February 11th, 2013 by Don DeBar
February 11th, 2013 by Kim Ives
Update: Jean-Claude Duvalier did not appear in court as planed on February 7, 2013. He was represented by his lawyer who read a letter in which Duvalier explained his absence. His audition was reported for the 4th time and will be held on February 21, 2013. Duvalier could face arrest if he fails to appear in court on that date.
Thousands of Haitians marched through Port-au-Prince on February 7 to protest President Michel Martelly’s patent corruption and drift toward a repressive neo-Duvalierist dictatorship.
At the same time, former President-for-Life Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier will be personally appearing in the capital’s Appeals Court to answer a challenge by his regime’s victims.
One year ago, Investigating Judge Carves Jean ruled that Duvalier should not be prosecuted for the many crimes against humanity committed under his 15-year rule from 1971 to 1986, including extrajudicial executions and jailings. Human rights groups like Amnesty International and its Haitian counterparts cried foul, as did over a dozen of people who had filed human rights complaints against Duvalier following his return to Haiti in January 2011. They appealed the decision. Ironically, Judge Jean Joseph Lebrun, the head of the Appeals Court, set the hearing for final arguments against Judge Carves Jean’s ruling for the 27th anniversary of the Duvalier regime’s fall.
Feb. 7, 1986 was the day when, after a three-month nationwide uprising against his regime, the playboy dictator and his haughty bourgeois wife, Michelle, drove their Mercedes-Benz through a cordon of journalists at the airport to board a U.S.-provided C-130 cargo jet that flew them, with her furs and his cars, into a golden exile in France.
The Duvaliers divorced but lived the good life off the some $800 million (according to best estimates) that they and their cronies embezzled from the Haitian treasury. In fact, Judge Carves Jean did charge Duvalier for his “economic crimes,” but the maximum sentence if he were ever found guilty (an unlikely event under Martelly’s regime) would be only five years.
Duvalier returned to Haiti on Jan. 16, 2011 thanks to a Haitian diplomatic passport furnished to him five years earlier by one of his former Haitian Army generals, Hérard Abraham. The former general, whom President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fired in 1991, had been resurrected 13 years later as the Foreign Affairs Minister under the de facto regime of Prime Minister Gérard Latortue, installed by Washington following the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état against Aristide.
U.S. State Department cables provided to Haïti Liberté by the media organization WikiLeaks in 2011 reveal that the U.S. Embassy was very “concerned” about Duvalier’s return to Haiti in early 2006, when the de facto regime was about to hold presidential elections on Feb. 7, 2006.
In Santiago, Chile, for example, U.S. Ambassador Craig Kelly “expressed [U.S.] concerns about the Interim Government of Haiti’s (IGOH) decision to approve the issuance of a diplomatic passport for former president and dictator Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier,” Kelly wrote in a Jan. 11, 2006 Confidential cable. He asked the Chilean government “to approach the IGOH to make clear that Duvalier’s return would undermine efforts to assist Haiti in its transition to a stable, democratic society.”
The U.S. also talked to France, which “understood and shared our ‘political’ concern that Jean-Claude ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier might use a diplomatic passport to return to Haiti,” reported a Jan. 12, 2006 cable from Paris.
In a meeting with then Dominican President Leonel Fernandez, the U.S. Ambassador “urged Fernandez not to allow Duvalier to obtain a visa for the Dominican Republic so as to pass through en route to Haiti,” a Jan. 17, 2006 cablemarked “Secret” reports.
Meanwhile, the cables detail several meetings that U.S. Embassy officials held with Latortue and his officials about Duvalier. What becomes clear in the diplomatic record is that the U.S. Embassy was primarily concerned about appearances, and the bad press Duvalier’s return would generate. “The visuals are bad,” argued U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Timothy Carney in a Jan. 17, 2006 cable from Port-au-Prince, and “Baby Doc is a risky, potentially divisive, presence.” Carney was reporting on a meeting he’d had the day before with Abraham, who “concluded by refusing to revoke the passport already issued to Duvalier, but confirming that he would do everything in his power to transmit the message to Duvalier that he should not to return to Haiti at this time.”
The most telling bit of the cable is where Carney quotes Abraham as saying that Duvalier “lacks appropriate guarantees, security and otherwise, to secure his reentry into the country.”
Fast forward exactly five years to Jan. 16, 2011. When Duvalier arrived in Haiti on that day, the U.S. acted as surprised as everybody else and divulged nothing about its opposition to the diplomatic passport provided to Duvalier five years earlier by the very coup regime it had installed in power.
Michel Martelly and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier
The Haiti cables that WikiLeaks obtained only covered a period from April 2003 to February 2010, so we don’t know what the Embassy was saying in the days just before Duvalier’s “surprise” return, which it surely knew was in the offing. But, judging from the 2006 cables, one can reasonably assume that Duvalier would only have returned to Haiti if he’d received the “appropriate guarantees, security and otherwise, to secure his reentry into the country.”
Those “guarantees” could only have come from Washington. Then President René Préval, a former anti-Duvalierist militant, surely didn’t give them. He launched a “serious effort to put together a case against Duvalier” during the four months that he remained in office, according to human rights lawyer Mario Joseph, whose International Lawyers’ Bureau (BAI) helped build the prosecution’s dossier. But Préval was replaced on May 14, 2011 by Martelly, and at that point the prosecution against Duvalier “ground to a halt,” Joseph said.
The new neo-Duvalierist president was installed through an illegal election in which the U.S. brazenly intervened to bump out the candidate of Préval’s party, Jude Celestin, who came in second-place in the first round, and replace him with Martelly, who came in third.
Did the U.S. (and France) feel that the time was right for Duvalier to come back to Haiti, as they were engineering the election of Martelly? Did they offer Duvalier “guarantees” ?
One thing is for sure: the U.S. and its allies did not fight to block Duvalier’s return from France in 2011 the way they fought like hell to block Aristide’s return from South Africa two months later, as Haïti Liberté revealed when dissecting WikiLeaked cables in 2011.
“The cables show how Washington actively colluded with the United Nations leadership, France, and Canada to discourage or physically prevent Aristide’s return to Haiti,” we wrote in our Jul. 28, 2011 edition. “The Vatican was a reliable partner, blessing the coup and assisting in prolonging Aristide’s exile.”
The history of the U.S. Embassy showing Duvalier the door in 1986 and then likely opening it for him in 2011 makes one wonder what the U.S. will be doing behind the scenes.
February 11th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman
Make no mistake. March 23, 2010 will live in infamy. With strokes from 22 pens, Obama enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
It’s a ripoff. It’s a healthcare rationing scheme. It’s a boon to predatory providers. It’s a plan to enrich insurers, drug companies, and large hospital chains.
WellPoint, Inc. is America’s largest managed healthcare company. It wrote the plan. It got what it wanted. It benefitted at the expense of people needing care. So did other healthcare giants. They scammed ordinary people for profit.
Ralph Nader calls Obamacare “a pay-or-die system.” It’s “the disgrace of the Western world.” It’s a monstrosity. It mocks a fundamental human right.
It violates the Constitution’s “general welfare” clause. Article I, Section 8 states:
“The Congress shall have power to….provide for (the) general welfare of the United States.”
It means “We the People.” It includes everyone equitably. It means what never was, isn’t now, or won’t ever be under a system favoring privilege, not fairness.
Western-style democracy is the world’s biggest scam. Obamacare proves it. So do numerous other examples in representative/republican societies.
Affordable care is a figure of speech. It’s more deform than reform. It’s not universal care, single-payer or fair. It’s market-based for profit. It does nothing to control costs. It’s regulation light.
It’s a boon for huge profits. It’s got loopholes big enough to reap huge amounts. It helps business at the expense of ordinary people. It leaves tens of millions uninsured. It leaves millions more underinsured.
Legitimate democracies would have enacted what’s badly needed. Comprehensive coverage requires universal single-payer. Everyone in. No one excluded.
Private insurers have no legitimacy except for those who want them. They’re administrative middlemen. They game the system. They add hundreds of billions annually to costs.
They provide no care. They ration it. Obamacare lets them do it through unaffordable premiums.
“It’s time for single payer,” says Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). Dr. James Mitchiner called for what’s long overdue.
It’s time to “creat(e) a national, universal, publicly funded health care system, free of the corrupting power of profit-oriented health insurance, and at the same time capable of passing constitutional muster.”
“In short, the right thing is an expanded and improved Medicare-for-All program, otherwise known as single-payer.”
Nothing else provides healthcare equitably. Marketplace solutions don’t work. They game the system for profit.
For decades, America experimented with failed systems. They include HMOs, PPOs, high-deductible plans, health savings accounts, pay-for-performance, capitation, and disease management.
Expect Accountable Care Organizations, Patient-Centered Medical Homes, and other new schemes to fail. They’re designed that way.
Current and planned systems are “duplicative, inefficient, wasteful of scarce….resources, conducive of job lock, and completely misdirected in supporting the 21st-century health care agenda that America needs and deserves,” says Mitchiner.
The only workable system is scorned. Universal single-payer helps everyone. Cost control makes it affordable. Everything people need is accessible.
Included are inpatient and outpatient care, primary and specialty care, emergency treatment, preventive and restorative services, mental health and substance abuse, dental care, prescription drugs, home health and longterm care, and effective alternative treatments now excluded.
“Single-payer is the only remaining option to simultaneously and synergistically expand access, control costs, preserve choice and reduce disparities,” says Mitchiner.
There’s “no other efficient and constitutionally safe way to do this.” America’s dysfunctional system failed.
On January 24, PNHP’s Dr. John Geyman headlined “The Affordable Care Act (ACA): What to Expect in 2013,” saying:
ACA “props up an inefficient and exploitative private health insurance industry….” Deregulated markets don’t work. Systemic problems fester. Vitally needed affordable care is denied.
Nothing ahead looks promising. Mergers and consolidation will increase costs, limit choices, reduce care, and keep millions from getting any.
Privatization will game Medicare and Medicaid for profit. Insurers will “limit definitions” to cut benefits. Market-based bureaucracy and fragmentation “worse(ns) health outcomes.”
ACA won’t “hold up.” Progressive reform is needed. Universal single-payer alone works. It’s high time the world’s richest country provided it.
In 1960, healthcare as a percent of GDP was 5.1%. In 2002, it was 15%. In 2011, it was 17.9%. By 2020, it’ll exceed 20%.
Between 1960 and 2009, average annual healthcare spending rose from $147 per person to $8,086. It reflected a 55-fold increase.
In inflation-adjusted 2010 dollars, it increased annually from $1,082 to $8,218 – a 7.6-fold rise.
In 1942, Christ Hospital, NJ charged $7 per day for a maternity room. Today it’s $1,360.
In 1980, a typical US hospital room cost $127. Today it’s multi-fold higher.
A 2011 survey of 11 Ohio hospitals found daily hospital room prices ranged from $688 – $2,425. Cost averaged $1,393. The median price was $1,322.
Obama’s Affordable Care Act promises higher costs. Doing so will deprive growing millions of vitally needed care. Many won’t get any. Others will get much less than needed. Insurers and other predatory giants will game the system.
They’ll charge whatever they wish. Regulatory freedom permits it. They’ll take full advantage.
On February 1, Yves Smith headlined “IRS anticipates Cheapest ObamaCare Family Plan will be $20,000 in 2016.”
It’s the cheapest one for a family of five. At the same time, credits are available for families who “lack affordable coverage.” Whatever is provided won’t match annually rising costs.
ACA was supposed to lower them. Saying so was a Big Lie. Even many supporters are disenchanted. It’s “less of a deal” than they thought.
It wasn’t supposed to be. It was a big win for predatory healthcare giants. It was designed that way.
Former CIGNA vice president Wendell Potter said it shifts costs to consumers, offers inadequate or unaffordable access, and forces Americans to pay higher deductibles for less coverage.
In other words, it scams them. It prevents universal coverage, denies a public option, is unaffordable for millions, excludes many entirely, affords inadequate coverage for many more, permits high co-pays and coverage gaps, and leaves patients vulnerable to financial ruin in case of serious illness.
It allows rising predatory costs. It empowers private insurers. It lets them ripoff hundreds of billions annually for overhead, profit, huge salaries and bonuses. Every dollar scammed is one less for care.
Labor initially endorsed ACA. Cold shower reality “turn(ed some) sour.”
“Union leaders say many (ACA) requirements will drive up costs for their healthcare plans and make unionized workers less competitive.”
They want compensating federal subsidy help for lower-paid rank and file. Smith expects complaints “to get louder” ahead.
ACA “is a gimmie to Big Pharma and the health insurers.” It works for large hospital chains. It exacerbates fundamental problems. It made America’s dysfunctional system worse.
Consumers end up with “costly insurance that does not cover much.” Expensive care will be hard to get or unaffordable. Many of America’s most disadvantaged are left in no-man’s land.
They’ll be be uncovered by federal benefits and ineligible for subsidized insurance. ACA provides 100% of funds to expand Medicaid until 2016. Thereafter, it’s 90%.
Until now, federal funding required state participation. No longer. Millions will be harmed. Many will be left out entirely.
Medicaid expansion provided coverage for around 17 million Americans by 2019. States now can opt out at their discretion.
Opting in assures full federal coverage for three years. At the same time, Congress plans major Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, disability, education, and other social benefits cuts.
Bipartisan complicity assures it. It’s part of their scheme to destroy America’s social contract. ACA is an integral component. Ordinary people should have opposed it when they had a chance. They’ll have cause to reflect when ill.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcgl[email protected].
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
February 11th, 2013 by Ralph Nader
Hillary Clinton has completed her four-year tenure as Secretary of State to the accolades of both Democratic and Republican Congressional champions of the budget-busting “military-industrial complex,” that President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address. Behind the public relations sheen, the photo-opportunities with groups of poor people in the developing world, an ever more militarized State Department operated under Clinton’s leadership.
A militarized State Department is more than a repudiation of the Department’s basic charter of 1789, for the then-named Department of Foreign Affairs, which envisioned diplomacy as its mission. Secretary Clinton reveled in tough, belligerent talk and action on her many trips to more than a hundred countries. She would warn or threaten “consequences” on a regular basis. She supported soldiers in Afghanistan, the use of secret Special Forces in other places and “force projection” in East Asia to contain China. She aggressively supported or attacked resistance movements in dictatorships, depending on whether a regime played to Washington’s tune.
Because Defense Secretary Robert Gates was openly cool to the drum beats for war on Libya, Clinton took over and choreographed the NATO ouster of the dictator, Muammar al-Gaddafi, long after he had given up his mass destruction weaponry and was working to re-kindle relations with the U.S. government and global energy corporations. Libya is now in a disastrous warlord state-of-chaos. Many fleeing fighters have moved into Mali, making that vast country into another battlefield drawing U.S. involvement. Blowback!
Time and again, Hillary Clinton’s belligerence exceeded that of Obama’s Secretaries of Defense. From her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee to her tenure at the State Department, Hillary Clinton sought to prove that she could be just as tough as the militaristic civilian men whose circle she entered. Throughout her four years it was Generalissima Clinton, expanding the American Empire at large.
Here is some of what the candid camera of history will show about her record:
1. A Yale Law School graduate, she shared with President Obama, a former Harvard Law Review President, a shocking disregard for the law and separation of powers be it the Constitution, federal statues or international treaties. Her legal advisor, former Yale Law Dean Harold Koh, provided cover for her and Obama’s “drone ranger” (to use Bill Moyer’s words), John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism advisor. Brennan gave the president weekly opportunities (White House aides called decision day “Terror Tuesdays”) to become secret prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. Imagine thousands of push-button deaths and injuries of internal resisters and civilian bystanders in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere who presented no threat to the U.S.
The war on Libya, which Clinton spearheaded for Obama, was conducted without a Congressional Declaration of War, without even a War Resolution or a Congressional authorization or appropriation. She and her boss outdid Cheney and Bush on that score.
2. Although touting “diplomacy” as a priority, Clinton made little attempt to bring the United States into the community of nations by signing or ratifying international treaties already having as signatories over a hundred nations. As a former senator with bi-partisan support, Clinton didn’t use much of her capital on climate change agreements.
Human Rights Watch reports that chief among the unratified treaties are “international conventions relating to children, women, persons with disabilities, torture, enforced disappearance, and the use of anti-personal landmines and cluster munitions.” The last two treaties are designed to save thousands of lives and limbs of the children and their parents who are major victims of these concealed, atrocious weapons. Clinton has not gone to bat against the advocates for those “blowback” explosives that the Pentagon still uses.
When the Senate recently failed to ratify the treaty on disabilities, Clinton, with former senator and injured veteran, Robert Dole on her side, still didn’t make the maximum effort of which she is capable.
3. Secretary Clinton had problems heralding accurate whistleblowers. A 24-year-Foreign Service Officer, Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq running two State Department Reconstruction Teams. He exposed State Department waste and mismanagement along with the Pentagon’s “reconstruction” efforts using corporate contractors. Unlistened to, Van Buren, true to his civil service oath of office, went public. Clinton fired him. (wemeantwell.com.)
4. Possibly the most revealing of Clinton’s character was ordering U.S. officials to spy on top UN diplomats, including those from our ally, the United Kingdom. Shockingly, she even ordered her emissaries to obtain DNA data, iris scans (known as biometric data) and fingerprints along with credit card and frequent flier numbers.
The disclosure of secret State Department cables proved this to be a clear violation of the 1946 UN convention. Clinton included in this crude boomeranging personal espionage, the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon and his top officials all around the world. As befits these lawless times, there were no Congressional hearings, no accountabilities, and no resignation by the self-styled civil libertarian Secretary of State, not even a public apology.
5. Clinton led a dangerous expansion of the Department’s mission in Iraq. As reported in the Wall Street Journal on December 10, 2011, “In place of the military, the State Department will assume a new role of unprecedented scale, overseeing a massive diplomatic mission through a network of fortified, self-sufficient installations.”
To call this a diplomatic mission is a stretch. The State Department has hired thousands of private security contractors for armed details and transportation of personnel. Simply guarding the huge U.S. embassy in Iraq and its personnel costs more than $650 million a year – larger than the entire budget of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA), which is responsible for reducing the yearly loss of about 58,000 lives in workplace-related traumas and sickness.
Another State Department undertaking is to improve the training and capability of Iraq’s police and armed forces. Countless active and retired Foreign Service officers believe expanded militarization of the State Department both sidelines them, their experience and knowledge, in favor of contractors and military people, and endangers them overseas.
Blurring the distinction between the Pentagon and the State Department in words and deeds seriously compromises Americans engaged in development and diplomatic endeavors. When people in the developing countries see Americans working to advance public health or clean drinking water systems within their countries, they now wonder if these are front activities for spying or undercover penetrations. Violent actions, fueled by this suspicion, are already jeopardizing public health efforts on the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Clinton’s successor, former Senator and war veteran, John Kerry, says he wants to emphasize peace, human rights, and anti-poverty endeavors. He doesn’t have to prove his machismo should he strive to de-militarize the State Department and promote peaceful, deliberative missions in the world, from which true security flows.
February 11th, 2013 by Eulàlia Mata
The Council of Europe recently released a report that warns that political pressure is being put on Spanish public television broadcasting (Televisión Española, TVE). The report draws attention to similar situations of politics pushing broadcasting in Hungary, Romania, Italy, Serbia and Ukraine.
It is not the first time that the Council of Europe – an international organization which includes 47 countries around the world and promotes democratic values – criticizes the way that Spanish public television presents the news. The last time was during the 2004 legislation when the Partido Popular (Popular Party) – the right-wing Spanish party – was governing the state.
Nowadays, to become the president of the public television, the candidate needs the approval of the majority of the Members of the Spanish Parliament. That was an amendment put in place by the Popular Party in 2012, before then it was necessary to gain the approval of two thirds of the Chamber. Leopoldo Gonzalez Echenique is the current president of TVE, however, he does not have the approval of the official opposition part (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, the left-wing party).
In the report, the broadcasting firm referred to is TVE News. Its current director,Julio Somoano, wrote, interestingly enough, a thesis in 2005 called Estrategia de comunicación para el triunfo del Partido Popular en las próximas elecciones (Communication strategy for the victory of the Popular Party in the next elections).
This seems like far too many coincidences for a public television network that should be an impartial and apolitical media meant to represent all the Spaniards. But the truth is that the Council of Europe is not the first one to denounce this, TVE has received an increasing number of the complaints sent by the anonymous citizens. Some of the more notable situations of misinformation were when this television network did not report on the different rallies against the social cutbacks on the 15th of September 2012. Another example of blatant misinformation was when they decided to ignore the 1,5 million people rally in the streets of Barcelona claiming for the independence of Catalonia and slot them in the fifth position (on 11th of September 2012).
Spain is in a state of extreme economic crisis, extreme social crisis, extreme corruption and, now, the international organisms are alerted by possible political influence in the public media – you tell me where the good news is.
February 11th, 2013 by John Zogby
We are Americans. Not just a continent, not just a melting pot. We are an idea, a set of dreams built on an idea. Yes, we are also a nation-state with the need and instinct to protect ourselves and our wealth – especially after we have been attacked and must look over our shoulders constantly to prevent the next attack. And, make no mistake about it: it is difficult to feel sorry for someone who threatens us with words and actions. So now it’s Pow! Poof! Gone! Good!
It is also hard to feel badly when a gangster is gunned down or a gang member is stabbed. But we don’t allow our police to do these things with impunity.
Because we are supposed to be different. The use of unmanned drones to commit murder overseas just doesn’t fit into our story. This is just not us. For decades our fictional superheroes have fought crime and always brought criminals to justice. They had superpowers and superior technology at their disposal, but they withheld it. The threat of force was always enough. These supermen and wonder women are our ideals, our prototypes of what people do when they have the power.
My fear of what happens to us by using drones is not ideological. This is neither a liberal nor conservative screed on my part. It is a plea for sanity. I am old enough to remember vividly the heated debates in the summer of 1968 between Gore Vidal on the left and William F. Buckley on the right. The name calling was shameless and they came very close to a fistfight on ABC during the Democratic National Convention. But this time they would be comrades. Vidal’s essays presciently warned about the United States becoming the “national security state” – billions for defense, an impenetrable infrastructure of unsustainable military bases to prop up an economy, the suspension of civil liberties during wars of words. Buckley was a cold warrior – but, importantly, he was first and foremost a libertarian. In his later years he waged campaigns to decriminalize marijuana and to free those wrongly accused of murder.
But what they both agreed upon was that this is America. Our power comes from being an idea that everyone wants. And for those who don’t want it? Freedom as long as they don’t threaten others. And if they do pose a threat? We defeat them with our most powerful weapons: justice in the form of policing, courts, and prison. We have departments of Homeland Security, Defense, intelligence, Justice, after all. And we have the weight of our idea in the world of public opinion.
Let me anticipate some criticism. This is terribly na�ve, some will say. Why should the United States be held to a different standard than anyone else? Answer: Because we are the United States of America and WE created that standard. Sadly, this is what others see and why some (many) resent us. We can drop the higher standard and just be another nation – but then we are not who we say we are.
Then there are a few who will say that I am just a pollster and I should just stick to the numbers. Frankly, I am not entirely sure what the numbers show on the US’ use of drones to kill civilians. But I am also an American and a human being – and an observer. If the numbers disagree with me I have never been afraid to show it.
In this column just a few weeks ago I suggested that President Barack Obama will be revered in history because of the barrier he has broken. Among the worst violators of our civil liberties are men with names like Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. President Harry Truman authorized the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They are among our greatest Presidents and are honored for leadership during wars. Like them, Mr. Obama’s legacy may never be tainted at all.
We have been through this all before. Stunned by the assassination of our 35th President John F. Kennedy, the Senate Special Committee on Assassinations in the mid-70s revealed US complicity in two dozen attempts to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro and even checked out theories of differing pro-Castro and anti-Castro links to the death of JFK. And then there was US complicity in assassinations in Iran, Guatemala, and South Vietnam. These were all during the Cold War and this not a proud moment in our history. That is why the Committee recommended and a Democratic Congress voted to prohibit US involvement in political assassinations. A Republican President signed it. It is the law of the land – and it was the right thing to do.
But now our Justice Department justifies the use of impersonal unmanned drones to kill “suspected” terrorists on the streets of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. It is the wrong thing. It is the wrong message to burgeoning democracies.
It is just not who we are supposed to be.
February 11th, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci
Titled, “Girl’s gene-therapy estimate gives Children’s Hospital a shiner,” the article describes a clinical trial in which gene therapy was used to treat 10 adults and 2 children, most of whom have gone into remission, and the staggering bills the treatment incurred. Charities and insurance assisted at least one patient, while another, a 5 year old Croatian girl, was left with a $837,000 bill.
Medical care is expensive. It requires the absolute cutting edge in technology, skilled doctors and technicians to utilize it in the care of patients, all within an economic paradigm where demand vastly outnumbers supply. What could be done to reduce the disparity between supply and demand? And what can be done until then to ensure people get the absolute best treatment possible? Or should a 5 year old girl perish because she can’t afford experimental treatment when all other options were sure to fail?
Trillions for War
Soldiers fighting the fruitless decade long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t need to buy their own weapons, procure their own transportation to the warzone, buy their own meals, and when they were injured, pay for their own medical treatment. Indeed, these fruitless wars built openly on categorically false premises, were subsidized by trillions of dollars from American tax payers despite the wars having no public support. Since these two fruitless wars sold upon a pack of lies, the United States has conducted combat operations in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, inside Pakistan, Mali, and covertly in Iran. Again, subsidized by trillions of tax payer dollars.
Image: US Marine Corps General Smedley Butler was a two-time Medal of Honor recipient, and anti-war. He wrote “War is a Racket.” Despite the torrent of pro-war propaganda we are bombarded with, and all the pretexts and excuses used to sell endless global conflict, it is indeed a racket perpetrated by big-business interests at the rest of humanity’s expense, and has been for a long time.
For unpopular wars fought upon false premises, sold by practiced liars across the corporate media, there seems to be an endless torrent of cash. In turn, this money doesn’t simply go into a fiscal blackhole. Instead, it ends up in the profit margins of Fortune 500 corporations, from the big-defense contractors arming and supplying military operations, to big-oil and construction contractors building in the wake of these operations. It is a well understood racket that casts a dark shadow on Western society and has very real implications for modern human civilization.
Imagine if these trillions instead went somewhere else. Imagine if cancer research and treatment was subsidized with the same impetus as wars of profit. Imagine if improving education, infrastructure, and the means by which we could accelerate medical research and development and thereby reduce the disparity between supply and demand was done with the same fervor we pursue wars abroad.
Our Problem, Our Challenge
We could hold our breath, march with signs, and continue to vote hoping eventually someone will come to office and fix this perpetual injustice. Or instead, we can realize that our faith and investments in time, money, energy, and attention to this corrupt system is why we have this problem in the first place.
There are several steps we can take now to begin tilting the balance away from the ruling class and their pet projects pursued at our expense and toward the things that really affect us, like our children dying from cancer and medical treatment that is too expensive to afford. And as we take these steps, people should continue fighting for medical care subsidies as a stop gap measure. If there is money for perpetual, unnecessary war, there is money for medical care.
1. Improve Education: Medical treatment is expensive because of immense demand for a small supply of both the technology used to treat people, and the skilled doctors and technicians that use that technology. That technology is in turn scarce, because of the lack of skilled designers and engineers working to develop it.
By improving real, relevant, technical education in the fields of design, engineering, science, and medicine, and by making such an education available to all, would be one step toward increasing the supply versus demand. Online, there are vast resources available for free, from some of the most prestigious universities in the world on subjects ranging from basic math and science, to more specific topics like biology, medicine, genetics, and their applications.
While there is no substitute for a proper medical school education, local organizations called DIYbio labs are springing up around the world and creating an environment where regular people can learn and practice techniques in modern biology, especially in the field of genetics. Just as hackerspaces have begun contributing to, and spinning off into small and medium businesses, while driving the advancement of technology, DIYbio labs can augment the existing medical infrastructure of a given society.
Additionally, people should not abandon efforts to improve traditional education.
2. Build Local Infrastructure: DIYbio labs are one way of bringing medical research and development, however small of a scale it may be on for now, into their local communities. Building up after-school and weekend programs to educate people in basic science and particularly biology, genetics, and medicine helps raise overall awareness of the issues at hand and their possible solutions.
Already, high schools are beginning to participate in MIT’s iGEM competition, an annual synthetic biology event where teams from around the world engineer biological components to solve a specific problem. Schools that become involved in iGem must build up both their physical infrastructure and their human capital to compete, and by doing so, lay the foundation for more permanent and relevant research and development when they return home.
3. Reclaim Our Institutions: With a well established infrastructure developing both technology and human capital, a community is better positioned not only to understand what state and national institutions are doing in terms of medical research and clinical trials, but are able to partner with them and augment their efforts. Furthermore, a human connection is established between institutions and the people they were designed in the first place to serve.
The day will come where technology makes medical care affordable for all, reducing or eliminating the need to subsidize it. Until that day comes, we must balance our pursuit for “health care policy” with developing real, pragmatic, technical health care progress.
It starts with something as simple as getting a few people around a single table and talking. Identify who may already have an interest in the particular fields you plan on tackling. Look for the nearest local groups already doing this, either as hackerspaces or as DIYbio labs. Look for schools nearby already participating in iGEM and see what you could to to help, or expand on their work.
If you are not interested in medicine, even a standard hackerspace working on a wide range of projects could help build local infrastructure that could be used to help advance DIYbio groups. Biomedical technology is grounded in the same fundamental design principles and manufacturing techniques as any other engineering discipline.
Start or join an after-school program that teaches real skills and practical knowledge to students – including science, math, design, engineering, etc. Look into OpenCourseWare online and raise awareness. Start a blog collecting your favorite courses.
Taking human capital out of the coffers of the ruling class, and placing it back where it belongs, amongst the people from which it was drawn, begins the rebalancing of power, and ends paradigms where trillions can be spend on endless wars of profit, and none is left for cancer-stricken children, even when we’ve developed cures.
The choice is ours, but unlike in faux-democracy, we will have to do more than simply cast a ballot to exercise this choice. It will be daily, patient, sometimes frustrating work to build the infrastructure and human capital we need to rebalance this equation and reclaim our destiny. Self-determination is not a spectator sport, it is something you either do, or do without. Don’t wait for your child to be the one struck by cancer and your family stuck with a million-dollar medical bill – that is – if you are lucky enough to get access to the latest treatment in the first place. Start working now to fix this immense injustice.
Daniel Ellsberg: Obama, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Senators Voting for Indefinite Detention Are “Enemies of the Constitution”
February 11th, 2013 by Washington's Blog
American Government Claims Power that Even King George Didn’t Claim
Daniel Ellsberg said this week:
[The indefinite detention provision of the defense bill] allows you to put an American citizen – a civilian – in military custody, treated like Bradley Manning in the marine barracks right now, indefinitely – without charges – that’s not a fight that we had to make in 1776
King George the Third didn’t have the power. No King of England had that power since John the First.
Indeed, even Hitler and Stalin didn’t claim that power.
So here we have a president – a democratic president – who’s wiping out the Magna Carta, as well as the Constitution. [Indeed.]
The senators supporting the indefinite detention provisions are well-described as “enemies of the constitution of the United States“.
And I’m afraid that this is true of the [current] president of the United States, having gone along with it … and encouraged it earlier. [And it's also true for] every senator who voted for it.
Bush, Cheney – in particular – Addington [Cheneys top aide and lawyer] and Rumsfeld … were – and I don’t mean this rhetorically – enemies of the Constitution.
February 11th, 2013 by Barry Grey
Tens of thousands of Tunisians demonstrated Friday to mourn the death of secularist opposition politician Chokri Belaid and demand the removal of the US-backed Islamist government.
A one-day general strike called by the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) shut factories, banks, offices, schools and shops in the capital and other cities, and state-owned Tunis Air cancelled all of its flights. Bus service continued to run, however.
It was the first general strike in Tunisia in 35 years.
Belaid, 48, a leading member of the left-liberal Democratic Patriots’ Movement, one of 12 parties that make up the Popular Front coalition, was shot and killed Wednesday as he left his home in the Jebel al-Jaloud district of Tunis and headed for work. He was gunned down by an assassin who fled on a motorcycle.
While no one has taken credit for the killing, Belaid’s widow accused the Ennahda party government of colluding with far-right Salafists to murder her husband. Belaid had sharply criticized Ennahda, an offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood, for allowing Salafists to attack cinemas, theaters, bars and secularist groups in recent months. He had made known that he was the target of repeated death threats and had requested police protection.
Over 50,000 people gathered near Belaid’s home on Friday and marched to the Jallaz cemetery, where he was buried. They shouted antigovernment and revolutionary slogans such as “The people want a new revolution,” and “The people want the downfall of the regime.”
Mourners also demanded “Bread, freedom and social justice,” one of the main slogans of the 2011 revolution. At the funeral, demonstrators called Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Ennahda, “a butcher and a murderer.”
Ominously, an Ennahda official appearing on Al Jazeera television blamed the violence on “foreign hands” and said, “There are foreign intelligence apparatuses operating in Tunisia.”
Two security helicopters hovered overhead and the regime mobilized the army, rather than the hated security police, to contain the huge march. However, police fired tear gas at protesters on the fringe of the march outside the cemetery, as well as at demonstrators who marched to the Interior Ministry. A ministry spokesperson said the police arrested 150 demonstrators in Tunis.
Police fired tear gas to disperse antigovernment protesters in the southern town of Gafsa, a center of the county’s critical potash mining industry and a stronghold of support for Belaid. In Sousse, protesters demanded the resignation of the provincial governor.
Some 10,000 marched in Sidi Bouzid, the southern town known as the birthplace of the Tunisian revolution. It was there in December of 2010 that Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in protest over the confiscation by police of his vegetable cart. Bouazizi’s death sparked an explosion of mass protests and strikes that could not be contained by the pro-regime UGTT and led to the flight of US–backed dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali the following month.
Just weeks later, revolution broke out in Egypt, leading to the downfall of US- and Israeli-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak. The current eruption in Tunisia, the most widespread since the events of late 2010 and early 2011, occurs just days before the second anniversary of Mubarak’s fall.
Belaid’s murder stunned the country and became the trigger for an explosion of pent-up social anger that had been building since shortly after Ennahda came to power, having polled a plurality of votes in October 2011 elections for a constituent assembly. The source of the anger was not only the government’s use of police repression and Salafist violence against its opponents. More fundamentally, it stemmed from the lack of any relief from the mass unemployment and grinding poverty that had sparked the working-class uprising that toppled Ben Ali just over two years ago.
The Islamist regime in Tunisia, like the Muslim Brotherhood Mursi regime in Egypt, is a bourgeois regime supported by Washington. The Ennahda government backed the US-NATO war for regime-change in Libya. It is currently negotiating the terms of a standby loan with the International Monetary Fund, which will include austerity measures directed against Tunisian workers.
Within hours of news of Belaid’s assassination on Wednesday, barricades went up in Tunis and crowds attacked Ennahda offices in at least 12 cities. On Thursday, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, secretary general of Ennahda, announced on nationwide television that he planned to dissolve his government and replace it with an unelected government of technocrats to rule until parliamentary elections, scheduled for June.
The announcement, intended to calm popular outrage, only fuelled it. Hundreds of youth stormed a police station in the center of Tunis, throwing furniture, files and equipment into the street. The police responded by firing tear gas.
In Gafsa, hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators confronted riot police firing tear gas. The army was deployed to contain mass protests in Sidi Bouzid.
The crisis of the Tunisian regime was compounded late Thursday when Prime Minister Jebali’s call for a “nonpartisan” and technocratic government was repudiated by his own party. The Ennahda party issued a statement declaring that Tunisia needed a “political government” based on the results of the October 2011 elections.
The same day, four opposition groupings, Belaid’s own Popular Front bloc, the Call for Tunisia party (Nidaa Tounes), the Al Massar party and the Republican Party, announced that they were pulling out of the national constituent assembly and called for a general strike. The UGTT, fearing the mass protests might escalate into a new revolutionary upheaval, announced a one-day general strike for Friday in an attempt to contain the movement.
The Popular Front bloc is led by the Maoist Workers Party, headed by Hamma Hammami. Hammami and his party have long functioned to head off any independent political movement of the working class and keep Tunisian workers tied to liberal and secularist factions of the bourgeoisie. They are playing the same role in the current crisis.
One of the four bourgeois opposition parties to which the Popular Front is allied, Nidaa Tounes (Call for Tunisia), is led by Béji Caid Essebsi, 86, a long-serving official under the dictatorial regimes of Habib Bourguiba and Ben Ali.
On Friday, Prime Minister Jebali repeated his call for a new government in a somewhat altered form. He said he would not require the approval of the constituent assembly and was confident he would have the support of his party because he was not dissolving his government, but merely replacing all of its members. However, he indicated that if his plan were blocked, he would step down as prime minister.
February 10th, 2013 by Bill Van Auken
Thursday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee for director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, provided a revealing and grim spectacle of the disintegration of what remains of democratic rights in the United States.
Some press accounts of the hearing have referred to Brennan being “grilled” on the US drone assassination program. On the contrary, the proceedings resembled nothing so much as a well-fed cat being questioned by a panel of skittish mice.
Brennan came as the representative of those within the US military-intelligence apparatus entrusted with defending the ruling class by means of killings, detentions and torture. As Obama’s counterterrorism adviser and the architect and director of an assassination program run out of the White House, he has presided over an unprecedented expansion of executive power and assault on core constitutional rights.
One senator after another, Democrats no less than Republicans, fawned over Brennan, declaring their admiration and gratitude for the bloody work of the CIA and their eager anticipation of confirming him as CIA director and working closely with him in the near future. None of them directly challenged the assertion of the most sweeping of the extra-constitutional powers with which he is identified—the power of the president of the United States to unilaterally and secretly order the assassination of American citizens.
Among those who expressed certain qualms about this system of extra-judicial executions was Senator Angus King of Maine, who helpfully suggested that a star chamber-style secret court be set up to rubber stamp and sanctify the White House’s “kill lists.”
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon—in the context of present day US politics the most “liberal” member of the Senate intelligence panel—merely pleaded with Brennan for more public information on the drone assassination program. “Americans have a right to know when their government thinks it’s allowed to kill them,” he declared.
Contained in this statement is the tacit recognition that the rights enumerated in the US Constitution, including the 5th Amendment’s guarantee that no one “shall be deprived of life … without due process,” have been turned into a dead letter.
Wyden went on to ask for clarification as to whether the administration believes that the president can use this authority inside the United States. Brennan’s response omitted any assurance that American citizens will not be secretly murdered on US soil. Instead, he cryptically asserted his determination to “optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.” Neither Wyden nor anyone else on the Senate committee attempted to probe further.
With this chilling exchange, the threat of a US police state dictatorship comes clearly into view. Brennan will not disavow the president’s “right” to secretly murder US citizens on American soil, because such methods may prove necessary, ostensibly for the struggle against “terrorism” and in defense of “national security.”
After all, they proved to be so in other countries. Obama and Brennan did not invent the methods of secret “kill lists” and covert assassinations. They were employed on an industrial scale less than four decades ago in the Chile of General Augusto Pinochet and the Argentina of General Jorge Videla.
There, military and intelligence officials, most of them trained in the US, drew up kill lists of tens of thousands of their own citizens and carried out their assassinations. They also acted in the name of a struggle against “terrorism” and in defense of “national security,” but had the real aim of crushing the resistance of the working class.
Workers, students, peasants, intellectuals and anyone perceived to be a potential enemy of the state were rounded up by death squads, tortured and killed in secret prisons or thrown alive from airplanes into the sea. Like Mr. Brennan, the officials of the Argentine and Chilean dictatorships refused to acknowledge any role in these state killings, leaving their victims to be counted among the “disappeared.”
Those comforting themselves with the old adage, “It can’t happen here,” should think again. The lurch to the right by the entire American political establishment and its irrevocable break with the democratic principles enunciated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are very far advanced.
Less than 40 years ago, a special Senate committee headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church did grill top CIA officials on covert assassinations, denouncing the agency for the practice and introducing a law against it. Even Republican President Gerald Ford was compelled to declare that his administration “does not condone under any circumstances any assassination attempts,” and to “condemn any CIA involvement” in “assassination planning.”
While no doubt the US government and its spy agency continued to carry out crimes in subsequent years, support for bourgeois democratic forms of rule within the political establishment remained sufficiently strong to force the government to officially reject assassination as state policy.
Just four years ago, Brennan’s involvement as a top CIA official under the Bush administration in the crimes of torture, extraordinary rendition and secret CIA “black sites” made it impossible for Obama to nominate him as CIA director. Now, not only are those crimes forgiven, but the even more serious ones involved in the drone assassination program go unchallenged.
We have already seen in the past few years anti-terror laws invoked against domestic protesters and dissidents, from the arrest of five men last May in Chicago on “conspiracy to commit terrorism” charges for their involvement in anti-NATO protests, to the revelation that the FBI carried out a nationwide investigation treating the Occupy Wall Street protests as “domestic terrorism.”
Driving the turn towards methods associated with police state dictatorships are deep-going changes in the structure of American society. The vast and ever-widening chasm between the billionaires and multi-millionaires who control economic and political life and working people, the great majority of the population, is incompatible with democracy.
This is ultimately what explains the complicity of the Obama administration, Congress, both major parties and the mass media in the drone assassination program. America’s ruling oligarchy realizes that deepening social polarization and the protracted economic crisis are creating conditions for social upheavals, and is preparing accordingly.
The working class must make its own preparations for the revolutionary battles that are to come.
February 10th, 2013 by Shamus Cooke
The main reason that health care reform became a national priority for Obama is because it was a priority for big business: corporations have long complained that their employee health care costs were too high. And they’ve always hated paying payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare. Obama has responded gallantly to these grievances, as he did to the banks when they demanded to be bailed out with taxpayer money.
Obama has remained mostly quiet about his Medicare plans, but has stated repeatedly ” all options are on the table” (his favorite Bushism). The secretiveness is based on the unpopularity of the options, all of which have already been openly discussed in the media in the last two years of bi-partisan “Grand Bargain” haggling.
The Washington Post recently reported:
“Obama said that he is committed to a broad effort [a grand bargain] to restrain the national debt and that past White House proposals to rein in Medicare costs… “are still very much on the table” as part of that effort” (02-05-13).
The reason that Obama delayed the Medicare cuts is because he’s smart; better to first pose as the anti-corporate crusader by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire (which would have automatically expired in his first term had he not extended them). Now, Obama plans to pose as the “balanced” voice of reason, by balancing the national debt on the backs of working and retired people.
The most commonly discussed Medicare reform — among Republicans and Democrats — is raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. Such a drastic move would likely be phased in 10 years down the road, so that those approaching 65 don’t burn down the White House in response.
Where will the future Medicare-less 65-year-old’s go? They’ll remain captive to the insurance companies of course, at much greater expense to them and the rest of society, since Medicare costs are profoundly cheaper than the private sector that Obama has enshrined in his Obamacare policies.
Other possible attacks on Medicare include the innocuous sounding “means testing,” which at first appears as a well reasoned progressive tax on wealthier Medicare recipients. However, as a study by the Kaiser Foundation concluded, such a policy would likely create a mass exodus from Medicare into the private healthcare field for higher income individuals.
Aside from lining the pockets of the healthcare corporations, such a Medicare exodus would also raise the Medicare premiums for everyone else, while destroying Medicare’s universal status — the basis for its effectiveness. The right wing has long sought for ways to create private “individual accounts” for Social Security and Medicare, since breaking people away from participation in a popular single system is the best way to fragment it, and ultimately destroy it.
And while raising the Medicare eligibility age and “means testing” would both immensely benefit corporations, this consciously pro-corporate policy began with Obamacare. Although Obamacare was applauded for expanding Medicaid nationally — a state administered program — the state level austerity cuts have reduced Medicaid to a second rate health care service, which promises to further degenerate as the state-level austerity crisis grinds on.
Less advertised was Obamacare’s Medicare “savings” [cuts] in the hundreds of millions of dollars, by singling out the Medicare Advantage program for hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts, while also reducing payments to Medicare contractors by hundreds of millions of dollars (hospitals, clinics, etc).
Of course hospitals simply shift this cost burden onto the patients, who receive less care, while giving doctors greater incentive not to see Medicare patients. As Medicare is steadily defunded, a two-tier healthcare system is created, where wealthier seniors will opt for private insurance while the rest will get second rate treatment, undermining the popularity and universality of Medicare, and thus making it more vulnerable to further cuts.
Obamacare will also levy a heavy tax on employers who actually give their employees good health care, thus discouraging the practice. For workers with union contracts, this tax will give employers leverage over the unions to make deep cuts in health care benefits, or end them completely. For non-union workers, employers are using Obamacare as an excuse simply to drop their employer-based health insurance, leaving workers to fend for themselves in the private realm.
The fact that Obamacare gives employers a strong incentive to weaken their employees health care plan is not an accident, but a key provision in the plan that will fundamentally change health care in a negative way for millions of people, and who will then be mandated to buy shoddy insurance for themselves. Corporations will thus save billions of dollars, while the health care corporations will have tens of millions of new paying customers, Obamacare’s real intention.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts that at least 7 million people will be dropped from their employer health plan because of Obamacare, but the CBO also said that the figure could well rise to 20 million. Of course employers will take advantage of Obamacare to shift the cost of health care onto individuals, in the same way that employers shifted away from defined pension plans and onto the 401(k) scheme. Several employer surveys have reported that companies plan to dump their employee health care plans by the millions.
The attack on Medicare and health care in general is consistent with the many other attacks against the living standards of working people, including wages and benefits, safety net programs, full time employment, privatization of the public sector, etc.
Corporations benefit from all of these policies. High unemployment allows them to leverage lower wages, which create higher profits. The destruction of social programs and the broader public sector means lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations, who’d rather they fund private services explicitly for them and their rich friends.
All of these policies are “good for the economy” of the 1%, since the economy is dominated by the big banks and other corporations, who are strip mining the public sector for any bit of profitable morsel, and will continue to do so until they are stopped by a united effort of labor, community, and student groups demanding health care and jobs for all, to be paid for by the 1%.
February 10th, 2013 by Patrick Henningsen
It’s one of those stories that you had to listen twice when you heard the report on the radio, and then, still in a state of suspended disbelief, I rushed to the internet to check and see if indeed it was the case. With the good news, I could just about hear a faint pulse of the American heart beating again.
It’s safe to assume that after this week’s developments, corporate lobbyists, politicians, bureaucrats at the DHS, county sheriffs, city police – and maybe The President perhaps… should at least know by now – that Americans do not want drones flying over their cities and towns. A wave of resistance is currently building…
In Seattle, where residents laid seige to the Seattle Police Department’s plans to use surveillance drones, it appears that following Wednesday night’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee hearing - the program has been scrapped.
Washington residents take away expensive new police toys.
This news comes on the back of a week of controversy surrounding Obama’s CIA Director nominee, John O. Brennan, seen by many as a pioneer of sorts in the field of US military secret drone assassinations. This has presented an ethical dilemma for President Obama, who ascended to power on a liberal PR wave which is fundamentally at odds with this level of anti-constitutional and illegal policy.
Obama himself signed the bill in early 2012 that enabled some 30,000 drones in the domestic US, to be operated by the Department of Homeland Security and local police departments, Seattle being one such city scheduled for adoption of a junior ‘Skynet’ beta program.
Make no mistake about it – there is an Washington DC-based agenda to roll out drones all over the country. Seattle’s Police Department had obtained these two small drones through a federal grant.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn explained:
“Today I spoke with Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and we agreed that it was time to end the unmanned aerial vehicle program so that SPD can focus its resources on public safety and the community building work that is the department’s priority. (They) will be returned to the vendor.”
Public protesters gathered in for the October public meeting on the city’s new drone program, which prompted police to quickly retreat on the issue:
“The testimony opposing drones has been overwhelmingly clear that the 11 people who testified this afternoon, all of whom testified against the use of drones, was symbolic of the general reaction we are getting,” said Chairman Bruce Harrell.
Compared to other direct actions, this was a relatively modest effort, which should encourage other citizen groups keeping the encroaching police state at bay – for now at least. Mia Jacobson who represents the citizen group StandUP explains, “If 11 voices can protect the people from flying government robots watching their every move – what can 20 voices do? What can your voice accomplish?”.
In addition to Seattle, the city of Charlottesville, Va., also rejected drones by ordering a two-year moratorium on their use thanks to The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group.
According to FOX news: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security drones do enter Washington State airspace occasionally, patrolling the Canadian border east of the Cascade mountains. The two 10,000-pound Predator-B unmanned aircraft are based in North Dakota.
Back on Pennsylvania Ave, Sen. Diane Feinstein who was chairing Obama’s CIA directorate confirmation hearings for drone-master John Brennan, came under some similar pressure from crowds of protesters, some of whom were ‘Code Pink’ anti-war demonstrators who were able to ‘gatecrash’ the DC venue. Brennan defended US state-sponsored murders by unmanned drones abroad by claiming that drone strikes are used only against targets ‘planning to carry out attacks against the United States’, completely missing out on the extrajudicial nature of the killings (including an estimated 100 children) which is actually causing the whole controversy. Back to square one…
Two Years Later Uprisings Continue in Tunisia and Egypt: Neo-Colonialism and the Struggle for Genuine Democracy and National Unity
February 10th, 2013 by Abayomi Azikiwe
On February 8 in Tunisia a general strike and mass demonstrations marked the response by the youth and workers to the assassination of opposition organizer Chokri Belaid. Over two years after the rebellions and strikes that initiated the upheavals throughout the region of North Africa and the Middle East, the struggle for political democracy and economic renewal is by no means resolved.
Chokri Belaid had been a staunch critic of the current ruling Ennahda Party, a moderate Islamist organization which won the largest bloc of votes during the national elections which were held in the aftermath of the overthrow of former President Zine Abidine Ben Ali, who fled the country on January 14, 2011 amid a national rebellion against a dictatorship designed to uphold the neo-colonial system of foreign dominance by France and the United States.
At the funeral of Belaid, the security forces used teargas to break up demonstrations in Tunis, the capital. Protests took place in other cities throughout the country coupled with a general strike led by the main workers’ organization the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT) which was founded in January of 1946.
Demonstrations had been taking place since the assassination of Belaid on February 6. The nation was shocked by the murder, which many people have blamed on the operatives of the main Ennahda Party.
Various activists throughout the country have repeatedly stated that an atmosphere of political intolerance has taken hold in Tunisia. Belaid had been accused by the ruling Ennahda Party of fomenting unrest through his speeches which were highly critical of the government.
Belaid through his political critiques against the ruling party was held responsible for the discontent that is spreading throughout Tunisia in Gafsa, Kasserine, Siliana and in SidiBouzid, where the uprising began on December 17, 2010 that spread throughout the country.In the evening before his assassination, he appeared on Nessma TV where he discussed state-sanctioned violence and political assassination.
Events in Tunisia Can Not Be Viewed Independently of Egypt and Other Regional Developments
Also in the North African state of Egypt, unrest has been resurfacing on a mass level since the second anniversary of the January 25, 2011 uprising. In Egypt, simmering resentment over the rushed draft constitutional process during late 2012 remains where the secular and other opposition forces are enraged over the failure of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) government to live up to the ideals of the revolutionary struggle.
During 2011 in Egypt, the slogan “Freedom, Bread and Social Justice” rang out across the country of some 80 million people. Two years later, the same slogans have been raised again as dozens have been killed in Egypt since January 25, and the government of President Mohamed Morsi’s offers of national dialogue has been treated with profound skepticism.
The National Salvation Front (NSF), composed of a myriad of liberal, nationalist, socialist and anarchist organizations and political parties, has formed the opposition to the FJP government. The NSF is by no means a uniform coalition with some groups calling for the resignation or forced removal of the Muslim Brotherhood government of the FJP while others are demanding the formation of a coalition government and the repeal of the recently adopted constitution that was largely drawn up by the Islamist forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, many of whom are represented by the Al Nour Party.
Demonstrations also took place on February 8 throughout Egypt as well. In Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, the Delta cities as well as other regions of the country, people went into the streets raising slogans that seek the realization of genuine national liberation and social justice. Clashes between security forces and the demonstrators resulted in scores of injuries.
Although the demonstrations in many parts of the country began peacefully, the security forces provoked violence and consequently moved to clear the streets of protesters. Morsi claims that he is sincere about reconciling the interests of the FJP with those of the NSF. Nonetheless, he has at the same time ordered the security forces to take repressive measures against the masses.
In Egypt activists are also concerned about the rising tide of political assassination. The killing of many protesters in recent weeks has not been seriously addressed by the FJP government.
An Egyptian cleric issued a fatwa saying it was proper to assassinate opponents of the FJP government. Such proclamations cannot create a political atmosphere that is conducive for the reconciliation between the Islamists and the more secular coalitions and parties.
The various political parties and coalitions in both Egypt and Tunisia are reflective of a broader set of national and class dynamics in these respective states and throughout Africa and the Middle East. Both regions are still dominated by imperialism and absent of a struggle to break free of the strangleholds of the Pentagon, NATO, the transnational corporations and banks along with the refusal to directly confront the State of Israel, events cannot hope to bring about the alleviation of the suffering of the workers, farmers and youth.
Neo-Colonialism and the Struggle Against Imperialism
There can be no genuine revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia or any other state within Africa and the Middle East without a protracted fight against the West and its institutions which bolster the State of Israel and other client regimes in regions. These individual states are largely the creation of European colonialism and modern day neo-colonialism headed by the U.S.
With this year being the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) it is instructive to examine where Africa has come since that fateful inaugural meeting in Ethiopia on May 25, 1963. The African Union(AU), the successor to the OAU, met recently at its headquarters in Addis Ababa.
This summit of the AU was taking place amid not only the renewed upsurge in mass demonstrations and repression in Egypt but also the French imperialist bombing and ground invasion of Mali and the spreading of the residual impact of this onslaught into both neighboring Algeria and Niger. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the French military, Britain, Canada and other NATO states are involved in the war against Mali under the guise of fighting “Islamic terrorism.”
Despite these momentous political and military challenges which pose a direct threat to the national and regional security of Africa, very little was said of these developments in the official documents of the AU. With the formation of AFRICOM and its established relations with various African states and military units, the actual security situations of these governments have been further weakened.
In Mali, the AFRICOM structures trained, coordinated and directly supported monetarily the military within this West African state. Nonetheless, these actions on the part of the Pentagon objectively weakened the national security capacity of Mali to deal with an internal conflict in the north of the country.
The democratically-elected government of President AmadouToumaniToure was actually overthrown by a U.S.-trained officer Capt. AmadouSanogo. Even after the overthrow of President Toure, the Pentagon-trained junta never entered the battle against the Tuareg separatists or the Islamists who took over the north of the country.
In fact the destabilization of northern Mali was directly related to the U.S.-NATO war against the Jamahiriya in neighboring Libya under the leadership of the martyred Col. Muammar Gaddafi. The bombing of Libya and the training and deployment of thousands of rebel fighters into Libya created mass dislocations both internally and externally.
The destruction of Libya of course was never opposed by the so-called revolutionary groups inside Egypt and Tunisia. The failure to recognize within these political processes that the blanket bombing of a regional state is directly related to the revolutionary trajectory of all neighboring countries, is representative of a profound weakness in regard to political consciousness and strategic outlooks of the existing movements.
AFRICOM’s strategy on the continent is designed to develop relationships on a bi-lateral level. What is needed is for Africa and the Middle East to reject any involvement with AFRICOM on principle based upon the impact of the Pentagon’s interference in the internal affairs of African and Middle Eastern nations.
This same axiom is further reinforced by a cursory examination of the situation in Syria. Damascus is under direct threat by a U.S.-NATO-backed insurgency that is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Syrians.
Patriot missiles have been placed on the border between Turkey and Syria in an effort to further pressure the government of President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power to the western-backed rebels and their political component. The existing division within the regional states over the situation in Syria is strengthening imperialism in its quest to conquer and dominate all states throughout the Middle East and Africa.
Consequently, as part of this process of encirclement and regime-change, the Israeli Defense Forces can carry out bombing operations against Syria. Israel can also erect a fence on the occupied territory of the Golan Heights as a means of increasing pressure aimed at the fall of the legitimate and internationally-recognized government of the Syrian state.
Nkrumah wrote in his book entitled, “Africa Must Unite,” published at the founding of the OAU in 1963, that “A united Africa would be able to make a greater contribution towards the peace and progress of mankind (humanity). For one thing, it would resolve the problems of those arbitrary frontiers erected by the colonial powers, and so eliminate irredentist dissensions.” (p. 202)
This same book goes on to point out that under a united anti-imperialist continent, and similar Middle East, “There would be no foreign military bases on African soil. With a united foreign policy and a common defense plan, there would be no need for them. In the concourse of African union, no African country would be left in a position of solitary weakness in which it could be bullied into allowing them.” (p. 202)
Nkrumah continues noting that “Any kind of military pacts or alliances with outside powers would be unnecessary. Our united strength would be sufficient to deter any would-be aggressor, since an attack on any African country would be regarded as an attack on the Union.” (p. 203)
With specific reference to Paris in the early 1960s, Nkrumah says “I do not imagine that France would have dared to attack Bizerta if we had been united. Nor would she explode atomic bombs in the Sahara in spite of urgent and repeated African objections.” (p. 203)
Therefore, the lack of a regional Pan-African outlook will only further subject the continent to imperialist intervention and destabilization. The current struggles in Egypt and Tunisia must take these historical lessons into consideration in order to enhance the capacity of the masses to achieve the objectives that will create the conditions for genuine political and economic independence.
February 10th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman
Headlines like this should shock: Suicides Outpace War Deaths. Surge in Military Suicides. Nearly Two Dozen Veterans Commit Suicide Daily.
These reports and similar ones reveal imperialism’s dark side. War takes its toll. Civilians suffer most. So do many combatants and veterans after returning home.
Most people don’t know. Little gets reported. Why do active duty personnel and vets take their own lives?
Unbearable emotional pain consumes them. Daily trauma builds. So does intolerable stress. Relief is desperately sought. Suicide is chosen. It’s a last option. Others were exhausted.
Preventable warning signs aren’t heeded. They include depression, withdrawal, lethargy, loss of interest in usual activities, appetite, weight, sleep and other behavioral changes, recurring suicidal thoughts, and feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Daily stress is bad enough. Combat exacerbates it. It’s intolerable for many. The little known human cost of war raises disturbing questions. America consumes its own.
E pidemic post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) levels affect hundreds of thousands of combat forces and vets.
The VA estimates over 30% of Vietnam vets, around 10% of Gulf War forces, and up to 20% of America’s Afghanistan and Iraq troops.
VA and DOD officials consistently understate problems. Independent reports reveal more. Some say nearly half of Afghan and Iraq vets have emotional and/or physical combat injuries.
In May 2012, AP said America’s vets “are filing for disability benefits at (a) historic rate.” They’re the “most medically, mentally troubled generation in US history.”
War’s toll is one of the most underreported stories. Hundreds of thousands of combat vets won’t ever be the same again.
They come home sick. They stay that way. They’re traumatized. They’re unable to cope. Emotional damage done goes largely unrecognized. It’s an unseen wound. Many needing help don’t get it.
The emotional ordeal is overwhelming. It’s terrifying. War vets are gravely affected. PTSD causes emotional numbness. Left untreated, it worsens. Horrifying flashbacks are commonplace.
Images, sounds, smells and subconscious feelings trigger them. Emotions well up inside. They surface self-destructively. It can happen any time. Some victims recover in months. For others it’s much longer or never.
War is a destructive slippery slope. It drives victims to emotional hell. They’re sure what afflicts them. PTSD prevents normal functioning.
Victims say they’re too tired. They can’t think. They can’t function normally. Their brains are overwhelmed.
They lash out at others for no reason. They harm those they love. They can’t explain why. Diagnosing PTSD is tricky. Often it’s not done. Victims needing help don’t get it. Others get too little. There’s no cure.
Measurable physical/biological symptoms aren’t apparent. Those mentioned above are commonplace. Others include headaches, unexplained pain, inability to cope, severe anxiety, rage, and survivor guilt for those who lost buddies.
Toughing it out depends on developing coping mechanisms. It’s not easy without competent professional help. For many it involves longterm struggle. Too often it’s too much to bear.
Broken human psyches aren’t easily repaired. Shocking suicide numbers explain best. More on that below.
David Grossman analyzed the art of killing. His book titled “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” explained an inherent aversion.
Doing so causes mental anguish and harm. For many it’s too much to bear.
Combatants have to be taught to kill. Many do it reluctantly. Others abstain or try to. Either way takes a toll.
Killing “comes with a price, and societies must learn that their soldiers will have to spend the rest of their lives living with what they have done,” said Grossman.
Jobs involved in harming others cut both ways. War is hell. Who knows better than combat vets. Understated VA data say plenty. Its 2012 Suicide Data Report said about 22 vets commit suicide daily.
Double the number wouldn’t surprise. Only 16 states indicate cause of veterans’ deaths. VA uses three-year old data.
Many deaths aren’t called suicide. They slip under the radar unnoticed. Many war zone-related suicides are misreported.
Those that are outnumber combat deaths. Officials numbers reflect nearly one a day. DOD and VA officials shun publicity. Getting it harms recruiting. Unwary kids are mislead. They’re unaware what awaits them.
Many suicide victims are age 50 or older. Combat-related trauma is long-lasting. According to a Center for a New American Security (CNAS) suicide report, veterans commit suicide every 80 minutes.
Study authors Margaret Harrell and Nancy Berglass said:
“America is losing its battle against suicide by veterans and service members. And as more troops return from deployment, the risk will only grow.”
Many vets return home feeling helpless. Marine Corps vet Jason Christiansen watched his life unravel. “At one point, I was sitting there with a gun in my mouth,” he said. A friend urged him to seek help.
The Veterans Crisis Line gets hundreds of thousands of calls. CNAS said from 2005 – 2010, “approximately one service member committed suicide every 36 hours.” Too little to late reflects DOD/VA policy.
In FY 2009, 1,868 vets made suicide attempts. Many who don’t succeed try again. Multiple war theater deployments increase the suicide incidence.
PTSD-affected service members are redeployed. Many cope with drugs and/or alcohol. Others sent on combat missions try to stay out of harm’s way. In war zones, it’s not easy.
Socio-economic conditions at home compound mental trauma. Unemployment, homelessness, and related issues affect thousands. Numbers compound annually. For many it’s too much to bear.
VA data through September 2012 reported 26,531 homeless vets. Double the number is more likely. Others risk losing their homes, rely on temporary housing, or get inadequate federal vouchers for rent.
Around 1.5 million vets risk homelessness. Numbers like this should shock. They go largely unreported. They, and others like it, reflect a time bomb of trouble.
It’s largely unaddressed. A small fraction of those needing help get it. Others get too little. America’s vets are hung out to dry. Funding prioritizes warmaking, not healing.
Since 2000, nearly a million vets were diagnosed with one or more mental health problems. The VA admits its data understate. Its own suicide hotline averages 10,000 calls a month.
More than a million vets await unaddressed disability claims. Many are PTSD-related. Months or years pass without help. They’re last in line to get. Most never do. No wonder suicides mount.
Despair holds out only for so long. Left unaddressed, it often succumbs. America treats its own with disdain.
In January, the Supreme Court turned a blind eye. It declined hearing a lawsuit. It challenging abusive VA treatment. The constitutional rights of vets with mental health disabilities were denied.
Tens of thousands of troubled vets are at risk. Expect suicides to mount. National epidemic levels are swept under the rug. Waging war comes first. Obama has lots more in mind. It’s the American way.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
February 10th, 2013 by Global Research News
Governments Move to Destroy Online Anonymity
Some of the world’s leading social critics and political critics have used pen names.
As Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge points out (edited slightly for readability):
Though often maligned (typically by those frustrated by an inability to engage in ad hominem attacks), anonymous speech has a long and storied history in the United States. Used by the likes of Mark Twain (aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens) to criticize common ignorance, and perhaps most famously by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay (aka publius) to write the Federalist Papers, we think ourselves in good company in using one or another nom de plume.
Particularly in light of an emerging trend against vocalizing public dissent in the United States, we believe in the critical importance of anonymity and its role in dissident speech.
Like the Economist magazine, we also believe that keeping authorship anonymous moves the focus of discussion to the content of speech and away from the speaker – as it should be. We believe not only that you should be comfortable with anonymous speech in such an environment, but that you should be suspicious of any speech that isn’t.
But governments – especially authoritarian governments – hate anonymity.
A soon-to-be-released book by Google executive Eric Schmidt - called “The New Digital Age” – describes the desire of authoritarian governments to destroy anonymity. The Wall Street Journal provides an excerpt:
Some governments will consider it too risky to have thousands of anonymous, untraceable and unverified citizens — “hidden people”; they’ll want to know who is associated with each online account, and will require verification at a state level, in order to exert control over the virtual world.
Last December, China started requiring all web users to register using their real names.
But the U.S. is quickly moving in the same direction. As Gene Howington reported last year:
Do you have a right to anonymous political free speech?
According to the Supreme Court, you do. According to the Department of Homeland Security, you don’t. They’ve hired General Dynamics to track U.S. citizens exercising this critical civil right.
The history of anonymous political free speech in America dates back to our founding. The seminal essays found in “The Federalist Papers” were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay under the nom de plume of “Publius” although this was not confirmed until a list of authorship complied by Hamilton was posthumously released to the public. As previously discussed on this blog, the right to anonymous political free speech has been addressed by the Supreme Court. Most notably in the cases of Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60 (1960) and McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission, 514 U.S. 334 (1995). In Talley, Justice Hugo Black writing for the majority said that, “Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all.” In McIntyre, Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the majority said that, “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. [… ] an author’s decision to remain anonymous, like other decisions concerning omissions or additions to the content of a publication, is an aspect of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.” That seems clear enough in defining that citizens do have a Constitutionally protected right to anonymous political free speech.
The full DHS policy statement regarding its activities can be viewed in the DHS Privacy Compliance Review of the NOC Media Monitoring Initiative (November 15, 2011), but rt.com’s summary spells out the basics:
“Under the National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative that came out of DHS headquarters in November, Washington has the written permission to retain data on users of social media and online networking platforms.
Specifically, the DHS announced the NCO and its Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) can collect personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s own definition of personal identifiable information, or PII, such data could consist of any intellect “that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to that individual.” Previously established guidelines within the administration say that data could only be collected under authorization set forth by written code, but the new provisions in the NOC’s write-up means that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.
Also included in the roster of those subjected to the spying are government officials, domestic or not, who make public statements, private sector employees that do the same and “persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest,” which to itself opens up the possibilities even wider.
The department says that they will only scour publically-made info available while retaining data, but it doesn’t help but raise suspicion as to why the government is going out of their way to spend time, money and resources on watching over those that helped bring news to the masses.” – rt.com
This question about the right to anonymous political free speech is also asked over the background of the Electronic Privacy Information Center filing a FOIA request against the DHS to find out the details of the agency’s social network monitoring program.
As part of recent disclosures related to the EPIC suit, it is revealed that the DHS has hired and instructed General Dynamics to monitor political dissent and the dissenters. The range of websites listed as being monitored is quite impressive. Notably, jonathanturley.org is not on this list [Howington's essay is a guest blog on constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley's website], but equally of note is that this list is by the DHS’ own admission “representative” and not “comprehensive”.
Some of the more high profile and highly trafficked sites being monitored include the comments sections of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report, Wired, and ABC News. In addition, social networking sites Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are being monitored. For the first time, the public not only has an idea who the DHS is pursuing with their surveillance and where, but what they are looking for as well. General Dynamics contract requires them to “[identify] media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government, DHS, or prevent, protect, respond government activities.” The DHS also instructed General Dynamics to generate “reports on DHS, Components, and other Federal Agencies: positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc. as well as organizations outside the DHS.” In other words, the DHS wants to know who you are if you say anything critical about the government.
Anybody thinking of the name “Goebbels” at this point is not out of line.
Indeed, valuing online privacy could even get you labeled as a potential terrorist.
Google Moving to Help Destroy Anonymity
When users reveal their identities on the internet, it leaves them more vulnerable to stalking, identity theft and harassment.
So you might assume that Google is fighting to protect anonymity on the web.
But Schmidt’s new book reveals that Google will support the destruction of anonymity (via Wall Street Journal):
Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.
Search Engine Journal explains:
[Passages from Schmidt's book] confirm what many industry writers have been passionately clattering away about for months now. Google+ is an identity verification network. As the network continues to grow, content associated with a verified identity will rise to the top of Google search rankings.
(Google+ is now the world’s second most popular social network.)
In other words, Schmidt acknowledges (in the first quote above) that authoritarians want to destroy anonymity … and Google will help them do so.
We are not saying that Google likes authoritarians. (Potential ties between Google and the government are beyond the scope of this essay.) However, Google will do business with anyone … and will cowtow to authoritarians they happen to do business with.
As the Daily Mail reported last year:
A former Google executive has lambasted his ex-employer … claiming that the search company has been turned into an ‘ad company’ obsessed with harvesting people’s private information.
James Whittaker, a current Partner Development Manager at Microsoft and ex-Engineering Director at Google, posted the 1328-word attack on Google on his Microsoft blog this week.
‘Perhaps Google is right,’ writes Whittaker, ‘Perhaps the future lies in learning as much about people’s personal lives as possible.
‘The Google I was passionate about was a technology company. The Google I left was an advertising company.’
The bottom line is that anonymity reduces Google’s ability to monetize personal information and sell it to its advertisers. So Google is on a campaign to destroy anonymity … and unintentionally helping tyrants in the process.
As INeedHits laments:
We knew a day would come when privacy was a thing of the past, but Schmidt clearly spells out that day is sooner than we had expected.
When Racketeering is Heralded As ‘Development’. The Demise of India’s Farmer in Favor of Western Agribusiness
February 10th, 2013 by Colin Todhunter
“Should big multinational pharamaceutical firms be allowed to play with the lives of millions of Indians?”
February 10th, 2013 by Spencer Ackerman
There are indications of the lingering costs of 11 years of warfare. Nearly 130,000 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and vastly more have experienced brain injuries. Over 1,700 have undergone life-changing limb amputations. Over 50,000 have been wounded in action. As of Wednesday, 6,656 U.S. troops and Defense Department civilians have died.
Neuroimaging techniques like this Siemens software display are used by Army doctors to examine and diagnose traumatic brain injuries. Photo: Siemens, via U.S. Army
That updated data (.pdf) comes from a new Congressional Research Service report into military casualty statistics that can sometimes be difficult to find — and even more difficult for American society to fully appreciate. It almost certainly understates the extent of the costs of war.
Start with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Counting since 2001 across the U.S. military services, 129,731 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with the disorder since 2001. The vast majority of those, nearly 104,000, have come from deployed personnel.
But that’s the tip of the PTSD iceberg, since not all — and perhaps not even most — PTSD cases are diagnosed. The former vice chief of staff of the Army, retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, has proposed dropping the “D” from PTSD so as not to stigmatize those who suffer from it — and, perhaps, encourage more veterans to seek diagnosis and treatment for it. (Not all veterans advocates agree with Chiarelli.)
Chart: Congressional Research Service
The congressional study also brings to light the extent of one of the signature injuries of the post-9/11 wars, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), often suffered by survivors of explosions from homemade insurgent bombs. From 2000 (a pre-9/11 year probably chosen for inclusion for control purposes) to the end of 2012, some 253,330 troops have experienced TBI in some form. About 77 percent of those cases are classified by the Defense Department as “mild,” meaning a “confused or disoriented state lasting less than 24 hours; loss of consciousness for up to thirty minutes; memory loss lasting less than 24 hours; and structural brain imaging that yields normal results.”
More-severe TBI is measured along those metrics, lasting longer than a day. Nearly 6,500 of of those cases are “severe or penetrating TBI,” which include the effects of open head injuries, skull fractures, or projectiles lodged in the brain.
Like with PTSD, the TBI diagnoses scratch the surface. The military’s screening for TBI is notoriously bad: One former Army chief of staff described it as “basically a coin flip.” Worse, poor military medical technology, particularly in bandwidth-deprived areas like Iraq and Afghanistan, have made it uncertain that battlefield diagnoses of TBI actually transmit back to troops’ permanent medical files.
Amputations are a feature of any prolonged war. Almost 800 Iraq veterans have undergone “major limb” amputations, such as a leg, and another 194 have experienced partial foot, finger or other so-called “minor limb” losses. For Afghanistan veterans, those numbers are 696 and 28, respectively.
The Iraq war is over for all but a handful of U.S. troops and thousands of contractors. The Afghanistan war is in the process of a troop drawdown through 2014 of unknown speed and will feature a residual troop presence of unknown size. Even if the U.S. deaths and injuries in those wars may almost be over, the aftereffects of the wars on a huge number of veterans will not end.
February 10th, 2013 by Ria Novosti
Three North Korean doctors were killed by suspected Islamists in northeast Nigeria’s Yobe state, local authorities said on Sunday.
“It is true. The three doctors were slaughtered while sleeping in their house,” Nigeria’s Yobe state police commissioner, Sanusi Rufai, was quoted by spyghana.com as saying.
Two doctors had their throats cut and the third one was beheaded. The bodies were found on Sunday morning in their flat in Nigeria’s city of Potiskum. The medics were working at a government-run hospital.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, though the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, which has been active in the country’s north, is suspected of being behind the murder.
The murder comes two days after nine female health workers conducting anti-polio vaccination were killed by gunmen in Kano, in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north.
February 10th, 2013 by Nil Nikandrov
The marked increase in numbers at the US embassy in Asunción over the past year is being necessitated by the need to maintain control over the Paraguayan government. The pre-election campaign is in full swing and in order to «manage it by hand», the intelligence apparatus operating under the roof of the US embassy need staff reinforcements. Political forces potentially hostile to the interests of the United States must not be allowed to come to power. Federico Franco, the acting president of Paraguay who, in June 2012, ensured the CIA-scripted «constitutional removal» of the legally elected president, Fernando Lugo, has fulfilled his mission. His successor needs to be just as reliable and just as manageable.
The Robinson 44 helicopter crash that killed Lino Oviedo, one of the Paraguayan presidential candidates, briefly became a world sensation… The crash happened during the night of 2 and 3 February this year as Oviedo returned to Asunción following several meetings with voters in the north of the country. The route in its entirety was no more than 200 kilometres and the helicopter was being flown by a former military pilot experienced in night flights. The third person on board was Oviedo’s bodyguard, who was completely trusted by the retired general and leader of the National Union of Ethical Citizens (UNACE) party. The helicopter took off in favourable weather conditions with a cloudy front just visible over the horizon.
The first stage of the flight passed normally and the helicopter’s progress was monitored by the control centre at Asunción airport, which checked the radio link several times. Suddenly, the radio went silent. Attempts to re-establish contact with the helicopter proved useless. A rescue group was sent out in the early hours of the morning to search for Oviedo and his fellow travellers. A radio beacon mounted in the helicopter meant that the crash site could be located quickly. Mutilated bodies and fragments of the helicopter were discovered in a palm grove, and rescuers were surprised to find the remains scattered in a fan-shaped pattern 100-150 metres from the area where the helicopter’s cabin and engine had embedded themselves into the ground. This circumstance has given rise to the idea that Oviedo was the victim of an assassination attempt using an explosive device.
In the first official, rather cautious, reports concerning Oviedo’s death, the idea that it was an act of terrorism was not ruled out. The dynamic and contentious politician often referred to as the last Paraguayan caudillo had a lot of enemies. A career serviceman, Oviedo broke into the country’s political life in February 1989 as one of the key players in the overthrow of the dictator Stroessner. From 1993 through to 1996, Oviedo was in charge of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. According to his enemies, it was during this period that he laid the foundations for his financial prosperity, providing cover for smugglers and drug cartels. His attempts to convert his popularity among the people into a presidency were unsuccessful. Rivals triumphed and never forgave Oviedo for his behind-the-scenes methods of struggle, his attempts to organise coups d’Etat and his use of violence against opponents. As a result – his search for political asylum in Brazil and then Argentina, and his ten-year prison sentence in a Paraguayan prison which he did not serve in full due to «good behaviour».
Oviedo, who would have turned 69 this year, said that his participation in the 2013 elections was his final attempt to become president. He was in third place in the popularity ratings among voters and was doing everything possible to turn the tide in his favour. Oviedo’s pre-election efforts were met with a hostile reaction from his main rivals, whom he labelled using the word «Mafia». First and foremost Oviedo was referring to the Colorado Party, which was in power during the Stroessner dictatorship. Oviedo himself during the 1980s belonged to a movement of «traditionalists» in the party who were interested in the theory of the «third path» advocated by Argentinian President Juan Perón at the end of the 1940s. In 2002, Oviedo created his party UNACE, which was joined by many ex-members of the Colorado Party. Horacio Cartes, the Colorado Party’s presidential candidate, believed that Oviedo’s potential for attracting voters with moderately conservative views was extremely dangerous, as these are the voters traditionally relied on by the Colorado Party. Hence the reason why the fierceness of the confrontation between Cartes and Oviedo was on the increase on the run up to the elections on 21 April 2013.
Speaking of his chances of victory, Oviedo continuously said that he would become president as long as he was not killed by the «Mafia». In fact, Oviedo had hinted at the Mafia origins of Horatio Cartes’ multi-millions that had enabled him to «hire» the Colorado Party in order to realise his presidential ambitions. Oviedo talked about this in his final interview, which he gave to the Guyra Campana radio station just a few hours before his death. What is interesting is that Cartes’ «mafiosity» has not raised any doubts in the American intelligence agency. There has been quite a lot of information in WikiLeaks documents about Cartes’ illegal operations laundering drug money, financing drug shipments to America, Brazil and Argentina, as well as contraband alcohol and tobacco products. During a regional meeting between representatives of the CIA and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), specific details were discussed regarding a complex operation to obtain incriminating information on Cartes. That this information was obtained is beyond doubt. American intelligence agencies run the show on the continent just as they do at home. But how exactly was this incriminating evidence used? If we are to believe statements made by the millionaire, he has never had a problem visiting America either on business matters or for a holiday. So a «compromise agreement» has definitely been reached, and it is not difficult to guess at its content. Despite all of his millions, Cartes is dangling on a fishhook.
It should be mentioned that the US embassy never had such «loyal» regard for Lino Oviedo. What were the American intelligence officers saying about him at their headquarters and State Department? Here are some extracts from dispatches sent to the State Department in April 2008: «He is a strong leader prone to messianism. He is known for his mental instability, his anti-democratic and violent tendencies, and his ability to deceive and manipulate. He is a pragmatist who believes that a relationship with the United States is a necessary evil. Oviedo maintains an anti-American stance, although he goes after America’s blessing (when resolving his own issues). He is a populist and is more in sympathy with authoritarian right-wing forces than left. He is extremely ambitious and yearns for power. He is unmanageable» The key word here is «unmanageable».
In the CIA’s file on Oviedo, which was passed on to the parliamentary commission investigating the activities of drug cartels in Brazil, there was information about the Paraguayan’s involvement in the illegal trade of drugs, arms and contraband operations. It also alleged that Oviedo had managed to scrape together capital to the tune of one billion dollars. The file particularly stressed the fact that he had a negative influence on Brazilian businessmen and corrupted them with easy money. The credibility of this kind of information demands to be rechecked. American intelligence agencies often use questionable, as well as deliberately falsified, information in order to «justify» the persecution of undesirables. Such undesirables included Oviedo. It is possible to suppose that the CIA handing the file over to Brazil was a targeted action aimed at compromising Oviedo in the eyes of Brazilian politicians and members of the military. From the very start of his activities he preferred to focus on Brazil, America’s main strategic opponent in the Western Hemisphere, and so as far as CIA agents were concerned he did not deserve any kind of leniency.
Presidential candidate Efrain Alegre and vice-presidential candidate Rafael Felizolla are taking part in the election campaign as a duo from the ruling Authentic Radical Liberal Party (PLRA). They are both former ministers from Fernando Lugo’s government. Alegre dealt with construction and communication issues, while Felizolla was in charge of domestic policy. The US embassy has had no problems with them of an ideological or criminal nature, which explains their conflict-free inclusion in the election process. Left-wing parties accuse Alegre and Felizolla of collaborating with structures of «American domination» in Paraguay. Neither politician has come out with any weighty denials of this charge: is there any point drawing the voters’ attention to such a delicate issue?
However, it is possible to talk about Felizolla’s political career in more detail. He first came to the attention of the US embassy in 2005. Felizolla had taken part in a seminar dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Paraguay and Venezuela. He talked quite critically about Washington’s policies, but spoke approvingly of Chávez’s government as well as the activities of «populists» such as Lula, Kirchner and other left-wing Latin American leaders. Despite «isolated immature attacks», Felizolla as a «young, promising politician» began to be invited to receptions at the US embassy. Before his appointment as Interior Minister, Fernando Lugo «received advice» from the US ambassador. And suddenly Felizolla became one of the most popular ministers in Lugo’s government. It was through him that the Americans reformed the country’s political and intelligence agencies, infiltrating them with their own agents, carried out special operations against «Arab terrorists» in the Tri-Border Area, and dealt with the «Marxist guerilla movement» in Paraguay, as well as the disruptive influence of «the emissaries of Chavez, Ortega and others».
Victory for the Authentic Radical Liberal Party in the presidential elections is a possibility. They have the opportunity, considering that without even waiting for her husband’s funeral, Lino Oviedo’s widow has already announced that his UNACE party will be supporting the «Alegre-Felizolla duo». Bearing all this in mind, Washington cannot lose. Work has been done with the favourites in the election race and the necessary guarantees have been obtained, there is not going to be any unexpected surprises.
February 10th, 2013 by F. William Engdahl
Part I: Africa’s New Thirty Years’ War?
Mali at first glance seems a most unlikely place for the NATO powers, led by a neo-colonialist French government of Socialist President Francois Hollande (and quietly backed to the hilt by the Obama Administration), to launch what is being called by some a new Thirty Years’ War Against Terrorism.
Mali, with a population of some 12 million, and a landmass three and a half times the size of Germany, is a land-locked largely Saharan Desert country in the center of western Africa, bordered by Algeria to its north, Mauritania to its west, Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger to its southern part. People I know who have spent time there before the recent US-led efforts at destabilization called it one of the most peaceful and beautiful places on earth, the home of Timbuktu. Its people are some ninety percent Muslim of varying persuasions. It has a rural subsistence agriculture and adult illiteracy of nearly 50%. Yet this country is suddenly the center of a new global “war on terror.”
On January 20 Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron announced his country’s curious resolve to dedicate itself to deal with “the terrorism threat” in Mali and north Africa. Cameron declared, “It will require a response that is about years, even decades, rather than months, and it requires a response that…has an absolutely iron resolve…”  Britain in its colonial heyday never had a stake in Mali. Until it won independence in 1960, Mali was a French colony.
On January 11, after more than a year of behind-the-scenes pressure on the neighboring Algeria to get them entangled in an invasion of its neighbor Mali, Hollande decided to make a direct French military intervention with US backing. His government launched air strikes in the rebel-held north of Mali against a fanatical Salafist band of jihadist cutthroats calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic-Mahgreb (AQIM). The pretext for the seemingly swift French action was a military move by a tiny group of Islamic Jihadists of the Tuareg people, Asnar Dine, affiliated with the larger AQIM. On January 10 Asnar Dine – backed by other Islamist groups – attacked the southern town of Konna. That marked the first time since the Tuareg rebellion in early 2012 that Jihadist rebels moved out of traditional Tuareg territory in the northern desert to spread Islamic law to the south of Mali.
As French journalist Thierry Meyssan noted, French forces were remarkably well prepared: “The transitional President, Dioncounda Traore, declared a state of emergency and called to France for help. Paris intervened within hours to prevent the fall of the capital, Bamako. Far-sightedly, the Elysée had already pre-positioned in Mali troops from the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (“the Colonials”) and the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment, helicopters from the COS (Special Operations Command), three Mirage 2000D’s, two Mirage F-1’s, three C135’s, a C130 Hercules and a C160 Transall.”  What a convenient coincidence.
By January 21 US Air Force transport planes began delivering hundreds of French elite soldiers and military equipment to Mali, ostensibly to roll back what we were told was an out-of-control terrorist advance south towards the Mali capital.  French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told media the number of its ‘boots on the ground’ in Mali had reached 2,000, adding that “around 4,000 troops will be mobilized for this operation,” in Mali and outside bases. 
But there are strong indications the French agenda in Mali is anything but humanitarian. In a France 5 TV interview, Le Drian carelessly admitted, “The goal is the total reconquest of Mali. We will not leave any pockets.” And President Francois Hollande said French troops would remain in the region long enough “to defeat terrorism.” The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany and Denmark have all said they would support the French operation against Mali. 
Mali itself, like much of Africa is rich in raw materials. It has large reserves of gold, uranium and most recently, though western oil companies try to hide it, of oil, lots of oil. The French preferred to ignore Mali’s vast resources, keeping it a poor subsistence agriculture country. Under the deposed democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure, for the first time the government initiated a systematic mapping of the vast wealth under its soil. According to Mamadou Igor Diarra, previous mining minister, Malian soil contains copper, uranium, phosphate, bauxite, gems and in particular, a large percentage of gold in addition to oil and gas. Thus, Mali is one of the countries in the world with the most raw materials. With its gold mining, the country is already one of the leading exploiters directly behind South Africa and Ghana.  Two thirds of France’s electricity is from nuclear power and sources of new uranium are essential. Presently, France draws significant uranium imports from neighboring Niger.
Now the picture gets a little complex.
According to usually reliable former US military experts with direct familiarity with the region, speaking on condition of anonymity, US and NATO Special Forces actually trained the same “terrorist” bands now justifying a neo-colonial US-backed invasion of Mali by France. The major question is why would Washington and Paris train the terrorists they are now acting to destroy in a “war on terror?” Were they really surprised at the lack of NATO loyalty from their trainees? And what is behind AFRICOM’s American-backed French takeover of Mali?
Part II: AFRICOM and ‘Victoria’s Secrets’
The truth about what is really going on in Mali and with AFRICOM and NATO countries, especially France is a little bit like a geopolitical “Victoria’s Secret”—what you think you see is definitely not what you will get.
We are being told repeatedly in recent months that something supposedly calling itself Al Qaeda—the organization officially charged by the US Government as responsible for pulverizing three towers of the World Trade Center and blowing a gaping hole in the side of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001—has regrouped.
According to the popular media account and statements of various NATO member country government officials, the original group of the late Osama bin Laden, holed up we are supposed to believe somewhere in the caves of Tora Bora in Afghanistan, has apparently adopted a modern business model and is handing out Al Qaeda official franchises in a style something like a ‘McDonalds of Terrorism,’ from Al Qaeda in Iraq to Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in Libya and now Al-Qaeda-in-the Islamic-Maghreb.
I’ve even heard reports that a new Al Qaeda “official” franchise has just been given, bizarre as it sounds, to something called DRCCAQ or Democratic Republic of Congo Christian (sic) Al Qaeda.  Now that’s a stretch which reminds one of an equally bizarre sect called Jews for Jesus created back in the hippie days of the Vietnam War era. Can it be that the architects of all these murky groups have so little imagination?
If we are to believe the official story, the group being blamed in Mali for most all the trouble is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM for short). The murky AQIM itself is actually a product of several behind-the-scenes workings. Originally it was based in Algeria across the border from Mali and called itself the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC according to its French name).
In 2006 Al Qaeda’s head guru in absence of Osama bin Laden, Egyptian jihadist Ayman al-Zawahiri, publicly announced the granting to the Algerian GSPC the Al Qaeda franchise. The name was changed to Al-Qaeda-in-the Islamic-Mahgreb and Algerian counter-terror operations pushed them in the past two years over the desert border into northern Mali. AQIM reportedly is little more than a well-armed criminal band that gets its money from running South American cocaine from Africa into Europe, or from arms dealing and human trafficking. 
A year later, in 2007, the enterprising al-Zawahiri added another building block to his Al Qaeda chain of thugs when he officially announced the merger between the Libyan LIFG and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb (AQIM).
The LIFG or Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was formed by a Libyan-born jihadist named Abdelhakim Belhaj. Belhaj was trained by the CIA as part of the US-financed Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s alongside another CIA trainee then named Osama bin Laden. In essence, as the journalist Pepe Escobar notes, “for all practical purposes, since then, LIFG/AQIM have been one and the same – and Belhaj was/is its emir.” 
That becomes even more interesting when we find that Belhaj’s men – who, as Escobar writes, were at the forefront of a militia of Berbers from the mountains southwest of Tripoli, the so-called Tripoli Brigade—were trained in secret for two months by US Special Forces. 
LIFG played a key role in the US and French-backed toppling of Libya’s Qaddafi, turning Libya today into what one observer describes as the “world’s largest open air arms bazaar.” Those arms are reportedly flooding from Benghazi to Mali and other various hotspot targets of destabilization, including, according to what was suggested at the recent US Senate Foreign Relations testimony of outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by the boatload from Libya to Turkey where they were being channeled into the various foreign terrorist insurgents sent into Syria to fuel the destruction of Syria. 
Now what does this unusual conglomerate globalized terror organization, LIFG-GPSC-AQIM intend in Mali and beyond, and how does that suit AFRICOM and French aims?
Part III: Curious Mali Coup and AQIM terror—exquisite timing
Events in the formerly peaceful, democratic Mali began to get very strange on March 22, 2012 when Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted and driven into exile in a military coup one month before a scheduled presidential election. Toure had earlier instituted a multi-party democratic system. The putsch leader, Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, received military training in the US, at Fort Benning, Georgia and the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia according to AFRICOM’s spokesman.  Sanogo claimed the military coup was necessary because Toure’s government was not doing enough to quell Tuareg unrest in northern Mali.
As Meyssan points out, the March 2012 military coup against Toure was suspicious in every regard. A previously unheard-of group called CNRDRE (in English: National Commitee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State) overthrew Touré and declared intention to restore Mali law and order in the north.
“This resulted in great confusion,” Meyssan goes on, “since the putschists were incapable of explaining how their actions would improve the situation. The overthrow of the President was even stranger since a presidential election was to be held five weeks later and the outgoing President was not running for office. The CNRDRE is composed of officers who were trained in the United States. They halted the election process and handed power to one of their candidates, who happened to be the Francophile Dioncounda Traore. This sleight of hand was legalized by the CEDEAO (or in English, ECOWAS—Economic Community of West African States), whose President is none other than Alassane Ouattara, who was placed in power in the Ivory Coast by the French army a year earlier.” 
Alassane Ouattara, educated in economics in the US, is a former senior IMF official who in 2011 forced out his Ivory Coast presidential rival with French military assistance. He owes his job not to “the New York Times,” but to French Special Forces. 
At the time of the military coup, the unrest in question was from an ethnic tribe, Tuareg, a secular, nomadic group of pastoral cattle-herding people who demanded independence from Mali in early 2012.
The Tuareg Rebellion was reportedly armed and financed by France who repatriated Tuaregs who had been fighting in Libya for the purpose of splitting the north of Mali along Algeria’s border, from the rest of the country and declaring Sharia law. It only lasted from January to April 2012, at which time the nomadic Tuareg fighters rode off to their nomad haunts in the central Sahara and borders of the Sahel, a vast borderless desert area between Libya and Algeria, Mali and Niger. That left the Algerian-Libyan LIFG/Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and their associates in the Jihadist Asnar Dine to carry out the dirty work for Paris. 
In their 2012 battle for independence from Mali, the Tuareg had made an unholy alliance with the Jihadist AQIM. Both groups, briefly joined together with Asnar Dine, another islamist organization led by Iyad Ag Ghaly. Asnar Dine is believed to have ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb which is led by Ag Ghaly’s cousin, Hamada Ag Hama. Ansar Dine wants the imposition of strict Sharia law across Mali.
The three main groups briefly joined forces the moment Mali was plunged into chaos following the March 2012 military coup. The coup leader was Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who received military training at the Marine Corps camp at Quantico, Virginia and Special Forces training at Fort Benning, Georgia in the US. In a bizarre play of events, despite the claim the coup was driven by the civilian government’s failure to contain the rebellion in the north, the Malian military lost control of the regional capitals of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu within ten days of Sanogo’s assuming office. Reuters describe the farcical coup as “a spectacular own-goal.” 
The violation of Mali’s constitution by the military was used to trigger severe sanctions against the central military government. Mali was suspended from membership in the African Union; the World Bank and African Development Bank have suspended aid. The US has cut half of the $140 million in aid that it sends each year, all of which created chaos in Mali and made it virtually impossible for the government to respond to the growing loss of territory in the north to Salafists.
Part IV: Terror-Anti-Terror
What then ensued is like a page ripped out of the insurgency-counter-insurgency textbook of Britain’s Brigadier Frank E. Kitson during the 1950s British Mau Mau operations in Kenya. The Jihadist insurgency in the North and the simultaneous military coup in the capital led to a situation in which Mali was immediately isolated and massively punished with economic sanctions.
Acting with indecent haste, the US and French-controlled regional 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanded the coup leaders restore civilian rule. On March 26, the US cut off all military aid to the impoverished country, ensuring maximum chaos just as the Jihadists made their major push south., Then at a meeting April 2 in Dakar, Senegal, ECOWAS members closed their countries’ borders with land-locked Mali and imposed severe sanctions, including cutting off access to the regional bank, raising the possibility that Mali will soon be unable to pay for essential supplies, including gasoline.
The same military that “trains” the terrorists also trains the “anti-terrorists.” This seems a bizarre contradiction in policy only when we fail to grasp the essence of US and British-developed methods of irregular warfare employed actively since the early 1950’s.
The method was originally termed Low Intensity Warfare by the British Army officer who developed and refined the method for control of subject areas in Malaysia, Kenya during the Mau Mau 1950’s freedom struggles and later for the British Army in Northern Ireland. Low intensity warfare as he termed it in a book by that name,  involves use of deception, of infiltration of double-agents, provocateurs, and use of defectors into legitimate popular movements such as those struggles for colonial independence after 1945.
The method is sometimes referred to as “Gang/Counter-Gang.” The essence is that the orchestrating intelligence agency or military occupying force, whether the British Army in Kenya or the CIA in Afghanistan, de facto controls the actions of both sides in an internal conflict, creating small civil wars or gang wars to the aim of dividing the overall legitimate movement and creating the pretext for outside military force in what the US now has deceptively renamed as “Peace-Keeping Operations” or PKO. 
In his advanced course on American Military Intervention Since Vietnam, Grant Hammond of the US Air War College refers openly to Low Intensity Conflict aka Peace Keeping Operations as “war by another name.” 
We begin to see the bloody footprints of a not-so-well-disguised French recolonisation of former French Africa, this time using Al-Qaeda terror as the springboard to direct military presence for the first time in more than half a century. French troops will likely stay on to help Mali in a “peace keeping operation.” The US is fully backing France as AFRICOM’s “cat’s paw.” And Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its spinoffs make the whole NATO military intervention possible.
Washington claimed to have been caught blind-sided by the military coup. According to press reports, a confidential internal review completed July 2012 by the Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) concluded that the coup had unfolded too fast for American intelligence analysts to detect any clear warning signs. “The coup in Mali progressed very rapidly and with very little warning,” said AFRICOM spokesman, Col. Tom Davis. “The spark that ignited it occurred within their junior military ranks, who ultimately overthrew the government, not at the senior leadership level where warning signs might have been more easily noticed.”  That view is strongly disputed. In an off-the-record interview with The New York Times, one Special Operations Forces officer disagreed, saying, “This has been brewing for five years. The analysts got complacent in their assumptions and did not see the big changes and the impacts of them, like the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic fighters who came back.” 
More accurate it seems, AFRICOM had been “brewing” the crisis for five years since it began operations in late 2007. Mali for the Pentagon is but the next building block in the militarization of all of Africa by AFRICOM using proxy forces like France to do the dirty work. The Mali intervention using France upfront is but one building block in a project for the total militarization of Africa whose prime goal is not capturing strategic resources like oil, gas, uranium, gold or iron ore. The strategic target is China and the rapidly growing Chinese business presence across Africa over the past decade. The goal of AFRICOM is to push China out of Africa or at least to irreparably cripple her independent access to those African resources. An economically independent China, so goes thinking in various Pentagon offices or Washington neo-conservative think-tanks, can be a politically independent China. God forbid! So they believe.
Part V: AFRICOM Agenda in Mali: Target China
The Mali operation is but the tip of a huge African iceberg. AFRICOM, the Pentagon’s US Africa Command was signed into existence by President George W. Bush in late 2007. Its prime purpose was to counter the dramatically growing Chinese economic and political influence across Africa. Alarm bells went off in Washington in October 2006 when the Chinese President hosted an historic Beijing summit, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which brought nearly fifty African heads of state and ministers to the Chinese capital. In 2008, ahead of a twelve-day eight-nation tour of Africa—the third such journey since he took office in 2003—Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a three-year, $3 billion program in preferential loans and expanded aid for Africa. These funds came on top of the $3 billion in loans and $2 billion in export credits that Hu announced earlier.
Trade between China and African countries exploded in the ensuing four years as French and US influence over the “Dark Continent” waned. China’s trade with Africa reached $166 billion in 2011, according to Chinese statistics, and African exports to China – primarily resources to fuel Chinese industries – rose to $93 billion from $5.6 billion over the past decade. In July 2012 China offered African countries $20 billion in loans over the next three years, double the amount pledged in the previous three-year period. 
For Washington, making AFRICOM operational as soon as possible was an urgent geopolitical priority. It began operation on October 1, 2008 from headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Since the Bush-Cheney Administration signed the directive creating AFRICOM in February 2007, it has been a direct response to China’s successful African economic diplomacy.
AFRICOM defines its mission as follows: “Africa Command has administrative responsibility for US military support to US government policy in Africa, to include military-to-military relationships with 53 African nations.” They admit working closely with US Embassies and State Department across Africa, an unusual admission which also includes with USAID: “US Africa Command provides personnel and logistical support to State Department-funded activities. Command personnel work closely with US embassies in Africa to coordinate training programs to improve African nations’ security capacity.” 
Speaking to the International Peace Operations Association in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 27, 2008 General Kip Ward, Commander of AFRICOM defined the command’s mission as, “in concert with other US government agencies and international partners, [to conduct] sustained security engagements through military-to-military programs, military-sponsored activities, and other military operations as directed to promote a stable and secure African environment in support of US foreign policy.” 
Various Washington sources state openly, AFRICOM was created to counter the growing presence of China in Africa, and China’s increasing success, to secure long-term economic agreements for raw materials from Africa in exchange for Chinese aid and production sharing agreements and royalties. By informed accounts, the Chinese have been far shrewder. Instead of offering savage IMF-dictated austerity and economic chaos as the West has, China is offering large credits, soft loans to build roads and schools in order to create good will.
Dr. J. Peter Pham, a leading Washington insider and an advisor of the US State and Defense Departments, states openly that among the aims of the new AFRICOM, is the objective of, “protecting access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance … a task which includes ensuring against the vulnerability of those natural riches and ensuring that no other interested third parties, such as China, India, Japan, or Russia, obtain monopolies or preferential treatment.”
In testimony before the US Congress supporting creation of AFRICOM in 2007, Pham, who is closely associated with the neo-conservative think-tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, stated:
This natural wealth makes Africa an inviting target for the attentions of the People’s Republic of China, whose dynamic economy, averaging 9 percent growth per annum over the last two decades, has an almost insatiable thirst for oil as well as a need for other natural resources to sustain it. China is currently importing approximately 2.6 million barrels of crude per day, about half of its consumption;…roughly a third of its imports come from African sources…perhaps no other foreign region rivals Africa as the object of Beijing’s sustained strategic interest in recent years…
… many analysts expect that Africa—especially the states along its oil-rich western coastline—will increasingly becoming a theatre for strategic competition between the United States and its only real near-peer competitor on the global stage, China, as both countries seek to expand their influence and secure access to resources. 
To counter the growing Chinese influence across Africa Washington has enlisted the economically weak and politically desperate French with promises of supporting a French revival of its former African colonial empire in one form or another. The strategy, as becomes clear in the wake of the French-US use of Al Qaeda terrorists to bring down Ghaddafi in Libya and now to wreak havoc across the Sahara from Mali, is to foster ethnic wars and sectarian hatred between Berbers, Arabs, and others in North Africa—divide and rule.
It appears they have even co-opted an earlier French blueprint for direct control. In a groundbreaking analysis, Canadian geopolitical analyst and sociologist, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya writes, “The map used by Washington for combating terrorism under the Pan-Sahel Initiative says a lot. The range or area of activity for the terrorists, within the borders of Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Mauritania according to Washington’s designation, is very similar to the boundaries or borders of the colonial territorial entity which France attempted to sustain in Africa in 1957. Paris had planned to prop up this African entity in the western central Sahara as a French department (province) directly tied to France, along with coastal Algeria.” 
The French called it the Common Organization of the Saharan Regions (Organisation commune des regions sahariennes, OCRS). It comprised the inner boundaries of the Sahel and Saharan countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Algeria. Paris used it to control the resource-rich countries for French exploitation of such raw materials as oil, gas, and uranium.
- French map of Sahara in 1958 compared with USAFRICOM Pan-Sahal Initiative map (below) of terror threat in Sahara today.
- Source: GlobalResearch.ca)
He adds that Washington clearly had this energy-rich and resource-rich area in mind when it drew the areas of Africa that need to be “cleansed” of alleged terrorist cells and gangs. At least now AFRICOM had “a plan” for its new African strategy. The French Institute of Foreign Relations (Institut français des relations internationals, IFRI) openly discussed this tie between the terrorists and energy-rich areas in a March 2011 report. 
The map used by Washington for combating terrorism under the Pentagon Pan-Sahel Initiative shows an area of activity for the terrorists, inside Algeria, Libya, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Mauritania according to Washington’s designation. The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (TSCTI) was begun by the Pentagon in 2005. Mali, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger were now joined by Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Senegal, Nigeria, and Tunisia in a ring of military cooperation with the Pentagon. The Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative was transferred to the command of AFRICOM on October 1, 2008. 
The Pentagon map is remarkably similar to the boundaries or borders of the colonial territorial entity which France attempted to sustain in Africa in 1957. Paris had planned to prop up this African entity in the western central Sahara as a French department (province) directly tied to France, along with coastal Algeria—the Common Organization of the Saharan Regions (Organisation commune des regions sahariennes, OCRS). It comprised the inner boundaries of the Sahel and Saharan countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Algeria. The plans were foiled during the Cold War by the Algerian and other African countries’ independence wars against French colonial rule, France’s “Vietnam.” France was forced to dissolve the OCRS in 1962, because of Algerian independence and the anti-colonial mood in Africa.  The neo-colonial ambitions in Paris however, did not vanish.
The French make no secret of their alarm over growing Chinese influence in former French Africa. French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici stated in Abidjan last December that French companies must go on the offensive and fight the growing influence of rival China for a stake in Africa’s increasingly competitive markets. “It’s evident that China is more and more present in Africa…(French) companies that have the means must go on the offensive. They must be more present on the ground. They have to fight,” Moscovici stated during a trip to Ivory Coast. 
Clearly Paris had in mind a military offensive to back the economic offensive he foresaw for French companies in Africa.
 James Kirkup, David Cameron: North African terror fight will take decades, The Telegraph, London, 20 January 2013.
 Thierry Meyssan, Mali: One war can hide another, Voltaire Network, 23 January 2013.
 Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon United States Air Forces in Europe/Air Forces Africa Public Affairs, US planes deliver French troops to Mali, AFNS, January 25, 2013.
 S. Alambaigi, French Defense Minister: 2000 boots on ground in Mali, 19 January 2013.
 Freya Petersen,France aiming for ’total reconquest’ of Mali, French foreign minister says, January 20, 2013.
 Christian v. Hiller, Mali’s hidden Treasures, April 12, 2012, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
 Sources include private discussion with retired US military active in Africa.
 William Thornberry and Jaclyn Levy, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, CSIS, September 2011, Case Study No. 4.
 Pepe Escobar, How al-Qaeda got to rule in Tripoli, Asia Times Online, August 30, 2011.
 Jason Howerton, Rand Paul Grills Clinton at Benghazi Hearing: ‘Had I Been President…I Would Have Relieved You of Your Post’,www.theblaze.com, Jan. 23, 2013.
 Craig Whitlock, Leader of Mali military coup trained in U.S., March 24, 2012, The Washington Post.
 Thierry Meyssan, op. cit.
 AFP, [Ivory Coast’s ex-President Gbagbo ‘arrested in Abidjan’ by French forces leading Ouattara troops, April 11th, 2011.
 Thierry Meyssan, op. cit.
 Cheick Dioura and Adama Diarra, Mali Rebels Assault Gao, Northern Garrison“, The Huffington Post, Reuters.
 Frank E. Kitson, Low Intensity Operations: Subversion, Insurgency and Peacekeeping, London, 1971, Faber and Faber.
 C.M. Olsson and E.P. Guittet, Counter Insurgency, Low Intensity Conflict and Peace Operations: A Genealogy of the Transformations of Warfare, March 5, 2005 paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association.
 Grant T. Hammond, Low-intensity Conflict: War by another name, London, Small Wars and Insurgencies, Vol.1, Issue 3, December 1990, pp. 226-238.
 Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, US Hands Off Mali An Analysis of the Recent Events in the Republic of Mali,. MRzine, May 2, 2012.
 Adam Nossiter, Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti, French Strikes in Mali Supplant Caution of US, The New York Times, January 13, 2013.
 Joe Bavier, French firms must fight China for stake in Africa—Moscovici,, Reuters, December 1, 2012.
 AFRICOM, US Africa Command Fact Sheet, September 2, 2010.
 F. William Engdahl, NATO’s War on Libya is Directed against China: AFRICOM and the Threat to China’s National Energy Security, September 26, 2011.
 Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya and Julien Teil, America’s Conquest of Africa: The Roles of France and Israel, GlobalResearch, October 06, 2011.
 Joe Bavier, Op. cit.
February 10th, 2013 by Global Research News
France’s largest automaker, struggling to compete in Europe’s stagnant car market, is cutting 8,000 jobs and closing the Aulnay-sous-Bois factory,” Euronews stated.
The decision has been taken after the French company has stopped export of automobile spare parts to Iran under pressure from US sanctions, MNA.
Peugeot workers’ union representative in France cited halting cooperation with Iran as a major factor bringing loss for the French company.
“Analysts forget that Peugeot has decided to ignore Iran’s great car market for Peugeot products. Peugeot has been selling 450,000 cars annually to Iran, but it avoided Iranian market for political motives,” Jean-Pierre Mercier said.
In the first 6 month of 2012, Peugeot has cut selling of 240,000 cars compared to that in the same time in 2011. Of 750,000 job opportunities lost in recent 10 years in French industry sector, 100,000 were for the automaking sector.
According to Peugeot, 10 per cent of the company’s products in world markets related to its contracts with Iran’s Iran Khodro industries.
Meanwhile, a member of the Iranian parliament’s Industries Commission said that Iran’s industry was capable of sidestepping every sanction and walk on the path to development, and definitely the French industry and economy, specially the Peugeot company, would be the real losers of economic sanctions on Iran.
February 10th, 2013 by Global Research News
Following a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai US President Barack Obama made a statement, many experts called sensational. Obama expressed readiness to hold talks with the Taliban movement. In fact such an unbelievable statement means radical changes in the US policy regarding Afghanistan. Until now the US has been sticking to its “no talks with insurgents” strategy.
The recognition of Taliban will require explanations from the White House at the minimum. It is likely that not all American tax payers will welcome such a U-turn in the Afghan policy. Washington’s readiness for talks with the Taliban means that large sums of money (around $300 million a day) have been spent in vain and from the very beginning it was possible to use diplomacy and to avoid sacrifices.
On September 11, 2001, the US declared its Crusade against the enemies of the free world. Now, after 12 years of constant military action, victory has slept away from American hands. There is no room for being cynical here. But it is necessary to admit the obvious thing: the ability to find a compromise before the fight is taken as wisdom while readiness for a compromise during the fight is taken as defeatism.
On the other hand, Obama is trying to save face. When proposing to the Taliban to start a political process he is also insisting that the Taliban should recognize the current Afghan Constitution which includes liberal Western norms and values. But skeptics are calling on us to get real. Hopes that the Taliban will easily accept Western values are useless. If it is so, then Obama’s statement on the legalization of the Taliban is a unilateral concession meaning the failure of US policy in Afghanistan as such. However, most of the experts tend to refrain from such definition as “failure”. We hear from Pavel Zvonarev, Deputy Head of the Institute of the US and Canada.
“This is not a defeat. It is an ability to find compromising decisions that are appropriate in the given situation. Further development of the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US and NATO military contingents will depend on how such decisions are implemented. It is necessary to take into consideration that the countries which border Afghanistan or are located not far from it are even more concerned about the situation there than the US. I mean first of all Russia. All regional states should take collective efforts to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.”
Indeed, what is going on in Afghanistan is a headache for the whole region. The events in Afghanistan will affect the whole Central Asia, the region where geopolitical interests of the main international players are focused. A lot will depend on Russia’s steps. Kremlin is aware of the degree of responsibility and is trying to take the lead in this process. Russia has efficient instruments for it, for example the Collective Security treaty Organization (CSTO).
It is necessary to be ready for any development events in Afghanistan after the reduction of foreign military presence there. Perhaps time is right to take real efforts on forming a so-called “security belt” that would make it possible to stop the export of radical Islamism. Experts believe that the US-Russia cooperation in this area could be quite productive. US and Russia alongside with other countries should help Afghan leaders create a stable society, capable of resisting pressure of extremist forces.
February 10th, 2013 by Global Research News
Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement on a common regional air defense system.
“Russian Defense Minister rendered a visit to our country for the first time. We discussed important issues and signed document to create a common air defense system. In our view, this will increase the level of cooperation and create conditions for enhancement of the defense potential of our countries,” Defense Minister Adilbek Dzhaksybekov said after the meeting with his Russian counterpart in Astana.
According to Russian Defense Minister, the parties talked about further ways to improve the agreement, expand its framework and “add new elements that also include the anti-ballistic missile defense”. Sergey Shoigu also noted that both parties had been preparing the document for signing for over 6 years.
“Our cooperation volume is great and covers all areas: CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization), exploitation of sites and space research. The agreement that has just been signed is related to air defense system. We have also talked about further ways for improvement and expansion of this agreement. It took a long time to prepare it — over 6 years. It involves joining our information spaces, their integration and introduction of additional elements. It (the agreement) will help increase security of our countries,” Shoigu said.
February 10th, 2013 by Global Research News
On January 29-30, delegation of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) led by Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha will participate in the joint meeting of Interstate Commission on Military and Economic Cooperation and the meeting of RA interdepartmental commission on coordination of events in the framework of CSTO.
National Security Council secretary Arthur Baghdasaryan, Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Igor Karavaev and CSTO deputy secretary general Valery Semerikov will attend the event.
N. Bordyuzha will deliver a report, to be followed by a discussion of establishment of certified service centers for maintenance and repair of armored vehicles and engineering equipment as well as “Mi” helicopters.
Upon completion of the meeting a memorandum envisaging establishment of CSTO Academy in Armenia will be inked.
February 10th, 2013 by Global Research
By Russia Today, February 2 , 2013
By John Kozy, February 6 , 2013
By Global Research News, February 6 , 2013
By Global Research News, February 4 , 2013
By Peter Schiff, February 5 , 2013
By Steve Watson, February 3 , 2013
By Timothy Alexander Guzman, February 3 , 2013
By Global Research News, February 8 , 2013
By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, February 7 , 2013
Hitler’s Failed Blitzkrieg against the Soviet Union. The “Battle of Moscow” and Stalingrad: Turning Point of World War II
By Dr. Jacques R. Pauwels, February 4 , 2013
By John Martin, January 27 , 2013
Four Days after Sandy Hook Tragedy: Live Shooter Drill Hoax in East Harlem, on Nation’s “Most Vulnerable” School Children
By James F. Tracy, February 3 , 2013
By Bruce Gagnon, February 1 , 2013
By Washington’s Blog, February 4 , 2013
By Stephen Lendman, February 4 , 2013
Click here for all articles published this week
February 9th, 2013 by James F. Tracy
A cross section of kill-to-injury ratios of major mass shootings suggests that if Adam Lanza acted alone in carrying out the Sandy Hook Elementary School carnage he was among the most accurate killers in modern history, exceeding even the lethal damage meted out by Al Capone’s machine gun-wielding henchmen in the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
|Incident, # of shooters, weapon(s) used||Shot||Killed||Wounded||Kill-to-wounded ratio|
|SANDY HOOK (2012) 1 shooter, AR-15, .223||27||26 (96.2%)||1 (3.8%)||26:1|
|Aurora, CO (2012) 1 shooter, AR-15, .223||71||12 (16.9%)||59 (83%)||1:5|
|Tucson, AZ (2011) 1 shooter, Glock 9mm||14||6 (42.8%)||8 (57.1%)||1:1.2|
|N. Ill. U (2008) 1 shooter, 9mm||26||5 (20%)||21 ((80%)||1:4|
|Virginia Tech (2007) 1 shooter, 9mm pistol||49||32 (68%)||17 (32%)||2:1|
|Columbine, CO (1999) 2 shooters, 12 ga., 9mm||33||12 (36%)||21 (64%)||1:2|
|U. Iowa (1991) 1 shooter/.38 spec.||6||5 (83%)||1 (16%)||5:1|
|Stockton, CA (1989) 1 shooter AK-47||35||5 (14%)||30 (86%)||1:6|
|École Polytechnique/Montreal Massacre (1989) 1 shooter, Ruger Mini 14 .223||27||14 (52%)||13 (48%)||1.1:1|
|Cal. St. Fullerton (1976) 1 shooter .22 LR semi-auto||9||7 (78%)||2 (22%)||3.5:1|
|U. Texas Tower (1966) 1 shooter||48||16 (33%)||32 (67%)||1:2|
|St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1929) 2 shooters, .45 submachine guns||7||6 (85.8%)||1 (14.2%)||6:1|
Never mind the facts, however. The public has been repeatedly told by corporate news media that the December 14, 2012 incident was exclusively carried out by the awkward 20-year-old man with virtually no firearms or military training.
“The debate over gun violence gained urgency after a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults on December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut,” Reuters observed as recently as February 7. “The killer, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, used a Bushmaster AR-15 type assault rifle to shoot his victims before killing himself.”
Over the past seven weeks mainstream media have spoken in one earsplitting voice to drive home the now familiar “lone gunman” storyline ostensibly proffered by law enforcement while dismissing a multitude of important evidence indicating a far more complex scenario.
Indeed, as information recently pointed to by Digital Journal indicates, in a widescale rush to judgment major news media have neglected vital information and statements from Connecticut state authorities suggesting that Lanza may have had accomplices.
In a December 26 court plea to postpone release of contents yielded through five search warrant, Connecticut State Attorney General Stephen Sedensky argued that unsealing such findings might “seriously jeopardize” the investigation by divulging evidence heretofore known only to other “potential suspects.”
Pointing to “information in the search warrant affidavits that is not known to the general public,” Sedensky also argued that opening the warrants would “identify persons cooperating with the investigation, thus possibly jeopardizing their personal safety and well-being.”
The prosecutor’s statement came less than two weeks after Connecticut State Police Lieutenant J. Paul Vance told reporters how there were “some cards that we’re holding close to our vest.”
In light of the above and alongside a wealth of additional evidence calling the “official story” into question, the corporate news media’s long-running and continued emphasis of the “lone gunman” narrative appears increasingly fraudulent. The question remains whether this is merely a case of slipshod reporting or part of a more intentional mass deception against the American public.
 Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cohen, “House Democrats to Unveil Gun Control Package; Mirrors Obama’s,” NBC/Reuters, February 7, 2013.
 Ralph Lopez, “Sandy Hook DA Cites ‘Potential Suspects,’ Fears Witness Safety,” Digital Journal, February 5, 2013.
February 9th, 2013 by Socialist Project
by Xavier Lafrance and Alan Sears
The 2012 Quebec student strikes delivered one of the few victories we have seen in anti-austerity struggles in the Canadian state. The mobilization, which at its high point saw over 300,000 students on limited or unlimited strike, and demonstrations of hundreds of thousands, was a crucial highpoint that has a great deal to teach radicals. The attempted clampdown by the Jean Charest government through Bill 78 that attempted to outlaw the movement, unleashed a new and innovative round of resistance including the casseroles night marches.
The newly elected Parti Québécois (PQ) government of Premier Pauline Marois immediately cancelled the 75 per cent tuition hike implemented by the previous Charest government and rescinded the oppressive “back to work” legislation in Bill 78. This is a real victory, though the struggle in Quebec must continue. The PQ government has already made cuts to university budgets and is committed to smaller incremental tuition increases, indexing tuition to cost of living increases. Further, the PQ is organizing a series of roundtable discussions on the future of post-secondary education with a very clear agenda for technocratic restructuring that impedes rather than increases democracy, access and quality.
This is a partial victory, but a real one. At a time when the austerity agenda is rolling on relatively unchallenged, the Quebec student strike offers a crucial lesson in resistance. Yet the knock-on effect of that strike has been relatively limited to date. The Quebec student movement has done serious work to reach out to the rest of Canada and elsewhere to share the learning from this incredible mobilization, but at this point the impact has been limited.
This is unfortunate given the desperate need for effective mobilization to halt the austerity agenda in general, and in particular its application to the post-secondary field. The Ontario government is currently implementing a major restructuring of post-secondary education at a quite rapid pace, aiming to shift university mandates toward a market orientation, shift teaching toward on-line courses, continue tuition increases toward the goal of full user-pay, and implement cost-cutting ‘productivity’ increases. It would take a mobilization at the scale of the Quebec student strike to really reverse this agenda, but at this point there are not even many ripples of discontent.
A Mobilizing Perspective
In this article, we will try to discuss some of the ways that we imagine applying lessons from the Quebec student strike in coming battles around education, and particularly post-secondary education. At its core, the Quebec student strike modelled a mobilizing perspective grounded in democracy, militancy and audacity.
Over the last three decades, Quebec’s student movement has been divided between organizations gravitating around two models: a lobbyist model seeking collaboration with governments in place, on the one hand; and a democratic, activist student unionism, on the other. Since the early 1990s, the former model has been adopted by the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), while the latter model has informed the activities of the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) du Québec (which regroups 30 local student unions representing some 70,000 CEGEP and university students). We will focus on ASSÉ’s organizing model, which is explicitly ‘unionist’ (syndicale).
The core goal of this unionist model is to defend members’ concrete interests (understood in a non-corporatist way) through their own mobilization. This organizing model is based on democratic decision-making through general assemblies at which a large portion of student body debates action and decides collectively how to proceed. This democracy can only function in a meaningful way when combined with a constant effort at informing and mobilizing the student population beyond layers of activists, in order to develop a membership which can make change with their own hands rather than engaging in periodic ritualistic and symbolic protest. Democracy of this sort is linked to militancy in that the goal of protest is not to appeal to the conscience of those in power, but to build a counter-power in the streets, schools and workplaces that can push back.
In the era of austerity, many unions and social movements have lowered their horizons and tried not to rock the boat too much. For example, Toronto municipal unions met privatization demands with a campaign that focussed more on public relations advertisements than mobilizing their own members, ultimately resulting in concessions. In contrast, the Quebec students mobilized around ASSÉ (who formed the Coalition large de l’ASSÉ (CLASSE) to launch and coordinate the 2012 strike) dared to challenge the core of the government’s post-secondary agenda and boldly campaigned over a two-year period to win a strike mandate.
The challenge to the government’s agenda combined the immediate demand to halt the government’s 75 per cent tuition hike with a broader call to abolish tuition fees and democratize public college and university education. Many students lined up to fight tuition increases, rallying around a demand that seemed winnable (“Stop the hike!”). Yet the mass movement raised many bigger questions about democratic governance and the character of post-secondary education that pointed toward a broader, transformative agenda.
This combination of audacity, democracy and militancy in many ways echoes the crucial battles that won trade union rights for workers in the first place, such as those waged by Windsor auto workers in the 1940s or by postal workers in the 1960s. The challenge outside Quebec is to figure out how to apply these methods in situations where there isn’t the same level of organization and activism or tradition of student mobilization
A Longer-Term Perspective
This was the ninth general strike waged by Quebec students since 1968, and the 11th year since the founding of ASSÉ as a radical and democratic student union consciously committed to learning from that history of struggle. ASSÉ built for the 2012 strike through a two-year campaign, which used petitions, demonstrations and days of action to mobilize students through leaflets, informal networks and structured organization including assemblies.
All of this seems daunting if you are sitting in a place where that long-term work has not been done, and where it is hard to even imagine a way to begin the building process. There is certainly no magic formula, nor any simple overall technique that will automatically elevate campaigns elsewhere. But there is a crucial orientation that others mobilizing against austerity can learn from – that of militant, democratic unionism. The implementation of this orientation requires a longer-term strategy that is difficult to balance with the immediate needs of the anti-austerity struggle.
ASSÉ was founded on the principles of democratic, militant student unionism in 2001. The people who founded the new organization sought to deliberately learn from the prior history of the Quebec student movement, both from the impressive victories and the grinding defeats. Indeed, the need to refound the radical wing of the student movement was an indication of the difficult struggles of the 1990s and the decision to ultimately disband the MDE (the previous radical democratic student union). Before ASSÉ, three student unions based broadly on democracy and militancy (UGEQ, ANEEQ and MDE) had developed and ultimately disbanded since the early 1960s.
At the core of these organizations was the principle of democratic, militant student unionism drawn from the student movement in France and expressed in the Charte de Grenoble from 1946. Article One of this document stipulates: “The student is a young intellectual worker.” Historically, within the Quebec student movement, this has meant that students, like workers, are engaged in collective activities, share common interests and can organize collectively – form unions – to promote these interests. Students have immense potential power through collective organization to withdraw their labour (in strikes) and ultimately take collective and democratic control over the process of education.
The power of student strikes comes from the disruption of an education system that the government as well as campus administrations have a responsibility to administer. For example, university students will have to graduate in order to make room for incoming high school students. Semesters simply cannot be cancelled on a large scale without creating an enormous administrative mess that would also have significant economic consequences. Though governments and administrators will use this cancellation as a threat in effort to force striking students back into class, they are in fact worried by this prospect. This is why semesters have never been cancelled in the history of Quebec student strikes, and why these strikes have forced governments to back down on several occasions.
The best way to make this potential power real is to organize along the lines of democratic, militant unionism, which aims to mobilize the mass of the student body and to win majority mandates for genuine collective action. The general assemblies that are so crucial to the success of the Quebec student movement are grounded in, and indeed cannot function properly outside of, this democratic and activist student unionist perspective. This perspective orients the militant minority toward their fellow students with the goal of discussing and debating in order to win genuine mandates for effective action. This requires constant mobilizing activities, such as printing flyers, publishing newspapers, going from class to class to present updates on campaigns and important issues, and engaging with students in cafeterias and in public spaces. In Quebec, this has generally been organized by mobilization committees in collaboration with student union executive committees.
Trying to adopt the assembly model without this commitment to democratic, militant unionism can lead to the separation of the core activists from most other students. A self-proclaimed assembly of radicals can give themselves a mandate to act in the name of the student body but without the genuine participation of larger layers of students they will remain isolated and they will not be able to build the power necessary to support this mandate. Indeed, one of the problems that lead to the downfall of the earliest Quebec-wide student union (UGEC) was the commitment of radicals to going it alone, without the patience and strategic orientation to win larger mandates.
Democracy and a Mobilized Membership
Democratic, militant unionism means orienting outward to win mandates for mobilization from the student body. Those mandates will only be meaningful if they are won through democratic and participatory forms of organization. The general assemblies of the Quebec student movement have been foundational in winning mandates through forms of decision-making that involve active participation, open exchange and direct democracy. Militant students must engage with those who disagree with them in such assemblies, trying to persuade fellow students that action is possible and necessary. These assemblies can be tense, and the outcome is very hard to predict as people respond to the flow of debate and the exchange of ideas. This puts a real premium on serious preparation to consider in advance the likely flow of debates, the main arguments of critics, and the motions that are likely to be able to sway sufficient support.
The general assemblies of the Quebec student movement have been foundational in winning mandates through forms of decision-making that involve active participation, open exchange and direct democracy. Militant students must engage with those who disagree with them in such assemblies. ”
These assemblies only happen after a great deal of work to mobilize the student body. Indeed, the Quebec student movement’s ability to build on the direct democracy of assemblies should not be romanticized or idealized. To build these democratic structures, and to maintain them over time, requires constant mobilizing efforts. Even if such structures are already embedded in bylaws (which is the case for most Quebec student associations), continuous militant activity remains crucial to breathe life into them. In between periods of mass mobilization (mostly before and during actual strikes), general assemblies tend to be small. Still it is crucial to organize them on a regular basis, as it democratizes and enlarges decision processes beyond executive committees and reminds the broader student population of the existence of the assemblies and their potential collective power. These meetings can become really important formative spaces where new activists have the chance to familiarize themselves with formal assembly rules and with the practice of direct democracy. General assemblies derive from mobilizing practices, but they are also crucial spaces to develop a network of activists that will engage into these practices.
Solidaristic Campus Unionism
Many of us who are active outside Quebec and find this model inspiring face important challenges figuring out where to get stuck in to start building the kind of movement that we have seen in Quebec. The Ontario student movement, for example, has an important and valuable progressive record in many places. Yet it has not been organized on the basis of student unionism that aims to use the strike or occupation as a crucial tool for building student power on campus. There is virtually no prior experience of student strikes in Ontario beyond limited days of action, and even these have seldom ground institutions to a halt.
One of the elements which will be important in building new mobilizing capacities in Ontario and elsewhere will be to develop a militant and democratic unionist orientation among a layer of activists. ASSÉ has quite consciously worked to develop activist capacities among layers of students who operate autonomously but with strong collaboration on different campuses, through activist education and skills-building camps, congresses and ongoing informal discussion and debate. The development of such an orientation will require lots of discussion and debate about such things as developing strategies for relating to student union structures and determining which issues will have traction in the immediate term. We argue that activists seriously oriented to winning democratic mandates from student bodies must seriously engage with existing forms of organization, attempting to transform them into democratic, mobilizing unions if possible. There will, of course, be vibrant debates about this.
One possible way to start would be to build a network of activists oriented toward democratic, activist unionism on the various campuses where they’re based. The network would provide opportunities for shared analysis, evaluation of activities, and joint strategies where feasible. Labor Notes in the United States provides an example: it’s a project whose publications, workshops and conferences link up activists in many unions and workers’ rights groups who share a commitment to democracy, militancy and solidarity. A multi-campus network might provide the opportunity to build a base of activists with shared commitments to militant, democratic campus unionism. •
Xavier Lafrance is a member of the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly and was active in the Quebec student movement for several years.
Alan Sears is a member of the Toronto New Socialists, the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly and Faculty for Palestine. He teaches at Ryerson University. This article first appeared on the newsocialist.org website.
February 9th, 2013 by Sajjad Ali Malik
Thomas Friedman may praise the emancipatory potential of online university courses, but are they really capable of producing more than docile workers?
Education is a concept that we confront every day in some way, shape or form, directly or indirectly. It has long been considered to be the “silver bullet” in addressing the greatest injustices pervasive in society; poverty, crime, racism, patriarchy, and socio-economic inequality. Our interaction with education is influenced by and varies based on the tentacles of power relations; class, ethnicity, gender, geography, and life experiences. For some, this interaction manifests itself in questions of best practices and educational philosophy.
For others, it revolves more around access to knowledge and questions of representation. Consequently, our conceptual interaction with education is not free of bias or ideological calculation. For whom and for what purpose(s) does education serve? What does education actually look like? Will we recognize it when we see it? Or, might we mistake it for something else? As the influential theorist of critical pedagogy Paulo Freire explained:
Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.
Famed New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently wrote about the expansion of free online courses by institutions such as Stanford and MIT, as well as companies such as Coursera and Udacity. While Friedman hails this phenomenon as a “revolution” he states that “(n)othing has more potential to lift more people out of poverty — by providing them an affordable education to get a job or improve in the job they have. Nothing has more potential to unlock a billion more brains to solve the world’s biggest problems.” He goes on to sprinkle his column with anecdotes from individuals who have benefited from open online university courses.
Friedman views this technological and educational innovation as one that will allow foreign workers to have the formal training required to compete with First-World workers. The thought process is that this will ultimately be to the benefit multinational corporations, who will have a larger pool of technically skilled workers from which to employ. These private actors, equipped with a greater number of skilled (and relatively cheap) workers, will offer more gainful employment and generate more revenue, ultimately alleviating poverty in the Third World.
Along the same lines was a recent editorial written by Pauline Rose, Director of the Global Monitoring Report on Education published by UNESCO. In her piece, Rose calls for a Bill Gates-like figure to emerge to spark global education funding among private companies and foundations. Corporate philanthropy is deemed the solution to improving global access to education. Following Friedman’s logic, Rose states:
On the face of it, there should be little need to make the business case for education. It is intrinsically tied to all positive development outcomes. Economic growth, health, nutrition and democracy are all boosted by quality schooling. If all children in low-income countries left school with basic reading skills, poverty would fall by 12 percent – and that’s good for business. The private sector benefits directly from an educated, skilled workforce.
Friedman and Rose are essentially calling for the accelerated privatization of global education. This is a trend that has already begun in the US, as we have witnessed the growth of schools run by private corporations, an unflinching emphasis on test scores, and the decimation of teachers unions coupled with the flawed notion that teachers alone are responsible for educational underachievement.
What this privatization enables, and what is furthered by both Friedman and Rose’s pieces, is the disavowal of considering the larger socioeconomic issues related to global capitalism and neoliberalism, issues that are intrinsically conjoined to education. The danger is not the technological advancement enabling greater access to education for the Third World, but rather its implications that we continually fail to critically scrutinize.
Instead of hailing the introduction of free online courses as a revolution in global education that will alleviate poverty and suffering, why do we not question the global system which allowed, if not actively encouraged, the formation of the existing desolate situation to begin with? Pieces like Friedman’s and Rose’s actively assist in paralyzing us from thinking about how we have arrived in a situation where, as Rose states, “(t)here are 61 million children out of school.”
They seem to conveniently forget the fact that IMF structural adjustment programs have severely reduced public education spending by governments, and that the privatization of education has led to an increase in societal segregation, asseen in Chile. When relying on the framework used by Friedman and Rose, we effectively hinder ourselves from asking what kind global economic system exists to allow the situation where the privatization and corporate philanthropy becomes the solutions to address already existing radical inequalities.
In the end, it all comes back to the original question of the purpose of education. For Friedman and Rose, its purpose is to produce worker who will further entrench an unjust economic order that created the problem in the first place. The overarching goal is to convince us that the remedy for our current problems is actually the very pill which caused the sickness to begin with. For Freire, education’s purpose is to enable students to flourish in a manner that critically analyzes how we arrived to this bleak situation and how we can begin to transform it.
Freire or Friedman? The choice is ours to make.
February 8th, 2013 by Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Austerity is a sham. Debt is economics for the ‘little people’. If the people produce the wealth then why are they always poor and/or paying back debts? Because the national and international wealthy lend us back the money (with interest) they have taken out of society in the form of profits to fill in the gap they created in the first place. Thus we are triply exploited: We are taxed on wages, alienated from wealth created (profits) and we pay interest on the money borrowed from the wealthy to pay for the capital and current expenditure needed for the maintenance of society.
When there is an economic crisis caused by this constant draining of the wealth from the economy, the ‘experts’ then debate the best way to impose cutbacks to get us back on to ‘the road to recovery’. This would be funny if so many people were not caught up in the sea of unemployment and subsistence living. Furthermore, any rejection of these ‘debts’ will not be countenanced by the elites who oversee the ‘debt repayments’ by the ‘little people’.
“In 2010 the banks that were then Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide (now Irish Bank Resolution Corporation or IBRC) required around €30.06 billion in additional cash from the State because of their perilous state in the aftermath of the collapse of the property market.
Finance minister Brian Lenihan wrote a promissory note to the IBRC – basically saying “We owe you €31 billion” – which the bank used as collateral to borrow from the Cental Bank of Ireland’s emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) fund. Under the agreement, the State agreed to pay €3.06 billion every year to the IBRC until 2023 and smaller payments after that to satisfy the principal and the interest.
But creating cash or monetary financing is a no-no as far as the European Central Bank (ECB) is concerned. Its founding principles – the Maastricht Treaty – dictate that EU member states cannot finance their public deficits by printing money.
As Stephen Donnelly, who has been vehemently opposed to the promissory notes, points out: “[It] would certainly have run afoul of Europe’s two directives: That no European bank would fail and that the potential losses and lost profits of senior investors would be paid in full by the public.”
One of the options put on the table by Ireland has been to swap the notes for a long-term government bond – possibly sourced from the ESM – with the repayments spread over 40 years. What’s all this about? Well our dear Taoiseach Enda Kenny probably describes it best when he recently said it would be like switching “from a serious overdraft to a long-term, low-interest mortgage”.”
You see, the appalling vista for the ECB would be the loss of control over the supply of money and the knock-on effect this would have on the markets if every government in the EU were to do the same. Therefore, bonds-for-notes legislation was brought in overnight in Dublin to wind up the IBRC and put the repayments on a more stable, ‘normalised’ footing. The Taoiseach Enda Kenny told “the Dáil:
“The first principal payment on these bonds will be made in 25 years time, 2038, with the final payment being made in 2053. The average maturity of these bonds will be over 34 years rather than the 7 – 8 years on a promissory note.” The average interest rate on these bonds will be 3 per cent, compared to 8 per cent on the promissory notes.”
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Eurostat, the EU Commission’s data agency, has calculated the cost of the banking crisis in each EU country and according to Michael Taft, Ireland just edges “out Germany for the dubious title of spending the most on the banking crisis. €41 billion to date according to the Eurostat accounting data (this doesn’t count the billions ploughed into the covered banks from our National Pension Reserve Fund as this was not counted as a ‘cost’ to the General Government budget). […]The European banking crisis to date has cost every individual in Ireland nearly €9,000 each. The average throughout the EU is €192 per capita. […] The Irish people have paid 42 percent of the total cost of the European banking crisis.”
Targeted Killings: The White Paper Allows the Government to Kill a US Citizen who is not on the Battlefield”
February 8th, 2013 by Marjorie Cohn
An Interview with Marjorie Cohn about Targeted Killings
By Dennis Bernstein
B: We continue our discussion of the revelations around a memo coming out of the Justice Department that the administration plans to keep up these assassinations and expand the program. Joining us to take a legal look at this is Marjorie Cohn, Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former President of the National Lawyers Guild. She is also the editor of “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.” Welcome back to Flashpoints, Marjorie. You say the White Paper runs afoul of international and US law. Please explain.
MC: The White Paper allows the government to kill a US citizen who is not on the battlefield, if some high government official who is supposedly informed about the situation thinks that the target is a senior Al Queda leader who poses an imminent threat of a violent attack against the United States. So how do they define “imminence”? Well, it doesn’t require any clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future. So it completely dilutes this whole idea of imminent threat. Under well-established principles of international law and the UN Charter, one country can use military force against another only in self-defense. But under the Caroline case, which is the gold standard here, the “necessity for self-defense must be instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.”
That means we are going to be attacked right away and we can use force. But the very nebulous test that the White Paper lays out even allows the targeted killing of somebody who is considered to be a “continuing” threat, whatever that means. The most disturbing part of it says that US citizens can be killed even when there is no “clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.” So we have a global battlefield, where if there is someone, anywhere, who might be associated with Al Qaeda, according to a high government official, then Obama can authorize (it’s not even clear Obama himself has to authorize these targeted killings, these drone attacks) on Terror Tuesday (thanks to the New York Times expose several months ago) who he is going to kill after consulting with John Brennan. John Brennan, of course, is his counter-terrorism guru who is up for confirmation to be CIA Director. Very incestuous. John Brennan has said that targeted killings constitute lawful self-defense.
One of the most disturbing things here is the amassing of executive power with no review by the courts, no checks and balances. So the courts will have no opportunity to interpret what “imminence” means, or what “continuing” threat means.
The White Paper cites John Yoo, who claims that courts have no role to play in what the President does in this so-called War on Terror where the whole world is a battlefield. I say so-called War on Terror because terrorism is a tactic. It’s not an enemy. You don’t declare war on a tactic. And the White Paper refers Yoo’s statement that judicial review constitutes “judicial encroachment” on the judgments by the President and his National Security advisors as to when and how to use force.
The White Paper cites Hamdi v. Rumsfeld which says the President has the authority to hold US citizens caught on the battlefield in Afghanistan as enemy combatants. But in Hamdi, the Supreme Court stated that a US citizen who is being detained as an enemy combatant is entitled to due process. Due process means an arrest and a fair trial. It doesn’t mean just taking him out with a drone. Also, there’s another interesting passage in this White Paper. It says “judicial enforcement [a court reviewing these kill orders of the executive] of such orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisors as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force.”
Inherently predictive. Does that mean that the court can’t review decisions made with a crystal ball because it’s too mushy? I don’t know. Certainly courts are competent to make emergency decisions under FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The FISA Court meets in secret and authorizes wiretaps requested by the executive branch. Courts can do this. Courts can act in emergencies to review and check and balance what the executive is doing. That’s what our Constitution is all about.
DB: Congress is looking for some original documents about what’s going on here. The White Paper is sort of a restatement of National Security documents that we probably haven’t been able to see yet. What about the Geneva Conventions? It sort of throws that in the garbage.
MC: Well, it does because the Geneva Conventions define willful killing as a grave breach. And grave breaches are punishable as war crimes. So this also violates the Geneva Conventions. Although the White Paper says that they are going to follow the well-established principle of proportionality – proportionality means that an attack cannot be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage – I don’t see how they can actually put that into practice because the force is going to be excessive. When you see how they are using drones, they are taking out convoys, and they are killing civilians, large numbers of civilians.
There’s another principle of international law called distinction, which requires that the attack be directed only at legitimate military targets. We know from the New York Times expose that the kill list that Brennan brings to Obama to decide who he is going to take out without a trial – basically execute – can be used even if they don’t have a name, or if they are present in an area where there are suspicious “patterns of behavior.” These are known as signature strikes.
That means that bombs are dropped on unidentified people who are in an area where suspicious activity is taking place. That goes even beyond targeted killings. Targeted killings are considered to be illegal. The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Christof Heyns, expressed grave concerns about these targeted killings, saying that they may constitute war crimes. He called on the Obama administration to explain how its drone strikes comport with international law and to specify the bases for the decisions to kill rather than capture particular individuals.
The White Paper says that one of the requirements before they can take someone out is that capture is “infeasible.” As you go on and read this memo, infeasible begins to look like inconvenient. We have these very mushy terms, with no clear standards that comply with international law. Yet there is no oversight by any court, and Congress has no role either. So we don’t have checks and balances. Even the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed a few days after 9/11 doesn’t authorize this. The AUMF allows the President to use force against groups and countries that had supported the 9/11 attacks. But when the Bush administration asked Congress for open-ended military authority “to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States,” Congress specifically rejected that open-ended military authority. Congress has not authorized this, and it’s not clear whether Congress would authorize it. There are several congresspersons who are trying to get a hold of the actual documents that you have referred to, beyond this White Paper, which is the tip of the iceberg.
DB: That includes Ron Wyden who is on the Intelligence Committee and can’t get a hold of this. When one looks at this Obama policy and compares it to Bush, essentially Obama has chosen well, we’ll do a little less torture, or skip the torture, and we’ll just kill them.
MC: Obama has expanded these drone attacks far beyond what the Bush administration was doing. There are many thorny issues, such as indefinite detention, how detainees are treated, and under what circumstances they can be released. The Obama administration evidently feels that it’s cleaner and easier just to kill them. Then you don’t have to worry about bad publicity from housing them at Guantanamo, not giving them a fair trial, holding them indefinitely. This goes beyond the torture policy. Now I don’t want to say that killing with drones is worse than the illegal and outrageous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan that the Bush administration began, in which thousands and thousands and thousands of people have been killed or seriously maimed. So I wouldn’t say that Obama is worse than Bush. But certainly Obama is following in the tradition of the Bush administration and John Yoo’s expansive view of executive power where whatever the President does is unreviewable.
DB: I would say they continue the process of destroying the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the necessary checks and balances that restrain war, that the people depend on. We are out of time. Marjorie, thanks for being with us on Flashpoints.
Marjorie Cohn is a professor of human rights at Thomas Jefferson School and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her most recent book is “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.” See www.marjoriecohn.com.
Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. He can be contacted at [email protected].
February 8th, 2013 by Shiney Varghese
Writing in National Geographic in December 2012 about “small-scale irrigation techniques with simple buckets, affordable pumps, drip lines, and other equipment” that “are enabling farm families to weather dry seasons, raise yields, diversify their crops, and lift themselves out of poverty” water expert Sandra Postel of the Global Water Policy Project cautioned against reckless land and water-related investments in Africa. “[U]nless African governments and foreign interests lend support to these farmer-driven initiatives, rather than undermine them through land and water deals that benefit large-scale, commercial schemes, the best opportunity in decades for societal advancement in the region will be squandered.”
That same month, the online publication Market Oracle reported that “[t]he new ‘water barons’—the Wall Street banks and elitist multibillionaires—are buying up water all over the world at unprecedented pace.” The report reveals two phenomena that have been gathering speed, and that could potentially lead to profit accumulation at the cost of communities and commons —the expansion of market instruments beyond the water supply and sanitation to other areas of water governance, and the increasingly prominent role of financial institutions.
In several instances this has meant that the government itself has set up public corporations that run like a business, contracting out water supply and sanitation operations to those with expertise, or entering into public–private–partnerships, often with water multinationals. This happened recently in Nagpur and New Delhi, India. In most rural areas, ensuring a clean drinking water supply and sanitation continues to be a challenge. For-profit companies such as Sarvajal have begun setting up pre-paid water kiosks (or water ATMs) that would dispense units of water upon the insertion of a pre-paid card. It is no surprise that these are popular among people who otherwise have no access to clean drinking water.
With climate change, however, the water crisis is no longer perceived as confined to developing countries or even primarily a concern related to water supply and sanitation. Fresh water commons are becoming degraded and depleted in both developed and developing countries. In the United States, diversion of water for expanded commodity crop production, biofuels and gas hydro-fracking is compounding the crisis in rural areas. In areas ranging from the Ogallala aquifer to the Great Lakes in North America, water has been referred to as liquid gold. Billionaires such as T. Boone Pickens have been buying up land overlying the Ogallala aquifer, acquiring water rights; companies such as Dow Chemicals, with a long history of water pollution, are investing in the business of water purification, making pollution itself a cash-cow.
But chemical companies are not alone: GE and its competitor Siemens have extensive portfolios that include an array of water technologies to serve the needs of industrial customers, municipal water suppliers or governments. (In the last year and a half two Minnesota based companies have become large players in this business—Ecolab, by acquiring Nalco and Pentair by merging with Tyco‘s Flow Control unit—both now belonging to S&P’s 500.)
The financial industry has also zeroed in on water. In the summer of 2011, Citigroup issued a report on water investments. The much quoted statement by Willem Buiter (chief economist at Citigroup) gives an inkling of Citigroup’s conclusion: “Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals.” Once again, several others had already seen water as an important investment opportunity, including GE’s Energy Financial Services, Goldman Sachs and several asset management firms that are involved investing in farmland in Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe.
Given these recent trends, initiatives that track the water use of companies or map information regarding water related risks could be double edged. Some examples include the ‘water disclosure project’ and the ‘water-mapping project’. Both are initiated by non-profits/ think-tanks, the former by UK-based Carbon Disclosure Project and the latter by the US-based World Resources Institute. While distinct, they are linked by their shared constituency: global investors concerned about water-related risks. These initiatives could help companies identify and reduce their water footprint, or could lead to company investments that follow water and grab it.
The Carbon Disclosure Project’s water disclosure project seeks to help businesses and institutional investors understand the risks and opportunities associated with water scarcity and other water-related issues. According to its most recent report, issued on behalf of 470 investors with assets of $50 trillion USD, over half the respondents to their survey have experienced water-related challenges in the preceding five years, translating into disruptions in operations, increases in expenses and other detrimental impacts.
Aqueduct Alliance and its water mapping project, which aims to provide companies with an unprecedented level of detail on global water risks, seems at one level a direct response to the findings of the global water disclosure reports by CDP. General Electric, Goldman Sachs and the Washington-based think tank World Resources Institute are the founding members of the Aqueduct Alliance. All of them identify water-related risks as detrimental to profitability, continued economic growth and environmental sustainability. The water maps, with their unprecedented level of detail and resolution, seek to combine advanced hydrological data with geographically specific indicators that capture social, economic, and governance factors. But this initiative has given rise to concerns that such information gives companies and investors unprecedented details of water-related information in some of the world’s largest river basins.
Many of these investors, described as the “new water barons” in Jo-Shing Yang’s article ”Profiting from Your Thirst as Global Elite Rush to Control Water Worldwide,” are the same ones who have profited from speculating on agricultural contracts and contributing to the food crisis of the past few years. The food crisis and recent droughts have confirmed that controlling the source of food—the land and the water that flows under or by it—are equally or even more important.
A closer look at the land-related investments in Africa, for example, show that land grabbing is not simply an investment, but also an attempt to capture the water underneath. At the recent annual Global AgInvesting Conference (with well over 370 participants), the asset management groups and global farm businesses showcased their plans, including purchases of vast tracts of lands in varying locations around the globe. With tools such as water maps, such investors are further advantaged. The global rush for land grabbing, as well as the resistance to it, shows that all stake-holders—pension funds, Wall Street or nation-states on the one hand or the people who currently use these lands and waters, and their advocates on the other—are well aware of the life-and-death nature of land (and water) grabbing, especially in the case of developing countries.
National and international regulatory mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that basic resources such as land, water and the means for accessing fresh water do not become merely the means for profit accumulation for the wealthy, but are governed in a way that ensures the basic livelihood of those most dependent on it. The last session of the Committee on World Food Security (a United Nations mechanism set up to address the food crisis) was a good starting point, and has set in motion a series of consultations on principles for agricultural investments. Civil Society Organizations are tracking the various ways in which regulations may develop in national contexts: simply facilitate land grabbing, mitigate negative impacts and maximize opportunities or block (or roll-back) land grabbing altogether. Ultimately, any policy approaches must prioritize local communities’ access to food and water: Any water-related investments needs to be about allaying their livelihood risks and enhancing their ability to realize their rights, whether it is in developing countries or developed countries.
February 8th, 2013 by Emile Bouffard
China’s Three Gorges dam, completed in 2006 and put into use last summer, is the world’s largest source of ‘clean’ hydroelectric power. With a generating capability equal to that of 15 nuclear reactors, the project has been hailed as a solution to China’s massive energy crisis. However, before the project had even been completed, major concerns were voiced over the potentially disastrous environmental repercussions of this massive engineering project. Seven years later, the Three Georges dam appears to be China’s greatest short-sighted decision in its era of modernization and industrial development.
The dam has certainly been a crucial element of China’s ‘green’ initiative, aimed at decreasing reliance on non-renewable sources of energy, in particular, coal. However a decrease in carbon emissions does not necessarily create an environmentally friendly energy strategy – for example, the use of the colossal reservoir had led to weakening of the river banks, causing massive landslides in populated areas. And these are just the beginnings of the problems.
The creation of the dam has slowed the normally quick flowing river, causing silt in the water to settle on the riverbed. This not only decreases the concentration of nutrients in the water, but damages existing ecosystems. Stagnant water in the reservoir could also boost pollution levels and water-borne diseases; already major issues for the population in the area. While constructing the dam, the Chinese government moved an estimated 1.3 million people from their ancestral homeland along the river valley. As the reservoir continues to weaken the riverbank, erosion is expected to displace another 100, 000 people. Decreased level of silt downriver of the dam may lead to poorer agricultural yields , with important nutrients settling to the bottom of the reservoir. Perhaps the most frightening possible consequences of the reservoir is an increase in earthquakes. Geologists fear that the weight of the reservoir may actually cause seismic activity over the two major fault lines that the dam rests on.
In addition, vulnerability of China’s already endangered species is increasing, as huge amounts of water are moved around the watershed. Many fragile ecosystems have been destroyed when water levels have changed dramatically. Wetlands, home to many unique species, are especially susceptible to changes in the river – populations of species such as the Baiji dolphin, Chinese sturgeon, and the Siberian crane are endangered because of the Three Gorges dam project.
The Three Gorges Dam shows with brutal clarity, that China traded short-term gains for long-term social and ecological problems. The energy gained by this project is not clean, and it will have long-lasting effects on a waterway that runs through over half of the country. The environmental effects of this dam will be long-term, and in most cases, irreversible.
Now that the Three Gorges Dam is in full use, these environmental problems will have to be solved rather than prevented. The world’s largest ‘clean energy’ project has already caused and will continue to cause permanent geological and ecological damage.
February 8th, 2013 by David Swanson
When CIA nominee John Brennan faced the Senate Select Committee on So-Called Intelligence on Thursday, countless critical and cutting questions had been prepared by bloggers and journalists. None of them were asked.
Brennan might have been asked why he’d lied about the killing of bin Laden or about the murder by drone program. He had claimed that every target was known, even though he was fully aware that people were being targeted without identifying them (using so-called signature strikes). He had claimed that there were zero collateral deaths, even though independent reports have produced hundreds of names, identities, and photographs, and even though the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan told a delegation of peace activists that there was a U.S. government count of civilian deaths and he wouldn’t reveal what it was.
Brennan might have been asked how in the world it can be legal, according to a “white paper” leaked on Monday, for a “high official” to order the murder of a human being, American or non-American, without judicial or legislative or public or international oversight – or even with such oversight. He might have been asked if he is one such high official. He might have been asked whether there was a memo to justify the murder of the three Americans thus far known to have been intentionally murdered, since none of them seem to fit the qualifications laid out in the “white paper.” He might have been asked what the procedure would be if two “high officials” disagreed on the desirability of murdering a particular American. He might have been asked what authority would certify that a targeted victim could not be captured rather than killed. He might have been confronted with the rise in hostility toward the U.S. government being generated. He might have been asked about the United Nations investigation of the murder by drone program as criminal.
We Virginians were represented in the hearing room by Senator Mark Warner. He claimed what he called the “honor” of introducing the nominee, and expressed his pride that Brennan lives in Virginia along with much of the “intelligence community.” Warner hyped his effort to create a U.S. Intelligence Professionals Day (which presumably we’ll celebrate silently in our minds), praised Brennan in the vaguest of terms by reading through his resume, declared him ready to be confirmed pre-questioning, and outrageously asserted that Brennan backed “greater transparency” and “adherence to the rule of law.” A major news story in the preceding 24 hours had been the White House’s refusal to tell the public or even the legislature exactly what it was pretending that the law was.
The most informative and valuable portion of the hearing was produced by Toby Blome, Ann Wright, David Barrows, JoAnn Lingle, Alli McCracken, Eve Tetaz, Joan Nicholson, and Jonathan Tucker, who took turns interrupting the proceedings to ask what needed to be asked. The message that some Americans do not favor murdering children abroad was thus communicated to the world. Many others were prepared to add their voices in that room, but Chairwoman Feinstein kicked everyone out except for a handful of Good Americans, and the hearing proceeded with a mostly empty room. The “Intelligence” Committee is of course used to holding hearings in an entirely empty room with the door locked.
Senator Warner’s chance to ask questions, despite having already declared his support, would come later in the hearing. By that point, Warner had to work with not only Brennan’s pathetic written answers to a series of weak questions presented to him prior to the hearing, but all of his answers to other Senators during the hearing up to that point. Remarkably, during the hearing, on more than one occasion, Brennan claimed to have believed (despite voluminous public evidence) that torture was an effective tool. He did not claim to have believed that as a child, or to have believed it 10 years ago. He claimed to have believed it up until last week when he took the time to read part of the Senate committee’s report, as he had been shamed and pressured into doing. He said he was shocked to learn that torture was not an effective tool. Also during the hearing, before Warner’s turn came, Brennan repeatedly refused to call waterboarding torture and claimed that only a lawyer could make that judgment. Note that he was asking to direct an agency involved in torturing people, identifying himself as a non-lawyer, and declaring that only a lawyer could determine what torture was. Brennan also, by the time Warner’s turn came around, had refused to list the nations in which the United States is murdering people. He had also repeatedly confessed to having had “inside control” of the underwear bomber.
When Warner’s 8 minutes began, one might think he would have had something important to ask about. Couldn’t you have thought of SOMETHING if it was you? Even without prior experience on the committee (or law school) might you not have thought of something, ANYTHING, significant to ask about? Wouldn’t you have asked specific detailed questions about past performance, about torture, rendition, warrantless spying, lying, or killing people? Aren’t any of those topics worth touching on?
Warner framed his first question as a rambling, time-swallowing speech. His question was: how can we be sure the CIA director is well informed? The general vague answer he got to this line of questioning matched the generality and vagueness of the question. If Mark Warner is afraid a CIA director might be uninformed, why not ask Brennan if he knows significant facts? Why not ask him how many people have been killed and where? Why not ask him how many are on the list to be killed? Why not ask him what the criteria are for getting on the list? Why not ask how young the youngest person on the kill list is? Why not express any concern that an “informed high official” might be killing people with the same level of “intelligence” that put so many people into Guantanamo who have since been exonerated of any guilt?
Instead Mark Warner turned to vague questions about the federal budget. Brennan’s response included hyping the extensive “intelligence” efforts within the “defense” department. Wow, what an opening! The Pentagon is not supposed to be doing the “intelligence” work. Everyone knows how disastrously the Pentagon violated that rule in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. Surely Warner would jump at this bait.
Warner instead moved on to asking Brennan, as many of his colleagues had already, how exactly Brennan would conduct himself in answering questions from the committee if, after he was confirmed, they were to actually ask him any questions.
By the time Warner might have had a second turn to question the witness, Warner was nowhere to be seen.
He will however be seen at the University of Virginia on Monday and if you sign up you can attend. Maybe YOU can think of something to ask HIM. If you need ideas for what to ask and how, or just want to attend as a group, you should get together with a concerned citizen who’s planning to attend by emailing [email protected]
February 8th, 2013 by James F. Tracy
February 8th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman
On February 6, Obama chose Jewell as new Interior Secretary. More on her below.
She’ll replace Ken Salazar. He supported BP’s Deepwater Horizon operation. He ignored environmental risks. He approved BP’s exploration plan with no environmental analysis.
His negligence permitted Gulf of Mexico disaster. After BP’s rig exploded, he granted “categorical exemptions” to expand offshore drilling. He surpassed Bush administration policies.
He and Obama share culpability. They back dangerous nuclear expansion. They’re beholden to oil and gas interests. Drill, drill, drill is official policy. Lip service alone is paid to environmental concerns.
Salazar’s environmental record was deplorable. As junior Colorado senator, he opposed fuel efficiency. He supported unrestricted oil and gas drilling on federal lands.
He voted against Gulf of Mexico drilling protections. He fought them as Interior Secretary.
Center for Biological Diversity’s Kieran Suckling accused him of being “very closely tied to ranching and mining and very traditional old time, Western, extraction industries.”
He proved it throughout his tenure. Expect no change from Jewell. Suckling remains “guarded.” She’ll withhold judgment for later.
“America’s public lands and endangered species are in dire need of visionary leadership,” she said.
She hopes Jewell will reverse Salazar’s damage. It’s hard imagining how.
Her “challenge is whether she will value our wildlands and wildlife in the face of endless pressure by industry to drill for fossil fuels in areas within Interior’s jurisdiction.”
“Nature needs a true champion at this point in history.” Obama has other priorities. Jewell was chosen to serve them. Expect no positive changes on her watch.
Suckling’s colleague, Bill Snape, said he’s “not joining the (Jewell) love fest.”
“Our public lands are not a publicly-traded commodity on Wall Street.”
Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit called on Obama to set aside one acre for conservation permanently for each one devoted to oil and gas development.
“So far under Obama,” he said, “industry has been winning the race as it obtains more and more land for oil and gas.”
“Over the past four years, the industry has leased more than 6 million acres, compared with only 2.6 million acres permanently protected. In the Obama era, land conservation” got short shrift.
Speaking in the White House State Dining Room, Obama announced Jewell’s appointment.
She’s Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) president and CEO. It sells outdoor gear and sporting goods. It does so through dozens of US retail outlets. Its sales approach $2 billion annually.
“Sally spent the majority of her career outside of Washington,” said Obama. She’s “an expert on the energy and climate issues that are going to shape our future.”
Obama thanked Ken Salazar. He “cracked down on waste,” he said. He claimed he improved Interior’s management. He “ushered in a new era of conservation for our land, our water and our wildlife.”
He spent four years wrecking them. He gave industry free reign. Expect no change from Jewell. She was chosen to serve industry interests. She won’t disappoint.
She’ll be low key and soft spoken. She’ll conceal official policy. Whatever Big Oil wants it gets. Jewell’s their Washington representative.
She’ll oversea oil and gas production. She’ll give industry free reign. She’ll back Keystone XL Pipeline System construction. Word is Obama supports it. He hasn’t officially said so.
It’s a controversial 1,661-mile Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, TX pipeline. It’ll carry toxic tar sands oil from Western Canada to refineries on America’s Gulf coast. It’ll pass through environmentally sensitive areas in six states.
They include waterways and the Ogallala Aquifer. It’s one of the world’s largest. In America, it supplies about 30% of the nation’s irrigation ground water. It’s also used for human consumption.
Friends of the Earth says Keystone XL “will carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil.”
Its route “could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources, and would jeopardize public health.”
It’ll double America’s dirty tar sands oil supply. Doing so will increase environmental toxicity exponentially.
No matter the stakes, Big Oil wants it. So do Republicans, many Democrats and Obama. Expect Jewell to support it. It’s part of her mandate at Interior. She won’t disappoint.
She was chosen not to. Her background shows why. It includes banking and Mobil Oil employment.
From 1978 – 1981, she performed oil field engineering services. From 1981 – 1992, she was a Ranier Bank/Security Pacific executive.
From 1992 – 1995, she was WestOne Bank president. From 1996 – 2000, she was Washington Mutual (WaMu) commercial banking group president. Before collapsing, it was the nation’s largest mortgage lender.
It was one of the biggest option-ARM mortgage issuers. They let borrowers make unreasonably low payments. Doing so increases indebtedness exponentially. It compromises the ability to repay.
WaMu was rife with fraud. Senate investigators discovered gross deception. Loan officers got bonuses for speedy subprime mortgage closures, overcharging, and levying stiff prepayment penalties.
Senior bank executives knew all about fraudulent practices. Nothing was done internally to stop them. Bottom line priorities came first.
High-risk subprime loans were prioritized. They were securitized as toxic junk. They were sold to unwary buyers. Doing so was the bank’s undoing. It profited hugely until its house of cards collapsed. Accountability never followed.
Environmentalists and conservationists express caution about Jewell. They have good reason to do so. She wasn’t chosen to be a friend of the earth. Responsible stewardship’s excluded from her mandate.
Western Energy Alliance president Tim Wigley said he hopes Jewell’s background translates into expanded oil and gas drilling on federal lands.
“We hope to see a better balance of productive development on non-park, non-wilderness public lands that enhances the wealth of America and creates jobs while protecting the environment” on her watch, he said.
Left unsaid is you can’t have one with the other. Drill, drill, drill runs counter to good stewardship.
Bush administration Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, praised Jewell. He knew her from earlier consultations. “She was always someone I wanted there because she’s a catalyst,” he said.
In other words, she supported Big Oil administration policies. She’s well suited for Interior, added Kempthorne.
She’s “effective and time-tested on taking on a variety of issues, deciphering them, and determining what is the most important and making a decision.”
Big Oil’s in good hands with Jewell. Friends of the earth have good reasons for concern.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
February 8th, 2013 by Joseph Kishore
For more than a year, several major US media outlets—including theWashington Post and the New York Times —deliberately concealed the existence of a US drone base in Saudi Arabia. The base was used to carry out many of the CIA’s extra-judicial assassinations, including the killing of at least two US citizens.
The decision not to report on the location of the base was made at the direct request of the Obama administration, underscoring once again the role of the media as an auxiliary arm of the state.
The drone base’s location was finally reported in an article published this week in the Times, shortly before a Senate hearing for John Brennan, who has been nominated by Obama to head the CIA. Brennan reportedly played a key role in establishing the base in Saudi Arabia, and has been central in the drawing up of the administration’s “kill list” of individuals to be assassinated.
The revelation came a day after NBC News released a leaked Justice Department white paper giving the administration’s legal rationale for assassinating US citizens, including Anwar Al-Awlaki in September 2011, one of those killed using drones from the Saudi base. Al-Awlaki’s 16-year old son, also a US citizen, was assassinated in a separate attack. (See, “The police state implications of Obama’s assassination program”)
Attempting to justify the decision not to report on the location of the drone base, Times managing editor Dean Baquet told the newspaper’s public editor, Margaret Sullivan, that, until the nomination of Brennan, the location of the drone base was a mere “footnote” to stories about the assassination program.
This false rationalization—that the location of the base was not particularly important or newsworthy—is contradicted by further statements from Baquet. Sullivan writes, “The government’s rationale for asking that the location be withheld was this: Revealing it might jeopardize the existence of the base and harm counterterrorism efforts. ‘The Saudis might shut it down because the citizenry would be very upset,’ [Baquet] said.”
Baquet added, “We have to balance that concern with reporting the news.”
Baquet and the Times are so deeply integrated into the state apparatus that they do not realize how devastating this statement is. The interests of the state—in engaging and covering up criminal actions abroad—have to be “balanced” with the ostensible task of the Times, to report the news. The newspaper accepts, moreover, the entire rationale of the “war on terror.”
Sullivan adds, “Mr. Baquet said he had a conversation with a C.I.A. official about a month ago and, at that time, agreed to continue withholding the location, as it had done for many months.”
According to Sullivan, as this week’s Times article was being prepared, the CIA and government were informed that the newspaper was planning on revealing the location and that “officials should contact Mr. Baquet if they wanted to discuss it further.” This time, there was no objection from the Obama administration.
In other words, the Times and its reporters are in regular discussion with the CIA over what is and is not “fit to print.”
By Baquet’s own admission, the Times decided not to expose the location of the base because it could cause problems for US ally Saudi Arabia, a despotic monarchy that is a lynchpin to the broader strategy of American imperialism in the Middle East. The monarchy plays a key role not only in the drone assassination program, but also the war in Syria and efforts to suppress popular uprisings throughout the region against pro-US governments.
There is widespread opposition within Saudi Arabia to the presence of the US military. After the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, bases were formally removed, though there remained a large military-intelligence presence in the country.
The Times was also covering for Brennan, currently the director of the National Counterterrorism Center under Obama. Brennan was a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia and evidently had close connections to the Saudi monarchy, helping to negotiate the establishment of the base. A base in Saudi Arabia is particularly important due to its proximity to Yemen, where al-Awlaki was killed; Iran, where US spy drones are known to operate; and North Africa.
The American media in general, and the New York Times in particular, has a long and sordid record of collusion with the government in promoting war and covering up for crimes, at home and abroad. Particularly since the attacks of September 11, the media has integrated itself more thoroughly into the state apparatus, going far beyond the “embedded” reporters that travel with the US military.
One particularly egregious example was the decision by the New York Timesto withhold publication of National Security Agency’s illegal domestic spying program at the request of the Bush administration for over a year. The period in which the newspaper sat on the information without informing the American people included the 2004 US elections. (See, “A damning admission: New York Times concealed NSA spying until after 2004 elections”)
When the newspaper published a report on the destruction of the CIA videotapes of torture in 2007, it acknowledged that this came only after discussions with the government and evidently another lengthy delay. (See, “New York Times bows to White House pressure over CIA tapes story”)
There can be no doubt that there are many more crimes carried out by the government that are known to the editors of the Times and other major American media, but remain concealed from the American people.
February 8th, 2013 by Stop NATO
Kosovo is planning to convert its lightly-armed Kosovo Security Force into a full-fledged army.
Established in 2009, the force consists of 2,500 active and 800 reserve members and is primarily responsible for crisis response.
Over the past few years, it has been intensively trained by KFOR, which reports to NATO. Based on the Kosovo Security Force’s success, the alliance will decide on the future of the Kosovo army.
“NATO nations are considering the right time for the KSF final endorsement,” KFOR spokesman Alexander Willing said. “The North Atlantic Council, NATO’s highest decision-making body, will make a political decision based on the assessment of NATO’s military authorities,” he added.
The council is expected to decide on the force’s status at its June meeting.
Voice of Russia, SETimes.com
February 8th, 2013 by Margaret Flowers
February 8th, 2013 by William Blum
Over the past four decades, of all the reasons people over a certain age have given for their becoming radicalized against US foreign policy, the Vietnam War has easily been the one most often cited. And I myself am the best example of this that you could find. I sometimes think that if the war lovers who run the United States had known of this in advance they might have had serious second thoughts about starting that great historical folly and war crime.
At other times, however, I have the thought that our dear war lovers have had 40 years to take this lesson to heart, and during this time what did they do? They did Salvador and Nicaragua, and Angola and Grenada. They did Panama and Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan and Iraq. And in 2012 American President Barack Obama saw fit to declare that the Vietnam War was “one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history”. 1
So, have they learned nothing? When it comes to following international law, is the United States like a failed state? The Somalia of international law? Well, if they were perfectly frank, the war lovers would insist that the purpose of all these interventions, and many others like them, was to keep the atheists out of power – the non-believers in America’s god-given right to rule the world – or to at least make life as difficult as possible for them. And thus the interventions were successful; nothing to apologize for; even the Vietnam War achieved its purpose of preventing that country from becoming a good development option for Asia, a socialist alternative to the capitalist model; precisely the same reason for Washington’s endless hostility toward Cuba in Latin America; and Cuba has indeed inspired numerous atheists and their alternatives for a better world.
If they were even more honest, the war lovers might quote George Kennan, the legendary State Department strategist, who wrote prophetically during the Cold War: “Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” 2
But after all these years, after decades of American militarism – though not a day passes without some government official or media acolyte expressing his admiration and gratitude for “our brave boys” – cracks in the American edifice can be seen. Some of the war lovers, and their TV groupies would have us believe that they have actually learned something. One of the first was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in February 2011: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”
And here’s former Secretary of State George Shultz speaking before the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations last month (January 29): “Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be the template for how we go about” dealing with threats of terrorism.
A few days earlier the very establishment and conservative Economist magazine declared: “The best-intentioned foreign intervention is bound to bog its armies down in endless wars fighting invisible enemies to help ungrateful locals.”
However, none of these people are in power. And does history offer any example of a highly militaristic power – without extreme coercion – seeing the error of its ways? One of my readers, who prefers to remain anonymous, wrote to me recently:
It is my opinion that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age at the end of WWII. Something similar is the only cure for the same pathology that now is embedded into the very social fabric of the USA. The USA is a full-blown pathological society now. There is no other cure. No amount of articles on the Internet pointing out the hypocrisies or war crimes will do it.
So, while the United States is busy building bases and anti-missile sites in Europe, Asia and Africa, deploying space-based and other hi-tech weapons systems, trying to surround Russia, China, Iran and any other atheist that threatens American world hegemony, and firing drone missiles all over the Middle East I’m busy playing games on the Internet. What can I say? In theory at least, there is another force besides the terrible bombing mentioned above that can stop the American empire, and that is the American people. I’ll continue trying to educate them. Too bad I won’t live long enough to see the glorious transformation.
Afghanistan: Manufacturing the American Legacy
“A decade ago, playing music could get you maimed in Afghanistan. Today, a youth ensemble is traveling to the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. And it even includes girls.”
Thus reads the sub-heading of a Washington Post story of February 3 about an orchestra of 48 Afghan young people who attended music school in a country where the Taliban have tried to silence both women and music. “The Afghan Youth Orchestra is more than a development project,” the article informs us. For “the school’s many international donors, it serves as a powerful symbol of successful reconstruction in Afghanistan. And by performing in Washington and New York, the seats of U.S. political and financial power, the orchestra hopes to showcase what a decade of investment has achieved.”
“The U.S. State Department, the World Bank, the Carnegie Corporation and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education have invested heavily in the tour. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul awarded nearly $350,000 footing most of the estimated $500,000 cost. For international donors, the tour symbolizes progress in a country crippled by war.”
The State Department’s director of communications and public diplomacy for Afghanistan and Pakistan declares: “We wanted Americans to understand the difference their tax dollars have made in building a better future for young people, which translates into reduced threats from extremists in the region.”
“There’s a lot of weariness in the U.S. and cynicism about Afghanistan,” said William Harvey, an American violinist who teaches at the school, where 35 of 141 students are girls. “What are we doing there? What can be achieved? These concerts answer those questions in the strongest way possible: Cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community has made it safe for young girls and boys to learn music.”
There can be no question that for the sad country of Afghanistan all this is welcome news. There can also be little doubt that a beleaguered and defensive US foreign policy establishment will seek to squeeze out as much favorable publicity as possible from these events. On the issue of the severe oppression of women and girls in Afghanistan, defenders of the US occupation of that desperate land would have you believe that the United States is the last great hope of those poor females. However, you will not be reminded that in the 1980s the United States played an indispensable role in the overthrow of a secular and relatively progressive Afghan government, one which endeavored to grant women much more freedom than they’ll ever have under the current Karzai-US government, more probably than ever again. Here are some excerpts from a 1986 US Army manual on Afghanistan discussing the policies of this government concerning women:
“provisions of complete freedom of choice of marriage partner, and fixation of the minimum age at marriage at 16 for women and 18 for men”
“abolished forced marriages”
“bring [women] out of seclusion, and initiate social programs”
“extensive literacy programs, especially for women”
“putting girls and boys in the same classroom”;
“concerned with changing gender roles and giving women a more active role in politics”. 3
The US-led overthrow of this government paved the way for the coming to power of Islamic fundamentalist forces, which led directly to the awful Taliban. And why did the United States in its infinite wisdom choose to do such a thing? Because the Afghan government was allied with the Soviet Union and Washington wanted to draw the Russians into a hopeless military quagmire – “We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War”, said Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser. 4
The women of Afghanistan will never know how the campaign to raise them to the status of full human beings would have turned out, but this, some might argue, is but a small price to pay for a marvelous Cold War victory.
People on the left never tire of calling for the closing of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The fact that President Obama made the closing a promise of his 2008 campaign and repeated it again in the White House, while the prison still remains in operation, is seen as a serious betrayal. But each time I read about this I’m struck by the same thought: The horror of Guantánamo is not its being open, not its mere existence. Its horror lies in its being the site of more than 10 years of terrible abuse of human beings. If the prison is closed and all its inmates are moved to another prison, and the abuses continue, what would have been accomplished? How would the cause of human rights be benefitted? I think that activists should focus on the abuses, regardless of the location.
The War on Terror – They’re really getting serious about it now
For disseminating classified materials that exposed war crimes, Julian Assange is now honored as an official terrorist as only America can honor. We Shall Never Forget 9/11, Vol. II: The True Faces of Evil – Terror, a graphic coloring novel for children, which comes with several pages of perforated, detachable “terrorist trading cards”. Published by Really Big Coloring Books Inc. in St. Louis, the cards include Assange, Timothy McVeigh, Jared Lee Loughner, Ted Kaczynski, Maj. Nidal Hasan, Bill Ayers, and others. 5
Superpower – the film
Starring Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Michel Chossudovksy, Karen Kwiatowski (Pentagon “defector”), William Blum, Sergei Khrushchev (son of Nikita), Kathy Kelly, and many others: https://vimeo.com/55141496 (enter password when prompted: barbarasteegmuller) – 2 hours long.
New Book and talk
The eagerly awaited (I can name at least three people) new book by William Blum is here at last. “America’s Deadliest Export – Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else” is made up of essays which are a combination of new and old; combined, updated, expanded; many first appeared in one form or another in the Anti-Empire Report, or on my website, at various times during the past ten years or so.
As mentioned in the book, activists like myself are sometimes scoffed at for saying the same old things to the same old people; just spinning our wheels, we’re told, “preaching to the choir” or “preaching to the converted”. But long experience as speaker, writer and activist in the area of foreign policy tells me it just ain’t so. From the questions and comments I regularly get from my audiences, via email and in person, I can plainly see that there are numerous significant information gaps and misconceptions in the choir’s thinking, often leaving them unable to see through the newest government lie or propaganda trick; they’re unknowing or forgetful of what happened in the past that illuminates the present; or knowing the facts but unable to apply them at the appropriate moment; vulnerable to being led astray by the next person who offers a specious argument that opposes what they currently believe, or think they believe; and, perhaps worst of all, many of them suffer pathetically from an over-abundance of conspiracy thinking, often carrying a justified suspicion or idea to a ridiculous level; virtually nothing is taken at face value.
The choir needs to be frequently reminded and enlightened to be better able to influence others, to be better activists.
To order a signed copy directly from me you can go to my website: http://killinghope.org.
I’ll be speaking about the new book at Politics and Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, in Washington, DC, Saturday, March 2 at 1 pm.
May 28, 2012, speaking at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington ↩
George Kennan, Wikipedia entry ↩
US Department of the Army, Afghanistan, A Country Study (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 223, 232 (Library of Congress Call Number DS351.5 .A34 1986) ↩
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wikipedia entry ↩
View the press release; see the cards ↩
February 8th, 2013 by Global Research News
by Ralph Lopez
Connecticut State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky has argued that unsealing warrants in the Sandy Hook case might “seriously jeopardize” the investigation by disclosing information known only to other “potential suspects.”
Sedensky said that unsealing the warrants would also:
“”identify persons cooperating with the investigation, thus possibly jeopardizing their personal safety and well-being.” “
The statement by the CT prosecutor’s office is the first indication from state authorities that Adam Lanza may have not acted alone. The statement was made in support of a motion to continue the seal on the results of five search warrants for 90 more days.
CT State Police Public Affairs Officer Lt. Paul Vance said in an official press release on December 16th that:
“The male subject identified as the shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School has been identified as ADAM LANZA DOB: 04/22/92; he resided at 36 Yogananda Street. His cause of death was gunshot wound and his death is ruled a suicide.”
However, neither Vance nor the CT Attorney General’s office have ever ruled out the possible presence of other suspects. The New Haven Register reports Vance as having said: “Whenever you conduct an investigation you don’t speculate as to where it’s going to take you, as I said, we’re going to look at every single thing, every piece of material and we’ll take it from there.”
The CT State Attorney General’s Office is handling the investigation of the mass shooting, in which 20 children and 8 adults died last December 14th.
The motion to extend the seal on the records for 90 days was granted by Superior Court Judge John Blawie, who wrote in his decision that:
“”The court finds that due to the nature and circumstances of this case and the ongoing investigation, the state’s interest in continuing nondisclosure substantially outweighs any right to public disclosure at this time,”"
The warrants were for searches, on different dates, of the Lanza home, and of Adam Lanza’s mother’s two cars. One of the cars, a 2010 black Honda Civic, was the vehicle which Lanza allegedly drove to the crime scene. The other, a 2009 silver BMW, was parked in the garage attached to the Lanza home. The court motion seals the affidavits stating what was found upon execution of the warrants for another 90 days, until late March.
Little else is known about what the authorities may be referring to in support of the motion to seal the affidavits for another 90 days beyond the normal statutory allowance of 14 days. Lt. Vance did say in a press conference on December 15, 2012, somewhat apologetically for not being able to answer all of the reporters’ questions, that there were “some cards that we’re holding close to our vest.”
State’s Attorney Sedensky wrote in the motion that:
““No arrests have been made and none are currently anticipated, but have not been ruled out.”” Sedensky said:
“”There is information in the search warrant affidavits that is not known to the general public”"
An image of the key passages in the court motion is below. The entire document has been uploaded at Scribd by the New Haven Register, the venerable New England newspaper associated with the home of Yale University.
February 8th, 2013 by Michael Welch
Global Research News Hour Episode 14
“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more … Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11th world.”
-Secretary of State Colin Powell before the UN Security Council on Iraq’s WMD threat
February 5, 2003
Weapons of Mass Delusion
It was a presentation designed to garner international support for a military intervention into Iraq. Colin Powell, retired Four Star General and US Secretary of State spoke in front of a UN Security Council Plenary session to detail the evidence of Saddam Hussein refusing to comply with UN Security Council Resolution 1441. The resolution, passed unanimously the previous November, called for Iraq to fully cooperate with weapons inspectors and disarm or face “serious consequences.”
Powell’s dossier included the testimonies of anonymous defectors, satellite images, schematics of mobile labs for biological weapons agents, intercepted phone conversations and a prop vial supposedly containing Anthrax powder.
The UN, in the end, was not sufficiently persuaded by Powell’s presentation to authorize the use of force to oust the Iraqi strong man by force, but his performance was convincing enough to garner popular support within the United States for the war. The US under then President George W Bush and the United Kingdom under then Prime Minister Tony Blair led a so-called “coalition of the willing” to “free the Iraqi people” from a brutal dictator.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom” has proven to be disastrous to the reputations of the former American and British Heads of State. Much more significantly, it has devastated the civilian population of Iraq with a death toll conservatively estimated to be in the tens of thousands.
On the tenth anniversary of Powell’s infamous speech, we examine the evidence of the Iraq War as a war crime with distinguished University of Illinois Professor of International Law Francis Boyle.
Abandoning the Battlefield
“I will never apologize for deserting the American army. I deserted an injustice and leaving was the right thing to do. I owe one apology and one apology only, and that is to the people of Iraq.”
-Joshua Key, from his 2007 book The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq
Like far too many Americans, Joshua Key from Guthrie, Oklahoma joined the US Army in 2002, principally to be able to make enough of an income to support his young wife and children.
At first, Joshua accepted at face value the Bush Administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein was threatening America with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Having served in Iraq during the first nine months of the war, Key’s perspective on the war changed and out of conscience, he deserted as soon as he returned to the US.
He eventually made his way to Canada, and like dozens of other deserters, sought sanctuary there.
The Canadian government did not officially support the war in Iraq, nevertheless, the current Conservative government of Stephen Harper has a jaded view of these soldiers who they see as “bogus refugee claimants.” Several have already been returned to the United States to face lengthy prison sentences and dishonorable discharge.
Key co-wrote with Lawrence Hill his memoir The Deserter’s Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq.
Key joins us in the last half hour to discuss his journey and the obstacles faced by US War resisters and deserters in Canada.
TO consult the GLOBAL RESEARCH Interactive Reader on the Iraq War, click here.
LISTEN TO THE SHOW
The Global Research News Hour hosted by Michael Welch airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.
February 8th, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky
On the 9th of September 2001, the Global Research website at www.globalresearch.ca was born, two days before the tragic events of September 11.
We started up in late August with a handmade web design in FrontPage. A student in philosophy gave me a hand in drafting the home page and putting the project online.
On the morning of September 8, I took a two hour “crash course” on the use of file transfer FTP software from a young software specialist, who taught me how to upload articles to the website.
Among our first articles was a coverage of the events surrounding 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan on October 7.
From these modest beginnings, with virtually no resources, the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) has evolved into a dynamic research and independent media group.
We revamped the website in 2005. A separate French language website, www.mondialisation.ca was established
We subsequently launched Spanish, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Italian and Serbian pages.
In 2005, we started a book publishing program and in 2008, the CRG moved from makeshift premises to a small office located in the historical quarter of Le Vieux Montreal (Old Montreal).
In 2010, we launched The Global Research TV (GRTV) website, which features selected videos as well as commentary, analysis and news coverage.
Since September 2001, we have established an extensive archive of news articles, in-depth reports and analysis on issues which are barely covered by the mainstream media.
In an era of media disinformation, our focus has essentially been to center on the “unspoken truth”.
And on September 1st of 2012, we revamped the website, integrating a data bank of more than 32,000 articles and 7000 authors.
These endeavors of more than last eleven years –including the development of a new web design– would not have been possible without the ongoing support of our readers.
Thanks to your contributions, we have also been able maintain complete independence. We do not accept support from corporate foundations, which are actively seeking to control and manipulate the alternative media.
We have tried to the best our abilities to provide honest news coverage and analysis of an evolving global crisis.
We have published articles from diverse perspectives to ensure that you get the true big picture of what’s happening in the world.
We are indebted to our authors, editors and correspondents who have volunteered their time and energy to this endeavor. We also thank are web design team and our webmaster who have worked relentlessly in developing and launching the new website.
On behalf of the Global Research team, we extend our sincere thanks for your continued support and encouragement.
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February 7th, 2013 by Shamus Cooke
The Great Recession has quietly devastated public services on a state-by-state basis, with Republican and Democratic governors taking turns leading the charge. Public education has been decimated, as well as health care, welfare, and the wages and benefits of public sector workers. The public sector itself is being smashed. Since the recession began, states have made combined austerity cuts of at least $337 billion, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities
The 2012-2013 budget deficits for 34 states resulted in $55 billion in cuts, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities. The coming budgets for 2013-2014 that begins on July 1st is becoming clear as well, and the deficits are rolling in by the billions: Connecticut, Minnesota, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Washington, and many others have large deficits projected.
You’d expect after years of austerity cuts to public services, state politicians would think of new ways to raise revenue from those who can afford it — the wealthy and corporations. Not so. The cuts that began as a consequence of the 2008 recession are set to continue; raising revenue from the wealthy is “off the table” for Republicans and Democrats alike.
The pattern of budget cuts has revealed that the age-old distinction between Republican and Democrat has evaporated on the state level. The state budget trends — what’s getting funded and what’s not — are similarly aligned across the country. Both parties have merged their state-level agendas into a singular focus on “economic growth,” a bi-partisan euphemism meaning “corporate profits.”
Below is the bi-partisan funding trends for the states that began with the 2008 recession and continue to this day:
1) The Attack on Public Employees and Pension “Reform”
It wasn’t long ago that everyone understood that the states’ budget crises was caused in part by the recession, itself caused by the big banks and greedy corporations, and in part by the politicians continuing willingness to lower taxes on the rich. Now the corporate media and politicians have re-written history: suddenly it’s “greedy” public workers and their “lavish” pensions that are bankrupting the states. Two years ago it was the health care of public employees that was bankrupting the states, which resulted in large cuts to workers in many states.
The pre-recession pension system was working fine, but it, too, suffered under the bank-caused financial crisis; pension returns sank and right-wing economists projected ruin for the states in the future (they conveniently assumed that recession era rates would continue forever, thus under-funding the system).
Democratic governors are now as eager as their Republican counterparts to destroy the pensions of public employees. Democratic politicians in Oregon, Washington, California, New Jersey, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts, and several other states are leading the charge to erode the last bastion of retirement security for working people, while continuing to lay off public employees by the thousands. This national shrinkage of state governments is a long-standing right-wing dream: the smaller the state, the greater the “growth opportunities” for corporations that take over privatized public services and the lower their taxes since a smaller state requires less revenue for operating expenses.
2) Education Reform
The National Governors Association (NGA) spoke for both political parties when announcing a renewed focus on education funding for the states during the annual “state of the states” address. The funding is necessary because schools across the country are expecting an influx of students, while school districts everywhere have been starved funds by the ongoing austerity cuts; the system has been literally crumbling. But the new funding is to be used for the undermining and destruction of public education, since it is based on Obama’s pro-corporate Race to the Top education “reform” where charter schools replace public schools.
Democrats and Republicans are in complete agreement over Obama’s education policy, which closes “failing schools,” (those in poor neighborhoods), opens privately run, non-union charter schools, and fires “bad teachers,” (typically those who teach poor students). The whole system is based on standardized testing, which poorer students will spend most of their education preparing for, (those who don’t drop out from sheer boredom). Bi-partisan education reform targets teacher unions while privatizing education — the Democrats have adopted the ideas from the right-wing think tanks of the 1990′s.
3) Raising Revenue – But Not From the Wealthy or Corporations
Many states have implemented — or are planning to implement — a variety of taxes that disproportionally affect working and poor people, including increased sales taxes, alcohol, tobacco and other “sin” taxes, not to mention increases in different fees, from state parks to driver registration.
At the same time that these taxes have been upped, a consistent clamor has been raised by the media and politicians to lower the taxes for corporations, give them new subsidies or “freeze” their already-low taxes so that future tax increases will be impossible. In Oregon the Democratic governor declared a “special session” emergency in order to ensure that NIKE’s super low tax status would be frozen in place for decades, outside the reach of the public, which might want to raise corporate taxes to fund public services.
Democrat and Republican controlled states are equally competing for the adoration of corporations by lavishing a never-ending flow of taxpayer money on them, while “guaranteeing” them “investment security,” i.e., promising low taxes and an open spigot of taxpayer money. This is the basis for several states implementing “right to work” laws that target unions for destruction, while also attempting to “revamp the tax code,” which is a euphemism for lowering corporate taxes.
4) Welfare Reform: Attacking the Safety Net
Waging war against the safety net is like picking a fight with road kill — the states’ safety net is already disfigured beyond recognition, but the bi-partisan assault nevertheless continues. Bill Clinton started welfare “reform” as president, and the 2008 Great Recession accelerated the attack on those in poverty. The year 2011 was a devastating one for welfare, now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
In 2011, states implemented some of the harshest cuts in recent history for many of the nation’s most vulnerable families with children who are receiving assistance through [TANF] … The cuts affect 700,000 low-income families that include 1.3 million children; these families represent over one-third of all low-income families receiving TANF nationwide.
But these TANF “reforms” continue, to the detriment of the neediest. Newly released budgets in several states — including California and Oregon — further tighten the program, a relentless boa-like constriction that’s already suffocated millions of the country’s poorest citizens. Typically TANF reform either lowers the monthly payment, shortens the time one can receive benefits, or raises the standards for staying in the program.
Before the giant TANF cuts in 2011, the program was already shrunken such that TANF only assisted 28 families for every 100 in poverty — the ludicrous definition of “poverty” being a family of four that makes only $22,000 or less.
There is a direct link between the assault on TANF and the rising poverty levels in the United States. Cutting TANF in a time of mass unemployment means consciously consigning millions of families to grinding poverty, hunger, homelessness, and the many other barbarisms associated with extreme poverty.
It wasn’t long ago that the Democrats understood that the government can and should create jobs, especially during a recession. But now the Democratic Party has fully adopted the economics of Reaganism. As a result, the only “job creators” now recognized are the corporations. This bi-partisan agreement not to tax the rich and use the revenue for public spending to create jobs — hiring more teachers, firefighters, roads and parks workers, etc. — is unnecessarily prolonging the job crisis, ensuring more years of deficits and a deeper gouging of the public sector.
These cuts are having a devastating effect on public sector unions, the last bastion of union strength in the country. These unions are being weakened to such an extent that stripping them of their right to collectively bargain — the nail in the coffin — becomes a real possibility. No state is safe from this threat.
If unions don’t unite with community groups to demand that public services be fully funded by taxing the wealthy and corporations, the cuts will continue, communities will feel helpless, inequality will continue to spiral out of control, and working people will be further subjected to the policies of the 1%, now implemented in chorus by Republicans and Democrats alike. But, of course, this means that the unions will have to break with the suicidal strategy of relying on the Democrats for handouts. Time and again the Democrats have demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice the needs of working people in order to curry favor with the rich and corporations, their greatest benefactors when it comes to election campaign contributions.
February 7th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
- the PATRIOT Act, illegal spying on Americans in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,
- the initiation of wars of aggression–war crimes under the Nuremberg Standard–based on intentional lies,
- the Justice Department’s concocted legal memos justifying the executive branch’s violation of domestic and international laws against
- torture, the indefinite detention of US citizens in violation of the constitutionally protected rights of habeas corpus and due process,
- the use of secret evidence and secret “expert witnesses” who cannot be cross-examined against defendants in trials,
- the creation of military tribunals in order to evade federal courts, secret legal memos giving the president authority to launch preemptive cyber attacks on any country without providing evidence that the country constitutes a threat, and the Obama regime’s murder of US citizens without evidence or due process.
February 7th, 2013 by Allison Frankel
The Obama Administration recently underwent its first U.N. treaty body review, and the resulting concluding observations made public yesterday should be a cause for alarm. The observations, issued by independent U.N. experts tasked with monitoring compliance with the international treaty on the rights of children in armed conflict (formally known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict or “OPAC”), paint a dark picture of the treatment of juveniles by the U.S. military in Afghanistan: one where hundreds of children have been killed in attacks and air strikes by U.S. military forces, and those responsible for the killings have not been held to account even as the number of children killed doubled from 2010 to 2011; where children under 18 languish in detention facilities without access to legal or full humanitarian assistance, or adequate resources to aid in their recovery and reintegration as required under international law. Some children were abused in U.S. detention facilities, and others are faced with the prospect of torture and ill-treatment if they are transferred to Afghan custody.
By ratifying OPAC in 2002, the U.S. committed to guaranteeing basic protections to children in armed conflict zones, and to submit periodic reports on the implementation of its treaty obligations to the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child. We wroteabout the latest U.S. report, released in November, which revealed that over 200 children have been held in U.S. custody in Afghanistan since 2008, some for lengthy periods of time. During its review of the U.S. on January 16, the Committee posed critical questions about the treatment of children by the U.S. military and issued recommendations to remedy these human rights violations.
These recommendations include taking “concrete and firm precautionary measures [to] prevent indiscriminate use of force” particularly against children, and ensuring all allegations of unlawful use of force are “investigated in a transparent, timely and independent manner” and that “children and families victims of attacks and air strikes do always receive redress and compensation.” In regard to the detention of juveniles, the Committee urged the U.S. to ensure that all children under 18 are detained separately from adults and guaranteed access to free and independent legal assistance as well as an independent complaints mechanism. Importantly, considering the previous U.S. response to the Committee revealed that the average age of children detained by U.S. forces is only 16 years old and the average length of stay for juveniles in U.S. military custody has been approximately one year, the Committee recommended children be detained only “as measures of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time and that in all cases alternatives to detention are given priority.”
The Committee also stressed that allegations of torture and other forms of mistreatment must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, and that no child should be transferred to Afghan custody if “there are substantial grounds for the danger of being subject to torture and ill treatment.” The Committee specifically mentioned the case of Omar Kadr, a former child soldier who was detained by U.S. forces at the age of 15 and was subjected to torture and a systematic program of harsh and highly coercive interrogations at the American prisons at Guantánamo Bay and Bagram.
The U.S. government’s human rights obligations do not end with the release of a periodic report or the completion of a treaty body review. In order to give meaning to the words of the children’s rights treaty, the U.S. must work diligently to implement the Committee’s recommendations and ensure that our military forces, intelligence agents, and other government officials treat children in the war zones of Afghanistan and elsewhere in accordance with international law.
February 7th, 2013 by Leonidas Oikonomakis
Greek police may vainly try to Photoshop away the torture of four alleged bank robbers, but they cannot gloss over the radicalization of Greek youth.
The story is as follows.
On February 1st 2013, an attempted robbery of two banks takes place in a small village of the Western Macedonia region, called Velvento. The bounty was around 180.000 euros and the police managed to arrest the robbers after a short chase. The news would have passed unnoticed, if the heavily armed robbers were not very young middle and upper-middle class boys, whom the police associates with the armed urban-guerilla group ‘Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire’.
Twenty four hours later, the police make public the photos of the bank-robbers, and the whole country is appalled by what it sees: the faces of four badly beaten20-25 year olds, which have also been — badly — photoshopped in a vain attempt to hide the cuts and bruises, and the hands (?) that are holding the youngsters’ heads in order for them to be photographed.
The police rush through an announcement to justify themselves, claiming that only the minimum amount of violence necessary was used due to resistance during the arrest, while the Minister of Public Order Mr Dendias (the man whothreatened to sue The Guardian for having published a report on the torture of 15 anti-fascist activists by the Greek police, the same man who launched a waragainst Greece’s squats) said that the pictures were photoshopped in order for the faces of the arrested to be more recognisable (!), claiming that no torture had taken place.
The youngsters themselves — through their families and lawyers — claim that they did not resist their arrest and that they were badly beaten up/tortured while in detention; while there is evidence (videos and pictures from the moment of the arrest) that proves that they were not beaten during the arrest, but whatever happened, it did so afterwards. Some alternative Greek media, together with some international ones, as well as Amnesty International, strongly questioned the official explanations, while the latter also commented that “the Greek authorities cannot just photoshop their problems away”.
Under heavy public criticism, the Minister had to promise that a torture investigation would take place and the results are still expected. The bank robbers are now in detention, yet they describe their actions as political, and consider themselves anarchist ‘prisoners of war’, shouting during their transfer to the Prosecutor’s office “zito i anarhia koufales!” — “long live anarchy assholes!”. What is also worth noticing is that one of the four arrested anarchists is the friend ofAlexandros Grigoropoulos — the 15-year-old boy who was assassinated by police in Exarchia in 2008 — and happened to be by his side on that very moment, which surely played a big role in shaping his view of state power and police brutality.
The story is indicative of the radicalization of a young generation of Greeks, and of Greek society as a whole, under the structural conditions imposed by austerity. But it is also indicative of the way the state has chosen to deal with the voices of opposition in the country, be they legal or illegal: with repression, human rights abuses, and public humiliation.
Let’s not forget that a few months ago, the same government, the same Minister of Public Order, and the same police force, tortured — as it was proven — 15 antifascist activists for having organized an AntiFa moto-parade. And it is the same state officials who launched an attack against the country’s squats, for no obvious reason other than silencing any oppositional voices around.
It is by now obvious that the Greek state, in order to defend the extremely unpopular and unsuccessful austerity measures it has been imposing for a couple of years now, has chosen the road of repression. It is not something new: we have seen such practices in the past too — in Chile, in Argentina, and elsewhere. The difference is that in those cases we were talking about military dictatorships, while in the Greek case we are talking about a democratically-elected government, which is even more scary and unacceptable. At the same time, it is also obvious that this strategy of the state is resulting in the further radicalization of the Greek youth.
February 7th, 2013 by Andre Damon
In the network of corrupt and incestuous relations between government financial regulatory agencies and the banks they nominally police, a growing role is played by private, for-profit “consulting” firms that serve as middlemen in the government cover-up of corporate crime.
The New York Times in a front-page article last week called attention to this lesser-known mechanism used by the government to protect Wall Street from being held to account for the fraudulent and illegal practices in which it engages on a daily basis.
The Times wrote: “Federal authorities are scrutinizing private consultants hired to clean up financial misdeeds like money laundering and foreclosure abuses, taking aim at an industry that is paid billions of dollars by the same banks it is expected to police.”
The firms in question operate in essentially the same way as the credit rating agencies that facilitated the subprime meltdown. Just as Standard & Poor’s Rating Services and Moody’s Investors Service are paid by the banks whose securities they rate, the consulting firms tasked with investigating banks are chosen and paid by the very institutions they are investigating. This arrangement is based on a howling conflict of interest. Consulting firms that want to keep old clients and add new ones, and increase their profits, are obviously under pressure to cover up the misdeeds of their banking paymasters.
Moreover, the same revolving door by which individuals move seamlessly between Wall Street and the regulatory agencies exists between the consulting firms and the banks and regulatory bodies.
Last month’s $8.5 billion foreclosure fraud settlement with major US lenders lifted the lid on bank regulators’ increasing use of these “independent investigators.” Tasked with finding the extent of fraud and illegality in the processing of home foreclosures, these companies helped the banks cover up their fraudulent activities and ensure that the extent of their wrongdoing was not brought to light.
The settlement between ten major mortgage lenders and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a branch of the Treasury Department, related to widespread fraud committed by the banks in their rush to foreclose on as many homes as possible in 2009 and 2010. To expedite the foreclosure process, the banks had employees or contractors sign off on thousands of mortgage documents every month, swearing that they had intimate knowledge of their contents when, in reality, they had not even read them.
This resulted in the improper expulsion of an unknown number of families—probably in the hundreds of thousands—from their homes.
In April of 2011, the OCC, the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ordered individual reviews of foreclosures carried out between 2009 and 2010 by fourteen mortgage lenders, including Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.
The investigation was intended to individually review all cases in which homeowners claimed that they were improperly foreclosed on, so that each victimized household could receive a cash payout. The findings of such an investigation would have undoubtedly shown that foreclosure fraud was far more prevalent than had been previously known, and laid the basis for further lawsuits against the lenders.
Instead of reviewing the foreclosures themselves, regulators had the banks hire so-called independent investigators, who, while receiving $2 billion in fees from the lenders, dragged their feet in reviewing the foreclosure cases.
Last month, government regulators closed down the review on the grounds that it was too time-consuming and too expensive for the banks and came up with a sweetheart settlement that cost the banks a relative pittance.
Instead of payouts to individuals who were harmed by the banks’ wrongdoing, the lenders agreed to split a $3.3 billion cash payout among 4.2 million foreclosed homeowners, without “determination of harm.” As a result, homeowners will receive a check of under $1,000 even if they were illegally thrown out of their homes.
The government, like the banks, had a vested interest in shutting down the investigation, as the results of any genuine inquiry would have exposed negligence and collusion on the part of the regulators as well as gross violations of law by the banks that would have made it more difficult for the Obama administration to avoid criminal prosecutions.
When setting up the “Independent Foreclosure Review” in April 2011, regulators claimed that they had to rely on independent contractors such as Promontory Financial and PricewaterhouseCoopers because regulators themselves had neither the money nor the manpower the review the claims.
“The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency employs just 3,800 people, only about 2,000 of whom are bank examiners,” said Bryan Hubbard, director for public affairs operations at the OCC in a telephone interview Monday. “It would simply not have been practical to hire the staff necessary for the review.”
He added that “independent consultants are used often by many regulators, not just the OCC, in support of enforcement actions. It was not unusual.” He added that the decision to end the review “will provide more money to more borrowers than maintaining the original course.”
The argument that closing down the investigation resulted in greater compensation for victimized borrowers is absurd.
The growing scandal over the role of “independent consultants” in the foreclosure abuse settlement prompted Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Elijah Cummings to send a letter to the US Federal Reserve and office of the Comptroller of the Currency last week, asking them to publish documents related to the role of the consultants hired by the banks to review foreclosures.
The role of such “independent investigators” in covering up the banks’ crimes goes beyond the foreclosure settlement. Since the 2008 financial meltdown, it has become increasingly common for financial regulators to rely on such companies in regulatory actions. The New York Times reported that the OCC required the hiring of such consultants in more than 130 regulatory actions since 2008.
The Times also reported that such “independent investigators” played a key role in the HSBC money laundering scandal, helping cover up the extent of the British-based bank’s money laundering operation for Mexican drug cartels. The newspaper reported that HSBC was cited for its loose money laundering protections in 2003 and turned to the consulting firm Deloitte & Touche to review its compliance with regulations.
In 2010, the bank was again investigated in connection to its money laundering activities, ultimately leading to a $1.9 billion settlement with regulators late last year. To help determine the fine to be levied, HSBC was ordered to hire an independent consultant to assess the extent of its legal transgressions.
The bank hired its reliable ally of previous years, Deloitte & Touche, which, according to the Times, “generously bundled hundreds of missed transfers into a single report,” which “may have helped save the bank from some government fines.”
“Independent investigators” like Deloitte and Promontory are staffed largely by former regulators, who, having gained experience in government, have turned to using their knowledge to help banks skirt regulations, for sizable fees. Promontory Financial, which examined loans for Bank of America and Wells Fargo, is a case in point. The company was founded in 2000 by Eugene Ludwig two years after he left his position as Comptroller of the Currency.
Last month, Promontory announced that Julie Williams, the former chief council at the OCC, would join the group to become the firm’s director of advisory practice. “I thought I could do more good helping firms understand and comply with government expectations—which are not always just what’s in rules and regulations—at Promontory,” she said upon taking the job.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, which carried out the foreclosure fraud investigation for Citigroup, brags to potential clients that its “teams consist of experienced regulatory risk specialists, including ex-regulators, who not only know the rules, but have also implemented and assessed compliance against them.”
February 7th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman
Since taking office, Obama headed America toward full-blown tyranny. He enforces Bush administration police state laws. He added more of his own. He governs like a tinpot despot.
He targets free expression, dissent, whistleblowing, and other constitutional freedoms. He usurped diktat authority.
He spurns civil protections, judicial fairness, and other fundamental rights. Abuse of power is institutionalized.
By executive order, he authorized anyone indefinitely detained with or without charge on his say. He promised to close Guantanamo but keeps it open. He operates a secret global torture prison network.
In January, Law Professor Jonathan Turley called America “no longer the land of the free,” saying:
“An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them.”
“If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.”
Post-9/11, constitutional rights no longer apply. Diktat power replaced them. Bush took full advantage. So does Obama.
He governs extrajudicially. He claims the right to order anyone incarcerated indefinitely or killed on his say. US citizens are included. No reasonable proof is needed. No one anywhere is safe.
He ordered outspoken Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki killed. He was a US citizen. He threatened no one. He lived in Yemen. He opposed US imperial lawlessness. He committed no crime. He’s dead for supporting right over wrong.
Others like him are vulnerable. No one’s safe anywhere. There’s no place to hide. Rule of law protections don’t apply. Murder, Inc. was elevate to a higher level. It’s official policy. Summary judgment targets state enemies.
Obama decides who lives or dies. He appointed himself judge, jury and executioner. He’s got final kill list authority. Police states operate that way. America by far is the worst. It menaces humanity
Democracy is a figure of speech. American never was beautiful and isn’t now. Diktat power is policy.
On February 5, The New York Times headlined “Memo Cites Legal Basis for Killing US Citizens in Al Qaeda,” saying:
Administration lawyers turned jurisprudence on its head. They call it lawful to kill US citizens if “an informed high-level (government) official” says they belong to Al Qaeda and pose “an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.”
A Justice Department “white paper” inverted inviolable legal principles. It’s titled “Lawfulness of a Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen who is a Senior Operational Leader of Al Qa’ida or An Associated Force.”
It’s unsigned and undated. It’s “the most detailed analysis yet to come into public view.” It calls lawless killing without trial or evidence legal.
Thresholds of evidence and just cause aren’t discussed. Vague language substitutes. “Imminent” threats are highlighted. So is ill-defined “terrorism.”
Extrajudicial executive authority is usurped. Courts have no say. Nor does Congress.
Twisted logic claims judicially enforcing “orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force.”
Last March, Attorney General Eric Holder made the case. He claimed America’s lawful right to operate extrajudicially. He said Washington can kill US citizens affiliated with Al Qaeda if capture isn’t possible.
“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide, it may not always be feasible to capture a United States citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack,” he said.
“In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.”
“Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces.”
“This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”
In other words, the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, other inviolable international laws, constitutional rights, and US statute laws don’t apply.
With no evidence or justification whatever, Holder said “a small number of US citizens” plot attacks on America. Citizenship grants no immunity, he claims. They’re fair game. They can be targeted and killed extrajudicially.
Pentagon general counsel, Jeh Johnson, made the same case. He claims “(b)elligerents who also happen to be US citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives.”
“The legal point is important because, in fact, over the last 10 years Al Qaeda has not only become more decentralized, it has also, for the most part, migrated away from Afghanistan to other places where it can find safe haven.”
“Within the executive branch the views and opinions of the lawyers on the president’s national security team are debated and heavily scrutinized, and a legal review of the application of lethal force is the weightiest judgment a lawyer can make.”
“And, when these judgments start to become easy, it is time for me to return to private law practice.”
ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi addressed the white paper. She calls it a “profoundly disturbing document.”
“It’s hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances.”
“It summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority – the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement.”
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer called the document “chilling.” It manipulates legal standards. It turns them on their head. Doing so justifies the unjustifiable.
ACLU said extrajudicial killings occur “with virtually no oversight outside the executive branch, and essential details about the program remain secret, including what criteria are used to put people on CIA and military kill lists or how much evidence is required.”
America kills illegally. Rule of law principles are spurned. Transparency and openness are gone. Accountability no longer applies. Diktat authority usurped it. Doing so is unconstitutional.
On February 5, the Center for Constitutional Rightsresponded to Washington’s white paper.
CCR’s senior attorney, Pardiss Kebriaei said:
“This white paper’s claim of executive power is disturbing enough on its own, but it doesn’t describe the vast majority of targeted killings being carried out by the U.S. government, which now number in the thousands.”
“The government claims the authority to target a US citizen who is a ‘senior operational leader of Al Qa’ida or an associated force,’ but it doesn’t provide an analysis that would explain, for example, the killing of our client’s grandson, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al Aulaqi, nor does it describe the so-called signature strike killings of people whose identities are unknown but who fit some undisclosed profile.”
“One of the most dangerous aspects of the white paper is the claim that ‘there exists no appropriate judicial forum to evaluate these constitutional considerations’ either before or after a killing.”
CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren added:
“The parallels to the Bush administration torture memos are chilling. Those were unchecked legal justifications drawn up to justify torture; these are unchecked justifications drawn up to justify extrajudicial killing.”
“President Obama released the Bush torture memos to be transparent; he must release his own legal memos and not just a Cliffs Notes version for public consumption, particularly when scores of civilian lives are at stake.”
“Despite this attempt to appear transparent, the program remains opaque. This will rightly raise many questions for John Brennan.”
He was deeply involved in Bush administration rogue policies. He a key architect of Obama’s targeted killing program.
CCR filed suit (Al Aulaqi v. Panetta). It demands accountability “in a court of law.”
On February 5, a New York Times editorial headlined “To Kill an American,” saying:
Obama “utterly rejects the idea that Congress or the courts have any right to review (extrajudicial killings) in advance, or even after the fact.”
Twisted logic defines administration policy. It exceeds the worst of George Bush. It includes a menu of lawless practices.
Congress hasn’t officially seen the white paper. White House officials won’t acknowledge administration authority to kill Awlaki. They provided no evidence justifying it.
“According to the white paper,” said The Times, “Constitution and the Congressional authorization for the use of force after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave” Obama unchecked powers.
Definitions aren’t forthcoming. Vagueness substitutes for specifics. Due process and judicial fairness don’t apply. Geopolitical priorities alone matter.
The Times quoted Center for National Security Studies director Kate Martin calling the white paper “a confusing blend of self-defense and law of war concepts and doesn’t clearly explain whether there is a different standard for killing a senior Al Qaeda leader depending on whether he is a citizen.”
“Its due process is especially weak.”
Congress needs to act. At stake are fundamental issues. They include balance of power and rule of law principles. They no longer apply. They need to be reasserted.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected].
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
February 7th, 2013 by Patrick Henningsen
How much money does it cost to get populations to think a certain way? Answer: it requires a blank cheque. But can Americans really afford it?g and
Chief among the pitfalls of managing any global empire – persuading the natives overseas that Rome will in fact bring prosperity and open new markets for them, and bring advanced Roman culture. In those days, it can be argued that indeed, Roman civilization had something to offer back then. But it’s unclear today what exactly the Anglo-American Empire has to offer the world at large, aside from taking control of regional markets and resources – and of course, exporting their number one product in the 21st century – war.
In previous years, the Pentagon was tasked with defending the nation from real and potential state actors overseas, but under the new Obama collective, the military arm will continue to focus on ‘managing reality’ – by any means necessary, including (in their own words):
“…persuasive and coercive means to assist and support joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational partners to protect and reassure populations and isolate and defeat enemies.”
The tradecraft here is otherwise known as ‘propaganda’, or federally-funded mass-brainwashing to be more precise.
Americans might bother asking in the run-up to the next Obama budget… “Does represent it value for money?”
In a country which is actually bankrupt on paper, Americans can only guess how much this futile operation will ultimately cost them, and ultimately add to the US government’s already bloated budget deficit. Cracks are already beginning to appear in the Federal machine at home this week, with a draft memo being circulated by the White House:
“Based on guidance to federal agencies from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), says the administration may “have to consider placing employees on temporary furlough, or taking other personnel actions, should sequestration occur.”
‘Austerity at home’ we are told, but there seems to be plenty of money available for experimental military propaganda psychological operations overseas, and also at home too.
According to the masterminds at the Pentagon the PR managers at the Washington Post:
“As part of planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld decided to place reporters with military units. With “embedding,”many reporters who had never been in the military service shared time with troops and essentially became part of the outfit they covered. It mostly worked to the Pentagon’s benefit.
That lesson is key to the new manual’s approach. The best way to keep Americans informed, it says, is “through the actions and words of individual soldiers.” And the best way to do that is through army units that “embed media personnel into the lowest tactical levels, ensuring their safety and security.” There is to be “a culture of engagement in which soldiers and leaders confidently and comfortably engage the media – as well as other audiences,” the manual says.
Embedded reporting was probably the single most negative developments in modern press history. The main target of this opaque effort was not populations overseas, however, it was the American people themselves. What’s more incredible though, is that there are still many who believe that the illegal war and occupation of Iraq was some sort of resounding success. Of course, all this while Bradley Manning sits rotting a military prison cell for allegedly leaking information which the world already knew.
Likewise, Nazi propaganda chief Goebbels probably thought he was doing really well with his state information arm – for a while at least, until it collapsed under the weight of its own self-regarding nature.
Herein lies the ultimate problem with constructing such an iron bubble, who we are told, manages to burn through trillions of US dollars, and cannot even properly account for it….
The U.S. Army has embraced what civilians would call public relations as a key part of military operations for the 21st-century battlefield.
“Combat power is the total means of destructive, constructive and information capabilities that a military unit or formation can apply at a given time,” according to a new Army field manual released publicly last month.
Added to the traditional war elements — among them movement and maneuver, intelligence and firing against an enemy — is the new “Inform
and Influence Activities” (IIA). As the manual states, IIA “is critical to understanding, visualizing, describing, directing, assessing, and leading operations toward attaining the desired end state.”
I’ve written before about the military moving into PR. But this manual shows just how serious the Army has become about it. There’s now a member of a commander’s staff with a G-7 pay level whose job is for “planning, integration and synchronization of designated information-related capabilities,” the manual says.
Listed on the Web site of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea is its assistant chief of staff, G-7, who is “responsible for planning, coordinating and synchronizing Information Engagements activities of Public Affairs, Military Information Support Operations, Combat Camera and Defense Support to Public Diplomacy to amplify the strong Korean-American alliance during armistice, combat and stability operations.”
The G-7 for the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., “assesses how effectively the information themes and messages are reflected in operations . . . assesses the effectiveness of the media . . . [and] assesses how the information themes and messages impact various audiences of interest and populations in and outside the AO [area of operations].”
Two years ago, Lt. Gen. Robert L. Cashen Jr., commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, wrote in Military Review magazine that Army doctrine would adopt words as a major war element, saying it “was validated in the crucible of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
With bureaucratic-speak, he described IIA activities as employing “cooperative, persuasive and coercive means to assist and support joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational partners to protect and reassure populations and isolate and defeat enemies.”
Translated: Under the “inform” element, commanders will be responsible for keeping not only their own troops aware of what is going on and why, but also U.S. audiences “to the fullest extent possible,” the manual states. Commanders abroad will be required to inform their foreign audiences, balancing disclosure with protecting operations.
The “influence” part is limited to foreign populations, where, according to the manual, the goal is to get them to “support U.S. objectives or to persuade those audiences to stop supporting the adversary or enemy”…
February 7th, 2013 by Colin Todhunter
What is happening in India right now encapsulates the current battle that is taking place across the globe, which will decide the future direction of humanity.
This country of 1.2 billion people is where modernity meets tradition head on. We are not just talking about ‘modernity’ in some kind of benign technocratic sense here, stripped of all political or ideological context; we are discussing a specific form, a variety that has little to do with progress or with making life easier for the bulk of the people, not unless that is you equate ‘modernity’ with increasing powerlessness, subjugation and the destruction of local traditions or economies.
The trouble is that ‘globalisation’ is too often confused with a beneficial notion of modernity and genuine mutual interdependence and cooperation between nation states, which in reality it clearly is not. Based on this deliberate misrepresentation by politicians and the mainstream media, we are encouraged to regard globalisation as a positive thing and to embrace it. Globalisation has come to India and is impacting all aspects of life. So let’s take a look at it in action.
Globalisation in India
Today, individualism, inequality and capitalism are increasingly being accepted as ultimate truths and as comprising a reality of how many view the world and evaluate others around them. Social and cultural traditions dating back thousands of years are being uprooted thanks to a redefining of the individual in relation to the collective, how people should live and what they should aspire to be like, ably assisted of course by an all pervasive advertising industry that reaches out even into the small towns and villages these days. Consumerism’s world view is being fed to people and corporate news organisations are following suit with sensationalist, celebrity-related infotainment formats that dovetail with celebrity-endorsed products and commercials as well as high profile events (like the corporate ad fest known as the Indian Premier League). The result is that this world view (and the social relations endorsed by it) is becoming regarded as ‘natural’ and is not viewed for the controlling culture it is: a hegemonic one that binds people to products and ultimately to capitalism and one that is immune to its own falsehoods.
Transnational companies are in effect trying to cast India in consumer capitalism’s own sordid image: a morally, socially and economically bankrupt one at that. Hand in hand with this is an ongoing civil war in the ‘tribal belt’ and other violent conflicts elsewhere in the country. Powerful foreign (and Indian) corporations with the full military backing of the Indian state are attempting to grab lands for various industries, including the resource extraction, nuclear and real estate sectors. It is for good reason that environmentalist Vandana Shiva argues that the plundering of Indian agriculture in order to cast it in the image of one that is beneficial for Western interests is resulting in a forced removal of farmers from the land and the destruction of traditional communities on a scale of which has not been witnessed anywhere before throughout history.
The ratio between the top and bottom ten per cents of wage distribution has doubled since the early 1990s, when India opened up it economy. According to the 2011 Organisation for Cooperation and Economic Development report ‘Divided we stand’, the doubling of income inequality over the last 20 years has madeIndiaone of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies. 42 per cent of 1.2 billion live on less than $1.25 per day, the highest number of poor in the world.
But these are the types of things that happen when US corporations and their stooges in the US government or at the IMF, World Bank, WTO or some other political machinery come beating at a government’s door with promises, bribes, threats or lop-sided deals. If you have read John Perkins’s book ‘Confessions of an economic hitman’, you will immediately get the point here. Moreover, the impulse for Western capitalism to seek out foreign markets has been heightened due the current plight of Western economies.
And don’t forget that it was these same corporate swindlers that helped destroy the post-1945 Keynesian consensus and tip the balance in favour of elite interests in the first place during the early 1970s, which eventually led to the depression of wages and therefore demand and thus economic crisis. The debt-inflated economies that resulted from the 1980s onwards could not be sustained, and places like India now seemingly represent rich pickings for a certain brand of slash and burn capitalism.
Call it ‘globalisation’ if you must, but let’s call it for what it really is: imperialism. In an effort to maintain profit margins, elite concerns are going abroad to plunder public assets and exploit human labour or trample on human life.
The worst thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Modernity and progress should be about improving quality of life of the masses and a wider sense of well-being or happiness. And, according to various ‘well-being’ surveys in recent years (Happy Planet Index, World Values Survey and the Human Development Index), the key to achieving such things may well lie in good health, decent education, greater levels of social equality and welfare provision, self-sustaining communities and people living within the limits set by the environment. It’s for a reason that the US and UK tend not to do so well in such surveys, as they have been the most strident proponents of economic neo-liberalism and empire in recent years. Once political leaders abdicate responsibility for organising a society in a way that works for the public good and place emphasis on ‘deregulation’ and cede power to ‘the market’ (aka giving the corporate thieves the keys to their home), what we are left with are places like the US where capitalism and oligarchy reign supreme and ‘socialism’ becomes a misused and abused concept and identified not as a realistic alternative, but as some awful conspiracy that lies behind the rot.
As India hangs onto the coat tails of Uncle Sam’s agenda for global hegemony, are we to sit back and watch Indian society being hollowed out in a similar way to that of the US? Possibly so, if we are to take the food and agriculture sector as a starting point.
The globalisation of food and agriculture in India
The government has already placed part of agriculture in the hands of powerful western agribusiness. You don’t have to look far to read the many reports and research papers to know the effects – biopiracy, patenting and seed monopolies, pesticides and the use of toxins leading to superweeds and superbugs, the destruction of local rural economies, water run offs from depleted soil leading to climate change and severe water resource depletion and contamination.
It is no exaggeration to state that foreign corporations are already shovelling their poison into the mouths of Indians, which are being held open courtesy of the compliant Indian state. ‘Mouths’ and ‘poison’ are being used in a literal sense here. Traditional agricultural practices and, by implication food, is being destroyed by Western agribusiness. People are becoming sick of it. Again, ‘sick’ is being used in a literal sense. From how food is produced, to what ends up on the plate, both food sovereignty and the health of the nation are under threat. Export-oriented policies that are part of the structural adjustment of Indian agriculture have led to a shift in India from the production of food crops to commodities for exports. Food is being increasingly controlled by the likes of Monsanto, Syngenta and their subsidiaries, thanks to the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture which they had a direct hand in drawing up, and people are becoming ill due to the chemical inputs that are now a defining feature of modern agriculture and food processing.
One of the most revealing pieces about the impact of such chemical-based agriculture appeared in Bangalore’s Deccan Herald newspaper just last week (Transformation of a food bowl into a cancer epicentre). Gautam Dheer writes that the contamination of drinking water by pesticides is a major cause of cancer in India’s Punjabstate. At this point, although various other factors may also be to blame, it is worth noting that cancers are on the rise in many of India’s urban centres. For major organs, India has some of the highest incidence rates in the world. The links between pesticides and cancers and illnesses are well documented in Western countries (for instance, Dr Meryl Hammond, Campaign for Alternatives to Pesticides, told a Canadian parliament committee in 2009 that a raft of studies published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals point to strong associations between chemical pesticides and a vast range of serious life-threatening health consequences. And that’s not even mentioning the impact of hormones or other additives in our food).
India is one of the world’s largest users of pesticides. Ladyfinger, cabbage, tomato and cauliflower in particular may often contain dangerously high levels and fruits and vegetables are sprayed and tampered with to ripen and make them more colourful. Research by the School of Natural Sciences and Engineering at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore reported in 2008 that many crops for export had been rejected internationally due to high pesticide residues.
Should we expect the health outcomes in India to be any different as it adopts or has already adopted a system of chemically dependent agriculture and food production? The mainstream media often cites the increasing prevalence of certain diseases as due to people ‘adopting Western lifestyles and habits’. The individualization of health issues (poor lifestyle choices) is a convenient explanation which diverts attention from structural issues, not least how India’s food and agriculture sector is being recast by Western corporations and the possible health impacts thereof.
In his piece, Gautam Dheer argues that Punjab stares at an inevitable crisis. Agriculture has become increasingly unsustainable, and the model practised by desperate debt-ridden farmers has only meant more indiscriminate use of pesticides, something which is now being linked to the alarmingly high incidents of cancer in Punjab. Gautam writes that a study of two districts in Punjab revealed the presence of pesticides such as heptachlor and chloropyrifos and other heavy metals in samples of drinking water and concluded that these had led to a higher incidence of cancer. The Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Chandigarh states that the indiscriminate use of pesticides in crop production in Punjab is one of the reasons for high incidents of cancer in Punjab.
Moreover, Punjab’s ground water table has dramatically dipped due to over exploitation by chemical-dependent agriculture, which is by its very nature heavily water-intensive. In several places, the use of ground water has either been completely banned or restricted. Although Punjab pioneered the ‘Green Revolution’ (or perhaps because it did), the average annual growth of the GDP from agriculture and allied sectors in the last seven years for Punjab has remained at a mere 1.76 per cent, against the national average of 3.7 per cent. In fact, it plunged to below onr per cent in last fiscal year.
What’s the answer: more chemical inputs to try to boost yields? More water depletion, increased contamination?Punjab already has 90 cancer patients for every 100,000 of its population: ten times more than the national average. Giant community reverse-osmosis plants have come up in almost all districts of the state to help matters with safe drinking water
In Punjab, groundwater is continuously declining in 85 per cent of areas within the state. Nitrate presence in water has gone up by ten times in the past four decades. Of 138 hydrogeological blocks, over 100 are listed as dark or grey zones due to over-exploitation. Groundwater levels are going down by about 60 cm every year. As per official estimates, nearly 35,000 pumps have been going underground each year over the last four years.
Punjab has to find a quick solution for this form of agriculture that is not only unsustainable, but deathly too. Environmentalist Vandana Shiva argues that this type of intensive chemical-industrial agriculture, with its reliance on vast amounts of fresh water, fertilisers, pesticides and the like and is destroying biodiversity and is unsustainable in the long term. It might have increased production in the relative short term, but it has been at a terrible cost to health and the environment. The situation in Punjab could just be the tip of the iceberg.
For Shiva, the answer is to return to basics by encouraging biodiverse, organic, local crop systems, which she asserts is more than capable of feeding India’s huge population – and, unlike chemical intensive agriculture – feeding it healthily.
In the meantime, powerful politically-connected and often extremely unscrupulous Big Agra and Big Oil concerns involved in fertiliser, pesticide and seed manufacturing (and let’s not forget the genetically modified sector) have a lot invested in maintaining the current, highly profitable system. After all, the logic of global capitalism is to ensure profits for shareholders and thus grab increasing shares of markets wherever they may be and, as John Perkins notes, by all means necessary. An article in the journal Hortscience in 2009 by Donald R Davis (Declining fruit and vegetable composition: what is the evidence?) indicated falling nutritional values as a result of industrialised agriculture.
Should we be surprised? In a bankrupt system, nutritious, healthy, life-sustaining food or healthy environments are but secondary concerns.
February 7th, 2013 by Mickey Z
“Military men are just dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” Henry Kissinger
When the story broke about the Feb. 2 shooting death of former Navy SEAL and American Sniper author, Chris Kyle, we immediately learned that the 39-year-old wrote the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual, and he “served four tours in Iraq and was awarded two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars with Valor, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and one Navy and Marine Corps Commendation.”
We were also regaled with the “fact” that from 1999 to 2009, “Kyle recorded more than 150 sniper kills, the most in U.S. military history.”
“We have lost more than we can replace,” said Kyle’s American Sniper co-author, Scott McEwen. “Chris was a patriot, a great father, and a true supporter of this country and its ideals. This is a tragedy for all of us.”
Real tragedy for all of us: The reality that Kyle’s book was a New York Times best seller along with the widespread public celebration of 150 “kills” (surely a number conjured up for maximum propaganda impact) is business-as-usual in the home of the brave.
“A different breed of warrior”
The entire Chris Kyle episode brought me back to something I wrote nine years ago after reading a Jan. 2, 2004, New York Times article by Eric Schmitt, entitled “In Iraq’s Murky Battle, Snipers Offer U.S. a Precision Weapon.”
Consider Schmitt’s opening lines: “The intimate horror of the guerrilla war here in Iraq seems most vivid when seen through the sights of a sniper’s rifle. In an age of satellite-guided bombs dropped at featureless targets from 30,000 feet, Army snipers can see the expression on a man’s face when the bullet hits.”
Schmitt went on to quote an American sniper boasting: “I shot one guy in the head, and his head exploded. Usually, though, you just see a dust cloud pop up off their clothes, and see a little blood splatter come out the front.”
The newspaper of record also crowed about a sniper’s ability “to fell guerrilla gunmen and their leaders with a single shot from as far as half a mile away” all in the name of protecting “infantry patrols sweeping through urban streets and alleyways.”
“Soldiering is a violent business, and emotions in combat run high. But commanders say snipers are a different breed of warrior — quiet, unflappable marksmen who bring a dispassionate intensity to their deadly task,” Schmitt dutifully explained.
Let’s pause for a minute here to re-cap. The alleged liberal media ignored any mention of an illegal invasion and occupation while turning U.S. snipers into rifle-toting gods: “calm, methodical, and disciplined” men, we’re told, who undergo psychological screening “to make sure they’re not training a nut.”
“I’d shoot him, otherwise he’d shoot me”
Specialist Wilson told Schmitt that he tries not to see his Iraqi victims “as men with families and children” and a Sergeant Davis had this to say about the eight confirmed kills to his credit: “As soon as they picked up a weapon and tried to engage U.S. soldiers, they forfeited all their rights to life, is how I look at it.”
These men, I guess, are no more “nuts” than those who firebombed Dresden and Tokyo or those who piloted the Enola Gay or blew up Korean dams or napalmed Southeast Asia or used sand plows to cover Iraqi soldiers or fired depleted uranium shells in Yugoslavia or launch predator drones today.
The Times reassure us that “our” snipers are well-trained and have “honed the art of killing to a fine edge.” They always hit the right target, Schmitt promises us, soothingly.
“We don’t have civilian casualties,” a sniper explained when asked how he avoided hitting the Iraqi schoolchildren. “Everything you hit, you know exactly what it is. You know where every round is going.”
We can all sleep better tonight…
After fetishizing their weapons of choice and informing us that U.S. snipers often wrap condoms on the gun muzzle “to keep the sand out,” Schmitt offers some helpful context: “Most snipers are familiar with firearms even before joining the armed forces. Sergeant Davis and Specialist Wilson grew up on farms, and both owned their first rifles before they were 10. They fondly remember hunting deer as youngsters.”
You gotta love his use of the word fondly to soften the image of frightened animals being stalked and murdered by human children.
In the classic liberal media tradition of asking the tough questions, Schmitt concludes with this one: “Would they ever shoot a child who aimed at them?”
Specialist Wilson, a father of five, hesitated before replying. “I couldn’t imagine that,” he said. Davis saw things differently: “I’d shoot him, otherwise he’d shoot me.”
However, before you lose any sleep over any potential “nuts” running around spending our tax dollars exploding the heads of brown-skinned children, Davis did offer this caveat (which Schmitt’s editor tellingly chose as the article’s closing line): “But I wouldn’t feel good about it.”
This neatly transitions us back to the violent death of Chris Kyle who, since leaving the service, had been running an organization ostensibly designed to help ex-enlistees with post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).
Counter-recruitment is the best “support”
According to a 2008 RAND study, up to 20 percent of U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD.
Eddie Ray Routh, the 25-year-old accused killer, is “a former Marine said to suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.” He is a veteran, we’re told, “who served in Iraq and Haiti and who police say may have been suffering from some type of mental illness from being in the military.”
Apparently Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield had taken Routh to a shooting range “to aid his recovery.”
I’d suggest our (sic) troops don’t need day trips to the shooting range; they need more information about what “serving their country” really means.
Sniper worship, yellow ribbons, flag-waving, repressive laws, peer pressure, and loud chants of “USA” don’t qualify as support but do qualify as self-policed obedience orchestrated by a corporate-dominated state. Ultimately, however, it’s not an issue of “support” but rather, learning to resist the relentless conditioning.
We grow up watching war movies and playing with guns. We’re surrounded by war memorials and war monuments, and are taught to obey and fear those in uniform. We witness the demonizing of those who oppose war.
Our (sic) media is overrun with militaristic fervor. Our (sic) tax dollars finance war and pro-war propaganda. Our (sic) government passes laws designed to thwart dissent.
As I’ve said before: The U.S. Department of Defense (sic) is the most violent institution on the planet and that includes its status as the planet’s worst polluter. Paid volunteers are nothing more than willing accomplices to the continuing carnage.
If we want a culture without sniper scorecards and without manipulated soldiers sent home with PTSD (and worse), we must rediscover the subversive pleasure of critical thought… and help others to do the same.
We must create and cultivate alternative visions. We must get busy with counter-recruitment. Now.
NYC Event Note: Mickey Z. will be part of a Feb. 9 panel called: “Game Over For the Environment: Keystone XL, Spectra and Direct Action.”
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.
February 7th, 2013 by Ben Schreiner
With its air strikes against targets inside Syria last week, Israel announced its formal entry into the Syrian crisis. The Israeli targeting of Iran has thus entered the Syrian theater.
According to McClatchy, the Israeli strikes on January 30 targeted anti-aircraft missiles at a military base outside of Damascus. The missiles, according to Israeli intelligence sources, were headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Israel relies heavily on the strength of our air force, and its strategic deterrence,” an Israeli official explained to McClatchy. “Weapons systems that make our air force vulnerable will not be allowed to fall into the hands of terrorist groups.”
Accordingly, Washington reacted to the Israeli assault by sternly warning Damascus. “Syria,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes warned, “should not further destabilize the region by transferring weaponry to Hezbollah.”
Washington, in other words, views any effort to curb Israel’s freedom to fly sorties when and where it fancies as a threat to regional stability. Of course, “stability” in the Washington lexicon is used to connote unmatched Western military superiority. (Thus, NATO Patriot batteries deployed along the Turkey-Syria border are championed as a means to “deescalate tensions.”)
With such “stability” in mind, Time reports that Washington has given a “green light” to Israel to carry out yet further strikes. And blessed with such carte blanche, Israel is already planning an escalated level of intervention.
According to a report in the Times of London, “Israel is considering creating a buffer zone reaching up to 10 miles inside Syria.” And to this end, Israel has now reportedly dispatched its third Iron Dome anti-rocket battery to its northern border. As an Israeli military planner went on to tell the Times, “If the country [Syria] remains unstable we might have to stay there for years.”
Meanwhile, the right-wing Debkafile reports that “the Israeli Air Force has in recent days thrown a round-the-clock blanket over the [Syria-Lebanon] border area.”
“Without going through any formalities,” Debka continues, “Israel has thus effectively imposed a no-fly regime over a buffer zone straddling the Syrian-Lebanese border and placed it under the control of its air force.”
The Israeli strike inside Syria was thus clearly not an isolated affair, but a prelude to a deepening Israeli intervention long in the making.
Confronting Iran via the Third Option
In a February 2012 New York Times op-ed, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy argued that beyond punitive sanctions and military confrontation, the crisis in Syria created a third option “to rid the world of the Iranian menace.”
“Ensuring that Iran is evicted from its regional hub in Damascus would cut off Iran’s access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies,” Halevy argued. “This would be a safer and more rewarding option than the military one.”
“Once this is achieved,” Halevy continued, “the entire balance of forces in the region would undergo a sea change. Iranian-sponsored terrorism would be visibly contained; Hezbollah would lose its vital Syrian conduit to Iran and Lebanon could revert to long-forgotten normalcy; Hamas fighters in Gaza would have to contemplate a future without Iranian weaponry and training; and the Iranian people might once again rise up against the regime that has brought them such pain and suffering.”
Such notions of a “new Middle East” amenable to the interests of Tel Aviv and Washington have long held an allure for Western planners. In fact, nearly seven years have now passed since Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon was cheered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”
It’s little surprise, then, that the dream of forging a new Middle East through the destruction of Syria has come to be championed by the U.S. neo-con crowd. But the hope of using the crisis in Syria to boot Iran from the Arab world more generally is widely shared. Indeed, the marginally more sober have begun to warm to the idea of intervention into Syria as a means to purge the “Iranian menace.”
“An inflection point has been reached,” the New York Times’ Roger Cohen argues in his latest column. “Inaction spurs the progressive radicalization of Syria, the further disintegration of the state, the intensification of Assad’s mass killings, and the chances of the conflict spilling out of Syria in sectarian mayhem. It squanders an opportunity to weaken Iran. This is not in the West’s interest.”
“It is time to alter the Syrian balance of power enough to give political compromise a chance and Assad no option but departure,” Cohen continues. “That means an aggressive program to train and arm the Free Syrian Army. It also means [Senator John] McCain’s call to use U.S. cruise missiles to destroy Assad’s aircraft on the runway is daily more persuasive.”
But it really doesn’t take much persuasion to convince U.S. elites it’s time to fire off another cruise missile. After all, “rocket and bomb diplomacy” has become American foreign policy orthodoxy.
Stoking the Inferno or Seeking an End Game?
American dreams of cruise missile justice notwithstanding, Israel’s entry into Syria indeed appears as an inflection point. But why, we must ask, did Tel Aviv chose now to insert itself into the crisis?
As Nicola Nasser notes, the Israeli raid “coincided with hard to refute indications that the ‘regime change’ in Syria by force, both by foreign military intervention and by internal armed rebellion, has failed, driving the Syrian opposition in exile to opt unwillingly for “negotiations” with the ruling regime.”
In fact, it was the very day the exiled Syrian opposition first hinted at an openness to dialogue that Israeli jets were sent to strafe the outskirts of Damascus. But then again, stoking the Syrian inferno is widely held in Tel Aviv as favorable to Israeli interests.
As former Israeli Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin explained on Monday, “The most significant army along our borders, the Syrian army, which is an advanced army with a very large arsenal of long-range missiles and rockets and with Russian-made air defenses that are among the most advanced in the world, is wearing itself down. Its operational capability to act against Israel declines every week that goes by.”
“This is a positive development both from the military aspect, but also from the political aspect,” Yadlin continued. “The radical anti-Israel axis that goes through Tehran, Damascus, Beirut, and Gaza is falling apart.”
Alon Liel, the former director general of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, offered much the same analysis in a weekend appearance on Al Jazeera English.
“For Israel,” Liel argued, “the weakening of Syria as a result of this war is of strategic importance because Syria is quite an enemy of Israel. And the internal battle is also removing the issue of withdrawing from the Golan Heights from the agenda.”
Whether Israel’s formal intervention into Syria is thus meant to fan the flames, or whether it is instead intended to hasten an end game, remains uncertain. At the moment, though, it certainly appears Tel Aviv is quite content with letting Syria burn.
But whatever the case may be, Israel’s ultimate aim is quite clear. As Halevy argued, “if Mr. Assad goes, Iranian hegemony over Syria must go with him. Anything less would rob Mr. Assad’s departure of any significance.”
Yet as planners in Tel Aviv and Washington seek to impart such significance, a growing Iranian foothold in the Arab world continues outside the purview of imperial diktats.
A Resilient Menace
The arrival of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in Cairo on Tuesday – the first Iranian leader to touch down in Cairo since the Islamic revolution in 1979 – offers just the latest evidence of Tehran’s growing regional stature. Cause, of course, for great distress in Washington.
“While the Egypt’s relations with Iran remains limited,” the New York Times noted “the scene on the tarmac at the Cairo Airport on Tuesday — Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, greeting Mr. Ahmedinejad warmly in a red-carpet ceremony — would have been unimaginable under Mr. Mubarak, and seemed likely to alarm the Obama administration.”
Tuesday’s historic meeting in Cairo follows on the heels of Morsi’s visit to Tehran in August for the Sixteenth Summit of Non-Aligned Movement. At the time, Morsi was widely condemned in both Washington and Tel Aviv for, as Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote, taking such a “wrong turn.”
Morsi’s continued “wrong turn,” needless to say, bodes ill for those seeking to sever Tehran presence in Syria. For as Morsi declared Tuesday, “I believe that the Syrian problem could not be resolved without Iran and Iran’s efforts in this regard are prioritized.”
“We have no doubt that Iran is sincerely endeavoring to resolve the problems in Syria and other nations,” Morsi added, “Hence, we stress cooperation with Iran in this field.”
It appears expunging the “Iranian menace,” then, will require more than an Israeli triumph on a Syrian battlefield. For rather than being crippled, the menace appears ever more resilient. Hence the purported danger is said to remain acute.
Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently accused Iran of “an intensified campaign to destabilize the Middle East.” And as a result, the Journal report continued, “the U.S. is stepping up efforts to counter the Iranian threat.”
Such efforts will no doubt come to dominate the itinerary of President Obama’s spring visit to Israel. As the New York Times reports, “on the agenda this trip will be Iran and the continuing strife in Syria that threatens to descend into a wider regional conflict.”
The prime minister and president have much to discuss; for though a new Middle East may indeed be on offer, the imperial vise is loosening ever so slightly. “Stability” is clearly threatened.
Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin. He may be reached at [email protected] or via his website.
February 7th, 2013 by Margaret Kimberley
One of the ways in which humans wrestle with the existence of evil is by hoping that the evil doer gets his or her just desserts.
This hope is expressed with expressions such as “what goes around comes around” or “you reap what you sow.”
Despite all of this wishful thinking, it is rare for cosmic justice to be served as completely as it was in the case of the late Chris Kyle. Kyle was a Navy SEAL sniper in Iraq who served five tours of duty and by his own estimate killed 150 people. This week Kyle was himself shot to death and by another veteran no less.
Kyle should have lived in ignominy for taking so many lives, but instead he was decorated with medals and became a celebrity as a result of what should have been prosecuted crimes. Kyle wrote a best selling book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in American History. He had a starring role in a NBC reality show, Stars Earn Stripes, a disgraceful ode to militarism and empire. He and another veteran met their end in an ill-advised effort to treat a former marine suffering from PTSD. Kyle was good at killing but he wasn’t much of a mental health professional. He used a shooting range as a venue to treat other vets having difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Let’s just say it didn’t work out very well.
The United States government committed a terrible crime when it invaded Iraq nearly ten years ago. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed range from 150,000 to over 1 million. Like human beings throughout human history, Iraqis didn’t take kindly to being occupied and they fought back as best they could. The media may call them terrorists or insurgents, but Iraqis have as much right to defend themselves and their country as anyone else in the world and Kyle had no right to kill any of them.
Obviously he didn’t see it that way. He felt justified and quite moral in killing so many people and he did it in typical American fashion. In a Fox news interview, Kyle declared that Iraqis were not really human beings and thus had lost any right to stay alive.
“I considered the people I was killing to be savages because of the violence they committed against American troops, the beheadings, the rapes of innocent villagers. They lived by putting fear into other people’s hearts and civilized people don’t act that way. I wasn’t so much committed to killing them as I was committed to making sure that every service member over there, whether American or allied, came home – I was killing them to protect my fellow Americans. You have to get into the mentality and you can not think of them as human beings.”
Don’t think of them as human beings. That is the long standing clarion call of white supremacy, manifest destiny and imperial delusion. America has long accepted decidedly uncivilized behavior as being morally superior, even when it obviously isn’t.
American troops were guilty of raping their fellow soldiers and Iraqi prisoners and other civilians too. As for beheadings it should be pointed out that humans are decapitated by bombs and bullets. All of the allegations Kyle made against Iraqis can be laid at America’s door step too. Civilization is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
The people who plan the wars don’t suffer.
George W. Bush and Tony Blair went on to make millions of dollars giving corporate speeches and Blair even has the gall to present himself as a religious leader of sorts.
The Iraqi victims and the soldiers maimed or killed or suffering from PTSD pay the real price for the wrong doing planned from on high.
Kyle is survived by a wife and young children who are no doubt grieving, but the same is surely true of his 150 victims. They left family behind. Children are fatherless or motherless or homeless because of the “civilized” United States. It is tragic for all of these people to have suffered so much but until they can be seen as civilized human beings, there will be no end to American slaughter.
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
February 6th, 2013 by Kieran Kelly
For John Kerry the incoming Secretary of State, the bombing of Cambodia by the US was illegal. But, even as Kerry reaffirms his condemnation of US actions in Cambodia, it comes to light that in June his colleagues in the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees were issued a white paper from the Department of Justice which claimed US intervention in Cambodia as being a legal precedent for the administrations use of targeted killings using drone strikes. In fact, “legal precedent” might be too strong a term, because what is actually cited is an address given by legal counsel to the State Department to a legal forum.
Yes, they are using a speech rather than an adjudication as a claim of precedence, much as one might in some future time quote John Yoo as the legal precedent for a systematic programme of child torture by testicular crushing. On the other hand, the carpet bombing of Cambodia was one of the most brutal and notorious war crimes of the post-WWII era and not only has no one been prosecuted for the crime, but the principle perpetrator was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few years later – perhaps this is exactly the sort of precedent that the Obama administration looks towards.
With all of that in mind, it is worth revisiting exactly what the US did to the people of Cambodia. Then we can understand exactly what sort of moral precedent applies here – the sort that would make almost any organised crime boss, or terrorist, or psychopathic serial killer blanch with horrified disgust. If you think I’m exaggerating, read on.
In 2007 Barack Obama said:
“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
In questioning John Kerry about Obama’s departure from that principle in Libya, Rand Paul elicited from Kerry, a reaffirmation that he, Kerry, still believed that the bombing of Cambodia was illegal. One might wonder, then, whether Obama’s new Secretary of State is going to oppose his famous “drone” assassination programme. I broach the subject because the Department of Justice rationalised the use of deadly force in other sovereign territories citing Cambodia as a precedent. This is an excerpt from their recently released White paper:
The Department has not found any authority for the proposition that when one of the parties to an armed conflict plans and executes operations from a base in a new nation, an operation to engage the enemy in that location cannot be part of the original armed conflict, and thus subject to the laws of war governing that conflict, unless the hostilities become sufficiently intense and protracted in the new location. That does not appear to be the rule of the historical practice, for instance, even in a traditional international conflict. See John R. Stevenson, Legal Adviser, Department of State, United States Military Action in Cambodia: Questions of International Law, Address before the Hammarskjold Forum of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York (May 28,1970)…, (arguing that in an international armed conflict, if a neutral state has been unable for any reason to prevent violations of its neutrality by the troops of one belligerent using its territory as a base of operations, the other belligerent has historically been justified in attacking those enemy forces in that state).
Now, let me start off by saying something absolutely clearly. The idea that the US can legally engage in a programme of assassinations using hellfire missiles fired from unmanned aerial vehicles is a patent falsehood – a complete joke – a non-starter – a parody – a stupid idea that no one should take seriously. A single ad hoc emergency strike might be justified as self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter, but a programme cannot be as self-defence because, under the charter, it can only be applied to imminent threats. This aspect of law isn’t rocket science, nor hidden within some mystical realm of legalese. The standard legal textbook dealing with this subject is Yoram Dinstein’s, War, Aggression and Self-Defense, now in its 4th edition. It is a pretty straightforward book (and I’m no lawyer) and on this particular subject it is so unequivocal that it is impossible that any superior authority might find some crucial flaw which would invalidate Dinstein. The reason it is so unequivocal is that the US arguments have already been ruled against by no lesser body than the International Court of Justice. The reason for this is that the US has already deployed almost the exact same reasoning to justify its actions against Nicaragua.
On Nicaragua v. United States of America, the ICJ ruled “By twelve votes to three, Rejects the justification of collective self-defence maintained by the United States of America in connection with the military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua the subject of this case; …. By twelve votes to three, Decides that the United States of America, by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State….” And goes on to add other grounds of violation, including a similar finding against the US mining of Nicaragua’s main port. Dinstein explores the US self-defence claims and notes that although self-defence was ruled out on other grounds this did not prevent judges from further noting that the three requisite conditions of immediacy, necessity, and proportionality were also unsustainable.1
In the Nicaragua case, as now, the US argued that conditions of immediacy, necessity and proportionality were met, but then, as now, these are just empty words disproved by the simplest of geographical facts. Such claims are even further disproved by publicly available details of the US assassination programme, such as the use of “signature strikes” and the use of “double tap” follow up strikes. These practices demolish self-defence arguments even as they raise further questions about breaches of International Humanitarian Law (such as the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949)) and International Human Rights Law (such as Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which affirms “the right to life, liberty and security of person”).
So, how much does citing US actions in Cambodia strengthen the feeble claims of legal rationale for drone strikes? I would say somewhat less than not at all, partly because US military actions in Cambodia were clearly not legal and partly because they too failed the test of self-defence (hence arguably being crimes against the peace) but they were also gross breaches of International Humanitarian Law, and should be classified as genocide – which is considered an “aggravated crime against humanity”.
When people think of genocide and Cambodia, they tend to think of the Khmer Rouge, and the “Killing Fields”; of their evidently insane Democratic Kampuchea regime which began its “Year Zero” in 1975. But a Finnish Inquiry Commission designated the years 1969 to 1975 in Cambodia (a time of massive aerial bombardment by the US and of bitter civil war wholly sustained by the US) as Phase 1 of the ‘Decade of Genocide’.2Estimates of Cambodian deaths resulting from the 1969-75 war range from Vickery’s 500,000 killed3 to a credible 1 million excess deaths estimated by Sorpong Peou.4 Given that the Cambodian population was an estimated 6 or 7 million in the period of the Second Indochina War, this gives us a figure of between 1 in 6 and 1 in 14 of all Cambodians killed.
US actions inside Cambodian borders began years before the devastating carpet bombing. The US ‘Studies and Operations Group’ conducted attacks with US Special Forces personnel in Cambodia throughout the 1960s. In 1967 these were institutionalised as “Salem House” (later known as “Daniel Boone”). This programme was kept secret from the US congress and conducted a total of 1,835 missions. Their primary activity appears to have been the laying of “sanitized self-destruct antipersonnel” mines anywhere up to 30 kilometres beyond the border. Their supposed mission was intelligence gathering, but throughout the whole programme they only captured 24 prisoners.5 The Special Forces troops usually disguised themselves as Vietnamese PLAF fighters and sometimes murdered civilians in false-flag operations.6
In 1970 Sihanouk was overthrown by General Lon Nol7 and Prince Sirik Matak with tacit support from Washington and probable assistance by the CIA. Washington recognised the new regime within hours.8 So fast was recognition of Lon Nol’s government that it must have precluded any possibility that the changes on the ground were being assessed, which strongly suggests that the US must have had detailed foreknowledge in order to have any confidence in its judgement. Sihanouk’s overthrow made civil war unavoidable.
In 1969, before the above events, the US began bombing Cambodia in what was known as “Operation Menu”. From Saigon, US General Creighton Abrams insisted that he had “hard evidence” that the Central Office for South Vietnam headquarters (COSVN HQ) had been located in the “Fish Hook” salient of Cambodia.9 The problem was that no such place ever existed, though for years the US had mounted operations to crush it when they claimed it was located in South Vietnam.10 Once under way, Operation Menu spread to other areas. Despite the carpet bombing of area supposed to contain COVSN HQ, in April 1970 Abrams claimed that the headquarters still existed as a fortified underground bunker with 5000 personnel.11 In May US and RVN forces invaded Cambodia, the action justified in part as an attempt, yet again, to wipe out the COVSN HQ “which had become the Holy Grail of the American war”.12 The US/RVN invasion simply, and predictably, drove communist forces deeper into Cambodia.13
It is a known and predictable effect
that the killing of civilians drives people to take up arms, it is a “counterproductive” counter-insurgency tactic which actually strengthens the enemy.14 It is worth remembering that the famous maverick US Army officer John Paul Vann made the same observation in 1962.15One of the most striking examples of generating an enemy by killing civilians, is what occurred in Cambodia from 1969 onwards. Ben Kiernan repeatedly cites evidence in numerous consecutive instances that US/RVN aerial bombardment strengthened the Khmer Rouge insurgency, and, more specifically the anti-Vietnamese faction of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot.16 In 1969, the Khmer Rouge consisted of perhaps 4000 – an ultimately unthreatening insurgency.
By the end of 1972, they were able, with DRV logistical support, to “hold their own” against Lon Nol’s armed forces, which, at US instigation, had been enlarged to between 132,000 and 176,000 (not counting “ghost” soldiers, who existed only on the books of the corrupt officers who collected their pay) and had massive US/RVN air support.17 In William Shawcross’s words, “the new war was creating enemies where none previously existed”18 and by this stage, Lon Nol’s regime was already reduced to the control of shrinking and fragmenting enclaves.19
When the the US generated a war in Cambodia they had already had a great deal of experience in Vietnam and Laos, and what occurred in Cambodia is, in many ways, a naked exposure of the logic behind the genocidal war system, less obfuscated because, ironically, Cambodia was a “sideshow” where it was not the details but the whole war which was kept obscure from the public.
Within a year of Lon Nol’s coup, as mentioned, the economy of Cambodia was virtually destroyed, not only by bombing, but also by US aid. Aid was channelled to the import of commodities and surplus US agricultural goods. It also underwrote the Cambodian government and armed forces: “By the end of 1970, the government was spending five times its revenue and earning nothing abroad.”20 Most of the population became reliant on US aid to eat, and rice supplies were kept at the minimum level needed to prevent food riots. By 1975, malnutrition was widespread and many children starved to death.21
Going back in time to 1970, less than two months after the coup that brought Lon Nol to power, the US invaded Cambodia, along with ARVN forces. They did not bother to forewarn Lon Nol who found out after Richard Nixon had announced the invasion publicly.22 This invasion along US and RVN bombing and the civil war made refugees of around half of the Cambodian population.23Lon Nol was outraged by the invasion and when later briefed by Alexander Haig (then military assistant to Kissinger) about US intentions he wept with frustration. According to Shawcross,
“He wished that the Americans had blocked the communists’ escape route before attacking, instead of spreading them across Cambodia. … The Cambodian leader told Haig that there was no way his small force could stop them. … [Haig] informed Lon Nol that President Nixon intended to limit the involvement of American forces…. They would be withdrawn at the end of June. The the President hoped to introduce a program of restricted military and economic aid. As the implications of Haig’s words for the future of Cambodia became clear to Lon Nol, he began to weep. Cambodia, he said, could never defend itself.”24
As has been detailed, US actions, particularly in bombing, were directly responsible for creating the communist enemy which overthrew Lon Nol. The bombing between 1969 and 1973 took up to 150,000 lives.25 If averaged out, over 33 tons of ordnance were used to kill each Khmer Rouge insurgent.26 Despite the fact that Vietnamese pilots bombed any Cambodian they could, which aided only the Khmer Rouge, Lon Nol acceded to a US demand that he request an increase in VNAF bombing in 1971.27 By May 1972, the Lon Nol regime had control of perhaps 10 per cent of the country and continued to lose territory which was thereafter fragmented into ever smaller enclaves.28 The result was by that stage foregone, and yet the war dragged on for three years with the greater part of the 1 million deaths occurring after that point.
In 1970, when Henry Kissinger briefed Jonathan “Fred” Ladd, who was slated to conduct the war in Cambodia, he told him, “Don’t even think of victory; just keep it alive.”29 The point of the US bombing was not to win a military victory – it was to destroy Cambodia as part of an Indochina “exit strategy” – and that is a clear instance of genocide under the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. When the US Congress finally blocked aid to Cambodia and South Vietnam, it was with the belated realisation that such aid would not give any hope of victory or improve a bargaining position. Senator Mike Mansfield spoke out, “Ultimately Cambodia cannot survive…. Additional aid means more killing, more fighting. This has got to stop sometime.”30
So that was the end of the US involvement in Cambodia, and their legal culpability. The Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh, and the refugees were shocked to see that the black-clad cadres were mostly young teens, fanatical and brutalised by half a young lifetime of fighting and death. The US was not responsible for the fantasies of the Pol Pot clique, who believed that supernatural amounts of food could be produced without recourse to machine power, nor for their refusal to accept aid.
But the US had deliberately brought the Cambodian population to the brink of starvation – destroying farmland and driving peasants off the land. Perhaps 500,000 or more died of starvation. Hundreds of thousands were executed for political or ideological reasons, murdered by the Khmer Rouge who the US had largely brought into existence. And when the Vietnamese put the regime to an end (and despite what you may read about this being justifiable as “humanitarian intervention” it was in fact legitimate self-defence – if you don’t believe me you can read about Khmer Rouge foreign policy, border attacks, and espoused official desire to exterminate all Vietnamese) when the Khmer Rouge were supplanted, the US insisted that they retain a seat at the UN and started giving aid to their guerilla forces.
So, do I think that the Cambodia precedent is a good one to justify an assassination programme? No, I do not. But then again I am not from the US, and perhaps I am failing to grasp the subtle point that next to no “Americans” died in Cambodia (none that were officially acknowledged) therefore it did not happen. I don’t want to think ill about people in the US, but it gets a little hard to distinguish the people from the regime when every time the drone programme is discussed, there is an emphasis (small or large) on the targeting of “US citizens”.
And, occasionally the prospect of attacks on “US soil” is mentioned with tones of urgently whispered horror. There is no reason, except to critique the mainstream discourse, that you should ever need to use the phrase “US citizen” with regard to a programme based on killing people, because they are all human beings. 5 US citizens have been killed by US drone strikes while thousands of citizens of other states have. Why, then, should there be any reference to “US citizens”, when killing foreigners by drone is blatantly illegal? Not only do you instantly abrogate any moral standing you might have by implying a hierarchy of worth, but psychologically you set yourself and others up for being mollified by cosmetic measures offered to guarantee the rights of US citizens while retaining the right to kill foreigners at will. Do you really believe that being a US citizen or being born in Denver makes someone more human?
Kieran Kelly blogs at On Genocide.
1 Yoram Dinstein, War, Aggression and Self-Defence (3rd ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp 184-5.
2 Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. London: Vintage, 1994 (1988), p 260.
3 Ibid, p 263.
4 Sorpong Peou, Intervention & Change in Cambodia: Towards Democracy? Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2000, p 54.
5 Ibid, pp 64-5.
6 Ben Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1996, p 18.
7 The US had developed ties with Lon Nol in the 1950s and by 1970, according to CIA officer Frank Snepp, he was one of two candidates being groomed by the CIA to take Sihanouk’s place (William Shawcross, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia. London: Fontana, 1980 (1979), pp 114-5).
8 Ibid, pp 114-23; William Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II (2nd ed.), Monroe: Common Courage Press, 2004, pp 137-8; Peou, Intervention & Change in Cambodia, pp 125-6.
9 Shawcross, Sideshow, p 19.
10 Marilyn Young, The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990, New York: Harper Perennial, 1991, pp 72, 186; Tucker, Vietnam, p 129; Turley, The Second Indochina War, pp 79-80.
11 Shawcross, Sideshow, p 140.
12 Young, The Vietnam Wars, p 245.
13 Shawcross, 1979, p 151.
14 David Keen, Endless War? Hidden functions of the ‘War on Terror’. London, Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2006, pp 58-61.
15 Neil Sheehan, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (New York: Vintage 1989 (1988), p pp 106-111.
16 Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime, pp 19-23. Also see Peou, Intervention & Change in Cambodia, p 128.
17 Shawcross, Sideshow, pp 73, 180, 194-5, 261.
18 Ibid, p 249.
19 Ibid, p 254.
20 Ibid, p 220.
21 Ibid, p 317-9.
22 Ibid, p 149.
23 Peou, Intervention & Change in Cambodia , p 127.
24 Shawcross, Sideshow, p 163.
25 Kiernan, The Pol Pot Regime, p 24.
26 Ibid, p 19.
27 Shawcross, Sideshow, p 186.
28 Ibid, pp 254-5.
29 Ibid, p 169.
30 Nigel Cawthorne, Vietnam: A War Lost and Won. London: Arcturus Publishing, 2003, p 213.
February 6th, 2013 by John Robles
A scandal has erupted in Sweden after the Swedish Armed Forces chief, Sverker Göranson, said that his country wouldn’t last even two days against Russia, in an attempt to spur Sweden’s NATO entry. Swedish Prosecution has accused the General of divulging state secrets. The number of Swedes backing NATO entry has been declining ever since Gen. Göranson told the local Svenska Dagbladet daily that Sweden had never been armed well enough to stand against the Soviet Union or Russia on its own. He stressed that in case of a Russian threat Stockholm would require the help of NATO or America. The General pointed out that Swedish politicians were standing in the way of the country’s militarization.
To add substance to his warning, Gen. Göranson reminded the journalist about the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, which allegedly proved that European borders could be changed as a result of a military attack. The Commander also drew attention to Russia’s beefing up its Army under President Vladimir Putin, although he stressed that such an attack on Sweden was very unlikely.
Interview: Sweden Member Of NATO In All But Name
Voice of Russia
February 5, 2013
In part 2 of an interview with the Voice of Russia, Agneta Norberg, Vice Chair of the Swedish Peace Council, Member of Steering Committee of the International Peace Bureau and a member of the board of directors of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space discusses the facts surrounding Sweden’s non-neutrality and the country’ s involvement in NATO and Western military expansion. Ms. Norberg gives her views on drones which she calls “murder machines” and the development and testing of drones in Sweden, including a new drone being developed in a joint European project.
Part 1 of the interview:
Robles: How does Sweden officially explain that they allow these installations? And do you think all these maneuvers are designed to intimidate Russia or to try to exercise sovereignty on the Arctic?
Norberg: Well, when we drift to the Arctic, I think there are two things going on here. When they are interviewed, those who are in charge of these maneuvers, they always answer that this is for the Arctic, they openly express this – these maneuvers are for the Arctic and the resources which will be available when the ice is melting.
But the NATO maneuvers are so seldom covered in the news, in media, specifically not here in the south – I live in Stockholm; up in the north, in the local newspapers they are covered rather extensively. And they used to send quotes from the newspapers for me, otherwise I wouldn’t have known of it, because the media don’t cover it in the south, in Stockholm, where most of the people live.
So, it is sort of secretly hidden from the public to understand what is really going on. But when they are asked, they say: this is for the Arctic.
And also one thing I think you’ve mentioned is that Sweden is neutral. Forget that! We are not neutral! We have for long ago abolished neutrality. We are not non-aligned; we are nothing, because we are openly conducting war games with NATO.
But there is one difficulty, because the people in Sweden and in Finland are against. It is only about 19% of the Swedish population that accept NATO; the others don’t. So, they have that problem here.
But I can see the lust, how they try to form an enemy out of Russia, and you should understand this: how Russia now is demonized, again. And I’m so old, so I remember how they were demonizing the former Soviet Union, always, and almost on a daily basis. And now we are there again.
So, we have here in one of the latest (Names Swedish newspaper in Swedish) a picture of Putin and Russia is arming, here, and how the Russian bear now starts showing its muscles. So, at the same time, as you have these military maneuvers and military flexing of muscles, you seldom get information to the public here.
I was speaking in Norway last summer and they didn’t know about these things. I’m very often on speaking tours in the north. I was in Finland last autumn and they didn’t know about these military maneuvers either. They were really shocked when I told them.
So, here we are again, from the Cold War days, gradually Russia is the threat. And when I talk to Russian people they are not aware of this. It is like when I was travelling in the former Soviet Union, they were not aware of how you were depicted and described as a big, big threat. And I think we are there again, hiding what NATO is doing in our country and in the north, and describing the threat of Russia coming. There we are again.
Robles: Would you say it is worse than it was in the Soviet times?
Norberg: It is about the same now. We are at square one, we are back in the Cold War sentiment in a way. But it is even worse now because during the Cold War, at least Sweden had a posture that we are non-aligned and neutral. Not anymore! We have left our neutrality, we have left our non-aligned posture.
Not openly, the neutrality we have left openly, but not the non-aligned posture. I can give you an example: they are now training in North America (for) war in Nevada.
They were training together with the US in 2006 in Alaska. They went with 6 or 7 warplanes to Alaska and made a huge maneuver outside North Korea together with the US.
So, we are actively joining in different parts of the world. Of course we are in Afghanistan now.
And so I think you have to start to understand that Sweden has quite another position now and we are a NATO country. It is only a document that is left to be done. That’s the situation now in Sweden.
Robles: Can you tell us a little bit about what you think the US and NATO’s plans are for the Arctic?
Norberg: I can see that they are making a lot of war games together up in the north.
And I also know that the US and Canada are the same; I mean they are in the same organization. Canada has lost much of what they had before. I have a map in front of me where I have all the installations, and the North American-Canada Command had merged together.
So, up in the north you have a very strong militarization from Canada’s point of view and they are building up their military as never before.
And one thing that I think is important to mention is the drones. Canada is planning for a huge drone fleet, and so is Sweden. Now we have one of the world’s biggest drones which is ready in the North European Airspace Test Range which is one of the biggest in Europe for training drones.
Robles: What’s your opinion on drones?
Norberg: They should be banished, abolished or banned because they are terrible murder…we call them “murder machines”. They are conducted from a Nevada test site. They sit there in front of computers and kill people in Yemen, in Pakistan and many places.
We have a huge training area, big as Macedonia, called the North European Airspace Test Range in the northern part of Sweden where they train these drones. So, we are in this arms buildup, it’s rather dangerous I think.
The newest one is Neuron. It is a cooperation between Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland on one of the world’s biggest drones, Neuron. That is a prototype that is now ready this year.
Robles: What is your opinion on the legality of drones because the users face no risk?
Norberg: They are totally illegal. You sit in a bunker, you don’t see anything, you just sit in front of a screen and see the target. We call them “murder machines” because these are murders. They say they kill Al-Qaeda?
Agneta Norberg is the Vice Chair of the Swedish Peace Council, a member of the Steering Committee in International Peace Bureau and on the board of directors of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
February 6th, 2013 by John Kozy
How quickly best laid plans become passé. New world orders come, it seems, as frequently as eclipses.
The old world order (ancien régime), along with 16 million people, died during the Great European War which began on June 28, 1914 when the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, in Sarajevo. (Today he would be called a terrorist.) This assassination sent nations that had no desire to go to war into the most destructive war the world had yet experienced.
Europe at the beginning of 1914 consisted of six major empires and an assortment of minor states that the major empires didn’t care much about. The six major empires, (the Austro-Hungarian, French, German, British, Ottoman, and Russian) were ensnared in military alliances (much like the US is today) which were formed to keep the peace. The diplomats, like those today, believed that forming alliances that balanced the powers of different groups would keep them from attacking each other. The Central Powers consisted of Austro-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire; the Triple Entente consisted of the other three. Peace, the diplomats thought was assured. What happened?
When the archduke was assassinated, the Austrians, confident in their military prowess (as Americans are today), decided to punish Serbia which was attacked on July 28. But the Serbs ambushed the Austrians at the battles of Cer and Kolubara. The Austrians were thrown back with heavy losses. Russia came to the aid of its ethnically related Serbs, and Germany invaded France through Belgium and Luxembourg. Britain came to the defense of France and the Ottoman Empire joined the war in the Balkans on the side of the Central Powers. The alliances that were to ensure the peace changed a single assassination into a massive war. When it was over, the Austro-Hungarian, the German, the Ottoman, and the Russian Empires had vanished and the United States, which joined the war late on the side of the Triple Entente had become a world player. The old world order was gone!
Woodrow Wilson, the American President, sought to create a new old world order by proposing his Fourteen Points. Wilson wanted to create separate nations out of former colonies and ensure the peace by creating a League of Nations (another peace by treaty scheme). Territorial reductions were made to Germany and Austria, a slew of new and revived nations were created in Eastern Europe, while France and Britain carved up the Ottoman Empire to suit themselves. The new old world order was just a reconfigured old world order. It didn’t last and it didn’t ensure the peace. So much for the best laid plans of diplomats.
Germany was reborn in 1933 when Adolph Hitler became Chancellor. He, too, sought to create a new world order, one dominated by a Thousand Year Reich (Empire). To that end, his policies were aimed at seizing Lebensraum (living space) for the German people by extending Germany’s borders. Austria and parts of Czechoslovakia were annexed and Poland was invaded. But alas, Poland had a mutual defense treaty (another alliance formed to ensure the peach) with Great Britain and France, so the invasion of Poland started World War II.
When it was over, Germany again was destroyed and Great Britain and France, for the most part, had had their empires diminished. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russia) found themselves at the top of another new old world order.
The victorious powers, the US, the USSR, China, Great Britain, and France tried again to ensure the peace by creating the United Nations which they attempted to keep firmly in their control by making themselves rulers of the Security Council which had a veto on all UN Activities all five nations didn’t give unanimous approval to. That was to be the new old world order. But it began to come unglued immediately. China was not represented by mainland China which had become Communist but by “Nationalist” China whose government had fled to Taiwan. Communist China soon took the Chinese seat and the two Communist nations formed a bloc while the remaining three Capitalist nations formed another. The United Nations became the Disunited Nations and has remained so to this day. This new old world order was stillborn.
Sometime after 1950 (because of secrecy, the exact date is unknown) the Bilderbergers, realizing that the old world ancient régime and all of these new old world orders were founded on nation states that kept going to war with each other, began an attempt to create a truly new world order. David Rockefeller writes,
“We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. . . . It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.”
“For more than a century ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that’s the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it”
If there were no nation states, no wars could erupt between them!
Some believe that these international bankers have succeeded in taking over the world, but it has never succeeded in abolishing nation states. In fact, there is some evidence that nation states may be disintegrating into smaller ones. Scotland is going to hold a referendum on withdrawing from England, Catalonia is talking about withdrawing from Spain, Czechoslovakia has broken up into the Czech and Slovak republics, there is talk again of secession in the US, and no one quite knows what is really happening in the Arab world. A new world order ruled by one government? Not hardly!
But things began to break down in the 1950s. Until then, wars were fought between armies supported by nation states, and their endings were foreseeable. A war ended when one army, either voluntarily or on command, surrendered. That era appears to have ended. Old world order warfare appears to have become passé.
When the second world war ended, the Korean Peninsula was partitioned into Northern and Southern sections occupied by the Russians and Americans respectively. Elections for unification were to be held in 1948 but were not; the Americans were unsure the result would favor the South. Open warfare broke out when North Korean forces invaded South Korea in June, 1950. Because the Soviet Union was boycotting the United Nations Security Council at the time, the United States and other countries passed a Security Council resolution authorizing military intervention. The war’s progress favored each side from time to time and continued until July, 1953 when an armistice was signed. Officially, the war still goes on today. The US provided 88% of the 341,000 international soldiers which aided South Korea. The Russians and the People’s Republic of China aided North Korea. The West’s army was international, and the era of never ending, wars may have begun.
After a short pause, the American hubris led the US to play one-upmanship with France. Since the end of World War II, the French had been trying to maintain its hold on its Southeastern Asian colony of Vietnam. But at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the French were soundly defeated and decided to give up the fight. American hubris about its military prowess made American diplomats believe that the US could do what the French could not and began to use American military resources to keep South Vietnam from being united with the North.
The Pentagon’s military minds viewed this conflict as a traditional two-nation-state one and believed that America’s military only had to defeat a primitive North Vietnamese army to succeed. They were wrong, and after twenty years of fighting, 58,000 Americans, millions of Vietnamese had died, and the Americans fled. But this war marked another first: the army that won all the battles lost the war. That had never before happened in history. Today, winning battles does not win wars. Truly a new era in warfare has begun. What the Pentagon’s commanders failed to realize was that the war was not a two state war. It was a war between an invading army and an indigenous people who could only be defeated by total annihilation. No possible way existed for Americans (or any other nation-state) to “win” this war.
But Americans are hard learners and they learned nothing from Korea and Vietnam, so after two misadventures that appeared to be successful (Grenada and the 1st Gulf War), the US led another multinational force into Iraq and Afghanistan. After eight years in Iraq and the installation of a new government, the US withdrew without achieving its goals, leaving Iraq in disarray. And after more than a decade in Afghanistan a similar outcome seems to be imminent. Like Vietnam, these wars too are not two-state wars.
They amount to invading armies battling indigenous peoples who themselves are not united and not under the control of any government, group, or commander. No surrendering army in either country will ever be found. But now there’s a new twist. The forces facing the invaders do not merely consist of local peoples. Those peoples are assisted by non-state but similarly minded multi-state actors. The people opposing the West in Afghanistan are the same groups opposing the West in Libya, Algeria, Syria, Yemen, Mali, Somalia, the Sudan, and elsewhere. People who have been subjugated and exploited by the West have begun an undeclared war on the West and westerners everywhere, and winning this war will require not their defeat but their annihilation. The West cannot do that without annihilating itself in the process.
The real new world order has emerged–the world’s downtrodden against the West and its puppet, surrogate colonial governments. These non-state but similarly minded actors will determine the course of future world history. There is now a new world order that the West cannot control, that military force cannot subdue, and that concessions cannot placate. Ancien régimes relied on military power to influence events. The true new world order renders military power effete. All it can now accomplish is kill for killing’s sake. Pure barbarity is what the promise of Western Civilization has been reduced to. What a wonderful world we have made!
February 6th, 2013 by Arnie Gundersen
February 6th, 2013 by Prof. Lawrence Davidson
“The Gatekeepers,” a new documentary, records the views of the Israeli security officials most responsible for suppressing Palestinian resistance and their growing doubts about the strategy of endless repression. But even this criticism glosses over the depth of the problem.
There is a new documentary movie about Israel called “The Gatekeepers,” directed by Dror Moreh and featuring interviews with all the former leaders of the Shin Bet, the country’s internal security organization.
The Shin Bet is assigned the job of preventing Palestinian retaliatory attacks on Israel and, as described by Moreh, the film “is the story of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories as told by the people at the crossroads of some of the most crucial moments in the security history of the country.” Along the way it touches on such particular topics as targeted assassinations, the use of torture, and “collateral damage.”
“The Gatekeepers” has garnered a lot of acclaim, playing at film festivals in Jerusalem, Amsterdam, New York, Toronto, Venice and elsewhere. It has won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Best Documentary Award. It has been nominated for an Oscar.
In order to promote “The Gatekeepers,” Moreh has been doing interviews and recently appeared on CNN with Christiana Amanpour. He made a number of salient points, as did the Shin Bet leaders in the clips featured during the interview.
–Moreh says, “if there is someone who understands the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it’s these guys,” the Shin Bet leaders. Actually, this not necessarily true. One might more accurately claim that these men, who led Israel’s most secretive government institution, were and are so deeply buried inside their country’s security dilemma that they see it in a distorted fashion (with only occasional glimmers of clarity).
For instance, Avraham Shalom, head of the Shin Bet from 1981-1986, tells us that “Israel lost touch with how to coexist with the Palestinians as far back as the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967 … when the country started doubling down on terrorism.”
But is this really the case? One might more accurately assert that Israel had no touch to lose. Most of its Jewish population and leadership have never had an interest in coexistence with Palestinians in any egalitarian and humane sense of the term. The interviewed security chiefs focus on the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza because they are the ones who offered the most resistance to conquest. But what of the 20 percent of the population of Israel who are also Palestinian and who actually lived under martial law until 1966? You may call the discriminatory regime under which these people live “coexistence,” but it is the coexistence of superior over the inferior secured largely by intimidation.
–Moreh insists that it is the “Jewish extremists inside Israel” who have been the “major impediment” to resolving issues between Israel and the Palestinians. The film looks at the cabal of religious fanatics who, in 1980, planned to blow up the Muslim shrine of the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, as well as the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Yet, as dangerous as Israel’s right-wing extremists and settler fanatics are, focusing exclusively on them obscures the full history of the occupation.
By 1977, when Menachem Begin and Israel’s right-wing fanatics fully took power, the process of occupation and ethnic cleansing was well under way. It had been conducted against both the Arab Israelis from 1948 onward, and against the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza after 1967. In both cases, it was initiated by the so-called Israeli Left: the Labor Party led by such people as David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin himself. Amongst the Israeli leadership, there were no clean hands.
–Finally, Dror Moreh repeatedly pushes another message: “a central theme of the documentary is the idea that Israel has incredible tactics, but it lacks long-term strategy … if [security] operations do not support a move toward a peace settlement, then they are meaningless.”
Again, this assessment reflects Moreh being so deeply situated inside of the problem that he cannot perceive it clearly. Moreh assumes that achieving peace with the Palestinians is the only “long-term strategy” Israel could possibly have and, in its absence, Israel pursues no strategy at all.
However, an objective assessment of Israeli history tells us that there has been another strategy in place. The Zionist leaders have, in fact, always had a long-term strategy to avoid any meaningful peace settlement, so as to allow: 1. occupation of all “Eretz Israel,” 2. the ethnic cleansing or cantonization of the native population, and 3. settlement of the cleansed territory with Jews.
It is because of this same naivete that Moreh confesses himself “shocked” when Avraham Shalom compares the occupation of the Palestinian territories to “Germany’s occupation of Europe.” It is to Shalom’s credit that he made the statement on camera, and to Morah’s credit that he kept the statement in the final version of the film. But then Moreh spoils this act of bravery when he tells Amanpour: “Only Jews can say these kind of words. And only they can have the justification to speak as they spoke in the film.”
Well, I can think of one other group of people who has every right to make the same comparison Shalom makes – the Palestinians.
Retired Official’s Confession Syndrome
For all its shortcomings, the film is a step forward in the ongoing effort to deny the idealized Zionist storyline a monopoly in the West. Indeed, that “The Gatekeepers” was made at all, and was received so positively at major film venues, is a sign that this skewed Israeli storyline is finally breaking down. Certainly, this deconstruction still has a long way to go, but the process is picking up speed.
On the other hand, there is something troubling about the belated nature of the insights given in these interviews. They are examples of what I like to call the “retired official’s confession syndrome.” Quite often those who, in retirement, make these sorts of confessions were well aware of the muddled or murderous situation while in office. But, apparently, they lacked the courage to publicize it at the time. It would have meant risking their careers, their popularity, and perhaps relations with their friends and family.
One is reminded of the fate of Professor Ilan Pappe, who has stood up and lived his principles, and eventually lost his position at Haifa University and was, in the end, forced into exile. For most, however, including these leaders of the Shin Bet, their understanding was clouded and their actions skewed by a time-honored, but deeply flawed, notion of “duty” to carry on like good soldiers.
To date, Israel’s leaders and Zionist supporters have shown an amazing capacity to ignore all criticism. The newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has let it be known that he has no intention of watching “The Gatekeepers.” It is also questionable how many of those who voted for him, or other right-wing politicians, will bother to seek the documentary out.
Israel’s government has recently made the decision to ignore the country’s obligations under the United Nations Human Rights Charter, a decision signaled by its representatives refusal to show up for the country’s “universal periodic review” before the Human Rights Council. Nor is there any sign that any new right-wing led government coalition will stop the ethnic cleansing and illegal colonial repopulation of East Jerusalem.
The only reasonable conclusion one can come to is that it will take increasing outside pressure on Israel, in the form of boycotts, divestment and sanctions, to convince a sufficient number of that country’s Jewish population that they must change their ways. To not change is to acquiesce in Israel’s evolving status as a pariah state.
The irony of it all is that that status will have little to do with most of Israel being Jewish (that is, it will not be a function of anti-Semitism). Yet, it will have everything to do with the fact that, in this day and age, not even the Jews, who have been subjected to some of history’s worst acts of racism, have the right to maintain a racist state.
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author ofForeign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.
February 6th, 2013 by Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges gave this talk Saturday night in Brooklyn at the People’s Recovery Summit.
The corporate state has made it clear there will be no more Occupy encampments. The corporate state is seeking through the persistent harassment of activists and the passage of draconian laws such as Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act—and we will be in court next Wednesday to fight the Obama administration’s appeal of the Southern District Court of New York’s ruling declaring Section 1021 unconstitutional—to shut down all legitimate dissent. The corporate state is counting, most importantly, on its system of debt peonage to keep citizens—especially the 30 million people who make up the working poor—from joining our revolt.
Workers who are unable to meet their debts, who are victimized by constantly rising interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent on credit cards, are far more likely to remain submissive and compliant. Debt peonage is and always has been a form of political control. Native Americans, forced by the U.S. government onto tribal agencies, were required to buy their goods, usually on credit, at agency stores. Coal miners in southern West Virginia and Kentucky were paid in scrip by the coal companies and kept in perpetual debt servitude by the company store. African-Americans in the cotton fields in the South were forced to borrow during the agricultural season from their white landlords for their seed and farm equipment, creating a life of perpetual debt. It soon becomes impossible to escape the mounting interest rates that necessitate new borrowing.
Debt peonage is a familiar form of political control. And today it is used by banks and corporate financiers to enslave not only individuals but also cities, municipalities, states and the federal government. As the economist Michael Hudson points out, the steady rise in interest rates, coupled with declining public revenues, has become a way to extract the last bits of capital from citizens as well as government. Once individuals, or states or federal agencies, cannot pay their bills—and for many Americans this often means medical bills—assets are sold to corporations or seized. Public land, property and infrastructure, along with pension plans, are privatized. Individuals are pushed out of their homes and into financial and personal distress.
Debt peonage is a fundamental tool for control. This debt peonage must be broken if we are going to build a mass movement to paralyze systems of corporate power. And the most effective weapon we have to liberate ourselves as well as the 30 million Americans who make up the working poor is a sustained movement to raise the minimum wage nationally to at least $11 an hour. Most of these 30 million low-wage workers are women and people of color. They and their families struggle at a subsistence level and play one lender off another to survive. By raising their wages we raise not only the quality of their lives but we increase their capacity for personal and political power. We break one of the most important shackles used by the corporate state to prevent organized resistance.
Ralph Nader, whom I spoke with on Thursday, has been pushing activists to mobilize around raising the minimum wage. Nader, who knows more about corporate power and has been fighting it longer than any other American, has singled out, I believe, the key to building a broad-based national movement. There is among these underpaid 30 million workers—and some of them are with us tonight—a mounting despair at being unable to meet even the basic requirements to maintain a family. Nader points out that Walmart’s 1 million workers, like most of the 30 million low-wage workers, are making less per hour, adjusted for inflation, than workers made in 1968, although these Walmart workers do the work required of two Walmart workers 40 years ago.
If the federal minimum wage from 1968 were adjusted for inflation it would be $10.50. Instead, although costs and prices have risen sharply, the federal minimum wage remains stuck at $7.25 an hour. It is the lowest of the major industrial countries. Meanwhile, Mike Duke, the CEO of Walmart, makes $11,000 an hour. And he is not alone. These corporate chiefs make this much money because they have been able to keep in place a system by which workers are effectively disempowered, forced to work for substandard wages and denied the possibility through unions or the formal electoral systems of power to defend workers’ rights. This is why corporations lavish these CEOs with obscene salaries. These CEOs are the masters of plantations. And the moment workers rise up and demand justice is the moment the staggering inequality of wealth begins to be reversed.
Being a member of the working poor, as Barbara Ehrenreich chronicles in her important book “Nickel and Dimed,” is “a state of emergency.” It is “acute distress.” It is a daily and weekly lurching from crisis to crisis. The stress, the suffering, the humiliation and the job insecurity means that workers are reduced to doing little more than eating, sleeping—never enough—and working. And, most importantly, they are kept in a constant state of fear. Ehrenreich writes:
When someone works for less pay than she can live on—when, for example, she goes hungry so that you can eat more cheaply and conveniently—then she has made a great sacrifice for you, she has made you a gift of some part of her abilities, her health, and her life. The “working poor,” as they are approvingly termed, are in fact the major philanthropists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone else.
It is time to halt the sacrifice of the working poor. It is time to empower the 30 million low-wage workers—two-thirds of which are employed by large corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s—to fight back.
Joe Sacco and I spent the last two years in the poorest pockets of the United States, our nation’s sacrifice zones, for our book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt.” We saw in Pine Ridge, S.D., Camden, N.J.—the poorest and the most dangerous city in the nation—the coalfields of southern West Virginia and the produce fields of Immokalee, Fla., how this brutal system of corporate exploitation works. In these sacrifice zones no one has legal protection. All institutions, from the press to the political class to the judiciary, are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. And what has been done to those in these sacrifice zones, those places corporations devastated first, is now being done to all of us.
There are no impediments within the electoral process or the formal structures of power to prevent predatory capitalism. We are all being forced to kneel before the dictates of the marketplace. The human cost, the attendant problems of drug and alcohol abuse, the neglect of children, the early deaths—in Pine Ridge the average life expectancy of a male is 48, the lowest in the Western Hemisphere outside of Haiti—is justified by the need to make greater and greater profit. And these costs are now being felt across the nation. The phrase “the consent of the governed” has become a cruel joke. We use a language to describe our systems of governance that no longer correspond to reality. The disconnect between illusion and reality makes us one of the most self-deluded populations on the planet.
The Weimarization of the American working class, and increasingly the middle class, is by design. It is part of a corporate reconfiguration of the national and global economy into a form of neofeudalism. It is about creating a world of masters and serfs, of empowered oligarchic elites and broken disempowered masses. And it is not only our wealth that is taken from us. It is our liberty. The so-called self-regulating market, as the economist Karl Polanyi wrote in “The Great Transformation,” always ends with mafia capitalism and a mafia political system. This system of self-regulation, Polanyi wrote, always leads to “the demolition of society.”
And this is what is happening—the demolition of our society and the demolition of the ecosystem that sustains the human species. In theological terms these corporate forces, driven by the lust for ceaseless expansion and exploitation, are systems of death. They know no limits. They will not stop on their own. And unless we stop them we are as a nation and finally as a species doomed. Polanyi understood the destructive power of unregulated corporate capitalism unleashed upon human society and the ecosystem. He wrote: “In disposing of a man’s labor power the system would, incidentally, dispose of the physical, psychological, and moral entity ‘man’ attached to the tag.”
Polanyi wrote of a society that surrendered to the dictates of the market. “Robbed of the protective covering of cultural institutions, human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure; they would die as victims of acute social dislocation through vice, perversion, crime, and starvation. Nature would be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, military safety jeopardized, the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed. Finally, the market administration of purchasing power would periodically liquidate business enterprise, for shortages and surfeits of money would prove as disastrous to business as floods and droughts in primitive society. Undoubtedly, labor, land, and money markets are essential to a market economy. But no society could stand the effects of such a system of crude fictions even for the shortest stretch of time unless its human and natural substance as well as its business organizations was protected against the ravages of this satanic mill.
The global and national economy because of this “satanic mill” continues to deteriorate, and yet, curiously, stock market levels are close to their highs in 2007 before the global financial meltdown. This is because these corporations have been able to suppress wages, slash social programs and bilk the government for staggering sums of money. The Federal Reserve purchases about $85 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bills every month. This means that the Fed is printing endless streams of money to buy up government debt and toxic assets from the banks. The Federal Reserve now owns assets, much of them worthless, of $3.01 trillion. This is triple what it was in 2008.
And while corporations such as Citibank and General Electric loot the Treasury they exact more pounds of flesh in the name of austerity. General Electric, as Nader points out, is a net job exporter. Over the past decade, as Citizens for Tax Justice has documented, GE’s effective federal income tax rate on its $81.2 billion in pretax U.S. profits has been at most 1.8 percent. Because of the way General Electric’s accountants play with tax liabilities the company actually receives money from the Treasury. They have several billion dollars paid to them from the federal government into company bank accounts—and these are not tax refunds. The company, as Nader argues, is a net drain on the Treasury and a net drain on jobs. It violates a host of environmental and criminal laws. And yet Jeffery Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, was appointed to be the chairman of Obama’s Jobs Council. Immelt’s only major contribution to the jobs initiative was to get rid of 37,000 of his employees since 2001. Jim McNerney, president and CEO of Boeing, who also sat on the Jobs Council, has cut over 14,000 jobs since 2008, according to Public Campaign. The only jobs the CEOs on the Jobs Council were concerned with were the ones these CEOs eradicated. The Jobs Council, which Obama disbanded this week, is a microcosm of what is happening within the corridors of power. Corporations increasingly terminate jobs here to hire grossly underpaid workers in India or China while at the same time stealing as much as fast as they can on the way out the door.
As Michael Hudson has pointed out, financialization has created a new kind of class war. The old class warfare took place between workers and bosses. Workers organized to fight for fair wages, better work hours and safety conditions in the workplace as well as adequate pensions and medical benefits. But with a country of debtors and a government that must also borrow to continue operating, Hudson says, we have changed the way class warfare works. Finance, he points out, controls state and federal policy as well as the lives of ordinary workers. It is able to dictate working conditions. The financiers, who insist that cuts be made so governments can repay loans, impose draconian austerity and long-term unemployment to, as Hudson told a Greek newspaper, “drive down wages to a degree that could not occur in the company-by-company clash between industrial employers and their workers.”
The former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, testifying before Congress, was quite open about the role of debt peonage in keeping workers passive. Greenspan pointed out that since 1980 labor productivity has increased by about 83 percent. Yet real wages have stagnated. Greenspan said this was because workers were too burdened with mortgage debts, college loans, auto payments and credit-card debt to risk losing a job. Household debt in the United States is around $13 trillion. This is only $2 trillion less than the country’s total yearly economic output. Greenspan was right. Miss a payment on your credit card and your interest rates jumps to 30 percent. Fail to pay your mortgage and you lose your home. Miss your health insurance payments, which have been spiraling upwards, and if you are seriously ill you go into bankruptcy, as 1 million Americans who get sick do every year. Trash your credit rating and your fragile financial edifice, built on managing debt, collapses. Since most Americans feel, on some level, as Hudson points out, that they are a step or two away from being homeless, they are deeply averse to challenging corporate power. It is not worth the risk. And the corporate state knows it. Absolute power, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote, depends on fear and passivity.
The only way to break this fear and passivity is to organize workers to break the cycle of mounting debt. And the first step to achieving independence from debt—the primary form of political control by the corporate state—is to raise the minimum wage. There are other solutions—forgiving mortgage and student debt, instituting universal health care, establishing a nationwide jobs program to rebuild the country’s Third World infrastructure, and green energy—but none of this will happen until we are able to mount a sustained mass movement that discredits the corporate state. This mass movement will arise, as Nader says, when we mobilize around the minimum wage.
The lowest-grade worker at the General Electric plant that makes high-tech health care devices outside Paterson in Totowa [New Jersey]—a pay grade known as the D 04—was just raised to $14,555 a year. That is under $8 an hour. The plant’s highest-paid hourly employee, known as D 16, earns $22,000. Immelt makes over $11 million a year. This vast disparity in income, and this wage abuse, is played out in every corporation in the country. No one in Washington intends to challenge it.
Only 11.3 percent of workers in this country belong to unions. This is the lowest percentage in 80 years. And nearly all these unions, and especially the AFL-CIO, have been emasculated by corporate power.
Nader is right when he warns that we are not going to be assisted in this effort by established unions. Union leaders are bought off. They are comfortable. They are pulling down at least five times what rank-and-file workers make. Nader says we have to mount protests not only outside the doors of Wal-marts and General Electric plants, not only outside congressional offices, but outside the doors of the AFL-CIO. There is no established institution inside or outside government that will help us. They are all broken or complicit. But there are the 30 million working poor who, if we organize to break the system of debt peonage that holds them hostage, may be willing to rise up. We are bound with many chains and shackles. We will have to break them one at a time. But once we rise up, once we are able to threaten the corporate systems that keep us supine through fear, we will unleash a torrent of energy and passion that will confirm the worst nightmares of our corporate overlords.
Chris Hedges spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. His latest books are Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, Death of the Liberal Class, and The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.
February 6th, 2013 by Global Research News
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is launching an ambitious new investigation, which will seek to identify as many as possible of those killed in US covert drone strikes in Pakistan, whether civilian or militant.
The Bureau is raising some of the money for this project through a crowd-funding appeal.
As part of our ongoing monitoring and reporting of CIA and Pentagon drone strikes, the Bureau has already recorded the names of hundreds of people killed in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
At the end of January 2013, the Bureau was able to identify by name 213 people killed by drones in Pakistan who were reported to be middle- or senior-ranking militants.
A further 331 civilians have also now been named, 87 of them children.
But this is a small proportion of the minimum 2,629 people who appear to have so far died in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan. The Bureau’s work suggests 475 of them were likely to have been civilians.
‘At the moment we know the names of fewer than 20% of those killed in Pakistan’s tribal areas. At least 2,000 deaths still remain publicly anonymous,’ said Chris Woods, who leads the Bureau’s covert drone war team.
‘Our aim will be to identify by name many hundreds more of those killed. A significant number of those identities will be known by local communities, by US and Pakistani officials, and by militant groups. We hope to convince them to share that information.’
A February 15 2009 drone strike killed at least 26. Few have so far been named. (Getty Images)
The project has already secured substantial funding from a UK foundation – but it still needs more funds.
Today the US-based Freedom of the Press Foundation, a crowd-funding organisation aimed at raising money for public interest journalism, announced it is backing the Bureau’s Naming the Dead project. The Bureau’s new investigation will be one of four recipients of Freedom of the Press Foundation’s latest campaign.
Crowd-funding is an established way of supporting journalism in the US and it is increasingly being used in the UK as a way of funding projects, which established organisations ignore or will not fund.
Using the reach of the web, many people (the crowd) are able to give small amounts of money to back a cause or project in which they believe.
‘In the face of official secrecy, having the full facts about who is killed is essential for an informed debate about the effectiveness and ethics of the drone campaign,’ said Christopher Hird, managing editor of the Bureau. ‘And it is exciting to be able to give all of our supporters worldwide the chance to be part of our first venture in this democratic form of funding.’
A challenging task
Government officials, media organisations and even militant groups are often quick to identify senior militants such as Yahya al-Libi and Ilyas Kashmiri when they are killed.
Yet little is said of the hundreds more alleged militants and civilians among at least 2,629 deaths in Pakistan drone strikes.
Both the US and Pakistani governments are likely to keep detailed records. A recent case at the Peshawar High Court heard that officials in the tribal agencies had prepared a confidential report which ‘included details of each and every drone attack and the number, names and ages of the people killed’.
Anonymous US intelligence officials have also revealed details of CIA video surveillance on particular strikes. And the ‘Terror Tuesday’ process – in which hundreds of named alleged militants have been selected by US agencies for targeted killing – has been widely reported.
Photographs and other documents also occasionally surface. When a civilian family was killed in the first drone strike of Barack Obama’s presidency, local officials issued formal paperwork (see right) that was later obtained by the campaign group Center for Civilians in Conflict.
ID cards, family photographs and eyewitness testimony of attacks can all provide useful corroborating evidence. The graves of militants killed in drone strikes can also name them as ‘martyrs’ and give details of the strikes in which they died.
Drawing on information from a wide array of sources, the Bureau’s team will seek to build a detailed understanding of those killed.
Focus on Pakistan
While the Bureau will seek to extend the project to Yemen and Somalia in the near future, the initial focus will be on the nation where most US covert drone strikes have taken place.
Researchers based in Pakistan and the UK will seek to build up biographical information for all of those killed, whether civilian or militant – their name, age, gender, tribe, and village, for example. Where possible, photographs, witness statements and official documentation will also be published.
The team will seek assistance from the Pakistan and US governments in identifying those killed. And researchers will also call on Taliban factions and other militant groups to release information on the many hundreds of fighters killed in more than 360 US drone strikes since 2004.