tasks in information technology meant to augment the effectiveness of government employees.

Then the CIA decided that there was no aspect of secret war which couldn’t be corporatized.  So they set up a unit of private contractors as covert agents, green-lighting them to carry guns and be sent into U.S. war zones at a moment’s notice. This elite James Bond-like unit of armed bodyguards and super-fixers was given the anodyne name Global Response Staff (GRS).

Among the 125 employees of this unit, from the Army Special Forces via private contractors came Raymond Davis and Dane Paresi; from the Navy SEALs Glen Doherty, Jeremy Wise, and Tyrone Woods. All five would soon be in the anything-but-covert headlines of newspapers across the world.  These men — no women have yet been named — were deployed on three- to four-month missions accompanying CIA analysts into the field.

Davis was assigned to Lahore, Pakistan; Doherty and Woods to Benghazi, Libya; Paresi and Wise to Khost, Afghanistan. As GRS expanded, other contractors went to Djibouti, Lebanon, and Yemen, among other countries, according to a Washington Post profile of the unit.

From early on, its work wasn’t exactly a paragon of secrecy. By 2005, for instance, former Special Forces personnel had already begun openly discussing jobs in the unit at online forums. Their descriptions sounded like something directly out of a Hollywood thriller. The Post portrayed the focus of GRS personnel more mundanely as “designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.”

“They don’t learn languages, they’re not meeting foreign nationals, and they’re not writing up intelligence reports,” a former U.S. intelligence official told that paper. “Their main tasks are to map escape routes from meeting places, pat down informants, and provide an ‘envelope’ of security… if push comes to shove, you’re going to have to shoot.”

In the ensuing years, GRS embedded itself in the Agency, becoming essential to its work.  Today, new CIA agents and analysts going into danger zones are trained to work with such bodyguards. In addition, GRS teams are now loaned out to other outfits like the NSA for tasks like installing spy equipment in war zones.

The CIA’s Private Contractors (Don’t) Save the Day

Recently these men, the spearhead of the CIA’s post-9/11 contractor war, have been making it into the news with startling regularity.  Unlike their Hollywood cousins, however, the news they have made has all been bad. Those weapons they’re packing and the derring-do that is supposed to go with them have repeatedly led not to breathtaking getaways and shootouts, but to disaster.  Jason Bourne, of course, wins the day; they don’t.

Take Dane Paresi and Jeremy Wise. In 2009, not long after Paresi left the Army Special Forces and Wise the Navy SEALs, they were hired by Xe Services (the former Blackwater) to work for GRS and assigned to Camp Chapman, a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. On December 30, 2009, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor who had been recruited by the CIA to infiltrate al-Qaeda, was invited to a meeting at the base after spending several months in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands. Invited as well were several senior CIA staff members from Kabul who hoped Balawi might help them target Ayman al-Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda’s number two man, who also hailed from Jordan.

Details of what happened are still sketchy, but the GRS men clearly failed to fulfill their security mission. Somehow Balawi, who turned out to be not a double but a triple agent, made it onto the closed base with a bomb and blew himself up, killing not just Paresi and Wise but also seven CIA staff officers, including Jennifer Matthews, the base chief.

Thirteen months later, in January 2011, another GRS contractor, Raymond Davis, decided to shoot his way out of what he considered a difficult situation in Lahore, Pakistan. The Army Special Forces veteran had also worked for Blackwater, although at the time of the shootings he was employed by Hyperion Protective Services, LLC.

Assigned to work at a CIA safe house in Lahore to support agents tracking al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Davis had apparently spent days photographing local military installations like the headquarters of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. On January 27th, his car was stopped and he claims that he was confronted by two young men, Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad. Davis proceeded to shoot both of them dead, and then take pictures of their bodies, before radioing back to the safe house for help. When a backup vehicle arrived, it compounded the disaster by driving at high speed the wrong way down a street and killing a passing motorcyclist.

Davis was later caught by two traffic wardens, taken to a police station, and jailed. A furor ensued, involving both countries and an indignant Pakistani media.  The U.S. embassy, which initially claimed he was a consular official before the Guardian broke the news that he was a CIA contractor, finally pressured the Pakistani government into releasing him, but only after agreeing to pay out $2.34 million in compensation to the families of those he killed.

A year and a half later, two more GRS contractors made front-page news under the worst of circumstances. Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods had been assigned to a CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, where the Agency was attempting to track a developing North African al-Qaeda movement and recover heavy weapons, including Stinger missiles, that had been looted from state arsenals in the wake of an U.S.-NATO intervention which led to the fall of the autocrat Muammar Qaddafi.

On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was staying at a nearby diplomatic compound when it came under attack. Militants entered the buildings and set them on fire.  A CIA team, including Doherty, rushed to the rescue, although ultimately, unlike Hollywood’s action teams, they did not save Stevens or the day. In fact, several hours later, the militants raided the CIA base, killing both Doherty and Woods.

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The disastrous denouements to these three incidents, as well as the deaths of four GRS contractors – more than a quarter of CIA casualties since the War on Terror was launched — raise a series of questions: Is this yet another example of the way the privatization of war and intelligence doesn’t work?  And is the answer to bring such jobs back in-house? Or does the Hollywood-style skullduggery (gone repeatedly wrong) hint at a larger problem?  Is the present intelligence system, in fact, out of control and, despite acombined budget of $52.6 billion a year, simply incapable of delivering anything like the “security” promised, leaving the various spy agencies, including the CIA, increasingly desperate to prove that they can “defeat” terrorism?

Take, for example, the slew of documents Edward Snowden – another private contractor who at one point worked for the CIA — released about secret NSA programs attempting to suck up global communications at previously unimaginable rates. There have been howls of outrage across the planet, including from spied-upon heads of state.  Those denouncing such blatant invasions of privacy have regularly raised the fear that we might be witnessing the rise of a secret-police-like urge to clamp down on dissent everywhere.

But as with the CIA, there may be another explanation: desperation.  Top intelligence officials, fearing that they will be seen as having done a poor job, are possessed by an ever greater urge to prove their self-worth by driving the intelligence community to ever more (rather than less) of the same.

As Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and defense secretary, told MSNBC: “If you’re looking for a needle in the haystack, you need a haystack.”  It’s true that, while the various intelligence agencies and the CIA may not succeed when it comes to the needles, they have proven effective indeed when it comes to creating haystacks.

In the case of the NSA, the Obama administration’s efforts to prove that its humongous data haul had any effect on foiling terrorist plots — at one point, they claimed 54 such plots foiled – has had a quality of genuine pathos to it.  The claims have proven so thinthat administration and intelligence officials have struggled to convince even those in Congress who support the programs, let alone the rest of the world, that it has done much more than gather and store staggering reams of information on almost everyone to no particular purpose whatsoever.  Similarly, the FBI has made a point of trumpeting every “terrorist” arrest it has made, most of which, on closer scrutiny, turn out to be of gullible Muslims, framed by planted evidence in plots often essentially engineered by FBI informants.

Despite stunning investments of funds and the copious hiring of private contractors, when it comes to ineptitude the CIA is giving the FBI and NSA a run for their money. In fact, both of its recently revealed high-profile programs — GRS and the Guantanamo double agents — have proven dismal failures, yielding little if anything of value.  The Associated Press account of Penny Lane, the only description of that program thus far, notes, for instance, that al-Qaeda never trusted the former Guantanamo Bay detainees released into their midst and that, after millions of dollars were fruitlessly spent, the program was canceled as a failure in 2006.

If you could find a phrase that was the polar opposite of “more bang for your buck,” all of these efforts would qualify.  In the case of the CIA, keep in mind as well that you’re talking about an agency which has for years conducted drone assassination campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Hundreds of innocent men, women, and children have been killed along with numerous al-Qaeda types and “suspected militants,” and yet — many experts believe — these campaigns have functioned not as an air war on, but for, terror.  In Yemen, as an example, the tiny al-Qaeda outfit that existed when the drone campaign began in 2002 has grown exponentially.

So what about the Jason Bourne-like contractors working for GRS who turned out to be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? How successful have they been in helping the CIA sniff out al-Qaeda globally?  It’s a good guess, based on what we already know, that their record would be no better than that of the rest of the CIA.

One hint, when it comes to GRS-assisted operations, may be found in documents revealed in 2010 by WikiLeaks about joint CIA-Special Operations hunter-killer programs in Afghanistan like Task Force 373. We don’t actually know if any GRS employees were involved with those operations, but it’s notable that one of Task Force 373′s principal bases was in Khost, where Paresi and Wise were assisting the CIA in drone-targeting operations. The evidence from the WikiLeaks documents suggests that, as with GRS missions, those hunter-killer teams regularly botched their jobs by killing civilians and stoking local unrest.

At the time, Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department contractor who often worked with Task Force 373 as well as other Special Operations Forces “capture/kill” programs in Afghanistan and Iraq, told me: “We are killing the wrong people, the mid-level Taliban who are only fighting us because we are in their valleys. If we were not there, they would not be fighting the U.S.”

As details of programs like Penny Lane and GRS tumble out into the open, shedding light on how the CIA has fought its secret war, it is becoming clearer that the full story of the Agency’s failures, and the larger failures of U.S. intelligence and its paramilitarized, privatized sidekicks has yet to be told.

The biotech sector often yells for “peer review” when the anti-GMO movement refers to analyses or research-based findings to state its case. Despite Professor Seralini publishing his research findings (rats fed on GMOs) that were critical of the health impacts of GMOs in an internationally renowned peer-reviewed journal in 2012, his methodology and findings were nevertheless subjected to sustained attacks by the sector. Personal smears came his way too (1). Now he finds that his paper has been retracted by the journal.

 Peer review or no peer review, it seems to matter little to the biotech sector when research findings have the potential to damage its interests. In any case, peer review is only for the sector’s critics. It doesn’t seem to apply much to it. For instance, in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored (2).

Commercial interest, political strategy and lobbying, not science, is what really counts for this industry. Much of the research it uses to back up its claims is after all carried out by itself and is not fully open to outside scrutiny. Certain negative findings that would be detrimental to its interests are suppressed. According to Open Earth Source in a 2011 article in Huffington Post, this is certainly the case where glysophate (Round Up) has been concerned (3). It is therefore disconcerting that policy makers willingly accept the industry’s claims and facilitate its aims, not least in the UK.    

GeneWatch UK has revealed how Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF (all biotech companies) under the guise of the ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Council’ held a meeting in June 2012 with government ministers and academics to formulate a ‘strategy’ to promote GMO in schools, to ‘educate’ the public and to ‘improve’ the regulatory framework favouring GMOs, while encouraging farmers to change their farming methods to fully accommodate the GMO products the companies produce.

Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK said that this shows breath-taking arrogance by these companies which seem to think that British farming must be destroyed to suit their own commercial interest and British children should be brainwashed to support their business strategies. She argues that ministers should not be pushing the GM sector’s propaganda in British schools at taxpayers’ expense (4). It begs the question: where is the role for independent science (not corporate/industry-backed science) in all of this? The sector seems able to secure political patronage or co-opt key players to its cause as and when necessary.

And the reason for this is clear. Writer Rich Murray highlights on how top people from the GM sector have moved with ease to take up many top positions with various US government bodies, such as the FDA (5). William F Engdahl has described a similar effect in Europe (6). In both cases, the revolving door between government and biotech sector ensures the latter’s interests are served.

Seralini’s research team based its experiment on the same protocol as a previous Monsanto study but, importantly, were testing more parameters more frequently. And the GMO-fed rats were studied for much longer. The long time span proved critical. The first tumours only appeared four to seven months into the study. In the industry’s earlier 90-day study on the same GMO maize Monsanto NK603, signs of toxicity were seen but were dismissed as “not biologically meaningful” by industry and the European Food Safety Agency. It seems they were indeed very biologically meaningful.

 In his recent piece in The Ecologist, William F Engdahl argues Seralini’s research is valid and that biotech pressure has led to the journal’s decision to retract Seralini’s paper (7). Engdahl notes that the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, where Seralini’s paper appeared, has itself violated scientific standards by deciding to retract the paper.

  It begs the questions: when does science become ‘non-science’ and when can a journal decide to reinvent criteria for publication and retraction? On the Independent Science News website (8), Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham note that in the run-up to the retraction, the journal’s publisher, Elsevier, announced that it had created a new position, that of Associate Editor for Biotechnology. The person they hired to fill it was Richard E Goodman, a former Monsanto employee. Six months after Goodman took control of GMO issues at the Journal, Dr A Wallace Hayes, the editor of the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, retracted the study by the team of Professor Séralini, citing the ‘inconclusiveness’ of the research findings as the reason.

  However, Claire Robinson on the GM Watch site (9) notes that inconclusiveness of findings is not a valid ground for retraction because numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, which are often mixed in with findings that can be presented with more certainty. She rightly states that it is for future researchers to build on the findings and refine scientific understanding of any uncertainties.

There is something highly suspicious about all of this.

The public is having GMO food pushed on it with no say in the matter thanks to deceit and various forms of institutionalised corruption. Unfortunately, argument stemming from independent scientific findings is too often sidelined in favour of other means of influence. Recall how Dr Arpad Pusztai in the UK was effectively silenced over his research and a campaign was set in motion to destroy his reputation some years ago because his research findings were unpalatable to the biotech sector. Then there is the infamous WikiLeaks cable highlighting how GMOs were being forced into European nations by the US ambassador to France who plotted with other US officials to create a ‘retaliatory target list’ of anyone who tried to regulate GMOs.

In the meantime, evidence questioning the health impacts and efficacy or lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs mounts (10,11,12,13). But this is of little concern to the industry and its pressure tactics and global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (14).

 Is science to fall victim to outside pressures? Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham argue that unless radical reform is achieved, peer-reviewed publication, which many hold to be the defining characteristic of science, will have undergone a remarkable inversion. From its origin as a safeguard of quality and independence, it will have become a tool through which one vision, that of corporate science, came to assert ultimate control. They argue that Richard Goodman now has the opportunity to throw down the stairs only those papers marked “industry approved.”

 It’s a valid point. As Don Huber, Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, has indicated, getting research findings published that do not coincide with the aims of key commercial interests can be difficult and comes with certain risks (15). With some hugely powerful players involved, many of whom have influence over journal content and have successfully infiltrated important government and official bodies, much of the science and the debate is being manipulated and hijacked by vested interests for commercial gain.

















The current wave of protests in Ukraine bears the label “Made in Germany,” “Made in the EU” and “Made in America.” The Western media has gone to great lengths to portray the demonstrations in Kiev as a struggle for democracy and the rule of law. In fact, they are part of a conflict over geostrategic issues. The aim is to repel Russian influence and subject Ukraine to the domination of Germany, the European Union and NATO.

Nine years ago, the Orange Revolution was organized with massive political and financial support from the US government and American NGOs such as the Open Society Institute of billionaire George Soros. These forces were able to annul the presidential election and ensure that the pro-EU and pro-US tandem of Viktor Yushchenko and Julia Tymoshenko took over as head of state and head of government in place of Viktor Yanukovich, who was considered to be in the pocket of Russia. The duo quickly fell out, however, and Yanukovich was able to assume the post of president in 2010.

Now another attempt is being made to bring a regime to power that will subordinate the former Soviet Republic and granary of the Russian Empire to the EU. An examination of the political leadership of the protests reveals their reactionary character. They are led by three parties, two of which have close relations with the conservative camp in the EU, while the third is openly fascist.

The Batkivshchyna (Homeland) party, led by the imprisoned Julia Tymoshenko, has observer status with the European People’s Party, the association of Europe’s Christian-Democratic and conservative parties. UDAR (Punch), headed by boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who is a resident of Germany, is a creation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its think tank, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The latter publicly advertises on its web site seminars devoted to the political education of UDAR members.

According to a study entitled “The Extreme Right in the Ukraine” by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the third party, Svoboda (Freedom), is “the flagship of core extreme-right ideology.” The party’s original name was the Social-National Party of Ukraine. It used as its emblem a logo reminiscent of the Nazi swastika. On the advice of the French National Front (FN), with which it works closely, it decided on a less provocative name.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk (Homeland) and Vitali Klitschko appear at press conferences together with Oleh Tyahnybok from Svoboda. Tyahnybok is a neo-Nazi notorious for his ultranationalist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic outbursts.

Leading European and American politicians have expressed their solidarity with the protests in Ukraine. The same forces that have tacitly supported the brutality of police in mercilessly beating those opposing EU austerity policies in Athens, Madrid and elsewhere now proclaim their outrage at the brutality of the Ukrainian police.

US State Secretary John Kerry urged the Ukrainian government to “listen to the voice of their people,” while his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, intervened personally on Wednesday to mix with demonstrators in Kiev. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has demanded that the Ukrainian government guarantee the right to freedom of expression and assembly. The German government, which has just commenced new proceedings against the neo-fascist National Democratic Party of Germany, defends the right of Ukrainian fascists to demonstrate.

Though it is calling for the resignation of the president and new elections, the opposition does not enjoy the support of the majority of Ukrainians. A motion of censure against the government failed on Tuesday in parliament. The Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union that the opposition wants to implement would have a devastating impact on large sections of the Ukrainian population.

The EU Agreement excludes simultaneous membership in a Russian-led customs union and would thus cut off Ukraine from its main trading partner, with which Ukraine’s industry and transport routes are closely connected. The abolition of customs duties on European goods would also mean bankruptcy for many Ukrainian industries.

The terms of the agreement, which include the introduction of EU rules for labor market deregulation, the privatization of state enterprises and a reduction in the public debt, would have a social impact similar to the EU austerity programs imposed on Greece, Romania and other countries. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is already denying Ukraine a much-needed credit because the government refuses to hike the price of gas by 40 percent—a move that would inevitably result in the death of many unemployed people and pensioners unable to pay their heating bills.

The Association Agreement would turn the country into an extended workbench for German and European companies, which could produce at lower wage rates than those in China. At the same time, the country’s natural resources, its vast and fertile landmass, and its domestic market of 46 million inhabitants make Ukraine a mouthwatering prospect for German and European businesses.

The agreement would also strengthen the EU’s hand against Russia. A customs union or Eurasian Union comprising Russia and the Ukraine would have had a significantly stronger position in trade negotiations with the EU than an isolated Russia.

Germany, the EU and the US are pursuing not only economic, but also geopolitical, objectives in Ukraine. Given Russia’s loss of influence in Eastern Europe since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the incorporation of Ukraine into the EU would push Russia off to the edge of Europe.

Since the end of the 18th Century, Ukraine formed an important part of the Russian and Soviet state. Moreover, the Russian Black Sea Fleet is located in Crimea at a port leased to Russia by Ukraine.

Both the US and the EU have an interest in weakening Russia, which is considered to be an important ally of China. Immediately after his election in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Moscow to strengthen the two countries’ “strategic partnership.” Both countries feel threatened economically and strategically by the aggressive incursions of the US and its allies in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

China is also expanding its economic links with Ukraine, which currently conducts about 5 percent of its foreign trade with China. In October, theSouth China Morning Post reported that the Chinese state-owned enterprise XPCC had struck a deal with the Ukrainian agricultural company KSG Agro to gain access to 100,000 hectares of arable land for the production of food for China. This area is to be expanded to three million hectares—the size of Belgium or Massachusetts.

China has already given the country loans of $10 billion. Ukraine considers its economic relations with China to be so important that President Yanukovich set off on Tuesday for a four-day state visit to Beijing, despite the ongoing political crisis.

This is the background to the attempts by the EU and the German government to use the protests in Kiev to destabilize the Ukrainian government. Their initiative has been launched in tandem with the US, which is systematically expanding its military presence in Asia to encircle China and undermine its influence in the region. To this end, the US has massively intensified its pressure on China in recent weeks.

The offensive against Ukraine raises profound historical questions. In two world wars, Germany sought to bring Ukraine under its control and committed abominable crimes in the process. The current brazenness of the German government is fraught with new dangers. The growing international tensions can quickly turn into armed conflict.

This danger can be countered only by an independent movement of the international working class fighting for a united socialist Europe.

Terrorism is Largely US Imperialism’s Own Creation

December 6th, 2013 by Bill Van Auken

US Congressional Intelligence Chiefs Promote Terror Scare 

The US is less safe against a ubiquitous threat from global terrorism today than it was even one or two years ago, according to those who chair Congress’s intelligence committees.

Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Senate panel, and Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the committee in the House, strongly concurred on this question during a television interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program last Sunday.

CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Feinstein, “Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago?”

Feinstein responded: “I don’t think so. I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that, the fatalities are way up.” She added that there were “more groups than ever and there’s huge malevolence out there.”

Rogers enthusiastically concurred: “Oh, I absolutely agree that we’re not safer today for the same reasons.”

With the US now spending twice as much on its intelligence apparatus as it did in 2001—we now know, thanks to the revelations of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, that the “black budget” for these agencies topped $56 billion for 2013—such an assessment raises obvious questions.

Are the two intelligence chairmen lying? Are these vast sums being spent for purposes other than safeguarding the American people against terrorism? The answer to both questions is yes.

The claims about the number of terror attacks and fatalities being “up worldwide” constitute a deliberate and cynical distortion.

In point of fact, for 2012, the total number of terror fatalities in the US was nine. Six of these were inflicted by one neo-Nazi gunman who mowed down worshipers at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, hardly the focus of the US “war on terror.” None was caused by Al Qaeda-linked or inspired suspects.

During the same year, a grand total of nine alleged terror plots were reported, half as many as the year before. Virtually all of them involved undercover FBI agents provocateurs who ensnared unwitting Muslim-Americans in “sting” operations.

So what are the scare statistics invoked by Feinstein and Rogers? They are drawn overwhelmingly from a handful of countries where the US has engaged in neocolonial wars and occupations. Just four countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria—accounted for well over 70 percent of terror-related deaths in 2012, according to the US State Department’s own figures.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the targets of the Obama administration’s so-called AfPak War, the so-called terrorist attacks have taken place in the context of resistance to US occupation and continuous US drone assassinations and massacres. In Iraq, they are the result of a sectarian bloodletting that is the legacy of the US invasion and toppling of the country’s secular regime.

It was Syria that saw the sharpest growth in the number of attacks and by far the largest number of dead and wounded per attack. Here, as in Libya before it, terrorism has been a preferred weapon in a US-backed war for regime change in which Al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters have served as Washington’s main proxy force on the ground.

So, on a global scale, terrorism is largely US imperialism’s own creation—either through directly fomenting it as in Libya and Syria or provoking it through imperialist invasions and drone killings. While thousands have paid the price for these policies, they have for over a decade not been in any significant numbers in the US itself.

Of course none of these points were even hinted at by the CNN’s Crowley, who, like the rest of the media, served merely to facilitate and amplify the terror fear-mongering of the two officials.

It was Rogers who first touched on the main point of this attempt to breathe new life into the terror scare. “We’re fighting amongst ourselves here in this country about the role of our intelligence community that is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats,” said the Republican congressman. “And so we’ve got to shake ourselves out of this pretty soon and understand that our intelligence services are not the bad guys.”

While the name Edward Snowden did not cross the lips of Crowley, Feinstein or Rogers, it quickly became clear that his revelations of criminal domestic and international surveillance were not only the subtext of the interview, but its principal motivation.

Crowley turned sympathetically to the two legislators and stated: “It seems to me … both of you are saying you haven’t liked this focus on the NSA and the complaints about the NSA in terms of the breadth of what they’re collecting.”

Rogers responded by lamenting the “thousands of man hours” spent in answering the continuing revelations. He insisted that both his and Feinstein’s intelligence committees “take great pride in our real oversight function … to make sure they’re not violating the law.”

He concluded by warning that “all of that work over and over again every time there’s a disclosure” was taking the US intelligence apparatus “away from their focus, which is, what is Al Qaeda’s next event?”

Even lying should make some sense. Snowden’s revelations have clearly established that the congressional committees utterly failed to prevent the NSA and other intelligence agencies from violating the law and abrogating core democratic and constitutional rights. Just as with torture and the other crimes of the Bush administration, they have acted as co-conspirators of the US military and intelligence apparatus, working to conceal these crimes from the American people.

Those like Feinstein and Rogers represent not the American people, but rather the military and the spy agencies that form the core of the American state. Their loyalty is assured not only by ideology, but by definite material interests. It is no accident that the spouses of both legislators have made millions as executives of private security contractors for the US military and the State Department.

These revelations have also made clear that the war on terror is itself a fraud, with the “focus” of these agencies placed not on Al Qaeda, but on the population of the US and the entire planet.

The interview aired just days before the latest revelation that the NSA has been collecting roughly 5 billion records each and every day in order to track the minute-by-minute movements of hundreds of millions of cellphone users around the world, including in the US itself.

This follows the release of multiple documents showing that the agency has spied on the populations and governments of Europe, South America and Southeast Asia, going so far as to tap the office and personal phones of heads of state such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Other material has been made public making it clear that the NSA is engaged in extensive industrial espionage, targeting the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras and other international firms.

Neither Feinstein nor Rogers could even attempt to argue that such activities are part of the NSA’s “focus” on Al Qaeda. It is obvious that they are rather part and parcel of the aggressive drive by US imperialism to offset its economic decline with ever greater reliance on the might of its military and intelligence complex.

The US political system, based on the rule of a thin layer of corporate and financial oligarchs exercised through two capitalist parties and against the interests of working people, the vast majority of the population, cannot tolerate the defense of democratic rights or the exposure of the crimes of the state.

The warning by Rogers that Americans must stop “fighting amongst ourselves” over the massive domestic and international spying operations or, implicitly, face another Al Qaeda attack, must be taken as a threat.

It is well established that virtually every terrorist attack or supposedly foiled plot to take place on US soil, including that of September 11, 2001, has been carried out by individuals who were either acting under the direction of US agents or under their surveillance. The massive US intelligence apparatus clearly has the means to engineer or facilitate another terrorist provocation with the aim of silencing the exposure of its crimes.

Guantanamo: Twelve Years of Torture, Illegality, and Shame

December 6th, 2013 by Victoria Brittain

A litany of physical injuries, psychological deterioration, and illnesses caused by the conditions of the last 12 years are fully documented and are an indictment of all those responsible at every level of US government and military…

Twelve years have passed since the US government of President George Bush made the dramatic decision to ignore half a century of international law, abrogate the Geneva Conventions and bring us to a place today where 164 men who have never been tried and 84 of whom have been cleared for release, are still in Guantanamo Bay prison.

The horror of the place cannot truly be conveyed in words. Fifteen men are being daily force fed, in contravention of medical ethics. The current hunger strike has lasted since February and at one time involved two thirds of the prisoners. Men became skin and bones, according to their lawyers, one of who has an on-going court case to get an independent doctor into the prison to assess his failing client. Violence is a daily norm with invasive body searches and manhandling of prisoners in and out of cells by special teams of heavy soldiers in body armour. Solitary confinement for many has lasted months or years. A litany of physical injuries, psychological deterioration, and illnesses caused by the conditions of the last 12 years are fully documented and are an indictment of all those responsible at every level of US government and military.

Guantanamo is the symbol of the new normality imposed on our world since that reckless Bush-era phrase was coined – the war on terror. The notorious Abu Ghraib photographs of US abuse in Iraq in 2004 had their origins in the personnel and practices authorized by the Bush White House in Bagram, Kandahar and Guantanamo.

Key elements of US practice: prisoners held indefinitely and without charge or trial; the Geneva Conventions ignored; torture and abuse widespread; the judiciary politicized; are a step backwards for civilization as they encourage every other country similarly to normalize abuse of human beings. The results are visible daily in Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, for instance. And the killing of civilians by US drones in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia is part of the pattern where civilians are treated as if they are combatants.

There is however a lawyer-led fight-back in the US against all this, which is significant and in marked contrast to the apathy or vindictiveness of politicians who have not studied the issue and accept the unacceptable status quo. Over these nearly 12 years hundreds of US lawyers, as well as many elsewhere too, have worked tirelessly to get due process for Guantanamo prisoners, first under the Bush administration and then under President Obama, but have been knocked back again and again by appeals from the government lawyers over cases won. Back in 2004 the US Supreme Court gave the prisoners the right to habeas corpus hearings in US courts. A handful prevailed in the district court and the government did not appeal, instead sending the men home. But no district court decision in favour of a prisoner survived review by the higher court.

Since Colonel John Bogdan took over command at Guantanamo last year his men have been deliberately confrontational with the prisoners: with invasive searches of the bodies of prisoners who were meeting lawyers or making a phone call; ransacking of cells and removal of personal items; searching of Korans. The colonel’s harsh new regime sparked the last hunger strike, which was the men’s response of despair at their treatment and the continuing legal limbo they found themselves in.

Weeks into the strike lawyers for the prisoners went into action in the US to publicize the outrageous – and illegal – conditions in which all this was happening. And within a few weeks last spring powerful media like the New York Times called for the closing of Guantanamo. Leading members of Congress called for those men cleared to be repatriated. Hundreds of unknown American citizens donned orange jumpsuits, went on hunger strikes, demonstrated outside the White House. And dozens of nurses were sent by the administration to Guantanamo to carry out force-feeding twice a day and make sure that no prisoner could die. It seemed that perhaps the world had really woken up to the horror of Guantanamo, and that the men’s sacrifice of their health had succeeded.

Almost all of them were seized (and some bought for bounties) without evidence of wrong-doing. Some prisoners at least know why they are still in limbo. The Yemenis, for instance, 55 of whom have been cleared, had a new obstacle put up by the president himself. President Obama simply declared, after the 2009 failed underwear bombing in a civilian aircraft, that because of its origins in Yemen no one would be returned to that country. During the height of the hunger strikes in May he lifted that ban, but still no Yemeni has been returned home.  The US is discussing building a possible new prison for them in Yemen itself.

Meanwhile the topic of torture has dominated the current pretrial hearings of the five Sept 11 defendants held now at Guantanamo after several years in secret CIA prisons known as “black sites” in a number of other countries. All were tortured severely over years. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and gave several false and misleading statements during that time. Walid bin Attash was subjected to stress positions and forced nudity. Ramzi bin al-Shibh also was subjected to stress positions and forced nudity, as well as torture with electric shocks, sleep deprivation and forms of sexual violence.

At issue is the US government’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty banning torture, to which the United States is a party.

Supporters of the CIA’s interrogation program, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, argue that torture was necessary to obtain information that could prevent another terrorist attack on American soil – an unproven assertion and one that is contrary to fundamental law. And the convention states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Torture is recognized as a war crime and a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

President Obama’s fateful decision to take no action on the illegal acts of the previous administration and to defend the system has perpetuated illegality. Millions of dollars have been wasted on a charade of a legal system for all the Guantanamo prisoners. Hundreds of America’s best lawyers have been tied up in a process where they were largely impotent. The US has lost respect around the world. The torture past and present cannot be undone. Those responsible will not face US trials.

The damage to international legal norms, and to those who have been abused and suffered so gravely, could however be at least partially repaired by speedy releases from Guantanamo of all those cleared, apologies, payments of damages. The remaining 80 must be either charged and tried, or released. Those trials cannot be the illegal show trials now planned, but real trials in established courts where the prisoners can testify about their torture.

Victoria Brittain is a journalist who has written extensively on Guantanamo-related subjects for a decade. Her most recent book is Shadow Lives, the forgotten women of the war on terror.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday advising Kabul not to proceed with the signing of the proposed status of forces agreement [SOFA] with Washington leading to the establishment of the American and NATO military bases in Afghanistan comes at a defining moment.

The Iranian stance has also been articulated at the level of the powerful chairman of the Majlis foreign and security Policy commission, Alae’ddin Broujerdi, which bears the imprimatur of the highest level of leadership.

The MFA statement openly acknowledged that Tehran has made a demarche with  Karzai. Indeed, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Rahimpour visited Kabul a fortnight ago and was received by Karzai.

It is conceivable that Tehran decided to take an open stance after assessing that Karzai is coming under immense American pressure. The Iranian statement comes on the eve of a crucial meeting of the NATO foreign ministers at Brussels later today.

Clearly, the NATO has jumped into the fray, with secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen threatening that the alliance will exercise the “zero option” if Karzai didn’t sign on the dotted line.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council is also due to be held later today, which will be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Moscow has too many pots boiling at the moment — Syria, Ukraine, missile defence — and often what happens during ‘East-West’ cogitations is that pragmatic trade-offs ensue.

Washington is taking a cautious line on Ukraine by taking care not to offend the Kremlin; it has manifestly made way for Moscow to take the lead on Syria; and it is keeping the missile defence on the backburner (for the present, at least.) although it ignores the Russian grievances.

Conceivably, Obama administration will expect some Russian reciprocity on the two issues that matter critically to the US geostrategy, namely, Afghanistan and Iran.

The MFA in Moscow has taken a partial stance with regard to the SOFA, highlighting merely the “need to ensure a proper international legal framework for the planned presence of NATO in Afghanistan” and promising that “The Russian party will point out the importance of setting up cooperation by the Organisation with the CSTO again.”

Clearly, Moscow is pursuing certain specific Russian interests in the Afghan situation. Having said that, Moscow’s actual influence on the Afghan situation is also debatable. Moscow’s ploy will be to play into the Afghan endgame through the backdoor of the UN Security Council where it is a veto-holding permanent member.

Whereas, amongst the regional players, what matters infinitely more to Karzai than the Russian stance will be the cooperation of Pakistan and Iran as well as China — and to an extent India. No doubt, against this backdrop, Karzai’s visit to India on December 13 assumes special interest.

Thailand’s Thaksin Regime and The Cambodian Connection

December 6th, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci

Trail from regime’s thugs leads back to ally and dictator-for-life, Hun Sen of Cambodia. 

Late last night, after Thais across the nation celebrated Father’s Day, armed thugs attacked several anti-regime protesters near the currently occupied Ministry of Finance.

They rode motorcycles, fired guns, and threw explosives. There were several injuries, including one protester losing his arm. Protest leaders demanded the regime investigate the incident, and have only been met by silent complicity.

Image: Cambodian dictator-for-life Hun Sen (left) stands next to deposed dictator of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra (right), during a round of golf. Cambodia has provided sanctuary for Thaksin’s most extreme political allies, and served as a base of operations form which to destabilize neighboring Thailand. Hun Sen even went as far as officially appointing Thaksin as Cambodia’s “adviser on economics” to bolster his sagging legitimacy. While Thaksin is widely believed to be in exile in Dubai, he divides at least part of his time staying in Cambodia. With militants and thugs from Cambodia turning up behind violence targeting anti-regime protesters, the trail of slime leads to Hun Sen and Thaksin’s door.


The same night, 5 Cambodians were caught attempting to torch the main anti-regime protest stage at Democracy Monument, according to Thai PBS.

While the regime cannot openly confront the protesters with excessive violence in fear of justifying the army to mobilize and oust the regime, it has in the past, and is now resorting to the use of hired thugs and professional mercenaries to carry out deadly attacks in its stead. Regime gunmen have already been photographed and captured on video having triggered the first deadly violence of the protests last week.

With the capture of 5 Cambodians attempting to commit arson, admitting that they were hired to do so, it exposes what might be just the leading edge of a large campaign of violence being organized by the regime. The regime’s ties to the neighboring dictatorship of Hun Sen of Cambodia are well known within Thailand, however little, if ever covered by the Western press.

Cambodia: A Warning of What Thaksin’s Thailand Will Become

Cambodia is ruled by dictator-for-life Hun Sen, who has been in office since 1985, and re consolidated his despotic grip on power in 1997 after a bloody military coup that saw his opponents either killed or exiled. Those who failed to flee, according to Human Rights Watch, were brutally tortured and murdered. Since then, he has presided over a tragically failed state, the victim of the Khmer Rouge, of whom Hun Sen was a participating member, and since then squatted upon by his regime and a large collection of foreign backers.

He is by far one of the most detestable politicians alive on Earth, yet his utility to the West has provided him an international media blackhole in which his crimes and atrocities have been hidden for decades.

This can be explained by the literal selling-out of Cambodia from under the feet of its own people, by Hun Sen to foreign corporate-financier interests.

In the Guardian’s 2008 article titled, “Country for sale,” it is reported that:

Almost half of Cambodia has been sold to foreign speculators in the past 18 months – and hundreds of thousands who fled the Khmer Rouge are homeless once more.

The Guardian further elaborated:

Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have, in effect, put the country up for sale. Crucially, they permit investors to form 100% foreign-owned companies in Cambodia that can buy land and real estate outright – or at least on 99-year plus 99-year leases. No other country in the world countenances such a deal. Even in Thailand and Vietnam, where similar land speculation and profiteering are under way, foreigners can be only minority shareholders.

Today, the Cambodian military is literally being sold off to foreign interests now possessing wide swaths of land as mercenary forces to crush any local opposition. Surely displacing millions, and selling land out from under people is criminal, and an affront to humanity. But strangely enough, this story goes largely unreported, the UN remains eerily silent, and in fact, the United States, as of 2010 has begun training many of the most notorious land-grabbing military units involved in this ongoing atrocity.Indeed, Operation Angkor Sentinel kicked off in July 2010 as US Army troops trained with the local Cambodian troops. The United States shamelessly defended the exercises claiming that:

 “Our military relationship is about … working toward effective defence reform, toward encouraging the kind of civil-military relationship that is essential to any healthy political system.”

While the US’ training of Cambodian troops in and of itself does not directly indicate a conspiracy, it positions the US military well for any current or future operations that may be undertaken in support of the US-backed regime in neighboring Thailand.

Enter the Thaksin Shinawatra Regime

Like Hun Sen, Thaksin has a penchant for mass murder, human exploitation, and a proclivity for serving foreign interests. Unlike Hun Sen however, Thaksin’s opponents are stronger, better organized and still hold firmly in their possession most of Thailand’s indigenous institutions. While foreign interests have helped Thaksin by building up NGOs to augment his regime, these still hold very little sway in Thai society.

Back-to-back failed insurrections by Thaksin in 2009 and 2010, after a military coup that ousted Thaksin from power in 2006, saw many of his political allies flee to neighboring Cambodia.

In addition to harboring members of Thaksin’s political machine, Hun Sen went as far as appointing Thaksin himself as a “government adviser on the economy,” in an attempt to bolster his lack of legitimacy.

Amongst those who fled to Cambodia after the 2009-2010 violence was Jakrapob Penkair, a leader of Thaksin’s so-called “red shirt” mob. In an Asia Times report titled, “Plots seen in Thaksin’s Cambodia gambit,” it was stated that:

Before going into exile, Jakrapob told this correspondent that the UDD had clandestinely moved small arms from Cambodia to Thaksin’s supporters in Thailand’s northeastern region, where the exiled premier’s popularity runs strongest. He told other news agencies that the UDD was willing to launch an “armed struggle” to achieve its goals, which included the toppling of the government and restoration of Thaksin’s power.

The report went on to describe possible scenarios for an increasingly militarized attempt by Thaksin to eliminate his enemies, a cue assuredly taken from Hun Sen’s bloody exploits.

Worst Case Scenario – The Syria Model

The number of armed supporters Thaksin could possess in Thailand are minimal. Of the 10,000-30,000 supporters he is able to mobilize with cash payments and bus services at any given time, only about 1,000 could be considered fanatical, and out of that, fewer still who are of military age, willing, and physically able to take up arms against Thaksin’s enemies. Thaksin had clearly augmented this with professional mercenaries, drawn from paramilitary border units in the northeast, but these numbered only about 300 and were easily outmatched by the Thai military in 2010.

Thaksin’s grip on the nation’s police forces allows him to produce on demand thousands from across his north and northeast political stronghold, but even if these police were armed, they lack the training, organizational skills, and coordination to pose any threat to the nation’s armed forces. They have proven in recent days to be completely ineffectual against even unarmed protesters.

Image: From Thaksin Shinawatra’s “red” publications, left to right – “The Giant Wave of Democracy From Tunisia to Thailand,” “Asking to Die in the Seat of Power,” and “From the Nile to the Mekong, to the Chaopaya,” all indicate that Thaksin’s propagandists were likewise channeling the US State Department’s “Arab Spring” rhetoric as well as making the implicit threat that armed militancy was (and may still be) a desired option.


The real threat would be an influx of Cambodian mercenaries, trained, armed, and directed from Cambodia, and sent into Thailand covertly to be staged and deployed at key points during Thaksin’s continued bid to consolidate his power. These could be used to augment police and small units of fanatics drawn from Thaksin’s “red shirt” mob, or in individual operations aimed at various elements of the opposition.

This follows the same model Thaksin’s foreign backers are using against Syria, where armed militants had been prepared and staged along Syria’s borders, years before violence erupted in 2011. While initial reports from Western media claimed Syria was engaged in a “civil war,” it is now abundantly clear it was instead a foreign invasion by mercenaries sponsored by a conglomerate of NATO and Persian Gulf nations.

However, unlike in Syria, Thailand commands tactical, strategic, economic, and numerical superiority over Cambodia. There are few if any regional mechanisms that would protect the regime in Cambodia from retaliation by Thailand should violence break out and Hun Sen found complicit in supplying mercenaries and/or material support. With Hun Sen facing growing opposition at home against his enduring despotism, he would likely fair poorly against an additional front opened up abroad.

The Thai “civil war” Western analysts have long been predicting with poorly masked enthusiasm, would most likely only materialize using the “Syrian-model” of covert invasion combined with a coordinated propaganda campaign carried out by the Western media. Instead of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and northern Iraq feeding militants into Syria, this new war would consist of Cambodia feeding militants and material in through northeast Thailand, with the resulting conflict appearing to be between Thaksin’s political stronghold there and the rest of the country.

Heading Off Trouble – Using the Egyptian Model

It appears that that Thai military has already been planning to checkmate this option by positioning its forces near the Cambodian border within the context of a long-running border dispute with Phnom Phen.

Exposing plans by the regime to use maximum violence if ousted by another peaceful military coup, and exposing the manufactured nature of this planned violence, diminishes attempts by both the regime and its foreign backers to portray the subsequent mayhem as “the people fighting to restore democracy.”

While the violence would stand little chance of actually defeating Thailand’s formidable military forces, it could serve as useful for securing more overt foreign backing (just as in Syria’s case). By exposing it as a premeditated fraud from the beginning, and comparing it to NATO’s already widely unpopular “covert” intervention in Syria, this option may become altogether distasteful – perhaps enough so to be abandoned entirely.

Other preparations the Thai military would be wise to be making are illustrated by the recent  coup in Egypt.

Image: While the Western media attempts to portray the military coup as an antiquated feature of failed states, it has been and always will be an essential “check and balance” of last resort. In Egypt, the military initially bent with the force of foreign-funded political destabilization as part of the “Arab Spring,” bid its time, and when the moment was right, overthrew the West’s proxy-regime of Mohamed Morsi. It did so with decisive and unyielding security operations to permanently uproot the regime’s power, and stem any attempts of triggering armed conflict backed by the West to reclaim power. The “Egyptian Model” may prove instructive for Thailand’s current political crisis.


In the wake of NATO’s proxy invasion of Syria, and because Egypt’s establishment initially bent with the force of US State Department-backed protests during the so-called “Arab Spring,” when the Egyptian military decided to finally oust the resulting Western-installed regime, it quickly decapitated the leadership of its main support base, the Muslim Brotherhood, jailing leaders and ransacking its facilities nationwide, while they quickly severed foreign funding to the insidious NGOs constructed to subvert Egyptian sovereignty.

Attempts to trigger an armed uprising were quickly extinguished with decisive and unyielding security operations. By “tearing off the band-aid quickly,” Egypt was able to restore order. While protests and violence are still present in Egypt, it will never develop into what Syria is now facing, or what Thailand could possibly face.

Nations with any semblance of sovereignty left have surely been studying what the generals in Egypt have done.


The Legacy of Nelson Mandela: A Dissenting Opinion

December 6th, 2013 by Jonathan Cook

Offering a dissenting opinion at this moment of a general outpouring of grief at Nelson Mandela’s death is not likely to court popularity. It is also likely to be misunderstood.

So let me start by recognising Mandela’s huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid, and make clear my enormous respect for the great personal sacrifices he made, including spending so many years caged up for his part in the struggle to liberate his people. These are things impossible to forget or ignore when assessing someone’s life.

Nonetheless, it is important to pause during the widespread acclamation of his legacy, mostly by people who have never demonstrated a fraction of his integrity, to consider a lesson that most observers want to overlook. Perhaps the best way to make my point is to highlight a mock memo written in 2001 by Arjan el-Fassed, from Nelson Mandela to the NYT’s columnist Thomas Friedman. It is a wonderful, humane denunciation of Friedman’s hypocrisy and a demand for justice for the Palestinians that Mandela should have written. []

Soon afterwards, the memo spread online, stripped of el-Fassed’s closing byline. Many people, including a few senior journalists, assumed it was written by Mandela and published it as such. It seemed they wanted to believe that Mandela had written something as morally clear-sighted as this about another apartheid system, an Israeli one that is at least the equal of that imposed for decades on black South Africans. However, the reality is that it was not written by Mandela, and his staff even went so far as to threaten legal action against the author. Mandela spent most his adult life treated as a “terrorist”.

There was a price to be paid for his long walk to freedom, and the end of South Africa’s system of racial apartheid. Mandela was rehabilitated into an “elder statesman” in return for South Africa being rapidly transformed into an outpost of neoliberalism, prioritising the kind of economic apartheid most of us in the west are getting a strong dose of now. In my view, Mandela suffered a double tragedy in his post-prison years. First, he was reinvented as a bloodless icon, one that other leaders could appropriate to legitimise their own claims, as the figureheads of the “democratic west”, to integrity and moral superiority. After finally being allowed to join the western “club”, he could be regularly paraded as proof of the club’s democratic credentials and its ethical sensibility.

Second, and even more tragically, this very status as icon became a trap in which he was required to act the “responsible” elder statesman, careful in what he said and which causes he was seen to espouse. He was forced to become a kind of Princess Diana, someone we could be allowed to love because he rarely said anything too threatening to the interests of the corporate elite who run the planet. It is an indication of what Mandela was up against that the man who fought so hard and long against a brutal apartheid regime was so completely defeated when he took power in South Africa.

That was because he was no longer struggling against a rogue regime but against the existing order, a global corporate system of power that he had no hope of challenging alone. It is for that reason, rather simply to be contrarian, that I raise these failings. Or rather, they were not Mandela’s failings, but ours. Because, as I suspect Mandela realised only too well, one cannot lead a revolution when there are no followers. For too long we have slumbered through the theft and pillage of our planet and the erosion of our democratic rights, preferring to wake only for the release of the next iPad or smart phone. The very outpouring of grief from our leaders for Mandela’s loss helps to feed our slumber.

Our willingness to suspend our anger this week, to listen respectfully to those watery-eyed leaders who forced Mandela to reform from a fighter into a notable, keeps us in our slumber.

Next week there will be another reason not to struggle for our rights and our grandchildren’s rights to a decent life and a sustainable planet. There will always be a reason to worship at the feet of those who have no real power but are there to distract us from what truly matters. No one, not even a Mandela, can change things by him or herself. There are no Messiahs on their way, but there are many false gods designed to keep us pacified, divided and weak.

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 website is

FBI Investigated Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for Espionage

December 6th, 2013 by Global Research News

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the infamous “Anti-Defamation League (ADL) files controversy“  in which the ADL was discovered infiltrating, spying on and otherwise violating the privacy rights of a large number of anti-Apartheid, civil-rights and peace groups through the unlawful acquisition of private data from corrupt local law enforcement officials.

The single best retrospective is from long-time Middle East analyst and broadcaster Jeffrey Blankfort, who was also among those targeted by the ADL (see, “The Strange History of the Anti Defamation League: ADL Spies“).

Many Americans were outraged in 1993 after reading mainstream press accounts of a vast national ADL spy network with organelles passing information not only to Israel’s Mossad but also Apartheid South African intelligence services—possibly resulting in the mysterious death of Chris Hani and the rushed deportation/detention of many Palestinians.  Declassified FBI files newly reveal not only the flood of constituent letters pouring into Congress and the FBI’s unfulfilled assurances that justice would be served, but the ADL’s use of proven tactics that the Israel lobby has deployed since the 1940′s to skirt accountability for major criminal violations.

The FBI f iles, originally scheduled for declassification in 2038, were suddenly released to IRmep under the Freedom of Information Act on November 20, 2013 and may now be browsed and downloaded from the Israel Lobby Archive. 

It is a timely release since one of Israel’s most harmful spies, Arnon Milchan, is openly boasting about his criminal exploits and Americans may soon demand not only that unsuccessful old law enforcement tactics be retired but new strategies be fielded to punish Israel lobby wrongdoers and end their long stint of immunity.

ADL stalls for time

A March 16, 1993 memo launched the ADL espionage investigation from the FBI’s Los Angeles office.  The FBI discovered “unidentified individuals at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in possession of [Federal] Bureau [of Investigation] classified information” along with “confidential police reports and files belonging to the San Francisco Police Department” after the ADL’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices were raided and searched under warrant.  Until that time, Israel was interested in preserving close economic and military ties (including nuclear weapons sales pitches) to Apartheid South Africa. The ADL, in constant contact with the Israeli consulate which frequently tasked it for help, was eager to pitch in.

The FBI discovered one of its own files possessed by ADL’s Los Angeles division was “a summary of activities relating to the African National Congress (ANC).” The FBI immediately noticed the ADL—which had invested decades securing a forced relationship with the FBI by lobbying top elected officials—was suddenly “uncooperative” and stalling for time. By month’s end, Israel’s “heavy guns” had been drawn to snuff out the fledgling investigation.





























Israeli generals visit the U.S. attorney general

The FBI already had a long, unhappy history of outside interference in its Israel espionage and smuggling investigations, and the ADL files affair was no exception.  In the 1940s, the FBI had seen the sudden collapse of a pipeline of indictments against hundreds of Americans illegally smuggling conventional weapons to Jewish fighters in Palestine funded by Jewish Agency paymasters operating out of New York.  The intervention of Abraham Feinberg, a major campaign contribution bundler and Israeli government officials proved too much for the Justice Department, which even as evidence continued to pile up, it failed to prosecute and dodged civic demands for justice.

A March 31, 1993 FBI memo reveals “two persons, described as ‘Israeli Generals’ are in or are about to travel to Washington, D.C…the purpose of their travel is to try to visit the Attorney General to press for an end to the FBI’s investigations…The FBI’s investigations of these matters are causing a great deal of interference in the U.S. activities of the Anti-Defamation League…and so Israel is seeking to intercede on the ADL’s behalf.”

Americans urge due process

Mailbags of letters to Congress were forwarded to the FBI and attorney general urging the swift criminal prosecution of the ADL.  Robert Kerrey, John McCain, Richard Lugar, Hank Brown, Jill Long, Dennis DeConcini, and Ernest Hollings, while often distancing themselves from the substance of the complaints, dutifully forwarded the outraged letters.  The FBI’s Legislative Counsel Charles E. Mandigo reviewed demands to prosecute both the ADL and “a former San Francisco police officer and former CIA agent [Thomas Gerard]” who “sold police information on Arab Americans to agents of the Mossad.”  Mandigo assured them “the FBI will actively seek prosecution of any individuals or any enterprise discovered to be involved in illegal activity in violation of federal statutes….”  However, like earlier constituents that in the 1960′s demanded another Israel lobbying organization, the American Zionist Council, be registered as an Israeli foreign agent, they were all in for a huge disappointment.


After interviewing a disgruntled former ADL “fact finder” librarian who had curated information and worked with long-time ADL undercover contractor Roy Bullock, the FBI quickly focused in on ADL Regional Director David Lehrer as the prime suspect for acquiring and passing classified FBI files throughout the ADL.  The FBI LA office requested several times that the FBI director authorize a formal interview with Lehrer. But FBI Director William Sessions, a holdover from the Reagan administration, left in July of 1993.  Acting director Floyd Clarke took no action before leaving on September 1. 

Not until September 23, 1993 did the Clinton administration’s new FBI Director Louis Freeh authorize special agent in command Edward J. Curran the only interview that could possibly lead to a prosecution:  “personally interview David Lehrer, Regional Director – ADL – Los Angeles….The interview is to be conducted according to FCIM 65-5.1 guidelines, and recorded on an FD-302 in the event this matter warrants possible prosecution.”

But it was much too late. Israel already had half a year to lobby for closure.

On December 1, 1993, Israeli Justice Minister David Libai met for an hour with Attorney General Janet Reno. Libai spent thirty minutes on a futile attempt to secure Reno’s recommendation to President Clinton that Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard’s sentence be commuted. 

What Libai did for the remaining thirty minutes of the “private” meeting was not disclosed, but on March 22, 1994 the FBI’s Los Angeles office indicated it was closing the ADL espionage investigation—apparently without ever having interviewed Lehrer. 

By April, Janet Reno was gushing over the ADL’s latest report on militias and the FBI-ADL uncomfortable “special relationship”—first ordered by J. Edgar Hoover and later renewed by FBI director William Webster—was seemingly back on track.

Fire “wrong-doers” but continue activities

Until this file declassification and release, it was never clear to outsiders whether the FBI had properly investigated ADL’s illegal circulation of its classified files.  Only now can the ADL “files controversy” formally enter the pantheon of “Israel lobby criminal investigations that were improperly closed.”  The 1993 incident bears uncanny similarities to the 2005 AIPAC espionage affair, in which a Defense Department official and two AIPAC employees where indicted under the Espionage Act for circulating classified national defense information in an unsuccessful attempt to foment a U.S. attack on Iran.  AIPAC jettisoned Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weismann for conduct that “did not comport with standards that AIPAC expects of its employees.”—despite the fact that the pair engaged in activities long rewarded by AIPAC.  Its actions suggest AIPAC wanted to prevent a fatal criminal indictment of the entire organization.  Obama administration Justice Department officials quashed the criminal prosecution shortly after taking office in 2009.  Like AIPAC, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman fired a “shocked and dismayed” Lehrer in 2002, but without explanation.  Although at the time many speculated that the termination was the ADL national office’s effort to prevent the increasingly autonomous West Coast offices from splitting off, it also could have been the delayed fulfillment of a non-prosecution agreement in order to finally close the “ADL files controversy.”  Only Abraham Foxman and the Justice Department know for sure. 

The ADL files controversy is not only similar to the 2005 AIPAC espionage affair but also an earlier 1985 espionage investigation of AIPAC for acquiring classified trade information.  The very solid FBI investigation was suddenly cut short and terminated, presumably after the capitulation of a heavily-lobbied attorney general. In the end, the Reagan Administration did not allow the FBI or public to know who in the International Trade Commission subverted due process by passing a compilation of secret industry data of seventy American groups opposed to unilateral trade concessions to Israeli Minister of Economics Dan Halpern and AIPAC. Yet another 1960′s effort to regulate Israel lobbying by properly registering front groups as Israeli foreign agents similarly collapsed after JFK’s assassination when the Justice Department leadership inevitably underwent rapid turnover.

De facto Immunity

It is little wonder that Israeli spy Arnon Milchan is now so openly boasting about his years spent pilfering American nuclear weapons technology while working as a successful Hollywood movie producer.  Yet another suspected Israeli spy, fugitive financier Marc Rich, benefitted greatly when Deputy Attorney GeneralEric Holder (today the attorney general) was successfully lobbied by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to recommend a 2001 Clinton presidential pardon.  History is unequivocal that all it takes is a few calls to the ever-compliant attorney general for a visiting delegation of Israeli government officials to subvert rule of law in America.


Whitewashing Human Atrocities in the Middle East and Africa

December 5th, 2013 by Keith Harmon Snow

A senior UN counter-terrorism official is to assess Edward Snowden’s revelations that US and British intelligence agencies are using specific software to retain and monitor telephone conversations, e-mails, and text messages. UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson said in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian that his inquiry would seek to establish whether the British parliament had been misled about the capabilities of the G-C-H-Q, which is the British intelligence agency that specializes in electronic surveillance. He added that the media had a duty and right to publish stories about the activities of British and U-S spy agencies. The inquiry is expected to make a series of recommendations to the UN General Assembly next year. (

Press TV has conducted an interview with James Corbett, the editor of the, about the United Nations launching an investigation into the massive surveillance programs of American and British intelligence agencies following revelations from US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: This inquiry will not have much power but it can make recommendations to the UN General Assembly. What kind of recommendations do you think it is going to be making?

Corbett: Well it is difficult to say what recommendations it will be able to make especially because the UN General Assembly is a body without any teeth as it has been demonstrated over the previous decades.

And again I am not sure what this new inquiry is going to uncover because I think only the most naïve in international relations have not understood already that they were being spied on by the US and Britain and other intelligence agencies. Besides, it is really just the Edward Snowden’s leaks [that] are bringing this to the forefront.

So I am not sure that this inquiry will really have really much effect other than a symbolic one and I do not think any recommendations other than the recommendations not to spy on allies will be the result of this type of inquiry.

Press TV: But does the symbolism of this go very far in putting pressure on governments like that of the UK and the US who have been pressuring the media like The Guardian newspaper to not publish these revelations?

Corbett: Well certainly the pressure is mounting not only from the political classes but perhaps more importantly from the average public which is now increasingly aware that these practices go on.

But I think if the UN was being serious about really investigating these claims, they would start by looking in their own backyard because of course the most egregious cases of spying have happened at UN summits or on UN premises in New York as has come out time and time again in the past and in fact just recent revelations from earlier this month, sorry earlier last month, showing once again for example Indonesia was spied on by the US at the UN Summit and we have had reassurances from the Obama administration back in October that they would not be spying on the UN anymore but given the track record of what has happened at the UN in the past, I think we can take those assurances for what they are worth.

So there certainly is a symbolic value in this and in any way it is good I think to put the pressure on these agencies to stop this type of spying activity.

Press TV: So then basically what you are saying is that we will see a lot of condemnation coming out of this for the US, for the UK and maybe even more revelations but it will be business as usual when it comes to our privacy online as far as telecommunications go?

Corbett: Very much so and in fact we see that the biggest political brouhaha is about the spying that is happening on politicians themselves, on governments, on government agencies but there is not that type of widespread condemnation of what is happening to the average citizens.

And as you mentioned there and as Snowden revelations and other leaks have made clear, basically communications across the board on the internet are being collected wholesale by the NSA and its adjunct in Britain and in other intelligence agencies across the world and I think there needs to be more outrage on that issue rather than specifically on spying on governments.

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 “Even, for a lack of a better word, on his deathbed, he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance.”

 Thanks to the release of the new epic movie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom starring Idris Elba and Naomi Harris, the public is learning other lessons about the freedom struggle that he led.

On Christmas day, it opens nationwide in the US on 2000 screens with a majority ofreviews very positive. It is already showing in France and England will be next in January.

 In South Africa, the movie that shows Mandela’s early days as a boxer broke all box-office records.

 At the same time, no one movie can hope to tell the full story of a life that has spanned 95 years.  Hollywood-style storytelling inevitably telescopes history, compresses characters, and seek to entertain more than inform

 Some of the critics make this point, even as most were laudatory. A few foundit too rushed, others too long, or dwell on missing context, and insufficient history, as does Simon Abrams on”The prison guard insists that Nelson and his wife should not talk about politics, and “Long Walk to Freedom’s creators honor that request. Instead, they talk about how they feel about politics. So the raised tone of Winnie’s voice is more important than the content of her words.”

Critical nitpickingaside, many can agree with the LA Times’ conclusion: “This may be a familiar story, but it is one worth experiencing again and again. “ And, that’s also why the AP reviewer noted, “This is the perfect time for youngsters (or their elders) who don’t know enough about the man to go learn about him.”

And that’s also precisely why the film’s producers asked me to draw on many of the interviews I did for a companion documentary series on the making and meaning of Long Walk to Freedom for a book that seeks to tell some of the rest of the story.“Madiba A to Z”  (Seven Stories Press) is now out in the US, and in South Africa.

To supplement Mandela’s own autobiography and the many biographies about them, I look at what insiders realize but many in the adoring public do not. Quite a few who do know him well are loving but privately critical (and self-critical), most deeply aware of the limits of the changes in South Africa almost twenty years after the end of apartheid and the coming of democracy.

 I spoke to many key players and insiders, including two former presidents, DeKlerk and Mbeki and Deputy President Motlanthe, his prison comrades and fellow ANC activists including Archbishop Tutu, as well as thoughtful writers like Nadine Gordimer and Njabullo Ndebele.

Here are some highlights from an investigation that features intimate stories on 26 aspects of Mandela’s life and times.

•The key finding is how many of the “stalwarts” of the struggle including Mandela himself are privately disappointed with the “progress” that’s been made and have “regrets” with the ANC’s many failures in a way we haven’t seen before.

•Thabo Mbeki told me that the problems of South Africa have not changed very much from 1994 because of the greed of the white business community and its failure to invest in job creation.

 •Madiba A-Z explains that there were top-secret economic negotiations alongside the televised political talks that allowed the World Bank and global business leaders, especially powerful Americans,effectively to limit what South Africa could do to regulate industry and fight poverty. This is what led to the neo-liberal policies South Africa was pressured to adopt in the name of pro-market stability.

 Promised jobs and investments by an adoring world, fewwere forthcoming. Poverty in South Africa today is as bad as it was when Mandela was elected in 1994.

 Other points of special interest:

 • The armed struggle fought by the ANC’s guerilla army Umkhonto we Size was also aided by the Vietnamese army after the defeat of the U.S. led war in that country. The Cuban defeat of South African military forces in Angola helped spur negotiations.

 •While Mandela deserves credit for engineering a peaceful political settlement,it was external pressure including economic and cultural sanctions demanded by a global anti-apartheid movement that brought decisive leverage on political leaders to negotiate. His law partner, Oliver Tambo’s role as ANC leader was probably more decisive in orchestrating pressure when Mandela was behind bars.

 •While Mandela was hailed by a cheering world for his iconic role, he was often personally miserable because of the break-up of his marriage and the bitter internal battling inside the ANC. He survived long years in prison by “going inside,” and often had to do the same as President.

These are just a few of the disclosures as I dealt with the “many faces” of a leader so many think they know, butoften only one dimensionally,as I explored Mandela as a villager, bully, boxer, prisoner, lover and womanizer, peacemaker and legend.

 Throughout his political struggles, he rejected the idea that he was a “savior” and always embraced collective leadership even as the media lionized him and treated him as a “brand” or celebrity.

 The media and even the movie avoid deeper political debates and minimize the role of a bottom-up movement for the decisions of a top-down leader. News reports of pervasive corruption today rarely reference how corrupt the Afrikaner regime had been.

 The enormity of what he and South Africa achieved in resolving conflicts can best be seen when compared to other conflicts in the world that ended more violently, or not at all. 

 Recall what else was going on in this period — genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans, or today’s unresolved fighting in Syria and Egypt. If leaders in those countries had adopted Mandela’sapproach to reconciliation, the outcomes might have been different

How he helped guide a peaceful outcome in a racially explosive society is a story that even now is treated superficially by the press there and here, when at all.

 What emerges is a portrait of a man, and a troubled nation as well as the texture of a struggle that, despite many gains, is still fighting for true freedom. After his release from prison, Mandela was told, “Well now you’re free.” And he said: “No, we’re freed to be free.”

 News dissector Danny Schechter directed six documentaries about Nelson Mandela. More news about the book and its author, including a selection, can be found at

He blogs at and edits,

Comments to [email protected]

Distorting Democracy: Politics by Public Security in South Korea

December 5th, 2013 by Global Research News

by Jamie Doucette and Se-Woong Koo


Although a full year has not elapsed since the election of South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, there are already troubling signs that her term as President is going to be a difficult period for both the health of Korean democracy and for liberal and progressive political forces.

In the months since she was elected, significant evidence of political and electoral interference by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and other state agencies has come to light, leading to an expanding series of political scandals, most notably the indictment of former NIS director Won Sei-hoon.

Won Sei-hoon

A sitting lawmaker, Lee Seok-ki, has been arrested on suspicion of sedition and plotting a rebellion, as well as charges of violating Korea’s National Security Law (NSL). Citing this arrest, the Ministry of Justice has recently moved to disband the United Progressive Party (UPP), of which Lee is a member, charging that the party’s ‘progressive democracy’ platform is based on “the so-called founding ideology of North Korea”.

This sequence of events has been accompanied by a broader shift in political discourse.  For the purpose of discrediting its opponents, the broader South Korean right has returned to its cavalier use of the chimerical label chongbuk chwap’a: a term commonly translated as ‘pro-North leftists,’ encompassing not only suspected proxies of North Korea but anyone seen as deferential to the wishes of the North. The term ‘chong’ means to obey or follow, with connotations of being slavish, while ‘buk’ means North. Chwap’a stands for ‘left faction,’ or leftist. The way in which chongbuk has been coupled with chwap’a as a compound term in contemporary conservative discourse attempts to erase the distinction between what were originally two very different concepts, such that in the current political climate the left become synonymous with chongbuk, and vice versa. This terminology has been used to discredit groups from across the liberal-left opposition, including not only the UPP, but also Democratic Party politicians associated with the liberal administrations of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. These politicians have faced vilification by the right as chongbuk for assuming a conciliatory stance towards North Korea, and for seeking to reform the state apparatus designed by former military governments to contain dissent.

In this essay, we argue that this rhetorical shift has been accompanied by an expansion of what South Korean intellectuals term ‘politics by public security,’ a phrase used to describe the use of public security as a ground for stifling dissent and criticism. What is unique about the present moment is not simply the evocation of a threat to national security but the extent to which state agencies have been actively involved in this process, whether it be in the form of direct electoral interference, the leaking of confidential state documents, or the initiation of probes into prominent critics of the government from across the liberal-progressive opposition. In what follows, we examine the recent sequence of events from NIS electoral interference to the more recent move to disband the United Progressive Party in order to better understand distorting effects to Korean democracy brought about by this recent rhetorical shift and its intricate relation to ‘politics by public security.’

Insinuating Pro-North Politics 

This shift in political tone was not widely anticipated before the election. Though many intellectuals, including the National Association of Professors for Democracy (2012), warned that the election of Park could lead to a restoration of political forces associated with past dictatorships and a comprehensive rollback of rights in South Korean society, Park’s presidential campaign began on a benign note. She started the election season off by visiting key sites for previous democracy movements and even met with the families of activists who had protested the regime of her father, Park Chung-hee; the most contentious of these visits was her foiled attempt to lay flowers in front of a memorial statue of labour martyr Chun Tae-il. More importantly, Park staked her presidential campaign on the idea of ‘economic democratisation’ (kyŏngje minjuhwa) and appointed the generally affable economic reformer Kim Jong-in as chairman of her ‘National Happiness Committee’.

Kim was the architect of Article 119, item 2—the famous “economic democracy clause”—of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea that accords a strong role to the state in ensuring equitable distribution of wealth and preventing abuse of economic power by dominant players: Kim’s inclusion of this clause in the constitution after the June 29 Declaration of 1987 (which granted significant concessions to the Democracy Movement) had earned him the ire of the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI). While Kim was uncertain about the conservative party’s loyalty to the cause of economic democracy, his participation in the campaign meant that in contrast to the last presidential election in 2007, differences between the liberal and conservative camps on economic issues were surprisingly small, with both sides promising to regulate the avarice of Korea’s large conglomerates, the chaebol, and invest in social welfare. In short, Park ran on a more progressive platform than past conservative candidates; she even pledged to create a universal old-age pension and to significantly expand day care. But things swiftly changed after her ascendance to the presidency.

The civil tone of debate on economic democratisation notwithstanding, perhaps because of a need to more strongly distinguish the conservative party from the liberal opposition, Cold War rhetoric eventually crept into the conservatives’ campaign discourse. The initial target was the UPP’s candidate Lee Jung-hee, who directly confronted Park in the televised debates, declaring that “The Saenuri Party and Park Geun-hye are the roots of [pro-Japanese] collaboration and dictatorship and do not have the right to sing the national anthem” (Hankyoreh 05 Dec 2012). Lee in turn was painted as a North Korean sympathizer for her activist past and her vocal attacks on the right, in addition to what was seen as her hesitance to directly criticize North Korea.

The insinuation of pro-North politics was not isolated to attacks on Lee Jung-hee. As early as two months before election day, Park’s campaign struck at the Democratic Party (DP) candidate and main contender, Moon Jae-in, with similar rhetoric. Chung Moon-hun, a lawmaker from the ruling Saenuri party with close ties to then-president Lee Myung-bak, began to spread a claim that former president Roh Moo-hyun, for whom Moon had served as chief of staff, had agreed to abandon the de facto western maritime boundary between the two Koreas known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL) during his summit meeting with the North’s leader in 2007. Kim Moo-sung, another Saenuri lawmaker and the chief manager of the ruling party’s campaign, cited a key excerpt from the summit transcript almost verbatim during the campaigning period to reenergise Chung’s accusation, signalling that both he and Chung had somehow illegally accessed the summit transcript, which, under the law, was considered a classified and sealed state document.2

While such attacks against the liberal-left were scathing, the most alarming aspect of last year’s presidential campaign was the expansive use of popular internet forums and social networking sites by state organs, chiefly the NIS, to create and circulate messages intended to discredit key opposition figures as pro-North leftists. At the time of writing, prosecutors have disclosed over 1.2 million Twitter messages and approximately 1900 online posts with political or election-related content produced or circulated by agents of the NIS’s psychological warfare team; the investigation also uncovered posts by private sector supporters hired by the NIS but these have not, as yet, been included in the indictment.3 It was this direct interference that was most alarming to many observers as it represented a clear violation of the Public Official Election Act (Articles 9 and 85). At its most juvenile, the NIS appears to have concocted rather poetic sobriquets for the three most prominent presidential candidates: “Park Geun-hye has a friendly smile, Moon Jae-in has startled rabbit eyes, and Ahn Cheol-soo has an icky snake face” (Hankyoreh 21 Oct 2013, np). Most other messages were more ideologically informed and substantive, calling Moon a ‘traitor eager to give the NLL away to North Korea,’ and accusing him of scheming to ‘establish an inter-Korean federation and achieve a red reunification’ (ibid, np).

The NIS’s psychological warfare had the potential to seriously damage the Park camp. One week before the election, the DP went public with its discovery that the NIS was manipulating public opinion, but the party was only able to implicate one agent, Kim Ah-young, who was caught carrying out her duties inside a studio rental in Seoul. DP staff and reporters surrounded the apartment until the police and staff from the National Election Commission arrived; however, after a quick, controversial investigation, the Seoul Metropolitan Police announced that they had been unable to discover any wrongdoing, effectively exonerating the NIS of any electoral interference, and dealing a blow to Moon Jae-In, who just hours before had accused the NIS agent of doing just that in a televised presidential debate. Furthermore, Moon and his supporters were blamed for forcibly confining an innocent woman who happened to be an NIS employee. It was only later, after Park was inaugurated, that Kim was indeed revealed to have engaged in tweeting and blogging in support of Park under direct orders of her superiors at the NIS.

This revelation of the NIS involvement, and the ensuing indictment of former NIS Chief Won Sei-hoon in June on charges of breaking the national election law, which was then followed by a further indictment on bribery in July, sparked a series of protests and candlelight vigils demanding a thorough investigation throughout the summer and into the fall. The popular call for a new, independent inquiry into the intelligence agency’s activities during the election campaign grew stronger following reports by two liberal media outlets—The Hankyoreh and the Korea Center for Investigative Journalism—that soldiers and employees of the Ministry of National Defense’s Cyberwarfare Command had similarly worked to assist Park’s campaign. A National Assembly audit also revealed that the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs had been engaged in activities that promoted Park in positive terms and denounced the opposition as chongbuk, or pro-North leftists.

The ministry had additionally organized a training program for opinion leaders in the months prior to the election, using a curriculum that argued “economic development during the authoritarian military governments of Park Chung-hee (the current president’s father) and Chun Doo-Hwan was the structural condition necessary for sustainable democracy” (Hankyoreh 14 Oct 2013, np); furthermore, The Hankyoreh reported that one such program in the country’s second-largest city of Pusan included a video titled The Truth of the Chongbuk Faction claiming that the democratisation movement against the dictatorship during Park Chung-hee’s Yushin regime had been carried out on the orders of North Korea (ibid, np).

Politics by Public Security

The insinuation of pro-North politics aims to delegitimise the democratic movement by claiming that it sought guidance from North Korea, negating the movement’s attempts to expand equality and liberty in South Korea and work towards engagement with North Korea. The use of anti-communist rhetoric is nothing new in South Korean politics; South Korean conservatives have long utilized their own ‘paranoid style’ (Hofstadler 1964) for political leverage against their opponents. What is most distressing for liberal and progressive politicians and social movements is not the use of this rhetoric per se, but the degree to which state institutions have participated in such politics by directly intervening in South Korean elections and defending their actions as justified acts of psychological warfare against, in Won Sei-hoon’s words, “leftist followers of North Korea [who] are trying to regain power through being in contact with North Korea” (Associated Press 14 June 2013; cf. New York Times, 14 June 2013).

The actions of the NIS and other state agencies evoke uncomfortable memories of past authoritarian governments that the Korean democracy movement sought to overcome and in many ways confirm the fears surrounding Park’s election that were expressed in the pre-election statement by the National Association of Professors for Democracy (NAPD):

There is a vivid historical record of past military regimes in Asia seeking ways of justifying their oppressive rule by exaggerating security threats, expanding the military and militarism, equating domestic dissident views as national threats, and employing illegal methods of exercising violence against citizens, only to monopolize power, wealth and media into a few hands. The result was the devastation of the safety and basic livelihood of the common people. This record makes us look at the come-back of oligarchic forces in South Korea through nostalgia towards the late South Korean dictator as an ominous sign for the future of democracy in South Korea as well as elsewhere. (NAPD 2012)

The electoral interference cases involving the NIS and other state agencies, however, were not the only signs of a return of what many Korean intellectuals call ‘politics by public security.’

The growing number of scandals roughly coincided with a reversal of Park’s main campaign pledge to institute so-called “economic democratisation” by curtailing the power of the dominant conglomerates and expanding social welfare. After introducing some very mild corporate governance reforms and backtracking on key campaign pledges to establish a universal old-age pension system, Park declared that her economic democratisation drive was complete. Sometime after this announcement, though perhaps not related to it, there was a flurry of sensationalized efforts to implicate liberal-left political forces in pro-North politics as part of the wider discourse of public security. In a move seen as an attempt to deflect attention from its own wrongdoings and highlight what it viewed as chongbuk tendencies in liberal and progressive politicians, on June 25 the NIS leaked an excerpt from the 2007 inter-Korean summit meeting—the same excerpt cited by the ruling party’s chief campaign manager last year—reiterating the pre-election charge by Saenuri that the late President Roh Moo-hyun had been prepared to renegotiate South Korea’s NLL with North Korea and to cede South Korean territory to the North. The leak strongly hinted that the NIS and the ruling party might have collaborated on President Park’s election campaign by illegally sharing state secrets, prompting further outcry.

Then, on August 28, the NIS revealed that it was investigating UPP lawmaker Lee Seok-ki and his associates on charges of sedition and plotting an armed rebellion to sabotage the South Korean government in the event of war on the divided Korean Peninsula, as well as charges of violating the NSL. On September 4, a large majority of National Assembly lawmakers voted to strip Lee’s legislative immunity, although several liberal and progressive lawmakers expressed concern about NIS behaviour which included leaking surveillance transcripts from meetings of Lee’s alleged chongbuk group within the UPP. Speaking to this so-called ‘Revolutionary Organization’ (RO), Lee allegedly made comments about the need to prepare to fight against American imperialism and by extension the South Korean government, if a war broke out between the two Koreas.4 According to the full transcript published exclusively by Hankook ilbo, others in attendance outlined strategies to attack transportation, energy, communication, and other key state infrastructures (Hankook ilbo, 2 Sep 2013, A10-11; 3 Sep 2013, A10-11).5 The publication did much to quell public outrage at the government and the NIS; in the immediate aftermath of Lee’s arrest, President Park’s approval rating recorded an all-time high of 64% according to Gallop Korea, roughly corresponding to the percentage of respondents expressing belief in Lee’s guilt (61%).6

There have been other efforts to derail the NIS electoral interference investigation. Chae Dong-wook, the prosecutor general who indicted Won Sei-hoon, was accused on the front page of the conservative daily Chosun ilbo of having fathered an illegitimate son (Chosun ilbo, 6 Sep 2013, A1), and allegations surfaced that the Blue House (the Office of the Korean President) and the NIS had conducted an unprecedented private audit on a sitting prosecutor general to gather intelligence against him. Chae subsequently resigned from his position. Next to go was Yun Sŏk-yeol, the lead investigator in charge of the NIS case, ostensibly for arresting NIS agents without first informing his superiors. In spite of these intrigues and the increasing scope of the scandal, or perhaps because of them, President Park almost entirely abstained from commenting on the NIS case throughout the summer and early autumn, leaving it to her advisors to defend the NIS. It was not until October 31 that Park spoke definitively, endorsing the ongoing investigation into the case. Despite her endorsement, however, it was reported widely in the media that Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and the new NIS Director Nam Jae-joon had sought to obstruct the investigation into the NIS. Minister Hwang had allegedly pressured Prosecutor General Chae not to pursue the election fraud charges, and Director Nam took exception with the lead investigator Yun for arresting and interrogating the NIS agents, who were released promptly following Yun’s dismissal from the investigating team.

The Perfect Scapegoat?

To many in South Korea and abroad, it appears that the NIS is employing different strategies to avoid scrutiny of its own suspected illegal activities, but above all, taking advantage of the antics of Lee and his associates, for he is perhaps the perfect scapegoat for the resurgent public security politics. Lee champions a strand of left-nationalism popular in the 1980s but in decline since. After the Kwangju Massacre of 1980, many South Korean activists came to express conviction that the United States valued anti-communism more than democracy and human rights in South Korea (Park 2007 182-83). Some intellectuals came to insist that Korea was a colonial society and that a revolution against American imperialism was necessary.

In pursuit of ‘national liberation’ (NL), some with this tendency embraced Kim Il-sung’s ideology of chuch’e (self-reliance). The most prominent of these thinkers was Kim Young-hwan who visited North Korea and met Kim Il-sung in 1991. While these so-called NL activists participated in the unification movement in the late 1980s and 90s, their ideological positions underwent a number of transformations following the transition to electoral democracy in 1987. The collapse of the Soviet Union, Clinton’s Agreed Framework with North Korea, as well as greater access to information on North Korea led to gradual dissolution of pro-North tendencies. Like many former Popular Front leftists who became Cold War anti-communists in the United States, some former chuch’e proponents such as Kim Young-hwan had a change of heart and became prominent conservative intellectuals associated with Korea’s new-right movement (Park 2007, 186-190).

While some left-nationalist and pro-unification groups continued to embrace a critique of American foreign policy towards South Korea, it is rare to find activists espousing chuch’e or a pro-North line today, despite renewed attempts by conservatives to paint a gamut of pro-democracy and reunification forces with the chongbuk label (cf. Doucette 2013). In following the Lee Seok-ki case, many on the left were fazed by the antiquated language and ideas expressed in the transcripts. For instance, social theorist Yi Jin-kyŏng, a long time critic of the NL faction, stated that the transcripts from Lee’s alleged RO meeting resemble language locked in the antagonistic US-NK relation of the 1950s (Ku, Lee and Lee 2013, np; cf. Bae 2009). If Lee and his associates did indeed make the remarks contained in the transcript provided by the NIS, they appear to belong to a very small minority within the South Korean left. Yi Jin-kyŏng commented that even before the recent crisis, most participants in the progressive movement considered Lee’s position anachronistic and have long distanced themselves from Lee’s faction (Ku, Lee and Lee 2013, np). Lee’s political views, ascent within the UPP, and controversial appointment to the National Assembly as a proportional representative through a contentious internal party procedure were all reasons behind the departure of liberal and progressive figures from UPP ranks.7

While other progressive thinkers share Yi’s sense that Lee Seok-ki’s views are outmoded and far from the position of the liberal-left, they argue that the case could do considerable damage to progressive political organizations. Regardless of the fact that Lee Seok-ki’s faction is marginal at best, they contend, his case is being used to undermine the liberal-left and distract the public from the wider issues of the NIS scandal and the need for continued democratic reform within South Korean society (see Hankyoreh 02 Sep 2013). By charging Lee and other UPP members with such sensational crimes, the NIS has effectively turned the tide of public opinion in its favour, because Lee’s alleged fantasies of what to do in the event of a war between the Koreas makes him an ideal object to counter the liberal-left’s demand for an independent investigation into the electoral interference and substantial reform of the NIS itself. The Lee Seok-ki case also has the potential to undermine attempts at broader democratic reform within South Korean society in as much as it provides fuel for politics by public security. Conservatives have singled out Lee’s political successes as proof that pro-North leftism is alive and well in South Korea, infecting the whole of the UPP and the South Korean liberal-left. In the process, they have ignored the fact that Lee’s strident left-nationalist convictions, a remnant of the former national liberation (NL) ideology, are a poor illustration of the broader South Korean liberal-left.

Contesting Democratisation

What is taking place in South Korea is part of a broader attempt since 2008 at erasing the gains made by the country’s liberal administrations and democracy movement. While the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments were by no means progressive in terms of their main economic and foreign policies (which included expansive labour market deregulation, multiple free trade agreements, and participation in the Iraq war), both Kim and Roh did seek engagement and detente with North Korea through the Sunshine Policy (cf. Choi, 2005). They also sought to reform the coercive apparatus of the Korean state: establishing the National Human Rights Commission and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; promoting women’s rights through the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family; and attempting to reform the NIS and other disciplinary institutions.8 Prominent activists, intellectuals and public figures from the democracy movements of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s participated in this process and many of them held key positions in the administrations of both Presidents Kim and Roh.

Under President Lee Myung-bak, these new institutions were restructured, disbanded, or largely subordinated to the administration. In general, Lee’s tenure was also animated by the continuation of anti-communist rhetoric and undermining of Korean democratisation. The role of new-right intellectuals in the revision of history textbooks, the defunding of civic groups that participated in the “Candlelight Protest” against Lee’s policies in the first months of his administration, as well as the actions of conservative civic groups such as the Korea Parent Federation, Korea Agent Orange Veterans’ Association, and the Alliance for Patriotism against liberal-left opposition groups are noteworthy examples of the politics of the era.

What is interesting about the current moment, however, is the extent of intervention by disciplinary institutions in national political life. These include independent initiatives of various ministries as well as efforts coordinated at a more central level to strengthen conservative power and obstruct the work of liberals and progressives. It is also noteworthy that these institutions took to social media to generate support for the conservative candidate and to slander the opposition. While governments often surveil social media to monitor opposition activities, the NIS electoral interference case may be one of the first examples of widespread use of social media by state agencies to influence an electoral outcome.

Furthemore, the charges against Lee Seok-ki and his associates—NSL violation, sedition, and plotting an armed rebellion—evoke uncomfortable memories of the exaggerated national security threats during the Cold War era. While political activists from South Korea’s student, labour and grassroots movements have often been targeted under the NSL, even under the liberal governments of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, charges of this severity have been unheard of since the end of the military dictatorship in 1987. The only exception was when former dictators Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo were belatedly prosecuted and convicted in 1995 for mutiny and treason. The resurrection of charges synonymous with the bygone era brings to mind previous travesties like the trial of political dissident and later president and Nobel Peace Laureate Kim Dae-jung in 1980, and the fabricated People’s Revolutionary Party case of the mid-1970s, which led to the arrest without warrant of over one thousand dissidents and ended in the swift execution of eight innocent people who were posthumously exonerated in the late 2000s. In both of these cases the NIS, then called the Korea Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), played a central role, as it does today in the investigation and prosecution of Lee Seok-ki.

Based on Lee’s arrest and indictment, the ruling Saenuri party has sponsored a bill to revise the Democratisation Movement Activists’ Honor-Restoration and Compensation Act, a law to exonerate and compensate former pro-democracy activists who were imprisoned, tortured, and prosecuted under authoritarian governments from the 1960s to the 1980s. The proposed amendment would allow the prime minister to ask for a review of compensation decisions and retrieve awarded funds, if the recipient was found unworthy. This attempt to undermine the existing law cites Lee Seok-ki’s place on the list of candidates for exoneration and compensation, as well as previous honours conferred through the law on his alleged accomplices in the RO, as evidence that the entire South Korean democracy movement and its associated political parties must be re-examined. For instance, major conservative daily Donga ilbo, the first to break the story connecting Lee to the now-contentious law, made the point of saying that former opposition presidential candidate Moon Jae-in, too, had been involved in the committee charged with vetting democracy activists, in an effort to cast doubt not only on the UPP itself but also the main opposition DP and the history of South Korean democratisation (Donga ilbo, 7 Sep 2013, np).

Finally, the government plan to disband the UPP before the courts make their final decision in the Lee Seok-ki case is seen by most politicians on the liberal-left as a serious breach of due process. They claim that the government has sought to make Lee’s alleged RO synonymous with the UPP and the liberal-left as a whole, and, by association, also tar the main opposition DP as a chongbuk organization that secretly embraces Lee’s rhetoric. The Hankyoreh reports that the Ministry of Justice identified parts of the UPP’s “progressive democracy” platform as unconstitutional and “identical to the arguments coming from Pyongyang,” such as “overcoming foreign domination and dissolving South Korea’s dependence on the alliance with the US” (Hankyoreh 6 Nov 2013; Ministry of Justice 2013). This government claim, as well as the prosecutors’ apparent deletion of several original recordings on which the crucial transcripts are based, have raised concerns that the Ministry of Justice is overstating the threat in order to suppress criticism of the NIS. Moreover, while the ministry cited improprieties in the UPP primary as part of its concerns, these improprieties are being addressed by the court. In short, there is no legal ground for dissolving a political party, least of all prior to court decision; such an event has not occurred since the era of authoritarian governments.9


This is a dangerous moment for South Korean democratisation. Politics by public security, a residual product of early anti-communist national security states, is experiencing a curious afterlife. There are other examples of politics by public security that cannot be explored in greater depth here but also deserve brief mention: the illegal surveillance of civilians by the Defense Security Command (a branch of the Korean army) and the Prime Minister’s Office under the Lee Myung-bak administration; and President Park’s recent appointment of Kim Ki-choon, a figure closely linked to the dictatorship of her father, General Park Chung-hee, as her new chief of staff. Park’s administration is aggressively seeking to deregister one of the country’s largest labour unions, the 60,000 member Korean Teacher’s and Educational Workers’ Union (KTU), on the ground that it retained a handful of fired or dismissed workers as members. The KTU has been at the forefront of contesting recent revision of Korean textbooks to paint the Park Chung-hee dictatorship in a favourable light and has traditionally been an active and at times militant labour union, making it a prominent thorn in the side of conservative forces. The most recent target of state action is the Korean Government Employees’ Union (KGEU), whose server was taken over by prosecutors for twenty-two hours because its web forum hosted a message by an external organization favouring the opposition during the presidential campaign. The union claims that prosecutors confiscated materials far exceeding the parameters of the case, including meeting minutes and the list of site users dating back more than two years.

These recent events pale in comparison to the magnitude of the aforementioned scandals, but they, too, reveal a negative trajectory for political forces seeking to finally lay to rest the remnants of the Cold War and the dictatorships of the past. Yet the bold manoeuvres by the NIS and its backers in the ruling party to slander the gamut of liberal and progressive forces through the insinuation of pro-North politics underscore just how much outdated state institutions and conservative ideologues feel threatened by the legacy of democratisation. On the upside, the NIS has given the public ample reasons to fight its intrusion into the political sphere, invigorating a new sequence of popular democratic activism.

The opposition and progressive civic groups are calling on President Park to draw a clear line between her own administration and her father’s by appointing an independent special prosecutor to investigate the NIS and restructuring this state agency created to maintain security at the expense of civil liberties and democratic rights.10

But NIS reform is just one piece of a wider puzzle. Substantive progress in democratisation must ultimately include all of the following: egalitarian reform in pursuit of economic democratisation as articulated in the constitution of the Republic of Korea; reform of what remains of the coercive Cold War apparatus, both its institutional vestiges such as the NIS and its legal expression that is the NSL, which are used to repress political dissent by people who hold strong beliefs; and perhaps most importantly, doing away with the cultural politics of the Cold War that attempts to paint every political perspective left of the conservative security state as an example of chongbuk politics.

Jamie Doucette is Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Manchester. Se-Woong Koo is Rice Family Foundation Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University. Along with several other scholars, they helped initiate the Concerned scholars statement on National Intelligence Service interference in South Korea Democracy and signature campaign in early September, 2013. The statement was signed by over 200 international scholars and presented at a press conference at the Korea Democracy Foundation in Seoul on October 22.

Copyright, Jamie Doucette and Se-Woong Koo, Asia Pacific Journal, 2013


Associated Press 2013. “South Korea’s ex-Spy indicted in election scandal.” 14 June.

Bae J B 2009 “The South Korean left’s ‘northern question,’” in Frank R, Hoare J E, K Kollner P and Pares S (eds) Korea yearbook 2009: politics, economy and society. Brill, Leiden 87–116.

Choi J J 2005 Democracy after Democratization: The Korean Experience. Humanitas, Seoul.

Chosun ilbo 2013 “Prosecutor-general Chae hid his illegitimate son.” [Korean] 6 September, A1.

Donga ilbo 2013 “Exclusive: RO members include numerous democracy activism honorees,” [Korean] 7 September.

Doucette, J 2013 “The Korean Thermidor: On political space and conservative reactions.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 38, Issue 2, pages 299–310.

Gallop Korea 2013 “Daily Opinion 083.” [Korean] 6 September.

Hankook ilbo 2013 “UPP RO meeting transcript in full, part 1.” [Korean] 2 September, A10-11.

—— 2013. “UPP RO meeting transcript in full, part 2.” [Korean] 3 September, A10-11.

Hankyoreh 2013 “Park administration’s prickly reaction to priest’s comments.” 26 November.

—— 2013. “UPP’s Progressive platform blown up into ‘chongbuk.’” 6 November.

—— 2013. “NIS sent out more than 50,000 politically motivated Twitter messages.” 21 October.

—— 2013. “Documents show ministry indoctrinated “opinion leaders” with conservative bias.” 14 October.

—— 2013. “Progressive experts on how to respond to insurrection scandal.” 2 September.

—— 2012. “Progressive candidate steals debate show by blasting Park Geun-hye.” 5


Hofstadler R 1964. “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Harper’s Magazine, November, 77-86.

Journalists’ Association of Korea 2013. “Hankook ilbo ‘Lee Seok-ki transcript’ article deletion injunction denied.” [Korean] 10 October.

Kim DC 2010. “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Korea:  Uncovering the Hidden Korean War,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 9-5-10, np.

Ku YS, Lee HH, and Lee JY 2013. “Interview: The Lee Seok-ki situation and the progressive movement; Suyunŏmŏ N’s Prof. Yi Jin-kyŏng“. [Korean] OhMyNews. Accessed October 2013.

Ministry of Justice [Korea] 2013. “United Progressive Party: Judgement on the political party’s dissolution”. [Korean] 5 November.

National Association of Professors for Democracy 2012. Statement of intellectuals who remember the Yushin Dictatorship.

New York Times 2013. “South Korea Intelligence Agents Accused of Tarring Opposition Online Before Election.” 14 June.

Park, KY 2007. “The Evolution of Anti-Americanism in South Korea: Policy Implications for the United States.” Korea Journal (Winter) pp.177-195.

TV Chosun 2013. “TV Chosun Exclusive: NIS Exposes ‘Lee Seok-ki’s Underground Organization RO’” 28 August.


1 The authors thank Mark Selden and Jae-Jung Suh for comments and suggestions on drafts of this article. As usual, all errors are the authors’ own.

2 After the election, an investigation in search of the original transcript from the National Archives would come up empty handed, and the Ministry of National Defense would confirm that former President Roh had given no indication of wishing to abandon the NLL in talks with the North.

3 At the time of writing, prosecutors are also considering additional, criminal charges against 22 members of the NIS psychological warfare team. It seems certain that there will continue to be further repercussions from the NIS case.

4 The English acronym “RO” as the shorthand for this group’s alleged Korean name, Mujang Inmin Hyŏngmyŏng Kigu (Armed People’s Revolutionary Organization), reportedly appeared in the NIS arrest warrant for Lee and other members of the UPP. It was mentioned in the press first by TV Chosun on August 28 and subsequently picked up by other outlets. It is, however, still unclear if Lee and those accused of being in the group used the name themselves (TV Chosun, 28 Aug 2013).

5 While there are concerns about the accuracy of the transcripts in circulation, the Seoul District Court refused to issue an injunction requested by the UPP against the newspaper, saying that “it is difficult to deem the content of the transcripts to be different from actual statements made by the attendees in consideration of the interim reports by investigating prosecutors and the UPP’s own press conferences” (Journalists’ Association of Korea, 10 Oct 2013, np).

6 Among those who favorably assessed Park’s performance, the biggest reason (22%) for supporting her was her “policy towards North Korea” (Gallop Korea 2013).

7 The recent crisis has only amplified this process; for example, the Progressive Justice Party, made up of several former key UPP politicians who exited the party after the controversy involving electoral irregularities in selecting proportional representation candidates including Lee, was decisive in voting to strip his immunity in the National Assembly, partly out of open disdain for him but also to set itself apart itself from Lee’s ideology and the increasingly cornered UPP. The main opposition DP similarly voted for Lee’s arrest in recognizing his growing public notoriety as a liability it could ill afford.

8 For more detail, see the special issue of Critical Asian Studies (Vol. 42, Issue 4 2010) on Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (cf. Kim DC 2010).

9 In the first criminal trial which came to an end in October 2013, 45 UPP members were found not guilty on the charge of ‘obstructing official business’ for their alleged involvement in manipulating the proxy voting process. The prosecutors have appealed the ruling and the date of the second trial has yet to be announced at the time of writing.

10 So far this effort has been labelled by the right as another example of chongbuk politics. For example, in a recent meeting of the supreme council of the ruling Saenuri Party, party leader Hwang Woo-yea (who served as a judge under the Chun Doo-hwan dictatorship), argued in response to demands for Park’s resignation by the Chŏnju diocese of the Catholic Priests for Justice that: “We must be cautious and pay careful attention to allegations that efforts to reject the results of the presidential election really picked up after North Korea recently issued orders for an anti-government campaign in the South” (Hankyoreh 26 November 2013). 

– See more at:

The sharply increasing scientific indicators of impending disastrous global climate change have failed to motivate the principal developed countries, led by the U.S., to accelerate the lackluster pace of their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This was the principal conclusion of several key environmental groups attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) Nov. 11-23 in Warsaw, Poland. The meeting lasted a day and a half longer than scheduled to resolve a dispute about new greenhouse emission targets. About 10,000 people attended the 19th annual meeting of the so-called Conference of Parties (COP19) that drew nearly all the UN’s 193 member states.

Environmental organizations walk out of UN meeting to protest lack of progress.

About 800 attendees associated with environmental groups walked out of the conference Nov. 21, protesting the lack of progress. In a joint statement on the day of the walkout, the World Wildlife Federation, OxFam, Friends of the Earth, Action Aid and the International Trade Union Federation declared:

 ”Organizations and movements representing people from every corner of the Earth have decided that the best use of our time is to voluntarily withdraw from the Warsaw climate talks. The conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing.”

According to Professor Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics and a leading British expert on climate change:

“The actions that have been agreed are simply inadequate when compared with the scale and urgency of the risks that the world faces from rising levels of greenhouse gases.”

There were also street protests and marches in Warsaw composed largely of younger conference attendees and local youth. One slogan, referring to climate disasters, was

“The Philippines, Pakistan, New Orleans: Change the System, not the climate.”

On Nov. 18, delegates from 133 developing countries — under the umbrella of the G77 group plus China — walked out temporarily “because we do not see a clear-cut commitment by developed countries to reach an agreement” to financially help poor countries suffering the effects of climate change for which they are not responsible. The U.S., for instance, was reluctant to help developing countries adapt to sea level rise, droughts, powerful storms and other adverse impacts, even though it is historically the greatest emitter of greenhouse gases.

By the end of the conference, perhaps encouraged by the walkout, the world body agreed to set up a “Loss and Damage” process for “the most vulnerable countries” experiencing losses from global warming. The details remain vague.

A distressing aspect of the conference came when four major developed countries took actions in contradiction to fighting global warming.

• Japan — the fifth largest carbon polluter — announced it was breaking its pledge to reduce greenhouse gases by 25% of 1990 levels by the year 2020, blaming the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.

• Canada and Australia recently declared they would not support the Green Climate Fund — the UNCCC program to transfer money from the developed to the developing countries to assist them in dealing with climate change.

• Conference host Poland, a major coal producer, worked with the World Coal Association to simultaneously host the International Coal and Climate Summit in Warsaw. (Greenpeace and others protested outside the coal meeting.)

COP19 was permeated with corporate lobbyists from “fossil fuels, big business groups, carbon market and financial players, agribusiness and agrofuels, as well as some of the big polluting industries,” according to the oppositional “COP19 Guide to Corporate Lobbying.” Corporations appeared at previous COP meetings but witnesses say never in such large number.

Obviously, one of the most important issues confronting the world community is reducing greenhouse carbon emissions to impede global warming. This is a perennial UNCCC goal but hardly sufficient so far to prevent substantial increases in carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, now exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in at least 3 million years since the Pliocene era.

Greenhouse reductions hark back to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which obligated developed countries to specific — and in the main incongruously low — emissions reduction targets while developing countries were encouraged to reduce emissions without a binding requirement. Since 1997, despite Kyoto, emissions have increased substantially. According to a new report from research teams coordinated by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, “The gap between where emissions are and where emissions would need to be in order to keep climate targets within reach is getting bigger and bigger.”

Kyoto, which the U.S. refused to join because of its so-called “bias” toward developing countries, has in effect been extended from 2013 to 2020 when new emissions targets will go into effect. Unless these new targets are far greater than the old, CO2 ppm will jump much higher.

At issue during COP19 was a proposal by the EU, U.S. and a number of developed countries to eliminate Kyoto’s nonbinding reductions for developing countries. Under this plan, each and all countries would set specific targets over next year.  These targets would then be inspected by the other countries to assure they are adequate for the mission at hand. The final targets would be published in early 2015 and presumably approved by that year’s COP, and implemented in five years.

Protest inside hall of climate meeting.

An intense 36-hour struggle between a group of developing countries and most developed countries over this proposal went into an extra session lasting throughout Nov. 22 and into the early hours of the 23rd. Opposing removal of the distinction between developed and developing countries was a group called the “Like-Minded Developing Countries on Climate Change” (LMDC), including such countries as China, India, Venezuela, Bolivia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Thailand.

According to an account in the mass circulation Indian newspaper The Hindu:

“India, China and other countries in the LMDC group take the position that the new climate agreement must not force developing countries to review their volunteered emission reduction targets. Setting themselves up in a direct confrontation with the developed countries, the LMDC opposes doing away with the current differentiation between developing and developed countries when it came to taking responsibility for climate action.”

In other words, the developing countries will do what they can to reduce emissions, but the principal task by far belongs to the developed countries. They argue that developed industrial countries have been spewing fossil fuel-created greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for 100 to 200 years or more, and most of these pollutants have yet to dissipate. The carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere could warm the planet for hundreds of years.

The richer countries reject this argument, pointing to the increasing industrialization taking place in the developing world. Writing in the Guardian Nov. 25, Graham Readfearn points out: “Rich countries are desperate to avoid taking the blame for the impacts of climate change…. The developed countries won’t let any statements slip into any UN climate document that could be used against them in the future” in terms of financing mitigation, adaptation and compensation costs.

Most developing countries are very poor and have contributed miniscule emissions, but a few of them — China, India, and Brazil, among others — have become major industrialized powers in relatively recent years. China, now the largest annual contributor to global warming, has been seriously industrialized for less than 30 years and also functions as a global factory for many nations, including the U.S. These recently industrializing developing states, most of which are former exploited colonies of the rich countries, argue that the developed states became major powers based on burning fossil fuels and thus have the major responsibility to take the lead in reducing emissions.

China points out that while it has recently displaced the U.S. as leading producer of Greenhouse gas emissions, its population is three times greater. On a per capita basis, Beijing notes, the average American in 2011 produced 17.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide; the average Chinese, just 6.5 tons. (A metric ton is 205 pounds heavier than a 2,000 pound ton.) The U.S. rejects these arguments.

The developed-developing conflict over emissions was finally resolved when China and India withdrew demands for including Kyoto’s exception for developing countries, in return for which “commitments” to a specific target were changed to “contributions.” Clearly this is a vague stopgap measure that will eventually change. The important matter is the total of emissions reductions to be agreed upon in 2015.

The U.S., as the most influential developed country, has taken hardly any action at all to significantly reduce CO2 emissions when it was the number one emitter of carbon in the atmosphere or now when it is number two, tut-tutting about China’s smokestacks while President Obama boasts about expanding drilling for oil and fracking for gas. Ironically, though China is a mass polluter today it is investing far more heavily than the U.S. in renewable resources such as solar and wind energy. This may eventually pay off, but not before an unacceptable level of CO2 continue.

Given the number of drastic reports about climate change from the scientific community in the last several months, the accomplishments at COP19 are useful but hugely disproportionate to what is needed. In addition to the agreement on contributions to lower greenhouse emissions this also happened: The countries agreed on a multi-billion dollar program to combat global deforestation. The Loss and Damage project was passed, and developed states were urged to increase levels of aid to poorer countries. A plan was hammered out to monitor emissions reductions.

A few of those recent drastic reports include these facts:

 Greenhouse gas emissions are set to be 8-12 billion tons higher in 2020 than the level needed to keep global warming below 3.6 Fahrenheit, the UN Environment Program said. (Above 3.6 F, the world’s people will begin to experience extreme effects)….

According to the American Meteorological Society, there is a 90% probability that global temperatures will rise 6.3 to 13.3 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 100 years….

According to the Associated Press, a leaked report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change means that “Many of the ills of the modern world — starvation, poverty, flooding, heat waves, droughts, war and disease — are likely to worsen as the world warms from man-made climate change”…..

The U.S. is likely to become the world’s top producer of crude oil and natural gas by the end of 2013 due to increased oil drilling and fracking for gas….The U.S. is pumping 50% more methane into the atmosphere than the government has estimated, reports Science News….

In a new study, the team of researchers reports a global loss of 888,000 square miles of forest between 2000 and 2012 and a gain of only 309,000 square miles of new forest.

Summing up the Warsaw conference, an observer for Christian Aid, Mohamed Adow, declares: “In agreeing to establish a loss and damage mechanism, countries have accepted the reality that the world is already dealing with the extensive damage caused by climate impacts, and requires a formal process to assess and deal with it, but they seem unwilling to take concrete actions to reduce the severity of these impacts.”

“We did not achieve a meaningful outcome,” said Naderev Sano, the head of the Philippines delegation who had been fasting throughout the meeting in solidarity with the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

Samantha Smith, representing the World Wildlife Fund at COP19 declared: “Negotiators in Warsaw should have used this meeting to take a big and critical step towards global, just action on climate change. That didn’t happen. This has placed the negotiations towards a global agreement [on emissions] at risk.”

The next major UNCCC conference, COP20, will take place in Lima, Peru, in December 2014. The extremely important 2015 meeting, when the countries will decide on new emissions targets, will be in Paris.

There is positive news as well as the negative.

•    A majority of the American people now seek to limit global warming, according to a recent report from Grist Environmental News. Stanford University Professor Jon Krosnick led an analysis of more than a decade’s worth of poll results for 46 states. The results show that the majority of residents of all of those states, whether red or blue, are united in their worries about the climate. At least three-quarters of residents are aware that the climate is changing. Two-thirds want the government to limit greenhouse gas emissions from businesses. At least 62% want regulations that cut carbon pollution from power plants. At least half want the U.S. to take action to fight climate change, even if other countries do not.

•    The walkout by environmental NGOs is highly significant. They are clearly “mad as hell” and presumably are “not going to take this anymore!” to evoke the famous line from the film Network. Their unprecedented action in Warsaw undoubtedly reflects the views of millions of people back in the United States who have been following the scientific reports and want Washington to finally take dramatic action.

•    At issue is mobilizing these people to take action in concert with others to force the political system to put climate sanity and ecological sustainability on the immediate national agenda. Two things are required. 1. A mass education program is called for because the broader and deeper implications of reforms must be understood and acted upon. 2. Unity in action is necessary to bring  together many constituencies to fight for climate sanity and justice with a view toward protecting future generations from the excesses of the industrial era.

•    There are up to a score of major environmental organizations in the U.S. Some, like Greenpeace and are willing to offer civil disobedience; some are important education and pressure groups; and some — far fewer — are too cautious and compromising, such as those advocating for nuclear power or natural gas. There must be many hundreds and more small and medium size environmental groups throughout our country, with anywhere from 5 to 50 or even 100 local followers. And then there are the numerous progressive and left organizations that basically agree with the environmental cause. None have to give up their individual identities, but they can come together around specific global warming and ecological issues and fight the power of the 1% to 5% who essentially rule America.

•    The actions of the developing societies at COP19 were important, too, particularly their brief walkout. The majority of these countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are not only vulnerable to the consequences of climate change but rarely possess the economic wherewithal to adequately survive. They will struggle for their demands in future global conferences.

•    Despite the foot-dragging of many developed countries, all of them contain environmental and progressive/left organizations. They, too, are “mad as hell” and will grow stronger.

•    Time may not be on sanity’s side, but as the CO2 ppm rises and the hopes for significant reductions in greenhouse gases falls in the next few years, conditions will be ripe for a global climate justice uprising.

At this point it seems that only a mass mobilization of the U.S. and world’s peoples will be able to provide the strength to stand up to the fossil fuel interests, the corporations, big business, banks, financiers and the weak or corrupt politicians who stand in the way of building an equal and ecologically sustainable society including rational conservation of resources and reduction of excess consumption.

 Jack A. Smith, Editor, Activist News

PORT-AU-PRINCE – Haiti’s minimum wage will nudge up 12% on Jan. 1, from $4.65 to $5.23 (or 200 to 225 gourdes) per day. Calculated hourly, it will go from 58 to 65 cents, before taxes.

But the raise will not affect Haiti’s 30,000 assembly factory workers, who are supposed to already be receiving about seven dollars for an eight-hour day – about 87 cents per hour. Recent studies have found rampant wage theft at almost two dozen of the factories that stitch clothing for companies like Gap and Walmart.

The wage hike comes almost five years after the Haitian parliament asked for a 200-gourde minimum wage, then worth $4.96 a day, but failed to overcome Washington-backed industry opposition [see sidebar].

Agreed to on Nov. 29 by a government-convened Council on Salaries (CSS) – made up of labor, business and government representatives – the raise falls far short of the minimum wage of $11.63 (500 gourdes) that factory worker unions and others were demanding.

Last month, in the capital and in Haiti’s north, the Collective of Textile Factory Unions federation (KOSIT), which represents workers in three industrial parks, mobilized for the 500-gourde wage.

...Picture right: Haïti Liberté

On Nov. 7, to chants of “500 gourdes! 500 gourdes!,” over 5,000 workers and supporters marched outside the gates of a free trade zone on the border of the Dominican Republic in Ouanaminthe. Hundreds of others marched on Nov. 26 in the capital.

The factory owners countered late last week with an open letter which pled to “keep Haiti competitive” with what they identified as their “big rivals” – Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam, countries all known for harsh conditions and abuse.

“We recognise that the clothing and assembly sectors are not ends in and of themselves, but they can be a very important stimulus and can serve as a motor to help Haiti open up and present itself as a country that is changing and modernizing,” said the 23 Haitian, Dominican, and South Korean factory owners and industrialists from the Association of Haitian Industries (ADIH).

Two days later, on Nov. 29, eight of the nine members of the CSS, including all three union representatives, approved the 225-gourde wage. (None of the union representatives were from KOSIT.)

Yannick Etienne of Batay Ouvriye (Workers Struggle), a labor group which supports KOSIT and other textile unions, said her organisation and the unions disagree with the 225-gourde salary.

“We think it is a shame that the CSS union representatives agreed to the miserable wage of 225 gourdes. At a meeting the night before, we requested that they refuse to sign any agreement that was less than 300 gourdes,” Etienne told IPS.

Rampant wage theft


Picture left: Haïti Liberté

The country’s 30,000 workers – almost two-thirds of them women – in Haiti’s free trade zone assembly factories stitch together clothing for Gap, Gildan Activewear, Hanes, Kohl’s, Levi’s, Russell, Target, VF, and Walmart. Haitian law stipulates that “the price paid per production unit… must be set in a way that permits a worker to earn at least 300 gourdes for an eight-hour day.”

But recent studies by three different international groups, including the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO), have documented that the vast majority of workers receive the legal minimum only rarely: about 25% of the time, according to the ILO.

A 29-year-old mother who works at the Multiwear factory, which makes tee-shirts for Hanes, is one of those being gypped. (Like all workers interviewed for this story, she agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity.)

“I support my four-year-old, and two sisters, and one brother,” she told IPS. “Sometimes I make the quota and get 300 gourdes, but just once in a while.”

In its October 2013 report, the ILO’s Better Work textile factory monitoring program found all 23 factories surveyed, including Multiwear, to be “non-compliant” with the law. To be “compliant,” Better Work said that “at least 90% of experienced workers” should be able to make 300 gourdes in an eight-hour day.

The mother is her family’s sole support. “I am the oldest,” she continued. “Right now, my husband is not working. We live in one room.”

She wants the minimum wage to be raised, but said “many people won’t even show up to a sit-in, because if the bosses think you support a wage hike, you’ll immediately be fired.”

Workers, KOSIT leaders, several reports and many economists agree that 225 gourdes, and even 300 gourdes, are not living wages.

2011 study by the U.S.-based AFL-CIO’s Solidarity Centre held that a factory worker living in the capital and supporting two children would need to earn about $29 per day (1,152 gourdes), six days a week, to support his or her family.

A 54-year-old worker from One World Apparel, owned by former presidential candidate Charles Henri Baker, also rarely earns 300 gourdes, she told IPS.

“When the boss started to hear talk about the minimum wage going up, he clamped down on us,” said the mother of three, who said she has worked at One World for eight years.

“You have to do 75 dozen pieces, but not every job is the same. Sometimes you can make the quota, but sometimes you can’t. No matter what the job is, the number is the same. Once in a while, if I work really hard, I can at least make 225 gourdes,” she added.

Both Gildan and Fruit of the Loom recently released statements promising to ensure their subcontractors respected the 300-gourde minimum.

“It is our view that the clear intent of Haiti’s minimum wage law is for production rates to be set in such a manner as to allow workers to earn at least 300 gourdes for eight hours of work in a day,” Fruit of the Loom said in a statement. “Based on our independent investigation, we concur with the WRC that the garment industry in Haiti generally falls short of that standard.”

In addition to denying most workers the 300-gourde minimum, bosses were regularly cheating laborers out of overtime and making them work essentially for free, according to a report from the Washington-based Workers Rights Consortium (WRC), issued Oct. 15, 2013.

In Stealing from the Poor, based on worker interviews and pay stubs from five factories (four in the capital and SAE-A at the Caracol Industrial Park), the WRC found repeated cases of employers paying workers the incorrect amount for overtime hours. (The ILO reported only 9% of factories cheating workers out of overtime.)

In the capital, WRC maintains that at the four factories surveyed – One World, Genesis, Premium and GMC – workers were “being cheated of an average of seven weeks’ pay per year.” Workers sometimes willingly work “off the clock” in order to make the quotas necessary to be paid 300 gourdes, the group reported.

Economist Camille Chalmers, director of the Haitian Platform Advocating an Alternative Development (PAPDA), is highly critical of the Haitian government for, among other things, not enforcing the 300-gourde minimum. He has called for a 560-gourde minimum wage.

“The government does not play the role of arbiter, as it should,” said the university professor while speaking at a Nov. 18 meeting on the wage issue. “Government authorities instead tend to listen to the embassies, to ADIH… Our government is really tied to the upper class, the oligarchy.”

The current government – whose slogan is “Haiti is Open for Business!” – has pushed Haiti’s low wages at numerous national and international conferences.

The mother of three agrees that the minimum wage needs to go up to at least 500 gourdes.

“If I hear there is going to be a demonstration, I’ll be there,” she told IPS. “I cannot make it with this pocket change. The bosses know that. They are just cruel.”

The recent ILO/Better Work report is the seventh Better Work report to document shortfalls and violations.

Additional reporting by Patrick St. Pré.

Media, Democracy and the Power to Misinform

December 5th, 2013 by Greg Guma


Since 1976 Project Censored, the California-based media monitoring group that honors independent journalism, has been tracking important stories that are downplayed. In 2000, for example, some of the underreported news that made their Top Ten list included: how pharmaceutical companies put profits before health needs (still true), the destruction of Kurdish villages with US weapons (the targets then were in Afghanistan and Pakistan), environmental racism in Louisiana (five years before Katrina), and US plans to militarize space in defiance of international law (ignored for decades).

 Despite the success of “alternative” outlets in breaking news that “mainstream” media ignore, nagging questions remain. Peter Arnett, a former CNN reporter honored that year for an article on reduced foreign media coverage, put it this way: “We’ve had what might constitute new revelations today. But even if the alternative press as a whole took on these stories, would it be enough?”

It is a disquieting question that could be extended to progressive movements in general. If various coalitions and alliances joined forces to challenge corporate capitalism, would it be enough to usher in “real change?”

In the past, modern attempts to control concentrated wealth and widen democratic participation have met with limited success. During the early 20th Century, reforms addressed workers’ rights, monopoly excesses, political corruption, uncontrolled development, and the devastating impacts of the early industrial era. But most of those efforts also quelled popular discontent rather than producing fundamental change, and the reforms were often co-opted or diluted by business interests to serve their long-range needs. Rather than leading the country toward some type of social transformation, progressive reform may have helped head it off.

One of the underlying conundrums is how to make powerful institutions accountable – and to whom. The prevailing logic is that fundamental change involves, at the very least, stronger government intervention. But if the goal is to control mega-corporations that transcend national boundaries, competing with some national governments and dominating others, even national level reform won’t do the job. We obviously don’t want corporate-dominated institutions running the world.

But what’s the alternative? Will job creation, stronger enforcement and more accountability be sufficient, or does the current international order need to be completely overhauled and replaced? And if so, replaced with what?

The United Nations could be stronger, but this Cold War creation was flawed from the start, and has been marginalized and manipulated for more than half a century. The times cry out for radical ideas, something like a global parliament, which is somehow linked to communities. This sounds utopian – or frightening, depending on your level of paranoia. But if the Corporate World Order inflicts much more damage it may begin to look attractive. And if social and economic justice is the driving force of progressive politics, how far is it to an agenda that directly challenges market control and links the global with the local? After all, we already have a slogan – “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

The bottom line is that there is no sure-fire formula for effective democracy. Even if there was, most people are no longer very optimistic, or even hopeful about where the world is heading, to put their faith in grand plans. If some group or individual did put forth a compelling “big idea” and manage to jump start a movement, there would certainly be more than enough self-righteous purism and cynical reaction to sow doubts.

In the so-called modern era, things basically made sense. Despite setbacks, technical dangers and brutal dictators most people believed in the possibility of a better future, changing the world that was changing us. But we currently live in a post-modern world. And although that need not be a negative label, it does tend to emphasize uncertainty, spectacle, even the chaotic.

The term “post-modern” first came into use after World War II, referring to literature and art that took modern forms to their extremes. Since then, it has evolved into a general attitude toward society. Characterized by skepticism, it forces “authorities” and “their” institutions to defend themselves against charges that they are no longer relevant – or are just plain ignorant. On the plus side, that attitude helped bring down the Berlin Wall and sometimes puts experts and leaders in the hot seat. However, it also tends to challenge any strongly held belief.

Self-conscious and often self-contradictory, post-modernists tend to believe that truth is merely a perspective and nothing should be taken too seriously. The characteristic expression is irony, emphasizing the doubleness in whatever is expressed. A favorite grammatical device is quotation marks, reinforcing the idea that the words don’t mean what they seem. This expresses the defensive cultural logic of late-capitalism, and plays well into the schemes of media and political demagogues.

Faced with machines that have made life more complicated, a vast amount of unsettling information, and an overwhelming variety of “choices,” it is hardly surprising that people, especially the young, are no longer very impressed with much of anything. Their favorite books often revel in this sensibility and abandon the grand narrative approach once standard in novels. Although most films continue to rely on the old linear formula – the hero overcoming obstacles to reach an obvious goal – few people actually believe in that scenario. Real life is so much more ambiguous and complex.

At its extreme such an awareness can lead to disillusionment, nihilism, and a disabling narcissism that favors fads and power over ethics and any ideology. These days narcissism no longer applies solely to “beautiful people” who can relate only to their own images. Narcissists may also be pseudo-intellectuals, calculating promoters, or self-absorbed rebels. Even more unsettling, they are ideally suited for success and power – callous and superficial climbers all too willing to sell themselves.

In post-modern society, self-promotion is the ultimate form of work. It’s a state of affairs that can catapult celebrity-politicians like Sarah Palin into power.

In post-modern society the electronic media promote both chronic tension and cynical detachment. Most advertising suggests that appearances are what matter, while many of the programs reinforce ironic distance, often winking that it’s just a put-on. And the news? An endless stream on largely ephemeral “facts.”

What about truth? That’s the last thing we expect.

The technology of journalism has advanced more in the last decade than in the 100 years before. Yet more and more, print, electronic and digital media fill airtime and space with advertorials and questionable news – some of it fake – produced by public relations firms and even governments. The race for higher circulation and audience shares has placed a premium on titillation and superficiality, producing an ill-informed electorate.

Journalistic professionalism and credibility are in free fall. Compounding the problem, corporate ownership and bottom line thinking mean that fewer responsible and trained journalists are available, especially to cover developments in foreign countries. US television networks employ at least a third fewer correspondents than they did 20 years ago. Radio newsroom staffs shrank by 44 percent between 1994 and 2001, and foreign coverage by broadcast and cable networks has declined at least 70 percent since the 1980s.

Print newsroom staffs have also been slashed, unions have been forced to accept cuts, and coverage has been dumbed down. More than 50,000 news industry employees, most of them newspaper journalists, lost their jobs in the first decade of the 21st Century. The result is that major stories go untold, and many communities are being ignored. Sad to say, but professionalism in reporting may be going the way of shortwave radios, fax machines, and the single-lens reflex camera.

The uncomfortable truth is that there is no Constitutional guarantee that democracy will be fair, that people will be well or truthfully informed, or that the press will be competent.

Society is experiencing what has been called a crisis of fact, leaving people with little to trust or believe. As a result, more and more they consume only information that reinforces their opinions. And many journalists aren’t helping. The first law of the profession today, Alex Cockburn once wrote, is “to confirm existing prejudice, rather than contradict it.”

Thus far, the post-modern age has been characterized largely by fraud and scandal – questionable elections, corrupt leaders, fabricated accounting that devastates the savings of thousands, doped-up athletes, and plagiarized or phony news. Even scholars have been caught plagiarizing parts of their books. It’s become so common that a peer-reviewed academic journal, Plagiary: Cross Disciplinary Studies in Plagiarism, Fabrication, and Falsification, was launched in 2007. A subsequent investigation of whether student terms papers had been faked found that at least 30 percent of the papers submitted online had been plagiarized, at least in part.

Another troubling development is “photo illustration,” frequently involving fabrication of images using digital tools. It sounds like harmless fun, but given the power of images it has the potential to warp public perception in the service of biased or inaccurate stories.

Local TV stations, once the primary source of news about civic life, cover less political news. A survey of the 2006 election season by the University of Wisconsin concluded that “local television news viewers got considerably more information about campaigns from paid political advertisements than from actual news coverage.”

And how do the young get their news? The truth is the many don’t bother, and those who do want to know don’t use print newspapers, or even radio and TV. They use handheld devices to scan online sources – many operated by think tanks and special interest groups that have figured out how to appeal to a mass audience by mixing commentary with “breaking news,” analysis, and research. According to the blog search engine Technorati, at least 120,000 web logs are created every day, and the total number is in the hundreds of millions.

The emergence of “citizen journalism” and “new media” has led to the notion that professional journalists are no longer as necessary. The idea is that everyone can be a journalist; this will promote a conversation among equals as citizen journalists assemble, edit and even create their own news; the more options we have – and the less control traditional media have over what is relevant – the better offer we will be.

But this presumes that professionalism no longer matters, and standards aren’t that important. The “new media” acknowledge few rules. On the other hand, professional journalism isn’t so simple. For example, knowing the difference between news, opinion and commentary is a challenge. Serious journalists work hard to develop skills like how to conduct fair and constructive interviews, how to find relevant and complete – not merely convenient – information, how to see various aspects of an issue, and how to convey what they find out clearly, efficiently and accurately. Without such skills, the public is vulnerable to distortions, biased reports, and blatant falsehoods.

According to a State of the News Media report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, only five percent of blog postings include “what would be considered journalistic reporting.” And the origins of most blog stories can be traced back to newspapers. Who will do the reporting if they fade away?

For all its benefits, the “blogosphere” is also accelerating social fragmentation. Many blogs and Websites attract only like-minded people, creating a self-segregated news and information environment that serves the interests of extremists. It’s not so different from the partisanship that characterized the press in the early 19th Century. Truth and facts are becoming debatable notions.

Conflict drives the news cycle, with tabloids and obsessive bloggers often shaping the narrative. This makes it far more difficult for people to reach agreement or even have a discussion, and easier for opportunists to ignore or distort reality for the sake of pushing initiatives based on convenience or special interests.

The result has been a loss of faith in almost everything, and an escapist mentality rooted in the belief that no meaningful change is possible. Popular culture feeds on this attitude, encouraging excess and striking poses while confusing commitment with fanaticism.

Still, the situation isn’t all bad. Along with skepticism comes a re-awakened concern about the human condition and the planet’s health. The idea that “rational planning” provides all the answers is no longer convincing, gone with notions such as “bigger is better” and nature is merely a resource to be conquered and exploited.

In economics, the rigid approach to production known as Fordism, named for the man who brought us the assembly line and mass production using interchangeable parts, has given way to a more flexible, eclectic system emphasizing innovation and a post-industrial compression of time and space. The view that corporations and the global economy are only parts of a whole planetary system is slowly gaining traction. As with most post-modern developments, however, there is a double edge. Re-engineering economics and work could lead to more worker-owned businesses, a renewed sense of community and environmental responsibility, and a groundswell against corporation domination. But it may simultaneously increase instability, turning even more people into contingent workers.

Commenting on the implications, former presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy once argued that post-modernism favors “fuzzy logic” and subjective impressions over rational arguments and clear thinking. It recognizes no absolutes, just degrees and disposable attitudes. “This predicament is not altogether reassuring,” he concluded, “as it may lead us to a state of ‘entropy,’ i.e., of randomness, chaos and disorder, with little basis for optimism as to what may result.”

Despite recent progress – from democratic uprisings to increased tolerance – one possibility remains a right-wing cultural counterrevolution. Speaking on his TV network years ago, Pat Robertson made the goal perfectly clear: “to mobilize Christians, one precinct at a time, one community at a time, one state at a time, until once again we are the head and not the tail, and at the top rather than at the bottom of our political system.”

In a country founded on the principle of church-state separation, this may sound unlikely. Yet TV huckster Glenn Beck, political “celebrity” Palin and many others clearly share this “dream.” We shouldn’t be surprised that such opportunists seize any chance to distort public debate and promote themselves as prophets. Christian right evangelists have been doing it for generations. Not much has changed since the time of Aimee Semple McPherson and Father Coughlin except the targets. For Beck, Palin, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk it’s everything associated with progressivism and social justice.

To call them televangelists – or propagandists – isn’t a stretch.  Backed by Fox and conservatives like the Koch brothers, since 2008 they have attempted to mass market an extreme, religiously-infused ideology and immerse viewers in a false reality. Specious arguments are presented as history, biblical truth or scientific fact. Too often mainstream media legitimize their misinformation.

The religious right has helped to create a distorted picture of contemporary reality that many people, insecure and hungry for guidance, continue to embrace. As former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed explained before the election of George W. Bush, the short-term objective is to force candidates to endorse the religious right’s agenda, an effort that has too frequently proven successful. But the ultimate step is to turn that agenda into national policy.

In contrast, progressives tend to put their faith in exposure. When more people understand the extreme and illogical views of the Christian Right, goes the argument, their candidates will be rejected. There is support for this view. But too many people, uncertain about their futures and the safety of their families and friends, remain vulnerable to the politics of paranoia and blame.

From time to time, Beck and others have pointed to a secret conspiracy, supposedly bent on subjugating the nation to some form of mutated socialism or fascism. The idea that Barack Obama is a Muslim socialist fits well within this overarching theory. This also harks back to the sermons of McPherson and Coughlin. It may sound laughable, but in a time of distrust and decadence, when many voters believe their institutions don’t work and their leaders often look like greedy crooks, it isn’t that hard to embrace such a prophecy.

Bombarded with disinformation people have often turned to hucksters who offer simplistic answers and the faint hope of a moral revival. Although other religious traditions offer more constructive answers – tolerance, equality, harmony with nature, and social justice, among others – their spokesmen don’t often reach so large an audience, a state of affairs that could change with Pope Francis.

Repeating lies and distortions, while often effective in the short-term, does not make them true. Eventually, more people will have to face the contradiction of a movement that poses as patriotic and “pro-family” and the destructive divisions it actually promotes. There is still hope that the hypocrisy of opportunists can be exposed for what it is – false prophecy that no amount of repetition can conceal.

Greg Guma has been a writer, editor, historian, activist and progressive manager for over four decades. His latest book, Dons of Time, is a sci-fi look at the control of history as power.


Canada Busted Covering Up Spikes In Fukushima Radiation

December 5th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Falsely Stated That There Were No Unusual Radiation Levels

The governments of Japan, America and Canada have covered up the severity of the Fukushima crisisever since it started in March 2011.

They’ve cut way back on radiation monitoring after the Fukushima meltdown, underplayed the amount of radiation pumped out by Fukushima, and raised acceptable radiation levels … rather than fixing anything.

For example, reports:

A study by several researchers, including Health Canada [the department of the government of Canada with responsibility for national public health] monitoring specialist Ian Hoffman, reveals a sharp spike in radiation over southwest B.C. on March 20, 2011.

In 2011, investigative journalist Alex Roslin reported in the Georgia Straight that a Health Canada monitoring station in Sidney had detected radioactive iodine-131 levels up to 300 times normal background levels.

In 2011, Health Canada was declaring on its website that the quantities of radiation reaching Canada did not pose any health risk to Canadians.

“The very slight increases in radiation across the country have been smaller than the normal day-to-day fluctuations from background radiation,” Health Canada said at the time.

Roslin maintained in his article that Health Canada’s own data contradicted that assertion. Below, you can see more of what the researchers stated in the PowerPoint presentation about the radiation plume.

Here’s what Roslin wrote in 2011:

After Japan’s Fukushima catastrophe, Canadian government officials reassured jittery Canadians that the radioactive plume billowing from the destroyed nuclear reactors posed zero health risks in this country.

In fact, there was reason to worry. Health Canada detected large spikes in radioactive material from Fukushima in Canadian air in March and April at monitoring stations across the country.


For 22 days, a Health Canada monitoring station in Sidney detected iodine-131 levels in the air that were up to 300 times above the normal background levels. Radioactive iodine levels shot up as high as nearly 1,000 times background levels in the air at Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

Meanwhile, government officials claimed there was nothing to worry about. “The quantities of radioactive materials reaching Canada as a result of the Japanese nuclear incident are very small and do not pose any health risk to Canadians,” Health Canada says on its website. “The very slight increases in radiation across the country have been smaller than the normal day-to-day fluctuations from background radiation.”

In fact, Health Canada’s own data shows this isn’t true. The iodine-131 level in the air in Sidney peaked at 3.6 millibecquerels per cubic metre on March 20. That’s more than 300 times higher than the background level, which is 0.01 or fewer millibecquerels per cubic metre.

“There have been massive radiation spikes in Canada because of Fukushima,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.

“The authorities don’t want people to have an understanding of this. The government of Canada tends to pooh-pooh the dangers of nuclear power because it is a promoter of nuclear energy and uranium sales.”

Edwards has advised the federal auditor-general’s office and the Ontario government on nuclear-power issues and is a math professor at Montreal’s Vanier College.

Similarly, the Nelson Daily reported in 2012:

The Green Party of Canada said despite public concern over fallout from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Health Canada failed to report higher than normal radioactive iodine levels in rainwater.


“We were worried that this important information would not reach the public and unfortunately, it looks as if we were right,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich Gulf Islands in a written press release.

It has now been revealed that data were not released from a Calgary Health Canada monitoring station detecting levels of radioactive iodine in rainwater well above the Canadian guideline for drinking water.

This isotope was known to be released by the nuclear accident and also showed up in tests in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa.  Lower levels of contamination resulted in a don’t-drink-rainwater advisory in Virginia.

“Serious questions are arising about how Health Canada tests for radiation, and why it has failed to properly alert the public,” said May.


“In effect, Health Canada has not allowed Canadians to take any preventative steps to reduce our exposure to this radiation.”

Durante una videoconferencia que organizó el Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos el 29 de octubre de 2013, la famosa disidente cubana lamentó el papel “marginal” de la mujer en Cuba. Según Yoani Sánchez, la mujer cubana constituye “el último eslabón de una cadena de improductividades e ineficiencias”. He aquí algunas verdades al respecto que contradicen su punto de vista.

Las cubanas pueden permanecer hasta un año cela licencia cuando tiene un niño. Wikimedia Commons

1. Desde el triunfo de la Revolución en 1959, el Estado cubano ha hecho de la emancipación de la mujer una de sus prioridades, con la creación en agosto de 1960 de la Federación de Mujeres Cubanas (FMC), que fundó Vilma Espín, que cuenta hoy con más de 4 millones de miembros.

2. Antes de 1959, las mujeres sólo representaban el 12% de la población activa y recibían una remuneración sensiblemente inferior a la de los hombres por un empleo equivalente.

Leer el texto original en portugués

3. Hoy, por un mismo trabajo, la legislación cubana impone que el salario de la mujer sea exactamente igual al del hombre.

4. Cuba es el primer país del mundo en firmar la Convención sobre la Eliminación de todas las Formas de Discriminación contra la Mujer, y el segundo en ratificarla.

5. De los 31 miembros del Consejo de Estado cubano, 13 son mujeres, o sea el 41,9%.

6. Hay 8 mujeres ministras sobre 34, o sea el 23,5%.

7. En el Parlamento cubano, de los 612 diputados, 299 son mujeres, o sea el 48,66%.

Cómo limitan las embajadas occidentales los viajes de los cubanos

8. Cuba ocupa el tercer puesto mundial en el porcentaje de mujeres diputadas. Estados Unidos ocupa el puesto 80.

9. María Mari Machado, mujer, ocupa la vicepresidencia del Parlamento cubano.

10. De los 1.268 elegidos en las Asambleas provinciales, el 48,36% son mujeres.

11. Las mujeres cubanas presiden 10 de las 15 Asambleas provinciales del país, o sea el 66,6%, y ocupan la vicepresidencia en 7 de ellas, o sea el 46,6%.

12. No existe ninguna ley en Cuba que obligue a la paridad en los cargos políticos.

13. De los 115 miembros del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba, 49 son mujeres, o sea el 42,6%.

14. La secretaria del Partido Comunista de Cuba para la provincia de La Habana, la más importante del país, es una mujer negra menor de 50 años llamada Lázara Mercedes López Acea. También es vicepresidenta del Consejo de Estado y del Consejo de Ministros.

15. De los 16 dirigentes sindicales provinciales de la Confederación de Trabajadores Cubanos (CTC), 9 son mujeres, o sea el 56,25%.

16. Cerca del 60% de los estudiantes cubanos son mujeres.

17. Desde 1980, las mujeres activas disponen como promedio de un nivel de formación superior al de los hombres activos.

18. En Cuba, las mujeres representan el 66,4% de los técnicos y profesionales del país de nivel medio y superior (profesores, médicos, ingenieros, investigadores, etc.).

19. La tasa de fecundidad (número de hijos por mujer) es de 1.69, o sea la más baja de América Latina.

20. Las madres cubanas tienen la posibilidad de ocuparse a tiemplo completo de sus hijos recién nacidos y percibir al mismo tiempo su salario íntegro un mes y medio antes del parto y tres meses después del nacimiento del hijo. La baja puede extenderse un año con una remuneración igual al 60% del salario. Al cabo de un año se reintegran automáticamente a su trabajo.

21. Cuba (desde 1965) es el único país de América Latina, con Guyana (desde 1995) y Uruguay (desde 2012), en legalizar el aborto.

22. La tasa de mortalidad infantil es de un 4,6 por mil, o sea la más baja del continente americano –incluyendo Canadá y Estados Unidos– y del Tercer Mundo.

23. La esperanza de vida de las mujeres es de 80 años, dos años superior a la de los hombres.

24. La mujer puede jubilarse a los 60 años o tras trabajar durante 30 años, mientras que el hombre sólo puede jubilarse a los 65 años.

25. La mujer cubana desempeña así un papel preponderante en la sociedad y participa plenamente en el desarrollo del país.

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. Contacto: [email protected] ; [email protected]  Link para su página Facebook.

Durante uma videoconferência organizada pelo Departamento de Estado dos Estados Unidos no dia 29 de outubro de 2013, a famosa dissidente cubana lamentou o papel “marginal” da mulher em Cuba. Segundo Yoani Sánchez, a mulher cubana é “o último elo de uma cadeia de improdutividade e ineficiências”. Eis aqui algumas verdades a respeito que contradizem seu ponto de vista.


Mulher cubana pode ficar até um ano de licença quando tem um filho

1. Desde o triunfo da Revolução em 1959, o Estado cubano tem feito da emancipação da mulher uma de suas prioridades, com a criação, em agosto de 1960, da Federação de Mulheres Cubanas (FMC), fundada por Vilma Espín, que conta hoje com mais de 4 milhões de membros.

2. Antes de 1959, as mulheres representavam apenas 12% da população ativa e recebiam uma remuneração inferior à dos homens por um emprego equivalente.

3. Hoje, a legislação cubana impõe que o salário da mulher, pela mesma função, seja exatamente igual ao do homem.

4. Cuba é o primeiro país do mundo a assinar a Convenção sobre a Eliminação de Todas as Formas de Discriminação contra a Mulher, e o segundo em ratificá-la.

5. Dos 31 membros do Conselho de Estado cubano, 13 são mulheres, ou seja, 41,9%.

6. Há 8 mulheres ministras em um total de 34, ou seja, 23,5%.

7. No Parlamento cubano, dos 612 deputados, 299 são mulheres, ou seja, 48,66%.

8. Cuba ocupa o terceiro lugar mundial na porcentagem de mulheres deputadas. Os Estados Unidos ocupam o 80º.

9. María Mari Machado, mulher, ocupa a vice-presidência do Parlamento cubano.

10. Dos 1268 eleitos nas assembleias provinciais, 48,36% são mulheres.

11. As mulheres cubanas presidem 10 das 15 assembleias provinciais do país, ou seja, 66,6%, e ocupam a vice-presidência de 7 delas, 46,6%.

12.  Não existe nenhuma lei em Cuba que obrigue a paridade nos cargos políticos.

13. Dos 115 membros do Comitê Central do Partido Comunista de Cuba, 49 são mulheres, ou seja, 42,6%.

14. A secretária do Partido Comunista de Cuba para a província de Havana, a mais importante do país, é uma mulher negra que tem menos de 50 anos chamada  Lázara Mercedes López Acea. Ela também é vice-presidenta do Conselho de Estado e do Conselho de Ministros.

15. Dos 16 dirigentes sindicais provinciais da Confederação dos Trabalhadores Cubanos (CTC), 9 são mulheres, ou seja, 56,25%.

16. Cerca de 60% dos estudantes cubanos são mulheres.

[Dissidente Yoani Sánchez mostra desconhecimento dos dados sobre a mulher cubana em suas críticas]

17. Desde 1980, as mulheres ativas dispõem, em média, de um nível de formação superior ao dos homens ativos.

18. Em Cuba, as mulheres representam 66,4% dos técnicos e profissionais do país de nível médio e superior (professores, médicos, engenheiros, pesquisadores etc.).

19. A taxa de fertilidade (número de filhos por mulher) é de 1.60, ou seja, a mais baixa da América Latina.

20. As mães cubanas têm a possibilidade de se ocupar em tempo integral de seus filhos recém-nascidos e, ao mesmo tempo, receber seu salário integral um mês e meio antes do parto e três meses depois do nascimento do filho. A licença pode se estender até um ano com uma remuneração equivalente a 60% do salário. Ao final de um ano, são automaticamente reintegradas a seu trabalho.

21. Cuba é um dos únicos países da América Latina, além da Guiana (desde 1995) e do Uruguai (desde 2012), a legalizar o aborto. A prática foi aprovada na ilha caribenha em 1965.

22. A taxa de mortalidade infantil de é 4,6 por mil, ou seja, a mais baixa do continente americano — incluindo o Canadá e os Estados Unidos — e do Terceiro Mundo.

23. A expectativa de vida as mulheres é de 80 anos, dois anos superior à dos homens.

24. A mulher pode se aposentar aos 60 anos, ou depois de trabalhar durante 30 anos, enquanto o homem só pode se aposentar aos 65 anos.

25. A mulher cubana desempenha, assim, um papel preponderante na sociedade e participa plenamente do desenvolvimento do país.

Salim Lamrani

Doutor em Estudos Ibéricos e Latino-americanos da Universidade Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani é professor-titular da Universidade de la Reunión e jornalista, especialista nas relações entre Cuba e Estados Unidos. Seu último livro se chama Cuba. Les médias face au défi de l’impartialité, Paris, Editions Estrella, 2013, com prólogo de Eduardo Galeano.

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Already holding by far the worst human rights record in Thai history, the Shinawatra regime has just been exposed for its role in allowing organized human trafficking of Rohingya refugees to take place via its own immigration department and police. Worst of all, it appears the regime’s police may even be profiting from it.

Image: Forsaken – Rohingya refugees have been butchered and forced to flee Myanmar by the US-backed “saffron monks” of so-called democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, only to end up in slave camps courtesy of the US-backed Shinawatra regime in Thailand.


Unwanted refugees, instead of being sent back to their country of origin, are instead sold into slavery, held hostage for ransom, or brutally murdered in gulag-like camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, reports Reuters.

In its article, “Thailand secretly dumps Myanmar refugees into trafficking rings,” Reuters reports that:

As thousands of Rohingya flee Myanmar to escape religious persecution, a Reuters investigation in three countries has uncovered a clandestine policy to remove Rohingya refugees from Thailand’s immigration detention centers and deliver them to human traffickers waiting at sea.

The Rohingya are then transported across southern Thailand and held hostage in a series of camps hidden near the border with Malaysia until relatives pay thousands of dollars to release them. Reporters located three such camps – two based on the testimony of Rohingya held there, and a third by trekking to the site, heavily guarded, near a village called Baan Klong Tor.

Thousands of Rohingya have passed through this tropical gulag. An untold number have died there. Some have been murdered by camp guards or have perished from dehydration or disease, survivors said in interviews.

The very police facing down anti-regime protesters in Bangkok, admit they are fully aware of the ongoing atrocity, displaying depraved apathy and even hinting that they have profited from the slave camps.

Reuters continues:

Presented with the findings of this report, Thailand’s second-highest-ranking policeman made some startling admissions. Thai officials might have profited from Rohingya smuggling in the past, said Police Maj-Gen Chatchawal Suksomjit, Deputy Commissioner General of the Royal Thai Police. He also confirmed the existence of illegal camps in southern Thailand, which he called “holding bays”.

Tarit Pengdith, chief of the Department of Special Investigation, Thailand’s equivalent of the U.S. FBI, was also asked about the camps Reuters discovered. “We have heard about these camps in southern Thailand,” he said, “but we are not investigating this issue.”

Tarit Pengdith, of the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) admits he is aware of the camps but cannot be bothered to investigate what is by all measures an ongoing crime against humanity occurring within his jurisdiction. This is because Tarit is instead pursuing a myriad of politically motivated cases against the enemies of Thaksin Shinawatra, the regime’s defacto leader.

Curiously, while Reuters exposes what is essentially a dysfunctional, corrupt regime indifferent to the rule of law, human suffering, or even simple human decency, it, along with the rest of the Western media continues to portray the Shinawatra regime as the legitimate, “democratically elected government” of Thailand, claiming anti-regime protesters are instead irrational, “anti-democratic” and “elitists.”

Barbaric Slave Trade Just One of Many Atrocities Overseen by Shinawatra Regime

The dismal human rights record of the Shinawatra regime is rarely mentioned in the Western media these days, as the West attempts to bolster it in the face of persistent anti-regime protests. However, many may be shocked to find it guilty of grotesque acts of injustice, mass murderer, intimidation, in addition to the charges of human trafficking being leveled against it now.

Throughout Thaksin Shinawatra’s first term in office, beginning in 2001, even Amnesty International is forced to admit: 

During Thaksin’s first term (January 2001 — January 2005), eighteen human rights defenders were assassinated and one was disappeared. Although arrests have been made for some of the murders, many of the cases remain unresolved.

In 2003, starting in February and over the course of 3 months, some 2,800 people (approximately 30 a day) would be extra-judicially murdered in the cities and countrysides of Thailand as part of Thaksin’s “War on Drugs.”

Accused of being “drug dealers,” victims were systematically exterminated based on “hit lists” compiled by police given carte blanche by Thaksin. It would later be determined by official investigations that over half of those killed had nothing to do with the drug trade in any way. Human Rights Watch (HRW) would confirm this in their 2008 report titled, “Thailand’s ‘war on drugs’,” a follow up to the much more extensive 2004 report, “Not Enough Graves.”  

Image: “The Thai Gov’ts War on Drugs: Dead Wrong. Stop the Murder of Thai Drug Users.” During Thaksin Shinwatra’s 2003 “War on Drugs” it wasn’t only drug users who were brutally, extra-judicially murdered in the streets, but over 50% of the 2,800 killed during the course of 3 months, were completely innocent, involved in no way with either drug use or trade.….

The following year would see the Tak Bai incident which involved 85 protesters killed in a single day in Thailand’s deep south. And despite Thaksin’s atrocious human rights record, by far the worst in Thai history, and even challenging regional lows, the West continued to support his regime. 

Thaksin also crushed dissent, particularly across the media. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote in its report, “Attacks on the Press 2004: Thailand,” that (emphasis added):

Populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s press freedom record has been less than stellar since he took office in 2001. His political and financial interference, legal intimidation, and coercion continued to have a chilling effect on critical voices in the Thai press in 2004.

Critics accuse Thaksin and his administration of creeping authoritarianism, cronyism, and blurring the lines between business interests and politics. Local journalists told CPJ they routinely receive phone calls from government officials trying to influence editorials and reporting. They said Thaksin’s powerful government and his allies often threaten to withdraw advertising from publications in retaliation for negative articles. As a result, local journalists said, self-censorship has increased dramatically during the last four years.

The decision of executives at the Bangkok Post to remove Veera Prateepchaikul, editor of the influential English-language daily, is a direct example of such interference, local sources said.His reassignment in February stunned and outraged the local press and was a major blow to the Bangkok Post staff, which sent a letter of protest to management. Veera, who goes by his first name, is also president of Thailand’s journalists’ union, the Thai Journalists Association.

Veera Prateepchaikul continues to this day to speak out against the Shinawatra regime with his recent, and very cogent critique of the current regime headed by Thaksin’s nepotist-appointed sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, titled, ”Yingluck can’t duck responsibility for protest fatalities.” In it, he calls on the regime’s proxy, Yingluck, to step down after violence triggered by regime militants claimed the lives of now 5 people. 

The Straight Times reported in its article, “Press freedom ‘eroded under Thaksin’,” that:

The ruling party and its allies and supporters now control a significant chunk of Thailand’s television and radio media, either directly or indirectly, say analysts.

The article describes how members of Thaksin’s regime were systematically buying out media interests even while holding office. This obvious conflict of interest was compounded by suits the regime brought against news editors for “libel” – merely censorship by lawsuit.

It is very clear to see why Thais have amassed in the streets calling for the complete “uprooting” of the Shinawatra regime. From human rights, to freedom of the press, to the immense corruption, incompetence, and wrecking ball abandon exhibited by the regime, its removal is a matter of survival for Thailand.

The Abbott government yesterday intensified its legal threats designed to suppress the latest revelations of the Australian bugging of the East Timorese government’s offices in 2004. Attorney-General George Brandis issued a ministerial statement to the Senate, in which he warned that the lawyer representing East Timor, Bernard Collaery, could face serious criminal charges for divulging official secrets.

The Abbott government is attacking core legal and democratic rights. Until now, no Australian lawyer has ever been prosecuted for representing a client challenging illegal government activity—in this case, placing listening devices in Dili’s cabinet room walls to snoop on East Timor’s leaders in 2004. This occurred amid negotiations with Australia over the division of the resources of the oil- and gas-rich Timor Sea between the two countries.

In his Senate statement, Brandis defended his decision to issue warrants for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and Australian Federal Police (AFP) raids on Collaery’s offices and home on Tuesday. Also raided was the home of a retired Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) officer, yet to be publicly named, who has blown the whistle on the former Howard government’s decision to have ASIS bug the East Timorese government.

Without any known legal basis, the ex-ASIS official was detained and interrogated, and his passport was seized to prevent him from appearing as the key witness in East Timor’s legal case in The Hague that is beginning today.

The Timorese government is seeking to overturn the Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (CMATS) treaty, under which Australia gained a 50 percent share of the $40 billion Greater Sunrise oil and gas fields. Under recognised principles of international law, maritime borders ought to be set at an equidistant point between the two countries involved. With Greater Sunrise lying entirely in East Timorese territory on this basis, Canberra openly junked any adherence to international law when conducting the negotiations. Dili is now arguing that CMATS is invalid because it was secured via the Australian government’s “bad faith”—that is, with the help of illegal spying.

Brandis concluded his ministerial statement with a threat to overturn lawyer-client confidentiality in order to charge Collaery, who is in The Hague for the Arbitral Tribunal hearing. “[M]erely because Mr Collaery is a lawyer, that fact alone does not excuse him from the ordinary law of the land,” the attorney-general declared. “In particular, no lawyer can invoke the principles of lawyer-client privilege to excuse participation, whether as principal or accessory, in offences against the Commonwealth.”

Brandis specifically invoked the Intelligence Services Act, which imposes up to two years’ jail for a current or former ASIS officer communicating, without permission, any “information or matter” connected to ASIS’s functions or performance.

The threat against Collaery has one known international precedent. In the US, Lynne Stewart, a civil liberties lawyer, was convicted in 2005, and ultimately sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment, on trumped-up charges of assisting terrorism by relaying information from a client who was on trial for terrorist-related offences. That jailing, pursued actively by both the Bush and Obama administrations, represented a turn toward methods commonly associated with a police state. (See: “Judge sentences US civil liberties lawyer Lynne Stewart to 10 years”)

Collaery is being persecuted despite his client, the ASIS whistleblower, being previously advised by the government’s so-called intelligence watchdog, the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS), to hire a lawyer if he wanted an inquiry into the East Timor operation. Collaery told Fairfax Media that IGIS had refused to investigate the case.

Brandis’s ministerial statement advanced a pseudo-legal justification for Tuesday’s raids, saying he issued the warrants under the ASIO Act, at the request of the ASIO director-general. That Act hands sweeping powers to the government and its security apparatus to conduct searches and seizures, without judicial warrants, on the vague grounds that any information obtained will “substantially assist the collection of intelligence” connected to a “security matter.”

The Act defines “security” to include espionage, sabotage, “politically motivated violence,” attacks on Australia’s defence system, “acts of foreign interference” and “the protection of Australia’s territorial and border integrity.” Brandis did not specify which of these grounds he believed was relevant to the exposure of ASIS’s bugging operations that were aimed at ensuring the flow of billions of dollars of tax revenues flowing to Canberra and profits to Woodside Petroleum.

Brandis reiterated Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s claim that the ASIO raids had nothing to do with East Timor’s impeding legal case. This palpable lie—the raids occurred two days before the hearing began in The Hague—was rejected by East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão. In a media release, Gusmão condemned the “invasion of the premises of a legal representative of Timor-Leste” and “aggressive” action against a key witness, branding it “inconceivable and unacceptable conduct.”

The Abbott government’s provocative stance has been enthusiastically backed by sections of the media. The Australian today issued an editorial to nakedly defend the mobilisation of the intelligence services against neighbouring countries for geo-strategic and corporate gain. “[I]t would be extraordinary to think that any government would not seek to obtain as much information as possible on such a crucial matter of sovereignty,” Murdoch’s flagship declared. “We, unsurprisingly, expect Canberra to work towards our national interest.”

The Abbott government and the ruling elite more broadly are attempting to use the vendetta against Bernard Collaery and the ASIS whistleblower to intimidate any other would-be leakers or whistleblowers within the intelligence apparatus. Canberra is deeply concerned about the impact of further revelations about its illegal activities via former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The Australian has reported that as many as 20,000 secret Australian intelligence files could have been accessed by Snowden when he worked at the NSA. Brandis yesterday told the newspaper: “The Snowden revelations are the most serious setback for Western intelligence since World War II … we are talking about huge numbers of files that Snowden has put into the public domain.”

Events in the Senate yesterday highlighted the unity within the parliamentary establishment on protecting the intelligence agencies. The Labor opposition moved in lockstep with the government to oppose a Greens’ motion requiring Brandis to provide an explanation for the ASIO raids. The attorney-general praised Labor Senator John Faulkner, a former defence minister, who insisted that it was beyond the power of parliament to demand any such answers.

The Greens quickly back-pedalled following Faulkner’s intervention. Their legal spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam said he could not see how the East Timor spying operation had related to “national security,” when it directly served corporate interests, but explained that he would agree with the government’s stance if national security were involved. “I understand and respect the reasons why ministers of Coalition or Labor Party orientations would not comment on matters that would prejudice ongoing national security investigations,” he stated.

In other words, the Greens stand equally ready to defend the predatory interests of Australian imperialism when dressed in the garb of “national security.” Their only difference is how the term is defined. The Timor case, however, is another demonstration of how the Australian government, like its US and other allies, regards corporate espionage as a key responsibility of its intelligence apparatus, as part of the pursuit of broader geo-strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific.

Fact Check on Venezuela’s Economy

December 5th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Doomsayers claim it’s troubled. So do Bolivarian haters. Chavez endured flack for 14 years. It’s Nicolas Maduro’s turn.

He prioritizes political, economic and social justice. Washington and internal dark forces despise him for doing so. They want him replaced. Perhaps they want him dead.

He’s using Enabling Law authority responsibly. He represents popular interests. He’s fighting corruption. He’s cracking down on price-gouging profiteers. He’s doing so legally.

US and internal dark forces target Venezuela’s economy. They’ve done it since Chavez took office in February 1999. They haven’t stopped.

They haven’t succeeded. They’re waging a losing battle. Venezuelans value Bolivarian fairness. They’ll defend what’s too valuable to lose.

Wall Street Journal columnist Mary O’Grady reflects the worst of corporate journalism. She specializes in reinventing history.

She does a deplorable job doing it. Her columns read like bad fiction. They don’t pass the smell test. Monied interests own her.

She’s reliable imperial tool. Responsible editors wouldn’t touch her rubbish. Journal editors embrace it.

On December 2, she headlined ”The Pope, the State and Venezuela.”

She called him “a severe critic of free-market economics.” She described his policies as “state tyranny.”

“Venezuelans,” she claimed, “are sinking further into poverty under (his) anti-market polices.” He “needs a miracle.” He’s “been lashing out at importers, retailers and landlords.”

She criticized Pope Francis. He released a document last week. He challenged “trickle-down” defenders.

He said they “assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.”

No empirical evidence proves it, he said. He called claiming otherwise “a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

Not according to O’Grady. She endorses predatory capitalism’s worst features. She claims they lift all boats. She thinks social justice sinks them.

She calls Venezuela “Exhibit A. It is an instruction manual on how to increase human misery,” she said. A litany of lies followed.

“(N)ational chaos cultivates envy, hatred and violence,” she claimed. Maduro lacks “moral authority.” O’Grady mocks legitimate journalism.

She’s one of its most disreputable practitioners. Her columns read like corporate boardroom handouts.

Venezuela’s economy is far from troubled. Don’t expect O’Grady to explain. Disinformation substitutes.

Final 2013 results won’t be as robust as earlier forecast. They remain positive. Q III registered 1.1% growth.

It was the 12th straight positive quarterly result. According to the Central Bank of Venezuela’s (BCV) third quarter report, oil sector growth was 0.7%.

Other sectors grew by 1.7%. Year to date growth is 1.4%. Q II was strongest at 2.6%. Despite lower than expected results to date, Maduro rejected doomsayer reports.

“You tell me a capitalist country in the world or Europe where there is a decline in unemployment in 2013,” he said. Venezuela’s crisis is “fictitious.”

According to the most recent National Institute of Statistics data, unemployment is 7.6%. It’s down from 7.8% in September. It’s an accurate unemployment assessment.

It’s not fake like America’s. Headline unemployment is 7.3%. Reality is 23.5%. it’s based on 1980′s calculation model.

It was before manipulation corrupted it. Venezuelan unemployment is less than one-third of America’s troubled economy.

Washington rigs economic data. Doing so conceals how bad things are. Protracted Main Street Depression level conditions persist.

Nothing suggests better times ahead. Misery defines conditions for growing millions. Venezuelans are far better off. Bolivarian benefits include what Americans can’t imagine.

Venezuelans get participatory democracy, quality healthcare at no cost, free education to the highest levels, subsidized food and housing, and much more.

Chavez cut poverty from 60% to 26%. Extreme poverty decreased from over 16% to 7%. Economic growth was impressive for years.

In 2011, it was 4.8%. In 2012, it was 5.6%. Chavez created jobs. Doing so cut unemployment sharply. Venezuelans have Latin America’s highest minimum wage.

Women without income and disabled people get 60% of minimum wage support. Chavez withdrew Venezuela from IMF/World Bank debt peonage.

Hundreds of thousands of new homes were built. Commerce, communications, construction, and manufacturing grew impressively.

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves. Millions of acres of land were returned to aboriginal people. Doing so let tens of thousands of farmers own their own land for the first time.

Illiteracy was eradicated. Venezuelan democracy is the world’s best. It’s unmatched. It’s elections are open, free and fair. America’s are fake. Ordinary people get the best democracy money can buy.

All Venezuelans are automatically enfranchised at birth. Fair trade replaced America’s one-sided free trade model. It excludes fairness.

Maduro continues what Chavez began. He champions Bolivarian principles. He’s advancing them responsibly.

“If we had an actual crisis,” he said, “the first thing that would be affected is job creation. (Unemployment) would shoot up” dramatically. It declined month-over-month.

Poverty is far less a problem than in America. Half of US households are either impoverished or bordering it. They’re one missed pay check away from being unable to pay daily expenses.

BCV data showed government surplus up 82.5% year-over-year. Trade surplus is positive. Foreign capital dependency increased.

Inflation remains unacceptably high. Dark forces manipulate scarcity and price gouging.

Maduro is addressing both issues responsibly. He accused Washington of waging economic war. Obama officials plot Venezuela’s “economic collapse,” he said.

They want a “social explosion.” They’re “preparing a transition government to be installed following chaos.”

Maduro is going all out to prevent it. He imposed price controls. He targeted price gouging profiteers. He accused them of “grotesque overpricing in the electrical appliance sector.”

Crackdowns on speculators and profiteers will continue. Vice President Jorge Arreaza said government efforts “will protect the people against bourgeois parasitism.”

Food, vehicle, hardware and other businesses operate like predatory appliance retailers.

Maduro is using enabling law authority to enforce fair pricing of all products. He wants grotesque profiteering stopped.

On November 7, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) economist Mark Weisbrot headlined ”Sorry, Venezuela haters: this economy is not the Greece of Latin America.”

Indeed not! It’s polar opposite. Year after year, Bolivarian haters predicted Venezuela’s demise.

The claimed its “economy would implode. (T)hey saw economic collapse just around the corner,” said Weisbrot.

They’re still waiting. Since 1999, Venezuela experienced two recessions. Washington’s manipulated 2002-2003 oil management lockout and general strike caused one.

World 2008-2009 recession harmed most economies worldwide. Venezuela was no exception. Since 2003, annual growth averaged 2.7%.

Poverty fell by over half. Significant employment gains were registered. “(A)ccess to health care, pensions and education” improved.

Venezuela currently faces economic problems. Will doomsayers “finally see their dreams come true,” asked Weisbrot?

“Not likely.” They were wrong before. They’re dead wrong now. “(H)ow can a government with more than $90bn in oil revenue end up with a balance-of-payments crisis?”

“(I)t can’t, and won’t,” Weisbrot explained. “In 2012, Venezuela had $93.6bn in oil revenues, and total imports in the economy were $59.3bn.”

“The current account was in surplus to the tune of $11bn, or 2.9% of GDP.”

“Interest payments on the public foreign debt, the most important measure of public indebtedness, were just $3.7bn.”

“This government is not going to run out of dollars.”

Bank of America analysts rate Venezuelan bonds “a good buy.”

BCV holds $21.7 billion in reserves. “(O)pposition economists estimate” other government agencies hold another $15 billion.

These and other data reflect economic soundness. When necessary, Venezuela “has the capacity to borrow more internationally,” said Weisbrot.

Hyperinflation remains “very remote.” Q I 2012 inflation “reached a monthly low of just 2.9%.” It’s unacceptably higher now.

“(D)espite its problems, (Venezuela) is very capable of providing healthy growth even while bringing down inflation,” Weisbrot explained.

Corporate manipulated price gouging and hoarding exacerbate it. So did “a cut in the supply of dollars to the foreign exchange market.”

Beginning in October 2012, “importers had to purchase increasingly expensive dollars on the black market.”

Inflation peaked in May at 6.2%. It was 3% in August. It rose in September. Government policy “increased its auction of dollars. (I)t announced a planned increase of food and other imports,” said Weisbrot.

Doing so will likely decrease inflation. Economic problems persist. They’re far different from Greece, Spain, and other troubled Eurozone economies.

Current problems can be resolved. At the same time, 2012 poverty fell 20%. It’s Latin America’s largest decline. Perhaps it’s the world’s largest.

Job creation cut unemployment. These type data refute an economy in crisis. Problems are more political than economic.

US and internal dark forces bear full responsibility. Maduro’s popularity hasn’t suffered. It’s 55%.

On December 8, Venezuelans vote. They’ll choose mayors and other municipal officials nationwide. Nearly 2,800 positions are at stake.

Opposition dark forces want December 8 to be an anti-Maduro plebiscite. They’re hyping a protest vote.

This year’s campaign differs from last December gubernatorial elections. A national campaign wasn’t initiated. Base support wasn’t mobilized.

Opposition candidates won only three of 23 governorships. What happens this Sunday remains to be seen.

Government candidates are expected to win most municipal posts. Opposition ones hope to register gains.

Strategy includes inflammatory discourse. It features lies and damn lies. Hopefully it’s not working.

A recent Hinterlaces poll showed only 6% of voters intend “to vote against Maduro.” According to company vice president Federico Schemel:

Venezuelans differentiated very well between these elections. (T)he plebiscitary campaign isn’t perceived as such by the population.”

People intend to “vote for candidate(s) they feel (most qualified) to solve problems in the short term.”

According to government campaign chief Francisco Ameliach:

“The most important task for (United Social Party of Venezuela – PSUV) candidates is to mobilize the people in support of Maduro’s economic measures and for Enabling Law” authority.

Maduro declared December 8 “The Day of Love and Loyalty to Hugo Chavez.” It marks the anniversary of his last public address.

He asked supporters to elect Maduro in his absence. “On December 8, the people won’t fail Comandante Chavez,” said Maduro.

He continues Chavez’s tradition. Elections test Bolivarian legitimacy. Maduro is waging war on economic unfairness.

Poll numbers show his popularity increased. Perhaps municipal election results will reflect it. Fixing economic problems depends in part on resolving political ones.

Last December, Bolivarianism emerged triumphant. Hopefully Sunday’s results will reflect strong support for what’s too important to lose.

Dark forces want social justice destroyed. They want predatory injustice replacing it. Dirty tactics are used. Washington is very much involved.

Monday night, much of Venezuela went dark. It did so briefly. Maduro justifiably claimed sabotage. So did National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, saying:

“I have no doubt that today’s electricity sabotage is part of the right wing’s plan.”

Earlier Maduro warned about opposition forces attacking Venezuela’s electrical grid ahead of municipal elections.

They’ve done it before. They’ll do it again and much more. After power was restored in Caracas, Maduro appeared live on television, saying:

“Be strong against this electrical war that yesterday’s fascists have declared against our people.”

They’re going all out to destroy Bolivarian fairness. They want neoliberal harshness replacing it.

They want what Simon Bolivar called the imperial curse “plagu(ing) Latin America with misery in the name of liberty.”

They want what most Venezuelans won’t tolerate. Bolivarianism is too precious to lose.

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

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

Visit his blog site at 

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.

Blaming Black People in Detroit

December 5th, 2013 by Margaret Kimberley

Detroit has been delivered to the bankruptcy vultures, with a foreign bank first in line to scavenge the carcass. Yet, corporate media and white public opinion appear to consider the catastrophe to be the fault of Black “shiftless bums who must pay a price for just about anything that the reptile racist brain can imagine.”

The level of hostility that most white Americans have towards black people is endless. Nothing proves that point like the reaction to the court decision which affirmed that Detroit, Michigan is officially bankrupt. If the media, pundits and readers commenting to newspapers are to be believed, Detroit had no problems other than having too many freeloading black people living within the city limits.

According to news reports the damage done by moving money and other resources to the mostly white suburbs was not a problem. Neither were the disastrous Wall Street derivativesdeals which robbed the city. The Republican takeover of the state legislature wasn’t an issue either, despite the fact that the emergency management plan was instituted against the wishes of Michigan voters who rejected it in a referendum. According to conventional wisdom none of these factors and none of the bad actors are responsible for the decision to make the people of Detroit liable for the connivance of the 1%.

The corporate media say nothing about the fact that Barclays bank gets paid first, so that it can then pay Bank of America and others. They say nothing about how creditors from civil litigants to vendors will have to settle for pennies on the dollar. They don’t mention that city of Detroit retirees couldn’t pay into Social Security and have nothing to live on except their soon to be decimated pensions. Of course they also fail to say that the state’s constitution specifically protects pensions from cuts announced by the emergency manager. That law is no longer worth the paper it is written on.

The dice were cast long before judge Steven Rhodes ruled that the picking clean could begin in earnest. There was no way that the ruling classes would permit true democracy to function when there was a fresh carcass to scavenge. The evil doing was made all the more easy by a system still fueled by heavy doses of racism.

In 2008 the mortgage-backed securities house of cards fell apart but the international banksters weren’t prosecuted or even really blamed by the masses of people. In the minds of too many white Americans, the housing bubble was caused by black people buying homes they couldn’t afford. That same line of reasoning says that Detroit is bankrupt because of overpaid city workers and greedy retirees. Some of those black people who worked on automobile assembly lines were also blamed for the struggles of the big three car makers. Even black people who have jobs are considered shiftless bums who must pay a price for just about anything that the reptile racist brain can imagine.

The terror of the shock doctrine is now in full force around the country. The word Detroit is now being used the way the word boogeyman was used to keep children fearful and compliant. In New York City, municipal workers are being told not to expect retroactive wage increases when a new mayor takes office in January. After all, no one wants New York to end up like Detroit.

But racism is a two edged sword, capable of hurting white people, too. Black people may be punished first but the swath of destruction won’t leave white people untouched for long. Black people are the most vulnerable and the easiest to victimize but are not the only Americans depending on pensions to survive. Judge Rhodes made history and in a terrible way. There will be nothing to protect the few Americans who still have defined retirement benefit plans. They can now begin kissing those plans good-bye.

Cities and counties all over the country were defrauded by the derivatives schemers. Corporate greed will ensnare many more and make a mockery of the idea that America is a democracy. Other state legislatures and municipalities will also reach figurehead status and other voter referendums will be rendered null and void.

California cities like Stockton and San Bernardino are in court seeking bankruptcy protection. So far unions have successfully argued that pension plans should be untouched, but with Rhodes’ ground breaking decision, all that may change very quickly. It is certain that the rest of financial services sector sat up and took notice when Detroit’s fate was sealed in the court house.

Detroit is now the dead canary in the coal mine. The banksters have taken jobs, homes and now a major city. Legislation and the popular will mean nothing when the fat cats set their sights on something they want.

As for the few people left in Detroit they will watch as their pensions, jobs and public resources disappear. They will be the first to see such a level of theft and devastation but they will not be the last.

Margaret Kimberley‘s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)

In a special session on Tuesday, the Illinois legislature passed a long-anticipated bipartisan pension “reform” bill that slashes pension benefits in response to the estimated $100 billion in unfunded state liabilities.

The agreement was reached over the Thanksgiving holiday by the four Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate. The bill passed 62-53 in the State House of Representatives and 30-24 in the State Senate.

The timing of the December 3 special session was important, as the vote was taken just hours after federal bankruptcy court judge Steven Rhodes read his ruling on the bankruptcy of the city of Detroit. In addition to letting the bankruptcy proceed, Rhodes explicitly ruled that federal bankruptcy law trumps state constitutional protections for worker pensions.

Rhodes’ decision is aimed at setting a precedent to allow for the looting of state and municipal pension funds, worth trillions of dollars.

By raising the retirement age by five years for workers currently under 45, capping the salary on which pensions are based to $110,000, and lowering and/or canceling cost of living (COLA) increases to retirees, the bill aims to save $160 billion over 30 years. Lawmakers claim that this will leave the pension system fully funded by 2044. Workers will also pay 1 percent less into the funds.

In Illinois, as in Michigan, the plan to restructure pensions moves ahead in violation of the state Constitution. Article 13 of the Constitution states, “Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”

In recognition of this, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat, in an alternate bill proposed earlier this year, offered “consideration” to some retirees who will have their pensions cut. However, since the start of the Detroit bankruptcy court proceedings, Cullerton changed his position.

The aggressive push to “reform” pensions in Illinois has been led by the Democratic Party. “We cannot continue to be the embarrassment of the nation,” said Democratic Senator Kwame Raoul, speaking in support of the bill in floor debate December 3. Raoul sponsored the bill in the Senate with fellow Democrats Mike Madigan, Elaine Nekritz, and Daniel Biss.

Governer Pat Quinn repeated the lie that the reduction of retiree incomes serves the common good. Immediately after its passage, Quinn promised to promptly sign the bill, stating, “When I took office…we inherited a lot of challenges and problems, and pension reform was the number one challenge…I look forward to signing this pension reform. It’s important that we understand that action of the General Assembly, in a bipartisan way, will make the state stronger and the people stronger…advancing the interest of the common good, of everyday people.”

Nowhere in the official media is it acknowledged that the Illinois pension crisis is manufactured. Retirees and current workers are being forced to pay for decisions they played no part in making, having been in no way responsible for the “pension holidays” Democratic and Republican leaders took from making contractually obligated payments.

The Illinois state pension system includes state employees, downstate teachers, university employees, the General Assembly retirement system, and the judges retirement system. Those currently covered or contributing to the Illinois state pensions are reported to make up 5.3 percent of the state’s population, or 678,000 people.

Retirees currently receiving pensions will be affected. With the exception of state employees, Illinois pensioners do not draw federal Social Security benefits.

The bill has been lauded by business interests, including Crain’ s Chicago Business and the Commercial Club’s Ty Fahner. “This bill isn’t perfect,” Fahner said, “and it wasn’t without compromise, but it was undoubtedly the right thing to do for the state and its citizens.” Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel also applauded the bill, noting that it laid the ground for the pension cuts needed in Chicago and other municipalities.

In anticipation of popular opposition, a coordinated media campaign has sought to pit younger workers against their elders, reaching an apex last November shortly after the unions shut down the 2012 Chicago teachers strike and the governor rolled out the “Squeezy the Pension Python” campaign. Credit ratings agencies, including Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s, have downgraded both the state’s and state agencies’ credit ratings in an effort to accelerate the pension cuts.

Through the We Are One Illinois coalition—made up of the Illinois AFL-CIO, IEA, AFSCME, SEIU, Teamsters, state nurses association, firefighters and police unions—the unions worked with Cullerton on an alternate pension “reform” bill. Since the successful passage of the test-case pension “reform,” that affecting Chicago Park District workers, the unions have done absolutely nothing to stop the passage of the Senate bill, aside from threatening a legal action.

We Are One issued a tepid appeal to Quinn to change his mind, “A majority of legislators ignored and defied their oaths of office today—but Governor Pat Quinn doesn’t have to. He can stay true to his oath and the legal promise made to public employees and retirees by vetoing this unfair, unconstitutional bill. If he doesn’t, our union coalition will have no choice but to seek to uphold the Illinois Constitution and protect workers’ life savings through legal action.”

In fact, the unions in Illinois, as in Detroit, fully support the attack on the working class and are committed both to their political alliance with the Democratic Party and their defense of the capitalist system.

God and the Devil in Haitian History

December 5th, 2013 by Jean Saint-Vil

Today, December 5, 2013 marks the 521st anniversary of the Tainos People’s first encounter with Christopher Columbus on the island of Ayiti.

Today, Ayiti houses the Republic of Haiti to the West and the Dominican Republic, to the East.

December 31, 2013, will mark the 10th anniversary of the following prophetic declaration made at Haiti’s Montana Hotel:

“The Real Problem with Haiti is that the international community is so screwed up and divided that they are letting Haitians run Haiti”.

Less than 2 months after then-Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luigi Einaudi, uttered these infamous words at the Montana, in my presence as well as other witnesses including journalist Kevin Pina and lawyer/activist Marguerite Laurent, the “real problem with Haiti” was supposedly solved by U.S. troops entering the residence of Haiti’s democratically-elected president in the dead of night, kidnapping him and his wife and dumping them more than 20 hours later in the French neo-colony known as the Central African Republic.  

This week, I invite one and all to take another look at THE REAL PROBLEM with Haiti. Let us examine Pat Robertson’s “earthquake causing devil” in the light of hard and verifiable historical facts. Indeed, what has “the devil” been up to these days? What else does he have in store for Haiti?

See also: Haiti and the ‘Devil’s Curse’ (VIDEO)

Every new revelation about the global reach of the National Security Agency underscores that the extremism of the surveillance state has reached gargantuan proportions. The Washington Post just reported that the NSA “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden have forced top officials in Washington to admit the indefensible while defending it. One of the main obstacles to further expansion of their Orwellian empire is real journalism.

 Real journalism is “subversive” of deception that can’t stand the light of day. This is a huge problem for the Obama administration and the many surveillance-state flunkies of both parties in Congress. What they want is fake journalism, deferring to government storylines and respectful of authority even when it is illegitimate.

 In motion now, on both sides of the Atlantic, are top-down efforts to quash real journalism when and how it matters most. In the two English-speaking countries that have done the most preaching to the world about “Western values” like freedom of the press, the governments led by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron are overseeing assaults on real journalism.

 They’re striving to further normalize fake journalism — largely confined to stenographic services for corporate power, war industries and surveillance agencies. A parallel goal is to harass, intimidate and destroy real journalism. The quest is to maximize the uninformed consent of the governed.

In direct contrast, those willing to fight for truly independent journalism — including whistleblowers, political activists and journalists themselves — are struggling to provide our world with vital light, fueled by comprehension that real journalism must be willing to challenge entrenched power.

From incessant war and arming the world, to climate change and coddling fossil fuel industries, to anti-democratic governance and enabling vast NSA surveillance, the U.S. power structure — with epicenters along Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue — continues to dominate. That power structure is a clear, present and horrendous threat to human survival, the natural world of this planet and the possibilities for authentic democracy.

 Against such dire, highly institutionalized assaults on the present and the future, we desperately need a wide range of nonviolent, principled and unrelenting insurgencies. In that context, government efforts to crush real journalism can be understood as methodical counterinsurgency.

Smashing Guardian hard drives and hauling the newspaper’s editor in front of an inquisitional parliamentary committee are aspects of the British government’s counterinsurgency program against real journalism. In the United States, the counterinsurgency includes numerous prosecutions of whistleblowers and wide-ranging surveillance of journalists’ workaday communications. These assaults aren’t episodic. They’ve become routine.

 Journalism is at a momentous crossroads. The alternative to unrelenting independence is sheepism, and that’s not journalism; it’s a professionalized baseline of bowing to government and corporate pressure even before it has been overtly exerted.

For journalists, and for the rest of us, silence is not neutrality; it ends up as acceptance of autocratic rule, a present festooned with pretty-sounding names like “anti-terrorism” and “national security.”

 As the most powerful institutions run amok, their main functionaries are “leaders” who keep leading us farther and farther away from a world we could possibly be proud of leaving for the next generations. Pushing back against the ominous momentum will require fighting for real journalism. No one can plausibly say that reversing course will be easy or probable — only imperative.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” Information about the documentary based on the book is at

The Global War on Terrorism: The Fight for Truth Continues

December 5th, 2013 by Global Research

The events of 9/11 played a pivotal role in launching the Global War on Terrorism, which has for the last 12 years brought about mass militarization on an unprecedented scale, by turns ravaging sovereign nations, creating further instability and breeding fear and hatred.

As Michel Chossudovsky recently wrote:

“A major transition in US counter-terrorism doctrine is unfolding. While Barack Obama, following in the footsteps of George W. Bush, remains firmly committed to waging a “Global War on Terrorism” (GWOT), his administration is now openly supporting selected rebel units in Syria which are part of the Al Qaeda network.” (See: “Fighting Al Qaeda by Supporting Al Qaeda in Syria: The Obama Administration is a “State Sponsor of Terrorism””)

From the attacks of September 11, 2001 to the war on Syria — how did we get to this point? Global Research offers you several important resources and encourages you to get the facts and share them with others.

 America’s “War on Terrorism”

by Michel Chossudovsky
$16.00 | ISBN 9780973714715 | 365 pages with complete index | Click for Info

According to Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, the ”war on terrorism” is a complete fabrication based on the illusion that one man, Osama bin Laden, outwitted the $40 billion-a-year American intelligence apparatus. The “war on terrorism” is a war of conquest. Globalization is the final march to the “New World Order”, dominated by Wall Street and the U.S. military industrial complex. (Also available in PDF format)

 The Toronto Hearings on 9/11: Uncovering Ten Years of Deception

by Press for Truth
$22.95 | Runtime: Over 5 hours | Year: 2012 | Click for Info

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. (Watch Trailer)

Also, don’t forget to consult the 9/11 Archives on Global Research and 9/11 Videos on GRTV - browse our articles and videos, get the background and spread the information far and wide.

It’s never too late for the truth.

Operation Agent Fury: The 1983 US Invasion of Grenada

December 5th, 2013 by Michael Green

 The purpose of this article is to analyse the reasons behind the U.S. led invasion into Grenada during the latter part of 1983, from a U.S. decision making perspective. Codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, the U.S. decision to invade Grenada after the overthrow and subsequent killing of the Grenadian President Maurice Bishop evoked widespread criticism from several different outlets.[1] Acknowledging such perspectives, this essay will seek to examine and explore the decision making process behind the invasion.

A prominent component of this article will be the investigation into what particular models of foreign policy decision-making and diplomatic practice were utilised by the Reagan led administration in relation to their decision to invade Grenada in 1983. The rationale behind the decision will be fully scrutinised as will the bureaucratic politics involved and the organisational structure of the Reagan administration. The main players in the Reagan administration will also be discussed, with some clearly more supportive of the invasion at the time than others.[2]  However, prior to engaging in an in-depth analysis of the complexities that existed behind the decision to invade; a brief overview of the situation within Grenada prior to the invasion will first be provided.

A common perception of Grenada at the time was that it was a communist buffer zone, essentially a subordinate of Cuban and Soviet control.[3] The accuracy of this statement has certainly been debated intensely since, but nevertheless at the time, such a perception of Grenada existed within parts of the democratic world and crucially within the Reagan administration in Washington.[4] The tension between the United States and the Grenadian leadership had been a common theme for many months prior to October of 1983. A matter of contention between the two sides was the construction of a landing strip in Grenada that the Grenadians claimed was built primarily for tourism. However, the U.S. believed the strip to be a Cuban or Soviet inspired military venture and therefore deemed it as a direct threat to national security.[5] The tension between the nations continued to gather momentum and soon the U.S. would act.

Ultimately, President Reagan’s policy on Grenada stemmed from a deep anti-communist stance that he had taken since his inauguration into office, and as Melvyn P. Leffler opines ‘’although Ronald Reagan hated communism, he did not fear it, not nearly as much as many of his predecessors. He was supremely confident of the superiority of American values and of the American way of life’’.[6] Therefore, Reagan’s deep distrust and distain for communism would dominate his thinking behind Grenada, as will be outlined later in the essay. Patently obvious is the fact that the situation in Grenada prior to the invasion of the United States was uncertain at best. Indeed the overthrow of the communist leaning Maurice Bishop ‘’brought to power individuals thought to be even more radical, notably the former deputy prime minister, Bernard Coard’’.[7] These game changing events took place on the 13th of October, by the 25th of that month Reagan had given the order to invade and the U.S. operation in Grenada was truly underway.[8] Thus as the decision to invade Grenada grew ever closer for President Reagan and his aides, a clear picture of the situation within the region has now been provided. As this article will now outline utilising the Rational actor model, the actual decision making process behind the invasion of Grenada was anything but straightforward.

  The approach to the invasion of Grenada by the Reagan led administration was dominated by a number of key issues. To begin with what were the key goals behind the decision and who considered the consequences of the impending operation? In terms of an overall logic behind the invasion Reagan and his comrades since coming to power in 1981 had adopted a hard line approach to any perceived communist threats, and now Grenada was viewed as one.[9] As already outlined the situation within Grenada had become increasingly unstable and there were now a number of factors that President Reagan and his aides had to take into account. Firstly if the United States were to intervene in Grenada what would be their primary logic in doing so? There are many conflicting arguments as to why the U.S. intervened in Grenada.[10]

The reason as espoused by Reagan in a speech to the nation on October 27th 1983 was that there were over 1000 U.S. citizens on the island and ‘’concerned that they’d be harmed or held as Hostages, I ordered….military action’’.[11]

Therefore taking into account the remarks by President Reagan was their safety the sole rationale behind the decision to invade or were there other mitigating factors? Another interesting perspective on the decision to engage Grenada was that the U.S. saw the turmoil in the country as the perfect opportunity to reemphasise its strength and control over the region to both Cuba and Nicaragua.[12] Clearly the rationale behind the decision to invade was not confined to one specific area. Another train of thought for the logic behind the military operation was that while the Reagan administration was understandably concerned for the welfare of the American citizens on the island, they perhaps availed of their predicament and exploited their plight to advance their own agendas.[13] Hence an argument could be put forth, that a continuing pattern of the Reagan administration was their pursuit of U.S. interests in the region, which is plainly evident from the previous illustrations and Grenada could conceivably be viewed as another illustration of this theory.[14]

Therefore, perhaps it is clear that U.S. interests in the region emerge as being of central significance to the overall decision making activity behind the invasion. However is it accurate to decipher from these examples that the invasion was centred on this rationale alone? Alternatively, were the reasons involved in the decision to invade so simplistic that no further examination is necessary or were there other elements that have yet to be considered?

Clearly President Reagan and his close aides believed that the invasion of Grenada was a necessary step, but there were certain factors behind their decision that deserve further examination. One particularly fascinating perspective on the U.S. decision to invade was that some people saw the invasion as a possible remedy to the Vietnam syndrome of the 1970s.[15] This perspective while interesting, is not substantiated by much evidence and therefore while taking it into account, it doesn’t fit into the Rational actor model for the President or his enemies during this period.

However, perhaps a more logical reason behind the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983 was the terrorist bombing of Beirut on October 23rd 1983, that saw over 200 U.S. marines lose their lives.[16] Certainly the blow of such an unprecedented attack on U.S. personnel shocked many but was it decisive in the thought process behind the Grenada campaign? Undoubtedly the devastation caused from the Beirut bombings evoked angry responses, yet the important point to remember is that irrespective of the bombings the evidence suggests that the invasion of Grenada would have went ahead nonetheless, considering the precarious circumstances that existed on the island during this period.[17]

In spite of this, one must acknowledge that the bombings in Beirut certainly affected the mind-set of the cabinet and media alike and while there was undoubted pressure placed on the President to demonstrate a show of force, Grenada was already in the pipeline prior to the horrific bombings in Beirut.[18] Therefore, the overall thinking behind the campaign is difficult to truly comprehend due to the volatile events that surrounded the invasion, but unquestionably Grenada had been on the administrations radar for a long time.  Another factor one must take into account while examining the Rational actor model is whether the Reagan administration considered all options available to them prior to the invasion and were all these possible outcomes fully contemplated. One interesting aspect of the invasion was its legality and in this respect Beck argues that ‘’the American operation could not be justified under international law’’.[19] Taking this opinion into account, it must be questioned whether the Americans sought to explore the diplomatic channels before deciding to invade?

A crucial factor behind President Reagan’s decision to invade was the role of the neighbouring nations of Grenada. In this regard an alliance of states pleaded with Ragan to intervene and he promptly obliged to their request.[20] Certainly it becomes apparent that the Reagan administration had a number of options before them prior to taking the decision to invade. However, did they consider the diplomatic approach? From the evidence obtained it appears that this option was never truly under consideration or if it was brought up, chiefly by the Secretary of Defence Caspar Weinberger it was swiftly shot down.[21] Therefore, if one is to truly interpret the rationale behind the decision to invade Grenada by the Reagan administration the most logical place to start is with President Reagan and his core political beliefs. As Russell Crandall observes ‘’the Reagan administration viewed its battle with communism as one, pitting  good versus evil, and Grenada was too close geographically and to easy militarily to pass up’’.[22]

Essentially the overriding logic behind the decision making involved in the invasion of Grenada centred on the President’s personal distain for communism. The evidence above all points to this conclusion, however while other factors such as the safe keeping of American civilians and the plea from neighbouring nations were also prominent in the decision making process, an overall sense of the Reagan administration wishing to strike a blow to communism (The Soviet Union and Cuba) was perhaps the strongest rationale behind the administration’s decision to invade Grenada.

As the invasion of Grenada marked a significant event in the decision making policies of the Reagan administration, the decision to invade was by no means confined to the Rational actor model. Indeed what of the Bureaucratic politics involved in the decision? An interesting point is made by Jervis who contends that ‘’bureaucrats policy preferences are determined by their positions in the government’’.[23] Whereas Allison pointedly remarks ‘’individuals become players in the national security policy game by occupying a position that is hooked on the major channels for producing action on national security issues’’.[24] Both perspectives are enlightening and offer a unique insight into the bureaucratic nature of political decision making. In this respect the role of the main protagonists in the Reagan administration at the time in terms of Grenada is decisive.

Certainly a crucial factor for engaging with Grenada was the well flagged communist threat, however did those within the inner circle of the Reagan administration all believe that invading Grenada was the wisest course of action? While in terms of the Bureaucratic model did the main participants in the administration seek to advance their own agendas as historically had been the case in other administrations?[25] Jack Vessey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff along with Weinberger after hearing of Bishop’s death elected to turn around a U.S. carrier that was destined for the Middle East and ordered it to sail towards Grenada.[26] This act clearly illustrates their belief that the situation within Grenada had turned to a worrying extent by the time of Bishop’s demise. However, were their actions reflecting a fear of an outbreak of Cuban and Soviet inspired communism on the island or were they motivated by something altogether different? Certainly their actions reflected apprehension of what had occurred on the island, but they clearly didn’t signify an approval for an invasion.[27] Weinberger in particular is a curious case, as Secretary of Defence it was his job to assist President Reagan on these matters, yet he was severely hindered in his role by a fear of a repeat of the horrors of Vietnam.[28] Clearly such uncertainty would not be of any use to the President on this occasion.

<Hence, after showing initial reluctance to see U.S. personnel endangered in pursuing foreign military action, Weinberger concluded that Grenada now represented a major threat to U.S. security in terms of its communist leanings and therefore, aligned his decision making with that of the President.[29] The extent to which he fully supported the campaign may never truly be known, however perhaps a more accurate reason for his support of this campaign stemmed from the fact that the U.S. forces were unquestionably superior to their foes and therefore would secure an easy victory in all likelihood.[30] An interesting fact remains that both Weinberger and Vessey conveyed their disapproval at the prospect of the impending invasion quite openly and only after receiving assurances from the president over the plan for the invasion did they drop their reservations and unite behind the decision.[31]  While unquestionably a crucial component in the Reagan administration, Weinberger’s opinions were certainly not akin to some of his colleagues who will now be discussed.

There were a number of strong personalities within the confines of the Reagan administration, all were highly skilled in their own right, yet their perspectives on different issues varied and Grenada was no exception. One of the more prominent personalities in the administration was Secretary of State George Shultz. His outlook on Grenada grew ‘’increasingly in favour of a full-scale invasion,’’ as the fallout from Bishop’s removal gathered momentum.[32] In terms of Shultz, his relationship with Weinberger was always defined by mistrust and rivalry.[33] Clearly influential, Shultz’s role in the decision to invade is fascinating. His relationship with Reagan was undeniably close and the two were at times inseparable during the period when the decision to invade was made.[34] Indeed Shultz himself commented on the decision to invade stating that the President took the decision to invade on October 22nd in the presence of Shultz and National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane.[35] What is patently obvious from these examples is the support Shultz held not only for the campaign but also towards Reagan. His close relationship with Reagan ensured that the invasion would be supported by many within the administration.[36] Another member of the Reagan administration, Robert McFarlane would also be an influential component in the decision making process behind the invasion.

Along with Shultz, McFarlane was one of a privileged few who actually knew of the invasion from the moment the President had ordered it.[37] In addition to this, he was also a firm believer in taking affirmative action in the region and clearly both he and Shultz held much sway over the decision making process involved in Grenada and therefore can be strongly linked as being central characters in the overall decision to invade. What is interesting to note from these examples is that both Shultz and McFarlane were among the leading supporters of intervention in Grenada, from the time of Bishop’s death, whereas Weinberger and Vessey argued and campaigned for a more cautious approach.[38] Clearly the more influential players in the administration (Shultz & McFarlane) had the President’s ear on this occasion. Nevertheless, the primary point in this matter is difficult to truly comprehend as the decision to invade involved many differing personalities. Instead one must acknowledge that the basis for a decision was not as clear-cut as it initially appeared and therefore it should be recognized that achieving consensus in any Presidential administration is always shrouded in difficulty.

An interesting aspect of the Reagan administration was that it was dominated in the main by hardliners who viewed military action as being crucial in many cases.[39] In terms of the bureaucratic politics involved in the decision making of the administration, this had a number of direct consequences particularly in relation to Grenada. The personalities involved in the administration were essentially complex characters whose primary objective was to ensure that the U.S. could reclaim its role as the world’s policeman.[40] Certainly once the situation within Grenada had escalated to a worrying degree, some of those within the bureaucratic circles of the administration sought to avail of this uncertainty to champion their own personal goals. Interestingly, it was characters like Motley, Shultz and McFarlane along with Casey who came to the fore in this case, while the more cautious characters of Weinberger, Bush and Vessey were seemingly obliged to panther to the party line.[41] Perhaps what these examples truly underline is the fine margins that exist within any Presidential administration at any particular time. Certainly some within the administration had the wherewithal to play the bureaucratic game better than others, yet ultimately once the decision was made all within the administration fully supported and were united behind the mission to send the firmest of messages to Cuba and the Soviet Union through Grenada.[42] Ultimately, what can one deduce from the bureaucratic politics involved in the decision to invade Grenada? Undoubtedly fragmented the decisions were based on as much personal agendas than any actual damning evidence into actions within Grenada. Therefore did the bureaucratic politics involved force the President’s hand or were his sights already fixated on Grenada? President Regan had long viewed Grenada with suspicion and in fact prior to the intervention his view of Grenada was that it was ‘’a virtual Cuban colony’’.[43] Therefore, however influential the various bureaucratic actors were in influencing the President on Grenada, it was he who had always championed the invasion.[44] Hence, while unquestionably important the role of bureaucratic politics in the decision to invade Grenada should not be given undue substance. Nevertheless, the bureaucratic politics were indisputably effective, but what of the organisational process in the decision making behind the invasion?

 The Reagan administration was certainly a change from the previous Carter led administration, not afraid to use force one could put forth the argument that it was also quite shrewd in attacking a weak nation such as Grenada to fulfil its objectives.[45] In terms of the Organizational Process Model in relation to the decisions surrounding the Grenada invasion, the Reagan administration was undeniably sure of its actions. One of the primary functions of any President before embarking on a foreign military intervention is to inform the various bureaucratic departments of this impending decision. For Grenada, Reagan failed to do this. Graham T. Allison argues that an ‘’overriding fact about large organisations is that their size prevents any sizeable central authority from making all important decisions’’.[46] If one were to take Allison’s assertion as being accurate then perhaps the stance taken by the Reagan administration during the decision process making behind Grenada may have been justified. During his Presidency Reagan liked to be in control of key foreign policy decisions and to achieve this he felt it necessary not to inform Congress of what actions he was carrying out in the name of the United States, to an extent Grenada was a similar case.[47]

However would the incursion into Grenada fit within the legal parameters afforded to the President? In terms of his decision to keep the Congress out of the decision making process behind the invasion, one could argue that this was clearly in violation of section 3 of the War Powers Resolution.[48] Clearly Reagan felt that the bureaucratic bodies that surrounded him were too large to control so he instead decided to keep them out of the decision making process if at all possible. One may wonder how Reagan managed to validate such secrecy behind this operation. The approach adopted by the President in this regard represented a political masterstroke as he was able to depict the situation in Grenada as being of critical importance to the United States (as U.S. civilians were on the island) and this therefore ‘’justified the invasion and the secrecy surrounding it’’.[49] Certainly the President would utilise all the experience he had garnered to keep the surrounding organisational bodies on the periphery of the invasion, but would his tactics prove successful?

Clearly the invasion into Grenada had been a thought out plan that went into operation after the overthrow and subsequent killing of Grenadian President Maurice Bishop. In terms of the Reagan administration were their plans adversely affected by organisational bodies that were beyond their control? This is an interesting point to consider, as generally the basis behind any decision making in a period of crisis would be to seek to utilise all the resources of outside departments that were available to the government.[50] However, the invasion of Grenada and the decision making that took place prior to it, endeavoured to halt these organisational bodies from influencing the decision making process.

Perhaps a reason for the reluctance of Reagan to trust these organisational institutions was the fact that Democrats controlled the House, while Republicans controlled the Senate and therefore as a Republican President his decision making may have been debilitated by the possibility that his plans may have been foiled by political opponents.[51] Nevertheless taking an overall look at the situation that faced President Reagan at the time, one can draw many differing conclusions. For instance, it is quite obvious he perceived that influential bodies such as the Congress and Senate would fail to back him on the invasion and therefore took appropriate action to counteract this, which in his view was keeping the operation a secret. In the case of Congress influential members were summoned to the White House on the 24th of October, the invasion would take place the following day and had already been ordered by Reagan days previous to this.[52] Clearly Reagan was in control and no organisational body or bureaucratic fellow would foil his plans to invade Grenada.

What of his interaction with key military figures? Certainly Reagan valued their opinions on the invasion and to an extent he left the specifics of the operation in the hands of military personnel that undoubtedly had greater knowledge in this area than he did.[53] His relationship with the military therefore contrasted greatly with other organisational bodies due in no small part to his belief in their ability to get the job done. The basis for the decision had been made and now all that was left was to apprise the soldiers of their orders and let them rid Grenada of the communist threat.

Once underway the U.S. led operation within Grenada proved to be an intervention that ‘’caught the American public, the world community, and even the Congress by surprise’’.[54] In manyrespects this intervention was an event that the American public had craved since Vietnam, the invasion illustrated American military might and to those still suffering of a hangover from Vietnam this proved to be the perfect remedy.[55] The reasons as espoused by Reagan and co however, were not met with universal favour. Indeed, international reaction to the intervention was negative and after only a week had passed ‘’seventy-nine governments had condemned, repudiated or in some way expressed disapproval of the American action’’.[56] Clearly the military invasion had the support of many; however others were seemingly appalled by the operation. Ultimately, President Reagan’s decision making process sought to nullify the impact of the Congress and Senate respectively by only informing them of the specifics of the operation at the final moment. The role of the media during the period surrounding the invasion is also worthy of note. Throughout this period the President had developed a deep mistrust of the media and therefore he restricted their coverage of events within Grenada to suit his own ends.[57] Perhaps Reagan could foresee the international reaction or perhaps he just liked to have the decision making for any military intervention kept in the hands of those whom he trusted. Whatever the case, he carefully deconstructed the control that the Congress and Senate would normally wield which in turn helped assimilate his personal plans for Grenada and the invasion that ensued.

In summary, the decision to invade Grenada encompassed a number of contrasting and diverse factors. Clearly President Reagan was suspicious of Cuban and Soviet plans for the island and perhaps he believed that the island would be a communist buffer zone if U.S. forces didn’t act. If true was this the sole purpose of the mission? Publically President Reagan cited the plight of over 1000 U.S. medical students on the island and the immediate danger they faced as being the primary motive for the decision to invade. However, this essay has showcased a number of possible objectives for the invasion from the apparent communist threat, to the endangerment of U.S. civilians to restoring U.S. prestige in the international arena. All in their own right can be validated, yet they can be disparaged to an extent as well. In terms of the historical analysis of the invasion, this essay has sought to utilise the three key models of foreign policy decision making: the Rational actor model, the Bureaucratic politics model and the Organisational theory model to gain a clear insight into the complexities that existed behind the decision making process for this invasion.

Clearly the decision making in any crisis is shrouded in difficulty and Grenada would be no different. While the differing personalities within Reagan’s administration disagreed on elements of the operation, by the time the order was given they were all united behind the President and his aims for Grenada. What were his primary objectives for this operation?

After studying all the sources, the primary conclusion to derive from the decision to invade Grenada was that the President’s personal distain of communism, coupled with an unstable Marxist leadership and apparent danger to American civilians provided the perfect remit to invade Grenada. While there were questions of legality involved it must be noted that there are ‘’a number of clauses in the Constitution that place ultimate responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy firmly on the president’’.[58] Taking this into account, this article has clearly outlined the various dynamics that encompass any military intervention, for Grenada President Reagan was the primary shot caller and in terms of being a success, Grenada undoubtedly restored pride and prestige to U.S. foreign military actions that to an extent had been missing since the dark days of Vietnam.

They’re Going to Dump the Fukushima Radiation Into the Ocean

December 4th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Yup … They’re Going to Dump It

Tepco is planning on dumping all of the radioactive water stored at Fukushima into the ocean.

The industry-controlled nuclear regulators are pushing for dumping the radiation, as well.

As EneNews reports:

Juan Carlos Lentijo, head of IAEA’s mission to Fukushima Daiichi, Dec. 4, 2013: “Controlled discharge is a regular practice in all the nuclear facilities in the world. And what we are trying to say here is to consider this as one of the options to contribute to a good balance of risks and to stabilize the facility for the long term.”

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, Dec. 4, 2013: “You cannot keep storing the water forever. We have to make choice comparing all risks involved.”

Xinhua, Dec. 4, 2013: Lentijo said that TEPCO should weigh the possible damaging effects of discharging toxic water against the total risks involved in the overall decommissioning work process. [...] Tanaka highlighted the fact that while highly radioactive water could be decontaminated in around seven years, the amount of water containing tritium will keep rising, topping 700,000 tons in two years. [...] nuclear experts have repeatedly pointed out that [tritium] is still a significant radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin. [...] fisherman, industries and fisheries bodies in the Fukushima area and beyond in Japan’s northeast, have collectively baulked at the idea of releasing toxic water into the sea [...] TEPCO will be duty-bound to submit assessments of the safety and environmental impact [...]

NHK, Dec. 4, 2013: IAEA team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo [...] said it is necessary and indispensable to assess the impact the tritium discharge might have on human health and the environment, and to get government approval as well as consent from concerned people.

Japan Times, Dec. 4, 2013: “Of course . . . public acceptance for this purpose is necessary,” said Lentijo, adding strict monitoring of the impact of the discharge would also be essential.

AFP, Dec. 4, 2013: [L]ocal fishermen, neighbouring countries and environmental groups all oppose the idea.

See also: Gundersen: They want to dump all Fukushima’s radioactive water in Pacific — Tepco: It will be diluted, then released — Professor suggests pumping it out in deep ocean (VIDEOS)

In the real world, there is no safe level of radiation.

And there are alternatives.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani  – a recognized expert on nuclear power, who has testified  before Congress, served as an expert witness in Nuclear Regulatory Commission proceedings, and been interviewed by many of the largest news organizations – told PBS in March:

We actually sent a proposal to Japan two years ago, some colleagues of mine and I, saying you should park a supertanker or a large tanker offshore, and put the water in it, and send it off someplace else so that the water treatment and the water management is not such a huge, constant issue. But [the Japanese declined].

Tepco – with no financial incentive to actually fix things – has been insanely irresponsible and has only been pretending to contain Fukushima. And see this.

Unfortunately, Japan has devolved into crony capitalism … and even tyranny.

So instead of doing something to contain the radiation, they’re going to dump it.

Postscript: In related news, the Japanese government has embarked on a massive program of burning radioactive waste throughout Japan … instead of encapsulating it in glass or otherwise containing it.

The several days of organized protests in Ukraine are notable for the relative lack of police violence.  Unlike in the US, Canada, Thailand, Greece, and Spain, peaceful protesters have not been beaten, tear gassed, water cannoned, and tasered by Ukrainian police.  Unlike in Egypt, Palestine, and Bahrain, Ukrainian protesters have not been fired upon with live ammunition.  The restraint of the Ukrainian government and police in the face of provocations has been remarkable. Apparently, Ukrainian police have not been militarized by US Homeland Security.

What are the Ukrainian protests about?  On the surface, the protests don’t make sense.

The Ukrainian government made the correct decision to stay out of the EU.  Ukraine’s economic interests lie with Russia, not with the EU.  This is completely obvious.

The EU wants Ukraine to join so that Ukraine can be looted, like Latvia, Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Portugal. 

The situation is so bad in Greece, for example, that the World Health Organization reports that some Greeks are infecting themselves with HIV in order to receive the 700 euro monthly benefit for the HIV-infected.

The US wants Ukraine to join so it can become a location for more of Washington’s missile bases against Russia. 

Why would Ukrainians want to be looted?

Why would Ukrainians want to become targets for Russia’s Iskander Missiles as a host country for Washington’s aggression against Russia?

Why would Ukrainians having gained their sovereignty from Russia want to lose it to the EU?

Obviously, an intelligent, aware, Ukrainian population would not accept these costs of joining the EU.

So, why the protests?

Part of the answer is Ukrainian nationalists’ hatred of Russia.  With the Soviet collapse, Ukraine became a country independent of Russia.  When empires break up, other

interests can seize power.  Various secessions occurred producing a collection of small states such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, the former central Asian Soviet Republics, Ukraine, the Baltics, and the pieces into which Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were broken by “nationalism.” The governments of these weak states were easy for Washington to purchase. The governments of these powerless states are more responsive to Washington than to their own people. Much of the former Soviet Empire is now part of Washington’s Empire. Georgia, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, now sends its sons to die for Washington in Afghanistan, just as Georgia did for the Soviet Union,

These former constituent elements of the Russian/Soviet Empire are being incorporated into Washington’s Empire. The gullible nationalists, naifs really, in these American colonies might think that they are free, but they simply have exchanged one master for another.

They are blind to their subservience, because they remember their subservience to Russia/Soviet Union and have not yet realized their subservience to Washington, which they see as a liberator with a checkbook. When these weak and powerless new countries, which have no protector, realize that their fate is not in their own hands, but in Washington’s hands, it will be too late for them.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington quickly stepped into the place of Russia. The new countries were all broke, as was Russia at the time and, thus, helpless.  Washington used NGOs funded by Washington and its EU puppets to create anti-Russian, pro-American, pro-EU movements in the former constituent parts of Soviet Russia. The gullible peoples were so happy to have escaped the Soviet thumb that they did not realize that they now had new masters. 

It is a good bet that the Ukrainian protests are a CIA organized event, using the Washington and EU funded NGOs and manipulating the hatred of Ukrainian nationalists for Russia.  The protests are directed against Russia. If Ukraine can be realigned and brought into the fold of Washington’s Empire, Russia is further diminished as a world power. 

To this effect NATO conducted war games against Russia last month in operation Steadfast Jazz 2013.  Finland, Ukraine, Georgia, and neutral Sweden have offered their military participation in the next iteration of NATO war games close to Russia’s borders despite the fact that they are not NATO members.

The diminishment of Russia as a powerful state is critical to Washington’s agenda for world hegemony. If Russia can be rendered impotent, Washington’s only concern is China. 

The Obama regime’s “Pivot to Asia” announced Washington’s plan to surround China with naval and air bases and to interject Washington into every dispute that China has with Asian neighbors. China has responded to Washington’s provocation by expanding its air space, an action that Washington calls destabilizing when in fact it is Washington that is destabilizing the region.

China is unlikely to be intimidated, but could undermine itself if its economic reform opens China’s economy to western manipulation. Once China frees its currency and embraces “free markets,” Washington can manipulate China’s currency and drive China’s currency into volatility that discourages its use as a rival to the dollar.  China is disadvantaged by having so many university graduates from US universities, where they have been indoctrinated with Washington’s view of the world. When these American-programmed graduates return to China, some tend to become a fifth column whose influence will ally with Washington’s war on China.

So where does this leave us?  Washington will prevail until the US dollar collapses.

Many support mechanisms are in place for the dollar. The Federal Reserve and its dependent bullion banks have driven down the price of gold and silver by short-selling in the paper futures market, allowing bullion to flow into Asia at bargain prices, but removing the pressure of a rising gold price on the exchange value of the US dollar.

Washington has prevailed on Japan and, apparently, the European Central Bank, to print money in order to prevent the rise of the yen and euro to the dollar. 

The Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Partnerships are designed to keep countries in the US dollar payments system, thus supporting the dollar’s value in currency markets.

Eastern European members of the EU that still have their own currencies have been told that they must print their own currencies in order to prevent a rise in their currency’s value relative to the US dollar that would curtail their exports. 

The financial world is under Washington’s thumb.  And Washington is printing money for the sake of 4 or 5 mega-banks.  

That should tell the protestors in Ukraine all they need to know.

NOVO-OGARYOVO, December 3 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan near Moscow, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Putin and Prince Bandar, who also heads the Saudi National Security Council, discussed the situation in the Middle East and in North Africa, it said in a statement.

The sides noted positive dynamics in dealing with the Iranian nuclear problem and exchanged opinions on Syria ahead of a planned international conference aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the civil war there, in which Russia and Saudi Arabia have supported opposing sides.

Putin, Saudi Intelligence Chief Discuss Syria, Iran

Iran and six international negotiators struck a deal in late November to slow the Islamic republic’s nuclear program. Tehran will get some $7 billion in relief from sanctions. The deal also stipulates that international observers will monitor nuclear sites in the country.

The long-delayed Geneva-2 international peace conference, dedicated to ending the conflict in Syria, is expected to be held on January 22 in Geneva. Russia has supported the Syrian government during the civil war, while Saudi Arabia has backed the opposition.

More than 100,000 people have been killed and 9 million people displaced since fighting broke out in Syria in 2011, according to the UN.

Beijing says the jets flew into the air defense identification zone to strengthen monitoring on targets in the area. China’s air force has described the mission as a defensive measure in line with international law.

Beijing says the country’s air force will remain on high alert and take measures to deal with all air threats to protect national security. Two unarmed U-S bombers recently flew through the area.

The controversial air defense identification zone includes islands which are claimed by Japan and China. The islands have been the focus of a bitter and long-running dispute between the two nations.

PressTV speaks with Chicago-based author and radio host Stephen Lendman to learn more.

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According to the website of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), it is the keystone of European Union (EU) risk assessment regarding food and feed safety. The website also states that the EFSA provides independent scientific advice and clear communication on existing and emerging risks and that it is an independent European agency funded by the EU budget. The authority operates separately from the European Commission, European Parliament and EU Member States.

Nice sounding words, but over half of the 209 scientists sitting on the agency’s various panels have direct or indirect ties with the industries they are meant to regulate. Indeed, according to a recent independent screening performed by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and freelance journalist Stéphane Horel, almost 60% of experts sitting on EFSA panels have direct or indirect links with industries regulated by the agency.

The report ‘Unhappy Meal. The European Food Safety Authority’s independence problem’ identifies major loopholes in EFSA’s independence policy and finds that EFSA’s new rules for assessing its experts, implemented in 2012 after several conflicts of interest scandals, have failed to improve the situation (1).

The authors warn that this situation casts a severe doubt on the credibility of the scientific output of the key body responsible for food safety at the EU, with the agency issuing recommendations and risk assessments on crucial public health issues such as food additives, packaging, GMOs, contaminants and pesticides.

According to the report, the EFSA’s new rules for assessing its experts’ interests enable dozens of experts with multiple commercial interests (consultancy contracts, research funding, etc) to still be granted full membership of EFSA panels, including a majority of panel chairs and vice-chairs.

Main author Stéphane Horel said:

“We were shocked by our findings. Even without checking for undeclared interests, the number of conflicts of interest in this agency is very worrying. Experts with conflicts of interest dominate all panels but one. We found that the bulk of conflicts are from research funding and private consultancy contracts, but certain crucial institutions for scientists (scientific societies, journals) are also targeted by industry lobbying, and EFSA seems to ignore this”.

 The report also shows that EFSA failed to properly implement its own new rules in several instances and that there is no visible difference between panels assembled under the new policy and those composed using the old policy.

Martin Pigeon, researcher and campaigner at CEO, said:

“There are specific cases the agency was warned about years ago which remain a problem… We hope this report is an eye-opener on the necessity to defend public research integrity from the threats posed on public health by industry influence”.

Further concerns

On the heels of that report now comes the news that the European Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate (SANCO) has short-listed a director of the biggest EU food industry lobby group FoodDrinkEurope among the candidates to the Management Board of the EFSA (2).

Ms Beate Kettlitz works in a leading position for the lobby group, which represents all major European food and drink corporations. Moreover, it is the second year in a row that the Commission has tried to appoint representatives from FoodDrinkEurope as Members of EFSA’s Management Board.

A year ago, the European Commission nominated FoodDrinkEurope’s Executive Director Mella Frewen (a former Monsanto lobbyist). Her appointment was rejected by the European Parliament and the Member States.

EFSA’s Management Board is key: it is the food agency’s governing body. Everyone eating food in Europe is affected by its decisions.

Martin Pigeon of CEO:

“The fact that the European Commission shortlists a food industry lobbyist, once again, for EFSA’s Management Board is an incomprehensible signal for all those concerned about the protection of consumers and the environment. Such a professional on EFSA’s board would by definition be a permanent threat to the EU’s food safety agency’s independence”

Seven seats on EFSA’s Management Board are up for renewal in June 2014. The European Commission has published a list of 23 names, mostly from national food safety agencies, research institutes and academia for the EU Parliament’s consideration and the Member States’ decision. But four persons among those short-listed also have interests in the food industry:

  •  Jan Mousing, re-applying for the position, is the CEO of the Danish Knowledge Centre for Agriculture, a private company describing itself as the “main supplier of professional knowledge for the agricultural professions” in Denmark;
  • Piet Vanthemsche, who is also re-applying for the position, holds a leading position in industrial farmers union COPA and also sits in MRBB holding, an agri investment fund which also has shares in companies selling GMOs.
  • Alan Reilly, Chief Executive of the Irish Food Safety Authority (Ireland’s public food safety administration), is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), a Brussels-based food lobby group financed by the some of the largest private food and drink companies in Europe.
  • Milan Kovac, from the Slovak Ministry of Agriculture, was a board member of ILSI Europe until 2011. ILSI Europe, an industry research institute supported by all the biggest agrofood multinationals, is a central actor in the agrofood industry’s scientific influence over EFSA.

The Commission’s justification for these nominations is an industry-friendly interpretation of EFSA’s founding regulation, which states that four of the 14 board members “shall have a background in organisations representing consumers and other interests in the food chain”.

In their recent joint press release, CEO and Testbiotech note that nowhere is it mentioned that the food industry should be involved, in fact quite the contrary: EFSA’s 2011 independence rules stipulate that “persons employed by industry shall not be allowed to become members of EFSA’s Scientific Committee, Scientific Panels and working groups.”

Such trends are worrying to say the least. Writer and researcher William F Engdahl has already alluded to a ‘cancer of corruption’ between the biotech sector and the EFSA (3). And this year, Friends of the Earth Europe (FoE) and GM Freeze released their own research report that expressed serious health-related concerns over the excessive and largely unmonitored use of glyphosate (weedkiller) in Europe (4). Very valid concerns, considering recent research pertaining to the health impacts (5). In 2011, Earth Open Source said that official approval of glyphosate had been rash, problematic and deeply flawed. A comprehensive review of existing data released in June 2011 by Earth Open Source suggested that industry regulators in Europe had known for years that glyphosate causes birth defects in the embryos of laboratory animals. Questions were thus raised about the role of the powerful agro-industry in rigging data pertaining to product safety and its undue influence on regulatory bodies (6).

The aim of powerful private companies is to make money, to maximise profit for shareholders. Any safety requirements are secondary concerns, if they are concerns at all. Therefore, we expect bodies like the EFSA to take up these concerns on our behalf and to resist the food lobby and agribusiness in their attempts to translate their massive financial clout into political influence, not least where its own Management Board and ‘expert pasnels’ are concerned.

On its website, the EFSA states:

“Food is essential to life. We are committed to ensuring food safety in Europe.”

Is it?

Get involved, be informed and resist corruption and the corporate takeover of Europe: Visit








Elizabeth May made enemies on both sides of the Israeli-Palestine conflict this week when she accepted to speak at an event organized by Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East (CPJME), then derided that organization as “anti-Israel” in an interview with the B’nai Brith-run Jewish Tribune, then issued a denial that she had called CPJME anti-Israel, provoking the wrath of the Tribune editors, who released a full transcript and recording in which she does in fact denounce CPJME as “anti-Israel.” CPJME then cancelled her speaking event.  It was surprisingly flat-footed for someone who has been the leader of a national political party for the last seven years.

What’s missing from the discussion is that May’s pandering marks the official end of choice when it comes to Canada’s relationship with what Stephen Harper recently called “that light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness,” Israel. Not one political party that is technically capable of winning a majority in Canada’s parliament is — as of now — willing to put up any resistance to Israel’s military occupation, belligerence, or ongoing campaign of dispossession against the Palestinians.

May’s timing is remarkable, as it comes at the very moment that the Israeli government is forcibly evicting 40,000 to 70,000 Bedouin from their villages in the Negev, which are slated for destruction by the government. As one evictee explained, “We have been living here since before the creation of the state of Israel.” The Bedouin will be relocated into what the Guardian described as “overcrowded and impoverished towns,” and the justification is that it’s for their own good. Thousands, including a small but dedicated Israeli contingent, are protesting across the country. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has simply said that he “will not tolerate such disturbances,” as police crack down.

Canadian politicians also have done — and are doing — this kind of thing. The village of Africville near Halifax was bulldozed for “humanitarian reasons” in the late 60s. Residents were literally moved out using city dump trucks. Thousands of Mi’kmaq were forced from their homes in the 1940s under a policy of “centralization” which was land theft justified by rhetoric about the “welfare” of those being evicted, and similar policies were pursued across the country. Canada would not exist without forced evictions. Land theft continues right up to the present moment in ElsipogtogBarriere Lake,Lubicon Lake, and many others. Struggles for justice for past wrongs are met with decade-long court battles and bureaucratic impassiveness; struggles against ongoing dispossession are met with armed assaults, mass arrests, and vilification in the media.

So in a twisted way, it makes sense that while Bedouin were protesting the evictions over the last few months, it was considered normal in respectable circles for Elizabeth May and Stephen Harper to be celebrating Israel’s activities in the Negev.

May told the Tribune that she had attended a fundraiser for the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an organization that plays an integral role in spearheading evictions and legitimizing Israel’s demolition of Palestinian villages by building parks and settlements over their ruins. May lauded the “the great work that’s done in making the desert bloom.”

“Bloom” might not be the most apt verb to describe what’s happening in the Negev.

Bedouin villagers have, for example, rebuilt the village of Al-Araqeeb at total of 49 times, only to have it bulldozed by Israeli authorities an equal number of times. Al-Araqeeb was razed by Israeli bulldozers most recently in May of this year. If Israeli bulldozers get their way, it will be covered by a forest planted, under police and military protection, by the Jewish National Fund. The village is one of many such examples; it stands out because it has resisted so tenaciously, not because it has faced a greater injustice than dozens of others.

It’s difficult to imagine that May was unaware of the situation in the Negev, given that the most recent round of evictions have been in the headlines for weeks, but the best case scenario is that the veteran leader is willing to speak unequivocally on matters about which she is ignorant. This isn’t May’s fault per se; it’s the kind of unreflective support that is expected of politicians who wish to be accepted among those who wield economic power in Canada.

The support for Israel in elite circles has inspired the other national party leaders to say things that most reasonable people would think twice about saying about their own country. NDP leader Thomas Mulcair is, in his own words, “an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.” Including when it is bombing Gazans or Lebanese, and when it is razing villages, naturally. Justin Trudeau is, surprisingly, a touch more equivocal in tone, but only because he’s not as over the top as Mulcair.

But leave it to Stephen Harper to take it to the next level.

At the December 1st Negev Dinner in Toronto, the Jewish National Fund honoured the Canadian Prime Minister by naming a bird sanctuary after him in the Hula Valley of the Negev. Seriously.

According to Israeli historian Benny Morris, the Hula Valley was cleared of its Bedouin inhabitants in 1948 in General Yigal Allon’s Operation Broom. In Morris’ account, the soldiers were ordered to attacks hostile villages in the area, and that “their inhabitants expelled and the[ir] houses blown up.” An eyewitness quoted by Morris described the scene:

House after house was bombed and torched, then matters proceded towards the Jordan. All was bombed, the tents and huts were burned. All day there were explosions, and smoke and fire were visible.

It is on and around these ruins that the The Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre will be built.

Subsequently, Prime Minister Harper awkwardly sang classic rock tunes for an agonizing 20 minutes to entertain Jewish National Fund donors — or to further abase himself, depending on how you look at it.

This week, all four party national leaders officially agree that what’s going on in the Negev is not only outside the bounds of reasonable criticism, but laudable.

Politicians who have been spinning on the lathe of fundraising, media pandering and public relations for years learn to shape themselves to emulate the values of those best-placed to harm — or help — their political careers.

Let’s be clear: support for Israel among Canada’s most powerful has very little to do with a love of the Jewish people, and even less to do with a love of democracy. The dominant motive, by most honest accounts, is a desire to align with US foreign policy so as to hold onto the slice of the US war economy which represents at least $12 billion in revenues for Canadian contractors. It’s is one of the fastest-growing industries in the country; Canadian arms exports have more than doubled since 2001. These are the folks who can spare $100,000 for a “sapphire table” at the JNF’s Negev dinner.

Access to fundraising resources, access to media adulation and attention, access to the favour of opinionmakers; these are not controlled by democratic organizations in Canada. Instead, the keys to power are held by an increasingly venal and vindictive class of economic elites who see no reason to compromise the activities that make them money.

This class is at the source of that other seemingly inexplicable four-party consensus: support for rapid expansion of the tar sands. Thankfully, May hasn’t capitulated on that issue yet, but nor has her party significantly shifted, or contributed to, the debate.

That will remain the case until people in positions like May’s are willing to eschew the conventional avenues and find a path to power that confronts the ruling class instead of pandering to it.

Dru Oja Jay is editor of The Dominion, a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. He can be reached at: [email protected]Read other articles by Dru, or visit Dru’s website.

US Steps Up War of Words with Afghan Puppet Regime

December 4th, 2013 by Patrick Martin

The war of words between outgoing President Hamid Karzai and US-NATO forces over the legal conditions of their occupation of Afghanistan is intensifying.

Statements of US government and military officials and press commentaries in the United States have become increasingly critical, after Karzai flatly refused to sign a treaty drawn up after protracted US-Afghan talks that would have kept US troops in the country for at least another decade.

The pact is critical for future US military/intelligence operations in the region, including the Persian Gulf, Caspian Sea and Central Asia–the largest concentration of oil and gas resources on the planet. The agreement calls for nine permanent US military bases in Afghanistan, which borders on China, Pakistan, Iran and the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

On Sunday, Karzai issued a statement claiming that US-NATO forces were withholding fuel and other material support from their Afghan counterparts in an effort to force him to sign the security agreement.

“This deed is contrary to the prior commitment of America,” Karzai’s statement said. “Afghan forces are facing interruption in conducting of their activities as a result of the cessation of fuel and supportive services.” US officials denied there was any such action.

Afghan sources told the international press that helicopters had been unable to bring back the dead bodies of soldiers from remote locations because of fuel shortages.

The Afghan military is entirely dependent on US backing for its operations, from the payment of troops to fuel, food, ammunition, intelligence and air support. This year alone the Pentagon is supplying $135 million in fuel to keep the Afghan military on the road.

Karzai initially balked at signing the pact nearly two weeks ago, citing the US refusal to make a binding commitment not to stage raids on the homes of Afghan citizens. A series of atrocities by American forces exacerbated the conflict, including a night raid on a home in eastern Afghanistan in which US commandos killed two civilians, and two drone missile strikes in the southern province of Helmand, killing a farmer and a 2-year-old boy and wounding several women.

A statement issued by Karzai November 28 denounced the attack that killed the child, blasting a house in Faqiran, a village in the Garmsir district. “This attack shows that American forces do not respect the lives and security of the people of Afghanistan,” it said. “For years, our people are being killed and their houses are being destroyed under the pretext of the war on terror.”

The US-NATO commander in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., called Karzai to apologize personally. The international coalition also issued a statement saying it “deeply regrets” the incident. However, other US officials defended the murder of the farmer, saying that a “precision strike” had killed an “insurgent.” Karzai was using “allegations of civilian deaths for political purposes,” they charged.

In an appearance on ABC television’s Sunday interview program “This Week,” former Obama National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon denounced Karzai’s refusal to sign the security agreement as “reckless… I think it’s reckless in terms of Afghanistan, and I think it also adversely impacts our ability to plan coherently and comprehensively for post-2014.”

“If the United States doesn’t have a bilateral security arrangement with Afghanistan that supports its troop presence there and provides the kinds of protections that we need, the United States cannot be present in Afghanistan after December 31, 2014,” he said.

Donilon concluded, “He should go ahead and sign the agreement, and if he does not, I think the United States will move towards the so-called Option B, and by the way, the United States has a lot of options with respect to being able to pursue its interests.”

The former Obama aide did not spell out what this range of options was. However, a cutoff of US funding to the Afghan puppet regime or an attempt to mobilize sections of the current puppet regime against Karzai are both possibilities. The clash between US imperialism and its Afghan puppet recalls the friction between Washington and its stooge ruler in South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, which culminated 50 years ago in Diem’s overthrow and murder in a US-backed coup.

On Sunday the New York Times published an article titled “Afghans Assail Karzai’s Disparate Views on Killings.” The article, by Rod Nordland, highlights the supposed contrast between Karzai’s “fury” over US drone killings of innocent Afghan civilians, and his silence over Taliban suicide bombings that produce similar carnage.

Nordland provides little evidence to support the headline, quoting only a single Afghan, a former cabinet minister, criticizing Karzai’s reaction to the killings.

The Times reporter effectively accuses Karzai of divided loyalties, claiming to have spoken to “many Afghans, who complain that their president has been looking for excuses to besmirch the Americans and delay signing a vitally important security deal with them, while overlooking equally serious or even worse abuses attributed to the Taliban.”

The article goes on to report that “unease has spread throughout governing circles, and several prominent officials have said that a meeting of the president’s cabinet last Monday was dominated by ministers who tried to persuade Mr. Karzai to sign the bilateral security agreement promptly…”

The Times account identifies Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal as one of those opposing Karzai on the question of the security agreement, on the ground that failure to sign it will lead to a cutoff of the foreign cash on which the Afghan regime subsists. Zakhilwal “is also well regarded by the Americans,” it continues.

The article concludes on an ominous note, citing an unnamed “Western diplomat” warning, “Mr. Karzai should be careful what he wishes for.” The overt implication is that the US might cut off all aid to Afghanistan. The subtext is that Karzai could well suffer the fate of other US stooges who have been “terminated with extreme prejudice” when they became a nuisance.

Federal bankruptcy court judge Steven Rhodes on Tuesday gave the go ahead for the city of Detroit to proceed with the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.

In his ruling supporting Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, Rhodes explicitly sanctioned the gutting of the pensions of the city’s 23,500 retired municipal workers, overriding prohibitions against such cuts in the Michigan Constitution. Reading out a 90 minute summary of his ruling from the bench, Rhodes provided a pseudo-legal framework for a nationwide attack on the pensions of millions of firefighters, teachers, transit workers, and other public employees.

Rhodes crafted his ruling to serve as a precedent for city and state governments across the country to carry out a similar conspiracy against the working class as has been carried out in Detroit, using the federal bankruptcy courts to override state and local laws, and strip workers of retirement benefits earned in the course of years of public service.

It is no accident that only hours after Rhodes issued his ruling, both chambers of the Illinois legislature voted to impose a pension “reform” that will rob Illinois state workers of thousands of dollars in retirement income.

Rhodes’ ruling marks a turning point in class relations in the US comparable to President Ronald Reagan’s firing of the striking PATCO air traffic controllers in 1981. That action signaled a government-backed attack on the unions in which the strike-breaking methods of the first decades of the 20th century were revived in order to impose mass layoffs and brutal cuts in wages and benefits. With the collaboration of the union leadership, struggles of workers against concessions were isolated and defeated, ushering in an assault on working class living standards that has continued ever since and has been intensified since the Wall Street crash of 2008.

Rhodes’ ruling signals a new stage in the ruling class offensive, in which pensions, medical benefits, safety and health regulations—in short, every limitation on the exploitation of the working class—will be eliminated. This nationwide assault has the explicit backing of the Obama administration, which filed a brief supporting the bankruptcy process.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the bankruptcy courts were used to destroy the pensions of workers in steel, the airlines and other industries. They are now being used to shred the rights of public sector workers, 78 percent of whom still have pensions.

The bankruptcy process will aid Orr—an unelected front-man for the banks—in selling off city assets, privatizing services, and reorganizing the city in the interests of the corporate and financial elite. The entire operation is aimed at maximizing the amount the banks, bond insurers and other financial institutions will extract from the looting of the city and its working class inhabitants.

After the ruling, Orr told reporters that “some very hard decisions regarding pensions” would be included in the adjustment plan he will release in early January. He added that Christie’s auction house would finish its appraisal of the “500 or so highest value pieces of art” at the Detroit Institute of Arts over the next two weeks. He reiterated his intention to “monetize” (i.e., sell off) the publicly owned art collection “in some fashion.”

The Big Lie of Rhodes—echoed by Orr, Democratic and Republican politicians and the local and national news media—is that the bankruptcy process is being carried out to benefit the people of Detroit. It is supposedly being done as a “last resort” to provide the population with basic public services.

In reality, those responsible for the decline of Detroit and other industrial cities and towns across the country—the auto giants, the banks and their political servants in both major parties—are using the crisis caused by plant closures, mass layoffs, and budget cuts as a pretext to steal billions of dollars from workers who are in no way responsible for what has occurred.

In his ruling, the judge did not attempt to explain how gutting pensions and throwing tens of thousands of city residents into destitution, or privatizing city services and selling off its cultural treasures, will improve the health and safety of Detroiters.

Rhodes acknowledged that Detroit was entangled in “complex and confusing” financial arrangements pushed by the banks in previous years. While noting that, as a result of these arrangements and the economic crisis, debt servicing could rise from 28 percent to 65 percent of the city’s annual budget, Rhodes never suggested that the Wall Street institutions be made to pay for the disaster they created. Instead, he insisted that the chief source of the city’s financial woes was “legacy costs,” i.e., the pensions and health benefits of retired workers.

This claim was challenged during the nine-day trial on the Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing over which he presided last month. Evidence was submitted that Orr’s entire presentation of the financial crisis of the city was exaggerated and distorted in order to justify throwing the city into bankruptcy and cutting pensions.

A recent report by the think-tank Demos showed that the chief cause of the crisis was not “unsustainable” benefits, but the banks’ predatory financial schemes, along with years of corporate tax cuts and reductions in state revenue sharing.

Rhodes ignored all such evidence, accepting uncritically and completely Orr’s politically motivated presentation of the city’s financial position.

His ruling was not an exercise in objective jurisprudence. It was a political and class decision made on behalf of the corporate-financial elite. The judge strung together a series of sophistic arguments to distort the facts, circumvent the law, and arrive at a previously determined conclusion.

In common with the US Supreme Court ruling that countermanded the Florida Supreme Court and halted the counting of votes in order to hand the 2000 presidential election to Bush, Rhodes’s decision asserted federal supremacy to ride roughshod over the Michigan State Constitution and its guarantee of public pensions.

In finding the city eligible for bankruptcy, the judge brushed aside the legal arguments of retirees and others who filed lawsuits challenging Orr’s bankruptcy filing and Michigan’s anti-democratic emergency manager law. Dismissing the plain language of the Michigan Constitution’s ban on “impairing or diminishing” public employee pensions, Rhodes argued that there was no such ban and that the federal courts could sanction an attack on workers’ benefits.

The judge also ruled that the state’s emergency manager law, Public Act 436, was constitutional, even though it was essentially the same law that was repealed by Michigan voters in December 2012.

The judge went through contortions to claim that the bankruptcy filing was carried out in “good faith” even though he acknowledged that Orr had not conducted “good faith” negotiations with retiree groups, unions, and other creditors—one of the requirements under the bankruptcy law. Rhodes ruled that further negotiations were “impracticable” because there were more than 100,000 creditors and the city was running out of time and could not pay its bills.

In his concluding remarks, Rhodes gave an extraordinary account of what he called the “composite narrative” of the objectors’ argument that the filing had been in bad faith.

Rhodes said: “The city’s filing was the consequence of a long-term strategic plan whose goal was the impairment of pension rights through a bankruptcy filing by the city. Its genesis, the narrative says, was hatched by a law review article that two Jones Day attorneys wrote. This is significant because Jones Day did not just become the city’s attorneys, but the law firm from which the emergency manager was hired.”

The “narrative,” he said, included the city engaging the creditors only in the minimum so it could later assert in bankruptcy court that it attempted to negotiate in good faith.

Rhodes acknowledged that not only the objectors, but “many people in Detroit hold to this narrative or at least substantial parts of it.” He added that the “Court does find, in some particulars, the record does support the objectors’ view of the reality that led up to this bankruptcy filing.”

Despite these damning acknowledgments—pointing to a political conspiracy against the people of Detroit—Rhodes insisted that there was “not nearly enough particulars for this Court to find that the filing was in bad faith.”

In essence, Rhodes ruled that no matter how fraudulent the proceedings leading up to the bankruptcy, it could still go forward. He thereby opened, no doubt intentionally, a very wide door for other cities to declare bankruptcy and proceed with their own attacks on the jobs and benefits of the working class.

This ruling underscores the fact that the entire political system—from the White House, to the Democratic and Republican parties, to Congress, to the courts—is an instrument of the financial aristocracy and is carrying out a social counterrevolution against the working class.

The corporate and financial elite is able to proceed with such brazen contempt for social and democratic rights because of the cowardice and complicity of the trade unions. As was made clear in a filing last week, the unions accept the entire framework of the bankruptcy, demanding that the city proceed even more aggressively in selling off art from the DIA. (See,“The unions and the Detroit bankruptcy”).

The mobilization of the working class against this attack requires the exposure of the entire criminal operation and the financial interests that stand to benefit from the looting of pensions and public assets. For this purpose, the Socialist Equality Party is organizing the February 15 Workers Inquiry into the Attack on the DIA and the Bankruptcy of Detroit.

For more information on the Workers Inquiry, visit

Serbia’s Srdja Popovic is known by many as a leading architect of regime changes in Eastern Europe and elsewhere since the late-1990s, and as one of the co-founders of Otpor!, the U.S.-funded Serbian activist group which overthrew Slobodan Milošević in 2000.

Lesser known, an exclusive investigation reveals that Popovic and the Otpor! offshoot CANVAS (Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) have also maintained close ties with a Goldman Sachs executive and the private intelligence firm Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.), as well as the U.S. government. Popovic’s wife also worked at Stratfor for a year.

These revelations come in the aftermath of thousands of new emails released by Wikileaks’ “Global Intelligence Files.” The emails reveal Popovic worked closely with Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based private firm that gathers intelligence on geopolitical events and activists for clients ranging from the American Petroleum Institute and Archer Daniels Midland to Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, Northrop Grumman, Intel and Coca-Cola.

Referred to in emails under the moniker “SR501,” Popovic was first approached by Stratfor in 2007 to give a lecture in the firm’s office about events transpiring in Eastern Europe, according to a Stratfor source who asked to remain confidential for this story.

In one of the emails, Popovic forwarded information about activists harmed or killed by the U.S.-armed Bahraini government, obtained from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights during the regime’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists in fall 2011. Popovic also penned a blueprint for Stratfor on how to unseat the now-deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in September 2010.

Stratfor’s Global Activist Connector

Using his celebrated activist status, Popovic opened many doors for Stratfor to meet with activists globally. In turn, the information Stratfor intended to gain from Popovic’s contacts would serve as “actionable intelligence”—the firm billed itself as a “Shadow CIA”—for its corporate clients.

Popovic passed information to Stratfor about on-the-ground activist events in countries around the world, ranging from the PhilippinesLibyaTunisiaVietnamIranAzerbaijanEgyptTibetZimbabwePoland and BelarusGeorgiaBahrainVenezuela and Malaysia. Often, the emails reveal, Popovic passed on the information to Stratfor without the consent of the activists and likely without the activists ever knowing that their emails were being shuttled to the private security firm.

In the U.S., this investigation’s co-author, Carl Gibson (representing US Uncut), and the Yes Men’s Andy Bichlbaum had a meeting with Popovic shortly after their two respective groups used a media hoax to play a prank on General Electric, ridiculing the company over itsnon-payment of U.S. taxes.

The pair gave Popovic information about both groups’ plans for the coming year and news later came out that Stratfor closely monitored the Yes Men’s activities. (The blow photograph taken by Bichlbaum in April 2011 shows Popovic (L) and US Uncut’s Carl Gibson.)

During the Arab Spring, in Egypt in January 2011, Popovic received an interview invitation for an appearance on CNN. The first people he turned to for talking points were Stratfor employees, who provided him with five talking points to lead with.

Stratfor said Popovic’s main use for the firm was his vast array of grassroots activist contacts around the world.

“A little reminder that the main utility in this contact is his ability to connect us to the troublemakers around the world that he is in touch with. His own ability to discern situation on the ground may be limited, he mainly has initial contact with an asset and then lets them do their own thing,” reads a May 2010 email written by former Stratfor Eurasia Analyst Marko Papic. “He does himself have information that may be useful from time to time. But, the idea is to gather a network of contacts through CANVAS, contacts that we can then contact independently.”

Popovic was so well-received by Stratfor that he even got his wife, Marijah, a job there. She worked for a year from March 2010 through March 2011 as the weekend open source intelligence analyst at Stratfor. The other candidate for the job, Jelena Tancic, also worked for CANVAS.

“The Canvas guy [Popovic] is a friend/source [for Stratfor], and recommended her to us,” Stratfor’s Vice President of Analysis Scott Stewart said in a March 2010 email, leaving out that the two were dating at the time.

Popovic and his wife grew so close to Stratfor, in fact, that Popovic invited numerous members of the Stratfor staff to their wedding in Belgrade, Serbia.

Helping Stratfor Manufacture Revolutions

Stratfor saw Popovic’s main value not only as a source for intelligence on global revolutionary and activist movements, but also as someone who, if needed, could help overthrow leaders of countries hostile to U.S. geopolitical and financial interests. So useful was Popovic to Stratfor that the firm gave him a free subscription, dubbed “legit sources we use all the time as a company” by Papic.

In a June 2011 email, Papic referred to Popovic as a “great friend” of his and described him as a “Serb activist who travels the world fomenting revolution.”

“They…basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like ;) ) ,” Papic says in one email. Replying to a follow up to that email, he states, “They just go and set up shop in a country and try to bring the government down. When used properly, more powerful than an aircraft carrier battle group.”

In response to the “aircraft battle group” email, Stratfor Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton sardonically said that perhaps they could be sent into Iran. Emails also reveal Popovic served as an information source intermediary for on-the-ground activists in Iran, also informing Stratfor of the funding struggle for “democracy programs” there, as the U.S. government pushed a “soft power” agenda.

Another March 2010 email from Stewart to Burton said that CANVAS was “trying to get rid of Chavez,” referring to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In 2007, CANVAS trained activists to overthrow Chavez.

“If I remember correctly, we use hushmail communication to contact him regarding Venezuela due to the sensitivity of using a revolutionary NGO as a source considering we have clients who operate in country,” Papic said in a January 2011 email of Popovic.

Stratfor grew so enamored of CANVAS’s ability to foment regime change abroad that it invited Popovic to its Austin headquarters in 2010 to give seminars on the subject, and paid for his trip there.

CANVAS’s Goldman Sachs Cash

One of CANVAS’s major funders is Muneer Satter, a former Goldman Sachs executive who stepped down from that position in June 2012and now owns Satter Investment Management LLC. Stratfor CEO Shea Morenz worked for ten years at Goldman Sachs as well, where he served as Managing Director in the Investment Management Division and Region Head for Private Wealth Management for the Southwest Region.

Satter is meanwhile a major funder of the Republican Party, giving over $300,000 to Karl Rove’s Super PAC Crossroads GPS before the 2012 election, and another $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association in the first half of 2013 prior to the 2014 mid-term elections.

Living in a massive, $9.5 million mansion in Chicago’s North Shore suburb of Lake Michigan, Muneer also gave $50,000 toward President Obama’s inaugural fund in 2009.

When it came time to connect Muneer with the global intelligence firm, Popovic served as the middle man introducing Satter to Stratfor Chairman George Friedman.

“Whenever I want to understand the details behind world events, I turn to Stratfor,” reads an endorsement from Satter on Stratfor’s website. “They have the most detailed and insightful analysis of world affairs and are miles ahead of mainstream media.”

Otpor!: A Counter-History

To understand how Popovic came to aide Stratfor in its intelligence-gathering efforts, it’s crucial to examine Otpor! and CANVAS critically. A close examination demonstrates that Popovic was a natural choice to be a Stratfor informant and close advisor.

Often valorized by grassroots activists and Western media, there was far more to the “Bulldozer Revolution” that led to the overthrow of Milošević and subsequent Eastern European regimes than meets the eye.

“In principle, [Serbia] was an overt operation, funded by congressional appropriations of around $10 million for fiscal 1999 and $31 million for 2000. Some Americans involved in the anti-Milosevic effort said they were aware of CIA activity at the fringes of the campaign, but had trouble finding out what the agency was up to,” explained a 2000 investigative piece appearing in The Washington Post.

“The lead role was taken by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the government’s foreign assistance agency, which channeled the funds through commercial contractors and nonprofit groups such as NDI and its Republican counterpart, the International Republican Institute (IRI).”

Papic’s statement about CANVAS being “more powerful than an aircraft carrier” wasn’t mere hyperbole, but was based on the Otpor! Serbia experience in the late-1990s.

“In fact between 1997 and 2000 the National Endowment for Democracy and US government may have accomplished what NATO’s 37,000 bombing sorties had been unable to do: oust Milosevic, replace him with their favoured candidate Vojislav Kostunica and promote a neoliberal vision for Serbia,” independent scholar Michael Barker wrote for Z Magazine. “In much the same way as corporate front groups and astroturf groups recruit genuinely committed supporters, strategically useful social movements can potentially dominate civil society when provided with the right resources (massive financial and professional backing).”

Otpor! was so successful that it was ushered into Ukraine to help manufacture regime change there in 2004, using the template applied originally in Serbia with $65 million in cash from the U.S. government.

“We trained them in how to set up an organization, how to open local chapters, how to create a ‘brand,’ how to create a logo, symbols, and key messages,” an Otpor! activist told U.S.-funded media outlet Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty. “We trained them in how to identify the key weaknesses in society and what people’s most pressing problems were—what might be a motivating factor for people, and above all young people, to go to the ballot box and in this way shape their own destiny.”

The overthrow of Milošević was accompanied by U.S.-funding for the creation of a robust media apparatus in Serbia, and Popovic’s wife worked at one of the U.S.-funded radio and TV outlets as a journalist and anchor B92 from 2004-2009.

“By helping Radio B92 and linking it with a network of radio stations (ANEM), international assistance undermined the regime’s direct and indirect control over news and information,” a January 2004 policy paper released by USAID explained. “In Serbia, independent media supported by USAID and other international donors facilitated the regime change.”

Critics point out that what happened in Eastern Europe was regime change, not revolution in any real sense of the term.

“[They] were not revolutions at all; actually, they were little more than intra-elite power transfers,’” Portland State University Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, Gerald Sussman, explained in his book, “Branded Democracy: U.S. Regime Change in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe.”

“Modern tactics of electioneering were employed to cast regime change as populist, which took advantage of the unstable and vulnerable situations in those regions following the breakup of the Soviet Union,” he wrote.

Given Otpor!’s ties to powerful factions in the U.S. government, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Popovic felt comfortable giving a lecture to the Air Force Academy in May 2010, and attending a National Security Council meeting in December 2009.

A powerful individual who lobbied the U.S. government to give money to CANVAS early on was Michael McFaul, the current U.S. Ambassador to Russia for the State Department and someone who “worked closely with” Popovic while serving as a Senior Fellow at theright-wing Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Critics Chime In, Popovic Responds

Maryam Alkhawaja, director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said she had known Popovic for several years as an activist and had no knowledge of his outside relationships before the Wikileaks release of Stratfor emails.

“Srdja is someone I’ve met more than once. He was very supportive of the Bahrain revolution, supportive of the human rights fight,” Alkhawaja said in a phone interview. “When he gave me their information, that’s what surprised me the most.”

Alkhawaja said that at the time she wasn’t aware of what kind of firm Stratfor was, but she became immediately suspicious after reading Stratfor’s questions to her. She never corresponded with Stratfor due to what she felt was the suspicious nature of the emails coming from the firm.

“It was a series of really weird intelligence agency-like questions, given that they knew I was working in a human rights group. They were asking questions like, who’s funding the party coalition, how many members do they have, questions that even I didn’t know the answers to,” she said. “The fact that they asked questions like that, made me question the motive behind the email I received. Thats why I never responded.”

“Whenever we get emails like that or were contacted by people who seemed very interested in asking intelligence agency-like questions, we usually block them, because we know they probably work for the government,” Alkhawaja continued. “Journalists know the kind of work we do so they wouldn’t ask those questions in the first place. I just found the email very weird and thats why I actually never responded.”

In a Skype interview, one of Otpor!’s co-founders, who left the movement and asked to maintain his confidentiality, said his primary concern from the Wikileaks emails was that Popovic was giving out activists’ information to a third party without their prior consent.

An interview with Popovic sang a different tune about CANVAS. He stated, “We definitely wouldn’t jeopardize any of our activists’ safety, so we always follow their lead and never expose them to anybody without their consent.”

Popovic also said CANVAS would speak to anyone and everyone—without any discrimination—about nonviolent direct action.

“CANVAS will present anywhere — to those committed to activism and nonviolent struggle, but also to those who still live in the Cold War era and think that tanks and planes and nukes shape the world, not the common people leading popular movements,” he said.

“If we can persuade any decision maker in the world, in Washington, Kremlin, Tel Aviv or Damascus that it is nonviolent struggle that they should embrace and respect – not foreign military intervention, or oppression over own population – we would do that.”

Yet, given Popovic’s track-record—and specifically, who buttered his bread during the long professional career he pursued in activism—critics say Popovic fit like a glove at Stratfor.

“A group of Serbs cannot lead a protest movement anywhere outside Serbia, but his techniques are nonetheless instrumental in helping achieve certain political aims,” Professor Sussman said in an interview. “He also serves as an intelligence gatherer in the process—of use to private and state intelligence agencies. That’s what Stratfor saw as his use.”

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

Carl Gibson is co-founder of US Uncu, and is a contributing editor for and lead investigative reporter for Follow him on twitter at @uncutCG

The media spotlight is shining on Geneva, where talks are underway for the denuclearization of Iran, which does not have nuclear weapons and adheres to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel however remains in the shadows, albeit with hundreds of nuclear weapons pointed at Iran and other countries, and not adhering to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Even more in the shadows is the fact that the United States, while they are engaged in the Geneva process of denuclearization Iran, is nuclearising Europe, potentiating the weapons stored in Germany, Italy , Belgium, Holland and Turkey. There are about 200 B-61 bombs in addition to more than 500 French and British nuclear launch ready warheads. According to a conservative estimate, in Italy there are from 70 to 90, stored at Aviano (Friuli ) and Ghedi Torre. But there could be still more in other sites. It is not known how many more nuclear weapons are on board units of the Sixth Fleet and other warships dropping anchor in our ports.

What is officially known is that these B-61’s munitions will be converted from free-fall bombs into “smart” bombs, which, through a system of satellite and laser guidance, can be dropped and directed from a great distance. New precision-guided nuclear bombs, expected to cost 8-12 billion for 400-500 bombs, have an average explosive power of 50 kilotons ( about four times the Hiroshima bomb ).

Other aspects, coming out a hearing of the Congress Subcommittee on Strategic Forces (October 29), cast an even more more worrisome light on the whole affair. Washington assures that “NATO will remain a nuclear alliance ” and that “even if NATO agreed with Russia to reduce nuclear weapons in Europe, we would still require the completion of the B61-12 program”. The new weapon will replace the five variants of the current B61, including B61-11 400 kiloton penetrating bunker buster bombs and the maxi-bomb B83 at 1200 kilotons. In other words, it will have the same destructive force as these more powerful bombs. At the same time, the B61-12 “will be integrated with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” a doubly important fact because “the F-35 is destined to become the only dual capacity fighter, nuclear and conventional, of the air forces of the United States and allied nations.” This will happen soon in Italy and other European countries. It is therefore not a simple modernized version of the B-61, but a versatile weapon that has the function of several bombs, including those projected to “decapitate” the enemy country, destroying bunkers and command centers and other underground structures in a nuclear first strike.

As bunker-buster bombs are not currently deployed in Europe, the introduction of the B61-12, which also performs this function strengthens the ability of offensive U.S. / NATO nuclear forces in Europe. Italian pilots – who are trained in the use of the B-61 with Tornado fighters, as was done in “Steadfast Noon” maneuvers that took place in Aviano and Ghedi in the second half of October, will soon be trained for nuclear attack with F-35s armed with B61-12. In this way, Italy would violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which requires that it “not receive nuclear weapons from anyone.” And the United States violates it because the terms of the treaty require them “not to transfer nuclear weapons or control over such weapons to anyone whomsoever.”

But this can not be seen because the media spotlight is trained on the Geneva show.

Manlio Dinucci

il manifesto, 12 of November 2013

Translation from italian :  Roger Lagassé,

“If nature were a bank, they would have already rescued it.” – Eduardo Galeano

What do you think of this as an argument to use when speaking to those who don’t accept the idea that extreme weather phenomena are man-made?

Well, we can proceed in one of two ways:

  1. We can do our best to limit the greenhouse effect by curtailing greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were not in fact the cause of all the extreme weather phenomena, then we’ve wasted a lot of time, effort and money (although other benefits to the ecosystem would still accrue).
  2. We can do nothing at all to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and if it turns out that these emissions were in fact the cause of all the extreme weather phenomena (not simply extreme, but getting downright freaky), then we’ve lost the earth and life as we know it.

So, are you a gambler?

Whatever we do on a purely personal level to try and curtail greenhouse gas emissions cannot of course compare to what corporations could do; but it’s inevitable that the process will impinge upon the bottom line of one corporation or another, who can be relied upon to put optimization of profit before societal good; corporate “personhood” before human personhood. This is a barrier faced by any environmentalist or social movement, and is the reason why I don’t subscribe to the frequently-voiced idea that “Left vs. Right” is an obsolete concept; that we’re all together in a common movement against corporate and government abuse regardless of where we fall on the ideological spectrum.

It’s only the Left that maintains as a bedrock principle: People before Profit, which can serve as a very concise definition of socialism, an ideology anathema to the Right and libertarians, who fervently believe, against all evidence, in the rationality of a free market. I personally favor the idea of a centralized, planned economy.

Holy Lenin, Batman! This guy’s a Damn Commie!

Is it the terminology that bothers you? Because Americans are raised to be dedicated anti-communists and anti-socialists, and to equate a “planned economy” with the worst excesses of Stalinism? Okay, forget the scary labels; let’s describe it as people sitting down and discussing what the most serious problems facing society are; and which institutions and forces in the society have the best access, experience, and resources to offer a solution to those problems. So, the idea is to enable these institutions and forces to deal with the problems in a highly organized and efficient manner. All this is usually called “planning”, and if the organization of it all generally stems from the government it can be called “centralized”. The alternative to this is called either anarchy or free enterprise.

I don’t place much weight on the idea of “libertarian socialism”. That to me is an oxymoron. The key questions to be considered are: Who will make the decisions on a daily basis to run the society? For whose benefit will those decisions be made. It’s easy to speak of “economic democracy” that comes from “the people”, and is “locally controlled”, not by the government. But is every town and village going to manufacture automobiles, trains and airplanes? Will every city of any size have an airport? Will each one oversee its own food and drug inspections? Maintain all the roads passing through? Protect the environment within the city boundary only? Such questions are obviously without limit. I’m just suggesting that we shouldn’t have stars in our eyes about local control or be paranoid about central planning.

“We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.” – William James (1842-1910)

So, George W. Bush is now a painter. He tells his art teacher that “there’s a Rembrandt trapped inside this body”. 1 Ah, so Georgie is more than just a painter. He’s an artiste.

And we all know that artistes are very special people. They’re never to be confused with mass murderers, war criminals, merciless torturers or inveterate liars. Neither are they ever to be accused of dullness of wit or incoherence of thought.

Artistes are not the only special people. Devout people are also special: Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood. Osama bin Laden prayed five times a day.

And animal lovers: Herman Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.” Adolf Hitler was also an animal lover and had long periods of being a vegetarian and anti-smoking. Charles Manson was a staunch anti-vivisectionist.

And cultured people: This fact Elie Wiesel called the greatest discovery of the war: that Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read deeply, played the violin. Mussolini also played the violin. Some Nazi concentration camp commanders listened to Mozart to drown out the cries of the inmates.

Former Bosnian Serb politician Radovan Karadzic, on trial now before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, was a psychiatrist, specializing in depression; a practitioner of alternative medicine; published a book of poetry and books for children.

Al Qaeda and other suicide bombers are genuinely and sincerely convinced that they are doing the right thing. That doesn’t make them less evil; in fact it makes them more terrifying, since they force us to face the scary reality of a world in which sincerity and morality do not necessarily have anything to do with each other.

Getting your history from Hollywood

Imagine a documentary film about the Holocaust which makes no mention of Nazi Germany.

Imagine a documentary film about the 1965-66 slaughter of as many as a million “communists” in Indonesia which makes no mention of the key role in the killing played by the United States.

But there’s no need to imagine it. It’s been made, and was released this past summer. It’s called “The Act of Killing” and makes no mention of the American role. Two articles in the Washington Post about the film made no such mention either. The Indonesian massacre, along with the jailing without trial of about a million others and the widespread use of torture and rape, ranks as one of the great crimes of the twentieth century and is certainly well known amongst those with at least a modest interest in modern history.

Here’s an email I sent to the Washington Post writer who reviewed the film:

“The fact that you can write about this historical event and not mention a word about the US government role is a sad commentary on your intellect and social conscience. If the film itself omits any serious mention of the US role, that is a condemnation of the filmmaker, and of you for not pointing this out. So the ignorance and brainwashing of the American people about their country’s foreign policy (i.e., holocaust) continues decade after decade, thanks to media people like Mr. Oppenheimer [one of the filmmakers] and yourself.”

The Post reviewer, rather than being offended by my intemperate language, was actually taken with what I said and she asked me to send her an article outlining the US role in Indonesia, which she would try to get published in the Post as an op-ed. I did so and she wrote me that she very much appreciated what I had sent her. But – as I was pretty sure would happen – the Post did not print what I wrote. So this incident may have had the sole saving grace of enlightening a Washington Post writer about the journalistic standards and politics of her own newspaper.

And now, just out, we have the film “Long Walk to Freedom” based on Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography of the same name. The heroic Mandela spent close to 28 years in prison at the hands of the apartheid South African government. His arrest and imprisonment were the direct result of a CIA operation. But the film makes no mention of the role played by the CIA or any other agency of the United States.

In fairness to the makers of the film, Mandela himself, in his book, declined to accuse the CIA for his imprisonment, writing: “The story has never been confirmed and I have never seen any reliable evidence as to the truth of it.”

Well, Mr. Mandela and the filmmaker should read what I wrote and documented on the subject some years after Mandela’s book came out, in my own book: Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (2000). It’s not quite a “smoking gun”, but I think it convinces almost all readers that what happened in South Africa in 1962 was another of the CIA operations we’ve all come to know and love. And almost all my sources were available to Mandela at the time he wrote his autobiography. There has been speculation about what finally led to Mandela’s release from prison; perhaps a deal was made concerning his post-prison behavior.

From a purely educational point of view, seeing films such as the two discussed here may well be worse than not exposing your mind at all to any pop culture treatment of American history or foreign policy.

Getting your history from the American daily press

During the US federal government shutdown in October over a budgetary dispute, Washington Post columnist Max Fisher wondered if there had ever been anything like this in another country. He decided that “there actually is one foreign precedent: Australia did this once. In 1975, the Australian government shut down because the legislature had failed to fund it, deadlocked by a budgetary squabble. It looked a lot like the U.S. shutdown of today, or the 17 previous U.S. shutdowns.” 2

Except for what Fisher fails to tell us: that it strongly appears that the CIA used the occasion to force a regime change in Australia, whereby the Governor General, John Kerr – a man who had been intimately involved with CIA fronts for a number of years – discharged Edward Gough Whitlam, the democratically-elected prime minister whose various policies had been a thorn in the side of the United States, and the CIA in particular.

I must again cite my own writing, for the story of the CIA coup in Australia – as far as I know – is not described in any kind of detail anywhere other than in my book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II (2004).

Americans are living in an Orwellian police state. Either that, or the greatest democracy ever.

There are those in the United States and Germany these days who insist that the National Security Agency is no match for the East German Ministry for State Security, or Stasi, which, during the Cold War, employed an estimated 190,000 part-time secret informants, and an additional 90,000 officers full time, in a spying operation that permeated both East and West Germany. Since the end of the Cold War, revelations from the Stasi files have led to thousands of collaborators being chased from public life. Even now, new accusations of a Stasi association can hound politicians and celebrities in Germany. 3

All that of course stems from an era before almost all information and secrets became electronic. It was largely labor intensive. In the digital age, the NSA has very little need for individuals to spy on their friends, acquaintances, and co-workers. (In any event, the FBI takes care of that department very well.)

Can we ever expect that NSA employees will suffer public disgrace as numerous Stasi employees and informants have? No more than war criminals Bush and Cheney have been punished in any way. Only those who have exposed NSA crimes have been punished, like Edward Snowden and several other whistleblowers.

It will soon be the first anniversary of the school shooting massacre at Sandy Hook. With plenty of family and friend evidence that Adam Lanza had indeed been on brain-altering psychiatric drugs in the recent past and, with the abundant knowledge that such psychiatric drugs can, by themselves, cause aggression, depression, anxiety, mania, sleep deprivation, psychoses, impulsive thoughts, hallucinations, suicidality and homicidality, there has been a steady obstruction of justice from the Connecticut authorities by the failure to reveal to the public the crucial evidence contained in Adam Lanza’s autopsy report, toxicology report, medical/psychiatric in-patient and out-patient records and his pharmacy records.

There has been so much frustration about getting to the truth of this matter (and the matter of many of the other psych drug related mass shootings), that AbleChild, a non-profit organization designed to raise public awareness regarding the psychiatric labeling and drugging of children, and the risks of mandatory mental health screening, sued to state of Connecticut to obtain the information.

Also recently there was a brief blurb that I heard but once on my PBS station concerning the long-awaited report on the Sandy Hook shootings by Connecticut State’s attorney Stephen Sedensky. As feared, the report failed to provide answers to these essential questions: 1) what brain-altering drugs did Adam Lanza take during his brief life; 2) what addictive, brain-altering drugs might Adam Lanza have quit taking that might have caused devastating withdrawal symptoms; 3) who was his psychiatrist; 4) what were the psych drugs that local pharmacies dispensed to Adam Lanza or his mother?

 Mr Sedensky did not answer these questions and the coroner who promised to do thorough toxicology studies on Lanza has refused to reveal the results, apparently claiming that to do so might cause some people to stop their psych drugs.

The radio report that I heard only once, vaguely suggested that Lanza had refused to take recommended medications, but it did not reveal any evidence for that statement.

 So, just like the official withholding of pertinent evidence of past crimes like the JFK assassination, the MLK assassination, the RFK assassination and the demolitions of the three World Trade Center towers on 9/11/01, the government is willing to be an accessory to a crime by withholding evidence, altering evidence at the crime scene or covering-up for the real perpetrators.

The best essay on this subject was written by the author of  Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill, Kelly Patricia O’Meara, one of my favorite investigative journalists who frequently writes about the ethics and dark underbellies of Big Medicine, Big Psychiatry and Big Pharma. I offer it below in its entirety.

More about O’Meara’s book and many others with similar themes can be found at:

Gary G. Kohls, MD

*     *    *

 “Sandy Hook ‘Investigation’ Fails to Deliver Answers – Here’s Why”

By Kelly Patricia O’Meara

 Since Lanza is deceased, there is no physician/patient privilege and, at a minimum, they should identify the psychiatrist and what the psychiatrist communicated to them about the course of treatment Lanza received”– Jonathan Emord, Constitutional Attorney

Published November 27, 2013 and posted at:

 Connecticut State’s Attorney, Stephen J. Sedensky III, has released the long-awaited report on the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Unfortunately, the report is woefully inadequate by virtue of Sedensky’s failure to ask the appropriate question—did Adam Lanza have a history of psychiatric drug use?

  Although it is abundantly clear from the outset that Sedensky believes that shooter, Adam Lanza, “had significant mental health issues…,” the State’s Attorney hides behind constraints of non-existent “privacy law limits” for his stated inability to provide the public with information about Lanza’s psychiatric drug use—a possible motive for his homicidal behavior, considering psychiatric drugs are well documented to cause violence, mania, psychosis, aggression and homicidal ideation.

According to the report, “efforts were made within the limits of privacy laws to gather information on medical consultations and/or treatments the shooter was involved with over the course of his years in Newtown.” But Jonathan Emord, the attorney representing the non-profit organization, AbleChild, in its efforts to have Lanza’s autopsy, toxicology, and prescription drug records publicly disclosed, doesn’t buy the excuse.

 “Since Lanza is deceased,” explains Emord, “there is no physician/patient privilege and, at a minimum, they should identify the psychiatrist and what the psychiatrist communicated to them about the course of treatment Lanza received.” (See more about HIPAA here.)

Actually, the State of Connecticut long has stone-walled all attempts to make public Lanza’s psychiatric/medication history and had no problem revealing its reasons. In September, the Connecticut Assistant Attorney General, Patrick B. Kwanashie, was questioned during the AbleChild Freedom of Information hearing regarding the request to release Lanza’s toxicology report. Kwanashie explained that the release of the report “would cause a lot of people to stop taking their medications.”  What medications? If Lanza wasn’t taking medications, why would this be a concern to the Attorney General’s office?

 “This report is a politically correct rendition that is safe for the administration,” explains Emord, “but it does not give the public a complete explanation. This is not surprising given their behavior throughout the litigation with AbleChild. They essentially took the same position that is the conclusory statement in this report—at the time of the event there is no evidence that Lanza was under any medication—and that doesn’t answer the ultimate question.”

In fact, Lanza’s apparent life-long mental health status is repeatedly referred to throughout the report, as Sedensky writes, “as an adult he did not recognize or help himself deal with those issues.” As an adult? What about ever? Did Lanza take medication at any time in his life?

 The report explains that, “investigators found no evidence to suggest the shooter had taken any medication that would affect his behavior or by any means to explain his actions on December 14, 2012.”

“No evidence to suggest the shooter had taken any medication that would affect his behavior…?” This statement does not answer the question. Was, or wasn’t, Lanza on any medication? And, who decided what medication would, or would not, affect Lanza’s behavior? The psychiatrist who prescribed it?

Further into the report, Sedensky explains, “reportedly the shooter did not drink alcohol, take drugs, prescription or otherwise, and hated the thought of doing any of those things.” Emord doesn’t see this as a definitive statement on whether or not Lanza took drugs. “The fact that the State’s Attorney says he (Lanza) expressed a refusal to take the drugs,” explains Emord, “indicates at least the possibility of prior experience of taking drugs.”

 Beyond that, Sedensky does not provide the source for this statement, which is contradictory on a number of levels. First, a CBS “60 Minutes” report interviewing friends of Nancy Lanza, Mark and Louise Tambascio, said Lanza was being medicated for Asperger’s, stating, “I know [Adam Lanza] was on medication and everything…” Additionally, the Washington Post reported that an unnamed former neighbor of the Lanza’s recalled Adam as “a really rambunctious kid” who “was on medication.”

 Although Lanza had mental health issues early in life, it wasn’t until 2005, when Lanza began middle-school, that he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder. In 2006, “Tutoring, desensitization and medication” were recommended for Lanza but, according to Sedensky, “the shooter refused to take suggested medication….”

 Again, Sedensky does not provide the source of this information, and it also is contradictory to statements made by friends and neighbors of Nancy Lanza. Furthermore, what was the recommended medication? Did Lanza have an adverse reaction and then refuse to take the medication?

 It is also at this time that Sedensky acknowledges “the shooter’s mother noted that there were marked changes to the shooter’s behavior….”  “Marked changes” after Lanza was diagnosed and recommended to take medication that he “reportedly” didn’t take?

Because there are no privacy issues, who are Lanza’s “mental health professionals?” How many psychiatrists “evaluated” Lanza throughout his life? How many mental health diagnoses had Lanza received prior to the Asperger’s diagnosis? How many medications had Lanza been prescribed throughout his life?


  This is important information that the State’s Attorney should have, and could have, provided. For the sake of argument, let’s assume Lanza had been prescribed the antipsychotic drug, Fanapt, to treat his Asperger’s.  Frequent side effects of this drug include restlessness, aggression and delusions. Other known side effects include hostility, paranoia, confused state, mania, panic attacks, impulse-control disorder and delirium. Is Sedensky even aware of these adverse reactions?

  Lanza’s mental health/medication history is key to establishing some reasonable explanation for this tragic event.  That the State of Connecticut has gone to extraordinary lengths to quash any and all legal efforts to have Lanza’s toxicology, psychiatric and medication records, only adds validity to the importance of this information.

 Of course, it’s anyone’s guess why the State failed to ask the appropriate questions. Perhaps there is more at stake than simply getting to the truth. Emord, intimately familiar with the State’s on-going refusal to release Lanza’s complete mental health/medication record understands the implications.

“I think,” says Emord, “there is a complicated set of inputs into the creation of this report. Undoubtedly, the Medical Examiner contributed and expressed interest in the report being designed one way, as did law enforcement. All the things that are put into the report have political complications, ramifications for public policy, adoption of laws, the entire gun control debate nation-wide, and they are writing it aware of the potential for political fallout.”

Whatever the reason, failing to address the obvious question is a disservice to the families of the victims and the people of Newtown.

 Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award winning former investigative reporter for the Washington Times, Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs – including her ground-breaking 1999 cover story, Guns & Doses, exposing the link between psychiatric drugs and acts of senseless violence. O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress. She holds a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Maryland.

Copyright Kelly Patricia O’Meara 2013

Creating a humanitarian crisis in Syria , whether real or fabricated, and holding the Syrian government responsible for it as a casus belli for foreign military intervention under the UN 2005 so-called “responsibility to protect” initiative was from the very eruption of the Syrian conflict the goal of the US-led “Friends of Syria’ coalition.

  Foreign military intervention is now ruled out as impossible, but what the Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin described on last November 29 as “the biggest humanitarian crisis in a decade” was created and this crisis “is worsening and no end is in sight” according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) on November 11.

Objective and non-objective as well as official and non-official reports about the responsibility of the Syrian government are abundant, but that of the insurgents has been for too long covered up and only of late come under the scrutiny of human rights organizations and media spotlight.

The early militarization of civilian protests in Syria aborted all prospects for a long overdue peaceful change in Syria and created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Militarization opened the Syrian doors wide for foreign military, intelligence and political intervention to turn a national conflict between the haves and have-nots into a regional and international one.

More importantly, unguardedly and grudgingly but knowingly the so-called “Friends of Syria” also opened the Syrian doors to al-Qaeda linked offshoots as an additional weight to enforce a “regime change;” in no time they hijacked the armed leadership of the marginal local armed insurgency and became the dominant military power out of the control of the intervening regional and international powers who financed, armed and logistically facilitated their infiltration into Syria.

The responsibility of the “Friends of Syria,” both Arab and non-Arab, for the militarization and the ensuing humanitarian crisis was highlighted by the US former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call on Syrian rebels not to disarm as much by the Turkish, Saudi and Qatari opposition to a political solution through the upcoming Geneva – 2 conference next January 22.

When the United States last December added al-Nusra Front to its list of terrorist organizations, topped by al-Qaeda, supposedly to tip the balance in favor of what is called, in US terminology, the “moderates” against the terrorists in the Syrian insurgency, it was a measure taken too late.

The US measure was only a green light for the beginning of another war inside the Syrian war, this time launched by The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Da’āsh) against all others in the insurgency, including al-Nusra Front.

The end result was further exacerbation of the Syrian humanitarian crisis, for which the United States & partner “friends” could not be absolved of responsibility and should be held accountable.

The responsibility of the insurgency, which is politically sponsored, financed, armed and logistically facilitated by them, is now unfolding to uncover the fact that the militarization of the early legitimate peaceful protests has created the largest humanitarian crisis in the world today by the military tactics the insurgents used.

These tactics include mortar shelling of civilian densely populated areas under government control, targeting public services infrastructure of power, oil and gas, hospitals and health clinics, schools and universities, stealing public warehouses of strategic basic food reserves, dismantling and stealing public and private factories, flour mills and bakeries, interrupting or cutting transportation and traffic on highways, assassinations, extrajudicial killings and public beheadings, suicide bombings in city centers, targeting and besieging minorities, destroying and desecrating all religious and historic relics, flooding Syria with tens of thousands of foreign mercenary fighters obsessed by the al-Qaeda-like bizarre interpretations of Islam who violently compete among themselves for local leadership and war exploits because they are controlled by competing foreign intelligence agencies, and subjecting the population who come under their control to their brand of Islamic law courts, fatwas and orders, which dumped women out of society altogether to be reserved only for their sexual needs, etc.

However, exploiting the fact that the regular army was deployed along some seventy miles of the ceasefire line for a confrontation with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) on the Syrian Golan Heights and trained for a regular warfare, their strategic military tactic was from the start to entrench themselves among the civilian population, using them as human shields, in countryside towns and villages where the army has no presence and where even the police and security agencies maintain minimal presence or none at all.

The early successes of the insurgents were military exploits against peaceful civilians; they were not achieved in military vs. military battles. It was enough for a few rebels to hold any such peaceful town or village hostage, but it needs an army operation to kick them out.

Except for the northern city of ar-Raqqah, which Da’āsh turned into what the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on last November 8 defined as “Syria’s answer to (Afghanistan’s) Kandahar – the birthplace of the Taliban” since the rebels stormed the city early last March, the Syrian state maintains control and presence in all the major cities.

But the official Arab Syrian Army had been on the defensive for some two years since the eruption of the insurgency in 2011. It needed this time to adapt, train and allocate counter insurgency units to fight in irregular city wars.

Since its strategic victory in al-Qaseer early last June it has gone on the offensive and is rapidly gaining more ground and achieving successive successes ever since.

However, the insurgency bears the main responsibility, mainly during the “defensive” interval, for the civilian plight; waves of refugees and displaced people came out from the areas under their control to find refuge either in government held cities or across the nearest borders with neighboring states. The latest largest wave of refugees of the Syrian Kurds into northern Iraq had nothing to do with government and was caused by infighting among insurgents.

The fact that the Syrian state and government were reacting rather than acting against the insurgency is now coming to light. This fact is now acknowledged by the UK-based opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported on this December 3 that it had documented the death of (50,927) government soldiers versus (36228) insurgents including (6261) non-Syrian fighters.

Rebel infiltration into countryside towns and villages was the main reason for more than two million internally displaced civilians who left their homes as soon as they could out of fear either of the rebels themselves and their practices or the inevitable government retaliation. They were taken care of by the government in government shelters.

In addition to Christians and other minorities targeted by the rebels who posture as the defenders of Sunni Islam, most of the refugees and those displaced are Sunni Muslim Syrians and more than one million of them are hosted by their compatriot Alawites in the west of the country, a fact that refutes the narrative of the US government and media about a “civil” and “sectarian” war in the country.

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


Turkey has sent a report to European countries saying that it has deported 1,100 European citizens who came to Turkey to join al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria back to their own countries amid increasing allegations that Ankara is turning a blind eye to terrorists using its territory to cross into Syria, according to the Habertürk daily.

After other countries informed Turkey that their citizens were using Turkey as a transit country to take up arms in Syria, Turkey arrested 1,100 European Union citizens with the help of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Gendarmerie forces and police units in 41 operations in 2013. The report says there are still around 1,500 European citizens who want to go to Syria and fight on the front lines along with al-Qaeda and that Turkey has been on alert about suspected jihadists. The report states that intelligence sharing between Turkey and European countries on the suspected jihadists has been made through Interpol.

The report also states that Turkey has carried out 141 operations against al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-linked groups in last three years and detained 518 suspects, imprisoning 217 them.

The participation of citizens from foreign countries in terrorist organizations clashing in Syria has been increasing day by day, according to reports in both the Turkish and international media. Apart from those who have come from European countries — mainly from Germany, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, there are also foreign fighters in Syria from Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to fight with the al-Qaeda-linked groups the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front.

In late November, during his two-day visit to the US, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called for “better intelligence cooperation” with countries that such foreign fighters are coming from, according to Agence France-Presse. “Ankara had asked Western countries to share intelligence on suspected militants so that Turkish authorities could stop them from entering the country,” Davutoğlu said.

Turkey has been exposed to critical barbs that it has been providing support and weapons to armed groups in Syria — principally the Sunni, al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front. Reports circulating mainly in the foreign media allege that before joining the war in Syria, hundreds of al-Qaeda members, particularly foreign volunteers, use apartments in Turkey’s southeastern cities as safe houses, creating a flow of foreign fighters in the war-torn country. Reports also allege that Turkey is allowing these groups in so they can help topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

European countries cannot arrest suspected fighters departing from their territory because they do not have concrete evidence that these people are going to join the Syrian civil war. Instead of arresting suspected terrorists before they go to Turkey as these countries cannot restrict their citizens’ freedom of movement, they inform Turkey of suspected volunteers. Germany, France, Belgium, Greece and the Netherlands have asked Turkey to detain suspected jihadists after they enter Turkey, according to Turkish intelligence sources.

1984 Was an Instruction Manual: Welcome to the Memory Hole.

December 4th, 2013 by Global Research News

by Peter Van Buren

Once upon a time, you might have said that someone “disappeared.”  But in the 1970s in Argentina, Chile, and elsewhere, that verb grew eerily more active in its passive form.  He or she no longer “disappeared,” but “was disappeared” — up to 30,000 Argentineans by their own military in the course of an internal struggle that came to be known as “the dirty war.”  Those gone were the “desaparecidos.”

There is something so deeply, morally repugnant about disappearing another human being, no matter how or where or why it’s done, that it’s hard to express.  Yet in twenty-first century America, the possibilities for disappearing people in new and inventive ways may be migrating online, as former State Department whistleblower and TomDispatch regular Peter Van Buren suggests in his latest post.  (Tom Dispatch)

What if Edward Snowden was made to disappear? No, I’m not suggesting some future CIA rendition effort or a who-killed-Snowden conspiracy theory of a disappearance, but a more ominous kind.

What if everything a whistleblower had ever exposed could simply be made to go away? What if every National Security Agency (NSA) document Snowden released, every interview he gave, every documented trace of a national security state careening out of control could be made to disappear in real-time? What if the very posting of such revelations could be turned into a fruitless, record-less endeavor?

Am I suggesting the plot for a novel by some twenty-first century George Orwell? Hardly. As we edge toward a fully digital world, such things may soon be possible, not in science fiction but in our world — and at the push of a button. In fact, the earliest prototypes of a new kind of “disappearance” are already being tested. We are closer to a shocking, dystopian reality that might once have been the stuff of futuristic novels than we imagine. Welcome to the memory hole.

Even if some future government stepped over one of the last remaining red lines in our world and simply assassinated whistleblowers as they surfaced, others would always emerge. Back in 1948, in his eerie novel 1984, however, Orwell suggested a far more diabolical solution to the problem. He conjured up a technological device for the world of Big Brother that he called “the memory hole.” In his dark future, armies of bureaucrats, working in what he sardonically dubbed the Ministry of Truth, spent their lives erasing or altering documents, newspapers, books, and the like in order to create an acceptable version of history. When a person fell out of favor, the Ministry of Truth sent him and all the documentation relating to him down the memory hole. Every story or report in which his life was in any way noted or recorded would be edited to eradicate all traces of him.

In Orwell’s pre-digital world, the memory hole was a vacuum tube into which old documents were physically disappeared forever. Alterations to existing documents and the deep-sixing of others ensured that even the sudden switching of global enemies and alliances would never prove a problem for the guardians of Big Brother. In the world he imagined, thanks to those armies of bureaucrats, the present was what had always been — and there were those altered documents to prove it and nothing but faltering memories to say otherwise. Anyone who expressed doubts about the truth of the present would, under the rubric of “thoughtcrime,” be marginalized or eliminated.

Government and Corporate Digital Censorship

Increasingly, most of us now get our news, books, music, TV, movies, and communications of every sort electronically. These days, Google earns more advertising revenue than all U.S. print media combined. Even the venerable Newsweek no longer publishes a paper edition. And in that digital world, a certain kind of “simplification” is being explored. The Chinese, Iranians, and others are, for instance, already implementing web-filtering strategies to block access to sites and online material of which their governments don’t approve. The U.S. government similarly (if somewhat fruitlessly) blocks its employees from viewing Wikileaks and Edward Snowden material (as well as websites like TomDispatch) on their work computers — though not of course at home. Yet.

Great Britain, however, will soon take a significant step toward deciding what a private citizen can see on the web even while at home. Before the end of the year, almost all Internet users there will be “opted-in” to a system designed to filter out pornography. By default, the controls will also block access to “violent material,” “extremist and terrorist related content,” “anorexia and eating disorder websites,” and “suicide related websites.” In addition, the new settings will censor sites mentioning alcohol or smoking. The filter will also block “esoteric material,” though a UK-based rights group says the government has yet to make clear what that category will include.

And government-sponsored forms of Internet censorship are being privatized. New, off-the-shelf commercial products guarantee that an organization does not need to be the NSA to block content. For example, the Internet security company Blue Coat is a domestic leader in the field and a major exporter of such technology. It can easily set up a system to monitor and filter all Internet usage, blocking web sites by their address, by keywords, or even by the content they contain. Among others, Blue Coat software is used by the U.S. Army to control what its soldiers see while deployed abroad, and by the repressive governments in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Burma to block outside political ideas.

Google Search…

In a sense, Google Search already “disappears” material. Right now Google is the good guy vis-à-vis whistleblowers. A quick Google search (0.22 seconds) turns up more than 48 million hits on Edward Snowden, most of them referencing his leaked NSA documents. Some of the websites display the documents themselves, still labeled “Top Secret.” Less than half a year ago, you had to be one of a very limited group in the government or contractually connected to it to see such things. Now, they are splayed across the web.

Google — and since Google is the planet’s number one search engine, I’ll use it here as a shorthand for every search engine, even those yet to be invented — is in this way amazing and looks like a massive machine for spreading, not suppressing, news. Put just about anything on the web and Google is likely to find it quickly and add it into search results worldwide, sometimes within seconds. Since most people rarely scroll past the first few search results displayed, however, being disappeared already has a new meaning online. It’s no longer enough just to get Google to notice you. Getting it to place what you post high enough on its search results page to be noticed is what matters now. If your work is number 47,999,999 on the Snowden results, you’re as good as dead, as good as disappeared. Think of that as a starting point for the more significant forms of disappearance that undoubtedly lie in our future.

Hiding something from users by reprogramming search engines is one dark step to come. Another is actually deleting content, a process as simple as transforming the computer coding behind the search process into something predatory. And if Google refuses to implement the change-over to “negative searches,” the NSA, which already appears to be able to reach inside Google, can implant its own version of malicious code as it has already done in at least 50,000 instances.

But never mind the future: here’s how a negative search strategy is already working, even if today its focus — largely on pedophiles — is easy enough to accept. Google recently introduced software that makes it harder for users to locate child abuse material. As company head Eric Schmidt put it, Google Search has been “fine-tuned” to clean up results for more than 100,000 terms used by pedophiles to look for child pornography. Now, for instance, when users type in queries that may be related to child sexual abuse, they will find no results that link to illegal content. Instead, Google will redirect them to help and counseling sites. “We will soon roll out these changes in more than 150 languages, so the impact will be truly global,” Schmidt wrote.

While Google is redirecting searches for kiddie porn to counseling sites, the NSA has developed a similar ability. The agency already controls a set of servers codenamed Quantum that sit on the Internet’s backbone. Their job is to redirect “targets” away from their intended destinations to websites of the NSA’s choice. The idea is: you type in the website you want and end up somewhere less disturbing to the agency. While at present this technology may be aimed at sending would-be online jihadis to more moderate Islamic material, in the future it could, for instance, be repurposed to redirect people seeking news to an Al-Jazeera lookalike site with altered content that fits the government’s version of events.

…and Destroy

However, blocking and redirecting technologies, which are bound to grow more sophisticated, will undoubtedly be the least of it in the future. Google is already taking things to the next level in the service of a cause that just about anyone would applaud. They are implementing picture-detection technology to identify child abuse photographs whenever they appear on their systems, as well as testing technology that would remove illegal videos. Google’s actions against child porn may be well intentioned indeed, but the technology being developed in the service of such anti-child-porn actions should chill us all. Imagine if, back in 1971, the Pentagon Papers, the first glimpse most Americans had of the lies behind the Vietnam War, had been deletable. Who believes that the Nixon White House wouldn’t have disappeared those documents and that history wouldn’t have taken a different, far grimmer course?

Or consider an example that’s already with us. In 2009, many Kindle owners discovered that Amazon had reached into their devices overnight and remotely deleted copies of Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 (no irony intended). The company explained that the books, mistakenly “published” on its machines, were actually bootlegged copies of the novels. Similarly, in 2012, Amazon erased the contents of a customer’s Kindle without warning, claiming her account was “directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies.” Using the same technology, Amazon now has the ability to replace books on your device with “updated” versions, the content altered. Whether you are notified or not is up to Amazon.

In addition to your Kindle, remote control over your other devices is already a reality. Much of the software on your computer communicates in the background with its home servers, and so is open to “updates” that can alter content. The NSA uses malware — malicious software remotely implanted into a computer — to change the way the machine works. The Stuxnet code that likely damaged 1,000 centrifuges the Iranians were using to enrich uranium is one example of how this sort of thing can operate.

These days, every iPhone checks back with headquarters to announce what apps you’ve purchased; in the tiny print of a disclaimer routinely clicked through, Apple reserves the right to disappear any app for any reason. In 2004, TiVo sued Dish Network for giving customers set-top boxes that TiVo said infringed on its software patents. Though the case was settled in return for a large payout, as an initial remedy, the judge ordered Dish to electronically disable the 192,000 devices it had already installed in people’s homes. In the future, there will be ever more ways to invade and control computers, alter or disappear what you’re reading, and shunt you to sites weren’t looking for.

Snowden’s revelations of what the NSA does to gather information and control technology, which have riveted the planet since June, are only part of the equation. How the government will enhance its surveillance and control powers in the future is a story still to be told. Imagine coupling tools to hide, alter, or delete content with smear campaigns to discredit or dissuade whistleblowers, and the power potentially available to both governments and corporations becomes clearer.

The ability to move beyond altering content into altering how people act is obviously on governmental and corporate agendas as well. The NSA has already gathered blackmail data from the digital porn viewing habits of “radical” Muslims. The NSA sought to wiretap a Congressman without a warrant. The ability to collect information on Federal judges, government leaders, and presidential candidates makes J. Edgar Hoover’s 1950s blackmail schemes as quaint as the bobby socks and poodle skirts of that era. The wonders of the Internet regularly stun us. The dystopian, Orwellian possibilities of the Internet have, until recently, not caught our attention in the same way. They should.

Read This Now, Before It’s Deleted

The future for whistleblowers is grim. At a time not so far distant, when just about everything is digital, when much of the world’s Internet traffic flows directly through the United States or allied countries, or through the infrastructure of American companies abroad, when search engines can find just about anything online in fractions of a second, when the Patriot Act and secret rulings by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court make Google and similar tech giants tools of the national security state (assuming organizations like the NSA don’t simply take over the search business directly), and when the sophisticated technology can either block, alter, or delete digital material at the push of a button, the memory hole is no longer fiction.

Leaked revelations will be as pointless as dusty old books in some attic if no one knows about them. Go ahead and publish whatever you want. The First Amendment allows you to do that. But what’s the point if no one will be able to read it? You might more profitably stand on a street corner and shout at passers by. In at least one easy-enough-to-imagine future, a set of Snowden-like revelations will be blocked or deleted as fast as anyone can (re)post them.

The ever-developing technology of search, turned 180 degrees, will be able to disappear things in a major way. The Internet is a vast place, but not infinite.  It is increasingly being centralized in the hands of a few companies under the control of a few governments, with the U.S. sitting on the major transit routes across the Internet’s backbone.

About now you should feel a chill. We’re watching, in real time, as 1984 turns from a futuristic fantasy long past into an instructional manual. There will be no need to kill a future Edward Snowden. He will already be dead.

Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. A TomDispatch regular, he writes about current events at his blog, We Meant Well. His next book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, will be available April 2014.

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Copyright 2013 Peter Van Buren