Bolivia became the first McDonald’s-free Latin American nation, after struggling for more than a decade to keep their numbers out of ‘the red.’  And that fact is still making news.

After 14 years in the nation and despite many campaigns and promos McDonald’s was forced to close in 2002, its 8 Bolivian restaurants in the major cities of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

http://www.hispanicallyspeakingnews.com/uploads/images/article-images/McDonald%E2%80%99s_Closes_All_Their_Restaurants_in_Bolivia_bb.jpgMcDonald’s served its last hamburgers in Bolivia on a Saturday at midnight [2002], after announcing a global restructuring plan in which it would close its doors in seven other countries with poor profit margins.

The failure of McDonald’s in Bolivia had such a deep impact that a documentary titled “Por que quebro McDonald’s en Bolivia” or “Why did McDonald’s Bolivia go Bankrupt,” trying to explain why did Bolivians never crossed-over from their empanadas to Big Macs.

The documentary includes interviews with cooks, sociologists, nutritionists and educators who all seem to agree, Bolivians are not against hamburgers per sé, just against ‘fast food,’ a concept widely unaccepted in the Bolivian community.

The story has also attracted world wide attention toward fast foods in Latin America.  El Polvorin blog noted:  “Fast-food represents the complete opposite of what Bolivians consider a meal should be. To be a good meal, food has to have be prepared with love, dedication, certain hygiene standards and proper cook time.”

 

The other day, I stood outside the strangely silent building where I began life as a journalist. It is no longer the human warren that was Consolidated Press in Sydney, though ghosts still drink at the King’s Head pub nearby. As a cadet reporter, I might have walked on to the set of Lewis Milestone’s The Front Page. Men in red braces did shout, “Hold the front page”, and tilt back their felt hats and talk rapidly with a roll-your-own attached indefinitely to their lower lip. You could feel the presses rumbling beneath and smell the ink.

This was the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, where I learned to report crime, courts, sport, killer bees, Rotary meetings and the arrival of almost famous people from that mysterious land, “overseas”. The proprietor was a former boxer, Frank Packer, immortalised in Cyril Pearl’s Wild Men of Sydney, and knighted for his vendettas against anyone to the political left of Pontius Pilate.

“Sir Frank” was seen on the editorial floor on Saturday nights after the races. If his horse had lost, fear and loathing were a presence. Once, he cancelled all the late editions and exiled the production staff to the King’s Head, where their necessary return was negotiated from a phone on the public bar.

My only encounter with Sir Frank was when I foolishly boarded a geriatric lift precariously filled with the corpulent proprietor and his two gargantuan sons, Clyde and Kerry. “Who the fuck are you?” said Kerry, later to find distinction as the money bags behind World Series cricket.

The training was superb. A style developed by a highly literate editor, Brian Penton, who had published poetry in the Telegraph, instilled a respect for English grammar and the value and informed simplicity. Words like “during” were banned; “in” was quite enough. The passive voice was considered lazy and banned, along with most clichés and adjectives — except those in the splenetic editorials demanding all Reds went to hell.  When I boarded a rust-streaked Greek ship for Europe, I was sorry to leave; I had begun to learn about the craft of journalism and about those who controlled it and used it and why.

A lesson that endures is that when the rich and powerful own the means of popular enlightenment and dress it up as a “free press”, bestowing a false respectability called the “mainstream”, the opposite is usually true. Sir Frank turned out to be a minnow compared compared with Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch bought the Packer newspapers in 1972 and today controls 70 per cent of Australia’s capital city press, along with dozens of local and regional newspapers. In Adelaide and Brisbane he owns almost everything. Two conglomerates dedicated to a doctrinaire, often extreme world view — Murdoch’s News Limited and Fairfax Media — control 86 per cent of the Australian press.

This absence of choice and real dissent, let alone “balance”, extends to the national broadcaster, the ABC, a progeny of the BBC run as a corporate hierarchy. There are honourable exceptions, of course, among them Philip Dorling, Kate McClymont and Quentin Dempster. Unlike the US and Britain, independent online journalism is rare. The result is a sameness that seems remarkable and demeaning in a first world, educated society.

Murdoch’s augmented obsessions rule. The Labor government of Julia Gillard is loathed by his newspapers. This is inexplicable as Labor’s policies are more or less those of the conservative coalition of Tony “Mad Monk” Abbott. When Communications Minister Stephen Conroy proposed timid post-Leveson regulation, he was depicted as Stalin in the fashion of the Sun in London. When Labor’s prime minister in 2010, Kevin Rudd, announced a modest tax on the mega-profits of the mining companies, he was deposed by his own party following a propaganda campaign across the media, largely funded by the mining lobby.

Public perception of non-conformist minorities, especially Australia’s indigenous people, is often taken from the media. These unique first people are seen as “bludgers” – spongers. This inverts a truth that is never news: a parasitical, lucrative white industry is effectively licensed by federal and state governments to exploit indigenous hardship.

Like America, Australia in its early colonial days had a vibrant press, a “medley of competing voices”, wrote Edward Smith Hall, editor of the crusading Sydney Monitor.  Journalists were “the voice of the people” and not of the “trade of authority”.  In the late 19th century, there were 143 independent newspapers in New South Wales alone. By 1988, the empires of Murdoch, Fairfax, Packer empires and Alan Bond, later imprisoned for the country’s biggest corporate fraud, dominated the “mainstream” as an exclusive Order of Mates.

This is true across much of the democratic world.  The medley of voices on the internet has dented monopoly media power, though the same monopolies are now consuming the web. “Social media” are largely introverted, a look-at-me peep show for the digitally besotted. As the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta approaches, hard-won rights such as the presumption of innocence are buried beneath the tentacular might of corporate systems.

Ironically, in the “information age”, censorship by omission is a weapon of this power – the silencing of whistleblowers without whom journalism can never be free, and of a compliant, privileged “left”.  Militarised policing, displayed recently in Boston, consumes an America waging “perpetual war” and now threatening China. In Europe, a savage class war rages from Greece to Spain and Britain. It is no surprise that newspapers in thrall to this corrupt power are ailing.

Edmund Burke mythologised the press as a Fourth Estate. Today, we need a “fifth estate” right across the media and in journalism training and on the streets. We need those like Edward Smith Hall, who see themselves as agents of people not power.

For more information on John Pilger, please visit his website at www.johnpilger.com

The Deep Politics of Hollywood

May 9th, 2013 by Matthew Alford

Tom Cruise – “the world’s most powerful celebrity” according to Forbes Magazine – was unceremoniously sacked in 2006. His dismissal was particularly shocking for the fact that it was carried out not by his immediate employer, Paramount Studios, but rather by Paramount’s parent company, Viacom. Viacom’s notoriously irascible CEO Sumner Redstone – who owns a long list of media companies including CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, and VH1 – said that Cruise had committed “creative suicide” following a spate of manic public activity. It was a sacking worthy of an episode of The Apprentice.[i]

The Cruise case points to the overlooked notion that the internal mechanisms of Hollywood are not determined entirely by audience desires, as one might expect, nor are they geared to respond solely to the decisions of studio creatives, or even those of the studio heads themselves. In 2000, The Hollywood Reporter released a top 100 list of the most powerful figures in the industry over the past 70 years. Rupert Murdoch, chief of News Corporation, which owns Twentieth Century Fox, was the most powerful living figure. With the exception of director Steven Spielberg (no. 3), no artists appeared in the top 10.

Each of the dominant Hollywood studios (“the majors”) is now a subsidiary of a much larger corporation, and therefore is not so much a separate or independent business, but rather just one of a great many sources of revenue in its parent company’s wider financial empire. The majors and their parents are: Twentieth Century Fox (News Corp), Paramount Pictures (Viacom), Universal (General Electric/Vivendi), Disney (The Walt Disney Company), Columbia TriStar (Sony), and Warner Brothers (Time Warner). These parent companies are amongst the largest and most powerful in the world, typically run by lawyers and investment bankers.[ii] Their economic interests are also sometimes closely tied to politicised areas such as the armaments industry, and they are frequently inclined to cozy-up to the government of the day because it decides on financial regulation.

As Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Professor Ben Bagdikian puts it, whereas once the men and women who owned the media could fit in a “modest hotel ballroom,” the same owners (all male) could now fit into a “generous phone booth.” He could have added that, whilst a phone box may not exactly be the chosen venue for the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone, these individuals do indeed meet at plush venues such as Idaho’s Sun Valley to identify and forge their collective interests.

Of course, the content of a studio’s films is not, as a rule, determined entirely by the political and economic interests of its parent company. Studio CEOs typically have considerable leeway to make the pictures they want to make without direct interference from their ultimate masters. At the very least, however, the content of Hollywood studios broadly reflects their wider corporate interests, and, at times, the parent companies behind the studios take a conscious and deliberate interest in certain movies. There is a battle between “top down” and “bottom up” forces, but mainstream media and academia have traditionally focused on the latter, rather than the former.

Consider last year’s blockbuster Australia, the epic from Baz Luhrmann. Two of the film’s most salient aspects were that, firstly, it glossed-over the history of Aboriginal people, and, secondly, it made Australia look like a fantastic place to go on holiday. This should come as no surprise – Twentieth Century Fox’s parent company (Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp) – worked hand-in-hand with the Australian government throughout the film’s production for mutual interests. The government benefited from Luhrmann’s huge tourist campaign, which included not just the feature film itself but also a series of extravagant tie-in advertisements (all in apparent support of its ham-fisted Aborigine “reconciliation” programme). In turn, the government gave its favourite son tens of millions of dollars in tax rebates. The West Australian newspaper even alleged that Murdoch had his “journalistic foot soldiers” ensure that every aspect of his media empire awarded Australia glowing reviews, an assessment nicely illustrated by The Sun, which enjoyed the “rare piece of good old fashioned entertainment” so much that its reviewer was “tempted to nip down to the travel agent.”

There are historical precedents for such interference. In 1969 Haskell Wexler –cinematographer on One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest – had considerable trouble releasing his classic Medium Cool, which riffed on the anti-war protests at the Democrat Convention the previous year. Wexler claims he has Freedom of Information documents revealing that on the eve of the film’s release, Chicago’s Mayor Richard J. Daley and high sources in the Democratic Party let it be known to Gulf and Western (then the parent company of Paramount) that if Medium Cool was released, certain tax benefits and other perks in Gulf and Western’s favor wouldn’t happen. “A stiff prick has no conscience,” Wexler told us angrily, referring to Hollywood’s business leaders, “and they have no conscience.”

Wexler explained how this corporate plot was enacted so as to minimize attention: “Paramount called me and said I needed releases from all the [protestors] in the park, which was impossible to provide. They said if people went to see that movie and left the theatre and did a violent act, then the offices of Paramount could be prosecuted.” Although Paramount was obliged to release the film they successfully pushed for an X rating, advertised it feebly, and forbade Wexler from taking it to film festivals. Hardly the way to make a profit on a movie, but certainly an effective way to protect the broader interests of the parent.

Then there’s the more famous case of Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), the Michael Moore blockbuster which the Walt Disney Company tried to scupper despite it “testing through the roof” with sample audiences. Disney’s subsidiary Miramax insisted that its parent had no right to block it from releasing the film since its budget was well below the level requiring Disney’s approval. Disney representatives retorted that they could veto any Miramax film if it appeared that its distribution would be counterproductive to their interests. Moore’s agent Ari Emanuel alleged that Disney’s boss Michael Eisner had told him he wanted to back out of the deal due to concerns about political fallout from conservative politicians, especially regarding tax breaks given to Disney properties in Florida like Walt Disney World (where the governor was the then US President’s brother, Jeb Bush). Disney also had ties to the Saudi Royal family, which was unfavourably represented in the film: a powerful member of the family, Al-Walid bin Talal, owns a major stake in Eurodisney and had been instrumental in bailing out the financially troubled amusement park. Disney denied any such high political ball game, explaining they were worried about being “dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle,” which it said would alienate customers.

Disney has consistently spread pro-establishment messages in its films, particularly under subsidiary banners such as Hollywood Pictures and Touchstone Pictures (although Oliver Stone’s 1995 Nixon biopic is a notable exception). Several received generous assistance from the US government: the Pentagon-backed In the Army Now (1994), Crimson Tide (1995), and Armageddon (1998), as well as the CIA-vetted Bad Company (2002) and The Recruit (2003). In 2006, Disney released the TV movie The Path to 9/11, which was heavily skewed to exonerate the Bush administration and blame the Clinton administration for the terrorist attacks, provoking outraged letters of complaint from former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.

The nature of Disney’s output makes sense when we consider the interests of the higher echelons of the corporation. Historically, Disney has had close ties with the US defense department, and Walt himself was a virulent anti-communist (though reports about him being a secret FBI informant or even a fascist are rather more speculative). In the 1950s, corporate and government sponsors helped Disney make films promoting President Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” policy as well as the infamous Duck and Cover documentary that suggested to schoolchildren that they could survive an atomic attack by hiding under their desks. Even now, a longtime Directors Board member of Disney is John E. Bryson who is also a director of The Boeing Company, one of the world’s largest aerospace and defence contractors. Boeing received $16.6bn in Pentagon contracts in the ­aftermath of the US invasion of Afghanistan[iii]. This would have been no small incentive for Disney to avoid commissioning films critical of Bush’s foreign policy, such as Fahrenheit 9/11.

It is hardly surprising that when Disney released Pearl Harbor (2001) – a simplistic mega-budget movie made with full cooperation from the Pentagon, and which celebrated the American nationalist resurgence following that “day of infamy”– it was widely received with cynicism. Yet, despite lamentable reviews, Disney unexpectedly decided in August 2001 to extend the film’s nationwide release window from the standard two-to-four months to a staggering seven months, meaning that this ‘summer’ blockbuster would now be screening until December. In addition, Disney expanded the number of theatres in which the film was showing, from 116 to 1,036. For the corporations due to profit from the aftermath of 9/11, Pearl Harbor provided grimly convenient mood music.

But whilst movies like Australia and Pearl Harbor receive preferential treatment, challenging and incendiary films are frequently cast into the cinematic memory hole. Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) was a graphic expose of the Salvadorian civil war; its narrative was broadly sympathetic towards the left wing peasant revolutionaries and explicitly critical of U.S. foreign policy, condemning the United States’ support of Salvador’s right wing military and infamous death squads. Stone’s film was turned down by every major Hollywood studio – with one describing it as a “hateful piece of work” – though it received excellent reviews from many critics. The film was eventually financed by British and Mexican investors and achieved limited distribution. More recently controversial documentaries such as Loose Change (2006/2007), which argued that 9/11 was an “inside job,” and Zeitgeist (2007), which presents a frightening picture of global economics, have been viewed by millions through the Internet when corporate media wouldn’t touch them.[iv]

Universal studios’ contemporary output has been less rigidly supportive of US power, as films like Children of Men (2006), Jarhead (2005), and The Good Shepherd (2006) indicate. Still, with movies like U-571 (2000) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), it makes sense that Universal’s parent company is General Electric, whose most lucrative interests relate to weapons manufacturing and producing crucial components for high-tech war planes, advanced surveillance technology, and essential hardware for the global oil and gas industries, notably in post Saddam Iraq. GE’s board of directors has strong ties to large liberal organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation. Whilst ‘liberal’ may sound like a positive term after the unpopularity of Bush’s brand of conservatism, liberal organizations are cemented firmly in the bedrock of US elites and have frequently been architects of American interventionist foreign policy, including against Vietnam. They are prepared to ally themselves with conservatives over certain issues, particularly national security, so it should come as no shock to find that GE was close to the Bush Administration through both its former and current CEOs. Jack Welch (CEO from 1981-2001) openly declares disdain for “protocol, diplomacy and regulators” and was even accused by California Congressman Henry Waxman of pressuring his NBC network to declare Bush the winner prematurely in the 2000 “stolen election” when he turned up unannounced in the newsroom during the poll count. Welch’s successor, the current GE CEO Jeff Immelt, is a neoconservative and was a generous financial contributor to the Bush re-election campaign.

Perhaps GE/Universal’s most eyebrow-raising release was United 93 (2006), billed as the “true account” of how heroic passengers on 9/11 “foiled the terrorist plot” by forcing the plane to crash prematurely in rural Pennsylvania. Although the film made a return on its relatively low investment, it was greeted with a good deal of public apathy and hostility prior to its nation-wide release. At the time, Bush’s official 9/11 story was being seriously interrogated by America’s independent news media: according to the results of a 2004 Zogby poll, half of New Yorkers believed “US leaders had foreknowledge of impending 9/11 attacks and ‘consciously failed’ to act,” and, just one month prior to the release of United 93, 83% of CNN viewers recorded their belief “that the US government covered up the real events of the 9/11 attacks.” With the official narrative under heavy fire, the Bush Administration welcomed the release of United 93 with open arms: the film was a faithful audio-visual translation of the 9/11 Commission Report, with “special thanks” to the Pentagon’s Hollywood liaison Phil Strub tucked away discreetly in the end credits. Soon after the film’s nationwide release date, in what might be interpreted as a cynical PR move and as gesture of official approval, President Bush sat down with some of the victims’ family members for a private screening at the White House. [v]

GE/Universal’s Munich (2005) – Steven Spielberg’s exploration of Israeli vengeance following the Palestinian terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics – raises similar suspicions. Although the Zionist Organisation of American called for a boycott of the film because they felt it equated Israel with terrorists, such a reading is less than convincing. Indeed, by the time Munich’s credits begin to roll its overriding messages have been stamped indelibly into the brain by the film’s Israeli Special Forces characters: “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values,” “We kill for our future, we kill for peace,” and “Don’t f*ck with the Jews.” Predictably, Israel is one of GE’s most loyal customers, buying Hellfire II laser missiles as well as propulsion systems for the F-16 Falcon fighter, the F-4 Phantom fighter, the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, and the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. In Munich’s 167 minute running time the voice of the Palestinian cause is restricted to two and a half minutes of simplistic dialogue. Rather than being an “evenhanded cry for peace,” as the Los Angeles Times hailed it, General Electric’s Munich is more easily interpreted as a subtle corporate endorsement of the policies of a loyal customer.

On the most liberal end of the spectrum for movies in recent years has been Warner Bros. – JFK (1991), The Iron Giant (1999), South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999), Good Night and Good Luck (2005), V for Vendetta (2005), A Scanner Darkly (2006), Rendition (2007), and In the Valley of Elah (2007). It is indicative that following complaints about racial stereotyping in Warner Bros.’ Pentagon-sponsored action adventure, Executive Decision (1996), the studio took the unusual step of hiring the services of Jack Shaheen, an on-set adviser on racial politics, resulting in what was critically received as one of the best films of its genre in a generation, Three Kings (1999).[vi] It may be no coincidence that Warner Brothers’ parent company, Time Warner, is less intimately tied to the arms industry or the neoconservative clique.

But to have an idea of what happens to movies when you remove multinational interests from the industry, consider the independent distributor Lions Gate Films, which is still very much a part of the capitalist system (formed in Canada by an investment banker) but not beholden to a multibillion dollar parent corporation with multifarious interests. Although Lions Gate has generated a good deal of politically vague and blood ‘n’ guts products, it has also been behind some of the most daring and original popular political cinema of the past ten years, criticizing corporatism in American Psycho (2000), US foreign policy in Hotel Rwanda (2004), the arms trade in Lord of War (2005), the U.S. healthcare system in Michael Moore’s Sicko (2007), and the U.S. establishment in general in The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006).

It hardly needs re-stating that Hollywood is driven by the desire for dollars rather than artistic integrity. As such, cinema is open to product placement in a variety of forms, from toys, to cars, to cigarettes, and even state-of-the art weaponry (hence the “special thanks” to Boeing in the credits of Iron Man (2008)). Less obvious though – and less well investigated – is how the interests of the studios’ parent companies themselves impact on cinema – at both systemic and individual levels. We hope to see critical attention shifted onto the ultimate producers of these films to help explain their deradicalised content, and ultimately to assist audiences in making informed decisions about what they consume. As we peer up from our popcorn it is as well to remember that behind the magic of the movies are the wizards of corporate PR.

Matthew Alford is author of the forthcoming book “Projecting Power: American Foreign Policy and the Hollywood Propaganda System.” Robbie Graham is Associate Lecturer in Film at Stafford College. References available on request.

NOTES

[i] Most memorably, Cruise declared his love for Katie Holmes whilst bouncing up and down on Oprah (the chat show, not the woman).

[ii] The 2008 Fortune Global 500 list placed General Electric at no. 12 with revenue of $176bn. Sony was at 75, Time Warner at no. 150, The Walt Disney Company at no. 207, and News Corp at no. 280. By way of comparison, Coca Cola is at no. 403.

[iii] Interestingly, Disney’s CEO Michael Eisner was personally involved when it pulled Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect show after the host committed the cardinal sin of saying that the US use of cruise missiles was more cowardly than the 9/11 attacks, with Eisner “summoning Maher into his office for a hiding” according to Mark Crispin Miller in the Nation.

[iv] A less convincing but nevertheless intriguing case can be made for high political/economic influence over the distribution of John Carpenter’s satirical sci-fi They Live (1988), which depicted the world as being run by an invading force of evil space aliens, allied with the US establishment. The film was well received by critics (with the notable exceptions of the NYT and Washington Post) and opened at number one in the box office. It easily made its $4m investment back over the weekend, and although by the second weekend it had dropped to fourth place, it still made $2.7m. The distributing studio, Universal Pictures, published an advertisement during its run that showed a skeletal alien standing behind a podium in suit and tie, with a mop of hair similar to that of Dan Quayle, the new US Vice-President-elect. The Presidential election had been just a few days previous, on November 8th. Co-star Keith David observed: “Not that anybody’s being paranoid but… suddenly you couldn’t see it [They Live] anywhere – it was, like, snatched”.

[v] We stated elsewhere that representatives from Universal attended the screening. This was erroneous.

[vi] Shaheen also later assisted on Warner Bros.’ Syriana (2005).

KABUL: The United States has demanded nine permanent military bases in Afghanistan, something that has long fuelled concerns among regional countries, President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday.

In the bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) being negotiated between the allies, the president said: “The United States insists on its demands and interests and we stick to our own.”

Addressing a ceremony at the Kabul University, he said Washington had sought military bases in Nangarhar, Parwan, Balkh, Kabul, Paktia, Kandahar, Helmand and Herat provinces.

Iran and Russia have repeatedly opposed a permanent American military presence in Afghanistan, fearing it may exacerbate insecurity in their neighbourhood.

Given the fact that Afghanistan was going through a critical phase of history, his administration was doing its bit to exercise caution in taking important decisions, he observed.

He underlined the need for concrete steps to ensure a better future for the conflict-torn country, notably durable peace and economic security. With this in mind, Afghanistan had signed a strategic pact with the US, he said.

In return for the military bases, Afghanistan wanted the US to ensure its stability, strengthen its economy and equip its armed forces, the president explained.

Karzai believed the presence of US and other foreign troops after 2014 would be in Afghanistan’s interest, but the world had accord primacy to boosting its security forces.

“If they do it, we are ready to sign the BSA with America,” remarked the president, hinting at separate agreements with the NATO states that wanted to stay in Afghanistan after next year’s withdrawal of foreign combat troops.

The president tended to allay concerns about America’s continued presence in his country, saying Afghanistan desired robust ties to its neighbours. He hailed as a success his recent trip to Denmark, Finland and Poland.

The Basel Committee and the Global Banking Mafia

May 9th, 2013 by Valentin Katasonov

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (hereinafter – the Committee) is closely associated with supranational organisations like the Bank for International Settlements in Basel (BIS), which is often called the «club», the «headquarters» of central banks or the «Central Bank of Last Resort». The Committee’s office is situated in the BIS building. At the end of 1974, following the disequilibrium of international currencies and banking markets caused by the collapse of the Herstatt Bank in West Germany, the heads of central banks in the G10 countries established the Committee under the auspices of the BIS to develop common international rules with regard to banking supervision. The Committee formulates common standards for banking supervision and recommendations for their implementation, on the assumption that national authorised bodies (first and foremost central banks) will push them forwards in their own countries. With regard to G10, this is the group of countries that signed a general agreement on borrowing with the IMF in 1962 (Belgium, Great Britain, West Germany, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, France, Sweden, the USA and Japan). Switzerland, which was not a member of the IMF, joined in 1964, but the name of the group remained as before. Representatives from Luxembourg were also included in the Basel Committee from the very beginning and, from 2001, the Committee has included representatives from Spain. At present, the Committee includes representatives from central banks and national authorities on banking supervision from 27 countries (the 13 countries already mentioned along with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa and Turkey, which all joined the Committee in 2009). Over almost four decades of its activities, the Committee has published tens of documents on different areas of activity, including general issues on the organisation of supervision, capital adequacy, all kinds of risk, the corporate governance of lending and borrowing organisations and so on.

The Committee’s key area of activity is the definition of standards on capital adequacy for banks. All of the Committee’s documentation is centred around an incredibly simple ratio: equity : a bank’s capital = capital adequacy ratio.

Kabbalists of the money world are looking for this ratio’s magic number, which would guarantee the stability of the banking system. In fact, the Committee is seeking to legitimise what is a crime. In Europe, a system of so-called partial, or incomplete, coverage of obligations by banks as borrowing and lending organisations has already existed for a long time (at least since the 18th century). Figuratively speaking, this system allows banks to make money «out of thin air». For example, for every 1 dollar of lawful money that depositors place in a deposit account, banks are allowed to release 5 or 10 dollars of non-cash (credit) money by way of credit. This used to be called counterfeiting and was strictly punishable by law. Nowadays, it is called the «norm» or «principle» of banking, legalised by national laws, and in economic textbooks it is known as the «money multiplier». The principle of «partial» coverage (reservation) is «protected» by a supranational structure called the «Basel Committee on Banking Supervision», which lends the principle an appearance of respectability.

No cunning standards and formulae will remove the main effect of the «partial» coverage (reservation) of obligations – the banking crises. In the almost four decades that the Committee has existed, the world has been witness to a countless number of banking failures and crises. In order to prevent such problems, obligations need to be covered 100 percent, but then banks would be deprived of the opportunity to engage in their own «financial alchemy». There is a strict taboo on the honest and frank discussion of «partial» reservation both in central banks and the Committee: they are trying to convince the public that it is possible to invent a «magical formula» for capital adequacy so that banks can continue to make money «out of thin air» as before. This is outright deception.

Basel I and Basel II – straws for the drowning

Up to the end of 2012, two fundamental documents had been implemented by the Committee that defined the «magical formula» for capital adequacy and recommended that this formula be used by national authorities on banking supervision – Basel I and Basel II. The first of these came into existence in 1988 and had the very respectable name of the «International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards» (Basel I). This agreement defined the minimum capital adequacy ratio as 8 percent, calculated as the ratio of equity (regulated by the supervisory authority) to risk weighted assets. Only credit risks are taken into account (although a bank’s capital can be made up of investments as well as credits). In fact, the Committee gave the go-ahead for a financial-monetary orgy, respectfully called «the development of monetary and financial markets» in economic textbooks. The markets began to «blister», the «blisters» began to burst and the real economy and ordinary people suffered the most. To date, more than 100 countries in the world adhere to the rules of Basel I, according to the official declaration.

At the turn of the century, a new version of the standard began to be prepared called Basel II, which was to start in 2004. The new version contained extremely feeble attempts to take account of new banking risks (besides credit risks), especially in view of the rapid development of derivatives markets, the emergence of hedge funds and other institutional speculators, with which banks were extremely closely linked. At the height of implementing the new standard, the financial crisis of 2007-2009 broke out. It once again demonstrated that the Basel standards are no more than a fig leaf covering the tyranny of the world’s usurers. Basel II was unable to cure the world’s moneylenders of their greed, the global banking giant Lehman Brothers sank to the depths in front of everybody’s eyes and, in order to save others, America was forced to spend upwards of three trillion dollars from the public purse, with Europe spending about the same. There were even attempts to prove that it was the implementation of Basel II that had caused the start of the financial crisis, since in order to make up for the lack of equity, banks decided to use extremely risky methods to attract capital and had to go as far as falsification and outright deception (accounting offences, the use of off-balance sheet transactions, etc.). During the financial crisis, the Committee began to spasmodically introduce changes and amendments to the Basel II standard.

The features of Basel III

At long last, a new document emerged called Basel III. Proposals for Basel III were approved at the G20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010. Participants at the Summit also approved the timeline for the phased implementation of the standard. 1 January 2013 was given as the start date. The new document is exceedingly complex and voluminous, numbering nearly 800 pages. I would like to draw your attention to the following features:

1. The timeline for implementing the standard stretches to 2018; in other words, the standard is not «strict», it gives banks enough time for manoeuvre;

2. The bar for the capital adequacy ratio of banks was raised, but not so much that it would avoid new crises;

3. The role of the «human factor» in the assessment of banks by supervisory authorities was increased; and

4. Within equity, a special role has been given to gold as a financial asset.

In my opinion, the last feature is the most important; it is a high-quality innovation that distinguishes Basel III from Basel II.

In previous Basel standards, only cash (which comes under the heading of «legal tender» in all countries) and government debt securities – Ministry of Finance and Treasury bonds – were regarded as high-quality equity. Moreover, this did not include all bonds, only those given the highest rating by leading international rating agencies. For a long time, the highest quality form of equity was considered to be US Treasury bonds. In other words, the banks in those countries that took part in Basel I and Basel II must have been helping Uncle Sam by purchasing US bonds and covering up the holes in the US budget, thereby supporting the US dollar and working against gold as the main rival to «green paper».

«Basel III»: the partial rehabilitation of gold

Before the 1970s, when the Bretton-Woods currency system existed in the world and there were not yet any «Basel» standards, everything was different. Banks were principally valued in terms of the amount of gold in their equity. The more gold there was relative to the total amount of capital and the total amount of assets, the safer the bank was believed to be. It was all simple, clear and logical. However, those good old times came to an end with the collapse of the gold standard and the IMF’s decision to carry out a full and final demonetisation of gold. Gold was demoted to a run-of-the-mill exchange commodity like oil, wheat or coffee. As a last resort, banks could use gold as an investment medium, but the metal stopped being regarded as a valuable financial asset.

Up to now, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has stored the gold in its «black body», so to speak. On the whole, the rules of the game were such that there was no benefit in banks hoarding their gold. At best, bankers regarded the yellow metal with the eyes of speculators buying and selling gold to make short-term profits.

Basel III has raised the status of gold dramatically. New rules have been provided to transfer gold to a bank’s tier 1 capital at 100 percent of its value. Banks now have the opportunity to replace their paper assets (primarily US Treasury bonds) with gold. Experts have calculated that such a practice will create additional demand for the precious metal to the extent of at least 1700 tonnes. There have been even higher estimations of up to 3000 tonnes. A number of experts believe that the development of Basel III was carried out with powerful lobbying from the Rothschilds, who have an interest in restoring the monetary status of gold in the world. For the last two centuries, the Rothschilds have had control over the main gold reserves, been involved in the extraction of gold and are «market makers» in the precious metals market. In September 2012, before the Basel Committee’s new standard had even come into force, the heads of one of the world’s largest banks, Deutsche Bank AG, which falls within the Rothschilds’ sphere of influence, made a public statement that gold had again been transformed from a commodity into money. The statement caused a painful reaction on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, first and foremost in the US Federal Reserve System. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, once again issued a standard statement that gold was far from the best type of money.

It is not difficult to see that Basel III is a blow to the US dollar and the American economy. America’s reaction was sufficiently prompt and harsh. At the end of last year, America’s monetary and financial regulators (the Federal Reserve system, the Deposit Insurance Agency and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency) reported that they had been sent a petition by leading American banks stating that the new Basel standards were crippling for lending and borrowing organisations. After this, the Federal Reserve System and other US financial regulators went to the Committee and announced that the introduction of Basel III in America was being postponed, and no date for transition to the new standard was given. At this point, European banks started to feel anxious, believing that if they began the transition to the new standard, they would find themselves uncompetitive in comparison with American banks. Therefore, they also refused to shift to Basel -III.

So who exactly has embraced Basel III since 1 January 2013? The list is not very long, with a total of 11 countries in all: Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, China, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Switzerland, South Africa and Japan. It is also possible to add India here, which announced it would be joining Basel III from 1 April 2013. It is remarkable that the list contains just four countries from the «golden billion» zone: Australia, Canada, Switzerland and Japan.

Turkey’s absence from the list is mysterious. The country actively encourages the wide use of gold in banking operations, and the proportion of gold in the equity and assets of Turkey’s banks compared with other countries is high. In reality, the Turkish banking sector is completely ready to implement the Basel III standards. As the London newspaper the Financial Times observed, the policy of the governor of the Central Bank of Turkey, Erdem Başçı, has yielded impressive results for Turkish banks: they have attracted 8.3 billion US dollars in new deposits through gold programmes over the last 12 months and are now able to channel these resources into lending.

One can observe that nearly all the leading gold producers are on the list given above: China, South Africa, Canada and Australia. A number of the countries on the list are leading importers of gold (China, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and India). China, which has been included on the list of «golden» leaders, has long been hinting at the possibility of transforming the Yuan into a gold standard. Switzerland, meanwhile, is pushing forward a project to introduce a parallel currency within the country in the form of a gold franc.

«Basel III»: banks’ U-turn on gold

The implementation of the new Basel rules could lead to a radical change in the positions of individual countries’ banks in the global financial system. To begin with, it is expected that the positions of Chinese banks will become stronger, bearing in mind that for several years in succession, China has ranked first in the world in terms of the volume of gold both extracted and imported. The positions of those banks that bravely embraced Basel III will also become stronger, since the price of gold over the last 12 years has shown an unprecedentedly high growth rate – an average of 17 percent per year. In 2012, a troy ounce of gold cost 1700 dollars. According to many gold traders, meanwhile, the «fair» («equilibrium») value of metal is at a level of no less than 5000 dollars. Whoever managed to get on the «gold train» by buying low-cost tickets will be much more likely to find themselves on the global financial Olympus tomorrow.

Even those banks that have still not entered the zone of Basel III activities understand that their future depends on how quickly they will be able to turn towards gold. IMF and World Gold Council statistics do not give a clear picture of gold purchases by the entire banking sector. However, there are statistics for the purchase and sale activities of central banks in the gold market. Following the collapse of the Bretton-Woods currency system, central banks across the world sold more gold than they bought for more than three decades. After the recently concluded financial crisis, the situation changed dramatically. In 2011, net purchases of gold by the world’s central banks amounted to 457 tonnes. This is more than 10 percent of the total demand for precious metals on the world market (4400 tonnes). During the 15 years preceding the crisis, meanwhile, net purchases totalled an average of 400 tonnes per year. Thus, the central banks made a sharp about turn and started to purchase gold in the kinds of volumes that had not been observed since the 1960s. Last year was a record year in terms of the amount of net purchases of gold by the world’s central banks since 1964. According to preliminary data released by the World Gold Council, a new record will also be set in 2012: the net purchase of gold by the world’s central banks rose to 536 tonnes.

With regard to commercial banks, before the introduction of the Basel III standard they only saw gold as a way to increase their own profits through speculation and/or investment, but they had no incentive to establish their own considerable reserves of precious metals. I think their attitude to gold is going to change in 2013, they will buy it for themselves with a view to improving the sustainability of their business and attracting clients.

The validation of the Basel III standards in a number of countries in 2013 is a serious indication that gold has returned to the world of money. We are not yet talking about the classical gold standard, of course, whereby banks are able to freely exchange paper money for metal. But metal may become more widely used to cover banks’ liabilities and be a financial asset of the «highest authority». Who knows, maybe in the future, when banks have accumulated enough gold, the issue of the reinstatement of the gold standard will be put back on the agenda…

The Extinction of Animal and Plant Species

May 9th, 2013 by Rebecca Sato

Should we be alarmed at the current massive die-offs being noted in the animal and plant kingdoms? After all, new species arise and old species die off all the time. Its just nature taking its course, right? Not necessarily. The Earth is now entering the sixth mass extinction event in its four-billion-year history, but what’s different about this die-off is that this is the only such event precipitated by a biotic agent: humans.

The extinction numbers far outweigh the emergence of new species. From a purely selfish perspective, humans should be very concerned. Since we haven’t terraformed Mars yet, we still need a livable ecosystem on this planet in order to survive. As mass extinction occurs, experts say that we end up dealing with serious consequences. Recently, a team of scientists have discovered new information, that indicates things are worse than we previously thought.

“There’s no question that we are in a mass extinction spasm right now,” said David Wake, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley. “Amphibians have been around for about 250 million years. They made it through when the dinosaurs didn’t. The fact that they’re cutting out now should be a lesson for us.”

A recent study supported by The National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, found that nearly all of the amphibian species that inhabit the peaks of the Sierra Nevada are threatened. Wake and Vance Vredenburg, research associate at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley and assistant professor of biology at San Francisco State University discovered that for two of these species, the Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frog and the Southern Yellow-legged Frog, populations over the last few years declined by 95 to 98 percent, even in highly protected areas such as Yosemite National Park. This means that each local frog population has dwindled to 2 to 5 percent of its former size! Originally, frogs living atop the highest, most remote peaks seemed to thrive, but recently, they are also dying off.

In an article published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers argue that substantial die-offs of amphibians and other plant and animal species force us to accept that a new mass extinction is facing the planet.

Frogs are certainly not the only victims in this mass extinction, Wake noted. Many other scientists studying other organisms are discovering similarly dramatic effects.

Over 10,000 scientists in the World Conservation Union have compiled data showing that currently 51 per cent of known reptiles, 52 per cent of known insects, and 73 per cent of known flowering plants are in danger along with many mammals, birds and amphibians. It is likely that some species will become extinct before they are even discovered, before any medicinal use or other important features can be assessed. The cliché movie plot where the cure for cancer is about to be annihilated is more real than anyone would like to imagine.

“Our work needs to be seen in the context of all this other work, and the news is very, very grim,” Wake said.

As of yet, there is no consensus among the scientific community about when exactly the current mass extinction started, notes Wake. It may have been 10,000 years ago, when humans first came from Asia to the Americas and hunted many of the large mammals to extinction. It may have started after the Industrial Revolution, when the human population exploded. Or, we might be seeing the start of it right now. But whatever the start date, empirical data clearly show that extinction rates have dramatically increased over the last few decades.

Peter Raven, past President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, states in the foreword to their publication AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment, “We have driven the rate of biological extinction, the permanent loss of species, up several hundred times beyond its historical levels, and are threatened with the loss of a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.”

The causes of biocide are a hodge-podge of human environmental “poisons” which often work synergistically, including a vast array of pollutants and pesticides that weaken immunity and make plants and animals more susceptible to microbial and fungal infections, human induced climate change, habitat loss from agriculture and urban sprawl, invasions of exotic species introduced by humans, illegal and legal wildlife trade, light pollution, and man-made borders among other many other causes.

Is there a way out? The answer is yes and no. We’ll never regain the lost biodiversity-at least not within a fathomable time period, but there are ways to help prevent what many experts believe is a coming worldwide bio collapse. The eminent Harvard biologist Edward O Wilson has wisely noted that the time has come to start calling the “environmentalist view” the “real-world view”. We can’t ignore reality simply because it doesn’t conform nicely within convenient boundaries and moneymaking strategies. After all, what good will all of our conveniences do for us, if we keep generating them in ways that collectively destroy the necessities of life?

Psychopathy, Politics and The New World Order

May 9th, 2013 by Colin Todhunter

When attempting to analyse what is happening in the world, it is important to appreciate past economic, social and political processes that led us to where we are today. Understanding the tectonic plates of history that led certain countries towards fascism, communism or capitalist liberal democracy, for example, is essential (1) (2).

At the same time, however, it can become easy for us to push aside the individual as we focus on theoretical perspectives that refer to the ‘underlying logic of capitalism’ or some other notion that draws heavily on theory. It can get to the point where individual motive or intent (agency) is airbrushed from the narrative because human action is deemed to have been shaped by the dead weight of history or forces beyond our control.

While not wishing to understate the role that such constraints have on human action, I wish to draw attention to researcher Stefan Verstappen who provides valuable insight into how individual agency has shaped and continues to shape society (3).

While Machiavellianism has long been associated with politics and public conduct, Verstappen shifts focus somewhat by arguing that people with psychopathic personalities have for thousands of years tended to grasp power and impose their views and deeds on the rest of us. In order to get power, he concludes that people cheat, kill or lie their way to the top. Whether it has been due to the butchery or lies of royalty, religious leaders, politicians or corporate oligarchs, nice guys have tended to finish last.

What leads him to conclude this?

Psychopathy is a personality disorder identified by characteristics such as a lack of empathy and remorse, criminality, anti-social behaviour, egocentricity, superficial charm, manipulativeness, irresponsibility, impulsivity and a parasitic lifestyle (4).

With that definition in mind, look around: the criminal, parasitic activities by bankers that have plunged millions into poverty; the destruction, war and death brought to countries in order that corporations profit by stealing resources; the dropping of atom bombs on innocent civilians in 1945 or the use of depleted uranium which again impacts innocent civilians; and the many other acts, from the use of death squads to false flag terror, that have brought untold misery to countless others just because powerholders wanted to hold onto power or to gain more power, or the wealthy wanted to hold onto their wealth or gain even more.

Based on these terrible deeds, it becomes easy to argue that the people ultimately responsible for them do not adhere to the same values as ordinary people. It may be even easier to conclude that it’s not the cream that rises to the top, but, in many cases, the scum.

Now such a scenario might seem awful enough, but the people who tend to control the world, the ones responsible for these acts, try to impose their warped world view and twisted values on everyone else. Hollywood films, commercials and political ideology are all engaged in forwarding the belief that it’s a dog eat dog world, war and violence abroad is necessary, competition and not cooperative is what counts, aggression and not passivity is the key to ‘success’ and that success equates with amassing huge amounts of personal wealth and lavish displays of conspicuous consumption.

“A person with a psychopathic personality, which manifests as amoral and antisocial behavior, lack of ability to love or establish meaningful  personal relationships, extreme egocentricity, failure to learn from experience, etc.” - definition of a psychopath from Dictionary.com

Again, bearing this definition in mind too, the acts mentioned above are not those of properly functioning social beings that contribute to a sense of communality, altruism, love or morality; quite the opposite in fact.

Yet this is the type of stuff that is rammed down our throats as constituting normality every day. Whether it’s the ‘Big Brother’ TV show or ‘The Apprentice’ show, these values are promoted day and night. The ‘Big Brother’ winner is the one who can survive and outdo the competition in terms of the duplicity and backstabbing involved along the way. The winner of ‘The Apprentice’ must be more aggressive, more duplicitous, more devious and cunning and more willing to trample over everyone else. And the winner is judged as such by a multi-millionaire who himself was cunning and ruthless enough to have made it to the top of the pile and has amassed millions for his own personal benefit. These are the role models to be admired and emulated!

These are the measures of success, of sanity, of normality.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Apprentice competitors are highly driven individuals: not driven by a need to help humanity, but by egocentricity and greed. And, ultimately, these are the values that many mainstream opinion leaders, senior politicians and their corporate masters hold dear.

These values of egocentricity, aggression, competitiveness, duplicity and greed are not confined to some TV show. There are part of a much more sinister process. They are inextricably linked to and underpin the actions that resulted in the killing of half a million children in Iraq for geo-political gain (5) and the sending in of military forces into the jungles of India to beat, rape and dispose of a nation’s poorest people because they stand in the way of profit and greed (6). From Congo and Libya to Syria and beyond, we witness the outcome of a terrifying mindset that is nurtured and encouraged throughout society.

Too many people have become “well adjusted to the values of a profoundly sick society,” whether residing in middle England, middle America or the gated communities of south Delhi or Mumbai. Humanity is being beaten down to be neurotic, vicious and to regard these traits as constituting normal, acceptable behaviour. Thanks to the media, this becomes engrained from an early age as comprising ‘common sense’, and those who question it are merely sneered at or ridiculed by a system that promotes a mass mindset immune to its own lies.

Whether this is all due to psychopathy, narcissism or ‘Machiavellian personalities’ is open to debate. Moreover, as implied at the outset, historical and sociological factors often compel usually decent people to act in terrible ways. The debate within academic sociology between structure and human agency is after all a very long one (7). Whatever the underlying reason, however, as a global community we are being force fed a diet of perverse values and destructive actions, all spuriously justified on the basis that ‘there is no alternative’ and ‘needs must’.   

Corporate capitalism, consumerism, the new world order, a war on terror (or drugs or poverty, take your pick), neo-liberalism – call it what you will, but it’s all based on the filthy lie that those in control have wider humanity’s interests at heart. They don’t. By any means possible – war, murder, torture or propaganda, they seek to convince people otherwise. What price human life? None whatsoever for such people.  

Notes

1) Robert Brenner (1976), “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe”.Past and Present 70

2) Barrington Moore (1993) [First published 1966]. Social origins of dictatorship and democracy: lord and peasant in the making of the modern world (with a new foreword by Edward Friedman and James C. Scott ed.). Boston: Beacon Press.

3) Defense Against the Psychopath (2013): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQkDvO3hz1w

4) Polaschek, D. L. L., Patrick, C. J., Lilienfeld, S. O. (15 December 2011). “Psychopathic Personality: Bridging the Gap Between Scientific Evidence and Public Policy”. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 12 (3): 95–162. 

5) Reuters report (2000), UN Says Sanctions Have Killed Some 500,000 Iraqi Children: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/072100-03.htm

6) BBC Newsnight interview with Arundhati Roy (2011): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrYQmRBdMPQ

7) Colin Hay (2001), What Place for Ideas in the Structure-Agency Debate? Globalisation as a ‘Process Without a Subject’: http://www.criticalrealism.com/archive/cshay_wpisad.html

In a marked escalation of Washington’s propaganda against China, the US Defence Department has the first time named the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as being responsible for major cyber attacks on Western corporations and the US government.

The 2013 annual Pentagon report on the Chinese military depicts China as an aggressor threatening global cyber security and regional stability in the Asia-Pacific. The purpose is to justify the ongoing American buildup of naval, air, space and cyberspace warfare capacities against China—all part of the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia.

The report declared: “The US government continued to be targeted for (cyber) instructions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military.” The paper claimed that China was using the information it gathered for the purposes of “building a picture of US defence networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”

The Pentagon further alleged that the Chinese government was engaged in massive espionage operations to obtain advanced US technology in order to support China’s military modernisation.

These accusations provoked angry reactions from Beijing. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chungying said the Pentagon report “made irresponsible comments about China’s normal and justified defence buildup and hyped up the so-called China military threat.” She described the accusations of Chinese hacking activity as “groundless criticism and hype” that would “harm bilateral efforts at cooperation and dialogue.”

A People’s Daily commentary yesterday by Zhong Sheng—a pen name used by the Beijing leadership—said the real “hacking empire” was the United States, which was engaged in “espionage against not only against enemies but allies.” It said the US had a “cyber army” of 50,000 personnel, with 2,000 types of “cyber weapons.” Moreover, in 2011 Russia and China had proposed an “International Code of Conduct for Information Security” to the UN to prevent a “cyber arms race and war,” but the US alone had consistently opposed and blocked it.

A Global Times editorial yesterday advocated that China should respond in kind to the Pentagon accusations. “For instance, if the United States announced the formation of cyber war units, with stopping Chinese cyber attacks as the main justification, then China should pick a time to announce her own cyber war forces. The Americans should be let known that, it is they who had driven China to build a cyber army.”

The issue emerged three months ago, when the New York Times highlighted a study by a US computer security firm Mandiant, which named the PLA’s Unit 61398 as the largest source of theft of data from major US corporations and government departments in recent years. As it turned out, the firm provided no concrete evidence to support its claims. (See: “US uses hacking allegations to escalate threats against China”)

Nevertheless, President Barack Obama provocatively phoned Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately after Xi was officially inaugurated in March to demand that Beijing stop hacking. Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, delivered a speech in the same month declaring that American companies were facing “cyber intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale” and that “the international community cannot tolerate such activity from any country.”

While making unsubstantiated allegations against China, the Pentagon report passed over Washington’s cyber warfare preparations that will be aimed especially against China. In 2010, the White House inaugurated a separate Cyber Command. Obama allocated $13 billion for cyber warfare in fiscal 2014, even as his administration imposed savage cuts on essential social spending.

As in every military field, the US is seeking to maintain or achieve unrivalled supremacy. It is the US that has actually conducted cyber warfare, including during the 1999 bombing of Serbia, when it hacked into and disrupted Serbian air defence systems. In 2010, in a joint operation with Israel, the US implanted a Stuxnet virus to attack the industrial controllers inside gas centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant.

Cyber warfare now occupies a central position in the US military doctrine. The Pentagon report pointed to the PLA’s increasing dependence on computer networks. It said China saw electronic warfare as a key to countering the US, including via jamming and anti-jamming, using radio, radar, optical, infrared and microwave frequencies, to “suppress or deceive enemy electronic equipment.” At the same time, the PLA command structure was now able to share real-time information, meaning it “no longer requires meetings for command decision-making.” Without directly spelling it out, the report implied that these military computer networks and electronic systems must be US cyber warfare targets.

Since the 1990s, Chinese military thinkers have written extensively about the centrality of cyber warfare as computer networks became essential economic and military infrastructure. However, China has developed such capacity primarily as part of an “asymmetrical” doctrine to disrupt any military action against China by a superior military force. As the Pentagon paper stated, China had placed an emphasis on “destroying, damaging and interfering with the enemy’s reconnaissance and communications satellites” as a component of China’s “information blockade” tactics.

The Pentagon report points to the stepping up of US preparations to attack a potential rival that could otherwise challenge aspects of US military supremacy in Asia-Pacific by the end of this decade. The report drew particular attention to new Chinese stealth fighters and nuclear submarines that could provide deterrents against nuclear attack.

A New York Times article in February revealed that a secret legal review drawn up by the Obama administration had concluded that the president “has the broad power to order a pre-emptive [cyber] strike if the United States detects credible evidence of a major digital attack looming from abroad.” In other words, in this sphere of warfare as in every other, the US imperialism is prepared to carry out criminal acts of aggressive to prosecute its interests. China is undoubtedly at the top of the list of targets.

These developments pose grave risks of war. As the Pentagon calculates that its military superiority over China could be eroded in the foreseeable future, the danger is that US imperialism will increasingly consider using its current overwhelming military advantage to confront Beijing. US propaganda that China represents a serious cyber threat forms part of the ideological justification for the war drive.

The Obama administration is close to announcing its support for a law that would force Google, Facebook and other Internet communications companies to build back doors for government wiretaps, according to an article in the New York Times Wednesday.

The move comes as the National Security Agency’s sprawling new data center in Utah prepares to come online in September of this year. The facility is rumored to store data on the scale of trillions of terabytes, meaning that it can easily house the contents of every personal computer in the world.

Under the terms of the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, known as CALEA, hardware used to facilitate Internet and voice communications—the networks through which data is transmitted—must have the technical means to allow the government to conduct wiretaps.

The spying capabilities created in the context of this earlier law made possible the massive illegal domestic spying programs conducted under the Bush administration, and tens of thousands of ongoing secret court-approved wiretaps conducted under Obama. Under Bush, reports emerged that the government was essentially given full access to transmission systems by many Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as AT&T.

US intelligence agencies were satisfied with these capabilities up until around 2010, when, in response to a series of security breaches, services such as Gmail and Facebook enabled encryption by default.

As a result of this move, communications using these services became inaccessible to conventional wiretapping, which relied on intercepting the (now encrypted) data traveling between users and routed by ISPs.

To offset the effects of encryption, the FBI has sought to force companies to create back doors for surveillance, with varying degrees of success. Following its purchase by Microsoft, Skype, the online chat and voice service, last year voluntarily reengineered its architecture to allow the US and other governments to monitor chat communications.

The FBI claims that, under current laws, Internet communications companies can effectively refuse to comply with a court-ordered wiretap by claiming that there is no practical way for them to allow the government to spy on their users’ communications.

The proposed law would force social networks and other communications companies to provide government access or face fines that, according to the Washington Post, would multiply exponentially and threaten companies with bankruptcy.

While keeping silent on the unconstitutional nature of the US government’s vast domestic spying apparatus, groups representing major Silicon Valley corporations have raised concerns about the difficulty of implementing the proposed government wiretapping capabilities, particularly for start-ups and small companies, which behemoths like Facebook and Apple rely on for developing new technologies.

According to the Times, officials are working to reformulate the law to satisfy these concerns while forcing the most widely used services to allow wiretapping.

“While the F.B.I.’s original proposal would have required Internet communications services to each build in a wiretapping capacity, the revised one, which must now be reviewed by the White House, focuses on fining companies that do not comply with wiretap orders,” the Times reported. “The difference, officials say, means that start-ups with a small number of users would have fewer worries about wiretapping issues unless the companies became popular enough to come to the Justice Department’s attention.”

In addition to forcing Internet communications companies to allow wiretapping, the law would also put even more pressure on ISPs to ensure that they do not break the government’s existing wiretapping capabilities by upgrading their systems.

The Obama administration’s drive to expand the government’s wiretapping comes in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, which have been used as the pretext for the implementation of a range of police state measures, including most notably the lockdown of Boston following the blasts.

The Obama administration has claimed that its wiretapping activities are conducted under warrants issued by a FISA court, which essentially rubber-stamp government spying applications. In 2012, the FISA court did not deny a single application for spying.

However, the full extent of the government’s wiretapping programs is kept totally secret, and its real scope is far more sweeping than what has already been admitted.

A hint of the potentially vast extent of domestic spying was indicated by Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, last week, in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett. Burnett asked Clemente if there was any way that the government would be able to implicate the widow of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev in playing a role in the bombing.

Clemente responded by saying, “We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that [phone] conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her.”

By stating that the evidence would not be admissible in court, Clemente was implying that the evidence was gathered illegally. Faced with skepticism from Burnett about the government’s ability to access such data, Clemente added, “Welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

Russian condemnation of Israeli air strikes preceded Kerry’s arrival. Moscow’s Foreign Ministry called them “a threat to regional stability.”

It wants politicizing chemical weapons use stopped. On May 6, Russian Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev said “no one has reliable information about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

“If anyone does, we would like them to show their evidence that such weapons have indeed been used.”

On May 5, UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria (COI) investigators said testimonial evidence indicates “rebel forces” used sarin. A day later they reported “no conclusive findings” of their use.

On June 3, they’ll comment further. Don’t expect confirmation of their first assessment.

According to Press TV, Kerry came “to press top Russian officials against backing the Syrian government amid the recent US-backed Israeli aggression against the nation.”

Russia wants diplomatic conflict resolution. It opposes US-led NATO intervention. It fears it’s coming. Obama’s incrementally heading toward doing so.

Assad’s more victim than villain. Wrongfully accusing him of Western-backed insurgent crimes advances the ball for war. On Monday, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D. NJ) introduced legislation to arm opposition forces.

It’s been ongoing covertly all along. Menendez and likeminded congressional members want it done officially. They claim they’re only for “vetted rebel groups.”

On the one hand, Al Qaeda and its al-Nusra affiliate are called foreign terrorist organizations. On the other, they’re actively recruited, armed, funded, trained and directed. They’re de facto US-led NATO ground forces. Obama heads closer to giving them air support.

Kerry met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin. He and Lavrov announced convening an international conference aimed at ending conflict. They’ll urge both sides to attend.

According to Kerry, Washington wants it “as soon as possible, possibly, hopefully as soon as the end of this month.”

America and Russia have conflicting interests. Obama wants Assad ousted. All options are open to do so. Russia wants its strategic regional interests protected. Lavrov explained this way:

“I would like to emphasize we do not, we are not interested in the fate of certain persons. We are interested in the fate of the Syrian people.”

Moscow wants Syrians to decide who’ll lead them. Foreign intervention is rejected. It doesn’t want another allied regional government toppled. Doing so leaves others more vulnerable. It gives Washington greater control. It harms Russia’s strategic interests.

Convening another conference reflects the latest exercise in futility. It won’t fare better than earlier attempts. Kofi Annan’s peace plan was one-sided. Violence increased. It did so because Washington planned it that way.

Last June’s Geneva agreement failed. Washington, key NATO partners and regional allies prevented it from succeeding.

They criticized Syria’s new constitution and parliamentary elections. They did so unjustly. They ignored real change. Milestone events were ridiculed. They were called farcical.

For Syrians, they were historic. They expressed their will freely. They did so despite daily violence.

Another conference won’t fare better than other conflict resolution attempts. It’s coming as Washington heads closer to full-scale intervention. False accusations make it more likely. Perhaps it’ll follow another failed peace initiative.

Russia’s justifiably concerned. On May 5, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich expressed grave concerns over Israel’s air strikes.

“We are seriously concerned by the signs of preparation of global public opinion for possible armed intervention in the long-running internal conflict in Syria,” he said.

“The further escalation of armed confrontation sharply increases the risk of creating new areas of tension, in addition to Syria, in Lebanon, and the destabilization of the so far relatively calm atmosphere on the Lebanese-Israeli border.”

China strongly opposes force. It wants Syria’s national sovereignty respected. So do most other countries. Washington, Israel, key NATO partners, and rogue regional allies have other ideas.

On May 7, DEBKAfile (DF) headlined “US to arm Syrian rebels: Putin’s rebuke, Chinese ‘peace plan’ mar Netanyahu’s Chinese trip.”

Hezbollah’s committed to aid Assad. It vows not to let his government fall. During Netanyahu’s China visit, he “was given a sharp dressing-down by President Vladimir Putin,” said DF.

Perhaps it suggests “Russia would not tolerate further Israeli attacks on Damascus and would respond.”

China was also critical. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said:

“We are opposed to the use of force and believe that the sovereignty of any country should be respected.”

Her criticism came as Netanyahu arrived. He’s there on a five day visit. It coincides with Mahmoud Abbas’ Sunday arrival. He left on Tuesday. He was afforded full head of state ceremonial honors.

Chinese state-run media called his trip a “state visit.” Netanyahu’s was described as an “official visit.” President Shimon Peres is Israel’s head of state. The office is largely ceremonial.

Two days before Netanyahu arrived, China introduced a four-point Israeli/Palestinian peace plan. It’s one Netanyahu and other Israeli hardliners reject.

It recognizes Palestinian statehood with East Jerusalem its capital. It does so based on pre-June 1967 borders. It calls for ending settlement construction, violence against civilians, lifting Gaza’s blockade, and resolving the issue of Palestinian prisoners equitably.

Resuming peace talks depend on these “necessary conditions.” Negotiations are the only way to achieve it. China wants “land for peace” principles upheld. It urges more international community involvement.

In 1988, China recognized Palestinian statehood. It was four years before establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.

According to DF, Putin “announce(d) he had ordered the acceleration of highly advanced Russian weapons supplies to Syria.”

DF claims he referred to S-300 anti-air systems and nuclear-capable 9K720 Iskander surface missiles. They’re accurate “within a 5 – 7 meter radius” up to 280 km.

Putin called Netanyahu. He “made no bones about his determination not to permit the US, Israel or any other regional force (to) overthrow (Assad).”

He told Netanyahu “to keep this in mind.”

DF said Syrian air defense teams were trained in Russia. They’re able to operate new systems on arrival. “Russian air defense officials will supervise their deployment and prepare them for operation.”

“Moscow is retaliating not just for Israel’s air operations against Syria but in anticipation of the Obama administration’s impending decision to send the first US arms shipments to the Syrian rebels.”

“Intelligence agencies in Moscow and the Middle East take it for granted that by the time Washington goes public on this decision, some of the Syrian rebel factions will already be armed with American weapons.”

Russia’s concerned about foreign military intervention. It happened so often before. Putin wants it prevented. It won’t be easy to do so.

America’s business is war. Obama’s a committed warrior president. He’s waging multiple daily wars. He’s done so every day in office. He’s got other targets in mind. He wants Assad ousted. He’s not about to change plans now.

A Final Comment

For two days, Syria was disconnected online. Google’s Transparency Report said all services it covers were “inaccessible.”

Other companies that monitor online traffic globally said Tuesday’s shutdown “disconnect(ed) Syria from Internet communication with the rest of the world.”

Syrian authorities said “Internet services and phone calls between provinces were cut off Tuesday evening because of a fault in optical fiber cables.”

“Efforts are ongoing to fix the faults and to bring Internet and telephone services back as soon as possible.”

As of Wednesday evening local time, Internet services were restored. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) headlined “Urgent – Internet services back to normal across Syria after repairing optic cable malfunction.”

SANA quoted the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement’s denunciation of Israeli aggression.

A formal statement said “(T)he Non-Alignment Movement Coordination Office condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli aggression against Syria.”

The attack was a “grave violation of the international law as it infringes upon Syrian sovereignty and constitutes a blatant violation of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

It called for follow-up Security Council action. It wants Israel held responsible. It threatens regional peace and security. America does most of all. Together they menace humanity.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/kerry-in-moscow/

 Wall Street and London’s hegemonic ambitions in Asia, centered around installing proxy regimes across Southeast Asia and using the supranational ASEAN bloc to encircle and contain China, suffered a serious blow this week when Western-proxy and Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s party lost in general elections.While Anwar Ibrahim’s opposition party, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) or “People’s Alliance,” attempted to run on an anti-corruption platform, its campaign instead resembled verbatim attempts by the West to subvert governments politically around the world, including most recently in Venezuela, and in Russia in 2012.Just as in Russia where so-called “independent” election monitor GOLOS turned out to be fully funded by the US State Department through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Malaysia’s so-called election monitor, the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research, is likewise funded directly by the US through NED. Despite this, Western media outlets, in pursuit of promoting the Western-backed People’s Alliance, has repeatedly referred to Merdeka as “independent.”

Image: Despite the US mobilizing the summation of its media power and pouring millions of dollars into the opposition party, including the creation and perpetuation of fake-NGOs such as Bersih and the Merdeka Center, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sailed to a comfortable victory in this year’s general elections. The cheap veneer has begun peeling away from America’s “democracy promotion” racket, leaving its proxies exposed and frantic, and America’s hegemonic ambitions across Asia in serious question. 

The BBC in its article, “Malaysia election sees record turnout,” lays out the well-rehearsed cries of “stolen elections” used by the West to undermine the legitimacy of polls it fears its proxy candidates may lose – with  the US-funded Merdeka Center cited in attempts to bolster these claims. Their foreign funding and compromised objectivity is never mentioned (emphasis added) :

Allegations of election fraud surfaced before the election. Some of those who voted in advance told BBC News that indelible ink – supposed to last for days – easily washed off.

“The indelible ink can be washed off easily, with just water, in a few seconds,” one voter, Lo, told BBC News from Skudai.

Another voter wrote: “Marked with “indelible ink” and voted at 10:00. Have already cleaned off the ink by 12:00. If I was also registered under a different name and ID number at a neighbouring constituency, I would be able to vote again before 17:00!”

The opposition has also accused the government of funding flights for supporters to key states, which the government denies.

Independent pollster Merdeka Center has received unconfirmed reports of foreign nationals being given IDs and allowed to vote.

However, an election monitoring organization funded by a foreign government which openly seeks to remove the current ruling party from Malaysia in favor of long-time Wall Street servant Anwar Ibrahim is most certainly not “independent.”

The ties between Anwar Ibrahim’s “People’s Alliance” and the US State Department don’t end with the Merdeka Center, but continue into the opposition’s street movement, “Bersih.” Claiming to fight for “clean and fair” elections, Bersih in reality is a vehicle designed to mobilize street protests on behalf of Anwar’s opposition party. Bersih’s alleged leader, Ambiga Sreenevasan, has admitted herself that her organization has received cash directly from the United States via the National Endowment for Democracy’s National Democratic Institute (NDI), and convicted criminal George Soros’ Open Society.

The Malaysian Insider reported on June 27, 2011 that Bersih leader Ambiga Sreenevassan:

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

A visit to the NDI website revealed indeed that funding and training had been provided by the US organization – before NDI took down the information and replaced it with a more benign version purged entirely of any mention of Bersih. For funding Ambiga claims is innocuous, the NDI’s rushed obfuscation of any ties to her organization suggests something far more sinister at play.

Photo: NDI’s website before taking down any mention to Malaysia’s Bersih movement. (click image to enlarge)

….

The substantial, yet carefully obfuscated support the West has lent Anwar should be of no surprise to those familiar with Anwar’s history. That Anwar Ibrahim himself was Chairman of the Development Committee of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1998, held lecturing positions at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, was a consultant to the World Bank, and a panelist at the Neo-Con lined National Endowment for Democracy’s “Democracy Award” and a panelist at a NED donation ceremony – the very same US organization funding and supporting Bersih and so-called “independent” election monitor Merdeka – paints a picture of an opposition running for office in Malaysia, not for the Malaysian people, but clearly for the corporate financier interests of Wall Street and London.

Photo: Taken from the US National Endowment for Democracy’s 2007 Democracy Award event held in Washington D.C., Anwar Ibrahim can be seen to the far left and participated as a “panelist.” It is no surprise that NED is now subsidizing his bid to worm his way back into power in Malaysia. (click image to enlarge)

….

In reality, Bersih’s leadership along with Anwar and their host of foreign sponsors are attempting to galvanize the very real grievances of the Malaysian people and exploit them to propel themselves into power. While many may be tempted to suggest that “clean and fair elections” truly are Bersih and Anwar’s goal, and that US funding via NED’s NDI  are entirely innocuous, a thorough examination of these organizations, how they operate, and their admitted agenda reveals the proverbial cliff Anwar and Bersih are leading their followers and the nation of Malaysia over.

As Bersih predictably mobilizes in the streets on behalf of Anwar’s opposition party in the wake of their collective failure during Malaysia’s 2013 general elections, it is important for Malaysians to understand the true nature of the Western organizations funding their attempts to politically undermine the ruling party and divide Malaysians against each other, and exactly why this is being done in the greater context of US hegemony in Asia.

Anwar & Bersih’s US State Department Backers

The US State Department’s NED and NDI are most certainly not benevolent promoters of democracy and freedom.Does Boeing, Goldman Sachs, Exxon, the SOPA, ACTA, CISPA-sponsoring US Chamber of Commerce, and America’s warmongering Neo-Con establishment care about promoting democracy in Malaysia? Or in expanding their corporate-financier interests in Asia under the guise of promoting democracy? Clearly the latter.

The NDI, which Bersih leader Ambiga Sreenevasan herself admits funds her organization, is likewise chaired by an unsavory collection of corporate interests.

The average Malaysian, disenfranchised with the ruling government as they may be, cannot possibly believe these people are funding and propping up clearly disingenuous NGOs in direct support of a compromised Anwar Ibrahim, for the best interests of Malaysia.The end game for the US with an Anwar Ibrahim/People’s Alliance-led government, is a Malaysia that capitulates to both US free trade schemes and US foreign policy. In Malaysia’s case, this will leave the extensive economic independence achieved since escaping out from under British rule, gutted, while the nation’s resources are steered away from domestic development and toward a proxy confrontation with China, just as is already being done in Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.

Stitching ASEAN Together with Proxy Regimes to Fight China 

Image: Lemuel Gulliver on the island of Lilliput, having been overtaken while asleep by ropes and stakes by the diminutive but numerous Lilliputians. Western corporate-financier interests envision organizing Southeast Asia into a supranational bloc, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), to use the smaller nations as a combined front to “tie down” China in a similar manner. Unlike in the story “Gulliver’s Travels,” China may well break free of its binds and stomp the Lilliputian leaders flat for their belligerence. 

….

That the US goal is to use Malaysia and other Southeast Asian nations against China is not merely speculation. It is the foundation of a long-documented conspiracy dating back as far as 1997, and reaffirmed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as recently as 2011.

In 1997,  Fortune 500-funded (page 19) Brookings Institution policy scribe Robert Kagan penned, “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment,” which spells out the policy Wall Street and London were already in the process of implementing even then, albeit in a somewhat more nebulous manner. In his essay, Kagan literally states (emphasis added):

The present world order serves the needs of the United States and its allies, which constructed it. And it is poorly suited to the needs of a Chinese dictatorship trying to maintain power at home and increase its clout abroad. Chinese leaders chafe at the constraints on them and worry that they must change the rules of the international system before the international system changes them.

Here, Kagan openly admits that the “world order,” or the “international order,” is simply American-run global hegemony, dictated by US interests. These interests, it should be kept in mind, are not those of the American people, but of the immense corporate-financier interests of the Anglo-American establishment. Kagan continues (emphasis added):

In truth, the debate over whether we should or should not contain China is a bit silly. We are already containing China — not always consciously and not entirely successfully, but enough to annoy Chinese leaders and be an obstacle to their ambitions. When the Chinese used military maneuvers and ballistic-missile tests last March to intimidate Taiwanese voters, the United States responded by sending the Seventh Fleet. By this show of force, the U.S. demonstrated to Taiwan, Japan, and the rest of our Asian allies that our role as their defender in the region had not diminished as much as they might have feared. Thus, in response to a single Chinese exercise of muscle, the links of containment became visible and were tightened.

The new China hands insist that the United States needs to explain to the Chinese that its goal is merely, as [Robert] Zoellick writes, to avoid “the domination of East Asia by any power or group of powers hostile to the United States.” Our treaties with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia, and our naval and military forces in the region, aim only at regional stability, not aggressive encirclement.

But the Chinese understand U.S. interests perfectly well, perhaps better than we do. While they welcome the U.S. presence as a check on Japan, the nation they fear most, they can see clearly that America’s military and diplomatic efforts in the region severely limit their own ability to become the region’s hegemon. According to Thomas J. Christensen, who spent several months interviewing Chinese military and civilian government analysts, Chinese leaders worry that they will “play Gulliver to Southeast Asia’s Lilliputians, with the United States supplying the rope and stakes.”

Indeed, the United States blocks Chinese ambitions merely by supporting what we like to call “international norms” of behavior. Christensen points out that Chinese strategic thinkers consider “complaints about China’s violations of international norms” to be part of “an integrated Western strategy, led by Washington, to prevent China from becoming a great power.

What Kagan is talking about is maintaining American preeminence across all of Asia and producing a strategy of tension to divide and limit the power of any single player vis-a-vis Wall Street and London’s hegemony. Kagan would continue (emphasis added):

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. For China’s current leaders, it is too risky to play by our rules — yet our unwillingness to force them to play by our rules is too risky for the health of the international order. The United States cannot and should not be willing to upset the international order in the mistaken belief that accommodation is the best way to avoid a confrontation with China.

We should hold the line instead and work for political change in Beijing. That means strengthening our military capabilities in the region, improving our security ties with friends and allies, and making clear that we will respond, with force if necessary, when China uses military intimidation or aggression to achieve its regional ambitions. It also means not trading with the Chinese military or doing business with firms the military owns or operates. And it means imposing stiff sanctions when we catch China engaging in nuclear proliferation.

A successful containment strategy will require increasing, not decreasing, our overall defense capabilities. Eyre Crowe warned in 1907 that “the more we talk of the necessity of economising on our armaments, the more firmly will the Germans believe that we are tiring of the struggle, and that they will win by going on.” Today, the perception of our military decline is already shaping Chinese calculations. In 1992, an internal Chinese government document said that America’s “strength is in relative decline and that there are limits to what it can do.” This perception needs to be dispelled as quickly as possible.

Kagan’s talk of “responding” to China’s expansion is clearly manifested today in a series of proxy conflicts growing between US-backed Japan, and the US-backed Philippines, and to a lesser extent between North and South Korea, and even beginning to show in Myanmar. The governments of these nations have capitulated to US interests and their eagerness to play the role of America’s proxies in the region, even at their own cost, is not a surprise. To expand this, however, the US fully plans on integrating Southeast Asia, installing proxy regimes, and likewise turning their resources and people against China.

In 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled the capstone to Kagan’s 1997 conspiracy. She published in Foreign Policy magazine, a piece titled, “America’s Pacific Century” where she explicitly states:

In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region.

To “sustain our leadership,” “secure our interests,” and “advance our values,” are clearly hegemonic statements, and indicates that the US’ goal for “substantially increased investment,” including buying off NGOs and opposition parties in Malaysia, seeks to directly serve US leadership, interests, and “values,”  not within US borders, but outside them, and specifically across all of Asia.

Clinton continues:

At a time when the region is building a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity, U.S. commitment there is essential. It will help build that architecture and pay dividends for continued American leadership well into this century, just as our post-World War II commitment to building a comprehensive and lasting transatlantic network of institutions and relationships has paid off many times over — and continues to do so.

The “architecture” referred to is the supranational ASEAN bloc – and again Clinton confirms that the US’ commitment to this process is designed not to lift up Asia, but to maintain its own hegemony across the region, and around the world.

Clinton then openly admits that the US seeks to exploit Asia’s economic growth:

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia.

Of course, the purpose of an economy is to meet the needs of those who live within it. The Asian economy therefore ought to serve the needs and interests of Asians – not a hegemonic empire on the other side of the Pacific. Clinton’s piece could easily double as a declaration by England’s King George and his intentions toward emptying out the New World.

And no empire is complete without establishing a permanent military garrison on newly claimed territory. Clinton explains (emphasis added):

With this in mind, our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.

And of course, by “advancing democracy and human rights,” Clinton means the continuation of funding faux-NGOs that disingenuously leverage human rights and democracy promotion to politically undermine targeted governments in pursuit of installing more obedient proxy regimes.

The piece is lengthy, and while a lot of readers may be tempted to gloss over some of the uglier, overtly imperial aspects of Clinton’s statement, the proof of America’s true intentions in Asia can be seen clearly manifested today, with the intentional encouragement of provocations between North and South Korea, an expanding confrontation between China and US proxies, Japan and the Philippines, and with mobs taking to the streets in Malaysia in hopes of overturning an election US-proxy Anwar Ibrahim had no chance of winning.

Clean & Fair Elections?

While the battle cry for Anwar Ibrahim, his People’s Alliance, and Bersih have been “clean and fair elections,” in reality, allegations of fraud began long before the elections even started. This was not because Anwar’s opposition party had evidence of such fraud – instead, this was to implant the idea into people’s minds long before the elections, deeply enough to justify claims of stolen elections no matter how the polls eventually turned out.

At one point during the elections, before ballots were even counted, Anwar Ibrahim declared victory - a move that analysts across the region noted was provocative, dangerous, and incredibly irresponsible. Again, there could not have been any evidence that Anwar won, because ballots had not yet been counted. It was again a move meant to manipulate the public and set the stage for contesting Anwar’s inevitable loss – in the streets with mobs and chaos in typical Western-backed color revolution style.

One must seriously ask themselves, considering Anwar’s foreign backers, those backers’ own stated intentions for Asia, and Anwar’s irresponsible, baseless claims before, during, and after the elections – what is “clean and fair” about any of this?

Anwar Ibrahim is a fraud, an overt proxy of foreign interests. His satellite NGOs, including the insidious Bersih movement openly funded by foreign corporate-financier interests, and the equally insidious polling NGO Merdeka who portrays itself as “independent” despite being funded directly by a foreign government, are likewise frauds – drawing in well-intentioned people through slick marketing, just as cigarette companies do.

And like cigarette companies who sell what is for millions essentially a slow, painful, humiliating death sentence that will leave one broken financially and spiritually before ultimately outright killing them, Anwar’s US-backed opposition is also selling Malaysia a slow, painful, humiliating death. Unfortunately, also like cigarettes, well-intentioned but impressionable people have not gathered all of the facts, and have instead have based their support on only the marketing, gimmicks, slogans, and tricks of a well-oiled, manipulative political machine.

For that folly, Malaysia may pay a heavy price one day – but for Anwar and his opposition party today, they have lost the elections, and the cheap veneer of America’s “democracy promotion” racket is quickly peeling away. For now, America has tripped in mid-pivot toward its hegemonic agenda in Asia, with Malaysia’s ruling government providing a model for other nations in the region to follow, should they be interested in sovereignty and independent progress – no matter how flawed or slow it may be.

The president’s new choices for Commerce secretary and FCC chair underscore how far down the rabbit hole his populist conceits have tumbled. Yet the Obama rhetoric about standing up for working people against “special interests” is as profuse as ever. Would you care for a spot of Kool-Aid at the Mad Hatter’s tea party?

Of course the Republican economic program is worse, and President Romney’s policies would have been even more corporate-driven. That doesn’t in the slightest make acceptable what Obama is doing. His latest high-level appointments — boosting corporate power and shafting the public — are despicable.

To nominate Penny Pritzker for secretary of Commerce is to throw in the towel for any pretense of integrity that could pass a laugh test. Pritzker is “a longtime political supporter and heavyweight fundraiser,” the Chicago Tribune reported with notable understatement last week, adding: “She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and she could face questions about the failure of a bank partly owned by her family. With a personal fortune estimated at $1.85 billion, Pritzker is listed by Forbes magazine among the 300 wealthiest Americans.”

A more blunt assessment came from journalist Dennis Bernstein: “Her pioneering sub-prime operations, out of Superior Bank in Chicago, specifically targeted poor and working class people of color across the country. She ended up crashing Superior for a billion-dollar cost to taxpayers, and creating a personal tragedy for the 1,400 people who lost their savings when the bank failed.” Pritzker, whose family controls Hyatt Regency Hotels, has a vile anti-union record.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker? What’s next? Labor Secretary Donald Trump? SEC Chairman Bernie Madoff?

The choice of Penny Pritzker to run the Commerce Department is a matched set with the simultaneous pick of Tom Wheeler — another mega-fundraiser for candidate Obama — to chair the Federal Communications Commission.

With crucial decisions on the near horizon at the FCC, the president’s nomination of Wheeler has dire implications for the future of the Internet, digital communications and democracy. For analysis, my colleagues at the Institute for Public Accuracy turned to the progressive former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson, who called the choice “bizarre.”

“There is no single independent regulatory commission that comes close to the impact of the FCC on every American’s life,” Johnson said. “That’s why Congress, in creating it, characterized its mission as serving ‘the public interest’ — an expression used throughout the Act.”

But with countless billions of dollars at stake, the corporate fix was in. As Johnson pointed out, “Wheeler’s background is as a trade association representative for companies appearing before the Commission, a lobbyist in Congress for other FCC customers, and a venture capitalist investing in and profiting from others whose requests he’ll have to pass on. He has no record, of which I am aware, of challenging corporate abuse of power on behalf of consumers and the poor.”

But wait. There’s more. “Nor does Wheeler’s membership on the president’s Intelligence Advisory Board bode well for those who believe Americans’ Fourth Amendment privacy rights should be getting at least as much attention as the government’s perceived need to engage in even more secret snooping.”

To urge senators to reject the nominations of Pritzker and Wheeler, click here.

Meanwhile, at the Securities and Exchange Commission, Obama’s recent appointment of Wall Street insider Mary Jo White as SEC chair is playing out in predictable fashion. Days ago, in an editorial, the New York Times faulted her role in an SEC decision on regulating the huge derivatives market: “Last week, in her first commission vote, Ms. White led the commissioners in approving a proposal that, if finalized, could leave investors and taxpayers exposed to the ravages of reckless bank trading.”

We need to ask ourselves how the forces of corporate capitalism have gained so much power over government, to the extreme detriment of people who aren’t rich. Humpty Dumpty’s brief dialectical exchange with Alice is on point:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” Alice replied, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” Humpty Dumpty responded, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Denunciations and protests against the dominant power structure are essential. And insufficient. For the body politic and the potential of democracy, accommodating to the Democratic Party leadership is a deathly prescription. So is failure to fight for electoral power by challenging that leadership, fielding genuinely progressive candidates and organizing to win.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

Last week (2nd May), in the midst of Privacy Awareness Week [1], an Australian campaigner, Adam Bonner won a landmark decision against CCTV cameras in New South Wales [2].

The decision did not rule that the cameras in the town of Nowra should be switched off, but instead ordered the local council to stop breaching the Information Protection Principles of the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act. Remedies were suggested by the Privacy Commissioner but suffice to say Shoalhaven council has switched the cameras off whilst deciding its next move.

The decision of the Administrative Decisions Tribunal New South Wales ordered that:

1. The Council is to refrain from any conduct or action in contravention of an information protection principle or a privacy code of practice;

2. The Council is to render a written apology to the Applicant for the breaches, and advise him of the steps to be taken by the Council to remove the possibility of similar breaches in the future.
[SF v Shoalhaven City Council [2013] NSWADT 94, Orders]

The court victory is evidence once again that CCTV is a local issue which can be defeated when local people take action. In this case a single campaigner took on his local council, and won.

The Road to Victory

Back in late 2009, Mr Bonner saw an article in a local newspaper detailing Shoalhaven City Council’s plans to install 18 CCTV cameras in the Nowra Central Business District (CBD). Mr Bonner felt uneasy, he didn’t think it was right for CCTV cameras to watch and record him and others when they visited Nowra city centre to go about their lawful business. But he didn’t just wait for someone else to do something, he took action himself to defend his and other residents’ freedoms.

Over and above his instinctive reaction to the cameras, Mr Bonner found the many studies that show CCTV is not an effective crime fighting tool [3]. He asked the local council to conduct an internal review of conduct under the Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 (PPIP Act) and he called on other residents to contact Shoalhaven council pointing out to them the many flaws of the CCTV scheme – he wrote:

There is also something very unsavoury about a society that puts more value on seeking retribution and revenge from the 4-5 per cent who offend, than on protecting the privacy and civil liberties of the 95-96 per cent who do not.

Unfortunately the council refused to conduct the review that Mr Bonner requested because they said the cameras were not yet operational – a claim that was later shown to be incorrect. The council did eventually conduct an internal review but, not satisfied with the outcome, Mr Bonner lodged an application with the Administrive Decisions Tribunal. After almost 9 months Council barristers told the Tribunal that the footage on which the case was based had been inadvertently deleted – and the case was dismissed. However Mr Bonner did not give up – he simply started the whole procedure all over again.

In 2011 Mr Bonner visited Nowra shopping centre on two separate occasions and obtained images of himself through the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (although the release of actual video footage was refused).Mr Bonner then once again asked for an internal review. The council this time claimed that the threshold for collection of personal information was not met and so dismissed Mr Bonner’s request. Once again Mr Bonner lodged an application with the Administrive Decisions Tribunal and the matter was at last heard over three days between May and August 2012.

Mr Bonner prepared his own written brief and represented himself in court – cross examining council staff, senior police and bringing in expert evidence from Dr Peter Kovesi and Professor Paul Wilson.

The tribunal decision published last week explicitly praises Mr Bonner’s conduct throughout the case, it states: “No criticism can be levelled at the Applicant in regard to the time taken in concluding the matter. He has been pursuing his rights under the PPIP Act since the Council commenced testing the system”. This is in sharp contrast to the criticism levelled at Mr Bonner by politicians, as we shall see below.

The Tribunal Decision

Mr Bonner argued that the Nowra cameras breached eight separate sections of the PPIP Act. The tribunal agreed with Mr Bonner with regards to three sections, namely section 10 relating to signage, section 11a relating to the relevance of personal information for the stated purpose and section 12c relating to security safeguards in place with regards to accessing images.

On section 10 the judge ruled:

The Council must take such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances to ensure that the Applicant was made aware of the information provided for by section 10. The fact that an individual might take steps to inform themselves of the details does not relieve the Council of the need to comply with section 10. In my view, the signage that is in place and other action taken by the Council has not been sufficient to ensure that individuals are “made aware of the implications for their privacy of the collection process, and of any protections that apply prior to or at the time of collection”.
[ADT Decision paragraph 158]

On section 11 the judge ruled:

In my opinion, the vast majority of the information collected under the Council’s CCTV program is ‘collateral information’ and is not relevant to the ‘crime prevention’ purpose. All of the Applicant’s personal information is ‘collateral information’ and is not relevant to the ‘crime prevention’ purpose. Further, there is no suggestion that Police made any use of the collected information for law enforcement purposes.
[ADT Decision paragraph 162]

The judge added:

The expert evidence suggests that CCTV does little to prevent crime. The data available for the Nowra CBD suggests supports [sic] the Applicant’s argument that the Council has not demonstrated that filming people in the Nowra CBD is reasonably necessary to prevent crime. In fact, available data suggests that since the Council’s CCTV program was implemented crime has increased in the Nowra CBD in the categories of assaults, break and enters and malicious damage.
[ADT Decision paragraph 164]

On section 12 the judge ruled:

I agree with the Applicant that the use of a generic password rather than an individual user name and password for each authorised user means that there is no way of checking who is and isn’t using the live monitor at the Nowra Police Station. There is no way of knowing whether those who are accessing the monitor have been appropriately trained. Section 12(c) provides that the agency ‘must ensure’ adequate protection of the collected information.
[ADT Decision paragraph 170]

An inspiration to those of us concerned by blanket surveillance

Mr Bonner’s tireless campaigning shows that we can fight back against surveillance state measures. Instead of being cowed into inaction by scaremongering media reports which paint the Big Brother State as unstoppable, he fought back. Whilst challenging the Nowra cameras under the PPIP Act Mr Bonner also regularly issued press releases, started a petition against the cameras, wrote letters to the local media and even found time to share his thoughts with campaigners around the world via the International Working Group on Video Surveillance (IWGVS) [4]. All of this whilst working as a farmer.

Mr Bonner is an inspiration to anyone who feels that the ever growing levels of blanket surveillance are just plain wrong. When you see injustice, don’t believe you can’t do anything about it, and don’t wait for someone else to do something about it, get out there and fight it yourself – you’ll be surprised how powerful you really are.

The Political Backlash

Alas politicians don’t like it when people try to defend their freedoms, and already the political backlash has begun. But we should not view this backlash as a negation of Mr Bonner’s victory, it is in fact a unique opportunity to see the motives of our political leaders. Under pressure from Mr Bonner’s campaign they have struck back wildly without bothering to sugar-coat their thoughts. Mr Bonner challenged the cameras under the statute that the politicians introduced – the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act. He used their statute to defend our freedoms and this has upset them. They seem to consider it outrageous that an individual would use their Act to protect every individual’s personal information or privacy. How on earth did he get it into his head that this Act was meant to do that?

Before the tribunal had even reached its decision, in October 2012 Shoalhaven Council submitted a motion at the Local Government Association conference calling on the Local Government Minister to amend the PPIP Act so that local councils could operate CCTV cameras without having to comply with the provisions of the Act that Mr Bonner had challenged [5]. The motion was not passed by the conference but was instead referred to the Association’s Executive Committee for further advice.

Since last week’s decision local politicians as well as those in the New South Wales parliament have been falling over themselves to condemn Mr Bonner and call for that change to the PPIP Act. What the politicians are saying is that they do not need to obey the law – because they make the law.

Somewhere along the way our political system has ceased to function in the way that its should, namely to defend personal freedoms. In 1766 Sir William Blackstone published the first volume of his influential ‘Commentaries on the Laws of England’ [6], in which he defined the absolute rights of man as the free enjoyment of personal security [not to be confused with the national security now used to curtail freedoms], of personal liberty, and of private property. Blackstone wrote:

For the principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature, but which could not be preserved in peace without that mutual assistance and intercourse which is gained by the institution of friendly and social communities. Hence it follows, that the first and primary end of human laws is to maintain and regulate these absolute rights of individuals.

Blackstone further pointed out the dangers in any laws that restrict these absolute rights:

every wanton and causeless restraint of the will of the subject, whether practised by a monarch, a nobility, or a popular assembly, is a degree of tyranny: nay, that even laws themselves, whether made with or without our consent, if they regulate and constrain our conduct in matters of more indifference, without any good end in view, are regulations destructive of liberty

This week the New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell made a speech in the Legislative Assembly spelling out the position of the politicians [7]. O’Farrell’s speech epitomises the modern political ideology that has weakened individual freedoms and so it is worth quoting at length. O’Farrell claimed the tribunal’s decision was terrible:

because it was based on a complaint from one individual. One individual was put ahead of the concerns and interests of an entire community.

In fact Mr Bonner was defending the individual freedoms of all of the people of New South Wales not just his own. Further, as a community is just a group of individuals how could it be that it has more rights or freedoms than do those individuals?

Next O’Farrell bizarrely tried to compare defending freedoms to driving on the wrong side of the road when he said:

I do not drive on the right-hand side of the road because the law says I should drive on the left, and that law is there for good reason. It is there to protect the broader public interest. So, too, were the laws in relation to closed-circuit television cameras.

O’Farrell’s crazed logic makes even less sense when we recall that the “laws in relation to closed-circuit television cameras” that he refers to are contained within the PPIP Act that the cameras have been found to breach.

O’Farrell then uses the false balance argument to weigh privacy concerns against public safety. The problem with the balance metaphor is that it suggests there is some unit of measure that allows privacy to be compared to safety, then further defies logic in suggesting that the two can be balanced despite one winning, namely public safety:

We understand that privacy considerations are important but public safety has to be paramount. Today the Attorney General advised me that the decision on Friday exposed a loophole in the State’s privacy legislation, and today I can announce that that loophole will be fixed.

So O’Farrell believes that when the state does something wrong it means that the law must have a loophole. This is because O’Farrell believes that law is just statute, that as politicians create statute they create law and so whatever they do must be legal. But law cannot simply be statute, surely it is fundamentally about right and wrong.

O’Farrell then laid out how his government intends to amend the PPIP Act – by creating blanket exemptions (much like those in the UK’s Data Protection Act). And these exemptions are to be introduced via a “regulation” ensuring that the order can be rushed through “on the nod” with little or no debate. Whatever one may think of the PPIP Act, it was many years in the making, was published in 1996 but did not pass until 1998. Now a major amendment will be made in little over a week:

the use of closed-circuit television cameras by councils will be given an exemption through that section of the Privacy Act that was used on Friday to strike out their use in the Shoalhaven. We are drafting urgently a regulation to provide appropriate exemptions under that privacy legislation to allow local councils, including Shoalhaven City Council, to use such cameras without breaching privacy laws. The regulation will allow councils to use closed-circuit television cameras in public places.

After bigging up surveillance cameras by trotting out a list of hackneyed and incorrect claims about their magical powers (peppered with recall of frightening events to strengthen his rhetoric), O’Farrell turned once again to why he detests the decision of the tribunal:

This was a ridiculous decision. It was a decision that concerns me because it struck me that the tribunal was trying to make policy. This Parliament is the place that will make policy. Whichever party is sitting on the Government side of this place will initiate policy. I will never stand by and allow those who sit on our tribunals or courts to dictate policy.

Leaving aside the fact that this case was about a breach of legislation not about policy, O’Farrell’s bizarre schoolboy tantrum merely shows a desire of the supposedly law-making legislature to control the law-enforcing judiciary. Interestingly Blackstone had something to say about this too:

In all tyrannical governments, the supreme magistracy, or the right of both making and of enforcing the laws, is vested in one and the same man, or one and the same body of men; and wherever these two powers are united together, there can be no public liberty.

Wider Issues and the Way Forward

Study after study has shown that CCTV cameras are not an effective crime fighting tool but most of the public is still painfully unaware of this fact. Furthermore the presence of cameras has substantial negative effects on our society by increasing fear, decreasing trust and destroying a sense of community. The debate around CCTV usually focuses on privacy alone because the regulations that facilitate it in most countries focus on the collection of personal data, but the other issues at stake ultimately constitute the curtailment of personal liberty – one of the absolute rights defined by Blackstone.

Decades after CCTV cameras were first introduced there has still been no meaningful debate that takes in all of the issues and Mr Bonner’s tribunal victory is a timely reminder that such a debate is long over due.

Commenting on the likely overturning by politicians of Judicial Member S Montgomery’s tribunal decision, Mr Bonner told us:

Even though this victory may be short lived I take some heart from the fact that the Member’s decision is not being overturned by learned men or rational debate, but by politics and by those who wear their ignorance as a security blanket. I don’t like it, but I can live with the outcome knowing that.

Well done Mr Bonner and thank you for showing us what each and every one of us can and must do to protect the individual freedoms of us all.

Notes:

[ 1] http://www.privacyawarenessweek.org/
[ 2] http://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/action/PJUDG?jgmtid=164456
[ 3] A few of the studies are at http://www.no-cctv.org.uk/case_against.asp
[ 4] http://www.iwgvs.org
[ 5] http://www.lgnsw.org.au/files/imce-uploads/35/2012-LGA-conference-record-of-decisions.pdf
[ 6] http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=2140&Itemid=28
[ 7] http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA20130507022

 

Obama Makes Black Liberation Speech an Act of Terrorism

May 8th, 2013 by Margaret Kimberley

The announcement that the FBI added Assat Shakur to the list of most wanted terrorists was initially mystifying, a real life example of the shock doctrine. Shakur has been a fugitive ever since 1979 and was granted asylum by Cuba in 1984. It seemed inexplicable that the government would reinitiate searching for a 65-year old woman who had already been at large for more than thirty years. Yet the FBI made a grand show of the announcement, complete with a black agent at the podium and a phalanx of New Jersey state troopers. Not only was Shaukur added to the most wanted terrorist list but the government added $1 million to the $1 million bounty already in place.

Because of Barack Obama, Assata Shakur now faces the possibility of being kidnapped or murdered by the United States government. She may be held indefinitely without being charged or tried. Not only is she in danger, but because of Obama anyone who does as little as publicly defend her may potentially face the same fate.

It is the terrorist label which puts her and her supporters at greatest risk. The Patriot Act made giving “material support to terror” a federal offense which not only is punished very harshly, but is so amorphous as to mean anything the government chooses it to mean. In the Supreme Court decision which began the material support onslaught, a group attempting to teach peaceful activism was found nonetheless guilty because they had contact with the group designated as terrorist. The justices ruled that their intentions were of no consequence.

The only people safe in speaking of or contacting Shakur are those who mean her harm, and a bounty of $2 million will increase the number of persons who fall into that category. Not only is it important to resist the government and defend Shakur but also to name the villain in this story and that person is none other than Barack Obama.

One cannot be separated from the other. It is sad to see the continued effort to excuse Obama’s crimes and let him off the hook on so many occasions, but in the case of Assata Shakur the disingenuousness is particularly dangerous. Barack Obama has made manifest his predecessor’s desire to create a truly fascist machinery in this country. He resurrected the all but dead espionage act to prosecute whistle blowers and at a rate unknown under previous administrations. George W. Bush claimed the right to imprison anyone he wanted but Obama claims the right to kill anyone he wants.

On a recent broadcast of Democracy Now Angela Davis and attorney Lennox Hinds spoke quite eloquently about Shakur’s plight yet neither of them managed to mention the words Barack or Obama. The omission made the rest of their words meaningless. The justice department is Obama’s justice department. The FBI is his FBI and any and all of its decisions must get the green light straight from the president. If Assata Shakur or anyone else is labeled a terrorist by the United States government it is with Barack Obama’s express permission.

Assata Shakur could well end up dead at Obama’s hands like Anwar al-Awlakki and his sixteen year old son. Cuba may be attacked on the pretext of capturing Shakur. No president since John F. Kennedy has attempted an actual military assault on Cuban soil. Obama is known for his ability to go where other presidents have dared not. He killed Gaddafi and overthrew the Libyan government. Why wouldn’t he try the same with Cuba?

The significance of the renewed attack on Assata Shakur is not just of international significance. Obama is making a point about black America and those few who still dare to speak out against their nation’s domestic and international policy. Immediately after announcing the increased bounty and terrorist designation the FBI posted billboard sized wanted posters in Newark, New Jersey.

It seems a strange thing to do when Shakur is living thousands of miles away in Cuba. Of course the billboards are not meant to capture Shakur but to send a not so subtle message about the state of black liberation. Simply put, there won’t be any talk of black liberation. The Shakurs of the world who weren’t imprisoned, killed off by Cointelpro or bought off, have to be destroyed once and for all and any memory of them must be disappeared as well.

Assata Shakur will be used as a lesson to everyone else who didn’t get the memo. Obama’s election meant that any and all discussion of a black agenda will not only be ignored but will be consciously destroyed.

Time will tell if Cuba can withstand fifty years of attack from the United States and defend Assata Shakur and its right under international law to grant her asylum. The nearly forgotten Shakur has brought to our attention the imperial designs of America towards the rest of the world and why the people who have that power chose Barack Obama as their president.

Margaret Kimberley‘s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com.  Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

CNN just a couple of months ago confirmed that contractors hired by the Pentagon were in fact training the terrorists in the use of chemical weapons.

And now we have a statement by a United Nations Independent Commission, which has confirmed unequivocally – and it was revealed on the same day – that the terrorists who are backed by the United States and its allies, they are in possession of deadly sarin nerve gas, which they are using against the civilian population.”

Press TV has conducted an interview with Michael Chossudovsky, Center for Research on Globalization, Montreal about the statement made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Syria is able to face Israel.

The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV:

Bashar al-Assad has said Syria is capable of facing Israel. Just how much do you think there will be a military confrontation between Damascus and Tel Aviv and which do you think can overcome the other?

Chossudovsky:

Let me first address the statement of Secretary of State John Kerry. The United States was involved in the decision to bomb Syria. This was not strictly an act of aggression on the part of Israel acting on its own. It was an act of aggression, which was approved by the United States, namely the Pentagon as well as NATO. It is an act of aggression and a violation of international law.

When Secretary of State John Kerry says we need to reach a solution and presents himself as a mediator, we are in effect in a dead alley because “an aggressor” presenting himself as “a mediator” is a non-sequitur.

You can’t on the one hand support an armed insurrection of Al Qaeda terrorists against the Syrian government –provide them with chemical weapons and give them funding — and at the same time present yourself as a mediator.

In fact, CNN just a couple of months ago confirmed that contractors hired by the Pentagon were in fact training the terrorists in the use of chemical weapons.

And now we have a statement by a United Nations Independent Commission, which has confirmed unequivocally – and it was revealed on the same day – that the terrorists who are backed by the United States and its allies, are in possession of deadly sarin nerve gas, which they are using against the civilian population.So, we can talk about reaching a peaceful solution, but the issue is about those who are acting as self proclaimed mediators including Secretary of State John Kerry and I should also say Ban Ki-moon because the Secretary General of the United Nations has called on all sides to exercise maximum restraint.

The U.S. is an aggressor, financing and supporting the opposition terrorists as well as the Israeli bombings.

There was absolutely no word of condemnation uttered by the United Nations Security Council, Secretary General of the United Nations against Israel’s attack on Syria and neither has there been a position taken by the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Vladimir Putin warned (that was yesterday) that further Israeli attacks on Damascus would not be tolerated; he also intimated (and this is something that we know)  that Syria has an advanced air defense system – namely the S300 and various other weapons capabilities, and they are therefore able to strike back.

However, we are at a very dangerous crossroads because anything could happen and this could ultimately lead us into a regional war in which other countries would inevitably be involved in the conflict.


Factual Proof that the US Sponsored Al Qaeda Terrorists were trained by the Pentagon in the US of chemical weapons

Ironically, when the chemical weapons pretext was first launched by the Pentagon in August 2012, the accusations were not directed against President Bashar al Assad to the effect that he was underhandedly conniving to use WMD against Syrian civilians. Quite the opposite. According to the Pentagon, the operation was to ensure that Syria’s WMDs, which allegedly had been “left unguarded” in military bunkers around the country would not fall in the hands of opposition jihadist rebels who are fighting government forces:

Pentagon planners are more focused on protecting or destroying any Syrian stockpiles that are left unguarded and at risk [of] falling into the hands of rebel fighters or militias aligned with Al Qaeda, Hezbollah or other militant groups. ( U.S. has plans in place to secure Syria chemical arms – latimes.com, August 22, 2012

What the Pentagon was saying in August 2012, is that these WMD could fall in the hands of  the “pro-democracy” Al Qaeda rebels recruited and financed by several of America’s close allies including Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, in liaison with Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Training in Use of Chemical Weapons confirmed by CNN

In a twisted logic,  the Pentagon was to ensure that the rebels aligned with Al Qaeda would not acquire or use WMD, by actually training them in the use of chemical weapons:

The training [in chemical weapons], which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

The nationality of the trainers was not disclosed, though the officials cautioned against assuming all are American. (CNN, December 09, 2012, emphasis added

And once these Al Qaeda rebels had been supplied and trained in the use of WMDs by military contractors hired by the Pentagon,  the Syrian government would then be held responsible for using the WMD against the Syrian people.

What is unfolding is a diabolical scenario –which is an integral part of military planning– namely a situation where opposition terrorists advised by Western defense contractors are actually in possession of chemical weapons.This is not a rebel training exercise in non-proliferation. While president Obama states that “you will be held accountable” if “you” (meaning the Syrian government) use chemical weapons, what is contemplated as part of this covert operation is the possession of chemical weapons by the US-NATO sponsored terrorists, namely “by our” Al Qaeda affiliated operatives,  including the Al Nusra Front (see image on right), which constitutes the most effective Western financed and trained fighting group, largely integrated by foreign mercenaries. In a bitter twist, Jabhat al-Nusra, a US sponsored “intelligence asset”, was recently put on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

The West claims that it is coming to the rescue of the Syrian people, whose lives are allegedly threatened by Bashar Al Assad.  The truth of the matter is that the Western military alliance is not only supporting the terrorists, including the Al Nusra Front, it is also making chemical weapons available to its proxy “opposition” rebel forces.

The next phase of this diabolical scenario is that the chemical weapons in the hands of Al Qaeda operatives will be used against civilians, which could potentially lead an entire nation into a humanitarian disaster.

The broader issue is: who is a threat to the Syrian people? The Syrian government of Bashar al Assad or the US-NATO-Israel military alliance which is recruting and training “opposition” terrorist forces, which are now trained in the use and in possession of chemical weapons

Michel Chossudovsky, May 8, 2013

For further details:

The Syria Chemical Weapons Saga: The Staging of a US-NATO Sponsored Humanitarian Disaster? By Prof Michel Chossudovsky, May 07, 2013

 

Between sequestration, with its damaging impact on workers and the economy, and the billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other necessary social programs that President Obama is pushing, it is evident that the economic policies of both major parties are not intended to promote a recovery for working people.

You cannot lift up a nation’s economy while slashing away at its consumers’ pocketbooks. In order to justify their defiance of this elementary law, both Republicans and Democrats start talking the language of “austerity,” that is, the notion that economic policy must be guided by reducing budgetary deficits first and foremost, and that workers exclusively must be made to pay the cost.

Policies associated with austerity include the cutting of public programs, privatizing existing government assets, mass layoffs of public workers and wage freezes for those who remain, union busting in the public sector and the revising of labor laws to further enhance the power of employers at the expense of employees.

Enforcing these policies during a recession prevents a recovery. Economic theory predicts this and history demonstrates it. Why, then, would the politicians promote austerity? Because these policies assure that the 1% will be let off the hook from paying their fair share of taxes that help subsidize the social safety net, and will have vast pools of public capital opened up for their private investment.

Why worry about the overall economy when the real power brokers from the corporations and banks are making out just fine with austerity? The message seems clear: As long as Wall Street is enjoying the “recovery,” no one else gets to. Wall Street has used its vast wealth to lobby politicians for policies that are in its interests. In order for working people to climb out of the recession, they will have to organize in order to create their own power base.

Local Struggles

As already noted, austerity is being enforced on a national scale. Below the radar of news headlines, for the most part, the policies of austerity are spreading on a local level as well with even more devastating immediate impact. Along with this, there has been a growing grassroots opposition to austerity starting locally.

This is most visibly the case in Chicago where Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to sacrifice 54 public schools on the alter of austerity and Obama’s “Race to the Top.” Thirty thousand students from primarily low-income black and Latino neighborhoods will be affected. Rising to confront Mayor Emanuel’s threats has been a grassroots opposition that was built from previous battles linking the Chicago Teachers’ Union’s interests with those of the working class communities at large. This was most evident at a large rally against the school closures on March 27.

In Detroit the movers behind austerity have taken their most politically extreme measures yet, putting the city ahead of the curve for what is likely to develop across the country. Michigan Governor Rick Synder has appointed Kevyn Orr, of Jones Day Law firm, as Detroit’s Emergency Financial Manager. Orr has the power to dismiss elected officials, tear up union contracts, privatize public assets and impose new taxes without a vote. He will use this power to enforce austerity. Though Orr has yet to unveil his plans, there have already been numerous protests and rallies, and the actions are likely to increase.

On the West coast at the end of April, hundreds rallied outside the San Jose City Hall to protest proposed cuts to neighborhood services and Mayor Chuck Reed’s threat to declare a fiscal emergency.

On April 11 in Oregon, a public budget hearing in which the Portland City Council intended to sell $21.5 million in cuts attracted over 400 Portland residents, overwhelming city staff. Many citizens spoke to the need to prevent the cuts and instead raise revenue from corporations rather than handing out taxpayer subsidies to them, an idea that received overwhelming support from attendees.

And at an Oakland City Council budget talk, a packed Chamber booed and jeered a presentation on Oakland’s fiscal future, chanting “Enough is enough!” The City Council is projecting a deficit ranging from $19 million to $26 million. Considering that there has already been a 20 percent reduction in the city’s full-time work force and that the city’s three major non-public safety unions are negotiating new contracts, there was no mood to accept the City Council’s austerity story.

In Newark, Illinois, around 1,000 high school students walked out of class last month to protest deep cuts to the district’s budget. Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson claims the district faces a $57 million deficit. Newark’s high school students, correctly, refuse to accept that they must sacrifice their education in order to fill this hole.

Growing Potential

This list over protests in the last two months is not complete. It does display some patterns, however. It shows how education, public workers and the communities they serve are the primary targets of austerity. That means a lot of people are taking hits.

The list also demonstrates how people become empowered when these constituencies work together in solidarity. Austerity promoters prefer to pit communities and/or unions against each other in a scramble to grab what remains of a shrinking budget pie. The events reported above show that a different reaction is possible — one that will strengthen people’s ability to powerfully confront their local governments.

Finally, these developments show it is necessary to go beyond the budget claims of the city government. Budget deficits are the product of allowing big business tax loopholes, obscenely low tax rates, and subsidies paid for by taxpayers. Those expected to bear the burden of cuts are not responsible for this.

In a time of high unemployment it is necessary to stimulate the economy by creating jobs. This stimulus should be paid for by the 1%.

Those uniting against austerity cuts could also demand what they stand for, that is, a budget that puts jobs, education and neighborhoods first rather than corporate profit. To effectively do so the unions and community groups fighting austerity can work together to build their own budget assembly to counter city governments’ “we are broke” excuses and popularize an alternative.

These local struggles and many more are a confirmation that austerity in the U.S. will be met with a fight. Though they are disconnected in terms of their organizing, they are a response to a national problem. This wave of local grassroots organizing shows the potential exists to galvanize a national movement against austerity.

Mark Vorpahl is a union steward, social justice activist and a writer for Workers

Israel Supports Al Qaeda Operatives in Syria

May 8th, 2013 by Dmitriy Sedov

This is the third attack recently. Now nobody can say Israel stands aside. The conflict in Syria spills over the national borders to encompass other international actors.

Israeli aviation hit a target in the North-West of Damascus. 300 are killed and wounded as a result; dozens of military warehouses are destroyed. Overall 43 military targets are struck, including the headquarters of 43 the army division, underground bunkers storing Scud missiles, the positions of 104th and 105th brigades (where Iranian advisors were located), and a military research facility. 18 aircraft are reported to take part in the operation. Magnitude 5.4-strong earthquake shook the area after the most powerful explosion.

The fact that Israel sides with the forces of terror appears to be something out of ordinary. It’s a long time since Israel started to use terrorist methods against Palestinians, but there have been no reports on their cooperation with Al Qaeda as yet… Israel is second to none fighting terrorists; nobody can match its HUMINT capabilities.

And now, they strike from flanks in support of militants terrorizing Syria’s population. What goal is pursued? Eliminating Syrian Scud missiles with chemical (sarin gas) warheads, capable to strike Israeli territory? But Syria had no intention to attack the neighboring state being itself plunged into the quagmire of terrorists-led insurgency.

So what is behind the Israeli aggression? Israel understands Damascus will abstain from retaliation as long as it can. It’s not the right time for combat beyond the national borders. It realizes it and strikes without mercy. It even ignores the fact that Carla Ponte, a leading member of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said says there are «strong concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof that Syrian rebels have used the nerve agent sarin».

Israel is on the way of taking the axe of war and there are quite different reasons for that.

The following reports are noteworthy: the Pentagon has come up with a number of action plans to intervene into the Syrian conflict… Obama says he has no intention to take a military action while there is no evidence that Syria uses chemical weapons, but still he has issued a «serious warning» to Syrian leadership.

So, what are the options offered by the Pentagon?

1. Expansion of arms supplies to the rebels.

But they get arms from different sources and it has not turned the tide of war. True, the United States may start deliveries of up-to-date anti-tank, portable air defense and communication systems to change the situation as time goes by.

2. Surgical strikes

High-precision air strikes may send a message with a warning against the use of weapons of mass destruction by Syrian government. Sea-based cruise missiles launched outside the territorial waters could be used for the purpose.

3.Air war.

According to the Pentagon, Syria doesn’t have a cutting edge air defense, predominantly it possesses obsolete Soviet systems, like SA-22, SA-26. The close range Panzir-S-1 is a modern one, but none of these weapons pose a challenge for NATO. According to expert Sean O’Connor, Syria cannot counter contemporary high-precision strike weapons and electronic warfare systems. Still, an intervention should be preceded by strikes against the country’s air defenses. NATO aircraft can enter the country’s air space only after radars, launching pads and communications are out of function.

4. No-fly zone

According to the Pentagon, the Turkey based Patriot air defense systems could be used for the purpose.

5. Air borne operation to secure critical infrastructure objects.

As one can see, the Pentagon has foreseen everything except the talks between the belligerents. Washington and the allies are reluctant to see any kind of negotiation process. They have their own reasons: the Assad government has proved its survivability, it will gain from armistice. The «dogs of war» are not interested in any seize-fire. They get money for killing people. If a lull takes place, some of them will move to where they’ll be paid for committing daily terrorist acts, places like Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

All the scenarios have one goal – to pour fuel into the fire. US State Department deputy spokesperson Patrick Ventrell has said that Washington is intent on boosting non-military aid to Syrian opposition. He stresses, it’s non-military. As to him, the US sent the first medical and food aid package directly to the Syrian Supreme Military Council. The aid is to be expanded and diversified; the talks are on the way to make precise priority items. All these facts make clearer the motives behind Israel’s hostility. It wants to have it over and done with the Assad’s regime. Air strikes are to provoke tensions and push Washington to taking a final decision. The international forces will be drawn into the fray.

The Syrian armed forces gradually push the terrorists away, no matter the terror forces are backed up by an anti-Syrian international conspiracy. They get everything they need in any quantity: arms, money, and manpower. Thousands of people perish in the terrorists-sparked fire. It’s high time the activities against the Syrian people are to be qualified as genocide. The death toll is over 70 thousand; no end of the slaughter is in sight. But the United Nations and other international organizations are not in a rush to put an end to ongoing genocide. The reason is simple: the Syrian government cannot be blamed for the slaughter, it didn’t start it, and it doesn’t provide aid to the terrorist gangs penetrating the country’s territory from neighboring states.

Raising the issue of genocide means asking a question: who is behind it. That’s when confusion starts. International bodies have no guts to state it straight that Turkey shoulders the burden of providing the Free Syrian Army with all it needs and fuels the fire by doing so. Saudi Arabia and Qatar pay for arms supplies destined to the rebels, so they are behind the genocide, being responsible for the deaths of dozens of thousand people. No guts because Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are linked to the US foreign policy pursuing the overthrow of Bashar Assad. That’s what is behind the strange maneuvers of the West, which is not able to make the Syrian opposition sit at the round table and stop bloodshed.

In reality, the United States and NATO encourage the genocide of Syrian people; it will become even more obvious in future.

Last August, Barack Obama told reporters at the White House:

‘We have been very clear to the Assad regime… that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised.

‘That would change my calculus; that would change my equation.’

This was a clear threat to repeat the 2011 Nato assault which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

So what is the evidence that Assad recently chose to do the one thing most likely to trigger a Western attack and similar fate?

On April 25, the White House claimed that US intelligence assessed ‘with varying degrees of confidence’ that ‘the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin’.

Having offered this caveated assertion, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel added:

‘We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons… but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime.’

He concluded:

‘As I’ve said, this is serious business – we need all the facts.’

A sceptical Alex Thomson, chief correspondent at Channel 4 News, commented:

‘WMD, the Middle East, and here we go again… Already a British prime minister is talking about a “war crime” whilst offering the British people no detailed evidence.’

Evidence included video footage said to show victims of chemical weapons foaming at the mouth.

Thomson offered a link to a detailed report of the 1995 sarin attack in Tokyo, noting: ‘am advised there’s no mention of any prominent bright, white foam at mouths’.

Thomson also asked, reasonably: ‘Why doesn’t any medic in the film wipe away the white foam on patients’ mouths – the basic paramedic fundamental to preserve an airway?’

On GlobalPost, Tracey Shelton and Peter Gelling questioned whether the filmed symptoms matched claims that sarin had been used:

‘In recent years, in other countries in the Middle East where security forces used tear gas on protesters, witnesses reported seeing victims foam at the mouth, convulse and twitch — the same symptoms seen in the Syrian victims.

‘The tell-tale sign of a sarin gas attack is myosis, or constricting of the pupils, and… tremors. While GlobalPost confirmed that some of the victims in the April 13 attack suffered from tremors, it was unable to confirm any of them had myosis.

‘Moreover, experts say an attack by sarin gas would cause virtually anyone who had come into contact with the toxin to immediately feel its effects. Exposure to even a very small amount of sarin could be lethal. While there were casualties in the Aleppo attack, most of the victims survived, which would not likely be the outcome of a sarin attack in a confined environment.’

Crucially, the White House accepted that: ‘The chain of custody is not clear.’ Middle East analyst Sharmine Narwanicommented:

‘That is the single most important phrase in this whole exercise. It is the only phrase that journalists need consider – everything else is conjecture of WMDs-in-Iraq proportions.

‘I asked a State Department spokesperson the following: “Does it mean you don’t know who has had access to the sample before it reached you? Or that the sample has not been contaminated along the way?”

‘He responded: “It could mean both.”‘

Alastair Hay, a toxicologist at the University of Leeds, cautioned:

‘To make a legal case – whether it’s against the Syrian government or opposition group – you need an ironclad chain of custody.

‘You need to be able to have somebody swear, if you like, that the material was in their custody at all times, whoever it is with before it gets to a laboratory.’

Narwani also questioned the claim that only the Syrian government has access to sarin:

‘In 2004, an IED roadside bomb – a common insurgent tactic – containing the nerve agent was detonated in Iraq. There are no guarantees whatsoever that chemical munitions have not found their way into the hands of rogue elements – or in fact that they are not producing them in small quantities themselves.’

A report in the Los Angeles Times offered other explanations:

‘Releases of poison gas could have occurred when soldiers loyal to the regime, which has been trying to secure and consolidate its dozens of chemical weapons sites, moved part of its stockpile, a U.S. Defense official said. Another possibility is that disloyal Syrian weapons scientists supplied chemicals to rebel fighters.

‘”The intel folks are taking a hard look at this, and they’re not certain,’ the Defense official said, speaking anonymously to discuss intelligence matters. “There’s no definite indication this was used against the opposition.”‘

Alex Thomson asked another sensible question:

‘Why did just a few people die – surely a large number of people would have died in a chemical attack, as in Halabja and Iran/Iraq war?’

In fact the quantities of chemicals said to be involved have been described as ‘microscopic’.

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, also founder of Arms Control Wonk, a nuclear arms control and non-proliferation blog, wrote:

‘[T]he constant references to the “small scale” use becomes more clear — we don’t have multiple victims in a single use, as might be expected if the Syrians gassed a military unit or a local community. At most, we have two events in which only one person was exposed.

‘For all we know, these two poor souls stumbled into sarin canisters while ransacking a liberated Syrian military sites. I don’t say that to be callous, but rather because strange things happen on the battlefield. Remember, in 1991, U.S. troops detonated a pit of munitions at Khamisiyah in Iraq only to discover that the munitions contained sarin.’

Two events in which only one person was exposed! This reminds strongly of the moment when 11 empty artillery shells were found in an Iraqi bunker in January 2003. An ITN expert declared:

‘The real smoking gun of course would be if one of those shells was still found to contain a chemical mixture.’ (ITV Lunchtime News, January 17, 2003)

The remarkable suggestion, in 2003, was that a massive attack by 200,000 troops would be justified by the discovery of a single 122mm artillery shell with a range of four miles.

Other questions arise. Why would the Syrian government use the one weapon likely to trigger Western intervention when its use of highly destructive conventional weaponry appears to be reversing rebel gains, as indicated here and here? Writing for Foreign Policy in December, Charles Blair commented:

‘The regime would risk losing Russian and Chinese support, legitimising foreign military intervention, and, ultimately, hastening its own end. As one Syrian official said, “We would not commit suicide.”‘

It is easy to appreciate Robert Fisk’s view in the Independent that the claims are ‘theatre’, ‘a retold drama riddled with plot-holes’. If the media stage managers appeared to be offering some kind of informed consensus, it was for a reason:

‘Walk into a TV studio and they’re all reading newspapers. Walk into a newspaper office and they’re all watching television. It’s osmotic. And the headlines are all the same: Syria uses chemical weapons. That’s how the theatre works.’

Fisk added:

‘In two Canadian TV studios, I am approached by producers brandishing the same headline. I tell them that on air I shall trash the “evidence” – and suddenly the story is deleted from both programmes. Not because they don’t want to use it – they will later – but because they don’t want anyone suggesting it might be a load of old cobblers.’

Stop Him!

The scepticism from Thomson, Fisk and others has been welcome indeed. Wider scepticism has doubtless been encouraged by the mixed messages from US officials. Corporate media performance has nevertheless been shocking.

In a leading article, ‘Stop him,’ the Sun told its readers on April 27:

‘After the carnage and slaughter in war-torn Syria comes a chilling new tactic from bloodthirsty tyrant Bashar al-Assad.

‘Chemical weapon attacks on his own people.

‘Evidence smuggled out of the divided nation confirms monster Assad’s regime has used nerve gas sarin.

‘Horrifying footage shows victims frothing at the mouth after the barbaric attacks.

‘Now, after months of rhetoric from statesmen and diplomats, momentum is growing for tough action.’ (Leading article, the Sun, April 27, 2013)

The Sun’s opinion does matter; its monthly combined reach in print and online is nearly 18 million. Its editors also quoted Cameron:

‘This should form for the international community a red line for us to do more.’

The tabloid responded:

‘Quite right, Prime Minister. Do nothing and the world is letting savage Assad evade justice – and condemning countless innocent Syrians to death.

‘This madman must be stopped.’

We can dismiss this as right-wing raving, if we like. But at what is supposed to be the opposite end of the media ‘spectrum’, the Guardian’s Ian Black wrote:

‘Syria illustrates a sort of Middle Eastern Murphy’s law – anything that can make things worse invariably happens: massacres, refugees fleeing to Jordan, tensions in Lebanon and Iraq, the use of chemical weapons…’

Black noted ‘the flurry over chemical weapons, leaving the impression that US “red lines” can be surprisingly flexible’.

As discussed, Obama’s ‘red line’ warning was of course directed at Assad. The Guardian’s Middle East editor was thus asserting that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons based on evidence which, as we have seen, is frankly risible.

In considering this same evidence, a Guardian leader observed:

‘Yet this week has also been marked by further claims that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has been doing precisely the thing that Mr Bush said so confidently, but so wrongly, was at imminent risk of being done by Saddam Hussein 10 years ago.’

In fact, no-one had warned that the Iraq government might use chemical weapons against its own people. The alleged threat was of an attack on the West ‘within 45 minutes of the order being given’, or via Iraq’s al Qaeda contacts which, like the WMD, did not exist. The Guardian continued:

‘The use of chemical weapons is a war crime. It is a war crime even if it is committed by a state which, like Syria (or North Korea), is not a signatory to the international chemical weapons convention. The evidence for the use of chemical weapons is clearly suggestive, if the recent reports are reliable and substantiated, but it is also patchy and not yet fully contextualised.’

This weasel wording managed to point a finger of blame while simultaneously recognising the paucity of evidence.

How readily the Guardian referred to a possible Syrian ‘war crime’, while referring in the same editorial to Bush and Blair’s merely ‘mismanaged and hugely damaging invasion of Iraq in 2003′.

Criminals are usually not criticised for ‘mismanaging’ their crimes. Would the Guardian refer to al Qaeda’s ‘mismanaged’ attacks of September 11, 2001, or to Iraq’s ‘mismanaged’ 1990 invasion of Kuwait? The reference to a ‘mismanaged’ invasion implies that the Guardian does not view the war of 2003 as the supreme war crime it very clearly was.

The Guardian’s Dan Roberts noted that ‘initial samples and evidence trails have degraded’. The result:

‘Britain and the US are likely to have to wait for fresh evidence from further attacks before deciding whether to take a military response against the Assad government.’

This again affirmed that the Syrian government had probably used chemical weapons. Obviously it is for Britain and the US – the world’s designated police force by virtue of their spotless legal and moral records – to decide whether to attack yet one more nation. Bombing other countries is as normal as the air we breathe.

On May 2, the BBC commented:

‘The pressure to act has intensified in recent days after emerging evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons such as the nerve gas sarin.’

This, even though ‘existing evidence of alleged chemical weapon was not sufficient to trigger an international response’.

The Times, of course, had no doubts:

‘Reports of chemical attacks suggest a new terror against a captive people. Since protests against his rule erupted more than two years ago, President Assad has created a desert and called it peace…

‘There are now credible claims that the regime has used chemical weapons against civilians. Western nations ought much earlier in this crisis to have provided heavy weaponry for Syrian rebels to defend themselves. They should do so now.’ (Leader, ‘Assad’s Victims Need Arming,’ The Times, April 24, 2003)

The Times described the evidence as ‘harrowing and highly plausible’, particularly ‘photographs of victims foaming at the mouth. The symptoms would be consistent with poisoning by sarin.’ Not quite.

Returning to the other end of the media ‘spectrum’ (a short trip), an Independent leader commented:

‘Recent days have provided persuasive evidence that chemical weapons are being used in Syria… A widespread conclusion is that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is resorting to the use of such weapons against its own people.’

As we have seen, the ‘widespread conclusion’ is anything but.

Hopping back to the hard-right, the Daily Telegraph’s deputy editor, Benedict Brogan, responded to the sarin story with an article entitled, ‘A wary, weary West is leaving Syria in the butchers’ hands; Obama may talk of red lines, but the US and its allies simply don’t have the will to intervene.’

If that was not clear enough, Brogan added: ‘the CIA has endorsed the conclusions of MI6 and other intelligence agencies that chemical weapons probably were used’. (Brogan, Daily Telegraph, April 30, 2013)

That, of course, does not remotely justify the title. Nor does the next sentence:

‘Quite how, and by whom, remains a point of argument. Whether Assad himself ordered their deployment, or whether they were being tested in improvised form by a local commander, is unclear.’

These were the thinkable options. Other possibilities – that some agency other than the Syrian government might have used chemical weapons, or that they weren’t used at all – were presumably too outlandish to mention.

The Telegraph’s own analysis made a nonsense of Brogan’s response, noting that Senator John McCain, the leading American proponent of intervention, had ‘admitted that the chemical weapons evidence “may not be airtight”.’ It also quoted Hamish de Bretton Gordon, a former commanding officer of the Army’s chemical weapons unit who now runs consultancy SecureBio: ‘even if any sarin found was from a regime shell – the nerve agent could have been deployed accidentally or by a rogue squad’.

The Telegraph’s editors had previously commented:

‘President Bashar al-Assad’s use of nerve gas presents the British and Americans with an agonising dilemma.’

The editors sighed:

‘it was perhaps inevitable that, one day, credible evidence would implicate this amoral dictator in gassing his enemies’.

And, again, compare this damning verdict with the immediately following observation that the evidence is ‘persuasive but not conclusive’ and is not ‘as compelling as it might seem’.

This really is astonishing, in the strange world of media propaganda, news reports contradict editorials and headlines contradict content. The guiding ethic: ‘I want to believe!’ It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that media performance is shaped by state-corporate forces that are deeply invested in decades of war and the spoils that go with it.

The absurdity of the media rush to the required conclusion was emphasised 10 days later. On May 6, former Swiss attorney-general Carla Del Ponte, speaking for the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria, ruffled many feathers when she said, ‘there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities’.

Del Ponte added:

‘We have no indication at all that the Syrian government have used chemical weapons.’

Although the UN quickly rowed back and the US demurred, this was impossible to ignore. Even the BBC, after a delay, posted the story half-way, then at the top, of its news homepage. This made a jarring contrast to the BBC’s usual propaganda performance on Syria. As Craig Murray, formerly Britain’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan, noted, corporate media are supplying ‘an extraordinary barrage of distorted propaganda to fool western populations over the course and meaning of events’.

The Syrian Army has regained control of a strategic town in southern Syria following heavy clashes with foreign-backed militants operating inside Syria.

Reports say the Syrian forces have released the town of Khirbet Ghazaleh on Wednesday from the militants after about two months of clashes. The town is situated near the Jordanian border.

According to the opposition sources, some 1,000 militants withdrew from the town after they lost hope that aids would come from Jordan.

The sources also said that the Syrian Army’s success in the area has raised resentment among militants over what they consider as lack of support from Jordan in their fight against the Syrian government forces.
Syrian soldiers shout slogans in support of President Bashar al-Assad near the town of Jisr al-Shughour. (File photo)

Syrian soldiers shout slogans in support of President Bashar al-Assad near the town of Jisr al-Shughour. (File photo)

On May 4, the Syrian troops drove out militants from towns of Aziza and Tall Assan, located near the northwestern city of Aleppo.The army also discovered tunnels dug by the militants in Aziza, and secured a strategic bridge that linked several towns in the Aleppo countryside.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian forces regained control over two key areas in Ghouta, near the capital Damascus, where a large number of militants were killed in the operations.

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

Washington’s Presumption. Obama: “In Satan We Follow”

May 8th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The new president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, is cast in Chavez’s mold.

On May 4, he called US president Obama the “grand chief of devils.”

Obama, who has betrayed democracy in America, unleashing execution on American citizens without due process of law and war without the consent of Congress, provoked Maduro’s response by suggesting that Maduro’s newly elected government might be fraudulent. Obviously, Obama is piqued that the millions of dollars his administration spent trying to elect an American puppet instead of Maduro failed to do the job.

If anyone has accurately summed up Washington, it is the Venezuelans.

Who can forget Chevez standing at the podium of the UN General Assembly in New York City speaking of George W. Bush?  Quoting from memory: “Right here, yesterday, at this very podium stood Satan himself, speaking as if he owned the world. You can still smell the sulphur.”

Hegemonic Washington threw countless amounts of money into the last Venezuelan election, doing its best to deliver the governance of that country to a Washington puppet called Henrique Capriles, in my opinion a traitor to Venezuela.  Why isn’t this American puppet arrested for treason?  Why are not the Washington operatives against an independent country–the US ambassador, the counsels, the USAID/CIA personnel, the Washington funded NGOs–ordered to leave Venezuela immediately or arrested and tried for spying and high treason?  Why allow any presence of Washington in Venezuela when it is clear that Washington’s intention is to make Venezuela a puppet state like the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Japan, and on and on.

There was a time, such as in the Allende-Pinochet era, when the American left-wing and a no longer extant liberal media would have been all over Washington for its illegal interference in the internal affairs of an independent country.  But no more. As CounterPunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair has recently made clear, the American left-wing remains “insensate to the moral and constitutional transgressions being committed by their champion”–the first black, or half-black, US president–leaving “Rand Paul to offer official denunciations against [Washington’s] malignant operations” against independent countries.

Against the Obama regime’s acts of international and domestic violence, “the professional Left, from the progressive caucus to the robotic minions of Moveon.org, lodge no objections and launch no protests.”

St. Clair has written a powerful article. Read it for yourself:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/03/the-game-of-drones/print

I think the American left-wing lost its confidence when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Chinese communists and Indian socialists turned capitalist. Everyone misread the situation, especially the “end of history” idiots.  The consequence is a world without strong protests of Washington’s and its puppet states’ war criminal military aggressions, murder, destruction of civil liberty and human rights, and transparent propaganda: “Last night Polish forces crossed the frontier and attacked Germany,” or so declared Adolf Hitler.  Washington’s charges of “weapons of mass destruction” are even more transparent lies.

But hardly any care. The Western governments and Japan are all paid off and bought, and those that are not bought are begging to be bought because they want the money too. Truth, integrity, these are all dead-letter words.  No one any longer knows what they mean.

The moronic George W. Bush said, in Orwellian double-speak, they hate us for our freedom and democracy. They don’t hate us because we bomb them, invade them, kill them, destroy their way of life, culture, and infrastructure. They hate us because we are so good.  How stupid does a person have to be to believe this BS?

Washington and Israel present the world with unmistakable evil.  I don’t need to stand at the UN podium after Bush or Obama.  I can smell Washington’s evil as far away as Florida. Jeffrey St. Clair can smell it in Oregon.  Nicolas Maduro can smell it in Venezuela.  Evo Morales can smell it in Bolivia from where he cast out CIA-infiltrated USAID. Putin can smell it in Russia, although he still permits the treasonous “Russian opposition” funded by US money to operate against Russia’s government. The Iranians can smell it in the Persian Gulf. The Chinese can smell it as far away as Beijing.

Homeland Security, a gestapo institution, has “crisis actors” to help it deceive the public in its false flag operations.

http://www.governamerica.com/black-ops/boston-bombings/110-fema-hiring-actors-to-run-live-terror-drills

The Obama regime has drones with which to silence American citizens without due process of law.

http://www.salem-news.com/articles/may042013/drones-boston-wh.php

Homeland Security has more than a billion rounds of ammunition, tanks, a para-military force. Detention camps have been built.

Are Americans so completely stupid that they believe this is all for  “terrorists” whose sparse numbers require the FBI to manufacture “terrorists” in so-called “sting operations” in order to justify the FBI’s $3 billion special fund from Congress to combat domestic terrorism?

Congress has taxpayers paying the FBI to frame up innocents and send them to prison.

This is the kind of country American has become. This is the kind of “security” agencies it has, filling their pockets by destroying the lives of the innocent and downtrodden.

“In God we trust,” reads the coinage. It should read: “In Satan we follow.”

Recently, news reporters have been sounding almost giddy, saying that unemployment is dropping, housing prices are rising and the stock market is growing to new highs. But, these reports do not ring true with what people see around them. When you look beyond the sunny headlines, the sad reality is mirage recovery.

The economy is limping along with unemployment and underemployment remaining at high levels while the number of new jobs is still way too low. This is especially true for US youth, many of whom will soon be graduating. Increased housing prices represent Wall Street taking advantage of cheap loans from the Fed and profiting from the collapse by buying up real estate. It is another massive transfer of wealth to the wealthiest.

What economists have been emphasizing throughout the collapse remains true today – until the job market strengthens dramatically there will be no real recovery. Here is the latest on jobs, housing, health care and Obama’s appointments. The bottom line is that recovery will come from grassroots efforts to build local sustainable economies and put real pressure on those in power.

First, let’s look at jobs. Robert Reich points out that the jobs report really was not good news: “The Labor Department reports that 165,000 new jobs were created in April – below the average gains of 183,000 in the previous three months.” And, making the inadequate number of jobs worse is that “most of the new jobs now being created pay less than the ones that were lost.”

Heidi Shierholtz of the Economic Policy Institute puts things in perspective, noting the “unemployment rate hardly budged, moving just six-hundredths of a percentage point, from 7.57 percent to 7.51 percent” and describing this as “an ongoing disaster. We need 8.7 million jobs to get back to a healthy labor market.” She adds “it will take more than five years to return to the prerecession unemployment rate,” and points out that wages dropped substantially at a 4.8 percent annualized rate.

The former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for President Reagan, Paul Craig Roberts, reviewed each category of jobs in the report and calls it fictitious. He notes the decline in construction jobs, the zero increase in manufacturing jobs, the minimal increase in energy jobs (despite all the hype about fracking and the US now being the number one oil producer in the world) and estimates that the real unemployment is 23% and that the government is exaggerating job growth by two-fold.

Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research looks at the not so bright future writing: “Furthermore there are good reasons that job growth may prove slower going forward. Excluding inventory fluctuations the economy grew at just a 1.5 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter. It has grown at less than a 1.8 percent rate over the last year. This is well below the pace that would ordinarily be needed to keep the unemployment rate from rising.” Further, the impact of federal spending cutbacks are just beginning to be felt, so that there is not “enough momentum to make any substantial dent in unemployment in the foreseeable future.”

If we focus on youth, the job picture is even worse.  High school and college seniors will be graduating into a dismal labor market, with college students deeply in debt.  A summary of youth unemployment includes The New York Times reporting “The US has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest.” Also, young workers now have wages that are lower than in 2000.

The Economic Policy Institute released a detailed report on youth unemployment which they describe as “decimated job prospects and earnings for young workers.” They summarize:

“For young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is 29.9 percent, compared with 17.5 percent in 2007, and the underemployment rate is 51.5 percent, compared with 29.4 percent in 2007. For college graduates, the unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, compared with 5.7 percent in 2007, and the underemployment rate is 18.3 percent, compared with 9.9 percent in 2007.”

On top of this, wages have been in steep decline: “between 2000 and 2012, the wages of young high school graduates declined 12.7 percent, and the wages of young college graduates decreased 8.5 percent.” The report predicts a decade of struggle and low wages for this group.

Let’s look at housing next. Corporate media was hyper in their reporting of big gains in prices for housing. But, what is really going on?  Big investors are taking advantage of low interest rates thanks to the Federal Reserve and are buying up houses at low prices. They often buy at foreclosure or before houses go on the market and are crowding out people who want to buy a home to live in. Investors are purchasing homes to rent because the poor job market is making it hard for individuals to afford to own a home. In a few years, the investors will sell at a big profit, taking more from working families.

The housing market continues to have some important problems. “There are around 4.9 million loans that are either in the foreclosure process or that aren’t making their payments.” though banks have learned how handle this by “modifying loans or approving short sales.” So, the real losers are the home owners whose lifetime investment is destroyed.

And, in health care, economist Gerald Friedman describes how treating health care as a commodity has resulted in dramatically increased costs in premiums and co-pays. One of the big costs of health care are exaggerated pharmaceutical prices due to “evergreening” of patents that lengthen patent protection. One hundred prominent experts in leukemia point out, in an editorial in American Society of Hematology, that this practice is harming patients. When the government of India revolted against this practice, President Obama made it clear – profits for Big Pharma were more important than saving lives.

The bad economy for the vast majority of Americans is showing itself in many ways. One distressing report this week was the rapid rise in suicides among middle-aged Americans.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a rapid 28 percent increase in suicides among middle-aged Americans. More Americans died from suicides than automobile accidents for the first time starting in 2010.

This week we saw more examples that the economy and government are rigged in favor of the wealthiest. Apple avoided paying taxes by borrowing the largest corporate bond ever, $17 billion, at Fed-created low interest rates to buy back shares, increase its stock dividend and avoid paying US taxes. This was done despite the fact that Apple had $145 billion in cash and securities.  It’s a scam, but legal under laws rigged for the wealthiest. Apple might look cool in its advertisements but people should think “corporate criminal” when they see the Apple symbol.

Gary Rivlan writing in The Nation did a detailed review of how the banks undermined the already too weak, Dodd-Frank financial regulation. The banks had 3,000 lobbyists swarming the Capitol, six lobbyists for every member of Congress, before Dodd-Frank, but they did not stop when the bill passed.  After passage they battled every stage of implementation by federal agencies. Annette Nazareth, a former top official at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Eugene Scalia, the son of the right-wing Supreme Court justice, led the fight with a particular focus on derivatives, Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Big finance spent one billion on lobbying before the bill passed, and they spent even more after it passed on the lobbyists, lawyers, PR firms and think tanks shilling for them. That is how it is done in DC.

While big business is able to game the system, small business is being destroyed by it.  The Economic Collapse Blog reports “the percentage of Americans that are working for themselves has never been lower in the history of the United States.”  The decline in the number of startup jobs per 1000 Americans has dropped from 11.3 under the first President Bush, to 7.8 under President Obama. They report “the percentage of “new entrepreneurs and business owners” dropped by a staggering 53 percent between 1977 and 2010.” Entrepreneurs, who take risks, innovate and, when they succeed, hire people, seem to be being killed off in the US economy.  It does not portend well for the future.

Les Leopold describes the size of the corrupt economy’s impact, the “top 7% gained a whopping $5.6 trillion in net worth . . . while the rest of lost $669 billion. Their wealth went up by 28% while ours went down by 4%.” This transfer of wealth to the richest happened because of specific government policies.

This brings us to President Obama’s recent appointments which Jill Stein describes as a betrayal of the American people. In fact, they couldn’t be much worse for the public interest. He has been appointing campaign donors and big-time finance bundlers. At Commerce, Penny Pritzker will become the first female Secretary of Commerce. While we support female leadership, did he have to pick someone who cashed in on the housing bubble, crashing a bank after ripping off working class people?  She’s actually a two-fer, not only a bankster, but a race-to-the bottom employer who mistreats workers at her family-owned Hyatt hotels.

And, then there is the US Trade Representative, who will finish the negotiations on the disastrous Trans-Pacific Partnership. Michael Forman, a former Citigroup executive from 1999 to 2008, was part of the team that ran the bank into the ground with risky investments and rip-offs of consumers. It is no surprise that he left as the bank was bailed out by the federal government to work for Obama.

The final appointee spent decades as a lobbyist in Washington, DC as a representative of big business and as a venture capitalist. Tom Wheeler was nominated to chair the Federal Communications Commission. It is hard to imagine Wheeler acting in the public interest with his background, so consumers can expect higher cable bills and more concentration of industry in the future.

It should be evident to all now that since President Obama no longer has to answer to voters, he is not promoting policies for the people. His administration has become even more plutocratic. He still needs to raise money for the Obama Presidential Center, so a cabinet of millionaires and now billionaires, will certainly be good for fundraising.

Despite the bad news, it does not have to be this way. The solutions are evident. As Dean Baker points out “There are many more ways to spend money that will put people back to work, but the key is to get such spending back on the political agenda.”  What to spend on, Heidi Shierholtz recommends: “fiscal relief to states and substantial additional investment in infrastructure.”  Robert Reich says the time to focus “on jobs and inequality, it’s now. But don’t hold your breath.”  The political agenda in Washington, DC shows no sign of even considering sensible policies.  It is not going to get better unless there is a revolt from the American people who say “NO MORE.”

The future can be defined by the people; we must have the confidence that we can create it. We have no doubt – we can and we must. Look for our article on alternative currencies and economies on May 8 in TruthOut. There is a lot we can do now to opt out of Wall Street. An important finding is that shifting spending from big box stores to independent businesses by just 10% in Michigan was extrapolated to “generate an annual economic impact of nearly $200,000,000 and create 1300 jobs with over $70,000,000 in payroll.” The power to create recovery is in our hands and communities.

This article is based on a weekly newsletter for ItsOurEconomy.us. To sign up for the free newsletter, click here.

Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-direct It’s Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC.  They co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

US officials continued to press for war against Syria yesterday, dismissing United Nations investigator Carla del Ponte’s statement that Western-backed opposition forces, not the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, had used chemical weapons.

Del Ponte’s comment, based on an investigation including extensive interviews by UN officials, tore to shreds the lie with which Washington has tried to justify its drive to war—namely, that it is attacking Syria to protect the people from Assad’s use of chemical weapons. (See also: UN says US-backed opposition, not Syrian regime, used poison gas).

 There is every reason to believe, in fact, that the opposition has used chemical weapons, as it has apparently received training on such weapons from the US or allied forces. According to a CNN report in December, the US has dispatched contractors and mercenaries for the purpose of training the rebels to “secure stockpiles and handle [chemical] weapons sites and materials.”

Opposition forces have received numerous shipments of weapons and equipment overseen by the United States and allied regimes such as Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Last December, opposition fighters posted a video on YouTube showing them testing chemical weapons and declaring their readiness to use them.

Taking their lead from Carney, US lawmakers issued calls for a full-scale attack on Syria. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (Democrat of New Jersey) submitted legislation that would officially authorize the Obama administration to arm the so-called “rebels.”

“The Assad regime has crossed a red line that forces us to consider all options,” Menendez said in a written statement, treating as fact the completely unsubstantiated claim, refuted by del Ponte, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against the opposition.

Over the weekend, Senator John McCain (Republican of Arizona) asserted that Obama’s “red line” on chemical weapons use has been crossed and that the time had come for a “game-changing” escalation against Syria.

Senator Bob Casey (Democrat of Pennsylvania) asserted the existence of a “broad consensus” in favor of the US and its allies creating a “safe zone” inside Syria. This would involve large-scale air strikes against Syrian air defenses and the carving out of a significant portion of Syrian territory under the control of the imperialist powers.

Senator Robert Corker (Republican of Tennessee), a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated on Tuesday: “I do think we’ll be arming the opposition shortly.” Corker went on to say that “we do have to change the equation… The moderate opposition groups we support are not as good at fighting.”

The senators’ calls for war come amid stepped-up military planning against Syria. On Monday, the New York Times reported that the US, Britain and France are secretly discussing coordinated air strikes for the purpose of imposing a no-fly zone over Syria. The newspaper also reported that the US military, which has been working out plans to attack Syria for months, has been told by the Obama administration to step up its planning and coordinate it with key American allies.

The braying for war from Congress and the media follows Israeli air strikes against Syria last Thursday and Sunday. There are reports that 42 Syrian soldiers were killed by Israeli strikes near Damascus.

A Hezbollah representative claimed that the Israeli attacks were launched in support of the opposition groups: “This shelling is an attempt at giving a morale boost to the terrorists and takfiris [extremists] and all those who are fighting to destroy Syria from within,” he said.

One purpose of the Israeli strikes was to test Syria’s air defense capacities amid preparations for massive air strikes by the US, France and Britain. According to Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “Israel’s success does indicate that the purely military risks in enforcing some form of no-fly or no-move zone are now more limited than when the fighting in Syria began.”

Cordesman made clear that imposing a so-called “no-fly zone” would involve large-scale war: “It would take a massive US air and cruise missile attack… difficult for even two carrier groups to carry out and sustain.”

A May 7 editorial in the Wall Street Journal, “The Non-Intervention War,” made the case for a major war against Syria. The Journal wrote, “The US could still steer this conflict toward a better outcome if Mr. Obama has the will. At this stage this would require more than arming some rebels. It probably means imposing a no-fly zone and air strikes against Assad’s forces. We would also not rule out the use of American and other ground troops to secure the chemical weapons.

 

“The immediate goal would be to limit the proliferation of WMD, but the most important strategic goal continues to be to defeat Iran, our main adversary in the region. The risks of a jihadist victory in Damascus are real, at least in the short term, but they are containable by Turkey and Israel.”

The US is preparing for yet another imperialist war on the scale of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Though cynically advertised to the American public as an extension of the so-called “war on terror” against Al Qaeda, the goal of such a war will be to consolidate US imperialism’s control over the entire Middle East and its vast energy resources. The US ruling elite is not concerned about defeating “the terrorists,” who are in fact its allies.

The ease with which the Obama administration dismissed reports of Al Qaeda-linked opposition forces mounting attacks with chemical weapons is particularly significant, especially as lies about Al Qaeda acquiring WMD were a major pretext for invading Iraq. This underlies the long-running and continuing alliance between US imperialism and the most reactionary Islamist forces.

 

Starting in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, during the Soviet-Afghan war, US intelligence oversaw the arming of Islamist forces, including Osama bin Laden, who went on to fight as shock troops in US-backed wars in the Balkans and the Caucasus in the 1990s. While certain elements of Al Qaeda were targeted by the US after the September 11 attacks, Washington’s political connections with these forces were maintained during the 2000s.

For its 2011 Libyan war and now in Syria, the US mobilized Al Qaeda-linked forces of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and, in Syria, the Al-Nusra Front.

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Moscow on Tuesday, attempting to gain Russian support for US regime-change efforts in Syria. Together with China, Russia has vetoed three separate UN resolutions condemning Assad for his government’s crackdown on the US-backed “rebel” groups.

“The United States believes that we share some very significant common interests with respect to Syria—stability in the region, not having extremists creating problems throughout the region and elsewhere,” Kerry declared.

The United States and Russia reportedly agreed to organize a conference on the war that both the Assad regime and the opposition would attend.

Nevertheless, Kerry received a chilly welcome from Putin, who kept him waiting for hours and reportedly fiddled with his pen distractedly while Kerry spoke. The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement, implicitly critical of US policy, that declared: “The further escalation of armed confrontation sharply increases the risk of creating new areas of tension and the destabilization of the so-far relatively calm atmosphere on the Lebanese-Israeli border.”

As of yesterday, the official death toll had reached 705, with hundreds more injured, making the collapse the worst industrial disaster in country’s history and one of the worst ever in the world. Rana Plaza is typical of the thousands of shoddily built, unsafe sweatshops in Bangladesh employing workers at $38 a month to churn out orders for some of the world’s largest corporations.

A well rehearsed media operation swung into action as soon as news of the April 24 disaster began to emerge. The well-resourced PR departments of the corporations directly or indirectly involved immediately issued statements expressing their “shock” and “sadness” over the loss of life. Most attempted to deny any involvement with the five garment factories housed in the building, no doubt advised by their equally well-resourced legal departments. A few acknowledged their connection to the Rana Plaza suppliers.

The crocodile tears and declarations of “shock” are completely hypocritical. The very reason some of the best known international brands source their goods in Bangladesh is that the country has the lowest costs—not only low wages, but low overheads due to the lack of regulation. Safety and building standards exist largely on paper, as the government employs very few inspectors to enforce the codes in a country that is notorious for corruption and bribery.

Many corporations maintain a façade of concern by setting guidelines for their suppliers backed by a system of “audits”, supposedly to ensure that standards are met. Auditing for safety and working conditions has become an industry in itself, in which non-government organisations (NGOs) are involved. The guidelines are ignored and orders are commonly subcontracted to smaller sweatshops. The audits are little more than occasional nuisances as manufacturers cut costs to meet the price demanded.

One monitoring group, the Business Social Compliance Initiative, based in Brussels, has admitted that its auditors approved two of the garment factories inside Rana Plaza on behalf of their clients. The structural soundness of the building was simply not on the check list.

The sheer scale of the Rana Plaza disaster, which has horrified people around the world, has compelled the retail giants to consider moving their business elsewhere. The New York Times highlighted the fact last week that the Walt Disney Company, the world’s largest licenser with annual sales of nearly $40 billion, had issued a directive in March ordering an end to the production of branded merchandise in Bangladesh and several other countries. Disney products had been found in the ruins of the Tazreen Fashion factory that was gutted by fire last November, killing 112 workers.

At the time, the fire was the country’s worst industrial disaster. However, Disney’s directive to pull out was a purely commercial decision. The cost to its corporate image simply outweighed the relatively small impact on its profits, as only a tiny proportion of its products are produced in Bangladesh. In its statement, Disney announced that production would be phased out over a year. It left the door open to returning if factories began cooperating with the Better Work program jointly run by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation, connected to the World Bank.

Corporations that are in no position financially to withdraw have called on the services of the ILO, the trade unions and various NGOs to pressure the Bangladeshi government and manufacturers to make cosmetic changes to safety and building standards. Last week, the Bangladesh Garment Manufactures & Exporters Association (BGMEA), which is desperate to retain its global customers, met with representatives of 40 buyers, including H&M, JC Penny, Gap, Nike, Li & Fung and Tesco. It promised to carry out building inspections of all its members.

Some corporations, such as Primark, are promising to pay compensation of around $1,200 to each of the families of the victims of the Rana Plaza disaster. Walmart, which was directly implicated in the Tazreen Fashion disaster, has refused to pay what amounts to hush money, but has donated $1.6 million towards a token fire safety training program in Bangladesh. The amounts are a pittance, undoubtedly calculated through the methods of cost-benefit analysis used by Disney to reach its decision.

The European Union, acting on behalf of Europe’s retailers, issued a statement last week threatening to withdraw preferential trade access to EU markets for Bangladesh. Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and trade commissioner Karel De Gucht declared that the EU was considering “appropriate action” to “incentivise responsible management of supply chains involving developing countries.” Some 60 percent of Bangladesh’s garment exports go to Europe.

The EU posturing has nothing to do with improving the lot of Bangladeshi workers. EU officials told the Financial Times that the withdrawal of trade preferences would be “an extreme measure” which was “unlikely” to take place. As one European Commission official told the newspaper, the statement directed at Bangladeshi authorities was only to “put a fire under their feet a little bit.”

If trade preferences were withdrawn, or major corporations followed Disney’s example, the impact on the Bangladesh economy would be devastating. Garments constitute about 80 percent of the country’s exports and more than 3 million workers are directly employed in the industry. Many would lose their jobs, compounding the widespread poverty that already afflicts the Bangladeshi masses.

Moreover, any corporate exits from Bangladesh would only be to another cheap-labour platform, possibly with even lower costs. Burma (Myanmar) is being touted as a possible alternative, where the military-dominated regime would ensure a docile workforce with few safety regulations. The rush to meet the new demand would ensure that buildings were flung up in a similar haphazard and shoddy fashion. Other possibilities include Pakistan, where nearly 300 workers died in a Karachi garment factory fire last September, or the sweatshops in countries such as Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Haiti.

Far from improving safety standards and working conditions, the corporate giants are engaged in a dog-eat-dog competition against their rivals that is intensifying amid the global breakdown of capitalism. The relentless drive for profits is undermining the health, safety and living standards not only of workers in the developing countries, but also in the economically advanced nations. The only means for ending the tragic loss of life and limb is a unified -struggle by workers throughout Asia, Europe, the US and the world to put an end to the outmoded capitalist system.

Haaretz reported on March 24th, “Jihadists, not Assad, apparently behind reported chemical attack in Syria“.

 UN investigator Carla Del Ponte said that there is strong evidence that the rebels used chemical weapons, but that there is not evidence that the government used such weapons:

But the U.S. is blaming the Syrian government for the attacks in Syria.

***

So who’s right?

The Global Post reported on April 30th:

A closer analysis, however, raises doubts and highlights the challenge of confirming whether the Syrian government–or anyone else–is using chemical weapons…. Looking at video and photos obtained by GlobalPost at the scene, experts say the spent canister found in Younes’ [a victim's] house and the symptoms displayed by the victims are inconsistent with a chemical weapon such as sarin gas, which is known to be in Syria’s arsenal.

Here’s a picture of the spent canister:

Syria chemical weapons attack 1 Kurdish police and members of a Kurdish militia gather the remains of a device witnesses say was dropped by a helicopter onto the courtyard staircase of a family home in Sheikh Maqsoud, a neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. Syrians suspect the device is some kind of chemical weapon. But experts have their doubts. – [Rojhat Azad/Courtesy]

The GlobalPost continues:

Looking at video and photos obtained by GlobalPost at the scene, experts say the spent canister found in Younes’ house and the symptoms displayed by the victims are inconsistent with a chemical weapon such as sarin gas, which is known to be in Syria’s arsenal. Sarin is typically delivered using artillery shells or spray tanks, not in the grenade-like device found in this Aleppo attack and in other similar attacks reported in recent days.

***

Watch the full, unedited video here

While analysts have not been able to identify the canister, they said tear gas, some kind of generated smoke, as well as any number of chemicals found in military munitions and devices, could also have been responsible. Chemicals used for riot control are not prohibited by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

***

Experts say an attack by sarin gas would cause virtually anyone who had come into contact with the toxin to immediately feel its effects. Exposure to even a very small amount of sarin could be lethal. While there were casualities in the Aleppo attack, most of the victims survived, which would not likely be the outcome of a sarin attack in a confined environment.

The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Adding to the doubts, some analysts are now wondering if the attack might have actually involved chlorine, which is also a chemical weapon but can be bought over-the-counter. A March Reuters story described a possible chemical attack in the northern town of Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo, after which residents said they could smell chlorine. The Telegraph reported at the time that Syrian regime forces accused rebels of using a homemade chlorine solution in the attack.

***

Perhaps adding some credibility to fears that Syrian rebels could potentially use chlorine, militants in neighboring Iraq used chlorine bombs several times in 2007. Some Syrian fighters with the Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra are believed to have ties to Iraqi extremists.

CNN notes:

Al Qaeda in Iraq detonated a series of crude chlorine bombs in Iraq from late 2006 through mid-2007.

***

Charles Faddis, who headed the CIA’s operations against al Qaeda in Iraq’s chlorine bomb network, told me in 2010: “[T]he attacks are not being particularly successful. The people are dying in the blast, but fortunately nobody is dying from chlorine.”

 

The GlobalPost reported on May 5th:

Doctors in Turkey say initial tests of blood samples from victims of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria last month are negative for sarin gas.

***

It could have been tear gas or some other kind of generated smoke, normally used for riot control, some weapons experts said.

In other words, those who question the claim that it was the Syrian government which used chemical weapons have photographic and other evidence on their side.

Rebels Have More Motive than Government …

The Washington Post reported yesterday:

As Foreign Policy’s Blake Hounshell points out, Khan al-Assal was a regime-controlled area at the time, which suggests that if anyone were to attack it, it would probably be rebels. (Hat tip to Hounshell for resurfacing these March articles.)

 

Similarly, Tony Cartalucci points out that the Syrian government has no motivation to use chemical weapons.  And Lew Rockwell argues:

Of course anyone whose brain fired on more than one cylinder should have questioned why in the hell the Syrian government would use in such a limited and militarily insignificant way the one weapon it knew would likely bring on a US and NATO Libya-style intervention. It made no sense at all for the Syrian government to use “just a little” sarin — not enough to do more than kill a few people, nothing to alter the course of the war — knowing about “red lines” and a US/Saudi/Qatari/Israeli/Turk bloodlust to invade.

On the other hand, it made all the sense in the world for the insurgents to release some sarin here and there, make some videos of the victims, and email the links to some very willing Israeli generals and McCainian rabid warhawks in the US and their absurd poodles in the UK and France.

CNN points out that the Syrian rebels have had chemical weapons training.

Neoconservatives planned regime change in Syria – and throughout the Middle East and North Africa – 20 years ago.   And carrying out acts of violence and blaming it on the Syrian government as an excuse for regime change – i.e. false flag terror – was discussed over 50 years ago by British and American leaders.

A top Bush administration official says it’s hard to say who used chemical weapons – if anyone – and that the chemical weapons attack may have been an Israeli false flag attack.

And the American government has previously falsely blamed its enemies for chemical weapons attacks.  For example, the American government gave chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein … which he then used on Iran and on his own Kurdish population.  The American government attempted to blame Iran for the chemical weapons attack on Iraq’s Kurds … just as the U.S. is trying to blame the Syrian government for the attacks in Syria.

And see this.

And the “rebels” in Syria that the U.S. has been arming and otherwise supporting are Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood.  Indeed, the New York Times reported last week that virtually all of the rebel fighters are Al Qaeda terrorist.

But the war-hungry mainstream media – just as in Iraq – is pushing half-truths and bogus claims.

Fannie and Freddie in Good Hands with Mel Watt

May 8th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

On May 1, Obama nominated Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

It replaced the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB), the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DHUD).

It did so following their statutory merger. FHFB regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and 12 Federal Home Loan Banks.

If approved, Watt will replace Edward DeMarco. Since August 2009, he’s been acting director. Change.org called him the “single biggest obstacle to meaningful economic recovery.”

He blocked reducing the burden of underwater homeowners. Fire DeMarco, urged Change.org.

In January 2013, Public Citizen headlined “Bank of America Settlement Needs Another Look,” saying:

It should be investigated to assure proper oversight. It questioned DeMarko’s $3.5 billion FHFA settlement. He claimed it’s “in the best interest of taxpayers.”

It’s “restitution for bad loans leading up to the financial crisis.” It represents “a quarter of a percent of the $1.4 trillion original value of the loans.”

According to Public Citizen’s financial policy advocate Bartlett Naylor:

“Obviously there is a huge disconnect between the amount Bank of America is paying as part of the settlement and the financial harm caused to taxpayers by the bad mortgages the bank was selling.”

“The deal needs closer scrutiny so we can be sure we don’t just create an incentive for banks to engage in the same kind of bad behavior in the future.”

On July 31, 2012, Paul Krugman called for DeMarko’s firing. He “just rejected a request from the Treasury Department (to) offer debt relief to troubled homeowners.”

“(D)eciding whether debt relief if a good policy for the nation as a whole is not (his) job….This guy needs to go.”

In March 2012, Naked Capitalism called DeMarko a convenient scapegoat. It was to divert attention from the “abject failure” of Obama and key Democrats “to come up with remotely adequate solutions to the housing mess.”

Complicit with congressional Republicans, they refused to get tough on banks. Failure prevents recovery. If Obama wanted to help underwater homeowners, he “could have used the hundreds of billions of dollars available under TARP to do so.”

No congressional authorization is required. Instead of doing the right thing, he yielded to monied interests. He’s done so throughout his tenure.

He consistently threw troubled homeowners under the bus. If he’s approved, they’ll remain there with Watt. Naked Capitalism calls him “a prototypical bank-friendly Democrat.”

For over a decade, Goldman Sachs lobbyist Joyce Brayboy was his chief of staff. His former legislative Counsel, Hilary West, now lobbies for JPMorgan Chase. Watt was absent during its “London Whale” hearings.

On June 27, 2012, the Charlotte Observer headlined “Mel Watt lies low on banking, finance issues; ‘they are not listening.’ ”

“Since Dodd-Frank, all quiet on finance front for Charlotte Democrat.” As other House Financial Services Committee members questioned JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Watt attended another meeting.

When he arrived, it was too late. “He left early, without speaking”. At a time when banks have found themselves in political firestorms, Watt has made fewer floor speeches on banking  and introduced fewer bills on the subject.”

“And he hasn’t issued a single public statement on banking in the two years since Dodd-Frank passed.”

Commercial banks are among his largest donors. On May 2, the Center for Public Integrity headlined “Mel Watt enjoys close ties to financial industries,” saying:

He “has plenty of friends in the financial services industry.” He’s gotten “more campaign money from financial interests than any other industry or special interest.”

Since entering Congress in 1992, he got “$1.33 million in campaign contributions from the finance, real estate and insurance industries.”

Commercial banks are his biggest donors. Among others they include Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy and securitize about 90% of all new mortgages. They guarantee these loans. They’re a crucial part of the housing market. They’re vital to banks’ profitability.

Fannie and Freddie contributed to Watt’s campaigns from 2004 until they collapsed in 2008. According to Public Citizen’s Bartlett Naylor:

Watt’s “neither a champion nor a source of frustration. He is not somebody that we can count on to lead the charge” for responsible reform.

He “represents thousands of constituents who work for Bank of America. And that complicates his responsibility to ensure that Bank of America does not jeopardize the health of the nation….”

Appointing Watt may replace one Wall Street favorite with another. He helped get Dodd-Frank legislation passed. Wall Street lobbyists wrote the bill. It masqueraded as reform. It was business as usual.

Bill Black called it “notable for its incoherence and complexity.” It’s easy for clever lawyers to undercut reform. Doing so “further weakens an Act that begins weak.”

America experiences “recurrent intensifying financial crises.” It shows past lessons aren’t learned. Policies adopted “produced even more criminogenic environments.”

Real financial reform “could have been written in three pages.” One sentence could restore Glass-Steagall. Another could abolish the 2000 Commodities Futures Modernization Act.

It legitimized swap agreements and other hybrid instruments. Doing so opened a pandora’s box of trouble. It prevented regulatory oversight of derivatives and leveraging. It turned Wall Street sharks loose on unwary investors. Until it collapsed, it let Enron fleece investors.

It sailed through the House and Senate. Clinton signed it into law. He did so a month before leaving office.

Dodd-Frank fell far short of reform. Banks and other financial enterprises operate like before. Watt helped facilitate business as usual.

On October 30, 2009, Bloomberg headlined “Federal Reserve Policy Audit Legislation ‘Gutted,’ Paul says.”

Ron Paul introduced legislation several times to abolish the Fed. On February 26, 2009, he sponsored HR 1207: Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009.

Despite 320 co-sponsors, it died in committee. Paul was a House Financial Services Committee member. Watt chaired a domestic monetary policy and technology subcommittee panel.

Paul said he eliminated “just about everything” while preparing legislation for formal consideration. At the time, his spokesman didn’t comment. He said Watt wasn’t available to be interviewed.

He represents North Carolina’s 12th district. It includes Charlotte. It’s Bank of America’s headquarters. It’s the “biggest US lender,” said Bloomberg.

Naked Capitalism believes House Republicans will block his nomination. “And given that (he’d) be highly unlikely to do more than make symbolic policy changes and would likely trade meaningful putback settlements for that, we should count ourselves lucky.”

On May 5, Charles Johnson headlined “Housing nominee Mel Watt helped create the subprime crisis,” saying:

He helped “borrowers with poor credit buy homes with no down payment.”

In 2002, Watt, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, BB&T, and UJAMMA “announce(d) Pathways to Homeownership.” Doing so downplayed risks. They should have been highlighted.

Watt’s role in deregulating Fannie and Freddie came after they “spent billions in his congressional district.” In 2002, an estimated 82,000 Charlotte-area residents got risky loans.

They and others nationwide “led to the housing bubble and financial crisis.” Charlotte was one of the hardest hit cities.

In 2001, Watt helped initiate “With Ownership, Weath (WOW).” It “sought to add one million black households to the ranks of America’s homeowners by 2005.”

It set low standards to obtain mortgages. It let recipients buy homes they couldn’t afford. In July 2012, Bloomberg said over 1.5 million Americans aged 50 or older lost homes since the housing market collapse. So did many younger ones.

Many others teeter on foreclosure. The housing crisis is far from over. Low-income households are hardest hit. They remain most vulnerable. Instead of avoiding a irresponsible policy maker, Obama wants him as Federal Housing Finance Agency head.

In announcing his nomination, he said:

“Mel has led efforts to rein in unscrupulous mortgage lenders. He’s helped protect consumers from the kind of reckless risk-taking that led to the financial crisis in the first place.”

“And he’s fought to give more Americans in low-income neighborhoods access to affordable housing.”

Others think Obama’s choice lets a fox guard the hen house. He’s beholden to financial interests that control him.

Whether the Senate accepts or rejects him remains to be seen. It may not matter. If rejected, Obama can install him by recess appointment.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/fannie-and-freddie-in-good-hands-with-mel-watt/

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has strongly condemned Israel’s recent acts of aggression against Syria, calling on the UN Security Council to take action against the Tel Aviv regime.

In a Tuesday statement, the NAM Coordinating Bureau in New York said the Israeli strike on a Syrian research center was a “grave violation of the international law as it infringes upon Syrian sovereignty and constitutes a blatant violation of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

On May 5, Syria said the Israeli regime had carried out an air attack targeting a research center in a suburb of Damascus, following heavy losses of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups inflicted by the Syrian army. According to Syrian media reports, Israeli rockets struck the Jamraya research center. The Jamraya facility had been targeted by another Israeli airstrike in January.

 

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The latest airstrike was the Israeli regime’s second assault on Syria in three days.

The statement by the 120-member NAM further underlined that the Israeli air raid caused huge destruction to the country’s military and civilian areas, resulting in the deaths and injuries of scores of military personnel and civilians.

The movement called on the UN Security Council to shoulder its responsibilities by clearly condemning the Israeli aggression against Syria and take the necessary measures to prevent its recurrence.

The Israeli regime must be held “accountable for the aggression and its consequences in order to avoid the deterioration of the situation in the region, which might lead to a large-scale regional war that would threaten regional and international peace and security,” the statement further read.

On Monday, a senior Syrian official told Russia Today that the Israeli regime had used depleted uranium in its air raid on Syria.

The countries hostile to the Syrian government and nation, including Turkey and several Arab states in the region, have adopted a policy of silence toward Tel Aviv’s acts of aggression against Syria.

Recent Israeli airstrikes on Damascus have once again shed light on a defining western-led policy when it comes to the Middle East: strategic moral expediency. Once again, the counterproductive, and age-old policy of: “the enemy of my enemy: is my friend,” crops up in the realm of western foreign policy in the Middle East.

What is so counterintuitive for most, or, what most of the western “news” media are subverting or pretending not to recognise: is the recent Israeli strikes prove outright that Israel, acting on behalf of the US, is fighting on the same side as Al Qaeda in Syria. Western efforts to bolster supposed ‘moderate rebels’ have clearly only bolstered what has always been the main demographic of the militant ‘opposition’: Salafi/Jihaddi inspired and fomented militias, that do not espouse anything close to democracy. Apart from the obvious clash of religious ideology, strategically speaking, actually ousting Assad is where the radical Islamic militants and Bibi may differ. Bibi and Co. would no doubt be more than happy to see a much weakened Assad Government stay in some sort of power, and allow the Syrian conflict to rumble on for twenty years. Ideally, for Israel and the US the aim is a ‘Balkanized’ array of weak statelets. What Israel and the US do not want, is a strong and stable Syria, or Levant, or Greater Middle East for that matter; unless those ‘strong’ states fall under the auspices of the USA. (eg: KSA, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan, Turkey et al)

This is another blatant example of western Government’s moral expediency when it comes to strategic objectives. Let’s not forget, it was the CIA that enabled the creation of Al Qaeda: in US attempt’s to “give Russia its Vietnam” during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In this instance it has also been proven that the CIA, through mainly Saudi Arabia and the ISI, (Pakistani intelligence service) fomented, exploited and manipulated young, unemployed conservative Sunni muslim men from across the globe, to go and wage a holy war against the US’ number one enemy. This was not to enable any form of democracy or self-determination in Afghanistan, it was simply a war game: to bog down the Soviet Forces and ultimately bring about the end of the Soviet Union. Inevitably, the US and its clients enabling such radical anti-western ideologues to play as pawns in its geopolitical strategies, is where blowback comes into play, but is this ultimately a desired outcome? To create the perpetual enemy? One that is no real threat to ‘the homeland’, (or the elites that comfortably reside within) but can be exploited and manipulated to both leverage and attack US enemies. Or be used as a tool to suppress domestic populations and civil liberties, under the false guise of “National Security” and “the War on Terror”.

Long ago, the Bush administration made a concerted effort to consolidate, and expand on its economic and military ties with its predominantly autocratic Sunni leaders in the region. These are portrayed as attempts to curb the “Shiite crescent” or, realistically: pressure Iran into submission. This is not a new phenomenon, Since its UK-led inception, the West has enjoyed a “special relationship” with the brutal monarchy of Saudi Arabia. As empire crossed the Atlantic post WWII, so did these key relationships. (Though the UK still likes to pretend it is more than a Special Forces sub-contractor for the Pentagon.) This is both an economic necessity, and a strategic one for western powers. One crucial element we learn in Seymour Hersh’s enlightening piece “The Redirection”, is the Bush administrations willingness to use its Sunni allies in the region to fund, foment and propagate radical Islamic militants to subvert/leverage the Assad Government in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iran’s resistance to US/Israeli/GCC hegemony. The sectarian division of Syria has been long-planned by these allies, one would be an utter fool to deny its now evident outcome.

Most Syria analysts with an ounce of honesty now fully admit the vast majority of supposed “rebels” are Salafi/Jihaddi inspired militants, or at least under the leadership and funding of such ideologues. Indeed, the US terrorist designated-militant jiahddi group linked directly to Al Qaeda: Jahbat al Nusra, have long been the prominent fighting force in Syria. This is no coincidence. While the US and its Gulf allies feign innocence, and claim the millions of dollars and thousands of tons of military aid they have provided has been allocated to ‘moderate rebels’: it is in fact the Salafi/Jihaddi groups that have risen and gained in quality and size of arsenal, recruitment, and success on the ground.

The military tide has most definitely changed in the SAA’s favour in recent weeks, the Syrian Army has routed the Salafi/Jihaddi militants in several key areas; this is the reasoning behind Israels recent raids on Damascus. It beggars belief that Assad, currently fighting for his life and his Governments stake in Syria, would move substantial quantities of sophisticated weapons out of Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The US and its allies (clients) are panicking, the “Redirection” has not gone precisely according to plan, (does US strategy ever go to plan?) and is currently reeling out of control. The extremist proxies Gulf autocrats have fomented and armed are a law unto themselves, and the ‘opposition in exile’ is as incoherent and incapable today, as it was on the day of its US/Qatari/Saudi creation. Whether the US has finally reneged on its proxies in Syria, and pulled the plug on its clients attempts to supply heavy weaponry remains to be seen. It is virtually impossible for the US to step up its overt military aid to jihaddi militants, so it must fall back on Israel. There are two key reasons for this. First, the Israel military is already an international pariah, with no credibility to lose in the middle east, the US is trying to hold on to what little credibility it has. Second, US jets using an Arab client’s airfield to launch strikes on a fellow Arab nation, would provide far too much domestic political backlash for the KSA, or any other client to allow it. Time and US perseverance may force someone into this role. But using Israel makes it irrelevant. The Jordanian Monarchy has already allowed Israeli drones to use its airspace, and as we know has been staging a huge multinational special forces base on Syria’s border, for quite some time.

One cannot honesty look at the current situation in Syria; the plethora of available evidence of Salafi/Jihaddist militants since the start of the conflict; the main donors and funders of supposed “freedom fighters”, and still deem it as anything other than a regional war. Instigated by the Bush administration and its GCC clients, and dutifully carried out by the Obama administration and the Neo-Con hawks that sway foreign policy in Washington. The ultimate goal was the swift overthrow of the Syrian Government, and leaving behind another failed state; incapable of resistance to US/Israeli/GCC hegemony in the region. That ship has sailed, the false democratic ‘revolution’ is long over. The SAA has regained in confidence and is winning its offensive, the media war on the Syrian Government seems also to be coming to a grinding standstill. Apart from the “massacre” and “chemical weapons” agitprop from Western and Gulf outlets, there is not much more they can throw at them. Much to the Wests chagrin, the Syrian government is still standing; it still has a strong and well equipped army that is winning its chosen battles; it still has popular support within its borders, and crucially, it still has the backing of international allies.

One cannot imagine if this were still being purported as a “grassroots democratic uprising,” that the US would be eager to use Israel and give the Assad regime such a propaganda coup. It is too late for falsehoods now, and desperate times call for desperate measures. What remains to be seen is whether the recent Israeli strikes were a precedent of more to come, an attempt to prolong the internal conflict and “level the playing field”, or simply, a provocation toward Iran.

Phil Greaves is a UK based writer/analyst, focusing on UK/US Foreign Policy and conflict analysis in the Middle East post WWII. http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/

Death Penalty Dying Out

May 8th, 2013 by David Swanson

Most of the world’s governments no longer use the death penalty.  Among wealthy nations there is one exception remaining.  The United States is among the top five killers in the world.  Also in the top five: the recently “liberated” Iraq.

 

But most of the United States’ 50 states no longer use the death penalty.  There are 18 states that have abolished it, including 6 in this new millennium, including Maryland this week.  Thirty-one states haven’t used the death penalty in the past 5 years, 26 in the past 10 years, 17 in the past 40 years or more.  A handful of Southern states — with Texas in the lead — do most of the killing.

 

The progress is slow and painful.  Mississippi is right now having trouble deciding whether to spare a man just because he might be innocent.  Maryland has perversely left five people waiting to be killed while banning the death penalty for any future cases.  Next-door in Virginia we hold second place behind Texas and continue to kill.

 

Virginia electrocuted a man named Robert Gleason in January.  Since then, Texas has killed four men, Ohio two, and Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia one each — all by lethal injection.  Since 1973, there have been 141 exonerations from death row nationwide, including an innocent Virginian who came within days of being killed.

 

If you’re convicted of killing a white person in Virginia, you’re over three times as likely to receive the death penalty as you would be if the victim had been black.  The injustice and backwardness is staggering, but so is the lack of democracy.  Only a third of Virginians tell pollsters they favor the death penalty.

 

The evil of the death penalty is not limited to the instances in which it is used — or to the corrosive influence it has on our culture.  The death penalty primarily serves as a valuable chip in plea bargaining.  Want someone to plead guilty, whether or not they actually are guilty?  Threaten them with the death penalty.  Who needs trials by jury (now used in under 2% of cases) when you have that kind of tool?  And who has time for them when you’ve overloaded the system by treating drug use as a crime?

 

Remarkably, a former commonwealth’s attorney here in Charlottesville, Va., named Steve Deaton is campaigning for his old job with a commitment to never use or threaten to use the death penalty.

 

“I believe the death penalty is barbaric and has no place in modern Charlottesville courts,” Deaton says, reversing the electoral wisdom of many decades, which firmly holds that candidates must pretend to believe the death penalty is just and righteous and a deterrent to crime, even if the public thinks that’s nonsense.

 

“I am calling for a moratorium on death penalty prosecutions,” says Deaton.  “During the past 20 years — that is, the term of the incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney — a number of capital murder charges have been brought against some people, almost all of them poor.  Then the charge is often used as a bargaining chip to get the defendant to plead guilty to murder and accept a life sentence.  This practice of using the threat of death to plea bargain is legal, and under current ethical standards, considered ethical.  However, I find such a practice appalling. By engaging in this practice the prosecutor is tempting fate: what if their threat doesn’t work and the case goes to a jury?”

 

Many in Charlottesville oppose the death penalty.  Deaton explains the very real possibility that it will nonetheless be employed here: “The notion that no Charlottesville jury will return a death sentence is misleading.  In a capital murder case the jury has to be ‘death qualified,’ meaning that the jurors must believe in the death penalty.  Such a jury is not representative of the community!  Studies have shown that a ‘death qualified jury’ is also much more likely to convict.”

 

Deaton points out that prosecutors have a great deal of discretion: “A prosecutor does not have to bring a capital murder charge.  They have the option of bringing a regular murder charge instead.”

 

If elected, Deaton intends to use the enormous discretion given to prosecutors to try to make punishments more reasonably fit crimes, including so-called drug crimes.  While Charlottesville City Council failed by a vote of 3-2 in February to end jail time for possession of marijuana, Deaton intends to charge those possessing marijuana with a different charge: disorderly conduct.  It’s technically a higher level charge — a Class 1 misdemeanor — but it does not carry the draconian punishments of loss of driver’s license, subjection to drug testing, ruined college acceptance and student loan prospects, immigration status, etc.  “If a person makes a mistake, they should be punished.  They shouldn’t have their lives ruined,” Deaton says.

 

Deaton aims to counter mass-incarceration, not add to it.  “The state has built a new $100 million prison in Grayson County and there is talk of expanding our local jail,” he says.  “All of this in spite of declining crime rates.  It is time to stop feeding the prison-industrial complex. I believe the goal of the justice system should be to empty out spaces in the jails and prisons — not to fill every available space!”

 

Of course, the system of mass incarceration creates a caste system by stamping the scarlet F of “Felon” on those released, no matter how many years of their lives are wasted in cages.  Deaton favors restoring rights, including voting rights, for people convicted of nonviolent felonies.

 

Charlottesville has a chance to give the death penalty in Virginia a big push toward the door, which would help the United States and the world along that path.  As Charlottesville only elects Democrats (and packs the full range of great to awful candidates into that one party) the election for Deaton is effectively the June 11th primary.  Anyone in Charlottesville can vote in that primary, without swearing any loyalty to any party.  And anyone else can help to spread the word or donate to the campaign.

David Swanson’s books include “War Is A Lie.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook

According to the White House, Israel has the right to defend itself (1). I would argue that it doesn’t. Based on the theft of another people’s land and denial of their right to return to the homes from which they fled or were driven, Israel no more than any other thief has the right to defend itself.

Judging by its indulgent attitude to Israeli aggressions, Washington claims that Israel has the right to defend itself in any way it pleases: by unprovoked airstrikes across international borders; by meting out collective punishment; by carrying out extrajudicial assassinations; by invasions and occupations; and through other outrages against international law, sovereignty and humanity. In fact, by doing what the United States, itself, regularly does.

The White House says that the most recent Israeli aggression, airstrikes carried out over the last few days against Syrian military facilities, were intended to stop a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran to the Lebanese resistance organization, Hezbollah. Striking a dissenting note, The New York Times reported that, “Some American officials are unsure whether the new shipment was intended for use by Hezbollah or by the Assad government.” (2) Which means the airstrikes may have nothing to do with Israel “defending itself” and everything to do with Tel Aviv helping Syria’s Sunni rebels in what is, in large measure, a sectarian war, inflamed by outside interference, against an Alawi-dominated state that has (from Washington’s perspective) the wrong attitude to US free enterprise and (from Israel’s) the wrong attitude to the dispossession of the Palestinians. Or it may be that the missiles were intended for the Syrian military, but the Israelis struck as a precaution, in case the missiles were indeed destined for Hezbollah.

While indulging Israel for its aggressions, Washington denies North Korea the right to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for self-defense, for the obvious reason that North Korea’s self-defense is self-defense against the United States. Likewise, the threat posed to Israel of Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles in Hezbollah’s hands is that they bolster the resistance organization’s ability to defend both itself, and its benefactor, Iran, from Israeli attack. It’s no secret that Israel has been threatening war on Iran for some time on grounds that Iran’s civilian nuclear energy industry may, at some point, provide Tehran with the capability of developing what Israel already has in abundance: nuclear weapons.

What’s more, if Israel has the right to defend itself, why not Syria? It’s not as if the Assad government’s actions, in defense of secular pan-Arabism, have come anywhere close to matching the level of barbarity regularly visited by the Zionist regime on its opponents in defense of its settler ideology, or in helping to promote the imperial interests of its American benefactor and sponsor.

Earlier, the White House declared that Syria’s use of chemical weapons against terrorist insurgents would be a redline whose crossing would trigger a strong US response, presumably direct US military intervention in Syria’s civil war. Recent claims by Israel, France, Britain and one US intelligence agency of evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebel forces—evidence the White House says is inconclusive—touched off a controversy over whether the Obama administration had blundered in setting a redline, and whether failure to act on even weak evidence undermines US credibility.

Lost in the polemic is the telling reality that Washington has set no redline for the insurgents’ use of the same weapons.

And that can’t be because there are no grounds to believe rebel forces would use deadly gas against Syrian loyalists. The UN independent commission of inquiry on Syria says there are strong, concrete suspicions that the rebels have used sarin gas (but has no evidence the Syrian government has deployed chemical weapons against the rebels.) (3)

Okay, let’s assume that the UN’s strong and concrete suspicions do reflect the rebels’ actual use of sarin gas against loyalist forces.

The obvious question (unasked as far as I can tell by the mass media) is where did the rebels’ chemical weapons come from? Were they captured from the Syrian military, or procured through a supplier of the rebels’ other weapons—Saudi Arabia, Qatar or a NATO state?

And does the United States plan to act on the UN’s strong and concrete suspicions?

The answer to the first question is uncertain. As to the second, the US might intervene to secure the rebels’ chemical weapons if the weapons have been captured from the Syrian army by Jihadists acting independently of US control, but it would likely be done quietly, to avoid raising embarrassing questions about the rebellion putting dangerous weapons into the hands of Islamists who might use them later against US targets (including, if the Assad government falls, a US-client regime in Damascus.)

On the other hand, if the weapons have been used by US-controlled opposition factions, an intervention won’t occur, unless the weapons were used without US approval. If so, measures—again quiet ones—will likely to be taken to curb their use, or to use them only at Washington’s direction.

Another possibility is that Washington colluded in the weapons’ use.

Clearly, Washington’s chemical weapons standards are contigent  (sic:  contingent) and not absolute. The redline against the Syrian defense forces provides Washington with a pretext for direct and open military intervention against Damascus when and if intervention is feasible. Since no intervention against the rebel forces is desired—on the contrary, only intervention on their behalf is on the agenda—a rebel redline is unnecessary, and restrictive. It’s not the use of chemical weapons that Washington opposes, but their use by a government fighting for survival against US predations. Anyone else can use chemical weapons with impunity so long as it’s done in the service of US foreign policy goals.

Finally, we might ask whether the country that has the greatest store of weapons of mass destruction, is the world’s largest manufacturer of them, and has been the most ardent user of them, would act to stop their use by rebel forces it has backed against a pan-Arab nationalist regime it has for decades sought to overthrow? Again, subject to the condition the rebels were under US control, not likely.

The United States professed opposition to weapons of mass destruction is entirely one-sided. It is applied selectively to governments and organizations that it, itself, or its proxies, are opposed to, typically because they have the wrong attitude to US free enterprise, or the wrong attitude to their proxies’ plunder of the land, natural resources and markets of other people.

Notes

1. Sam Dagher, Nour Malas and Joshua Mitnick, “Strikes in Syria raise alarm”, The Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2013.
2. Anne Barnard, Michael R. Gordon and Jodi Rudoren, “Israel targeted Iranian missiles in Syria attack”, The New York Times, May 4, 2013.
3. “Syrian rebels may have used Sarin” Reuters, May 5, 2013: “UN: ‘Strong suspicions’ that Syrian rebels have used sarin nerve gas,” Euronews, May 6, 2013.

 

While the Pentagon’s modernization budget for the pre-emptive nuclear option is a modest ten billion dollars (excluding the outlay by NATO countries). the budget for upgrading the US arsenal of “strategic nuclear offensive forces” is a staggering $352 billion over ten years. (See Russell Rumbaugh and Nathan Cohn,“Resolving Ambiguity: Costing Nuclear Weapons,” Stimson Center Report, June 2012).

These multi-billion military outlays allocated to develop“bigger and better nuclear bombs” are financed by the massive economic austerity measures currently applied in US and NATO countries.

The war economy is largely funded by compressing all categories of civilian government expenditure. In the US, these refurbished state of the art nuclear bombs are largely funded by the dramatic cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Humanity is at a dangerous crossroads. America is a “Killer State”. The gamut of economic austerity measures impoverish the American people while generously funding the “Killer State” through multi-billion dollar contracts with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon et al.

War preparations to attack Iran are in “an advanced state of readiness”. Hi tech weapons systems including nuclear warheads are fully deployed.

At the height of an Economic Depression, “War is Good for Business”.

Escalation is part of the military agenda. While Iran, is the next target together with Syria and Lebanon, the US-NATO military agenda also threatens Russia, China and North Korea.

The Western media, the Washington Think Tanks, the scientists and politicians, in chorus, obfuscate the untold truth, namely that war using nuclear warheads threatens the future of humanity.

The real threat to global security emanates from the US-NATO-Israel alliance.

The main actors in the Iran pre-emptive nuclear warfare

Thermo-nuclear weapons are deployed by the three “official” Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) of the Atlantic Alliance, namely the US, the UK and France. The official NWS status is established under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Five other NATO member countries (categorized under the NPT as“non-nuclear states”), namely Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey, possess an arsenal of B61 tactical nuclear warheads or “mini-nukes” (Made in America) which are deployed under national military command and are targeted at Iran. The B61 can be delivered by a variety of different aircraft.

Are these five countries in violation of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty of which they are signatories?

In relation to ongoing war plans, the US-NATO-Israel military alliance includes a total of nine countries which possess a nuclear weapons arsenal:

The three official NWS (US, UK, France) plus the five“Undeclared Nuclear States” (Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Turkey) plus the State of Israel (Undeclared Nuclear State). With the exception of Israel, these countries are signatories of the NPT.

Pre-emptive Nuclear Warfare

While reports tend to depict the tactical B61 bombs as a relic of the Cold war, the mini nukes are the preferred weapons system for pre-emptive nuclear war. Were an attack directed against Iran to be launched involving the deployment of B61 bunker buster nuclear bombs, these five countries, with Turkey and Italy in the forefront, would play a major strategic role.

The involvement of these five “non nuclear states” as major actors in a US sponsored pre-emptive nuclear war raises the issue of definition and categorization of nuclear weapons states. In the words of Time Magazine:

“Is Italy capable of delivering a thermonuclear strike?…
Could the Belgians and the Dutch drop hydrogen bombs on enemy targets?…

Germany’s air force couldn’t possibly be training to deliver bombs 13 times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima, could it?…

Nuclear bombs are stored on air-force bases in Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands — and planes from each of those countries are capable of delivering them.” (“What to Do About Europe’s Secret Nukes.” Time Magazine, December 2, 2009)

The Time report is careful not to address the fundamental question. Are Turkey and Italy nuclear weapons states? The B61s are described as a leftover from the Cold War. The issue of post 9/11 pre-emptive warfare is not mentioned:

“These weapons are more than a historical oddity, says Time. They are a violation of the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) … that provides a legal restraint to the nuclear ambitions of rogue states.” (Ibid).

While Iran does not possess nuclear weapons capabilities as confirmed by the latest US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the nuclear weapons potential of these five countries –including delivery procedures– are formally acknowledged.

These five countries possess WMDs, yet they do not constitute–in the eyes of public opinion– a threat to global security. Moreover, at no time have these five countries been designated as “rogue states” or “undeclared nuclear weapons states”.

US and NATO military documents attest to the fact that the B61 is the weapon of choice of pre-emptive nuclear war as opposed to the larger thermo-nuclear bombs of the Cold War era. Moreover, were military action to be launched against Iran, these five countries would play a key role in the delivery of B61 bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads.

The US had originally supplied some 480 B61 thermonuclear bombs to these five “non-nuclear states”, as well as to the United Kingdom, which is categorized as a Nuclear Weapons State (NWS). (See map below)

Casually disregarded by the Vienna based UN Nuclear Watchdog (IAEA), the US has actively contributed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Western Europe and Turkey. While, some of these bombs were decommissioned as a result of political pressures, particularly in Belgium and Germany, the US –in liaison with NATO– has launched a multi-billion dollar modernisation program of its tactical nuclear weapons arsenal.

According to the National Resources Defense Council (August 2007), the number of B61 nuclear bombs in Europe has been reduced from 480 to 350, following the removal of 130 bombs from the Ramstein airbase in Germany.

As part of this European stockpiling and deployment, Turkey, which is a partner of the US-led coalition against Iran along with Israel, possesses some 90 thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs at the Incirlik air base. (National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe, February 2005). This is all the more significant in view of the “reconciliation” and renewed bilateral military cooperation between Ankara and Tel Aviv in the wake of President Obama’s March visit to Israel.

The stockpiling and deployment of tactical B61 (including the B61-11 earth penetrating warhead) in these five “non-nuclear states” are intended for targets in the Middle East. In accordance with “NATO strike plans”, these thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs (stockpiled by the“non-nuclear states”) could be launched against Iran, Syria and Russia:

“The approximately 480 nuclear bombs in Europe [350 according to 2007 estimate] are intended for use in accordance with NATO nuclear strike plans, the report asserts, against targets in Russia or countries in the Middle East such as Iran and Syria.

The report shows for the first time how many U.S. nuclear bombs are earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear NATO countries. In times of war, under certain circumstances, up to 180 of the 480 nuclear bombs would be handed over to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey for delivery by their national air forces. No other nuclear power or military alliance has nuclear weapons earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear countries.”

Does this mean that Iran or Russia, which are potential targets of a nuclear attack originating from one or other of these five so-called non-nuclear states should contemplate defensive pre-emptive nuclear attacks against Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey? The answer is no, by any stretch of the imagination.

While these “undeclared nuclear states” casually accuse Tehran of developing nuclear weapons, without documentary evidence, they themselves have capabilities of delivering nuclear warheads, which are targeted at Iran. To say that this is a clear case of“double standards” by the IAEA and the “international community” is a understatement.

(Source: National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005)

(Source: National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005)

 

While political pressures have been exerted in recent years towards decommissioning the stockpile of tactical nuclear weapons, the arsenal of B61 bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads remains fully operational. In the case of a conflict with Iran, mini nukes in the five non nuclear states would be actively deployed in liaison with NATO, which has fully endorsed the doctrine of nuclear pre-emption. According to the Pentagon:

… keeping these weapons in Europe is that they allow NATO members to participate in shaping alliance nuclear policy [i.e. pre-emptive nuclear doctrine]. In this view, transatlantic ties are strengthened when the risks and costs of deploying and securing nuclear weapons are shared between the US and the respective host nations. (Quoted in “Parting words: Gates and tactical nuclear weapons in Europe”. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 14 July 2011)

Modernising the Mini-Nukes Arsenal

The decommissioning of the B61 nukes stockpiled in Western Europe and Turkey is a smokescreen. The European tactical nuclear weapons project is not being phased out as some reports have suggested. Quite the opposite. In 2010, the US National Nuclear Security Administration initiated a program “to refurbish and extend the life of the B61 bomb” at an initial estimated cost of 4 billion dollars (Ibid). By 2012, the mini nukes refurbishing program had skyrocketed to $10 billion. (US Department of Defence, Case Independent Cost Assessment for B61 LEP, Washington, July 13, 2012)

Described by the Federation of American Scientists, as “a gold plated nuclear bomb project”, this initiative consists in modernizing the existing pre-emptive nuclear arsenal of B61 tactical nuclear weapons deployed in the five undeclared nuclear states. Moreover, a new version of the B61 bunker buster bomb is envisaged: the B61-12. The latter is to be developed for deployment in Western Europe and Turkey with the backing of NATO and the German government, (Federation of American Scientists, November 2012).

The Obama administration and Congress have pushed the program forward despite the enormous cost … of refurbishing such complex weapons … Advocates, including the Obama administration..

Germany: Nuclear Weapons Producer

Among the five “undeclared nuclear states”, “Germany remains the most heavily nuclearized country with three nuclear bases (two of which are fully operational) and may store as many as 150 [B61 bunker buster ] bombs” (National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe. In accordance with “NATO strike plans”, these tactical nuclear weapons are also targeted at the Middle East.

While Germany is not categorized officially as a nuclear weapons state, it produces nuclear warheads for the French Navy. It stockpiles tactical nuclear weapons (Made in America) and it has the capabilities of delivering nuclear weapons. Moreover, The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company – EADS , a Franco-German-Spanish joint venture, controlled by the powerful Daimler Group is Europe’s second largest military producer, supplying France’s M51 nuclear missile.

Germany imports and deploys tactical nuclear weapons from the US. EADS produces nuclear warheads which are exported to France. Yet Germany is classified as a non-nuclear state.

Dangerous Cross Roads

The tactical nuclear weapons deployed by the five non declared nuclear states are under national command and could be used in a pre-emptive US-NATO sponsored nuclear attack against Iran.

Tactical nuclear weapons are also deployed by Israel.

While it is unlikely that nuclear weapons would be used at the outset of an attack, they could be envisaged as part of a scenario of military escalation.

It is, therefore, important that public opinion in Western Europe, Turkey and Israel be made aware of the consequences of pre-emptive warfare and that political pressures be exerted on the governments of these 5 countries, with a view to blocking the deployment of the B61 nuclear warheads in their respective military bases as well as withdrawing outright from ongoing US-NATO pre-emptive war plans directed against Iran.

Tactical nuclear weapons are in essence slated to be used against non-nuclear states in the middle East. Their use was contemplated in both the Iraq war in 2003 as well against Libya in 2011.

The focus on tactical nuclear weapons (mini-nukes) as part of the conventional war arsenal, does not mean that the the US and its allies have scrapped the idea of using their arsenal of larger strategic thermonuclear weapons. While the latter would not be used against a non-nuclear state in the Middle East, they are deployed and targeted against Russia, China and North Korea.

For those who believe the use of thermonuclear nuclear weapons belongs to a bygone era, think twice.

For further details on the dangers of Nuclear War, see the author’s most recent book: Towards a World War III Scenario:The Dangers of Nuclear War, Global Research, Montreal, 2011.

Originally published by RT-Edge. The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The radar coverage of the United States airspace is nearly complete. In particular the northeastern area, where all four hijackings took place on 9/11, has no “gaps” whatsoever in radar coverage. Nonetheless there was radar loss on 9/11 with respect to the third hijacked plane, American Airlines Flight 77, which was reported to have hit the Pentagon.

American 77 took off at 8:20 a.m. EST and was hijacked more than half an hour later. It began to change its course at 8:54 and, while slowly turning to the left, its transponder was switched off at 8:56.1 Until then it had been displayed on the radar scopes of air traffic control via the Higby radar site. This was a “beacon-only” site, meaning a site that could only display transponder signals. When American 77´s transponder was turned off, the plane was no longer visible to Higby radar.2

Image 1:  Higby Radar Coverage

Nonetheless the area was covered by additional radar sites.3 Several sites that were not “beacon-only” tracked American 77 after its transponder had been turned off. However the plane was lost to controllers because of the way computers processed the radar data – and because of an unexplained wide-ranging radar failure.

For the computer managing the incoming radar data, the airspace is divided into “radar sort boxes” (illustrated by the red grid in the map above). Each sort box is 16 nautical miles wide and each is assigned to a single radar site. Additionally each sort box is assigned to a second “supplemental” radar site for safety. If the first assigned site is declared to not work properly, for example because it is taken down for maintenance, the computer starts to display the data from the supplemental site on the controller´s scope. The data from all other radar sites covering the area of the sort box is rejected and not visible at all to air traffic controllers. This computer process is called “selective rejection”.4

Unfortunately, the exact assignments for the radar sort boxes crossed by American 77 during its flight are not publicly available. As former air traffic controller Tom Lusch, an expert on the problem of “selective rejection,” pointed out: “Missing is the information that informs us how the radar sort boxes were adapted.”5 It is also unclear if the 9/11 Commission ever obtained those specific records. However, the assignments can also be estimated from the distance of the nearest radar sites to the specific sort box if it is assumed that the nearest long range radar sites would always be assigned to a sort box.

The specific sort box that American 77 was crossing when the transponder was turned off was assigned to the Higby radar site. Supplemental to this was the Lynch radar site (see map below). This precise information is not an estimate but was reported by the FAA.6

Image 2: Lynch Radar Coverage

Thus, when the controller lost the transponder signal and switched to “primary radar” on his scope, the computer started displaying the radar data received from Lynch. The problem: Lynch operated poorly. For unknown reasons it did not “see” American 77 in the precise area where the transponder was turned off. That is why the plane got lost for about 8 minutes, exactly when it turned.

The problem with the Lynch radar site was known to air traffic controllers and managers at the Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center (Indy Center) before 9/11, as interview notes by the 9/11 Commission reveal.7 However, the Commission apparently failed to investigate why Lynch operated so poorly and also why the FAA, being in charge of the radar sites, had allowed this.

In fact, planes do disappear temporarily from radar from time to time for a number of technical reasons. Yet the instance of turning off a transponder in a small zone, internally assigned to a supplemental radar site which is known to insiders to be faulty, appears suspicious.

American 77 reappeared on the scopes of Indy Center only at 9:04 via Lynch radar site. At 9:07, the plane apparently crossed into a sort box that was assigned to the Bedford radar site and was subsequently displayed via Bedford without a problem.8

It is also worth mentioning that Flight 77 did not turn off its autopilot while being hijacked. Instead the autopilot was functioning throughout the radical change in course back to Washington. It stayed on until approximately 9:08 when it was shut off for three minutes and turned on again.9

Now, what are the conclusions? Miles Kara, who investigated the issue for the 9/11 Commission, said that he was also intrigued by the location of the turn initially. However he is convinced that it was not more than a coincidence.10 Nonetheless, an important question is why the alleged hijackers waited for more than half an hour before they took over and turned the plane. One can only guess because there is no clear explanation for this behavior. One thing is very obvious, however: the earlier the plane would have been turned, the more likely the plot would have been successful. Why wait for more than 30 minutes, while flying away from the intended target? For example, American Airlines Flight 11 was apparently hijacked only 15 minutes after take-off.

On the other hand, it is clear from investigating the radar sort box programming that American 77 would have remained completely visible to air traffic control if it had turned 6 to 8 minutes before or even earlier.

Were the alleged al Qaeda hijackers aware of this? We do not know, but probably not. At least there is no evidence for any contact between al Qaeda operatives and insiders with knowledge of the Lynch radar gap. Could some planners outside al Qaeda have known? Yes, this is possible. As mentioned, the information was not public, but was available only to insiders before 9/11.

Therefore it all depends on a specific interpretation: Was the location of the turn a coincidence or not? Disappearing from radar screens actually was essential for the success of the terrorists’ mission. What would have happened if the plane had not become lost to controllers at 8:56?

First, air traffic control would have observed the full 180-degree turn of American 77. At 9:00 it was heading east. For the past five minutes controllers had tried to contact the plane via radio without success. So there was loss of communication and the plane was dramatically off course. Additionally the transponder signal had disappeared. Altogether, 9:00 a.m. would have been the appropriate time to alert the military and call for the scrambling of fighter jets. In reality this had not happened only because, without any radar signal, controllers had apparently thought that the plane had crashed.

If the military had received the call at 9:00, Langley Air Force Base would have been able to get fighters in the air at about 9:15. This was the case at Otis Air Force Base, where NEADS had received a call at 8:38 and the jets were in the air at 8:52. If the Langley jets had taken off at 9:15, they would have been vectored to American 77 and would have reached the plane then at approximately 9:27 – about 10 minutes before it crashed.

It is doubtful if a shoot-down order could have been issued by that time. But at least – and the following fact is constantly underestimated – the fighter pilots could have taken a deep look into the cockpit of the hijacked plane to see who was actually at the controls. This would have helped to confirm if it really was Hani Hanjour, the alleged pilot, who reportedly could not even fly a Cessna safely, and whose presumed boarding is not backed by any airline check-in data.11

But that did not happen because of the loss of radar precisely at the turning point of American 77.

Interview with author Paul Schreyer on GRTV

 

Paul Schreyer, born 1977, is a German author and journalist, writing for the online journals Global Research, Telepolis, and others. He is author of the book “Inside 9/11.” At the Journal of 9/11 Studies he previously published the paper “Anomalies of the air defense on 9/11,” in October 2012. His website is http://www.911-facts.info/.

Notes

(1) 9/11 Commission Report, pp. 9, 25 http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf

(2) FAA Memorandum “AAL 77 Flight Path Information,” 17.09.01 http://de.scribd.com/doc/13950396/T8-B3-FAA-Gl-Region-Fdr-AA-77-Radar-Info-Emails-Withdrawal-Notice-Memo-and-Questions

(3) Tom Lusch´s Website, June 2010 http://tomlusch.com/tomlusch/tomlusch/AAL77.html

(4) “Selective Rejection of Low Altitude Radar Data at Air Route Traffic Control Centers: An Unsatisfactory Compromise,” 26.09.1988, Thomas G. Lusch http://www.tomlusch.com/tomlusch/tomlusch/index_files/SelRej.pdf

(5) Email from Tom Lusch, 11.01.13

(6) FAA Memorandum „AAL 77 Flight Path Information“, 17.09.01 http://de.scribd.com/doc/13950396/T8-B3-FAA-Gl-Region-Fdr-AA-77-Radar-Info-Emails-Withdrawal-Notice-Memo-and-Questions

(7) Tom Lusch´s Website, see “May 7, 2012 update” http://tomlusch.com/tomlusch/tomlusch/AAL77.html

9/11 Commission, Interview notes Charles Thomas, 04.05.04 http://tomlusch.com/tomlusch/tomlusch/AAL77_files/NARA to Lusch 20090820.pdf

(8) Email from Tom Lusch, 15.01.13, information based on NTAP flight data for AAL 77

(9) NTSB, Office of Research and Engineering, Flight path study – American Airlines Flight 77, February 19, 2002 http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB196/doc02.pdf

(10) Email from Miles Kara, 13.11.12, 9/11 Blogger, “Discussion with Miles Kara about 9/11 air defense,” 16.12.12 http://911blogger.com/news/2012-12-16/discussion-miles-kara-about-911-air-defense

(11) 9/11 Commission Report, p. 452, note 11 http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report.pdf

9/11 Commission, Team 7, Box 18, “American Airlines´ response to the February 3, 2004 requests by the 9/11 Commission C&F Ref: DTB/CRC/28079,” 15.03.04, Desmond T. Barry / Condon & Forsyth LLP, on behalf of American Airlines, p. 96 http://www.911myths.com/images/7/71/Team7_Box18_AAL-QFR-Responses.pdf

 

Obama Attacks Legitimacy of Venezuelan Government

May 7th, 2013 by Ryan Mallett-Outtrim

Mérida, 6 May 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government hit back at a series of what it describes as “false and “interventionist” statements made by U.S. President Barack Obama over the weekend.

During his visit to Mexico on 3 May, Obama questioned whether “basic principles of human rights and democracy and freedom of press and freedom of assembly” were being observed in Venezuela.

“There are reports that they have not been fully observed post-election,” he concluded.

Obama then cited Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Peru as examples that Venezuela should follow.

“I think our only interest at this point is making sure that the people of Venezuela are able to determine their own destiny free from the kinds of practices that the entire hemisphere generally has moved away from,” he said.

In his visit to Costa Rica last week, Obama also said, “I think our general view has been that it’s up to the people of Venezuela to choose their leaders in legitimate elections”.

In an interview with Univision, he also said that his administration continues to monitor the “violence, the protests, the crackdowns on the opposition”, but refused to say whether Washington would recognise the results of the 14 April elections.

Venezuelan Response

On Saturday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua read an official government communique, describing Obama’s comments as an “attack” on the “legitimate government of Venezuela”.

In the televised statement, Jaua criticised Obama for ignoring Venezuela’s democratic processes.

“President Obama attacks the legitimate Venezuelan government, which was elected on 14 April through a transparent electoral process, whose results were recognised by electoral accompaniments coming from the whole continent and other countries of the world; including the Electoral Mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) as well as by all the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean and other continents.”

Jaua then stated that Venezuela’s automated electoral system is subject to numerous audits “guaranteeing…the accuracy of the data”.

“President Obama, please get informed. The National Electoral Council has overcome those terrible practices that used to violate the people’s will, and that the U.S. supported in order to have governments that were obedient to its bidding.”

He then criticised Obama for showing “double standards” by not condemning what he described as the “violent record of…[Venezuelan] opposition groups”.

The statement also called on Obama to close “the illegal prison of Guantanamo”, describing the controversial site as “one of the most shameful chapters of human history”.

“You’ve gone against the promise you made in 2008 and 2012 to close this shameful place,” Jaua said.

Timothy Tracy

In an interview with Telemundo, Obama also reiterated his support for Timothy Tracy, a 35 year old Californian currently detained by Venezuelan authorities under charges of espionage, conspiring to commit an offence, using a false document and being an accomplice in a criminal act.

Obama described the charges as “ridiculous”.

On Sunday, Minister for Internal Affairs Miguel Rodriguez Torres told Venezuelan media that authorities are now convinced that Tracy’s occupation as a film-maker was “a guise”.

According to Torres, Venezuelan authorities have seized more than “500 videotapes” and other evidence including emails that allegedly show Tracy was involved in a conspiracy with “members of the far right…to cause violent actions on the streets and create a climate of chaos”.

Tracy’s family has maintained that he is innocent, according to Associated Press.

One of Tracy’s associates, Aengus James, told AP that the film-maker “literally has no political agenda. He is very sympathetic to all sides.”

“He’s telling stories about people and what their life is like there [in Venezuela]”.

The“big boss of the devils”

President Nicolas Maduro also weighed in over the weekend, criticising Obama for “financing” the opposition and “seeking to destroy Venezuela’s democracy”.

However, he reiterated previous calls to “sit down” with Obama, who he described as the “big boss of the devils”.

It stretched from the Caspian to the Baltic Sea, from the middle of Europe to the Kurile Islands in the Pacific, from Siberia to Central Asia.  Its nuclear arsenal held 45,000 warheads, and its military had five million troops under arms.  There had been nothing like it in Eurasia since the Mongols conquered China, took parts of Central Asia and the Iranian plateau, and rode into the Middle East, looting Baghdad.  Yet when the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991, by far the poorer, weaker imperial power disappeared.

And then there was one.  There had never been such a moment: a single nation astride the globe without a competitor in sight.  There wasn’t even a name for such a state (or state of mind).  “Superpower” had already been used when there were two of them.  “Hyperpower” was tried briefly but didn’t stick.  “Sole superpower” stood in for a while but didn’t satisfy.  “Great Power,” once the zenith of appellations, was by then a lesser phrase, left over from the centuries when various European nations and Japan were expanding their empires.  Some started speaking about a “unipolar” world in which all roads led… well, to Washington.

To this day, we’ve never quite taken in that moment when Soviet imperial rot unexpectedly – above all, to Washington — became imperial crash-and-burn.  Left standing, the Cold War’s victor seemed, then, like an empire of everything under the sun.  It was as if humanity had always been traveling toward this spot.  It seemed like the end of the line.

The Last Empire?

After the rise and fall of the Assyrians and the Romans, the Persians, the Chinese, the Mongols, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, the English, the Germans, and the Japanese, some process seemed over.  The United States was dominant in a previously unimaginable way — except in Hollywood films where villains cackled about their evil plans to dominate the world.

As a start, the U.S. was an empire of global capital.  With the fall of Soviet-style communism (and the transformation of a communist regime in China into a crew of authoritarian “capitalist roaders”), there was no other model for how to do anything, economically speaking.  There was Washington’s way — and that of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (both controlled by Washington) — or there was the highway, and the Soviet Union had already made it all too clear where that led: to obsolescence and ruin.

In addition, the U.S. had unprecedented military power.  By the time the Soviet Union began to totter, America’s leaders had for nearly a decade been consciously using “the arms race” to spend its opponent into an early grave.  And here was the curious thing after centuries of arms races: when there was no one left to race, the U.S. continued an arms race of one.

In the years that followed, it would outpace all other countries or combinations of countries in military spending by staggering amounts.  It housed the world’s most powerful weapons makers, was technologically light years ahead of any other state, and was continuing to develop future weaponry for 2020, 2040, 2060, even as it established a near monopoly on the global arms trade (and so, control over who would be well-armed and who wouldn’t).

It had an empire of bases abroad, more than 1,000 of them spanning the globe, also an unprecedented phenomenon.  And it was culturally dominant, again in a way that made comparisons with other moments ludicrous.  Like American weapons makers producing things that went boom in the night for an international audience, Hollywood’s action and fantasy films took the world by storm.  From those movies to the golden arches, the swoosh, and the personal computer, there was no other culture that could come close to claiming such a global cachet.

The key non-U.S. economic powerhouses of the moment — Europe and Japan — maintained militaries dependent on Washington, had U.S. bases littering their territories, and continued to nestle under Washington’s “nuclear umbrella.”  No wonder that, in the U.S., the post-Soviet moment was soon proclaimed “the end of history,” and the victory of “liberal democracy” or “freedom” was celebrated as if there really were no tomorrow, except more of what today had to offer.

No wonder that, in the new century, neocons and supporting pundits would begin to claim that the British and Roman empires had been second-raters by comparison.  No wonder that key figures in and around the George W. Bush administration dreamed of establishing a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East and possibly over the globe itself (as well as a Pax Republicana at home).  They imagined that they might actually prevent another competitor or bloc of competitors from arising to challenge American power. Ever.

No wonder they had remarkably few hesitations about launching their incomparably powerful military on wars of choice in the Greater Middle East.  What could possibly go wrong?  What could stand in the way of the greatest power history had ever seen?

Assessing the Imperial Moment, Twenty-First-Century-Style

Almost a quarter of a century after the Soviet Union disappeared, what’s remarkable is how much — and how little — has changed.

On the how-much front: Washington’s dreams of military glory ran aground with remarkable speed in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Then, in 2007, the transcendent empire of capital came close to imploding as well, as a unipolar financial disaster spread across the planet.  It led people to begin to wonder whether the globe’s greatest power might not, in fact, be too big to fail, and we were suddenly — so everyone said — plunged into a “multipolar world.”

Meanwhile, the Greater Middle East descended into protest, rebellion, civil war, and chaos without a Pax Americana in sight, as a Washington-controlled Cold War system in the region shuddered without (yet) collapsing.  The ability of Washington to impose its will on the planet looked ever more like the wildest of fantasies, while every sign, including the hemorrhaging of national treasure into losing trillion-dollar wars, reflected not ascendancy but possible decline.

And yet, in the how-little category: the Europeans and Japanese remained nestled under that American “umbrella,” their territories still filled with U.S. bases.  In the Euro Zone, governmentscontinued to cut back on their investments in both NATO and their own militaries.  Russia remained a country with a sizeable nuclear arsenal and a reduced but still large military.  Yet it showed no signs of “superpower” pretensions.  Other regional powers challenged unipolarity economically — Turkey and Brazil, to name two — but not militarily, and none showed an urge either singly or in blocs to compete in an imperial sense with the U.S.

Washington’s enemies in the world remained remarkably modest-sized (though blown to enormous proportions in the American media echo-chamber).  They included a couple of rickety regional powers (Iran and North Korea), a minority insurgency or two, and relatively small groups of Islamist “terrorists.”  Otherwise, as one gauge of power on the planet, no more than a handful of other countries had even a handful of military bases outside their territory.

Under the circumstances, nothing could have been stranger than this: in its moment of total ascendancy, the Earth’s sole superpower with a military of staggering destructive potential and technological sophistication couldn’t win a war against minimally armed guerillas.  Even more strikingly, despite having no serious opponents anywhere, it seemed not on the rise but on the decline, its infrastructure rotting out, its populace economically depressed, its wealth ever more unequally divided, its Congress seemingly beyond repair, while the great sucking sound that could be heard was money and power heading toward the national security state.  Sooner or later, all empires fall, but this moment was proving curious indeed.

And then, of course, there was China.  On the planet that humanity has inhabited these last several thousand years, can there be any question that China would have been the obvious pick to challenge, sooner or later, the dominion of the reigning great power of the moment?  Estimates are that it will surpass the U.S. as the globe’s number one economy by perhaps 2030.

Right now, the Obama administration seems to be working on just that assumption.  With its well-publicized “pivot” (or “rebalancing”) to Asia, it has been moving to “contain” what it fears might be the next great power.  However, while the Chinese are indeed expanding their military andchallenging their neighbors in the waters of the Pacific, there is no sign that the country’s leadership is ready to embark on anything like a global challenge to the U.S., nor that it could do so in any conceivable future.  Its domestic problems, from pollution to unrest, remain staggering enough that it’s hard to imagine a China not absorbed with domestic issues through 2030 and beyond.

And Then There Was One (Planet)

Militarily, culturally, and even to some extent economically, the U.S. remains surprisingly alone on planet Earth in imperial terms, even if little has worked out as planned in Washington.  The story of the years since the Soviet Union fell may prove to be a tale of how American domination and decline went hand-in-hand, with the decline part of the equation being strikingly self-generated.

And yet here’s a genuine, even confounding, possibility: that moment of “unipolarity” in the 1990s may really have been the end point of history as human beings had known it for millennia — the history, that is, of the rise and fall of empires.  Could the United States actually be the last empire?  Is it possible that there will be no successor because something has profoundly changed in the realm of empire building?  One thing is increasingly clear: whatever the state of imperial America, something significantly more crucial to the fate of humanity (and of empires) is in decline.  I’m talking, of course, about the planet itself.

The present capitalist model (the only one available) for a rising power, whether China, India, or Brazil, is also a model for planetary decline, possibly of a precipitous nature.  The very definition of success — more middle-class consumers, more car owners, more shoppers, which means more energy used, more fossil fuels burned, more greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere — is also, as it never would have been before, the definition of failure.  The greater the “success,” the more intense the droughts, the stronger the storms, the more extreme the weather, the higher the rise insea levels, the hotter the temperatures, the greater the chaos in low-lying or tropical lands, the more profound the failure.  The question is: Will this put an end to the previous patterns of history, including the until-now-predictable rise of the next great power, the next empire?  On a devolving planet, is it even possible to imagine the next stage in imperial gigantism?

Every factor that would normally lead toward “greatness” now also leads toward global decline.  This process — which couldn’t be more unfair to countries having their industrial and consumer revolutions late — gives a new meaning to the phrase “disaster capitalism.”

Take the Chinese, whose leaders, on leaving the Maoist model behind, did the most natural thing in the world at the time: they patterned their future economy on the United States — on, that is, success as it was then defined.  Despite both traditional and revolutionary communal traditions, for instance, they decided that to be a power in the world, you needed to make the car (which meant the individual driver) a pillar of any future state-capitalist China.  If it worked for the U.S., it would work for them, and in the short run, it worked like a dream, a capitalist miracle — and China rose.

It was, however, also a formula for massive pollution, environmental degradation, and the pouring of ever more fossil fuels into the atmosphere in record amounts.  And it’s not just China.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about that country’s ravenous energy use, including its possible future “carbon bombs,” or the potential for American decline to be halted by new extreme methods of producing energy (frackingtar-sands extraction, deep-water drilling).  Such methods, however much they hurt local environments, might indeed turn the U.S. into a “new Saudi Arabia.”  Yet that, in turn, would only contribute further to the degradation of the planet, to decline on an ever-larger scale.

What if, in the twenty-first century, going up means declining?  What if the unipolar moment turns out to be a planetary moment in which previously distinct imperial events — the rise and fall of empires — fuse into a single disastrous system?

What if the story of our times is this: And then there was one planet, and it was going down.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Is Japan Developing a Nuclear Weapons Program?

May 7th, 2013 by Peter Symonds

The Wall Street Journal published an article on May 1 entitled “Japan’s nuclear plan unsettles US.” It indicated concerns in Washington that the opening of a huge reprocessing plant could be used to stockpile plutonium for the future manufacture of nuclear weapons.

The Rokkasho reprocessing facility in northern Honshu can produce nine tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium annually, or enough to construct up to 2,000 bombs. While Japanese officials insist that the plutonium will be used solely to provide nuclear power, only two of the country’s 50 nuclear power reactors are currently operating.

The Journal article reported that Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, discussed the issue last month with senior US officials, including Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman and Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman.

Their message, as paraphrased by Suzuki, was: “Allowing Japan to acquire large amounts of plutonium without clear prospects for a plutonium-use plan is a bad example for the rest of the world.” In a separate article in the Japan Times, Suzuki declared: “It was an unprecedentedly severe reaction.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Washington was concerned that other countries would follow suit. “US officials believe Japan’s neighbors, particularly China, South Korea and Taiwan, are closely monitoring Rokkasho and its possible commissioning to gauge whether they also should seek to develop their own nuclear-fuel technologies, or in Beijing’s case, expand them,” it stated.

The South Korean government is already pressing the US to alter the nuclear co-operation agreement between the two countries to allow plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment—technologies that can be used to produce fuel for power reactors or for nuclear weapons. While South Korean negotiators have assured Washington that Seoul is only seeking to manufacture fuel for its power reactors, senior figures inside the ruling right-wing Saenuri Party have publicly called for the country to build its own nuclear weapons to counter North Korea. Last month, South Korea acquiesced to US demands for a delay and prolonged the existing co-operation agreement for another two years.

As with South Korea, the Obama administration’s real concern over the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is that Japan is edging toward building its own nuclear arsenal. If either country did so, it would trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. A nuclear-armed Japan would dramatically alter relations in Asia, as it would be less dependent on the US militarily and more able to independently prosecute its economic and strategic interests.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December, is a right-wing nationalist who has called for a “strong Japan” and a “strong military.” He has not openly supported the building of nuclear weapons, but has called for the restarting of Japan’s nuclear industry, which was largely shut down after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Abe government is well aware of the deep-seated hostility in Japan, especially in the working class, to the construction of nuclear weapons. That opposition stems not only from the devastation of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by US atomic bombs in 1945, but also from the repression and crimes committed by Japan’s wartime militarist regime.

Within Japanese ruling circles, however, there has been a barely concealed ambition to have a nuclear arsenal. Japan’s extensive nuclear industry was established in part to ensure that the country had the capacity to build such weapons. Leading members of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have on more than one occasion sought to open up a public debate on the issue.

Abe’s finance minister Taro Aso, a former prime minister, declared in 2006 that there was nothing wrong with discussing whether Japan should possess nuclear arms. A Japan Times article last month, entitled “Nuclear arms card for Japan,” noted that politicians who had advocated nuclear weapons, officially and unofficially, included former prime ministers—Nobusuke Kishi (Abe’s grandfather), Hayato Ikeda, Eisato Sato, Yasuo Fukuda and Aso.

During the election campaign last year, Shintaro Ishihara, who was an LDP member until last year and now leads the extreme nationalist Japan Restoration Party, declared: “It’s high time Japan made simulations of possessing nuclear arms,” saying that it would be a form of deterrent against China. He has previously insisted that Japan had to have nuclear weapons.

The same Japan Times article reported that the Japanese government in September 2006 compiled an internal report examining “the possibility of domestically producing nuclear weapons.” A Defence Ministry source told the newspaper that the secret document had been produced by the Foreign Ministry and had aroused serious concerns in the US State Department.

According to the article, the report found that it would take three to five years and 200 to 300 billion yen ($US2.2 to 3.3 billion) for Japan to manufacture nuclear weapons. A significant obstacle was the impurity of the plutonium produced in Japan’s commercial power reactors. The Rokkasho reprocessing facility, which has taken more than $US21 billion and two decades to build, would be able to provide weapons-grade plutonium. No date has been set for its start up but the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and the plant’s operator, Japan Nuclear Fuel, say it could be as early as October. However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has indicated that safety guidelines will not be ready until December.

At present, it appears unlikely that the Japanese government has made a decision to build nuclear weapons. To do so would require ending international inspection of its nuclear facilities, withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and abrogating other nuclear agreements, including with the US. Yet, the issue is clearly being discussed in ruling circles and preparations are being made.

The Obama administration might not want a nuclear-armed Japan, but its aggressive “pivot to Asia” aimed at containing China, has encouraged right-wing, militarist sections of the ruling elite in countries throughout the region. Abe has already announced the first increase in the Japan’s defence budget in a decade and has declared his determination to counter, including militarily, any Chinese move to claim disputed islands in the East China Sea.

In March and April, Washington deliberately inflamed tensions on the Korean Peninsula, provocatively sending nuclear-capable strategic bombers to South Korea, supposedly to counter North Korean threats. The US sought to use the crisis to put pressure on China for economic and strategic concessions, including to rein in Pyongyang.

However, the Abe government also exploited the North Korean “threat” to deploy anti-missile systems in Japan, and establish a political climate of fear to justify military rearmament—including potentially with nuclear weapons. The US is directly responsible for creating the conditions for a nuclear arms race in Asia that would enormously heighten the danger of conflict and war.

In a series of interviews, UN investigator Carla del Ponte said that sarin gas used in Syria was fired by the US-backed opposition, not the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Her account explodes the lies on which Washington and its European allies have based their campaign for war with Syria, according to which the US and its allies are preparing to attack Syria to protect its people from Assad’s chemical weapons. In fact, available evidence of sarin use implicates the Islamist-dominated “rebels” who are armed by US-allied Middle Eastern countries, under CIA supervision.

Del Ponte’s statements coincide with the flagrantly illegal Israeli air strikes on Syria, which have been endorsed by President Obama. These acts of war mark a major escalation of the US-instigated and supported sectarian war for regime-change in Syria, itself a preparation for attacks on the Syrian regime’s main ally in the region, Iran.

Del Ponte is a former Swiss attorney general who served on Western-backed international courts on Yugoslavia and Rwanda. She currently sits on a UN commission of inquiry on Syria. In an interview with Italian-Swiss broadcaster RSI on Sunday, she said, “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas.”

She explained, “Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors, and field hospitals, and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”

She added, “This is not surprising, since the opponents [i.e., the anti-Assad opposition] have been infiltrated by foreign fighters.”

In a video interview on the BBC yesterday, del Ponte said, “We collected some witness testimony that made it appear that some chemical weapons were used, in particular, nerve gas. What appeared to our investigation was that was used by the opponents, by the rebels. We have no, no indication at all that the government, the authorities of the Syrian government, had used chemical weapons.”

These statements expose the US campaign over chemical weapons in Syria as a series of lies, concocted to justify another war of aggression in the Middle East. The campaign began in late March, as the US military was announcing plans for stepped-up intervention in Syria, when the Assad regime charged that the opposition had fired a rocket with a chemical warhead at Khan al-Asal, near Aleppo. It killed 26 people, including 16 Syrian soldiers, according to opposition sources.

The opposition responded by alleging that it was the Assad regime that had fired the chemical rockets. This was highly implausible, as the rocket was aimed at pro-Assad forces.

Nonetheless, the US political and media establishment took opposition allegations as good coin, demanding stepped-up intervention in Syria based on Obama’s remarks in August of 2012 that use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would be a “red line” prompting a US attack.

On April 26, the White House endorsed this campaign in a letter to Congress, declaring: “The US intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.”

This statement had no basis in fact and was evidently fabricated by ignoring witness testimony gathered by the UN. Even after Del Ponte’s interviews, US officials continued to make inflammatory statements implying that Assad is using chemical weapons. An Obama administration advisor told the New York Times yesterday, “It’s become pretty clear to everyone that Assad is calculating whether those weapons might save him.”

The use of sarin by the US-backed Sunni Islamist opposition, which is tied to Al Qaeda and routinely carries out terror attacks inside Syria, also raises the question of how it obtained the poison gas. The US Council on Foreign Relations describes sarin as “very complex and dangerous to make,” though it can be made “by a trained chemist with publicly available chemicals.”

Whether the Islamists received sarin from their foreign backers, synthesized it themselves possibly under outside supervision, or stole it from Syrian stockpiles, its use makes clear the reckless and criminal character of US backing for the Islamist opposition.

Throughout the Syrian war, the American state and media have operated on the assumption that the public could be manipulated and fed the most outrageous lies. Whether these lies were even vaguely plausible did not matter, because the media could be relied upon to spin them to justify deepening the attack on Syria.

Time and again—in the Houla massacre of May 2012 and the murder of journalist Gilles Jacquier in January 2012—the media blamed atrocities perpetrated by the opposition on the Assad regime, then dropped the issue when it emerged that the opposition was responsible. Even the US government’s announcement last December that Al Qaeda-linked opposition forces had carried out hundreds of terror bombings in Syria did not dim media support for the war.

Now the US media are burying news of del Ponte’s interview, as Washington moves towards direct intervention in Syria. Her interview was not mentioned in any of the three major network evening news programs yesterday.

Instead, after the Israeli air strikes against Syrian targets on Thursday and Sunday, US officials and media pundits boasted that US forces could attack Syrian air defenses with few casualties. (See: The Israeli strikes on Syria).

Reprising the lies about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) used to justify the war against Iraq, the US ruling elite is placing chemical weapons at the center of its war propaganda on Syria. Yesterday, the Washington Post wrote: “Israeli strikes—following reports in recent weeks that Assad’s forces probably deployed chemical weapons in unknown quantities—appeared to bolster the case of those who have long favored direct US support for the rebels.”

The New York Times noted that Obama might use chemical weapons as pretext for war if he attacked without UN Security Council authorization. It wrote: “Russia would almost certainly veto any effort to obtain UN Security Council authorization to take military action. So far, Mr. Obama has avoided seeking such authorization, and that is one reason that past or future use of chemical weapons could serve as a legal argument for conducting strikes.”

The newspaper did not remark that, in such a case, Obama’s war against Syria would be just as illegal from the standpoint of international law as Bush’s invasion of Iraq ten years ago. That war, which cost over a million Iraqi lives and tens of thousands of US casualties, as well as trillions of dollars, is deeply hated in the American and international working class.

The American ruling elite’s need to downplay the war in Iraq as it prepares to launch a similar bloodbath in Syria underlay the New York Times column penned yesterday by the Times ’ former executive editor, Bill Keller, entitled “Syria Is Not Iraq.” Lamenting that the experience of the Iraq war—which he and the Times had promoted with false reports of Iraqi WMD—had left him “gun-shy,” Keller bluntly asserted, “getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.”

By “getting over Iraq,” Keller meant overcoming concerns about using military action and mass killing to crush opposition to US policy. He wrote that “in Syria, I fear prudence has become fatalism… our reluctance to arm the rebels or defend the civilians being slaughtered in their homes has convinced the Assad regime (and the world) that we are not serious.”

Claiming that Washington is preparing military plans “in the event that Assad’s use of chemical weapons forces our hand,” he pushed for rapid intervention, writing, “Why wait for the next atrocity?”

Keller’s warmongering column is a particularly clear example of how the media’s promotion of US imperialist policy is divorced from reality. The fact that there is no evidence that Assad has used chemical weapons, or that the next atrocity in Syria will likely be carried out by US-backed forces, is irrelevant to the Times. Its concern is to package the next US war, the facts be damned.

The collective intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the media and the ruling elite accounts for the fact that del Ponte’s explosive revelations can be buried without comment. Drunk on its own lying propaganda, desperate to erase the conclusions the population has drawn from Washington’s last bloody debacle, the American ruling class is tobogganing towards a new catastrophe.

Thomas Edison said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”   And because I love my country, I frequently criticize America’s shortcomings in the hopes of making her better.

But the truth is that the United States is not unusual … it is just like all other empires which have hit their peak and then quickly crashed.

We noted in 2008:

Political insider and veteran reporter Kevin Phillips has documented that every major empire over the past several hundred years has undergone a predictable cycle of collapse, usually within 10 to 20 years of its peak power.

The indications are always the same:

- The financialization of the economy, moving from manufacturing to speculation;

- Very high levels of debt;

- Extreme economic inequality;

– And costly military overreaching.

We wrote in 2009:

In 2000, America was described as the sole remaining superpower – or even the world’s “hyperpower”. Now we’re in real trouble (at the very least, you have to admit that we’re losing power and wealth in comparison with China).

How did it happen so fast?

***

How Empires Fall

Paul Farrel provides a bigger-picture analysis, quoting Jared Diamond and Marc Faber.

Diamond’s book’s, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, studies the collapse of civilizations throughout history, and finds:

Civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Indeed, a society’s demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power…

One of the choices has depended on the courage to practice long-term thinking, and to make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they reach crisis proportions

And PhD economist Faber states:

How [am I] so sure about this final collapse?

Of all the questions I have about the future, this is the easiest one to answer. Once a society becomes successful it becomes arrogant, righteous, overconfident, corrupt, and decadent … overspends … costly wars … wealth inequity and social tensions increase; and society enters a secular decline.

[Quoting 18th century Scottish historian Alexander Fraser Tytler:] The average life span of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years progressing from “bondage to spiritual faith … to great courage … to liberty … to abundance … to selfishness … to complacency … to apathy … to dependence and … back into bondage”

[Where is America in the cycle?] It is most unlikely that Western societies, and especially the U.S., will be an exception to this typical “society cycle.” … The U.S. is somewhere between the phase where it moves “from complacency to apathy” and “from apathy to dependence.”

In other words, America’s rapid fall is not really that novel after all.

How Consumers, Politicians and Wall Street All Contributed to the Fall

On the individual level, people became “fat and happy”, the abundance led to selfishness (“greed is good”), and then complacency, and then apathy.

Indeed, if you think back about tv and radio ads over the last couple of decades, you can trace the tone of voice of the characters from Gordon Gecko-like, to complacent, to apathetic and know-nothing.

On the political level, there was no courage in the White House or Congress “to practice long-term thinking, and to make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions”. Of course, the bucket-loads of donations from Wall Street didn’t hurt, but there was also a religion of deregulation promoted by Greenspan, Rubin, Gensler and others which preached that the economy was self-stabilizing and self-sustaining. This type of false ideology only can spread during times of abundance and complacency, when an empire is at its peak and people can fool themselves into thinking “the empire has always been prosperous, we’ve solved all of the problems, and we will always prosper” (incidentally, this type of false thinking was also common in the 1920′s, when government and financial leaders said that the “modern banking system” – overseen by the Federal Reserve – had destroyed instability once and for all).

And as for Wall Street, the best possible time to pillage is when your victim is at the peak of wealth. With America in a huge bubble phase of wealth and power, the Wall Street looters sucked out vast sums through fraudulent subprime loans, derivatives and securitization schemes, Ponzi schemes and high frequency trading and dark pools and all of the rest.

Like the mugger who waits until his victim has made a withdrawal from the ATM, the white collar criminals pounced when America’s economy was booming (at least on paper).

Given that the people were in a contented stupor of consumption, and the politicians were flush with cash and feel-good platitudes, the job of the criminals became easier.

A study of the crash of the Roman – or almost any other – empire would show something very similar.

We pointed out in 2010 that more empires have fallen due to reckless finance than invasion.  (Whichever side of the stimulus-austerity debate you agree with, spending walls of money on things which neither help people or stimulate the economy is idiotic.)

Inequality was – indeed – .   In fact, inequality in America today is twice as bad as in ancient Rome , worse than it was in in Tsarist Russia, Gilded Age America, modern Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, many banana republics in Latin America, and worse than experienced by slaves in 1774 colonial America.

Finacialization? Yup, we’ve got that in spades …  Economist Steve Keen has also shown that “a sustainable level of bank profits appears to be about 1% of GDP”, and that higher bank profits leads to a ponzi economy and a depression).  But government policy has been encouraging the growth of the financial sector for decades:

 

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-2DxXTVc4xnc/USfwvMBlO-I/AAAAAAAAB_Y/a1dyx_5U5Hs/s1600/financial+and+nonfinancial+sectors+-+compensation+Les+Leopold.jpg

 

Corruption? Check … the government and big banks are all wallowing in a pig sty of criminal fraud.  The economy has been hollowed out due to looting and fraud. And our institutions are .  They are so corrupt and oppressive that people are more afraid of the government than of terrorists.

The bigger the bubble, the bigger crash … and we’ve just come out of the biggest bubble in history.

Costly military overreaching?  Definitely…

The war in Iraq – which will end up costing between $5  and $6 trillion dollars – was launched based upon false justifications. Indeed, the government apparently planned both the Afghanistan war (see this and this) and the Iraq war before 9/11.

It is ironic that our military is what made us a superpower, but our huge military is bankrupting us … thus destroying our status as an empire.

Empires which fight “one too many wars” always collapse.

On the 40th anniversary of the shooting and capture of Assata Shakur, the FBI and the State of New Jersey has now placed the African American revolutionary on the most wanted terrorist list. This latest provocation against Shakur, 65, is directed not only against the veteran Black Panther Party (BPP) and Black Liberation Army (BLA) member, but represents an overhaul attack on the struggle of African Americans against racism and national oppression in the United States.

Assata Shakur has now been placed under a $US2 million bounty offered by the racist government of the U.S. She had previously been subjected to a sum of $US1 million instituted a decade-and-a-half ago.

Since 1984, Shakur has been living as a political refugee in the revolutionary Caribbean-Island nation of Cuba. She sought asylum there after living underground in the U.S. where she escaped from maximum security prison in New Jersey on November 2, 1979.

Shakur was arrested on May 2, 1973 after being stopped by the state police while riding in a car traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike. She was seriously wounded in the routine traffic stop where Zayd Malik Shakur was killed and Sundiata Acoli (formerly known as Clark Squire) was also captured. Acoli remains in prison until this day some forty years later.

During the traffic stop New Jersey state trooper Werner Forester was killed. Shakur was charged with numerous crimes during a series of trials between 1973-77. However, she was acquitted of all these charges and was finally falsely accused and convicted in the death of the law-enforcement officer.

At the time of the arrest of Assata Shakur and Sundiata Acoli and the murder of Zayd Malik Shakur, the Black Liberation Army had been vilified for years in the corporate media. Many law-enforcement agencies throughout the country were on high-alert for the capturing or killing of members and associates of this organization.

Assata was held for six-and-a-half years in maximum security prisons in New Jersey. She wrote in her political biography entitled “Assata: An Autobiography,” released in 1987 by Zed books, that she was detained in all-male correctional facilities and subjected to torture by prison guards and other law-enforcement officials.

In late 1979, a group of BLA and Weather Underground activists liberated her from prison. She later immigrated to Cuba where the revolutionary socialist government of President Fidel Castro granted her political asylum.

Background of Repression Against the Black Liberation Movement in the U.S.

The Black Panther Party grew out of the southern Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s in the state of Alabama. In Lowndes County, Alabama in the aftermath of the Selma to Montgomery March that preceded the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) moved into the area to begin organizing for independent political action.

Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) was a leading organizer with SNCC at the time and played a significant role in the struggle in Lowndes County during 1965-66. SNCC partnered with the John Hulett of the Lowndes County Christian Movement for Human Rights which eventually led to the formation of the all-Black Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO).

The LCFO rejected attempts to integrate into the all-white Alabama Democratic Party which was segregationist and thoroughly racist in character. The LCFO took on the Black Panther logo and was consequently labeled the Black Panther Party. This idea spread throughout other regions of the state leading to the formation of the Alabama Black Panther Party by early 1966.

These efforts in Lowndes County gained national attention during 1966. Although the party registered thousands of African American voters, the November 1966 county elections were stolen by the racists.

Nonetheless, by this time the idea which time had come spread throughout other sections of the U.S. There was the establishment of other Black Panther organizations from New York State to California.

In October of 1966, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense which eventually became the most dominant within the entire movement by mid-1968. By 1967, there were at least three different organizations working under the banner of the Black Panther in California in both the southern and northern regions of the state.

Carmichael, who became Chairman of SNCC in May 1966, pushed for a more nationalist orientation for the organization and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. The Black Power slogan, which became popular in the summer of 1966, was advanced by Willie Ricks, a SNCC field secretary, (now known as Mukasa Dada) and Stokely Carmichael during the “March Against Fear” in Mississippi in June of 1966.

In 1967, Carmichael was drafted as “Honorary Prime Minister” of the Newton-Seale organization. Carmichael and other SNCC leaders entered into an alliance with the BPP for Self-Defense in February 1968.

Later this alliance broke down but Carmichael and other SNCC organizers continued to work with the Panthers based in Oakland through mid-1969. As a result of both the FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO-Black Nationalist) as well as ideological and political differences, there was a split within the Black Panther Party during the summer of 1969.

 COINTELPRO and the Splits Within the Black Liberation Movement

In 1967, the FBI stepped up its efforts to undermine and neutralize the Black Liberation Movement in the U.S. This took placed amid burgeoning urban rebellions which had struck over 200 cities by the end of 1967.

By October 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had labeled the Black Panther Party based in Oakland as the most serious threat to the internal security of the U.S. Hundreds of Party members and supporters were indicted on spurious charges and several organizers were killed by the police and their collaborators.

Leading members of the Party were imprisoned and driven into exile during 1968-69. Newton was wounded and convicted in the murder of an Oakland police officer in 1968. Eldridge Cleaver and Kathleen Cleaver went into exile in Cuba and later Algeria in 1968-69.

In 1969, Bobby Seale was arrested and charged with a conspiracy in the murder of fellow Panther Alex Rackley who was killed in New Haven, Connecticut. During that same year, Seale was bound and gagged on the orders of Judge Julius Hoffmann in Chicago during the conspiracy trial for allegedly attempting to disrupt the Democratic Convention of 1968.

With the Party being a relatively young organization, these actions by the federal government had a devastating impact. By late 1970 after the release of Newton on appeal, tensions grew between the factions within the organization headed by Cleaver, then still living in Algeria, and many of the Panthers on the east coast on the one hand and Newton and Chief-of-Staff David Hilliard along with their adherents based in northern California on the other.

In February 1971, an open split erupted with Cleaver calling for the expulsion of Newton and Hilliard and Newton condemning Cleaver for his public criticism of Party policy. Cleaver and his cohorts soon called for the intensification of the armed struggle inside the U.S.

With the ideological and political struggles coming to the fore inside the Party, various members were forced underground to avoid imprisonment and assassination. These cadres began to call themselves the International Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army.

The BLA was already a part of the Party prior to the split. Rule number six of the Black Panther Party 26 rules, said that no Party member could belong to any other armed force but the Black Liberation Army.

Political fracturing escalated in early 1971 with the acquittal of the New York 21, a group of leading Panthers in New York City who were falsely charged with attempts to carry out bombings in the city. A letter signed by some members of the New York 21 openly criticized the west coast leadership under Newton, prompting their expulsion.

Assata Shakur in her autobiography described this period in detail. Many Party members who had been purged were deliberately sent into the BLA, the underground.

Shakur wrote from the Middlesex County Workhouse on July 6, 1973 that “There is and always will be, until every Black man, woman and child is free, a Black Liberation Army. The main function of the Black Liberation Army at this time is to create good examples to struggle for Black freedom and to prepare for the future. We must defend ourselves and let no one disrespect us. We must gain our liberation by any means necessary.” (Break the Chains pamphlet)

She continues in this essay noting that “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

The prevailing governmental, corporate and reactionary forces were in mortal conflict with the Black Liberation Movement of the period. The heightened repression against the Movement came amid the major re-structuring of the U.S. and world economy.

Inside the African communities of the U.S. large-scale capital flight, police repression and the proliferation of drugs served to level whole areas which weakened the ability of the struggle to rejuvenate on a revolutionary basis. The split within the Black Panther Party between 1969-71 was replicated in other revolutionary organizations such as the Republic of New Africa, formed in Detroit in 1968 and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, also established in Detroit in 1969.

These political developments grew out of the material conditions in existence at the time. The African American struggle between 1975 and the second decade of the 21st century appeared to have shifted into the electoral arena.

However, the greater exposure of domestic neo-colonial constraints is causing a rethinking among the masses in regard to the overall strategic and tactical imperatives of the struggle. The ascendancy of President Barack Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus has fully laid bare the futility of Democratic Party politics and its utility for African American liberation.

The Significance of the Continuing Persecution of Assata Shakur

With the abysmal failure of the electoral political strategy dominated by the Democratic Party, the ruling class in the U.S. knows that sooner or later the African American masses in alliance with other oppressed nations and exploited workers will move in the direction of revolutionary politics. The decline in the world capitalist system has illustrated to billions around the world that there is no future in the current economic dispensation.

Even inside the U.S. it has been estimated that nearly half of the people are now living either in poverty or close to it. The spokespersons and political agents of the ruling class through their own pronouncements make no pretense in regard to addressing the growing impoverishment of the workers and oppressed.

During the 1960s there was deceptive rhetoric related to the so-called “War on Poverty” and providing greater opportunities for the oppressed nations and marginalized workers to receive a larger share of the wealth owned by the top echelons of society. Today this rhetoric has totally disappeared from the lexicon of the corporate media and the political functionaries of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Consequently, revolutionary politics must be criminalized by the ruling class, the corporate media and the repressive apparatus of the state. Yet large segments of the African American, Latino/as, Arab-Middle Eastern and Muslim sections of the U.S. and world populations have already been criminalized.

Therefore, the recent attacks on Assata Shakur will ring hollow in the minds of the oppressed and conscious workers inside the imperialist-dominated system. This will be the case because there is no future in the current oppressive structures and revolution, or fundamental change and transformation, is the only solution to the problems of poverty, economic exploitation, state repression, environmental degradation and wars of aggression.

The most just response of the ruling class would be to grant a general amnesty to all political prisoners inside the U.S. and those held by the imperialists throughout the world. People living in exile like Assata Shakur should be granted a pardon and allowed to walk free among the masses of the U.S. who are yearning for such revolutionary leadership and consciousness.

Even if an amnesty is not granted to political prisoners by the Obama administration or successive White House occupiers, the struggle against capitalism and imperialism will continue to accelerate. The people have no other choice other than reject the system that is creating the conditions for their own destruction.

Abayomi Azikiwe Editor, Pan-African News Wire

 

Israel and America are longstanding imperial partners. They spurn international laws. They do so repeatedly. They ignore their own.

They jointly plan and wage wars. Israel’s attack on Syria was a joint  US/Israeli provocation. Haaretz’s military correspondent Amos Harel suggested it, saying:

“The (US) administration officials’ familiarity with the nature of the Syrian targets seems to indicate that there had been advance coordination with Israel, and make the attacks look more and more like part of a larger campaign that isn’t over yet.”

Israel’s weekend attacks were lawless acts of aggression.

Post-WW I, the League of Nations failed to prevent them. So did Kellogg-Briand.

In August 1928, America, Germany France, Britain, Italy, Japan, and nine other nations signed on.

It promised wars would no longer resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them.”

Violators “should be denied the benefits furnished by this treaty.”

Article 8 of the 1933 Montevideo Convention of Rights and Duties says “No state has the right to intervene in the internal or external affairs of another.”

Under Article 10, differences between states “should be settled by recognized pacific methods.”

Article 11 calls sovereign state territory “inviolable….”

The 1950 Nuremberg Principles defined crimes against peace to include:

“(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (and)

(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).”

On June 26, 1945, the UN Charter was signed. On October 24, it became effective. It failed “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war….”

Fundamental principles have been ignored. They require all Members to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Article 51 permits armed force only in self-defense against externally generated aggression until the Security Council acts. It has final say.

Under no circumstances may one nation, or combination thereof, intervene against another without lawful Security Council authorization. Doing so is lawless aggression.

Belligerents like America and Israel put their own priorities above international laws. They ignore their own as it suits them. Wars rage  without end. New ones are planned.

Washington wages permanent ones. Peace is a four-letter word. Israel’s a longstanding imperial partner. Attacking Syria is their latest provocation.

They acted without justification. Doing so reflects naked aggression. Expect Washington, rogue NATO allies, and regional partners to take full advantage.

Ravaging and destroying Syria is their latest project. They’re well along toward accomplishing it.

On May 5, Syria’s cabinet held an extraordinary session. Premier Wael al-Halqi chaired it. Participants condemned Israeli aggression.

A formal statement said:

“The Israeli enemy committed early Sunday morning May 5th, 2013 a flagrant aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic using missiles to shell military facilities in a blatant violation of all the rules of the international law paying no heed to all the relevant commitments.”

“The Syrian government stresses that this aggression opens the door wide for all the possibilities, especially that it undoubtedly shows the scale of the organic link between the constituents of the war on Syria, along with their Takfiri terrorist tools, and the Zionism.”

“The countries supporting Israel should know quite well that our people and state do not accept disgrace, and that Israel and its agents in the region can’t stand alone and tamper with the regional security and the peoples’ future.”

“The government stresses the necessity that the army continue its achievements in combating Israel’s tools inside, and that it will always be its right to protect the homeland, the state and the people against any internal or external aggression by all means.”

A formal UN complaint said:

“The blatant Israeli aggression has the aim to provide direct military support to the terrorist groups after they failed to control territory.”

“This leaves no room for doubt Israel is the beneficiary, the mover and sometime the executor of the terrorist acts which Syria is witnessing and which target it as a state and people directly or through its tools inside.”

“Israel’s continuation to carry out its aggressive acts would increase tension in the region and drag it into a large-scale regional war that would threaten peace and security in the region and the world.”

While stressing its right to defend itself , its land and sovereignty, the Syrian Arab Republic demands that the international Security Council shoulder its responsibilities to stop the Israeli aggression on Syria and prevent its recurrence and prevent the deterioration of the situation in the region so as not to go out of control.”

Ban Ki-moon showed which side he’s on. He’s a reliable imperial tool. He failed to condemn naked aggression. It didn’t surprise. A UN spokesman said:

“The Secretary-General calls on all sides to exercise maximum calm and restraint, and to act with a sense of responsibility to prevent an escalation of what is already a devastating and highly dangerous conflict.”

The spokesman added:

“The United Nations (is not) in a position to independently verify what has occurred.”

Ban’s entire tenure reflects betrayal and failure. He shamelessly supports what demands condemnation. He repeatedly violates his own Charter.

He’s a reliable imperial partner. He scorns human rights and rule of law principles. He ignores Western and Israeli crimes of war and against humanity.

He supports wrong over right. He does so repeatedly. He shares culpability with America, NATO and Israel.

He has buckets of blood on his hands. History won’t forgive or forget.

Multiple Israeli bombings were clear provocations. They appear to be dress rehearsal prelude for what’s planned.

Washington, Israel, and rogue NATO partners hope Syria will make it easy to do so. They dare Assad to respond. Full-scale US-led NATO intervention would likely follow.

Expect it regardless of his response. Pretexts are easy to invent. They’re used to justify the unjustifiable. False flags are commonplace. They’re a US/Israeli tradition.

Perhaps something big is planned. It won’t surprise if Washington and/or Israel launch an attack blamed on Syria.

It’s business as usual rogue state policy. It provide pretexts for aggressive wars to follow. Be suspicious of incidents going forward.

On May 5, the Washington Post headlined “Reported Israeli airstrikes in Syria could accelerate US decision process,” saying:

The Obama administration “already (has been) moving toward a sharp escalation of US involvement….” A decision could come in weeks or sooner.

Options include “US aircraft and missiles to ground (Assad’s) air power by destroying planes, runways and missile sites inside Syria.”

Obama’s national security team “favor(s) increased involvement, and their views are gaining momentum despite the caution expressed by (his) political advisors, according to a senior Western official whose government has closely coordinated its Syria policy with Washington and who spoke before the reported Israeli strikes.”

“The official discussed sensitive diplomatic assessments on the condition of anonymity.”

“Even US lawmakers who have expressed reservations about stepped-up US involvement appeared to now see it as inevitable.”

The New York Times suggested US intervention is coming.

“In Washington,” it said, “the reported Israeli attacks stoked debate about whether American-led airstrikes were the logical next step to cripple the ability of the Syrian president to counter the rebel forces or use chemical weapons.”

“That was already being discussed in secret by the United States, Britain and France in the days leading to the Israeli strikes, according to American and foreign officials involved in the discussions, with a model being the opening days of the attacks on Libya that ultimately drove (Gaddafi) from power.”

The Foreign Policy Initiative (formerly the Project for the New American Century – PNAC) urges US intervention against Syria. It did so prior to Israeli attacks. It falsely accused Assad of using chemical weapons.

On May 5, Reuters headlined “UN has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator.”

Geneva-based “UN human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.”

“The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons….”

Obama lied saying Washington has “varying degrees of confidence” that Syria used sarin gas and perhaps other chemical weapons on its own people.

America and Israel often use banned weapons and munitions. On May 5, Russia Today said “Israel used ‘a new type weapon,’ ” according to a “senior” official.

“When the explosion happened it felt like an earthquake,” he said. “Then a giant golden mushroom of fire appeared. This tells us that Israel used depleted uranium shells.”

“Several civilian factories and buildings were destroyed. The target was just an ordinary weapons warehouse. The bombing is an ultimatum to us – it has no strategic motivation.”

“There was no valuable equipment at the site. It was removed after a previous attack on the facility. The military losses from this are negligible.”

Most important is what follows. Washington’s longstanding regime change plans remain unchanged. Replacing Assad with pro-Western puppet leadership is prioritized.

Full-scale US-led NATO intervention looms. Libya 2.0 appears most  likely. It can come any time.

Syria’s being systematically ravaged and destroyed. Expect conflict to continue until it’s accomplished. Expect more wars to follow. It’s longstanding US policy.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/profile-of-lawless-aggression/

Mali Under French Military Occupation

May 7th, 2013 by Roger Annis

France’s National Assembly and Senate have voted to extend the country’s military intervention in Mali. A resolution passed both houses of parliament on April 22. Not a single vote was cast in opposition. Three days later, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 2100, creating a policing mission beginning July 1, 2013. The mission is called by its French acronym MINUSMA. Its projected size is 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police.

France invaded the north of Mali with fighter aircraft and 4,000 soldiers on January 11. The Mali government and its French benefactor lost control of the area in 2012 to Tuareg and other national groups fighting for autonomy and independence.

Rightist Islamist forces that oppose the sovereignty aspirations of the national minorities then briefly rose to military dominance in the region. It is their presence that served as the key pretext for the France intervention and now for a foreign, military and police occupation of undeclared duration.

Presently, there are some 6,000 soldiers from African countries serving in a “peacekeeping” role in the south of Mali, while French soldiers are engaged in combat with Islamists in the north. Also, what’s called a military training mission by the European Union has some 200 soldiers on the ground and hundreds more providing supplies and equipment.

The United States is a key backer of the French intervention. It has significantly boosted its military presence in West Africa during the past decade and recently opened a drone airbase in neighbouring Niger.

France Discusses Intervention

The vote in France’s National Assembly and Senate were required by Article 35-3 of the French Constitution, a revision from July 2008 arising from the long war in Afghanistan. French parliamentarians debated the Mali intervention on January 16 but no vote was taken.

The first and only other time Article 35-3 has been invoked was in September of 2008 when legislators got around to approving France’s Afghan intervention that began in 2001.

In the National Assembly debate, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called the Mali intervention a political and military success. Minister of Defence Jean-Yves Le Drian declared, “All of Mali’s territory has been liberated” and the threat to Mali’s security has been “very strongly reduced.”

National Assembly deputies from the Left Front electoral coalition abstained in the vote. Jean-Jacques Candelier explained, “We want our [France's] contribution to be made solely through the military force to be created under the umbrella of the UN.” He also argued that French aid should be reoriented in favour of local development.

François Asensi, spokesperson for Front in the Assembly, said the problem with the resolution presented by the government is its proposal for a French combat force that will be outside the control of the UN (Security Council).

He also expressed concern that the precise goals of the intervention are unclear. “When will we say that out troops will have fulfilled their mission? What are the precise objectives of our military presence?…” “We do not accept a lengthy and permanent presence of France in Mali,” he said. But he concluded, “It goes without saying that we cannot vote against the presence of French troops in Mali, but we will abstain.”

An April 23 statement by the French Communist Party, an important constituent of the Left Front, voiced similar concerns about the government resolution, including that France risks being drawn into a quagmire with “regional repercussions.”

A party member writing on the party’s website termed the decision to abstain in the National Assembly vote as “not very communist… Communists should OPPOSE military interventions that lead to imperialist wars…”

A member and correspondent with the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) has written a harsh assessment of the April 22 vote, in particular of the decision of the Left Front to abstain. The writer says there are abundant reasons to oppose the French intervention: “Four months of military intervention at a cost of 200-million euros; no political solution in sight; no handover to Mali foreseen; and the power of France’s influence, as [Foreign Minister] Laurent Fabius has said, is strengthened.” The article continues, “This shameful vote allows for a lengthy military presence in Mali that will become a full-fledged territorial occupation in the interests of France and the other big powers supporting it.”

The International Plan for Mali

The France/U.S./UN plan for Mali will see MINUSMA relegated to a policing (“peacekeeping”) role. The force will stay out of combat because a large part of its ranks will come from African countries that are deemed to lack necessary training and resolve.

Meanwhile, a separate French force of up to 1,000 soldiers will be dedicated to combat operations and will operate outside of any United Nations endorsement and control.

Soldiers from Chad are the only African forces that have been fighting with French soldiers in the north, but that country has recently ended its combat role. Chad has suffered unacceptably high casualties and it says it is not equipped to fight the lengthy, counter-insurgency war that may be taking shape in Mali.[1]

Chad’s own political foundations are shaky and were likely a factor in its Mali decision. In March, the Union des forces de la résistance announced it was calling off a two-year ceasefire with the authoritarian government of Idriss Déby, due to the government’s failure to engage in promised political dialogue.

In early May, the Déby regime arrested some leading critics, including legislature member Saleh Makki of the Coordination des partis pour la défense de la Constitution. Déby has ruled Chad since 1990.

Blunt Assessment of Foreign Military “Training”

In an April 23 interview published in Le Monde, Colonel Bruno Heluin of the French army provided a remarkably blunt assessment of the Mali army. He is assigned to the European military training mission. For now, the foreign plan for Mali assigns a very secondary role to the country’s army.

Mali was a founding member of the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership that was created by the United States in 2005. The Partnership provides money, weapons and training to its 11 member-countries in West Africa and it conducts annual military exercises directed by the U.S., Europe and Canada. Three of those exercises have taken place on Mali soil.

Notwithstanding all these years of training and equipping, Heluin says the 20,000-member Mali army lives “day to day.” It lacks any training infrastructure, is under-financed and under-equipped, and it is plagued with corruption.

He says much of the military training provided by the U.S. in recent years went to Tuareg-led army forces in the north. Many of these ended up joining the rebellion against the central government in 2011/12.

Army leader Captain Amadou Sanogo was trained in the U.S. He led the overthrow of Mali’s elected government in March 2012 and today he retains key influence and power over the country. The army is presently recruiting 4,000 young people between the ages of 17 to 19.

When asked about the support promised earlier this year at an international conference in Ethiopia to train and provision the Mali army, Heluin said not a penny has been received. The military contingents from the neighbouring African countries present in Mali have received eight million euros ($11-million).

Mali’s army is stained with having overthrown a national government. Hence, the wariness of the large foreign powers to be seen engaging with it. Hence also the rush to get some kind of elected government back into office.

Security Council Resolution 2100 calls for the holding of a national election as quickly as possible, preferably by July. This is one of the similarities to the Security Council occupation regime in Haiti, soon to enter its tenth year.

In Haiti, there have been two national elections since MINUSTAH was created in 2004, in 2006 and in late 2010/early 2011. Each one featured the exclusion of progressive political forces. The dust from the January 2010 earthquake had barely settled before the big powers present in the country began to press for the second of those elections, notwithstanding the catastrophic, post-earthquake state of the country (which still prevails today). It recorded the lowest voter turnout in the modern history of the western hemisphere, including by far the lowest turnout in Haiti.

Most serious commentators in Mali as well as internationally recognize that the country is nowhere near ready to hold a national election. The military situation is unstable, the army officers safely ensconced in the capital city Bamako remain in effective control, and the country is living a severe humanitarian crisis.

Humanitarian Situation

That humanitarian emergency is detailed in a series of reports published recently. An IRIN agency news report says towns in the north are in a state of “complete chaos” with no governing or social infrastructure in operation. In Timbuktu, for example, not a single international aid agency is operating.

The Guardian reports on April 29 that close to 300,000 people are internally displaced in Mali and some 125,000 people are living in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. (Mali’s population is 15.5 million.) Many are there due to ongoing drought conditions and the related, creeping desertification of the north of the country as the Sahara Desert expands inexorably southward.

Food prices are spiralling and aid needs are not being met. In March, agencies found that one in five families in the north of Mali were suffering food shortages ranging from severe to extreme. The World Food Program is seeking to deliver food to half a million people around the country.

Hector Calderon of UNICEF Mali says that this year in southern Mali, 210,000 children will suffer from life-threatening malnutrition and 450,000 will suffer a less severe but still debilitating form of malnutrition.

Northern Mali will descend to emergency levels of food insecurity in less than two months if the security situation and humanitarian access to vulnerable communities does not improve, say dire warnings from four international aid agencies – Action Against Hunger (ACF), Solidarités International, Welthungerhilfe and Oxfam.

“It is vital that we act before we reach a point of no return about the food situation,” says Philippe Conraud, Oxfam Country Director in Mali. “While international attention is focused on the UN peacekeeping mission, we risk losing sight of the current alarming humanitarian situation.”

“Many big international donors which are not present in Mali have the impression that the military intervention was a success and the situation is back to normal,” he said. “But we want to highlight the fact that this could become an emergency in a matter of months.”

A recent, troubling report on the human rights situation was authored by Human Rights Watch Director in France, Jean-Marie Fardeau.

He writes that formal mechanisms of justice are “absent” from the north of Mali. “In all the small cities, villages and encampments, notably along the Niger River, the forces that are supposed to guarantee the rule of law are absent, while undisciplined and violent elements of the Mali army have exacted serious retribution.”

Fardeau says that 20 summary executions of civilians and an equal number of disappearances have been recorded, and that more are likely to be uncovered. Mistreatment and torture of prisoners by the Mali army is also reported.

For the first time in the history of Mali, military officers, six in number, are being investigated for a human rights crime – the disappearance of five civilians in Timbuktu. Fardeau says it would be good if they could appear before a military tribunal, except that this institution has never convened.

He also notes the recent creation of a national commission for dialogue and reconciliation. He does not have much hope for its effectiveness and says a full truth and reconciliation commission is needed instead.

The serious allegations against the Mali army are a confirmation of the concern about that institution expressed by the Tuareg Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) at the outset of the France intervention, including its call that the army should be prevented from reoccupying the north of the country. The concerns were ignored by France.

As the French rulers settle in for a long occupation in Mali, they face difficult political conditions at home. The Guardian recently reports that polls are showing plummeting support for the Socialist Party government of President François Hollande.

“The one-year anniversary of the French left’s return to the Elysée has been marked by disappointment on promises to cut unemployment, restore growth, contain the deficit and reverse Europe’s one-size-fits-all austerity drive. Hollande’s approval ratings have plunged to the lowest of any modern French leader…

“Hollande’s biggest problem is spiralling unemployment, a symptom of France’s economic decay and zero growth… Unemployment is at 10.6 per cent or 3.2 million people, the highest number since records began in 1996. More people are out of a job in France than at any other time…

“One unexpected event that brought a brief boost to Hollande was the military intervention in Mali – he described a visit to the capital, Bamako, as the ‘most important day of my political life’. But Henri Rey, of the Institute of Political Science in Paris, said the slight bounce did not have a lasting impact politically: ‘Mali was seen as a success, but it did not fundamentally change the equation.’”

On May 5, tens of thousands of people marched in the streets of Paris against austerity and the captains of finance.

The national rights struggle of the Tuareg and other national minorities in the north of Mali is decades old. It came to the fore again in 2011/12, prompted by the intransigence of the Mali government/military and by the upheaval in neighbouring Libya. A cascade of disastrous political fallout then followed, including the military coup of March 2012 and the France intervention.

The coup and the intervention have exposed the rotten edifice of neo-colonialism constructed in West Africa during the past 50-plus years. The peoples of the entire region are suffering deeply as a consequence. Increasingly, they are being dragged back into new forms of direct, colonial rule.

But the new colonialism will continue to be met with deep resistance. The French rulers will find no salvation in West Africa to the decline of their economy at home and the challenges to their mini-empire abroad. •

Roger Annis is a writer, socialist and activist in Vancouver, Canada. He can be reached at rogerannis(at)hotmail.com.

 

Notes:

1. Fighting in the north of Mali is lessening and France has recently repatriated several hundred of its soldiers. Accordingly, the Canadian government has suspended its airlift support. The quiet that surrounded that decision led Ottawa Citizen columnist David Pugliese to ask if Canada was abandoning its French ally. But Rear Admiral Peter Ellis replied to the newspaper, “While assistance is no longer required by France on a continuous basis, Canada remains committed to supporting our allies and will still transport French equipment and troops to Mali, when needed.”

Obama, Israel and the new phase of the war on Syria

The massive Israeli air strikes on May 5 near Damascus mark a new phase in the imperialist-led campaign to overthrow the Syrian government.

Huge bombs lit the early morning sky and shook the ground in the country’s capital. Secondary explosions continued for four hours afterwards. It was the third Israeli bombing attack this year, the second in two days, and by far the largest thus far.

Later the same day, a U.N. commission revealed “strong, concrete suspicions” that the opposition military forces—and not the government—were responsible for the use of sarin nerve gas in Syria.The commission directly contradicted U.S. and British allegations, which the Syrian government has always denied.

Israel’s attack was in “closest coordination” with the Obama administration, according to a White House spokesperson. It is the latest act in a long history of Israel acting as an extension of U.S. military power, carrying out missions that Washington finds “inconvenient” to perform itself at a given time.

The latest raids and the fact that no Israeli planes were reported shot down could be a factor leading to a major air war.

Senator John McCain, an especially rabid supporter of a new U.S. war in Syria, responded by saying that “the Israelis seem to be able to penetrate it [Syrian air defenses] fairly easily.” He called for the U.S. to destroy Syrian air defenses “with cruise missiles; cratering their runways, where all of these supplies, by the way, from Iran and Russia are coming in by air.”

McCain is also a leading advocate of a “no-fly zone” (“no-fly” for Syrian aircraft only, that is) over large parts of the country, which could only be accomplished by first destroying Syria’s air forces and defenses. This initiative is clearly advancing in Washington.

Syrian government and opposition responses to Israeli raids

The Syrian government called the Israeli attacks, “acts of war” and “flagrant violations of international law,” and stated that they confirmed the complicity of the U.S. and Israel governments with the armed opposition.

On the other side, the New York Times (May 5, 2013) reported: “The rebels’ Damascus Military Council quickly sought to capitalize on the blasts. The council issued a statement calling on all fighters in the area to work together, put aside rivalries and mount focused attacks on government forces that have so far kept a solid hold on the capital.”

The National Coalition of Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, considered the main umbrella group, blamed the Syrian government itself for the attacks in a convoluted statement, which read:

“Israel’s actions, including the pre-emptive attacks to weaken Syrian defenses, demonstrate a fear of losing the years of peace that the Assad regime provided for Israel.”

According to this matchless “reasoning,” Israel carried out the bombing to weaken Syria and the Assad government out of fear of losing the Assad government.

The illogic of the National Coalition’s statement stems from its fundamental dishonesty. Due to the deep hostility among the Syrian population toward the racist and militarist Israeli state, the National Coalition leaders must conceal their real attitude toward the attacks.

How Israel factors into US considerations

While the corporate media portrayed the latest strikes as being aimed at preventing Iranian missiles from reaching the Lebanese resistance organization Hezbollah, the fact that there were multiple explosions at numerous locations, points toward wider strategic objectives.

If Syria retaliates for this latest in series of Israeli air raids, Israel could then act to destroy the Syria air force, a goal openly discussed in Washington in recent days. Thanks in large part to hundreds of billions in U.S. assistance Israel is the leading military power in the region—apart from the U.S. government itself—and has air superiority over other countries in the region.

If, on the other hand, Syria does not respond to the attacks, the government could be made to appear weak, unable to defend the country.

Escalation as opposition suffers setbacks

The upheaval in Syria has been fueled by a wide range of grievances, some legitimate, some reactionary. But the armed rebellion today is inextricably bound to imperialism and the most reactionary regimes in the Arab world.

The escalation of imperialist intervention in the Syrian war is being accelerated now due to losses suffered by the splintered opposition forces in recent weeks. And it’s not as if the “Free Syrian Army,” the “Supreme Military Command,” the “National Coalition of Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces,” the “Jabhat al-Nusra,” and other opposition groups have not already been receiving massive support from the United States, Britain, France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and more.

The U.S. and its allies have been funneling vast quantities of arms, money and supplies to the opposition, and training thousands of anti-government fighters in Turkey, Jordan and elsewhere. Harsh economic sanctions have been imposed Syria.

Outside support has sustained the opposition, but not brought it closer to victory. Thus the repeated and urgent appeals by opposition leaders for an imperialist air war against their own country.

Just as in case of Libya, some on the left here, even some who call themselves “socialist,” have taken the absurdly contradictory position of supporting the “revolution” in Syria, while opposing the “foreign intervention” that the leaders of the “revolution” are demanding, and without which they cannot hope to win.

The upheaval in Syria that began more than two years ago was fueled by a wide range of grievances, some legitimate, some reactionary. But the armed rebellion inside the country today is inextricably bound to imperialism and the most reactionary regimes in the Arab world.

The Israeli air strikes follow a week of escalating war rhetoric from the White House and Congress. Now is the time for the anti-war movement, the people’s movement and all those who stand for justice to reject the war propaganda emanating from Washington, and stand together to say: “No New War Against Syria—U.S. Out of the Middle East!”

Psychopathy in Politics and Finance

May 6th, 2013 by Stefan Verstappen

As more and more studies demonstrating the corrosive effect of psychopathy on government, finance, and business emerge, researchers have begun to explore how our society itself has been molded in the psychopaths’ image.

Now, one of those researchers, Stefan Verstappen, shares his insights on psychopathy in modern culture.

This is the GRTV Feature interview on Global Research TV.

Like this video? Visit our YouTube channel and click the “Subscribe” link to get the latest videos from Global Research! 

UN investigator Carla Del Ponte said that there is strong evidence that the rebels used chemical weapons, but that there is not evidence that the government used such weapons.

This is not surprising.  Haaretz reported on March 24th, “Jihadists, not Assad, apparently behind reported chemical attack in Syria“.

The “rebels” in Syria that the U.S. has been arming and otherwise supporting are Al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood.

Unfortunately, history is repeating.

Specifically, the American government gave chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein … which he then used on Iran and on his own Kurdish population.

The American government attempted to blame Iran for the chemical weapons attack on Iraq’s Kurds.

And see this.

 

Unprecedented flooding is reported in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, in northern Quebec and northern and central Ontario. Aboriginal Bands and entire municipalities have declared states of emergency. Due to location First Nations settlements prefigure flood warnings for the larger towns. Kashechewan First Nation declared emergency April 30 with many houses uninhabitable due to sewage backup or flooding and 240 residents evacuated. Attawapiskat First Nation also declared an emergency April 30, after sewage backup closed both the hospital and the school. Sewage backup into homes was protested by MP Charlie Angus to Parliament as early as 2009.

Flooding in Aboriginal communities compounds a state of emergency firmly in progress. The Attawapiskat community’s called a housing emergency in 2011; the Harper government and de Beers Diamonds responded with the some trailers. Then the Government tried to take over the Band’s finances and was stopped in court. Chief Theresa Spence began a fast in December 2012 calling for Canada to honour its treaties with First Nations. Her hunger strike was only ended by First Nations’ concern and the government’s promises to discuss. In fact, while Canada has become the third largest producer of diamonds, globally, the circumstances of the local people haven’t improved. And in other regions corporations extract uranium, oil, gas, gold, etc. without primary responsibility to the land’s inhabitants, Aboriginal or settler.

For example the Neskantaga Band called a state of emergency April 17. CBC which now gives the band’s population as 300 (given as “400″ on April 18th) reports 10 suicide attempts a month since the end of 2011. In 2012 Health Canada refused the Band’s request for A. a drug treatment program, B. a mental-health counseling program. Lack of safe drinking water is confirmed. The Globe and Mail (“Northern Ontario chromite mining has first nation worried for water safety,” Dec. 27, 2012) noted a boiled water emergency for the past 7 years, and has named two companies attempting to expand in the area, dependent on government and environmental and aboriginal approvals: Cleveland U.S. based Cliffs Natural Resources interested in chromite, and Toronto based Noront, interested in nickel-copper. The Band has only partial control of its finances and is worried the Federal government will respond as with the Attawapiskat, by trying to take over economic management completely.

In a January interview with CBC former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin faulted the Conservative government’s treatment of native peoples and its attempt to legislate privatisation of Aboriginal land without full Aboriginal consent. He describes the Indian Act as “racist.” Addressing the Government’s Truth and Reconciliation Hearing in Montreal April 26th, he recognized Canada’s residential school program as “cultural genocide.” His government’s attempt to create Aboriginal school boards throughout Canada under the Kelowna Accord was abandoned when Harper’s Conservative government came to power. Both political parties represent the old order.

In northern Ontario the difficulty remains that most people are expendable to mining and resource interests which want the land’s resources without just compensation to the local residents and all Canadians. Aboriginal bands bear the brunt of the injustice. Their people are endangered but it isn’t just the flooding. It’s the lack of potable water, drug abuse rates, suicide rates. Diabetes among aboriginal peoples is three times as prevalent as in Euro-Canadian and Immigrant based communities. Native groups have been engineered into situations of terminal health, both physically and psychologically.

The resources of the land provide minerals and gems of enough value to plan, sustain, care for, and protect all its inhabitants. Because the resources are stolen from the people the land doesn’t sustain them and they become vulnerable to man made or natural disasters.

No one admits that European concepts of dwellings and common space applied to a native people in regions of extremes in climate, fail. Natural disasters such as flooding point up the wisdom of migratory lifestyles. European answers are applied to First Nations needs with the contempt of making profit, while failing to provide sound location for long term settlement, failing to provide proper infra-structure of water and sewage, failing to provide communities with the means of self sufficiency, healthy food sources, or self-sustaining industry/employment to purchase food. The inevitable result of European culture’s government planning and funding so far is the eradication of a people.

Flooding is affecting non-band communities throughout Ontario as well. But what if the James Bay region were populated by those in power: the land’s wealth of resources and the technology now available would produce flood-safe European towns on steel pilings with escalators to the front door, year round gardens under thermal bubbles, free communications, and lots of bicycles (Brazil could create an entire city of Brasilia without the encouragement of global warming).

Instead, First Nations and settler communities, stripped of their inheritance, live amid the mercy of what’s left. Cultural genocide against Aboriginals, is a metaphor for what happens in real time to all peoples who have claim to land wanted by corporate expansion. First Nations are simply the first obviously vulnerable to the results of corporate greed. Canada’s reluctance to change course for all its people signals the intention of a crime that brings no future.

In late January, Lebanese military sources reported multiple Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace. One or more targets on the Syrian-Lebanese border were struck.

Around the same time, Israeli warplanes attacked a military research center in Jamraya. It’s about 10 miles from the Lebanese border. Early Sunday morning, Israel struck it again.

On May 5, the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) headlined “Explosions Hit Scientific Research Center in Jamraya Caused by an Israeli Rocket Attack, Casualties Reported.”

The Damascus al-Hameh area was struck. Syrian state television said:

“The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army.”

“This new Israeli aggression is a clear attempt to alleviate the pressure on the armed terrorist groups after our army beat them back in several regions and after the army’s victories on the road to recovering security and stability in Syria.”

“This attack proves the direct involvement of the Israeli occupation in the conspiracy against Syria and its links with terrorist groups in the aggression supported by Western countries and some Gulf countries.”

Israeli officials confirmed Saturday’s attack. YNet News said an unnamed “senior” Israeli source corroborated the second one. He claimed missiles intended for Hezbollah were targeted.

Previous articles suggested otherwise. Assad needs all the weapons he can get. If reports were accurate, evidence would have corroborated them. None was forthcoming.

Video footage showed multiple explosions. Huge fires followed. Obama ignored Israel’s naked aggression. He claimed it’s entitled to defend itself against enemies, saying:

“The Israelis, justifiably, have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.”

 He shares responsibility for what happened. These type incidents are jointly planned. Both nations partner in imperial crimes. Doing so is longstanding.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague also supports Israel’s naked aggression. He called it self-defense. He said it’s justification for “lifting the arms embargo” against Syrian insurgents. He wants them getting more weapons than already supplied.

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad correctly called Israeli aggression “a declaration of war.” He added that Syria will decide when and how to respond.

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour condemned “the Israeli aggression and the silence of the international community. It’s time for the Arab League to take a clear stand in light of the repeated Israeli aggression against Arab countries.”

On April 30, Syrian expert Patrick Seale headlined “How Israel Manipulates US Policy in the Middle East.”

It’s doing what it did many times before. It’s “inciting the United States to attack Syria.”

“By accusing Syria of using chemical weapons, Israel’s goal seems to have been to trigger an early American armed intervention with the double objective of ousting Bashar from office, while preventing his replacement by the redoubtable Jabhat al-Nusra.”

Israel wants Washington “to destroy both the Syrian regime and its Hizbollah ally,” Seale added. Iran comes next.

“Israel wants no limits on the extraordinary freedom it has long enjoyed to attack its neighbours at will and never be hit back. From Israel’s point of view, if America could be persuaded to do the job for it, so much the better.”

On May 5, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi condemned Israel’s “evil acts.” They occurred after a “US green light.” Fars News quoted him saying:

“The inhuman acts and adventurism of the Zionist regime in the region will strengthen the waves of anti-Zionism in the region and will shorten the life of this fake regime.”

“Such desperate moves are not a sign of power and might but they show the regime’s desperateness and confusion in dealing with the regional developments.”

Mossad-connected DEBKAfile claimed Israel attacked “to prevent the transfer of Iran-supplied Scud D and Fateh-110 missiles to Hizbollah units fighting in Syria….”

It cited unnamed Arab sources saying “Israeli rockets also hit two 4th Division Republican Guard battalions.”

“There were also claims that rockets were fired on or close to Mount Qassioun, one of Bashar Assad’s presidential palaces and the site of command posts and arsenals overlooking the capital.”

 ”The BBC’s Arab sources add that Hizballah forces stationed in Damascus were also targeted.”

Earlier, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah denied sending fighters to Syria. He said party members may be acting individually.

He added that around 30,000 Shitte Lebanese inhabit 22 Syrian villages. Volunteers defend them against terrorist attacks.

On May 4, Hezbollah official Ibrahim Amin Sayyed said:

“Hezbollah is ready to prevent Syria falling under the control of Tel Aviv and Washington.”

“This is a strategy and not an intervention in the Syria crisis. It is an intervention in the conflict against America and Israel.”

He added that Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria is “political and strategic.” It’s to “support the people in their demands to reach a situation that preserves their dignity and freedom and ensures their participation in political life.”

Days earlier, Nasrallah said his fighters were defending Lebanese citizens in Syrian border villages. He suggested that Iran, Russia, and unidentified “resistance groups” would act to prevent Assad’s ouster.

Longstanding US/Israeli policy prioritizes regional destabilization and conflict. At issue is replacing independent governments in Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah in Lebanon with pro-Western puppets.

Doing so would achieve joint Washington/Israeli control. Iraqi and Libyan puppet regimes were installed. Replicating them in Syria, Iran, and Lebanon is planned.

Syria’s being ravaged to do it. Iran and Lebanon may follow. Countless more lives may be lost. America and Israel don’t do body counts. Their pockmarked histories claimed millions.

Many more die daily. Survivors endure appalling misery. It’s hard imagining how much worse things can get. Expect it. It’s planned. It’s coming. Unchallenged dominance alone matters. Human suffering is a small price to pay.

Israel’s attacks were lawless. They’re clear provocations. They appear designed to get Syria to retaliate. Doing so would give Washington-led NATO pretext to intervene. Pentagon plans were prepared long ago.

A previous article said hindsight may show Israel’s attacks preceded full-scale intervention. It may happen if Syria doesn’t retaliate.

Proxy Western fighters are no match against Assad’s military superiority. Nor were anti-Gaddafi insurgents in Libya.

Air power turned the tide. Expect similar tactics ahead against Syria. They’ll begin as soon as Obama signs off. It could happen any time.

Israel’s very much involved. It’s a NATO partner country. It’s a Mediterranean Dialogue member. It’s practically a full-fledged one. It’s covertly and overtly involved.

It’s part of Washington’s regional strategy. It’s own prioritizes eliminating all regional rivals.

Both countries wage war on humanity. Syrians are in the crosshairs of their ruthlessness. Hundreds of thousands more may die before conflict ends.

Another country is being systematically ravaged and destroyed. It won’t be the last one. Obama, Netanyahu, and rogue NATO partners have lots more death and destruction in mind. Rogue states operate that way.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/america-and-israel-imperial-partners-in-crime-part-ii/

Democracia al estilo canadiense

May 6th, 2013 by Eric Walberg

 Dada la neo-realpolitik de Canadá en el plano internacional, es de esperar que en este país los asuntos de política interna también siguieran esa misma lógica. En el pasado Canadá parecía encarnar un colonialismo menos agresivo que el de los EE.UU. o Australia en lo que respecta al trato con las comunidades nativas. John Ralston Saul (ensayista canadiense y presidente de la asociación mundial de escritores PEN) defiende la “originalidad del proyecto canadiense” desde donde se rechazaba el proyecto Iluminista de Europa y los EE.UU., basado en la racionalidad secular y la revolución liberal. Canadá nunca fue un Estado-Nación monolítico, sino más bien un Estado basado en el consenso, que incorporó la filosofía de los pueblos nativos como parte de su propia naturaleza. Esto se potenció con la política canadiense abierta a la inmigración, que hizo más necesaria una ética multicultural e “intercultural.”

Canadá nunca buscó construir una identidad homogénea a partir de la fusión de las diversas identidades existentes. Los canadienses siempre se han enorgullecido por no poseer un chauvinismo al estilo norteamericano. En Europa, aunque formalmente multicultural debido a su necesidad de mano de obra barata inmigrante, los antiguos nacionalismos imperialistas aún perviven.

Saul sostiene que Canadá no fue “fundada” como una nación moderna en 1867 sino en 1701, con el Gran Tratado de Paz de Montreal firmado entre Nueva Francia (colonia francesa en territorio norteamericano) y las 40 Naciones Nativas Americanas de Norte América. Este acuerdo, alcanzado luego de negociaciones llevadas adelante según las normas diplomáticas de los pueblos nativos, buscaba acabar con los conflictos étnicos. Pero las disputas entre los firmantes estallaron mientras Francia pasaba a ser árbitro del litigio. El paradigma era la confederación de las tribus, el consenso, el círculo de los pueblos originarios, el “comer del mismo plato.” Este acuerdo diplomático continúa siendo válido y reconocido como tal por los pueblos nativos que lo firmaron en 1701.

Los franco-canadienses son en su mayoría descendientes de inmigrantes que llegaron al país antes de la Revolución Francesa. Asimismo, los anglo-canadienses se opusieron a la Revolución Norteamericana (una revuelta de comerciantes contra la corona británica). El resultado de esto fue la consolidación de una mentalidad colonial en Canadá y la constante voluntad de sus elites conservadoras (la Confederación, Borden, Mulroney y Harper) para someterse a las potencias imperialistas de Gran Bretaña/EE.UU. La única excepción fue Diefenbaker, quien desafió al imperio norteamericano al no permitir la instalación de armamento nuclear en suelo canadiense. Pero Diefenbaker fue pisoteado por el “garante de la libertad” John Fitzgerald Kennedy y por el propio paladín canadiense de la bondad, el Premio Nobel de la Paz Lester Pearson.

Tristemente, esta contradicción heredada del conservadurismo colonial canadiense ha significado que la continuidad con los días en que la voz de los pueblos originarios era respetada (dado que eran sus tierras las que los blancos pretendían expropiar, aunque fuera de forma pacífica) hoy se haya visto rota de manera oficial. Así lo demuestra la nueva ley conocida como Bill-C45 (una medida que impone nuevos impuestos a los pueblos originarios y en la práctica es un intento por arrebatarle las tierras que todavía poseen), así como las campañas políticas y mediáticas realizadas contra la resistencia de los pueblos nativos.

Los pueblos originarios no sólo deben enfrentar la presión gubernamental para que renuncien a sus derechos, sino también el abuso de aquellas instituciones que supuestamente están para protegerlos. Los programas educativos residenciales pretendieron asimilar por la fuerza a los niños de los pueblos nativos eliminando sus lenguas y tradiciones para reemplazarlas por la educación moderna (o “posmoderna”). Este atropello fue expuesto públicamente en los años recientes, al punto que el Primer Ministro Harper debió realizar una disculpa oficial por los actos de su gobierno. Pero los ultrajes contra los pueblos originarios no acaban allí. Human Rights Watch ha revelado numerosas denuncias contra la Policía Nacional de Canadá por los abusos sexuales cometidos contra mujeres y niñas de los pueblos originarios de la Columbia Británica.

El movimiento de protesta Idle No More (Se Acabó la Inacción), encabezado por activistas originarios al cual se han sumado otros canadienses que se oponen a la agenda de los Conservadores, está estableciendo alianzas con otros grupos similares en los EE.UU. que también se oponen a la agenda neoliberal. Durante la marcha “Avanzar sobre el Clima” realizada en febrero en la ciudad de Washington, Jacqueline Thomas, Jefa de la Primera Nación Saikus, advirtió que la construcción del oleoducto Keystone XL amenaza no sólo a las comunidades originarias que habitan en los territorios donde se desplegaría su trazado, sino a la infinidad de ecosistemas que serán invadidos por esta obra (lo que es equivalente a las invasiones militares imperialistas alrededor del mundo). En su discurso Thomas sostuvo: “Cuando nos hacemos cargo del cuidado de la tierra, la tierra nos cuida a nosotros.”

Harper, el perro de caza canadiense

El Primer Ministro Harper se está apoyando en la antigua buena reputación canadiense para llevar al país hacia el nuevo rol de bravo perro de caza al servicio del imperio. En su discurso realizado en la convención del G-20 de 2009 llevada a cabo en Pittsburgh, EE.UU., Harper sostuvo: “Canadá se ubica en un lugar muy especial en el mundo. Somos el único de los países desarrollados que no se considera responsable por la actual crisis financiera. Somos el único país en el mundo donde todos desearían estar.” Según el Primer Ministro canadiense las otras naciones integrantes del G-20 “desearían ser una economía desarrollada avanzada con todos los beneficios que conlleva para sus ciudadanos y al mismo tiempo no ser causante o haber contribuido a generar esta crisis. No tenemos una historia colonialista. En Canadá tenemos todo aquello que tantas personas admiran de las grandes potencias, pero ninguna de las cosas que los amenazan o molestan.”

Harper debería leer un libro de historia menos tendencioso. Canadá  representa el éxito de la historia colonial por excelencia, y continúa siéndolo. En la mayoría de las colonias, la India por ejemplo, un pequeño número de europeos gobernó sobre las mucho más numerosas poblaciones originarias. Con el fin de extraer ganancias de las colonias, los europeos necesitaron explotar el trabajo de los pueblos que conquistados.

El colonialismo en Canadá tomó la forma del colonialismo colonizador (como EE.UU, Australia o Israel). Según describe el analista David Camfield “El colonialismo colonizador tuvo lugar cuando los colonizadores europeos se establecieron permanentemente en las tierras de los pueblos originarios. Los colonos se apropiaron por la fuerza de esos territorios de las poblaciones nativas, que incluso superaban ampliamente en número a los colonos.” El colonialismo colonizador destruyó las culturas que crecieron en relación con esas tierras eliminando definitivamente las sociedades originarias.

Lo que quedó de los pueblos nativos, con sus diversos modos de vida, terminó siendo borrado por el sistema legal. Estos pueblos han intentado desesperadamente mantener con vida los tratados originales, aun cuando esos acuerdos, que incluyen no pocas “lagunas jurídicas,” se han ido desintegrando con el paso del tiempo. Asimismo, los pueblos originarios también debían cuidarse de las represalias por intentar defenderse. Cindy Blackstock vocera e integrante de uno de los pueblos nativos pasó más de cinco años luchando para que el gobierno de Ottawa se haga responsable por un déficit en la financiación del bienestar de los niños de pueblos originarios que viven en las reservas. A raíz de esta lucha Blackstock se vio acosada por el aparato de inteligencia del gobierno que buscaba desacreditarla, tal como lo confirmó una sentencia del Tribunal Canadiense de Derechos Humanos.

De manera similar, los canadienses (blancos) que luchan contra el rol neocolonial de Canadá en el extranjero también han sido perseguidos. Gary Peters, australiano radicado en Canadá, fue encontrado culpable de complicidad por “crímenes de lesa humanidad.” Cyndy Vanier fue acusada de formar parte de una organización criminal que falsificaba documentos para ayudar al hijo del presidente derrocado de Libia, Saadi Gadafi a escapar de su país en 2011.

Canadá representa el éxito consumado del colonialismo. Ahora se ha movido silenciosamente hacia el papel posmoderno de “defensor de los derechos humanos.” No lo han hecho mediante la promoción y financiamiento de ONG, sino a través de la invasión, la explotación y/o el engaño, tanto dentro como fuera de sus fronteras. Esto no debería ser una sorpresa, dado que los indicadores de éxito en la economía y la política no son la equidad y el consenso, sino las ganancias y los sistemas para mantener bajo control a las mayorías.

La propia tradición democrática canadiense ha sido pisoteada una y otra vez por Harper, quien renovó su cargo en el Parlamento en dos oportunidades. Esto lo convirtió en el primer mandatario encontrado culpable de desconocer al parlamento e ignorar flagrantemente la libertad de expresión amordazando a los experimentados burócratas, reteniendo y modificando documentos oficiales y lanzando ataques personales contra quienes osaran denunciarlo. En la actualidad se está llevando a cabo una investigación para desnudar el fraude perpetrado por los Conservadores en las últimas elecciones.

Que esta realidad continúe siendo promocionada como el éxito histórico de Canadá como proyecto es una muestra lamentable de nuestra realidad posmoderna, donde la verdad sólo se encuentra en el ojo del observador, y la opinión pública no es otra cosa que aquello que está moldeado por “los que controlan las palabras.”

Eric Walberg

canadaleafDemocracy Canadian-style, 28 de Febrero de 2013

Traducido por PIA

 

In recent weeks, debate has been raging in political circles and the media over the merits of implementing austerity measures in Europe. The background to the polemics is the rapidly worsening economic crisis in Europe and the emergence of mass opposition to austerity policies in Europe.

The Italian election in February was the most recent and clearest expression of the mounting hostility to austerity. The unelected technocrat regime of Mario Monti, which had carried out a series of swingeing spending cuts at the behest of the EU and the banks, suffered a devastating defeat. The right-wing populist comedian Beppo Grillo was the initial beneficiary of the broad anti-government sentiment, which exposed the alienation of millions not only from the Monti government, but all of the established parties.

The revolt against austerity in Italy, which could not find progressive expression due to the bankruptcy of the country’s so-called left, is mirrored in other European countries, notably Greece, Spain and Portugal, where millions have taken to the streets in recent months to defend jobs, basic rights and living standards.

Staring economic disaster in the face, the European political elite demonstrates increasing disorientation. Conflicts between individual national bourgeoisies are proving increasingly impossible to resolve and criticism is growing of the German government in particular, which has played the leading role in devising austerity policies since the 2008-09 crash.

In a discussion on the implications of the EU’s austerity policy in Brussels on April 22, European Commission President Manuel Barroso admitted: “I am deeply concerned about the divisions that we see emerging: political extremes and populism tearing apart the political support and the social fabric that we need to deal with the crisis; disunion emerging between the centre and the periphery of Europe; a renewed demarcation line being drawn between the North and the South of Europe; prejudices re-emerging and again dividing our citizens, sometimes national prejudices that are simply unacceptable also from an ethical point of view.”

Barroso’s comments on the escalating tensions in Europe provoked by brutal austerity policies constitute a devastating indictment of the policies pursued by the European Commission which he heads.

Barroso’s warnings of social division and upheaval in Europe have been echoed throughout the European press. In a recent analysis of mass unemployment in Europe titled “And suddenly there’s a Bang,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung cited a sociologist who declared that southern Europe “will go up in flames” when people feel sufficiently alienated from their governments.

Leading European politicians, whose austerity policies have produced mass unemployment in their own countries and who now fear an explosion of social protest, are trying to distance themselves from austerity.

In his first speech to the Italian parliament on Monday, the new Italian premier Enrico Letta declared: “Italy is dying from fiscal consolidation. Growth policies cannot wait any longer.” Commentaries in the Italian and international press described his remarks as a rallying call for a change of policy and also against Germany, which has been the leading force behind the drive to impose austerity in Europe.

Letta’s comments are worthless. One day after his speech in parliament, he travelled to Germany to plead with Merkel for some alleviation of the spending targets laid down by Berlin and the EU bureaucracy in Brussels. He received short shrift from the German chancellor, who insisted that Italy paying off its debts was the necessary prerequisite for growth. On Wednesday, Letta repeated his growth mantra in Paris and Brussels while also reassuring his hosts, Barroso and French President François Hollande, that Italy would abide by its debt repayment schedule.

Other leading European politicians criticized the German government’s role in the European crisis more directly.

At the start of this week, the EU employment chief Laszlo Andor called for a rethink on EU strategy and, in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, directly attacked the German government’s policy as “wage dumping.” He went on to call for the introduction of a minimum wage in Germany.

He warned that if Germany and other wealthier northern states refuse to change their policies, “the currency union will break apart. Cohesion is already half lost.”

And in a document on Europe released last Friday, the French Socialist Party openly attacked the German Chancellor’s “selfish intransigence” which, “in an alliance of convenience” with the current British prime minister had “scarred” the EU project. (See, “Amid jobs collapse, French President Hollande backs austerity in Europe”)

The increasingly public criticism of Berlin by other European leaders is rooted in the huge and growing economic divisions across the continent. The period since the economic crisis of 2008 has witnessed not only soaring levels of social inequality in individual countries, but also a growing economic gulf between European economies.

Based on its massive low-wage sector created by the former Social Democratic-Green Party coalition ten years ago, the German business and financial elite has benefited handsomely from the European crisis. Germany’s economy has actually expanded its GDP by three percent since the 2008 crash. The French economy has registered no increase over the same period, and the rest of the euro zone has recorded a 5.3 percent contraction.

The German banking elite has also been able to make huge profits from the crisis. A recent commentary in Germany’s Handelsblatt business newspaper noted enthusiastically: “It is as if the country were a gigantic hedge-fund, able to profit from the euro rules of the game which we determine at the moment.”

The article refers to the huge flood of capital shifting to Germany which, combined with the almost zero interest rates available to German banks, acts like a “special growth program” for the country.

The ruling elites throughout Europe have increasing qualms about austerity measures dictated by Berlin, aiming with their criticisms of austerity to dampen anger in the working class and to re-direct the flow of capital back towards themselves.

Their objections to Berlin are entirely cynical. They voted in favour of the “debt brake” advocated by Berlin, which lays down strict limits on national debt and spending targets. They are all united in their determination to ensure that the European working class pay the full price for the crisis. At the same time they are demanding measures to reverse the flow of funds from southern Europe to Germany.

This is behind their calls for a comprehensive European banking union and the introduction of euro bonds, which would force Germany to subsidize weaker European economies. In addition, they are calling upon Berlin to stump up more money for nominal conjuncture programs and work scheme programs for the unemployed in other countries, which in turn can be used as a sop to their national electorates.

For its part, the German government and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble have made clear that they will not accept any fundamental change to the current policy and combine calls for more budget cuts with demands for far-reaching structural reforms aimed at transforming Europe into a cheap-labour economy.

As for so-called “opponents” of austerity, they are back-pedalling as fast as they can. One day after his remarks in Brussels, a spokesperson for the European Commission explicitly denied that Barroso’s comments should be interpreted as an end to Europe’s austerity drive.

In Italy, Letta’s nomination of central banker Fabrizio Saccomanni as his new finance minister was a clear signal to the finance markets that the assault on the wages, jobs and rights of the Italian working class in Italy will continue unabated.

In Germany, head of the parliamentary fraction of the German Social Democrats, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, supported the French Socialist Party’s (PS) criticisms of Germany’s conservative chancellor, Angela Merkel. The German SPD has consistently supported all of the austerity measures implemented by the German government.

In a remark last week that illustrated the right-wing character of the SPD’s criticisms of Merkel, Steinmeier insisted it was France’s PS president who was best suited to carry out “especially unpopular decisions”—i.e., the type of social attacks demanded by Merkel and the banks.

None of the forces involved in the current debate on austerity offer any progressive way out for the working class. The social democrats and their supporters in the trade unions and pseudo left groups are offering their services to the banks and the financial elite to enforce much more radical attacks on the working class.

At the same time, against a background of deepening recession, the drive to impose austerity across Europe is fuelling explosive nationalist divisions. The only progressive solution of the crisis is through the unification of the continent’s working population under a new socialist leadership in a struggle to topple the EU and its institutions and replace it with the United Socialist States of Europe.

The Israeli strikes on Syria

May 6th, 2013 by Alex Lantier

Israel’s bombing of Damascus International Airport Thursday night and Syrian army targets across Damascus yesterday morning are unprovoked and illegal acts of war, abetted by Washington and its European allies as part of their escalating campaign against Syria.

Russian media reported that 300 Syrian soldiers had been killed and hundreds more wounded in Sunday’s attacks alone.

Israeli forces effectively acted as air support for US-backed Islamist opposition militias around Damascus. The opposition Damascus Military Council issued a statement shortly after the bombings Sunday calling on its fighters to put aside their differences and mount focused attacks on Syrian troops.

The attacks come amid a debate in Washington over how the Obama administration should escalate its war in Syria, given the failure of its proxy forces to topple the Syrian regime. The New York Times on Sunday described this as “the most urgent foreign policy issue of [Obama’s] second term.”

The methods being considered testify to the politically criminal character of the undertaking. They include either giving more weapons to the US-backed opposition, which is dominated by the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, or initiating outright US hostilities. The latter option includes launching US attacks on Syrian aircraft and air defenses to set up a “no-fly zone” inside the country, or invading Syria with US troops based in Jordan or Turkey.

There is every indication that the Israeli strikes were a trial run for possible US air strikes on Syria. Though US and European officials have reportedly discussed launching attacks to start a no-fly zone, Washington has until now refrained from organizing them out of concern over Syria’s air defense systems.

Speaking on NBC News’s “Meet the Press,” US Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat of Vermont) said the Israeli strikes were carried out with US-supplied F-16s, and that they proved the “Russian-supplied air defense systems are not as good as were said.” On the same program, NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell said that after the Israeli attacks, a no-fly zone in Syria seemed more likely.

The Obama administration rapidly affixed its seal of approval on the Israeli strikes. US officials asserted without proof that the Thursday night strike targeted a shipment of Iranian missiles to the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah, an ally of the Shiite-led regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. US-backed Syrian opposition sources said the massive explosions that shook Damascus Sunday morning were strikes aimed at Syrian army bases and the Jamraya military research facility, which allegedly develops chemical weapons.

From Costa Rica, where he was traveling on a three-day Latin American tour, Obama said: “The Israelis justifiably have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah… We coordinate closely with the Israelis, recognizing they are very close to Syria, they are very close to Lebanon.”

Like the falsehoods used to justify the US invasion of Iraq, the rationalizations for war against Syria presented to the public are a mixture of unsubstantiated allegations and outright lies. Claims that there is evidence that Assad has used chemical weapons—based on allegations that opposition fighters have found or been poisoned by sarin nerve gas—are false. As one British official confessed yesterday, “It’s still completely unclear who used the stuff, in what quantities, and to what effect.”

The US reaction to the Israeli strikes do make one thing clear, however: after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington is moving to launch a new, large-scale imperialist war, this time against Syria. The consequences of launching such a war of aggression will be, if anything, even greater than the war in Iraq.

Already, the current US proxy war in Syria has set the Middle East aflame. Aimed at isolating and intimidating Syria’s main regional ally, oil-rich Iran, it is dragging Hezbollah into the fighting and leading to an outbreak of civil war in Iraq, where Sunni sectarian forces tied to Al Nusra are fighting the Shiite-led government.

By escalating the war in Syria, Washington threatens to unleash a broad regional war that could—if Assad allies China or Russia became involved—trigger a global conflagration.

The US war drive against Syria, carried out ten years after the invasion of Iraq, testifies to the bankruptcy of American democracy. Again, Washington is moving to launch a war in pursuit of its imperialist interests, showing utter contempt for the overwhelming popular opposition to such a war both in the United States and the Middle East. Polls show that 62 percent of Americans are opposed to further arms for the Islamist opposition; similar and even greater majorities in Middle Eastern countries oppose the US proxy war.

The Israeli strikes also put paid to the lies of supporters of the Syrian opposition, such as Gilbert Achcar of the pseudo-left United Secretariat, who recently dismissed criticism of imperialist involvement in the Syrian war as a “kind of conspiracy theory.” Since it supported the 2011 NATO war in Libya to remove Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the pseudo-left fraternity has stepped up its activity as propagandists for imperialist wars for regime-change, waged in alliance with right-wing sectarian elements and reactionary regional powers.

Syria has been in Washington’s crosshairs for more than a decade, due to its ties to Iran and forces like Hezbollah. With the current war, the United States seeks to set up a protectorate in Syria that will be completely subservient to US policy.

There is virtually no popular support for a new Middle East war in the United States, where the same ruling elite that is waging war abroad is engaged in a ruthless assault on the working class at home. The drive to war in Syria is creating the conditions for an explosive conflict between antiwar sentiment based in the working class and the ever more reckless plans for military plunder of the ruling elite.

The reasoning behind recent US-Israeli attacks on Syria has been undermined further as the UN reveals Western-backed terrorists, not the Syrian government, deployed sarin gas during the 2 year conflict. Reuters reported in their article, “U.N. has testimony that Syrian rebels used sarin gas: investigator,” that:

U.N. human rights investigators have gathered testimony from casualties of Syria’s civil war and medical staff indicating that rebel forces have used the nerve agent sarin, one of the lead investigators said on Sunday.

The United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has not yet seen evidence of government forces having used chemical weapons, which are banned under international law, said commission member Carla Del Ponte.

“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television.

Why the Small Amounts of Sarin Cited by Washington, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv are a Set Up 

The small amounts of sarin gas reportedly used would defy any tactical or strategic sense had they been deployed by the Syrian government to tip the balance in the destructive 2-year conflict. According to the US military’s own assessments of chemical weapon use during the 1980′s Iran-Iraq War, only under ideal conditions and with massive amounts of chemical agents can tactical and strategic outcomes be achieved – and that conventional weapons were still, by far, superior to chemical weapons of any kind.

A document produced by the US Marine Corps, titled, “Lessons Learned: The Iran-Iraq War” under “Appendix B: Chemical Weapons,” provides a comprehensive look at the all-out chemical warfare that took place during the devastating 8 year Iranian-Iraqi conflict. Several engagements are studied in detail, revealing large amounts of chemical agents deployed mainly to create areas of denial, not mass casualties.

The effectiveness and lethality of chemical weapons is summarized in the document as follows (emphasis added):

Chemical weapons require quite particular weather and geographic conditions for optimum effectiveness. Given the relative nonpersistence of all agents employed during this war, including mustard, there was only a brief window of employment opportunity both daily and seasonally, when the agents could be used. Even though the Iraqis employed mustard agent in the rainy season and also in the marshes, its effectiveness was significantly reduced under those conditions. As the Iraqis learned to their chagrin, mustard is not a good agent to employ in the mountains, unless you own the high ground and your enemy is in the valleys.

We are uncertain as to the relative effectiveness of nerve agents since those which were employed are by nature much less persistent than mustard. In order to gain killing concentrations of these agents, predawn attacks are best, conducted in areas where the morning breezes are likely to blow away from friendly positions.

Chemical weapons have a low kill ratio. Just as in WWl, during which the ratio of deaths to injured from chemicals was 2-3 percent, that figure appears to be borne out again in this war although reliable data on casualties are very difficult to obtain. We deem it remarkable that the death rate should hold at such a low level even with the introduction of nerve agents. If those rates are correct, as they well may be, this further reinforces the position that we must not think of chemical weapons as “a poor man’s nuclear weapon.” While such weapons have great psychological potential, they are not killers or destroyers on a scale with nuclear or biological weapons.

Clearly, the minute amounts of sarin the West has accused the Syrian government of using, makes no tactical, political, or strategic sense. However, these small amounts of sarin gas, now suspected to be the work of Western-backed terrorists, would have been perfect for establishing a pretext for Western military intervention, and in fact, have been in part cited by the US and Israel in their latest, unprovoked aerial assault on Damascus.

The terrorists operating in Syria possess the means and motivation to carry out such an operation, as do their Western sponsors.

Where Did Western-backed Terrorists Obtain Sarin? 

A number of methods could have lent sarin gas to terrorists operating in Syria – from Turkey, Israel, and the US simply handing select units the chemical agent in a clandestine operation, to Libyan terrorists confirmed to have been flooding into Syria for the past 2 years, bringing looted chemical stockpiles with them after NATO’s disastrous invasion in 2011 left them in the hands of a sectarian extremist regime.

Image: (via the Guardian) “Chemical containers in the Libyan desert. There are concerns unguarded weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist militants. Photograph: David Sperry/AP”

….

Indeed, Libya’s arsenal had fallen into the hands of sectarian extremists with NATO assistance in 2011 in the culmination of efforts to overthrow the North African nation . Since then, Libya’s militants led by commanders of Al Qaeda’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) have armed sectarian extremists across the Arab World, from as far West as Mali, to as far East as Syria.

Libyan LIFG terrorists are confirmed to be flooding into Syria from Libya. In November 2011, 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.”

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 have been flooding into the country ever since.

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.” 

….

In Time’s article, “Libya’s Fighters Export Their Revolution to Syria,” it is reported:

Some Syrians are more frank about the assistance the Libyans are providing. “They have heavier weapons than we do,” notes Firas Tamim, who has traveled in rebel-controlled areas to keep tabs on foreign fighters. “They brought these weapons to Syria, and they are being used on the front lines.” Among the arms Tamim has seen are Russian-made surface-to-air missiles, known as the SAM 7.

Libyan fighters largely brush off questions about weapon transfers, but in December they claimed they were doing just that. “We are in the process of collecting arms in Libya,” a Libyan fighter in Syria told the French daily Le Figaro. “Once this is done, we will have to find a way to bring them here.”

Clearly NATO intervention in Libya has left a vast, devastating arsenal in the hands of sectarian extremists, led by US State Department, United Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization LIFG that is now exporting these weapons and militants to NATO’s other front in Syria. It is confirmed that both Libyan terrorists and weapons are crossing the Turkish-Syrian border, with NATO assistance, and it is now clear that heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons have crossed the border too.
The Guardian reported in their November 2011 article, “Libyan chemical weapons stockpiles intact, say inspectors,” that:
Libya’s stockpiles of mustard gas and chemicals used to make weapons are intact and were not stolen during the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, weapons inspectors have said.
But also reported that:
The abandonment or disappearance of some Gaddafi-era weapons has prompted concerns that such firepower could erode regional security if it falls into the hands of Islamist militants or rebels active in north Africa. Some fear they could be used by Gaddafi loyalists to spread instability in Libya.
Last month Human Rights Watch urged Libya’s ruling national transitional council to take action over large numbers of heavy weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, it said were lying unguarded more than two months after Gaddafi was overthrown.

On Wednesday the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said the UN would send experts to Libya to help ensure nuclear material and chemical weapons did not fall into the wrong hands.

And while inspectors claim that Libya’s chemical weapons are in the “government’s” hands and not “extremists’,” it is clear by the Libyan government’s own admission, that they themselves are involved in sending fighters and weapons into Syria to support NATO and Al Qaeda’s joint operation there.

Furthermore, it is confirmed that the US had been providing select terrorist units training in the handling of chemical weapons. CNN had reported in December of 2012, in a report titled, “Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons,” that:

The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.

The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

NATO not only ensured that chemical weapons in Libya remained in the hands of a proxy regime now openly arming, aiding, and sending fighters to assist terrorists in Syria, but also appears to have ensured these terrorists possessed the know-how on handling and using these weapons.

Israel vs. Hezbollah – Lie of Last Resort 

It appears that once again, those truly responsible for the most egregious atrocities and the crossing of “red lines,” are the very Western interests drawing these lines in the first place.

The decision to shift attention away from the chemical weapons “red line,” and toward Israel and Hezbollah is a desperate ploy to extend the faltering viability of the West’s current operations in Syria.

While Israel, with the help of the Western media, attempts to portray itself as reluctantly entering a war it has so far avoided, it has been documented since as early as 2007 that Israel, along with the US and Saudi Arabia were openly conspiring to overthrow the Syrian government via armed and funded Al Qaeda terrorists and an unprecedented sectarian bloodbath.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his 2007 New Yorker article, “The Redirection,” stated (emphasis added):

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

Of Israel and Saudi Arabia’s partnership it specifically stated:
“The policy shift has brought Saudi Arabia and Israel into a new strategic embrace, largely because both countries see Iran as an existential threat. They have been involved in direct talks, and the Saudis, who believe that greater stability in Israel and Palestine will give Iran less leverage in the region, have become more involved in Arab-Israeli negotiations.”

Additionally, Saudi Arabian officials mentioned the careful balancing act their nation must play in order to conceal its role in supporting US-Israeli ambitions across the region. It was stated even then, that using Israel to publicly carry out attacks on Iran would be preferable to the US, which would ultimately implicate the Saudis. It was stated:

“The Saudi said that, in his country’s view, it was taking a political risk by joining the U.S. in challenging Iran: Bandar is already seen in the Arab world as being too close to the Bush Administration. “We have two nightmares,” the former diplomat told me. “For Iran to acquire the bomb and for the United States to attack Iran. I’d rather the Israelis bomb the Iranians, so we can blame them. If America does it, we will be blamed.””

This ploy was further developed in 2009 by the Fortune 500-funded (page 19) Brookings Institution in their document, “Which Path to Persia?” In regards to Iran, and now clearly being utilized against Syria, the gambit was described as follows (emphasis added):

…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.) ” -page 84-85, Which Path to Perisa?, Brookings Institution.

And:

“Israel appears to have done extensive planning and practice for such a strike already, and its aircraft are probably already based as close to Iran as possible. as such, Israel might be able to launch the strike in a matter of weeks or even days, depending on what weather and intelligence conditions it felt it needed.  Moreover, since Israel would have much less of a need (or even interest)  in securing regional support for the operation, Jerusalem probably would feel less motivated to wait for an Iranian provocation before attacking. In short, Israel could move very fast to implement this option if both Israeli and American leaders wanted it to happen.

However, as noted in the previous chapter, the airstrikes themselves are really just the start of this policy. Again, the Iranians would doubtless rebuild their nuclear sites. They would probably retaliate against Israel, and they might retaliate against the United States, too (which might create a pretext for American airstrikes or even an invasion).” -page 91, Which Path to Perisa?, Brookings Institution.

It is unlikely the West possesses the political, economic, or even tactical ability to pursue a greater regional war against Syria and Iran. The aim of using Israel against Syria is to alleviate pressure on Western-backed terrorists, create tension and opposition within the Syrian government and military, and perhaps even crack “fortress Damascus” ahead of one final push by whatever remains of the so-called “opposition.”

Brookings, in another report titled, “Assessing Options for Regime Change,” stated specifically that:

“In addition, Israel’s intelligence services have a strong knowledge of Syria, as well as assets within the Syrian regime that could be used to subvert the regime’s power base and press for Asad’s removal. Israel could posture forces on or near the Golan Heights and, in so doing, might divert regime forces from suppressing the opposition. This posture may conjure fears in the Asad regime of a multi-front war, particularly if Turkey is willing to do the same on its border and if the Syrian opposition is being fed a steady diet of arms and training. Such a mobilization could perhaps persuade Syria’s military leadership to oust Asad in order to preserve itself. Advocates argue this additional pressure could tip the balance against Asad inside Syria, if other forces were aligned properly.” -page 6, Assessing Options for Regime Change, Brookings Institution.

Clearly, Israel has been involved in Western designs against Syria from the beginning. Its role has been intentionally kept subtle until now, specifically to exercise options of last resort. It is now up to Syria and its allies to ensure they both survive increasingly provocative assaults by the West, while both winning the political battle abroad and sweeping away the remnants of the West’s terrorist proxies at home.

The importance of understanding the mechanisms of collapse for the three World Trade Center buildings on September 11, 2001 cannot be over-estimated, for these unusual collapses and their disputed causes raise questions regarding all future steel-frame building design. A literature review was conducted to identify the evolving trend in research results in this area, which have become increasingly diverse over time. Recommendations for further research are presented.

Introduction

Over the past decade there have emerged two primary hypotheses regarding the mechanism of destruction for World Trade Center (WTC) buildings 1, 2 and 7, namely, the official fire-induced Progressive Collapse (PC) versus the alternate Controlled Demolition (CD). The question of which of these two hypotheses is correct is singularly important because its current lack of resolution leaves unmet the following critical needs (assuming PC):

(1) Thousands of other structures may also be subject to such catastrophic destruction by office fires, and inspections and upgrades based on determination of what caused the WTC buildings to collapse may be needed to ensure public safety;

(2)  Significant structural design analysis tools and computer models need upgrades to account for the potential of such catastrophic destruction;

(3) Major revisions to building codes for high-rise steel-frame buildings are critically needed (Bement, 2002).

Our goals here are to fully document the available peer-reviewed literature on this important question, and to promote more open and in-depth research by a broader community of scholars.

Although much relevant evidence from portions of the events of 9/11 remains unavailable to researchers as well as the general public, substantial evidence is available concerning the destruction of WTC 1, 2 and 7 that is relevant to resolving the key question of PC versus CD. Nevertheless, the diversity and complexity of the 9/11 events make it very difficult for most citizens, and even many researchers, to obtain the quality information needed to address and resolve the above questions.

In particular, information provided officially is notoriously incomplete; e.g., the official 9/11 Commission Report (2004) makes no mention of destruction of the third high-rise steel-frame building, WTC 7. Further, relevant official reports produced by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for the Twin Towers are incomplete in that they stopped their efforts at “collapse initiation” and could not explain total destruction. Finally, the same NIST reports have been surrounded by controversy that remains mostly unreported in mainstream media sources (see peer-reviewed papers referenced herein).

This controversy has been fueled in part because official investigations and reports on this topic have been very tightly controlled and not peer-reviewed.i Basic documentation of such work has not been made available to independent researchers in spite of repeated Freedom-of-Information-Act (FOIA) requests; e.g., most of the detailed documentation, coding, methodology and assumptions employed by NIST in their finite element analysis model of WTC 7. Related to these technical impediments to independent research, in addition to essentially no funding for such research, the “conspiracy theorist” or “truther” label has often been used to discourage or truncate debate on many critical questions, leaving the official theory as the default.

For the most part, and somewhat understandably, the science and engineering professional communities have stayed on the sidelines, perhaps in part to protect their reputations and in part to avoid putting their federal research grants at risk. This condition of obstructed research continues in spite of the fact that a “conspiracy” by definition is “an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime.”

Thus, by definition, both the official PC hypothesis and the alternative CD hypothesis addressed here are necessarily associated with a conspiracy theory of one form or another. Setting such labels aside, the fundamental question remains, “which hypothesis is best supported by the evidence?” Unfortunately, this basic question and its resolution have been systematically subverted for the past decade.

Evaluating the Merits of Competing Hypotheses

Nevertheless, more than a hundred serious and independent researchers have taken up the question and are actively working to examine the available evidence and report their results to the broader research community. The subset of their research work that has been independently evaluated (i.e., peer-reviewedii) and published in scholarly journals, provides a critically important sample set for addressing key questions and, in particular, the following:

Key technical question: What is the mechanism of collapse for WTC 1, 2, and 7?

Was it through Progressive Collapse (PC) or Controlled Demolition (CD)?

We propose that one of the best available solutions to this critical question can be obtained through an evidence-based approach and a concentration on results derived from the available peer-reviewed technical literature. Although peer-reviewed papers are a small subset of the available literature on these topics, they generally (not always) represent higher quality, better argued, and better referenced materials than papers that lack such peer review. Thus, an analysis of the peer-reviewed literature over time should provide an excellent basis for evaluating the merits of the competing hypotheses that are here in question.

We recognize that any conclusions are limited by the necessity for decisions between competing claims and hypotheses within that literature. Further, as stated in a recent study of the National Academy of Sciences, “Research has deepened knowledge about the fallibility of human decision making, particularly the many cognitive biases to which people are subject.” For example, “People have a proclivity to ignore evidence that contradicts their preconceived notions (confirmation bias),” (NRC, 2012, p. 57).

In scientific practice, a key methodology to compensate for such inevitable fallibility is to reproduce, when possible, the results for oneself. In the present case, the means for reproduction are available. Indeed, we encourage the reader to personally check results of this analysis of the peer-reviewed technical literature; e.g., spot checks can be easily done using scholar.google.com.

Resources and Methodology

For this analysis of available peer-reviewed technical literature relevant to the key question above, we have used two major databases, each accessing more than 3500 peer-reviewed journals worldwide:

(1) Academic Search Complete database, from EBSCO, 1965 to present (http://www.ebscohost.com/academic/academic-search-complete);

This database provides advanced search capability and full-text access for more than 5,100 peer-reviewed journals.

(2) The Thomson Reuters Web of Science database, similarly, provides advanced search and full-text access for more than 3500 notable peer-reviewed scientific and technical journals, 1956 to present.

In addition to these standard sources, we have searched the contents of a few additional journals which, at this time, are not included in the above databases.

Open Chemical Physics Journal, indexed by six services, among them Chemical Abstracts, the premiere world service for chemistry; also Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Open J-Gate, Genamics JournalSeek, MediaFinder®-Standard Periodical Directory, Astrophysics Data System (ADS).

Open Civil Engineering Journal, indexed in Scopus, Compendex, Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Open J-Gate, Genamics JournalSeek, MediaFinder®-Standard Periodical Directory, PubsHub, J-Gate.
Journal of 9/11 Studies

Both the Open Chemical Physics Journal and the Open Civil Engineering Journal are open access, online journals of Bentham Open.iii The Journal of 9/11 Studies is the primary peer-reviewed venue for the independent 9/11 research community, and has published papers on both sides of this question (e.g., Greening (2006) argues for the PC hypothesis). Since its initiation in 2006, articles published in this journal have always been subject to two independent peer-reviews.iv Although papers prior to 2012 are not uniform in format, we have found this journal’s reviewing standard to be comparable overall to other journals publishing on this topic.

For completeness, we have also included the Journal of Debunking 911 Conspiracy Theories.

Even though its submission guidelines make no reference to peer review, the phrase “Peer-Reviewed Papers” appears in its index of papers. Unlike all other journals used for our analysis, this journal’s title itself presupposes preferred study outcomes (to which all papers conform), and it did not provide sustained service to its research community (ten papers appeared in 2006, plus only one more in 2007). We encourage readers to judge the quality of peer review from this journal for themselves.

The methodology that we employed in this literature search was as follows:

-    Systematic keyword selection based on index terms applied to known publications;

-    Comprehensive search yielding 9,856 records, which is the sum of subtotals in columns 1, 3, 4, and 7 of Table 1;
-    Clear specification of selection criteria;

-    Manual check of all retrieved records (titles and abstracts); systematic identification of all cases that meet selection criteria;

-    Compilation and recording of all publications meeting selection criteria (see Table 2).

The selection criteria were as follows: (1) paper’s title and abstract and, when available, its full-text content must support either the official (PC) hypothesis or the CD hypothesis; and (2) the associated paper must give some specific technical argument on behalf of that claim.

Results of the Literature Search

The search keywords and number of records obtained for the two databases are recorded in Table 1. A larger number of retrieved records were obtained with the EBSCO database because it included more non-technical journals. More specific keywords and search terms would have substantially expedited the searches; however, for this analysis, we considered it a high priority to avoid overlooking any relevant paper. As shown in Table 1, the aggregate number of records evaluated based on the EBSCO Academic Search Complete database searches was 6,404 records and, for the more technically-focused Web of Science database that we used, a total of 3,452 search records were obtained and analyzed.

The primary work in this analysis is that of reading and evaluating all titles and abstracts derived from search results given in Table 1. We effectively carried out our search-and-analysis process three times over: first, using only the EBSCO database for a preliminary study; second, using an independent set of search strategies by co-author Cole (applied to the latest version of EBSCO) to check the first analysis and to identify any additional papers (see “Cole” column in Table 1); and third, using both databases as a double-check and to assure comprehensive search and analysis.

Final results of this search-and-analysis process, using both the EBSCO Academic Search Complete and Thomson Reuters Web of Science databases, are given in Table 2 (presented at the end of this paper). This table provides, in order, each paper’s date, title, author(s), journal name, journal volume and issue number. Finally, some notes are given as needed. Among the 9,856 records initially obtained via the keywords given in Table 1, and including papers from the four additional journals discussed above, a total of 84 papers were identified that are relevant to our focus. These papers include four by Cherepanov, who hypothesizes a propagating fracture hypothesis that does not easily fit within the PC/CD categories.

In the first column, these papers are designated “F” for the Fracture hypothesis. In some cases, a paper discusses related technical considerations about the towers but does not provide arguments for one of the two hypotheses; these cases are left as a blank in the first column (e.g., Newland, 2002). In some cases, a discussion, closurev or commentary paper (e.g, Sivakumar, Nov. 2003; Gourley, 2007) either replicates arguments given in a previous paper (e.g., Sivakumar, July, 2003), or simply offers commentary on related points, but without arguing (as needed for the second criterion above) for a particular inferred hypothesis (e.g., Gourley, 2007; Flint, 2007). Several closure papers merely replicate arguments given in their associated base paper. Bazant’s original paper of December 2001 was basically replicated, with the same title, in two journals and, with its Addendum of March, 2002, is treated here as simply one paper (Bazant and Zhou, 2002). These latter cases and the closure cases are represented with parentheses and are not here treated as distinct papers.

Table 1. Results of Keyword Search from Two Major Databases.

Notes: “…” denotes addition to above keyword; “mech.” = “mechanism; Cole’s results are based on a newer version of the EBSCO database whereas other EBSCO results were accessed at the Library of Congress.  

After applying these distinctions, a total of 60 distinct papers were identified that met both selection criteria above. These were given a designation (see first column) of either Progressive Collapse (PC) or Controlled Demolition (CD). In many such cases, the paper in question discusses only a mechanism of destruction for WTC 1 or 2. In cases where a paper addresses a mechanism of destruction for WTC 7 as well, the designation “PC/7” or “CD/7” is given.

Summary of Analysis Results

In summary, important insights emerge from this literature search and analysis:

(1)    Within the first ten years after “9/11” (namely September 11, 2001 through September 11, 2011), the mainstream peer-reviewed literature, worldwide, contained no paper on WTC 7 that concludes with the Progressive Collapse (PC) hypothesis (Note: Two such PC papers appear in the short-lived Journal of Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories);

(2)    Within the first ten years, there are 32 distinct CD papers (i.e., arguing for the Controlled Demolition hypothesis, including 15 that address WTC 7) versus 19 distinct PC papers (i.e., arguing for Progressive Collapse, including only 2 as noted immediately above that address WTC 7);

(3)    Overall, from 9/11/01 through 12/31/2012, there are 35 distinct CD papers versus 25 PC papers; among these, 16 of the CD papers address WTC 7 whereas only 4 PC papers do so, again indicating overall the importance of the CD hypothesis;

(4)    Although most CD papers (and one PC paper) derive from the Journal of 9/11 Studies, six qualified and distinct CD papers appear in mainstream journals.

Conclusions

•    What is most striking about our results is the fact that there is serious disagreement as to how the WTC structures fell on September 11, 2001. While precise sequences of every building component failure cannot be determined, the overall basic mechanism of destruction (i.e. some type of fire-induced natural gravitational collapse (PC), or some type of planned demolition CD) is clearly in dispute. There is no consensus. At this point, almost 12 years later, there should not be any significant disagreement about such a fundamental issue as to how three buildings were destroyed so completely given the magnitude of the event, the implications of the event, and repercussions for existing and future structural design.

•    We note that in the early years, from 2001 to 2005, essentially all published papers supported the official narrative of some type of progressive collapse mechanism. Subsequent years, however, have generated numerous papers challenging the official narrative, and a substantial number of peer-reviewed papers were published concluding that the failures were due to demolition.

•    The vast majority of independent investigations about other catastrophes narrow down and converge on the solution as more and better information is obtained. Theories that do not, or cannot, explain the additional information are discarded, resulting in a theory that earns general scientific consensus. Precisely the opposite has happened over the past decade with the study of how the WTC structures fell. That is, the more information that has been unearthed, the more unanswered questions have arisen with the official hypothesis, with more people questioning the initial theory. Thus, the demolition hypothesis is strengthened, and the hypothesis of fire-induced collapse is further weakened. Therefore, rather than converging on an answer, the study of 9/11 diverges over time as the scientific rift has grown and the early consensus for the official story is undermined.

•    If it is true that steel-frame buildings can collapse from fire alone, it is crucial for owners of existing structures and insurers to understand the risk of a sudden fire-induced collapse so that structural repairs and risk adjustments can be factored in. Given the official story, it is remarkable how little insurance premiums, or even design parameters and building construction codes,vi have been modified (if at all) to address the possibility of catastrophic fire-induced progressive collapse. The fact that they have not been modified indicates that insurance companies do not accept the PC hypothesis.

•    Given the fact that before September 11, 2001 no high-rise steel-frame building had ever collapsed from fire alone (Taylor, 2011), extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The NIST Reports did not address the total collapse of the Twin Towers, truncating their study at “collapse initiation.” Overall, our peer-reviewed literature results collectively yield a very strong prima facie argument for CD.

•    Other than two papers appearing in the Journal of Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories, the only papers that address WTC 7 and argue for PC are brief summaries by McAllister et al. (2012) of the non-peer-reviewed NIST report on WTC 7 (NIST, 2008). McAllister, it should be noted, was herself one of the co-project leaders for the NIST report. Thorough critiques of this paper and associated results of the NIST report are given in Legge (2009) and Brookman et al. (2012).

•    When applying the scientific method, independent confirmation of an unexpected result is a very strong form of support. Such independent confirmation occurred twice with regard to 9/11 dust contamination. First, Harrit et al. (2009) published detailed evidence for active thermitic material in relevant dust samples, thus supporting explosive demolition. This paper also appears to be one of the most extensively researched and professionally written of all 84 papers appearing in Table 2. Entirely independent of Harrit’s work, Wu et al. (2010) published a case report of lung disease in WTC responders. They reported an “unexpected” discovery of extremely fine carbon (nanotube) structures in responder lung tissue, which are associated with dust, thus independently confirming Harrit et al., who found the same such structures in 9/11 dust samples.

•    Well-qualified scientists, including physicists, have pointed out inconsistencies and violations of basic physics contained in many PC papers. For example, Dr. Crockett Grabbe, Applied Physics Ph.D. from Caltech, has raised many such critical problems (see Grabbe, 2007, 2010, 2012). Physics teacher David Chandler and co-author Jonathan Cole also document many basic physics issues at their Website 911SpeakOut.org. And Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (www.ae911truth.org), as of April, 2013, is comprised of 1,877 certified professionals who reject the PC hypothesis and jointly call for a new, independent investigation.

•    The integrity of science itself is compromised when an argument that proceeds from authority alone is given precedence over the presentation of relevant, demonstrable facts (e.g., more than a hundred documented reports of explosions (MacQueen, 2012)), or even basic laws of physics (e.g., violations of conservation of energy and momentum, see Grabbe (2012)).

•    Compiling all relevant peer-reviewed publications on this focused topic, as done here, enables a systematic, integrated analysis to address our key question in a way analogous to how Paul Thompson’s 9/11 Timeline has served so effectively to help integrate a large range of 9/11-related issues (Thompson, 2004). vii

•    The first submitted draft paper on the mechanism of collapse is that by Bazant, submitted September 13, 2001 (see first entry of Table 2, including its footnote). It is our professional opinion that, by any measure, a responsible, professional research paper on this complex event that was not begun until September 11 could not have been completed and submitted by September 13.

Recommendations

•    Greater recognition is needed for the importance of evidence-based scholarly analyses (e.g., MacQueen’s detailed analysis of eye-witness accounts of explosions), in addition to more in-depth technical analyses and scholarly works that reveal the broader context of 9/11 events;

•    We stress the importance of scientific, technical and scholarly research on these questions, followed up with peer-reviewed publications; lacking this, the discussion

tends to be dominated by essays driven mostly by advocacy-based thinking. In contrast, the best of science is evidence-based with systematic testing of alternative hypotheses, falsification, and model-making (where appropriate);

•    In contrast to current conditions that have suppressed research and dialogue on these world-changing collapses, achieving improved understanding of these critical questions requires transparency, avoidance of cognitive bias (especially confirmation bias), peer-review, checks and balances, and efforts to reduce research misconduct.viii

Challenge to the Reader

Although every reasonable effort was made to locate all relevant papers, we fully acknowledge that some papers or publications meeting the criteria herein may have been overlooked in our search. Accordingly we challenge the reader (especially professional engineers and scientists) to leverage the resources referenced in Table 2, and then perform for themselves such a synthesis and, if appropriate, submit the results of such a study to a peer-reviewed journal, especially if they conflict with our conclusions.

Such a check simply requires access to at least one of the relevant databases, which are available through most major universities and research libraries. Indeed, anyone can do spot checks using Google Scholar (scholar.google.com); e.g., keywords “controlled demolition” WTC returns 436 results, and “progressive collapse” WTC returns 920 results.

Acknowledgments

We are thankful for all the independent researchers throughout the years who have courageously stepped forward providing evidence, research, testing and analysis concerning this catastrophic event, especially when such works contradicted official claims. In particular, we gratefully acknowledge detailed technical and editing inputs provided by David Ray Griffin, Tod Fletcher and two independent reviewers. Finally, we respectfully acknowledge the open access available through the internet and public libraries, both critical infrastructures for democracy, which makes this research possible.

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS TABLE 2: Peer-reviewed Publications Focused on Mechanism of Collapse for WTC 1, 2, and 7 (PDF FORMAT)

REFERENCES

The 9/11 Commission Report, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, 2004 (http://www.9-11commission.gov/report/index.htm)

Bement, Arden L., Jr., “Learning from 9/11: Understanding the Collapse of the World Trade Center,” statement by Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), before the Committee on Science, House of Representatives, United States Congress, March 6, 2002.

Brookman, Ronald H., A discussion of “Analysis of structural response of WTC 7 to fire and sequential failure leading to collapse,” J. 9/11 Studies, Vol. 33, Oct. 2012.

Grabbe, Crockett L., Direct evidence for explosions: flying projectiles and widespread impact damage, J. 9/11 Studies, 1-7, August, 2007.

Grabbe, Crockett L., Discussion on “Progressive collapse of the WTC: simple analysis” by Seffen, J. Eng. Mech., Vol. 136, No. 4, 538-539, 2010.

Grabbe, Crockett L., Discussion on “Why the observed motion history of WTC towers is smooth” by Le and Bazant, J. Eng. Mech., Vol. 138, Issue 10, 1298-1300, 2012.

Greening, Frank R., To whom it may concern, J. 9/11 Studies, Vol. 2, 7-12, August, 2006.

Griffin, David Ray, The Mysterious Collapse of World Trade Center 7: Why the Final Official Report About 9/11 is Unscientific and False, Olive Branch Press, 2010.

Harrit, Niels H. et al., Active thermitic material discovered in dust from the 9/11 WTC catastrophe, Open Chem. Phys. J., Vol. 2, 7-31, Feb. 2009.

Legge, Frank, Controlled demolition at the WTC: An historical examination of the case, J. 9/11 Studies, 1-5, May 2009.

MacQueen, Graeme, “Eyewitness Evidence of Explosions in the Twin Towers,” Chapter 8 in The 9/11 Toronto Report: International Hearings on the Events of September 11, 2001, James Gourley, ed., International Center for 9/11 Studies (www.ic911studies.org), pages 171-191, 2012.

McAllister, Therese et al., Analysis of structural response of WTC 7 to fire and sequential failures leading to collapse, J. Structural Eng., Vol. 138, No. 1, 109-117, 2012.

NIST (National Institute for Science and Technology), Final Reports from the NIST Investigation of the World Trade Center Disaster, 2012 (including Releases of 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2012) (http://www.nist.gov/el/disasterstudies/wtc/wtc_finalreports.cfm)

NRC (National Research Council), Using Science as Evidence in Public Policy, Committee on the Use of Social Science Knowledge in Public Policy, K. Prewitt, T. Schwandt, and M. Straf, eds., Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2012.

Ryan, Kevin, “Are Tall Buildings Safer as a Result of the NIST WTC Reports?” from Dig Within blog of Kevin Ryan, posted Sept. 7, 2012. (http://digwithin.net/2012/09/07/are-tall-buildings-safer/)

Taylor, Adam, Other Collapses in Perspective: An Examination of Other Steel Structures Collapsing due to Fire and their Relation to the WTC, June 4, 2011. (http://911debunkers.blogspot.com/2011/06/other-collapses-in-perspective_04.html)

Thompson, Paul, The Terror Timeline: Year by Year, Day by Day, Minute by Minute: A Comprehensive Chronicle of the Road to 9/11 — and America’s Response, HarperCollins, 2004.

Wu, M. et al., Case Report: Lung disease in World Trade Center responders exposed to dust and smoke: Carbon nanotubes found in the lungs of World Trade Center patients and dust samples, Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 118, No. 4, 499-504, Apr. 2010.

ENDNOTES

i On December 16, 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) formally issued its “Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review.” Section II of the Bulletin “requires each agency to subject “influential” scientific information to peer review prior to dissemination.” Official reports on the destruction of the WTC buildings (NIST, 2012) were among the most “influential” such reports to appear in the last decade and yet, contrary to requirements of this OMB Bulletin, they were not peer reviewed.

ii Scholarly peer review is the process of subjecting research papers to critical analysis by experts in the same or related field to help enhance the quality, value and objectivity of any final publication (see “Peer review” in Wikipedia.org). With the exception of the Journal of Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories, journals included in our database represent publication venues that are recognized by their associated research communities as providing a valuable, and sustained peer-reviewed service.

iii  The online journals of Bentham Open are described at http://www.benthamscience.com.

iv Information on the Journal of 9/11 Studies is available at its website (http://www.journalof911studies.com), and confirmed by co-editor K. Ryan (private communications, 2013).

v JEM author guidelines provide for the submission of both Discussion papers and a final Closure paper by the original author(s), both limited to 2000 words.

vi Chemist Kevin Ryan (2012) has shown that building code changes, traceable to basic causes cited by NIST for the destruction of WTC buildings, have never been adopted, whether by the international building community, or even New York City.

vii The History Commons website is an experiment in open-content civic journalism (www.historycommons.org), providing dynamic timelines with summaries of over twenty thousand events.

viii In considerable detail, David Ray Griffin has shown that “the NIST report on WTC 7 should be exposed by the scientific community for committing scientific fraud in the strict sense.” (Griffin, 2010).

Through a myriad of «civil society» organizations, the United States has been financing Chechen groups inside the autonomous republic, in Russia, and abroad. However, large portions of U.S. assistance money has «bled» over to support Chechen and other North Caucasus terrorist groups, which the U.S. State Department and U.S. intelligence agencies insist on referring to as «separatist guerrillas», «nationalists», «insurgents», and «rebels», instead of terrorists.

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has continuously refused to refer to Chechen and Islamic Emirate terrorists operating in Russia as «terrorists». NSA analysis reports of signals intelligence (SIGINT) intercepts of Russian police, Federal Security Bureau (FSB), Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and Russian military communications, including radio, landline and cellular telephone, fax, text message, and fax, have, since 2003, referred to Chechen and North Caucasus terrorists as «guerrillas». Prior to that year, TOP SECRET Codeword internal NSA directives stated that Chechen terrorists were to be called «rebels».

Imagine the surprise if the United States began referring to «Al Qaeda» as Islamist guerrillas and rebels instead of terrorists. Yet, that is exactly how the NSA and CIA have referred to terrorists in Russia that have launched deadly attacks on airports, trains, subway stations, schools, and movie theaters throughout the Russian Federation.

U.S. «humanitarian» and «civil society» assistance to radical Islamist groups has, for the past three decades, filtered into the coffers of terrorist groups celebrated as «freedom fighters» in Washington. This was the case with U.S. support for the Afghan Mujaheddin through such groups as the Committee for a Free Afghanistan during the Islamist insurgency against the People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in the 1980s and the Bosnia Defense Fund in the 1990s. In the case of Afghanistan, U.S. and Saudi money ended up in the hands of insurgents who would later form «Al Qaeda» and in Bosnia U.S. funds were used by Al Qaeda elements fighting against Yugoslavia and the Bosnian Serb Republic and, later, Al Qaeda elements supporting the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in its war against Serbia.

After revelations that an entity called the Caucasus Fund was used by the CIA-linked Jamestown Foundation of Washington, DC to sponsor seminars on the North Caucasus in Tbilisi from January to July 2012, Georgian authorities moved to shut down the fund. The reason given by Georgia was that the organization had «fulfilled its stated mission». Caucasus Fund and Jamestown Foundation events were attended by accused Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a citizen of Kyrgyzstan born to parents from Dagestan. Jamestown had previously held a seminar in Tbilisi on «Hidden Nations» in the Caucasus, which, among other issues, promoted a «Greater Circassia» in the Caucasus.

U.S. «civil society» aid to groups fomenting terrorism, nationalism, separatism, and irredentism in the Caucasus is either direct through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) or covert through organizations funded by the Open Society Institute.

Much can be learned about U.S. backing for terrorist groups operating in the North Caucasus from information gleaned from the tranche of a quarter million leaked classified State Department cables.

A November 12, 2009 Confidential cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow implies that the Carnegie Center NGO in Moscow be engaged to stymie Russia’s political and economic goals in the North Caucasus, particularly by taking advantage of 50 percent unemployment in Ingushetiya and 30 percent in Chechnya. Areas of high unemployment in the Muslim world have served as prime recruiting grounds for Wahhabist and Salafist radical clerics financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the emirates of Sharjah and Ras al Khaimah. Dagestan is cited in a June 8, 2009 embassy Moscow cable as Russia’s «weakest link» in the Caucasus region.

A Confidential September 16, 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow indicates that Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon was urged to push the concept that the Ramzan Kadyrov government in Chechnya had «neither control nor stability». The NGO Caucasian Knot told Gordon at a meeting at the U.S. embassy that «foreign fighters» were joining a jihad in the region and that there was a «Hobson’s Choice» between «terrorists» and «corrupt local government». Apparently, the Obama administration decided, likely with the strong support of then deputy national security adviser and current CIA director John O. Brennan, a confirmed Saudiphile and a participant in the Hadj pilgrimage to Mecca, opted for the terrorists.

Other leaked Confidential cables provide in-depth details on U.S., British, and Norwegian support for exiled «Chechen-Ichkeria» leader Akhmed Zakayev, a close friend of the late exiled Russo-Israeli tycoon Boris Berezovsky. A July 29, 2009 Confidential cable from the U.S. embassy in Oslo quotes the head of the Russian section at the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, Odd Skagestad, as telling the American embassy there that Zakayev was the «legitimate representative of not just the Chechen exile community, but of Chechens in Chechnya», although he added that «Zakayev is on various INTERPOL lists» for suspected terrorist links. Skagestad stated the Norwegian PST, Norway’s FBI, ignored INTERPOL arrest warrants and permitted Zakayev to visit Norway from his place of exile in London.

The Oslo embassy also stated that the Norwegian head of the «Chechnya Peace Forum», Ivar Amundsen, was very «tight lipped» about his activities and that he was a close friend of the late renegade ex-Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko. Zakayev has also received significant support from the governments of Denmark, Finland, and the Czech Republic, where there are active Chechen exile community. The Kavkaz Center,  located in Helsinki, Finland, runs a pro-Caucasus Emirate website provides an important public relations service for Emirate leader Doku Umarov’s terrorist cells in southern Russia…

Ruslan Zaindi Tsarnaev, the Maryland-based uncle of suspected bombers Tamerlan and Dzokhar Dudayev, established the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, Incorporated, in Maryland on August 17, 1995 and in the District of Columbia on September 22, 1995. The Maryland entity’s status was forfeited and is not in good standing, likely because of delinquency in filing required fees and forms. The District of Columbia corporate entity was active for 17 years and seven months. Interestingly, the DC corporate status was revoked at around the time of the Boston Marathon bombings. Ruslan Tsarnaev, also known as Ruslan Tsarni, a graduate of Duke University Law School in North Carolina, worked for USAID in Kazakhstan and other countries in preparing them for vulture capitalist enterprises such as derivative financing and hedge funds.

The Maryland address for the Congress of Chechen International Organizations is listed in Maryland corporate records as 11114 Whisperwood Lane, Rockville, Maryland 20852, which is the address for Graham E. Fuller.

Fuller is a former Russian-speaking CIA official, including station chief in Kabul and vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council during the 1980s Iran-contra scandal, with which Fuller was heavily involved. Fuller has been active in events sponsored by the Jamestown Foundation, including keynoting an October 29, 2008 conference titled «Turkey & the Caucasus after Georgia».

Fuller’s daughter, Samantha Ankara Fuller, is a UK and US dual national who is listed as a director of Insource Energy, Ltd. of the UK, a firm owned by Carbon Trust, a not-for-profit company «with the mission to accelerate the move to a low carbon economy». According to the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority’s Financial Services Register, Samantha Ankara Fuller’s previous name was Mrs. Samantha Ankara Tsarnaev. She was the wife of Ruslan Tsarnaev and ex-aunt of the two accused Boston Marathon bombers. At the time of her marriage to Ruslan Tsarnaev, Fuller was an investment adviser to Dresdner Bank, J P Morgan Ltd. in the UK, J P Morgan Securities, and J P Morgan Chase Bank, according to the UK Financial Services Register.

Ruslan Tsarnaev is the vice president for business development and corporate secretary for Big Sky Energy Corporation, headquartered in Calgary, Canada with the headquarters of its Big Sky Group holding company located in Little Rock, Arkansas.

North Carolina court records indicate that the Tsarnaevs were married in North Carolina in 1995, the year Ruslan established the Congress of Chechen International Organizations in Washington, DC and Maryland, and divorced in 1999. The divorce was granted in Orange County, North Carolina.

It is noteworthy that the Washington DC corporate registration agent for the Congress of Chechen International Organizations is Prentice-Hall.

Prentice-Hall is owned by Pearson, the publishing and educational firm based in London that owns the Financial Times and fifty percent of The Economist Group. In 1986, the Economist Group bought the New York-based Business International Corporation (BIC), the CIA front company for which Barack Obama, Jr. served as an employee from 1983 to 1984, and folded it into the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The other uncle of the alleged Boston bombers, Alvi S. Tsaranev of Silver Spring, Maryland, not far from his brother Ruslan’s home, is apparently affiliated with another Chechen exile organization, the United States-Chechen Republic Alliance Inc., with an address of 8920 Walden Road, Silver Spring, Maryland 20901-3823. The address is also that of Alvi S. Tsarnaev. The registered officer for the organization is listed U.S. Internal Revenue Service filings as Lyoma Usmanov. The organization is registered as a charitable organization engaged in «International Economic Development».

In the book, Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy Toward Russia after the Cold War, by James M. Goldgeier and Michael McFaul, the latter the present activist and neo-conservative U.S. ambassador to Russia who has directly intervened in Russian politics to seek the ouster of President Vladimir Putin from power and stir up secessionist, religious, and political extremists throughout the Russian Federation. According to this book, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was Usmanov’s sponsor in the United States: «Brzezinski helped to establish and finance Chechen representation in the United States headed by Usmanov».

Another U.S.-based group that has championed the Chechen movement, regardless of the presence of terrorist entities, is the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus (ACPC), formerly known as the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya. The ACPC was founded in 1999 by Freedom House, a Cold War right-wing group that has been financed by the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID-funded groups. The ACPC has defended the political asylum in the U.S. of former Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov, accused of past terrorist links. The ACPC and Freedom House work with the Jamestown Foundation, founded in 1984 by CIA director William Casey, along with high-ranking intelligence defectors from the Soviet Union, Romania, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.

An October 17, 2008 Sensitive cable from the U.S. embassy in Moscow outlines the priorities for USAID and NGOs in their operations in the North Caucasus. The cable states that the North Caucasus Program was active in North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria and was working with local NGOs. The cable states explicitly that USAID’s mission in the North Caucasus was to «advance critical U.S. interests». USAID-specified «hot zones» included Chechnya, Ingushetia, and the Elbruz region of Kabardino-Balkaria. The USAID North Caucasus Program focused on four key regions: Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, and Dagestan, plus Krasnodarsky Krai, Adygea Republic, Karachay-Cherkessia, Stavropolsky Krai, and Kabardino-Balkarskaya Republic.

USAID’s network of NGOs in the region are identified in the cable. They are: International Rescue Committee (IRC), World Vision, Keystone, IREX, Children’s Fund of North Ossetia (CFNO), Russian Microfinance Center, UNICEF, ACDI/VOCA, Southern Regional Resource Center (SRAC), Center for Fiscal Policy (CFP), Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Institute for Urban Economics, «Faith, Hope and Love (FHL), International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), and the Fund for Sustainable Development (FSD). Many of these groups have close links with the CIA, particularly World Vision and IRC.

The interests who are linked to the Boston Marathon and terrorism in Russia run the gamut from NGOs, to CIA front companies and non-official cover (NOC) agents, foreign intelligence services, and Western energy companies.

The Development of Fascist Hatred in Greece

May 6th, 2013 by Sofiane Ait Chalalet

On Saturday April 30th the Greek fascist party, Golden Dawn, attempted to create blood banks for the exclusive use of Greek nationals. Across the country, Golden Dawn members, with much pre publicity arrived at general hospitals to donate blood which they demanded was to be restricted to Greeks only. At the general hospital in Samos, as in many other places, the fascists were met by a broad coalition of opponents as well as medical staff who blocked their approach to the blood donation centre. The face off started at 9.30am and ended at 4.00 pm when the blood centre closed for the weekend. Golden Dawn members departed without success.

It was a significant victory for those opposing Golden Dawn. In Samos at least this was an  all too rare occasions when members from all the various left parties joined together in common purpose. The atmosphere amongst the 50 or so activists was up beat. The medical staff involved never left the front line of the picket and were steadfast throughout the stand off. There was complete unanimity that what Golden Dawn was proposing was utterly unacceptable and inhumane. Here was a red line that could not and would not be crossed.

But the resistance also raised some disturbing issues about the relationship between Golden Dawn and the Greek state. In the lead up to the day, doctors associations and many other health professional groups had made it clear that the Golden Dawn proposal was completing unacceptable and breached every ethical principle that underpinned their work. The giving of blood is without conditions they said, and no one had any right to determine the recipients of donated blood. Such sentiments were reported in much of Greece’s mainstream media. But from the government itself, and specifically the Ministry of Health, there was silence. It is a revealing silence. On an issue as blatantly immoral as this, which clearly dismayed so many people, the silence of the government profoundly demonstrated that Golden Dawn has little to fear from the state across a wide spectrum of its activities.

In Samos, the extent of this complicity was demonstrated by the senior administration of the hospital. Those forming the picket were able to see the hospital manager’s office  at the end of the corridor by the main entrance. For many hours we could see the leader of the of the small Golden Dawn contingent repeatedly entering and leaving her office. What people wanted to know was what there could  be to negotiate? The matter was clear cut. Blood donations are unconditional and this principle was non-negotiable. The doctors on the picket said that this was the position of the  staff throughout the hospital who were utterly opposed to the Golden Dawn initiative which they regarded as both inhumane and illegal.

At around 2pm the chief state attorney on the island arrived and he too was in and out of the manager’s office for over an hour. Throughout the entire day, medical staff on the picket were being called to see the hospital manager and it was through these channels that information about the manager’s thinking became clear. From the outset, the fact that she did not order Golden Dawn to leave the hospital and give up their attempt to donate blood to a Greek only blood bank was a clear sign if not of her sympathies then of her moral weakness and cowardice. That she was prepared to negotiate with Golden Dawn for so long reinforced this assessment. That she failed to make a clear statement to those on the picket and the attendant press; that she failed to support her medical staff, and then once the attorney arrived, decided that the police should be called to remove the picket on the grounds that the noise of the protest disturbed the patients all pointed in the same direction. Weakness and complicity.

The police never arrived, although during the 6 hours of the picket police cars periodically arrived and drove through  the hospital grounds. It was also known that under cover police mingled with the  protesters throughout the day.

There is however no room for complacency with respect to Golden Dawn. On the issue of Greek only blood banks for example, we learnt during the day that the fascists were using a little known loop hole which allows clubs and associations to create specific blood deposits under their control and  determine who might be a recipient. We learnt that this was  the main issue of the negotiations between Golden Dawn and the hospital manager and it seemed that she had conceded this point to Golden Dawn even though past practice was restricted to sports groups and similar associations and not to political parties. As far as we can tell, Golden Dawn has created its own blood ‘account’ in the general hospital of Samos. It is a point of law which is now being challenged especially given the fascists explicit and well publicised stance in all its so called welfare support whether food or material assistance which is restricted to Greeks only.

Whereas the Mayor of Athens prevented Golden Dawn handing out food aid in Syntagma Square on the Thursday before Easter (May 2nd 2013) on the grounds that it was fuelled by racism and hatred and beyond the bounds of humane behaviour, the Greek state in the main continues to refuse to condemn and  prevent Golden Dawn from poisoning public institutions over which they have control. The medical staff on the Samos picket told of Golden Dawn members coming on to hospital wards dressed in their fascist regalia offering support only to Greeks and of harassing the migrant workers who are employed as carers by families to support sick relatives in the hospitals. Similar events are occurring in schools with teachers who oppose fascism being harassed and children of refugees and migrants being attacked and intimidated.

Two important lessons were learnt on Samos Island at the end of April. One is the necessity for a united front to confront the virus of Golden Dawn. Humanity was the common ground and this must be sustained and developed. Secondly, the Greek state has to be confronted for its complicity  and failure to confront this virus of hatred both here in Samos and throughout the country. Tourism is an essential part of the Greek economy. Anyone thinking of coming to Greece (and particularly Athens) should be writing to the Greek embassy in their own country asking for assurances that they will be safe and secure when they visit. This is particularly urgent if your skin colour clearly identifies you as being non Greek. The Greek state needs to know that their complicity with fascism will not be tolerated and that their silence on matters which degrade humanity and expose people to hatred and violence is completely unacceptable.

Less than a week ago, the UK MoD announced that British Reaper drones over Afghanistan are now being controlled directly from the UK.

This morning  a number of British defence journalists are reporting that the first British drone strike from UK soil was carried out yesterday (30 April)  from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.  No details about the strike have officially been released, nor are they likely to be given the secrecy surrounding the use of British drones.  [UPDATE BELOW]

This first British drone strike carried out from UK soil, striking a target more than 3,000 miles away in Afghanistan should make us all, even those who support the use of military force in Afghanistan, pause for thought.

British Reaper drone controlled from RAF Waddington

The ability to carry out these so-called ‘risk-free’ airstrikes at great distances is a serious global military escalation.  Since the first remote-controlled airstrike from a Predator in 2001, drone strikes have now occurred in almost a dozen countries by our count.  As this technology proliferates, as it is sure to do, the prospect of many different countries around the globe remotely controlling armed drones to carry out lethal attacks is nothing short of terrifying.   Now that the UK has joined  Israel and the US to use this armed remote technology in this way, the genie appears to be  out of the bottle.

As well as the danger to global security of the growing use of armed drones for remote warfare, there are of course, as we have repeatedly tried to make clear, many other concerns about the use of drones.  The way that drones lower the threshold when it comes to launching military intervention due to lower political costs, the fact that drone strikes, according to many counter-terrorism experts are counter-productive and the way that drones seduce us into thinking that airstrikes can be ‘pinpoint accurate’ when we know there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent civilian deaths, are all serious problems.

We have been urging for more than three years that there should be -  at the very least  – a proper public and informed debate about the growing use of armed drones by British forces before it becomes normalised.  Perhaps this is not too late.  A number of MPs are beginning to express serious disquiet about the use of drones and public concern has been very much visible in the large protest at RAF Waddington last weekend.

Now, with this first drone strike from British soil, the world has taken another step towards global drone warfare. And so we must all work that much harder to draw back from the precipice,  before it is too late.

It is within the nature of mankind for a disproportionately small percentage of men to attempt to exert control over the greater multidinous horde.  The primary method of control is achieved through violent oppression.

Violence is required as most people will not willingly submit to control by others, be it few or many.  For violence to be perpetrated, weapons are required.  Our history as a species can be defined, in large measure, by the vehicles of violence (weapons) employed at the point in history being addressed.

When rocks were all that was to be had in way of potential weapons, we secured them to the end of stout sticks and bashed each other’s skulls in.   When metal forming technology manifested in our species, we beat the metal thin, sharpened the edge, and proceeded to hack and whack the limbs and heads from our enemies.   Of course when gunpowder and guns were created, a prodigious wave of violence was unleashed that remains unabated to this very minute.

Even as you read this piece, a person is killed by armed conflict every one hundred seconds, so read fast! Lives depend on it man! [1]. Firearms and their steroidal offspring; bombs, canons, missiles, bazookas and such sufficed for centuries as a perfectly efficient way of meting death.  These deaths were unavoidable as there existed no recourse to armed conflict and brute force resolution.  If control is the goal, then guns were the way to see that happen.  It’s been this way for quite a few hundreds of years.

There are heads of state throughout history that seem to have no other goal than to kill their fellow human beings.  These psychopathic individuals are well known.   What makes them tick is another subject altogether, and is addressed in great detail by Andrew M. Lobaczewski’s definitive treatise on the subject, “Political Ponerology- a Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes” [2].

However, not all despots energetically seek to kill their country’s citizens, but do so rather as a consequence of objection to their designs.  For the most part though, nefarious rulers, dictators, khans, kings, emperors, sultans, presidents and a host of other titled leaders primarily seek to control a country, region or continent- both the people in it and the resources in, on and under the land.

In most cases the primary objective of a tyrannical government is to exercise absolute control over the conquered and/or subjugated populace, with the most telling benefit being the subsequent revenue stream generated by lop-sided trade agreements and myriad forms of taxes imposed on businesses and individuals.  Investigate the Federal Reserve, the populace debt collateral and income taxes. [3]

It takes a true psychopath to want to kill the golden goose…us!  Corpses don’t pay taxes, after all.  Unfortunately, if humanity is a carriage, then the man driving with the whip is content to lighten the carriage’s load to the tune of a 93% reduction, from seven billion people to five hundred million.The ‘man with the whip’ is an allegorical agglomeration of the* 1/1000thof the 1%; the real wealth here on earth. (That’s still a lot of people.

There are seven billion people on earth. Do the math. Just kidding…that’s still seven thousand people.)The next time you flip to TNT (Turner Network Television) remember Ted Turner’s words [3.5], “A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.”  One might have a hunch all those near and dear to him won’t be in his wished upon reduction group- but we are.  Ted Turner wants us dead….how charming.Terrifyingly, he is not alone in his assessment.This conviction is shared by other immensely powerful people in that rarified percentile.[4]

Before the advent of harnessed electricity, invasions and conquering was accomplished through brute force, accompanied by the old fashionedbrick and mortar weapons of war we’ve come to know and loathe.  This method of war is going the way of the Dodo.  Human ingenuity andthe diligent efforts of mad scientists (can you call people who spend their days devising ever more efficient ways to kill their fellow men anything but mad?) have produced an entirely new class of weapons to unleash on peaceful, protesting people everywhere.  Enter electronic warfare.

There are electromagnetic weapons currently being deployed against various citizens of the world.  We know them as microwave cannons, or directed energy beams.  They’ve been around for decades

At Greenham Common in England, a 30,000 strong group of women camping outside an army base in protest to the deployment of nuclear-tipped US cruise missiles learned first-hand about these electromagnetic weapons.[5]“One day in the summer of 1984, more than 2,000 British troops suddenly pulled back, leaving the fence unguarded. Peace mom Kim Besley recalls that as curious women approached the gate, they started experiencing odd health effects: swollen tongues, changed heartbeats, immobility, feelings of terror, and pains in the upper body. Besley found her 30-year-old daughter too ill to stand.

Other symptoms typical of electromagnetic exposure included skin burns, severe headaches, drowsiness, post-menopausal menstrual bleeding and menstruation at abnormal times”. Even earlier, in 1962 Moscow, US embassy staff experienced similar symptoms as the result of directed weak pulse microwaves emanating from Soviet intelligence agencies, whilst being monitored by interested CIA operatives.  This is reported to have been part of Project Phoenix, an operation within the larger US government program SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) [5], [6].

The electronic warfare (EW) arsenal is not limited to microwave and directed energy beams.  On our own soil, used by our own government against peaceful protestors, sound cannons were deployed to disperse crowds at the Occupy Wall Street movement in November, 2011. [7] The manufacturer [8] insists it is a communication device.

They claim the “Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD)provides military personnel with a powerful, penetrating warning tone that can be followed by clear voice broadcasts in host nation languages to warn and shape the behavior of potential threats.” (Emphasis added)  The specs indicate the LRAD employs directed sound technology to move the security engagement envelope from 50 meters (164 feet), without LRAD, to in excess of 3000 meters (1.86 miles), with LRAD, by emitting a directed, focused 110db sound that causes nausea, headaches, and yes, hearing loss.  It has been compared to listening to a power saw at close range. Its ability to disperse a crowd has been proven publicly, courtesy of the crowd at Occupy Wall Street, itself an elite sponsored controlled opposition initiative.

The globalists will go to any lengths to keep the public’s wrath focused on anyone or anything but the central banking apparatus; the wellspring of their power, the means by which they enslave nations and place unborn generations in debt.  In this instance, they threw the Wall Street banksters under the bus.  Those useless, money grubbing, soul selling Wall Street louts are fodder for the globalist’s furnace, and they don’t even know it.  Sad.  One can only hope they awaken.  Indeed, they will when the party grinds to a halt and UN blue helmets are stationed at the corner of Wall Street and Nassau.

These examples serve to illustrate there are a wide range of electronic weapons at the disposal of those that would do us harm, and these mentioned are only the ones we know about.  It’s been well established that military science is decades ahead of industrial science.  This holds true in weaponry as well as the medical, energy and physics fields.  Further, the above examples highlight the fact that a weapon does not necessarily have to kill to be effective.

One thing to be sure of- if there is a way to improve something, someone will be busy trying to do just that.  Electronic Weapons are of course constantly being tested and improved upon.  Given the vast array of data and potential applications residing in such an enormous field of science, the function of the device itself can be altered to a desired effect.  The electronic weaponry referenced above is a miner’spickaxe to the jewelers ball peen found in mood modifying frequency weapons in evidence today.   In the good old days of maces and archers, an enemy’s back could be broken, but there was no way to break the mind.

If the mind itself could be conditioned to accept subjugation and defeat, then half the battle is done ‘ere the first arrow’s fletched.  We have arrived at that very point in our weaponry evolution.   While not quoting Sun Tzu directly, a safe distillation of his philosophy as regards war would be that the greatest victory is that in which no fighting takes place- the globalists do study the masters.  This is their goal; to get us, the useless eaters (as they have termed us), to accede to their domination with nary a peep.  How do they accomplish such a feat?  The answer to that can be found in Orwell’s 1984.

O’Brien wanted Winston Smith to believe that 2 + 2 = 5.  It was not enough for Winston to say it- he had to believe it.  And so the globalists want the same out of us.  They want us to believe that psychotropic pharmaceuticals are the key to happiness and chemtrails are going to save us from global warming, that GMO corn is the answer to world poverty. Would we fight against that which we believe to be good and true?
Let’s call this “EW-Second Generation”.

This new generation is a hellish union of neuroscience and electronic weaponry, spawning a new method of mind control O’Brien would be impressed with-psychotronic weapons.  In the Iraq war, US forces deployed innocuous sounding ‘Poppers’ throughout Baghdad.   These two-foot high domes placed strategically in and around Baghdad emitted invisible, damaging electromagnetic frequency  beams across the entire electromagnetic spectrum [9]; the end goal and effective result being to selectively alter moods, behavior and bodily process [5].

They were very effective on Iraqi citizens, but given the indiscriminate nature of the weapon itself, the poppers also affected US forces.  Suicides, desertions and episodes of homicidal rage manifested on both sides of the conflict.  That military program is a boondoggle in its own right, butat the end of the day, it’s just another disastrous, fatal program gone wrong in the US government.  Other than the personal tragedy of lost lives, this is barely newsworthy, and sadly, more the norm than not.

The physical science behind psychotronic weapons (think Matt Damon’s Will Hunting scribbling insanely complex equations on an oversized blackboard) is far beyond the average intellect, this one included.  Therefore, a need exists to simplify.  Any high school biology student knows that the human body is a self-contained electrical unit.  The movie The Matrix, for all its fantastical imaginations, illustrated clearly and accurately that we run on electrical impulses.  Where there is electricity, there is an electromagnetic frequency being generated.  What photosynthesis is to plant leaves, so is frequency generation to electricity- one cannot exist without the other.

Our brain is a self-contained multi-frequency processor, and like most things on this planet, can be altered by design. [11] “The brain is a computer, and like a computer it has a clock frequency that all thoughts, your existence, are centered around. This is a little basic because your brain in reality has multiple simultaneous clock frequencies which interact with each other and serve different purposes for biological function, whereas a microprocessor normally has only one central clock that everything in it synchronizes with.

For example, your visual cortex may process at a different frequency than the section of your brain which regulates your heart beat. Feelings and thoughts will run at another frequency. Because your brain is an ultra-parallel computer, it can accomplish a lot while using frequencies that are far lower than would be practical in a microprocessor and these frequencies are in the ELF (extended low frequency) range.  The fact that your brain operates on frequencies leaves it susceptible to manipulation via electronic means. Since different moods are reflected by different frequencies, it is possible to electronically force people to be relaxed when they should be angry, laugh when they should be appalled, and give loyalty when they should rebel.”

There is no longer a need, as in The Manchurian Candidate, to strap a subject into a chair and bombard the recipient with images and disorienting drugs until their minds are a base soup waiting on spice.  The EW weapons unleashed upon us on a daily basis are far more subtle.  The mind, it is well known, operates on a conscious and sub-conscious level. The conscious mind sees and hears at one level; it operates on its own frequency.  The sub-conscious mind operates at a different frequency, therefore ‘seeing’ images that our conscious mind doesn’t.  This is not lost upon the globalists.

One constant with them is that if an opportunity presents itself enabling them to exploit and control people, they will do all in their considerable power to turn whatever it is into a device or operation for just that purpose.  Endeavors in EW began decades ago.  Sometimes the globalists reveal more than they should. (But then warning us of what is to come is their M.O.  It’s key in their ability to carry the burden of their sins.  Those globalists do the darndest things!). In the early 70’s, globalist brainiac strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski summed up their intentions quite candidly[10],

“In the technotronic society the trend would seem to be towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach [Insert-read ‘television’] of magnetic and attractive personalities effectively exploiting the latest communications techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason”.

The way to ‘send’ or implant a thought is to insert it into a television show at a speed far greater than the conscious mind can record, but not too fast for the subconscious mind.  In the beginning, messages were inserted at 1/25th of a second.  The machine capable of this was called a tachistoscope.  These(suggestive mind control) subliminal insertion frames were discovered and made public.

A flurry of front page headlines and congressional laws were passed and the matter went bye-bye.Regards the discoverer of the shenanigans,[11]

“For a large consideration and a new Mercedes convertible, the aggrieved scientist who discovered the technique by accident, agreed to a cover story that the tachistoscope was only used for one experimental film run, involving subliminal prompts to buy Coke and popcorn, but was not terrible successful. The Mercedes convertible [gifted to him for his complicity] was involved in a high speed accident and fireball just two months later. There were no survivors.”

Caught red handed, it was back to the drawing board.[11] “Covert development proceeded along two parallel but independent tracks, with the first focusing on blending ‘low light images’ into an existing film or commercial. This was fast, and it was also a master stroke in its own right. The ‘low light’ system was ready for trials in less than six months, and the effects were startling.  Essentially, while the conscious mind was viewing and inwardly digesting the main film or commercial content, the subconscious mind was picking up the low light subliminal messages, which fell just below the threshold of normal vision.

Where the older tachistoscope was jerky and only partly efficient, the new ‘low light’ system proved to be a control revolution. The low light images were a complete ‘film within a film’ running at normal speed, and thus able to “properly educate” those citizens not entirely in accord with One World Government views.  The critical test was whether or not the ‘low light’ technique could be uncovered if a copy of the film fell into the wrong hands. Exhaustive trials proved that it could not. Despite the most sophisticated ultraviolet analysis known to man, the embedded low light images could not be detected at all, because they were comprised of exactly the same color spectrum as the film itself. So, low light was dramatically effective, relatively cheap to engineer, and easy to transport and use without fear of security breaches…. This low light system is still in use today, and is still dramatically effective.”

If we can be led to believe that 2 + 2 = 5, without our quite being aware of it, then the majority masses will indeed, for example, raise little fuss over the poisonous chemtrails hosing our atmosphere 24/7.  (Doh! It happens now and where is the real outcry? YouTube? Right…. Something’s worrrkiiinnng!).  So, knowing this is happening and that we have no control over avoiding it, only one option presents itself, and is best conveyed by John Denver. [12] “Blow up your TV, throw away your paper, go to the country, build you a home.  Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches, try and find Jesus on your own.”[10] Globalists Intentions Made Clear- Zbigniew Brzezinski- Globalist Front Man, Counselor to World Leaders

“….nation state as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state.”

Notes

[1] http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-204_162-524231.html
[2] http://www.ponerology.com/
[3] http://www.activistpost.com/2012/05/mechanics-of-fractional-reserve-banking.html
[3.5] Audubon magazine, interview with Ted Turner, 1996
[4] http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/from-7-billion-people-to-500-million-people-the-sick-population-control-agenda-of-the-global-elite
[5] http://rense.com/general62/mciro.htm
[6] http://www.seti.org/seti-institute/project/details/project-phoenix
[7] http://idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/lrad-explains-sound-cannon-use-at-occupy-wall-street.php
[8] http://www.lradx.com/site/content/view/33/47/
[9] ULF (ultra-low frequency), VLF (very low frequency), UHF (ultra-high frequency) and EHF (extremely high frequency)
[10] 1970, Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era
[11] http://www.jimstonefreelance.com/cells.html
[12] http://johndenver.com/albums/aerie/
[13]http://www.activistpost.com/2013/04/our-respective-journeys-into-valley-of.html

* Author’s completely uneducated, pie in the sky, lark on a wing guesstimate.  This figure represents the heads of the families, and does not include the multitude of their extended family, nor the favored minions that helped the reality of world tyranny blossom.  These include soulless businesspeople, politicians, law enforcement heavies, etc. etc.  Also, shirts will still get dirty in this utopia/dystopia- widgets must still be packaged and tomatoes still be picked.

However many support staff are required to adequately care for and provide manual labor to however many people are left after the population reduction plan is fully implemented is anyone’s guess.  To deny such a plan is in place is to deny a great and ever growing body of evidence pointing to precisely this fact.  If that is the case, then you are still in the “First Pasture of Perception”. [13]

Global Research Note

We bring to the attention of our readers the following news release about the Israeli attack on Syria from the United Nations. Ban Ki-moon has called ”on all sides to exercise maximum calm and restraint.” No words of condemnation were uttered against Israel’s attack on Syria and Israel is never directly referenced.

It is Israel which has attacked Syria several times now. The aggressor and the victim cannot be equated as equivalents.  In essence, Ban Ki-moon is whitewashing the Israeli attacks on Syria.  The United Nations Secretariat expects Syria to do nothing and to accept the continuous aggression and assaults from Israel, which is capitalizing on the crisis inside Syria and threatening regional security, without making any condemnation of Israel’s actions in the United Nations.

May 5, 2012


UN chief calls for maximum calm and restraint after reported Israeli air strikes in Syria

UN News Centre, May 5, 2013.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is gravely concerned about reports of air strikes in Syria by the Israeli Air Force, according to a statement from his spokesperson, which stressed that the United Nations does not have details of the reported incidents nor is in a position to independently verify that they took place.

“The Secretary-General calls on all sides to exercise maximum calm and restraint, and to act with a sense of responsibility to prevent an escalation of what is already a devastating and highly dangerous conflict,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in the statement.

“The Secretary-General urges respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries in the region, and adherence to all relevant Security Council resolutions,” he continued.

A series of powerful explosions rocked the outskirts of Damascus early this morning, which Syrian state television attributed to Israeli missile attacks on a Syrian military installation, according to media reports.

Mr. Ban’s spokesperson underscored that “at this time, the United Nations does not have details of the reported incidents. Nor is the United Nations in a position to independently verify what has occurred.”

Top UN officials, including Mr. Ban and his political chief, Jeffrey Feltman, have said on numerous occasions that a political solution is the only answer for long-term in the country and the region.

Since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011, more than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and some three million displaced.

Israel Used Depleted Uranium on Syria

May 5th, 2013 by Global Research News

It has been disclosed that Israel has used depleted uranium in its recent missile attacks on a suburban Damascus area.

The first missile which hit Jamraya near al-Haviyeh in Reef (outskirts of) Damascus contained uranium substances, a correspondent of Russian television quoted some local sources as saying.

Other media outlets had also earlier released similar reports on Israel’s use of radioactive materials in attacks on Syria.

Explosions shook Damascus early on Sunday and Syrian state television said Israeli rockets had struck a military research center on the outskirts of the capital.

The blasts occurred a day after an Israeli official said Tel Aviv had carried out an air strike targeting a consignment of missiles in Syria. The research center hit on Sunday was also targeted by Israel in January.

“The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army,” Syrian television said, referring to recent offensives by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against rebels.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials on Sunday’s explosions.

Late in January, the Syrian Army said in a statement that two people were killed and five others injured in an Israeli air strike on a scientific center in Jamraya, 25 kilometers (15 miles) Northwest of the capital Damascus.

Even doing so much as glancing at the occasional headline or ticker feed can make one feel as if the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

From the economic crisis in Europe to the bombings in Boston, to the continuing news about the false economic recovery, the world seems like a dangerous and terrifying place, yet we must realize that the people and forces behind these problems and realize that solutions are in fact possible.

Children are starving in Greece due to the fact that Greece’s economy “is in free fall, having shrunk by 20 percent in the past five years” and in the United States, the amount of suburban poverty is increasing, with neither situation seeming to change anytime soon.

The entire global economy looks like it may come apart at the seams. Governments from the US to China are engaging in a massive currency war which is backed by the G20 and will hurt the average person.

The governments of the world are hiding the economic downturns by fiddling with the indicators, such as the levels of unemployment and inflation. Generally, “the way these numbers are calculated sometimes doesn’t reflect the true economic landscape at all,” however this is unsurprising when we realize that the market has been manipulated time and again.

Due to these economic problems, one would think that many nations would be busy attempting to fix their wrecked economies, yet Western nations such as France have found the time to fund and arm radical Islamists in an attempt to overthrow Assad, the Chinese government is making “increased military spending a top priority,” and  the threat of regional wars from Israel-Iran to North and South Korea.

The corruption of governments around the world and how they do not care for their people has been shown time and time again. The fact that the Greek government is allowing for austerity to occur even if it means children starve is a crime in and of itself. What is occurring is the bastardization of the so-called First World countries by their own governments and in the case of Europe, the IMF and World Bank are helping in cannibalizing Europe, allowing for poor euro countries such as Greece to essentially become a corporate colony for the major EU countries like Germany.

What has happened to the so-called Third World countries is now happening to the ‘First World,’ where “areas of education and health care as well as other public enterprises are dismantled, privatized and sold off to mega corporations and banks for pennies on the dollar,” resulting in a type of neo-feudalism where corporations are in control of our entire society, from the government to the very food that you eat.

While the situation may seem dismal and it seems as if all hope is gone, we must fight. People have been fighting all over the globe, from anti-austerity protests in Europe to the number of protests planned for this month across the US to labor strikes and social protests being on the rise in Egypt.

These protests are a sign that people are realizing that the power to change their reality doesn’t like in the halls of government nor in the offices of a corporate office, the power is- and always has- been inside of them. If we are to stop this madness, we must fight and not just for our own sake, but for the sake of those who have yet to be born.

Devon DB is a 21 year old independent writer and researcher and is currently studying political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has recently become the Politics and Government Chair at a soon to be launched think tank by the name of The Hampton Institute.

Recently, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said that home schooling is not a parent’s right. It is a statement some are saying should frighten American parents.

Nations like Germany and Sweden show that when governments take away home schooling rights, it’s a slippery slope to no parental rights.

America the Refuge or Not

The Romeike family came to the United States from Germany five years ago hoping to find refuge. They wanted to home-school their children in freedom and a federal judge granted them asylum.

But now the Obama administration has been trying to deport them, arguing that home schooling is not a right. The case is currently before a federal appeals court.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike began home schooling in Germany because they didn’t want their children exposed to things like witchcraft and graphic sex education that are taught in German schools.

“There were stories where [school children] were encouraged to ask the devil for help instead of God and actually the devil would help (in the story),” Uwe said.

“When we found out what’s in the textbooks, it’s exactly the opposite from what the Bible tells us and teaches us, and we wanted to protect [our children],” his wife Hannelore added.

But home schooling is illegal in Germany, except in rare cases. And many home schooling parents are persecuted with fines, jail, or the loss of their children.

Homeschoolers Going Into Exile?

Most home-schoolers in America are left alone. But what if state politicians and the federal government started to move against it?

Two of the worst nations for home-schoolers are Germany and Sweden. If you want to see what things might be like if home schooling was banned in America, travel to Sweden, where the government controls education and the home schooling movement has been crushed.

In fact, the head of the Swedish Homeschooling Association, Jonas Himmelstrand, had to take his family into exile. They fled to Finland.

“We’re in exile. We were forced out of our country and that makes a stronger impact than I can imagine,” he told CBN News. “This was our country. This was where we had our friends and business relationships and a whole lot of things and now we’re pushed away from it.”

Attorney Michael Donnelly, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, called the situation “incredible for a nation like Sweden that calls itself a free nation, a democracy, so to speak.”

Ruby Harrold-Claesson, President of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, went even further, branding Sweden a dictatorship where social workers tell parents what to do.

“Sweden claims to be a democracy but it’s far from it. It’s a dictatorship,” he said. “You have the social workers dictating how people are to live. You’re not supposed to be different. You’re not supposed to be different from anyone else in Sweden. Everyone is supposed to be uniform. They want to have these cookie cutter children.”

Claesson is also the lawyer representing Christer and Annie Johansson, who have lost custody of their son Domenic, because of home schooling. After Domenic was abducted by Swedish officials, Annie’s health began to fail.

Christer said the stress of the ordeal is killing his wife.

“If we cannot solve this issue soon, Domenic won’t have a mother anymore,” he said.

Russia, A Home Schooling Haven

Nations like Germany and Sweden could learn a thing or two about parent’s rights from, of all places, Russia, which is one of the freest nations in which to homeschool.

“We have complete freedom of home education in Russia, in terms of legality,” Pavel Parfentiev, a family rights advocate in Russia, said.

“The Russian Federation is sort of a champion of human rights in this particular area, so of course I think it is a good example for both Germany and Sweden where home educators are persecuted,” he said.

Among the persecuted, German home-schooler Juergen Dudek has been taken to court every year for the past 10 years by the German Jugendamt, or Youth Office.

“The Youth Office, I used to call it the ‘Gestapo for the Young.’ As soon as they step in, as soon as they get hold of you, you’ve really got problems,” Dudek said.

German homeschooler Dirk Wunderlich and his wife have lost custody of their children, although they are still allowed to live with them. He also told CBN News he expects to be sent to jail, but said he will never stop homeschooling.

“But I’m not afraid of this. I’m only sad for my family. I will go (to jail) laughing. You can do what you want but my children will not go to school,” he said.

America Safe for Homeschoolers?

In America, a red flag went up earlier this year when the Justice Department argued in the Romeike case that home schooling is not a fundamental human right.

A source close to the case said the White House cares more about relations with Germany than about a family seeking political asylum.

Asylum for the Romeikes might open a floodgate of refugees from Germany, further embarrassing the German government.

Uwe Roemike, who makes his living as a piano teacher, knows what to expect if they’re deported.

“First they would fine us with increasingly higher fines and they would threaten to take away custody,” he explained.

“There might be jail time, too, but the main threat is the aspect of custody because then, of course, the children are taken away from you completely and that’s what no family wants,” he said.

Uwe said the fact the White House would be willing to deny homeschooling freedom to his family, should make all American home-schoolers concerned.

Bolivian President Evo Morales followed the example of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, expelling Wednesday the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from the country.

Morales accused USAID of “manipulating” local public groups in order to destabilize Bolivia, the country’s news agency ABI said.

The expulsion was also a reaction to US Secretary of State John Kerry calling Latin America “the backyard” of the United States, Morales said in a May Day speech.

Kerry made his remark last month at a meeting with US Congressmen, where he argued against cuts to US financial aid to the region.

USAID and the US State Department both expressed regret over Morales’ decision.

Since 1964, USAID has invested more than $2 billion in various projects in Bolivia, according to the agency’s own figures. Morales said the Bolivian government will foot the bill for all projects deprived of funding due to his decision.

USAID lists health and environmental projects among its main activities in the Latin American country, but it has also campaigned against the cultivation of coca, a practice strongly endorsed by Morales.

The Bolivian setback for USAID comes just months after the agency was expelled from Russia by the Kremlin, which accused it of meddling in the country’s politics. The agency, which spent about $2.7 billion in Russia since 1992, has supported, among other things, various NGOs that criticized the Kremlin for alleged rigging of the recent presidential and parliamentary elections.

A secret federal court last year did not deny a single request to search or electronically spy on people within the United States “for foreign intelligence purposes,” according to a Justice Department report this week.

The report (pdf), which was released Tuesday to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), states that during 2012, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (the “FISC”) approved every single one of the 1,856 applications made by the government for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and/or physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes.

This past year saw 5 percent more applications than 2011, though no requests were denied in either. Besides the numbers provided, no other information regarding the court and the court’s decisions are made public.

As Wired’s David Kravets explains:

The secret court, which came to life in the wake of the Watergate scandal under the President Richard M. Nixon administration, now gets the bulk of its authority under the FISA Amendments Act, which Congress reauthorized for another five years days before it would have expired last year.

The act allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States.

Previous to its 2012 reauthorization, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said during a debate on amending the FISA Act, “The public has absolutely no idea what the court is actually saying. What it means is the country is in fact developing a secret body of law so Americans have no way of finding out how their laws and Constitution are being interpreted.”

Putting the FISC in context, Kevin Gosztola at FireDogLake writes, “America has a court that reviews surveillance requests in secret and makes rulings in secret that are kept secret.”

He goes on to cite a 2008 Harvard Law Review, which critiqued the unique arrangement of the secret court system, to explain why the court’s 100 percent acceptance rate may be unsurprising:

One of the most striking elements of the FISA system is the total absence of adversariality.

[t]he judge is forced not only to act as an arm of the prosecution in weighing the prosecution’s arguments about whether disclosure would or would not compromise national security, but also to act as a defense lawyer in determining whether the information is useful to the defendant.” Similarly, in reviewing a FISA application, the FISC must attempt the difficult, if not impossible, task of simultaneously occupying the roles of advocate and neutral arbiter — all without the authority or ability to investigate facts or the time to conduct legal research. The judge lacks, a skeptical advocate to vet the government’s legal arguments, which is of crucial significance when the government is always able to claim the weight of national security expertise for its position. It is questionable whether courts can play this role effectively, and, more importantly, whether they should. [emphasis added]

“Though depicted as some kind of check on Executive Branch behavior,” Glenn Greenwaldwrites, the entire process “is virtually designed to do the opposite: ensure the Government’s surveillance desires are unimpeded.”

He adds that the lack of oversight is significant because of recent calls to create a ‘drone court’ under the same model, providing a similar process through which the president can target for execution people who have been charged with no crime.

He continues:

But like the Fisa court, such a “drone court” would be far worse than merely harmless. Just imagine how creepy and tyrannical it is to codify a system where federal judges – in total secrecy and with only government lawyers present – issue execution warrants that allow the president to kill someone who has never been charged with a crime. It’s true that the president is already doing this, and is doing it without any external oversight. But a fake, illusory judicial process lends a perceived legitimacy to his execution powers that is not warranted by the reality of this process.

The Justice Department report also noted that the government issued 15,229 National Security Letters last year. The letters, issued by the FBI compelling “internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and others to hand over confidential records about their customers,” were declared unconstitutional in March. However, the decision was stayed 90 days pending the White House’s expected appeal.

Turkish Officials are using Syrians for Organ Harvesting

May 5th, 2013 by Global Research News

The Lebanese ad-Diyar newspaper revealed that the Turkish authorities are involved in trafficking the body organs of injured Syrians who reach the Turkish territories.

In its issue on Saturday, the newspaper said the Turkish authorities transport young Syrian injured of those who enter Turkey to hospitals in Antalya and Iskenderun in cars guarded by Turkish police and intelligence.

It added that the injured Syrians have their body organs excised after being anesthetized to be later killed and mostly buried in the Turkish lands or sent to the border.

The newspaper noted that the body organs of the injured people that are mostly trafficked are livers, kidneys and hearts to be given to people who are waiting for treatment in Turkey, according to confirmed information.

A French doctor confirmed to Ad-Diyar that stealing of human body organs of injured Syrians in Turkey has actually taken place.

The Lebanese newspaper pointed out that European scientific websites known for their credibility revealed acts of stealing body organs that took place at Antalya Hospital, noting that body organ theft and transplantation operations have increased in Turkey over the past two years since the beginning of the crisis in Syria.

It added that Syrian doctors who have come from Germany, France and Belgium to treat the injured have found out about human body organ stealing, but were prevented from getting any information by the Turkish army.

Ad-Diyar stressed that Turkish doctors confirmed that out of 62,000 civilian and military injured people who were transported to Turkey, body organs of 15,622 of them were excised, with the injured people sent back to Syria to be buried.

The newspaper cited an incident when families of one of those sent to be buried in Syria opened the coffin only to discover the truth, noting that the Syrian doctors were prevented from seeing any of the dead bodies inside Turkey.

Ad-Diyar said the World Health Organization has started an immediate investigation into the issue and asked the Turkish Health Ministry to provide a list of the number of organ transplantation surgeries performed over many years for comparison and the names of the patients.