The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday a significant expansion of its bond-buying program and low-interest-rate policy, in a move aimed at propping up the assets of the banks and super-rich amid signs of an intensification of the world economic crisis.

Speaking at a press release at the conclusion of the Federal Open Market Committee’s policy meeting, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the Fed would significantly expand the “quantitative easing” bond-buying program that it announced in September, adding an additional $45 billion of treasury securities per month to the $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities that it is already purchasing.

This move will expand the Fed’s balance sheet, from its current size of $2.9 trillion to nearly $4 trillion by the end of 2014.

About half of the assets being purchased by the Federal Reserve through the combined quantitative easing programs will be in the form of mortgage-backed securities, an effort to keep the value of these assets elevated while simultaneously removing them from the balance sheets of the banks.

Bernanke added that the Fed would, for the first time, officially tie its benchmark federal funds rate to the state of the economy, saying that it would keep the rate near zero percent “at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5 percent.” According to economic projections released by the Fed the same day, it does not expect the unemployment rate to fall to 6.5 percent for another three years.

The Fed also implied that it would tolerate more inflation as a consequence of the additional stimulus, stating that this policy would continue unless inflation hit 2.5 percent, half a percentage point higher than its nominal inflation target of 2 percent.

The Federal Reserve is taking these steps in part because it foresees a significant deterioration in the US economy.

Last week, the University of Michigan said that its confidence index fell sharply in December to 74.5, down from 82.7 percent. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM), meanwhile, reported last week that its index of manufacturing activity fell to 49.5, the lowest level since July 2009.

These figures have led economists to conclude that the US economy has slowed significantly in the last quarter of this year. At the same time, the US is deeply intertwined with the world economy, and global conditions are deteriorating rapidly.

Neither the Federal Open Market Committee press release nor the press statement given by Ben Bernanke explicitly notes a worsening of economic conditions. Rather, Bernanke couched the Fed’s policy moves as a response to concern over the continuing prevalence of unemployment.

This is a fraud. In fact, the Federal Reserve’s policy of providing unlimited free cash to the banks, all the while buying up the toxic assets on their balance sheets, has nothing to do with providing jobs to the unemployed.

US corporations are sitting atop a cash hoard that is estimated to be as much as $5 trillion dollars, while levels of investment have dropped to the lowest levels in years. Instead of putting people to work, banks and corporations are either hoarding or using the money to speculate.

The real goal of the Federal Reserve is to guarantee the continual profitability of Wall Street and the personal incomes of the super-rich.

First, the policy of zero interest rates guarantees the banks a profitable investment opportunity, at the very least by borrowing money at zero interest rates and using it to buy the government’s own debt.

Second, one of the stated aims of the quantitative easing program is to reduce interest rates on mortgages, and therefore prop up the US housing market. This is essential for inflating the values of “toxic” mortgage-backed securities, trillions of dollars of which remain on the balance sheets of the banks.

The quantitative easing program works by having the Federal Reserve create billions of dollars with which to purchase these worthless mortgage-backed securities from the banks at face value, keeping them on the balance sheet of the Federal Reserve.

The move by the Fed is only the latest of a string of announcements of monetary easing by global banks, including the central banks of Europe, England, Japan and Australia.

Last week the Japanese government stated that the country’s economy was probably in recession and gave its worst economic assessment since April 2009. That week, the German Central Bank said that the country’s economy would probably contract in this quarter and the next, while the European Central Bank recently said that economic growth in the 17-member euro zone would contract by at least 0.3 percent next year.

Since the eruption of the world economic crisis in 2008, the response of the ruling class internationally—led by the United States—has been to make available trillions of dollars to the banks, in the form of direct bailouts and monetary policy. Corporate profits are at record highs, and the stock markets have largely “recovered.” The very social layer responsible for the crisis has utilized it to its own benefit.

The corollary to this handout has been a coordinated assault on the jobs, wages and social programs of the working class. Governments throughout the world are pursuing brutal austerity measures in order to pay off the banks and investors. In the United States, the Democrats and Republicans are conspiring to slash trillions of dollars from government health care and retirement programs.

The Fed’s move is a signal to the markets that while there is supposedly “no money” for the basic rights of the working class, the spigot is always open and flowing for the financial aristocracy.

1984 Is Here: Big Brother in the Electronic Age

December 14th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

We extensively documented last week that Americans are the most spied upon people in world history.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal gave a glimpse of a small part of the pervasive spying:

Top U.S. intelligence officials gathered in the White House Situation Room in March to debate a controversial proposal. Counterterrorism officials wanted to create a government dragnet, sweeping up millions of records about U.S. citizens—even people suspected of no crime.

Why is this happening?

Technology … and money.

Specifically, Moore’s law says that computing power doubles every two years.  Computer processing and storage are advancing so quickly that massive quantities of visual and auditory data can be gathered, analyzed and stored.

Moreover, high-quality videocams and microphones keep getting cheaper and cheaper.  Today, most people shoot video with their smartphone, and alot of people have webcams on the computers.

At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security is giving huge amounts of cash to local governments to obtain  military hardware and software.

These 3 trends – increased computing power, cheaper videocams and microphones, and government funding for “homeland security” purposes – has led to a 1984 style surveillance society.

As Wired reports:

Transit authorities in cities across the country are quietly installing microphone-enabled surveillance systems on public buses that would give them the ability to record and store private conversations….

The systems are being installed in San Francisco, Baltimore, and other cities with funding from the Department of Homeland Security in some cases ….

The IP audio-video systems can be accessed remotely via a built-in web server (.pdf), and can be combined with GPS data to track the movement of buses and passengers throughout the city.

***

The systems use cables or WiFi to pair audio conversations with camera images in order to produce synchronous recordings. Audio and video can be monitored in real-time, but are also stored onboard in blackbox-like devices, generally for 30 days, for later retrieval. Four to six cameras with mics are generally installed throughout a bus, including one near the driver and one on the exterior of the bus.

***

Privacy and security expert Ashkan Soltani told the Daily that the audio could easily be coupled with facial recognition systems or audio recognition technology to identify passengers caught on the recordings.

RT notes:

Street lights that can spy installed in some American cities

America welcomes a new brand of smart street lightning systems: energy-efficient, long-lasting, complete with LED screens to show ads. They can also spy on citizens in a way George Orwell would not have imagined in his worst nightmare.

­With a price tag of $3,000+ apiece, according to an ABC report, the street lights are now being rolled out in Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh, and may soon mushroom all across the country.

Part of the Intellistreets systems made by the company Illuminating Concepts, they have a number of “homeland security applications” attached.

Each has a microprocessor “essentially similar to an iPhone,” capable of wireless communication. Each can capture images and count people for the police through a digital camera, record conversations of passers-by and even give voice commands thanks to a built-in speaker.

Ron Harwood, president and founder of Illuminating Concepts, says he eyed the creation of such a system after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Hurricane Katrina disaster. He is “working with Homeland Security” to deliver his dream of making people “more informed and safer.”

Fox news notes that the government is insisting that “black boxes” be installed in cars to track your location.

The TSA has moved way past airports, trains and sports stadiums, and is deploying mobile scanners to spy on people all over the place.  This means that traveling within the United States is no longer a private affair.  (And they’re probably bluffing, but the Department of Homeland Security claims they will soon be able to know your adrenaline level, what you ate for breakfast and what you’re thinking … from 164 feet away.)

And Verizon has applied for a patent that would allow your television to track what you are doing, who you are with, what objects you’re holding, and what type of mood you’re in.  Given Verizon and other major carriers responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011, such information would not be kept private.  (And some folks could be spying on you through your tv using existing technology.)

Thanks to Moore’s law, cheap electronics and the all-pervasive “homeland security” state, Big Brother is here.

Postscript: George Orwell was not the only one to foresee pervasive high-tech surveillance.  National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in 1970:

The [future] era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities.

And the national security boys can choose to share U.S. civilian information with federal, state, local, or foreign entities for analysis of possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them.

Fortunately, Big Brother is a gentle soul who would never hurt a fly.  Oh, waitnever mind.

German Court: CIA Abducted and Tortured German Citizen

December 14th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

Torture Was Systemic, Doesn’t Work … and Both Dems and Repubs Approved It

The Guardian reports:

CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on, the European court of human rights said in a historic judgment released on Thursday.

***

“The grand chamber of the European court of human rights unanimously found that Mr el-Masri was subjected to forced disappearance, unlawful detention, extraordinary rendition outside any judicial process, and inhuman and degrading treatment” ….

“Masri’s treatment at Skopje airport at the hands of the CIA rendition team – being severely beaten, sodomised, shackled and hooded, and subjected to total sensory deprivation – had been carried out in the presence of state officials of [Macedonia] and within its jurisdiction,” the court ruled.

***

UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, described the ruling as “a key milestone in the long struggle to secure accountability of public officials implicated in human rights violations committed by the Bush administration CIA in its policy of secret detention, rendition and torture“.

He said the US government must issue an apology for its “central role in a web of systematic crimes and human rights violations by the Bush-era CIA, and to pay voluntary compensation to Mr el-Masri”.

Indeed, as we’ve repeatedly noted, torture - including physical torture, as well as sodomy and other types of sexual torture – were widespread and systematic.

We’ve also thoroughly documented that torture is wholly ineffective in producing intelligence, and severely weakens national security.  And that it was used for wholly political reasons.

Today, on the eve of the release of the major propaganda film “Zero Dark Thirty”, the Washington Post notes:

The Senate intelligence committee approved a long-awaited report Thursday concluding that harsh interrogation measures used by the CIA did not produce significant intelligence breakthroughs, officials said.

***

Officials familiar with the report said it makes a detailed case that subjecting prisoners to ­“enhanced” interrogation techniques did not help the CIA find Osama bin Laden and often were counterproductive in the broader campaign against al-Qaeda.

The committee chairman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein ­(D-Calif.), declined to discuss specific findings but released a written statement describing decisions to allow the CIA to build a network of secret prisons and employ harsh interrogation measures as “terrible mistakes.”

“I also believe this report will settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques,” Feinstein said.

While the press is playing this as a partisan issue – with Democrats condemning torture and Republicans saying it was a necessary evil – Democrats like Pelosi, Harman, Rockefeller actually knew all about it and approved, or at least covered it up.

The Great Social Security Robbery

December 14th, 2012 by Prof. James Petras

Introduction

The leaders of both major parties, Congress, the White House, the editorial writers, journalists of all the principle newspapers and most academic economists claim that Social Security and Medicare need to be ‘reformed’ in order to reduce the “unsustainable” fiscal deficit and avoid the bankruptcy of these social programs.  An important aspect of this elite propaganda campaign is the perverse manipulation of the nature of those two programs.  They are dubbed “entitlement programs”, implying some sort of government handout or individual privilege.  In fact social security is a form of social insurance paid for through payroll tax deductions throughout the working life of the contributors, which  usually approximates a half-century.

The “entitlement” rhetoric claims that the lifetime contributions are insufficient and that several regressive ‘reforms’ are necessary to “save the systems” – at the expense of the beneficiaries.  The so-called “Grand Compromise” proposed by President Obama and the “Fiscal Reforms” proposed by the Congressional Republicans are all aimed at robbing working class contributors of their pension savings through various specific regressive changes.

The “Grand Compromise” as Legalized Theft

For decades only a small fraction of Social Security contributions are used to pay recipients, the bulk is transferred into the general treasury to pay for current expenditures – mostly hundreds of billions of dollars in war spending, payments on bonds and T-notes; subsidies to agro-business, bailouts to Wall Street speculative investment banks and other elite economic interests.  Over the decades the Treasury robbed several trillions in SS funds, exchanging them for IOUs (never reimbursed) in order to provide a kind of “social insurance” for the military-industrial-Wall Street-police state power elite.  If the accumulated payments to SS had remained in a special account instead of being siphoned off to cover the deficits incurred by military spending and overseas wars, SS finance would be in sound condition at least till the end of the 21st century. The Social Security Administration (SSA) would be able to adjust payments upward to real rates of inflation (about double the rate of adjustment now jiggered by the Government).  The SSA could begin full payments at age 62 for most and at a lower age for those citizens working in hazardous occupations.

Even if we take account of the past Treasury heist, the SS fund could be fully replenished if the cap was eliminated on incomes above $110,000 and if the SS tax was made progressive.  As is well known, self-employed billionaires and millionaires pay an average of $11,450 a year to the SS fund.  If the cap was lifted, those earning a billion would pay a minimum of $100 million a year at the current rate, the millionaires $100 thousand a year.  If a moderately progressive rate was in place, payments would double, pretty much ending the threat to SS.

There is no “entitlement crises” today.  There is a crisis in the regressive payments and tax systems which finance the social insurance programs.  The problem is elite tax evasion not the ‘aging of the population’.  The problem is the use of SS payments to fund the power elite-robbing Peter (SS) to pay Paul (imperial wars).

The robbing of SS contributors-turned-beneficiaries is repeated in a multitude of forms every day and in every way.

The construction of the ‘index’ to measure the rate of inflation and yearly adjustment is deeply flawed to the detriment of the beneficiaries.  The cost of living index excludes the high rates of inflation in such key items as gasoline, medical costs, food and other essential items in retirees’ budget thus halving the real loss of purchasing power.  In other words, over the period of a decade, between 9% – 11% of real purchasing power of SS recipients is robbed through deliberate state manipulation of the index – amounting to hundreds of dollars.

In contrast, Medicare payments by SS recipients have increased because of real rising rates of inflation in medical costs.  In effect real inflation rates apply to increase costs to SS recipients and deflated rates apply to lower payment to SS beneficiaries.  A multi-billion dollar annual robbery!

While there is a bi-partisan consensus in maintaining the regressive cap on SS payments for the rich and in the manipulation of the cost of living adjustments, the Republican leadership and many Democrats want to privatize social insurance:  handing over trillions of dollars in SS payments to Wall Street to invest in stocks, equities, hedge funds, junk bonds, etc.  This would allow the private fund managers to deduct billions in commissions (3% to 5%) at the expense of the SS recipients … not to mention the risk of swindles and investment losses which have become endemic on Wall Street and could deprive pensioners of their pensions in case of a stock market crash.

Most Democrats know that over 90% of the SS beneficiaries oppose the Wall Street giveaway, so they propose to “save” SS by reducing payments to millions and denying it to hundreds of thousands each year.

‘Working till you Die’:  Raising the Age for SS Benefits

A bi-partisan committee appointed by President Obama proposes to raise the age at which SS beneficiaries can begin to collect full pensions from 65 to 67 years.  According to US Government Stats, 330,096 (158,038 men and 172,061 women) elderly individuals die between the ages of 65 and 67.  By raising the age for SS benefits to 67, the Government will deny (robbing) hundreds of thousands of SS beneficiaries of a single social insurance payment after nearly a half century of contributions.  In other words, Obama and the Republican Congress will “save the SS system” by denying payments to its lifetime contributors!  By raising the age for SS benefits, the political elite are in fact sentencing more than half of American workers who die prior to 67 years to “work till they die”.

Class, Race, Region and Social Security

Most countries, other than the US , take account of differential death rates because of hazardous occupations and related considerations and adjust the age for retirement accordingly.

Not in the “Home of the Brave”, where SS retirement savings have other uses and beneficiaries.  While many European countries especially England (since 1837) have a long history of national occupational studies related to work related risks to health and mortality, the US has few studies and those relate to limited age groups.  No doubt the lack of social scientist interest is related to the fact that Government and foundations  are not willing to finance class based research which highlights the vast gap in mortality rates between bosses and workers; between poor/rural and urban-professional women; between black and Hispanic minorities and whites.

The highest rates of mortality are found among industrial workers, especially blacks: construction workers,spray painters and roofers (especially Hispanics); workers involved with pesticides (farmworkers) ;and extractive workers (miners, lumberjacks, fisher people etc.).  Millions of these workers, the vast majority, work until they die.  They pay a lifetime worth of social security taxes, and because of the high age limits for retirement, never collect a dollar in benefits.  In contrast high end CEOs collect social security payments till their late 80’s.  With the decline in health benefits for workers under the current capitalist offensive and public sector cutbacks, workers have less access to medical care.   Workers with no/or inadequate medical coverage have higher rates of mortality.  This is especially evident in the sharp decine of life expectancy among low income rural white females – a group which lacks adequate medical coverage and a likely to ‘work ‘til they die’ – paying SS taxes and never receiving a social security check.

Workers in their early sixties are much more prone to illness and injuries and are more likely to die before they are eligible for their first social security check.  Upping the age for SS benefits means: (1) the disproportionate exclusion of workers who have slaved at the hardest, dirtiest and most dangerous work and (2) disproportionately benefits the wealthy managerial class which paid the smallest share of their income and who will collect the biggest SS checks over the longest time.  Increasing the age for retirement exacerbates the already huge class inequalities…. even into death.

A Call to Action:  Worker Centered Reform of Social Security

Social Security ‘reform’ is a necessity but we propose class changes in the exact opposite direction from those proposed by the bipartisan coalition.

To increase the longevity and replenish the SS fund to the end of the 21st century the cap on SS payments must be removed and a progressive rate of taxation must be implemented.

Secondly, SS contributions should not be deposited in the general treasury to fund the war machine and state subsidies to capitalists.  Let’s set up a special SS fund to reimburse contributors.  Let’s demand that the Treasury redeem its IOUs to SS:  repayments should be paid into a special SS fund to finance beneficiaries,

Thirdly, with the additional flows of revenue, full/SS benefits should begin for workers in hazardous occupations at 60 years and in general at 62 years.  Cost of living indexes should be based on real ‘household baskets’ taking account of rises in medical and other special expenditures for older citizens.

Fourthly, Medicare expenditures can be reduced by at least 50% though a Single Payer System, which should be funded through an excess profits tax, a financial transaction tax (a sales tax on the purchase of stocks and bonds) and by a 75% reduction in military spending.

Both current and future social security contributors, literally, have a life or death interest in reforming and expanding coverage of social insurance programs.  In every sense this is “the mother of all class struggles”.  The outcome will determine whether the capitalist class will continue to rob social security and its working class contributors;  whether workers will continue to ‘work ‘til they die’; and whether a SS program can be legislated which provides workers with time for leisure, recreation, play with grandchildren, fishing, swimming and walking dogs in a fresh, clear, daylight setting.

How Many U.S. Troops To Stay In Afghanistan And For How Long?

December 14th, 2012 by Boris Volkhonsky

The visit and the topics discussed leave no doubt that the previously announced “full withdrawal” of US troops from Afghanistan was from the very beginning meant for the internal consumption by the credulous American public.

One thing should always be remembered: the US does not (and never was) intend to leave Afghanistan at all. The country is too crucial for the US strategy of the “Greater Middle East”, and, being located in a strategic vicinity to Iran, Central and South Asia, it allows to exert pressure on a vast area.

[S]taying in Afghanistan for as long as possible and still longer is what the Americans are determined to do. But the question is: how long will Afghanistan and its neighbors tolerate the occupation?

On December 12, 2012, the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit. On the first day of his two-day stay in the country he met with the top US military commanders there and discussed options on how many troops to keep in Afghanistan after the NATO mission ends in 2014.
President Barack Obama’s decision on the issue is expected in the coming weeks.

Officially, the number of troops the US wants to keep in Afghanistan is not disclosed, but experts believe that it may be 6,000 to 10,000 of the current 66,000 to 68,000.

In any case, the number of troops that will remain in the country after the withdrawal is over should be sufficient to sustain up to five military bases in crucial parts of Afghanistan.

The proposed bases include:

- one at Bagram near Kabul;

- one at Shindand in the west, near the Iranian border;

- one at Mazar-i-Sharif in the north;

- one or two in the south (Kandahar and/or Helmand).

The visit and the topics discussed leave no doubt that the previously announced “full withdrawal” of US troops from Afghanistan was from the very beginning meant for the internal consumption by the credulous American public.

One thing should always be remembered: the US does not (and never was) intend to leave Afghanistan at all. The country is too crucial for the US strategy of the “Greater Middle East”, and, being located in a strategic vicinity to Iran, Central and South Asia, it allows to exert pressure on a vast area.

There still remain doubts on whether the strategic goal is easily achievable.

It should be noted that despite the announcement widely publicized when Leon Panetta just landed in Afghanistan that, apart from the US military top brass, he is going to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, by Thursday mid-afternoon no reports of such a meeting were available.

Definitely, even if such a meeting did take place, there are too many problems in the US relationship with the present Afghan leadership to be overcome too easily. Hamid Karzai was installed as Afghan president by the US as a servile marionette. But even being one, he cannot totally ignore the arrogance of the occupation forces that have alienated the whole of Afghan society and not only the Taliban they were supposed to fight with.

Not only weren’t the Taliban defeated – on the contrary, the movement is gaining strength and now even the current Afghan authorities have to agree that the Taliban can participate in power-sharing and even govern parts of Afghanistan, namely in the east and in the south of the country.

It is also noteworthy that on the day of Leon Panetta’s arrival in Afghanistan, President Karzai was in Turkey participating in trilateral talks with Turkish and Pakistani leaders. The talks are widely looked upon as an attempt to substitute Islamabad for Washington as the chief coordinator of the post-war reconciliation process.

As for the particular issue of future US military presence in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai is probably unable to resist it, but on many occasions he has expressed his demand that American forces come under the jurisdiction of Afghan courts. It should be noted that similar demands made by Iraqi authorities eventually forced Americans to leave that country altogether.

Also, Karzai has been demanding that the US hand over custody of all detainees held at Bagram prison and has warned that his government might suspend negotiations on the future US force.

All these reservations come from a government that is still regarded as West-friendly. But 2014 is not just the year of Western troop withdrawal, but also the year of general elections in Afghanistan. And no one can say for sure whether the US will succeed in holding another fraudulent election and implanting another obedient marionette, or whether the practice of “colored revolutions” the US strategists are so fond of will backfire against them.

So, the attempts by Leon Panetta and other topmost US officials to present a rosy picture of the situation in Afghanistan once again represent an example of wishful thinking. Of course, staying in Afghanistan for as long as possible and still longer is what the Americans are determined to do. But the question is: how long will Afghanistan and its neighbors tolerate the occupation?

Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies

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Propaganda War on Syria Rages

December 14th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

 Propaganda wars precede hot ones. Conflicts and other forms of violence are glorified in the name of peace. Doublespeak duplicity claim it. Wars are waged to prevent it. 

 Ongoing ones assure more ahead. Unconscionable death counts rise. America, Israel, key NATO partners, and regional allies bear full responsibility. Humanity hangs in the balance.

 Humanitarian intervention and responsibility to protect (R2P) mask ravaging one country after another. Slaughter and mass destruction are called liberating struggles. 

Plunder is for economic development. Exploitation and dominance are called democracy building. Media scoundrels invert truth for public support.

When America goes to war or plans them, they march obediently in lockstep. Administration, congressional and Pentagon propaganda get reported as news and information.

Big Lies make headlines. They’re repeated ad nauseam. Media scoundrels are so addicted to lying, perhaps their employment contracts mandate misinformation, deceit and distortion while avoiding truth at all cost.

What better way to explain mainstream journalism. Fundamental good reporting principles are spurned. Ethical standards are ignored.

The history of sensationalism, yellow journalism, and lying about what matters most in America is long and sordid. It dates back centuries. Accurate reporting is most important when lives, human welfare, and perhaps humanity are on the line.

Television is worst of all. In a June 1950 commencement address, Boston University President Daniel Marsh said, “If the (television) craze continues….we are destined to have a nation of morons.”

Famed comedian Ernie Kovacs (1919 – 1962) once called it a medium because it’s neither rare or well done.

He’d be horrified by what goes on now. It fails on all counts. So do scoundrel print media. They give news, information, and opinion reporting bad names.

Long before television arrived, journalist Walter Lippmann called the public “the bewildered herd.” In policy matters, they’re considered “spectators,” not “participants.”

“The common interests elude public opinion entirely,” he said. That’s how it should be, he added.

America’s privileged class alone should manage policy. Only they need proper education and training. Treat others like mushrooms – well-watered and in the dark. Distract them with bread and circuses. Misinform them with managed and junk food news.

Media scoundrels betray the reading and viewing public. They’re best served by walking away, tuning out, and choosing credible sources for what they most need to know. Greater numbers now do it. One day perhaps everyone will.

The media wars rage against Syria. People are being systematically lied to and manipulated to accept more war. Western-recruited proxies wage it no-holds barred. They specialize in gruesome atrocities. Managed news reports suppress them.

Full-scale intervention looms. It could happen anytime. Early next year looks most likely.

Global Research associate Julie Levesque highlights ” ‘chemical propaganda’ and fabricated evidence.” When threats don’t exist, they’re invented.

When headlined enough most people believe them. War followed hyping nonexistent Iraq WMDs for months. False claims precede all wars. They’re based on lies and deception. It happens every time.

No matter how often people are fooled, they’re easy to deceive again. They’re being prepared for full-scale war on Syria. It’s deja vu all over again.

Michel Chossudovsky highlighted the “Syria Chemical Weapons Saga.” Perhaps another “US-NATO Humanitarian Disaster” awaits. It’s likely given how often the same scenario played out earlier.

After detailed planning and implementation, it’s hard imagining Washington now going soft. Don’t expect it. It won’t happen. Before Syrian ravaging ends, it may exceed the worst of charnel house Libya.

With about four times the population, imagine the possible death, injury, and mass destruction toll. Imagine potential cutthroat killer Islamofascist rule replacing Assad governance most Syrians support.

Libya 2.0 on a much uglier scale looks possible. Chemical propaganda and other misreporting precede what looks likely.

Chossudovsky says people are being manipulated to believe “that a ‘frustrated’ and ‘desperate’ (Assad) is planning to use deadly chemical weapons against his own people.”

Doing so would be like putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. The possibility of using them internally is nil except perhaps against NATO foreign invaders. Even then it’s unlikely unless Western WMDs are used on Syrians.

Managed news reports invent the worst about Assad. Chossudovsky quoted NBC News claiming “Syria’s military has loaded nerve-gas chemicals into bombs and are awaiting final orders from al-Assad.”

Media hype rages “full gear.” “Fake reports” make headline news. We’ve heard it all before many times. It’s repeated because it works. Only the war theaters, heads of state, and fakery vary.

Otherwise it’s an old script rerun. Propaganda films follow at times. History is re-invented. Facts are turned on their head. Bad guys are them, not us. The worst of all possible worlds is called the best.

An ending too gruesome to imagine perhaps looms. Humanity may not survive. America’s imperium matters most. Those in charge go for broke, and let the devil take the hindmost.

That’s how imperial rogues think. Media share responsibility. Thoughts of blood on their hands never enter their minds. Only wealth, power, privilege, dominance, and winner take all matter.

Body counts are a small price to pay. It’s hard imagining how these people were raised. Perhaps they forgot moral lessons taught. Maybe they remember but don’t care. It shows in what they support and tolerate.

Wednesday reports hyped Abbas firing scud missiles inside Syria. Western headlines feature it. Unnamed US officials are sources. Ones preferring anonymity lack credibility. So do journalists using them.

At issue isn’t whether scuds, other missiles or rockets are used. It’s implying use of or plans to use chemical weapons.

Reports follow scurrilous ones about Assad loading sarin nerve agents or other deadly chemicals in bombs. They also suggest intensified Assad belligerence. Implied is that more civilians in his line of fire are dying.

At her daily press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said:

“As the regime becomes more and more desperate, we see it resorting to increased lethality and more vicious weapons moving forward, and we have in recent days seen missiles deployed.”

She added that Washington is concerned about a weapon called a “barrel (incendiary) bomb.” She said it contains inflammable materials. Human Rights Watch claimed he used them. More on that below.

“It’s sort of a napalm-like thing and is completely indiscriminate in terms of civilians, so very, very concerning and indicative of the regime’s desperation and the regime’s brutality,” said Nuland.

What’s most “indicative” is ignoring America’s longstanding use of napalm, agent orange in Southeast Asia, biological and chemical poisons, depleted and enriched uranium weapons, as well as other illegal toxins. It’s official US policy in all wars Washington wages.

Large areas of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Vietnam and elsewhere America attacked aren’t safe to live it. Toxicity levels are too high. Uranium contamination is permanent.

No evidence whatever shows Assad uses chemical or other toxins. Suggesting he does or may hypes fear ahead of likely full-scale intervention.

On December 13, his Foreign and Expatriates Ministry “denied as untrue rumors about the Syrian Arab Army using Scud Missiles to confront the armed terrorist groups.”

It responded to falsely circulating claims. It named Turkey and partnered countries conspiring against Syria.

On December 12, Human Rights Watch (HRW) was back to its old tricks. It shills for US direct and proxy wars as well as others planned. It features anti-Assad propaganda. It headlined “Syria: Incendiary Weapons Used in Populated Areas.”

It claimed Assad used them “in at least four locations….since mid-November.” Anti-Assad witnesses said so. Unverified video footage was shown. It’s been fake before. It’s simple to do.

HRW admitted it’s “investigating unconfirmed reports of the use of incendiary weapons in (various) parts of Syria.” Proper analysis demands doing so first, finding clear evidence if it exists, then reporting the findings.

HRW so far has nothing more than dubious video evidence and suspect witnesses. They’re not named or identified. Numerous earlier reports were falsified.

No verifiable evidence suggests this one is legitimate. HRW’s last comment said “Syria is not known to be a producer or exporter of incendiary weapons.” It claims a stockpile of Soviet origin remains.

If any were obtained that long ago, their usefulness may have expired. Chemical and biological weapons lose potency over time. Their shelf life is limited. Perhaps it’s true also for incendiaries.

The New York Times was most responsible for misreporting on non-existent Iraq chemical weapons. Judith Miller’s rewritten daily front page Pentagon handouts proved effective propaganda.

Her writing became a weapon of mass destruction. She featured an entire Noah’s Ark of scam artists hyping fake threats. War followed. The “cradle of civilization” was destroyed.

Iraq is permanently occupied. Libya followed. Afghanistan boils. Syria looms. The Times plays the lead propaganda role. Miller is gone, but other disreputable writers replaced her. No shortage exists in Times Square or foreign venues.

On December 12, Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt headlined “Syria Uses Scud Missiles in New Effort to Push Back Rebels.”

Both writers called a Western-generated foreign invasion a “civil war.” Nothing “civil” characterizes what’s going on. Neither one explained.

At least six “Soviet-designed” scuds were fired. They’re “not known for their precision.” Obama’s red line stresses using chemical weapons internally.

Assad may have calculated he “can resort to such lethal weapons without the fear of international intervention….”

Former Army intelligence officer Joseph Holliday was quoted saying he “views every weapon short of chemicals as fair game.”

He “escalated its use of force whenever the rebels’ strength has presented a significant challenge to the regime.”

The detailed article omitted heavy weapons supplied foreign fighters. It ignored their atrocities. They’re committed regularly. Pro-Assad loyalists are targeted. Civilian neighborhoods are raided. Slaughter follows. Neither writer explained.

Death squads are considered liberators. They’re not “rebels.” They’re foreign mercenary killers. They’re paid or otherwise enlisted to murder and destroy.

Their ranks are infested with Islamofascists. Syrians deplore what they represent. They have no say in what Washington plans. No do civilians in other US targeted countries.

Rogue states demand unchallenged dominance. Popular sentiment isn’t tolerated. Imperial wars rage. The entire region and beyond is threatened.

Potential death and mass destruction too gruesome to imagine looms. Stay tuned. More reports will follow.

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

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

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

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

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

 

A day before the right wing coalition government in Portugal was to vote through its 2013 budget, the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble met his Portuguese counterpart Vitor Gaspar and proclaimed, “Portugal is on the right path and is, for all of us in the Eurozone, a brilliant example that the approach we have been following to stabilize the Euro is correct.”

Schäuble went on to praise the “exceptional job” being performed by the Portuguese government. But recent events have shown that the austerity measures insisted on by the ‘Troika’ of the European Union, European Central Bank and IMF are creating serious fissures inside the ruling coalition, growing resistance at the base of society and widespread debate inside of the parliamentary and extra-parliamentary left.

The ruling coalition is made up of the Social Democrats (PSD), which despite its name is a right wing party, and the Conservatives (CDS). While the implementation of the Troika’s austerity measures may have earned Portugal the label of “the good pupil of the Eurozone,” Portugal’s deficit still stands €1.4-billion away from reaching the Troika’s target for 2012.

Since the €78-billion heavy bail-out package in 2011 the government has embarked on what the Economist magazine called a “brutal” austerity course, equivalent to a “fiscal atomic bomb.” Civil servants’ salaries over €1,500 have been slashed by up to 10 per cent, those earning over €1,000 have had their holiday pay scrapped and more than 600,000 public sector workers (around four out every five public sector workers) are at risk of losing their jobs.

Unemployment and Emigration

These attacks on workers’ contracts and conditions have been part of Portuguese capital’s long-term strategy for reducing labour costs, creating high employment and boosting competitiveness inside of the Eurozone so as to attract foreign investment. As a consequence almost 50 per cent of the Portuguese workforce are on temporary contracts.

The unemployment rate lies above 15 per cent and is predicted to rise further next year. Unlike other southern European countries where youth unemployment exceeds 50 per cent in Portugal it ‘only’ amounts to 27 per cent as large numbers of young people have been forced to emigrate. More than 10,000 under 25 year olds have migrated in the last four months alone, many of them have moved to countries such as Germany and Britain, while others have headed to Portugal’s former colonies in Angola, Mozambique and Brazil. Recently prime minister Passos Coelho even told a group of teachers faced with unemployment to emigrate if they couldn’t find jobs.

The €3.5-billion cuts to healthcare, social security and education announced in the budget for 2013 will only plunge Portugal deeper into crisis and recession. The hard-line approach led by the Social Democrats has allowed its coalition partner the Conservatives to pose as the more moderate force.

While they continue to vote through the austerity measures prescribed by the Troika, the Conservatives’ verbal distance from Coelho and Gaspar’s more radical reforms have created tensions inside the government. As unlikely as a break-up of the coalition may seem it did take the intervention of the Portuguese president to lower the temperature inside the coalition faced with a by-election next year.

Wrapped in the language that calls for the “re-foundation” of the Portuguese state, the current austerity policies threaten to uproot the gains made by the revolution in 1974-75, when a coup by a group of left wing military officers against the fascist Salazar regime led to a wave of popular and workers’ power. While other European countries received their first taste of neoliberalism in the late 1970s and 1980s, Portugal was establishing a welfare state as part of the post-revolution settlement.

A deepening recession, the grim prospect of more bail-outs and the potential for EU budgetary targets to be missed all point toward the possibility of further fracture lines developing at the top of Portuguese society over the coming months.

The weekend before the 14 November general strike one such fracture appeared when 10,000 active and retired members of the military in civilian dress marched against austerity through the capital, Lisbon. Some officers complained that their salaries have been cut by as much as 25 per cent. One banner read “The military is unhappy, the people are unhappy.” Given the role that radical officers played in the 1974-75 Revolution, many people supported the military’s protest. Later on television, one member of the military went on to say, “We will do everything so that the indignation of the people will not be suppressed.”

Sparks of Resistance

On 15 September a demonstration was called by a group of artists, intellectuals and public figures under the banner of “Screw the Troika! (Que Se Lixe a Troika!) We want our lives!” From small villages in the Azores to the Algarve, to the industrial cities of Lisbon and Porto, more than 600,000 people took to the streets against the government’s proposal to increase workers’ social security contributions by 7 per cent (some reports put the turnout on the protests as high as one million, out of a population of just 10.5 million).

The demonstrations were key to forcing the government to backtrack from their initial proposal. Importantly, they sparked a new wave of popular mobilizations culminating in the general strike on 14 November.

The size of the demonstrations on 15 September even surpassed those of 1974. But while the mobilizations in 1974 saw people hugging and kissing each other and overflowing with joy, the demonstrations on 15 September were very different, reflecting the fear and anger workers feel faced with all social gains made by the revolution disappearing in front of their eyes.

While a small group of activists were able to make a massive impact with their call on 15 September, it also exposed the lack of political organization on the ground. The scale of the demonstration was a surprise to everyone including seasoned trade union activists and those of the radical left in the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda). While Left Bloc members did become part of organizing the local demonstrations, the still important Communist Party failed to call on its members to join the protests until an hour prior to the start of the rallies.

A few weeks later though the weaknesses of initiatives such as “Que Se Lixe a Troika” would be exposed when they called for a demonstration against Angela Merkel’s visit to Lisbon and only a couple of hundred activists turned up.

The 14 November general strike was a massive success for the Communist-led CGTP trade union federation compared to its strike back in March this year. Despite the Socialist Party influenced UGT union federation denouncing the strike as “sectarian” and calling on its members to work, a number of local UGT-affiliated branches did decide to walk out. These rifts were further exposed when the Socialist Party mayor of Lisbon came out in support of the strikers’ demands. While the Socialist Party remains committed to a pro-austerity position, pressure from the trade union movement has shown the possibility of pulling it leftwards.

The CGTP is strongest in the public sector while the private sector remains largely non-unionized. In Lisbon, I visited a picket line of about 40 to 50 bin workers who were out picketing from about 10pm the evening before the general strike. Only two out of 123 workers attempted to cross the picket lines. Hospital, transport and postal workers ensured that the public sector ground to a halt for the day. Even the airline company TAP had to cancel 48 per cent of its flights. Postal workers of the recently privatized CTT company complained about having lost sick pay, Christmas and holiday pay as well as being forced onto temporary contracts.

New Initiatives

Despite their small size, political initiatives such as “Estudantes pela Greve geral” (Students for the General Strike) and “Precarios Inflexiveis” (which campaigns over casualization and temporary contracts) and rank and file trade union members forced the CGTP to call demonstrations in Porto and Lisbon on the day of the strike, something that hasn’t always happened in previous strikes. More than 3,000 strikers marched in Porto, while in Lisbon around 7,000 took to the streets. As the demonstration wound its way through the narrow hilly streets of Lisbon people joined in from the houses and apartments chanting “Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal – the struggle is international.”

Later that evening, after the speeches by CGTP union leaders had ended, protesters pulled down the fences that separated the masses from parliament and started throwing rocks, eggs and other objects toward a line of riot police protecting the building. As night time fell over the capital, the police decided to clear the square outside of parliament and the day ended in a pitched battle between protesters and the state.

Following this incident, CGTP leader Armenio Carlos declared, “I won’t give any moralistic speeches but I sincerely regret the actions taken tonight.” While activists argued that the statement could have been worse, it has drawn new battle lines in a fragile movement with hardly any roots in the unions and a strong Communist Party which could pull the plug on any further action.

The government’s decision to raise the wages of the police and the paramilitary gendarmerie by 11 per cent following the general strike is aimed at creating a wedge between a demoralized police force imbued with the memory of the revolution and a growing strike and protest movement.

While the Communist Party would like to channel the movement toward next year’s by-elections, the dockers have instead provided a new focus for resistance. Over the course of the last three months they have paralyzed most of south Portugal’s ports through a work to rule action over a new labour code meant to relax employment regulations. Thousands have participated in solidarity demonstrations, while hundreds of dockers have turned out for Angela Merkel’s visit to Lisbon, for example. In turn, the CGTP has been forced to call a demonstration to support the dockers’ day of action.

While the lack of political organization has contributed to the volatility of the situation it also places limits on the Portuguese movement against the Troika. Creating rank and file networks inside unions and networks of activists in the neighbourhoods, schools and universities will be crucial if the movement is to turn the sparks of resistance into raging bonfires.

Unless there is a bigger political challenge from the streets and greater pressure from below, the risk is that the movement will be at the mercy of the actions of the CGTP and Communist Party leaders who view the strike movement as something distinct from the fight for political power. Today, as in 1974, the Communist Party has little interest in creating rank and file networks which could spiral out of its control and create a real challenge to the stability of the system.

Debates in the Movement

The demonstrations on 15 September showed that mass mobilizations could derail unpopular austerity measures like the increase in social security contributions – a powerful lesson. The general strike on 14 November will have further strengthened the movement as workers paralyzed the whole of the public sector for the first time.

The volatility and sudden shifts have thrown up many questions among activists. However, there are two interlinked questions which the anti-capitalist and revolutionary left will have to provide clarity over: Could a left government made up of the Left Bloc, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party stop the Troika and austerity? And how do we transform resistance into a project which can change the balance of forces and even transform society?

At the Left Bloc congress in mid-November delegates debated the prospect of breaking the ruling coalition and the establishment of a left government. Many believe that the rapid rise of the radical left coalition Syriza in Greece earlier in June show the possibilities for the left in Portugal. However, the recent history of the two coalitions is very different. Syriza’s rapid rise is the product of the near continuous popular mobilizations and repeated general strikes which have marked Greece for more than four years now.

The Left Bloc, however, was electorally decimated in elections in 2011 when it lost half of its 16 members of parliament. Currently the Left Bloc stands at 7.5 per cent in the opinion polls. Even with the support of the Communist Party, which advocates a “left and patriotic government,” the forces for such a project would still only come to roughly 17 per cent. While this is impressive, it is far short of a majority. This leads the Left Bloc to look toward the Socialist Party which advocates “intelligent austerity” and is currently leading in the polls.

Francisco Louçã, the Left Bloc’s leading figure over the last period, has argued that a left government would be “government of the social movements that are running through the arteries of the Republic.” What would the relationship of such a government to the movements be? While those questions were raised by the left tide that swept Latin America earlier this century, the European parliamentary and extra-parliamentary left are confronted with them ten years on.

The two-day debate at the Left Bloc’s Congress tried to come to terms with this. Some delegates argued that the left government is a necessary step in the transition to socialism and a revolutionary tool that can transform anger at injustice into active mobilization. However, any government that dares to step out of line would be confronted with the dictates of the European Union as well as the hostility of Portuguese capital.

Rank and File

For the Portuguese workers and anti-austerity movement the most urgent task is to build rank and file networks that can go beyond the one-day set-piece strikes called by the CGTP. Such networks of workers could help people who have to choose whether to pay for their rent or put food on their plates, facilitate solidarity and take action to coincide with the dockers who are waging a heroic battle. They would also need to confront political questions such as the Communist Party’s insistence that the fight against the Troika is a national liberation struggle, when it is clearly a class struggle.

As Paolo, a postal worker, argued on the picket line on the day of the general strike:

“It’s fantastic that workers everywhere are striking today. But this struggle should have happened when austerity first started. The last government started this drive for austerity by slashing public services, our salaries, and raising taxes for the poor. I haven’t seen anything like this since the revolution back when I was three years old. This is a struggle of workers against the capitalists. We need the same to happen here as in Greece and Spain.” •

Mark Bergfeld recently attended the congress of the Left Bloc in Portugal and witnessed the general strike there a few days later. This article first published on the socialistreview.org.uk website.

Post-Deepwater Horizon: Legacy of the BP Oil Spill

December 13th, 2012 by Greg Palast

Massacres Under the Looking Glass: The ICC and Colombia

December 13th, 2012 by Daniel Kovalik

The International Criminal Court (ICC) just published its Interim Report on Colombia (1).   It is an interesting read, revealing as much about the ICC itself as it does about Colombia.   In the Report, the ICC explains that Colombia has been under preliminary examination by the ICC since June 2004.   This is quite curious given the ICC’s conclusion in the report that the worst crimes of the Colombian military – the “false positive” killings in which the military killed around 3,000 innocent civilians and dressed them up to appear as guerillas – “occurred with greatest frequency between 2004 and 2008.”

In other words, the military carried out its most notorious violations while under the ICC’s Clouseau-like scrutiny.  Perhaps the ICC was too busy trying Africans — apparently the sole target of ICC prosecutions – to have done anything to deter such crimes.

In any case, the ICC’s conclusions about the “false positives” scandal raise many questions about the Colombian military, and, more importantly, about its U.S. patron.  Thus, the high water mark for the “false positives” (2004 to 2008) also corresponds with the time in which the U.S. was providing the highest level of military aid to Colombia.    And, this appears to be more than a coincidence.

The ICC describes the “false positives” phenomenon as follows:

State actors, in particular members of the Colombian army, have also allegedly deliberately killed thousands of civilians to bolster success rates in the context of the internal armed conflict and to obtain monetary profit from the State’s funds.   Executed civilians were reported as guerillas killed in combat after alterations of the crime scene.   . . .   The available information indicates that these killings were carried out by members of the armed forces, at times operating jointly with paramilitaries and civilians, as a part of an attack directed against civilians in different parts of Colombia.   Killings were in some cases preceded by arbitrary detentions, torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

The ICC concluded that these killings were systemic, approved by the highest ranks of the Colombian military, and that they therefore constituted “state policy.”

The killings – which the ICC characterized as both “murder” and “forced disappearances” — were not random, but rather, as the ICC concluded, were directed at “particular categories of civilians,” including “marginalized” individuals from remote areas, such as unemployed persons, indigents and drug addicts;  political, social and community activists; indigenous persons, minors, peasants and persons with disabilities.   Moreover, the regions most affected by these killings, in descending order were Antioquia, Meta, Hila and Norte de Santander.  As the ICC noted, the “false positive” victims many times ended up in mass graves.

The ICC, relying upon the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur, found a peculiar fact – that the “false positives,” though occurring with varying frequency back to the 1980’s, began to peak when the threat of the guerillas themselves were actually decreasing in the early 2000’s.   As the ICC, quoting the UN Special Rapporteur, explains:

‘As security in Colombia began to improve from 2002, and as guerillas retreated from populated areas, some military units found it more difficult to engage in combat.   In such areas, some units were motivated to falsify combat kills.  In other areas, the guerillas were perceived by soldiers to be particularly dangerous and soldiers were reluctant to engage them in combat.  It was ‘easier’ to murder civilians.   In still other areas, there are links between the military and drug traffickers and other organized criminal groups.   Local military units do not want to engage in combat with the illegal groups which they are cooperating, so killing civilians falsely alleged to be part of these groups make military units appear to be taking action.’

One thinking about U.S. policy toward Colombia should be greatly concerned by these details.   First of all, it is apparent that during the period that the U.S. was providing Colombia with the greatest amount of military assistance under Plan Colombia (from 2000 to 2009), the Colombian military was engaged in its worst crimes and quite unnecessarily so, at least if the stated goal of eradicating drugs was indeed the real goal.   Thus, the Colombian military was knowingly killing civilians in lieu of killing guerillas while also taking a hands-off policy towards drug traffickers and other organized criminal groups because the military was actually working with these groups.

As the ICC explained, an example of the organized criminal groups which the Colombian military has been closely working with are the right-wing paramilitaries which, as the ICC explained, “assisted the Colombian military in their fight against the FARC and ELN guerillas” by attacking, not the guerillas themselves, but the civilian population – for example, through “mass killings of civilians; selective assassination of social leaders, trade unionists, human rights defenders, judicial officers, and journalists; acts of torture, harassment, and intimidation; and actions aimed at forcing the displacement of entire communities.”   And, in terms of the displacement, the ICC concluded that this took place in “resource-rich regions of Colombia.”

One does not have to ponder the “false positive” scandal or the military-paramilitary assault on civilians to conclude the obvious – that the war of the Colombian state, backed by the U.S., is targeted at least as much, if not more, against the civilian population, as it is against guerillas and drug traffickers.   Certainly, it appears to be the case that the Colombian military, in engaging in its “false positives” campaign, did so in order to justify continued aid from the U.S. by showing the U.S. results in the form of claimed dead combatants.   However, I believe that this “body count mentality” explanation is not the complete explanation, for it can’t in my view explain the need for the military to have tortured the “false positive” victims first as the ICC found they did in many instances.  I would posit that at least one major reason for such a policy is to terrorize the civilian population into submission and to retreat from their land – especially “resource-rich” land as the ICC concluded.  This policy is working, at least as judged from the results, with Colombia now being the country with the largest internally displaced population in the world at over 5 million.

And, in addition to the oil, coal, gold and other important minerals being extracted in Colombia by multi-national concerns, a critical resource which is now growing exponentially in Colombia is African palm, the oil from which is used for biodiesel.   As we learn from Gary Leech in his wonderful article, “The Oil Palm Industry:  A Blight on Afro-Colombia” (2), palm oil production in Colombia grew by 70% between 2001 and 2006 – that is, in the initial years of Plan Colombia and at roughly the same time the military was targeting civilians for assassination with greatest frequency.  In addition, the just-passed Colombia Free Trade Agreement is encouraging the growth of palm oil as well.  (3)  Moreover, 3 of the 4 departments most affected by the “false positive” scandal (Antioquia, Meta, and Norte de Santander) are palm growing regions, Meta and Norte de Santander being two of the major regions for this crop.  (4)

Olivia Gilmore, in an article entitled, “Fueling Conflict in Colombia:  Land Rights and the political ecology of oil palm” (5), explains the grim reality that

Poor indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have been disproportionately affected by this phenomenon, as they often are less likely to have formal land titles or access to legal avenues through which to address their grievances.  Individuals and communities are forced off of their land by large, multinational palm oil corporations, paramilitaries, or often a collaborative effort of the two. Armed incursions, murders, and massacres related to palm oil interests have become the norm in all of the major palm oil complexes throughout the country. The central Colombian government, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), actively promotes palm oil expansion as a crop substitution for coca, to meet the demands of a growing and lucrative bio-fuel market, and to promote economic development at both the local and national levels.   As such, palm cultivation in Colombia has increased dramatically in recent years, making it the fastest growing agricultural sector in Colombia and the fifth-largest producer in the world.

Since the rise of palm oil production in the early 2000’s, nearly all areas of expansion of palm plantations have coincided geographically with paramilitary areas of expansion and presence. Much like coca’s role in funding guerillas and paramilitaries, the costs involved in the production process of palm oil make growers an easy target for armed groups. There have been numerous allegations of palm oil companies meeting with paramilitaries in order to arrange the violent displacement and illegal appropriation of people’s lands. Earlier this year, the office of Colombia’s Prosecutor General charged 19 palm oil businesses of allying with paramilitaries after investigations linked the economies of palm oil and funding to such groups. While some farmers have been able to escape from the violence and coercion of guerilla groups by switching to crops other than coca, the link between palm oil and the funding of violent conflict still exists. So strong is this correlation that a study conducted by the Universidad de los Andes argues that a legal product such as palm oil has an equal capacity to finance armed groups as similarly lucrative illegal products.

In the end, the civilian population of Colombia, particularly in the countryside, is viewed as the enemy by both the Colombian state and the U.S. which continues to back that state.   While the violence takes different forms, and is fueled by various material incentives, the result is the same over these many years – the destruction of the peasantry, including the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous populations, which are inconveniently living on land designated for multi-national exploitation and expropriation.   Colombia, with one of the worst distributions of wealth and land in the world, with its multiple free trade agreements, and with its over-bloated military aid from the U.S., is a quintessential example of unrestrained capitalism and neo-colonialism.

In my recent interview with Kambale Musavuli about the Congo, he stated that there is no “C” in R2P (“responsibility to protect”), meaning that this doctrine does not apply to the Congo.   It equally means that it does not apply to Colombia, or other like countries, whose designated role is to the serve the U.S. and its insatiable need for fuel and other key resources.   And, this is why the horrendous atrocities committed in countries like Colombia and the Congo rarely make the headlines in our newspapers, and why the ICC’s interim report on Colombia was barely spoken of in the press.

As Noam Chomsky has often commented, the foregoing is a function of the maxim of Thucydides that “the strong do as they wish while the weak suffer as they must.”  And, this maxim also explains why the ICC, which has yet to prosecute anyone in Colombia for these high crimes, will certainly never prosecute the top intellectual authors of these crimes residing in the United States (6).  Indeed, in the ICC’s 93-page report, the United States which has funded these crimes for years is not mentioned even once.

Daniel Kovalik is Senior Associate General Counsel of the USW and teaches international human rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

Notes

(1)   The full report can be found at http://www2.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/3D3055BD-16E2-4C83-BA85- 35BCFD2A7922/285102/OTPCOLOMBIAPublicInterimReportNovember2012.pdf

(2)   https://nacla.org/files/A04204032_1.pdf

(3)   http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/FoE_Colombia_talking_points_2011.pdf

(4)   http://portal.fedepalma.org//oil_col.htm

(5)    http://www.monitor.upeace.org/innerpg.cfm?id_article=947

(6)    Of course, you might say, no official of the U.S. can be prosecuted by the ICC because the U.S. has refused to ratify the ICC treaty.  While this may appear to be true, this did not stop the ICC from prosecuting officials from The Sudan – also not a signatory to the ICC.

Poverty and Social Exclusion Rising in Greece

December 13th, 2012 by Leonidas Oikonomakis

Poverty and exclusion have exploded in Greece, while the government continues to assault workers. The question that arises is very simple: who benefits?

A couple of years ago I participated in a research project on poverty and social exclusion in several EU member states. I was responsible for writing the part on Greece. Although I do not believe that poverty can be described only in economic terms, for reasons of measurability I used in that research — and also in this article — the definition of poverty as employed by the Eurobarometer: “living on an income below 60% of the median household income of a given country.”

At the time, in 2008, I remember that I was surprised to find out that, at 20%, poverty in Greece was one of the highest in the European Union, putting Greece in a league with (guess whom?) Portugal, Ireland, and Spain. At a 21% poverty rate, only Latvia and Poland showed higher records. That meant that one in five Greek citizens were living on an income below 60% of that of the median household, which at the time was calculated at 6.480 euros per annum (540 per month) for a single person, and 13.608 per annum (1.134 per month) for a family with two dependent children. All this at a time when unemployment was between 10 and 11% — as high as it in Italy today — and Greece had not yet entered its “safe harbor”, as Giorgos Papandreou metaphorically presented the arrival of the Troika.

What was also striking was the inequality of income distribution in the country, again one of the highest in the EU, at a rate of 5.9. That meant that the richest 20% of Greeks were earning 5.9 times what the poorest 20% did, while the EU-27 average was 5. At the same time, what was also particularly worrying and indicative of what would follow, was that the poverty risk for the people in employment was 14.1%, while the share of the employed amongst the poor was 31.7%. In other words, 14.1% of the people in employment were poor, and 31.7% of the poor actually still had jobs — precarious and underpaid, of course.

And I repeat: all of the above was already the case before the austerity measures were imposed.

A few days ago, I came across the latest research by the National Statistical Agency on the same topic. According to this data, two years later, in 2010, the figures were as follows: the poverty rate had reached 21.4% (2.3 million people!), while the poverty threshold remained roughly the same at 6.591 euros per annum (549.25 per month) for a single person, and 13.842 euros per annum (1.153 per month) for a family with two dependent children. Income inequality reached 6, meaning that the richest of the Greeks are earned 6 times more than the poorest Greeks do.

Note that these poverty rates are based on official data. A previous survey conducted by Kapa Research and the London School of Economics in 2007 found even higher poverty rates, noting that one third of Greeks lived in poverty even before the global recession of 2008-’09 struck. What is even more worrying, alarming actually, is the fact that even the latest formal statistics of the National Statistical Agency concern the year 2010, when unemployment stood at a “meagre” 14%. Today it has reached 25%, and even the thought of how many people may be living at risk of poverty today in Greece profoundly scares me.

At the same time, Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras insists in his interviews that Greece has “the most costly welfare state in the Eurozone” and we need to cut down on around 11-13 billion euros from social services if we want to satisfy the Troika and stay in the Eurozone. A few points:

  1. What Stournaras claims is simply not true. According to the OECD’s Social Expenditure Statistics, Greece currently spends 23.1% of its GDP on social services, a percentage that has been rather stable throughout the 2000s. At the same, the EU21 average lies at 24% of GDP, while countries like Germany and France, for example, spend 26% and 32% of GDP accordingly. Therefore, Greece’s social expenditure is below EU21 average, while its welfare state – belonging to what is called the “Southern model” — is one of the weakest in the EU, characterized by a very important family role in the provision of social services (elderly and child-care is considered to be a family duty, usually resting on the shoulders of the female members of the family) and a general ineffectiveness of state institutions. Yet, this country’s Finance Minister dares to lie publicly in order to justify the cuts in social spending his government is trying to push through.

  2. Even if Greece’s welfare state was “the most costly in the Eurozone” as Mr. Stournaras claims, it certainly is inefficient. With 21.4% of the population (which means 2.3 million people!) living at the risk of poverty. Therefore, what the Greek government should be doing is to increase social expenditure in order to assist its suffering citizens, instead of – for instance — prioritizing the payment of the country’s foreign debt at the expense of the well-being of the Greek people.

Yet, what the Greek government chose to do under the conditionalities imposed by the Troika and embedded in the memorandum that passed through parliament is, to give you an example, to cut from the 2013 budget a grand total of 82 million euros in social expenditure for disabled people. At the same time, and under the new memorandum, the government also announced that it will (finally) impose taxes on Greece’s multi-billionaire ship-owners — taxes worth a grand total of 80 million euros.

So, for you to get it straight, I repeat: the disabled will “contribute to the salvation of the Greek economy” 82 million euros that they absolutely need for their decent and dignified survival, while the ship-owners, who constitute 0.7% of the Greek population while controlling 60% of the nation’s total wealth, will “contribute” a grand total of 80 million. This gives you a clear idea of who is paying the price of austerity measures imposed by the Troika and executed by the Greek government.

In Greece, we know well who is paying for the crisis. A good question to ask would be: who gains? Apart from Greece’s private creditors, could it be the multinational corporations, which are now swooping in to benefit from the country’s dramatically reduced labor rights and privatization schemes? Again, I will give you an example that I recently read in the press. Kostis Hatzidakis, the Minister of Development, announced proudly that Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch multinational consumer goods company, will from now on produce 110 of its products that it used to produce abroad, in Greece. He also mentioned that this will boost employment and that his government wants to create a business-friendly environment in Greece in order to attract “investments” for “development”.

What Hatzidakis did not mention are the conditions under which the future employees of Unilever — and whatever other multinational decides to “invest” in Greece bringing its production facilities or, maybe, buying its state owned enterprises — will have to work. Let me present them to you: Unilever’s Greek employees will be paid slave salaries (586 euros is the minimum wage today, down from 751 euros before the crisis, while for young workers under the age of 25 it stands at 510 euros: below the poverty threshold!). They will only have minimum labor rights. They will have to work 6 and maybe 7 days a week. They will only have a minimum of 11 hours rest before getting back to work (from 13 that it was so far). And they will be extremely easy to fire without compensation — as the government effectively rid itself of pesky labor rights.

All the above is a direct result of the austerity measures and structural reforms the Greek government has taken so far to create a “business-friendly environment” and bring in “investments” and “development”, as they like to say. And the question remains: for whom?

Iran Dialogue or US Diplomatic Detour?

December 13th, 2012 by Dr. Ismail Salami

It is very unfortunate to note that the United States has constantly sought to depict the Islamic Republic in the light of a tenacious nation resilient to any logic and dialogue whatsoever.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has emphasized the Islamic Republic’s readiness to hold negotiations on the country’s nuclear energy program in a win-win situation.

 “We have repeatedly expressed our readiness and announced that we are ready for talks in a win-win situation.”

 He added that Iran has never lost the “opportunity for diplomacy.”

Iranian officials are pessimistic about any upcoming dialogue with the US as they almost unanimously believe that Washington is not consistent in its policies and that it should first show some good will instead of resorting to an unacceptable bullying attitude. Spokesman for Iranian Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy Hossein Naqavi Hosseini slams the contradictions between what Washington says and what it does and urges the US to show some goodwill if it ever seeks to hold talks with the Islamic Republic.

“The Americans are not honest in their words….there is no consistency in their words and actions.”

A historical look at Tehran-Washington relations testifies to the antagonistic nature of Washington in dealing with Iran.

According to Tim Guldimann, former Swiss ambassador to Tehran, Iran issued a proposal to the United States in May 2003 and called for negotiations on a number of issues. Based on the proposal, the US should accept a dialogue “in mutual respect” and agree that Iran put the following aims on the agenda:

1) Halt US hostile behavior and rectifications of status of Iran in the US: (interference in internal or external relations, “axis of evil”, terrorism list.)

2) Abolishment of all sanctions: commercial sanctions, frozen assets, judgments (FSIA), impediments in international trade and financial institutions.

3) Iraq: democratic and fully representative government in Iraq, support of Iranian claims for Iraqi reparations, respect for Iranian national interests in Iraq and religious links to Najaf/Karbala.

4) Full access to peaceful nuclear technology, biotechnology and chemical technology.

5) Recognition of Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region with according defense capacity.

6) Terrorism: pursuit of anti-Iranian terrorists, above all the MKO and support for repatriation of their members in Iraq, decisive actions against anti-Iranian terrorists, above all MKO and affiliated organizations in the US.

However, the Bush administration rejected the proposal and exerted additional pressure on the Islamic Republic.

In August 2005, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom presented their proposal for a long-term agreement which was dismissed by Iran simply because it did not recognize Iran’s right to enrichment.

In 2010, Brazil and Turkey conducted a diplomatic initiative to broker the TRR (Tehran Research Reactor) fuel swap with Iran. It was agreed that the Islamic Republic of Iran deposit 1200 kg LEU in Turkey.  In an April 20 letter to the leaders of the two countries, US President Obama said, “For us, Iran’s agreement to transfer 1,200 kilograms of Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU) out of the country would build confidence and reduce regional tensions by substantially reducing Iran’s LEU stockpile. I want to underscore that this element is of fundamental importance for the United States.”

The fruit of the initiative was the May 17 Tehran Declaration agreed among Lula da Silva, Erdogan, and Ahmadinejad. While the trio recalled “the right of all State Parties, including the Islamic Republic of Iran, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy (as well as nuclear fuel cycle including enrichment activities) for peaceful purposes without discrimination”, they agreed:

1) the nuclear fuel exchange is instrumental in initiating cooperation in different areas, especially with regard to peaceful nuclear cooperation including nuclear power plant and research reactors construction.

2) Based on this point the nuclear fuel exchange is a starting point to begin cooperation and a positive constructive move forward among nations. Such a move should lead to positive interaction and cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear activities replacing and avoiding all kinds of confrontation through refraining from measures, actions and rhetorical statements that would jeopardize Iran’s rights and obligations under the NPT.

3) Based on the above, in order to facilitate the nuclear cooperation mentioned above, the Islamic Republic of Iran agrees to deposit 1200 kg LEU in Turkey. While in Turkey this LEU will continue to be the property of Iran. Iran and the IAEA may station observers to monitor the safekeeping of the LEU in Turkey.

4) Iran will notify the IAEA in writing through official channels of its agreement with the above within seven days following the date of this declaration. Upon the positive response of the Vienna Group (US, Russia, France and the IAEA) further details of the exchange will be elaborated through a written agreement and proper arrangement between Iran and the Vienna Group that specifically committed themselves to deliver 120 kg of fuel needed for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR).

 However, France, Russia, and the United States rejected the Tehran Declaration for reasons only known to themselves and easily comprehensible to others.

In 2006, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made an unprecedented move and sent an 18-page letter to George W. Bush, then US president, an act which was interpreted by some as an invitation to dialogue with the United States.

While the letter – thought to be the first from an Iranian president to a US leader since Iran’s 1979 revolution- addressed the paradoxical nature of Washington’s policies all across the world and addressed crucial issues such as the fake claim that Iraq possessed WMDs as a pretext to launch an invasion of the country, and billions of dollars spent from the common purse to inflict pain and misery upon the people of Iraq and America, it could have been used by the United States as a first step towards resolving an old-time gaping problem between the two countries.

Instead, Washington officials made a strategic mistake, ponderously ignored the letter and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the letter as “offering nothing new” and the White House said there would be no formal written reply.

The letter was favorably received by many media channels. The Peninsula, a Qatari news site, saw it as “a taboo-breaking initiative … an opening—even if only slim—for the longtime foes to engage in a dialogue.” Arab News of Saudi Arabia hailed it as “remarkable and encouraging … an unexpected diplomatic opening.” Germany’s Der Spiegel calls it “a deft move for Ahmadinejad’s image in the Middle East.”

After all, the letter was a good sign that Iran was interested in talks but on equal terms and in an ambiance of mutual respect, a condition the US has spitefully declined.

In a sudden turn of events, however, things seem to be taking a new spin and the US has made some gestures to the effect that it wishes a direct talk with the Islamic Republic. A recent report indicates that US President Barack Obama is planning to propose to Iran that it negotiate directly with the Americans about its nuclear program. According to the report, Obama’s move was made without any coordination or consultation with Israel and that Washington will allow a period of four to five months for negotiations with Tehran. If the talks fail, the report says, they may then resort to the military option.

Be that as it may, so far, the Islamic Republic has taken constructive steps towards talks with Washington in order to allay international concerns and resolve any ambiguities surrounding its nuclear program and each time Washington has embarked on a crooked diplomatic detour and has demonstrated a strong penchant for political approach-avoidance.

Does it not mean that Iran’s nuclear issue is not an issue at all but part of Washington’s pretext to persevere in its path of political pungency?

 Iran’s nuclear program seems to have reached a dead end. Iranian officials have politically invested a lot on the country’s nuclear program, which was initially set in motion 6 decades ago when President Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to help his close friend Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi construct the first nuclear reactors in Iran, and it seems to be embarrassing for the Iranian government to announce out of the blue that they don’t want to pursue nuclear technology anymore, which will give the West a pretext to launch a new psychological war against Tehran and trumpet this victory that it has retreated from its position.And from the other hand, the obdurate United States and its European allies have not indicated that they’re willing to change their mind and come to terms with a nuclear Iran.

The reality is that if the United States and its European allies had compelling evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, they wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and what troubles them is that Iran is not really seeking nuclear weapons. The only reason for the decade-long controversy over Iran’s nuclear program is that the two sides of the conflict are engaged in a power game and nobody likes to be the loser in this erosive confrontation. Acquiring nuclear technology will promote Iran to the level of a regional superpower and a serious rival for Israel, and this is something which the West cannot tolerate.

However, it seems that the ordinary Iranian citizens are the only victims of this power game and charade of double standards. The U.S. government which shamefully protects Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal and sides with Israel every time that the international community decides to demand Israel to legalize its nuclear activities, such as in the case of the recent UN General Assembly resolution, has pulled out all the stops to prevent Iran from nuclear technology, while even the intelligence agencies inside the United States have admitted that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons or intending to do so.

The 2010 National Intelligence Estimate’s reports refuted the allegations that Iran’s nuclear program has a military dimension. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency has never published any reports that Iran is moving toward developing nuclear weapons, except for the claims that Iran is not fully cooperating with the agency. But the United States and its allies are hell bent of punishing Iran for the crime it has not committed, and have targeted Iran with backbreaking economic sanctions which are taking a heavy toll on the innocent Iranian people and almost paralyzing the Iranian society and its economy.

Honestly, the problem is not that Iran is acquiring nuclear technology. Pakistan and India possess nuclear weapons, Israel has an arsenal of about 200-400 atomic warheads, the United States itself it the largest possessor of nuclear weapons in the world, etc. The problem is that Iran’s regional clout and its dominance over the region cannot be withstood, and the nuclear issue is a good excuse to pressure Iran.

The economic sanctions which have been imposed on Iran by the UN Security Council and the unilateral sanctions of the United States, European Union and a number of Asian countries along with Canada and Australia have made the daily life in Iran increasingly difficult and painful. The value of Iran’s currency, rial, has dropped to its lowest level against dollar, and the price of commodities and goods which are imported from abroad, such as home appliances, computer devices, cell phones, medical equipments and even foodstuff has increased threefold or fourfold. Millions of patients suffering from thalassemia, hemophilia, cancer, multiple sclerosis, cardiac diseases and psychological disorders are deprived of high-quality medicines needed for their treatment which were previously imported from the United States, Canada and the European countries.

Although Iran produces different kinds of agricultural goods, it cannot fully meet the demands of its 75-million population, and so is dependent on imports from other countries, but the limitations imposed by the West on Iran’s banking and finance sector have made it incredibly difficult to import such goods.

Over the past months, the United States has dispatched envoys to such countries as South Africa, Angola, India, Turkey, Switzerland, Brazil and South Korea to persuade them to stop doing business with Iran.

It can be said that the United States is literally taking every step it can and doing whatever in its power in order to further isolate and pressure Iran over its nuclear program, but as the American journalist Glenn Greenwald has noted, these sanctions and limitations are nothing but a collective punishment of the Iranian nation.

There’s no clear response to the question that why the Iranian people should be penalized in such a brutal and unfair manner and why their connection to the outside world should be severed so unjustifiably. Of the major English-speaking countries, only Australia maintains an embassy in Tehran, and the United States, Canada and Britain don’t have any diplomatic representation in Iran for different reasons and this makes it immensely difficult for Iranians to travel to these countries, especially given that large numbers of Iranians currently live in these countries and have relatives and friends in Iran.

Many foreign airlines have suspended their flight operations from and to Iran in the recent month as a result of the sanctions, and those which still operate flights offer their services with extremely expensive airfares. The embassies of European countries in Tehran hectically delay the process of visa issuance for the Iranians intending to travel abroad, and usually demand a huge amount of documents so as to issue the visas. When Canada still had an embassy in Tehran in 2009, it took 35 days for me to be given a visa for Canada, while I was officially invited by a Canadian university to take part in a scientific conference in the city of Calgary, and it was really imminent that I might miss the conference. They issued my visa the same day that I had booked my flight! It’s while my Pakistani friend who lived in Switzerland told me that the Canadian embassy in Geneva issued his visa in only 3 days!

The United States has gone so far as to even banning the downloading of free-to-use computer applications for Iranians such as Google Chrome, GTalk and Google Earth. Can anybody please tell me in what ways these computer softwares are connected to Iran’s nuclear program?

So, what’s clear is that the United States and its European allies have adopted an unbelievably unfair and hostile attitude toward the Iranian people and have never been sincere in their claims that they support the Iranian people. By imposing these tough sanctions which have influenced every aspect of daily life in Iran and created a heap of problems and difficulties for the Iranian people, they also show that their claims of being committed to human rights are also futile and baseless. Defending human rights is not limited to issuing statements in support of a prisoner who is charged with such capital crimes as drug trafficking, murder and rape. It’s already absolutely clear that they look at Iranians as “sub-humans” and consider their rights as worthless and insignificant.

This is the hypocrisy and duplicity which makes one come to the conclusion that the Western leaders are rejoicing at the plight and suffering of the Iranian people.

16 Years of U.S. Genocide in Congo

December 13th, 2012 by Glen Ford

The U.S. tells the world it can’t figure out how six million people died in the Democratic Republic of Congo – while Washington writes the checks and arms the perpetrators to the teeth. Like Mafia Dons pretending to be honest businessmen, successive U.S. administrations subsidize and direct the worst genocide since World War Two.

The United States has financed and given overall direction to the worst genocide since World War Two, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since 1996, Washington has drenched Congo’s eastern provinces in the blood of over six million people. The governments of Rwanda and Uganda, the direct perpetrators of this holocaust, are in every sense of the word agents of U.S. foreign policy, who operate with impunity under the imperial umbrella.

A growing number of voices now charge that the Obama administration, like the Bush and Clinton administrations before it, has “protected” Rwanda and Uganda in their de facto annexation of eastern Congo and its mineral riches. But the actual relationship is more like that between a Mafia Godfather and his murderous henchmen. For 16 years, Uganda and Rwanda have done the bidding of their paymasters and arms suppliers, the American and British governments.If the Nuremburg rules of international justice were in force today, the highest officials in London and Washington would face death by hanging for their monstrous crimes – and only later would Presidents Kagame of Rwanda and Museveni of Uganda take their walk with the executioner.

When Congolese women and children screamed in agony, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice said, literally, that the U.S. should “look the other way” – knowing full well that a people were being annihilated. She is no different than the high Nazi officials who were hanged for waging aggressive war and the slaughter of millions, almost 70 years ago.

“If the Nuremburg rules of international justice were in force today, the highest officials in London and Washington would face death by hanging for their monstrous crimes.”

And now, after 16 years of unspeakable carnage, the world’s greatest military power, equipped with the most sophisticated means of information gathering ever devised, whose soldiers train and equip the Rwandans and Ugandans who are responsible for tens of thousands of murders a month, claims to have only the most limited knowledge of how six million people wound up dead – half of them children below the age of five.

During hearings this week at the House Subcommittee on Africa, Johnnie Carson, an avuncular Black man who’s filling Susan Rice’s old shoes as assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, performed his own sickening dance of death, admitting that the so-called M23 “rebels” that have been rampaging through eastern Congo “would not be the threat” they are today “without external support.” But Carson would still not say directly that Rwanda is the real power behind M23, and he tried to absolve the government of Uganda of complicity. Steve Hege, who coordinated the UN Group of Experts whose report Susan Rice tried to suppress, testified that “Rwanda, in fact, orchestrated the creation of M23,” and that “senior Ugandan officials” were deeply involved in M23’s operations.

Johnnie Carson and Susan Rice are not motivated to lie by loyalty to African military strongmen. They are loyal to U.S. government policies that they have both played a role in formulating. Just because Susan Rice qualifies as a person of the lowest human order imaginable – an accomplice to genocide – does not make her a rogue element. Far from it: she is a “good German” soldier, following her commander-in-chief’s orders, oblivious to the agony of dying Africans, whose lives don’t count for anything in America, anyway – including, it appears in much of Black America, where Rice is applauded as yet another Black face in a very high place.

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

The West is generously adding fuel to the fire in order to speed up the fall of the Syrian regime. Will it come to a military intervention? In any event, the United States has developed specific plans for a military intervention, which are already being undertaken.

According to the Secretary General of NATO, the antimissile systems along the north-western border of Syria can be used to create a no-fly zone, and this is a well-trodden path towards military intervention. In addition to the NATO missile defense systems in the region, Germany is sending AWACS reconnaissance aircraft to potential future combat areas; it will be clear in which places and situations they will fly.

Also the transfer of additional U.S. forces to Iraq has been written about, which suggests the preparation for a ground operation… Formally, there is not even a broken a promise regarding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, which President Barack Obama has honestly fulfilled: but what he has not promised (!) is that the Americans will not return again to Iraq.

In political terms, for an intervention to take place the same play as in the Iraqi scenario can be used with some modifications. I remember ten years ago, U.S. Vice President Richard B. Cheney in his speech to veterans in Nashville, claimed that only fools or cowards think that intervention can be avoided. Last week, addressing the foreign ministers of NATO after the completion of the NATO council meeting, Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on the alliance “not to hide our heads in the sand.”

External initiatives seem to have moved from the U.S. to NATO, but in fact nothing has changed. Also there is a statement from the U.S. side referring to intelligence information of the intention of the unpopular regime to use weapons of mass destruction. At the time, ignoring the data supplied by Hans Blix inspections, the Americans persistently referred to Saddam Hussein’s intention to use all kinds of weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological and nuclear. With Syria it becomes easier as it is limited to chemical weapons: in August this year Obama warned the Syrian leadership against its use.

The example of Iraq has not been forgotten, and to ward off such a charge, the Syrian government has done all it can, even up to appealing to the UN Security Council. However, this is unlikely to help. Never mind that not only the Syrians, but German intelligence claims: that Assad has no plans to use chemical weapons. But the Pentagon and the British Foreign Secretary William Hague have some information in this respect. (1) Meanwhile, according to media reports, the An Nushrah front (an organization close to Al-Qaeda) has taken control of a factory for chlorine production. The Syrian leadership notified the UN Security Council about the threat of chemical weapons which has arisen from this side, but it is thought that its use or threat of use will play a role here no matter whose finger pulls the trigger.

When a fire breaks out, the smoke does not tell who threw the burning firebrand into the house. Thus, the German neo-Nazis for the last 70 years have claimed that it was not Nazi Germany, but Poland that started World War 11 by its provocations along the border. If we go back to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, then the U.S. did not refrain from outright forgery. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell when accusing Iraq presented before the UN a tube of anthrax and falsely interpreted satellite images. And when it turned out that the “evidence” was fabricated, it no longer mattered.

The possible presence of chemical weapons in Syria, of course, concerns the Atlantic allies so that it is sending soldiers, in addition to its military missile components, to the Turkish border. Germany, the Netherlands and the United States are sending similar amounts of equipment and manpower to Turkey: two sets of Patriot Missiles and 400 soldiers each (2). It seems that the recent assurances by the German Minister of Foreign Affairs and the head of the BND intelligence service that the Syrian regime is soon about to collapse under the blows of the opposition (3), was addressed in the first instance to the German public. By the way, according to polls, 59% of Germans do not support sending surface to air missiles to Turkey, and in the German parliament, which has to approve the decision of the government; the Left Party strongly opposes the granting of a military mandate.

Finally, for a military solution of the problem for the West to change the Syrian regime the “responsibility to protect” can be used as an appeal (a modification of humanitarian intervention). As formulated by the UN World Summit in 2005, the “Responsibility to Protect” requires States to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It is assumed that in the inability of a country to carry out these responsibilities, the international community through the United Nations shall have the right to use appropriate means to protect the public. It can be recalled that so far in Syria more people have been killed than all the countries swept by the hurricane of the “Arab Spring”: 42,000 people (the death toll in Libya is 30 thousand, 850 people in Egypt and Yemen, 200 in Tunisia, and 40 in Bahrain) (4). The German Defense Minister assured that in the case of the use of chemical weapons, Russia and China will change their positions and no longer block the UN resolution allowing intervention (5). As for the Turkish Prime Minister, he said that, given the inability of the UN to provide a legal basis for an invasion, there is a need to reform the UN.

It seems that today, the main difference from the situation that occurred in the Middle East 10 years ago, is the West’s unwillingness to get involved in an escalating confrontation with the Muslim world. But how to achieve this strategic objective, given the regimes that have been brought to power in the Middle East?

Tunisia wanders from one poll to the next (October 2011 – Election of the National Constituent Committee, presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 2013), writing a constitution on the go and stumbling from one demonstration to another. As recently as last September demonstrators were chased from the territory of the U.S. embassy, and in late November a wave of social protests arose… The Egyptian Government which was created during the “Arab Spring”, has undertaken the development of a new constitution: again the world’s media are reporting from Tahrir Square, where it is reported that people are demanding the overthrow of the regime (6), although these claims do not seem to apply to all the people … In Libya, western oil companies are satisfied with the change of regime. In particular, the German Wintershall Company reports that in 2013, it will build a new pipeline that will cover the existing shortage of export capacity. “Current oil production exceeds our expectations”, said the chairman of the German Company (7). Meanwhile, next door, in Mali, another explosion is brewing, while Western analysts and politicians prefer to ignore the fact that this is a consequence of the overthrow of Gaddafi, whose army contained Malians.

The unrest in the area of the “Arab spring” can, of course, try to be explained by the local details in each case. However, there is something in common, which is characteristic of all these artificially troubled parts of the world, namely the transition from relative stability to very badly managed and largely non-governed structures. Simultaneously, the West continues to increase the supply of weapons to selected Middle Eastern regimes. For example, the Germans intend to deliver to Saudi Arabia a new batch of tanks, regardless of the fact that the German tanks were used by the Saudis to suppress unrest in Bahrain (or rather, that’s probably why.) To say anything in this case, about the possibilities of Russian influence on the situation in the region is difficult. Moscow has already indicated that it is not within its competence to discuss diplomatic action by NATO. That is how Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov reacted to a statement by the German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere (8). It is time to think about where all this may lead in the future.

Notes

(2) Joint Press Conference of Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs of Germany / www.bmvg.de. Stand vom: 07.12.12.
(3) BND-Chief Gerhard Schindler “Das Regime Assad wird nicht überleben” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 09.12.2012. Westerwelle erwartet baldiges Ende des Assad-Regimes. Süddeutsche Zeitung. 10. Dezember 2012.
(4) In Syria – AFP news agency reports with reference to the latest data of the Information Centre for Human Rights (Observatoire syrien des droits de l’homme) www.france24.com 09.12.2012; in other countries – these RIA Novosti.
(5) www.bmvg.de. Stand vom: 07.12.12.
(6) www.bbc.co.uk, 10.12.2012.
(7) Wintershall investiert in Libyen und baut neue Pipeline / / www.wintershall.com, 02.10.2012
(8) ARD-Sendung “Bericht aus Berlin”, 25.11.2012

On December 8, Chavez announced he’ll return to Cuba. More surgery is needed. It’ll be his fourth for cancer. Tests after his October reelection found no reoccurrence.

In late November, he returned to Havana for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). It enhances natural healing. It involves breathing 100% oxygen under increased atmospheric pressure. It’s used to prevent bone decay from radiation therapy.

It treats many injuries, ailments, and illnesses. It’s not for cancer. Chavez also received physiotherapy.

In Cuba, he experienced pelvic swelling and discomfort. Tests discovered new malignant cells.

He said another operation is “absolutely necessary….in the next few days. Actually the doctor told me it should have been yesterday.”

At the same time, he’s hopeful. He “hope(s) to be back soon. I leave full of hope,” he said. “We are warriors, full of light and faith.”

He acknowledged “risks in a process like this.” He said “if anything happens that prevents him from performing his duties,” he prefers Vice President Nicolas Maduro replacing him. He urged Venezuelans to elect him.

He served six years as foreign minister. He established important world contacts. He strongly supports Bolivarianism. Like Chavez, he fiercely criticizes US imperialism and neoliberal harshness.

Cuban doctors urged Chavez to undergo emergency surgery immediately. He delayed until he could entrust Maduro to act on his behalf until he returns. He also wanted to name him heir apparent.

Maduro wept as he vowed Venezuela would remain faithful to Chavez and Bolivarianism. “We are going to accompany President Chavez in prayer and in action,” he said. “We’ve been with him in good” and bad times.

Chavez added that it’s vital to “ensure the progress of the revolution, the victorious march of the revolution, building the new country, building the Venezuelan road to socialism, with broad participation and freedoms.”

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez read an oil workers statement. They vowed unbending Chavez loyalty and support. They promised the same for Maduro.

He’s a former union leader, legislator, National Assembly Speaker, and foreign minister. Some call him Chavez’s most capable administrator and politician. He may be Venezuela’s next president.

Political analyst Vladimir Villegas knew him since adolescence. He said his leadership background prepared him for what he may face now.

His views are strongly left of center. At the same time, he’ll prioritize political stability. Maintaining Chavez’s base is vital. He’ll also have to deal effectively with disparate and fractious elements.

Before leaving early Monday, Chavez met with military commanders. He made Defense Minister Diego Molero admiral in chief.

He showed him and other commanders a golden sword. It belonged to Simon Bolivar. He said he fully trusts them. “I’m totally sure that our homeland is safe,” he added. He urged them “not to give in to intrigue.”

In the doorway of his plane before departing, he waved and shouted “Long live our homeland.”

Supportive messages arrived from abroad. Cuban President Raul Castro and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa welcomed him in Havana. “We’ve come in solidarity,” they said.

Correa called him “a historic president, a great friend, and most of all an extraordinary human being. You are not alone in your struggle,” he said.

In June 2011, Chavez was first diagnosed with pelvic cancer. After three surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, he told Venezuelans he was totally cancer free. He was at the time.

Recovery isn’t easy. Reoccurrence can follow remission. At the same time, many cancer patients recover fully. They live long, health, productive lives. Hopefully Chavez is one of them.

He gets superb care. He expressed faith for a full recovery many times. Venezuelans are justifiably concerned.

On December 9, thousands massed in Caracas supportively. They displayed flags, banners, and photos of a smiling Chavez. They’re hopeful he’ll return healthy. His new six-year term begins January 10.

One supporter spoke for others, saying:

“I love Chavez, and I’m worried. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but I trust that the revolution is going to continue on no matter what happens.”

On Monday, the Havana Times headlined “Chavez Arrives in Cuba for New Cancer Operation,” saying:

It’ll be his fourth in 18 months. Some supporters fear he’s deteriorating. Official information about where his surgery will be conducted wasn’t announced.

It’s assumed to be at Havana’s Medical Surgical Research Center (CIMEQ). It’s Cuba’s best equipped hospital. It provides world-class treatment. It’s located west of the capital.

Under Venezuelan constitutional law, Article 233 states:

“The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position….and by recall by popular vote.”

 If the President is permanently unavailable to serve during his first four years, a new election will be held “by universal suffrage and direct ballot” within 30 days.

“Between pending election and inauguration, the Executive Vice President shall assume the Presidency.”

“If permanent unavailability occurs during his last two years, the Executive Vice President shall complete the term of office.”

Article 234 states:

 ”A President of the Republic who becomes temporarily unavailable to serve shall be replaced by the Executive Vice President for a period of up to 90 days, which may be extended by resolution of the National Assembly for an additional 90 days.”

“If the temporarily unavailability continues for more than 90 consecutive days, the National Assembly shall have the power to decide by a majority vote of its members whether the unavailability to serve should be considered permanent.”

Under Article 235, “The absence of the President of the Republic from the territory of Venezuela requires authorization from the National Assembly or the Delegated Committee, when such absence continues for a period exceeding five consecutive days.”

Venezuela’s National Assembly authorized all Chavez visits to Cuba for healthcare purposes. On Sunday, they approved his travel request unanimously.

On January 10, Chavez’s new term begins. If he’s unable to serve within 30 days, new elections will be called. Hopefully they won’t be needed.

Chavez is young. He’s 58 years old. If restored to full health, many active years remain. He expresses “complete faith” in his recovery. “God willing, like the” previous surgeries and treatment, “we will be victorious in this new battle,” he said.

“If there’s anything I would insist upon in this new situation, this new battle….is on strengthening national unity, unity of all the popular forces,  the unity of all revolutionary forces….my beloved militancy, allied parties, revolutionary currents, unity, unity, unity.”

He referred to December 16. Venezuelans will vote again. At stake are local gubernatorial and legislative races. In 2008, United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Chavista candidates won 17 of 22 governorships.

Polling suggests they’ll do better this time. Bolivarianism should emerge triumphant. Hopefully uncertainty over Chavez’s health won’t change things.

Chavez said state adversaries “don’t rest, and won’t rest.” They’ll keep “creating intrigue, trying to divide, and above all, taking advantage of circumstances like this.”

Dark forces never rest. Washington ones especially look for any way to replace Chavez. They tried for years and failed.

In 2011, Chavez said Washington may be responsible for a “very strange” bout of cancer affecting several Latin American leaders.

Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Others affected included Brazil’s Lula Da Silva (throat cancer), current President Dilma Rousseff (axillar lymphoma), Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos (prostate cancer), and Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo (lymphatic cancer).

Washington’s dirty hands were behind a parliamentary coup ousting him illegitimately last June.

In June 2009, Obama orchestrated Honduran President Manuel Zelaya’s removal. He also manipulated Haiti’s electoral process in 2011. US stooge Michel Martelly was installed.

Chavez said:

 ”Would it be so strange that they’ve invented the technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?”

 ”Fidel always told me (to) take care. These people have developed technologies,” he said.

“Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat. They inject you with I don’t know what.”

For decades, Washington tried and failed hundreds of times to kill Castro. Miraculously he survived. Other targeted leaders weren’t as fortunate. Hopefully, Chavez will join the survivors. He’s too important to lose.

 A Final Comment

On December 12, Maduro said Chavez was recovering after undergoing six hours of successful surgery. “It has been a complex operation,” he explained.

 ”We have been through complex moments of tension, but fortunately our commander’s gigantic humanity once again demonstrates its fortitude.”

 ”We want to thank the Venezuelan people for all the love they dedicated so this operation was completed correctly and successfully.”

 ”We can say the president has beaten the first obstacle and now, with his medical team, he will go on recuperating.” He’ll receive “special treatments,” he added.

He addressed Chavez directly, saying:

 ”You have to come back. And we wait for you here, your children.”

 Chavez’s post-operative period will last at least several days. It’s unclear when he’ll return to Venezuela. Perhaps it’ll be before yearend.

Chavistas held a prayer vigil during his surgery. They held posters, joined hands, and sang hymns. One participant said, “We ask God to let him live.”

Another feared Venezuelans might lose everything if he dies. Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa was with him in Havana. He called his operation “very delicate.”

 ”He’s passing through one of the hardest moments of his life. Our heart and our solidarity are with a historic president.”

 Since taking office in February 1999, he did so much for so many. Americans can’t imagine benefits Venezuelans get. Hopefully he’ll recover fully. Millions of supporters want nothing less.

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

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

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

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

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

On December 13,  North Korea’s state-run news agency issued a two-sentence statement via radio, joining critics in Iran and Japanese hibakusha and anti-nuclear activists who have condemned the U.S.’s December 5th subcritical nuclear experiment named ‘Pollux.’

The critical part of the North Korean statement, as translated by a BBC news monitoring service, reads: ‘Despite strong objection and denunciation from the world community, the United States is continuously and frantically clinging onto carrying out nuclear tests for developing new nuclear weapons.’

There are elements of truth and mistruth in North Korea’s statement. Let’s start with the mistruths. Contrary to misleading statements made in blogs and by some in the international media, the recent subcritical experiment was not a nuclear test. Nor did it lead to any leaked radiation. These tests occur in a fortified containment in an underground tunnel that prevents the possibility of an accidental release (although one similar test, decades ago, did cause a fire).

The U.S. Department of Energy argues that because it can’t conduct a real nuclear test to ensure that aging components and weapons-grade plutonium inside U.S. nuclear warheads are still reliable, it therefore has to resort to subcritical tests and other so-called ‘stockpile stewardship’ experiments.

As long as these laboratory tests on plutonium (and warhead weapons parts) don’t induce a runaway chain reaction, the U.S. is allowed by the CTBT to do these things. A runaway chain reaction, by the way, is the modern definition of a nuclear explosion, but modern doesn’t mean good. In fact, the current definition of ‘nuclear explosion’ is a very bad one. Why? Well, no one opposing nuclear weapons has ever said they oppose them on the grounds that they’re designed to induce a domino effect on the fissioning of plutonium. People complain about nukes because of the size of the energy release these weapons of mass (or worldwide) destruction are designed to discharge – as heat, blast and radiation. It would make more sense to ban all man-made nuclear energy releases.

Critics of the U.S. program allege that the hundreds and hundreds of stockpile stewardship experiments conducted since the U.S. signed the CTBT and the fact that most of them are duplicate experiments of precursor ones suggest that the program is not, or not any longer, credible. The thought is that the program is either a big boondoggle or the Department of Energy is secretly designing new nuclear weapons.

But you don’t have to agree with the critics. Take it from the horse’s mouth. Have you heard of the declassified document known as the DOE “Green Book?” Obtained in 1997 through the Freedom of Information Act, the Green Book indicated that the DOE’s stockpile stewardship program – of which subcritical tests are a part – is not really about stewardship at all, but about new nuclear options. The Green Book states “In the meantime, future national policies are supported for deterrence by retaining the ability to develop new nuclear options for emergent threats.” The DOE would argue that it isn’t currently designing and testing next-generation nuclear weapons via simulations, however the lack of transparency of its stockpile stewardship program (the last time the U.S. allowed international inspectors access to an underground subcritical test was in the late 1990s) speaks louder than its words.

And sometimes the curious omission of words creates the most suspicion. Take for example the omission by the DOE about its December 5th test ‘Pollux.’ A May 2012 report titled ‘Supplement to Department of Energy Activities Relating to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, Fiscal Year 2011 Site-Specific Activities’ described Pollux as a ‘scaled subcritical experiment with special nuclear material. The experimental campaign is a first-of-a-kind demonstration…’ Yet neither that report nor any subsequent one (and not even the DOE’s Pollux press release) elaborated on these ‘scaled subcritical experiments.’ The government never gave us a definition of them. Why not? Has the Department of Energy been keeping something from the public?

So, what really are ‘scaled subcritical experiments?’

Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists wrote in his September 2011 article titled ‘Hydrodynamic Tests: Not to Scale’ that scaled experiments are ‘experiments in an implosion geometry that is essentially identical to an actual warhead design, but reduced in size.’

These are scaled down versions of the real thing. Kristensen mentioned in his article that Pollux may be the first of several ‘scaled’ tests that would be roughly half scale models too…of a nuclear warhead! So, Pollux was a subcritical nuclear test on plutonium-239 weapons grade fuel INSIDE a half-scale model of a nuclear bomb!

The U.S. has carried out a first-ever subcritical nuclear test in a shrunken nuclear fission bomb!?

And if the Department of Energy doesn’t really have a need for its stockpile stewardship tests, then what was the purpose of this provocative experiment? Was it a boondoggle? Or is the U.S. simply, as North Korea suggests, ‘frantically clinging onto carrying out nuclear tests?’ I’d hate to agree with North Korea, but it sure looks like the folks in the Energy Department are simply not able to control their lust for conducting a nuclear test. In my opinion, they never have been able to control that lust. That lust is the reason why the U.S. won’t ratify the CTBT and why the U.S. is one of only two or three countries left which still has a nuclear test site that it hasn’t yet shut down. That lust was also the reason why it and its predecessor – the Atomic Energy Commission – lied to the American people about the fallout from nuclear weapons testing. They said the radioactive debris falling on Americans’ homes was safe (‘There is no danger’) because they simply didn’t want citizens to force a halt to their precious weapons development program.

It all makes perfect sense when you accept this truth. Think about it. Why else are they blowing up shrunken nuclear bombs at a nuclear test site?

Andrew Kishner is founder of NuclearCrimes.org, which provides analysis into contemporary environmental radiation dangers and also the history and public health consequences of nuclear weapons work during the 20th century by several ‘nuclear club’ nations.

This is one of the most important resistance actions in the country and it’s great to see it growing. The Blockade is preparing for more and larger actions with a training from January 3rd to 8th and they are asking people to join them. We hear from those who have attended that it is a rewarding experience. If you can’t be there, you can support them by sending them some of the items on their wish list.

This week there was at least a temporary victory when a judge stopped pipeline work on one property owner’s land after he sued alleging fraud – TransCanada claimed they’d be transporting crude oil when in fact they will be transporting a toxic sludge of chemicals mixed with Tar Sands.

The students at Cooper Union in New York City are another example of effective and creative resistance. They occupied a suite at the university to bring their message of free tuition for all out to the community, resulting in large nonviolent protests outside and intrusion into a closed board of trustees meeting which they live streamed. The students are part of an international movement, a global struggle for education in the information society.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese interviewed one of the students from Cooper Union on Clearing the FOG radio while he was sitting-in.  The show covered the college tuition crisis and examined the predatory practices of college loan providers and for-profit colleges.  Look for an article in Truthout today or tomorrow that explores this issue in-depth.

The students at Cooper Union and Occupy Sandy Relief have been able to show that the police do not have to be in conflict with Occupy. Both efforts had positive relations with the police and are getting the job done. Many of the organizers of the Occupation at Freedom Plaza have volunteered for the Occupy Sandy mutual aid effort and have been impressed by their organization and commitment. They continue to have urgent needs. It’s easy to volunteer or make a donation. Visit Occupy Sandy to see how.

Labor battles are on the rise. This week in Michigan, the conservative corporate legislature and governor passed a right to work law that weakened union rights. Thousands protested, including many from Occupy, and riot police attacked the peaceful protesters. A large crowd of fast food workers rallied in Times Square last week as part of a walkout of low-wage workers. When a single mother lost her job because she joined the protest, solidarity actions by her community resulted in her being rehired.

The security state continues to tighten in fear of the American people.  One legacy of Occupy has been more restrictions on protesters. At the national level a new National Defense Authorization Act was passed by the Senate. The new law contains the following language:

“An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.” [italics added]

It sounds good until that last italicized clause. Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., all claim that Congress’ has the power to detain citizens. There is no question that non-citizens in the U.S. can be detained.  The House still has to vote as their version does not include this provision.  In the end, because the language is so vague, it is likely that the courts will have to interpret the law and decide whether it is constitutional.

Laws such as the NDAA  have not stopped important protests. Stalwart opponents of the U.S. drone program, many of whom were involved in the Occupation of Freedom Plaza, protested at the CIA recently. In fact, actions to stop US drones attacks, which mostly terrorize and kill civilians, are growing across the country.

Occucards has an informative card about drones and many other issues. These make great handouts to educate people in your community.

There is so much going on! We hope that this information is helpful to you. Please help us support these important actions by sharing this email with others.

In solidarity,
October2011/Occupy Washington, DC

Countering the Far-Right in Greece

December 13th, 2012 by J. B. Gerald

How is Europe to deal with all those displaced by U.S. / NATO wars on Iraq,  Afghanistan, Libya, Syria ? What responsibility does Greece have for the refugees of the West’s new world order ? Forced into debt, Greece is additionally burdened by several hundred thousand displaced people seeking refuge. Of these about fifty thousand are officially noted as “refugees” by the UN Refugee Agency.

A recent poll shows popularity of the extreme-right political party, “Golden Dawn,” has risen from 7% (435,000 votes) at the last election to 13.5%.  With the same formula as the “Jobbik” Party in Hungary, or Geert Wilders’ “Party for Freedom” in the Netherlands, “Golden Dawn” appeals to the majority’s racial, religious, language identity, and rises through making vulnerable groups scapegoats for political gain.

Once started, this mechanism extends as additional groups are sacrificed to deflect populist anger.  Historically the parties are a danger to refugee, immigrant, Roma, Jewish, Muslim and LGT communities, and find power to effect their policies through parliamentary alliances with establishment conservatives.  In Austria the far-right now includes “Team Stronach,” recently founded by the Austrian/Canadian auto-parts magnate. As the crushing austerity programs are forced on Greece, a nationalist extreme right gains power  to serve the enforcers. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) describes “Golden Dawn” as a “neo-Nazi, racist and xenophobic political party.”

To protest “Golden Dawn,”  Mouvement Antiracist Européen / European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM), has called for a march in Athens, December 15th at 3 PM, from the Greek Parliament to the Acropolis. EGAM (egam-eu.blogspot.ca/) attempts to mobilize decency beyond ideologies in a European society suffering from anti-communism, Disneyland, the Heimat syndrome, and austerity programs. In France EGAM has organized for Roma pride. Last May thousands internationally, signed its petition “We are all Greek Jews” (still open to signature at http://weareallgreekjews.eu ). But to understand what decency is up against, consider what “Golden Dawn” is:

In WWII, EAM  (the Communist Party and aligned resistance) freed Greece from occupation. The Allies formed an army of royalists and the right wing to fight against EAM, and won after resistance groups fought each other. The resulting ‘democracy’ was taken over by NATO supported Greek special forces, and a military junta ruled from 1967 to 1974.  Return to democracy allowed superficial stabilization. In the 1980’s “Golden Dawn” was initially sponsored by the imprisoned leaders of the military junta. Covert military organizations were officially dissolved in 1988, but their chain of command, loyalties, and m.o., were not reliant on Greek officialdom.  Could remnants of these have been activated to “control” the influx of refugees ?

NATO operations in Greece have shown some parallels to descriptions of the CIA’s Operation “Gladio” throughout Europe, which left covert paramilitary units in each country at the end of WWII to fight Communist takeovers. These were used to counter the democratic election of Communist candidates. With proven application in Italy, operational tactics included destabilization, assassination, false flag operations, terrorizing voters, mobs with a purpose, individual murders, car burnings, chaos, which shifted the voting public to the right. “Gladio” elements were based in right wing fringe parties, police, military and intelligence networks:

“General Geraldo Serravalle, a former head of ‘Office R’, told the terrorism commission that at a crucial Gladio meeting in 1972, at least half of the upper echelons ‘had the idea of attacking the communists before an invasion. They were preparing for civil war.’ Later, he put it more bluntly: ‘They were saying this: “Why wait for the invaders when we can make a preemptive attack now on the communists who would support the invader?’ The idea is now emerging of a Gladio web made up of semi-autonomous cadres which – although answerable to their secret service masters and ultimately to the NATO-CIA command – could initiate what they regarded as anti-communist operations by themselves, needing only sanction and funds from the existing ‘official’ Gladio column.”( The Guardian, Ed Vulliamy, Dec. 5, 1990, quoted in Wikipedia]

Their alleged operations were not unlike those subsequently in evidence in Rwanda. Amid the overwhelming materials of Peter Erlinder’s Rwanda Documents Project, is “Operation Order no. 11″ from the UN Mission to Rwanda, of May 1994, which finds a “Third Force” in the war between Paul Kagame’s RPF and Rwandan Government Forces (RGF) during the genocide:

“There is however a third element or force that has significantly affected the overall situation behind the RGF lines. This force has been mixing with the general population and seems to have its base in the political militia, youth wings and the local quarter self-defence groups with some overt support of the Military/Gendarmerie. These groups have often demonstrated fanatical and ruthless actions and quite often are under the influence of alcohol and drugs while at the barricades or while roving the streets  and hillsides. They seem  to have been the principle authors, as far as can be ascertained, . [sic.] of the terrible atrocities and destruction throughout most of the country.”

 ”Each individual military or self-defence cell seem to have a self appointed leader who does not necessarily obey or take orders from anyone in the normal chain of  authority. They are mostly armed with traditional weapons but several of them carry arms and grenades. They seem to have enough money. [sic.] to sustain their sections.  …etc.”       Faced with a huge influx of people escaping NATO’s destabilization of devastated countries, the Greek government is pursuing its policy of deporting and detaining those the media call “illegal immigrants.“ These are often refugees, with the human rights of refugees. In the tradition of Festung Europa, Frontex (The European Union’s collective border defense force ) is deployed. The Greek government is building 50 new detention camps.

 The screw of fascism’s advance is tightened in Greece with “Golden Dawn’s” overt racist insults in Parliament, epithets, provocations and public acts of violence against innocents. Some of these events are widely reported or shown on TV. Extreme right wing street tactics instill fear. The Church of Greece speaks from both sides of the aisle. Police inaction pushes the frightened to cooperation. Nationalist curricula are introduced into schools. A tactic of Greeks-only economies is developing. While “Golden Dawn” is the only party that takes to the streets to feed people (the press doesn’t reveal its funding), to be fed you have to be Greek, white, and not LGT, and you have to speak Greek. Refugees, migrants, immigrants, are not fed.  With a cloak of thuggery and neo-fascism, “Golden Dawn” puts aside decency to effect a single group’s agenda without implicating its masters.

In its early stages “Golden Dawn” seemed to operate as a psychological warfare unit. Initially a tiny group, the smooth transition from a fear unit to political machine garnering 435,000 votes suggests a pre-planned operation, with deep organization and funding.

On December 15th, hundreds perhaps many thousands of Greeks will join the professors and teachers who have signed with EGAM to walk the walk from Parliament to the Acropolis. Last week a “Golden Dawn” office was bombed with a crude device. Anti-fascist protests continue to occur throughout Greece.  Anti-fascist motorcycle club patrols appear in Athens. In September shipyard workers storm the defense ministry for their pay.

In October 70,000 protest austerity measures at Parliament. On November 17th to mark the killing of a student  which started the uprising against the military junta nearly forty years ago, 20,000 march on the U.S. and Israeli embassies. In Thessaloniki, November 28,  8000 people protest resource extraction by Canada‘s Eldorado Gold Corp. In Athens the Federation of municipal employees calls a strike for Dec. 14th . Migrants in two of the detention centres riot because conditions are unsanitary. No one can adequately protest the closing of fifty hospitals. The strength of resistance remains with the students, the Unions, the people at large.

The Royal Pregnancy Phone Hoax

December 13th, 2012 by Julie Hyland

The apparent suicide last week of nurse Jacintha Saldanha is a tragedy. It took place in the wake of the prank call by Australian radio presenters to the London hospital where the pregnant Kate Middleton was being treated.

In advance of a post-mortem, unconfirmed reports state that Saldanha was found hanging in the nurses’ accommodation on Friday, December 7, and had left a suicide note for her family. She had been dead for some time.

Media commentary has placed responsibility for this terrible incident almost entirely on 2DayFM DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian, who had placed the call to King Edward VII Hospital, pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles.

The call came through at 5:30 a.m. on December 4. Reception was closed, and as duty nurse, Saldanha put the call through to the ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness. Greig asked to be put through to “my granddaughter Kate,” and Saldanha transferred the call to a second nurse, who confirmed that the duchess was “stable” and “not retching.”

The taped prank, when broadcast, caused an international furore over the DJs’ invasion of royal privacy and condemnation of the hospital for lax security procedures. Denunciations went into overdrive with news of Saldanha’s death.

Accused of having “blood on their hands”, the two DJs were suspended from the station and went into hiding. In tearful public apologies on Monday the pair insisted they never believed the call would be successful given their terrible upper-class British accents and taped corgi barking in the background. Christian had earlier described it as “the easiest prank call we’ve ever made.”

There are accusations that the pair have broken broadcasting and privacy laws in Australia and the UK and suggestions that they could face charges. Scotland Yard in London has made contact with New South Wales police, although no follow-up has yet been requested.

Such stunts are a staple of the now-cancelled program on 2DayFM, which is not dissimilar to many other radio and TV stations that dedicate shows to the ritual humiliation of members of the public. Rarely do these result in such sad consequences. But heaping blame solely on two DJs serves to conceal the essential fact that, at its root, this tragic event is the outcome of the febrile atmosphere whipped up around the news of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy.

As the international media camped out on the steps of the private hospital, world leaders fell over themselves to offer their congratulations to the royal couple. Leaders of all of the UK’s official parties as well as religious leaders concurred that the news was “something the whole nation will celebrate”. News programmes led 24/7 on the impending addition of another heir to the throne, along with endless speculation on the latest stage of the duchess’s nausea—relegating the civil war in Syria and mass protests in Egypt to the background.

The tenor of such coverage was epitomised by Catherine Ostler in the Daily Mail. Under the headline, “Queen of the Yummy Mummies and Her Tiny Trendsetter,” Ostler exclaimed breathlessly, “Indeed, the little prince or princess will have considerable influence even before they take their first breath in the land over which they’ll one day reign.”

Ostler probably didn’t pause to consider the significance of her statement. A baby, no, a foetus, has “considerable influence” even before it has taken its “first breath.” What does this say about a society that allows such a state of affairs, let alone a media that gushes over it?

The monarchy is an affront to every democratic principle. It has persisted into the twenty-first century not only because it stands at the apex of the British state and its constitutional requirements, but also because it is the human embodiment of a social order based on wealth, privilege and class oppression. Britain’s royal family is venerated by upper-middle-class layers like Ostler because, in their feting of the royal family, they are celebrating and justifying their own economic and social superiority over the “common people.”

Into this frenzied circus were thrust two unwitting nurses, Saldanha and a colleague.

Great stress has been placed on the possibility that Saldanha, from Valencia, southwest India, may not have been able to tell that the DJs’ upper-class accents were phoney. This should not be accepted at face value. She had been registered as a nurse in the UK since 2003 and had worked in Bristol for several years before transferring to King Edward VII four years ago. But if so, the fact remains that an unnamed second nurse was also taken in.

It is worth asking whether any native-born speaker would have responded differently. Even if he or she had doubts, a nurse would have had to seriously consider the ramifications of refusing to put through a call from someone claiming to be the Queen. In this instance, at any rate, deference and “knowing one’s place” came back to bite the royals.

Immediately news of the call was out, the British media howled at the “hospital security blunder” that led to “confidential details” being given out and the great distress it had caused the royal couple. One can imagine the fears generated at the hospital—which specifically caters to the royal family and wealthy celebrities—about the impact of this blunder on its prestige, not to mention its finances.

The hospital has denied that it disciplined Saldanha or her colleague over the call, or that they had been subjected to any “significant interview”. But the Sunday Times reported that management had intended to have “a chat [with her] at some point.”

Protocol is that duty nurses do not transfer calls when the reception is closed, the newspaper reported, and that Ms. Saldanha may have felt that she “had broken hospital rules, unwittingly assisting a colleague in breaching the Duchess’s medical confidentiality and bringing shame on herself and her employer.”

For Saldanha, a professional, dedicated and caring nurse, the accusation must have been devastating. This was someone referred to by those who knew her as one of the “Queen’s nurses”. She had taken employment at the hospital even though it meant that, for the last four years, she had to leave her two children—now 14 and 17—with her husband in Bristol during the week while she stayed in nursing accommodation.

Her husband, Benedict Barboza, has attacked the way hospital management handled the situation in the wake of the prank call. He was told of the discovery of his wife’s body by the police, not the hospital. He says the family has not received any help or even a visit by Saldanha’s employers. While the hospital set up an inquiry into the DJs’ breach of privacy, no such inquiry has as yet been established into the death of one of its nurses.

The British media is now trying to assume a “balanced” approach to events. In the wake of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, with its demand for a cordon sanitaire to be placed around the private lives of the rich and famous, it wants to be seen as compliant as it seeks to fend off the threat of statutory regulation.

An editorial in Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, entitled “Outrage but not to go too far,” declared that “anger at the crass Australian radio hoaxers” was justified, but warned against “another witch hunt.”

One thing is certain. The British and international public will continue to be force-fed a diet of royal baby propaganda. The social function of the monarchy remains too important for that to end.

The US Justice Department on Tuesday announced a settlement with the British-based HSBC bank regarding charges of money laundering Mexican drug funds that allows the bank to admit to wrongdoing and pay a fine without being criminally charged.

In a lengthy front-page article Tuesday morning, before the settlement was announced, the New York Times reported that US authorities had decided, despite ample evidence that HSBC had laundered billions of dollars for major drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia, not to press criminal charges against the bank or any of its executives because the bank was “too big to indict.”

The Times article, citing government sources on internal discussions between the Justice Department, the Treasury and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, spelled out the rationale that has guided the response of the Obama administration to a host of bank scandals in the aftermath of the Wall Street crash of September 2008. Not a single major institution or leading bank executive has been prosecuted for the pervasive fraud and swindling that led to the financial crisis and triggered the global slump—and continues unabated today.

The financial mafia that bestrides the American economy and controls the political system is, in practice, above the law. The government and the various financial regulatory agencies are its protectors, making sure that no leading banker or institution is held accountable for violations of the law and social crimes against the people.

Under the agreement announced Tuesday in Brooklyn by New York Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and other federal, state and local officials, HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank and the third largest in the world, will forfeit $1.256 billion and pay an additional $650 million in civil penalties. The bank acknowledges having violated the Bank Secrecy Act in laundering Mexican drug cartel money and having breached other federal laws by ignoring US sanctions in financial dealings with Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma.

Instead of being indicted, the bank enters into a five-year deferred prosecution agreement, during which it is to be monitored for compliance by an independent agency. This quasi-probationary period is, however, little more than a formality. It is highly unlikely that criminal charges will ever be laid. Wall Street responded to the announcement of the agreement by bidding up HSBC shares a half percentage point.

The total fine of $1.9 billion is only 8.6 percent of the $22 billion profit the bank recorded in 2011, and is likely less than the profits HSBC made over many years serving as the main financial conduit for Mexican drug lords, including the Sialoa Cartel.

At a press conference Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Breuer said HSBC was guilty of “stunning failures of oversight—and worse—that led the bank to permit narcotics traffickers and others to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through HSBC subsidiaries, and to facilitate hundreds of millions more in transactions with sanctioned countries.”

US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said, “HSBC’s blatant failure to implement proper anti-money laundering controls facilitated the laundering of at least $881 million in drug proceeds through the US financial system.” She told reporters that Mexican drug cartels had moved hundreds of thousands of dollars a day through HSBC facilities. The bank’s Mexican operations shifted at least $7 billion from 2007 to 2009 into the United States.

A press release from the Justice Department said that HSBC Bank USA failed to monitor over $670 billion in wire transfers and over $9.4 billion in purchases of physical US dollars from HSBC Mexico from at least 2006 to 2009.

Last July, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report charging HSBC with laundering Mexican drug money on a massive scale. The report said that HSBC’s Mexico bank had a branch in the Cayman Islands that had no offices or staff, but held 50,000 client accounts and $2.1 billion in 2008.

It also denounced the bank’s US regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, for turning a blind eye to the bank’s suspicious and incriminating activities. The Senate subcommittee noted that in 2010, the regulatory agency flagged $60 trillion in transactions and 17,000 accounts as potentially suspicious, but failed to even fine HSBC.

It is likely that HSBC stepped up its drug money laundering operations in response to the banking crisis that began in earnest in 2007 and erupted in full force with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September of 2008. In 2007, the bank began posting billions of dollars in losses at its American consumer spending arm, forcing it to go begging to shareholders for more capital.

There is evidence that at the height of the banking crisis, a number of major banks depended on cash from drug-related laundering operations to stay afloat. According to Antonio María Costa, who then headed the United Nations office on drugs and crime, the flow of crime syndicate money represented the only “liquid investment capital” available to banks at the height of the crisis. “Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade,” he said. “There were signs that some banks were rescued that way.”

In March of 2010, the US Justice Department reached a similar settlement with Wachovia Bank, now part of Wells Fargo, as that announced Tuesday with HSBC. Wachovia admitted to having violated the Bank Secrecy Act by laundering $378.4 billion for the Sinaloa Cartel between 2004 and 2007. Rather than being prosecuted, it was given a deferred prosecution agreement under which it paid a fine of $160 million, less than 2 percent of its profit for the previous year.

By serving as financial conduits for the Mexican drug cartels, these banks have played a critical role in the drug war that has taken tens of thousands of lives in that country, not to mention the social devastation wrought in the US and around the world by the narcotics trade.

Martin Woods, a Wachovia whistleblower who had been forced to resign, said at the time of the US settlement with the bank: “These are the proceeds of murder and misery in Mexico, and of drugs sold around the world… It’s simple: if you don’t see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and the 30,000 people killed in Mexico, you’re missing the point.”

America Invades Africa: The Resource War and the Conquest of Mali

December 13th, 2012 by Timothy Alexander Guzman

The United States African Command (AFRICOM) was created in 2007 under then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the Bush Administration as a Military Command center that covers the entire continent of Africa.  They wanted to create a permanent footprint in Africa to maintain the peace and security it desires that is deemed beneficial for US interests. 

In a White House Press Release on Feb 6, 2007 the Bush Administration announced that a new centralized US command will be present in the African Continent through AFRICOM:

“This new command will strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa”.

The interesting words used in the press release are development and economic growth.  There are a number of elements that involves AFRICOM and its mission.  The first being the competition it will encounter with China and other countries who deal with African states through diplomatic negotiations and business deals concerns the United States, especially western powers such as France and Great Britain who colonized Africa for centuries whether by signing treaties with African leaders who saw it as a benefit or by military force.

The US and its Western Allies use military force, whether by an invasion or by creating a coup d’état within the country of interest.  AFRICOM’s goal is to eliminate China and other countries influence in the region.  Africa’s natural resources is another important element to consider because it includes oil, diamonds, copper, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, bauxite, silver, petroleum, certain woods and tropical fruits.  Just to get an idea what’s at stake for US corporate interests, West Africa alone provides about 20 percent of the US supply of hydrocarbons.  The US corporate interest in Africa needs natural resources to feed its appetite for profits, a fact that should not be ignored.  The US would create conflicts to justify their presence in the resource rich continent by any means including a way to generate a crisis within their targeted area of interest.  As Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff to US President Barack Obama once said “no crisis should go to waste” is a motto that Washington is obviously using.

In the beginning of 2012, the Tuareg Rebellion took place in the northern Mali conflict that involved several wars of independence against the Malian government in the Sahara desert region of Azawad.  The Malian government lost its northern region to the Tuareg secessionists as a result.  The Tuareg is a faction of nomadic people that live in the northern part of the country along with a local Islamist militant group called the the Ansar Dine.   However, the Anser Dine was aligned with Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) an element of Al Qaeda who eventually displaced the Tuareg and imposed Sharia law.  Mali’s Timbuktu eventually became a ghost town as the Ansar Dine and the Islamic Maghreb gained power.  Ironically, both groups obtained weapons from Libya after the US/NATO led invasion.

The crisis began when the democratically-elected government of Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali was overthrown on in the southern capital on March 21st due to his mismanagement of the crisis.  The leader of the military coup was Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo who was trained by the United States on “several occasions” according to a Washington Post article on March 23, 2012.  It is obvious that Washington was behind the action undertaken by Sanogo.

Now the United States wants an invasion for “Humanitarian intervention” purposes.  But as we all should know “Humanitarian Intervention” only means “Economic Intervention” because the criteria for such an intervention will lead to a vast of wealth including gold mining, oil and agricultural commodities that the US and other Western powers would want to exploit.  The Western controlled United Nations (UN) wants sanctions imposed on Northern Mali because of its ties to terrorism.  That is the first step of a coming intervention by the West.  AFRICOM’s true purpose is to seek and destroy African nations and install puppet regimes that are obedient to Washington.  How do they achieve such an outcome?  Create the crises and offer the remedy.  AFRICOM will be the answer.

By Clifford Kiracofe

Egypt, while increasing its regional role, is following a policy in line with Washington’s requirements: peace with Israel and regime change in Syria.

Washington calculates that it can manage its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and therefore its branches in Palestine, Syria, and Jordan. During the Cold War, the West behind the scenes worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia to blunt Soviet influence in the region. Washington today believes it can play a similar game to obtain regional objectives.. .This policy goes back to the George W. Bush administration and to former vice president Dick Cheney’s regional strategy to align Israel with the Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia to oppose Iran, a Shi’a state and Hezbollah, a Shi’a resistance movement in Lebanon.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s attempt to grab power raises many questions not only about Egypt’s future but also about the Middle East and US foreign policy, despite Morsi having scrapped the decree under the pressure of massive protests.

As the Arab Spring turns into an Arab Winter, what are its contradictions and consequences?

Two years ago, as Egypt entered a phase of powerful public demands for more democratic conditions, skeptics warned against the Muslim Brotherhood. They said that this semi-clandestine organization had no interest in democracy but only in gaining power in order to erect an Islamic “caliphate.”

In the past, Egypt had capable leaders seeking modernization such as Muhammad Ali (1769-1849) and khedive Ismail Pasha (1830-95). Foreign intrigue and imperialism, however, interrupted Egypt’s progress in the 19th century. Pasha, a friend of the US, was deposed in 1879 by the British Empire which then undertook to control Egypt.

The Egyptian military liberated the country from foreign domination in the revolution of 1952. Soon after, the great Arab nationalist leader, Gamal Adbel Nasser, emerged as president.

The US position was mixed. At first, it sought to work with Nasser. Former US president Dwight D. Eisenhower staunchly defended Egypt against Israel, the UK, and France during the Suez Crisis of 1956. But then the Cold War and Zionism placed Washington and Cairo at odds.

After Anwar Sadat (1918-81) became Egyptian president in 1970 and later became friendly, Washington moved to work with Egypt as a way to reduce Soviet influence in the Middle East and to protect Israel.

Sadat’s pro-Western move and 1979 peace treaty with Israel, however, angered the Arab and Muslim world. Consequently, Egypt lost prestige and influence regionally. Notwithstanding this loss, Hosni Mubarak continued the foreign policy line established by Sadat.

Today, Egypt under President Morsi, has significant contradictions in internal and external policy. Internally, the Arab Spring should have brought more democratic conditions, but it has not.

What has happened to Cairo’s foreign policy? Egypt, while increasing its regional role, is following a policy in line with Washington’s requirements: peace with Israel and regime change in Syria.

Morsi’s policy to uphold the peace treaty with Israel and other understandings supports Washington’s policy. Washington’s Egypt policy is, in fact, subsidiary to Washington’s defense of Israel and Zionism. As long as Egypt supports this policy, such as under Sadat, Mubarak and now Morsi, US-Egyptian relations will remain on track despite a lack of progress on internal democratization.

Washington calculates that it can manage its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and therefore its branches in Palestine, Syria, and Jordan. During the Cold War, the West behind the scenes worked closely with the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia to blunt Soviet influence in the region. Washington today believes it can play a similar game to obtain regional objectives.

In the present regional game, Washington sides with the Muslim Brotherhood which has support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This policy goes back to the George W. Bush administration and to former vice president Dick Cheney’s regional strategy to align Israel with the Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia to oppose Iran, a Shi’a state and Hezbollah, a Shi’a resistance movement in Lebanon.

Washington is working with Riyadh, Doha, and Cairo to ensure regime change in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood Syria branch has had a long-term strategy to take power and to change secular Syria into an Islamist “sharia state.” The US supports this because it calculates that this is the best way to protect Israel, by eliminating a regime allied to Iran and by neutralizing Hizbullah.

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas altered its policy in line with Washington’s regional objectives. Hamas has now linked to Qatar although this has produced sharp differences within the movement. Egypt’s role in the cease-fire was facilitated by Cairo’s linkages to Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Hamas’ policy change to a new patron in Doha.

While the US may think that its regional strategy, diplomacy, and covert action will result in success, this remains to be seen. For the broad mass of the population in the region, the US is perceived negatively. For not a few analysts, Washington’s policy is not only reckless and destabilizing but has led to the Arab Winter.

The author is an educator and former senior professional staff member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

 

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The Fed has just announced its fourth round of “quantitative easing”.

While the mainstream financial press pretends that quantitative easing is a “liberal” economic policy, nothing could be further from the truth.

As we’ve repeatedly explained, quantitative easing is a bailout for the super-rich, at the expense of the little guy.  It increases inequality and fails to stimulate the economy. (And it destroys the savings of retirees.)

Indeed, Fed boss Ben Bernanke knew 24 years ago that quantitative easing doesn’t help.

Forbes’ Lawrence Hunter explains:

The Federal Reserve … operates its own financial Laundromat for troubled, in some cases criminal banks.  The Fed’s loan laundry and downscale resale consignment shop first takes in the wash by purchasing non-performing, and therefore largely worthless financial assets (loans and loan-backed securities) to remove them from the books of private banks. (Another variant is for the Fed to swap the banks’ bad paper at face value for federal debt instruments, which replaces the banks’ non-performing assets having little, if any, resale value, with safe, interest-paying and highly marketable assets.).  The Fed then launders the loans by reselling them back to the same group of banks at a fraction (10 percent or less) of the face-value price it paid the banks for them. Once the banks repurchase the spiffed up dirty loan laundry, it not only has turned a nifty 90-percent-or-more profit on the turn around, it also has a new asset it can put back into the stream of financial commerce at a price reflective of its true value.

The Fed is a perfect vehicle to transform bad assets into good.  It is weakly overseen without an independent audit and thus is able to intermediate the transformation of bad, illiquid assets into money (and near money) and then back again into valuable financial assets, all done secretly and anonymously.  Unlike the polite, don’t-ask-don’t-tell fiction of private hedge-fund money laundering, however, the Fed says outright, “Don’t ask, because we aren’t telling,” even when asked again and again.

Immediately after the 2008 financial meltdown, the Fed laundered more than $2 trillion in worthless assets held on the balance sheets of private banks. According to a watered-down 2011 audit of the Fed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), there have been $16 trillion in Fed bailouts to banks and corporations around the world since the financial meltdown in 2008. Since that report, Bloomberg has reported on an additional $9 trillion in secret, off-balance-sheet Fed transactions that the central bank refuses to discuss. Now, Ben Bernanke is ginning up assembly-line washing machines at the Fed with QE∞ to spin an opened-ended, $40-billion-monthly cleansing campaign to purchase worthless mortgage backed securities from banks at face value, which could run to an additional $1.3 trillion loan laundering accompanied by downscale resales.

Indeed, the Fed:

Hunter continues:

QE∞ is no mere financial Laundromat; it is a full-service loan laundry and downscale resale facility that not only cleans the banks’ balance sheets but also sterilizes the entire operation to prevent it from producing immediate price inflation.  It illustrates the way the Fed’s loan laundry and downscale resale facility works:

After the Fed buys (at face value) and resells (at pennies on the dollar) the bad mortgage-backed securities with newly minted electronic digits that it places into the banks’ Federal Reserve accounts, it then sterilizes the entire operation to prevent the new money from transmitting the dread inflation virus.  The Fed does so by, in effect, quarantining inside the banking system the new toxic money used to launder the dirty loans.  [I've explained the mechanism for the Fed's action before.] To affect this quarantine, the Fed wields both a carrot and a stick to keep this newly minted digital money from seeping out into the economy through new loans and igniting inflation: It pays the bank interest on its Fed reserves as long as the bank keeps the funds on deposit at the Fed (the carrot); and it tightens reserve requirements by raising the amount of money the bank must keep on deposit at the Federal Reserve (the stick).

There are much better ways to stimulate the economy, but the Fed is only interested in maintaining the status quo for its owners. And see this.

For the past year, Miranda Gibson has lived on a small platform that is suspended 60 metres above the floor of an ancient forest in Tasmania’s south. “I climbed up this tree because I wanted to expose to the world the reality that logging was continuing in these forests despite promises by the government to the contrary. I wanted to do something that would show the world how significant these forests are,” says Miranda.

‘The Observer Tree’, as Miranda has named her action, is now one year old. Miranda’s tree-sit has attracted significant global attention. “Every day there are comments on my website, people discovering these forests for the first time, or reconnecting with them through my blog,” says Miranda. The twelve month anniversary of Miranda’s tree-sit will be celebrated with a “cyber event.” As explained by Miranda, “I will be conducting a live-stream online broadcast from the tree tops. From here we will cross to guest speakers and events around the world.”

Miranda’s supporters are numerous throughout the global environmental movement. Julia Butterfly Hill, who holds the tree-sitting world record (achieved through spending two years at the top of a Californian Redwood) states that “Miranda Gibson is taking a powerful stand not only on behalf of Tasmania’s forests, but also on behalf of the millions of people all over the world.” Internationally renowned author Derrick Jensen expressed gratitude for Miranda’s work. “Thank you, Miranda, for what you are doing. You are an inspiration to me and to so

many others.”

Through this period, Miranda and her tree have endured a cold Tasmanian winter, which has delivered freezing temperatures, rain and snow. Not everyone is cut out to cope in such trying circumstances. Miranda explains her commitment as stemming from “The moment I saw the contrast between a lifeless clear fell and an old growth forest – I knew that something needed to be done to protect these unique ecosystems.”

Former leader of the Australian Greens, Dr Bob Brown, describes the impact of Miranda’s tree-sit as being “helpful in reminding people around Australia that these are forests of World Heritage value.” According to Miranda, the increasing awareness of Tasmania’s forests will lead to action. “When people around the world demand a higher standard of environmental responsibility here in Tasmania, the industry and the government must come eventually come into line.” Dr Brown explains that Miranda had first approached him with her idea of the Observer Tree, for which he was “very supportive.”

“Miranda is an intelligent, well centred, strong minded young woman – who is committed to saving those forests,” said Dr Brown. Dr Brown has arranged live discussions with Miranda in front of audiences, which he claims always provide a rapturous ovation for Miranda and her work. Dr Brown is unequivocal in his admiration for Miranda, labelling Miranda an “environmental hero.”

This action is perhaps the most emphatic in a long and passionately fought battle, which has consistently divided Tasmania. Supporters of the timber industry are firmly entrenched on one side, with environmentalists on the other. There are few people in between. This feud, ongoing since woodchipping commenced in Tasmania in 1972, was set to end with the announcement of the Tasmanian forest agreement, struck between representatives of the timber industry and environmental non government organisations. After two years of bitterly-fought negotiations, a deal was finally forged between the two opposing parties. And just in time. Failure to complete these negotiations would have jeopardised $100 million in Federal money, to assist the restructuring of the ailing timber industry.

The agreement, which is currently waiting approval from Tasmania’s Legislative Council, will see the immediate protection of 395,199 hectares of forest, with a further 108,813 hectares to be protected by 2015. A further 20,183 hectares have been earmarked as a “once-off log, restore and reserve area,” while 1,228 hectares are classified as a “log-of-last-resort” zone. According to the agreement, the cap on saw logs to be taken from native forest is down to 137,000 cubic metres annually, representing a drop from 348,000 cubic metres. The agreement promises to ensure the protection of iconic forests, such as the Styx Valley, Upper Florentine and Weld Valley.

Signatories to the agreement include Terry Edwards of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, Vica Bayley of The Wilderness Society and Phill Pullinger of Environment Tasmania. The parties emerged triumphantly from the discussions, talking in terms that indicated the gravity of the discussions and their subsequent impact on the smallest Australian state. Terry Edwards spoke as a seasoned diplomat calling an end to a long and bloody confrontation, claiming that “We believe it is time for the war to cease…” Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings channelled Benjamin Franklin, stating that “Out of adversity comes opportunity and what has been handed to us today is a momentous opportunity to heal decades of division.” Giddings described the agreement as an “historic moment – after 30 years of division, we have the opportunity to work together towards a common goal.” Tasmanian Greens Leader Nick McKim likened forest protestors to Rosa Parks, Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, which prompted Liberal Opposition Leader Will Hodgman to label McKim as an environmental saboteur and then call for his resignation. Although an agreement has been struck between elements of the two opposing camps, clearly this will not result in the ending of hostility.

With the announcement of the forest agreement, Miranda could be forgiven for thinking that her work had been done. Miranda sees things differently, citing numerous concerns that she has with the agreement. “Firstly, the lack of clear time frames for protection could see logging continue in those areas earmarked for reserves. In addition, there are clauses that could prevent those reserves from every being secured.” Miranda considers that the agreement will result in the “propping up” of the native forest industry, and a renewed commitment to woodchipping; which Miranda argues “is not a positive step forward for Tasmania environmentally, socially or economically.”

However, Terry Edwards feels that it is the forest industry which has given the most ground in this instance. “The timber industry has moved significantly and effectively on this proposal, largely giving environmental groups what they have been asking for and in return that this does mean peace in our forests and that that peace be lasting,” Mr Edwards said. Edwards attempted to ward off potential criticism, stating that “Many will accuse us of selling out (but) we’ve done an assessment of what we can wear and still maintain a reasonable and viable industry going forward,” he said.

Jan Davis, Chief Executive of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association criticised both sides of the negotiation, stating that “It is unconscionable for a group of unelected environmental groups and industry representatives to be making decisions to lock up public resources in perpetuity.” Prior to the conclusion of negotiations, Davis wrote that “Despite the government’s apparent belief that the war is all over bar the shouting. I think we all know better than that. This is a train wreck waiting to happen.” The pessimism expressed by Davis is not without basis. Dr Brown refers to Federal and State politics, raising concerns that the possible election of a Federal Liberal Government and Tasmanian Liberal Government could cast doubt over the longevity of the agreement. “Tony Abbott says he won’t protect (the forests). Will Hodgman says that he will tear up that agreement. There are a lot of hurdles to be jumped. To date, not one tree has been protected, not even Miranda’s,” says Dr Brown. Despite reservations about the strength of the agreement, Miranda is optimistic about the future of Tasmania’s forests. “I have hope that Tasmania’s forests will be protected. I believe it is inevitable.”

With signatories to the forest agreement locked in discussions concerning the passage of the bill through Tasmania’s Legislative Council, Dr Brown states that Miranda’s tree sit is taking place at a time, “When so much oomph has been lost by environmental activism around the world.” Lamenting the decline in direct action of environmental activists globally, which he describes as “a serious loss to the environmental movement,” Dr Brown refers to the importance of conducting environmental action within the natural setting. “The strength of campaigning is being in a forest, on a sea shore, out at sea with the whales, up on the Murray Darling. The direct relationship with nature has always been a key in galvanising support,” says Dr Brown.

When asked about her motivation to continue her tree-sit, Miranda offers a response that clearly states her purpose. “I am inspired to keep going every single day that I am up here. I look out across a spectacular valley, across the upper canopy of the forest. There are constant reminders for me about why I am doing this and why I must continue – whether it’s a wedge-tailed eagle soaring in the skies above, the beauty of snow falling on the tree tops or sound of a masked owl calling through the moonlit trees. Being in this tree every day for almost a year has strengthened my determination to continue, because I witness first hand the significant values of this incredible forested landscape.”

It is apparent that Miranda is not going anywhere in a hurry. “Until there is a guarantee that these forests will be protected, I am committed to staying in this tree.”

The True Costs of Empire: Garrisoning the Planet

December 13th, 2012 by David Vine

Tom Dispatch Introduction

Mars? Venus? Earth-like bodies elsewhere in the galaxy? Who knows? But here, at least, no great power, no superpower, no hyperpower, not the Romans, nor imperial China, nor the British, nor the Soviet Union has ever garrisoned the globe quite the way we have: Asia to Latin America, Europe to the Greater Middle East, and increasingly Africa as well.

Build we must.  If someday Washington took to the couch for therapy, the shrink would undoubtedly categorize what we’ve done as a compulsion, the base-building equivalent of a hoarding disorder.

And you know what else is unprecedented? Hundreds of thousands of Americans cycle annually through our various global garrisons, ranging from small American towns with all the attendant amenities, including fast-food joints, PXes, and Internet cafes to the most spartan of forward outposts, and yet our “Baseworld,” as the late Chalmers Johnson used to call it, is hardly noticed in this country and seldom considered worthy of attention.

We built, for example, 505 bases at the cost of billions of dollars in Iraq (without a single reporter uncovering anything close to that number until we abandoned all of them in 2011).  Over the years, millions of soldiers, private contractors, spies, civilian employees of the U.S. government, special ops types, and who knows who else spent time on them, as undoubtedly did hundreds of reporters, and yet news of those American ziggurats was rare to vanishing.  On the whole, reporters on bases so large that one had a 27-mile fortified perimeter, multiple bus lines, and its own electricity grid and water-bottling plant generally looked elsewhere for their “news.”

Our latest base-building mania: Washington’s expanding “empire of bases” for its secret CIA and Special Forces drone wars in the Greater Middle East goes almost unnoticed (except at sites like this).  We now, for instance, have a drone base in the Seychelles, an archipelago that evidently needs an infusion of money.  Unless you had the dough for a high-end wedding in the middle of the Indian Ocean or a vacation in “paradise,” you’ve probably never heard of the place.

No matter.  You’re still paying for the deployment of 82 people to those islands to fly and land crash-prone drones in our now endless “covert” robotic air wars in the Greater Middle East and Africa.  With the so-called fiscal cliff now eternally on the media horizon, there’s been reporting recently on how your tax dollars are being spent, but do you have the faintest idea what it actually costs you to garrison the globe? No? Then you’re in good company, and the Pentagon certainly isn’t interested in telling you either.

Fortunately, basing expert and TomDispatch regular David Vine decided to make sense of what garrisoning the planet means to our pocketbooks. Read this piece and you’ll know what it costs all of us to build and support that Baseworld and more generally the American global military presence. Think about it: at the cost of possibly $2 trillion since 9/11, it should be one of the stories of the century. If it were, maybe by now we would be starting to pull back from the “military cliff.” 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Picking Up a $170 Billion Tab: How U.S. Taxpayers Are Paying the Pentagon to Occupy the Planet

by David Vine

“Are you monitoring the construction?” asked the middle-aged man on a bike accompanied by his dog.

“Ah, sì,” I replied in my barely passable Italian.

“Bene,” he answered. Good.

In front of us, a backhoe’s guttural engine whined into action and empty dump trucks rattled along a dirt track. The shouts of men vied for attention with the metallic whirring of drills and saws ringing in the distance. Nineteen immense cranes spread across the landscape, with the foothills of Italy’s Southern Alps in the background. More than 100 pieces of earthmoving equipment, 250 workers, and grids of scaffolding wrapped around what soon would be 34 new buildings.

We were standing in front of a massive 145-acre construction site for a “little America” rising in Vicenza, an architecturally renowned Italian city and UNESCO world heritage site near Venice. This was Dal Molin, the new military base the U.S. Army has been readying for the relocation of as many as 2,000 soldiers from Germany in 2013.

Since 1955, Vicenza has also been home to another major U.S. base, Camp Ederle. They’re among the more than 1,000 bases the United States uses to ring the globe (with about 4,000 more in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.). This complex of military installations, unprecedented in history, has been a major, if little noticed, aspect of U.S. power since World War II.

During the Cold War, such bases became the foundation for a “forward strategy” meant to surround the Soviet Union and push U.S. military power as close to its borders as possible. These days, despite the absence of a superpower rival, the Pentagon has been intent on dotting the globe with scores of relatively small “lily pad” bases, while continuing to build and maintain some large bases like Dal Molin.

Americans rarely think about these bases, let alone how much of their tax money — and debt — is going to build and maintain them. For Dal Molin and related construction nearby, including a brigade headquarters, two sets of barracks, a natural-gas-powered energy plant, a hospital, two schools, a fitness center, dining facilities, and a mini-mall, taxpayers are likely to shell out at least half a billion dollars. (All the while, a majority of locals passionately and vocally oppose the new base.)

How much does the United States spend each year occupying the planet with its bases and troops? How much does it spend on its global presence?  Forced by Congress to account for its spending overseas, the Pentagon has put that figure at $22.1 billion a year. It turns out that even a conservative estimate of the true costs of garrisoning the globe comes to an annual total of about $170 billion. In fact, it may be considerably higher. Since the onset of “the Global War on Terror” in 2001, the total cost for our garrisoning policies, for our presence abroad, has probably reached $1.8 trillion to $2.1 trillion.

How Much Do We Spend?

By law, the Pentagon must produce an annual “Overseas Cost Summary” (OCS) putting a price on the military’s activities abroad, from bases to embassies and beyond. This means calculating all the costs of military construction, regular facility repairs, and maintenance, plus the costs of maintaining one million U.S. military and Defense Department personnel and their families abroad — the pay checks, housing, schools, vehicles, equipment, and the transportation of personnel and materials overseas and back, and far, far more.

The latest OCS, for the 2012 fiscal year ending September 30th, documented $22.1 billion in spending, although, at Congress’s direction, this doesn’t include any of the more than $118 billion spent that year on the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe.

While $22.1 billion is a considerable sum, representing about as much as the budgets for the Departments of Justice and Agriculture and about half the State Department’s 2012 budget, it contrasts sharply with economist Anita Dancs’s estimate of $250 billion. She included war spending in her total, but even without it, her figure comes to around $140 billion — still $120 billion more than the Pentagon suggests.

Wanting to figure out the real costs of garrisoning the planet myself, for more than three years, as part of a global investigation of bases abroad, I’ve talked to budget experts, current and former Pentagon officials, and base budget officers. Many politely suggested that this was a fool’s errand given the number of bases involved, the complexity of distinguishing overseas from domestic spending, the secrecy of Pentagon budgets, and the “frequently fictional” nature of Pentagon figures.  (The Department of Defense remains the only federal agency unable to pass a financial audit.)

Ever the fool and armed only with the power of searchable PDFs, I nonetheless plunged into the bizarro world of Pentagon accounting, where ledgers are sometimes still handwritten and $1 billion can be a rounding error. I reviewed thousands of pages of budget documents, government and independent reports, and hundreds of line items for everything from shopping malls to military intelligence to postal subsidies.

Wanting to err on the conservative side, I decided to follow the methodology Congress mandated for the OCS, while also looking for overseas costs the Pentagon or Congress might have ignored. It hardly made sense to exclude, for example, the health-care costs the Department of Defense pays for troops on overseas bases, spending for personnel in Kosovo, or the price tag for supporting the 550 bases we have in Afghanistan.

In the spirit of “monitoring the construction,” let me lead you on an abbreviated account of my quest to come up with the real costs of occupying planet Earth.

Missing Costs

Although the Overseas Cost Summary initially might seem quite thorough, you’ll soon notice that countries well known to host U.S. bases have gone missing-in-action. In fact, at least 18 countries and foreign territories on the Pentagon’s own list of overseas bases go unnamed.

Particularly surprising is the absence of Kosovo and Bosnia. The military has had large bases and hundreds of troops there for more than a decade, with another Pentagon report showing 2012 costs of $313.8 million. According to that report, the OCS also understates costs for bases in Honduras and Guantánamo Bay by about a third or $85 million.

And then other oddities appear: in places like Australia and Qatar, the Pentagon says it has funds to pay troops but no money for “operations and maintenance” to turn the lights on, feed people, or do regular repairs. Adjusting for these costs adds an estimated $36 million. As a start, I found:

$436 million for missing countries and costs.

That’s not much compared to $22 billion and chump change in the context of the whole Pentagon budget, but it’s just a beginning.

At Congress’s direction, the Pentagon also omits the costs of bases in the oft-forgotten U.S. territories — Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is strange because the Pentagon considers them “overseas.” More important, as economist Dancs says, “The United States retains territories… primarily for the purposes of the military and projecting military power.” Plus, they are, well, literally overseas.

Conservatively, this adds $3 billion in total military spending to the OCS.

However, there are more quasi-U.S. territories in the form of truly forgotten Pacific Ocean island nations in “compacts of free association” with the United States — the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. Ever since it controlled these islands as “strategic trust territories” after World War II, the U.S. has enjoyed the right to establish military facilities on them, including the nuclear test site on the Bikini Atoll and the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site elsewhere in the Marshalls.

This comes in exchange for yearly aid payments from the Office of Insular Affairs, adding another $571 million and yielding total costs of:

$3.6 billion for territories and Pacific island nations.

Speaking of the oceans, at Congress’s instruction, the Pentagon excludes the cost of maintaining naval vessels overseas. But Navy and Marine Corps vessels are essentially floating (and submersible) bases used to maintain a powerful military presence on (and under) the seas.  A very conservative estimate for these costs adds another $3.8 billion.

Then there are the costs of Navy prepositioned ships at anchor around the world.  Think of them as warehouse-bases at sea, stocked with weaponry, war materiel, and other supplies. And don’t forget Army prepositioned stocks. Together, they come to an estimated $604 million a year. In addition, the Pentagon appears to omit some $861 million for overseas “sealift” and “airlift” and “other mobilization” expenses. All told, the bill grows by:

$5.3 billion for Navy vessels and personnel plus seaborne and airborne assets.

Also strangely missing from the Cost Summary is that little matter of health-care costs. Overseas costs for the Defense Health Program and other benefits for personnel abroad add an estimated $11.7 billion yearly. And then there’s $538 million in military and family housing construction that the Pentagon also appears to overlook in its tally.

So too, we can’t forget about shopping on base, because we the taxpayers are subsidizing those iconic Walmart-like PX (Post Exchange) shopping malls on bases worldwide. Although the military is fond of saying that the PX system pays for itself because it helps fund on-base recreation programs, Pentagon leaders neglect to mention that the PXs get free buildings and land, free utilities, and free transportation of goods to overseas locations. They also operate tax-free.

While there’s no estimate for the value of the buildings, land, and utilities that taxpayers provide, the exchanges reported $267 million in various subsidies for 2011. (Foregone federal taxes might add $30 million or more to that figure.) Add in as well postal subsidies of at least $71 million and you have:

$12.6 billion for health care, military and family housing, shopping and postal subsidies.

Another Pentagon exclusion is rent paid to other countries for the land we garrison. Although a few countries like Japan, Kuwait, and South Korea actually pay the United States to subsidize our garrisons — to the tune of $1.1 billion in 2012 — far more common, according to base expert Kent Calder, “are the cases where the United States pays nations to host bases.”

Given the secretive nature of basing agreements and the complex economic and political trade-offs involved in base negotiations, precise figures are impossible to find. However, Pentagon-funded research indicates that 18% of total foreign military and economic aid goes toward buying base access. That swells our invoice by around $6.3 billion. Payments to NATO of $1.7 billion “for the acquisition and construction of military facilities and installations” and other purposes, brings us to:

$6.9 billion in net “rent” payments and NATO contributions.

Although the OCS must report the costs of all military operations abroad, the Pentagon omits $550 million for counternarcotics operations and $108 million for humanitarian and civic aid. Both have, as a budget document explains about humanitarian aid, helped “maintain a robust overseas presence,” while the military “obtains access to regions important to U.S. interests.” The Pentagon also spent $24 million on environmental projects abroad to monitor and reduce on-base pollution, dispose of hazardous and other waste, and for “initiatives…in support of global basing/operations.” So the bill now grows by:

$682 million for counternarcotics, humanitarian, and environmental programs.

The Pentagon tally of the price of occupying the planet also ignores the costs of secret bases and classified programs overseas. Out of a total Pentagon classified budget of $51 billion for 2012, I conservatively use only the estimated overseas portion of operations and maintenance spending, which adds $2.4 billion. Then there’s the $15.7 billion Military Intelligence Program. Given that U.S. law generally bars the military from engaging in domestic spying, I estimate that half this spending, $7.9 billion, took place overseas.

Next, we have to add in the CIA’s paramilitary budget, funding activities including secret bases in places like Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere in the Middle East, and its drone assassination program, which has grown precipitously since the onset of the war on terror. With thousands dead (including hundreds of civilians), how can we not consider these military costs? In an email, John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, told me that “possibly a third” of the CIA’s estimated budget of $10 billion may now go to paramilitary costs, yielding:

$13.6 billion for classified programs, military intelligence, and CIA paramilitary activities.

Last but certainly not least comes the real biggie: the costs of the 550 bases the U.S. built in Afghanistan, as well as the last three months of life for our bases in Iraq, which once numbered 505 before the U.S. pullout from that country (that is, the first three months of fiscal year 2012). While the Pentagon and Congress exclude these costs, that’s like calculating the New York Yankees’ payroll while excluding salaries for each year’s huge free agent signings.

Conservatively following the OCS methodology used for other countries, but including costs for health care, military pay in the base budget, rent, and “other programs,” we add an estimated:

$104.9 billion for bases and military presence in Afghanistan and other war zones.

Having started with the OCS figure of $22.1 billion, the grand total now has reached:

$168 billion ($169,963,153,283 to be exact).

That’s nearly an extra $150 billion. Even if you exclude war costs — and I think the Yankees show why that’s a bad idea — the total still reaches $65.1 billion, or nearly three times the Pentagon’s calculation.

But don’t for a second think that that’s the end of our garrisoning costs. In addition to spending likely hidden in the nooks and crannies of its budget, there are other irregularities in the Pentagon’s accounting. Costs for 16 countries hosting U.S. bases but left out of the OCS entirely, including Colombia, El Salvador, and Norway, may total more than $350 million. The costs of the military presence in Colombia alone could reach into the tens of millions in the context of more than $8.5 billion in Plan Colombia funding since 2000. The Pentagon also reports costs of less than $5 million each for Yemen, Israel, Uganda, and the Seychelles Islands, which seems unlikely and could add millions more.

When it comes to the general U.S. presence abroad, other costs are too difficult to estimate reliably, including the price of Pentagon offices in the United States, embassies, and other government agencies that support bases and troops overseas. So, too, U.S. training facilities, depots, hospitals, and even cemeteries allow overseas bases to function. Other spending includes currency-exchange costs, attorneys’ fees and damages won in lawsuits against military personnel abroad, short-term “temporary duty assignments,” U.S.-based troops participating in exercises overseas, and perhaps even some of NASA’s military functions, space-based weapons, a percentage of recruiting costs required to staff bases abroad, interest paid on the debt attributable to the past costs of overseas bases, and Veterans Administration costs and other retirement spending for military personnel who served abroad.

Beyond my conservative estimate, the true bill for garrisoning the planet might be closer to $200 billion a year.

“Spillover Costs”

Those, by the way, are just the costs in the U.S. government’s budget. The total economic costs to the U.S. economy are higher still. Consider where the taxpayer-funded salaries of the troops at those bases go when they eat or drink at a local restaurant or bar, shop for clothing, rent a local home, or pay local sales taxes in Germany, Italy, or Japan. These are what economists call “spillover” or “multiplier effects.” When I visited Okinawa in 2010, for example, Marine Corps representatives bragged about how their presence contributes $1.9 billion annually to the local economy through base contracts, jobs, local purchases, and other spending. Although the figures may be overstated, it’s no wonder members of Congress like Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison have called for a new “Build in America” policy to protect “the fiscal health of our nation.”

And the costs are still broader when one considers the trade-offs, or opportunity costs, involved. Military spending creates fewer jobs per million dollars expended than the same million invested in education, health care, or energy efficiency — barely half as many as investing in schools. Even worse, while military spending clearly provides direct benefits to the Lockheed Martins and KBRs of the military-industrial complex, these investments don’t, as economist James Heintz says, boost the “long-run productivity of the rest of the private sector” the way infrastructure investments do.

To adapt a famous line from President Dwight Eisenhower: every base that is built signifies in the final sense a theft. Indeed, think about what Dal Molin’s half a billion dollars in infrastructure could have done if put to civilian uses. Again echoing Ike, the cost of one modern base is this: 260,000 low-income children getting health care for one year or 65,000 going to a year of Head Start or 65,000 veterans receiving VA care for a year.

A Different Kind of “Spillover”

Bases also create a different “spillover” in the financial and non-financial costs host countries bear. In 2004, for example, on top of direct “burden sharing” payments, host countries made in-kind contributions of $4.3 billion to support U.S. bases. In addition to agreeing to spend billions of dollars to move thousands of U.S. Marines and their families from Okinawa to Guam, the Japanese government has paid nearly $1 billion to soundproof civilian homes near U.S. air bases on Okinawa and millions in damages for successful noise pollution lawsuits. Similarly, as base expert Mark Gillem reports, between 1992 and 2003, the Korean and U.S. governments paid $27.3 million in damages because of crimes committed by U.S. troops stationed in Korea. In a single three-year period, U.S. personnel “committed 1,246 criminal acts, from misdemeanors to felonies.”

As these crimes indicate, costs for local communities extend far beyond the economic. Okinawans have recently been outraged by what appears to be another in a long series of rapes committed by U.S. troops. Which is just one example of how, from Japan to Italy, there are what Anita Dancs calls the “costs of rising hostility” over bases. Environmental damage pushes the financial and non-financial toll even higher. The creation of a base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean sent all of the local Chagossian people into exile.

So, too, U.S. troops and their families bear some of those nonfinancial costs due to frequent moves and separation during unaccompanied tours abroad, along with attendant high rates of divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse, sexual assault, and suicide.

“No one, no one likes it,” a stubbly-faced old man told me as I was leaving the construction site.  He remembered the Americans arriving in 1955 and now lives within sight of the Dal Molin base. “If it were for the good of the people, okay, but it’s not for the good of the people.”

“Who pays? Who pays?” he asked. “Noi,” he said. We do.

Indeed, from that $170 billion to the costs we can’t quantify, we all do.

David Vine, a Tom Dispatch regular, is assistant professor of anthropology at American University, in Washington, DC. He is the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other places. He is currently completing a book about the more than 1,000 U.S. military bases located outside the United States. To read a detailed description of the calculations described in this article and view a chart of the costs of the U.S. military presence abroad, visit www.davidvine.net.

America and Israel Wage War on Humanity

December 13th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

America’s longstanding policy is permanent war. It’s the only nation ever to wage them ever year in its history abroad and/or at home.

Multiple direct and proxy wars rage now. Obama plans more. He’s a war criminal multiple times over.

He violates fundamental human and civil rights. He mocks rule of law principles and democratic values. He should be in prison, not high office.

He serves wealth, power and privilege. He spurns peace, equity, justice, and basic human needs.

He and George Bush made America a police state. It’s a hair’s breadth from full-blown tyranny. He plans four more years of harsher than ever lawless governance.

Another day, another outrage. Headlines announced the latest. The New York Times said “US Will Grant Recognition to Syrian Rebels.”

The Washington Post headlined “Obama administration formally recognizes Syrian opposition group.” The Wall Street Journal said “US Recognizes Syria’s Main Rebel Group.”

Other headlines said much the same thing. No provision in international, US statute, or constitutional law permits this. What reports omitted matters more than what they said.

Washington recognized an illegitimate opposition terrorist coalition as “the legitimate representative” of the Syrian people. It can’t be “legitimate” if it’s illegitimate.

Its members are death squad killers. They’re imported from other countries. They commit daily atrocities. They’re war criminals. Supporting them reveals America’s moral bankruptcy. Doing so adds more war crimes to Obama’s resume.

Human Rights Watch accused them of targeted killings, summary executions, kidnappings for ransom, torture, hostage taking, and other atrocities.

They include beheadings, murdering bound prisoners, slaughtering women and children, and shooting infants while they sleep. Pro-Assad loyalists are targeted.

Der Spiegel reported “Homs burial brigade” atrocities. An insurgent “executioner” said he and comrades “kill in the name of the Syrian revolution. They leave torture (to) the so-called interrogation brigade….”

“They do the ugly work.” He believes in violence, he explained. He “cut the throats of four men.” He machine-gunned many more.

Homs fighters commit “regular executions.” It continues daily throughout the country. Assad loyalists are targeted, brutalized and murdered.

Women and children aren’t spared. Der Spiegel’s “executioner” article explained. Independent journalists risk their lives on the ground to report similar accounts of ghastly crimes of war and against humanity.

Washington recruits, funds, arms, trains, directs these killers. Obama now recognizes them as Syria’s government.

“We’ve made a decision that the Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime,” he said.

It’s shocking that anyone would make this outrageous claim, let alone a world leader. It’s appalling that media scoundrels don’t denounce him. It reflects their illegitimacy. They regurgitate official propaganda instead of doing their job.

On November 11, the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNCROF or SNC 2.0) was established in Doha, Qatar.

Russia denounced their December 11 recognition. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “America’s recognition of the National Coalition as Syria’s legitimate authority violates the (June) Geneva (agreement). It is an unexpected turn.”

The Geneva Agreement Text “agreed on guidelines and principles for a political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.”

It agreed to adhere fully with international law provisions.

It called for “a Syrian-led political process, avoiding further bloodshed and violence, and ensuring safety, stability and calm.”

It said, ending conflict depends on establishing “a transitional governing body” with “full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.”

Syrians (alone) must “determine the future of the country.” All groups and segments of society must be able “to participate in a National Dialogue.” Outcomes achieved “must be implemented.”

“The result of the constitutional drafting would be subject to popular approval.”

Once established, “free and fair multi-party elections” must be held. Women must be “represented in all aspects of the transition.”

All sides must comply. Vulnerable groups must be protected. Humanitarian issues must be addressed. Order must be restored. Efforts must commit to “Accountability and National Reconciliation.”

Syrians must “come to a political agreement.”

“The sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria must be respected.”

Conflict resolution must be achieved through peaceful dialogue and negotiation.

Washington, key NATO partners, and regional allies spurned the agreement straightaway. War on Syria continued. It rages out-of-control. America bears full responsibility. Longstanding plans call for ousting Assad violently.

Agreements Washington makes aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. US supported death squads celebrated being named Syria’s representative.

Reports said they killed or injured up to 200 Syrian Alawite pro-Assad villagers. These type attacks happen regularly. Assad is blamed for US-backed death squad crimes. Obama’s now arming them more heavily to increase their kill rate.

Conditions are no better for beleaguered Palestinians. Israel waged war on them for decades. Daily crimes of war, against humanity, and slow-motion genocide continue.

Reports show the agony of an occupied people. World leaders able to help spurn them. Israel freely commits daily atrocities. It’s hard imagining how Palestinians endured so long. They’re a role model for other persecuted people to emulate.

After eight Gazan terror-bombing days, Israel agreed to memorandum of understanding ceasefire terms. It spurned them straightaway.

On December 6, Al Haq said Palestinians are under “continuous fire” in the buffer zone separating Gaza from Israel. Israeli soldiers accost, shoot, kill or injure nonviolent Palestinian civilians.

Children are deliberately targeted. So are women, farmers and fishermen. On December 10, Gazan witnesses said Israeli military vehicles breached Gaza’s border near Khan Younis.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said forces conducted “routine activity.” There’s nothing “routine” about invading Gaza belligerently. Soldiers sometimes enter guns blazing.

On December 11 pre-dawn, Israeli soldiers invaded Ni’lin village near Ramallah. Two residents were shot. It followed statements made by Interior Minister Elie Yishai, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Kadima party head Shaul Mofaz.

They want Israeli soldiers to use live ammunition against anti-Separation Wall peaceful Palestinian protesters. Lieberman is an ultranationalist fascist. He’s an embarrassment to legitimate governance. He matches the worst of Netanyahu.

On December 11, he challenged Palestinian leaders outrageously. He threatened them with war if they sue Israel at the ICC.

He contemptuously calls Palestinians “demographic threats.” He wants them exiled to Jordan and other Arab countries. He endorses doing it forcibly.

On December 11, Israel’s Channel 7 reported a senior Israeli military commander saying the following:

Soldiers “operating in the field (have) the option to make the appropriate decision after evaluating the situation and the amount of danger (they) and (their) colleagues are facing, and that based on (their) personal evaluation, (they) can resort to the use of live ammunition.”

Virtually all Palestinian protests are nonviolent. The unnamed commander authorized shooting them in cold blood preemptively.

Soldiers already accost peaceful Palestinians violently. They use tear gas, rubber bullets, gas bombs, concussion grenades, and other weapons against men, women and children. Deaths, injuries and arrests follow.

On December 11 pre-dawn, Israeli soldiers raided three West Bank human rights organizations. Affected groups included the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees, the Palestinian NGO Network, and the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

Addameer reported the following:

At 3AM December 11, Israeli forces stormed their office. Property seized included four laptops, a desktop, one hard disk, a video camera, legal files, photos, and other materials.

The office was ransacked and destroyed. Files and other materials were trashed and scattered. At the time of its report, Addameer wasn’t sure about other property possibly confiscated or destroyed.

Israel trashed the offices of the other NGOs raided the same way. Numerous other Palestinian organizations were treated this way previously.

 ”Addameer condemns this attack on human rights and civil society organizations, and sees it as an attempt to cripple solidarity with the prisoners movement.”

 Ironically, it happened hours after the conclusion of the 64th Human Rights Day anniversary. Annually it’s commemorated on December 10.

Addameer said it’s been subjected to numerous raids, attacks, and staff arrests in previous years. On October 15, 2012, its researcher, Ayman Nasser, was violently arrested and detained.

He’s outrageously charged with supporting Palestinian prisoners and calling for their freedom.

During a September 17 – October 13, 2011 prisoner hunger strike, Addameer’s chairperson, Abdullatif Ghaith, was barred from entering the West Bank. The ban remains in effect.

Israel repeatedly prohibits Addameer lawyers from visiting Palestinian prisoners. Virtually everyone in Israel’s gulag is there for political reasons.

Their crime is wanting to live free on their own land in their own country. Israel denies all Palestinians that right.

Addameer “reiterates its firm commitment to support the Palestinian detainees and prisoners’ rights at any cost.”

In Israeli military court, Nasser spoke for himself and other Addameer staffers, saying he’ll “support the prisoners’ issue even if the cost is my freedom.”

Other Palestinian activists and supporters feel the same way. Israel targets them ruthlessly.

These practices reflect its longstanding war on humanity.

All fascist police states operate the same 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.”

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

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

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

by Zheng Yangpeng

Too many businesses in China are still reluctant to give up their reliance on exports, despite the government’s calls for a more domestic-driven economy.

That’s according to Michel Chossudovsky, a professor in economics at the University of Ottawa, who also thinks that owing to its huge production base and to slowing economies elsewhere, the country is already the world’s biggest economy.

In an interview with China Daily, Chossudovsky said much has been written about how the bleak economic conditions in Europe and the US have provided an impetus for China to shift from export-driven toward domestic-driven growth.

But he said the more underlying reason is that China’s trade with the West remains unfairly priced, and “unequal”.

To re-balance that, and to encourage the shift in economic priority away from exports, he suggested that the Chinese government increase the purchasing power of its population by raising wages by at least 10 percent.

He also said that more effort should be given to negotiating what he would consider to be fairer factory prices in the country, and elsewhere in Asia, compared with the West.

The author of many books on globalization, Chossudovsky said the current political rhetoric in the US is that China is “stealing” US jobs.

Talk of shifting source of growth not enough: Economist

“But that’s just not true,” he said. “China is not stealing jobs. It is US business that’s losing jobs.

“The industrial base of the US is declining because factories from California to Connecticut are closing down, and business people are now choosing to subcontract those jobs to China,” he said.

“If you look at the Western economies, especially the US, they are very fragile.

“They are highly dependent on China, to an extent that people there don’t realize,” said the much-traveled professor.

In recent months, various economic and commercial organizations have predicted when China will become the world’s largest economy.

This week, for instance, the US Intelligence Council said in a report that it expected China will “probably have the largest economy in the world, surpassing that of the US, a few years before 2030″.

Earlier this year, the OECD and IMF both suggested that would be 2016, while global banking groups Citigroup Inc and HSBC Group have suggested it will happen 2020-2022.

But Chossudovsky thinks that given the size of its massive production base, China is already the world’s largest economy, as countries in the West continue to struggle.

But he insists that based on his international research and experience, it is obvious that China’s trade with the West is, in essence, “unequal”.

During his previous trip to the country, he met import and export companies, which said they constantly had to negotiate with Western buyers on price, despite already working on very low profit margins.

Even with factory prices at their absolute minimum, and sourcing goods from around the world, back on Western streets, customers – and particularly those in the United States – were still having to pay top prices for consumer goods because of the huge markups needed to pay off the various others in the chain, including retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and shopping mall owners.

Yet, despite gaining often tiny percentages from their factory goods, China, and other export-oriented Asian economies, have still managed to enjoy huge industrial development through exports, making the success all the more impressive, he noted.

Chossudovsky added that the role China has performed since the beginning of its modernization has created an industrial base, which is now increasingly diversified.

But in terms of industrial production, China is still playing a “dependent” and “peripheral” role in the global economic hierarchy, with its export economy serving the interests of developed economies, rather than its own.

For many businesses in the country, giving up their role of exporter to the world is proving hard, he said.

“There are certain perks attached to the export sector, and I feel that in China right now, the export market is (still) preferred,” he said.

A lot of that, he added, is due to a failure so far to offer an alternative, and with wages still low, reliance on replacement domestic business can’t be guaranteed.

“You have to make sure that your companies can make money in the domestic market as well as foreign markets, so you shouldn’t create an environment which favors one over the other.”

Chossudovsky said it is essential for China to boost its internal demand by increasing people’s purchasing power.

“For example, a 10 percent increase in wages would substantially boost domestic demand without making Chinese enterprises less competitive internationally.”

He said that negotiating factory prices is another priority for China.

A better price means you may export less, but get more revenue. As a result, Chinese enterprises will move into more specialized, more high-tech and highly skilled areas, he added.

If the country can act on those three key issues, China’s new leaders will be able to illustrate how the country is working relentlessly at pointing itself in a different direction, he said.

“I think it is important for the West to understand it is dependent on China.

“And China should make it known that it does not rely on the West as much, as it has its own tremendous internal market,” Chossudovsky said.

Syria: “Chemical Propaganda” and Fabricated Evidence

December 12th, 2012 by Julie Lévesque

In order to facilitate the action of liberative (sic) forces, …a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. …[to] be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention, …

Once a political decision has been reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main (sic) incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals. …Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus …

Further: a “necessary degree of fear .. frontier incidents and (staged) border clashes”, would “provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS [MI6 should use … capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.” (Joint US-UK leaked Intelligence Document, London and Washington, 1957, quoted in Felicity Arbuthnot, SYRIA: CIA-MI6 Intel Ops and Sabotage, Global Research, February 07, 2012.)

Written in 1957, this document shows the classic Western intelligence modus operandi to overthrow independent governments and replace them with puppet regimes. In 1981, Newsweek magazine published an article entitled “A Plan to Overthrow Kaddafi”, which revealed a CIA destabilization campaign against Muammar Qaddafi, similar to the one against Syria elaborated in the 1957 intelligence memo. It consisted in a “disinformation program to embarrass Qaddafi and his government, the creation of a counter-government to challenge his claim to national leadership and an escalating paramilitary campaign consisting of small-scale guerrilla operations.” (William Blum, Killing Hope, Common Courage Press, 2004, p.283.)

Both covert operations against Libya and Syria, drafted long ago, have been carried out lately in close collaboration with the Western mainstream media, serving as a mouthpiece for the US-NATO alliance and the corporate interests behind them.

The Libyan government was overthrown as planned in the 1980’s, with the help of NATO bombings paving the way for their proxy soldiers promoted as "pro-democracy rebels" by the mainstream media.

The 1957 plan against Syria has been carried out since March 2011. The architects of the Middle East conquest are now intensifying their propaganda and planting another classic story in the mainstream media: the chemical weapons threat.

U.S. President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials have unleashed a barrage of warnings to the Assad administration citing Western media reports that “the Syrian regime has shown signs that it may be making chemical weapons material.”

Obama said he wanted to be “absolutely clear” to Assad that “the world is watching” and the use of chemical weapons is “totally unacceptable” and “if you make mistake of using it – there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.” (Xinhua News Agency, West’s Stance on Syrian Chemical Weapons: Prelude to Military Intervention?, December 08, 2012.)

This kind of propaganda usually leads to military invasion. On December 7, Washington’s Blog reported:

10,000 U.S. troops – as well as French, British and Nato troops – are amassing off the coast of Syria for a potential invasion.

“Anonymous U.S. sources” are claiming that Syria is mixing chemical weapons … but that claim is ridiculous … and could be part of a long-contemplated  false flag attack in Syria. (Washington's Blog, Potential War Against Syria: Chemical Weapons, Russian Warships and Terrorists, December 07, 2012.)

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya also compared the situations in Libya, Syria and Iraq in relation to the chemical weapons propaganda and its devastating consequences:

In 2011, were not similar charges put forward against another Arab country? Were they not claiming that the late Muammar Qaddafi would use chemical weapons against his own population? Was it not claimed even earlier that Qaddafi and the Libyan military had brought in black-skinned African mercenaries to kill Libyan citizens? Or that Libyan jets were killing Libyan protesters? What happened to the genocide in Benghazi? Now there is nothing but silence and lost memories. Claims were made, morality and responsibility were invoked, and then a rising Arab country was bombarded. An engine of economic progress in Africa was halted in its tracks overnight and an entire society robbed.

There was also the textbook case of Iraq even before the lies about the Libyan Jamahiriya. Did not the Bush Jr. Administration, Tony Blair, and their circle of war criminals-in-office not lie to the entire international community and say that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program and weapons of mass destruction in 2003? What happened to those WMDs? This is not something that can easily be scoffed at. More than one million Iraqis died over the lies conjured by the Anglo-American duo. Not to mention the ecological damage and the intellectual genocide perpetrated against Iraq’s intelligentsia and professional class. (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, WMD Hype: Syrian Government will not Use Chemical Weapons against its Own Citizens, Press TV, December 05, 2012.)

While the US administration expresses fears that the Syrian government will use chemical weapons, the Syrian authorities as well as many others fear that, the weapons fall into the hands of US-NATO backed opposition groups in Syria.

Some also fear that Libya's arsenal, now in the hands of extremist militants, including members of Al-Qaeda, is both scattered across the Middle East and Africa and, most of all on its way to Syria:

Libya’s arsenal had fallen into the hands of sectarian extremists with NATO assistance last year in the culmination of efforts to overthrow the North African nation. Since then, Libya’s militants led by commanders of Al Qaeda’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) have armed sectarian extremists across the Arab World, from as far West as Mali, to as far East as Syria.

In addition to small arms, heavier weapons are also making their way through this extensive network. The Washington Post in their article, “Libyan missiles on the loose,” reported:

“Two former CIA counterterrorism officers told me last week that technicians recently refurbished 800 of these man-portable air-defense systems (known as MANPADS) — some for an African jihadist group called Boko Haram that is often seen as an ally of al-Qaeda — for possible use against commercial jets flying into Niger, Chad and perhaps Nigeria.”

While undoubtedly these weapons are also headed to Niger, Chad, and perhaps Nigeria, they are veritably headed to Syria. Libyan LIFG terrorists are confirmed to be flooding into Syria from Libya. (Tony Cartalucci, Syria: The WMD “Justification” to Wage a “Preemptive War”: US Repeats Syrian Chemical Weapons “Warnings”, Land Destroyer, December 04, 2012.)

The US and its European allies don’t seem to share this concern, however, since CNN reported they “are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria”. In the meantime, an Israeli covert operation inside Syria is said to “track Syria’s chemical arsenal.” Such a leak in the press about a presumed secret operation only serves propaganda purposes and is obviously used to strengthen the belief that the Syrian authorities are planning to use these weapons. (Julie Lévesque Fabricating WMD “Evidence”: Israeli Covert Operation inside Syria to “Track Chemical Arsenal”, Global Research, December 11, 2012.)

Is the US-NATO alliance “staging a humanitarian disaster?” Michel Chossudovsky describes the “diabolical scenario” behind the media hype smoke screen:

Modeled on the Saddam Hussein WMD narrative, the propaganda ploy concerning the alleged threat of Syria’s chemical weapons has been building up over several months.

The Western media suggests –in chorus and without evidence– that a “frustrated” and “desperate” president Bashar al Assad is planning to use deadly chemical weapons against his own people. Last week, U.S. officials revealed to NBC News that “Syria’s military has loaded nerve-gas chemicals into bombs and are awaiting final orders from al-Assad” [...]

The Western military alliance does not contemplate at this stage an all out war in response to Syria’s possession of chemical weapons. What is contemplated is the need to train the opposition rebels in the handling of chemical weapons [...]

This is not a rebel training exercise in non-proliferation. While president Obama states that “you will be held accountable” if “you” (meaning the Syrian government) use chemical weapons, what is contemplated as part of this covert operation is the possession of chemical weapons by the US-NATO sponsored terrorists, namely “by our” Al Qaeda affiliated operatives, including the Al Nusra Front (see image on right), which constitutes the most effective Western supported and trained fighting group, largely integrated by foreign mercenaries. In a bitter twist, Jabhat al-Nusra, a US sponsored “intelligence asset” was recently put on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. (Michel Chossudovsky, The Syria Chemical Weapons Saga: The Staging of a US-NATO Sponsored Humanitarian Disaster? Global Research, December 12, 2012.)

Global Research brings you a list of selected articles on this unfolding story.

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SELECTED ARTICLES

SYRIA: CIA-MI6 Intel Ops and Sabotage, Felicity Arbuthnot, February 07, 2012

West’s Stance on Syrian Chemical Weapons: Prelude to Military Intervention?, December 08, 2012

Potential War Against Syria: Chemical Weapons, Russian Warships and Terrorists, Washington’s Blog, December 07, 2012

WMD Hype: Syrian Government will not Use Chemical Weapons against its Own Citizens, Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya December 05, 2012

Syria: The WMD “Justification” to Wage a “Preemptive War”: US Repeats Syrian Chemical Weapons “Warnings”, Tony Cartalucci, December 04, 2012

Fabricating WMD “Evidence”: Israeli Covert Operation inside Syria to “Track Chemical Arsenal”, (Julie Lévesque, December 11, 2012

The Syria Chemical Weapons Saga: The Staging of a US-NATO Sponsored Humanitarian Disaster?, Michel Chossudovsky, December 12, 2012

Chemical Hype Behind Patriot Games on Syria Border, Pepe Escobar, December 05, 2012

Washington “Discovers” Terrorists in Syria, Bill Van Auken, December 12, 2012

Won’t Get Fooled Again? Hyping Syria’s WMD ‘Threat’, David Edwards, December 12, 2012

US Defense Contractors Training Syrian Rebels to Handle Chemical Weapons, John Glaser, December 11, 2012

Israel Asked Jordan’s Approval To Strike Alleged Syrian WMD Facilities, Global Research News, December 04, 2012

Washington Floats Chemical Weapons Charge as Pretext for Syria Buildup, Bill Van Auken, December 04, 2012

Bahrain is a Closed Society and the West is on the Same Path

December 12th, 2012 by Patrick Henningsen

American philosopher and cultural critic Henry A. Giroux believes that under the influence of the government, the higher education system in the United States has moved toward silencing progressive and alternative voices which try to challenge the U.S. militarism and its expansionistic policies. He also believes that the American students are not trained to be critical thinkers.

“I think many students are weary of America’s expansionist policies but there is not enough dissent among college students over such policies at the present time to actually challenge them. Many American students are educated largely to be consumers not critical thinkers and those who do escape the strangulating grip of a poisonous market driven neo-liberalism are suffering under the burden of debt while facing a future in which they will be underemployed or unemployed,” said Prof. Giroux in an exclusive interview with Tehran Times conducted last week.

Prof. Henry A. Giroux is a cultural critic and one of the founding theorists of critical pedagogy who is best known for his contributions to cultural studies, youth studies, higher education and critical theory.

Seven books written by Giroux have been chosen as significant books of the year by the “American Educational Studies Association.” He has authored 33 books the latest of which is “Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability” which was published in 2012.

He has served as the Director of the Waterbury Forum in Education and Cultural Studies. He moved to McMaster University in May 2004, where he currently holds the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies and currently runs the Public Intellectual project. Giroux is also a member of Truthout’s Board of Directors.

What follows is the text of Tehran Times’ interview with Prof. Giroux.

Q: What the majority of people around the world have heard about the United States is that it is a beacon of freedom in which everybody, is free to express his viewpoints, even if that certain viewpoint is not much favorable according to the mainstream discourse. What’s the reality? Are the leftist professors in the universities, for example, really free to express their unconventional opinions, in such cases as the special Israeli-American relationship, or other similar matters?

A: Academic dissent has been under attack for a long time in the United States. Its more notable moments came in the 1920s, the 1950s, and more recently after 9/11. What is new is that right wing elite, religious fundamentalists, and corporate groups have changed their strategy in limiting dissent. Instead of simply attacking, firing, and shaming intellectuals who criticize mainstream policies such as the Israeli-American relations–though that still happens–the more sophisticated approach is to prevent such intellectuals from getting tenure, influencing who gets hired, and finding ways to actually shape what is taught in the classroom.

For instance, some major donors are now demanding that particular books be read in classes. In one case, a donor demanded that Ayn Rand’s right wing book, “Atlas Shrugged,” be required reading in the class. In other cases, billionaire and mega corporate donors are trying to shape curriculum and hiring procedures as part of their gifts to higher education. This is not simply reactionary but undermines every noble principle that education embodies.

The other strategy is to increase the number of non-tenured professors in the profession so as to not only make them powerless in setting policy but also to keep them suspended in a state of fear over what they say in order not to jeopardize their paltry paying jobs. Over 70 percent of academics in higher education is either on a non-tenured track or is hired part-time. This is a form of indentured labor that undercuts a culture of questioning, dissent, and makes a joke out of academic freedom. As higher education becomes more expensive, corporatized, and devalued as a social good, there is also less and less room to teach subjects or create and sustain academic fields not tied directly to occupational training. In this instance, training is substituted for any viable form of critical education and the formative culture necessary for an educated citizenry withers.

Q: What do the new generation of American students and the foreign students who come to the United States for pursuing their studies, think about the U.S. foreign policy? Has the academia begun to challenge the American militarism, its hegemony and expansionistic policies? Does debate on such subjects take place in the American universities smoothly?

A: I think many students are weary of America’s expansionist policies but there is not enough dissent among college students over such policies at the present time to actually challenge them. Many American students are educated largely to be consumers not critical thinkers and those who do escape the strangulating grip of a poisonous market driven neo-liberalism are suffering under the burden of debt while facing a future in which they will be underemployed or unemployed. The present bears down on many American students as a burden as inequality and social disparities grow day by day. America has become the land of downward mobility for an entire generation of young people and not simply for a few. Under such circumstances, time becomes a burden and dissent a luxury, though within the last few years dissent has been growing. This movement is promising, but it does not have the reach and scope to make a real difference in power and control by the rich, mega corporations and financial elite. But its success remains to be tested.

Q: One of your perennial concerns, as reflected in your writings, has been social injustice. The United States last year witnessed the most unprecedented nationwide protests at the growing rift between the rich and poor and the social inequality in the framework of the Occupy Wall Street movement. What do you think about this movement and its achievements? Has it realized the objectives it was pursuing from the outset?

A: I think many young people in the Occupy Movement are changing the nature of the public conversation about politics, power, pedagogy, and hope. Young people are rejecting a future of debt, a society dominated by market values, militarism, a survival of the fittest ethic, and finance capital.

What they have made clear is that in order for democracy to become meaningful, all citizens, old and young, should be equally entitled, if not equally empowered, to shape the society in which they live. This is a message we heard from the brave students fighting tuition hikes and the destruction of civil liberties and social provisions in the Occupy Wall Street movement. The Wall Street Movement has already won a decisive battle in producing a new language for how to talk about inequality, class and racial injustice, and the shape of a real democracy. For such a movement to succeed, progressives, educators, workers, middle-class professionals, and others need listen to the Wall Street Movement and young people all over the world who are insisting that the relationship between knowledge and power can be emancipatory, that their histories and experiences matter, and that what they say and do counts in their struggle to unlearn dominating privileges, productively reconstruct their relations with others, and transform, when necessary, the world around them. More importantly, they need to join students in engaging in a practice of freedom that points to new and radical forms of pedagogies that have a direct link to building social movements in and out of the colleges and universities.

Q: What’s your analysis of the popular uprisings in the Arab countries of the Middle East? The whole scenario started with a Tunisian street vendor putting himself on fire in protest at the humiliation he had suffered, and the economic difficulties he and his family were subject to. Then the protests were extended to the rest of Arab world and engulfed the whole Middle East. Can we interpret these upheavals in the light of a set of revolutions aimed at realizing confiscated political, social and economic rights?

A: All of these protests emerge out of different religious, economic, political, and historical situations. What they have in common is the demand for an expansion of religious, social, political, and personal rights. They collectively signify a historical watershed in which the burning desire for democracy can no longer be contained. Young people, as a result of the new electronic and screen technologies, have immediate access to modes of knowledge, values, and social relations that point to the possibility of a future free of economic, political, and social injustice. Ideas can no longer be contained as they were under modernity. Borders are collapsing in the symbolic sense, knowledge flows, passions bleed into different bodies, public spheres, populations, and nations. Domination and domestic state terrorism can no longer isolate itself from the rest of the world. Democracy can no longer be contained, hidden behind walls, and contained by real and symbolic weapons of mass destruction. Democracy has become an aphrodisiac and tonic merging passion and a kind of wakefulness to the possibility of a new future, a new life, and new hopes. 

Q: In your writings, you’ve spoken of the concept of economic Darwinism and called it one of the root causes of unbridled individualism which leads to the erosion of social responsibility, public values and community. Would you please share with us your insight on this concept and the impact it has had on the American lives?

A: Social Darwinism is the value system that drives the American economy. It is an ethic dominated by a war against all ethos which celebrates a radical individualism, extreme form of competitiveness, and separates actions from moral considerations. It is a poisonous worldview that views politics as an extension of war. In essence it is a form of domestic terrorism. It is a form of terrorism because it abstracts economics from ethics and social costs, makes a mockery of democracy, works to dismantle the welfare state, thrives on militarization, undermines any public sphere not governed by market values, and transforms people into commodities. Neo-liberalism’s rigid emphasis on unfettered individualism, competitiveness and flexibility displaces compassion, sharing and a concern for the welfare of others. In doing so, it dissolves crucial social bonds and undermines the profound nature of social responsibility and its ensuing concern for others. In removing individuals from broader social obligations, it not only tears up social solidarities, it also promotes a kind of individualism that is almost pathological in its disdain for public goods, community, social provisions, and public values. Given its tendency to instrumentalize knowledge, it exhibits mistrust for thoughtfulness, complexity, and critical dialogue and in doing so contributes to a culture of stupidity and cruelty in which the dominant ethic is organized around the discourse of war and a survival of the fittest mentality. Neo-liberalism is the antithesis of democracy.

The consequences of this worldview are everywhere in American society. Deregulation, privatization, atomization, and commodification now rule American institutions turning over the commanding heights of power to mega corporations, the defense industry, and ideological fundamentalists. America is a hugely rich country marked by massive poverty, inequality in wealth and income, and a political system controlled by big money. Its cultural apparatuses are controlled by mega corporations and its political system is now largely controlled by the apostles of finance and militarism. It is a country that is on the brink of a very dark historical period in which the winds of authoritarianism are posed to destroy all remnants of a claim to democracy.

Q: What do you think about the function of the multinational corporate media, their interests and their long-term objectives? Is it possible to have a sincere and ethical journalism while there are certain people in the power hierarchy who specify the direction and set the policies of the mainstream media?

A: A democracy cannot survive without a formative culture to support it. That culture is shaped in the commanding educational apparatuses in which knowledge is produced and subjects and identities are constructed. The mainstream media in the U.S. is largely controlled by 5 mega corporations that have abandoned their responsibility to act as a fourth estate, to make power accountable and offer critical analyses of American foreign and domestic policy. Instead, we have a mainstream media that trades in either an endless commercial bombardment of the American public, raises an insipid celebratory culture to the status of a state religion, and substitutes the obligations of real citizenship for the demands of consumerism and shopping. On the other hand, the new media is increasingly providing new public spaces for oppositional voices to be heard from a wide variety of sources, ranging from students and teachers to labor organizers and a range of new public intellectuals. There is no hope for the mainstream media. It has sold its soul to the market place and has largely become an inept source of legitimation for corporate and political sovereignty.

Q: What’s your viewpoint regarding the gradual decline of the U.S. imperial power and the weakening of its political, economic hegemony over the developing world? It seems that such countries as Brazil, China and Russia are emerging as serious contenders of the American economy and political power. Would you please share your viewpoint on that with us?

A: There are many other people who can speak to this issue more forcefully than I can. I am thinking particularly of Noam Chomsky, Andrew Bacevich, and Glenn Greenwald, among others. But what is clear is the U.S. is now facing a political and economic challenge unlike anything it has faced in the past. Politics is now local and power is global and that means that the U.S. has no way to challenge, within the usual rules, the power of multinational corporations that now write the rules for domestic and foreign policy. Moreover, this power is global and has no allegiance to the nation state except to use it to further its own financial interests. Hence, the full-fledged attack on the welfare state, women, minorities of class and color, public servants, and the institutions that do not buy completely into market driven values. As the power of the state crumbles, the state is reconfigured largely as a punishing state used increasingly to criminalize the behavior of those caught in dire social problems such as homelessness, debt servitude, unemployment, poverty, and various disabilities. Moreover, the model of the prison and its culture are seeping and spreading into schools where young people are now arrested for trivial behaviors such as dress code violations. How can a country that substitutes prisons for schools, revels in a culture of massive inequality and cruelty, and arrests huge numbers of its citizens make any claim on the future or for that matter even have one?

Q: And finally, what’s your prediction for President Obama’s upcoming second term? Will he yield to the pressures by Israeli lobby and comply with their demands in such cases as a possible military strike against Iran, the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip and settlement constructions, etc? Is there any way for Obama to evade being pushed by Israel?

A: One would hope that Obama would show some courage in his second term and rule according to the precepts of justice rather than political pragmatism. I think that it is important to note that during his first time Obama moved the United States closer to the dictates of an authoritarian state. He initiated the National Defense Authorization Act, which allows him to kidnap and hold indefinitely without judicial rights anyone deemed a terrorist (a vague and abusive term); he has implanted targeted assassinations, which has included at least two American citizens living abroad; he has implemented what might be called an unaccountable surveillance state, and he has expanded the use of sinister drones to conduct a new and more ruthless type of warfare, which more often than not has resulted in the needless killing of innocent civilians. Obama has helped to create a Golden Age for executioners, revealing the grisly and gruesome side of state power committed to death through the use of cold, calculating machines run by automatons. Obama is not a liberal. He is not even progressive, but a conservative centrist who leans heavily towards the extremist elements in the Republican Party. He is inflexible around Israel’s repressive policies towards Palestinians and he has done nothing to address what it would mean to bring peace to the region.

But change is not made by people in power. It is often made by people in the streets. It is made by social movements who refuse to become the excess, disappeared, and disposable populations produced by authoritarian regimes. I am not optimistic but at the same time history is open and I would hope that as the Occupy Movement and other progressive social movements develop in the U.S. under the strain of severe political and economic conditions that Obama may find his footing and exhibit the kind of moral and political courage that is necessary to dismantle the allegiance to militarism that now characterizes its expansionist policies.

Unmasking the Muslim Brotherhood: Syria, Egypt, and Beyond

December 12th, 2012 by Eric Draitser

The complexities of the Arab Spring and the struggle for political freedom throughout the Arab world should not obscure what has now become an absolutely essential understanding for all anti-imperialists: the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the most powerful weapons of the Western ruling class in the Muslim world. 

While that may be a difficult pill for some to swallow for emotional or psychological reasons, one need look no further than the insidious role the organization is playing in Syria and the abuses of power and human rights of the government of Egypt.  In the US-NATO sponsored war against the Assad government, the Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the leading western-sanctioned force, the avant-garde of the imperialist assault.  While, in Egypt, President Morsi and the Brotherhood government seek to destroy what had been, little more than a year ago, the promise of the revolution.

Muslim Brotherhood in Syria

MuslimBrotherhood-1.jpgThis week’s establishment of the Supreme Military Command, in charge of all military aid and coordination to the rebels, demonstrates unequivocally the leadership role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the drive for regime change in Syria.  As Reuters reported, “The unified command includes many with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and to Salafists…it excludes the most senior officers who have defected from Assad’s military.”[1] This command structure, formed at the behest and under the sponsorship of the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey among others, does not simply include members of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is, in fact, dominated by them.  Is it possible that the Western imperial powers simply did not notice that the group they were forming was comprised of these elements?  To suggest so would be to accuse some of the leading “statesmen” of the world (Hillary Clinton, William Hague, Laurent Fabius, Ahmet Davutoglu, etc.) of being stupid.  Alas, they are not so.  Instead, these individuals have collaborated to create a Muslim Brotherhood proxy force in Syria, one that can be controlled and depended on to do the bidding of the West.

However, it is not enough to say that the Muslim Brotherhood is heading this new military structure, for that would be to imply that they have not been playing a critical role all along.  Rather, the organization has been central to the destabilization of Syria since the beginning of the armed conflict.  The Syrian National Council, originally the face of the Western-backed “opposition” was itself dominated behind the scenes by the Muslim Brotherhood. As former Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine stated regarding the SNC, “We chose this face, accepted by the West…We nominated [former SNC head Burhan] Ghalioun as a front for national action. We are not moving now as the Brotherhood but as part of a front that includes all currents.”[2] Essentially then, we see that the organization has, from the very beginning, maintained a large degree of control of the foreign-based opposition, as distinctly different from the indigenous opposition of the National Coordinating Councils and other groups.  The Muslim Brotherhood, an international political and paramilitary machine, has come to lead the battle against Assad government.

In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood has provided many forms of leadership and assistance to the foreign-based, foreign-backed opposition beyond simply direct leadership. From providing diplomatic and political cover, to on-the-ground tactical support such as weapons smuggling, fighter recruitment, and other necessary responsibilities, the organization has come to permeate every aspect of what we in the West conveniently refer to as the “rebels”.

As early as May 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the center of the organization, was already providing the political and diplomatic support the rebels needed to topple the Assad regime.  As they were poised to win the Egyptian elections, the Brotherhood was busy making public comments about the need for Western military intervention in Syria.  The organization’s spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan stated, “The Muslim Brotherhood calls on Arab, Islamic, and international governments to intervene…to bring down the [Assad] regime.”[3] This brazen public statement flies in the face of all arguments which claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is somehow anti-imperialist, that they stand in opposition to Western dominance of the Arab world.  On the contrary, though they may posture themselves as opposing the West, they are, in fact, tools of the imperial powers used to destroy independent nations which stand in opposition to US hegemony in the Middle East.

This political and diplomatic backing is merely one aspect of the Brotherhood’s involvement in the destruction of Syria.  As the New York Times reported in June of 2012, “CIA officers are operating secretly in Southern Turkey helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms…by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.”[4] The use of the Muslim Brotherhood to smuggle arms to the rebels in Syria should come as no surprise considering the fact that it is the Sunni monarchies of the region (Saudi Arabia and Qatar primarily) who have been the most vociferous voices championing regime change in Syria by any means necessary.  The relationship between these monarchies and the Muslim Brotherhood is self-evident: they share similar religious convictions and are avowed enemies of all forms of Shiism.  Moreover, they have been part and parcel of the system of US hegemony that has kept the entire region under its vice grip for decades.

Many have argued in the past that, though they share identical ideologies and “brand”, the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is somehow independent of the Muslim Brotherhood proper.  This preposterous claim is countered by the simple fact that every public position the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has taken has been in direct alignment with the public statements from Cairo.  As the Carnegie Middle East Center’s article The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria demonstrates, Since the beginning of the revolution, the Brotherhood has maintained that foreign intervention is the only possible solution to the crisis in Syria. In October 2011, it also called on Turkey to intervene and establish protected humanitarian zones in Turkish territory.”[5] When two entities bear the same name, have the same sponsors, and take the same positions, it is an exercise in willful ignorance to argue that they are somehow not the same entity or, as is more accurate, taking orders from the same masters. But who are these masters?

The Powers Behind the Muslim Brotherhood

In examining the utterly insidious role that the Muslim Brotherhood is playing in Syria, one must begin with an understanding of the historical relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Western imperialism.  The organization was founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928 with the intention of reestablishing a purer form of Islam as had existed centuries before.  However, this was merely the religious veneer that was created to mask the political intentions of the organization.  As explained in the Mother Jones article entitled What is the Muslim Brotherhood and Will It Take Over Egypt?, the author explains that, “The Muslim Brotherhood served as a battering ram against nationalists and communists, despite the Brothers’ Islam-based anti-imperialism, the group often ended up making common cause with the colonial British.  It functioned as an intelligence agency, infiltrating left-wing and nationalist groups.”[6] This indisputable fact, that the Muslim Brotherhood functioned, even its early days, as a de facto arm of Western intelligence, is critical to understanding its development and current political power.

However, there are those who argue that, despite this “coincidence” of objectives and agendas, the Muslim Brotherhood could never be tied directly to the intelligence community.  However, as Robert Dreyfuss, author of the Mother Jones article clearly points out, there is ample evidence tying the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood directly to the CIA:

By then [1954], the group’s chief international organizer and best-known official was Said Ramadan, the son-in-law of Hassan al-Banna. Ramadan had come to the attention of both the CIA and MI-6, the British intelligence service. In researching my book … I came across an unusual photograph that showed Ramadan with President Eisenhower in the Oval Office. By then, or soon after, Ramadan had likely been recruited as a CIA agent. Wall Street Journal reporter Ian Johnson has since documented the close ties between Ramadan and various Western intelligence services … Johnson writes: ‘By the end of the decade, the CIA was overtly backing Ramadan.’”[7]

The fact that the central figure in the international organization was a known CIA agent corroborates the assertions made by countless analysts and investigators that the Brotherhood was used as a weapon against Nasser and, in fact, all Arab socialist leaders who at that time were part of a rising tide of Arab nationalism which sought, as its ultimate goal, independence from Western imperial domination.

In order to fully grasp just how the Brotherhood developed into the organization we know today, one must understand the relationship between it and the royal family of Saudi Arabia.  In fact, the Saudis have been the key financiers of the Brotherhood for decades for the same reasons that the United States and the Western powers needed them: opposition to Arab nationalism and the growing “insolence” of Shiite states.  Dreyfuss writes, “From its early days, the Brotherhood was financed generously by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which appreciated its ultra-conservative politics and its virulent hatred of Arab communists.”[8] Essentially, as the United States began to exert its post-war might throughout the region, the Muslim Brotherhood was there to be a willing beneficiary and humble servant sowing the seeds of hatred between Sunni and Shia, espousing a hate-filled Salafist ideology that preached conflict and inescapable war between the branches of Islam.  Naturally, all to the benefit of Western powers who cared little for the ideology and more about the money and resources.

A Tool of the Western Powers Today?

It is often argued that, though the historical record unequivocally shows the Brotherhood as intimately connected to Western intelligence, somehow the organization has changed, that it has become a peaceful force for political progress in the Arab world.  As recent events in Egypt have shown, nothing could be further from the truth.  With the undemocratic attempted power grab by Egyptian President Morsi, the scaling back of civil liberties, the rights of women, and religious and ethnic minorities, the Muslim Brotherhood has shown itself to be little more than a reactionary political force parading itself as a form of “progress”.

If one had any doubts as to the true intentions and motivations of the Muslim Brotherhood once in power in Egypt, one needed look no further than its position on the institutions of global finance capital, particularly the International Monetary Fund.  In one of the first decisions taken by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood government, Cairo established that it would, in fact, welcome conditional loans from the IMF[9] to rescue itself from the prospect of a continued economic crisis.  However, as part of the conditions of the loan, Morsi’s government would have to drastically reduce subsidies, regulations, and other “market restrictions” while increasing taxes on the middle class.  Essentially, this meant that the Brotherhood consented to the usual cocktail of austerity medicine that had been administered by the agents of finance capital so many times all over the world.  This, naturally, begged the question: Was this the end of the revolution? Indeed, many in the streets of Cairo are asking themselves this same question.  Or, to put it more accurately, they already know the answer.

In Egypt, as in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood has made itself into an appendage of the Western imperialist ruling class.  It has dutifully served these interests over the course of decades, though the names, faces, and propaganda have changed over the years.  As we watch the tragic images coming from Syria or the tens of thousands in the streets of Cairo, we must question why it has taken so long for this perfidious organization to be exposed or even understood. The answer is, as usual, because it serves the interests of global capital to keep the rest of the world confused as to who the enemies of progress really are.  By revealing their true nature, the real forces of peace and progress around the world can reject the Muslim Brotherhood and the imperial system in all its overt and covert forms.

Eric Draitser is the founder of StopImperialism.com.  He is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City.  He is a regular contributor to Russia Today, Press TV, GlobalResearch.ca, and other media outlets. You can reach him at [email protected].

Notes

1] http://news.yahoo.com/rebels-circle-damascus-airport-russia-u-downbeat-013515100.html

[2] http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/06/us-syria-brotherhood-idUSBRE84504R20120506

[3] http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/egypts-brotherhood-calls-intervention-syria

[4] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/world/middleeast/cia-said-to-aid-in-steering-arms-to-syrian-rebels.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[5] http://carnegie-mec.org/publications/?fa=48370

[6] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/what-is-the-muslim-brotherhood

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] http://www.albawaba.com/business/morsi-egypt-imf-loan-432065

Syria: Tightening the Noose

December 12th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

Since conflict erupted last year, Washington, other NATO states, and regional allies recruited, armed, funded, trained and directed Syrian insurgents.

Public admissions emerge slowly. Language conceals what’s been ongoing all the time. On November 29, CNN said Washington is “weighing whether or not to provide arms to the Syrian opposition.”

US Syrian ambassador, Robert Ford, said Obama “never (took) the provision of arms off the table.” They’ve been supplied regularly under it covertly.

On December 9, Los Angeles Times columnist Doyle McManus headlined “A call to arms for Syria’s rebels.”

Within days, Washington is expected to recognize the illegitimate opposition coalition as the “legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” In November, Britain and France announced support.

The EU moved closer to official recognition. Member state foreign ministers extended their endorsement. At the same time, Germany expelled four Syrian embassy staff members.

Assad’s ambassador was forced out in May. Britain, France, Italy and Spain took similar actions.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said:

“Shortly ahead of” the December 12 Friends of Syria meeting in Morocco, “the EU has given another clear signal of the upgrade and support of the coalition.”

He added that doing so “promote(s) the erosion of the Assad regime.”

EU members previously accepted Syrian National Council (SNC) 2.0 members (National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces) as representatives of Syrian “aspirations.”

They did so despite strong internal Assad support. Majority “aspirations” don’t matter. Washington diktats overrule them. That’s how imperialism works.

Increased funding and other aid will be provided. US officials argue “that the new national coalition won’t succeed in winning support on the ground unless it amasses more of the currency of power in any insurrection: military supplies.”

Until September, Frederic C. Hof helped direct State Department policy on Syria. “We need to exercise some leadership and a management role in the arms business,” he said.

“We need to try to dominate the logistics and the decision making on who gets what and who doesn’t. We need to do it working hand in glove with others; you don’t want it to be seen as an exclusively American effort.”

He added that public posturing about not wanting to “further militarize the situation….no longer (is) relevant.” Of course, it never was. The mask slowly comes off. Reasons why conflict erupted and continues are suppressed.

On December 9, the London Sunday Times said Washington decided to supply Syrian insurgents with heavy weapons. They include rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles, and anti-aircraft heat-seeking SA-7 missiles.

State Department officials maintain daily contact with insurgent commanders. Obama authorized covert CIA and special forces help months earlier. It’s been ongoing for months. Increased aid is planned.

On December 10, the London Guardian headlined “Army’s plans to support Syrian rebels,” saying:

UK military chiefs drew up “contingency plans to provide Syrian rebels with maritime, and possibly air, power in response to a request from (Prime Minister) David Cameron, senior defense sources said on Monday night.”

They added that Britain won’t intervene unless America does. At the same time, concerns about doing so were raised.

One unnamed source said, “We are a long way from doing anything. The US is leading the way. We are not there yet.”

In November, UK defense chief General David Richards met with senior military officials from America, France, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, and other Gulf states. Strategy was discussed at length.

Other UK officials have been meeting with Western and regional counterparts. At issue is destroying Syria entirely.

Most high-level UK military officials say intervening is far more complex than against Libya last year.

On December 11, the London Independent headlined “Exclusive: UK military in talks to help Syria rebels,” saying:

An “independent coalition including Britain” plans to support Syrian insurgents “with air and naval power….”

Washington, key NATO partners, and Gulf allies believe conflict “reached a tipping point and it has become imperative” to help insurgents “make a final push against” Assad.

Western boots on the ground aren’t planned. Libya 2.0 appears likely. Doing so will circumvent Security Council authorization.

Installing offensive Patriot missiles in Turkey “camouflage(s) intervention.” Claims about doing so for defensive purposes don’t wash.

US, British, French, and other NATO officials say intervention “is now inevitable.” It’s just a matter of when.

On December 9, Mossad-connected DEBKAfile (DF) asked, “What comes first – a Syrian chemical attack or a US-led military showdown?”

Fabricated claims about Assad using chemical weapons continue. DF says US, Israeli, Jordanian and Turkish special forces are operating in Syria.

They’re armed with special protective gear. They’re positioned near alleged “convoys carrying canisters, shells or bombs loaded with poison gas….”

Concerns about non-conventional weapons belie the fact that disquiet about them wasn’t raised before nor was anything done about them. Whether destroying them ahead of full-scale Western intervention remains to be seen.

On December 8, Der Spiegel interviewed Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. He was asked about looming full-scale war on Syria.

He said Assad poses “no threat to the region or world peace.”

“Military forces infiltrating Syria” want the conflict “internationalize(d). If the region goes up in flames, then they have achieved their objective.”

Without “a sense of proportionality,” Western and regional states “will fall into the trap of the extremists.”

He knows Washington backs them. US hardliners want pro-Western Islamofacist regimes throughout the region. They want Assad and Iran’s government ousted. They’ll stop at nothing to achieve their aims. They risk potentially catastrophic conflict.

On December 10, Voice of Russia (VoR) interviewed Damascus Research Center director Bassam Abu Abdullah. He called so-called Friends of Syria its enemies. Washington largely controls them.

“Their goal is to destroy the country by force and use its strategic geographical location for their own purposes.”

He called supplying humanitarian aid to Syria “one big lie.” So are claims about insurgent successes. Mainstream media misinformation reports them. It’s done to enlist public support and raise opposition forces’ morale. Seizing one tank means nothing.

“They suffer hundreds of times more losses, but al Jazeera and al Arabiya are keeping silent about this.”

“And as soon as one regular army soldier is killed, they boost, as if they have won a victory over a whole military unit.”

“The only problem of the Syrian army is their infinite number of suicide bombers.”

He repeated what other Syrian officials said many times. Damascus has no intention of using chemical weapons. At the same time, he fears insurgents may use them “to accuse the Syrian regime of doing this.”

Damascus agrees with Russian proposals for peaceful conflict resolution and fair elections. “(T)his is the kind of democracy” that Washington and other Western states forgot, he added.

They deplore it at home and abroad. Washington and key NATO allies want one independent country after another attacked and destroyed. They’re willing to ravage the entire region to control it.

Body counts and human misery don’t matter. Imperial rogues want dominance at any cost. They used death squads against Libyans. They murdered thousands of Syrians.

Civilians suffer most of all. Assad loyalists are most vulnerable. Dozens or hundreds die daily. At the same time, Syrian forces inflict heavy losses on terrorists. Mainstream media misinformation suppresses what readers and viewers most need to know.

Washington planned war on Syria years ago. Other countries are enlisted, pressured or bullied to go along. Last year it was Libya. Earlier it was Iraq and Afghanistan.

Proxy wars rage against Yemen, Somalia, and drone-targeted Pakistan areas. Occupied Palestine is attacked multiple times daily. America’s dirty hands are involved. US special forces operate covertly in over 120 countries. CIA elements are everywhere.

Longstanding US policy bears full responsibility for regional carnage and beyond. One war begets others. Obama has lots of governments he wants ousted.

He’s got another four years to destroy them one at a time. Perhaps he plans two or more simultaneously. He’s America’s most belligerent president in history.

He outdid George Bush. He’s a war criminal multiple times over. He has years of blood on his hands to answer for. His second term may eclipse his the worst of his first.

At the same time, he’s ravaging social America to feed Washington’s war machine, enrich corporate favorites, and enforce police state harshness on resisters.

Where this ends who knows. It bears repeating. America never was beautiful. It’s no fit place to live in. It’s unsafe for anyone opposing government for the privileged few alone. The worst of times approaches. It won’t be pretty when it arrives.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Reading about crimes of state over many years, it is tempting to try to fathom the mind-set of political leaders. What actually is going on in their heads when they order sanctions that kill hundreds of thousands of children? What is in their hearts when they wage needless wars that shatter literally millions of lives?

Are they desperately cruel, mindlessly stupid? Do they imagine they are living in a kind of hell where monstrous acts have to be committed to avoid even worse outcomes? Are they indifferent, focused on what will bring them short-term political and economic gain? Are they morally resigned, perceiving themselves as essentially powerless in the face of invincible political and economic forces (‘If I didn’t do it, someone else would.’)?

Similar questions come to mind as the US and UK governments once again raise the spectre of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to demonise a target for ‘regime change’, this time in Syria. What is actually going on in the minds of people who know that exactly the same ploy was exposed as a cynical deception just a few years ago? Do they view the public with contempt? Are they laughing at us? Are they playing the only card they perceive to be available to them; one that they know will work imperfectly, but will have to do?

In the US, NBC commented:

‘U.S. officials tell us that the Syrian military is poised tonight to use chemical weapons against its own people. And all it would take is the final order from Syrian President Assad.’

US media watch dog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting asked: ‘So where did all of this new information come from?’ The familiar, ominous answer: ‘Anonymous government officials talking to outlets like the New York Times.’ This, for example:

‘Western intelligence officials say they are picking up new signs of activity at sites in Syria that are used to store chemical weapons. The officials are uncertain whether Syrian forces might be preparing to use the weapons in a last-ditch effort to save the government, or simply sending a warning to the West about the implications of providing more help to the Syrian rebels.

‘“It’s in some ways similar to what they’ve done before,” a senior American official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “But they’re doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons. It’s not just moving stuff around. These are different kind of activities.”’ (Michael Gordon, Eric Schmitt, Tim Arango, ‘Flow of arms to Syria through Iraq persists, to US dismay,’ New York Times, December 1, 2012)

FAIR commented:

‘Absent any further details, that would seem to be a strange standard for confirmation… But the theatrics – satellite images, anonymous sources speaking about weapons of mass destruction and so on – are obviously reminiscent of the lead up to the Iraq War.’

They are indeed. On May 26, 2004, the New York Times published a humbling mea culpa titled, ‘The Times and Iraq.’ The editorscommented:

‘Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper.’

As a result, the paper published a ‘Confidential News Sources Policy’, which included:

‘In any situation when we cite anonymous sources, at least some readers may suspect that the newspaper is being used to convey tainted information or special pleading. If the impetus for anonymity has originated with the source, further reporting is essential to satisfy the reporter and the reader that the paper has sought the whole story.’ (Confidential News Sources, New York Times, February 25, 2004)

Clearly this has all been forgotten.

The same claims about Syrian WMD have of course also poured out of the UK media. A December 5 leading article in The Times was titled: ‘Assad’s Arsenal.’ The first line of the editorial:

‘The embattled Syrian regime may be preparing to use chemical weapons. That would be a catastrophe; it must be averted, whatever it takes.’

As ever, Rupert Murdoch’s editors – and, no doubt, the boss, standing just over their shoulders – regretfully declared that Western military ‘intervention’ might turn out to be the only answer: ‘we must also hope that the US and its allies would take any action that was deemed necessary to prevent the human and moral disaster that would be caused by the Syrian regime attempting its final exit in a cloud of mustard gas’.

War, for the West, is now as normal as the air we breathe. Obviously it is the job of the West, with its blood-soaked track record, to save the peoples of the world from tyrannies that just happen to obstruct its geostrategic goals.

In November 2002, as war loomed on Iraq, The Times reported:

‘President Saddam Hussein has been trying to buy from Turkish suppliers up to 1.25 million doses of atropine, a derivative of deadly nightshade.

‘It has wide-ranging medical uses but also protects the body from nerve agents that can paralyse their victims and kill in as little as two minutes.’ (Elaine Monaghan, ‘Iraq move increases chemical war fear,’ The Times, November 13, 2002)

In 2010, The Times published the claim that Iran intended to develop a ‘trigger’ for a nuclear weapon. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter reported:

‘U.S. intelligence has concluded that the document published recently by the Times of London… is a fabrication, according to a former Central Intelligence Agency official.’

The counterterrorism specialist Porter had in mind, Philip Giraldi, commented:

‘The Rupert Murdoch chain has been used extensively to publish false intelligence from the Israelis and occasionally from the British government.’

In April 2011, The Times reported of Libya:

‘There are increasing fears that Colonel Gaddafi could use suspected stocks of chemical weapons against [Misrata]… There are also fears that Colonel Gaddafi has stocks of nerve gas in the southern desert city of Sabha.’ (James Hider, ‘Amid rigged corpses and chemical weapon threat, city fears for its life,’ The Times, April 27, 2011)

No matter, The Times might yet see a Libya-style ‘intervention’ in Syria. The Guardian reports this week:

‘Britain’s military chiefs have drawn up contingency plans to provide Syrian rebels with maritime, and possibly air, power in response to a request from David Cameron, senior defence sources said on Monday night.’

The UK government is planning to fight with ‘rebels’ despite clear evidence of war crimes and the involvement of numerous foreign mercenaries armed and funded by regional tyrants. The Syrian government also stands accused of appalling crimes.

Rusting Bins Of Mass Destruction – The Fantasy SpecialistsIn the Guardian, Matt Williams and Martin Chulov used dramatic language to report claims ‘that the [Syrian] regime is considering unleashing chemical weapons on opposition forces’.

The Guardian article cited CNN, which in turn cited ‘an unnamed US official as the source of its report’. Williams and Chulov expressed not a word of scepticism in their piece, adding a two-sentence denial from the much-demonised Syrian ‘regime’ as ‘balance’.

A BBC article managed this reference to scepticism:

‘Pressed in the interview by the BBC’s Frank Gardner, he said he could understand why the public might be sceptical after the blunders made over Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction 10 years ago.’

To his credit, the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus did rather better:

‘Was there an element of political spin here to accompany Nato’s decision to deploy patriot missiles in Turkey?

‘Sources contacted by the BBC say that there are indications of activity at certain chemical weapons storage sites.

‘However it is of course impossible to determine if this is a preliminary to the weapons’ use or, as some analysts believe, much more likely, the movement of munitions to ensure their security. Indeed such movement has been noted in the past.’

Despite the caution, Marcus promoted the idea that Syrian WMD might fall into the ‘wrong’ hands and that the US might need to intervene to prevent that happening.

In the Independent, Robert Fisk went much further, pouring scorn on the claims:

‘The bigger the lie the more people will believe it. We all know who said that – but it still works. Bashar al-Assad has chemical weapons. He may use them against his own Syrian people. If he does, the West will respond. We heard all this stuff last year – and Assad’s regime repeatedly said that if – if  – it had chemical weapons, it would never use them against Syrians.

‘But now Washington is playing the same gas-chanty all over again. Bashar has chemical weapons. He may use them against his own people. And if he does…’

Fisk added: ‘over the past week, all the usual pseudo-experts who couldn’t find Syria on a map have been warning us again of the mustard gas, chemical agents, biological agents that Syria might possess – and might use. And the sources? The same fantasy specialists who didn’t warn us about 9/11 but insisted that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction in 2003: “unnamed military intelligence sources”… And yes, Bashar probably does have some chemicals in rusting bins somewhere in Syria’.

If accurate, Fisk’s ‘rusting bins’ make a nonsense of the ‘considerable pressure’ on ‘the US to come up with plans to secure the Syrian weapons in the event of the collapse of the regime’ described by Marcus.

Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News wrote an excellent piece titled: ‘Syria, a weapon of mass deception?’:

‘Without wishing to delve too far into The Who’s back catalogue… we need to remind ourselves in the UK that we won’t get fooled again.’

Thomson offered a rare ‘mainstream media’ example of rational thinking on the issue:

‘But just to be old fashioned: what’s the evidence of any threat? What’s the basis for all this? What, in short, are they all talking about? Yes, by all accounts Syria has nerve and chemical agents. But possession does not mean threat of use. Israel is not credibly threatening to use nuclear weapons against Iran, despite possessing them.’

He noted that ‘the story built upon nothing [has been] accepted as global fact when it’s nothing of the kind’ and made the obvious point:

‘After Iraq and WMD, if the CIA or MI6 say it’s cold at the north pole, any sensible person would seek at least a couple more sources or would fly there and check.’

Amid the standard channelling of propaganda, then, a small number of journalists have learned from the past and are willing to challenge official claims. But we should also not be fooled by these admirable but rare examples of dissent. The overwhelming majority of corporate media reports – notably the TV broadcasts reaching millions of people – echo the claims of government ‘impartially’; that is, without the least sign of independent thought or critical comment. The best journalists reject such an obviously compromised version of ‘professionalism’ – but they are few and far between.

 

US Army hearings on the pre-trial detention of accused whistleblower Bradley Manning concluded on Tuesday, with closing arguments by both the defense and prosecution. The 24-year-old Army private has been imprisoned for 928 days without trial.

Manning was arrested May 26, 2010, accused of the largest leak of classified military and government documents in history while working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of files, many documenting US war crimes, were published by whistleblower organization WikiLeaks.

The latest series of hearings at Fort Meade, Maryland have spanned ten days. Along with military psychiatrists and prison guards and officials, Private Manning himself took the stand to testify on his prolonged solitary confinement at the Quantico Marine brig in Virginia. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, has argued that Quantico officers, acting at the behest of the Obama administration, held the young soldier in abusive conditions under the pretense of protecting him from self-harm, while disregarding psychiatric recommendations that Manning be treated less harshly.

Manning

In closing comments Tuesday, Coombs reiterated the argument. The defense has asserted that the mistreatment, widely condemned as torture, constitutes unlawful pre-trial punishment and pressed to have charges dismissed. The defense has also proposed that Manning’s sentence be reduced by counting each of the 258 days he spent in solitary confinement as 10 days served.

“What happened here… is a complete breakdown in the way the system should work,” Coombs stated. Pointing to Manning’s alert bearing during the hearings, Coombs added, “The fact that PFC Manning’s spirit wasn’t broken is actually kind of amazing.” His composure, despite the inhumane treatment he received, undermined the government’s claim that Manning was mentally unstable.

Prosecutors for the government have insisted that the military imposed severe conditions on Manning because he posed a suicide risk. Testimony from psychiatrists sharply contradicted the claims of commanders. In closing arguments, lead prosecutor Major Ashden Fein suggested that Manning may have been improperly put on suicide risk on select days, which could possibly be treated as seven days served. But Fein then declared that the government would challenge any such sentencing “credit.”

On Tuesday, Coombs stated that some of the military officials committed perjury. When military judge Colonel Denise Lind asked the defense attorney to explain himself and Coombs cited specific testimony, Lind reportedly nodded in agreement.

Manning faces 22 counts under the Espionage Act, including one count of “aiding the enemy.” He faces life in military prison if convicted.

The outcome of the case will bear heavily on the government’s future prosecution of whistleblowers and its treatment of media and individuals that publish leaked material. WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are the most immediate targets beyond Manning. The government has been unable to substantiate its claims that publication of the leaked documents resulted in aiding Al Qaeda or other declared enemies of the US or resulted in American military casualties.

Lind is not expected to issue a ruling this week and may not announce her decision on sentencing until the next hearing. The full court martial trial has been rescheduled from February to March.

Testimony over the past few days has yielded further evidence that the military was persecuting Manning. Although psychiatrists reported repeatedly that he exhibited mental soundness and proposed he be removed from so-called “prevention of injury” watch, a panel of three Quantico officers overruled their assessments. The panel met in a “classification and assignment board” on a monthly basis, ostensibly to review the medical reports. Testimony revealed that the officers filled the form out in advance of the meetings.

Chief warrant officer Denise Barnes testified that Manning’s extended solitary confinement was the consequence of his own stubbornness. “He did not clearly communicate to me, ‘I don’t want to kill myself,’” she said. “There was never an intent to punish Pfc. Manning.”

Pointing out the Kafkaesque situation in which Manning had been placed, Coombs declared, “It’s clear Manning does the only sane thing, and that’s to stop communicating with these people, because when he says anything it’s used against him.”

Barnes was the officer who personally ordered that Manning be stripped naked every night, after Manning made a statement in protest at the absurdity of “prevention of injury” watch. Denied such necessities as toilet paper, a pillow and blanket, Manning said that if he were really suicidal, he could attempt to take his life with the elastic of his underwear.

“I was venting a little bit,” Manning explained in testimony November 29. He said he told the guard, “If I really wanted to hurt myself, wouldn’t I just use the things that are here now—the underwear, the flip-flops? They could potentially be used as something to harm oneself or others. Where does it stop? Does it stop with removing walls? Does it stop with padding? Does it stop with a straitjacket?”

Revealingly, Barnes testified that after she ordered Manning’s forced nakedness, she was told that any future changes in his treatment would need approval from a three-star general. The micro-management of Manning’s conditions by military brass came in response to the widespread condemnations over the abuse and expresses the direct concerns of the Pentagon and the White House that the case not feed into public outrage.

Judge Lind questioned Barnes on the order to remove Manning’s underwear. Did other military prisons make similar decisions for detainees on prevention of injury order? Were other detainees subjected to forced nakedness? Barnes responded that she could not recall.

Coombs asked Barnes whether Manning was held in his cell for 23 hours a day. According to Kevin Gosztola, a Firedoglake reporter who was present in the court, Barnes responded with hostility to the defense attorney: “She said ‘no.’ He wondered then how many hours? She then expressed frustration that she was being forced to say whether it was really 22.5 hours or not because she did not know.

“Did the cell have windows? No, she said, ‘That’s just how the Brig is designed.’” Barnes also insisted that there was no such thing as “solitary confinement,” reportedly stating, “the definition of solitary means no communication in a cell and that does not exist.”

Other instances of abuse were related. Coombs presented an email exchange between Master Sergeant Craig Blenis and Barnes, in which Blenis wrote that a birthday package for Manning was not delivered because “we felt like being a couple of dicks.”

Prosecutors have argued that the brig based its decisions only on protecting Manning, and his treatment was not as severe as the defense charges. For example, between the round-the-clock guard checks every five minutes, lead prosecutor Fein insisted, Manning was provided several minutes of “potential privacy.”

On Monday, Army Captain Joseph Casamatta, a company commander in Manning’s chain of command, testified about his regular visits to Quantico. He told the court that in his ten visits to the brig, he was never told that mental health officers had recommended Manning be taken off prevention of injury status. Casamatta said their visits took place in a divided booth. Manning was escorted to the booth and left in shackles.

Though not very talkative at first, Manning never appeared withdrawn or reserved, Casamatta said, and they had a “good rapport.” Manning enjoyed talking about family, sports and other personal interests. After finding out about the forced nakedness order, Casamatta said he did not understand the need for it. He testified that Manning is an “intelligent and articulate person… I believe he just wouldn’t have such thoughts of killing himself with his underwear.”

With its power declining, Washington was not able any longer to keep Russia out of the World Trade Organization.  Congress showed its spite over its impotence by hooking the normalizing of trade with Russia to what is called the “Magnitsky rule.”
Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian attorney who represented a British investment firm accused of tax evasion and fraud in Russia. Apparently, the UK firm supplied information to media alleging government misconduct and participation in corruption inside state-owned Russian companies.
Magnitsky represented the accused UK firm. He claimed that the firm had not committed fraud but had been a victim of fraud. In turn, Magnitsky was arrested. He developed serious illnesses in prison for which he apparently received inadequate medical care.
Whether he died of untreated illnesses, we cannot know. But the US Congress, acting on the unsubstantiated allegation that Magnitsky was tortured and murdered, attached to the trade normalization bill a provision that requires the US government to release a list of Russian government officials believed or imagined to have been involved with the violation of Magnitsky’s human rights and to freeze the assets of these members of the Russian government and to deny them visas to travel to the US.  Considering Washington’s belief that its law is the universal law of humankind, Washington probably intends for every country to enforce its edict or to be sanctioned in turn.
The Russian government finds the “Magnitsky rule” amusing. Here is the Russian government accused, without any evidence, of ONE torture and death, while Washington has such a large number of torture deaths from Abu Ghraib to Gitmo to the secret CIA torture centers to endless drone attacks on kids‘ soccer games, weddings, funerals, medical clinics, schools, farm houses and aid workers.  The evidence is completely clear that Washington has tortured a number of individuals to death and into false confessions and blown to pieces thousands of innocents known as “collateral damage.”  No one but Washington and its servants denies this.  But one alleged Russian offense against human rights brings forth an act of the US Congress, all in a huff about the violation of a Russian lawyer’s human rights.
A number of rulers in human history have been this arrogant.  But has a democracy ever been?  Athens perhaps, but Sparta taught Athens a lesson.
What do the members of Congress think is the response of the rest of the world to Washington’s utter hypocrisy? How can Washington pass a law punishing Russian government officials for allegedly doing once what we know for an absolute fact Washington does every day?
The holier-than-thou presence that Washington presents to the world is so phony and shopworn that Washington is becoming not only despised but a laughing stock. Peoples cease to fear the “superpower” when they laugh at its folly, hypocrisy and utter stupidity.
Certainly, the Russians are not afraid. The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, responded to the Washington morons as follows: “It is inadmissible when one country tries to dictate its will to another.” The Magnitsky rule will bring forth a “symmetrical and asymmetrical reaction from Russia.” The Russian Duma seems intent that this be the case. http://rt.com/politics/prepares-russias-reply-magnitsky-705/print/
Washington is like the drunk in a bar who picks a fight with a bruiser. Washington is full of itself, but Russia and China are not going to put up with a financially busted and militarily overstretched popinjay. The evil in Washington is driving us into nuclear war and into the destruction of life on earth.

A new petition posted on the ‘We The People’ section of the WhiteHouse.gov website demands that the Obama administration cease all funding and support for terrorists and extremist rebels in Syria, as news emerges of 29 different Syrian rebel groups pledging allegiance to the Al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front, a group responsible for killing U.S. troops in Iraq and one that is currently the primary fighting force in the NATO-backed bid to topple President Bashar Al-Assad.

Entitled Cease All Funding and Support for Al-Qaeda Terrorists and Extremist Rebels in Syria, the petition states:

Hillary Clinton has admitted that Al-Qaeda is supporting the Syrian rebels, who are backed by the Obama administration with $200 million dollars in aid. According to McClatchy Newspapers one of these groups, Al Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, is now conducting “the heaviest frontline fighting” in Syria and has been responsible for terrorist attacks. Impartial observers such as Dr. Jacques Beres say the majority of rebels in Syria are foreign extremists whose goal is to impose Sharia law. These rebels have also been filmed burning U.S. flags and chanting anti-American slogans. Funding terrorists is a crime under the National Defense Authorization Act. Such activity has had disastrous consequences in the past, such as 9/11. We demand all support direct or indirect to cease immediately.

Petitions posted on the WhiteHouse.gov website have to obtain a minimum of 25,000 signatures to mandate an official White House response. Only American citizens who register an account are allowed to sign.

The petition is timely given that 29 different Syrian opposition groups this week pledged their allegiance to Al Nusra, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated group which, as the New York Times reported on Saturday, “killed numerous American troops in Iraq,” dismissing the notion that Al Nusra is merely is one “bad apple” amongst the rebels. In reality, the United States is backing an uprising that has placed the imposition of Sharia law and the ultimate destruction of the United States at the core of its long term agenda once Assad is deposed.

A recent Syrian rebel quoted by McClatchy Newspapers was overheard to remark, “When we finish with Assad, we will fight the U.S.!” Other militants have appeared in You Tube videos speaking of their desire to see the Al-Qaeda flag fly over the White House once the rebels are victorious across the region.

Syrian rebels have been responsible for a plethora of atrocities, from terrorist attacks and massacres, to forcing people to become suicide bombers, to attacks on Christian churches and making children carry out grisly beheadings of unarmed prisoners.

Somewhat ludicrously, the US State Department today blamed the Assad regime itself, which has been fighting against the Al-Qaeda linked group, for allowing the Nusra Front to gain a foothold in the country.

The United States today announced that it would designate Al Nusra as a terrorist organization and place sanctions against the group. The other opposition groups in Syria who almost universally support Al Nusra and preach the same extremist doctrine are however set to receive more financial support, with direct NATO military intervention on their behalf also “imminent,” according to some sources.

In continuing to fund an uprising that is being led and executed by known terrorists while being supported by their rebel allies, the United States is breaking its own law, the National Defense Authorization Act, which specifically criminalizes support for any “associated forces” of terrorists.

Infowars is encouraging all American citizens to sign this petition and force the Obama administration to at least address the issue of why it is backing Islamic extremists in Syria with taxpayer money given similar disastrous policies in Libya that led to the attack on the Benghazi consulate and the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

A Brief History of Modern Superpowers

December 12th, 2012 by William Blum

From schoolbooks to popular culture, Americans have been fed a steady diet of propaganda that has led them to support reactionary policies around the globe even while fancying themselves advocates of human progress.

From the Congress of Vienna of 1815 to the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to the “Allies” invasion of Russia in 1918 to the formation of what became the European Union in the 1950s, the great powers of Europe and the world have gotten together in grand meeting halls and on the field of battle to set the ground rules for imperialist exploitation of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Australasia, to Christianize and ‘civilize’, to remake the maps, and to suppress revolutions and other threats to great-power hegemony.

They have been deadly serious. In 1918, for example, some 13 nations, including France, Great Britain, Rumania, Italy, Serbia, Greece, Japan and the United States, combined in a military invasion of Russia to “strangle at its birth” the nascent Bolshevik state, as Winston Churchill so charmingly put it.

Sir Winston Churchill

And following World War II, without any concern about who had fought and died to win that war, the Western powers, sans the Soviet Union, moved to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO, along with the European Union, then joined the United States in carrying out the Cold War and preventing the Communists and their allies from coming to power legally through elections in France and Italy. That partnership continued after the formal end of the Cold War.

The United States, the European Union and NATO are each superpowers, with extensive military, as well as foreign policy integration — almost all EU members are also members of NATO; almost all NATO members in Europe are in the EU; almost all NATO members have had a military contingent serving under NATO and/or the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and elsewhere.

Together, this Holy Triumvirate has torn apart Yugoslavia, invaded and devastated Afghanistan and Iraq, crippled Iran, Cuba and others with sanctions, overthrown the Libyan government, and are on the verge now of the same in Syria. Much of what the Triumvirate has told the world to justify this wanton havoc has concerned Islamic terrorism, but it should be noted that prior to the interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria all three countries were secular and modern. Will the people of those sad lands ever see that life again?

In suppressing the Left in France and Italy, and later in destabilizing the governments of Libya and Syria, the Holy Triumvirate has closely aligned itself with terrorists and terrorist methods to a remarkable extent. [For France and Italy, see Operation Gladio Wikipedia; and Daniele Ganser, Operation Gladio: NATO's Top Secret Stay-Behind Armies and Terrorism in Western Europe (2005)]

In Syria alone, it would be difficult to name any Middle East terrorist group associated with al-Qaeda — employing their standard car bombings and suicide bombers — that is not taking part in the war against President Assad with the support of the Triumvirate.

Is there anything — legally or morally — the Triumvirate regards as outside its purview? Any place not within its geographical mandate? Britain and France have now joined Turkey and Arabian Peninsula states in recognizing a newly formed opposition bloc as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

“From the point of view of international law, this is absolutely unacceptable,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared. “A desire to change the political regime of another state by recognizing a political force as the sole carrier of sovereignty seems to me to be not completely civilized.”

France was the first Western state to recognize the newly formed Syrian National Coalition and was swiftly joined by Britain, Italy and the European Union. [Agence France Presse, Nov. 26, 2012] The neck irons tighten.

The European Union in recent years has been facing a financial crisis, where its overriding concern has been to save the banks, not its citizens, inspiring calls from the citizenry of some member states to leave the Union. I think the dissolution of the European Union would benefit world peace by depriving the U.S./NATO mob of a guaranteed partner in crime by returning to the Union’s members their individual discretion in foreign policy.

And then we can turn to getting rid of NATO, an organization that not only has a questionable raison d’être in the present, but never had any good reason-to-be in the past other than serving as Washington’s hit man. [For the best coverage of the NATO monolith, sign up with StopNATO. To get on the mailing list write to Rick Rozoff at[email protected]. To see back issues at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato]

William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2; Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir; Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, atwww.killinghope.org. This article was originally published in Blum’s Anti-Empire Report.

American Military Starts Assassinating Children

December 12th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

Image by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

Obama and the American military label all young men – between the ages of say 15 and 35 - who happen to be in battle zones as suspected insurgents who they can target and kill.

Under the Bush administration, children were tortured.

Now, the U.S. military is starting to target children for assassination in battle zones. As the Nationreports:

In a despicable article in Military Times, the US military says that children are legitimate targets in the war in Afghanistan because sometimes the Taliban and other insurgents use kids.

In the original incident, which I cited in October, The New York Times reported it this way:

The…case of three children allegedly killed in a coalition strike was reported by local officials in Helmand Province’s Nawa district. The officials said that the children were killed in a NATO strike on Sunday afternoon as they were gathering dung to burn as fuel, a common practice in the desert reaches of southern Afghanistan where there are few trees.

***

The Marja governor said that NATO forces watched as improvised explosive devices were being planted, and targeted the insurgents planting them. “As a result two I.E.D. planters were killed and the shrapnel killed the three children who were wandering nearby,” he said. Other reports said that three insurgents had been killed.

A spokesman for the international forces, Maj. Adam Wojack, said that the coalition forces were aware of the allegations and that the episode was being investigated. “I.S.A.F. did conduct a precision airstrike on three insurgents in Nawa district, and the strike killed all three insurgents,” he said.

“None of our reporting shows any civilian casualties or any children.”

But on December 3 Gannett, which owns Military Times, ran an article headlined: “Some Afghan Kids Aren’t Bystanders.” It said:

When Marines in Helmand province sized up shadowy figures that appeared to be emplacing an improvised explosive device, it looked like a straightforward mission. They got clearance for an airstrike, a Marine official said, and took out the targets.

It wasn’t that simple, however. Three individuals hit were 12, 10 and 8 years old, leading the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul to say it may have “accidentally killed three innocent Afghan civilians.”

But a Marine official here raised questions about whether the children were “innocent.” Before calling for the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System mission in mid-October, Marines observed the children digging a hole in a dirt road in Nawa district, the official said, and the Taliban may have recruited the children to carry out the mission.

Shockingly, the article quotes a senior officer saying that the military isn’t just out to bomb “military age males,” anymore, but kids, too:

It kind of opens our aperture,” said Army Lt. Col. Marion “Ced” Carrington, whose unit, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was assisting the Afghan police. “In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent.”

War crimes?  It would appear so.

But the U.S. government exempts its own acts from the definition of terrorism … even as it labels others as terrorists for doing the exact same things.

Gold Sanctions on Iran As Currency Wars Escalate

December 12th, 2012 by Global Research News

Turkey’s trade balance may turn on whether President Barack Obama vetoes more stringent sanctions against Iran after the U.S. Senate passed a measure targeting loopholes in gold exports to the Islamic Republic.

Turkey’s gold trade with neighbouring Iran has helped shrink its trade deficit over the past year according to Bloomberg.

Incredibly, precious metals accounted for about half of the almost $21 billion decline.

That’s calmed investor concern over its current-account gap, and helped persuade Fitch Ratings to give Turkey its first investment-grade rating since 1994.

The U.S. Senate voted 94-0 on Nov. 30 to approve new sanctions against Iran, closing gaps from previous measures, including trade in precious metals. Obama, who opposes the move on the grounds it may undercut existing efforts to rein in the nation’s nuclear ambitions, signed an executive order in July restricting gold payments to Iranian state institutions.

Turkey exported $11.9 billion of gold in the first 10 months of the year, according to the Ankara-based statistics agency’s website.

A very large 85% of the shipments went to Iran and the United Arab Emirates.

Iran is buying the gold with payments Turkey makes for natural gas it purchases in liras, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan told a parliamentary committee in Ankara on Nov. 23.

Iran provides Turkey with between 21% and 25% of its gas, data from the Energy Market Regulatory Authority and Energy Minister Taner Yildiz showed.

The current-account deficit may fall to $57.3 billion by year-end, according to a bi-weekly survey of economists by the central bank published on Dec. 6. That compares with $77.1 billion last year, when Turkey had the second-biggest deficit in the world, behind the U.S.

The U.S. and the European Union say Iran is secretly pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian energy and medical research.

The trade with Iran is a strategic necessity for Turkey, and the government will view any new U.S. sanctions according to its own interests, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul on Dec. 3. Turkey isn’t concerned with how it pays for the gas it buys from Iran and would pay in “potatoes” if necessary, Yildiz said two days later.

The proposed U.S. amendment introduced by senators Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk is confusing and inconsistent in applying sanctions, according to an e-mail from the White House on Nov. 29 that was obtained by Bloomberg News.

The Menendez-Kirk amendment would allow purchases of Iranian natural gas if payments are made in local currencies into an account that Iran could only use for approved trade.

The State Department said Dec. 7 that nine oil-importing nations, including Turkey, will continue to be exempt from the sanctions aimed at Iran, according to an e-mailed statement. A spokeswoman at the U.S. embassy in Ankara, who asked not to be identified in line with policy, declined to comment the next day.

The gold debate poses a dilemma for Turkey, and the nation’s finances may be affected by the outcome, according to Nilufer Sezgin, chief economist at Erste Securities in Istanbul.

The Turkey Iran gold for energy trade shows the benefits of gold.

While not a productive asset, it can create much employment, preserve wealth and has important monetary uses – especially in times of crisis.

Gold is becoming an essential means of payment again in the Middle East again. We expect to see this trend continue in the coming months as competitive currency devaluations are pursued by nations globally in order to prevent deep recessions and depression.

In time other large energy exporters such as Russia and Venezuela may take payment for their oil exports in gold.

Those continuing to simplistically call gold “a bubble” have yet to realise how gold is becoming money again.

As doubts grow about the euro, the dollar, the pound and fiat currencies internationally we expect currency devaluations and currency and gold wars to intensify.

Gold is going from a fringe investment asset to a mainstream store of wealth held by prudent individuals, institutions, banks and nations.

Washington “Discovers” Terrorists in Syria

December 12th, 2012 by Bill Van Auken

The US State Department on Tuesday formally designated one of the leading militias fighting for the overthrow of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

The group, known as Jabhat al-Nusra, or the al-Nusra front, is widely credited as being the most effective fighting force in the bloody struggle in Syria. It has recently overrun at least three Syrian military bases and seized control of territory in the eastern part of the country.

In a teleconference with select members of the media Tuesday, an unnamed senior State Department official justified the designation by charging al-Nusra with “hundreds of attacks, nearly 600, in major city centers across Syria in which numerous innocent Syrians have been injured and killed.”

Earlier, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement: “Al-Nusra has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is, in fact, an attempt by AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq) to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes.”

When it comes to hijacking, Washington is the past master. Since the outbreak of protests in Syria two years ago, it has worked to hijack popular discontent and stoke up a sectarian civil war in a bid to bring about regime-change and install a puppet government. This is part of a wider strategy of asserting US hegemony over the geo-strategically vital and oil-rich regions of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. Syria is a lynch-pin in this imperialist campaign, in large measure because of its close ties to Iran, which Washington has identified as the main obstacle to establishing neocolonial control.

The formal significance of designating al-Nusra as a terrorist organization is that any US citizen providing it with assistance would be liable for criminal prosecution. It is highly unlikely that any charges will ever be brought, however, as the only Americans engaged in such activities are covert operatives of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

According to multiple reports appearing in the US and European media, al-Nursra and similar Sunni jihadist militias are the best armed and equipped groups challenging the Syrian regime. While the weaponry and supplies have reportedly come largely from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Washington’s closest allies in the region, the CIA set up a command-and-control center in southern Turkey earlier this year for the purpose of coordinating the distribution of these arms and materiel to the Syrian “rebels.”

Other weapons and foreign fighters have poured into the country from Libya in the wake of last year’s US-NATO war to topple the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. As in Syria, the brunt of the fighting there was undertaken by jihadist elements that emerged from the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

As is now well known, thanks to an apparent falling out between US officials and a section of these Islamist fighters in Libya that cost the life of the American ambassador and three others, the CIA had set up a sizable secret headquarters in the eastern port city of Benghazi. It is undoubtedly the case that a key function of this outpost was coordinating the flow of arms and fighters into Syria.

The US has been directly involved in supporting and arming Al Qaeda elements, even as it dismissed as a “diversion” charges by the Syrian government that it was under attack by the international terrorist group. The State Department’s designation stands as a damning self-indictment. Washington, by its own admission, is exposed once again as the foremost state sponsor of terrorism.

How does this cynical designation serve US interests? The timing is highly significant. The role of al-Nusra in Syria has been reported widely in the media for months, and according to government sources, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aides had decided on the designation a month ago.

The announcement, however, comes just one day before the convening of a “Friends of Syria” conference in Marrakesh, Morocco. France, Turkey and the Persian Gulf monarchies have already recognized the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces as the “sole legitimate representative” of the Syrian people, and President Obama in a TV interview Tuesday said the US would follow suit. It is anticipated that Washington will make the official announcement at the Marrakesh meeting.

There is no indication that the coalition, however, is anything of the kind. It was cobbled together under the direction of the US State Department and Washington’s ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, at a luxury hotel in Doha last month. Its head, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, has been promoted by Washington and in the Western media as the reincarnation of Gandhi, described as a “moderate” and a “unifier.”

In point of fact, Al-Khatib is aligned with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and has a record of making inflammatory sectarian indictments of non-Sunni sects. His principal attraction as a leader appears to be his long and intimate association with Shell Oil.

In distancing itself from al-Nusra before the conference, Washington is attempting to create the optimal conditions for more directly intervening in arming the “rebels” under the pretense that it is aiding only the supposedly “secular” and “democratic” militias under the direction of the Coalition, which will likely be given status as a transitional government.

The designation serves another purpose—providing a pretext for direct US intervention. Washington’s unsubstantiated charges that the Assad regime was preparing to use chemical weapons against the Syrian population was followed by statements of concern from Obama, Clinton and others that such weapons would fall into the hands of Al Qaeda-connected forces. The Pentagon has stated that the deployment of 75,000 troops in Syria would be required to secure such weapons.

The war in Iraq was launched on the pretext of an imminent threat of “weapons of mass destruction” falling into the hands of Al Qaeda. This same pretext is now being readied to justify a direct military intervention in Syria.

What emerges from the Syrian events and the entire record of US militarism in the region over the past decade is that all the regimes targeted for overthrow by Washington have been secular and hostile to Al Qaeda. In Iraq, Libya and Syria, the effect of US intervention has been to dramatically increase the influence of Al Qaeda. In the latter two countries, the US has used the Islamist organization as a proxy force in wars for regime-change.

The developments first in Libya and now in Syria have laid bare the fraud of the so-called “war on terrorism” as promoted first by George W. Bush and then Barack Obama. It is impossible to comprehend US policy in the Middle East without recognizing that American imperialism is allied with Al Qaeda. Having helped found the organization during the US-backed war against the pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s, since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 it has utilized it as a bogey man to justify militarism abroad and sweeping attacks on democratic rights and constitutional principles at home.

Bill Van Auken

Neuron

The Defence Select Committee has confirmed this week that it plans to investigate the use of armed unmanned drones. The inquiry into “the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs, commonly known as “drones”)” will form part of a wider investigation into the purpose and future use of the Armed Forces.   As well as examining the use of drones, the wider inquiry will look at “the strategic balance between deterrence, containment, intervention and influence;  the utility of force; the legitimacy of force, including the political/military interface and lessons learned from current and recent operations; the effect of changes in the interpretation of the law on the prosecution of operations, and the relationship between hard and soft power in terms of influence.”  (Phew!)

The Defence Select Committee however is not the only way that parliament is beginning to try to get to grips with the growing use of drones.  Last week the House of Commons Library produced a good new background briefing on the use of unmanned drones for MPs and Lords.  While not of course taking a position on their use, the briefing does set out many of the concerns that we and others continue to raise about the use of armed drones.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drones also met last week to look at the issue of autonomous drones.  The group was addressed by robotics expert Professor Noel Sharkey from the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC).  Professor Sharkey also set out his concerns in a comment piece in The Guardian last week.  He highlighted the work of  Human Rights Watch, who have recently issued an excellent report on the push towards autonomous weapons  and are calling for a ban on fully autonomous weapons.   We would of course support this call.

Professor Sharkey also appeared this week in a short BBC News film on the growing use of drones in civil airspace. The film also highlighted the need for parliament to get to grips with the growing use of drones in civil airspace in relation to privacy and civil liberties.

While it is good news that Parliament is at last beginning to take a serious interest in this issue, the development and growing use of drones continues at a rapid pace.

New US X-47B drone undergoing tests aboard Aircraft carrier

New US X-47B drone undergoing tests aboard Aircraft carrier

Over the past weeks we have seen two of the next generation of armed combat drones hit important milestones in their development.  First the Neuron stealth combat drone, developed by France’s Dassault in conjunction with a number of other European countries  had its first flight from a base in France. Across the Atlantic meanwhile, the new X-47b combat drone has begun sea trials aboard a US aircraft carrier (see photos above).  Both of these drones are significant developments beyond the current generation of Predator and Reaper drones in terms of lethality and autonomy.

Here in UK, drone use continues to expand. The Guardian reported Defence Secretary Philip Hammond suggesting that drones could be used to undertake reconnaissance patrols around the coast of the UK instead of the aging Nimrod, while orders for the Hellfire missile which arms the UK’s Reaper drone as well as other aircraft in Afghanistan, has hit £100m this year alone.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in a recent report looking at the data on US and UK drone strikes in Afghanistan, points out that although the UK has a small fleet of armed drones compared to the US, British drones “launched a high proportion of the total missiles fired from drones”.  According to BIJ figures, the UK launched almost 40% of all missiles fired from drone in Afghanistan in  2011, while in 2010 and 2012 the proportion was over a quarter.

More Than Thirty Top U.S. Officials Guilty of War Crimes

December 12th, 2012 by Sherwood Ross

More than 30 top U.S. officials, including presidents G.W. Bush and Obama, are guilty of war crimes or crimes against peace and humanity “legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany,” the distinguished American international law authority Francis Boyle charges.

U.S. officials involved in an “ongoing criminal conspiracy” in the Middle East and Africa who either participated in the commission of the crimes under their jurisdiction or failed to take action against them included both presidents since 2001 and their vice-presidents, the secretaries of State and Defense, the directors of the CIA and National Intelligence and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and heads of the Central Command, among others, Boyle said.

“In international legal terms, the U.S. government itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international law,” Boyle said in an address Dec. 9th to the Puerto Rican Summit Conference on Human Rights at the University of the Sacred Heart in San Juan. Boyle is a Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Champaign, and the author of numerous books on the subject.

Besides the presidents, Boyle identified as war criminals Vice Presidents Dick Cheney and Joseph Biden; Secretaries of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta; Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and Hillary Clinton; National Security Advisors Stephen Hadley, James Jones, and Thomas Donilon; Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and James Clapper and Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) Directors George Tenet, Leon Panetta, and David Petraeus.

In the Pentagon, war criminals include the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and some Regional Commanders-in-Chiefs, especially for the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and more recently, AFRICOM. Besides Chairman General Martin Dempsey, U.S. Army, JCS members include Admiral James Winnefeld Jr.; General Raymond Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army;  General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps; Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations; and General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

Those who have headed the Central Command since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan include Lt. General Martin Dempsey; Admiral William Fallon; General John Abizaid; General Tommy Franks; Lt. General John Allen; and current commander General James Mattis. General Carter Ham of AFRICOM bears like responsibility.

Boyle told the Puerto Rican conference that President G.W. Bush had shamelessly exploited the 9/11 tragedy and “set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Middle East and Africa under “bogus pretexts.” These pretexts included fighting a war against “international terrorism” or “Islamic fundamentalism”, eliminating weapons of mass destruction, the promotion of democracy, and humanitarian intervention, Boyle said.

The serial aggressions of the U.S.violate such basic documents of international law as the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, Boyle said. As well, they violate the Pentagon’s own U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 on The Law of Land Warfare, which applies to the President himself as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Armed Forces under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. administrations since 9/11 may be charged with “crimes against peace” for their attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia,Yemen, and Syria, “and perhaps their longstanding threatened war of aggression against Iran,”
Boyle said.

The eminent international authority went on to charge that the war crimes included “torture, enforced disappearances, assassinations, murders, kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, ‘shock and awe’ (bombings), and (the use of) depleted uranium, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, drone strikes,” and the like.

Boyle said Americans “must not permit any aspect of their foreign affairs and defense policies to be conducted by acknowledged ‘war criminals’” but must insist upon “the impeachment, dismissal, resignation, indictment, conviction, and long-term incarceration of all U.S. government officials guilty of such heinous international and domestic crimes.”

Boyle said the so-called “targeted killing” of human beings in a non-battlefield situation is “pure murder” under basic principles of Anglo-American common law and international criminal law. And in this case, where these murders are both widespread and systematic, these murders constitute a Crime against Humanity under Article 7(1)(a) of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court.

Although the United States is not a party to the Rome Statute, Boyle said, “nevertheless President Obama is subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC and its Prosecutor for murdering people in ICC member States.”
#
Sherwood Ross is an American public relations consultant who works for good causes. He formerly worked for major dailies and wire services as a reporter and columnist. Reach him at [email protected])

To the Children of Syria – A Poem

December 12th, 2012 by Global Research News

By Nasser Barghouty

In whose name they allow themselves to hurt you?
To what end? To what beginning?
Have they said as much to you?
Have they counted your tears?
Have they wiped your fears?

From my safe distance I see a tear
in frozen moments and muted fear
among the smoke
in the rubbles
Tiny hands clinching
tiny legs racing
from them
to them

In whose name they allow themselves to hurt you?
Slogans your tender minds discard
Gestures your tiny big hearts deride
Silent prosecution
and a noisy salutation
Have they counted those tears?

From my safe distance I see a tear
a horizon away
from a warm embrace
a touch
a smile
a hug
Did they count those tears?
Did they wipe those fears?

From my safe distance I hear the silence
yours and theirs
canceling each other
forever
Now in Syria

From my safe distance I hear the chant
for a peace
that will come
paid
with your tears
your fears
little ones
Now in Syria

From my safe distance I drop one
or two
for you
little ones
As I did before
in Basra
and Gaza
Now in Syria

From my safe distance I wonder
now and forever
what have you done to deserve this?
in whose name can anyone answer?
in whose name can anyone muster?
the might to wipe
tiny smiles
hearts
and tears
In whose eyes can they look counting those tears?

From my safe distance I decree
Now in Syria
innocence is being exchanged
for a past
for a future
only the little ones can see
despite the smoke
and rubbles
where tears are counted in pairs
and fears
like my safe distance
in light years.

- Nasser Barghouty contributed this poem to PalestineChronicle.com.

North Korea Launches Satellite into Orbit

December 12th, 2012 by Stuart Smallwood

North Korean state media announced it successfully launched a satellite into orbit this morning, surprising the international community after it had previously claimed just days earlier that technical difficulties would delay the event until late December.

Japanese and South Korean officials confirmed the launch took place around 10 a.m. and that all three stages of the launch fell as predicted, without harming any neighboring countries.

The launch was widely condemned by the international community, and the US was particularly indignant. The American government and its regional allies suggest the launch was a cover for testing technology that will eventually allow North Korea to mount a nuclear warhead onto ballistic missiles. They also condemned North Korea for wasting money on expensive weapons test while ignoring the plight of their own people (a good point, except it conveniently omits America’s own unconditional financial backing of the Israeli brutalization of Palestinians, to use but one example).

The apparently successful launch comes after a previous attempt this year, which North Korea aborted just two minutes into the process. There were three other failures in 1998, 2006 and 2009.

How will the international community respond?

In the short term, Japanese and South Korean security officials have opened “emergency” meetings to discuss the launch, and no doubt the United States and China will be doing something similar. Which begs the question, “What emergency?”

“A successful test would raise as a top-line national security issue for the Obama administration the specter of a direct North Korean threat to the U.S. homeland,” analysts Victor D. Cha and Ellen Kim wrote for the Center For Strategic and International Studies.

However, what the test itself indicates for the near future in terms of North Korean capabilities is very much unclear and there is reason to doubt it means anything serious at all. Certainly the citizens in Seoul sitting at coffee shops and idly chatting or playing on their cell phones don’t seem particularly concerned.

This may be for good reason. In a much-quoted report exposing the North Korean regime for using fake missiles in an infamous military parade in Pyongyang on national founder Kim Il-sung’s birthday earlier this year, nuclear proliferation analysts Markus Schiller and Robert H. Schmucker suggested North Korea would never be able to produce a true Intercontinental Ballistic Missile program (what the US says they are testing here), because the project is simply too expensive for the poor, isolated country.

“After [first launch] it will take many years and many, many flights to arrive at a deployable and operational ICBM force, since the development of a modern ICBM is extremely demanding. To put things into perspective: The development of the Soviet/Russian Topol-M ICBM is said to have cost 142.8 billion Rubles (in 1992 prices – at that time, the Ruble exchange rate was around one US Dollar).”

While the successful launch is certainly not a cause for celebration in the international community it isn’t a source for serious concern either. What is clear is that it will put the North Korean nuclear program back on the agenda in 2013 even if it’s a problem every country in the region (including the United States) was hoping to put off indefinitely.

Why now?

The missile launch occurred out of the typical season for such activity, prompting many analysts to assume the event was a means to commemorate the death of former leader Kim Jong-il, who died on December 17 last year. This was also supposed to be a momentous year for North Korea because it was the centenary of founding dictator Kim Il-sung’s birth.

But there are likely more nuanced reasons for the launch, though the importance of this kind of public relations for a regime that depends on propagating national greatness and a cult of leadership should not be underestimated. That said, any analysis on what is going on in the North and why is purely speculative.

Still, one can surmise that because the country depends on external aid and is constantly seeking a means to diversify its dependency beyond its most stable patron, China, this may be another attempt by the regime to get itself back onto the international agenda.

With that in mind, Benjamin Habib, a lecturer in politics and international relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia wrote that the regime is yet again trying to attract attention with the missile launch. Habib notes that every significant country involved in the de-nuclearization effort on the Korean Peninsula except for Russia—South Korea, China, Japan and China—has been busy with domestic leadership transitions or elections for the last few months. This has virtually ended any discussion about Pyongyang and its nukes.

“While North Korea appears to have no intention of relinquishing its nuclear or missile capabilities, its habitual tactic of engineering crises to leverage aid from the international community in exchange for de-escalation or proliferation freeze agreements is predicated on negotiations actually taking place,” Habib wrote.

North Korea’s long-term strategy has been interpreted as an attempt to attract the United States into bilateral negotiations with the goal of addressing its own security concern that the US intends regime change in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea recognized the development of nuclear weapons as a means of doing this and has used this strategy quite consistently since the first nuclear crisis in 1994. Its main objectives are to achieve normalized relations with Washington by establishing a peace treaty and receiving economic aid and energy security agreements. This test may be just another stage of that strategy, though contrary to Habib, it is unclear whether North Korea would be willing to give up its nukes or not because America has never honestly tried a grand bargain agreement, opting instead for pre-conditional demands of nuclear disarmament before any negotiations take place (go here for more on America’s failed policy leading to North Korea’s nuke development).

The launch also comes as a South Korean official said recently that the succession of Kim Jong-un isn’t going as smoothly as planned, prompting speculation that the regime is trying to display to its people that its concept of strength through military superiority is still working.

Habib also notes Kim Jong-un’s ‘6.28 policy’ of agriculture sector reforms may require a bolstering of personal legitimacy for the new leader. The economic reforms, if truly enacted, could lead to short-term instability as the country adjusts, even if they are successful.

One-upping Seoul?

Another reason for the launch may be related to recent military developments in South Korea.

In October, just two days after the South was given permission by the United States to extend its cruise missile range to a capacity beyond North Korean territory, North Korea announced they could reach the continental United States with their own ballistic missiles. The announcement wasn’t, and still shouldn’t be, taken seriously but in the context of this event it is possible the North is trying to do one better than the South with this launch.

Indeed, the Globe and Mail reports that the US tried to stop North Korea from this recent launch and North Korea responded by mentioning South Korea’s new missile range in this context.

In a statement in October, North Korea’s National Defence Commission said that when ‘mid-ranking policymakers from the U.S. National Security Council and CIA recently met with us in official and unofficial settings,’ they tried to assure the North Koreans that Washington had no ‘hostile’ intent against Pyongyang.

“‘But the reality clearly showed that the messages we received from the United States were lies,’ it said, citing the United States’ agreement to let South Korea nearly triple the reach of its ballistic missiles, putting all of the North within their range.

The fact is there is no way to know for sure why North Korea launched a rocket at this particular time. There are likely a myriad of factors involved, but given that the whole world is talking about the “hermit kingdom” again it is safe to say the satellite launch was a success in more than a literal sense.

It is now a question of whether the United States will admit it is time to try a positive and consistent policy of engagement, minus preconditions, or whether they actually have no interest in negotiating at all, but using North Korea as a straw-man for their ongoing military presence in Northeast Asia.

Stuart Smallwood is a journalism graduate of the University of King’s College in Canada and currently an Asian Studies MA candidate in Seoul. He writes at koreaandtheworld.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

“Japan Asian Basket Case”: 5th Recession in 15 Years

December 11th, 2012 by James Corbett

Cuidado con la izquierda anti-anti-guerra

December 11th, 2012 by Jean Bricmont

Desde la década de 1990 y en particular desde la guerra de Kosovo en 1999 los adversarios de las intervenciones occidentales y de la OTAN han tenido que enfrentarse a lo que se podría llamar una izquierda (y una extrema izquierda) anti-anti-guerra que reúne a la socialdemocracia, a los verdes y la mayor parte de la izquierda radical (el Nuevo Partido Anticapitalista francés[1], diversos grupos antifascistas etc.)[2]. No se declara abiertamente a favor de las intervenciones occidentales y a veces las critica (en general, únicamente en relación a las tácticas seguidas y los intereses, petroleros o geoestratégicos, que se atribuyen a las potencias occidentales),pero emplea todas sus energías en “advertir” de las supuestas derivas de la izquierda que se sigue oponiendo firmemente a estas intervenciones. Nos llama a apoyar a las “víctimas” frente a los “verdugos”, a ser “solidarios con los pueblos frente a los tiranos”, a no ceder a un “antiimperialismo”, un “antiamericanismo” o un “antisionismo” simplistas y, sobre todo, a no aliarse a la extrema derecha. Después de los albano-kosovares en 1999, les tocó a las mujeres afganas, a los kurdos iraquíes y más recientemente a los pueblos libio y sirio a los que “nosotros” tenemos que proteger.

No se puede negar que la izquierda anti-anti-guerra ha sido extremadamente eficaz. La guerra en Iraq, que se había presentado bajo la forma de una amenaza pasajera, suscitó una oposición pasajera, aunque en la izquierda solo hubo una oposición muy débil a las intervenciones presentadas como “humanitarias”, como la de Kosovo, el bombardeo de Libia o actualmente la injerencia en Siria. Cualquier reflexión sobre la paz o el imperialismo simplemente se barrió ante la invocación del “derecho de injerencia” o del “deber de asistencia a un pueblo en peligro”.

Una extrema izquierda nostálgica de las revoluciones y de las luchas de liberación nacional tiende a analizar cualquier conflicto en el interior de un país dado como una agresión de un dictador contra su pueblo oprimido que aspira a la democracia. La interpretación, común a la izquierda y a la derecha, de la victoria de Occidente en la lucha contra el comunismo tuvo un efecto parecido.

La ambigüedad fundamental de la izquierda anti-anti-guerra radica en la cuestión de saber quién es el “nosotros” que debe proteger, intervenir, etc. Si se trata de la izquierda occidental, de los movimientos sociales o de las organizaciones de derechos humanos, hay que plantearles la pregunta que hizo Stalin a propósito del Vaticano: “¿Cuántas divisiones tienen?”. En efecto, todos los conflictos en los que se supone que “nosotros” tenemos que intervenir son conflictos armados.  Intervenir significa intervenir militarmente y para ello hace falta tener los medios militares de hacerlo. Es evidente que la izquierda europea no tienen estos medios. Podría apelar a los ejércitos europeos para que interviniera en vez del de Estados Unidos, pero aquellos nunca lo han hecho sin un apoyo masivo de Estados Unidos, lo que hace que el mensaje real de la izquierda anti-anti-guerra sea: “¡Señores estadounidenses, hagan la guerra, no el amor!”. Mejor aún, como después de la debacle en Afganistán y en Irak, los estadounidenses ya no se van a arriesgar a enviar tropas de tierra se pide a las Fuerzas Aéreas estadounidenses, y solo a ellas, que vayan a bombardear a los países violadores de los derechos humanos.

Evidentemente, se puede mantener que el futuro de los derechos humanos se puede confiar a la atención y a la buena voluntad del gobierno estadounidense, de sus bombarderos y de sus drones. Pero es importante comprender que eso es lo que significan concretamente todos los llamamientos a la “solidaridad” y al “apoyo” a los movimientos secesionistas o rebeldes implicados en luchas armadas. En efecto, estos movimientos no tienen necesidad alguna de las consignas gritadas en “manifestaciones de solidaridad” en Bruselas o París, y no es eso lo que piden. Quieren armas pesadas y que se bombardee a sus enemigos, y eso solo se lo puede suministrar Estados Unidos.

Si la izquierda anti-anti-guerra fuera honesta, debería asumir esta elección y pedir abiertamente a Estados Unidos que bombardeara ahí donde se violen los derechos humanos. Pero entonces debería asumir esta elección hasta el final. En efecto, esa misma clase política y militar que se supone salva a las poblaciones “víctimas de sus tiranos” es la que hizo la guerra de Vietnam, el embargo y las guerras contra Irak, la que impone sanciones arbitraras a Cuba, Irán y a todos los países que no le gustan, la que apoya incondicionalmente a Israel, la que se opone por todos los medios, incluidos los golpes de Estado, a los reformadores de América Latina, de Arbenz a Chavez pasando por Allende, Goulart y otros, y la que explota descaradamente los recursos y a los y las trabajadoras por todo el mundo. Hace falta mucha buena voluntad para ver en esta clase política y militar el instrumento de salvación de las “víctimas”, pero es lo que en la práctica preconiza la izquierda anti-anti-guerra ya que, dadas las relaciones de fuerza en el mundo, no existe ninguna otra instancia capaz de imponer su voluntad por medios militares.

Evidentemente, el gobierno estadounidense apenas tiene conocimiento de la existencia de la izquierda anti-anti-guerra europea. Estados Unidos decide hacer o no la guerra en función de sus posibilidades de éxito, de sus intereses, de la oposición interna y externa a ella, etc. Y una vez desencadenada quiere ganarla por todos los medios. No tienen ningún sentido pedirle que haga solo buenas intervenciones, solo contra los verdaderos malos y con unos medios amables que salven a los civiles y a los inocentes.

Quienes pidieron a la OTAN que “mantuviera los progresos para las mujeres afganas”, como hizo  Amnistía Internacional (USA) durante una reunión de la OTAN en Chicago[3], piden de hecho a Estados Unidos que intervenga militarmente y, entre otras cosas, que bombardee a civiles afganos y envíe drones a Pakistán. No tiene ningún sentido pedirle que proteja y no bombardee, porque así es como funcionan los ejércitos.

Uno de los temas favoritos de la izquierda anti-anti-guerra es pedir a quienes se oponen a las guerras que no “apoyen al tirano”, en todo caso, no a aquel cuyo país es atacado. El problema es que toda guerra necesita un esfuerzo generalizado de propaganda y que este se basa en la criminalización del enemigo y, sobre todo, de su dirigente. Para oponerse eficazmente a esta propaganda es necesario denunciar las mentiras de la propaganda, contextualizar los crímenes del enemigo y compararlos a los de nuestro propio campo. Es una tarea necesaria, aunque ingrata y arriesgada: se reprochará eternamente el menor error, mientras que todas las mentiras de la propaganda de guerra se olvidan una vez que terminan las operaciones.

Ya durante la Primera Guerra Mundial se acusó a Bertrand Russell y a los pacifistas británicos de “apoyar al enemigo”, pero si desmontaron la propaganda de los aliados no fue por amor al Kaiser alemán, sino por apego a la paz. A la izquierda anti-anti-guerra le encanta denunciar“el doble rasero” de los pacifistas coherentes que critican los crímenes de su propio campo pero contextualizan o refutan los que se atribuyen al enemigo del momento (Milosevic, Gadafi, Assad etc.), pero este “doble rasero” no es sino la consecuencia de una opción deliberada y legítima: contrarrestar la propaganda de guerra ahí donde se encuentra (es decir, en Occidente), propaganda que se basa ella misma tanto en una constante criminalización del enemigo atacado como en una idealización de aquellos que lo atacan.

La izquierda anti-anti-guerra no tiene ninguna influencia en la política estadounidense, pero eso no quiere decir que no tenga efectos. Por una parte, su retórica insidiosa ha permitido neutralizar todo el movimiento pacifista o en contra de la guerra, pero también ha hecho imposible toda postura independiente de un país europeo, como fue el caso de Francia bajo De Gaulle e incluso, en menor medida, bajo Chirac, o de la Suecia de Olof Palme. Hoy la izquierda anti-anti-guerra, que tienen una considerable repercusión mediática, atacaría inmediatamente esta postura por considerarla un “apoyo al tirano”, otro “Munich” o un “crimen de indiferencia”.

Lo que ha conseguido la izquierda anti-anti-guerra es destruir la soberanía de los Estados europeos frente a Estados Unidos y eliminar toda postura de izquierda independiente ante las guerras y ante el imperialismo. También ha llevado a la mayoría de la izquierda europea a adoptar posturas totalmente contradictorias con las de la izquierda latinoamericana y a erigirse en adversarios de países como China o Rusia que tratan de defender el derecho internacional (y tienen toda la razón al hacerlo).

Un aspecto extraño de la izquierda anti-anti-guerra es que es la primera en denunciar las revoluciones del pasado que llevaron al totalitarismo (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot etc.) y que constantemente nos pone en guardia ante la repetición de estos “errores” del apoyo a dictadores hecho por parte de la izquierda de la época. Pero ahora que la revolución la llevan a cabo los islamistas, se supone que tenemos que creer que todo va a ir bien y aplaudir. ¿Y si la “lección que hay que aprender del pasado” fuera que las revoluciones violentas, la militarización y las injerencias extranjeras no eran la única o la mejor manera de realizar cambios sociales?

A veces se nos responde que hay que actuar “con urgencia” (para salvar a las víctimas). Aunque se aceptara este punto de vista, el hecho es que después de cada crisis la izquierda no hace ninguna reflexión sobre lo que podría ser una política que no fuera el apoyo a las intervenciones militares. Esta política debería dar un giro de 180° respecto a la que actualmente predica la izquierda anti-anti-guerra. En vez de pedir más intervenciones deberíamos exigir a nuestros gobiernos un respeto estricto del derecho internacional, la no injerencia en los asuntos internos de otros Estados y sustituir las confrontaciones por la cooperación. La no injerencia no es solo la no intervención en el plano militar, sino también en los planos diplomático y económico: nada de sanciones unilaterales, nada de amenazas durante negociaciones y trato de todos los Estados en pie de igualdad. En vez de “denunciar” sin parar a los dirigentes malos de países como Rusia, China, Irán y Cuba en nombre de los derechos humanos, algo que le encanta hacer a la izquierda anti-anti-guerra, deberíamos escucharles, dialogar con ellos y hacer comprender sus puntos de vista a nuestros conciudadanos

Evidentemente, esta política no resolvería los problemas de derechos humanos, en Siria o Libia o en otra parte. Pero, ¿qué los resuelve? La política de injerencia aumenta las tensiones y la militarización  en el mundo. Los países que se siente objeto de esta política, y son muchos, se defienden como pueden; las campañas de criminalización impiden las relaciones pacíficas entre Estados, los intercambios culturales entre sus ciudadanos e indirectamente el desarrollo de las ideas liberales que se supone que promueven los partidarios de la injerencia. A partir del momento en que la izquierda anti-anti-guerra abandonó todo programa alternativo ante esta política, renunció de hecho a tener la menor influencia en los asuntos del mundo. No es cierto que “ayude a las víctimas”, como ella pretende. Aparte de destruir toda resistencia que hubiera aquí al imperialismo y a la guerra, no hace nada y, a fin de cuentas, los únicos que reaccionan realmente son los gobiernos estadounidenses. Confiarles el bienestar de los pueblos es una actitud de desesperación absoluta.

Esta actitud es un aspecto de la manera cómo ha reaccionado la mayoría de la izquierda ante la “caída del comunismo”, apoyando exactamente lo contrario de las políticas seguidas por los comunistas, en particular en los asuntos internacionales, donde toda oposición al imperialismo y toda defensa de la soberanía era considerada por la izquierda una forma de paleoestalinismo.

Tanto la política de injerencia como la construcción europea, otro importante ataque a la soberanía nacional, son dos políticas de derecha. La una se basa en los intentos estadounidenses de hegemonía mundial y la otra en el neoliberalismo y la destrucción de los derechos sociales, justificados en gran medida por unos discursos “de izquierda”: los derechos humanos, el internacionalismo, el antirracismo y el antinacionalismo. En ambos casos una izquierda desorientada por el fin del comunismo buscó una tabla de salvamiento en el discurso “humanitario” y “generoso”  completamente carente de un análisis realista de las relaciones de fuerza en el mundo. Con semejante izquierda, la derecha prácticamente no necesita ideología, le basta con la de los derechos humanos.

Con todo, estas dos políticas, la injerencia y la construcción europea, se encuentran hoy en un punto muerto: el imperialismo estadounidense se enfrenta a unas dificultades enormes tanto en el plano económico como diplomático; la política de injerencia ha logrado unir a gran parte del mundo en  contra ella. Ya casi nadie cree en otra Europa, en una Europa social, y la Europa que existe realmente, neoliberal (la única posible) no suscita mucho entusiasmo entre los y las trabajadoras. Por supuesto, estos fracasos benefician a la derecha y a la extrema derecha, pero ello solo porque la mayor parte de la izquierda ha abandonado la defensa de la paz, del derecho internacional y de la soberanía nacional como condición previa a la democracia.

Jean Bricmont

Texto en inglés : http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/12/04/beware-the-anti-anti-war-left/

Traducido del francés por Beatriz Morales Bastos


[1]              Véase sobre esta organización Ahmed Halfaoui, Colonialiste d’«extrême gauche»? Véase: http://www.legrandsoir.info/colonialiste-d-extreme-gauche.html.

[2]           Por ejemplo, en febrero de 2011, una octavilla distribuida en Toulouse preguntaba a propósito de Libia y de las amenenazas de “genocidio” por parte de Gadafi: “¿Dónde está Europa? ¿Dónde está Francia? ¿Dónde está Estados Unidos? ¿Dónde están las ONG?” y “¿Acaso el valor del petróleo y del uranio son más importantes que el pueblo libio?”. es decir, que los autores de la octavilla – firmada entre otros por Alternative Libertaire, Europe Écologie-Les Verts, Gauche Unitaire, LDH, Lutte Ouvrière, Mouvement de la Paix (Comité 31), MRAP, NPA31, OCML-Voie Prolétarienne Toulouse, PCF31, Parti Communiste Tunisien, Parti de Gauche31- rerpochaban a los occidentales que no intervinieran debido a intereses económicos. Nos preguntamos qué pensaron estos autores cuando el CNT libio prometió vender el 35% del petróleo libio a Francia (y ello independientemente de que se mantuviera o no esta promesa o de que el petróleo sea o no la causa de la guerra).

[3]              Véase por ejemplo: Jodie Evans, Why I Had to Challenge Amnesty International-USA’s Claim That NATO’s Presence Benefits Afghan Women. http://www.alternet.org/story/156303/why_i_had_to_challenge_amnesty_international-usa’s_claim_that_nato’s_presence_benefits_afghan_women.


According to the BIS’ latest Quarterly Review financial markets are starting to behave in some of the ways they behaved before the crash. In particular, investors seem to be chasing riskier and riskier assets, despite the fact that the economic prospects are hardly all that great.

Here is the key passage from the BIS report: “Some asset prices started to appear highly valued in historical terms relative to indicators of their riskiness. For example, global high-yield corporate bond spreads fell to levels comparable to those of late 2007, but with the default rate on these bonds running at around 3%, whereas it was closer to 1% in late 2007. (Sky News

 

bisgraph 1 522x293 World’s Most Prestigious Financial Agency – Called the “Central Banks’ Central Bank” – Warns of Bursting Bubble

Bond yields and economic growth forecasts

 

“The same was true of investment grade corporate bond spreads, but with respective default rates of a little over 1% and around 0.5%. Indeed, numerous bond investors said that they felt less well compensated for risk than in the past, but that they had little alternative with rates on many bank deposits close to zero and the supply of other low-risk investments in decline.”

Bond yields usually move in line with the wider economy’s growth prospects, but clearly these two lines have started to diverge in recent months. There is something going on.

Sky argues:

At least part of the likely explanation – and this is my interpretation rather than the BIS’ – is that the flood of money being set loose by central banks, including the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve, through quantitative easing is pumping asset prices higher.

This is true.  Before the 2008 crash, BIS warned of an imminent crash, explaining that central bank policy was blowing unsustainable bubbles which would soon burst.

And BIS recently explained that it is necessary to write down the debt to the amount that can be paid – and to undertake structural reforms to prevent the Bubble Economy from recurring.

The Federal Reserve is largely responsible for destroying the economy. Indeed, many current and former high-level Fed officials and other top economic officials have slammed the Fed as well … and the Fed is thoroughly corrupt.

Israel is conducting a covert cross-border operation directed against Syria in liaison with NATO and the Pentagon.

After looking for a “smoking gun” in Iran earlier this year, Israeli special forces are now “tracking” Syria’s “stocks of chemical and biological weapons”, according to The Sunday Times.

“The cross-border operation is part of a secret war to trail Syria’s non-conventional armaments and sabotage their development. ‘For years we’ve known the exact location of Syria’s chemical and biological munitions,’ an Israeli source said, referring to the country’s spy satellites and drones. ‘But in the past week we’ve got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations.’” (Uzi Mahnaimi and Lucy Fisher Israel tracks Syria’s chemical arsenal, The Sunday Times 9 December 2012.)

Everyone recalls the WMD hype prior to launching the war on Iraq. It turned out that the Iraqi WMD threat was an outright fabrication.

Those involved in the Iraq WMD propaganda ploy are now applying their skills with a view to fabricating a WMD pretext to intervene in Syria. According to a report from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, “Israelis ‘misread’ the Iraqi threat”. In 2003, the BBC wrote on the report’s findings:

Israeli intelligence miscalculated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein […] This contributed to the “false” picture painted by US and British services […]

“Israeli intelligence was a full partner with the US and Britain in developing a false picture of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction capability,” said the author of the report, retired Brigadier General Shlomo Brom.

“It badly overestimated the Iraqi threat to Israel and reinforced the American and British belief that the weapons existed.”

“From now on, when we present serious data on other countries, like Iran for example, who will treat us seriously?” Israel Radio quoted Israeli left-wing parliamentarian Yossi Sarid as saying. (Israelis ‘misread’ Iraqi threat, BBC,December 5, 2003)

In late March 2012 The Sunday Times reported that “Israel is using a permanent base in Iraqi Kurdistan to launch cross-border intelligence missions in an attempt to find ‘smoking gun’ evidence that Iran is building a nuclear warhead.” (Israeli spies scour Iran in nuclear hunt, The Sunday Times,March 25, 2012)

There is no evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons, even US intelligence agencies agree on that. Global Research ran a story on the Israeli covert op, potentially fabricating WMD evidence in relation to Iran. What is now unfolding in relation to Syria’s  alleged WMD is a rerun of previous attempts to funnel fabricated evidence into the news chain:

Western sources told the Times Israel was monitoring “radioactivity and magnitude of explosives tests” and that “special forces used Black Hawk helicopters to carry commandos disguised as members of the Iranian military and using Iranian military vehicles”. The sources believe “Iranians are trying to hide evidence of warhead tests in preparation for a possible IAEA visit”. (Cited in Report: Israeli soldiers scour Iran for nukes, Ynet, March 25, 2012)

The number of Israeli intelligence missions focussing on the Parchin military base in Iran has increased in the past few months, according to the article. During that period, Tehran has been negotiating with the IAEA which had requested to visit Parchin. According to Iran’s permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, both parties had agreed in early February that the visit would take place in March. (Gareth Porter, Details of Talks with IAEA Belie Charge Iran Refused Cooperation, IPS,March 21, 2012)

The IAEA requested to visit Parchin in late January and late February, after having agreed to a visit in March. The IAEA thus requested to visit the military complex exactly at the same time Israel was intensifying its secret operations to allegedly search for a “smoking gun”. (Julie Lévesque, Fabricating a “Smoking Gun” to Attack Iran? Israeli Spies Disguised as Iranian Soldiers on Mission Inside Iran Global Research,March 27, 2012)

Israel’s covert operation in Syria is part of a longstanding intelligence agenda directed against the Damascus government.  According to intelNews:

[…]Israel’s covert activities against the Syrian government’s chemical and biological arsenal go back almost 30 years. Reputedly, some of the more recent such activities may have involved the targeting of Russian scientists.

Although Russia routinely denies it, it is believed that Syria’s non-conventional arsenal was significantly augmented in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the help of Russian retired general Anatoliy Kuntsevich [...]

Interestingly, Kuntsevich died suddenly in 2003 onboard a flight from the Syrian capital to Moscow. It was widely speculated at the time that the Mossad, Israel’s covert-action agency, may have played a role in the Russian general’s sudden death. In 2010, another retired Russian general, Yuri Ivanov, who had served as Deputy Director of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, died in unclear circumstances […]

According to reports in the Israeli press, the former GRU official was on his way to a meeting with Syrian intelligence officers when he went missing. Israel has never acknowledged having played a part in Ivanon’s death, but many suspect that Tel Aviv had been targeting the two Russians for quite some time. (Joseph Fitsanakis Israel special forces conducting cross-border operations in Syria, intelNews.org, December 10, 2012.)

This interpretation of events is plausible since targeted assassinations of foreign scientists by Israeli secret services have been acknowledged in the past:

The reduction [of Israel’s covert operations in Iran] runs across a wide spectrum of operations, cutting back not only alleged high-profile missions such as assassinations and detonations at Iranian missile bases, but also efforts to gather firsthand on-the-ground intelligence and recruit spies inside the Iranian program, according to the officials. (Karl Vick, Mossad Cutting Back on Covert Operations Inside Iran, Officials Say, TIME, March 30, 2012, quoted in Julie Lévesque, “Running Short of New Targets: Israel’s Secret Service is “Cutting Back on Assassinations” in Iran, Global Research, April 17, 2012.)

While Israel’s secret operation in Syria could conceivably also target Russian scientists, it should be understood that its ultimate objective is to reinforce the intense propaganda campaign pertaining to Syria’s chemical arsenal. This leak in The Sunday Times could be part of the ongoing psychological operation against Syria, with a view to building a pretext for waging a preemptive war on Syria.

Since the beginning of the armed insurrection in March 2011, the US  and its allies alongside the Western mainstream media have been blaming the Syrian government for committing atrocities directed against civilians, including the Houla massacre. According to independent media reports as well as the testimony of witnesses on the ground, these atrocities were committed  by the  US-NATO sponsored opposition forces.

The Syrian government has been demonized to such an extent by the mainstream media that if an attack were to occur, public opinion could easily be led to believe, without evidence, that the Syrian government is responsible for crimes against its own people.

This is a perfect context for a false flag operation or intensive propaganda involving chemical weapons. These allegations based on fake WMD evidence directed against the Syrian government could be used once again to pressure the UN Security Council to give NATO a “legal mandate” to intervene in Syria under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine.

CNN recently reported that the US and “some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria.” The Syrian government expressed its concerns in a letter to the UN:

What raises concerns about this news circulated by the media is our serious fear that some of the countries backing terrorism and terrorists might provide the armed terrorist groups with chemical weapons and claim that it was the Syrian government that used the weapons [...] (Quoted in John Glaser, US Defense Contractors Training Syrian Rebels to Handle Chemical Weapons, Antiwar.com, December 10, 2012.)

The Normalization of Treason

December 11th, 2012 by David Swanson

How did right-wing politics in the United States survive the 1960s and 1970s and thrive beyond?  Not only did the wealthy invest in the corruption of politics, but the politicians invested in the normalization of treason.

When presidential candidate Richard Nixon sabotaged the peace process in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson privately called it treason and publicly kept his mouth shut.

By the time Bush the Elder, also involved in that earlier treason, worked with Robert Gates and William Casey to sabotage President Carter’s efforts to free hostages in Iran, the normalization was well underway.

The corruption of Watergate involved not only no-holds-barred political thievery, but also Nixon’s fear that Daniel Ellsberg or the Brookings Institution or someone else had possession of a file detailing Nixon’s successful 1968 efforts to prevent the war on Vietnam from ending.

The Iran-Contra scandal that grew out of the U.S.-Israeli-Iranian plot to replace Carter with Reagan, and the Iraq-gate scandal that followed, witnessed a last fling of half-hearted pushback in Congress and the corporate media.  Today such non-sexual scandals no longer end in -gate.  In fact, they are no longer scandals.

Piling George W. Bush’s blatantly stolen elections onto the history of recent U.S. politics calls into question the ability of Republicans to get elected to national office without cheating.  But the normalization of treason has been very much a bi-partisan affair.

Robert Parry, who runs the invaluable website ConsortiumNews.com, has a new book out called “America’s Stolen Narrative.”  My recommendation is to immediately read this book from Chapter 2 through to the end.  The introduction and chapter 1 depict President Barack Obama as having nothing but the best intentions, glorify the American Revolution, argue in favor of a strong federal government, and defend the practice of requiring people to purchase private health insurance (a Republican idea in its origins, of course, although Parry has adopted it as Democratic and good).  Also, Chapter 3 takes a detour into arguing unpersuasively for lesser-evilism.  If you’re into that sort of thing, knock yourselves out.  But in my view such discussions muddle and belittle the significance of the rest of this tremendously important book.

The “stolen narratives” referred to in the title are the accurate accounts that Parry presents of the treasonous acts I’ve mentioned above.  Parry is an investigative journalist who has unearthed powerful evidence of the crimes of Nixon, Reagan, and others.  Parry not only details the evidence but recounts the processes of coverup and distortion that the U.S. media has made its second nature.  The result of this history is, I’m afraid, far worse than Parry’s opening pages let on.  Not only do Americans imagine that their politicians mean well when they do not, particularly in the area of foreign policy, but the United States has fundamentally accepted unlimited presidential powers.  Nixon’s crimes during his famous coverup, and the far worse underlying crimes as well, have now been legalized and accepted.  Presidents do not answer to Congress or the public or the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.  To a great extent, the people of our country have accepted temporary despots, and to a great extent our people falsely believe themselves powerless to act.  They imagine the left did something wrong through acting.  This is part of how history must be explained when leaving out the fact that the right has been cheating.

Parry’s account of Nixon’s undoing of peace in Vietnam, allowing for another four years of slaughter in Southeast Asia, is the best I’ve seen and alone worth the purchase of “America’s Stolen Narrative.”  Parry imagines what it might have meant, not only for peace in the world, but also for social justice and the “war on poverty” in the United States had Hubert Humphrey defeated Nixon.  To the extent that Nixon’s successful electoral sabotage in 1968 opened the door to dirtier politics ever since, the damage can be multiplied.

Needless to say, that door was always somewhat opened.  The Business Plot of 1933 was hardly less treasonous than anything Nixon did.  Nixon’s go-between with the Vietnamese in 1968 was the widow of Claire Lee Chennault who had worked to provide China with U.S. planes, pilots, and training, to plan the firebombing of Japan and provoke Japan into the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Our false narratives still require the acceptance or glorification of all things related to World War II, but in fact one can see a bit of the husband in the widow Chennault.  And then there’s the assassination of President Kennedy, which evidence suggests George H.W. Bush played a role in as in most of Parry’s post-1960′s narrative.

But Parry’s case that we turned a corner toward a nastier political world with the Nixon presidency is a strong one.

The account of the Carter-Reagan October Surprise is also the best I’ve seen, in terms of the evidence presented and the background provided, including on the central role of the Israeli government.  The same gang that hung President Carter out to dry for failing to free the hostages had earlier pressured him to bring the Shah of Iran to the United States, thereby provoking the fears of Iranians and the seizure of the U.S. Embassy.  The weapons shipments to Iran later grew into the Iran-Contra scandal, but common understanding of that scandal fails to trace it to its roots in the treasonous bargain that kept the hostages prisoners until the day of Reagan’s inauguration.

Parry devotes whole chapters to the history of corrupt manipulation by a couple of the dirtiest individuals in Washington: Colin Powell and Robert Gates.  These two manage their heights of corruption and influence, in part, through their cross-partisanship.  Democrats in Parry’s worldview seem to be largely battered wives failing to push back, failing to speak out, refusing to investigate or prosecute or impeach. True enough, as far as it goes.  But I think there is a great measure of complicity and outright expansion of bipartisan abuses that must be credited to the Democrats as well.  An accurate understanding of exactly how evil some of our Republicans have been need not turn us into cheerleaders for the party of the current president, his record classifications, his groundbreaking secrecy claims, his record whistleblower prosecutions, his record levels of warrantless spying, his imprisonments without trial, his wars without Congress, his war-making CIA, or his “kill list” murder program.  Instead, an accurate understanding of how evil some of our politicians have been should move us to become, like Robert Parry, dogged pursuers of the facts that those in power seek to bury or beautify.

The US and some of its European allies “are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria,” according to “a senior US official and several senior diplomats,” CNN reports.

The US-funded training is going on inside Syria, as well as in neighboring Turkey and Jordan and “involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials,” according to CNN.

Last week, Washington began warning about the possibility that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might use his chemical weapons stockpiles against the armed rebellion trying to overthrow his regime.

But top Syrian officials vehemently denied this would ever happen, and it appeared obvious that US officials were less concerned with Assad’s unleashing the chemical weapons, and more concerned with the possibility that Islamic jihadists fighting on behalf of the Syrian opposition might get their hands on them.

Islamic extremists make up the great bulk of Syria’s rebel fighters, and this is widely acknowledged by official Washington. Indeed, the State Department recently designated Jabhat al-Nusra, one of the most prominent Syrian rebel factions, as a Global Terrorist organization.

The US decision to hire unaccountable defense contractors to train Syrian rebels to handle stockpiles of chemical weapons seems dangerously irresponsible in the extreme, especially considering how inept Washington has so far been at making sure only trustworthy, secular rebels – to the extent they exist – receive their aid and the weapons that allies in the Gulf Arab states have been providing.

It also feeds accusations that the Syrian Foreign Ministry recently made that the US is working to frame the Syrian regime as having used or prepared for chemical warfare.

“The U.S. administration has consistently worked over the past year to launch a campaign of allegations on the possibility that Syria could use chemical weapons during the current crisis,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry wrote in letters to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“What raises concerns about this news circulated by the media is our serious fear that some of the countries backing terrorism and terrorists might provide the armed terrorist groups with chemical weapons and claim that it was the Syrian government that used the weapons,” the letters said.

Somewhere between being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the consolidating farce of the presentation in Oslo yesterday, recipients were plotting another freedom and democracy bringing “humanitarian intervention”, illegal regime change and the destruction of a country in order to save it.

Remember Libya was “not going to be another Iraq” disaster, “lessons have been learned”? Libya’s ruined towns and social structure of course, chillingly resemble Iraq. Now, it is Syria’s turn, but Syria will “not be another Libya”, yes mistakes were made, but lessons have yet again been learned.

Today’s (London) Independent cover story reports the: “plan for (the) international coalition to provide air and naval support, plus military training for the opposition”, commenting that :“Western intervention is now deemed necessary as civil war has reached ‘tipping point’ “ and of course: “Britain, France and US agree ‘no boots on the ground.’ “

This is the outcome of a secret meeting in London recently, hosted by Sir David Richards, who heads Britain’s armed forces. Participants in the scheming were: “the military chiefs of France, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and” (surprise) “a three star American General.” The paper records: “Strategy was discussed at length”, with other UK government Ministries “and their counterparts in allied states” also holding meetings – read plotting another overthrow  of massive illegality, of a sovereign leader and government.

“L’Angleterre, ah, la perfide Angleterre …” is an expression regarding Britain believed to go back as far as the 13th century relating to acts of “duplicity, treachery and infidelity” in relations with other nation states, states Wiki neatly.

Prime Minister Cameron is determined to involve Britain in more bloodshed, having learned nothing from his disastrous involvement in Libya – sorry, he is: “ … determined that more should be done by Britain to bring an end to the strife …” That would be a first, and of course Foreign Secretary Hague  (“I have been a Conservative Friend of Israel since I was sixteen”) has long been stating that Britain must arm the insurgents and pledging considerable sums to do so.

Seemingly it was blithely decided at the meeting that since “boots on the ground” ie., another illegal invasion is to be excluded (we’ll see) “training camps can be set up in Turkey” for the terrorists.

The use of air power and maritime forces, it was thought would be likely to lead to “charges that, as in Libya, the West is carrying out regime change by force.” Quite.

“Mission creep” is already writ large.

Further, a “senior Whitehall official” is quoted as saying: “If this is worth doing , then it is worth doing professionally; training the Free Syrian Army and providing them with air and maritime support.”

The conclusion is that another murderous intervention is: “now inevitable.” French military advisers have apparently met insurgent groups in Lebanon and: “The US is said to have stockpiled weapons retrieved in Libya for future supply” to the insurgents.

The action, as Iraq, is planned to go ahead without UN authorization, since that would in near certainty be blocked by China and Russia on the Security Council.

One multi-million dollar question remains, will Russia and China sit quietly on the sidelines and allow another bloodbath and overthrow, having been so comprehensively duped over Libya?

Oh, and will there be another hapless Ambassador Christopher Stevens type, landing with a contingency of US-armed thugs, from a cargo ship laden with weapons and equipment, or have America’s “diplomats” been overcome with a derring-do deficit after the terrible events of Benghazi on 11th September?

 

The Political Economy of the Spanish Bank Bailout

December 11th, 2012 by Nick Beams

The decision last week by euro zone finance ministers to provide €39.5 billion for a Spanish bank bailout is a trial run for a much more extensive operation that will have at its centre further attacks on the social position of the working class.

Under the agreement, €37 billion will be provided to four major banks already receiving support from the Spanish government, with €2.5 billion deposited in a so-called “bad bank” intended to cover losses resulting from the collapse of the Spanish real estate market.

The measures are to be accompanied by job-slashing at the banks concerned and increased pressure on the Spanish government to intensify its austerity program, which has already cut €150 billion from social services. However, the bailout falls well short of what is needed to cover Spanish debt.

Last June, it was estimated that Spanish banks would need at least €100 billion, and the €2.5 billion set aside to cover the collapse in the property market is a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated €60 billion losses incurred. These initial measures are widely regarded as a prelude to a full-scale operation to bail out the Spanish state and institute the kind of financial dictatorship now in place in Greece.

The latest intervention has nothing to do with promoting economic recovery. Such threadbare claims are merely intended for public consumption. The austerity measures demanded by the euro zone financial authorities will only deepen the recession in Spain, where unemployment is already at 25 percent overall and 50 percent and more for youth.

The purpose of the bailout is to prop up the financial elite and impose the full cost on working people in the form of massive cuts in social programs and working class living standards. Workers are being driven into poverty in order to provide the resources to cover the losses incurred by the banks and finance houses from speculation in real estate and property markets.

In recent weeks, all of the major central banks have stepped up their policies of monetary stimulus to pump virtually unlimited amounts of cheap credit into the financial system. They have been driven by the mounting signs of global economic slump and the resulting weakening of the position of the major international banks. Last week’s Spanish bank bailout is part of a broader European-wide and international policy.

The expansion of bailouts for the banks goes hand in hand with an intensification of attacks on the working class and the spread of these attacks across Europe.

This policy is underpinned not simply by economic considerations, but, even more so, by political ones. Basing itself on its success, thus far, in imposing Depression-era conditions on Greek workers, finance capital feels emboldened to extend its social counterrevolution to Spain, Italy, the rest of Europe and beyond.

But its ability to impose historic attacks in Greece, despite bitter and dogged resistance by the working class, has been dependent on the services of pseudo-left organisations, led by SYRIZA, in channelling that resistance behind the trade unions and opposing the development of a revolutionary movement aimed at the conquest of political power and overthrow of the Spanish capitalist state.

SYRIZA plays a thoroughly duplicitous role. On the one hand it wins popular support by claiming to oppose the cuts, while insisting on the other that Greece remain within the European Union, which is dictating them. Based on privileged sections of the middle classes and implacably opposed to a revolutionary struggle by the working class, SYRIZA views the economic crisis as a means of integrating itself more fully into the state by offering its services to finance capital.

The European governments and ruling classes must now rely more than ever on the various pseudo-left groups—SYRIZA in Greece, the Left Party in Germany, the New Anti-capitalist Party in France, the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, the Stalinist-dominated Izquierda Unida (United Left) in Spain—to undermine and dissipate working class opposition. For their part, all of these organisations signal their eagerness to play their assigned role by hailing SYRIZA as the model to be emulated by the European and international “left.”

At the same time, preparations are stepped up for state repression on a massive scale. The Spanish government is increasing its spending on police and security forces, including a 1,780 percent increase in expenditure on riot personnel and equipment over the next two years.

In Spain, the stakes are even higher than in Greece. This is because the German banks are heavily involved in the Spanish financial crisis. According to the Bank for International Settlements, German lenders have an exposure of $139.9 billion to Spain, the highest in Europe, of which almost $46 billion is to Spanish banks. This is one of the reasons the German government has been opposed to any write-down of Greek debt, fearing it could set a precedent that would extend to Spain.

Last June, when a €100 billion bailout for the Spanish banks was first mooted, a Reuters report noted that it was “effectively a back-door bailout for reckless German lending,” adding that “if lenders in Spain were allowed to default, the consequences for the German banking system could be very serious.”

More than 150 years ago, Karl Marx made the telling point that the stability of the credit and financial system was dependent on the course of the class struggle. To the extent that the bourgeoisie was confident that the “wolves of finance” could continue to devour the resources of the state, then the credit system would continue to function.

But that confidence would collapse under conditions of a revolutionary upsurge by the working class and a crisis would result. These remarks point to a major feature of the political economy of the euro zone debt crisis.

Finance capital, as Greece, and now Spain, demonstrate, is increasingly dependent on the organisations of the pseudo-left, together with the trade union apparatuses, to prevent such a development taking place.

Climate Change, Economic Crisis and the Violence of War

December 11th, 2012 by William Blum

The hurricanes, the typhoons, the heat waves … the droughts, the heavy rains, the floods … ever more powerful, ever new records being set.

Something must be done of course. Except if you don’t believe at all that it’s man-made. But if there’s even a small chance that the greenhouse effect is driving the changes, is it not plain that, at a minimum, we have to err on the side of caution? There’s too much at stake. Like civilization as we know it. Carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere must be greatly curtailed.

Why does Barack Obama not pursue the battle against climate change with the same intensity he pursues war? Why does he not seek to punish the American bankers and stockbrokers responsible for the financial calamity as much as he seeks to punish Julian Assange and Bradley Manning?

In both cases he’s putting the interests of the corporate world before anything else. No amount of fines or penalties will induce corporate leaders to modify their behavior. Only spending some hard time in a prison cellblock might cause the growth in them of their missing part, the part that’s shaped like a social conscience.

Only prosecuting George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their partners in bombing and torture will discourage future American war lovers from following in their bloody footsteps.

The recent election result can only embolden Obama. He likely took it as an affirmation of his policies, although only 29.3% of those eligible to vote actually voted for him. And an unknown, but certainly significant, number of those who did so held their nose while voting for the supposed lesser of two evils. Hardly indicative of impassioned support for his policies.

Last week the United Nations Climate Summit was held in Doha, Qatar. The comments which came from many of the activists (as opposed to various government officials) were doomsdayish … “Time is running out … time has already run out … the climate has already changed … Hurricane Sandy, rising sea levels, the worst is yet to come.” The Kyoto protocol is still the only international treaty stipulating cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a touchstone for many environmentalists. But the United States has never ratified it. At the previous conferences in Copenhagen and Durban, the US blocked important global action and failed to honor vital pledges.

At the Doha conference the US was acutely criticized for failing to take the lead on planet protection, especially in light of its standing as the largest historic contributor to the current levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. (“The most obdurate bully in the room”, declared the Indian environmentalist, Sunita Narain. 2)

What motivates the American representatives, now as before, as ever, is concern about corporate profits. Cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions can hurt the bottom line. A suitable epitaph for the earth’s tombstone. Shamus Cooke, writing on ZSpace, sums it up well: “Thus, if renewable energy is not as profitable as oil — and it isn’t — then the majority of capitalist investing will continue to go towards destroying the planet. It really is that simple. Even the best-intentioned capitalists do not throw their money away on non-growth investments.”

A brief history of Superpowers

From the Congress of Vienna of 1815 to the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to the “Allies” invasion of Russia in 1918 to the formation of what became the European Union in the 1950s, the great powers of Europe and the world have gotten together in grand meeting halls and on the field of battle to set the ground rules for imperialist exploitation of Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Australasia, to Christianize and ‘civilize’, to remake the maps, and to suppress revolutions and other threats to great-power hegemony. They have been deadly serious. In 1918, for example, some 13 nations, including France, Great Britain, Rumania, Italy, Serbia, Greece, Japan, and the United States, combined in a military invasion of Russia to “strangle at its birth” the nascent Bolshevik state, as Winston Churchill so charmingly put it.

And following World War 2, without any concern about who had fought and died to win that war, the Western powers, sans the Soviet Union, moved to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO, along with the European Union, then joined the United States in carrying out the Cold War and preventing the Communists and their allies from coming to power legally through elections in France and Italy. That partnership continued after the formal end of the Cold War. The United States, the European Union, and NATO are each superpowers, with extensive military, as well as foreign policy integration — almost all EU members are also members of NATO; almost all NATO members in Europe are in the EU; almost all NATO members have had a military contingent serving under NATO and/or the US in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and elsewhere.

Together, this Holy Triumvirate has torn apart Yugoslavia, invaded and devastated Afghanistan and Iraq, crippled Iran, Cuba and others with sanctions, overthrown the Libyan government, and are on the verge now of the same in Syria. Much of what the Triumvirate has told the world to justify this wanton havoc has concerned Islamic terrorism, but it should be noted that prior to the interventions in Iraq, Libya and Syria all three countries were secular and modern. Will the people of those sad lands ever see that life again?

In suppressing the left in France and Italy, and later in destabilizing the governments of Libya and Syria, the Holy Triumvirate has closely aligned itself with terrorists and terrorist methods to a remarkable extent. 3 In Syria alone, it would be difficult to name any Middle East terrorist group associated with al Qaeda — employing their standard car bombings and suicide bombers — that is not taking part in the war against President Assad with the support of the Triumvirate. Is there anything — legally or morally — the Triumvirate regards as outside its purview? Any place not within its geographical mandate? Britain and France have now joined Turkey and Arabian Peninsula states in recognizing a newly formed opposition bloc as the sole representative of the Syrian people. “From the point of view of international law, this is absolutely unacceptable,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared. “A desire to change the political regime of another state by recognizing a political force as the sole carrier of sovereignty seems to me to be not completely civilised.” France was the first Western state to recognize the newly-formed Syrian National Coalition and was swiftly joined by Britain, Italy and the European Union. 4 The neck irons tighten.

The European Union in recent years has been facing a financial crisis, where its overriding concern has been to save the banks, not its citizens, inspiring calls from the citizenry of some member states to leave the Union. I think the dissolution of the European Union would benefit world peace by depriving the US/NATO mob of a guaranteed partner in crime by returning to the Union’s members their individual discretion in foreign policy.

And then we can turn to getting rid of NATO, an organization that not only has a questionable raison d’être in the present, but never had any good reason-to-be in the past other than serving as Washington’s hit man. 5

The United Nations vote on the Cuba embargo — 21 years in a row

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

 

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

*     *     *

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

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

Placing American presidents in their proper context

“Once upon a time there was a radical president who tried to remake American society through government action. In his first term he created a vast network of federal grants to state and local governments for social programs that cost billions. He set up an imposing agency to regulate air and water emissions, and another to regulate workers’ health and safety. Had Congress not stood in his way he would have gone much further. He tried to establish a guaranteed minimum income for all working families and, to top it off, proposed a national health plan that would have provided government insurance for low-income families, required employers to cover all their workers and set standards for private insurance. Thankfully for the country, his second term was cut short and his collectivist dreams were never realize.
His name was Richard Nixon.” 7

Films on US foreign policy

The Power Principle is a series of three films by Scott Noble. Part one, “Empire”, is the only one I’ve seen completely so far and I can say that it’s great stuff. The three parts, with their times, are:

Featured in the films are Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, John Stockwell, Christopher Simpson, Ralph McGehee, Philip Agee, Nafeez Ahmed, John Perkins, James Petras, John Stauber, Russ Baker, Howard Zinn, William Blum, Nancy Snow, William I. Robinson, Morris Berman, Peter Phillips, Michael Albert, and others of the usual suspects.

To comment about these films or others by Scott Noble, write to him at [email protected].

Much more publicized is the new film and book by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. Entitled The Untold History of the United States, it is a 10-part series appearing on Showtime. Only Stone’s name could get this dark side of US history and foreign policy on mainstream television. It will be interesting to observe what the mass media has to say about this challenge to some of America’s most cherished beliefs about itself.

Notes

  1. Jeanette Winterson, The New York Times, September 17, 2009
  2. Democracy Now!, December 7, 2012
  3. For France and Italy, see Operation Gladio Wikipedia; and Daniele Ganser, Operation Gladio: NATO’s Top Secret Stay-Behind Armies and Terrorism in Western Europe (2005)
  4. Agence France Presse, November 26, 2012
  5. For the best coverage of the NATO monolith, sign up with StopNATO. To get on the mailing list write to Rick Rozoff at [email protected]. To see back issues at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato
  6. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba (1991), p.885
  7. From the review of the book: I am the change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism by Charles Kesler. Review by Mark Lilla, The New York Times Book Review, September 30, 2012, p.1

William Blum is the author of:

  • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
  • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
  • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
  • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

Previous Anti-Empire Reports can be read at this website.

 

L’F-35 spareggia il bilancio

December 11th, 2012 by Manlio Dinucci

Una schiacciante maggioranza bipartisan (salvo l’Idv), modificando l’art. 81 della Costituzione, ha fatto dell’Italia una repubblica fondata sul pareggio di bilancio, in cui la sovranità appartiene al mercato. Lo Stato, recita il nuovo testo, assicura l’equilibrio tra le entrate e le spese del proprio bilancio, tenendo conto delle fasi del ciclo economico. C’è però un problema: come si fa ad assicurare l’equilibrio se si decide una spesa senza sapere a quanto ammonta? La domanda va girata agli onorevoli che hanno approvato la modifica della Costituzione, perché sono gli stessi che hanno approvato l’acquisto dei caccia statunitensi F-35. Senza sapere quanto sarebbero venuti a costare. Hanno prima creduto (o fatto finta di credere) agli imbonitori della Lockheed che parlavano di 65 milioni di dollari per aereo. Ma c’era il trucco: era il prezzo dell’aereo «nudo», senza neppure il motore. Hanno poi creduto (o fatto finta di credere), gli onorevoli, al ministro della difesa Di Paola, il maggiore sostenitore dell’F-35: in parlamento ha raccontato che ogni caccia costerà un’ottantina di milioni di dollari, ma ci si aspetta che la cifra sia sempre più bassa. E quando il governo Monti ha deciso di «ricalibrare» l’acquisto degli F-35 da 131 a 90, gli onorevoli hanno gioito per il risparmio così ottenuto. Anch’esso non quantificabile, restando nelle nuvole il costo reale del caccia. Qualche paese però (non certo l’Italia) si è mosso per fare luce sul mistero. In Canada una società di servizi professionali è stata incaricata di stimare i costi di una flotta di 65 F-35. Per l’acquisto è prevista una cifra di 9 miliardi di dollari (137 milioni ad aereo), cui si aggiunge una spesa operativa di oltre un miliardo di dollari annui. Particolare ignorato dai nostri onorevoli: i caccia vengono acquistati non per esporli come modellini, ma per farli volare. Sulla falsariga della stima fatta in Canada si può dedurre che, per mantenere operativi 90 F-35, si spenderà almeno un miliardo e mezzo di dollari annui. Altri miliardi si dovranno spendere per gli ammodernamenti e per sistemi d’arma sempre più sofisticati. Per non parlare di quanto costerà, in termini economici, impegnare gli F-35 in azioni belliche, tipo quella dell’anno scorso contro la Libia. Il velo di mistero comincia quindi a squarciarsi. Tanto che, in Italia, lo stesso Segretario generale della difesa ammette che il costo dei primi F-35 sarà più del doppio rispetto agli 80 milioni annunciati. Per di più l’Italia acquisterà, oltre a 60 caccia a decollo convenzionale, 30 a decollo corto e atterraggio verticale, molto più costosi. Nel bilancio 2013 del Pentagono si prevede un costo unitario di 137 milioni, ma si tratta sempre dell’aereo «nudo» che, una volta dotato di motore, avionica e armi, costerà almeno il doppio. Dati più precisi, ma non completi. Come ammette lo stesso segretario della difesa, in 11 anni il costo del programma F-35 è aumentato a una media giornaliera di 40 milioni di dollari. Restare nel programma significa quindi firmare un assegno in bianco, la cui cifra continuerà a lievitare. Non c’è però da preoccuparsi: il pareggio di bilancio, ormai nella Costituzione, sarà assicurato coprendo la spesa per gli F-35 con le entrate, derivanti da nuove tasse e altri tagli alla spesa pubblica.

In a move that signaled the importance placed on the NAFTA partnership, Mexico’s new president visited the U.S. and Canada before his inauguration. This was seen as a step forward in further strengthening political, economic, energy and security ties between all three countries. Other recent high-level meetings and policy papers are also shaping the future of North American integration.

 Before his recent trip to the U.S., Mexico’s new President Enrique Pena Nieto emphasized in a Washington Post editorial the opportunity both countries have to build on their economic partnership. He explained that, “in NAFTA we have a solid foundation to further integrate our economies through greater investments in finance, infrastructure, manufacturing and energy.” As part of his government’s strategy to reduce violence, he stated that it is, “important that our countries increase intelligence-sharing and crime-fighting techniques and promote cooperation among law enforcement agencies.” In a White House press release, Pena Nieto invited President Barack Obama to participate in the next North American Leaders Summit which will take place in Mexico sometime in 2013. With regards to U.S.-Mexico relations, Obama said that he was also looking forward to finding ways, “to strengthen our economic ties, our trade ties, our coordination along the border, improving our joint competitiveness, as well as common security issues.”

According to the new policy brief, A New Agenda with Mexico put out by the Woodrow Wilson Center, “declines in illegal immigration and organized crime violence in Mexico, open up an opportunity for U.S. policymakers to deepen the economic relationship.”The report recommended working, “together with Mexico and Canada to strengthen regional competitiveness and to grow North American exports to the world.” It further elaborated on how, “Economic issues can drive the next phase in deepening U.S.-Mexico cooperation. Investments in trusted shipper programs, pre-inspection programs, and enhanced border infrastructure will be crucial.” The study called on Washington to offer more, “support for Mexico’s criminal justice institutions, and strengthen U.S. anti-money laundering efforts in order to combat organized crime and violence.” It also recommended engaging, “Mexico more actively on hemispheric and extra-hemispheric foreign policy issues, ranging from terrorism to international trade and finance, as Mexico’s role as a global power grows.”

In a recent article, Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas Policy Program scrutinized some the new Mexican president’s policy initiatives. In the area of security, she pointed out that, “A real change in paradigm would require two measures that the Pena government has said it will not take: withdrawing the armed forces from counternarcotics efforts and renegotiating security cooperation with the U.S. government.” She noted, “Pena Nieto has reassured the U.S. that his administration will continue the drug war.” Carlsen acknowledged how, “The U.S. government has actively promoted and supported the drug war model of enforcement and interdiction through the Merida Initiative and spearheaded the massive expansion of U.S. counternarcotics activities in the country.” She further added, “U.S. defense, intelligence and security companies depend on the Mexican drug war to obtain multi-million dollar government contracts. The Pentagon and other U.S. agencies have achieved unprecedented freedom to act and even direct actions on Mexican soil.” As far as economic policy goes, Carlsen was also critical of President Pena Nieto’s commitment to deepen rather than fix NAFTA.

Just days before being sworn in as Mexico’s new president, Pena Nieto also visited Canada. In a press statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was looking forward to working with him in improving trade ties, as well as strengthening North American competitiveness and security. In an editorial that appeared in the Globe and Mail, Pena Nieto announced that, “One of the areas with the largest potential for co-operation between Mexico and Canada is energy production and development. Mexico’s energy sector is about to change. I want to enhance its potential by opening it up to national and foreign private investment.” He went on to say, “We can cultivate a closer relationship in this area in order to attain North American energy security.” Canada-U.S. energy issues are also at the forefront. Following his re-election, President Obama is under pressure to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed project would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas gulf coast.

In the report, Forging a New Strategic Partnership between Canada and Mexico, Perrin Beatty and Andres Rozental recognized the opportunity both countries have to reshape bilateral relations. Among other things, the policy paper recommended removing the visa requirement for Mexican visitors to Canada. It supported increasing funding to the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program which is aimed at enhancing the ability, “of government agencies, international organizations and non-governmental entities to prevent and respond to threats posed by transnational criminal activity throughout the Americas.” In addition, the study called for institutionalizing the North American Leaders Summit and establishing a complementary North American Business Council. It also advocated pursuing further economic cooperation with the U.S. on a pragmatic basis and suggested that, “Ongoing border and regulatory initiatives should be results-oriented and pursued in the most effective way possible, bilateral or trilateral, as the case may be. This policy recommendation can be extended to any North American issue, including continental security perimeter initiatives and anti-narcotics efforts.”

Last month’s NAFTA20 North America Summit examined NAFTA’s evolution, as well as its future prospects. Speaking at the conference, Thomas Donohue President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged Canadian, Mexican and U.S. leaders to move forward with, “the integration of our markets to further rationalize our supply chains, increase efficiency, and better position North America in the global economy.” He went on to say, “We need to advance regulatory cooperation, streamline our border, and reform immigration practices to ensure the free flow of products, people, capital, and ideas.” Donohue concluded that Canada and Mexico joining the U.S. and other countries as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement would help maximize the strength of the North American market. Meanwhile, there are growing concerns over the secrecy surrounding the TPP. This includes fears that it would grant corporations more power and further put the sovereignty of member nations at risk. It could also be used as a backdoor renegotiation of NAFTA without officially having to open it back up. With the 15th round of talks coming to a close in New Zealand, a final TPP deal could be reached before the end of 2013.

In October, Ottawa hosted the North American Forum. The annual get-together includes, “Canadian, Mexican and American thought leaders, whose purpose is to advance a shared vision of North America, and to contribute to improved relations among the three neighbors.” Much like other secretive gatherings, reporters were barred from entering the Forum’s events. This year’s discussions centered around energy and North American economic competitiveness. Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay also delivered a keynote address which focused on continental security issues. He highlighted the bilateral defence relations that the U.S. and Canada enjoy through NORAD. MacKay remarked on how, “Canada and Mexico are also becoming important strategic partners and stronger defence ties with Mexico are a priority.” He praised the first meeting of North American Defence Ministers as a, “great opportunity for our three nations to identify ways to work together to address shared defence and security challenges.” The trilateral defence meeting which took place in March is part of the process of integrating Mexico into NORAD and establishing a North American security perimeter.

While NAFTA partners pursue a trilateral approach with respect to different initiatives, the U.S. also has a separate bilateral border and regulatory agenda with Canada and Mexico. This is part of ongoing efforts to create a common economic and security perimeter. As the incremental path towards a North American Union continues, citizens from the U.S., Canada and Mexico are not being consulted, much less being given a choice in the matter even though the plan threatens the future sovereignty of each country.

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: [email protected]. Visit his blog at Be Your Own Leader

When Mainstream Economists Discover Karl Marx

December 11th, 2012 by Ann Robertson

In his recent New York Times op-ed piece, Princeton professor and regular columnist for The New York Times Paul Krugman observed:

“The American economy is still, by most measures, deeply depressed. But corporate profits are at record high. It’s simple: profits have surged as a share of national income, while wages and other labor compensation are down. The pie isn’t growing the way it should – but capital is doing fine by grabbing an ever-larger slice, at labor’s expense.”

And then he adds with almost shocked incredulity: “Wait – are we really back to talking about capital versus labor? Isn’t that an old-fashioned, almost Marxist sort of discussion, out of date in our modern information economy?”

This is exactly the conflict that Marx identified as the fundamental, inescapable contradiction of the capitalist system that would eventually create the conditions of its downfall: there is a tendency for the owners of businesses, the capitalists, to accumulate ever-vaster wealth while the people who work for them experience a declining standard of living.

Marx supported this conclusion by offering a description of the fundamental operating mechanism of capitalism. Capitalism is based on the principle of private ownership and competition.  Private businesses compete with one another for customers, and those who fail to attract a sufficient number eventually perish. But in order to attract customers, businesses must maximize the quality of their product while minimizing its price. If two products embody the same quality but one is cheaper, customers, in pursuit of their self-interest, will purchase the cheaper version, all other factors being equal.

This means that capitalists must constantly attempt to minimize the price of their product simply for the sake of their own survival. If a business devises a way to lower costs, it can capture the market. But, as Marx pointed out, labor costs are a huge factor in determining the price of a product. So those businesses that minimize labor costs can prevail in the dog-eat-dog world of capitalism. For this reason, a downward pressure on wages and benefits is always operating to one degree or another.

But Krugman made no reference to this aspect of Marx’s analysis and instead identified two other factors that contribute to the growing inequality in wealth between capitalists and workers, both of which are discussed by Marx.

The first factor involves the introduction of technology into the labor process, i.e. “labor-saving” technology. In other words, machines replace workers or reduce the amount of skill required in the labor process. To give a current example, software has been developed that analyzes legal documents at a fraction of the time it takes lawyers while costing much less.  Accordingly, many well-paid lawyers lose their jobs to such software. Living during the industrial age, Marx supplied many such examples.

Krugman referred to his second explanatory factor that increases inequality between capitalists and labor as the “monopoly power” of large corporations where “increasing business concentration could be an important factor in stagnating demand for labor, as corporations use their growing monopoly power to raise prices without passing the gains on to their employees.” Here Krugman is approaching the heart of Marxist theory.

Krugman is basically arguing that large corporations use their power to override purely economic trends and simply demand that their employees work for less. But this is precisely the point of Marxism, although from the other direction. Marx persistently argued that capitalism could not function without the willingness of the working class to perform the work. When workers organize and engage in collective action by withholding their labor, the balance of power shifts in favor of the workers who can then demand higher wages as a condition for their return to work, as the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) recently did on the West Coast and the teachers did in Chicago.

Amazingly, Krugman never mentions the decline of organized labor as a huge factor explaining the decline of the standard of living of working people, adding that there has been so little discussion of these developments. But others, especially former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, have discussed these trends and identified the decline of labor as a major factor.

In the 1930s when labor unions were tenaciously fighting for working people, huge gains were made in terms of salaries and benefits. They conducted militant sit-down strikes and mobilized tens of thousands of people from the community to support labor’s struggles. Their successes were to a large degree responsible for the emergence of the so-called middle class that thrived in the 1950s and 1960s.

Workers who are organized, acting both collectively and forcefully, can change the economic landscape. But once organized labor becomes complacent and relaxes its guard and ceases to struggle, the laws of capitalism ineluctably grind down their gains and the growing inequality returns until workers again rise up.

Marx argued that eventually workers would see the futility of this repeating cycle, reject capitalism altogether, and begin to construct a socialist society built on entirely humanistic and democratic principles.

In a recent New York Times article on unionizing workers at the bottom of the pay scale, a union organizer was quoted as saying, “We must go back to the strategies of nonviolent disruption of the 1930s.” Currently organized labor is all but dying out. Strikes are like an endangered species. Rather than engaging in militant struggles, union members are urged to elect Democrats who then call on workers to accept sacrifices.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has called on working people “to fight like hell” to resist cuts to Social Security and Medicare. But these are just words. To this date, the unions have failed to mobilize their members to stage massive demonstrations across the country against cuts to these popular social programs – demonstrations that could culminate in hundreds of thousands of working people descending on Washington, D.C. to make their demands clear to the Obama administration and the rest of the politicians. Without the unions taking the lead in this struggle, there is little individual workers will be able to accomplish. And if the unions refuse to return to their more militant roots but remain invisible, economists like Paul Krugman will continue to ignore their existence and overlook their current historic failure to defend working people.

Ann Robertson is a Lecturer at San Francisco State University and a member of the California Faculty Association. Bill Leumer is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 853 (ret.). Both are writers for Workers Action and may be reached at [email protected].

In many towns across America, Walmart, or a similar mega-retailer, is the only option you have when you need (almost) anything. Big-retail is a monopoly in its truest form and it has become so, not through “free market” economics, technological innovation, supply and demand, or healthy competition, but rather through a combination of pro-monopoly rules and regulations, human exploitation, outsourcing labor overseas, while preventing labor domestically from unionizing for better wages, job security, and benefits. 

The sub-par trinkets, poisoned food and beverages, and slave-made goods that line the corporate consumer troughs at Walmart are the result of a global network taking advantage of socioeconomic disparity, consumer ignorance, and deplorable labor conditions to bring the very lowest prices possible to consumers.

The consumers pushing their carts through the aisles of Walmart scarcely realize the conditions within which workers overseas toil to line those aisles. They may not realize that the polo shirts they are buying came from overcrowded, deplorable factories in Bangladesh, where a fire recently claimed the lives of 112 workers. The doors were locked, the fire extinguishers non-functional – conditions that would not be tolerated in an American factory.

These aren’t “always low prices” because Walmart has mastered supply and demand or production efficiency through innovation – these are “always low prices” because people the average Walmart customer has no idea even exist, are paying the rest of the price out of sight, out of mind.

Along every step of the Walmart’s supply chain, abuses, exploitation, deceit, and harm is being done to both labor and consumers. The only benefactors are the handful of shareholders and executives that run Walmart – who live a life entirely isolated from the paradigm their spanning monopoly has created. Below, an infographic depicts this supply chain – starting at overseas sweatshops, brought through domestic ports where workers struggle for job security, fair wages, and benefits, and end up on the shelves of Walmart, where likewise, labor must struggle to improve their lot.

 

Wal-Mart Infographic:


WalMart's Deadly Sweatshops US Port Protests Food Inc. (Documentary) OURWalmart (forrespect.org) LocalOrg Website

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Additionally, many of the foods lining Walmart’s shelves are genetically modified, many come from factory farms where crops and animals are overcrowded, laden with chemicals and medications, and end up as literally poison on your dinner table. The grocery aisles of Walmart are where big-agri converges with big-retail – again to the detriment of both labor and consumers.

It must also be remembered, that all of this exploitation and deceit takes place within a vast global supply chain that uses freighters, trains, planes, trucks, and automobiles to connect consumers with goods produced around the world – using huge quantities of energy to move goods, keep some within strict temperature requirements, and keep lights burning 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to allow consumers to come in and peruse the selection. Perishable goods that pass expiration are simply thrown out – packaging used to transport these goods around the world are likewise disposed of as waste. If not anything else, it is inefficient and wasteful.

Activism isn’t Enough: It is important to educate people as to the real cost of their “always low prices.” However, educating people alone is not a viable solution. The media industry is also an abusive, exploitative monopoly. The ills of this industry had their critics who ceaselessly promoted boycotts, but ultimately to no avail.

It wasn’t until a technologically derived alternative, peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, came along that people in large numbers began to undermine the media industry – to the tune of billions. People with no political opinion or awareness at all regarding the music industry, for example, simply wanted their music for cheaper (or free). Little argument was necessary to convince people of the merits of sharing digitally.

The media industry lashed out (and still is), with draconian exercises of its incestuous relationship with government – the supposed representatives of the people – with rules and regulations to reassert their monopolizing paradigm. However, like the British Empire losing its gripe on the increasingly self-sufficient, independent American colonies, the media industry is losing to this revolution.

The lashing out turned many otherwise apathetic people, simply enjoying cheaper/free media in the emerging digital paradigm, into activists, and better yet, producers of content, and patrons of open-content to completely escape the media industry’s reach. The result is an alternative, parallel digital media paradigm that is increasingly taking a larger piece of the market, while media monopolies shrink. The wealth to be made in media is being distributed over a larger community of producers and artists – not through wages or populist handouts, but through entrepreneurship and collaboration.

Similarly, we must look for such a solution versus all industry monopolies – including big-retail, where nearly all of these monopolies seem to converge.

A Local Alternative

It was innovative uses of new technology that eventually began the decentralizing of the media monopolies. It will be innovative uses of new technology that likewise begin the decentralizing of big-retail.

Imagine, a city block, or several blocks, all within walking distance, where you could obtain everything you needed, produced and made available locally. Imagine if everything was made either on demand, or made with an intimate understanding of the local community’s needs in small runs. Imagine if the quality was better, the price cheaper, the experience more satisfying, and with nearly everyone in the community being self-employed. This is a paradigm that is emerging – with options and lifestyles that will be so appealing, apolitical people simply seeking the path of least resistance will not need to be convinced to join in – just like with P2P, the benefits will be self-evident.

The answer to Walmart, a place where you can buy (almost) anything – is a place where you can make (almost) anything. Such a place was imagined by MIT Professor Neil Gershenfeld. Called a FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory), it serves as the setting for a course literally titled, MAS 863 How To Make (almost) Anything. In it is a collection of modern manufacturing machines – from computer controlled mills and laser cutters, to 3D scanners, electronics production equipment, and 3D printers – where students are taught interdisciplinary skills ranging from engineering and programming, to designing and art.

The machines found in the MIT FabLab are expensive, but many are not beyond the reach of aspiring, local entrepreneurs. Increasingly, many of these machines are becoming small enough and affordable enough to fit on the average person’s desktop.

Professor Gershenfeld’s class expanded into a global network of FabLabs focusing on education, local manufacturing, and turning the world’s population from consumerist “sinks” into productive “sources.” The concept of shedding our centralized consumerist paradigm for one of localized production has expanded beyond the growing FabLab network and made its way into the “maker community.”

Locally organized spaces where a similar collection of tools and interests converge to accomplish many of the same goals as MIT’s FabLab are called “hackerspaces” or “makerspaces.” These are not standardized, and each one is as unique as the community within which they spring up. Experimenting, education, research, and development take place at hackerspaces, and occasionally an entire business model may result. Community projects have also been undertaken by these emerging local institutions.

The “maker” mentality has also translated into the world of heavier industry – including car manufacturing. Crowd-sourced car manufacturing serves as the basis of America’s Local Motors, while local race car design, development, and manufacturing constitutes Thailand’s 999 Motorsport’s business model. The world of biology is also being transformed by this emerging paradigm – with local community “DIYbio” labs giving people a safe and secure place to study and develop local biotechnology.

Agriculture as well is being “re-localized” by community gardens around the world, both by necessity and as a political statement. Growing Power operates an urban agricultural operation, producing crops and fish, while helping others replicate their business model around the world. Other city dwellers are taking advantage of under utilized rooftops, planting gardens to produce fresh, organic vegetables. An emerging trend is for restaurants to grow at least some of their ingredients on their rooftops in a phenomenon known as “roof to table dining.” Food waste doesn’t go into the trash, but rather into the compost bin to be reused in the growing process.

Now imagine all of these ideas, along with localized education, communication infrastructure, farmers’ markets (and maybe maker’s markets or a combination of the two), locally sourced water (atmospheric water generators) and many other ideas all combined within the confines of a single block or village. You now have a living breathing, self-contained, semi-insulated localized version of everything Walmart offers, minus the sweatshops, cheap labor, wasteful global logistics networks, and all the instability that comes with a globally interdependent socioeconomic paradigm.

A Local Alternative Infographic:


Growing Power About Local Motors Intro to Genspace www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n-APFrlXDs" alt="Neil </p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Gershenfeld on FabLabs" target="_blank" />
Hackerspaces.org Farmers' Markets (Wikipedia) Roof to Table Dining Decentralizing Telecom Decentralizing Auto-Making AWG (Wikipedia) Vertical Garden, Singapore Hackerspace Directory DIYbio Directory Aquaculture - A How To Guide Localizing Education A Guide to Rooftop Gardening (.pdf) LocalOrg Homepage
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Decentralizing Department-by-Department: The answer to a global monopoly that sells (almost) anything – a local institution that makes (almost) anything. FabLab Amsterdam leverages manufacturing technology and decentralizes big-retail’s monopoly, department by department. It’s customized, it’s exactly the quality and configuration one desires, to fulfill exactly the needs required – in the localized-maker paradigm, you don’t settle for what Walmart sources from cheap, foreign labor, you make exactly what you want:
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Emerging local institutions aren’t just producing some of the more mundane, and traditional items we require or desire, but also some of the more complex and advanced items – some of which you can’t even pick up from big-retail. Hackerspaces, localized business models, and FabLabs have created electronics, 3D printers, furniture, cars, and even laboratory equipment, including an open-source (OS) centrifuge and an OS DNA replicator – the OpenPCR system:


Fab Lab Boombox FabLab Airedale Local Motors 999 Motorsports Gogofuge - Open Centrifuge Makerbot
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Food, Exactly as you Want it: Groceries – minus the additives, genetically modified poison, pesticides, herbicides, and medication laced throughout – is the result of localized agricultural business “Growing Power.” Leveraging modern technology and a combination of agricultural techniques, Growing Power has managed to take an urban setting and turn it into a cornucopia of food. It serves multiple purposes – feeding, educating, and employing the local community. It is but one of many possibilities that could be implemented in cities around the world:

LocalizedDepartments_3 

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Possible Pitfalls

Total potential wealth is not finite. It is dependent on both our ability to innovate new means of getting more from less, and making more accessible that previously was beyond our reach. This can be done by simply improving current processes, or by doing something as radical as moving off Earth to gather extraterrestrial resources, as Planetary Resources plans on doing.

Corporate monopolies seek to control this pie, both as it is, and as it continues to grow, while ensuring the vast majority of humanity has access to less and less. The consumerist paradigm leaves the means of production, logistics, and retail firmly in the hands of the monopolies, while everyone else is either a consumer or an employee.

Localizing, decentralizing, and undermining these monopolies is the real revolution of our time. The “Arab Spring” was manufactured to fulfill a human need to affect change in the face of adversity. The monopolies are trying to channel the backlash to increasing global disparity, by redirecting it into a geopolitical struggle, one that in fact only widens the very disparity people are increasingly becoming angry over.

Obviously big-retail is not going to simply allow people to decentralize and replace their vast monopoly. Big-business of all sorts have assembled a multi-pronged attack including passing legislation aimed at regulating out of business small start-ups with impossible-to-meet requirements they themselves have no intention of meeting. They are also attempting to simply make “illegal” any practice that threatens their antiquated business models, e.g. SOPA, ACTA, and the war on file sharing. They have also attempted to co-opt, buy-off, and partner with these emerging “proto-local institutions.” And for now, it may buy them time.

In the long run, Local Motors partnering with DARPA and other large corporations for competitions, or Growing Power accepting a $1 million dollar grant from Walmart, or any number of the many hackerspaces emerging around the world being co-opted or shut down by the system, will not stop localization. The reason these emerging institutions became known and wildly popular in the first place, is because they satisfy a desire people have. They present a viable model of future socioeconomics – one where the pie gets bigger, and so does our access to it. If these emerging institutions falter, others will take their place.

Image: When local goes back to central. Local Motors crowd-sourced the design of this vehicle for a DARPA “challenge.” The dangers of DARPA’s “crowd sourcing” are discussed at length in, “The DARPA Vacuum.”

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In the world of technology and innovation, it appears that revolutionary ideas aimed at challenging the system, if they become popular enough, eventually turn into the very thing they set out against. Apple and Microsoft both began as a reaction to established tech-giants. They have already completed the full circle to becoming tech-giants themselves. They are now part of the elite club keeping down or co-opting young innovators.

Likewise, we will see many of localization’s pioneers grow and then collapse into their own footprints – but not for long. As more people begin on this journey, and as disparity diminishes, the ability to become big enough to reach “corporate-critical mass” will likewise diminish. Walmart can shower a million dollars onto Growing Power, but not on operations like it emerging in every county of the United States.

This is not going to happen overnight. Just like P2P file sharing, the corporations will hemorrhage billions, and overtime diminish. The transition should be orderly, gradual, and allow the talent that inhabits the rank and file of the largest corporations on Earth the ability to “switch sides” and establish their own practices, firms, design houses, fabrication shops, and other enterprises locally. We will continue to build up our capacity, while we continue chipping away at big-business and its capacity. Eventually there will be a tipping point, one the monopolies will fight tooth and nail, with overt confrontation and subtle subversion to prevent from going over the edge of.

The maker, hacker, DIYbio, local growing movements will exist no matter what. Arming them with a complete picture of the true revolution they are a part in, ensures that no matter what the monopolies do, that tipping point is reached, and the monopolies soundly rolled over the edge.