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Since the beginning of September, select cities across North America have been subjected to a carefully led advertizing campaign by the Rethink 9/11 movement promoting the idea that a new investigation of 9/11 is warranted.

Through the use of billboards, posters on buses and taxi top ads, the RETHINK 911 campaign has exposed millions of Americans and Canadians to the call through a simple question: “Did you know a 3rd tower fell on 9/11?”

Outside of alternative media, and the internet, it has been difficult to communicate the anomalies and flaws in the official story of this incident. This mass messaging campaign is the first of its kind to get around mainstream media and the ghettoizing of 9/11 skepticism as “conspiracy theory.”

The campaign did ruffle a few feathers in Ottawa as a single complaint about this message on an Ottawa Transit bus caused civic authorities to rethink their advertizing policy. The thinking was that the message was somehow an insult to 9/11 victims’ families.

In late November, 9/11 activists, including a technical expert, gave a professional presentation at the Ottawa Transit Commission. The presentation included footage of World Trade Centre 7 coming down at the speed of free fall.

Twelve years after 9/11, and almost a decade after the Keane Commission closed the books on the incident, it has become more acceptable to challenge the official story of 9/11.

These incidents coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination. As with 9/11, a substantial sector of the American public has serious doubts about that crime, and suspect a cover-up, if not full complicity on the part of the US State. Yet, there seems to be very little hope that a renewed investigation of the JFK assassination will happen anytime soon.

This begs the question, how likely is it that a re-opening of the investigation into 9/11 is a realistic outcome?

Richard Gage, AIA is one of those who are hopeful that a new investigation can be brought about. His experience with building design spans a quarter of a century and includes the design of fireproofed steel-framed buildings such as the trade center towers. Having been alerted to the problems with the official story of 9/11, Gage founded Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. His site, ae911truth.org, boasts a petition with the names of over 2000 architects and engineers from around the world, calling for a new criminal investigation into the 9/11 attacks, citing flaws in the official explanation of the collapses of the World Trade Center towers.

Gage appears in the first half hour to explain his optimism that justice for 9/11 is on the horizon. He shares his time with David Long, himself a 9/11 survivor and one of the 9/11 activists who presented at the Ottawa Transit Commission hearing on November 20.

Michael C. Ruppert on the other hand is intensely skeptical that 9/11 will ever be revisited. Ruppert, a former Los Angeles Police Detective turned investigative journalist turned radio broadcaster comes from a family with an intelligence background. He exposed CIA trafficking of drugs in the 1990s, as well as the role of laundered drug money in inflating the world economy. He was also one of the first people in the world to expose publicly the ‘inside job’ theory of 9/11.

Ruppert believes that relying on physical evidence as the lever by which a new investigation can be invoked is a Sisyphean task, and that it is far too late now to do anything about 9/11.

Ruppert digs into his own research and experience to explain how these sorts of State Crimes against Democracy can be successfully concealed and covered up, and how activists can otherwise be frustrated in their efforts to bring about justice. He also puts forth his thoughts about where activist energies would be better directed given current global realities.

Michael C Ruppert is the author of Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil, and is the host of The Lifeboat Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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The Global Research News Hour, hosted by Michael Welch, airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Fridays at 1pm CDT. The programme is also broadcast weekly (Monday, 5-6pm ET) by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Port Perry Radio in Port Perry, Ontario – Thursdays at 1pm ET

 

The Debt Matrix: Consumption and Modern-Day Slavery

December 1st, 2013 by Timothy Alexander Guzman

“Home life ceases to be free and beautiful as soon as it is founded on borrowing and debt” Henrik Ibsen

 According to Oxford Dictionary the term Slave is defined as a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them” as in the case of the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries where slavery was a legalized institution.  Oxford dictionary also defines slavery as “a person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation” as in today’s world of a person working for a company or corporation where their efforts are usually under appreciated.  It also describes a slave as “a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something” or “a device, or part of one, directly controlled by another”.  Debt can be an instrument used to control an individual or a nation for that matter.  In this case, an individual is dependent upon “Credit” to buy products. 

Then the credit becomes a debt that has to be repaid.  It becomes a “control mechanism” as the creditor becomes the “Slave Owner” and the debtor becomes the “Slave”.  What is the point?   In today’s world of unlimited credit, consumers become modern-day slaves to their creditors.  What is the difference between slavery in 18th century America with imported African slaves and the America of 2013?  There is no difference besides the physical abuse of the African slaves by their owners.  In America, consumers suffer psychological abuse by its creditors.  As long as an individual remains in debt bondage, that person will have to repay that debt until the day that person literally dies in most cases.

Black Friday is the day that starts the most important holiday for big name retailers and Wall Street speculators and that is Christmas.  It is the shopping season that investors, economists and corporations pay close attention to as they measure consumer confidence and the profits they reap from consumer spending.  Major retailers and corporations such as Wal-Mart expect to make profits.  Wall Street expects consumers to spend on Black Friday through the Christmas holidays following the Federal Reserve’s continued policies of Quantitative Easing (QE).  Economists across the spectrum predict that the new Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will continue to buy US bonds indefinitely continuing Ben Bernanke’s current policies.

All the while consumers continue to accumulate debt.  Black Friday was marked with chaos followed by violence as mobs of consumers’ raided shopping centers and malls for discounts and sales on numerous products including flat screen televisions, toys, clothing and other goods they most likely don’t need.  Regardless of the economic situation, consumers will continue to buy.  Granted, Christmas is about giving your loved ones gifts in a traditional sense.  It is also about spending time with the family.  It is supposed to be a joyous holiday for families, but the American population is mired in debt ranging from credit cards, mortgages, student loans and auto loans.  Earlier this month Bloomberg reported that U.S. households increased their debt levels by continuing to borrow at unprecedented levels:

Consumer indebtedness rose $127 billion to $11.28 trillion, the biggest increase since the first quarter of 2008, according to a quarterly report on household debt and credit released today by the Fed district bank. Mortgage balances climbed $56 billion, student loans increased $33 billion, auto loans were up $31 billion and credit-card debt rose by $4 billion.

“We observed an increase of household balances across essentially all types of debt,” Donghoon Lee, senior research economist at the New York Fed, said in a statement. “With non-housing debt consistently increasing and the factors pushing down mortgage balances waning, it appears that households have crossed a turning point in the deleveraging cycle.”

Consumerism has taking hold in America.  The population continues to stampede at malls and in some cases injuring and even killing individuals.  In 2008, a Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death in Long Island, New York by a stampede of hungry consumers looking for bargains.  There were also several people injured during the incident.  This Black Friday proved to be more of the same as shoppers filled shopping malls.  Some malls experienced violent crowds pushing and fighting with each other over items that were on sale.  It is absolutely mind boggling to see average people become violent over products sold at major retail stores.  Morality is in decline in America.

Regardless of debt the American public faces, it seems that shopping is the only thing that matters.  As debt increases it becomes harder for them to repay.  Can the American people ever awaken from their dystopian nightmare of mass consumption of products they don’t need?  They are accumulating large amounts of debt thanks to the Federal Reserve Bank’s printing of unlimited cheap money with incredibly zero to low interest rates.  Although, many do buy their basic necessities such as food and clothing, buying the latest products that includes video games and other computer gadgets are turning consumers into life-long debt slaves that will continue to pay their credit card companies with “interest” until the debt is paid.  That can take a long period of time since interest rates are tied to credit cards and other revolving loan payments.  According to the Federal Reserve Bank (who continues endless money printing) and other government institutions, the average US household owes between $7,000 and $15,112 on credit cards.  The average mortgage debt is at $146,215 and student loans’ reaching the $1 trillion mark is at $31,240.  The total amount of debt the United States owes to its creditors namely China is at $17 Trillion and steadily increasing as the Federal Reserve Bank continues to buy its own US bonds.

Debt Slavery is the new modern-day slavery as millions continue to buy products on credit becoming perpetual servants of mega corporations and international banks.  How?  As you buy with credit cards or loans, the “interest rates” attached to the purchases made is the bond that ties you and the corporate interests or bankers for eternity.  The debt people get into is difficult to escape as interest rates accumulate over time it becomes extremely difficult to repay since it keeps adding up.  In the 2009 film called ‘The International’ with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts which was actually inspired by the BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) scandal in real life had an interesting scene involving an Italian politician named Umberto Calvini, who is a weapons manufacturer who explains to Eleanor Whitman (Watts) and Louis Salinger (Owens) that IBBC was interested in buying a missile guiding system that his factory produces then later assassinated.  He explained that the true value was not conflicts but the debt it produces:

Calvini: “No, this is not about making profit from weapon sales.  It’s about control.”

Eleanor: “Control the flow of weapons, control the conflict?”

Calvini: “No. No No. The IBBC is a bank. Their objective isn’t to control the conflict, it’s to control the debt that the conflict produces. You see, the real value of a conflict – the true value – is in the debt that it creates. You control the debt, you control everything.  You find this upsetting, yes?  But this is the very essence of the banking industry, to make us all, whether we be nations or individuals, slaves to debt.”

It was an interesting scene coming out of Hollywood, which by every standard is a propaganda machine.  Debt is serious business especially for banks and corporations.

With all of the problems the American public faces with the prospect of a future war on Iran will impact the world’s economy.  With 100 million people out of work in the United States and a reduction in food stamps and inflation hitting food prices, there is much concern.  Celebrities’ personal lives still dominate headlines in the main stream media.  The ‘War on Terror’ has taken away civil liberties and the ‘War on Drugs’ has increased the prison population.  High-crime rates in major cities remain problematic. With the rollout of 7000 drones in 2015, endless wars, a looming dollar collapse, and endless Pharmaceutical commercials that keep people heavily drugged are serious problems for the American public.  Yet, shopping on Black Friday resulting in violence and chaos among uneasy crowds seems to be the norm.

The media and corporate advertisements have turned the American population into a “Slave” state of mind. Many people in the United States are accumulating debt at levels never seen in its 237 years of its existence.  It is a lesson to the world in what NOT to do.  An economy that is consumer based with credit is a disaster in the making because that debt only becomes unmanageable in the long run, especially when the people have no means to repay its debt obligations.  An economy based on consumerism leads to moral decay.

When people become ingrained in consumption disregarding the debt they inherit, they become immune to the realities around them.  When the situation becomes intense with a coming dollar collapse and a possible war in the Middle East, reality will sink in.  Then when the necessities such as food and shelter become scarce the people will begin to panic and lose control over their own lives.  Who knows what people in America will be capable of, but then again as you saw what happened on Black Friday, it is a reminder of how people react when products they don’t really need are on sale.  Imagine how they will react in times of economic despair.

Thailand: Regime Deploys Black-Clad Militants

December 1st, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci

As promised by the Thai regime of Thaksin Shinawatra and his nepotist appointed proxy, sister Yingluck Shinawatra, it has released its black-clad militants against unarmed students in Bangkok, leading to several deaths, many more injuries and ongoing clashes on . Regime thugs have surrounded hundreds of students attending Ramkamhaeng University, directly next to  Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium were a pro-regime rally has been ongoing for the last week. Students began demonstrating against the rally today specifically because of the noise and vitriol emanating from the stadium non-stop, day and night, disrupting the densely populated district.

Video: Already taken down from (by?) Facebook, but downloaded by Land Destroyer/ATNN beforehand, students can be seen trapped on Ramkamhaeng University’s campus, attempting to break out.  A constant hail of objects is being thrown at them and from the same direction muzzle flashes and gunfire can be seen and heard. Students can be heard saying, “Watch out! They’re shooting. We’re being shot at.” Bangkok’s English newspaper, the Nationconfirms one student has been confirmed killed by gunfire…..

The Western media has been quick to seize upon the violence, coordinating with the regime whom it backs with an impressive legion of Washington lobbyists, to blame the protesters for the violence. While articles like AP’s “One person killed, five wounded in deadly demonstrations in Bangkok,” portray a bloodbath of the protesters’ doing, the first deaths being report are students, shot to death. The Nation has confirmed the first death in its article, “One Ramkhamhaeng student shot dead,” that:

Police and the Ramkhamhaeng Hospital confirmed that one Ramkhamhaeng University student was fatally shot in a clash between red-shirt people and Ramkhamhaeng students.

Police of Hua Mark police station identified the slain student as Thaweesak Phokaew, 21.

He was shot at the back and the bullet pierced through his lung. He died at the Ramkhamhaeng Hospital, the hospital confirmed.

Images: Photographs of the gunmen so far responsible for the death of at least one student and many more injuries, have begun trickling out. The men are clad in black, carrying a variety of weapons. There have been reports of both shooters operating in the streets and from rooftops.

….


While the regime and its Western backers may play ignorant as to who the black-clad gunmen are (as they attempted to do in 2010), the regime itself had actually already revealed its plans just days before this violence unfolded – by accident.

Former Reuters journalist Andrew Marshall, turned hired pen for the embattled regime’s dictator, Thaksin Shinawatra, revealed just days prior, the regime’s plan to unleash armed militants to undermine and breakup the protests. Marshall may have believed he was reporting rumors designed to blunt another historical turnout of anti-regime protesters planned later today.

On his Facebook page he wrote (emphasis added):

Meanwhile, Thaksin Shinawatra’s secret “black shirt” force of provocateurs, mostly made up of navy SEALS and marines, is back on the streets again for the first time since May 2010 and has infiltrated Suthep’s rabble. If protests escalate they will seek to incite deadly violence ahead of King Bhumibol’s birthday to discredit Suthep and his movement for good. The military remains divided and weak, and top commanders have no intention of intervening for now. Unless sanity prevails in the next few days, there will be more bloodshed on the streets of Bangkok in early December.

The regime itself admitted just days ago, in Bangkok’s Nation article, “Govt ups ante in publicity battle with protesters,” that (emphasis added):

“We have rejected several parties’ demands for a House dissolution. The party’s urgent strategy is to create fear among the public that the anti-government protests are violating the law,” the source said.

From Thursday night and into Friday morning, the regime’s Interior Minister had taken the stage of the pro-regime rally, stirring up their mobs even as gunshots were fired and protesters were being killed, just beyond the walls of the stadium. Speakers took turns taking to the stage, with their colleagues smirking in the background, all while the foreign media began reporting on violence and deaths.

Image: The regime’s Interior Minister, Jarupong Ruangsuwan, takes to the stage the night their militants were released into the streets to begin firing on nearby protesting university students. Deaths have already been reported.

Image: At approximately 1:30am Bangkok, Thailand time, speakers take turns on stage speaking to a pro-regime rally held at Bangkok’s Rajamangala Stadium while their colleagues behind them smirk and laugh – even as helicopters circle overhead and shots can be heard outside. This is after the first deaths have been reported across local and foreign news.

As of 2:30am local time, sporadic gunfire can still be heard, as well as louder individual explosions. Helicopters have intermittently flown overhead, and more deaths are in the process of being confirmed. When Bangkok awakens tomorrow, it will be to yet another Shinawatra prime minister with the blood of the Thai people on their hands.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

From In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, May 1915

It was that time of year again, when sellers of poppies knock at the door and veterans line the streets of the local town with collecting tins and trays of fake red flowers sold in aid of the Royal British Legion; a time when, if you don’t buy or wear a poppy you would be made to feel ‘unpatriotic’.  But times they are a-changing.

The ‘Remembrance’ poppy grew out of WWI and became a symbol for that dire and catastrophic war.  Catastrophic, that is, for those British men who died (725,000) leaving widows and orphans behind, or the 1.75 million wounded, half of whom were permanently disabled and unable to work or support their dependents.  The British Legion was formed by an ex-serviceman who, realising that the government was unable or unwilling to do anything to support those who had suffered fighting the politicians’ war, decided to act.  They took the poppy (of In Flanders Fields fame) as their symbol and it was first worn at Armistice Day ceremonies in 1921.

Selling the poppy is a way of raising funds and the Legion (it only gained its ‘Royal’ status in 1971) still supports ex-servicemen and/or their families.  But, to quote the RBL’s website: ‘When the Legion’s leaders looked around them in 1921, not only did they see a gigantic task in front of them looking after those who had suffered in the recent war, they also sought to prevent further sacrifice by reminding the nation of the human cost of war and to work actively for peace.

There’s precious little evidence of the Legion or anyone connected to the military seeking to prevent further ‘sacrifice’.  ‘Reminding the nation of the human cost of war’ is sanitised by the language used – the ‘glorious dead’, the ‘heroes’ who sacrificed themselves.  What noble, clean and tidy images those words create!  Sadness and grief there might be, but no honest retelling or reliving of the true cost will be part of the many ceremonies at war memorials across the land.

And ‘working actively for peace’ has always been absent.  That got left to the wearers of the white ‘Peace’ poppies.  The white poppies grew out of the desire of the widows, mothers, sisters, daughters and fiancées who had lost men to the war to promote the message ‘Never Again’.  WWI had been so truly apocalyptic that we should learn the lesson and never tread the road to war again.  Except, of course, that not many years later we were all embroiled in WW2.

Although the RBL has no official policy on the white poppy it is still highly disliked and regarded with suspicion by military people, particularly some veterans.  The Canadian Legion however is ‘staunchly opposed ‘ and has even taken legal action against stores selling them.  Some years ago a peace-campaigning acquaintance told me she had been refused entry to Westminster until she removed her white poppy.  “And what about those people?” she asked, pointing to the red-poppy-wearing individuals filing through the security checks.  Her question was unanswered.

The Poppies that were once worn just on Armistice Day (it became known as Remembrance Day after WW2) creep onto the streets earlier and earlier, with buyers expected to wear them from the moment of purchase, and stay visible for some days after November 11.  This year the RBL Poppy Appeal began with the launch of their official song, a very mawkish The Call, performed by the Poppy Girls, and a pop concert at RAF Northolt, where ‘Thousands of service personnel and their families will wear their poppies with pride during the concert…’.  This took place on October 24th, weeks before Armistice Day.  Three and a half weeks of hard sell, not to remember the dead but to support the military.

The message ‘Never Forget’ has become ‘look to the future’.  A Legion press release contained a photo of four children with giant poppies.  Printed on the T-shirts of three of them were the words ‘Future Soldier’.  How tasteless and tacky is that?  And Prince William’s wife Kate put a glittering final touch to a black evening dress with a crystal red poppy, a present from the Legion.  Poppies that sparkle are in vogue this year it seems.  Another year or two and poppies will be like the flower in a clown’s lapel – the touch of a hidden button and it will either spin or squirt water at you.

Except that, over the last year or two, I’ve seen fewer poppies being worn while the conversation in the media about how relevant the wearing of poppies is becomes more strident.  And in the build up to next year’s centenary of the outbreak of WWI the pro-military lobby becomes more visible.  We must wear poppies to support ‘our boys’ still bravely doing battle in Afghanistan.

Defending the poppy on the BBC’s Moral Maze, Helen Hill, the Legion’s Head of Remembrance, claimed that ‘there were 40 million poppies on the streets’.  Really?  That would mean that four out of every five people, from tiny babies to most elderly and infirm, would be sporting the things.  And they are not.  Travelling up to London by train on Remembrance Sunday I noticed that, where a few years ago most of the passengers would be wearing poppies, this year 25% at most were wearing them.

The less people wear poppies, the louder the accusations of lack of ‘patriotism’ become.  But as Robert Fisk, whose father fought in WWI, asked, ‘How come this obscene fashion appendage – inspired by a pro-war poem, for God’s sake, which demands yet further human sacrifice – still adorns the jackets and blouses of the Great and the Good?’  Knowing his WWI history rather better than most politicians, he has refused to wear a poppy for some time ‘Is there not,’ he wrote, ‘ some better way to remember this monstrous crime against humanity?’

Those who refuse to wear them are pilloried and subject to abuse.  The University of London Student Union faced threats of violence and accusations of “disloyal and unpatriotic bullying” – all because the Union had taken the decision that, while individual students could make their own choice, the Union would not be sending a representative to the Remembrance ceremony.  Comedian David Mitchell, in a rant about “twinkly” poppies that glamorise war, made the point that those who appear in public wear poppies primarily to avoid disapproval.  It makes the poppy meaningless.

A Shropshire Methodist minister, Patricia Jackson, caused uproar when she said she would not wear a red poppy while conducting the Remembrance service.  She said the red poppy ‘advocates war’.  ITV news presenter Charlene White was blitzed with racist abuse for deciding not to wear a poppy on air.  Former journalist Ian Birrel, about to appear on a television news show, was asked  more that once if he would wear a poppy.  He refused.  He believes that ‘there is something wrong with enforced displays of patriotism and public grief.’

He also had this to say: ‘…it remains baffling why decent treatment of soldiers and sailors needed to be subject to legislation rather than standard practice. And the welfare state is supposed to provide support for anyone who needs it. Now the proceeds of fines on banks are being passed to military charities, while firms and councils are being pressured to provide special help for service personnel.’  He has a point.  There should be no need for a charity like the Legion but successive governments have found the long term costs of their wars unaffordable.

Also taking part in the Moral Maze discussion on the modern meaning of the poppy and Remembrance was British ex-SAS soldier, Ben Griffin.  More than anyone on the panel he knew the horrors of war firsthand and he was scathing about the modern Remembrance Day ceremonies.  ‘We have stopped remembering,’ he said.  When asked to justify that statement (his inquisitors being very pro-Remembrance) he said that we don’t remember what war is really like.  We dress it up in rites that talk about ‘the fallen’.  ‘Soldiers don’t fall,’ he added brutally, ‘they get their heads blown off, get burnt alive or riddled with bullets.  There is no true remembrance’, he said again.  If there were, we’d maybe stop fighting wars.

His hero was Harry Patch who was, when he died in August 2009, the last surviving soldier who served in the trenches.  Harry Patch – who said that ‘War is organised murder’.  Harry Patch – who, arriving at the Front, made a pact with his friend that they would not kill anyone.  He didn’t want a ‘state’ funeral, nor yet a military one.  To the despair of some of his peace campaigning friends he pretty well got both.  As Britain had not long pulled out of Iraq and was ratcheting up casualties in Afghanistan, the government’s desire to promote the military and its ongoing ‘sacrifice’ for the country over-ruled sensitivity.

Ben Griffin was right.  There is no real remembrance because we do not remember the true nature of war.  In fact we go out of our way to avoid remembering it.  We spend a minute or two remembering the heroes, the glorious dead, the fallen, those who gave their lives, our boys who sacrificed themselves for freedom, for democracy, for our country, for…. what?  But, because our wars are not fought here on our own precious inviolate soil, we do not remember the terror, the screams, the blood, the noise and the mindless violence of war.  We comfortably leave that to the armies we send abroad.  We do not remember the mangled bodies with faces half-shot away and guts spilling over the ground.  We do not remember soldiers with limbs blown off as their lives soak away into foreign soil along with their blood.  We do not remember those made mad by war, who live on our streets and fill the prisons and shelters for the homeless with their nightmares.  Nor, standing in front of our war memorials, do we remember the countless hundreds of thousands that we, the British, have slaughtered in our wars. Like those 40 million poppies that were supposed to be out on the streets but somehow were not to be seen, the dead are invisible.

CNN’s Parade of Iran Hawks

November 30th, 2013 by Peter Hart

The interim agreement over Iran’s nuclear energy program that was announced early Sunday morning was obviously a big deal on the talkshow circuit.  But the debate over Iran in elite politics is extremely limited; Democrats are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of increasing sanctions, for instance. And that means you’re bound to see very little debate on your TV screen.

CNN‘s Sunday show State of the Nation (11/24/13) was a perfect example. The show started off with host Candy Crowley interviewing Secretary of State John Kerry, who obviously supports the deal he just finished negotiating.

Next up was a pair of hawkish lawmakers who mostly agree on Iran sanctions–Republican Ed Royce of California and New York Democrat Eliot Engel. As Crowley said in her introduction: “You both have been quite skeptical of this deal before it was made. You remain skeptical now.”

Next Republican Rep. Mike Rogers joined the show to share his assessment of the deal: “We have just rewarded very bad and dangerous behavior.”  Rogers added that Iran have made “no changes in the development of their nuclear weapon program. And I can tell that you with a high degree of certainty.” Naturally, no mention was made of the fact that there is no certainty that Iran even has a nuclear weapons program.

After that, CNN decided to hear from former Republican intelligence officialsMichael Hayden and John Negroponte. The latter was a particularly ironic selection; much of the anti-Iran rhetoric on the show accused the country of being heavily involved in international terrorism; Negroponte, during the Reagan years, was a key actor in the US promotion of terrorism in Nicaragua (Extra!9-10/01).

The show ended with conservative pundit/GOP consultant Alex Castellanos, the right-leaning A.B. Stoddard of The Hill (“sanctions have been successful”) and Bill Burton of the liberal Center for American Progress.

The problem with the show wasn’t just the one-sided panels. Host Candy Crowley made two misleading statements about Iran and nuclear weapons. While interviewing Kerry she said that Iran

has been a bad actor in the region and elsewhere, not just because of its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, but because of its relationships there, how it backs Assad, a man that the US administration and many other countries don’t think should be there.

Note the CNN definition of a “bad actor”:  a nation that doesn’t support overthrowing the same governments Washington does.

Leopard (cc photo: Jessica Shippee).

This actual leopard has indicated as much ambition for nuclear weapons as Ayatollah Khamenei (cc photo: Jessica Shippee).

And when Negroponte made a comment about whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, was shifting his stance (“It doesn’t tell you definitively whether the supreme leader–whether the leopard has changed his spots”), Crowley responded:

“Do you perceive the leopard, the ayatollah, ever giving up nuclear weapons ambitions?”

Again, there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon. And Khamenei has for years denounced nuclear weapons.

It’s bad enough that a show like State of the Union would line up so many hawks, but the host’s erroneous contributions to the discussion only made things worse.

Massive Fraud, Intimidation and Vote Buying in Honduras

November 30th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

On Sunday, November 24, Hondurans voted. Eight candidates contested for president. Only two mattered.

LIBRE party (Liberty and Refoundation) candidate Xiomara Castro challenged ruling National party’s Juan Orlando Hernandez. A previous article explained.

It said business as usual prevailed. Fraud, intimidation and vote buying were rampant. So were political assassinations. Democracy was nowhere in sight.

Honduras has none. Fascist extremism is official policy. A cauldron of violence and repression persist. Washington offers full support. It does so disgracefully.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psake congratulated Honduras for a “peaceful” election. She lied saying so. She did again calling it “generally transparent.”

She urged Hondurans “to resolved election disputes peacefully through established legal processes.” Honduran rule of law principles don’t exist.

Fascist police states don’t operate this way. They do what they please. They do it unaccountably. They steal elections with impunity.

Sunday was no exception. Election rigging substituted for freedom, openness and fairness. They were nowhere in sight.

Independent observers denounced what happened. The Honduran Equality Delegation (HED) was comprised of US LGBT human rights activists.

They took a historic first step. They addressed dozens of Honduran hate crimes committed against LGBT activists. They include assassinations, beatings, humiliations, and numerous other human rights violations.

Honduras has the most homicides per capita worldwide. It’s unsafe to live there. It’s a breeding ground for human and civil rights violations.

Pepe Palacios heads the Honduran LGBT movement. He called Washington’s supported 2009 coup ousting Manuel Zelaya “our Stonewall. We are not going back.”

Honduran Solidarity Network (HSN) observers denounced Sunday’s results. It documented “serious and undeniable fraud in all 10 districts” it observed.

On November 26, it issued a preliminary report. It’s based on firsthand observations.

Its representatives accompanied Hondurans “in their electoral process as they seek social justice in their country.”

“(W)e find the presidential elections to be inconsistent with democratic principles and rife with fraudulent practices,” it said.

“We were impressed with the peaceful behavior of voters, and in particular the voting participation of youth and senior peoples, despite the widespread voter intimidation tactics we witnessed.”

Numerous human rights violations occurred. Intimidation was rampant. So was vote buying.

Western media ignored what happened. Despite irrefutable evidence, international observer groups were silent.

It was inexcusable. It reflected complicity with rampant fraud. Widespread human rights abuses weren’t addressed. A stolen election went unreported.

The Carter Center fell woefully short. It sent a “high-level delegation.” It didn’t “constitute an electoral observation mission…”

It was “an expression of the international community’s high interest in the ‘democratic’ process in Honduras.”

It bears repeating. There is none. Jimmy Carter and other Center officials know it. They went along with the charade.

They “thank(ed) the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for inviting them.” They “congratulate(d) the people of Honduras for their peaceful and enthusiastic participation in the elections.”

“It recognizes the effort of the Tribunal, the political parties, and the numerous national and international organizations that have supported the process and contributed to more inclusive and transparent elections than in the past.”

“A number of parties have questioned one or more aspects of the process.”

“The delegation believes that it is very important that the parties make their complaints known to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in accordance with the procedures established by electoral law.”

“It trusts that the Tribunal will resolve these challenges based on the established norms.”

“It encourages all of the actors in the process to continue to work together to resolve electoral disputes in a peaceful and expedient manner for the good of the Honduran people and the newly elected officials.”

“The Carter Center offers its support and collaboration to the people of Honduras to continue the strengthening of their political and electoral institutions.”

These comments turn a blind eye to blatant electoral theft. Jimmy Carter justifiably calls Venezuela’s electoral process the world’s best.

Honduras’ is without question one of the world’s worst. Carter didn’t explain. Sunday’s voting wasn’t an election. It was a sham. It mocked legitimacy.

It was a predetermined process. The outcome was decided in advance. It was enforced through massive fraud, intimidation, vote buying and cold-blooded murder.

Maria Amparo Pineda wore several hats. She was a Cooperativa el Carbon leader. She was a Central National de Trabajadores del Campo member.

She was LIBRE party’s Cantarranas polling station president. On November 23, she was assassinated. She and Julio Ramon Araujo Maradiaga were murdered after leaving an electoral training session.

On election day morning, five Gracias a Dios department city of Lempira people were killed. State-controlled media called it narco-trafficking violence. Authorities closed the polling station. Voters were shut out.

HSN witnessed numerous major electoral irregularities. They included vote buying. Fascist National party representatives “bought smaller political parties’ polling table credentials.”

Many LiBRE supporters were prevented from voting. Others doing so got pre-marked ballots. They supported the National party.

Poll workers outside a Santa Rosa station were assaulted. Their credentials were stolen.

Masked men held 50 others captive in a Paraiso, Copan hotel. Independent observers got intimidating phone calls saying, “You’re still in town? You better leave.”

Transparency in vote counting was absent. HSN expressed concern that around 20% of LIBRA supporter ballots weren’t counted.

Its observers faced intimidation and harassment. Sunday’s result has no credibility whatever. What happened wasn’t an election. It was predetermined selection.

Melissa Stiehler is HED’s international coordinator. It was part of HSN’s observation team. She expressed deep concern about what happened. Sunday reflected electoral theft writ large.

A detailed report is planned. A snapshot of what went on was as follows:

Human rights abuses included election day anti-democratic events. Military forces surrounded national media transmitters.

Their presence nationwide was hugely intimidating. LIBRE party supporters were targeted. So was free expression.

Electoral violations were rampant. As explained above, many voters got pre-marked ballots. They had no choice.

Cash, food and other handouts bought votes. National party hacks took over polling stations. LIBRE supporters were shut out.

Ballots for registered dead voters were cast. Voting secrecy was denied. Inappropriate campaigning occurred.

Voting entrances were blocked. Underage girls wearing National party t-shirts handed out mock ballots.

Many voting stations opened late. Registered voter lists weren’t present. Soldiers intimidated voters. They were deployed in disproportionately high numbers in LIBRE strongholds.

“The integrity and effectiveness of international election observation (was) severely compromised, said Stiehler.” Detailed information will follow. One example reflects others.

An Olancho observer team “was followed by two vehicles without license plates immediately after leaving the polling station they were observing,” Stiehler explained.

“After frantic and evasive driving from one of their accompaniers, the delegates succeeded in avoiding a confrontation.”

At issue was intimidation. It was subverting democratic fairness. It was attempting to deny it entirely. On Sunday, it was nowhere in sight.

US ambassador Lisa Kubiske acted inappropriately. Despite numerous electoral irregularities, she “recognize(d) the announced results.” She urged respecting the outcome before half the votes were counted.

She falsely claimed legal mechanisms exist to challenge results. Honduras has none. Rampant fraud and other irregularities can’t be contested.

Stiehler expressed great concern going forward. She fears more severe human rights abuses. She denounced America’s role, adding:

“I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn in saying that the US is well aware of the violations that are happening here in Honduras.”

“Despite the Leahy Law (and others prohibiting assistance to governments committing human rights abuses), the US continues to support and aid in increasing militarization in Honduras.”

“It is also not off to say that the US had (its dirty) hand in this election.”

“We believe that the only thing that will change US actions and narratives about this fraud and the massive human rights violations will be pressure, pressure, and more pressure from people like us.”

The National Lawyers Groups sent a 17-member delegation to Honduras. On November 25, they issued the following statement:

“Honduras has a flawed electoral system with many deficiencies including control of the process by political parties, unregulated and undisclosed campaign financing, and inadequate resources, training and voting facilities that disadvantage poor communities.”

“In addition Honduran electoral law provides for no run-off election.”

“Without a runoff election in which a majority of voters choose leadership, the electoral aspirations of two-thirds of Honduran voters who voted for change, are frustrated, and the winner of a mere plurality is denied a real mandate.”

On November 25, the Center for Constitutional Rights headlined “Don’t Rush to Recognize Honduran Election ‘Winner’ Human Rights Group Says.”

“Yesterday’s election in Honduras and subsequent statements by the US Ambassador characterizing the election as ‘transparent’ and accompanied by only few acts of violence are reminiscent of the 2009 election, where the US rushed to validate and help push forward a process as it was being contested by Honduran civil society.”

“There must be an opportunity to do a full and accurate count and fully investigate reports of irregularities and intimidation and threats by authorities.”

“Given the context of widespread opposition to the post-coup government and its violent repression of civil society, CCR urges the international community to do everything possible to ensure respect for and protection of Hondurans’ right to free expression, freedom of the press, and peaceful assembly in the coming days.”

Days before Sunday’s election, Honduran Solidarity Network (HSN) and Alliance for Global Justice (AGJ) delegates were temporarily blocked from visiting a group of campesinos. They’re victims of state-sponsored terrorism.

HSN and AGJ delegates were warned to go back. They were threatened. They were told they would “never leave” the area otherwise.

They ignored the threats. They pushed on by foot. They did so “nervously.” They spent the night. They survived OK. They were lucky.

Honduran immigration agents targeted their Progreso delegations. They were harassed and threatened. They had to cancel planned training exercises. They could have been arrested or worse.

German, Salvadoran, Brazilian and other observers were treated the same way. Police states operate this way.

HSN added the following:

“The aforementioned observations made by HSN delegates were made in good faith by people who voluntarily served as witnesses to the entire electoral process.”

“Given the extensive list of threats and violence before and during the election, and given the hourly revelations of discrepancies in the data on the vote tallies (Acts), and considering the fact that 20% of the votes are held by the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal), the Honduras Solidarity Network cannot and will not in good conscience join in the rubber stamp endorsement of the results as they have been announced by the TSE.”

“We continue to stand with the Honduran people in defense of their human rights and of their struggle to build a Honduras that provides a better life for everyone.”

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

The Chinese air force yesterday scrambled Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets after a dozen American and Japanese military aircraft entered the air defence identification zone (ADIZ) proclaimed by Beijing last weekend in the East China Sea. The incident is the first direct Chinese reaction to a US or Japanese incursion and heightens the danger of a miscalculation leading to a clash and conflict.

Having declared the ADIZ, which overlaps with Japan’s own ADIZ and provocatively includes the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, the Chinese government has come under pressure from hawkish sections of the ruling elite not to back away. The Obama administration immediately challenged the ADIZ by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers into the area on Tuesday without abiding by Chinese rules to provide flight plans, identification and maintain radio contact. Japan and South Korea followed suit on Wednesday, sending military aircraft to the zone.

According to the Chinese Defence Ministry, the Chinese fighters identified two US reconnaissance planes and 10 Japanese military aircraft, including early warning, reconnaissance and fighter aircraft. The statement explained that the Chinese aircraft monitored their American and Japanese counterparts throughout their flights in the ADIZ.

Asked about the Chinese statement, Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren acknowledged the US flights but provided no details. “The US will continue to partner our allies and will operate in the area as normal,” he said. Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera also played down the incident, saying: “We are simply conducting our ordinary warning and surveillance activity like before.”

Far from operating “normally,” the US and Japan have seized upon the Chinese ADIZ to justify their closer military collaboration and build-up in areas adjacent to the Chinese mainland. An American defence official told Bloomberg.com yesterday that the US military was conducting daily flights through the zone without notifying Chinese authorities in advance.

The US and Japanese navies are conducting a major joint exercise, AnnualEx 2013, in waters off Okinawa in Japan’s southern island chain near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The war games involve the aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, as well as dozens of American and Japanese warships, submarines and aircraft.

US 7th fleet commander, Vice Admiral Robert Thomas, reaffirmed that American warplanes would ignore Chinese rules for its ADIZ. “So for us it’s ‘steady as you go.’ Our operations in the East China Sea will continue as they always have.” US air force activities, which include regular reconnaissance flights off the Chinese coast, have in the past led to dangerous incidents, including a mid-air collision near China’s Hainan Island in 2001 that resulted in the downing of a Chinese aircraft and the death of the pilot.

Tensions in the East China Sea have greatly heightened as a result of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” over the past four years. The US has encouraged Japan to remilitarise and take a more aggressive stance in its Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute with China.

Japan’s military build-up has accelerated since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a rightwing nationalist, came to power last December. The Abe government has increased defence spending for the first time in a decade and proclaimed its determination to change the constitution to allow Japan to collaborate more closely with the US military and conduct “pre-emptive” actions.

The latest navy exercises near Okinawa are part of Japan’s strategic shift from the defence of the country’s north against the former Soviet Union, to boosting military forces in the southern island chain—opposite China. Abe has made clear his government’s intention of enforcing Japan’s own ADIZ around the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, threatening to order the shooting down of unmanned Chinese surveillance drones. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan plans to station E-2C early warning aircraft at the Naha base in the Okinawa region and deploy long-range Global Hawk drones to monitor the area.

Abe has exploited the standoff over the China’s air defence zone to ram through legislation this week to establish a US-style National Security Council and controversial new secrecy laws. The National Security Council, which will concentrate foreign and defence policy under the prime minister, is slated to begin operations as early as next week. The secrecy laws, which have passed the lower house, give the state bureaucracy sweeping powers to proclaim “state secrets” and impose harsh penalties on whistleblowers and the media. (See: “Japan’s new state secrecy law”)

The new Chinese leadership of President Xi Jinping has been under internal pressure to respond to Abe’s more aggressive stance, especially over the disputed islets. Like the Japanese government, the Chinese regime is whipping up nationalism, which is particularly directed against its neighbour across the East China Sea, to divert mounting social tensions at home.

In declaring China’s ADIZ, the Xi leadership apparently counted on being able to put pressure on the US-Japan alliance and isolate Japan. An editorial in the hawkish state-run Global Times on Thursday urged the government to pursue this strategy and make Japan the “prime target” of Chinese pressure. The newspaper dismissed criticisms from South Korea and Australia, and opined: “Washington is expected to refrain from confronting Beijing directly in the East China Sea, at least for now.”

In fact, the real driving force behind the confrontation in the East China Sea is Washington, not Tokyo. The Obama administration’s “pivot” or “rebalance” has sought to consolidate a network of alliances, strategic partnerships and military bases throughout Asia, stretching from South Korea and Japan to South East Asia and Australia, and on to South and Central Asia.

Far from driving a wedge between Japan and the US, Washington has leapt on the Chinese ADIZ to forge closer military ties with Japan and ratchet up the pressure on Beijing. South Korea, which China was courting, has swung sharply against Beijing and opposed the Chinese ADIZ, which includes a submerged rock (known as Ieodo in Korea and Suyan in China) claimed by Seoul.

South East Asian countries have largely been silent over the East China Sea dispute, but there are concerns that China will proclaim a similar ADIZ over the South China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia. In a TV interview on Thursday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario warned: “There’s this threat that China will control the air space [in the South China Sea].”

The danger is that political miscalculations and misjudgments by one or more governments can rapidly lead to an escalating confrontation, in which an apparently minor incident can trigger a wider conflict.

US in Secret Talks with Hezbollah

November 30th, 2013 by Keith Jones

Washington has reportedly begun secret talks with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia closely allied with Iran, and whose fighters have helped Syria’s government withstand a US- and Saudi-backed Sunni Islamist insurgency.

Britain is reportedly facilitating the negotiations. According to stories in the Kuwaiti press that were subsequently confirmed by the Jerusalem Post, British diplomats are meeting with Hezbollah representatives to apprise them of the Obama administration’s demands and deliver their responses to Washington.

This roundabout method has supposedly been adopted because the US officially designates both Hezbollah’s military and political wings as terrorist organizations, making it illegal for US officials to meet Hezbollah leaders.

The revelation of the US-Hezbollah talks comes just days after the US and its allies reached an interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Iran’s bourgeois-clerical regime and its regional allies— including Hezbollah, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime, and the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad—have hailed this agreement as a “victory.”

In fact, Iran agreed to roll back its nuclear program and subject it to unprecedentedly intrusive inspections regime in exchange for the US and European Union relaxing only a small fraction of the punitive economic sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

Revelations of wide-ranging US negotiations with Iran’s Middle East allies underscore that the US disputes with Iran were about far more than simply its nuclear program. Washington is moving to mend relations with various Shia populist or bourgeois nationalist forces across the Middle East in order to more effectively dominate the world’s leading oil-exporting region.

Fearing that Iran’s economic crisis could provoke working class-led social unrest, the leadership of the Islamic Republic has signaled that it is ready to make huge concessions to Washington. These include giving the US and European Union energy giants privileged access to Iran’s oil and natural gas and assisting Washington in suppressing opposition to its foreign policy across the Middle East, from Afghanistan to Lebanon.

“If in Geneva a deal was struck, doors to other deals might be possible” an unnamed “senior Iranian official” told the Washington-based Al-Monitor this week. “Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and also Afghanistan just a few weeks before the United States withdraws.” In a message clearly directed at Israel and Saudi Arabia—US regional allies who for their own strategic reasons fear a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran—the Iranian official added: “We prefer that regional powers understand new details are to be added to the equation.”

Over the past week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have launched a diplomatic charm offensive aimed at US allies in region. At the beginning of the week, Turkey’s foreign minister visited Tehran and, at a press conference with Zarif, made a joint appeal for an immediate cease-fire and political settlement in Syria. On Thursday, it was the turn of the UAE foreign minister to be welcomed to Tehran.

Iran has also announced it is considering an invitation from Bahrain to visit the capital, Manama. In an attempt to reassure the kingdom’s Sunni rulers of its support, it stressed that Iran did not instigate the popular revolt against the monarchy mounted by Bahrain’s majority-Shia population.

Rouhani’s mentor, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, has announced that he is ready to travel to Saudi Arabia to mend Tehran’s relations with Riyadh. In an interview with the Financial Times, Rafsanjani, who has repeatedly indicated his unhappiness with Tehran’s backing for the Syrian regime, said Iran “could play a better role” in Syria. He added that “we have no right to interfere” if Syrians want Assad to go.

As the interim nuclear deal was being finalized last weekend, the Obama administration let it be known that it had initiated secret talks with Iran last March and that these talks, which continued over the next six months, paved the way for the nuclear accord.

The Kuwaiti daily, Al-Rai, said the indirect talks between Washington and Hezbollah had been confirmed by senior British diplomatic sources. TheJerusalem Post cited “diplomatic sources in Washington” as saying the talks “are aimed at keeping tabs on the changes in the region and the world, and [to] prepare for the upcoming return of Iran to the international community.”

The US is exploring to what extent Hezbollah is prepared to accommodate US strategic interests. Immediately at issue is Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian war and its readiness to assist the US in working out a “political solution” that would see much of the US-backed, Islamist-led opposition brought into a “transitional government” in Damascus.

Less than three months ago the Obama administration was on the brink of launching war on Syria, a war that could have rapidly triggered war with Iran. Instead, it has chosen to see if it can harness Tehran to its strategic agenda, using it and its allies to help stabilize the region under US hegemony. One of its leading concerns is concentrating its military resources on the so-called “pivot to Asia”—an effort to militarily isolate, and if necessary, confront China.

Like Tehran, Hezbollah has indicated that it is looking for a bargain, welcoming Tehran’s own overtures to the US and entering into secret talks with Washington. So as not to disrupt this process, both Tehran and Hezbollah have chosen to downplay the significance of the November 19 bombing at Iran’s Lebanese embassy, which killed 6 Iranians and 17 passers-by in a Shia Beirut neighborhood dominated by Hezbollah.

Israel, meanwhile, is clearly disturbed by the reports of secret talks between Washington and Hezbollah. While there has been no official Israeli comment, within hours of the talks being revealed, the Jerusalem Post carried a report that claimed it has learned from army sources that Hezbollah “is carrying out massive preparations” for war with Israel.

The report begins: “On both sides of the Israel-Lebanon border, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and Hezbollah are quietly and intensively preparing for the next clash between them, a conflict both expect will surpass previous wars, in the scope of firepower each side will seek to employ.”

Japanese (And American) Governments Go to Extreme Lengths

Japan and the U.S. are doing everything they can to cover up the danger of the Fukushima crisis.

The Daily Beast notes:

The Japanese government, which already has a long history of cover-ups and opaqueness, is on its way to becoming even less open and transparent after the lower house the Diet, Japan’s parliament, passed the Designated Secrets Bill on Tuesday. With new powers to classify nearly anything as a state secret and harsh punishments for leakers that can easily be used to intimidate whistleblowers and stifle press freedom, many in Japan worry that the if the bill becomes law it will be only the first step towards even more severe erosions of freedom in the country.

***

Even politicians inside the ruling bloc are saying, “It can’t be denied that another purpose is to muzzle the press, shut up whistleblowers, and ensure that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima ceases to be an embarrassment before the Olympics.”

***

The new law would enact harsher punishment to leakers and ominously would allow journalists who obtained information by “inappropriate means” and whistleblowers to be jailed for up to ten years. The law would also allow the police to raid the offices of media organizations and seize evidence at their discretion.

***

The bill has even grants no longer existent agencies the power to classify secrets.

***

Despite the bill’s enlargement of the state’s power over information, it contains no oversight process to act as a check on ministries and government agencies designating large amounts of information as ‘secret’ for capricious or self-interested reasons.

***

Masako Mori, the Minister of Justice, has declared that nuclear related information will most likely be a designated secret. For the Abe administration this would be fantastic way to deal with the issue of tons of radiated water leaking from the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant since the triple meltdown in March of 2011.There seems to be no end to stopping the toxic waste leaks there but the new legislation would allow the administration to plug the information leakspermanently.

***

Mizuho Fukushima, former leader of the Social Democratic Party, compared the bill to the pre-World War II Peace Maintenance Preservation Laws and other Secrecy laws at the time, remarking that there was a time in police-state Japan when the weather reports could be considered “secret.”

““Once you open the door to such kind of laws, the government will have the right to designate anything as a state secret and by speaking about it or mentioning it, you can be arrested and prosecuted.” Ms. Fukushima explained, “Especially during war time, it was very difficult for defendants and lawyers to fight their court cases, because they were not told what exactly what was the state secret that they had been accused of having revealed.”

Outspoken Upper House Councilor Taro Yamamoto, who is known to be a strong supporter of investigative journalism, minces no words: “The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state. I strongly believe that this secrecy bill represents a planned coup d’état by a group of politicians and bureaucrats,” he warned.

While his statement may seem alarmist, even a senior official of the National Police Agency agrees. “I would say this is Abe’s attempt to make sure that his own shady issues aren’t brought to light, and a misuse of legislative power.

***

The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association, the Civil Broadcasters Federation, and most major news organizations in Japan’s have expressed staunch opposition to the bill.

***

Japan is about to take a giant step back into its oppressive past. When one also considers Prime Minister Abe’s stated ambition to restart Japan’s nuclear power plants and remove Article 9 from the constitution, the article which prevents Japan from waging war, it seems like the Empire of The Sun may be moving towards darker times.

Indeed, Ex-SKF notes that :

A citizen was forcibly removed from the balcony in the Diet where he was observing the debate of the State Secrecy Protection Law in the Lower House on November 26, 2013, as he shouted his opposition to the passage of the law. His mouth was stuffed with cloth so that he couldn’t shout any more while being removed by several guards against his will.

(From Tokyo Shinbun, 11/26/2013, via this tweet)

What’s even scarier to me than the man being forcibly removed by the guards is people sitting near him. They just sit there as if nothing is happening. They are not even looking; the one in the same row even looks away.

It’s not just Fukushima … and It’s not Just Japan

It’s not just Fukushima …

Governments have been covering up nuclear meltdowns for 50 years.

There has been a cover-up by the American government ever since the Fukushima earthquake. TheAmerican (and Canadian) authorities virtually stopped monitoring airborn radiation, and are not testing fish for radiation.

The U.S. government increased allowable radiation levels so that we could be exposed to radiation. Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen says that high-level friends in the State Department told him that Hillary Clinton signed a pact with her counterpart in Japan agreeing that the U.S. will continue buying seafood from Japan, despite that food not being tested for radioactive materials.

The American government controls Japanese nuclear policy. And the Japanese would never have proposed such a draconian bill without U.S. backing. Indeed, the U.S. Charge d’Affairs Kurt Tong said of the Japanese bill:

It’s a positive step that would make Japan a “more effective alliance partner.”

Earlier this year, the acting EPA director signed a revised version of the EPA’s Protective Action Guide for radiological incidents, which radically relaxed the safety guidelines agencies follow in the wake of a nuclear-reactor meltdown or other unexpected release of radiation. EPA whistleblowers called it “a public health policy only Dr. Strangelove could embrace.”

Whistleblowers at American nuclear facilities (like all other types of whistleblowers) have also beenmercilessly harassed.

It’s not just nuclear accidents … it’s everything.

The American government repeatedly covers up how bad things are, uses claims of national security to keep everything in the dark, and changes basic rules and definitions to allow the game to continue. Seethisthisthis and this.

When BP – through criminal negligence – blew out the Deepwater Horizon oil well, the governmenthelped cover it up (and here). As just one example, the government approved the massive use of ahighly-toxic dispersant to temporarily hide the oil.

The government also changed the testing standards for seafood to pretend that higher levels of toxic PAHs in our food was business-as-usual.

The government covers up the disgusting and unhealthy natureof much industrially-produced food.

The government’s response to the outbreak of mad cow disease was simple: it stopped testing for mad cow, and prevented cattle ranchers and meat processors from voluntarily testing their own cows (and seethis and this)

The EPA just raised the allowable amount of a dangerous pesticide by 3,000% … pretending that it won’t have adverse health effects.

In response to new studies showing the substantial dangers of genetically modified foods, the government passed legislation more or less pushing it onto our plates.

The Centers for Disease Control – the lead agency tasked with addressing disease in America – covered up lead poisoning in children in the Washington, D.C. area.

The former head of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy says that the government whitewashed the severity of the Tennessee coal ash accident.

And after drug companies were busted for using fraudulent data for drug approval, the FDA allowed the potentially dangerous drugs to stay on the market.

Indeed, the cynical might say that the main function of government these days is to throw money at giant corporations and to cover up for them when their misdeeds are revealed.

And the American government is censoring reporters at least as much as Japan.

Noam Chomsky and the Willful Ignorance of 9/11

November 29th, 2013 by Kevin Ryan

In response to a question at the University of Florida recently, Noam Chomsky claimedthat there were only “a miniscule number of architects and engineers” who felt that the official account of WTC Building 7 should be treated with skepticism.  Chomsky followed-up by saying, “a tiny number—a couple of them—are perfectly serious.”

If signing your name and credentials to a public petition on the subject means being serious, then Noam Chomsky’s tiny number begins at 2,100, not counting scientists and other professionals. Why would Chomsky make such an obvious exaggeration when he has been presented with contradictory facts many times?

I’ve personally had over thirty email exchanges with Chomsky. In those exchanges, he has agreed that it is “conceivable” that explosives might have been used at the WTC. But, he wrote, if that were the case it would have had to be Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden who had made it so.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how many professionals or intellectuals are willing to to admit it. The facts remain that the U.S. government’s account for the destruction of the WTC on 9/11 is purely false.  There is no science behind the government’s explanation for WTC7 or forthe Twin Towers and everyone, including the government, admits that WTC Building 7 experienced free fall on 9/11. There is no explanation for that other than the use of explosives.

The obviously bogus “tiny number” statement from Chomsky is only one of several such absurdities the man uttered in his lecture response. Here are a few of the others.

“[Scientists seeking the truth about 9/11] are not doing what scientists and engineers do when they think they’ve discovered something. What you do, when you think you have discovered something, is you write articles in scientific journals [he admits to “one or two minor articles”], give talks at the professional societies, and go to the Civil Engineering Department at MIT, or Florida or wherever you are, and present your results.”

I’ve copied Chomsky on more than two peer-reviewed scientific articles in mainstream journals that describe evidence for demolition at the WTC. Therefore he knows that this statement is not true. And I’ve given dozens of talks around the U.S. and Canada that focused on the WTC demolition theory, many of which were at universities.

I’ve also pointed out that MIT’s civil engineering professor Eduardo Kausel made elementary mistakes in his public comments about the WTC disaster. Kausel claimed inScientific American that the WTC towers were “never designed for the the intense jet fuel fires—a key design omission.”  Kausel also claimed that jet fuel from the aircraft “softened or melted the structural elements—floor trusses and columns—so that they became like chewing gum.”  At the risk of making a Chomsky-like exaggeration, I’ll venture that nearly everyone today knows that these statements are false.

Chomsky went on in an attempt to belittle, and downplay the sacrifices of, people seeking the truth.

“There happen to be a lot of people around who spent an hour on the internet who think they know a lot of physics but it doesn’t work like that.”

“Anyone who has any record of, any familiarity, with political activism knows that this is one of the safest things you can do. It’s almost riskless. People take risks far beyond this constantly, including scientists and engineers. I could, have run through, and can run through many examples. Maybe people will laugh at you but that’s about it. It’s almost a riskless position.”

Chomsky knows that I was fired from my job as Site Manager at Underwriters Laboratories for publicly challenging the government’s investigation into the WTC tragedy.  He knows that many others have suffered similar responses as well, including Brigham Young University physicist Steven Jones and University of Copenhagen chemist Niels Harrit, who were forced into retirement for speaking out. And although everyone knows that researchers and universities today depend on billions of grant dollars from the government, Chomsky implies that such funding could never be impacted in any way by questioning of the government’s most sensitive political positions.

The “hour on the internet” nonsense is ludicrous, of course, and Chomsky knows it well. Jones and Harrit have better scientific credentials than some MIT professors and we have all spent many years studying the events of 9/11. I’ve spent over a decade, and have contributed to many books and scientific articles, on the subject.

Pandering to the hecklers in the crowd, Chomsky summarized his simplistic (public) position on the events of 9/11.

“However, there’s a much more deeper issue which has been brought up repeatedly and I have yet to hear a response to it. There is just overwhelming evidence that the Bush administration wasn’t involved—very elementary evidence. You don’t have to be a physicist to understand it, you just have to think for a minute. There’s a couple of facts which are uncontroversial:

#1—The Bush Administration desperately wanted to invade Iraq. (He goes on to say that there were good reasons, including that Iraq was “right in the middle if the world’s energy producing region.)

#2—They didn’t blame 9/11 on Iraqis, they blamed it on Saudis—that’s their major ally.

#3—Unless they’re total lunatics, they would have blamed it on Iraqis if they were involved in any way.” He continues to say that “there was no reason to invade Afghanistan” which “has been mostly a waste of time.”

Basically, these three “overwhelming” reasons boil down to one reason—Chomsky assumes that if the Bush Administration was involved it would have immediately blamed Iraq for 9/11. Of course, Bush Administration leaders did immediately blame Iraq for 9/11 and they did so repeatedly. That was one of the two original justifications given by the Bush Administration for invading Iraq.

Moreover, Chomsky most definitely received a response to his “deeper issue” when he received a copy of my new book Another Nineteen several months before his comments.  The book gives ample reasons—meaning actual overwhelming evidence—to suspect that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and nineteen of their colleagues were behind the 9/11 attacks. After writing that he was “glad to learn about the new book,” he sent his mailing address for a free copy. Chomsky acknowledged receiving the book in August and wrote to me that he was “pleased to have a copy of the book, and hope to be able to get to it before too long.”

Therefore, Chomsky has either ignored the response to his one major concern for several months or he knows that his concern is no longer valid. What would make him feign ignorance in such a way?  Perhaps it is the fact that he would lose a great deal of face if he were to finally admit that there is much more to the story of 9/11.

Regardless, when a tiny number begins at 2,100 and “just overwhelming evidence” to exonerate the Bush Administration boils down to one bad assumption, we are again reminded of the power that 9/11 holds. When presented with substantial evidence for complicity on the part of corporate and government leaders, the obvious becomes either undeniable or an emotional cue to dissemble.

Double Standards for US War Crimes

November 29th, 2013 by John LaForge

Barack Obama and George W. Bush at the White House.

U.S. pundits cheer when some African warlord or East European brute is dragged before an international tribunal, but not at the thought of justice being meted out to George W. Bush or other architects of post-9/11 torture and aggressive war on Iraq, as John LaForge notes.

In response to regular reports of atrocities by U.S. soldiers, drone controllers, pilots and interrogators, the White House routinely tries to help. Every president promises to honor U.S. armed forces and says they are the finest military of all, etc.

At Veterans’ Day ceremonies, president fill-in-the-blank boast, “America is and always will be the greatest nation on Earth.” This past Nov. 11, President Barack Obama said that since 9/11 the U.S. is “defining one of the greatest generations of military service this country has ever produced,” and, of course,“[W]e have the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped military in the world.”

Really? On Veterans’ Day 2011, one headline blared: “American Soldier is Convicted of Killing Afghan Civilians for Sport.” U.S. aggression, occupation, torture of prisoners, massacres, drone attacks, offshore penal colonies and sexual assaults against our own service members, take the luster from the official self-image of “exceptionality.”

In a bold invitation, Human Rights Watch has called on 154 parties to the UN Convention on Torture to bring charges against U.S. officials under explicit language in the treaty, ratified by the US in 1994.

The treaty requires such action when reputable allegations are not prosecuted by the accused governments, and ours doesn’t need any more evidence, just some of which may be found in these mainstream U.S. media stories:

• “US Practiced Torture after 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes” (Apr. 16, 2013)

• “Afghans Say an American Tortured Civilians” (May 13, 2013)

• “CIA Drones Kill Civilians in Pakistan” (Mar. 18, 2011)

• “GI Kills 16 Afghans, Including 9 Children, in Attacks on Homes” (Mar. 12, 2012)

• “Libya Effort is Called Violation of War Act” (May 26, 2011)

• “NATO and Afghan forces killed 310 civilians over the same period, mostly from airstrikes, the UN reports” (Aug. 3, 2009)

• “100,000 Iraqis killed since U.S. invasion analysis says” (Oct. 29, 2004)

• “U.N. Chief Ignites Firestorm by Calling Iraq War ‘Illegal’” (Sep. 17, 2004);

• “Iraq Says Blast in Baghdad Kills Dozens of Civilians: U.S. Blamed” (Mar. 29, 2003)

• “U.S. Presses for Total Exemption from War Crimes Court” (Oct. 9, 2002)

• “Pentagon Says U.S. Airstrike Killed Women and Children” (Mar. 13, 2002)

• “Bombing Necessary Despite Toll on Civilians, U.S. Envoy Says” (Jan. 9, 2002);

• “U.S. helicopters fire on women, children in Somalia” (Sep. 10, 1993)

• “US forces buried enemy forces alive” (Sep. 13, 1991)

• “200,000 died in Gulf War, and counting” (May 30, 1991)

The Military’s Dirty War on Women

Atrocities against people of occupied or targeted countries aren’t the only ones accumulating. According to a July 2012 report by the Pentagon, over 25,000 sexual assaults occurred in fiscal year 2012, a 37 percent increase from FY 2011. About “500 men and women were assaulted each week last year,” USA Today reported July 25. See: “Reports of Military Sexual Assault Rise Sharply,” NY Times, Nov. 7; & “Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm: 26,000 Cases Last Year,” May 7, 2013.

Throughout the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, according to the Pentagon, 74 percent of females report one or more barriers to reporting sexual assault. In addition, 62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault indicated they experienced some form of retaliation.

This is why, according to Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin., more than 85 percent of all military sexual assaults go unreported. In fact, Sen. Baldwin says, “overall rates of reporting dropped from 13.5 percent in 2011 to 9.8 percent in 2012.”

In view of the staggering numbers, and to help end the cover-up and suppression of sexual assault reporting, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, has proposed removing investigation and disposal of such allegations from the military chain of command and place these cases with military prosecutors.

Currently, commanders — superior to victims and perpetrators — decide whether or not to prosecute an accused G.I. Commanders even have the power to reduce or overturn a judge or jury’s conviction.

Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, S. 967, would give military prosecutors, instead of commanders, the independent authority to decide whether or not felony cases go to trial. The proposal has earned broad bipartisan support. It would reform the Code of Military Justice to make the system independent at the felony level.

A related bill, the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act — S. 548 — sponsored by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would prevent those convicted of sexual crimes from serving in the military, improve tracking and review of sexual assault claims in the military, and help ensure victims have access to criminal  justice.

Presidential speeches can’t permanently obscure our record of military outrages. Some congressional reform could at least confront the ones committed against women in uniform.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its quarterly newsletter, and writes for PeaceVoice.

Washington’s move to fly nuclear-capable bombers over China’s eastern air defense zone as a forceful endorsement of Japan’s claims over disputed islands is both needlessly confrontational and totally counterproductive.

The territorial dispute over an uninhabited chain of islands in the East China Sea – referred to as the Senkaku Islands by Japan and the Diaoyu Islands by China – has been a highly contentious issue in Sino-Japanese relations for decades, and the issue has resurfaced in recent times as both sides assert their sovereignty over the area.

Mass protests were seen in China targeting Japan’s embassy and Japanese products, shops and restaurants when Tokyo’s far-right former Governor Shintaro Ishihara called on Japan to use public money to buy the islands from private Japanese owners in 2012.

The issue stirs passions in Chinese society because Tokyo’s claims are seen as an extension of the brutal legacy of the Japanese occupation and a direct challenge to strong historical evidence that has legitimized Chinese sovereignty over the area since ancient times.

Moreover, the official stance of the government in Beijing is that Japan’s invalid claims over the islands were facilitated and legitimized by a backdoor-deal between Tokyo and Washington that directly challenges international law and post-World War II international treaties.

The right-wing government of Shinzo Abe in Japan has abandoned the passive approach to the issue taken by previous governments and has played on nationalist sentiments by asserting Tokyo’s firm position over the islands, which are internationally administered by Japan.

Chinese and Korean societies see Abe’s administration as whitewashing Japan’s history as a ruthless occupier and imperial power, and have lodged angry protests over his calls to revise Japan’s 1995 war apology and amend Article 9 of its pacifist constitution, which forbids Japan from having a standing army. China’s recent moves to introduce an air defense zone over the disputed islands have come as a response to months of aggressive Japanese military exercises in the area.

Beijing has denounced the presence of the Japanese navy in the region and Japan’s numerous threats to fire warning shots against Chinese planes that violate Japan’s air defense zone, which defiantly stretches only 130km from China’s mainland and includes the disputed islands. In addition to claims by Taiwan, both China and Japan have strengthened their rights over the islands due to significant oil and mineral resources that have yet to be exploited there.

Let history be the judge

Given legacies of both China and Japan as neighboring civilizations that morphed in modern nation-states, ancient history is sewn into conflicts like the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute. The earliest historical records of the island being under China’s maritime jurisdiction date back to 1403 in texts prepared by imperial envoys of the Ming Dynasty; during the Qing Dynasty, the islands were placed under the jurisdiction of the local government of Taiwan province. Maps published throughout the 1800s in France, Britain, and the United States all recognize the Diaoyu Islands as a territory of China.

Japan eventually defeated the Qing Dynasty in the late 1800s during its expansionary campaigns in the region and strong-armed China into signing the humiliating Treaty of Shimonoseki that officially ceded Taiwan and surrounding islands, including the Diaoyu, which the Japanese renamed to ‘Senkaku Islands’in 1900. Following the defeat and surrender of Japan in World War II, international treaties such as the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation legally returned all territories stolen by Japan to pre-revolutionary China.

Beijing accuses US forces in post-war Japan of unilaterally and arbitrarily expanding its jurisdiction to include the Diaoyu Islands shortly after the Chinese revolution in the early 1950s, which were ‘returned’to Japan in the 1970s in the Okinawa Reversion Agreement, a move condemned by China and the US-allied Taiwan authorities.

Japan has argued since the 1970s that the Diaoyu was not part of the affiliated islands that were ceded to Japan by the Qing Dynasty (despite strong evidence to the contrary), and that the islands were placed under the administration of the United States following World War II and ‘returned’ to Japan. The view from Beijing, and especially from within the Xi Jinping administration, is that this case constitutes an illegal occupation of Chinese territory that seriously violates the obligations Japan should undertake according to international law.

Tokyo’s position on the issue really doesn’t hold water considering that 19th-century Japanese government documents available for viewing in Japan’s National Archives suggest that Japan clearly knew and recognized the Diaoyu Islands as Chinese territory.

Washington’s B-52 diplomacy

Beijing’s announcement of an air defense zone over the Diaoyu Islands would naturally be seen as controversial due to the dispute with Japan, and because Washington implicitly backs Tokyo’s claims, the US administration has taken to framing the issue so as to portray China as the hostile actor and principal belligerent.

China has defended its air defense declaration as an extension of its entitlement to uphold its national sovereignty and territorial integrity; Beijing has also pointed out how the US and Japan have established their own zones decades ago, which extend to the frontline borders of other countries in some cases. Beijing’s air defense declaration essentially asserts the right to identify, monitor and possibly take military action against any aircraft that enters the area, and despite the US backing Japan’s right to uphold a similar zone, the White House declared China’s moves “unnecessarily inflammatory.”

Just days after the Chinese government issued its defense declaration, the US military deployed two unarmed (nuclear-capable) B-52 bombers from its airbase in Guam that embarked on a 1500-mile flight into the Chinese air defense umbrella before turning back. The symbolic but forceful display by Washington is essentially the equivalent of the Pentagon giving the middle finger to the Chinese government.

The maneuver was apparently part of a ‘long-planned’ exercise, but the timing and the message sent a clearly hostile and deeply arrogant message to Beijing. China claims that it monitored the US bombers in the zone and took no action, and as Beijing exercises restraint, Tokyo and Washington openly stoke tensions and practice hypocritical double standards.

The United States and Japan both operate vast unilateral air defense zones, and yet Washington has the cheek to childishly reject the legitimate defensive claims of others.

To quote Xinhua columnist Wu Liming’s characterization of US-Japan policy, “Their logic is simple: they can do it while China cannot, which could be described with a Chinese saying, ‘the magistrates are free to burn down houses while the common people are forbidden even to light lamps.’”

The message derived from Washington’s actions perfectly illustrates the nature of the so-called ‘Pivot to Asia’, that even though America’s political representatives cannot be relied on to fulfill their long-planned appointments to visit the region, the Pentagon can always be relied on to deliver reminders that the US seeks hegemony in Asia.

The truth is that China and Japan have too much to lose as the second- and third-largest economies in the world to allow this issue to slide into a military confrontation, and cooler heads will likely prevent the latter scenario.

Given the contention around this dispute and the destabilizing effects it could have on the global economy if the situation were to deteriorate into a military conflict, it would be fundamental for the US to instead remain neutral and promote a peaceful compromise and settlement to this issue.

Beijing and Tokyo should both take their claims to the UN to settle this issue indefinitely if a mutual compromise to jointly develop the disputed region cannot be agreed upon.

Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached on Twitter or at [email protected] 

Hunger in America

November 29th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

It’s hard giving thanks when you’re hungry. It’s harder living in the world’s richest country. It’s harder still knowing government officials don’t care. It’s hardest of all wondering how you’ll get by.

More below on growing hunger and deprivation. It’s increasing in America at a time trillions of dollars go for warmaking, corporate handouts, and other benefits for rich elites.

Giving thanks predated the republic. In 1621, Plymouth Pilgrims did so. They had nothing to do with originating the idea.

Native Americans did. They gave thanks for annual fall harvests. They did it centuries before settlers arrived.

On November 26, 1789, George Washington proclaimed the first national thanksgiving day.

He called it “a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.”

In 1863, Lincoln used the occasion to boost Union Army morale and patriotic fervor.

He “invite(d) (his) fellow citizens to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

He “fervently implore(d) the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of he nation and to restore it to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.”

He didn’t live long enough to see it. Government officials today exploit Thanksgiving. They promote the illusion of US exceptionalism, moral and cultural superiority.

Social inequality, moral degeneration, and police state lawlessness reflect today’s reality. Constitutional rights don’t matter.

War on humanity persists. Corporate crooks go unpunished. Democracy is a convenient illusion. Powerful monied interests run things.

Ordinary people are hugely deprived. Growing needs go unaddressed. Government officials able to make a difference don’t care.

Thanksgiving has many disturbing ironies. Presidents annually issue a “pardon.” It spares a preselected turkey’s life. It does so by proclamation. This year two were spared.

It’s unclear precisely when the tradition began. Lincoln did so. Thanksgiving day 1963 was November 28. Kennedy was assassinated six days earlier. Before his death, he let one turkey live. “We’ll just let this one grow,” he said.

Nixon began sending turkeys to a petting farm near Washington. He did so after a White House photo-op ceremony. No formal pardon was given.

GHW Bush was the first president to do it. On November 14, 1989, he said a preselected turkey was “granted a presidential pardon as of right now.”

Obama issued annual presidential pardons. On Wednesday, he spared two turkeys.

“The office of the presidency, the most powerful position in the world, brings with it many awesome and solemn responsibilities,” he said. “This is not one of them.”

“Tomorrow, as we gather with our own friends and family, we’ll count ourselves lucky that there’s more to be thankful for than we can ever say and more to be hopeful for than we can ever imagine.”

A November 27 White House press release said in part:

“On Wednesday, November 27, 2013, President Obama will pardon the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a ceremony on the North Portico.”

“The President will celebrate the 66th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation, reflect upon the time-honored traditions of Thanksgiving, and wish American families a warm, safe, and healthy holiday.”

“After the pardoning, the turkeys will be driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens.”

“The National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during ‘Christmas at Mount Vernon,’ a traditional program through January 6.”

“The turkeys will then travel to their permanent home at Morven Park’s Turkey Hill, the historic turkey farm located at the home of former Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis (1918-1922) in Leesburg, Virginia.”

Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania, gave President Obama’s family two dressed turkeys that will be donated to a local area food bank.”

They need much more than that nationwide. Hunger in America is real. Millions are affected.

Official numbers understate a growing crisis. Congress ignores it. Food stamps were cut when they’re most needed. Further cuts are planned.

On December 31, millions will lose extended unemployment benefits unless Congress renews them. Both parties show little inclination to do so. Bipartisan complicity reflects indifference.

On July 28, AP headlined ”Exclusive: Signs of Declining Economic Security,” saying:

“Four out of 5 US adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.”

It’s a disturbing “sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.”

“Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized US economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.”

Government data fall short of explaining things. Conditions are much worse than official reports.

Most Americans struggle to get by. Impoverishment or close to it affect them. So do millions experiencing hunger.

Franklin Roosevelt instituted the first Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It began in May 1939. In 1941, he pledged freedom from want.

On January 11, 1944, he delivered his last State of the Union address. He proposed a second bill of rights.

“This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights,” he said.

“They were our rights to life and liberty.”

“As our nation has grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.”

His solution was “economic bill of rights.” He wanted one guaranteeing:

  • employment with a living wage;
  • freedom from unfair competition and monopolies;
  • housing;
  • medical care;
  • education; and
  • social security.

Imagine if he’d lived long enough to implement it. Imagine this type America today. Hunger, homelessness, unemployment and poverty wouldn’t be major problems.

State-sponsored class war exacerbates them. Growing millions need help. They face increasing hardships.

Force-fed austerity harms America’s most disadvantaged. Their numbers are far greater than most people think.

Half of US households are impoverished or bordering it. Growing millions struggle to get by. They haven’t enough to live on.

Most households with one or more workers live from paycheck to paycheck. They have little or no savings.

They’re one missed pay day away from being unable to handle daily expenses. They risk hunger, homelessness and deep poverty.

They live in the world’s richest country. It spurns its most disadvantaged. Doing so swells their numbers. They suffer out of sight and mind.

Banks, other corporate favorites and super-rich elites are disproportionately favored. America was never beautiful. It’s less so than ever today. It’s dark side reflects reality.

Obama is no Roosevelt. He’s polar opposite. Anti-populism defines his agenda. Transferring America’s wealth to its most well-off is official policy.

He wants vital New Deal/Great Society programs eliminated. He wants them privatized en route to doing so.

Throughout his tenure, he instituted numerous social benefit cuts. He’s got more in mind. He’s heading America toward third world status. He lies claiming otherwise.

Hungry Americans don’t matter. Half or more are children. Many attending schools with hot breakfasts or lunches may get their only decent daily meal.

Most households receiving food stamps have at least one employed member. According to the Food Journal, they “typically include a child, elderly person or a disable person, and a gross income of $744 a month.”

Average rents nationwide exceed $1,200 monthly. A tiny upscale Kansas City, MO 800 square-foot one bedroom apartment costs about $1,000 a month.

Median rents in America’s least expensive cities range from $623 to $730 on average. It’s a far cry from much cheaper earlier times.

Households earning $700+ a month struggle from day to day to get by. They need help doing so. Washington provides increasingly less during hard times.

Republicans and Democrats don’t give a damn. Today’s America is a let ‘em eat cake society.

Growing millions are on their own sink or swim. Protracted Main Street Depression era conditions persist. Things are getting worse, not better.

Thanksgiving is no time for celebration. Not when hunger reflects daily reality for millions. It’s been this way for years. Major media editors largely ignore it.

On November 25, 2009, a New York Times editorial headlined, ”A Thanksgiving Toast,” saying:

“Sitting down with friends and family today, there will be thanks for the steady currents, flowing out of the past, that have brought us to this table….And there will be prayerful thanks for the future.”

In November 2010, dismissive Washington Post editors headlined ”Thanksgiving’s unchanging appeal,” saying:

We’re “fortunate to be alive and fed and sheltered, and the proper response to our good fortune is not self-satisfaction but gratitude.”

Fact check

Poverty, homelessness and hunger are at Depression era levels. Feeding America (FA) is Chicago-based. It calls itself the nation’s “leading domestic hunger-relief charity.”

It serves the needy “through a nationwide network of member food banks.”

In February 2010, it issued a report titled “Hunger in America 2010.” In 2014, it plans updating it. Conditions now are much worse.

They were bad enough then. About 5.7 million Americans needed emergency food aid. It was over one-fourth more than in 2005.

It said one in eight Americans are food insecure. Around 14 million children were affected. It’s about 16 million now. They don’t get enough food to eat.

FA calls food insecurity “a complex, multifaceted phenomenon that varies along a continuum of successive stages as it becomes more severe.”

Food secure households lets them “access…enough food for an active, health life.”

“(T)he existence of so many people without secure access to adequate nutritious food represents a serious national concern.”

“More than one in three client households are experiencing very low food security – or hunger – a 54 percent increase” compared to data FA compiled in a 2006 report.

At the time, former FA CEO Vicki Escarra said:

“Clearly, the economic recession, resulting in dramatically increasing unemployment nationwide, has driven unprecedented, sharp increases in the need for emergency food assistance and enrollment in federal nutrition programs.”

“Hunger in America 2010 exposes the absolutely tragic reality of just how many people in our nation don’t have enough to eat.”

“Millions of our clients are families with children finding themselves in need of food assistance for the very first time.”

“It’s morally reprehensible that we live in the wealthiest nation in the world where one in six people are struggling to make choices between food and other basic services.”

On November 27, FA’s CEO Bob Aiken said in part:

“With the holiday season here and with many of us sitting down to a table full of food this Thanksgiving, it’s hard not to reflect on the 49 million people in our country who struggle with hunger.”

“And it’s especially hard not to think of those families who earlier this month saw their SNAP benefits cut, further straining their food budgets.”

“We’ve seen throughout our network of food banks the impact that these cuts are already beginning to have – with longer lines and an anticipated growth in need.”

“Our food banks are stretched and charity alone can’t make up for this cut to federal assistance.”

“And with the possibility of further cuts to the program via the farm bill, there is real concern that the need for food will not be met.”

“(W)e know hunger isn’t seasonal – it’s a year-round problem. It’s our job to make sure that we shine a light on this issue all year, not just around the holidays.”

In 2012, FA said 49 million Americans were food insecure. It affected 17.6 million households.

About seven million households experienced “very low food security.” Households with children reported “a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20 percent compared to 11.0 percent.”

Food insecurity persists across America. It’s in every county. It ranges from 2.4% in Slope County, ND to 35.2% in Holmes County, MS.

America’s national average is 14.7%. Ten states are significantly higher:

Mississippi: 20.9%

Arkansas: 19.7%

Texas: 18.4%

Alabama: 17.9%

North Carolina: 17%

Georgia: 16.9%

Missouri: 16.7%

Nevada: 16.6%

Ohio: 16.1%

California: 15.6%

Hunger in the world’s richest country is intolerable. It’s unconscionable. It persists. It’s worsening. It’s the shame of an uncaring nation.

Families without enough to eat aren’t celebrating. They’re struggling to find enough food to survive. Bipartisan complicity ignores them.

Anti-populism is official policy. Harder than ever hard times persist. Failure to address it reflects America’s dark side.

Equity and justice aren’t in its vocabulary. It bears repeating. Today’s America is a let ‘em eat cake society. Hard times keep getting harder.

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/hunger-america/

San Juan, P.R., 24 de Nov. – En el quincuagésimo  aniversario del asesinato del presidente estadounidense John F. Kennedy (JFK), los verdaderos criminales han iniciado una campaña de mentiras, cuyo objetivo es mantener la confusión existente sobre este acontecimiento tan importante en la historia moderna de los EUA y el mundo. Al igual que el ministro de Propaganda de Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, los asesinos intelectuales han repetido constantemente las dos conspiraciones “más creíbles”, pero completamente falsas:

(a) Como respuesta a la campana de los Kennedy contra el “crimen organizado”, la Mafia ordeno su ejecución.

(b) Para evitar los intentos de asesinatos contra Fidel Castro los cubanos y los soviéticos planificaron su asesinato.

Cuando se escudriña la prensa internacional, particularmente la de los EUA, uno se da cuenta de la genialidad de Goebbels ya que estos medios de comunicación se enfocan en los pormenores del asesinato sin tomar en consideración las causas estratégicas que tuvieron los autores intelectuales para ponerle fin a la vida del Presidente de los EUA y el legado progresista de los Kennedy.

Durante la administración del presidente Dwight Eisenhower (1956-1960) este general retirado planifico una cumbre con el premier soviético Nikita Khrushchew, que fue saboteada por la CIA. Esto no solo irrito al Pdte., sino que provoco que en su último Mensaje a la Nación fustigara al poderoso “Complejo Militar-Industrial” (CMI).

Este análisis intenta contestar la siguiente pregunta: Quiénes sacaron provecho del asesinato de JFK y que cambios provoco dicha muerte en la política doméstica y exterior de los EUA?  Desafortudamente, las investigaciones se han centrado en los detalles, y no, en el meollo del asunto: Quien se benefició del asesinato de JFK?

La presidencia de JFK se caracterizó por su agenda nacionalista y progresista, cuyo lema era: “lo importante no es lo que la Nación pueda hacer por ti, sino lo que tú puedas hacer por el País”. A continuación detallaremos los aspectos más sobresalientes de la verdadera agenda nacionalista y progresista de JFK, que provoco tal enfado del CMI que no tuvieron más remedio que ordenar la eliminación física del Presidente y de cualquier otro político que se atreviera a desafiarlos, tal fue el caso de su hermano Robert Kennedy, y el reverendo pacifista y ganador del Premio Nobel de la Paz,  Martin Luther King.

El Patriota Irlandés-Americano contra el Imperio Ingles

Cuando JFK regresa a Boston y decide ingresar a la política “su objetivo era retomar las políticas de Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) y aplastar al Imperialismo”, según el historiador norteamericano Anton Chaitkin en su más reciente ensayo, “John F. Kennedy contra el Imperio” (EIR, 6/9/2013) – este ensayo y su bibliografía son la base de esta investigación –. En su primer discurso público a veteranos de la Legión Americana (18/11/1945) JFK compara el record político de FDR con el líder conservador británico Winston Churchill, “mientras Roosevelt se ganó su reputación política por la forma que lidio (exitosamente) con la Depresión, el Partido Conservador (ingles) la perdió”. También el joven político destaco el impacto que tuvieron los soldados estadounidenses cuando estuvieron estacionados en Gran Bretaña, “el líder conservador Disraeli dijo una vez que Inglaterra está dividido en dos naciones – los ricos y los pobres –, pero con la llegada de las tropas americanas…un nuevo deseo por las cosas buenas de la vida ha cautivado fuertemente a Inglaterra”.

Roosevelt Fustiga a Inglaterra

En enero de 1938, el presidente Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), el ídolo político de JFK, inicio unas correspondencias secretas con funcionarios británicos para advertirles que su política de apoyar a los regímenes totalitarios de Hitler y Mussolini podía provocar “un sentimiento de disgusto por su cobardía política “en los EUA. (1)  FDR le dice a su ayudante James Foley en el 1939, “…que el problema de los británicos es que por varios siglos son controlados por las clases altas. Estas clases altas controlan todo el comercio e intercambio, y por lo tanto, la política del gobierno británico está dirigida a proteger los intereses de esa clase”. (2) Empero, su embajador en Gran Bretaña, Joe Kennedy – el papa de JFK – se había aliado con los británicos, y hasta, vivía en la casa del banquero J.P. Morgan. Después de la muerte de FDR los aliados de Churchill en la Casa Blanca, los “demócratas” Dean Anderson y Averell Harriman y los hermanos “republicanos” Allen y John Foster Dulles alinearon la maquinaria política del Pdte. Truman con las políticas imperialistas inglesas, y así, intentaron destruir las políticas nacionalistas y anti-imperialistas de FDR. En su libro, “Como Yo lo Vi” (As I Saw It), el hijo del Presidente, Elliot Roosevelt detalla las diferencias estratégicas de FDR y Winston Churchill (WC), particularmente sobre los métodos para liberar y desarrollar las colonias británicas en la postguerra. FDR insistía en emplear “métodos americanos” (i.e. medidas proteccionista, el uso de nuevas y altas tecnología en la manufactura y agricultura y el impulso de grandes proyectos revolucionarios de infraestructura) en contraposición a los “métodos ingleses” (i.e. el llamado “libre comercio” y la “mano invisible” que regulan la economía utilizando las leyes de la oferta y la demanda). Los economistas más representativos del “sistema americano de economía política” son Alexander Hamilton, Mathew y Henry Carey y Friedrich List (3).

Kennedy: el “Imperialismo es el Enemigo de la Libertad en África y el Medio Oriente”

Durante su periodo como congresista demócrata JFK y su hermano Robert viajan por Asia y el Medio Oriente en el 1951. En un mensaje por radio a toda la Nación, FDR describe lo que aprendió en su extenso recorrido:

  • “…Es un área repleta de pobreza, enfermedades…las injusticias y la desigualdad datan de muchos años y ya forma parte del diario vivir …el fuego del nacionalismo ,,,

está ardiendo…Han sido víctimas de los Imperios de Europa Occidental – Inglaterra, Francia y Holanda – por más de 100 anos…Las mismas arenas del desierto se levantaran para oponerse a la imposición del control extranjero de los destinos de estos pueblos tan orgullosos…

  • “El verdadero enemigo del mundo árabe es la pobreza y las necesidades….
  • “Nuestra intervención a nombre de las inversiones petroleras inglesas en Irán no están dirigidas al desarrollo de Irán… (y ha causado) la terrible tragedia humana de más de 700,000 refugiados árabes (palestinos), esto se opone a los deseos árabes y anula las promesas de la (emisora estadounidense) La Voz de América…
  • “En Indochina (Vietnam) nos hemos aliado a los esfuerzos desesperados de un régimen francés, que se empeñan en controlar los restos de su Imperio…a través de las fuerzas de las armas…{4}

En su discurso más importantes antes de oficializar su candidatura a la Presidencia, declara en el pleno del Senado el 2 de julio de1957, que el “Imperialismo es el Enemigo de la Libertad” y demanda que los EUA apoye a los rebeldes árabes en Argelia contra el Imperialismo francés. Compara la situación en África del Norte con la debacle de Francia en Vietnam, y así, fustiga la política de la administración conservadora de Eisenhower y el director de la CIA, Allen Dulles de apoyar los esfuerzos imperialistas franceses en Argelia y Vietnam. Este discurso fue elaborado conjuntamente con el liderato anti-colonialista argelino y obtuvo un gran respaldo en el mundo árabe, según el historiador estadounidense Anton Chaitkin.

La Campana Electoral: JFK Sienta las Bases para el Apoyo de los EUA a la Independencia y Desarrollo Africano

Durante la campaña electoral de 1959-60 JFK se reunió varias veces con el presidente nacionalista de Guinea, Sekou Toure y se hicieron muy buenos amigos y colaboradores. También estableció contactos oficiales con el presidente de Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, el fundador del nacionalismo africano, y el primer dirigente de África que encabezo exitosamente a su pueblo en la revuelta anti-colonial contra el Imperio ingles en el 1957. Antes de llegar a la Presidencia JFK se reunió con el ministro de Economía y el embajador en la Naciones Unidas de Ghana. También critico la política exterior de las pasadas administraciones de la Unión Americana por caracterizar a Nkrumah y Toure como enemigos de los EUA por no escoger bandos en la Guerra Fría. Según Kennedy, estas políticas erróneas habían obligados a estos países africanos a estrechar sus relaciones con la Unión Soviética.

Por qué JFK dedico tanto tiempo a los asuntos africanos durante su campaña electoral del 1960? Porque durante ese periodo 13 países africanos obtuvieron su Independencia de los Imperios franceses y británicos. Simultáneamente, Bélgica acepto la Independencia del Congo, pero las multinacionales europeas –dueñas de las minas de cobre y uranio en este país– y los servicios de inteligencia del Imperio británico orquestaron una farsa guerra civil; donde eventualmente asesinan al presidente congolés Patricio Lumumba, discípulo político de Nkrumah. El mandatario ghanés le comunico a JFK sus dos grandes preocupaciones: las intrigas imperiales contra el presidente congolés y su plan para construir una presa gigantesca, y así, poder industrializar a su País y proveerle electricidad a toda el África occidental. Nkrumah, quien había vivido en los EUA cuando Roosevelt era Presidente, tomo como modelo para su gran proyecto hidráulico la presa construida por FDR en el Valle de Tenesi.

La CIA se Moviliza Contra Kennedy Antes de las Elecciones

  • Mucho antes de la toma de posesión de JFK el director de la CIA, Allen Dulles orquesto una invasión contra el gobierno revolucionario de Fidel Castro por una fuerza de 1,400 exilados cubanos. Cuando JFK se opone al uso de las fuerzas militares estadounidenses en semejante locura Dulles lo chantajeo al decirle que si él no aprobaba su aventura militar el desplegaría políticamente a estos 1,400 exilados cubanos en contra suya por todo los EUA.
  • Tres días antes de la toma de JFK la CIA y los servicios de inteligencia británicos, cuya base de operaciones era el Parque Daphne en el Congo, coordinaron el asesinato del presidente congolés Lumumba el 20 de enero del 1961. Dulles y sus lugartenientes anglófilos sabían que JFK nunca hubiese aprobado el asesinato contra Lumumba.
  • Dulles ordeno que la CIA colaborara con los fascistas franceses – la Organización de Armas Secretas (OAS) —- que se oponían a la Independencia de Argelia e intentaron asesinar al presidente francés Charles de Gaulle, quien ya había acordado la liberación argelina con los rebeldes independentistas. La OAS también asesino al industrial italiano Enrico Mattei, amigo de JFK y estratega anti-imperialista y una de las figuras claves, que estaba coordinando la aguda financiera a la revuelta independentista en Argelia. (5)

Después que todas estas operaciones fueron realizadas y el mundo culpo a la administración de JFK de todas estas acciones destabilizadores auspiciadas por el CMI, el presidente Kennedy expulso de su administración al jefe de la CIA, Allen Dulles, y su lugartenientes, Richard Bissell y Charles Cabell por ser desleales y constituirse en un “estado reaccionario dentro del mismo estado. (6)

La Administración de JFK: Alianza Progresista con África-Levante-India-Indonesia

Después del asesinato de Lumumba JFK emite el Memorándum de Acción de Seguridad Nacional (MASN) 16 el 13 de febrero del 1961, que ordeno la ayuda de los EUA a las “áreas recientemente independientes” sin tomar en consideración el “apoyo de Europa Occidental…cuando tal acción favorezca el interés de los Estados Unidos”. También emitió el MASN 60 en los días 14 y 16 de julio del 1961, que ordena el estrangulamiento económico del gobierno totalitario portugués de Salazar, y así, obligarlo a parar en seco su guerra sangrienta contra los rebeldes independentistas de Angola y Mozambique. Desde ese momento JFK ordena la ayuda de los EUA a dichos  combatientes.

Como era de esperarse el primer mandatario extranjero que fue recibido el 8 de marzo del 1961 con bombas y platillos por JFK fue su amigo y presidente de Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah. Kennedy no solo se encargó del financiamiento del proyecto, sino que organizo el apoyo estructural al proyecto de su amigo industrial Edgar Kaiser de la Industrias Kaiser y su amigo italiano Enrico Mattei coordino el trabajo de ingeniería para semejante proeza hidráulica. La Represa Akosombo en el rio Volta creo el lago artificial más grande del mundo y le proveyó la electricidad que Ghana necesitaba para poder transformarse en un país moderno. Este proyecto fue dedicado en el 1966 al fenecido presidente JFK con una placa conmemorativa en el lugar, pero desafortudamente una semana después, Nkrumah fue derrocado en un golpe planificado en Londres. (7)

En el Medio Oriente las administraciones de Eisenhower y Truman habían marginado al presidente egipcio Gamal Abdel Nasser, quien auspiciaba a los rebeldes independentistas de Argelia.  Aunque Eisenhower se había comprometido ayudar a Nasser en su proyecto de construir una gran presa en el Nilo, el secretario de Estado John Foster Dulles lo cancelo, lo que obligo a que el Presidente de Egipto recabara ayuda económica de los soviéticos. Todo esto culmino en el 1956 cuando Israel, Inglaterra y Francia invaden a Egipto durante la crisis del Canal de Suez. Kennedy y Nasser empezaron una correspondencia, que culmino cuando los EUA apoyaron al Pdte. egipcio en su confrontación contra la alianza de los británicos y los sauditas.

También JFK cultivo unas relaciones muy estrechas con el premier hindú Jamaharlal Nehru y el presidente indonesio Sukarno, quienes encabezaron la liberación nacional de sus importantes países contra los Imperios británicos y holandés, respectivamente. A pesar de la neutralidad de estos países en la Guerra Fría, JFK decidió financiar la construcción de la gran siderúrgica en Bokara, India hasta su asesinato cuando los EUA retiran su apoyo del proyecto y los soviéticos reemplazan a los estadounidenses. Antes de su trágica muerte JFK empieza a organizar ayuda para la industrialización de Indonesia (MASN 179, 16/8/1962). Desafortunadamente, la ayuda nunca llego y Lyndon B. Johnson inicia una operación conjunta con los servicios de inteligencia británicos, cuyo objetivo era el derrocamiento de Sukarno.

Esto es solo parte del legado progresista y nacionalista de JFK, pero es suficiente para explicar porque el “Complejo Militar-Industrial” tenía suficientes razones para orquestar el asesinato de uno del presidente más optimista y visionario de la Unión Americana.

Ivan Gutiérrez del Arroyo

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Ivan Gutierrez del Arroyo en Facebook y Twitter

 

(1)      Archivos Nacionales Británicos

(2)      James A. Farley, Jim Farley’s Story: The Roosevelt

Years (New York: McGraw Hill, 1948) p. 199.

(3)      Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures (5/1/1791), Report on a National Bank (13/12/1790), Informes al Congreso de los EUA.

Henry Carey, The Harmony of Interest (Periodico Plough, Loom and Advil, 1851)

Mathew Carey, Addresses of the Philadelphia Society

for the Promotion of National Industry (27/3/1819).

Friedrich List, Outlines of American Political Economy

(Periódico de Filadelfia National Gazette, 1827 y

Panfleto publicado por la Society for the Promotion of

Manufacturing and Mechanical Arts in Pennsylvania,

1827).

(4)      Biblioteca de JFK

(5)      Theodore Sorensen, Kennedy (New York: Harper and Row, 1965) pp 406-407.

(6)      Thomas F. Brady, “Paris Rumors on C.I.A.,” New York Times, May 2, 1961.

(7)      “Exiles in London Led Ghana Revolt, Nkrumah Foe Tells of Plot Mapped by Secret Group,” New York Times, Feb. 25, 1966.

 

Nuclear Deal With Iran Prelude to War, Not “Breakthrough”

November 29th, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci

“…any military operation against Iran will likely be very unpopular around the world and require the proper international context—both to ensure the logistical support the operation would require and to minimize the blowback from it. The best way to minimize international opprobrium and maximize support (however, grudging or covert) is to strike only when there is a widespread conviction that the Iranians were given but then rejected a superb offer—one so good that only a regime determined to acquire nuclear weapons and acquire them for the wrong reasons would turn it down. Under those circumstances, the United States (or Israel) could portray its operations as taken in sorrow, not anger, and at least some in the international community would conclude that the Iranians “brought it on themselves” by refusing a very good deal.” -Brookings Institution’s 2009 “Which Path to Persia?” report, page 52.

Written years ago, as the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel were already plotting to overrun Iran’s neighbor and ally Syria with Al Qaeda to weaken the Islamic Republic before inevitable war, this quote exposes fully the current charade that is the “Iran nuclear deal.”

The West has no intention of striking any lasting deal with Iran, as nuclear capabilities, even the acquirement of nuclear weapons by Iran was never truly an existential threat to Western nations or their regional partners. The West’s issue with Iran is its sovereignty and its ability to project its interests into spheres traditionally monopolized by the US and UK across the Middle East. Unless Iran plans on turning over its sovereignty and regional influence along with its right to develop and use nuclear technology, betrayal of any “nuclear deal” is all but inevitable, as is the war that is to shortly follow.

Exposing the duplicity that accompanies Western “efforts” to strike a deal will severely undermine their attempt to then use the deal as leverage to justify military operations against Iran. For Iran and its allies, they must be prepared for war, more so when the West feigns interest in peace. Libya serves as a perfect example of the fate that awaits nations reproached by the West who let down their guard – it literally is a matter of life and death both for leaders, and for nations as a whole.

An important political lesson must be drawn from the coalition agreement struck after two months of negotiations between Germany’s conservative parties (the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union) and the Social Democratic Party: It is impossible for working people to defend their interests within the framework of the existing parties and political system.

Key passages of the agreement, to be found in its “Strong Europe” section, have barely been discussed by the media, largely because the coalition partners were agreed on them from the outset. These passages confirm that the coalition parties are committed to continuing a course that has led to a social disaster virtually without precedent in peacetime.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union (CSU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD) have agreed to drive ahead with austerity policies that have wrought indescribable misery in Greece, Spain, Portugal and other countries, with unemployment soaring to record levels, an entire generation of youth robbed of a future, and millions of livelihoods destroyed.

Most of the 185-page coalition agreement is characterized by vague formulations, but on this issue the document is crystal clear. “The policy of fiscal consolidation must be continued,” it states. The agreement goes on to declare that “structural reforms to increase competitiveness” and “strict, sustained fiscal consolidation” are indispensable preconditions for “exiting the crisis.”

The agreement rejects “any form of pooling sovereign debt” and rules out joint government bonds (euro bonds) and other mechanisms that could reduce the interest burden of indebted countries. Emergency loans from European financial funds must continue to be tied to draconian austerity measures. They must be granted only “as a last resort,” and in “exchange for strict conditions, i.e., reforms and consolidation measures, by the recipient countries.”

To ensure that there be no let-up in the pressure on indebted countries, the deal calls for an expansion of the “surveillance of national budgetary planning by the EU Commission.”

In plain English, this means intensifying the policy of social impoverishment with which the German chancellor is associated across large swathes of Europe, including in Germany itself.

Big business will use the fall of incomes in southern and eastern Europe as a lever to further cut wages in Germany, which already has a huge low-wage sector.

The legal minimum wage agreed between the coalition partners will do nothing to change this. On the contrary, fixed at a level of just 8.50 euros and due to come fully into force only in 2017 and not increase until 2018, the minimum wage will depress the general level of wages.

The representatives of the incoming government are well aware that their policies will provoke intense social conflict. In preparation for this, the conservative parties and the SPD have not limited themselves to a grand coalition controlling four-fifths of parliamentary seats. They have also brought the trade unions, the Greens and the Left Party on board.

The unions support the coalition agreement unconditionally. The chairman of the Federation of German Trade Unions (DGB), Michael Sommer, called it “extremely positive.” The head of the EVG rail union, Alexander Kirchner, declared that he would vote in favor.

Last weekend, 500 delegates at a congress of the IG Metall engineering union cheered CDU leader Angela Merkel and SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel. The latter assured the meeting that he would not sign anything with which the unions were dissatisfied.

The Green Party had already made clear in preliminary talks that it was prepared to form a ruling coalition with the conservative “union” parties. By opting to form a coalition with the CDU in the state of Hesse, the Greens have signaled that they are ready to step in as a replacement if the alliance with the SPD falls apart. The party’s criticism of the coalition agreement comes from the right: it complains that too much money is being allotted for benefits for retired mothers. The coalition document stipulates that the retirement income of women who bore a child before 1992 be increased by 28 euros a month.

The Left Party backs the coalition agreement as well, only not as transparently as the Greens. It has its own close links with the trade unions and used its election campaign to argue for its inclusion in a coalition with the SPD and the Greens. It justified this line by declaring that the SPD could realize its own program only in an alliance with the Left Party. Even now, Left Party leader Gregor Gysi complains that the SPD election program can be found in the coalition agreement “at best as a side note.”

The reality is that the coalition agreement is the SPD’s program. There can be no doubt on this score since the introduction of the anti-welfare Agenda 2010 program by SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder over a decade ago.

The choice of Peer Steinbrück, finance minister in the previous grand coalition government (2005 to 2009), as the SPD’s lead candidate in the 2013 election confirmed that the SPD unconditionally represents the interests of big business and finance. It was the figure of Steinbrück, rather than hollow campaign promises, that embodied the SPD’s electoral program.

The offer of the Left Party to enter a coalition with the SPD makes clear that it has no fundamental differences with the social democrats’ right-wing policies. It is significant that while the Left Party’s initial comment on the coalition agreement criticizes some of its secondary aspects, it does not mention the continuation of austerity in Europe. In a number of state governments and local councils, the Left Party has proven in practice that it fully supports such policies by ruthlessly imposing them on the people.

In the coming social conflicts, workers will face not only the grand coalition, but a conspiratorial clique consisting of all of the parliamentary parties and the trade unions. These forces will do everything they can to neutralize and suppress any and all social resistance.

In the struggles ahead, the working class needs its own party—one that unconditionally defends its interests and unites the working class throughout Europe in the struggle for a socialist society.

Vast Waste, Profiteering in Pentagon Operations

November 29th, 2013 by Patrick Martin

According to reports by two major news organizations, the main payroll and accounting office of the Pentagon doles out tens of billions of dollars to contractors without any rigorous auditing or other financial controls, fueling a system of waste and profiteering.

Under conditions where politicians of both the Democratic and Republican parties claim there is “no money” to maintain even the inadequate level of social services currently provided by the federal government, the US military squanders vast sums in support of the global operations of American imperialism.

Reuters and McClatchy News Service both investigated the functioning of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), an agency created in its present form in 1991, when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense in the George H. W. Bush administration. This followed the decade-long buildup of military spending under Reagan and Bush, which culminated in embarrassing reports about $435 hammers and $37 screws, among other symbols of Pentagon waste.

The McClatchy account focuses mainly on a high-level overview of DFAS, noting that outside audits of its books were “shoddy,” according to internal reviews, while top officials at the Pentagon “pressured their accountants to suppress their findings, then backdated documents in what appears to have been an effort to conceal the critiques.”

The Pentagon’s Office of the Inspector General operated not as a watchdog, but as an accomplice, helping suppress internal criticism by its own accountants and authorizing payment of the outside auditor whose work was being questioned.

Citing emails and other documents, McClatchy reports a January 27, 2010 meeting at which Patricia A. Marsh, then the Pentagon’s assistant inspector general for financial management, told DFAS officials that her office was going to formally reject the 2009 outside audit.

Three months later, retaliation came. The two lead accountants for the inspector general’s review of the audit received letters terminating their assignments, retroactive to January 27, 2010. As McClatchy noted, this was “the precise point when the inspector general’s office had informed the Defense Finance and Accounting Service that it would not endorse the 2009 audit.”

In its investigative report, Reuters profiles the operation of the Cleveland office of DFAS, where accountants prepared monthly reports that amounted to “inserting phony numbers in the US Department of Defense’s accounts.”

Each month, the military services were required to square their books with accounts maintained by the US Treasury—in effect, balancing their checkbooks—regardless of whether the numbers actually coincided. The regular practice was to take “unsubstantiated change actions,” also called “plugs,” to make the books match up.

In 2010, the Cleveland office alone made more than $1 billion in such “plugs,” while in 2012, the Pentagon as a whole reported $9.22 billion in “reconciling amounts”—bookkeeping entries inserted to make military accounts match the Treasury’s—up from $7.41 billion in 2011.

According to a December 2011 Pentagon inspector general’s report, a DFAS office in Columbus, Ohio made at least $1.59 trillion in errors, including $538 billion in plugs, in financial reports for the Air Force in 2009. The nominal amount of the accounting errors far exceeded the total Pentagon budget.

While many of these errors were accounting entries only, some had significant real-world consequences. Reuters reported that the Army lost track of $5.8 billion in supplies during the eight years (2003-2011) when US troops were deployed in Iraq. Consequently, it continued to buy supplies from vendors that were already in stock, and could not monitor the depletion of supplies through theft or other diversion.

A key issue in this mismanagement is an information-processing system that almost makes the Obama administration’s healthcare.gov web site look state-of-the-art. There are at least 5,000 separate accounting and business systems in use throughout the US military and its supply chain, many of them running only on mainframe computers using languages like COBOL, which are obsolete and hardly understood by today’s programmers.

In recent years, the Pentagon has spent heavily on software and management systems in an attempt to overcome these systemic problems. These sums dwarf those expended for the implementation of the Obama administration’s health care web site, to even less effect. Many of the new systems have not been brought on line because they are incompatible with older systems or do not work as projected.

Overall, more than half a trillion dollars in contracts with outside vendors are unaudited out of $3 trillion issued over the past 10 years. There is no final accounting for $8.5 trillion in total military authorizations dating as far back as 1996.

Each year, top Pentagon officials, including the secretary of defense, certify the accuracy of financial reports to Congress and the Treasury that are so dubious that the CEO of a corporation would face prosecution under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Unable to correct the problems, the Pentagon has simply shut its eyes, last year raising the threshold value for auditing contracts from $15 million to $250 million. This means a company can take a military contract for nearly a quarter of a billion dollars without being subject to an audit. This amounts to a license to steal for Corporate America.

The New York Times (November 2) ran a long article based on NSA documents released by Edward Snowden. One of the lines that most caught my attention concerned “Sigint” – Signals intelligence, the term used for electronic intercepts. The document stated:

“Sigint professionals must hold the moral high ground, even as terrorists or dictators seek to exploit our freedoms. Some of our adversaries will say or do anything to advance their cause; we will not.”

What, I wondered, might that mean? What would the National Security Agency – on moral principle – refuse to say or do?

I have on occasion asked people who reject or rationalize any and all criticism of US foreign policy: “What would the United States have to do in its foreign policy to lose your support? What, for you, would be too much?” I’ve yet to get a suitable answer to that question. I suspect it’s because the person is afraid that whatever they say I’ll point out that the United States has already done it.

The United Nations vote on the Cuba embargo – 22 years in a row

For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We haven’t heard that for a very long time. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):

Year Votes (Yes-No) No Votes
1992 59-2 US, Israel
1993 88-4 US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay
1994 101-2 US, Israel
1995 117-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1996 138-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1997 143-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1998 157-2 US, Israel
1999 155-2 US, Israel
2000 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2001 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2002 173-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2003 179-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2004 179-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2005 182-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2006 183-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2007 184-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2008 185-3 US, Israel, Palau
2009 187-3 US, Israel, Palau
2010 187-2 US, Israel
2011 186-2 US, Israel
2012 188-3 US, Israel, Palau
2013 188-2 US, Israel

Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.

Speaking before the General Assembly, October 29, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez declared: “The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion.” He added that the blockade “has been further tightened under President Obama’s administration”, some 30 US and foreign entities being hit with $2.446 billion in fines due to their interaction with Cuba.

However, the American envoy, Ronald Godard, in an appeal to other countries to oppose the resolution, said:

“The international community … cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly, impedes independent journalism and, despite positive reforms, continues to prevent some Cubans from leaving or returning to the island. The Cuban government continues its tactics of politically motivated detentions, harassment and police violence against Cuban citizens.” 1

So there you have it. That is why Cuba must be punished. One can only guess what Mr. Godard would respond if told that more than 7,000 people were arrested in the United States during the Occupy Movement’s first 8 months of protest 2 ; that their encampments were violently smashed up; that many of them were physically abused by the police.

Does Mr. Godard ever read a newspaper or the Internet, or watch television? Hardly a day passes in America without a police officer shooting to death an unarmed person?

As to “independent journalism” – what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control most of the media worth owning or controlling?

The real reason for Washington’s eternal hostility toward Cuba? The fear of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model; a fear that has been validated repeatedly over the years as Third World countries have expressed their adulation of Cuba.

How the embargo began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” 3 Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted the suffocating embargo against its everlasting enemy.

The Cold War Revisited

I’ve written the Introduction to a new book recently published in Russia that is sort of an updating of my book Killing Hope4 Here is a short excerpt:

The Cold War had not been a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. It had been a struggle between the United States and the Third World, which, in the decade following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, continued in Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Yugoslavia and elsewhere.

The Cold War had not been a worldwide crusade by America to halt Soviet expansion, real or imaginary. It had been a worldwide crusade by America to block political and social changes in the Third World, changes opposed by the American power elite.

The Cold War had not been a glorious and noble movement of freedom and democracy against Communist totalitarianism. It had typically been a movement by the United States in support of dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and corrupt oligarchies which were willing to follow Washington’s party line on the Left, US corporations, Israel, oil, military bases, et al. and who protected American political and economic interests in their countries in exchange for the American military and CIA keeping them in power against the wishes of their own people.

In other words, whatever the diplomats at the time thought they were doing, the Cold War revisionists have been vindicated. American policy had been about imperialism and military expansion.

Apropos the countless other myths we were all taught about the Soviet Union is this letter I recently received from one of my readers, a Russian woman, age 49, who moved to the United States eight years ago and now lives in Northern Virginia:

I can’t imagine why anybody is surprised to hear when I say I miss life in the Soviet Union: what is bad about free healthcare and education, guaranteed employment, guaranteed free housing? No rent or mortgage of any kind, only utilities, but they were subsidized too, so it was really pennies. Now, to be honest, there was a waiting list to get those apartments, so some people got them quicker, some people had to wait for years, it all depended on where you worked. And there were no homeless people, and crime was way lower. As a first grader I was taking the public transportation to go to school, which was about 1 hour away by bus (it was a big city, about the size of Washington DC, we lived on the outskirts, and my school was downtown), and it was fine, all other kids were doing it. Can you even imagine this being done now? I am not saying everything was perfect, but overall, it is a more stable and socially just system, fair to everybody, nobody was left behind. This is what I miss: peace and stability, and not being afraid of the future.

Problem is, nobody believes it, they will say that I am a brainwashed “tovarish” [comrade]. I’ve tried to argue with Americans about this before, but just gave up now. They just refuse to believe anything that contradicts what CNN has been telling them for all their lives. One lady once told me: “You just don’t know what was going on there, because you did not have freedom of speech, but we, Americans, knew everything, because we could read about all of this in our media.” I told her “I was right there! I did not need to read about this in the media, I lived that life!”, but she still was unconvinced! You will not believe what she said: “Yes, maybe, but we have more stuff!”. Seriously, having 50 kinds of cereal available in the store, and walmarts full of plastic junk is more valuable to Americans than a stable and secure life, and social justice for everybody?

Of course there are people who lived in the Soviet Union who disagree with me, and I talked to them too, but I find their reasons just as silly. I heard one Russian lady whose argument was that Stalin killed “30, no 40 million people”. First of all it’s not true (I don’t in any way defend Stalin, but I do think that lying and exaggerating about him is as wrong)*, and second of all what does this have to do with the 70s, when I was a kid? By then life was completely different. I heard other arguments, like food shortages (again, not true, it’s not like there was no food at all, there were shortages of this or that specific product, like you wouldn’t find mayo or bologna in the store some days, but everything else was there!). So, you would come back next day, or in 2-3 days, and you would find them there. Really, this is such a big deal? Or you would have to stay in line to buy some other product, (ravioli for example). But how badly do you want that ravioli really that day, can’t you have anything else instead? Just buy something else, like potatoes, where there was no line.

Was this annoying, yes, and at the time I was annoyed too, but only now I realized that I would much prefer this nuisance to my present life now, when I am constantly under stress for the fear that I can possibly lose my job (as my husband already did), and as a result, lose everything else – my house? You couldn’t possibly lose your house in Soviet Union, it was yours for life, mortgage free. Only now, living here in the US, I realized that all those soviet nuisances combined were not as important as the benefits we had – housing, education, healthcare, employment, safe streets, all sort of free after school activities (music, sports, arts, anything you want) for kids, so parents never had to worry about what we do all day till they come home in the evening.

We’ve all heard the figures many times … 10 million … 20 million … 40 million … 60 million … died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt, and many people are still dying under Bush. Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Did the millions die from disease in an age before antibiotics? In prison? From what causes? People die in prison in the United States on a regular basis. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood? If so, how? How many were criminals executed for non-political crimes? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting.5

Hillary: Defending the Bush regime all the way

Let’s not repeat the Barack mistake with Hillary

Not that it really matters who the Democrats nominate for the presidency in 2016. Whoever that politically regressive and morally bankrupt party chooses will be at best an uninspired and uninspiring centrist; in European terms a center-rightist; who believes that the American Empire – despite the admittedly occasional excessive behavior – is mankind’s last great hope. The only reason I bother to comment on this question so far in advance of the election is that the forces behind Clinton have clearly already begun their campaign and I’d like to use the opportunity to try to educate the many progressives who fell in love with Obama and may be poised now to embrace Clinton. Here’s what I wrote in July 2007 during the very early days of the 2008 campaign:

Who do you think said this on June 20? a) Rudy Giuliani; b) Hillary Clinton; c) George Bush; d) Mitt Romney; or e) Barack Obama?

“The American military has done its job. Look what they accomplished. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They gave the Iraqis a chance for free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities to make the hard political decisions necessary to give the people of Iraq a better future. So the American military has succeeded. It is the Iraqi government which has failed to make the tough decisions which are important for their own people.” 6

Right, it was the woman who wants to be president because … because she wants to be president … because she thinks it would be nice to be president … no other reason, no burning cause, no heartfelt desire for basic change in American society or to make a better world … she just thinks it would be nice, even great, to be president. And keep the American Empire in business, its routine generating of horror and misery being no problem; she wouldn’t want to be known as the president that hastened the decline of the empire.

And she spoke the above words at the “Take Back America” conference; she was speaking to liberals, committed liberal Democrats and others further left. She didn’t have to cater to them with any flag-waving pro-war rhetoric; they wanted to hear anti-war rhetoric (and she of course gave them a bit of that as well out of the other side of her mouth), so we can assume that this is how she really feels, if indeed the woman feels anything. The audience, it should be noted, booed her, for the second year in a row.

Think of why you are opposed to the war. Is it not largely because of all the unspeakable suffering brought down upon the heads and souls of the poor people of Iraq by the American military? Hillary Clinton couldn’t care less about that, literally. She thinks the American military has “succeeded”. Has she ever unequivocally labeled the war “illegal” or “immoral”? I used to think that Tony Blair was a member of the right wing or conservative wing of the British Labour Party. I finally realized one day that that was an incorrect description of his ideology. Blair is a conservative, a bloody Tory. How he wound up in the Labour Party is a matter I haven’t studied. Hillary Clinton, however, I’ve long known is a conservative; going back to at least the 1980s, while the wife of the Arkansas governor, she strongly supported the death-squad torturers known as the Contras, who were the empire’s proxy army in Nicaragua. 7

Now we hear from America’s venerable conservative magazine, William Buckley’sNational Review, an editorial by Bruce Bartlett, policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan; treasury official under President George H.W. Bush; a fellow at two of the leading conservative think-tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute – You get the picture? Bartlett tells his readers that it’s almost certain that the Democrats will win the White House in 2008. So what to do? Support the most conservative Democrat. He writes: “To right-wingers willing to look beneath what probably sounds to them like the same identical views of the Democratic candidates, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative.” 8

We also hear from America’s premier magazine for the corporate wealthy, Fortune, whose recent cover features a picture of Clinton and the headline: “Business Loves Hillary”. 9

Back to 2013: In October, the office of billionaire George Soros announced that “George Soros is delighted to join more than one million Americans in supporting Ready for Hillary.” 10

There’s much more evidence of Hillary Clinton’s conservative leanings, but if you need more, you’re probably still in love with Obama, who in a new book is quoted telling his aides during a comment on drone strikes that he’s “really good at killing people”. 11Can we look forward to Hillary winning the much-discredited Nobel Peace Prize?

I’m sorry if I take away all your fun.

Notes

  1. Democracy Now!, “U.N. General Assembly Votes Overwhelmingly Against U.S. Embargo of Cuba”, October 30, 2013 
  2. Huffington Post, May 3, 2012 
  3. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba (1991), p.885 
  4. Copies can be purchased by emailing [email protected] 
  5. From William Blum, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire(2005), p.194 
  6. Speaking at the “Take Back America” conference, organized by the Campaign for America’s Future, June 20, 2007, Washington, DC; this excerpt can be heard on Democracy Now!’s website 
  7. Roger Morris, former member of the National Security Council, Partners in Power (1996), p.415 
  8. National Review Online, May 1, 2007 
  9. Fortune magazine, July 9, 2007 
  10. Washington Post, October 25, 2013 
  11. Washington Post, November 1, 2013, review of “Double Down: Game Change 2012” 

The Deal with Iran: Confronting the Israeli Lobby in US Congress

November 29th, 2013 by Prof. James Petras

Press TV has conducted an interview with James Petras, Middle East expert, to further discuss the recent deal on Iran’s nuclear energy program. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Mr. Petras, how do you see this recent deal on Iran’s nuclear program?

Petras: Well, I think it is a historical step forward, the fact that the negotiations took place, that a temporary agreement was made. There is a strategy towards a permanent solution.

I think Iran made enormous concessions regarding its nuclear facilities. It is downgrading its twenty-percent enriched uranium; it is limiting the operations of its centrifuges, etc. This is much more than any of the negotiators anticipated.

The fact that the US agreed to lower sanctions is very minimal impact right now and for the foreseeable future. It will not have any effect on the world oil market because only a fraction of increase will take place. But the fact of the matter is the big fight is still to come and that is the fight with the Israel lobby that has such a stranglehold on the US Congress.

It is time if this is going to advance – the peace process, the negotiations, the reconciliation. Obama has to pull his pants up and take on the Israeli lobby in Congress because if the Israeli lobby gets their way, what they are demanding is the surrender of Iranian sovereignty to dismantle its entire program. That is Netanyahu’s agenda. That is what the Israeli lobby is pushing and that is what the influence in American Congress.

That should not pass and I think the only way is for the White House to stand up to that and continue on a progressive path beginning with the initial settlement that has taken place.


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Thailand: Protesters Want Oil Back for Thai People

November 29th, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci

Protesters in Thailand demanding the resignation of current prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra are planning to re-nationalize Thailand’s vast wealth in natural gas, privatized and sold off under Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra in late 2001.

As protests swell to historic sizes in the streets of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok, and in provinces around the country, pressure is building on toppling the government of Thaksin Shinawatra. While technically speaking, his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, is prime minister, she literally ran with the campaign slogan, “Thaksin Thinks, Peua Thai does,” (Peua Thai being Thaksin’s political party).

 

Image: 1000′s of protesters descend on Thai oil giant PTT’s headquarters in Bangkok this week – demanding it be re-nationalized after its privatization under Thaksin Shinawatra, part of a larger plan to sellout Thailand’s infrastructure and natural resources to foreign corporations – the same corporations backing Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra as she prepares for her brother’s return to power.

….
It is no wonder then, why Yingluck has picked up right where her brother left off, eviscerating the nation’s checks and balances ahead of an even grander scheme – the privatization and sell-off of the entire nation to foreign investors through a series of free trade schemes.
Amid the chaos of her botched amnesty bill bid – which would have exonerated herself, her brother, and his political machine of all wrong doing since rising to political power years ago – she managed to squeak through an amendment to article 190 of the Thai constitution. This change now allows her to sign treaties without parliamentary approval, including unpopular free-trade agreements that have thus far failed for years. Protesters are also citing this at their rallies. Thai PBS reported in their article, “Civil obedience ends but anti-government protest more intense:”

Meanwhile the Network of Students and People for Thailand Reform also switched from just protesting the amnesty bill to opposing the passage of the amendment of Article 190 of the Constitution which empowers the prime minister as a sole decision maker in making any treaties with foreign countries without seeking approval from Parliament.

The Shinawatra Regime’s First Try To Sell Out Thailand Ended in a Military Coup 
The Wall Street Journal reported gleefully in 2001 that Thailand had begun privatizing its nationalized infrastructure. It must be remembered this followed the engineered destruction of Southeast Asia during the IMF bubble of the late 1990′s, with IMF demands of privatization as part of restructuring that came after nations economically collapsed. In its article, “Thailand’s Privatization Efforts Get Boost From PTT’s Offering,” the Wall Street Journal reported:

Thailand’s drive to privatize its plodding state enterprises is off to a fast start.

The closely watched initial public offering of the state-owned Petroleum Authority of Thailand was oversubscribed by Thai and foreign investors, who collectively purchased 800 million shares in the company. Upon listing, the privatized company will be known as PTT PCL.

This was initiated under Thaksin Shinawatra, who apparently accelerated the process after long delays:

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has made the long-stalled privatization process a key economic objective. Over the next three years, the government is counting on the sale of stock in 16 state companies and agencies. Bangkok hopes the new listings will spur interest in the country’s drooping stock market by raising the Stock Exchange of Thailand’s market capitalization by almost 700 billion baht, a 50% jump from its present value.

The New York Times in their article, “Thai Oil Stock Offering Is Much in Demand,” would report that Thaksin, despite his attempts to comply with foreign interests, faced nationalist resistance. The NYT also notes that the process of privatization involved selling national infrastructure out to foreigners at a discount – which in hindsight we now know was part of the IMF’s plan all along:

Thaksin Shinawatra, the telecommunications tycoon who became prime minister in February, has pledged to push privatization forward to reduce the government’s debt and budget deficit. But as share sales failed to materialize and antiforeign measures proliferated, foreign investors came to question Mr. Thaksin’s sincerity. Some said that Thailand, like Indonesia, was giving in to nationalism and vested interests that opposed selling stakes to foreigners at a discount.

Last month, for example, the Thais enacted a law limiting foreign shareholdings in their telecommunications companies to 25 percent. So far this year, foreign investors have pulled 2.75 billion baht, or $61.9 million, out of the Thai stock market.

Though PTT’s offering price was far below what the government had hoped for, the sale could represent a turning point, analysts said. ”It shows that they’re serious about their privatization program,” said Kenneth Ng of ING Barings in Bangkok, ”and that they’re not fiddling around just because the price isn’t there.”

This would not be the last attempt Thaksin would make at selling the country out to foreigners. In 2001, he lacked the impunity needed to ramrod deals through nationalist opposition, but by 2004 he felt more confident.

Thaksin attempted to pass a US-Thailand Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) without parliamentary approval, backed by the US-ASEAN Business Council.

 

Image: The US-ASEAN Business Council, a who’s-who of corporate fascism in the US, had been approached by leaders of Thaksin Shinwatra’s “red shirt” street mobs. (click image to enlarge)
….

The council in 2004 included 3M, war profiteering Bechtel, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup, General Electric, IBM, the notorious Monsanto, and currently also includes banking houses Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Chevron, Exxon, BP, Glaxo Smith Kline, Merck, Northrop Grumman, Monsanto’s GMO doppelganger Syngenta, as well as Phillip Morris.

Photo: Deposed autocrat, Thaksin Shinawatra before the CFR on the even of the 2006 military coup that would oust him from power. Since 2006 he has had the full, unflinching support of Washington, Wall Street and their immense propaganda machine in his bid to seize back power.
….

While his attempt failed, he continued whittling away at Thailand’s checks and balances in the hopes of one day weakening the system enough to give himself and his foreign backers absolute impunity. But with his consolidation of power came an equal but opposite backlash. Thaksin would remain in office until September of 2006. On the eve of a bloodless military coup that ousted him from power, Thaksin was literally standing before the Fortune 500-funded Council on Foreign Relations giving a progress report in New York City.

Since the 2006 coup that toppled his regime, Thaksin has been represented by US corporate-financier elites via their lobbying firms including, Kenneth Adelman of the Edelman PR firm (Freedom HouseInternational Crisis Group,PNAC), James Baker of Baker Botts (CFR), Robert Blackwill of Barbour Griffith & Rogers (CFR), Kobre & Kim, and currently Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff (Chatham House).

These lobbying firms are the secret to Thaksin’s political longevity, manipulating stories in the Western press to whitewash Thaksin’s many atrocities and crimes and lend support and legitimacy to his political machine as it maneuvers inside of Thailand to prepare the way for his return to power.

Just before the 2011 general elections that saw Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra brought into power, the US-ASEAN Business Council hosted the leaders of Thaksin’s “red shirt” “United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship” (UDD), proving that the dream of despoiling Thailand, not “democracy,” has been and remains the goal of Thaksin, his foreign backers, and the myriad of faux-NGOs that flank his political machine’s peripheries.

Protesters Attempt to Roll Back Decade of IMF Incursions, Guard Against New Ones  

Protesters, if they succeed in toppling Thaksin’s proxy regime, plan on rolling back Thaksin’s selling-out of its nationalized infrastructure, blocking free trade agreements his government is inevitably going to push through, rolling back self-serving amendments being made to the nation’s constitution, and defending against future incursions by foreign bankers under the guise of the IMF.

Taking a stand against the corporate-financier interests represented by the US-ASEAN Business Council will make a protest movement very unpopular in the eyes of the Western media. Already the West is attempting to claim the protesters are unjustly trying to unseat an “elected government,” no matter how cartoonishly nepotist and corrupt it actually is.

Also to undermine the protests, the Western media repeatedly fails to report on other grievances protesters have with the Shinawatra regime, including Thaksin’s 2003 “war on drugs” that saw nearly 3,000 mass murdered in just 90 days, most of whom had nothing to do with the drug trade at all, as well as his instigation of violence in Thailand’s deep south, culminating in the Tak Bai incident which saw 85 protesters killed in a single day.

The US has condemned the seizing of government buildings by protesters in Thailand, while the pro-EU/Wall Street protesters in Ukraine are getting cash and encouragement to do the same against the government in Kyiv. As the protests expand, and with regime thugs now being sent to assault protesters, expect the already lopsided coverage by the West to tilt ever still in favor of defending Thaksin and the foreign agenda he represents.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 24, the world powers reached a deal with Iran on its nuclear program. The interim agreement is for a duration of six months, during which the signatories hope to reach a more comprehensive and long-term agreement.

Details of the deal are sketchy. Broadly, however, it is known that the agreement imposes significant limitations on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for minor relief in the sanctions imposed on it. It is reported that the deal allows Iran to continue enriching uranium to 5 percent purity, used as fuel for its power generating nuclear reactor. But Iran will no longer be able to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity, used for medical isotopes, and will be required to relinquish its stockpile within six months. Washington and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program and view the 20 percent enriched uranium as dangerously close to nuclear bomb material—even though that requires enrichment levels of 97 percent. Additionally, Iran will permit unrestricted access by UN inspectors to its nuclear sites.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

In exchange, while the U.S.-imposed sanctions will remain in place, there will be $7 billion in sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions for six months. The $7 billion in relief is essentially the unfreezing of Iran’s own assets in international financial institutions, part of an estimated $100-$120 billion that have been frozen and will continue to be “inaccessible and restricted.”

Given the harsh conditions imposed on Iran, it is a testament to the capitalist class media monopoly that the main discussion in Western media is whether Iran has been given too much. Since the agreement, President Barack Obam and Secretary of State John Kerry have been making the case for the deal by emphasizing the huge concessions Iran was forced to make and that the sanctions relief is reversible.

Why did Iran make the deal?

The agreement should not be confused with a fair deal that observes the interests of both sides. Diplomacy in general, and this agreement in particular, occurs within the context of power relations. How could it be called justice when nuclear-armed nations impose sanctions and harsh conditions on a country that has no nuclear weapons, nor any stated or documented plan to have such weapons? This is not a negotiation between two comparable adversaries working on the terms of future relations and trade. Iran could do nothing to the imperialist alliance that is lined up against it. But the U.S. and its junior partners have imposed extreme hardship on the Iranian people, essentially locking Iran out of international trade. So, in effect, Iran has to negotiate with a gun to its head.

The fact that the Iranian leadership energetically pursued a deal does not indicate that the deal is just. Iran voluntarily agreed to the deal the same way that a robbery victim voluntarily agrees to give up valuable possessions.
For over two years, Iran has been exposed to comprehensive sanctions that amount to an embargo. It is not just that the United States and the European Union refuse trade with Iran, but that the U.S. will impose penalties on other states for trading with Iran. Iran’s oil sales, the main source of its currency, have dropped to below half of what they used to be. Iran has been severely hampered in its trade of petrochemicals, automobiles and practically all other products. Similarly, it has been extremely difficult for Iran to purchase many essential goods, including medicine. As with all other sanctions the imperialists have imposed on oppressed countries, sanctions against Iran have caused death and hardship.

Given the damage done to Iran’s economy, it is no wonder that the Islamic Republic came into Geneva prepared to make major concessions. A modern economy cannot live indefinitely under sanctions that make trade exceedingly difficult, not to mention living under the constant “all options are on the table” threat of military attack.

Besides, as harsh as the conditions imposed on Iran are, the agreement is not a complete capitulation. Complete cessation of nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment for nuclear power generation, was not a demand made on Iran this time. Explicitly stated or not, the agreement recognizes Iran’s right to continue enrichment, albeit under tight inspections. As unjust and unfair the agreement may be, one cannot demand of an oppressed nation to withstand economic strangulation indefinitely.

In the June elections in Iran, in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was ineligible to run for a third term, Hassan Rouhani won resoundingly in the first round. Rouhani’s main promise was “constructive engagement” with the West and bringing an end to the sanctions. Having suffered two years of harsh sanctions that had caused the Rial, Iran’s currency, to lose nearly 2/3 of its value, the Iranian people, particularly the working class, were suffering tremendously. Rouhani’s promise of ending the sanctions resonated with the voters hoping for an end to extreme hardship.

But Rouhani’s conciliatory tone towards the West and willingness to make concessions cannot be considered the deciding factor in what made the recent agreement possible.

U.S. policy shift

The major change that made the deal possible happened not in Tehran, but in Washington. Up to now, U.S. policy towards Iran has really been regime change since the 1979 revolution. Washington wants the return of a leadership like that of the Shah, installed by a CIA coup in 1953. Washington’s promotion of the Iran-Iraq war was in hopes of weakening both independent states. But following the end of the war, Iran began a period of rapid development, resulting in the country emerging as a regional power. From Washington’s perspective, a regional power that provides diplomatic and material support to the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements must be overthrown.

The right-wing, pro-West Green Movement that arose following the 2009 presidential elections gave rise to Washington’s hopes of regime change from within. But by 2010, hopes for a Green overthrow faded. The crippling U.S. sanctions, implemented in 2011, were another attempt at bringing about regime change. Washington hoped that the sanctions would paralyze the economy and cause so much hardship that the Islamic Republic would be destabilized. But as devastating as the sanctions have been, they have not pushed the state to the verge of collapse. The June 2013 elections resulted in the election of the more conciliatory faction of the Islamic Republic, but regime change remained a distant dream for Washington.

The U.S. goal of overthrowing all independent states in the Middle East has suffered another blow in Syria. Facing domestic and international opposition, the Obama administration was forced to relinquish its plans for bombing Syria. While not stable, the Syrian state has gained strength and is far from collapsing. Not only has the strength of the armed opposition faded, the Syrian National Council/Free Syrian Army imperialist-supported alternative have lost relative strength among the Syrian opposition, with the Al-Qaeda allied forces emerging as the strongest opposition force.

With Iraq not having emerged from the eight years of occupation as a dependable client state, Syria surviving and Iran still standing, Washington’s goal of a Middle East comprised exclusively of client states is now no more than a fantasy.

So, as many foreign policy “realists” had long advocated, the Obama administration had to part ways with the immediate goals of regime change in Iran and embark upon a path of dealing with Iran as an adversary. Taking this diplomatic path should not be confused with a humane foreign policy. In the absence of a realistic military alternative for the U.S., diplomacy, not military invasion and hostility, is now a more effective tool for promoting imperialist interests.

Does Israel call the shots?

Despite the fact that all major imperialist powers have signed on to the deal, some factions of the U.S. ruling class are opposed to the agreement, having not given up on the goal of regime change. The most vocal opposition has come from the state of Israel. After weeks of going all out in a campaign against the negotiations, Israel’s lobbying campaign failed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu has called the agreement a “historic mistake” and stated that Israel will not abide by it.

For years, there has existed this false notion that Israel controls U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Using the extraordinary influence of the pro-Israel lobby such as AIPAC, and the special relationship between the U.S. and Israeli governments, proponents of this view conclude that Tel Aviv controls Washington. Whether consciously or not, this false notion absolves the U.S. from responsibility for U.S./Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people and the rest of the Arab world.

On the face it, the notion that Israel controls U.S. policy is based on a failure to recognize that the foreign and domestic policies of any country are based on the interests of that country’s ruling class. The U.S. economy is approximately 60 times the size that of Israel’s. Why would the U.S. capitalist class subjugate its own interests to that of Israel’s? AIPAC, and any lobbying campaign, can only be successful to the extent that they can convince capitalist politicians that their agenda serves the interests of the U.S. ruling class.

Iran provides a crystal clear example of the falsity of the “Israel controls the U.S.” assumption. Even during the years of the Bush administration, Israel feverishly lobbied the U.S. to bomb Iran. On more than one occasion, both the Bush and Obama administrations have told Israel that it would not be permitted to bomb Iran, dashing Israel’s hopes of starting a provocation that would drag the U.S. into a war.

Israel’s vociferous opposition to the nuclear agreement is common knowledge. This setback comes on the heels of another major setback when the U.S. pulled back from plans to bomb Syria and signed on to the Russia-brokered agreement. On both counts, Washington went directly against the well-known, and heavily lobbied, wishes of Israel and its powerful U.S. lobbyists.

But Israel’s position on the Iran nuclear agreement is no surprise. Israel’s rise as a powerful, highly militarized state has only been possible thanks to decades of U.S. aid, and military and diplomatic support. Israel earns this support by providing services to U.S. imperialism, by attacking and weakening states and national liberation movements in the region. It is in an atmosphere of war and instability, not one of agreements and understandings, that Israel can maximize its worth to its U.S. sponsors. The U.S., on the other hand, while more than willing to engage in criminal wars and occupations, does not have an intrinsic interest in maintaining a war-like relationship with its adversaries at all times.

The fact that the U.S. and its imperialist partners have been willing to reach any agreement at all with Iran is recognition of the limits of imperialist power and the power of independent development. Over the following months, we will witness the extent to which Western powers will attempt to impose ever harsher conditions on Iran; and the extent to which the Iranian leadership is willing to make concessions.

But amid the give and take of the negotiations, the conflicts and agreements, we must not lose sight of the fact that this diplomacy is not taking place in the context of an “equality of nations.” Instead, the imperialists use diplomacy the same way they do war: to entrench their domination of the region, incapacitate potential sources of resistance, and subjugate the world’s historically oppressed nations.

Mother Agnes Mariam, mother-superior of the monastery of St. James, the Mutilated in Qara, in the Qalamoun District of Syria, which is north of Damascus, visited Denver as part of a U.S. tour which is taking her coast to coast.

She spoke at three public venues in two days and then rushed off to catch a plane to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she also has had several speaking engagements, covered by the Nebraska press.

The Christian Palestinian family of the good mother-superior hails from Nazareth, now in Israel, from whence it was expelled and made refugee in 1948 when Israel was founded. Growing up in Lebanon, she was educated by that country’s Maronite Community. Before entering the Melkite Greek Catholic order, Mother Agnes-Mariam claims to have partnered with a group of American hippies in her youth, she with bible in hand. While little attracted to their hashish smoking, she absorbed their commitment to world peace.

Those of us who heard her speak were impressed with her dignity, her commitment to all of the Syrian people and to peace. Her concerns are for all Syrians and her approach distinctly non-sectarian. At the same time, Mother Agnes-Mariam is rightly concerned about the future of Christians both in Syria and the broader Middle East. That community which goes back to the time of Christ is under siege in Syria, Egypt and elsewhere where Salafist elements hope to homogenize the region culturally of its rich, diversified heritage. The Christian community in Syria is, itself, as old as Christianity itself. St. Paul was the Bishop of Antioch. The St. James, the Mutilated Monastery, which Mother Agnes-Mariam has helped refurbish was first built in the fifth century, that is, prior to the rise of Islam and 700 years before the Crusades began.

The Syrian Resistance – Hijacked by Islamic Militant Elements, as in Libya and Mali

The accusation there was a national campaign to slander her U.S. tour that she is “an agent of Assad” is, in my view, little more than mischievous nonsense being spread to undermine popular support of a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis. Her analysis of the Syrian situation suggests a reality that hardly appears in the U.S. mainstream media, far more nuanced and accurate concerning what is transpiring on the ground there. While no fan of the Assad government she has openly criticized its repressive character Mother Agnes Marian insisted that the government has substantial support among the country’s population and that the last thing the country’s Christian population wants to see is a radical Islamic takeover of the country.

Despite this, some American academics and even peace groups, with their heads in the sand, have lined up in support of the rebels and still support the demented pipe dream of a military victory for the rebels. Not surprisingly, these so-called defenders of human rights also line up against a negotiated solution to the Syrian crisis.

Many of the American supporters of the Syrian rebel factions frame their support for the rebels within the framework of humanitarian intervention, failing to see that such an approach, as in Libya, is little more than a pretext for big-power military intervention. While claiming humanitarian concerns, they fail to acknowledge or hardly the crimes against humanity committed by the so-called rebels, their targeting of the Syrian civilian population, their false-flag operations (the chemical weapons incidents), all by now extensively and well documented.

Those supporting military interventionism on humanitarian grounds in support of the Syrian rebels tend to downplay the degree to which the Syrian opposition is infested with Salafist-Wahhabist fighters arguing that there are only “a few thousand” foreign fighters in Syria. But such claims are quite inaccurate, deceptive. There are currently more than 2,000 foreign Islamic armed militias no one knows the exact number in Syria. As they see no place in Syria’s future for non-Sunni Moslems, Christians, and Jews, these Salafist elements have put together quite a record of death and destruction that includes destroying 50 churches some of them dating back to the time of Christ, such as the 2,000-year-old Jobar Synagogue in Damascas, one of the world’s oldest, if not the oldest) and 100 mosques of Druze, Alawite and other Islamic Shi’ite and related sects.

Actually, the militant Islamic rebel factions are Syria’s version of cruise missiles on the ground. If, in Iraq, the United States destroyed infrastructure and civil society from the air by intensive bombing campaigns that actually started in 1991 and accelerated after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, in Syria it is Islamic guerrillas who attack civilian communities, factories, schools, religious institutions, and power stations to the same end. Their goals: to make life unlivable for Syrians, drive them either into the opposition or into exile and to destroy as much of Syria as a country so that it will literally collapse and Syria cease to exist as a state, as happened in Iraq, all the while blaming the lion’s share of the damage on the Syrian military.

Mother Agnes-Mariam Explains What Obama Doesn’t Have the Courage To Her U.S. visit comes two months after the Obama Administration has tried to shift gears on both the Syrian civil war and U.S.-Iranian relations, moving from policies of confrontation to calls for international negotiations to resolve the tensions between the United States and two of its main Middle Eastern adversaries. This shift in U.S. policy, motivated by regional and global concerns, surprised many and came after it appeared that U.S. military operations against Syria were in the offing.

It is no secret that many among the American public are somewhat at a loss to understand the Obama administration’s sudden shift in policy towards the Syrian crisis. One day Obama is speaking of sending in the cruise missiles, the next day negotiating. Having poisoned the media atmosphere here in the U.S. concerning Syria so blatantly and for so long, with so many distortions appearing in the mainstream media and supported by a stream of bellicose pronouncements from Obama administration spokespeople (and the president himself), it is understandable that many in the American public are confused by the sudden shift in policy. As Mother Agnes-Mariam puts it: “It is scandalous the way the mainstream media has approached the Syrian crisis.”

Washington’s Shifting Global Priorities

To understand Washington’s Syria shift from war-to-peace mongering, it helps to put U.S. foreign policy in its more global perspective. Globally, the United States, concerned with the growth of Chinese economic and political influence, is trying to re-direct its political and military attention to East Asia and to a certain extent away from the Middle East. The Obama Administration has come to the conclusion (and this probably happened months ago) that a U.S. military intervention in Syria, necessary to reverse the current military balance of forces in Damascus’ interest on the ground, would be a major strategic error. Another Middle East military quagmire is the last thing the United States needs. The fact of the matter is that neither the sanctions against Iran nor support for the rebels in Syria produced the desired, sometimes articulate, often denied, result in either country: regime change.

If the Obama Administration is turning its eyes towards Asia, it simply cannot afford to blast Assad out of power in Syria. Too many undefined factors come into play. So the decision was made to put a limit on its military engagements in the Middle East and Central Asia, which have gone poorly, with devastating results for the region, in Afghanistan and Iraq. The buck stopped at Syria. Unable to resolve the Syrian crisis militarily because of all the variables, Obama, wisely for a change understood the need to find a way out of the Syrian morass. There are now reports emerging suggesting that the United States and the Russians have been “talking” about Syria for more than six months. I would not be surprised at all if such talks took place. The real problem for the Obama Administration has been how to get out of Syria while still saving face. The Russians, key players in the Syrian crisis, seemed to help Obama come up with some kind of a plan.

Deconstructing the Syrian Opposition

Enter Mother Agnes-Mariam, who is telling the American people, gently actually, essentially what their government has been doing all along in Syria but what Washington itself doesn’t have the courage to relate. Mother Agnes-Mariam comes to the United States just at the time when the Obama Administration is trying to re-shape its Syria policy. But Obama has painted himself into a corner in so idealizing the role of the Syrian opposition. Mother Agnes-Mariam came to Denver with a message of peace a call for a negotiated settlement of the Syrian crisis as well as a warning. It is the peace message which the Obama Administration should be announcing to the American people but doesn’t seem to have mustered up the courage to do so as of yet, so they hide behind the robes of a Carmelite nun instead and let her take the heat.

Granted, as mentioned above, there are legitimate Syrian elements in the opposition who will have to have a voice in any settlement. But the United States through its regional allies has unleashed some very destructive forces in Syria and now has the formidable task of getting these “jinns” back into the bottle. The shift in policy has angered if not infuriated Washington’s regional allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey whom it appears were taken by surprise by the policy shift and are howling in pain and very openly angered at with the shift, about which they can do little.

“The peace message” was essentially that no side will “win” the military conflict in Syria, and that the crisis there which is essentially now a civil war can only be resolved through negotiations between the Assad government and its “Syrian-based” (and she stressed this particular formulation) opponents.

“The warning” was that while there is a legitimate Syrian opposition engaged in the fighting against the Assad government, that much of the so-called rebellion had been hijacked by Islamist fundamentalist radicals armed, trained and funded by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey (and others). Responsible for much of the bloodshed and terror they seem to have a particular penchant to beheading people the Islamists are mostly foreign elements recruited from throughout the region to fight. Their goal is the establishment of an Islamic state based upon Shari’a law. Mother Agnes-Mariam opposed their participation in the peace process, and calls for their expulsion from Syria. Although by no means an easy goal, unless the United States through whatever mechanism it can find can rein in these radical Islamist elements, there will be no peace in Syria.

Concerning the Syrian opposition Mother Agnes-Mariam’s main point is that the Syrian opposition has long been hijacked by radical fundamentalist elements, its main secular, domestic opposition having been shunted to the sidelines in the fighting. Similar scenarios have unfolded recently in both Libya and Mali, where opposition movements were hijacked by Salafist-Wahhabist elements.

At the same time Mother Agnes-Mariam actually sympathizes with the grievances of the Syrian opposition, that part of it that is domestically based. She expressed deep concern for the fact that the opposition has been hijacked by Islamist fundamentalist elements that get logistical, financial support and military training from American regional allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey. Although she didn’t mention it, these Islamist factions, trained in Jordan, Turkey and northern Lebanon, also have received both financial and military support from the United States Special Forces.

There are also several reports in the Israeli press of French special forces and Israeli commandos training and supporting Syrian rebels. Despite all this outside support meant to bring down the Assad government, government forces are winning the military confrontation and enjoy strong political support from major elements of the Syrian population. The latter might not have warm and fuzzy feelings for the Assad government and are well aware of its shortcomings, but much prefer Assad to a Salafist/Wahhabist-run political system based upon Shari’a law.

Those (in Washington, Paris, Riyadh, Ankara, Doha) who argued that the Assad government would fall like a house of cards, as did Gadaffy’s rule in Libya, have made a strategic blunder. Assad remains in power and, if anything, his social base is strengthening while the opposition, despite some legitimate grievances that any peace process will have to address, is something approaching shambles both politically and militarily. As numerous commentators have warned for several years now there will be no military solution to the Syrian conflict. Neither side will win on the battlefield. Only a negotiated settlement under internationally supervised auspices can create a path out of the destruction, death and suffering from which the country is now experiencing.

Right on, Mother Agnes-Mariam!

Rob Prince, is Teaching Professor at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies. In recent years, he has written extensively on North Africa. He is also the publisher of the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

Lawyer Shahzad Akbar (left) and Shireen Mazari (center), PTI central information secretary, at press conference on holding CIA responsible for November 21 drone strike | Screen shot from PTI’s website

A political party in Pakistan has named the CIA station chief in the country and accused the chief and CIA director John Brennan of murder for their role in a recent drone strike in Hangu, where an Islamic school was targeted.

The drone strike on November 21 killed six and, injured a “large number of those present including children,” according to a letter submitted to police by Dr. Shireen M. Mazari, the central information secretary for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Following the strike in the Khyber Pakhtunkwa province, a settled urban area, a First Information Report (FIR) was submitted to a nearby police station asking them to investigate crimes committed by those who were behind the strike.

Firedoglake is not revealing the alleged station chief’s name. The identity of the alleged CIA station chief in Pakistan has already been exposed by PTI, and his alleged name is circulating in the country.

The letter nominates Brennan and alleged CIA station chief Craig Osth for “committing the gross offenses of committing murder and waging war against Pakistan.”

Mazari continues, “It has further come to my knowledge that Craig Osth is running an illegal clandestine spying operation throughout Pakistan but specifically in KP and annexed Tribal Areas, wherein Craig Osth and his allies (names not known yet) throw a GPS (Global Positioning System) device at a targeted house/car and the Drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), which is remotely controlled from undisclosed location, strikes at the target.”

The alleged CIA station chief is accused of using a “clandestine network” to plant a GPS on the school and “further ordered/conspired” to launch the missiles that killed and injured people.

“It is pertinent to mention here that the Honorable Peshawar High Court has already declared such drone strikes illegal and a violation of Pakistani and international laws,” Mazari adds. Mazari cites a judgment in the case of Foundation for Fundamental Rights v. Federation of Pakistan. (More on that case here.)

Mazari goes on to urge authorities to interrogate the CIA station chief, who is “currently residing and operating from the United States Embassy situated in the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad.” She suggests this is a “clear violation of diplomatic norms and laws as a foreign mission cannot be used for any criminal activity within a sovereign state.”

She also argues that the chief is “not a diplomatic post, therefore, he does not enjoy any diplomatic immunity.” He’s subject to the domestic laws of Pakistan and is subject to the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s penal code.

The letter accuses Osth of multiple crimes and concludes that he “might try to avoid the course of law and run away from the country, therefore it is requested that the Ministry of Interior be contacted to put his name on ECL (Exit Control List).” She also contends that Osth should have to give up the names of others involved in the strike.

Those killed in drone strike on November 21 were Noorullah, Hamidullah, Ahmed Jan, Gul Marjan and Abdul Rehman, according to The Express. Each of these people were taken to Afghanistan to be buried. Ahmed Jan, also known as Maulana Ahmad Jan, was a “spiritual leader” for the Haqqani network. He and others had been at the attacked seminary, which was a “rest base” for militants fighting NATO forces.<

The Haqqani network has never been directly implicated in any attacks on the US homeland. The group is not a part of al Qaeda, although its members are believed to have cooperated with al Qaeda in the past. The members are not senior members of al Qaeda, which President Barack Obama has falsely claimed are the people the US government targets in drone strikes.

After the strike on the Islamic school, PTI, led by Imran Khan, mobilized tens of thousands of people toblock the route for NATO supplies entering into Afghanistan.

Major rallies have been held before, but the naming of an alleged CIA station chief represents a significant escalation in efforts to stop US drone strikes.

“The names of two previous CIA station chiefs in Islamabad were exposed during a six-month stretch three years ago,” The Washington Post’s Greg Miller wrote. “In one case the CIA officer became a target of death threats after his cover was blown, forcing the agency to rush him out of the country.”

One of the instances where the chief’s cover was blown occurred after Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor,shot two men in Lahore and was charged with double murder.

For what it’s worth, according to Ahmed Quraishi, a Pakistan-based columnist for News International, the CIA is claiming that Craig Osth is not the station chief’s name.

Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who represents US drone victims, will be representing students who were injured in the Hangu attack. Though the injured students are apparently no longer in Hangu for safety reasons, they will eventually go to the police station so that their statements can be taken.

Akbar has tried to enter the US in the past months for conference events, but the State Department has been unwilling to grant him a visa.

The PTI and its supporters, along with human rights lawyers like Akbar, have consistently worked to raise the stakes for US so they could force the government into a position where it had to stop launching drone strikes.

It is clear that if the US government wishes to continue operations, which the Pakistan’s justice system have declared illegal, they will be confronted by a swelling movement committed to holding those behind the strikes accountable.

This week GRTV talks to Ellen Brown, an attorney, author, and president of the Public Banking Institute.

We begin our discussion with an examination of Brown’s recent article on naked shorting and the suppression of the gold price, and we turn our attention to solutions that the people can use to take back power from the finance capitalists.

We finish on a discussion of the state banking solution proposed by the Public Banking Institute.

This important interview was originally posted on October 2, 2011.


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England is two countries. One is dominated by London, the other remains in its shadow. When I first arrived from Australia, it seemed no one went north of Watford and those who had emigrated from the north worked hard to change their accents and obscure their origins and learn the mannerisms and codes of the southern comfortable classes. Some would mock the life they had left behind. They were changing classes, or so they thought. 

When the Daily Mirror sent me to report from the north in the 1960s, my colleagues in London had fun with my naïve antipodean banishment to their equivalent of Siberia. True, it was the worst winter for 200 years and I had never worn a scarf or owned a coat. Try to imagine what it is like in darkest Leeds and Hull, they warned.

This was a time when working people in England were said to be “speaking out”, even “taking over”. Realist films were being made, and  accents that had not been welcome in the broadcast media and sections of the entertainment business were now apparently in demand, though often as caricatures.

During that first drive north, when I stopped for petrol, I failed to understand what the man said; within weeks, what the people were seemed perfectly clear.  They were another nation with a different history, different loyalties, different humour, even different values.  At the heart of this was the politics of class. Crossing the Pennines, the Empire dropped away. The imperial passions of the south barely flickered. On Merseyside and Tyneside, apart from the usual notables, no one gave a damn for royalty. There was the all-for-one-and-one-for-all of a wagons-drawn working class society – unless, as was made painfully clear in later years, you happened to be black or brown. That solidarity was, for me, the story, as if it was the missing chapter in England’s political heritage, a people’s history of modern times, suppressed by Thatcher and Blair and still feared by their echoes.

I had already glimpsed the power of this solidarity in the place where my parents had grown up and I knew as a boy: the mining region of the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Here, whole collieries had shipped out from Yorkshire, Tyneside and Durham. “Watch them; they’re communists,” I heard someone say. They were fighters for working class decency: proper pay, safety and solidarity. The Welsh were the same. They brought with them the pain and suffering and anger of those who had industralised the world and gained little but the resilient comfort of each other.

The Mirror published my reports of working lives: miners working in three foot shafts, steelworkers in unimaginable heat. I would find a street, virtually any street, and knock on doors. What intrigued me then was that such human warmth and forbearance could survive the treadmill of northern cities.  Moreover, the great radical tradition of resistance in the north – from the cotton workers of the 19th century to the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-5 – always threatened the game known in London as “the consensus”.

This was the nod-and-wink arrangement between Labour and Tory governments and the five per cent who owned half the wealth of all of the United Kingdom. The Labour MP turned media man, Brian Walden, described how it worked. “The two front benches [in Parliament] liked each other and disliked their back benches,” he wrote. “We were children of the famous consensus … turning the opposition into government made little difference, for we believed much the same things.”

My second film for television, made for Granada TV in Manchester, was called Conversations with a Working Man. It was the story of Jack Walker, a dyehouse worker from Keighley in Yorkshire whose job was monotonous, filthy and injurious to his health, yet he derived a pride from “doing it well”.  Jack believed passionately that working people should stand together. That an articulate trade unionist was allowed to express his views without intrusion by those who often claimed to speak for him, and to worry out loud about the stitched-up democracy in Westminster, was beyond the pale. The term “working class”, I was told, had “political implications” and would not be acceptable to the Independent Television Authority. It would have to be changed to “working heritage”. Then there was the problem of the term “the people”. This was a “Marxist expression” and also had to go. And what was this “consensus”?  Surely, Britain had a vibrant two-party system.

When I read recently that 600,000 Greater Manchester residents were “experiencing the effects of extreme poverty” and that 1.6 million were slipping into penury, I was reminded how the political consensus was unchanged. Now led by the southern squirearchy of David Cameron, George Osborne and their fellow Etonians, the only change is the rise of Labour’s corporate management class, exemplified by Ed Miliband’s support for “austerity” – the new jargon for imposed poverty.

In Clara Street in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in the wintry dark of early morning, I walked down the hill with people who worked more than sixty hours a week for a pittance. They described their “gains” as the Health Service. They had seen only one politician in the street, a Liberal who came and put up posters and said something inaudible from his Land Rover and sped away. The Westminster mantra then was “paying our way as a nation” and “productivity”.  Today, their places of work, and their trade union protection, always tenuous, have gone. “What’s wrong,” a Clara Street man told me, “is the thing the politicians don’t want to talk about any more. It’s governments not caring how we live, because we’re not part of their country.”

John Pilger’s new film, Utopia, is broadcast on ITV on 19 December. www.johnpilger.com

Israel — Just Another Hapless British Colony

November 28th, 2013 by John Kozy

The world would learn of a cruel and imperialistic country stealing from … needy and naked people.”— Mohammad Mosaddegh

How incidents and situations are defined largely determines how they are thought of. For instance, consider the trial of George Zimmerman for Travon Martin’s killing which resulted in an acquittal. The prosecution allowed the incident’s start to be defined as the moment Travon confronted George after being followed for some time and distance. Defining the incident that way made it appear that Travon was the aggressor. If, as many believe should have been done, the incident’s start had been defined as the moment George decided to follow Travon even after having been told by the police that that was unnecessary, George would have been made to appear as the aggressor. The trial’s outcome likely would have come out differently.

Apply the same analysis to the West’s, especially Britain’s and America’s, antagonistic relationship with Iran. The West has defined the situation’s start as the moment the Iranians invaded the U.S. Consulate making the Iranians look like aggressors. But the Iranians define the situation’s start as the moment British MI6 and the American CIA instigated the overthrow of the duly elected, democratic government of enormously popular Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. The coup imposed an autocratic Shah on Iran who was himself overthrown 26 years later. Defining the situation this way clearly makes the West the aggressor. Now apply the same analysis to the so-called War on Terror.

The West defines the war’s start as September 11, 2001 which makes those who hijacked the airplanes the aggressors. But Muslims define the war as having begun much, much earlier. To them, “terrorists” are over here because the West has been over there for a very long time.

In classes on Western Civilization, students are seldom told that it is a predatory culture. The Greeks were constantly at war, if not with the Persians, with each other. Alexander was an early empire builder. So too were the Romans. Portugal and Spain were early predators of the Americas. Then came England, Holland, and France. We are all familiar with the predative nature of the Vikings. The Italians and Germans tried to colonize Africa. And when these nations were not trying to colonize the world, they were often at war with one another. Western Civilization is bellicose, and it has been at war with Islam at least since the Crusades which began in 1099 when the Holy Roman Empire sent armies to “free the Holy Land from the infidel” and take control of trade routes to the Far East. The invading Christians created several Christian states, and the Muslims in the region vowed to wage holy war (jihad) to regain control. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

(Because of the American educational system’ s almost total concern with vocational training, most Americans know nothing of the Crusades.)

Near the end of the 13th century, the Mamluk dynasty in Egypt overwhelmed the coastal, Christian stronghold of Acre and drove the European invaders out of Palestine and Syria. Still throughout the 13th century, Crusaders tried to gain ground in the Holy Land through short-lived raids that proved little more than annoyances to Muslim rulers.

But that wasn’t the end of it. In 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt and Syria. In 1882, Britain made Egypt into a protectorate (which is a fancy name for ‘colony.’) In 1919, France again went to war with Syria. In the 1920s, the League of Nations granted Britain and France permission to make Syria a French protectorate and Palestine a British protectorate. Now the West has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, regularly bombs Pakistan, and seems intent on a war with Iran. For more than ten centuries, the Middle East has suffered under the assaults of Western Europeans! None of the West’s efforts has gotten it the hegemony it seeks.

So at the end of the Second World War, the British realized, as the system of protectorates in the Middle East began to unravel, that a different strategy was needed. Not having been able to transplant Western values in the populations of any Middle Eastern country, it became apparent that only another British colony, populated by people of European origin, could ever hope to succeed. Thus the British continued the duplicitous diplomacy of making promises it never intended to keep, concocted a racist Balfour Declaration, and sought to use the Jews of Europe as its colonists to establish a Western style state in Palestine called Israel.

No, you say! But consider this: the Israelis treat Palestinians exactly like the English colonists, wherever they have gone, have treated aborigines. The English have mistreated people wherever they have gone. Don’t believe it? Ask an Irishman! The mistreatment of people seems to be a genetic characteristic of the English who once were slavers to Americans and drug pushers to the Chinese.

But the creation of Israel hasn’t worked out too well either. The establishment of the state of Israel is just another chapter in the centuries old war on Islam, and Israel could not have survived without the continuous financial and military support it receives from the West, especially the United States. If the Israelis were historians, they would be wary of that support. The West, especially the United States and Britain, have a history of abandoning allies whenever it suits their own interests. Ask anyone from the string of governments America supported in South Vietnam. Ask Hosni Mubarak. Resuscitate the shah of Iran and ask him. After having been put on Iran’s throne by an American and British coup, when he began to exercise some independence he, too, lost American support. Ask Saddam Hussein; he was once an American darling too. America and the West will abandon Israel just as soon as doing so furthers their interests. Rosemary Hollis, Middle East analyst at City University in London has said, “There is a deep-rooted belief . . . that Britain is always up to something, is never passive and always devious.” The Israelis should view it that way too.

The Israelis may believe that America’s Jews will keep America from abandoning them. The American tobacco industry thought like that too. After more than a century of paying off the Congress, when the mood of the people about tobacco changed, the corrupt Congress had no trouble abandoning the industry whose money it had always been happy to accept.

Israel beware! When the English convinced the members of the United Nations Security Council to create the state of Israel by partitioning Palestine it did so to promote English national Interests, not because anyone cared for the welfare of Jews. Western Europeans are not and never have never been an especially religious people. Western Civilization has never had an Age of Piety! The scripturally based arguments that support the creation of the state of Israel carry no conviction. Not only will no Hindu, Sikh, or follower of Shinto ever care one bit about what Jewish scripture says, neither will most Christians whose only interest is in the Second Coming, the Rapture, and Armageddon, none of which present Jews with a wholesome outcome. They predict the annihilation of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. So, as George Bush has seen, the only alternative the Jews of Israel have is conversion to Christianity. One would expect that Zionists would object to being proselytized by Christians, but they do not. They are too cowardly to risk alienating the support of their fundamentalist, Christian “friends.”

The world’s Christians care no more for the world’s Jews than they care about Muslims. These Christians often exhibit no special concern even for the welfare of fellow Christians. Where I live, there are three different Christian churches belonging to the same denomination. Their congregations do not like each other enough to even worship together. Do Israelis really believe the world likes them? Israelis are merely pawns on a gameboard. Their welfare really doesn’t matter! Only the Second Coming does.

In a Cato Institutional piece written by Sheldon L. Richman, even America’s right wing says, “Beware!”

After 70 years of broken Western promises . . . it should not be surprising that the West is viewed with suspicion and hostility by the populations (as opposed to some of the political regimes) of the Middle East. The United States, as the heir to British imperialism in the region, has been a frequent object of suspicion. Since the end of World War II, the United States, like the European colonial powers before it, has been unable to resist becoming entangled in the region’s political conflicts. Driven by a desire to keep the vast oil reserves in hands friendly to the United States . . . the United States has compiled a record of tragedy in the Middle East.

Richman continued by writing that in 1979, President Jimmy Carter dismissed reminders of America’s long intervention as “ancient history.” Carter implied that there was nothing of value to be learned from that history. In his view, dredging up old matters was dangerous, because it exposed skeletons in the closets of Western nations they wanted to keep hidden. So to raise historical issues was unpatriotic. But hiding or denying the evil done in the past does not absolve the guilt.

When Israel is seen as an English colony, England has to be seen as primarily responsible for all of the horrors committed by its “colonists.” In fact, England and France must be seen as primarily responsible for the horrors committed by all the West in the Middle East at least since 1857, the end of the Anglo-Persian war. The United States became complicit when it inherited the imperialist policies of Western Europe.

The only national interests any Western nation has in the Middle East are imperialist interests. That’s why no Western diplomat who uses the phrase “national interests” ever tells anyone what specific interests are being referred to and it’s also why no Western nation ever refers to the national interests other nations might have in the West. Non-imperialist nations have no national interests beyond their boarders. Only imperialist nations do. So any diplomat who claims to be protecting “national interests” is nothing but a plundering imperialist.

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

Ecco «il mondo più sicuro»

November 28th, 2013 by Manlio Dinucci

Finalmente «si è aperta la strada verso un mondo più sicuro, un futuro nel quale possiamo verificare che il programma nucleare dell’Iran sia pacifico e che esso non possa costruire un’arma nucleare»: la buona novella viene annunciata, un mese prima di Natale, dal presidente Obama, il Premio Nobel per la pace che ha appena reso il mondo più sicuro ordinando di potenziare le centinaia di bombe nucleari che gli Stati uniti mantengono in Europa: le B61-11 vengono trasformate in B61-12, che possono essere usate anche come bombe anti-bunker in un first strike nucleare.

Ciò rientra nella «roadmap» dell’amministrazione Obama per mantenere la supremazia nucleare degli Stati uniti. Essi dispongono di circa 2150 testate nucleari schierate, ossia pronte al lancio con missili e bombardieri, più altre 2500 stoccate in depositi e rapidamente attivabili, alle quali si aggiungono oltre 3000 ritirate ma non smantellate e quindi riutilizzabili: in totale circa 8000 testate nucleari. Analogo l’arsenale della Russia, la quale però ha meno testate pronte al lancio, circa 1800.

Il nuovo trattato Start tra Stati uniti e Russia non limita il numero delle testate nucleari operative nei due arsenali, ma solo quelle pronte al lancio su vettori strategici con gittata superiore ai 5500 km: il tetto è stabilito in 1550 per parte, ma è in realtà superiore poiché ciascun bombardiere pesante viene contato come una singola testata anche se ne trasporta venti o più. Il trattato lascia aperta la possibilità di potenziare qualitativamente le forze nucleari.

A tal fine gli Stati uniti stanno installando in Europa uno «scudo» antimissili, ufficialmente per neutralizzare un attacco iraniano (impossibile allo stato attuale), in realtà per conseguire una vantaggio strategico sulla Russia, la quale sta prendendo delle contromisure.

Oltre a quelle statunitensi, la Nato dispone di circa 300 testate nucleari francesi e di 225 britanniche, quasi tutte pronte al lancio. Israele – che costituisce l’unica potenza nucleare in Medio Oriente e, a differenza dell’Iran, non aderisce al Trattato di non-proliferazione – possiede secondo le stime da 100 a 300 testate con relativi vettori e produce tanto plutonio da fabbricare ogni anno 10-15 bombe tipo quella di Nagasaki; produce anche trizio, gas radioattivo con cui si fabbricano testate neutroniche, che provocano minore contaminazione radioattiva ma più alta letalità.

Cresce allo stesso tempo il confronto nucleare nella regione Asia/Pacifico, dove gli Stati uniti stanno attuando una escalation militare. La Cina possiede un arsenale nucleare, stimato in circa 250 testate, e circa 60 missili balistici intercontinentali. L’India possiede circa 110 testate nucleari; il Pakistan 120, la Corea del nord probabilmente qualche testata. Oltre ai nove paesi in possesso di armi nucleari, ve ne sono almeno altri 40 in grado di costruirle. Non esiste infatti una netta separazione tra uso civile e uso militare dell’energia nucleare e, dai reattori, si ricavano uranio altamente arricchito e plutonio adatti alla fabbricazione di armi nucleari. Si calcola che se ne sia accumulata nel mondo una quantità tale da fabbricare oltre 100mila armi nucleari, e si continua a produrne quantità crescenti: vi sono oltre 130 reattori nucleari «civili» che producono uranio altamente arricchito, adatto alla fabbricazione di armi nucleari.

Questo è il mondo che «diviene più sicuro» perché le 5 maggiori potenze nucleari, più la Germania (che ha fornito a Israele i sottomarini da attacco nucleare), hanno concluso l’accordo secondo cui «il programma nucleare iraniano sarà esclusivamente pacifico».

Manlio Dinucci

 

On 16 August 2012 the summertime sun streamed through the leafy canopy of Green Park and into the windows of the Belgravia headquarters of platinum mine company Lonmin plc. But 5,500 miles away there was a chill in the air as the company’s biggest South African mine became a frenzy of activity.

Striking workers had gathered for the eighth day in a row at the Marikana mine, while media crews watched from nearby. Four thousand rounds of live ammunition were delivered and ambulances rolled ominously into place. As the cameras flashed, Zukiswa Mbombo, police chief of North West province, announced: “Today is D-day: we are ending this matter.”

By nightfall, 34 striking miners had been shot dead and 78 wounded in the bloodiest security crackdown since the end of apartheid.

As the country tried to make sense of the events, blame was apportioned to police, the unions involved and the striking miners themselves.

But 15 months on from the massacre, executives from British-owned Lonmin, which counts the Church of England Commissioners and several UK borough councils among its shareholders, have not yet been called to appear before the official commission of inquiry into the massacre.

Now, evidence examined by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism raises new and potentially damaging questions about the relationship between Lonmin, the company at the centre of the strike, the police and the government.

A transcript of a meeting between Lonmin and police submitted to the inquiry suggests company officials worked with police chiefs to formulate a joint plan to break the strike. The investigation has also found that company executives lobbied politicians and police chiefs to ramp up the police presence and that the company provided resources and intelligence to the police. The research has also shed light on the political and financial pressures that the company was facing at the time.

Rehad Desai, spokesman for the Marikana Support Campaign,  said: “It all starts adding up to a very poisonous picture which undermines the very fabric of South African democracy. If true, this is an outrageous collusion that adds up to a huge injustice.”

Lonmin grew out of mining firm Lonrho, the company that owned the Observer from 1981-93. In 1999, Lonrho was renamed Lonmin. Earlier this month the company announced its end-of-year results, recording a profit and increased production for 2013.

The company came to international attention last year when the week-long strike came to its bloody climax. There is no suggestion that either the police or Lonmin officials intended for shots to be fired that day. However, evidence now shows that on 14 August, just two days before the massacre, there was a joint agreement between the company’s management and police that the strike should be broken in a decisive manner.

The details of this meeting have only just surfaced. A transcript submitted to the commission shows provincial police chief Zukiswa Mbombo in discussions with three Lonmin employees, including head of security Graham Sinclair and  executive vice president for human capital Barnard Mokwena.

In the meeting, the group discuss the political and industry pressures influencing the situation. The group also discuss a similar strike that had happened at another South African-based mine, Impala Platinum, six months earlier. There the strike resulted in the company giving in to workers’ demands for a wage increase, and the establishment of a new union at the mine, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

Lonmin’s chief executive at the time, Ian Farmer, attended a presentation by Impala in which they discussed what had happened. Farmer told the Bureau that Impala’s agreement to a wage increase “rippled through the rest of the industry  and “created an expectation”.

In the meeting on 14 August, Mbombo notes that Lonmin should learn lessons from Impala, and take care to not look sympathetic to the AMCU rather than the established union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) – which was an ally of the African National Congress.

The group also recall that political points were scored at the Impala strike by outspoken politician Julius Malema, who was pushing for nationalisation of the mines. The transcript records Mbombo noting that what they do at the Lonmin mine “has a serious political connotation that we need to take into account … we need to act such that we kill this thing”. Lonmin’s Mokwena agrees: “Immediately, yes.”

At the meeting a plan is formulated that Lonmin will issue an ultimatum to the miners to return to work or be fired, and if that does not work the police will move in to break up the strike.

If they do not surrender their weapons, “then it is blood”, says Mbombo. She adds: “Emotions are very high … I do not want a situation where 20 people will be dead. This is not what we are here for: what we are here for is to maintain peace and make sure there is peace between us, the people and the company.”

Mokwena agrees and tells her: “The two plans go together”.

Later, Mokwena compliments the police chief on the force’s resources, saying: “I must tell you, the ones that impress me [are] these snipers.”

Mbombo then assures Lonmin’s head of security, Sinclair, that she can provide him with a water cannon.

There had already been a number of violent incidents at the mine in which  strikers, police and security personnel had been killed. On the morning of 16 August, ambulances were put on standby by Lonmin and attempts were made by the police to order mortuary vans.

The police waited until the miners had amassed at the rocky hillside that had become their base before rolling out razor wire and opening fire. Evidence shows the water cannons were used just seven seconds before live ammunition was fired.

The meeting on 14 August arose after a concerted effort by Lonmin to get the police interaction that they wanted.

Acts of intimidation and violence had been bubbling up even before an official strike was called and emails, telephone calls and a letter between top Lonmin executives show the company lobbying politicians and police chiefs to increase police pressure. Three days before the massacre, Albert Jamieson, the chief commercial officer of Lonmin, wrote to the minister for mineral resources, Susan Shabangu, and asked her to act more decisively and to “bring the full might of the state to bear on the situation”.

In the letter, Jamieson also reminds the minister of the importance of Lonmin to the South African economy, and the pressures on the mining industry, writing: “I have spoken to the CEOs of Implats and Anglo [two other platinum mines] and we are all concerned about the prognosis for [platinum] miners in the [North West] province and the consequences for the industry, province and the country if the various organs of the states are unable to bring these repeat situations under control.”

The mining sector is important to the South African economy. In 2012 it brought in $21bn, or 5.5% of GDP and 38% of all South African exports.

The day before the massacre, Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC stalwart and at the time a non-executive director of Lonmin, called Shabangu. In an email he told his Lonmin colleagues what he said. “I called her and told her silence and inaction about what is happening at Lonmin was bad for her and the government.”

The message got through. Ramaphosa later noted that Shabangu “is going into cabinet and will brief the president as well and get the minister of police Nathi Mthethwa to act in a more pointed way”. In a statement to the commission of inquiry dated 30 May 2013, Ramaphosa said his engagement with government officials served to inform them of the gravity of the situation in Marikana.

“Lonmin management took the view that this was not simply an industrial dispute and that Lonmin needs the [police] to restore and maintain law and order and prevent further loss of life,” he said. “Lonmin was anxious that government be informed of the seriousness of the situation.”

Ramaphosa has since left Lonmin and become deputy president of the ANC. Political analyst Adam Habib points to the importance of his role in the affair. “Cyril Ramaphosa’s emails don’t demonstrate he’s responsible for the massacre but they do suggest Lonmin had used his office to get access to ministers and security officials in a way that would not otherwise have been possible,” he said.

Between the sending of Jamieson’s letter on 13 August and the follow-up emails and lobbying two days later, the number of police on the Marikana site more than tripled.

Reports of violence and intimidation had been coming in to Lonmin security in the weeks before the massacre. In the week leading up to it, two police officers and two security guards were killed. Six miners were also killed, four of them shot by the police.

In public statements, Lonmin announced it had handed control and responsibility over to the police. On the day of the massacre, the chairman of Lonmin sent out a statement saying: “The South African Police Service have been in charge of public order and safety on the ground”.

However, Lonmin had more than 500 contracted security officials working for them. Police officer Charl Annandale told the Farlam commission – the inquiry set up to investigate the massacre – that during the strike, the police “relied on their [Lonmin] feedback … they had literally hundreds of security officers spread over their site that gave us valuable feedback”.

In earlier days, informants among the striking miners had fed back information to Sinclair, the company’s head of security, according to written statements to the commission.

Lonmin supplied CCTV, helicopters, jail cells and ambulances to the police operation. Lonmin staff also had access to police radios and logged information received on them. A photograph from the police command centre at the mine centre shows a plan for 16 August detailing the deployment of Lonmin security agents. The plan also notes the staff’s arsenal, which includes 9mm pistols, LM5 assault rifles and shotguns.

The Farlam commission has heard from several parties arguing that they called on Lonmin to negotiate with their employees, including the head of the South African police, Riah Phiyega, and the bishop of Pretoria, Johannes Seoka.

However, the situation was complicated. Infighting between rival unions has proved a serious issue in the mining sector, and growing disillusionment with the NUM led to one of Lonmin’s mineshafts, Karee, being left ununionised from mid-2011. It was in this vacuum that, in the month before the massacre, the company had negotiated directly with striking miners at Karee and agreed to an increase in allowances.

An internal memorandum from Lonmin officials shows that in July the company knew it was paying its rock drill operators less than other companies. The decision then to engage with workers directly, rather than through the unions, was approved by the executive committee.

Farmer, Lonmin’s former chief executive, explained the effort to avoid any trouble, calling it “an attempt to pour oil on troubled water”, but conceded it might have sent mixed messages to the workers.

When, in August, the miners attempted to talk directly to management again, the company’s attitude had changed, with executives stating they would only negotiate through the official channels: the then-discredited NUM.

Five days before the massacre, the workers marched, armed only with placards and a few sticks, to the NUM offices. Statements from NUM leaders allege that Lonmin security warned the union leaders there that the miners intended them harm. NUM officials opened fire on the unarmed miners, wounding two and effectively breaking off relations for good.

Some attempts were made by Lonmin to open communications with the leader of the AMCU, Joseph Mathunjwa. The night before the massacre, he was sent by Lonmin and the police to talk to the miners and was told by the miners to return the next day to continue talks.. However, the following morning, Lonmin cut off all contact through Mathunjwa.

As well as the political and industry-wide pressures, Lonmin was facing significant financial pressure in the months before the massacre. Mid-year financial reports, produced a month before the incident, show that Lonmin’s first-half profits had decreased nearly 90% compared to the same period the year before. Production and platinum prices were down, while the company’s net debt had increased by 20% since the year before.

To compound the pressures, Lonmin’s bank loan covenants were due to be tested in September. Passing that review relied on the company hitting certain profit margins.

“Revenue at the time was not generating the sufficient margin for us to be generating the cash needed, there was a risk that covenants could be breached. Of course when we had the strike for that protracted period of time, that pushed it over the tipping point,” Farmer .

When asked if the financial pressures could have affected the way the strike was dealt with, the former chief executive said: “In any situation the financial considerations for the company are first and foremost, it’s always a balancing act. Get everyone back and working as quick as possible: not only for financial reasons but also you need peace and harmony in the workforce.”

When 3,000 Lonmin workers downed tools and went on strike it effectively brought the entire plant to a standstill, and the bank covenants were eventually breached.

Although he was ill at the time and therefore not present while the strike was going on, Farmer defends the actions of his former colleagues. “It would be normal for the police to call on the company and ask them to explain as a company what they think is happening … but they would not have sat there and agreed a plan of action for the day with them, because we don’t have that expertise. We’re a mining company, we’re not riot-control specialists,” he said.

However, Andile Mngxitama, spokesman for Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters party, claimed: “The relationship between Lonmin and the [ANC] determined every action that happened in the buildup to the massacre. It confirms an unhealthy relationship between the mining companies and the state.”

Lonmin declined to comment on the allegations, stating that it has undertaken not to comment publicly on issues under investigation before it has given evidence and representations to the Farlam commission.

A spokesperson said: “The company believes that this is vital to ensure the integrity of the inquiry, and to avoid pre-empting its processes or subsequent findings.”

This investigation was published in the Observer newspaper.

The White House in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mandel Ngan)

Tehran has strongly rejected Washington’s interpretation of the long-awaited interim nuclear agreement reached by the P5+1 nations in Geneva, as Iran’s Foreign Ministry labeled the factsheet released by the US a “one-sided interpretation.”

The agreement, reached over the weekend in Geneva, outlines a framework for continued negotiations with Tehran, including a deal which is yet to be finalized. However, Iran now claims that the American factsheet, posted a few hours after the deal was announced on the website of the White House, has omitted some key points and is misleading the public by adjusting the language of the original agreement.

A spokeswoman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Marziyeh Afkham, came out with the following statementpublished by the Fars news agency on Tuesday:

“What has been released by the website of the White House as a factsheet is a one-sided interpretation of the agreed text in Geneva and some of the explanations and words in the sheet contradict the text of the Joint Plan of Action [the title of the Iran-powers deal], and this factsheet has unfortunately been translated and released in the name of the Geneva agreement by certain media, which is not true.”

The spokeswoman gave no further details.

Iran, together with the P5+1 nations – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – agreed on Sunday that the former will curb a substantial portion of its nuclear activities for a period of six months, which will be spent finalizing the conditions of the deal.

In light of the recent crippling economic sanctions against Iran, Western parties agreed to lift some, including those on gold, precious minerals, the auto sector and petrochemical exports. According to the American factsheet, this is a potential $1.5 billion in revenue for Iran. Additionally, it could also be getting an additional $4.2 billion in oil revenues.

Furthermore, “$400 million in governmental tuition assistance [may also be] transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students,” DC officials told the Washington Free Beacon, which reported on the story.

However, a key aspect in Iran’s nuclear program – its ability to enrich uranium – was claimed by the Foreign Ministry to differ in nature from the US interpretation.

Some key points from Tehran’s version, which was published by Fars, are as follows:

“This comprehensive solution would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the NPT in conformity with its obligations therein.”

“This comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program,” it also says.

And finally, the draft stipulates that “this comprehensive solution would constitute an integrated whole where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

(From L) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius react during a statement on early November 24, 2013 in Geneva (AFP Photo)(From L) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius react during a statement on early November 24, 2013 in Geneva (AFP Photo)

Afkham went on to explain that the above Joint Plan of Action, which is four pages in length, includes terminology chosen in collaboration by all the parties to the Geneva agreement. The spokeswoman added that the accuracy and choice of words is the precise reason the P5+1 agreement took such time to finalize, with particular emphasis given to the importance of its phrasing by Tehran.

Early Sunday morning, however, saw the release of a markedly different text, prompting the Iranian Foreign Ministry to release what is says is the real version of the agreement.

The Washington Free Beacon spoke to White House officials, who said that the “P5+1 and Iran are working on what the timeframe is” adding that the final details of the draft agreement are still being ironed out. They declined to elaborate on what this means.

One thing that remains certain is while those details are being worked out, Iran retains the right to continue enriching uranium. Its right to do so has been the hottest subject of debate and is what landed it in hot water with the US, leading to Western sanctions.

Israeli leader Benyamin Netanyahu called the agreement a flat-out “mistake,” while US President Barack Obama, despite welcoming the deal, said the toughest sanctions will remain in place, while other offers listed in the agreement could easily be retracted.

President Obama thinks he can make war appear to be peace with a wave of “his semantic magic wand.” U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including elite killer teams, are to be redefined as mere “advisors” to Afghan forces so that America’s “combat” role can be declared ended – to be followed by ten more years of mass killing and occupation.

The most ridiculous actor in the fictitious U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is not President Hamid Karzai, the hustler the U.S. installed as its puppet after the American invasion in 2001. The real clowns in this charade are those Americans that pretend to believe President Obama when he says the U.S. war in Afghanistan will end on the last day of next year. Obama is, of course, lying through his teeth. The United States and its NATO allies plan to keep 10,000 to 16,000 troops in the country, occupying nine bases, some of them set aside for exclusive American use – and would remain there at least ten years, through 2024. Shamelessly, Obama claims these troops – including thousands from the Special Operations killer elite – will have no “combat” role. It’s the same lie President Kennedy told in 1963, when he called the 16,000 U.S. troops then stationed in Vietnam “advisors,” and the same bald-faced deception that Obama, himself, tried to pull off, unsuccessfully, in Iraq – until the Iraqis kicked the Americans out.

Barack Obama has arrogated to himself the right to redefine the very meaning of war, having two years ago declared that the 7-month U.S. bombing campaign against Libya was not really a war because no Americans were killed. In Afghanistan, Obama waves his semantic magic wand to transform the past 12 years of war into 10 more years of not-war, simply by changing the nomenclature. This is hucksterism from Hell.

If there was a Devil, he would be laughing his butt off at Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor and raving Banshee of War, whose assignment is to pretend that the U.S. might choose the so-called “Zero Option” if President Karzai doesn’t immediately sign away his country to the Americans for the next ten years. By “Zero Option,” Washington means it might just pick up its killer soldiers and weapons and leave Afghanistan. But that’s an empty bluff. Since when has the U.S. voluntarily left anyplace it has forcibly occupied? There is zero chance of a zero option. But, I am reminded of the events in 1963 Vietnam, when the Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were overthrown and executed in a U.S.-backed coup. Sending the homicidal Susan Rice to get in President Karzai’s face is definitely some kind of threat.

Far from ending U.S. imperial wars, Barack Obama has expanded the theaters of armed conflict. He tried to keep U.S. troops in Iraq, but the Iraqis insisted on the withdrawal terms and timetable they had negotiated with President George Bush. Iraq is now paying a heavy price, as the U.S. and its allies arm Iraqi Al Qaida and other jihadist elements fighting to overthrow the government of neighboring Syria. These U.S.-backed jihadists – the same ones the Americans fought against in Iraq for eight years – now wage war against Shiites on both sides of the border.

If there is any hope for an eventual peace in the region, it is that Washington might finally begin to understand that it can no longer control events through brute force, or by using jihadists as surrogates in the Middle East and South Asia. Maybe that’s why the Americans have tried to strike a deal with Iran. Maybe President Karzai thinks the winds of change will be sweeping through his neighborhood, soon, and he doesn’t want to go out like the puppet he came in.

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

Europe Under Washington’s Order

November 28th, 2013 by Sergey Maximov

The United States has sparked a real big fire in the Middle East. Now it has shifted its attention to Europe where the allies started to feel too free at the time of Russia-US «reset». Large-scale NATO exercises conducted in the vicinity of the borders with Russia and Belarus, directing money flows and arms supplies to Poland, the talks about the inevitability of Ukraine’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – it all goes to show the White House is going to ultimately abandon the policy of «partnership with Russia» which it had to declare when its military forces «were fighting international terrorism»…

Now the war is over. The US is getting friendly with the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brothers which have become its partners at the negotiation table. All of a sudden the Islamists have become US friends in Syria while the anti-terrorist coalition partner once again got the status of «potential enemy of NATO».

There is nothing to be surprised about.

The US is always a loser in the geopolitical competition in Eurasia when Europeans realize the «threat from the East» is illusory and lose interest in preserving American presence in the space stretching from the Atlantic to the Carpathians Mountains. The normal relationship between Europe and Russia is like a stake in the heart of a vampire for the United States.

The classic Anglo-Saxon strategy since the end of the Second World War is aimed at excluding the situation when the good old Europe would start to have doubts about the expediency of everlasting «Atlantic solidarity». The demonization of the Kremlin and provoking conflicts with Moscow is the true and tried method of getting Europeans tied to the American nuclear «umbrella» that serves no purpose as soon as the rain stops.

America needs Russia to be hostile like a badly suffering drug addict needs a new dose. That’s why having played a game of «partnership», Washington inevitably starts to ignite tensions in the Russian-United States relations to insert the poison of mistrust towards Moscow into the veins of European politics. Actually it has already launched the process. Of course, Poland is the leader among the coalition of the willing to join the Washington’s efforts.

One should give the devil his due; the current Polish leadership does a lot to find a way to mutual understanding between Moscow and Warsaw. But it has to take into account that the tendency to link the tragic events of the country’s history with the contemporary reality is a predominant tendency among the Polish conservative circles and the society in general. Many Poles perceive the fact of having common borders with Germany in the West, Russia in the North, as well as borders with Belarus and the Baltic states, as the major threat to the security of the third Rzeczpospolita. Washington takes advantage of the situation. It uses Poland as a tool to intimidate Europeans making them believe that Russia has «imperial ambitions». At that, there is a collateral effect here – involving Poland into the major Anglo-Saxon games facilitates the shaping of Germany’s image as an imperial state.

The recent NATO Steadfast Jazz 2013 held on the territories of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia was presented by Polish media as a «Polish-French response» to Russia though indirectly it was a response to Germany too because there were 1200 French and 1040 Polish servicemen out of six thousand troops participating in the maneuvers, while the German contribution was limited only by 55 men strong medical staff group. Washington was an initiator, but limited its participation by only 160 troops. Perhaps it was pursuing quite a different goal. The Americans want to make Europeans think that they are left alone to deal with Russia and Germany while the United States decided to keep away from it all. This tactics work when dealing with Europeans.

The instigation of anti-Russian and, in more covert form, anti-German, hysteria may have a method in its madness. There are warnings coming from Moscow that it will react accordingly to the deployment of missile defense components on the territory of Poland. Russian politicians and military express perplexity over the policy aimed at boosting the Polish army’s strike capabilities. This reaction is viewed as a threat to the entire Central and Eastern Europe coming from Russia. Germany displays no wish to carry the heavy burden of European defense on its shoulders among other things. It is presented as the Berlin’s indifferent attitude towards the Moscow’s imperial policy or something similar to a tangible sign of new collusion between Germany and Russian against Europe.

Scaring themselves with the stories about «eastern barbarians» and «insidious Germans» Poland and the Baltic states exert pressure on the Federal Republic of Germany to make it demonstrate the Atlantic solidarity when it comes to Russia so that the two countries would be at loggerheads. At the same time they ask the United States for help, complaining it has abandoned the Eastern Europeans recently acceded to the Western structures, leaving them alone with the «aggressive» Germans and Russians. The Washington returns to the scene of European politics as the one to unite Europe against the threat making the exercises be joined not by NATO members only, but by such non-aligned countries as Sweden and Finland as well. Actually nobody had doubts which direction these two countries are moving in. But it’s hard to understand what made Ukraine send a contingent twice as large as the one of Germany to take part in Steadfast Jazz 2013.

The Brussels-based NATO headquarters officials assured the exercises were not aimed at the Russian Federation and its allies. But the scenario speaks for itself. Poland and the Baltic states were threatened by an unnamed state aspiring to establish its domination in Central and Eastern Europe. Upon their request NATO brought rapid reaction forces to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to deter the aggressor during the deployment of major forces. The NATO ground and air units were to be stationed at the borders with Russia and Belarus, while the naval forces were to cut off the eastern part of the Baltic Sea. It’s hard to believe that it was Estonia, a NATO member, which was viewed as a potential enemy.

It shows that the United States-led North Atlantic alliance has thrown away the fig leaf of «partnership with Russia» and made it be known in no uncertain terms which direction its strategy will evolve after the infamous operation in Afghanistan is over.

How come the Ukraine, the state keeping away from participation in any alliances, agreed to take part in this kind of NATO exercise?

Of course, to some extent, it could be understood. The close cooperation between Ukraine and the North Atlantic Alliance presupposes getting funds. It is a significant factor in view of financial woes faced by Ukrainian military. Some experts say the current Ukrainian leadership is tacitly implementing the policy aimed at joining NATO – the very same political course started by the previous administration of President Yushchenko. Are they right?

It’s not that easy to come up with a definite answer. There are signs that Kiev believes that its staying out of blocks is just a pause, a time to take breath. That’s what Viktor Shlinchak, Chair of the Supervisory Board, Institute of World Policy in Kiev, Ukraine, said some time ago speaking at an international forum held in the Ukrainian capital. The wrap-up article the Institute published after the event is called Ukraine-NATO: Calm Before Entry.

Natalia Nemyliwska, a Canadian citizen of Ukrainian origin, Director of NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine, spoke by and large along the same lines. Another participant of the forum former Minister of National Defence MP Rasa Juknevičienė, called on Ukrainians to get back to the idea of NATO entry once again, because, as she believes, it provides political guarantee of statehood the very same way the membership in the European Union does. According to her, «Ukraine and its armed forces are ready to join NATO in case there is a political will». Poland’s former Minister of Defence Janusz Onysziewicz put it in no uncertain terms as well. He flatly refused to consider any options for guaranteeing European security with the participation of Russia and Belarus emphasizing that Ukraine should pursue the goal to enter NATO because that is the only alliance to provide military support of other states in emergency.

Alexander Zatynayko, Director of Department for Military Policy and Strategic Planning, said the cooperation with NATO in the field of security and defense is an imperative allowing Ukraine to join the European Union. This way he once again confirmed the tacitly concealed fact that Ukraine cannot enter the European Union without becoming a NATO member. Ukraine’s former Foreign Minister Vladimir Ogryzko made no bones about it saying the non-aligned status of Ukraine should only be a time break before the full-fledged NATO membership. As to him, the neutrality means conducting a foreign policy without sense that leads to the loss of state’s political independence.

The forum «Ukraine – NATO» also included into the agenda the Kiev’s role in the Common Defense and Security Policy (CDSP), which actually serves as an instrument of getting Ukraine embroiled into the «Big Game». A statement of Poland’s Minister of Defence appeared right after the termination ofSteadfast Jazz 2013 exercise on the Ukraine’s Defence Ministry’s website saying the training event is a harbinger of growing fruitful cooperation between Ukraine and Poland, the countries which are working to create a Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade and Ukraine’s accession to the Vyshegrad combat group.

The idea of establishing a military formation of Vyshegrad Four with Ukraine’s participation is not new. It appeared in 2007 when then President Victor Yushchenko tried to ram Ukraine through into NATO. Then the concept was forgotten. Now Washington has revived the favorite Anglo-Saxon tactics of driving a wedge between Europe and Russia, so the idea is given a second lease on life.

It has started to acquire a concrete pattern after the March 2013 Vyshegrad Group defence summit in Warsaw. Then the defence ministers of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic signed an agreement to create a three thousand strong joint rapid reaction force. Poland will exercise the command functions; the unit’s headquarters will be also located on Polish soil. The Polish servicemen will account for half of the force’s strength. According to plans, the force will become operational by early 2016.

The formation of V4 combat group is implemented within the framework of the European Union and NATO because the Vyshegrad group countries are full-fledged members of the both organizations.

What are the European Union’s Common Defense and Security Policy? Actually it’s the European element of NATO without the United States of America. Formally it says Europeans want to have its own defense capability in case the United States sticks to the policy of isolation and refuses to commit its armed forces to the European Union’s defense. Obviously, the argument is laughable; almost all European Union states are also NATO members. What about invoking article 5 of the Washington Treaty? The article is binding and presupposes the United States must defend its European allies. Leaving aside all this play of words, the European Union’s Common Defense and Security Policy is the very same pattern of creating pacts which exclude Russia and Belarus from the process of creating security space in Europe. At that, the both countries are viewed as potential enemies. The question is: will Ukraine, a state which is not a member of any block, take part in this project? Yes or no?

Somehow it all fits really well into the efforts applied by the United States to get the North Atlantic Alliance back to the mission it was created for: to maintain US presence in Europe, to keep Russia away and let Germany be tied by the concept of «United Europe». Last year NATO limited its training activities by exercises to prepare personnel for peacekeeping missions, as well as natural or industrial disasters. This year the Alliance promised to hold large-scale annual exercises in Europe like if the security situation has become different now. Though nothing seems to be changed. If only an idea to provoke the changes on purpose has not appeared in the heads of NATO decision makers.

There is something to think about in Moscow, Minsk and other capitals of the Organization for Collective Security. Perhaps in Kiev too.

Thailand: Uprooting Wall Street’s Proxy Regime

November 28th, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci

Unprecedented protests have taken to the streets in Bangkok, now for weeks, where at times, hundreds of thousands of protesters have appeared. Estimates range from 100-400 thousand people at peak points, making them the largest protests in recent Thai history.

 

 

Images: Scenes taken from across Bangkok showing masses of people protesting the current government in Thailand. Unlike the government’s mobs of “red shirts” centrally directed by Thaksin Shinawatra himself, these rallies are led by a myriad of leaders and interest groups, from unions to political parties and media personalities. The numbers now present dwarf any effort by Thaksin and his political machine to fill the streets with supporters. Currently, the “red shirts” have failed to fill even a quarter of a nearby stadium, after two earlier abortive attempts to raise a counter-rally. 

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The protests aim at ousting the current government after it ignored a recent court ruling finding their attempts to rewrite the constitution illegal.

The current government of Thailand is being openly run by a convicted criminal, Thaksin Shinawatra, who is hiding abroad and running the country through his own sister, Yingluck Shinawatra and his vast political machine, the “Peua Thai Party” (PTP). PTP is augmented by street mobs donning bright red shirts, earning them the title, the “red shirts,” as well as a myriad of foreign-funded NGOs and propaganda fronts.

While it would seem like an open and shut case, regarding the illegitimacy of the current government, Western nations have urged protesters to observe the “rule of law” and have condemned protesters taking over government ministry buildings. Why is the West now seemingly defending the current Thai government, after nearly 3 years of backing protests around the world against other governments it claimed were overtly corrupt and despotic?

It is very simple. Unlike in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Russia, Yemen, Libya, Malaysia, and elsewhere where the West has backed protests, the current government in Thailand is a creation of and a servant to the corporate financier interests of Wall Street and London. Regardless of the cartoonish nepotism of a nation run by the sister of a ousted dictator, media in the West continues to portray the current Thai government as legitimate, “elected,” and “democratic.” Thaksin Shinawatra’s egregious crimes while in office are buried in articles, or worse yet, never mentioned at all.

Before the protests get any bigger, and the conflict more widespread, readers may want to ask and have answered the following questions…

Image: As mentioned in a myriad of foreign media publications, Thaksin’s proxy party ran with the slogan, “Thaksin thinks, Peua Thai does.” As Peua Thai faces charges that a convicted criminal was directly involved in their election campaign, many of the exhibits used against them in court will be of their own design and impossible to deny.

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1. Who Really Leads Thailand’s Current Government?  

Thaksin had been prime minister from 2001-2006. Long before Thaksin Shinwatra would become prime minister in Thailand, he was already working his way up the Wall Street-London ladder of opportunity, while simultaneously working his way up in Thai politics. He was appointed by the Carlyle Group as an adviser while holding public office, and attempted to use his connections to boost his political image. Thanong Khanthong of Thailand’s English newspaper “the Nation,” wrote in 2001:

“In April 1998, while Thailand was still mired in a deep economic morass, Thaksin tried to use his American connections to boost his political image just as he was forming his Thai Rak Thai Party. He invited Bush senior to visit Bangkok and his home, saying his own mission was to act as a “national matchmaker” between the US equity fund and Thai businesses. In March, he also played host to James Baker III, the US secretary of state in the senior Bush administration, on his sojourn in Thailand.”

Upon becoming prime minister in 2001, Thaksin would begin paying back the support he received from his Western sponsors. In 2003, he would commit Thai troops to the US invasion of Iraq, despite widespread protests from both the Thai military and the public. Thaksin would also allow the CIA to use Thailand for its abhorrent rendition program.

Also in 2003, starting in February and over the course of 3 months, some 2,800 people (approximately 30 a day) would be extra-judicially murdered in the cities and countrysides of Thailand as part of Thaksin’s “War on Drugs.”

Accused of being “drug dealers,” victims were systematically exterminated based on “hit lists” compiled by police given carte blanche by Thaksin. It would later be determined by official investigations that over half of those killed had nothing to do with the drug trade in any way. Human Rights Watch (HRW) would confirm this in their 2008 report titled, “Thailand’s ‘war on drugs’,” a follow up to the much more extensive 2004 report, “Not Enough Graves.”

Image: “The Thai Gov’ts War on Drugs: Dead Wrong. Stop the Murder of Thai Drug Users.” During Thaksin Shinwatra’s 2003 “War on Drugs” it wasn’t only drug users who were brutally, extra-judicially murdered in the streets, but over 50% of the 2,800 killed during the course of 3 months, were completely innocent, involved in no way with either drug use or trade.

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In 2004, Thaksin attempted to ramrod through a US-Thailand Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) without parliamentary approval, backed by the US-ASEAN Business Council who just before last year’s 2011elections that saw Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra brought into power, hosted the leaders of Thaksin’s “red shirt” “United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship” (UDD).

 

Image: The US-ASEAN Business Council, a who’s-who of corporate fascism in the US, had been approached by leaders of Thaksin Shinwatra’s “red shirt” street mobs. (click image to enlarge)
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The council in 2004 included 3M, war profiteering Bechtel, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup, General Electric, IBM, the notorious Monsanto, and currently also includes banking houses Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Chevron, Exxon, BP, Glaxo Smith Kline, Merck, Northrop Grumman, Monsanto’s GMO doppelganger Syngenta, as well as Phillip Morris.

Photo: Deposed autocrat, Thaksin Shinawatra before the CFR on the even of the 2006 military coup that would oust him from power. Since 2006 he has had the full, unflinching support of Washington, Wall Street and their immense propaganda machine in his bid to seize back power.
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Thaksin would remain in office until September of 2006. On the eve of the military coup that ousted him from power, Thaksin was literally standing before the Fortune 500-funded Council on Foreign Relations giving a progress report in New York City.

Since the 2006 coup that toppled his regime, Thaksin has been represented by US corporate-financier elites via their lobbying firms including, Kenneth Adelman of the Edelman PR firm (Freedom HouseInternational Crisis Group,PNAC), James Baker of Baker Botts (CFR), Robert Blackwill of Barbour Griffith & Rogers (CFR), Kobre & Kim, and currently Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff (Chatham House).

Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff, would also simultaneously represent Thaksin’s “red shirt” UDD movement, and was present for the inaugural meeting of the so-called “academic” Nitirat group, attended mostly by pro-Thaksin red shirts (who literally wore their red shirts to the meeting). Additional support for Thaksin and his UDD street-front is provided by the US State Department via National Endowment for Democracy-funded “NGO” Prachatai.

2. How Did Thaksin Shinawatra Get Back into Power? 

Almost as soon as Thaksin was ousted from power in 2006, both his political party in Thailand and his Western backers abroad began a campaign to demonize and destroy the Thai establishment. Kenneth Adelman, working under Edelman created the “USA for Innovation” front to slander the prevailing Thai establishment after ousting Thaksin. Adelman did this in 2007, the same year Edelman registered Thaksin Shinawatra as a lobbying client, under the guise of defending “intellectual property.”

Video: Almost satirical in nature, US Neo-Conservative Kenneth Adelman attacks the Thai government, accusing it of “slouching toward Burma” after his PR firm Edelman took on the ousted despot Thaksin Shinawatra as a lobbying client in 2007.  

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A myriad of loaded news stories and op-eds in habitually biased publications including the Economist, Time, and Newsweek targeted Thailand for what was called a slide backwards from democracy – all the while Thaksin was praised for his policies aimed at Thailand’s “marginalized poor.”

The next year, elections would be held and easily won by Thaksin’s unassailable populist-built voting bloc. The prime minister very publicly ran as “Thaksin’s nominee” as was described in Time’s article “Thailand’s PM Proxy: Samak.”  However, both he and his successor Somchai Wongsawat (Thaksin’s brother-in-law) would be quickly ushered out of power through a combination of corruption charges and “counter-color revolutions” staged by elements within Thailand’s indigenous establishment.

Beginning in 2009, Thaksin’s political front began a campaign of increasingly violent confrontations with the prevailing Thai establishment. During April of 2009,  protests staged by Thaksin’s UDD “red shirts” would leave widespread property damage and 2 dead by-standers gunned down while trying defend their property from looting protesters. The Thai military was successful at dispersing the riot without killing a single protester. Thaksin’s political lieutenants would flee to Cambodia after making calls for a “people’s war” that went unheeded by the vast majority of the Thai population.

 
Image: A freeze frame featured in the Bangkok Post, showing clearly the front sight posts of an M16A2. M-16s were used by opposition militants for the explicit purpose of blaming resulting injuries and deaths on the Thai Army, who used the weapon and the rounds it fired as its primary infantry weapon. As in other Western-backed destabilizations, from Yemen to Syria, shadowy gunmen were brought in to create violence to be pinned on the government while their presence was denied for as long as possible. 
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In 2010, intent on generating enough domestic and international outrage to topple the Thai establishment, some 300 covert militants were brought in to trigger deadly violence that would last weeks, turning parts of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok into a war zone. Over 90 people would die, including soldiers, police, innocent by-standers, as well as protesters themselves cut down by both crossfire between militants and soldiers, and smoke inhalation while looting buildings fellow protesters had lit ablaze.

While the Thai military succeeded in restoring order across the city, Thaksin and his Western backers had the momentum they needed to continue radicalizing the UDD “red shirts” as well as turn international opinion against Thailand – bringing us to the 2011 elections.

Running on a campaign of promising cheap houses and cars, free computers, the eradication of both flooding and droughts, as well as guaranteed prices for rice grown by Thailand’s many rice farmers, Peua Thai easily won yet another election – providing a perfect example of how Western-backed client regimes are more than glad to use populism to co-opt large segments of a targeted nation’s population, if national leaders themselves are not willing to first (e.g. ArgentinaVenezuela).

With an accused mass-murderer, convicted criminal hiding abroad to evade multiple arrest warrants, openly running the government through his own sister, and none of his Peua Thai campaign promises being kept after over 2 years in power, Thailand’s establishment may feel the timing is right to begin apply pressure that will ultimately oust Thaksin from power once again – perhaps once and for all.

3. What Does the West Want With Thailand?

For over two decades the United States has expressed throughout a library of policy papers the need to develop and implement an effective “containment” strategy versus China. In 1997, US policy author Robert Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution penned, “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment,” where he 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.

He would continue by saying:

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.


Image: Figure 1. From SSI’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report detailing a strategy of containment for China. While “democracy,” “freedom,” and “human rights” will mask the ascension of Western aligned client regimes into power, it is part of a region-wide campaign to overthrow nationalist elements and install client regimes in order to encircle and contain China. Violence in areas like Sittwe, Rakhine Myanmar, or Gwadar Baluchistan Pakistan, are not coincidences and documented evidence indicates immense Western backing for armed opposition groups. 

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This would be further expanded on in the Strategic Studies Institute’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report where specific areas of Chinese expansion were identified for disruption and containment. This included the now destabilized Baluchistan region in Pakistan where China’s Gwadar port sits, as well as the destabilized state of Rakhine in Myanmar.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would reiterate this commitment to containing China, as well as touch upon another point made by Kagan in 1997 – that Southeast Asian nations would need to be aligned with the US against China as part of any viable containment strategy – in her 2011 op-ed in Foreign Policy titled, “The American Pacific Century.”

Leading a Thailand fully complicit with the United States and its neo-imperial ambition to sustain another century of American hegemony across Asia is a role Thaksin Shinawatra was groomed for decades to fulfill, and it is precisely for this reason that so much money, time, and effort has been poured into both propping him up, while tearing down Thailand’s existing indigenous institutions.

4. Who is Protesting the Current Government? 

Undoubtedly opposition political parties will benefit from any protest and are most likely involved to one degree or another. Additionally, Thai business conglomerates, Thai media moguls, and the military at the very least tacitly approve the current demonstrations. Many across the silent majority are opposed to the disruptive street demonstrations conducted by both Thaksin and his Western backers, as well as his opponents in Thailand and support neither political party – but find Thaksin and the acute instability and division he has created unacceptable.

Image: October 28, 2012, an initial gathering of anti-government protesters assembled in a stadium to call on PTP to step down from power. Despite the “spring” theme of 2011-2012, the rally failed to make any international headlines – most likely because this movement seeks to unseat a Western client-regime, not install one. 

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The rank and file of the protests themselves may include political opposition party supporters, groups aligned to media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul’s “People’s Alliance for Democracy” (PAD), as well as many from across the silent majority, both lower and middle working class, who would like to see an end to Thaksin’s corrosive influence on the country once and for all.

Similar protests in 2007 were initiated by Sondhi’s PAD movement, but later joined by labor unions who cooperated in closing down Thailand’s airports in an act of noncompliance against Thaksin’s proxy government, succeeding in finally collapsing the regime.

While it is claimed that there is a distinct divide between the middle class and poor in Thailand, and that the latter fully support Thaksin Shinawatra and his populist policies, in reality his party won the 2011 elections with a mere 32% of all eligible voters, and failed to achieve even a popular majority of those who did bother to vote – this even with fantastical campaign promises, rampant vote buying, and organized transportation provided on polling day by Peua Thai’s vast upcountry political machine.

Ultimately, the Thais who come out to protest Wall Street-proxy Thaksin Shinawatra are not protesting him because they approve of the alternative. On the contrary – whoever takes his and his political machine’s place will have an equally indefensible mandate to do as they will with the nation, its resources, and its people as Thaksin has. If and when Thaksin and the cancerous political machine he has created with foreign funding and expertise is excised from Thailand’s political landscape, something entirely new will have to be put in its place if progress it to be made.

Fortunately, the silent majority already understands this and are slowly progressing toward various, more pragmatic alternatives, and even more fortunately, many people on both sides of the political bickering are beginning to realize this as well.

Canada Approves Genetically Modified Salmon Exports to Panama

November 28th, 2013 by Pratap Chatterjee

AquaBounty, a U.S. biotechnology company based in Maryland, has secured approval from the Canadian government to export 100,000 AquAdvantage salmon eggs from Prince Edward Island in eastern Canada to Chiriquí province in western Panama.

AquAdvantage salmon – AquaBounty’s lead product – was created by taking genetic material from Chinook salmon and a seal eel to modify an Atlantic salmon to enable it to grow twice as fast as conventional fish. The eggs exported from Canada will be allowed to hatch into fish in Panama but must ultimately be destroyed since the company does not yet have approval to sell AquAdvantage for human consumption.

“We are pleased to note that, after a rigorous examination of our hatchery facility and the Standard Operating Procedures used to produce AAS eggs, Environment Canada is satisfied that we can responsibly produce our sterile, all female eggs on a commercial scale,” said Ron Stotish, the CEO of AquaBounty.

Canadian activists disagree. “It’s … very experimental and the risks of anything going wrong are disastrous,” Sharon Labchuk from a group named “Islanders Say No to Frankenfish” told the Prince Edward Island Guardian. “They can wipe out the wild salmon population if these fish ever escape and their eggs end up in the wild rivers.”

The approval from Environment Canada could have a significant impact on a pending decision by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which is weighing the idea of allowing commercial sale of genetically modified salmon in supermarkets.

“This is one concrete step closer to the reality of GM fish on our plates, and unfortunately it is a really dramatic step,” Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network told the UK Guardian. “It’s a global first, and it has a significant global potential impact for our environment. It starts a chain of decisions that could be just disastrous for our aquatic ecosystems.”

Environment Canada’s decision is a little unusual given that AquaBounty has come under fire for failing to meet Panamanian environmental regulations. Last week AquaBounty was the subject of a complaint from the Environmental Advocacy Center of Panama to Panama’s National Environmental Authority after a 2012 investigation showed that the company had failed to submit regular monitoring or obtain permits for wastewater discharge.

“These allegations suggest a dangerous pattern of non-compliance and mismanagement by AquaBounty, raising the likelihood of an environmentally damaging escape of these fish,” George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety, wrote in a press release last week. “This news further undermines the empty assurances that AquaBounty and the Food and Drug Administration have given the public and suggests that Panama’s environmental laws may have also been broken.”

AquaBounty has been conducting research and running tests on genetically modified fish for some 20 years in the hope that it will eventually win approval to market its products in the estimated $100 billion global fish market. The company is also testing modifications of other fish like tilapia and trout.

Sale of genetically modified fish faces significant opposition in the U.S. Some 36,000 people wrote to the FDA after the agency issued an opinion stating that it believed that AquAdvantage salmon would have no significant impact on the U.S. environment.

If the FDA allows the company allows AquaBounty to sell unlabeled AquAdvantage salmon alongside conventional fish, the company’s sales are likely to boom, given the history of other unlabeled genetically modified agricultural products from companies like Monsanto.

Already a number of other U.S. markets have been overwhelmed by genetically modified crops mostly because they are cheaper to produce and consumers are typically unaware of their entry into the food chain. Today an estimated 85 percent of all processed foods in the U.S. contain altered crops – primarily corn and soy.

The U.S. acts as if its being magnanimous in coming to a nuclear agreement with Iran, but Washington offered Iran “only $7 billion in sanctions relief when American and European banks still hold more than $100 billion in assets.” President Obama is stealing Iran blind and continues to claim the “right” to attack the country in the future. “It is in fact a slap in the face to Iran.”

After years of punishing sanctions, the Islamic Republic of Iran has gained a little breathing room from the enemies who brought that country to the brink. In exchange for not having its economy destroyed completely, this signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty has promised not to do what it has every right to do, namely enrich uranium for peaceful, civilian purposes as much as it wants to. The recently signed agreement with the P5+1 nations will give back a fraction, only $7 billion in sanctions relief when American and European banks still hold more than $100 billion in assets. According to American Zionists and the senators and members of congress they control, the six month agreement is presented as if it were a harbinger of the apocalypse. It is in fact a slap in the face to Iran, a nation made desperate by the United States and its allies.

The Iranian people have paid a high price for exercising their human, political and economic rights. Their economy is on life support, its currency devalued, and its oil worth less than it ought to be because many countries refuse to buy it. Oil exports have dropped 60% since 2010.

Iran has been seriously weakened by the West and the only thing worse than hearing American politicians scream about appeasement is knowing that some of them don’t even believe their own words. They know that opposing the Israeli government is a sure path to retirement and political oblivion. The rest love American hegemony and revel in seeing other people under Uncle Sam’s boot. The venom is all the more ridiculous because Iran still sits firmly in American and Israeli cross hairs. The game isn’t over by any means.

Barack Obama isn’t any nicer than critics of the deal. He is merely more shrewd than they are. He cannot have forgotten that just two months ago he was forced into an ignominious retreat when he sought popular and political support for attacking Syria. Red meat for right wing dead enders won’t serve him very well when the long term goals of empire can still be kept within reach.

The president’s statement on the nuclear deal showed him at his very worst. He lied about Iran’s capability to produce nuclear weapons. He didn’t acknowledge Iran’s past efforts at diplomacy or that it had previously suspended enrichment in a vain attempt to prevent sanctions. He said nothing about the amount of Iranian funds still held hostage and he acted as though Iran were dragged kicking and screaming to the table when in fact the United States dug in its heels until this year.

It would be wonderful if Iran were truly released from the yoke of the West. Its ally Russia has shown resolve in standing up to the Americans, and China and other Asian nations have made their own deals with Iran. But the wild cards have always been the United States and Israel. Israel is more than likely to blame for the murders of Iranian scientists and mysterious, unsolved terror attacks. Israeli politicians openly speak of attacking Iran and threaten to do so without assistance from the United States. Obviously they are unable to do as much as they threaten, but their power in Washington means that they are the existential threat to Iran and not the other way round.

Israel is confident enough in the power of its world wide lobby that it doesn’t hesitate to use a French politician with dual citizenship to openly do its bidding in attempting to kill the deal. Prime Minister Netanyahu may have looked momentarily foolish when he endorsed Mitt Romney but the fact that that he dared do so at all speaks volumes about his certainty in getting Americans to do what he wants.

He and his American compatriots won’t spend the next six months being silent. The ink on the agreement hadn’t dried out before the administration began backtracking and publicly expressing doubts about what they had worked so hard to achieve. It isn’t clear if they are defending themselves from the right wing or if they are in fact biding their time to hit Iran when the moment is ripe. There is a pattern of the targeted nation agreeing to give up its prerogatives only to be attacked anyway. If the ghosts of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were able to speak they would tell us all about that.

This agreement is a victory for the United States more than it is for Iran. It is the kind of sleight of hand that American presidents use as pretexts for war. If Iran doesn’t dot every T and cross every I it will be labeled as an untrustworthy rogue state. Of course the real rogues are firmly ensconced in Washington DC.

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.

Ukraine Dodged a Bullet

At least so far. On November 21, Ukraine abandoned an expected EU alliance. It did so in the interest of “national security,” it said. It intends renewing “active dialogue” with Moscow.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton lied calling it a “disappointment for the people of Ukraine.” Signing the pact “would have provided a unique opportunity,” she claimed.

For the EU perhaps. Not for Ukraine. A November 28 Vilnius Eastern Partnership conference signing ceremony was planned. No longer.

Signing the deal would be disastrous for Ukraine. It dodged a bullet by refusing. It did so at the EU’s expense. It did the right thing.

EU countries covet Eastern expansion. Doing so adversely affects Russian interests. It’s disastrous for vulnerable populations.

Vladimir Putin accused EU officials of “blackmail(ing)” and “pressur(ing)” Ukraine to sign.

Doing so benefits EU countries at Ukraine’s expense. It’s economy is deeply troubled. Its natural markets are more East than West. It’s true for other Eastern European countries.

EU aligned ones include Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Their economies are largely troubled. Some are basket cases. EU officials want to co-opt Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Exploiting them for profit is planned. Ukraine’s refusal disrupts things. Perhaps other targeted countries will reconsider.

At this time, Georgia and Moldova intend to sign on. It’s in their best interests not to. It’s their choice either way.

EU terms mandate structural adjustment harshness. So do IMF financial demands.

They include mass layoffs, deregulation, deep social spending cuts, wage freezes or cuts, unrestricted free market access for EU corporations, corporate friendly tax cuts, marginalizing trade unionism, and harsh crackdowns on nonbelievers.

Ukrainian elements standing to gain from EU membership orchestrated mass protests.

Doing so was reminiscent of 2004 Orange Revolution disruption. Washington’s dirty hands manipulated it. Ukrainians ended up losers.

President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned an EU alliance for good reason. Added social injustice could wreck his 2015 reelection chances. Current economic hard times caused widespread human misery.

Compounding it could cause explosive conditions. Politicians worry most about staying in office. Angering most people is no way to do it.

Ukraine is vitally important to Russia. Both countries maintain close economic ties. It’s in their mutual interests to continue them.

Moscow supplies about 90% of Ukraine’s gas. Its strategic location gives Russian vessels access to the Black Sea and Mediterranean.

Europe’s economy is broken. Monetary intervention solved nothing. Core problems fester and grow. Effective solutions are absent.

Bankers are prioritized over sound economics. Western policy makers march to the same drummer.

Ordinary people suffer. Poverty, unemployment, and deprivation grow exponentially. Nothing ahead looks promising.

On June 4, Harvard Business Review contributor Bill Lee headlined “The European Union: A Failed Experiment.”

“How long can this go on,” he asked? Seventeen Eurozone countries represent its weakest link. More on that below.

Economic stagnation, longer term decline, high unemployment, growing poverty, deprivation, and political dysfunction characterize a failed system.

Lee quoted The Economist. It criticized EU leaders for “sleepwalking through an economic wasteland.”

Europe is fast becoming an economic backwater. Human misery is extreme. “(T)ens of millions of Europeans who want work can’t find it,” said Lee.

Many face “desperate” conditions. Some poor Europeans sell internal organs for cash. A continental black market in body parts exists.

Half of new Greek HIV cases are self-inflicted. It’s done to get 700 euros in monthly benefits. For how long remains to be seen. Desperate people do desperate things. According to Lee:

“(I)t’s time to throw out the EU project itself. The whole thing, root and branch.”

Policymakers aren’t solving things. They’re going from bad to worse. Economic decline is endemic. Force-fed austerity is counterproductive.

Unemployment keeps rising. It’s at Depression era levels in some countries. It was last seen in the 1930s.

Youth unemployment is especially troubling. Young people across much of the continent have no futures.

EU officials mindlessly pursue failed policies. They’re “convinced of (their) infallibility,” said Lee. They believe human suffering is a small price to pay.

Democratic accountability is nonexistent. Bankers and other corporate favorites alone matter. “It’s time to revisit the EU’s founding principles,” said Lee.

So-called lofty aims failed. Prosperity remains elusive. Social angst grows. So do political tensions.

“A system whose officials are responsible for the region’s faltering economies but who are not accountable to the tens of millions of unemployed people in them, is obviously exacerbating those tensions rather than alleviating them,” said Lee.

The prospects for effective EU integration “are slim to none,” he added. EU officials muddle along destructively. They turn a blind eye to failure.

Eurozone rules don’t work. Uniting 17 dissimilar countries under one size fits all diktats failed dismally.

Monetary union was doomed to fail. It was engineered fraudulently to look workable.

In 1979, Europe’s Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) was introduced as part of the European Monetary System (EMS). It’s purpose was to propel the continent to one European currency unit (ECU).

ERM never worked. ECU is failing. Abandoning monetary and fiscal sovereignty reflects financial and economic madness.

Doing so means foregoing the right to devalue currencies to make exports more competitive, maintain money sovereignty to monetize debt freely, and legislate fiscal policy to stimulate growth.

The euro’s 1999 introduction prevented the European Central Bank (ECB) from financing government deficits. Since Eurozone members can’t monetize credit, they’re dependent on commercial banks and bondholders.

Banking giants partnered with EU, ECB and IMF Troika power decide everything. Policies require lowered living standards, sacking public workers, and selling off state assets at fire sale prices.

It’s win-win for bankers and other corporate predators. It’s lose-lose for economies and most people in them. It’s a dirty game. An eventual bad ending is certain.

Party time won’t last forever. Expect end game times to arrive with a bang heard round the world.

Bailouts and other fixes buy time. They don’t work longterm. Troubled Eurozone countries are drowning in debt. Adding more exacerbates bad conditions.

Rising unemployment means less purchasing power. When people have money in their pockets they spend it. Otherwise they conserve. They struggle just to get by.

Bernard Connolly is a British economist. He predicted the euro’s failure. He did so before its introduction.

He called it a harebrained notion doomed to fail. Saying it cost him his job. Last February, he predicted much more pain ahead. Europe is slowly rotting away, he believes.

Conditions are “getting worse and worse,” he said. Two immediate solutions aren’t pleasant, he added.

Either Germany pays “something like 10% of (its) GDP a year, every year, forever” to crisis-hit countries, or crisis conditions too severe to control get Greek and/or other most troubled Eurozone populations to say:”

” ‘We’ll chuck the whole lot of you out.’ Now that’s not a very pleasant prospect.” Not when accompanied by mass social disruption. It’s what revolutions are made of.

Connolly is no ordinary doomsayer. He formerly headed the European Monetary System. He was a Committee of Central Bank Governors Foreign Exchange Policy Subcommittee member.

He was an OECD monetary affairs expert. He’s now an independent consultant. He heads Connolly Insight LP.

He’s considered the foremost European economic, monetary, and political integration expert.

Months before the euro’s 1998 introduction, he predicted doom. He said one or more of Europe’s weakest countries would face rising budget deficits and economic trouble.

It would be all downhill from there. He described a death spiral with no escape. Sovereign default would follow. He hasn’t changed his mind. Timing alone is uncertain.

In 2003, Alan Greenspan cut interest rates to 1%. Doing so was unprecedented since the 1930s. Connolly wasn’t impressed.

He called America’s economy a debt-driven Ponzi scheme. He predicted interest rates would have to fall further. He said expect it during the next cyclical downturn. He was right.

He’s concerned about troubled Europe. It’s one thing to bail out Greece or Ireland, he said. It’s quite another to take on Spain and/or Italy.

France is most troubling. Its fundamentals are worsening. Weakened growth prospects caused it to miss its 2012 deficit reduction target. Imagine if it needs bailout help, said Connolly.

“If the Germans at some point think, ‘We’re going to have to bail out France, and on an ongoing, perpetual basis,’ will they do it? I don’t know. But that’s the question that has to be answered.”

EU propaganda claims lack of fiscal discipline in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy caused crisis conditions. They’re aberrations, say EU officials. Not so.

Their response, said Connolly, “is focused on budgetary rules, budgetary bailouts and rules for the financial sector, with the prospect, perhaps, of (more) financial bailouts through the banking union, although that remains unclear.”

Even if troubled economies were undisciplined, he added, “both the sovereign-debt crisis and the banking crisis are symptoms, not causes.”

“And the underlying problem has been that there was a massive bubble generated in the world as a whole by monetary policy – but particularly in the euro zone.” ECB and Bank of England policy bears full responsibility.

Trouble began when countries like Spain, Greece and Ireland joined the Eurozone.

Their interests rates immediately dropped to near-German levels. In some cases, it was from double-digit heights.

“The optimism created by these countries suddenly finding that they could have low interest rates without their currencies collapsing, which had been their previous experience, led people to think that there was a genuine rate-of-return revolution going on,” said Connolly.

It was foolish thinking. “By the time the euro rolled around, money was flowing into these countries out of all proportion to the opportunities available,” he added.

“And what kept the stuff flowing in was essentially the belief, ‘Well, yes, there is a high rate of return in construction.’ “

It depended on “ongoing expectations” about housing appreciation. It’s “not dissimilar to what was happening to the United States in the middle of the last decade. But it was much bigger,” Connolly explained.

“If you scale housing starts by population, then the housing boom in Spain and Ireland was something like three or four times as intense as the peak of the boom in the US. That’s mind boggling.”

Torrents of money drove up wages. Productivity didn’t keep pace. Cheap money caused major deficit spending. In 2008, the inevitable bubble burst.

Fiscal retrenchment today requires wages and prices to adjust to their pre-bubble levels. Otherwise troubled economies won’t be competitive.

One solution is massive euro depreciation. “Really massive,” said Connolly. Recreating bubble conditions won’t work. Doing so assures another bad ending. Potentially much worse than in 2008.

European banks remain distressed. Housing prices are weak. Lower rates haven’t driven investments into troubled economies. Not like they did before.

Even if ECB policy succeeds, said Connolly, it’ll only be “recreating exactly the dangerous, unsustainable situation that we had in the middle of the last decade.”

Europe’s last option is having Germany pay. It’s not likely. At some point, angry populations may halt the dirty game.

They may take to the streets and stay there. They may demand abandoning the euro disruptively. They may keep doing it until it happens.

They may vote out political parties they despise. German reunification cost West Germany about 5% of its GDP a year.

There was no end in sight at the time. Germans tolerated because doing so reunited their country.

Comparable European solidarity doesn’t exist. “There is no European demos,” said Connolly, “and you’re not going to create a demos by setting up a system in which you say, ‘We will give you money, you will follow these rules.’ ”

“It simply won’t work.” Hard times keep getting harder. Simple solutions don’t exist. Bad policies make things worse.

An eventual day of reckoning will resolve things. Perhaps it’ll be more painful than ever when it arrives.

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/ukraine-dodged-bullet/

Huffington Post reports:

The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target’s credibility, reputation and authority.

***

Among the vulnerabilities listed by the NSA that can be effectively exploited are “viewing sexually explicit material online” and “using sexually explicit persuasive language when communicating with inexperienced young girls.”

***

None of the six individuals targeted by the NSA is accused in the document of being involved in terror plots. The agency believes they all currently reside outside the United States. It identifies one of them, however, as a “U.S. person,” which means he is either a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

***

The NSA believes the targeted individuals radicalize people through the expression of controversial ideas via YouTube, Facebook and other social media websites.

***

According to the document, the NSA believes that exploiting electronic surveillance to publicly reveal online sexual activities can make it harder for these “radicalizers” to maintain their credibility.

Huff Post notes that the NSA is also sharing the information with other agencies:

The Director of the National Security Agency — described as “DIRNSA” — is listed as the “originator” of the document. Beyond the NSA itself, the listed recipients include officials with the Departments of Justice and Commerce and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

This is nothing new. We’ve previously reported that information gained by the NSA through spying isshared with federal, state and local agencies, and they are using that information to prosecute petty crimes such as drugs and taxes. The agencies are instructed to intentionally “launder” the information gained through spying, i.e. to pretend that they got the information in a more legitimate way … and tohide that from defense attorneys and judges.

American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said:

This report is an unwelcome reminder of what it means to give an intelligence agency unfettered access to individuals’ most sensitive information. One ordinarily associates these kinds of tactics with the secret police services of authoritarian governments. That these tactics have been adopted by the world’s leading democracy – and the world’s most powerful intelligence agency – is truly chilling.

Indeed, this is the exactly same kind of thing which the FBI did in the bad old days. As Huffington Post notes:

U.S. officials have in the past used similar tactics against civil rights leaders, labor movement activists and others.

Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI harassed activists and compiled secret files on political leaders, most notably Martin Luther King, Jr. The extent of the FBI’s surveillance of political figures is still being revealed to this day, as the bureau releases the long dossiers it compiled on certain people in response to Freedom of Information Act requests following their deaths. The information collected by the FBI often centered on sex — homosexuality was an ongoing obsession on Hoover’s watch — and information about extramarital affairs was reportedly used to blackmail politicians into fulfilling the bureau’s needs.

***

James Bamford, a journalist who has been covering the NSA since the early 1980s, said the use of surveillance to exploit embarrassing private behavior is precisely what led to past U.S. surveillance scandals. “The NSA’s operation is eerily similar to the FBI’s operations under J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s where the bureau used wiretapping to discover vulnerabilities, such as sexual activity, to ‘neutralize’ their targets,” he said. “Back then, the idea was developed by the longest serving FBI chief in U.S. history, today it was suggested by the longest serving NSA chief in U.S. history.”

That controversy, Bamford said, also involved the NSA. “And back then, the NSA was also used to do the eavesdropping on King and others through its Operation Minaret. A later review declared the NSA’s program ‘disreputable if not outright illegal,’” he said.

***

[The ACLU's] Jaffer, however, warned that the lessons of history ought to compel serious concern that a “president will ask the NSA to use the fruits of surveillance to discredit a political opponent, journalist or human rights activist.”

“The NSA has used its power that way in the past and it would be naïve to think it couldn’t use its power that way in the future,” he said.

The New York Times argues:

This is precisely the way that politically directed, clandestine surveillance goes off the rails — by digging into personal behavior. Because all of these operations are conducted in secret, according to secret rules, the public has no way of knowing whether the targets are actually enemies of the state, or just individuals who have fallen out of the state’s favor.

***

J. Edgar Hoover compiled secret dossiers on the sexual peccadillos and private misbehavior of those he labeled as enemies — really dangerous people like Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy, for example.

Government officials have repeatedly claimed that the National Security Agency’s collection of metadata is perfectly legal. We should not worry about the N.S.A., according to President Obama, because there are safeguards in place to protect our constitutional rights. Agents would never, ever misuse that information to, say, check on where you’ve been web surfing.

We hate terrorists, and are opposed to religious extremists of any kind who are trying to whip up hatred. The problem, of course, is that the government’s targeting is not limited to actual bad guys, and the government may now label the average American citizen as a “potential terrorist”. It should be clear to everyone by now that NSA spying is not very focused on terrorism … especially given that history shows that mass spying is always focused on crushing dissent.

TechDirt points out:

It’s important to note here that the “targets” in this case are not US persons, and they all do appear to dislike the US, and some appear to have advocated for jihad against the US. However, as the report notes, most of them are not terrorists or even connected to any terrorist organization. They’re just activists and advocates who have spoken out criticizing the US. In one case, a guy was targeted for claiming that “the U.S. brought the 9/11 attacks upon itself” — an argument that plenty of respectable people have made.The lack of any terrorist connection is actually, stunningly, used againstthese individuals, as one NSA document notes that since they don’t communicate with terrorists it’s worse because it suggests “that the target audience includes individuals who do not yet hold extremist views but who are susceptible to the extremist message.”

Remember, high-level U.S. officials have been warning of tyranny based upon a surveillance state spear-headed by the NSA for 40 years.

Indeed, it is well-documented that the NSA was already spying on American Senators more than 4 decades ago. And a high-level NSA whistleblower says that the NSA is spying on – and blackmailing – top government officials and military officers, including Supreme Court Justices, high-ranked generals, Colin Powell and other State Department personnel, and many other top officials. And see this:

He says the NSA started spying on President Obama when he was a candidate for Senate:

Another very high-level NSA whistleblower – the head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operation – says that the NSA targeted CIA chief Petraeus.

And a senior ACLU policy analyst who has worked on issues related to NSA data gathering (Jay Stanley) hints that the NSA may be exercising actual or implied leverage against politicians:

Everyone has dark suspicions about their political opponents from time to time, and Americans are highly distrustful of government in general. When there is any opening at all for members of the public to suspect that officials from the legislative and judicial branches could be vulnerable to leverage from secretive agencies within the executive branch — and when those officials can even suspect they might be subject to leverage — that is a serious problem for our democracy.

Indeed, top constitutional experts say that the Obama and Bush administration are not only worse than Nixon … but worse than the Stasi East Germans. Indeed, history seems to be repeating … or at least rhyming.

Postscript: We wonder whether some of these guys are a tad nervous about the new NSA spying revelations.

Two weeks of testimony in the Detroit bankruptcy case have exposed the premeditated character of the July 18 decision by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to initiate the largest municipal bankruptcy proceeding in US history. The bankruptcy, which is being backed by the Obama administration, was not necessitated by financial imperatives; instead it was a political decision—long in preparation—which was aimed at setting a precedent for the ripping up of the wages, pensions and benefits of city workers, and selling off of public assets like the masterpieces of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The evidence presented in the testimony brought to light the extent to which, starting with its January 2011 inauguration, the administration of Michigan’s Republican governor Rick Snyder gathered around it a virtual shadow government of law firms, private consultants, investment bankers and top officials from both the Democratic and Republican parties. Their plan was to use the state’s anti-democratic emergency manager law to install an unelected financial dictator in Detroit who would use the bankruptcy courts to override every obstacle to the wholesale looting of the city by the big banks and corporations.

Part one of the “Who’s Who” of the main players in the Detroit bankruptcy included profiles of Emergency Manager Keyvn Orr, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and former State Treasurer Andy Dillon. Part two profiled Snyder’s top political aide Richard Baird, US bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes and Detroit Mayor David Bing. The third and final installment describes the role of top trade union officials in the bankruptcy.

Al Garrett, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 25 president

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, led in Detroit by AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett, is the largest public sector union in the city. In the years leading up to the bankruptcy and the months that have followed AFSCME has not organized a single significant demonstration, let alone strike, to defend city workers or public services.

Allied with the Obama administration and the Democrats on the national and local level, AFSCME has joined in the effort to force workers to pay for the financial crisis produced by decades of pro-corporate policies overseen by subsequent Democratic-controlled city administrations.

AFSCME blocked any fight against Mayor David Bing and his predecessor Kwame Kilpatrick as they reduced the municipal workforce from 18,000 in 2005 to less than 10,000 in 2013. Instead they have collaborated in the imposition of savage wage and benefit concessions, which have reduced labor costs by a third over the last five years alone. In February 2012, in an effort to persuade Republican Governor Rick Snyder to postpone his plans to install an emergency manager in the city, AFSCME led a coalition of 30 unions, which offered to impose $180 million in concessions on their members.

When resistance by workers broke out—including the October 2012 strike by hundreds of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department workers against the outsourcing of 80 percent of their jobs—Garrett and other AFSCME leaders moved quickly to suppress it. Amid shouts of “back-stabber” and “sellout” by rank-and-file workers, Garrett showed up at the picket line with a court injunction telling workers they would be fired if they continued to strike and the union would do nothing to defend them. AFSCME Local 207 leadership immediately shut down the strike, leaving dozens of workers victimized.

Under the guise of opposing the appointment of an emergency manager Garrett joined with sections of the black Democratic Party political establishment in Detroit—including Councilwoman Joanne Watson—and Al Sharpton’s National Action Coalition to denounce the state intervention as “racist.” Opposing any genuine struggle to unite the working class throughout the metro Detroit area to fight the imposition of a bankers’ dictatorship, Garrett proclaimed that the continued rule of bought-and-paid for politicians like Mayor Bing and the City Council represented “self-determination” for the people of Detroit.

During the bankruptcy proceedings attorneys for AFSCME bitterly criticized Michigan State Treasurer Andy Dillon for nixing the unions’ concessions proposal in February 2012, and they have argued that Orr refused to hold “good faith” negotiations with them before declaring bankruptcy. Garrett’s special assistant, Ed McNeil—who also sits on a committee appointed by the court to represent 21,000 retired city workers—has been the most vocal advocate of selling off the artwork of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

McNeil infamously said, “You can’t eat art” and claimed money from the sale of artwork would go to pay off the unfunded pensions of retirees and their families. In fact, Orr is determined to loot the artwork and destroy pensions in order to pay off the banks and bondholders who hold the city’s debt.

Moreover, far from defending the rights of pensioners, AFSCME has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to gut retiree benefits as long as it continues to have a “seat at the table” with Orr. In his November 5 testimony during the bankruptcy eligibility trial, Steven Kreisberg, AFSCME director of collective bargaining, acknowledged that the tentative agreement proposed by the unions in February granted the city the right to change pensions, including ending additional payments to accrued pensions and setting up a defined contribution retirement plan for current employees to replace the employer-paid plan. He said the union did not believe this violated the clause in the state constitution that prohibits any reduction in public employee pensions.

Bob King, UAW president

Bob King is the president of the United Auto Workers. While the UAW represents only a couple hundred municipal workers and retirees in the city it has played a central political role in the Detroit bankruptcy.

A fixture in the Democratic Party establishment, King epitomizes the transformation of the labor “bureaucracy” into a affluent layer of businessmen who manage multi-billion dollar investment funds and function as cheap labor contractors for management. The son of a industrial relations director at Ford, King worked his way up the career ladder of the UAW apparatus by selling out one struggle of auto workers after another—from Rouge Steel to Ford—and dutifully serving the interest of the auto bosses. In a 2010 speech, he declared, “the 21st-century UAW no longer views these managements as our adversaries or enemies, but as partners” sharing a common goal of “flexibility, innovation, lean manufacturing and continuous cost improvement.”

King has said the Obama administration’s forced bankruptcy and restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009 should be a model for Detroit. “If we restructure the city just like we restructured the auto industry, there’s hope that Detroit, too, can see a turnaround,” King told In These Times magazine. Pointing to the $180 million concessions package proposed by AFSCME and the UAW, he said, “We agreed that the unions should collaborate with the city and try to make these savings happen.”

In the restructuring of the auto industry, the UAW agreed to White House demands for the halving of wages of new hires, the elimination of the eight-hour day, the gutting of health care benefits and the wiping out of tens of thousands of jobs. In exchange for selling out its members, the UAW was rewarded with control of a multi-billion dollar retiree health care trust fund—known as a Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association or VEBA—and a substantial ownership stake in the Detroit Big Three automaker, including 40 percent of Chrysler’s corporate shares.

By helping reduce labor costs by a staggering 30 percent over the last five years, the UAW paved the way for the auto companies to make huge profits, including $12 billion in 2012 alone. The “turnaround” of the auto industry hailed by King, however, has not led to any amelioration of the social misery or the financial crisis in Detroit. On the contrary, the only ones who have benefited are the corporate executives like Ford CEO Alan Mulally—who pocketed $30 million in 2011—big Wall Street investors and the UAW officials themselves.

In his November 12 testimony in the bankruptcy hearings, Michael Nicholson, the general counsel for UAW International, said the UAW had a long and friendly relationship with the Jones Day law firm—dating back to various bankruptcy negotiations, including at auto supplier Dana, which resulted in “well-funded VEBAs.”

Nicholson said King authorized him to offer the Jones Day attorneys representing the city a similar cost-cutting deal, which would sharply reduce retiree health care costs by dumping these obligations into a VEBA trust fund controlled by the unions.

Class actions suits by retirees, Nicholson testified, were necessary to gain legal authority for the unions to negotiate reductions in benefits “on behalf of retired workers,” he said. “I told lawyers for Jones Day on July 11 that the UAW was willing to engage in class action to try to resolve the OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) issue, and take leadership on this because we have done more of this than anyone in the country.”

“We told them we got this done quickly at GM, Ford and Chrysler,” Nicholson said, adding regretfully, “Orr never responded.”

This year’s Thanksgiving holiday, coming more than five years after the Wall Street crash, highlights the devastating impact of mass unemployment and budget cuts on tens of millions of Americans. It underscores as well the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny elite.

Even as food banks across the country report increasing demand and dwindling supplies, the US media is obsessed with snowstorms, travel delays and Black Friday sales. There is barely a mention of the intractable unemployment, poverty, hunger and homelessness that impact millions.

Judging by the media coverage, one would never suspect that the United States is a country where, according to a July 2013 report by the Associated Press, “Four out of five US adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.”

In cities throughout the country, people have lined up by the hundreds for Thanksgiving food distributions, recalling the bread lines of the 1930s. Food banks are reporting rising demand not only from the unemployed, but also from the growing ranks of the working poor.

The dire conditions created by years of economic slump have been compounded by cutbacks in food stamp benefits that took effect at the beginning of this month, eliminating the equivalent of two days of food every month. Extended unemployment benefits are set to expire for millions of people on December 31, throwing them even further into destitution.

Amid such shocking poverty and misery—and incessant claims that there is no money to do anything about it—the stock market is setting new records every day. Over the past week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has hit 16,000, the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index has reached 1,800, and the NASDAQ has once again topped 4,000.

The giddy—and unsustainable—rise of stock prices, which is propelling the personal fortunes of the rich and the super-rich to ever more astronomical heights, is being deliberately engineered by the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve Board. Near-zero interest rates and $85 billion a month in cash infusions from the Fed into the financial markets are facilitating an accelerated transfer of wealth from the bottom to the very top of the social ladder.

This week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported that US life expectancy has sunk below the international average, dropping below that of Greece, Portugal, South Korea and Slovenia. One of the starkest indices of the social crisis is the rise in the number of Americans receiving food stamps from 28.2 million in 2008 to 47.7 million this year, an increase of 70 percent.

The response of the political establishment to the growth in need has been to slash benefits in advance of the holidays. The $5 billion in food stamp cuts implemented at the start of November are only the beginning, with the Democrats proposing to cut an additional $4 billion in food stamps as a “sensible” alternative to more than $40 billion in cuts proposed by the Republicans.

The social chasm in America is reflected in a concentrated manner in New York City, the country’s largest metropolis and the home of Wall Street. Ninety-six billionaires live in the city. On average, they own four homes, each one worth nearly $20 million, as well as one or two yachts, a private jet or two, and a small army of domestic servants. Their combined wealth is more than three times the city’s annual budget.

Across the Harlem River from Manhattan lies the Bronx, the poorest of New York’s five boroughs. There, half of all children live in households that do not have enough to eat, according to a report issued this week by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

In America’s second-largest city and the center of the film industry, Los Angeles, the City Council is debating whether to follow the lead of Philadelphia and Seattle and ban the distribution of food to the homeless in public places.

Detroit, the historical center of American manufacturing, has been thrown into bankruptcy by an unelected emergency manager, who is using his emergency powers to rip up the pensions and health benefits of tens of thousands of city workers and sell off the city’s assets, including the world-famous art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The billions stolen from the working class are to be handed over to the banks and major holders of city bonds.

The decline in living standards of broad sections of the population is not even raised as a significant issue by the Obama administration, the political establishment as a whole, or the corporate-controlled media. There is hardly a pretense that the present situation is a temporary aberration. Nor are any policies proposed to improve the conditions of life of working people.

Instead, mass unemployment, growing poverty and increasing social inequality are casually described as the “new normal.”

This social reality is an indictment of the entire political order and the capitalist system it serves. It is, moreover, the rule, not the exception, all over the world.

For the working class, things will only get worse so long as political and economic control is left in the hands of a parasitic financial aristocracy and its political representatives. Social opposition is mounting and will take explosive forms in the US, as it has begun to do in Egypt, Greece and other countries.

The defense of the most basic social rights—to a job, a decent wage, health care, education, a decent retirement, access to culture and art—requires a struggle against the two corporate-controlled parties and the financial oligarchy. The critical issue is the building of a new leadership in the working class—the Socialist Equality Party—to arm the coming struggles with an independent socialist program.

Iran Nuclear Deal is a Historical Step Forward

November 27th, 2013 by Prof. James Petras

Iran’s Nuclear Deal Triggers Spin War

November 27th, 2013 by Pepe Escobar

Iran’s nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of world powers in Geneva has triggered a spin war which will last for the next 6 months, as many of the parties involved will pursue their own business interests in this situation, journalist Pepe Escobar told RT.

RT: As we see, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif came out of the talks with different views. Why’s there such diversity in the interpretation of the deal?

Pepe Escobar: Because the spin war started at 3am in Geneva. It’s going to go on for another six months, until May 2014, that’s the duration of this “first step” deal.

[It’s] very important: Kerry had to say [this] so that he could appease the Israel lobby, the US Congress and the Wahhabi petrodollar lobby in the US, not to mention some neocons in the US as well, [who are] still very powerful.

In Iran it’s different. They are saying, “We still have our right to enrich uranium,” and this is correct, because they will keep enriching uranium to 5 percent for the next six months, [while] 20 percent [enrichment] is frozen. They will discuss… the next deal, which will be the definitive deal, starting from May 2014.

And all the 20 percent enriched uranium that they have is going to be diluted, so it cannot be used later on for weapons-grade material.

RT: As you’ve said, the spin war has started, but how that would affect the implementation of the deal now and six months down the road? Who will eventually benefit from it, if the two sides have such diverse opinions? Won’t it stall one day at some point?

PE: No, we have to follow the letter of the agreement. This means enrichment until 5 percent OK, no further enrichment till 20 percent for the next six months, no new centrifuges. If Iran follows this – they are abiding by the deal, no problem.

The thing is, if among these IAEA inspectors [who] should be in Iran practically on a daily basis from now on, if you had the usual Eiffel traders [Parisian residents who fraudulently “sell” the Eiffel Tower to unsuspecting visitors – RT] who start spinning something else.

I’m sure Iran won’t break their promises, it’s in their own interest not to break any promise.

WWIII ScenarioRT: It’s emerged that Washington was engaged in secret talks with Iran long before the Geneva agreement, and even their closest allies were unaware. What do you make of this?

PE: Look, this is an extremely complex negotiation. Can you imagine that you have sherpas going to Geneva a month or three weeks ago, and hammering out the final deal so [that] we have foreign ministers [who] can sign it? It’s impossible. Sherpas usually start such things months in advance and obviously we had America’s sherpas, Iranian sherpas and Russian sherpas, these are the ones that count. Britain and France are spectators; they don’t count at all.

France counts [regarding] the 20 percent [enriched uranium], because they have cornered the market in medical isotopes. If Iran reaches 20 percent enrichment and starts selling their own medical isotopes cheaper, especially to the developing world, it’s not a good deal for France. So for the moment France is protecting its business interests.

RT: Let’s turn to America’s assessment of the situation, specifically what President Obama said. Looking at the Geneva deal, he said this is just a first step to reach a comprehensive solution in the future. What in your opinion would make Washington consider a full agreement?

PE: Obama is correct when he said, “This is the first step.” But, very important, the way he said it was very condescending, in fact even insulting, to Iran. He said nothing about Iranians’ role in the deal, mentioning only the role of absurd sanctions, which should be dismantled, because most of the sanctions bypass the UN, like Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has been saying for months in fact.

Very important, for the next few months: follow the money. The Americans say they are going to unfreeze some of the Iranian money, perhaps $32 billion or even more. There is $10 billion in European banks. These are not going to be unfrozen. If the US unfreezes $4 to $5 billion – Obama can do it by executive order, bypassing the US Congress.

RT: John Kerry believes the sanctions have done their job and were quite helpful in sealing this deal. To what extent do you agree with this?

PE: In fact, it is the Iranian population that is paying the price of the sanctions; the Iranian government has found ways to bypass it. They’re selling, or bartering or trading energy, especially with their Asian customers. You know how much money Iran has [with] mostly Asian clients, China, Japan, Turkey and South Korea? $50 billion, [yet] they still cannot bring that money to Iran, so they have to buy products from these countries. So this is something that must be hammered out in the next agreement.

For the moment we have a breakthrough – it’s going to last for six months. There will be all sorts of interests that will try to bombard this deal; I’m saying especially about Wahhabi petrodollar monarchy interests and the Israeli lobby as well.

But for the moment we have diplomacy in action, something that we haven’t seen, especially between Iran and the US, for 34 years. This is the major breakthrough at the moment. But we have to be vigilant.


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Japan Reacts to Fukushima Crisis By Banning Journalism

November 27th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Japan – Like the U.S. – Turns to Censorship

2 weeks after the Fukushima accident, we reported that the government responded to the nuclear accident by trying to raise acceptable radiation levels and pretending that radiation is good for us.

We noted earlier this month:

Japan will likely pass a new anti-whistleblowing law in an attempt to silence criticism of Tepco and the government:

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and theFukushima nuclear crisis.

The new law would dramatically expand the definition of official secrets and journalists convicted under it could be jailed for up to five years.

In reality, reporters covering Fukushima have long been harassed and censored.

Unfortunately, this is coming to pass. As EneNews reports:

Associated Press, Nov. 26, 2013: Japan’s more powerful lower house of Parliament approved a state secrecy bill late Tuesday [...] Critics say it might sway authorities to withhold more information about nuclear power plants [...] The move is welcomed by the United States [...] lawyer Hiroyasu Maki said the bill’s definition of secrets is so vague and broad that it could easily be expanded to include radiation data [...] Journalists who obtain information “inappropriately” or “wrongfully” can get up to five years in prison, prompting criticism that it would make officials more secretive and intimidate the media. Attempted leaks or inappropriate reporting, complicity or solicitation are also considered illegal. [...] Japan’s proposed law also designates the prime minister as a third-party overseer.

BBC, Nov. 26, 2013: Japan approves new state secrecy bill to combat leaks [...] The bill now goes to the upper house, where it is also likely to be passed.

The Australian, Nov. 25, 2013: Japanese press baulks at push for ‘fascist’ secrecy laws [...] Taro Yamamoto [an upper house lawmaker] said the law threatened to recreate a fascist state in Japan. “This secrecy law represents a coup d’etat by a particular group of politicians and bureaucrats,” he told a press conference in Tokyo. “I believe the secrecy bill will eventually lead to the repression of the average person. It will allow those in power to crack down on anyone who is criticising them – the path we are on is the recreation of a fascist state.” He said the withholding of radiation data after the Fukushima disaster showed the Japanese government was predisposed to hiding information from its citizens and this law would only make things worse. [...] The Asahi Shimbun newspaper likened the law to “conspiracy” regulations in pre-war Japan and said it could be used to stymie access to facts on nuclear accidents [...]

Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan president Lucy Birmingham: “We are alarmed by the text of the bill, as well as associated statements made by some ruling party lawmakers, relating to the potential targeting of journalists for prosecution and imprisonment.”

Activist Kazuyuki Tokune: “I may be arrested some day for my anti-nuclear activity [...] But that doesn’t stop me.”

Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University in Tokyo: “This is a severe threat on freedom to report in Japan [...] It appears the Abe administration has decided that they can get a lot of what they want, which is to escape oversight, to decrease transparency in the government by passing a law that grants the government and officials broad authority to designate information as secret.”

U.S. Charge d’Affairs Kurt Tong: It’s a positive step that would make Japan a “more effective alliance partner.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “This law is designed to protect the safety of the people.”

See also: Japan Deputy Prime Minister talks about “learning from the Nazis” — Previously said to let elderly people “hurry up and die” (VIDEO)

Rather than addressing the problems head-on, the Japanese government is circling the wagons.

Unfortunately, the United States is no better. Specifically, the American government:

As we noted 6 months after Fukushima melted down:

American and Canadian authorities have virtually stopped monitoring airborne radiation, and are not testing fish for radiation. (Indeed, the EPA reacted to Fukushima by raising “acceptable” radiation levels.)

***

The failure of the American, Canadian and other governments to test for and share results is making it difficult to hold an open scientific debate about what is happening.

Earlier this year, the acting EPA director signed a revised version of the EPA’s Protective Action Guide for radiological incidents, which radically relaxing the safety guidelines agencies follow in the wake of a nuclear-reactor meltdown or other unexpected release of radiation.  EPA whistleblowers called it “a public health policy only Dr. Strangelove could embrace.”

As we noted right after Fukushima happened, this is standard operating procedure for government these days:

When the economy imploded in 2008, how did the government respond?

Did it crack down on fraud? Force bankrupt companies to admit that their speculative gambling with our money had failed? Rein in the funny business?

Of course not!

The government just helped cover up how bad things were, used claims of national security to keep everything in the dark, and changed basic rules and definitions to allow the game to continue. See thisthisthis and this.

When BP – through criminal negligence – blew out the Deepwater Horizon oil well, the government helped cover it up (the cover up is ongoing).

The government also changed the testing standards for seafood to pretend that higher levels of toxic PAHs in our food was business-as-usual.

So now that Japan is suffering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl – if not of all time – is the government riding to the rescue to help fix the problem, or at least to provide accurate information to its citizens so they can make informed decisions?

Of course not!

The EPA is closing ranks with the nuclear power industry ….

Indeed, some government scientists and media shills are now “reexamining” old studies that show that radioactive substances like plutonium cause cancer to argue that they help prevent cancer.

It is not just bubbleheads like Ann Coulter saying this. Government scientists from thePacific Northwest National Laboratories and pro-nuclear hacks like Lawrence Solomonare saying this. [Update.]

In other words, this is a concerted propaganda campaign to cover up the severity of a major nuclear accident by raising acceptable levels of radiation and saying that a little radiation is good for us.

Any time the results of bad government policy is revealed, the government just covers it rather than changing the policy.

 

The Real Story About Canada’s Role in Haiti

November 27th, 2013 by Yves Engler

Step one for everyone trying to make the world a better place should be listening to those they wish to help.

This is certainly true in the case of Haiti, a long-time target of Canadian ‘aid’. But, while Haitians continue to criticize Ottawa’s role in their country, few Canadians bother to pay attention.

After Uruguay announced it was withdrawing its 950 troops from the United Nations Mission to Stabilize Haiti last month, Moise Jean-Charles, took aim at the countries he considers most responsible for undermining Haitian sovereignty. The popular senator from Haiti’s north recently told Haiti Liberté:

Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay are not the real occupiers of Haiti. The real forces behind Haiti’s [UN administered] military occupation — the powers which are putting everybody else up to it — are the U.S., France, and Canada, which colluded in the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’etat against President [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide. It was then they began trampling Haitian sovereignty.”

For the vast majority of Canadians, Jean-Charles’ comment probably sounds like the ramblings of a crazy person. When the media in this country focuses on Haiti, it is typically to highlight Canadian aid projects. Yet, here is one of Haiti’s most popular politicians telling the press (and audiences throughout South America) that Canada helped overthrow its elected government and continues to undermine its sovereignty.

Jean-Charles’ opinion is not uncommon in Haiti. Since Aristide’s government was overthrown in February 2004, Haiti Progrès and Haiti Liberté newspapers have described Canada as an “occupying force,” “coup supporter” or “imperialist” at least a hundred times. Haiti’s left-wing weeklies have detailed Ottawa’s role in planning the coupdestabilizing the elected government; building a repressive Haitian police force; justifying politically motivated arrests and killings; militarizing post-earthquake disaster relief; pushing the exclusion of Haiti’s most popular party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in elections.

While the above-mentioned information has been copiously detailed in Haitian newspapers, as well as English-language books, reports and left-media, Canada’s dominant media rarely critically discusses this country’s role in Haiti. During Montréal’s recent municipal election, for instance, the media largely ignored the eventual winner’s role in undermining Haitian democracy and justifying repression. Aside from a piece in the Montréal Media Co-op by Dru Oja Jay, no media seems to have discussed Denis Coderre’s previous position as Prime Minister Paul Martin’s point person on Haiti.

Will the dominant media also ignore the 10-year anniversary of the coup? Without pressure it is likely, even though the date remains a potent political symbol.

Haiti continues to be occupied by the UN force brought by the U.S./France/Canada military invasion to overthrow Aristide. And that UN force’s neglect for Haitian life has led to an ongoing cholera outbreak that has left 8,500 dead and nearly 700,000 ill.

At the electoral level, the party Ottawa helped overthrow, Fanmi Lavalas, continues to be excluded from participating in elections. This has been to the benefit of Haiti’s notoriously corrupt political class, including current president Michel Martelly, who is unlikely to have won a fair election (and is facing growing protests calling on him to resign).

It is clear that Martelly does not have the legitimacy or the credibility to lead the country,” Senator Jean-Charles told this week’s Haiti Liberté after 10,000- 50,000 took to the streets of Port-au-Price. “We are asking the Americans, French, and Canadians to come and collect their errand boy because he cannot lead the country any more.”

On February 28, 2014 tens of thousands are likely to hit the streets across Haiti to once again express their rejection of the U.S./France/Canada coup. Is any major news agency in this country prepared to mark the occasion by telling Canadians what their government has done over the past decade to undermine Haitian sovereignty and democracy?

How to Reduce Your Risk of Radiation from Fukushima

November 27th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Is There Anything We Can Do to Reduce Radiation Risks?

Doctors in Hawaii and the West Coast of North American are being bombarded with questions about how to protect ourselves from radiation from Fukushima.

This essay provides an introduction to some of the main concepts on reducing the risk from radiation. It is broken into the following sections:

I.    Step 1: Reduce Exposure
II.  Certain Minerals Can Reduce Absorption of Harmful Radiation
III. Other Vitamins and Minerals Which Protect Against Radiation Damage
IV.  Antioxidants: Helpful Weapons Against Radiation Damage
V.   Other Things Which Offer Some Radiation Protection
VI.  What To Do If Exposed to Extremely High Doses of Radiation

Step 1: Reduce Exposure

Initially, we should reduce our exposure to radiation in the first place. For example, world renowned physicist Michio Kaku told his Japanese family and friends months ago that they should leave if they can.

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen and physician Helen Caldicott have both said that people should evacuate the Northern Hemisphere if one of the Fukushima fuel pools collapses. Gundersen said:

Move south of the equator if that ever happened, I think that’s probably the lesson there.

Most residents of Hawaii and the Pacific coast of North American will – of course – stay.   The entire population of the Northern Hemisphere can’t move down to the Southern Hemisphere, and most people aren’t inclined to move no matter what happens.   But there are still many steps we can take to reduce exposure.

If you live in an area receiving any radiation exposure, you should also take off your shoes and leave them by the door (Asian style) and use a Hepa vacuum to get rid of excess dust inside your house.

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen explains how to reduce exposure in case of a worst case scenario:

[In a worst case scenario, for example, if the fuel pool at Fukushima reactor 4 were to topple over], I would close my windows, turn the air conditioner on, replace the filters frequently, damp mop, put a HEPA filter in the house and try to avoid as much of the hot particles as possible. You are not going to walk out with a Geiger counter and be in a plume that is going to tell you the meter. The issue will be on the West Coast, hot particles. And the solution there is HEPA filters and avoiding them.

Radiation is concentrated in milk. Therefore, when high doses of radiation are being released into the air, we might want to avoid milk altogether for a couple of weeks or so. (Radioactive iodine concentrates in milk, but it has a half-life of only 8 days. So avoiding local milk for a couple of weeks should help keep you safe.)

We should also be moderate with our consumption of fish caught off the Japanese, Hawaiian or West coast of the U.S. and Canada, as radiation can bioaccumulate in fish. See thisthis, and this … and the video below.)

Radiation also bioaccumulates in mushrooms. So it might be wise to consider avoiding mushrooms grown in Japan, Hawaii or on the Pacific Coast.

In addition, rain is one of the primary ways that radiation is spread outside of the vicinity of the nuclear accident. As a parent who doesn’t want to tell my kids they can’t play in the rain, none of this is fun to talk about … but during periods of extremely high airborne radiation releases, people might want to keep their kids out of heavy rain.

(At the end of this essay, we’ll tell you what to do if you have the misfortune of getting exposed to high doses of radiation.)

Certain Minerals Can Reduce Absorption of Harmful Radiation

It is well-known that potassium iodide works to protect against damage from radioactive iodine bysaturating our body (the thyroid gland, specifically) with harmless iodine, so that our bodies are unable to absorb radioactive iodine from nuclear accidents.

For example, the World Health Organization notes:

When taken at the appropriate dosage and within the correct time interval around exposure to radioactive iodine, KI [i.e. potassium iodide] saturates the thyroid gland with stable (non-radioactive) iodine. As a result, radioactive iodine will not be taken up and stored by the thyroid gland.

KI only protects against one particular radioactive element, radioactive iodine, which has a half life of only 8.02 days.  That means that the iodine loses half of its radioactivity within 8 days. For example, after the initial Fukushima melt-down, radioactive iodine was found in California kelp.  But the radioactive iodine quickly dissipated. *

The longer-term threat lies elsewhere. As the New York Times noted – in addition to iodine-131 – the big danger is cesium:

Over the long term, the big threat to human health is cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years.

At that rate of disintegration, John Emsley wrote in “Nature’s Building Blocks” (Oxford, 2001), “it takes over 200 years to reduce it to 1 percent of its former level.”

It is cesium-137 that still contaminates much of the land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor.

***

Cesium-137 mixes easily with water and is chemically similar to potassium. It thus mimics how potassium gets metabolized in the body and can enter through many foods, including milk.

***

The Environmental Protection Agency says that … once dispersed in the environment … cesium-137 “is impossible to avoid.”

Cesium-137 is light enough to be carried by the wind a substantial distance. And it is being carried by ocean currents towards the West Coast of North America.

Fortunately – while little-known in the medical community – other harmless minerals can help “saturate” our bodies so as to minimize the uptake of other harmful types of radiation.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Army Medical Department Center and School explained in its bookMedical Consequences of Radiological and Nuclear Weapons (Chapter 4):

One of the keys to a successful treatment outcome is to reduce or eliminate the uptake of internalized radionuclides before they can reach the critical organ.

***

The terms “blocking” or “diluting” agent can, in most cases, be used interchangeably. These compounds reduce the uptake of a radionuclide by saturating binding sites with a stable, nonradioactive element, thereby diluting the deleterious effect of the radioisotope. For example, potassium iodide is the FDA-recommended treatment to prevent radioactive iodine from being sequestered in the thyroid…. Nonradioactivestrontium compounds may also be used to block the uptake of radioactive strontium. In addition, elements with chemical properties similar to the internalized radio-nuclide are often used as blocking agents. For example, calcium, and to a lesser extent phosphorus, can be used to block uptake of radioactive strontium.

The American Association of Physicists In Medicine agrees:

As does the book published in 2006 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, called Weapons of Mass Casualties and Terrorism Response:

After the U.S. military conducted above-ground nuclear tests on Bikini Island, scientists found thatadding potassium to the soil reduced the uptake of radioactive cesium by the plants:

The first of a series of long-term field experiments was established on Bikini Island during the late 1980s to evaluate potential remediation techniques to reduce the uptake of cesium-137 into plants (Robison and Stone, 1998). Based on these experiments, the most effective and practical method for reducing the uptake of cesium-137 into food crop products was to treat agricultural areas with potassium fertilizer (KCl).

John Harte – Professor at the University of California at Berkeley in Energy and Resources and Ecosystem Sciences, a PhD physicist who previously taught physics at Yale, a recipient of the Pew Scholars Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, the Leo Szilard prize from the American Physical Society, and who has served on six National Academy of Sciences Committees and has authored over 170 scientific publications, including six books - notes:

Marine fish are usually about 100 times lower in cesium-137 than are freshwater fish because potassium, which is more abundant in seawater, blocks uptake of cesiumby marine organisms.

The same is true in mammals. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry notes:

Cesium is a close chemical analogue of potassium. Cesium has been shown to compete with potassium for transport through potassium channels and can also substitute for potassium in activation of the sodium pump and subsequent transport into the cell.

***

Elimination rates of cesium may be altered by potassium intake. Following the intraperitoneal injection of 137 Cs in rats, a basal diet supplemented with 8–11% potassium resulted in cesium clearance of 60 days compared to about 120 days for rats receiving the unsupplemented basal diet that contained 1% potassium
(Richmond and Furchner 1961). After 20 days on the diets, rats receiving supplemental potassium had body burdens of 137 Cs that were one-half those of the rats not receiving supplemental potassium. This finding shows that supplemental potassium reduces the uptake and increases the elimination of ingested 137 Cs.

Dr. Ingrid Kohlstadt – a medical doctor with a master’s of public health, on the Faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, editor of the best-seller Food and Nutrients in Disease Management – says that the same is true for humans:

Plutonium is treated like iron by our bodies. So getting enough iron will help reduce absorption of plutonium. And see this.

Here are the recommended daily allowances (RDA) for various minerals (data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture):

You can buy calciumpotassiumiron supplements. You can also buy non-radioactive strontiumsupplements. Or incorporate foods high in calciumpotassium, and iron.

Other Vitamins and Minerals Which Protect Against Radiation Damage

A number of scientific studies conclude that Vitamin A helps to protect us from radiation. See thisthisand this.

Numerous studies show that Vitamin C helps to protect the body against radiation.

Vitamin D can help repair damage to DNA, and may help protect against low-level radiation. As Science Daily reports:

Radiological health expert Daniel Hayes, Ph.D., of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggests that a form of vitamin D could be one of our body’s main protections against damage from low levels of radiation. Writing in the International Journal of Low Radiation, Hayes explains that calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, may protect us from background radiation and could be used as a safe protective agent before or after a low-level nuclear incident.

***

“Vitamin D by its preventive/ameliorating actions should be given serious consideration as a protective agent against sublethal radiation injury, and in particular that induced by low-level radiation,” concludes Hayes.

It takes a couple of weeks or months to build up our body’s levels of Vitamin D. You cannot just pop a bunch of pills and raise your Vitamin D level. You should never take more than the recommended dose, and – even if you did – it wouldn’t raise your vitamin D level all at once. As such, we should start now …

Vitamin E has also shown promise in protecting from low-level radiation, at least in animal studies.Here and here  (the natural form may be healthier for you than the synthetic form).

Here are the RDAs for vitamins (data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture):

You can buy vitamin supplements, or eat foods rich in vitamins ACD and E.

Selenium also helps protect our bodies from radiation. See thisthis and this.    Brazil nuts are the best food source of selenium. (And – given that the New England Journal of Medicine says that eating nuts helps us live longer – eating a handful of mixed raw nuts every day makes some sense.)

Antioxidants: Helpful Weapons Against Radiation Damage

It may sound strange, but it is well-documented that antioxidants help to protect against damage from radiation. Specifically, one of the main ways in which low-level ionizing radiation damages our bodies is by the creation of free radicals. (This 2-minute BBC videoshows how damaging free radicals can be to your health.)

For example, Columbia University explains the damaging effects of low-level radiation through free radical creation:

Some radiation experts argue that the creation of a lot of free radical creation is the most dangerousmechanism of low level ionizing radiation:

During exposure to low-level doses (LLD) of ionizing radiation (IR), the most of harmful effects are produced indirectly, through radiolysis of water and formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The antioxidant enzymes – superoxide dismutase (SOD): manganese SOD (MnSOD) and copper-zinc SOD (CuZnSOD), as well as glutathione(GSH), are the most important intracellular antioxidants in the metabolism of ROS. Overproduction of ROS challenges antioxidant enzymes.

That’s why doctors recommend eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to help protect against radiation (via CBS’ show The Doctors):

http://on.aol.com/video/nuclear-fish–517964798

Fresh fruits and vegetables are vital to include in your diet. And some – like blueberries – are quite high in antioxidants. But there are actually more concentrated sources of antioxidants which are inexpensive and easy to obtain.

Glutathione – the “master antioxidant”, which is in every cell of your body, and which helps you utilize all the other antioxidants which you ingest – is probably the most important one to focus on.

Numerous studies have shown that glutathione can help protect cells against radiation damage, including studies published in the following journals:

Dr. Jimmy Gutman – a practicing physician, former Undergraduate Director and Residency Training Director of Emergency Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, who has served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians – claims:

Raising glutathione levels protects cells from damage from the most dangerous of free radicals, the hydroxyl-radical, is released when ionizing radiation hits us.

Here’s how to boost your glutathione levels.

Finally, thinking about radiation may be stressful. But studies show that deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi and other forms of relaxation boosts antioxidants and reduces free radicals. Some of the studies can be found herehereherehereherehereherehere and here.

Other Things Which Offer Some Radiation Protection

Many other foods, herbs and supplements have shown some efficacy in helping to protect against radiation poisoning. This is not intended as a shopping list … there are just too many things to buy, and some combining some herbs with others may not be ideal. Rather, this is meant as a resource to keep handy, so that – if you have access to some of these items – you know what some of your options are.

Many inexpensive foods have shown protective properties against radiation, including:

  • Garlic (one Indian tribe living in the desert of Nevada used to eat bulbs of raw garlic to help protect against radiation from the above-ground nuclear tests)
  • Curcurim (and see this) – the active ingredient in turmeric which, in turn, is in yellow curry (available in Indian and Thai dishes).
  • Many types of seaweed (see thisthisthis and this; but buy seaweed not grown in Japan or other polluted waters)
  • Miso (when it has been “long-fermented”, instead of fermented for a shorter time)

Many herbs and supplements available at health food stores and drugstores pharmacies have protective properties against radiation, including:

  • Panax Ginseng, a traditional “adaptogen” in Chinese medicine (see this and this)
  • Holy basil (and see this; also called tulasi; this is the top herb in traditional Ayurvedic – i.e. Indian – medicine)
  • Chlorella, a blue-green algae (see this and this)
  • Spirulina, a blue-green algae available at health food stores
  • Sesamol (an extract from sesame seeds)

And there is some evidence that brightly-colored produce may have some protective properties.

Many herbs commonly available in some parts of the world have protective properties against radiation, including:

  • Aloe arborescens (commonly known as “Krantz Aloe”, a lesser-known member of the aloe family)

(And see this and this.)

What To Do If Exposed to Extremely High Doses of Radiation

Potassium iodide protects against damage from radioactive iodine, but should only be taken if one is directly exposed to high levels of radioactive iodine, and you should never exceed the recommended dosage.

Other specific substances have been proven to protect against poisoning from exposure to other specific types of radiation:

  • Prussian blue for cesium
  • DTPA for plutonium, americium and curium
  • Sodium bicarbonate (i.e. baking soda) for uranium

These are not candy, and can have their own side effects. So only take them – under guidance from your physician – if you are exposed to high levels of radiation.

For a more complete discussion of commonly-accepted scientific consensus on different prevention and treatment options, please review the Army’s Medical Consequences of Radiological and Nuclear Weapons and the The American Association of Physicists In Medicine’s Medical Management of Radionuclide Internal Contamination.

* As noted above, you should not take potassium iodide supplements unless you are exposed to high doses of radioactive iodine, because it can damage some people’s health. For chronic low-dose exposure, a daily, baseline level of mineral iodine is much healthier.  Potassium iodide is found in most common table salt. However, levels are not uniform, and a lot of “iodized” salt has less than advertised.  Here is a list of some iodine-rich foods.  And see this.

Disclaimer: The material contained in this essay is for general informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. You should consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before making any decisions about whether or not to take any of the foods, herbs, supplements, substances or actions mentioned herein.

The official UK government policy on genetically modified (GM) crops is “precautionary, evidence-based and sensitive to public concerns”.  Who are they kidding?

My heart always sinks when, listening to the BBC’s Today programme, someone from the Department for International Development starts talking about the “international food crisis”, and the starving people in all those poor undeveloped countries (the ones we helped to pauper with our empire building).  I know for sure that in the next day or two, in the top political slot on Today, I’ll be listening to Environment Minister Owen Paterson telling us that we must embrace GM technology if we want to feed the world.  It normally coincides with his giving a speech or two about the wonders of GM crops and food, full of outrageous and unscientific statements.  Prime Minister David Cameron chips in with a comment to the media about how Britain is losing the scientific race to feed the world.

It happens with depressing regularity, and it never goes as smoothly as they hope.  Although Monsanto has, for now, withdrawn from Europe, the lobbying of politicians is relentless.  Last year the GM companies, having met with British ministers at a little-publicised ‘ Growing for Growth’ conference, started another push to promote GM.  They were immediately backed up by Owen Paterson insisting that GM food will sort our problems – no worries.  He was followed in July by David Cameron saying Europe was “being left behind” even though the previous month it had been disclosed that GM food is banned from all the restaurants and cafes in the Palace of Westminster, and he himself was refusing to say whether he’d feed GM food to his family.

Chivvied by the biotech people, Patersonmade a further push later last year but the campaign was spoilt in January by a report stating that almost 50% of the world’s food is wasted.  The hunger is a result of how we manage the world, not the earth’s inability to feed us.

Perhaps the biotech companies were encouraged by a survey published in March last year, showing that more people were now “unconcerned” about GM crops and food.  The trouble with surveys like this is that you can point to the bit that supports your opinion and, if you are the Environment Secretary, Prime Minister or perhaps a biotech CEO, happily ignore the rest.  So while both ministers and media trumpeted the news that more people (25%) were now unconcerned about GM food (up from 17% in 2003), they ignored the other 75%, especially the 46% that remain concerned about the technology and its risks.

However, according to Farmers Weekly, those who took part were also asked which crops they would be happy to see grown – in the UK.  Having obviously listened to Paterson’s intemperate and inaccurate statements about Golden Rice, 64% said they would “theoretically” support rice with added vitamin A.  It would seem the respondents have little knowledge of our climate (rice grows in hot climates and though some high-altitude strains exist, they need levels of sunshine we can’t provide); agriculture (some people have succeeded in growing rice in UK greenhouses, which hardly compares with fields of wheat, maize and canola/rape); biology (carrots, spinach, kale, cabbage, pumpkins, winter squash etc. are all high in beta-carotene/vitamin A. No need to add it to rice, just eat a balanced diet); and geography (the last time I looked, the UK was not part of the Philippines which is where Golden Rice is being developed, and where 1.7 million Filipino children suffer from vitamin A deficiency).

But then Guy Adams wrote in June this year, “a recent survey by Which? found that 71 per cent of Britons believe GM food, and meat from animals fed on GM food, should be banned from supermarkets. A further 15 per cent are “undecided”. In other words, just over one in ten thinks it’s a good idea.”

And a YouGov poll this year found that only 21% of the public supported GM food.  Further, despite the hard sell by Paterson and Cameron, 43% of people said they “were completely against” the government promoting GM technology.  A survey of farmers published at the same time (funded by Barclays Bank in collaboration with Farmers Weekly), found that even farmers are reluctant to grow GM crops and only 15% of them would eat GM food.  They’re at one with Westminster there then, with its reluctance to eat the stuff.

Having failed with the public and with those who grow our food, one could understand that GM companies feel the need to lobby UK politicians in order to further their desire to control our food supply.  But in the United States, where much of the food is now so GM based that it is difficult to avoid eating it, you would think they had won the battle for American hearts and intestines.  But Monsanto still generously supports Republicans and anyone else that can push their agenda forward, which argues that even there the battle over public opinion is not won.

Last April US citizens were outraged by the passing of what became known as the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’, a rider (H.R.933) quietly added to the Agriculture Appropriations bill, which says federal courts cannot intervene and halt biotech companies from planting and selling GMO goods to the public, even if testing proves them to be potentially hazardous to the greater public.  Senator Barbara Mikulski issued a statement apologising for letting this be signed into law.  She said that “she didn’t put the language in the bill and doesn’t support it either.”  According to Russia Today , “Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) has been credited with crafting the language of H.R. 933 by working directly alongside Monsanto.  Blunt has received $64,250 from Monsanto towards his campaign committee between 2008 and 2012.”  Well, there’s a surprise.

Last May, despite the fact that several states wanted it, the Senate refused to allow them to enact laws forcing manufacturers to label products with GM content.  Senators of states that grow a lot of GM crops strongly opposed this move.  Among their reasons were that “labels would raise costs for consumers”.  A bit of honesty and extra ink on a label is going to cost more?

But the public fights on.  In October the Senate killed off the Monsanto Protection Act.  As in Britain, US citizens are suspicious of GM foods.  According to the  Cornucopia Institute, “polling conducted last year by the Mellman Group indicated that nearly 90% of Americans would like GMO foods labelled so they can make a choice about what kinds of foods they purchase in the marketplace.”  Choice?  GM foods?  Where pro-GM politicians are concerned, they don’t belong in the same room, let alone in the same sentence.

And now we hear of the cosy government/biotech relationship in South Africa.  This month the African Centre for Biosafety, having already shown that the entire maize meal market is saturated with GM, released a report showing how a select group of companies (with government backing) now controls the entire maize chain, to the detriment of the poorest people.  In Africa, only South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Burkino Fasso currently grow commercial GM crops, and despite public opposition, the lobbying of governments by Monsanto and others will most likely mean many more African farmers being pressured into growing them.

You would think, if you listened to the constant bleating of our politicians, that Britain is “being left behind” by the rest of the world, because of our reluctance to join the GM revolution.  Primed by the lobbyists, they give the impression that everywhere but here, people’s fields and fridges are full of GM crops and foods; that if anywhere suffers from food insecurity it will be us; that poor people in the developing countries will suffer from food insecurity unless we grow GM crops here (I’m still trying to understand the logic of that one).  Has the rest of the world really signed up to GM foods – or are the politicians and biotech companies telling GM porkies?*

The reverse of course is the truth.  Politicians who are less joined at the hip to big business are listening to the people, the farmers and consumers.  More places are opting to be GM-free.  Countries like Uruguay that have grown GM crops are banning the introduction of any new crops.  The Mexican government recently banned the planting of all GM maize – but then Mexican farmers surely know more about real maize than Monsanto!  Several South American countries, having grown GM crops for some time, are gradually changing the rules.  In November 2011 Peru introduced a 10-year ban on all GM crops.  Brazil has, for the time being at least, introduced a ban on planting GM seeds.  Paraguay is planning a similar ban.  Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela have all declared national bans on GM foods.

In Europe, despite heavy lobbying and pro-GM politicians trying to open up the market and our fields, people are still making their voices heard. Italy has a complete ban on all GM crops. France, Luxemburg, Germany, Austria, Greece, Romania and Poland have banned Monsanto’s maize. Switzerland has a moratorium on all genetically engineered crops and animals, due for renewal in December 2017.  They did several studies on the risks and benefits of GM crops and although they felt that there may be little danger in growing them, also decided that, for Switzerland, there was little financial benefit to be had either.

This year Hungary, which had banned GM crops, found that the forbidden crops were being grown illegally anyway.  The government didn’t hang about – all the crops were destroyed.  A new Hungarian law enacted back in March stipulates that before any new seeds are introduced into the market, they must first undergo checks to make sure they are free of GMOs.  They are now considering making the planting of GM seeds a felony.  And Russia is considering a total ban.

However, other EU countries have not managed a comprehensive ban, although various areas within countries have taken action.  In the United Kingdom both Scotland and Wales are officially ‘GM-free’, though Owen Paterson will probably ignore such democracy.  Various local authorities, including 17 County Councils, have voted to remain GM-free, mostly in order to help protect organic growers.  In Ireland  there are 9 GM-free counties.  The Republic of Ireland wanted to make the whole island GM-free, but sadly Northern Ireland wouldn’t cooperate.

In North America, some US states like California are GM-free.  Canada’s civil society is constantly campaigning against GM.  New Zealand has a ban as does South Australia and Tasmania.  Japan banned the growing of GM crops but “Japanese food manufacturers are actively importing “Roundup Ready” GMO canola grown in Canada primarily to manufacture canola oil. As a result, scientists have found that the GMO canola variety is now growing wild along roadsides and ports that have been the supply line for canola importation.”

What is noticeable about these bans is that in many places both people and their governments are not against research into genetic modification.  No. They are against the wholesale marketing of the biotech corporations that have no regard for the earth.  But why Poland, Hungary, Paraguay and the rest?  One reason may be that in so many places, despite the globalisation of Western culture, people have managed to maintain their links to a rural peasant culture; a culture that lives according to the pace of nature; that lives closer to the land; whose farmers embody generations of earth-based wisdom and whose people have an interest in growing clean healthy food because it is what they themselves eat.

This is not to say that the bans we have achieved will not be reversed by GM-lobbied politicians.  We must keep up the pressure.  People who love their patch of earth and love the food they eat are turning out to be remarkably GM-resistant – unlike their genetically modified politicians who are now logic- and science-resistant and extremely lobbyist-tolerant.

*For international readers: ‘porkies’ is an example of Cockney rhyming slang.  Pork pies = lies.

Market Euphoria During Troubled Times

November 27th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Major equity markets approach nosebleed levels. Experts disagree on whether bubble extremes approach. They’re not unusual. They happen often.

The myth about markets reflecting reality is hokum. Keynes once warned about “enterprise becom(ing) the bubble on a whirlpool of (destructive) speculation.” Hard times usually follows.

Easy credit fuels speculation. Euphoria follows. Greed trumps good sense. Folly pays a big price. This time is different talk proliferates. Momentum drives prices higher.

Stories of easy riches abound. Why miss out. Overvaluation leads to more of it. Fraudsters sell at the top. Greater fools buy at the wrong time. Hindsight is the best insight. Excess ends badly every time.

Downward momentum happens faster than market upswings. Years of gains are wiped out in months. Valuations evaporate rapidly.

Goldilocks economies turn rancid without warnings. Lenders remember how to say no. Reality arrives with a bang. Animal spirits disappear. Angst becomes pervasive.

This time IS different. Market appreciation is supposed to reflect good times. They go hand in hand. Ordinary people are fighting for the soul of the American dream.

It’s fast disappearing. It’s dying. Main Street Depression conditions are killing it. They’re at levels last seen in the 1930s.

Spin hides them. Fed governors say QE and low interest rates stimulate economic growth. It’s cover for what’s been ongoing since late 2008.

It artificially inflates markets. It keeps too-big-to fail banks from collapsing. It’s failed to stimulate economic growth. It weakened the dollar. It created bond and equity market bubbles.

Offshoring manufacturing and professional high-pay/good benefit jobs to low wage countries prevents growth. Replacing them with low pay/poor or no benefits ones doesn’t compensate.

Money printing madness isn’t forever. Reality has final say. The greater the excess, the bigger the bang when it arrives. America is in decline. It’s on a collision course with trouble.

Weakness defines current conditions. Markets astonishingly defy gravity. They’re rising during economic decline.

It’s practically unheard of during hard times. Market declines nearly always accompany them. Not this time. Fed/Wall Street manipulation elevates them higher.

Imagine doing so during protracted economic weakness. Short-term recoveries punctuate it. Fundamental problems are unresolved.

Real investment is weak. Western unemployment and poverty remain disturbingly high. Banks aren’t lending. Major ones are insolvent. Consumers are spending less. Government debt levels are rising. They’re dangerously high.

In the past two decades, Japan experienced multiple recessions. Doing so reflects classic stagnation. It reflects longterm decline.

Money printing madness hasn’t stimulated sustained economic growth. Since 2008, Japan experienced a triple-dip recession. Expect a fourth to follow.

Eurozone economies and Britain remain extremely troubled. Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy are basket cases.

Austerity is force fed when stimulus is needed. Hard times for ordinary people go from bad to worse. Troubled banks assure continued economic weakness.

Markets are addicted to free money. Providing it comes at the expense of Main Street. Communities are wrecked. Economic growth is sacrificed. Offshoring jobs America most needs exacerbates things.

Fragility, weakness and instability characterizes economic conditions. Hard times keep getting harder.

Markets are oblivious to what’s happening. Free money keeps party time going. Perhaps another banking crash will change things. Maybe it’ll be worse than before. Cassandras predict it. Maybe they’re right. Hindsight explains best.

Ben Inker co-heads GMO investments Asset Allocation team. He’s a GMO Board of Directors member. He believes US equity markets are about 40% overvalued.

He calls fair S&P fair value 1,100. It currently exceeds 1,800. It’s in nosebleed territory. It could go much higher before topping out. Markets work that way.

Irrational exuberance characterizes them in times like these. There’s never been anything like them before in memory. Coinciding with hard times is unheard of. For how long remains to be seen.

Small cap overvaluation is even more extreme than large cap S&P equities.

“The US stock market is trading at levels that do not seem capable of supporting the type of returns that investors have gotten used to receiving from equities,” said Inker.

“Our additional work does nothing but confirm our prior beliefs about the current attractiveness – or rather lack of attractiveness – of the US stock market.”

Legendary investor Jeremy Grantham co-founded GMO. Admirers call him the philosopher king of Wall Street. He operates north in Boston.

What’s ongoing reflects another bubble/bust scenario. According to Grantham:

“One of the more painful lessons in investing is that the prudent investor almost invariably must forego plenty of fun at the top end of markets.”

“This market is already no exception, but speculation can hurt prudence much more and probably will.”

“Ah, that’s life. Be prudent and you’ll probably forego gains. Be risky and you’ll probably make some more money, but you may be bushwhacked and, if you are, your excuses will look thin.”

Robert Shiller popularized the Shiller P/E ratio. It’s 50% above its longterm average. The US equity market is way overvalued.

Shiller’s S&P ratio uses a 10-year inflation-adjusted earnings average to calculate valuation. Historically, it averaged 16.5 longterm.

Shiller’s current ratio slightly exceeds 25. It’s worrisome. At 28.8, it’s bubble territory,” he says.

Warren Buffett has his own favorite metric. He calculates market value of all publicly traded securities based on a percentage of Gross National Product (GNP). He calls it the best single valuations measure.

GNP values goods and services produced at home and abroad. According to Buffett:

“If the percentage relationship falls to the 70% or 80% area, buying stocks is likely to work very well for you.”

“If the ratio approaches 200% – as it did in 1999 and (early) 2000 – you are playing with fire.”

In late November, it was 134%. It’s in the 94th percentile of results over the past six decades. It’s well above the 60-year average.

It’s way overvalued. It perhaps heading for 1999 levels. The fullness of time will tell.

Economic conditions then were strong. Weakness followed. Protracted hard times reflects what’s ongoing now.

Markets may go higher before peaking. Or maybe not. Betting on continued advances is a fool’s game.

Winning makes investors look smart. Losing extracts pain when bubbles pop. Is this time different? We heard it lots of times before.

It bears repeating. Hindsight is the best insight. Forewarned is forearmed.

A Final Comment

On November 25, the Washington Post headlined “Among American workers, poll finds unprecedented anxiety about jobs, economy.”

John Stewart is typical of others. He’s middle-aged. His job pays too little to live on. “I can’t save any money,” he said. He can’t “buy the things (he) need(s) to live as a human being.”

Over four years into so-called recovery, “American workers are living with unprecedented economic anxiety,” said WaPo. Low income workers feel it most.

A recent WaPo-Miller Center poll showed over six in 10 workers fear losing their jobs. Concerns are greater than found in previous surveys dating from the 1970s.

Low income workers worry most. At the same time, angst today affects “all levels of the income ladder.

“Once you control for economic and demographic factors, there is no partisan divide,” said WaPo.

“There’s no racial divide, either, and no gender gap. It also doesn’t matter where you live.”

At issue is protracted Main Street Depression level economic conditions. Millions of Americans are unemployed. Millions more are underemployed.

Incomes don’t keep up with inflation. Job insecurity is unprecedented in modern times.

Conditions go from bad to worse. Every day reflects a struggle to survive. It’s the new normal. It shows no signs of ending.

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/iran-nuclear-deal-bashing/

http://www.dailycensored.com/market-euphoria-troubled-times/

New York, (SANA)- The UN General Assembly Tuesday, once again, adopted a resolution demanding the Israeli occupation to withdraw from the whole occupied Syrian Golan to the line of June 4th, 1967 according to the UN security council relevant resolutions, stressing that the Israeli continued occupation of the Syrian Golan and annexing it is an obstacle in front of the achievement of a just, comprehensive peace in the region.

In a resolution titled “the Syrian Golan” which was proposed under the item “the state in the Middle East”, UNGA condemned Israel’s non-obedience till now to the Security Council resolution No. 497 for 1981, stressing that Israel’s decision issued on December 14th, 1981 to impose its laws, administration and custody on the occupied Syrian Golan is null and void which has no legality at all.

The UNGA resolution which has been adopted with big majority-112 states voted in favor of it- reaffirmed the basic principle of disallowing acquiring territories through force, in light of the internal law, the UN charter and Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians during war in the occupied Syrian Golan.

During the UNGA session, a number of states condemned the Israeli practices in the occupied Syrian Golan, calling on Israel to withdraw from Golan into the line of June 4th, 1967.

The Art of War: Here is ‘a More Secure World’

November 27th, 2013 by Manlio Dinucci

Finally, “diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.” The good news was announced a month before Christmas by Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama that he had just made the world a safer place — so he could proceed with improving the hundreds of nuclear bombs that the United States still keeps in Europe: the B61 -11 have been transformed into B61 -12, which can be also used as bunker-busting bombs in a nuclear first strike.

This falls under the Obama administration’s “roadmap” for maintaining U.S. nuclear supremacy. The U.S. has about 2,150 nuclear warheads deployed, that is, ready to launch using missiles and bombers, plus a further 2,500 stockpiled in warehouses, but which can be quickly activated and an additional 3,000 that were withdrawn but not dismantled that can be reactivated: in total about 8,000 nuclear warheads.

Russia’s arsenal is comparable, but has fewer warheads ready to launch, only about 1,800. The new START treaty between the U.S. and Russia does not restrict the number of operational nuclear warheads in the two arsenals, but only those ready to launch on strategic carriers with a range greater than 5,500 km (3,418 miles): the ceiling was established at 1,550 warheads each, but is actually higher because each heavy bomber is counted as a single warhead, even if it carries twenty or more bombs. The treaty leaves open the possibility of improving the quality of nuclear forces.

To this end the U.S. is installing an anti-missile “shield” in Europe, ostensibly to neutralize an Iranian attack (something impossible at present), in reality in order to achieve a strategic advantage over Russia, which is taking countermeasures. In addition to the U.S. warheads, NATO has about 300 French and 225 British nuclear warheads, almost all ready to launch.

Israel — which is the only nuclear power in the Middle East and, unlike Iran, does not adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty — has an estimated 100 to 300 warheads with their vectors and produces enough plutonium to manufacture 10 -15 bombs each year like the one used in Nagasaki; it also produces tritium, a radioactive gas used to manufacture neutron warheads, which cause minor radioactive contamination but a more lethal dose.

At the same time the nuclear confrontation is developing in the Asia/Pacific region, where the United States is carrying out a military escalation. China has a nuclear arsenal, estimated at about 250 warheads, and about 60 intercontinental ballistic missiles. India has about 110 nuclear warheads, Pakistan 120, North Korea probably a few warheads.

In addition to the nine countries in possession of nuclear weapons, there are at least 40 others in a position to build them. In fact there is no clear separation between civilian and military use of nuclear energy and highly enriched uranium and plutonium suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons can be obtained from reactors. It is estimated that the world has accumulated enough of such materials to produce more than 100,000 nuclear weapons, and it continues to produce these materials in increasing amounts: there are over 130 “civilian” nuclear reactors that produce highly enriched uranium, suitable for the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

This is the world that “became more secure” because the five major nuclear powers plus Germany (which has provided Israel with nuclear attack submarines), have concluded an agreement according to which “Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.”

 Translation: John Catalinotto

As the fallout continues over the cancelation notices sent to millions of people covered by health plans in the individual insurance market, it is becoming clear that millions more workers and their families are expected to lose their employer-based coverage as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), 156 million Americans—more than half the population—currently receive employer-sponsored health insurance. By 2016, the CBO projects that 6 million fewer people will receive employer-based health insurance compared to 2013.

Other business surveys place the number losing coverage much higher. A recent survey of 400 mid-size firms by the US Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association found that 28 percent planned to drop their coverage due to the ACA.

In tandem with the legislation commonly known as Obamacare, a seismic shift is taking place in the employer-sponsored health care market, the means by which the majority of Americans who are not insured under a government-sponsored program like Medicare or Medicaid receive coverage. For those workers who have not seen their coverage canceled outright, companies are already shifting greater costs for coverage to their employees.

Workers and their families who are dropped from employer coverage will be forced to purchase coverage on the Obamacare exchanges. Under the so-called individual mandate of the health care law, workers without some form of insurance must purchase coverage from private insurers on the insurance exchanges set up under the ACA, or pay a penalty.

The debacle at the HealthCare.gov web site, where consumers can shop for coverage, may actually be temporarily delaying some employers from terminating health coverage for their workers. When and if the technical difficulties are resolved at the federal site, more companies may opt to dump their workers onto the Obamacare exchange.

Beginning in 2015, the ACA will also require employers with 50 workers or more to provide “affordable” coverage to full-time workers—those working 30 hours a week or more—or face a penalty. But it is likely that a significant number of businesses will simply pay the fine and drop their employee coverage. The Hill quotes Neil Trautwein, vice president and employee benefits policy council at the National Retail Federation, who said, “It will definitely be less expensive to pay penalties than to provide coverage.”

Other companies are expected to cut employee hours below the 30-hour minimum to avoid having to provide insurance coverage. The Chamber of Commerce survey found that about a third of businesses have already reduced employee hours as a result of the health care law’s requirements, and 27 percent have already replaced some full-time employees with part-time workers.

Employers are also raising the costs for covering family members on their workers’ policies. The ACA defines affordability of employer-sponsored coverage as costing no more than 9.5 percent of a worker’s income. But this is the cost of coverage for the individual employee only, not his or her dependents. Companies can get around the law by either raising costs for family coverage, or by dropping coverage for family members altogether.

According to Mercer, a benefits consulting unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos., about 6 percent of employers presently ban coverage for spouses who can get it elsewhere. Last August, United Parcel Service announced that it was barring spouses from its nonunion health plan if they could get coverage at their own jobs. It is estimated the move affects about half of the 33,000 spouses of white-collar employees at UPS.

Companies are also radically restructuring their health care plans in advance of Obamacare’s “Cadillac” tax. Beginning in 2018, companies with health plans that have total costs of more than an annual limit of $10,200 for an individual and $27,500 for a family will pay a 40 percent levy on the amount exceeding these limits. White House officials say that the tax is aimed at making employers and workers more “cost-conscious.” In other words, it is deliberately designed to get more companies to adopt high-deductible plans that discourage people from seeking medical treatment due to cost, thereby rationing care.

A survey by the International Foundation of Employees Benefits Plans (IFEB) released in August found that 16.8 percent of those businesses responding had already begun to restructure their health plans to avoid the “Cadillac” tax, and 40 percent were considering such action. A survey of Fortune 1000 companies by benefits consulting firm Towers Watson found that 60 percent of these major companies, employing about 20 million workers, said the impending tax was already having a “moderate” or “significant” influence on decisions regarding benefits for 2014 and 2015.

While employers have been shifting health care costs onto their workforces since at least the late 1980s, the Affordable Care Act is providing the framework and impetus for making even more dramatic changes. The main methods employed are increasing employees’ share of premium costs, and increasing deductibles and other cost-sharing mechanisms.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Gannett Co., owners of more than 80 newspapers and 23 television stations, has replaced its two family plans at the Indianapolis Star with a single high-deductible plan that requires workers to pay the first $3,000 of medical costs each year. Those with individual plans are responsible for the first $1,500 of costs. Trucking company Ryder System Inc. has also replaced one of its two insurance options with a high-deductible plan, and hiked the cost of the remaining option.

President Obama’s top economic adviser, Jason Furman, commented cynically to NBC News, “There’s nothing in the law that tells you you need to raise copayments or deductibles.” But there is nothing in the law that stops companies from raising the costs that workers must bear for health insurance, all the while receiving reduced benefits and inferior medical care.

These radical shifts in the way employer-sponsored health care is being delivered are another indication of the regressive character of the Affordable Care Act. Touted as a plan that would promote “affordable,” “near universal” heath care, in reality, the legislation is tailored to the profit interests of employers and the health care industry, while reducing and rationing care for the vast maority of workers and their families.

US Sends B-52s to China’s Air Defence Zone

November 27th, 2013 by John Chan

In a deliberately provocative move, the US announced yesterday that two B-52 strategic bombers conducted a training mission over the disputed Senkakus islands (known as Diaoyu in China) in the East China Sea, just days after Beijing declared an “air defence identification zone” (ADIZ) covering the area.

The Pentagon’s claim that it was a routine planned mission lacks any credibility. The overflight was clearly designed to challenge China, in line with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s statement that the US Air Force would simply ignore the Chinese rules in the zone.

The two B-52 bombers, which are designed to carry nuclear bombs and nuclear cruise missiles, flew from and returned to Guam, the key US base in the Pacific. The flight was aimed at sending an intimidating message to Beijing that the US would support Japan in a war against China over the Senkakus. In his statement, Hagel also reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to the US-Japan Security Treaty.

In announcing the ADIZ, China stated that any foreign aircraft passing through the zone had to submit flight plans, indicate nationality and maintain radio contact, or they could face emergency military measures.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told the media that the two B-52s deliberately defied the air zone rules: “We have conducted operations in the area of the Senkakus. We have continued to follow our normal procedures, which include not filing flight plans, not radioing ahead and not registering our frequencies.” The Chinese government’s initial reaction is to downplay the incident, simply claiming it had monitored the entire flight.

The dangers of the B-52 overflight are all too obvious. If China responded by scrambling fighters to the area and the US military called in fighters from nearby Japanese bases, the incident could have led to an aerial clash with far-reaching and potentially catastrophic ramifications.

American allies in Asia backed Washington’s decision to ignore China’s ADIZ. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared in the Diet on Monday: “We demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace.”

Putting civilian aircraft at risk, Abe’s government intervened to stop Japanese airlines submitting flight plans to Beijing. Transport Minister Fumio Kishida declared: “I believe it is important for the public and private sectors to cooperate in showing our firm resolve to China.”

The South Korean defence ministry indicated its aircraft would also not obey Chinese directives. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop summoned the Chinese ambassador to criticise the ADIZ, saying: “Australia has made clear its opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea.”

China’s decision to declare the ADIZ was also provocative. In part, the announcement was a response to Japanese remilitarisation under the Abe government, encouraged by the Obama administration, and rising tensions over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands following their “nationalisation” by Tokyo last year. Over the past two months in particular, the US and Japan have strengthened their military allaince, including proposals for Japan to develop “pre-emptive strike” capabilities and additional deployment of US warplanes to Japan.

At the same time, the new Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping is seeking to appease its nationalist constituency among layers of the affluent middle classes. Xi is seeking to portray himself as a “strong” leader who will not back down before foreign “bullies.” Fearful of social unrest, the isolated regime—representing a tiny layer of billionaires and multimillionaires—relies on Chinese nationalism as the ideological means of suppressing class differences and containing the opposition of working people to its pro-market agenda.

The B-52 intrusion came after Chinese media reports yesterday of a large-scale Chinese air drill involving several dozen fighter jets in the newly proclaimed ADIZ. At the same time, the Chinese navy said its Liaoning aircraft carrier would conduct a training exercise in the South China Sea, accompanied for the first time by a battle group of four escort warships.

Two US nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the USS George Washington and USS Nimitz, and their battle groups are also in the South China Sea, in the name of providing humanitarian relief to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. The US has encouraged the Philippines and Vietnam to assert their claims against China over the Spratly and other islands in the South China Sea, where China is also considering the establishment of an air defence zone.

Washington’s escalation of tensions with China over the East China Sea ADIZ is in stark contrast to the claims that the recent nuclear accord with Iran is a step toward global peace and stability. In reality, the US is attempting to cut a deal with Iran in order to focus its diplomatic and military resources on its prime concern—the “pivot to Asia,” aimed at isolating and containing its main potential rival, China.

The US decision to back off imminent strikes against Syria in September, followed by Obama’s absence from the key Asian summits in October due to the US government shutdown, raised concerns across the Indo-Pacific about America’s commitment to the “pivot.” This situation is unacceptable to the US ruling elites, which have identified the Indo-Pacific region as the 21st century’s global economic axis and an area that they must dominate.

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea and China next week in order to re-assure key allies in the region. Obama himself will carry out a major trip to Asia next April. Announcing Obama’s tour last week, US national security adviser Susan Rice declared: “Rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific remains a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s foreign policy… No matter how many hotspots emerge elsewhere, we will continue to deepen our enduring commitment to this critical region.”

Like yesterday’s B-52 overflight, Rice’s comments are a warning that the US will not hesitate to use every means to ensure its continued hegemony in Asia.

It has been a frustrating couple of weeks, watching, listening and otherwise searching in vain for any balanced media coverage within the many JFK retrospectives that have been offered up on TV, radio and newspapers about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Somehow, despite the deafening silence from most every authority figure you can think of (both national and local) and the well-orchestrated cover-up about the obvious conspiracy to kill JFK, large percentages of the US public, despite the constant brain-washing attempts, still know for certain that there was a conspiracy (Definition: a plot between two or more individuals or organizations to perform an illegal act).

There is a large body of evidence, including scores of well-documented books, that has been available since 11/22/63, that has been challenging the slanted major media-orchestrated myth of the lone assassin. Essentially none of that evidence was allowed to be broadcast on national, regional or even local media outlets during the past few weeks (with rare exceptions, including good discussions on the subject on last week’s John Gilbert morning show on Duluth’s KDAL-AM radio and a few mumbled comments on  PBS’s McLaughlin Report doubting the conclusions of the deeply flawed Warren Commission).

No critical thinking allowed. The case is closed

The political and corporate powers-that-be that are in control of the national and regional media seem to want as many of us citizens as possible to believe the easily disprovable Big Lie Theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone crazed assassin and that Jack Ruby acted alone in silencing Oswald before he could publically expose information about his handlers. What has often been presented as fact are often just simplistic but very well-crafted 20 second sound bites that urge us well-indoctrinated citizens  to believe any and all authority figures, politicians and commercial advertisers. No critical thinking skills are required – or allowed. Case closed.

Last week I watched three PBS retrospectives, including Frontline’s “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?” (which assumed that the alleged assassin was indeed the loner ex-Marine Oswald) and NOVA’s seriously flawed, pseudoscientific “ballistics special” that supposedly “proved” the absurd single bullet theory.

NOVA, it should be mentioned, is underwritten by the far-right-wing, Kennedy-hating funders of the Tea Party “rebellion”, the multi-billionaire David Koch. Note also that the father of the infamous Koch brothers was a charter member of the leftist-hating, racist John Birch Society. (For more on the Koch brothers’ smothering attack on democracy, watch “Koch Brothers Exposed”, a hard-hitting Robert Greenwald (Brave New Films production) documentary that PBS was scheduled to air last year, and then “mysteriously” cancelled.

For information on that scandalous cancellation, click on http://www.juancole.com/2013/05/scandal-brothers-exposed.html .

To watch the “controversial” video, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTwqkl8BqSc (Preview) .

 Just move along, there is nothing to be seen here

I also watched the available JFK retrospectives that were broadcast on NBC, CBS and ABC, and I was uniformly disgusted (predictably) at the attempts that tried to convince us comfortably numb, TV-mesmerized folks to nod our heads and accept the official stories. None of the evidence referenced in this article was allowed to be shown. Total censorship has been the norm.

The JFK assassination experts, scholars, researchers, critical thinkers and assorted patriots who hate tyranny and who want to have all the facts fairly presented have been consistently dismissed as “conspiracy theorists” even though the evidence (that they were not allowed to present) would prove the existence of a conspiracy.

For example, JFK’s brain and/or parts of his skull were exploded backwards (out of a large exit wound in the back of the skull) onto the trunk of the presidential limo (which is the reason why Jackie was famously seen on film footage turning around and reaching backwards).

The Secret Service agent, Clint Hill, consistently testified that Jackie was not reaching for him, but for fragments of JFK’s brain (which she was retrieving in the vain hope that it could be somehow used by doctors to save her husband’s life). The testimony of the involved physicians and other witnesses at Parkland Hospital confirms that there was an entry wound in the right front of JFK’s head and a blow-out wound in the back of the head.

These same medical experts testified to the tiny (“1/4 inch”) entrance wound in the front of the neck. Such testimonials prove conclusively that two of the shots that killed JFK came from the front. Hence, a conspiracy.

Watch this 60 Minutes video of Clint Hill’s testimony about what Jackie was doing on the back of the limousine: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfrHqqzC3Sw (Preview)

Guilty TV Talking Heads are part of the conspiracy cover-up

One of the most frustrating moments for me was Bob Schieffer’s Sunday morning (11-17-03) Face the Nation interview with eyewitness Ronald Jones, MD, one of the surgeons that attended JFK (all of whom, by the way, testified to the existence of a small entry wound in JFK’s throat). Dr Jones was able to briefly mention the “1/4 inch” entry wound in JFK’s throat (all physicians, especially trauma surgeons, know that gunshot entry wounds are small, and gunshot exit wounds are large) but Schieffer failed to ask the obvious follow-up question that every alert viewer knew needed to be asked: “Dr Jones, what conclusions need to be drawn from the tiny wound in the neck?”

Check out minute four at: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50159338n.

Of course, either of those wounds conclusively disproves both the single shooter and the magic bullet theories that Schieffer has obediently reported on during his entire career (as has also been true for every other talking head on TV, politician, CIA agent or Pentagon official) who was afraid of being fired, demoted or disappeared if they revealed unwelcome truths that might besmirch his country or embarrass his paymasters.

It should be important for citizens who should be exposed to the non-corporate side of the story to consult some of assassination scholar and retired philosophy professor Jim Fetzer’s powerful documentation disproving the official story.

Read some of that evidence at http://www.und.edu/org/jfkconference/UNDchapter30.pdf.

There are many people and powerful institutions that want to have the past forgotten forever, whether they were guilty, complicit or simply knowledgeable – and silent – about what they knew.  Members of Kennedy’s Secret Service, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the CIA, the FBI, the Dallas Police Department and the Mafia who might still be alive and prosecutable if their involvement were to be revealed.

Current information says that many Warren Commission, CIA and FBI documents have already been destroyed; but there are more than a thousand documents with secret information in them that remain sealed. They are due to be released in 2017.

For more on this subject, check out: http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-warren-commission

Earl Warren, a close friend of the Kennedy family (who didn’t want any evidence brought before the commission that would embarrass the family), said:

“There will come a time when testimony taken by the Commission will be made public. But it might not be in your lifetime. There may be some things that would involve security. This would be preserved but not made public.”

And listen to some 1968 quotes and warnings from comedian and JFK assassination expert Mort Sahl. Sahl was black-listed after JFK’s death when he came out publically disputing the Warren Commission’s “lone assassin” theory:

“Once the neo-fascists became bold enough to slay the President on the street, they showed their hand. They showed how arrogant they had become.”

“(America) has to hang on through a period of the military and the CIA who have a blank check trying to sell fascism. If she can hang on long enough, Americans may yet live in the country in which they were born. And that is the country structured by Tom Paine and Tom Jefferson.”

“(Fascism in America) started with the death of Roosevelt. They moved in and they negated every treaty we made with every world leader who didn’t fit the fascist/militarist mold.”

 To read the transcript of a 1968 interview with Sahl, go to: http://www.assassinationscience.com/AnHistoricalPerspective-MortSahl.html

One of the best recent articles exposing the conspiracy to kill JFK was written by Kevin Barrett, one of the most knowledgeable 9/11 Truth-seeking scholars that I know. It was published on Nov 20, 2013 on www.presstv.com, an alternative media outlet that is not beholden to large corporations. Below are excerpts of the article, which was titled “Jury Verdict Proves CIA killed JFK”. Excerpts follow and the entire text can be accessed at: http://presstv.com/detail/2013/11/20/335614/jury-verdict-prove-cia-killed-jfk/

Barrett writes:

“As the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy (JFK) assassination approaches, the American people and the American media are living in two different worlds.

“The corporate media is still pushing the myth that JFK was killed by a communist lone nut named Lee Harvey Oswald. But most of the American people are not buying it. Since the early 1990s, a strong majority of Americans has believed that JFK was killed by a conspiracy and that the CIA had a hand in it.

“The American people are right.

“Overwhelming evidence confirms that the JFK assassination, like the assassinations and overthrows of so many of the world’s best leaders, was a CIA operation. But the American media – including the foundation-funded pseudo-alternative media – is reluctant to report the evidence.

“At least fifty people have been murdered to cover up the CIA’s assassination of JFK, as explained in the book ‘Hit List’ by Richard Belzer and David Wayne. A few of them, including Dorothy Kilgallen and Mary Meyer, were journalists or writers who were poised to blow the case wide open. But in the US stealth police state, unlike overt police states, psychological rather than physical means are usually employed to silence serious opposition.

“The CIA has covered up the JFK assassination by brainwashing the public into believing ‘we’ll never really know the truth.’ To that end, it has spread vast amounts of disinformation, including ludicrous theories that JFK’s wife Jackie, or limousine driver William Greer, fired the fatal shots.

“The media mockingbirds endlessly repeat the mantra, ‘But surely, in a conspiracy as large and complex as you’re suggesting, someone would have talked!’ They hope the public will not bother to learn that a great many whistleblowers HAVE talked – including some who paid with their lives.

 “Several people involved in the CIA’s assassination of JFK have confessed, including Chauncey Holt, David Sanchez Morales, and even Lyndon Johnson. But the star witness among the confessed JFK assassins is CIA officer E. Howard Hunt, who, on February 6th, 1985, was legally found by a jury to have participated in the CIA’s assassination of JFK.

“Hunt explained to his son that he first learned of the CIA assassination plot against Kennedy at the JM Wave CIA station in Miami, Florida. Several CIA personnel there, including William “Wild Bill” Harvey, asked Hunt to help them develop and perfect the logistics of the assassination operation. After at first expressing reluctance to kill his own Commander-in-Chief, Hunt finally acquiesced and applied his considerable skills as an assassination-orchestrator and overthrower-of-governments to the CIA plot against the President. On November 22nd, 1963, Hunt was in Dallas; his role included paying one of the gunmen.

“Why did the CIA kill JFK? As Hunt explained, everyone in the CIA loathed President Kennedy, who had left over 1400 CIA mercenaries to be slaughtered or captured during the Bay of Pigs debacle, and who was pushing “treasonous” plans for peace with Cuba, Vietnam, and even the Soviet Union. Additionally, Kennedy was going all out to shut down Israel’s nuclear weapons program, trying to end the Federal Reserve’s private currency monopoly, and threatening oilmen’s profits by ending the depletion allowance. Though the American people loved JFK, America’s corrupt elite hated him.

“Hunt’s confessions, including his handwritten and tape-recorded summaries of his involvement, are supported by a great many independent sources, including Brad Ayers, a CIA man stationed at the Miami JM Wave station prior to the assassination. In his book ‘The Zenith Secret’, Ayers describes the CIA plot against JFK, and names the same names as Hunt. (Ed. note: Some of this information about the Hunt confession can be read at: http://www.rense.com/general76/hunt.htm.)

“The confessions of E. Howard Hunt are just one of the dozens if not hundreds of ‘smoking guns’ proving beyond all possible doubt that the CIA was at the center of the coup d’état against JFK. For more details about Hunt’s confessions, you can listen to my interviews with St. John Hunt, which are available on-line at No Lies Radio http://noliesradio.org/archives/72262. (Ed note: Kevin Barrett interviews James Douglass, author of “JFK and the Unspeakable”. The interview is archived at: http://noliesradio.org/archives/39269.)

“As long as the American people imagine that there is still some small shred of doubt about the JFK case, they will never rise up and overthrow the military-industrial-intelligence complex (including the mainstream media brainwashing apparatus) that has stolen their democracy.”

Here’s what it looks like when a respected reporter tweets about his blackmail note to an established anti-war organization regarding the organization’s upcoming conference in a tweet on November 15:

 The reporter is Jeremy Scahill, who was booked as the keynote speaker and to show his film “Dirty Wars” (based on his book “Dirty Wars”) at the November 30 International Anti-War Conference in London, put on by Stop the War Coalition (STWuk), which was first organized in 2001 in opposition to an American attack on Iraq. More than 12 years later, the coalition notes dryly on its webpage for the conference, “We need more effective anti war resistance internationally. This conference is a chance to analyse, build links and lay plans.”

Scahill’s threat to boycott the conference soon became moot the following day, when the dreaded Mother Agnes withdrew from participation. Her letter read, in part:

“It has come to my attention that my participation in your conference has become a matter of serious contention, even prompting some other speakers to consider withdrawing. This is apparently due to a campaign of cruel and unsubstantiated accusations which seek to work against my efforts and those of the Musalaha (Reconciliation) Initiative in Syria.

  “The basis of our work toward peace is reconciliation and forgiveness. This means extending an olive branch to some who may initially refuse it, and accepting an olive branch from others who are despised, even by our friends….

  “Some may feel that an injustice will be done if I speak at your conference. Others may think that injustice will be done if I do not. Because my participation in your conference may be used by some to distract from your valuable efforts towards peace, non-violence and reconciliation, I believe it best to withdraw from participation.”

Why did Stop the War invitation to nun working to stop war raise objections?

Push comes to shove, and Mother Agnes is an apparent pushover.  She’s also not flogging a movie.  And the abuse she’s suffered online was as real as the pressure on Scahilll and others to have nothing to do with her. It’s hard to find any evidence that Mother Agnes has committed anything worse than what others consider thought-crimes and politically incorrect observations, some of which are actually correct.

Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross is a Carmelite nun and mother superior of the Monastery of James the Mutilated in Qara, Syria, which has a community of three monks and twelve nuns. Born in Lebanon in a refugee camp 61 years ago, she is Palestinian on her father’s side and has worked in Syria for about 20 years. She is the spokesperson for the Catholic Information Center in Beirut, where the Musalaha Initiative also has its office. Mother Agnes became a nun at 19, after several years in the late 1960s as a self-styled “hippie,” traveling to Europe, India and Tibet. Unlike others with an equally public profile, Mother Agnes has no Wikipedia page.

In June 2012, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire praised Mother Agnes as a peacemaker:

  “In her community her voice has been clear, pure and loud. And it should be so in the West. Like many people in Syria she has been placed in life threatening situations, but for the sake of peace she has chosen to risk her own existence for the safety and security of others. She has spoken out against the lack of truth in our media regarding Syria and about the terror and chaos which a ‘third force’ seems to be spreading across the country. Her words confront and challenge us because they do not mirror the picture of events in Syria we have built up in our minds over many months of reading our newspapers and watching the news on our televisions. Much of the terror has been imported, we learn from her. She can tell us about the thousands of Christian refugees, forced to flee their homes by an imported Islamist extreme.”

 What makes her controversial to people around Stop the War Coalition is their perception of her as a supporter of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Clear reasoning behind this perception is hard to come by. The reality for Christians in Syria is that their choice of friends is limited: the government represses them along with everyone else, but some rebel groups have taken to massacring Christians. With rebel groups numbering 1,000 or more, none is likely to be a reliable protector.

Mother Agnes’s heretical view of the Damascus chemical attack

In August 2013, when the world learned of the still murky chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb, Mother Agnes questioned the prevailing western view that the Assad government carried out the attack. She prepared a 50-page report questioning the authenticity of videos of the aftermath and submitted her findings to the United Nations Human Rights Council. As the New York Times of September 21 reported:

  “When Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, wanted to bolster his argument that rebels had carried out the poison gas attacks near Damascus on Aug. 21, he pointed to the work of a 61-year-old Lebanese-born nun who had concluded that the horrifying videos showing hundreds of dead and choking victims, including many children, had been fabricated ahead of time to provide a pretext for foreign intervention.

“’Mr. Lavrov is an intelligent person,’ said the nun, Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, with a wide smile in a recent interview in this Lebanese mountain town. ‘He will never stick his name to someone who is saying stupidities.’”

  Taking a position on the chemical attacks that is supportive of the Assad government has led to intensified criticism of Mother Agnes as an Assad pawn. French reporters have written a book accusing her of conspiring with the government to kill another French reporter in 2012. She has sued the authors for libel.

The Syrian uprising started with peaceful protests in March 2011, but soon turned violent. Mother Agnes accuses the West of fomenting the violence to create a pretext for military intervention and re-ordering Syria. In November 2011, she wrote an open letter to President Assad, challenging the government over its treatment of hospital patients and prisoners, as reported in Vatican Insider in November 2011:

  “Dear Mr. President, I have lived and worked in Syria since 1994, and I have learned to esteem the unique position Syria holds in the world of culture and of religions. But I am shocked to learn from Amnesty International that in the hospitals run by the government the wounded suffer discrimination and maltreatment because of their ideology. And I am saddened to find that, in the prisons, there are people there who have never been tried in court, or even accused of anything….   I ask for a serious inquiry into the hospitals and prisons, under the supervision of the International Red Cross, together with the creation of a committee to accelerate the exercise of justice.”

In late October, Mother Agnes, through the Musalaha Initiative, was involved in establishing a cease-fire and evacuating some 5,400 civilians from Moadamiya, a rebel-held city near Damascus.

  Mother Agnes is currently on a six-week speaking tour in North America, largely ignored by most media. In Cleveland on November 14, she received a special peace award from the mayor, a congressman, and a senator. The tour ends December 4.

Jeremy Scahill has yet to explain his own behavior, but columnist Neil Clark, writing for Russia Today, blames “liberal hawks and neo-cons” for silencing the nun because:

“Mother Agnes’ testimony reveals that the so-called ‘War on Terror’ is a sham – that in Syria, the western countries and their regional allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, are on the same side as the extremist Islamic terror groups that we are told are our greatest enemies.”

Although TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has received the lion’s share of media attention, another key border-crossing pipeline benefitting tar sands producers was approved on November 19 by the U.S. State Department.

Enter Cochin, Kinder Morgan’s 1,900-mile proposed pipeline to transport gas produced via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of the Eagle Ford Shale basin in Texas north through Kankakee, Illinois, and eventually into Alberta, Canada, the home of the tar sands.

Like Keystone XL, the pipeline proposal requires U.S. State Department approval because it crosses the U.S.-Canada border. Unlike Keystone XL – which would carry diluted tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) south to the Gulf Coast – Kinder Morgan’s Cochin pipeline would carry the gas condensate (diluent) used to dilute the bitumen north to the tar sands.

“The decision allows Kinder Morgan Cochin LLC to proceed with a $260 million plan to reverse and expand an existing pipeline to carry an initial 95,000 barrels a day of condensate,” the Financial Post wrote.

“The extra-thick oil is typically cut with 30% condensate so it can move in pipelines. By 2035, producers could require 893,000 barrels a day of the ultra-light oil, with imports making up 786,000 barrels of the total.”

Increased demand for diluent among Alberta’s tar sands producers has created a growing market for U.S. producers of natural gas liquids, particularly for fracked gas producers.

“Total US natural gasoline exports reached a record volume of 179,000 barrels per day in February as Canada’s thirst for oil sand diluent ramped up,” explained a May 2013 article appearing in Platts. ”US natural gasoline production is forecast to increase to roughly 450,000 b/d by 2020.”

Revealed: Northrop Grumman’s Unmarked Gray Helicopter Drone

November 26th, 2013 by Paul Joseph Watson

Infowars has obtained a photograph of an unmarked gray helicopter drone manufactured by Northrop Grumman which could be used to spy on Americans domestically.

The image was sent to us by someone high up within Northrop Grumman, who told us that the drone is small enough to transported on the back of a large truck or towed in a trailer behind a pickup and can be fitted with all manner of surveillance technology.

It appears to be a smaller version of the company’s MQ-8C Fire Scout helicopter drone, which was tested for the first time earlier this month by the U.S. Navy. Unlike the MQ-8C Fire Scout, the drone seen in the image above has no markings.

The MQ-8C Fire Scout, described as a “next generation” drone, has “three times the payload capacity of the current model in the military arsenal,” and can remain airborne for twice as long.

Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration released a road map that set the stage for 7,500 surveillance drones to be flying in U.S. skies within the next two years. The FAA’s chief concern is not the privacy implications of such devices, but the threat of them colliding with other aircraft.

The FAA has forecast that 30,000 surveillance drones will be in U.S. skies by the end of the decade.

At least 80 law enforcement agencies already have agreements with the FAA to fly drones for surveillance purposes. Some police departments want to use such drones to watch for “suspicious activity” in high crime areas.

Authorities are already using drones to conduct surveillance of farms and the Department of Homeland Security is also working on deploying drones for purposes of “public safety.”

Earlier this year, the Pentagon began testing to deploy two high-tech surveillance blimps over Washington DC that can remain at 10,000 feet for a month without the need for refueling. The blimps provide an “elevated, persistent over-the-horizon sensor system” and carry “powerful radars that can look deep into enemy territory.”

The U.S. Army also recently tested a football field-sized blimp over the city of New Jersey. The blimp can fly for a period of 21 hours and “is equipped with high-tech sensors that can monitor insurgents from above.”

This past August, the DHS assumed control of surveillance blimps used to monitor the US-Mexico border, a perturbing development for privacy advocates given that the federal agency considers all areas 100 miles inland of the border to be ‘constitution-free zones’ within which the Fourth Amendment does not apply.

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/paul.j.watson.71

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Israel and Saudi Arabia may cooperate in an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities following the announcement of a six-month interim agreement between the P5+1 and Iran on Sunday in Geneva. Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, characterized the agreement as a major success. He said Iran will cooperate with the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran’s recently elected president, Hassan Rouhani, said the agreement is evidence the world now recognizes Iran has nuclear rights.

“While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal,” the Obama administration said in a statement. “For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.” Obama added a caveat. He said the United States will “ratchet up” sanctions if Iran fails to follow the agreement. Secretary of State John Kerry, who represented the United States at the conference in Geneva, said Iran has yet to demonstrate that it is not seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

The agreement stipulates that Iran will stop enriching uranium over 5% and dismantle its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium. A nuclear weapon requires uranium enriched over 90%. In addition to IAEA inspections, Iran has also agreed to stop construction on its heavy water reactor at Arak.

Officials in Israel reacted predictably after the deal was reached. “What was concluded in Geneva last night is not a historic agreement, it’s a historic mistake,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned. “It’s not made the world a safer place. Like the agreement with North Korea in 2005, this agreement has made the world a much more dangerous place.” The Saudi royals also expressed outrage.

Israel Working With Saudis On Attack Plan

Earlier this month, the Sunday Times reported that Saudi Arabia agreed to allow Israel use of its air space. The Saudis said they would provide drones, tanker planes and helicopters for an Israeli attack on Iran. The newspaper said Mossad was working closely with Saudi intelligence and they were making preparations in the event a deal was reached in Switzerland. “Once the Geneva agreement is signed, the military option will be back on the table. The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” a source said.

Netanyahu and Israeli officials attempted to persuade the United States to reject a compromise. The Israeli president said any agreement would directly threaten the existence of his country.

“It is highly unlikely that the Saudis and Israelis would want to attack Iran because at the end of the day both countries would be losers, they would be seen as aggressors and obviously the Iranians would retaliate,” Iranian political analyst Seyed Mohammad Marandi said after the Sunday Times published its report. “It would create an economic catastrophe for the world and only the Saudis and the Israelis would be to blame.”

Egyptian officials, according to WorldNetDaily reporter and blogger Aaron Klein, confirmed that Israeli personnel recently visited Saudi Arabia and inspected military bases. “The officials said Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other Arab and Persian Gulf countries have been discussing the next steps toward possible strikes on Iran’s nuclear sites,” Klein writes today.

Klein also notes the United States told Israel and the Saudis it controls radar capabilities over Iran and that no strike should be launched without permission from the Obama administration.

Hezbollah May Respond If Attack Unfolds

In October, it was reported that Israel was considering attacking Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon to take out its missile capability. The Shia military organization has “more than 200,000 missiles capable of hitting any house in Israel,” according to Israeli Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan. Military experts, however, put the number closer to 45,000 missiles and rockets. IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh claims Hezbollah has at around 60,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal, or about ten times the number it had during Israel’s 34-day invasion of Lebanon in 2006.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah met with Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian last week after the Iranian embassy was attacked in Beirut. Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi told Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV station “the Zionist entity” was responsible for the attack.

The Abdullah Azzam brigades, an al-Qaeda-linked group, claimed responsibility for the blast that killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 150 others.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced in August a new forum supposedly designed to improve communication between the government and the country’s small Palestinian Chris­tian community.

The innocuous-sounding intiative, however, has sinister implications. The forum’s purpose, as Netanyahu boasted during a press conference, is to end the long-established exemption of Christians from serving in the Israeli military.

This is the latest in a series of moves to pressure Christian high school graduates into joining the army, breaking the community’s blanket rejection of conscription for the past 65 years.

Leaders of Israel’s Palestinian minority have accused Israeli authorities of using the draft as a means to propel the country’s Christian and Muslim communities into conflict, as part of Israel’s long-term divide-and-rule strategy.

The issue first reared its head last October, when the Defense Ministry quietly staged a conference near Nazareth, the ­effective capital of Palestinians in Israel, to promote military service among Christians.

The participation of three local clergymen in the conference sent shock waves through the Muslim and Christian communities. Currently both Christians and Muslims, comprising nearly a fifth of Israel’s population, are exempt from the draft.

In an apparently related step this past July, a Christian in Nazareth whose brother is an official in the Defense Ministry announced the establishment of the first-ever Christian-Jewish political party, called “Sons of the New Testament,” which advocates conscription for Christians.

The new party, which also runs an enlistment forum to encourage Christians to serve in the army, has paired with a far-right Jewish group, Im Tirtzu.

Officials in Nazareth have warned that their city is at risk of becoming a flash point for inter-communal fighting if Israel continues to stir up sectarian tensions.

Dominated by its Christian institutions but with a two-thirds Muslim majority, Nazareth has been struggling to temper sectarian divisions since the late 1990s. That was when the Israeli government promoted a provocative project to build a mosque next to the city’s main Christian pilgrimage site, the Basilica of the Annunciation (see articles by Fred Strickert in the June 1999, Jan./Feb. 2000 and March 2002 issues of theWashington Report).

Israel’s Palestinian Christians, numbering 125,000, or about 9 percent of the Palestinian minority, are mostly located in Nazareth and its surrounding villages.

The issue of military service is an especially contentious one for the Palestinian minority, said Azmi Hakim, leader of the Greek Orthodox community council in Nazareth.

Most Palestinian citizens refuse to join the army because they reject the role of the Israeli military in oppressing other Palestinians and in enforcing an occupation that violates international law. However, there are strong objections on other grounds.

“Israel has tried to use military service as a way to break us up as a national group since the state’s earliest days,” Hakim said. “It wants us to be weak, separate religious communities incapable of organizing and demanding our rights.”

The Druze community, of a similar size to the Christian one, has been conscripted into the army since the 1950s. As a consequence, Israel designated the Druze a national group distinct from the rest of the Palestinian minority, and created a separate education system to inculcate “Zionist values.”

Israel also has persuaded some Bedouin to volunteer as army trackers. Otherwise, only a tiny number of Christian and Muslim Israeli citizens request to have their exemption waived—in most cases, according to scholar Rhoda Kanaaneh, in the hope of accruing extra financial benefits related to army service.

Abir Kopty, a former Nazareth councilor, said that Israel had long tried to instill in Christians an insecurity toward their Muslim neighbors.

“Israel’s goal is to make Christians feel like a vulnerable minority and that they will be safer only if they have been trained by the army and have a gun,” she said. “We hear Christian youngsters who consider enlistment saying things like, ‘I want to protect myself and my family.’”

The pro-enlistment conference held in October was arranged by Ehab Shlayan, a career officer in the Israeli military from Nazareth who was recently appointed the Defense Ministry’s “adviser on Christian issues.”

It was staged in Upper Nazareth, a Jewish city established on Nazareth’s lands in the 1950s. The mayor, Shimon Gapso, an ally of Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, helped sponsor the event.

News of the conference was revealed on social media a short time later. More than 120 Christian teenagers were reported to have attended, mostly drawn from the local Greek Catholic and Maronite scout groups.

However, the fact that three senior clergy from Nazareth took part and spoke in favor of Christian enlistment has caused particular consternation.

They include 39-year-old Bishop Jibril Nadaf, from the Greek Orthodox community, the largest Christian denomination in Israel, and Father Masoud Abu Hatoum, of the Greek Catholic community.

Nazareth’s Greek Orthodox council, an elected body that represents the community’s interests in the city, immediately issued a statement denouncing Nadaf’s participation. A short time later the patriarch in Jerusalem, Theophilus III, barred Nadaf from entering the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

According to the council’s Hakim, the chief obstacle to Israel’s attempts since the state’s creation to recruit Christians to the army—and sever them from the 80 percent of the Palestinian minority who are Muslim—had been finding a religious leader who would give the initiative the stamp of the church’s approval.

“Now they think they have a way to split the Christian community by using Nadaf’s authority to justify an enlistment drive,” he said. “But only the council can speak for the community.”

Nadaf has remained defiant. Standing next to Netanyahu at the Aug. 5 press conference, he said: “Our goal is to guard the Holy Land and the State of Israel. We have broken the barrier of fear—the state deserves that we do our part in defending it.”

Netanyahu reassured Nadaf and his followers that anyone criticizing him would be dealt with harshly: “We will act to enforce the law with a heavy hand against those who persecute you.”

Several Arab members of Israel’s parliament have called for Nadaf’s dismissal. Likud MK Miri Regev, who heads the Knesset’s interior committee, in July criticized the Arab MKs’ intervention, calling them “Trojan horses in the Knesset.” She accused them of “incitement against a Christian priest.”

Opponents Interrogated

Those who have led opposition to the conference have found themselves called in for interrogation by the police and Israel’s domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet. They have been warned that they are under investigation for “incitement to violence.”

Hakim said he had been called for interrogation on three occasions since he and the council denounced Nadaf. He was also phoned by the Shin Bet two hours before the Greek Orthodox community council met to issue its statement: “They warned me, ‘This is bigger than you or the council.’ They told me not to get involved.”

He has subsequently faced a hate campaign and death threats. “I received an anonymous phone call identifying my children, my place of work and my home address. I was told people would come for me, to behead me,” he said.

Abir Kopty was also called for interrogation after writing a blog post in Arabic and English criticizing those who participated in the conference.

The Shin Bet have demanded of all those brought in for interrogation an unexpected condition: that they agree to provide a DNA sample.

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer with the Adalah legal center for the Arab minority in Israel, said the requirement to submit to a DNA test was illegal in both Hakim and Kopty’s cases.

In July Adalah sent a letter to the Israeli attorney general saying there was no basis for an investigation of either of them. “This is clearly a free speech matter,” Bishara said, “and the investigations are a transparent attempt to intimidate and silence them.”

“Sons of the New Testament” founder Bishara Shlayan, a 58-year-old former merchant navy captain, refers to himself as an “Arabic-speaking Israeli Christian.” He told the New York-based Jewish weekly theAlgemeiner Journal: “Israel belongs to the Jews, and we are part of it.”

The campaign is reported to already have increased enlistment among high school graduates. According to the Ma’ariv newspaper, 90 Christians joined the Israeli military in recent months—a threefold increase from 2010.

Shlayan’s party has sought to play on Christian fears of what it describes as a growing “Muslim threat” in the region, as Islamic movements struggle for power in neighboring countries such as Egypt and Syria.

That message was echoed in an editorial in The Jerusalem Post, which rallied to Nadaf’s side: “Trying to survive under the Muslim thumb inside Israel’s Arab sector, Christians have kept a low profile, striven to give no offense and toed even the most extremist line to evince loyalty and avoid risk.…Those young Christians now eager to break the cycle should be encouraged, not discouraged.”

According to some observers, Shlayan has received support from a small group of Palestinian Christians based in the nearby town of Kafr Yasif who have adopted Christian Zionist positions. This has led to suggestions that the party may be receiving funds from Christian Zionist groups in the United States.

Jonathan Cook is a journalist based in Nazareth and a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His most recent book is Disappearing Palestine.

One again, the Harper government is out to lunch on an urgent global issue. While most of the world sighed with relief at news of the Iran-U.S. nuclear deal, John Baird, Canada’s foreign minister, pouted and repeated belligerent talking points.

The deal announced over the weekend saw Iran agreeing to limit the extent of their enrichment of uranium and to allow more frequent inspections of their nuclear energy facilities. The agreement was announced after four days of talks in Geneva between representatives of Iran and the U.S., U.K., Russia, China, France, and Germany.

On Sunday (November 24), John Baird effectively condemned the deal. “Iran has not earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt,” he said. And while other western countries promised relief of sanctions, Baird announced that Canada’s sanctions on Iran would remain in “full force”.

What explains the Harper government being out of step with the international community, and key NATO allies, on Iran? It’s largely about Israel and Harper’s alliance with the extremist government of Benjamin Netanyahu, who fumed that the agreement with Iran represents “an historic mistake” which makes “the world a much more dangerous place”.

Baird’s echoing of Netanyahu, as well as some of the most unreconstructed neo-conservative hawks in the U.S., should come as no surprise. This Conservative government has been consistent in its dangerous, warmongering rhetoric with respect to Iran.

Two years ago, for instance, I wrote about an interview in which Harper repeatedly told the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge that Iran represented the “greatest threat to world peace”. Harper, absurdly, even asserted that Iran “would have no hesitation about using nuclear weapons”. As I wrote at the time:

Harper is in effect claiming to know for a fact that the regime in Tehran is suicidal. Israel already has an arsenal of nuclear weapons—a fact everyone knows but which the government in Tel Aviv has never formally admitted. (Israel, unlike Iran, is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.) Any attack by Iran, let alone its use of hypothetical nuclear weapons, would result in its total obliteration. There is simply no evidence whatsoever to support Harper’s claim…

John Baird’s statements in response to this latest deal should be viewed in the same light. This government’s policy on Iran is isolated, dangerous and evidence-free—unhinged from reality. It makes more likely an eventual attack on Iran by Israel or the U.S., which in turns makes more likely a regional conflagration. As was the case earlier this year with Harper’s support for an attack on Syria, the Conservatives are on the side of war-making, not peacemaking.

All that said, these latest negotiations need to be put in a wider context. The whole campaign against Iran’s development of nuclear energy is aimed at weakening the country, which has become a greater regional power after the disastrous U.S. war on Iraq, and at maintaining Israel’s monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The farce of it all is that the whole discussion of Iran carries on without anyone mentioning the elephant in the room: Israel, the belligerent rogue state, and its arsenal of nukes.

None of this has anything whatsoever to do with human rights. The sanctions imposed by the West on Iran have nothing to do with the legitimate struggle within Iran against the regime and its depredations.

The sanctions are aggression, pure and simple. Not to mention hypocrisy. While the Harper government will continue to punish the people of Iran with “full force” sanctions, they do not hesitate to trade with and arm petro-dictatorships throughout the Gulf region. (Saudi Arabia, after the U.S., is the number one recipient of Canadian weapons sales. Canadian-made armoured vehicles helped the Saudi regime crush Bahrain’s democratic movement in 2011, for example.)

So while it’s necessary to call bullshit on Baird’s hawkish reaction to this Iran deal, it’s also relatively easy. Opposition to the Conservatives’ warmongering needs to be comprehensive, and include criticism of their arming of brutal regimes throughout the region and of militarism in general.

Consider where John Baird was this weekend. Canada’s foreign minister was playing host to friends like U.S. Senator John McCain at the annual Halifax International Security Forum—a summit of warmakers and the arms industry.

Baird and Harper make the world a more dangerous place.

On Iran, they are isolated in their hawkish belligerence even amongst NATO countries. It’s scandalous and embarrassing, and one more reminder that we need to throw Harper and his Conservative party out of power once and for all.

Derrick O’Keefe is a writer, editor, and activist based in Vancouver.

The “first step” agreement between Iran and the United States that was sealed in Geneva over the weekend is supposed to lead to the negotiation of a “comprehensive settlement” of the nuclear issue over the next six months, though the latter has gotten little attention.

But within hours of the agreement, there are already indications from senior U.S. officials that the Barack Obama administration is not fully committed to the conclusion of a final pact, under which economic sanctions would be completely lifted.

The administration has apparently developed reservations about such an “end state” agreement despite concessions by the government of President Hassan Rouhani that were more far-reaching than could have been anticipated a few months ago.

In fact the Rouhani government’s moves to reassure the West may have spurred hopes on the part of senior officials of the Obama administration that the United States can achieve its minimum aims in reducing Iran’s breakout capacity without giving up its trump cards—the harsh sanctions on Iran’s oil expert and banking sectors.

The signs of uncertain U.S. commitment to the “end state” agreement came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night. The officials repeatedly suggested that it was a question of “whether” there could be an “end state” agreement rather than how it could be achieved.

“What we are going to explore with the Iranians and our P5+1 partners over the next six months,” said one of the officials, “is whether there can be an agreed upon comprehensive solution that assures us that the Iranian programme is peaceful.”

The same official prefaced that remark by stating, “In terms of the ‘end state’, we do not recognise a right for Iran to enrich uranium.”

Later in the briefing, a senior official repeated the same point in slightly different words. “What the next six months will determine is whether there can be an agreement that…gives us assurance that the Iranian programme is peaceful.”

Three more times during the briefing the unnamed officials referred to the negotiation of the “comprehensive solution” outlined in the deal agreed to Sunday morning as an open-ended question rather than an objective of U.S. policy.

“We’ll see whether we can achieve an end state that allows for Iran to have peaceful nuclear energy,” said one of the officials.

Those carefully formulated statements in the background briefing do not reflect difficulties in identifying what arrangements would provide the necessary assurances of a peaceful nuclear programme. Secretary of State John Kerry declared at a press appearance in Geneva, “Folks, it is not hard to prove peaceful intention if that’s what you want to do.”

The background briefing suggested that in next six months, Iran would have to “deal with” U.N. Security Council resolutions, which call for Iran to suspend all enrichment activities as well as all work on its heavy reactor in Arak.

Similarly, the unnamed officials said Iran “must come into compliance with its obligations under the NPT and its obligations to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency].”

Those statements appeared to suggest that the administration would be insisting on a complete end to all enrichment, at least temporarily, and an end to all work on Arak.

The actual text of the agreement reached on Sunday states, however, that both the six powers of the P5+1 and Iran “will be responsible for conclusion and implementation of mutual near-term measures,” apparently referring to the measures necessary to bring Security Council consideration of the Iran nuclear issue to a conclusion.

The Obama administration has yet to release an official text of the “first step” agreement, although the official Iran Fars new agency released a text over the weekend.

Iran has demonstrated its determination to achieve such an agreement by effectively freezing and even partially reversing its nuclear programme while giving the IAEA daily access to Iran’s enrichment sites.

The Washington Post story on Sunday cited Western officials in Geneva as saying that the Iranian concessions “not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran to build a nuclear weapon without being detected.”

But since the early secret contacts with Iran in August and September, the Obama administration has been revising its negotiating calculus in light of the apparent Iranian eagerness to get a deal.

In mid-October, Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg reported that the White House and State and Treasury departments were interested in an idea first proposed in early October by Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who had lobbied the Obama administration successfully for the sanctions aimed at cutting Iranian oil export revenues.

The Dubowitz proposal was to allow Iran access to some of its own money that was sitting in frozen accounts abroad in return for “verified concessions” that would reduce Iranian nuclear capabilities.

Meanwhile the United States and other powers would maintain the entire structure of the sanctions regime, at least in the interim period, without any change, Goldberg reported, “barring something like total capitulation” by Iran.

The scheme would give greater rewards for dismantling all but a limited number of safeguards than for lesser concessions, according to Goldberg’s report, based on information from “several officials”.

And if Iran refused, the plan would call for even more punishing sanctions against Iran’s natural gas sector.

That was essentially the policy that the Obama administration adopted in the negotiations in Geneva. In the first step agreement, Iran agreed to stop all enrichment to 20 percent, reduce the existing 20 percent-enriched stockpile to zero, convert all low enriched uranium to a form that cannot be enriched to higher level and allow IAEA inspectors daily access to enrichment sites.

In return for concessions representing many of its key negotiating chips, Iran got no relief from sanctions and less than seven billion dollars in benefits, according to the official U.S. estimate.

But the Iranian concessions will hold only for six months, and Iran has made such far-reaching concessions before in negotiations on a preliminary that anticipated a later comprehensive agreement and then resumed the activities it had suspended.

In the Paris Agreement of Nov. 15, 2004 with the foreign ministers of the UK, Germany, France, Iran agreed “on a voluntary basis, to continue and extend an existing suspension of enrichment to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities”.

That meant that Iran was giving up all work on the manufacture, assembly, installation and testing of centrifuges or their components. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was under the impression it was an open-ended suspension and initially opposed it.

Khamenei relented only after Hassan Rouhani, then the chief nuclear policy coordinator and now president, and other officials, assured him that it was a temporary measure that would endure only until an agreement was reached that legitimised Iran’s enrichment or the determination that the Europeans were not serious, according to Ambassador Hossein Mousavian’s nuclear memoirs.

After the Europeans refused to negotiate on an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive settlement in March 2005 that would have provided assurances against enrichment to weapons grade, Khamenei pulled the plug on the talks, and Iran ended its suspension of enrichment-related activities.

The United States had long depended on its dominant military power to wage “coercive diplomacy” with Tehran, with threat of an attack on Iran as its trump card. But during the George W. Bush administration, that threat begn to lose its credibility as it became clear that the U.S. military was opposed to war with Iran over its nuclear programme.

Obama administration officials are now acting as though they believe the sanctions represent a diplomatic trump card that is far more effective than the “military option” that it had been lost.

Some news stories on the “first step” agreement have referred to the possibility that the negotiations on the final settlement could stall, and the status quo might continue. But the remarks by senior U.S. officials suggest the administration may be hoping for precisely such an outcome.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.