Guantanamo Bay: The model for an American police state?

September 30th, 2012 by John W. Whitehead

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”—James Madison

For most Americans, the detention center at Guantanamo Bay—once the topic of heated political debate by presidential hopeful Barack Obama but rarely talked about by the incumbent President Obama—has become a footnote in the government’s ongoing war on terror.

Yet for the approximately 167 detainees still being held in that godforsaken gulag, 86 of whom have been cleared for release yet continue to be imprisoned at the facility, Guantanamo Bay is a lesson in injustice, American-style. It is everything that those who founded America vigorously opposed: kidnapping, torture, dehumanizing treatment, indefinite detention, being “disappeared” with no access to family or friends, and little hope of help from the courts.

For Adnan Latif—a 30-something-year-old Yemeni native detained at Guantanamo for ten years without a trial, despite a court ruling ordering his release and repeated military clearances ordering his transfer—his cell became his tomb. Latif, who had repeatedly engaged in hunger strikes and suicide attempts while proclaiming his innocence, was found dead in his cell in Guantanamo Bay mere days before the 11th anniversary of 9/11.

If Guantanamo is the symbol of American injustice, Latif’s death is the realization of that injustice, the proclamation of how far we have strayed from the original vision of America as a shining city on a hill, a beacon of freedom and hope for the world. Ten years after opening for business, Guantanamo Bay stands as a manifestation of America’s failure to abide by the rule of law and its founding principles in the post-9/11 era. As Baher Azmy notes in the New York Times, its defining features have been the denial of judicial oversight and its exclusion of lawyers. Making matters worse, “far from closing the prison camp as he promised, President Obama is steadily returning Guantanamo to the secretive and hopeless internment camp that he vilified as a candidate.”

Examples of torture in Guantanamo and other American black site prisons are widely known, including waterboarding, beatings, and sensory deprivation. What is less widely known is that most of those forcibly arrested and tortured in Guantanamo have had nothing to do with terrorist activities. Most prisoners in Gitmo, including Murat Kurnaz, a detainee for five years, were not captured on the “battlefield,” but rather kidnapped and sold to the American government by local tribesmen. Kurnaz fetched $3,000 as a result of American fliers distributed across Afghanistan promising poor Afghans “enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life” in return for prisoners. Kurnaz, who was punched in the gut, dunked under water, and hung from ceiling chains during his imprisonment, was eventually sent back to his native Germany on a C-17 military flight which cost American taxpayers over $1 million.

Lakhdar Boumediene was arrested in late 2001 while working as the director of a humanitarian aid clinic helping the victims of the Balkan conflicts. Despite having no evidence that he was tied to any terrorist activity, he was arrested and shipped to Guantanamo Bay and kept there without charge for seven years. Boumediene eventually challenged his detention. In 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that Guantanamo prisoners are guaranteed a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge their continued imprisonment.

Despite this ruling, indefinite detention is still the norm at Guantanamo. The Obama administration shares the blame for this state of affairs. Having once promised to abolish Guantanamo, the president has now urged the U.S. Supreme Court to avoid reviewing Guantanamo detainees’ appeals. Incredibly, the Supreme Court has abided by this request, refusing to hear the appeals of any prisoners. As journalist Adam Serwer wrote for Mother Jones, “Gitmo detainees have now lost virtually every avenue—other than dying in detention—for leaving the detention camp.”

And die they do. The most recent detainee to “leave” Guantanamo was Adnan Latif, who spent most of his time at Guantanamo in solitary confinement with his hands in cuffs. He was recommended for transfer out of Guantanamo three times. However, Latif, along with 56 other Yemenis who have been cleared for release, continued to languish in the prison because the Obama Administration has placed an indefinite moratorium on transferring innocent Yemenis back to their native country.

What is the legacy of Guantanamo Bay? 171 men continue to languish there. The Bush torture program has been legitimized by the Obama administration, and indefinite detention has been codified as law. Guantanamo bleeds our coffers, costing $800,000 a year per detainee. And with a government that possesses the awesome power to indefinitely detain whomever it pleases, we are much, much less safe than we were 11 years ago.

Despite these obvious warning signs of a coming authoritarian state, a CNN poll from 2010 indicates that 60 percent of Americans would like Guantanamo to remain open. Yet what most Americans fail to realize, however, is that Guantanamo Bay is no different from every other aspect of America’s military empire, whether it be weaponry or military strategy, which has been tested against so-called “insurgents” abroad only to be brought home and used against American citizens. In this way, we are being conditioned to not only tolerate the government’s constant undermining of our freedoms but to actually condone the increasing assaults of our rights in the name of national security.

To put it more bluntly, we are being conditioned to live as prisoners in an Orwellian police state. Worse, we are being taught to enjoy our prison walls.

Encouraged by politicians and pundits to wade through life in a constant state of fear and apathy while being fed the bread and circuses of the corporate-entertainment complex, Americans have become accustomed to the illusion of security. In the process, we are finding ourselves subjected to a veritable arsenal of military firepower, government surveillance and battlefield tactics.

Such was the case with so-called “non-lethal” weapons of compliance—tear gas, tasers, sound cannons and barf beamers—all of which were first used on the battlefield before being deployed against civilians at home. Similarly, drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—were used exclusively by the military to carry out aerial surveillance and attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan only now to be authorized by Congress and President Obama for widespread use in American airspace.

To anyone connecting the dots, it all makes sense—the military drills carried out in major American cities, the VIPR inspections at train depots and bus stations, the SWAT team raids on unsuspecting homeowners, the Black Hawk helicopters patrolling American skies. All of these so-called training exercises habituate Americans to an environment in which the buzz of Black Hawk helicopters and the sight of armed forces rappelling onto buildings or crashing through doors is commonplace.

The enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in January 2012, which allows the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, only codifies this unraveling of our constitutional framework. Viewed in conjunction with the government’s increasing use of involuntary commitment laws to declare individuals—especially American military veterans—mentally ill and lock them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time, the NDAA appears even more menacing.

Throw in the profit-driven corporate incentive to jail Americans in private prisons, as well as the criminalizing of such relatively innocent activities as holding Bible studies in one’s home or sharing unpasteurized goat cheese with members of one’s community, and you have a 10-step blueprint for how to transform a republic into a police state without the populace cluing in until it’s too late.

About John W. Whitehead: Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book “The Freedom Wars” (TRI Press) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at [email protected]. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

In 1997, five years after its last underground nuclear test, the U.S. Department of Energy conducted its first subcritical nuclear test. Back then, critics said that the subcritical test program was creating a crisis of confidence in the negotiations over the CTBT because nations such as India and Indonesia strongly felt that such experiments should be included in the activities banned by the treaty. Critics also feared that because of the nature of these experiments on plutonium (e.g. conducted underground, there is no visible flash, seismic signal or ‘gas signature’), one country’s conduct of a subcritical test might easily be seen by another as a very low yield nuclear test.

Even without creating a ‘yield,’ which would categorize a nuclear experiment as a nuclear explosion, experts and even government documents agree that subcritical tests can be used beyond their stated purpose, to study the aging properties of plutonium. They could be used for developing new nuclear weapons. Although it hasn’t been yet proven that any country has used subcritical tests for this latter purpose, do we want to wait around and find out (the CTBT doesn’t actually ban subcritical nuclear tests)?

As was seen during the Cold War, the nuclear arms race closely resembled the feverish pace of the nuclear testing race. We should know from history that whenever one superpower begins conducting a lot of nuclear weapons-related tests, then the other superpower or superpowers, with nothing to lose by staying in lock-step, follow suit. What is worrisome with the subcritical nuclear test race now beginning between the U.S. and Russia is that the chances of one thing leading to another – resuming subcritical tests leading to full-scale nuclear testing resumption – substantially increase.

In 1998, the U.S. had increased its rate of subcritical testing by 50% from 1997 levels and nuclear experts noted that the Soviets met this ramp-up with an increase in their own subcritical tests at their nuclear test site in Novaya Zemlya; in October 1998, the Soviets conducted a subcritical test underground at Novaya Zemlya on the same day the U.S. carried out one in Nevada. We’re lucky that in the fourteen years since, in the absence of a CTBT-in-force, there hasn’t been a resumption of nuclear testing.

The U.S. took a long ‘break’ from subcritical testing from 2006 to 2010 and little was heard then about the programs of other countries known to have a subcritical testing program – China, Russia, and France. Since 2010, the U.S. has ‘shot’ off three subcritical tests and has plans in late 2012 for ‘Pollux,’ a ‘first-of-a-kind demonstration’ combining a ‘scaled subcritical experiment’ with plutonium-239. Pollux is called a subcritical nuclear experiment because it will be held underground and use larger-than-normal (but nevertheless ‘small’) amounts of plutonium-239 fuel than used in ordinary hydrodynamic tests. However, it is the first such ‘scaled’ subcritical test by the U.S. because it will involve a scale model of a warhead primary (using plutonium-239 nuclear material). This is provocative because Pollux will be the closest thing to a full-scale nuclear test that the U.S. has carried out since its last nuclear explosion 20 years ago. (Read more in ‘NNSA Keeps Conducting ‘Nuclear Tests’ and Mentioning Them Well After the Fact’)

While the news about ‘Pollux’ may be raising eyebrows in places like China, in Russia the interest in this ‘scaled’ subcritical test apparently has already tipped the scales of restraint. On September 28, 2012, the Russian paper Nezavisimaya Gazeta printed an article by Vladimir Mukhin titled ‘Nuclear Umbrella for the Arctic’ (or ‘Nuclear Umbrella for Arctic Region’) which notes that Russia’s defense ministry is planning to beef up security at its former nuclear test site (at Novaya Zemlya) while considering restarting a subcritical nuclear testing program for ensuring the reliability of the Russian nuclear stockpile. But that’s not all. The article also notes that, for Russia, subcritical experiments are important for verification of the properties of new types of nuclear weapons. The article, however, quotes one Russian think-tank researcher who says subcritical tests can’t be useful in new weapons work without full-scale nuclear testing. That may be true for Russia, but the U.S. nuclear weapons complex’s ‘Green Book’ (see above-linked article ‘NNSA Keeps….’) says the opposite. The Russian article also notes that the Arctic nuclear test site, like its ‘nemesis’ site in the State of Nevada, is maintained by a ‘readiness’ program for the possibility of nuclear weapons testing resumption.

What we’re seeing in real-time in September 2012 is a replay of 1998. The U.S. is ramping up the rate and provocativeness of its subcritical testing program while Russia is readying for ‘something’ at its Novaya Zemlya site. (In August 2012, Russia banned civilian use of the airspace over the archipelago, which has a resident population of 2,900.) Fortifying the Arctic former nuclear test site with deadly navy and air military assets, Russia is preparing for, at least, resumed subcritical testing, if not something worse. It’s all really too bad. If the CTBT banned subcritical nuclear tests, then we wouldn’t be hearing about this worrisome development and what may lay in store for us. In 1997, an article in the ‘Disarmament Times’ paraphrased the comments made about subcritical testing by the foreign minister of Indonesia at a U.N. meeting:

‘Unless the nuclear powers desisted from sub-critical tests and computer simulations to design new weapons, there could be a resumption of the nuclear arms race and a revival risk of global disaster.’(1)

So, now we have to live with the consequences of a renewed subcritical nuclear test race that was sparked by the U.S. with a little help of a test ban treaty that’s simply not comprehensive enough to do the job.

NOTES

[1] As paraphrased in ‘Assembly Debates Show Continuing Stalemate on Disarmament Priorities,’ by plenary speech of Foreign Minister Ali Alatas of Indonesia during the 52nd U.N. General Assembly.

Andrew Kishner is founder of NuclearCrimes.org, which provides deep analysis into the history and consequences of the manifold reckless activities related to nuclear weapons work during the 20th century by several ‘nuclear club’ nations.

Islamophobia: The Man Behind the Movie

September 30th, 2012 by Tanya Cariina Hsu

THIS is the face of the man who created the painful-to-watch video, Innocence of Muslims. Whilst the Prophet’s face should not be shown, there is no reason to not reveal Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s image, much protected in the media in fear for his safety. (The actress was tricked into believing she was playing the daughter of a man named George in a film called Desert Warriors.) And on Thursday Sept. 27, Nakoula was arrested in Los Angeles.
The few minutes of video that have been seen online are merely a collection of scenes from a full-length film that has been shown once. One time only and seen by a grand total of 10 people. Millions, however, have seen the YouTube edit, protests have broken out in 30 countries, and more than 50 people have been killed. Had the Egyptian television anchor — now accused of being a “Salafist sheikh” by some in the media—not shown the months-old clip on his Al-Nas program, arguably much of the reaction would not have taken place.The cost of advertising and public relations for new films can sometimes run into the millions of dollars. Well-known Islamophobe darling of the neoconservative crowd Ayaan Hirsi Ali — co-creator of the Dutch anti-Muslim film Submission, which led to the violent death of director Theo van Gogh—added her fair share this week in her assessment of “Muslim Rage” and how it must be stopped front cover of Newsweek. In defence of free speech, Hirsi Ali has repeated Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik’s reasoning that “he had no other choice but to use violence” because his opinions were “censored.” She herself believes that Islam must be defeated entirely; not just “radical” Islam, but “Islam, period,” because Muslims are “not interested in peace.”

All of this free advertising as a result of Nakoula’s video is going to only lead to more money being poured into coffers to produce more anti-Islamic films and videos.

A big-budget $ 30 million film called Muhammad, produced by a Palestinian has long been in the works in Hollywood, and appears to be sympathetic to the Prophet (peace be upon him). Another anti-Muslim film, however, has already raised over $ 2 million since Nakoula’s video became viral. Ali Sina, an Iranian-Canadian ex-Muslim, intends to portray the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the leader of a cult – as long as he can secure $ 8 million in further funding. With Islamophobia picking up steam, we should assume donations flooding his way soon meet his goal.

Nakoula, a twice imprisoned felon for drug-manufacturing and bank fraud, relied upon a director of pornographic films, named “Alan Roberts,” for his project. Like Nakoula’s use of “Sam Bacily,” Roberts is the pseudonym for the more mainstream director, Robert Brownwell. The men stripped the film of its original dialogue to create the final video, vast amounts of dialogue dubbed over the actor’s original words.

According to the office of the County of Los Angeles and Film LA, Inc., it was a Christian non-profit organization named Media for Christ that secured the original permit to shoot the film. The owner of Media for Christ is Joseph Nassaralla Abdelmasih, a Coptic Christian who also owns a small television channel named The Way TV. Steve Klein, the ex-Marine Christian-paramilitary Islamophobe who collaborated with Nakoula to make the controversial film, is one of the talk show hosts on Nasaralla’s network.

The interconnection between a small but powerful Islamophobic force was thoroughly documented last year by the Center for American Progress in a well-worth reading report, Fear, Inc. Although the mainly neoconservative elements are highlighted there, it is clear how an increasingly influential radical Christian segment of society is gaining ground and joining forces with the moneyed established Islamophobes. This bodes ill for Muslims around the world.

A Pakistani minister offered a bounty upon Nakoula’s death of $100,000 in a “sacred duty” for revenge. Although the government disassociated itself from his offer, it is insufficient.

When arrested in Los Angeles, Nakoula was held without bond. Not for any of the contents of the inflammatory video: he was detained because he may have violated the terms of his parole. In reality, his only punishment is a possible violation for using the Internet whilst still on probation. Prison is unlikely however, as the violation is normally connected to the original conviction, in this case, check-cashing fraud. Perhaps the worst outcome for him has already occurred: he had to go in hiding and has had to put up his California house for sale. A trail of scores of deaths in his video’s wake, this might be the extent of his suffering.

In the world we live in today anyone is free to make any video he or she wants no matter how hateful. It is thus inevitable that Islam is going to come under increasing attack. Nakoula’s film is a tipping point, having opened a Pandora’s box. No Muslim state will be able to change the laws of ‘absolute free speech’ in the United States, and therefore discussions amongst leading Islamic scholars must urgently take place to address an unstoppable deluge of blasphemy. If YouTube is blocked, Vimeo will pick up the slack; if Facebook is shutdown, Twitter takes over.

No one in the 21st century can remain oblivious to the flood of news, images and offenses. Given this reality, rationally addressing the problem is an imperative. The question must be asked, what can clerics do? This time, time is indeed of the essence.

— Tanya Cariina Hsu is a British political analyst specializing in US-Saudi foreign policy.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has bluntly rejected claims by the Obama administration that it tacitly approves CIA drone strikes on its territory, saying that ‘drone attacks are illegal, counterproductive, in contravention of international law and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.’The remarks came after the Wall Street Journal revealed that US claims of legality appear built on a monthly fax from the CIA to its ISI counterpart which goes unanswered, and on Pakistan’s apparent acceptance of  ’no fly zones’ over the tribal areas which enable the drones to operate.Islamabad’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar also waded into the fray, telling an audience in New York that  ’What the drones are trying to achieve, we may not disagree… If they’re going for terrorists — we do not disagree. But we have to find ways which are lawful, which are legal. The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal.’

According to the Bureau’s data, at least 2,570 people have died since 2004 in 346 US drone strikes. Senior Pakistani officials have labelled the attacks ‘illegal’ on more than a dozen occasions this year. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK recently told the Guardian that CIA strikes were ‘a violation of the UN charter.’ And on September 24 President Asif Ali Zardari, speaking at the UN General Assembly said that ‘drone strikes and civilian casualties on our territory add to the complexity of our battle for hearts and minds through this epic struggle.’

Despite these public protests, US officials still hint that they have Pakistan’s tacit permission to carry out the attacks. Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan insisted recently that ‘We do not use force whenever we want, wherever we want… The United States of America respects national sovereignty and international law.’

Drone attacks are illegal, counterproductive, in contravention of international law and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.’
Pakistan Foreign Ministry September 28 2012

According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, that ‘respect’ rests on tenuous grounds, and it is causing concern among some senior Obama administration officials about the legality of the attacks. One described US policy as ‘cowboy behaviour’.

No Pakistani officials have any input or say into the CIA bombing campaign, the paper reports. Instead, once a month the CIA sends a fax to Pakistan’s spy agency the ISI outlining ‘the boundaries of the airspace the drones would use—large areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border referred to as flight “boxes” because they are shaped like three-dimensional rectangles in the sky.’

For at least 17 months nobody at the ISI has acknowledged or answered the faxes.

Kill Boxes

Those ‘flight boxes’ are better known as Restricted Operating Zones, precise military jargon for a three-dimensional air exclusion or ‘kill zone’. These enable other air traffic to go safely over or around ongoing combat or surveillance operations. Pakistan and the US may never have signed a formal agreement on the drone strikes – but in order to avoid collision between aircraft such zones have been in place over  the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), for some years.

Their existence is confirmed in a secret US diplomatic cable dated March 24 2008. Admiral Mike Mullen, US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was in Islamabad to meet with Pakistan’s chief of the army staff (and now head of the army) General Ashfaq Kayani. Mullen secretly ‘asked Kayani for his help in approving a third Restricted Operating Zone for US aircraft over the FATA,’ the US embassy noted at the time.

The zones are not connected to the US and NATO air traffic corridor above Pakistan. Another secret cable dated December 14 2007 identifies that route as The Boulevard, noting that up to 150 Coalition aircraft were then using it daily.

All but two CIA strikes have taken place inside FATA, suggesting that the CIA restricts itself to defined ‘kill boxes.’ US officials believe they have ‘permission’ from Islamabad to carry out the drone strikes because ‘Pakistan continues to clear airspace in the targeted areas,’ the Wall Street Journal reports.

The United States of America respects national sovereignty and international law.’
John Brennan, US chief counter terrorism advisor

However a western defence analyst – who asked to remain anonymous because of his links to the Pakistan military – warned that consent should not simply be assumed. ‘They [Pakistan] know full well that they would have something set on them if they tried to enter these boxes. It’s more likely the Pakistan air force and army are instead turning a blind eye.’

Former president Pervez Musharraf recently said that regardless of what it wanted, Pakistan was too weak militarily to oppose US attacks, and certainly could not shoot down the CIA’s drones as some proposed: ‘You cannot do it… If the air force does it, let’s see how they confront the joint might of the coalition forces.’

There is concern too in some parts of Washington. US congressman Dennis Kucinich told the Bureau that he and others in Congress questioned the legality of US strikes: ‘If in fact Pakistan has made this request and asked us to stop and we continue this bombing, then we are at war with Pakistan.’

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson later said that Islamabad ‘categorically rejected the insinuation made in the [Wall Street Journal] report’ and that ’there can be no question of Pakistan’s agreement to such attacks.’

Follow chrisjwoods on Twitter.

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By Hala Jaber

The story below is written by my dear friend and veteran journalist for the Sunday Times, Hala Jaber.

It is a tribute to her friend and colleague, the martyr Maya Nasser,  who was assassinated by NATO/GCC-funded terrorist “rebels” after receiving numerous death threats.

The piece was originally published in the Sunday Times here but is protected by a firewall. I copy-pasted the piece in full from Hala’s Facebook wall. The piece in full below:

Oh Maya, I wish I’d taken your last call

Our reporter fled to safety when rebels mounted a huge attack on the defence ministry. Her fellow journalist was shot dead

Hala Jaber, Damascus Published: 30 September 2012

I WAS woken by an enormous explosion. The first thing I saw was a flash. The bomb sounded so close that I thought my hotel was under attack.

Heart racing, I peered out of the window of my fourth-floor room, only to see jabbering security staff pointing at the Ministry of Defence building opposite.

Black smoke was billowing into the sky from the General Staff Command, where the minister of defence has his office. It should have been one of the safest places in Syria, but as I dressed hurriedly with shaking hands, the rat-tat-tat of random machinegun fire suggested it was in chaos.

It was 7.01am on Wednesday — 5.01am in London, too early to call the office, so I tweeted: “Huge explosion now followed by sound of gunfire and siren of ambulances.”

At 7.09am, another explosion shook the hotel. I dashed out of my room and opened the door to a terrace, where I stood alone, feeling strangely isolated. I tweeted what I saw, as much out of a need to feel connected to the world as a wish to impart the news.

The hotel’s security staff warned me to go back inside. “There are snipers everywhere,” they said, pointing to a gunman on top of the state television building to my right.

As I sat in the corridor, catching my breath, a series of smaller blasts reverberated around the square in front of the hotel. Ammunition was exploding as fire engulfed the upper floors. Through the smoke, I could see several men on the ministry building’s roof, waving desperately in the hope of attracting rescuers.

At 6am London time, I briefed my foreign editor and joined a group of security guards on the terrace. The guards warned me to stay close to the wall for shelter, but even from there it was possible to see flashes of gunfire from inside rooms on the third and fourth floors of the ministry building.

As word spread that this was a serious rebel attack at the heart of the Damascus defence establishment, requests came in for broadcast interviews. At a little before 8am, I was speaking to the BBC on my British phone when I noticed a call coming in on my local mobile. It was Maya Naser, a Syrian television journalist I had met on an assignment in the country’s second city, Aleppo. For nearly two weeks, we had met for breakfast or an evening coffee, sharing tips about the safest way round the city and debating the course of the war. In Damascus the previous week, we had caught up over dinner.

I’ll call him back, I thought with a smile; he was probably ringing to say he was on the spot and perhaps to suggest I join him.

When the interview was over, I couldn’t get through to Naser. I shrugged: he was almost certainly on air. But at 9.50am, when I was scanning Twitter for the latest reports, I saw a tweet that made my blood freeze. “Press TV correspondent Maya Naser killed by sniper in Syria,” it said.

It took me several seconds to comprehend it. Then I thought there must have been a mistake and tweeted back: “He just called me like an hour ago. I couldn’t take his call, was on other line, engaged when I tried him. Plz God NO.”

I dialled his number again but it was still engaged. “Maya, pick up,” I muttered, before dissolving into tears.

I thought of Marie Colvin, my friend and Sunday Times colleague who was killed by shellfire in Homs in February. I had spent nearly two weeks in Damascus trying to arrange for her body to be recovered, and finally identified her in a hospital morgue.

I thought of the 17 other journalists who have died covering the conflict in Syria this year.

But my over-riding thoughts last Wednesday were for Naser, for the parents he had just moved out of Homs to a safer place — and for the young woman he had fallen in love with. They had been going to announce their engagement two days later.

Maya Naser was born 33 years ago and raised by a Christian mother and a Muslim father so avowedly progressive that he gave his three sons girls’ names to show there should be no difference between the opportunities for women and men.

Naser, a self-proclaimed liberal, disliked the regimes of President Hafez al-Assad and Bashar, the son who succeeded him in 2000. He was imprisoned as a dissident.

On his release, he felt he had little choice but to go into exile. He travelled to America and France, was married to a western woman and divorced.

After spells in Bahrain and Lebanon, he returned to Syria at the start of the uprising against the Assad government 18 months ago, and joined protesters thronging the streets.

This Arab spring revolution seemed to be about democratic reform at first. But Naser grew uneasy when the street demonstrations were punctuated by armed attacks on Syrian forces.

When it emerged that the rebels were being supported by foreign governments, notably those of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, his doubts were amplified. The arrival of Islamist militants from abroad to wage jihad on the Damascus government convinced him that his beloved Syria faced disintegration. He switched sides.

Three months ago Naser became a reporter with Press TV, an Iranian-owned station loathed by the rebels for its pro-government position.

Death threats began soon afterwards. One caller woke him regularly at 2am to warn that he would “kill you, rip you apart and teach you a lesson”.

Good humour sustained him. When the caller rang after missing two nights in a row, Naser told him: “I’ve missed you and was worried about you. I hope you’re well.”

I first met him in August at a small hotel in Aleppo, where we were covering the rebels’ efforts to seize the city and a government counter-offensive to repel them.

He came to my table at breakfast with a wide smile. “I’m Maya,” he said, his blue eyes twinkling as he stretched out his hand. “We met on Twitter. Now it’s personal.”

I warmed to him over coffee and cigarettes. After that, we talked every day. He went to the front line with Assad’s army and told me what he saw when my office instructed me to stay away from the fighting. I told him about the gossip at dinners he missed because his office made him stay in the hotel after dark. He ran terrible risks for front-line reportage. One night, he and his bureau chief, Hussein Murtada, 40, were trapped under fire for three hours during a failed rebel attempt to take the city’s television station.

His mother worried about him, he admitted. He joked that she tried to tempt him home by saying she was cooking his favourite stew of chicken, garlic and rice.

At home in the city of Homs, Naser tried to mediate between warring factions, seeking out the Salafist commanders he resented for trying to turn the struggle for democracy into a holy war. He took three of them to Damascus, in the hope that its ancient history would inspire them to pursue peace.

According to Naser, the Saslafists thanked him over dinner and said they respected his actions but that he would be killed for opposing them.

Shocked, he gestured to a table where two women of different religious beliefes were dining together, one with a veil, the other without. “This is what Syria is about and as long as I am alive, I will fight to keep it this way,” he said.

Although his employer supported the government, Naser’s heart ached over the casualties inflicted on civilians by both sides. Blogging from his room in the middle of Damascus about the army shelling of a suburb, he wrote: “Is this real? Is this fire I can barely see someone’s house burning, or maybe a neighbourhood store? Is this my country on fire?”

He was almost killed in Damascus three weeks ago when his car was ambushed. Murtada, who was beside him, was hit in both legs by shrapnel that left him with a limp.

Naser put a brave face on the incident when we dined in the Christian quarter of the old city last week. But he believed Syria was descending into a war of attrition. “There will be no winner,” he said. “Syria will have lost after this.”

We had been due to meet last Wednesday morning. Instead, a white van drove into a checkpoint at the entrance to the Ministry of Defence building and blew up in a ball of fire.

In the confusion that followed, a black Mercedes reached the compound, disgorging rebels dressed in military police uniforms who shot three guards on the steps of General Staff Command and detonated the second bomb in their car. They joined forces with other rebels, who stormed the upper floors and put snipers in position to defend them.

Naser was again accompanied by Murtada as they raced to the scene on Umayad Square. They entered the compound but retreated as the gunfire intensified, hunkering down in the street behind a barricade.

Surrounded by fire engines and soldiers, Naser felt safe enough to broadcast without a flak jacket or helmet. The studio anchor came on the line and he started to answer her first question.“The damage is huge on Umayad Square,” he said breathlessly. “No further news about the victims yet.”

“Has the situation calmed down yet? Is it still taking place?” the studio presenter asked. The line went dead with a “beep, beep, beep”. “Okay, we’ve lost Maya but we’re going to try and definitely get him back on the line,” she said.

Yesterday, in hospital, Murtada described what had happened. The first of the sniper’s bullets had hit him, he said. “I felt myself going in circles, then I dropped to the ground. Within seconds, two others followed — whizz, whizz, tick, tick. These two bullets hit Maya in the neck and he dropped to the ground, smiling at me. He just had this smile on his face,” Murtada said, his voice choking. He was shot in the hip but will survive.

Murtada has no doubt that the two journalists were targeted by a rebel who regarded them as a greater prize than the soldiers around them.

In the ambulance, there was a phonecall for Murtada, who, like Naser, had received death threats. It was one of the men who had been promising to shoot him. “We saw you enter the building,” the man said. “You were limping. We were watching you.”

Officials said last night that Naser had been one of three civilians who died in an attack that killed eight members of the security forces. Thirty rebels had died. A captured sniper had said the rebels planned to seize the prime minister’s office and broadcast a decree from state television, but had been beaten back.

Murtada was to be reunited with his wife and two young sons this weekend. Naser’s fiancée was photographed kneeling before his coffin.

His shooting bore out his view that the conflict would claim many innocent lives, including those of more journalists. “Bombs and bullets aren’t smart enough to distinguish the right from the wrong,” he wrote. “Bottom line is: my people are dying and I am still in the line, waiting my turn.”

At a time when the British press was still “reporting the truth”, London’s Guardian (27 September 2003) published a detailed report of a 1957 Anglo-American assassination plot directed against the Syrian president, with a view to implementing “regime change”. The similarity to today’s war on Syria is striking.

What is revealing is that the political assassination of the Syrian president has been on the Anglo-American drawing board for over half a century.

The article, which reviews the text of the leaked ‘Secret Document”, confirms that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and President Dwight D. Eisenhower had ordered the assassination of  the Syrian Head of State.

Macmillan backed Syria assassination plot

Documents show White House and No 10 conspired over oil-fuelled invasion plan”

To consult the complete article by Ben Fenton, The Guardian, 27 September 2003 click here http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/sep/27/uk.syria1

The stated objective of this Secret Plan, entrusted to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) [today's MI6] and the CIA, consisted in assassinating the Syrian president together with key political and military figures. “Mr Macmillan and President Eisenhower were left in no doubt about the need to assassinate the top men in Damascus.”

 ”In order to facilitate the action of liberative forces, reduce the capabilities of the Syrian regime to organise and direct its military actions, to hold losses and destruction to a minimum, and to bring about desired results in the shortest possible time, a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. Their removal should be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention and in the light of circumstances existing at the time.”  (The Guardian, 27 September 2003)

The stated pretext of the Macmillan-Eisenhower plan was that Syria was “spreading terrorism” and “preventing the West’s access to Middle East oil”  Déjà Vu

The secret 1957 Plan called for the funding of a so-called “Free Syria Committee” equivalent to today’s Syrian National Council (SNC).  It also involved  “the arming of “political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities” within Syria. Under the plan, the CIA together with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Serivce (SIS) “would instigate internal uprisings”.

“Internal disturbances” in Syria would be triggered through covert operations. The “CIA is prepared, and SIS [MI6] will attempt, to mount minor sabotage and coup de main incidents [sic] within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.”

An all out invasion plan had also been envisaged.

What was lacking from the 1957 plan, formulated at the height of the Cold War, was the “humanitarian” R2P envelope.

Moreover, in contrast to today’s Free Syrian Army (FSA) (i.e the foot soldiers of the Western military alliance), the 1957 Anglo-American plan did not contemplate the recruitment of foreign mercenaries to wage their war:

[in 1957] Britain and America sought a secretive “regime change” in another Arab country they accused of spreading terror and threatening the west’s oil supplies, by planning the invasion of Syria and the assassination of leading figures.

Newly discovered documents show how in 1957 Harold Macmillan and President Dwight Eisenhower approved a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbours, and then to “eliminate” the most influential triumvirate in Damascus. (The Guardian, 27 September 2003)

The insidious plan was known to key political figures in the British government. It was made public 46 years later in 2003:

Although historians know that intelligence services had sought to topple the Syrian regime in the autumn of 1957, this is the first time any document has been found showing that the assassination of three leading figures was at the heart of the scheme. In the document drawn up by a top secret and high-level working group that met in Washington in September 1957, Mr Macmillan and President Eisenhower were left in no doubt about the need to assassinate the top men in Damascus.

Part of the “preferred plan” reads: “In order to facilitate the action of liberative forces, reduce the capabilities of the Syrian regime to organise and direct its military actions, to hold losses and destruction to a minimum, and to bring about desired results in the shortest possible time, a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. Their removal should be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention and in the light of circumstances existing at the time.”

The document, approved by London and Washington, named three men: Abd al-Hamid Sarraj, head of Syrian military intelligence; Afif al-Bizri, chief of the Syrian general staff; and Khalid Bakdash, leader of the Syrian Communist party.

For a prime minister who had largely come to power on the back of Anthony Eden’s disastrous antics in Suez just a year before, Mr Macmillan was remarkably bellicose. He described it in his diary as “a most formidable report”. Secrecy was so great, Mr Macmillan ordered the plan withheld even from British chiefs of staff, because of their tendency “to chatter”.

Driving the call for action was the CIA’s Middle East chief Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of former president Theodore Roosevelt. He identified Colonel Sarraj, General al-Bizri and Mr Bakdash as the real power behind a figurehead president. …

The “preferred plan” adds: “Once a political decision is reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS [MI6] will attempt, to mount minor sabotage and coup de main incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.

“The two services should consult, as appropriate, to avoid any overlapping or interference with each other’s activities… Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus; the operation should not be overdone; and to the extent possible care should be taken to avoid causing key leaders of the Syrian regime to take additional personal protection measures.”

The report said that once the necessary degree of fear had been created, frontier incidents and border clashes would be staged to provide a pretext for Iraqi and Jordanian military intervention. Syria had to be “made to appear as the sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments,” the report says. “CIA and SIS should use their capabilities in both the psychological and action fields to augment tension.” That meant operations in Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon, taking the form of “sabotage, national conspiracies and various strong-arm activities” to be blamed on Damascus.

The plan called for funding of a “Free Syria Committee”, and the arming of “political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities” within Syria. The CIA and MI6 would instigate internal uprisings, for instance by the Druze in the south, help to free political prisoners held in the Mezze prison, and stir up the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus.

The planners envisaged replacing the Ba’ath/Communist regime with one that was firmly anti-Soviet, but they conceded that this would not be popular and “would probably need to rely first upon repressive measures and arbitrary exercise of power”. (Ben Fenton, The Guardian, 27 September 2003, emphasis added)

In contrast to the 2011-2012 Plan, which is supported by the Arab League, with the participation of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in covert ops., the 1957 Eisenhower Macmillan Plan was not carried out due to lack of support by neighbouring Arab countries: “The plan was never used, chiefly because Syria’s Arab neighbours could not be persuaded to take action and an attack from Turkey alone was thought to be unacceptable. (Ben Fenton, The Guardian, 27 September 2003, emphasis added)

The ongoing US-NATO aggression directed against Syria has been planned for several years.

An invasion of Syria was contemplated in the immediate wake of the 2003 Iraq invasion by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“Regime change” in Damascus was again put forth by the Bush adminstration in the immediate wake of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The assassination was casually blamed, without evidence, on Damascus.

President George W. Bush  “denounced Syria and its ally, Iran, as ‘outlaw regimes… Syria and Iran deserve no patience from the victims of terror,’” The British media confirmed in October 2005 that Washington was “looking for a pro-western replacement for Mr Assad.”

By Zheng Yongnian

Thinking that the U.S. will invest huge resources to confront China as it did against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, these countries, especially the ones which have maritime boundary disputes with China, have chosen to side with the U.S.

[T]he U.S. pivot has shifted the priority in Asia from economic policy to strategic policy. This has occurred, in part, due to U.S. perception of its own strengths. After the onset of the financial crisis, U.S. economic dominance weakened, but its military remains the most powerful in the world.

History has shown that economic competition is mostly benign, but strategic confrontation can and has lead to military conflict. When the two countries fall into such confrontation, they will inevitably assume the roles of the two ancient Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta, or the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

 

The United States claims that its high-profile “pivot to Asia” strategy aims to “deter” the threat from a rising China in order to maintain the existing order in Asia. But the effects of this strategy seem to prove just the opposite.

Is Asia now more stable than it was before the U.S.’s adoption of this Asia-Pacific strategy? Obviously not. China and the U.S. had been living on relatively good terms before. But dramatic changes have happened in Asia due to America’s new policy.

Before this new policy, China and other Asian nations had been constantly adjusting themselves to cater to the needs of others. Most Asian countries, ASEAN nations in particular, adopted a pragmatic foreign policy. They regarded China’s economic growth as an opportunity and accordingly adjusted their relations with China. Meanwhile, China prioritized its economic and trade relations with other Asian countries, and accordingly kept a low profile on political and strategic issues and recognized the leading role of ASEAN. It was because of this mutual effort that the relationship between ASEAN nations and China had rapidly progressed, and the bilateral relations between China and other Asian countries became gradually institutionalized through various regional, international, bilateral and multilateral channels.

Some Western scholars have already realized the fact that during the past three decades, Asia maintained peace despite China’s rapid growth, seemingly disproving the “tragedy of great power politics” in which an emerging power will eventually challenge the existing great power. Peace in Asia, to a large extent, was a result of rational choices and mutual adjustment of Asian countries including China. China placed its strategic priorities on economy and trade instead of the military.

The so called “threat” that the U.S. faces in Asia ― fears that China will eventually push it out of Asia ― is therefore more cognitive than real. Where do these fears come from? There are many contributing factors, including the so-called “security dilemma” caused by structural anarchy in international relations, differences in political ideology, and a lack of mutual trust.

How does the U.S. “pivot to Asia” affect regional geopolitics? Here we have to take into consideration the relationships between China and the U.S., China and other Asian countries, and the U.S. and other Asian countries.

First of all, the U.S. Asia strategy has changed and even interrupted the process of mutual adaptation of China and other Asian countries. Although the Obama administration has only voiced the strategy in its political rhetoric, the shift is enough to amplify Asian countries’ expectations for U.S. support. Thinking that the U.S. will invest huge resources to confront China as it did against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, these countries, especially the ones which have maritime boundary disputes with China, have chosen to side with the U.S. Although China’s response to the U.S. strategy has been largely defensive, it is still enough to prevent its relations with these countries from developing further.

Secondly, the U.S. pivot has shifted the priority in Asia from economic policy to strategic policy. This has occurred, in part, due to U.S. perception of its own strengths. After the onset of the financial crisis, U.S. economic dominance weakened, but its military remains the most powerful in the world. During the Cold War period, economic and military presence had the same weight in the U.S.’s foreign policy. But with its pivot, the U.S. is re-introducing strategic competition into Asia. This change has forced China to begin to move its focus from the economy to military strategy.

After years of joint efforts, China and the U.S. have actually built up very close bilateral relations, particularly in economic cooperation, trade and finance. As a result, some American scholars created a term “ChinAmerica” to describe the interactions and interdependency of China and the United States. But the U.S.’s re-introduction of strategic competition has changed this relationship. History has shown that economic competition is mostly benign, but strategic confrontation can and has lead to military conflict. When the two countries fall into such confrontation, they will inevitably assume the roles of the two ancient Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta, or the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The U.S. bases its “pivot to Asia” on its cognition of “national interest”. Likewise, it is also difficult for China to change its cognition of national interest. However, this does not mean that China-U.S. military confrontation is unavoidable. If U.S. wants to counterbalance China in Asia by pivoting back to the region, China must find means to counterbalance the U.S. Such means are the guarantee of peace.

The author is director of the East Asian Institute of the National University of Singapore.

This article was published in Chinese and translated by Chen Qiuping.

In an act of unequivocal and explicit hostility toward Iran, the United States took the name of Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) off its list of foreign terrorist organizations on Friday, September 28, showing its unconditional support to the sworn enemies of the Iranian nation straight from the shoulder.

The U.S. government announced the decision a few days after the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton submitted a file of classified information about the terrorist cult to the Congress.

The decision was made under the pretext that MKO has not carried out any terrorist operation over the past 10 years. This controversial announcement which bespeaks of the United States’ undeniable animosity with the Iranian people comes while there are several reliable documents confirming that the MKO is responsible for the killing of more than 40,000 Iranians during the 1980s war between Iran and Iraq. This gang has also assassinated Iran’s former President Mohammad Ali Rajaei, Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar and judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti in the first years of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. Since 2010, it has also assisted Israel’s Mossad to kill four high-ranking Iranian nuclear scientists in a bid to thwart Iran’s scientific progress.

Immediately after the announcement by the U.S. government, the Paris-based leader of the terrorist group Maryam Rajavi made a statement, hailing the decision: “this has been the correct decision, albeit long overdue, in order to remove a major obstacle in the path of the Iranian people’s efforts for democracy.” Rajavi promised that her group will step up pressure on Iran, and one may easily visualize what devilish and malicious plans they have in mind for the people of Iran.

New York Times says that MKO bribed some of the influential U.S. politicians in the Department of State and some lawmakers in the Congress to convince them to uphold the anti-Iranian bid. Some of the high-ranking U.S. officials supporting MKO include former CIA Directors, R. James Woolsey and Porter J. Goss; former FBI director Louis J. Freeh; former U.S. President George W. Bush’s homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge; Attorney General, Michael B. Mukasey; and President Barack Obama’s first national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones.

The MKO which receives underground funding from Israel and some of the Western governments had invested a lot in attracting the support of high-ranking American politicians and is said to have paid fees amounting from $15,000 to $30,000 to these people as an incentive to compel them to attend their rallies and give speeches in support of their anti-Iranian activities.

The former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, Edward G. Rendell, admitted in March that he had received a total of $150,000 from the group to support their cause.

One day after the U.S. government de-listed MKO, Lord Ken Maginnis, a neo-conservative member of the House of Lords and a former UK parliamentarian called it a “landmark decision by U.S. State Department” and “a victory for justice.”

“Now, the best way to ease the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran is to facilitate a regime change in Tehran. And that is on the horizon. The Iranian resistance doesn’t need troops or arms; it needs the support of freedom-loving people and of governments that eschew tyranny,” he wrote in an article.

There are credible reports, indicating that MKO members have received considerable amounts of money, military training and equipments from the states which are hostile to Iran and fear of its growing influence in the Middle East, including the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

In an article published in New Yorker on April 6, 2012, the renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed that how the U.S. government has furtively supported the MKO terrorists. The article entitled “Our Men in Iran?” documented that members of the MKO were trained in communications, cryptography, small-unit tactics and weaponry by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) at a base in Nevada starting in 2005.

“JSOC instructed MEK operatives on how to penetrate major Iranian communications systems, allowing the group to intercept telephone calls and text messages inside Iran for the purpose of sharing them with American intelligence,” wrote Nile Bowie in a research article published on Global Research on April 16, 2012. The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is a component command of the United States Special Operations Command and is known to have carried out clandestine operations in Iran with the direct authorization of George W. Bush.

On July 7, 2008, Marsha Reid revealed in an article for Geopolitical Monitor that JSOC has been kidnapping members of Al-Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and taking them to Iraq for torturing and interrogation. It’s said that MKO has been involved in these underground operations.

The prominent investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote on February 10 on Salon.com that MKO has received “substantial fees” from some of the high-ranking U.S. officials to carry out terrorist operations on Iran’s soil: “one of the most under-reported political stories of the last year is the devoted advocacy of numerous prominent American political figures on behalf of an Iranian group long formally designated as a Terrorist organization under U.S. law. A large bipartisan cast has received substantial fees from that group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), and has then become their passionate defenders… As The Christian Science Monitor reported last August, those individuals have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK.”

According to an NBC News report by Richard Engel and Robert Windrem, the terrorist group “is financed, trained and armed by Israel’s secret service.” Two unnamed senior officials in the U.S. government also admitted that “the Obama administration is aware of the assassination campaign” directed at Iran’s nuclear scientists. Iran has long insisted the Israel and the U.S. are using MKO to carry out terrorist attacks on its soil, including the murder of its scientists, and NBC notes that these acknowledgments “confirm charges leveled by Iran’s leaders.” NBC has also pointed out that MKO has previously worked with the mastermind of the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Qorban Ali Husseini Nezhad, a former senior member of MKO who served the group for 30 years as a foreign affairs analyst and Arabic translator and declared his defection from MKO after he ran away from Temporary Transit Location (Camp Liberty) on Wednesday April 25, 2012, revealed terrible facts and figures regarding the complicity of Massoud and Maryam Rajavi with the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during the years of war with Iran. In a letter following his defection, he unveiled that Saddam Hussein had allocated a remarkable portion of Iraq’s oil revenues to MKO so as to strengthen this terrorist group in its anti-Iranian efforts.

According to Husseini Nezhad, in his last visit with Saddam Hussein in August 2000, Masoud Rajavi “asked Hussein to increase his oil share up to 100 thousand barrels a day (3 million barrels a month), according to the documents and letters I translated or reports composed by his closest comrades that I was able to read. Rajavi received his oil share in coupons which were then sent to Europe to be changed into dollars. Rajavi’s quota from Iraqi oil was 50 to 70 thousand barrels before the visit.”

Another MKO defector Maryam Sanjabi also pointed out that the group has been receiving funds from Israel and Saudi Arabia. Speaking in an exclusive interview with Ashraf News website she said there is evidence about the relations and cooperation between the MKO and the Saudi kingdom. She also revealed that when she joined MKO, she was told from beginning that leaving the organization would be impossible: “When I was appointed as a senior member of the MKO leadership council, I was told that I could never leave the organization. Otherwise, I had to kill myself by taking a cyanide pill.”

All in all, there are bitter and painful truths behind the MKO and the life of its members. They are a group of misguided people who have intentionally or inadvertently betrayed their countrymen and should be held accountable over the atrocities they have committed and the bloods they have spilled.

The U.S. Department of State’s delisting of MKO will embolden the terrorist gang and make it able to carry out more terrorist operations under the umbrella of a civilian group which is simply opposed to the Iranian government, But their ultimate goal is disintegrating Iran and destroying the current establishment of the country. People of conscience from around the world should lend a hand and counter the threats which this dangerous group poses to the security of Iran, Middle East and the whole world.

It’s no wonder the Israeli Foreign Ministry initially held back from releasing a transcript of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly: Bibi’s wackiness doesn’t bear close scrutiny. Perhaps “wacky” isn’t quite the right word for his 40-minute peroration, during which he pulled out a bomb “diagram” and a red marker to illustrate where he would draw a “red line” defining the outer limits of Iran’s nuclear program. Cartoonish is more like it. The cartoonish quality of the bomb drawing underscored the content and tone of the speech, which was the jeremiad of a radical ideologue rather than anything one would expect from a statesman:

“Today a great battle is being waged between the modern and the medieval. Israel stands proudly with the forces of modernity. We protect the right of all our citizens, men and women, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, all are equal before the law.”

Israel, which privileges its priestly caste, has a state religion, and bases its national mythology on a “promise” from G-d, is as medieval as any of its neighbors. Aside from being a lie, however, this statement is interesting because it evokes the very same supremacist spirit that animates the controversial pro-Israel public relations campaign launched by the Jewish state’s extremist American supporters. Posters in the public transport system, from New York to San Francisco, proclaim:

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat jihad.”

No wonder the Israeli consulates in New York and San Francisco won’t disavow those vile subway posters: Pamela Geller is the new public face of Israel.

Yes, Israel protects the rights of all citizens – unless they’re Palestinians who happen to own property coveted by the “settlers,” in which case it doesn’t. And the key word here is citizens: of course, the Palestinians in the occupied territories are not citizens, but helots, with no rights, and no protection from fanatical Jewish fundamentalists who have launched hundreds of attacks on their homes, and sought to displace them at every opportunity, with the active complicity of the Israeli government.

This idea that Israel represents “modernity” is rich, considering that every day Israeli society is sinking lower into the morass of religious and cultural fundamentalism, a regression that has not gone unnoticed in the West. Bibi opened his speech with biblical references, describing Jersusalem as the “eternal capital” of Israel and declaring that “the Jewish state will live forever.” Yet as we secularists know, nothing lives “forever,” and the idea of a city being the “eternal” capital of anything is a metaphor, at best, at worst a dangerous delusion. If this is the “modern” then one wonders how much it differs from the “medieval.” But let’s not linger too long over the obvious. Bibi rants on:

“Militant Islam has many branches, from the rulers of Iran with their revolutionary guards to al-Qaeda… but they’re all rooted in the same soil. It’s not whether this fanaticism will be defeated, but how many lives will be lost before it’s defeated. Nothing could emperil my country more than arming Iran with nuclear weapons. To imagine what the world would be like with a nuclear Iran, imagine what the world would be like with a nuclear al-Qaeda. There’s no difference.”

The Israeli Prime Minister may have been addressing the UN General Assembly, but he was really talking to the Americans, whose fear and loathing of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks can always be counted on to raise them to new levels of hysteria. Outside that context, however, equating the Iranians with Al Qaeda makes about as much sense as likening the late unlamented Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden – and, hey wait, didn’t we hear that equation made endlessly in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq? Yet this was not a time for subtlety from the Israeli Prime Minister – the cartoon “bomb” ended all hope of that – but for the crudest sort of propaganda, which is, of course, war propaganda.

Imagine if Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who addressed the UN that day minutes before Netanyahu took the stage, had said: “Militant Judaism has many branches, from the Washington offices of AIPAC to the center of Jewish power in Tel Aviv – but they’re all rooted in the same soil” of intolerance? Picture him conjuring images of violent Jewish “fanaticism” – not a hard task, given what is happening in Israel today. If he had done so, Abbas would have been denounced in every Western capital as the 21st century incarnation of Hitler.

Netanyahu went on to cite the nonexistent “record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons” – an odd claim, since Iran hasn’t attacked a single one of its neighbors since the Battle of Thermopylae. The country did fight one war in modern times, when it was attacked by Iraq, which was being backed by the United States. However, it’s necessary to remember that war propaganda has no need of facts: only emotionally-charged evocations of rage – and fear:

“Given this record of Iranian aggression without nuclear weapons, just imagine an Iran with nuclear weapons. Who among you would feel safe in the Middle East? Who’d be safe in Europe? Who’d be safe in America? Who’d be safe anywhere?”

That this alleged champion of “modernity” should base his case on fearmongering should come as no surprise: hasn’t fear been the leitmotif of all the “modern” ideologies of aggressive nationalism? Fear of the Other, of the barbarian at the gates – the “savage” who, at the first opportunity, will tear your throat out with his bare teeth – is what keeps ideologues like Netanyahu and his American co-thinkers in business.

Those Eye-ranians, says Bibi, aren’t like the rest of us, which is why deterrence won’t work. “Iran’s apocalyptic leaders” are awaiting the return of the Mahdi, a holy man, whose reappearance is supposed to occur after a devastating war:

“Militant jihadists are not secular Marxists. Militant jihadists behave very differently. There were no Soviet suicide bombers.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the Israelis also awaiting the return of Someone Special, a Messiah who will lead them out of the wilderness and establish the Kingdom of Jerusalem as His earthly domain? Militant jihadists may not be secular Marxists – but then again, militant Zionists aren’t, either. I would no more trust nuclear bombs in Bibi’s hands than I would in Ahmahdinejad’s – the difference being that the former is actually in possession of such weapons.

Which brings us to the absurdity of this lecture by the leader of the only nuclear-armed country in the region: here is a nation which refuses to even admit it acquired nukes long ago, and which disdains the Nonproliferation Treaty, making the case for war against a neighbor that has indeed signed the NPT and is abiding by its requirements.

That treaty gives Tehran the right to develop nuclear power. Furthermore, there is zero evidence Iran is embarked on a nuclear weapons program: our own intelligence community tells us they gave that up in 2003 and show no signs of resuming it. Their own religious and political leaders have denounced the possession of nuclear weapons as sinful: the Israelis, on the other hand, haven’t bothered reassuring us they would never use the nuke they won’t admit they have.

In a rational world, Israel would be in the dock, answering for its unwillingness to come out of the nuclear closet and admit what the whole world knows by now. Indeed, Bibi could give us some insight into exactly how Israel stole acquired the materials to build its formidable nuclear arsenal – since, according to recently declassified documents, he was directly involved.

In the world in which we are living, however, in which the innocent are put on trial and the guilty sit in judgement, the situation is quite different. In that world, the leader of a tiny nation entirely dependent on US largesse takes to the UN podium to issue his marching orders to Washington. Here is my “red line,” says Bibi – daring not only the Iranians but also the Americans to cross it.

Think of Netanyahu’s UN oration as just another Romney campaign speech, in which the GOP presidential candidate says Tehran must not be allowed to get “one turn of the screwdriver away” from joining the nuclear club. According to Netanyahu, Iran is nearly at that point today, and will have a nuclear weapon in less than a year if the US fails to act.

This is technical nonsense, but then again the truth has nothing to do with war propaganda: to the average American, the mere possession of weapons-grade uranium means all the Iranians have to do is plug it in and hurl it, slingshot style, in the general direction of Israel. This is an impression Israeli propagandists would dearly love to inculcate in the American public, and they have the great advantage of relying on general ignorance of the technical details. Good luck explaining to Mr. Average American why it would take a good four years after they’ve weaponized their nuclear material for the Iranians to create a useable nuke.

The ticking-bomb theme, which has been used to justify everything from torture to the invasion of Iraq, permeates Israeli propaganda in the US and was a cental theme of Bibi’s speech. His message was clear: “the hour is getting late.” We must act without giving too much thought to the possible consequences. Don’t delay, don’t think, act now – before the fraud is exposed, and we discover that – as in the case of the Iraqis – those “weapons of mass destruction” were just a figment of our easily manipulated collective imagination.

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].

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Netanyahu Backs Off on Iran

September 29th, 2012 by Global Research News

While Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was belligerent in tone at the UN, he signaled a retreat on substance, postponing his threatened attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. That suggests he is reading the U.S. polls and thinks he may have to deal with President Obama in a second term, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

 

The main takeaway from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s U.N. speech was the inference that he has been forced to relent on the possibility of military action against Iran, with his threats deferred past the U.S. election on Nov. 6 and off into next spring and beyond.

His ominous intonation that “everyone should have a sense of urgency” about Iran “amassing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon” went over like a dead trial balloon – fatally punctured when he pushed the acute-worry-date into sometime in 2013:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 27, 2012. (Photo credit: United Nations)

“By next spring, at most by next summer at current enrichment rates, they [the Iranians] will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage. From there, it’s only a few months, possibly a few weeks before they get enough enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

Netanyahu then resorted to an unusual visual aid, apparently in an effort to draw attention away from his more relaxed projection regarding how soon Iran could get the bomb. The Israeli prime minister reached down from the podium and lifted high a graphic of a round bomb with a fuse, like the one typically seen in a “Road Runner” cartoon.

“I brought a diagram for you,” Netanyahu said. “Here’s the diagram. This is a bomb; this is a fuse.” (Perhaps he was trying to trick the Iranians into mistaking the cartoon for the design of an actual bomb from Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal – and copy it as a schematic.)

Netanyahu used the crude drawing to depict the three main stages of uranium enrichment and pointed ominously to the “final stage” when he said Iran would have “enough high enriched uranium for the first bomb.”

Having failed to get President Barack Obama to draw a “red line” at that point in the nuclear process, Netanyahu brandished his own red marker and drew a bold red line on the diagram. The solid red line was clear enough, but ambiguity remains about exactly how to relate the red ink to actual developments on the ground and a reasonable timeline.

Moreover, due skepticism seems warranted, given Netanyahu’s unenviable record of dire predictions with respect to how soon Iran could get the bomb. If Netanyahu had been right initially, the Iranians would have had a nuclear weapon in the 1990s.

Netanyahu’s stunt with the poster also brought to mind Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous war speech in 2003 when he displayed crude graphics depicting imaginary mobile chemical weapons labs in Iraq.

The rest of Netanyahu’s speech was bromide and boilerplate, including the usual accusations that Muslims are “bent on world conquest” and want “to destroy Israel, Europe and America.” The speech also contained repeated attempts to conflate “a nuclear-armed Iran” with “a nuclear-armed al-Qaeda,” reminiscent of persistent efforts by the Bush administration and its “closest allies” to conjure up that very kind of alarming link between Iraq and al-Qaeda ten years ago.

Netanyahu insisted, for example, that “It makes no difference whether these lethal weapons are in the hands of the world’s most dangerous terrorist regime or the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization. They’re both fired by the same hatred; they’re both driven by the same lust for violence.”

But that argument would only appeal to the simpleminded or the true-believer. Al-Qaeda is a stateless terrorist organization that generally insinuates itself into lawless regions of countries with weak central authorities. It operates with no specific territorial headquarters, let alone an identifiable home country.

By contrast, Iran is a large nation with a history that dates back thousands of years. Unlike al-Qaeda, Iran could be easily targeted for retaliation if it did use a nuclear bomb, though its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has denounced as immoral even the development of a nuclear bomb and insists Iran has no intention of building one.

From Domestic Abuse to Honeymoon

Perhaps having read recent polls suggesting that Obama has a strong chance of winning reelection, Netanyahu also dropped his abusive tone regarding the President’s refusal to shift the red line of war to simply Iran having the “capability” of building a bomb. Instead, the Prime Minister was effusive with praise for the politically buoyant Obama.

“I very much appreciate the President’s position [rejecting the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran] as does everyone in my country. We share the goal of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program. … What I have said today will help ensure that this common goal is achieved. Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue, and I am confident we can chart a path forward together.”

Is this the same Netanyahu who repeatedly lashed out at Washington’s reluctance to put the “red line” where he wanted? Is it the same Netanyahu who insisted, a mere two weeks ago, that – given that reluctance – the U.S. has “no moral right” to put pressure on Israel not to attack Iran?

Enter the real world. Both the U.S. and Israeli military are dead set against the disaster that war with Iran would bring. And both have made that quite plain to Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials who have been lusting to strike Iran within the next couple of weeks; that is, before they are faced with the possibility of a second-term American president better able to put higher priority on the strategic needs of U.S. than those of Israel.

Most striking to me was the gratuitous comment by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey who said publicly on Aug. 30, “I don’t want to be complicit if they [the Israelis] choose to do it [attack Iran].”

President Obama’s refusal to meet with Netanyahu in New York this week was another sign the bilateral relationship was fraying, as were repeated remarks by senior administration officials rejecting Netanyahu’s insistence that the U.S. draw a red line to his specifications.

The net effect of all this, supplemented by repeated private warnings, apparently persuaded top Israeli leaders that there was real doubt that the U.S. would knee-jerkily jump in with military support, were Israel to become involved in armed hostilities with Iran.

Of at least equal importance, the bombing (so to speak) of Mitt Romney’s campaign for president may have persuaded the Israelis that he is a likely loser in November, no matter what Israel might attempt to do in the interim; that they are doomed to deal with a second-term Obama; and that they had better start making the best of it, rather than drive the political wedge still deeper.

Clearly, Netanyahu’s bullying of recent weeks has backfired. It apparently has now run its course

Bilateral Washington-Tel Aviv tensions can be expected to abate. Netanyahu’s insistence that “what I have said today will help ensure that this common goal [of stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program] is achieved” amounts to gilding the lily.

The core problem for Netanyahu and some American neocons who are still eager for violent “regime change” in Iran is that intelligence analysts of both countries have not been able to find persuasive evidence that Iran has renewed the work on a nuclear warhead, a project that Tehran terminated in late 2003. Unlike the cave-in at CIA in 2002, when Vice President Dick Cheney demanded evidence of Iraqi WMD, the intelligence analysts have not crumbled this time.

As for uranium enrichment to weapons-level, unbiased specialists insist that Iran would have to kick out the U.N. inspectors before attempting to do this. There are also renewed signals from Iran that it is prepared to abandon uranium enrichment to 20 percent – well below weapons grade – in exchange for a lifting of international sanctions.

And, at times of unusual candor, even biased Israeli officials have accepted the intelligence rejecting the notion that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. Here is none other than Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in an interview with Israeli Army Radio on January 18, 2012:

Interviewer: Is it Israel’s judgment that Iran has not yet decided to turn its nuclear potential into weapons of mass destruction?

Barak: … confusion stems from the fact that people ask whether Iran is determined to break out from the control [inspection] regime right now … in an attempt to obtain nuclear weapons or an operable installation as quickly as possible.  Apparently that is not the case. …

Interviewer: How long will it take from the moment Iran decides to turn it into effective weapons until it has nuclear warheads?

Barak: I don’t know; one has to estimate. … Some say a year, others say 18 months. It doesn’t really matter. To do that, Iran would have to announce it is leaving the [UN International Atomic Energy Agency] inspection regime and stop responding to IAEA’s criticism, etc.

Why haven’t they [the Iranians] done that? Because they realize that … when it became clear to everyone that Iran was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, this would constitute definite proof that time is actually running out. This could generate either harsher sanctions or other action against them. They do not want that.

There you have it from the Israeli Defense Minister, no peacenik he.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for 27 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

The French, Spanish and Greek governments all announced multibillion-euro austerity plans yesterday in the face of massive popular opposition.

The French budget presented by the Socialist Party (PS) government of President François Hollande is the harshest since the austerity budgets of the early 1980s under PS President François Mitterrand. It calls for €30 billion (US$38.6 billion) in deficit cuts, including €20 billion in tax increases and €10 billion in spending cuts.

The Spanish budget calls for €13.4 billion in spending cuts in the fourth major package of austerity measures passed this year following the election of the conservative Popular Party (PP) last November. The ministries whose budgets will be most severely cut include Agriculture, Industry and Education.

Greece’s coalition government—which includes the right-wing New Democracy (ND), the social democratic PASOK, and the Democratic Left (DIMAR)—announced that it will unveil a plan Monday for €11.5 billion in spending cuts. Plans for these cuts were first announced in July, but the government initially failed to reach an agreement on how to distribute them.

In each country, the new austerity measures are being pushed through in defiance of public opinion. On Wednesday, millions of workers throughout Greece walked off the job and hundreds of thousands protested in a one-day national strike. On Tuesday, tens of thousands of protesters opposed to the cuts marched to the parliament in Madrid and were brutally attacked by riot police.

In France, Hollande’s popularity ratings have fallen to 43 percent as job losses and austerity measures antagonize voters who elected him in May.

These events demonstrate the impossibility of fighting social austerity in Europe by supporting the bourgeois “left” parties, the European Union (EU), or European capitalism. In a matter of months, the promises made by the official parties have proven worthless.

Hollande cynically promised that “austerity is not an unavoidable destiny.” The Greek coalition government received the tacit support of the bourgeois “left” SYRIZA party, which ran against it ostensibly on an anti-austerity platform, but then pledged to be a “responsible” opposition that would not call strikes and would continue to support the European Union.

As for the PP—elected on the basis of mass hostility to the austerity policies of the previous social democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) government—its pretense that it would not pursue Greek-style austerity in exchange for an EU bailout of its banks is fast evaporating.

The PP’s cuts to pensions and social spending and its attacks on labor rights are the most severe since the collapse of the fascist Franco dictatorship. Reductions in national state spending of €16.5 billion, €27 billion and €65 billion passed in January, April and July—combined with deep cuts in regional government spending—are sinking Spain’s economy.

One quarter of Spanish workers and 52.9 percent of Spanish youth are unemployed, and despite pledges for bank bailouts the economy is contracting. The International Monetary Fund anticipates a 1.2 percent contraction of Spain’s economy, though the government’s cuts are based on apparently overoptimistic projections of a 0.5 percent contraction.

Spain now pays more to service its debt than it spends on unemployment benefits or the budgets of its national ministries. Since the global economic crisis began in 2008, its public debt has more than doubled, jumping from 35.5 percent to 75.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), and the interest rate it pays on its debt has surged as a result of speculation against Spanish bonds by the banks and finance houses.

Spain’s banks are poised to request another €60 billion bailout as the Spanish real estate collapse continues to undermine their balance sheets.

The effect of such policies is most clearly seen in Greece, whose economy is now projected to plunge by 7 percent this year, instead of the previously projected 4.7 percent. Since the Greek debt crisis began in 2009, its economy has contracted by roughly one quarter.

Der Spiegel reported that, due to this continuing collapse, EU authorities expect Greece’s budget shortfall to reach €20 billion. They will then demand more cuts in Greece beyond the €11.5 billion Athens is currently proposing. As laid out in July, these include €5 billion in cuts to the Labor Ministry budget (mainly to pensions) and attacks on Greece’s devastated public hospitals.

These massive cuts—the corresponding amounts would be $802 billion in the United States, £82 billion in Britain and €136 billion in Germany—will ravage a society in which those workers who have managed to keep their jobs have already seen wage cuts of 30-50 percent.

The negotiation of the cuts will place take amid deepening conflict within Greece’s political elite. There is speculation that DIMAR might collapse, as at least three of its 17 parliamentarians have declared they plan to vote against the cuts.

Greece’s Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) recently released a list of thirty politicians, including former ministers and top parliamentarians of ND, PASOK and SYRIZA, who are suspected of tax evasion or other forms of fraud.

France’s austerity package cuts €10 billion from the national budget of €376 billion by imposing a wage and hiring freeze on public sector workers, imposing a 5 percent across-the-board cut in the ministries’ projected budgets, and cutting €2.7 billion in health care spending. The Defense, Finance and Ecology ministries are reportedly particularly hard hit, with losses respectively of 7,234, 2,353 and 1,276 jobs.

As for the €20 billion in tax increases, half are to be achieved by closing certain corporate loopholes, and half by increasing taxes on individual households.

The PS government and the media have trumpeted the fact that roughly half of the individual tax increases will be borne by “affluent” households. This is an attempt to obscure the anti-working class character of the Socialist Party’s policies. The tax rate for the top income tax bracket is to be raised to 45 percent, and yearly wage income over €1 million is to be taxed at 75 percent.

To seriously examine these measures, one must briefly enter the realm of French tax policy—which means confronting what Karl Marx, in The Class Struggle in France, called the “sheer swindling” that characterizes France’s financial affairs.

In 2010, the top 1 and 10 percent of the French population took in €181 billion and €515 billion, respectively. Nonetheless, the increase in the top tax bracket and the tax on wage income over €1 million combined will raise only €530 million nationwide. The total of €6 billion raised by increasing taxes on the affluent, including by closing some corporate loopholes, does not amount to a substantial portion of their income.

In part, this is because of a complex system of tax exemptions that Hollande’s measures do not seriously touch. These exemptions allowed billionaire Liliane Bettencourt to pay a 9 percent effective tax rate in 2010 on the hundreds of millions of euros she earned on her $24 billion fortune.

In part, also, it is because most income in the ruling class is interest income on capital holdings, not wages—which means that Hollande’s “75 percent tax” does not seriously impact most members of the financial aristocracy.

Nonetheless, the austerity budget was denounced by sections of the press, with Figaro Magazine titling its lead article “Enough is Enough.”

Sections of the bourgeoisie supporting the PS are arguing that the current austerity budget is only a down payment on deeper attacks on the working class being prepared by the PS government. These include proposals for labor market “reforms” to facilitate hiring, firing and forcing workers into short-time work, as well as for €30-50 billion in cuts to corporate funding of social security.

An editorial in Le Monde stressed the need for a “true ‘competitiveness shock’ in our country.” It stated: “The 2013 budget does not really contribute to it. Promised cuts in the labor market and the financing of social spending will be decisive in this regard. Today’s budget shock will only be meaningful if it is rapidly complemented by a powerful competitiveness shock to give France the electroshock therapy it needs.”

What is behind the global stock market rally?

September 29th, 2012 by Andre Damon

Despite a string of disastrous economic figures, stock markets throughout the world are surging.

In the past year, the US Dow Jones Industrial Average and the British FTSE 250 have each risen by 20 percent, while the German DAX has shot up by 39 percent. The NASDAQ, consisting mainly of US-based technology companies, has already eclipsed its previous record, set in November 2007, while the Dow is within 600 points of its previous high.

The continued rise on stock exchanges comes as manufacturing activity in Europe, China and the United States slumps to its lowest level in three years. The European economy as a whole is contracting. In the latest raft of dire economic data, released Thursday, US durable goods orders recorded their sharpest fall since 2009. US economic growth for the second quarter was revised downward from an already anemic 1.7 percent to 1.3 percent.

How is one to explain the meteoric rise in stock values even as the global economy is sliding into a deeper slump?

The boom in stock prices is an expression of a global redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. The social conditions of the working class have been driven relentlessly downwards, while trillions of dollars have been turned over to the banks, mainly for the purpose of financial speculation.

This process is particularly evident in the United States, the center of world capitalism and the center of the global economic crisis.

The three major stock indexes have nearly doubled in value since 2009, and the fortunes of the super-rich have risen accordingly. The richest 400 billionaires in the US had a net worth of $1.27 trillion in 2009. This already obscene figure shot up to $1.7 trillion in this year’s list, an increase of 33 percent in just three years.

CEO pay has followed a similar course. The average CEO of one of the 350 largest US companies took home $12.14 million in 2011, up from $12.04 million in 2010 and $10.36 million in 2009, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

But for the working population, the situation is exactly the opposite. Between 2009 and 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, the number of people in poverty in the United States grew by 2.6 million, to 49 million. Mass unemployment has been utilized as a lever to impose wage cuts in every sector of the economy.

Since the official end of the recession, in June of 2009, the average duration of unemployment has nearly doubled from 23 weeks to 38 weeks. The percentage of the working-age population that is employed has fallen, as anemic job growth barely keeps pace with the increase in the population and hundreds of thousands of laid-off people give up looking for work.

For those workers who still have a job, real hourly wages have fallen by about 1.0 percent. The earnings of a typical household fell by 1.7 percent in 2010 alone.

The increase in the rate of exploitation of workers has translated into huge cost savings for corporations and record profits in every year since 2009, further swelling the incomes of the super-rich.

In addition to the direct impoverishment of the work force, stock markets have been buoyed by the influx of cash from the world’s central banks.

Within the last month, the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have all taken new measures to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial markets. The US Fed took the most dramatic step of the three, initiating an open-ended program to buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities every month, taking these toxic assets off of the banks’ balance sheets.

The ostensible purpose of these moves is to lower interest rates, revive the housing market, and increase the amount of money available for corporations to expand and hire new workers. But instead of productively investing the money, the corporations and banks are either hoarding it or pouring it into the stock market and other forms of speculation.

The total amount of cash held by major US corporations stood at $1.7 trillion in the second quarter of this year. Apple, the technology giant, is a case in point. It held $98 billion in the first quarter of this year, $110 billion in the second, and $117 billion in the third. Meanwhile, its market valuation keeps expanding and there is already talk that the company, which is currently valued at over $600 billion, will become the world’s first $1 trillion corporation.

The enormous sums of money being pumped into the financial system are inflating asset values and bankrolling record payouts for executives, whose compensation is often tied to share prices.

The inflation of asset values cannot continue indefinitely amid the deepening economic slump. The growth of share values and other financial assets, based mainly on a near-zero interest-rate policy and virtually free money from the central banks, is inflating a new and even more gigantic speculative bubble than the one that burst in September of 2008.

The upsurge in stock values does not reflect a healthy economy, but one that is deeply diseased, in which the intractable contradictions of the capitalist system are exacerbated by a ruthless and avaricious financial aristocracy that dictates policy in the United States and internationally.

The US ruling class, first under Bush and then under Obama, responded to the crash of 2008, which was the inevitable outcome of the financialization of American capitalism, by handing over trillions of dollars in public funds to the banks. The aim was to reflate the values of financial assets in order to maintain and increase the wealth of the financial aristocracy.

World governments have followed suit, with each bailout of the banks accompanied by an ever more ferocious attack on workers. Everything must be cut: wages, pensions, health care, education—everything, that is, but the wealth of those responsible for the crisis.

The financial vultures who control the main investment houses send stock markets soaring with each new assault on jobs and social programs—as they did Friday after the Spanish government, presiding over a country in deep recession, unveiled a draft budget that slashes spending by $51 billion next year.

The key to the “success” of finance capital to this point has been its ability to isolate and quash outbreaks of working class resistance, relying on the services of the trade union apparatuses and their allies among the various pseudo-left organizations (the New Anti-capitalist Party in France, the Socialist Workers Party in the UK, the Left Party in Germany, SYRIZA in Greece, the International Socialist Organization in the US).

However, the actions of the central banks and governments have resolved nothing. The euphoria on the stock exchanges rests on rotten foundations. The rising markets are one expression of an unprecedented intensification of social tensions that are already beginning to erupt in the form of explosive class struggles on a world scale. A new, revolutionary leadership must be built in every country to unite these struggles and arm them with a socialist and internationalist program.

 

September 28, 2012 -  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the US would be providing an additional $45 million in “non-lethal aid” to the “opposition” in Syria, reported the Associated Press. The Western press chose their words carefully, ensuring that the term “civilian opposition” was repeatedly used to describe the armed terrorist forces attempting to violently overthrow the Syrian government.

Image: Libyan Mahdi al-Harati of the US State Department, United Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), addressing fellow terrorists in Syria. Harati is now commanding a Libyan brigade operating inside of Syria attempting to destroy the Syrian government and subjugate the Syrian population. Traditionally, this is known as “foreign invasion.” US aid is going to foreign terrorists, not a “civilian opposition.” 

….

In reality, the “opposition” in Syria constitutes foreign terrorist legions flowing across Syria’s borders, and in particularly staging and crossing over from NATO-member Turkey. In fact, it was recently admitted by the terrorist legions themselves that their headquarters has been located within Turkish territory for the duration of the conflict. In a recent France 24 article titled, “Free Syrian Army move HQ from Turkey to Syria,” armed militants claimed they had only just recently “moved from Turkey to within Syria.”

Clinton’s Aid is Going to Al Qaeda, Not a “Civilian Opposition.” 

While the Western media attempts to portray heavily armed foreign terrorists as “Syria’s civilian opposition,” it has been revealed that entire brigades are led by Libyan terrorists drawn from the ranks of the US State Department (#29), UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf), and UN-listed terror organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

The presence of LIFG in Syria was first announced by the Western press in November of 2011 when the Telegraph in their article, “Leading Libyan Islamist met Free Syrian Army opposition group,” would report:

Abdulhakim Belhadj, head of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, “met with Free Syrian Army leaders in Istanbul and on the border with Turkey,” said a military official working with Mr Belhadj. “Mustafa Abdul Jalil (the interim Libyan president) sent him there.”


Photo: The face of Libya’s “revolution” was literally Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda’s LIFG commander, Abdul Hakim Belhadj, was NATO’s point man in Libya and has now redirected his terrorist forces against Syria. LIFG commanders are now literally running entire brigades in Syria with Western diplomatic, logistic, and military support.

….

Another Telegraph article, “Libya’s new rulers offer weapons to Syrian rebels,” would admit

Syrian rebels held secret talks with Libya’s new authorities on Friday, aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

At the meeting, which was held in Istanbul and included Turkish officials, the Syrians requested “assistance” from the Libyan representatives and were offered arms, and potentially volunteers.
“There is something being planned to send weapons and even Libyan fighters to Syria,” said a Libyan source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There is a military intervention on the way. Within a few weeks you will see.”

Later that month, some 600 Libyan terrorists would be reported to have entered Syria to begin combat operations and more recently, CNN, whose Ivan Watson accompanied terrorists over the Turkish-Syrian border and into Aleppo, revealed that indeed foreign fighters were amongst the militants, particularly Libyans. It was admitted that:

Meanwhile, residents of the village where the Syrian Falcons were headquartered said there were fighters of several North African nationalities also serving with the brigade’s ranks.
A volunteer Libyan fighter has also told CNN he intends to travel from Turkey to Syria within days to add a “platoon” of Libyan fighters to armed movement.

CNN also added:

On Wednesday, CNN’s crew met a Libyan fighter who had crossed into Syria from Turkey with four other Libyans. The fighter wore full camouflage and was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle. He said more Libyan fighters were on the way.

The foreign fighters, some of them are clearly drawn because they see this as … a jihad. So this is a magnet for jihadists who see this as a fight for Sunni Muslims.

CNN’s reports provide bookends to 2011′s admissions that large numbers of Libyan terrorists flush with NATO cash and weapons had headed to Syria, with notorious terrorist LIFG commanders making the arrangements.

LIFG officially merged with Al Qaeda in 2007, but has fought along Al Qaeda since its inception by the US and Saudis in the mountains of Afghanistan in the 1980′s. This includes fighting alongside Al Qaeda most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq against US troops while sowing sectarian violence, as covered by the US Army’s West Point Combating Terrorism Center in a 2007 report.

The report titled, “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq” stated specifically:

The apparent surge in Libyan recruits traveling to Iraq may be linked the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s (LIFG) increasingly cooperative relationship with al‐Qa’ida, which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al‐Qa’ida on November 3, 2007.

The vast majority (84.2%) of Libyans that recorded  their route to Iraq arrived via the same pathway running through Egypt and then by air to Syria. This recruiting and logistics network is likely tied to LIFG, which  has long ties (not all positive) with Egyptian and Algerian Islamist groups.

The announcement that LIFG had officially sworn allegiance to al‐Qa’ida was long‐expected by observers of the group. Both the ideologue Abu Yahya al‐Libi and the military leader Abu Layth al‐Libi have long histories with the LIFG, and  are increasingly prominent figures along the Afghanistan‐Pakistan border and in  al‐Qa’ida’s propaganda. Abu Layth is now an operational commander in  Afghanistan; and in 2007, Abu Yahya is second only to Ayman al‐Zawahiri as the most visible figure in al‐Qa’ida’s propaganda. The increasing prominence of  LIFG figures in al‐Qa’ida’s high command may be a function of the group’s logistics capacity, including its now demonstrated ability to move people  effectively around the Middle East, including to Iraq. (begins on page 9, .pdf)

It would now appear that LIFG’s logistics capacity aimed at Iraq which was previously routed through Syria and Egypt in cooperation with sectarian extremists, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood based in both nations, is now being directed exclusively at Syria. LIFG is doing this with Qatari, Saudi, US, French, British, and NATO support (predominantly Turkey) after receiving similar support in overthrowing the Libyan government in 2011.

US Support of Al Qaeda Announced on Heels of US Ambassador’s Death.

Ironically, the recent infusion of cash and support for Al Qaeda terrorists by the US comes on the heels of assaults staged by the group against US diplomatic missions across the region. One in particular, emanating within LIFG’s own terror emirate in Benghazi, Libya, would claim the life of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens. While Stevens’ death was most likely accidental, (he succumbed to smoke inhalation, and was not killed directly by militants), it was most certainly the LIFG militias who dominate Benghazi that staged the attacks.

The purpose of the attacks was to reestablish an adversarial narrative between the US and regional sectarian extremists after a surge in public awareness that the two have been working in tandem against the enemies of the West for years. The US itself would implicate “Al Qaeda” as being behind the regional attacks for this very purpose, before continuing their support of the terror organization in its efforts to overrun Syria.

Image: Bi-partisan treason. Senator John McCain pictured alongside the now deceased Ambassador Stevens (right, wearing a blue tie) had been in Benghazi, Libya supporting Al Qaeda militants since 2011 and highlight that the US’ current support of global terrorism is bi-partisan in nature. It does not stem from a “secret plot” hatched by current US President Barack Obama, but is merely the latest leg of a singular agenda dictated by corporate-financier interests that transcend presidencies. The violent destabilization of Syria in fact began in 2007 under US President George Bush.

….

West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center 2007 report specifically mentions the city of Benghazi and nearby Darnah as the LIFG terror epicenter, stating specifically:

Both Darnah and Benghazi have long been associated with Islamic militancy in  Libya, in particular for an uprising by Islamist organizations in the mid‐1990s.  The Libyan government blamed the uprising on “infiltrators from the Sudan and  Egypt” and one group—the Libyan Fighting Group (jamaʹah al‐libiyah al‐ muqatilah)—claimed to have Afghan veterans in its ranks. The Libyan uprisings became extraordinarily violent.  Qadhafi used helicopter gunships in  Benghazi, cut telephone, electricity, and water supplies to Darnah and famously claimed that the militants “deserve to die without trial, like dogs.”

Abu Layth al‐Libi, LIFG’s Emir, reinforced Benghazi and Darnah’s importance to Libyan jihadis in his announcement that LIFG had joined al‐Qa’ida, saying:

“It is with the grace of God that we were hoisting the banner of jihad against this apostate regime under the leadership of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which sacrificed the elite of its sons and commanders in combating this regime whose blood was spilled on  the mountains of Darnah, the streets of Benghazi, the outskirts of Tripoli, the desert of  Sabha, and the sands of the beach.” (begins on page 12, .pdf)

It is quite clear then, that the NATO-backed 2011 “revolution” in Libya was merely the continuation of Al Qaeda’s campaign against Qaddafi, this time assisted by US, French, and British jets and special forces, with an infusion of Western, Qatari and Saudi cash, “non-lethal” aid, and weapons. The West, with a sound understanding of LIFG long predating their support for Al Qaeda in Libya in 2011, knowingly aided and abetted terrorists with Western blood on their hands who were long-listed on various Western foreign terrorist organization lists.

Deceitfully, European foreign ministries and the US State Department had portrayed these terrorists as “Libya’s civilian opposition,” in order to justify military intervention and regime change just as they are portraying these very same terrorists as “Syria’s civilian opposition.”

Hillary Clinton is handing millions in cash to known Al Qaeda terrorists, on the heels of these terrorists claiming one of her own ambassadors in the middle of LIFG’s terror emirate – this while the West berates Iran for supporting the government of Syria as it attempts to defend itself against what is clearly a foreign invasion, not a popular uprising.

While it may seem an act of unhinged insanity – it is not. It only seems “insane” if one believes the narratives spun by Western politicians who are attempting to sell their agenda from various, not always mutually conducive angles. If one however understands that the corporate-financier interests of Wall Street and London are pursuing global hegemony at any cost, the use of Al Qaeda terrorists who have just led mobs attacking Western consulates across the region that claimed the life of one of America’s own ambassadors makes perfect sense.

 

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NEW BOOK: Order from Global Research (Click image)

original

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On October 7, voters get to choose Venezuela’s next president. It’s all over but the cheers, postmortems, and perhaps opposition planned disruptions.

Chavez remains overwhelmingly popular for good reason. He’s a shoe in for reelection.

In modern times, no previous Venezuelan leader included popular interests on his agenda. Chavez prioritizes them. Why give up a good thing! Why return to the bad old days!

Vital social benefits include universal free healthcare and education, affordable housing, subsidized food, land reform, indigenous rights, and much more.

Gasoline for a Chevrolet Suburban’s 39-gallon tank costs $3.51. In Norway, it’s $394.68. Why indeed sacrifice beneficial changes.

Polls show what looks like a sure thing. In mid-September, 11 had Chavez ahead by 13 – 28%. Throughout the campaign, they’ve been relatively unchanged. One or two right wing ones faked it. They claim a close race.

With tongue in cheek perhaps, the Washington Post days earlier said although most polls show Chavez ahead, “one survey last month put the two candidates roughly even.”

The Post omitted explaining how great a lead Chavez has. Instead it claimed opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski promises to fight crime, create jobs, and provide better electricity and water services.

He’ll also end years of vital social change. He wants wealth and power interests running Venezuela. He wants ordinary people on their own sink or swim.

Expect Venezuelans to resoundingly reject him for good reason. He a corporate scoundrel they want no part of.

Earlier, The New York Times said Chavez replaced Fidel Castro as Washington’s main Latin American bete noire. He’s the leading regional opponent of US policies.

The Times rarely misses a chance to vilify him. It shouldn’t surprise for a broadsheet totally supportive of America’s worst policies.

On September 13, the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign (VSC) headlined “One month before Venezuela’s Presidential election, polls show huge leads for Hugo Chavez,” saying:

At this time, he looks unbeatable. Capriles is way behind. “There is little evidence to support the claims by the opposition that ‘undecided voters’ could still determine the situation.”

Capriles’ spin about polls shifting his way doesn’t wash. According to VSC:

“Comparing those pollsters that undertook polls published in both July and August, there is no uniform pattern of the lead narrowing.”

“More importantly, even where there has been a slight narrowing – which on average was by just 1% – this is insignificant given Hugo Chávez’s huge lead.”

VSC’s Lee Brown added:

“Hugo Chávez clearly has a convincing lead according to the overwhelming majority of pollsters.”

“The evidence from looking at the full range of polls, rather than cherry picking, does not back up the claims of the campaign of Henrique Capriles Radonski that the race is close or that Capriles is ahead.”

“Nor is there any evidence that Capriles is making any real inroads into Chávez’s lead as they’ve also claimed.”

“Hopefully these statements from the right-wing opposition are just the kind of things that get said in the cut and thrust of a campaign.”

“But the bigger worry is that it’s part of an orchestrated claim by the opposition to give the impression of an impending victory and then to claim fraud on 7 October should they lose, as the polls suggest is very likely.”

An earlier article highlighted the possibility. In late August, Chavez warned about opposition forces planning to declare victory before electoral results are announced. They’ll say they won, reject official National Electoral Council (CNE) results, and claim fraud.

Perhaps violence and other destabilizing disruptions will follow. They’re capable of anything, said Chavez. He’s seen plenty since taking office in February 1999. He stayed there because Venezuelans want him.

Each time he ran he won impressively. It’s no surprise. On October 7, he’ll do it again for another six-year term. Expect dark opposition forces to cry foul. It never washed before and won’t now.

Venezuela’s elections are closely monitored. Independent observers agree. The process is open, free and fair.

The Carter Center monitored earlier elections. On September 24, its web site headlined “Carter Center Conducts Study Mission to Venezuela Elections,” saying:

It’s “conducting an independent study mission to follow the campaign, with political and electoral analysts interviewing political actors and technical experts on the ground.”

Post-election, a report will follow. It’ll discuss “Venezuelan perceptions of the electoral process and the results.”

This year it won’t send technical experts to assess the automated voting system. It said:

“The most important role in monitoring any electoral process belongs to the national citizens, including the political parties, national observer organizations, and the voters themselves.”

“Voters can participate in the verification of the electronic vote counts on election night when the paper receipts are counted, national observer groups are organizing to monitor election day, and the political campaigns are expected to field party witnesses in each voting site.”

“Local universities and NGOs are monitoring campaign conditions and media access during the campaign. The Carter Center will use all of this information, in addition to interviews, in its report.”

Since 1998, it observed four Venezuelan elections and referenda. All were open, free and fair.

On September 22, Venezuela Analysis headlined Former US President Carter: Venezuelan Electoral System ‘Best in the World,’ saying:

At an annual Carter Center event, he said:

“As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

He added that America’s is “one of the worst….because of the excessive influx of money.”

True enough, but he left unexplained the full extent of a corrupted, dysfunctional, farcical system. It has no credibility whatever. No wonder half the electorate opts out. Why bother when corporate run machines vote. People have no say. Money power decides results, not voters.

Venezuelans get the real thing. Their franchise is respected. Before Chavez took office, less than half of Venezuelans were registered to vote. They couldn’t participate in choosing officials.

Chavez promised change. He focused on voter access and rights. He eliminated earlier electoral fraud. In 2003, he initiated Mision Itentidad (Mission Identity).

It implemented Article 56 of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Constitution, stating:

“All persons have the right to be registered free of charge with the Civil Registry Office after birth, and to obtain public documents constituting evidence of the biological identity, in accordance with law.”

The mission constituted a combined mass citizenship/voter registration drive. Millions of Venezuelans got national ID cards. They assured their right to vote. Over five million Venezuelans were enfranchised for the first time.

They included qualified immigrants and indigenous people. They never had voting rights before. They and other Venezuelans take full advantage. On October 7, expect turnout to be high. Venezuela’s democracy shames America’s fraudulent process.

Reports suggest Chavez’s opposition is in disarray. In mid-September, a video showed top Capriles aid Juan Carlos Caldera accepting a 40,000 bolivars ($9,300) bribe. It was given to arrange a meeting between Capriles and an unknown businessman.

“We want it to be a monthly affair,” said Caldera. Access has a price. It works the same way in America. You have to pay plenty to play.

In response, Caldera was sacked. He’s a parliamentary deputy for Capriles’ First Justice (PJ) party. He was also his Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition representative to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE).

Plans are for a National Assembly investigation to follow. United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) legislator Julio Chavez called the video “overwhelming proof that compromises the acts of some leaders of the Venezuelan opposition.”

He accused Caldera of “bribery.” He said he may have broken Venezuela’s law on political parties and another on organized crime. He suggested perhaps the money was intended to destabilize pre and/or post-electoral activities.

On September 17, VCS headlined “Four opposition parties withdraw from right-wing coalition,” saying:

They include Vota Piedra, Cambio Pana, Unidad Democratica, and Mano pro Venezuela. They withdrew from MUD. Ballots will exclude them.

Vota Piedra representative Leonard Chirinos said secret privatization plans led to the decision and much more. MUD’s document calls for deregulation, mass privatizations, and slashing or eliminating social services.

David de Lima was the first opposition figure to go public. He said MUD is “falling to pieces.” He predicted “more declarations. This is the start of a series of statements that there’ll be in the country against….Capriles.”

On September 18, opposition candidate Yoel Acosta Chirinos withdrew. He declared support for Chavez. Another, Hermann Escarra, publicly called MUD’s government plan “unconstitutional.”

He’s the third opposition figure to denounce it. William Ojeda did earlier. He criticized MUD’s “hidden agenda.” His political party, Un Nuevo Tiempo, expelled him.

He said “Democrats in Venezuela don’t accept hidden agendas…or neoliberal obsessions.” He called failure to recognize social policies Chavez instituted “an act of blindness….No neoliberal policy on anyone’s agenda will (work) because the people don’t accept” it.

Escarra accused MUD of “attack(ing) the constitution in a very serious way….It’s the gravest thing I’ve ever read.” It’s “savage capitalism.”

It wants public pensions abolished, Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, privatized, and other measures violating constitutional provisions.

“If this (plan) were to happen,” he added, “we’d have to go out into the street. We can’t allow such a huge step backwards.”

Escarra helped write Venezuela’s Bolivarian Constitution. At the same time, he’s been an opposition spokesman. He’ll now maintain ties as an independent.

A Final Comment

Days ahead of October 7, Bolivarianism looks sure to win. Imagine if America and EU countries prioritized its principles. Instead of neoliberal austerity-caused hard times, prosperity might be just around the corner or perhaps firmly established.

Socially beneficial policies help everyone. No one’s excluded. Just societies do things that way. Neoliberal ones leave most people on their own out of luck. Record high misery index readings show America’s dire state. It also reveals bipartisan indifference.

Bolivarianism is mirror opposite. On October 7, expect Venezuelans to extend its mandate overwhelmingly for another six years. They can’t imagine another way for good reason.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

 

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

MOSCOW: Attempts to solve the Syria crisis outside the U.N. would have destructive consequences for both Syria and the existing world order, a senior Russian diplomat said Friday.

“The attempts to look for ways out of the crisis in Syria outside the U.N. Security Council would have very destructive and dangerous consequences for Syria itself, for the Middle East region and, eventually, for the current world order as a whole,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said at a conference of professional diplomats.

He said the only way out is through negotiations and compromise.

“Implementation of the Libyan model, supporting only one side in this confrontation is a way to nowhere,” Ryabkov said.

The task of the international community is not to take sides in a domestic conflict or conduct operations to topple a government, but to stop violence and facilitate dialogue so as to find a compromise solution, Ryabkov said.

He also warned that “deep changes” in the Middle East and North Africa will cause repercussions in many other regions of the world for a long time.

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A related report by Itar-Tass points to the Resolution on Syria of the United Nations Human Rights Council

Itar-Tass
September 28, 2012

UN Resolution on Syria Inadmissible

The resolution on Syria of the United Nations Human Rights Council contains a number of “inadmissible clauses”, Russia’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Maria Khodynskaya-Golenishcheva said, commenting on Russia’s vote against this document.

“One can’t agree with the unilateral conclusions concerning the tragedy in El-Houleh as well as with the fact that these murders are similar to other such incidents in Syria,” she said.

The Russian diplomat says that the investigation should be completed instead of accusing the government of having insufficient proof.

“There are countries that are actually encouraging terrorism in Syria, therefore we have no doubt that the episode in El-Houleh is being intentionally hyped in the media and is being used for the purpose of a forceful scenario regarding that country,” Khodynskaya-Golenishcheva stressed.

The El Houleh Village became known after the mass murder of 116 people there at the end of May.

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NEW BOOK: Order from Global Research (Click image)

original

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Western support to rebels  ‘pushes Syria deeper into the abyss of bloody sectarianism’ – Lavrov

Those who insist on a ceasefire only by the Syrian government encourage the opposition to intensify its hostilities, and “take upon themselves an enormous responsibility,” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said in a speech to the UN General Assembly.

The shortest way to stop the loss of life in Syria, Lavrov said, is to adhere to the commitments in the Geneva communique, which were agreed upon by the Action Group as follow-up of the Kofi Annan Plan.

“We proposed to adopt a resolution in the UN Security Council that would endorse the Geneva communique as the basis for negotiations at the beginning of the transitional period, but this proposal had been blocked,” Lavrov noted.

“Those who oppose the implementation of the Geneva communique,” he explained, “in fact push Syria even deeper into the abyss of bloody sectarian strife.”

Lavrov noted that the deepening of internal conflict in Syria is of particular concern because the militarization of the conflict is combined with open calls for foreign intervention.

“We have consistently called for the consolidated efforts of the international community to compel the government and its opponents to immediately cease the violence and come to the negotiating table,” Lavrov said, adding that so far, there has been no progress in reaching unanimity on how to create conditions towards achieving that goal.

The foreign minister also expressed concern about the growing number of war crimes on both sides of the conflict, as recorded in a recent report by the UN Human Rights Council.

“Extremist organizations including al-Qaeda have become more active in Syria – they perpetrate terrorist attacks against innocent civilians and civil infrastructure,” Lavrov said.

The situation in the region requires the international community to use a comprehensive approach, and to reject “simplified and ideology-driven patterns and double standards,” the FM asserted.

He also condemned any unilateral sanctions “imposed by a state or a group of states sidestepping the United Nations to advance their political goals.”

“We have no doubt that such sanctions, especially when they are applied extra-territorially, weaken the unity of the international community and undermine the effectiveness of its efforts,” Lavrov said, adding that the events of recent years have clearly shown that “unilateral actions that violate international law and go beyond the decisions of the UN Security Council or distort the substance of these decisions do not do any good.”

He urged the UN to discuss the consequences of such actions and to resume discussions on the humanitarian limits of sanctions, a topic that, he said, somehow “faded away” in the UN.

Meanwhile on Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington would contribute an additional $15 million in “non-lethal gear” to the “civilian opposition” trying to oust Assad. Another $30 million will be sent in humanitarian assistance to help people affected by the continuing conflict, Clinton said at a Friends of Syria meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA.

“It is no secret that our attempts to move forward at the UN Security Council have been blocked repeatedly, but the United States is not waiting,” Clinton said.

U.S. Troops Deployed in Iraq Again

September 29th, 2012 by Global Research News

 by Jack Kenny

A unit of U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq and more U.S. soldiers may soon be on their way, according to a New York Times report on the impact the civil war in neighboring Syria is having on Iraq’s “fragile society and fledgling democracy.” 

Buried in the 15th paragraph of the report in Tuesday’s Times was the news that “Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions” and that a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers has already been deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

Nearly a decade after U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein and just nine months after withdrawal of the last of the American combat units, the Shia government in Iraq is fighting for its survival against Sunni insurgents in its own country, while struggling to cope with the “spillover” of the fighting and the influx of refugees from the war next door in Syria. Meanwhile, the Times reported, the Baghdad government “leans closer” to the Shia regime in Iran and is looking to buy arms from Russia, while continuing to rely on military support from the United States. Aerial attacks by Turkey on Kurdish enclaves in the mountains of northern Iraq have added to the woes of a government trying to assert its sovereignty both in the air and on the ground.

“Iraq recognizes they don’t control their airspace, and they are very sensitive to that,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen Jr., whom the Times identified as the U.S. commander leading an effort to accelerate American arms sales to Iraq. Whenever Turkish fighter jets enter Iraq’s air space to bomb Kurdish targets, Iraqi officials “see it, they know it and they resent it,” Caslen said. Iskander Witwit, a former Iraqi Air Force officer and current member of the Parliament’s security committee, expressed his government’s determination to put some force behind that resentment.

 ”God willing, we will be arming Iraq with weapons to be able to shoot down those planes,” said Witwit, perhaps foreshadowing an all-out war between Iraq and Turkey, a war that would likely draw the United States into the conflict, since Turkey is a NATO ally. The potential for the United States to be caught in a web of conflicting alliances was noted by long-time leftwing dissident and antiwar activist Tom Hayden. Writing for thenation.com, Hayden noted the U.S. support of the insurgency in Syria, where the Obama administration has shipped weapons to Sunni rebels, and President Obama’s repeated calls for the removal of the government of Bashar al-Assad, a demand the President repeated in his speech at the United Nations on Tuesday.

“The irony is that the U.S. is protecting a pro-Iran Shiite regime in Baghdad against a Sunni-based insurgency while at the same time supporting a Sunni-led movement against the Iran-backed dictatorship in Syria,” Hayden wrote. “The U.S. is caught in the contradictions of proxy wars, favoring Iran’s ally in Iraq while trying to displace Iran’s proxy in Syria.”

While the United States is providing Iraq with refurbished antiaircraft guns, free of charge, those weapons are not scheduled for arrival before June of next year. Meanwhile, the Times reported, Iraqis are trying to get in working order “cold war-era missiles found in a junkyard on an air base north of Baghdad.” Iraq is also negotiating with Russia to buy air defense systems that can be delivered more quickly than those bought from the United States. The U.S., meanwhile, is continuing with a $19 billion program of weapons sales to Iraq.

At the same time, the United States has been pressuring Iraq, thus far unsuccessfully, to deny the use of its air space to Iran for flights of weapons and fighters to aid the Syrian government in its war against insurgents in that country. While some Congressional leaders are threatening a cutoff of aid to Iraq unless Baghdad moves to stop the flights, the ongoing sale of U.S. arms to the beleaguered nation is an effort by U.S. officials to secure Iraq as an ally.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has sent guards at the border with Syria to stop the flow of refugees from Syria’s civil war. Some of those trying to escape the violence in Syria fled there from Iraq during the height Iraq War and are now trying to return. An estimated 2 million Iraqis were made homeless by the sectarian wars and the fighting between insurgents and coalition forces during the nine-year military occupation of Iraq by the United States and its allies. One refugee, having returned to Iraq after enduring round the clock shelling in Damascus, told the Times he was robbed as he fled.

“It’s the same situation as it used to be in Iraq,” he said of his experience in Syria  “Everyone is afraid of one another.”

And there is, I am certain, among the Iraqi people a respect for the care and the precision that went into the bombing campaign. (Donald Rumsfeld, DoD News Briefing April 09, 2003, former Secretary of Defense, indicted for war crimes, Kuala Lumpur, November 2012)

On 26 April 2012 the annual Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on children and armed conflict(A/66/782-S/2012/261) was issued.[1] The report covered the period from January to December 2011 and was submitted to the UN Security Council on June 11.

On 19 September 2012, the Security Council, under the German Presidency, held its annual debate about this issue. The Security Council adopted a resolution strongly condemning violations of international law against children in armed conflict, calling on States to bring persistent perpetrators of violations to justice and reiterating its readiness to take targeted and graduated measures against such perpetrators. [2]

The report provides a global overview of violations perpetrated against children’s rights in situations of armed conflict, as well as the measures taken to protect them.

The most important feature of the Annual Report is the “list of shame”. This is a list of government forces and rebel groups that commit grave violations against children’s rights. These are the armed actors that recruit or use children in their ranks; rape, kill or maim children; and repeatedly attack schools or hospitals or threaten teachers and students. Following last year’s adoption of Security Council Resolution 1998, this is the first Annual Report to list parties to conflict known for attacks on schools and hospitals.

The “list of shame” is growing rapidly. It now contains 52 names, 32 of which are so-called ‘persistent perpetrators’ – parties to conflict whose names have featured on the “list of shame” for five years or more. [3]

Beautiful words and hopeful prospects to guarantee the safety and well-being of children in war-torn countries. However, it comes as a big surprise to many human rights and peace activists and reasonable people worldwide, that neither the US, nor the UK, nor any member state of NATO, is listed in this “list of shame”. Yes, many African countries figure in the list (as usual), but none of the Western countries. How is that possible? Do they not invade and occupy countries and kill and maim children in Iraq, Afghanistan… ? Are they not the main producers of the weapons that kill and maim millions of children?

The BRussells Tribunal, supported by more than 200 NGO’s, submitted solid evidence of extreme violence against the children of Iraq by US occupation forces, during the 19th session on the General Assembly on the 8th of March 2012.

Joint statement by The International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations (ISMUN), Union of Arab Jurists, the International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD), Arab Lawyers Union, General Arab Women Federation (GAWF), North-South XX1, The United Towns Agency for the North-South Cooperation, and International Educational Development, Inc. (IED),

Violence against Iraqi Children

Delivered by

Ms. Beatrijs KENTANE of the BRussells Tribunal

President,

I would like to thank the Special representative of the Secretary General and the special rapporteur for their reports and bring to their attention the precarious situation of the Iraqi children.

The destruction caused by the invasion and occupation of Iraq has increased violence against children.

There are five million Iraqi orphans, many live on the streets without family, all subjected to violence.

There has been a 30 percent drug addiction increase among children to ease the pain and sufferings inflicted by the occupation.

Other violence issues to be studied by the UN: a case of about 800 girls under the age of 18, disappeared in the first seven years after the war. Up to 65 % among the prostituted females are minors. Some are victims of torture in case of gang- rape. Children of prostitutes are sold or raped by paedophile customers. The highest demand is for girls as young as 11. They have been trafficked into neighbouring countries.

In some cases girls request to remain in detention centres fearful that their families will kill them.

Exposure to violence on a daily basis has affected their psychological development and behaviour.

Landmines and explosive remnants of war with many victims being children under the age of 14 .

Since the conflict hundreds of children have been detained. They were placed in juvenile detention centres where they are exposed to another level of violence.

It is important to note that attacks on educational institutions by the army and affiliated militias, to intimidate, frighten, kidnap, arrest and kill students, occur on a regular basis. As a consequence school attendance has decreased dramatically. School buildings are often used for military purposes. Iraq’s educated and professional class fled following the assassination of colleagues as part of a targeted campaign, with devastating effect on the children’s development and wellbeing.

The International community and International human rights bodies should not ignore the situation resulting from the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We ask the council to discuss the whole situation of human rights of Iraq and appoint a special rapporteur to the country.

Finally, we expressed our concerns about the Iraqi children in three written statements already published for this session under number 142, 143, 147 and they are among the documents of today’s meeting. [4] [5]

Why have the reports about the dreadful situation of the Iraqi children, caused by 13 years of inhuman sanctions, invasion and 9 years of US occupation, been submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights if the Special Representative has totally ignored them? The arrogance of it!

* Children_of_Iraq_and_armed_conflicts

http://www.brussellstribunal.org/pdf/Geneva2012/A_HRC_19_NGO_143_Children_of_Iraq_and_armed_conflicts.pdf A/HRC/19/NGO/143

* The_situation_of_Iraqi_children

http://www.brussellstribunal.org/pdf/Geneva2012/A_HRC_19_NGO_142_The_situation_of_Iraqi_children.pdf A/HRC/19/NGO/142

* Iraqi_children_health_situation

http://www.brussellstribunal.org/pdf/Geneva2012/A_HRC_19_NGO_147_Iraqi_children_health_situation.pdf A/HRC/19/NGO/147

These reports focus on the violations by the occupying forces and the Iraqi authorities of the Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949[6], and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) [7].

An excerpt of report 147:

CRC : Article 6 (survival and development), Article 24 (health and health services), Article 26 (social security)

For two decades, Iraqi children, along with the rest of the population, have been subjected to grave human rights violations, caused by decades of war, foreign occupation and international sanctions, Iraq has turned into one of the worst places for children in the Middle East and North Africa with around 3.5 million living in poverty, 1.5 million under the age of five undernourished and 100 infants dying every day, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).[8]

Since the invasion in 2003, the US/UK forces and the Iraqi authorities grossly failed to fulfill their most basic duties towards the children of Iraq in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Resolution 25/ Session 44, November 1989.[9]

Principles of the CRC emphasize the need to protect children’s rights’ to life and physical, mental, moral, and spiritual development in a safe environment.

The Occupying powers bear full responsibility for the violations of these provisions and Conventions related to children. They should be held fully accountable for the harm they have inflicted upon the Iraqi children. They have deliberately changed the social fabric of the country, used ethnic cleansing to break up the unity of the country, destroyed water purification systems, health and educational facilities and indiscriminately bombed dense populated areas, leaving the children extremely vulnerable on all levels. Living in a country at war also causes mental disturbance to virtually all children, and acute anxiety and depression if not psychosis in a considerable number.

The Iraqi institutions and mechanisms that should ensure physical, social and legal protection for women, children and youth are dysfunctional and unreliable. As a result, the most vulnerable are exposed to exploitation and abuse, such as killing and maiming, kidnapping, gender based violence, human trafficking, recruitment and use by armed groups, child labor and deprivation of liberty.[10]

The international community and international Human Rights bodies also bear considerable responsibility for this alarming situation because they failed to adequately address the grave violations inflicted upon the young and vulnerable in the Iraqi society and failed to identify the real culprits.

Article 6 (survival and development) [11] Direct killings

Official figures and media-based estimates in Iraq, such as Iraq Body count, have missed 70-95% of all deaths. A more realistic and scientific estimate of war-related deaths comes from JustForeignPolicy.org, claiming 1.455.590 victims as of January 2011[12].

Analysis carried out for the research group Iraq Body Count found that 39% of those killed in air raids by the US-led coalition were children. Fatalities caused by mortars, used by American and Iraqi authorities forces as well as insurgents, were 42% children. [13]

Of the 45,779 violent deaths for which IBC was able to obtain age data, 3,911 (8.54%) were children under age 18. Of the 4,040 civilian victims killed by the US-led coalition forces for whom age data was available, 1,201 (29%) were children. [14]

Indirect killings

Many more children have been indirect victims, falling prey to disease, malnutrition or starvation.

Widespread poverty, economic stagnation, lack of opportunities, environmental degradation and an absence of basic services constitute ‘silent’ human rights violations that affect large sectors of the population”, a UN report released on 08 August 2011 concludes. [15]

The WHO, the United Nations environment program, The British Royal Society, and the U.S. National Academy of sciences have published some general studies on the health effects of DU that suggested that the greatest health risks are found among children in post conflict zones (Harper 2007), such as Iraq [16].

Special UN Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and UN Secretary General present distorted facts and outright lies to the world community

 

This war has been marked by so many lies and evasions

that it is not right to have the war end with one last lie.

Donald Rumsfeld, LA Times, 03-05-2006

 

Then who are – according to the report – the actors of the violence against children? Who kills or maims Iraqi children? Who attacked Iraqi hospitals and schools?

Let’s hear it from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, in her annual report:

“…In the reporting period (2011), armed groups, including Al-Qaida in Iraq and Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), continued to carry out violent attacks targeting security forces, Government buildings and civilians…”

“…Throughout 2011, armed groups such as Al-Qaida in Iraq and ISI, continued to recruit, train and use children to take part in hostilities…”

 

“…Armed groups, including Al-Qaida in Iraq and ISI, caused the large majority of Casualties..”.

“…Twenty-seven education personnel and 17 medical workers were killed or injured indifferent incidents that included direct shooting and improvised explosive devices,

mostly in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Ninewa, Salahaddin and Anbar. Other incidents related to the abduction of medical staff and attacks against health facilities or civilian ambulances. Armed groups, including Al-Qaida in Iraq and ISI, were responsible in all reported cases…”

“…In the annexes to the present report, (the so-called “shame list”)…One new party has been listed for killing and maiming of children: the Syrian Government forces. Five parties have been listed for attacks on schools and/or hospitals: the Taliban forces, FDLR, Al-Qaida in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Syrian Government forces.”

List of Shame: US and NATO member states do not kill or maim children?

Those who follow orders to commit such crimes will be found and they will be punished. War crimes will be prosecuted. And it will be no excuse to say, ‘I was just following orders.’ Any official involved in such crimes will forfeit hope of amnesty or leniency with respect to past action.

Donald Rumsfeld, Pentagon briefing, March 20, 2003

 

Iraq and Afghanistan are included in the list of parties that recruit or use children, kill or maim children, commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, or engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals in situations of armed conflict on the agenda of the Security Council, bearing in mind other violations and abuses committed against children.

Parties in Afghanistan

1. Afghan National Police, including Afghan Local Police.

2. Haqqani network

3. Hezb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

4. Taliban forces, including the Tora Bora Front, the Jamat Sunat al-Dawa Salafia and the Latif Mansur Network

Parties in Iraq

1. Al-Qaida in Iraq

2. Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) [17]

There’s no mention in the report of any USA or NATO involvement in indiscriminate killings, sexual violence against children, or attacks on schools and/or hospitals. Huh? What about the facts mentioned in the submitted NGO reports? What about the daily NATO killing of Afghan children in wedding and funeral ceremonies and remote villages? What about the killing of Afghan, Yemeni and Pakistani children with unmanned drones?

 The Report of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, issued on 06 August 2012, uncovers the unhealthy collaboration between NATO and the Office of the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict:

“Since 2009, the Office of the Special Representative has been engaging with NATO, at their respective headquarters and in the field, to strengthen cooperation and better protect children affected by armed conflict. Consequently, in its Chicago Summit Declaration of 20 May 2012, NATO Heads of State and Government stated their commitment to the implementation of Security Council resolutions on children and armed conflict and noted with concern the growing range of threats to children in armed conflict. Significantly, they also pointed out that NATO-led operations, such as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, were taking an active role in preventing, monitoring and responding to violations against children, including through predeployment training and a violations alert mechanism, in collaboration with the United Nations.

In this context, in February 2012, NATO appointed its Assistant Secretary General for Operations as the high-level focal point for children and armed conflict, in charge of maintaining close dialogue with the United Nations and exploring further opportunities for mainstreaming child protection in NATO training and operations. This welcome development should facilitate the identification and dissemination of good practices, based on the experience of the International Security Assistance Force, to be integrated into NATO predeployment training.”

Engage with NATO to strengthen cooperation and better protect children affected by armed conflict”? While it is NATO that starts these wars of aggression in the first place? So these forces can kill all the children they want with impunity, under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Security Council. They bomb them in order to save them. War is Peace. Do they read newspapers? Do they read the reports of Human Rights Organisations? Why is there not a word of condemnation of the US and NATO daily massacres of children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and so many other places?

There’s one sentence in the report though, that may sound a tiny little bit critical for the NATO butchers:

“Forces mandated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the African Union, for example, are exposed to child soldiering and the use of child victim bombers and must also ensure that their operations are consistent with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, as they relate to children, including with regard to the use of new technology.”

How courageous! Clap clap clap….. No, seriously: this is written in black and white, in an official report, by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict of the United Nations. Who will protect the Iraqi and Afghan children from the United Nations? And who will protect our children from this hypocrisy and doublespeak?

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on 13 July the appointment of Leila Zerrougui of Algeria as his next Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Ms. Zerrougui succeeds Radhika Coomaraswamy who has served as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict since April 2006. It looks as if this change will make little difference to halt the immense flow of disinformation that is pushed down our throats.

Denis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq 1997-1998, recipient of the 2003 Gandhi International Peace Award, quit his UN job in protest of what he called the “genocidal sanctions” imposed on Iraq. He expresses his disillusionment about the report:

“I have to say it to someone. The naiveté of our friends concerning this UN report would be amusing were it not so sad, and so serious an omission in their own perspective and understanding of the UN and its Member States.

Do they not understand that it is they themselves via their own Governments as UN Member States who are responsible for the output of UN Councils / committees / Assemblies on Children in Armed Conflict and children abused in violation of the Rights of the Child?

Have they forgotten it was the UN Security Council of their own Governments that imposed deadly sanctions on the innocent people of Iraq? And killed many adults and probably more that one million children? I resigned because of my near complicity with negligent / corrupt / vicious Member States, not because of a pathetically self-serving SG!

Do they not know their own UN created a generation of Sanctions children both physically and mentally damaged?”

Do they know the UN Council on Human rights / commissioner refused to examine UN Sanctions as violations of Iraqi human rights?

Asma Al Haidari, a Jordan-based Iraqi Human Rights activists comments:

“They have as usual gone completely deaf dumb and blind about The Mehdi Militia, The Asaib Ahl Al Haq Militia and all the other Iranian backed, financed and armed militias including Hezbollah Al Iraq, as well as all the militias that have been included in and are now part of the security forces, created by the US invaders.

Even their numbers are incorrect and laughable about all the assassinations and killings of medical personnel – let them go and look up the numbers of imprisoned children who are systematically raped and killed by the Iraqi government!

Over 3 million people have been killed since the invasion – soon, soon I promise and pray, we will have the official numbers out once Iraq is liberated from this bondage and corruption  – the numbers that are in the government´s possession and the UN as well as the Americans know about.

It makes me both angry and sick about all that is happening in Iraq.”

It is shameful for an international Human Rights Body to ignore the facts, to distort the facts, to lie to the world community, to become an instrument of imperial powers, to condemn some little fishes and let the big sharks get away with the most unspeakable crimes this world has ever seen.

This is the continuing rewriting of history, the continuing story of greed, world dominance and plunder of resources. The Iraqi children are the victims, once again.

But don’t weep…. Fight back ! Let justice prevail. Write to the Special Representative and the UN Secretary General to express your disgust about this biased report.

Dirk Adriaensens is coordinator of SOS Iraq and member of the executive committee of the BRussells Tribunal. Between 1992 and 2003 he led several delegations to Iraq to observe the devastating effects of UN imposed sanctions. He was a member of the International Organizing Committee of the World Tribunal on Iraq (2003-2005). He is also co-coordinator of the Global Campaign Against the Assassination of Iraqi Academics. He is co-author of Rendez-Vous in Baghdad, EPO (1994), Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, Pluto Press, London (2010), Beyond Educide, Academia Press, Ghent (2012), and is a frequent contributor to GlobalResearch, Truthout, The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and other media.

Notes

[1] http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/320/83/PDF/N1232083.pdf?OpenElement

2 http://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/security-council-demands-end-to-grave-abuses-committed-against-children-in-conflict/

3 http://childrenandarmedconflict.un.org/press-releases/52-parties-on-secretary-generals-list-of-shame-on-children-and-armed-conflict/

4 http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2012/03/uaj-joint-statement-id-on-violence-and-the-sale-of-children-25th-meeting.html

5 http://www.brussellstribunal.org/Geneva_19thSession_2012.htm

6 Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949. http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/full/380

7 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm

8 IRAQ: A bad place for children http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?ReportId=93133

9 The convention was ratified by 194 United Nations countries, except the USA and Somalia

10 Fallen off the agenda? More and better aid needed for Iraq recovery http://reliefweb.int/node/360643

11 FACT SHEET: A summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child  http://www.unicef.org/crc/index_30228.html

12 Iraq Deaths http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/iraq

13 Iraq air raids hit mostly women and children, Kim Sengupta, 2009  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iraq-air-raids-hit-mostly-women-and- children-1669282.html

14 Iraqi deaths from violence 2003–2011 Analysis and overview from Iraq Body Count (IBC), 2012 http://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/numbers/2011/

15 UN Calls Rights Situation in Iraq ‘Fragile’ http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/08/08-3

16 Merrill Singer, G. Derrick Hodge, The war machine and global health: a critical medical 
anthropological examination of the human costs of armed conflict and the international violence 
industry. Elaine A. Hills, Dahlia S. Wasfi, The causes and human costs of targeting Iraq, p119.

17 http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/320/83/PDF/N1232083.pdf?OpenElement

 

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Didn’t Ben Bernanke promise that another round of bond purchases would lower unemployment and boost economic growth?

We think he did, which is why we’re wondering why all the benefits from QE3 appear to be going to the banks. According to Bloomberg News:

“The Federal Reserve’s latest mortgage bond purchases so far are helping profit margins at lenders including Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) more than homebuyers and property owners looking to refinance…Since the Fed’s Sept. 13 announcement that it would buy $40 billion more securities per month, the rates offered for new 30- year loans have fallen by just 0.11 percentage point, compared with a drop of more than 0.6 percentage point for yields on the bonds into which the loans get packaged.” (“Fed Helps Lenders’ Profit More Than Homebuyers:Mortgages”, Bloomberg)

Well, how do you like that? That means that Mr. Bernanke’s trickle down monetary theories aren’t really working at all. Instead of the savings being passed along to homeowners in the form of lower rates, the banks are juicing profits by taking a bigger share for themselves. Who could have known?

Keep in mind, that Bernanke is not some madcap scientist who doesn’t fully grasp how QE works. That’s not it at all, in fact, he’s considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the topic and has written extensively on Japan’s deflationary woes and their “broken channels of monetary transmission”, which is shorthand for saying that loading the banks with trillions of dollars in reserves won’t do a blasted thing except pump a little ether into stock prices. (which it has done in the last 2 rounds of easing) So, Bernanke’s been down this road before. He knows what QE will do and what it won’t do, which is why he instructed members from the Bank of Japan (BOJ) to implement fiscal-monetary policies that would have a chance of succeeding. His advice was: “BOJ purchases of government debt could support spending programs, to facilitate industrial restructuring.”

Now there’s an idea. Have the Fed buy the bonds that pay for the programs that put people back to work. Brilliant! Once the new workers get their weekly paycheck, it’s off to the grocery store, the gas station, the mall etc. Spending increases, state revenues soar, and the economy clicks back into high-gear. Simple, right? So, why are we still fiddling with this crackpot QE-circlejerk that does nothing but line the pockets of crooked bankers? That’s the question.

In theory, quantitative easing is supposed to lower interest rates and spur investment. That boosts activity and reduces joblessness. But according to a survey conducted by Duke University, the CFO’s of 887 large companies found that lower interest rates wouldn’t really effect their decisions. Here’s a summary:

According to the Duke University analysts:

“CFOs believe that … monetary action would not be particularly effective. Ninety-one percent of firms say they would not change their investment plans even if interest rates dropped by 1 percent, and 84 percent said they would not change investment plans if interest rates dropped by 2 percent.(“Currency war warnings follow US Fed’s “quantitative easing”, Nick Beams, World Socialist Web Site)

Of course it won’t change their investment plans, because what businessmen care about is demand. Who’s going to buy their bloody widgets, that’s what matters to them, not interest rates. Right now, there’s no demand for more widgets because unemployment is high, wages are flatlining, and policymakers have turned off the fiscal stimulus-spigot in an effort to shrink the economy so they can pursue their lunatic idea of dismantling public services and social programs. (mainly Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, the “real targets.”)

The point is, spending has to increase to get the economy off the canvas, and the only party that has money to spend is the government. So, Obama should be spending like crazy. The Central Bank cannot fix this problem with its wacko printing spree.

So, what else are the banks up to besides keeping rates elevated so they can make a bigger killing on refis?

Well, for one thing, they’re using their high-powered attorneys and lobbyists to twist arms at the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to make it easier for them to make bad loans without suffering any consequences.

How can that be, after all, wasn’t it bad loans that got us into this mess to begin with?

Yes,  it was. Even so, the banks are back at it again, up to their same old tricks. Here’s the story from Reuters:

“Just four years after toxic U.S. mortgages brought the global financial system to its knees and triggered the deepest recession since the Great Depression, a U.S. housing regulator may be making it easier for banks to make bad loans without suffering losses.The Federal Housing Finance Agency released a little-noticed rule last week that makes it harder for Fannie Mae (FNMA.OB) and Freddie Mac (FMCC.OB) – the government-owned companies that guarantee home loans made by banks – to hold lenders accountable when mortgages go bad.Some experts said the new rules show that lessons of the housing crisis are already being forgotten, and could set up taxpayers for tens of billions of dollars of losses if the lending bubble re-inflates later in the credit cycle.At issue is when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can press banks to make them whole when mortgages go bad.” (“Housing regulators loosen rules, but at what cost?”, Reuters)

Can you believe it? The FHFA is actually accepting responsibility for mortgages where the underwriting was either shoddy or fraudulent. This is the kind of power the banks have. The agency is also assuring that the banks will create more of these garbage loans now that they know that Uncle Sam will be picking up the tab. That’s what you call “bad incentives”! Up to now, the FHFA had been able to force the banks to repurchase the loans that showed “substantive underwriting and documentation deficiencies”. But that’s not going to happen anymore. The looser rules mean that the banks will return to their old ways and that future losses to taxpayers will tally in the hundreds of billions of dollars. According to Joseph Mason, a professor at Louisiana State University’s business school, “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could lose even more than they did this time around.” (Fannie and Freddie have already cost taxpayers $188 billion)

To repeat, the banks had changed their behavior because they were afraid of having to repurchase the dodgy loans they originated. (These returned mortgages are called “put-backs”) Now the rules are being tweaked so the banks can shrug off the bad loans for which they are alone responsible. Here’s more from the National Association of Realtors:

“The federal government is taking steps to ease a problem lenders have been complaining about for several years, and that’s the buy-back risk they face if they underwrite a federally backed loan that goes bad and the guarantor of the loan—whether FHA, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac—determines that the loan was never underwritten in compliance with their “representation and warranty” requirements….…lenders remain concerned about the risk they face, and in fact earlier this year, in February, Bank of America announced it would stop selling loans to Fannie Mae because of its concerns over the company’s buy-back policies. (“FHFA Gives Banks Reason to Revisit Overlays”, National Association of Realtors)

So B of A is threatening to “stop selling loans to Fannie Mae”? Hurt me some more.

What’s more important, is that the regulators had fixed this problem by imposing penalties on the lenders, but now they’ve backtracked and undone their progress. Now it’s business as usual where the taxpayer-pinata get’s clobbered with more toxic loans. Oh good.

And that’s not all the banks are up to. They’re also fighting “risk retention” rules because they don’t want to pony-up the small amount of capital (5 percent of the loan’s value) on high-risk mortgages that go into securitizations. It’s like an insurance company refusing to keep money on hand to pay off claims. If you think that’s fair, then you should probably be a banker. Now get a load of this excerpt from a “Letter to Bernanke on QE3″ from Moe Veissi, president of the National Association of Realtors:

“Reducing mortgage interest rates in general through MBS purchases will have diminished impact if three important rules counter the availability of mortgage credit. As you have noted, mortgage credit is already tight. A recent survey of NAR members indicates that 53 percent of loans in August went to borrowers with credit scores over 740. To put this in perspective, only 41 percent of loans backed by Fannie Mae in 2001 had scores above 740. If the forthcoming Ability to Repay/Qualified Mortgage (QM), Risk Retention/Qualified Residential Mortgage (QRM), and Basel III rules only serve to further tighten credit, the impact of QE3 is likely to be diminished and only felt among those of substantial wealth and pristine credit. In short, those who need access to affordable credit the least.While the Federal Reserve (The Fed) is no longer the purveyor of the QM rule, we believe there is still time for the Fed to weigh in with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and ensure that this rule does not serve to further tighten credit.” (“NAR Submits Letter to Bernanke on QE3″, Mortgage Professional)

How do you like that, eh? So according to Moe Veissi, making the system safer is too expensive. We just can’t afford it. We need to make credit available to people who wouldn’t normally qualify for a loan.

Sure, Moe, what could go wrong? It’s not like we’re going to blow up the financial system by lending too much money to people who can’t repay their debts, right?

Oh wait….

In any event, the banks and the special interest groups are trying to unwind the “Ability to Repay” and “Risk Retention” portions of the new regulations, even these are the essential firewalls that protect the general public from another disaster like the Crash of ’08?

If we heap these recent developments together (FHFA changes on “put-backs”, opposition to “risk retention” and “ability to repay”), then we see that we’re fairly close to where we were in 2007 before the two Bears Stearns hedge funds defaulted sparking the downward spiral that ended with the obliteration of Lehman Brothers on September 15, 2008 and the beginning of the Great Depression 2.

The banks are again in a position where they can skim profits off bad loans to every Tom, Dick and Harry that can sit upright and sign on the dotted line. They don’t have to worry about holding capital against their dodgy assets or whether Uncle Sam is going to get fleeced on the bogus $400,000 loan they issued to that unemployed landscaper living on food stamps. No worries. They’ve covered all the bases.

Now if Bernanke can just get that bubble-thing going, they’ll be back in the clover.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

Israeli Prime Minister Lays out Path to War with Iran

September 28th, 2012 by Joseph Kishore

In a bellicose speech before the United Nations Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded a “red line” be placed on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, outlining a plan of action that would lead to war next year, if not sooner.

Employing a crude cartoon drawing of a bomb with a lit fuse, Netanyahu said that action to physically destroy Iran’s nuclear program would have to take place before the uranium enrichment process began its final stage, which he claimed would happen around the spring or summer of 2013. “The hour is getting late, very late,” he declared.

The Israeli prime minister compared the Iranian government to Al Qaeda, placing the two within the framework of “a fanatic ideology bent on world domination.” He added, “It makes little differences whether these lethal weapons are in the hands of the world’s most dangerous terrorist regime, or the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization.”

Speaking as the head of state for a government that, in close alliance with the United States, is responsible for military aggression throughout the Middle East and beyond, and is engaged in a brutal occupation of Palestine, Netanyahu said that Israel “cherishes peace.” Israel currently has a stockpile of some 400 nuclear warheads and has refused to submit to international inspections.

Iran has denied that is building a nuclear weapon, and international inspectors have found no evidence of anything that goes beyond an energy program. Netanyahu insisted, however, “The red line must be drawn on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program because these facilities are the only nuclear installations we can see and target.” By placing his “red line” before the beginning of the production of weapons-grade uranium, Netanyahu is seeking to establish a pretext for war even before there is any evidence that Iran is actually seeking to build a bomb.

Israeli-US plans for war—which would have devastating and incalculable consequences—are being carried out entirely behind the backs of the American people. One of the principal concerns of the Obama administration has been to delay actions until after the US elections in November, to ensure that the population has no say in the matter.

Whatever their tactical differences, the US and Israel are agreed on basic strategy. “Democrats and Republicans alike” are united in the campaign against Iran, Netanyahu said. He added, “Israel is in discussions with the United States over this issue, and I am confident that we can chart a path forward, together.”

Netanyahu’s remarks came two days after Obama, in his own speech before the United Nations, declared that “a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained… The United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

At the same time, Obama indicated that the administration wants to spend more time increasing sanctions on Iran, which have had a crippling impact on the country’s economy.

Netanyahu’s timetable for military action—coming about six months after the US elections—is an indication that his government is seeking to play down differences with the Obama administration over when military action would take place. On the day of his remarks, a report was leaked from Israel’s Foreign Ministry calling for an additional round of sanctions.

The report, obtained by the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz, also details the devastating impact of existing economic sanctions, including a 50 percent decline in oil exports and a sharp rise in prices for food and other commodities.

Commenting on disagreements over “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear program, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Thursday, “I think that this whole matter of red lines should be made, but not publicly. And I think that at the moment, the talks between us and the Americans, which are excellent, are precisely about this. We are constantly coming closer in our positions.”

Dennis Ross, a career Middle East diplomat under both Republican and Democratic Presidents, including the Obama administration, also emphasized the basic strategic agreement between the US and Israel. “What you are really seeing is an agreement on the objective of making certain Iran cannot have nuclear weapons,” he said in an interview with MSNBC.

Ross added that “one of the reasons it is so important to create a context where the international community believes… that you have exhausted all the diplomatic options and have given the economic sanctions enough time” is “to create the kind of context that demonstrates unmistakably that we went the extra mile and if we had to use force, in fact we were left with no choice.”

The resort to war, Ross said, is “more and more likely.”

The giant consumer goods company Unilever has announced that it has begun employing its “third-world” marketing strategy in Europe. This is eloquent testimony to the growing social inequality now besetting the continent.

Jan Zijderveld, head of European operations, stated bluntly that the decision had been made because “poverty is returning to Europe”.

The group would begin producing the smaller, cheaper packages that it sells in Africa and Asia for the European market. “In Indonesia, we sell individual packs of shampoo [for] two to three cents and still make decent money,” Zijderveld said. “We know how to do that, but in Europe we have forgotten in the years before the crisis.”

Unilever has already adopted the strategy in Greece and Spain, two countries targeted for draconian austerity by the troika—the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The troika’s austerity policies have only compounded the economic crisis in these countries, causing mass suffering. Youth unemployment is 53.8 percent and 52.9 percent in Greece and Spain, respectively.

But mass hardship is by no means confined to southern Europe. Two recent reports on conditions in Britain and Germany reveal sharp social polarisation in Europe’s “core”.

Who Gains from Growth?, drawn up by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and the Institute for Economic Research (IER), forecasts that living standards for Britain’s low- and middle-income households will fall sharply over the next eight years, even if the country manages to emerge from its current double-dip recession.

Such households will see their incomes fall by up to 15 percent by 2020. A typical low-income family currently struggling on £10,600 per annum will see its net income fall in real terms to £9,000 at the end of the decade, while a middle-income family on £22,900 per annum will see a 3 percent decline. In contrast, the rich will see a rise in living standards.

These projections are all the more damning given that the report takes as its scenario annual growth rates of between 1.5 and 2.5 percent up to 2020 and no further spending cuts. In fact, conditions are likely to be far worse.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has recently signalled that it intends a further assault on welfare benefits. Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce a further £10 billion reduction in welfare, on top of the £18 billion cut already underway.

The measures come under conditions where 2.5 million people are officially out of work and where the majority of workers have been subjected to wage cuts and pay freezes. Some 3.6 million children are officially counted as living in poverty. A survey earlier this year saw four out of five teachers report pupils going without food.

In contrast, this year’s Sunday Times Rich List revealed that the combined wealth of the richest 1,000 people had risen to a record £414.260 billion.

A four-yearly report drawn up by Germany’s labour ministry, The Wealth and Poverty Report, shows that the gap between rich and poor is widening in the country that is usually proclaimed to be Europe’s sole economic success story.

The share of total wealth owned by the wealthiest 10 percent of the population rose from 45 percent in 1998, to 53 percent in 2008. Half of all households owned just 1.0 percent.

With nearly 16 percent of the population “at risk” of poverty, the report states, “Hourly wages that are no longer sufficient—even if someone is working full time—to feed a one-person household are exacerbating the poverty risks and undermining social cohesion.”

The two reports received an anxious response from sections of the media.

Britain’s Observer newspaper editorialised, “We need to avert this polarisation of Britain”.

“This polarisation, and the hollowing out of the already struggling middle Britain, is damaging for individual citizens, the body politic and social cohesion and for the future health, wealth and well-being of UK plc. It must not be allowed to occur,” it warned.

Responding to the German labour ministry report, the Frankfurter Rundschau opined that the gap between the rich and poor was widening as the result of a “re-deploying” of assets from the “bottom to the top”. Forecasting that without remedial action, the next report would show the wealth gap had become even greater, it asked: “How long can society tolerate the rich getting richer? Nobody knows the answer.”

Beyond their complaints, however, neither newspaper had any remedies. The Frankfurter Rundschau wrote, with an air of desperation, “Since we have no solutions we need to find them. We must try. Experiment.”

The Observer suggested a “national debate on…a new social contract,” but this consists of only vague and minimal proposals like “vocational education, childcare and a living wage.”

Such calls are as meaningless as they are bankrupt. They are directed to the same ruling elite that has seized on the global economic crisis it has created in order to carry out a social counterrevolution across Europe.

This scorched-earth strategy is led by the German and British bourgeoisie and, as the recent reports make clear, applies to workers at home as much as to those in southern Europe.

The Observer and Frankfurter Rundschau are correct that this is a recipe for major class confrontations and social explosions. But their appeals for the ruling elite to see sense and introduce certain palliatives to ameliorate class tensions fall on deaf ears.

The ruling class and its political representatives have repudiated any notion of social reform. Whether conservative, liberal or social democrat, they are all oriented to the super-rich and committed to a policy of class war. The European “social model” is now one of impoverishment without limit, policed by the trade unions and backed by police violence and state repression.

It is not a question of how long “society” can “tolerate” this state of affairs, but what the working class can and must do to change it. The only genuine solution to the catastrophe being visited across Europe lies in its own independent class action and programme.

The stranglehold over economic and social life exercised by the financial oligarchy can be broken only by a conscious, revolutionary struggle by the working class for the overthrow of capitalism and the formation of workers’ governments based on socialist policies in the fight for the United Socialist States of Europe.

 

Romney’s Curious View of Freedom

September 28th, 2012 by Robert Parry

Election 2012 is a choice between two visions for America’s future and also a contest between two versions of the U.S. past. Mitt Romney and the Tea Party draw from a national narrative that claims the Framers opposed a strong central government, while President Obama sees the opposite, writes Robert Parry.

Mitt Romney is famous for answers so disconnected from what normal people say that some observers joke that he must be from another planet. He lands in Michigan and declares “the trees are the right height.” He goes on a TV show and says he “wears as little as possible” to bed, which would suggest nudity or some moral clash with his Mormon faith.And when the Republican presidential nominee is asked on CBS’ “60 Minutes” about the specifics of his tax plan, he demurs with the response: “The devil’s in the details. The angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs.” A reasonable reaction to such an answer might be, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greets a crowd. (Photo credit: mittromney.com)

Yet, the Romney campaign has bristled when analysts and critics have stepped in to fill the void on Romney’s vacuous tax strategy by making their own assumptions about what it would take to enact his 20 percent cut in income tax rates while not raising the deficit, as Romney has claimed he would do. Romney’s fuzziness has left little choice but to speculate how he might handle the math.

One of those logical assumptions is that Romney would have to eliminate or sharply curtail the mortgage-interest deduction which amounts to a tax break for homeownership. If the deduction were removed or phased out, the immediate impact would be a decline in home prices, which would push even more Americans underwater on their home equity. That would deliver another body blow to the U.S. economy.

So, rather than an “angel” of a policy “creating more jobs,” the reality is that slashing the mortgage-interest deduction would further reduce the spendable income of many middle-class American homeowners, which would mean they could buy fewer goods and services, which, in turn, would mean more layoffs and fewer jobs.

Plus, more foreclosures and short sales would discourage new homebuilding and threaten millions of jobs associated with that industry. Not to mention that there are independent studies that conclude that Romney’s 20 percent tax cut would so reduce tax payments from the rich that his only alternative would be raise taxes on the middle class through elimination of more tax deductions.

However, on “60 Minutes,” rather than pursue Romney with aggressive follow-ups on his tax plan, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley teed up a softball for the Republican presidential nominee, noting, “Presidencies are remembered for big ideas, emancipation, Social Security, man on the moon. What’s your big idea?”

Romney’s response was just as vague as his angelic tax plan: “Freedom. I want to restore the kind of freedom that has always driven America’s economy. And that’s allowed us to be the shining city on the hill.”

Defining Issue

Again, Romney offered no details, but he did touch on what may be the defining issue not only for this campaign but for America’s future. How do you define “freedom”?

For Romney, freedom appears to be freeing up corporations – which (or who) “are people, my friend,” according to another Romneyism – and letting them to do pretty much whatever they want to those flesh-and-blood people.

Romney seems to think that “freedom” means freeing Wall Street from government regulation, letting health insurance companies shed sick people from coverage, liberating “job-creators” from pesky labor unions, unleashing oil companies from environmental rules, and letting wealthy investors pay lower tax rates than middle-class Americans who actually work for a living.

In other words, despite Romney’s stylistic differences from the Tea Partiers, he – the uptight princeling from Mormon royalty – and they – the followers of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh – are more in agreement than many pundits might think. They both equate “freedom” as freedom from the federal government, although they come at the issue from different directions.

Romney’s grievances against federal authority may reflect his Mormon heritage, including his grandfather’s flight to Mexico in the 1800s amid a federal crackdown on Mormon polygamy and against the church’s theocratic rule in the Utah territory. Romney also absorbed the cultural resentment that freewheeling “venture capitalists” typically feel toward securities regulators and other obstacles to extracting big profits.

For the Right’s Tea Party base, however, the anger toward the “tyrannical” federal government derives, in part, from a different source, their false narrative describing the nation’s founding. Tea Partiers put on tri-corner hats, dress up in Revolutionary War costumes and wave “Don’t Tread on Me” flags because they have been sold a bogus storyline about how and why the Framers wrote the Constitution.

Over the past several decades, one front in the Right’s “war of ideas” has been to transform the Framers into anti-government ideologues who saw the Constitution as a device for constraining the authority of the central government, while ceding broad powers to the states and creating a “you’re-on-your-own” economy.

In reality, nearly the opposite was true. The Constitution’s Framers engineered the most significant transfer of power from the states to the central government in U.S. history. They also wanted the federal government to be an engine for national progress, and they had little regard for states’ rights.

On a personal level, key Framers, including James Madison and George Washington, despised the idea of state “sovereignty” and “independence.” As commander in chief of the Continental Army, Washington had confronted the national disorganization resulting from 13 squabbling states under the Articles of Confederation. The chaos continued into the post-war era with economic stagnation and commercial challenges from Europe.

So, with Washington’s staunch support, Madison plotted the destruction of the states’ rights-oriented Articles of Confederation and its replacement by the federal-government-is-supreme Constitution. That was the whole idea of the Constitutional Convention held in secret in Philadelphia in 1787.

Madison’s Makeover

However, in recent years, the Right’s “scholars” – recognizing the allure of a national mythology whether true or false – have labored to revise the history. Their makeover of Madison has been particularly striking.

By cherry-picking and taking out of context some of his comments in the Federalist Papers and by exaggerating his sop to the Anti-Federalists in the Tenth Amendment, the Right turned Madison into his opposite, a hater of a strong central government and a lover of states’ rights. [For details on how this history was distorted, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Right’s Inside-Out Constitution.”]

Next, the likes of Glenn Beck popularized this false founding narrative, giving important impetus to the Tea Party. Millions of Americans associated themselves with a movement that they thought was defending the Framers’ vision of a weak central government, powerful states and little or no federal role outside the maintenance of a huge standing army.

In effect, today’s Right merged Ayn Rand theories of unbridled selfishness with the quasi-religion of magical markets and placed it all under the umbrella of a founding national narrative that equates states’ rights and the rights of corporations as the essence of American “liberty.”

In an imperfect way that is what Election 2012 is about, which narrative will dominate the future. President Barack Obama, who was a constitutional law professor, sees the Constitution in the context of the pragmatism that was at the core of what the Framers were trying to achieve, that is, a governing structure for addressing the needs of a diverse and growing nation.

Those early national leaders applied the constitutional powers creatively and broadly, whether Alexander Hamilton’s national bank or Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territories (negotiated by then-Secretary of State James Madison).

During the last century, the trust-busting policies of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and later reforms like Medicare and civil rights legislation drew on those traditions by using federal authority to solve problems impinging on the nation’s “general welfare.”

Obama has tried to follow that path, albeit with a fair share of stumbles, by pushing through the Affordable Care Act, the economic stimulus bill, the auto bailout and new Wall Street regulations. Broadly speaking, Obama favors putting the power of the federal government on the side of average Americans.

He also has done so in the face of stiff resistance, at a time when the Republicans and many media pundits are enthralled by the revisionist narrative, that American “liberty” has always been about letting corporations and the rich do whatever they want – and letting states dominate national governance.

The Romney Example

Romney has come to personify that approach, an extremely wealthy financier who prides himself on paying low taxes and who – in private settings with fellow millionaires – speaks with disdain about the struggling masses and their need for government help. He also wants to defer to the states on major national problems like health care.

Whether on behalf of his Mormon ancestors or his Wall Street chums, Romney may see his quest for the presidency as a decisive moment to enshrine the anti-government narrative – and to defeat the alternative one that says “We the People” in the Constitution’s Preamble means putting the power of government to work building a country for all.

Without doubt, the Framers were flawed men. Many were slave-owning aristocrats who feared the dangers of unrestrained democracy in which the downtrodden might demand a reversal of fortune for the rich. Some of Madison’s “checks and balances” were designed to avoid extreme swings in popular passions.

There were other obvious tensions within the constitutional structure regarding exactly where the boundaries of authority were. That, too, was part of Madison’s structure.

But the Framers clearly saw the Constitution as creating a powerful central government and a dynamic system that had the flexibility to address national problems, then and in the future. For instance, one of Madison’s most cherished features was the Commerce Clause, which gave the federal government the power to regulate national commerce.

The whole point of including the Commerce Clause among the enumerated powers of Congress was to put the federal government to work improving the economic conditions of the nation. In their time, the Framers talked about construction of roads and canals, but they also wanted the federal government to protect the competitiveness of U.S. commerce versus the more developed economies of Europe.

But that role – along with that history – is on the line in Election 2012. The American people can side with the actual Framers in treating the Constitution as a tool for addressing national problems or they can join with the Tea Partiers who embrace a false narrative that equates “freedom” with hostility toward the federal government.

If that’s the result, it could mean near total “freedom” for our fellow citizens, the corporations.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

The provocations by these presidential candidates are too much for the Chinese people to bear.

US politicians show an indifferent attitude toward the feelings of the Chinese people. China should not turn a blind eye to such provocations…The words uttered by Romney are like those of young cynics on the Internet….

With mutual discontent accumulating, the slogans politicians have chanted may become real actions. Many international conflicts stem from the showmanship of politicians.

 

The campaigns for the US presidential election is well underway. Both the Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are competing for the toughest stance involving China. Romney promised to take action against China on his first day in office if elected, and Obama took the relay baton by bringing up a trade case at the WTO against China’s automobile industry.

It’s an old story, China becoming a political card to play in US elections. This year, Romney and Obama seem to be playing it more heavily.

China has been blamed for the US’ falling unemployment rate and taking jobs from Americans.

Friction on trade issues between China and the US will escalate thanks to the election, and mutual political mistrust may deepen.

The provocations by these presidential candidates are too much for the Chinese people to bear. US politicians show an indifferent attitude toward the feelings of the Chinese people. China should not turn a blind eye to such provocations. No matter who the current president or candidate is, they should respect China. They should mind what they say.

The words uttered by Romney are like those of young cynics on the Internet. If he does what he has promised, he will become a president that holds extremely nationalistic views toward trade with China and may trigger a trade war between the two nations. The US economy, in its current state, wouldn’t be able to stand such consequences.

There is too much China-bashing going on in the US elections. The things these politicians have promised are not likely to be realized based upon past experience, but the promises are still very disturbing.

Their speeches are misleading the American public, who will have more complaints or even resentment toward China.

With mutual discontent accumulating, the slogans politicians have chanted may become real actions. Many international conflicts stem from the showmanship of politicians.

As US elections often involve China-bashing, China cannot remain out of the affair. China should play a role in the elections and correct the attitude of both candidates and the American public toward China.

US elections should not be a playground where China is demonized. As the elections bring American attention toward China, China should make an effort to improve its image rather than remain silent over how it is portrayed by the candidates.

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Global Times
September 21, 2012

Noda playing with fire over Diaoyu

Yoshihiko Noda has reinforced his position amid rocky relations between China and Japan after winning the election of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on Friday.

Noda is mistaken if he believes pushing for the “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands and escalating tensions assure him political gains. It may also suggest that Japan has taken the wrong track.

If political maneuvering – garnering votes through orchestrating diplomatic crises and displays of muscle-flexing – prevails or becomes a common aspiration among politicians in a certain country, the country’s politics must have gone wrong. And this seems to be the case for Japan.

Japan describes China, a country that has been subject to its aggression, never engaged in any warfare in the past decades and does not possess any overseas military base, as a threat. Japan has taken increasingly hostile views toward China. It adopts a proactive and aggressive posture when dealing with China and has initiated all provocations. Japan is pushing bilateral ties to the brink of strategic confrontation.

The current tensions are focused on the Diaoyu Islands, a thorny issue that could cause bigger damage with less room for maneuver. Noda is undoubtedly behind such escalation of frictions.

His reelection as the DPJ party chief could mean a longer term for him as prime minister. If a tendency for confrontational ideology and policies takes root during his tenure, Japan will find itself leaning closer to another strategic track, away from the cause enshrined in its Peace Constitution and rational diplomacy.

The Noda administration has showed unprecedented rudeness and blind stubbornness over the Diaoyu Islands spat. It recklessly touches upon the sensitivity of bilateral ties, ignoring the possible strong reaction from China and the new balance of power. If it is true that Noda was surprised by China’s reaction, he must take the issue seriously from now on.

He must consider China’s overwhelming resolution in defending its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and the strategic emphasis on the issue.

Noda also needs to realize that China is no longer a weak opponent, regardless of the role of the US in the matter. Strategic confrontation is not a choice for Japan.

Churning out votes by masterminding diplomatic tensions has been an eye-opener for many Chinese. It is a luxury to expect these politicians to act in line with their consciences. But we hope that Japanese and Western politicians can honor a bottom line. If they dare to risk anything for personal political gains, China will give them a taste of bitterness.

“Anti-American Autumn” Follows the “Arab Spring”

September 28th, 2012 by Andrey Fomin

The brutal assassination of the American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three US diplomats in Benghazi, the cradle of anti-Qaddafi uprising in Libya, suggests an extremely improvident foreign policy of the United States in recent years.

The commentators and experts are busy seeking a triggering motive of the thugs. Was the mediocre film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ a true cause of the uprising or just a pretext?

‪The more we listen to them the more distressing is the impression. The West has lost the conscience and does not even dare to recognize the fatal mistake committed to Colonel Gaddafi. A few days ago the US president speaking at the UN General Assembly repeated a terrific mantra:

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the UN Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

 And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

First of all there was no UN Security Council mandate for intervention in Libya. If you essay a task reading the resolution 1973 (2011) on ‘no-fly zone in Libya’, you will find out that it does not contain a single word regarding possible intervention. The flexibility of that resolution was the only reason of its fatal approval by the Security Council.

 

Today Libya is being torn in parts by the rivaling tribes. During Gaddafi’s rule it was a confederation of tribes mostly loyal to central authority. Now they are not. Eastern tribes have already declared factual secession and ignored the parliamentary elections. They are trying to pocket the revenues of gas and oil fields exploration on their territories. One of the most economically prosperous countries of Maghreb is rapidly turning into Afghanistan or Somalia.

Every Libyan tribe now has its own armed militias with estimated total manpower exceeding 100,000. They permanently fight each other for lands, pastures, fresh water sources, but mainly – oil fields. For example a large scale war between Misratah and Benghazi clans for Sirte basin is looming nowadays. No one has a slightest intention to concede these assets to the central authorities in Tripoli.

Alexander Mezyaev from Strategic Culture Foundation describes the daily slaughterhouse routine in Libya:

‘On the whole, there are no signs that tensions are going down in Libya, where fighting flared up non-stop over the past 5-6 months. Serious clashes between the Toubou brigades and Arab groups began in Sabha, southern Libya, in June and took hundreds of lives. Later battles raged in Kufra, south-east Libya. The traditional inter-clan dispute over border control in the western part of Libya escalated into a three-day armed conflict between Zuwara city on the one side and the cities of al-Jumail and Reghladin on the other, with around 50 people being killed. Ten people died when Arabs and Tuaregs hammered each other in Ghadames, and around 1,600 Tuaregs were forced to flee to the nearby Derg later on. In June, the Zentan and Mashashia tribes locked horns in the Nafusa mountains, leaving over 70 people dead and some 150 – wounded. Government forces were deployed between Zentan and Shagiga to keep apart two local communities warring over land. The Barki council continued to pursue “federalist” policies in the east of Libya. Violence spilled even into the premier’s premises where a guard and a “rebel fighter” were killed in a shootout last May. Government facilities, international community representatives, and the security forces come under fire in east Libya with frightening regularity.’

The administration of Barack Obama not only supported ousting Colonel Gaddafi (just refresh in memory his delighted speech on October 20, 2011), but also facilitated raising Muslim Brotherhood to the power in Egypt. Today we witness anti-American demonstrations there as well (no victims yet by sheer luck). And they also support anti-Assad insurgents in Syria. What will happen to the feeding hand in Damascus in case the guerrillas succeed we can’t even imagine.

Unfortunately the lessons of history are not learned in Washington. They have already paid a lot for distinguishing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ jihad (we are sorry to use this sacred word in ungodly militant meaning here). They consider the terror against geopolitical rivals as an admissible form of ‘national liberation’, while anti-American actions – as crimes against humanity. The price of such political schizophrenia for the US will be rising.

‪We shouldn’t relate these landmark events of the anti-American autumn exclusively to a movie parody released in America. The problem is much deeper. A villain global genie has already been let out of the bottle and is busy crushing the ancient mausoleum in Tripoli, demolishing Christian shrines in Kosovo, Indonesia, Nigeria, killing Egyptian Copts etc.

To understand the geopolitical solitaire on the Middle East properly we should name the winners and losers of the ‘Arab Spring’ gamble. The Gulf monarchies are certainly among the first. It is an open secret that the Gulf countries aspired to control Libyan gas for a long time. Qatar, having ambitious plans over the huge European liquefied gas market, was the main interested party in ousting the Libyan leader. As a bonus Qatar’s Emir Al-Thani has managed to get rid of his personal adversary (several harsh exchanges between them during some pan-Arab meetings were not left unnoticed) and a penultimate powerful secular leader of the Arabic world (the last one is Syria’s president Bashar Assad). Today the influence of pro-Salafi Islamists is seriously strengthened in Libya. The former military governor of Tripoli Abdelhakim Belhadj, theQatar protégé, is considered one the most influential figures there. Despite a miserable result in the recently held ‘democratic’ elections to the General National Congress, he still plays a decisive role in Libya.

The main loser is obviously Europe (to say nothing of the Libyan people who would live in a new Afghanistan). It hasn’t achieved any goal originally pursued. The attempt to show its political and military might has nearly turned fiasco and factual second Suez crisis. The idea to establish a liberal secular state in Libya has failed as well. Those taking Mahmoud Jibril for liberal are deeply mistaken: he has already called for restoration of polygamy and, according to him, would strictly act in line with Sharia principles.

Moreover the operation in Libya has created new problems for the European continent. They have lost a reliable gas supplier (no serious company would invest into what is now called Libya). They face multiplied illegal immigration from Africa. The threat of the emergence of a huge oil-rich terrorist hub on the other side of Mediterranean armed by sophisticated weapons including MANPADS is as tangible as never before. But maybe the most dangerous is the loss of the Third World leaders’ confidence. Now they know that flirtations and secessions to the West would not guarantee them against democratic bombings.

What should be the lessons of the tragedy in Benghazi? First of all the party of war in the UN Security Council should contain its ambitions to reshuffle the Middle East. Their irresponsible policies have already cost a lot not only to the region, but its own reputations. The clearly expressed will to make Security Council act symphonic to maintain international peace and security would be a smart first step. (Unfortunately, Mrs.Clinton gave a wrong signal earlier this week leaving Security Council conference room while her Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov was about to switch on his microphone.

The role of an offended girl does not correspond to the status of the US official.) They should understand that further attempts to destabilize Syria letting alone an apparent suicidal strike against Iran would catalyze irreversible processes in a global scale. The result will be shocking for the West: they would discover that they are definitely loosing subjectivity in international politics. The most retrograde forces will be advanced to the forefront putting an end to all human achievements in science, culture, arts, democracy and humanism. The agents of decadence are powerful even inside the US establishment. Will the sane and sober elements in national elites in America and other countries be able to cope with them is an issue critically important for the survival of contemporary world.

American Drones for Covert Underwater Warfare against Iran

September 28th, 2012 by Julie Lévesque

Obscuring the devastating effects of U.S. drones killing innocent civilians around the world, it is with a touch of rather inappropriate humor and enthusiasm that the military consulting company Strike Fighter Consulting speaks highly of the U.S. Navy’s new Unmanned Underwater Vehicles in its recently published article, Unmanned Drones Take to the Seas:

“It looks like drone pilots are going to need swimming lessons.

The US Navy is currently experimenting with a new breed of drone submarines in the waters next to Newport, Rhode Island. Their hope is that these drones will take the first steps (or the first doggy paddle, if you will) into a future of autonomous submarines.

These drones, which are technically known as Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (of course) could be a “game changer” for the Navy, said Christoper Egan, a program manager at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. Every single thing that makes aerial drones so effective can just as easily be applied to submarines. (Dabney B., Unmanned Drones Take to the Seas, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc, September 19, 2012, emphasis added.)

Unmanned Drones Take to the Seas

What kind of “efficiency” are we talking about here?

Drone warfare has been mostly “efficient” in killing innocent civilians, including children, according to a study by Stanford University and New York University:

According to the new study, just one in fifty victims of the CIA programme of “targeted” drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas are known militants, while between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year – of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children. (The News International (Pakistan), Pakistan. CIA Annihilation From The Air: Drone Warfare’s Invisible Dead, September 26, 2012)

We are told that these new “cost-efficient” underwater drones “could be used to map the ocean floor, detect enemy mines, gather surveillance, or assist in anti-submarine warfare [...] The Navy hopes that the Razor would be virtually undetectable by enemy systems.” (Dabney B., op. cit.)

Earlier this year Aviation Week published an article on Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) which confirms that the underwater drone technology is well established. The new Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) is slated to be used no later than 2014:

The Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) will be large and highly autonomous, carrying out missions at long distances for months. It will act as a mothership, deploying and operating static and mobile sensors for persistent surveillance in coastal waters. Ultimately, it is likely to be armed. The program sounds ambitious, but much of the technology has already been proven.

[...]

The LDUUV will have a large payload bay, making it capable of releasing sensors, communication buoys, smaller UUS and weapons. The Navy’s current emphasis is on persistent surveillance “over the horizon.” However, its most significant impact could be in mine warfare, both offensive and defensive.

And the LDUUV could make offensive mine laying more controllable and clandestine. In the transformational mine concept, the LDUUV lays networked sensors across a wide area. These track and identify every vessel within range. Depending on the situation, any vessel can be engaged, by either an anchored weapon or a torpedo from the UUV itself.

[...]

The Navy plans to release a request for proposals for the LDUUV in 2014. Last October Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, the Navy’s undersea warfare director, indicated that up to 10 LDUUVs would be procured. The LDUUV is being pitched as a helper to complement manned submarines. However, if it achieves the technology goals for endurance and autonomy, it will pose serious questions of what exactly large unmanned craft could not ultimately do. (David Hambling, Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Steaming Ahead, Aviation Week, April 1, 2012, emphasis added. )

 

If this technology has been proven, it can be used for underwater warfare.

Will unmanned armed submarines be used for “clandestine mining” against Iran in the Persian Gulf?

Reports confirm, in this regard, that military exercises are currently (September 2012) being conducted near Iran’s territorial waters, and are “intended to simulate Iran’s response to a US-Israeli attack, namely what actions will be taken by allied forces in response to military retaliation by Iran”. (Michel Chossudovsky, “Warship Diplomacy”: A Prelude to All Out War against Iran?, Global Research, September 26, 2012.)

Underwater drones are part of the war games, Bloomberg reports:

“The BAE Systems Plc (BA/) 25mm guided ‘‘Mark 38 Mod 2,” and Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicle are among the programs the Pentagon this year accelerated under a “Fast Lane” initiative to counter Iranian naval weapons. One of the most serious threats, the Navy says, are Iranian speedboats that can employ “swarming” tactics.” (Bloomberg, September 19, 2012. emphasis added. )

A recent statement by the Director of Research of the Neocon think tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy has suggested that the US should provoke Iran into “firing the first shot”.

“We are in the game of using covert means against Iranians. We can get nastier at that [...] The United States—along with as many international partners as it can mobilize—should move to more forceful action, be it covert or overt, publicly proclaimed or deniable.” (Patrick Clawson, cited in Michel Chossudovsky, Neocon Washington Think Tank: The US should Provoke Iran into “Firing the First Shot”, September 26, 2012.)

Underwater drones seem to constitute the perfect weapon to be used in acts of provocation.

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New Books from Global Research

original

WWIII Scenario

The US should not forget the aggressive past of Japan, especially the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which partly was the result of Washington’s tolerance of Japanese expansionism.

China’s influence is increasing in the Asia-Pacific region and even the rest of the world, while the US’ is declining. This is a relatively long-term but inevitable trend, which the US finds very uncomfortable to accept. The change in the balance of power will gradually erode the supremacy of the US and other countries’ confidence in America’s might. This realization seems to be giving American politicians and policymakers sleepless nights.

*       *       *

Friendly advice to Japan, US

By Zhou Fangyin

China issued a white paper on the Diaoyu Islands on Tuesday so that the international community would better understand Beijing’s stance on the Diaoyu Islands dispute. This is especially important because of the United Nations General Assembly session underway in New York.

The “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands by Japan is not only an infringement of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also a severe challenge to the post-World War II international order. The Cairo Declaration of 1943 and Potsdam Proclamation of 1945 required Japan to return Taiwan and its affiliated Diaoyu Islands to China, which is part of the international order.

The international community, especially the United States, made great efforts to build the post-World War II international order. So Washington has to be aware of the serious consequences Tokyo’s provocations could cause. The US should not forget the aggressive past of Japan, especially the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which partly was the result of Washington’s tolerance of Japanese expansionism.

Unfortunately, the contradictory statements of US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta during his visit to Japan and China last week proves the fact that Washington is using the China-Japan dispute to strengthen its military presence in the Asian-Pacific region. On one hand, Panetta said the US would not take sides in the Diaoyu Islands dispute, on the other hand, he declared that US-Japan security treaty covers the Diaoyu Islands.

The US wants to play the role of a “mediator”. However, a mediator should be impartial, which Washington is not. Nor does it want to help resolve any dispute. Moreover, the US-Japan alliance disqualifies Washington from being even a “communicator” in the Diaoyu Islands dispute.

Nobody expected Panetta’s visit to Asia to break the impasse, because the US wants to use Japan and the Sino-Japanese dispute to contain China’s rise so that it can maintain its supremacy in Asia-Pacific. But at the same time, Washington doesn’t want the situation to go out of control, because that could draw it into direct confrontation with China.

Against this backdrop and as part of its “pivot to Asia” strategy, the US has taken a series of steps in the Asia-Pacific region, including the deployment of the Osprey aircraft in Okinawa, Japan.

Japan is trying to get a free ride on America’s “pivot to Asia” strategy now that the balance of power between China and the US is changing and Washington needs Tokyo to guard against Beijing. So to “deal” with China, Japan will not shy away from making full use of the US.

Considering Japan’s motive and purpose, US policymakers need to tread with caution and rethink their commitment to Japan, if they have any, so that America is not drawn into an unnecessary conflict. This is why Panetta warned the Japanese government not to take radical actions.

Electoral factors, too, have prompted Japan to intensify its disputes over islands with Russia, the Republic of Korea and China. But Japan should not be swayed by its electoral politics, for a seasoned politician has to see beyond domestic public opinion. It is easy to arouse national sentiments but much more difficult to cool them down. In case nationalism gains the upper hand in Japan, other policy options will get a not so glorious burial, which would not be a welcome situation, because it could lead to conflicts with other countries in the region.

China’s influence is increasing in the Asia-Pacific region and even the rest of the world, while the US’ is declining. This is a relatively long-term but inevitable trend, which the US finds very uncomfortable to accept. The change in the balance of power will gradually erode the supremacy of the US and other countries’ confidence in America’s might. This realization seems to be giving American politicians and policymakers sleepless nights.

Given China’s increasing diplomatic influence in East Asia, the US will make every effort to maintain its influence in the region. That’s why it is using the territorial sea disputes between China and some of its neighbors to display its diplomatic “smart power”.

The US is taking some short-term measures to create an unfavorable situation for China to thwart its peaceful rise. What Washington has done after announcing its “pivot to Asia” strategy is in line with this logic.

The Diaoyu Islands dispute has intensified to such an extent that it could lead to more frequent frictions and even a military conflict, which is something China does not want.

For China, an overly tough, inelastic policy or an overly mild policy both will lead to problems. In the long run, Beijing’s foreign policy should be a well-balanced combination of both mild and tough policies. China should judge a situation on the basis of reality and the reactions of other countries.

Had Japan been rational, it would have realized that it is unwise to infringe on the interests of a rising neighboring power, even with the backing of the US, for once a conflict breaks out, Washington will be more than happy to stand by and see Tokyo pay a heavy price.

Over the past several decades, China has been pursuing a foreign policy of “win-win” cooperation.

But the results of such a policy depend on whether the other side is equally willing to do so. If the other side pursues an agenda of winner-takes-all or is opportunistic, China’s unilateral goodwill will not yield any results. Instead, it will make it easier for the other side to take more provocative actions and encourage other countries to do the same.

The author is associate research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy, China Academy of Social Sciences.

“Armenia borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran…The U.S. has a significant stake in all five countries, and Armenia is now coming into view as a potentially potent lever to advance American aims…As the US tries to woo Armenia to become a stronger ally in the region, the term ‘geostrategic’ has never been more apt.”

“Through economic and diplomatic incentives, the U.S. is actively trying to shape Armenia into an ally. As President Obama seeks to economically isolate Iran – his sanctions have cut the value of Iran’s currency in half – he is trying to regionally isolate the regime, as well. Armenia is key to that strategy.”

“Armenia’s two best friends at the moment are arguably the U.S.’s most challenging adversaries: Russia and Iran.”

In America’s eyes, Armenia might be in the most important position of any US ally to pursue an anti-Iranian policy, the Truman Project’s Daniel Gaynor writes.

In his article, the expert tries to answer the question as to why the U.S. prioritizes cooperation with Armenia.

“Few countries are in a better position to shape US foreign policy than Armenia. Armenia borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran. As a part of the former Soviet Union, it relies on nearby Russia extensively for trade and military backing. The U.S. has a significant stake in all five countries, and Armenia is now coming into view as a potentially potent lever to advance American aims. That is, if the Armenians can be won over. As the US tries to woo Armenia to become a stronger ally in the region, the term ‘geostrategic’ has never been more apt.

“Armenia is literally at the center of a number of countries that Washington considers among its top priorities. As President Obama tries to accomplish key foreign policy objectives – like preventing Iran from attaining nuclear bombs or seeing democracy flourish in Russia – he’s got to encourage Armenia to play along. To Armenia’s south, one such issue is unfolding in Iran’s nuclear centrifuges,” the article reads.

“America is racing to develop every diplomatic pressure point it can on Iran, lest Israel launch a preemptive attack and embroil America in a third Middle East war in ten years. One of those pressure points goes straight through Armenia. While the US has cut off formal relations with Iran – Washington talks through Switzerland’s embassy there – it’s no secret that it employs a variety of foreign policy crowbars to influence and destabilize Iran’s ruling regime. Some, like President Obama’s latest round of economic sanctions, are well known. Partnering with Armenia is not, but could have, a major impact. Through economic and diplomatic incentives, the U.S. is actively trying to shape Armenia into an ally. As President Obama seeks to economically isolate Iran – his sanctions have cut the value of Iran’s currency in half – he is trying to regionally isolate the regime, as well. Armenia is key to that strategy.

“For Armenia, the game is far less simple. Partnering with the U.S. – with whom it has a good, but not great, relationship – could alienate the few friends Armenia has left in the South Caucasus region. It wants military cooperation with Russia, but economic access to the West. While it has tried to deepen relations with the European Union and the U.S., Armenia’s two best friends at the moment are arguably the U.S.’s most challenging adversaries: Russia and Iran. That’s not necessarily because of shared ideologies, or even shared interests; it’s because Armenia doesn’t have many friends to pick from. Of its four neighbors, two – Turkey and Azerbaijan – have closed off their borders to Armenia,”  (Gaynor, stratrisks.com)

by Hua Liming

Amid the anti-American protests in Muslim countries, US President Barack Obama urged world leaders on Tuesday to strongly oppose violence and extremism, arguing that protecting free speech is a universal responsibility rather than just an American obligation.

It seems that US politicians haven’t learned any lesson from the anti-US fury sparked by the film that belittles Prophet Muhammad. The United States also refuses to accept that the Muslim protests will make it even more difficult for it to deal with the “anti-American” regimes in Iran and Syria.

The film first sparked anti-American protests in Egypt and Libya, which soon spread to more than 20 countries across the Middle East and beyond.

Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, was killed along with three colleagues in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. The violent protests also forced 65 US embassies across the world to issue warnings to Americans to take precautions against violent attacks, and the Pentagon has sent Marines to protect embassies in Yemen and Sudan. Indeed, the range and violent intensity of the present anti-American wave is unprecedented.

In a vain attempt to calm the anti-American sentiments, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US government “had absolutely nothing to do with” the film. But Washington has to think beyond the immediate impact of the film, because the protests are an outburst of Muslims’ longstanding anger at the US.

Washington has remained unrivalled in the Middle East since the end of the Cold War, with its presence enhanced by US-Israeli relations. It also plays a key role in the Israel-Palestine peace talks, even though it is not welcomed by many in the Middle East.

Things, however, could have been different. The US could have been a welcome superpower in the Middle East after the end of World War II, when several countries had gained independence and learned many things from the US’ experience. But the US blindly “helped” Israel win the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and deal with other conflicts. Supported by the US, Israel annexed Arab territories beyond the proposed borders of a Jewish state and kept expanding its settlements in occupied land.

Many of the millions of displaced Palestinians are now living in exile, away from the land of their ancestors. Besides, the past few years have seen many Arab countries fall into economic stagnation. These have helped Islamic fundamentalists attract more youths to their camp. As a result, there has been a massive rise in the number of Islamists since the 1960s and 1970s.

The Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks deepened Americans’ hatred of Muslims which in turn intensified anti-American feelings among Muslims. The US used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, killing countless civilians and displacing millions. Wartime scandals such as the Abu Ghraib prison abuse and the burning of the Quran by US servicemen added fuel to the fire burning within many Muslims.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at former US president George W. Bush and was jailed for his act, said after his release that he may be free now, but his country is still captive. He said it was humiliating seeing his country suffer, Baghdad burn and Iraqi people killed indiscriminately.

The journalist’s words echo the feelings of many Arabs. US-based polling agency Zogby International’s annual polls in the recent past show the majority of respondents in six Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, hate the US and some 80 percent regard Washington and Tel-Aviv as the two biggest threats to regional security.

Washington got it wrong in the Middle East in the first place and is now paying a bloody price for that. Taken aback by the violent protests in the Middle East one year after the “Arab Spring”, Clinton said “it is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable,” adding that “the people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.”

Clinton’s remarks suggest Washington has not yet understood why the Muslim world has erupted in anger. The US has always considered its social system and values superior to that of other countries and is still keen on promoting US-style democracy in the Middle East.

Bush tried to impose democracy with the help of the gun. His plan was doomed to fail, and it did. So when people in some Arab countries overthrew their leaders in 2011, the US rejoiced assuming that it would benefit immensely from the regime changes brought about by the “color revolution”.

The reality, however, has turned out to be different. Islamist parties and groups have evolved rapidly and come to power in the Middle East countries that have seen regime changes. Western media reports say that Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood, instead of Western democracy, have burgeoned in the Middle East after the Arab Spring.

The truth is the self-righteous democratic model of the West is rather feeble, and cannot be applied to a region where Islam is the dominating ideology. No wonder, the new leaderships in the Middle East countries cannot and do not want to contain Muslim anger at the US and Israel. In this sense, the anti-American wave is the inevitable result of the Arab Spring.

If Washington calls the anti-American protesters a “mob”, it has to take the risk (one of the greatest it has taken) of confronting almost the entire Muslim population in the world.

But the US will not give up on the Middle East – not because the region is no longer a haven for Americans, not even because it is focused on its “pivot to Asia” strategy. Let us hope the US realizes it opened a “Pandora’s box” by launching wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that it would be utterly unwise to open another in the Middle East.

The author, a former ambassador to Iran, is a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies.

The Complete “Idiot’s Guide” to Iran and the Bomb

September 28th, 2012 by Global Research News

By Christian Stork

Who What Why

As our Nobel laureate President ascended to the podium on September 25 at the United Nations for his last international speech before the election, we again were the recipients of fine oratory and rhetorical flourish about America’s problems in the world. Focusing on the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa—what’s often misleadingly termed, “the Muslim world”—Obama singled out Iran’s treaty-entitled uranium enrichment activities, saying “make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.”

Obama’s remarks were dutifully transcribed by our stenographer class, as can be expected, despite intelligence-community conclusions to the contrary and the historical precedent of containment as Cold War policy. This follows the latest media scare concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and the recent tiff between the U.S. and Israel over it. Like Obama’s speech (and because of similarly unchallenged statements by politicians), many media reports are awash in misleading narratives, incomplete histories, and outright fiction about Iran and its nuclear program.

Given how easily the American public and media were manipulated into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, this moment should give us some pause. The disastrous effects of that $3 Trillion Dollar War are still being felt across the world. For those not interested in seeing a much-bloodier, costlier sequel, I offer this introductory course in intellectual self-defense. The only way to rebuff and dismantle propaganda is to be aware of the truth on which it claims to comment.

Lesson #1: Iran is not building nuclear weapons

National Intelligence Estimate: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” (2007 National Intelligence Estimate Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities; November 2007)

“Several senior Israeli officials who spoke in recent days to The Associated Press said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran.” (Associated Press, “Israel shifts views on Iran”; March 18, 2012)

The 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a synthesized compilation of data evaluated by America’s 17 intelligence agencies, declared that there were no serious revisions to the controversial (for war hawks) 2007 NIE—which stated Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. While the 2011 estimate did include updated progress on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, such as an increased number of operative centrifuges, it still could not muster any evidence to indicate the program was being weaponized.

These findings echo reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has also concluded that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. The IAEA accounts are typically pored over for the slightest hint of ambiguity or malevolence, which are then promulgated as the most important takeaways in Western news summaries.

A recent example of such deliberate obfuscation was the IAEA report on Iran from August 30, 2012. Typical American media accounts highlighted the increase in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure (underground centrifuge production, etc.), while failing to mention that their stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium—the only material capable of being enriched further to 85% or weapons grade—had actually diminished as a result of conversion to fuel plates for use in the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Thus nuclear development is highlighted, under the false premise that that equals progress toward a weapon, while exculpatory evidence is discarded: a case study in how news and propaganda function.

A civilian nuclear program is not easily converted into a weapons program. Before a country can begin the latter, it must break the IAEA monitoring seals on its uranium stockpile, which is also under constant camera detection. It must also kick out international inspectors, who currently have unfettered access to all of Iran’s nuclear sites. Completing those very public steps would be the first true warning indicators that Iran was building nuclear weapons.

As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is entitled to enrich uranium to low levels for domestic power consumption and medical treatment, such as radiation therapy for cancer patients.

Lesson #2: Iran is not a threat to the US

The United States military is the largest, most sophisticated machine of force and violence the world has ever seen. After factoring in foreign military aid and nuclear weapons maintenance, the U.S. spends over an estimated $1 trillion (that’s >$1,000 billion) on defense annually.

By contrast, Iran spends somewhere between $10-12 billion on defense annually, after factoring in foreign and domestic paramilitary units such as the Revolutionary Guards and Basij—Iran’s domestic volunteer militia. This is “less than the United Arab Emirates, and only between 25% to 33% of Saudi defense spending,” notes Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It spends approximately 1/5 of the amount allocated by the six sheikdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council—America’s staunchest regional allies (save for Israel) and the guardians of Western access to crude.

Lesson #3: Iran is not an existential threat to Israel

Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister: “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel.” (Reuters, Report: Barak says Iran is not existential threat to Israel; September 17, 2009)

Dan Halutz, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces and Commander of the Israeli Air Force: “Iran poses a serious threat, but not an existential one. The use of this terminology is misleading. If it is intended to encourage a strike on Iran, it’s a mistake. Force should be exerted only as a last resort.” (YNet, Former IDF Chief: Iran doesn’t pose an existential threat; February 2, 2012)

Tamir Pardo, Director of the Mossad: “Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. That’s not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely.” (Haaretz, Mossad Chief: Nuclear Iran not necessarily existential threat to Israel; December 29, 2011)

Israel maintains a competitive advantage in total amount spent on munitions and assets, as well as a massive edge in terms of technological sophistication. Israel spends almost twice as much as Iran on defense appropriations and is able to buy the world’s most advanced weaponry from the United States (mostly with U.S. taxpayer money, laundered through foreign aid). Iran, by contrast, is heavily dependent on the dated munitions it received under the Shah and acquires rudimentary missile technology from China and North Korea with its own money.

Even if Iran were pursuing nuclear weapons, Israel’s own stockpile—estimated at a several hundred high-yield warheads—ensures that Tehran would not engage in a first-strike. Those familiar with the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) know that when confronted with the possibility of your own annihilation, so the theory goes, you’re incentivized to refrain from launching a first strike. Israel’s stationing of nukes on German-made Dolphin class submarines in the Mediterranean assures that even if a first strike were to be carried out on the Jewish state, the perpetrator would still be subject to a retaliatory strike.

However, much as America acts as Israel’s patron, so too Iran spends a good deal arming and supporting proxy armies in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip—Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively. While these forces present a serious challenge to Israeli military incursions into said areas, their ability to project force within Israel’s borders is limited to indiscriminate rocket fire. While dangerous and psychologically terrifying for civilians, such tactics cannot be considered more than a nuisance when comparing capacities for state violence.

Israel is not a signatory to the NPT and repeatedly refuses propositions for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (MENWFZ) to be established as a means of ending the stand-off with Tehran, despite majority support from the Israeli public.

Lesson #4: Iran’s leadership is not fanatical or suicidal

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.” (Global Public Square, Martin Dempsey on Syria, Iran and China; February 17, 2012)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz: “I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.” (CS Monitor, Israeli Army Chief says he doubts Iran will build a nuclear weapon; April 25, 2012)

Intellectual orthodoxy holds that even the most tepid criticism of Israeli and American policy vis-à-vis Iran requires a disclaimer by all “serious people” that Iran is a vicious theocratic regime which oppresses its own people. While Iran’s governmental structure is religiously based and peaceful protests have been met with repression, such traits are hardly unique. Saudi Arabia, America’s most solid regional ally, enforces religious doctrine as viciously if not more so than Iran does (such as executing many for practicing freedom of speech and religion as “witches” or “blasphemers”). And, of course, violent government responses to non-violent demonstrations aimed at political change are hardly unknown in free societies (see: Occupy Wall Street).

Moreover, there’s little correlation between the internal repression of a society and its external behavior. The United States, one of the freer societies on the planet, routinely engages in aggression and the use of brute force to accomplish geopolitical objectives. Conversely, Iran pummels domestic dissent while historically limiting its military involvement outside its borders. The only record of Iranian aggression since the 18th century was when the U.S.-backed Shah invaded and conquered a series of Arab islands in the early 1970’s.

Despite contentions from the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran’s leadership is capable of pulling the temple down on their heads in a show of Samsonian martyrdom, Tehran’s track record and statements indicate otherwise. The more judicious pundits at least acknowledge as much.

Lesson #5: Politicians and media stenographers have been claiming Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons since the mid-1980’s

House Republican Research Committee in 1992: “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.” (Christian Science Monitor, Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979; November 8, 2011)

Iran began its nuclear program with help from the United States during the 1950’s when it was run by Washington’s puppet-dictator Shah Reza Pahlavi, who was installed after the U.S. overthrew the democratically elected government in a 1953 CIA coup known as Operation Ajax. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini condemned all nuclear and chemical weapons as “un-Islamic,” stopping the nascent nuclear program in its tracks. Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei reiterated his predecessor’s religious edict some 20 years later.

The 1980’s saw complex American-Iranian and Israeli-Iranian relations, whereby discreet deals were made among the antagonistic powers in an effort to accomplish other foreign policy goals. Yet by the early 1990’s Iran’s growing military prowess and the near-destruction of the major Arab military presence to Israel’s east (Iraq) put Iran back on Tel Aviv’s agenda as a strategic competitor. In 1992, then-member of parliament Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset that Iran was 3 to 5 years from having a nuclear weapon—and that the threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S.” Sound familiar?

American policymakers began to echo Israeli claims during the 1990’s, largely in public and without evidence to back them up. These assertions continued in a steady drumbeat of increasingly hostile rhetoric (“The Axis of Evil”) all the way until 2007, when a declassified NIE was released disputing the fact that Iran continued its weapons program in any way beyond 2003. Despite the conclusions, as mentioned in lesson #1, hawks on the left and right continue to peddle demonstrably false claims to this very day.

Lesson #6: The American and Israeli security establishments are against it

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We’re watching very carefully about what [Iran] do[es], because it’s always been more about their actions than their words…We’re not setting red lines.” (Haaretz, Clinton rejects Netanyahu’s call for ‘red lines’ over Iran nuclear program; September 10, 2012)

Former Internal Security Chief Yuval Diskin: “…attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb all the faster.” (Think Progress, Diskin says he has ‘no faith’ in current leadership, April 27, 2012)

Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan: a future Israeli Air Force strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” (Haaretz, Former Mossad chief: Israel air strike on Iran ‘stupidest thing I have ever heard’, May 7, 2011)

Although the idea of nuclear weapons in the hands of an avowedly hostile regime is as upsetting to Washington as it is to Tel Aviv, the Pentagon brass is opposed to an attack, not because they suddenly favor the regime in Tehran, but because their own strike simulations predict a great deal of injurious blowback in exchange for, at most, a brief setback in Iran’s nuclear capability.

And despite war hysteria in Israel, fanned by political rhetoric, and legitimate conventional security concerns for the Jewish state, Israeli security and military officials recognize that they don’t have anywhere near the overwhelming force required to take care of the problem. The only way to ensure that Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapons capability would be to install a friendly puppet regime in Tehran, a task far beyond the capability of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or the U.S. military at this point.

In lieu of direct military conflict, the U.S. and Israel have adopted a harsh policy of economic sanctions, cyberwarfare, and covert operations—declarations of war, by American standards—in an effort to delay Iran’s nuclear progress. But the consensus among knowledgeable players is that any resort to force will have far worse repercussions than benefits.

Lesson #7: The American and Israeli people are against it

Poll: 7 out of 10 Americans choose diplomacy over military force to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions (Christian Science Monitor, To strike Iran’s nuclear facilities or not to strike? Why polls differ; March 14, 2012)

Poll: 58% of Israelis oppose a unilateral strike on Iran (Haaretz, Haaretz poll: Most of the public opposes an Israeli strike on Iran; March 8, 2012)

Poll: Only 27% of Jewish Israelis in favor of a unilateral strike on Iran (Haaretz, Poll: Most Israelis oppose attack on Iran nuclear facilities; August 16, 2012)

While public opinion is as malleable as Play-Doh, surveys show that the American and Israeli citizenries are very skeptical about war with Iran. The former, still reeling from the unpleasant effects of two costly occupations (one ongoing), are overwhelmingly opposed to another war in the Middle East. Likewise, although a majority of Israelis view Iran’s nuclear program as more immediately dangerous than their American counterparts do, polling indicates they are opposed to a unilateral strike initiated without American support. This makes sense, given the IDF’s military inadequacy for the task at hand, and Israel’s proximity to retaliatory proxy forces in southern Lebanon and Gaza.

It is true that survey responses vary depending on how the question is asked. When confronted with the baseless assertion that Iran is building nuclear weapons, many respondents aver that military action is worth it. But when given the correct facts, both populations conclude that the downsides of military force aren’t worth the payoff. This aligns with the thoughts of most policymakers within the establishment.

Lesson #8: An Iranian nuclear weapon will be all-but-assured if the U.S. or Israel attack

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden on war deliberations within the Bush administration: “the consensus was that [a brief bombing campaign] would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent: an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret.” (The Hill, Don’t let Iran be a second Iraq; February 27, 2012)

With so much evidence solidly against their position, U.S. and Israeli hawks have become increasingly strident in their appeal to violence as a means of ending the Iranian “nuclear threat.”  Many proponents of a strike have cited the Israeli Air Force raid on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 as a precedent that could be emulated. While comparisons between the two situations are tenuous at best, what’s of higher import is the fact that U.S. intelligence concluded that the 1981 attack didn’t stop Saddam’s nuclear weapons program—it accelerated it.  (It was actually the consequences of Saddam’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait that brought Iraq’s bomb program to a halt.)

Lesson #9: Readers—add your own below in our comments section…

Islamophobia: The Heat of Empire And The Flames of Intolerance

September 28th, 2012 by Colin Todhunter

In Britain, the intelligence agencies have been for some time intensively monitoring Muslim communities. The result of the Swiss referendum held in 2009 means that building a mosque with a minaret is now banned in that nation. There were only four in the entire country anyhow. And, in 2010, France passed a law to prevent women wearing the niqab in public.

The discussion about wearing the niqab, which has also been raging in Britain and other countries too, starts with people saying, “You don’t know what ‘they’ could be carrying beneath it or who is behind the veil.” They begin by attempting to justify the banning on ‘safety’ grounds. Then, when pushed, racist undertones and tolerance come to the surface – if ‘they’ want to live here in ‘our’ country, ‘they’ should behave/dress like ‘us’.

The implication of all this is the belief that Muslims are particularly dangerous and need to be watched closely. And anti-Islam Danish cartoons or films whose main purpose is to provoke a predictable reaction among certain Muslims purposively contribute to this belief. It all serves to whip up public paranoia and concerns about immigration, illegal asylum seekers, certain groups’ incompatibility with ‘our’ values, religious fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism and so on. In trying to mask racism and prejudice with platitudes about ‘our’ culture being diluted, bombers wanting to kill us or public services being over stretched due to an influx of immigrants, the media and politicians are fuelling and pandering to society’s worst prejudices.

The far right British National Party (BNP) in Britain has had some degree of success in recent times by specifically tapping into such frustrations and prejudices held within white working class communities in economically deprived areas. The Labour Party has abandoned this constituency of voters and has let in the BNP and the English Defence League (EDL). The EDL has especially attempted to whip up simplistic, knee-jerk anti-Islam feeling on the back of complex issues pertaining to identity, culture, race and class.

But this isn’t confined to Britain or Europe. In the US, Sarah Palin played her part in fuelling the establishment’s agenda by fanning controversy over the proposed construction of a mosque and community centre near ‘Ground Zero’, the site of the 9/11 Twin Towers attack in New York, by calling it an “unnecessary provocation.”

In 2010, Palin wrote in a Twitter post, “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts.” And people opposing the mosque dominated a hearing on the subject.

“It would be a terrible mistake to destroy a 154-year-old building in order to build a monument to terrorism,” one woman was reported as saying.

”A monument to terrorism” – it seems strange that she would talk of a mosque in such a way while ignoring the genuine living, breathing monument – GW Bush – or for that matter Donald Rumsfeld, Condaleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton or Tony Blair, who had all felt justified in applying sanctions and killing hundreds of thousands in Iraq, bombing innocent people in Sudan or supporting various wars and despots.

 

In April 2011, the law that was passed in France banning full-face veils in public places targeted about  2,000 people out of a French population of more than 65 million. As recently reported in the New York Times, Mohammed Henniche, secretary general of the private Union of Muslim Associations of Seine-Saint-Denis, has said that the effects have been that such women now limit their moves and stay in their own neighborhood, while others have reluctantly removed the veil in public places. He believes the ban is part of a political effort to stigmatise a community. With that in mind, over the last year in France there have been controversies over the height of minarets, halal fast food, prayers in the streets when mosques overflow, halal meals in schools and the right of foreigners to vote in local elections.
All of this is not being carried out in the name of secularism and freedom, as much of the media and politicians would have us believe, but in the cause of empire and repression because it is the direct result and ideological underpinning of modern imperial wars of occupation and intervention.

From Libya and Sudan through to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and into Pakistan, the US and its proxies have stoked up ethnic and political tensions and have attacked or debased the sovereignty of nation states in an attempt to secure control of the entire region. Iran is a work in progress. Whether it is part of the bogus ‘war on terror’ and ‘civilising the barbarians’, or whether it occurs under the lie of ‘humanitarianism’, US-led imperialism has effectively brought an arc of tragedy to the region. And it’s a tragedy of epic proportions.

But the links between predatory capitalism, economic crisis, war and the rise of intolerance are sidelined in favour of a narrow, simplistic discussion that merely focuses on the differences between ‘them’ (Muslims) and ‘us’, how multi-culturalism (ie tolerance!) has apparently failed and how it is time for ‘them’ to conform and be clamped down on.

Instead of holding to account and directly challenging the wider system of capitalism and empire, politicians and the mainstream media seek out proxies to blame for the economic crisis, unemployment, the running down of public services or acts of terror at home. If the West really wants to prevent terrorism, for instance, it should take Noam Chomsky’s advice: stop committing it!

The West has a long legacy of bloody colonial exploits and consequent scapegoating, racism and fanning the flames of hate. It has always excelled in divide and rule. It still does. Try building a minaret in Switzerland or wearing a niqab in Paris. Better still, just listen to Sarah Palin – if you can bear to.

Originally from the northwest of EnglandColin Todhunter has spent many years in India. He has written extensively for various publications, and his East by Northwest site is at: http://colintodhunter.blogspot.com

Week in Review: Drone Slaughter and the Covert War on Iran

September 28th, 2012 by Global Research

 

israelus2

Will Israel Launch a False Flag Against Iran to Start War?, Washington’s Blog, September 28, 2012

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Carey Price; Matt Cooke

“Hockey is Canada’s Game”: The National Hockey League LockoutGlobal Research News, September 22, 2012

Will Israel Launch a False Flag Against Iran to Start War?

September 28th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

Will Israel Blow Up Something and Falsely Blame It On Iran?

According to U.S. officials, Israel is training and supporting Iranian terrorists who are trying to topple the Iranian government. Those Israeli-funded terrorists have faked documents to falsely indicate that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. 1

Israel has admitted to previous use of false flag attacks to justify war against Middle Eastern nations.

For example,   Israel admits that an Israeli terrorist cell operating in Egypt planted bombs in several buildings, including U.S. diplomatic facilities, then left behind “evidence” implicating the Arabs as the culprits (one of the bombs detonated prematurely, allowing the Egyptians to identify the bombers, and several of the Israelis later confessed) (and see this and this).

Numerous high-level government officials have warned that a false flag may be launched against Iran to start a war: 2

  • Ron Paul has warned of a “Gulf of Tonkin type incident” in Iran
  • The highly influential Brookings Institution wrote a report in 2009 called “Which Path to Persia?” which states (pages 84-85):

It would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be.Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.)

  • A number of very high-level former intelligence officers – including several that personally briefed presidents every day on matters of national security – stated that better communications between the U.S. and Iran were needed to “reduce the danger of … covert, false-flag attack”

One of America’s top constitutional and military law experts – Jonathan Turley – writes today:

Many critics have argued that there is a concerted effort to push the United States into a war with Iran by supporters of Israel. Patrick Clawson, director of research for the highly influential pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) think tank, seemed intent to prove those rumors true this week in comments as a luncheon on “How to Build US-Israeli Coordination on Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Breakout.” Clawson casually discusses how to create a false flag operation to push the U.S. into war to overcome any reluctance by the public. We have been discussing how many leaders like Senator Joe Lieberman had begun to use the same rhetoric that led to the last two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how the suggest timing of an attack has been tied to the presidential election.

In his remarks, Clawson helpfully lists a series of historical events used to push the country into war like the Gulf of Tonkin incident that gave us the Vietnam War. Clawson expressed his frustration in acknowledging that it is “[v]ery hard for me to see how the United States President can get us to war with Iran.” However, there is hope. Clawson explains that the “traditional way” to get the country into a war is through false flags or manufactured incidents where Americans are killed. Thus, he observes, “we are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians, we could get nastier about it. So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war.”

The fact that one of the leading analysis for the WINEP would feel comfortable in making such comments is itself quite chilling. It indicates that such discussions have become sufficiently regular that it has creeped into public discussion. It is a measure of the secret pressure building to push this country into a third major war despite our crippling economic conditions and losses in military personnel. The assumption in Washington is that neither Romney nor Obama could oppose such a war. Even if Obama does not publicly support Israel, the assumption is that political allies of Israel in Washington can guarantee that we would offer extensive military loans and intelligence. Even if there is a delay in such military loans and support, the assumption is that Israel can go to war with the understanding that the United States will cover a significant portion of the costs. Moreover, in his remarkably candid remarks, Clawson shows how the U.S. can easily be forced into direct combat by pushing Iran to simply kill some Americans or sink a few of our ships. Then members would be clamoring for revenge. Notably, the Israelis have been ratcheting up the war rhetoric in pushing Iran, which predictably has now reserved the right to engage in a preemptive strike not just against Israeli but U.S. interests. We would then, again, find ourselves in a war without any public debate or collective decision.

While Clawson adds a passing caveat that he is not advocating such an approach, his remarks are clearly designed to show how the group can get the United States into a war for Israel if only we can get Iran to kill some of our citizens or soldiers. Those people are of course expendable props in Clawson’s realpolitik.

By the way, Clawson has been enlisted to give his insightful analysis at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He is also a member of the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies. The World Bank connection is particularly interesting given the history with Paul Wolfowitz who pushed the U.S. into two disastrous wars in the Bush Administration and was rewarded with being made the head of the World Bank.

It is the callous disconnect that is most chilling in these remarks. Thousands of U.S. soldiers have died or have been crippled for life in these wars that have left the country near bankruptcy (and increasingly hostile “allies” in Afghanistan and Iraq). Those casualties and costs, however, appear immaterial in the discussion of supporting Israel in a war against Iran.

 

1  Top American and Israeli military and intelligence officials actually say that:

2   False flag attacks have been carried out against Iran in the past.  For example, the CIA admits that it hired Iranians in the 1950′s to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its democratically-elected prime minister

3 Saudi Arabia has also been supporting terrorists.

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“Shelling Out”: Britain Spends £2 Billion on Drones

September 28th, 2012 by Drone Wars UK

Drone Wars UK is today publishing a report that shows the UK Government has already spent over £2 billion purchasing, developing and researching drones and unmanned systems since 2007.

The report, Shelling Out: UK Government Spending on Unmanned drones, finds that the UK has spent £872m on five different drones that are currently in service with British forces, including £506m on the armed MQ-9 Reaper drone.  The UK has committed  a further £1,031m to developing new drones such as the Watchkeeper UAV and BAE Systems Taranis drone.  Finally the UK has funded £120m of research within UK universities and British defence companies looking at  unmanned systems.  This included £30m funding for the ASTRAEA programme to open up UK civil airspace to autonomous drones.

In addition to the £2bn already spent, in 2013 the UK is likely to begin committing funds to the Scavenger programme to develop a new armed medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) drone.  The UK MoD estimates the Scavenger programme will cost £2bn over its lifetime.

Chris Cole, co-ordinator of Drone Wars UK and author of the new report said

“UN experts, legal scholars and civil liberties campaigners are all expressing serious concerns about the rising use of unmanned drones.  At a time of tough spending cuts it cannot be right that the UK is continuing to pour billions of pounds into developing new drones without proper parliamentary scrutiny or debate of the serious legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of this technology.

Drones do not create security – just the opposite in fact.  We have seen plenty of evidence of this over the past few years, but the lesson has been brought home yet again this week  in the remarkable report Living under Drones, which shows that in Pakistan drones are creating fear, instability and many, many civilian casualties.

Rather than spending further billions on more drones what’s needed is investment in tackling the underlying causes of insecurity.  That means devoting resources to measures designed to seriously tackle inequality and injustice in the world  – such as the Millennium Development Goals.   Today, in the midst of a global economic and environmental crisis, we need to jettison ever-increasing military spending and technological security fixes in favour of a sustainable security strategy that puts people – and especially the poor -  at its centre.”

Average yearly UK spending on droves compared to annual amount of global spending needed to achieve four key Millennium Development Goals

Click here to download  ‘Shelling Out: UK Government Spending on Drones’

by Olga Denisova

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: “To a great extent the ongoing violence in Syria should be blamed on the countries that incite anti-Assad forces to deny a ceasefire and seek a change of regime. Actually, this approach hardly differs from the principles of terrorism applied by the armed opposition groups.”

The Russian delegation pointed out that no resolution was required for starting a dialogue on the basis of the principles of the Geneva Communique. Russia’s partners in BRICS share this opinion. Among five BRICS member-states, Russia and China are permanent members of the UNSC. The BRICS member-states adopted a joint resolution at the UN General Assembly session.

*      *      *

Refusal to apply the Geneva agreements on Syria reached on June 30, 2012 puts at risk the implementation of the key principles outlined by the UN Security Council in the fight against terror. The participants in a high-level UNSC meeting on the Middle East on Wednesday voiced different approaches to the situation in Syria.

The Syrian crisis has remained the thorniest Middle Eastern issue for more than a year. Meanwhile, all major UNSC member states had expressed their views on the situation before the UN General Assembly session opened in New York on Tuesday. US leader Barack Obama again stressed that peace will come to Syria only after President Bashar Assad resigns. French President Francois Hollande urged the UN to take active steps in Syria and protect the areas controlled by the opposition. Not only Syrians have found themselves directly or indirectly involved in the conflict. Only a consolidated approach can result help in finding the right solution, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said:

“To a great extent the ongoing violence in Syria should be blamed on the countries that incite anti-Assad forces to deny a ceasefire and seek a change of regime. Actually, this approach hardly differs from the principles of terrorism applied by the armed opposition groups.”

The French president accused the UNSC of inactivity which often looks somehow ‘selective’. The attacks which rocked Syria in the past two months were not in any way condemned by the UNSC. Speaking to journalists, Sergei Lavrov spoke about the decision of some countries to revise the Geneva agreements:

“It is important that all participants in the Geneva session adhere to what they had signed up to. Some of Russia’s Western partners condemn the attacks but then say that although ‘terrorism is evil there is no other way to people in Syria to topple the bloody regime’. This is a very dangerous position which looks as if they were justifying terrorism.”

The final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria has been approved by the permanent members of the Security Council, the League of the Arab States, Turkey, the EU and the UN Secretary General. However, for some countries this document is just a piece of paper.

It was not originally planned to adopt any resolution on Syria at the latest session of the Security Council. The Russian delegation pointed out that no resolution was required for starting a dialogue on the basis of the principles of the Geneva Communique. Russia’s partners in BRICS share this opinion. Among five BRICS member-states, Russia and China are permanent members of the UNSC. The BRICS member-states adopted a joint resolution at the UN General Assembly session.

“The joint declaration of the Foreign Ministers of the BRICS countries objectively estimates the ways of solving the Syrian crisis and supports the Geneva Communique as a basis for these actions. This is a good basis for reaching a consensus in the UN Security Council, the current absence of which is so saddening for some of our colleagues.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also stressed that there was no military solution to the Syrian crisis and the unsettled conflict was a threat to the security of the entire region.

The UNSC member-states pointed out that changes currently taking place in the Middle East were only the beginning of the road. New conflicts will be looming large if political reforms are not carried through, which is impossible without modernizing the economy and the social sphere.

The Syrian problem is not the only one in the region. No substantial achievements are evident in solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict either.

“Russia is insistently calling for stepping up the efforts of the ‘quartet’ of Middle Eastern intermediaries in close cooperation with the League of Arab States to speedily resume the Palestinian-Israeli talks. We believe that the ‘quartet’s inability to organize a ministers’ meeting at the current UN General Assembly session is a serious mistake.”

It was said in the corridors of the UN General Assembly that the meeting of the intermediaries in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement did not take place because the US was against it.

 

The Syrian Crisis: “Polarization of Opinion” at the UN

September 27th, 2012 by Ilya Kharlamov

Western leaders making similar statements in New York is only natural given their permanent drive to rein in Damascus and Tehran and revise the current system of international relations in circumvention of the UN.

“We know that Qatar sponsors a spate of negative changes that are taking place in Northern Africa, and that Qatar lends support to Syrian rebels. I think that the time is ripe for considering slapping sanctions on this gas dwarf.”

Participants of the 67th General Assembly in New York have remained at odds over the situation in Syria. On Thursday, Qatar urged interference in the political standoff between Syrian authorities and rebels, something that was supported by France and Tunisia. Moscow, Tehran and Cairo, for their part, continue to call for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the discussion in absentia, warning against taking decisions on Syria that bypass the UN.

All those urging the ouster of the Assad regime by outside forces specifically pointed out the UN’s current inability to act. British Prime Minister David Cameron, in turn, said that the blood of children killed during the civil war in Syria was a “terrible stain on the reputation of the United Nations.” He was echoed by French President Francois Hollande who described the UN’s inaction as “shocking.”

Western leaders making similar statements in New York is only natural given their permanent drive to rein in Damascus and Tehran and revise the current system of international relations in circumvention of the UN. Adding fuel to the fire was a statement by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruling Emir of the State of Qatar, who called for mulling a military intervention in Syria, where he said a no-fly zone should be created.

This is a very dangerous tendency, believes Igor Korotchenko, a Moscow-based political analyst.

“Qatar acts as an instigator of sorts,” Korotchenko says, referring to Qatar possessing hefty sums and local tribal leaders’ ambitions. “We know that Qatar sponsors a spate of negative changes that are taking place in Northern Africa, and that Qatar lends support to Syrian rebels. I think that the time is ripe for considering slapping sanctions on this gas dwarf,” Korotchenko says.


Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott in 2010

Western elites and their Middle Eastern partners are irked with the position taken by Moscow and Beijing, which have repeatedly blocked the UN Security Council’s resolutions on Syria.

In an interview with the Voice of Russia broadcast on Thursday, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, lambasted Western countries’ push for meddling in the Syrian conflict. He attributed this push to the West’s dissatisfaction with its own actions, Lukyanov said.

“The situation in Syria came to a standstill,” Lukyanov says, separately referring to the killing of a US Ambassador to Libya that recently hit international headlines. “Some in the United States have already slammed Washington’s desire to interfere in the Syrian conflict that I think reflects the West’s inability to act,” Lukayanov says, singling out the West’s frustration about Bashar Assad still being in power in Syria.

For his part, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called the resolution of the Syrian problem one of his key priorities. He added that this would help Syria contain a threat of a foreign military intervention that he stressed is being opposed by Cairo. Morsi was echoed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who said on Thursday that the Syrian crisis should only be resolved through a national consensus in a wide-scale inter-Syrian dialogue under the UN’s aegis. Lavrov was speaking during his meeting with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

GRTV: Egypt Must Reclaim Non-Aligned Legacy

September 27th, 2012 by Rick Rozoff

Press TV
September 27, 2012

Israel refusal to join NPT, inexcusable: Analyst

Interview with Rick Rozoff, Center for Research on Globalization

VIDEO

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has warned Israel over its saber-rattling against Iran and the obstructionism of Tel Aviv which is preventing the realization of a nuclear-free Middle East.

The Middle East “no longer tolerates” any country’s refusal to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), “especially if this is coupled with irresponsible policies or arbitrary threats,” Morsi said in his address at the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

The Egyptian leader was referring to Israel’s policy of ambiguity about its military nuclear activities, which has helped it procure the Mideast’s only nuclear arsenal.

Press TV has interviewed Rick Rozoff, with the Center for Research on Globalization, from Chicago about the issue. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: I wanted to ask you, firstly, how you assess the relationship between Egypt and Israel especially since the fall of Mubarak and especially with this recent speech of President Morsi?

Rozoff: Yes, the speech today before the General Assembly in the United Nations by newly-elected President Morsi appears to signal a significant shift in the Egyptian position not only vis-à-vis Israel, but I would say in terms of intervening actively against threats by the United States, Israel and its allies – verbal at this point, perhaps more in the future – against Iran and other neighboring countries.

Considering the significance of Egypt in the Arab world, having the largest population, that this is a very meaningful transition, apparently, and one that I hope President Morsi and his government continue with.

Press TV: How does that equal then with Morsi’s government essentially saying that they will keep the “peace treaty” with Israel alive?

Rozoff: Well, that’s not the only impediment to Egypt realizing really its legacy – one that went back to Nasser of course – as being an independent, non-aligned country and that hopefully Egypt will reassert itself in that capacity, but it means, first of all, seriously reexamining the Camp David Accords and everything that has followed.

But it also means the military client state relationship it has with the United States. The fact that it remains a major member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partnership program, called the Mediterranean Dialogue, to continue along the path of genuine non-alignment and de-militarization of the region and ultimately all over the world, Egypt would have to sever its close military ties with the United States and would have to withdraw from the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue program.

Press TV: How significant is Morsi’s call for Israel to join the NPT and on that topic of nuclear non-proliferation also about the fact that every nation has the right to peaceful nuclear energy?

Rozoff: That’s a very good combination of requests, or of demands. First of all, it is inexcusable that Israel has remained a non-signatory nation to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for half a century practically.

And it’s this sort of rogue activity of Israel and its major sponsor of course the United States; ‘law of the jungle’ is an expression that Egypt’s Morsi used and that’s not an inaccurate one. That is, the largest beast who feels it can operate with impunity summarily violates international law and Israel is certainly doing so in relation to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That’s a legitimate demand. It should be taken up seriously by the [UN] General Assembly and it should be introduced into the Security Council.

GRTV: Islam and the Politics of Hegemony

September 27th, 2012 by Chandra Muzaffar

GRTV: US Unleash Hell in Syria, New Violence Levels Reached

September 27th, 2012 by Patrick Henningsen

L’arte della guerra. Libia: petrolio rosso sangue

September 27th, 2012 by Manlio Dinucci

È uscito il secondo episodio di  «Humanitarian War», famosa fiction washingtoniana sulla Libia. Ecco il trailer: aiutati i libici a liberarsi dal feroce dittatore, i buoni, guidati dall’eroico Chris, continuano ad aiutarli con uguale disinteresse; ma i cattivi – i terroristi ancora annidati nel paese – uccidono Chris che «rischiava la vita per aiutare il popolo libico a costruire le fondamenta di una nuova e libera nazione» (Hillary Clinton) e, «fatto particolarmente tragico, lo uccidono a Bengasi, città che aveva aiutato a salvare» (Barack Obama);  il Presidente invia una «forza di sicurezza» in Libia, ma sono gli abitanti di Bengasi, scesi spontaneamente in piazza con cartelli inneggianti a Chris, a cacciare i cattivi dalle loro tane. In attesa del terzo episodio, uno sguardo alla realtà. Chris Stevens, ambasciatore in Libia dallo scorso maggio, era stato rappresentante speciale Usa presso il Cnt di Bengasi durante la guerra: ossia il regista dell’operazione segreta  con cui erano state reclutate, finanziate e armate contro il governo di Tripoli anche milizie islamiche fino a poco prima bollate come terroriste. Novello apprendista stregone, Chris Stevens è stato travolto dalle forze da lui stesso create quando, abbattuto il governo di Tripoli, in veste di ambasciatore Usa ha diretto l’operazione per neutralizzare le milizie ritenute da Washington non affidabili e integrare nelle forze governative quelle affidabili. Operazione estremamente complessa: ci sono in Libia almeno 100mila combattenti armati, appartenenti a svariate formazioni, comprese alcune gheddafiane. Tripoli controlla oggi solo una parte minore del territorio. È iniziata la digregazione dello stato unitario, fomentata da interessi di parte.

La Cirenaica – dove si trovano i due terzi del petrolio libico – si è autoproclamata di fatto indipendente, e lo vuol essere anche il Fezzan, dove sono altri grossi giacimenti, mentre alla Tripolitania resterebbero solo quelli davanti alle coste della capitale. La balcanizzazione della Libia rientra nei piani di Washington, se non riesce a controllare lo stato unitario. Ciò che preme agli Usa e alle potenze europee è controllare il petrolio libico: oltre 47 miliardi di barili di riserve accertate, le maggiori dell’Africa. Importante per loro è disporre anche del territorio libico per lo spiegamento avanzato di forze militari.

La forza di rapido spiegamento dei marines, inviata da Obama in Libia con il supporto dei droni di Sigonella, ufficialmente come risposta all’uccisione dell’ambasciatore, non è né la prima né l’ultima. Il Pentagono aveva già inviato forze speciali e contractor a presidiare le maggiori piattaforme petrolifere, e ora si prepara a un’azione «antiterrorista». Sono da tempo sbarcate le compagnie petrolifere che, con accordi ufficiali e sottobanco (grazie alla diffusa corruzione), ottengono contratti molto più vantaggiosi dei precedenti. Si prepara allo stesso tempo la privatizzazione dell’industria energetica libica. Partecipa alla spartizione del bottino anche il Qatar che, dopo aver contribuito alla guerra di Libia con forze speciali infiltrate e forniture militari, spendendo oltre 2 miliardi di dollari, ha ottenuto il 49% (ma di fatto il controllo) della Banca libica per il commercio e lo sviluppo. Un buon investimento, quello della guerra.

 

L’arte della guerra: L’Alcoa vola via sull’F-35

September 27th, 2012 by Manlio Dinucci

Ne è passato di tempo da quando gli operai avevano di fronte il padrone delle ferriere. Lo ignorano però i politici e sindacalisti che trattano la vicenda Alcoa solo come vertenza di lavoro, tacendo sulla reale identità della controparte. Che cos’è l’Aluminum Company of America? Nata nel 1888 a Pittsburgh, è oggi leader mondiale nell’estrazione e raffinazione della bauxite e nella fabbricazione di alluminio e prodotti derivati. Gli Stati uniti hanno però poca bauxite, i cui giacimenti si concentrano in Sudamerica, Africa, Russia, Cina, Sud-Est asiatico e Australia. L’Alcoa ha quindi sempre cercato di accaparrarsi la materia prima, ovunque e comunque. La sua storia è perciò intessuta con quella dell’imperialismo Usa. Non a caso, dopo il colpo di stato orchestrato dalla Cia in Indonesia nel 1965, con il massacro di oltre un milione di persone, fu l’Alcoa a ottenere dal dittatore Suharto la più grossa fetta della bauxite indonesiana. Fu ancora l’Alcoa che, dopo il colpo di stato organizzato dalla Cia in Cile nel 1973, riottenne da Pinochet il controllo della bauxite, nazionalizzata da Allende.  Non è neppure un caso che il presidente del Paraguay, l’ex vescovo Fernando Lugo, che voleva nazionalizzare le miniere di bauxite dell’Alcoa, sia stato destituito lo scorso giugno con un golpe bianco organizzato dalla Cia. Il potere dell’Alcoa, che possiede oltre 200 impianti in 31 paesi di tutti i continenti, va ben oltre l’attività industriale. Come emerso da Wikileaks, dietro l’Alcoa ci sono le più forti oligarchie finanziarie Usa, dalla Citicorp alla Goldman Sachs (di cui Monti è stato consulente internazionale).

C’è il complesso militare-industriale: l’Alcoa Defense, il cui fatturato è in forte crescita, fabbrica speciali leghe di alluminio per missili, droni, blindati, navi e aerei da guerra. Per i caccia F-35 produce elementi strutturali di primaria importanza (trasversali alla fusoliera in corrispondenza delle ali e interni alle ali). In tale quadro di poteri forti è maturata la decisione strategica  dell’Alcoa, dovuta a ragioni non solo economiche ma politico-militari: quella di realizzare in Arabia Saudita il più grande ed economico impianto integrato per la produzione di alluminio. Nel maxi impianto, che entrerà in funzione l’anno prossimo con energia e manodopera a basso costo formata in gran parte da immigrati, sarà trasferita anche la produzione Alcoa di Portovesme e forse di Fusina. Si conclude così l’operazione varata e perfezionata dai governi Dini, Prodi e D’Alema. Nel 1996 l’Italia cedette all’Alcoa il gruppo Alumix a partecipazione statale, base dell’industria nazionale dell’alluminio, quindi le fornì tramite l’Enel energia elettrica a prezzi fortemente scontati. Tale agevolazione, concessa tramite rimborsi anche dai successivi governi (Amato, Prodi e Berlusconi), è stata pagata dagli utenti italiani con un aggravio delle bollette per miliardi di euro, finiti nelle casse dell’Alcoa. Spremuto il limone, l’Alcoa se ne va. Lasciandosi alle spalle non solo lavoratori sul lastrico, ma danni ambientali e sanitari provocati da emissioni chimiche e rifiuti di lavorazione, che richiedono altri esborsi di denaro pubblico. Non tutto è perduto però: l’alluminio Alcoa tornerà in Italia. Dentro gli F-35, che ci costeranno  altri miliardi di euro.

Horrifying, Graphic Video of Iranian Leader Savagely Abusing Jews

September 27th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

 

We bring to the attention of our reader’s the following videos 
______________________________________________________________________
More Iranian barbarity towards Jews:

Background here, here, here and here.

Iran Reaffirms Offer on Nukes

September 27th, 2012 by Gareth Porter

In his swan song to the UN General Assembly, Iran’s term-limited President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is stirring up the usual media outrage with remarks on gays, freedom of speech and Israel. But the West still ignores a substantive Iranian proposal on uranium enrichment, writes Gareth Porter at Inter Press Service.

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

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

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at the United Nations General Assembly.

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

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

Soltanieh is the first Iranian official to go on record as saying Iran has proposed a deal that would end its 20-percent enrichment entirely, although it had been reported previously. “If we do that,” Soltanieh said, “there shouldn’t be sanctions.”

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

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

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

Soltanieh repeated the past Iranian rejection of any deal involving the closure of Fordow. “It’s impossible if they expect us to close Fordow,” Soltanieh said.

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

But Soltanieh pointed to the conversion of half the stockpile to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which was documented in the Aug. 30 IAEA report. “The most important thing in the (IAEA) report,” Soltanieh said, was “a great percentage of 20-percent enriched uranium already converted to powder for the Tehran Research Reactor.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the IAEA insisted on being able to “return” to topics that had been “discussed earlier,” according to the February negotiating text. That position remains unchanged, according to Soltanieh. The Iranian ambassador quoted an IAEA negotiator as asking, “What if next month we receive something else — some additional information?’”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. [This article was first published by Inter Press Service.]

Canada: Towards a Renewed Labour Movement?

September 27th, 2012 by Prof. Sam Gindin

At the end of the 1970s, just before the era of concessions began, the U.S. section of the United Auto Workers included some 700,000 members at the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler). In each subsequent round of bargaining, the union accepted concessions in exchange for the promise of ‘job security.’ Today, after three decades of this charade – sold by the union as well as the companies – there are 110,000 UAW members left at these companies, a stunning loss of almost 85 per cent of the jobs.

The Canadian section of the union resisted this direction for a time. In fact, it was tensions over the response to concessionary demands that led in 1985 to the Canadians breaking away from their parent and establishing the Canadian Auto Workers. As it turned out, the new union did somewhat better in terms of jobs for a significant period, but today their numbers too are dramatically down: from some 70,000 at the end of the 1970s to under 21,000 today, a fall of some two-thirds.

Since the early 1980s, real productivity in the Canada-U.S. auto industry (i.e. after discounting for inflation) has more than doubled. Real wages, on the other hand, have actually fallen in the U.S. and only increased moderately in Canada.

Worse for New Hires

For new workers, the change is even more shocking. An American autoworker hired at the Big Three today will be working at a lower inflation-adjusted wage than he or she would have gotten a half-century ago. In Canada, the real starting rate will now be 12 per cent below where it was when the Canadians split from the Americans a generation ago. And whereas new workers could expect to reach the top rate in 18 months then, they will now have to wait 10 years.

There are four crucial lessons to be taken from all this.

First, it is simply not credible to argue that concessions are a strategy for autoworkers ‘ultimately’ achieving a better life. Concessions not only increase inequality and dampen demand, leaving corporations reluctant to invest, but also are a diversion from addressing what really needs to be done to create jobs.

Second, the great productive potential of this sector cannot be met if we restrict that potential to making cars. With productivity improvements in the auto industry of 3 per cent per year when long-term demand is growing at less than 2 per cent per year, jobs will inevitably shrink over time – and this is aside from whether we really want or can sustain more cars on the road.

Rather than watching the disappearance of the productive assets we have in this sector, we should be talking about how to convert its flexible tools and equipment, creative engineering capacity and proven worker skills into meeting the obvious needs that environmental pressures will imply through the rest of the century.

Such transformations will have to include not just our energy and transportation systems, but also our factories and offices, the nature of our homes and appliances. This cannot happen, as experience shows, through reliance on markets and unilateral corporate decisions; a sustainable future demands placing some notion of democratic planning back on the agenda. (The technical feasibility of such changes was demonstrated as long ago as World War II when industries were converted to war production and back again in remarkably short periods.)

Renewed Labour Movement?

Third, it is hard to imagine a significant move in this direction without a push from a renewed labour movement. Unions themselves need to radically rethink their structures and role as representatives of working people. It isn’t enough to lament corporate and government attacks or to look to better PR or technical fixes. Two-tier wages for the same work, for example, alienate the very young workers on whom unions depend for their revival, and that lack of solidarity within the workplace destroys credibility in promises of broader solidarities beyond the workplace.

Unions will have to demonstrate in practice that they are leaders in the fight for needed social services, that they have ideas for job creation, and that they are ready to put their organizational resources into winning such directions. The right has radically and aggressively championed an agenda that has brought greater inequality and greater insecurity for working people. Only an equally radical and determined response can reverse this course.

Finally and more generally, we must come to grips with the fact that private investment is not going to lead us out of the immediate economic crisis. Though productivity has grown and costs have been restrained, the resultant hordes of cash – as has been much noted – are only sloshing around in corporate treasuries or in the financial ether. Neither further cuts in interest rates nor tax cuts will change this reality. Only direct government intervention in massive infrastructural spending and the expansion of needed public services will create jobs – and induce the private sector, in spite of itself, to meet the consequent spending. •

Sam Gindin is retired from the CAW, where he served as assistant to the president. He is the co-author with Leo Panitch of the recently released The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of the American Empire (Verso, 2012). This article first appeared in the Toronto Star.

Presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Dmitry Medvedev meeting in Moscow in May 2011

Pakistan-Russia ties are witnessing a fresh start with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expected visit, as quoted by Pakistan media in early October, the first visit by a Russian president to Pakistan. Something considered improbable in the past may soon become a reality as both sides are striving for a new start in bilateral ties.

Although Russian state media has cast doubts on Putin’s visit, yet it is obvious that even if the visit is cancelled another high level official, such as the foreign minister, will visit Pakistan.

The visit, primarily intended for a quadrilateral Afghan conference in Islamabad, would also include a one-on-one meeting with the president of Pakistan.

It is reported by Russian Foreign Ministry officials that both states would also sign multiple MOU’s (Memorandums of Understanding) on development and investment in the steel and energy sectors of Pakistan. President Asif Ali Zardari, while meeting with a high-level Russian delegation to Pakistan in early September headed by the Russian sports minister, expressed his desire for cooperation with Moscow in the aforementioned sectors.[i]

Historically, Russia and Pakistan have never enjoyed prolonged periods of fruitful ties. Even after Pakistan’s inception, Liaqat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister, preferred to visit the USA, even though invited first by the then Soviet government. Relations saw their only major high during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government, when on his visit, in 1974[ii], the Soviet government agreed to establish the Pakistan Steel Mill at its own expense, coupled with helping in the nuclear energy sector.

It was during the Zia-ul-Haq regime when the Carter administration of the USA, Saudi Arabia and General Zia teamed up with the help of right-wing parties to train the Mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan[iii].

Keeping in context Pakistan’s current political situation, the latest developments hold the utmost importance for the country. Currently, the United States and its allies have increased pressure on Pakistan to force support for Washington’s policy of strengthening its influence in the region, despite the apparent contradiction with the national interests of Pakistan. Along with that, the USA is also losing its influence in the region because of growing anti-US sentiment. That is why increased cooperation on a bilateral basis and within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will help address political and economic issues in Pakistan. This in turn will provide additional opportunities to Islamabad for a more independent foreign policy and lesser economic dependence on the United States and international financial institutions, apparently controlled by the US[iv].

Washington’s current policy and politics in the Afghan war seem to be aimed at diminishing the impact of Islamabad in the country and the peace process, and increasing the role of India in resolving the crisis[v]. Unsurprisingly, officials in Kabul also show an unfriendly attitude towards Pakistan, which is reflected in regular accusations against the Pakistani leadership regarding support of the Haqqani Network and other extremist organizations operating within Pakistan[vi] [vii] [viii].

With the current financial and strategic dependencies, Pakistan can only act as  a mere spectator against US policies and demands. Only by increasing cooperation with China and Russia will a regional approach in addressing the Afghan issue and ensuring stability in the country help Pakistan protect its national interests.

It is obvious that positive ties with Russia would not only give strategic strength to Pakistan but would also provide a good opportunity for overcoming the country’s energy woes coupled with enhancing regional trade and cooperation.

In the context of military cooperation, Air Chief Marshall, Tahir Rafiq Butt, visited Moscow in August, and termed his visit a significant development towards greater cooperation with Russia in the field of defence, particularly in air defence. It was also reported in the beginning of September that the Pakistan Army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, was also scheduled to visit Moscow for a high-level meeting with his Russian counterpart. This visit could be of huge significance as it points towards a major policy shift. A foreign office spokesman in Islamabad, on condition of anonymity, said:

“We have turned a new page in our relationship with Russia. It is a major shift”[ix]

Pakistan is an active member of the world community in combating terrorism and cross-border crime. Taking into account this special significance and the negative publicity it gathers from the world media even after making all its efforts and sacrifices, it would be useful to expand cooperation with the SCO states, especially Russia and China. This cooperation can also be in areas such as prevention and mitigation of natural and technological disasters, emergency management, training and development of local experts – in which Russia has rich experience – in regard to scientific and technical resources coupled with human and financial resources.

The current upturn in ties can be used to develop long-term economic cooperation with Russia. Moscow has expressed interest in participating in the construction of the TAPI (the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India, Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline), CASA-1000 (Central Asia South Asia Regional Energy and Trade) energy project and the Pakistan Steel Mill [x]. In this regard, Islamabad could prepare proposals for Moscow’s participation in the implementation of major infrastructure projects in the country, leading to a positive development in bilateral relations.

Pakistan enjoys a great strategic edge, serving as a bridge and corridor to different regions. This also gives Russia an attractive spot to materialize its strategic depth. Therefore, ongoing developments between Moscow and Islamabad, high-level visits, and Pakistan’s possible role in the SCO, signs for a greater South and East Asian alliance in the form of the SCO, and an axis of a China-Russia-Pakistan-Iran partnership can bring positive omens not only to the region but also to the Asian continent as a whole.

Notes

[i] http://tribune.com.pk/story/434697/bold-move-russia-shows-interest-in-iran-gas-pipeline-project/

[ii] http://orientalreview.org/2011/05/25/warming-ties-with-russia/

[iii] http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/headlinenewsd.php?hnewsid=3138

[iv] http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2011-05/25/content_12576227.htm

[v] http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Security-Watch/Articles/Detail/?lng=en&id=143969

[vi] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/9341684/Afghanistan-blames-Pakistans-intelligence-agency-for-Kabul-suicide-attack.html
[vii] http://tribune.com.pk/story/425065/kabul-blames-foreign-spy-agencies-for-insider-attacks/

[viii] http://tribune.com.pk/story/411902/kabul-blames-pakistan-for-cross-border-shelling/

[ix] http://tribune.com.pk/story/430434/shift-in-policy-army-chief-to-make-historic-moscow-trip/

[x] http://www.lisauk.com/view.php?i=92

Why Qatar wants to invade Syria

September 27th, 2012 by Pepe Escobar

Make no mistake; the Emir of Qatar is on a roll.

What an entrance at the UN General Assembly in New York; Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani called for an Arab coalition of the willing-style invasion of Syria, no less. [1]

In the words of the Emir, “It is better for the Arab countries themselves to interfere out of their national, humanitarian, political and military duties, and to do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed in Syria.” He stressed Arab countries had a “military duty” to invade.

What he means by “Arab countries” is the petromonarchies of the Gulf Counter-Revolution Club (GCC), previously known as Gulf Cooperation Council – with implicit help from Turkey, with which  the GCC has a wide-ranging strategic agreement. Every shisha house in the Middle East knows that Doha, Riyadh and Ankara have been weaponizing/financing/providing logistical help to the various strands of the armed Syrian opposition engaged in regime change.

The Emir even quoted a “similar precedent” for an invasion, when “Arab forces intervened in Lebanon” in the 1970s. By the way, during a great deal of the 1970s the Emir himself was engaged in more mundane interventions, such as letting his hair down alongside other Gulf royals in select Club Med destinations, as this photo attests (he’s the guy on the left).

So is the Emir now preaching an Arab version of the R2P (“responsibility to protect”) doctrine advanced by The Three Graces of Humanitarian Intervention (Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power)?

This is certainly bound to go down well in Washington – not to mention Ankara and even Paris, considering French president Francois Hollande has just called for UN protection of “liberated zones” in Syria.

As for the Emir’s Lebanon precedent, that’s not exactly uplifting, to say the least. The so-called Arab Deterrent Force of 20,000 soldiers that entered Lebanon to try to contain the civil war overstayed its welcome by no less than seven years, turned into a Syrian military occupation of northern Lebanon, left officially in 1982 and still the civil war kept raging.

Imagine a similar scenario in Syria – on steroids.

A ‘pretty influential guy’

As for the Emir’s humanitarian – not to mention democratic – ardor, it’s enlightening to check out what US President Barack Obama thinks about it. Obama – who defines the Emir as a “pretty influential guy” – seems to imply that even though “he himself is not reforming significantly” and “there’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar”, just because the emirate’s per capita income is humongous, a move towards democracy is not so pressing.

So let’s assume the Emir is not exactly interested in turning Syria into Scandinavia. That opens the way to an inevitable motive – connected to, what else, Pipelineistan.

Vijay Prashad, author of the recent Arab Spring, Libya Winter, is currently writing a series on the Syria Contact Group for Asia Times Online. He got a phone call from an energy expert urging him to investigate “the Qatari ambition to run its pipelines into Europe.” According to this source, “the proposed route would have run through Iraq and Turkey. The former transit country is posing to be a problem. So much easier to go north (Qatar has already promised Jordan free gas).”

Even before Prashad concludes his investigation, it’s clear what Qatar is aiming at; to kill the US$10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, a deal that was clinched even as the Syria uprising was already underway. [2]

Here we see Qatar in direct competition with both Iran (as a producer) and Syria (as a destination), and to a lesser extent, Iraq (as a transit country). It’s useful to remember that Tehran and Baghdad are adamantly against regime change in Damascus.

The gas will come from the same geographical/geological base – South Pars, the largest gas field in the world, shared by Iran and Qatar. The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.

Qatar, on the other hand, would rather build its pipeline in a non-”Shi’ite crescent” way, with Jordan as a destination; exports would leave from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Gulf of Suez and then to the Mediterranean. That would be the ideal plan B as negotiations with Baghdad become increasingly complicated (plus the fact the route across Iraq and Turkey is much longer).

Washington – and arguably European customers – would be more than pleased with a crucial Pipelineistan gambit bypassing the Islamic Gas Pipeline.

And of course, if there’s regime change in Syria – helped by the Qatari-proposed invasion – things get much easier in Pipelineistan terms. A more than probable Muslim Brotherhood (MB) post-Assad regime would more than welcome a Qatari pipeline. And that would make an extension to Turkey much easier.

Ankara and Washington would win. Ankara because Turkey’s strategic aim is to become the top energy crossroads from the Middle East/Central Asia to Europe (and the Islamic Gas Pipeline bypasses it). Washington because its whole energy strategy in Southwest Asia since the Clinton administration has been to bypass, isolate and hurt Iran by all means necessary. [3]

That wobbly Hashemite throne

All this points to Jordan as an essential pawn in Qatar’s audacious geopolitical/energy power play. Jordan has been invited to be part of the GCC – even though it’s not exactly in the Persian Gulf (who cares? It’s a monarchy).

One of the pillars of Qatar’s foreign policy is unrestricted support for the MB – no matter the latitude. The MB has already conquered the presidency in Egypt. It is strong in Libya. It may become the dominant power if there’s regime change in Syria. That brings us to Qatar’s help to the MB in Jordan.

At the moment, Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy is wobbly – and that’s a transcendental understatement.

There’s a steady influx of Syrian refugees. Compound it with the Palestinian refugees that came in waves during the crucial phases of the Arab-Israeli war, in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Then add a solid contingent of Salafi-jihadis fighting Damascus. Only a few days ago one Abu Usseid was arrested. His uncle was none other than Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the infamous former head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, killed in 2006. Usseid was about to cross the desert from Jordan to Syria.

Amman has been mired in protests since January 2011 – even before the spread of the Arab Spring. King Abdullah, also known as King Playstation, and photogenic Washington/Hollywood darling Queen Rania, have not been spared.

The MB in Jordan is not the only player in the protest wave; unions and social movements are also active. Most protesters are Jordanians – who historically have been in control of all levels of state bureaucracy. But then neo-liberalism reduced them to road kill; Jordan went through a savage privatization drive during the 1990s. The impoverished kingdom now depends on the IMF and extra handouts from the US, the GCC and even the EU.

Parliament is a joke – dominated by tribal affiliation and devotion to the monarchy. Reforms are not even cosmetic. A prime minister was changed in April and most people didn’t even noticed it. In an Arab world classic, the regime fights demands for change by increasing repression.

Into this quagmire steps Qatar. Doha wants King Playstation to embrace Hamas. It was Qatar that promoted the meeting in January between the King and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal – who had been expelled from Jordan in 1999. That left indigenous Jordanians wondering whether the kingdom would be swamped by yet another wave of Palestinian refugees.

Arab media – most of it controlled by the House of Saud – has been drowning in stories and editorials predicting that after the MB ascends to power in Damascus, Amman will be next. Qatar, though, is binding its time. The MB wants Jordan to become a constitutional monarchy; then they will take over politically after an electoral reform that King Abdullah has been fighting against for years.

Now the MB can even count on the support of Bedouin tribes, whose traditional allegiance to the Hashemite throne has never been wobblier. The regime has ignored protests at its own peril. The MB has called for a mass demonstration against the King on October 10. The Hashemite throne is going down, sooner rather than later.

It’s unclear how Obama would react – apart from praying that nothing substantial happens before November 6. As for the Emir of Qatar, he has all the time in the world. So many regimes to fall – and become Muslim Brothers; so many pipelines to build.

Notes:
1. Qatar’s emir calls for Arab-led intervention in Syria, The National, Sep 26, 2012.
2. Syria’s Pipelineistan war, Al Jazeera, Aug 6, 2012.
3. Qatar: Rich and Dangerous, Oilprice.com, Sep 17, 2012.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at [email protected]

Drones: Instruments of State Terror

September 27th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

A new report jointly prepared by Stanford University’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (SU) and New York University School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic (NYU) is titled “Living Under Drones.”Part one discusses strikes on rescuers, funerals, and other civilian targets. Part two examines surveillance, the effects of drones overhead, and how their use creates fear and distrust. Part three considers the economic and impoverishment hardships families and communities sustain.

Overall SU/NYU examines key aspects of the CIA’s drone policy. It exposes facts political Washington and media scoundrels suppress.

The dominant narrative claims drone strikes are precise and effective. They involve “targeted killings.” Terrorists are assassinated with “minimal downsides or collateral impacts.” As a result, America is much safer.

“This narrative is false.” It’s a bald-faced lie. Drone strikes are indiscriminate. Mostly noncombatant civilians are killed. The SU/NYU report followed nine months of intensive research.

They included two investigations in Pakistan. Over 130 interviews were conducted with victims, witnesses, and experts.

Thousands of pages of documentation and media reports were reviewed. This report “presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of” America’s drone-strike policy.

Firsthand evidence confirms it. So-called benefits don’t exist. Civilians sustain enormous harm. “Living Under Drones” exposes what official accounts won’t say.

Reevaluating Washington’s drone policy is urgently needed. Civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged. Significant evidence proves they’re commonplace.

US officials claim “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties alone. They lie. Coverup is policy.

At the same time, “it’s difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan.”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) provides best available aggregate public data. Last February, TBIJ published a report titled “Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals,” saying:

Predator drones sanitize killing on the cheap. Currently about one-third of US warplanes are drones. One day perhaps they’ll all be unmanned. Secrecy and accountability aren’t addressed. Aggressive killing is official policy. Little about it gets reported.

Civilian rescue parties, funerals, and weddings are targeted. Evidence disproves Obama saying drone killings are “targeted” and “focused.”

Obama’s a serial liar. Nothing he says is credible. Last winter he claimed drones haven’t “caused a huge number of civilian casualties. They’re targeted, focused at people who are on a list of active terrorists trying to go in and harm Americans.”

BIJ research showed otherwise. Hundreds of civilians are killed, including dozens of children. On the ground investigative work proved it. Eyewitnesses provided damning testimonies. Legal experts condemned Washington’s tactics.

In 2004 or earlier, Bush began drone attacks. Obama continues them relentlessly. Predator drones reign death on civilians regularly. CIA operatives conduct them. Battlefield casualty figures are suppressed.

Administration officials claim covert attacks anywhere in the world are legal. International, constitutional, and US statute laws say otherwise. Chief US counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said:

 ”Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the United States takes the legal position that, in accordance with international law, we have the authority to take action against al-Qaeda and its associated forces.”

“The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qaeda as being restricted solely to”hot” battlefields like Afghanistan.”

International law experts disagree. State-sanctioned extrajudicial killings are lawless. Harvard’s Naz Modirzadeh said:

“Not to mince words here, if it is not in a situation of armed conflict, unless it falls into the very narrow area of imminent threat then it is an extra-judicial execution.”

“We don’t even need to get to the nuance of who’s who, and are people there for rescue or not. Because each death is illegal. Each death is a murder in that case.”

Attorney for the charity Reprieve, Clive Stafford-Smith, said drone strikes targeting rescuers “are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield. It’s not legitimate to attack anyone who is not a combatant.”

Congress never debated or approved them. In the Af/Pak theater, America has about 7,000 drones operating. Another 12,000 stand ready on the the ground. They’re rapidly replacing manned aircraft. US aerospace companies have no ongoing research to develop new ones.

Privately some Pentagon commanders express unease about Obama’s drone policy. They’re extrajudicial. CIA enforces extreme secrecy. It won’t admit their operations exist.

Legal experts say drone killings outside war theaters set a dangerous precedent. Other countries may follow America’s lead. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns said:

“Our concern is how far does it go? Will the whole world be a theatre of war?”

“Drones, in principle, allow collateral damage to be minimized but because they can be used without danger to a country’s own troops they tend to be used more widely.”

“One doesn’t want to use the term ticking bomb but it’s extremely seductive.”

TBIJ reported harrowing narratives of survivors, witnesses, and family members. It provided detailed information on specific strikes.

SU/NYU said:

“US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.”

“Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning.”

“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.”

“Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior.”

Targeted areas are struck multiple times in quick succession. The practice is called “double tap.” It dissuades bystanders and professionals from helping. One group ordered staff to avoid struck sites for six hours before investigating.

People in targeted areas are on their own to help. What they find is horrifying. Strikes “incinerate” victims. They’re left in unidentifiable pieces. Traditional burials are impossible.

Firoz Ali Khan’s father-in-law’s home was struck. He graphically described what he saw, saying:

“These missiles are very powerful. They destroy human beings.”

“There is nobody left and small pieces left behind. Pieces. Whatever is left is just little pieces of bodies and cloth.”

A doctor who treated drone victims described how “skin is burned so that you can’t tell cattle from humans.” Another family survivor at the same site said his father was killed. “The entire place looked as if it was burned completely, so much so that even (the victims’) own clothes had burnt.”

“All the stones in the vicinity had become black.” Ahmed Jan lost his foot last March. He discussed challenges rescuers face in identifying bodies, saying:

“People were trying to find the body parts. We find the body parts of some people, but sometimes we do not find anything.” It’s incinerated and gone.

Rescuers, community and family members, and humanitarian workers are vulnerable. Parents keep children at home. With good reason, they’re traumatized. Fear grips everyone.

Families who lost loved ones or their homes now struggle to survive.

Official statements about drone killing keeping America safer are false.

At most, only 2% of victims are high-level combatants. Evidence suggests that US strikes facilitate anti-American recruitment. The New York Times said drone attacks replaced Guantanamo as “the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”

The vast majority of Pakistanis consider America the enemy.

Targeted killings also undermine respect for international and US rule of law principles. They’re lawless and unconscionable. Secrecy is official policy. Transparency and accountability are absent.

In light of serious concerns, SU/NYU’s report said Washington must conduct “a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits.”

A “significant rethinking (is) long overdue.” Policy makers can’t ignore civilian harm and counterproductive impacts much longer.

Rule of law principles are fundamental. Violating them encourages others to replicate US practices. US lives become vulnerable. That alone is reason enough to rethink policy. Most important is state-sanctioned murder. Nothing justifies what’s clearly illegal.

Stanford’s James Cavallaro was one of the report’s authors. He said “real people are suffering real harm,” but they’re largely ignored by US officials and in media accounts.

Cavallaro added that the study was intended to challenge official notions of precise targeted killings with little fallout. Investigative work proved otherwise.

CIA officials and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment. Perhaps they fear anything they say can be used against them. Whatever they say is false.

 

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

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

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

 Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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

Drone Warfare: The Brutal Reality

September 27th, 2012 by Julie Lévesque

A new study from Stanford University and New York University shows that the highly spoken of drone warfare, praised by both military and political officials, is pure fantasy:

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

This narrative is false. (Stanford/NYU, Living Under Drones.)

U.S. drones have been killing countless innocent civilians in Pakistan and elsewhere. Those killings are rarely acknowledged by the U.S. government, if only to make tasteless jokes. We may recall President Obama making fun of the efficient killing machine two years ago:

“The Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you, ‘predator drones.’ You will never see it coming.” (Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, May 1, 2010. Click on the link to view the video)

Reporting on the study, the The News International (Pakistan} wrote the following:

Just one in fifty victims of the CIA programme of “targeted” drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas are known militants, while between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year – of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children. (The News International (Pakistan), Pakistan. CIA Annihilation From The Air: Drone Warfare’s Invisible Dead, September 26, 2012.)

The Stanford/NYU study states further:

First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.”[2] It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan.

The report concludes that:

  •     US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.
  •     publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best.
  •     current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents.

What we are dealing with is a process of “remote killing” of civilians.

We bring to the attention of our readers a selection of Global Research articles regarding drone warfare.

 

DRONERQ-170_Sentinel_impression_3-view

Living Under Drones, Global Research News, September 26, 2012

 

drone

Pakistan. CIA Annihilation From The Air: Drone Warfare’s Invisible Dead, Stop NATO, September 26, 2012

 

drones

GRTV: Living Under Drones: The Brutal Reality of “Targeted Killing”, GRTV, September 26, 2012

 

drone

ACLU Sues CIA Over Drone Killings, Stephen Lendman, September 23, 2012

 

Spying  on Americans: 64 Drone Bases on US Soil

Spying on Americans: 64 Drone Bases on US Soil, Global Research, September 22, 2012

 

un2

UN Human Rights Rapporteur Calls on US to End the CIA’s Drone War in Pakistan, Farooq Yousaf, September 19, 2012

 

drone

Legal action over US Drone Strikes, Drone Wars UK, September 20, 2012

 

DRONERQ-170_Sentinel_impression_3-view

Mapping Drone Proliferation: UAVs in 76 Countries, Drone Wars UK, September 18, 2012

The China Japan Dispute Over Diaoyu Islands: Historical Analysis

September 27th, 2012 by Chandra Muzaffar

Tensions are rising in the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands —- 5 tiny islands and 3 rocks covering a mere 7 square kilometres in the East China Sea. It is unfortunate that this is happening especially when Chinese-Japanese economic ties have reached a new level since the end of last year with the two countries agreeing to use their respective currencies in their bilateral trade, instead of the US dollar.

To de-escalate tensions, Japan should make the first move. It was the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the islands from the Kurihara family on 11 September 2012 that ignited the present crisis. That decision should be rescinded immediately.

In fact, Japan has been upping the ante on Diaoyu — which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands — for some time now. It will be recalled that on 7 September 2010 when a Chinese fishing boat collided accidentally with a Japanese patrol vessel near Diaoyu, the captain and the crew of the Chinese boat were detained by the Japanese Coast Guard for a few days. Though they were all released in the end, the incident revealed a new toughness on the part of the Japanese. The Chinese have been reacting to this and other such incidents.

What explains this new toughness? Some analysts attribute it partly to the growth of the Political Right in Japanese politics. Japanese economic stagnation for more than two decades and China’s success in replacing Japan as the world’s second most important economy have increased the influence of conservative nationalist forces in the country who are now targeting China. Impending elections within the ruling Democratic Party and the forthcoming General Election have also widened the berth for conservative politics.

It is also not a coincidence that the Japanese Right has become more vocal— especially vis-a-vis China— at a time when the United States is seeking to re-assert its presence and its power in the Asia-Pacific region. In the last couple of years, US political and military officials have on a number of occasions underscored the significance of US-Japan security ties. Even on the Diaoyu dispute, the US government, while professing to remain neutral, has through the Pentagon made it clear that the Japan-US Security Treaty would come into force in the event of a military conflict between Japan and China.

This stance has to be viewed in the larger context of the US’s active military alignment with the Philippines in its recent clash with China over the HuangyanIsland in the South China Sea and its support for Vietnam in its longstanding tiff with China over parts of the Spratly Islands and the Paracels. For both Japan and the US there may also be other reasons why the Diaoyu Islands are important. In 1968-9, a United Nations agency, it is reported, had discovered potential oil and gas reserves near Diaoyu. The US military, it is not widely known, also uses one of the five islands — Kuba— as a practice range for aircraft bombing.

Whatever the reasons for holding on to Diaoyu, Japan’s claim to ownership is weak. There are books, reports and maps from the 15th century, during the period of the Ming Dynasty, that establish in no uncertain terms that Diaoyuis Chinese territory. The book Voyage with a Tail Wind and the Record of the Imperial Envoy’s Visit to Ryukyu bear testimony to this. Even writings by Japanese scholars in the late 19th century acknowledged this fact.

The challenge to Chinese ownership of Diaoyu came from Japanese annexation of the Islands in 1894-5 following the first Sino-Japanese War. China under the Ching Dynasty was too weak to fight back and regain lost territory. But annexation through military force does not confer legitimacy upon the act of conquest. This is why when Japan was defeated in the Second World War the victors who included China and the US recognised that Diaoyu was Chinese territory. Both the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration acknowledged this though for administrative purposes Diaoyu was placed under US control as part of its governance over the Ryukyu Islands. The US was then the occupying power in Japan following the latter’s surrender.

However, when China was taken over by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, the US changed its position and began to treat the Islands as part of Japan. The Chinese communist leadership protested vehemently. In 1971, the US Senate returned the Diaoyu Islands, together with Okinawa, to Japan under the Okinawa Reversion Treaty. Again, the Chinese government in Beijing objected, as did the Taiwan government which also regards the Islands as part of China. Since the normalisation of relations between China and Japan in 1972, both sides have agreed to allow their fisher folk to operate in the waters surrounding the Islands without resolving the issue of ownership. Of course, neither China nor Japan has relinquished even an iota of its claim in the last 40 years. Recent incidents have however forced this unresolved issue into the open.

Apart from taking the first step by abrogating its purchase of the Islands, as we have proposed, Japan should also come to terms with undeniable historical, legal and ethical facts. It must accept the irrefutable reality that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China. We realise that there are powerful vested interests that will not allow Japan to embrace this truth. Nonetheless, we should all try to persuade the Japanese government and the Japanese people that it would be in their best interest to do so. Governments in Asia should convey this message to Japanese elites through quiet diplomacy. Citizen groups throughout the continent should speak up in a firm and courteous manner. The media should play its role by laying out the arguments for an amicable resolution of the dispute which respects truth and justice.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Malaysia,

Indeed, with what peace of mind can President Obama sleep when even children get slaughtered in the drone assaults that he now personally approves? Appallingly enough, as part of his drone adventurism he has decreed that everyone within the vicinity of the targeted object be deemed a combatant, even if civilian, and liable to be decimated.

*       *       *

Doesn’t Obama’s conscience gets pricked when the Hellfire missile takes in its killer sweep a child playing with toys in his home or a mother feeding her baby in her compound?

It doubtlessly is a damning report that the researchers of an American universities have delivered on America’s drone adventurism. It succinctly brings out what a horrendous toll it has been exacting on innocent civilian lives and keeping the whole lot of the populace in the targeted areas in constant dread of drones and their fatal assaults.

The psychological impact on people is just terrible, it underlines. But will this report have any impact on the American strategists at all? Not even an outside chance.

At this time these times, civil society worldwide is up in protest against this American adventurism. It wants it to be stopped as this leads inevitably to the killing of civilians indefensibly. For this brutal collateral damage, even the UN human rights community is raising its voice increasingly loudly against the use of drone attacks by the American warlords to take out targets they deem a threat to American lives and assets.

The main plea of the dissenting voices is that the drones may be killing the terrorists, but no less are they mowing down innocent civilians who have nothing to do with terrorism. There indeed are very many voices that do not condone even the killing of terrorists in drone attacks, equating it with extrajudicial murder. They argue that no law, national or international, provides for the killing of a criminal or a suspect. Instead, every effort must be made to arrest them and bring them to justice in a court of law.

Nonetheless, all these pleas have fallen on deaf ears in Washington, so far. The decision makers over there remain unimpressed by the factual reality that these drone assaults are in fact proving counterproductive and creating more recruits for terrorism and extremism. Even as this drone adventurism is palpably giving a tremendous fillip to anti-Americanism worldwide, the American warlords yet stay unswayed. They are keeping up with it. Indeed, since the advent of Barack Obama’s presidency, they have further intensified it, raising a moral question that they must answer.

On what ground can they justify the killing of an innocent civilian even as collateral damage? The 9/11 holocaust was horrible, precisely because those slaughtered were no combatants but innocent civilians. And so has to be the killing of civilians in the drone strikes. Indeed, with what peace of mind can President Obama sleep when even children get slaughtered in the drone assaults that he now personally approves? Appallingly enough, as part of his drone adventurism he has decreed that everyone within the vicinity of the targeted object be deemed a combatant, even if civilian, and liable to be decimated.

The extent of his adventurism’s viciousness can easily be visualised from the destructive range of the Hellfire missile fired by drones. It not only destroys the struck target. It annihilates the compounds and assets in close vicinity and kills the human beings in and around them. Doesn’t Obama’s conscience gets pricked when the Hellfire missile takes in its killer sweep a child playing with toys in his home or a mother feeding her baby in her compound? What sin have they committed to meet such a tragic demise? Or do he and his war commanders think that the child, the mother and the baby should perish as they are not Americans and their lives are not even worth a dime?

Here there is certainly a moral question that is becoming increasingly compelling with each passing day and the American warlords can no longer evade answering it. So prompt they have always been in raising the issue of extrajudicial killings elsewhere in the world. And that promptness they have now to show in their own case. Of course, one could have no sympathy or compassion for those who kill and maim the fellow human beings in suicide bombings and terrorist blasts. But the murder of those having nothing to do with terrorism in the US drone attacks cannot be acceptable either and on no pretext could it be condoned or justified.

Myanmar’s Ethno-Sectarian Clashes: Containing China?

September 27th, 2012 by Nile Bowie

The sectarian violence in Myanmar’s western state of Arakan began in June 2012, and the plight of the persecuted Rohingya ethnic group has since created an international uproar. Displays of solidarity with the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people have been most potent throughout the Islamic world, with a broad spectrum of support ranging from moderate political leaders to extremist groups.

While rights advocacy groups robustly condemn Myanmar’s government for its role in the conflict, evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of violence was attributed to rioting civilians from both the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community and the ethnic Rohingya Muslim community. The initial violence broke out on May 28th after reports circulated that a Buddhist Rakhine woman was raped and killed by three Muslim men in the town of Ramri. Buddhist communities throughout the state responded by circulating an incendiary pamphlet containing details of the crime. This only served to enflame the already tense situation in Arakan, precipitating a series of events that would draw the attention and condemnation of much of the world.

On June 3rd, a large group of Rakhine villagers in Toungop stopped a bus and brutally killed 10 Muslims on board. In response to this contemptible act of brutality, several thousand Rohingya rioted in the town of Maungdaw on June 8th, destroying Rahkine property and killing an unknown number of predominately Buddhist villagers. These events prompted large-scale, sectarian violence that quickly swept through the Arakan State capital of Sittwe and surrounding localities. Mobs from both communities stormed unsuspecting villages, killing residents and destroying homes, businesses, and places of worship. Given the extreme poverty and sparse government security presence in the region, residents armed themselves with machetes, sticks, sharpened bamboo spears and other basic weapons in order to defend themselves. Vast stretches of homes, businesses, and property from both communities were completely destroyed, leaving thousands of residents displaced.

These events elicited an international outcry, with much of the world showing sympathy for the Rohingya communities who have long suffered systematic discrimination under Myanmar’s military junta that continues today under the newly elected civilian government. During the British colonial occupation, the lack of political borders between Arakan and Bengal (presently referred to as Bangladesh) caused the Muslim population to surge prior to Myanmar’s independence. It is precisely this migration that Burmans interpret to be evidence of the community’s illegal status. [1] Since 1982, a citizenship law passed by the former military government has excluded the Rohingya from citizenship, effectively rendering them stateless. Although records of Rohingya settlements in Arakan date back to the late 7th century, successive governments have asserted that the Rohingya are foreigners with no right to live in Myanmar, a view shared by much of the Arakan population and much of the dominant Burman ethnic group throughout the country.

The communal violence in Arakan has created a refugee crisis for neighboring Bangladesh – a nation of extreme poverty and high rates of population growth – which is not well prepared to cope with an influx of refugees. According to the United Nations Human Rights Agency (UNHCR), Bangladesh is currently host to some 29,000 recognized refugees who are housed in camps and receive international aid, as well as several thousand undocumented Rohingya living in makeshift communities. [2] Additionally, rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on the violence in Arakan state titled, “The Government Could Have Stopped This,” which alleges that Myanmar’s security forces initially stood by without intervening during the early stages of the unrest, before joining in with Rakhine mobs to target Rohingya communities. While it must be noted that the credibility of HRW’’s reports have come under scrutiny even from founder Robert Bernstein, who accuses the organization of using poor research methods and politicizing their testimony, the content published by HRW examining the violence in Arakan gives a general indication of what occurred. [3]

HRW’s report acknowledges the difficulty of verifying credible information and is based on 57 interviews with eyewitnesses and affected individuals, all of whom remain anonymous. Contrary to the popular perception of Rohingyas being victimized by unprovoked violence, the report concedes that members of the Muslim community indeed used brutal tactics of violence:

A 31-year-old Arakan mother of five told Human Rights Watch how a large group of Rohingya entered her village outside Sittwe around June 12 and killed her husband. She said the government had provided no security. “They killed him right there in the village,” she said. “His arm was cut off and his head was nearly cut off. He was 35 years old.” A 40-year-old Arakan man in Sittwe said, “The government didn’t help us. We had no food, no shelter, and no security [when we fled], but we protected ourselves using sticks and knives.” [4]

The report further details how local law enforcement, military personnel, and border patrol officers targeted Rohingya groups in the ensuing riots; a quite plausible scenario. This is followed in the report by hysterical accusations of systematic rape against Rohingyas carried out by security forces, a likely exaggerated claim. In the Libyan conflict 2011, HRW played a vital role in publishing accusations that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces took part in campaigns of mass rape. [5] Advocacy groups later questioned these allegations, leading some to accuse NGOs of knowingly publishing false claims. [6] The dominant theme throughout the report of unrest in Myanmar is the absence of security forces and their general inactivity. HRW also reports the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment being disseminated by Myanmar’s Buddhist monks:

Some Rohingya in displacement camps told Human Rights Watch that some Burmese soldiers had shown great compassion and gone to the market on their behalf to purchase rice and other necessities, but that their willingness to do so has since stopped. The soldiers’ refusal to informally help Rohingya buy food correlates with a local campaign by Arakan Buddhist monks—the most revered members of local Arakan society—who have distributed pamphlets advocating for separation of the communities and imploring the Arakan people to exclude Muslims in every way. “They are eating our rice and staying near our houses,” the author of one pamphlet told Human Rights Watch. “So we will separate. We need to protect the Arakan people…. We don’t want any connection to the Muslim people at all.” [7]

Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, whose administration instituted the most substantial economic and social reforms in decades, shocked many by telling the United Nations refugee agency that the Rohingya were not welcome, stating, “We will take responsibility for our ethnic people but it is impossible to accept the illegally entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity. We will send them away if any third country would accept them, this is what we are thinking is the solution to the issue.” [8] Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, whose movement has long received diplomatic and financial support from Britain and the United States, has disenchanted many international sympathizers by remaining willfully silent on the issue. It is essential to understand that the immigration policies of the Burman-dominated national political system remain consistent within both the ruling national government and Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), especially when dealing with the issue of the Rohingya:

“The Rohingya are not our citizens.” - Nyan Win, National League for Democracy Spokesperson

“There is no ethnic group named Rohingya in our country.” - Khin Yi, Immigration Minister [9]

Popular Ethno-Sectarian Nationalism & Democracy Promotion

Decades of international isolation under the rule of a paranoid and superstitious military elite have perpetuated the chauvinistic and xenophobic traits of the Theravada Buddhist culture practiced in Myanmar. In attempts to prevent political fragmentation, official mythology has long encouraged a sense of racial and moral superiority among the majority Burman Buddhists – who comprise 60 percent of the population – to the detriment of the nation’s many diverse ethnic and religious minority groups. Built on the foundations of Myanmar’s contemporary culture of national pride and militarism, the former regime perpetuated propaganda warning against multiculturalism, alleging that the health and purity of a uniquely Burman form of Buddhism were at risk from external contamination. Dr. Maung Zarni, an exiled dissident and research fellow at the London School of Economics, writes:

Burmese society as a whole remains illiberal and potently ethno-nationalist. The dominant Burmese worldview continues to rest on an enervating combination of pre-colonial feudalism, religious mysticism, belief in racial purity and statist militarism. This is a potent and poisonous combination. [10]

Zarni also highlights how the politics of Buddhist nationalism greatly restrict Suu Kyi’s options as she pursues reform, especially when dealing with the issue of Rohingya persecution. Zarni writes, “Politically, Aung San Suu Kyi has absolutely nothing to gain from opening her mouth on this, she is no longer a political dissident trying to stick to her principles. She’s a politician and her eyes are fixed on the prize, which is the 2015 majority Buddhist vote.” [11] Since being elected to parliament, Suu Kyi’s focus has been in the realm encouraging foreign investment; it is unlikely that she will use her platform to encourage racial tolerance. As she writes in her 1985 book Burma and India, for the Burman “racial psyche,” Buddhism “represents the perfected philosophy. It therefore follows that there [is] no need to either to develop it further or to consider other philosophies.” [12] Despite the liberal reforms undertaken by the civilian government, popular ethno-nationalist sentiment is pervasive, especially among communities of Buddhist monks.

In Myanmar, the revered status of monks prompted religious leaders to trigger a failed uprising against the former military junta during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a policy directive funded and supported by the United States and British governments. A report issued in 2006 by Burma Campaign UK entitled “Failing the People of Burma?” offers valuable insight into the “democracy promotion” efforts of Western governments. The report cites a statement issued by the US Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs on October 30, 2003:

“The restoration of democracy in Burma is a priority U.S. policy objective in Southeast Asia. To achieve this objective, the United States has consistently supported democracy activists and their efforts both inside and outside Burma…Addressing these needs requires flexibility and creativity. Despite the challenges that have arisen, United States Embassies Rangoon and Bangkok as well as Consulate General Chiang Mai are fully engaged in pro-democracy efforts. The United States also supports organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities. U.S.-based broadcasters supply news and information to the Burmese people, who lack a free press. U.S. programs also fund scholarships for Burmese who represent the future of Burma. The United States is committed to working for a democratic Burma and will continue to employ a variety of tools to assist democracy activists.” [13]

The US State Department, through the National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Institute, have financially supported dissident media both within and outside of Myanmar, including the New Era Journal, the Irrawaddy, the Democratic Voice of Burma, Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America, in addition to supporting organizations affiliated with Aung San Suu Kyi. [14] The popularity enjoyed by Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party within Myanmar is largely attributable to her affiliation with networks of Buddhist monks that have championed her cause. In a September 2012 article titled, “Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar,” AFP reported that many of the same monks who took part in 2007’s Saffron Revolution in support of Suu Kyi had now rallied behind President Thein Sein and his position on expelling the Rohingya. [15] Reports describe Wirathu, referred to in popular media as an “activist monk,” who rallied against Rohingyas and long advocated the release of political prisoners.

Ironically, Human Rights Watch reports that Wirathu was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison along with other monks for their role in inciting violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims. [16] Though he was later granted amnesty and released, his conduct hardly describes that of a “political prisoner.” HRW reports that organizations such as the Young Monks Association received support from Aung San Suu Kyi’s political movement – the same organization now inciting violence, calling for the expulsion of the Rohingya community. [17] In an article entitled, “Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned,” the Independent mentions the Young Monks Association as one of the groups involved in distributing anti-Rohingya propaganda flyers and attempting to block humanitarian aid from reaching Rohingya camps. [18] Ashin Htawara, another prominent exiled dissident and Buddhist monk encouraged Myanmar’s government to send Rohingya people “back to their native land” at an event in London hosted by the anti-Rohingya Burma Democratic Concern. [19] After fleeing Myanmar in 2007 following the Saffron Revolution, he continued to enthusiastically support the NLD, stating, “Aung San Suu Kyi is my special leader.”

In response to his comments toward the Rohingya community, Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, stated: “We were shocked to have [Ashin Htawara] propose to us that there should be what amounts to concentration camps for the Rohingya.” [20] Additionally, prominent democracy activists within the country such as Ko Ko Gyi, a former political prisoner, maintain that “the Rohingya are not a Burmese ethnic group. The root cause of the violence… comes from across the border.” [21] Myanmar’s nascent media freedom has developed in surprising ways, with social media users calling for ethnic cleansing of the kalar, a pejorative term used to demean people with Indian features. Foreign Policy reports of a popular backlash against foreign media outlets such as the BBC, while the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma recently fell victim to cyber attacks for their position on the Rohingya issue. [22]

The Role of Saudi-linked Terror Networks in Arakan

Appalling poverty, state-sponsored discrimination, and an absence of basic education are only some of the attributes that make Arakan state fertile ground for ideological extremism, especially as Rohingya feel pressured to preserve their cultural and religious identity. In his book, “The Talibanization of Southeast Asia” author Bilveer Singh describes how many of the predominantly Sunni Rohingya population population have opted for jihad in resentment following the destruction of their holy sites and removal of citizenship rights in 1982. Singh acknowledges that few Muslims in Myanmar have advocated armed struggle, but notes that groups such as the Bangladesh-based Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), as well as Myanmar’s most prominent political Islamic organization, the Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO), have historically maintained links with foreign organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. [23]

ARNO originated from the Arakan-based Mujahid Party, formed in 1947 with the aim of creating an autonomous Muslim state within the then-Federal Union of Burma. The group changed its name several times before shifting its objective to forming an autonomous state specifically for Rohingya. ARNO, in its contemporary form, is the result of a merger between three groups long marred by disunity and infighting: the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, and the Rohingya National Alliance. The UNHCR’s official chronology of Rohingya civilization in Myanmar cites the insurgent activity of Islamic groups from 1991 onwards:

At a secret camp deep in the jungle, run by the RSO [Rohingya Solidarity Organization], young Muslims are training to make war on the Buddhist military government of Burma. The goal of the rebels, calling themselves Mujahideen, is to restore the once independent Muslim homeland of Arakan on Burma’s west coast. It was an independent Muslim kingdom from 1430 to 1784 and now is the only Muslim majority province in Burma. [24]

Upon merging into ARNO, a new Central Committee was formed with Nurul Islam as President. Singh writes of Islam that he “has become a symbol of hope and confidence for the entire Rohingya people.” [25] Confidential diplomatic cables from the American Embassy in Yangon released by Wikileaks in July 2012 cite Myanmarese intelligence documents highlighting ARNO’s connections with al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups, and reveal that ARNO President Nurul Islam had departed to Saudi Arabia and onward to the United States:

ARNO group had an estimated strength of about 200 insurgents, of whom about 170 are equipped with a variety of arms. According to Fayos Ahmed, ARNO Military-in-Charge, Salem Ulah, had contacts with Al-Qaeda and some members of ARNO forces were arrested when they were sent to join the Taliban in Afghanistan and attacked the Americans. These ARNO forces were sent to Afghanistan along with Rohingya groups in Karachi, Pakistan. Rohingya groups are in many countries like Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, UAE, Palestine and Australia. Chairman Nurul Islam has received an American visa and departed for Saudi Arabia from Bangladesh, with an intent to reside in Saudi Arabia for a short period and then depart for the United States. [26]

If the Myanmarese intelligence reports cited by the US Embassy in Yangon were indeed accurate, then it would open the possibility of a foreign component fuelling the recent unrest in Arakan. This assertion makes sense considering the global rise of Saudi-sponsored Salafist movements aligned with US strategic objectives. Existing reports describe how communal violence was carried out with basic weapons, the role of ARNO operatives may have ranged from simply encouraging and inciting an armed response, to using small brigades of fighters to destroy property and commit violence, causing larger mobs to follow suit. Although the lack of technology, media penetration, and general instability in the region at the height of the violence make these accusations very difficult to prove, it is entirely plausible given that Myanmar’s state media has reported the presence of al-Qaeda in Arakan during the unrest. [27] Reports issued by the Associated Press assert that security officials detained and charged three aid workers with “inciting religious hatred and participating in arson attacks,” including 73-year old Kyaw Hla Aung from Netherlands-based AZG, accused of having terrorist links and arrested under Article 505 of Myanmar’s penal code:

“An hour or two before I was arrested, my home was raided. I don’t know by whom. All my papers and documents were scattered outside my house,” he said. “They said I had links to Al Qaeda.” [28]

These reports suggest that Myanmar’s government strongly believes that foreign terror networks have influenced the unrest in Arakan. While many would argue that Myanmar’s government could use the pretext of Islamic extremism to maintain its campaign of political repression, the ongoing persecution of Rohingya, as well as sectarian clashes, open a new strategic risk that could be exploited by foreign and domestic Islamist groups in order to further justify a violent response that would only cause the situation to deteriorate. In Indonesia, several hundred “hard-liners” from organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) threatened to storm the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta at the height of the unrest, but were prevented by security forces. [29] Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan also expressed willingness to wage jihad against Myanmar:

“We warn [the] Pakistani government to halt all relations with [the] Burmese government and close down their embassy in Islamabad otherwise we will not only attack the Burmese interests anywhere but will also attack the Pakistani fellows of Burma one by one… We want to remind our Muslims in Burma that we haven’t forgotten you, we will take revenge of your blood.” Ehsan added: “We appeal to [the] media especially who call themselves representative of Muslims to broadcast the real situation in Burma and what’s happening to Burmese Muslims… Taliban are with the Burmese Muslim brethren.” [30]

The Geopolitical Component: Thwarting Chinese Economic Development

The situation in Myanmar is not merely to be understood on an emotional and ethical level. Rather, it is shaped by significant geopolitical and economic realities. Enormous natural gas deposits valued at several billion dollars have been found in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Arakan State, where predominantly Chinese companies are mining in partnership with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. [31] Construction has begun on oil and gas transport pipelines from Arakan State to Yunnan Province in China. [32] Sittwe, capital of the Arakan State, is effectively the epicenter of one of China’s most crucial international investments, indispensable for Beijing in its effort to meet the increasing energy demands of its densely populated southwestern provinces. Additionally, ongoing ethnic conflicts in Myanmar correspond directly with large-scale Chinese development projects. Similar to other joint US-Saudi sponsored forms of destabilization; the modus operandi of these external networks has been to exacerbate long-standing ethnic and religious tensions to bring about far-reaching unrest. Political analyst Eric Draitser writes:

This project, a twin oil and gas pipeline, which would traverse Myanmar to link China’s southwestern Yunnan province with the Indian Ocean would, consequently, provide the Chinese land-based access to energy imports from Africa and the Middle East. Because of US naval dominance, not being completely reliant on commercial shipping is an integral aspect of the overall Chinese strategy. The pipeline itself is not the only issue for the Chinese. Sittwe is the site of the major Chinese-funded port, which, aside from being the starting point of the pipeline, is a vital access point to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Imports such as minerals and other raw materials from Africa as well as oil from the Middle East would be shipped through this port (along with the Pakistani port of Gwadar) for sale on the Chinese market. It is for this reason that Sittwe is of crucial significance to Chinese economic development. Naturally, as Sittwe and the rest of the Rakhine state descends into chaos and the international community clamors for some form of intervention, the port, pipeline and other projects cannot continue as planned. [33]

The development of China’s economy has been accompanied by a dependence upon offshore resources, primarily from reserves in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Angola. For Beijing, energy security is essential to the continued growth of its economy, which, in turn, ensures domestic political stability. 80 percent of China’s oil imports currently pass through the Strait of Malacca, a narrow waterway located between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, linking the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean. [34] The importance of the Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline, consisting of two parallel oil and gas pipelines, is its function as an alternative transport route for crude oil imports from the Middle East to potentially bypass the Strait of Malacca, thus deterring the ability of hostile naval powers to disrupt a vital energy corridor to China. The United States has announced its plans to reposition 60 percent of its navy to the Asia Pacific region by 2020, as cited in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance report entitled, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” This crucial document highlights Washington’s growing emphasis on containing China’s military buildup in a move to enhance American presence in one of the most economically dynamic parts of the world. [35]

Washington’s endorsement of a strategy designed to contain China is attributable to US foreign policy theoreticians such as Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, co-founder of the neoconservative political organization, Project for the New American Century. Kagan’s 1997 article, “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment,” argues that the most effective means of preserving the present international order that “serves the needs of the United States and its allies, which constructed it,” is not to accommodate the peaceful rise of China, but to strengthen American military capabilities in the region and to work towards political change in Beijing:

The changes in the external and internal behavior of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted at least in part from an American strategy that might be called “integration through containment and pressure for change.” Such a strategy needs to be applied to China today. As long as China maintains its present form of government, it cannot be peacefully integrated into the international order. [36]

Kagan describes how China’s leadership interprets Washington’s interests in the Asia-Pacific as a move to “severely limit their own ability to become the region’s hegemon,” namely by countering Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. Reports issued by the United States Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute reflect the adoption of Kagan’s containment methodology. “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power Across the Asian Littoral,” authored by Lieutenant Colonel Christopher J Pehrson, highlights China’s geopolitical interests and economic presence in several regions, which include a container shipping facility in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the construction of a deep water port in Sittwe, Myanmar, in addition to the construction of a navy base in Gwadar, Pakistan, among other locations. Reports issued by the Washington Times confirm that Pehrson’s containment strategy has been employed as policy, reissued in a paper entitled “Energy Futures in Asia,” produced by defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. [37]

It appears that the sectarian violence in Arakan State beginning in June 2012 is the likely result of covert intelligence operations aiming to destabilize western Myanmar to counter China’s vital economic investment in the region. This is in line with Washington’s policy objectives of curbing Beijing’s influence in Southeast Asia. Reforms introduced by President Thein Sein have opened the door to mass foreign investment, the political ascension of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the presence of American NGOs associated with and financially supported by US State Department, including Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Foundations, U.S. Campaign for Burma, and others. [38] While the United States has placed its support behind the National League for Democracy in the person of Suu Kyi, she has in turn exercised her influence to execute political and economic objectives that adhere to US foreign policy.

Suu Kyi and a stable of Western-funded NGOs have successfully used their influence to block the construction of a joint energy project between the Myanmar Ministry of Electric Power, Asia World Company, and the China Power Investment Corporation. The Myitsone Dam project in the northern Myanmar state of Kachin would have been the world’s 15th largest dam, set to be located on the Irrawaddy River in the northern Myanmar state of Kachin. The dam is intended to export a large percentage of its power to China’s Yunnan province, which would be taxed to provide revenue for Myanmar’s government and future development before being turned over fully to Myanmar after a 50-year contract. [39] While groups such as Human Rights Watch use their influence to oppose the construction the Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline and other projects under the guise of defending human rights, a remarkable lack of criticism is attributed toward Western oil firms operating in the country. [40]

In 2005, a group of villagers in Myanmar filed a lawsuit against Unocal, an oil firm that merged with the American-owned Chevron, and was later obliged to compensate the victims by court order. [41] Western corporations at the time exploited a legal loophole that allowed them to operate in Myanmar in defiance of US-led sanctions because their investments were agreed upon prior to the sanctions being issued. [42] Alongside the French-owned Total, Chevron was accused of collaborating with Myanmar’s military junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), by hiring military personnel to illegally confiscate land. Reports claim that soldiers used tactics of torture and intimidation to force villagers into unpaid labor during the construction of the Yadana Gas Project, a pipeline project that was established to transport natural gas from Myanmar’s Andaman Sea into Thailand. [43] While Beijing’s economic investment projects are sharply criticized by Aung San Suu Kyi, she has invited the very same Western corporations into Myanmar, despite the highly documented misconduct of these companies:

“I have to say that I find that Total is a responsible investor in the country, even though there was a time when we did not think they should be encouraging the military regime by investing in Burma. They were sensitive to human rights and environmental issues and now that we’ve come to a point in time when we would like investors who are sensitive to such issues, I am certainly not going to persuade Chevron or Total to pull out.” [44]

It would appear that the clear preference toward Western companies held by Myanmar’s opposition is maintained in exchange for the continued rhetorical support they receive from the United States and Europe – despite those companies presiding over the very same human rights abuses that Chinese firms are accused of. The political undercurrents of Western support are laid bare as American corporations begin to fully engage in investment opportunities throughout the country. Political analyst F. William Engdahl writes:

The US corporations approaching Burma are handpicked by Washington to introduce the most destructive “free market” reforms that will open Myanmar to instability. The United States will not allow investment in entities owned by Myanmar’s armed forces or its Ministry of Defense. It also is able to place sanctions on “those who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict or participate in military trade with North Korea.” The United States will block businesses or individuals from making transactions with any “specially designated nationals” or businesses that they control — allowing Washington, for example, to stop money from flowing to groups “disrupting the reform process.” It’s the classic “carrot and stick” approach, dangling the carrot of untold riches if Burma opens its economy to US corporations and punishing those who try to resist the takeover of the country’s prize assets. Oil and gas, vital to China, will be a special target of US intervention. [45]

Conclusion

Myanmar faces innumerable challenges in its pursuit of development. They range from combating forms of racism and violence that target Myanmar’s ethnic minorities to the lack of basic infrastructure and civic educational initiatives to maintaining national sovereignty while introducing liberalizing economic reforms. Although Myanmar’s civilian government led by Thein Sein has issued meaningful reforms, many exiles and activists perceive this administration to be a new face on an old and belligerent regime – despite being praised domestically for its position on expelling Rohingyas. As the country approaches its highly anticipated national elections in 2015, a victory for either side will likely not sit well with the other. Given the Western support allotted to Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party, it can be expected that the ruling government – should it win the 2015 elections – would be categorically condemned. Myanmar’s diverse mosaic of politically oppressed ethnic groups put the national government in a sensitive position; continued Western support for their autonomy or independence could give rise to the formation of break-away states, too small to assert their sovereignty at the foot of multinational corporations.

It remains very unlikely that Myanmar will repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law that removed basic rights from the Rohingya and other minorities. However, President Thein Sein has pledged to open schools for Rohingya, insinuating that they would be allowed to remain in the country. [46] Myanmar’s government would benefit by appeasing advocacy groups and lifting restrictions on humanitarian agencies to ensure they can freely move to remote villages in order to deliver necessary medical assistance, with governmental oversight.– Additionally, such agencies could investigate credible allegations of human rights violations and provide legal counsel to those detained in northern Arakan State. Greater focus should be placed on reconciliation talks between ethnic minority groups, although very little likelihood exists that such suggestions would be meaningfully applied given the tense climate of racial prejudice in Myanmar. In his 1934 novel, Burmese Days, author George Orwell writes:

 “To talk, simply to talk! It sounds so little, and how much it is! When you have existed to the brink of middle age in bitter loneliness, among people to whom your true opinion on every subject on earth is blasphemy, the need to talk is the greatest of all needs.”

Notes

[1] The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar), Kanda University of International Studies, 2005

[2] A review of UNHCR’s response to the protracted situation of stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, UNHCR, December 2011

[3] Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast, The New York Times, October 19, 2009

[4] The Government Could Have Stopped This, Human Rights Watch, August 2012

[5] Libya: Transitional Government Should Support Victims, Human Rights Watch, September 19, 2011

[6] Human rights organisations cast doubt on mass rape in Libya, June 24, 2011

[7] The Government Could Have Stopped This, Human Rights Watch, August 2012

[8] Myanmar president says Rohingyas not welcome, Daily News, July 12, 2012

[9] Special Report: Plight of Muslim minority threatens Myanmar Spring, Reuters, June 15, 2012

[10] Popular ‘Buddhist’ racism and the generals’ militarism, Democratic Voice of Burma, September 4, 2012

[11] Suu Kyi’s silence on Rohingya draws rare criticism, Associated Press, August 16, 2012

[12] Aung San Suu Kyi’s Buddhism Problem, Foreign Policy, September 12, 2012

[13] Failing the People of Burma? Burma Campaign UK, 2006

[14] Ibid

[15] Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar, AFP, September 02, 2012

[16] The Resistance of the Monks, Human Rights Watch, September 2009

[17] Ibid

[18] Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned, The Independent, July 25, 2012

[19] Crowd adores Suu Kyi at Nobel address, The New Age, June 16, 2012

[20] Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned, The Independent, July 25, 2012

[21] Ibid

[22] The Freedom to Hate, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2012

[23] The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, Bilveer Singh, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007

[24] Chronology for Rohingya (Arakanese) in Burma, UNHCR, 2004

[25] The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, Bilveer Singh, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007

[26] Arakan Rohingya National Organization Contacts With Al Qaeda And With Burmese Insurgent Groups On The Thai Border, Wikileaks, July 10, 2012

[27] The Freedom to Hate, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2012

[28] Three Arakan Aid Workers Handed Jail Terms, Democratic Voice of Burma, August 27, 2012

[29] Indonesian Islamic Hard-Liners Vow Jihad for Myanmar’s Rohingyas, The Jakarta Globe, July 13, 2012

[30] Burma’s Rohingya: A New Lightning Rod For Islamic Militants? International Business Times, July 26, 2012

[31] Shwe gas and pipelines projects, Bank Track, August 18, 2012

[32] China takes risky step with Myanmar pipelines, Reuters, February 03, 2012

[33] Towards a New “Humanitarian Front”? Myanmar and the Geopolitics of Empire, Centre for Research on Globalization, June 20, 2012

[34] China’s Energy Consumption and Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation To Address the Effects of China’s Energy Use, U.S. Navy War College, June 14, 2007

[35] Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, United States Department of Defense, Janurary 2012

[36] What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment, Carnegie Endowment, Janurary 20, 1997

[37] China builds up strategic sea lanes, The Washington Times, Janurary 17, 2005

[38] US eases Myanmar restrictions for NGOs, AFP, April 17, 2012

[39] Burma: Natural Gas Project Threatens Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, March 24, 2007

[40] Burma dam: Why Myitsone plan is being halted, BBC, September 30, 2011

[41] Killings alleged at Chevron’s Burma pipeline, SFGate, April 29, 2009

[42] Burmese Project Tests Unocal Resolve, The New York Times, May 22, 1997

[43] UNOCAL in Burma, Santa Clara University, November 3, 2005

[44] UPDATE 4-Suu Kyi says Myanmar needs responsible investment, Reuters, June 14, 2012

[45] Obama’s Geopolitical China ‘Pivot’: The Pentagon Targets China, Centre for Research on Globalization, August 24, 2012

[46] Burma’s President Tells VOA He Will Open Schools for Rohingya, Voice of America, August 14, 2012

Additional editing by Eric Draitser of StopImperialism.com

Nile Bowie is a Kuala Lumpur-based American writer and photographer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes :

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

 

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

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

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

[10] Robert Drews, op. cit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[28] David Christian, op. cit.

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

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

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

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

[33] David Christian, op. cit.

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

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

[36] András Róna-Tas, op. cit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[43] David Christian, op. cit.

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

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

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

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

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

[49] Johannes Brondsted, op. cit.

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

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

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

[53] Ibid.

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

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

[56] Franklin and Shepard, op.cit.

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

[58] Ibid

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

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

[61] Ibid.

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

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

[64] Ibid.

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

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

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

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

[69] Serhii Plokhy, op. cit.

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

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

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

[73] Janet Martin, op. cit.

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

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

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

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

[78] George Vernadsky, op. cit.

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

[80] George Vernadsky, op. cit.

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

[82] Richard Pipes, op. cit.

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

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

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

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

[email protected]

 

 

Dollar Hegemony in the Empire of the Damned

September 26th, 2012 by Colin Todhunter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama uses UN Speech to Threaten War against Iran

September 26th, 2012 by Bill Van Auken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living Under Drones

September 26th, 2012 by Global Research News

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

The complete study can be downloaded

 

Download Stanford/NYU Report

 

Executive Summary and Recommendations

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

This narrative is false.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Download Stanford/NYU Report

By Zhang Di

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Does NATO Need Military Bases In Afghanistan?

September 26th, 2012 by Ilya Kharlamov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*        *       *

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

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

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

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

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