One of the most divisive arguments within the environmental movement is population growth, whether by increasing births, or via immigration. 

But population figures conceal more than they reveal.  They seem to suggest that the cause of climate change is too many people, and that a growing population means growing greenhouse gas emissions.  Therefore, we should encourage people to have smaller families because it’s “a lot easier than retooling our economic system.” (1)   And further, that we must slow population growth where it’s greatest, e.g. the “Third” World, where population is “exploding.”
 
In Chapter Three of his “Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography,” David Harvey gets to the bottom of this argument by dissecting the three pillars on which it stands – subsistence, resources, and scarcity.
 
The argument first posits an absolute and unchanging subsistence level, the bare minimum people need to stay alive.  But this level has been defined differently over time, according to the society in which people were living.  The subsistence level in Europe’s Dark Ages was defined very differently from that in the European Union today.  And today’s subsistence level is defined very differently in Uganda than it is in the United States.
 
This argument further categorizes nature as a “supermarket” of resources available to be made useful to humans.  But this perception has also varied according to the level of historical, technological, and cultural development within particular societies.
 
The third absolute in this argument is scarcity, defined as intrinsic to nature.  But this, too, is rooted in views of particular societies and modes of production.  Societies seek particular goals/ends, and it’s these goals/ends and the means used to achieve them, as much as a lack of natural resources, that define, even manufacture, scarcity.
 
Much scarcity is, in fact, created by the activities humans choose to engage in, according to the way their societies have been organized.  The scarcity of available land in cities like New York and London is a result of human activity, not nature’s.  And if this scarcity were not manufactured, the rents in London and New York would not be so wildly lucrative.

 

In such a scenario, a “crisis of overpopulation” happens when the scarcity of available resources no longer meets the subsistence needs of most of the population.  In other words, there are too many people in the world to allow “us” to continue to live in the way in which we’ve organized our society, based on available natural resources that we could be using to continue to live the way we’ve been living – if only it weren’t for all those people making subsistence demands and potentially preventing us from living in the way to which we’ve become accustomed.  (Think “non-negotiable American way of life.”)
 
But there are things we could do to change this scenario and adapt, which has been the hallmark of our species across millions of years.  We could redefine our goals by changing the societal organization that creates scarcity.  We could change our view of nature as a resource supermarket with value only insofar as we can make use of it.  We could change the things to which we’ve become accustomed.  Or we could try to reduce the number of people with subsistence needs to be met.
 
All of these options would be explored in relation to each other if there were real concern with environmental issues. 
 
But it’s easiest by far to focus on population, especially other people’s population, and further, their overpopulation in view of the “scarcity” of resources we’ve created as a result of the way we’ve organized our society and how we go about implementing its goals. 
 

“Somebody, somewhere is redundant, and there is not enough to go round.  Am I redundant?  Of course not.  Are you redundant?  Of course not.  So who’s redundant?  Of course, it must be them.  And if there’s not enough to go round, then it is only right and proper that they, who contribute so little to society, ought to bear the brunt of the burden.”  “And if we hold that there are certain of us who, by virtue of our skills, abilities, and attainments, are capable of ‘conferring a signal benefit on mankind’ through our contributions to the common good and who, besides, are the purveyors of peace, freedom, culture, and civilization, then it would appear to be our bound duty to protect and preserve ourselves for the sake of all mankind.”(2)  (emphasis added)   

 
The population growth argument starts and ends with one idea – Earth with lots of people is bad, and Earth with more people is worse.  The argument goes that one person’s carbon footprint is X, two people’s, 2X, three people’s, 3X, and so on.  In this way we arrive at the conclusion that the effect of population on the environment is proportional to the number of people. 
 
The whole of a country’s emissions are represented as the sum of each person’s, or per capita, emissions.  This makes it look like total emissions are a function of the total amount of people in that country.  But unless you know before hand what the total emissions are, you cannot calculate per capita emissions.  Per capita emissions can only be determined when total emissions are already known, not the other way around.  Total emissions are not arrived at by adding up each individual’s contribution. 
 
Per capita is simply total emissions divided by total population.  The total remains the same whether every individual creates an equal amount of emissions, or one person generates them all.  It’s impossible to tell how much of the total each individual is responsible for when only the total is known.  Per capita reveals nothing about individual contributions.
 
In the US, each individual’s per capita share includes a share of the emissions created by commercial air travel, the extraction of coal, oil and natural gas, factory farms, the military, and the manufacture and use of pharmaceuticals and oil-based fertilizers and pesticides.  If one-third of the population of the US moved to Canada overnight, the per capita share of the remaining population would shoot up in the US and fall in Canada without any change in individual consumption or total emissions having occurred overnight in either country.  But US citizens would still be held responsible for the rise in per capita emissions which was created primarily by industry.    
 
So that per capita math magic, those numbers examined in a vacuum, tell us next to nothing, and need to be looked at in context.  Ian Angus did just that with his article, “Dissecting Those ‘Overpopulation’ Numbers.”  In “Part One: Population Where?” he worked with actual global population and emissions figures for 2006 – and shredded the “more people equal more pollution” argument with the facts.  
 
The population growth argument ignores what the total fertility rates in the G-20 countries, which describe themselves as “the systematically significant industrial and emerging-market economies,” and the total fertility rates in the world’s nineteen countries with the lowest levels of CO2 emissions illustrate. 
 
The total fertility rate is the average number of children each woman in a country will have in her lifetime.  The higher this number, the faster the population is growing.  A stable population, that is, one that’s neither growing nor declining, has a total fertility rate of about 2.3 children per woman. 
 
In the G-20 countries, which generate 90% of the world’s Gross National Product, this rate is as low as 1.21.  The G-20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US.  (The “twentieth” is the European Union.) 
 
In the world’s nineteen countries with the lowest CO2 emissions, however, the total fertility rate is as high as 7.75.  All of these countries, with the exception of Afghanistan, are in Africa.  They include Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda.      
 
Let’s contrast total fertility rate with total CO2 emissions per country for 2006.  These range from a high in China of 6103.49 million tonnes* to a low of 273.71 million tonnes in Turkey.  The G-20 total was 22566.76 million tonnes.  (*These are British ‘long’ tons.)  The nineteen countries with the lowest rate of CO2 emissions range from a high of 6.01 million tonnes in Ethiopia to a low of 0.2 million tonnes in Burundi.  Their total was 29.3 million tonnes.  In other words, the countries with the lowest population growth rates are producing the bulk of C02 emissions, more than a whopping 770 times as much as the nineteen countries with the highest rates of population growth. 
 
Angus has done the math.  Per capita, each American’s CO2 emissions were 132 times more than a person’s in Madagascar, 197 times more than a person’s in Mozambique, and 400 times more than someone who lived in Mali or Burkina Faso.    And these amounts don’t include the concentration of CO2 emission sources in G-20 countries like their militaries, extractive and agricultural industries, and commercial air travel.
 
Total emissions do not depend on population density.  The high-emitting G-20 includes densely-populated countries like Japan and India, but also the sparsely-populated countries of Canada and Russia.  This is equally true of the nineteen countries with the lowest emission rates.  Rwanda and Burundi are densely populated.  Chad and Niger are not.  So it’s obvious that low population density can co-exist with high emissions, and high population density with low emissions. 
 
If emissions are dependent on population density, it would appear that high emissions cause low population growth (G-20), or that high population growth causes low emissions (the nineteen countries with the lowest rates of CO2 emissions).  These statements are equally absurd.  Both population growth and CO2 emissions depend on socioeconomic factors, not biological ones.
 
So there’s something not right about the “more people cause more emissions” argument, and something very wrong with promoting the idea that birth control for the “Third” World will slow climate change.  Focus on population growth distracts attention from issues like production and consumption, policies of technology and globalization, poverty and women’s status in world societies, and the boom and bust of our economic system’s cycle itself.  But the population control argument keeps reappearing as the solution to poverty, hunger, and now climate change.  The simple theory: more people equal more pollution.  
 
In “Peoplequake,” Fred Pearce makes the point that the poorest three billion of us emit only 7% of CO2 worldwide, while the richest half billion of us create 50% of them.  (There are 6.9 billion of us.)  He says that a woman in rural Ethiopia with ten children does less damage, and uses fewer resources than one middle class family of four in the US, the UK or Germany.  And even if all ten of that Ethiopian woman’s children reach adulthood, which is highly unlikely, her entire extended family of over 100 people would still emit only about as much CO2 every year as one American.
 
So to suggest that the greatest threat to escalating climate change is too many children in Ethiopia, Somalia or Uganda is both disingenuous and dangerous.  The population “bomb” of the 20th century has been defused.  In fact, the rate of global population growth is slowing down.  According to the US Census Bureau International Data Base (December 2008), it peaked in the 60s and has fallen consistently ever since.  Yet the rate of greenhouse gas emissions is skyrocketing out of control. Some however, continue to claim this increase in emissions is a function of population growth, though the rise in energy and resource use has vastly outstripped population growth. 
 
In September of 2009, the journal “Environment and Urbanization” showed that the places where population is growing the fastest are those where carbon emissions have been growing most slowly.  Between 1980 and 2005, 63% of the world’s population growth took place in countries with very low emissions. (3)  
 
But by the end of the 60s, “reducing the population growth of poor countries had become an essential element of US foreign policy.  The main motive was not environmental: rather, population growth was seen as retarding economic growth and fomenting political instability, making countries more susceptible to Communist influence.” (4) 
 
Detailed population growth statistics are easily available.  This allowed population control advocates to place them side-by-side with rising pollution statistics and draw a biological conclusion.  They divided the total pollution by the total population and came up with an individual, per capita, “carbon footprint” for every person on Earth.
 
So overconsumption and transnational corporate plunder were swept under the rug and the wombs of poor women became the reason for deforestation, water pollution, and desertification. This diverted the environmental movement and shifted blame to the “Third” World, allowing the countries of the “developed” world to avoid looking in the mirror at their own consumption and that of their governments, their militaries, and their transnational corporations, which were trashing the environment both at home and abroad.    
 
The population growth argument is just old wine in a new bottle.  Those who advocate population control are pretending to address climate change so they can avoid focusing on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy.  They prefer to believe there’s a biological solution to problems created by the way society is structured.  Population growth has been made the scapegoat for the real social and economic causes of “poverty, hunger, famine, disease, war, racism, and unemployment.”  (5)  
 
But population control has never had an acceptable environmental outcome.  Witness China.  “China’s one child policy has been hailed as an environmental measure… (but this)…ignores that China’s population control has hardly solved that country’s growing environmental problems.” (6)
 
Population control is a euphemism for eugenics.  It employs “us vs. them” in order to blame those least responsible for climate change by focusing on the quantity of human beings, rather than on the quality of their lives, when, in fact, it’s not so much the what of those population numbers, but the how of the way those numbers live that matters.  Those most responsible for the escalating threat of climate change are those who profit most from polluting and poisoning, and they’re desperately resisting change. (7)   That’s because they know that most greenhouse gases aren’t caused by individuals, but “by industrial and other processes over which individuals have no control.” (8) 
 
Ian Angus and Simon Butler have pointed out that no reduction of Canada’s population (via fewer births or curtailed immigration) would have any effect on the oil industry’s extraction of oil from the Alberta Tar Sands.  Neither would such reductions in the US have any effect on the massive military spending of the Pentagon, the world’s number one oil consumer.  
 
They further assert that there is no means of reducing population that will change either of those things.  In fact, reducing the population would have the effect of increasing the per capita emissions of the remaining population.  You just get a larger number (or individual carbon footprint) when you divide the reduced population into the same total emissions output.
 
The anti-immigrant wing of the population control argument says it’s better to keep poor people in poor countries so they consume less (and we can continue to consume more) than if they came “here” and adopted “our” lifestyle.  In 1974, Garett Hardin’s essay “Lifeboat Ethics” suggested throwing the poor majority overboard to allow the “elite” to survive.  He blamed immigration for “speeding up the destruction of the environment of the rich countries.”  This just diverts attention from the threat to the environment of overconsumption. For instance, US consumers, with only 5% of the world’s population, use 20% of the world’s resources.
 
Anti-immigrationists claim that immigrants will consume a lot more energy in the US than if they stayed in their home country, so they and their families are responsible for growing carbon  emissions.  So instead of conserving energy, switching to renewables, and adopting a sensible climate policy, we should just build bigger fences and continue to burn fossil fuels, which sustain not only that non-negotiable American lifestyle, but the escalating degradation of the environment. (9) 
 
Both the immigration and population-growth wings of the populationist argument have only one “solution” – STOP!!!  Either stop immigration or stop population growth.   But climate change is a socioeconomic and political problem, not a biological problem.  And because of the way in which the globalized economic system is structured, it doesn’t matter how many people there are.  The environment will continue to be beaten down, and inequality will continue to be ratcheted up as a result of the way the dominant peoples on the planet have chosen to organize their societies and go about achieving their goals.
 
“Blaming climate change on human numbers is itself founded on denial – denial of the real causes of the problem and denial of our potential to forge positive solutions.”  “Instead of buying into the ‘more people=more emissions’ equation, we should put the blame for climate change squarely where it belongs: on fossil fuels and the vested interests that seek to perpetuate dependence on them.” (10)
 
These vested interests have the power to shift the true cost of their environmental and social degradation onto society as a whole, simply by ignoring their toxic waste.  It’s easier to just pour it into the air, into rivers, and discharge it along deserted rural roads by night.  Society pays the real costs of production, or “externalities,” by cleaning up the mess, or by enduring its effects and its costs on both the environment and health.  And if pushed, the vested interests just export their externalities en masse to the “Third” World. (11)
 

“Many of the emissions for which poorer countries are blamed should in fairness belong to us.  Gas flaring by companies exporting oil from Nigeria, for example, has produced more greenhouse gases than all other sources in sub-Saharan Africa put together.  Even deforestation in poor countries is driven mostly by commercial operations delivering timber, meat and animal feed to rich consumers.” (12) 

 
The estimated damage to the environment in 2008 by the “externalities” of the 3,000 largest public companies in the world topped $2.2 trillion, more than the economies of all but seven countries in the world.  The heads of major corporations at the 2010 economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, were worried about the effect on their bottom lines if they have to stop damaging the environment, or if they are forced to pay for the pollution they create.  (13)  They were not, however, worried about environmental damage or the effects on human health of continuing to pollute with impunity.  
 
“Keeping fossil fuels in the ground will mean defeating the world’s most powerful corporations and institutions.” (14 )  “Rather than rise to this challenge, populationists fear that it’s too difficult.” (15)   Population control has one big advantage:  it seems easier. 
 
In 2009, Ross Gittins wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald that “Since the rich countries are reluctant to countenance a decline in living standards, to put it mildly, and the poor countries most assuredly won’t abandon their quest for affluence, there’s one obvious variable that could be used to limit global economic activity’s deleterious impact on the ecosystem: population growth.”  “Limiting population growth in the developing world and allowing population to continue on its established path of decline in the developed world wouldn’t be easy, but it would be easier than trying to prevent rising living standards among those already living.”   (emphasis added) 
 
He links “serious action on climate change with a ‘decline in living standards’ – as if a high quality of life depends on trashing the planet.” (16)
 
Katie McKay Bryson, who coordinates the US-based Population and Development Program asks “Why is it easier for those who use and waste the most to imagine fewer people than less stuff?”
 
Population control shifts the focus off changing the social status quo.  Rather than adapting to change, population control advocates prefer to make people the problem, particularly other people.  But people are the solution.  We exist on Earth today because people adapted to change.  People who are willing to change are the key to continued human existence on the planet.
 
 
Vi Ransel is a frequent contributor to online political newsletters.  She can be reached at [email protected].
 
NOTES:
 
(1)  Hayden. Thomas.  “Environmental books suggest save-the-Earth Climate may be entering a new phase,” Washington Post, 4/20/10.
(2)  Harvey, David.  “The Political Implications of Population – Resources Theory,” Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography,” Routledge, 2001.
(3)  Satterthwaite, David.  “The Implications of Population Growth and Urbanization for Climate Change,” Environment & Urbanization, Sept. 2009.
(4)  Hartmann, Betsey.  “The Greening of Hate,” Special Report: Southern Poverty Law Center,” 7/20/10. 
(5)  Butler, Simon.  “Population Control: 10 Reasons Why It’s the Wrong Answer,”  Green Left Weekly, 5/30/09.
(6)  Butler, Simon.  Ibid.
(7)  Butler, Simon.  Ibid.
(8)  Angus, Ian, and Butler, Simon.  “Should Climate Activists Support Limits on Immigration?” Climate and Capitalism, 1/24/2010.   
(9)  Hartmann.   Ibid.
(10)  Boyce, James K.  “Climate Change: Are People the Problem?” TripleCrisis.com, 7/6/10.
(11) Townsend, Terry.  “Individual Versus Social Solutions to Global Warming,” Links, 4/17/08.       
(12)  Monbiot, George.  “The Population Myth,” Monbiot.com, 9/29/09.
(13)  Jowitt, Juliette.  “3,000 Companies Cause $2.2 Trillion in Environmental Damage – Every Year,” The Guardian, 2/18/10. 
(14)  Boyce, James K.  Ibid.  
(15)  Butler, Simon.  “Population Control – A Political Weapon for Conservatives,”  Green Left Weekly, 6/24/10.
(16)  Butler, Simon.  Ibid.
 
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY:
 
 Angus, Ian.  “Dissecting Those ‘Overpopulation’ Numbers. Part One – Population Where?” Climate and Capitalism, 4/28/10.
 Angus, Ian.  “Dissecting Those ‘Overpopulation’ Numbers. Part Two – The Perils of Per Capita,” Climate and Capitalism, 7/2/10.
 Angus, Ian.  “Dissecting Those ‘Overpopulation’ Numbers:  Appendix to Part Two:  Rate versus Ratio,” Climate and Capitalism, 7/27/10.
 Angus, Ian.  “Do Consumers Cause Climate Change?” Climate and Capitalism, 2/20/10.
 Angus, Ian, and Butler, Simon.  “Should Climate Activists Support Limits on Immigration?” Climate and Capitalism, 1/24/2010.
 Berkowitz, Bill.  “Right Wing Front Organizations Use Progressive Sounding Names to Promote Anti-Immigration and Anti-Environmental Agendas,” The Smirking Chimp, 7/23/10.
 Boyce, James K.  “Climate Change: Are People the Problem?” TripleCrisis.com, 7/6/10.  
 Butler, Simon.  “Population Control – A Political Weapon for Conservatives,”  Green Left Weekly, 6/24/10.
 Butler, Simon.  “Population Control: 10 Reasons Why It’s the Wrong Answer,”  Green Left Weekly, 5/30/09.
 Conner, Steve.  “We need a global debate on population,”  The Independent, 7/14/10.
 Hartmann, Betsey.  “The Greening of Hate” Special Report: Southern Poverty Law Center, 7/20/10.
 Harvey, David.  “The Political Implications of Population – Resources Theory,” “Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography,” Routledge, 2001.
 Hayden, Thomas.  “Environmental books suggest save-the-Earth Climate may be entering a new phase,” Washington Post, 4/20/10.
 Hildyard, Nicholas.  “Too Many for What? The Social Generation of Food ‘Scarcity’ and ‘Overpopulation’,” The Corner House, 11/1/96.
 Jowitt, Juliette.  “3,000 Companies Cause $2.2 Trillion in Environmental Damage – Every Year,” The Guardian, 2/18/10.
 Monbiot, George.  “The Population Myth,” Monbiot.com, 9/29/09.
 Mutavallli, Jim.  “Birth Control or Border Patrol,” E Magazine.com, July/Aug 1998.
 Pearce, Fred.  “Population Isn’t the Problem,” Grist, 7/13/10.
 Ransel, Vi.  “Manufacturing Poor People”  Op Ed News, 6/20/09.
 Ransel, Vi.  “The Population Bomb,” Shared Sacrifice, 4/09.
 Satterthwaite, David.  “The Implications of Population Growth and Urbanization for Climate Change,” Environment & Urbanization, Sept. 2009.
 Townsend, Terry.  “Individual Versus Social Solutions to Global Warming,” Links, 4/17/08.
 Walker, Robert.  “Of Course Population Is Still a Problem,” Grist, 7/13/10

The Protest Movement in Bahrain

April 23rd, 2011 by Finian Cunningham

Economic recovery does not seem to be taking effect in spite of more massive expenditures by Congress and the Fed. The IMF says financial stability has improved, but then again their vision is almost always clouded. US tax revenues are not increasing in a meaningful way, manufacturing struggles to expand and Wall Street flourishes in a cascade of mega salaries and bonuses. In another six months the US will be three years what the government, the media and Wall Street call a deep recession. We call it an inflationary depression, which has existed for 26 months. After eight years of increasing money and credit, and the creation of a real estate bubble, the Fed has been fighting off asset destruction with ever more money and credit accompanied by debt deflation. Part of the Fed’s policy has been zero interest rates, which has helped Wall Street and banking and to a limited extent real estate, but has destroyed the purchasing power of retirees and has driven funds into speculation, which in many cases has ended in ever more losses and less buying power.

           
The policy left conservative investors no place to turn to other than to join Wall Street and bankers in speculation, something they were not prepared for nor could they compete with. Borrowers have had a field day with virtually free money for which the result has been higher inflation and really major unemployment. You might call this the true Keynesian corporatist fascist model. This has left us with ongoing malinvestment, ridiculous illusions, which have led to the de-capitalizing of the US economy. In that process these interest free loans have given the big hitters the opportunity to enhance their fortunes at the expense of everyone else.

           
These rates and QE2 at least for the moment have been so powerful that deflation is nowhere in sight, except perhaps in job creation. In fact net inflation has moved up to 9-1/2% and we believe this year it will attain 14%, as government eventually admits to 5-1/2%, as we saw three years ago. If you think we are wrong look at producer prices that are up almost 11% over the past six months. Government and mainline economists are not paying attention. Either the higher costs are passed on or the profits will disappear. Just like in years past, over and over again, the excessive expansionism of monetary and fiscal policy will produce excessive inflation, more inflation than the so-called experts are anticipating.

           
The bailout of financial institutions by American taxpayers, both in the US, UK and Europe, won’t be allowed to happen again. In the next go-around they will go bankrupt. Those in the US and other stock markets with the exception of gold and silver shares, those in bonds, derivatives and hedge funds, will be wiped out as well. Few will be spared.

           
A year from this June inflation should be near 20% and that is where panic will set in. The 10-year T-note should be yielding 5-1/4% to 5-1/2% and the 30-year fixed rate mortgage should be 6-1/2% to 6-3/4%. After that interest rates and inflation will more than double, as they did in the late 1970s.

           
An example that is easily understood is that due to foreclosure and lack of job creation, rents should increase 10% over the next 1-1/2 years. That is known as Homeowner’s Equivalent Rent, which is 23% of total inflation. We believe that is a conservative figure. We won’t deal with core inflation, because it is just a method of obscuring real inflation. That 10% increase would add 4% to net inflation, which is currently about 9-1/2%, not 1.9%, as your faithless government would have you believe. That would put real inflation at 5-1/2%, not to mention increased prices for fuel and food.          That is why our estimates are 14% to 25% over that time frame. Don’t forget interest rates will be rising as well. This only includes QE and stimulus 1 & 2. If QE3, by that or some other euphemism occurs, which we believe has too, then 50% inflation and hyperinflation is attainable. Readers have to remember that even if oil prices stopped increasing at $120.00, and food prices stayed at 10% higher levels, it would still rob consumers of $300 billion in purchasing power. That would drop consumers as a part of GDP from 71% to 69% easily. That means GDP growth even with the Fed adding $2.5 trillion to the economy, would at best stay even and may reflect as low as a minus 6%. You have to get the feel of the dynamics of this. Raging inflation, plus perhaps hyperinflation, a falling economy and 30% to 40% unemployment, U6 was 37.6% at the top of the great depression and the birth/death ratio didn’t exist at that time. Presently wages are stagnant, and they have been so for three years. Wages will finally start to rise so you can add rising wages to the inflationary explosion.

           
As this transpires we have the Middle East and North Africa, which are now a frightening further calamity waiting to happen. Any further violence there could take oil to $150.00 or higher. Will there be war with Iran? Perhaps and if that develops oil could escalate to $200 to $300 a barrel. Such developments would knock the foundation out from under the entire world, except for those fortunately producing oil.

Another factor is the plight of municipalities and states in the US. We have seen a small reduction in employment in these sectors, but the biggest layoffs are yet to come, as well as more than 100 municipal bankruptcies. We will also see debt default by states in relation to their bonds and other debts. Some states, such as Illinois, New York and California could cease functioning. This is not a pretty picture.

           
Then we have the woeful situation in the UK and Europe, all beset with rising inflation as well. A sovereign debt crisis has been prevalent for months with Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Italy. All are at different stages of failure and nothing has really been resolved. As we wrote months ago the cost of bailout assistance would be $4 trillion, and it was just recently that the Germans and other lenders realized that the bailout cost is insurmountable. The cost will easily bankrupt the solvent lenders.    Then there are the banks, all of which are close to insolvency already, which are facing massive bond losses, which will put them out of business. These are the loans they made that they should have never made, from funds created out of thin air.

Iceland has rejected paying off British and Dutch depositors, who had funds in Icelandic banks, which went bankrupt. The depositors do not have a leg to stand on and the citizens of Iceland are correct in their refusal. It was the Icelandic bankers who screwed the depositors.

           

Recently Finland’s voters rejected the bailout of Greece, Ireland and Portugal and who can blame them.

           
Wait until Greece goes into default, then things will get real interesting.

We normally do not editorialize regarding silver and gold. As you know we have recommended being long gold and silver shares, coins and bullion since June of 2000. Now that story is getting even better. Not only has gold and silver been a safe haven asset all those years, but is finally again becoming a shelter from inflation. The US, UK and Europe are in serious financial and economic trouble. Over the past 11 years, nine major country’s currencies on average have fallen more than 20% each year versus gold and silver. That is quite an extraordinary return and from our mail our subscribers are quite happy they followed our advice. Our run, including our market shorts, has simply been unbelievable.

           
Silver prices are on a tear and as we write they have risen to $46.30. In spite of these price levels the mining industry is not increasing production in any meaningful way. About 70% of production comes as a by-product of other types of mining, such as copper. There are no new sizeable projects in the works, and thus it is expected that production could fall 5% annually for the next ten years. The easy finds have already been exploited and new large projects are harder to find. In fact, current mines have only been able to increase production by a paltry 2.5% or so. In 2009 Argentina was the only outstanding exception and that could be a one off occurrence.

As we write gold has broken out to $1,509.30 even as the “Plunge Protection Team” fights viciously to suppress both gold and silver prices. Despite the mantra on Wall Street and in government there is 9-1/2% inflation affecting the US economy and the professionals and the public are finally catching on. In spite of the greatest bull market in gold and silver history, they still do not get it. Less than 1% of Americans own gold and silver related assets.

           
The QE1 and 2 and stimulus 1 and 2 have done their damage. The inflationary results are in the pipeline. QE and stimulus being reflected this year and the results of QE2 and stimulus 2 next year. We believe we’ll see the results of QE3 the following year, 2013, but it will be called something else. A falling dollar and few buyers of US debt has again set the stage for the Fed taking down 80% or more of Treasury and Agency debt. If they do not do that the whole system will collapse. These programs are like booster rockets aiding an underlying positive fundamental condition for gold and silver. The flip side is the debasement and denigration of the US dollar. As an aside even though the ECB has just raised interest rates they and the UK will continue their own versions of QE, because if they don’t their economies will collapse. That will put even more inflation into the world financial system.  

           
As the possibility of QE3, or its equivalent, lurks in the wings the very solvency of America hangs in the balance. Those who have studied financial and economic history know that the course that is being followed is unworkable, and that certainly includes the staff at the Fed and the Treasury Department. In fact, Mr. Bernanke pointed out that in his and Mr. Baskins’ writings in 1988 after the market collapses of 1987.

           
At the heart of America’s problems are the insolvency of many financial institutions and the failure of either the Fed or the Treasury to have them liquidated. What the banks have in mind is the liquidation of bad debt held in suspension over the next 50 years. Supposedly as conditions and profits increase part of those profits will be used to lower debt. The problem is that these corporations are bankrupt. There access in the creation of inside information allows them to produce illegal outsized profits, such as 90 days of propriety trading without a loss. We were traders for 25 years and know under normal legal circumstances that that is impossible.

           
The, of course, there are the giant profits, really theft from other investors, that are used in part to offset previous losses and provide outsized salaries and bonuses to the crooks that run these banks and brokerage firms. These results are aided by the creation of money and credit and zero interest rates. The ability to borrow money created out of thin air at almost no cost. As a result the Fed now has a balance sheet of some $3 trillion loaded with Treasuries, Agencies, toxic waste and if they decide to create more money and credit to keep the government and the economy functioning for another year that figure will become $5.5 to $6 trillion. That is some monetization. There is unfortunately no other way for the Fed to do it, when at best they can only expect 20% to 30% of buyers for Treasuries, as the dollar falls in value. The situation is dire as the US dollar has just fallen 5% versus the Mexican peso, as the Mexican economy grows 4.5% a year, inflation is 3.7% and unemployment is 5%, and they haven’t used stimulus.            

What are we missing here? Nothing except the Fed and Treasury, as well as Congress and the President are out of their minds as were their predecessors. How bad is it when the largest bond fund in the world, PIMCO, not only sells all its US Treasuries and Agencies, because they see no value and then they proceed to short them? It’s certainly a sad day for the solvency of America. Who can blame PIMCO when government is projecting $1.6 trillion deficits as far as the eye can see. In addition, all the funds paid by Americans for Social Security and Medicare have been squandered by government. Now there is no way to pay the promised benefits. That is $100 trillion that has been stolen, or should we say misappropriated. It is so bad that the US government credit rating may soon be lowered. It was just 1-1/2 years ago we picked August 2011 as the possible time for a downgrading of that AAA credit rating.

           
The number of states in serious financial trouble has now risen to 40 and unfortunately that number is still climbing.

           

US atrocities reach all time high in Afghanistan

April 23rd, 2011 by Zia Sarhadi

“The purpose for which Afghanistan was invaded — to secure safe passage for a gas and oil pipeline from Central Asia and lay hands on the rich mineral deposits of Afghanistan — has not been achieved so far. Yet there is growing anxiety among ordinary Americans over the extended military mission that has nearly bankrupted America. Unemployment is high, the debt is rising and American cities are crumbling while the US pours billions of dollars into a war that appears to have no end or any identifiable benchmarks by which to measure progress. US officials talk optimistically about training Afghan police and army but the targets they have set have not been met so far.”

Even as American officials optimistically talk about starting troop withdrawal from Afghanistan according to schedule in July, news about their atrocities continue to send shock waves globally. Recent reports and photos of torture and mutilation of Afghan civilians make Abu Ghraib look like a mild affair. These crimes are compounded by denials that the Americans have done or are capable of doing anything wrong since these are contrary to American “standards and values.” Their victims know better.

This past winter, American troops murdered even more Afghan civilians than in previous years. And true to form, they routinely claim the attacks were aimed at militants and that no civilians were killed. There has been a spate of such attacks in recent weeks that have soured relations between the US military and the Afghan government. To their customary brutality, the Americans have now added another tactic. Following a particularly gruesome attack in Ghaziabad district of Kunar province in late February, General David Petraeus said Afghan civilians had “deliberately burnt” their children’s legs and arms to make the attack look bad.

“I was dizzy. My head was spinning,” said an aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, referring to Petraeus’s remarks, during a meeting. “This was shocking. Would any father do this to his [own] children? This is really absurd.” Fazlullah Wahidi, governor of Kunar province, said at least 50 women and children perished in the attack carried out by US Apache helicopters. While the dust had not settled over this incident, NATO air strikes killed another nine children on March 1. Again, the Americans initially claimed these were insurgents. Later they apologized when it was confirmed that these were boys collecting wood in the mountains. Gates apologized for the attacks as did Obama. A day earlier, Afghans had demonstrated in Kabul against such attacks and Karzai angrily rejected an apology from Petraeus.

During a visit to Asadabad, capital of Kunar province on March 11, Karzai said NATO and the US should stop their operations in Afghanistan. “I ask NATO and US, with honor and humbleness and not with arrogance, to stop its operations on our soil,” Karzai said. The children were between the ages of 7 and 13 and collecting firewood in the Manogay district when they came under bombardment. “Afghans want peace and security and they cooperate with the world to bring peace and security,” Karzai said. “But we don’t want this war to continue any longer. We don’t want to repeat such bombardments and casualties.” The Americans have paid no attention to such appeals in the past; they are not likely to pay heed now and will dismiss them with contempt, regardless of how much suffering they cause.

Meanwhile, there was even more shocking news when the German weekly, Dier Spiegel on March 20 published photos of Afghan civilians killed by US soldiers and then posed with their naked bodies. The London daily, the Guardian, compared them to the photos of detainees tortured and humiliated in Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. The British daily reported “commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of ‘trophy’ photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed” (March 21). Some senior NATO officials have expressed fears the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Qandahar last year.

Some of the activities of the American “kill team” are already public knowledge; 12 men are currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians. Five soldiers are on trial for pre-meditated murder, after they staged killings to make it look like they were defending themselves against Taliban attacks. Other charges include the mutilation of corpses, the possession of images of human casualties and drug abuse. Other soldiers cut body parts of victims as “trophies”. The Dier Spiegel report says there are approximately 4,000 photos and videos taken by the men.

True to form, the US military has tried to keep the photos out of the public domain fearing it could damage its already tarnished reputation, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan where anti-American sentiment is running very high. Also typically, the US army apologized for the distress caused by photographs “depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States.” But such actions by US soldiers are so routine that it is mind-boggling for the US army to claim these run contrary to their “standards and values.” These are precisely the standards of the US from Bagram and Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay. The latest batch of photos simply confirms a pattern of behaviour common among US soldiers, crossing all limits of human decency and dignity. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Afghans and people elsewhere, look upon Americans with disgust and wish to have nothing to do with them.

Dier Spiegel also narrates another episode that occurred last May. An Afghan religious leader, standing by the road perhaps waiting for a ride, was apprehended by the “kill team”, taken to a ditch and made to kneel down. The staff sergeant, one Calvin Gibbs, then threw a grenade at the man while an order was given for him to be shot. As if this was not enough, Gibbs then cut the man’s little finger and pulled one of his teeth out.

With the publication of Dier Spiegel’s report and photos, many organizations that employ foreign staff, including the United Nations, ordered their staff into a “lockdown”, banning all movements around Kabul and requiring people to remain in their compounds. One security manager for the US company DynCorp sent an email to clients warning that publication of the photos was likely “to incite the local population” as the “severity of the incidents to be revealed are graphic and extreme.”

The Americans do not wish to improve their manners. After each act of barbarism that exceeds their previous atrocious behaviour, they put out a press release dismissing the incident as not in accord with American standards and values. What precisely are these values the Americans are so eager to export to the rest of the world through cruise missiles and “kill teams”?

Amid reports of American crimes against humanity, a debate is raging in the official circles whether they are staying in Afghanistan or leaving? They appear to be speaking from both sides of their mouth. The purpose for which Afghanistan was invaded — to secure safe passage for a gas and oil pipeline from Central Asia and lay hands on the rich mineral deposits of Afghanistan — has not been achieved so far. Yet there is growing anxiety among ordinary Americans over the extended military mission that has nearly bankrupted America. Unemployment is high, the debt is rising and American cities are crumbling while the US pours billions of dollars into a war that appears to have no end or any identifiable benchmarks by which to measure progress. US officials talk optimistically about training Afghan police and army but the targets they have set have not been met so far.

During an unannounced visit to Kabul on March 7, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the US was “well-positioned” to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July. This was the date President Barack Obama had set on December 1, 2009 when he announced a 30,000-troop surge for Afghanistan. But Gates also said the US would remain involved in Afghanistan even after the 2014 date, when the withdrawal of troops is scheduled to be completed. American officials always leave caveats so that they have wiggle room to manouvre and implement whatever policy they want.

But their atrocious behaviour is turning even ordinary Afghans against them. They wish to have nothing to do with the Americans, their hi-tech weapons and their dollars. They would rather be left alone to their poverty-stricken but safe life, free from Hell-fire missiles and Apache helicopter attacks.

Australia: America’s Puppet State

April 23rd, 2011 by John Pilger

Th street where I grew up in Sydney was a war street. There were long silences, then the smashing of glass and screams. Pete and I played Aussies-and-Japs. Pete’s father was an object of awe. He weighed barely 100 pounds and shook with malaria and was frequently demented. He would sit in a cane chair, drunk, scything the air with the sword of a Japanese soldier he said he had killed. There was a woman who flitted from room to room, always red-eyed and fearful, it seemed. She was like many mothers in the street. Wally, another mate, lived in a house that was always dark because the black-out blinds had not been taken down. His father had been “killed by the Japs”. Once, when Wally’s mother came home, she found he had got a gun, put it in his mouth and blown his head off. It was a war street.

The insidious, merciless, life-long damage of war taught many of us to recognise the difference between the empty symbolism of war and the actual meaning. “Does it matter?” mocked the poet Siegfried Sassoon at the end of an earlier slaughter, in 1918, as he grieved his younger brother’s death at Gallipoli. I grew up with that name, Gallipoli. The British assault on the Turkish Dardanelles was one of the essential crimes of imperial war, causing the death and wounding of 392,000 on all sides. The Australian and New Zealander losses were among the highest, proportionally; and 25 April, 1915 was declared not just a day of remembrance but the “birth of the Australian nation”. This was based on the belief of Edwardian militarists that true men were made in war, an absurdity about to be celebrated yet again. 

Anzac Day has been appropriated by those who manipulate the cult of state violence – militarism – in order to satisfy a psychopathic deference to foreign power and to pursue its aims. And the “legend” has no room for the only war fought on Australian soil: that of the Aboriginal people against the European invaders. In a land of cenotaphs, not one stands for them. 

The modern war-lovers have known no street of screams and despair. Their abuse of our memory of the fallen, and why they fell, may be common among all servitors of rapacious power, but Australia is a special case. No country is more secure in its strategic remoteness and the wealth of its resources, yet no western elite is more eager to talk war and seek imperial “protection”.

Australia’s military budget is A$32 bn a year, one of the highest in the world. Less than two months’ worth of this war-bingeing would pay for the reconstruction of the state of Queensland after the catastrophic floods, but not a cent is forthcoming. In July, the same fragile flood plains will be invaded by a joint US-Australian military force, firing laser-guided missiles, dropping bombs and blasting the environment and marine life. This is rarely reported. Rupert Murdoch controls 70 per cent of the capital city press and his world-view is widely shared in the Australian media. 

In a 2009 US cable released by WikiLeaks, the then Labor prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who is now foreign affairs minister, implores the Americans to “deploy force” against China if Beijing does not do as it is told. Another Labor leader, Kim Beazley, secretly offered Australian troops for an attack on China over Taiwan. In the 1960s, prime minister Robert Menzies lied that he had received a request from the American-created regime in Saigon requesting Australian troops. Oblivious, Australians waved farewell to a largely conscripted army, of whom almost 3000 were killed or wounded. The first Australian troops were run by the CIA in “black teams” – assassination squads. When the government in Canberra made a rare complaint to Washington that the British knew more than they about America’s war aims in Vietnam, the US national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, replied, “We have to inform the British to keep them on side. You in Australia are with us come what may.” As an Australian soldier once said to me: “We are to the Yanks what the Gurkas are to the British. We’re mercenaries in all but name.” 

WikiLeaks has disclosed the American role in the Canberra “coup” in 2010 against Rudd by Julia Gillard. Lauded in US cables as a “rising star”, Gillard’s Labor Party plotters have turned out to be assets of the US embassy in Canberra. Once installed as prime minister, Gillard committed Australia to America’s war in Afghanistan war for the next 10 years – twice as long as Britain. Gillard likes to appear on TV flanked by flags. With her robotic delivery and stare, it is an unsettling tableau. On 6 April, she intoned, “We live in a free country… only because the Australian people answered the call when the decision came.” She was referring to the dispatch of Australian troops to avenge the death of a minor imperial figure, General Charles Gordon, during a popular uprising in Sudan in 1885. She omitted to say that a dozen horses of the Sydney Tramway Company also “answered the call” but expired during the long voyage. 

Australia’s reputed role as America’s “deputy sheriff” (promoted to “sheriff” by George W Bush) is to police great power designs now being challenged by most of the world. Leading Australian politicians and journalists report on the Middle East having first had their flights and expenses paid by the Israeli government or its promoters. Two Green Party candidates who dared to criticise Israel’s lawlessness and the silence of its local supporters, are currently being set upon. One Murdoch retainer has accused the two Greens of advocating a “modern rendering of Kristallnacht”. Both have since received multiple death threats. Put out more flags, boys.

 

By definition, a “debate” requires two opposing sides holding mutually exclusive opinions. In the U.S. Congress, however, real debate has all but vanished. Instead, we are subjected to endless blather that — if you listen closely — is a simple discussion over splitting hairs.

There can be no U.S. budget debate when both sides have already agreed that massive cuts to social programs — including Medicare and Social Security — will be the foundation of any plan.

With this fundamental agreement already in place, Democrats and Republicans are pathetically trying to create a division where none exists. The right wing looks especially foolish, since Obama has been furiously sprinting to the political right throughout the budget “debate,” having already overtaken the right-wing deficit hawks; in response, the hawks have gotten more hawkish and restarted their rightward dash in a desperate attempt to appear in “opposition” to the right-wing President.

For example, the Republicans originally demanded that an astonishing $4 trillion be cut from the U.S. budget, mainly through cuts to social programs. Not to be outdone, Obama presented a plan that would cut $4 trillion, mainly through cuts to social programs. The furthest right are the so-called Tea Party Republicans, who want to cut $10 trillion by essentially privatizing the entire U.S. Government.

But, back to the hair splitting. Obama calls the $4 trillion Republican plan “radical,” and he’s right; the plan seeks to privatize Medicare, destroy Medicaid, gut other social programs, lower corporate tax rates, etc.

Read Shamus Cooke’s chapter in “The Global Economic Crisis”

But Obama is a radical budget cutter too; he seeks to gut Medicare/Medicaid by $480 billion(!), slash spending for many crucial programs for the poor, and privatize public education through his corporate-sponsored Race to the Top program.

Obama is trying to make his plan seem progressive by talking about “taxing the rich,” but this is a lie. Finally allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire is not “taxing the rich” (Bush himself planned for the cuts to have expired already, but Obama agreed to extend them.)

Obama’s recent tough speech against the Republicans was the first sign of life for the President, just in time for him to begin his presidential run for 2012, which will surely be full of promises that will never see the light of day.

As the President wages a “battle” over secondary budget issues, such as how best to make $4 trillion in cuts, the main issues are already agreed upon. Economist Richard Reich helps explain:

“…the Democratic leadership in Congress refuse to refute the Republicans’ big lie — that spending cuts will lead to more jobs. In fact, spending cuts now will lead to fewer jobs. They’ll slow down an already-anemic recovery. That will cause immense and unnecessary suffering for millions of Americans”

“The president continues to legitimize the Republican claim that too much government spending caused the economy to tank, and that by cutting back spending we’ll get the economy going again.” (April 10, 2011).

This two-party big lie is not an accident, but an expression of a deeper held belief: that the U.S. government must be directed to meet the needs of the super wealthy who own U.S. corporations. Holding this belief requires that you gut social programs (since corporations hate paying taxes) and privatize everything publicly owned (so corporations can own them for profit).

As long as both Democrats and Republicans agree to these deeper beliefs, the country will shift continually to the right, with social programs and living standards evaporating. However, the stronger that labor and community groups unite and fight to save these social programs, the harder will it be to cut them; out of such a struggle will emerge practical solutions to solving the deficit problems of the country, such as dramatically increasing the taxes on the rich and corporations so that jobs can be created and social programs saved.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org) He can be reached at [email protected]

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/post_1927_b_847279.html

Since its introduction in the 1950′s, the myths surrounding nuclear power have been worked up into a complex web as massive and multiple as the debts and deficits assailing government leaderships and central bankers in most OECD countries, but like these myth-based no alternatives, the nuclear myths are easy to cut back to basics.

We can start with the Mother Myth of nuclear power. This is as beguilingly simple as the sequence leading to yet another debt and deficit bailout, with printed money in Europe, the USA or Japan. We are confronted by all-powerful debts in today’s world, and by all-powerful forces in the atom. By intelligently exploiting it we will have ultimate power…

In fact arguments about ‘how to use it’ and ‘should we use it’ started even before the world’s first atom bomb was exploded in 1945. How could we use this total power and unlimited energy ? Would it be for good or evil ? How much would it all cost ?

COSTS NEVER MATTERED

The atom scientists of the 1930s- names we still know today, like Fermi and Einstein, argued about those subjects too. But being scientists, they were not especially concerned by what it would all cost. Only later, with the founding of the UN’s Atomic Energy Agency in 1956 – which is essentially a promotional agency for nuclear power – were the key subjects of entrepreneurial effort and the obligatorily linked need for government subsidies brought into the fray. This was sold as creating a future world where atomic arms will be changed to power plant ploughshares. While atomic weapons were expensive, the ploughshares would be cheap if we spent enough investing in them (so they said).

THE LOVEABLE ATOM: Don’t be fooled by the smiley face, it’s more likely a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Another handicap for the 1930′s atom scientists that make it hard for them to get an idea how much nuclear power would cost, and which cost several of them their very own lives from cancer death, was that 75 years ago they knew little and therefore cared little about radiation and what it did to living things. The myth of radiation being very ‘interesting’ but not dangerous, was however firmly debunked by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, but not without a last ditch attempt by the occupying Allied Powers to protect it – by arresting and deporting any journalist who talked about radiation deaths. Estimates of radiation deaths from these two bombs vary widely, depending on the cut-off time interval for making an estimate and also hindered by the Allied Powers blackout on radiation deaths, but in total these were likely well in excess of 100,000.

Today with the Fukushima disaster making it suddenly OK to openly doubt that nuclear power is clean, safe and cheap, it is easy to find the radiological equivalent of these 6 industry standard BWR power plants and their fuel ponds. Anywhere up to 15 000 times the combined release of radiation from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

RISKS DON’T MATTER

Under a tight shield of commercial and national security, technological complexity and simple disinterest in almost unlimited health and environment security risks the nuclear industry worldwide… has created hundreds of Doomsday Machines. They must never, ever suffer total meltdown, or damage so serious their radiological inventory can escape. If – or rather when – that happens the consequences can only and will only be dire. This central fact has been deliberately and consistently hidden from the general public since the so-called Atomic Age began.

This so-called Faustian bargain or Devil’s bet dwarfs even the incredible costs of what is a totally uneconomic source of electricity, but the financial risks of nuclear power are themselves massive – in fact open-ended like the health and environment risks.

     A PRICE TO PAY: Fukushima’s Faustian drama unfolds.

We could or might find excuses for the sequence of events and overlays of hasty and uninformed, irresponsible or technologically arrogant decisions leading to hundreds of Doomsday Machines being stationed around the planet – each one a gigantic dirty bomb. For many, still even today, atomic energy looks like something for nothing, and this alone has attracted generations of charlatans to work the talk circuits in favour of nuclear power.

As we know today, the old nuclear nations which first developed atomic energy from the 1950s and 1960s have rapidly ageing and unsure reactor fleets. By the 2020-2030 period dozens of these reactors will have to be taken out of service. And then what ? Industry terminology for this includes the keywords Safestore, dismantling, entombment and sarcophagus – all of which translate to extreme high costs both in the short-term and on a recurring basis. This also assumes there will be linked and secure long-term high level radioactive waste ultimate repositories, such as the constantly abandoned US Yucca Mountain project, abandoned mainly because of its extreme high cost.

Trying desperately to keep itself alive at whatever cost and whatever risk to present and future human and other life on the planet, the nuclear industry has retreated into its laager mentality with technology gimmicks ranging from thorium and other non-uranium fuelled reactors, fusion reactors, and fast breeder reactors. Although no commercial – that is non subsidized and large scale – versions of these quick fixes exist, the high-tech sheen on these claimed alternatives is enough to beguile some weak minded, uninformed and gullible persons. Nuclear power should be given another try, they say !

NUCLEAR MERCANTILISM

The key sales pitch for nuclear power- that its costs can be recouped rather quickly from the almost free energy and power it supposedly delivers has been shamelessly used to vend these Doomsday Machines, particularly in the emerging and developing countries, from Sudan to Bangladesh, and Ghana to Mongolia. Exactly how to get this energy that will be too cheap to meter remains a shady piece of logic: massive and complex long-term financing vehicles and packages will be needed. While details are shrouded in more than only commercial and financial secrecy – nuclear power’s national security handle is heavily employed to blackout information – this, of course, is the basic strategy is mercantilist.

The 46-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group(NSG) comprises of mainly OECD membership, but also includes countries like Argentina, Brazil, China, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as some other small non-OECD countries but specifically does not include India. This traces to the 1975 founding of the NSG, in the wake of India’s 1974 test explosion of an atom bomb, and the alarmed but confused attempt by leaderships of the old nuclear nations to lock down nuclear technology but also promote nuclear power. The permanent and basic linkage between nuclear weapons, and nuclear power had been made clear for all to see by the Indian test, but business had to go on as usual.

By some strange schizophrenia, the same alarmed political leaderships in the old nuclear nations chose to ignore (or simply not know) that with each large-sized civil power reactor they promote, their suppliers contract to house several thousands times more radiation products than those released by the Hiroshima bomb.

Setting aside this sheer madness, for the last 10 years and especially since 2005, nuclear mercantilism has rapidly grown as the effective and real mover. This extends far beyond simple market and sales maximising strategy, and the strategy is likely coordinated at high level among the key members of the NSG, who number less than 15 OECD countries.

FROM PETRODOLLARS TO URANIUM DOLLARS

The sales pitch for nuclear power is that we have to massively invest and spend if we want this unlimited energy. Only then will we touch down in Atomic Nirvana and we will finally have been promised since the 1950′s- energy that is too cheap to meter.

Our fuel is uranium and this fuel is very far from rivalling world oil or other hydrocarbons for global turnover, with an approximate value around 13 billion USD in 2010, but as the nuclear industry likes to crow, uranium fuel costs are only around five percent of total operating costs. Uranium supplies are short, and import dependence for most major consumer countries is high. As a result, uranium fuel costs could likely grow, simply due to the permanent supply shortfall of this fuel for reactors and the heavy import dependence of nearly all major users in Europe, Japan and South Korea – incidentally making a mockery of the energy security claim used to sell nuclear energy.

Accessing uranium supplies, mainly in Africa and Central Asia is already a bargaining chip for nuclear financial packaging and uranium supply features among the underlying movers in Chinese rivalry with OECD country interests in Africa, and Russian versus Western rivalry in Muslim Central Asia. Creating the debt-and-dependency hook, and recycling uranium dollars is therefore part and parcel of the nuclear sales drive in starkly unprepared low income countries – in the case of Sudan (Darfur is home to one of the three largest deposits of high-purity uranium in the world), a long-term civil war and in many others exposed to serious civil strife.

FINANCIAL SHOCKER

Until the Fukushima disaster threw a cloud over the so-called Nuclear Renaissance announced by the nuclear industry, this prefigured as many as 100 – 125 reactor sales in emerging and developing countries outside China and India in the 2010-2020 period. Excluding uranium supplies, fuel services (waste and reprocessing), electric power infrastructures and other parts of the nuclear value chain this pre-Fukushima sales target implied a global 10-year turnover value of at least 700 billion USD.

With leverage and financial packaging through national debt and currency exchange rate linked paper, this could generate far above 100 trillion dollars in tradable value, and above all potentially re-create the long 1985-2000 period of Third World debt-driven dependence on OECD nation financial institutions and private banks.

Obama Approves Drone Strikes in Libya

April 22nd, 2011 by Jason Ditz

Speaking at a Pentagon briefing early Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that President Obama has authorized the use of drone strikes in Libya. Drones had previously only been used in surveillance missions in the war.

NATO had been reportedly pressing for US drones to enter the war, particularly so they could launch attacks in and around the Western city of Misrata. The first mission was to begin Thursday evening, but bad weather forced its delay.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright said the drones were “uniquely suited” for attacks in urban areas, because they can fly lower and get better visibility on potential targets. Secretary Gates denied that the deployment of drones indicated a further escalation of the NATO-led war.

Rather Gates said the deployment was a “modest contribution” to the NATO war, and that the deployment of attack drones to launch strikes was purely for “humanitarian reasons.” The war began on March 19, just days after the UN approved a no-fly zone.

NATO’s one-month intervention in the Libyan civil war has demonstrated that – whether the West likes it or not – Col. Muammar Gaddafi retains significant political support in parts of the country and that a peace deal with him may be the only way to achieve the stated goal of saving civilian lives.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the Pentagon continues to devour a large share of each budget dollar even as the gaping federal deficit is forcing cuts in many domestic programs, including nutrition and health care that can mean life-or-death for many Americans.

So, where do the neoconservative editors of the Washington Post and the New York Times come down?

Both continue to advocate an expanded U.S. military involvement in Libya while spurning the possibility of a political settlement with Gaddafi’s regime. And the Post rejects the notion of deeper Pentagon spending cuts because it might jeopardize U.S. capabilities for a new war with Iran.

It seems that the neocons who dominate two of America’s dominant newspapers can’t get enough of “giving war a chance,” an attitude reminiscent of their behavior prior to George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The editorials of the Post and Times also underscore the fact that despite the worsening U.S. fiscal crisis, Washington’s powerful neocons have not given up their grand scheme for remaking the Middle East by forcing “regime change” in Muslim countries that are considered hostile to Israel.

For instance, in an April 21 editorial, the Post criticized President Barack Obama’s plan to reduce military-related spending by $400 billion over the next 12 years, roughly doubling the cost-cutting that Defense Secretary Robert Gates had previously identified.

“Reaching Mr. Obama’s goal would probably require cuts in the size of the Army and Marines beyond the reduction of more than 40,000 troops already proposed by Mr. Gates,” the Post wrote. “What will then happen if the United States is forced into more conflicts like those of the past decade — if it must intervene to prevent Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon or respond to aggression by North Korea, for example?

“Mr. Gates, who is expected to leave office this year, said that big defense cuts ‘would be disastrous in the world environment we see today.’ While some reductions in defense are inevitable, that is a warning that the administration and Congress cannot afford to disregard.”

Bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities has climbed to the top of Israel’s wish list in recent years. However, some American neocons believe U.S. military force would be needed to get the job done, much as U.S. troops were required to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, whose removal had been near the top of earlier Israeli wish lists.

Old Enemy

Another old Israeli nemesis is Gaddafi, who supported Palestinian violent resistance to Israel in past decades.

Over the few weeks, the Post and Times have been out-front demanding that Obama reverse his decision to minimize U.S. military involvement in Libya, which has meant leaving enforcement of aerial attacks on Gaddafi’s forces to European members of NATO.

Castigating Obama’s refusal to recommit U.S. ground-attack planes, the Post wrote on April 17: “If his real aim were to plunge NATO into a political crisis, or to exhaust the air forces and military budgets of Britain and France — which are doing most of the bombing — this would be a brilliant strategy. As it is, it is impossible to understand.

“Mr. Obama appears less intent on ousting Mr. Gaddafi or ensuring NATO’s success than in proving an ideological point — that the United States need not take the lead in a military operation that does not involve vital U.S. interests.

“How else to explain his decision to deny NATO the two most effective ground attack airplanes in the world — the AC-130 and A-10 Warthog — which exist only in the U.S. Air Force and which were attacking Mr. Gaddafi’s tanks and artillery until April 4?”

The New York Times has been equally adamant about seeing the AC-130s and A-10 Warthogs put back into action mowing down Libyan troops loyal to Gaddafi. “Mr. Obama should authorize them to fly again under NATO command,” the Times declared on April 14, reiterating a demand made just a week earlier.

The Post and Times have continued this drumbeat for military escalation even as Gaddafi’s side embraced a peace proposal from the African Union, which included a cease-fire and acceptance of democratic reforms. The Libyan rebels rebuffed the offer, insisting that the ouster of Gaddafi and his family must be a precondition to any settlement.

That rejection came at a time of a worsening humanitarian crisis in the besieged rebel-held city of Misurata and amid reports of atrocities being committed by rebel troops against suspected Gaddafi loyalists.

There have also been reports that surface-to-air missiles seized by Libyan rebels are ending up in the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists who might use them to shoot down civilian airliners. Though most Libyan rebels appear to be motivated by a desire to oust Gaddafi from power, their stronghold around Benghazi has been known as a hotbed for radical jihadists.

However, instead of giving peace a chance, NATO nations – egged on by neocon opinion leaders on both sides of the Atlantic – are moving toward a long-term program of providing the rebels with military training, supplies and weapons. [For more on the U.S. press, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Warriors of the Mainstream Media” and "Through the US Media's Lens Darkly."]

Peace Obstacles

The Washington Post’s editors also have chastised Obama for pressuring Israel regarding peace negotiations with the Palestinians, rather than concentrating American influence and power on unseating Israel’s principal adversaries in the Muslim world, in places like Libya and Syria.

In an April 15 editorial, the Post criticized the Obama administration’s emphasis on an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, while faulting Obama for “eschewing active American leadership in Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world.”

The Post expressed special concern over a Palestinian plan to seek United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state in September. While denouncing this proposal, the Post argued that the real obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian peace has been the obstinance of the Palestinians:

“Palestinian leaders have little interest in negotiating with the current Israeli government. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has met with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu just twice in two years and has conditioned further talks on concessions that he knows Israel will not make — such as a freeze on all housing construction in Jerusalem.”

The editorial reiterated points made in a column last month by deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl. The newspaper headline for Diehl’s column had decried Obama as “a barrier to Mideast peace.” The online headline asked, “Whose side is he on?”

Diehl also absolved Likud hard-liners, while pointing the finger of blame at Abbas, who, Diehl wrote, “has repeatedly shrunk from committing himself to the painful concessions he knows would be needed for Palestinian statehood.”

On that point, Diehl and the Post editorial willfully ignored the evidence, since Al Jazeera reported earlier this year that leaked documents revealed Abbas making major land concessions to Israel including the surrender of almost all of East Jerusalem, infuriating many Palestinians. However, the Israelis still were not willing to reach an agreement with Abbas.

Washington’s influential neocons continue to frame the debate in ways most supportive of their long-held goal of applying U.S. military and diplomatic power to advance Israel’s geopolitical interests in the region.

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

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

NATO may send military advisers to Libyan rebels
http://rt.com/news/send-military-forces-city/
Video at URL above

Rebel forces have claimed a key city on the Tunisian border, in a rare victory over Gaddafi troops, but the win was overshadowed by shelling in Libya’s third-largest city Misrata. It has been under siege by pro-government forces for seven weeks.

­Meanwhile, the NATO allies have announced plans to send military advisers to the rebels’ headquarters to help the opposition break the stalemate with pro-government forces. However, Russia’s foreign minister warned that putting international officers on the ground could have unpredictable consequences.

“The latest developments in Libya are not making us happy,” he told a Thursday press conference in Ljubljana. “It’s a clear launch of a ground conflict. We consider these moves extremely risky which couldlead to unpredictable consequences.

“There’ve been cases in history when it all started with sending in military advisors, and then it dragged out for years and resulted in hundreds and thousands dead on both sides,” Lavrov reminded. “We call on all everyone to respect the UN resolution in solving this conflict.”

-“This is happening not so roughly and blankly like during the colour revolutions in the former Soviet republics. Clearly, the coordinators of these processes have learned to assess the specifics of each country creatively. At present, all is done skillfully, delicately, and accurately using various aspects of information technology for each country by taking into account local specifics.”
-According to several experts, Syria is becoming the battlefield where the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran clash.

Most likely, Saudi Arabia has a country to lean on, the United States. This means the entire region will face a serious conflict and world powers will be involved.

The conflicts in the Middle East and Africa are growing. An opinion poll conducted among experts by the Voice of Russia shows that they believe that in a worst-case scenario, these conflicts could lead to a world war.

The outcome of presidential election triggered clashes in Nigeria. According to official reports, incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, won 60 percent of votes, while his opponent, Muhammadu Buhari won only little more than 30 percent. The opposition is dissatisfied with the results. As a result, Buhari’s supporters launched attacks on Christians and even set fire to several churches. In response, young Christians attacked mosques.

Some experts draw a parallel between Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, disintegration of which into North and South was averted only after the interference of the UN peacekeepers and the French forces. This means that Nigeria may experience a similar fate. It will have to get foreign assistance or it will disintegrate.

Meanwhile, the foreign factor could trigger disintegration of Libya, says a senior lecture of the political science faculty of the St. Petersburg University, Gumer Isaev.

“Libya will disintegrate only in case its situation is deadlocked. This will depend on whether there will be foreign interference or not. If foreign countries interfere, Libya will be divided into at least two parts,” Gumer Isaev said.

The head of the department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan of the Institute of the CIS countries, Andrei Grozin disagrees with him. The historical borders of Libya were established artificially after colonial rule, and consequently, the country will hardly remain within these borders in the future, says the expert.

It’s a different case that ongoing uprisings in several countries have been triggered only by internal problems such as unemployment, poor income, dissatisfied young people and privileges to a small group of people. Lately, a third force has been backing these uprisings, says Andrei Grozin.

“This is happening not so roughly and blankly like during the colour revolutions in the former Soviet republics. Clearly, the coordinators of these processes have learned to assess the specifics of each country creatively. At present, all is done skillfully, delicately, and accurately using various aspects of information technology for each country by taking into account local specifics, Andrei Grozin said.

Possibly, Salafis could be such a group in Syria. According to Syrian authorities, they are behind the unrest in Homs and Baniyas.

However, this could only be the tip of the iceberg. According to several experts, Syria is becoming the battlefield where the interests of Saudi Arabia and Iran clash.

Most likely, Saudi Arabia has a country to lean on, the United States. This means the entire region will face a serious conflict and world powers will be involved.

This will be a conflict between various political orientations. Saudi Arabia will be backed by the U.S. and several countries of the European Union, while Iran will be supported by third world nations and perhaps China.

However, neither the U.S nor the EU tries to think about such a scenario. At present, the process is almost unnoticeable but if it goes out of control, emergency steps should be taken.

NATO Warplanes Bomb Libyan Capital, Kill Seven Civilians

April 21st, 2011 by Global Research

NATO air strikes hit Tripoli – Libyan state TV

NATO aircraft have bombarded south-western parts of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, killing seven civilians, reports AFP, quoting Libyan state television.

­In addition, the Libyan state information agency Jana says NATO planes have also attacked the town of Bir al-Ghanam, to the south of Tripoli, killing four more civilians there.

The attacks of the “crusader aggressors” were aimed at civilian and military targets and destroyed several houses in Tripoli, claims Libyan TV.

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera reports on Thursday morning that NATO aircraft have struck the crucial oil-production city of Ajdabiya in the west of the country.
….
The military operation in Libya began on March 19….The operation has since been heavily criticized as, according to many analysts, it has brought the situation in Libya to a stalemate and caused even more civilian deaths.

Prestigious college slammed for silence over detained Bahraini medics

The families of medics unlawfully detained in Bahrain have accused the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) of putting financial investment interests above human rights after the college refused to make a public statement concerning the fate of Bahraini members held incommunicado by the regime.

The ongoing brutal crackdown by the Bahraini state against the pro-democracy movement, which began on March 16 after the Saudi-led military forces entered the country, has resulted in more than 30 civilian deaths and nearly 1,000 persons held in secret detention centres. Among the detainees are more than 30 medical staff, including senior doctors, nurses and paramedics whom the US-backed Sunni rulers accuse of supporting anti-government protesters.

Several of the missing medics are members of the RCSI, having conducted their training in Dublin, Ireland. They include senior consultants Ghassan Dhaif, Baser Dhaif and Ali Al Ekri. The latter was arrested on March 17 while performing surgery at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the country’s largest public hospital, when Saudi-led forces commandeered the facility. Colleagues were assaulted and threatened as Dr Al Ekri was forcibly taken into custody. His whereabouts and that of the other medics remain unknown, with legal representation being denied to them. Dr Al Ekri, who trained in Dublin between 2000 and 2002, is an internationally respected surgeon who was awarded a medal of honour in 2009 for life-saving work on Palestinian victims of Israel’s murderous onslaught in Gaza.

Two weeks after the Saudi-led repression in Bahrain, the RCSI sent a fact-finding team from Ireland, led by Professsor Cathal Kelly, to the Persian Gulf island state. It is understood the college’s team spent five days in Bahrain appraising claims of violations against medical personnel. The college has a long-standing association with the oil-rich kingdom, dating over 30 years, for training Bahraini medical staff. In recent years, the RCSI has embarked on an ambitious expansion plan in Bahrain opening a medical university in early 2009 and investing over €100 million ($145m) in other major ongoing developments.

However, the RSCI has pointedly declined to issue a report on its fact-finding mission to Bahrain or a statement concerning the illegal detention of its members. Asked about concern for the safety and well-being of its members, including Dr Al Ekri, the college’s head of communications in Dublin said: “The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland is making no further public statement on the matter.”

The RCSI’s refusal to make a statement is in contrast to several international bodies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and the US-based Physicians for Human Rights, which have condemned the Bahraini government for its maltreatment of medics in the wake of the ruthless repression against the mainly Shia-led pro-democracy movement.

As part of the state of emergency declared by Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on March 14, all public hospitals and medical centres have been taken over by military forces, which resulted in medics and hundreds of injured patients suspected of involvement in anti-government protests being detained.

The whereabouts of the missing medics and patients remain unknown and there are deep concerns for their safety. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights says that detainees held by the state are “routinely subjected to torture”. In the last week, four detainees have died while in custody, their bodies showing signs of severe maltreatment.

During its five-day mission to Bahrain, families of the missing medics said that they were not contacted by the RSCI fact-finding team. A statement by relatives said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the RCSI team did not make contact with the families of the doctors who have been detained. We are also disappointed that the college has not made a public statement protesting the unlawful treatment of its members by the Bahraini state. These doctors did nothing wrong except treat people who were badly injured by Bahraini state forces. The lack of support from the RCSI to the families of these doctors is only adding to our anguish and despair.”

Furthermore, relatives of the detained medics said they believe that the RCSI’s substantial financial investments in the state of Bahrain is the reason why the college is not speaking out on their behalf.

In its annual report for 2010, the RCSI highlights the importance of Bahrain as an overseas investment destination for the college.

College president Frank Keane said: “Bahrain has, for a number of years, consumed a great deal of our overseas energies. The [newly opened] Medical School is continuing to make strides, culminating in our first graduation class this summer. This will mark a significant milestone at many levels, consolidating the school itself as well as its regional credibility and status.” [1]

The RCSI president went on to reveal how ongoing investments in Bahrain are dependent on maintaining good relations with the rulers for realizing several major projects.
“We have for a long time been on the cusp of closing the deal for the development of the Health Oasis on the land donated to us by the King. At the same time, the management contract for the King Hamad Teaching Hospital has proved equally elusive and frustrating to try and reach closure. One of the goals has been to bring these matters to an early conclusion, which must happen soon.”

The RCSI’s $65 million Medical School in Bahrain opened in February 2009 with Ireland’s President Mary McAleese and the Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa in attendance.

In January 2010, the RSCI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Arab Administrative Development Organisation, with the aim of setting up similar medical projects in other Middle East countries, including the Emirate of Dubai. In this regard, the success of its projects in Bahrain is an important platform for the RCSI’s expansion plans across the Middle East and beyond.

The 200-year-old prestigious college, which claims humanitarian concerns to be one of its founding tenets, said in its annual report: “The RCSI continues to explore philanthropic and entrepreneurial opportunities across the globe.”

Evidently from the RCSI’s lack of response over its unlawfully detained members in Bahrain, the college’s over-riding emphasis would seem to be on entrepreneurial opportunities.

NOTES:

[1] http://www.rcsi.ie/files/about-us/20101026022542_AnnualRpt0910.pdf

The Trillion Dollar Costs of A Nuclear Catastrophe

April 21st, 2011 by Washington's Blog

Preface: I am not against all nuclear power, solely the unsafe type we have today. Future designs – like thorium reactors (see this and this) – may be a different animal altogether.

AP has a good article (via the Washington Post) on nuclear power economics:

Nuclear power is a viable source for cheap energy only if it goes uninsured.

***

Governments that use nuclear energy are torn between the benefit of low-cost electricity and the risk of a nuclear catastrophe, which could total trillions of dollars and even bankrupt a country.

The bottom line is that it’s a gamble: Governments are hoping to dodge a one-off disaster while they accumulate small gains over the long-term.

The cost of a worst-case nuclear accident at a plant in Germany, for example, has been estimated to total as much as €7.6 trillion ($11 trillion), while the mandatory reactor insurance is only €2.5 billion.

“The €2.5 billion will be just enough to buy the stamps for the letters of condolence,” said Olav Hohmeyer, an economist at the University of Flensburg who is also a member of the German government’s environmental advisory body.

The situation in the U.S., Japan, China, France and other countries is similar.

***

“Around the globe, nuclear risks — be it damages to power plants or the liability risks resulting from radiation accidents — are covered by the state. The private insurance industry is barely liable,” said Torsten Jeworrek, a board member at Munich Re, one of the world’s biggest reinsurance companies.

***

In financial terms, nuclear incidents can be so devastating that the cost of full insurance would be so high as to make nuclear energy more expensive than fossil fuels.

***

Ultimately, the decision to keep insurance on nuclear plants to a minimum is a way of supporting the industry.

“Capping the insurance was a clear decision to provide a non-negligible subsidy to the technology,” Klaus Toepfer, a former German environment minister and longtime head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said.

As I’ve previously noted:

In 1982, the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs received a secret report received from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission called “Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences 2″.

***
In that report and other reports by the NRC in the 1980s, it was estimated that there was a 50% chance of a nuclear meltdown within the next 20 years which would be so large that it would contaminate an area the size of the State of Pennsylvania, which would result in huge numbers of a fatalities, and which would cause damage in the hundreds of billions of dollars (in 1980s dollars).

Similarly, renowned physicist Michio Kaku told Democracy Now today:

The American people have not been given the full truth, because, for example, right north of New York City, roughly 30 miles north of where we are right now, we have the Indian Point nuclear power plant, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has now admitted that of all the reactors prone to earthquakes, the one right next to New York City is number one on that list. And the government itself, back in 1980, estimated that property damage would be on the order of about $200 billion in case of an accident, in 1980 dollars [more than $500 billion in today's dollars], at the Indian Point nuclear power station.

But AP notes that doesn’t include the real costs:

The cost of a nuclear meltdown at the Indian Point reactors some 24 miles north of New York City has been estimated at up to $416 billion in a 2009 study. But that does not take into full account the impact on one of the world’s busiest metropolises.

“Indeed, a worst-case scenario could lead to the closure of New York City for years, as happened at Chernobyl, … leading to almost unthinkable costs,” University of Pennsylvania’s Howard Kunreuther and Columbia University’s Geoffrey Heal said.

Japan’s economy was already on the ropes prior to Fukushima. America’s economy is already on the ropes, and yet a U.S. nuclear accident could be a lot worse than Japan

As I wrote on April 8th:

Whenever there is a disaster, those responsible claim it was “unforeseeable” so as to escape blame.

For example:

  • It happened with 9/11

The big boys gamble with our lives and our livelihoods, because they make a killing by taking huge risks and cutting costs. And when things inevitably go South, they aren’t held responsible (other than a slap on the wrist), and may even be bailed out by the government.

And as I noted the same day, nuclear accidents, oil spills and financial meltdowns all happen for the same reason … the big boys cutting every possible corner in order to make more money:

[Nobel prize winning economist Joseph] Stiglitz wrote Wednesday:

The entire financial sector was rife with agency problems and externalities. Ratings agencies had incentives to give good ratings to the high-risk securities produced by the investment banks that were paying them. Mortgage originators bore no consequences for their irresponsibility, and even those who engaged in predatory lending or created and marketed securities that were designed to lose did so in ways that insulated them from civil and criminal prosecution.

This brings us to the next question: are there other “black swan” events waiting to happen? Unfortunately, some of the really big risks that we face today are most likely not even rare events. The good news is that such risks can be controlled at little or no cost. The bad news is that doing so faces strong political opposition – for there are people who profit from the status quo.

We have seen two of the big risks in recent years, but have done little to bring them under control. By some accounts, how the last crisis was managed may have increased the risk of a future financial meltdown.

Too-big-to fail banks, and the markets in which they participate, now know that they can expect to be bailed out if they get into trouble. As a result of this “moral hazard”, these banks can borrow on favourable terms, giving them a competitive advantage based not on superior performance but on political strength. While some of the excesses in risk-taking have been curbed, predatory lending and unregulated trading in obscure over-the-counter derivatives continue. Incentive structures that encourage excess risk-taking remain virtually unchanged.

So, too, while Germany has shut down its older nuclear reactors, in the US and elsewhere, even plants that have the same flawed design as Fukushima continue to operate. The nuclear industry’s very existence is dependent on hidden public subsidies – costs borne by society in the event of nuclear disaster, as well as the costs of the still-unmanaged disposal of nuclear waste. So much for unfettered capitalism!

***

In the end, those gambling in Las Vegas lose more than they gain. As a society, we are gambling – with our big banks, with our nuclear power facilities, with our planet. As in Las Vegas, the lucky few – the bankers that put our economy at risk and the owners of energy companies that put our planet at risk – may walk off with a mint. But on average and almost certainly, we as a society, like all gamblers, will lose.

That, unfortunately, is a lesson of Japan’s disaster that we continue to ignore at our peril.

The bottom line is that if we continue to let the top 1% – who are never satisfied, but always want more, more, more – run the show [in a cavalier, staggeringly risky manner] without challenge from the other 99% of people in the world, we will have more Fukushimas, more Gulf oil spills and more financial meltdowns.

Canada’s Military Industrial Complex

April 21st, 2011 by Richard Sanders

Stoking the Tsunamis of War and Repression

Finally, after years of delays and just a few hours after Japan’s horrifying earthquake on March 11, the government finally released its latest deeply-flawed report on Canada’s military exports between 2007 and 2009. This timing ensured that the latest data on Canada’s shameful role in the international weapons trade was conveniently buried beneath a tsunami of news about Japan’s natural catastrophe.

Corporate media institutions have not deigned to report on Canada’s new arms-export figures, let alone expose how the government’s report covers up far more than it reveals.

Although Canada’s top military-industry association states that Canadian companies exported $15 Billion in so-called “defence” and “security” products between 2007 and 2009, the government’s extremely-limited report accounted for less than $1.5 Billion during that period.

Despite massive loopholes in the government’s report, their data does reveal that almost all of Canada’s military exports went straight into the arsenals of about 40 belligerent nations fighting in the Iraq and/or Afghan wars, which have killed over 1.5 million people. (See COAT data table.)

Although reprehensible, the highly-profitable business of fuelling war has been conducted with impunity by all Liberal and Conservative governments. And, because this trade in arms contributes to a virtual tidal wave of war, repression and environmental destruction, it is arguably even more disturbing than Japan’s natural catastrophe.

But what makes the arms-trade tsunami more horrifying than an earthquake, is that the misery it creates cannot be explained away as a natural disaster beyond human control.

On the contrary, the arms trade – as our government proudly explains – is “closely controlled” using “policy guidelines mandated by Cabinet.”

This is the real horror veiled by the latest dry, statistical report from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) on Canada’s big business of war-industry exports.

But Canada’s arms trade is not just monitored, administered and controlled by DFAIT, it is applauded and promoted by our government. As DFAIT explains, with its usual penchant for euphemism, “Canada’s defence industry makes a valuable contribution to the nation’s prosperity.”

So Don’t Worry, It’s all Under Control

Since 2003, each of DFAIT’s arms-trade reports has opened with the same audacious claim, saying: “A key priority of Canada’s foreign policy is the maintenance of peace and security.” Similarly, DFAIT’s eight previous annual reports began: “The promotion of international peace and security constitutes a key Canadian foreign policy objective.”

Every arms-export report, since its inception in 1990, has extolled the government’s “export control policy guidelines,” which unequivocally state that “Canada closely controls the export of military goods and technology to countries…involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities.”

Canada’s “guidelines” also blithely assert that DFAIT “closely controls” military exports to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.”

Although DFAIT bureaucrats see “no reasonable risk” that Canadian munitions exports “might be used against the civilian population,” those facing repression in the Middle East and elsewhere may view those risks differently. Canadian officials seem ever-willing to “risk” the lives of innocent civilians, if a tsunami of profits might make a “valuable contribution to the nation’s prosperity,” or at least enrich Canadian military corporations.

To be clear, Canada’s strict “guidelines” are meant to “control” the flow of weapons systems, not actually stop them. Canada’s military products are in great demand not only by governments waging war, but by business-friendly regimes that control their populations through intimidation, threats and the fear of state “security” forces.

But, there’s no need for concern. Our government has it all under control.

And, Canadians generally aren’t concerned, because we too are under control. Thanks to government obfuscation, the corporate media’s acquiescence, and national myths portraying Canada as a global peacemaker, most citizens have no idea this country is awash in war technology. Few know that in 2009, Canada was virtually tied in a three-way race for sixth place among the world’s top arms exporters, right behind the U.S., Russia, Germany, the UK and China.

War is a booming business. And, as U.S. Major-General S. Butler said following his retirement in the early 1930s, “war is a racket.” A racket, he explained, “is not what it seems to the majority…. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.”

Speaking of his 33-year Marine-Corps career, Butler said: “I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket…. I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

Nowadays, with $4 billion a year in military products streaming stateside, Canada is America’s top military supplier, and our hardware is deeply embedded in U.S. weapons fighting on three important war fronts: North Africa (Libya), the Middle East (Iraq and Israel) and Central Asia (Afghanistan). Such U.S.-led invasions, occupations, proxy wars and regime changes have long enforced unjust structures of economic control over resources in the Third World. Canadian complicity in manufacturing, exporting and deploying the instruments of war, has helped maintain our high-rank among the world’s most prosperous nations.

But because one would never know this from the tsunami of corporate news inundating Canadians, the world remains secure for those back-room boys who profit from the “swell racket” of war.

Loopholes to Fly a Warplane through

According to the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) — a government-funded lobby group representing 860 member companies — Canada now exports $5 Billion to $7.5 Billion in military and so-called “security” products per year. This represents an increase over the previous five years, when CADSI reported annual exports to be worth $5 Billion.

DFAIT’s recently-released military-export data only documents $475 million in military exports per year between 2007 and 2009. That’s less than 10% of CADSI’s estimates.

This huge discrepancy is largely due to two bookkeeping loopholes. Although celebrated by successive governments since 1990 as proof of their commitment to “transparency,” DFAIT’s arms-trade reports have never included Canada’s exports to the U.S. According to CADSI, the U.S. gets the lion’s share (80%) of Canada’s military exports.

Another limitation is that DFAIT’s reports only include restricted munitions on Canada’s “Export Controls List.” So, even when Canadian helicopters were sold to Colombia’s Air Force, DFAIT didn’t count them, because no weapons were attached.

According to DFAIT’s 2007-2009 report, Canadian companies sold $1.1 Billion worth of restricted munitions to 107 countries. Of these, 39 were fighting in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. Knowing that the U.S. absorbs 80% of our military exports, Canadian sales to the U.S. were about $5.7 Billion. This means 96% of the munitions types tabulated by DFAIT went to countries waging these two wars.

DFAIT’s list includes 14 other countries fighting armed struggles within their own borders or, in Israel’s case, within occupied territories. Between 2007 and 2009, these belligerents received $47 million in munitions tracked by DFAIT. This increased the value to 97% of Canada’s military exports to warring governments. (See COAT data table.)

Only 2.8% of the value of Canada’s restricted munitions exports went to countries that are not at war. (See COAT data table.)

Because we too are at war, and half our military production flows into Canada’s armed forces, the total percentage of our military-industrial output that is supplying belligerents, reaches 98.5%. This gives the lie to DFAIT assurances that it “closely controls” the stream of military hardware to those “involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities.”

Controlling the Middle East and North Africa

For decades, Conservative and Liberal governments have preached peace and human rights, while issuing a steady flow of export permits for military sales to repressive, undemocratic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. DFAIT data for 1990 to 2009, reveals Canadian exports of $1.99 Billion in restricted munitions – including small arms, ammunition, tear gas, rockets, missiles, armoured vehicles and high-tech electronics for major weapons — to sixteen countries in that region:

Algeria ($21.4M), Bahrain ($1.4M), Egypt ($34.1M), Iraq ($59K), Israel ($18.4M), Jordan ($5M), Kuwait ($4.1M), Lebanon ($1.5M), Morocco ($2.5M), Oman ($80.2M), Qatar ($1.9M), Saudi Arabia ($1.7B), Tunisia ($3.1M), Turkey ($67.6M), the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ($39.5M) and Yemen ($500).

If all Canadian military and police-equipment was included, these amounts would be perhaps twice as high, considering the disparity between DFAIT and CADSI figures. And, although Border-Services’ customs data includes Canadian small-arms exports to Iran, Libya and Syria, their absence from DFAIT’s report is unexplained.

(See seven sets of COAT data tables on Canada’s military exports to the Middle East.)

The heavily U.S.-backed governments gracing DFAIT’s list include undemocratic regimes where human rights abuses are systemic, and torture is endemic.

· The absolute monarchies of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE are run by royal decree, political parties are banned and elected legislatures do not exist. (Although the UAE finally had an election in 2006, only 2% of those over 18 were allowed to vote, and half the legislature was appointed by hereditary Emirs from the country’s seven absolute monarchies.) · In 2008, women held less than 5% of parliamentary seats in Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Turkey and Yemen. · Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia and UAE spent more on their militaries than on health and education combined. (Saudi military expenditures were almost twice their combined health and education budgets.) · Israel and Jordan spent more on their militaries than on either health or education.

Workers’ Rights Under the Gun Trade union rights in Middle East and North Africa are among the least protected in the world. Migrant workers in particular face extremely exploitative conditions, sometimes resembling slavery. Underpaid and often confined to employers’ homes, they are forced to work excessive hours and have their passports confiscated. Foreign workers are also victimised sexually and face beatings, arrest and deportation for asserting their rights. Composing a large percent of the workforce in Persian-Gulf states, they are particularly at risk in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

· In Saudi Arabia, all unions, collective bargaining and strikes are illegal and the crime of union organising can lead to dismissal, imprisonment or deportation. · UAE labour law does not permit unions, strikes or collective bargaining. · Collective bargaining is also illegal in Bahrain and Jordan, while unions are still rare in Oman. · The right to strike is very limited in Oman, Qatar and Yemen, and is illegal in the Kuwaiti and Qatari public sectors. Meanwhile in Jordan, strikes are illegal without government permission. · The governments of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Yemen impose a trade union monopoly, granting official recognition to only one union. · In Algeria, unions have been unduly denied registration in 2010, and hundreds were arrested for legitimate union activities. · In 2010, Egyptians were permitted to form their first independent union in half a century, but its members have been intimidated and assaulted.

Arming Enemies of the “Arab Spring “

Although this year’s protests throughout the Arab region have inspired the progressive world, popular demands for democracy and human rights have come up against the heavily-armed bulwark of state “security” institutions. Military and police forces are powerful obstacles to achieving peace, democracy, security and human rights.

According to DFAIT’s reports, the vast majority of Canada’s restricted munitions’ exports to the region went to one country, Saudi Arabia, which received about 87% ($1.74 Billion) of the $2-Billion total since 1990.

According to Human Rights Watch’s 2010 report, Saudi authorities:

“continue to systematically suppress or fail to protect the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls, eight million foreign workers, and some two million Shia citizens. Each year thousands of people receive unfair trials or are subject to arbitrary detention. Curbs on freedom of association, expression and movement, as well as a pervasive lack of official accountability, remain serious concerns.”

Although the Saudi theocracy has imported Canadian small arms, ammunition, electronics and various weapons-systems and components, their main import was armoured military vehicles from General Dynamics (formerly General Motors) in London, Ontario. Since 1992, DFAIT issued export permits totaling about $1.5 Billion for these vehicles. Apparently, DFAIT saw no “reasonable risk” they “might be used against…civilian[s].” (Canadian customs data reveals $1.85 Billion in armoured-vehicle exports to Saudi Arabia during the same period.)

On March 5, with protests spreading throughout the region, Saudi Arabia banned all demonstrations. Then, on the ides of March, Saudi armoured vehicles carrying more than a thousand troops were sent into neighbouring Bahrain. Saudi and UAE troops have been aiding Bahrain’s deadly crackdown on nonviolent protests in this kingdom which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Saudi troops have since attacked peaceful Bahrainis rallying for democracy.

Meanwhile in Egypt, millions took to the streets to end decades of autocratic corruption. Being the most populous Arab nation and a centre of culture and communication, Egypt has stirred the region. But despite mass peaceful uprisings, Egypt’s military has not relinquished power, or ended the country’s 30-year emergency rule.

DFAIT reports show about $35 million in restricted-munitions exports to Egypt since 1990. Most were aircraft parts, probably for nine Canadian-made military transport planes, built by de Havilland.

But Canada’s direct sales to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, represent only one way for munitions to end up there. More significantly, Canadian military hardware is funneled through the U.S.

For example, Egypt’s arsenal includes U.S. weapons systems embedded with ample Canadian technology, such as F-16, F-4, C-130 and E-2C warplanes, and CH-47, AH-64 and UH-60 helicopters. The Saudi Air Force also has billions worth of U.S. war machines equipped with Canadian components, including F-15s, C-130s, AH-64s and UH-60s.

Since 1979, Egypt received about US$2 Billion per year in U.S. military aid, second only to Israel, which now gets about US$3 Billion. Canada’s direct exports of $18.4 million to Israel since 1990, probably pale in comparison to the value of Canadian-made parts within U.S. weapons given to Israel. For example, many Canadian companies have supplied parts for U.S.-made F-16 and F-18 fighter planes and AH-64 helicopter gunships used in Israeli airstrikes against Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008-2009).

No Quick-Fix Solutions for Long-term Problems

Military powers have been arming client states in the Middle East for thousands of years. Canada is now part of this long-running saga. The solution to the age-old problem of brutal autocratic regimes, is not to authorise those who armed the dictators in the first place to launch humanitarian invasions to protect human rights. Such naïve, quick-fix military remedies perpetuate violence and merely empower new, hand-picked regimes with better PR.

Long-term solutions are required. Primary among these is to stop arming regimes that use war and repression to take or maintain power.

Citizens can use boycotts, divestment and electoral campaigns to withdraw consent from companies and governments complicit in militarism.

Given the widespread ignorance of Canada’s complicity in the arms trade, public education is essential. One approach is to focus on the most glaring manifestation of the military-industrial complex, the perennial arms bazaar.

In Canada’s case, the biggest weapons exhibition is CANSEC, to be held in Ottawa, June 1-2. Organized by the CADSI, it will include some 250 companies, of which about one third are known to have exported directly to the Middle East or North Africa. It is therefore a potent symbol of Canada’s control over the horrifying flood of military products that inundate warzones and oppressive regimes around the world.

Richard Sanders is coordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, and editor of its magazine, Press for Conversion! For more information, visit http://coat.ncf.ca

This article will appear as the lead article in the May edition of The Monitor, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

VIDEO: Chinese Inflation Continues to Rise

April 21st, 2011 by Global Research

Libya: Another Neocon War

April 21st, 2011 by David Swanson

Liberal supporters of this ‘humanitarian intervention’ have merely become useful idiots of the same old nefarious purposes

The US department of justice (DOJ) has submitted a written defence of the US role in this new war in Libya to the US Congress. The DOJ claims the war serves the US national interest in regional stability and in maintaining the credibility of the United Nations. Who knew?

The regional stability line would be a stretch for the UK but is downright nuts for the US. Who, outside of US Strategic Command types working on weapons in space, thinks Libya and America are in the same region? (In fact, the US is in Northcom and Libya in Africom, in the lingo of the Pentagon’s structure of global domination. Europe is in Eucom.) And what has done more good this year for the region that Libya is actually in than instability (think Tunisia, Egypt)?

The bit about the credibility of the United Nations is really cute coming from a government that invaded Iraq in 2003 – despite UN opposition and for the express purpose (among others) of proving the UN irrelevant. This also comes from the same government that just this month refused to allow the UN special rapporteur to visit a US prisoner named Bradley Manning to verify that he is not being tortured. How does that maintain UN credibility? And how exactly does authorising the CIA to violate the UN arms embargo in Libya maintain UN credibility? How does violating the UN ban on “a foreign occupation force of any form” in Libya maintain UN credibility?

So, one of the main justifications offered to the first branch of the US government is that the war in Libya is justified by a UNresolution, the credibility of which must be maintained even while violating it. But the DOJ memo also stresses that such a justification is not needed. A US president, according to this memo, albeit in violation of the US Constitution, simply has the power to launch wars. Any explanations offered to Congress are, just like the wars, acts of pure benevolence.

The DOJ memo also argues that this war doesn’t really measure up to the name “war”, given how quick, easy and cheap it’s going to be. In fact, President Obama has already announced the handover of the war to Nato. I think we’re supposed to imagine Nato as separate from the US, just as Congress does when it conducts no investigations of any atrocities in Afghanistan that the US attributes to Nato. Do the other Nato nations know that this is the purpose Nato serves in US politics?

But how quick and easy will this war really be? One expert predicts it will last 20 years, with the US eventually pulling out and allowing the European Union to inherit the illness of empire it had earlier shared with us. Certainly, the promise of a quick and easy war in Iraq in 2003 was based on the same baseless idea as this one, namely that killing a president will hand a country over to outside control (excuse me, I mean, flourishing democracy). The blossoming democracy in Iraq has just banned public demonstrations. The fact is that Gaddafi has a great deal of support, and making him a martyr would not change that.

Popular “progressive” US radio host Ed Schultz argues, with vicious hatred in every word he spits out on the subject, that bombing Libya is justified by the need for vengeance against that Satan on earth, that beast arisen suddenly from the grave of Adolf Hitler, that monster beyond all description: Muammar Gaddafi. But you can’t really fight a war against one person. The last time we did that to Gaddafi, we killed his little daughter, while he survived.

Even if you had the legal or moral right to assassinate foreign leaders, and even if you independently and rationally worked up your passion to kill a particular dictator by sheer coincidence in the same moment in which your government wanted to bomb him, you couldn’t do it without killing innocent people and shredding the fabric of international law (with or without UN complicity). Hatred of a single individual is great propaganda – until people begin to question what killing him will involve and what will come next.

Popular US commentator Juan Cole supports the very same war that Ed Schultz does, but supports it as a gentle act of humanitarian generosity. The Libya war has become less popular more quickly in the US than any previous US war, but it has its supporters. And to them, it doesn’t matter that half their fellow war supporters have a different or even opposing motive. For years, Americans cheered the slaughter of the hated Iraqi people while other Americans praised the Iraq war as a great act of philanthropy for the benefit of the Iraqi people (whether they wanted it or not).

But let’s examine Cole’s claims about Libya, because they are quite popular and central to the idea of a “good war”. One claim is that the Nato countries are motivated by humanitarian concern. Another is that this war might have humanitarian results. These have to be separated because the former is laughably absurd and the latter worthy of being examined. Of course, many people in Nato countries are motivated by humanitarian concern; that’s why wars are sold as acts of philanthropy. Generosity sells. But the US government, which has become a wing of the Pentagon, does not typically intervene in other nations in order to benefit humanity. In fact, it’s not capable of intervening anywhere, because it is already intervened everywhere.

The United States was in the business of supplying weapons to Gaddafi up until the moment it got into the business of supplying weapons to his opponents. In 2009, Britain, France and other European states sold Libya over $470m-worth of weapons. Our wars tend to be fought against our own weapons, and yet we go on arming everyone. The United States can no more intervene in Yemen or Bahrain or Saudi Arabia than in Libya. We are arming those dictatorships. In fact, to win the support of Saudi Arabia for its “intervention” in Libya, the US gave its approval for Saudi Arabia to send troops into Bahrain to attack civilians, a policy that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly defended.

The “humanitarian intervention” in Libya, meanwhile, whatever civilians it may have begun by protecting, immediately killed other civilians with its bombs and immediately shifted from its defensive justification to attacking retreating troops and participating in a civil war. The United States has very likely used depleted uranium weapons in Libya, leading American journalist Dave Lindorff to remark:

“It would be a tragic irony if rebels in Libya, after calling for assistance from the US and other Nato countries, succeeded in overthrowing the country’s long-time tyrant Gaddafi, only to have their country contaminated by uranium dust – the fate already suffered by the peoples of Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.”

Irony is one word for it. Another is hypocrisy. Clearly, the military power of the west is not driven by humanitarian concerns. But that still leaves the question of whether, in this particular case, such power could accidentally have humanitarian results. The claim that a massive massacre of civilians was about to occur, on careful review, turns out to have been massively inflated. This doesn’t mean that Gaddafi is a nice guy, that his military wasn’t already killing civilians, or that it isn’t still killing civilians. Another irony, in fact, is that Gaddafi is reportedly using horrible weapons, including landmines and cluster bombs, that much of the world has renounced – but that the United States has refused to.

But warfare tends to breed more warfare; and cycles of violence usually, not just occasionally, spiral out of control. That the United States is engaging in or supporting the killing of civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere, while ignoring the killing of civilians in various other countries, is not a reason to tolerate it in Libya. But escalating a war and doing nothing are, contrary to Pentagon propaganda, not the only two choices. The United States and Europe could have stopped arming and supporting Gaddafi and – in what would have been a powerful message to Libya – stopped arming and supporting dictators around the region. We could have provided purely humanitarian aid. We could have pulled out the CIA and the special forces and sent in nonviolent activist trainers of the sort that accomplished so much this year in the nations to Libya’s east and west. Risking the deaths of innocents while employing nonviolent tools is commonly viewed as horrific, but isn’t responding with violence that will likely cause more deaths in the end even more so?

Washington imported a leader for the people’s rebellion in Libya who has spent the past 20 years living with no known source of income a couple of miles from the CIA’s headquarters in Virginia. Another man lives even closer to CIA headquarters: former US Vice President Dick Cheney. He expressed great concern in a speech in 1999 that foreign governments were controlling oil. “Oil remains fundamentally a government business,” he said. “While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”

Former supreme allied commander Europe of Nato, from 1997 to 2000, Wesley Clark claims that in 2001, a general in the Pentagon showed him a piece of paper and said:

“I just got this memo today or yesterday from the office of the secretary of defence upstairs. It’s a, it’s a five-year plan. We’re going to take down seven countries in five years. We’re going to start with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, then Libya, Somalia, Sudan, we’re going to come back and get Iran in five years.”

That agenda fit perfectly with the plans of Washington insiders, such as those who famously spelled out their intentions in the reports of the thinktank called the Project for the New American Century. The fierce Iraqi and Afghan resistance didn’t fit at all. Neither did the nonviolent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. But taking over Libya still makes perfect sense in the neoconservative worldview. And it makes sense in explaining war games used by Britain and France to simulate the invasion of a similar country.

The Libyan government controls more of its oil than any other nation on earth, and it is the type of oil that Europe finds easiest to refine. Libya also controls its own finances, leading American author Ellen Brown to point out an interesting fact about those seven countries named by Clark:

“What do these seven countries have in common? In the context of banking, one that sticks out is that none of them is listed among the 56 member banks of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). That evidently puts them outside the long regulatory arm of the central bankers’ central bank in Switzerland. The most renegade of the lot could be Libya and Iraq, the two that have actually been attacked. Kenneth Schortgen Jr, writing on Examiner.com, noted that ‘[s]ix months before the US moved into Iraq to take down Saddam Hussein, the oil nation had made the move to accept euros instead of dollars for oil, and this became a threat to the global dominance of the dollar as the reserve currency, and its dominion as the petrodollar.’ According to a Russian article titled ‘Bombing of Libya – Punishment for Gaddafi for His Attempt to Refuse US Dollar’, Gaddafi made a similarly bold move: he initiated a movement to refuse the dollar and the euro, and called on Arab and African nations to use a new currency instead, the gold dinar. Gaddafi suggested establishing a united African continent, with its 200 million people using this single currency. During the past year, the idea was approved by many Arab countries and most African countries. The only opponents were the Republic of South Africa and the head of the League of Arab States. The initiative was viewed negatively by the US and the European Union, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling Libya a threat to the financial security of mankind; but Gaddafi was not swayed and continued his push for the creation of a united Africa. […] If the Gaddafi government goes down, it will be interesting to watch whether the new central bank [created by the rebels in March] joins the BIS, whether the nationalised oil industry gets sold off to investors, and whether education and healthcare continue to be free.”

It will also be interesting to see whether Africom, the Pentagon’s Africa Command, now based in Europe, establishes its headquarters on the continent for which it is named. We don’t know what other motivations are at work: concerns over immigration to Europe? Desires to test weapons? War profiteering? Political calculations? Irrational lust for power? Overcompensation for having failed to turn against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak until after he’d been unseated? But what about this one: actual fear of another Rwanda? That last one seems, frankly, the least likely. But what is certain is that such humanitarian concern alone did not launch this war, and that the continued use of war in this way will not benefit humanity.

The United Nations, far from being made credible, is being made the servant of wealthy nations making war on poor ones. And within the United States, where the United Nations is alternatively held up as a justification or mocked as irrelevant, the power to make war and to make law has been decisively placed in the hands of a series of single individuals who will carry the title “president” – precisely the outcome American revolutionaries broke with Britain in order to avoid.

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie” 

http://warisalie.org
http://davidswanson.org
http://warisacrime.org

April 21, 2011


Afghans rebuild a home destroyed by a U.S. airstrike, Tarok Kolache, 2011.

“You can’t just convince them through projects and goodwill,” another Marine officer said. “You have to show up at their door with two companies of Marines and start killing people. That’s how you start convincing them.”

This was the comment made by a Marine officer to the Washington Post for its April 16 story about “signs of progress” for President Obama’s surge strategy in southern Afghanistan.

The officer was discussing how the U.S. strategy succeeded in the signing of a security pact between elders of the Alikozai area in southern Afghanistan and the U.S.-backed Karzai government.

Many hundreds of young men from the Alikozai area were killed in an onslaught by U.S./NATO troops in months leading up the agreement, according to the Washington Post account.

“We started stacking bodies like cordwood,” said an officer in Sangin, who like other Marines asked for anonymity to speak frankly. “And they came to a point where they said, ‘Holy [expletive], there aren’t that many of us left.’ ”

The Washington Post is an enthusiastic supporter of the expanding war in Afghanistan. The newspaper editorial policy insists that the war is necessary for an improvement in the lives of average Afghans.

Like other U.S. corporate-owned media outlets, the Post pretends that the U.S. counter-insurgency strategy is aimed at winning the hearts and minds of impoverished Afghan villagers. Its own reports about war strategy, however, reveal that the Pentagon cares as much about Afghan villages as it did about those in Vietnam that were razed and burned by U.S. troops to “save them” from falling under the control of Vietnamese communists.

In this recent story, the Post approvingly explains why it was necessary for a battalion of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division to completely destroy the village of Tarok Kolache after seven U.S. soldiers were killed and 70 others wounded in the first 100 days of an operation in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province last July:

… [I]nstead of sipping tea, [Lt. Col. David] Flynn decided to strike back.

An initial target was the village of Tarok Kolache, a collection of about a dozen mud-brick, multi-family housing compounds surrounded by pomegranate orchards. Video from surveillance aircraft indicated that the village had been vacated, save for insurgents who were manufacturing homemade explosives in the walled-off courtyards.

The Post carries before and after pictures of the entirely flattened village. “U.S. B-1B Lancer and A-10 Warthog jets conducted repeated bombing runs. A new ground-launched artillery rocket system also pelted the enclave. All told, almost 25 tons of ordnance was dropped on Tarok Kolache,” the Post states.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan is a terrorist enterprise. By employing these tactics of terror, the Pentagon seeks to force Afghan peasants to end their resistance to foreign occupation. They are succeeding in creating oceans of suffering among people, most of who have never heard of the World Trade Center or the September 11 attacks. In fact, a 2010 survey conducted by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) showed that 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar provinces knew nothing of the hijacked airliner attacks in 2001.

The real goal of the operation is not to “protect the American people.” Rather, it is to create a network of permanent military bases in an energy-rich and geostrategically important region that the U.S. Empire has targeted for enduring domination. The U.S. effort can kill thousands of Afghans and destroy their villages but it will not succeed in liquidating the resistance of the people. From Vietnam to Afghanistan—the Pentagon Brass have learned nothing.

Brian Becker is National Coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition

Protesting Against Nuclear Radiation

April 21st, 2011 by Rady Ananda

Authorities responded to peaceful protest of a proposed nuclear power plant site in India by shooting at the crowd, killing one and injuring eight. Over sixty others were arrested. Killed by police on Monday, the body of 30-year-old Tabrez Sayekar was carried through the streets at a funeral march attended by more than 2,000 people yesterday. No one has been charged in his murder. (Image: The funeral procession of Tabrez Sayekar being taken out at Sakhri Nate Village in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra on Wednesday. Photo: Vivek Bendre for The Hindu)

The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), along with the French nuclear energy giant, Areva, plan to build the world’s largest nuclear power plant complex generating nearly 10,000 megawatts of electricity in an agricultural area at Jaitapur in the Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.

In December, the world renowned Tata Institute of Social Sciences published a social and environmental assessment of the proposed project conducted by Jamsetji Tata Centre for Disaster Management last April, calling it a potential disaster. According to DNA India, the report charges that the government has hidden and suppressed important and relevant information, and “has subverted facts” by labeling the proposed 968-hectare site as barren land that the locals use for agriculture, horticulture and grazing.

“‘Farmers and horticulturists have spent lakhs of rupees to make the land cultivable over years and even the government has supported them. This includes Alfonso mangoes and cashews. Now, when the time has come for them to reap their investments, they are afraid of losing their land as the government now claims it is barren land,’ says the report. It adds that even the fisherfolk of the region are against the project.”

Even the level of seismicity was changed, from a high severity earthquake zone to moderate seismic severity zone.

“‘The government is not only hiding facts, but also manipulating them,’ the report alleges.”

NPCIL, an agency of the Indian government, defends the moderate label. “Seismicity is one of the key criteria in site selection for nuclear power plants and the Jaitapur site meets the requirements for siting as stipulated in the atomic energy regulatory board’s code on safety,” it said in response to TISS.

However, last month, Times of India reported:

“[T]he Geological Survey of India shows that between 1985 and 2005, there were 92 earthquakes [in the area].

“The ground is unstable, say activists and geologists, and there is no guarantee that the government’s safeguards will protect the people and ecologically sensitive Konkan coast from a nuclear disaster should there be another earthquake.

“Environmental activist Pradeep Indulkar said: ‘The third explosion at the Fukushima plant in Japan on Tuesday confirms that in the event of an earthquake, precautionary measures and safeguards will not avert a disaster. It is better not to have a nuclear power plant in this seismic zone region.’

“At Shivane village, 20 km from Jaitapur, Chandrakant Padkar remembers the day the earth shook and the road outside his house vanished. The unreported earthquake took place two years ago, and the village still bears the scars.”

Greenpeace India plans to deliver a petition to the Maharashtra Chief Minister on April 26, the 25th anniversary of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, Ukraine. You can sign the petition here.

“Instead of ignoring and ruthlessly suppressing the protest against the Jaitapur nuclear reactor park, Prithviraj Chavan, Maharashtra Chief Minister, needs to scrap the project. The CM needs to know that he cannot build Jaitapur against the people’s will when alternatives exist.”

Sane Response to Deadly Energy Source

Nuclear power is the deadliest, costliest form of energy on record, according to Dr. Benjamin Sovacool of Project Syndicate. “Not counting the Fukushima catastrophe, there has been more than one nuclear incident and $330 million in damage every year, on average, for the past three decades.”

In a policy brief on nuclear power published in January, Sovacool notes, “The nuclear fuel cycle involves some of the most dangerous elements known to humankind. These elements include more than 100 dangerous radionuclides and carcinogens such as strontium-90, iodine-131 and cesium-137, which are the same toxins found in the fallout of nuclear weapons.”

The damage done to Earth by nuclear accidents and waste is permanent, for a mere 20-30 years of electricity, a dirty secret that the nuclear industry has not resolved. In the U.S., for example, the waste is stored in holding pools at four to five times the pool’s capacity.

Despite the world’s clean water shortage, Sovacool reports:

“Nuclear plants use 25-50% more water per unit of electricity generated than fossil fuel plants with equivalent cooling systems…. The average US plant operating on an open–loop cooling system withdraws 216 Million litres of water every day and consumes 125 Million litres of water every day.

“Nuclear plants and uranium mining also contaminate water and the methods used to draw the water and exclude debris through screens kill marine and riparian life, setting in place a destructive chain of events for ocean/river systems.”

Der Spiegel writes, “The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, for all the attention it gets, is far from the only nuclear no-go area on the planet.”  In its recent catalogue of several now-uninhabitable spots on the planet as a result of nuclear use, leaks, waste and accidents, Spiegel documents thousands of square miles in the U.S., Germany, Kazakhstan, Japan, India, Britain and Northern Africa contaminated by radiation, areas which produce high rates of birth defects and cancers. Their report doesn’t even touch the depleted uranium used in the Middle East by the U.S. and its allies.

While we watch Fukushima’s radiation fall on the northern hemisphere, contaminating our milk and water in the U.S., Canada and Europe, it’s notable that, like previous nuclear accidents, governments lie about the severity. Fifty years after the UK’s worst nuclear disaster, experts advise that the radiation released was twice what was originally reported.

Chernobyl was no different, as a recent book published by the New York Academy of Sciences reveals.  Government authorities reported 3,000 casualties from that disaster, but in Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, the authors conclude that, based on now available medical data, 985,000 people died as a result of the Chernobyl disaster, as of 2004. The researchers based their conclusions on 5,000 radiological surveys, scientific reports and health data.

Because of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, EnviroVideo released a video based on that book: “Chernobyl: A Million Casualties.” Watch it at http://blip.tv/file/4922080. The film will air nationally on Free Speech TV (freespeech.org) on April 23rd.

Neither is Japan any different. Engineer Keith Harmon Snow writes:

“In a recent WikiLeaks diplomatic cable, politician Taro Kono, a high-profile member of Japan’s lower house, told U.S. diplomats that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (MITI) — the Japanese government department responsible for nuclear energy — has been ‘covering up nuclear accidents and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry.’ In 2002 ‘the chairman and four executives of TEPCO, the company that owns the stricken Fukushima plant, resigned after reports that safety records were falsified.’”

Corporate-run governments will not stop destroying the planet for profit. It is up to humanity to do all in its power to end the ongoing ecocide. Sometimes this means putting your life on the line, as Tabrez Sayekar did on Monday, just short of the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Rady Ananda
Food Freedom:
http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/
COTO Report: http://coto2.wordpress.com/
Follow Me: http://twitter.com/geobear

Interest rates are the Fed’s main tool for implementing policy, but when interest rates are already at zero and activity is still weak, then the Fed may try other unconventional strategies to rev up the economy. Quantitative Easing (QE) is one such strategy. In practice, it works like this; the Fed purchases some type of financial asset (stocks, bonds, mortgage-backed securities) which adds to the money supply thereby creating (in effect) negative interest rates. The Fed believes that this “monetary easing” can stimulate the economy.

The Fed is currently in the process of purchasing $600 billion in US Treasuries from the big banks while at the same time recycling the proceeds of $300 billion from maturing mortgage-backed securities (that the Fed already has on its balance sheet) into reserves at the banks. This may sound complicated, but it’s really not. In essence, the Fed is reducing the supply of financial assets and, thus, pushing more liquidity into riskier assets, like stocks. As a result, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrials have climbed roughly 11 and 12 percent respectively since the program began.

So, is the Fed mainly responsible for the recent uptick in stock prices?

In large part, yes. Here’s how Nomura’s global macro strategist Bob Janjuah puts it:

“I strongly believe QE2 added over 250 points to the S&P based on where it closed the year….We think QE1 and QE2 have failed the real economy in the US at the expense of pushing up asset prices in financial markets. (eg house prices vs. stocks) Most American families own a home, but most Americans do not own a meaningful amount of stocks. Bernanke’s solution seems to rely on the US public buying into another round of bubble blowing and on the idea of trickledown economics.

…We think QE3 will be both unavoidable and a grave policy mistake in the hard landing outcome. We think it (QE3) is unavoidable because under this outcome, where we expect a significant slowdown in global growth in H2, driven by an EM (Emerging Market) slowdown and an end to the global super-cycle in manufacturing, it is the only “stimulative‟ policy option left, and Bernanke and Obama both seem fixated with stimulus, at any cost it seems….(“Bob Janjuah – told you so America”, Ft Alphaville)

So, Janjuah lays out the basic case against QE2, which is, that while it pushes stock and commodities prices up, it provides very little relief for underlying economy. In other words, Bernanke is just blowing bubbles instead of addressing the fundamental lack of demand.

QE has been the most controversial policy in the Fed’s history, and for good reason. The policy is seen as a direct intervention into the markets. Bernanke denies this, but at the same time, he boasts that QE2 has raised stock prices and strengthened the recovery. So, which is it; either the Fed is meddling in the markets or it is not?

Also, Bernanke continues to say that the economy is close to a “self sustaining recovery”. But if that’s true then why are interest rates still below the rate of inflation (which provides a subsidy to the banks for borrowing from the Fed), and why has the Fed announced that it will not end QE2 on schedule (at the end of June) but will continue to recycle funds from maturing bonds into the purchase of more Treasuries? Here’s the scoop from Bloomberg:

“Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may keep reinvesting maturing debt into Treasuries to maintain record stimulus even after making good on a pledge to complete $600 billion in bond purchases by the end of June.

The Fed chief’s top two lieutenants said this month the economy and inflation are too weak to warrant the start of a monetary-policy reversal. Investors and economists including David Kelly at JPMorgan Funds see that as a signal the Fed will keep its balance sheet at current levels by replacing about $17 billion a month in maturing mortgage debt with Treasuries.

Ending the reinvestment policy and the $600 billion program at the same time would be like quitting stimulus “cold turkey,” said Kelly, who is based in New York and helps oversee $400 billion as chief market strategist at JPMorgan.” (“Bernanke May Sustain Stimulus to Avoid ‘Cold Turkey’ End to Aid”, Bloomberg)

This shocking policy reversal by the Fed suggests that the economy is still so weak, that the ventilator and feeding-tubes must remain in place to forestall another disaster. In fact, JPM’s own economist David Kelly candidly compares the economy to a drug addict who can’t cope without his “liquidity fix” from the central bank. While that seems like a fitting metaphor, it also illustrates the shortcomings of QE2. Clearly, the program was never intended to reduce unemployment, stimulate demand or trigger a rebound in the real economy. It’s just another multi-billion dollar handout to the investor class so they can make the payments on the Jaguar or add another Chagall to their art collection. Here’s an excerpt from an article by Professor Alan Nasser on Counterpunch that sums it up pretty well:

“Ben Bernanke’s second round of bond buying, QE2, has been a grand flop. Housing sales and prices are falling at an unhealthy clip, foreclosures and bankruptcies continue to mount and QE2 has had no measurable impact on the dismal employment picture. Nor should we expect it to. A study by the highly reliable Macroeconomic Advisors indicates that even an additional $1.5 trillion bond purchase by the Fed would reduce unemployment by a mere two tenths of one percent. (J. Hilsenrath, “Fed Fires $660 Billion Stimulus Shot”, Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2010)…” (“Putting People to Work”, Alan Nasser, Counterpunch)

See? Bernanke has been pulling the wool over our eyes from the get go. QE2 was never intended to lower unemployment. The real goal was to buoy stocks with the hope that inflated asset prices would increase the “wealth effect” and trigger another credit expansion. But that hasn’t happened because consumers are up to their eyeballs in debt and still deleveraging.

While it’s bad enough that QE2 has made billions in profits for the same scoundrels who blew up the financial system, the program has other hidden costs as well. For example, how much damage will the economy sustain when Bernanke ends QE2 and the stock bubble pops? And, for those still in doubt, there’s more and more proof that stock prices are pretty “frothy” already. According to BusinessWeek: “Robert Shiller calculates that the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index is trading at 23 times earnings normalized over the past 10 years, compared with a historical average of 16.” (“The Granddaddy of All Bubbles?”, Peter Coy and Roben Farzad, BusinessWeek)

And then there’s this from Marketwatch:

“There have been only four other occasions over the last century when equity valuations were as high as they are now, according to a variant of the price-earnings ratio that has a wide following in academic circles. Stocks on each of those four occasions would soon suffer big declines.” (“History bodes ill for stock market”, Mark Hulbert, Marketwatch)

So, why are stock prices so high? Is it because the economy is doing so well or because the Fed’s zero rates and bond buying binge has ignited a flurry of speculation that’s pumped up prices?

The uptick in margin debt–which is presently at its highest level since 2008–is particularly disturbing. It means that the big banks and hedge funds have been increasing their debt-load to buy equities. But haven’t we seen this movie before? When investors borrow tons of money to but stocks, it always ends badly. When the bubble bursts, over-extended investors rush for the exits, and the market crashes. Bernanke should be doing everything in his power to avoid this scenario, but, instead he keeps pumping more gas into the balloon. It’s madness.

Here’s a clip from Gluskin Sheff’s David Rosenberg who explains the debt-fueled stock buying frenzy that Bernanke has sparked with QE2:

“If there is one sure way to tell that the Fed has managed to create and nurture a speculative-led rally in the equity market, look no further than what is happening to investor-based leverage growth – it’s exploding off the page. Yes, that’s right. Debit balances at margin accounts skyrocketed $20.7 billion in February. Only two other times historically have we seen leverage rise so much so fast and both times it was during a manic phase – during the tech bubble of the late 1990s and the credit bubble just a short four years ago.” (“Surging margin debt and the instability QE2 has created”, Pragmatic Capitalism)

When investors start borrowing boatloads of money to buy stocks, then the “big crash” cannot be too far off. A sudden decline in stock prices can quickly turn into a full-blown rout as margin calls send investors racing for cover and debt deflation dynamics pull the economy back into another slump.

Bernanke created this problem. And when the markets implode, it’s Bernanke who should be held responsible.

 

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The Libyan government has renewed its call for independent fact-finding experts to come to the country to assess allegations of violence against civilians.

Speaking to Sky News, deputy foreign minister Khalid Kaim said: “We are asking for professional fact-finding missions.

“We asked the British government for this in the first week of the conflict but never received a reply. When we have claim and counter-claim, this is unacceptable.”

It comes as the United Nations outlines plans for a humanitarian team to be sent to the besieged city of Misratah.

It also follows the surprise finding of a British campaign group who claimed they had seen ‘no evidence’ that Colonel Gaddafi’s forces had attacked, bombed or killed any civilians in western Libya, despite widespread condemnation of the regime from organisations such as the UN, the African Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.

British campaign group

The group spent a week in Tripoli and other towns

The mission, from British Civilians For Peace in Libya, led by Dave Roberts, of the Socialist Labour Party, spent a week touring Tripoli and a number of other towns in the west of Libya.

The 13-person group comprised a number of humanitarian campaigners involved in projects in Ramallah and Gaza, as well as film-makers, bloggers and political activists.

They travelled to Libya last week after forming a few days earlier.

It is unclear who funded their visit.

In their interim findings, the campaign group claimed they had been able to “corroborate civilian casualties and fatalities due to Nato bombing” but “could find no evidence that three areas of Tripoli cited in UN resolution 1973 had been subjected to government forces bombardment”.

We are deficient but we’re the only people doing this… there is a need for an independent international fact-finding intervention, Dave Roberts, British Civilians For Peace in Libya

Although Mr Roberts acknowledged the group’s visit had been facilitated and overseen by minders from the Libyan Government and a Libyan non-governmental organisation (NGO), he claimed they had been able to speak freely to organisations and individuals in many towns in western Libya, although not those which have seen the most significant fighting in recent weeks, such as Misratah, or Yafran, Zintan and Nalut in the Nafusa mountain range.

Among the towns the campaign group visited were Zawiyah, Bin Walid, Tajoura, Fashloom and Suk Jooma.

The group’s interim report also criticised media coverage of events in Libya, saying: “We are concerned that Western media outlets are failing in their duty to report on the conflict truthfully.”

Speaking at the news conference in Tripoli, Mr Roberts referred to the restrictions that had been put on journalists, saying “one of the reasons you are being locked up is because your independence is being questioned”.

British Civilians For Peace in Libya

DELEGATION MEMBERS:

    David Roberts
    Dr Anour Izzadine
    Nidaa Sabbagh
    Manzur Sadaq
    Baboo Zanghar
    Ishmahil Blagrove
    Majed Sabbagh
    Richard Mejeh
    Mohamed Elhaddad
    Martin Longhurst
    Agab Eldoor Khamis
    Mohielddin Zakaria
    Sukant Chandan

British campaign group

[Note: This section of the article is there to refute the conclusions of the British team, Global Research Editor]

However, when Sky’s chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay put to the delegates that Sky News had recorded footage in Zawiyah which showed civilians and children being severely injured during government bombardment, it was unclear whether the campaigners had seen the report, or factored in reports like it in their conclusions.

Indeed, they admitted that they had not conducted any research into wider media reporting or into video posted online on social media networks by those who claim they witnessed the onslaughts.

Mr Roberts acknowledged that he and his fellow delegates were “not experts”, adding: “We are deficient but we’re the only people doing this… there is a need for an independent international fact-finding intervention by a professional, credible and acceptable organisation.”

When asked by journalists whether they had sought access to detainees in Libyan prisons, Mr Roberts said they had not but would take the suggestion on board.

Sources in Tripoli who oppose the Gaddafi government have told Sky News they believe several thousand people in the city have been arrested and continue to be detained on suspicion of holding anti-regime views.

In New York, a UN spokesman reiterated the importance of allowing humanitarian missions to access the country.

“The Libyan government said that it would ensure unimpeded access through the Tunisian border into Libya up to Tripoli and said it would ensure safe passage for humanitarian workers to enter areas where the government of Libya is in control,” he said.

We bring to the attention of Global Research readers the text ogf the Group’s Press Release ppubished prior to the departure of the mission on April 9, 2011.

Advocating peace through civil means by Libyan, AU and UN initiatives in Libya Description 7th April, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BRITISH PEACE DELEGATION HEADS FOR LIBYA TO CALL FOR AN END TO THE KILLING

LONDON – ENGLAND

A twenty-five person peace delegation made up of academics, lawyers, journalists and professionals will be departing for Libya on 9th April, to call for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and an end to all hostilities. This is the first half of a two stage process that will involve reconciliation talks with tribal leaders, government officials and key opposition figures. After almost three weeks of continual bombing by Coalition forces and heavy fighting in key cities, countless civilians have lost their lives and there appears to be no end in sight to the untold suffering of the people. An immediate end to the conflict and the protection of civilian lives is the aim of this mission.

The Civilians for Peace Delegation will be meeting with key officials and parties to the conflict and calling for:

1. An immediate ceasefire and an end to hostilities from all sides, including NATO.

2. Immediate peace talks between representatives of government and the opposition.

3. Fair and honest arbitration between the opposing forces.

4. The immediate positioning of credible and impartial International Observers to monitor a possible ceasefire.

5. Humanitarian corridors to provide Medical assistance, food and water to civilians in the affected areas.

In addition, the Civilians for Peace delegation will be calling on the African Union to take a lead role in arbitrating peace and for the United Nations to call an immediate meeting of the General Assembly to discuss the Libyan situation and the broadening crisis in the region.

The delegation will be leaving on Saturday 9th April @ 5.45pm from Terminal 4, Heathrow Airport. There will be a press statement made from Terminal 4 @ 2.30pm and members of the public are encouraged to attend and to support the delegation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

DELEGATION REPRESENTATIVE: David Paul Roberts – Tel: (+44 7980631255)

SPOKESPERSON: Sukant Chandan – Tel: (+44 7854147868)

MEDIA: Ishmahil Blagrove – Tel: (+44 7958287687) (read less) 7th April, 2011 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BRITISH PEACE DELEGATION HEADS FOR LIBYA TO CALL FOR AN END TO THE KILLING

LONDON – ENGLAND

A twenty-five person peace delegation made up of academics, lawyers, journalists and professionals will be departing for Libya on 9th April, to call for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and an end to all hostilities. This is the first half of a two stage process that will involve reconciliation talks with tribal leaders, government officials and key opposition… (read more)

America’s well-to-do are waging war on America’s “shrinking middle class,” Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, says.

“The nation’s billionaires are on the war path. They want more, more, more,” and “their greed has no end and they are apparently unconcerned for the future of this country if it gets in the way of their accumulation of wealth and power.”

Sanders says that, “Right now, the top one percent controls more than 23 percent of all income earned in America,” which is more wealth than “the bottom 50 percent” put together. What’s more, he notes, “In the last 25 years, we have seen 80 percent of all new income going to the top 1 percent.” This comment is supported by data showing that productivity gains created by U.S. workers over the past several decades have not resulted in increased pay for them but have instead gone into profits. Salaries have stagnated.

“All of the progressive legislation that started with FDR is on the chopping block,” Sanders declared. “Despite the fact that Social Security today has a $2.6 trillion dollar surplus, they are targeting Social Security. They are targeting Medicare. In Arizona, people on Medicaid who need transplants are no longer able to get them—-(and) that is a real death panel.”

The Vermont senator’s charges about the Social Security surplus are backed up by the Social Security Administration itself. SSA says from 1937, when the first pay outs were made, through 2009, Social Security spent a total of $11.3-trillion. In the same period, though, it received $13.8 trillion.

Over the years, nearly 454 million Social Security cards have been issued and, presumably, as many people have been beneficiaries of the system. And between five and six million new cards are being issued every year. That’s a lot of help for a lot of people.

Sanders says that since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision “what we are beginning to see in elections is unbelievable. Billionaires are going to flood states with all kinds of negative, dishonest ads in an effort to defeat people defending the middle class.” He added that the Republicans’ “have been pretty honest” about their goal “to bring this country back to where we were in the 1920s.”

Not only are the well-to-do out to demolish the progressive legislation enacted as America struggled out of the Depression of the 1930s but well-to-do individuals and corporations are skirting the tax laws enacted to make them pay their fair share of taxes on their income.

“Right now,” Sanders says, “we are losing about $100 billion every year because corporate America and the very wealthy are stashing their money in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.” He continued, “In 2009 ExxonMobil made $19 billion in profits and not only did the company not pay anything in taxes, it got a $106 million refund from the IRS.”

In an article he wrote for May-June’s Utne Reader, Sanders continued, “We should be aware that since 1997, we have almost tripled funding for the military” and if the nation is serious about reducing the deficit, the Pentagon budget is among the “things we need to look at.”

Sanders called for Americans “to put pressure on a handful of Republicans—-to tell them, ‘Go into your hearts, talk to your constituents and tell me if it is appropriate to hold hostage the future of this country for an agenda that benefits only the very rich.’”

Sanders concluded that if we don’t act, “if they roll over us now—there is no stopping them. It is time we organize.” Maybe seniors will consider organizing into groups with the word “Voters” and “Defenders” of Social Security in their title. Seniors vote in large numbers and the names of their organizations could send Republicans a message. #

Sherwood Ross, formerly a columnist for wire services, heads the Anti-War News Service. To contact him or contribute to AWNS email [email protected]

“The Weight of Chains”: DVD now available to order!

April 21st, 2011 by Global Research

THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS
The true story behind NATO intervention in the Balkans

DVD now available for purchase!
Visit the film’s website for details:
http://www.weightofchains.com/buy.html

The illegal so-called “humanitarian intervention” in Yugoslavia in March 1999 set an important and lethal precedent. Today, Libya has become the 4th sovereign nation in 12 years to crumble under NATO attacks. Learn the truth behind the devastation of Western military and economic interference in sovereign affairs, and understand the full impact of unjust wars. Watch The Weight of Chains to find out how it all began.

View the trailer:



About the Film

The Weight of Chains is a Canadian documentary film that takes a critical look at the role that the US, NATO and the EU played in the tragic breakup of a once peaceful and prosperous European state – Yugoslavia.

The film is a poignant first-hand look at why the West intervened in the Yugoslav conflict, with an impressive roster of interviews with academics, diplomats, media personalities and ordinary citizens of the former Yugoslav republics, including Professor of Economics Michel Chossudovsky, author and political scientist Michael Parenti, renowned writer Srdja Trifkovic, Former Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, and many others

Malagurski offers a unique look into the current state in which the new Balkan countries are – powerless to choose their own government or write their own laws.


Buy your copy of “The Weight of Chains” today!
Visit the film’s website for details:
http://www.weightofchains.com/buy.html

This initiative is supported by GRTV and the Centre for Research on Globalization

Libya’s expanding complications 

-The longer the Western allies are embroiled in the domestic conflict in Libya, the stronger Africa’s anti-interventionis t sentiments will become, with the result that the political legitimacy of the Libyan opposition will become even more tenuous, compelling the West to undertake more substantial operations in Libya and ultimately bogging them down in Africa.
-[Arab countries] first tried to instigate Western countries to intervene in the Libyan conflict and attempted to let Gadhafi serve as a sacrificial lamb for the upheavals in the Middle East, especially those with their own domestic revolt pressure.

BEIJING: With no end in sight the situation is turning into a humanitarian disaster with far-reaching consequences.

After weeks of seesawing firefights, the Libyan conflict seems to have fallen into a stalemate. The Western allies have assumed that they could intervene and oust Libyan ruler Muammar Gadhafi through air strikes.

But even with the aid of the allied bombardment the rebel forces have been unable to gain an apparent advantage over the government troops.

Indeed, with increasing civilian casualties and a growing humanitarian disaster, the West’s military operations have merely convinced some of the rebels that the opposition is betraying national interests and resorting to Western powers to further its own interests.

The political impotence of the opposition is gradually being exposed. Besides accusing the Gadhafi regime of corruption and dictatorship, the opposition has found no other convincing arguments with which to attack its legitimacy.

The opposition is composed of a lot of factions scrambling for power, which has undermined the rebels’ unity, and there is concern among the Western allies that in a post-Gadhafi era the opposition would be incapable of restoring order.

For the allies, a long-drawn-out military intervention will inevitably result in a growing number of civilian casualties and serious humanitarian issues, such as the destruction of civilian facilities, swelling numbers of refugees and a shortage of food and medical care. This would enable the Gadhafi regime to make a big fanfare over the misery of the Libyan people and to claim that the people’s suffering was caused by the West and the only way out is to return to the previous state of affairs.

Long-term military intervention by the allies would also consolidate anti-war sentiments in their own countries and because of the financial crisis and the already strained fiscal circumstances in Western countries the allies cannot indefinitely finance their military operations on the battlefield.

After weathering the allies’ air strikes and the opposition’s attacks, Gadhafi quickly began a diplomatic offensive. He has spared no effort to enlist the support of neighboring African Union (AU) countries and has used the fact that Libya, as an African country, is suffering from foreign intervention to arouse simmering anti-colonialist sentiments. The Libyan leader wants the whole AU to back his legitimacy.

In Africa, Gadhafi’s government is increasingly regarded as the standard bearer in the fight against Western colonial intervention. Libya is becoming the front line of African countries’ resistance toward Western interference, rather than a place where the UN mandated a peacekeeping no-fly zone, intended to prevent Libyan civilians from being abused by the Gadhafi regime.

The longer the Western allies are embroiled in the domestic conflict in Libya, the stronger Africa’s anti-interventionis t sentiments will become, with the result that the political legitimacy of the Libyan opposition will become even more tenuous, compelling the West to undertake more substantial operations in Libya and ultimately bogging them down in Africa.

Compared with Africa’s increasing unity, the fragmentation of the Arab world might be detrimental to hopes of achieving a resolution to the situation in Libya. In dealing with Libya, the Arab countries seem to be in confusion.

They first tried to instigate Western countries to intervene in the Libyan conflict and attempted to let Gadhafi serve as a sacrificial lamb for the upheavals in the Middle East, especially those with their own domestic revolt pressure.

When Gadhafi managed to stand up against the allies’ military strikes, the Arab League began to hold itself slightly aloof from the West so as to avoid being labeled as “the betrayer of Arab interests” by their people. Those few countries, which are firmly following the West’s footsteps, will likely incur the anger of the Arab world in the future.

To a large extent, the Libya crisis has caused the Arab world to divide into three parts, those countries that have turned to Africa, those to Iran and those to the West. This has further reduced the Arab world’s influence in regional affairs.

The West’s deepening involvement, combined with the complex relations between countries in the region and tribal and religious conflicts and grievances, will further complicate the situation and make it even harder to find peace in the region.

Western Coalition: Air Operation may turn into Ground Operation

-”We have the NATO countries staging an intervention in Libya. They are taking part in military action on the side of the opposition: rather than enforcing a no-fly zone, they are bombing the equipment and facilities of the Libyan troops. Against this background, the West’s assurances of the Libya-bound ground troops only escorting the humanitarian convoys look cynical and deceitful.”

The West has already started its invasion of Libya and a ground coalition operation would merely be the next step. Russian experts have come to this conclusion in the wake of the EU’s readiness to send ground troops to Libya to support the UN humanitarian mission in Tripoli.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said that the EU is ready to send up to 1000 troops into the battle zone.

There have already been media reports that NATO countries are developing a plan for a ground operation in Libya. It may begin at the end of April or in early May. At the same time, the Western coalition stresses that the operation would only start after the UN files the respective request. France, Italy and the UK are ready to take part, but Germany is not.

The head of Arab and Islamic Studies at the Oriental Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Filonik, considers the EU’s intentions to guard the UN humanitarian convoy a precursor to a ground operation.

“Such a turn of events cannot be ruled out and indirect indicators support this. You could consider the disembarkation of troops from ships the start of the ground operation. They are not just doing things on the Libyan coast, they are penetrating deeper inside the country to carry out some sort of reconnaissance.  Perhaps they are seeking out contacts with the local elite and with authoritative figures, who may provide support in the future.”

On Tuesday, the UK announced that it will send its military advisors to Benghazi to provide consultations to the National Transitional Council, which France, Britain, Italy and Qatar have recognized as the legitimate government. This is nothing other than a de-facto involvement in the civil war on the opposition’s side, contrary to the UN mandate, says Alexei Podtserob, an expert at the Oriental Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“We have the NATO countries staging an intervention in Libya. They are taking part in military action on the side of the opposition: rather than enforcing a no-fly zone, they are bombing the equipment and facilities of the Libyan troops. Against this background, the West’s assurances of the Libya-bound ground troops only escorting the humanitarian convoys look cynical and deceitful.”

Russian political analyst Alexei Malashenko supposes that while the EU is formally talking about escorting humanitarian cargoes, in practice this will become a confrontation with those who obstruct their delivery. And the death of someone from the European military or the UN  will become a reason to start a ground operation.

French politicians, who are calling for a speedy resolution of the Libyan problem, are more and more often saying that it would be good to sort Gaddafi out not just in the sky, but also on land and at sea. Furthermore, the Libyan opposition says NATO isn’t doing enough. This is yet more temptation to switch into ground operation mode, given that Gaddafi’s use of women and children as shields in air raids ties the allies’ hands.

However, the UN Security Council never set the goal to change the regime in Libya, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently reminded. “Thus those who are essentially using the adopted resolution to justify this cause are violating the mandate approved by the Security Council,” – the diplomat emphasized. The problem is that seeing such a position from the West, the oppositional forces in Libya are refusing to sit down for talks, which is why Moscow urges the UN SC to encourage dialogue, not confrontation. Lavrov is sure that only Libyan political and public leaders can decide how they will live in their own country moving forward.

Libya and Western Hypocrisy

April 21st, 2011 by Devon DB

Just last week President Barack Obama, President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Prime Minister David Cameron wrote an op-ed in which the three imperial powers jointly defend their ‘intervention’ in Libya. While it may seem like a legitimate argument, what the op-ed shows is Western hypocrisy and lies.

They first state the reasons that for the ‘intervention’ into Libya, saying:

“We must never forget the reasons why the international community was obliged to act in the first place. As Libya descended into chaos with Colonel Gaddafi attacking his own people, the Arab League called for action. The Libyan opposition called for help. And the people of Libya looked to the world in their hour of need.”

For some reason, the irony of that statement goes unnoted. They argue that the “international community” went into Libya because “Gaddafi [was] attacking his own people” and “the people of Libya looked to the world in their hour of need.”

However, aren’t the citizens of Bahrain, Yemen, and Djibouti also being attacked by their respective governments?

Aren’t they just as deserving of help as the Libyan opposition? The three leaders expose their own hypocrisy, yet don’t even realize it!

Their second argument is that they had UN backing and that “the United Nations Security Council authorized all necessary measures to protect the people of Libya from the attacks upon them.” What is conviently ignored, however, is that the airstrikes have also been killing civilians and rebels. These events have been highly publicized and the fact that they refuse to acknowledge them only serves to show their arrogance and refusal to admit any wrongdoing. The trio states that “Tens of thousands of lives have been protected. But the people of Libya are suffering terrible horrors at Gaddafi’s hands each and every day.” Yet they refuse to acknowledge the “terrible horrors” that the Libyan people are suffering at their hands.

Most interestingly in the op-ed, the trio openly admits that they are seeking regime change in Libya. Last month UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that there would be “no regime change [in Libya], no occupying force.” Yet he and his cohorts state:

“Our duty and our mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove Gaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gaddafi in power” (emphasis added)

After all the rhetoric from the US, the UK, and France about there being no plan to overthrow Gaddafi, they finally admit their imperial goals. They plan to overthrow the Gaddafi government in order to form “a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process.” One must wonder how much change will actually occur when the head of the rebel Libyan government was an ex-minister in the Gaddafi regime.

In that same paragraph, the trio states that it would be an “an unconscionable betrayal” of the “brave citizens” of Libya if they were to stop bombing their country. However, wasn’t it also “an unconscionable betrayal” of the people Egypt when the US backed Mubarak, who constantly oppressed his citizens? Isn’t it “an unconscionable betrayal” of Palestinians when the Israel kills civilians and the US and its allies do nothing?

The West has been lying, cheating, and deceiving people for much too long.

The people of Libya need to reject both the Gaddafi regime and the Western-controlled opposition government and find a new way to govern their country where neither madmen nor puppets dictate their lives, only then will the Libyan people find freedom.

Devon DB is 19 years old and studying political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. 

Apple’s iPhone saves every detail of your movements to a file on the device. Security researchers have discovered that Apple’s iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner’s computer when the two are synchronised.

The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone’s recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner’s movements using a simple program.

For some phones, there could be almost a year’s worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple’s iOS 4 update to the phone’s operating system, released in June 2010.

“Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you’ve been,” said Pete Warden, one of the researchers.

Only the iPhone records the user’s location in this way, say Warden and Alasdair Allan, the data scientists who discovered the file and are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google's] Android phones and couldn’t find any,” said Warden. “We haven’t come across any instances of other phone manufacturers doing this.”

Simon Davies, director of the pressure group Privacy International, said: “This is a worrying discovery. Location is one of the most sensitive elements in anyone’s life – just think where people go in the evening. The existence of that data creates a real threat to privacy. The absence of notice to users or any control option can only stem from an ignorance about privacy at the design stage.”

Warden and Allan point out that the file is moved onto new devices when an old one is replaced: “Apple might have new features in mind that require a history of your location, but that’s our specualtion. The fact that [the file] is transferred across [to a new iPhone or iPad] when you migrate is evidence that the data-gathering isn’t accidental.” But they said it does not seem to be transmitted to Apple itself.

Map shows location data collected from an iPhone that had been used in the southwest of England Although mobile networks already record phones’ locations, it is only available to the police and other recognised organisations following a court order under the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act. Standard phones do not record location data.

MPs in 2009 criticised the search engine giant Google for its “Latitude” system, which allowed people to enable their mobile to give out details of their location to trusted contacts. At the time MPs said that Latitude “could substantially endanger user privacy”, but Google pointed out that users had to specifically choose to make their data available.

The iPhone system, by contrast, appears to record the data whether or not the user agrees. Apple declined to comment on why the file is created or whether it can be disabled.

Warden and Allan have set up a web page which answers questions about the file, and created a simple downloadable application to let Apple users check for themselves what location data the phone is retaining. The Guardian has confirmed that 3G-enabled devices including the iPad also retain the data and copy it to the owner’s computer.

If someone were to steal an iPhone and “jailbreak” it, giving them direct access to the files it contains, they could extract the location database directly. Alternatively, anyone with direct access to a user’s computer could run the application and see a visualisation of their movements. Encrypting data on the computer is one way to protect against it, though that still leaves the file on the phone.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at the security company Sophos, said: “If the data isn’t required for anything, then it shouldn’t store the location. And it doesn’t need to keep an archive on your machine of where you’ve been.” He suggested that Apple might be hoping that it would yield data for future mobile advertising targeted by location, although he added: “I tend to subscribe to cockup rather than conspiracy on things like this – I don’t think Apple is really trying to monitor where users are.”

The data inside the file containing the location and time information. This is used to plot the map above The location file came to light when Warden and Allan were looking for a source of mobile data. “We’d been discussing doing a visualisation of mobile data, and while Alasdair was researching into what was available, he discovered this file. At first we weren’t sure how much data was there, but after we dug further and visualised the extracted data, it became clear that there was a scary amount of detail on our movements,” Warden said.

They have blogged about their discovery at O’Reilly’s Radar site, noting that “why this data is stored and how Apple intends to use it — or not — are important questions that need to be explored.”

The pair of data scientists have collaborated on a number of data visualisations, including a map of radiation levels in Japan for The Guardian. They are developing a Data Science Toolkit for dealing with location data.

Davies said that the discovery of the file indicated that Apple had failed to take users’ privacy seriously.

Apple can legitimately claim that it has permission to collect the data: near the end of the 15,200-word terms and conditions for its iTunes program, used to synchronise with iPhones, iPods and iPads, is an 86-word paragraph about “location-based services”.

It says that “Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.”

Privacy invasions via technology April 2011: iPhone location

British researchers on Wednesday revealed that iPhones (and 3G-enabled iPads) keep track of where you go, including timestamps, on a file that is backed up on your computer and shifted onto any new iPhone or iPad you get. Apple hasn’t said why the file is created or whether the tracking can be prevented.

October 2010: US Transportation Security Agency’s X-ray scanners

The “porno scanners” (as they quickly became known) offered a clothes-free vision of people passing through the backscatter machines (whose level of X-ray exposure was also questioned). People who objected to going through those were obliged to go through remarkably intimate examinations – none of which endeared the TSA to air travellers.

April 2010: Google captures Wi-Fi data

In a series of increasingly embarrassed blogposts over the course of April, May and June, Google admitted that while its cars were driving around to capture its (already slightly controversial) Street View pictures of locations around the world, it had also captured Wi-Fi network names – and data from the open ones, potentially including passwords and usernames. The dispute over whether Google should delete the data, and whether it had broken the law in various countries, rumbled on for months.

December 2009: Eric Schmidt

In a speech, Google’s then-chief executive Eric Schmidt suggested that: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines – including Google – do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.”

His words provoked an outcry from privacy rights campaigners, who pointed out that privacy is a right, and that it protects every citizen from abuses by those in power.

There are 20 nuclear power plants in India, two in Pakistan and plans exist to expand the industry across South Asia; yet there are always multiple risks that exist as a result of the technology itself and that cannot be mitigated

The March earthquake and tsunami in Japan have already claimed more than 10,000 lives, and some 17,500 people are still missing.

This disaster has been compounded by the continuing threat of widespread radioactive contamination from the accidents at four nuclear reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi site and the pools that contain their still hot, intensely radioactive spent nuclear fuel. Even if the nuclear accident is contained, it carries many lessons for South Asia.

Southern Asia’s misplaced confidence in the safety of nuclear

Dependence on nuclear energy in South Asia is growing. India has 20 operating nuclear power reactors, with several more under construction, and plans for a large expansion in the coming decades. Pakistan has two operating nuclear power plants, another almost completed, and plans for many more in the next 20 years. Both countries also have reactors that are part of their nuclear weapons programmes. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have plans to build their first nuclear power reactors.

The first lesson for South Asian publics and decision-makers is that nuclear establishments underestimate the likelihood and severity of possible accidents. The Fukushima reactors were not prepared to cope with an earthquake and tsunami of the size that took place. A month before the accident, the Fukushima plant was given a permit to operate for another 10 years. The Tokyo Electric Power Company that owns and operates the reactors, the nuclear safety agency in Japan and the Japanese government all convinced themselves the reactors were safe.

This confidence is evident in South Asian nuclear establishments. After the accident in Japan, S.K. Jain, the chairman of India’s Nuclear Power Corporation said that in India “We have got total knowledge and design of the seismic activities. Worst seismic events and tsunami have been taken into consideration in our designs.” The Japanese nuclear authorities no doubt thought the same way before Fukushima.

Similarly, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission said that the safety of its reactors was checked by foreign experts, including those from the World Association of Nuclear Operators. This should reassure no one. The Tokyo Electric Power Company is a member of the World Association of Nuclear Operators.

There are always multiple risks

The second lesson is that extreme natural disasters only make nuclear accidents more likely. The accidents at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union in 1986, at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979, at Windscale in the United Kingdom in 1957 and at Chalk River in Canada in 1952 were not triggered by natural disasters.

Earthquakes make reactor accidents more likely because they simultaneously affect large parts of the plant. They take out multiple safety systems or create multiple failures. Floods and fire can pose a threat. It was a fire that caused the blackout in Narora in 1993, India’s closest brush with a major nuclear accident.

The third lesson is that nuclear accidents are a result of the nature of nuclear technology. They do not have to result from technological weakness or lack of skilled operators. Japan is a country with immense expertise in nuclear technology. The Chernobyl disaster, Three Mile Island, Windscale and Chalk River accidents all happened in countries with plenty of nuclear expertise.

A fourth lesson is that no reactor design can claim to be totally safe. The Fukushima accident was at a Boiling Water Reactor. The five most serious accidents before Fukushima were in five different reactor designs. Accidents have occurred also at experimental reactors, such as the fast breeder reactors that India’s nuclear establishment is investing in.

A fifth lesson is that spending more money on safety cannot stop small failures combining to produce disaster, and may cause new problems. At the Fukushima reactors, many safety systems failed, some for reasons still not understood. To anticipate every possible failure and build backups for backups would make reactors yet more complicated with more things to go wrong, and even more expensive to build.

A sixth lesson is that nuclear reactors and people don’t mix. People can cause accidents and accidents affect people. Operator error contributed to the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The Fukushima workers have faced high levels of radiation as they struggle to regain control over the reactors and spent fuel pools. Nearly 200,000 people living within 20km of the Fukushima reactors were evacuated; those living between 20km and 30km away were told to remain indoors to avoid radioactivity. The United States has told its citizens in the area to move at least 80km away from the reactor. Contaminated food and water have been found at distances of 250km. Traces of radiation have arrived on the west coast of the United States, 8,000km across the Pacific Ocean.

In South Asia, there are reactors close to major population centres or rivers that provide water for drinking and agriculture. Pakistan’s Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, for example, is located on the coast and is vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. Built over 40 years ago, the reactor was originally far from the city. There are now housing schemes within 20km of the site. Northern Karachi receives a sea breeze that first passes over the nuclear plant. In case of an accident, it is unthinkable that everyone within 80km of the Karachi reactor could be quickly and safely evacuated

Around the world, people are rethinking nuclear energy. After Fukushima, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, observed that “when… the apparently impossible becomes possible and the absolutely unlikely reality, then the situation changes”. She announced a “measured exit” from reliance on nuclear energy, which means closing Germany’s 17 reactors. The longer South Asia waits, the more reactors will be built and the harder it will be to change direction.

A.H. Nayyar is a visiting professor of physics at LUMS, Lahore. M.V. Ramana and Zia Mian are physicists at the Programme on Science and Global Security, Princeton University, Princeton, US.

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who less than two months ago was Moammar Gadhafi’s minister of justice, is now on an official visit to Rome where, in his position as the president of the Libyan National Transition Council he is meeting with Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and is being received by President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano. What Jalil finds most important is what Frattini promised him at the recent meeting of the “Contact Group” in Doha: “Weapons but not only weapons, also communication equipment allowing the interception of the Libyan government’s radio communications.”

Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, head of a tribe of Cyrenaica who until two months ago was Gadhafi’s interior minister and now is chief of the anti-Gadhafi forces, said in an interview with Al Arabiya that his forces “are getting weapons,” though he did not specify from whom. That information came from the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who said on CNN that he had sent arms supplies to the rebels. In the last days many containers labeled “Humanitarian Aid” have arrived in Bengazi from Qatar. The New York Times points out that Qatar, along with Italy and France, has already recognized the Council of Bengazi as the “legitimate government of Libya.” The vice-chairman of the Council of Bengazi, Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, said he had asked for foreign instructors in the use of weapons, and spokesperson Mustafa Gheriani specified that they had opened “centers of professional training.” 

In a press conference in Bengazi on Saturday, April 16, Ghoga also stated that “NATO forces and the Libyan rebels established a joint operations room” to coordinate ground operations with air strikes conducted by NATO.

From March 31 to the present (April 19) the command of the allied joint force, whose headquarters is in Naples, has made more than 3,000 air strikes in Libya, an average of 150 a day. The attacks are carried out about half by French and British fighter-bombers with the rest by aircraft from Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Canada. A quarter of the raids are carried out by U.S. planes, whose task is mainly to identify the targets and disrupt enemy telecommunications. 

At this point, however, writes the Washington Post, “the limits of European NATO countries for supporting military action is relatively small over an extended period”: there are few laser-guided bombs, and French and British airplanes cannot use those from the U.S. Pentagon officials expect therefore that U.S. aircraft will be called on again for bombings, including A-10 Thunderbolt and AC-130 Specter, whose guns fire thousands of rounds per minute (for the most part, made up of depleted uranium). And contradicting the “reluctance” of the Italian government to provide aircraft used for bombing, a senior U.S. official, quoted in the Washington Post, says: “It is likely that Italy will provide aircraft to support ground attack missions.” 

il manifesto, April 19, 2011. Translated from the Italian by John Catalinotto

What Path for Venezuela

April 21st, 2011 by Edgardo Lander

Hugo Prieto (HP): The Venezuelan process is caught between a fundamental contradiction: popular demands for democratic participation against tendencies toward hierarchical decision-making and concentration of power. Since the 18th December, there has been a new situation in Venezuela marked by limited legislative action, due to the approval of the Ley Habilitante (Enacting Law) and the reform of National Assembly procedures. What is your reading of these events?

Edgardo Lander (EL): All of these developments effectively mark a step toward reducing the public sphere and political debate. In strict numerical terms, the Government lost the elections of the 26 September 2010. If we count the votes obtained by PPT (Country for Everyone Party), a former government ally but now an opposition party, the opposition got 52% of the votes.

Edgardo Lander

Edgardo Lander – professor of Social Sciences at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas.

The other problem was how the Assembly was constituted. The new electoral law of 2009 limited proportional representation and representation of minorities, and modified the electoral districts. This led to situations such as Caracas, where the opposition won the majority (by a small margin) of votes, yet the majority of elected deputies still belong to PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela).

The electoral system, which was very good and trustworthy, has become deceitful, in the sense that it does not genuinely represent the will of the electorate. However, the reality is that with these results, the Government now lacks the necessary majority to approve leyes orgánicas (key laws) and the appointment of high level public authorities like Supreme Court Judges.

HP: Why is the government denying this reality?

EL: There is a widespread impression in this society, not just by those of the opposition but also those who have supported a process of change in all these years, that we are in a situation of deterioration, that the opposition is gaining ground including among popular sectors (as we can see from results in the areas of Petare, La Vega, Caricuao for example). This fact cannot be denied.

In December, two documents emerged that were very important. One by some leaders of PSUV called A Proposal for the Present Emergency of the Bolivarian Revolution which, apart from being a critical reflection of many problems, also emphasizes the lack of collective leadership and the absence of debate and collective construction of proposals.

The other was an editorial of the Tribuna Popular (official newspaper of the Venezuelan Communist Party), where the main concern was the lack of collective leadership of the revolutionary process. This is what the Communists are saying. Whether it is said publicly or not, support for the government is reducing, and among social organizations and Chavista supporters there is a great sense of unease as well as demands for change and correction of errors.

Radicalization can go in many directions. One could propose, as many popular sectors demand, a radicalization of democracy. This would require opening up spaces of participation, places of debate and a plurality of initiatives by Venezuelan society. But what is happening instead is going in the other direction: more hierarchical decision-making and a further concentration of power.

This is a path down a blind alley, because it is putting short-term interests first and prioritizing government control and state control, which will threaten two fundamental processes. The first is the construction of a more democratic society through participation and the construction of new hegemonies and an alternative society, and the second, is the very viability and continuity of the process of change, because once there are impositions from above they generate very little transformation.

HP: Where will this situation take us?

EL: The worst that could happen in Venezuela would be a situation where we are confronted with two options: Stalinism or neoliberalism. If that happens, we would be in a serious mess. People say, for example, that the opposition has no programme. It’s not true: they have a programme, it’s called neoliberalism. The idea of a free market, openness to foreign investment, probable privatization of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company – all these things make up a packet of measures that does not have to be invented because it already exists. On the other hand, we still have to see whether it is possible to build a more democratic society, and whether socialism is necessarily Stalinism.

HP: What does it mean to be of the Left nowadays?

EL: Socialist projects and those inspired by Karl Marx in the 19th and 20th century were linked to the building of a state and developmental socialism. The collective imagination was profoundly monocultural and Eurocentric, which viewed development as the use of productive forces, science and technology, and which put liberty above necessity.

Nowadays, the challenges for the Left have various characteristics in common with the past because we are still fundamentally involved in a struggle for equity, equality between human beings. The United States is one example, where two or three per cent of the richest people appropriate ever more of economic growth and salaries for most people have remained frozen for decades. The social unease and the protests that have resulted from this explain, to a large degree, the militarization of the world.

Being Left means basing life around an ethics of life, and fundamentally looking to act collectively. We must not destroy nature; we need a radical recognition of the plurality of our planet, of our peoples, of our issues and actions.

This does not mean imposing an absolute equality, because that would not be democratic. But it does mean having equality as a permanent value, being involved in a constant struggle against inequality that society creates. In my opinion, being Left means basing life around an ethics of life, and fundamentally looking to act collectively. We must not destroy nature; we need a radical recognition of the plurality of our planet, of our peoples, of our issues and actions. These are the challenges: finding a balance between equality and diversity, while at the same time preserving the conditions that make life possible on planet Earth.

Radicalization should also be about participatory democracy, the pro-active democracy that Chavismo not only has proclaimed but has also generated. But one has to ask the questions: what do these recent government actions have to do with democracy? I repeat, that radicalization can go in very different directions. This government has created a contradiction, sometimes between its discourse and practice, sometimes between its own practices, sometimes between its encouragement of popular organization and its extraordinarily hierarchical decision-making.

In Venezuela, we have witnessed immense processes of popular organization, unknown in the history of the country, and seen profound transformations of popular culture in terms of empowerment, giving people the power to intervene with dignity for their futures. This is a reality of the Venezuelan process.

But it is also in constant struggle with the concentration of power and hierarchical decision-making. Debates continue, but often decisions come out of the blue from above. It is a kind of schizophrenic world – and it runs the risk of hollowing out any participation in the process. This is what we saw in the vetoed university law, which talked about the “mode of socialist production,” of the construction of a “socialist society,” of a “Bolivarian socialist motherland,” as if just saying the word socialist would resolve the problem. But socialism cannot be used as label to prevent debate.

HP: What are the advantages of participatory democracy versus representative democracy?

EL: There are many reasons why a solely representative democracy has serious limitations. Nevertheless, in societies today there are problems, that by their nature, require mechanisms of representation for taking decisions. This is inevitable, and requires a democratic public sphere, which includes important components such as the media, debate and a Parliament.

Direct and participatory democracy is at the same time profoundly important for deepening democracy and for creating counter-balances against mechanisms that concentrate power that tend to accompany representative democracy. The constitution says this very clearly: it is not that participatory democracy replaces representative democracy; rather that both form part of a much deeper democratic process. [Ed.: see Bullet No. 351.]

HP: Chavismo acts as if the opposition was something lifeless, as if it is bound for failure, and therefore all its own equivocations, errors and even failures are merely difficulties, and that there is no chance the opposition will return. Do you believe that?

EL: I don’t know if the government believes it, or the opposition, or anyone in fact. The reason why there is such unease within Chavismo is because there is a recognition of serious problems.

One has to recognize the problems and rectify them in areas of public delivery, verticalism and the lack of effective democracy. Choosing to reject the problems, or treat them as inventions of the opposition, and therefore lies, is to walk onwards blindfolded and will end in disaster.

If from here on, the State closes down spaces of democracy – even with the goal of saving the government – it would mark the failure of the project, a failure to transform society and democracy. It would have devastating consequences for the whole of Latin America, for it will mark the return of the opposition and the right. 

Edgardo Lander  is Professor of Social Sciences at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. Lander is one of the leading thinkers and writers on the left in Venezuela, both supportive and constructively critical of the Venezuelan revolution under Chavez. He is actively involved in social movements in the Americas that defeated the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). He is a member of the Latin American Social Science Council’s (CLACSO) research group on Hegemonies and Emancipations and on the editorial board of the academic journal Revista Venezolana de Economía y Ciencias Sociales. He is currently part of the steering committee of the Hemispheric Council of the Social Forum of the Americas. Among other publications, Lander has written and edited: Contribución a la crítica del marxismo realmente existente: Verdad, ciencia y tecnología; La ciencia y la tecnología como asuntos políticos; Límites de la democracia en la sociedad tecnológica; Neoliberalismo, sociedad civil y democracia.

The Bullet reproduces an interview with Edgardo Lander conducted by Hugo Prieto for the website Transnational Institute. This is not a word-for-word translation of the original interview by Hugo Prieto, but one adapted and amended by Nick Buxton in conjunction with Edgardo Lander.

Egypt’s leader and his political party is because he learned the wrong lessons from his patrons. Will Americans learn something from Egyptians, asks Eric Walberg

The Supreme Administrative Court order to disband the National Democratic Party and confiscate its properties last week was based on the NDP’s violation of the constitution; namely, monopolising power, preventing legitimate competition from other parties, and allowing corruption by the marriage of business and politics. As the only political force in control of the administration of the country, the NDP allowed powerful businessmen to rise through its ranks and then enact laws and run the country in their personal and corporate interests.

What is this scenario but the Western electoral system, governed in the US by what is increasingly known as the Republicrats? Albeit minus the need by corporations and other lobbyists to divide their donations between two look-alike NDPs. It is impossible for a genuine alternative party to gain any traction in this polyarchy, defined by Noam Chomsky as “a system of elite decision-making and public ratification”, where elections are rigged, but indirectly — by media control and their huge cost.

Constitutions are mere words on pieces of paper, which real world actors twist to meet their needs. Revolutions ignore these pieces of papers when they no longer reflect the underlying reality. America’s constitution, treated with great reverence, long ago lost all relevance to what it really going on in the US, with the president declaring multiple wars, serving “corporate persons” not citizens, conspiring with foreign powers and individuals to undermine American life — all in violation of the real meaning of the constitution. The very idea of revolution, as enshrined in the US constitution itself, is now outlawed as “terrorism”.

As a North American living in Cairo, I wake up every day not quite believing that the revolution actually happened here. That the threadbare constitution was swept aside, and in a matter of days, revised to meet people’s demands and affirmed in a referendum. That leading politicians and businessmen are being driven to court in their Mercedes and driven away in a Black Marias, as was reported about the ineffectual former prime minister Ahmed Nazif.

Nazif was perhaps the least odious of the lot, convicted for colluding with NDP head and Shura Council (upper house) speaker Safwat El-Sherif and Popular Council speaker Fathi Sorour, who amassed huge tracts of land, dozens of villas and apartments, and amended the constitution in 2007 to pave the way for Gamal Mubarak’s ascension. They have been joined by Mubarak’s chief of staff Zakariya Azmi, ex-minister of health Hatem El-Gabaly, ex-minister of tourism Zuheir Garana, ex-minister of culture Farouk Hosni and ex-minister of finance Youssef Boutros Ghali.

Nazif can now reconvene his cabinet at the Tora prison and hold regular cabinet meetings, so the popular anecdote goes. He, business tycoon Ahmed Ezz and ex-minister of interior Habib El-Adly greeted Gamal Mubarak when he arrived at Tora with the NDP election slogan, “We are here for you,” another anecdote has it. Even the first lady Suzanne has not been spared, called for questioning about embezzlement from the Alexandria Library and the annual Reading-for-All festival.

And the prospect of ex-president Hosni Mubarak being helicoptered to a military hospital, after defiantly broadcasting a speech on a foreign satellite channel denying the obvious — that he presided over a police state indulging in an orgy of graft and corruption — who needs sensational soap operas? I am reminded of some of these soap operas and popular movies, which during the past decade, as corruption ran wild, provided an outlet for the frustrations — and education — of Egyptians.

To watch once pompous remote leaders being paraded before the mainstream media as criminals is both shocking and inspiring. For who are the role models for the Mubaraks and their Sherifs, but the Bushes and Cheneys? Not so much the slick Clinton or Obama — these are peculiarly American phenomena, who act masterfully to distract Americans from reality. But who can deny that the Bush dynasty, from banker Prescott through master Cold War intriguer Herbert Walker to the borderline illiterate George W — all crowned by political high office, the latter with his terrifying Dr Strangelove adviser — cynically soaked the American people of untold wealth and are responsible for the deaths and/or torture of millions of innocent people?

While in office, Mubarak befriended five US presidents from Reagan on and saw how they intrigued, lied, betrayed, stole and emerged unharmed. How they colluded with big corporations to enrich themselves and their families, how the Zionist and military lobbies held them in a vice-like grip, preventing any honest policy of peace, especially in the Middle East. How they denied any wrong-doing, indeed, how arguably the worst offender politically — Reagan — is now worshipped as a great president, second in some polls only to John F Kennedy.

Is it any wonder he was misled so disastrously by his henchmen to dally in office long past his due-date, confident that his people could be brainwashed by media saturation of stories of his military heroism, impressed by his pharaonic large-than-life royal image? Why shouldn’t his son inherit the mantle of power, just as the ex-CIA Bush more or less handed his power on to his offspring?

That business cronies like Ezz moved into parliament via a political party that prevented any possibility of honest elections is only to emulate the Republicrats. Unblinkered North Americans look on longingly at the spectacle now being acted out in Cairo, for Mubarak is an angel compared to his colleagues in Washington.

Even the squeaky-clean Obama has helped his bankers and businessmen continue their economic rape of Americans, and stained his record with the murder of thousands of innocents in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. When he leaves office (next year or in five years — what difference does it make?), he will move, as did his predecessors Clinton and Bush, into a world of feel-good preaching, cocktail parties and corporate boardrooms, turning everything he touches into gold.

Mubarak’s fatal error was to ignore the highly sophisticated nature of US politics, where graft and violence are arts carefully honed over many years of electoral slugging matches. It is this sophistication that Egypt lacks, not any innate sense of real democracy, in the sense of respect for others and acknowledgment by rulers of their responsibility to their subjects. It turns out that the so-called undemocratic Egyptian political system, and the supposedly unsophisticated Egyptian people, are in fact light-years ahead of Americans in their political savvy, their sense of moral outrage, their courage in facing down evil and putting a stop to it.

Already, Hillary has been seen in Tahrir Square glad-handing hijab-clad mothers, and generously announcing new millions of dollars to support Egyptian democracy, as if the last 30 years hadn’t happened at all. Pentagon officials are in daily contact with Egyptian officials. But it won’t necessarily be smooth sailing for corporate democracy to reimpose its stranglehold on Egypt.

IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn got a rude awakening at a forum in Cairo last week. The revolutionary most feted by the West, Wael Ghonim, invited to appear on a panel in the IMF’s Egypt headquarters, called the world’s financial hatchetman and the “elites” of the world “partners in crime” for supporting Mubarak’s regime. “To me what was happening was a crime, not a mistake. A lot of people knew that things were going wrong.” The implication being that it was the height of hypocrisy for the IMF to pretend it had any concern for Egypt’s real needs.

Egypt’s Google marketing chief’s savvy, comparing his attack to Joe-the-plumber’s grilling of US presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008, is a yellow flag for the bad guys, whose game might be up. Revolutionary youth refused to meet with Clinton when she came on her pilgrimage to Tahrir. Another storm signal for the empire is the fact that Bush, Rumsfeld and others have had to cancel visits to Europe, fearing arrest for their war crimes. Egypt’s revolution gives succour to citizens everywhere struggling to return morality to politics.

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/  You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com

hasEML = false;

 

The Libyan mission is creeping, no doubt

April 21st, 2011 by Simon Tisdall

Libyan civilians are evacuated from Misrata

Libyan civilians are evacuated by a fishing boat from Misrata to Benghazi. Photograph: Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

Mission creep is an unpleasant condition brought on by a surfeit of military ambition and lack of self-knowledge.

Symptoms include fantasy-like delusions such as the highly contagious belief, known as Sarkozy-itis, that the sufferer alone knows what’s best for the world. This is typically followed by cold sweats and hot flushes when political reality proves otherwise. Mission creep is not treatable and hindsight is the only cure. It usually ends in disaster.

Such was the case in Vietnam, where President John F Kennedy’s decision to increase the number of US “military advisers” to the south Vietnamese regime opened the path to all-out war. Mission creep struck again after the US intervened in Somalia in the early 1990s, producing another debacle. In fact the term was coined at that time by the distinguished Washington Post columnist, Jim Hoagland. Afghanistan since 2001 has been not so much creep as rapid crawl into a military never-never land.

Britain’s announcement that it is sending a “military liaison advisory team” of experienced officers to Benghazi to assist the rebels’ national transitional council looks like another outbreak of the disease. Foreign secretary William Hague was adamant the British army was not taking charge of the campaign against Muammar Gaddafi. The “advisers” would not be arming, training or directing the rebel forces, he said. To which the world-weary response must be: just give them time.

Britain is now publicly doing what it expressly said it would not do when the no-fly intervention began: putting boots on the ground in Libya. France is taking similar action. Given that the rebel forces have convincingly demonstrated their inability to win on their own, given the sizeable negatives for David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy of an open-ended, inconclusive conflict, and given Barack Obama’s flat refusal to do any more, the question now is: how many more British and French boots will follow, sooner or later, in the advisers’ fateful footsteps?

It’s plain where the pressure for closer, more direct Anglo-French involvement is coming from. Most of Nato, despite numerous joint statements, is sitting this one out. Of its 28 members, 14 are said to be “actively participating” but only six are doing any fighting. Of the 22-country Arab League, whose panicky appeal prompted the UN to authorise the intervention, only Qatar and the UAE have shown up for duty. Excluding them, of the 192 members of the UN general assembly, who all have a legal “responsibility to protect” civilians attacked by their own governments, only Sweden has put its money where its mouth is.

By demanding (with Obama) that Gaddafi and his family relinquish power – and, indeed, by making this so far unlikely outcome the definition of their success – Cameron and Sarkozy have added to the pressures upon them. By suggesting that Benghazi, facing destruction last month by Gaddafi’s forces, would have been a new Srebrenica but for the intervention, the allies must now, logically, offer the same level of protection to Misrata and other desperate towns. This may only be achieved by ground-based intervention.

By encouraging and assisting rebel resistance, as George Bush Snr did with the Shias of southern Iraq in 1991, Britain and France risk worsening the plight of the Libyan civilians they are primarily pledged to defend. The UN and concerned aid agencies all agree the humanitarian situation is growing steadily worse, the longer the conflict continues. These considerations have led former British foreign secretary David Owen, among others, to urge the creation of Bosnian or Kurdish-style “safe havens”, starting with an exclusion zone around Misrata defended by British and French troops.

But how long before allied troops so deployed were themselves drawn into direct engagements with pro-Gaddafi forces, be they regular army, mercenary or civilian? Pernicious mission creep tends to blind affected decision-makers to such obvious concerns. “Just as Benghazi was saved within hours, so must Misrata be. We have probably only a few days …” Owen wrote in the Times. In other words, don’t think about it. Just do it.

Owen’s proposal has no official standing, not yet at least. But escalation is in the air – and on the ground. The EU is discussing what it says is an approved “concept of operations” for sending European troops to Libya to protect refugees and humanitarian relief efforts. Nato strike aircraft, unsuited to killing alleyway snipers, are instead widening their target range to include Gaddafi’s communication lines and his home town of Sirte. And off the record, nobody bothers to deny that British and other special forces are already operating in theatre. Today’s announcement about military advisers is a public acknowledgement of hitherto covert ground-level involvement.

It’s worth recalling that UN security council resolution 1973, passed last month, does not authorise member states to support the rebels, to defend armed groups, or to oust Gaddafi. Nor does it authorise an Iraq-style ground invasion or military occupation, in any shape or form, size or scale. But in reality, much of this is now happening, willy-nilly. Make no mistake: the creep is on.

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Lies about the war on Libya

April 20th, 2011 by Thierry Meyssan

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Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy and Alain Juppé at the Paris summit on Libya.

It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war. The Libyan military operations and Resolution 1973, which functions as their legal basis, are not an exception to the rule. These are presented to the public as a necessary measure to protect the civilian population against indiscriminate repression at the hands of Colonel Gaddafi. In reality they are classic imperial goals. Let us look at the following elements for clarification.

Crimes Against Humanity

To paint a black picture of the situation, the Atlanticist press pretended that the hundreds of thousands of people who were fleeing from Libya were doing so to escape from a massacre. Press agencies reported on thousands of deaths and spoke of “crimes against humanity“. Resolution 1970 referred to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court “the widespread and systematic attacks against the civilian population“.

In fact, the Libyan conflict can be read both in political terms and from a tribal perspective. Immigrant workers were the first to fall victim, being brutally forced to leave the country. The clashes between Gaddafi’s supporters and the insurrection have certainly been bloody, but never in the purported proportions. There has never been a systematic repression against civilian population.

Support for the “Arab Spring”

During his speech before the Security Council, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé sang the praises of the “Arab Spring” in general and the Libyan insurrection in particular.

His lyrical speech cloaked dark intentions. Juppé didn’t utter a single word about the bloody repressions in Yemen and Bahrain, yet he paid tribute to King Mohamed VI of Morocco as if he were one of the revolutionary agents of change [1] thus contributing to worsen France’s already disastrous image in the Arab world thanks to the President Sarkozy.

Support from the African Union and the Arab League

Since the beginning of these events, France, Great Britain and the United States have persisted in denying the fact that this is a West-sponsored war, although French Interior Minister Claude Guéant did refer to Nicolas Sarkozy’s “crusade“ [2].

The three countries in question brought into play the alleged support from the African Union and from the Arab League. In reality, however, the African Union condemned the repression and recognised the legitimacy of the democratic claims but invariably pronounced itself against a foreign armed intervention [http://www.voltairenet.org/article169513.html#nb3″>3].

As for the Arab League, it must be noted that its members are mainly regimes threatened by similar revolutions. While they embraced the principle of a Western counter-revolution – some of them are even actively taking part in it in Bahrain- they could not afford to back an outright Western war for fear of precipitating the opposition movements likely to overthrow them at home.

Recognition of the Libyan National Transitional Council

There are three rebellious regions in Libya. A National Transitional Council was constituted in Benghazi; it then merged with a Provisional Government set up by Gaddafi’s Minister of Justice, who subsequently aligned with the rebels [Sudan and the Ivory Coast, which mark the first stages of the “Remodeling of Africa”.

Assets freeze

If the objective were to protect the civilian population, only the personal assets of the Gaddafi family plus those belonging to the regime’s dignitaries would have been frozen to prevent them from violating the arms embargo. But the freeze has also been enforced against the assets of the Libyan state. Now, it just so happens that Libya – a wealthy oil-producing country – possesses considerably large assets, part of which are invested in the Bank of the South, an institution dedicated to the funding of projects in the Third World.

As pointed out by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, freezing the assets will not protect the civilians. The real aim here is to re-establish the monopoly of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Coalition of the willing

If the objective were to protect the civilian population, the organisation in charge of implementing Resolution 1973 should have been the UN. Instead, the military operations were being coordinated by the US AfriCom and currently by NATO [5] It was precisely for that reason that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was incensed at the French initiative and requested an explanation from NATO.

Less diplomatically, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin referred to Resolution 1973 as “is flawed and inadequate. If one reads it, then it immediately becomes clear that it authorises anyone to take any measures against a sovereign state. All in all, it reminds me of a medieval call to crusade,” he concluded. [6]

El general Abdul Fatah Younis

Mustapha Abdul Jalil, ministro de la justicia de Gadafi hace tan sólo dos meses, está hoy en Roma para una visita oficial en su traje de “presidente del Consejo Nacional de Transición libio”. Allí se encuentra con el ministro de asuntos exteriores, Franco Frattini, con el presidente del Consejo, Silvio Berlusconi, y lo recibirá el presidente de la República, Giorgio Napolitano. Lo que más le interesa a Jalil son : “Armas pero también instrumentos de comunicación y aparatos para interceptar las comunicaciones radiofónicas del régimen”, lo que le había prometido Frattini en la reciente reunión del “Grupo de contacto” en Doha.

El general Abdul Fatah Younis, jefe de una tribu en Cirenaica, era hace dos meses el ministro del interior de Gadafi. Hoy dirige las fuerzas en contra de Gadafi y declaró en una entrevista para Al Arabiya que sus fuerzas “reciben armamento” aunque no haya especificado de quién las han recibido. El emir de Qatar, Cheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, dio la respuesta declarando a la CNN que él mismo había mandado armamentos a los rebeldes. Estos últimos días, numerosos contenedores de “ayudas humanitarias” han llegado a Bengazi desde Qatar. El New York Times vuelve a subrayar que Qatar, al igual que Italia y Francia, ha reconocido ya el Consejo de Bengazi como “gobierno legítimo de Libia”.

Abdul Hafidh Ghoga, el vicepresidente del Consejo de Bengazi, dijo que había pedido que le mandasen instructores extranjeros para la utilización de las armas. También, el portavoz Mustapha Gheriani explicó que abrieron “centros profesionales de instrucción”. En una rueda de prensa celebrada el sábado pasado, en Bengazi, Ghoga había declarado que “las fuerzas de la OTAN y los rebeldes [habían] equipado una sala de operaciones conjuntas” para coordinar las operaciones terrestres con los ataques aéreos efectuados por la OTAN.

Desde el 31 de marzo hasta la fecha de hoy, el Mando de la Fuerza Conjunta Aliada, cuyo cuartel general está en Nápoles, ha efectuado más de 3000 incursiones aéreas en Libia, con una media de 150 incursiones diarias. Los cazabombarderos franceses y británicos han dirigido casi la mitad de los ataques, lo demás fue dirigido por aviones belgas, daneses, noruegos y canadienses. Los aviones estadounidenses realizaron un cuarto de los raides con la misión predominante de individualizar los objetivos e interrumpir las telecomunicaciones enemigas. Sin embargo, Washington Post escribió a este propósito que aquí “surgen los límites de los países europeos de la OTAN para sostener una acción militar relativamente pequeña para un período extendido”: se hacen escasas las bombas con mando láser, y las bombas estadounidenses no son compatibles ni con los aviones franceses ni tampoco con los británicos. De resultas, unos funcionarios del Pentágono tienen previsto que se empleen aviones estadounidenses para bombardear, incluyendo los A-10 Thunderbolt y los AC-130 Specter: aviones cuyos cañones sueltan miles de proyectiles por minuto (la mayoría con uranio empobrecido). Desmintiendo que el gobierno italiano tiene “reparo” en utilizar aviones para bombardear, un alto funcionario estadounidense citado por Washington Post, declara que: “Es probable que Italia suministre aviones para las misiones de ataque terrestre”.

Edición del martes 19 de abril de il manifesto.

Texto original en francés : http://www.mondialisation.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24394

Traducido del francés por Stéphanie Dehorter para Mondialisation.ca.

The Obama administration finally did the right thing and is moving Manning from the abusive Quantico Marine Corps. Brig, but that is just the beginning of their problems with the prosecution of Bradley Manning.  This is a trial that could rock U.S. foreign policy and undermine U.S. credibility around the world.

After months of pressure, the Obama administration is finally transferring PFC Bradley Manning to a military prison appropriately designed for pre-trial detention in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.  While the transfer of Manning away from the abusive Quantico Marine Corps Brig may be a positive step, the U.S. government remains trapped in a Manning Quagmire.  If they proceed their embarrassment will continue to grow as the truth about U.S. foreign policy is reviewed under a microscope.

The nine month-long abusive mistreatment of Manning in the brig at the Quantico Marine Corp. Base has put international attention on his case.  The prosecution of Manning will result in the videos and documents he is accused of releasing being more closely examined. The war crimes and other misdeeds of military and foreign policy personnel will be highlighted to the world.  People are already wondering why this young private has been so mistreated.  What did he do to aggravate the Obama administration, U.S. military and foreign policy establishment?

At every stage of the prosecution: pretrial hearing, motion hearings and trial, there will be more focus on what he is accused of doing and that will inevitably lead to the documents and videos he allegedly leaked being more closely examined. This attention will not be kind to the U.S. military and State Department as the documents show consistent illegal and unethical behavior by the U.S. government; support for dictators, oligarchs and royalists who work against their people’s interests; as well as U.S. foreign policy and war being a vehicle for big business interests.

In addition to the content of the materials he is accused of leaking, the trial of Bradley Manning will be closely watched. People are already wondering whether a fair trial in the U.S. military is possible.  If the Obama administration allowed nine months of abusive solitary confinement before trial how can they be expected to give Manning a fair trial?  The media and people concerned about this case will be watching closely to see if he gets a fair, fully open, public trial. 

Rule for Courts-Martial 806(b) states that military courts are presumptively open to the public. In a series of cases military courts have found the media has a right to attend preliminary hearings and trials in military courts. This is consistent with a long-line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions beginning with Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555 (1980) where the court recognized that public access to criminal proceedings is a critical component of a fair justice system that inspires public confidence and integrity. In 1987 the Court of Military Appeals wrote: [W]e believe that public confidence in matters of military justice would quickly erode if courts-martial were arbitrarily closed to the public.”

There is keen public interest in the case of Bradley Manning as he is accused of leaking documents that provide evidence that U.S. foreign policy is not what Americans have been told.  The military has no basis for keeping the public from seeing all of Manning’s trial, but there was no basis for pre-trial mistreatment either. No doubt groups spearheaded by the Bradley Manning Support Network will be working to make sure the media and public has complete access to all hearings and documents related to Manning’s prosecution.

But, the focus will not be primarily on process but on content – what is Bradley Manning accused of leaking?  And, that is a question the U.S. military and foreign policy establishment does not want Americans or people around the world to look at.  It is not a pretty picture. Here are a few examples among many:

- That U.S. troops kill civilians without cause or concern and then cover it up (more examples of hiding civilian killings here, here and here) including killing reporters;

- The diplomatic cables also show that beyond the war fronts that Hillary Clinton has turned State Department Foreign Service officers into a nest of spies who violate laws to spy on diplomats all with marching orders drawn up by the CIA;

- The U.S. looks the other way when governments it puts in power torture;

- That Israel, with U.S. knowledge is preparing for a widespread war in the Middle East, keeping the Gaza economy at the brink of collapse and show widespread corruption at border checkpoints.

- The CIA is fighting an undeclared and unauthorized war in Pakistan with Blackwater mercenaries;

- The Collateral Murder video shows American soldiers in an Apache helicopter gunning down a group of innocent men, including two Reuters employees, a photojournalist and his driver, killing 16 and sending two children to the hospital. This one video describes multiple war crimes.

- Another document showed the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan, in which as many as 140 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a U.S. attack, a fact disputed by the U.S. military.

It will not only be the American people who become more aware that the United States is not the “good cop” of the world but people and governments around the world will also more clearly see it. 

The U.S. is in a Bradley Manning quagmire that is going to undermine its reputation in the world unless they find a way out of this case quickly.  President Obama still has an opportunity to do the right thing – acknowledge the reality of the history and current make-up of U.S. foreign policy and begin a discussion within government and among the people about radically altering the direction, strategies and tactics of the U.S. around the world.  If he shows this kind of leadership a quagmire could turn into positive change for the United States and the world.

Kevin Zeese directs Come Home America and is on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network

The US State Department recently released its “2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.” This year’s annual report provides details on human rights conditions in over 190 countries. Included are reports on the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which represents the US-backed monarchies of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.

  

This Saudi-dominated alliance backed the imposition of a no-fly zone in Libya, and has provided key support for the attack on Libya by the United States and European powers. The GCC has also provided military and police personnel to put down insurrections against the repressive regimes in Bahrain and Yemen.

While the US seeks to cloak its imperialist assault on Libya in “humanitarian” terms, its allies in the GCC are guilty of widespread violations of human rights and practice repression and torture in their own countries. In the coming days, this WSWS series will examine these human rights abuses as documented in the State Department reports. This first installment covers Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by the Al Saud family. Since 2005, the Saudi population of about 28.5 million has been ruled by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The monarchy rules with dictatorial powers under its interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law) and the 1992 Basic Law, providing the ruling family with absolute powers. These powers are wielded against the monarchy’s political opponents, and in particular against non-citizens.

According to the US State Department’s 2010 report, the following “significant human rights problems” were reported:

“No right to change the government peacefully; torture and physical abuse; poor prison and detention center conditions; arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention; denial of fair and public trials and lack of due process in the judicial system; political prisoners; restrictions on civil liberties such as freedoms of speech (including the Internet), assembly, association, movement, and severe restrictions on religious freedom; and corruption and lack of government transparency.

“Violence against women and a lack of equal rights for women, violations of the rights of children, trafficking in persons, and discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, sect, and ethnicity were common. The lack of workers’ rights, including the employment sponsorship system, remained a severe problem.”

Executions, torture, prison conditions

While closed-door hearings made it impossible to determine whether the accused were granted due process in capital cases, there were reports that the government killed civilians in conflict last year. The regime executed 26 people in 2010, all by beheading; 67 were executed in 2009, 102 in 2008.

Although security forces report to civilian authorities, they operate with impunity at the direction of the monarchy. According to press reports, in December 2009, Saudi forces killed 54 civilians, mostly Yemeni, in the border town of Al-Nadheer. In June 2009, Abdullah al-Rumian, a Saudi militant extracted from Iraq, reportedly died in custody.

There were numerous reports of prisoners and detainees being subjected to torture and other physical abuse. Yemeni Sultan Muhammad Abdo Doais, 32, reportedly died in the Qassim prison after being held incommunicado for four years.

Suliman al-Reshoudi, now 73, a member of the NGO Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), has been held in solitary confinement for three years as punishment for his human rights advocacy. According to the State Department report, “ACPRA says he has been subjected to ‘severe physical and psychological tortures,’ including tying his feet to a bed frame with two separate chains and being forced into a sitting position throughout the day and shackled at night.”

The Saudi Gazette reported that a Qatif court sentenced two third-grade students to six months’ imprisonment and 120 lashes for stealing examination papers.

No independent human rights observers were allowed to visit Saudi prisons in 2010. Pretrial detainees are held with convicted prisoners, and there are no ombudsmen to act on behalf of prisoners and detainees. All forces with arrest power report to the Ministry of Interior (MOI), which maintains broad powers to arrest and detain people indefinitely, without judicial oversight, in many cases for weeks, months or even years.

Riots took place in January and September at the Women’s Correction Center in Mecca, with prisoners complaining of no access to medical care, no family visits, unhygienic food and physical assaults.

The daily newspaper Al-Watan reported August 25 on the deaths of five Ethiopians, who suffocated due to overcrowding in the Jizan Deportation Center.

In accordance with Sharia, court proceedings may be closed at the judge’s discretion. According to the Law of Criminal Procedure, there is neither presumption of innocence nor trial by jury. The court presents all witnesses and there is no defense access to government-held evidence.

In 2008, the government established a Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) to handle cases of alleged terror suspects. The SCC has tried 330 persons, almost exclusively in closed trials. Seven people were acquitted, and the sentences for those convicted ranged from fines to the death penalty.

Absence of civil liberties

The government strictly monitors all political activity and takes punitive action against those who appear to oppose its policies. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), In November 2009 the Saudi domestic intelligence service arrested Munir Jassas, a Shia government critic. He told his wife he had been arrested and held in solitary confinement as punishment for writings on the Internet. He remained in detention at the end of 2010.

All public employees are forbidden from “participating, directly or indirectly, in the preparation of any document, speech, or petition; engaging in dialogue with local and foreign media; or participating in any meetings intended to oppose the state’s policies.”

The government owns or directly influences print and broadcast media as well as book publication. The Law of Printed Materials and Publication, the report notes, “governs printed materials; printing presses; bookstores; import, rent, and sale of films; television and radio; and foreign media offices and their correspondents. All media activities are subject to the MOI’s prior censorship and licensing requirements.”

The Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) monitors email, Internet chat rooms, and blocks sites it deems incompatible with Sharia and government regulations. According to Reporters Without Borders, authorities claim to have blocked 400,000 web sites.

Abu Dhabi newspaper the National reported June 15 on the arrest and imprisonment, without formal charges, of human rights activist Mekhlet bin Daham al-Shammary. His prison file indicated that his alleged crime was “annoying others,” as a result of holding unlicensed political meetings, which are illegal. He remained in prison at year’s end.

The 2007 Law to Fight Cyber Crime imposes up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a 4.7 million riyal ($1.3 million) fine for creation or dissemination of a web site deemed “terrorist” or for communicating with leaders of terrorist organizations.

The 1992 Basic Law provides no freedom of association and prohibits the establishment of political parties or groups the government considers as opposing or challenging the regime.

Religious freedom is neither recognized nor protected under law. Sunni Islam is the official religion, and other religions, including those of the Shia minority, Christians and Jews, face persecution. Public religious practice of non-Muslims is banned; atheism is outlawed.

There are no provisions for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration or repatriation. All male citizens over the age of 15 must hold a national identity card (NIC). During 2010, for political reasons the government revoked the right of some citizens to travel outside the country, with no notification and without the right to contest the restriction.

The NIC is optional for women, and a woman may only be issued one with the consent of her male guardian. Women are prohibited from driving motor vehicles. Government authorities and male family members can “blacklist” women and children from leaving the country, in custody disputes and under other circumstances.

The Basic Law dictates that the “state will grant political asylum if public interest so dictates.” Saudi Arabia is not a signatory to either the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Basic services such as health care and social services are provided to citizens only.

The monarchy enforces an Arab League directive against naturalizing the estimated 500,000 Palestinians residing in Saudi Arabia, on the spurious grounds that they will not “lose their Palestinian identity” and will “preserve their right to return.”

Elections and political representation

Under the Basic Law, the monarchy is the political system. The king appoints the Allegiance Commission, composed of 34 senior princes, to select a king or crown prince upon either’s death or incapacitation. The king appoints all other ministers.

The Municipal Advisory Council is the only elected government body, and only male, nonmilitary citizens 21 years and older are eligible to vote. In elections to the council in 2005, the first since 1965, only 10 to 15 percent of eligible voters participated. There were no independent observers and the king appointed half of the council seats. The 2009 elections to the council were postponed.

Women’s and children’s rights

Women are not afforded the rights of men, and there are no laws criminalizing violence against women. Rape is punishable under Sharia, with penalties ranging from flogging to execution, but under the government’s interpretation of Islamic law, courts overwhelmingly punish both the victim and the perpetrator. Spousal rape is not recognized.

Most rape cases go unreported because victims fear prosecution, societal reprisal, diminished marriage opportunities, accusations of adultery, or possible imprisonment. A female rape victim is most often held at fault for illegal “mixing of genders.”

NGO Migrants Rights reported the case of a Filipina who claimed to have been raped by a Bangladeshi coworker. She was arrested and detained at Hafer Al Baten Central Jail for having an illicit affair. Her employer contacted the government to have her repatriated.

According to HRW, Aisha Ali, a divorced mother of three, was confined, beaten and forced into five marriages to which she did not consent. She was placed by authorities in a temporary shelter for three months, but was then returned to her brothers.

The human rights group also reported the case of Sawsan Salim, who was sentenced to 300 lashes and one-and-a-half years in prison for filing “spurious” harassment complaints against government officials in court and for “visiting government offices without a male guardian.” One of the two ruling judges in her case was one of the officials she had accused of harassment.

Women face discrimination in court, where their testimony counts for half that of a man. Law prohibits women from marrying non-Muslims, but men may marry Christians and Jews. While women must demonstrate legally specified grounds for divorce, men can obtain divorce without providing cause. In custody disputes, after children attain a certain age, the divorced husband or his family are awarded custody.

Sharia suggests that girls may marry upon reaching puberty, and religious authorities in Saudi Arabia authorize girls as young as 10 to be married. Such marriages are sometimes arranged by families, without consent of the girl, particularly in rural areas and often to settle debts.

There are no specific laws governing penalties related to child prostitution, statutory rape, or consensual age for sex. Saudi Arabia is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Cultural norms require women to wear an abaya (a loose-fitting, full-length black cloak) in public, and to conceal their hair.

Discrimination and Workers Rights

While racial discrimination is illegal, in practice members of national, racial and ethnic, and tribal minorities confront widespread discrimination. Foreign workers from Africa and Asia are particularly affected. These include numerous reports of assaults against foreign workers.

Under Sharia, sexual activity between two persons of the same gender is punishable by death or flogging. Okaz reported a Jeddah court sentencing a man, already imprisoned, to 500 lashes, five additional years in jail and a 50,000 riyal ($13,000) fine for “committing homosexual acts.”

The regime’s labor law does not address the right of workers to form and join independent unions, and there are no labor unions in the country. In workplaces with more than 100 employees, the government allows the formation of citizen-only “labor committees” with restrictions on the right to association. Workers choose the committee members, but they are subject to Ministry of Labor approval.

Labor law does not protect collective bargaining. There is no provision for legal strikes in Saudi Arabia, and law does not prohibit retaliation against workers who strike.

Although labor law does set forth working conditions and pay, including for children, there have been numerous reports of forced or compulsory labor, particularly among children and migrant workers.

Non-citizens may reside or work in Saudi Arabia only under the sponsorship of a citizen or business. According to Human Rights Watch, in 2010, there were some 1.5 million foreign domestic workers in the country, the majority of them women. While labor law prohibits forced labor, with fines and bans on future hiring by the sponsor, these laws do not apply to domestic employees, the largest group of workers susceptible to forced labor.

Last year, hundreds of foreign domestic workers sought shelter at their embassies, fleeing sexual abuse and other violence and conditions amounting to bondage. Criminal charges against their abusive employers were rarely filed.

Children from poor Saudi families are forced into labor in the form of begging, and foreign children are trafficked into the country specifically for this purpose. During the year, there were a reported 9,520 child beggars, undoubtedly an underestimation. In particular, children from Yemen and Ethiopia are forced against their will into child begging rings, street vending and Saudi family businesses.

To be continued.

Britain and France Escalate War in Libya

April 20th, 2011 by Patrick Martin

Great Britain and France, the two European powers spearheading the war against Libya, are taking new steps to escalate the military intervention. British Foreign Minister William Hague announced Tuesday that as many as 20 British military officers were going to Benghazi to direct the forces fighting Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi. France has deployed additional air capability, including the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.

The British decision is the most fateful, since it is a clear signal that the NATO powers, including the United States, will be ultimately driven to send ground troops if the campaign of air strikes and poorly organized rebel attacks fails to oust Gaddafi.

There were conflicting reports on the advisers, with the British newspaper Guardian describing it as “a joint British-French military team”, while other news services said it was British only. The Guardian added, “The UK-French team will advise the rebels on intelligence-gathering, logistics, and communications. In an indication of the serious nature of the move, the team will be run by a joint force headquarters…” In other words, the NATO officers, not the rump group of ex-CIA, ex-Gaddafi and ex-Al Qaeda operatives, will exercise real command and control over the operations of the so-called “rebels.”

Foreign Minister Hague was at pains to deny the obvious—that the dispatch of NATO officers is a major step down the road that leads logically and inexorably to the invasion of Libya by the imperialist powers.

Referring to the new British mission, he said, “They will advise the National Transitional Council on how to improve their military organizational structures, communications and logistics, including how best to distribute humanitarian aid and deliver medical assistance.”

Despite the references to non-combat functions, the arrival of British officers signifies the official conversion of the “rebel” force into an imperialist-led military operation, and the dropping of any pretense that the Benghazi-based council represents an indigenous resistance to the Gaddafi regime.

The “rebels” are no more independent of the imperialist powers than the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, which was utilized by the Bush administration in 2001 to oust the Taliban and establish the puppet regime still headed by the US nominee, President Hamid Karzai.

Hague did not explain how intelligence-gathering responsibilities—necessarily connected with the direction of ground operations and targeting for NATO air strikes—could be squared with his presentation of the mission as purely humanitarian.

He claimed, “This deployment is fully within the terms of UNSCR 1973, both in respect of civilian protection and its provision expressly ruling out a foreign occupation force on Libyan soil. Consistent with our obligations under that resolution, our officers will not be involved in training or arming the opposition’s fighting forces. Nor will they be involved in the planning or execution of the NTC’s military operations or in the provision of any other form of operational military advice.”

Only those who are hopelessly naïve or willfully blind can believe such self-evident rubbish. British military officers are not the Salvation Army. Their profession is to plan and execute combat missions. They are going to Benghazi, not to remedy a humanitarian crisis—there is none in that city, which is well equipped with food and medical supplies, and not under military attack—but to address the obvious military incapacity of the anti-Gaddafi forces, who possess neither technical skill nor combat discipline.

The Gaddafi regime contemptuously dismissed Hague’s statement. Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told a news conference in Tripoli, “If there is any deployment of any armed personnel on Libyan ground, there will be fighting. The Libyan government will not take it as a humanitarian mission. It will be taken as a military mission.”

The British move may actually be intended to provoke such a response. In the event that the British officers come under fire from Gaddafi’s troops, NATO is likely to use this as a casus belli to justify the deployment of ground forces, in the name of “self-defense” for the “humanitarian” mission.

Hague’s announcement of the deployment of British officers to Benghazi has sparked a debate in the British capitalist press on the logic of the escalation.

Former foreign secretary David Owen, now a Liberal peer, writing in theTimes of London, publicly called for the creation of “safe havens” modeled on previous imperialist interventions in Bosnia and the Kurdistan region of Iraq, beginning with an exclusion zone around Misrata. “Just as Benghazi was saved within hours, so must Misrata be,” he wrote. “We have probably only a few days.”

Writing in the Guardian, columnist Simon Tisdall observed, “By suggesting that Benghazi, facing destruction last month by Gaddafi’s forces, would have been a new Srebrenica but for the intervention, the allies must now, logically, offer the same level of protection to Misrata and other desperate towns. This may only be achieved by ground-based intervention.”

In a statement quoted in the British press, Lord Dannatt, former head of the British army, described the dispatch of military advisers as “an entirely logical further step to achieve legitimate aims.” Rebutting criticism of the move by some British MPs, he added, “Some will always say ‘mission creep’, but [Britain should] interpret the UN mandate broadly to avoid mission collapse.”

Preventing “mission collapse” is the principal motive for the escalation of the bombing of Libya, agreed on by NATO foreign ministers at a meeting last Friday in Berlin. According to press reports. NATO commanders have revealed that the bombing was being extended from overt military targets like tanks and artillery to include satellite communications systems and even telephone exchanges, in the name of striking at “command and control” installations.

By this logic, any facility that could be used for communications purposes between the Libyan government in Tripoli and its armed forces anywhere in the country is a target for bombs and missiles.

The NATO foreign ministers heard a plea for additional strike aircraft to supplement those mobilized by France, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Belgium, the six countries actually fighting the air war in Libya. NATO officials told the press that France has taken up the slack, providing additional jets and moving the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle closer to the Libyan coast and placing its aircraft under NATO command.

Britain also stepped up its role in the air war, with the submarine HMS Triumph firing cruise missiles at Libyan targets on Monday and Tuesday. Britain has also supplied war materiel to the anti-Gaddafi forces, including 1,000 sets of body armor and 100 satellite phones.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini said NATO would also consider sending technical equipment like radars and communications interception systems.

In an interview with Al Jazeera English on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton confirmed that the EU had formally offered to deploy 1,000 soldiers to Libya’s third-largest city, Misrata, which is held by the opposition but under siege by Gaddafi’s troops. She said that all that was required was a request from UN officials in charge of humanitarian relief operations in Misrata.

This is different from a new mandate from the UN Security Council, where Russia and China would likely oppose authorization of the deployment of NATO ground troops in Libya. A Russian government adviser, Azhdar Kurtov of the Institute of Strategic Studies, blamed France for escalating the war because it has failed to oust Gaddafi.

“Gaddafi firmly remains in power,” he said. “Each day that passes, the cost of the operation increases, and this is spurring Paris into using other methods of waging the anti-Gaddafi war.”

Brigadier General Mark van Uhm, chief of allied operations for NATO, said the air strikes have destroyed more than 40 tanks and numerous armored personnel carriers mobilized by pro-Gaddafi forces. He said that more than 30 percent of Gaddafi’s forces had been “eliminated,” an estimate that suggests that the bombing has killed thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Libyan soldiers and militia members—a death toll that dwarfs even the most farfetched claims of civilian casualties in the civil war.

Real Time Map: Radiation Levels Across the U.S.

April 20th, 2011 by Global Research

http://www.radiationnetwork.com/

RadiationNetwork.com, home of the National Radiation Map, depicting environmental radiation levels

click the link below for real time radiation levels with technical notes.

http://www.radiationnetwork.com/

VIDEO: Entrevista al economista belga Eric Toussaint

April 20th, 2011 by Eric Toussaint

El Presidente del Comité para la anulación de la deuda del Tercer Mundo y doctor en Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad de Lieja y de París VIII, explicó los alcances del desarrollo de la economía latinoaméricana dentro de un contexto favorable a nivel internacional.

El Presidente del Comité para la anulación de la deuda del Tercer Mundo y doctor en Ciencias Políticas de la Universidad de Lieja y de París VIII Eric Toussaint, explicó los alcances del desarrollo de la economía latinoaméricana dentro de un contexto favorable a nivel internacional.

Latinoamérica se ve beneficiada por los altos precios que poseen las materias primas; la exportaciones hacia China y Europa; y las bajas tasas de interés que fijó por decisión propia la Reserva Federal de Estados Unidos y el Banco Central europeo”, explicó Toussaint.

Sin embargo, aclaró que los factores que favorecen a América Latina no dependen de ella. El precio de la materia prima no es decidido en Buenos Aires, sino que se fija en los mercados de valor internacionales. Y las tasas de interés las resuelven los bancos centrales de Estados Unidos y Europa. Es decir, que la coyuntura puede cambiar de manera brutal por decisiones ajenas a América Latina“.

BREAKING NEWS: Radiation Spreads throughout the Northern Hemisphere

April 20th, 2011 by Norwegian Institute for Air Research

Below is the static map based on real time tabulations of the Norwegian Institute of Air Research pertaining to potential releases of radiation from the Fukushima plant.  

For the dynamic version of this map, regional dynamic maps as well as technical information click below.  Japan and North America static maps are indicated below

You will need to refresh the dynamic map  (Global Research, April 20, 2011)

http://transport.nilu.no/browser/fpv_fuku?fpp=conccol_Xe-133_;region=NH

LATEST STATIC MAP APRIL 21, COMPARE WITH PREVIOUS

The animation

The animation

The animation 

Afghan History: The Central Asian Grand Chessboard

April 20th, 2011 by Dean Henderson


Afghan History: Al Qaeda, The Taliban and the Texas Oil Giants
Part II
- by Dean Henderson – 2011-04-14


Afghan History Suppressed: Islamists, Heroin and the CIA
Part I
- by Dean Henderson – 2011-04-10

Part III

 

In 1997 Trilateral Commission founder Zbigniew Brzezinski, the godfather of the Afghan mujahadeen, wrote a book titled, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geopolitical Imperatives.  In the book Brzezinski – who sat on the board at BP Amoco – argues that the key to global power is control of Eurasia and that the “key to controlling Eurasia is controlling the Central Asian Republics”. 

Brzezinski’s plan called for ruling Central Asia via control of Uzbekistan – which borders Afghanistan to the north.  In 1997 Enron attempted to negotiate a $2 billion deal with the Uzbek state-owned Neftegas with help from the Bush White House. [1]  When that effort and other privatization attempts were rebuffed in 1998, CIA-backed Islamist attacks on Uzbekistan’s government were ratcheted up.

In 1999 a series of explosions rocked the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.  Islamic al-Qaeda-trained militants were to blame.  The rebels – who called themselves the Islamic Party of Turkistan – attempted to assassinate socialist President Islam Karimov.  They attacked the fertile Fergana Valley in an attempt to disrupt harvests and the Uzbek food supply.  Karimov was also attacked by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

 

After the “carpet of bombs” began raining down on neighboring Afghanistan in October 2001, Uzbekistan – along with neighbors Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan – were coerced into accepting new US military bases.  In 2005 Kyrgyzstan’s nationalist President Askar Akayev was deposed by Islamists in the Tulip Revolution.  Within days Donald Rumsfeld was meeting with the new leaders. [2]  Karimov had seen enough and ordered US troops out of Uzbekistan.

The timing of both Brzezinski’s book and the Bush Jr. Administration “carpet of bombs” threat to the Taliban are instructive since both occurred prior to the 911 attacks, which provided the perfect pretext for the massive Central Asian intervention that Brzezinski, Bush and their City of London bosses were advocating. 

Dr. Johannes Koeppl – former German Defense Ministry official and adviser to NATO Secretary General Manfred Werner – explained of this rash of “coincidences” in November 2001, “The interests behind the Bush Administration, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberger Group, have prepared for and are now implementing open world dictatorship (which will be established) within the next five years.  They are not fighting against terrorists.  They are fighting against citizens.”

Drugistan

Central Asia produces 75% of the world’s opium.  According to the UN, the surge in opium production in the region coincided with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which was “encouraged” by the Reagan Administration and the CIA.  It also coincided with the Four Horsemen’s (Exxon Mobil, Chevron Texaco, BP Amoco & Royal Dutch/Shell) Caspian Sea oil boom. 

While the US issued humiliating certifications to judge countries on their ability to stop drug traffic, Big Oil produced 90% of the chemicals needed to process cocaine and heroin, which CIA surrogates process and distribute.  CIA chemists were the first to produce heroin.

As Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate Manuel Salgado put it, “This world order which professes the cult of opulence and the growing economic power of illegal drugs, doesn’t allow for any frontal attack aimed at destroying narco-trafficking because that business, which moves $400 billion annually, is far too important for the leading nations of world power to eliminate.  The US…punishes those countries which don’t do enough to fight against drugs, whereas their CIA boys have built paradises of corruption throughout the world with the drug profits.”[3]

The Afghan “paradise of corruption” yielded 4,600 metric tons of opium in 1998.  In 1999 the Taliban announced a crack down on opium production in Afghanistan.  The move angered the CIA, the Afghan aristocracy and their Turkish Gray Wolves allies, whose smuggling routes mirror those of the Four Horsemen’s Caspian Sea oil pipeline recently opened for business through Turkey.

When the Taliban cracked down on opium production, poppy fields bloomed to the north where CIA/ISI-sponsored Islamists were fighting in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Dagestan, Armenia and Azerbaijan.  Asia Times writer Pepe Escobar termed the entire region “Drugistan”. [4]

Pakistani writer Ahmed Rashid says the Saudis- fulfilling their usual “paymaster” role – funded the northward shift in poppy production. [5]  It was part of a larger operation run by Western intelligence agencies to encircle Russia, seize oilfields and destabilize the entire Central Asia region using Islamic fundamentalists and heroin proceeds.     

In 1991 Air America/Iran-Contra super spook Richard Secord showed up in Baku, Azerbaijan under the cover of MEGA Oil. [6]  Secord did military training, sold Israeli arms, passed “brown bags filled with cash” and shipped in over 2,000 Islamist fighters from Afghanistan with help from CIA-favorite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. 

Afghan heroin began flooding into Baku.  Russian economist Alexandre Datskevitch said of 184 heroin labs that police discovered in Moscow in 1991, “Every one of them was run by Azeris, who use the proceeds to buy arms for Azerbaijan’s war against Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh”. [7]

A Turkish intelligence source claims that Exxon and Mobil (now Exxon Mobil) were behind the 1993 coup against elected Armenian President Abulfaz Elchibey.  Secord’s Islamists helped.  Osama bin Laden set up an NGO in Baku as a base for attacking the Russians in Chechnya and Dagestan. 

A more pliant President Heidar Aliyev was installed in Armenia.  In 1996, at the behest of Amoco’s (now BP) president, he was invited to the White House to meet President Clinton – whose National Security Advisor Sandy Berger held $90,000 worth of Amoco stock. [8]

Not content with the Polish Solidarist-led grab of Eastern Europe and the partitioning of oil-rich Soviet Central Asian republics, the CFR/Bilderberger crowd now used mujahadeen surrogates in Chechnya to further squeeze Russia. 

In 1994 35,000 Chechen fighters were trained at Amir Muawia camp in Afghanistan’s Khost Province.  Osama bin Laden built the camp for the CIA.  Now-deceased Chechen commander Shamil Basayev graduated from Amir Muawia and was sent to advanced guerrilla tactics camp at Markazi-i-Dawar, Pakistan.  There he met with Pakistani ISI officials. [9]  ISI has historically excelled at carrying out the CIA’s dirty laundry.

The Chechen Islamists took over a big chunk of the Golden Crescent heroin trade, working with Chechen crime families affiliated with the Russian Alfa Group that did business with Halliburton.  They also had ties to the Albanian heroin labs being run by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).  A Russian FSB report stated that the Chechens began buying real estate in Kosovo in 1997, just prior to the US-led partition of Kosovo from Yugoslavia. 

Saudi-born Chechen commander Emir al-Khattab set up guerrilla camps to train KLA Albanian rebels.  The camps were funded by the heroin trade, prostitution rings and counterfeiting.  Recruits were invited by Basayev and funded by the House of Saud’s Muslim Brotherhood Islamic Relief Organization. [10]

In February 2002 sent 200 military advisers and attack helicopters to Georgia to “root our terrorism”.  On September 20, 2002, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stated that the al Qaeda-trained Chechen rebels targeting his country were being given safe-haven by the government of Georgia.  The Four Horsemen’s strategic Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline was set to open through the Georgian capital Tblisi.  The US deployment was a smokescreen for pipeline protection. 

In October 2003 Georgian President Eduard Schevardnadze was forced to step down despite the fact that he had been elected to serve until 2005.  IMF darling Mikheil Saakashvili was installed to complete the banker coup which was dubbed the Rose Revolution.  According to The Guardian, Rose Revolution funders included the U.S. State Department, USAID, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, International Republican Institute, Bilderberg Group, the NGO Freedom House, George Soros’s Open Society Institute and National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

When Gulbuddin Hekmatyar ceded Kabul to the Taliban in 1995, Taliban training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan were taken over by Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) who, with help from Saudi Wahhabist clerics, recruited and trained Islamic fundamentalist volunteers to fight wars of destabilization throughout the Balkans and Central Asia. 

Financed by Golden Crescent heroin, these terrorists shipped out to fight with Chechen rebels, the Kosovo Liberation Army, the Bosnian Muslim Army, the National Liberation Army (Albanian separatists fighting the government of Macedonia) and Chinese East Turkistan Uighur rebels fighting against Beijing.

Out of these same camps came Lakshar e-Taiba and Jamiash-i-Mohammed, who in December 2001 attacked India’s Parliament in New Delhi, killing fourteen legislators and provoking the Indians into a massive military deployment along the Pakistani border.

In the early 1990’s the CIA had helped Afghan mujahadeen veterans get passports to immigrate to the US.  The Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, where many Afghans landed, turned into a CIA recruiting base for wars in Yugoslavia and Central Asia. 

Among those who frequented the center were El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated far-right Israeli Rabbi Meir Kahane; and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, a fundamentalist Egyptian cleric linked to the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.  The CIA brought the sheik to Brooklyn as a recruiting tool. [11]  His son was killed in December 2001 – a key al Qaeda leader fighting the US in Afghanistan. 

The CIA arranged for Egyptian al Qaeda leaders to flea to Albania in 1997, where they helped train and fight with the Kosovo Liberation Army.  Bin Laden’s #2 man Ayman al-Zawahiri heads Egyptian Islamic Jihad.  Al-Zawahiri’s sidekick Ali Mohammed came to the US in 1984.  He trained terrorists in Brooklyn and Jersey City on weekends.  His regular job was to instruct US Special Forces at Fort Bragg.  In 1998 he helped bomb the US Embassies in Africa. [12]

According to British MP Michael Meacher, in an article for The Guardian, M16 recruited up to 200 British Muslims to fight in Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.  Meacher says a Dehli-based foundation describes Omar Saeed Sheikh, the man who beheaded US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002, as a British agent.  He says it was Sheikh who – at the behest of ISI General Mahmood Ahmed – wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta just prior to 911, a fact confirmed by Dennis Lomel, director of FBI’s financial crimes unit. [13]

Restoring Petromonarchy

According to Mossad intelligence reports, as of July 1, 2001, 120,000 metric tons of opium was warehoused in Afghanistan awaiting shipment.  Two months later the US was bombing Afghanistan.  Opium shipments resumed. 

The US paid several Afghan warlords $200,000 each and gave them satellite phones to lead a surrogate army Northern Alliance-led ground assault on the Taliban.  Over $7 million was spent buying off these opium-trafficking warlords, including Uzbek butcher Rashid Dostum. [14]

Amnesty International and UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson called for an investigation of an incident at Mazar-i-Sharif where Dostum oversaw the surrender of hundreds of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, who were then massacred in a bombing raid by US aircraft during in an alleged prison uprising.  The “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh was among the few survivors. 

The prisoners had come from Konduz where, according to investigative journalist Seymour Hirsch of The New Yorker, the White House had ordered US Special Forces to create an evacuation corridor whereby Pakistani military aircraft were allowed to fly no less than 2,500 al Qaeda and Taliban fighters – along with their ISI advisers and at least two Pakistani generals – to safety in Pakistan.

While the Bush Administration used an alleged al Qaeda/Saddam Hussein alliance as a pretext to turn its guns towards oil-rich Iraq, al Qaeda and Taliban leadership remained unharmed in Pakistan. 

In Afghanistan US envoy and former Unocal executive Zalmay Khalilzad was busy paving the way for the construction of the Unocal-led Centgas pipeline.  Later Khalilzad became US Ambassador to Iraq.  US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain huddled with Pakistan Oil Minister Usman Aminuddin and the Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan to plan the pipeline, which would run next to Khandahar – home of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. 

Omar favored the Centgas consortium and remains mysteriously at large.  Northern Alliance leader Burhanuddin Rabbani- who had been Afghan Prime Minster until he was deposed by Hekmatyar and the Taliban in 1996 – was quietly dealt out of the new Kabul government, ostensibly for favoring the Argentine-led Bridas pipeline consortium. [15] 

The World Bank and IMF set up shop in Kabul after a twenty-five year hiatus.  Halliburton’s Brown & Root subsidiary and other post-war “reconstruction specialists” lined up for contracts.  On December 27, 2002 Turkmenistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a deal paving the way for the Centgas pipeline.

The US-handpicked Afghan Prime Minister Hamid Karzai emerged after the assassination of contender Abdul Haq, who walked into a trap inside Afghanistan while supposedly under CIA protection.  Haq’s handler was Robert “Bud” McFarlane, Reagan’s National Security Advisor who now runs a K Street oil consulting firm.  Haq had no ties to the oil industry and was considered by the CIA to be too cozy with Iran and Russia.  Rabbani’s Northern Alliance military commander Sheik Massoud was mysteriously assassinated just two days before 911.

According to Iranian, Afghan and Turkish government sources, Hamid Karzai was a top adviser to Unocal during their negotiations with the Taliban.  He was also a CIA contact during the Company’s decade-long Afghan War.  Bill Casey made sure Karzai’s family was moved safely to the US after anarchy took over in Kabul. [16] 

Karzai is close to King Zaher Shah, who returned to Afghanistan from exile to convene the royalist loya jerga in July 2002.  When all other presidential candidates mysteriously dropped out of the race just 24 hours before the election, Karzai got the nod as head of state.  His people then shut down debate at the conference, stonewalled on the formation of parliament and refused to appoint a cabinet.  Karzai secret police roamed the grounds of the conference looking for dissenters to jail.  According to tribal representative Hassan Kakar, delegates disagreeing with Karzai were not even allowed to speak. [17]

The Karzai government represents a return of the Afghan monarchy, compliant as ever to international banker interests in the region.  In 2005 Chevron Texaco bought Unocal, cementing Four Horsemen control over the trans-Afghan Centgas pipeline.

Notes
 

[1] “Central Asia Unveiled”. Mike Edwards. National Geographic. 2-02

[2] Reaping the Whirlwind: The Taliban Movement in Afghanistan. Michael Griffin. Pluto Press. London. 2001. p.124

[3] “The Geostrategy of Plan Columbia”. Manuel Salgado Tamayo. Covert Action Quarterly. Winter 2001. p.37

[4] “The Roving Eye: Pipelineistan, Part I: The Rules of the Game”. Pepe Escobar. Asia Times Online. 1-25-02

[5] Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. Ahmed Rashid. Yale University Publishing. New Haven, CT. 2001. p.145

[6] Azerbaijan Diary: A Rogue Reporter’s Adventures in a Oil-Rich, War-Torn, Post- Soviet Republic. Thomas Goltz. M.E. Sharpe. Armonk, NY. 1999. p.272

[7] “al-Qaeda, US Oil Companies and Central Asia”. Peter Dale Scott. Nexus. May-June, 2006. p.11-15

[8] See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism. Robert Baer. Crown. New York. 2002. p.243-244

[9] “Who is Osama bin Laden?” Michel Chossudovsky. www.copvcia.com 12-17-01

[10] Ibid

[11] “The Road to September 11”. Evan Thomas. Newsweek. 10-1-01. p.41

[12] “Bin Laden’s Invisible Network”. Evan Thomas. Newsweek. 10-29-01. p.42

[13] The Asian News. 9-30-05. www.theasiannews.co.uk

[14] “US Paid Off Warlords”. Andrew Bushnell. Washington Times. 2-7-02

[15] Michel Chossudovsky. www.globalresearch.ca 1-23-02

[16] Ibid

[17] “Evening Edition”. National Public Radio. 6-17-02

Dean Henderson writes a weekly column called Left Hook.  He is the author of Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network and The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries.  His blog is at www.deanhenderson.wordpress.com

Bankruptcy in America

April 20th, 2011 by Bob Chapman

Many banks are insolvent, yet are allowed to stay in business. Being allowed to keep two sets of books is obscuring their real estate loan problems. This is the shadow inventory you sometimes hear about. Those millions of homes “that exist, but they don’t.” They presently admit to owning some 1 million homes they cannot sell, which is almost 25% higher than last year. If you put everything together you could be looking at an 8-year supply. Making matters worse lenders are holding homes on the books at values 40% higher than what they are worth. This is very similar to what is going on in Spain presently. We’ll say this one more time. Most major banks and some middle tier and small institutions are broke and you are being lied to regarding their condition.

           
Distressed home sales make up about 50% of all sales and they are sold at rock bottom prices, which drives down the value of all homes. This condition could last another ten years. In California and Nevada such sales are some 70% of sales. This inventory will continue to suppress prices for some time to come, so do not even think about buying a home. Those lower foreclosure figures are a mirage caused by legal action against lenders. Those foreclosure numbers will grow higher soon, because these criminals are cutting a deal to pay fines, so no one goes to jail. Only in America. That foreclosure activity could come back slowly due to major changes in the industry.

As foreclosures pick up following a deal with the government the shadow inventory will build, banks will sell more homes, prices will fall further, losses to the banks will grow and the banks inadequate loan loss reserves will become evident. Then there are the ongoing lawsuits against the banks and their creation known as MERS, which has no further legal standing. We could see millions of mortgages being cancelled that is unless the crooks in Congress pass a forgiveness bill to relieve the banks of their fraud. The bottom line is many more banks are going under and some will be major banks.

           
As we predicted in June of 2005 that the housing market would crash we also predicted a 10 to 40 year fall and consolidation in housing. Most people can reflect on these past six years, but cannot perceive the future for housing. Market activity has fallen by almost 1/3rd, as housing prices fell ever lower. Although we do not see an increase in official interest rates we can easily see mortgages at 5-5/8% by the end of the year and 6-1/2% at the end of 2012. Lenders are going to have to demand 10% to 20% down. That will not only further decrease sales volume, but it will further depress prices. These rates may seem high, but inflation will be between 14% and 30% over that 1-1/2 to 2 year span.

           
Since 2006 house prices are down 32% and over the next year they will probably fall close to 40% from their highs. The Fed may have temporarily saved banking and Wall Street, but little has been done to solve the unemployment problem. If you have no job you cannot buy a house, not with real unemployment at 22%. As a result new home sales fell 28% in February, as their inventories rose to 8.9-month’s sales. Our question is with such a tremendous home inventory overhang, why are builders building more homes, some 550,000 a year. They have to be dumber than rocks. Existing houses for sale rise every day plus there are more than a million in the foreclosure crisis. House prices still have to hit bottom and that is probably 30% lower and probably 3 years away. It is hard to get real estate going with unemployment at 20% and forced part-time employment at 10 million workers. Deceptive government statistics can only hold back reality for so long. People are finally seeing the truth of what unemployment and under-employment really are. Labor deterioration is accompanied by gas and food inflation. People at work paying steeply higher prices are in no position to buy a home. Feeding the family comes first. As a result of forced Fed policies we also have a falling dollar that increases prices for imported goods.

If all this wasn’t bad enough municipalities and states are in serious financial trouble.        

Their working force makes up 15% of overall employment and 70% of costs. That means to cut costs you lay people off first. That increases unemployment and disqualifies future homebuyers and puts more underwater homes into foreclosure, which compounds lenders’ losses. Do not underestimate these layoffs, because they will have a strong negative affect on the overall economy. This year was really the beginning of these municipal and state layoffs. Looming in the shadows is the possibility of hundreds of municipal bankruptcies; 35 states are in the same position with no end in sight. Very few people really understand how serious the overall situation really is. These events take a terrible toll on consumer confidence. These were supposed to be lifetime jobs. What happens when pension checks stop due to bankruptcy? That has to slow the economy. 90% of state and local costs are for education. That means more layoffs and doubling class sizes to 40 children. Children are learning very little in school and their success is held down by the quality of students. It will be pandemonium with giant class sizes and many of the best teachers will resign.

           
The government supplies 35% of wages. Food stamps are helping to feed 44 million Americans. Government wants to cut Social Security, which people have paid into, but is erroneously allowing thousands in under disability. Medicare is a shamble, and Medicare is worse. In spite of the current problems 75% of Americans do not support cuts to Medicare and Social Security. In spite of that, if Wall Street and banking want less benefits, that is what Americans will get. America is accelerating to a welfare state.

           
Corporate America is in a dilemma. They are facing higher costs for petroleum products and food. This affects profits, if not passed on, business will eventually have to pass these costs on. In that environment there can be little hiring and little if any job growth. If they hold back price increases when increases do come they’ll be very large.

Each day statements from the Fed get more bizarre. One of the latest ones is the Fed has to be accommodative because the central bank remains blow its targets for inflation and employment. Inflation is somewhat high and employment is dreadful.

“Dear Mary,” wrote Italian justice activist Vittorio Arrigoni to a friend. “Do you (know who) will be on the boats?… I’m still in Gaza, waiting for you. I will be at the boat to greet you. Stay human. Vik.”

“Mary” is Mary Hughes Thompson, a dedicated activist who braved the high seas to break the Israeli siege on Gaza in 2008.

Vittorio Arrigoni, or Vik, was reportedly murdered by a fundamentalist group in Gaza, a few hours after he was kidnapped on Thursday, April 14. The killing was supposedly in retaliation for Hamas’ crackdown on this group’s members. All who knew Vik will attest to the fact that he was an extraordinary person, a model of compassion, solidarity and humanity.

Arrigoni’s body was discovered in an abandoned house hours after he was kidnapped. His murderers didn’t honor their own deadline of thirty hours. The group, known as the Tawhid and Jihad, is one of the fringe groups known in Gaza as the Salafis. They resurface under different names and manifestations, for specific – and often bloody – purposes.

“The killing prompted grief in Gaza, but also despair,” read an op-ed in the UK Independent on April 16. “Not only was Arrigoni well known and well liked there, but it escaped no one that this kidnapping was the first since that of the BBC journalist Alan Johnson in 2007.”

However, Johnson’s kidnappers, the so-called Army of Islam (a small group of fanatics affiliated with a large Gaza clan) held their hostage for 114 days. There was plenty of time to organize and pressure the criminals to release him. In Arrigoni’s case, merely few hours stood between the release of a horrifying video showing a blindfolded and bruised activist, and the finding of his motionless body. The forensic report said that he was strangled. His friends said that he was tortured.

Vittorio Arrigoni’s murder was an opportunity for Israel’s supporters. Most notorious amongst them was Daniel Pipes. He wrote, in a brief entry in the National Review Online: “Note the pattern of Palestinians who murder the groupies and apologists who join them to aid in their dream of eliminating Israel.” Pipes named three individuals, including the Palestinian-Israeli filmmaker, Juliano Mer-Khamis, and Arrigoni himself, and then proceeded to invite readers to “send in further examples that I may have missed.”

Pipes’ list, however, will have no space for such names as Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall and James Miller, for these individuals were all murdered by Israeli forces. Pipes will also fail to mention the nine Turkish activists murdered aboard the Mavi Marmara ship on its way to break the siege on Gaza in May 2010, and the nine activists abroad Irene (the Jewish Boat to Gaza) who were intercepted, kidnapped and humiliated by Israeli troops before being deported outside the country in September 2010.  82-year-old Reuben Moscowitz, a Holocaust survivor, was one of the activists aboard the Irene, as was Lillian Rosengarten, an American “who fled the Nazis as a child in Frankfurt,” according to a New York Times blog.

The people Pipes failed to mention truly represent a rainbow of humanity. Men and women of all ages, races and nationalities have stood and will continue to stand on the side of the Palestinians.

But this story is selectively ignored of pseudo-intellectuals, intent on dismissing humanity to uphold Israel. They refuse to see the patterns in front of them, as they are too busy concocting their own.

Writing in UK Guardian from Rome, on April 15, John Hooper said, “Arrigoni’s life was anything but safe. In September 2008 he was injured (by Israeli troops) accompanying Palestinian fishermen at sea. Two years ago he received a death threat from a US far-right website that provided any would-be killers with a photo and details of distinguishing physical traits, such as a tattoo on his shoulder.”

The group that murdered Arrigoni, like others of its kind, existed for one specific, violent episode before disappearing altogether. The mission in this case was to kill an International Solidarity Movement activist who dedicated years of his life to Palestine. Shortly before he was kidnapped, he wrote in this website of the “criminal” Israeli siege on Gaza. He also mourned the four impoverished Palestinians who died in a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt boarder while hauling food and other goods.

Before his murder, Arrigoni was anticipating the arrival of another flotilla – carrying activists from 25 countries boarding 15 ships – that is scheduled to sail to Gaza in May. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adamantly called on EU countries to prevent their nationals from jointing the boats. “I think it’s in your and our common interest…that this flotilla must be stopped,” he told European representatives in Jerusalem, according to an AFP report, April 11.

Israeli officials are angry at the internationals who are ‘de-legitimizing’ the state of Israel by standing in solidarity with the Palestinians. Arrigoni has done so much to harm the carefully fabricated image of Israel as an island of democracy and progress. Along with other activists, he has shattered this myth through simple means of communication.

Vik signed his messages with “Stay human”. His book, detailing his experiences in Gaza, was entitled Restiamo Umani (Let Us Remain Human). Mary Hughes Thompson shared with me some the emails Arrigoni sent her. “I can hardly bear to read them again,” she wrote. This is an extract from one of them:

“No matter how (we) will finish the mission…it will be a victory. For human rights, for freedom. If the siege will not (be) physically broken, it will break the siege of the indifference, the abandonment. And you know very well what this gesture is important for the people of Gaza. That said, obviously we are waiting at the port! With hundreds of Palestinians and ISM comrades we will come to meet you sailing, as was the first time, remember? All available boats will sail to Gaza to greet you. Sorry for my bad English…big hug…Stay Human. Yours, Vik”

Vik’s killers failed to see his humanity. But many of us will always remember, and we will continue trying to “stay human”.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com.

RAF Tornados have carried out “deliberate, multiple strikes” aimed at robbing Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of command and control over his forces as Nato on Tuesday stepped up bombing raids over Libya
By Bruno Waterfield

Brussels: Brigadier-General Mark van Uhm, Nato’s chief of allied operations, also said that Alliance combat aircraft had destroyed significant numbers of tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers besieging the Libyan city of Misurata on Monday night.

“We have been watching the situation in Misurata, and over the past 10 days fighting has been intense,” he said.

“Our forces have conducted numerous strikes in and around Misurata, and we have destroyed over 40 tanks and several armoured fighting vehicles there.”

Nato officials have signalled a new phase in operations, under Alliance control for three weeks, with major attacks on Tuesday by the RAF on communications infrastructure and the headquarters of Gaddafi’s elite 32nd Brigade located six miles south of Tripoli.

The 32nd Brigade, commanded by Col. Gaddafi’s son Khamis, has led and commanded military actions against the Libyan rebels.

“What we are doing is attacking the regime’s ability to supply and sustain these attacks not just in the area of Misurata but across the country,” said Gen. van Uhm.

Alliance sources said the number of Nato strike sorties ending with the use of missiles or bombs without being aborted has doubled over the last two weeks.

“Whenever Gaddafi tries to advance we destroy his supply lines and he has to fall back,” said the official. “We suspect he has had to force his troops to advance and we are whacking them. Now we’re taking out his communications. “

France has provided extra fighters to overcome a shortage of Nato combat planes and was moving its Charles De Gaulle aircraft near to Misurata to provide “faster rotations and targeting”, said a source.

L

Radioactive Fish in the USA?

April 19th, 2011 by Washington's Blog

The FDA says it won’t monitor radiation in fish on the West Coast of the U.S. As the Anchorage Daily News notes:

North Pacific fish are so unlikely to be contaminated by radioactive material from the crippled nuclear plant in Japan that there’s no reason to test them, state and federal officials said this week.

***

DeLancey, the FDA spokeswoman, said “We have not been doing any testing. We’ve been working with NOAA to keep an eye on U.S. waters, to see if there is any cause for alarm, and we do have the capability to begin testing if that does occur.”

Asked to explain what kind of monitoring was taking place in the ocean, DeLancey said, “You would have to talk directly to NOAA … I don’t really want to speak for another agency.”

But NOAA fisheries spokeswoman Kate Naughton declined to answer questions and referred a reporter back to DeLancey and the EPA.

DeLancey said that so far, there’s no reason for concern about Fukushima. The radioactive materials in the water near Fukushima quickly become diluted in the massive volume of the Pacific, she said. Additionally, radioactive fallout that lands on the surface tends to stay there, giving the most unstable ones isotopes like iodine time to decay before reaching fish, she said.

Of course, radioactive isotopes like cesium 137 are very long-lived, and so won’t necessarily decay before they reach fish.

And – in typical Orwellian agency-speak – the FDA is trying to reassure people that eating contaminated fish poses no health risk. As the Wall Street Journal notes:

U.S. public-health officials sought Tuesday to reassure consumers about the safety of food in the U.S., including seafood, amid news that fish contaminated with unusually high levels of radioactive materials had been caught in waters 50 miles from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan.

No contaminated fish have turned up in the U.S., or in U.S. waters, according to experts from the Food and Drug Administration [which isn't testing], Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They expressed confidence that even a single fish sufficiently contaminated to pose a risk to human health would be detected by the U.S. monitoring system. [But would the government announce such detection?]

They also dismissed concerns that eating fish contaminated at the levels seen so far in Japan would pose such a risk. [Alexander Higgins points out that Japanese fish exceed federal radiation limits by 2400%]

Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC in Atlanta, said he expected continued detection of low levels of radioactive elements in the water, air and food in the U.S. in coming days, but that readings at those levels “do not indicate any level of public health concern.”

Is this yet another example of the government responding to the nuclear accident by trying to raise acceptable radiation levels and pretending that radiation is good for us?

Indeed, the ocean currents head from Japan to the West Coast of the U.S.

As AP notes:

The floating debris will likely be carried by currents off of Japan toward Washington, Oregon and California before turning toward Hawaii and back again toward Asia, circulating in what is known as the North Pacific gyre, said Curt Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer who has spent decades tracking flotsam.

***
“All this debris will find a way to reach the West coast or stop in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a swirling mass of concentrated marine litter in the Pacific Ocean, said Luca Centurioni, a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.

Here is what the North Pacific Gyre looks like:

File:North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone.jpg

NPR reports:

CNN said that “the Hawaiian islands may get a new and unwelcome addition in coming months — a giant new island of debris floating in from Japan.” It relied in part on work done by the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center, which predicts that:

“In three years, the [debris] plume will reach the U.S. West Coast, dumping debris on Californian beaches and the beaches of British Columbia, Alaska, and Baja California. The debris will then drift into the famous North Pacific Garbage Patch, where it will wander around and break into smaller and smaller pieces. In five years, Hawaii shores can expect to see another barrage of debris that is stronger and longer lastingthan the first one. Much of the debris leaving the North Pacific Garbage Patch ends up on Hawaii’s reefs and beaches.”

The research center has an animated graphic showing the debris field’s likely route posted online here. And it has images of how the debris field will circulate, from this month (in upper left corner) to March 2016 (lower right).

The projected path of the debris field, from March of this year (in upper left), through March 2016 (lower right). That's the Pacific Ocean, with Japan to the left and the west coast of the U.S. to the right. Hawaii is the small chain of islands in the center.
Enlarge University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center

The projected path of the debris field, from March of this year (in upper left), through March 2016 (lower right). That’s the Pacific Ocean, with Japan to the left and the west coast of the U.S. to the right. Hawaii is the small chain of islands in the center.

The projected path of the debris field, from March of this year (in upper left), through March 2016 (lower right). That's the Pacific Ocean, with Japan to the left and the west coast of the U.S. to the right. Hawaii is the small chain of islands in the center.
University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center

The projected path of the debris field, from March of this year (in upper left), through March 2016 (lower right). That’s the Pacific Ocean, with Japan to the left and the west coast of the U.S. to the right. Hawaii is the small chain of islands in the center.

Indeed, CNN notes:

The debris mass, which appears as an island from the air, contains cars, trucks, tractors, boats and entire houses floating in the current heading toward the U.S. and Canada, according to ABC News.

The bulk of the debris will likely not be radioactive, as it was presumably washed out to sea during the initial tsunami – before much radioactivity had leaked. But this shows the power of the currents from Japan to the West Coast.

Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen doesn’t think there will be a risk within the next year. But as the plume spreads across the Pacific, and as small fish get eaten by bigger fish (i.e. bioaccumulation), it would be prudent to measure radiation in fish caught off the West Coast of the U.S. (and Hawaii), and Gundersen suggests we contact our representatives and demand measurement:

Gundersen Discusses Current Condition of Reactors, TEPCO Claim of “No Fission” in Fuel Pool, and Lack of Radiation Monitoring in from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

Humanitarian Intervention Again

April 19th, 2011 by James Bissett

Once again, as in the bombing of Serbia twelve years ago, our air force is bombing a country presenting no threat to the safety or security of Canada. In fact, we are at war. There has been no declaration of war. There has been no serious attempt to intervene peacefully to help resolve the conflict. There has been no debate in our Parliament. There was no suggestion of sending a mission to Libya to assess the situation on the ground.

More seriously, there has been no rational explanation of what the bombing is designed to do and little idea of who it is we are fighting for. 

The United Nations Security Council has authorized a no-fly zone to be enforced over Libyan skies but it is not clear what exactly this means. In the meantime some Western nations – including Canada – have interpreted it to mean they are authorized to attack and destroy Qaddafi’s forces fighting against an armed rebellion to overthrow the dictator. Other countries do not agree. Among them are: Germany, Russia, China, India, Brazil and, more importantly, the Arab League.

Some have argued the aim is to prevent the Libyan despot, Muammar Quaddafi, from slaughtering thousands of his people, but there has been no evidence that this was his intention before the bombing took place.

President Sarkozy of France has made it clear the intervention is to change the regime and replace Quaddafi. France has already recognized the rebels in Benghazi as the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people. This extraordinary step seems to rule out any possibility of negotiating with Qaddafi for a peaceful solution to the armed struggle. It also implies what amounts to a demand for his unconditional surrender – a demand that almost always leaves your opponent no choice but to fight to the bitter end.

As for the United States we are not sure what President Obama has in mind. Initially, he was hesitant to lead his country into yet another war against a Muslim nation. However, a hyped –up media and a number of his close advisors urged him to intervene militarily. Having done so, he was anxious to at least pretend that the lead in the continuing conflict would be taken by others, and the “others” now seem to have been designated as some of the NATIO countries – minus Germany and Turkey.

The waves of unrest and upheavals in the Arab world have created great hope but at the same time potential danger. Who or what might replace the deposed despots is not known,  One thing seems clear, none of the Muslim countries involved is ready for, or even desires to have, western style democracy.

 For the most part their values are not western values and lurking in the background is the menacing threat of religious extremism. This may be especially true in Libya, which has produced a high proportion of suicide bombers and mujahideen fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As a general rule it is wise not to take sides in a civil war unless our own vital interests are at stake. What is taking place in Libya today is a civil war and we find ourselves playing the role of air force for the rebels. Unfortunately, we really have no idea of who they are or what they represent. Moreover, we do not know where the conflict will lead, how long it might last or the broader implications for the region after the fighting ends.

All of this fiasco has turned out to be a colossal mess and is unlikely to end well. This is not unusual when the excuse for intervention is based primarily on so-called humanitarian reasons.

Military intervention for humanitarian reasons is not a new phenomenon. We recall that Hitler justified his invasion of Czechoslovakia on the grounds that the ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland were being mistreated and abused by their fellow Czechoslovaks.

The concept has, however, found renewed popularity following the failure to prevent the Rwanda genocide. It gained momentum during the civil war in Bosnia and later in Kosovo, when charges of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity were levelled against the Serbs. The NATO intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo – despite strong evidence to the contrary – continues to be hailed as highly successful operations.

The Balkan experience led directly to the new doctrine of the “responsibility to protect” or R2P – the right to intervene in a sovereign state to protect populations there who are at risk. R2P has become the new term for humanitarian intervention and has laid out the conditions to be met for such intervention.

The key provision is that if a state is failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measure are not working, the international community has the responsibility to intervene at first diplomatically, and then more coercively,  and at last resort, with  military force.

The United Nations Charter does not permit the use of military force for humanitarian intervention. However, in 2005 the General Assembly did adopt the principle of R2P, provided that the parties to the dispute “first of all seek, a solution through negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.”

If such peaceful means have been tried but have failed then and only then can the United Nations Security Council authorize the use of force. Clearly none of these peaceful methods were tried before the decision was taken to bomb Quaddafi’s forces.

R2P has many loyal advocates both in Canada and the United States. In Canada, our former foreign minister, Lloyd Axworthy, and retired General Romeo Dallaire are leading proponents of the doctrine.  In the United States, one of the foremost advocates is Samantha Powers, author, foreign policy analyst, and now member of the US National Security Council.

Samantha Powers was appointed to the Council by President Obama and is said to have strongly influenced the President to intervene in Libya. In 2002, before her appointment to the National Security Council, she pushed hard during the second Intafada for US military intervention against Israel with the aim of establishing and protecting a Palestinian state.

She exemplifies the potential dangers of having a doctrine that invites the violation of national sovereignty on the basis of alleged human rights abuse. For human rights proponents like her there are few conflict situations that do not deserve military intervention. The concept of “do no harm” becomes irrelevant.

It is fortunate that R2P is not a mandatory obligation for the international community. It provides a framework for intervention and guidelines to be followed but it remains the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to authorize military intervention in a sovereign state. The veto power remains a last resort to prevent the violation of sovereignty for whatever reason.

There is great danger in assuming that the western democratic nations can exercise wise judgment about when they should intervene in a conflict taking place in developing countries. There is even more danger in assuming that the intervention is motivated by real humanitarian concerns and not for selfish political or foreign policy objectives as was clearly the case in Bosnia and Kosovo.

The R2P concept is too easily high jacked by leaders who see an opportunity to gain political mileage at home by playing the role of protecting the rights of suffering victims in far away places. If the country to be punished is headed by a dictator and is not too powerful to take on, then the risk is worth taking.

If the intervention can be in concert with other allied nations so much the better. For Canada, acting as part of NATO becomes particularly important as it was in the bombing of Serbia, and is now in the case of Libya. Quite apart from the  substance of the issues involved Canada feels it must go along with our NATO partners whether the military action is justified or not. Our political leaders do not need to consult Parliament because NATO has decided the matter for us.

This is not a satisfactory situation for a democratic country. Other NATO member countries do not always feel obliged to follow the NATO lead if they do not agree with a military solution to the problem. Greece refused to take part in the bombing of Serbia in 1999 and Germany has refused to join its NATO partners in the Libya intervention.

Going to war is a serious business and it should be only done with the full agreement of the Parliament of Canada after a vote in the House of Commons. It is well to remember that at the outbreak of the Second World War it was only after debate in the House of Commons and a vote that Canada declared war on Germany.

Decisions about war and peace that affect the safety and security of our armed services and citizenry are the paramount expression of a nation’s sovereignty. Canada should not abdicate that responsibility in any circumstances.                         

James Bissett is a former Canadian diplomat. He was Canada’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago and Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia.

BP’s Secret Deepwater Blowout

April 19th, 2011 by Greg Palast

Greg Palast investigating BP’s blowout in the Caspian, Baku, Azerbaijan 2010. (Courtesy of Greg Palast)

Only 17 months before BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig suffered a deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP deepwater oil platform also blew out.

You’ve heard and seen much about the Gulf disaster that killed 11 BP workers. If you have not heard about the earlier blowout, it’s because BP has kept the full story under wraps. Nor did BP inform Congress or US safety regulators, and BP, along with its oil industry partners, have preferred to keep it that way.

The earlier blowout occurred in September 2008 on BP’s Central Azeri platform in the Caspian Sea.

As one memo marked “secret” puts it, “Given the explosive potential, BP was quite fortunate to have been able to evacuate everyone safely and to prevent any gas ignition.” The Caspian oil platform was a spark away from exploding, but luck was with the 211 rig workers.

It was eerily similar to the Gulf catastrophe as it involved BP’s controversial “quick set” drilling cement.

The question we have to ask: If BP had laid out the true and full facts to Congress and regulators about the earlier blowout, would those 11 Gulf workers be alive today – and the Gulf Coast spared oil-spill poisons?

The bigger question is, why is there no clear law to require disclosure? If you bump into another car on the Los Angeles freeway, you have to report it. But there seems no clear requirement on corporations to report a disaster in which knowledge of it could save lives.

Five months prior to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, BP’s Chief of Exploration in the Gulf, David Rainey, testified before Congress against increased safety regulation of its deepwater drilling operation. Despite the company’s knowledge of the Caspian blowout a year earlier, the oil company’s man told the Senate Energy Committee that BP’s methods are, “both safe and protective of the environment.”

Really? BP’s quick-dry cement saves money, but other drillers find it too risky in deepwater. It was a key factor in the Caspian blowout. Would US regulators or Congress have permitted BP to continue to use this cement had they known? Would they have investigated before issuing permits to drill?

This is not about BP the industry Bad Boy. This is about a system that condones silence, the withholding of life-and-death information.

Even BP’s oil company partners, including Chevron and Exxon, were kept in the dark. It is only through WikiLeaks that my own investigations team was able to confirm insider tips I had received about the Caspian blowout. In that same confidential memo mentioned earlier, the US Embassy in Azerbaijan complained, “At least some of BP’s [Caspian] partners are similarly upset with BP’s performance in this episode, as they claim BP has sought to limit information flow about this event even to its [Caspian] partners.”

In defense of its behavior, BP told me it did in fact report the “gas release” to the regulators of Azerbaijan. That’s small comfort. This former Soviet republic is a police state dictatorship propped up by the BP group’s oil royalties. A public investigation was out of the question.

In December, I traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, to investigate BP and the blowout for British television. I was arrested, though, as a foreign reporter, quickly released. But my eye witnesses got the message and all were too afraid tell their stories on camera.

BP has, in fact, never admitted a blowout occurred, though when confronted by my network, did not deny it. At the time, BP told curious press that the workers had merely been evacuated as a “precaution” due to gas bubbles “in the area of” the drilling platform, implying a benign natural gas leak from a crack in the sea floor, not a life-threatening system failure.

In its 2009 report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), BP inched closer to the full truth. Though not mentioning “blowout” or “cement,” the company placed the leak “under” the platform.

This points to a cruel irony: the SEC requires full disclosure of events that might cause harm to the performance of BP’s financial securities. But reporting on events that might harm humans? That’s not so clear.

However, the solution is clear as could be. International corporations should be required to disclose events that threaten people and the environment, not just the price of their stock.

As radiation wafts across the Pacific from Japan, it is clear that threats to health and safety do not respect national borders. What happens in Fukushima or Baku affects lives and property in the USA.

“Regulation” has become a dirty word in US politics. Corporations have convinced the public to fear little bureaucrats with thick rulebooks. But let us remember why government began to regulate these creatures. As Andrew Jackson said, “Corporations have neither bodies to kick nor souls to damn.”

Kicking and damning have no effect, but rules do. And after all, when international regulation protects profits, as in the case of patents and copyrights, corporate America is all for it.

Our regulators of resource industries must impose an affirmative requirement to tell all, especially when people, not just song lyrics or stock offerings, are in mortal danger.

Deconstructing US-NATO War on Libya and the Oil Economy

April 19th, 2011 by Global Research

 
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War and Media Disinformation: America is the World’s Sheriff
- by Felicity Arbuthnot – 2011-04-12


America’s Military Expansion Funded by Foreign Central Banks
Preview from “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century”
- by Michael Hudson – 2011-04-12

The “dollar glut” is what finances America’s global military build-up. It forces foreign central banks to bear the costs of America’s expanding military empire: effective “taxation without representation”.


VIDEO: Will Bretton Woods 2 Bring Change?
New interview now on GRTV
- by Andrew Gavin Marshall – 2011-04-12

Bush cousin presides over 9/11 suit against Cheney, Rumsfeld, Myers
- by Craig McKee – 2011-04-12


VIDEO: Libya Rebels had NATO Weapons from Day 1
New investigative report on GRTV
- 2011-04-11


VIDEO: Icelanders Reject Debt Repayment Plan
Watch the latest news on GRTV
- 2011-04-11


Fight Economic Oppression, Target the Top One Percent
- by Joel S. Hirschhorn – 2011-04-11


Industry’s war on nature: ‘What are the bees telling us?’
- by Rady Ananda – 2011-04-11

France and UN Bear Responsibility for Massacres by Ouattara Forces in Ivory Coast
- by Ann Talbot – 2011-04-11

European Union Prepares to send Ground Troops to Libya
- by Chris Marsden – 2011-04-11


Are Japanese Authorities Covering Up Further Damage to the Fukushima Reactor from the Aftershock ?
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-04-11


Why Iceland Voted ‘No” to the Diktats of the Creditor Banks
- by Prof. Michael Hudson – 2011-04-11

Extremely High Radiation Levels in Japan: University Researchers Challenge Official Data
- 2011-04-11

Cuts In Pentagon Spending….?
- by Sherwood Ross – 2011-04-10

Are Most Nuclear Power Plants Vulnerable?
- by Washington’s Blog – 2011-04-10

NYC Demonstration against US Aggression Revitalizes Anti-War Movement
- 2011-04-10


Violating the Digital Privacy Rights of Americans
Pentagon Stonewalls Corporate Spy Probe
- by Tom Burghardt – 2011-04-10


Rwanda Genocide: Erlinder v. Kagame, Case Continued in the Court of Public Opinion
- by Ann Garrison, Peter Erlinder – 2011-04-10


Bahrain: Saudi Forces at Forefront of Brutal Repression
- by Finian Cunningham – 2011-04-10


Libya: Media Propaganda and “Humanitarian Imperialism”
- by Julie Lévesque – 2011-04-10

The 15 September 2010, GEAB N°47 issue was headed « Spring 2011: Welcome to the United States of Austerity / Towards the very serious breakdown of the world economic and financial system ». Yet at the end of summer 2010, most experts believed first, that the debate on the US budget deficit would remain a mere subject of theoretical discussion within the Beltway (1) and secondly, that it was unthinkable to imagine the United States engaging in a policy of austerity because it was sufficient for the Fed to continue to print dollars. Yet, as everyone has been able to see for several weeks, Spring 2011 really did bring austerity to the United States (2), a first since the Second World War and the setting up of a global system based on the ability of the US engine to always generate more wealth (real from 1950 to 1970, increasingly virtual thereafter).

At this stage, LEAP/E2020 can confirm that the next stage of the crisis will really be the “Very Serious Breakdown of the world economic, financial and monetary system” and that this historic failure will occur in autumn 2011 (3). The monetary, financial, economic and geopolitical consequences of this “Very Serious Breakdown” will be of historic proportions and will show the crisis of autumn 2008 for what it really was: a simple detonator.

The crisis in Japan (4), the Chinese decisions and the debt crisis in Europe will certainly play a role in this historic breakdown. On the other hand we consider that the issue of government debt of countries on Euroland’s periphery is no longer the dominant European risk factor here, but it is the United Kingdom which will find itself in the position of the “sick man of Europe” (5). The Eurozone has in fact established and keeps improving all the monitoring systems needed to address these problems (6). Management of the Greek, Portuguese and Irish problems will therefore take place in an organized fashion. That private investors must take a haircut (as anticipated by LEAP/E2020 before summer 2010) (7) does not belong to the category of systemic risks, displeasing the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and Wall Street and City experts, trying every three months to rerun the “coup” of the early 2010 Eurozone crisis (8).

In contrast, the United Kingdom has completely missed its attempt at “preventive budgetary amputation surgery” (9). In fact, under pressure from the street and particularly more than 400,000 British who roamed the streets of London on 03/26/2011 (10), David Cameron is forced to lower his target for reducing health care costs (a key point of his reforms) (11). At the same time, the Libyan military adventure has also forced him to rethink his goals for Defense Ministry budget cuts. We already mentioned in the last GEAB issue that the British government’s financing needs continue to rise, reflecting the ineffectiveness of the measures announced whose implementation is proving very disappointing in reality (12). The only result of the Cameron / Clegg (13) duo policy is currently the relapse of the British economy into recession (14) and the obvious risk of the ruling coalition imploding after the next referendum on electoral reform.

In this issue, our team describes the three key factors that mark out this Very Serious Breakdown of autumn 2011 and its consequences. Meanwhile, our researchers have begun to anticipate the progression of the Franco-Anglo-American military operation in Libya which we believe is a powerful accelerator of global geopolitical dislocation and that it usefully illuminates some of the current tectonic changes in the relationships between major world powers. In addition to our GEAB $ index, we expand on our recommendations for dealing with the dangerous quarters to come.

Basically, the process that is unfolding before our eyes, of which the US entry into an era of austerity (15) is a simple budgetary expression, is a continuation of the balancing of the 30 trillion of ghost assets which had invaded the global economic and financial system in late 2007 (16). While about half of them had disappeared in 2009, they have been partially resurrected since then due to the volition of the major global central banks, and the US Federal Reserve in particular and its “QE 1 and 2″. Our team considers, therefore, that 20 trillion of these ghost assets will go up in smoke beginning autumn 2011, and very brutally, under the combined impact of the three US mega-crises in accelerated gestation:

. the budgetary crisis, or how the United States plunges willingly or by force into this unprecedented austerity and takes whole swathes of the global economy and finance with it

. the crisis in US Treasury bonds, or how the US Federal Reserve reaches the “end of the road” which began in 1913 and must face up to its bankruptcy whatever accounting sleight of hand is chosen

. the US Dollar crisis, or how the jolts in the US currency that will characterize the ending of QE2 in the second quarter of 2011 will be the beginnings of a massive devaluation (around 30% in a few weeks).

Central banks, the global banking system, pension funds, multinationals, commodities, the US population, Dollar zone economies and/or dependent on trade with the United States (17) … everyone structurally dependent on the US economy (of which the government, the Fed and the federal budget have become central components), assets denominated in dollars or commercial dollar transactions, will suffer the head on shock of 20 trillion in ghost assets purely and simply disappearing from their balance sheets, from their investments, and causing a major decline in their real incomes.
Remittance of funds by US immigrant workers to their countries of origin (first number in local currency at the dollar exchange rate end 2008/second number: the same, at the exchange rate end 2010) - Source: Wall Street Journal, 04/2011
Remittance of funds by US immigrant workers to their countries of origin (first number in local currency at the dollar exchange rate end 2008/second number: the same, at the exchange rate end 2010) – Source: Wall Street Journal, 04/2011
Around the historic shock of autumn 2011 which will mark the definitive confirmation of significant trends anticipated by our team in previous GEAB issues, the main asset classes will experience major upheavals requiring the increased vigilance of all players concerned for their investments. In fact, this triple US crisis will mark the true exit from the “world after 1945″ which saw the US play the role of Atlas and will, therefore, be marked by many shocks and aftershocks in the quarters which follow.

For example, the dollar may experience short-term effects of strengthening value against the major world currencies (especially if US interest rates rise very quickly following the ending of QE2), even if, six months after that, its 30% loss of value (relative to its current value) is inevitable. We can, therefore, only repeat the advice that has appeared at the head of our recommendations since the beginning of our work on the crisis: in the context of a global crisis of historic proportions like the one we are experiencing, the only rational objective for investors is not to make more money, but to try to lose as little as possible.

This will be particularly true for the coming quarters where the speculative environment will become highly unpredictable in the short term. This short term unpredictability will be particularly due to the fact that the three US crises that trigger Very Serious Breakdown in the world in autumn are not concurrent. They are very closely correlated but not linearly. And one of them, the budget crisis, is directly dependent on human factors with a big influence on the timing of the event; whilst the other two (whatever those who see the Fed officials as gods or devils think (18)) are now, for the large part, included in the significant trends where US leaders’ actions have become marginal (19).

The budget crisis, or how the United States plunges willingly or by force into this unprecedented austerity and takes whole swathes of the global economy and finance with it

The numbers can make the head spin: “6 trillion in budget cuts over ten years” (20), said the Republican Paul Ryan, “4 trillion in twelve years” retorted the 2012 candidate Barack Obama (21), “all this is far from sufficient”, bids one of the Tea Party referents, Ron Paul (22). And anyway, sanctions the IMF, “the United States is not credible when it speaks of cutting its deficits” (23). This unusually harsh remark from the IMF, traditionally very cautious in its criticism of the United States, is in any case particularly justified in terms of the psychodrama which, for a fistful of tens of billions of dollars, nearly shut down the federal state absent any agreement between the two major parties, a scenario that will, moreover, soon take place again over the federal debt ceiling.

The IMF is only expressing an opinion widely shared by creditors of the United States: if, for a few tens of billions USD in deficit reduction, the US political system reached that degree of paralysis, what will happen when, in the coming months, cuts of several hundred billion dollars a year will be required? Civil war? This is the new California governor Jerry Brown (24) opinion in any case, who believes that the United States is facing a regime crisis identical to that which led to the Civil War (25).

 

Public and private sector borrowing (1979 - 2010) (in red: public/in blue: private) - Source: Agorafinancial, 04/2011
Public and private sector borrowing (1979 – 2010) (in red: public/in blue: private) – Source: Agorafinancial, 04/2011
The context, therefore, is no longer mere paralysis but really an all-out confrontation between two visions of the country’s future. The closer the date of the next presidential election gets (November 2012), the more the confrontation between the two sides will intensify and take place regardless of any rule of good behaviour, including safeguarding the country’s common good: “Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad”, says the ancient Greek proverb. The Washington political scene will increasingly resemble a psychiatric hospital (26) in the coming months, making “the bizarre decision” increasingly likely. If, in order to reassure themselves about the dollar and Treasury bonds, Western experts repeat in turn that the Chinese would be crazy to get rid of these assets which would thus only hasten their fall in value, it’s that they haven’t yet understood that it’s Washington and its political mistakes that can come to the decision that hastens this fall. And October 2012, with its traditional annual budget vote, will be the ideal moment for this Greek tragedy which, according to our team, won’t have a happy ending because this isn’t Hollywood, but really the rest of the world which will write the scenario’s sequel.

Whatever the case, by political choice, by closing down the federal government or by irresistible outside pressures (27) (interest rates, IMF + Euroland + BRIC (28)), it is really in autumn 2011 that the US federal budget will massively shrink for the first time. The continuation of the recession coupled with the ending of QE2 will cause interest rates to rise and thus significantly increase federal debt servicing costs, against a backdrop of falling tax revenues (29) caused by a relapse into a deep recession. Federal insolvency is now just round the corner according to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas (30).

Read more in GEAB:

. The budgetary crisis, or how the United States plunges willingly or by force into this unprecedented austerity and takes whole swathes of the global economy and finance with it
. The crisis in US Treasury bonds, or how the US Federal Reserve reaches the “end of the road” which began in 1913 and must face up to its bankruptcy whatever accounting sleight of hand is chosen
. The US Dollar crisis, or how the jolts in the US currency that will characterize the ending of QE2 in the second quarter of 2011 will be the beginnings of a massive devaluation (around 30% in a few weeks)

Notes:

(1) An American term for Washington’s politico-administrative heart, situated in the middle of the local ring road, the Beltway.

(2) From grim cuts in the US overseas aid budgets to reductions in social programmes; public organizations and whole sections of the US population (Latinos, the poor, students, retirees, …) will now be severely affected by what is still only a drop in the bucket of adjustments needed. The grassroots demonstrations are beginning with students at the forefront. Sources: House of Resentatives, 04/13/2011; Devex, 04/11/2011; HuffingtonPost, 04/13/2011; Foxnews, 04/14/2011; Foxbusiness, 04/12/2011

(3) The world banking system (including Europe), still under-capitalized and mainly insolvent, is also one of the components of this Very Serious Breakdown of autumn 2011.

(4) In GEAB N°55 our team will give its anticipations on the world nuclear question, using the political anticipation method as a decision-making tool on the subject.

(5) The magnitude of the United Kingdom’s budgetary crisis is far more serious than the current British leaders are telling who, however, claim to have told the truth. There are in fact two ways of lying to a people: deny the existence of a problem (the position of Gordon Brown’s Labour) or only tell part of the truth (clearly the choice of the Cameron/Clegg pair). In both cases, the problem is not resolved. Source: Telegraph, 03/26/2011

(6) And from now and the definitive establishment of Euroland as the main European engine at the European summit of 11 March last, the four countries that do not participate in the “Euroland +” financial stabilization pact, i.e. the United Kingdom, Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic, will be asked to leave the room during discussions on financial and budgetary matters related to the pact. EU Observer of 03/29/2011 describes the panic which then seized the delegations of these four countries whose leaders play the thugs in front of the media and in speeches intended for their respective public opinion, but they well know they are now confined to a second-rate European role.

(7) Source: Irish Times, 03/22/2011

(8) A very pertinent and very amusing must read article by Silvia Wadhwa, CNBC’s European correspondent, which makes fun of the caricatural anti- Euroland and anti-German articles of his colleagues in other Anglo-Saxon media, and rightly points out that differences in economic situations are bigger between US states than within Euroland and the debt problems of Greece or Portugal are nothing compared to those of a state like California. Source: CNBC, 04/12/2011

(9) We will come back to the British case in more detail in the GEAB N°55, barely a year after the Conservative/LibDem victory.

(10) This protest against cuts is the largest demonstration in London for over twenty years and has been accompanied by serious violence against “symbols of wealth” with attacks against HSBC, the Ritz Hotel and Fortnum & Mason for example. As we have repeatedly emphasized in the GEAB, it is quite significant to note that this historic demonstration in the UK hardly made the headlines and then became invisible 48 hours after it happened. When a few thousand Greeks or Portuguese demonstrate in Athens or Lisbon on the other hand, we are entitled to an avalanche of shocking pictures and comments describing these countries on the brink of chaos. This “two weights and two measures” mustn’t deceive the clear-sighted observer. On the one hand, there are serious difficulties that are now managed within a powerful group, Euroland; on the other, there are major problems that can no longer be managed by a completely isolated country. Believe the media or think for yourself to guess the rest! Source: Guardian, 03/26/2011

(11) Source: Independent, 04/03/2011

(12) Moreover the financial markets realize this and no longer really believe the British government’s martial message of austerity, again leading to a downward spiral in the British Pound. Source: CNBC, 04/12/2011

(13) Nick Clegg has become the most hated politician in the United Kingdom for having betrayed nearly all his campaign promises one by one. Source: Independent, 04/10/2011

(14) And to push British households into a loss of purchasing power only similar to that of the post-World War I crisis in 1921. Source: Telegraph, 04/11/2011

(15) As the Europeans have done since 2010.

(16) Average estimate by LEAP/E2020 made in 2007/2008.

(17) Beyond traditional foreign trade, the chart below shows the extent of the reduction in transfers to their countries of origin by immigrant workers in the United States, because of the declining US Dollar. This reduction will increase further from Autumn 2011.

(18) In the US today, the diabolic vision is the most common among public opinion, unlike 2008 when the Fed officials seemed to be the last resort. This psychological change, as we have pointed out, is not meaningless and contributes significantly to limit Fed officials’ leeway. And it’s not the US Central Bank’s historic legal defeat, which forced it to reveal the recipients of hundreds of billions of dollars in aid distributed after the 2008 Wall Street crisis, which will improve this situation, quite the opposite. A little story, revealed by RollingStone magazine, illustrates the US people’s worsening grievances against its central bankers: beneficiaries of this Fed aid are two wives of leading Wall Street figures who have created a custom-made instrument allowing them to collect 200 million USD from the Fed to buy failed securities … the profits go to them and the losses to the Fed! Sadly, this is just one example among many that are currently circulating on the Net and have now definitively shattered the respect of US people for its benchmark monetary institution; an explosive situation in the context of the current crisis. Source: Rollingstone, 04/12/2011

(19) The dollar’s fate, like US Treasury bonds, is now largely in the hands of operators around the world who will take a very “clinical” look at the exit from QE2 which was forced on the Fed during the second quarter of 2011. It’s the Fed’s collective opinion (already heavily criticised), not the way it is “presented”, which will be decisive.

(20) Source: Politico, 04/04/2011

(21) Source: Boston Herald, 04/13/2011

(22) Source: Huffington Post, 04/11/2011

(23) And all the more so since they continue to break the records of financing needs for their deficits, and that the deficit forecast for the next decade by Obama commitments amounts to 9.5 trillion USD. On one side, he devises policies that increase the deficit, on the other he announces reduction targets… hardly credible, really! Sources: CNBC, 04/13/2011; Washington Post, 03/18/2011

(24) Brown is an original US character with a great deal of political experience having previously served as governor of California from 1975 to 1983, and was twice a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination. His opinion on the ruinous state of the US political system is, therefore, not to be taken lightly. Source: CBS, 04/10/2010

(25) For those who find the picture risqué, our team reminds that one of the Civil War’s main causes was the irreconcilable vision of what the federal state and its role should be. Today, around budget issues, the role of the Fed, military expenditure and social spending, we are once again seeing the emergence of two diametrically opposed visions of what the federal state should be and what it should do, with its procession of growing institutional blockages and an atmosphere of hatred between political forces. Many illustrations have been given in previous GEAB issues. Source: Americanhistory

(26) How else can one describe people who are barely able, and by dint of repeated crises, to cut a few tens of billions from a budget, and who suddenly announce that tomorrow they will cut thousands of billions of dollars from this same budget? Fools or liars? In any case irresponsible, because the constraints that require these deficit reductions in any case are building up.

(27) Global government debt is at its highest since 1945 and, at 10.8% of GNP, the US has become the leading major country in terms of government deficits. Sources: Figaro, 04/12/2011; Bloomberg, 04/12/2011

(28) Regarding the BRIC countries (now BRICS with South Africa), it is very interesting to note that their third summit, which took place on the Chinese tropical island of Hainan, is finally enjoying significant media coverage from the Western media. We were one of the first and few Western publications to mention the first summit (at Ekaterinburg) three years ago and emphasize the importance of the event, but until now the major international newspapers persisted in considering the BRICs as a simple acronym without serious geopolitical clout. Obviously things have changed. Moreover from Libya to the dollar, the Hainan summit clearly positioned itself as a counterweight to the US and its surrogates (fewer and fewer in this case having regard to what is happening in Libya). As regards the dollar, the BRICs have decided to accelerate the process allowing them to use their own currencies for their trade: another sign that we’re rapidly approaching a severe monetary shock. Source: CNBC, 04/14/2011

(29) Those who still believe in an improvement in US economic conditions, beyond the effect of QE2 “doping”, should dwell on the moral of the SMEs in the US which have begun to deteriorate significantly and the fiction of the upturn in employment which will be sharply corrected (even in official statistics) from summer 2011. And we refer to previous GEAB issues regarding the fiscal crisis of the federated states. Sources: MarketWatch, 04/12/2012; New York Post, 04/12/2011

(30) Source: CNBC, 03/22/2011

 

 

NATO data confirms the magnitude and destructive nature of the Libya military operation.

“Since the beginning of the NATO operation (31 March 2011, 08.00GMT) a total of 2,771 sorties and 1,110 strike sorties have been conducted.

“A total of 18 ships under NATO command are actively patrolling the Central Mediterranean. 22 Vessels were hailed on 17 April to determine destination and cargo. 1 boarding was conducted (no diversion).

A total of 384 vessels have been hailed, 10 boardings and 3 diversions have been conducted since the beginning of arms embargo operations.”

http://www.nato.int/nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_2011_04/20110418_110418-oup-update.pdf

The above number of sorties includes only those tabulated since NATO took command of Operation Odyssey Dawn. It does not include the sorties between March 19 and March 30

The coalition is currently running more than a hundred sorties a day. 

We are dealing with a formidable military force, a deployment of naval power and air force bombers directed against a country of less than 7 million people, less than the population of Switzerland.    

Let us be under no illusions. There is evidence of mass civilian casualties. These are war crimes (using advanced weapons systems) directed against a defenseless population .

These are some of the high tech “humanitarian bombers and fighters” deployed by the US Air Force and the Marine Corps, not to mention those of France (Mirage 2000), UK, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Qatar, UAE, Denmark, Norway, et al…

Solely in the US arsenal

Three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers operating from Whiteman AFB. [see video below, a deadly aircraft capable of launching 16 bunker buster bombs (with conventional or nuclear warheads) in a single sortie]
Two B-1B bombers
Ten F-15E Strike Eagle strike fighters operating out of RAF Lakenheath
Eight F-16C Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters from Spangdahlem Air Base started leaving for Aviano on 20 March
Two HH-60 Pave Hawk combat search and rescue helicopters from RAF Lakenheath operating from USS Ponce (LPD-15).
Three E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system (AWACS)
Three E-8C battle management/command and control aircraft
One EC-130H electronic warfare (communications jamming) aircraft
One EC-130J psychological operations aircraft
One RC-135V/W Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft
Two AC-130U gunships[49]
Four KC-10A Extender Aerial Refueling Tanker/Airlift Aircraft
Six A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft[40][49]
Global Hawk unmanned aerial surveillance vehicle
Lockheed U-2 Reconnaissance aircraft

Four AV-8B Harrier II ground attack fighters from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, operating off of USS Kearsarge
Two MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft from the 26th MEU participated in the pilot rescue.
Two CH-53E Super Stallions from the 26th MEU participated in the pilot rescue.
One KC-130J Hercules from the 26th MEU participated in the pilot rescue.

See Operation Odyssey Dawn – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


France’s Mirage 2000 used in Operation Odyssey Dawn against Libya,

Royal Air Force Tornado GR4A

Northrop Grunman Video Clip on the B-2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcX9LbR4pqc 


This war has been on the NATO drawing board for several years.

‘We are Libyans fighting for Libya,’ said the rebel fighter, whose life led him to all sides so he could continue his battle against Kadafi.

April 17, 2011|By , He once lived under the Taliban’s protection, met with Osama bin Laden and helped found a group the U.S. has listed as a terrorist organization. He died in a secondhand U.S. military uniform, ambushed by Moammar Kadafi’s men as he cleared a road after an airstrike by his new NATO allies.

Aides to Abdul Monem Muktar Mohammed say the Libyan rebel fighter was leading a convoy of 200 cars west of this hotly contested strategic city Friday when a bullet struck him on the right side of the chest. He opened his passenger door and jumped out. A rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby.

“Don’t wait, go,” he yelled to his men. Then he got to his feet, staggered a few steps and fell.

Mohammed’s final days were a mirror of his past, of a life that saw contradictions and intersections with U.S. policy, ones that could return to haunt the United States.

He arrived in Afghanistan in 1990 at the conclusion of the mujahedin’s silent partnership with the United States against the Soviet-backed Afghan regime. The following decades saw him become an international pariah, operating in an underground world of armed training camps and safe houses.

But with the revolt against Kadafi that started in February, he once again found himself in an uneasy alliance with the United States.

Five days before he died, with gray in his hair and bags under his eyes, Mohammed climbed a concrete tower on the outskirts of Ajdabiya and phoned in positions to the rebel government so NATO could drop bombs on Kadafi’s forces.

Putting down his Thuraya satellite phone, Mohammed waved a shiny black 9-millimeter pistol on a road filled with empty bullet casings and waited for the explosions.

A few hours later, Mohammed and his Omar Mukhtar brigade, one of the new military units officially sanctioned by the opposition government, rejoiced as blasts shook the city. A few started dancing and singing “God is great.”

“I have never been Al Qaeda now or in the future,” Mohammed said as he watched his men clap. “We are religious and ordinary people. We are Libyans fighting for Libya.”

The onetime holy warrior boasted that he even wanted a close battlefield relationship with NATO. But he also bristled at Western double standards. Why, he grumbled, does NATO so readily bomb the Taliban in Afghanistan but hesitates against Kadafi? Still, he would take any firepower he could get. He wished he had his own direct line to NATO rather than communicating through middlemen.

He laughed and said, “Give me their number.”

Rebel leaders are sensitive to criticism by some in the West that Al Qaeda “fellow travelers” are deeply involved in the fight against Kadafi. With some defensiveness, they say Afghan veterans such as Mohammed, 41, were pushed to extremes by Kadafi’s authoritarian rule, and that with freedom, the danger of a homegrown militant extremist threat has faded.

But there are many unanswered questions about Libya’s anti-Kadafi forces, with at least 20 former Islamic militant leaders in battlefield roles, according to the rebel army, and hundreds of Islamists participating or watching from the sidelines. All speak of unity and brotherhood, but in the new state, will they be tempted by a once-in-a-lifetime chance to overpower Libya with a conservative Islamist vision?

The fighters themselves might not even know their answer, caught up in the moment’s revolutionary fervor and vacillating between a longing for peace and their dreams of achieving an Islamic state.

*

Mohammed’s journey started at age 20, when he left his home in western Libya and traveled across the border to Algeria, flew to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Pakistan, and made his way with four Libyan friends to Afghanistan in early 1990. The year before, more than a 1,000 Islamists had been jailed in Libya, and Mohammed decided it was better to leave and try to follow a righteous path.

He fell in love with the mountains and the Afghans’ fighting prowess. With the fall of the old Soviet-backed Afghan regime in 1992, he and a group of other Libyan fighters decided to return home.

They slipped across the borders. The veteran mujahedin called themselves the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, and vowed to kill Kadafi, declaring their ambition to form an Islamic state. Mohammed lived in the southern city of Sabha under an assumed name. He didn’t dare contact his family. He hated Kadafi for detaining hundreds of Islamists and remembered the yearly public executions of political detainees and students.

“Hitler was a good man compared to Kadafi,” he said.

A first assassination plot, in 1994, involved planting bombs at a celebration for Kadafi, but the explosives failed to go off. Two years later, he was involved in another botched plot when a man hurled a dud grenade at Kadafi. Mohammed acknowledged without a hint of embarrassment that he picked the bomber and the weapon.

Mohammed escaped, first to Tunis, the Tunisian capital, and then to Turkey. He married an Algerian woman; they set up a home in Istanbul and had their first child. But when a colleague was detained and handed by the Turkish authorities to Libya, Mohammed fooled them with a fake Tunisian passport and fled.

On the run, he learned that his family was paying the price for his failed plot against Kadafi. One of his brothers, whom he had met secretly for 30 minutes in 1996, had been jailed and would be locked up for eight years.

There was only one place for Mohammed to go: back to Afghanistan, under the protection of the Taliban. He spent time studying in military camp, and in classes on politics and Islam. About 100 members of the LIFG congregated in Kabul, the capital, longing for the day when they could kill Kadafi and rule Libya in accordance with Islam.

Here Mohammed would have his encounter with the two men who shaped the future of radical Islam: Bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman Zawahiri.

In 2000, he said, he met the two men twice, once at a funeral and another time at a guesthouse. They exchanged pleasantries and nothing more, he said. Bin Laden later sent an emissary requesting that the LIFG join Al Qaeda, but Mohammed said the Libyan group refused.

“Before 9/11, Bin Laden wasn’t infamous. Everyone had their own projects and people. He was a wealthy man. Our project was to kill Kadafi. They offered for our group to join, but we were focused on Libya.”

Mohammed remembered a brief meeting when the group debated whether to join Al Qaeda. He said they disagreed with Bin Laden’s theory that if the United States was weakened, its Arab allies would fall.

“We were concerned with Libya and nothing else. We didn’t believe in killing civilians or fighting the United States,” he told The Times on Tuesday.

But there are disputes about whether the group ever did, in fact, pledge allegiance to Al Qaeda. In November 2007, Zawahiri and a senior Libyan Al Qaeda member with close ties to the LIFG said the group was joining the terrorist network. The LIFG followed with a strong denial.

Mohammed insisted that the Libyan insurgents knew Bin Laden’s 9/11 attack was a disaster for them. He was sure Kadafi would use the assault on the U.S. to hunt them down and woo Washington to his effort.

“Sept. 11 caused a big problem for us,” he said. “We rejected Sept. 11. It hurt our group. Kadafi was so happy.”

Within two days, the Libyans sent their wives to Pakistan and followed soon after. Mohammed left for Pakistan and then sneaked across the border to Iran. But instead of giving him a warm welcome, the Iranians imprisoned him for 7 1/2 years. At the time, Iranians were suspected of detaining Al Qaeda members for use as bargaining chips with the Americans.

Other leaders were captured by the Americans in Thailand, he said, and then sent to Kadafi’s jails in Libya. After his release, he lived quietly in Iran. The humiliation caused his voice to rise. “Don’t ask me about this period,” he said.

When the Libyan revolt started in February, Mohammed came back almost immediately.

After arriving in Benghazi, the rebels’ stronghold, he met with heads of the rebel council and was made the leader of his own fighting brigade. The council issued him an ID badge proclaiming him “a general of the revolutionaries” and head of the Omar Muktar brigade, which he said had 150 members.

Members of Mohammed’s group, the LIFG, are scattered throughout the new volunteer army. Its leaders keep a low profile but met shortly after the uprising began to rename themselves the Islamic Movement for Change.

On a recent day, Mohammed sat in an empty villa in Ajdabiya, on a residential street decorated with a pink flower hedge. He had just come back from manning battle positions. Three fighters slept on a couch, cradling their rifles. He fiddled with his phone and wolfed down some boiled chicken and pasta.

He said that, when the fighting is done, he dreamed of returning to his birthplace and being left alone.

“I want to hand in my gun and be with my children,” he said. Then he walked to his olive-green pickup, followed by his men.

Plans to exploit Iraq’s oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world’s largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.

The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain’s involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair’s cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

They denied it was about Iraq’s resources. But it never rang true.

The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time.

The documents were not offered as evidence in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war. In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as “highly inaccurate”. BP denied that it had any “strategic interest” in Iraq, while Tony Blair described “the oil conspiracy theory” as “the most absurd”.

But documents from October and November the previous year paint a very different picture.

Five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”

The minister then promised to “report back to the companies before Christmas” on her lobbying efforts.

The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq “post regime change”. Its minutes state: “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.”

After another meeting, this one in October 2002, the Foreign Office’s Middle East director at the time, Edward Chaplin, noted: “Shell and BP could not afford not to have a stake in [Iraq] for the sake of their long-term future… We were determined to get a fair slice of the action for UK companies in a post-Saddam Iraq.”

Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had “no strategic interest” in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was “more important than anything we’ve seen for a long time”.

BP was concerned that if Washington allowed TotalFinaElf’s existing contact with Saddam Hussein to stand after the invasion it would make the French conglomerate the world’s leading oil company. BP told the Government it was willing to take “big risks” to get a share of the Iraqi reserves, the second largest in the world.

Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.

The 20-year contracts signed in the wake of the invasion were the largest in the history of the oil industry. They covered half of Iraq’s reserves – 60 billion barrels of oil, bought up by companies such as BP and CNPC (China National Petroleum Company), whose joint consortium alone stands to make £403m ($658m) profit per year from the Rumaila field in southern Iraq.

Last week, Iraq raised its oil output to the highest level for almost decade, 2.7 million barrels a day – seen as especially important at the moment given the regional volatility and loss of Libyan output. Many opponents of the war suspected that one of Washington’s main ambitions in invading Iraq was to secure a cheap and plentiful source of oil.

Mr Muttitt, whose book Fuel on Fire is published next week, said: “Before the war, the Government went to great lengths to insist it had no interest in Iraq’s oil. These documents provide the evidence that give the lie to those claims.

“We see that oil was in fact one of the Government’s most important strategic considerations, and it secretly colluded with oil companies to give them access to that huge prize.”

Lady Symons, 59, later took up an advisory post with a UK merchant bank that cashed in on post-war Iraq reconstruction contracts. Last month she severed links as an unpaid adviser to Libya’s National Economic Development Board after Colonel Gaddafi started firing on protesters. Last night, BP and Shell declined to comment.

Not about oil? what they said before the invasion

* Foreign Office memorandum, 13 November 2002, following meeting with BP: “Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP are desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity to compete. The long-term potential is enormous…”

* Tony Blair, 6 February 2003: “Let me just deal with the oil thing because… the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it. The fact is that, if the oil that Iraq has were our concern, I mean we could probably cut a deal with Saddam tomorrow in relation to the oil. It’s not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons…”

* BP, 12 March 2003: “We have no strategic interest in Iraq. If whoever comes to power wants Western involvement post the war, if there is a war, all we have ever said is that it should be on a level playing field. We are certainly not pushing for involvement.”

* Lord Browne, the then-BP chief executive, 12 March 2003: “It is not in my or BP’s opinion, a war about oil. Iraq is an important producer, but it must decide what to do with its patrimony and oil.”

* Shell, 12 March 2003, said reports that it had discussed oil opportunities with Downing Street were ‘highly inaccurate’, adding: “We have neither sought nor attended meetings with officials in the UK Government on the subject of Iraq. The subject has only come up during conversations during normal meetings we attend from time to time with officials… We have never asked for ‘contracts’.”

Increasing attacks on Shia mosques in the Bahraini state’s withering crackdown against the pro-democracy movement is a deliberate attempt to isolate the political opposition and amounts to a campaign of “sectarian cleansing”, say human rights groups.

Over the past four weeks since the Saudi-led Gulf Peninsula Shield military intervention in Bahrain, there appears to be a concerted drive by pro-state Sunni forces to target repression at the Shia population and in particular Shia mosques and other religious sites, such as cemeteries and meeting places known as Mattams.

Some mosques have been vandalized, with their doors, windows and the PA systems used in the call to prayer having been smashed. More recently, other mosques, such as the 800-year-old Al Shaboor, near the capital, Manama, have in the past week been razed to the ground with bulldozers. A similar fate was met by five mosques in Hamad Town, about 15km south of Manama.

The pro-democracy uprising that began on February 14 rocked the US-backed Sunni rulers for almost a month before the other Gulf states sent in heavily armed contingencies to quell the protests. But the nature of the military intervention has evidently gone beyond its initial avowed remit of restoring “security and stability”. Over 34 unarmed civilians have been killed, two-thirds of whom since the Saudi-led forces arrived. The latest victim is a 24-year-old woman, Azeeza Ahmed, who was shot dead when army and police raided her home in the village of Belad Al Qadeem on April 16. Up to 600 people, including medics, lawyers and academics, have been unlawfully detained, their whereabouts unknown. At least four people have died while in custody, their released bodies showing signs of torture. Some 1,000 workers have been sacked from jobs in major state-owned industries, accused of participating in anti-regime protests. And the vast majority of these victims of repression are Shia.

Nabeel Rajab, of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, describes the ongoing repression by the Sunni rulers as a “campaign of sectarian cleansing” against the Shia population. The upsurge in seemingly wanton attacks on Shia mosques and religious sites is clearly demonstrative of this, he says. Such attacks, as with the previously mentioned violations, Rajab points out, constitute crimes against humanity – crimes that the governments of the six Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, are in effect party to.

The pro-democracy movement in Bahrain was seen as a largely, but not exclusively, Shia-led movement. This reflects the fact that the Shia represent 70 per cent of the indigenous Bahrain population of less than 600,000, and that this group has historically suffered the most political and economic marginalization under the ruling Al Khalifa family who have held power since the oil-rich shaikhdom was granted independence from Britain in 1971.
However, the calls for replacement of the monarchy and for greater democratic freedoms galvanized Shia and sections of the minority Sunni population as well as labour unions and other secular groups. “Not Sunni, Not Shia, Just Bahraini,” was a common rallying slogan during the heyday of the uprising that saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets of the capital.

Some of the government opposition spokesmen that have been detained, such as Mohammed Abu Flasa and Ebrahim Al Sharif, leader of the National Democratic Action Society, are from Sunni backgrounds.

But, having said that, the repression that has unfolded since the Saudi-led Peninsula Shield entered the country has been directed with disproportionate force at the Shia population.

Pro-democracy sources and human rights groups say that the Bahraini government is now using a policy of divide and rule to isolate the opposition as a “sectarian problem” and in particular a “Shia problem”.

One source, who did want to be named, said: “The targeting of the Shia is a tactic by the regime to distort the pro-democracy movement from a nationalist one into a sectarian one. It is also a way of undermining international support for the pro-democracy movement by trying to present it as an internal problem of the state dealing with ‘troublesome Shia’. In this way, the Bahraini uprising is being made to appear as something different from the uprisings for democracy that have swept the region.”

Nabeel Rajab, who describes himself as secular with both Sunni and Shia family relatives, said: “The government is attempting to incite divisive sectarian tensions, to intimidate Sunni people into not supporting the pro-democracy movement because it is being presented as a Shia movement. The destruction of Shia mosques is a clear sign of this sectarian policy and in my view reflects a wider campaign of sectarian cleansing across Bahrain.”

Saudi troops have used bulldozers to demolish dozens of Shia mosques in Manama and in other locations such as Sitra, in the north east, at Al Barbaghi, Karzakhan, A’ali and in Hamad Town. The latter is particularly significant and could explain why five mosques in that one place alone have demolished. Hamad is one of the newbuild towns in Bahrain with a mixed community of Shia and Sunni. The ruthless targeting of one section of the community is being seen as an attempt to drive a wedge of fear and distrust between them.

Pro-democracy activists point to the government’s announcement last week that all buildings, including places of worship, are liable for demolition if they are found to not have a licence from the Municipal and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry. This, they say, is just a way of legalizing the targeting and destruction of Shia mosques.

Since that announcement, the number of Shia mosque demolitions seems to have increased rapidly.

Another pro-democracy source pointed to a more sinister motive. “The regime wants to start a sectarian war between Shia and Sunni. They are humiliating the Shia trying to make them take revenge on Sunnis.”
Nabeel Rajab says that despite the provocation by pro-state forces, an all-out sectarian war is unlikely.

“Bahrain is not a tribal society. Shia and Sunni communities have lived side by side peacefully here for centuries, even before the Khalifa family arrived some 220 years ago,” said Rajab.

“So I don’t think these communities will start fighting because there is too much common ancestry between them. However, there is a danger of conflict between the Shia and the tens of thousands of new Sunni nationals that the regime has brought in from neigbouring Arab countries over the past 20 years to fill the ranks of the army and police forces.

“The regime would like to see a sectarian conflict blow up because that would distract from the common struggle for democracy against the rulers. It would also serve to justify the state of emergency that the regime has imposed, the brutal crackdown on human rights, and the involvement of other Gulf armies in Bahrain.”

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are designated as key allies by Washington and London, and are important export markets for American and British weapons manufacturers. The US recently signed off on a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and its Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, which is seen as a bulwark against Iran’s growing influence in the region. Despite the escalation of violence against civilians in Bahrain by Saudi and Bahraini state forces, Washington and London have remained tightlipped. Both Western governments have pointedly refused to condemn the actions of their Gulf allies.

The unprecedented bulldozing of mosques by Arab military forces has disturbing echoes of similar violations by Israeli troops in Palestinian territories. The development in Bahrain comes in the wake of diplomatic cables disclosed earlier this month by the whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks, in which Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa boasted in 2005 to the then US ambassador, William Monroe, of the kingdom’s close ties with the Israeli state and its intelligence agency Mossad.

News update:

Since being interviewed by Global Research, Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab and his family were attacked in their home in the early hours of April 18. Rajab and his family, including his elderly mother, are suffering from the effects of asphyxiation after unknown assailants threw three teargas canisters into his home in Budaiya while the family was sleeping. Rajab, who is president of the Bahrain Human Rights Centre and is also on the board of directors for Human Rights Watch’s middle east section, has been a fearless critic of the Bahraini regime over its maltreatment of detainees. The internationally acclaimed rights activist is facing a summons from the state military prosecutor and possible detention after he published photographs showing signs of torture on the body of Bahraini man Ali Issa Sager (31) who died while in state custody last week. [1]

Notes:

[1] http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nabeel-Rajab/194515507249804#!/media/set/fbx/?set=a.203298013038220.49480.194515507249804

While in Kabul in March of this year, I visited the U.S. military base in that city, Camp Eggers . Knowing I would need a pretext to gain entry, I typed up a letter offering to give a presentation on wildlife in Afghanistan , which I had been studying. When approaching the base, one passes through an initial checkpoint, where a Hummer topped with a machine-gun nest stands guard. Then there is a 100-yard walk down a narrow corridor between high concrete blast walls, at which point one arrives at a guarded entry point through the wall. I showed my passport and letter, and was escorted through a second layer of blast walls to a little wooden information booth in this still-peripheral circle of defense. The pimply young lad manning the booth was flustered by my request; he had never seen anything quite like it. He did what all soldiers do when faced with something new; he phoned his superior for orders on how to proceed.

 

Permission was granted to pass to the next entry level. At hut #2 another friendly young male soldier by the name of Ryan was equally baffled by my written request, and he dialed up his commanding officer for instructions on what to do with me. Then, with Ryan as my escort, I made it into the inner sanctum of the base, where soldiers and military contractors strolled leisurely around the streets of the former Kabul residential area. After being passed around to several more levels of authority, I finally ended up at the office of Morale, Welfare and Recreation. The female officer in charge there was as confused by my presence as everyone else had been, and after reading my proposal asked rather sternly, “How did he get on the base?” She reprimanded Ryan for bringing me to the center of Camp Eggers, then realized that she would have to phone her commanding officer because there was no standardized protocol on how to deal with me. As we retraced our steps, Ryan remarked that he certainly could not be held accountable for letting me on the base because all he had done was follow orders. In fact, the primary concern of everyone I interacted with at Camp Eggers was to follow the directives of their superiors; no one appeared to have the capacity to take responsibility for their actions.

In the mid-1960s, political scientist Hannah Arendt published a book-length study of how some of the great evils of history, such as slavery and the Holocaust, managed to occur. Her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, concluded that generally such crimes are not carried out by fanatics or sociopaths, but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their superiors and their state and therefore do what they are told to do, and participate with the view that their actions are normal. The word “banal” is defined as “something that is trite, normal, and commonplace.” The root of the word comes from the Old French word ban, referring to feudal military service, which was compulsory and thus commonly accepted. Thus, military culture is by definition synonymous with banal, which my acquaintances at Camp Eggers demonstrated as they strove to find orders to follow and avoid responsibility for their actions.

Most members of the military establishment receive extensive training in combat techniques, including of course how to kill other human beings. One common drill at boot camp is to have recruits lunge repeatedly at mock human targets with mounted bayonets, shouting “Kill! Kill!” as they stab their imaginary victims. After months of such training, killing itself becomes banal, something normal and commonplace. The military culture of thoughtless submission to authority combined with heavy conditioning to snuff out human life creates a wide path towards the “great evils” that Hannah Arendt addressed.

Examples of what a sane society would call evil acts abound in the annuals of our current wars. For example, in 2010 a group of five American soldiers  murdered a number of Afghan civilians “for sport,” and collected fingers of their victims as trophies. Killing for them had become normal and banal; it was in fact what the soldiers were trained to do.

In March of 2011 two U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters came upon 10 Afghan children ages 7 to 13 gathering brush to warm their huts and attacked them with heavy machine gun fire. When the parents of the children arrived on the scene, attracted by the gunfire, they could only collect body parts of their children. For the pilots of the helicopters, killing was their job, a normal part of military life.

On March 12, 2006, four U.S. soldiers entered the home of a 14-year old girl in the Iraqi city of Mahmudiya, took her mother, father and sister into a bedroom and shot them, and then gang-raped the girl. Afterwards, they shot her in the head and attempted to burn her body. They then reported the deaths as being the result of an insurgent attack.

On March 25, 2003, Marine Sgt. Eric Schrumpf was participating in the U.S. invasion of Iraq when he spotted an Iraqi soldier in his field of view behind a female Iraqi citizen. He couldn’t get a clear shot with the woman blocking his line of sight, so he shot her to get her out of the line of fire. “I’m sorry, but the chick was in the way,” Schrumpf explained. Later he elaborated, “We had a great day. We killed a lot of people.”

Over the long term, most soldiers committing such murders become victims of their own lack of judgment, unable to live with the profoundly antisocial acts they have committed. Sergeant Schrumpf is himself now debilitated by PTSD, and can scarcely function in civilian society. He has attacked people in movie theaters because he mistakes their cans of Coke for military weapons. “I’ll never be the same again,” says Schrumpf, who seems somehow mystified by the etiology of his emotional dysfunction.

Similar stories of the fruits of combat duty are limited only by time available to tell them. After serving in the Marines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq , Lance Cpl. Walter Rollo Smith returned home and soon killed his wife, Nicole Marie Speirs, the 22-year-old mother of his twin children.  He drowned her in a bathtub without any evident provocation or reason. In reflecting on his heinous crime, Smith said, “I know for a fact that before I went to Iraq , there’s no way I would have taken somebody else’s life.”

After serving in the Army in Iraq in 2004, Spc. Brandon Bare, 19, of Wilkesboro, N.C, came home and stabbed his wife Nabila Bare, 18, at least 71 times with knives and a meat cleaver. About three dozen of the wounds were on her head and neck. Killing is what he was trained to do.

Mental angst and dysfunction in soldiers returning from combat is commonplace. A recent study indicates that 62% of soldiers returning from the war in Iraq have asked for mental health counseling, with 27% showing dangerous levels of alcohol abuse. Suicide rates among soldiers and vets have increased dramatically in recent years. Over 100,000 Vietnam vets have now killed themselves, far more than died in the Vietnam War. More than 300,000 veterans of the U.S. military are currently homeless, another study reveals.

If war is in fact destroying the youth of America by turning them into trained and traumatized killers, one could at least hope that the wars themselves have some value to American society.

Objective evidence indicates otherwise. The actual conduct of war bears more resemblance to a circus act than the noble endeavor it is often portrayed to be. To cite one of the many examples of the senselessness of war related in the book Achilles in Vietnam, author and Vietnam vet Jonathan Shay describes how, “During one patrol in the dry season, a U.S. Army squad ran out of water and was not resupplied. They walked for a day and a half in search of water in Vietcong-controlled territory. When men started to collapse from dehydration in the heat, an officer’s plea for emergency resupply was heeded: a helicopter flew over and “bombed” the squad with cases of Tab, seriously injuring one of the men. The major whose helicopter dropped the Tab was recalled to evacuate the casualty. There was no enemy activity. I subsequently read in the division newspaper that the major had put himself in for and had received the Bronze Star for resupplying the troops and evacuating the wounded ‘under fire.’ ” Remember that story the next time you see a soldier’s chest full of medals.

The Vietnam war itself was fought because at the end of World War II, Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam ’s independence from the colonizing French, reading from the U.S. Declaration of Independence to emphasize his people’s reasonable claim to self-determination. Instead of supporting this universal urge that humanity has for freedom, the U.S. supported the French effort to regain their colony for 10 long years (1945-1954). After the French were defeated, the U.S. fought the Vietnamese for another 22 years (1955-1975). Thus, 32 years of brutal mayhem took place, when all the Vietnamese people were asking for was their independence. The American lives that were ruined—the 58,000 combat deaths, 100,000+ suicides, 300,000 homeless men—were all expended for nothing, as were the 3.4 million Vietnamese who died in that war. To briefly mention another of our recent wars, today the nation of Iraq lies in ruins, the people impoverished, a million dead and 5 million living as refugees, while the entire basis of the U.S. invasion in 2003 is widely acknowledged to have been a complete fabrication.

War itself is not only “a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed,” as Dwight Eisenhower noted in a speech in 1953, but war is also destructive to the physical earth, the very source of human life, and indeed of all life. The U.S. has dropped 15 million tons of bombs on the earth’s surface in last 60 years, spread 1 million tons of napalm on fields and forests, and sprayed 20 million gallons of defoliants on some of the most diverse rainforests on the planet. By any measure, the U.S. military is conducting a war against the earth itself. Such an inane effort does not come cheaply. The total cost of all military expenses for 2012 is estimated to be $1.2 trillion dollars, one-third of the total federal budget. It is the U.S. military that is driving the U.S. itself into bankruptcy.

In summary, the U.S. military is destroying the lives of its own young men while at the same time it devastates other human cultures; it threatens the economic survival of the United States while it is fraying the ecological fabric that makes life on earth possible.

Mikhail Gorbachev once noted that the Soviet system was evil and had to be dismantled. The U.S. military is a similarly evil force loosened on the world. As was done to the repugnant Soviet system, the equally repugnant U.S. military should be completely dismantled, with all soldiers and ships and planes and weapons brought home from the vast web of 1000 American military bases spanning the globe. The savings in terms of human lives, human suffering, ecological integrity and American dollars will be immeasurable. We can then begin to rebuild a national defense consisting of a small militia that can guard our borders and “repel invasions,” as called for in the U.S. Constitution, all the while remembering that the best defense is the making of friends.

Dana Visalli is an ecologist, botanist, and market gardener living in Washington state.

Letter Addressed to Candidates in the Upcoming Federal Elections in Canada

Dear Candidate,

I am a Canadian citizen writing to you with great concern for the current state of my country.

A week before our Parliament was dissolved for the upcoming federal election, our Government committed itself militarily to enforce a No-Fly Zone in the North African state of Libya on the basis of humanitarian intervention. This is an incredibly important issue of Canadian foreign policy and it is the responsibility every single political party that is participating in the current federal election to clearly state their stance on this issue.

If in fact your political party is intending to support the military intervention in Libya, the following is a list of information on this conflict that – as my potential political representative to the Canadian Federal Government – you should seriously consider informing your party with.

Col. Muammar Qaddafi is being demonized as a dictator, a tyrant, and a mass murderer. Canadians are being told that it is for the sake of protecting innocent civilians from the Qaddafi government that we are involved in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. A brief historical background on Libyan government – and the rebels we are supporting – clearly demonstrates how flawed this argument is.

· In 1969, Muammar Qaddafi led a bloodless coup to overthrow King Idris I, a monarch imposed by the British after WWII. At the time, Libya was the poorest country in the entire world; with a literacy rate below 10%. Since then, the Libyan government has improved all aspects of their society.

· Libya now has a literacy rate above 90%.

· Libya has the lowest infant mortality rate of all of Africa.

· Libya also has the highest life expectancy of all of Africa.

· Less than 5% of the population was undernourished. In response to the rising food prices around the world, the government of Libya abolished ALL taxes on food.

· Libya has the highest gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita of all of Africa.

· Libya has the highest Human Development Index of any country on the continent.

· In Libya, a lower percentage of people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands, and again, far lower than that of the United States.

· They have free health care and treatment, and education is free of charge. Talented youth have an opportunity to study abroad at the expense of the Libyan government.

· Before the chaos erupted, Libya had a lower incarceration rate than the Czech Republic, and far lower than the United States.

· The core legal obligation expressed in article 2(7) of the UN Charter prohibits member states from any use of force unless it can be justified as self-defence after a cross-border armed attack; unless expressly authorized by the Security Council as essential for the sake of international peace and security. With respect to Libya, you need to take account of the fact that the Qaddafi government remains the lawful diplomatic representative of a sovereign state, and any international use of force even by the UN, much less a state or group of states, would constitute an unlawful intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. This also implies that the Security Council’s decision – to allow foreign states to bomb Libya – is legal if, and only if, the outcome of this conflict represents a serious threat to international peace. Also UN Resolution 1970 (2011) forbids the delivery of weaponry of any sort to any citizen in Libya. UN Resolution 1973 (2011) while allowing the use of force to protect “civilians” does not mention attacking conventional ground forces not engaged in battle to help “rebels” nor does it bear any mention whatsoever of aiding rebellious forces to gain power.

· Libya is the only country currently experiencing civil unrest that our Government has deemed important enough to support militarily. The day after the Security Council vote, March 18, armed forces of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s government in Yemen carried out a massacre. The massacre took place in broad daylight at the central square in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital. At least 52 people were killed and more than 200 wounded, most by snipers firing from atop government buildings. Hilary Clinton stated: “The U.S. government “is alarmed by today’s violence in Sana’a against anti-government protesters and is seeking to verify reports that this is the result of actions by security forces…We call on Yemeni security forces to exercise maximum restraint, refrain from violence, and permit citizens to freely and peacefully express their views.” There are currently no calls from Washington for a U.N.-imposed “no-fly zone,” or the bombing of Saleh’s military. Not even a whisper from Washington about sanctions. On the contrary, U.S. military and other aid has continued to flow unimpeded to Saleh and his army. On March 16, the government of Bahrain, with the assistance of 2,000 invading Saudi troops and hundreds of United Arab Emirates security forces, dispersed the mass protests in the capital Manama and elsewhere. As in the case of Yemen, no threats of military intervention, sanctions or anything at all in the face of a blatant invasion and brutal repression. More than 20 Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds wounded, out of a total population of just over a million, over the past month.

· Another important aspect of this conflict often ignored in Canadian media is the role being played by the rebel groups of Eastern Libya. If the conditions in Libya prior to this armed insurrection were so favorable, then where did this uprising coming from? The answer is that the same groups the US and Great Britain have been funding for decades are now taking their chance to gain control over the nation.

· The rebels of Eastern Libya are represented by several different organizations: The National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL); The Islamic Emirate of Berka; The National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO); The Al-Jama’a al-Islamiyyah al-Muqatilah bi-Libya, or the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG); and the Transitional National Council (TNC). The first group calling itself “Islamic Emirate of Berka”, the former name of the North-Western part of Libya, took numerous hostages, and killed two policemen as reported by western media a few days after protests began. On Friday, the 18th of February – the day after the revolt began – the group stole 70 military vehicles after attacking a port and killing four soldiers. All the worthy democratic aspirations of the Libyan youth movement notwithstanding, the most organized opposition group happens to be the National Front for the Salvation of Libya – financed for years by the House of Saud, the CIA and French intelligence. The key figure in the National Front for the Salvation of Libya is one Ibrahim Sahad who conveniently enough lives in Washington. According to the Library of Congress archives, Sahad is the same man the CIA used in their failed attempt at a Libyan coup of 1984. The Library of Congress confirms that the CIA trained and supported the NFSL both before and after the failed coup. It was this organization that called for the “Day of Rage” that plunged Libya into chaos on February 17 of this year. The rebel “Transitional National Council” is little else than the National Front, plus a few military defectors. This is the elite of the “innocent civilians” the “coalition” is “protecting”. The UK based National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO) – is well known to be a CIA and MI5 supported and trained organization of anti-Kaddafi and counter-revolutionary Libyans.

As several documents have discovered, by far the most violent of the opposition groups is the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. The first is a secret cable to the State Department from the US embassy in Tripoli in 2008, part of the WikiLeaks trove, entitled, “Extremism in Eastern Libya,” which revealed that this area is rife with anti-American, pro-jihad sentiment.

The second document, or rather set of documents, are the so-called Sinjar Records, captured al-Qaeda documents that fell into American hands in 2007. They were analyzed by the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point. Al-Qaeda is a bureaucratic outfit and the records contain precise details on personnel, including those who came to Iraq to fight American and coalition forces and, when necessary, commit suicide.

The West Point analysts’ statistical study of the al-Qaeda personnel records concludes that one country provided “far more” foreign fighters in per capita terms than any other: namely, Libya.”

The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group mounted a major challenge to the Qaddafi regime in the 1990s. The destabilizing impact of that challenge was a major factor in the decision of the Qaddafi regime to abandon its traditional anti-imperialist rhetoric and seek an accommodation with Europe and the United States. Anas al Liby is a notable member of the LIFG. He remains on the U.S. government’s most wanted list, with a reward of $5 million for his capture, and is wanted for his involvement in the U.S. African embassy bombings. Al Liby was with bin Laden in Sudan before the al Qaeda leader returned to Afghanistan in 1996. Despite being a high-level al Qaeda operative, al Liby was granted political asylum in Britain and lived in Manchester until May of 2000. In 2009, to mark Qaddafi’s 40 years in power, the LIFG apologized for trying to kill him and agreed to lay down its arms. Six LIFG leaders, still in prison, disavowed their old ways and explained why fighting Qaddafi no longer constituted “legitimate” jihad. The last 110 members of the LIFG were freed on 16 February; the day after the Libyan uprising began. One of those released, Abdul Wahab Mohammed Kayed, is the brother of Abu Yahya Al Libi, one of al Qaida’s top propagandists.

There is an abundance of evidence proving that our Government is supporting religious extremists including Al Qaeda, and other rebels who are fighting against NATO troops in Afghanistan. In fact, Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan revolutionary forces were the first to issue an arrest warrant for Osama bin Laden. The Libyan government spent years warning the world about the very serious threat posed by these Islamic deviants. According to former MI5 intelligence operative David Shayler, western intelligence turned a deaf ear to Libya’s warnings because they were actually working with the al Qaeda group inside Libya to bring down Qaddafi and the Libyan revolution.

“Uranium tipped missiles fit the description of a dirty bomb in every way. I would say that it is the perfect weapon for killing lots of people.”

Marion Falk, retired chemical physicist

at Lawrence Livermore Lab, California, USA.

· Since the March 18th, coalition forces have bombed Libya with at least 221 Tomahawk missiles killing at least 100 civilians. These massive bombs, along with the Cruise missiles launched from both planes and ships, all contained depleted uranium (DU) warheads. DU is the waste product from the process of enriching uranium ore. When a weapon made with a DU tip strikes a solid object like the side of a tank, it goes straight through it, and then erupts in a burning cloud of vapor. The vapor settles as dust, which is not only poisonous, but also radioactive. Internalized DU can cause kidney damage, cancers of the lung and bone, skin disorders, neuro-cognitive disorders, chromosome damage, immune deficiency syndromes and rare kidney and bowel diseases. Pregnant women exposed to DU may give birth to infants with genetic defects. Once the dust has vaporized, its effects are very long-term. As an alpha particle emitter, DU has a half life of 4.5 billion years.

There is overwhelming evidence proving Canada’s current military involvement in Libya is supportive of both the most radical elements of Al-Qaeda, and the removal of a sovereign Government that is only legal according to International Law if it represents a legitimate threat to international peace and security.

As such, Canadian citizens have been told since 9/11 that the enemies of peace and democracy are religious extremists who will stop at nothing to destroy Western Civilization. The Canadian Government claims to be doing everything it can to protect us from external threats; yet they are supporting the exact organizations in Libya that we are supposedly needed to be defended from. In this context, we are actually further endangering Canadian lives by supporting a military intervention in Libya.

The Libyan Government is not a totalitarian dictatorship. If your political party supports the military intervention in Libya, you are supporting illegal interference in the healthiest, richest, most egalitarian state in all of Africa.

By supporting the military intervention of Libya, your political party is claiming selectively that certain countries are more important than others to receive Canada’s assistance. If Canada was truly concerned with saving civilian lives, our Government would press for resolutions protecting the citizens of Iraq, Gaza, Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and elsewhere where civilians are being systematically murdered by their governments.

If your political party supports the military intervention in Libya, you are supporting an act of war that is illegal according to international law. You are therefore supporting the destabilization of our entire global order.

If your political party supports a Canadian military intervention in Libya, you are directly supporting Al-Qaeda and other extremist religious groups that our Government claims to be protecting us from. You are NOT supporting a peaceful protest movement; you are supporting an illegal armed insurrection. Canadian support of this mission is a direct threat to the safety of every single Canadian citizen.

As an informed citizen of Canada, I plead to you – and your political party – to strongly oppose any interference in a sovereign nation that poses no threat to World peace.

Japan as a Nuclear State

April 18th, 2011 by Gavan McCormack

Introduction

The following paper, which draws on and updates a 2007 Japan Focus article, was written for Le Monde Diplomatique, where it was posted online in French early in April 2011.1

This article offers a general overview of the nuclear era that began in Japan less than a decade after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and may well have been brought to its close by the events at Fukushima six and a half decades later. The Hirohito imperial broadcast of 15 August 1945 announcing the Japanese surrender and calling on the Japanese people to unite to “endure the unendurable” is now matched by the Akihito imperial television address of 16 March, calling on people to unite in the face of catastrophe and help each other through the crisis. Two days after the Akihito address, the government announced that the “Great East Japan Earthquake” disaster was to be elevated from level 4 to level 5, on a par with Three Mile Island, and three weeks later, on 12 April, it raised it again, to level 7, the maximum on the international scale for nuclear incidents, alongside Chernobyl.2

Does the first imperial address on television match the first on radio in signifying radical change? Those at the centre of the Japanese state, on both occasions facing deep crises, seem to have deployed the emperor to similar ends: to soothe public fear and desperation, deflect anger from the pursuit of those responsible into a national sentiment of unity, and confirm the emperor’s own place as healer, restorer, and axis for change.

The Akihito address used form and content that subconsciously linked the two occasions in listeners’ minds. Through it, the Japanese state implicitly called on the people to appreciate that, beyond the disaster unfolding in northeastern Japan the country itself faces a shift in direction comparable to that of 1945. Then, Hirohito’s role was to shift Japan from militarism and war to the acceptance of defeat and drastic change; now, Akihito’s address may be construed as a concession that the nuclear path chosen by post-war Japan, like the militarist path of his father’s generation, has ended in catastrophe.

Successive generations of Japan’s bureaucratic, political, corporate, and media elite have insisted that Japan pursue the nuclear power path at all costs. In retrospect, they drove the country forward, as the elite of the Kwantung Army drove it in the pre-war era, towards disaster, ignoring, coopting, or crushing all opposition.3 Only now, facing the costs—human, environmental and economic—the long-postponed debate opens.

The problem is not just the cluster of reactors in and around Fukushima, but the nuclear system, and the mentality that underpins it; Fukushima is far from being exceptional. Seismologists have long said that the fault lines on which the Hamaoka cluster of reactors at Omaezaki in Shizuoka prefecture rest are unstable and at least as prone to disaster. The Hamaoka design contemplated a maximum earthquake of 8.5, which means it could no more be expected to cope with one of 5.6 times greater force (480 M tons of TNT) than was Fukushima. Seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko notes that the impact of such an event would be huge: “the US military will also be affected – a disaster at Hamaoka will mean bases in Yokosuka, Yokota, Zama and Atsugi will all be of no use.”4 A Fukushima-type collapse would force the evacuation of 30 million people, signalling the collapse of Japan as we now know it.

Even though no existing reactor has been designed to withstand a level 9 earthquake or its likely accompanying tsunami and therefore all should be closed, it would be unrealistic to demand that. However, to stabilize not just Fukushima, but Japan itself, the disastrous and irresponsible decisions taken by governments over the past half-century to pursue nuclear energy as a sacrosanct national project, have to be reversed. The immediate priority must attach to close the Fukushima and Hamaoka (and other extreme high-risk sites including Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in Niigata prefecture, the world’s largest nuclear generation complex);5 to secure, stabilize, and remediate the Fukushima sites, resettling and compensation the refugee population and rebuilding shattered infrastructure; to cancel all planned and under construction reactor works (including Hamaoka Number 6 and Kaminoseki in Yamaguchi prefecture); to suspend all existing and experimental projects for uranium enrichment, plutonium accumulation, use, and fast-breeding; to stop the planned export of nuclear plants to countries such as Vietnam (personally promoted by Prime Minister Kan as late as October 2010); and to adjust public and private investment priorities to a completely different vision of energy production and consumption.

What is called for, in short, is the reversal of a half century of core national policies and the switch to a renewable energy system beyond carbon and uranium.6 Such a strategic decision, turning the present disaster into the opportunity to confront the key challenge of contemporary civilization, amounts to a revolutionary agenda, one only possible under the pressure of a mobilized and determined national citizenry. At this crucial juncture, how Japan goes, the world is likely follow. The challenge is fundamentally political: can Japan’s civil society accomplish the sovereignty guaranteed it under the constitution and wrest control over the levers of state from the irresponsible bureaucratic and political forces that have driven it into the present crisis?

On such a trajectory, instead of a subordinate and secondary role in the current (now stalled) global “nuclear renaissance,” and the continuing feeble presence on the world political and diplomatic stage as a US “client state,” Japan could become a world leader. It is the sort of challenge to which Japan’s best and brightest might rise, and around which its people might unite.

March 2011 is set to mark a caesura in Japanese history comparable to August 1945: the end of a particular model of state, economy and society, both marked by nuclear catastrophes that shook the world (even if the present one seems likely to be slightly muted and the meltdown kept to partial, the regional consequences may be broader, the number of people disastrously affected greater). Where the mushroom clouds over Hiroshima and Nagasaki signalled the end-point of the path chosen by the young officers of the Kwantung Army in the 1930s, the chaos and apocalyptic apprehension of post-quake and tsunami Fukushima in 2011 is the end-point of the path chosen by senior state bureaucrats and their corporate and political collaborators in the 1950s and steadily, incrementally, reinforced ever since then. Their legacy is today’s nuclear state Japan. 1945 was a purely human-caused disaster. 2011 differs in that it was occasioned by natural disaster, but human factors hugely exacerbated it.

Japan’s “Hiroshima syndrome” of fear and loathing for all things nuclear meant that cooperation with US nuclear war-fighting strategy had to be kept secret, in mitsuyaku or “secret treaties,” especially in the 1960s and 1970s that have only become public in the past two years. The nuclear energy commitment, also pressed by the US, had likewise to be concealed, never submitted to electoral scrutiny, and continually subject of manipulation (extensive advertising campaigns), cover-up (especially of successive incidents), and deception (as to risk and safety levels). The extent of that too is now laid bare.

The way forward out of the current disaster remains unclear. The debate over Japan’s energy and technology future will be long and hard, but what is now clear is that Japanese democracy has to rethink the frame within which this elite was able to overrun all opposition and push the country to its present brink. The crisis is not just one of radiation, failed energy supply, possible meltdown, the death of tens of thousands, health and environmental hazard, but of governability, of democracy. Civic democracy has to find a way to seize control over the great irresponsible centres of fused state-capital monopoly and open a new path towards sustainability and responsibility. A new mode of energy generation and of socio-economic organization has to be sought. Ultimately it has to be a new vision for a sustainable society.

Emperor and Empress speak with town mayor of Kazo, Saitama on April 8 while visiting a makeshift shelter. On April 15, TEPCO announced that it would provide “provisional compensation” of approximately $12,000 to tens of thousands of households ordered evacuated, perhaps permanently, from the 13-mile exclusion zone.

It is of course a paradox that nuclear victim Japan should have become what it is now: one of the world’s most nuclear committed, if not nuclear obsessed countries. Protected and privileged within the American embrace, it has over this half-century became a nuclear-cycle country and a plutonium super-power, the sole “non-nuclear” state committed to possessing both enrichment and reprocessing facilities, and to the fast-breeder reactor project. Its leaders chose to see the most dangerous substance known to humanity, plutonium, as the magical solution to the country’s energy security. While international attention focused on the North Korean nuclear threat, Japan escaped serious international scrutiny as it pursued its nuclear destiny. One bizarre consequence is the emergence of Japan as a greater nuclear threat to the region than North Korea.

Just over a decade from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, at the time of Eisenhower’s “atoms for peace,” Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission drew up its first plans. The 1967 Long-Term Nuclear Program already incorporated the fuel cycle and fast breeder program in them. By 2006, the Ministry of Economics, Trade, and Industry (METI)’s “New National Energy Policy” set the objective of turning Japan into a “nuclear state” (genshiryoku rikkoku). Nuclear power generation grew steadily as a proportion of the national grid, from 3 percent of total power in 1973 at the time of the first oil crisis to 26 percent by 2008 and around 29 percent today. The country’s basic energy policy calls for the ratio of nuclear, hydro and other renewables (nuclear the overwhelming one) to be nearly 50 per cent by 2030. Under the Basic Energy Plan of 2010, 9 new reactors were to be built by 2020 (none having been built since the 1970s in the wake of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl), and 14 by 2030, while operating levels of existing reactors were to be raised from 60 percent as of 2008 to 85 percent by 2020 and then 90 percent by 2030.7

The dream of eternal, almost limitless energy has inspired the imagination of generations of Japanese national bureaucrats. In the words of a panel at the Aquatom nuclear theme-park-science museum in Tsuruga, close to the Monju plutonium fast-breeder reactor,

“Japan is a poor country in natural resources … therefore Monju, a plutonium burning reactor, is necessary because plutonium can be used for thousands of years.”

Trillions of yen were channelled into nuclear research and development programs and additional vast sums appropriated to construct and run major nuclear complexes. If the Federation of Electric Power Companies estimate is even roughly correct, that the Rokkasho complex in northern Honshu will cost 19 trillion yen over the projected forty-year term of its use, that would make it Japan’s, if not the world’s, most expensive civil facility in history.

Japan is alone among non-nuclear weapon states in its pursuit of the full nuclear cycle, building plants to reprocess its reactor wastes, burning plutonium as part of its fuel mix (as at the Fukushima Dai-ichi’s No 3 Plant since late 2010), storing large volumes of “low-level” wastes, and desperately struggling to chart a way forward to fast-breeder technology, something so prodigiously difficult and expensive that the rest of the world has set it aside as a pipe-dream. At all stages: fuel preparation, reactor construction and operation, waste extraction, reprocessing, storage, its nuclear system was problematic long before the tsunami crashed into its Fukushima plant on March 3, 2011.

There are 54 reactors currently in operation, or were till March. At Fukushima the reactor cores may have survived intact, but the management practice of leaving highly toxic and long-lived wastes in ponds beside the actual reactor, has proven a terrible mistake. According to atomic specialist Robert Alvarez, such pools contain radioactivity between five and ten times greater than that of one reactor core, with one pond holding “more cesium-137 than was deposited by all nuclear weapons tests in the Northern Hemisphere combined” and “a major release of cesium-137 from a pool fire could render an area uninhabitable greater than that created by the Chernobyl accident.”8 Whether because of sloshing under the impact of the quake or leakage from structural collapse, the rods at several of the Fukushima plants were partially exposed for unknown periods, fires did burn, with unknown consequences, and the resumption of cooling using sea-water by fire-hose or helicopter bombing and ultimately by the reconnection of pumps has proven immensely difficult.9

Once the immediate crisis passes, these plants will have to be decontaminated and dismantled, an expensive, difficult, and time-consuming task that will take decades, while the electricity they once provided must be somehow substituted. Whether they can or will simply be cased in concrete like Chernobyl remains to be seen, but they will surely become a monument to the disastrous mistakes of the post-war Japanese nuclear plan.

Of the major complexes other than Fukushima, the most notorious are those at Kashiwazaki in Niigata and Hamaoka in Shizuoka. Kashiwazaki, with 7 reactors generating 8,000 MW, is the world’s largest nuclear generation plant. The 6.8 magnitude quake it experienced on 16 July 2007 was more than twice as strong as the design had allowed for and the site proved to be on a previously undetected fault line. Catastrophic breakdown did not occur, but multiple malfunctioning did, including burst pipes, fire, and radioactive leaks into sea and air. The Hamaoka complex, 190 kms southwest of Tokyo, has five reactors, which, like those at Kashiwazaki, sit on fault lines where the Eurasian, Pacific, Philippine and North American plates grind against each other and where experts predict a strong chance of a powerful quake some time in the near future. Company officials say the plant is designed to withstand a magnitude 8.5 earthquake, since that was believed to have been the most powerful ever known in the area. After Fukushima’s 9.0, however, the preconditions on which Hamaoka was based have collapsed. A Fukushima-level event here could force the evacuation of up to 30 million people.

Perhaps most controversial of the planned new reactor plants is that for two reactors to be built at Kaminoseki, population: 3,700, an exquisitely beautiful, national park site at the southern end of the Inland Sea about 80 kms from Hiroshima, one to commence operation in 2018 and the other in 2022. After nearly 30 years of attempts to start these works, blocked by fierce local resistance, especially on the part of the fishing community of Iwaishima, the island that faces the reactor site across about four kilometres of sea, preliminary forest clearing and sea refilling works began late in 2010. With fierce confrontation continuing at sea between fishing boats, canoes and kayaks on the part of the protesters and the power company’s ships, however, it is hard to imagine that after March 2011 the government will find the will to move in and crush the protesters. Indeed, the Governor of the prefecture has demanded work be halted (and in the wake of 11 March they have indeed been halted, at least temporarily).

Nuclear reactors generate large quantities of irradiated waste, which has to be either stored or reprocessed. Since 1992, high-level wastes have been reprocessed at plants at Sellafield in England and la Hague in Normandy in France, each shipment equivalent to about seventeen atomic bombs-worth of plutonium. The former Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohammad Elbaradei saw reprocessing as so dangerous that it should only be done under the strictest of international supervision and appealed to Japan for a five-year freeze on all enrichment and reprocessing works. Japan dismissed his appeal, arguing that such a moratorium was applicable only to “new” projects, while Japan’s had been under way for decades.

Rokkasho, north of Fukushima in Aomori prefecture, is the world’s most intensive concentration of civilian nuclear energy facilities, including fuel processing, waste reprocessing, enrichment and waste storage. Its reprocessing unit is designed to convert eight hundred tons of spent fuel per annum, yielding each year about eight more tons (1,000 warheads-worth) of pure, weapons-usable plutonium. After many delays, reprocessing was conducted on a trial basis in 2006 but the facility has yet to commence full commercial operation. A second reprocessing plant at Tokaimura has been shut since 1999 when an accident at its experimental fast breeder showered hundreds with radiation and killed two workers. Consequently reactor wastes accumulate, much of them stored, like those at Fukushima, around the reactors from which they have been extracted.

Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plant, 2008. Photo: Kyodo

Even if Rokkasho’s reprocessing plant were to commence operation some time soon, it would make little more than a small dint in Japan’s accumulated and accumulating wastes, estimated at approximately 12,600 tonnes as of 2006. So Japan’s wastes, including separated plutonium (Japan possesses roughly one fifth of the world’s civil plutonium stocks), accumulate steadily, and will continue to do so even if or when the reprocessing proceeds according to plan.

Under current (to March 2011) plans, fluids containing low levels of radiation were to be piped several kilometres out into the Pacific Ocean for discharge, the standards for effluent control having been relaxed so that Rokkasho could discharge the equivalent of the nuclear wastes of 1,300 power stations, sending tritium into the sea at 7.2 times the levels of the recently closed Sellafield plant in Northern England or 2,800 times the level permitted for conventional reactors. Wastes from the infamous Sellafield plant are blamed for the devastation over decades of fish stocks across much of the Irish Sea and leukaemia levels in children 42 times the national average as far away as Carnarvon in Wales.

Other low-level wastes are held in 200-liter drums, both at nation-wide reactor sites and at the Rokkasho repository. Rokkasho’s projected eventual capacity is for three million drums in forty vast repositories, each containing 10,000 drums, destined eventually to be covered in soil, with something like a mountain built over them. After that, they must be closely guarded for at least 300 years. These repositories spread like giant poisonous mushrooms across the once beautiful backwater of rural Aomori prefecture.

Nuclear Wastes

High level wastes, vitrified and put in canisters, are returned to Rokkasho where they are to be stored initially for 30 to 50 years while their surface temperature slowly declines from around 500 degrees centigrade to 200 degrees centigrade, at which point it is planned to bury them too, in deeper (300 meter) underground caverns where their radiation will further dissipate over millennia.

The burning of mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel, as at Fukushima’s No 3 plant, constitutes another way to divert plutonium from “waste” into active use as part of the ”eternal” energy cycle. Fast-breeder reactors are another part of the solution to plutonium accumulation. They “breed” (i.e. produce more than they start with) very pure, “super-grade” plutonium. But the risk and the cost associated with this unproven technology is so great that Japan is among the few nations that now pursues it, at prodigious expense and with very limited success. The Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor (at Tsuruga, in Fukui Prefecture on the Japan Sea coast) had to be shut down in 1995 after a sodium leak and fire followed by evidence of negligence and cover-up. After ten years, the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that it could proceed, and a contract was awarded to Mitsubishi, but technical difficulties mean that it has yet to do so. Under current plans, the fast breeder would be commercialized by 2050, 70 years behind its original schedule, with Monju being replaced by an additional plant, at a cost of “about 1 trillion yen” around 2030.

For the country whose scientific and engineering skills are the envy of the world to have been guilty of the disastrous miscalculations and malpractices that have marked the past half-century – including data falsification and fabrication, the duping of safety inspectors, the belittling of risk and the failure to report criticality incidents and emergency shut-downs – and then to have been reduced to desperate attempts with fire hoses and buckets to prevent a catastrophic melt-down in 2011, raises large questions not just for Japan but for humanity. Could the rest of the world, for which the US government holds out the prospect of nuclear renaissance, do better?

The “nuclear state Japan” plans have plainly been shaken by the events of March 2011. It is too much to expect that they will be dropped, but the struggle between Japan’s nuclear bureaucracy, pursuing the chimera of limitless clean energy, global leadership, a solution to global warming, the maintenance of nuclear weapon defences (America’s “extended deterrent”), on the one hand, and Japan’s civil society, pursuing its agenda of social, ecological and economic sustainability, democratic decision making, abolition of nuclear weapons, phasing out of nuclear power projects, and reliance on renewable energy, zero emission, material recycling, and non-nuclear technologies enters a new phase after March 2011.

Gavan McCormack is a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal and an emeritus professor of Australian National University. He is the author, most recently, of Client State: Japan in the American Embrace (New York, 2007, Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing 2008) and Target North Korea: Pushing North Korea to the Brink of Nuclear Catastrophe (New York, 2004, Tokyo and Seoul 2006).

Notes

1 “La maison Japon se fissure – Le Japon nucléaire ou l’hubris puni,” Le Monde Diplomatique, Online, April 2011, link.

2 Meaning it was responsible for a major release of at least tens of thousands of terabecquels of radioactivity that was likely to cause “acute health effects” over a wide area.

3 Ishibashi Katsuhiko is one Japanese critic who has consistently made this criticism. See, most recently, his essay, “Masa ni ‘genpatsu shinsai’ da,” Sekai, May 2011, pp. 126-133.

4 Jun Hongo, “World right to slam nuke program mismanagement: expert,” Japan Times, 14 April 2011.

5 Shut down for nearly two years following damage in the Chuetsu earthquake of July 2007.

6 For a Japanese newspaper editorial in similar vein: “Shinsaigo ‘tei-ene’ shakai Nihon moderu wa kano da,” Mainichi shimbun, 16 April 2011.

7 The DPJ government announced on 29 March 2011 that the existing “Energy Basic Plan” would now have to be fundamentally reviewed, and that green sources of energy, including solar, would be part of the review. (“14 ki no genpatsu zosetsu, minaoshi, taiyoko nado jushi e,” Yomiuri shimbun, 29 March 2011. The debate, of course, is just beginning.

8 Robert Alvarez, “Meltdowns grow more likely at the Fukushima reactors,” Institute for Policy Studies, 13 March 2011.

9 For a catalogue of TEPCO’s and the Japanese government’s technical and other errors in handling the Fukushima disaster and earlier nuclear accidents, see Vaclav Smil, “Japan’s Crisis: Context and Outlook,” The American, April 16, 2011.

Articles on related subjects

Makiko Segawa, Fukushima Residents Seek Answers Amid Mixed Signals From Media, TEPCO and Government. Report from the Radiation Exclusion Zone

Adam Lebowitz, Blackout Nippon: Notes from 03/2011

David McNeill in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture, Communities Struggle to Rebuild Shattered Lives on Japan’s Coast

F. Dalnoki-Veress and Arjun Makhijani, What Caused the High Cl-38 Radioactivity in the Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #1?

Kaneko Masaru, The Plan to Rebuild Japan: When You Can’t Go Back, You Move Forward. Outline of an Environmental Sound Energy Policy

Yuki Tanaka, The Atomic Bomb and “Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy”

See What’s Hot for many more articles.

The Christian Science Monitor noted recently:

Just as the BP oil spill one year ago heaped scrutiny on the United State’s Minerals Management Service, harshly criticized for lax drilling oversight and cozy ties with the oil industry, the nuclear crisis in Japan is shining a light on that nation’s safety practices.

***

[Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev, who as director of the Soviet Spetsatom clean-up agency helped in the efforts 25 years ago to clean up Chernobyl ] has also accused the IAEA of being too close with corporations. “This is only a fake organization because every organization which depends on the nuclear industry – and the IAEA depends on the nuclear industry – cannot perform properly.”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is no better.

As nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, Duane Peterson (president of VPIRG & coordinator for the campaign to retire Vermont Yankee nuclear plant), investigative reporter Harvey Wasserman and Paul Gallay (executive director of Riverkeeper) point out in a roundtable discussion:

  • The NRC won’t even begin conducting its earthquake study for Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York until after relicensing is complete in 2013, because the NRC doesn’t consider a big earthquake “a serious risk”
  • Congressman Markey has said there is a cover up. Specifically, Markey alleges that the head of the NRC told everyone not to write down risks they find from an earthquake greater than 6.0 (the plant was only built to survive a 6.0 earthquake)
  • The NRC is wholly captive to industry
  • The NRC has never turned down the request of a nuclear power plant to be relicensed in the United States. Relicensing is solely a paper process; there is no safety review.
  • The NRC’s assumptions regarding a worst-case accident are ridiculous. For example, the NRC assumes only 1% of the fuel could meltdown, while 70% melted down at Fukushima. The NRC assumes no loss of containment, while there has been a major loss of containment in reactors 1-3 (especially 2) at Fukushima.
  • “If there was a free market in energy, nuclear power would be over … immediately”. Nuclear plant owners can’t get insurance; they can only operate because the U.S. government provides insurance on the taxpayer dime. The government also granted a ridiculously low cap on liability
  • If we had no subsidies for nuclear, coal or oil, we’d have a clean energy economy right now
  • We have 4 reactors in California – 2 at San Onofre 2 at San Luis Obisbo – which are vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis.
  • No state or federal agency knows who would be in charge in case of an accident at Indian Point. It’s like the Keystone Cops

Watch live streaming video from deepakhomebase at livestream.com
Note: The videos appear to rotate, so if the nuclear roundtable is not playing at first, keep on watching, and it will eventually loop back.

The global economy and its recovery, and the living standards of millions of plain folks, are now at risk from the sudden rise in oil and commodity prices.

Gas at the pump is up, and going higher. Food prices are following.

The consequences are catastrophic for the global poor as their costs go up while their income doesn’t. It’s menacing American workers too, who in large part have not seen a meaningful raise since the days of Reagan (keeping it this way is clearly behind the current flurry of attacks on unions).

Already, unrest in the Middle East and many African countries is being blamed for these dramatic increases. It seems as if this threat to global stability is being largely ignored in our media, one that treats the oil business as just another mystical world of free market trading.

Why is it happening? Why all the volatility? Is oil getting scarcer, leading to price increases? Is the cost of food, similarly, a reflection of naturally increasing commodity prices?

While it’s true that natural disasters and droughts play some role in this unchecked price inflation, it also seems apparent that something else is attracting increasing attention, even if most of our media fails to explore what is a political time bomb while most political leaders shrug their shoulder and ignore it.

President Obama recently said there is nothing he can do about the hike in oil and food prices.

Critics say the problem is that government and media outlets alike refuse to recognize what’s really going on: unchecked speculation!

Not everyone buys into this suspicion. In fact, it is one of more intense subjects of debate in economics. Princeton University economist Paul Krugman pooh-poohs the impact of speculation counter posing the traditional argument that oil prices are set by supply and demand.

The Economist Magazine agrees, summing up its views with a pithy phrase, “Speculation does not drive the oil price. Driving does.”

Others, like oil industry analyst Michael Klare of Hampshire College in the US see demand outdistancing supply:

“Consider the recent rise in the price of oil just a faint and early tremor heralding the oilquake to come. Oil won’t disappear from international markets, but in the coming decades it will never reach the volumes needed to satisfy projected world demand, which means that, sooner rather than later, scarcity will become the dominant market condition.”

Usually you hear this debate in scholarly circles or read it in political tracts where orthodox views collide with more alarmist projections about the oil supply “peaking.”

But officials in the Third World don’t see the subject as academic. Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao charges “Speculative movements in commodity derivative markets are also causing volatility in prices,” he said.

The World Bank is meeting on this issue this week because it is seen as a matter of “utmost urgency.”

“The price of food is a matter of life and death for the very poorest people in the world,” said Tom Arnold, CEO of Concern Worldwide, the international humanitarian agency, ahead of his participation at The Open Forum on Food at World Bank headquarters.

He adds, “…with many families spending up to 80% of their income on basic foods to survive, even the slightest increase in price can have devastating effects and become a crises for the poorest.”

Journalist Josh Clark argues on the website “How Stuff Works” that much of the oil speculation is rooted in the financial crisis, “The next time you drive to the gas station, only to find prices are still sky high compared to just a few years ago, take notice of the rows of foreclosed houses you’ll pass along the way. They may seem like two parts of a spell of economic bad luck, but high gas prices and home foreclosures are actually very much interrelated. Before most people were even aware there was an economic crisis, investment managers abandoned failing mortgage-backed securities and looked for other lucrative investments. What they settled on was oil futures.”

The debate within the industry is more subdued, perhaps to avoid a public fight between suppliers and distributors who don’t want to rock the boat. But some officials like Dan Gilligan, president of the Petroleum Marketers Association, representing 8,000 retail and wholesale suppliers has spoken out.

He argues, “Approximately 60 to 70 percent of the oil contracts in the futures markets are now held by speculative entities. Not by companies that need oil, not by the airlines, not by the oil companies. But by investors who profit money from their speculative positions.”

Now, a prominent and popular market analyst is throwing caution to the wind by blowing the whistle on speculators.

Finance expert Phil Davis runs a website and widely read newsletter to monitor stocks and options trades. He’s a professional’s professional, whose grandfather taught him to buy stocks when he was just ten years old.

His website is Phil’s Stock World, and stocks are his world. He’s subtitled the site, “High Finance for Real People.”

He is usually a sober and calm analyst, not known as maverick or dissenter.

When I met Phil the other night, he was on fire, enraged by what he believes is the scam of the century that no one wants to talk about, because so many powerful people armed with legions of lawyers want unquestioning allegiance, and will sue you into silence.

He studies the oil/food issue carefully and has concluded, “It’s a scam folks, it’s nothing but a huge scam and it’s destroying the US economy as well as the entire global economy but no one complains because they are ‘only’ stealing about $1.50 per gallon from each individual person in the industrialized world.”

“It’s the top 0.01% robbing the next 39.99% – the bottom 60% can’t afford cars anyway (they just starve quietly to death, as food prices climb on fuel costs). If someone breaks into your car and steals a $500 stereo, you go to the police, but if someone charges you an extra $30 every time you fill up your tank 50 times a year ($1,500) you shut up and pay your bill. Great system, right?”

Phil is just getting started, as he delves into the intricacies of the NYMEX market that handles these trades:

“The great thing about the NYMEX is that the traders don’t have to take delivery on their contracts, they can simply pay to roll them over to the next settlement price, even if no one is actually buying the barrels. That’s how we have developed a massive glut of 677 Million barrels worth of contracts in the front four months on the NYMEX and, come rollover day – that will be the amount of barrels “on order” for the front 3 months, unless a lot barrels get dumped at market prices fast.”

“Keep in mind that the entire United States uses ‘just’ 18M barrels of oil a day, so 677M barrels is a 37-day supply of oil. But, we also make 9M barrels of our own oil and import ‘just’ 9M barrels per day, and 5M barrels of that is from Canada and Mexico who, last I heard, aren’t even having revolutions. So, ignoring North Sea oil Brazil and Venezuela and lumping Africa in with OPEC, we are importing 3Mbd from unreliable sources and there is a 225-day supply under contract for delivery at the current price or cheaper plus we have a Strategic Petroleum Reserve that holds another 727 Million barrels (full) plus 370M barrels of commercial storage in the US (also full) which is another 365.6 days of marginal oil already here in storage in addition to the 225 days under contract for delivery. “

These contracts for oil outnumber their actual delivery, a sign of speculation and market manipulation, as oil companies win government authorizations for wells but then don’t open them for exploration or exploitation. It’s all a game of manipulating oil supply to keep prices up. And no one seems to be regulating it.

What Phil sees is a giant but intricate game of market manipulation and rigging by a cartel—not just an industry—that actually has loaded tankers criss-crossing the oceans but only landing when the price is right.

“There is nothing that the conga-line of tankers between here and OPEC would like to do more than unload an extra 277 Million barrels of crude at $112.79 per barrel (Friday’s close on open contracts and price) but, unfortunately, as I mentioned last week, Cushing, Oklahoma (Where oil is stored) is already packed to the gills with oil and can only handle 45M barrels if it started out empty so it is, very simply, physically impossible for those barrels to be delivered. This did not, however, stop 287M barrels worth of May contracts from trading on Friday and GAINING $2.49 on the day. “

He asks, “Who is buying 287,494 contracts (1,000 barrels per contract) for May delivery that can’t possibly be delivered for $2.49 more than they were priced the day before? These are the kind of questions that you would think regulators would be asking – if we had any.”

The TV news magazine 60 Minutes spoke with Dan Gilligan who noted that, investors don’t actually take delivery of the oil. “All they do is buy the paper, and hope that they can sell it for more than they paid for it. Before they have to take delivery.”

He says they make their fortunes “on the volatility that exists in the market. They make it going up and down.”

Payam Sharifi, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, notes that even as the rise in oil prices threatens the world economy, there is almost total silence on the danger:

“This issue ought to be discussed again with a renewed interest – but the media and much of the populace at large have simply accepted high food and oil prices as an unavoidable fact of life, without any discussion of the causes of these price rises aside from platitudes.”

What can we do about that?

News Dissector Danny Schechter made the film Plunder The Crime of Our Time (Plunderthecrimeofourtime.com) on the financial crisis as a crime story. He wrote an introduction to the recent reissue of a classic two-volume expose of John D. Rockefeller’s The Standard Oil Company, one of the top ten works top works of investigative reporting in American history. (Cosimo Books) Comments to [email protected]

Saudi Protests Against Bahrain Invasion, Repression

April 18th, 2011 by Bill Van Auken

Hundreds protested in Saudi Arabia Friday demanding an end to the Saudi occupation of Bahrain and the release of the dictatorial kingdom’s political prisoners.

It was the second day of mass protests, which have been concentrated in the predominantly Shiite eastern region of the country, the center of Saudi Arabia’s oilfields and refineries.

Friday’s demonstrations also saw protesters rally outside the interior ministry in Riyadh in support of individuals they referred to as the “forgotten political prisoners,” who in some cases have been imprisoned for as long as 16 years without charges or trials for daring to demand political rights.

The larger demonstrations took place in the eastern city of Qatif and nearby villages, where demonstrators marched through the streets carrying banners and candles to denounce the Saudi military’s intervention in neighboring Bahrain and to demand the release of over 100 people, including children, who have been arrested in the area during protests over the last month.

In the village of Awwamiya, near Qatif, scores of women demonstrated, chanting for the release of political prisoners and denouncing the regime’s suppression of women’s rights. The monarchy has rejected widespread demands that women be allowed to vote and run in municipal elections set for next September.

While massed security forces closed in on the demonstrators, there were no reported clashes.

“Bahrain, we will respond to your call,” the demonstrators chanted in solidarity with Bahrain’s predominantly Shia population, which is facing intense repression, with scores having been killed, at least 800 imprisoned, and several detainees tortured to death. The ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa monarchy has seized the only opposition newspaper and on Thursday moved to outlaw the largest political group in the country, Al Wefaq, together with another Shiite political formation.

After a tepid declaration by the State Department that Washington would “welcome” the Bahraini regime not outlawing the two organizations, the announcement of the ban was removed from the web site of the official Bahraini news agency. Members of the groups, however, say that the repression against them continues.

The Obama administration’s concerns over the internal situation in Saudi Arabia and the growing crisis throughout the region were underscored this week with the visit to Riyadh by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who held talks with Saudi King Abdullah Wednesday. The discussion followed by barely a week a similar visit to the Saudi capital by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“The discussions highlighted the importance of the US-Saudi partnership rooted in strong historical ties and shared interests,” an administration spokesman said. The statement included not a word about the Saudi participation in the crushing of the popular protests in Bahrain, much less about the internal repression in Saudi Arabia itself.

While loudly declaring its “humanitarian” concerns as it and its NATO allies pursue regime change in Libya by military means, the administration has issued no condemnation since the Saudi army rolled across the 16-mile causeway linking the oil-rich kingdom to Bahrain on March 14, initiating the brutal crackdown.

Speaking this week at the US-Islamic World Forum in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed that “a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t make sense in such a diverse region at such a fluid time.” She mentioned Bahrain only briefly, celebrating “a decades-long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue long into the future.”

As in Libya, it is strategic interests, not human rights, that drive US policy. Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, providing a principal platform for the projection of Washington’s military power in the Persian Gulf. For its part, Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy has long been a strategic ally of US imperialism and, as the world’s largest oil exporter, is the one country capable of boosting production to make up for crises elsewhere and thereby prevent an uncontrolled spiraling of fuel prices.

Washington also sees Saudi Arabia as a bulwark against Iranian influence in the region. Thus it loudly condemns human rights violations in Iran, while turning a blind eye to the merciless repression carried out by the Saudi monarchy.

These interests also dictate the agenda of the mass media, which has largely blacked out the protests in Saudi Arabia as well as the brutal crackdown in Bahrain.

The Saudi monarchy has sought to defuse social and political tensions by extending a multibillion-dollar social aid pact and by intensifying repression. In February, King Abdullah pledged $36 billion in benefits, including a 15 percent pay hike for public employees and increased aid for students and the unemployed. This was followed by the promise of another $58 billion for education, health care and infrastructure.

The systemic discrimination against the Shia minority is a major catalyst for unrest in the eastern province. And the attempt by Bahrain’s ruling dynasty to falsely cast the mass protests as a sectarian Shiite revolt has deepened tensions.

The country’s highest religious figure, the Grand Mufti, has issued a religious edict branding protest as “un-Islamic” and ordered 1.5 million copies of it printed up. The so-called fatwa calls for “strengthening cohesion and affinity.”

But there are growing indications that the unrest in Saudi Arabia is being driven by intense social and economic contradictions that affect the Sunni majority as well.

While Saudi Arabia’s daily production of some 8.3 million barrels of crude supports a GDP per capita of about $24,000 a year, the overwhelming share of the wealth is monopolized by the House of Saud and its 6,000 princes.

The official unemployment rate is 11 percent, not counting underemployment and not to mention the large numbers of women who are excluded from the labor market. For young people—60 percent of Saudi Arabia’s population is under the age of 30—conditions are far worse. The unemployment rate among 20- to 24-year-olds is close to 40 percent.

Large numbers of well-educated graduates cannot find work, and many of them are closely following the revolutionary upheavals throughout the region.

In a country where all public protests and expressions of dissent are outlawed, there have been increasing reports of workers’ protests over jobs and income.

On March 13, over 100 Saudis staged a rare sit-in in front of Saudi Telecom in the capital of Riyadh, demanding salary increases and improved working conditions. The workers demanded the same 15 percent raise that King Abdullah decreed for government employees last month.

And on April 10, scores of unemployed university graduates and literacy teachers carried out protests both in Jeddah and Riyadh. The actions had been organized on Facebook.

In Jeddah, the protest escalated into physical clashes between placard-waving teachers and police at the Ministry of Civil Service’s provincial office. The teachers were demanding better wages and that their temporary jobs be made permanent.

Unemployed university graduates gathered outside the Education Ministry’s offices in Jedda and Riyadh to demand jobs. Among them were young men who said they had not been able to find a job since 2003.

Meanwhile, Saudi oppositionists launched a campaign for political prisoners with the posting of a 10-minute YouTube video entitled “Saudis Missing,” denouncing the imprisonment of thousands of Saudis for political reasons based on sham trials or no trials at all. The video includes interviews with family members of Saudi activists, some of whom were rounded up in 2007 at a meeting in Jeddah and are still being held without trial.