Detroit Mirrors America’s Decline

July 29th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

America’s been declining for decades. It’s going the way of all empires. It’s dying a slow death. It’s epitaph one day will read hubris and overreach killed it. Misguided policies don’t work.

Chalmers Johnson once said it’s “too late for mere scattered reforms.” They won’t make a damn bit of difference. It’s fate is practically sealed.

It’s on a slippery slope the wrong way. It’s happening in real time. It’s in plain sight. Count the ways.

It’s being thirdworldized. It’s permanently at war with no enemies. Only ones it invents exist. It’s ravaging humanity for dominance.

It’s lawless. It’s repressive. It’s secretive. It’s exploitive. It’s unaccountable. Incestuous business/government ties abuse people for profit. It’s ruthless. It’s ongoing at home and abroad.

Corruption’s out-of-control. It infests business and government. Checks and balances don’t exist. Elections are more farcical than real. Results are decided in advance. People have no say.

Presidential diktats govern. Social decay deepens. Money power controls things. Duopoly power rules.

Freedom hangs by a thread. It’s practically gone already. Full-blown tyranny looms. Democracy’s a figure of speech. It’s verboten.

On June 16, the Economic Collapse Blog called Detroit “Rotting, Decaying and Bankrupt – If You Want to See the Future of America Just Look at Detroit.”

At the time, it gave even odds for eventual bankruptcy. Five weeks later, its reality. More on that below. Dozens of other US cities are financially troubled.

The Economic Policy Journal asked “how far behind Detroit are the finance troubles of Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore?” Their pension liabilities alone are higher per capita.

Other major troubled cities include New York, Washington, DC, Honolulu, Cincinnati, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas.

Which ones will be the next shoes to drop? How long before it happens? Nothing’s being done to stop it.

The Economic Collapse Blog lists key reasons why Detroit’s troubled:

(1) In 1960, it was America’s fourth largest city. It had the highest per capita income. Today it’s dying. It’s a hollow shell. Only it’s obituary remains to be written.

(2) Since its heyday, it’s population fell 63%.

(3) About 40% of its street lights don’t work.

(4) Some city ambulances still operate with over 250,000 miles.

(5) 210 of its 317 public parks are permanently closed.

(6) Motown became ghost town. About 78,000 buildings are abandoned. So are tens of thousands of residences. Their median price is $9,000. Many are cheaper.

(7) About one-third of its 140 square miles are vacant or derelict. Heavily blighted areas are increasing.

(8) More half its over-16-year-olds are unemployed.

(9) About two-thirds of its children are impoverished. Many live in deep poverty.

(10) Nearly half its residents are functionally illiterate.

(11) Police solve less than 10% of reported crimes.

(12) In 2003, Detroit had 5,000 police officers. Today it’s half as many. More layoffs loom. Hundreds of fire fighters were laid off. Facilities were closed. They’re being sold to raise cash. Who’ll extinguish fires and save lives when they’re gone.

(13) Police stations are closed to the public 16 hours a day.

(14) Detroit’s per capita murder rate is 11 times higher than New York.

(15) Crime’s a growth industry. Police tell people to “enter Detroit at your own risk.”

(16) Detroit faces about $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities. It’s about $25,000 per resident.

Once mighty Motown’s a desolate wasteland. Public education’s being dismantled. Dozens of schools closed. Thousands of teachers were sacked. Perhaps they’ll all be gone. The entire system’s crumbling.

Detroit’s a shell of its former self. It’s in free fall. It’s a corpse awaiting burial. It’s no longer a functioning city. It’s bankruptcy was expected.

City assets will be sold at fire sale prices. They’ll be privatized for profit. City services will further erode. They’ll disappear altogether.

Union contracts will be voided. So will city worker retirement benefits. At stake are vitally needed pensions and healthcare protection. They’ll disappear to save money.

Current conditions will worsen. Blight defines them. Population flight continues. Tax collections shrink. Will the last person leaving please turn out the lights?

Maybe by then remaining ones won’t work. Over 40% of nearly 90,000 street lights are broken. Funds aren’t available to fix them.

What’s happening in Detroit reflects America. It’s coming to a community near you. Vitally needed services are disappearing. They’re vanishing when most needed.

Healthcare, public pensions and other benefits will be voided. Millions will be on their own sink or swim. Unemployment’s heading higher. Most remaining jobs don’t pay enough to live on.

It’s a national disease. It reflects America in decline. It’s rotting out and dying. On July 23, economist Richard Wolff headlined ”Detroit’s decline is a distinctively capitalist failure,” saying:

Motown giants “were loyal only to shareholders, not the people of Detroit. The city was gutted by that social choice.”

Predatory capitalism’s malignant. It’s a disease. It’s eating its seed corn. It’s killing its host.

Latter day Detroit was the “American Dream” for many thousands of workers. Quality jobs existed. They offered high pay and good benefits. They were valued. They were highly sought.

In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, Detroit thrived. It was vibrant. It was world-class. No longer. It’s been downhill ever since.

“Over the past 40 years, capitalism turned that success into the abject failure culminating now in the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.”

State and city government, as well as business share blame. So do federal officials. “The past 4 years have displayed (the) consequences” of capitalist failure.

Nothing’s been done to change things. Bad policy persists. “Real wages stopped growing in the 1970s. Rising consumer debt and overwork” sustained consumption. What can’t go on forever, won’t.

In 2007, “crisis arrived.” Public and private employers took full advantage. Wages, benefits, and job security suffered.

Middle class society eroded. It’s disappearing altogether. In Detroit, it’s practically gone. It’s mirrors America. It’s in steep decline.

Top-down structured capitalist enterprises give “major shareholders and boards of directors (plenty of resources ) to cut or remove” hard-won union gains.

“That’s how this system works. Detroit has ‘been there and done that.’ The solution is not” more of the same.

Wolff favors worker co-ops. If autoworkers had them, things would have evolved differently, he believes.

They wouldn’t have outsourced production. They wouldn’t have offshored jobs. They wouldn’t have undermined their livelihoods, families and communities.

“Workers would not have destroyed themselves and their communities that way,” said Wolff.

“Moving production, a distinctly capitalist strategy, was key to Detroit’s population dropping from 1.8m in 1950 to 700,000 today.”

Worker co-ops might have saved Detroit. Instead of less jobs and wages, they’d choose less dividends, executive super-salaries and bonuses.

Savings could be “passed on in lower automobile prices.” Doing so would have made Detroit more competitive.

It can happen other ways. Co-ops might have switched to mass-transit vehicles. Other alternatives could have been chosen. Detroit could have reinvented itself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Top-down predatory capitalism’s bankrupt. It doesn’t work. It destroys. It doesn’t sustain.

“What kind of a society gives a relatively tiny number of people the position and power to make corporate decisions impacting millions in and around Detroit while it excludes those millions from participating in those decisions,” asked Wolff?

“When those capitalists’ decisions condemn Detroit to 40 years of disastrous decline, what kind of society relieves those capitalists of any responsibility to help rebuild that city?”

“(N)o genuinely democratic economy could or would work that way.” For sure no just one!

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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http://www.dailycensored.com/detroit-mirrors-americas-decline/

War in Israel has become a constant source of profit, with the West Bank and Gaza Strip used as experimental sites for arms dealers backed up by intellectuals. These are the protagonists of ‘The Lab,’ a new film by Yotam Feldman. In its exceptional interviews, the film reveals that the image of the arms dealer operating in the shadows is a thing of the past.

A laboratory is a site where scientists conduct experiments under controlled conditions – a space where large-scale phenomena such as hurricanes are miniaturized and tiny objects such as microbes are magnified to observe complex processes and learn how to control them. A laboratory is where the world is divided into predictable phenomena and observable objects. Where knowledge is created and later disseminated, making the world better understandable and better organized, through the lens of the knowledge we have accumulated about it.

Yotam Feldman’s new film, “The Lab,” introduces us to the men who made the Occupied Palestinian Territories the largest and most advanced weapon-testing laboratory: arms dealers and developers, defense experts and industry leaders. Despite the urge to compare it to other Israeli documentaries which have recently exposed the secret lives of the people running the occupation (such as “The Law in These Parts” and “The Gatekeepers”), “The Lab” is above all a film about knowledge. Security knowledge created in the flexible zone between two dimensions separated by a very blurred line: the military and the market.

On the first plot level, “The Lab” follows Naomi Klein’s claim that the main reason for Israel’s economic prosperity at a time of political instability and global crisis lies not in its outstanding human capital that enables it to smoothly escape the negative economic repercussions, but rather the continuation of regional conflicts. In The Shock Doctrine, she shows that most of Israel’s economic growth can be attributed to the huge defense industry, which has become Israel’s main export industry, particularly following 9/11 (In 2012, Israel was ranked the world’s sixth largest arms exporter). She also claims that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are not only the world’s largest open-air prisons, but also the world’s largest test-labs, where “Palestinians are no longer just targets. They are guinea pigs.”

For Feldman, recent military campaigns, primarily Operation Cast Lead, illustrate the transformed nature of war: from a temporary disturbance involving damage to life and property, to a fixed, profitable state of affairs. Thus, the film joins other voices seeking to assess the profits derived from the occupation, and not its alleged costs to the Israeli society. The film’s true power is revealed, however, not when it shows up uninvited to closed events in order to confront the profiteers, but in the exceptional interviews held with them. These reveal that every arms dealer has a worldview that is quickly unfolded in front of the camera. Warmongers, it seems, no longer operate in the shadows. If arms are sold in the open market, they should be treated like any other commodity, and since what is hidden cannot be sold, the veil of secrecy must be quickly removed from the security market, turning the occupation from a disgraceful well-known secret into a selling point.

Captivating success stories of Israeli field commanders who mobilize their hands-on combat experience to sell more arms reinforce the impression that the occupation provides lucrative economic opportunities. At the same time, the stories suggest that the intimate relationship between the military and the economy in Israel is bigger than the sum total of all personal relations between military professionals and businessmen or from a few field commanders with a business acumen. In international conferences where Israeli models proudly present weapons to eager men, it appears that the Israeli Defense Ministry operates as Israel’s chief export agent. This is where the boundary between the “economic” and “political” collapses, and where the phrase ‘economic strength’ is revealed to be more than just a rhetorical pun: it is a work plan. A plan founded on the assumption that security is a product the country supplies to its law-abiding citizens, and that a strong economy is the basis for military strength. Whereby the state’s role in expanding the defense industry is naturally given, since it supports “growth,” and defense exports – even when completely private – are seen as a national success story. To borrow from cinematic terminology, the Israeli defense industry is a clear case of co-production.

Importantly, this co-production has a third partner: Israeli academia. One of the film’s most intriguing aspects is that it interweaves the stories of weapon inventors and arms dealers with those of scientists and intellectuals.

Military philosopher Shimon Naveh takes us to a desert training base, modeled on a Palestinian town. With a Nike T-shirt, military camouflage pants and round hipster glasses, he walks around the ghost town, explaining how French philosophy has helped him come up with a military doctrine suitable for postmodern warfare: deconstruction, but of urban space. Bluntly put, the doctrine is based on drilling holes in the walls of residential houses and moving like a rhizome outside paved roads. Naveh can thus take credit for the destruction wrought by the IDF as it reoccupied West Bank cities during Operation Defensive Shield.

At the Social Sciences Building at Tel Aviv University, we meet Prof. Yitzhak Ben Israel, who is busy developing mathematical models predicting the success rates of targeted killings and arrests. His models enable him to predict, using a simple substitution formula, the number of people that need to be killed in order to bring about the collapse of an entire organization or political system. Ben Israel’s research is just one example for the thriving security-knowledge industry in Israeli academia, that even the few Israeli academics who publicly oppose the occupation tend to ignore.

Feldman’s hybrids – cyborgs of science, technology and military – dramatically expose the far-reaching repercussions of the migration of knowledge from the Israeli lab to the rest of the world. For example, Israeli riot control technologies sold to Brazilian police for fighting drug dealers cast Rio’s favelas in the shape of Palestinian refugee camps; Kabul is reminiscent of Baghdad, which in turn looks like Jenin. This similarity is more than the product of Orientalist imagining or the hatred of the poor and black (although these are certainly important factors): it is forms of knowledge, hi-tech industry products, which make these spaces so disturbingly similar.

Eilat Maoz is PhD student at the Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago. Her work focuses on the political economy of violence and she supports the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Translated from Hebrew by Guy Eliav, edited by Ami Asher

Brasil: O capitalismo extractivo e o grande salto para trás

July 29th, 2013 by Prof. James Petras

O Brasil testemunhou um dos mais gritantes retrocessos sócio-económicos da moderna história mundial:  de uma dinâmica nacionalista de industrialização para uma economia exportadora primária. Entre meados da década de 1930 e meados da década de 1980, o Brasil cresceu a uma taxa média de cerca de 10% no seu sector manufactureiro, em grande medida com base em políticas intervencionistas do estado, subsídios, protecção e regulação do crescimento de empresas públicas nacionais e privadas. Mudanças no “equilíbrio” entre o capital nacional e estrangeiro (imperial) começaram a verificar-se a seguir ao golpe de 1964 e aceleraram-se após o retorno da política eleitoral nos meados da década de 1980. A eleição de políticos neoliberais, especialmente com a eleição do regime Cardoso em meados da década de 1990, teve um impacto devastador sobre sectores estratégicos da economia nacional: a privatização generalizada foi acompanhada pela desnacionalização dos altos comandos da economia e a desregulamentação maciça de mercados de capitais [1] . O regime Cardoso preparou o cenário para o fluxo maciço de capital estrangeiro nos sectores agro-mineral, financeiro, seguros e imobiliário. A ascensão das taxas de juro, como exigido pelo FMI, o Banco Mundial e o mercado especulativo imobiliário elevaram os custos da produção industrial. A redução de tarifas de Cardoso acabou com subsídios à indústria e abriu a porta a importações industriais. Estas políticas neoliberais levaram ao declínio relativo e absoluto da produção industrial [2] .

A vitória presidencial do auto-intitulado “Partido dos Trabalhadores”, em 2002, aprofundou e expandiu o “grande retrocesso” promovido pelos seus antecessores neoliberais. O Brasil reverteu para tornar-se um exportador primário de commodities, como soja, gado, ferro e minérios que se multiplicaram, as exportações de material de transporte e manufacturas declinaram [3] . O Brasil tornou-se uma dos principais exportadores de commodities extractivas do mundo. A dependência do Brasil das exportações de commodities foi ajudada e compensada pela entrada maciça e a penetração de corporações imperiais multinacionais e de fluxos de financeiros por bancos além-mar. Os mercados além-mar e os bancos estrangeiros tornaram-se a força condutora do crescimento extractivo e da morte industrial.

Para ter um melhor entendimento da “grande reversão” do Brasil de uma dinâmica nacionalista-industrializante para uma vulnerável dependência imperial conduzida pela extracção agro-mineral, precisamos resumidamente rever a economia política do Brasil ao longo dos últimos cinquenta anos a fim de identificar os “pontos de viragem” decisivos e a centralidade da política e da luta de classe.

Modelo militar: Modernização a partir de cima 

Sob a ditadura militar (1964-1984) a política económica era baseada numa estratégia híbrida enfatizando uma tríplice aliança do estado, do capital estrangeiro e do capital privado nacional [4] centrada primariamente em exportações industriais e secundariamente e commoditiesagrícolas (especialmente produtos tradicionais como o café).

Os militares rejeitaram o modelo nacionalista-populista baseado em indústrias do estado e cooperativas camponesas do deposto presidente Goulart e puseram em vigor uma aliança de capitalistas industriais e agronegócio. A cavalgar uma onda de mercados globais em expansão e beneficiando da repressão do trabalho, a compressão de salários, subsídios abrangentes e políticas proteccionistas, a economia cresceu a dois dígitos desde o fim da década de 1960 até meados da de 1970, o chamado “Milagre brasileiro” [5] . Os militares, se bem que afastando quaisquer ameaças de nacionalizações, puseram em vigor um certo número de regras de “conteúdo nacional” e ampliaram a dimensão e âmbito da classe trabalhadora urbana, especialmente na indústria automotiva. Isto levou ao crescimento dos sindicatos de trabalhadores metalúrgicos e posteriormente do Partido dos Trabalhadores. O “modelo exportador” baseado na indústria leve e pesada, de produtores estrangeiros e internos, tinha base regional (Sudeste). A estratégia de modernização aumentou desigualdades e integrou os capitalistas “nacionais” a multinacionais imperiais. Isto preparou o terreno para o início das lutas anti-ditatoriais e o retorno da democracia. Partidos neoliberais ganharam hegemonia com a viragem para políticas eleitorais.

Políticas eleitorais, a ascensão de neoliberalismo e a ascendência do capitalismo extractivo 

A oposição eleitoral que sucedeu aos regimes militares esteve inicialmente polarizada entre uma elite liberal, adepta do livre mercado agro-mineral e aliada a multinacionais imperiais e, por outro lado, um bloco nacionalista de trabalhadores, camponeses, trabalhadores rurais e classe média baixa. Trabalhadores militantes constituíam a CUT, camponeses sem terra o MST e ambos juntaram-se à classe média para constituir o PT. [6]

A primeira década de política eleitoral, 1984-94, foi caracterizada pelo puxa e empurra entre o capitalismo estatista residual herdado do regime militar anterior e a emergente burguesia do “livre mercado” liberal. As crises de dívida, hiper-inflação, corrupção sistémica maciça, o impedimento do presidente Collor e a estagnação económica enfraqueceram gravemente os sectores capitalistas estatais e levaram à ascendência de uma aliança do capital agro-mineral e financeiro, tanto de capitalistas estrangeiros como locais, ligada a mercados além-mar. Esta coligação retrógrada encontrou o seu líder politico e o caminho do poder com a eleição de Fernando Henrique Cardoso, um antigo académico de esquerda que se converteu em fanático do mercado livre.

A eleição de Cardoso levou a uma ruptura decisiva com as políticas nacionais estatistas dos sessenta anos anteriores. As políticas de Cardoso deram um impulso decisivo à desnacionalização e privatização da economia, elementos essenciais na reconfiguração da economia do Brasil, e à ascendência do capital extractivo [7] . De acordo com quase todos os indicadores, as políticas ultra-liberais de Cardoso levaram a um precipitado grande salto para trás, concentrando rendimento e terra, e aumentando a propriedade estrangeiro de sectores estratégicos. A “reforma” da economia de Cardoso a expensas do trabalho industrial, da propriedade pública, dos trabalhadores sem terra provocou greves generalizadas e ocupações de terra [8] . A “economia extractiva”, especialmente a abertura de sectores lucrativos na agricultura, mineração e energia, ganhou espaço a expensas das forças produtivas: a posição relativa da manufactura, tecnologia e serviços avançados declinou. Em particular, os ganhos do trabalho como um todo declinaram como percentagem do PNB [9] .

A taxa de crescimento médio da indústria declinou para uns magros 1,4%. O emprego no sector industrial caiu em 26%, o desemprego subiu para mais de 18,4%, o “sector informal” subiu de 52,5% em 1980 para 56,1% em 1995 [10] .

A privatização de empresas públicas como a Telebrás, firma gigante e lucrativa de telecomunicações, levou ao despedimento maciço de trabalhadores e à subcontratação de trabalho com salários mais baixos e sem benefícios sociais. Sob Cardoso, o Brasil tinha as mais altas taxas de desigualdade (coeficiente de Gini) entre todos os países do mundo.

Cardoso utilizou subsídios do estado para promover o capital estrangeiro, especialmente nos sectores da exportação agrária e mineral, enquanto pequenos e médios agricultores ansiavam por crédito. O seu programa de desregulamentação financeira levou à especulação com divisas, lucros maciços e inesperados para bancos da Wall Street quando o regime elevou as taxas de juro em mais de 50% [11] . A bancarrota de agricultores levou ao seu despojamento pelos capitalistas agro-exportadores. A concentração de terra assumiu uma viragem decisiva quando 7% dos grandes proprietários que possuíam fazendas de mais de 2000 hectares aumentaram a dimensão das suas terras de 39,5% para 43% das terras agrícolas brasileiras [12] .

Durante os oito anos de Cardoso no governo (1994-2001) houve um tsunami de investimento estrangeiro: mais de US$50 mil milhões entraram no país só nos primeiros cinco anos – dez vezes o total dos 15 anos anteriores [13] . Companhias agro-minerais de propriedade estrangeiras entre as principais companhias estrangeiras (em 1997) representavam mais de um terço e continuavam a crescer. Entre 1996-1998 multinacionais estrangeiras adquiriram oito grandes firmas de alimentos, mineração e produção metálica [14] .

As políticas neoliberais de Cardoso abriram a porta amplamente para a tomada de indústrias críticas e sectores bancários pelo capital estrangeiro. No entanto, foram os presidentes do “Partido dos Trabalhadores” que vieram a seguir, Lula da Silva e Rousseff, que completaram o Grande Salto para Trás da economia brasileira ao se voltarem decisivamente para o capital extractivo como a força condutora da economia.

Do neoliberalismo ao capital extractivo 

As privatizações de Cardoso foram apoiadas e aprofundadas pelo regime Lula. A ultrajante privatização de Cardoso da mineradora Vale do Rio Doce por uma fracção do seu valor foi defendida por Lula; o mesmo se passou com a privatização de facto da companhia petrolífera estatal Petrobrás. Lula abraçou as políticas monetárias restritivas, acordos de excedente orçamental com o FMI e seguiu as prescrições orçamentais dos directores do FMI [15] .

O regime Lula (2003-2011) adoptou as políticas neoliberais de Cardoso como um guia para promover a reconfiguração da economia do Brasil em benefício do capital estrangeiro e interno, agora assente no sector primário e de exportação de matérias-primas. Em 2005 o Brasil exportou US$55,3 mil milhões em matérias-primas e US$44,2 mil milhões em bens manufacturados; em 2011 o Brasil triplicou suas exportações de matérias-primas para US$162,2 mil milhões enquanto suas exportações de manufacturas aumentaram para uns meros US$60,3 mil milhões [16] .

Por outras palavras, a diferença entre o valor das exportações de matérias-primas e de manufacturas aumentou de US$13 mil milhões para mais de US$100 mil milhões nos últimos cinco anos do regime Lula. A desindustrialização relativa da economia, o desequilíbrio crescente entre o sector extractivo dominante e o sector manufactureiro ilustra a reversão do Brasil para o seu “estilo colonial de desenvolvimento”.

O capitalismo agro-mineral, o estado e o povo 

O sector exportador do Brasil beneficiou-se enormemente com a ascensão dos preços das commodities . O principal beneficiário foi o sector exportador agro-mineral. Mas o custo para a indústria, transporte público, condições de vida, investigação e desenvolvimento e educação foi enorme. As exportações agro-minerais proporcionarem grandes receitas para o estado mas também extrairam-lhe grandes subsídios, benefícios fiscais e lucros.

A economia industrial do Brasil foi afectada desfavoravelmente pelo boom da commodities devido à ascensão no valor da sua divisa, o real, em 40% entre 2010-2012, a qual aumentou o preços das exportações de manufacturas e diminuiu a competitividade dos produtos manufacturados [17] . As políticas de “mercado livre” também facilitaram a entrada de bens manufacturados mais baratos da Ásia, particularmente da China. Enquanto as exportações primárias para a China deram um salto, o sector manufactureiro do Brasil, particularmente bens de consumo como têxteis e calçados, declinou entre 2005 e 2010 em mais de 10% [18] .

Sob os regimes Lula-Rousseff, a extrema dependência de um número limitado de commodities levou a um declínio agudo nas forças produtivas, medido pelos investimentos em inovações tecnológicas, especialmente aqueles relacionados com a indústria [19] . Além disso, o Brasil tornou-se mais dependente do que nunca de um único mercado. De 2000 para 2010 a importações chinesas de soja – a principal exportação agrícola – representaram 40% das exportações do Brasil; as importações chinesas de ferro – a exportação mineira chave – constituem mais de um terço do total das exportações daquele sector. A China também importa cerca de 10% das exportações brasileiras de petróleo, carne, celulose e papel [20] . Sob os regimes Lula e Rousseff, o Brasil reverteu para uma economia quase mono-cultural dependente de um mercado muito limitado. Em consequência, o arrefecimento da economia da China levou como era de prever a um declínio no crescimento do Brasil para menos de 2% de 2011 para 2013 [21] .

Brasil: Paraíso económico do capital financeiro 

Sob as políticas de mercado livre do Partido dos Trabalhadores, o capital financeiro entrou a jorros no Brasil, como nunca antes. O investimento directo estrangeiro saltou de cerca de US$16 mil milhões em 2002, durante o último ano do regime Cardoso, para mais de US$48 mil milhões no último ano do governo de Lula [22] . A carteira de investimento – na maior parte de tipo especulativo – subiu de US$5 mil milhões negativo em 2002 para US$67 mil milhões em 2010. Entradas líquidas de investimento directo estrangeiro (IDE) e investimentos de carteira totalizaram US$400 mil milhões durante 2007-2011, a comparar com os US$79 mil milhões durante o período anterior de cinco anos [23] . Investimentos de carteira em títulos de altos juros retornaram entre 8% e 15%, o triplo e o quádruplo das taxas na América do Norte e Europa. Lula e Dilma são presidentes poster da Wall Street.

De acordo com os indicadores económicos mais importantes, as políticas dos regimes Lula-Dilma foram as mais lucrativas para o capital estrangeiro além-mar e os investidores nos sectores agro-minerais primários na história recente do Brasil.

O modelo agro-mineral e o ambiente 

Apesar da sua retórica política em favor da família agricultora, os regimes Lula-Dilva têm estado entre os maiores promotores do agro-negócio na história política brasileira. A maior fatia de recursos do estado foi concedida à agricultura, finanças e grandes proprietários rurais. De acordo com um estudo, em 2008/2009 pequenos proprietários receberam cerca de US$6,35 mil milhões, ao passo que o agro-negócio e grandes proprietários rurais receberam US$31,9 mil milhões em financiamento e crédito [24] . Menos de 4% dos recursos do governo e de investigação foi destinada à agricultura familiar e explorações agro-ecológicas.

Sob Lula, a destruição das florestas tropicais verificou-se a um ritmo acelerado. Entre 2002 e 2008 a vegetação da região do Cerrado foi reduzida em 7,5% ou mais de 8,5 milhões de hectares, principalmente por corporações do agro-negócio [25] . O Cerrado brasileiro é uma das regiões de savana mais biologicamente ricas do mundo, concentrando-se na região centro-leste do país. De acordo com um estudo, 69% da terra de propriedade de corporações estrangeiras está concentrada no Cerrado do Brasil [26] . Entre 1995 e 2005 a fatia de capital estrangeiro no sector cerealífero agro-industrial saltou de 16% para 57%. O capital estrangeiro capitalizou com as políticas neoliberais sob Cardoso, Lula e Dilma deslocando-se para o sector do agro-combustível (etanol), controlando cerca de 22% das companhias brasileiras de cana-de-açúcar e etanol [27] – e rapidamente invadindo a floresta amazónica.

Desflorestação da Amazónia.Entre Maio de 2000 e Agosto de 2005, graças à expansão do sector exportador, o Brasil perdeu 132 mil quilómetros quadrados de floresta devido à expansão de grandes proprietários de terra e multinacionais dedicados à criação de gado, soja e madeira [28] . Entre 2003 e 2012, mais de 137 mil quilómetros quadrados foram desflorestados, crime ajudado por multibilionários investimentos do governo em infraestrutura, incentivos fiscais e subsídios.

Em 2008 o dano à floresta tropical amazónica aumentou 67%. Sob pressão de indígenas, camponeses, trabalhadores rurais sem terra e movimentos ecológicos o governo entrou em acção para restringir a desflorestação. Ela declinou de um pico de 27.772 quilómetros quadrados em 2004 (o segundo, apenas inferior ao de 1995, sob Cardoso, com 29.059 km2) para 4.656 km2 em 2012 [29] .

A criação de gado é a principal causa da desflorestação na Amazónia brasileira. Estimativas atribuem mais de 40% a grandes capitalistas e corporações multinacionais de processamento de carne [30] . Os principais investimentos em infraestrutura dos regimes Lula-Dilma, principalmente estradas, haviam aberto anteriormente terras florestais inacessíveis a empresas corporativas de gado. Sob Lula e Dilma, a agricultura comercial, especialmente a soja, tornou-se o segundo maior contribuidor para a desflorestação da Amazónia.

Acompanhando a degradação do ambiente natural, a expansão do agro-negócio foi acompanhada pelo despojamento, assassínio e escravização de povos indígenas. A Comissão Pastoral da Terra, da Igreja Católica, informou que em 2004 a violência latifundiária atingiu o seu mais alto nível em pelo menos 20 anos – o segundo ano do mandato de Lula. Os conflitos subiram de 1.801 em 2004, quando em 2003 foram 1.690 e em 2002 foram 925 [31] .

Segundo o governo, corporações de gado e soja exploram pelo menos 25 mil brasileiros (principalmente índios despojados da sua terra e camponeses sem terra) sob “condições análogas à escravidão”. As principais ONGs afirmam que o número verdadeiro poderia ser dez vezes superior àquele. Mais de 183 fazendas foram inspeccionadas em 2005 libertando 4.133 escravizados [32] .

Mineração: A fraude da “privatização” da Vale, agora poluidora número um 

Cerca de 25% das exportações do Brasil são constituídas por produtos minerais – o que destaca a crescente centralidade do capital extractivo na economia. O minério de ferro é o minério de maior importância, representando 78% do total das exportações mineiras. Em 2008, o ferro representou US$16,5 dos rendimentos da indústria, num total de US$22,5 mil milhões [33] . A vasta maioria das exportações de ferro está dependente de um único mercado – a China. Quando o crescimento da China diminui, a procura declina e a vulnerabilidade económica do Brasil aumenta.

Uma firma, privatizada durante a presidência Cardoso, a Vale, através de aquisições e fusões controla quase 100% da produção das minas de ferro do Brasil [34] . Em 1997 a Vale foi vendida pelo estado neoliberal por US$3,14 mil milhões, uma pequena fracção do seu valor. Ao longo da década seguinte ela concentrou seus investimentos na mineração, estabelecendo uma rede global de minas e mais de uma dúzia de países na América do Norte e do Sul, Austrália, África e Ásia. O regime Lula-Dilma desempenhou um papel importante para facilitar a dominância da Vale no sector mineiro e o crescimento exponencial do seu valor. O valor líquido da Vale hoje é de mais de US$100 mil milhões mas ela paga uma das mais baixas taxas de imposto do mundo, apesar de ser a segunda maior companhia mineira do mundo, o maior produtor de minério de ferro e o segundo maior de níquel. Os royalties máximos sobre a riqueza mineral subiram de 2% para 4% em 2013 [35] . Por outras palavras, durante a década do governo “progressista” de Lula e Dilma, a taxa fiscal era um sexto daquela da conservadora Austrália, que mantém uma taxa de 12%.

A Vale tem utilizado os seus enormes lucros para diversificar operações mineiras e actividades relacionadas. Ela liquidou negócios como o aço e a celulose vendendo-os por US$2,9 mil milhões – aproximadamente o preço pago por todo o complexo mineral. Em vez disso concentrou-se na compra de minas de ferro de competidores e literalmente na monopolização da produção. A Vale expandiu-se no manganês, níquel, cobre, carvão, potassa, caulim, bauxita; comprou ferrovias, portos, terminais de contentores, navios e pelo menos oito centrais hidroeléctricas; dois terços das suas centrais hidroeléctricas foram construídas durante o regime Lula [36] .

Em suma, o capitalismo floresceu durante o regime Lula com lucros recorde no sector extractivo, perigo extremo para o ambiente e deslocamento maciço de povos indígenas e produtores em pequena escala. A experiência mineira da Vale sublinha as poderosas continuidades estruturais entre o regime neoliberal de Cardoso e o de Lula: o primeiro privatizou a Vale a preço de saldo, o último promoveu a Vale como o produtor e exportador monopolista dominante de ferro, ignorando totalmente a concentração de riqueza, lucros e poderes do capital extractivo.

Em comparação com o crescimento geométrico dos lucros de monopólio do sector extractivo, os miseráveis dois dólares por dia de Lula e Dilma, dados como subsídio para reduzir a pobreza, dificilmente permitem classificar este regime como “progressista” ou de “centro-esquerda”.

Se bem que Lula e Dilma estejam embevecidos com o crescimento do “campeão mineiro” do Brasil (a Vale), outros não estão. Em 2002, a Public Eye, um grupo de direitos humanos e ambientais, deu à Vale um “prémio” como a pior corporação do mundo: “A Vale Corporation actua com o maior desrespeito pelo ambiente e direitos humanos no mundo” [37] . Os críticos citaram a construção da barragem de Belo Monte, da Vale, no meio da floresta tropical amazónica como tendo “consequências devastadoras para regiões com biodiversidade única e tribos indígenas” [38] .

O sector mineiro é capital intensivo, gera poucos empregos e acrescenta pouco valor às suas exportações. Ele tem degradado á água, a terra e o ar; afectado desfavoravelmente comunidades locais, despojado comunidades índias e criado uma economia de altos e baixos.

Com o acentuado arrefecimento da economia chinesa, especialmente o seu sector manufactureiro em 2012-14, os preços do ferro e do cobre caíram. As receitas de exportação do Brasil declinaram, minando o crescimento geral. É especialmente importante que a canalização de recursos para infraestruturas destinadas aos sectores agro-minerais resultou no esgotamento de fundos para hospitais, escolas e transporte urbano – os quais estão de deprimidos e proporcionam um serviço fraco a milhões de trabalhadores urbanos.

O fim do “mega ciclo” extractivo e a ascensão de protestos em massa 

O modelo de orientação extractiva do Brasil entrou num período de declínio e estagnação em 2012-2013 quando a procura mundial – especialmente na Ásia – declinou, sobretudo na China [39] . O crescimento flutuou em torno dos 2%, mal acompanhando o crescimento populacional. A classe baseada neste modelo de crescimento, especialmente o estrato reduzido de investidores estrangeiros de carteira, mineração monopolista e grandes corporações do agro-negócio, os quais controlam e arrecadam a maior parte das receitas e lucros, limitou os “efeitos gotejamento” (“trickle down effects”) que os regimes Lula-Dilma promoveram como a sua “transformação social”. Se bem que alguns programas inovadores tenham sido iniciados, o acompanhamento e a qualidade dos serviços realmente deteriorou-se.

O número de camas para pacientes em hospitais declinou de 3,3 por 1000 brasileiros em 1993 para 1,9 em 2009, o segundo mais baixo da OCDE [40] . As admissões em hospitais financiados pelo sector público caiu e as longas esperas e baixa qualidade são endémicos.

O gasto federal no sistema de saúde tem caído desde 2003, quando ajustado à inflação, segundo o estudo da OCDE. A despesa pública em saúde é baixa: 41%, a comparar com 82% no Reino Unido e 45,5% nos EUA [41] . A polarização de classe inerente ao modelo extractivo agro-mineral estende-se às despesas do governo, impostos, transportes e infraestrutura: financiamento maciço para rodovias, barragens, centrais hidroeléctricas para o capital extractivo, contra gastos inadequados e em declínio para transportes públicos, saúde pública e educação.

As raízes mais profundas dos levantamentos em massa de 2013 estão localizadas na política de classe de um estado corporativo. Os regimes Cardoso e Lula-Dilma, ao longo das últimas duas décadas, seguiram uma agenda elitista e conservadora, amortecida pela política clientelista e paternalista que neutralizou a oposição em massa durante um período de tempo extenso, até que a rebelião em massa e os protestos à escala nacional desmascararam a fachada “progressista”.

Publicistas de esquerda e sabichões conservadores que saudaram Lula como um “progressista pragmático” ignoraram o facto de que durante o seu primeiro mandato o apoio do estado à elite do agro-negócio foi sete vezes maior do que a oferecida aos agricultores familiares que representavam aproximadamente 90% da força de trabalho rural e proporcionavam a maior parte dos alimentos para consumo local. Durante o segundo mandato de Lula, o apoio financeiro do Ministério da Agricultura ao agro-negócio durante a safra 2008.09 foi seis vezes maiores do que os fundos concedidos ao programa de redução da pobreza de Lula, o altamente publicitado programa “Bolsa Família” [42] . Ortodoxia económica e demagogia populista não são substitutos de mudanças estruturais substantivas, envolvendo uma reforma agrária ampla que abranja 4 milhões de trabalhadores rurais sem terra, assim como uma renacionalização de empresas extractivas estratégicas como a Vale a fim de financiar agricultura sustentável e preservar a floresta tropical.

Ao invés disso, Lula e Dilma saltaram em força para o boom do etanol: “açúcar, açúcar por toda a parte” mas sem nunca perguntar, “Que bolsos enchem?” A crescente rigidez estrutural do Brasil, sua transformação numa economia capitalista extractiva, potenciou e ampliou o âmbito da corrupção. A competição por contratos mineiros, concessões de terra e projectos gigantes de infraestrutura encoraja as elites dos negócios agro-minerais a pagarem ao “partido no poder” a fim de assegurar vantagens competitivas. Isto se verificou particularmente com o “Partido dos Trabalhadores” cuja liderança executiva (destituída de trabalhadores) era composta de profissionais em ascensão, aspirando a posições na classe da elite que encarava os subornos nos negócios para o seu “capital inicial” como uma espécie de “acumulação inicial através da corrupção”.

O boom das commodities, durante quase uma década, encobriu as contradições de classe e a extrema vulnerabilidade de uma economia extractiva dependente de exportações de bens primários para mercados limitados. As políticas neoliberais adaptadas à promoção de exportações de commodities levaram ao influxo dos bens manufacturados e enfraqueceram a posição do sector industrial. Em consequência, os esforços de Dilma para renovar a economia produtiva a fim de compensar o declínio das receitas de commodities não funcionaram: estagflação, excedentes orçamentais em declínio e enfraquecimento da balança comercial praguejaram a sua administração precisamente quando a massa de trabalhadores e da classe média estão a pedir uma redistribuição de recursos em grande escala, de subsídios ao sector privado para investimentos em serviços públicos.

As fortunas politicas de Rousseff e do seu mentor, Lula, foram construídas sobre os frágeis fundamentos do modelo extractivo. Eles falharam em reconhecer os limites do seu modelo, muito menos em formular uma estratégia alternativa. Uma colcha de retalhos de propostas, reformas políticas, retórica anti-corrupção face aos protestos de milhões de pessoas que se estendem a todas as grandes e pequenas cidades do país não resolve o problema básico de desafiar a concentração de riqueza, propriedade e poder de classe da elite agro-mineral e financeira. As suas aliadas multinacionais controlam as alavancas do poder político, com e sem corrupção e bloqueiam quaisquer reformas significativas.

A era do “Populismo Wall Street” de Lula está acabada. A ideia de que altas receitas provenientes das indústrias extractivas podem comprar lealdades populares através do consumismo, financiado pelo crédito fácil, está ultrapassada. Os investidores da Wall Street já não louvam mais os BRICs como um novo mercado dinâmico. Como é previsível eles estão a transferir seus investimentos para actividades mais lucrativas em novas regiões. Quando a carteira de investimentos declina e a economia estagna, o capital extractivo intensifica sua pressão dentro da Amazónia e com terrível preço por parte da população indígena e a floresta tropical.

O ano de 2012 foi um dos piores para os povos indígenas. Segundo o Conselho Indigenista Missionário, filiado à Igreja Católica, o número de incidentes violentos contra as comunidades índias aumentou 237% [43] . O regime Rousseff deu aos índios o menor número de títulos legais à terra do que qualquer presidente desde o retorno da democracia (sete títulos). A esta taxa, o estado brasileiro levará um século para titular os pedidos de terra das comunidades índias. Ao mesmo tempo, em 2012, 62 territórios índios foram invadidos por latifundiários, mineiros e madeireiros, 47% mais do que em 2011 [44] . A maior ameaça de despojamento vem de projectos como a mega barragem deBelo Monte e centrais hidroeléctricas gigantes promovidas pelo regime Rousseff. Quando a economia agro-mineral vacila, as comunidades índias estão a ser esmagadas (“genocídio silencioso”) a fim de intensificar o crescimento agro-mineral.

Os maiores beneficiários da economia extractiva do Brasil são os principais traders de commodities do mundo os quais, à escala mundial, embolsaram US$250 mil milhões ao longo do período 2003-2013, ultrapassando os lucros das maiores firmas da Wall Street e cinco das maiores companhias automobilísticas. Em meados de 2000, alguns traders desfrutaram retornos de 50 a 60 por cento. Mesmo em 2013 eles estavam numa média de 20-30% ( Financial Times , 4/15/13, p. 1). Especuladores de commodities ganharam mais de 10 vezes o que foi gasto com os pobres. Estes especuladores lucram com flutuações de preços entre localizações, com oportunidades de arbitragem proporcionadas pela abundância de discrepâncias de preços entre regiões. Traders monopolistas eliminaram competidores e os impostos baixos (5-15%) aumentaram a sua mega riqueza. Os maiores beneficiários do modelo extractivista Lula-Dilma, ultrapassando mesmo os gigantes agro-minerais, são os vinte maiores traders -especuladores de commodities. 

Capital extractivo, colonialismo interno e o declínio a luta de classe 

A luta de classe, especialmente sua expressão em greves conduzidas por sindicatos e trabalhadores rurais localizados em acampamentos que lançam ocupações de terras, declinou drasticamente ao longo do último quarto de século. O Brasil durante o período que se seguiu à ditadura militar (1989) foi um líder mundial em greves, com 4000 em 1989. Com o retorno da política eleitoral e a incorporação e legalização dos sindicatos, especialmente na estrutura de negociações colectivas tripartidas, as greves declinaram para uma média de 500 durante a década de 1990. Com o advento do regime Lula (2003-2010) as greves declinaram ainda mais, para 300-400 por ano [45] . As duas maiores centrais sindicais, CUT e Força Sindical, aliadas ao regime Lula, tornaram-se adjuntas virtuais do Ministério do Trabalho: sindicalistas asseguravam posições no governo e as organizações recebiam grandes subsídios do estado, ostensivamente para treino e educação do trabalhador. Com o boom das commodities e a ascensão das receitas do estado e rendimentos de exportações, os governos formularam uma estratégia do gotejamento, aumentando o salário mínimo e lançando novos programas anti-pobreza. Nas zonas rurais, o MST continuava a pedir uma reforma agrária e empenhado em ocupações de terras mas a sua posição de apoiar criticamente o Partido dos Trabalhadores em troca de subsídios sociais levou a um declínio agudo nos acampamentos a partir dos quais lançar ocupações de terras. No arranque da presidência de Lula (2003) o MST tinha 285 acampamentos, em 2012 tinha 13 [46] .

O declínio da luta de classe e a cooptação dos movimentos de massa estabelecidos coincidiram com a intensificação da exploração capitalista extractiva do interior do país e o violento despojamento das comunidades indígenas. Por outras palavras, a exploração acrescida do “interior” pelo capital agro-mineral facilitou a concentração de riqueza nos grandes centros urbanos e nas áreas rurais estabelecidas, levando à cooptação de sindicatos e movimentos rurais. Portanto, apesar de algumas declarações retóricas e protestos simbólicos, o capital agro-mineral encontrou pouca solidariedade organizada entre o trabalho urbano e os índios despojados e trabalhadores rurais escravizados na Amazónia “arrasada”. Lula e Dilma desempenharam um papel chave na neutralização de qualquer frente unida nacional contra as depredações do capital agro-mineral.

A degeneração das principais confederações trabalhistas é visível não só com a sua presença no governo e com a ausência de greves como também na organização dos comícios anuais de trabalhadores no 1º de Maio. Os mais recentes virtualmente não incluíram qualquer conteúdo político. Há espectáculos de música, temperados com lotarias oferecendo automóveis e outras formas de entretenimento consumista, financiados e patrocinados por grandes bancos privados e multinacionais [47] . Esta relação entre a cidade e a Amazónia lembra com efeito uma espécie de colonialismo interno, no qual o capital extractivo subornou uma aristocracia do trabalho como aliado cúmplice para a sua pilhagem das comunidades do interior.

Conclusão: Com movimentos de massa, o modelo extractivista está sob sítio 

Se a CUT e a Força Sindical estão cooptadas, o MST está enfraquecido e as classes de baixo rendimento receberam aumentos monetários, como e por que movimentos de massa sem precedentes emergiram em simultâneo numa centena de grandes cidades e outras menores por todo o país?

O contraste entre os novos movimentos de massa e os sindicatos foi evidente na sua capacidade para mobilizar apoio durante os dias de protesto de Junho-Julho/2013: os primeiros mobilizaram 2 milhões, os últimos 100 mil.

Manifestação em S. Paulo.O que precisa ser esclarecido é a diferença entre os pequenos grupos locais de estudantes ( Movimento Passe Livre , MPL) que detonaram os movimentos de massa com base num aumento em tarifas de autocarros e os gastos faraónicos do estado com a Copa do Mundo (campeonato de futebol) e as Olimpíadas e os movimentos de massa espontâneos que questionaram as políticas orçamentais do estado e as prioridades na sua totalidade.

Muitos publicistas dos regimes Lula-Dilma aceitam sem questionamento as verbas orçamentais atribuídas a projectos sociais e de infraestrutura, quando de facto apenas uma fracção é realmente gasta na medida em que são roubadas por responsáveis corruptos. Exemplo: entre 2008-12 foram destinados R$6,5 mil milhões para transporte públicos nas cidades principais mas só 17% foi realmente gasto ( Veja, 17/07/2013). Segundo a ONG “Contas Abertas”, ao longo de um período de dez anos o Brasil gastou mais de R$160 mil milhões em obras públicas que não estão concluídas, nunca deixaram a prancheta de desenho ou foram roubadas por responsáveis corruptos. Um dos mais notórios casos de corrupção e má administração é a construção de 12 quilómetros de metro em Salvador, com a condição estabelecida de que seria completado em 40 meses ao custo de R$307 milhões. Treze anos depois (2000-13) as despesas aumentaram para cerca 1000 milhões de reais e escassos 6 km foram completados. Seis locomotoras e 24 carruagens compradas por 100 milhões de reais decompuseram-se e a garantia dos fabricantes expirou ( Veja, 17/07/2013). O projecto foi paralisado por acções de sobrefacturação corrupta envolvendo responsáveis federais, estaduais e municipais. Enquanto isso, 200 mil passageiros são forçados a viajar diariamente em autocarros decrépitos.

A corrupção profunda que infecta toda a administração Lula-Dilma conduziu a um vasto fosso entre os apregoados feitos do regime e a deteriorada experiência diária da grande maioria do povo brasileiro. O mesmo fosso existe em relação às despesas para preservar a floresta tropical amazónica, as terras dos índios e para financiar os programas anti-pobreza: responsáveis corruptos do PT desviam fundos para financiar suas campanhas eleitorais ao invés de reduzir a destruição ambiental e reduzir a pobreza.

Se a riqueza do boom no modelo extractivo agro-mineral “filtrou-se” para o resto da economia e elevou salários, isso fez-se de um modo muito irregular, desigual e distorcido. A grande riqueza concentrada no topo encontrou expressão numa espécie de novo sistema casta-classe no qual transporte privado – helicópteros e heliportos – clínicas privadas, escolas privadas, áreas de recreação privadas, exércitos de segurança privada para os ricos e abastado foram financiados por subsídios promovidos pelo estado. Em contraste, as massas experimentaram um agudo declínio relativo e absoluto em serviços públicos nas próprias experiências essenciais da vida. A ascensão no salário mínimo não compensada por 10 horas de espera em apinhadas salas públicas de emergência, transportes irregulares e sobrelotados, ameaças pessoais diárias e insegurança (50 mil homicídios). Pais que recebem a esmola anti-pobreza enviam seus filhos para escola decadentes onde professores mal pagos correm de uma escola para outra mal atendendo suas classes e proporcionando um fraco aprendizado. A maior indignidade para aqueles que recebem esmolas de subsistência foi dizerem-lhes que, nesta sociedade de classe-casta, eles eram “classe média”; que faziam parte da imensa transformação social que retirou 40 milhões da pobreza, quando se arrastavam para suas casas com horas de tráfego, retornando de empregos cujo salário mensal pagava uma partida de ténis num clube de campo da classe alta. A economia extractiva agro-mineral acentuou todas as desigualdades sócio-económicas do Brasil e o regime Lula-Dilma acentuou esta diferença pela elevação das expectativas, ao afirmar o seu cumprimento e a seguir ignorar os impactos sociais reais na vida diária. As verbas orçamentais em grande escala do governo para transporte público e promessas de projectos para novas linhas de metro e comboio foram adiadas durante décadas pela corrupção em grande escala e a longo prazo. Os milhares de milhões gastos ao longo de anos renderam resultados mínimos – uns poucos quilómetros completados. O resultado é que o fosso entre as projecções optimistas do regime e a frustração das massas aumentou amplamente. O fosso entre a promessa populista e o aprofundamento da clivagem entre classes sociais não será encoberto por lotarias sindicais e almoços VIP. Especialmente para toda uma geração de jovens trabalhadores que não estão presos às antigas memórias do Lula “metalúrgico” um quarto de século antes. A CUT, a FS, o Partido dos Trabalhadores são irrelevantes ou são percebidos como parte do sistema de corrupção, estagnação social e privilégio. A característica mais gritante da nova onda de protesto de classe é a divisão geracional e organizacional: trabalhadores metalúrgicos mais velhos ausentes, jovens trabalhadores não organizados dos serviços presentes. Organizações locais e espontâneas substituem os sindicatos cooptados.

O local de confrontação é a rua – não o lugar de trabalho. As reivindicações transcendem salários monetários – as questões em causa são o salário social, padrões de vida, orçamentos nacionais. Em última análise os novos movimentos sociais levantam a questão das prioridades de classe nacionais. O regime está a despojar centenas de milhares de residentes em favelas – um expurgo social – para construir complexos desportivos e acomodações de luxo. As questões sociais permeiam os movimentos de massa. A sua independência organizativa e autonomia sublinham o mais profundo desafio a todo o modelo extractivista neoliberal; muito embora nenhuma organização ou liderança nacional tenha emergido para elaborar uma alternativa. Mas a luta continua. Os mecanismos tradicionais de cooptação fracassam porque não há líderes identificáveis para subornar. O regime, a enfrentar o declínio dos mercados de exportações e dos preços das commodities, e profundamente comprometido com investimentos não produtivos de muitos milhares de milhões de dólares nos jogos, tem poucas opções. O PT perdeu há muito a sua vanguarda anti-sistémica. Seus políticos estão ligados a e financiados por bancos e elites agro-minerais. Os líderes sindicais protegem seus feudos, suas deduções mensais automáticas e seus estipêndios. Os movimentos de massa das cidades, tal como as comunidades índias da Amazónia, terão de encontrar novos instrumentos políticos. Mas ao tomarem o caminho da “acção directa” eles deram o primeiro grande passo.

James Petras

http://petras.lahaine.org/

O original encontra-se em

petrasBrazil: Extractive Capitalism and the Great Leap Backward, 23 de Julio 2013

 Este artigo foi traduzido em português por : http://resistir.info/

[1] James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer Cardoso’s Brazil: A land for Sale (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield 2003/Chapter 2.
[2] ibid Chapter 1.
[3] James Petras, Brasil e Lula – Ano Zero (Blumenau: EdiFurb 2005) Chapter 1.
[4] Peter Evans, Dependent Development: The Alliance of Multinational State and Local Capital in Brazil (Princeton NJ : Princeton University Press 1979).
[5] Jose Serra “The Brazilian Economic Miracle” in James Petras Latin America from Dependence to Revolution (New York: John Wiley 1973) pp. 100 – 140.
[6] Brasil e Lula op cit. Ch. 1
[7] Cardoso’s Brazil Ch. 5
[8] ibid, Ch.3 and 6
[9] ibid, Table A.12, p. 126
[10]iIbid, Ch. 3.
[11] ibid, Ch. 1, 2.
[12] ibid, Ch. 5
[13] ibid, Ch. 2.
[14] ibid, Table A. 6.
[15] Brasil e Lula, Ch. 1.
[16] Brazil Exports by Product Section (USD) www.INDEXMUNDI.com/trade/exports/Brazil
[17] Peter Kingstone “Brazil ‘s Reliance on Commodity Exports threatens its Medium and Long Term Growth Prospects” www.americasquarterly.or/icingstone .
[18] Brazil Exports op cit.
[19] Kingstone op cit.
[20] Kingstone op cit. World Bank Yearbook 2011.
[21] Financial Times, 3/26/13, p. 7.
[22] Brazil’s Surging Foreign Investment: A Blessing or Curse? VSITC Executive Briefing on Trade Oct. 2012.
[23] ibid
[24] rainforests:mongabay.com/amazon_destruction
[25] Ibid.
[26] Bernard Mancano Fernandes and Elizabeth Alice Clements “Land Grabbing, Agribusiness and the Peasantry in Brazil and Mozambique ” Agrarian South (April 2013).
[27] Rainforests op cit.
[28] Rainforests op cit.
[29] Rainforests op cit.
[30] ibid
[31] Jose Manual Rambla “La agonia de los pueblos indigenas, buera de la agenda reivindicativa de Brasil” rebellion.org/notice, 5/7/13.
[32] Rainforests ibid p. 8
[33] Brazil Mining, www.e-mj.com/index.php/reatures/850-Brazil-,mining .
[34] Wikipedia Vale, en.wilkipedia.org/wiki/vale_miningcompany .
[35] The Economist, June 2, 2013.
[36] Wikipedia, p. 9.
[37] Guardian, Jan. 27, 2012.
[38] ibid
[39] Financial Times, July 13, 2013, p. 9.
[40] Financial Times, July 1, 2013.
[41] ibid
[42] Rainforest op cit.
[43] ibid
[44] ibid
[45] Raul Zibechi, “El fin del consenso lulista” rebellion 7/7/13
[46] Ibid.
[47] Ibid. 

.

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.
-Reverend Martin Luther King, 1967 [1]

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One of the virtues of mass media is its ability, or at least its capacity, to connect people around the globe. From those who labour and toil in some Third World sweat shop, to those caught in a moment of athletic excellence, to those in the midst of unimaginable suffering to those endowed with the most opulent creature comforts.

The Global Village which Canadian academic Marshall McLuhan predicted decades ago effectively gives the privileged denizens of the so-called First World a window on the almost incomprehensible poverty and destitution of the Global South.

The instinct for any moral being is to want to reach out to help. We see this impulse in action every time there is an earthquake, flood, typhoon or other major disaster. Even outside of such dramatic events, images that haunt our conscience and soil our spirits can motivate a humanitarian response.

In a world where 1.1 billion people including children do not have access to a reliable supply of drinking water, where 2.5 billion live without improved sanitation, and where 870 million people don’t have enough to eat, it is understandable more privileged people residing in more prosperous communities would be consumed by the need to DO something. [2][3]

State governments traditionally divert some of their funding to international development projects. In addition, we have seen the rise of so-called Non–Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Funded by individual donations, these groups, some religiously based, some not, can intervene to provide assistance in a seemingly benign way.

Some have come to question the ultimate effectiveness of these approaches. Putting aside concerns about whether the bulk of the donations to these groups actually makes it down to the people on the ground, there is also the critique that NGOs do not typically confront the causes of poverty.

As Professor Michel Chossudovsky explains in his 2003 book, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, much of the poverty we see in the world was generated and exacerbated by the Bretton Woods Institutions:

Since the early 1980s, the “macro-economic stabilization” and structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF and the World Bank on developing countries (as a condition for the renegotiation of their external debt) have led to the impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people… Internal purchasing power has collapsed, famines have erupted, health clinics and schools have been closed down and hundreds of millions of children have been denied the right to primary education. In several regions of the developing world, the reforms have been conducive to a resurgence of infectious diseases including tuberculosis, malaria and cholera. While the World Bank’s mandate consists of “combating poverty” and protecting the environment, its support for large-scale hydroelectric and agro-industrial projects has also speeded up the process of deforestation and the destruction of the natural environment, leading to the forced displacement and eviction of several million people.”[4] (More info: “The Globalization of Poverty)

Roxanne Joyal, co-CEO of the social enterprise ME to WE, has a long history of front-lines involvement in international development. ME to WE works in partnership with the charity Free the Children. They boast of being ‘world transformers’ utilizing ethical and sustainable business practices, in concert with securing direct connections with people at the grass-roots level to make a difference “one action and one experience at time.” She passionately and articulately speaks to the kinds of changes that she believes are possible in spite of not directly addressing larger political and economic power dynamics.

Nik Barry-Shaw is co-author with Dru Oja Jay of the recently published book Paved with Good Intentions: Canada’s Development NGOs from Idealism to Imperialism. As the title of the book implies, he is more critical of the NGO assistance model and of the conscientious consumer approach undertaken by Me to We and Free The Children. He outlines how contemporary NGOs not only don’t address the roots of poverty and displacement, but help to advance a less benevolent political agenda. He sees real solutions in movements rooted in resistance struggles.

Yves Engler, a prominent critic of Canadian foreign policy, completes the discussion by how supposedly benign aid, is first and foremost a tool of the Canadian State’s foreign policy which in turn is more directed to advancing the interests of domestic mining and resource interests than it is to humanitarian instincts.

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References

1) Source: April 4, 1967, Beyond Vietnam; The Martin Luther King, Jr Research and Education Institute; http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_beyond_vietnam/
2) WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation; http://www.wssinfo.org/fileadmin/user_upload/resources/JMP-report-2012-en.pdf
3) World Food Programme Hunger Statistics; http://www.wfp.org/hunger
4) Chossudovsky, 2003, pg 17; The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order-Global Research

I have been deeply ashamed of my country many times. The Nixon Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong was one such time, when hospitals, schools and dikes were targeted. The invasion of Iraq was another. Washington’s silence over the fatal Israeli Commando raid on the Gaza Peace Flotilla–in which a 19-year-old unarmed American boy was murdered–was a third. But I have rarely been as ashamed and disgusted as I was Saturday reading that US Attorney General Eric Holder had sent a letter to the Russian minister of justice saying that the US would “not seek the death penalty” in its espionage case against National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, promising that even if the US later brought added charges against Snowden after obtaining him, they would not include any death penalty, and vowing that if Snowden were handed over by Russia to the US, he would “not be tortured.”

So it has come to this: That the United States has to promise (to Russia!) that it will not torture a prisoner in its control — a US citizen at that — and so therefore that person, Edward Snowden, has no basis for claiming that he should be “treated as a refugee or granted asylum.”

Why does Holder have to make these pathetic representations to his counterpart in Russia?

US Attorney General Eric Holder (l) and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

US Attorney General Eric Holder (l) and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden

Because Snowden has applied for asylum saying that he is at risk of torture or execution if returned to the US to face charges for leaking documents showing that the US government is massively violating the civil liberties and privacy of every American by monitoring every American’s electronic communications.

Snowden has made that claim in seeking asylum because he knows that another whistleblower, Pvt. Bradley Manning, was in fact tortured by the US for months, and held without trial in solitary confinement in a Marine military brig for nearly a year, part of the time naked, before being finally put on trial in a kangaroo court, where the judge (a mid-ranking officer surely thinking about the impact her verdict will have on her promotion prospects) is as much prosecutor as jurist, and where his guilt was declared in advance by the President of the United States — the same president who has also already publicly declared Snowden guilty too. (How, incidentally, can a military “court” render any real justice, when the Judge and Jury are officers who are beholden to superior officers, up to and including their commander in chief, and who have to consider how their decisions will affect their careers in the service?)

It is incredibly shameful that we US citizens have to admit that we live in a country that tortures its prisoners, that casually executes people who are mentally retarded, who are innocent, who had defense attorneys who slept through their clients’ trials, whose prosecutors slept with the judge, who were denied access to DNA evidence that could have proven their innocence, or who were convicted based upon the lies of prosecutors and prosecution witnesses.

This country’s “justice” system has become so perverted and politically tainted that the rest of the world, including Russia, knows that Snowden is telling the truth when he says he cannot hope to receive a fair trial here. Indeed, Congress has passed laws, and the President has signed laws, giving this government the power to lock someone like Snowden up indefinitely without trial, to torture him, and even to kill him, not through a jury decision on capital punishment, but simply on the basis of a secret “finding” by the President that he has aided or abetted terrorism.

No wonder Russia and several other countries, including Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, have offered or are considering offering Snowden asylum.

And no wonder that, in its obsession with getting its tyrannical hands on him, this government is willing to promise not to kill him or torture him (for what a promise from the US government is worth, especially since when Holder makes his promise of “no torture” we have to remember that Holder and the US don’t define such horrors as waterboarding, stress positions, keeping someone naked in an unheated cell, or employing prolonged sensory deprivation as “torture”).

Shame and anger are the only appropriate responses to that letter from Holder.

If this were a country that honored the rule of law, Attorney General Holder would not need to promise not to torture. He would need only to point to the US Constitution, with its ban on “cruel and unusual punishment.” He would not need to promise a fair trial to Snowden, with no capital punishment on any charges. He could point instead to the Constitution’s promise of a presumption of innocence and of a public trial by a jury of the accused’s peers, to make the case against the granting of asylum.

In such a country, someone like Snowden, with the help of a crack legal team, would have a fair shot at proving to a jury his innocence of the government’s frivolous espionage charges. He’d have a fair chance of convincing at least one juror of his absolute innocence of any crime, making his conviction impossible.

But that is not what this country is, especially today.

In today’s US courts, we know the “Justice” Department would seek to bar testimony about Snowden’s motives in leaking the documents he downloaded from the NSA’s computers. They would ask the judge to limit defense arguments and testimony in the case to the narrow issue of whether or not he downloaded and leaked files, not to whether those files exposed Constitutional violations and needed to be brought to the public’s attention. Our judges, nominated by presidents and confirmed by senators, Democrat and Republican, who want jurists who favor government secrecy and who generally side with the government against the people, can be counted on to grant the government’s motions.

In such circumstances, a defendant like Snowden, facing charges of espionage or theft of government secrets, has no ability to defend himself. The trial would be like in a Lewis Carroll event: “Verdict first, trial later!”

Hopefully President Vladimir Putin will not be pressured by the US into pretending that Snowden has nothing to fear in going back to face “justice” in the US.

It is bad enough that we Americans have to hang our heads in shame as our Attorney General pretends, against all evidence to the contrary, that there is still a fair legal system operating in the US, and that the US respects human rights and the rule of law.

We should not have to also endure yet another kangaroo court trial, this time of Edward Snowden.

Snowden should be granted asylum in Russia, or should be allowed to travel to one of the other countries of his choice that have had the courage to offer him asylum.

If we’re going to have trials on the issue of spying in the US, let them be of Holder himself, and of President Obama.

NOTE: Check out the interview by NBC’s Matt Lauer of Snowden’s father, retired Coast Guard officer Lonnie Snowden, and his attorney, former associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration.

NSA vote cc

It was a very interesting vote with a majority of Republicans joining the Obama Administration and many Dems in support of the continued funding of the NSA spying program which dragnets the data of American citizens without a warrant.

But a large minority of the GOP voted to limit funding. In fact, the Amash Amendment nearly passed with help from a good number on the other side of the aisle.

Whether your congressperson voted to continue funding or not is probably a good determiner of whether your “small government” congressperson is actually for small government. I am sad to say that only 1 member from my home state (more properly the Commonwealth) of Virginia voted for the amendment.

One aside. On the way into Washington DC this morning I was entertained by the ranting of one Republican in the House (on the radio) complaining that too many members of the GOP were acting like “libertarians” in voting to defund the NSA domestic spying program.

If only.

Click here for the list of votes and the geographical breakout. 

http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org/

Source: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org/2013/07/who-voted-to-limit-the-nsa-and-who-didnt-yesterday-in-the-house-did-you-rep-vote-for-big-brother/

Lac-Mégantic: A Social and Ecological Tragedy

July 29th, 2013 by Socialist Project

by The Ecosocialist Network

Québec has just experienced the most brutal ecological catastrophe of its history. On July 6, 2013, a train loaded with 72 cars carrying crude oil derailed during the night. It exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic, a small municipality (pop. 6000) in the Eastern Townships. A series of explosions and a fire completely destroyed more than 30 buildings including the municipal library, the town’s archives, heritage buildings, businesses and residences. Police have confirmed that 50 people were killed by the blast.

The accident also destroyed a central water line, forcing the people of Lac-Mégantic to boil their water. It is estimated that 10,000 litres of oil leaked into Mégantic lake and the Chaudière river, a river that crosses Beauce before it enters the St. Lawrence. This threatens several other municipalities that rely on these watersheds, including the towns of Saint-George and Lévis. In the face of this unprecedented disaster, it’s important to increase our solidarity with the people of Lac-Mégantic; we must refuse to be indifferent.

If we hope to stop this from happening again, we need to identify the causes and not merely dwell on the effects. This was not simply an isolated incident of a misapplied brake or a solitary conductor. The catastrophe at Lac-Mégantic is a symptom of a more systemic problem: the drive for profits from the increasing reliance on oil in Canada. Risks of oil spills and explosions have become widespread in Québec despite assurances from governments and industry spokespeople.

Refusing to politicize a tragedy of this kind is to refuse to find ways to ensure that such a tragedy won’t happen again. In his shocking account, Raymond Lafontaine, a father who had just lost his son, pointed the finger at lax management who neglect their responsibility to the people and who, meanwhile, are rolling in cash: “We have to stop these bombs. This has to change,” he repeated over and over.

The Causes of This Catastrophe

The investigation into what happened will no doubt identify the concrete and immediate causes of the accident. However, it may not take into account the more indirect causes of the situation; the role played by the economic and political context that contributed to the steady increase of risks. For example, the price difference between the cost of a barrel of Alberta oil versus the cost of a barrel of foreign oil that is refined in Eastern Canada, like Irving Oil, has encouraged companies to find ways to cut costs. This has increased the shipment of oil by Canadian National Railway (CNR), which saw rail traffic of oil tanks increase from 5000 cars to approximately 30,000 in 2012.[1]

The Irving refinery is situated at the end of the rail system that is partly controlled by the American company Montreal, Main & Atlantic Railway (MMA), who own the track on which the train derailed. The MMA is a subsidiary of the Illinois company Rail World, a multinational specializing in “railways, consulting, and investment companies specializing in privatization and restructuring. Their goal is to promote rail industry privatization by bringing together government agencies who wish to sell their holdings to investment capital and expertise.” The privatization of profits and the socialization of risks are not benign, judging from the enormous losses suffered by communities like Lac-Mégantic. What’s more, municipalities have no power over train shipments through their territory.[2]

Negligence is not borne of chance, but a deliberate decision taken in order to maximize profits. Capitalist logic, closely linked to private ownership of the means of production, the defence of the market economy and the constant pressure to increase productivity is directly involved here. The director of MMA, Ed Burkhardt, told the magazine Eastern Railroad News that, following a bitter labour dispute with Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), MMA relied on a six day schedule, in the two directions, from Montreal to Brownville Junction (Maine). The company decided to save $4.5-million and to emphasize ‘efficiency’ by replacing its work teams with devices controlled at distance.[3] The big boss of MMA, loyal partisan of trains run by a single employee, exerted pressure on the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration and Transport Canada in order to get a green light for this practice – first in 2009 and again in 2012.[4]

The principle of cutting costs in variable capital (salaries) and of increasing productivity through the introduction of new technologies shows that an underlying cause of this type of incident is the principle of the accumulation of profit, at the expense of even minimal moral, social and environmental considerations. We cannot count on the Canadian government to regulate the industry and ensure public safety. “Transport Canada experts have stated that for nine years, up to 80 per cent of railway oil tankers transporting oil were not operating in a safe manner. Rather than fixing this problem, the government allowed oil companies to considerably increase the transport of crude oil through our communities.”[5]

The Increasingly Authoritarian Tendencies
of the Canadian State

The fact that Canada has become a “petro-state” cannot be overlooked. An extractive regime oriented toward exploitation and the massive export of crude oil, tramples on the basic rules of democracy, public health, environmental protection and human rights. The massive Tar Sands project, one of the worst ecological catastrophes in the world today, relies on the active support of the Government of Canada. But this is not uniquely derived from the archaic ideology of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives; that ideology merely expresses in full force the neoliberal logic associated with globalization and market deregulation.

The State is not simply caught in an economic system that requires it to encourage the flow of capital to the detriment of social and environmental standards; it makes possible this generalized exploitation through institutions, public policies and deregulation. The neoliberal state obeys the principles of market competition by acting as facilitator (supports private investment), distributor (creating business opportunities) and competitor (reorganizing public services). The numerous omnibus bills confirms that the Canadian neoliberal state represents a “material condensation of power relations” willing to sacrifice liberal democracy to ensure the hegemony of a class of owners on communities dispossessed of any real economic and political power.

The Pipeline Trap

To pave the way for these neo-colonial petroleum projects, Canada is prepared to threaten the European Union (which wants to label bituminous oil as much more polluting than conventional oil) and U.S. President Barack Obama (who seems averse to the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, being ostensibly engaged in the fight against climate change). The principle arguments presented to tar sand adversaries are that pipelines do not increase the greenhouse gas emission rate, and the tar sands themselves are safe, they create jobs and opposition is fundamentally useless because oil will reach its destination in any case, whether by train or by truck. While the train derailment shows the danger of this mode of transport, it is no surprise that the Globe and Mail has co-opted the catastrophe for pipeline transport, “Quebec tragedy reminds us pipelines are the safest way to transport oil.”[6]

The controversy around the reversing of Enbridge’s line 9B must be understood in light of this situation. Pipelines do not represent a real alternative to oil transport by train. First of all, they pose significant risks to drinking water and agricultural land; pipeline 9B crosses the Ottawa River, upstream from Montreal, where a leak could compromize the water source of 2 million people. Secondly, the Enbridge record on the reliability of its installations is disastrous; the Polaris Institute shows that the company is responsible for 804 spills in North America between 1999 and 2010. An average of 73 accidents per year: shouldn’t that reassure communities? Thirdly, even though multibillion dollar companies like Ultramar claim that the transportation of oil by train is 40 times more risky than pipeline transport, the fact remains that the latter spills three times more oil than the former.[7]

Despite the reassuring rhetoric from the industry that underlines the minor and easily reversible nature of its spills, “the president of the Executive Committee, Josée Duplessis, notes that even if Enbridge has been using its pipeline between Montreal and Sarnia for 37 years, it has never shared its emergency plans with the municipal authorities.” That is why the City of Montreal has expressed serious reservations about the pipeline reversal in a letter submitted to the National Energy Board public consultation.[8] In the meantime, Enbridge continues to give bribes and kickbacks to North Shore Montreal municipalities, either in the form of gifts of $10,000 (Mirabel), the purchase of VTT ATVs (Saint-André d’Argenteuil), the financing of events such as corn roasts (Montreal-Est) or the Enbridge Fishing Festival (Boisé Belle-Rivière).

Quebec’s Oil Shift

Unfortunately, the three main parties on the Quebec national scene are solidly hooked on neoliberal oil logic. Even the Parti Québecois, fervent defender of ‘sovereignty association,’ is basing energy independence on the exploitation of fossil fuels in Quebec, in ‘partnership’ with Alberta oil.

“The Marois government has given itself ambitious objectives for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also for reducing the consumption of combustible fossil fuels. These objectives are consistent with the will to exploit Quebec oil and to import those drawn from the Albertan tar sands,” the Minister of Natural Resources, Martine Ouellet, explained to Le Devoir.[9] Apart from the contradictory character of this speech, ‘economic interest’ for the two Quebec refineries seems to take precedence over the reduction of greenhouse gases and potential revenues for Quebec seem more attractive than the protection of communities in Gaspésie, the Anticosti nature reserve and the maritime environment of the Gulf of St Lawrence. As Mr. Lafontaine said, our leaders “are rolling in cash.”

However, this obsession with state revenues is not a situational phenomenon, resulting from poor decisions of politicians. It is instead a structural fiscal crisis, caused by the obsession with a zero deficit that leads to major cuts in public spending (austerity). These measures do not permit the stimulation of growth, but rest upon household consumption causing revenues to stagnate and depend on credit and debt. These become the principle methods to soften the crisis. However, as debt has objective limits (capacity to pay) and subjective limits (tolerance for over-indebtedness), the “financial recovery” in Quebec and Canada is doomed to remain prisoner to an austerity and stagnation trap.[10] Despite ostensibly sound management of expenses (austerity), state revenues continue to fall (stagnation), which again necessitates new compressions and restructuring measures, ad nauseum.

The shift toward massive exploitation of natural resources (the North for all) and hydrocarbons represents a desperate and ecologically destructive response to a structural economic problem. The ecological crisis is accentuated by austerity policies that contribute to the exploitation of communities and ecosystems. The Quebec neoliberal state mechanically replicates the Canadian colonial model, and thus neglects the development of industry, the substitution of imports and economic diversification by preferring dams, pipelines, refineries and massive exports of raw materials. “If there exists cultural differences between Quebec and English Canada, the economic culture is the same. (…) It is illusionary to think that bankers, politicians and civil servants, fascinated by the siren song of natural resource exploitation, prefabricated industry of foreign companies and grandiose technological projects, will not be beckoned to its call.”[11]

The Metaphor of the Frozen River

However, would a strict evaluation of risks mask a more general reflection on alternatives to the current development model? In her book, Making Better Environmental Decisions (2000), Mary O’Brien takes the example of a woman who wants to cross a frozen mountain river. She is counselled by a team of four risk evaluators composed of a toxicologist, a cardiologist, a hydrologist and a specialist from the Ministry of the Environment.

The first remarks that the water is not toxic, merely cold. The second considers that the risks of a heart attack are low, because the woman is in good health. The third estimates that it is possible to swim across the river because it is not very deep and has no rapids. Finally, the fourth suggests she cross the river because the risks are minimal compared to global warming, destruction of the ozone layer and the loss of biodiversity.

But the woman responds by pointing to the horizon: there is a bridge.

Shockingly, the woman refuses to cross the river swimming. “Why” exclaim the specialists who have calculated that her chances of death are one in four million. As the woman still refuses, the specialists lose patience and accuse her of being stubborn. Obviously, this seems like an “irrational fear” of the risks, and a misunderstanding of the advantages, of this project. But the woman responds by pointing to the horizon: there is a bridge.

The Evaluation of Alternatives

While the experts were evaluating the risks of a single option, the woman was evaluating the alternatives. She decided that there was no point in getting cold by swimming across the river, considering the options available to her. A collective deliberation on energy strategies, limits of economic growth, social justice, community and ecological resilience, might fit into this perspective. A comprehensive assessment of alternatives to development must replace the narrow logic of risk, starting with several principles:

  1. It is not acceptable to threaten the physical integrity of human and non-human communities if there exist reasonable alternatives.
  2. Nobody can define for someone else what is an acceptable “damage.”
  3. We must consider and implement the least damaging alternatives for the current population, future generations and ecosystems.
  4. It is difficult to think of alternatives to the status quo because individuals, businesses and governments have interests to preserve.
  5. The essential prerequisite for political change is to recognize that there are alternatives.
  6. Real changes in harmful behaviour and habits of individuals and communities (dependence on oil, urban sprawl, overconsumption, etc.) cannot be reduced to ethics and individual responsibility; they must be accomplished through political action.

The Energy Transition

The Lac-Mégantic disaster raises an alternative: energy transition. This means a shift from an energy system based on non-renewable resources (oil, gas, nuclear) toward a development model using renewable energy: solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, etc. This transition would not be limited to the type of resources used, but would involve changing the energy structure. It would require the passage from a mode of production based on increasing demand for energy, to the establishment of a mode of production based on reducing energy use. A real transition therefore involves substantial behavioral, economic and political, socio-technical transformation.

To bring about a social change of this magnitude, it should be considered comprehensively and concretely, that is to say, within the dynamics of Quebec society. The implementation of the proposed energy transition project must be preceded by an analysis of the situation and the balance of forces that takes seriously the social, cultural, institutional, and economic policies that hinder such development. But the historical and geographical analysis of this situation would not be complete without identifying the primary struggles related to energy issues. This is why the contributions of social movements, citizen mobilization and coalitions against hydrocarbons (shale gas, oil sands, pipelines) can highlight both the challenges and the real possibilities for alternative energy.

If a study of the points of resistance and the collective actors in the energy transition illuminates the field of social conflicts and contradictions on which a new energy system will emerge, it remains silent on the exact nature of institutional reforms and the political project attached to such transformation. In addition, the realization of a radical democratic alternative involves a set of strategies for linking a party defending the interests of the social majority with unions, environmental groups and citizens’ movements, so that the energy transition becomes legitimate, effective and motivating.

The disaster at Lac-Mégantic cannot not be resolved by a strict inquiry, individual accusations, some superficial regulatory modification and false promises of security. This episode is not just a technical problem, but is a springboard for social mobilization, for political action aimed at both ecological transition and the liberation from the yoke of unscrupulous big business and their accomplices in the Canadian State. •

The Ecosocialist Network was founded in Quebec earlier this year [see Bullet No. 819 for founding document]. This article first appeared on their website in both English and French: reseauecosocialiste.wordpress.com.

Notes:

1. François Desjardins, “Croissance sans précédent du transport de pétrole par train,” Le Devoir, [En ligne], 8 juillet 2013.

 2. Bahador Zabihiyan, “Transport: les municipalités tenues dans le noir,” Le Devoir, [En ligne], 9 juillet 2013.

 3. Nick Sambides Jr., “MMA Railway using remote control,” Bangor Daily News, [En ligne], 29 janvier 2011.

 4. François Desjardins, “Le grand patron de MMA, farouche partisan des trains à un employé,” Le Devoir, [En ligne], 9 juillet 2013.

 5. Keith Stewart, “Is the oil industry using unsafe rail cars to transport crude?,” Greenpeace Canada, [En ligne], 21 mai 2013.

6. Diana Furchtgott-Roth, “Quebec tragedy reminds us pipelines are safest way to transport oil,” The Globe and Mail, [En ligne], 7 juillet 2013.

7. Eliot Carom, “Pipelines Spill Three Times as Much Oil as Trains, IEA Says,” Bloomberg, [En ligne], 14 mai 2013.

 8. Martin Croteau, “Enbridge: Montréal émet de sérieuses réserves sur l’inversion du pipeline,” La Presse, [En ligne], 5 juillet 2013.

9. Alexandre Shields, “Politique énergétique – Québec veut le pétrole sans les GES,” Le Devoir, [En ligne], 5 juillet 2013.

 10. Éric Pineault, Cette fois, est-ce différent? La reprise financiarisée au Canada et au Québec, Rapport de recherche, Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-économiques, juin 2013.

11. Jane Jacobs, La question du séparatisme. Le combat du Québec pour la souveraineté, VLB Éditeurs, 2012, pp.66-68.

 Iman Safi, who lives in Australia, draws from his experiences of being caught up in the midst of the civil war in Lebanon, coming from a country/region formerly identified as Syria, divided by the Sykes Picot agreement a century ago, engulfed at times in debilitating sectarianism, international interference and agendas played out by various internal and external forces as well as all the issues related to Israel.

He believes that, through his experiences, understanding current/past events in Syria is sadly very clear to him and that Syria’s story serves as an incredible lesson on many levels for the entire world. He felt moved to write this Op-Ed as he saw debate around refugees and asylum seekers in Australia ignoring very important issues, issues which hardly are touched upon, if at all, in the current narrative occupying Australian media and debate.

Felicity Arbuthnot, July 29, 2013


Refugees are Humans

by Iman Safi

The issue of refugees continues to plague the world with a reality that it prefers to ignore. But the world will either have to face it or opt to continue ignoring it at the risk of having to deal with graver consequences sooner or later.

 The number of registered refugees has risen significantly over the last few years, and the nations that are would-be recipients of refugees are confronted with policies they need to have in place, with growing concerns amongst their voters regarding numbers of refugees hitting their home turf.  Whilst many of the would-be refugee recipient countries are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, the out-dated criteria and definitions of that 1951 Convention do not deal with the current problems.

The Australian government has recently signed a deal with the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG). According to this arrangement, simply put, all refugees on boats journeying to Australia will never be allowed to settle in Australia.

With the current number of world refugees standing at 41 million, such a measure may deter refugees from seeking refuge in Australia. But what will happen when the world refugee figures is increased to 100 million, 500 million? Is this far-fetched? Not really.

It is easy for the Australian Greens and other humanitarians, as well as some NGO’s, to criticise governments or majot political parties. In fact, the position of the Australian Greens about the PNG deal had the hallmarks of political gain rather than proper criticism. A cynic can clearly see that the PNG deal gave the Greens a field day, but at the end of the day, they not only failed to address what makes refugees refugees - they offered no alternative policies.

 The Greens appear to want to be humanitarian and benevolent. If they had it their way, one should ask them, how many of the world’s 41 million refugees do they think Australia should take? If they open up the doors for the boats, and this seems to be their only vague policy, how will they deal with the consequences of the precedent they will be setting for the refugees – and their smugglers?

The current PNG option has not yet been tested, and it may or may not work. If it does, it may work for as long as the number of boats is manageable. But, PNG may not turn out to be a bad enough alternative to deter refugees anyway. This will all depend on what refugees are running away from and what they view as preferable alternatives.

Thus far, each of the receiving countries has been trying to single-handedly deal with the problem in a manner that serves their own short-term interests and appease their own voters. What they are totally ignoring are three main points:

1. Addressing the reasons that create refugees

2. Adopting a global approach to solving the problem

3. Having policies that will be able to deal with much higher numbers

At the present time, the fact that wealthy nations, most of whom are would be refugee recipients, are contributing greatly in creating global inequity. They are conducting needless wars, exploiting resources, imposing sanctions, using the underdeveloped world as a venue for slave labour and more, thus hugely contributing to creating the refugee “problem.”

 These conditions have created many refugees from countries such as Palestine, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq , Iran, Syria, to name very few.

This basic aspect is currently totally ignored by the culprits, who, instead of addressing it and accepting their responsibility and role, adopt very shy refugee intake policies. With this prevailing attitude, it would not be unrealistic to assume that for every refugee they take in, they turn away ten, and maybe create one hundred.

What is also often overlooked is that by far, the highest numbers of refugees settle in neighbouring countries that are not in a position to take refugees. Jordan, a country of limited resources and very little water to supply the needs of its 6.5 million citizens, had to accept one million Iraqi refugees and most of them are still unable to return home 10 years on.

Jordan, a decade later, was again inundated by another wave of refugees, another million, this time from Syria. This figure is not officially confirmed, but the figures available show it to be about accurate. This amounts to one third of the country’s own population. This is equivalent to Australia being inundated by 7 million refugees, or the USA inundated by 100 million refugees.

A global approach needs to be based on understanding the underlying facts behind the problem. Thus, nations that have been bigger contributors to the problem should bear the bigger responsibility in resolving it by way of accepting more refugees, that they have, in reality, created.

 The way the world is currently, makes it unlikely to expect that the above is foreseeable. But as problems generally get worse when not addressed at the right time and in the right manner, the refugee problem could escalate to an extent that in the absence of a realistic global moratorium, individual nations, may move further and further to the right and their constituencies become more radicalized.

In Australia, the Australian Labour Party (ALP) and the Liberals are already competing in their draconian approaches. The ALP changed course in light of over 20,000 refugees arriving annually “illegally” by boats. The Greens are not offering any real policies other than criticizing the major parties.

Being an island nation, Australia is in a fortunate position that under any situation, provided that its surveillance is up to scratch, it will be able to detect refugees, spotting them long before they arrive. Other would-be refugee recipient nations often have no such facilities.

Spotting them is one thing, dealing with them is another. In the absence of a proper global approach, what will nations like Australia do if or when the numbers rise ten folds or more?

If the rich world (aka the “Free World”) continues to exploit poorer nations, to ravage their homelands with needless wars, exploit their resources, pollute their land and water, build factories that are best described as slave labour camps, it cannot continue to wipe its hands of, and pretend to be a part of the solution when in fact it is the main cause, instigator and major contributor to the problem.

If this neo-colonialist “contribution” can be stopped, the world can then turn to face dealing with “real refugees”, environmental refugees, drought, earth-quake and other natural disasters refugees. Aid organizations can then be better able to focus on nation-building programs rather than refugee-camp building programs. Thus, the intake of refugee migrants can then be dealt with realistically and effectively.

Depending on how quickly the problem escalates, how high the refugee numbers grow and how many manage to dodge border security measures of the receiving nations, depending on how to the right world policies shift and what moves the sentiments of voters at the time, slogans such as “stop the boats” may be rewritten to say “bomb the boats”, and they may become the clincher to put a PM in Australia’s Lodge or even a President in USA’s White House.

If the world continues to sweep this tragedy underneath the carpet and continues to create more refugees, we may one day witness air-force planes and drones programmed to bomb boats of specific shapes sizes and colours.

We may see naval ships bombing refugee boats at sea without prior warning, and trade ships banned from picking up victims at the pain of getting bombed themselves.

Is this scenario too far-fetched? It is for now, but if countries like Australia start receiving 1000 boats a day (and the USA receive ten-fold), then desperate calls will attract desperate measures - this applying to both the refugees and the nations they are seeking refuge in.

The situation of refugees could become so dire, they will be prepared to take ever higher risks - risks that those who have not lived through the terror of war will never, ever understand.

 Protesters demand Maj. Gen. Buchanan free Bradley Manning

On Friday afternoon, demonstrators marched and blocked the gates of Ft. McNair, Washington D.C., at the office of Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Convening Authority for WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning’s trial.  They carried a large painted version of the van from the Collateral Murder video released by Bradley Manning, a 30 foot U.S. Constitution bearing a classified stamp, and both balloons and a 20-foot banner inscribed with the message, “Maj. Gen. Buchanan, Do the Right Thing.  Free Bradley Manning.”bradbuch

The event immediately followed closing arguments for the guilt vs. innocence phase of Manning’s legal proceedings, during which the defense argued that Manning is a whistleblower who rightly recognized the problem of unreasonable government secrecy.

Today, July 27, activists in dozens of cities across the world are rallying in solidarity with the Ft. McNair protesters, as part of an International Day of Action for Manning. View the list of events here. 

Campaign Organizer Emma Cape, with the Bradley Manning Support Network, explained the significance of the movement to support Manning: “It’s time we reclaim the word ‘patriot.’ The kind of patriot we need today is not someone who defends all of our country’s history and actions, it’s someone willing to stand up for our country’s future, taking risks to ensure it’s a just one. Bradley Manning is such a person.” Also speaking at the event were activists from Yemen and Iraq, veterans who served in Iraq and Vietnam, and a representative from the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation, which awarded Manning their 2013 Peace Prize.
buch6

Manning faces a potential life sentence for releasing hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks because he wanted to promote “debates, discussions and reforms” concerning U.S. foreign policy. He has pled guilty to mishandling classified information, which carries up to a 20-year sentence, but he faces life in prison on charges of Aiding the Enemy, Espionage, computer fraud, and federal theft.buch5

Maj. Gen. Buchanan is the new commander for the Military District of Washington, so he’s the Convening Authority in Manning’s court martial. He will review the case as soon as the trial concludes, and he has the power to reduce any potential sentence Manning receives. Supporters of Manning hope Maj. Gen. Buchanan will take into consideration the numerous deprivations of the young private’s due process rights, including the fact that Manning was held in torturous solitary confinement for nearly a year and detained for three years before his trial began.

Military judge Col. Denise Lind is expected to deliver a final verdict in the coming days, after which the sentencing phase of the trial will begin, with new witnesses, evidence, and arguments.

The Unending Korean War

July 29th, 2013 by Suzy Kim

Today, as we, the Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea, stand with the people of Korea, we are reminded of the profound human toll of the unending Korean War. On the 60th anniversary of the armistice, the “peaceful solution” called for in Article 60, Section 4 of the July 27, 1953 Armistice Agreement has yet to be realized.  Even as the wounds from the war remain unhealed, the unending war on the Korean peninsula continues to reproduce and augment conflicts in the Asia Pacific, with Korea as the clash point between continental and oceanic powers.

It is clear to us that the Armistice system does not guarantee peace and stability.  Indeed, we are especially concerned that the bilateral and multilateral channels necessary for diplomatic dialogue, which we see as essential to ending the Korean War and establishing a peace regime on the peninsula, have been prematurely closed. It is also clear to us that the United States bears primary responsibility for this outcome.  It has seriously undermined the global nonproliferation regime by flexing its nuclear might and buttressing its missile defense, all the while conducting massive joint war games with and selling advanced weapons systems to its allies in the Asia Pacific region, with North Korea as the ostensible primary target.

In response, North Korea continues to develop its own nuclear weapons program.  The resulting cycle of war preparations, belligerent politics, and intermittent clashes, has exacted a heavy toll on life and resources and has grievously compromised human security.  This is true for North Koreans who have borne the brunt of U.S. and UN sanctions as well as for South Koreans who know all too well the costs of the national security state.  It is also true for Americans, who pay a steep price for the U.S. permanent war footing in Korea and elsewhere around the globe.

As scholars and researchers largely based in North America, we, the Alliance of Scholars Concerned about Korea, call for an end to the ongoing military hostilities, belligerent politics and escalating arms race on the Korean peninsula, and for a new U.S. policy towards Korea.  The Korean peninsula should no longer be a target of nuclear threats and military exercises, but a genuine site of peace.

We join with others in Korea and throughout the Asia Pacific region to make the year 2013, the 60th year of the Armistice, a breakthrough year by creating the conditions for the signing of a peace agreement that will at long last bring the Korean War to an end.

“The objective is the total reconquest of Mali” -French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, (20 January, 2013)

Presidential elections are due to take place in Mali on Sunday, July 28th. The latest polls indicate a victory for Ibrahim Boubecar Keïta, with Soumaila Cissé coming in second place. There are 27 candidates running in the election. The holding of the election just months after the French military intervention in January 2013 has been widely criticized due to the chaotic state of the country.

 UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon admitted that the elections would not be ‘perfect’ but indicated that they would have to be accepted by the Malian people.

There have already been reports of widespread fraud and irregularities, with thousands of NINA (Numero d’identité nationale) voter cards not being delivered to voters. There have also been reports of dollars being handed out to bribe voters.

 There is a very low distribution of NINA cards in the refugee camps both inside and outside Mali. Only 300 voter cards have been distributed among 730,000 refugees in camps in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Algeria and Niger while Burkina Faso’s 50,000 Malian refugees have only received 30 NINA cards.

The electoral lists are the same as 2009, thereby excluding 300,000 eligible voters who have come of age since then. The NINA cards were only distributed in April in spite of the fact that it would take at least 6 to 12 months for their adequate distribution in a war torn country of Mali’s size.

The regions of the North of the country, formally occupied by jihadists and separatist forces will hardly vote at all. The MNLA, Azawad National Liberation Movement, who waged a war against the central government in Bamako since 2012, want to declare independence from the Malian state. The region of Kidal in the North is still occupied by the rebel forces, with French troops also stationed there.

The hastily organized elections will not help the cause of national reconciliation due to the fact that so many people have been excluded from voting.

The Malian war and its consequences

In March 21, 2012, generals of Mali’s military (green berets) overthrew the country’s president Amadou Toumani Toure, inaugurating the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State. The coup was led by Captain Amadou Aya Sanogo and was supported the next day by a mass, popular movement called the March 22nd Movement led by left-wing deputy Dr. Oumar Mariko.

The generals were unhappy with the half-hearted efforts of their government to crack down on the terrorists invading the country from the north. Soldiers had been badly equipped, with many going hungry. Amadou Toumani Toure had ruled Mali as a French puppet since 2002 and previously been accused of drug dealing with war lords.

Toure had served Western corporations well, while the Malian people languished in dire poverty. Many of the supporters of the coup had demonstrated in support of Muammar Kaddafi during the Libyan war of 2011 and wanted to see a strong state defeat what they considered to be a French conspiracy to destabilize and subsequently re-colonize the mineral rich country, by using jihadist terrorism as a pretext for intervention.

The reaction of the ‘international community’ to the military coup was swift. The coup was condemned and sanctions were imposed on Mali, with ECOWAS, the Community of West African States threatening to invade and occupy the country to restore ‘democracy’.

These measures impeded the efforts of the Malian military to regain control of the Northern territories. The sanctions also helped precipitate a humanitarian crisis as Malian goods could not be transported from ports in the Ivory Coast and Guinea.

All of this weakened the country’s defenses enabling the terrorists to capture village after village. In spite of the fact that the ‘international community’ was fully aware of the advances of the terrorists, it was more concerned with the ‘rule of law’ and ‘democracy’ than in helping the Malian military defeat the barbarians. The generals finally ceded to the international pressure and agreed to nominate Dioncounda Traore,( a NATO asset) as interim president.

 Meanwhile, the MNLA was joined by extremist Wahhabi terrorists groups funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, France’s allies. The terrorist groups, ACMI, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb and Mujao (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa), overran  some of the country’s most important cities such as Timbuktu, where they destroyed thousands of ancient scientific manuscripts and holy shrines, as well as occupying the cities of Tessalit, Gao and Kidal.

In January 11th 2013 after the occupation of the town of Konna by islamists, France launched Operation Serval, a military invasion of Mali aimed at ‘liberating’ the country from the terrorists.  The pretext for the intervention was a letter sent by French puppet president Dioncounda Traore to the UN.

By March most of the terrorist groups had been driven out of Northern cities, which were now under the control of French and Chadian military. Most of the fighting was done by Chadian soldiers with the French playing a supporting role.

An article published by Le Nouvel Observateur in June 2013 revealed that the MNLA had been working closely with the DGSE(Direction générale de la Sécurité extérieure) the French secret service since 2003, confirming the suspicions of Malian patriots that the French had deliberately used the terrorists to destablise the country.[1]

On April 18th the Oauagadougou Accords were signed in the Burkina Faso capital between the interim government and the MNLA rebels. As the MNLA rebels are puppets of France and do not have any legitimacy, while the interim government is unelected, the accords are a violation of the Mali’s 1992 constitution.

The Oauagadougou Accords effectively hand over sovereignty of Kidal and the Northern regions to the MNLA rebels. Under international law, states are not required to recognize sovereignty over national territories by armed gangs. This is precisely what the Qauagdougou Accords require.

Mali is going to be partitioned. This has been the French plan since the 1990s; the country will be divided and conquered, with an unstable independent republic of Azawad in the north and a truncated, impoverished Mali in the South, with French military bases ‘keeping the peace’. To compound the country’s problems, there are three potential ‘azawads’: the  Moor Azawad of the North west, the Toureg Azawad of the North East and a mixture of Songhay, Peul and Toureg on the banks of the Niger river. It is therefore possible that the armed gangs will continue to fight among themselves if independence is achieved under the UN occupation.

 Oumar Mariko- The people’s candidate.

If there is any ‘terrorist’ feared by the French occupation forces in Mali, Oumar Mariko is certainly one of them. Dr. Mariko is the secretary general of Parti Sadi, Solidarité africaine pour la démocratie et l’indépendance, African Solidarity for Democracy and Independence.

Mariko comes from a generation of African intellectuals inspired by Thomas Sankara, the Marxist revolutionary of Burkina Faso, and the African socialism of Mali’s first president Modibo Keïta.  Mariko was one of the organizers of the March 22 movement, a popular mass movement which initially supported the military coup, hoping to use the seizure of power to mobilize the masses in favour of genuine democracy.

Mariko was prevented from travelling to France last year for a conference to discuss  French imperialism in Mali. One of the reasons for the celerity with which elections have been organized in Mali is to prevent the masses from voting for Parti Sadi’s candidate.

Mariko is the only presidential candidate, who has genuine mass support and has not relied on corporate funding for his election campaign.  Mariko is an admirer of Hugo Chavez and wants to reestablish the role of the social state through nationalizing national resources, re-establishing national sovereignty and instituting popular democracy.

Mariko is the man the French government wants out of the picture. However, given the fact that so many have been excluded from the election and there has been so little time to organize mass meetings, and the allegations of fraud, Mariko is unlikely to win.

Legitimizing neo-colonialism

The French ruling class wants to create an image of legitimacy for its invasion and “total re-conquest” of Mali. The Malian elections are a total sham. They have been imposed on a people traumatized by a war planned and foisted upon them by imperialism.

The partition of the country corresponds to the plan elaborated by French politician Alain Peyrefitte during the De Gaulle era, which involves creating the conditions for French control over the Sahara/Sahel region.

The French are attempting to resurrect the 1957 L’Organisation commune des régions sahariennes (OCRS) in co-operation with the 2004 US Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative, a plan to control the Sahara which could see the eventual destabilization of Niger, Algeria, Tchad, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Senegal and Ghana.

This is part of the US initiative Africom, which aims to militarize all of Africa in accordance with US/NATO strategic interests, thereby weakening Chinese influence in the continent and ensuring access to cheap resources for Western multi-national corporations.

The purpose of the electoral charade is to legitimize the break up of the country and the occupation by French and UN forces, thus preventing the Malian people from ever having a claim over their own lands and resources.  As a consequence, the country will be partitioned and Mali will become the new Somalia.

[1] http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/monde/20130607.OBS2446/mali-les-secrets-d-une-guerre-eclair.html

Running true to form this morning on Meet the Press, former Democratic Congressman from Tennessee and former Chairman of the now defunct Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) Harold Ford advocated building the Keystone XL Pipeline as a job creation mechanism in the states it will cross.

David Axelrod strongly disagreed with Ford over the Keystone XL Pipeline as a job creator.

Sadly, after his retirement from Congress Ford has drifted farther and farther to the right to the point that he has distanced himself from the Democratic base and the issues they support.

Environmentalists oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline for many sound reasons including the endangerment of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest aquifers that covers circa 174,000 square miles.

Either Harold Ford is not familiar with environmental objections to the Keystone XL Pipeline (which seems likely)  —  or he is simply insensitive to environmental concerns.

From any perspective, Ford has moved far away from mainstream Democratic positions on major issues.

Why Ford is still a Democratic spokesman on major media remains a mystery.

 

 Jul 27, 2013 – Occupied Jerusalem, (SANA-H. Sabbagh) – Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Sebastia, Archbishop Atallah Hanna, affirmed that those who bear arms against the Syrian people and the Syrian Army – regardless of their names and affiliations – are mere pawns that serve Israel and its project to divide and control the Arab region.

In an interview broadcast on al-Mayadeen TV on Friday, Archbishop Hanna said that the people who abduct, murder and slaughter in Syria are the enemies of the Arab nation, just like Israel with which they share goals and criminal nature.

Archbishop Atallah Hanna

He stressed that the violence and murder against the people and state in Syria has nothing to do with any just demands; rather it merely seeks to destroy the Syrian state.

Archbishop Hanna warned any attack on Syria is an attack on the Arab nation, and that the true national opposition is the one that commits to its country’s principles and flies its flag, not the flag of the French mandate, and that doesn’t receive orders from abroad.

He warned that some western countries’ granting of visas to displaced Syrian Christians in Lebanon under humanitarian pretexts is part of an Israeli plan to drive Christians out of the Arab region, calling on Arab Christians – whether in Syria or in other Arab countries – to remain in their countries and defend them alongside their Muslim brethren.


As the secret state continues trawling the electronic communications of hundreds of millions of Americans, lusting after what securocrats euphemistically call “actionable intelligence,” a notional tipping point that transforms a “good” citizen into a “criminal” suspect, the role played by telecommunications and technology firms cannot be emphasized enough.

Ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began leaking secrets to media outlets about government surveillance programs, one fact stands out: The zero probability these privacy-killing projects would be practical without close (and very profitable) “arrangements” made with phone companies, internet service providers and other technology giants.

Indeed, a top secret NSA Inspector General’s report published by The Guardian, revealed that the agency “maintains relationships with over 100 US companies,” adding that the US has the “home field advantage as the primary hub for worldwide telecommunications.”

Similarly, the British fiber optic cable tapping program, TEMPORA, referred to telcos and ISPs involved in the spying as “intercept partners.” The names of the firms were considered so sensitive that GCHQ “went to great lengths” to keep their identities hidden, fearing exposure “would cause ‘high-level political fallout’.”

With new privacy threats looming on the horizon, including what CNET described as ongoing efforts by the FBI and NSA “to obtain the master encryption keys that Internet companies use to shield millions of users’ private Web communications from eavesdropping,” along with new government demands that ISPs and cell phone carriers “divulge users’ stored passwords,” can we trust these firms?

And with Microsoft and other tech giants, collaborating closely with “US intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption,” can we afford to?

Hiding in Plain Sight

Ever since retired union technician Mark Klein blew the lid off AT&T’s secret surveillance pact with the US government in 2006, we know user privacy is not part of that firm’s business model.

The technical source for the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T and the author of Wiring Up the Big Brother Machine, Klein was the first to publicly expose how NSA was “vacuuming up everything flowing in the Internet stream: e-mail, web browsing, Voice-Over-Internet phone calls, pictures, streaming video, you name it.”

We also know from reporting by USA Today, that the agency “has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans” and had amassed “the largest database ever assembled in the world.”

Three of those data-slurping programs, UPSTREAM, PRISM and X-KEYSCORE, shunt domestic and global communications collected from fiber optic cables, the servers of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, along with telephone data (including metadata, call content and location) grabbed from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon into NSA-controlled databases.

But however large, a database is only useful to an organization, whether its a corporation or a spy agency, if the oceans of data collected can be searched and extracted in meaningful ways.

To the growing list of spooky acronyms and code-named black programs revealed by Edward Snowden, what other projects, including those in the public domain, are hiding in plain sight?

Add Google’s BigTable and Yahoo’s Hadoop to that list. Both are massive storage and retrieval systems designed to crunch ultra-large data sets and were developed as a practical means to overcome “big data” conundrums.

According to the Mountain View behemoth, “BigTable is a distributed storage system for managing structured data that is designed to scale to a very large size: petabytes of data across thousands of commodity servers.” Along with web indexing, Google Earth and Google Finance, BigTable performs “bulk processing” for “real-time data serving.”

Down the road in Sunnyvale, Yahoo developed Hadoop as “an open source Java framework for processing and querying vast amounts of data on large clusters of commodity hardware.” According to Yahoo, Hadoop has become “the industry de facto framework for big data processing.” Like Google’s offering, Hadoop enable applications to work with thousands of computers and petabytes of data simultaneously.

Prominent corporate clients using these applications include Amazon, AOL, eBay, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Twitter, among many others.

‘Big Data’ Dynamo

Who might also have a compelling interest in cataloging and searching through very large data sets, away from prying eyes, and at granular levels to boot? It should be clear following Snowden’s disclosures, what’s good for commerce is also a highly-prized commodity among global eavesdroppers.

Despite benefits for medical and scientific researchers sifting through mountains of data, as Ars Technica pointed out BigTable and Hadoop “lacked compartmentalized security” vital to spy shops, so “in 2008, NSA set out to create a better version of BigTable, called Accumulo.”

Developed by agency specialists, it was eventually handed off to the “non-profit” Apache Software Foundation. Touted as an open software platform, Accumulo is described in Apache literature as “a robust, scalable, high performance data storage and retrieval system.”

“The platform allows for compartmentalization of segments of big data storage through an approach called cell-level security. The security level of each cell within an Accumulo table can be set independently, hiding it from users who don’t have a need to know: whole sections of data tables can be hidden from view in such a way that users (and applications) without clearance would never know they weren’t there,” Ars Technica explained.

The tech site Gigaom noted, Accumulo is the “technological linchpin to everything the NSA is doing from a data-analysis perspective,” enabling agency analysts to “generate near real-time reports from specific patterns in data,” Ars averred.

“For instance, the system could look for specific words or addressees in e-mail messages that come from a range of IP addresses; or, it could look for phone numbers that are two degrees of separation from a target’s phone number. Then it can spit those chosen e-mails or phone numbers into another database, where NSA workers could peruse it at their leisure.”

(Since that Ars piece appeared, we have since learned that NSA is now conducting what is described as “three-hop analysis,” that is, three degrees of separation from a target’s email or phone number. This data dragnet “could allow the government to mine the records of 2.5 million Americans when investigating one suspected terrorist,” the Associated Press observed).

“In other words,” Ars explained, “Accumulo allows the NSA to do what Google does with your e-mails and Web searches–only with everything that flows across the Internet, or with every phone call you make.”

Armed with a “dual-use” program like Accumulo, the dirty business of assembling a user’s political profile, or shuttling the names of “suspect” Americans into a national security index, is as now easy as downloading a song from iTunes!

And it isn’t only Silicon Valley giants cashing-in on the “public-private” spy game.

Just as the CIA-funded Palantir, a firm currently valued at $8 billion and exposed two years ago as a “partner” in a Bank of America-brokered scheme to bring down WikiLeaks, profited from CIA interest in its social mapping Graph application, so too, the NSA spin-off Sqrrl, launched in 2012 with agency blessings, stands to make a killing off software its corporate officers helped develop for NSA.

Co-founded by nine-year agency veteran Adam Fuchs, Sqrrl sells commercial versions of Accumulo and has partnered-up with Amazon, Dell, MapR and Northrop Grumman. According to published reports, like other start-ups with an intelligence angle, Sqrrl is hoping to hook-up with CIA’s venture capital arm In-Q-Tel.

Its obvious why the application is of acute interest to American spy shops. Fuchs told Gigaom that Accumulo operates “at thousands-of-nodes scale” within NSA data centers.

“There are multiple instances each storing tens of petabytes (1 petabyte equals 1,000 terabytes or 1 million gigabytes) of data and it’s the backend of the agency’s most widely used analytical capabilities.”

Accumulo’s analytical functions work because of its ability to perform lightning-quick searches called “graph analysis,” a method for uncovering unique relationships between people hidden within vast oceans of data.

According to Forbes, “we know that the NSA has successfully tested Accumulo’s graph analysis capabilities on some huge data sets–in one case on a 1200 node Accumulo cluster with over a petabyte of data and 70 trillion edges.”

Considering, as Wired reported, that “on an average day, Google accounts for about 25 percent of all consumer internet traffic running through North American ISPs,” and the Mountain View firm allowed the FBI and NSA to tap directly into their central servers as The Washington Post disclosed, the negative impact on civil rights and political liberties when systems designed for the Pentagon are monetized, should be evident.

Once fully commercialized, how much more intrusive will employers, marketing firms, insurance companies or local and state police with mountains of data only a mouse click away, become?

Global Panopticon

The sheer scope of NSA programs such as UPSTREAM, PRISM or X-KEYSCORE, exposed by the Brazilian daily, O Globo should give pause.

A crude illustration (at the top of this post), shows that all data collected in X-KEYSCORE “sessions” are processed in petabyte scale batches captured from “web-based searches” that can be “retrospectively” queried to locate and profile a “target.”

This requires enormous processing power; a problem the agency may have solved with Accumulo or similar applications.

Once collected, data is separated into digestible fragments (phone numbers, email addresses and log ins), then reassembled at lightning speeds for searchable queries in graphic form. Information gathered in the hopper includes not only metadata tables, but the “full log,” including what spooks call Digital Network Intelligence, i.e., user content.

And while it may not yet be practical for NSA to collect and store each single packet flowing through the pipes, the agency is already collecting and storing vast reams of data intercepted from our phone records, IP addresses, emails, web searches and visits, and is doing so in much the same way that Amazon, eBay, Google and Yahoo does.

As the volume of global communications increase each year at near exponential levels, data storage and processing pose distinct problems.

Indeed, Cisco Systems forecast in their 2012 Visual Networking Index that global IP traffic will grow three-fold over the next five years and will carry up to 4 exabytes of data per day, for an annual rate of 1.4 zettabytes by 2017.

This does much to explain why NSA is building a $2 billion Utah Data Center with 22 acres of digital storage space that can hold up to 5 zettabytes of data and expanding already existing centers at Fort Gordon, Lackland Air Force Base, NSA Hawaii and at the agency’s Fort Meade headquarters.

Additionally, NSA is feverishly working to bring supercomputers online “that can execute a quadrillion operations a second” at the Multiprogram Research facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where enriched uranium for nuclear weapons is manufactured, as James Bamford disclosed last year in Wired.

As the secret state sinks tens of billions of dollars into various big data digital programs, and carries out research on next-gen cyberweapons more destructive than Flame or Stuxnet, as those supercomputers come online the cost of cracking encrypted passwords and communications will continue to fall.

Stanford University computer scientist David Mazières told CNET that mastering encrypted communications would “include an order to extract them from the server or network when the user logs in–which has been done before–or installing a keylogger at the client.”

This is precisely what Microsoft has already done with its SkyDrive cloud storage service “which now has 250 million users worldwide” and exabytes of data ready to be pilfered, as The Guardian disclosed.

One document “stated that NSA already had pre-encryption access to Outlook email. ‘For Prism collection against Hotmail, Live, and Outlook.com emails will be unaffected because Prism collects this data prior to encryption’.”

Call the “wrong” person or click a dodgy link and you might just be the lucky winner of a one-way trip to indefinite military detention under NDAA, or worse.

What should also be clear since revelations about NSA surveillance programs began spilling out last month, is not a single ruling class sector in the United States–including corporations, the media, nor any branch of the US government–has the least interest in defending democratic rights or rolling-back America’s emerging police state.

There are times when the Obama Administration’s deep attachment to U.S. militarism and excessive praise of the armed forces causes the White House to seem either out of touch with reality or intentionally dishonest in its praise of America’s past wars.

Commander in Chief Barack Obama’s latest exaggeration of American military prowess took place in Washington July 27 at an outdoor commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the armistice that temporarily halted hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Here, today,” he told a cheering crowd of elderly U.S. and South Korean veterans, “we can say with confidence that this war was no tie. Korea was a victory!”

The Korean War, of course, was at best a stalemate for the U.S. It was decidedly not a victory, at least until President Obama, using the rhetorical skills of alchemy, in effect transmuted the lead of stalemate into the gold of victory.

Given the Pentagon’s incredible destructive power, it has not been a big winner since the end of WWII. Korea was a stalemate. Vietnam (1961-1973) was a humiliating defeat.

The 12-year (and counting) U.S. war in Afghanistan against a relatively weak foe with scant weapons is clearly a stalemate. The seven-year Iraq war that began in 2003 against a small, sanctions-wrecked country without heavy armaments was another stalemate. None of these wars, which cost the taxpayers many trillions, was declared by Congress, as the  U.S. Constitution stipulates.

A total of 36,574 U.S. soldiers were killed and 103,284 were wounded during the Korean War. Several million Koreans, from north and south, died, including large numbers of civilians. U.S. planes carpet bombed major swaths of North Korea. They destroyed Pyongyang, the capital, where only one building of two stories was left standing. China lost an estimated 180,000 soldiers defending North Korea in what  Beijing termed the War to Resist Aggression and Aid Korea.

The reason that an armistice is observed instead of a peace treaty is that neither the U.S. nor South Korea will sign a treaty with the Democratic Peoples Republic of [North] Korea. This means a state of war still exists but hostilities have temporarily stopped until war resumes.

North Korea has been insisting on a peace treaty ever since the armistice was signed in 1953. The absence of a peace treaty, the stationing of at least 28,000 U.S. troops in the south for six decades, and Washington’s refusal to directly negotiate with Pyongyang is a main reason for the continuing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

If President Obama can so easily transform stalemate into victory, what harm will come from converting an armistice into a peace treaty?

The author is editor of the Activist Newsletter and is former editor of the (U.S.) Guardian Newsweekly. He may be reached at [email protected] or http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/

 

Trees sparked the recent widespread civil uprising in Turkey – the biggest such public protest in the history of the Turkish Republic since its formation in 1923. It started on May 27 after a small group of peaceful demonstrators gathered in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in an effort to save its 600 trees from being cut down to provide space for the construction of a new shopping mall. Gezi Park is the last green area in Istanbul. 

     Four ays later, on May 31, police launched brutal attacks on the group, precipitating nationwide protests against the government of Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan. The protests quickly spread to 78 of the country’s 81 cities and included hundreds of thousands of people. The protesters demanded Erdogan’s resignation.

     By late June, at the time of this writing, barbarous police repression had killed at least five protestors and injured nearly 8,000 with water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets fired indiscriminately into the crowds. Thirteen people had been blinded, hundreds had their skin burned by the toxic chemicals laced in the water sprayed from the cannons. The police ordered doctors not to treat the injured, and some physicians who defied the police and did so were later reported to be “missing.” Many hundreds of people had been arrested and jailed, and Taksim Square in Istanbul had become the main centre of demonstrations.    

     Professor Feyzi Baban, who teaches international development at Trent University in Peterborough, was visiting Istanbul at the time of the uprising. He had previously lived in the Taksim Square neighbourhood for 47 years. “I was there on the evening of Saturday, June 15,” he said, “and I have never witnessed the kind of police brutality that I did on that night and later on Sunday. It was almost like a scene from a civil war. The amount of tear gas used and the fact that it was fired directly at protesters made Turkey look like a police state.  Half of Istanbul was covered in tear gas and the city was locked up because there was a de-facto curfew. The moment you tried to get out on the street, the police would indiscriminately fire tear gas at you.”    

     The Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK), one of Turkey’s four main labour organizations, has supported the demonstrations, as has the Confederation of Public Workers Unions (KESK), which has also staged protest strikes.

     The reasons for the stunningly fast development of such a massive national protest movement stem from Erdogan’s neoliberal economic policies, which have massively increased inequality in Turkey. His authoritarian methods, creeping Islamization, and support for the overthrow of the Assad regime in neighbouring Syria — a policy deeply opposed by up to 80% of Turks – have intensified his government’s unpopularity. Erdogan is leader of the right-wing Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is Islamic fundamentalist and acts as a proxy for U.S. and European imperialism in the Middle East. 

     Turkey is a member of NATO, and the Erdogan government is considered “a moderate Islamist” one by the U.S. and promoted by Washington as a model for the Middle East. Strategically located at the intersection of Europe and the Middle East, Turkey has long been a crucial U.S. client state. 

     According to the World Socialist Website (WSWS), “Turkey is emerging as the keystone of a U.S.-backed regional alliance of Sunni Islamist regimes [Saudi Arabia and Qatar] fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — a war ultimately directed at U.S.-led regime change in Iran, and securing U.S. imperialist hegemony throughout the Middle East… Washington’s escalating campaign of military aggression to secure U.S. hegemony over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia… threatens to drag the people of Turkey, the entire region and beyond into a bloody conflagration.” 

 Erdogan has been supplying U.S. and NATO arms to the rebels in Syria trying to overthrow the Assad government. To please his U.S. and European masters, especially Germany and France, that are actively working to overthrow Assad, Erdogan has made Turkey into the main arms supply transit route for the Syrian rebels, thus becoming critical to their survival.

     The WSWS adds that “The CIA operates a major command and control center on Turkish soil, from which it co-ordinates the flow of weapons, supplies, and billions of dollars in cash across the Turkish-Syrian border as part of the rapidly escalating U.S.-led war against the Assad regime.” Ironically, as WSWS points out, “Having used Turkey as a forward base in its campaign to destabilize Syria and Iran, Washington has succeeded in destabilizing Turkey itself.”

     A second irony is that Erdogan has demanded that Assad resign because his army fired on armed opponents. “A leader who kills his own people has lost his legitimacy,” Erdogan stated.  Clearly, according to his own reasoning, Erdogan has now lost his own legitimacy by ordering police to fire on his own unarmed opponents, and should resign.

     The AKP has been elected three times and has been ruling Turkey for ten years. It won the last election with 49.9% of the vote, but most Turks still did not vote for the AKP. The party represents the Turkish Muslim capitalist elite, for which it has intensified the neoliberal economic policies that have been implemented since 1980. In this year the Turkish military took over the state in a U.S.-supported coup precisely to carry out the neoliberal economic agenda. 

          As with the Washington-backed coups in Argentina (1976) and Chile (1973), the main purpose of the coup was to turn Turkey into a low-wage haven for multinational corporations and for a comprador domestic élite serving them. As Turkish journalist Burhan Ekinci explained: “The strategic aim was to unite Turkey with the kind of global economy that big business supports.”  The military jailed 650,000 people and tortured hundreds of thousands. Thousands of people are still “missing.” The generals enforced massive privatization that up to now has seen the sale of 200 state enterprises, with Erdogan expanding this program. 

     Privatization has been accompanied by financial liberalization, the promotion of foreign investment, and the suppression of unions and wages. Turkey’s most valuable national assets have been sold to foreign companies that have been provided with cheap labour, making the economy dependent on unstable “speculative financial capital inflows.” The country has become increasingly de-industrialized with mounting imports fuelling a spiralling trade deficit.   

      This neoliberal economic model has fostered crony capitalism, high levels of corruption, an unprecedented rise in inequality, and enormous poverty. Such an exploitative economic system also requires a ruthless repression of dissent to sustain it. Turkey now has the second highest level of income inequality of the 34 member countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The richest 10% of Turks have 15 times the income of the bottom 10%. One-third of Turks – a shocking 23.6 million of them – are now mired in poverty. 

     Since the financial crisis of 2008 and a severe domestic recession in 2009, the Turkish business élite has drastically reduced wages and laid off thousands of workers. Unemployment has soared to 16% (22% for youth), and basic union rights have been repressed. One hundred union activists have been jailed under anti-terrorism laws. Given Turkey’s capital-friendly official policies, Western investment has poured in. As the WSWS puts it, “Like their counterparts in Greece and the rest of Europe, Turkish workers have confronted a brutal offensive by the international banks and corporations, which see the country as a cheap-labour platform and a source of super-profits.”

      This is why the planned felling of trees in Gezi Park provided the spark for the mass uprising. The AKP wanted to turn the park into a shopping centre to attract foreign investment and tourism, part of a “gentrification” plan for all of Istanbul. This was the latest and most blatant example of the  privatization policies that have impoverished so many Turks –  and they had finally had enough.

Free speech and a free press have also been repressed by the Erdogan government, with more journalists being jailed in Turkey than in any other country. The Turkish media are so terrified of the regime that they did not dare to report on the demonstrations that were front-page news outside Turkey. Press and civil rights violations have been commonplace under Erdogan.  Last year, the AKP passed legislation that extensively restricted freedom of the press.

Journalists questioning official statements have been arrested for treason. Artists creating political art that criticizes Turkish officials have been arrested for “insulting the dignity of a state official.” Protesters opposing Turkey’s NATO role and its Syria policy have been harassed and detained in large numbers. Demonstrations are routinely broken up with police violence.

At the end of May, the Turkish Parliament approved Islamist legislation that limits the consumption of alcohol, banning its sale between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and creating alcohol-free zones. As an Istanbul resident complained, “If Turkey really is a secular state, then the government should not have the right to tell me when and where to drink alcohol… As long as I don’t harm others, drinking is a matter of my own personal freedom.”

Turkey was founded in 1923 as a strictly secular republic by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who wanted to create a westernized country. The republic came out of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the bulk of which was divided between European nations after World War I. Ataturk felt that Turkey had to be secularized if it was to avoid the fate of the Ottoman Empire and catch up with the West militarily and economically. Many of the demonstrators in Istanbul are young and secular and, as one of them said, “The AKP are trying to delete everything from our republic. They are trying to destroy everything that Ataturk built up.”

     At this writing, the demonstrations in Turkey are continuing, but it is too early to say what long-term impact they are likely to have. What is clear is that the Turkish people have firmly rejected U.S. imperialism and neoliberalism, and are struggling against both. As with Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, the Turkey that was Washington’s dependable servant for 60 years is no more.

Asad Ismi is the CCPA Monitor’s international affairs correspondent. This is the eighth in a series of articles on the Middle East Revolution by him. His latest radio documentary is “Capitalism is the Crisis”. For his publications, visit www.asadismi.ws.

 

 

 

Andrew Watt ended his article with the post-mortem examination being carried out by Dr Nicholas Hunt on the evening the body was found 18 July 2003. 

It was the penetrating smell of Lysol, lights and stainless steel in the mortuary of the John Radcliffe Infirmary Oxford, as well as the remains of a fit husband and father.   Nine police officers were in attendance, the most senior being Detective Chief Inspector Alan Young who was in charge of the investigation.  He was at the scene on Harrowdown Hill where the unidentified body was found by Louise Holmes.  In spite of his lead position in the inquiry into a missing person, and then a suspicious death, he was neither called to the Hutton Inquiry which started sitting 13 days later, nor did he submit a statement to it (1). 

There is no obvious explanation for the presence of nine police officers at this very morbid autopsy given that the police had sprayed the word ‘suicide’ about earlier that day.  The size of the squad would surely have fitted better if murder was foremost in the minds of the investigating authorities.

The examination finished just after midnight.  Dr Hunt wrote up his report of his findings at the scene and of his post mortem examination the next day, the 19th of July.  He would have come to preliminary conclusions as to the cause of death and been helped in that by the early findings of Dr Allan the toxicologist. 

That first report has never been published; it was not referred to by Dr Hunt when he gave evidence at the Hutton Inquiry (2)  The only report, and that is entitled Final Post Mortem Report – 25th July 2003, was published in October 2010, by the Ministry of Justice.  The only original copy of this in existence is a very poor ‘scan’.  An OCR and tidied version of this is here (3).  That the findings in the first report have never been made public was one among three  important concerns brought by this author to the General Medical Council in 2011, established by the Medical Act of 1858. (4)  This will be discussed later but suffice to say they were dismissed.

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

Whilst this mouse of an inquest moved ever so quietly, an elephant had been trampling the undergrowth for the three previous days, starting at Harrowdown Hill.  Within three hours of the body being found, my Lord Hutton had been engaged to chair an ad hoc inquiry, by my Lord Falconer as Dr Watt has already described. 

Miles Goslett recently reported in the Mail that Hutton had confirmed in a letter to Norman Baker MP that he had been asked to meet Lord Chancellor Falconer in his Lord’s office around noon of the 18th July and that he agreed to serve.(6)  At that point the subject, David Christopher Kelly CMG DSc had not been identified and no cause of death had been established.  This fixer was a friend of Blair’s when they were in chambers studying law!  He had assisted his friend the PM in bolstering the claim that there was a legal basis for a massive bombardment and invasion of Iraq rather than it being a supreme war crime as defined at Nuremberg.

It is salutary to consider that it took six and half years for the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq ‘War’ to be set up in which over one million Iraqi humans died, at least two million were maimed by customary calculation and four million were made refugees in Syria and Jordan.  It took the New Labour high command, the sofa cabinet, just three hours after the death of just one man to set up Hutton with the clear intention of containing the inquiry and ensuring safe conclusions.  The instruction given to Hutton was to ‘…urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances
surrounding the death of Dr Kelly’. 

‘Urgently’ can be interpreted as ‘nail this promptly’, ‘consider’ as ‘without especial accuracy’ and ‘circumstances’ as equalling the ‘media furore’ which obviously drove Kelly to an inevitable suicide.  It was not who the deceased was, and how, when and where he died which are the plain duties of a coroner.  It was the ‘circumstances’; and if anything showed the mind and the motives of this most evil cabal, that word is the nub.

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

Correspondence by Ms Albon of Falconer’s other office (he was also the Secretary of State in the Department of Constitutional Affairs – Mikado style) with the Oxfordshire coroner has a dictatorial ring to it.  It was recognised he had to reconvene his inquest in law but this mouse then had to be silent until the elephant had trumpeted the findings.  All this was engineered by the mechanism of Section 17a of the 1988 Coroner’s Act.  It had been applied for multiple deaths of common cause – Shipman, the Ladbroke rail crash and the sinking of the trawler Gaul. 

It had at its root – efficiency in investigation, thoughtfulness towards loved ones and verdict as to the common cause.  There was no justification for invocation of Section 17a on top of this ad hoc inquiry other than to shackle the coroner and thus to subvert due process.  With a few ‘phone calls Falconer had made certain with this ad hoc ‘judicial’ inquiry that there would be no evidence under oath, no ability to subpoena  witnesses, no cross examination and no ability to call a jury.  The last thing he wanted was twelve good women/men and true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two professors of forensic pathology advised the panel:-

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

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

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

 The reader has two forensic pathologists in examine.

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

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

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

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

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

 Notes

1. http://chilcotscheatingus.blogspot.co.uk/2010/11/death-of-david-kelly-operation-mason.html

2. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20090128221550/http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/content/transcripts/hearing-trans33.htm

3.http://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:David_Kelly_Post-Mortem_Report

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Medical_Council

5. http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/23-articles/dr-david-kelly/144-letter-to-ms-c-f-floyd-investigation-officer-general-medical-council

6. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362659/Revealed-How-Blair-fixer-picked-judge-David-Kelly-Inquiry-just-hours-weapons-inspectors-suicide.html

7. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1337661/David-Kelly-report.html

8. http://dhalpin.infoaction.org.uk/

 

Palestinians Oppose Fake Peace Talks

July 28th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

They begin Tuesday in Washington. They’re orchestrated to fail. Israel and America don’t negotiate. They demand unconditional surrender.

PA coup d’etat president Abbas is a longtime collaborator. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat’s a convenient stooge.

He, Abbas and other PA conspirators represent Israel, not Palestine. They’re well rewarded for doing so. Their history reflects duplicity and betrayal. They enforce Israeli harshness.

On July 28, Addameer headlined “The Palestinian Authority police thwart demonstration in Ramallah against political negotiations; arresting four and attacking dozens of demonstrators, among them Palestinian Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar.”

Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) activists resist occupation. They challenge repression.

They accuse Israel of “brutal aggression against our people – murder, destruction, assassination, house demolitions, the uprooting of trees, land expropriation, settlement expansion, the continued construction of the Apartheid Wall, a suffocating political and economic siege, torture, and massive oppression.”

They support right over wrong. Israel calls them terrorists. They’re heroic. They encourage public opposition to fake talks. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, demonstrated peacefully.

They did so against Abbas’ “willingness to concede against the position of the Palestinian national consensus and even the decisions of the PLO institutions themselves.”

About 200 participants marched, said PFLP. They waived Palestinian flags. They support prisoner rights. Thousands of political ones languish in Israel’s gulag. It’s harsh. It’s merciless. It’s one of the world’s worst.

They protested against forfeiting Palestinian rights. They headed for Abbas’ presidential (al-Moqataa) compound.

PA police blocked them. They attacked them. They did so violently. They beat them. They targeted men and women. Many were hospitalized.

According to Addameer:

“The actions of the police were a deliberate, premeditated attack on peaceful demonstrators that included members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), such as Khalida Jarrar, who also acts as the Chair for the committee on prisoners in the PLC.”

“According to our research team, once the demonstration dispersed, the police went to Ramallah Hospital to prosecute the injured, and arrested at least three, without allowing them to receive appropriate treatment.”

“One other demonstrator has reportedly been arrested as well.”

“Addameer considers the police forces’ egregious acts today as an illustration of the continuing political suppression that the PA practices against the Palestinian people despite their right to express their refusal of the PA’s policies.”

Addameer strongly condemned the attack. Doing so violates Palestinian Basic Law. It spurns Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), stating:

“The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

ICCPR’s Article 18 (1) states:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

“This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

Article 19 (1) and (2) state:

“Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.”

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

On July 28, PFLP officials denounced what happened. They blamed Abbas for ordering brute force, saying:

He acted “contrary to the decisions of Palestinian national institutions, including the PLO Central Council – and reflects a culture of recklessness, irresponsibility, lack of accountability, and disregard for the law and the national traditions of our people.”

They demand “those who ordered and implemented this violence be held accountable for their actions.”

They added that this protest initiates a “popular movement” against occupation harshness. It’s a “struggle for Palestinian rights.” It’s about “creating an alternative national strategy of resistance.”

It’s “to achieve the rights of our people.” It’s for diaspora Palestinians right of return. It’s for long denied “self-determination, independence, sovereignty, and our capital in Jerusalem.”

PFLP said hundreds marched in Ramallah. Others protested in Gaza. They’re tired of betrayal. They want leaders representing them.

According to PFLP leader Maher al-Taher:

“The primary goal of the US and Israel in this return to negotiations is to prevent the explosion of the situation in Palestine in the face of the occupation, and to cut the route to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court to prosecute the leaders of Zionist terrorism.”

Taher urged Palestinians everywhere to “reject and condemn” what’s planned. Talks benefit Israel and America. They harm Palestinians. They’ve done so for decades.

PFLP official Mariam Abu Daqqa urged a popular “campaign to reject the return to negotiations, involving the masses of the Palestinian people and pressuring Palestinian officials to not go to Washington.”

Palestinian rights are inalienable, she said. They won’t be bargained away. They won’t be traded for money or special privileges.

They won’t bring “economic peace. Palestine is Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) Sea.”

“Palestinian refugees will return.” Another Oslo won’t be tolerated. Resistance will continue against “impose(d) submission, settlements, normalization, and absurd negotiations.”

A Final Comment

Israel media said cabinet ministers agreed to release 104 longterm  Palestinian prisoners. They include 14 Arab citizens. Implementation will be in four stages. Initial ones are affected within weeks. Others will come out in groups over nine months.

A previous article explained a duplicitous process. Concessions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. Pledges are systematically broken. It’s longstanding Israeli policy.

Israel holds thousands of political prisoners. More are arrested regularly. Hundreds may replace dozens released. Freed prisoners are ruthlessly hounded.

Many are rearrested. Their families and friends are threatened. They don’t have a moment’s peace. They’re denied free movement. They remain prisoners in their own country.

Palestinians have been persecuted for decades. Rogue PA officials share responsibility. This time’s no different. Betrayal’s virtually certain. It’s preordained.

It’s happening while Israel wages war. It’s brutalizing Gazans and West Bank residents. On July 28, Israeli radio’s Arabic service said warplanes again bombed Syria.

It’s the fifth time since January. Trucks allegedly carrying Syrian missiles were targeted. Washington supports Israeli aggression. Ban Ki-moon’s indifferent. He one-sidedly supports Israel. He always has. So do Western leaders.

Israel talks peace. It wages war. It’s longstanding Israeli policy. Rogue states operate that way. Israel’s one of the worst.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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Prince Khalid Bin Farhan Al-Saud has announced his defection from Al Saud royal family through a statement, calling on other princes to break their silence and reveal the truth for sake of God.

In his statement on Saturday, the Saudi prince referred to his ‘sufferings’ under reign of Al Saud regime describing them as bitter experiences that will be revealed by the Saudi twitter writer Mujtahid and Saudi activist Saad al-Faqih, who is currently living in London.

He said he thanked God that helped him understand the truth about Saudi regime through a “direct horrible personal experience” so that he could have a taste of what people suffered from throughout the country.

“With pride, I announce my defection from Al Saudi family in Saudi Arabia,” he wrote in his statement.

“This regime in Saudi Arabia does not stand by God’s rules or even (country’s) established rules and its policies, decisions, and actions are totally based on personal will of its leaders.”

“All that is said in Saudi Arabia about respecting law and religion rules are factitious so that they can lie and pretend that the regime obeys Islamic rules.”

He criticized the royal family for considering the country as its own property while silencing all voices from inside and outside the government calling for any change and reforms.

Khalid Bin Farhan said the ruling family has deliberately pulled the country to the current condition where cries of oppressed people are ignored. “They don’t think about anything but their personal benefits and do not care for country’s and people’s interests or even national security,” he added.

H warned that current problems of the Saudi Arabia are not “temporary or superficial” and they do not end at unemployment, low wages and unjustified distribution of common wealth, facilities and services.

“The problems are deep and real,” he said adding that they are concerned with political and financial corruption and abuse of power by the regime and fraud in the parliament and judiciary system.

The Saudi prince said everything that the pro-reform opposition says about country’s political, economical, judiciary, social and security condition as well as their abuse of religious values are true and “the situation is even worse than what is said in criticisms”.

He called on all those who cared for the future of the country to join him and the reform stream and break their silence on Al Saud corruptions.

- See more at: http://en.alalam.ir/news/1499049#sthash.ayedo7KW.dpuf

Copyright Alalam 2013

 Federal Reserve Policy Mainly Benefits Big Foreign Banks

We’ve extensively documented that the Federal Reserve is intentionally locking up bank money so that it is not loaned out to Main Street. Specifically – due to Fed policy – 81.5% of all money created by quantitative easing is sitting there gathering dust in the form of “excess reserves” … instead of being loaned out to help Main Street or the American economy.

And we’ve extensively documented that a large percentage of the bailouts went to foreign banks (and see this and this). (A 2010 Fed audit also revealed that of the $1.25 trillion of mortgage-backed securities the central bank purchased after the housing bubble popped, some $442.7 billion -  more than 35% – were bought from foreign banks.)

It turns out that these themes are all connected.

Specifically, most of the Fed-created money which is gathering dust is actually being held by foreign banks.

The Levy Economics Institute noted in May:

Excess reserves are the surplus of reserves against deposits and certain other liabilities that depository institutions (loosely called “banks”) hold above the amounts that the Board requires within ranges set by federal law. The general requirement is that covered institutions maintain reserves at least equal to ten percent of liabilities payable on demand. For the first time in history, there is statistical evidence that as much as one-half or more of excess reserves are held for United States banking offices of foreign banks.

Zero Hedge reports today:

As per last night’s [Federal Reserve] H.8 update, commercial bank deposits rose by $94 billion in the week ended July 17: the fourth largest weekly increase in history …. This took total commercial bank deposits to an all-time high of $9.54 trillion.

***

The entire difference can be attributed to the $2+ trillion in excess reserves created by the Fed since the start of the [global financial crisis] .

Speaking of Fed reserves with banks, the most recent number was $2.1 trillion, and its allocation breakdown by Domestic (small and large) and Foreign banks operating in the US is as follows:

Foreign banks continue to be the biggest beneficiary of the Fed’s monthly $85 billion liquidity largesse, just as they were the biggest winners during QE2.

In fact, the total reserve cash distribution continues to favor foreign banks, which now have a record $1.13 trillion in cash, or $9 billion more than all Domestically-chartered banks, at $1.122 trillion. The notable shift of cash reallocation from domestic to foreign banks since QE2 can be seen on the chart below.

To nobody’s surprise, global liquidity (as created by the Fed) continues to be infinitely fungible, and increasingly benefits offshore-based (mainly European) banks.

(And see this earlier report from Zero Hedge).

We’ve repeatedly noted that loose Federal Reserve policy benefits of the super-elite at the expense of Main Street, the U.S. economy or the average American.

It now appears that the policy benefits foreign super-elite even more than the elites in the U.S.

The Federal Reserve – like many parts of the U.S. government – are sucking the prosperity out of America … and shipping it abroad.

The United States has been paying thousands of Syrian police officers who deserted the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has approved tens of millions of dollars to pay the salaries of police officers who joined the rebels. They said the officers were working to maintain order in rebel-controlled territory, mostly in northern Syria.

Syrian police armored vehicle in Homs.  /AFP/Anwar Amro

Syrian police armored vehicle in Homs. /AFP/Anwar Amro

“There are literally thousands of defected police inside of Syria,” Assistant Secretary of State Rick Barton said. “They are credible in their communities because they’ve defected.”

In an address to the Aspen Security Forum on July 19, Barton, responsible for State Department stabilization operations, did not say how many Syrian police deserters were on the U.S. payroll. He said the officers were receiving about $150 per month, a significant salary in Syria.

The address marked a rare disclosure of direct U.S. aid to Sunni rebels in Syria. Congress has approved more than $50 million for the Syrian opposition, much of which has not been spent.

Barton said the police officers remained in their communities despite their defection from the Assad regime. He said the U.S. stipend was meant to ensure that they stay on the job.

“We’d rather have a trained policeman who is trusted by the community than have to bring in a new crowd or bring in an international group that doesn’t know the place,” Barton said.

Barton said the rebel movement was awaiting a range of non-lethal U.S. equipment. He cited night vision systems and medical supplies.

Copyright World Tribune 2013

A military coup d’état recently took place in a country whose military is financed by the United States. Some dislike using the term “coup” in the Egyptian case, given the massive popular demonstrations calling for greater democracy and freedoms than were possible under the Muslim Brotherhood and its constitution. But alongside our solidarity with the Egyptians struggling toward democracy, we must call a coup a coup, and attempt a geopolitical analysis of what is happening.

 
It is significant that the tendency toward “coup-denial” extends to the White House. If Egypt’s army truly bit the hand that fed it, the US government and media would be repeating the word “coup d’état” ad nauseam, would already have cut off funding and would be making noises about the responsibility to intervene to protect a democratically elected government. Rather, Obama has adopted a wait and see attitude, saying disingenuously that he is “deeply concerned,” but avoiding negative terminology. Secretary of State John Kerry said ridiculously, “We’ve got to give [the military] the benefit of the doubt.” Under US law, the US cannot give aid to countries where the military ousts a democratically elected government. But it has neither condemned the coup nor cut off the aid.
 
The reason is that the US and its allies were clearly behind this coup, like so many others. The overthrow of President Morsi does not itself represent the decline of US power in the region. This is a real decline, but not the main factor in this event. Rather it seems that the US (and Israel) decided that it was time for Morsi to go. In this case then, US-Israeli interests converged with the popular Egyptian interest expressed in the protests. Rather than losing control of the Egyptian army, the US lost control over Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in general.
 
The context for this is found in the evolution of the Syrian situation and of political Islam over the past two years. Two years ago, the US was working closely with Islamists of various stripes throughout the Arab world, in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as well as with its allies in the Gulf. Ennahda in Tunisia and the Brotherhood in Egypt were the US choices for taking power after the revolutions. Ennahda was well-known at the US embassy in Tunis during the period just after the revolution, and the US support for the Brotherhood in Egypt was long-standing. These conservative religious parties were most well-organized, were open to economic liberalism, and shared a common enemy with the US: the secular Left working toward a sovereign development project.
 
The West worked together with Islamists to overthrow Gaddafi – one of the sole leaders in the region who did have a sovereign development project based in national and not foreign interests – and subsequently helped ship them over to Syria to attempt a rerun there. Islamist fighters of various degrees of extremism poured in to Syria from across the globe, largely financed by US allies in the Gulf. However, the civil war dragged on, the Syrian army took the upper hand against a splintered opposition, and the US lost control of its Islamist allies – if it ever really controlled them. Although it is difficult to generalize in a situation where there are many hundreds of different armed opposition groups, there is now great tension between the weak, Western-oriented, secular-leaning forces that make up the Free Syrian Army, and parts of the much stronger and more numerous Islamist forces. Some of the Islamist forces see the FSA and the National Coalition as simply the pawns of the West, and see their own role as combatting both the local heretics (seculars or Shia) and the Western infidels attempting to impose a foreign domination.
 
The US’s and Israel’s plan A in Syria seems to have been to try to use defecting officers and Islamist fighters to help bring down Assad relatively quickly and then, if possible, install a pro-Western government that could be controlled, or if not, allow the country to degenerate into a managed sort of chaos like in Libya. Given that the Syrian army is stronger than expected and the opposition uncontrollable, their plan B seems to have been to allow the war to drag on so that the Syrian army and the Islamists would mutually self-destruct.
 
The Islamist forces, on the other hand, despite their heterogeneity, want genuinely to win in Syria and to establish an Islamist state, the exact nature of which they disagree upon. Some of them seem simply to be fighting infidels. But many are fighting to establish a state which would be ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Such a state, if it came into being, would likely be allied with the AKP in Turkey, Qatar, Sunni forces in Iraq and elsewhere, Ennahda in Tunisia, Hamas in Palestine, and the Muslim Brotherhood in various countries, including Egypt.
 
Here the divergences between Saudi Arabia, closely allied to the US, and Qatar are important. The Saudis, already rulers of the most important state in the Muslim world in their opinion, seem not to have a particular state-building ambition in their financing of rebels. They are viscerally against the Muslim Brotherhood, fearing an Arab Spring in their own country. Qatar, on the other hand, which has historically had ambiguous if not tense relations with Saudi Arabia, is the main source of funding for the Brotherhood and has been working to put a branch of the Brotherhood into power in Syria. The ambition seems to be a pan-Sunni alliance stretching from Turkey to Egypt, to some degree reuniting or at least defragmenting the Arab-Muslim world.
The success of the Brotherhood in coming to power in Egypt may have given the sense that this is a real possibility. But the reality of such a regional Sunni alliance, especially with an ambition toward regional power if not hegemony, is not what the US or Israel had in mind when fostering the jihad in Syria. Such a Sunni axis could be even more threatening to Israel and to the US project than the Shia crescent.
 
Political Islam has an ambiguous and changing relationship with the US and the West in general. While Islamic political parties have historically been allies with the West, their rise to political power after the 2011 revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, their copious funding provided principally by Qatar, their considerable fighting force, their strong organizational and networking capacity, and the decline of US power in general, has made them graduate, so to speak, to a new state of autonomy from the West. It would be wrong to overgeneralize about this very heterogeneous movement, comprising moderates, extremists, and everything in between. But one may say that it generally intends to revalorize and defragment the Arab-Muslim region, and contains many elements with an anti-Western attitude, which is not simply an expression of moral and religious values, but also reflects a political position which desires emancipation from Western domination.
 
The convergence of interests that led to the US-Islamist collaboration against secular nationalists like Gaddafi and Assad seems thus to be breaking down, a fact which has greatly aided Assad. As a senior Syrian official said, “The magic has turned on the magician.” It seems that, typically, the US considered only its short-term interests as it unleashed the Islamists against Assad, not considering what might happen if they became something more than just the easily manipulable foot-soldiers of imperialism.
 
The divergence between the West and Qatar concerning the situation in Syria can be seen in the fact that the Kerry-Lavrov plan for a Geneva II conference to find a negotiated way out of the Syrian mire was coldly received by Qatar. Researchers at the Doha Institute, a Qatari think tank, wrote on June 26
“The Americans thought that the Geneva Conference would help contain the ramifications of the crisis, particularly with the growing regional interventions on the Syrian question. […] Although the Obama administration has yet to reveal the precise nature of the weaponry it will provide to the Syrian opposition, it has become clear that this will be limited sufficiently to enable only a correction in the imbalance of forces between the regime and the opposition that arose after Qusair. […] Accordingly, it seems clear that the Obama administration remains committed to a policy which does not permit one side to achieve a military victory over the other and is again exerting pressure to reach a political resolution. […] In parallel, Washington intends to intensify pressure on the opposition by linking arms supplies to its agreement to a settlement. In the meantime, and while agreement is being reached, Syria will remain an arena for exhausting the Sunni and Shia “extremists” opposed to the US, on the condition that this confrontation does not spill beyond Syria’s borders.”
“It was clear that US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov had reached a preliminary framework agreement over Syria involving a political solution through negotiations and dialogue. […] However, this proposed conference is to be held without any directing principle or frame of reference, except for the idea of a transitional government of unknown powers. […] Europe immediately declared its support for the agreement, along with China and the regional powers that support the regime, and the Arab League as well. On the other hand, the Arab states that support the Syrian revolution did not express much enthusiasm for the agreement. This agreement places the Syrian people in front of a new, difficult juncture dominated by the notion of an international solution imposed from above, according to which the National Coalition would be pressured to engage in an unsatisfactory settlement, while the US pressures the Arab states and Turkey to stop the provision of military aid, regardless of its meager size.”
The reason the US decided to negotiate with Russia seems to be less because Assad was winning – one does not negotiate with one’s enemy when one is losing, unless one absolutely has to – but because the Islamist groups in Syria were getting out of control, and on Israel’s doorstep. The balance of power between Assad and the Islamists has gradually tipped in favor of Assad, therefore upsetting US Plan B. Many battle-hardened radical Islamists, routed by the Syrian army, have started leaving Syria and flooding into other parts of the region, including the Sinai and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is terrified by the presence of these returning fighters who are angry at the Saudi collaboration with the West, and who risk destabilizing the regime. Israel is terrified of the fighters amassing on its borders in the Sinai. The US has been training Syrians along the borders of Israel and Jordan, less to fight the Syrian army than to keep the Islamists out.

Assad is less a threat to Israel, ultimately – the Assads always tolerated Israel – than political Islam gaining traction at its doorstep. This, and the threat the returning Islamist fighters pose to Saudi Arabia, seems to be what triggered the decision to switch plans again and to negotiate with the Russians. Hastening a transition that did not involve the Muslim Brotherhood would thus be preferable to either allowing the country to remain the incubator for radicals who would then disperse throughout the region if Assad won, or allowing the country to form a link in the Sunni chain from Turkey to Egypt, if the Islamists won. The very decision to negotiate with Russia betrays a certain panic on the part of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Geneva conference now seems unlikely to happen anytime soon if at all, given that the US seems to feel that this may not be beneficial toward its ends of both controlling the Islamists and overthrowing Assad. Those ends are being pursued in other ways: a reworked Syrian strategy, the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, and the regime change in Qatar. On June 24, Qatari Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani handed over power to his son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. According to the director of the Arab Times, Osama Fawzi, a former leading official of the Qatari information ministry, whose June 24 revelations were subsequently taken up by many Arabic-language news services, an eviction notice had been served to the Emir and to the Prime Minster of Qatar directly by a CIA agent, after documents recovered in Bin Laden’s hideout revealed that the main financing source of Al-Qaida was a Qatari citizen, a cousin of the Minister of Culture. Whether or not this was true or was new news to the US, the timing for this transfer of power does not seem to be random.
The former Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, 61, is not in ailing health; his stepping down was spun to portray a voluntary abdication of power in favor of the younger generation, in keeping with the Arab Spring’s rejuvenation of forces. According to Fawzi, the Emir was given the choice either to give the reins to his son or have Qatari assets throughout the world frozen due to links with terrorist activities. Apparently his overthrow was because he had gone too far in his support for the Islamist fighters in Syria and Islamist governments in Tunisia and Egypt.

On July 2, the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood continued in another Gulf state, the United Arab Emirates, which sentenced 64 Brotherhood leaders to jail for seeking to overthrow the regime. And on July 3, Morsi was deposed in Egypt. On July 6, a Saudi agent, Ahmed Assi al-Jarba, was elected to lead the Syrian National Coalition, wresting power from the Brotherhood. On July 8, Ghassan Hitto, the Prime Minister of the Syrian “interim government” formed by the Coalition, an agent of Qatar and the Brotherhood, resigned. The Muslim Brotherhood is clearly out of favor with the imperialists. In this light, it is impossible to see the events in Egypt as anything other than as a premeditated coup d’état participating in an overall US-Saudi-Israeli strategy shift in the region.
 
This fact explains why both Bashar al-Assad and the Saudi monarchy, not exactly allies, welcomed the overthrow of Morsi. The new Emir of Qatar also congratulated the new government. Tunisia and Turkey, on the other hand, condemned the coup d’état. The fact that the US continued to work together with its former allies until the end does not constitute a sign that it actually remained faithful to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood; if there was a plot to depose them, the US would surely not have shown that. What is notable is rather the fact that the US and Israel did not wait until elections to try to kick them out through the electoral path. This signifies that the situation was perceived as urgently dangerous.
 
Tension between the US/Israel and the Brotherhood began early on in Morsi’s mandate, as Egypt began immediately to reopen the Gaza terminal at Rafah, albeit on an intermittent basis. One of the first acts of the new transitional government in Egypt was to close it. Although Morsi showed prudence in his dealings with Israel, his government clearly had the intention of pulling more weight in the region and was slowly – if ineptly – working toward a greater geopolitical role. He kicked out imperialist NGOs, and gave a timid support to the Palestinians. The former Emir of Qatar had showed support for the Palestinian cause, and the new Emir announced his continuation of that support the day after he took power. However, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot (YNet), citing a Qatari source, the new Emir has had multiple secret meetings with Israeli agents during the past five months. The future of Qatar’s foreign policy is yet to be seen. Israel, for its part, has expressed fear that the US will cut off aid to Egypt’s military, but this – like Senator McCain’s calls to cut it off – is probably bluff.
 
The – credible – story is told that the Muslim Brotherhood, during their discussions with the US before coming to power in Egypt, made clear to US agents what they wanted as their part of the deal in an alliance: a new Marshall Plan for Egypt, bringing it out of underdevelopment. The US agents apparently responded that that was impossible. When asked what the US could then offer, the US answered: favorable terms on credit lines from the Gulf states. If true, this story reveals a certain disjunction between the two parties even before the election of Morsi. The US, in debt and globally in decline both in terms of hard and soft power, could offer nothing substantial to its ally; and the Brotherhood showed ambitions that went beyond being simply a puppet. Under the Brotherhood Egypt received no real aid from US allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or Kuwait, but only from Qatar. After the coup, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait have promised $12 billion in aid.
 
In April, 2013, Ethiopia announced a new project to dam the Blue Nile, the “Grand Renaissance Dam,” which would cut off 20% of Egypt’s water for the 3-5 years it took to fill an enormous reservoir. Such a project, undertaken by a US colony state and largely financed by Israel, would not only severely harm Egypt during that time but would also install a convenient on-off switch for Egypt’s (and Sudan’s) lifeline, thus keeping a permanent knife to the neck of any future governments. National sovereignty would be permanently undermined. One of Morsi’s last actions was to work to stop the dam project in the name of national security, almost threatening military action against Ethiopia.
 
Another of his last actions was to call for the jihad in Syria, showing a surprising degree of diplomatic naiveté. The Islamist fighters in the Sinai, tolerated by Morsi but repressed by the Egyptian army, may be one of the triggers of the coup. The abrupt overthrow of the Islamists in Egypt and their financing source in Qatar means that they will be even angrier at the US/Israel and possibly less inclined to play by the rules of the democratic game. But rather than discrediting democracy in itself, this coup further discredits the US/West who orchestrated it, and will have the beneficial effect of removing any lingering doubts the Islamists may have as to the trustworthiness of an alliance with the US.

The reworked US strategy in Syria seems now to be to contain and defund the Islamists while stepping up support for the FSA. With the funding of the rebels now considered to be under control after the palace coup in Qatar, the West has given itself the green light to arm the opposition, that is, the FSA. The Saudis have shifted their support to the FSA. Whether the plan (Plan D at least) is now to settle in for a long war of attrition against Assad and Hezbollah, or to attempt to bring in a few military victories in order to improve the West’s negotiating stance against Assad and the Russians in view of a “political solution,” is an open question. The ambition may be to take control of part of the East of Syria in order eventually to negotiate the break-up of the country, giving Assad a fragment in the West and creating at least one new state in which a Western puppet could be installed.

During the “Friends of Syria” conference hosted on June 22 by Qatar – despite the Emir’s imminent resignation – US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the allies were working together “not to seek a military solution. [We seek to] come to the table to find a political settlement.” This can be interpreted as saying, perhaps to Qatar, that the West will ensure that the final solution to the conflict will pass through the Western-oriented political opposition, the National Coalition, and not though a military victory of the Islamists.

Saudi Arabia, the US and other “Friends of Syria” are thus talking about launching a new offensive starting in late summer, sending in large amounts of new weapons. However, it is unclear whom exactly they are going to arm. The FSA is very weak in terms of manpower and training, and according to an unnamed French source quoted in Le Monde on July 26, they “need more than just weapons.” And even if the West managed to take part or all of the country through a “political” solution, a puppet government would face the wrath of not only the Syrian nationalists but the anti-Western Islamists. The US may or may not have the stomach for an all-out proxy war with Russia, and may in fact be testing Russia’s limits; but the Russians have been clear that they will not allow Syria to fall. However, even if the “Friends of Syria” do not actually achieve a durable solution to their liking, they have already succeeded in the goal of maiming the country and its economy, and they could go much further toward that goal without actually winning.

Given that the US has just succeeded in a military coup d’état in Egypt and a palace coup in Qatar, to what extent is it justified to talk about the decline of US power in the region? One might argue the opposite. But the very fact that these manoeuvers were necessary is one strong indication of US decline. The US has lost an ally, that is, a huge swath of the forces of political Islam. This is very significant, and it is excellent news for the international Left, for this ultimately weakens the forces of imperialism.

Despite the recent behind-the-scenes US-Israeli-Saudi manipulation in Egypt, involving the pro-Western liberal-mafioso opposition, pro-Mubarak elements, and what seem to be color revolution tactics in the mass demonstrations, the secular Left is very strong there.
The future will tell whether the pro-Western liberal oligarchy instrumentalized the demonstrating Left toward its ends of retaking power, or whether the Left will have used the pro-Western liberals and army for its own ends of kicking out the Brotherhood and getting a chance to take power itself. But in any case the Left should not be duped about what happened and who its allies are. Between an anti-Western reactionary force like the Brotherhood and a pro-Western liberal force like one now in power, the anti-imperialist and progressive Left should not take sides. It should take this coup as a warning about what can happen if a government which does not control the army attempts policies that diverge from the US-dictated line.
Egypt remains an occupied country as long as the US pays for its military, and so the Left should not rely upon the army. But the Egyptian people will soon have the chance to elect a new government and rewrite their constitution, and this gives great hope for the chances of the secular Left working toward sovereignty. May they seize this chance and keep it.

Carole Antony can be reached at caroleantony [at] yahoo.fr

This month, Canada’s media solemnly related “the sad truth that the country engaged in a deliberate policy of attempted genocide against First Nations people”, referring to government-sponsored abuse of Native children a century ago, which Canada’s Chief Medical Officer Peter Bryce exposed in 1907, but which was hushed up. Bryce was fired and the post of chief medical officer abolished in 1919.

This, of course, is a terrible crime, though the facts have long been known (the study referred to was published in 2006). A study published by Ian Mosby in May this year added fuel to the fire, revealing that from 1942–1952, the government conducted “nutritional experiments” on Native children in the infamous residential schools, where milk rations were halved for years, essential vitamins not issued, and dental services withheld as gum health was a measuring tool for scientists and any care would distort research.

The media splash was made by Phil Fontaine, former chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Bernie Farber, senior vice-president of Gemini Power Corporation and former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress (since 2011 the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs—CIJA). (image above)

This is not the first time that CIJA has expressed ‘support’ for beleaguered Natives. For years now, just as hundreds of Canadian MPs, MPPs, police officials, what-have-you are invited regularly on junkets to Israel by CIJA or other pro-Israeli groups, CIJA self-proclaimed “social activists” are now courting local Native groups with similar free trips. For instance, Winnipeg CIJA official Shelley Faintuch organized a 10-day Cree Youth Leadership Development Mission to Israel in 2012 and again this year with the support of Norway House Cree Nation Chief Ron Evans “to develop the next generation of First Nations leaders by looking through the lens of Israel’s inspiring story.”

Why would Canadian Jewish leaders suddenly take such an interest in Natives and support their struggle for reparations from the Canadian government for the centuries of colonial subjugation and exploitation? Is it altruism, because of the Jewish tradition of being ‘a light unto peoples’? This is what CIJA would have us believe, with its claims to “profound cultural and historical similarities”, “striving for acceptance, equal rights, rights to their own land”.

There is another, very different explanation. The Native resistance movement has continued to grow in the past half century. And anyone with even a slight awareness of how Natives in Canada were dispossessed and abused by colonial settlers can easily see the parallel between Canada’s Natives and the Palestinians, who have suffered a century of identical treatment by Jews immigrating to Palestine, which the latter arbitrarily renamed ‘Israel’ in 1948. As Natives become more aware of their common struggle with other aboriginal peoples around the world, they are bound to identify with the Palestinians and their struggle against the colonial settlers.

So it makes perfect sense for Canada’s Zionists to be proactive, to try to convince Canada’s Natives that it is the (largely European and American) Jews who are indigenous to Palestine, not the native Arabs. The story the Cree are told on their Youth Leadership Development Missions is that Israelis, like the Natives, are merely trying to reassert their legitimate indigenous rights to their land. The screaming headlines about the Canadian government “genocide” against the Natives a century ago just happen to be accompanied by self-serving lectures about the Nazi Holocaust, the ‘Final Solution’, and even allusions to the infamous Dr Mengele experimenting on Jewish victims.

This shameful manipulation of events surrounding a genuine Native tragedy is despicable. It is also a direct slap in the face for Prime Minister Harper with his fawning allegiance to Israel, as codified by one of his first foreign relations moves—the public security cooperation “partnership” with Israel signed in 2008. Does Farber have no allegiance to Canada’s prime minister? Isn’t his sudden embrace of Native resistance just a tad duplicitous?

Gemini Power’s VP is not only a corporate fat cat, but a self-proclaimed “social activist” who according to Wikipedia “works in partnership with First Nations to help develop sustainable business”. This translates into: convince the Natives to sell out to resource-hungry corporations like Gemini Power and their government lackeys, intent on building such wonders as liquefied natural gas terminals on the west coast, chromite mining and smelting projects in the James Bay, and tar sands oil production in Alberta.

Is it possible that before Farber published his article in the Toronto Star 19 July, he had a pow wow with Chief Harper, apologizing for the comparison of Canadian government officials to Nazi genocidal maniacs, but explaining that it was all part of a larger win-win plan for them both to defraud the hapless Natives of their resources? What are a few ‘slings and arrows’ between a corporate honcho and his government lackey?

Harper can use all the help he can muster these days, given that the bulk of the Native community is supporting not Israel, but Idle No More, which has declared war on the Conservatives’ attempt to replace the government’s treaty obligations with market mechanisms in Bills C-45 and C-38.

Farber failed to mention the fact that Israel itself conducted similar ‘Dr Mengele’ experiments on its own Jewish citizens—north African and Ethiopian Jews, who swallowed the Zionist propaganda and fled their traditional homes and cultures to live in the ‘Jewish state’. According to the documentary “100,000 Radiation” shown on Israeli TV in 2003, starting in 1951, the American army paid the Israeli Health Ministry to radiate children to test for side effects of radiation. An entire generation of Sephardi youths were unwittingly used as guinea pigs.

Yet another Israeli TV documentary aired in 2012 revealed that until recently, Ethiopian Jews were forcibly injected with Depo-Provera, a drug to make them sterile, before they were allowed to immigrate to Israel.

Is Zionist media control so all-powerful as to prevent Canadians and especially Canadian Natives from seeing through the bald-faced lies that Israel and its lobbyist tell, and the truths they hide?

It isn’t just Harper who is being duped. Cree Chief Ron Evans personally suffered under the ‘Dr Mengele’ experiments, which were conducted on the Norway House and Le Pas Cree beginning in 1942. But instead of putting two and two together, Evans was coopted by CIJA’s Winnipeg affiliate to sponsor the Cree ‘Missions to Israel’, where he pronounced the Jewish people “the true, historic indigenous people of Israel”.

Then there are the Ontario Natives with their ‘great white hope’ Bob Rae, a strong supporter of Israel whose wife was a VP of the CJC. Rae left the NDP in 2002 for refusing to embrace globalization and open markets, and is now the Natives’ negotiator with the mining interests in the James Bay ‘ring of fire’. However nice elder statesman Rae may be, his common interests—economic and political—with Farber remain, and there can be no doubt that at best the Natives will get lots of millions of dollars, but you can be sure that the option of “No to chromite mining!” is not on the table.

Clearly, the Natives need a new deal with corporate Canada. That is what Idle No More is all about. But the option of “No!” must be on the table, not just “How much money will we get to let the corporations destroy our land?”

There are hints of what a new dispensation might entail, and the suddenly pro-Native Zionist supporters like Farber and Rae have nothing to contribute to it. The 1987 Gwaii Haanas National Park and Haida Heritage Site allows Haida to regulate logging and maintain their sacred forests, permitting sustainable use of some natural resources. Thomas Berger calls for re-tribalization of lands: “As long as the land is a corporate asset, it will be vulnerable.”

Eric Walberg is author of From Postmodernism to Postsecularism: Re-emerging Islamic Civilization

Rethink 9/11: Did you Know that a Third Tower Fell on 9/11?

July 28th, 2013 by Global Research News

Global Research is committed to 9/11 Truth.

Global Research endorses the Rethink 9/11 campaign. Spread the word far and wide.

ReThink911 is the first ever global 9/11 anniversary campaign. Sponsored by a coalition of more than 40 organizations,

ReThink911 will be seen in 11 major cities around the world this September 2013.

The campaign will include outdoor and transit advertising on subways, taxi tops and billboards worldwide, coupled with grassroots actions involving thousands of concerned citizens and guerilla advertising in the form of bumper stickers, lawn signs, t-shirts and more. ReThink911 will launch on September 1st and continue for the entire month of September.

Join us in this historic effort.

For more details on how you can support this important initiative: visit  http://rethink911.org/


BRING ADS TO A CITY NEAR YOU

ReThink911 will be seen in 11 major cities this September, coupled with grassroots actions all around the world. Select your preferred city below and donate to make the planned advertising for that city a reality.

The deadline to reach our goal is August 1, 2013.

ReThink911 has already raised three-quarters of the $225,000 for this ad campaign. We are counting on you to bring us the rest of the way by August 1. Together we will make ReThink911 go viral this September.

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Get your very own authentic 21 x 22” ReThink911 metro ad with a donation of $50 or more.

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After the details of My Lai, a Vietnamese village that was destroyed and men, women and children killed by U.S. Soldiers came out, and the military had selected their fall guy for the massacre, Lt. Calley, we in the Army were subjected to constant classes on when to follow or when not to follow orders. We were told that there are legal orders and illegal orders, and that following illegal orders, would be well…illegal. If an enlisted man followed  what he knew to be an illegal order, not only would the person that gave the illegal order be held responsible, the person that carried out the illegal order could also be charged.

It all sounds good, but it reality it is as the Brits say, “A bit of a sticky wicket”. This is because in the military, they also teach you to follow orders immediately, if there is a question about what orders to follow, bring it up later. In combat, when your life is on the line, and also the lives of your comrades on the battlefield with you, the best thing is to follow the orders even if it means putting your own life on the line. This is because the “fog of war” in the midst of battle is usually better seen (but not always) by the command that has a better picture of what is taking place.

We were given class after class as to what is an “illegal order”.  Discussions were held, and looking back on it, the classes were really a reaction to the media’s portrayal of the military during and directly after the My Lai trial, for public consumption, and to raise the morale of the troops when many in the military were ashamed of atrocities committed in Vietnam. This was a way to let the public and the troops know that the military was addressing some of the unspeakable horrors of war and they were trying to do something about it. In reality, this was a public relations operation.

The idea was that if a soldier saw something going on that was not legal according to the Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, that soldier should go to a higher authority and report it. If he didn’t have the time, he should refuse to participate and if it was within his power, he should try to stop it. This all sounds reasonable, but in the military, sometimes it is not as cut and dry as one would think.

Now, in this day and age, we have a military that has seen continuous combat operations for over a decade. Most of the invasions and operations are, in reality, contrary to the Geneva Conventions themselves. This places the American soldier in a predicament from the start. The question being that if one enlists and takes the oath of enlistment to obey the orders of the officers above him and to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic , when your nation is breaking both U.S. and international law in the first place, how do you obey the orders of those officers that give them?

Now we had situation where a Private First Class was allowed to access sensitive information that showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the American military was committing atrocities and crimes that were against not only his moral code, but were against military law and the Geneva Conventions. This was during a period when the U.S. Military was committing crime after crime by using depleted uranium (a weapon of mass destruction), and destroying entire cities as in Fallujah with air strikes, artillery and armor, killing men women and children indiscriminately and for all intents and purposes, destroying the city.

Meanwhile, no soldiers were reporting crimes to their superiors (that we know about).  It was business as usual in this new type of hostilities against other nations in undeclared wars that the U.S. euphemistically calls “The War on Terror”. Soldiers were seemingly following illegal orders on a daily basis and “doing their duty”.

This Private First Class was in a terrible quandary. It must have seemed to him that with his access to all of this sensitive information that allowed him to see a larger picture of what was really going on, that his nation was indeed committing grievous war crimes. When he brought this matter to his superiors, he was ignored. This, in reality, is what many soldiers experience when confronted with war in all of its horrific forms.

The difference here is that this lowly Private decided that he was going to expose these crimes. Like I said, in this day and age, long after the My Lai massacre. this type of behavior is unheard of. According to the American Government, the enemy we face is more horrific and dangerous than any we have ever faced. After all, as they claim, didn’t Muslims fell the Twin Towers and kill innocent Americans and “aren’t they plotting continuously to commit acts of terror” against the United States? As far as the military was concerned, the gloves were off and according to the President at the time; “Either you are with us or against us”.

It must have taken a supreme act if courage for Bradley Manning to finally release his information to the only people that seemed to care what was happening in Iraq, Wikileaks. Now he finds himself in front of a Court Martial after being tortured for months by the military by being forced to remain in solitary confinement for months, while remaining naked, in a cold dark cell, being treated like an animal in direct violation to all military law and the Geneva Conventions in regard to treatment of prisoners.

Most of his defense has been deemed by the people in charge of his Court Martial to be inadmissible, and this leaves him defenseless against the power of the United States military that had once proclaimed that if a soldier saw wrongdoing and violations of the Geneva Convention on the Laws of War, that soldier should go to a higher authority and report it,  and if it was within his power, he should try to stop it.  The Private did report it, but the report of these violations fell on deaf ears.

Now he will pay the price of doing the right thing. Doing the right thing, not only to assuage his own sense of right and wrong, but doing the right thing according to what the United States Army once told their soldiers.

This is a new age however. An age of masking wars as defensive actions, even though they are in reality invasions of other nations against all International Law, the Geneva Conventions are no longer relevant. We have seen an observer call on Apache attack helicopters to fire on journalists walking with their cameras on a city street, and once they were wounded and lying on the street and when people ran to help them, the Apaches were ordered to fire on the rescuers. Manning let the world see this. Still, no charges were filed against the individuals responsible for these actions.

It is Bradley Manning that will suffer for these actions. The American military is using this to issue a warning to their soldiers that conscience and adherence to the laws of war will no longer be tolerated. This is what the trial of Private First Class Bradley Manning means.

US Military Aid to Egypt

July 27th, 2013 by Zeinab Abul-Magd

In 1986, Egypt’s Minister of Defense Field Marshall Abd al-Halim Abu Ghazala, complained that the 1.3 billion dollars of US military aid were no longer enough, and pledged to ask US officials for a raise of a several more hundred million dollars. Egypt had started to receive this annual amount of security aid seven years earlier, after signing the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and Abu Ghazala explained that global prices of arms increased ever since.[i] In the 1980s, Abu Ghazala obtained F-16 fighter aircrafts that each cost about thirty-six million dollars.[ii] If he were still alive today, he would be shocked to learn that each one of the same aircraft now costs 125 million dollars.

Last week, a Washington Post article complained that Egypt’s generals have “ignored” Washington and its political advice for the past two years, and called this a “collapse of US prestige and influence in Cairo.” The article criticized the Obama administration for not using the “leverage” of US military aid by possibly suspending it. Yesterday, President Obama and the Pentagon responded to many such calls in Washington by delaying the shipment of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. The bad news for US officials is that American military aid to Egypt, which remained unchanged at 1.3 billion dollars for the past thirty-four years, has lost most of its value.

Generally speaking, the Egyptian people know very little about US military equipment that the government procures, because such information is normally classified. But the Egyptian civilian masses are now very familiar with three fancy US-made defense products, which made frequent appearances in or near Tahrir Square over the last two and a half years. Many Egyptians have taken photographs next to (or atop) M1A1 tanks, or pointed their green laser rays at Apache helicopters roaming over large protests at night. Moreover, Cairo residents of all social classes often times hear the deafening sound of F-16 fighter jets flying low over residential areas, presumably to deter dissidents.

When the US military aid package began three decades ago, the prices of the above items were considerably cheaper in comparison to current prices. As explained below, US military aid lost significant value over the past three decades.

In 1979, US officials presented some good, and other absurd, reasons for launching the aid package to Egypt, under the umbrella of the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. The assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs indicated that the security program for Egypt would help it replace obsolete Soviet equipment and modernize the army, and, more importantly, enable President Anwar al-Sadat “to reduce the size of his forces.”[iii] In response to some officials’ concerns about the transfer of advanced jet technology to the Egyptians, the Department of Defense’s director of the security assistance agency asserted that this process would also allow the US army much needed access to Egyptian officers. “[S]uch sales and the related training, operations would give the U.S. greater access to Egyptian officers. The Egyptian government in the past had limited such contacts.”[iv] An intelligence review presented in Congress added that another reason for aid was to downsize the Egyptian army into two small divisions, each of a few thousand officers. These divisions would act as “striking forces” to serve specific security goals on behalf of the NATO—especially in the oil-producing Arabian Gulf. But there were concerns that this might turn the Egyptian army into mercenaries:

The crux of the Camp David treaty is the establishment of Egyptian and Israeli military power as regional “strike forces” to move into oil-producing regions it the behest of NATO. To achieve this, the two countries will be provided with massive arrays of and military-directed financial aid…The crucial factor in Egypt is to be the transformation of that country’s citizen- republican army into a truncated force of two “elite” divisions comprising 5,000 men each, to be used as “strike force” intervention units into the region. According to one top Zionist lobby source with extensive Pentagon connections, “Egypt does not need a big army, and there is no way anyway that the Egyptians can logistically run any big military operations. At this point, the only useful thing for us to think about is to create special divisions that can be used for roles in Africa and in the Arabian Gulf.[v]

Under Abu Ghazala in 1984, the Egyptian military budget was 1.8 billion dollars, in a total state budget of fifteen billion dollars. This meant that US aid amounted to more than seventy percent of the military’s budget, and about nine percent of the state budget.[vi] Under General Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi today, the military budget is about four billion dollars, with a total state budget of about ninety-five billion dollars. This means that US military aid has decreased to around thirty percent of the official military budget, and only 1.3 percent of the state budget.[vii] More importantly, the Egyptian military annually earns hundreds of millions of dollars from off budgetary revenue through its vast business empire in the civilian sector. For example, it is known that the military was recently able to afford lending the state as much as two billion dollars.

According to a US Government Accountability Office report, up until 2005 Egypt received 880 M1A1 tanks, thirty-six Apache helicopters, and 220 F-16 aircraft.[viii] The prices of these items have increased tremendously over the last thirty years.

Located in a populous neighborhood in the south of Cairo, Helwan, Military Factory-200 has been proudly coproducing M1A1 Abrams battle tanks in collaboration with the United States since its founding in the late 1980s. Working with General Dynamics Land Systems of Sterling Heights in Michigan as the main contractor, Egypt gets to assemble and manufacture parts of the M1A1 tank. The aid conditions require Egypt to hire US shipping companies to transfer the parts.[ix]

The price of M1A1 doubled over the past three decades. In the early years of its coproduction, the cost of an M1A1, including constructing the Helwan factory itself, was estimated at a maximum of six million dollars.[x] In 2011, the price almost doubled to 10.6 million dollars, minus the cost of the already built production infrastructure. As mentioned above, Egypt so far coproduced 880 tanks with the old changing price. It has requested 125 additional tanks at the new cost through General Dynamics of Michigan, and is due to receive them this year— unless the shipment gets suspended.

In the case of F-16 aircrafts, the price has skyrocketed. During the early phases of United States-Egyptian defense cooperation, the Egyptians had their heart set on the F-4E Phantom II jet, which had caused Egypt significant losses during the Attrition and 1973 wars. Thus, Egypt ordered thirty-five of the phantom jet, each at a cost of no more than seventeen million dollars.[xi] Just as Israel was already receiving the more advanced F-16 through its own US aid package, Egypt soon switched interest and placed an order of the same aircraft in 1980.

Egypt received the first shipment of F-16s in 1982 at an estimated unit cost of about twenty-five million dollars—or thirty-six million dollars if one includes the price of spare parts and the cost of training.[xii] A few weeks ago, Egypt started to receive a new shipment of twenty jets, at a significantly higher unit price of 125 million dollars, including associated weapons and spare parts. This shipment received congressional approval in 2009, and the Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Company is the main supplier.[xiii] This shipment would have joined the Egyptian Armed Forces’ large fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons to make it reach 240 jets, but it was delayed yesterday for political considerations without specifying a date of delivery.

As for the Apache helicopter, its price increased almost seven-fold over the past twenty years. In 1995, Egypt started to buy Apache Helicopter-64 (AH-64) from Boeing. At the time, the price of an AH-64A was estimated at eleven million dollars. In 2000, Egypt upgraded its fleet of thirty-five Apaches from AH-64A to AH-64D at a unit price of 11.4 million dollars.[xiv]In 2009, the price of an AH-64D was sixty-eight million dollars.

Because the aid that Egyptian generals receive from the United States is no longer enough for diverse procurement, they now rely on their own off-budget revenue from their vast economic enterprises to buy arms from other suppliers in Europe and Asia. A recent congressional report claims that eighty percent of Egyptian procurement comes from the United States, which was probably correct three decades ago. The large revenue that the Egyptian army generates through its profitable civilian production and the secretive nature of its transactions suggests that this figure is less accurate today. For example, there is at least some discussion in Congress about the large Egyptian procurements from China and Russia. For example, a 2011 congressional report indicated, “Egypt purchased 800 million dollars in Chinese weapons since 2003 and 600 million dollars from Russia.”

The world today is much different than what it was thirty years ago when the United States kicked-off its annual aid package to Egypt. In the global context of the Cold War, the United States was a growing empire that eventually managed to defeat its nuclear enemy. Today, the United States, as many world historians would argue, is an empire in decline and suffering from a financial crisis and fierce competition with rapidly rising economies. Since the events of 30 June in Egypt, when the military helped oust President Mohamed Morsi, many voices in Washington debated cutting military aid in order to punish the Egyptian generals for undertaking a coup. The decline in the value of the US aid package to Egypt suggests that current controversy about how Washington can pressure Egypt’s generals into accepting US advice overestimates US leverage over the country’s military. The expectation that the generals will follow Washington’s lead can no longer be taken for granted.

Notes

[i] Al-Mushir Abu Ghazala wa-al-Sahafa (Interviews with Minister of Defense and Military Production Abu Ghazala) (Cairo:1996), 250.

[ii] The thirty-six million dollars estimate is based on an official cost of a sale to Israel presented to Congress in 1983, and it included spares, support equipment, and training. Hearing and Markup Before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of House of Representatives. Economic and Military Aid Programs in Europe and the Middle East (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing office, 1983), 45. For the recent price of 125 million dollars see: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33003.pdf, 11.

[iii] ”Supplemental 1979 Middle East Aid Package for Israel and Egypt. Hearing and Markup before the Committee on Foreign Affairs” (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1979), 3.

[iv] Ibid., 115. 

[v] Ibid., 236-237.

[vi] Al-Mushir Abu Ghazala wa-al-Sahafa, 211.

[vii] See the Egyptian state budget of FY2012-2013. Military spending in Egypt between 1979 and early 1980s only increased threefold. See “Hearing and Markup Before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East,” 1983, 75.

[viii] United States Government Accountability Office, “Report to the Committee on International Relations, House of Representative.” Security Assistance, April 2006, 2.

[ix] Jeremy M. Sharp, “Egypt: Background and US Relations,” Congressional Research Service Report to the Congress (Washington DC, 27 June 2013), 10.

[x] United States General Accountability Office, National Security and International Affairs Division, “To Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs,” July 1993, 4.

[xi] Price covers a number of associated missiles.

[xii] The twenty-five million dollars is an estimate mentioned in Washington Post in 1989, and this price includes support equipment and no training. “Pakistan to Get 60 F-16 Fighters At Estimated Cost of $1.5 Billion,” Washington Post, 12 July 1989: A3. The thrity-six million dollars estimation was a price offered to Israel in 1983. “Hearing and Markup Before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee of Foreign Affairs of House of Representatives.” Economic and Military Aid Programs in Europe and the Middle East, 1983, 45.

[xiii] See Jeremy M. Sharp, “Egypt: Background and US Relations, 11. 

[xiv] Price includes spares and training.

by Elizabeth Renter

Some cynics write off citizen action including petitions and sign-carrying protestors. They don’t believe such small efforts can make any big difference. But the more than 600,000 people of Dutch city Rotterdam disagree. Their efforts, which began with a petition, have led to a “green initiative” in their city including the banning of Roundup, Monsanto’s flagship product.

The petition campaign was called “Non-toxic Sidewalks for Our Children.” With support from that country’s Green Party, concerned citizens were able to make a significant change for their city and their future.

As we know, Roundup (glyphosate) is a dangerous pesticide that is used all over the world. Though its maker, Monsanto, would have you believe there’s nothing to be afraid of, research says differently. As a matter of fact, glyphosate has been connected to numerous health problems including respiratory distress, cellular damage, and even cancer. Check out this article which outlines just 7 nasty effects of pesticides.

“It is bad stuff and I’m glad we’re giving it up,” says Emile Cammeraat, Green party leader in the council. “The producer Monsanto also provides genetically engineered seeds, Monsanto’s own plants are the only thing RoundUp doesn’t kill. In such a business district as you want to be, no Roundup is simply necessary, as there are organic alternatives.” (Translated by Fritz Kreiss)

Global consumers are getting wise to the dangers of Roundup and the GMO seeds designed to resist it. They don’t want Monsanto and other GMO-seed giants taking over the global food supply and have started grassroots resistance movements around the world. The problem lies in getting enough people to take actual action against the seed giants and local, state, and federal lawmakers who support them in one way or another.

Collectively, the people of Rotterdam were able to make their voices heard, essentially eliminating glyphosate from their local environment. There’s no reason similar cities in other areas of the world couldn’t do the very same thing.

Comically, the U.S. government has recently decided to increase the allowable amount of glyphosate in U.S. food crops, just as another place bans the substance. The new rule allowing for even greater use of this damaging ingredient would take existing limits on glyphosate and dwarf them with new, higher ones. These limits would truly only work to benefit the interests of one, and it’s not the American people, but Monsanto – the giant corporation who is making millions off of genetically modified crops and the destruction of agriculture and human health.

In addition to the Roundup ban, Rotterdam’s green initiative will provide new parks and play areas, and even get the city involved in planting fruit trees. There will be more flowers and environments to support bees and wildlife, and more places for the urbanites to take in nature without fear of contamination by Monsanto’s evil poster child.

Copyright Natural Society, 2013

Renowned American intellectual and cultural critic believes that the United States, is exercising double standards with regards to Iran’s nuclear program and treating Iranians in a discriminatory way through imposing unilateral and unjust sanctions.

“Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which gives it the right to develop enriched uranium for peaceful use of nuclear power. The USA and Israel are not signatories of the treaty. Both of them have enormous arsenals of nuclear missiles arsenals. Thus they stand in violation of the international law on nuclear proliferation,” said Michael Parenti in an exclusive interview with the Fars News Agency.

Michael Parenti is a leading American author, political scientist, historian and anti-war activist. His writings are very popular in the progressive circles as he staunchly opposes the U.S. foreign policy and its war adventures around the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa. Parenti is considered a prominent anti-imperialist thinker in the United States and around the world. His latest book “The Face of Imperialism” was published by the Paradigm Publications in 2011. Among his other books are “Make-Believe Media: the Politics of Entertainment” and “Inventing Reality: the Politics of News Media.” Parenti has received his Ph.D. in political science from the Yale University.

 What follows is the text of FNA’s interview with Michael Parenti with whom we’ve discussed a number of issues including the Occupy Wall Street movement, racism in the United States, Zionism and its influence on the U.S. media and governmental institutions and controversy over Iran’s nuclear program.

Q: In one of your articles, you had pointed at the mainstream media’s disappointing performance in giving coverage to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Why are the corporate media usually silent on the progressive movements? Are they afraid of losing their audience or their benefactors and sponsors? They even didn’t report the death of the renowned progressive journalist Alexander Cockburn who passed last year. What’s your take on that?

A: The mainstream media in the United States is owned and controlled by a few corporate conglomerates. This pattern of ownership and its resulting control leaves very little room for critical and challenging journalism of the kind that exposes the hypocrisies and duplicities of the ruling moneyed interests. These moneyed interests claim to bring us prosperity when in fact they bring us poverty. They claim a dedication to democracy when in fact they propagate oligarchic dominance in this country and in many others. They profess a dedication to peace while bombing and invading various countries that dare to step out of line.

They talk about a “family of nations” while pursuing a policy of global imperialism. This constant disparity between what reality at home and abroad is like and what the corporate media claim it to be is one of the great propaganda achievements of modern history.

Concerning your question about Alexander Cockburn, the New York Times and a few other mainstream newspapers did carry obituaries about him. They mentioned his views but never spelled them out. The broadcast media had very little to say about him. He was too radical for them to give respectful and extensive notice.

Q: The issues of racism and racial discrimination have always been widely and also controversially discussed in the intellectual circles of the United States. Could we trace footsteps of protest against racism in the insurrections of the Occupy Wall Street?

A: I don’t believe that issues relating to racism “have always been widely” discussed in U.S. intellectual circles. It often took years of struggle to get intellectuals to acknowledge and inform themselves about the urgent and terrible crimes of lynch-mob rule in this country. It took years of conflict to mobilize democratic forces against Jim Crow and the racial discrimination that permeated all dimensions of White society in the United States. It continues to be a struggle to confront the racism of white police forces in communities throughout the country.

The Occupy Wall Street movement certainly opposes racial discrimination in all its forms but it primarily focuses on the great class divide, the conflict between the 1% and the 99%. The class struggle and the struggle for racial equality are not mutually exclusive. They are connected. Class oppression battens on racism. One way to move closer to racial equality is to struggle also for economic justice.

Q: Is it a realistic view to say that certain political lobbies, including AIPAC and its affiliates are behind the mainstream media and dictate to them what to publish and cover and what to withhold from the public? In a broader term, let me ask you: Who is really running such multinational, money-spinning media as CNN, NPR, Fox News, CBS and Washington Post?

A: Powerful political lobbies and moneyed interests can exercise direct pressure on the handling of specific news stories. AIPAC, a pro-Zionist interest group, exercises an exceptional influence in Congress, the White House, and public and private agencies —and in planting stories in the conservative media. Most of these corporate media are already sympathetic toward the U.S.-Israel imperium in the Middle East even before they are pressured by lobbyists.

I already answered your other question which repeats what was raised in your first question above: the news is shaped by corporate media that are run by the corporate financial interests that own most of America and much of the world.

Q: You seem to be quite dissatisfied and unhappy with the U.S. government’s health care programs and the way the patients, the nurses, the physicians and other medical staff are treated. What deficiencies does the U.S. medical sector suffer from? Is it really the case that many impoverished Americans die of different illnesses because they cannot afford the medical treatment expenses?

A: The medical industry in the USA is not [made of] government programs. They consist of private hospitals, private insurance companies, private health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and private pharmaceutical companies—all of which are madly profit-driven. Their concern is not to save lives and care for people’s health but to make as much money as possible. Yes, people in poverty often cannot afford the costly tests and services that are needed for health care. So many of them do without and end up dying. The government Medicaid program that is intended to serve the poor is grossly insufficient in its provisions.

Q: The 16th summit of the heads of state of the Non-Aligned Movement was held in Tehran in August 2012. What’s your assessment of the influence of non-aligned countries and regional powers in creating a new world order? Can they outperform the superpowers and global hegemons?

A:  Nonaligned countries could do very well among themselves if allowed to function. Libya under Qaddafi was attempting to organize African countries for development programs and a common currency region. Iraq was turning to the Euro and discarding the dollar. Venezuela and several other Latin American countries have been trying to get out from under the U.S. dominated global imperium. But the imperialists have an unanswerable military force that makes these efforts difficult to sustain.

Q: How much do you know about Iran, its people, culture and ancient civilization? Of course the mainstream media in the West don’t speak about Iran unless they give references to the 1979 hostage crisis, Iranian President’s alleged mentioning that Israel should be wiped off the world map and controversy over Iran’s nuclear program. Beyond these stereotypes, have you had the opportunity to study Iran and its culture and its contemporary civilization?

A:  I know a fair amount about Iran and its people, along with Persian culture and history. Why do you ask? Knowing about Iran does not guarantee an enlightened policy.  It depends on what your political goals are. There are Middle East specialists who work for the CIA and the U.S. State Department who speak Persian and who know far more about Iran than I do. But they work to undermine Iran and advance U.S. power and influence in the Middle East.

Q: So many people in Iran complain of the United States’ double standards in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program. They say that the U.S. allows Israel to circumvent the international law and build atomic bombs, which the Federation of American Scientists has confirmed, while it impedes Iran’s way to developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. What do you think in this regard?

MP: Iran has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which gives it the right to develop enriched uranium for peaceful use of nuclear power. The USA and Israel are not signatories of the treaty. Both of them have enormous arsenals of nuclear missiles arsenals. Thus they stand in violation of the international law on nuclear proliferation while presuming—with outrageous audacity–that they have the right to police Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear power. It is the kind of arrogance that imperialists always manifest. 

Q: The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of biting economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The sanctions include travel restrictions for Iranians, limitations on the enrollment of Iranian students in foreign universities, a ban on medicine and medical equipment and foodstuff, agricultural goods, industrial accouterments and even scientific papers accessed by the universities. What are these sanctions aimed to achieve? What’s your viewpoint?

A: Sanctions cause considerable suffering mostly among the common population, increasing unemployment, depleting public resources, lowering the living standards and health conditions of the people. Sanctions are an act of aggression against [another] nation to undermine its entire polity and society. When performed against the apartheid regime in South Africa, sanctions brought worthwhile results. When performed on behalf of imperialist interests, as against Iran, they achieve destructive goals.

Q: There are the Iranian people who read this interview. Iran is one of few nations in the world which has steadfastly kept up with its anti-imperialist approaches in both foreign and domestic policies. What’s your message to them, as someone who has had Iranian students and has surely heard about controversies and hullabaloos surrounding Iran?

A: I would urge the Iranian people to do their utmost in getting their side of the picture before the world, speaking not to the U.S. government but to U.S. student groups, anti-war groups, and others, along with people around the world, telling them about the human costs and injustices of U.S. policy.

A media source said that the death toll from the massacre that armed terrorist groups committed in Khan al-Assal in Aleppo countryside reached 123 martyrs, with many others still missing.

The majority of the victims are unarmed civilians, the source pointed out.

Medical tests helped identify 6 of the martyrs, the source said, vowing that the perpetrators will pay a heavy price for their barbarity and affirming that ”the Syrian people and army are on high alert.”

The armed terrorist groups committed a genocide against a number of civilians and military personnel in Khan al-Assal town in the countryside of Aleppo.

Gang of the so-called Ansar al-Khilafa Brigade admitted committing the terrorist massacre in Khan al-Assal, mutilating the bodies of the martyrs and throwing them in a big hole on the outskirts of the town, in addition to incinerating a number of the martyrs’ bodies.

Khan al-Assal area was last March the target of a chemical weapons attack when terrorists launched a rocket containing chemical materials, killing 25 citizens and injuring 110 others.

The new massacre, which came in light of the continued international silence and open Western support for the armed terrorist groups, stirred all the Syrians in resentment calling for quick and firm response towards the murderers who have been allowed access to enter Syria across the border.

Syrian establishments, organizations and parties condemn Khan al-Assal massacre

Head of the Syrian Human Rights Network, Ahmad Khazem, stressed that the massacre, during which the terrorists set the martyrs’ bodies on fire, is “a blatant violation of the UN Convention against Torture and a crime against humanity”.

Khazem added that this crime also constitutes a flagrant violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1373 and Article 25 of Rome Statute, clarifying that both the resolution and the article stress on the prevention of providing material and logistic support to the armed terrorist groups.

This form of support, in addition to providing weapons, funds and shelter, has continued to be offered to the terrorist groups in Syria by the governments of Turkey and Gulf states, on top is Saudi Arabia.

For his part, Head of the Lawyers Syndicate, Nizar Skeif, demanded sending an urgent letter to the Security Council on this massacre so as to refer its perpetrators and their backers to the International Criminal Court.

Spokesman for the presidency of the Popular Front for Change and Liberation, Adel Nei’seh, condemned the calls and efforts to supply the terrorists in Syria with qualitative weapons from the Gulf states.

Those efforts, Nei’she said, “have caused the Syrians to fall victim to criminals whose heads are filled with devilish fatwas.”

In turn, Head of the National Initiative for Syrian Kurds, Omar Aussi, highlighted that the new massacre in Khan al-Assal aims at escalation by the terrorists, a step they usually resort to “before any chance for political solution” as the coincides with the arrival of a UN team to investigate the crime of chemical weapons use in the town.

In the same context, the branch of the National Union of Syrian Students condemned in the strongest terms the massacre in Khan al-Assal, denouncing the “rude silence” on this crime of all the opposition parties that claim moderation.

The Union pointed out that the massacre reflects the barbarity and savageness of the takfiri terrorist groups that are implementing the agendas of Al Saud monarchy.

In turn, Ministry of Justice condemned the massacre committed against civilians and soldiers in Khan al-Assal in Aleppo countryside.

In a statement, the Ministry stressed that justice will reach all criminals.

On a relevant note, the Arab Democratic Solidarity Party issued a statement condemning the massacre, saying that its perpetrators are inhuman and unrelated to any religion, while the Syrian National Youth Party said that such an act can only by committed by those who have lost their humanity.

Likewise, the National Democratic Bloc opposition movement denounced the massacre, saying that this heinous crime will hinder reaching a political solution.

In a similar statement, the Popular Front for Change and Liberation denounced the massacre, saying that this crime which adds up to the black record of Jabhat al-Nusra will only make Syrians more determined to achieve a political solution.

For their part, the Syrian students and community in Cuba condemned in the strongest terms the massacre in Khan al-Assal.

In a statement, members of the Syrian community and students called for immediate retaliation, demanding the international community to exert pressure on the countries which are supporting terrorism in Syria.

Similarly, Syrian students and community members in India strongly denounced the massacre in a joint telegram with members of the Syrian diplomatic corps, in which they held some neighboring countries and their gangs responsible for what is happening in Syria.

The telegram demanded to strike firmly against terrorist groups and bring the perpetrators of the massacre to justice and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.

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English Bulletin

Halliburton, the oil field services contractor, agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence related to its complicity in causing the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 workers and spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The company was charged with one misdemeanor count of destruction of evidence in a New Orleans US District Court. It will be fined $200,000, and one of its subsidiaries will be put on three years probation, according to a statement issued by the company.

The fine, amounting to less than one tenth of a percent of Halliburton’s $679 million profits in the second quarter of this year, is less than a slap on the wrist and constitutes a de facto government approval of Halliburton’s criminal activities. Last year, the company set aside $300 million to cover possible fines related to the case.

The deal exempts Halliburton from any further criminal prosecution related to the disaster, with the company’s press release on the deal noting, “The Department of Justice has agreed that it will not pursue further criminal prosecution of the company or its subsidiaries for any conduct relating to or arising out of the Macondo well incident.”

“In agreeing to plead guilty, Halliburton has accepted criminal responsibility for destroying the aforementioned evidence,” wrote the Department of Justice.

The plea by Halliburton followed a guilty plea and $4 million criminal fine for BP, and a $400 million fine for Transocean for violating the Clean Water Act. A civil lawsuit filed against the companies by the Department of Justice in February is ongoing.

The Macondo prospect, where the disaster took place, was 65 percent owned by BP. The company leased the Deepwater Horizon rig from Transocean to drill the well, and key elements of the drilling process were contracted out to Halliburton.

Cost-cutting by all three companies contributed to the disaster, including insufficient testing of the cement mixture used to cement the well, the decision to use fewer than the standard number of “centralizers” in the cementing process, as well as a faulty blowout preventer that was designed to seal the well in case of a disaster.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig was in the process of completing an exploratory oil well 41 miles off of the Louisiana coast when natural gas rushed up the well, fueling a massive explosion that caused the rig to catch fire and subsequently sink.

On April 19, the day before the explosion, Halliburton completed the cementing process that would finish the well and leave it ready for production. While the company recommended the use of 21 “centralizers” to center the production casing inside the well bore prior to cementing, BP decided to use only six in order to save time and money.

Following the disaster, Halliburton set up an internal working group to look into the causes of the explosion. On two separate occasions, the group ran computer simulations comparing the effects of using 21 versus six centralizers that found little difference between the two approaches. On both occasions, Halliburton instructed its employees to destroy the studies.

Following the simulations, Halliburton continued to claim that the failure of the well’s cementing was due to BP’s decision to disregard its recommendation on the number of stabilizers, and destroyed the studies in order to shore up its attempts to make BP take more of the blame.

Fred H. Bartlit, Chief Counsel for the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, reported to the commission in an October 2010 letter that the type of cement used in the Well would be unstable, and that Halliburton had reason to suspect that its cementing method was inadequate. “Only one of the four tests discussed above that Halliburton ran on the various slurry designs for the final cement job at the Macondo well indicated that the slurry design would be stable,” he stated.

Bartlit added that “Halliburton may not have had—and BP did not have—the results of that test before the evening of April 19, meaning that the cement job may have been pumped without any lab results indicating that the foam cement slurry would be stable.”

The letter further noted that “Halliburton and BP both had results in March showing that a very similar foam slurry design to the one actually pumped at the Macondo well would be unstable, but neither acted upon that data.”

As a result of the criminal negligence of both BP and Transocean, 11 workers lost their lives, hundreds of thousands of people saw their livelihoods upended, and the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico was vastly damaged. Halliburton’s guilty plea, however, fully exempts it from further criminal liability, both for crimes that have already been discovered and those that have yet to be revealed.

On June 16, BP announced the formation of a $20 billion fund to settle claims of economic damage relating to the spill. The fund, which is now closed, has paid out only $6.2 billion, and the fishermen and small businessmen who filed claims had to waive their rights to further lawsuits in order to qualify.

The settlement with Halliburton is entirely of a piece with the US government’s overall response to the oil spill, which has consisted of seeking to downplay the extent of the damage in order to limit the liabilities of the companies responsible. The increased production of domestic oil and gas, including in the Gulf of Mexico, is a key part of the Obama Administration’s energy policy, and the administration continues to open up new areas for offshore drilling there.

Deadly clashes have erupted across Egypt, as tens of thousands protested in dozens of marches supporting either deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi or the military junta that ousted him in a July 3 coup.

Security forces attacked pro-Mursi rallies early this morning, firing live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas. The move came after Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim—installed by the army—vowed that the coup regime would disperse the protests organized by Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) “soon and in a legal manner.”

Al Jazeera reported today that 120 people had been killed and some 4,500 injured when the army attacked a round-the-clock pro-Mursi vigil at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawia Mosque. Seventeen were killed and over 500 wounded in clashes with police near the October 6 Bridge in Cairo’s Nasr City, the site of another of the largest ongoing pro-Mursi protests.

At least seven people were killed and 80 or more wounded when pro-army and pro-Mursi demonstrators clashed in Alexandria. MB officials claimed the security forces opened fire with birdshot on pro-Mursi demonstrators in Alexandria. Among the dead was a 14-year-old boy who was stabbed to death.

Egyptian health officials reported that most of the dead or wounded had suffered shots to the head or torso, suggesting that security forces attacking the protests are shooting to kill.

Hundreds of others were wounded in clashes in the port city of Damietta, the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo and other areas across Egypt.

There are widespread fears of an even bloodier crackdown to come, after the army issued the MB an ultimatum to join negotiations with the new military junta by today. On Thursday, July 3 coup leader General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi told the MB that the next 48 hours were a “final chance” to “join the nation in preparation to launch the future.”

The army had also posted a statement on its Facebook page, threatening to fire on anyone it deemed violent. It said that it would not “turn its guns against the people, but it will turn them against black violence and terrorism which has no religion or nation.” Hundreds of protesters, mostly MB supporters, have been killed at demonstrations since the coup.

Tanks and armored personnel carriers ringed Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday. Top police and security officials appeared on the square during the day, to chants of “The army, the police, and people are one hand.” At night, hundreds of thousands of people massed on Tahrir Square and surrounding streets, supporting Mursi’s overthrow.

There were large pro-Mursi rallies in the Sinai and in Matrouh. It appears that pro-Mursi rallies are still heavily outnumbered by anti-Mursi protests.

Tensions were further heightened by the announcement that the army was bringing charges against Mursi, whom the army has imprisoned in an undisclosed location since the July 3 coup. The charges stem from a prison escape by Mursi and other MB detainees during the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak. Mursi had said in a TV interview that “unknown men” freed him and other MB members from Wadi Natroun prison.

The Egyptian courts, a bastion of support for Mubarak, allege that Mursi conspired with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas to attack Egyptian police stations and jails. This allegedly involved “setting fire to one prison and enabling inmates to flee, including himself, as well as premeditated killing of officers, soldiers, and prisoners.”

MB spokesman Gehad El-Haddad dismissed the charges, saying that with them the Mubarak regime was “signaling ‘we’re back in full force.’”

The increasingly pro-authoritarian tone of the anti-Mursi protests reflects the crisis of leadership in the working class, and the counterrevolutionary role of the bourgeois and middle-class forces that make up Egypt’s liberal and pseudo-left parties.

Terrified by the mass strikes and working-class mobilizations of the spring and after the June 30 appeal for protests, fearing a revolution against the entire political establishment, they shifted sharply to the right. Tamarod—a coalition involving liberal forces such as the National Salvation Front (NSF), the Free Egyptians party, and the April 6 Youth Movement, and supported by the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS)—backed the military coup. This paved the way for the formation of a military junta to try to wind down mass opposition.

While the initial target of army repression is the MB, ultimately the army and its supporters will turn on opposition in the working class to their reactionary social agenda—which includes deep cuts in critical subsidies for food and energy, upon which Egyptian workers depend.

Tamarod and its allies hailed the army’s call for protests and have sought to shift the political atmosphere in Egypt as far to the right as possible. Tamarod and the NSF issued statements endorsing al-Sisi’s call for pro-army protests and giving the army its full backing in a “war on terrorism.”

The April 6 Youth Movement did not endorse the army’s call for protests, but signaled its support for military repression. It issued a statement saying that the armed forces “do not need popular delegation to perform its patriotic duties of preserving security and resisting violence.”

In a cynical maneuver, the pseudo-left Revolutionary Socialists (RS), which hailed the coup as a “second revolution,” declined to endorse the army protests. They wrote, “Whatever crimes the Brotherhood has committed against the people and against the Copts in defense of its power in the name of religion, we do not give army chief El-Sisi our authority. We will not go into the streets on Friday offering a blank check to commit massacres.”

This statement reflects the RS’ concerns that their support for the coup leaves them politically exposed, not their opposition to massacres by the military. (See also: Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists seek to cover up support for military coup ) In fact, leading RS members openly said yesterday that they would support a military intervention.

On her Twitter feed, RS member Gigi Ibrahim, the partner of RS blogger Hossam el-Hamalawy, angrily demanded that the army intervene in the protests. “Five were killed in Alex[andria] and [neither] the army nor the police intervened, while the squares around Egypt are calling for Sisi’s mandate to end violence,” she wrote. “Why are the army and police that everyone is cheering now not stopping or intervening in the bloodshed?”

More fundamentally, the RS’ position reflects that organization’s long-standing alignment with US foreign policy. Like Washington, they are signaling their essential support for the coup, while trying to prevent the outbreak of too much bloodshed between the army and the MB. Such bloodshed would make it difficult for Washington to effect a reconciliation between the military and the MB and stabilize the Egyptian state, one of its key props in the Middle East.

Anonymous US diplomatic officials told Al Ahram, “the main US aim is for the Brotherhood to be reintegrated into the political life of Egypt and that there must be no persecution of the group.”

Yesterday, US Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly spoke at length with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmi, endorsing the coup. While stating that Washington wanted Egypt to resume a “democratic path,” Kerry assured Fahmi that any delay in US economic or military aid to the Egyptian regime due to the coup would be “temporary.”

The administration has made clear that it will not declare the military’s overthrow of Mursi a coup, which would require by law a cutoff of aid. And, while Washington has temporarily held up the shipment of four new F-16 fighter jets to Cairo, the Pentagon is going ahead as planned with joint exercises with the Egyptian military.

America: Super-Bully Nation

July 27th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Count the ways. Obama’s waging financial war on humanity. He’s waging multiple direct and indirect hot ones. He bears full responsibility.

He represents the worst of rogue leadership. He heads America’s coup d’etat government. It “lacks constitutional and legal legitimacy,” said Paul Craig Roberts.

Washington’s ruled by “usurpers,” he added. “An unconstitutional government is an illegal government.” Regimes operating extrajudicially have no legitimacy. America’s by far the worst.

State terror is official policy. So is rogue state lawlessness. It operates at home and abroad. Tyranny’s the law of the land. Diktat power rules.

FBI, DEA, Homeland Security, other repressive government agencies, and militarized local police collude. They’re America’s Gestapo. They operate extrajudicially.

US special forces death squads infest over 120 countries. They operate openly and covertly. CIA agents operate everywhere. They do so destructively.

America’s no fit place to live in. It’s unsafe. Its long arm is repressive. Police state laws target nonbelievers. Rule of law principles don’t matter.

Democracy’s an illusion. It’s a convenient fiction. Equity and justice are four-letter words. Freedom’s on the chopping block for elimination. It’s practically gone already.

Supporting right over wrong is criminalized. Espionage and other charges follow. Kangaroo court justice awaits. Bradley Manning’s victimized. He’s a world hero. He’s a 2013 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He faces possible life in prison.

Edward Snowden’s a wanted man. He connected the dots for millions. He told them what they need to know. He’s heroic for doing so. He’s a 2014 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. He can’t go home again.

He’ll be imprisoned, tortured, and abused. He’ll be denied all rights like Manning. America honors its worst. It persecutes its best. It bullies other countries. Obey or else.

On Thursday, Senate Appropriation Committee members unanimously approved sanctions on nations offering Snowden help. Doing so is lawless. It doesn’t matter.

Russia’s targeted. So are Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. More on Russia below. According to Venezuela Analysis, Washington has more than sanctions in mind.

VA headlined ” ‘Overwhelming’ Evidence of Plot to Assassinate Venezuela’s Maduro,” saying:

National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello has “hard evidence of assassination attempts.” He and Maduro are targeted.

“We know who they are, what they are, what they want, and we will find them,” said Cabello. Maduro calls them “fascist” groups. They have “crazy plans.” Washington backs them.

“I have appointed Diosdado Cabello as (ruling PSUV political head) to find the truth of how they have prepared for attacks against me for months,” said Maduro.

If either leader is killed, “the wrath of god and the people would be unstoppable,” he added.

Lindsey Graham (R. SC) represents the worst of Washington. He’s a right wing extremist. He’s a neocon rogue. He sponsored the Senate measure. It’s an appropriations bill amendment.

It’s a work in progress. It requires imposition of sanctions. It targets countries helping Snowden.

It directs John Kerry “to consult with the appropriate congressional committees on sanction options against any country that provides asylum to Mr. Snowden, including revocation or suspension of trade privileges and preferences.”

According to Graham:

“I don’t know if he’s going to stay in Russia forever. I don’t know where he’s going to go.”

“But I know this: That the right thing to do is to send him back home so he can face charges for the crimes he allegedly committed.”

Graham represents the worst of US ruthlessness. On July 19, his joint press release headlined “Graham, Schumer Resolution Encourages Russia to Turn Over Edward Snowden to American Authorities,” saying:

Both senators “introduced a partisan resolution.” It’s typical American bullying. It demands Russia hand over Snowden. Obey  or else.

It states:

“The Russian Federation’s continued willingness to provide shelter to Edward Snowden is negatively impacting the US-Russia relationship.”

“Russia should immediately turn Edward Snowden over to the appropriate United States authorities so he can stand trial in the United States.”

“President Obama should consider other options, including recommending a different location for the September 2013 G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, should Russia continue to allow shelter for Mr. Snowden.”

According to Graham:

“On multiple fronts, Russia is becoming one of the bad actors in the world.”

“Russia continues to provide cover to the Iranian nuclear program and sell sophisticated weapons to the Assad regime in Syria to butcher tens of thousands of its own citizens.”

“For Russia to grant temporary asylum to Mr. Snowden on top of all this would do serious damage to our relationship.”

“It is past time we send a strong message to President Putin about Russia’s actions and this resolution will help accomplish that goal.”

Schumer is AIPAC’s man in Washington. He’s no democrat. He represents Israel. He supports its worst crimes. He backs Obama’s war on humanity.  He’s a war criminal multiple times over.

“Time and time again,” he said, “President Putin is too eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States – whether it is arming the murderous Assad regime in Syria, supporting Iran’s nuclear development or now providing shelter and Russian state protection to Edward Snowden.”

“Enough is enough. It’s time to send a crystal clear message to President Putin about Russia’s deplorable behavior, and this resolution will do just that.”

Washington targets independent countries. Sanctions have no legitimacy. America imposes them ruthlessly. They’re unjustly punitive.

They used to intimidate and bully nations into compliance. They don’t work. Russia’s strong enough to retaliate. It values good bilateral relations. It won’t sacrifice its sovereignty. It’s not for sale.

America’s a Big Brother society. It’s no longer fiction. It’s real. It’s institutionalized. It’s universal. It’s lawless. It doesn’t matter. It’s hard-wired.

Manufactured national security threats override fundamental freedoms. Anyone can be monitored for any reason or none at all.

Privacy rights are lost. Patriot Act legislation authorized unchecked government surveillance powers. Everyone’s potentially watched. There’s no place to hide.

Obama bears fully responsibility. He targets fundamental freedoms. He does so ruthlessly. He’s done it throughout his tenure.

Constitutional rights don’t matter. America’s High Court supports him. So do congressional leaders.

On Wednesday, House members defeated a Defense Department appropriations bill amendment. It prohibited NSA from collecting bulk telephone metadata.

It “requir(ed) the FISA court under (the Patriot Act’s) Sec. 215 to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation.”

Voting was close. The measure nearly passed. It had bipartisan support. It was defeated 217 – 205. Obama strongly opposed it.

Heavy-handed administration tactics demanded congressional compliance. Ahead of the vote, NSA head General Keith Alexander met with congressional leaders.

He did so secretly. He was dispatched to bully and pressure. He got enough support to win. A White House press releasewas typical Obama.

Doublespeak duplicity headlined. Lies, damn lies, and ObamaSpeak said:

“In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens.”

“The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

“We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress.”

“However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.”

“This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.”

“We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.”

In other words, Obama demands continued lawless NSA spying. House members approved. For sure Senate ones would. According to Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) attorney Kurt Opsahl:

“This amendment reflected the deep discomfort of Americans who don’t want the government collecting data on them indiscriminately.”

“This type of surveillance is unnecessary and unconstitutional, a needless return to the general warrants that our country’s founders fought against.”

EFF’s Rainey Reitman added:

“We were heartened by the many supporters from across the country who called their representative to support the amendment, laying the foundation for further Congressional action to investigate the NSA spying and enact greater privacy protections.”

The fight for justice continues. First Unitarian v. NSA pursues it. EFF represents plaintiffs. Nineteen organizations, Los Angeles Unitarian Church groups and others filed suit.

NSA’s charged with violating First, Fourth and other constitutional rights. In early July, Northern District of California federal Judge Jeffrey White ruled for EFF.

He rejected Obama’s secret privilege claims. Doing so permits EFF’s Jewel v. NSA and Shubert v. Obama suits to proceed.

According to EFF’s Cindy Cohn:

“The court rightly found that the traditional legal system can determine the legality of the mass, dragnet surveillance of innocent Americans and rejected the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege to have the case dismissed.”

“Over the last month, we came face-to-face with new details of mass, untargeted collection of phone and Internet records, substantially confirmed by the Director of National Intelligence.”

“Today’s decision sets the stage for finally getting a ruling that can stop the dragnet surveillance and restore Americans’ constitutional rights.”

In his ruling, Judge White said the heart of EFF’s suit isn’t a state secret. Classified details can be litigated. FISA Act provisions apply.

“Congress intended for FISA to displace the common law rules such as the state secrets privilege with regard to matter within FISA’s purview,” he explained.

EFF suits target lawless NSA spying. Millions of ordinary Americans are affected. Government officials remain unaccountable. Hard evidence document’s what’s intolerable.

“We will continue to push Congress to rein in unconstitutional surveillance,” said EFF. It’s Stopwatching.us campaign continues.

It targets police state lawlessness. It persists. It’s worse than ever. It threatens freedom everywhere. Occupy Wall Street is right. The only solution is world revolution.

Regime change begins at home. It’s a national priority. It’s essential. The stakes are too high. Challenging extrajudicial authority’s essential.

Electoral politics doesn’t work. It never did. It doesn’t now. Monied interests rule. Politicians are bought like toothpaste. Duopoly power runs America. Vital change is necessary.

Popular struggles matter. Sustained commitment works. Collective activism has power. What better time to use it than now.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/america-super-bully-nation/

Nuclear Power Is Being Abandoned Worldwide

July 27th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Abandoned Construction of Nuclear Power Plant

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Despite the Government’s Best Efforts to Prop Up and Bail Out the Nuclear Industry … It’s Failing

As we noted in May, the American “Nuclear Renaissance” is over, “the change in nuclear’s fortunes is staggering”, and a horrible “cauldron of events” has [brought] the nuclear push to a standstill”.

Even though the American government has done everything possible to encourage nuclear power – bywholly subsidizing nuclear powerreducing safety standards after Fukushimaforcing Japan to re-start its nuclear programcovering up the severity of the Fukushima accident, raising acceptable radiation limits and agreeing to buy radioactive Japanese seafood – the number of nuclear plants worldwide and percentage of electricity provided by nuclear is declining.

The Economist reports:

The [nuclear] industry’s role in electricity production is continuing to decline, according to this year’s World Nuclear Industry Status Report, a compendium of analysis and data by the activist and expert Mycle Schneider. The number of reactors peaked in 2002 at 444, compared with 427 today. The share of electricity they produce is down 12% from its 2006 peak, largely because of post-Fukushima shutdowns in Japan. As a proportion of all electricity generated, nuclear peaked in 1993 at 17% and has now fallen to 10%. The average age of operating plants is increasing, with the number over 40 years old (currently 31 plants) set to grow quite rapidly.

This is no loss. Nuclear power is expensive and bad for the environment. And – no matter what you may have heard – it does not help reduce carbon dioxide.

But the answer is not fossil fuels, either … it is decentralization.

Anti-globalization theorist Michel Chossudovsky visits Korea on sixtieth anniversary of armistice agreement

By Kim Bo-geun

“Signing a peace treaty for the Korean peninsula would not only benefit North and South Korea but would also contribute to world peace.” Michel Chossudovsky, 66, author of “The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order” (published in Korea by Dangdae Press in 1998), gave a lecture on July 26 at Women’s Plaza in Seoul’s Daebang neighborhood. His lecture was part of the International Peace Symposium to Commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Armistice Agreement to Call for a Peace Treaty on the Korean Peninsula, which had been organized by the People’s Movement for Opposing War and Achieving Peace. Chossudovsky, a professor emeritus in economics at the University of Ottawa in Canada, is the founder of the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG). In his books including “Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War” (published by Hanul Academy in Korea in 2012), he has consistently attacked what he believes to be the imperialistic nature of major international powerbrokers such as the US and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In Chossudovsky’s view, one of the main reasons that the Korean Peninsula has remained under a ceasefire regime for 60 years is because the US seeks to use the region as a springboard for war. The starting point for the wars, secret operations, and government coups that the US has orchestrated since the end of World War II, Chossudovsky claims, was the Korean War. As he sees it, the US has increased its military spending and justified its military interventions in the Korean peninsula over the past 60 years while exaggerating the threat posed by North Korea.

Chossudovsky also asserted that the US committed a serious violation of the armistice agreement when it brought nuclear weapons into South Korea only four years after the agreement was signed. “The South Korean government and media have an extremely asymmetrical viewpoint about this as well when they only criticize North Korea’s nuclear program,” he said. Chossudovsky is concerned that the US policies that are jeopardizing the stability of the Korean peninsula may put not only North Korea but also South Korea in danger of war. He said that, if war (nuclear or otherwise) were to break out on the small Korean peninsula, not only the primary American target of North Korea, but also South Korea, would be unable to remain safe. “Seeking a peace regime for the Korean peninsula will not only liberate North and South Korea from the peril of war, but it will also be of immense help in stopping the US from behaving badly around the world,” Chossudovsky said. Acknowledging that bringing about a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula would be “very complicated,” Chossudovsky advised moving forward one step at a time.

The first step is taking back wartime operational control from the US as planned. “It is wrong for the Korean military, which is supported by the tax money of South Koreans, to receive orders from the US military command,” he explained. On July 27, the day that the armistice was signed, Chossudovsky is planning to attend the International Peace Assembly, which will be held in front of the US army base at Seoul’s Yongsan at 4 pm. The International Peace Assembly is scheduled to be held simultaneously in 81 cities both in Korea and around the world in countries such as the US, Japan, China, and Russia.

A Pakistani soldier in FATA, where there have been 370 CIA drone strikes. (Photo: Chris Woods)

US officials are claiming that an internal Pakistani assessment of civilian deaths from US drone strikes – obtained and published in full by the Bureau –  is ‘far from authoritative.’

The secret document was obtained by the Bureau from three independent sources. It provides details of more than 70 CIA drone strikes between 2006 and 2009, and was compiled by civilian officials throughout Pakistan’s tribal areas.

They noted that at least 147 of 746 people listed as killed in CIA drone strikes between 2006 and 2009 were said to be civilians. That number could be as high as 220 civilian dead, the leaked report indicates.

Related article: Exclusive – Leaked Pakistani report confirms high civilian death toll in CIA drone  

Now unnamed US officials are questioning the contents of the leaked report. A written statement has been provided to news organisations including the Bureau.

The statement notes that the leaked document was based on ‘indirect input from a loose network of Pakistani government and tribal contacts’. As such, an official indicated, ‘the result is a report whose findings are far from authoritative’.

The same statement added: ‘The notion that the United States has undertaken operations in Pakistan that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Pakistanis is ludicrous. There is no credible information whatsoever to substantiate the report’s distorted figures.’

Voice of America also reported receiving a written statement from US officials. Its version cited one as saying that the leaked document is not credible since it relies ‘in part on erroneous media reporting’.

Pakistan estimates

There seems little gap between Pakistan’s official position on civilian casualties, and the contents of the leaked report obtained by the Bureau.

Earlier this year Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, was officially informed by Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs that CIA drones had so far killed at least 2,200 people in the country, including at least 400 civilians.

The figures were disclosed to Emmerson as he made a three-day visit to the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which compiled the figures, said a further 200 of the total dead were also likely to be civilians.

And reporting on leaked US intelligence documents obtained by news agency McClatchy suggests that US records privately indicate civilian deaths where publicly the administration denies them.

Those documents, which have not yet been published, are said to cover two periods: 2006 to 2008, and January 2010 to September 2011, and indicate that what US officials say publicly about drone strikes does not always match intelligence reports.

Pakistan’s government has so far refused to confirm the authenticity of the latest leaked document obtained by the Bureau – though it is not contesting the report’s claims of high civilian deaths.

‘I am not in a position to authenticate the veracity of this report, but the facts that are being revealed are something which is not new,’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmed Choudhry told Voice of America. ‘ We have always said that drone strikes cause civilian casualties.’

Lawyer Shahzad Akbar of legal charity Reprieve has brought a number of legal cases in Pakistan and Europe trying to force greater clarity on the issue of civilian deaths. He told the Bureau he found it troubling that the US appears to be claiming that only it can accurately assess civilian deaths in Pakistan.

‘How is it possible for the US to determine who has been killed, when they often do not know to start with who they are targeting?’ Akbar emailed from Islamabad.

‘Drone surveillance alone cannot determine who is militant and who is not.’

Related article: Get the Data – The Pakistan government’s secret document 

‘Poor US intelligence’

In a fresh development, a retired military figure once responsible for security in Waziristan now says that historically, poor US practice may have contributed to higher non-combatant casualties.

Brigadier Mahmood Shah claimed to Voice of America that CIA drone strikes in the early days of the campaign were based on poor US ground intelligence:

‘They [the US] gave us 28 places that here are militants, then we had full recce [reconnaissance] of the area and we visited the places and we found that 27 out of 28 were incorrect, and one was correct,’ Shah told VoA.

‘So this was the amount of accuracy and if they had the permission to shoot at that time, which we never thought would be possible, you can imagine how many people, civilian people that would have killed.’

The Bureau presently estimates that 410-928 civilians are among 2,509-3,576 people killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. This is based on a two-year analysis of news reports, court documents, field investigations, leaked intelligence papers and other credible sources.

Poisonous Veracity (Swat that Lie!)

July 26th, 2013 by John Kozy

Was any Roman ever gullible enough to believe that Romulus and Remus founded Rome after being suckled by wolves? Given the gullibility of humankind, perhaps, but if so, a revelation about human nature emerges that the policy elite would prefer to keep secret—for the most part, human beings are dumbos; they can be led by their noses to believe anything. And so they have.

That Romulus and Remus were ever suckled by wolves is absurd. But is it more absurd than that people should defend a country which they own not a single square inch of? Isn’t that like defending some far off country, like Luxemburg, to which you have no relationship? Would you volunteer to defend Uganda? Why do people volunteer to defend the U.S.A.? Why defend what’s not yours? Let those who own it defend it. But they won’t; they never have. Jefferson knew that merchants have no national loyalties.

We pretend we’re not defending land we don’t own. We claim we’re defending our beliefs, but beliefs don’t need defending. Just try to kill one, even an absurd one.

Perhaps institutions founded upon those beliefs are being defended? But why defend institutions that don’t work for you? What are we defending when we defend “our country” anyway? You likely have no idea; yet many believe they should, that it’s the right thing to do. Ever ask yourself why? No? Why not?

Somehow or other there have come to be “truths” that are never examined but which are thought to be “unquestionably” true. Almost no one questions these beliefs that are too strong to be altered by evidence even though believing them leads to horrid consequences.

There are a lot more of these than you suspect. Whole civilizations are built on them. Romulus, who never existed, still influences human actions. How in the world did human beings get into this condition?

In 1789, the French revolted, and the monarchy was overthrown. The royal nations across Europe were threatened and led a counter revolution that by 1814 had restored the old order. The restoration also destroyed the basis of everything a civilized culture could be founded on. Along with the monarchy, reason, the basis for civilization, was also discredited, The baby went with the bath. Human beings cannot be treated irrationally by rational people.

So it had to be. Civilization depends upon standards. Differences exist between right and wrong, truth and error, kindness and cruelty, honesty and fraud. Everything is not the same. But these have all come to be the same in the world we now live in. By putting down the French revolution, which was a result of the Age of Reason, reason itself had to be discredited, so a plethora of standards emerged. We now have mythical standards, scriptural standards, institutional standards, personal standards, but no rational standards. Rational man no longer exists; mankind is now almost entirely creedal. Everyone’s varied opinion is as good as truth and we’ve become willing to kill each over those creeds. Political action, in fact action of any kind, pits opinion against opinion. Americans do it, Muslims do it, Hindus do it, Sikhs do it and no search for truth ever takes place because there is no standard that can separate the true claims from the others.

When this occurred, honesty disappeared too. Everything became a lie. Politicians and the government lies. Vendors lie to consumers. Brokers lie to investors. The culture is a total fraud.

Sectarian standards are not the only standards being adopted. If the Bible can become the source of a standard, so can Mein Kampf or Qutb’s Milestones. When the values in Milestones go head to head with the values in the Old Testament all that can ensue is violence. The Israelis, when they adopt the diasporic myth and reject the findings of Shlomo Sand, are being primitive Romans who believe in Romulus. Ignorance has become today’s standard of veracity. Is Israel really the only nation with a right to exist? Just exactly does that mean? Who conferred this right?

But scripture is not the only source of these “standards” although religion is a major source. In fact, religion has such a strong hold on humanity that one cleric has founded a church that embraces all religions. Some people just can’t give it up even stripped of all its content. But religion isn’t the only source of standards, Consider for a moment the view recently expressed by a prominent television commentator that only constitutional governments are legitimate. Really? What if the constitution allows the government to do horrid things to its people? Is it still legitimate? Consider the view that democracy regardless of its form is the best type of government. Really? The U.S.A. was a “democracy” when slavery was legal. Consider the widely held view that science and technology will save mankind from its depredations? Really? Science and technology have mainly provided the means to kill vastly more people that it has enabled anyone to save. Not much hope in salvation there! Can anyone claim that providing government with a means to track and eavesdrop on the conversations of every human being is a good thing? Rely on science to your own detriment!

This lack of a standard has consequences that few recognize even though they surround us. Ignorance (crime, violence, hatred, dishonesty, just plain evil, the uncouth) can easily overwhelm society, Instead of teaching people to live together, western practice has been to force compliance by the use of law and punishment instead of conviction. But it usually takes more than one official to capture one criminal. Sooner or later the number of guards will be insufficient for the task, the number of prisons too few. At that point evil will predominate. Human beings are rapidly approaching that state. The Earth is being overcome by evil.

In the U.S.A., for instance, thanks to the wonders of technology, a young person makes a mistake and commits a crime. If convicted, s/he serves a sentence and his/her name is placed in a permanent database of offenders which employers and others are encouraged to check for background information. The class of “criminals” thus increases continually. One day it will outnumber the “law abiding.” This policy, along with many others, can only have been instituted by people dumb enough to believe that Romulus and Remus founded Rome after being suckled by wolves. Such policies are countless.

Violence can not be controlled by punishing the violent; punishment requires that the violence has already occurred. The elimination of violence requires that people be convinced that force and violence are wrong . Jim Crow cannot be eliminated by outlawing expressions; it requires the elimination of the desire to use them. But conviction requires a rational basis, not just heads full of opinions.

In rejecting the enlightened values of the age of reason, European conservatives were forced to reject reason itself, In rejecting reason itself, they enshrined a Babel of Opinions without providing any way of evaluating them. The result is that everyone’s opinion is equally true (false). (Examples can be heard on any 24 hour news channel at any time of day.) These opinions are now the basis of human action, and they are leading us to perdition. Instead of punishing people, we need to perfect them.

The problem here is that bad ideas based on big errors do not get filtered out of the public debate. In fact, the opposite happens. Politics is a marketing exercise in which the media and politicians pander to public prejudice with the result that bad ideas are actually adopted. What no one seems to realize is that we cannot kill our way to goodness or even salvation or security. One and a half billion Muslims cannot be killed without killing ourselves.

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

How to Close Gitmo: A Roadmap

July 26th, 2013 by Reprieve

Reprieve delivers justice and saves lives, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

Executive Summary

The military prison at Guantánamo Bay is now facing the worst crisis of the Obama presidency. This roadmap explains how to defuse it and, ultimately, to close the prison.

In a closely-watched speech at the National Defense University, the President pledged to do more to shut Guantánamo. “I know the politics are hard,” he said. “But history will cast a harsh judgment on this aspect of our fight against terrorism and those of us who fail to end it. Imagine a future 10 years from now or 20 years from now when the United States of America is still holding people who have been charged with no crime on a piece of land that is not a part of our country.”1

President Obama was correct. But while his speech set out essential first steps – lifting the moratorium on transfers to Yemen, pledging to reopen the shuttered State Department Guantánamo office – there is much more that could feasibly be done now to close the prison. More will have to be done if Guantánamo is not to be with us a decade from now.

Today there are over 130 prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo. The strike is unprecedented in its scale and duration – it is now over four months old, with more than forty men being force-fed. The President was right to decry these force-feeding techniques as they violate both medical ethics and law. However they are likely to continue until prisoners are released, or until prisoners die, which would be a disaster from a moral and geopolitical perspective. Decisive action from the White House is more urgent than ever.

To be sure, the Bush administration bequeathed this administration significant difficulties in Guantánamo. But in many cases the situation is not as complicated as claimed, particularly if the President is serious in his claim that he is willing to take on the hard politics. The key to solving the problem is to prioritize the easier cases, while creating systems to resolve those thought to be more complex in the medium term.

In brief, the Administration must take the following steps:

  1. Announce the appointment of a White House official responsible for Guantánamo.
  2. Ensure that the White House Official and the new envoys collaborate closely with counsel for the detainees, UN-sponsored rehabilitation personnel and others seeking the same goal: the closure of Guantánamo Bay.
  3. Immediately appoint an independent rapporteur who reports directly to the White House official, charged with resolving the complaints of the detainees in conjunction with the JTF-GTMO command.
  4. Charge Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to start issuing ‘national security waivers’ for the 86 detainees who have been cleared (some for almost a decade, most by both the Bush and Obama Administrations), beginning immediately with those slated to go to dependable allies (in, for example, Western Europe).
  5. Establish, with allies, rehabilitation centers overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in various countries where detainees can and should be returned, where such institutions are necessary. Such centers exist already in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Since the majority of prisoners remaining come from Yemen, the US should swiftly agree a US- or UN-funded rehabilitation centre to house Yemeni ex-prisoners while they transition to civilian life, and transfer both ‘cleared’ and ‘conditionally cleared’ Yemenis to the centre. With the annual cost of Guantánamo now running at over $1 million per prisoner per year, it makes no economic sense not to pursue this option.
  6. Scrap the discredited military-commissions system and bring Article III judges and juries to Guantánamo to hold Constitutionally-compliant trials for all those who have, according to a prima facie case, committed criminal activity. There has been resistance to trying the cases on the mainland, but as they say, “If the mountain won’t come to you…” There is no constitutional prohibition against importing judges and jurors to Guantánamo Bay.
  7. Restart – and complete – the previous prisoner exchange talks with the Taliban for the remaining Taliban in Guantánamo.
  8. Re-assess all indefinite detention cases and, where feasible, transfer individuals to other countries with appropriate security guarantees. Convene the Periodic Review Boards announced by Executive Order 13567 to determine whether these men should remain in “continued detention” under constitutional principles of justice and in good conscience. Extend Article III trials to the individuals currently in this category, and if the evidence against them cannot sustain a conviction, release them.
  9. Work with Congressional allies to loosen, and eventually repeal, the restrictions on prisoner transfer contained in the last several National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs). If negotiation fails, veto the NDAA. Congress has more political exposure on this than the President.

STEP 1: Announce the appointment of a White House official responsible for Guantánamo.

This is the most straightforward step, and will send the message that the administration is serious about this second push on Guantánamo. In his speech at NDU, President Obama stated only that he would appoint “a new senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries.”

White House officials have briefed journalists that chief counterterrorism Lisa Monaco has been selected as the White House appointee.2 Ms. Monaco is an excellent choice, but this should be formally announced to signal the White House’s resolve.

STEP 2: Ensure that the White House official and the new envoys collaborate closely with counsel for the detainees, UN-sponsored rehabilitation personnel and others seeking the same goal: the closure of Guantánamo Bay.

Another principle that should guide the Administration going forward is for Ms. Monaco and the new DOS/DOD envoys to work more closely with security-cleared counsel for the prisoners and other allies. In the past, we saw sporadic and individual cooperation with the State Department that resulted in successful resettlements (e.g., in the case of the Uighurs to Bermuda). But this was not comprehensive and the Government sometimes worked at cross-purposes with others who were trying to achieve the same goal.

There are several reasons to work more closely with detainees’ lawyers and others who have been charged with seeking a Guantánamo solution.

One, representatives often have links to foreign governments (especially in Europe), and may be alert to possibilities (or resistances) that the US State Department does not know.

Two, the lawyers best know their clients’ histories and needs, and the transfer process will work more swiftly and smoothly if the Administration takes a collaborative approach to resettlements. Previous transfer efforts failed sometimes where a European government, working with the lawyers, suggested a prisoner or prisoners who needed resettlement to the State Department. The State Department, missing key information, then proposed a different prisoner who ultimately rejected the settlement offer. No one ultimately went to the country in question. These are wasted opportunities the Administration can ill afford.

Counsel can also play a vital role in other ways, including in persuading the clients to accept voluntary security arrangements upon their transfer to another country – arrangements that simplify the certification process. However, counsel cannot play this role without concrete signs that the Administration is moving, and moving swiftly, to address the crisis at the base. Promises have been made before, and promises have not been kept. Counsel cannot risk destroying their own relationship of trust with the detainees without real promise of a solution.

STEP 3. Immediately appoint an independent rapporteur who reports directly to the White House official, charged with resolving prisoners’ complaints in conjunction with the JTF-GTMO command.

Any trust that existed between the guards and the guarded in Guantánamo has broken down – almost irrevocably given the severe response to the non-violent hunger strike, now in its fifth month. Guantánamo is, perhaps, the most difficult prison to run on the planet, given its catastrophic international reputation, the limbo in which most detainees find themselves, and the history of harsh conditions. Unfortunately, JTF-GTMO has been plagued by constant changes in personnel, and the assignment of senior officers who had no institutional memory and little relevant experience in corrections.

The prison is currently at its nadir, with the overwhelming majority of the detainees on a hunger strike, and virtually all the others (mainly the infirm) supportive of it. Prisoners recognize that the goal of their hunger strike – ending their detention without trial, particularly of those long cleared – is, ironically, supported by President Obama. However, the detainees have little reason to trust the latest Administration promise that action will be taken: after all, releases have been far slower than in the Bush Administration, and since the start of 2011 have ground to a halt.

The hunger strike – particularly the notion of peaceful protesters being fed against their will – has already been a public relations disaster for the United States, sharpening the negative effects of the original Guantánamo experiment. The catastrophe will only worsen when, as is likely in a strike of this scale and duration, prisoners become irretrievably ill or die. The only way to avert this is to persuade the detainees that a solution is coming. Again, counsel can be an ally in this, but the situation at the prison has so deteriorated that it needs an independent official to step into the fray.

This would be the task of the independent rapporteur. In the rapporteur, prisoners and counsel would have an ombudsman: a trusted official independent from the camp administration, who receives, investigates, and addresses prisoners’ complaints. The Administration earned a reputation for trying to improve conditions at the base early in President Obama’s tenure. Despite the considerable obstacles, the rapporteur would help to restore that trust.

Perhaps the most important step, and the only one likely to get large numbers of prisoners to eat again, is the next one: the signing of waivers and transfer of cleared prisoners.

STEP 4: Charge Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to start issuing ‘national security waivers’ for the 86 cleared people, beginning with those slated to go to close allies (in, for example, Western Europe).

This is the single most important step the Administration can take. It is also the best hope of defusing the current crisis at Guantánamo: while prisoners have indicated that a Qu’ran search initially sparked their hunger strike, many have also made plain that indefinite detention (particularly of cleared prisoners) is the fuel that keeps it going.

The Administration should begin this process immediately. As others have commented, at the current rate of transfers, Guantánamo will remain open until 2054.

The Waiver process

Section 1028(d) of the 2013 NDAA (like the 2012 NDAA) provides for waiver of the

NDAA’s certification procedures where:

it is not possible to certify that the risks … have been completely eliminated, but the actions to be taken [by the receiving country]… will substantially mitigate such risks with regard to the individual to be transferred … and [that] the transfer is in the national security interests of the United States.

In other words, Secretary Hagel need no longer “ensure” that any detainee transferred “cannot engage in terrorist activity”. He has only to find that the receiving country has agreed to take actions that “will substantially mitigate” that risk.

The general legal consensus is that “[t]hese new waiver provisions clearly give the Administration both the legal authority and the practical ability to transfer detainees from Guantánamo to their home countries.”3 Senate Armed Service Committee Chair Carl Levin has confirmed this is the reason the waiver exists in a recent letter to the White House: “more than a year ago, I successfully fought for a national security waiver that provides a clear route for the transfer of detainees to third countries in appropriate cases.”4

Everyone ‘cleared’ by the Inter-Agency Task Force has been found appropriate for transfer by a unanimous panel from the relevant agencies. Certifications for these individuals to appropriate states should begin forthwith – beginning with some European resettlements.

Resettlement cases: fewer and fewer

While resettlement cases – cases of those who need placement in countries other than their countries of citizenship – have been described as a major ‘block’ to Guantánamo closing, in the current climate they may well be the easiest cases.

First, there are fewer of these individuals than ever – an estimated seventeen prisoners, most cleared. The Administration would do well to focus on transferring these individuals as a first step. The states most likely to respond quickly to an approach from the Obama administration for further resettlement are the US’s closest allies – particularly states in Europe, which have historically accepted the bulk of Guantánamo’s refugees.

Those same states are also the best candidates for transfers with minimal political resistance in the US. The most successful repatriations and resettlements have generally been to Western European countries. Moreover, the law enforcement and intelligence communities of Western Europe are perfectly able to ‘mitigate’ any

perceived risk – an important part of explaining any transfer to recalcitrant members of Congress. Of the many prisoners released to Britain over the past ten years, for example, there is not a single example of anyone committing any act of terrorism.

Case study

Shaker Aamer, ISN 239

British resident Shaker Aamer offers perhaps the most straightforward case, because of the position of the both the US and the UK governments. Significantly, Mr. Aamer was cleared first by the Bush Administration in 2007, and again by the Obama Administration in 2009.

Meanwhile, senior British officials have said on several occasions that they are actively seeking Mr. Aamer’s return to Britain and reunion with his British wife and four British children.

Public concern for Mr. Aamer has reached the top levels of the British government. Prime Minister David Cameron raised the case with President Obama on June 17, at the G8 summit. Mr. Cameron said in response to a Parliamentary question on June 19:

I raised the case with President Obama directly and will be writing to him about the specifics of the case and everything that we can do to expedite it. We need to show some understanding of the huge difficulties that America has faced over Guantánamo Bay. Clearly, President Obama wants to make progress on this issue and we should help him in every way that we can with respect to this individual. I will keep my Hon. Friend and the House updated on progress.5

The UK has successfully absorbed the largest number of ex-detainees of any European state, with no reported troubles or incidents. Mr. Aamer is originally from Saudi Arabia, which has had far less success in reintegrating its returning detainees.

Mr. Aamer, for his part, wishes to rejoin his family in London, and has indicated he is content to sign a security agreement modelled on the prior agreements used for earlier transfers to the UK. All this said, there is no reason in principle Secretary Hagel should not sign a waiver and send Mr. Aamer on a plane back to London within a week.

The case of Mr. Aamer is significant in other ways: he speaks fluent English, and has loudly protested both his own imprisonment and that of others who have been held without trial. He was made secretary to the short-lived prisoners’ committee in 2005, when JTF-GTMO experimented, briefly, with the Geneva Conventions’ mandate that prisoners have their own committee to give them a voice. He has been accused of instigating some of the non-violent protests including the hunger strikes. He is much disliked for this by the JTF-GTMO authorities and it would be a sure sign that the Administration means business if his case were finally resolved.

Case study

Nabil Hadjarab, ISN 238

Nabil Hadjarab’s is also a comparatively easy case in the current climate. The Bush administration made an early approach to the French government about Mr.

Hadjarab but frosty US-France relations in the Bush years meant negotiations did not succeed. Later, the French government sought to help the Obama administration – they accepted two Algerians who had release orders from habeas hearings. Those men are living quietly in France. French authorities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have recently indicated their willingness to discuss Mr. Hadjarab if the administration only mentions him.

By any metric France is the most appropriate option for Mr. Hadjarab: the most successful resettlements by far have been where a prisoner has existing cultural, linguistic, and familial ties to a place, and Mr. Hadjarab has all three. His father and grandfather were French colonial veterans and all his surviving family are French. His first language is French. His sense of self is French and he desires to return to France.

There are several other examples of detainees like Nabil Hadjarab and Shaker Aamer, where work by their counsel has made their relocation to another country relatively simple. Their rapid transfer is desperately needed to break the deadlock on Guantánamo.

The second category of cases that need addressing – which is by far the majority – are the cleared people who it is safe to repatriate.

Repatriation: an easier option than some believe

A number of people who were previously on the resettlement list can be safely repatriated to their countries of origin because of political changes in the intervening period. This includes, for example, cleared Tunisians and Libyans.

While it is certainly true that post-Arab spring governments are in flux, the elected representatives of these states have publicly called for the return of their nationals from Guantánamo. And while members of Congress have sought to capitalize on the violent actions of an extreme few within these states, the truth is that similar violent acts take place in the U.S. (Boston and elsewhere). The same is true of Britain (7/7 and, more recently, Woolwich), yet there has been no evidence that this is relevant to the repatriation of detainees to Britain, where ex-prisoners have behaved in exemplary fashion. Similarly, the governments of Tunisia and Libya are fundamentally pro-American and will work, along with the detainees’ lawyers, with the US to address any security concerns. Release of these nationals from Guantánamo would also burnish the US’ image in a region and at a time when it badly needs this.

Hisham SlitiMr. Sliti, a long-cleared Tunisian national, is an ideal candidate for transfer to Tunis. Belgian counterterrorism officials comprehensively combed over his case and reached a clear conclusion: he is no religious zealot and had no connection to terrorism. (They did find, less flatteringly, that he had substance abuse problems, but his imprisonmentin Guantánamo has long since cured these.) Mr. Sliti longs simply to return to his aging parents, find work, get married, and move on from his experience in Gitmo.

The lion’s share of the work on repatriations can only be achieved by dealing with the largest remaining group of prisoners: the Yemenis. This is addressed in Step 5.

STEP 5: Establish, with allies, rehabilitation centers overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in various countries where detainees can and should be returned, where such institutions are necessary. Such centers exist already in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Since the majority of prisoners remaining come from Yemen, the US should swiftly agree a US or UN-funded rehabilitation centre to house Yemeni ex-prisoners while they transition to civilian life, and transfer both ‘cleared’ and ‘conditionally cleared’ Yemenis to the centre. With the annual cost of Guantánamo now running at over $1 million per prisoner per year, it makes no economic sense not to pursue this option.

There are various countries that have illustrated their commitment to securing the return of their nationals by establishing ‘Rehabilitation Centers’ – most notably, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. These Centers provide precisely the kind of assurance the NDAA demands that the ex-prisoners will be treated appropriately and assisted in the transition back into society. Where there are assurances that an independent body (generally the ICRC) will have access to the facilities, this also provides evidence that the prisoners will not be abused upon their repatriation.

This system should be applied to Yemen. Yemen has, for some time, been treated as the most difficult country for Guantánamo transfers, because of armed unrest and the activities of a local branch of al-Qa’ida. But in many ways this is overly generalized.

Most Yemenis are no more dangerous than their British counterparts, and want to return to their families, not to any fight. Nevertheless, the Yemeni government can choose a secure location in a stable part of the country.

Moreover, keeping cleared Yemenis in limbo is widely perceived within the country as racist and unfair, fuelling the very sentiments that drive people to extremism and threaten the United States. Continuing to hold Yemenis, particularly the ‘cleared and conditionally cleared’ ones, may well be more dangerous than a carefully considered release plan.

Agree the rehabilitation center and quickly commence transfers

There is every reason to believe the rapid creation of a rehabilitation center is achievable in Yemen now, despite the fact that it stalled before. President Abdo Rabo Mansour Hadi of Yemen is generally considered a more reliable US ally on counterterrorism than his predecessor. Senior Yemeni officials from the prior administration have indicated that what destroyed plans for an earlier ‘rehab’ center in Yemen was not US unwillingness, but recalcitrance – and the quest for financial gain – on the part of deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

This sort of gamesmanship is unlikely to be an obstacle in President Hadi’s Yemen. A site should be agreed (preferably an existing structure for expediency’s sake); some of the millions of dollars the US sends Yemen in counterterrorism assistance should immediately be diverted into making a credible, secure, and humane transition facility.

An element essential to making this process succeed will be to agree the center swiftly. Another will be to ensure that the ICRC has full access to the center. Transfers must be transparent and public, with assurances that men at the rehabilitation center can be met by their families as soon as they arrive. Finally, any period of detention at the facility needs a specified end date (even if the date is for a parole-style hearing), or accusations that Guantánamo has been replicated on Yemeni soil will defeat the Administration’s good work.

Case study

Samir Mukbel, ISN 04

Recently published documents in response to a FOIA request indicate that Samir Mukbel is in the category of ‘conditionally cleared’ Yemenis. Why he was not fully cleared is not obvious, given that Mr. Mukbel is among Reprieve’s meekest of clients. He spent years in Camp IV before it was closed, and to this day is a quiet, compliant soul.

It was therefore all the more extraordinary when he joined a prison-wide hunger strike in desperation at his fate.

An op-ed in the New York Times based on a telephone call between him and his counsel briefly went viral, and contributed to the hardening of US and worldwide opinion against the military’s force-feeding practices and the Administration’s perceived inaction on Gitmo.6

Samir’s family are in Ta’iz and his sole wish is to rejoin them, marry, and start a family. He would agree to join any local rehabilitation centre that meant he could see them again. Many Yemenis would do the same. A public transfer of Mr. Mukbel to a new rehabilitation center would create goodwill and might be a positive deradicalization measure.

STEP 6: Scrap the discredited military-commissions system and bring Article III judges and juries to Guantánamo to hold Constitutionally-compliant trials for all those who have, according to a prima facie case, committed criminal activity. There has been resistance to trying the cases on the mainland, but as they say, “If the mountain won’t come to you…” There is no constitutional prohibition against importing judges and jurors to Guantánamo Bay.

It is clear that parts of the Administration originally intended to hold Article III-compliant trials. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the indictment of the accused 9/11 co-conspirators in New York. Only irrational Congressional resistance scuppered this plan. US courts have a long and credible record trying terrorism cases and the one person to receive an Article III trial after his Guantánamo detention (Ahmed Ghailani) was convicted.

In any event, the putatively improved commissions system has been plagued with scandal and with intractable constitutional problems. To name just a few, the world now knows the CIA has a ‘mute’ button on the proceedings even the presiding military judge had not been told about; the military had bugged smoke detectors that they used to eavesdrop on privileged attorney-client meetings; and that dozens of defense emails have been seized by the prosecution without legal authorization.

The implication to external observers (and many US commentators) is clear: the commissions system is irretrievably broken, and will never be seen to do justice. Trials are beset with delay and often seem to stumble haplessly from one controversy to the next. Any convictions will face years of appeal, including in the federal court system. All the challenges that have thus far reached a real court have been upheld.

Reprieve appreciates that Congressional resistance makes the prospect of a facility to try and house men slated for charges in the United States difficult. But as respected commentators have suggested, there is historical precedent for running Constitutionally-compliant trials with federal judges on military bases:

Exercising his authority as commander in chief, President Harry S. Truman created a system of civilian courts in the American zone of occupation. In the 1950s, Dwight D. Eisenhower used the same power to create a special United States Court for Berlin, which remained under occupation even after the Federal Republic regained full sovereignty in western Germany. A regular federal judge presided over a criminal trial in that court as late as 1979 — a year after President Jimmy Carter gained Chief Justice Warren E. Burger’s consent to dispatch a federal district judge, Herbert J. Stern, to Berlin.

Nothing prevents President Obama from establishing a similar court at Guantánamo, where 166 prisoners remain under indefinite detention and about 100 have gone on a hunger strike. Acting under his authority as commander in chief, the president should quickly direct a team of district judges to try the detainee cases in Guantánamo under civilian criminal procedures. Such an order should also create a panel of federal judges to hear appeals.7

This is a practical and feasible solution, and one that the Administration should work to take up right away. If it clings to the commissions system it is highly likely that the cases will be in no better a posture at the close of President Obama’s final term. If, however, prisoners are convicted in a real court, then they may be transferred to the US mainland without significant problems. There will no longer be the arguably false specter of Manhattan being closed down for a trial; any post conviction hearings that may be necessary can be held inside the prison walls; and most appeals would be held before a panel of judges without the presence of the accused.

STEP 7: Restart – and complete – the previously-discussed prisoner exchange talks with the Taliban for the remaining Taliban in Guantánamo.

Prisoner exchanges are a venerable part of conflict resolution techniques, and the end of the war in Afghanistan should prove no different. Every effort should be made to resuscitate and conclude talks to transfer the (estimated five) senior Taliban left in Guantánamo, which stalled in March 2012.

Among the best reasons to do this is acknowledged in Mr. Obama’s speech: the US cannot permanently remain on a war footing after 9/11. The conflict in Afghanistan is drawing to a natural close. The wise course, as in conflicts gone by, is to negotiate these prisoner transfers as the war winds down. Does this necessitate an element of trust – or of clear-eyed acceptance of risk? To be sure. But it is also what the end of the war requires, ethically and legally.

Release of the detainees is also “seen as a crucial confidence building measure in efforts to strike a political settlement with the Taliban”.8 Such measures “strengthen the credibility of an emerging peace settlement” and “help demonstrate the viability of peace to…hard-line supporters”, thus facilitating successful negotiations.9 Prisoner exchange for individuals like Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl (the U.S. soldier held captive since 2009) is likely to be a necessary initial step.

As Rahimullah Yusufzai explains in the Danish Institute of International Studies report “Taliban Talks: Past, Present and Prospects for the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan”:

The Taliban leadership is under pressure from the rank and file and the families of the prisoners to secure their release….Because many field commanders previously were opposed to talking to the Americans…they need something to justify the talks. If the Taliban leadership can secure the release of the five prisoners, it will show the rank and file that it can achieve something through talks. Similarly, if the Americans can secure the release of their solider, Obama can show that achievement to his people”. In addition to the release of Bergdahl the U.S. could, for example, request that the Taliban stop “attacks on schools or teachers, or: “the Guantánamo prisoners will be released but you guarantee they will only operate legally as politicians””.

Release of the Taliban prisoners may have been politically unpalatable in the run-up to the 2012 election. However, this has now passed and concerns regarding the popularity of this move must yield to more urgent considerations – the likely effect of the release of these men on successful peace talks in Afghanistan.

STEP 8: Re-assess all indefinite detention cases and, where feasible, transfer individuals with appropriate security guarantees. Immediately convene the Periodic Review Boards announced by Executive Order 13567 to determine whether these men should remain in “continued detention” under constitutional principles of justice and in good conscience. Extend Article III trials to the individuals currently in this category, and if the evidence against them cannot sustain a conviction, release them.

The Guantánamo Review Task Force considered the cases of some prisoners and found that the evidence was so tainted that criminal prosecutions were impossible, but that they were nonetheless too dangerous to be released.

It is likely that in some of these cases the supposed threat is overstated, and has been made on a basis of a prisoner’s alleged acts more than a decade ago or their disciplinary record in Guantánamo. But a prisoner’s resistance to a hostile and potentially abusive guard force in, say, 2003 is a poor reason to continue to hold him indefinitely, perhaps until the end of his life.

Nor is it proper to continue to hold someone assessed to be a low threat simply because transfer would be politically problematic (for example, because the prisoner’s prior wrongful acts have been publicly overstated.) This was true in a large number of the Guantánamo prisoners’ cases, and will likely continue to be the case. But the public shame of Guantánamo’s continued existence is far greater. While the Supreme Court has, in limited circumstances, endorsed noncriminal detention for ‘the duration of hostilities’, that argument for detaining these men becomes less and less politically (and legally) credible as the war in Afghanistan winds down.

In each of these cases the best options are:

Transfer to an appropriate rehabilitation center or with appropriate monitoring from the host government.

In the cases of ‘indefinite detention’ prisoners Fawzi al Odah (ISN 232) and Faiz al-Kandari (ISN 552), for example, Kuwait has built a large and expensive rehabilitation facility for these men already. It is sitting empty. This seems unnecessary, given the close relationship between Kuwait and the US, and suggests bad faith by the US in the Gulf region.

Re-assessment of all judgments to hold prisoners indefinitely through the long-promised Periodic Review Boards (PRBs).

It bears emphasis that these PRBs must guarantee representation by the detainees’ security-cleared legal counsel. Furthermore, objectivity in review must be guaranteed and federal court review of the PRB decisions available. Otherwise, the periodic review boards will have no more legitimacy than the military commissions.

Try the remainder in Art. III processes, as with the current commissions defendants.

In the end, the only credible way to dispose of cases where men are not released after steps 1) and 2) is to hold an Article III trial, as with the individuals selected for military commissions. Fundamentally, whatever the motive, indefinite detention is seen around the world as a violation of the US’s highest constitutional principles. Questions of fact regarding a detainee’s threat level or involvement in criminal conduct must be answered at a judicial proceeding, where the burden is on the government to produce evidence that a jury will assess under traditional burdens of proof.

STEP 9: Work with Congressional allies to loosen, and eventually repeal, the restrictions on prisoner transfer contained in the last several National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAAs). If negotiation fails, veto the NDAA.

The NDAA is not a total bar to transfers from Guantánamo – the waiver provisions permit the transfer of many, if not most, remaining prisoners – but it is nonetheless a barrier. The President should work with allies in the House and Senate who are currently working to repeal the more onerous provisions of the NDAA. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and others are working to make the process more flexible and have proposed important improvements to the next round of the NDAA.10 This effort merits the Administration’s strongest support, to include weighing in with key individual legislators.

If an acceptable version does not pass the Congress, the President should do more than threaten a veto – a threat has no credibility after the last several rounds of this legislation.

It is better to send the NDAA back to Congress.

Conclusion

With over a quarter of detainees now being force-fed, many among their number cleared, it is plain that the current situation in Guantánamo Bay is the worst detention crisis that will be faced by the Obama presidency. Action on the easier cases – cleared men targeted for Europe – is needed urgently and may well smooth the way for the remainder of the steps. Without urgent action, Gitmo’s tainted legacy will continue to haunt successive US administrations. It will undermine US foreign policy and national security objectives until it is resolved. Guantánamo habeas counsel, European and other allied governments, and a number of civil society groups stand ready to assist the Administration with this process until Guantánamo is, at last, consigned to a troubling chapter of American history.

APPENDIX

I. The Cleared 56 (List of Detainees the DOJ stated were “Cleared for Transfer in September 2012) [Reprieve clients in italics]

ISN Detainee’s Name
1 34 Al Khadr Abdallah Muhammad Al-Yafi
2 35 Idris Ahmad Abdu Qadir Idris
3 36 Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris
4 38 Ridah Bin Saleh Al-Yazidi
5 152 Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi
6 153 Fayiz Ahmad Yahia Suleiman
7 163 Khalid Abd Elgabar Mohammed Othman
8 168 Adel Al-Hakeemy
9 170 Sharif Al-Sanani
10 174 Hisham Sliti
11 189 Falen Gherebi
12 197 Younous Chekkouri
13 200 Saad Al-Qahtani
14 224 Mahmoud Al-Shubati
15 238 Nabil Said Hadjarab
16 239 Shaker Aamer
17 249 Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed Ba Odah
18 254 Muhammed Ali Husayn Khunaina
19 255 Said Muhammad Salih Hatim
20 257 Omar Hamzayavich Abdulayev
21 259 Fadhel Hussein Saleh Hentif
22 275 Abdul Sabour
23 280 Khalid Ali
24 282 Sabir Osman
25 288 Motai Saib
26 290 Ahmed Bin Saleh Bel Bacha
27 309 Muieen Adeen Al-Sattar
28 310 Djamel Ameziane
29 326 Ahmed Adnan Ahjam
30 327 Ali Al Shaaban
31 329 Abdul Hadi Omar Mahmoud Faraj
32 502 Abdul Bin Mohammed Ourgy
33 511 Suleiman Awadh Bin Aqil Al-Nahdi
34 553 Abdulkhaliq Ahmed Al-Baidhani
35 554 Fahmi Salem Al-Assani
36 564 Jalal Bin Amer Awad
37 566 Mansour Mohamed Mutaya Ali
38 570 Sabry Mohammed
39 572 Saleh Mohammad Seleh Al-Thabbi
40 574 Hamood Abdullah Hamood
41 575 Saad Nasir Mukbl Al-Azani
42 680 Emad Abdallah Hassan
43 684 Mohammed Abdullah Taha Mattan
44 686 Abdel Ghaib Ahmad Hakim
45 689 Mohammed Ahmed Salam Al-Khateeb
46 690 Abdul Qader Ahmed Hussein
47 691 Mohammed Al-Zarnouqi
48 722 Abu Wa’el Dhiab
49 757 Ahmed Abdel Aziz
50 894 Mohammed Abdul Rahman
51 899 Shawali Khan
52 928 Khiali Gul
53 934 Abdul Ghani
54 1015 Hussain Salem Mohammad Almerfedi
55 1103 Mohammad Zahir
56 10001 Belkacem Bensayah
 

II. The Conditionally Cleared 301  [Reprieve Clients in Italics]

ISN Detainee’s Name
1 26 Fahed Abdullah Ahmad Ghazi
2 30 Ahmed Umar Abdullah al-Hikimi
3 33 Mohammed Al-Adahi
4 40 Abdel Qadir Al-Mudafari
5 43 Samir Naji Al Hasan Moqbil
6 88 Adham Mohamed Ali Awad
7 91 Abdel Al Saleh
8 115 Abdul Rahman Mohammed Saleh Nasir
9 117 Mukhtar Anaje
10 165 Adil Said Al Haj Ubayd Al-Busayss
11 167 Ali Yahya Mahdi
12 171 Abu Bakr ibn Ali Muhammad al Ahdal
13 178 Tariq Ali Abdullah Ba Odah
14 202 Mahmoud Omar Muhammad Bin Atef
15 223 Abd al-Rahman Sulayman
16 233 Abd al-Razq Muhammed Salih
17 240 Abdallah Yahya Yusif Al Shibli
18 251 Muhammad Said Salim Bin Salman
19 321 Ahmed Yaslam Said Kuman
20 440 Muhammad Ali Abdallah Muhammad Bwazir
21 461 Abd al Rahman al-Qyati
22 498 Mohammed Ahmen Said Haider
23 506 Mohammed Khalid Sali al-Dhuby
24 509 Mohammed Nasir Yahi Khussorf Kazaz
25 549 Umar Said Salim Al-Dini
26 550 Walid Said bin Said Zaid
27 578 Abdual al-Aziz Abduh Abdullah Ali Al Suwaydi
28 688 Fahmi Abdullah Ahmed al-Tawlaqi
29 728 Abdul Muhammad Nassir al-Muhajari
30 893 Tawfiq Nasir Awad Al-Bihani

 

1 All the persons on this list are Yemeni nationals who are subject to “conditional detention.” According to the Department of Justice, in its recent release of its list of detainees and their legal statuses, conditional detention detainees can leave Guantanamo “if the security situation in Yemen improves, an appropriate rehabilitation program or third country resettlement option becomes available, or Yemen has demonstrated its ability to [FOIA (B)(5) REDCTION] or mitigate any threat they pose.”
 
Notes
 
1 See http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-05-23/politics/39467399_1_war-and-peace-cold-war-civil-war

2 See http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/23/all-in-on-gitmo-obama-returns-to-fight-for-a-shutdown.html

3 See Legal Analysis – Section 1028 of the NDAA, at http://www.closeguantanamo.org/ Articles/36-What-you-missed-the-NDAA-allows-the-President-to-release-prisoners-from-Guantanamo

4 See http://www.levin.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/levin-urges-white-house-to-appoint-official_to-oversee-transfer-of-gitmo-detainees

5 See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm130619/ debtext/130619-0001.htm#130619-0001.htm_spmin50

6 See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/opinion/hunger-striking-at-guantanamo-bay.html

7 Bruce Ackerman and Eugene Fidell, ‘Send Judges to Guantánamo, then Close it,’ New York Times, at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/04/opinion/send-civilian-judges-to-guantanamo-then-shut-it.html?_r=0

8 Elisabeth Bumiller and Matthew Rosenberg “Parents of P.O.W. Reveal U.S. Talks on Taliban Swap”, New York Times, at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/world/asia/pow-is-focus-of-talks-on-taliban-prisoner-swap.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

9 Lakhdar Brahimi and Thomas R. Pickering “Afghanistan: Negotiating Peace – The Report of The Century Foundation International Task Force on Afghanistan in Its Regional and Multilateral Dimensions”, at http://old.tcf.org/publications/pdfs/afghanistan-negotiating-peace/ AfghanTCFTaskForce%20BookComplete.pdf.

10 http://www.levin.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/senate-armed-services-committee-completes-markup-of-national-defense-authorization-act-for-fy14/?section=alltypes

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Support These 3 Bills … Or Live Like a Slave

July 26th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

It’s WORTH Calling

Unless you are among the one-quarter of Americans who like being a  slave to government surveillance and unnecessary anti-terror laws like the Patriot Act that have gutted our freedom, you should call your Congress critters and demand they support Rush Holt’s “Surveillance State Repeal Act”.

And Alan Grayson’s “Mind Your Own Business Act” to stop NSA spying.

And unless you enjoy the drastically decreased prosperity caused by the big banks manipulating more and more of our economy, you should contact your designated pimp and demand that they support Elizabeth Warren and John McCain’s “21st Century Glass Steagall Act“.

These are the 3 most important bills in Congress right now, as their passage could reverse some of the main ills in our society today.

Please hold your nose and call … even if you’d rather sleep in a hotel infested with lice.

L’F-35 decolla sulla testa del parlamento

July 26th, 2013 by Manlio Dinucci

Il Parlamento, si sa, è sovrano. Ha quindi deciso anche sul caccia F-35. La mozione bipartisan approvata dalla Camera il 26 maggio «impegna il governo, relativamente al programma F-35, a non procedere a nessuna fase di ulteriore acquisizione senza che il Parlamento si sia espresso nel merito, ai sensi dell’articolo 4 della legge 31 dicembre 2012, n. 244». La stessa formula è stata usata nella mozione approvata dal Senato il 16 luglio.

Siamo dunque in attesa che il Parlamento si esprima nel merito. Intanto però si è espressa la Northrop Grumman Corporation, uno dei maggiori contrattisti del programma statunitense dell’F-35 che fa capo alla Lockheed Martin. In un comunicato diffuso ieri essa annuncia di aver «consegnato il 12 luglio, all’impianto Faco di Cameri, la sezione centrale della fusoliera del primo F-35 Lightning II dell’Italia». Questa «puntuale consegna», sottolinea la Northrop Grumman, «permette il primo assemblaggio di un F-35 all’impianto Faco». Precisa quindi che quella appena consegnata costituisce «la prima delle 90 sezioni centrali della fusoliera che saranno fornite all’impianto Faco per assemblare gli aerei italiani». La Northrop Grumman, come la Lockheed Martin,  non ha quindi alcun dubbio che l’Italia acquisterà 90 F-35. Forse di più, come ha fatto intendere il ministro Mauro.

Dunque, quattro giorni prima che il Senato, confermando quanto già deciso dalla Camera il 26 maggio,  impegnasse il governo a «non procedere a nessuna fase di ulteriore acquisizione» dell’F-35, la catena di assemblaggio dell’impianto di Cameri si è messa in moto per sfornare il primo caccia della serie. Si capisce quindi perché  l’inaugurazione ufficiale, prevista per il 18 luglio, sia stata rimandata «a data da destinarsi». Se si fosse tenuta il 18 luglio, con la partecipazione del generale statunitense Bogdan (responsabile del Pentagono per il programma F-35), sarebbe venuto alla luce quanto si è saputo dal comunicato della Northrop Grumman: ossia che, in barba a quanto deciso dal Parlamento italiano, è iniziata la produzione degli F-35 che l’Italia acquisterà sborsando (con denaro pubblico) quasi 15 miliardi di euro.

L’impianto Faco di Cameri, con 20 fabbricati e una superficie di mezzo milione di metri quadri, è costato (sempre con denaro pubblico) circa 800 milioni di euro. Da impianto di assemblaggio e collaudo dei caccia verrà in seguito trasformato in centro di manutenzione, revisione, riparazione e modifica (con ulteriori esborsi di denaro pubblico). Esso è solo una parte della rete dell’F-35, che in Italia coinvolge oltre venti industrie: Alenia Aeronautica, Galileo Avionica,  Datamat e Otomelara di Finmeccanica e altre tra cui la Piaggio. Esse funzionano come reparti della «grande fabbrica» dell’F-35 sotto la direzione della Lockheed Martin, che concede alle singole industrie solo il know how delle parti dell’aereo che assemblano o producono:

La partecipazione dell’Italia al programma F-35 viene presentato come un grande affare. Non si dice però quanto verranno a costare i pochi posti di lavoro creati in questa industria bellica. Non si dice che, mentre i miliardi dei contratti per l’F-35 entreranno nelle casse di aziende private, quelli per l’acquisto dei caccia usciranno dalle casse pubbliche. Non si dice, soprattutto, che con questo programma si rafforza in Italia il potere del complesso militare-industriale. Come conferma il fatto che è stata la Northrop Grumman a farci sapere quanto avrebbe dovuto dirci il governo.

The Dollar Racket

July 26th, 2013 by Valentin Katasonov

More and more often, we find out that America has imposed a penalty on a non-US bank or company. In addition, the names of these banks and companies are well known and the amount of the penalties being imposed is formidable (sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars). It is a new phenomenon of global economic life and is unprecedented. Banks and companies have been fined, but by the authorities of the countries where they are based.

Conditions for the racket

Some experts believe that the enormous fines some non-US (primarily European) banks are being forced to pay in penalties today is part of America’s financial restructuring campaign announced by the US President. Others believe that the fines are a new competitive weapon being used by American banks against European ones. Still others believe that the new mechanism of levying fines is the new global initiative of America’s ruling elite to strengthen the country’s geopolitical superiority over the Old World and the world as a whole. There are also other theories behind what today is becoming known as the dollar «racket»…

On the one hand, after the events of 11 September 2001, the US began vigorously adopting legislation that dealt with money laundering, corruption, financial terrorism, tax evasion, organised crime, drug trafficking, cybercrime and other security threats. It is interesting that the new generation of laws adopted in America are of an extraterritorial nature. This means that if a threat to America’s security is created by the actions (financial operations) of foreign banks, companies and individuals outside of America itself, legal liability may still be applicable to these entities. American courts could then impose a penalty or other form of punishment on these foreign banks, companies and individuals. Given that common law prevails in America, US court decisions on the penalising of non-resident entities are currently rubber-stamped almost automatically. Furthermore, the US is initiating the development and ratification of a variety of international conventions on combating the threats listed above with other countries. Conventions like these are becoming additional grounds for penalising non-US perpetrators in America.

On the other hand, in order to monitor all of the violations being committed by foreign banks, companies and individuals outside of America, Washington has spent decades creating a global financial-information system. This system, which I described in my article «The world under the eagle eye of the US government and banks», allows all the actions of non-resident entities in the world to be monitored and all violations of America’s rules of the game outside of the US to be recorded.

The history of Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered was, until last year, one of the most secret banks. It was established in Great Britain as far back as the middle of the 19th century and is thought to be part of the Rothschild empire. Like the Rothschilds themselves, Standard Chartered preferred to remain in the shadows after the Second World War, but in terms of the scale of its operations, it became one of Europe’s largest banks. In recent years, 90-95 percent of this bank’s pre-tax profit has been obtained from operations outside of the US, Great Britain and Continental Europe. In August 2012, the bank was forced to blow its cover owing to a scandal initiated by the US Department of Financial Services (DFS). It brought charges against Standard Chartered alleging that the bank had carried out illegal transactions aimed at supporting the Islamic Republic of Iran. According to the DFS, these transactions amounted to a quarter of a trillion dollars, and the New York branch was helping to shift the money between British and Middle Eastern banks to the benefit of Iranian citizens. According to American authorities, in fact, Standard Chartered could be linked to terrorist and extremist organisation in Libya, Sudan and Myanmar, which are also areas covered by US sanctions. The New York Department of Financial Services (a subdivision of the DFS) declared: «For almost 10 years, the bank schemed with the government of Iran and hid from regulators roughly 60,000 secret transactions, involving at least $250bn». As noted above, Standard Chartered passed money through its New York branch on behalf of Iranian financial clients, including the Central Bank of Iran and state-owned Bank Saderat and Bank Melli, which were subject to US sanctions. At the centre of the scandal were so-called «U-Turn transactions», which meant that the money was not issued from Iran and did not end up in that country, but was moved on behalf of Iranians between British and Middle Eastern banks with the help of the New York branch of Standard Chartered. The US Ministry of Finance had banned such operations in November 2008 because of the fear that they were being used to bypass sanctions. According to the regulator, actions like these were damaging America’s entire financial system, making it vulnerable to weapons and drug trafficking and terrorists. Ultimately, the American authorities demanded that the bank pay a fine of $667m. As reported by the media, the fine has already been paid.

The «cropping» of other foreign banks

The system of monitoring bank transactions is an important factor in the competitive struggle between US and Western European banks. America is especially worried about banks in London, which is why they find themselves in the crosshairs of the American intelligence agencies. Every entity that has been accused of collaborating with Iran over the past year has been of British or Dutch descent. In June 2012, the Dutch bank ING admitted breaching the sanctions imposed on Iran and agreed to pay US authorities the enormous fine of $600m (and according to some reports, this was also for breaching sanctions imposed on Cuba). At the time, this was the biggest fine ever imposed in the entire history of sanction breaches.

The British bank Barclays PLC also agreed to pay $453m after an investigation by American and British authorities showed that the Bank had allowed serious violations when making decisions on lending and deposit operations, virtually participating in money laundering.

In the summer of 2012, the US Senate tackled the British bank HSBC Holding which, according to American intelligence agencies, had been handling operations for the practically US-controlled Mexico, providing services to Mexican drug dealers. The bank was also accused of breaching sanctions imposed on Iran. Only in December 2012 did HSBC declare it was ready to pay US authorities a fine totalling $1.92bn.

In 2012, the scandal regarding the manipulation of the Libor interbank lending rate reached its peak. Major European (primarily British) and American banks had been manipulating the rate for a number of years, allowing them to get rich illegally. An investigation into the Libor manipulations was started in 2008 and involved other major banks as well as Barclays such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Citigroup, HSBC, UBS and Deutsche bank, with Barclays being the first bank to admit responsibility. Over the last year, there have been a number of subsequent investigations by the financial supervisory authorities of America, Great Britain, Switzerland and a few other European countries regarding these manipulations. The banks were charged with heavy fines. It should be said that the fines for these manipulations were considerably more substantial than in Europe. Thus in December last year, the Swiss bank UBS declared that for manipulating the Libor rate, it would be paying a fine of nearly 1.4bn Swiss francs ($1.5bn).

The US FATCA law and foreign banks

Serious problems may arise for foreign banks with regard to the fact that the US FATCA (Foreign Account Tax and Compliance Act) law on the taxation of foreign accounts came into full operation this year. According to this law, foreign banks will be obliged to report all clients which may have something to do with the US (citizenship or residence visa) to the American Internal Revenue Service, as well as disclose information about their operations and account balances. If the government or bank refuses to comply with the requirements of FATCA, then the US will withhold a 30 percent tax on all the income of these banks from sources within the US. In this way, the US tax authorities can take control of the global financial system. Even if an American (a citizen or resident, including the owner of a «green card») did not provide information on their foreign accounts or companies, this is now dealt with by the foreign bank. It is not impossible that some small financial organisations outside of the US are completely refusing to provide services to American clients, to avoid getting tied up in the rather burdensome accounting procedures of the US Internal Revenue Service regarding their accounts. They still have to enter into an agreement with the US Internal Revenue Service, however, otherwise they will find themselves being subjected to the penalty tax even if they do not have any clients from America. Consequently, the information on American taxpayers that the Internal Revenue Service of the United States had previously had to obtain with a fight (remember at the very least the story involving the Swiss bank UBS) is now going to be offered by foreign banks both regularly and voluntarily.

In March 2013, the US Internal Revenue Service announced that it was planning to search for its debtors around the world and was expecting to receive $5m in fines from the foreign banks concealing them. First on the list were banks in India, Israel, Hong Kong and Singapore. Sanctions against the Swiss bank Wegelin, which did not have any business operations in America, became the precedent. Lawyers say it has placed the continued existence of banking secrecy in doubt and has prepared the financial sector for the rules of FATCA.

«The government has no intention of letting up in its relentless pursuit of wealthy Americans with secret accounts offshore, and soon it will have even more tools to work with», says Mark Matthews, a former chief of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal-investigations division who is now a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale. Over the past four years, the US government has already managed to obtain $5.5bn in unpaid taxes and penalties.

A decision on the possibility of imposing sanctions against a foreign bank not operating on US soil was passed on 4 March 2013. The oldest private bank in Switzerland, Wegelin, was fined $74m by the American authorities for tax law violations. Wegelin was established in 1741 and was considered one of the country’s most prestigious banks. The bank did not have any offices or departments on US soil, therefore it was certain it did not face any penalties as a result of the facts of the case. In January 2013, the bank admitted that it had closed its eyes to the activities of its American clients who had been avoiding paying taxes. It is more than likely that Wegelin will close soon after it pays the fine. As a result of the trial, the bank virtually ceased its business operations and its clients began withdrawing their money. Wegelin was the main bank Americans used to avoid paying taxes after the Swiss bank UBS entered into an agreement with the authorities in 2009. UBS agreed to breach its banking secrecy law and gave the US authorities the names of 4500 of its clients (the US had insisted on information about 52,000 non-resident accounts). Nevertheless, the bank still had to pay a $780m fine. The bank lost a further $20m owing to the mass exodus of clients frightened by the bank’s willingness to relax the banking secrecy law.

New York as the centre of the dollar racket

It is not just banks that are getting caught in the US authorities’ field of vision, but also companies in the non-financial sector of the economy. With this, it may not just be a case of breaching American sanctions against one country or another, but also corruption violations and offences in other countries. For example, in 2010 the US Justice Department accused the German group Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, of bribing officials in 22 countries, including Russia. Daimler pleaded guilty and preferred to pay its way out of trouble. The Germans paid the US government a fine of $185m. Furthermore, the affair had absolutely nothing to do with the US: the company did not bribe American officials and no American laws were violated.

New York, where the majority of US banks in which foreign banks open up their own correspondent accounts are situated, is playing its own special role in the dollar racket. While in turn, New York banks have their accounts in the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. No matter what anybody says, New York is still the global financial centre with which neither London, Tokyo, Frankfurt or Hong Kong can compare. After all, the lion’s share of all global dollar-denominated transactions passes through New York. This includes those that have absolutely nothing to do with the US. Consequently, the New York State Department of Financial Services, which was created in 2011, also has its special role to play in the exposure of bank and company wrongdoers. Around 4,500 organisations, with assets of $6.2 trillion, are under the direct control of this agency.

Lawyer David Pitofsky, from the law firm Goodwin Procter, observes: «Even if a transaction is done, say, in Japanese yen, if a blip in the system turns these into dollars, that in theory could mean it falls under US law» (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/19172065). This circumstance is a powerful incentive for non-US banks and companies to replace the US dollar with the currencies of other countries when making international payments, while at the same time creating their own regional systems of international payments. There is no doubt, for example, that there is a need for the immediate creation of an integrated group of Euro-Asian countries involving Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other post-Soviet countries. International payments within this group could then be made in roubles, and Moscow would be able to lay claim to the status of regional financial centre as an alternative to New York.

Head of Venezuela’s National Assembly Diosdado Cabello has stated that he will make public “hard evidence of assassination attempts” targeting himself and President Nicolas Maduro “in due course”.

“We know who they are, what they are, what they want, and we will find them,” Cabello told legislators during a special session of the assembly in Zulia state on Wednesday.

The alleged plot was first revealed by Maduro during a street government in Monagas state the day before, when he said that “fascist” groups operating in Venezuela “have crazy plans”.

“I have appointed Diosdado Cabello as political head of the PSUV to find the truth of how they have prepared for attacks against me for months,” Maduro said.

Maduro stated that if he or Cabello were targeted for assassination, “the wrath of god and the people would be unstoppable” adding that the political opposition would be crippled.

“I’m not here to be afraid of anything or anyone,” he said.

However, yesterday opposition leader Henrique Capriles stated on his internet show at Capriles.tv that “the worst thing that can happen to Venezuela is a coup”.

“Here the majority of Venezuelans want a peaceful and democratic change,” he stated, before accusing the government of “fascism”. He also accused Venezuelan authorities of “retaliating” against the Chilean airline LAN. During his recent visit to Chile and Peru, Capriles reportedly flew with the airline.

The Maduro government has been critical of Capriles’ regular international trips. Foreign minister Elias Jaua recently accused Capriles of neglecting his governorship of Miranda state.

Nonetheless, today during a press conference Capriles indicated that he will spend more time abroad denouncing “the reality of the country”. He hinted that his next destinations could include Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador.

During the conference, Capriles reiterated claims that the government committed electoral fraud in April, before urging supporters to vote in December’s municipal elections.

This week, Capriles has also stated that the MUD will “continue to organise society in neighbourhoods, towns and cities, to consolidate an overwhelming majority in the December elections”.

On the other hand, the head of Voluntad Popular (Popular Will) Leopoldo Lopez stated that “we are not going to wait six years to be given change”.

“There cannot be peace… when there is injustice,” Lopez stated, before urging supporters to restart street protests against the government. VP is part of the MUD coalition. Supporters of the opposition held protests across the country following the 14 April elections, after Capriles disputed the results. In some parts of the country, authorities reported that opposition protests turned violent. In the days that followed the election, Venezuelanalysis observed some opposition protesters and pro-government counter-protesters clash in the streets of Merida.

In April, Venezuela’s attorney general Luisa Ortega Díaz, stated that the violence claimed nine lives and dozens of injuries nationwide. Since then, the Maduro administration has accused Capriles of inciting the violence.

“We cannot turn the page of 14A [the 14 April presidential elections] when we said that the elections were stolen. This government does not enjoy majority support of Venezuelans,” Lopez insisted this week.

The latest poll from private firm Hinterlaces indicates that support for the opposition has fallen to 31%, while the PSUV now has the backing of 48% of the population. The results of another poll by International Consulting Services (ICS) earlier this month indicated that 55.9% of Venezuelans approve of Maduro’s presidency.

Cabello responded to Lopez’s statements on Wednesday, urging the opposition to not provoke violence.

 “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” (Sinclair Lewis, 1885-1951: “It Can’t Happen Here”, 1935.)

 It is impossible not to ponder that the military and military planning disciplines attract some with tendencies to extremes in deviance, psychosis and general psychological aberrances.

When yet another example comes to light – “trophy” photographs of soldiers with dead and mutilated bodies, soldiers urinating on the dead, soldiers removing body parts as “souvenirs”, unspeakable torture on orders from on high, rapes, body burnings to hide the crimes – it is assumed it can get no worse. Inevitably it does.

In World War 11 Japanese body parts, including ears, teeth and especially skulls, were routinely gathered as keepsakes by US soldiers.

“The desecration of the bodies of Japanese soldiers was so common that in 1944, Life magazine published a light-hearted photo of a young woman posing with a Japanese soldier’s skull, sent to her from New Guinea by her Navy boyfriend.

 “That same year, columnist Drew Pearson reported that Representative Francis E. Walter (D-Penn.) had presented President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a letter opener made from the forearm of a Japanese soldier. ‘This is the sort of gift I like to get’, Pearson quotes FDR saying.” (i)

Further: “ … as is often the case with souvenirs and holiday mementos purchased by tourists – as gifts for relatives and others back home. Some collected such objects (ie body parts) at the specific request of family members.”

In Viet Nam, incidentally, a favoured trophy body part was a penis.

US Armed forces personnel have for decades written messages on missiles they are about to drop on schools, residential neighborhoods, hospitals, churches, mosques, synagogues, markets, malls, reducing living souls to scraps of charred flesh – or simply vaporizing them, no body or even flesh shard, to wash and kiss for the last time, no grave at which to mourn, sit and “talk” to the lost love.

A favored missile message in the Ramadan bombing of Iraq in 1998, as children lost their minds in terror and parents near lost theirs in their efforts to protect them, was: “Have a happy Ramadan, Saddam.”

I have written before of General Colin Powell and the then Secretary of Defence Dick Cheney , three days before the 1991 bombing of Baghdad’s Ameriyah Shelter on the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, visiting the US Air base at Khamis Mushat, Saudia Arabia (slogan: “Bombs are us” and “We live so others may die.”)

They both amused themselves by each signing a thousand pound bomb: “To Saddam with fond regards”, wrote Cheney (“A General’s War”, General Bernard Traynor and Michael Gordon, p.324.) When the Shelter was bombed, frantic calls followed incase the bombs might have been involved in the massacre. Cheney’s bomb apparently fell on northern Iraq, dropped by a Major Wes Wyrich. What lives Powell’s terminated, is either unknown or a well kept secret.

In the 2006 Israel-Lebanon “Summer War”, Israeli school children were encouraged and allowed to go a military base and sign missiles to be dropped on other school children in Lebanon: “From Israel with love.”

The reality behind this sick exercise, as Stephen Lendman has written (ii) was that: “Besides vast destruction and mass population displacement, three hundred and thirteen children were killed among the 1,414 who died over a twenty three day period. Of the 5,300 injured (many seriously), 1,606 were children. In all cases, the vast majority were noncombatants.”

Further: “almost fifteen percent were under five, and another one-fourth between five and ten; the remainder were between eleven and seventeen, with the ‘overwhelming majority’ killed in densely populated residential areas.”

Weapons Israel sent “with love” from its children included: “conventional and illegal weapons. The former included missiles, artillery and tank shells, mortars, and automatic weapons.

“Others included:

“White phosphorous which burns flesh to the bone and can be fatal; it’s use is prohibited in civilian areas and ‘flechettes’ – four centimeter long darts used as anti-personnel weapons; penetrating to the bone, they can cause multiple horrific injuries.

“Up to eight thousand of them can be packed into one artillery shell; on explosion, they travel at high speed in multiple directions …” [to tear life apart, “with love.”] (My emphasis.)

 Then of course, there are the “Jesus rifles” with coded New Testament Bible passages : “inscribed on high powered rifle sights provided to the US military in Afghanistan” and formerly in Iraq. They were also used by the Iraqi and Afghan soldiers they were training. As with the countless thousands of bibles the troops brought with them to distribute in both countries and their routine defacing of the Qu’ran in homes, schools and mosques, “Crusaders” are certainly US.

 Whilst the military have denied they had knowledge of the biblical verses on their weapons of human destruction, Michael Weinstein, of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who campaigns for the separation of church and state, claims that military Commanders have referred to these weapons as: “spiritually transformed firearms of Jesus Christ.”

Weinstein says it also plays in to the hands of those: “who are calling (US invasions) a Crusade.” You bet. “This is probably the best example of  violation of the separation of church and state in this country”, he says, adding: “It’s literally pushing fundamentalist Christianity at the point of  a gun against the people we are fighting. We’re emboldening an enemy.”(iii)

 And insulting, humiliating and enraging further, as if illegal invasions of the countries, and indeed their values and cultures were not enough.

Then of course, there is humiliation by flag. The raising of the Stars and Stripes above other countries’ national buildings, monuments, palaces. The placing of it over the face of Saddam Hussein’s Statue in Firdos Square, an act that arguably, sent revulsion, rage and resentment round the entire region – whether in the “for” or “against” Saddam camp.

However, arguably even the above pales against a little noticed inspiration by the US 414th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron operating out of  Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base.

In May last year, they launched: a commemorative flag programme. Takers can have a souvenir Stars and Stripes flown in one of their MQ-1B Predator Drones, on a twenty two hour round trip mission  – a “unique gift” which could “intrigue”, or have ”patriotic value.” It comes with a “personalized certificate outlining the operations and details about the  (Drone) on which the flag was flown.”

“Once we’re done, we draw up a certificate with the history of that particular flight and the requester can present the flag as a gift to a person of their choosing. We also put the person’s name, the name of the operation and some background on there as well.”

Whilst these mission flags from potential killing forays have: “been around for a long time … In most aircraft it flies for a few hours … Our particular mission flies for twenty two hours.” Seemingly: “A lot of people don’t know about it until we present it to someone they know then they’re like ‘ Oh, I want one, what do I need to do?’ “

 They will also fly and certify flags for “guests and distinguished visitors” and  “for people back home, churches, state organizations” and other “lucky recipients.” (My emphasis.)

Are those who request this symbol of these cowardly, lethal, remotely operated, rightly named “Predators” aware that they hang in their homes a symbol of child killings, shepherd and farmer killings, village eradicating obscenity?

 Through the ages, the religious have recorded blood running from statues, tombs, monuments of Martyrs and Saints. I am a sceptic. But if a pool of blood was found under one of those flags, I would not bat an eyelid.

“We believe that America is great when its people are good”, stated the website of the manufacturers of the biblically inscribed high powered rifle sights, Trijicon, of  Wixom, Michigan: “This goodness has been based on Biblical standards throughout our history …”

Sinclair Lewis (top quote) was undisputedly a clairvoyant.

Notes

i.  http://blogs.reuters.com/jackshafer/2012/04/18/sadly-human-trophies-are-as-old-as-war-itself/

ii. http://www.globalresearch.ca/israeli-war-crimes-against-children-during-operation-cast-lead/13956

iii.http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/us-military-weapons-inscribed-secret-jesus-bible-codes/story?id=9575794

iv.http://www.incirlik.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123300331

A new tactic by US Secretary of State John Kerry is causing a split within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) ranks regarding further talks with Israel. Kerry is apparently using the Arab League’s Follow-Up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative (FCAPI) to bully the Palestinians into accepting new ground rules for the talks to which they had objected in the past.
 
In his sixth tour of the region as secretary of state, Kerry did something unusual. Instead of visiting Israel , as he always does, he left it out of his itinerary, deciding instead to hold most of the talks in the Jordanian capital Amman . While there, he conferred with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as members of the FCAPI. As the talks progressed, it became clear that Kerry was no longer focussing on Israel , the country that has torpedoed all previous attempts at peace, but on the PLO. His aim is to get the latter to offer more concessions than any they have accepted in the past.
 
In order to do this, Kerry wanted to get the FCAPI to accept these concessions on behalf of the Palestinians, a new tactic that may or may not be working but that so far has succeeded in causing divisions and widespread consternation in Palestinian circles. The tactic is not totally new, for it resonates with the manner in which US diplomats have used the Arab League to justify foreign intervention for the sake of regime change in countries such as Iraq and Libya in the past.
 
Speaking after a meeting with Kerry in Amman , FCAPI diplomats voiced their “great support” for Kerry’s efforts to revive the talks. Their remarks were seen as a “victory” for Kerry, said the Associated Press. It was a “success” for his diplomacy, added The New York Times. Kerry, for his part, announced that the gap was “narrowing” between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and that all that was needed now was to “iron out” a few kinks.
 
For the Palestinians, ironing out these kinks is going to be a quite a job, however. PLO chief negotiator Saeb Ereikat is said to have had a “stormy” meeting with the PLO leadership concerning Kerry’s proposals. The PLO, its back to the wall, is now forming a working committee to decide what to do about the talks.
 
All of this is unprecedented. In the past, the FCAPI used to take its cue from the Palestinians. When the Palestinians were faced with demands for concessions they were reluctant to give, they politely said they needed to consult with the FCAPI, which was a courteous way of turning down unacceptable proposals. Now the FCAPI is getting them into trouble by agreeing to concessions before the Palestinians even have time to discuss them at length.
 
In the absence of FCAPI support for the PLO negotiators, the latter had no option but to play along with Kerry’s proposals. On Friday, the US secretary of state declared his satisfaction with the current plans to get the Palestinians and the Israelis talking again about a “final status” deal. He has invited the PLO and Israel to send negotiators to Washington soon to work out details of the agreement. PLO senior officials told the French news agency AFP that Kerry was determined to declare the resumption of the talks before leaving the region.
 
US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that unless progress was made on Kerry’s sixth visit to the region, he would not be returning for more visits. If anything, this sounds like an unveiled threat aiming to put pressure on Abbas and his chief negotiator and force their cooperation.
 
During this round of talks, Kerry also left Abbas no chance to play for time. Instead of waiting for Abbas to go to talk with the FCAPI, Kerry brought the Arab League diplomats to Amman and had them agree to his proposals without prior consultation with the PLO.
 
In Amman , members of the FCAPI issued a statement saying that Kerry’s ideas for the resumption of talks were a “suitable foundation” for further negotiations. The FCAPI stamp of approval placed the PLO in a difficult position. Abbas, unable to wiggle free from this diplomatic ordeal, remained silent. But his silence, as the saying goes in Arabic, was seen as a “sign of approval”.
 
Yet, the situation is likely to spark resentment back home, where most of the PLO leaders are opposed to Kerry’s proposals. However, they know that a blunt rejection of these proposals may invoke an unpleasant US reaction, if not sanctions.
 
Abbas is waiting to give his answer following consultations with the PLO leadership. In all likelihood, the latter will have to agree, despite its deep reservations about Kerry’s proposals.
 
As a result of all this, the FCAPI has let down the Palestinians, and it is not the first time that this has happened. On 29 April, a Qatari-led FCAPI delegation offered Kerry what amounted to its consent to a land swap at a meeting in Washington . Critics of the FCAPI correctly noted that the step was extraordinary, for the FCAPI is not empowered to make such concessions. Only the Arab summit, which issued the Arab Peace Initiative, is entitled to make any amendment to this initiative. As a mere follow-up committee, the FCAPI had exceeded its mandate.
 
Israel, of course, is pleased to see the FCAPI offer concessions that the Palestinians do not seem willing to make. Tzipi Livni , Israel ’s foreign minister at the time, described the FCAPI statement as “good news.”
 
Lebanese analyst Ziad Al-Sayegh recently wrote that “after the failure of the internationalisation of the talks [through the Quartet], we are now going through a regionalisation of the talks [through the Arab League].” One symptom of this regionalisation is that the land swap, overwhelmingly rejected by the Palestinians, is now getting the Arab League’s stamp of approval.
 
Last Thursday, the Jordanian news agency Petra cited the Arab League chief, Nabil Al-Arabi, as saying that the “US plan concerning the peace process is based on three axes; political, economic and security-related”. The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot then offered an interesting interpretation of this statement. The political axis, it said, was the resumption of talks. The security axis was going to be left to the US top brass to decide. And the economic axis would mean a lot more aid to the Palestinian Authority.
 
During his last tour of the region, Kerry made no reference to the Israeli settlements. Nor did he object when Israel declared plans to build 732 new settlement units in the settlement of Modi’in Illit in west Jerusalem . For him, this was not even a kink worthy of ironing out. Even worse, the FCAPI has not seemed interested in Israel ’s active settlement-building programme, and it did not even mention that future talks should focus on a two-state deal based on the 1967 borders.
 
Last Friday, Kerry said that the best way to give the talks a chance was to keep them “private”. He declined to reveal the details of his plan as a result, and the FCAPI had nothing to say. For now, the PLO leadership is also keeping its cards close to its chest.
 
This article was first published and translated from Arabic by the Al-Ahram Weekly.

Russia and China Prepare for Global War

July 26th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Originally published in 2013.

Both countries want peace, not war. America threatens them. Defensive readiness is prioritized. Forewarned is forearmed.

NATO’s a global alliance. Washington heads it. It’s a geopolitical threat. It menaces humanity. It’s expanding worldwide. It’s allied for offense, not defense. It plans war, not peace.

It’s comprised of 28 member states, 22 partner ones, seven Mediterranean Dialogue allies, four Istanbul (Gulf) Cooperation Council Initiative states, and eight other global Partners.

It works cooperatively with the UN, EU, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. South American and African  expansion is planned.

Stop Nato’s Rick Rozoff told Progressive Radio News Hour listeners it’s a “global missile.” It’s aimed at humanity’s heart. It threatens potential armageddon. Stopping its rogue agenda matters most.

It threatens world peace. It’s expanding to Russian and Chinese borders. Encroaching US bases surround them. Moscow and Beijing are mindful. They’re allied defensively. They’re preparing for scenarios they hope to avoid. They’re readying for possible global war.

On December 7, 2011, the EU Times headlined “China Joins Russia, Orders Military to Prepare for World War III.

A Beijing Ministry of Defense bulletin said then President Hu “agreed in principle” that deterring US-led Western aggression’s only possible by “direct and immediate military action” or threat thereof.

He ordered his naval forces to “prepare for war.” BBC reported the same story. He wants stepped up preparation and readiness.

He told military officials that China’s navy should “accelerate its transformation and modernisation in a sturdy way, and make extended preparations for warfare in order to make greater contributions to safeguard national security.”

Chinese Rear Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong warned unequivocally. “China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a Third World War,” he said.

Hopefully he means it. Hopefully Washington and Israel take heed. Hopefully it deters their planned aggression. Hopefully a nightmarish scenario’s avoided.

Russian General Nikolai Makarov said:

“I do not rule out local and regional armed conflicts developing into a large-scale war, including using nuclear weapons.”

Beijing’s bulletin discussed a US-planned “ultimate (Middle East) solution.” It’s readied in case of regional nuclear war. It said Washington will attack Syria and Iran with lethal biological weapons. They’re “intended to kill tens of millions of innocent civilians.”

Dutch virologist Ron Fouchier revealed it. He discovered that five avian flu virus mutations spread far more easily. Doing so makes them the “most lethal killer(s) of mankind ever invented.”

US capabilities were based on Russian intelligence examination of Lockheed Martin’s RQ-170 Sentinel Drone. It was downed over Iranian territory.

“Russian made Avtobaza ground-based electronic intelligence and jamming system was used. Evidence showed it was equipped with a sophisticated aerosol delivery system.”

America’s nuclear, chemical, and biowarfare agenda is longstanding. Post-9/11, stepped up development was prioritized. Nuclear disarmament was spurned. So were Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) provisions.

The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) was abandoned. It expressly forbids development, testing and deployment of missile defenses. Doing so interferes with Washington’s offensive plans.

It refuses to adopt a proposed Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). It prohibits further weapons-grade uranium and plutonium production. It forbids adding new nuclear weapons to present stockpiles.

America spends more on military readiness than all other countries combined. Funding includes enormous congressional appropriations, outsized black budgets, others off the books, secret programs, huge amounts for intelligence, and other unknown initiatives.

Longstanding US policy calls for preventive, preemptive, and/or proactive wars. Global targets are involved. First-strike chemical, biological and nuclear weapons are planned. Anticipatory self-defense justifies doing so.

Washington rescinded the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. Subverting its provisions preceded doing it.

Enhancing America’s offensive capability matters most. Doing so prepares for global war. At issue is unchallenged dominance. Anything goes is policy. Achieving it’s prioritized.

Potentially destroying life on earth is risked. Advancing Washington’s imperium matters more. America has hugely destructive chemical, biological, nuclear and other arsenals.

Secret research and development programs upgrade them. Enormous amounts are spent doing so. Classified budgets conceal how much.

Hundreds of private biolabs operate nationwide. Fort Detrick, Lawrence Livermore, and other government facilities operate secretly. Research prioritizes offense, not defense.

Germ warfare once was science fiction fantasy. Today it’s a grim reality. So is chemical and/or mushroom shaped cloud annihilation.

America plays hardball. It does so for keeps. Nuclear/chemical/biological trigger readiness is prioritized. Francis Boyle calls catastrophic biowarfare/bioterrorist incidents or accidents a “statistical certainty.”

It’s just a matter of time. Permanent war is official US policy. Total war risks annihilation. All weapons in America’s arsenal will be used. They’re planned to be as needed. Humanity’s more than ever threatened.

Russia and China represent our last line of defense. Hopefully they’re up to the challenge.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have known my postman for more than 20 years. Conscientious and good-humoured, he is the embodiment of public service at its best. The other day, I asked him, “Why are you standing in front of each door like a soldier on parade?” 

“New system,” he replied, “I am no longer required simply to post the letters through the door. I have to approach every door in a certain way and put the letters through in a certain way.”

“Why?”

“Ask him.”

Across the street was a solemn young man, clipboard in hand, whose job was to stalk postmen and see they abided by the new rules, no doubt in preparation for privatisation. I told the stalker my postman was admirable. His face remained flat, except for a momentary flicker of confusion.

In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley describes a new class conditioned to a normality that is not normal “because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does”.

Surveillance is normal in the Age of Regression — as Edward Snowden revealed. Ubiquitous cameras are normal. Subverted freedoms are normal. Effective public dissent is now controlled by police, whose intimidation is normal.

The traducing of noble words like “democracy”, “reform”, “welfare” and “public service” is normal. Prime ministers who lie openly about lobbyists and war aims are normal. The export of £4bn worth of British arms, including crowd control ammunition, to the medieval state of Saudi Arabia, where apostasy is a capital crime, is normal.

The willful destruction of efficient, popular public institutions like the Royal Mail is normal. A postman is no longer a postman, going about his decent work; he is an automaton to be watched, a box to be ticked. Huxley described this regression as insane and our “perfect adjustment to that abnormal society” a sign of the madness.

Are we “perfectly adjusted” to this? No, not yet. People defend hospitals from closure, UK Uncut forces bank branches to close and six brave women climb the highest building in Europe to show the havoc caused by the oil companies in the Arctic. There, the list begins to peter out.

At this year’s Manchester festival, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s epic Masque of Anarchy – all 91 verses written in rage at the massacre of Lancashire people protesting poverty in 1819 – is an acclaimed theatrical piece, and utterly divorced from the world outside. Last January, the Greater Manchester Poverty Commission disclosed that 600,000 Mancunians were living in “extreme poverty” and that 1.6 million, or nearly half the city’s population, were “sliding into deeper poverty”.

Poverty has been gentrified. The Parkhill Estate in Sheffield was once an edifice of public housing – unloved by many for its Le Corbusier brutalism, poor maintenance and lack of facilities. With its Heritage Grade II listing, it has been renovated and privatised. Two thirds of the old flats have been reborn as modern apartments selling to “professionals”, including designers, architects and a social historian. In the sales office you can buy designer mugs and cushions. This façade offers not a hint that, devastated by the government’s “austerity” cuts, Sheffield has a social housing waiting list of 60,000 people.

Parkhill is a symbol of the two thirds society that is Britain today. The gentrified third do well, some of them extremely well, a third struggle to get by on credit and the rest slide into poverty.

Although the majority of the British are working class – whether or not they see themselves that way — a gentrified minority dominates parliament, senior management and the media. David Cameron, Nick and Ed Milliband are their authentic representatives, with only minor technical difference between their parties. They fix the limits of political life and debate, aided by gentrified journalism and the “identity” industry. The greatest ever transfer of wealth upwards is a given. Social justice has been replaced by meaningless “fairness”.

While promoting this normality, the BBC rewards a senior functionary almost £1m. Although regarding itself as the media equivalent of the Church of England, the Corporation now has ethics comparable with those of the “security” companies G4S and Serco which, says the government, have “overcharged” on public services by tens of millions of pounds. In other countries, this is called corruption.

Like the fire sale of the power utilities, water and the railways, the sale of Royal Mail is to be achieved with bribery and the collaboration of the union leadership, regardless of its vocal outrage. Opening his 1983 documentary series Questions of Leadership, Ken Loach shows trade union leaders exhorting the masses. The same men are then shown, older and florid, adorned in the ermine of the House of Lords. In the recent Queen’s Birthday honours, the general secretary of the TUC, Brendan Barber, received his knighthood.

How long can the British watch the uprisings across the world and do little apart from mourn the long-dead Labour Party? The Edward Snowden revelations show the infrastructure of a police state emerging in Europe, especially Britain. Yet, people are more aware than ever before; and governments fear popular resistance – which is why truth-tellers are isolated, smeared and pursued.

Momentous change almost always begins with the courage of people taking back their own lives against the odds. There is no other way now. Direct action. Civil disobedience. Unerring. Read Percy Shelley – “Ye are many; they are few”. And do it.

John Pilger’s new film, Utopia, will be previewed at the National Film Theatre, London, in the autumn. Visit his website at www.johnpilger.com

Led by firebrand Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Congress is to launch an official investigation into the mysterious helicopter crash that killed several members of the Navy SEAL team 6 in Afghanistan in 2011.

Back in May, the families of the SEALs went public with concerns that the Obama administration was at least partially responsible for the deaths of their sons.

The family members say that they still have not received satisfactory answers to their questions, and that there are still many inconsistencies and contradictions in the explanations they have been provided.

“We’re going to dive into this.” said Chaffetz, who is acting in his position as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security.

30 Americans were killed in the crash on August 6, 2011 when insurgents shot down a U.S. military helicopter during fighting in eastern Afghanistan, making it the largest loss of life in a single incident for the U.S. military during the war. 22 of the victims belonged to the same unit as the Navy SEALS involved in the purported Osama Bin Laden operation, just three months earlier.

US military officials have maintained that none of the individuals involved directly in the Bin Laden mission were killed in the crash. However, sources have claimed that there were at least two SEALs who died on the chopper who had been involved in the Bin Laden raid.

Some of the families feel that the Obama administration’s handling of the death of Bin Laden made retaliatory attacks against SEAL Team 6 more likely. Family members have also expressed concerns that SEALS were sent into battle “without special operations aviation and proper air support.”

Chaffetz has said that he is preparing to send questions to the Pentagon and may hold congressional hearings on the issue. He noted that the families deserve answers: “That’s why you do an investigation. I want to be as factual as I can.” he said.

Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, who is representing some of the families told reporters “This is a scandal even greater than Benghazi.”

“There we lost four valued American lives; here we sacrificed 30 American soldiers. The big question is were these brave Americans sold out by the Afghani government as payment to the Taliban for the death of bin Laden?” Klayman added.

Klayman’s questions stem from the fact that Afghani forces accompanying the Navy SEAL servicemen on the helicopter were most likely not properly vetted, meaning that they may have disclosed classified information to the Taliban about the mission, resulting in the shoot down of the helicopter.

Pentagon documents have confirmed that immediately prior to the take off of the helicopter, seven Afghan commandos who were listed on the passenger itinerary were mysteriously replaced by other Afghan military officials.

Defense officials have confirmed that all seven names of the Afghan soldiers on the passenger list did not tally with those on board when the chopper took to the air.

The families of the SEALs have noted that their sons did not have trust in Afghan soldiers, with one quoted as saying, “They are loyal to the highest bidder.”

Charlie Strange, the father of one of the killed SEALs also pointed out “There was no eye in the sky tracking [the Chinook]. Why not?”

In addition, pre-assault fire was requested by the team, but was denied by military officials on the ground.

“My son Michael died,” Strange said. “I want to know, who made these calls?”

The Pentagon probe into the shoot down denies that the incident was an “established ambush,” instead claiming that “it was a lucky shot of a low-level fighter that happened to be living [in the area]. He heard all the activity and he happened to be in the right spot.”

Families have countered those suggestions by pointing out that leading militants took to the internet in the immediate aftermath of the attack, to boast that they had successfully ambushed SEAL Team 6.

The Pentagon has also claimed that, despite recovering all the bodies of those killed, the helicopter’s black box was washed away in a flash flood.

The Pentagon told the families that all the bodies were cremated due to the fact that they were badly burned in the crash. However, pictures have emerged that show some deceased SEALs without bad burns.

“The body I saw didn’t need to be cremated,” Rep. Chaffetz said, also noting that the DoD’s explanation regarding the helicopter’s black box is “awfully odd.”

Perhaps even more controversially, family members have also provided evidence that suggests a Muslim cleric attended the funerals of the service members and disparaged them by “damning them as infidels to Allah” during an Islamic prayer.

Refusing to answer specific questions, a DoD spokesperson stated “the operational planning and execution of this mission was consistent with previous missions” and “was thoroughly investigated … we share in the grief of all of the families who lost their loved ones. The loss of 38 U.S. and Afghan military personnel was a tragic loss during a difficult campaign.”

Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

UK Spy Warns of Iraq War Disclosures

July 25th, 2013 by Annie Machon

Photo: Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of Great Britain’s MI-6 intelligence agency.

For more than a decade since the Iraq invasion, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and their senior aides have stuck to the story of innocent intelligence mistakes and evaded accountability. But the code of silence may crack if top British spy Richard Dearlove tells his story, says ex-UK intelligence officer Annie Machon.

In a surprising statement last weekend, the former head of Great Britain’s foreign intelligence-gathering agency, MI6, suggested that he might break the code of omerta around the fraudulent intelligence case – including the so-called “dodgy dossier” – that was used as the pretext for the Iraq War in 2003.

Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 and current Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, contacted the UK’s Mail on Sundaynewspaper to state that he had written his account of the intelligence controversy in the run-up to the U.S./UK invasion of Iraq and indicated that he might release it in the near future.

With the much-delayed official Chilcot Enquiry into the case for war about to be published, Dearlove is obviously aware that he might be blamed for “sexing up” the intelligence and former Prime Minister Tony Blair might once again evade all responsibility.

In the months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the British government produced a couple of reports “making a case for war,” asMajor General Michael Laurie said in his evidence to the enquiry in 2011: “We knew at the time that the purpose of the [September] dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care.”

The first such report, the September Dossier (2002), is the one most remembered, as this did indeed “sex up” the case for war as the late Iraqi weapons inspector David Kelly revealed. It also included the fraudulent intelligence about Saddam Hussein trying to acquire uranium from Niger, a bogus claim that President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials cited with great effect.

Most memorably in the UK, the dossier led to the ”Brits 45 minutes from Doom” front-page headline in Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper, no less, on the eve of the crucial war vote in Parliament. The claim was that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein could deliver deadly germ warfare against British troops and tourists in Cyrus in only 45 minutes.

Also, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the so-called “dodgy dossier” was presented by British spies and politicians as an ominous warning of the Iraqi threat, although it was later revealed that the report was based largely on a 12-year-old PhD thesis culled from the Internet, but containing nuggets of raw MI6 intelligence.

Interestingly from a British legal position, it appears that Prime Minister Blair and his spin doctor Alastair Campbell released this report without the prior written permission of the head of MI6, which means that they appear to be in breach of the UK’s draconian secrecy law, the Official Secrets Act (1989).

Thus was made the dubious case for war with Iraq, lies leading to countless Iraq deaths (with some estimates over a million) and many more wounded, maimed, and displaced, yet no one held to account.

Downing Street Memo

Subsequently, there was also the leak of the notorious Downing Street Memo in which Sir Richard Dearlove was reported as saying that the intelligence and facts were being “fixed” around a predetermined war policy.

On July 23, 2002, at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, Dearlove briefed Prime Minister Blair and other senior officials on his talks with his American counterpart, CIA Director George Tenet, in Washington three days before. In the draft minutes of that briefing, which were leaked to the London Times and published on May 1, 2005, Dearlove explained that President Bush had decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.”

While then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pointed out that the case was “thin,” Dearlove explained matter-of-factly, “The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.”

There is no sign in the minutes that anyone hiccupped — much less demurred — at ”making a case for war” in this dishonest fashion, let alone objected that Blair and Bush were preparing to launch a “war of aggression” outlawed by the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal and the UN Charter.

The evidence showed that the UK’s top spies aided their political masters by disseminating to the public raw intelligence and forged documents, with disastrous consequences for the people of Iraq and the world.

Yet Dearlove long has remained unrepentant. Even as recently as 2011, after his retirement and his receipt of many official honors, he continued to deny culpability. When questioned about the Downing Street Memo during an address to the prestigious Cambridge Union Society by the fearless and fearsomely bright student, Silkie Carlo, Dearlove tried grandiloquently to brush her aside with the excuse that his remarks were taken out of context..

But were the remarks in the Memo really taken out of context? The context of the Memo — and the larger historical context of what the world now knows about the fraudulent case for war with Iraq — would suggest that the comments were entirely in context, that the intelligence was being “fixed” around a preexisting decision to invade.

So Dearlove could potentially have saved many lives across the Middle East if he had gone public then, rather than waiting until the belated Chilcot report might sully his reputation. Would it not be far preferable if these servants of the Crown would actually take a stand while they are in a position to influence world events and prevent disasters like the invasion of Iraq?

Doing so now, purely to preserve his reputation after failing to act earlier to preserve the lives of innocent Iraqis, is even more “ethically flexible” than you would normally expect of an average MI6 intelligence officer. Perhaps that is why Dearlove floated to the top of the organization.

But Dearlove is right to be worried about how history and Chilcot will judge him. These intelligence failures and lies have been picked over and speculated about for years. They are now an open secret. However, finally threatening to spill the beans if he is harshly criticized smacks of desperation.

Dearlove is quoted as saying that he has no plans to breach the Official Secrets Act by publishing his memoirs. But by publishing an account of the run-up to the Iraq War, he would be equally guilty of a breach of the Official Secrets Act. It has been established under UK law that any unauthorized disclosure crosses the “clear bright line” of the law.

And Dearlove seems well aware of this – his original plan was for his account to be made available after his death. I can see why he would plan it that way. First, he would escape prosecution, and second, he could protect his reputation for posterity. But an earlier disclosure by Dearlove could put Blair and Bush back in the spotlight.

The official motto of the UK spies is “Regnum Defende” – defense of the realm. Serving intelligence officers mordantly alter this to “Rectum Defende” – politely translated as watch your back. Dearlove seems to be living up to the motto. He must be one very frightened old man to be contemplating such premature publication.

Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer in the UK’s MI5 Security Service (the U.S. counterpart is the FBI).

Commodity Scams: Barclays, Goldman & JP Morgan Under Fire

July 25th, 2013 by Pratap Chatterjee

JP Morgan Chase is expected to announce over $600 million in penalties and repayments for allegedly cheating customers in energy markets in California and Michigan. This just after Barclays bank paid out $470 million for manipulating electricity rates. Now Goldman Sachs is under scrutiny for possibly manipulating aluminum prices.

Commodity market scams – from energy to metals – are notoriously hard to track partly because they involve huge players dealing with each other with little outside oversight. For example, consumers are outraged when they get hefty electricity bills but it often take a lot of time for regulators to prove that they deliberately manipulated the markets.

Here’s a simple illustration how some of these scams work. Buying or hoarding large quantities of commodities is not illegal but it has the effect of driving prices up while dumping purchases has the opposite effect. Combine the two practices skilfully, it becomes easy to make a quick profit when prices are manipulated to change suddenly. (Say you buy a million shares of something at $10 and then another million at $20. Prices soar as others assume you are on to something, then you dump all of them at $16. Profit $2 million)

Investigators at the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) give the real life example of Ryan Smith, a Barclays trader who exchanged instant messages with another trader on February 8, 2007, about a large position in electricity indices which he dumped at a loss to make a profit with a different investment.

FERC has published excerpts of their chats such as this one:

setcjake: you blow your index load yet?
smittybarcap: not yet. why?
setcjake: watching to see how low the hr’s can get
setcjake: its like that battle sceen from Braveheart: hold…hold…unleash hell!
smittybarcap: ha.
setcjake: with no load/low volume, a hvy handed index dump really moves it 

“Respondents not only engaged in this manipulative scheme at four trading nodes in the western United States during the Manipulation Months, but that they did so with the intent to commit fraud,” FERC officials wrote in a judgement handed down last week, six years after the trading took place.

Smith, together with his colleagues Daniel Brin and Karen Levine, were each fined $1 million, while Scott Connelly, managing director of North American power at Barclays, was fined $15 million.

Barclay denies the charges. “We believe the penalty assessed by the FERC is without basis, and we strongly disagree with the allegations made by FERC against Barclays and its former traders,” Barclays spokesman Marc Hazelton wrote in an email. “We intend to vigorously defend this matter.”

A couple of years later, traders at JP Morgan Chase in Houston came up with a plan to profit out of the rights to sell electricity from several inefficient power plants that they acquired from Bear Stearns, a former Wall Street investment bank. The traders createdeight distinct “schemes” between September 2010 and June 2011 that were “calculated to falsely appear attractive” to government officials in California and Michigan. The buyers paid out $83 million in “excessive” payments, say FERC investigators.

Blythe Masters, the head of global commodities for the bank, “kept close tabs on the California and Michigan power plants” instructing them to inform her of the “many of the bidding schemes under investigation,” say FERC documents seen by the New York Times. Masters then “personally participated in JPMorgan’s efforts to block” government officials “from understanding the reasons behind JPMorgan’s bidding schemes.”

“We intend to vigorously defend the firm and the employees in this matter,” said Kristin Lemkau, a spokeswoman for the JP Morgan Chase told the newspaper back in May. “We strongly dispute that Blythe Masters or any employee lied or acted inappropriately in this matter.”

The bank is now expected to announce a $410 million settlement as well as to give up $200 million in “unpaid claims.” Masters will not face any punishment.

Observers say that the fine amounts to a slap on the wrist. “Going to jail or even being criminally indicted is about as likely for a Wall Street master of the universe as Edward Snowden getting a free ride on Air Force One and joining the Obama family on a Christmas vacation trip to Disney World,” writes Mark Karlin at Truth Out.

The latest fines will push JP Morgan’s fines in the last few years to roughly $16 billion in the last three years, according to financial analyst Josh Rosner of Graham Fisher.

(See below for a useful cheat sheet on some of the major fines, prepared by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone)

Sudden changes in electricity prices tend to get noticed through by angry consumers. It’s much easier to get away with subtly raising prices on commodities like aluminum which consumers don’t buy directly. But anybody who buys canned fizzy drinks like Coke or Pepsi pays a fraction of a penny more without realizing it.

Here’s how that works: In 2010 Goldman Sachs, another Wall Street bank, has allegedly worked out a way to manipulate the prices of the metal by buying up the major warehouses where national stocks of the refined metal are stored in Detroit. The bank then deliberately moves the physical metal from one building to the next to delay their sale and push up prices as well as the cost of storing the aluminum. Experts estimate that the hidden cost to the consumer at $5 billion over the last three years.

“It’s a totally artificial cost,” Jorge Vazquez, managing director at Harbor Aluminum Intelligence, a commodities consulting firm, told the New York Times. “It’s a drag on the economy. Everyone pays for it.”

“Wall Street is flexing its financial muscle and capitalizing on loosened federal regulations to sway a variety of commodities markets,” write reporter David Kocieniewski. “The maneuvering in markets for oil, wheat, cotton, coffee and more have brought billions in profits to investment banks like Goldman, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, while forcing consumers to pay more every time they fill up a gas tank, flick on a light switch, open a beer or buy a cellphone.”

Last week, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced that it would investigate the practice of commodity warehousing.

Goldman is not the only bank to do this. A mystery buyer recently started buying large quantities of copper till it had as much as half of the copper available in the market stockpiled, causing prices to spike. The buyer was eventually identified: JP Morgan Chase.

Recent JP Morgan Chase Fines and Settlements (compiled by Rolling Stone)

• Chase was one of 13 banks asked by the U.S. Federal Reserve and the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) to pay up in this year’s $9.3 billion robosigning settlement;

• Chase was one of four banks last year to settle for a total of $394 million with the OCC for improper mortgage servicing practices;

• Chase paid $297 million to the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) last November for fraud involving mortgage-backed securities;

• Chase paid $228 million to the SEC for its role in a egregious municipal bond bid-rigging case;

• Chase was fined $153.6 million by the SEC for the “Magnetar” fund case in which the bank allowed a hedge fund to create a “born-to-lose” mortgage portfolio to bet against;

• Chase was convicted in Europe in 2012 along with several other banks for fraudulent sales of derivatives to the city of Milan. A total of about $120 million was seized from Chase and three other banks;

• Chase paid $75 million in cash to the SEC and agreed to forego $647 million in fines in Jefferson County, Alabama where a local politician was bribed into green-lighting a series of deadly swap deals;

• Chase paid a $45 million settlement to the federal government for improperly racking up fees for veterans in mortgage refinancings in 2012;

• Chase paid $25 million to the state of Florida in 2010 for selling unregistered bonds to a state-run municipal money-market fund;

• Chase was ordered by the CFTC to pay $20 million last year for improper segregation of customer funds (this was part of the Lehman investigation). The CFTC also fined Chase $600,000 last year for violating position limits in the cotton markets;

• Chase was reprimanded by the OCC and the Federal Reserve for money-laundering behaviors similar to the infamous HSBC case, and also for regulatory failures and fraud in the London Whale episode. There was a separate U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inquiry into the London Whale probe in which they allegedly lied to customers and investors about the loss;

•  Chase is under investigation by the FBI for allegedly failing to disclose Bernie Madoff’s trading activities to authorities.

Las 25 verdades de Raúl Castro sobre Cuba

July 25th, 2013 by Salim Lamrani

Como de costumbre, el presidente cubano se mostró muy crítico durante su intervención el 7 de julio de 2013 ante el Parlamento cubano. Se afirma, otra vez, en su papel de primer disidente del país.

1. Con la legalización del dólar en 1993 después de la grave crisis económica que golpeó Cuba tras el desmoronamiento del bloque soviético, se estableció un sistema de dualidad monetaria en el país. En 2002, además del peso cubano y del dólar, se introdujo el peso convertible (CUC) en la isla. De 2002 a 2004 circularon así tres monedas en Cuba hasta la desaparición del dólar en 2004. Ahora, el peso cubano convive con el peso convertible con una diferencia de valor de 1 a 24. Esta doble moneda es fuente de desigualdad en la nación en la medida en que la mayoría de los cubanos reciben su salario en pesos cubanos y no en CUC, reservados al sector turístico. Raúl Castro es consciente de esta realidad. Según él, “el fenómeno de la dualidad monetaria constituye uno de los obstáculos más importantes para el progreso de la nación”.

2. El presidente cubano es un acérrimo detractor de la indolencia e incompetencia que caracterizan a veces los cubanos y enfatiza “la necesidad de una lucha enérgica y sin tregua contra los malos hábitos y los errores que en las más diversas esferas cometen diariamente muchos ciudadanos, incluso militantes”.

3. La crisis económica que engendró el Periodo Especial que empezó en 1991 ha tenido un impacto sumamente negativo en los valores de la sociedad cubana, que es ahora menos solidaria y más egoísta. “Hemos percibido con dolor […] el acrecentado deterioro de valores morales y cívicos, como la honestidad, la decencia, la vergüenza, el decoro, la honradez y la sensibilidad ante los problemas de los demás”.

4. Raúl Castro fustiga los robos recurrentes que se comenten contra el Estado, que se han vuelto la norma: “Una parte de la sociedad ha pasado a ver normal el robo al Estado”.

5. El presidente denuncia también “las construcciones ilegales, además en lugares indebidos” así como “la ocupación no autorizada de viviendas”.

6. El reino de la “impunidad” favorece “la comercialización ilícita de bienes y servicios” en Cuba y afecta ampliamente la economía nacional y los recursos del Estado.

7. Un importante número de funcionarios cubanos no cumple los horarios en los centros laborales por los cuales reciben un salario, lo que impacta negativamente en la productividad del país y afecta al buen funcionamiento de los servicios públicos.

8. “El hurto y sacrificio ilegal de ganado” es un fenómeno en plena expansión, así como “la captura de especies marinas en peligro de extinción”, “la tala de recursos forestales, incluyendo en el magnífico Jardín Botánico de La Habana”

9. “El acaparamiento de productos deficitarios y su reventa a precios superiores” se ha vuelta una actividad lucrativa en Cuba donde personas sin escrúpulos aprovechan las dificultades y vicisitudes cotidianas de la población para dedicarse a la especulación.

10. El desarrollo de juegos ilegales está en pleno auge en la isla e implica sumas consecuentes.

11. La corrupción es una realidad endémica en Cuba y numerosos funcionarios aceptan “sobornos y prebendas”.

12. Cierta categoría de la población se dedica al “asedio al turismo”, lo que puede representar un grave peligro para la economía del país que depende de este sector, el cual representa la tercera fuente de ingresos de la nación.

13. Raúl Castro lamenta las violaciones del “deber ciudadano” y los atentados contra la vida en comunidad. Fustiga el escándalo diurno y nocturno, el hecho de marcar paredes o botar desechos en la vía, el consumo de alcohol en lugares públicos y conducir vehículos en estado de embriaguez, así como la destrucción de bienes públicos, hechos cada vez más recurrentes en la sociedad.

14. Las violaciones de las reglas elementales de la higiene, como la cría de cerdos en plena ciudad, ponen en peligro la salud de la población.

15. El fraude en el pago del pasaje en el transporte público también es un fenómeno preocupante, al cual se agrega el robo de los ingresos de la venta de pasajes por los propios “trabajadores del sector”.

16. A pesar de medio siglo de Revolución y la elaboración de un sistema social basado en la solidaridad y la ayuda a los más vulnerables, el presidente cubano constata que “se ignoran las más elementales normas de caballerosidad y respeto hacia los ancianos, mujeres embarazadas, madres con niños pequeños e impedidos físicos”.

17. Lo más grave según él es que “todo esto sucede ante nuestras narices, sin concitar la repulsa y el enfrentamiento ciudadanos”.

18. La educación es uno de los grandes logros del proceso revolucionario cubano y uno de los pilares de la cohesión social. No obstante, este sector no está exento de críticas. Raúl Castro denuncia la implicación de algunos maestros y familiares en casos de fraude académico, con consecuencias nefastas para la sociedad. “Es sabido que el hogar y la escuela conforman el sagrado binomio de la formación del individuo en función de la sociedad y estos actos representan ya no solo un perjuicio social, sino graves grietas de carácter familiar y escolar […]. La familia y la escuela deben inculcar a los niños el respeto a las reglas de la sociedad”.

19. Raúl Castro admite que aunque se hayan privilegiado la prevención y el trabajo político para resolver los problemas más que la fuerza coercitiva de la ley, conviene “reconocer que no siempre ha resultado suficiente”.

20. El presidente cubano reconoce que la plaga de la “corrupción administrativa” toca a los cuadros e incluso a algunos altos dirigentes.

21. “Hemos retrocedido en cultura y civismo ciudadanos”, enfatiza Raúl Castro.

22. “Tengo la amarga sensación de que somos una sociedad cada vez más instruida, pero no necesariamente más culta”.

23. El presidente cubano fustiga “la falta de exigencia, de orden y disciplina”, “la ausencia de sistematicidad en el trabajo a los diferentes niveles de dirección y la falta de respeto, en primer lugar por las entidades estatales de la institucionalidad vigente”.

24. ¿Cómo es posible exigir entonces que la población respete las reglas vigentes si el mismo Estado no respeta la ley?, pregunta Raúl Castro.

25. Como de costumbre, Raúl Castro se mostró directo, incisivo e implacable con los miembros de su propio gobierno: “Al propio tiempo, los dirigentes desde las instancias nacionales, hasta la base, deben abandonar la pasividad y la inercia en su conducta; deben dejar de mirar al otro lado, cuando el problema está aquí, para no verlo”.

 

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 The Economic War Against Cuba. A Historical and Legal Perspective on the U.S. Blockade, New York, Monthly Review Press, 2013, con un prólogo de Wayne S. Smith y un prefacio de Paul Estrade.

http://monthlyreview.org/press/books/pb3409/

Contacto: [email protected] ; [email protected]

Página Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SalimLamraniOfficiel

He’s an environmental/animal rights activist. A previous article discussed him. He was victimized by “green scare.”

It refers to legal and extralegal government actions against animal liberation and environmental activists.

In October 2001, the USA Patriot Act created the federal crime of “domestic terrorism.” It applies to US citizens and aliens.

It was used against McGowan. It was done disgracefully. He’s no terrorist. He was unjustly charged with multiple criminal counts. They included:

“unlawfully and willfully caus(ing) and aid(ing), abett(ing), counsel(ing), command(ing), induc(ing), and procur(ing) the malicious damaging and destroying, by means of fire and an explosive, of a building and other real and personal property used in interstate commerce and used in activities affecting interstate commerce, namely, a building and its contents located at Superior Lumber Company (Oregon).”

He pled guilty to minor arson charges. He did so conditionally. He wanted no one else implicated.

He said “actions were not those of (a) terrorist but of a concerned young man who was deeply troubled by the destruction of Oregon’s beautiful old-growth forests and the dangers of genetically modified trees.”

He knows participating in two actions involving “burning things down (violated his) visions or belief about how to create a better world. So (he) stopped committing these crimes.”

He “never intended to hurt people.” He expressed “great remorse.” He did so “for the harm (he) caused.”

He was unjustly treated like a hardened criminal. On June 4, 2007, he got seven years hard time.

He should have gotten nothing more than a reprimand, perhaps a suspended sentence, probation, and an appropriate fine.

Not in America. Police states don’t operate that way. For sure not this one. Cruel and unusual punishment is standard practice.

Last December, McGowan was freed. He was sent to a halfway house for six months. He was placed under supervisory release for three years.

He was held at Federal Correctional Institution (FCI), Terre Haute, IN. He was in its Communication Management Unit (CMU). It’s for “high-security risk” prisoners.

It’s mainly for Muslim political ones. Others like McGowan are sent there to make it look otherwise.

It’s exceptionally harsh. Prisoner rights are denied. Inmates are separated from the general prison population. It’s done punitively.

They’re treated like terrorists. Their outside contacts are limited. They’re closely monitored. They’re treated harshly.

Cruel and unusual punishment is standard practice. Viciousness defines it. Leniency’s denied.

Bureau of Prisons rules don’t apply. Nor do US statutes and Supreme Court decisions. Authorities do what they please.

Prisoners have no say. They’re at their mercy. They get none.

On April 4, McGowan was rearrested and jailed. Center for Constitutional Rights lawyers represented him. They said it was because of an article he wrote.

Their statement elaborated, saying:

He was “released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where he was taken into custody yesterday and is back at the halfway house where he has been residing since his release from prison in December.”

“Yesterday, Daniel was given an ‘incident report’ indicating that his Huffington Post blog post, ‘Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech,’ violated a BOP regulation prohibiting inmates from ‘publishing under a byline.’ ”

“The BOP regulation in question was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007, and eliminated by the BOP in 2010.”

“After we brought this to the BOP’s attention, the incident report was expunged.”

They called BOP retaliation against him “an outrage.”

McGowan got CMU hard time for writing articles and letters about animal rights. His constitutional rights were violated.

On April 4, he was jailed again briefly. He was released on condition he’d sacrifice his First Amendment rights. He was told no more articles.

According to CCR, it’s a “made-up rule applied only to Daniel.” It’s a “further attempt to chill his freedom of speech.”

On June 5, he was released from halfway house confinement. He’s free under supervised release. “I am out of the reach of the Bureau of Prisons,” he said.

He’s working as a receptionist for a law firm. He and other plaintiffs sued the federal Bureau of Prisons (Aref, et al v. Holder). They challenged CMU practices and conditions.

They’re illegal. They violate BOP rules. They spurn Supreme Court decisions. They disregard common decency. It doesn’t matter.

In March 2010, their case was filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia. In November 2012, they got permission to amend their complaint.

They included damages against Les Smith. He heads BOP’s Counterterrorism Unit. He recommended plaintiffs be harshly treated. He wanted them held in CMU confinement.

He cited their political activism and religious beliefs. Five plaintiffs sued. So did two of their wives.

The five were classified low or medium security. Their disciplinary histories were clean. They committed no infractions.

They were treated like hardened criminals. It was vicious. It was unjustifiable. They deserved better. They were denied. They shouldn’t have been imprisoned. It didn’t matter. They got hard time. Police states operate that way.

Five original plaintiffs sued. They became three. It’s now one. McGowan and three others were denied.

On July 15, the Center for Constitutional Rights headlined“Former Prisoner’s First Amendment Claims Dismissed Under ‘Second Class System of Justice.’ BOP Not Liable for Retaliation Against Activist Daniel McGowan,” saying:

“We are deeply disappointed by the court’s dismissal of Daniel McGowan’s claims against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).”

“Mr. McGowan was designated, and then re-designated, to the Communications Management Units (CMU) in blatant retaliation for his political speech and activities.”

“At the CMUs, he had severely restricted access to telephone calls and social visits – including a total ban on contact visits with his loved ones.”

“Once he had been released to a halfway house, the BOP once again retaliated against Mr. McGowan, unconstitutionally placing him in federal custody days after he published blog piece about the CMUs on the Huffington Post.”

“While our claims challenging broad due process violations at the CMUs will proceed, Aref v. Holder also sought accountability for these acts of retaliation against protected First Amendment activity.”

“Now, the court has held that, while non-prisoners may sue under these circumstances, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) bars Mr. McGowan’s damages claims because he was not subjected to physical harm.”

“CCR condemns the second class system of justice created by the PLRA, which places unjust hurdles between prisoners and redress for constitutional violations. We will continue to vigorously pursue our case against the BOP.”

McGowan expressed disappointment, saying:

“That my claims can be dismissed on what amounts to a technicality is just a sad example of how badly our system of justice works.”

“The PLRA (Prison Litigation Reform Act) essentially states that prisoners cannot seek relief from the courts for emotional or mental injuries, only physical injuries. There is something very gross and unjust about that.”

“After spending 48 months in the CMU, I’m appalled that I will not get my day in court and be able to testify about what it is like to live in those conditions and the severe impact CMU designation has on one’s family and community ties.”

Justice in America denies it. Thousands of political prisoners fill its gulag. It’s by far the world’s largest.

America’s most vulnerable are victimized. Due process and judicial fairness are spurned. Habeas rights are quaint and out-of-date. Guilt by accusation is policy. Victims are imprisoned for supporting what’s right.

An earlier article called America’s gulag the shame of the nation. It’s for good reason. It’s that and much more. It violates fundamental rule of law, ethical and moral standards. They don’t apply.

Diktat power decides. Authorities make their own rules. They do so extrajudicially. It’s the American way. It’s longstanding. It’s unconscionable. It’s standard practice.

Fundamental rights are systematically denied. People are treated like yesterday’s garbage. Victims suffer horrifically.

Justice doesn’t apply. It’s a four-letter word. It’s spurned. Police states operate that way. America’s by far the worst.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/daniel-mcgowan-victimized-by-us-injustice/

25 verdades de Raúl Castro sobre Cuba

July 25th, 2013 by Salim Lamrani

Como de costume, o presidente cubano, Raúl Castro, se mostrou muito crítico durante sua intervenção, no dia 7 de julho de 2013, diante do Parlamento local. Firma-se, uma vez mais, em seu papel de primeiro dissidente do país.

1. Com a legalização do dólar em 1993, depois da grave crise econômica que atingiu Cuba após o desmoronamento do bloco soviético, estabeleceu-se um sistema de dualidade monetária no país. Em 2002, além do peso cubano e do dólar, introduziu-se o peso conversível (CUC) na ilha. De 2002 a 2004, circularam três moedas em Cuba até o desaparecimento do dólar, em 2004. Agora, o peso cubano convive com o peso conversível, com uma diferença de valor de 1 a 24. Essa dupla moeda é fonte de desigualdade na nação, na medida em que a maioria dos cubanos recebe seu salário em pesos cubanos, e não em CUC, reservados ao setor turístico. Raúl Castro está consciente dessa realidade. Segundo ele, “o fenômeno da dualidade monetária se constitui como um dos obstáculos mais importantes para o progresso da nação”.

Wikicommons
2. O presidente cubano é um ferrenho detrator da indolência e incompetência que, às vezes, caracterizam os cubanos, e enfatiza “a necessidade de uma luta enérgica e sem trégua contra os maus hábitos e os erros que, nas mais diversas esferas, acometem diariamente muitos cidadãos, inclusive militantes”.

3. A crise econômica que engendrou o Período Especial, iniciado em 1991, teve um impacto sumariamente negativo nos valores da sociedade cubana, que agora é menos solidária e mais egoísta. “Percebemos, com pesar, […] o crescente deterioramento dos valores morais e cívicos, como a honestidade, a decência, a vergonha, o decoro, a honradez e a sensibilidade ante os problemas dos demais”.

4. Raúl Castro fustiga os recorrentes roubos cometidos contra o Estado, que se tornaram normais: “Uma parte da sociedade passou a ver como normal o roubo contra o Estado”.

5. O presidente denuncia as “construções ilegais, além de serem em lugares indevidos”, assim como a “ocupação não autorizada de casas”.

6. O reino da “impunidade” favorece “a comercialização ilícita de bens e serviços em Cuba e afeta amplamente a economia nacional e os recursos do Estado”.

7. Um importante número de funcionários cubanos não cumpre os horários nos centros de trabalho, pelos quais recebem um salário, o que impacta negativamente a produtividade do país e afeta o bom funcionamento dos serviços públicos.

8. “O furto e o abate ilegal de gado” são um fenômeno em plena expansão, assim como “a captura de espécies marinhas em perigo de extinção”, “a destruição de recursos florestais, incluindo o magnífico Jardim Botânico de Havana”.

9. “O estoque de produtos deficitários e sua revenda a preços superiores” se tornou uma atividade lucrativa em Cuba, onde pessoas sem escrúpulos se aproveitam das dificuldades e vicissitudes cotidianas da população para se dedicarem à especulação.

10. O desenvolvimento de jogos ilegais está em pleno auge na ilha e implica somas consequentes.

11. A corrupção é uma realidade endêmica em Cuba e inúmeros funcionários aceitam “subornos e prebendas”.

12. Certa categoria da população se dedica ao “assédio ao turismo”, o que pode representar um grave perigo para a economia do país, dependente desse setor, que representa a terceira fonte de renda da nação.

13. Raúl Castro lamenta as violações do “dever cidadão” e os atentados contra a vida em comunidade. Fustiga o vandalismo diurno e noturno, o fato de pichar paredes ou colocar dejetos nas vias públicas, o consumo de álcool em lugares públicos, dirigir veículos em estado de embriaguez, assim como a destruição de bens públicos, fatos cada vez mais recorrentes na sociedade.

14. As violações das regras elementares de higiene, como a criação de porcos em plena cidade, colocam em risco a saúde da população.

15. A fraude no pagamento da passagem de transporte público também é um fenômeno preocupante, acompanhado do roubo dos bilhetes da venda de passagens pelos próprios “trabalhadores do setor”.

16. Apesar de meio século de Revolução e da elaboração de um sistema social baseado na solidariedade e na ajuda aos mais vulneráveis, o presidente cubano constata que “são ignoradas as mais elementares normas de cavalheirismo e respeito aos idosos, mulheres gestantes, mais com filhos pequenos e deficientes físicos”.

17. O mais grave, segundo ele, é que “tudo isso acontece sob nossos narizes, sem incitar a repulsa e o enfrentamento por parte dos cidadãos”.

18. A educação é uma das grandes conquistas do processo revolucionário cubano e um dos pilares da coesão social. No entanto, esse setor não está isento de críticas. Raúl Castro denuncia a implicação de alguns professores e familiares em casos de fraude acadêmica, com consequências nefastas para a sociedade. “Sabe-se que a casa e a escola constituem o sagrado binômio da formação do indivíduo em função da sociedade e esses atos já representam não apenas um dano social, mas graves rachaduras de caráter familiar e escolar […] A família e a escola devem ensinar às crianças o respeito às regras da sociedade”.

19. Raúl Castro admite que, ainda que a prevenção e o trabalho político tenham sido privilegiados para resolver os problemas em detrimento da força coercitiva da lei, convém “reconhecer que, nem sempre, o resultado foi eficiente”.

20. O presidente cubano reconhece que a praga da “corrupção administrativa” chega a todos os quadros, inclusive a alguns altos dirigentes.

21. “Retrocedemos em cultura e civismo cidadãos”, enfatiza Raúl Castro.

22. “Tenho a amarga sensação de que somos uma sociedade cada vez mais instruída, mas não necessariamente mais culta.”

23. O presidente cubano fustiga “a falta de exigência, de ordem e disciplina”, “a ausência de sistematização no trabalho em diferentes níveis de direção e falta de respeito, em primeiro lugar, por parte das entidades estatais da institucionalidade vigente”.

24. “Como é possível exigir, então, que a população respeite as regras vigentes, se o próprio Estado não respeita a lei?”, pergunta Raúl Castro.

25. Como de costume, Raúl Castro se mostrou direto, incisivo e implacável com os membros de seu próprio governo. “Ao mesmo tempo, os dirigentes, desde a instâncias nacionais, até a base, devem abandonar a passividade e a inércia em sua conduta; devem deixar de olhar para o outro lado, quando o problema está aqui, para não vê-lo.”

 In Memory of Manuel Marulanda, Farabundo Marti and Augusto Sandino

Introduction

            It is commonly assumed that “peace agreements” between pro-US rightwing regimes and leftwing insurgents lead to peace, justice and greater security.  A number of peace agreements which were signed and implemented in the 1990’s in Central America , South Africa , Philippines and elsewhere provide us with ample data over two decades to confirm or reject this commonplace assumption.

            We will examine the case of El Salvador where a powerful guerilla movement (FMLN) signed off on a peace accord in 1992.

 Method of Evaluating the Peace Accord

            In approaching the analysis of the Peace Accord it is important to begin by focusing on the evolution of the FMLN – the ideological, organizational and political changes that led to the negotiations, the eventual pact with the rightwing regime and the socio-economic and political results.  The second part of the essay compares and contrasts the socio-economic and political results and policies which followed from the pact and how they affected the mass of the people.  This allows us to see who benefited and who lost; what socio-economic class and political structures emerged; what foreign policies were followed.

            The third section of the paper will focus on drawing lessons which can be learned from the El Salvador experience which are applicable to the current Colombian peace negotiations between the FARC and the Santos regime.

The FMLN:  From Socialist Revolution to Capitalist Electoralism

            In 1980 four major guerilla groups joined forces to form the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).  The leading component, the FPL, envisioned a prolonged struggle, uniting the guerilla and mass movements in a common anti-imperialist and social revolutionary struggle.  The lesser allies, led by the Communist Party envisioned a two stage “democratic to social revolution”.

             In a little over two years, the three minority components, the ERP, the Communist Party, the RN shifted FMLN policies, eliminating the struggle for socialism based on workers and peasants in favor of a ‘democratic revolution’, which included the “progressive modern bourgeois”.  As the struggle continued, the internal alignments of the FMLN favored a further turn to the ‘center’.. FMLN leaders emphasized political incorporation into the electoral system, legalization of the FMLN, the opening of negotiations without any prior agreements and a willingness to work within the capitalist-electoral framework.  When negotiations began the FMLN dropped its demand for dismantling of the military, the expropriation of the leading financial, banking, commercial and mining interests and accepted a “truth commission” which would “examine” war crimes – the mass murder of over 75,000 civilians.

            By 1992 when the peace agreement was signed, the ex-guerillas, the El Salvadorian regime and the US government hailed it as a “great historical turning point opening the country and people to a new era of peace and prosperity”.  Most leftist academics and journalists joined the chorus hailing the “pragmatism” and “flexibility” of the leaders of the FMLN.  European social democrats, especially the Spanish Socialist regime offered training courses to the ex-guerillas, on the ways and means of acting in government and municipal affairs.

Evaluating the Politics of the FMLN in Opposition and Government

            Once the FMLN leaders turned from armed struggle and mass mobilization to electoral politics, they directly benefited:  many were elected to public office and secured middle class living standards.  As Congress people, political advisers, staff assistants and mayors, the FMLN elite received substantial salaries, bought homes in middle class neighborhoods, new automobiles and obtained security guards for protection.

            Most FMLN politicos retained a social democratic ideology and mouthed radical rhetoric.  Some, like the former head of the ERP, Joaquin Villalobos allied with the rightwing, denounced the popular movements , received a scholarship to Oxford and became a consultant for murderous death squad regimes in Colombia , Philippines , North Ireland and elsewhere.

            The urban and rural mass movements were virtually abandoned by the FMLN turned electoral party.  During the mass uprising between 1980 – 1990, the peasants secured a land reform, public employees’ salaries increased, and popular organizations proliferated as the government and US attempted to undercut the mass base of the insurgency.  Once the FMLN leaders entered the parliament and prioritized electoral politics, the pressure on the ruling classes was relieved, mass struggle declined and land reform ended.  The trade unions received scant support from the FMLN politicos.  The FMLN led by Shafik Handel pursued an alliance with the “modern bourgeoisie” to “isolate” the “traditional” landowning oligarchy”, to stabilize democracy and ensure their position in Congress as a “loyal opposition”.  In 2009 the FMLN won the presidency running a neo-liberal Christian Democrat Mauricio Funes and gained a plurality in Congress.

Salvadorian Society After the Peace Pact

            The FMLN signed the so-called peace pact without any democratic dialogue with their members, without consulting the mass social movements; they discarded the major structural reforms which thousands of militants fought for and died.  Instead they ‘consulted’ their own interests in a parliamentary career.  They dictated their settlement to their middle level cadres, expelled critics and directed the masses to acquiesce offering them more phony and broken promises “to continue the struggle”.  They reneged on promises for jobs, income and land redistribution; the ‘reform’ of the military and judicial processes against officials involved in massive human rights violations never took place.

            From 1992 to 2013, El Salvador continues as the country with the second worst inequalities in Latin America .  Unemployment especially for young people continues to exceed over 50%.  Over 60% of the “working population” does not have formal employment.  They work without pensions, health plans, vacations or social security, mostly in low paid “services”, i.e. street vendors, domestic servants etc.  Over 2.5 million Salvadorians were forced to migrate to other countries for lack of opportunities.  They young guerilla fighters were abandoned by their guerilla leaders.  Some were offered land, but without training, credit, extension services, they turned to urban and rural drug gangs.  Over 25,000 mostly young people are members of drug gangs.  El Salvador has the second highest rate of violent homicide in the Americas .  In fact more Salvadorians have been murdered in the aftermath of the “Peace Pact” (1992-2012) then were killed during the civil war (1980-91).From March 2012 when the two principle gangs signed a truce the killings have sharply declined.

            The Peace Agreement set up a “Truth Commission” to uncover and prosecute war crimes and human rights violations.  Instead the Generals and military elite were granted an amnesty.  The Commission lacked financial and political support and no war criminals, even those identified with the most egregious crimes were ever tried let alone sent to jail.

            The main beneficiaries of the Peace Pact were the ‘modern bourgeois’ – the banking, commercial, agro-business, maquiladora elite – who reaped high profits, paid little taxes, received state subsidies and exploited cheap labor in the maquiladoras.  Private security companies prospered as the new rich ruling class – including the “new rich”, FMLN elite-hired an army of private guards armed with automatic rifles and sub-machine guns, to protect their homes, businesses, private clubs and resorts.

            El Salvador is a neo-liberal paradise’ before and after the Presidential victory of the FMLN;  free trade agreements, low wages, no-union, low paid maquiladora workers, in the free trade zones are the centerpiece of FMLN economic policy.

            The so-called “Democratic Revolution” has been emptied of any socio-economic content. The social distance between the leaders of the FMLN and their business contractor allies on the one hand and the masses is abysmal.  The FMLN leaders live in modern apartments and houses, protected by three meter walls covered with broken glass and barbed wire, with paved streets and flowered gardens.  The majority of poor Salvadorians live in crowded hovels, on unpaved streets, controlled by armed drug gangs and corrupt police officials.

            The FMLN regime has supported the US and EU free market agreement in Central America and US military bases.  Their “free trade policies” undermine small and medium producers .Ther military ties to the Pentagon strengthen the US military position against Venezuela and Ecuador .

Political Consequences of Peace Pact

            During the civil war, the class struggle raised class consciousness, enhanced independent class organization and forced the ruling class and its US ‘mentors’ to make concessions including a land reform for peasants and wage increases for labor.  In the aftermath of the peace pact, the mass organizations have diminished in size and militancy; leaders have been co-opted by the FMLN elite.  Centralized political control over social movements ensures conformity to neo-liberal policies.  FMLN attempts to legitimize its embrace of the current socio-economic order by citing its “glorious and heroic guerrilla past”. 

Corrupt FMLN politicos evoke their past role as “guerilla commanders” to cover up their current corrupt links to the economic elite. Whenever, a trade union goes on strike for higher wages or better working conditions, such as the health, educational or municipal workers, the FMLN leaders accuse them of “politics” or “aiding” the bourgeois opposition.     

The FMLN has become a bureaucratic political machine driven by elite factions fighting for positions of power and privilege within the neoliberal state bureaucracy.

            In the face of the abject failure of the FMLN and its government to attend to the most elementary needs of the urban poor and peasants, several hundred NGOs, funded by US AID and EU regimes, and set up by middle class professionals have established local self-help projects, that enrich the NGO leaders, undermine local social movements and fail to reduce poverty.

            Given the lack of peace, security, and social justice and the decline of social movements, is it any wonder that tens of thousands of Salvadorian flee their country every year? There are over 2.5 million Salvadoreans living abroad, over 90%in the USA .

Conclusion:  Why the Peace Pact Failed

            From any objective analysis, it is clear that the peace pact signed by the FMLN has failed to meet the most minimum socio-economic and political demands of its mass supporters.  Despite great sacrifices and untold examples of personal heroism, the great mass of Salvadorians were defrauded of any positive outcome.  The powerful movements were dismantled by decree of the guerilla commanders. The top leaders who dictated policy either because collaborators with the US military (Villalobos) or allies of the so-called “progressive” bourgeoisie.

Various lessons can be drawn.

(1)    A militant military past is no guarantee of progressive socio-economic commitments after a negotiated settlement.

(2)   A peace agreement dictated by an elite is likely to sacrifice mass socio-economic interests in order to secure political respectability.

(3)   Foreign ‘radical’ allies, like Cuba , have their own political interests in securing regional stability and peace, which may not coincide with the socio-economic needs of a revolutionary mass movement.

(4)   Peace agreements must include the direct influence of the representatives of mass popular movements and incorporate their demands.

(5)   Peace agreements which disarm the insurgents and maintain the military, which sustain the economic ruling class and its control over all the strategic sectors of the economy, results in the continuation of neo-liberal policies, US military bases and the incorporation of former guerilla leaders into a corrupt, reactionary political system.

(6)   A peace pact that does not lead to massive public investments in jobs, public works, agrarian reform and other productive activity will result in unemployed armed young people turning to violent crime and drug trafficking.

(7)   Ex-guerilla leaders who promote their electoral careers and work within the system, adopt neo-liberal policies— as numerous examples demonstrate. In Colombia for example Antonio Navarro Wolff formerly of the M-19 became an ally of then President Alvaro Uribe’s death squad regime when he was governor of Nariño.  Teodoro Petkoff, the Venezuelan ex-guerilla, became the architect of the IMF austerity program of President Caldera.  Joaquin Villalobos the former Salvadorian guerilla leader of the ERP became an adviser to the CIA and any murderous regime which paid his lucrative consultation fees.  The people’s movements must establish their socio-economic priorities and presence in any “peace process”. 

Incorporation of the guerillas into the electoral system should have the lowest priority.

      The vast majority of the workers, peasants and students want peace that is accompanied by structural changes in the socio-economic system. This includes expropriation of fertile, irrigated land; the end of trade union repression and new labor laws protecting large scale unionization; doubling the minimum wage and the formation of workers’  committees to oversee management.

      Large scale public program to create employment require new progressive taxes on the rich to provide financing of infrastructures and productive enterprises.  Environmental agencies composed of ecologists, Indian and peasant leaders need to be empowered to regulate mining operations and to enforce an equitable distribution of tax receipts and royalty payments.

      Above all a peace agreement requires the democratization of the state:  the dismantling of Special Forces, counter-insurgency programs, advisory missions and foreign military bases.  The abject failure of the FMLN to change Salvadorian society and improve the socio-economic position of the masses was directly linked to their insertion in the capitalist state and subordination to the neo-liberal economy.

      The “stage theory” of FMLN guru Shafik Handel argued that “capitalist modernization and democracy” in alliance with the modern bourgeoisie was the ‘immediate goal’ and socialism was for the “distant future”.  This “stage theory” overlooked the fact that the “modern bourgeoisie” was structurally tied to the traditional landowning, banking and imperial elites and was not in any way committed to any so-called “democratic revolution”.  The FMLN, discarded socialism, never achieved a “democratic revolution” and ended up presiding over a crime infested, impoverished country in which the political elite joined the same country clubs as their former class enemies.

      It behooves the FARC to carefully study the negative lessons of the past, the disastrous peace agreements of Central America , the MR-19 surrender to the narco-state, in order to pursue a peace agreement that consults and benefits the majority and not simply secures  seats in Congress.  

It’s now painfully clear that the president has put out a contract on the Fourth Amendment. And at the Capitol, the hierarchies of both parties are stuffing it into the trunks of their limousines, so each provision can be neatly fitted with cement shoes and delivered to the bottom of the Potomac.

Some other Americans are on a rescue mission. One of them, Congressman Justin Amash, began a debate on the House floor Wednesday with a vow to “defend the Fourth Amendment.” That’s really what his amendment — requiring that surveillance be warranted — was all about.

No argument for the Amash amendment was more trenchant than the one offered by South Carolina Republican Jeff Duncan, who simply read the Fourth Amendment aloud.

To quote those words was to take a clear side: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Edward Snowden’s heroic revelations have made it possible for some House members from both parties to blow away the fog that shrouds so much tap dancing on Capitol Hill. When the Amash amendment went to the floor, there was no place left to hide.

To their historic shame, 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats voted against Amash’s amendment (while 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats voted for it). That’s how the measure lost, 217-205.

The record of the House vote tells us a lot. Top Republicans — including Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy — voted with Obama policies to keep smothering the Fourth Amendment. So did top Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

The stench at the pinnacle of GOP power hardly surprises most Democrats. But on civil liberties — as on so many other profound issues — a similar odor is emanating from the upper reaches of Democratic power on Capitol Hill, where Pelosi and Hoyer are far from the only Democrats who have become reflexive servants of indefensible Obama policies.

Consider some of the other Democratic luminaries in the House who voted against the Amash amendment: The Democratic National Committee’s chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s former chair Chris Van Hollen. The DCCC’s current chair, Steve Israel.

Some of the other Democrats who voted no on the Amash amendment include progressive-aura lawmakers like Ami Bera (Calif.), Joaquin Castro (Texas), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Marcy Kaptur (Ohio), Joe Kennedy (Mass.), Annie Kuster (N.H.), Nita Lowey (N.Y.) and Louise Slaughter (N.Y.)

Deserving special mention for their deplorable votes against Amash’s amendment are Sheila Jackson Lee from Houston and Jan Schakowsky from Chicago. Both are vice chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

I’ve been critical of the Progressive Caucus for enabling Obama’s rightward moves by doing scant pushback. But credit where due: on Wednesday, aside from Jackson Lee and Schakowsky, the other six officers of the Progressive Caucus and a large majority of its more than 70 members supported the Amash amendment. Eloquence in the floor debate came from John Conyers (the lead co-sponsor of the Amash amendment), Jared Polis, Zoe Lofgren and Jerrold Nadler.

Yet they were no match for the White House, with its media spin machine and behind-the-curtain arm twisting.

President Obama has a firm grip on levers of power, and anyone who thinks that his administration has been chastened enough to tread more carefully on civil liberties is engaged in wishful thinking.

While the House has grown somewhat restive, the Senate has remained notably pliant for the surveillance state. An egregious — and, for some, surprising — example is Al Franken, who declared his support for the NSA surveillance program when news of it broke in early June. “I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people,” Franken said. From his Senate office, one press release after another has been packed with blather like overstuffed sausages.

 Franken is now saying he’ll introduce a bill for “transparency” because the public will support the current surveillance programs if they grasp what’s really involved: “I think that if there were greater transparency, Americans would have a better understanding of these programs.” Count on transparency to be a buzzword cloak for more of the same.

Another Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, has been vastly more candid. At a forum the day before the Amash amendment vote, Wyden said that for surveillance, as far as the Obama administration is concerned, “the authority is essentially limitless.”

 An ACLU staff attorney, Alexander Abdo, was driving at the same point when he wrote days ago: “Perhaps the most fundamental problem with the NSA’s constitutional theory is that it has no limit. If the constitution is blind to the collection of our data and limits only the NSA’s later uses of it, then the NSA truly can ‘collect it all’ now and ask questions later. Our emails, phone calls and internet activities would all be very simple for the NSA to collect under the NSA’s theory. But it could go much further. It could put video cameras on every street corner, it could install microphones in every home and it could even remotely copy the contents of every computer hard drive.”

All three branches of the U.S. government are now largely under the control of forces with stunning contempt for basic legal processes required by the Bill of Rights.

Mere words and mild reforms from members of Congress may mollify the gullible, but only a direct challenge to the Obama administration’s policies can rise to the level of the current historic imperative to restore civil liberties in the United States.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

The Corporate Media’s Mass Hypnosis

July 25th, 2013 by Margaret Kimberley

Delivery systems and platforms for information may proliferate at blinding speed, but most Americans have no access to anything resembling the truth. They may know the names of the dead – like Trayvon Martin – but have no clue why they died. “Lies and nonsense are the standard fare for the most read and watched news sources in this country.”

What would a hypothetical person know after diligently reading the newspaper, watching television news and reading online news sources for the past week? That person would know that someone named Trayvon Martin had been murdered and that he looked like or could have been or would look like the son of the president. This anonymous man or woman would know that Al Sharpton, Jay-Z, and Beyonce were sad that Trayvon was dead. The news follower wouldn’t know the ugly truth of why Trayvon was killed, the real reason his murderer went free, or that the man most able to bring justice probably would not.

The anonymous viewer/reader would know that a rich woman in London gave birth to a baby boy. He or she wouldn’t know that the rich woman and her husband and baby had their immense wealth as a result of great theft which took place over many centuries and which continues at the expense of millions of people. Despite the enormous amount of coverage, the news consumer wouldn’t know how many people were really interested in the rich family at all.

The concerned citizen would know that the city of Detroit, Michigan was declared bankrupt. They would know that the city’s art collection might be sold off, but not that pension obligations had already been subverted and workers and retirees who ought to live a decent life were instead on the road to being impoverished. The imagined news junkie would see images of dilapidated buildings and empty neighborhoods but would not be told that capitalism itself had destroyed a once thriving city which provided high wages to generations of workers.

This person who made efforts to be informed would know that America was in the midst of a searing heat wave. Some of the news stories would point out that 2012 was the hottest year on record for the continental United States because of something called climate change. They may or may not have been told that climate change resulted from increased production of fossil fuels and high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. They would not know that the world’s second worst culprit of CO2 production was the United States of America.

Jane or John Q. Public would learn that a man named Ray Kelly was commissioner of the New York Police Department and the president found him “well qualified” to be nominated as Secretary of Homeland Security. They would not know that the president, putatively black, was singing the praises of a man who orchestrated the criminalization of nearly every black person in New York City through the infamous stop and frisk policy.

Our person on the street might hear about a man named Edward Snowden who, according to the corporate media, made an odd decision by requesting permission to live in the Russian Federation. They would not be told that Snowden wanted to live in some twenty other nations but was prevented from doing so because the president actively obstructed his right to seek asylum from American persecution.

We live in age when it is all but impossible to escape media influence. As with all things, the quality of that media varies greatly from one outlet to another, but the corporate media is most ubiquitous while also being the least informative.

Even watershed events such as the verdict which freed Trayvon Martin’s killer are eventually treated with the same degree of triviality as every other news story created in a corporate corner office. When Jay-Z and Beyonce show up at a rally, a movement has bitten the dust.

Those people who make sincere efforts to be well informed are ultimately unable to do so. How else can one explain that millions of people moved from openly demanding justice for Trayvon Martin to being mollified by the president’s chicanery and worthless sentimentality?

Readers of the Black Agenda Report are in no danger of turning into mindless sycophants of a president, or followers of celebrity births, but the points of view presented here are not always easily found. Lies and nonsense are the standard fare for the most read and watched news sources in this country. Ignorance may not be bliss, but it is the preferred state of affairs for politicians, CEOs and their friends at the television networks and editorial boards of leading newspapers. These sources are decidedly unreliable.

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 http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. 

Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How It Began In Daraa

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

The Numbers Game: Myth and Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whose “Revolution” Is It Anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Syria Is Being Targeted

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

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

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

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

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

The Myth of the “Democratic Rebels”

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

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

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

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

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

The Muslim Brotherhood: A History of Bloody Reaction

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

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

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

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

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

Syrian Self Determination and Foreign Weapons To Syria

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Militarization of America

July 25th, 2013 by Bill Van Auken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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