Romney’s Curious View of Freedom

September 28th, 2012 by Robert Parry

Election 2012 is a choice between two visions for America’s future and also a contest between two versions of the U.S. past. Mitt Romney and the Tea Party draw from a national narrative that claims the Framers opposed a strong central government, while President Obama sees the opposite, writes Robert Parry.

Mitt Romney is famous for answers so disconnected from what normal people say that some observers joke that he must be from another planet. He lands in Michigan and declares “the trees are the right height.” He goes on a TV show and says he “wears as little as possible” to bed, which would suggest nudity or some moral clash with his Mormon faith.And when the Republican presidential nominee is asked on CBS’ “60 Minutes” about the specifics of his tax plan, he demurs with the response: “The devil’s in the details. The angel is in the policy, which is creating more jobs.” A reasonable reaction to such an answer might be, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney greets a crowd. (Photo credit: mittromney.com)

Yet, the Romney campaign has bristled when analysts and critics have stepped in to fill the void on Romney’s vacuous tax strategy by making their own assumptions about what it would take to enact his 20 percent cut in income tax rates while not raising the deficit, as Romney has claimed he would do. Romney’s fuzziness has left little choice but to speculate how he might handle the math.

One of those logical assumptions is that Romney would have to eliminate or sharply curtail the mortgage-interest deduction which amounts to a tax break for homeownership. If the deduction were removed or phased out, the immediate impact would be a decline in home prices, which would push even more Americans underwater on their home equity. That would deliver another body blow to the U.S. economy.

So, rather than an “angel” of a policy “creating more jobs,” the reality is that slashing the mortgage-interest deduction would further reduce the spendable income of many middle-class American homeowners, which would mean they could buy fewer goods and services, which, in turn, would mean more layoffs and fewer jobs.

Plus, more foreclosures and short sales would discourage new homebuilding and threaten millions of jobs associated with that industry. Not to mention that there are independent studies that conclude that Romney’s 20 percent tax cut would so reduce tax payments from the rich that his only alternative would be raise taxes on the middle class through elimination of more tax deductions.

However, on “60 Minutes,” rather than pursue Romney with aggressive follow-ups on his tax plan, CBS correspondent Scott Pelley teed up a softball for the Republican presidential nominee, noting, “Presidencies are remembered for big ideas, emancipation, Social Security, man on the moon. What’s your big idea?”

Romney’s response was just as vague as his angelic tax plan: “Freedom. I want to restore the kind of freedom that has always driven America’s economy. And that’s allowed us to be the shining city on the hill.”

Defining Issue

Again, Romney offered no details, but he did touch on what may be the defining issue not only for this campaign but for America’s future. How do you define “freedom”?

For Romney, freedom appears to be freeing up corporations – which (or who) “are people, my friend,” according to another Romneyism – and letting them to do pretty much whatever they want to those flesh-and-blood people.

Romney seems to think that “freedom” means freeing Wall Street from government regulation, letting health insurance companies shed sick people from coverage, liberating “job-creators” from pesky labor unions, unleashing oil companies from environmental rules, and letting wealthy investors pay lower tax rates than middle-class Americans who actually work for a living.

In other words, despite Romney’s stylistic differences from the Tea Partiers, he – the uptight princeling from Mormon royalty – and they – the followers of Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh – are more in agreement than many pundits might think. They both equate “freedom” as freedom from the federal government, although they come at the issue from different directions.

Romney’s grievances against federal authority may reflect his Mormon heritage, including his grandfather’s flight to Mexico in the 1800s amid a federal crackdown on Mormon polygamy and against the church’s theocratic rule in the Utah territory. Romney also absorbed the cultural resentment that freewheeling “venture capitalists” typically feel toward securities regulators and other obstacles to extracting big profits.

For the Right’s Tea Party base, however, the anger toward the “tyrannical” federal government derives, in part, from a different source, their false narrative describing the nation’s founding. Tea Partiers put on tri-corner hats, dress up in Revolutionary War costumes and wave “Don’t Tread on Me” flags because they have been sold a bogus storyline about how and why the Framers wrote the Constitution.

Over the past several decades, one front in the Right’s “war of ideas” has been to transform the Framers into anti-government ideologues who saw the Constitution as a device for constraining the authority of the central government, while ceding broad powers to the states and creating a “you’re-on-your-own” economy.

In reality, nearly the opposite was true. The Constitution’s Framers engineered the most significant transfer of power from the states to the central government in U.S. history. They also wanted the federal government to be an engine for national progress, and they had little regard for states’ rights.

On a personal level, key Framers, including James Madison and George Washington, despised the idea of state “sovereignty” and “independence.” As commander in chief of the Continental Army, Washington had confronted the national disorganization resulting from 13 squabbling states under the Articles of Confederation. The chaos continued into the post-war era with economic stagnation and commercial challenges from Europe.

So, with Washington’s staunch support, Madison plotted the destruction of the states’ rights-oriented Articles of Confederation and its replacement by the federal-government-is-supreme Constitution. That was the whole idea of the Constitutional Convention held in secret in Philadelphia in 1787.

Madison’s Makeover

However, in recent years, the Right’s “scholars” – recognizing the allure of a national mythology whether true or false – have labored to revise the history. Their makeover of Madison has been particularly striking.

By cherry-picking and taking out of context some of his comments in the Federalist Papers and by exaggerating his sop to the Anti-Federalists in the Tenth Amendment, the Right turned Madison into his opposite, a hater of a strong central government and a lover of states’ rights. [For details on how this history was distorted, see Consortiumnews.com’s “The Right’s Inside-Out Constitution.”]

Next, the likes of Glenn Beck popularized this false founding narrative, giving important impetus to the Tea Party. Millions of Americans associated themselves with a movement that they thought was defending the Framers’ vision of a weak central government, powerful states and little or no federal role outside the maintenance of a huge standing army.

In effect, today’s Right merged Ayn Rand theories of unbridled selfishness with the quasi-religion of magical markets and placed it all under the umbrella of a founding national narrative that equates states’ rights and the rights of corporations as the essence of American “liberty.”

In an imperfect way that is what Election 2012 is about, which narrative will dominate the future. President Barack Obama, who was a constitutional law professor, sees the Constitution in the context of the pragmatism that was at the core of what the Framers were trying to achieve, that is, a governing structure for addressing the needs of a diverse and growing nation.

Those early national leaders applied the constitutional powers creatively and broadly, whether Alexander Hamilton’s national bank or Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territories (negotiated by then-Secretary of State James Madison).

During the last century, the trust-busting policies of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and later reforms like Medicare and civil rights legislation drew on those traditions by using federal authority to solve problems impinging on the nation’s “general welfare.”

Obama has tried to follow that path, albeit with a fair share of stumbles, by pushing through the Affordable Care Act, the economic stimulus bill, the auto bailout and new Wall Street regulations. Broadly speaking, Obama favors putting the power of the federal government on the side of average Americans.

He also has done so in the face of stiff resistance, at a time when the Republicans and many media pundits are enthralled by the revisionist narrative, that American “liberty” has always been about letting corporations and the rich do whatever they want – and letting states dominate national governance.

The Romney Example

Romney has come to personify that approach, an extremely wealthy financier who prides himself on paying low taxes and who – in private settings with fellow millionaires – speaks with disdain about the struggling masses and their need for government help. He also wants to defer to the states on major national problems like health care.

Whether on behalf of his Mormon ancestors or his Wall Street chums, Romney may see his quest for the presidency as a decisive moment to enshrine the anti-government narrative – and to defeat the alternative one that says “We the People” in the Constitution’s Preamble means putting the power of government to work building a country for all.

Without doubt, the Framers were flawed men. Many were slave-owning aristocrats who feared the dangers of unrestrained democracy in which the downtrodden might demand a reversal of fortune for the rich. Some of Madison’s “checks and balances” were designed to avoid extreme swings in popular passions.

There were other obvious tensions within the constitutional structure regarding exactly where the boundaries of authority were. That, too, was part of Madison’s structure.

But the Framers clearly saw the Constitution as creating a powerful central government and a dynamic system that had the flexibility to address national problems, then and in the future. For instance, one of Madison’s most cherished features was the Commerce Clause, which gave the federal government the power to regulate national commerce.

The whole point of including the Commerce Clause among the enumerated powers of Congress was to put the federal government to work improving the economic conditions of the nation. In their time, the Framers talked about construction of roads and canals, but they also wanted the federal government to protect the competitiveness of U.S. commerce versus the more developed economies of Europe.

But that role – along with that history – is on the line in Election 2012. The American people can side with the actual Framers in treating the Constitution as a tool for addressing national problems or they can join with the Tea Partiers who embrace a false narrative that equates “freedom” with hostility toward the federal government.

If that’s the result, it could mean near total “freedom” for our fellow citizens, the corporations.

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.

The provocations by these presidential candidates are too much for the Chinese people to bear.

US politicians show an indifferent attitude toward the feelings of the Chinese people. China should not turn a blind eye to such provocations…The words uttered by Romney are like those of young cynics on the Internet….

With mutual discontent accumulating, the slogans politicians have chanted may become real actions. Many international conflicts stem from the showmanship of politicians.

 

The campaigns for the US presidential election is well underway. Both the Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama are competing for the toughest stance involving China. Romney promised to take action against China on his first day in office if elected, and Obama took the relay baton by bringing up a trade case at the WTO against China’s automobile industry.

It’s an old story, China becoming a political card to play in US elections. This year, Romney and Obama seem to be playing it more heavily.

China has been blamed for the US’ falling unemployment rate and taking jobs from Americans.

Friction on trade issues between China and the US will escalate thanks to the election, and mutual political mistrust may deepen.

The provocations by these presidential candidates are too much for the Chinese people to bear. US politicians show an indifferent attitude toward the feelings of the Chinese people. China should not turn a blind eye to such provocations. No matter who the current president or candidate is, they should respect China. They should mind what they say.

The words uttered by Romney are like those of young cynics on the Internet. If he does what he has promised, he will become a president that holds extremely nationalistic views toward trade with China and may trigger a trade war between the two nations. The US economy, in its current state, wouldn’t be able to stand such consequences.

There is too much China-bashing going on in the US elections. The things these politicians have promised are not likely to be realized based upon past experience, but the promises are still very disturbing.

Their speeches are misleading the American public, who will have more complaints or even resentment toward China.

With mutual discontent accumulating, the slogans politicians have chanted may become real actions. Many international conflicts stem from the showmanship of politicians.

As US elections often involve China-bashing, China cannot remain out of the affair. China should play a role in the elections and correct the attitude of both candidates and the American public toward China.

US elections should not be a playground where China is demonized. As the elections bring American attention toward China, China should make an effort to improve its image rather than remain silent over how it is portrayed by the candidates.

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Global Times
September 21, 2012

Noda playing with fire over Diaoyu

Yoshihiko Noda has reinforced his position amid rocky relations between China and Japan after winning the election of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on Friday.

Noda is mistaken if he believes pushing for the “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands and escalating tensions assure him political gains. It may also suggest that Japan has taken the wrong track.

If political maneuvering – garnering votes through orchestrating diplomatic crises and displays of muscle-flexing – prevails or becomes a common aspiration among politicians in a certain country, the country’s politics must have gone wrong. And this seems to be the case for Japan.

Japan describes China, a country that has been subject to its aggression, never engaged in any warfare in the past decades and does not possess any overseas military base, as a threat. Japan has taken increasingly hostile views toward China. It adopts a proactive and aggressive posture when dealing with China and has initiated all provocations. Japan is pushing bilateral ties to the brink of strategic confrontation.

The current tensions are focused on the Diaoyu Islands, a thorny issue that could cause bigger damage with less room for maneuver. Noda is undoubtedly behind such escalation of frictions.

His reelection as the DPJ party chief could mean a longer term for him as prime minister. If a tendency for confrontational ideology and policies takes root during his tenure, Japan will find itself leaning closer to another strategic track, away from the cause enshrined in its Peace Constitution and rational diplomacy.

The Noda administration has showed unprecedented rudeness and blind stubbornness over the Diaoyu Islands spat. It recklessly touches upon the sensitivity of bilateral ties, ignoring the possible strong reaction from China and the new balance of power. If it is true that Noda was surprised by China’s reaction, he must take the issue seriously from now on.

He must consider China’s overwhelming resolution in defending its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and the strategic emphasis on the issue.

Noda also needs to realize that China is no longer a weak opponent, regardless of the role of the US in the matter. Strategic confrontation is not a choice for Japan.

Churning out votes by masterminding diplomatic tensions has been an eye-opener for many Chinese. It is a luxury to expect these politicians to act in line with their consciences. But we hope that Japanese and Western politicians can honor a bottom line. If they dare to risk anything for personal political gains, China will give them a taste of bitterness.

“Anti-American Autumn” Follows the “Arab Spring”

September 28th, 2012 by Andrey Fomin

The brutal assassination of the American Ambassador Chris Stevens and three US diplomats in Benghazi, the cradle of anti-Qaddafi uprising in Libya, suggests an extremely improvident foreign policy of the United States in recent years.

The commentators and experts are busy seeking a triggering motive of the thugs. Was the mediocre film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ a true cause of the uprising or just a pretext?

‪The more we listen to them the more distressing is the impression. The West has lost the conscience and does not even dare to recognize the fatal mistake committed to Colonel Gaddafi. A few days ago the US president speaking at the UN General Assembly repeated a terrific mantra:

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the UN Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

 And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

First of all there was no UN Security Council mandate for intervention in Libya. If you essay a task reading the resolution 1973 (2011) on ‘no-fly zone in Libya’, you will find out that it does not contain a single word regarding possible intervention. The flexibility of that resolution was the only reason of its fatal approval by the Security Council.

 

Today Libya is being torn in parts by the rivaling tribes. During Gaddafi’s rule it was a confederation of tribes mostly loyal to central authority. Now they are not. Eastern tribes have already declared factual secession and ignored the parliamentary elections. They are trying to pocket the revenues of gas and oil fields exploration on their territories. One of the most economically prosperous countries of Maghreb is rapidly turning into Afghanistan or Somalia.

Every Libyan tribe now has its own armed militias with estimated total manpower exceeding 100,000. They permanently fight each other for lands, pastures, fresh water sources, but mainly – oil fields. For example a large scale war between Misratah and Benghazi clans for Sirte basin is looming nowadays. No one has a slightest intention to concede these assets to the central authorities in Tripoli.

Alexander Mezyaev from Strategic Culture Foundation describes the daily slaughterhouse routine in Libya:

‘On the whole, there are no signs that tensions are going down in Libya, where fighting flared up non-stop over the past 5-6 months. Serious clashes between the Toubou brigades and Arab groups began in Sabha, southern Libya, in June and took hundreds of lives. Later battles raged in Kufra, south-east Libya. The traditional inter-clan dispute over border control in the western part of Libya escalated into a three-day armed conflict between Zuwara city on the one side and the cities of al-Jumail and Reghladin on the other, with around 50 people being killed. Ten people died when Arabs and Tuaregs hammered each other in Ghadames, and around 1,600 Tuaregs were forced to flee to the nearby Derg later on. In June, the Zentan and Mashashia tribes locked horns in the Nafusa mountains, leaving over 70 people dead and some 150 – wounded. Government forces were deployed between Zentan and Shagiga to keep apart two local communities warring over land. The Barki council continued to pursue “federalist” policies in the east of Libya. Violence spilled even into the premier’s premises where a guard and a “rebel fighter” were killed in a shootout last May. Government facilities, international community representatives, and the security forces come under fire in east Libya with frightening regularity.’

The administration of Barack Obama not only supported ousting Colonel Gaddafi (just refresh in memory his delighted speech on October 20, 2011), but also facilitated raising Muslim Brotherhood to the power in Egypt. Today we witness anti-American demonstrations there as well (no victims yet by sheer luck). And they also support anti-Assad insurgents in Syria. What will happen to the feeding hand in Damascus in case the guerrillas succeed we can’t even imagine.

Unfortunately the lessons of history are not learned in Washington. They have already paid a lot for distinguishing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ jihad (we are sorry to use this sacred word in ungodly militant meaning here). They consider the terror against geopolitical rivals as an admissible form of ‘national liberation’, while anti-American actions – as crimes against humanity. The price of such political schizophrenia for the US will be rising.

‪We shouldn’t relate these landmark events of the anti-American autumn exclusively to a movie parody released in America. The problem is much deeper. A villain global genie has already been let out of the bottle and is busy crushing the ancient mausoleum in Tripoli, demolishing Christian shrines in Kosovo, Indonesia, Nigeria, killing Egyptian Copts etc.

To understand the geopolitical solitaire on the Middle East properly we should name the winners and losers of the ‘Arab Spring’ gamble. The Gulf monarchies are certainly among the first. It is an open secret that the Gulf countries aspired to control Libyan gas for a long time. Qatar, having ambitious plans over the huge European liquefied gas market, was the main interested party in ousting the Libyan leader. As a bonus Qatar’s Emir Al-Thani has managed to get rid of his personal adversary (several harsh exchanges between them during some pan-Arab meetings were not left unnoticed) and a penultimate powerful secular leader of the Arabic world (the last one is Syria’s president Bashar Assad). Today the influence of pro-Salafi Islamists is seriously strengthened in Libya. The former military governor of Tripoli Abdelhakim Belhadj, theQatar protégé, is considered one the most influential figures there. Despite a miserable result in the recently held ‘democratic’ elections to the General National Congress, he still plays a decisive role in Libya.

The main loser is obviously Europe (to say nothing of the Libyan people who would live in a new Afghanistan). It hasn’t achieved any goal originally pursued. The attempt to show its political and military might has nearly turned fiasco and factual second Suez crisis. The idea to establish a liberal secular state in Libya has failed as well. Those taking Mahmoud Jibril for liberal are deeply mistaken: he has already called for restoration of polygamy and, according to him, would strictly act in line with Sharia principles.

Moreover the operation in Libya has created new problems for the European continent. They have lost a reliable gas supplier (no serious company would invest into what is now called Libya). They face multiplied illegal immigration from Africa. The threat of the emergence of a huge oil-rich terrorist hub on the other side of Mediterranean armed by sophisticated weapons including MANPADS is as tangible as never before. But maybe the most dangerous is the loss of the Third World leaders’ confidence. Now they know that flirtations and secessions to the West would not guarantee them against democratic bombings.

What should be the lessons of the tragedy in Benghazi? First of all the party of war in the UN Security Council should contain its ambitions to reshuffle the Middle East. Their irresponsible policies have already cost a lot not only to the region, but its own reputations. The clearly expressed will to make Security Council act symphonic to maintain international peace and security would be a smart first step. (Unfortunately, Mrs.Clinton gave a wrong signal earlier this week leaving Security Council conference room while her Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov was about to switch on his microphone.

The role of an offended girl does not correspond to the status of the US official.) They should understand that further attempts to destabilize Syria letting alone an apparent suicidal strike against Iran would catalyze irreversible processes in a global scale. The result will be shocking for the West: they would discover that they are definitely loosing subjectivity in international politics. The most retrograde forces will be advanced to the forefront putting an end to all human achievements in science, culture, arts, democracy and humanism. The agents of decadence are powerful even inside the US establishment. Will the sane and sober elements in national elites in America and other countries be able to cope with them is an issue critically important for the survival of contemporary world.

American Drones for Covert Underwater Warfare against Iran

September 28th, 2012 by Julie Lévesque

Obscuring the devastating effects of U.S. drones killing innocent civilians around the world, it is with a touch of rather inappropriate humor and enthusiasm that the military consulting company Strike Fighter Consulting speaks highly of the U.S. Navy’s new Unmanned Underwater Vehicles in its recently published article, Unmanned Drones Take to the Seas:

“It looks like drone pilots are going to need swimming lessons.

The US Navy is currently experimenting with a new breed of drone submarines in the waters next to Newport, Rhode Island. Their hope is that these drones will take the first steps (or the first doggy paddle, if you will) into a future of autonomous submarines.

These drones, which are technically known as Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (of course) could be a “game changer” for the Navy, said Christoper Egan, a program manager at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. Every single thing that makes aerial drones so effective can just as easily be applied to submarines. (Dabney B., Unmanned Drones Take to the Seas, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc, September 19, 2012, emphasis added.)

Unmanned Drones Take to the Seas

What kind of “efficiency” are we talking about here?

Drone warfare has been mostly “efficient” in killing innocent civilians, including children, according to a study by Stanford University and New York University:

According to the new study, just one in fifty victims of the CIA programme of “targeted” drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas are known militants, while between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year – of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children. (The News International (Pakistan), Pakistan. CIA Annihilation From The Air: Drone Warfare’s Invisible Dead, September 26, 2012)

We are told that these new “cost-efficient” underwater drones “could be used to map the ocean floor, detect enemy mines, gather surveillance, or assist in anti-submarine warfare [...] The Navy hopes that the Razor would be virtually undetectable by enemy systems.” (Dabney B., op. cit.)

Earlier this year Aviation Week published an article on Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) which confirms that the underwater drone technology is well established. The new Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) is slated to be used no later than 2014:

The Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) will be large and highly autonomous, carrying out missions at long distances for months. It will act as a mothership, deploying and operating static and mobile sensors for persistent surveillance in coastal waters. Ultimately, it is likely to be armed. The program sounds ambitious, but much of the technology has already been proven.

[...]

The LDUUV will have a large payload bay, making it capable of releasing sensors, communication buoys, smaller UUS and weapons. The Navy’s current emphasis is on persistent surveillance “over the horizon.” However, its most significant impact could be in mine warfare, both offensive and defensive.

And the LDUUV could make offensive mine laying more controllable and clandestine. In the transformational mine concept, the LDUUV lays networked sensors across a wide area. These track and identify every vessel within range. Depending on the situation, any vessel can be engaged, by either an anchored weapon or a torpedo from the UUV itself.

[...]

The Navy plans to release a request for proposals for the LDUUV in 2014. Last October Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, the Navy’s undersea warfare director, indicated that up to 10 LDUUVs would be procured. The LDUUV is being pitched as a helper to complement manned submarines. However, if it achieves the technology goals for endurance and autonomy, it will pose serious questions of what exactly large unmanned craft could not ultimately do. (David Hambling, Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Steaming Ahead, Aviation Week, April 1, 2012, emphasis added. )

 

If this technology has been proven, it can be used for underwater warfare.

Will unmanned armed submarines be used for “clandestine mining” against Iran in the Persian Gulf?

Reports confirm, in this regard, that military exercises are currently (September 2012) being conducted near Iran’s territorial waters, and are “intended to simulate Iran’s response to a US-Israeli attack, namely what actions will be taken by allied forces in response to military retaliation by Iran”. (Michel Chossudovsky, “Warship Diplomacy”: A Prelude to All Out War against Iran?, Global Research, September 26, 2012.)

Underwater drones are part of the war games, Bloomberg reports:

“The BAE Systems Plc (BA/) 25mm guided ‘‘Mark 38 Mod 2,” and Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicle are among the programs the Pentagon this year accelerated under a “Fast Lane” initiative to counter Iranian naval weapons. One of the most serious threats, the Navy says, are Iranian speedboats that can employ “swarming” tactics.” (Bloomberg, September 19, 2012. emphasis added. )

A recent statement by the Director of Research of the Neocon think tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy has suggested that the US should provoke Iran into “firing the first shot”.

“We are in the game of using covert means against Iranians. We can get nastier at that [...] The United States—along with as many international partners as it can mobilize—should move to more forceful action, be it covert or overt, publicly proclaimed or deniable.” (Patrick Clawson, cited in Michel Chossudovsky, Neocon Washington Think Tank: The US should Provoke Iran into “Firing the First Shot”, September 26, 2012.)

Underwater drones seem to constitute the perfect weapon to be used in acts of provocation.

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New Books from Global Research

original

WWIII Scenario

The US should not forget the aggressive past of Japan, especially the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which partly was the result of Washington’s tolerance of Japanese expansionism.

China’s influence is increasing in the Asia-Pacific region and even the rest of the world, while the US’ is declining. This is a relatively long-term but inevitable trend, which the US finds very uncomfortable to accept. The change in the balance of power will gradually erode the supremacy of the US and other countries’ confidence in America’s might. This realization seems to be giving American politicians and policymakers sleepless nights.

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Friendly advice to Japan, US

By Zhou Fangyin

China issued a white paper on the Diaoyu Islands on Tuesday so that the international community would better understand Beijing’s stance on the Diaoyu Islands dispute. This is especially important because of the United Nations General Assembly session underway in New York.

The “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands by Japan is not only an infringement of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also a severe challenge to the post-World War II international order. The Cairo Declaration of 1943 and Potsdam Proclamation of 1945 required Japan to return Taiwan and its affiliated Diaoyu Islands to China, which is part of the international order.

The international community, especially the United States, made great efforts to build the post-World War II international order. So Washington has to be aware of the serious consequences Tokyo’s provocations could cause. The US should not forget the aggressive past of Japan, especially the attacks on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which partly was the result of Washington’s tolerance of Japanese expansionism.

Unfortunately, the contradictory statements of US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta during his visit to Japan and China last week proves the fact that Washington is using the China-Japan dispute to strengthen its military presence in the Asian-Pacific region. On one hand, Panetta said the US would not take sides in the Diaoyu Islands dispute, on the other hand, he declared that US-Japan security treaty covers the Diaoyu Islands.

The US wants to play the role of a “mediator”. However, a mediator should be impartial, which Washington is not. Nor does it want to help resolve any dispute. Moreover, the US-Japan alliance disqualifies Washington from being even a “communicator” in the Diaoyu Islands dispute.

Nobody expected Panetta’s visit to Asia to break the impasse, because the US wants to use Japan and the Sino-Japanese dispute to contain China’s rise so that it can maintain its supremacy in Asia-Pacific. But at the same time, Washington doesn’t want the situation to go out of control, because that could draw it into direct confrontation with China.

Against this backdrop and as part of its “pivot to Asia” strategy, the US has taken a series of steps in the Asia-Pacific region, including the deployment of the Osprey aircraft in Okinawa, Japan.

Japan is trying to get a free ride on America’s “pivot to Asia” strategy now that the balance of power between China and the US is changing and Washington needs Tokyo to guard against Beijing. So to “deal” with China, Japan will not shy away from making full use of the US.

Considering Japan’s motive and purpose, US policymakers need to tread with caution and rethink their commitment to Japan, if they have any, so that America is not drawn into an unnecessary conflict. This is why Panetta warned the Japanese government not to take radical actions.

Electoral factors, too, have prompted Japan to intensify its disputes over islands with Russia, the Republic of Korea and China. But Japan should not be swayed by its electoral politics, for a seasoned politician has to see beyond domestic public opinion. It is easy to arouse national sentiments but much more difficult to cool them down. In case nationalism gains the upper hand in Japan, other policy options will get a not so glorious burial, which would not be a welcome situation, because it could lead to conflicts with other countries in the region.

China’s influence is increasing in the Asia-Pacific region and even the rest of the world, while the US’ is declining. This is a relatively long-term but inevitable trend, which the US finds very uncomfortable to accept. The change in the balance of power will gradually erode the supremacy of the US and other countries’ confidence in America’s might. This realization seems to be giving American politicians and policymakers sleepless nights.

Given China’s increasing diplomatic influence in East Asia, the US will make every effort to maintain its influence in the region. That’s why it is using the territorial sea disputes between China and some of its neighbors to display its diplomatic “smart power”.

The US is taking some short-term measures to create an unfavorable situation for China to thwart its peaceful rise. What Washington has done after announcing its “pivot to Asia” strategy is in line with this logic.

The Diaoyu Islands dispute has intensified to such an extent that it could lead to more frequent frictions and even a military conflict, which is something China does not want.

For China, an overly tough, inelastic policy or an overly mild policy both will lead to problems. In the long run, Beijing’s foreign policy should be a well-balanced combination of both mild and tough policies. China should judge a situation on the basis of reality and the reactions of other countries.

Had Japan been rational, it would have realized that it is unwise to infringe on the interests of a rising neighboring power, even with the backing of the US, for once a conflict breaks out, Washington will be more than happy to stand by and see Tokyo pay a heavy price.

Over the past several decades, China has been pursuing a foreign policy of “win-win” cooperation.

But the results of such a policy depend on whether the other side is equally willing to do so. If the other side pursues an agenda of winner-takes-all or is opportunistic, China’s unilateral goodwill will not yield any results. Instead, it will make it easier for the other side to take more provocative actions and encourage other countries to do the same.

The author is associate research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy, China Academy of Social Sciences.

“Armenia borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran…The U.S. has a significant stake in all five countries, and Armenia is now coming into view as a potentially potent lever to advance American aims…As the US tries to woo Armenia to become a stronger ally in the region, the term ‘geostrategic’ has never been more apt.”

“Through economic and diplomatic incentives, the U.S. is actively trying to shape Armenia into an ally. As President Obama seeks to economically isolate Iran – his sanctions have cut the value of Iran’s currency in half – he is trying to regionally isolate the regime, as well. Armenia is key to that strategy.”

“Armenia’s two best friends at the moment are arguably the U.S.’s most challenging adversaries: Russia and Iran.”

In America’s eyes, Armenia might be in the most important position of any US ally to pursue an anti-Iranian policy, the Truman Project’s Daniel Gaynor writes.

In his article, the expert tries to answer the question as to why the U.S. prioritizes cooperation with Armenia.

“Few countries are in a better position to shape US foreign policy than Armenia. Armenia borders Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran. As a part of the former Soviet Union, it relies on nearby Russia extensively for trade and military backing. The U.S. has a significant stake in all five countries, and Armenia is now coming into view as a potentially potent lever to advance American aims. That is, if the Armenians can be won over. As the US tries to woo Armenia to become a stronger ally in the region, the term ‘geostrategic’ has never been more apt.

“Armenia is literally at the center of a number of countries that Washington considers among its top priorities. As President Obama tries to accomplish key foreign policy objectives – like preventing Iran from attaining nuclear bombs or seeing democracy flourish in Russia – he’s got to encourage Armenia to play along. To Armenia’s south, one such issue is unfolding in Iran’s nuclear centrifuges,” the article reads.

“America is racing to develop every diplomatic pressure point it can on Iran, lest Israel launch a preemptive attack and embroil America in a third Middle East war in ten years. One of those pressure points goes straight through Armenia. While the US has cut off formal relations with Iran – Washington talks through Switzerland’s embassy there – it’s no secret that it employs a variety of foreign policy crowbars to influence and destabilize Iran’s ruling regime. Some, like President Obama’s latest round of economic sanctions, are well known. Partnering with Armenia is not, but could have, a major impact. Through economic and diplomatic incentives, the U.S. is actively trying to shape Armenia into an ally. As President Obama seeks to economically isolate Iran – his sanctions have cut the value of Iran’s currency in half – he is trying to regionally isolate the regime, as well. Armenia is key to that strategy.

“For Armenia, the game is far less simple. Partnering with the U.S. – with whom it has a good, but not great, relationship – could alienate the few friends Armenia has left in the South Caucasus region. It wants military cooperation with Russia, but economic access to the West. While it has tried to deepen relations with the European Union and the U.S., Armenia’s two best friends at the moment are arguably the U.S.’s most challenging adversaries: Russia and Iran. That’s not necessarily because of shared ideologies, or even shared interests; it’s because Armenia doesn’t have many friends to pick from. Of its four neighbors, two – Turkey and Azerbaijan – have closed off their borders to Armenia,”  (Gaynor, stratrisks.com)

by Hua Liming

Amid the anti-American protests in Muslim countries, US President Barack Obama urged world leaders on Tuesday to strongly oppose violence and extremism, arguing that protecting free speech is a universal responsibility rather than just an American obligation.

It seems that US politicians haven’t learned any lesson from the anti-US fury sparked by the film that belittles Prophet Muhammad. The United States also refuses to accept that the Muslim protests will make it even more difficult for it to deal with the “anti-American” regimes in Iran and Syria.

The film first sparked anti-American protests in Egypt and Libya, which soon spread to more than 20 countries across the Middle East and beyond.

Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, was killed along with three colleagues in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. The violent protests also forced 65 US embassies across the world to issue warnings to Americans to take precautions against violent attacks, and the Pentagon has sent Marines to protect embassies in Yemen and Sudan. Indeed, the range and violent intensity of the present anti-American wave is unprecedented.

In a vain attempt to calm the anti-American sentiments, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US government “had absolutely nothing to do with” the film. But Washington has to think beyond the immediate impact of the film, because the protests are an outburst of Muslims’ longstanding anger at the US.

Washington has remained unrivalled in the Middle East since the end of the Cold War, with its presence enhanced by US-Israeli relations. It also plays a key role in the Israel-Palestine peace talks, even though it is not welcomed by many in the Middle East.

Things, however, could have been different. The US could have been a welcome superpower in the Middle East after the end of World War II, when several countries had gained independence and learned many things from the US’ experience. But the US blindly “helped” Israel win the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and deal with other conflicts. Supported by the US, Israel annexed Arab territories beyond the proposed borders of a Jewish state and kept expanding its settlements in occupied land.

Many of the millions of displaced Palestinians are now living in exile, away from the land of their ancestors. Besides, the past few years have seen many Arab countries fall into economic stagnation. These have helped Islamic fundamentalists attract more youths to their camp. As a result, there has been a massive rise in the number of Islamists since the 1960s and 1970s.

The Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks deepened Americans’ hatred of Muslims which in turn intensified anti-American feelings among Muslims. The US used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, killing countless civilians and displacing millions. Wartime scandals such as the Abu Ghraib prison abuse and the burning of the Quran by US servicemen added fuel to the fire burning within many Muslims.

Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at former US president George W. Bush and was jailed for his act, said after his release that he may be free now, but his country is still captive. He said it was humiliating seeing his country suffer, Baghdad burn and Iraqi people killed indiscriminately.

The journalist’s words echo the feelings of many Arabs. US-based polling agency Zogby International’s annual polls in the recent past show the majority of respondents in six Arab countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, hate the US and some 80 percent regard Washington and Tel-Aviv as the two biggest threats to regional security.

Washington got it wrong in the Middle East in the first place and is now paying a bloody price for that. Taken aback by the violent protests in the Middle East one year after the “Arab Spring”, Clinton said “it is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable,” adding that “the people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.”

Clinton’s remarks suggest Washington has not yet understood why the Muslim world has erupted in anger. The US has always considered its social system and values superior to that of other countries and is still keen on promoting US-style democracy in the Middle East.

Bush tried to impose democracy with the help of the gun. His plan was doomed to fail, and it did. So when people in some Arab countries overthrew their leaders in 2011, the US rejoiced assuming that it would benefit immensely from the regime changes brought about by the “color revolution”.

The reality, however, has turned out to be different. Islamist parties and groups have evolved rapidly and come to power in the Middle East countries that have seen regime changes. Western media reports say that Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood, instead of Western democracy, have burgeoned in the Middle East after the Arab Spring.

The truth is the self-righteous democratic model of the West is rather feeble, and cannot be applied to a region where Islam is the dominating ideology. No wonder, the new leaderships in the Middle East countries cannot and do not want to contain Muslim anger at the US and Israel. In this sense, the anti-American wave is the inevitable result of the Arab Spring.

If Washington calls the anti-American protesters a “mob”, it has to take the risk (one of the greatest it has taken) of confronting almost the entire Muslim population in the world.

But the US will not give up on the Middle East – not because the region is no longer a haven for Americans, not even because it is focused on its “pivot to Asia” strategy. Let us hope the US realizes it opened a “Pandora’s box” by launching wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that it would be utterly unwise to open another in the Middle East.

The author, a former ambassador to Iran, is a researcher at the China Institute of International Studies.

The Complete “Idiot’s Guide” to Iran and the Bomb

September 28th, 2012 by Global Research News

By Christian Stork

Who What Why

As our Nobel laureate President ascended to the podium on September 25 at the United Nations for his last international speech before the election, we again were the recipients of fine oratory and rhetorical flourish about America’s problems in the world. Focusing on the Middle East, Central Asia, and North Africa—what’s often misleadingly termed, “the Muslim world”—Obama singled out Iran’s treaty-entitled uranium enrichment activities, saying “make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained.”

Obama’s remarks were dutifully transcribed by our stenographer class, as can be expected, despite intelligence-community conclusions to the contrary and the historical precedent of containment as Cold War policy. This follows the latest media scare concerning Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and the recent tiff between the U.S. and Israel over it. Like Obama’s speech (and because of similarly unchallenged statements by politicians), many media reports are awash in misleading narratives, incomplete histories, and outright fiction about Iran and its nuclear program.

Given how easily the American public and media were manipulated into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, this moment should give us some pause. The disastrous effects of that $3 Trillion Dollar War are still being felt across the world. For those not interested in seeing a much-bloodier, costlier sequel, I offer this introductory course in intellectual self-defense. The only way to rebuff and dismantle propaganda is to be aware of the truth on which it claims to comment.

Lesson #1: Iran is not building nuclear weapons

National Intelligence Estimate: “We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.” (2007 National Intelligence Estimate Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities; November 2007)

“Several senior Israeli officials who spoke in recent days to The Associated Press said Israel has come around to the U.S. view that no final decision to build a bomb has been made by Iran.” (Associated Press, “Israel shifts views on Iran”; March 18, 2012)

The 2011 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), a synthesized compilation of data evaluated by America’s 17 intelligence agencies, declared that there were no serious revisions to the controversial (for war hawks) 2007 NIE—which stated Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003. While the 2011 estimate did include updated progress on Iran’s civilian nuclear program, such as an increased number of operative centrifuges, it still could not muster any evidence to indicate the program was being weaponized.

These findings echo reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has also concluded that Iran is not building nuclear weapons. The IAEA accounts are typically pored over for the slightest hint of ambiguity or malevolence, which are then promulgated as the most important takeaways in Western news summaries.

A recent example of such deliberate obfuscation was the IAEA report on Iran from August 30, 2012. Typical American media accounts highlighted the increase in Iran’s nuclear infrastructure (underground centrifuge production, etc.), while failing to mention that their stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium—the only material capable of being enriched further to 85% or weapons grade—had actually diminished as a result of conversion to fuel plates for use in the Tehran Research Reactor, which produces medical isotopes. Thus nuclear development is highlighted, under the false premise that that equals progress toward a weapon, while exculpatory evidence is discarded: a case study in how news and propaganda function.

A civilian nuclear program is not easily converted into a weapons program. Before a country can begin the latter, it must break the IAEA monitoring seals on its uranium stockpile, which is also under constant camera detection. It must also kick out international inspectors, who currently have unfettered access to all of Iran’s nuclear sites. Completing those very public steps would be the first true warning indicators that Iran was building nuclear weapons.

As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran is entitled to enrich uranium to low levels for domestic power consumption and medical treatment, such as radiation therapy for cancer patients.

Lesson #2: Iran is not a threat to the US

The United States military is the largest, most sophisticated machine of force and violence the world has ever seen. After factoring in foreign military aid and nuclear weapons maintenance, the U.S. spends over an estimated $1 trillion (that’s >$1,000 billion) on defense annually.

By contrast, Iran spends somewhere between $10-12 billion on defense annually, after factoring in foreign and domestic paramilitary units such as the Revolutionary Guards and Basij—Iran’s domestic volunteer militia. This is “less than the United Arab Emirates, and only between 25% to 33% of Saudi defense spending,” notes Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It spends approximately 1/5 of the amount allocated by the six sheikdoms of the Gulf Cooperation Council—America’s staunchest regional allies (save for Israel) and the guardians of Western access to crude.

Lesson #3: Iran is not an existential threat to Israel

Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister: “Iran does not constitute an existential threat against Israel.” (Reuters, Report: Barak says Iran is not existential threat to Israel; September 17, 2009)

Dan Halutz, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces and Commander of the Israeli Air Force: “Iran poses a serious threat, but not an existential one. The use of this terminology is misleading. If it is intended to encourage a strike on Iran, it’s a mistake. Force should be exerted only as a last resort.” (YNet, Former IDF Chief: Iran doesn’t pose an existential threat; February 2, 2012)

Tamir Pardo, Director of the Mossad: “Does Iran pose a threat to Israel? Absolutely. But if one said a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands was an existential threat, that would mean that we would have to close up shop and go home. That’s not the situation. The term existential threat is used too freely.” (Haaretz, Mossad Chief: Nuclear Iran not necessarily existential threat to Israel; December 29, 2011)

Israel maintains a competitive advantage in total amount spent on munitions and assets, as well as a massive edge in terms of technological sophistication. Israel spends almost twice as much as Iran on defense appropriations and is able to buy the world’s most advanced weaponry from the United States (mostly with U.S. taxpayer money, laundered through foreign aid). Iran, by contrast, is heavily dependent on the dated munitions it received under the Shah and acquires rudimentary missile technology from China and North Korea with its own money.

Even if Iran were pursuing nuclear weapons, Israel’s own stockpile—estimated at a several hundred high-yield warheads—ensures that Tehran would not engage in a first-strike. Those familiar with the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) know that when confronted with the possibility of your own annihilation, so the theory goes, you’re incentivized to refrain from launching a first strike. Israel’s stationing of nukes on German-made Dolphin class submarines in the Mediterranean assures that even if a first strike were to be carried out on the Jewish state, the perpetrator would still be subject to a retaliatory strike.

However, much as America acts as Israel’s patron, so too Iran spends a good deal arming and supporting proxy armies in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip—Hezbollah and Hamas, respectively. While these forces present a serious challenge to Israeli military incursions into said areas, their ability to project force within Israel’s borders is limited to indiscriminate rocket fire. While dangerous and psychologically terrifying for civilians, such tactics cannot be considered more than a nuisance when comparing capacities for state violence.

Israel is not a signatory to the NPT and repeatedly refuses propositions for a Middle East Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone (MENWFZ) to be established as a means of ending the stand-off with Tehran, despite majority support from the Israeli public.

Lesson #4: Iran’s leadership is not fanatical or suicidal

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “We are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor.” (Global Public Square, Martin Dempsey on Syria, Iran and China; February 17, 2012)

Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz: “I think the Iranian leadership is composed of very rational people.” (CS Monitor, Israeli Army Chief says he doubts Iran will build a nuclear weapon; April 25, 2012)

Intellectual orthodoxy holds that even the most tepid criticism of Israeli and American policy vis-à-vis Iran requires a disclaimer by all “serious people” that Iran is a vicious theocratic regime which oppresses its own people. While Iran’s governmental structure is religiously based and peaceful protests have been met with repression, such traits are hardly unique. Saudi Arabia, America’s most solid regional ally, enforces religious doctrine as viciously if not more so than Iran does (such as executing many for practicing freedom of speech and religion as “witches” or “blasphemers”). And, of course, violent government responses to non-violent demonstrations aimed at political change are hardly unknown in free societies (see: Occupy Wall Street).

Moreover, there’s little correlation between the internal repression of a society and its external behavior. The United States, one of the freer societies on the planet, routinely engages in aggression and the use of brute force to accomplish geopolitical objectives. Conversely, Iran pummels domestic dissent while historically limiting its military involvement outside its borders. The only record of Iranian aggression since the 18th century was when the U.S.-backed Shah invaded and conquered a series of Arab islands in the early 1970’s.

Despite contentions from the likes of Benjamin Netanyahu that Iran’s leadership is capable of pulling the temple down on their heads in a show of Samsonian martyrdom, Tehran’s track record and statements indicate otherwise. The more judicious pundits at least acknowledge as much.

Lesson #5: Politicians and media stenographers have been claiming Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons since the mid-1980’s

House Republican Research Committee in 1992: “98 percent certainty that Iran already had all (or virtually all) of the components required for two or three operational nuclear weapons.” (Christian Science Monitor, Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979; November 8, 2011)

Iran began its nuclear program with help from the United States during the 1950’s when it was run by Washington’s puppet-dictator Shah Reza Pahlavi, who was installed after the U.S. overthrew the democratically elected government in a 1953 CIA coup known as Operation Ajax. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini condemned all nuclear and chemical weapons as “un-Islamic,” stopping the nascent nuclear program in its tracks. Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei reiterated his predecessor’s religious edict some 20 years later.

The 1980’s saw complex American-Iranian and Israeli-Iranian relations, whereby discreet deals were made among the antagonistic powers in an effort to accomplish other foreign policy goals. Yet by the early 1990’s Iran’s growing military prowess and the near-destruction of the major Arab military presence to Israel’s east (Iraq) put Iran back on Tel Aviv’s agenda as a strategic competitor. In 1992, then-member of parliament Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset that Iran was 3 to 5 years from having a nuclear weapon—and that the threat had to be “uprooted by an international front headed by the U.S.” Sound familiar?

American policymakers began to echo Israeli claims during the 1990’s, largely in public and without evidence to back them up. These assertions continued in a steady drumbeat of increasingly hostile rhetoric (“The Axis of Evil”) all the way until 2007, when a declassified NIE was released disputing the fact that Iran continued its weapons program in any way beyond 2003. Despite the conclusions, as mentioned in lesson #1, hawks on the left and right continue to peddle demonstrably false claims to this very day.

Lesson #6: The American and Israeli security establishments are against it

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “We’re watching very carefully about what [Iran] do[es], because it’s always been more about their actions than their words…We’re not setting red lines.” (Haaretz, Clinton rejects Netanyahu’s call for ‘red lines’ over Iran nuclear program; September 10, 2012)

Former Internal Security Chief Yuval Diskin: “…attacking Iran will encourage them to develop a bomb all the faster.” (Think Progress, Diskin says he has ‘no faith’ in current leadership, April 27, 2012)

Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan: a future Israeli Air Force strike on Iranian nuclear facilities is “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” (Haaretz, Former Mossad chief: Israel air strike on Iran ‘stupidest thing I have ever heard’, May 7, 2011)

Although the idea of nuclear weapons in the hands of an avowedly hostile regime is as upsetting to Washington as it is to Tel Aviv, the Pentagon brass is opposed to an attack, not because they suddenly favor the regime in Tehran, but because their own strike simulations predict a great deal of injurious blowback in exchange for, at most, a brief setback in Iran’s nuclear capability.

And despite war hysteria in Israel, fanned by political rhetoric, and legitimate conventional security concerns for the Jewish state, Israeli security and military officials recognize that they don’t have anywhere near the overwhelming force required to take care of the problem. The only way to ensure that Iran doesn’t develop a nuclear weapons capability would be to install a friendly puppet regime in Tehran, a task far beyond the capability of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) or the U.S. military at this point.

In lieu of direct military conflict, the U.S. and Israel have adopted a harsh policy of economic sanctions, cyberwarfare, and covert operations—declarations of war, by American standards—in an effort to delay Iran’s nuclear progress. But the consensus among knowledgeable players is that any resort to force will have far worse repercussions than benefits.

Lesson #7: The American and Israeli people are against it

Poll: 7 out of 10 Americans choose diplomacy over military force to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions (Christian Science Monitor, To strike Iran’s nuclear facilities or not to strike? Why polls differ; March 14, 2012)

Poll: 58% of Israelis oppose a unilateral strike on Iran (Haaretz, Haaretz poll: Most of the public opposes an Israeli strike on Iran; March 8, 2012)

Poll: Only 27% of Jewish Israelis in favor of a unilateral strike on Iran (Haaretz, Poll: Most Israelis oppose attack on Iran nuclear facilities; August 16, 2012)

While public opinion is as malleable as Play-Doh, surveys show that the American and Israeli citizenries are very skeptical about war with Iran. The former, still reeling from the unpleasant effects of two costly occupations (one ongoing), are overwhelmingly opposed to another war in the Middle East. Likewise, although a majority of Israelis view Iran’s nuclear program as more immediately dangerous than their American counterparts do, polling indicates they are opposed to a unilateral strike initiated without American support. This makes sense, given the IDF’s military inadequacy for the task at hand, and Israel’s proximity to retaliatory proxy forces in southern Lebanon and Gaza.

It is true that survey responses vary depending on how the question is asked. When confronted with the baseless assertion that Iran is building nuclear weapons, many respondents aver that military action is worth it. But when given the correct facts, both populations conclude that the downsides of military force aren’t worth the payoff. This aligns with the thoughts of most policymakers within the establishment.

Lesson #8: An Iranian nuclear weapon will be all-but-assured if the U.S. or Israel attack

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden on war deliberations within the Bush administration: “the consensus was that [a brief bombing campaign] would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent: an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon and that would build it in secret.” (The Hill, Don’t let Iran be a second Iraq; February 27, 2012)

With so much evidence solidly against their position, U.S. and Israeli hawks have become increasingly strident in their appeal to violence as a means of ending the Iranian “nuclear threat.”  Many proponents of a strike have cited the Israeli Air Force raid on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981 as a precedent that could be emulated. While comparisons between the two situations are tenuous at best, what’s of higher import is the fact that U.S. intelligence concluded that the 1981 attack didn’t stop Saddam’s nuclear weapons program—it accelerated it.  (It was actually the consequences of Saddam’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait that brought Iraq’s bomb program to a halt.)

Lesson #9: Readers—add your own below in our comments section…

Islamophobia: The Heat of Empire And The Flames of Intolerance

September 28th, 2012 by Colin Todhunter

In Britain, the intelligence agencies have been for some time intensively monitoring Muslim communities. The result of the Swiss referendum held in 2009 means that building a mosque with a minaret is now banned in that nation. There were only four in the entire country anyhow. And, in 2010, France passed a law to prevent women wearing the niqab in public.

The discussion about wearing the niqab, which has also been raging in Britain and other countries too, starts with people saying, “You don’t know what ‘they’ could be carrying beneath it or who is behind the veil.” They begin by attempting to justify the banning on ‘safety’ grounds. Then, when pushed, racist undertones and tolerance come to the surface – if ‘they’ want to live here in ‘our’ country, ‘they’ should behave/dress like ‘us’.

The implication of all this is the belief that Muslims are particularly dangerous and need to be watched closely. And anti-Islam Danish cartoons or films whose main purpose is to provoke a predictable reaction among certain Muslims purposively contribute to this belief. It all serves to whip up public paranoia and concerns about immigration, illegal asylum seekers, certain groups’ incompatibility with ‘our’ values, religious fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism and so on. In trying to mask racism and prejudice with platitudes about ‘our’ culture being diluted, bombers wanting to kill us or public services being over stretched due to an influx of immigrants, the media and politicians are fuelling and pandering to society’s worst prejudices.

The far right British National Party (BNP) in Britain has had some degree of success in recent times by specifically tapping into such frustrations and prejudices held within white working class communities in economically deprived areas. The Labour Party has abandoned this constituency of voters and has let in the BNP and the English Defence League (EDL). The EDL has especially attempted to whip up simplistic, knee-jerk anti-Islam feeling on the back of complex issues pertaining to identity, culture, race and class.

But this isn’t confined to Britain or Europe. In the US, Sarah Palin played her part in fuelling the establishment’s agenda by fanning controversy over the proposed construction of a mosque and community centre near ‘Ground Zero’, the site of the 9/11 Twin Towers attack in New York, by calling it an “unnecessary provocation.”

In 2010, Palin wrote in a Twitter post, “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts.” And people opposing the mosque dominated a hearing on the subject.

“It would be a terrible mistake to destroy a 154-year-old building in order to build a monument to terrorism,” one woman was reported as saying.

”A monument to terrorism” – it seems strange that she would talk of a mosque in such a way while ignoring the genuine living, breathing monument – GW Bush – or for that matter Donald Rumsfeld, Condaleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton or Tony Blair, who had all felt justified in applying sanctions and killing hundreds of thousands in Iraq, bombing innocent people in Sudan or supporting various wars and despots.

 

In April 2011, the law that was passed in France banning full-face veils in public places targeted about  2,000 people out of a French population of more than 65 million. As recently reported in the New York Times, Mohammed Henniche, secretary general of the private Union of Muslim Associations of Seine-Saint-Denis, has said that the effects have been that such women now limit their moves and stay in their own neighborhood, while others have reluctantly removed the veil in public places. He believes the ban is part of a political effort to stigmatise a community. With that in mind, over the last year in France there have been controversies over the height of minarets, halal fast food, prayers in the streets when mosques overflow, halal meals in schools and the right of foreigners to vote in local elections.
All of this is not being carried out in the name of secularism and freedom, as much of the media and politicians would have us believe, but in the cause of empire and repression because it is the direct result and ideological underpinning of modern imperial wars of occupation and intervention.

From Libya and Sudan through to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and into Pakistan, the US and its proxies have stoked up ethnic and political tensions and have attacked or debased the sovereignty of nation states in an attempt to secure control of the entire region. Iran is a work in progress. Whether it is part of the bogus ‘war on terror’ and ‘civilising the barbarians’, or whether it occurs under the lie of ‘humanitarianism’, US-led imperialism has effectively brought an arc of tragedy to the region. And it’s a tragedy of epic proportions.

But the links between predatory capitalism, economic crisis, war and the rise of intolerance are sidelined in favour of a narrow, simplistic discussion that merely focuses on the differences between ‘them’ (Muslims) and ‘us’, how multi-culturalism (ie tolerance!) has apparently failed and how it is time for ‘them’ to conform and be clamped down on.

Instead of holding to account and directly challenging the wider system of capitalism and empire, politicians and the mainstream media seek out proxies to blame for the economic crisis, unemployment, the running down of public services or acts of terror at home. If the West really wants to prevent terrorism, for instance, it should take Noam Chomsky’s advice: stop committing it!

The West has a long legacy of bloody colonial exploits and consequent scapegoating, racism and fanning the flames of hate. It has always excelled in divide and rule. It still does. Try building a minaret in Switzerland or wearing a niqab in Paris. Better still, just listen to Sarah Palin – if you can bear to.

Originally from the northwest of EnglandColin Todhunter has spent many years in India. He has written extensively for various publications, and his East by Northwest site is at: http://colintodhunter.blogspot.com

Week in Review: Drone Slaughter and the Covert War on Iran

September 28th, 2012 by Global Research

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Will Israel Launch a False Flag Against Iran to Start War?, Washington’s Blog, September 28, 2012

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Carey Price; Matt Cooke

“Hockey is Canada’s Game”: The National Hockey League LockoutGlobal Research News, September 22, 2012

Will Israel Launch a False Flag Against Iran to Start War?

September 28th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

Will Israel Blow Up Something and Falsely Blame It On Iran?

According to U.S. officials, Israel is training and supporting Iranian terrorists who are trying to topple the Iranian government. Those Israeli-funded terrorists have faked documents to falsely indicate that Iran is building a nuclear bomb. 1

Israel has admitted to previous use of false flag attacks to justify war against Middle Eastern nations.

For example,   Israel admits that an Israeli terrorist cell operating in Egypt planted bombs in several buildings, including U.S. diplomatic facilities, then left behind “evidence” implicating the Arabs as the culprits (one of the bombs detonated prematurely, allowing the Egyptians to identify the bombers, and several of the Israelis later confessed) (and see this and this).

Numerous high-level government officials have warned that a false flag may be launched against Iran to start a war: 2

  • Ron Paul has warned of a “Gulf of Tonkin type incident” in Iran
  • The highly influential Brookings Institution wrote a report in 2009 called “Which Path to Persia?” which states (pages 84-85):

It would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be.Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.)

  • A number of very high-level former intelligence officers – including several that personally briefed presidents every day on matters of national security – stated that better communications between the U.S. and Iran were needed to “reduce the danger of … covert, false-flag attack”

One of America’s top constitutional and military law experts – Jonathan Turley – writes today:

Many critics have argued that there is a concerted effort to push the United States into a war with Iran by supporters of Israel. Patrick Clawson, director of research for the highly influential pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) think tank, seemed intent to prove those rumors true this week in comments as a luncheon on “How to Build US-Israeli Coordination on Preventing an Iranian Nuclear Breakout.” Clawson casually discusses how to create a false flag operation to push the U.S. into war to overcome any reluctance by the public. We have been discussing how many leaders like Senator Joe Lieberman had begun to use the same rhetoric that led to the last two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how the suggest timing of an attack has been tied to the presidential election.

In his remarks, Clawson helpfully lists a series of historical events used to push the country into war like the Gulf of Tonkin incident that gave us the Vietnam War. Clawson expressed his frustration in acknowledging that it is “[v]ery hard for me to see how the United States President can get us to war with Iran.” However, there is hope. Clawson explains that the “traditional way” to get the country into a war is through false flags or manufactured incidents where Americans are killed. Thus, he observes, “we are in the game of using covert means against the Iranians, we could get nastier about it. So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war.”

The fact that one of the leading analysis for the WINEP would feel comfortable in making such comments is itself quite chilling. It indicates that such discussions have become sufficiently regular that it has creeped into public discussion. It is a measure of the secret pressure building to push this country into a third major war despite our crippling economic conditions and losses in military personnel. The assumption in Washington is that neither Romney nor Obama could oppose such a war. Even if Obama does not publicly support Israel, the assumption is that political allies of Israel in Washington can guarantee that we would offer extensive military loans and intelligence. Even if there is a delay in such military loans and support, the assumption is that Israel can go to war with the understanding that the United States will cover a significant portion of the costs. Moreover, in his remarkably candid remarks, Clawson shows how the U.S. can easily be forced into direct combat by pushing Iran to simply kill some Americans or sink a few of our ships. Then members would be clamoring for revenge. Notably, the Israelis have been ratcheting up the war rhetoric in pushing Iran, which predictably has now reserved the right to engage in a preemptive strike not just against Israeli but U.S. interests. We would then, again, find ourselves in a war without any public debate or collective decision.

While Clawson adds a passing caveat that he is not advocating such an approach, his remarks are clearly designed to show how the group can get the United States into a war for Israel if only we can get Iran to kill some of our citizens or soldiers. Those people are of course expendable props in Clawson’s realpolitik.

By the way, Clawson has been enlisted to give his insightful analysis at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He is also a member of the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies. The World Bank connection is particularly interesting given the history with Paul Wolfowitz who pushed the U.S. into two disastrous wars in the Bush Administration and was rewarded with being made the head of the World Bank.

It is the callous disconnect that is most chilling in these remarks. Thousands of U.S. soldiers have died or have been crippled for life in these wars that have left the country near bankruptcy (and increasingly hostile “allies” in Afghanistan and Iraq). Those casualties and costs, however, appear immaterial in the discussion of supporting Israel in a war against Iran.

 

1  Top American and Israeli military and intelligence officials actually say that:

2   False flag attacks have been carried out against Iran in the past.  For example, the CIA admits that it hired Iranians in the 1950′s to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its democratically-elected prime minister

3 Saudi Arabia has also been supporting terrorists.

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“Shelling Out”: Britain Spends £2 Billion on Drones

September 28th, 2012 by Drone Wars UK

Drone Wars UK is today publishing a report that shows the UK Government has already spent over £2 billion purchasing, developing and researching drones and unmanned systems since 2007.

The report, Shelling Out: UK Government Spending on Unmanned drones, finds that the UK has spent £872m on five different drones that are currently in service with British forces, including £506m on the armed MQ-9 Reaper drone.  The UK has committed  a further £1,031m to developing new drones such as the Watchkeeper UAV and BAE Systems Taranis drone.  Finally the UK has funded £120m of research within UK universities and British defence companies looking at  unmanned systems.  This included £30m funding for the ASTRAEA programme to open up UK civil airspace to autonomous drones.

In addition to the £2bn already spent, in 2013 the UK is likely to begin committing funds to the Scavenger programme to develop a new armed medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) drone.  The UK MoD estimates the Scavenger programme will cost £2bn over its lifetime.

Chris Cole, co-ordinator of Drone Wars UK and author of the new report said

“UN experts, legal scholars and civil liberties campaigners are all expressing serious concerns about the rising use of unmanned drones.  At a time of tough spending cuts it cannot be right that the UK is continuing to pour billions of pounds into developing new drones without proper parliamentary scrutiny or debate of the serious legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of this technology.

Drones do not create security – just the opposite in fact.  We have seen plenty of evidence of this over the past few years, but the lesson has been brought home yet again this week  in the remarkable report Living under Drones, which shows that in Pakistan drones are creating fear, instability and many, many civilian casualties.

Rather than spending further billions on more drones what’s needed is investment in tackling the underlying causes of insecurity.  That means devoting resources to measures designed to seriously tackle inequality and injustice in the world  – such as the Millennium Development Goals.   Today, in the midst of a global economic and environmental crisis, we need to jettison ever-increasing military spending and technological security fixes in favour of a sustainable security strategy that puts people – and especially the poor -  at its centre.”

Average yearly UK spending on droves compared to annual amount of global spending needed to achieve four key Millennium Development Goals

Click here to download  ‘Shelling Out: UK Government Spending on Drones’

by Olga Denisova

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: “To a great extent the ongoing violence in Syria should be blamed on the countries that incite anti-Assad forces to deny a ceasefire and seek a change of regime. Actually, this approach hardly differs from the principles of terrorism applied by the armed opposition groups.”

The Russian delegation pointed out that no resolution was required for starting a dialogue on the basis of the principles of the Geneva Communique. Russia’s partners in BRICS share this opinion. Among five BRICS member-states, Russia and China are permanent members of the UNSC. The BRICS member-states adopted a joint resolution at the UN General Assembly session.

*      *      *

Refusal to apply the Geneva agreements on Syria reached on June 30, 2012 puts at risk the implementation of the key principles outlined by the UN Security Council in the fight against terror. The participants in a high-level UNSC meeting on the Middle East on Wednesday voiced different approaches to the situation in Syria.

The Syrian crisis has remained the thorniest Middle Eastern issue for more than a year. Meanwhile, all major UNSC member states had expressed their views on the situation before the UN General Assembly session opened in New York on Tuesday. US leader Barack Obama again stressed that peace will come to Syria only after President Bashar Assad resigns. French President Francois Hollande urged the UN to take active steps in Syria and protect the areas controlled by the opposition. Not only Syrians have found themselves directly or indirectly involved in the conflict. Only a consolidated approach can result help in finding the right solution, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said:

“To a great extent the ongoing violence in Syria should be blamed on the countries that incite anti-Assad forces to deny a ceasefire and seek a change of regime. Actually, this approach hardly differs from the principles of terrorism applied by the armed opposition groups.”

The French president accused the UNSC of inactivity which often looks somehow ‘selective’. The attacks which rocked Syria in the past two months were not in any way condemned by the UNSC. Speaking to journalists, Sergei Lavrov spoke about the decision of some countries to revise the Geneva agreements:

“It is important that all participants in the Geneva session adhere to what they had signed up to. Some of Russia’s Western partners condemn the attacks but then say that although ‘terrorism is evil there is no other way to people in Syria to topple the bloody regime’. This is a very dangerous position which looks as if they were justifying terrorism.”

The final communiqué of the Action Group for Syria has been approved by the permanent members of the Security Council, the League of the Arab States, Turkey, the EU and the UN Secretary General. However, for some countries this document is just a piece of paper.

It was not originally planned to adopt any resolution on Syria at the latest session of the Security Council. The Russian delegation pointed out that no resolution was required for starting a dialogue on the basis of the principles of the Geneva Communique. Russia’s partners in BRICS share this opinion. Among five BRICS member-states, Russia and China are permanent members of the UNSC. The BRICS member-states adopted a joint resolution at the UN General Assembly session.

“The joint declaration of the Foreign Ministers of the BRICS countries objectively estimates the ways of solving the Syrian crisis and supports the Geneva Communique as a basis for these actions. This is a good basis for reaching a consensus in the UN Security Council, the current absence of which is so saddening for some of our colleagues.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also stressed that there was no military solution to the Syrian crisis and the unsettled conflict was a threat to the security of the entire region.

The UNSC member-states pointed out that changes currently taking place in the Middle East were only the beginning of the road. New conflicts will be looming large if political reforms are not carried through, which is impossible without modernizing the economy and the social sphere.

The Syrian problem is not the only one in the region. No substantial achievements are evident in solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict either.

“Russia is insistently calling for stepping up the efforts of the ‘quartet’ of Middle Eastern intermediaries in close cooperation with the League of Arab States to speedily resume the Palestinian-Israeli talks. We believe that the ‘quartet’s inability to organize a ministers’ meeting at the current UN General Assembly session is a serious mistake.”

It was said in the corridors of the UN General Assembly that the meeting of the intermediaries in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement did not take place because the US was against it.

 

The Syrian Crisis: “Polarization of Opinion” at the UN

September 27th, 2012 by Ilya Kharlamov

Western leaders making similar statements in New York is only natural given their permanent drive to rein in Damascus and Tehran and revise the current system of international relations in circumvention of the UN.

“We know that Qatar sponsors a spate of negative changes that are taking place in Northern Africa, and that Qatar lends support to Syrian rebels. I think that the time is ripe for considering slapping sanctions on this gas dwarf.”

Participants of the 67th General Assembly in New York have remained at odds over the situation in Syria. On Thursday, Qatar urged interference in the political standoff between Syrian authorities and rebels, something that was supported by France and Tunisia. Moscow, Tehran and Cairo, for their part, continue to call for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict. Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the discussion in absentia, warning against taking decisions on Syria that bypass the UN.

All those urging the ouster of the Assad regime by outside forces specifically pointed out the UN’s current inability to act. British Prime Minister David Cameron, in turn, said that the blood of children killed during the civil war in Syria was a “terrible stain on the reputation of the United Nations.” He was echoed by French President Francois Hollande who described the UN’s inaction as “shocking.”

Western leaders making similar statements in New York is only natural given their permanent drive to rein in Damascus and Tehran and revise the current system of international relations in circumvention of the UN. Adding fuel to the fire was a statement by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the ruling Emir of the State of Qatar, who called for mulling a military intervention in Syria, where he said a no-fly zone should be created.

This is a very dangerous tendency, believes Igor Korotchenko, a Moscow-based political analyst.

“Qatar acts as an instigator of sorts,” Korotchenko says, referring to Qatar possessing hefty sums and local tribal leaders’ ambitions. “We know that Qatar sponsors a spate of negative changes that are taking place in Northern Africa, and that Qatar lends support to Syrian rebels. I think that the time is ripe for considering slapping sanctions on this gas dwarf,” Korotchenko says.


Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott in 2010

Western elites and their Middle Eastern partners are irked with the position taken by Moscow and Beijing, which have repeatedly blocked the UN Security Council’s resolutions on Syria.

In an interview with the Voice of Russia broadcast on Thursday, Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, lambasted Western countries’ push for meddling in the Syrian conflict. He attributed this push to the West’s dissatisfaction with its own actions, Lukyanov said.

“The situation in Syria came to a standstill,” Lukyanov says, separately referring to the killing of a US Ambassador to Libya that recently hit international headlines. “Some in the United States have already slammed Washington’s desire to interfere in the Syrian conflict that I think reflects the West’s inability to act,” Lukayanov says, singling out the West’s frustration about Bashar Assad still being in power in Syria.

For his part, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called the resolution of the Syrian problem one of his key priorities. He added that this would help Syria contain a threat of a foreign military intervention that he stressed is being opposed by Cairo. Morsi was echoed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who said on Thursday that the Syrian crisis should only be resolved through a national consensus in a wide-scale inter-Syrian dialogue under the UN’s aegis. Lavrov was speaking during his meeting with UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

GRTV: Egypt Must Reclaim Non-Aligned Legacy

September 27th, 2012 by Rick Rozoff

Press TV
September 27, 2012

Israel refusal to join NPT, inexcusable: Analyst

Interview with Rick Rozoff, Center for Research on Globalization

VIDEO

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has warned Israel over its saber-rattling against Iran and the obstructionism of Tel Aviv which is preventing the realization of a nuclear-free Middle East.

The Middle East “no longer tolerates” any country’s refusal to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), “especially if this is coupled with irresponsible policies or arbitrary threats,” Morsi said in his address at the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday.

The Egyptian leader was referring to Israel’s policy of ambiguity about its military nuclear activities, which has helped it procure the Mideast’s only nuclear arsenal.

Press TV has interviewed Rick Rozoff, with the Center for Research on Globalization, from Chicago about the issue. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.

Press TV: I wanted to ask you, firstly, how you assess the relationship between Egypt and Israel especially since the fall of Mubarak and especially with this recent speech of President Morsi?

Rozoff: Yes, the speech today before the General Assembly in the United Nations by newly-elected President Morsi appears to signal a significant shift in the Egyptian position not only vis-à-vis Israel, but I would say in terms of intervening actively against threats by the United States, Israel and its allies – verbal at this point, perhaps more in the future – against Iran and other neighboring countries.

Considering the significance of Egypt in the Arab world, having the largest population, that this is a very meaningful transition, apparently, and one that I hope President Morsi and his government continue with.

Press TV: How does that equal then with Morsi’s government essentially saying that they will keep the “peace treaty” with Israel alive?

Rozoff: Well, that’s not the only impediment to Egypt realizing really its legacy – one that went back to Nasser of course – as being an independent, non-aligned country and that hopefully Egypt will reassert itself in that capacity, but it means, first of all, seriously reexamining the Camp David Accords and everything that has followed.

But it also means the military client state relationship it has with the United States. The fact that it remains a major member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) partnership program, called the Mediterranean Dialogue, to continue along the path of genuine non-alignment and de-militarization of the region and ultimately all over the world, Egypt would have to sever its close military ties with the United States and would have to withdraw from the NATO Mediterranean Dialogue program.

Press TV: How significant is Morsi’s call for Israel to join the NPT and on that topic of nuclear non-proliferation also about the fact that every nation has the right to peaceful nuclear energy?

Rozoff: That’s a very good combination of requests, or of demands. First of all, it is inexcusable that Israel has remained a non-signatory nation to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) for half a century practically.

And it’s this sort of rogue activity of Israel and its major sponsor of course the United States; ‘law of the jungle’ is an expression that Egypt’s Morsi used and that’s not an inaccurate one. That is, the largest beast who feels it can operate with impunity summarily violates international law and Israel is certainly doing so in relation to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That’s a legitimate demand. It should be taken up seriously by the [UN] General Assembly and it should be introduced into the Security Council.

GRTV: Islam and the Politics of Hegemony

September 27th, 2012 by Chandra Muzaffar

GRTV: US Unleash Hell in Syria, New Violence Levels Reached

September 27th, 2012 by Patrick Henningsen

L’arte della guerra. Libia: petrolio rosso sangue

September 27th, 2012 by Manlio Dinucci

È uscito il secondo episodio di  «Humanitarian War», famosa fiction washingtoniana sulla Libia. Ecco il trailer: aiutati i libici a liberarsi dal feroce dittatore, i buoni, guidati dall’eroico Chris, continuano ad aiutarli con uguale disinteresse; ma i cattivi – i terroristi ancora annidati nel paese – uccidono Chris che «rischiava la vita per aiutare il popolo libico a costruire le fondamenta di una nuova e libera nazione» (Hillary Clinton) e, «fatto particolarmente tragico, lo uccidono a Bengasi, città che aveva aiutato a salvare» (Barack Obama);  il Presidente invia una «forza di sicurezza» in Libia, ma sono gli abitanti di Bengasi, scesi spontaneamente in piazza con cartelli inneggianti a Chris, a cacciare i cattivi dalle loro tane. In attesa del terzo episodio, uno sguardo alla realtà. Chris Stevens, ambasciatore in Libia dallo scorso maggio, era stato rappresentante speciale Usa presso il Cnt di Bengasi durante la guerra: ossia il regista dell’operazione segreta  con cui erano state reclutate, finanziate e armate contro il governo di Tripoli anche milizie islamiche fino a poco prima bollate come terroriste. Novello apprendista stregone, Chris Stevens è stato travolto dalle forze da lui stesso create quando, abbattuto il governo di Tripoli, in veste di ambasciatore Usa ha diretto l’operazione per neutralizzare le milizie ritenute da Washington non affidabili e integrare nelle forze governative quelle affidabili. Operazione estremamente complessa: ci sono in Libia almeno 100mila combattenti armati, appartenenti a svariate formazioni, comprese alcune gheddafiane. Tripoli controlla oggi solo una parte minore del territorio. È iniziata la digregazione dello stato unitario, fomentata da interessi di parte.

La Cirenaica – dove si trovano i due terzi del petrolio libico – si è autoproclamata di fatto indipendente, e lo vuol essere anche il Fezzan, dove sono altri grossi giacimenti, mentre alla Tripolitania resterebbero solo quelli davanti alle coste della capitale. La balcanizzazione della Libia rientra nei piani di Washington, se non riesce a controllare lo stato unitario. Ciò che preme agli Usa e alle potenze europee è controllare il petrolio libico: oltre 47 miliardi di barili di riserve accertate, le maggiori dell’Africa. Importante per loro è disporre anche del territorio libico per lo spiegamento avanzato di forze militari.

La forza di rapido spiegamento dei marines, inviata da Obama in Libia con il supporto dei droni di Sigonella, ufficialmente come risposta all’uccisione dell’ambasciatore, non è né la prima né l’ultima. Il Pentagono aveva già inviato forze speciali e contractor a presidiare le maggiori piattaforme petrolifere, e ora si prepara a un’azione «antiterrorista». Sono da tempo sbarcate le compagnie petrolifere che, con accordi ufficiali e sottobanco (grazie alla diffusa corruzione), ottengono contratti molto più vantaggiosi dei precedenti. Si prepara allo stesso tempo la privatizzazione dell’industria energetica libica. Partecipa alla spartizione del bottino anche il Qatar che, dopo aver contribuito alla guerra di Libia con forze speciali infiltrate e forniture militari, spendendo oltre 2 miliardi di dollari, ha ottenuto il 49% (ma di fatto il controllo) della Banca libica per il commercio e lo sviluppo. Un buon investimento, quello della guerra.

 

L’arte della guerra: L’Alcoa vola via sull’F-35

September 27th, 2012 by Manlio Dinucci

Ne è passato di tempo da quando gli operai avevano di fronte il padrone delle ferriere. Lo ignorano però i politici e sindacalisti che trattano la vicenda Alcoa solo come vertenza di lavoro, tacendo sulla reale identità della controparte. Che cos’è l’Aluminum Company of America? Nata nel 1888 a Pittsburgh, è oggi leader mondiale nell’estrazione e raffinazione della bauxite e nella fabbricazione di alluminio e prodotti derivati. Gli Stati uniti hanno però poca bauxite, i cui giacimenti si concentrano in Sudamerica, Africa, Russia, Cina, Sud-Est asiatico e Australia. L’Alcoa ha quindi sempre cercato di accaparrarsi la materia prima, ovunque e comunque. La sua storia è perciò intessuta con quella dell’imperialismo Usa. Non a caso, dopo il colpo di stato orchestrato dalla Cia in Indonesia nel 1965, con il massacro di oltre un milione di persone, fu l’Alcoa a ottenere dal dittatore Suharto la più grossa fetta della bauxite indonesiana. Fu ancora l’Alcoa che, dopo il colpo di stato organizzato dalla Cia in Cile nel 1973, riottenne da Pinochet il controllo della bauxite, nazionalizzata da Allende.  Non è neppure un caso che il presidente del Paraguay, l’ex vescovo Fernando Lugo, che voleva nazionalizzare le miniere di bauxite dell’Alcoa, sia stato destituito lo scorso giugno con un golpe bianco organizzato dalla Cia. Il potere dell’Alcoa, che possiede oltre 200 impianti in 31 paesi di tutti i continenti, va ben oltre l’attività industriale. Come emerso da Wikileaks, dietro l’Alcoa ci sono le più forti oligarchie finanziarie Usa, dalla Citicorp alla Goldman Sachs (di cui Monti è stato consulente internazionale).

C’è il complesso militare-industriale: l’Alcoa Defense, il cui fatturato è in forte crescita, fabbrica speciali leghe di alluminio per missili, droni, blindati, navi e aerei da guerra. Per i caccia F-35 produce elementi strutturali di primaria importanza (trasversali alla fusoliera in corrispondenza delle ali e interni alle ali). In tale quadro di poteri forti è maturata la decisione strategica  dell’Alcoa, dovuta a ragioni non solo economiche ma politico-militari: quella di realizzare in Arabia Saudita il più grande ed economico impianto integrato per la produzione di alluminio. Nel maxi impianto, che entrerà in funzione l’anno prossimo con energia e manodopera a basso costo formata in gran parte da immigrati, sarà trasferita anche la produzione Alcoa di Portovesme e forse di Fusina. Si conclude così l’operazione varata e perfezionata dai governi Dini, Prodi e D’Alema. Nel 1996 l’Italia cedette all’Alcoa il gruppo Alumix a partecipazione statale, base dell’industria nazionale dell’alluminio, quindi le fornì tramite l’Enel energia elettrica a prezzi fortemente scontati. Tale agevolazione, concessa tramite rimborsi anche dai successivi governi (Amato, Prodi e Berlusconi), è stata pagata dagli utenti italiani con un aggravio delle bollette per miliardi di euro, finiti nelle casse dell’Alcoa. Spremuto il limone, l’Alcoa se ne va. Lasciandosi alle spalle non solo lavoratori sul lastrico, ma danni ambientali e sanitari provocati da emissioni chimiche e rifiuti di lavorazione, che richiedono altri esborsi di denaro pubblico. Non tutto è perduto però: l’alluminio Alcoa tornerà in Italia. Dentro gli F-35, che ci costeranno  altri miliardi di euro.

Horrifying, Graphic Video of Iranian Leader Savagely Abusing Jews

September 27th, 2012 by Washington's Blog

 

We bring to the attention of our reader’s the following videos 
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More Iranian barbarity towards Jews:

Background here, here, here and here.

Iran Reaffirms Offer on Nukes

September 27th, 2012 by Gareth Porter

In his swan song to the UN General Assembly, Iran’s term-limited President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is stirring up the usual media outrage with remarks on gays, freedom of speech and Israel. But the West still ignores a substantive Iranian proposal on uranium enrichment, writes Gareth Porter at Inter Press Service.

Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which the United States has identified as its highest priority in the nuclear talks, in return for easing sanctions against Iran, according to Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who has conducted Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA in Tehran and Vienna, revealed in an interview with IPS that Iran had made the offer at the meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul Sept. 19.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaking at the United Nations General Assembly.

Soltanieh also revealed in the interview that IAEA officials had agreed last month to an Iranian demand that it be provided documents on the alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons which Iran is being asked to explain, but that the concession had then been withdrawn.

“We are prepared to suspend enrichment to 20 percent, provided we find a reciprocal step compatible with it,” Soltanieh said, adding, “We said this in Istanbul.”

Soltanieh is the first Iranian official to go on record as saying Iran has proposed a deal that would end its 20-percent enrichment entirely, although it had been reported previously. “If we do that,” Soltanieh said, “there shouldn’t be sanctions.”

Iran’s position in the two rounds of negotiations with the P5+1 – China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain, the United States and Germany – earlier this year was reported to have been that a significant easing of sanctions must be part of the bargain.

The United States and its allies in the P5+1 ruled out such a deal in the two rounds of negotiations in Istanbul and in Baghdad in May and June, demanding that Iran not only halt its enrichment to 20 percent but ship its entire stockpile of uranium enriched to that level out of the country and close down the Fordow enrichment facility entirely.

Even if Iran agreed to those far-reaching concessions the P5+1 nations offered no relief from sanctions.

Soltanieh repeated the past Iranian rejection of any deal involving the closure of Fordow. “It’s impossible if they expect us to close Fordow,” Soltanieh said.

The U.S. justification for the demand for the closure of Fordow has been that it has been used for enriching uranium to the 20-percent level, which makes it much easier for Iran to continue enrichment to weapons-grade levels.

But Soltanieh pointed to the conversion of half the stockpile to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which was documented in the Aug. 30 IAEA report. “The most important thing in the (IAEA) report,” Soltanieh said, was “a great percentage of 20-percent enriched uranium already converted to powder for the Tehran Research Reactor.”

That conversion to powder for fuel plates makes the uranium unavailable for reconversion to a form that could be enriched to weapons grade level.

Soltanieh suggested that the Iranian demonstration of the technical capability for such conversion, which apparently took the United States and other P5+1 governments by surprise, has rendered irrelevant the P5+1 demand to ship the entire stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium out of the country.

“This capacity shows that we don’t need fuel from other countries,” said Soltanieh.

Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent in 2010 after the United States made a virtually non-negotiable offer in 2009 to provide fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor in return for Iran’s shipping three-fourths of its low-enriched uranium stockpile out of the country and waiting for two years for the fuel plates.

The P5+1 demand for closure of the Fordow enrichment plant was also apparently based on the premise the facility was built exclusively for 20-percent enrichment. But Iran has officially informed the IAEA that it is for both enrichment to 20 percent and enrichment to 3.5 percent.

The 1,444 centrifuges installed at Fordow between March and August – but not connected to pipes, according to the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security – could be used for either 20-percent enrichment or 3.5-percent enrichment, giving Iran additional leverage in future negotiations.

Soltanieh revealed that two senior IAEA officials had accepted a key Iranian demand in the most recent negotiating session last month on a “structured agreement” on Iranian cooperation on allegations of “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program – only to withdraw the concession at the end of the meeting.

The issue was Iran’s insistence on being given all the documents on which the IAEA bases the allegations of Iranian research related to nuclear weapons which Iran is expected to explain to the IAEA’s satisfaction.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text shows that the IAEA sought to evade any requirement for sharing any such documents by qualifying the commitment with the phrase “where appropriate”.

At the most recent meeting on Aug. 24, however, the IAEA negotiators, Deputy Director General for Safeguards Herman Nackaerts and Assistant Director General for Policy Rafael Grossi, agreed for the first time to a commitment to “deliver the documents related to activities claimed to have been conducted by Iran,” according to Soltanieh.

At the end of the meeting, however, Nackaerts and Grossi “put this language in brackets”, thus leaving it unresolved, Soltanieh said.

Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalls in his 2011 memoirs that he had “constantly pressed the source of the information” on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research – meaning the United States – “to allow us to share copies with Iran”. He writes that he asked how he could “accuse a person without revealing the accusations against him?”

ElBaradei also says Israel gave the IAEA a whole new set of documents in late summer 2009 “purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapons studies until at least 2007.″

Soltanieh confirmed that the other unresolved issue is whether the IAEA investigation will be open-ended or not.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text showed that Iran demanded a discrete list of topics to which the IAEA inquiry would be limited and a requirement that each topic would be considered “concluded” once Iran had answered the questions and delivered the information requested.

But the IAEA insisted on being able to “return” to topics that had been “discussed earlier,” according to the February negotiating text. That position remains unchanged, according to Soltanieh. The Iranian ambassador quoted an IAEA negotiator as asking, “What if next month we receive something else — some additional information?’”

“If the IAEA had its way,” Soltanieh said, “It would be another 10 or 20 years.”

Soltanieh told IPS a meeting between Iran and the IAEA set for mid-October had been agreed before the IAEA Board of Governors earlier this month with Nackaerts and Grossi.

The Iranian ambassador said the IAEA officials had promised him that Director General Yukia Amano would announce the meeting during the Board meeting, but Amano made no such announcement.

Instead, after a meeting with Fereydoun Abbasi, Iran’s Vice President and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Amano only referred to the “readiness of Agency negotiators to meet with Iran in the near future.”

“He didn’t keep the promise,” said Soltanieh, adding that Iran would have to “study in the capital” how to respond.

Soltanieh elaborated on Abassi’s suggestion last week that the sabotage of power to the Fordow facility the night before an IAEA request for a snap inspection of the facility showed the agency could be infiltrated by “terrorists and saboteurs”.

“The objection we have is that the DG (Director General) isn’t protecting confidential information,” said Soltanieh. “When they have information on how many centrifuges are working and how many are not working (in IAEA reports), this is a very serious concern.”

Iran has complained for years about information gathered by IAEA inspectors, including data on personnel in the Iranian nuclear program, being made available to U.S., Israeli and European intelligence agencies.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. [This article was first published by Inter Press Service.]

Canada: Towards a Renewed Labour Movement?

September 27th, 2012 by Prof. Sam Gindin

At the end of the 1970s, just before the era of concessions began, the U.S. section of the United Auto Workers included some 700,000 members at the Big Three (GM, Ford and Chrysler). In each subsequent round of bargaining, the union accepted concessions in exchange for the promise of ‘job security.’ Today, after three decades of this charade – sold by the union as well as the companies – there are 110,000 UAW members left at these companies, a stunning loss of almost 85 per cent of the jobs.

The Canadian section of the union resisted this direction for a time. In fact, it was tensions over the response to concessionary demands that led in 1985 to the Canadians breaking away from their parent and establishing the Canadian Auto Workers. As it turned out, the new union did somewhat better in terms of jobs for a significant period, but today their numbers too are dramatically down: from some 70,000 at the end of the 1970s to under 21,000 today, a fall of some two-thirds.

Since the early 1980s, real productivity in the Canada-U.S. auto industry (i.e. after discounting for inflation) has more than doubled. Real wages, on the other hand, have actually fallen in the U.S. and only increased moderately in Canada.

Worse for New Hires

For new workers, the change is even more shocking. An American autoworker hired at the Big Three today will be working at a lower inflation-adjusted wage than he or she would have gotten a half-century ago. In Canada, the real starting rate will now be 12 per cent below where it was when the Canadians split from the Americans a generation ago. And whereas new workers could expect to reach the top rate in 18 months then, they will now have to wait 10 years.

There are four crucial lessons to be taken from all this.

First, it is simply not credible to argue that concessions are a strategy for autoworkers ‘ultimately’ achieving a better life. Concessions not only increase inequality and dampen demand, leaving corporations reluctant to invest, but also are a diversion from addressing what really needs to be done to create jobs.

Second, the great productive potential of this sector cannot be met if we restrict that potential to making cars. With productivity improvements in the auto industry of 3 per cent per year when long-term demand is growing at less than 2 per cent per year, jobs will inevitably shrink over time – and this is aside from whether we really want or can sustain more cars on the road.

Rather than watching the disappearance of the productive assets we have in this sector, we should be talking about how to convert its flexible tools and equipment, creative engineering capacity and proven worker skills into meeting the obvious needs that environmental pressures will imply through the rest of the century.

Such transformations will have to include not just our energy and transportation systems, but also our factories and offices, the nature of our homes and appliances. This cannot happen, as experience shows, through reliance on markets and unilateral corporate decisions; a sustainable future demands placing some notion of democratic planning back on the agenda. (The technical feasibility of such changes was demonstrated as long ago as World War II when industries were converted to war production and back again in remarkably short periods.)

Renewed Labour Movement?

Third, it is hard to imagine a significant move in this direction without a push from a renewed labour movement. Unions themselves need to radically rethink their structures and role as representatives of working people. It isn’t enough to lament corporate and government attacks or to look to better PR or technical fixes. Two-tier wages for the same work, for example, alienate the very young workers on whom unions depend for their revival, and that lack of solidarity within the workplace destroys credibility in promises of broader solidarities beyond the workplace.

Unions will have to demonstrate in practice that they are leaders in the fight for needed social services, that they have ideas for job creation, and that they are ready to put their organizational resources into winning such directions. The right has radically and aggressively championed an agenda that has brought greater inequality and greater insecurity for working people. Only an equally radical and determined response can reverse this course.

Finally and more generally, we must come to grips with the fact that private investment is not going to lead us out of the immediate economic crisis. Though productivity has grown and costs have been restrained, the resultant hordes of cash – as has been much noted – are only sloshing around in corporate treasuries or in the financial ether. Neither further cuts in interest rates nor tax cuts will change this reality. Only direct government intervention in massive infrastructural spending and the expansion of needed public services will create jobs – and induce the private sector, in spite of itself, to meet the consequent spending. •

Sam Gindin is retired from the CAW, where he served as assistant to the president. He is the co-author with Leo Panitch of the recently released The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of the American Empire (Verso, 2012). This article first appeared in the Toronto Star.

Presidents Asif Ali Zardari and Dmitry Medvedev meeting in Moscow in May 2011

Pakistan-Russia ties are witnessing a fresh start with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expected visit, as quoted by Pakistan media in early October, the first visit by a Russian president to Pakistan. Something considered improbable in the past may soon become a reality as both sides are striving for a new start in bilateral ties.

Although Russian state media has cast doubts on Putin’s visit, yet it is obvious that even if the visit is cancelled another high level official, such as the foreign minister, will visit Pakistan.

The visit, primarily intended for a quadrilateral Afghan conference in Islamabad, would also include a one-on-one meeting with the president of Pakistan.

It is reported by Russian Foreign Ministry officials that both states would also sign multiple MOU’s (Memorandums of Understanding) on development and investment in the steel and energy sectors of Pakistan. President Asif Ali Zardari, while meeting with a high-level Russian delegation to Pakistan in early September headed by the Russian sports minister, expressed his desire for cooperation with Moscow in the aforementioned sectors.[i]

Historically, Russia and Pakistan have never enjoyed prolonged periods of fruitful ties. Even after Pakistan’s inception, Liaqat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister, preferred to visit the USA, even though invited first by the then Soviet government. Relations saw their only major high during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s government, when on his visit, in 1974[ii], the Soviet government agreed to establish the Pakistan Steel Mill at its own expense, coupled with helping in the nuclear energy sector.

It was during the Zia-ul-Haq regime when the Carter administration of the USA, Saudi Arabia and General Zia teamed up with the help of right-wing parties to train the Mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan[iii].

Keeping in context Pakistan’s current political situation, the latest developments hold the utmost importance for the country. Currently, the United States and its allies have increased pressure on Pakistan to force support for Washington’s policy of strengthening its influence in the region, despite the apparent contradiction with the national interests of Pakistan. Along with that, the USA is also losing its influence in the region because of growing anti-US sentiment. That is why increased cooperation on a bilateral basis and within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will help address political and economic issues in Pakistan. This in turn will provide additional opportunities to Islamabad for a more independent foreign policy and lesser economic dependence on the United States and international financial institutions, apparently controlled by the US[iv].

Washington’s current policy and politics in the Afghan war seem to be aimed at diminishing the impact of Islamabad in the country and the peace process, and increasing the role of India in resolving the crisis[v]. Unsurprisingly, officials in Kabul also show an unfriendly attitude towards Pakistan, which is reflected in regular accusations against the Pakistani leadership regarding support of the Haqqani Network and other extremist organizations operating within Pakistan[vi] [vii] [viii].

With the current financial and strategic dependencies, Pakistan can only act as  a mere spectator against US policies and demands. Only by increasing cooperation with China and Russia will a regional approach in addressing the Afghan issue and ensuring stability in the country help Pakistan protect its national interests.

It is obvious that positive ties with Russia would not only give strategic strength to Pakistan but would also provide a good opportunity for overcoming the country’s energy woes coupled with enhancing regional trade and cooperation.

In the context of military cooperation, Air Chief Marshall, Tahir Rafiq Butt, visited Moscow in August, and termed his visit a significant development towards greater cooperation with Russia in the field of defence, particularly in air defence. It was also reported in the beginning of September that the Pakistan Army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, was also scheduled to visit Moscow for a high-level meeting with his Russian counterpart. This visit could be of huge significance as it points towards a major policy shift. A foreign office spokesman in Islamabad, on condition of anonymity, said:

“We have turned a new page in our relationship with Russia. It is a major shift”[ix]

Pakistan is an active member of the world community in combating terrorism and cross-border crime. Taking into account this special significance and the negative publicity it gathers from the world media even after making all its efforts and sacrifices, it would be useful to expand cooperation with the SCO states, especially Russia and China. This cooperation can also be in areas such as prevention and mitigation of natural and technological disasters, emergency management, training and development of local experts – in which Russia has rich experience – in regard to scientific and technical resources coupled with human and financial resources.

The current upturn in ties can be used to develop long-term economic cooperation with Russia. Moscow has expressed interest in participating in the construction of the TAPI (the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India, Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline), CASA-1000 (Central Asia South Asia Regional Energy and Trade) energy project and the Pakistan Steel Mill [x]. In this regard, Islamabad could prepare proposals for Moscow’s participation in the implementation of major infrastructure projects in the country, leading to a positive development in bilateral relations.

Pakistan enjoys a great strategic edge, serving as a bridge and corridor to different regions. This also gives Russia an attractive spot to materialize its strategic depth. Therefore, ongoing developments between Moscow and Islamabad, high-level visits, and Pakistan’s possible role in the SCO, signs for a greater South and East Asian alliance in the form of the SCO, and an axis of a China-Russia-Pakistan-Iran partnership can bring positive omens not only to the region but also to the Asian continent as a whole.

Notes

[i] http://tribune.com.pk/story/434697/bold-move-russia-shows-interest-in-iran-gas-pipeline-project/

[ii] http://orientalreview.org/2011/05/25/warming-ties-with-russia/

[iii] http://www.pakistanchristianpost.com/headlinenewsd.php?hnewsid=3138

[iv] http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/epaper/2011-05/25/content_12576227.htm

[v] http://www.isn.ethz.ch/isn/Security-Watch/Articles/Detail/?lng=en&id=143969

[vi] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/9341684/Afghanistan-blames-Pakistans-intelligence-agency-for-Kabul-suicide-attack.html
[vii] http://tribune.com.pk/story/425065/kabul-blames-foreign-spy-agencies-for-insider-attacks/

[viii] http://tribune.com.pk/story/411902/kabul-blames-pakistan-for-cross-border-shelling/

[ix] http://tribune.com.pk/story/430434/shift-in-policy-army-chief-to-make-historic-moscow-trip/

[x] http://www.lisauk.com/view.php?i=92

Why Qatar wants to invade Syria

September 27th, 2012 by Pepe Escobar

Make no mistake; the Emir of Qatar is on a roll.

What an entrance at the UN General Assembly in New York; Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani called for an Arab coalition of the willing-style invasion of Syria, no less. [1]

In the words of the Emir, “It is better for the Arab countries themselves to interfere out of their national, humanitarian, political and military duties, and to do what is necessary to stop the bloodshed in Syria.” He stressed Arab countries had a “military duty” to invade.

What he means by “Arab countries” is the petromonarchies of the Gulf Counter-Revolution Club (GCC), previously known as Gulf Cooperation Council – with implicit help from Turkey, with which  the GCC has a wide-ranging strategic agreement. Every shisha house in the Middle East knows that Doha, Riyadh and Ankara have been weaponizing/financing/providing logistical help to the various strands of the armed Syrian opposition engaged in regime change.

The Emir even quoted a “similar precedent” for an invasion, when “Arab forces intervened in Lebanon” in the 1970s. By the way, during a great deal of the 1970s the Emir himself was engaged in more mundane interventions, such as letting his hair down alongside other Gulf royals in select Club Med destinations, as this photo attests (he’s the guy on the left).

So is the Emir now preaching an Arab version of the R2P (“responsibility to protect”) doctrine advanced by The Three Graces of Humanitarian Intervention (Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Power)?

This is certainly bound to go down well in Washington – not to mention Ankara and even Paris, considering French president Francois Hollande has just called for UN protection of “liberated zones” in Syria.

As for the Emir’s Lebanon precedent, that’s not exactly uplifting, to say the least. The so-called Arab Deterrent Force of 20,000 soldiers that entered Lebanon to try to contain the civil war overstayed its welcome by no less than seven years, turned into a Syrian military occupation of northern Lebanon, left officially in 1982 and still the civil war kept raging.

Imagine a similar scenario in Syria – on steroids.

A ‘pretty influential guy’

As for the Emir’s humanitarian – not to mention democratic – ardor, it’s enlightening to check out what US President Barack Obama thinks about it. Obama – who defines the Emir as a “pretty influential guy” – seems to imply that even though “he himself is not reforming significantly” and “there’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar”, just because the emirate’s per capita income is humongous, a move towards democracy is not so pressing.

So let’s assume the Emir is not exactly interested in turning Syria into Scandinavia. That opens the way to an inevitable motive – connected to, what else, Pipelineistan.

Vijay Prashad, author of the recent Arab Spring, Libya Winter, is currently writing a series on the Syria Contact Group for Asia Times Online. He got a phone call from an energy expert urging him to investigate “the Qatari ambition to run its pipelines into Europe.” According to this source, “the proposed route would have run through Iraq and Turkey. The former transit country is posing to be a problem. So much easier to go north (Qatar has already promised Jordan free gas).”

Even before Prashad concludes his investigation, it’s clear what Qatar is aiming at; to kill the US$10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, a deal that was clinched even as the Syria uprising was already underway. [2]

Here we see Qatar in direct competition with both Iran (as a producer) and Syria (as a destination), and to a lesser extent, Iraq (as a transit country). It’s useful to remember that Tehran and Baghdad are adamantly against regime change in Damascus.

The gas will come from the same geographical/geological base – South Pars, the largest gas field in the world, shared by Iran and Qatar. The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline – if it’s ever built – would solidify a predominantly Shi’ite axis through an economic, steel umbilical cord.

Qatar, on the other hand, would rather build its pipeline in a non-”Shi’ite crescent” way, with Jordan as a destination; exports would leave from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Gulf of Suez and then to the Mediterranean. That would be the ideal plan B as negotiations with Baghdad become increasingly complicated (plus the fact the route across Iraq and Turkey is much longer).

Washington – and arguably European customers – would be more than pleased with a crucial Pipelineistan gambit bypassing the Islamic Gas Pipeline.

And of course, if there’s regime change in Syria – helped by the Qatari-proposed invasion – things get much easier in Pipelineistan terms. A more than probable Muslim Brotherhood (MB) post-Assad regime would more than welcome a Qatari pipeline. And that would make an extension to Turkey much easier.

Ankara and Washington would win. Ankara because Turkey’s strategic aim is to become the top energy crossroads from the Middle East/Central Asia to Europe (and the Islamic Gas Pipeline bypasses it). Washington because its whole energy strategy in Southwest Asia since the Clinton administration has been to bypass, isolate and hurt Iran by all means necessary. [3]

That wobbly Hashemite throne

All this points to Jordan as an essential pawn in Qatar’s audacious geopolitical/energy power play. Jordan has been invited to be part of the GCC – even though it’s not exactly in the Persian Gulf (who cares? It’s a monarchy).

One of the pillars of Qatar’s foreign policy is unrestricted support for the MB – no matter the latitude. The MB has already conquered the presidency in Egypt. It is strong in Libya. It may become the dominant power if there’s regime change in Syria. That brings us to Qatar’s help to the MB in Jordan.

At the moment, Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy is wobbly – and that’s a transcendental understatement.

There’s a steady influx of Syrian refugees. Compound it with the Palestinian refugees that came in waves during the crucial phases of the Arab-Israeli war, in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Then add a solid contingent of Salafi-jihadis fighting Damascus. Only a few days ago one Abu Usseid was arrested. His uncle was none other than Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the infamous former head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, killed in 2006. Usseid was about to cross the desert from Jordan to Syria.

Amman has been mired in protests since January 2011 – even before the spread of the Arab Spring. King Abdullah, also known as King Playstation, and photogenic Washington/Hollywood darling Queen Rania, have not been spared.

The MB in Jordan is not the only player in the protest wave; unions and social movements are also active. Most protesters are Jordanians – who historically have been in control of all levels of state bureaucracy. But then neo-liberalism reduced them to road kill; Jordan went through a savage privatization drive during the 1990s. The impoverished kingdom now depends on the IMF and extra handouts from the US, the GCC and even the EU.

Parliament is a joke – dominated by tribal affiliation and devotion to the monarchy. Reforms are not even cosmetic. A prime minister was changed in April and most people didn’t even noticed it. In an Arab world classic, the regime fights demands for change by increasing repression.

Into this quagmire steps Qatar. Doha wants King Playstation to embrace Hamas. It was Qatar that promoted the meeting in January between the King and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal – who had been expelled from Jordan in 1999. That left indigenous Jordanians wondering whether the kingdom would be swamped by yet another wave of Palestinian refugees.

Arab media – most of it controlled by the House of Saud – has been drowning in stories and editorials predicting that after the MB ascends to power in Damascus, Amman will be next. Qatar, though, is binding its time. The MB wants Jordan to become a constitutional monarchy; then they will take over politically after an electoral reform that King Abdullah has been fighting against for years.

Now the MB can even count on the support of Bedouin tribes, whose traditional allegiance to the Hashemite throne has never been wobblier. The regime has ignored protests at its own peril. The MB has called for a mass demonstration against the King on October 10. The Hashemite throne is going down, sooner rather than later.

It’s unclear how Obama would react – apart from praying that nothing substantial happens before November 6. As for the Emir of Qatar, he has all the time in the world. So many regimes to fall – and become Muslim Brothers; so many pipelines to build.

Notes:
1. Qatar’s emir calls for Arab-led intervention in Syria, The National, Sep 26, 2012.
2. Syria’s Pipelineistan war, Al Jazeera, Aug 6, 2012.
3. Qatar: Rich and Dangerous, Oilprice.com, Sep 17, 2012.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at [email protected]

Drones: Instruments of State Terror

September 27th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

A new report jointly prepared by Stanford University’s International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (SU) and New York University School of Law’s Global Justice Clinic (NYU) is titled “Living Under Drones.”Part one discusses strikes on rescuers, funerals, and other civilian targets. Part two examines surveillance, the effects of drones overhead, and how their use creates fear and distrust. Part three considers the economic and impoverishment hardships families and communities sustain.

Overall SU/NYU examines key aspects of the CIA’s drone policy. It exposes facts political Washington and media scoundrels suppress.

The dominant narrative claims drone strikes are precise and effective. They involve “targeted killings.” Terrorists are assassinated with “minimal downsides or collateral impacts.” As a result, America is much safer.

“This narrative is false.” It’s a bald-faced lie. Drone strikes are indiscriminate. Mostly noncombatant civilians are killed. The SU/NYU report followed nine months of intensive research.

They included two investigations in Pakistan. Over 130 interviews were conducted with victims, witnesses, and experts.

Thousands of pages of documentation and media reports were reviewed. This report “presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of” America’s drone-strike policy.

Firsthand evidence confirms it. So-called benefits don’t exist. Civilians sustain enormous harm. “Living Under Drones” exposes what official accounts won’t say.

Reevaluating Washington’s drone policy is urgently needed. Civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged. Significant evidence proves they’re commonplace.

US officials claim “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties alone. They lie. Coverup is policy.

At the same time, “it’s difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan.”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) provides best available aggregate public data. Last February, TBIJ published a report titled “Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals,” saying:

Predator drones sanitize killing on the cheap. Currently about one-third of US warplanes are drones. One day perhaps they’ll all be unmanned. Secrecy and accountability aren’t addressed. Aggressive killing is official policy. Little about it gets reported.

Civilian rescue parties, funerals, and weddings are targeted. Evidence disproves Obama saying drone killings are “targeted” and “focused.”

Obama’s a serial liar. Nothing he says is credible. Last winter he claimed drones haven’t “caused a huge number of civilian casualties. They’re targeted, focused at people who are on a list of active terrorists trying to go in and harm Americans.”

BIJ research showed otherwise. Hundreds of civilians are killed, including dozens of children. On the ground investigative work proved it. Eyewitnesses provided damning testimonies. Legal experts condemned Washington’s tactics.

In 2004 or earlier, Bush began drone attacks. Obama continues them relentlessly. Predator drones reign death on civilians regularly. CIA operatives conduct them. Battlefield casualty figures are suppressed.

Administration officials claim covert attacks anywhere in the world are legal. International, constitutional, and US statute laws say otherwise. Chief US counterterrorism advisor John Brennan said:

 ”Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the United States takes the legal position that, in accordance with international law, we have the authority to take action against al-Qaeda and its associated forces.”

“The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qaeda as being restricted solely to”hot” battlefields like Afghanistan.”

International law experts disagree. State-sanctioned extrajudicial killings are lawless. Harvard’s Naz Modirzadeh said:

“Not to mince words here, if it is not in a situation of armed conflict, unless it falls into the very narrow area of imminent threat then it is an extra-judicial execution.”

“We don’t even need to get to the nuance of who’s who, and are people there for rescue or not. Because each death is illegal. Each death is a murder in that case.”

Attorney for the charity Reprieve, Clive Stafford-Smith, said drone strikes targeting rescuers “are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield. It’s not legitimate to attack anyone who is not a combatant.”

Congress never debated or approved them. In the Af/Pak theater, America has about 7,000 drones operating. Another 12,000 stand ready on the the ground. They’re rapidly replacing manned aircraft. US aerospace companies have no ongoing research to develop new ones.

Privately some Pentagon commanders express unease about Obama’s drone policy. They’re extrajudicial. CIA enforces extreme secrecy. It won’t admit their operations exist.

Legal experts say drone killings outside war theaters set a dangerous precedent. Other countries may follow America’s lead. UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns said:

“Our concern is how far does it go? Will the whole world be a theatre of war?”

“Drones, in principle, allow collateral damage to be minimized but because they can be used without danger to a country’s own troops they tend to be used more widely.”

“One doesn’t want to use the term ticking bomb but it’s extremely seductive.”

TBIJ reported harrowing narratives of survivors, witnesses, and family members. It provided detailed information on specific strikes.

SU/NYU said:

“US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.”

“Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning.”

“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.”

“Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior.”

Targeted areas are struck multiple times in quick succession. The practice is called “double tap.” It dissuades bystanders and professionals from helping. One group ordered staff to avoid struck sites for six hours before investigating.

People in targeted areas are on their own to help. What they find is horrifying. Strikes “incinerate” victims. They’re left in unidentifiable pieces. Traditional burials are impossible.

Firoz Ali Khan’s father-in-law’s home was struck. He graphically described what he saw, saying:

“These missiles are very powerful. They destroy human beings.”

“There is nobody left and small pieces left behind. Pieces. Whatever is left is just little pieces of bodies and cloth.”

A doctor who treated drone victims described how “skin is burned so that you can’t tell cattle from humans.” Another family survivor at the same site said his father was killed. “The entire place looked as if it was burned completely, so much so that even (the victims’) own clothes had burnt.”

“All the stones in the vicinity had become black.” Ahmed Jan lost his foot last March. He discussed challenges rescuers face in identifying bodies, saying:

“People were trying to find the body parts. We find the body parts of some people, but sometimes we do not find anything.” It’s incinerated and gone.

Rescuers, community and family members, and humanitarian workers are vulnerable. Parents keep children at home. With good reason, they’re traumatized. Fear grips everyone.

Families who lost loved ones or their homes now struggle to survive.

Official statements about drone killing keeping America safer are false.

At most, only 2% of victims are high-level combatants. Evidence suggests that US strikes facilitate anti-American recruitment. The New York Times said drone attacks replaced Guantanamo as “the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”

The vast majority of Pakistanis consider America the enemy.

Targeted killings also undermine respect for international and US rule of law principles. They’re lawless and unconscionable. Secrecy is official policy. Transparency and accountability are absent.

In light of serious concerns, SU/NYU’s report said Washington must conduct “a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits.”

A “significant rethinking (is) long overdue.” Policy makers can’t ignore civilian harm and counterproductive impacts much longer.

Rule of law principles are fundamental. Violating them encourages others to replicate US practices. US lives become vulnerable. That alone is reason enough to rethink policy. Most important is state-sanctioned murder. Nothing justifies what’s clearly illegal.

Stanford’s James Cavallaro was one of the report’s authors. He said “real people are suffering real harm,” but they’re largely ignored by US officials and in media accounts.

Cavallaro added that the study was intended to challenge official notions of precise targeted killings with little fallout. Investigative work proved otherwise.

CIA officials and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor declined comment. Perhaps they fear anything they say can be used against them. Whatever they say is false.

 

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

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

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

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

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

Drone Warfare: The Brutal Reality

September 27th, 2012 by Julie Lévesque

A new study from Stanford University and New York University shows that the highly spoken of drone warfare, praised by both military and political officials, is pure fantasy:

In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.[1]

This narrative is false. (Stanford/NYU, Living Under Drones.)

U.S. drones have been killing countless innocent civilians in Pakistan and elsewhere. Those killings are rarely acknowledged by the U.S. government, if only to make tasteless jokes. We may recall President Obama making fun of the efficient killing machine two years ago:

“The Jonas Brothers are here; they’re out there somewhere. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you, ‘predator drones.’ You will never see it coming.” (Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner, May 1, 2010. Click on the link to view the video)

Reporting on the study, the The News International (Pakistan} wrote the following:

Just one in fifty victims of the CIA programme of “targeted” drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas are known militants, while between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year – of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children. (The News International (Pakistan), Pakistan. CIA Annihilation From The Air: Drone Warfare’s Invisible Dead, September 26, 2012.)

The Stanford/NYU study states further:

First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.”[2] It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan.

The report concludes that:

  •     US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.
  •     publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best.
  •     current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents.

What we are dealing with is a process of “remote killing” of civilians.

We bring to the attention of our readers a selection of Global Research articles regarding drone warfare.

 

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Living Under Drones, Global Research News, September 26, 2012

 

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Pakistan. CIA Annihilation From The Air: Drone Warfare’s Invisible Dead, Stop NATO, September 26, 2012

 

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GRTV: Living Under Drones: The Brutal Reality of “Targeted Killing”, GRTV, September 26, 2012

 

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ACLU Sues CIA Over Drone Killings, Stephen Lendman, September 23, 2012

 

Spying  on Americans: 64 Drone Bases on US Soil

Spying on Americans: 64 Drone Bases on US Soil, Global Research, September 22, 2012

 

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UN Human Rights Rapporteur Calls on US to End the CIA’s Drone War in Pakistan, Farooq Yousaf, September 19, 2012

 

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Legal action over US Drone Strikes, Drone Wars UK, September 20, 2012

 

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Mapping Drone Proliferation: UAVs in 76 Countries, Drone Wars UK, September 18, 2012

The China Japan Dispute Over Diaoyu Islands: Historical Analysis

September 27th, 2012 by Chandra Muzaffar

Tensions are rising in the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands —- 5 tiny islands and 3 rocks covering a mere 7 square kilometres in the East China Sea. It is unfortunate that this is happening especially when Chinese-Japanese economic ties have reached a new level since the end of last year with the two countries agreeing to use their respective currencies in their bilateral trade, instead of the US dollar.

To de-escalate tensions, Japan should make the first move. It was the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the islands from the Kurihara family on 11 September 2012 that ignited the present crisis. That decision should be rescinded immediately.

In fact, Japan has been upping the ante on Diaoyu — which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands — for some time now. It will be recalled that on 7 September 2010 when a Chinese fishing boat collided accidentally with a Japanese patrol vessel near Diaoyu, the captain and the crew of the Chinese boat were detained by the Japanese Coast Guard for a few days. Though they were all released in the end, the incident revealed a new toughness on the part of the Japanese. The Chinese have been reacting to this and other such incidents.

What explains this new toughness? Some analysts attribute it partly to the growth of the Political Right in Japanese politics. Japanese economic stagnation for more than two decades and China’s success in replacing Japan as the world’s second most important economy have increased the influence of conservative nationalist forces in the country who are now targeting China. Impending elections within the ruling Democratic Party and the forthcoming General Election have also widened the berth for conservative politics.

It is also not a coincidence that the Japanese Right has become more vocal— especially vis-a-vis China— at a time when the United States is seeking to re-assert its presence and its power in the Asia-Pacific region. In the last couple of years, US political and military officials have on a number of occasions underscored the significance of US-Japan security ties. Even on the Diaoyu dispute, the US government, while professing to remain neutral, has through the Pentagon made it clear that the Japan-US Security Treaty would come into force in the event of a military conflict between Japan and China.

This stance has to be viewed in the larger context of the US’s active military alignment with the Philippines in its recent clash with China over the HuangyanIsland in the South China Sea and its support for Vietnam in its longstanding tiff with China over parts of the Spratly Islands and the Paracels. For both Japan and the US there may also be other reasons why the Diaoyu Islands are important. In 1968-9, a United Nations agency, it is reported, had discovered potential oil and gas reserves near Diaoyu. The US military, it is not widely known, also uses one of the five islands — Kuba— as a practice range for aircraft bombing.

Whatever the reasons for holding on to Diaoyu, Japan’s claim to ownership is weak. There are books, reports and maps from the 15th century, during the period of the Ming Dynasty, that establish in no uncertain terms that Diaoyuis Chinese territory. The book Voyage with a Tail Wind and the Record of the Imperial Envoy’s Visit to Ryukyu bear testimony to this. Even writings by Japanese scholars in the late 19th century acknowledged this fact.

The challenge to Chinese ownership of Diaoyu came from Japanese annexation of the Islands in 1894-5 following the first Sino-Japanese War. China under the Ching Dynasty was too weak to fight back and regain lost territory. But annexation through military force does not confer legitimacy upon the act of conquest. This is why when Japan was defeated in the Second World War the victors who included China and the US recognised that Diaoyu was Chinese territory. Both the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Declaration acknowledged this though for administrative purposes Diaoyu was placed under US control as part of its governance over the Ryukyu Islands. The US was then the occupying power in Japan following the latter’s surrender.

However, when China was taken over by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, the US changed its position and began to treat the Islands as part of Japan. The Chinese communist leadership protested vehemently. In 1971, the US Senate returned the Diaoyu Islands, together with Okinawa, to Japan under the Okinawa Reversion Treaty. Again, the Chinese government in Beijing objected, as did the Taiwan government which also regards the Islands as part of China. Since the normalisation of relations between China and Japan in 1972, both sides have agreed to allow their fisher folk to operate in the waters surrounding the Islands without resolving the issue of ownership. Of course, neither China nor Japan has relinquished even an iota of its claim in the last 40 years. Recent incidents have however forced this unresolved issue into the open.

Apart from taking the first step by abrogating its purchase of the Islands, as we have proposed, Japan should also come to terms with undeniable historical, legal and ethical facts. It must accept the irrefutable reality that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China. We realise that there are powerful vested interests that will not allow Japan to embrace this truth. Nonetheless, we should all try to persuade the Japanese government and the Japanese people that it would be in their best interest to do so. Governments in Asia should convey this message to Japanese elites through quiet diplomacy. Citizen groups throughout the continent should speak up in a firm and courteous manner. The media should play its role by laying out the arguments for an amicable resolution of the dispute which respects truth and justice.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Malaysia,

Indeed, with what peace of mind can President Obama sleep when even children get slaughtered in the drone assaults that he now personally approves? Appallingly enough, as part of his drone adventurism he has decreed that everyone within the vicinity of the targeted object be deemed a combatant, even if civilian, and liable to be decimated.

*       *       *

Doesn’t Obama’s conscience gets pricked when the Hellfire missile takes in its killer sweep a child playing with toys in his home or a mother feeding her baby in her compound?

It doubtlessly is a damning report that the researchers of an American universities have delivered on America’s drone adventurism. It succinctly brings out what a horrendous toll it has been exacting on innocent civilian lives and keeping the whole lot of the populace in the targeted areas in constant dread of drones and their fatal assaults.

The psychological impact on people is just terrible, it underlines. But will this report have any impact on the American strategists at all? Not even an outside chance.

At this time these times, civil society worldwide is up in protest against this American adventurism. It wants it to be stopped as this leads inevitably to the killing of civilians indefensibly. For this brutal collateral damage, even the UN human rights community is raising its voice increasingly loudly against the use of drone attacks by the American warlords to take out targets they deem a threat to American lives and assets.

The main plea of the dissenting voices is that the drones may be killing the terrorists, but no less are they mowing down innocent civilians who have nothing to do with terrorism. There indeed are very many voices that do not condone even the killing of terrorists in drone attacks, equating it with extrajudicial murder. They argue that no law, national or international, provides for the killing of a criminal or a suspect. Instead, every effort must be made to arrest them and bring them to justice in a court of law.

Nonetheless, all these pleas have fallen on deaf ears in Washington, so far. The decision makers over there remain unimpressed by the factual reality that these drone assaults are in fact proving counterproductive and creating more recruits for terrorism and extremism. Even as this drone adventurism is palpably giving a tremendous fillip to anti-Americanism worldwide, the American warlords yet stay unswayed. They are keeping up with it. Indeed, since the advent of Barack Obama’s presidency, they have further intensified it, raising a moral question that they must answer.

On what ground can they justify the killing of an innocent civilian even as collateral damage? The 9/11 holocaust was horrible, precisely because those slaughtered were no combatants but innocent civilians. And so has to be the killing of civilians in the drone strikes. Indeed, with what peace of mind can President Obama sleep when even children get slaughtered in the drone assaults that he now personally approves? Appallingly enough, as part of his drone adventurism he has decreed that everyone within the vicinity of the targeted object be deemed a combatant, even if civilian, and liable to be decimated.

The extent of his adventurism’s viciousness can easily be visualised from the destructive range of the Hellfire missile fired by drones. It not only destroys the struck target. It annihilates the compounds and assets in close vicinity and kills the human beings in and around them. Doesn’t Obama’s conscience gets pricked when the Hellfire missile takes in its killer sweep a child playing with toys in his home or a mother feeding her baby in her compound? What sin have they committed to meet such a tragic demise? Or do he and his war commanders think that the child, the mother and the baby should perish as they are not Americans and their lives are not even worth a dime?

Here there is certainly a moral question that is becoming increasingly compelling with each passing day and the American warlords can no longer evade answering it. So prompt they have always been in raising the issue of extrajudicial killings elsewhere in the world. And that promptness they have now to show in their own case. Of course, one could have no sympathy or compassion for those who kill and maim the fellow human beings in suicide bombings and terrorist blasts. But the murder of those having nothing to do with terrorism in the US drone attacks cannot be acceptable either and on no pretext could it be condoned or justified.

Myanmar’s Ethno-Sectarian Clashes: Containing China?

September 27th, 2012 by Nile Bowie

The sectarian violence in Myanmar’s western state of Arakan began in June 2012, and the plight of the persecuted Rohingya ethnic group has since created an international uproar. Displays of solidarity with the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people have been most potent throughout the Islamic world, with a broad spectrum of support ranging from moderate political leaders to extremist groups.

While rights advocacy groups robustly condemn Myanmar’s government for its role in the conflict, evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of violence was attributed to rioting civilians from both the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist community and the ethnic Rohingya Muslim community. The initial violence broke out on May 28th after reports circulated that a Buddhist Rakhine woman was raped and killed by three Muslim men in the town of Ramri. Buddhist communities throughout the state responded by circulating an incendiary pamphlet containing details of the crime. This only served to enflame the already tense situation in Arakan, precipitating a series of events that would draw the attention and condemnation of much of the world.

On June 3rd, a large group of Rakhine villagers in Toungop stopped a bus and brutally killed 10 Muslims on board. In response to this contemptible act of brutality, several thousand Rohingya rioted in the town of Maungdaw on June 8th, destroying Rahkine property and killing an unknown number of predominately Buddhist villagers. These events prompted large-scale, sectarian violence that quickly swept through the Arakan State capital of Sittwe and surrounding localities. Mobs from both communities stormed unsuspecting villages, killing residents and destroying homes, businesses, and places of worship. Given the extreme poverty and sparse government security presence in the region, residents armed themselves with machetes, sticks, sharpened bamboo spears and other basic weapons in order to defend themselves. Vast stretches of homes, businesses, and property from both communities were completely destroyed, leaving thousands of residents displaced.

These events elicited an international outcry, with much of the world showing sympathy for the Rohingya communities who have long suffered systematic discrimination under Myanmar’s military junta that continues today under the newly elected civilian government. During the British colonial occupation, the lack of political borders between Arakan and Bengal (presently referred to as Bangladesh) caused the Muslim population to surge prior to Myanmar’s independence. It is precisely this migration that Burmans interpret to be evidence of the community’s illegal status. [1] Since 1982, a citizenship law passed by the former military government has excluded the Rohingya from citizenship, effectively rendering them stateless. Although records of Rohingya settlements in Arakan date back to the late 7th century, successive governments have asserted that the Rohingya are foreigners with no right to live in Myanmar, a view shared by much of the Arakan population and much of the dominant Burman ethnic group throughout the country.

The communal violence in Arakan has created a refugee crisis for neighboring Bangladesh – a nation of extreme poverty and high rates of population growth – which is not well prepared to cope with an influx of refugees. According to the United Nations Human Rights Agency (UNHCR), Bangladesh is currently host to some 29,000 recognized refugees who are housed in camps and receive international aid, as well as several thousand undocumented Rohingya living in makeshift communities. [2] Additionally, rights advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report on the violence in Arakan state titled, “The Government Could Have Stopped This,” which alleges that Myanmar’s security forces initially stood by without intervening during the early stages of the unrest, before joining in with Rakhine mobs to target Rohingya communities. While it must be noted that the credibility of HRW’’s reports have come under scrutiny even from founder Robert Bernstein, who accuses the organization of using poor research methods and politicizing their testimony, the content published by HRW examining the violence in Arakan gives a general indication of what occurred. [3]

HRW’s report acknowledges the difficulty of verifying credible information and is based on 57 interviews with eyewitnesses and affected individuals, all of whom remain anonymous. Contrary to the popular perception of Rohingyas being victimized by unprovoked violence, the report concedes that members of the Muslim community indeed used brutal tactics of violence:

A 31-year-old Arakan mother of five told Human Rights Watch how a large group of Rohingya entered her village outside Sittwe around June 12 and killed her husband. She said the government had provided no security. “They killed him right there in the village,” she said. “His arm was cut off and his head was nearly cut off. He was 35 years old.” A 40-year-old Arakan man in Sittwe said, “The government didn’t help us. We had no food, no shelter, and no security [when we fled], but we protected ourselves using sticks and knives.” [4]

The report further details how local law enforcement, military personnel, and border patrol officers targeted Rohingya groups in the ensuing riots; a quite plausible scenario. This is followed in the report by hysterical accusations of systematic rape against Rohingyas carried out by security forces, a likely exaggerated claim. In the Libyan conflict 2011, HRW played a vital role in publishing accusations that Muammar Gaddafi’s forces took part in campaigns of mass rape. [5] Advocacy groups later questioned these allegations, leading some to accuse NGOs of knowingly publishing false claims. [6] The dominant theme throughout the report of unrest in Myanmar is the absence of security forces and their general inactivity. HRW also reports the prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment being disseminated by Myanmar’s Buddhist monks:

Some Rohingya in displacement camps told Human Rights Watch that some Burmese soldiers had shown great compassion and gone to the market on their behalf to purchase rice and other necessities, but that their willingness to do so has since stopped. The soldiers’ refusal to informally help Rohingya buy food correlates with a local campaign by Arakan Buddhist monks—the most revered members of local Arakan society—who have distributed pamphlets advocating for separation of the communities and imploring the Arakan people to exclude Muslims in every way. “They are eating our rice and staying near our houses,” the author of one pamphlet told Human Rights Watch. “So we will separate. We need to protect the Arakan people…. We don’t want any connection to the Muslim people at all.” [7]

Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, whose administration instituted the most substantial economic and social reforms in decades, shocked many by telling the United Nations refugee agency that the Rohingya were not welcome, stating, “We will take responsibility for our ethnic people but it is impossible to accept the illegally entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity. We will send them away if any third country would accept them, this is what we are thinking is the solution to the issue.” [8] Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, whose movement has long received diplomatic and financial support from Britain and the United States, has disenchanted many international sympathizers by remaining willfully silent on the issue. It is essential to understand that the immigration policies of the Burman-dominated national political system remain consistent within both the ruling national government and Suu Kyi’s opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), especially when dealing with the issue of the Rohingya:

“The Rohingya are not our citizens.” - Nyan Win, National League for Democracy Spokesperson

“There is no ethnic group named Rohingya in our country.” - Khin Yi, Immigration Minister [9]

Popular Ethno-Sectarian Nationalism & Democracy Promotion

Decades of international isolation under the rule of a paranoid and superstitious military elite have perpetuated the chauvinistic and xenophobic traits of the Theravada Buddhist culture practiced in Myanmar. In attempts to prevent political fragmentation, official mythology has long encouraged a sense of racial and moral superiority among the majority Burman Buddhists – who comprise 60 percent of the population – to the detriment of the nation’s many diverse ethnic and religious minority groups. Built on the foundations of Myanmar’s contemporary culture of national pride and militarism, the former regime perpetuated propaganda warning against multiculturalism, alleging that the health and purity of a uniquely Burman form of Buddhism were at risk from external contamination. Dr. Maung Zarni, an exiled dissident and research fellow at the London School of Economics, writes:

Burmese society as a whole remains illiberal and potently ethno-nationalist. The dominant Burmese worldview continues to rest on an enervating combination of pre-colonial feudalism, religious mysticism, belief in racial purity and statist militarism. This is a potent and poisonous combination. [10]

Zarni also highlights how the politics of Buddhist nationalism greatly restrict Suu Kyi’s options as she pursues reform, especially when dealing with the issue of Rohingya persecution. Zarni writes, “Politically, Aung San Suu Kyi has absolutely nothing to gain from opening her mouth on this, she is no longer a political dissident trying to stick to her principles. She’s a politician and her eyes are fixed on the prize, which is the 2015 majority Buddhist vote.” [11] Since being elected to parliament, Suu Kyi’s focus has been in the realm encouraging foreign investment; it is unlikely that she will use her platform to encourage racial tolerance. As she writes in her 1985 book Burma and India, for the Burman “racial psyche,” Buddhism “represents the perfected philosophy. It therefore follows that there [is] no need to either to develop it further or to consider other philosophies.” [12] Despite the liberal reforms undertaken by the civilian government, popular ethno-nationalist sentiment is pervasive, especially among communities of Buddhist monks.

In Myanmar, the revered status of monks prompted religious leaders to trigger a failed uprising against the former military junta during the 2007 Saffron Revolution, a policy directive funded and supported by the United States and British governments. A report issued in 2006 by Burma Campaign UK entitled “Failing the People of Burma?” offers valuable insight into the “democracy promotion” efforts of Western governments. The report cites a statement issued by the US Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs on October 30, 2003:

“The restoration of democracy in Burma is a priority U.S. policy objective in Southeast Asia. To achieve this objective, the United States has consistently supported democracy activists and their efforts both inside and outside Burma…Addressing these needs requires flexibility and creativity. Despite the challenges that have arisen, United States Embassies Rangoon and Bangkok as well as Consulate General Chiang Mai are fully engaged in pro-democracy efforts. The United States also supports organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Open Society Institute and Internews, working inside and outside the region on a broad range of democracy promotion activities. U.S.-based broadcasters supply news and information to the Burmese people, who lack a free press. U.S. programs also fund scholarships for Burmese who represent the future of Burma. The United States is committed to working for a democratic Burma and will continue to employ a variety of tools to assist democracy activists.” [13]

The US State Department, through the National Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Institute, have financially supported dissident media both within and outside of Myanmar, including the New Era Journal, the Irrawaddy, the Democratic Voice of Burma, Radio Free Asia, the Voice of America, in addition to supporting organizations affiliated with Aung San Suu Kyi. [14] The popularity enjoyed by Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party within Myanmar is largely attributable to her affiliation with networks of Buddhist monks that have championed her cause. In a September 2012 article titled, “Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar,” AFP reported that many of the same monks who took part in 2007’s Saffron Revolution in support of Suu Kyi had now rallied behind President Thein Sein and his position on expelling the Rohingya. [15] Reports describe Wirathu, referred to in popular media as an “activist monk,” who rallied against Rohingyas and long advocated the release of political prisoners.

Ironically, Human Rights Watch reports that Wirathu was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison along with other monks for their role in inciting violent clashes between Buddhists and Muslims. [16] Though he was later granted amnesty and released, his conduct hardly describes that of a “political prisoner.” HRW reports that organizations such as the Young Monks Association received support from Aung San Suu Kyi’s political movement – the same organization now inciting violence, calling for the expulsion of the Rohingya community. [17] In an article entitled, “Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned,” the Independent mentions the Young Monks Association as one of the groups involved in distributing anti-Rohingya propaganda flyers and attempting to block humanitarian aid from reaching Rohingya camps. [18] Ashin Htawara, another prominent exiled dissident and Buddhist monk encouraged Myanmar’s government to send Rohingya people “back to their native land” at an event in London hosted by the anti-Rohingya Burma Democratic Concern. [19] After fleeing Myanmar in 2007 following the Saffron Revolution, he continued to enthusiastically support the NLD, stating, “Aung San Suu Kyi is my special leader.”

In response to his comments toward the Rohingya community, Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, stated: “We were shocked to have [Ashin Htawara] propose to us that there should be what amounts to concentration camps for the Rohingya.” [20] Additionally, prominent democracy activists within the country such as Ko Ko Gyi, a former political prisoner, maintain that “the Rohingya are not a Burmese ethnic group. The root cause of the violence… comes from across the border.” [21] Myanmar’s nascent media freedom has developed in surprising ways, with social media users calling for ethnic cleansing of the kalar, a pejorative term used to demean people with Indian features. Foreign Policy reports of a popular backlash against foreign media outlets such as the BBC, while the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma recently fell victim to cyber attacks for their position on the Rohingya issue. [22]

The Role of Saudi-linked Terror Networks in Arakan

Appalling poverty, state-sponsored discrimination, and an absence of basic education are only some of the attributes that make Arakan state fertile ground for ideological extremism, especially as Rohingya feel pressured to preserve their cultural and religious identity. In his book, “The Talibanization of Southeast Asia” author Bilveer Singh describes how many of the predominantly Sunni Rohingya population population have opted for jihad in resentment following the destruction of their holy sites and removal of citizenship rights in 1982. Singh acknowledges that few Muslims in Myanmar have advocated armed struggle, but notes that groups such as the Bangladesh-based Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), as well as Myanmar’s most prominent political Islamic organization, the Arakan Rohingya National Organization (ARNO), have historically maintained links with foreign organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. [23]

ARNO originated from the Arakan-based Mujahid Party, formed in 1947 with the aim of creating an autonomous Muslim state within the then-Federal Union of Burma. The group changed its name several times before shifting its objective to forming an autonomous state specifically for Rohingya. ARNO, in its contemporary form, is the result of a merger between three groups long marred by disunity and infighting: the Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front, the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, and the Rohingya National Alliance. The UNHCR’s official chronology of Rohingya civilization in Myanmar cites the insurgent activity of Islamic groups from 1991 onwards:

At a secret camp deep in the jungle, run by the RSO [Rohingya Solidarity Organization], young Muslims are training to make war on the Buddhist military government of Burma. The goal of the rebels, calling themselves Mujahideen, is to restore the once independent Muslim homeland of Arakan on Burma’s west coast. It was an independent Muslim kingdom from 1430 to 1784 and now is the only Muslim majority province in Burma. [24]

Upon merging into ARNO, a new Central Committee was formed with Nurul Islam as President. Singh writes of Islam that he “has become a symbol of hope and confidence for the entire Rohingya people.” [25] Confidential diplomatic cables from the American Embassy in Yangon released by Wikileaks in July 2012 cite Myanmarese intelligence documents highlighting ARNO’s connections with al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups, and reveal that ARNO President Nurul Islam had departed to Saudi Arabia and onward to the United States:

ARNO group had an estimated strength of about 200 insurgents, of whom about 170 are equipped with a variety of arms. According to Fayos Ahmed, ARNO Military-in-Charge, Salem Ulah, had contacts with Al-Qaeda and some members of ARNO forces were arrested when they were sent to join the Taliban in Afghanistan and attacked the Americans. These ARNO forces were sent to Afghanistan along with Rohingya groups in Karachi, Pakistan. Rohingya groups are in many countries like Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, UAE, Palestine and Australia. Chairman Nurul Islam has received an American visa and departed for Saudi Arabia from Bangladesh, with an intent to reside in Saudi Arabia for a short period and then depart for the United States. [26]

If the Myanmarese intelligence reports cited by the US Embassy in Yangon were indeed accurate, then it would open the possibility of a foreign component fuelling the recent unrest in Arakan. This assertion makes sense considering the global rise of Saudi-sponsored Salafist movements aligned with US strategic objectives. Existing reports describe how communal violence was carried out with basic weapons, the role of ARNO operatives may have ranged from simply encouraging and inciting an armed response, to using small brigades of fighters to destroy property and commit violence, causing larger mobs to follow suit. Although the lack of technology, media penetration, and general instability in the region at the height of the violence make these accusations very difficult to prove, it is entirely plausible given that Myanmar’s state media has reported the presence of al-Qaeda in Arakan during the unrest. [27] Reports issued by the Associated Press assert that security officials detained and charged three aid workers with “inciting religious hatred and participating in arson attacks,” including 73-year old Kyaw Hla Aung from Netherlands-based AZG, accused of having terrorist links and arrested under Article 505 of Myanmar’s penal code:

“An hour or two before I was arrested, my home was raided. I don’t know by whom. All my papers and documents were scattered outside my house,” he said. “They said I had links to Al Qaeda.” [28]

These reports suggest that Myanmar’s government strongly believes that foreign terror networks have influenced the unrest in Arakan. While many would argue that Myanmar’s government could use the pretext of Islamic extremism to maintain its campaign of political repression, the ongoing persecution of Rohingya, as well as sectarian clashes, open a new strategic risk that could be exploited by foreign and domestic Islamist groups in order to further justify a violent response that would only cause the situation to deteriorate. In Indonesia, several hundred “hard-liners” from organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) threatened to storm the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta at the height of the unrest, but were prevented by security forces. [29] Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan also expressed willingness to wage jihad against Myanmar:

“We warn [the] Pakistani government to halt all relations with [the] Burmese government and close down their embassy in Islamabad otherwise we will not only attack the Burmese interests anywhere but will also attack the Pakistani fellows of Burma one by one… We want to remind our Muslims in Burma that we haven’t forgotten you, we will take revenge of your blood.” Ehsan added: “We appeal to [the] media especially who call themselves representative of Muslims to broadcast the real situation in Burma and what’s happening to Burmese Muslims… Taliban are with the Burmese Muslim brethren.” [30]

The Geopolitical Component: Thwarting Chinese Economic Development

The situation in Myanmar is not merely to be understood on an emotional and ethical level. Rather, it is shaped by significant geopolitical and economic realities. Enormous natural gas deposits valued at several billion dollars have been found in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of Arakan State, where predominantly Chinese companies are mining in partnership with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. [31] Construction has begun on oil and gas transport pipelines from Arakan State to Yunnan Province in China. [32] Sittwe, capital of the Arakan State, is effectively the epicenter of one of China’s most crucial international investments, indispensable for Beijing in its effort to meet the increasing energy demands of its densely populated southwestern provinces. Additionally, ongoing ethnic conflicts in Myanmar correspond directly with large-scale Chinese development projects. Similar to other joint US-Saudi sponsored forms of destabilization; the modus operandi of these external networks has been to exacerbate long-standing ethnic and religious tensions to bring about far-reaching unrest. Political analyst Eric Draitser writes:

This project, a twin oil and gas pipeline, which would traverse Myanmar to link China’s southwestern Yunnan province with the Indian Ocean would, consequently, provide the Chinese land-based access to energy imports from Africa and the Middle East. Because of US naval dominance, not being completely reliant on commercial shipping is an integral aspect of the overall Chinese strategy. The pipeline itself is not the only issue for the Chinese. Sittwe is the site of the major Chinese-funded port, which, aside from being the starting point of the pipeline, is a vital access point to Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Imports such as minerals and other raw materials from Africa as well as oil from the Middle East would be shipped through this port (along with the Pakistani port of Gwadar) for sale on the Chinese market. It is for this reason that Sittwe is of crucial significance to Chinese economic development. Naturally, as Sittwe and the rest of the Rakhine state descends into chaos and the international community clamors for some form of intervention, the port, pipeline and other projects cannot continue as planned. [33]

The development of China’s economy has been accompanied by a dependence upon offshore resources, primarily from reserves in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Angola. For Beijing, energy security is essential to the continued growth of its economy, which, in turn, ensures domestic political stability. 80 percent of China’s oil imports currently pass through the Strait of Malacca, a narrow waterway located between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, linking the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean. [34] The importance of the Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline, consisting of two parallel oil and gas pipelines, is its function as an alternative transport route for crude oil imports from the Middle East to potentially bypass the Strait of Malacca, thus deterring the ability of hostile naval powers to disrupt a vital energy corridor to China. The United States has announced its plans to reposition 60 percent of its navy to the Asia Pacific region by 2020, as cited in the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance report entitled, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” This crucial document highlights Washington’s growing emphasis on containing China’s military buildup in a move to enhance American presence in one of the most economically dynamic parts of the world. [35]

Washington’s endorsement of a strategy designed to contain China is attributable to US foreign policy theoreticians such as Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institution, co-founder of the neoconservative political organization, Project for the New American Century. Kagan’s 1997 article, “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment,” argues that the most effective means of preserving the present international order that “serves the needs of the United States and its allies, which constructed it,” is not to accommodate the peaceful rise of China, but to strengthen American military capabilities in the region and to work towards political change in Beijing:

The changes in the external and internal behavior of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted at least in part from an American strategy that might be called “integration through containment and pressure for change.” Such a strategy needs to be applied to China today. As long as China maintains its present form of government, it cannot be peacefully integrated into the international order. [36]

Kagan describes how China’s leadership interprets Washington’s interests in the Asia-Pacific as a move to “severely limit their own ability to become the region’s hegemon,” namely by countering Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. Reports issued by the United States Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute reflect the adoption of Kagan’s containment methodology. “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power Across the Asian Littoral,” authored by Lieutenant Colonel Christopher J Pehrson, highlights China’s geopolitical interests and economic presence in several regions, which include a container shipping facility in Chittagong, Bangladesh, the construction of a deep water port in Sittwe, Myanmar, in addition to the construction of a navy base in Gwadar, Pakistan, among other locations. Reports issued by the Washington Times confirm that Pehrson’s containment strategy has been employed as policy, reissued in a paper entitled “Energy Futures in Asia,” produced by defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. [37]

It appears that the sectarian violence in Arakan State beginning in June 2012 is the likely result of covert intelligence operations aiming to destabilize western Myanmar to counter China’s vital economic investment in the region. This is in line with Washington’s policy objectives of curbing Beijing’s influence in Southeast Asia. Reforms introduced by President Thein Sein have opened the door to mass foreign investment, the political ascension of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the presence of American NGOs associated with and financially supported by US State Department, including Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Foundations, U.S. Campaign for Burma, and others. [38] While the United States has placed its support behind the National League for Democracy in the person of Suu Kyi, she has in turn exercised her influence to execute political and economic objectives that adhere to US foreign policy.

Suu Kyi and a stable of Western-funded NGOs have successfully used their influence to block the construction of a joint energy project between the Myanmar Ministry of Electric Power, Asia World Company, and the China Power Investment Corporation. The Myitsone Dam project in the northern Myanmar state of Kachin would have been the world’s 15th largest dam, set to be located on the Irrawaddy River in the northern Myanmar state of Kachin. The dam is intended to export a large percentage of its power to China’s Yunnan province, which would be taxed to provide revenue for Myanmar’s government and future development before being turned over fully to Myanmar after a 50-year contract. [39] While groups such as Human Rights Watch use their influence to oppose the construction the Myanmar-China Oil and Gas Pipeline and other projects under the guise of defending human rights, a remarkable lack of criticism is attributed toward Western oil firms operating in the country. [40]

In 2005, a group of villagers in Myanmar filed a lawsuit against Unocal, an oil firm that merged with the American-owned Chevron, and was later obliged to compensate the victims by court order. [41] Western corporations at the time exploited a legal loophole that allowed them to operate in Myanmar in defiance of US-led sanctions because their investments were agreed upon prior to the sanctions being issued. [42] Alongside the French-owned Total, Chevron was accused of collaborating with Myanmar’s military junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), by hiring military personnel to illegally confiscate land. Reports claim that soldiers used tactics of torture and intimidation to force villagers into unpaid labor during the construction of the Yadana Gas Project, a pipeline project that was established to transport natural gas from Myanmar’s Andaman Sea into Thailand. [43] While Beijing’s economic investment projects are sharply criticized by Aung San Suu Kyi, she has invited the very same Western corporations into Myanmar, despite the highly documented misconduct of these companies:

“I have to say that I find that Total is a responsible investor in the country, even though there was a time when we did not think they should be encouraging the military regime by investing in Burma. They were sensitive to human rights and environmental issues and now that we’ve come to a point in time when we would like investors who are sensitive to such issues, I am certainly not going to persuade Chevron or Total to pull out.” [44]

It would appear that the clear preference toward Western companies held by Myanmar’s opposition is maintained in exchange for the continued rhetorical support they receive from the United States and Europe – despite those companies presiding over the very same human rights abuses that Chinese firms are accused of. The political undercurrents of Western support are laid bare as American corporations begin to fully engage in investment opportunities throughout the country. Political analyst F. William Engdahl writes:

The US corporations approaching Burma are handpicked by Washington to introduce the most destructive “free market” reforms that will open Myanmar to instability. The United States will not allow investment in entities owned by Myanmar’s armed forces or its Ministry of Defense. It also is able to place sanctions on “those who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict or participate in military trade with North Korea.” The United States will block businesses or individuals from making transactions with any “specially designated nationals” or businesses that they control — allowing Washington, for example, to stop money from flowing to groups “disrupting the reform process.” It’s the classic “carrot and stick” approach, dangling the carrot of untold riches if Burma opens its economy to US corporations and punishing those who try to resist the takeover of the country’s prize assets. Oil and gas, vital to China, will be a special target of US intervention. [45]

Conclusion

Myanmar faces innumerable challenges in its pursuit of development. They range from combating forms of racism and violence that target Myanmar’s ethnic minorities to the lack of basic infrastructure and civic educational initiatives to maintaining national sovereignty while introducing liberalizing economic reforms. Although Myanmar’s civilian government led by Thein Sein has issued meaningful reforms, many exiles and activists perceive this administration to be a new face on an old and belligerent regime – despite being praised domestically for its position on expelling Rohingyas. As the country approaches its highly anticipated national elections in 2015, a victory for either side will likely not sit well with the other. Given the Western support allotted to Aung San Suu Kyi and her political party, it can be expected that the ruling government – should it win the 2015 elections – would be categorically condemned. Myanmar’s diverse mosaic of politically oppressed ethnic groups put the national government in a sensitive position; continued Western support for their autonomy or independence could give rise to the formation of break-away states, too small to assert their sovereignty at the foot of multinational corporations.

It remains very unlikely that Myanmar will repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law that removed basic rights from the Rohingya and other minorities. However, President Thein Sein has pledged to open schools for Rohingya, insinuating that they would be allowed to remain in the country. [46] Myanmar’s government would benefit by appeasing advocacy groups and lifting restrictions on humanitarian agencies to ensure they can freely move to remote villages in order to deliver necessary medical assistance, with governmental oversight.– Additionally, such agencies could investigate credible allegations of human rights violations and provide legal counsel to those detained in northern Arakan State. Greater focus should be placed on reconciliation talks between ethnic minority groups, although very little likelihood exists that such suggestions would be meaningfully applied given the tense climate of racial prejudice in Myanmar. In his 1934 novel, Burmese Days, author George Orwell writes:

 “To talk, simply to talk! It sounds so little, and how much it is! When you have existed to the brink of middle age in bitter loneliness, among people to whom your true opinion on every subject on earth is blasphemy, the need to talk is the greatest of all needs.”

Notes

[1] The Development of a Muslim Enclave in Arakan (Rakhine) State of Burma (Myanmar), Kanda University of International Studies, 2005

[2] A review of UNHCR’s response to the protracted situation of stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, UNHCR, December 2011

[3] Rights Watchdog, Lost in the Mideast, The New York Times, October 19, 2009

[4] The Government Could Have Stopped This, Human Rights Watch, August 2012

[5] Libya: Transitional Government Should Support Victims, Human Rights Watch, September 19, 2011

[6] Human rights organisations cast doubt on mass rape in Libya, June 24, 2011

[7] The Government Could Have Stopped This, Human Rights Watch, August 2012

[8] Myanmar president says Rohingyas not welcome, Daily News, July 12, 2012

[9] Special Report: Plight of Muslim minority threatens Myanmar Spring, Reuters, June 15, 2012

[10] Popular ‘Buddhist’ racism and the generals’ militarism, Democratic Voice of Burma, September 4, 2012

[11] Suu Kyi’s silence on Rohingya draws rare criticism, Associated Press, August 16, 2012

[12] Aung San Suu Kyi’s Buddhism Problem, Foreign Policy, September 12, 2012

[13] Failing the People of Burma? Burma Campaign UK, 2006

[14] Ibid

[15] Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar, AFP, September 02, 2012

[16] The Resistance of the Monks, Human Rights Watch, September 2009

[17] Ibid

[18] Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned, The Independent, July 25, 2012

[19] Crowd adores Suu Kyi at Nobel address, The New Age, June 16, 2012

[20] Burma’s monks call for Muslim community to be shunned, The Independent, July 25, 2012

[21] Ibid

[22] The Freedom to Hate, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2012

[23] The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, Bilveer Singh, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007

[24] Chronology for Rohingya (Arakanese) in Burma, UNHCR, 2004

[25] The Talibanization of Southeast Asia, Bilveer Singh, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007

[26] Arakan Rohingya National Organization Contacts With Al Qaeda And With Burmese Insurgent Groups On The Thai Border, Wikileaks, July 10, 2012

[27] The Freedom to Hate, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2012

[28] Three Arakan Aid Workers Handed Jail Terms, Democratic Voice of Burma, August 27, 2012

[29] Indonesian Islamic Hard-Liners Vow Jihad for Myanmar’s Rohingyas, The Jakarta Globe, July 13, 2012

[30] Burma’s Rohingya: A New Lightning Rod For Islamic Militants? International Business Times, July 26, 2012

[31] Shwe gas and pipelines projects, Bank Track, August 18, 2012

[32] China takes risky step with Myanmar pipelines, Reuters, February 03, 2012

[33] Towards a New “Humanitarian Front”? Myanmar and the Geopolitics of Empire, Centre for Research on Globalization, June 20, 2012

[34] China’s Energy Consumption and Opportunities for U.S.-China Cooperation To Address the Effects of China’s Energy Use, U.S. Navy War College, June 14, 2007

[35] Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, United States Department of Defense, Janurary 2012

[36] What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment, Carnegie Endowment, Janurary 20, 1997

[37] China builds up strategic sea lanes, The Washington Times, Janurary 17, 2005

[38] US eases Myanmar restrictions for NGOs, AFP, April 17, 2012

[39] Burma: Natural Gas Project Threatens Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, March 24, 2007

[40] Burma dam: Why Myitsone plan is being halted, BBC, September 30, 2011

[41] Killings alleged at Chevron’s Burma pipeline, SFGate, April 29, 2009

[42] Burmese Project Tests Unocal Resolve, The New York Times, May 22, 1997

[43] UNOCAL in Burma, Santa Clara University, November 3, 2005

[44] UPDATE 4-Suu Kyi says Myanmar needs responsible investment, Reuters, June 14, 2012

[45] Obama’s Geopolitical China ‘Pivot’: The Pentagon Targets China, Centre for Research on Globalization, August 24, 2012

[46] Burma’s President Tells VOA He Will Open Schools for Rohingya, Voice of America, August 14, 2012

Additional editing by Eric Draitser of StopImperialism.com

Nile Bowie is a Kuala Lumpur-based American writer and photographer.

 NATO has confirmed that it will be holding major war games in The Mediterranean from September 24 to October 7

“NATO will conduct a major naval exercise code-named Noble Mariner 12 (NOMR12) in the Mediterranean Sea.

NOMR12 plays an important part in the certification process of the NATO Response Force (NRF). This year, the objective is to certify the capacity of France to lead the maritime component of NRF.

… Allied Maritime Command Northwood will oversee both the preparation and conduct of this exercise.
 
Rear Admiral Philippe Coindreau (French Navy), FRMARFOR Commander, will assume command of TF 445.

The successful completion of this exercise will allow FRMARFOR to assume command of the maritime component of the NRF for the whole of 2013.”

These war games involving Britain and France in the Mediterranean coincide chronologically with those conducted under US-NATO auspices in the Persian Gulf, within proximity of Iran’s coastline.

The NATO Task Force (TF) 445 under French Command  will deploy in a so-called “exercise zone”.

The assumption of these war games are a “crisis scenario involving a multi-threat environment”.  They are intended to ” train the staff of participating units in all types of warfare”.

Although no formal announcement has been been made, these war games are intended to put pressure on the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad.

Introduction

This series is aimed at shedding light over contemporary Russian affairs, as I firmly believe that in order to analyze properly current international relations, one must get a strong historical background.

Part 1 will be dedicated to the foundation of the Russian state, and the process, as we will see, began way before 862. Indeed, a political embryo emerged with the state of Gardaríki, centered in Novgorod, which included the areas inhabited by Votes, Veps and Ilmen Slavs. It was set up by the Varangian chief Rurik in 862, marking the traditional beginning of Russian history. [1]

But before the creation of Gardaríki, many nomad tribes settled the land, and their influence over the early Russian state will be further discussed. Then, Rurik’s successor, Oleg of Novgorod founded Kievan Rus’, the first united East Slavic state. [2] Christianity became the official religion of the state in 988, after extended commercial ties with the Bizantine Empire. [3] This crucial event is considered as the beginning of the synthesis between Byzantine and Slavic cultures, which would define Russian culture until the advent of the Empire. [4]

Kievan Rus’ was finally torn apart by the Mongol invasion between 1237 and 1240. In the meantime, regional powers such as Novgorod and Pskov fought to inherit the cultural and political legacy of the former state. However, after the 13th century, Moscow asserted itself as the political center of Russia until tsarism. [5]

The Conquest of the Land by Pre-Slavic inhabitants and Early East Slavs

During Prehistory, the steppes of Southern Russia were home to nomadic tribes, more precisely the Sami people (on the Kola Peninsula), Nenets people (in northern artict Russia) and Chukchis (on the Chukchi Peninsula and in the Bering Sea region). In classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia and the term Scythian, like Cimmerian, was used to refer to a variety of groups from the Black Sea to central Asia and southern Siberia. [6] Archeological evidence of these civilizations were found during the 20th century in places like Arkaim, [7] Sintashta, [8] Ipatovo, [9] and Pazyryk. [10]

The Early East Slavs settled Western Russia by moving from Polotsk towards Novgorod and Rostov, and also by heading to Suzdal from Kiev. [11] From the 6th century heretofore they constituted the majority of Western Russia’s population and gradually assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, such as the Meshchera, [12] the Merya [13] and the Muromians. [14]

Traditionally, the changes which took place in eastern Europe during the 6th century are explained through the demographic expansion of Slavic peoples, who carried with them their language and customs.

But given the extreme diversity of origins among Slavic tribes, there is no consensus regarding the precise location of the Slavic homeland, although a majority of scholars consider the northern Carpathian Mountains as a probable place. [15] The protection of the forest steppe kept most of their culture safe from assimilation. That is true for their languages (except for phonetic) and agricultural techniques. [16]

Basically, when the Hun Empire collapsed, a distinct Eastern Slavic culture emerged and spread to eastern and central Europe. According to Gimburtas : “Neither Bulgars nor Avars colonized the Balkan Peninsula; after storming Thrace, Illyria and Greece they went back to their territory north of the Danube. It was the Slavs who did the colonizing; . . . entire families or even whole tribes infiltrated lands. As an agricultural people, they constantly sought an outlet for the population surplus. Suppressed for over a millennium by foreign rule of Scythians, Sarmatians and Goths, they had been restricted to a small territory; now the barriers were down and they poured out”. [17] Besides, Goffart argued that Slavic expansion has been furthered eased by the relative depopulation of eastern Europe, with significant emigration of Germans, and also by the lack (or ineffectiveness) of state defences in the related territories. [18]

However, this point of view has been contested by Nichols : “Ethnic spreads can involve either the spread of a language to speakers of other languages or the spread of a population. Massive population spread or demographic replacement has probably been a rarity in human history…. There is no reason to assume that the Slavic expansion was a primarily demographic event. Some migration took place, but the parsimonious assumption is the Slavic expansion was primarily a linguistic spread”. [19]

Furthermore, Dolukhanov asserts that the Slavs were able to gain substantial political and military experience thanks to their ties with nomads. That would be the way they emerged as a « dominant force » and established « a new sociopolitical network in the entire area of central and southeastern Europe ». [20]

Yet another concept has been used to explain Slavic expansion : system collapse. According to its proponents, the fall of the Roman Empire on the one hand and the Hun Empire on the other hand enabled some minority groups to take over the land and impose their customs and language. [21]

Moreover, Barford noted that Slavic tribes might have existed in a large area of central-eastern Europe, comprising territories lying between Zarubintsy-Przeworsk and Chernyakov, even prior to the Slavic migrations of the 6th to 9th centuries mentioned above. [22]. Then, Geary pointed out that the Slavic outstrech was an addition of local processes resulting in the assimilation of scores of people. It was carried out by small groups of “soldier-farmers” who shared common traditions and language. This decentralized movement was probably what protected Slavic people and their emerging unity from foreign aggressors. [23]

This opinion is strongly upheld by Poh, stating : “Avars and Bulgars conformed to the rules of the game established by the Romans. They built up a concentration of military power that was paid, in the last resort, from Roman tax revenues. Therefore they paradoxically depended on the functioning of the Byzantine state. The Slavs managed to keep up their agriculture (and a rather efficient kind of agriculture, by the standards of the time), even in times when they took their part in plundering Roman provinces. The booty they won apparently did not (at least initially) create a new military class with the greed for more and a contempt for peasant’s work, as it did with the Germans. Thus the Slavic model proved an attractive alternative . . . which proved practically indestructible. Slav traditions, language, and culture shaped, or at least influenced, innumerable local and regional communities: a surprising similarity that developed without any central institution to promote it. These regional ethnogeneses inspired by Slavic tradition incorporated considerable remnants of Roman or Germanic population ready enough to give up ethnic identities that had lost their cohesion”. [24]

Also important is the fact that in the latter part of the 8th century BC, Greek merchants brought classical civilization to Tanais (a city located in the Don river delta) and Phanagoria (which was the largest Greek colony on the Taman peninsula and was chosen by the kings of Bosporus as their capital in Asia). [25] Then, between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD, the Bosporan Kingdom, which succeeded the Greek colonies, [26] was erased after several invasions carried out by nomad. [27]

Therefore, Greek culture had a significant impact on the initial Slavic culture (it will be discussed later in this article).

Although the study of all those peoples’ culture and history is a major topic from an anthropological point of view, it won’t be further studied here, because their influence on the emerging Russian state has been limited, unlike the one of the Khazars, a Turkic people (not to be confused with the Turkish people, which is just one among many ethnic groups composing the Turkic people). Thereby, this study must begin with an examination of the role held by the Khazars at that time.

Khazaria and Rus’ Khaganate: Early Political Influences of the Russian State

The lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas were ruled by the Khazars, until the 8th century. The political power belonged to the Khagan (i.e emperor) while the army was led by the Khagan Bek. [28] Their political power reached its climax during the European Dark Ages and was critical for the creation of capitalism. [29] Indeed, their strategic and commercial importance between China on one side and the Middle East and Europe on the other gave tremendous riches to most of the Eurasian states of that time. [30]

As a result, Khazars established one of the largest polities of medieval Eurasia, their territory comprising much of present-day European Russia, eastern Ukraine, western Kazakhstan, Azerbaidjan, along with large parts of the northern Caucasus and also parts of the Crimea, Georgia, and northeastern Turkey.

Khazaria (or Khazar Khaganate) was known for its tolerance, cosmolitarianism and fairly developed judicial system. To take just one example, its army incorporated soldiers belonging to each great monotheist religion and even pagans. It was also the main commercial link between the Baltic and the Muslim Abbasid empire centered in Baghdad. [31] As stated before, they were major allies of the Byzantine Empire, [32] and won several wars against the Arab Caliphates. [33]

Another important feature of Khazaria is its jewish faith : it prevented Islam to spread in Europe. [34] According to David Keys, if Arabs had occupied what is now Russia and Ukraine, the Rus’ might never have been able to gain control of southern and eastern territories from the Baltic to establish Russia. [35]

The alliance between Khazaria and the Byzantine empire began to weaken in the early 10th century but the Khazars influenced greatly the Rus’ Khaganate, an early Rus’ polity located in present-day northwestern Russia and Belarus. [36] However, their relations quickly turned hostile as Joseph, the Khazar ruler in the early 960′s, stated : “I have to wage war with them, for if I would give them any chance at all they would lay waste the whole land of the Muslims as far as Baghdad.”. Between 965 and 969, Khazar sovereignty was eventually broken by Kievan Rus’, with the help of the Bizantine empire. The allies achieved their goal by conquering the Khazar fortress of Sarkel, paving the way to a full-scale annihilation of Khazar Khaganate. [37]

Before the Rurik Dynasty and the Kievan Rus’, the Rus’ Khaganate was a congregation of city-states set up by a people called Rus’, who probably came from what is today northern Russia. [38]

The earliest reference related to the Rus’ Khaganate is the Annals of St. Bertin, which mention a group of Norsemen who visited Constantinople in 838. The precise beginning of this polity remains unclear and has been a source of debates as a result. Anymay, Pritsak dates the foundation of the Khaganate to around 830–840, and there are no references mentioning the existence of the Rus’ before the 830′s. [39]

Moreover, the date of the Khaganate’s disintegration has also been contested, partly because the title of Khagan is not mentioned in the Rus’-Byzantine treaties (907, 911, 944), nor in De Ceremoniis, a record of court ceremonials. Therefore, Golden concluded that the Khaganate collapsed at some point between 871 and 922, backed by the fact that ibn Fadlan, in his detailed account of the Rus’ (922), designated their ruler as “king” and not Khagan. [40] Rybakov proved that Kiev was the residence of the Khagan, assuming that Dir and Askold were the only Khagans recorded. [41]

However, a worrisome fact is the failure of archeological expeditions to find coins of that period in the region, which would prove that the Dnieper trade route (which would become the backbone of later Kievan Rus’) was running in the 9th century. [42] As a result, many historians have suggested that the Khaganate must have been located north from Kiev. The first to propose this theory was Bartov. [43]

Besides, the First Novgorod Chronicle mention an uprising in Novgorod before Rurik came to rule the region in the 860′s. This account led Brøndsted to assert that Novgorod was the Khaganate’s capital for several decades prior to the arrival of Rurik. [44]

Then, around the year 860, the Rus’, a group of Vikings lead by Rurik, came from Sweden and began to rule Gardaríki, an area which was comprised of Novgorod, Smolensk, Saint-Petersburg, Tver and Yaroslavl. [45]

The Khazar connection to early Rus’ rulers is supported by the use of a Khazarian seal by Rus’ leaders like Sviatoslav I of Kiev. [46] Consequently, Golden asserts that the Rus’ Khaganate was a puppet state set up by the Khazars in the area of the Oka River to fight off the recurring attacks of the Magyars. [47]

On the contrary, Novoseltsev argues that the adoption of the title “Khagan” was designed to promote the Rus’ claims to the equality with the Khazars. This theory is shared by Noonan, who points out how politically scattered was the emerging Rus’ Khaganate. Therefore, the adoption of the title “Khagan” was aimed at giving legitimacy to the Rus’ leader in the eyes of his subjects and neighboring states. [48]

Anyway, the power in the Rus’ Khaganate was shared by two officials, just like in Khazaria: the Rus’ Khaganate was assisted by a deputy whose main task was to command the army.

Regarding the economy, trade was the main source of income for the Rus’, who according to ibn Rustah did not engage in agriculture: “They have no cultivated fields but depend for their supplies on what they can obtain from as-Saqaliba’s [Slavs] land. They have no estates, villages, or fields; their only business is to trade in sable, squirrel, and other furs, and the money they take in these transactions they stow in their belts.”. [49]. Rus’ merchants travelled down the Volga, paying duties to the Khazars and travelled as far as Baghdad. [50]

According to Vernadsky, the Greeks and the Khazars erected Sarkel between the Volga and the Don River to defend this strategic point from the Rus’. [51] Other scholars, such as Franklin and Shepard, believe that Sarkel was aimed at repelling (or at least monitoring) the Magyars and other steppe tribes, but not the Rus’. [52]

In 860, the Byzantine army was busy waging war against the Abbasid Caliphate, which enabled the Rus’ to besiege Constantinople. [53]

However, in the early10th century relations between the Khazars and the Rus’ began to sour, while Photius informed other Orthodox bishops about the Christianization of the Rus’, which led to the complete destruction of all the centres of the Khaganate in North-Western Russia. Braichevsky labelled it as a “pagan reaction” against the Christianization of the Rus’. [54]

Soon after, between 880′s and 890′s the Volga trade route ceased functioning, precipitating “the first silver crisis in Europe”. As we might expect, a period of economic depression and political upheaval followed this crisis, but the recovery occurred quite quickly, at the beginning of the 900′s. The arrival of Rurik’s viking crew was probably influencial in the process, because he decided to shift the trade route from the Volga to the Dnieper. [55] Consequently, Kiev developed into an important urban centre and Kievan Rus’ replaced the Rus’ Khaganate when Rurik decided to move the capital from Novgorod to Kiev after having thrown out the Khazars. [56]

Kievan Rus’ and the Republic of Novgorod: the Particularity of the Russian Middle-Age

In 880, the Kievan Rus’ was officially founded by Prince Oleg, who subordinated the various Eastern Slavic and Finnic tribes. By 884 he managed to subjugate the Polians, Vyatichs, Drevlians, Radimichs and Severians. In 907, Oleg led an attack against Constantinople leaving Igor, son of Rurik in Kiev.

Through a treaty, Oleg managed to impose a bribe upon Greeks, then in 911 he signed a commercial treaty with the Byzantine Empire as an equal partner. In 912, the Drevlians took advantage of the death of Oleg to momentarily break away but were conquered back by Igor.

The new Kievan state prospered because it controlled the three major trade routes of Eastern Europe: the Volga trade route from the Baltic Sea to the Orient, the Dnieper trade route from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, and the trade route from the Khazars to the Germans. They grew also through the trade of furs and honey.

Following the death of Igor in 945, his wife Olga ruled as regent in Kiev until their son Sviatoslav reached maturity, in 963. His reign was marked by a fast expansion through the invasion of the Balkans and the conquest of the Khazars of the Pontic steppe. At the end of his life, Sviatoslav was in charge of the largest state in Europe, eventually moving his capital from Kiev to Pereyaslavets in 969, but his conquests, for the most part, were not consolidated into an empire due to fratricidal quarrels among his sons. [57]

In the mid 11th century, the state reached its maximal power as its territory extended east to the Volga, west to the Kingdom of Poland and to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and south to the Black Sea.

Junior members of the dynasty usually began their career as rulers of a minor province, then progressed to more important principalities and finally competed for the throne of Kiev. Officials and soldiers received income and land from the princes in return for their political and military services. Merchants and artisans sometimes exercised political influence through a city assembly, the veche (council), which included all the adult males in the population. A class of tribute-paying peasants, who owed labor duty to the princes existed but there was not a widespread serfdom system, which was a major feature of medieval Western Europe. [58]

The reigns of Vladimir the Great (980–1015) and his son Yaroslav I the Wise (1019–1054) are regarded as the “Golden Age” of Kiev, which saw the introduction of Christianity (988) and the creation of the first East Slavic written legal code, the Russkaya Pravda, which means literally “Justice of Rus’ “.

Capital punishment in Kievan Rus’ was rare compared to feudal Western Europe, as the Pravda favored fines as punishment. [59] Besides, some rights were accorded to women, such as property and inheritance rights. Therefore, the Kievan judicial system was particularly modern compared to the standards of that time. [60]

 

The christianization was decided because Vladimir’s emissaries in Constantinople were amazed by the beauty of the cathedral of Hagia Sophia and its liturgical service. Vladimir’s choice of Eastern Christianity was made official by his wedding with Princess Anna, the sister of the Byzantine emperor, Basil II. [61]

Besides, this choice was probably heavily influenced by Vladimir’s personal ties with Constantinople, which dominated the Black Sea and more particularly the Dnieper River, which was Kievan Rus’ main commercial route. Therefore, joining the Eastern Church had tremendous political and commercial consequences.

In the meantime, the conversion to Christianity of the Eastern Slavs introduced them to science, Greek philosophy and history, without learning Greek as Hagia Sophia’s liturgy was available in cyrillic. [62]

As a result of their independence from the Roman authority, the East Slavs developed their own literature and arts, which are pretty different from those of other Eastern Orthodox countries. [63] Literacy was high in Kiev, Novgorod and other large cities, compared to European standards of that time. [64]

A son of Vladimir the Great, Yaroslav was vice-regent of Novgorod when his father died in 1015. In 1019, he defeated his brother Svyatopolk with the help of Novgorodians and Viking mercenaries, as Svyatopolk killed three of his other brothers to seize power in Kiev. [65] Yaroslav looked forward to improving relations with the rest of Europe, especially the Byzantine Empire, which was also a concern for his father. He further expanded his power through arranged marriages for his sister and three daughters to the kings of France, Norway, Poland and Hungary. Yaroslav’s major achievements is the enactment of the Russkaya Pravda, while the construction of Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod used to demonstrate his power to the neighboring states. [66]

The state declined in the late 11th, following the death of Yaroslav, and imploded in the 12th century to leave the land unruled because of the emergence of several regional powers due to this collapse.

A major cause has been the nature of the political system itself: the power was transferred not from father to son, but to the eldest member of the ruling dynasty. Of course it entailed rivalry and hatred within the royal family. Three of Yaroslav’s sons fought each other after their defeat at the Battle of the Alta River against the Cumans (1068) while an unrest took place in Kiev, bringing to power Vseslav of Polotsk.

In 1097, Vladimir II Monomakh organized the first federal council of Kievan Rus in Liubech , in order to reach an agreement among the various fighting sides. The last ruler to maintain a relative unity within the state was Mstislav the Great. After his death in 1132, the Kievan Rus fell into decline and his successor struggled with the growing power of the Novgorod Republic. [67] Then in 1169, Bogolyubsky of Vladimir-Suzdal’ destroyed Kiev and by the end of the 12th century the Kievan state became even further fragmented. [68]

After this, the state was further weakened by the collapse of Rus’ commercial ties to Constantinople due to the Crusades, which made the Dnieper a marginal as a result of the destruction of Constantinople by the christians. More precisely, the trade route between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea was the backbone of Kiev’s economy as it served as the main trade route between the Varangians and the Greeks, and the Black Sea was controlled by Constantinople at that time. Thereby, once the Byzantine Empire collapsed, trade on this route plummeted and Kiev lost its appeal as a result. [69]

In the north, the Republic of Novgorod prospered as part of the Hanseatic League, the first international trading confederation in history. [70] The city’s oligarchy controlled trade routes from the River Volga to the Baltic Sea and as Kievan Rus’ declined, it became more independent (but continued to be part of Kievan Rus’).

An interesting feature in the development of Novgorod is that although it was ruled by a local oligarchy, a republican government existed there because major political decisions had to be made by a town assembly, which also elected a prince as the city’s military leader. It is possible that there was also a kind of “Council of Lords” that was headed by the archbishop but its actual power remains unclear today and he was elected by Novgorodians anyway. Its economy was mainly based on salt and furs, with the lands located north of the city being critical in that regard. Indeed, they supplied most of the above mentioned items and Novgorod had to defend them against Moscow in the late 14th century. The victory of Moscow brought about the decline of Novgorod and boosted Moscow’s development until it became the heart of Russia. [71]

In the northeast, Slavs from the Kievan area colonized the territory that would become the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Rostov, which was the oldest centre of this region has been overtaken first by Suzdal and then by the city of Vladimir, which became the capital of Vladimir-Suzdal’, a principality which would assert itself as a major power in Kievan Rus’ in the late 12th century.

Indeed, Bogolyubskiy, the prince of Vladimir-Suzdal destroyed Kiev in 1169, which resulted in the rise of Vladimir-Suzdal as the main principality succeeding Kievan Rus’. [72]

From the Vladimir-Suzdal Principality to the Grand Duchy of Moscow

The principality progressively grew into a grand duchy which was divided into several smaller principalities. After the Mongol invasion, it became a self-governed state ruled by its own nobility. The principality was bounded by the Volga, Northern Dvina and Oka Rivers.

In 1238, the Mongols set fire to the city of Vladimir, along with other cities in northern Russia. [73]

They conquered gradually most of the Russian principalities, with the notable exception of Novgorod.

The princes of eastern and southern Russia had to pay tribute to the Mongols of the Golden Horde, commonly called Tatars. [74]

As a result, old cultural centers such as Kiev and Vladimir never recovered from the devastation of the attack, while Moscow (an insignificant trade city back then), Novgorod (still prospering thanks to the Hanseatic League) and Tver began to compete in order to take control of the mongol-dominated land. [75] Mongol domination continued until 1480 and entailed the division of the East Slavic people into three separate nations (modern day Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus). [76]

A major cause of the rise of Moscow was that in 1327 the prince of Tver joined a rebellion against the Mongols while prince Ivan I of Moscow allied with the Mongols to crush Tver and to devastate its lands.

By doing so he got rid of his rival, allowed the Russian Orthodox Church to move its headquarters to Moscow, and was granted the title of Grand prince by the Mongols.

As a result, the Muscovite princes became the main intermediaries between the Mongol chiefs and the Rus’ principalities. To reward them of their docility, the Mongols didn’t raid Moscow-controlled lands, which attracted nobles who sought to settle in these relatively secure lands. [77]

The influence of the Mongols on the Russian nobility was so deep that a survey of Russian noble families of the 17th century established that over 15% of the Russian noble families had Tatar or Oriental origins. [78]. Therefore, historians generally consider that without the Mongol destruction of Kievan Rus’, Moscow, and subsequently the Russian Empire, would not have risen. Meanwhile, the isolation from the West may have caused Russia’s later non-involvement in the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation, both critical in the emergence of capitalism. [79]

The judicial system has also been heavily influenced by the mongol presence, as capital punishment and the use of torture became widespread, while during Kievan Rus’ it had “only” been applied to slaves.

However, penal law in western Europe at the same time was even harsher than mongol law. [80]

On the other hand, the Russian fiscal system, transportation, military tactics and census were developed under the Mongol domination. [81]

In a nutshell, Moscow’s leadership expanded through war, purchase and marriage.

Indeed, the first ruler of the principality of Moscow, Daniel I, son of Alexander Nevsky of Vladimir-Suzdal, expanded his principality by seizing Kolomna, while his son Yuriy would take over Mozhaisk, ally with Uzbeg Khan of the Golden Horde, marry the Khan’s sister and gain the title of Duke of Vladimir-Suzdal as a result. It was this special position within occupied Rus’ which enabled the Muscovite nobility to interfere into the affairs of the powerful Republic of Novgorod.

Then, Yuriy’s successor, Ivan I managed to keep the title of Grand Duke by cooperating closely with the Mongols, more precisely by collecting taxes from other Rus’ principalities on their behalf.

Ivan’s successors continued to gather the lands of Rus’ to increase the population and wealth under their rule. After this, Dmitri of Moscow managed to unite the principalities of Rus’ in his struggle against the Horde and became a national hero, although his attempt didn’t work in the short term.

Vasily I continued the policies of his father and desisted from paying tribute to the Khan. Married to the only daughter of Vytautas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vasily attempted to avoid open conflicts with him, even when the former annexed Smolensk. His long reign was marked by the expansion to the east (annexation of Suzdal in 1392) and to the north (annexation of Veliky Ustyug, Vologda and Perm of Vychegda in 1398). [82]

Another reason explaining the expansion of the Grand Duchy of Moscow was its favorable dynastic situation, when each sovereign was succeeded by his son, contrary to rival principalities, which experienced many strifes within their own dynasties.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, expansion of the Grand Duchy of Moscow went along with internal consolidation. Indeed, the state was successful in destroying and annexing Novgorod in 1478 and the Grand Duchy of Tver (allied with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) in 1485, thereby getting rid of direct political competitors.

Indeed, Ivan III, during his 43 year reign over the Grand Duchy of Moscow, further strengthened the state (after defeating the declining Golden Horde) partly by seizing the lands of his brothers, campaigned against his remaining rival power, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and, by 1503, he had tripled the territory of his principality. He adopted the title of Tsar and claimed the title of “Ruler of all Rus’”, while his marriage to the niece of the last Byzantine emperor asserted Moscow as the “Third Rome”, the successor state of the Roman Empire.

He competed with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for control over some of the former principalities of Kievan Rus’ in the upper Dnieper and Donets river basins. It was also under Ivan III that the new Russian Sudebnik, or law code, was compiled by the scribe Vladimir Gusev. [83]

The reign of the Tsars started officially with Ivan the Terrible, but in practice it started with Ivan III, who completed the centralization of the state, traditionally known as the gathering of the Russian lands.

The Moscow princes combined customs and ceremonies inherited from Kievan Rus’ with those imported from the Byzantine Empire and the Golden Horde. During the times of dynastic troubles, like during part of the reign of Ivan IV, boyards (i.e the most senior aristocrats) constituted an internal force which was a permanent threat to the throne. During such conflicts, Muscovite monarchs felt the necessity to counterbalance the the power of the boyards by creating a new kind of nobility, based on personal devotion to the Tsar, rather than by heredity. [84]

To conclude, the Grand Duchy of Moscow drew people and wealth to the northeastern part of Kievan Rus’; established trade links to the Baltic Sea, Siberia and the Caspian Sea. It created a highly centralized political system, whose traditions would exert a powerful influence on the future development of the Russian society. [85]

This part had the ambitious aim to sum up more than ten centuries of history. At the end of it, I hope readers can remind of a handful of key ideas:

  • From the dawn of humanity, the Russian civilization has been a multicultural one
  • Extended political and commercial ties with central asian and middle-eastern states existed as soon as the 9th century. This is an interesting fact to be aware of if one is to understand today’s geopolitical relations between Russia and its Arab partners …
  • The history of Kievan Rus’ and the Republic of Novgorod offers striking evidences against the western belief that the Russian people has always been more violent and less educated that their western counterparts, as the exact opposite is true regarding this period of time (not to mention the consequences of the destruction of Constantinople by the Crusaders …)
  • Novgorod and other merchant cities prospered without joining the initial capitalist movement, meaning trade is possible and suitable if it does not imply the impoverishment of weaker commercial partners and workers
  • The Grand Duchy of Moscow was an authoritarian political system which paved the way to its successors in that regard. Nevertheless, the context should not be forgotten: the Mongol domination has been critical in the emergence of such a hard line regime. Wars of independence are rarely followed by progressive governments …

Part 2 of this series will deal with Tsarism and the Russian empire, in order to explain how Russia eventually became a major power.

Notes :

[1] Wladyslaw Duczko,Viking Rus: Studies on the Presence of Scandinavians in Eastern Europe, Brill Academic Pub, 2004

 

[2] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/317574/Kievan-Rus

[3] Glenn E. Curtis, ed, “ Kievan Rus’ and Mongol Periods” , excerpted from Russia: A Country Study, Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, 1996

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Kristian Kristiansen, Europe Before History. Cambridge University Press. 2000

[7] Ludmila Koryakova, “ Sintashta-Arkaim Culture ”, lectured at the University of California, Berkeley, 1998. Excerpt made available by The Center for the Study of the Eurasian Nomads (CSEN)

[8] Robert Drews, Early Riders: The beginnings of mounted warfare in Asia and Europe, Routledge, 2004

[9] Andrej Belinskij and Heinrich Härke, “ The ‘Princess’ of Ipatovo ”, Archeology, vol. 52, 1999

[10] Robert Drews, op. cit.

[11] David Christian, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Blackwell Publishing, 1998

[12] Aleksandr L. Mongaĭt, Archeology in the U.S.S.R., Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1959

[13] Henry K Paszkiewicz, The Making of the Russian Nation, Greenwood Pub Group, 1977

[14] Rosamond McKitterick, The New Cambridge Medieval History, Cambridge University Press, 1995

[15] Florin Curta, The Making of the Slavs: History and Archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, Cambridge University Press, 2007

[16] Paul R. Magocsi, A History of Ukraine, University of Toronto Press, 1996

[17] Marija Gimburtas, The Slavs, Praeger, 1971

[18] Walter Goffart, ” Does the Distant Past Impinge on the Invasion Age Germans? ” in Andrew Gillett, ed., On Barbarian Identity. Critical Approaches to Ethnicity in the Early Middle Ages, Brepols, 2002

[19] Nicholas V. Riasanovsky (quoting Johanna Nichols), Russian Identities: A Historical Survey, Oxford University Press, 2005

[20] Pavel M. Dolukhanov, The Early Slavs: Eastern Europe from the Initial Settlement to the Kievan Rus, Longman Pub Group, 1996

[21] Colin Renfrew, Archaeology and Language: The Puzzle of Indo-European Origins, Cambridge University Press, 1990

[22] Paul M. Barford, The Early Slavs : Culture and Society in Early Medieval Eastern Europe, Cornell University Press, 2001

[23] Patrick J. Geary, Myth of Nations. The Medieval Origins of Europe, Princeton University Press, 2003

[24] Walter Pohl, ” A Non-Roman Empire in Central Europe: the Avars “, in Hans-Werner Goetz, Jorg Jarnut and Walter Pohl, Regna and Gentes: The Relationship Between Late Antique and Early Medieval peoples and Kingdoms in the Transformation of the Roman World, Brill Academic Pub, 2003

[25] Esther Jacobson, The Art of the Scythians: The Interpenetration of Cultures at the Edge of the Hellenic World, Brill, 1995

[26] Gocha R. Tsetskhladze, Greek Colonisation: An Account Of Greek Colonies and Other Settlements Overseas: Volume 1, Brill, 2006

[27] Peter Turchin, Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall, Princeton University Press, 2003

[28] David Christian, op. cit.

[29] Samuel A. M. Adshead, Material Culture in Europe and China, 1400-1800: The Rise of Consumerism, Palgrave Macmillan, 1997

[30] Samuel A. M. Adshead, Central Asia in World History, Palgrave MD, 1993

[31] André Wink, Al-Hind, the Making of an Indo-Islamic World, Brill, 2004

[32] András Róna-Tas, Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History, Central European University Press, 1999

[33] David Christian, op. cit.

[34] Daniel H. Frank and Oliver Leaman, History of Jewish Philosophy, Routledge, 1997

[35] David Keys, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of Modern Civilization, Ballantine Books, 2000

[36] András Róna-Tas, op. cit.

[37] Norman Golb and Omeljan Pritsak, Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century. Cornell University Press, 1982

[38] Janet Nelson, ed., The Annals of St-Bertin, Manchester University Press, 1991

[39] Omeljan Pritsak, The Origin of Rus’, Vol 1: Old Scandanavian Sources Other than the Sagas, Ukrainian Research Institute of Harvard University, 1982

[40] Peter B. Golden, Central Asia in World History, Oxford University Press, 2011

[41] Boris A. Rybakov, Early centuries of Russian history, Progress Publishers, 1965

[42] Thomas S. Noonan, The Islamic World, Russia and the Vikings, 750-900: The Numismatic Evidence, Variorum, 1998

[43] David Christian, op. cit.

[44] Johannes Brondsted, The Vikings, Penguin Books, 1983

[45] F. Donald Logan, The Vikings in History, Routledge, 2005, 3rd edition

[46] Florin Curta, East Central and Eastern Europe in the Early Middle Ages, University of Michigan Press, 2005

[47] Peter B. Golden, op. cit.

[48] Thomas S. Noonan, op. cit.

[49] Johannes Brondsted, op. cit.

[50] Kate Fleet, Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas and Everett Rowson, éd., Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brill Academic Pub, 2010

[51] George Vernadsky, A History of Russia, Yale University Press, 1961

[52] Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard, The Emergence of Rus: 750-1200, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1996

[53] Ibid.

[54] Serhii Plokhy, The Origins of the Slavic Nations: Premodern Identities in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, Cambridge University Press, 2010

[55] Thomas S. Noonan, op. cit.

[56] Franklin and Shepard, op.cit.

[57] Orland Figes, Robin Milner-Gulland and Lindsey A. Hughes, éd., The Russian Chronicles: A Thousand Years That Changed the World, Thunder Bay Press, 2001

[58] Ibid

[59] Paul R. Magocsi, op. cit.

[60] Janet Martin, Medieval Russia: 980-1584, Cambridge University Press, 2008

[61] Ibid.

[62] Simon Franklin, “ Greek in Kievan Rus’ ” in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Dumbarton Oaks, 1992

[63] Simon Franklin, Writing, Society and Culture in Early Rus, Cambridge University Press, 2002

[64] Ibid.

[65] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/652106/Yaroslav-I

[66] Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard, op. cit.

[67] http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/Kievan.html

[68] Nancy S. Kollmann, “ Collateral Succession in Kievan Rus’ ”, Harvard Ukrainian Studies, Vol. 14, 1990

[69] Serhii Plokhy, op. cit.

[70] Edwin S. Hunt and James Murray, A History of Business in Medieval Europe: 1200-1550, Cambridge University Press, 1999

[71] Nevill Forbes, Robert Michell, A A Shakhmaton and Charles R. Beazley, The Chronicle of Novgorod: 1016-1471, BiblioBazaar, 2009

[72] Walter G. Moss, A History of Russia, Vol. 1: To 1917, Anthem Press, 2003

[73] Janet Martin, op. cit.

[74] http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=aa76

[75] Sigfried J. De Laet, History of Humanity: Scientific and Cultural Development, Taylor & Francis, 2005

[76] Boris A. Rybakov, op. cit.

[77] Richard Pipes, Russia under the Old Regime, Penguin Books, revised edition, 1997

[78] George Vernadsky, op. cit.

[79] Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010

[80] George Vernadsky, op. cit.

[81] Glenn E. Curtis, “Muscovy”, op. cit.

[82] Richard Pipes, op. cit.

[83] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/298142/Ivan-III

[84] Glenn E. Curtis, “Muscovy”, op. cit.

[85] Walter G. Moss, op. cit.

Julien Paolantoni earned a BSc of Economics & Management from the University of Bordeaux, France and enrolled in the MSc of Political Science still at the same university. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

 

 

Dollar Hegemony in the Empire of the Damned

September 26th, 2012 by Colin Todhunter

Many commentators and economists wonder if the US is able to turn its ailing economy around. The reality is that it is bankrupt. However, as long as the dollar remains the world currency, the US can continue to pay its bills by simply printing more money. But once the world no longer accepts the dollar as world reserve currency, the US will no longer be able to continue to pay its way or to fund its wars by relying on what would then be a relatively valueless paper currency.

And the US realises this. Today, more than 60 per cent of all foreign currency reserves in the world are in US dollars, and the US will attempt to prevent countries moving off the dollar by any means possible. It seems compelled to do this simply because its economic infrastructure seems too weak and US corporate cartels will do anything to prevent policies that eat into their profits or serve to curtail political influence. They serve their own interests, not any notional ‘national interest’.

Pail Graig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, notes that much of the most productive part of the US economy has been moved offshore in order to increase corporate profits. By doing so, the US has lost critical supply chains, industrial infrastructure, and the knowledge of skilled workers. According to Roberts, the US could bring its corporations back to America by taxing their profits abroad and could also resort to protective tariffs, but such moves would be contrary to the material interests of the ruling oligarchy of private interests, which hold so much sway over US politics.

So, with no solution to the crisis in site, the US is compelled to expand its predatory capitalism into foreign markets such as India and to wage imperialist wars to maintain global allegiance to the dollar and US hegemony. And this is exactly what we are seeing today as the US strategy for global supremacy is played out.

Over the past two decades, the US has extended its influence throughout Eastern Europe, many of the former Soviet states in central Asia and, among other places, in the former Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan. But with each passing year and each new conflict, the US has been drawing closer and closer to direct confrontation with Russia and China, particularly as it enters their backyards in Asia and as China continues to emerge as a serious global power.

Both countries are holding firm over Syria. Syria plays host to Russia’s only naval base outside of the former USSR, and Russia and China know that if the US and its proxies topple the Assad government, Tehran becomes a much easier proposition. Ideally, the US would like to install compliant regimes in Moscow and Beijing and exploiting political and ethnic divisions in the border regions of Russia and China would be that much easier if Iran fell to US interests.

A global US strategy is already in force to undermine China’s growth and influence, part of which was the main reason for setting up AFRICOM: US Africa Command with responsibility for military operations and relations across Africa. But China is not without influence, and its actions are serving to weaken the hegemony of the US dollar, thereby striking at a key nerve of US power.

China has been implementing bilateral trade agreements with a number of countries, whereby trade is no longer conducted in dollars, but in local currencies. Over the past few years,China and other emerging powers such as Russia have been making agreements to move away from the US dollar in international trade. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China,South Africa) also plan to start using their own currencies when trading with each other. Russia and China have been using their own national currencies when trading with eachother for more than a year.

A report from Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank, recently stated:

“We expect at least $100 billion (about R768 billion) in Sino-African trade – more than the total bilateral trade between China and Africa in 2010 – to be settled in the renminbi by 2015.”

Under Saddam, Iraq was not using the dollar as the base currency for oil transactions, neither is Iran right now. Even Libya’s Muammar Gadhaffi was talking about using a gold backed dinar as the reserve currency for parts of Africa. Look what happened to Libya and Iraq as a result.

In 2000, Iraq converted all its oil transactions to euros. When U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, it returned oil sales from the euro to the dollar. Little surprise then that we are currently watching the US attempt to remove the Iranian regime via sanctions, destabilization, intimidation and the threat of all out war.

In the meantime, though, Iran is looking east to China, Pakistan and central Asia in order to counteract the effects of US sanctions and develop its economy and boost trade. In order to sustain its empire, US aggression is effectively pushing the world into different camps and a new cold war that could well turn into a nuclear conflict given  that    Russia,          China and Pakistan all have nuclear weapons.

The US economy appears to be in terminal decline. The only way to prop it up is by lop-sided trade agreements or by waging war to secure additional markets and resources and to ensure the dollar remains the world reserve currency. Humankind is currently facing a number of serious problems. But, arguably, an empire in decline armed to the teeth with both conventional and nuclear weapons and trapped in a cycle of endless war in what must surely be a futile attempt to stave off ruin is the most serious issue of all.

Originally from the northwest of England,  Colin Todhunter has spent many years in India. He has written extensively for the Deccan Herald (the Bangalore-based broadsheet), New Indian Express and Morning Star (Britain). His articles have also appeared in various other publications. His East by Northwest website is at http://colintodhunter.blogspot.com

Obama uses UN Speech to Threaten War against Iran

September 26th, 2012 by Bill Van Auken

President Barack Obama postured before the United Nations Tuesday as the champion of peace and democracy, while threatening war against Iran and demanding a crackdown against the wave of anti-US demonstrations that have swept the Middle East.

This, Obama’s fourth address to an opening session of the UN General Assembly since taking office in 2009, was saturated with hypocritical invocations of “American values” and lies about Washington’s actions on the world stage.

The US president delivered an unmistakable threat that the US is preparing to launch yet another war of aggression, this time against Iran, with potentially far bloodier consequences than those it has carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade.

“Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” Obama declared. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty. That is why… the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Asserting that there is “still time” for the US to force Iran to cede to its demands by means of diplomacy, he added, “that time is not unlimited.”

The facts are that international inspectors have found no evidence that Iran has embarked on a nuclear weapons program or is doing anything other than developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Israel, which is supposedly threatened with “elimination,” has built some 400 atomic weapons while refusing to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and categorically rejecting any inspection of its secret nuclear program. If there is a threat of an arms race in the region and a breakdown of the non-proliferation agreement, this Israeli nuclear stockpile is its source.

Obama’s speech came one day after the US Treasury Department claimed to have uncovered links between Iran’s state oil company and the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, providing a pretext for escalating its unilateral sanctions against banks doing business with the company.

Meanwhile, the US has assembled its largest ever armada in the Persian Gulf, including two aircraft carrier battle groups, a new “forward staging base” vessel, and half of the US Navy’s mine-sweeping fleet, all of which are participating in joint exercises with warships from over 30 countries.

Much of the US president’s 30-minute speech was dedicated to the recent upheavals that swept the Middle East and predominantly Muslim countries in South Asia and Africa, with crowds attacking US embassies in over a dozen capitals. Describing the protests as “mindless violence,” Obama lumped them together with the September 11 attack by an Islamist militia on the US consulate and a CIA headquarters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi that killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Obama declared these events “an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded—the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war.”

What insolence! After a decade of US wars that have claimed the lives of over a million Iraqis and Afghans, the US president is the last person to lecture the people of the Middle East on how to “resolve their differences peacefully” and the advantages of diplomacy over war.

Obama added, “If we are serious about these ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis.” However, he did no such thing. Instead, he treated the anger against the US as merely the product of the crude anti-Islamic video “Innocence of the Muslims” and of those who promote “hatred of America, or the West, or Israel.”

There was nothing in the speech about Washington’s wars, its unconditional support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, or its reliance on dictatorial regimes and absolute monarchs to secure semi-colonial control over the region and its energy resources.

Obama went on to present a potted history of US reaction to the so-called “Arab Spring” that began with working class uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt early last year. Washington, he claimed, had “supported the forces of change,” had been “inspired by the Tunisian protests,” had “insisted on change in Egypt,” and had “supported a transition in Yemen, because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo.”

Anyone familiar with the recent history of the region knows that the American president is lying. The US government was so “inspired” by the revolt in Tunisia that it approved a $12 million military aid package to the dictatorial regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to help it beat and shoot the demonstrators into submission.

It pursued the same policy in Egypt, seeking to the bitter end to prop up Hosni Mubarak, whose regime had been kept in power with US military aid and political support for three decades. Only after it was clear that the two dictators could no longer cling to power did the US shift policy, working to salvage as much as it could of the old regimes.

As for Yemen, the US-backed “transition” has kept in power a regime that is virtually identical to the old one, with the dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh replaced by his vice president, and with the US carrying out far more intense military intervention, with dozens of drone assassinations and special forces raids.

Obama presented the US-NATO war for regime-change in Libya as well as the attempt by Washington and its allies to topple the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria as a continuation of this “Arab Spring.”

In Libya, he claimed, the US intervened under a UN mandate to protect civilians. In reality, it brazenly violated this mandate, waging an aggressive war that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Libyans. The proxy forces it supported on the ground included the same Islamist militia elements that killed the US ambassador in Benghazi. Its aims, as in Iraq, were not humanitarian or democratic, but predatory—principally to assert US hegemony over Libyan oil reserves, while denying control to its rivals, particularly China.

Obama repeated his demand for regime-change in Syria while expressing concern that the current civil war “not end in a cycle of sectarian violence.” In reality, the US has done everything it can to stoke sectarian warfare as part of its scheme to mobilize the Sunni monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, as well as Al Qaeda-linked militias, in a campaign to bring down the Syrian government and thereby weaken Washington’s main regional rival, Iran.

The US president offered no proposal whatsoever on the Israel-Palestine question. Instead, he called for the region to “leave behind those who thrive on conflict, and those who reject the right of Israel to exist.” This amounts to a blanket endorsement of Israel’s illegal occupation and its continuous expansion of settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Echoing the bellicose rhetoric of his predecessor, Obama spoke three times in his address about “bringing to justice” those who attacked Americans abroad. It was a not-so-subtle reminder of the US president’s status as “assassin-in-chief,” holding weekly meetings at the White House to choose targets for execution by US drone attacks.

The hollow rhetoric, hypocritical sermonizing and bullying threats received a tepid response from the assembled delegates. The US president had not a single new initiative or original conception to offer. The speech only made clear that his administration will continue to employ military aggression, economic pressure and CIA destabilization to secure US control over the Middle East and its energy wealth, all the while posing as the patron of “democracy.”

Living Under Drones

September 26th, 2012 by Global Research News

 We bring to the attention of our readers this important study by Stanford University and NYU.

The complete study can be downloaded

 

Download Stanford/NYU Report

 

Executive Summary and Recommendations

In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.[1]

This narrative is false.

Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies. Based on extensive interviews with Pakistanis living in the regions directly affected, as well as humanitarian and medical workers, this report provides new and firsthand testimony about the negative impacts US policies are having on the civilians living under drones.

Real threats to US security and to Pakistani civilians exist in the Pakistani border areas now targeted by drones. It is crucial that the US be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, and that the great harm caused by terrorists to Pakistani civilians be addressed. However, in light of significant evidence of harmful impacts to Pakistani civilians and to US interests, current policies to address terrorism through targeted killings and drone strikes must be carefully re-evaluated.

It is essential that public debate about US policies take the negative effects of current policies into account. 

First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.”[2] It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.[3] TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team. It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals. 

Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school. Waziris told our researchers that the strikes have undermined cultural and religious practices related to burial, and made family members afraid to attend funerals. In addition, families who lost loved ones or their homes in drone strikes now struggle to support themselves.

Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%.[4] Furthermore, evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks. As the New York Times has reported, “drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”[5] Drone strikes have also soured many Pakistanis on cooperation with the US and undermined US-Pakistani rel­ations. One major study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy.[6]

Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US. The US government’s failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in its targeted killing policies, to provide necessary details about its targeted killing program, or adequately to set out the legal factors involved in decisions to strike hinders necessary democratic debate about a key aspect of US foreign and national security policy. US practices may also facilitate recourse to lethal force around the globe by establishing dangerous precedents for other governments. As drone manufacturers and officials successfully reduce export control barriers, and as more countries develop lethal drone technologies, these risks increase.

In light of these concerns, this report recommends that the US conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence, the concerns of various stakeholders, and the short and long-term costs and benefits. A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue. US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.

This report also supports and reiterates the calls consistently made by rights groups and others for legality, accountability, and transparency in US drone strike policies:

  • The US should fulfill its international obligations with respect to accountability and transparency, and ensure proper democratic debate about key policies. The US should:
    • Release the US Department of Justice memoranda outlining the legal basis for US targeted killing in Pakistan;
    • Make public critical information concerning US drone strike policies, including as previously and repeatedly reques­ted by various groups and officials:[7] the tar­geting criteria for so-called “signature” strikes; the mechanisms in place to ensure that targeting complies with international law; which laws are being applied; the nature of investigations into civilian death and injury; and mechanisms in place to track, analyze and publicly recognize civilian casualties;[8]
    • Ensure independent investigations into drone strike deaths, consistent with the call made by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism in August 2012;[9]
    • In conjunction with robust investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions, establish compensation programs for civilians harmed by US strikes in Pakistan.
  • The US should fulfill its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations with respect to the use of force, including by not using lethal force against individuals who are not members of armed groups with whom the US is in an armed conflict, or otherwise against individuals not posing an imminent threat to life. This includes not double-striking targets as first responders arrive.
    • Journalists and media outlets should cease the common practice of referring simply to “militant” deaths, without further explanation. All reporting of government accounts of “militant” deaths should include acknowledgment that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as “militants,” absent exonerating evidence. Media accounts relying on anonymous government sources should also highlight the fact of their single-source information and of the past record of false government reports.
Notes

[1] The US publicly describes its drone program in terms of its unprecedented ability to “distinguish … effectively between an al Qaeda terrorist and innocent civilians,” and touts its missile-armed drones as capable of conducting strikes with “astonishing” and “surgical” precision. See, e.g., John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, The Efficacy and Ethics of U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy, Remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Apr. 30, 2012), available at http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-efficacy-and-ethics-us-counterterrorism-strategy.

[2] See Obama Administration Counterterrorism Strategy (C-Span television broadcast June 29, 2011), http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/AdministrationCo; see also Strategic Considerations, infra Chapter 5: Strategic Considerations; Contradictions Chart, infra Appendix C.

[3] Covert War on Terror, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/ (last visited Sept. 12, 2012).

[4] Peter Bergen & Megan Braun, Drone is Obama’s Weapon of Choice, CNN (Sept. 6, 2012), http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/05/opinion/bergen-obama-drone/index.html.

[5] Jo Becker & Scott Shane, Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will, N.Y. Times (May 29, 2012), http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/29/world/obamas-leadership-in-war-on-al-qaeda.html?pagewanted=all.

[6] Pew Research Center, Pakistani Public Opinion Ever More Critical of U.S.: 74% Call America an Enemy (2012), available at http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2012/06/Pew-Global-Attitudes-Project-Pakistan-Report-FINAL-Wednesday-June-27-2012.pdf.

[7] See, e.g., Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Study on Targeted Killings, Human Rights Council, UN Doc. A/HRC/14/24/Add.6 (May 28, 2010) (by Philip Alston), available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/14session/A.HRC.14.24.Add6.pdf; US: Transfer CIA Drone Strikes to Military, Human Rights Watch (Apr. 20, 2012), http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/04/20/us-transfer-cia-drone-strikes-military; Letter from Amnesty International et al. to Barack Obama, President of the United States (May 31, 2012), available at http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/1242.

[8] Letter from Amnesty International et al., supra note 7.

[9] Terri Judd, UN ‘Should Hand Over Footage of Drone Strikes or Face UN Inquiry’, Independent (Aug. 20, 2012), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/us-should-hand-over-footage-of-drone-strikes-or-face-un-inquiry-8061504.html.

 

Download Stanford/NYU Report

By Zhang Di

At a crucial time when Sino-Japan relations are deteriorating over the Diaoyu Islands issue, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s recent visits to Japan and China are generally interpreted as “mediation”. Panetta stressed the U.S.-Japan alliance and vowed to deploy missile defense systems in Japan while he proposed friendly diplomacy and peaceful settlements, and claimed that the United States would take no side on the Diaoyu Islands issue. Such “mediation” apparently adds fuel to the dispute and arouses people’s doubt about U. S. “sincerity” to promote peace in Asia Pacific.

Looking back upon history, it is not difficult to find that the United States likes to “mediate” between countries, such as in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Kosovo crisis. However, these mediations bring more wars and worsen living conditions to people. It indicates that any malicious “mediation” will lead to troubles and negative results.

Panetta will only safeguard the interests of the United States, rather than those of China or Japan. The Diaoyu Islands issue was originally caused by the secret transfer from the United States to Japan. In recent years, Japanese right-wingers even staged an “islands-buying” farce. What’s worse, the United States acts as the umbrella of Japan and plays an irresponsible role at the crucial moment.

Since the United States announced the shift of strategic focus back to the Asia-Pacific region, it can always be seen in affairs related to China, from the East China Sea, South China Sea, Diaoyu Islands to Huangyan Island. On the one hand, the United States instigates neighboring countries against China on territorial issues and, on the other hand, it plays the role of peacemaker as the disputes escalate.

The United States has never been the messenger of peace and its sole intention of returning to the Asia-Pacific is to mess up others and safeguard its own interests. The so-called “mediations” and “peace-making” are not applicable for the United States at all.

China has its own interests. It will never sacrifice its interests to please the United States and Japan. We should have a clear understanding of their words and deeds and not have unrealistic illusions about the seemingly beautiful “olive branch”. Only by continuously developing and strengthening itself can China grasp the initiative in the future development.

After nine months of research and more than 130 interviews, in what is being called one of the most exhaustive attempts by academics to evaluate Washington’s drone wars, the Stanford and New York universities’ law schools have finally put out a damning report.

According to the new study, just one in fifty victims of the CIA programme of “targeted” drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas are known militants, while between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed in Pakistan between June 2004 and mid-September this year – of whom between 474 and 881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Based on these and other figures, the report calls the strikes politically counterproductive and damaging, concluding they have killed innocent civilians, ruined the local economy, undermined respect for international law and left the people of the tribal areas psychologically battered, constantly living under the daily threat of annihilation from the air.

The report especially focuses on children becoming collateral damage of strikes, and comes down particularly hard on the common tactic of the “double-tap” strike where initial strikes are followed up by further missiles, killing an even greater number of civilians, and putting fear into the hearts of rescuers who often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack.

There is no doubt that this meticulous report will go a long way in challenging the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan and elsewhere. Indeed, an important aspect it highlights is precisely how difficult is it to obtain accurate data on casualties given US efforts to shield the drone programme from democratic accountability, and its failure to ensure basic transparency and accountability in targeted killings or provide details about the programme.

The lack of transparency is compounded by the fact that the areas targeted by drones are under military and militant control, making access difficult for local as well as foreign journalists and thus allowing civilians killed by drones to become ‘invisible dead.’

But after the release of this damning report, will anything change? Will the Obama administration relent in carrying out this controversial campaign of death? Many hope that it may just – especially if the report has an impact on the American public.

Coming from American lawyers rather than Pakistani human rights groups, the criticism is likely to resonate a lot more in US domestic debates over the legality of drone warfare.

As Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith, said: “George Bush wanted to create a global ‘war on terror’ without borders, but it has taken Obama’s drone war to achieve his dream.” But Obama’s dream seems to have become Pakistan’s nightmare and it may just be time for the US to wake up from its delusion once and for all.

Why Does NATO Need Military Bases In Afghanistan?

September 26th, 2012 by Ilya Kharlamov

The absence of a productive dialogue between Moscow and the alliance on the issue of European missile defence obliges Moscow to insist on knowing the West’s plans with regard to Afghanistan.

“We are concerned about the character of international military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 and we are worried by the information that at present new bases are being built there that can deploy tens of thousands of servicemen…”

In the case of Syria, Moscow and Beijing have already shown that they can block the West’s militarist plans in the Security Council.

*      *      *

Moscow intends to find out about the future of NATO military contingents in Afghanistan after 2014. NATO leadership has repeatedly announced that by that time its troops will be withdrawn from that country.

However, there is information that foreign bases will remain in Afghanistan. Russia proposes to clarify this issue at the UN General Assembly session, which began recently, and also at a meeting of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The absence of a productive dialogue between Moscow and the alliance on the issue of European missile defence obliges Moscow to insist on knowing the West’s plans with regard to Afghanistan. Russia’s security is at stake and also that of the region bordering on Russia, so Russian diplomats’ insistence is absolutely natural. Russian permanent representative at the UN Vitaly Churkin believes that leaving NATO bases in Afghanistan raises many questions. If the alliance announces an end to the anti-terrorist operation in 2014, the presence of foreign military forces will have different aims and nothing is known about such aims yet.

In essence, Russia intends to clearly formulate its position: if the fight against terrorism must be continued, the UN Security Council’s mandate should be prolonged. It is possible that this issue will be discussed on the 27th of September during consultations between members of the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko believes that Russia is prepared to pragmatically cooperate with the alliance to solve the Afghan problem on the basis of the UN Security Council resolution.

“We are concerned about the character of international military presence in Afghanistan after 2014 and we are worried by the information that at present new bases are being built there that can deploy tens of thousands of servicemen. All this is superfluous if we only mean stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan. We proceed from the assumption that no superfluous military presence in Afghanistan is required.”

Alexander Grushko added that Russia understands the need to leave foreign military instructors in Afghanistan to train personnel for the Afghan army and security service. If any other plans are implemented there, it will further complicate Moscow’s relations with NATO.

Russia is also planning to ask the US to provide a report on the Afghan campaign at the UN General Assembly session. This could give rise to a contradictory situation. It is common knowledge that no special progress has been achieved there. Neither terrorism nor huge economic and social problems have been solved in Afghanistan since NATO’s arrival. The admission of a failure is unlikely to impel the UN Security Council to prolong the mandate. Moreover, it will be a good reason not to provide similar mandates in Syria and Iran. On the other hand, if Americans prove their success, there should logically be no bases left in Afghanistan and all the troops have to be withdrawn.

Political scientist Pavel Zolotaryov has shared his opinion with The Voice of Russia.

“It is not clear at present whether Americans have completed their operation or if it should be continued. In any case, it should be decided by the UN. It would not be correct to continue any activities relying on the US administration’s decisions only. The same is true about NATO, which has assumed responsibility for security outside their traditional zone of influence, Europe. So Russia’s raising this issue is absolutely legitimate.”

It is clear that Washington has room to manoeuvre. For example, it can ignore Russia’s requests or act without the Security Council’s permission because more and more Americans are in favour of this idea. In the case of Syria, Moscow and Beijing have already shown that they can block the West’s militarist plans in the Security Council. In addition, Russia could revise its cooperation with the alliance in Afghanistan, starting with cargo transit and finishing with training Afghan personnel.

Patrick Clawson, Director of Research of the Washington Institute  for Near East Policy suggests that the US should provoke Iran into taking the first shot.

“If the Iranians are not going to compromise, it may be best that somebody else start the war”.

“We can do a variety of things to increase the pressure”.

“We are in the game of using covert means against Iranians. We can get nastier at that.”

Patrick Clawson,  who was a “progressive” political economist in the 1970s,  heads the Washington Institute’s Iran Security Initiative.   The latter “aims to generate critical analysis, private dialogue, public debate, and operational recommendations designed to address the many challenges posed by Iran.”

*        *       *

Recalling the war pretext incidents in US history, including  the Lusitania (World War I) Pearl Harbor (Waorld War II) and the Gulf of Tonkin (Vietnam), Patrick Clawson’s “operational recommendation” is to incite an incident which will provoke Iran to firing the first shot, potentially leading us onto the path of World War Three.

According to Patrick Clawson and David Makovski, in a September 2012 Washington Institute publication:

At some point soon, … the window for diplomacy will indeed have closed, and the United States—along with as many international partners as it can mobilize—should move to more forceful action, be it covert or overt, publicly proclaimed or deniable. …  Recognizing this reality, the U.S. government may decide that, in the absence of diplomatic progress, the best alternative is to create conditions under which Israel will attack, rather than to accept that the talks have failed; after all, failed talks would lead to much debate about whether the United States must act overtly and directly against Iran’s nuclear program. But such an approach would amount to placing quite a heavy burden on a small U.S. ally. Other countries relying on U.S. security would have to draw lessons about how much value to place in their U.S. security guarantees. (emphasis added)

Covert procedures to trigger a war pretext incident are an integral part of military planning.

Recent developments, including US-NATO war games and the deployment of a powerful naval armada in the Persian Gulf, `”create conditions” which favor a Gulf of Tonkin type incident, which in turn would provide a justification to waging an all out war on Iran.

 

The move by Washington last week is, in effect, giving full approval to the MEK’s terror and assassination campaign in Iran. It is a stark reminder of Washington’s unwavering warpath towards Iran.

*       *       *

Here’s a thought experiment: imagine that there is a terrorist network in the USA that has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths over several decades.

The group declares itself dedicated to destroying the US government and has been involved in car bombing urban centres, kidnapping and murdering members of the country’s security forces, and assassinating government scientists, as well as perpetrating countless random murders on businessmen and ordinary families.

Now imagine that the Iranian government announces a new policy in which it does not consider the above clandestine group a terrorist entity. That policy means that the network is free to raise money in Iran to fund its terror campaign against US citizens and to lobby for political support among Iranian lawmakers and ambassadors.

We can safely conclude that in such a far-fetched scenario, the US government would immediately declare war on Iran and proceed to carpet bomb that country mercilessly – with the Western corporate news media blasting righteous endorsements of vengeance.

Yet this scenario of aiding and abetting terrorism is far from far-fetched when it comes to actual US policy towards Iran. Just last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially de-listed the Iranian Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK) from its official terror watch list.

That the MEK is a terror group is beyond dispute, despite the US government’s apparent change of opinion. The term “terror group” applies objectively and accurately. It is not just a pejorative propaganda label used by the Iranian government to blacken some dissident group. Since the 1980s, the MEK network itself claims that it has killed 40,000 Iranians whom it considers legitimate targets because they are “loyal” to, that is because they are citizens of, the Islamic Republic. Lower estimates of fatalities are put at around 17,000. Proportionate to its population that would give an upper equivalent of 150,000 dead Americans – a death toll suffered by Iran which is 50 times greater than that ascribed to 9/11.

The MEK, also known as MKO, has colluded with foreign powers for the stated goal of destroying the Islamic Republic of Iran. Most notably, between 1980 and 1988 when Iran was facing a US-backed war of aggression by Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the MEK functioned as subversives and shock troops operating “behind enemy lines” to betray their own people.

For that reason, the group has negligible, if any, popular support within Iran. It cannot claim the slightest modicum of popular mandate that might otherwise serve to give its activities a veneer of legitimacy as an “insurgency” or “freedom struggle.” Indeed, it is more accurate to call the group a sort of terrorist cult rather than a political movement. Since 2003, the MEK has not even had a base within Iran, operating clandestinely out of Iraq.

Such is the organisation’s fringe status, that even Iranian political opponents of the government in Tehran deprecated the US government move to officially de-list it as a terror group. That indicates how extreme the network is viewed by the Iranian population.

The Western mainstream media claim that Washington’s clearance of the MEK was given because the group “has renounced violence.” That renunciation was officially made 10 years ago. That is also allegedly why the European Union and the British government removed the network from their terror lists in 2009 and 2008.

How these Western governments can maintain this charade with a straight face is rather astounding. The MEK and other Iranian terror gangs, such as the al-Qaeda-linked Jundallah, have been actively plying violence unabated against the citizenry over the past decade. Even Washington officials admit it. Following the murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan on 11 January earlier this year with a magnetic bomb attached to his car in northern Tehran, anonymous US officials disclosed to American mainstream media that the killing was the work of the MEK in collusion with Israel’s Mossad.

Since 2007, five Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated. The MEK and Mossad are strongly implicated in all these murders and much worse.

Why US officials should have authoritative knowledge of such MEK activities is quite simple. It is because the US government and its military intelligence support these very terrorist activities, along with Mossad and Britain’s MI6. During the George W Bush presidency, congressional leaders secretly approved a budget of $400 million to arm and fund the MEK and Jundallah. According to investigative American journalist Seymour Hersh, US Joint Special Operations Command trained members of the MEK at a secret site in Nevada between 2005 and 2009. Training included use of weapons and explosives in the black arts of sabotage, or, in short, terrorism. During the American illegal occupation of Iraq following 2003, the MEK was given protection and immunity at a dedicated facility, known as Camp Ashraf, in Iraq from where they would launch operations into Iran. The camp has since been closed down following the large-scale American troop withdrawal from the country.

So, the “ceasefire” pretense is a bad joke. However, a substantial reason why the US has de-listed the MEK is the powerful lobbying for such a decision over many years by senior American political and military figures. They include former CIA director James Woolsey, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, ex-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and past US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. All of these senior figures, and more, of the American ruling class have called for Washington to give clearance to the MEK – at a time when even US officials are acknowledging that the group is involved in assassinations in Iran.

The move by Washington last week is, in effect, giving full approval to the MEK’s terror and assassination campaign in Iran. It is a stark reminder of Washington’s unwavering warpath towards Iran. Recently, some commentators have tended to misread Washington as giving a rebuff to Israel’s war rhetoric against Iran. But the clearance by Washington of a terrorist campaign in Iran – one that the US government is materially assisting – is a sobering sign that war is still the order of the day. The recent alleged spats between Washington and Tel Aviv are more likely a reflection of tactical variance due to the forthcoming US presidential election than any substantive difference in aggression towards Tehran.

It is hardly a coincidence that Washington’s MEK announcement was made only days before Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the 67th summit of the UN General Assembly in New York. The Washington regime also took the unprecedented step of denying some 20 Iranian diplomats travel visas to attend the UN assembly ¬ this week – this despite an historic agreement by the US, as host nation to the United Nations, to refrain from such obstruction of diplomats from any country regardless of bilateral disputes.

The obstructive snub to Iran’s sovereignty comes in the wake of the successful hosting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) last month in which some 120 member states gathered in Tehran. And it beggars belief that such a diplomatic mugging by Washington this week is not related to Iran’s new presidency of the NAM emphasizing the urgent need for an overhaul of the UN Security Council and greater democracy within the UN General Assembly to end the abusive political domination by the US. Such an overhaul is glaringly obvious now especially in light of the American member of the “security council” supporting terrorism in Iran and denying the victims of terrorism a full hearing. (That other has-been security council power, Britain, is also a disgrace for the same reason.)

Washington’s sinister relationship with Iranian MEK terror group points up the fact of who really is the “rogue state.” White House rhetoric has long tried to paint Iran as such. But in the real world, the MEK joins the phalanx of Washington’s terror proxies and mercenaries, from the Contra to al-Qaeda, who do America’s dirty work around the world. Like the MEK, it’s probably only a matter of time before al-Qaeda is also given official clearance by Washington. Yes, the contradictions are perverse, but such is America’s real relationship with world terrorism and its rogue status par excellence.

 

France seeks no-fly zone over Syria to repeat the Al Qaeda Benghazi-blowback.

 

As NATO desperately attempts to coverup a botched false flag operation in Benghazi, Libya which left a high ranking US diplomat dead, France has urged a repeat performance in Syria. That is, arming and providing air support for the very terrorist battalions now operating in Syria that have ravaged and overrun Libya, leaving it a perpetually wrecked, destabilized terrorist epicenter.

The announcement made by French President Francois Hollande came on the heels of a deadly terrorist bombing in Damascus targeting a school rebels senselessly claim was being used by Syrian security forces. Western propagandists are now calling the school a “security building.”

Reuters reported in their article, “Syrian rebels bomb security building in Damascus:”

Protection for “liberated” areas would require no-fly zones enforced by foreign aircraft, which could stop deadly air raids by Assad’s forces on populated areas. But there is little chance of securing a Security Council mandate for such action given the continuing opposition of veto-wielding members Russia and China.

 

Before quoting Hollande who said:

“How long can we accept the paralysis at the U.N.?”

To answer Mr. Hollande’s question, one might look toward Libya where an identical campaign of violent subversion based on similar lies regarding the “protection of civilians,” was carried out by NATO and proxy terrorist organizations who were in fact listed by the UN itself as affiliates of the notorious global terror network Al Qaeda. The NATO-led, UN mandated evisceration of Libya put power into the hands of genocidal, racist terror battalions who literally scoured entire cities of their inhabitants either massacring, imprisoning, or exiling them all beyond Libya’s borders.

Image: Libyan Mahdi al-Harati of the US State Department, United Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), addressing fellow terrorists in Syria. Harati is now commanding a Libyan brigade operating inside of Syria attempting to destroy the Syrian government and subjugate the Syrian population. Traditionally, this is known as “foreign invasion.” 

….

It should be clear then, to Mr. Hollande, that the UN is not in fact “paralyzed” but that the member nations that constitute the Security Council and the General Assembly are increasingly aware of and opposed to the duplicitous and untenable nature of NATO’s wars of conquest, merely dressed up as humanitarian intervention.

As France Pushes for A Libya Repeat, Media & Politicians Desperately Attempt to Rewrite Narrative

As international condemnation grew, recognizing that NATO, led by the US, UK, and France were essentially funding, arming, training, and handing an entire nation over to Al Qaeda affiliates, these terror battalions were directed to attack US diplomatic missions across the Arab World (and here).

One attack in Benghazi, Libya, left the US consulate ablaze, unexpectedly trapping US Ambassador Christopher Stevens who succumbed to smoke inhalation. Despite the attacks, and the subsequent media circus and staged rallies to depict Libya’s client regime as “disbanding” terrorist militias, the fact remains that vast terrorist networks stretching from Libya to Syria are still fully armed, funded, and covertly backed by the very corporate-financier interests that sold the last decade of “War on Terror” to the West.

In addition to a myriad of staged events to portray a divide between the West and its terrorist proxies, there are also sophomoric and desperate attempts throughout the corporate-media to rewrite the Syrian narrative as public awareness grows, and support for Western destabilization under the guise of “humanitarian causes” collapses.

One such attempt was published in the Washington Post in a piece titled, “Among Assad’s opponents, moderation reigns,” where David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy attempts to argue that Syria’s “opposition” is overwhelmingly moderate, with sectarian extremists being an exception to the rule, based on a poll conducted by the International Republication Institute.

However, Pollock’s think-tank, the Washington Institute, is in fact a Wall Street pro-war think-tank, lined by notorious warmongering frauds and Neo-Cons including Richard Perle, Max Kampelman, US Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis, accused war criminal Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, and James Woolsey, all signatories of the now infamous Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and all signatories of numerous letters calling for war with both Libya and Syria.

The International Republican Institute (IRI) is in fact funded by the US State Department and is chaired by Senator John McCain, who had shaken hands with the very terrorists responsible for the US consulate attack that left Ambassador Stevens dead in Benghazi, Libya. McCain has also traveled to the Turkish-Syrian border to provide these same terrorists with support. The IRI itself had played an instrumental role in engineering the allegedly “spontaneous” “Arab Spring,” training and organizing activists years before unrest took to the Arab World’s streets.

Image: Senator John McCain (with the now deceased US Ambassador John Christopher Stevens on the right with blue tie) in the terrorist rat nest of Benghazi after marshaling cash, weapons, and political support for militants tied directly to Al Qaeda. McCain’s insistence that the terrorists he helped arm and install into power were “not Al Qaeda” runs contra to the US Army’s own reports which state that Benghazi’s terror brigades officially merged with Al Qaeda in 2007. McCain’s “Libyan patriots” have now killed US Ambassador Stevens with weapons most likely procured with cash and logistic networks set up by NATO last year, part of a supranational terror campaign that includes violently subverting Syria – a campaign McCain also supports.

….

Clearly the “poll” which was conducted over “Skype” by IRI with “activists” inside Syria was produced for public perception only to cook up numbers that would allow Pollock, CNN and others to conclude, “all in all, the data show that most Syrian opposition activists are far from being Islamic fanatics or extremists,” as well as “the argument that providing this help might result in trading Assad’s hostile secular dictatorship for a hostile Islamic one does not square with these facts.”

The idea is to maintain the narrative that the US is backing “freedom fighters” not terrorists, and it is an idea perpetuated by the very pro-war advocates behind the Libyan disaster and the Arab World unrest in the first place.

We can expect calls for arming and defending terrorist proxies in Syria to continue while the corporate-media continues its attempt to portray what is literally Al Qaeda operating in Syria with NATO backing as instead, “pro-democracy” “freedom fighters” in desperate need of Western assistance. Conversely, we must continue to expose the corporate-financier narrative as the lies they are, while resolving to undermine the very source of their unwarranted influence which allows them to meddle globally in the first place.

Canada’s Trade Union Movement in Crisis

September 26th, 2012 by Herman Rosenfeld

Just about everyone in and around the union movement in Canada is talking about the upcoming merger between the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers (CEP). The new union being formed will be the largest private sector union in Canada.

While bigger is not necessarily better – as numerous other examples of larger mergers have shown[1] – in this era of general unions, the new union should become a positive force on the Canadian labour scene.  Both the CAW and CEP have strengths in different but complementary sectors and geographical areas; their pooling of resources should help address some of the membership losses in each (a problem throughout the entire private sector) as well as provide needed collective resources for research, education and organizing.

But the CAW and CEP – in their public documents and speeches at the recent CAW Constitutional Convention – aspire to greater things. At a time where the Canadian union movement is at a strategic impasse and a steep organizational decline, the new union they will form is being touted as a key element in turning the situation around, through a larger project of union renewal and a major response to the attacks on the working-class and labour movement. One has to be very careful in assessing these rather lofty aspirations.

The new union will be shaped and limited by neoliberal capitalism, the structures and experiences of the larger working-class and labour movement, and the particular limitations of unions in this era. Whatever changes the new union plans, it must take into account and address these limitations and imperatives.

There are some important and exciting potential contributions that the new union project argues for and can make. They should be encouraged and supported, with a number of caveats.

But the huge challenges that the new union talks about addressing require a larger project of change that goes beyond the current capacities and contradicts many of the approaches (and practices) of the component unions. As well, they depend on a series of larger political projects that currently do not exist and that the component unions are not likely to initiate.

Context, Limitations and Openings

The new union is being formed at a time where unions and the working-class as a whole have experienced numerous attacks, setbacks and defeats. Unions are politically and organizationally isolated and weak. This is dramatically different than the moment when the CAW itself was formed.

In the 1980s, the Canadian section of the UAW and later the new union (the CAW) – often in partnership with social activist movements outside of labour and sometimes with other unions – waged a battle to challenge free trade and continentalism (with demonstrations, grassroots education with members and the general public). It mobilized against the austerity agenda of the time and, most importantly, took on the major auto companies as well as the latter’s union partners/enablers in the UAW. By refusing concessions, and asserting the need for the union to maintain its independence from employers and reject competitiveness as a goal, the UAW’s Canadian region inspired its members and huge numbers of Canadian working people and, in the process formed a new union.

The formation of the new union didn’t signal an end to these struggles but their continuation. This helped to create conditions for more intensified efforts to challenge the growing tide of neoliberal transformation. The new union in 1985 inspired other members of the working-class and the larger progressive community in Canada and led to a healthy, growing union.

The effort to create a new union out of a merger between the CAW and CEP today takes place in a completely different context. Neoliberalism has moved apace, and has all but defeated and marginalized many private sector unions, radically segmented the working-class, creating huge material and experiential gaps between those on social assistance, in precarious market segments and those with more secure and better-paying jobs. Many unionized workers – and the bulk of the rest of the working-class – have never participated in collective struggles. Many have been forced to rely in individual strategies to keep afloat and this has helped to shape their understanding of society and their role in it.

Unions – particularly in the public sector, but also in others, such as auto – are isolated in many ways from the rest of the working-class. Even in the better-off labour market segments, unions have given up concessions both in wages and benefits, as well as in their workplaces. This helped to demoralize much of the membership, but also distanced those whom the unions seek to organize.

Politically, unions have not challenged the system. With the utter defeat of the radical left, which once served as a pole of reference beyond capitalism, they have tried to “hold on” to what they had, and nostalgically return to the good old days of the welfare state and partnership with employers and governments. On the other hand, continentalism, free trade, export dependency and managerial demands for concessions have all but been accepted by the labour movement, including the two unions that are merging to form the new union project (as well as all major political parties).

Unions are tied to the success of particular employers in individual sectors, and are bound to look after the interests of their dues-paying members who work there. In an era where the better off workers were able to set patterns for others, this didn’t seem as limiting as today. But in this era of advanced neoliberalism – with masses of unemployed, poor, precarious workers – it separated out unions from other workers, with devastatingly harmful results. Unions are seen by much of the class as being privileged.

Rather than being part of an ongoing resistance movement, the new union project takes place in an environment of defeat and those forming the new union (leaders, activists and many rank and filers) have been shaped by that experience as much as other unions and components of the working-class. They are frustrated by those defeats and claim to want very much to move beyond them. But they remain very much limited by them, not having really studied or learned the lessons from them, fully accepting the limitations as defined by the corporations.[2]

“The critical factor remains, the larger disorganization and defeat of the working-class as a whole, the strength of neoliberalism, the limitations of unions as they currently exist and the lack of any real political or organizational alternatives that address the need to create a class-wide movement. ”

In order to address this set of limitations, the new union – and the rest of the union movement – needs to change what it does. Unions across the developed capitalist world often talk about embracing new strategies: big mergers, renewal programs, spending more on organizing, and so forth. But the critical factor remains the larger disorganization and defeat of the working-class as a whole, the strength of neoliberalism, the limitations of unions as they currently exist and the lack of any real political or organizational alternatives that address the need to create a class-wide movement.

Who are the CAW and CEP and what do they bring to the table?

The CAW has been one of the predominant private sector unions in Canada, since its founding in 1985, as a split-off from the American International Union, the UAW. At one time it had 265,000 members and, although its base was in auto and the manufacturing sector, it spread across sectors as diverse as airline, general manufacturing, public sector, services, rail, fisheries, etc. The union has always played an important role in shaping the lives of union members and the working-class as whole. Collective bargaining in core sectors such as auto set patterns for wages and benefits across the country and its political role in larger campaigns at one time was a critical part of the working-class movement in Canada – as are its more recent difficulties in dealing with the crises of its major employers. It also has tremendous resources in bargaining expertise, worker education (spends more than all other unions combined and has its own educational centre), and in research capability.

The CEP is concentrated in other key sectors, such as Communications, Resource Extraction and Energy, major strategic components of the Canadian economy. It has had to deal directly with key transformations in broadcasting, newspapers, mining and forestry and energy issues – all of which have been central components of neoliberal restructuring in Canada. It, too, has participated in a number of political campaigns, and has a history of building relationships between energy and resource extraction workers and environmentalists and local communities. The new union will combine some 300,000 workers across the country, in strategic sectors such as Manufacturing (94,000); Communications (41,000); Resources (52,000); Transportation (40,000); Services – including public sector – (76,000).

Membership will be spread throughout the entire country, in every province and territory except Yukon and Nunavut. It will have more than 86,000 women, and, “tens of thousands of aboriginal and workers of colour.”[3] It will include more than 800 local unions and over 3,000 bargaining units.

Linking Up with the Rest of the Working-Class

A key feature of the plan for the new union is its approach to organizing and community unionism. It pledges to “organize and mobilize workers” such as the unemployed, members who join in unsuccessful organizing drives, individual, non-unionized workers, working in precarious, temporary, contract, self-employed, and freelancers and students and other young people. It claims that, “this is crucial to allow us to involve a broader range of working people in our mission to build a powerful social movement fighting for all working people.”[4]

These are stirring words. Many on the left have been calling for such a development for many years. The component unions should be congratulated for it. It has the potential to alter the role of the new union in its relations with the segments of the working-class that have been most affected by neoliberal restructuring of labour markets. There are precious few unions around the world that have experimented with this open membership concept, such as the CTA in Argentina.

But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Making this work requires a major rethink of how the union relates to workers and communities outside of it. It calls for new ways of doing things and an opening up to the experiences of other activists. At the very least, it raises a number of thorny questions, such as the role of individual membership inside the union’s structures; forms of support for individual or groups of workers in non-unionized workplaces and relations with existing social movement and community activists and organizations.

This effort must be undertaken as a project of contributing to the organization of the class. A common class project could contribute to breaking down the narrowness and limitations of both the unions and the social movement left’s projects. But a narrower approach, seeking primarily to strengthen the union itself could have the opposite effect.

These questions can’t be seen as separate from the other things the union must do to inspire youth, as well as unemployed and precarious workers, such as fighting employers, resisting concessions and fighting for new ways to create jobs that are not dependent on the competitive success of individual capitalists. The CAW and the CEP – and the rest of the labour movement – have not proved capable of doing this all that well. The new auto contracts that cement wage and pension inferiority for ten years for junior workers, only worsens the problem. It is part of what must change to make this new strategic approach work.

Engaging in a genuine attempt at social movement unionism clearly raises some difficult questions that need to be considered and tackled. The attempt itself is an important breakthrough.

Organizing

Along with the individual membership and opening up to the community, the new union will dramatically increase resources for organizing. It is committed to developing a ‘culture of organizing’ across the union and is putting 10 per cent of its national dues revenue to this project. This will mean $50-million over the first five years of the union’s existence, doubling what the two unions currently spend.

Here again, how this is done makes a big difference. International experience shows that spending money and making claims about building an organizing culture doesn’t necessarily result in increased union density.[5] The union needs to work together with others to make organizing part of a larger class project, and move away from the current competition for new members, between large, general unions.

Unions have had very mixed success with organizing in sectors where precarious work is predominant. It requires collective efforts between unions to work together to organize across entire sectors (right now, they compete with each other). Will the new union be willing to change the current approach, which is to see organizing as a way of strengthening its own capacity to act, rather as one element in a larger class project, or building the capacity of the entire working-class? Perhaps the union could start by inviting CUPE, SEIU, the Toronto Workers’ Action Centre, and organizations based in immigrant communities that predominate in this sector and others, to collectively organize homecare workers.

Workers will not join a union, no matter how big or how much money it spends, if they think that it will not give them any real capacity to protect themselves against their employers. Years of concession bargaining, especially give backs of time off the job, break time and ending efforts to challenge lean production practises in the workplace (in order to increase productivity so as to protect wages and benefits) on the part of the CAW, makes workers at Japanese transplant auto plants less likely to sign union cards. Successful organizing requires substantial changes, not only in the way unions organize, but how they defend workers interests – in the workplace and in society as a whole.

And, as well, today, given the constant threats of job loss for those with jobs, and the frustration, anger and resentment of those in the precarious sectors, it requires a larger sense that the union is part of a movement that can shape the economy and actually limit the larger power of the employers.

Two Divides Into One…

Merging two unions doesn’t easily translate into a ‘new’ union. There are all kinds of forms of organization and cultural dissonance that needs to be worked out over time. The CAW’s organizational structure is highly integrated and tends to be led from the centre.[6] CEP has its own regional power centres, and the different components of that union are said to operate as ‘silos.’

In the recent period, there remains a tradition of autonomous dissidence within the membership and different layers of the activist core in the CEP (some of it more, some less progressive in the political sense), while the CAW’s leadership core, along with the effects of neoliberal restructuring and the defeat of the left have more or less defeated efforts to create any autonomous organization of members or activists.

The CAW’s tradition of recognizing the national identity of Quebec and, therefore, the need for organizational autonomy for the Quebec section of the union – quite remarkable, as it reaches across many different elements in that union – came up against people within the CEP that did not.

The two unions embarked on an extended and rather unique process of building the merger. They put together a Proposal Committee which adopted a series of principles, and worked their way through the elements of the merger, keeping these principles in mind. The result was a proposal for a series of new structures and components. This has been approved by the CAW and will be voted on by the CEP later this year. If the latter approves, a series of working groups will be set up to “facilitate the preparations for the foundation of the new union” and a founding convention will be held.

A number of the new structures outlined by the Proposal Committee seek to merge elements of the different organizational cultures, dominated by many of the institutional practices of the CAW. These include a series of four regional councils with elected delegates from locals, along with a number of Industrial Councils. There will also be a larger Canadian Council that will meet once per year. There will be an autonomous Quebec Council.[7]

The idea was to create councils where issues could be raised and debated by elected delegates from local unions; build structures that accommodate the large size of the union and combine the regional and more decentralized practises of the CEP, along with the CAW’s more centralized traditions. The operations of these councils (as described in the new union document), seem to track the existing practises of the CAW Council: the meetings will be centred around reports from the elected leadership to the delegates, with the reports shaping and dominating the procedure and content. This provides a potential to hold the leadership to account, and allows the latter to introduce campaigns and bargaining issues, as well as political and economic questions it deems important. On the other hand, it also replicates tendencies that limit the initiative and role of activists from the local unions.[8]

Responding to the Attacks

The new union documents and the debate at the August CAW Convention talk about many of the challenges that the labour movement and the working-class are facing today. They identify key elements of attacks against the working-class, as well as important weaknesses and shortcomings of the labour movement itself in having mounted such feeble resistance.[9] The documents lament the inability to oppose concessions, build a political response to what they identify as ‘neoliberal capitalism,’ and even recall key moments of collective resistance, such as the Ontario Days of Action and the BC Solidarity movement.

The documents claim that the new union will become a key space for a larger effort to respond to these potentially mortal attacks and major weaknesses.

An element of the new union’s aspirations in fostering renewal, is the union’s claim to reinvigorate the collective fightback of labour, to “inspire,” “push” and “embarrass” existing labour centrals into “more forceful vision of action … [to] articulate a broader critique of the current…system (neoliberal capitalism) and position itself as fighting for long-run social and political change, not just incremental economic progress for its members.”[10] The CAW Constitutional Convention was rife with fiery speeches about the collective desire to build a new and wider resistance movement. The feeling was powerful and palpable across the union’s political and organizational spectrum, and in the guest speakers from CEP as well.

But to be serious about making these aspirations a reality, requires changes in approach and orientation that are very difficult to put into practice and, given the actions and experiences of the constituent unions and the larger labour movement, require major changes to move forward. What are some of these changes?

First, power has to be rebuilt in the workplace. The workplace shapes so much in the working-class experience: our power and our of lack of it; the authority and legitimacy of business, its decisions and interests; our sense of what we can and can’t do collectively, the notion of independent worker and employer interests, etc. Workers often learn about who and what unions are and can be, through their collective experience in struggles in the workplace – alongside union activists willing and able to do education together. The neoliberal era has seen a steady erosion in the protections that workers have in the workplace, the rise and institutionalization of lean production norms, and the increasing acceptance by many unions (including the CAW) that concessions in wages and benefits can be minimized (or hidden) by increasing work intensity, reducing break time and giving back time off the job. Workers in and outside of union workplaces (and even those not working) know this and it limits their interest in collective organization as well as unions. This needs to become a key battleground for a new union to begin to re-establish the support and power of the workers. It has, unfortunately, been a site of key defeat and setbacks. This must change, but as of yet there seems to be neither recognition of the defeats in the workplace nor the necessity of building independent collective power there.

Second, they require an aggressive and solidaristic approach to key collective bargaining struggles. In their documents, the unions acknowledge that employers have dug in their heels in key areas, and that the labour movement has been unable to mount the kind of sustained and wide scale campaigns necessary to win. Unfortunately, the collective agreements recently bargained by the CAW at GM and Ford (talks still continue with Chrysler) move in the opposite direction.

The auto companies have once again become profitable, yet remained locked-in to demands for further cost reductions and concessions from the union (such as permanent two-tier workers, elimination of 30-and-out pensions, etc.). They operate in a brutally competitive economic environment, but don’t most capitalists these days? The auto companies are using the rise in the dollar’s value, the sluggish and tentative economic recovery and workers’ fear of job loss and lack of new investment to enforce a sense of powerlessness and dependence.[11]

The terms of the agreement (and the rhetoric underpinning it) demonstrate that the union fully accepts and accommodates the logic of the companies – that ongoing worker concessions are necessary to solidify their unstable and fragile profitability. They and the companies are not divided over whether or not to accept further concessions, but over what they are and how long they might be expected to last. The CAW offered to reduce wages and benefits for new hires that ‘grows-in’ to the full rate over a period of 10 years (in exchange for investment commitments) – an offer that has been accepted by Ford and GM. The agreement also includes a “hybrid” pension for the new hires (elements of defined benefit and defined contribution pensions), along with wages that start at 60 per cent of the normal rate.[12] Current workers will see no basic wage increases or cost-of-living adjustments, but lump sum bonuses will substitute for both over the four years of the agreement. There are also a series of employment commitments, as well as a seemingly successful effort to restrict the highly unpopular uncontrolled use of temporary workers in GM plants.

The union (and unfortunately, all too many analysts and commentators) claim that this is some kind of a victory – citing the difficult objective circumstances and the fact that since the two-tier workforce would ‘only’ exist for 10 years, rather than permanently.

What effect will this have on the solidarity of the workers in the workplace, and how will it affect efforts to organize younger workers into the union? Just as in American plants, the divisions between the cohorts of workers – tracking age and generational differences as well – will of necessity challenge efforts to renew the union and build a new sense of solidarity and independence from the employer. Even more, the acceptance of this form of two-tier-by-stealth, along with the ‘hybrid’ pension formula for new hires, will undermine efforts of the rest of the labour movement to oppose them in their workplaces and sectors. What does it say about the claims of the new union to lead a movement of resistance and struggle?[13]

Bargaining is only one part of what unions need to do to establish their capacity to resist and build alternatives. And the larger political-economic context affects the relative balance of forces between labour and capital. But this set of contract talks will go far to shape who and what the new union will look like – and the honesty and sincerity of the tough talk at the Convention and in the press.

Third, the two new union documents and the speeches at the CAW convention talk about building alternatives to the current economic and political environment that shapes collective bargaining as well as the lives of workers. What can we expect of this?

At the very least, for the new union to take this seriously would require both unions to rethink their current approach to political and economic reforms, their relationships with employers and the state and their analyses of the sectors in which they operate, as well as how they engage in politics. Both the CAW and CEP have political approaches that involve some form of partnership between the unions, private sector employers and the state, and do little to transform the larger economic and political environment.

The CAW’s principal legislative demand for job creation – according to its Collective Bargaining and Political Action Program – is a call for a “national summit to implement a National Jobs Strategy” that includes “federal and provincial governments, major business sectors, municipal leaders, labour and other economic stakeholders.”[14] The CAW’s auto policy is geared toward enhancing the capacity of the current employers to maintain and increase investments in Canada, and, across the larger economic spectrum, intensifying manufacturing and export capacities in “high-value, high tech” sectors. Further, it calls for “more carefully regulating resource industries, and taking active efforts to maximize Canadian value-added opportunities associated with resource extraction.”[15]

While developing manufacturing capacities are critically important, the union accepts the limits of the current framework of complete domination of economic activity by export-oriented or resource-based private sector firms, operating in highly competitive markets. Even in its calls for lowering the value of the Canadian dollar, it does so, in the context of advancing the competitive export advantage of the private sector firms which dominate the sectors in which it predominates.

The CAW acts as if it wants to be ‘respected’ and considered to be part of the larger establishment conversation – as a ‘legitimate’ stakeholder – by the state and the capitalist class. This helps to explain the invitation recently given to Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney, the ‘pride’ in having him engage with the Convention, and the fact that they invited him instead of speakers who call for nationalizing the entire financial sector and running it as a democratically-controlled public utility, as a way of challenging the underpinnings of neoliberalism.

CEP has an extensive and interesting set of demands in the energy sector, calling for public ownership, the repeal of the energy provisions of NAFTA and the development of a “national energy policy.” The latter is to be the result of corporatist project that is the “product of a national debate involving all levels of government, industry, trade unionists, consumers, First Nations and community representatives.” The method of getting to the public ownership is hazy, but at least it is there. CEP also endorses carbon capture and storage and the use of bitumen from the tar sands for refining and use in Canada, as part of a larger industrial strategy, keeping in mind the interests and needs of First Nations. The policy book from CEP does not call for stopping the Tar Sands projects, the continued production of bitumen, or the phasing-out of fossil-based energy sources in a planned manner in order to move toward renewable energy.[16]

Neither union raises a call for, much less a plan for converting the economy away from fossil-fuel dependence.

But there is potential to be different. The two unions’ collective concentration in key sectors, such as energy, auto and other forms of transportation does literally cry out for an integrated anti-capitalist approach. The new union could argue for a move away from its current dependence on American companies manufacturing and exporting private vehicles in fierce competition with other firms. It could call for taking over closed manufacturing facilities to produce environmentally responsible goods that people need, moving toward a dramatic reinvestment in mass transit across the country, concentrating in urban areas. A nationalized energy sector could direct the massive subsidies already given to the tar sands and oil and gas interests toward a planned move away from fossil fuels and the development of renewable energy sources. Collectively, they could become a political force across the country for endogenous (that is internally-directed) economic investment, arguing for a move away from dependency on the competitiveness of individual firms, and end to free trade and capital mobility and argue for structural reforms that reject the fundamental principles of neoliberalism and capitalism.

The new union documents call for a reassessment of the way that unions engage in electoral politics. The CAW has stressed strategic voting and, at times, issue-oriented campaigning during elections, while the CEP is more closely tied to the NDP. In his speech at the CAW Constitutional Convention Ken Lewenza talked about all three options. In the current context, the NDP looms large and not just because of the CEP tradition. As the official opposition in Ottawa, it has become a magnet of sorts for a significant segment of progressive Canadians.

The new union needs to consider a politics that challenges the key elements of neoliberalism and capitalism and argues for reforms which move in an alternative direction. ”

But the NDP will not challenge the larger direction of neoliberalism, or resource and export dependency. The new union – like the rest of the labour movement – needs to consider a politics that challenges the key elements of neoliberalism and capitalism and argues for reforms which move in an alternative direction. This is not compatible with a politics that defines itself in terms of social democracy or the NDP.

Any serious attempt toward a politics that challenges the system might require an effort to collectively consider how to do politics differently: doing education with members about the current economic system, asking what is wrong with it, what alternatives can there be to neoliberal capitalism, how a union can contribute to arguing and organizing for an alternative and, thinking about what can be done in the meantime. (At one time, the CAW did organize what it called a Task Force on Working Class Politics. It ended up being a rather interesting snapshot of the political opinions and aspirations of the members, but little else.)

That kind of project is beyond the capacity of any union right now, especially in an environment where the socialist left – which can influence, inspire and learn from such a project – is virtually non-existent. But working to build support for it, amongst the activists in and around the union is an important part of changing that environment.

The Union and the Exercise of Renewal

The desire to renew the union is clear in many of the plans and approaches outlined in the documents. But a critical component of renewal is not addressed. While there are structures that have openings for rank and file participation and initiatives, the new union does little to create an autonomous democratic life in the union, whether in the locals or throughout the new representative spaces, where rank and file members and activists initiate and participate in political movements and argue for policies and approaches that differ from the existing leadership.

In the CAW, large local unions and the elected councils (which are the model for the new union’s institutions) became spaces where the leadership present policies and approaches, and the members ‘respond.’ They are not places where workers bring ideas, positions and proposals (or in organized groups based on competing visions or political approaches), and argue them out. Elections in these bodies (and in key local unions) are often non-contested, and this is celebrated as some kind of vindication of incumbents. Most members accept the policies that come down to them or, if they disagree, tend to lose interest and grumble silently – much like life in other institutions in bourgeois society. Even the recent elections to the NEB were not contested – certainly elections were not seen as spaces to raise alternative views. It reflects the decline in democratic life of rank and file workers and the parallel decline in political literacy and radicalism across the entire union movement.

This also reinforces bureaucratic practices that most unions carry with them, such as the tendency for many full-time union representatives to become accustomed to life out of the workplace or off the line. This creates well-recognized barriers between the stratum of elected leaders and many of the rank and file and activist layers.

The lack of membership initiative and participation – and the closely-related absence of an autonomous political life inside these unions – can be addressed in a number of ways, all of which are difficult: the union needs to be engaged in struggles in the workplace and local communities against employers and governments; and leading, debating and orienting these struggles inside the union’s democratic structures. This should become a means educating and politicizing members. Union education must be tied to summarizing and orienting these experiences. The culture, activities and structures of the new regional councils could move away from activities built around reports from the leadership, and instead encourage member initiated agendas and issues. Traditional leadership and organizational models must be questioned, with experiments such as term limits, rotating of staff or full time reps, and others.

Here again, for autonomous political movements and organizations to become a factor amongst the rank and file and activist layer, there needs to be an activist left working outside and inside the union. In past historical periods a lively internal political life was tied to the strength of radical political parties and organizations, rooted in the larger working-class.

Conclusion

The overall project of merging the CAW and CEP is a positive one. Its plan to allow individual membership and open up to social movements outside of the union brings important potentials for moving forward. But most of the new union’s more ambitious agenda items stand in contradiction to their current practices, the broader structural and political limitations of the era and the component unions’ inability and unwillingness to do what is necessary to challenge the latter. The current set of collective agreements being ratified with the Detroit Three automakers is a case in point.

Changing this requires an active and growing socialist and anti-capitalist left in Canada and North America. But this left today is tiny, localized and isolated from the larger trade union movement. Building such a movement would go a long way toward creating the conditions to allow unions to transform their organizations, relations with the rest of the working-class and a larger politics. •

Herman Rosenfeld is a retired CAW Staffperson, former GM worker, taught Labour Studes at McMaster and Political Science at York University.

Notes:

1. The experiences in the U.S., with UNITE-HERE, and Britain, with UNISON, not to mention efforts to create cross-continent unions have been mixed, at best.

2. See: Herman Rosenfeld, “The Electro-Motive Lockout and Non-Occupation: What did we lose? What can we learn?The Bullet, N. 615, April 10, 2012. The latest collective agreements signed between the Detroit Three automakers and the CAW sadly reflects this in both the results and the underlying approach.

3. Towards a New Union, CAW-CEP Proposal Committee Final Report, August 2012, p. 9. The new union also has plans for inclusiveness and participation at multiple levels for people of colour, women and LGBT members.

4. Towards a New Union, p. 30.

5. Despite the efforts of the Change to Win group in the U.S. to increase percentages of resources earmarked for organizing, American densities remain abysmally low.

6. This has both strength and weaknesses as will be argued below.

7. Towards a New Union, p. 24.

8. This is a thumbnail sketch. See: Towards a New Union, p.21.

9. A Moment of Truth for Canadian Labour, CAW-CEP Discussion Paper, p.1; Towards a New Union, p. 9.

10. Towards a New Union, p. 5.

11. A number of journalistic and academic commentaries and descriptions describe (while some reinforce) this. See: Greg Keenan, “Union reaches deal with Ford. Gives GM and Chrysler and extension,” Globe and Mail, September 18, 2012; Charlotte Yates, “Labour expert warns CAW that Detroit 3 ‘feel fragile’,” CBC News; Bernard Wolf, “World has changed for Detroit’s Big 3 and their unions,” Globe and Mail, September 17, 2012.

12. According to the union’s Collective Bargaining Report handed out to Ford workers at the ratification meetings, wages remain at 60% for 2 years; 65% for a third; 70% for a further two years; 75% for the sixth; and so on. At a time where the union has accepted the principle of adjusting wages for new hires to accommodate the competitive challenges of the employers, and where new hiring will be sluggish at best, one wonders if further and more onerous ‘grow-ins’ aren’t awaiting for the next contract, four years from now.

13. Some argue that the CAW’s further embrace of concessions in the current agreement can be used as a lesson to discipline the public sector unions. See: Martin Regg Cohn, “How some unions make the best – and worst – of tough times,” Toronto Star, September 19, 2012.

14. A Better World is Possible, 1st Constitutional and Collective Bargaining Convention Collective Bargaining and Political Action Program, CAW, August 20-24, 2012, p. 16.

15. A Better World is Possible. Also see: Jim Stanford, “Spinning Mark Carney at the 2012 CAW convention,” Rabble.ca, August 29, 2012.

16. CEP Energy Policy.

17. See: Herman Rosenfeld, “The North American Auto Industry in Crisis,” Monthly Review, 61: 2, June 2009; Dan La Botz, “What’s to be done about the Auto Industry?,” MRzine, October 18, 2008.

“Warship Diplomacy”: A Prelude to All Out War against Iran?

September 26th, 2012 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

NATO and allied forces are involved in major naval exercises in the Persian Gulf. 

War games in the Eastern Mediterranean directed against  Syria have also being contemplated.  Meanwhile,  Tehran is preparing for its largest air defense exercises to be held in October…

Warships from some 25 countries including NATO member states and partner nations have converged on the  Strait of Hormuz  in what is described by the British media  as “an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.” (Daily Telegraph, September 26, 2012).

Officially, the operation is described as an “anti-mine exercise” of a purely defensive nature, according to US Vice Admiral John W. Miller, Commander of the Fifth Fleet.

According to US military sources, the war games will “focus on a hypothetical threat from an extremist organization to mine the international strategic waterways of the Middle East, including the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman, and the Persian Gulf, although exercise activities will not extend into the Strait of Hormuz.” (PBS News Hour, September 16, 2012, emphasis added)

“The hypothetical threat from an extremist organization” no doubt refers to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The US has deployed three carrier strike groups. Britain has deployed it HMS Diamond destroyer. Warships from the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia are also involved.

This massive deployment of military hardware is tacitly acknowledged by military analysts as constituting an act of provocation directed against Iran.

While officially, “the aim [of the war games] is not to increase anxiety, but rather to ensure stability.”,  a  preemptive US-Israeli  war on Iran is the underlying assumption of these war games.

We are dealing with a diabolical military agenda:  The Strait of Hormuz is 34 kilometers wide at its narrowest point. “The width of the shipping lane in either direction is only three kilometers, separated by a three kilometer buffer zone.”

 

The naval exercises conducted within proximity of Iran’s territorial waters (see above) are also intended to simulate Iran’s response to a US-Israeli attack, namely what actions will be taken by allied forces in response to military retaliation by Iran.

USS Ponce, the U.S. Navy’s naval base in the Persian gulf.

USS Ponce, US Navy’s Naval Base in the Persian Gulf

These war games are said to be largest ever undertaken in the region. “They will practise tactics in how to breach an Iranian blockade of the strait and the force will also undertake counter-mining drills.”  They will also simulate within a short distance of the enemy’s territorial waters,  an attack on Iran as well as the simulated destruction of Iranian jet fighters and warships. (The Daily Telegraph, op cit)

The USS Ponce is to serve as a “staging and command post for mine hunting operations”.  USS Ponce (See above) is also carrying an “underwater drone” .  “The BAE Systems Plc (BA/) 25mm guided ‘‘Mark 38 Mod 2,” and Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicle are among the programs the Pentagon this year accelerated under a “Fast Lane” initiative to counter Iranian naval weapons. One of the most serious threats, the Navy says, are Iranian speedboats that can employ “swarming” tactics.” (Bloomberg, September 19, 2012)

These war games serve essentially two related purposes.

1. To threaten and intimidate Iran with a massive display of military might.

2. To deliberately create conditions within proximity of Iran’s territorial waters, which could lead to a Gulf of Tonkin type incident. The latter would involve military provocation conducive to confrontation and/or response by Iran.  This incident, would in turn provide a justification for attacking Iran on the grounds of self-defense.

The unspoken objective of warship diplomacy is to trigger an all out war. The objective is to portray Iran as the aggressor, as a threat to peace and security. Already insinuations abound in the Western media  to the effect that Iran may attempt to “draw the Americans into a conflict”. Confrontation in the Strait of Hormuz is part of the simulations and scenarios contemplated by US and allied military planners:

“Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s oil traded by sea.” (Ibid )

US defence secretary and former CIA director Leon Panetta, has intimated, in this regard, that any attempt by Iran “to exercise control over the Strait of Hormuz could be met with force.”

Iran has retorted stating that if it it is attacked,  it could close the Strait of Hormuz.

The underlying situation is extremely tense.

While the US-NATO naval exercises were ongoing, Iran test-fired anti-warship missiles near the Strait of Hormuz.

The Iranian war games was taking place simultaneously and close to the U.S.-led naval exercises in the Persian Gulf.

In October, Iran will be conducting  a major air defense war game in preparation of a US-NATO-Israeli attack. Thesewar games will test Iran’s missile capabilities.”The [Iranian] exercise is being showcased as the biggest air defence war game in the Islamic Republic’s history, and will be its most visible response yet to the prospect of an Israeli military strike. The Iranian war games will display the Islamic Republics missile capabilities.” (Ibid)  Tehran has announced that in the case of a US-Israeli attack, Israel as well as US military facilities in the region would be the target of retaliatory missile attacks.

Confronting Syria in the Eastern Mediterranean

Western military deployments directed against Iran are coordinated with those directed against Syria. We are dealing with an integrated military agenda pertaining to the entire Middle Eat Central Asian region.

A Franco-British naval operation consisting of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, and HMS Illustrious equipped with Apache attack helicopters will be conducting war games off the Syrian coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean.  This Franco-British naval operation  code-named  “Response Force Task Group” is directed against the government of Bashar Al Assad.

Fichier:Charles De Gaulle (R91) underway 2009.jpg

France’s Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier

Announced in July by the British Ministry of Defense,the Franco-British warships are  also slated to participate in the planned evacuation of  “British nationals from the Middle East, should the ongoing conflict in Syria further spill across borders into neighboring Lebanon and Jordan.”

The evacuation program is being used as a pretext for military intervention directed against Syria.

Sources in the British Ministry of Defense, while confirming the Royal Navy’s “humanitarian mandate” in the planned evacuation program, have categorically denied “any intention of a combat role for British forces [against Syria]“.

*        *      *

WWIII Scenario

The object of this book is to forcefully reverse the tide of war, challenge the war criminals in high office and the powerful corporate lobby groups which support them.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Towards a World War III Scenario, Global Research, Montreal,  2012)

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Reviews

Professor Chossudovsky’s hard-hitting and compelling book explains why and how we must immediately undertake a concerted and committed campaign to head off this impending cataclysmic demise of the human race and planet earth. This book is required reading for everyone in the peace movement around the world.”
-Francis A. Boyle, Professor of International Law, University of Illinois College of Law

“This book is a ‘must’ resource – a richly documented and systematic diagnosis of the supremely pathological geo-strategic planning of US wars since ‘9-11’ against non-nuclear countries to seize their oil fields and resources under cover of ‘freedom and democracy’.”
-John McMurtry, Professor of Philosophy, Guelph University

“In a world where engineered, pre-emptive, or more fashionably “humanitarian” wars of aggression have become the norm, this challenging book may be our final wake-up call.”
-Denis Halliday, Former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations

Michel Chossudovsky exposes the insanity of our privatized war machine. Iran is being targeted with nuclear weapons as part of a war agenda built on distortions and lies for the purpose of private profit. The real aims are oil, financial hegemony and global control. The price could be nuclear holocaust. When weapons become the hottest export of the world’s only superpower, and diplomats work as salesmen for the defense industry, the whole world is recklessly endangered. If we must have a military, it belongs entirely in the public sector. No one should profit from mass death and destruction.
-Ellen Brown, author of ‘Web of Debt’ and president of the Public Banking Institute

On September 24, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization granted Iraq the second Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme under the auspices of the bloc’s latest military collaboration and integration framework, partners across the globe.

The latter program (for which the substantives are occasionally capitalized), NATO’s latest, incorporates to date eight nations in the broader Asia-Pacific region (including West Asia, the Middle East) that have supplied troops for the U.S.-led military organization’s war in Afghanistan under International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) command or are subsumed under NATO consultative arrangements and training programs like the Afghanistan-Pakistan-ISAF Tripartite Commission, the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan and the NATO Training Mission – Iraq.

The partners across the globe currently are Afghanistan, Australia, Iraq, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Korea. Among the 50 nations providing NATO with troop contingents for the war in South Asia are additional Asia-Pacific states not covered by other international NATO partnership formats like the Partnership for Peace (22 nations in Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia), the Mediterranean Dialogue (seven nations in North Africa and the Middle East, with Libya to be the eighth) and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, which targets the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates).

Those states – Malaysia, Singapore and Malaysia – are likely the next candidates for the new global partnership, as are Latin American troop contributors like El Salvador (present) and Colombia (announced). The inclusion of the last will mark the expansion of NATO, through memberships and partnerships, to all six inhabited continents.

In the past two years there has been discussion about NATO establishing a collective partnership arrangement, which could include individual partnerships as well, with the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which are, in addition to Malaysia and Singapore, mentioned above, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

During the NATO summit in Chicago this May, Secretary General Rasmussen met with what were identified as 13 partners across the globe.

Regarding the new partnership agreement with Iraq, the NATO website reports that it follows and builds upon the eight-year NATO Training Mission-Iraq, which was employed to train thousands of Iraq officers, soldiers and oil police, and “inaugurates a full-fledged partnership.” (2)

The Alliance further stated, “The signing of the partnership accord marks the formal accession of Iraq to NATO’s ‘partnerships family,’” which will create the basis for the Western alliance “assisting Iraq as it builds a modern security sector which can cooperate with international partners.”

That is, the NATO-trained Iraq armed forces are being recruited into the Western military axis’ international nexus.

Four days earlier NATO signed an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme with South Korea in Brussels which, the NATO press release on the occasion stated, “follows seven years of progressive engagement from a dialogue that was initiated in 2005.”

In June NATO Secretary General Rasmussen traveled to New Zealand and signed the same agreement with the nation’s prime minister, John Key.

The first Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme was signed with Mongolia this March. (Though an agreement with the same title was signed with Switzerland in the same month.) That country borders China and Russia; in fact, of the eight current partners across the globe, three – Mongolia, Pakistan and Afghanistan – share borders with China and two others, Japan and South Korea, are its near neighbors.

In conjunction with the U.S., NATO is striving to assemble the remnants of defunct or dormant Cold War-era military blocs in the Asia-Pacific region, all modeled after NATO itself – the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America (ANZUS) – to replicate in the East against China what NATO expansion has accomplished in Europe over the past 13 years in relation to Russia: its exclusion, isolation and encirclement by military bases, naval deployments and interceptor missile installations.

The U.S. has recruited Japan, South Korea and Australia into its global sea- and land-based missile shield grid, with a recent report indicating the Pentagon plans to add the Philippines to the list with the deployment there of an Army Navy/Transportable Radar Surveillance mobile system of the sort already stationed in Japan, Israel and Turkey.

Following Mongolia, New Zealand, South Korea and Iraq, NATO intends to sign Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme accords with its remaining partners across the globe: Afghanistan, Australia, Japan and Pakistan.

Like South Korea with its neighbor to the north, Japan is embroiled in a showdown with China, and Afghanistan and Pakistan are involved in armed conflicts, with NATO waging a nearly 11-year war in Afghanistan and periodic incursions and attacks across the border in Pakistan.

The formal consolidation of military partnerships with the above nations will provide NATO the rationale for direct participation in hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region as a manifestation of the bloc’s repeated claims to being a global military force.

Notes

1) Partners Across The Globe: NATO Consolidates Worldwide Military Force, http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/partners-across-the-globe-nato-consolidates-worldwide-military-force/

2) Iraq: NATO Forges New Strategic Partnership In Persian Gulf, http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/iraq-nato-forges-new-strategic-partnership-in-persian-gulf/

Pravda.Ru interviewed Paul Craig Roberts, an American economist, who served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration and became a co-founder of Reaganomics – the economic policies promoted by the U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s. We asked Mr. Roberts to share his views about the current state of affairs inside and outside the United States.

Pravda.Ru: Mr. Roberts, you are known in Russia as the creator of Reaganomics, which helped the country overcome stagflation. What were the key aspects of that policy and how would you estimate its results today? Do you think your faith in free market has shattered?

Paul Craig Roberts: Free market means the freedom of price to adjust to supply and demand. It does not mean the absence of regulation of human behavior.

Reaganomics was a political word for supply-side economics, a new development in economic theory. In the post World War 2 western world, governments used Keynesian demand management economic policy to control inflation and to boost employment. John Maynard Keynes was the British economist who explained the Great Depression in the West as a consequence of insufficient aggregate demand to maintain full employment and stable prices.

Keynesian demand management relied on government budget deficits and easy monetary policy (money creation) to stimulate demand for goods and services. To control inflation from too much demand for goods and services, high tax rates were used to reduce disposable income.

The problem that developed is that the high tax rates on income made leisure inexpensive in terms of lost current earnings from not working, and made current consumption inexpensive in terms of lost future income from not saving and investing. In other words, high tax rates on income made leisure and current consumption cheap in terms of foregone present and future income. Thus, high tax rates on income depressed the supply of labor and capital.

Using the UK’s 98% tax rate on investment income (pre-Thatcher), the Nobel economist Milton Friedman illustrated the problem with this example. You are an Englishman with $100,000. Shall you invest it for future income, or shall you purchase a Rolls Royce and enjoy life? The true price of the Rolls Royce (or Bentley, or Ferrari or Maserati) is not the purchase price. The price of the exotic car is the foregone future income from not investing the $100,000.

Suppose you could earn 10% on the $100,000. That would be $10,000 per year as the cost of purchasing the luxury car. But after tax (98%) the car would only cost $200 per year, a very cheap price.

The same example works for labor and salary income. Because of the high marginal tax rates, many professionals such as medical doctors closed their practices on Fridays and went to the golf course.

By changing the policy mix, that is by tightening monetary policy and reducing marginal tax rates (the tax rate on increases in income), the supply-side economic policy of the Reagan administration caused aggregate supply to increase. Thus output expanded relative to demand, and inflation declined.

This supply-side policy was instrumental as Reagan’s first step toward ending the cold war with the Soviet Union. As long as the US economy was afflicted with stagflation–the simultaneous rise in both inflation and unemployment, the Soviet government saw capitalism failing along with communism. But when Reagan corrected the economic problem, it made the Soviet government unsure that it could withstand an arms race.

Reagan’s next step was to bring the Soviet government to the negotiating table to end the cold war. The cold war was an economic drain on both societies and always had the risk of a miscalculation that would result in nuclear war, wiping out life on earth. Gorbachev, an intelligent person aware of the risk, came to agreement with Reagan.

This was a great accomplishment for the Americans and for the Russians. Friendship and cooperation was now possible.
But it was not to last. Reagan’s successors took advantage of the good will between the countries that Reagan and Gorbachev had created to achieve American hegemony over the world.

Q: During the 80s, relying on the revived economic power of the United States, Ronald Reagan managed to convince the Soviet government to end the Cold War. All those agreements, as you believe, were destroyed by Reagan’s successors. Russia shares a completely different opinion about Reagan. The Russians think of him as the man, who resumed the arms race, designed the space shield and “cut out the cancer of communism” having won (or maybe bribed) Gorbachev over to his side for cooperation. Maybe one shouldn’t strike him out of the list of the authors of today’s American “idiotism?”

A: Reagan was not a member of the Republican Establishment. He defeated the Establishment’s candidate, George H. W. Bush (father of George W. Bush) for the Republican presidential nomination. By appealing to Democratic as well as Republican voters, Reagan had a great electoral victory. Reagan had two goals: one was to end stagflation, the other was to end the cold war. He was not much interested in anything else. The “arms race” and the “anti-ballistic missile defense–star wars” were never real. They were threats used to bring Gorbachev to negotiate the end of the cold war. Unlike the present Republican Party, Reagan wanted peace, not war.

I know this because when I succeeded in establishing the new economic policy that cured stagflation, President Reagan appointed me to a super-secret presidential committee that had subpoena power over the CIA.

The CIA opposed Reagan’s effort to end the cold war, as did the powerful military-security complex, about which President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people in his last address to the American nation. The end of the cold war threatened the profits of the powerful military industries and the power of the CIA.

The CIA said that the Soviet Union would win an arms race, because the Soviet Union could control investment, unlike the US, and could allocate the entire Gross Domestic Product of the Soviet Empire to the military. Reagan’s secret committee over-ruled the CIA.
I had been a member of the US-USSR student exchange program to the Soviet Union in 1961 and had observed the situation. My first book (1971) said that the Soviet economy had failed. When decades later I addressed the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow in 1989 and 1990, members of the Economic Institute brought me copies of my book to be autographed. And I had thought that censorship existed in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union collapsed three years after Reagan left office. It came as a surprise to those of us who had helped Reagan to end the cold war and dispose of the nuclear war threat.
Myself and many other Reagan supporters opposed the extension of NATO to Russia’s reduced borders. What the world seems to be unaware of is that the Soviet collapse unleashed a new, highly dangerous ideology in the US known as neoconservatism.

Q: You wrote that the insane and criminal government in Washington, no matter Democratic of Republicans, no matter the outcome of the next elections, is the biggest threat to life on Earth ever. How would you describe this threat, what is it made of and who represents it in the US?

A: The threat is the neoconservative ideology, unleashed by the Soviet collapse. It is a form of Marxism in which American “democratic capitalism” instead of the proletariat has won history’s verdict–”the end of history.” Americans are the “indispensable people,” and the US is the “indispensable nation” with the right and responsibility to establish its hegemony over the world. Adolf Hitler called the same thing “Aryan Superiority.” Now Washington asserts the superiority. The neoconservative ideology threatens the world with nuclear war.

Q: What would you say about the Russian law, according to which political parties funded from abroad should be registered as foreign agents?

A: The US has laws that require foreign interests to register as foreign agents. This law does not always apply to all Israeli lobby groups, such as AIPAC.

There are no political parties in the US that are funded by foreign interests. No such thing would be permitted. It would be regarded as high treason. What is surprising is that the Russian government permitted for 20 years its political opposition to be funded by Washington and still permits that today as long as the opposition registers as an American agent. The ability of Washington to fund the Russian government’s political opposition and also protest groups, perhaps including Pussy Riot, allows Washington free access to destabilize Russia.

Q: What role do so-called non-governmental organizations play in the US? The National Endowment for Democracy, for example?

A: NGOs play no role inside the US. NGOs are Washington’s means of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, such as funding and organizing “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine. The National Endowment for Democracy is a principle funder of political opposition and protest groups in countries with governments to which Washington is opposed. Despite its original purpose, the National Endowment for Democracy has been converted into an agent for US hegemony.

Q: You wrote a lot about the fate of Pussy Riot. As you said, “they were brutally deceived and used by the Washington-financed NGOs that have infiltrated Russia.” What is the goal of such stunts?

A: It might be the case that Pussy Riot’s assaults on Russian probity are independent protests. On the other hand, the offending stunts could be provoked and funded by NGOs that are funded from Washington. Regardless, it is the result that is important. The result is that the controversy over Pussy Riot has shifted criticism from Washington’s destruction of Syria to Putin, “the suppressor of free speech.” It is folly for Russians to ally with Washington’s propaganda against their own government. If this folly continues, Russia will end up as another American puppet state.

Q: If an act like that of Pussy Riot took place in America, in a location of national significance, how would the general public and the government react? What do common people say about the Pussy Riot scandal in Russia?

A: Ordinary Americans know nothing about Pussy Riot. Despite the propaganda from Washington, most Americans have never heard of the incident. The importance of Washington’s propaganda about Pussy Riot is to send the signal to Washington’s European puppet states that Russia is to be demonized for opposing Washington’s destruction of Syria and Iran. It was the Russian and Chinese governments that blocked Washington’s UN resolution that would have allowed an opening for NATO to bomb Syria as it did Libya. Instead of being praised for its concern with life, human rights, and international law, Russia has been damned.

The consequence in the US of an act like those performed by Pussy Riot would vary depending on state and local laws. Also, depending on where the act takes place–a Jewish synagog for instance–the US Department of Justice could declare the act a hate crime or a form of discrimination against a “preferred minority” and bring a federal case.

Q: You wrote that the US government was full of determination to have the war on three fronts: Syria, Lebanon and Iran – in the Middle East, China – in the Far East and Russia – in Europe. Does the country have financial possibilities for that?

A: The US is bankrupt. However, the US dollar remains the world reserve currency. This means that the US can print money to pay its bills. As long as the world accepts the dollar as world reserve currency, the US will be able to continue its wars.

Q: Being in the insular situation, the USA experiments on other countries hoping that war will never come to the US territory. The US spends a lot more on defense of its forward-based forces in Europe and in the Middle East than it does on defense of its own borders. Maybe Russia should be more active and put the threat closer to the US borders by deploying a sea-based missile defense system near the shores of a friendly Latin American country?

A: Like President Reagan, I am in favor of peace. I believe that Americans, Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and everyone else should spend their resources in getting along with one another, not in trying to dominate one another. I believe that Washington is forcing Russia and China to spend resources on military preparedness that the countries could better use in economic development and in protecting the environment. It is my belief that Washington’s drive for world hegemony is driving the world toward nuclear war. I have no way of knowing how the Russian and Chinese governments might respond to Washington’s drive for hegemony.

Q: What stops Russia and China from uniting to oppose the USA?

A: This question is outside my knowledge. Perhaps suspicion of one another, like the suspicion between Sunni and Shia that allows the US to dominate the Middle East.

Q: You said that the US is a police state, which was set up in the name of mystification of the “war on terror.” Can you give a clear explanation as to what the American Big Brother is doing?

A: The Bush/Cheney regime rammed through the PATRIOT Act, which assaulted the US Constitution and took away US civil liberties. The Bush regime established that the president did not have to obey either statutory US law, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which requires a court warrant for spying on US citizens. President Bush violated the law, a felony, and was not held accountable.

Bush asserted and established by assertion, the power to negate Constitutional protections, such as habeas corpus, and confined US citizens to indefinite detainment (life in prison) without any evidence or court proceedings. Nothing was done about this violation of constitutional order. President Obama has declared that he has the power to execute US citizens on suspicion alone without evidence or due process of law. These are the most extreme police state measures of modern times.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that it has shifted its focus from Muslim terrorism to “domestic extremists,” an undefined term. Recently the Department of Homeland Security has purchased more than one billion rounds of deadly ammunition, such as hollow point bullets, enough to shoot the entire US population several times. There are also reports that detainment camps have been constructed, allegedly for such events as hurricane evacuation. Congress and the media are not asking questions about these developments.

Q: President Barack Obama said that one of the principles to resume peace talks between Israel and Palestine was about the retrieval of 1967 borders. How could the Jewish lobby let him say that?

A: President Obama has been declared by Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and the Israel Lobby to be a lackluster friend of Israel, because Obama has not yet launched a military attack on Iran. Obama, perhaps believing himself to be the president of the world’s only superpower, and not a puppet of the Israeli prime minister, has taken offense at the public bullying to which he has been subjected by the far right-wing Israeli government. Obama’s statement referring to the 1967 borders was Obama’s way of letting the Israeli government know that it was going too far and pushing too hard.

Q: You see the basic problems of the US economy in moving production to China. If you were invited to serve as an adviser to the president, what would be your plan for taking America out of the crisis?

A: I will never again be permitted to serve as an adviser to the president of the US. Since the Clinton presidency, the only permitted advisers are those who lie for the government. I will not do that.

I am unsure that America can be taken out of economic crisis. Much of the most productive part of the US economy has been moved offshore in order to increase corporate profits, the performance-based bonuses for executive compensation and capital gains to equity owners. The US has lost critical supply chains, industrial infrastructure, and the knowledge of skilled workers.

Theoretically, the US could bring its corporations back to America by taxing their profits according to the geographical location in which value is added to their product. If value is added abroad, in China or India, for example, the tax rate would be high. If value was added domestically in the US, the tax rate would be low.

The US could also resort to the protective tariffs that were responsible for its rise as an economic power.

These changes would be difficult to enact as the changes are contrary to the material interests of the one percent.

The US today is ruled by an oligarchy of private interests. The US government is not very independent of the powerful interest groups that fund political campaigns. The US ceased being a democracy during the Clinton administration.

Дмитрий Судаков

By Madison Ruppert

The dangerous reality of nuclear power is becoming increasingly apparent in the wake of the continuing (and “profoundly man-made”) disaster at Fukushima as well as studies which project similarly devastating disasters in the future.

Yet nations including Japan continue to press forward with nuclear power in spite of the clear dangers and the widespread public opposition to the deadly technology. That being said, Japan recently announced that they will seek to phase out nuclear power generation by 2040, although how hard they will push toward this goal has yet to be seen.

The case against nuclear power just gets stronger with another study headed by Spanish researchers which identifies nuclear power plants which are especially vulnerable to suffering the devastation of a tsunami.

“In total, twenty-three plants, in which there are seventy-four active nuclear reactors, are located in dangerous areas in east and southeast of Asia, including Fukushima I,” Homeland Security News Wire reports.

The researchers found the “potentially dangerous” sites which are either already constructed or currently under construction. While scientists still cannot perfectly predict tsunamis and obviously thus cannot predict nuclear disasters as a result of tsunamis, they can identify potentially problematic sites before any real danger is present.

The study entitled, “Civil nuclear power at risk of tsunamis,” was conducted by Joaquin Rodríguez-Vidal Jose M. Rodriguez-Llanes and Debarati Guha-Sapir and was published in Natural Hazards 63, no. 2 (September 2012).

The researchers determined the world’s geographic zones which are at greater risk of being hit by large tsunamis and based on their data they determined that there are a whopping 23 nuclear plants with a total of 74 reactors in these danger zones.

Unsurprisingly, the researchers determined that one of the nuclear power plants in these high risk areas is the nuclear facility at Fukushima which continues to be shrouded in mystery thanks to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government.

Thankfully not all of the plants and reactors in these high risk zones are currently online. Of the 23 plants identified by the researchers, 13 plants and 29 reactors are currently active.

Other plants are being expanded to include even more additional reactors and seven brand new plants are under construction which will bring 16 new reactors online when complete.

“We are dealing with the first vision of the global distribution of civil nuclear power plants situated on the coast and exposed to tsunamis,” said José Manuel Rodríguez-Llanes, one of the authors of the study and researcher with the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

The researchers based their determinations of tsunami risk on a combination of factors including archeological, geological, historical and instrumental records.

While it is not just the area in Asia which is threatened by tsunamis, the areas highlighted by the study are at greater risk due to the presence of nuclear power stations.

“The impact of natural disaster is getting worse due to the growing interaction with technological installations,” said Debarati Guha-Sapir.

China is on the forefront of the expansion of nuclear power with China making up 27 out of the 64 reactors currently under construction.

“The most important fact is that nineteen (two of which are in Taiwan) out of the twenty-seven reactors are being built in areas identified as dangerous,” the researchers stated.

Japan’s reactors are still far from safe with seven plants and 19 reactors at risk, one of which is still under construction. South Korea is currently expanding two plants with five reactors, all of which are at risk according to the study. India’s two reactors and Pakistan’s single reactor are also at risk.

“The location of nuclear installations does not only have implications for their host countries but also for the areas which could be affected by radioactive leaks,” said Joaquín Rodríguez-Vidal, lead author of the study and researcher at the Geodynamics and Paleontology Department of the University of Huelva in Spain.

The researchers emphasize the need for lessons to be learned from the Fukushima disaster in order to avoid and prevent similar disasters in the future.

The authors noted that we are somewhat lucky that the Fukushima disaster occurred in one of the nations with the world’s highest standards in technological infrastructure and scientific development.

“If it had occurred in a country less equipped for dealing with the consequences of catastrophe, the impact would have been a lot more serious for the world at large,” the researchers stated.

Therefore, one would expect if such a disaster was to hit China, India or Pakistan, the damage would be considerably worse.

If we do not learn from the horrific damage caused by Fukushima – much of which is still not seen and the ramifications of which likely will not be accurately determined for decades – we are doomed to repeat it.

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On Wednesday, September 12th, the House of Representatives voted 301-118 to extend the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for another five years, despite continuing secrecy, unanswered questions, and concerns from across the political spectrum about its sweeping invasions of privacy.

When originally passed, FISA was meant to curtail the federal government’s surveillance practices. Over the years, provisions for dragnet surveillance have been expanded, particularly since 2002. During the Bush administration, the National Security Agency began a warrantless wiretapping scheme hatched in secret, and in such clear violation of FISA that Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to authorize it and Justice Department officials threatened to resign en masse.

When the program was first revealed to the public in 2005, by New York Times journalists who risked prosecution to reveal state secrets, it caused an earthquake in Washington. However, in 2008, Congress amended FISA to essentially permit what the original statute prohibited. Since then, the program has continued to operate in secret, drawing widespread concerns as the NSA has escalated its war on privacy and the Constitution.

In response to questions from Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the Director of National Intelligence has even admitted that the NSA’s activities violated the Constitution, and the incredibly permissive limits of FISA, on at least one occasion.

The House’s vote to reauthorize the 2008 FISA amendments is beyond troubling. Many legislators and concerned Americans have called for greater transparency in the interpretation of this law, and how it has been applied. Yet the NSA has continuously denied requests to reveal information about how many Americans have been monitored.

Even more troubling is that lawmakers in the House voted to reauthorize these amendments without such information, aiming to entrench even beyond the next administration what BORDC executive director Shahid Buttar calls “the most pervasive state surveillance system ever known to humankind. The only settings in which powers like it have ever existed are dystopian science fiction novels.” In his recent article, “Uncle Sam is watching you,” Buttar states that though much about the NSA has been kept secret, what we do know about the program is quite telling:

We know that it began illegally, without any authorization by Congress and in clear violation of the FISA law crafted by Congress in the 1970s to stop our government from spying on Americans.

We know it is so vast and unchecked that, nearly ten years ago, Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to authorize it, even despite coercion from the Bush White House.

We know that an architect of the program, alarmed at how his work was co-opted to abuse the rights of Americans, blew a whistle about fraud and waste, only to face prosecution by the Obama Administration for espionage–until a federal court ultimately told the government to stop chasing a loyal servant of the American people.

Buttar also notes the Congressional failure is spread across party lines:

We know that congressional Democrats–including then Senator Obama–joined their Republican colleagues in 2008 to approve FISA, even while both parties paid lip service about defending constitutional values in Washington. Despite the partisan rancor apparent on many issues, Congress marches in lockstep on national security, elevating government power well beyond constitutional limits.

With the House vote complete, this overreaching authorization of unwarranted and unprecedented domestic surveillance will now move to the Senate.  Unfortunately, unless Senators finally heed the voices of Americans demanding answers and the restoration of their Fourth Amendment rights, many appear content to rubber stamp the House bill. For instance, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) supports Senate approval without further revisions.

Until legislators acknowledge the concerned voices of We the People and act to impose overdue limits on dragnet domestic surveillance, it will be safe to presume that Uncle Sam is watching you.

How Do You Take Your Poison?

September 25th, 2012 by Chris Hedges

One way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.

We will all swallow our cup of corporate poison. We can take it from nurse Romney, who will tell us not to whine and play the victim, or we can take it from nurse Obama, who will assure us that this hurts him even more than it hurts us, but one way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. The choice before us is how it will be administered. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.

If you insist on participating in the cash-drenched charade of a two-party democratic election at least be clear about what you are doing. You are, by playing your assigned role as the Democratic or Republican voter in this political theater, giving legitimacy to a corporate agenda that means your own impoverishment and disempowerment. All the things that stand between us and utter destitution — Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, Head Start, Social Security, public education, federal grants-in-aid to America’s states and cities, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and home-delivered meals for seniors — are about to be shredded by the corporate state. Our corporate oligarchs are harvesting the nation, grabbing as much as they can, as fast as they can, in the inevitable descent.

We will be assaulted this January when automatic spending reductions, referred to as “the fiscal cliff,” begin to dismantle and defund some of our most important government programs. Mitt Romney will not stop it. Barack Obama will not stop it.

And while Romney has been, courtesy of the magazine Mother Jones, exposed as a shallow hypocrite, Obama is in a class by himself. There is hardly a campaign promise from 2008 that Obama has not broken. This list includes his pledges to support the public option in health care, close Guantanamo, raise the minimum wage, regulate Wall Street, support labor unions in their struggles with employers, reform the Patriot Act, negotiate an equitable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, curb our imperial expansion in the Middle East, stop torture, protect reproductive rights, carry out a comprehensive immigration reform, cut the deficit by half, create 5 million new energy jobs and halt home foreclosures. Obama, campaigning in South Carolina in 2007, said that as president he would fight for the right of collective bargaining. “I’d put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll … walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America,” he said. But when he got his chance to put on those “comfortable pair of shoes” during labor disputes in Madison, Wis., and Chicago, he turned his back on working men and women.

Obama, while promising to defend Social Security, also says he stands behind the planned cuts outlined by his deficit commission, headed by Morgan Stanley board member Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican. The Bowles-Simpson plan calls for cutting 0.3 percentage points from the annual cost-of-living adjustment in the Social Security program. The annual reduction would slowly accumulate. After a decade it would mean a 3 percent cut. After two decades it would mean a 6 percent cut. The retirement age would be raised to 69. And those on Social Security who continued to work and made more than $40,000 a year would be penalized with further reductions. Obama’s payroll tax cuts have, at the same time, served to undermine the solvency of Social Security, making it an easier target for the finance corporations that seek to destroy the program and privatize the funds.

But that is just the start. Cities and states are frantically staving off collapse. They cannot pay for most pension plans and are borrowing at higher and higher interest rates to keep themselves afloat. The country’s 19,000 municipalities face steadily declining or stagnant property tax revenues, along with spiraling costs. Annual pension payments for state and local plans more than doubled to 15.7 percent of payrolls in 2011 from 6.4 percent a decade ago, according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. And local governments, which made some $50 billion in pension contributions in 2010, face unfunded pension liabilities of $3 trillion and unfunded health benefit liabilities of more than $1 trillion, according to The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. State and local government spending fell at a rate of 2.1 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to the Commerce Department. It was the 11th consecutive quarterly reduction in expenditures. And in the past year alone local governments cut 66,000 jobs, mostly those of teachers and other school employees, reported The Wall Street Journal, which accumulated this list of grim statistics.

The costs of our most basic needs, from food to education to health care, are at the same time being pushed upward with no control or regulation. Tuition and fees at four-year colleges climbed 300 percent between 1990 and 2011, fueling the college loan crisis that has left graduates, most of them underemployed or unemployed, with more than $1 trillion in debt. Health care costs over the same period have risen 150 percent. Food prices have climbed 10 percent since June, according to the World Bank. There are now 46.7 million U.S. citizens, and one in three children, who depend on food stamps. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under Obama has, meanwhile, expelled 1.5 million immigrants, a number that dwarfs deportations carried out by his Republican predecessor. And while we are being fleeced, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank has since 2008 doled out $16 trillion to national and global financial institutions and corporations.

Fiscal implosion is only a matter of time. And the corporate state is preparing. Obama’s assault on civil liberties has outpaced that of George W. Bush. The refusal to restore habeas corpus, the use of the Authorization to Use Military Force Act to justify the assassination of U.S. citizens, the passing of the FISA Amendments Act to monitor and eavesdrop on tens of millions of citizens without a warrant, the employment of the Espionage Act six times to threaten whistle-blowers inside the government with prison time, and the administration’s recent emergency appeal of U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest’s permanent injunction of Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act give you a hint of the shackles the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, intend to place on all those who contemplate dissent.

But perhaps the most egregious assault will be carried out by the fossil fuel industry. Obama, who presided over the repudiation of the Kyoto Accords and has done nothing to halt the emission of greenhouse gases, reversed 20 years of federal policy when he permitted the expansion of fracking and offshore drilling. And this acquiescence to big oil and big coal, no doubt useful in bringing in campaign funds, spells disaster for the planet. He has authorized drilling in federally protected lands, along the East Coast, Alaska and four miles off Florida’s Atlantic beaches. Candidate Obama in 2008 stood on the Florida coastline and vowed never to permit drilling there.

You get the point. Obama is not in charge. Romney would not be in charge. Politicians are the public face of corporate power. They are corporate employees. Their personal narratives, their promises, their rhetoric and their idiosyncrasies are meaningless. And that, perhaps, is why the cost of the two presidential campaigns is estimated to reach an obscene $2.5 billion. The corporate state does not produce a product that is different. It produces brands that are different. And brands cost a lot of money to sell.

You can dismiss those of us who will in protest vote for a third-party candidate and invest our time and energy in acts of civil disobedience. You can pride yourself on being practical. You can swallow the false argument of the lesser of two evils. But ask yourself, once this nightmare starts kicking in, who the real sucker is.

Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. The Los Angeles Press Club honored Hedges’ original columns in Truthdig by naming the author the Online Journalist of the Year in 2009, and granted him the Best Online Column award in 2010 for his Truthdig essay “One Day We’ll All Be Terrorists.”

The Globalization of NATO

September 25th, 2012 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

In Liaison with Washington: Canada’s Complicity in Torture

September 25th, 2012 by Matthew Behrens

The ease with which self-described democratic states embroil themselves in torture continues to be illustrated by the manner in which agencies of the Canadian state, from spies to judges, have wedged open a door to legitimize complicity in a practice that both domestic and international law ban outright.

Before dismissing that paragraph as preposterous, it is worth considering that two federal inquiries into the torture of Abdullah Almalki, Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin revealed a sinister level of Canadian complicity in torture, from which no accountability or systemic changes have emerged. Further, damning documents reveal Canadian knowledge of and culpability in the renditions and torture of Benamar Benatta and Abousfian Abdelrazik. Meanwhile, the Federal Court, while accepting CSIS memos acknowledging that secret trial “security certificate” cases are based largely on torture, continues with hearings that could result in deportations to torture. That latter possibility is courtesy of a 2002 Supreme Court of Canada decision that left open the possibility of such complicity in torture under “exceptional circumstances.”

Outrage over Canadian involvement in torture remains fairly muted, especially as each new revelation of deepening complicity is met by government officials not so much with shamefaced promises to keep our hands clean, but rather bald-faced justifications in the name of security. Indeed, as in the U.S., there appears a growing Canadian effort to justify as legal and legitimate that which is neither.

Process of Legitimization

Part of that process of legitimization – accepting torture as a normal course of social and political events in much the same mundane way we would assess price drops in overseas markets – is now firmly fixed at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). As we learned last month in a declassified memo, CSIS runs a thinly disguised torture committee, using the more group hug-like moniker of the Information Sharing Evaluation Committee.

According to a formerly secret August 2011 memo from CSIS Deputy Director of Operations Michel Coulombe, a group of six people sit around the table and shoot the breeze about information coming across their desks that may have come from torture (or, to use their preferred term, “mistreatment”). Their task is to decide whether to act on the fruits of torture and whether to share information that could lead to the torture of someone else. This may sound familiar, because it’s exactly what CSIS and the RCMP were already found to be up to in the decade following 9/11. Rather than ending such practices, they’ve developed an Orwellian process whereby they justify doing what they are not supposed to do, with subsequent Public Safety memos from [Minister of Public Safety] Vic Toews to the Canadian Border Services Agency and the RCMP outlining the same process. All of these documents clearly state that the “Government of Canada does not condone the use of torture,” but then proceed to justify involvement in torture.

So what does the Gang of Six do when they decide whether they have to defy the law by getting down and dirty with torture? Their list of sources to consult starts with “CSIS databases,” a less than objective or reassuring source of information which the departed Inspector General of CSIS, Eva Plunkett, slammed in her November 2011 report as “unreliable.” (Her position has since been eliminated to save $1-million, while the War Department continues to spend upwards of $2-million on Viagra).

“Diplomatic Assurances”

CSIS is then to look at their “foreign arrangements” as well as “assurances” that have been received by the foreign entity. In deciding whether to turn someone over to the Gestapo or to share information with those who turn the screws, CSIS must decide whether the Gestapo’s promise not to torture someone can be taken at face value (this practice of “diplomatic assurances” has long been condemned as another disgrace that erodes further the outright ban on torture).

CSIS can also check the human rights reports from DFAIT (the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade). DFAIT was found to be complicit in torture by two federal inquiries (and their memos with respect to the torture of Abdelrazik, detained in Sudan for years, illustrated similar culpability as well). DFAIT human rights reports are not made public, according to the Arar Inquiry, because “there is some concern about the impact public reports may have on Canadian commercial interests with these countries.” In addition, the reliability of DFAIT reports is far from certain. The Arar Inquiry pointed out that while a DFAIT report on torture in Syria in 2001 referenced “credible evidence of torture” and the use of torture to extract confessions, the 2002 report qualifies the use of torture as “allegations” and omits mention of the use of torture to extract confessions. Notably, while Canadians like Maher Arar, Ahmad El Maati and Abdullah Almalki were detained and tortured in Syria, the DFAIT annual report failed to make any mention of them.

And when a perhaps junior staffer at DFAIT has the gall to report the truth, it is rewritten. Indeed, we learned in 2008 that an 89-page PowerPoint DFAIT training manual listed, among countries using torture, the U.S. and Israel (both of which are well-documented facts). Former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier reacted by declaring: “It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten.”

The other items checked include “open source information” (code word for the National Post and other right-wing publications and websites from which CSIS builds its cases). To cover their derrieres, they throw a sop about consulting Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and U.S. State Department reports, but they likely carry no weight given that CSIS and DFAIT officials have repeatedly refused to acknowledge that torture has been systematic in countries like Syria and Egypt.

By choosing to be part of the torture chain, and using lawyers at Canada’s Department of Justice for cover (as they were during the torture of Canadians in Syria and Egypt), it appears that the Canadian government seeks not to hide its involvement, but rather to sanction it under the cover of law.

Training the Torturers?

Skeptics might ask whether this is blowing things out of proportion. Yet this is precisely what happens when the door to torture has been opened. U.S. lawyer Alan Dershowitz famously said that Americans should be able to obtain torture warrants for “extreme cases,” yet if one is to open that door, who does the torture? How is it practiced to ensure a torture team will be available and ready to roll when it is mandated by a torture warrant? Thus we enter the world of “torture controls and limitations,” in much the same twisted way in which we have global holocaust controls with nuclear weapons limitations.

Richard Matthews of Mount Allison University, in his excellent book The Absolute Violation, notes that just as fighter pilots need to train so they can drop their bombs,

“at some points torturers have to practice on victims if they are going to be any good. The spread of state torture is not merely a risk but is in fact inevitable once the state decides that torture serves a state interest.”

In this instance, CSIS has clearly defined its state interest in torture by declaring there will be times when it is necessary to engage in the odious practice. Matthews notes that

“defenders of torture typically accept that every human being has a right not to be tortured, and they agree that this should be enshrined in international law. The debate is not about whether there is such a right but about whether such rights may ever be overridden.” [emphasis added]

Matthews, whose book was published in 2008, has clearly hit the nail on the head, since this is exactly how the CSIS memos are structured. What follows from this rationale, he notes, is a concerted effort to incorporate such processes within the framework of the law, so that any decision that leads to blood on the hands will be seen as lawful.

This is made possible because in the UN Convention Against Torture, its early definition includes a dangerous exception in Article 1, when it states torture “does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.” From this definition, one can see the emerging legal and moral calisthenics engaged in by the Bush administration as well as Canada’s Justice Department and associated government agencies when they try and bend the definitions, use temperate language, and wrap their procedures in the soothing gauze of international law and respect for human rights. Indeed, in the CSIS memo and related documents, torture becomes mistreatment, and an interrogation session with electric shock or genital crushing gets reduced to a “detention interview.”

Furthermore, CSIS declares that it will not “knowingly rely upon information” derived from torture, a convenient construction given the willful blindness with which it operates with its foreign partners. If CSIS does not knowingly acknowledge that Syria engages in torture, then how can it be knowingly relying on the fruits of torture when it receives information from Syria? With such reasoning CSIS maintains it is “essential” to nurture these relationships because, in their eyes, they’re doing nothing wrong.

As Canada continually refuses to apologize to and provide compensation for the numerous returnees from overseas torture whose lives the government has ruined, it becomes even clearer how high the stakes have become in these cases: any acknowledgement that what was done in these situations was wrong, illegal, or unethical, would bump Canada from its comfortable position in the global torture chain. •

Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years. This article first published on Rabble.ca website.

Education and Democracy in America

September 25th, 2012 by Stephen Lendman

Democracy and an educated citizenry go hand in hand. Public education is the great equalizer. America’s founders believed it was insurance against loss of liberty.
Jefferson said:

“Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree.”

Neil Postman perhaps is best known for saying “Americans are the most entertained and least informed people in the world.” Most know little or nothing about what matters most.

Ignorance isn’t universal, but a significant majority is affected. Postman served as chairman of New York University’s Department of Culture and Communication. He also said:

“Public education isn’t important because it serves the public. (It’s) important because it creates the public.”

Benjamin Barber believed the same thing, saying:

“Public schools must be understood as public not simply because they serve the public, but because they establish us as a public.”

They give meaning to “we the people.”

They develop better citizens and improve achievement. Most people agree. A 2003 America Association of School Administrators (AASA) poll showed 95% of respondents agree with the statement:

“We need to stand up for public education to make sure that public schools continue to fill their role as a cornerstone of the common good, providing the foundation for the civic society that is critical to our democracy.”

AASA believes public schools belong to the public. Its Executive Director Paul Houston said:

“We know that people see education in a broad way. They want to see kids do well on basic skills, but they also need to do well in areas that are basic to living — being good citizens, productive members of the community and able to find and hold down a job that allows them to live in America.”

Father of American education Horace Mann called “(t)he common school….the greatest discovery ever made by man.”

He meant public, not privatized, ones. He believed all students should be educated equally and responsibly. More on Mann’s philosophy below.

Public education in America today is targeted for destruction. Chicago’s war on teachers, parents and kids reflects policy across the country.

Education is being commodified into another profit center. Bottom line priorities alone matter. Preparing kids for better futures doesn’t count.

They’re sacrificed on the alter of money power unless stopped. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Obama’s Race to the Top (RTTT) are Exhibits A and B. The former leaves behind most kids. The latter is a race to nowhere. Both reflect schemes to destroy a nearly four century tradition.

In cities across America, schools are closed, teachers fired, and students left out in the cold. Why bother educating kids when only profits matter and high-pay skilled jobs moved abroad.

In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education published a report titled, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” It found academic performance poor at nearly all levels. It warned that America’s educational system was “being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.”

It’s much worse today. It’s a national disaster by design. So-called education reform is a scam. It masks privatization schemes, a society of growing haves and have nots, and no desire to educate most kids for low pay, low skill jobs if they can find one.

For over 40 years, Jonathan Kozol courageously defended public education. He still does. He believes every child should have equal opportunity in public schools. The Chicago Sun Times once called him “today’s most eloquent spokesman for America’s disenfranchised.”

He believes privatized schools “starve the public school system of the presence of well-educated, politically effective parents to fight for equity for all kids.”

“I am opposed to the use of public funds for private education,” he said.

“The greatest difference between now and (the 1960s) is that public policy has pretty much eradicated the dream of Martin Luther King.”

Privatized education creates separate and unequal. It didn’t work 100 years ago and doesn’t now, he stresses.

Quasi-privatized charter schools institutionalize class and racial separation, he maintains. Mandated robotized learning through standardized tests is “segregative and divisive.”

Culture is starved. “Aesthetics are gone. Joy in learning is regarded as a bothersome distraction.” NCLB and RTTT institutionalize “apartheid of the intellect.” Kids are “trained to spit up predigested answers.” They learn nothing.

Horace Mann is called the “father of the common school.” For him, it meant public ones. He believed universal public education was essential to ensure a nation of informed citizens. His six main educational principles included:

(1) Citizens can’t be ignorant and free.

(2) Education should be publicly funded and controlled.

(3) It should be provided equally for all children.

(4) It must be nonsectarian.

(5) It must emphasize the tenets of a free society.

(6) It must be provided by well-educated, professional teachers.

Mann’s main educational goal was to foster universal equality. Education helps lift people out of poverty. Knowledge is power, he believed. An educated person no longer is a “slave” to the status quo.

Knowledge also is essential to a true democracy. It differs vastly from rote learning. The latter, he said, “was neither effective nor desirable.”

“Children must be led to discover principles and relationship.” Learning is a means to an end. Its value is self-improvement. It separates humans from beasts. If “all mankind were well fed, well clothed, and well housed (alone), they still might be half civilized.”

In his capacity as Massachusetts State Board of Education Secretary, he said:

“Surely nothing but universal education can counterwork this tendency to the domination of capital and servility of labor.”

“If one class possesses all the wealth and the education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor, it matters not by what name the relationship between them may be called: the latter, in fact and in truth, will be the servile dependents and subjects of the former.”

“But, if education be equally diffused, it will draw property after it by the strongest of all attractions; for such a thing never did happen, as that an intelligent and practical body of men should be permanently poor.”

He truly believed no child should be left behind. Education should be provided equally for all. He championed and campaigned for it. He established teacher training schools and district libraries. He won financial backing for public education. His influence extended way beyond Massachusetts.

He called free public education a morally mandated right. He said America “owes a vast economical debt to (ordinary people) whose labor (have) been mainly instrumental in rearing the great material structures of which we so often boast.”

He argued that “every wise, humane measure adopted for their welfare, directly promotes our own security. For (their children) will soon possess the rights of men, whether they possess the characters of men or not.”

In 1848, he resigned his post to serve in Congress. He replaced John Quincy Adams who died in office. Besides his passion for universal public education, he became an important anti-slavery spokesman.

In 1853, he became Antioch College president three years after its founding. In that capacity, he implemented his educational ideas in higher education.

Two months before his August 1859 death, he said:

“I beseech you to treasure up in your hearts these my parting words: Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

Ideas he fostered and championed are fast disappearing. Some final comments on that below.

John Dewey was an America philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer. He advocated progressive education and liberalism. He considered an educated public fundamental to democracy.

He believed education should be freely available to everyone from kindergarten to college. His progressive education ideas were later codified as follows:

(1) Student conduct “shall be governed by themselves, according to the social needs of” society.

(2) “Interest shall be the motive for all work.”

(3) Teachers should inspire a desire to learn. They should be guides in the educational process.

(4) “Scientific study of each pupil’s development, physical, mental, social, and spiritual is absolutely critical to the essential direction of his (her) development.”

(5) Attention should be paid to all childhood needs.

(6) Cooperation should be fostered between school and home.

(7) Progressive schools are laboratories to increase learning.

He equated learning with freedom. He warned against uneducated masses. He opposed dual track education.

“The world in which most of us live is a world in which everyone has a calling and occupation, something to do,” he said.

“Some are managers and others are subordinates. But the great thing for one as for the other is that each shall have had the education which enables him to see within his daily work all there is in it of large and human significance.”

Education should be more than creating “human capital.”

“The inclination to learn from life itself and to make the conditions of life such that all will learn in the process of living is the finest product of schooling.”

He believed both in liberal arts and real-world skills teaching. Everyone should have a chance for “large and human significance” in their lives and work.

In 1897, he published his “pedagogic creed.” Learning begins “unconsciously almost from birth.”

“I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual and that society is an organic union of individuals.”

“If we eliminate the social factor from the child we are left only with an abstraction; if we eliminate the individual factor from society, we are left only with an inert and lifeless mass.”

Schools are social institutions, he believed. They should be integrated into community life. “Education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform.”

He called the ideal school one that serves individual and institutional needs. He said “the community’s duty to education is (a) paramount moral duty.”

“I believe it is the business of every one interested in education to insist upon the school as the primary and most effective instrument of social progress and reform in order that society may be awakened to realize what the school stands for, and aroused to the necessity of endowing the educator with sufficient equipment properly to perform his task.”

Dewey and Mann would be horrified about what’s happening today. They’d denounce how education is being commodified. It’s mirror opposite of their vision. It’s being systematically destroyed.

Budgets are slashed. Teachers en masse are laid off or fired. Hundreds of schools are closed where they’re most needed. Inner city kids won’t have them in their communities.

Democrats and Republicans are in lockstep on policy at the federal, state and local levels. In the last two years alone, over 250,000 teachers lost jobs. From September 2011 through June 2012, 50,000 lost them.

How many hundreds of thousands more will be tolerated? How many more communities will put up with losing schools? How long will ordinary people accept commodified education replacing the real thing? How much more will families take before rebelling?

What about teacher rights? They’re pressured to work longer for less pay and benefits. They’re rated by robotized learning results. They’re fired and replaced at half pay.

They’re losing effective collective bargaining rights. Corrupt union bosses sell them out for their own self-interest. Public education in America is dying. A decade from now it may not exist.

Primary and secondary education today already are gravely compromised. Imagine what’s likely ahead. Abolitionist Frederick Douglas once said: “I have found that to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.”

Globalization fosters inequality, instability, and unemployment. Wage slavery replaced its chattel antecedent. Teachers are affected like other workers. Hard won rights are compromised and lost.

The state of the nation overall is troubling. The targeting and destruction of public education alone reflects class warfare.

It reveals contempt for democratic principles. It’s a dagger in the heart of equal opportunity and freedom. It shows why America no longer is fit to live in. People have three choices: accept loss of all rights, leave, or rebel.

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

His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”

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

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

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

The September 11 attack that claimed the life of the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans disrupted a major CIA operation in the North African country.

According to the New York Times, at least half of the nearly two dozen US personnel evacuated from the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi following the fatal attack on the US consulate and a secret “annex” were “CIA operatives and contractors.”

“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” a US official who had been stationed in Libya told the Times. “We got our eyes poked out.”

The Times report describes the mission of the CIA station in Benghazi as one of “conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city,” including Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist militia that has been linked by some to the September 11 attack, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

It further states that the CIA “began building a meaningful but covert presence in Benghazi” within months of the February 2011 revolt in Benghazi that seized the city from forces loyal to the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Stevens himself was sent into the city in April of that year as the American envoy to the so-called “rebels” organized in the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC).

What the Times omits from its account of CIA activities in Benghazi, however, is that the agency was not merely conducting covert surveillance on the Islamists based in eastern Libya, but providing them with direct aid and coordinating their operations with those of the NATO air war launched to bring down the Gaddafi regime. In this sense, the September 11 attack that killed Stevens and the three other Americans was very much a case of the chickens coming home to roost.

There is every reason to believe that the robust CIA presence in Benghazi after Gaddafi’s fall also involved more than just surveillance. Libyan Islamists make up the largest single component of the “foreign fighters” who are playing an ever more dominant role in the US-backed sectarian civil war being waged in Syria with the aim of toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad. According to some estimates, they comprise anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 of approximately 3,500 fighters who have been infiltrated into Syria from as far away as Chechnya and Pakistan.

The CIA has also set up a center on the border between Turkey and Syria to oversee the funneling of arms, materiel, money and fighters into the Syrian civil war. Given the relationship established between the US agency and the Libyan Islamist militias during the US-NATO war to topple Gaddafi, it seems highly probable that the departure of such elements from eastern Libya and their infiltration into Syria would be coordinated by CIA personnel on both ends.

The government installed by the US-NATO war in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was apparently unaware of the size of the CIA presence in Benghazi, though the agency was supposedly cooperating with Libyan intelligence officials in monitoring the activities of the Islamists.

According to a report published September 21 in the Wall Street Journal, the attempt by Libyan government forces to coordinate a response to the militia assault on the US consulate and the “annex” used by the CIA was hindered by the refusal of American officials to provide the Libyans with GPS coordinates for the “annex,” which came under sustained assault and where two security contractors, former Navy Seals, were killed.

When the US and Libyan rescuers managed to evacuate some 30 Americans from the “annex” and bring them to the Benghazi airport, Libyan officials were stunned by the number of US personnel there and had to bring in a second plane to fly them all out.

“We were surprised by the numbers of Americans who were at the airport,” Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagour told the Journal. “We have no problem with intelligence sharing or gathering, but our sovereignty is also key,” he added.

In the aftermath of the attack in Benghazi, the question of security at US facilities has become a politically contested issue, with Republicans charging that the Obama administration had behaved irresponsibly in not having US military personnel protect Stevens and other personnel. They have also accused the administration of misleading the public by describing the assault on the two buildings as an outgrowth of a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Islamic film that has triggered protests throughout the Muslim world, rather than a terrorist attack.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, a California Republican, last week declared the lack of military guards in Benghazi as “inconceivable” given an earlier attack on the Benghazi compound and other incidents of armed violence in the city.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the criticism by insisting that local security forces and a private security company that deployed Libyan guards had provided security “of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world.”

By late last week, administration officials had begun referring to the assault as a “terrorist attack.” With the US having deployed warships, drones and a 50-member US Marine rapid reaction force to Libya, this may be preparation for military retaliation.

In Libya itself, thousands of people marched in Benghazi on Friday against the militias. Crowds laid siege to the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia and another Islamist militia, the Rafallah Sahati brigade, leading to at least four deaths.

The demonstrations clearly expressed public anger over the sway of the Islamists over Benghazi, with participants talking of the need for “a new revolution.”

Late on Saturday, the authorities in Tripoli responded to the popular frustration. The Libyan army chief, Yusseff Mangoush, and national assembly leader Mohamed Magrief announced that “illegitimate” militias would have 48 hours to disarm and disband, or the army would use force.

What this meant was far from clear, however, as Libyan President Mohamed el-Megaref called upon Libyan protesters to leave the “legitimate” militias alone. The president demanded that the demonstrators stop attacks on militias that are “under state legitimacy, and go home.”

The spokesman for the national assembly went further. According to the Wall Street Journal, the spokesman, Omar Humidan, declared that while the militias “have wrong practices… serve their own agenda and have their own ideology… striking these militias and demanding they disband immediately will have grave consequences.”

He continued: “These are the ones that preserve security. The state has a weak army and no way it can fill any vacuum resulting in eviction of these militias… The street is upset because of the militias and their infighting. We are worried of the fallout in the absence of those militias. The state must be given time.”

The militias in Benghazi are almost all offshoots of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a jihadist group that had ties to Al Qaeda and whose leaders were abducted and tortured by the CIA as part of Washington’s “global war on terror.” This is the case with Ansar al-Sharia, which is responsible for providing security at the Al Jala hospital in Benghazi, as well as the Rafallah Sahati brigade, which has also been deployed as a security force in the city, including during the national elections.

In the aftermath of last Friday’s demonstrations, the militias struck back, claiming that the popular repudiation of their policies had been stirred up by supporters of the former Gaddafi regime.

The Rafallah al-Sahati militia announced Monday that it had rounded up 113 people for alleged involvement in the protests. A leader of the group claimed that most of those detained were former members of the Gaddafi-era military or supporters of the deposed president.

Libyan state television reported Monday that on the outskirts of Benghazi the bodies of six Libyan soldiers were found shot, execution style, with their hands cuffed behind them. It was also reported that an army colonel had disappeared and was believed to have been kidnapped.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Some media reports accused militiamen of taking revenge on Gaddafi-era veterans in the military; in contrast, a military spokesman, Ali al-Shakhli, blamed Gaddafi loyalists, saying they were trying to stir up trouble between the public and the militias.”

British Banking and the Global Drug Trade

September 25th, 2012 by Tom Burghardt

Death penalty doesn’t mean anything unless you use it on people who are afraid to die. Like… the bankers who launder the drug money. The bankers, who launder, the drug money. Forget the dealers, you want to slow down that drug traffic, you got to start executing a few of these fucking bankers. White, middle class Republican bankers. — George Carlin, ‘Back in Town Special,’ 1996

In a recent investigation I presented the case that British banking and financial giant HSBC interfaced with banking institutions which had links to terrorist financing.

Drawing upon evidence published by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in their mammoth report, “U.S. Vulnerabilities to Money Laundering, Drugs, and Terrorist Financing: HSBC Case History,” we learned that senior HSBC officers, despite misgivings voiced by staff in internal correspondence, had relations with Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank, described by U.S. law enforcement agencies as moneymen for Al Qaeda.

Read complete article

OSAKA: Japan’s southwestern city of Nagasaki expressed its outrage and protest against a new type of nuclear test conducted for the sixth time in August by the United States, the local press reported on Tuesday.

The report said that the United States conducted a nuclear test which simulated a nuclear blast using intense X-ray beams and checked how plutonium would react at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico on August 27.

The sixth test caused further condemnation by the city, following last week’s protest against the fifth new type of nuclear test which was reportedly carried out between April and June this year.

According to the report, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue sent a letter of protest, dated September 24, to U.S. President Barack Obama, saying that the people of Nagasaki, who have been calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons, cannot retrain their resentment after encountering reports about a further test despite their protest.

“As a representative of an atomic-bombed city strongly protest again,” the mayor said.

The letter also urged that the United States make sincere efforts to stop any nuclear tests, adding that the country should fulfill its leadership role in achieving a world without nuclear weapons.

False Solution to Hunger in Africa

September 25th, 2012 by Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth International

For immediate release

September 25, 2012

GATES FOUNDATION-LED GREEN REVOLUTION PROMOTES FALSE SOLUTIONS TO HUNGER IN AFRICA

Friends of the Earth International warns against damaging industrial farming promoted by the Gates Foundation at the Agricultural Green Revolution Forum 2012, Arusha, Tanzania on 26-28 September.

ARUSHA (TANZANIA) / LONDON (UK), September 25, 2012 – Donors controlling the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are representing the interests of biotechnology corporations rather than African small farmers, warns Friends of the Earth International on the eve of the annual AGRA Forum in Tanzania.

Multi-million dollar investments from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -a major AGRA donor- into shares in biotech corporations, and revolving doors between donors and these corporations skew the agenda of AGRA in favor of profit-based, corporate-led farming rather than farming benefiting local people and small farmers. [1]

“It is time African Governments stop bowing to corporate donors and instead put farmers in the driver’s seat, and focus on funding ecological methods and preserving local seeds. Africa can feed itself with ecological agriculture and it is small farmers themselves who are the most important investors in farming. Through AGRA, multinational corporations are trying to control our seeds, land, food and then our lives. AGRA is not in the best interest of Africans, it is a trojan horse for agribusiness,” says Mariann Bassey from Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

The bulk of projects funded by the Gates Foundation and its brainchild AGRA favor technological solutions for high-input industrial farming methods. These include patented seeds, fertilizers and lobbying for genetically modified crops. [2]

Evidence from the roll-out of genetically modified crops in other countries shows that these crops push farmers into debt, cause irreversible environmental damage and encourage land concentration. [3]

In March 2011 the UN issued a report urging ‘eco-farming’ as the best strategy for improving farming in the developing world. The report’s author challenged the wisdom of the Gates Foundation’s approach in agricultural development. [4]

“If AGRA carries on with its greenwash revolution, Africans will lose traditional and ecological farming that can feed people in the face of climate change. Instead they will have a toxic system that pushes farmers onto a chemical treadmill. This will be a disaster for their livelihoods and the environment. This is the opposite of what we need,“ says Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty coordinator.

Sustainable family farming, agro-ecological production models and strong local markets have been recognized as the best way to feed people and to protect the planet. [5]

FOR MORE INFORMATION

In Nigeria :

Mariann Bassey from Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Coordinator for the Food Sovereignty and Agrofuels Program Friends of the Earth Africa, +234 703 44 95 940 or email [email protected]

In the United Kingdom:

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty program coordinator, + 44 79 61 98 69 56 or email [email protected]

NOTES TO EDITORS

[1] For more information read http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/agra-watch/

[2] For more information read a commentary by Mariann Bassey at http://www.foei.org/en/resources/publications/pdfs/2012/agra2019s-technology-push-in-africa/view

[3] Governments are being forced to protect farmers and citizens from genetically modified crops to combat biotech corporations’ stranglehold over farmers, and health scares from escalating pesticide use, according to a 2011 report online at http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/climate-biodiversity-finance/latest-news-old/who-benefits-from-gm-crops

[4] For more information read the 2011 UN report ‘Agro-ecology and the right to food’ at http://www.srfood.org/index.php/en/component/content/article/1-latest-news/1174-report-agroecology-and-the-right-to-food

[5] In April 2008 a study by 400 multi-disciplinary scientists and several international organisations (the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, or IAASTD) concluded that agro-ecology, local trade and supporting small farmers is the best way forward to combat hunger and poverty.
For more information read the assessment at http://www.agassessment.org/

– ————————————————————–
Niccolo’ Sarno
Media Coordinator – Friends of the Earth International
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +31-20-6221369 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Website: http://www.foei.org/media
Twitter: @FoEint_press
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Friends of the Earth International is the world’s largest
grassroots environmental federation with 76 national member groups
in 76 countries and more than 2 million individual members and supporters
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Deadly Sanctions Regime: Economic Warfare against Iran

September 25th, 2012 by Eric Draitser

The ongoing overt and covert war against Iran, instigated by the United States and Israel primarily, seeks to isolate Iran politically, militarily and, most importantly, economically.  The Western imperialists have as their goal no less than full-scale war with Iran, a key regional power and one that the United States has failed to control or otherwise manipulate since the revolution of 1979.

Their attempts to demonize Iran as an international pariah and an irrational actor on the world stage have been repeatedly thwarted, most recently at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, where two thirds of the world stood alongside Iran in condemning the sanctions imposed by the US and its European allies.  However, Iran’s response to the series of aggressions and provocations by the West is not purely a diplomatic one as evidenced by the summit. Rather, Iran is engaging in a process of economic cooperation and mutual development with powerful regional and international partners – a process which could marry the economic future of Iran with that of other nations – thereby countering the continued attempts at economic strangulation by the West.

The Painful Reality of Sanctions

It is easy to think of the sanctions as a tactic in a political and diplomatic chess game between Washington and Tehran: they undoubtedly are part of such a match.  However, the reality of the sanctions is that they are an economic weapon trained directly at the people of Iran, despite whatever rhetoric may emanate from Washington regarding the targeting of the regime.  In fact, the sanctions are one of the most potent weapons in the imperialist arsenal, used by those in power in their attempt to foment chaos and unrest in Iran and topple the government from within. In an article entitled “Obama’s Counterproductive New Iran Sanctions” published in Foreign Affairs, the publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution writes:

The Obama administration’s new sanctions signal the demise of the paradigm that has guided Iran policymaking since the 1979 revolution: the combination of pressure and persuasion…the United States cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy… The White House’s embrace of open-ended pressure means that it has backed itself into a policy of regime change.

The notion that the sanctions are somehow intended to pressure Tehran into coming to the negotiating table and making the necessary concessions is completely fraudulent.  The ruling class in the United States (and Israel) knows full well that sanctions do not work in this capacity. One need only look to recent history for examples of sanctions that crippled nations and destroyed the lives of citizens but had little to no appreciable impact on the rulers – Iraq, Myanmar, etc.  Instead, the sanctions serve as a necessary prelude to either regime change or war.  This policy, aside from being immoral, is a belligerent one, greatly escalating tensions and the possibility of war.

One of the desired effects of the sanctions is the devaluation of the Iranian currency.  The most recent data suggest that the Iranian rial has lost more than half of its value since January, when the sanctions were announced.  This trend has only accelerated since July, when the new sanctions were fully implemented, preventing countries around the world from doing business with the Iranian central bank, a move aimed at destroying the Iranian export economy, particularly oil exports.  In fact, Reuters reported in April that the inflation rate in Iran was hovering around 21.5%.  This was well before the sanctions came into effect in July, after which inflation has increased even more dramatically. Nowhere are the sanctions more painful than in the oil export market.  According to recent data, Iran’s oil sales in July of 2012 fell to a quarter of sales from July 2011.  In fact, Iran has even admitted that much of the unsold oil is now being stored either in ports or on tankers at sea – a startling revelation that demonstrates quite clearly the difficult economic predicament Iran faces.   Such a significant drop in sales means that state revenues are down, only exacerbating the already difficult economic situation in the country.

However, the sanctions are not intended to cripple merely the commercial economy, they are also designed to erode public confidence in the government and foment unrest.  With the creation of an inflationary crisis, staple foods, medicines, and other basic necessities have become significantly more expensive and in much less supply, naturally generating anger from the Iranian people.  This, combined with the removal of food subsidies at the behest of President Ahmadinejad, has generated a feeling of unease within the general population regarding their economic future, which, in turn, has exposed very serious fractures within the political establishment in Tehran. Despite all of these challenges to its economy and the impact on the population, Iran remains committed to its own mission of independent economic and political development.  The defiance Iran has shown the United States and the imperialist ruling class is rooted in a larger strategy, one that combines economic development with diplomacy, seeking to find an alternative to either continued resistance in isolation or capitulation to the US and Israel.

Energy – Pipelines & Power Lines

The sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union are intended to cripple the Iranian economy by specifically attacking Tehran’s ability to participate in the world oil market. However, it is important to note that the sanctions are not solely directed at actual oil sales but, rather, all the mechanisms necessary for international oil transactions including debt settlement, tanker insurance, and much more.  Indeed, in examining the sanctions in their totality, one begins to see that they are intended to strike at the heart of the Iranian economy and hamper Tehran’s ability to do business of any kind. Despite all of this, Iran continues to survive economically.  Much of this is due to the fact that Iran has effectively cemented its economic relations with key international actors, particularly India, Pakistan, and China, each of whom has resisted pressure from the United States to scale back their dealings with the Islamic Republic. In fact, Bloomberg recently reported that China has continued to purchase Iranian oil in massive amounts despite the sanctions.  This demonstrates not only that China wants to continue to do business with Iran, but that Iran sees expanded engagement as the only way to ensure their continued economic growth.

In fact, Iran-China trade is booming as many Western companies pull out of Iran due to the sanctions and international pressure. This has left the door open for China to fill the void, having imported more than $45 billion from Iran in 2011. China is not the only international player to increase Iranian oil imports since the embargo.  Countries such as Italy, Japan, and India have also begun to increase their imports of Iranian oil despite the arm-twisting of the US.  These major energy importers view Iran not as a pariah state and threat to world peace as Western demagogy would have one believe.  Rather, they see in Iran the possibility of a long-term strategic and economic ally that, due to political circumstances, could become heavily dependent on them. Although the energy exports themselves are very significant, it is the delivery infrastructure, especially pipelines, which permanently cements these sorts of mutually beneficial economic arrangements and, consequently, makes the continued isolation and subversion of Iran more difficult.  Perhaps the most important of all the pipelines in which Iran is a participant is the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, also known as the “Peace Pipeline”.  This project will deliver Iranian energy to Pakistan – a nation dealing with a protracted and crippling energy shortage.  The pipeline is crucial to Iranian strategy not only because it will generate much needed revenue for Tehran, but also because of its significance as a symbol of the warm relations between Iran and Pakistan.  Moreover, this project is still in its early incarnation.  One can easily imagine the pipeline being extended into China, thereby becoming China’s direct link to the vast energy resources of the Middle East while providing Iran with the security of a superpower ally.

The Iran-Pakistan project is not the only important pipeline under construction.  In fact, Iran is currently in the process of implementing no less than fifteen new pipeline projects all throughout the country.  This is more than just economic expansion. Instead, it is the necessary modernization of the energy infrastructure of the country, allowing the Islamic Republic to maintain its status as one of the world’s leaders in energy exports while, at the same time, improving delivery capabilities within the country itself. Energy exports and pipelines are also at the heart of the expansion of relations between Iran and Turkmenistan.  Having emerged in recent years as a world leader in gas exports, Turkmenistan has become a crucial player in the Caspian region, necessitating a close working relationship with the Islamic Republic.  As Iranian President Ahmadinejad recently stated, relations between the two countries must be cultivated and expanded.  This demonstrates not only Iran’s desire to have friendly relations with its neighbors, but also Tehran’s recognition of the dangers of isolation in the region, particularly at a time when Caspian energy exploration and development are still in the early stages.

Oil and gas are not the only forms of energy that Iran is looking to export in order to subvert the US-led sanctions.  One of the most critical aspects of Iranian energy exports is the sale and delivery of electrical power, particularly to Pakistan which, as already mentioned, suffers from a painful and perpetual energy shortage.  Iran is poised to become Pakistan’s energy benefactor as there has been renewed interest in upgrading and expanding the shared energy infrastructure of the neighbor countries.  It was recently reported that an Iranian firm is planning a one gigawatt power project in Pakistan that will connect the Iranian port at Chabahar with the Pakistani port of Gwadar.  This is a hugely significant deal because it will provide much needed electrical power to Pakistan while solidifying, in physical form, the close relations between the two countries.  However, what this project also indicates is the growing importance of Iranian ports, especially Chabahar, as well as other infrastructural and technological projects, to the future of Iranian economic development.

Beyond Energy

One of the most common misconceptions regarding Iran is the belief that the future of the Islamic Republic’s economic development rests solely on the energy sector.  On the contrary, Tehran is in the process of developing a number of ports and other projects that will spur growth and development in the coming decades.  The first and most important of these projects is the Iranian port of Chabahar.  Situated on the coast of Iran, Chabahar is intended to be a port of regional and international importance. Tehran recently announced that it will invest $25 billion into the Chabahar port to transform it into one of the great energy hubs of the world.  Naturally, China figures prominently in this vision, as it looks to Chabahar for that coveted land-based access to the Indian Ocean.  However, China is not the only regional player that is interested in the port.  Recently, Iranian representatives met with their Indian and Afghan counterparts to discuss regional trade and the role of Chabahar.  In light of this meeting, it is clear that Chabahar is fast becoming one of the most important ports in Asia.  Additionally, the port would make Iran an integral player in commercial shipping, providing access to the Iranian market to international companies that would otherwise be impossible. This opening of Iran via the Chabahar port undoubtedly figures prominently in Tehran’s plans to integrate itself into the world economy on its own terms, rather than those dictated by the Western imperial powers.

Iran is not solely relying on Chabahar. In fact, Iran has recently announced more than $4 billion of investment into a number of Iranian ports.  This level of investment demonstrates Iran’s willingness to invest in its own economic future while, at the same time, showing outside observers that development is not just an idea, it is a reality.  These ports, Tehran hopes, will transform the country into a shipping center that could rival those of the Gulf monarchies and make Iran an indispensible partner for the region and the world’s powers. The Islamic Republic has also turned its eyes to the sky in search of development.  Iran has recently launched a full-fledged space program and is currently constructing a national space center to be used for the launch of satellites by itself and other Muslim countries.  Iran’s foray into the space sector benefits the country in a number of ways.  First, and perhaps most importantly, this development is a major propaganda victory for Iran.  It catapults the country into the top tier of world powers, gaining Tehran the respect of nations around the world.  Beyond the propaganda however, the development of a space program provides fertile ground for Iranian science to make other technological breakthroughs in a number of different sectors.

Lastly, the space center helps integrate Iran into the region and Muslim world by making it an attractive partner for other nations wishing to launch satellites or other projects.  The space center, like the ports and pipelines, helps Iran overcome the isolation imposed upon it by the US, Europe, and Israel. Iran has had to endure an unprecedented international assault in recent years.  Because of the unwillingness of the government and the Iranian people to bend to the will of the Western imperialist ruling class, the Islamic Republic has been attacked quite literally from all sides.  Having to endure a covert war of sabotage and terrorism while being demonized internationally, Tehran has managed to repel these attacks to this point.  Despite economic hardship caused by the US-imposed sanctions, Iran continues to keep an eye toward development and progress.  As the world saw recently at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, Iran is not as isolated as the US and Israel would like to see.  On the contrary, Iran looks to other nations of the world for partners while taking the initiative to build its own future.  Of course, nothing infuriates the forces of international finance capital and imperialism more than economic independence.  For this reason, Iran will remain the bogeyman for much of the Western world while working to shape its own economic future.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City.  He is the Founder and Editor of StopImperialism.com as well as host of the Stop Imperialism podcast.  He is a frequent contributor to Russia Today, the Center for Research on Globalization, and many other sites and publications.

As Malaysia approaches its highly anticipated 13th General Elections set to take place at some point before late June 2013, a tense political climate and a sense of unpredictability looms over the nation. The significance of these upcoming elections cannot be understated. During Malaysia’s 2008 General Elections, the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, which held power continuously since the nation’s independence, experienced its worst result in decades, while the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim won 82 parliamentary seats. For the first time, the ruling party was deprived of its two-thirds parliamentary majority, which is required to pass amendments to Malaysia’s Federal Constitution. As the United States continues to militarily increase its presence in the Pacific region inline with its strategic policy shift to East Asia, Washington’s leaders would like to see compliant heads of state who will act to further American interests in the ASEAN region.

The outcome of the approaching elections could have significant ramifications for Malaysia’s foreign policy, economy, and trade relations. While allegations of corruption and economic mismanagement hinder the credibility of ruling Prime Minister Najib Razak, foreign organizations affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and funded by the United States government, have contributed support toward bolstering the influence and status of the Malaysia’s opposition groups, in addition to the controversial Bersih coalition for electoral reform, led by Ambiga Sreenevasan. Opponents of this information may dismiss these claims as the “propaganda” of Barisan Nasional, however the validity of these accusations have been highly documented, and constitute an attempt by foreign governments to undermine Malaysia’s independent political process. On June 27th, 2011, Bersih coalition leader Ambiga Sreenevasan conceded that her organization received financial assistance from two private American organizations:

Ambiga admitted to Bersih receiving some money from two US organisations — the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Open Society Institute (OSI) — for other projects, which she stressed were unrelated to the July 9 march. [1]

However innocuous such contributions may seem, a more critical review of these organizations and their affiliations is necessary. Hungarian-American philanthropist and financier George Soros founded the Open Society Institute in 1993, whose principle aim sought to “strengthen open society principles and practices against authoritarian regimes and the negative consequences of globalization,” with an emphasis on countries in transition from communism after the fall of the Soviet Union. [2] Although OSI has emphasized its commitment to “human rights” and “transparency” by heavily sponsoring organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Soros was convicted of insider trading in 2002 regarding French bank Société Générale and was ironically denied an appeal by the “European Court of Human Rights.” [3][4][5] Although Soros has appeared to be publicly critical of capitalism, he has disingenuously profited from predatory trading in many instances, most prominently in 1992 when he earned an estimated $1.1 billion by short selling sterling while the British government was reluctant to adjust its interest rates prior to devaluing the pound.

Former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute, an organization that supplies electoral observers and promotes governance reform, widely seen as an attempt to foster foreign political systems compatible with American interests by assisting civil society groups in mounting pressure on national governments. NDI President Kenneth Wollack served as the legislative director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, widely considered to be Israel’s most prominent lobbyist organization, one that influences American legislation to exert aggressive Israeli policy and viewpoints. [6] The National Democratic Institute is one of four organizations funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), in addition to the International Republican Institute (IRI), the Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the American Center for International Labor Solidarity.

Alan Weinstein, one of the founders of the National Endowment for Democracy was notably quoted in 1991 as saying, “A lot of what we (NED) do was done 25 years ago covertly by the CIA.” [7] The National Endowment for Democracy receives its funding entirely through an annual allocation of funds from the United States Congress within the budget of the development assistance agency USAID, a branch of the US State Department. [8] Although the NED receives public funding from the US taxpayer, the activities of its four satellite institutes are not reported to Congress, making funding trails and their final recipients difficult to identify. Although the organization boasts of “promoting democracy” and “fortifying civil society” around the world, history had proven that these tired euphemisms have been used in numerous countries to mask funding to various political forces opposed to their national governments and aligned with American interests. American historian and former employee of the US State Department William Blum writes:

NED’s Statement of Principles and Objectives, adopted in 1984, asserts that “No Endowment funds may be used to finance the campaigns of candidates for public office.” But the ways to circumvent the spirit of such a prohibition are not difficult to come up with; as with American elections, there’s “hard money” and there’s “soft money”. As described in the “Elections” and “Interventions” chapters, NED successfully manipulated elections in Nicaragua in 1990 and Mongolia in 1996; helped to overthrow democratically elected governments in Bulgaria in 1990 and Albania in 1991 and 1992; and worked to defeat the candidate for prime minister of Slovakia in 2002 who was out of favor in Washington. And from 1999 to 2004, NED heavily funded members of the opposition to President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to subvert his rule and to support a referendum to unseat him. [9]

NED President Carl Gershman was formerly a member of the Governing Council of the American Jewish Congress and Vice-Chairman of the Young People’s Socialist League, and in 1968, he was employed in the research department of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, considered the most prominent Jewish service organization in the world, committed to the security and continuity the State of Israel. [10] The Anti-Defamation League is a US-based human rights group committed to the “security of Israel and Jews worldwide,” and was implicated in 1993 by the District of Attorney of San Francisco for overseeing a vast surveillance operation monitoring American citizens who were opposed to Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, prior to passing their personal information to the Israeli government in Tel Aviv. [11]

In addition to providing funding to the Bersih coalition through the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy’s Malaysian operation provides $100,000 (RM 317,260) for political news website Malaysiakini, considered to be the nation’s most pro-opposition news outlet. [12] Premesh Chandran, Malaysiakini CEO, is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations and launched the news organization with a $100,000 grant from the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), a recipient of funds from the Open Society Institute, the NED, and Freedom House, an organization reliant on US federal government grants for a significant percentage of its funding. [13][14] NED also provides $90,000 (RM 285,516) to SUARAM, an organization promoting human rights. [15]

The most significant recipient of NED’s Malaysia programs is the International Republican Institute (IRI), who annually receives $802,122 (RM 2,544,670) and is tasked to “work with state leaders in Penang and Selangor to provide them with public opinion research, training and other resources to enable them to be more effective representatives of their constituents.” [16] IRI’s mention of these specific regions is unsurprising, as Penang is held by the Malaysian Democratic Action Party, while Selangor is held by Parti Keadilan Rakyat, two of the three organizations comprising the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat, led by Anwar Ibrahim. US Senator John McCain, an ardent supporter of American militarism who boasts of being “proudly pro-American and proudly pro-Israel”, chairs the International Republican Institute, whose mission statement in Malaysia reads:

Since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, the country has experienced a series of national elections, but never a change in national government.  The ruling coalition, known as Barisan Nasional (BN) since 1973, has held power continuously during Malaysia’s post-independence era. In the 2008 general elections, for the first time, the BN lost its two-thirds majority in parliament and control of five state assemblies to the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat (PR). Subsequently, in April 2011 in Sarawak (the only state holding assembly elections before national elections occur) the BN retained control of the state assembly but suffered a reduction in its majority. It is in this context that IRI provides technical assistance, training, and consultation to political parties to build knowledge and impart skills that enable both ruling and opposition Malaysian political leaders to more effectively address citizen concerns. IRI’s current work in this area started in 2009 when the Institute began a groundbreaking series of training sessions designed to assist political parties in developing the in-house capacity to conduct and analyze focus group discussions. These sessions were followed by workshops which allowed focus group moderators to present their findings to their colleagues and craft messages that were used to recruit new political party members and retain existing ones. [17]

It comes as little surprise that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim talks boldly of a “Malaysian Spring,” as the same organizations bolstering the opposition in Kuala Lumpur have successfully fomented events that led to the series of uprisings across the Arab World in 2011. Such organizations rely on the passive impressionability of their followers, while enflaming the legitimate grievances of the subject population to pressure a change in government. This is accomplished by the formation and propagation of dissident news media organizations, and by leveraging police misconduct and human rights abuses to discredit targeted governments in the eyes of the international community. Such agitation is not intended to promote a genuine democratic framework; its purpose is the gradual installation of national governments friendly to American interests by coaxing popular uprising and social unrest. In an April 2011 article published by the New York Times titled, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings,” it was stated:

A number of the groups and individuals directly involved in the revolts and reforms sweeping the region, including the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and grass-roots activists like Entsar Qadhi, a youth leader in Yemen, received training and financing from groups like the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Washington. The Republican and Democratic institutes are loosely affiliated with the Republican and Democratic Parties. They were created by Congress and are financed through the National Endowment for Democracy, which was set up in 1983 to channel grants for promoting democracy in developing nations. The National Endowment receives about $100 million annually from Congress. Freedom House also gets the bulk of its money from the American government, mainly from the State Department. [18]

In the Egyptian context, these organizations have experienced “blowback” from their activities training and funding dissidents, and fomenting Egypt’s popular revolution. In a December 2011 article published by the Los Angeles Times, it was said:

Egyptian security forces on Thursday raided the offices of 17 nongovernmental organizations, including three U.S.-based agencies, as part of a crackdown on foreign assistance that has drawn criticism from the West and threatened human rights groups and pro-democracy movements. The move appeared to be part of a strategy to intimidate international organizations. The ruling military council has repeatedly blamed “foreign hands” for exploiting Egypt’s political and economic turmoil. But activists said the army was using the ruse of foreign intervention to stoke nationalism and deflect criticism of abuses. Egyptian soldiers and black-clad police officers swept into offices, interrogated workers and seized computers across the country. Those targeted included U.S. groups the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House, which are funded by Congress to monitor elections and promote democracy overseas. [19]

While the Los Angeles Times frames its report to insinuate that Egypt’s security forces have intrusively aimed to “intimidate” international human rights groups, one must examine the case of Egypt’s newly drafted constitution. After the overthrow of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, democracy advocates called for the constitution to be rewritten from scratch. Reuters published reports citing a pro-opposition judiciary official, who said Egypt’s new constitution would be drafted by civil society groups, namely, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, a recipient of funds directly from George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, financed by the National Endowment for Democracy. [20][21][22] Undoubtedly, the conduct of foreign nations and their relationship with opposition organizations and civil society groups is incompatible within any authentic democratic framework.

In the Malaysian context, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim maintains close ties with senior US officials and organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy. In July 2006, Ibrahim chaired the Washington-based Foundation for the Future, established and funded by the US Department of State at the behest of Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, who was recently convicted in absentia for war crimes for his issuance of torture during the Iraq war by Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission, chaired by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed. [23] In 2007, Ibrahim was a panelist at the National Endowment for Democracy’s “Democracy Award” event held in Washington. [24] These questionable affiliations raise strong concerns over the legitimacy of the candidate and the administration he would lead if winning the 13th General Election.

It would be advisable for Malaysia to follow the example of Russia; President Vladimir Putin recently approved a new law that tightens controls on civil rights groups receiving funded from abroad, forcing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) engaging in “political activity” to register with the Russian Justice Ministry as “foreign agents,” requiring such organizations to file a report to officials every quarter. [25] While such a law would inevitably be criticized as a suppression of dissent, it must be understood that such legislation would not hamper legitimate activism. Malaysia, like Russia, must take the initiative to address the legitimate grievances of activists by bolstering its own indigenous institutions and civil society organizations. Foreign organizations with questionable affiliations attempting to tip the balance of power in their favor is the very antithesis of an authentic democracy. A quote from a recent Op-Ed penned by Russian journalist Veronika Krasheninnikova sends a strong message to the people of Malaysia:

Building a patriotic civil society cannot be outsourced. Democratic processes and national security cannot be outsourced – all the more so to openly hostile governments. [26]

 Notes

[1] Bersih repudiates foreign Christian funding claim, The Malaysian Insider, July 27, 2011

[2] A Global Alliance for Open Society, Soros Foundation Network, 2001

[3] Report and financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2010, Amnesty International, March 31, 2010 (Page 10)

[4] Partners, Human Rights Watch, 2012

[6] Kenneth Wollack, National Democratic Institute, 2011

[7] Democracy promotion: America’s new regime change formula, Russia Today, November 23, 2010

[8] History, National Endowment for Democracy, 2011

[9] Trojan Horse: The National Endowment for Democracy, The International Endowment for Democracy, 2003

[10] Who is Who, Annual Conference on World Affairs, 1971

[11] The ADL Spying Case Is Over, But The Struggle Continues, Counterpunch, February 25, 2002

[13] Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Southeast Asian Press Alliance, 2010

[14] 2007 Annual Report, Freedom House, 2007

[15] Malaysia | National Endowment for Democracy, National Endowment for Democracy, 2011

[16] Ibid

[17] Malaysia, International Republican Institute, 2011

[18] U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings, The New York Times, April 14, 2011

[19] Egypt raids foreign organizations’ offices in crackdown, The Los Angeles Times, December 29, 2011

[20] Rewrite Egypt constitution from scratch, say critics, Reuters, February 16, 2011

[21] Acknowledgements, Arabic Network For Human Rights Information, 2004

[22] Egypt | National Endowment For DemocracyNational Endowment For Democracy, 2005

[23] Foundation for the Future Holds its First Board Meeting in Doha, QatarFoundation for the Future, July 15, 2006

[24] 2007 Democracy Award, National Endowment for Democracy, 2007

Nile Bowie is a Kuala Lumpur-based American writer and photographer for the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal, Canada. He explores issues of terrorism, economics and geopolitics.

Iran has again offered to halt its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, which the United States has identified as its highest priority in the nuclear talks, in return for easing sanctions against Iran, according to Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, who has conducted Iran’s negotiations with the IAEA in Tehran and Vienna, revealed in an interview with IPS that Iran had made the offer at the meeting between EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Iran’s leading nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Istanbul Sep. 19.

Soltanieh also revealed in the interview that IAEA officials had agreed last month to an Iranian demand that it be provided documents on the alleged Iranian activities related to nuclear weapons which Iran is being asked to explain, but that the concession had then been withdrawn.

“We are prepared to suspend enrichment to 20 percent, provided we find a reciprocal step compatible with it,” Soltanieh said, adding, “We said this in Istanbul.”

Soltanieh is the first Iranian official to go on record as saying Iran has proposed a deal that would end its 20-percent enrichment entirely, although it had been reported previously.

“If we do that,” Soltanieh said, “there shouldn’t be sanctions.”

Iran’s position in the two rounds of negotiations with the P5+1 – China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain, the United States and Germany – earlier this year was reported to have been that a significant easing of sanctions must be part of the bargain.

The United States and its allies in the P5+1 ruled out such a deal in the two rounds of negotiations in Istanbul and in Baghdad in May and June, demanding that Iran not only halt its enrichment to 20 percent but ship its entire stockpile of uranium enriched to that level out of the country and close down the Fordow enrichment facility entirely.

Even if Iran agreed to those far-reaching concessions the P5+1 nations offered no relief from sanctions.

Soltanieh repeated the past Iranian rejection of any deal involving the closure of Fordow.

“It’s impossible if they expect us to close Fordow,” Soltanieh said.

The U.S. justification for the demand for the closure of Fordow has been that it has been used for enriching uranium to the 20-percent level, which makes it much easier for Iran to continue enrichment to weapons grade levels.

But Soltanieh pointed to the conversion of half the stockpile to fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, which was documented in the Aug. 30 IAEA report.

“The most important thing in the (IAEA) report,” Soltanieh said, was “a great percentage of 20-percent enriched uranium already converted to powder for the Tehran Research Reactor.”

That conversion to powder for fuel plates makes the uranium unavailable for reconversion to a form that could be enriched to weapons grade level.

Soltanieh suggested that the Iranian demonstration of the technical capability for such conversion, which apparently took the United States and other P5+1 governments by surprise, has rendered irrelevant the P5+1 demand to ship the entire stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium out of the country.

“This capacity shows that we don’t need fuel from other countries,” said Soltanieh.

Iran began enriching uranium to 20 percent in 2010 after the United States made a virtually non-negotiable offer in 2009 to provide fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor in return for Iran’s shipping three-fourths of its low-enriched uranium stockpile out of the country and waiting for two years for the fuel plates.

The P5+1 demand for closure of the Fordow enrichment plant was also apparently based on the premise the facility was built exclusively for 20-percent enrichment. But Iran has officially informed the IAEA that it is for both enrichment to 20 percent and enrichment to 3.5 percent.

The 1,444 centrifuges installed at Fordow between March and August – but not connected to pipes, according to the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security – could be used for either 20-percent enrichment or 3.5-percent enrichment, giving Iran additional leverage in future negotiations.

Soltanieh revealed that two senior IAEA officials had accepted a key Iranian demand in the most recent negotiating session last month on a “structured agreement” on Iranian cooperation on allegations of “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear programme – only to withdraw the concession at the end of the meeting.

The issue was Iran’s insistence on being given all the documents on which the IAEA bases the allegations of Iranian research related to nuclear weapons which Iran is expected to explain to the IAEA’s satisfaction.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text shows that the IAEA sought to evade any requirement for sharing any such documents by qualifying the commitment with the phrase “where appropriate”.

At the most recent meeting on Aug. 24, however, the IAEA negotiators, Deputy Director General for Safeguards Herman Nackaerts and Assistant Director General for Policy Rafael Grossi, agreed for the first time to a commitment to “deliver the documents related to activities claimed to have been conducted by Iran”, according to Soltanieh.

At the end of the meeting, however, Nackaerts and Grossi “put this language in brackets”, thus leaving it unresolved, Soltanieh said.

Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recalls in his 2011 memoirs that he had “constantly pressed the source of the information” on alleged Iranian nuclear weapons research – meaning the United States – “to allow us to share copies with Iran”. He writes that he asked how he could “accuse a person without revealing the accusations against him?”

ElBaradei also says Israel gave the IAEA a whole new set of documents in late summer 2009 “purportedly showing that Iran had continued with nuclear weapons studies until at least 2007″.

Soltanieh confirmed that the other unresolved issue is whether the IAEA investigation will be open-ended or not.

The Feb. 20 negotiating text showed that Iran demanded a discrete list of topics to which the IAEA inquiry would be limited and a requirement that each topic would be considered “concluded” once Iran had answered the questions and delivered the information requested.

But the IAEA insisted on being able to “return” to topics that had been “discussed earlier”, according to the February negotiating text.

That position remains unchanged, according to Soltanieh. The Iranian ambassador quoted an IAEA negotiator as asking, “What if next month we receive something else — some additional information?’”.

“If the IAEA had its way,” Soltanieh said, “It would be another 10 or 20 years.”

Soltanieh told IPS a meeting between Iran and the IAEA set for mid-October had been agreed before the IAEA Board of Governors earlier this month with Nackaerts and Grossi.

The Iranian ambassador said the IAEA officials had promised him that Director General Yukia Amano would announce the meeting during the Board meeting, but Amano made no such announcement.

Instead, after a meeting with Fereydoun Abbasi, Iran’s Vice President and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Amano only referred to the “readiness of Agency negotiators to meet with Iran in the near future.”

“He didn’t keep the promise,” said Soltanieh, adding that Iran would have to “study in the capital” how to respond.

Soltanieh elaborated on Abassi’s suggestion last week that the sabotage of power to the Fordow facility the night before an IAEA request for a snap inspection of the facility showed the agency could be infiltrated by “terrorists and saboteurs”.

“The objection we have is that the DG isn’t protecting confidential information,” said Soltanieh. “When they have information on how many centrifuges are working and how many are not working (in IAEA reports), this is a very serious concern.”

Iran has complained for years about information gathered by IAEA inspectors, including data on personnel in the Iranian nuclear programme, being made available to U.S., Israeli and European intelligence agencies.

Gareth Porter, an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy, received the UK-based Gellhorn Prize for journalism for 2011 for articles on the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Every year the French Communist Party ( PCF) organizes the Fête de l’Humanité in Paris, a left-wing festival where concerts are held and communist parties from all over the world erect stands to exchange books, pamphlets and ideas. Many authors, journalists and intellectuals are invited every year to participate in debates on philosophy, culture, politics and current affairs.

 
But this year will probably be remembered for the important debates the attendees of the festival were not allowed to have.  Two authors, Belgian theoretical physicist Jean Bricmont and French author Caroline Fourest, were forced to cancel their talks due to intimidation and threats from  organisations calling themselves “Antifa” and “Indigènes de la République”, respectively.
Caroline Fourest is a pro-Israeli reactionary who masquerades as a “left-wing” feminist.  Her invitation to the festival to discuss the rise of Islamic extremism and the French far right upset many on the left.
Reactionary and islamophobic Fourest most certainly is, but preventing her from speaking not only gives credence to her erroneous theories but violates her constitutional right to freedom of speech.
When Fourest was about to speak of the dangers of Islamic extremism and the rise of the Front National, France’s far right party, a group calling themselves “les Indigènes de la République” entered the tent where Fourest was speaking and began to throw objects on the stage. Some protestors even attempted to assault her.
Soon the tent was occupied by the protestors who shouted slogans against racism and islamophobia. The protestors proceeded to occupy the stage whereupon the audience shouted back “liberté d’expression!” (freedom of expression). The confrontation between the conference attendees and protestors continued for about 20 minutes with each side calling the other “fascist”.
The “Indigènes de la République” protestors won out, however, when the debate was cancelled and Caroline Fourest was escorted by bodyguards to a nearby vehicle.
The following day Belgian physicist, author and intellectual Jean Bricmont was due to give a far more important talk on the crisis in Syria and the specious discourse of “humanitarian intervention”   propagated by the mainstream media to justify wars of aggression.
For many years, Bricmont has been a critic of the politics of military interventions undertaken under the pretext of protecting “human rights”. Bricmont’s heresy on this issue and his anti-Zionism has made him a pariah in the fashionable salons of France’s “respectable” intelligentsia.
The Belgian physicist’s unequivocal anti-imperialist stance has also made him the target of a vile defamation campaign on the internet and in the mainstream French media where he has been called a “rouge-brun” , a brown-shirt red, a “confusioniste” etc.
Furthermore, the more extremist fringes of the internet’s thought-police have singled out Bricmont for special attention. A few days prior to the fête de l’Humanité, an “anti-fascist” anarchist organization called Antifa launched a campaign on Indymedia against Bricmont’s attendance at the festival, where they threatened to assault him if he spoke about humanitarian intervention. In the insane world of Antifa activism, Bricmont’s opposition to NATO-fomented terrorism in Libya and Syria makes him a “fascist”.
Antifa is just one of the  international anarchist groups currently being used by the intelligence agencies of imperialist states to sow confusion and chaos among the ranks of disaffected youth, inciting them to mindless, violent acts that serve the agenda of an ever- encroaching police state. This organization, in particular, targets intellectuals who denounce Zionism as well as alternative media outlets which expose the mechanisms and institutions that promote US imperialism throughout the world. It does all this under the guise of “anti-fascism”.
Due to the simple-mindedness of their beliefs and stupidity of their actions, Antifa tend to attract naïve and angry youths who turn up at demonstrations in black hoodies in order to provoke police crackdowns and sabotage any meaningful resistance to the current political order. In other words, Antifa are a group of useful idiots, whose real agenda is to promote fascism under the guise of “anti-fascism”.
 Bricmont was informed of their campaign and asked the management of the festival to provide him with appropriate security. The festival managers assured the Belgian scientist that he would have protection. However, one hour before Bricmont was about to speak, he received notification that the talk was cancelled.  The violent threats of the Antifa agents provocateurs provided Pierre Laurent, general secretary of the PCF with the perfect pretext to cancel Bricmont’s heretical lecture. Allowing Bricmont to speak would have shown up the PCF for the right-wing, imperialist sham that they are in the eyes of their ever dwindling supporters.
The festival management had decided they could not provide security for Belgian physicist in the event of an attack by the “Antifa” protestors.  However, the pro-war, pro-Israeli pundit Caroline Fourest was provided with full protection by the festival management, in spite of similar threats having been made against her.
This was hardly surprising, considering that the l’Humanité newspaper was the organizer of the festival. L’Humanité has given full support to NATO’s destabilization of Syria since violence broke out there last year, publishing the same war propaganda as its “right-wing” competitors.
According to the PCF’s international affairs spokesman Jacques Fath, the only solution for peace is Syria is the fall of Assad.  Fath, of course, made no mention of NATO’s death squads, who have been killing both innocent civilians and security forces since March 2011, facts that have even been verified by many independent journalists and admitted by the Arab league’s observer mission.
Neither of Syria’s communist parties was invited to the festival.  Both the Communist Party of Syria(Bakdash) and the Communist Party of Syria (Faisal Aka Unified) won 11  seats in the parliamentary elections that followed the implementation of Syria’s  new democratic constitution in May this year.
Both parties have consistently denounced NATO and Gulf-state fomented terrorism against their country since the outbreak of violence in Daraa in 2011. Neither party was allowed to erect a stand at the French communist festival. Instead representatives of the pro-war Syrian opposition were represented.
Those who believe that Jean Luc Melanchon’s Front de Gauche (the French “far left” party which one 11 percent of the vote in last year’s parliamentary elections) represents some form of alternative to the status quo, would do well to remember that Melanchon and the Front de Gauche SUPPORTED NATO’s intervention in Libya last year.  This is an organization which claims to oppose NATO. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The supporters of Melanchon- a demagogue who likes to prop up his left-wing credentials by pretending to support president Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and other centre-left governments in Latin America- do not seem to realize that the ALBA countries all supported Libya’s colonel Gaddafi last year and now openly declare their support for President Bachar al-Assad in his struggle against NATO, and Gulf-state funded terrorism.
While President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela sought to mediate in the Libyan crisis in 2011 in order to prevent military aggression against the country, a mediation welcomed by the Libyan government- and which could have prevented war- they received absolutely no help from Jean Luc Melanchon, who now vaunts himself as an anti-imperialist. Melanchon is a dastardly liar and a political fraud of the highest order.
One would not have to be a physicist like Jean Bricmont to see and understand the horrible reality of NATO’s proxy war in Syria, but what an inconvenient interruption it would have been if the would-be communists of this year’s festival were to be confronted with the naked, mephitic truth about NATO’s humanitarian wars, and the left-wing dupes who support them. Bricmont had to be silenced
.
France’s “extrême gauche” are nothing more than a contemptible, motley crew of cowards, liars and fools, whose inflated egos and vacuous slogans adequately reflect the all-pervasive cynicism of the corrupted petty-bourgeois class they represent.
But there is another reason for Bricmont’s ostracism from respectable French society; he is a scientist who is capable of applying critical thought to everyday issues that affect the common citizen. In other words, unlike his elitist and conformist colleagues in academia, for whom, peer –reviewed papers, tenure and social respectability count more than scientific truth, Bricmont represents the type of scientist capable of applying his microscope to the laws that govern civil society; laws whose  flagrant violation by Western governments the neo-scholastic monks of postmodern academia conveniently ignore.
In the days following the festival Caroline Fourest’s expulsion was widely bruited in the French mainstream media, who vociferously denounced the violation of her “freedom of expression”
.
Fourest is one of the most prominent propagandists for the New World Order, and such is her ubiquity across the French media complex, that she has become a household name.  The war-mongering Fourest has been presented as a martyr of human rights, feminism and free speech, thanks to the useful idiots of Antifa. Needless to say, the war-mongering harpies of France’s mainstream media made no mention of the violation of Jean Bricmont’s freedom of speech.
 If Fourest, Antifa, the PCF, Front de Gauche and the entire pseudo-leftist French establishment had their way, Bricmont and his ilk would never again be allowed to speak in a public platform. For what he has to say would expose them for the fakers, imperialist collaborators and loud-mouthed nincompoops that they are.
Those activists who admire and those who detest Caroline Fourest can scream “fascist” to one another to their heart’s content in their zany, infantile theatre of the absurd. But it is they who are opening the path for a seizure of power by the extreme right in this country, as the real fascists in Marine Le Pen’s Front National will easily capitalize on their buffoonery. For, who can blame a simple working class voter for being seduced by the mendacious arguments of Marine Le Pen when there are none but prattling fools to oppose her?
This is not the first time genuine anti-war activists were prevented from speaking in France. Michel Collon, a Belgian journalist, author and editor of a news and analysis website InvestigAction was prevented from speaking at the Bourse du Travail in Paris on November 9th 2011 by the Antifa agents provocateurs. These groups serve the imperialist state by preventing the public from engaging in serious debate about France’s foreign wars.
Other political organizations which have been attacked by  the “Antifa” agents provocateurs are the URCF, l’Union de Révolutionaires -Communistes de France and the PRCF, Pôle de renaissance communiste en France .
These organizations have some former heroes of the French Resistance among their members, real fighters against fascism. The president of the PRCF is Léon Landini, a combatant in the French resistance during the Second World War, who was responsible for the killing of over 40 Nazi soldiers, the destruction of 300 Nazi vehicles and dozens of attacks against Nazi railway carriages. The URCF and PRCF are now the main political organizations in France militating for the construction of a real communist party.
 Unlike the fakers in the Front de Gauche, PCF, NPA and other organizations, the URCF and PRCF have given their full support to the Syrian communist parties of Syria in their fight against fascist aggression by NATO and the Petro-monarchies of the Gulf states and have unequivocally denounced the lies and disinformation against Syria of the reactionary French press.
It is one of the most egregious propaganda achievements in recent history that those who expose the lies that trick the public into perceiving wars of aggression as humanitarian operations are denounced as “fascists”, while those who bang the drums of war are considered to be “left-wing” and “progressive”. This is the general pattern set by the French media complex and genuine anti-imperialist intellectuals have paid the price by being subjected to a veritable witch hunt for their theoretical heresies.
The censorship of Jean Bricmont by the left liberal establishment is deeply indicative of the perilous direction French society is currently taking. It is the road to a new form of totalitarianism, where critical thought is murdered by platitudes,empty, effete slogans, and the meaningless newspeak of the ruling group mind.
The unconscionable, dishonest and dastardly behavior of the petty bourgeois leftists, if unchecked, will inevitably lead to a grim dénouement in this tragic-comic farce that is contemporary France.