I –Introduction

As  is customary, a press conference was held by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin to mark the beginning of the Russian Federation’s Presidency of the Security Council for the month of December 2011. Ambassador Churkin’s comments in this press conference provide insight into an important problem in the structure of the Security Council that became evident in the course of the implementation of the Security Council resolutions against Libya. 

The press conference was held on December 2.  There is video of the press conference for those who are interested in viewing the conference itself. (1)

Though other issues were brought up, many of the questions asked by journalists related to the Russian Federation’s views concerning Security Council action on Libya and Syria.

II– Critique of Implementation of SCR 1973 on Libya

During the press conference Ambassador Churkin revealed that NATO had been asked for a “final report…summing up their view of their complying or not complying, of performing or not performing under the resolutions of the Security Council.” But no summary had been received from NATO. Ambassador Churkin said it was his understanding that NATO was not planning to send the Security Council any summary.

The importance of this revelation is that during its military action against Libya, NATO claimed it was acting under the authorization of UNSC Resolution 1973 (SCR 1973). Yet when asked to provide the Security Council with an evaluation of how its Libyan campaign complied with the actual resolution, apparently NATO did not see itself as being held accountable to the Security Council.

This situation reinforces the observation made by some inside and others outside the Council.(2) The Council passed SCR 1973, but it had no means of monitoring or controlling how this resolution was implemented. Thus the implementation of this Security Council resolution on Libya reveals a serious flaw in the structure of the Council itself.

Some members maintained that the resolution called for a cease fire and political settlement of the conflict in Libya.

Other Security Council members began bombing Libyan targets, and brought NATO in to carry out a bombing campaign against military, civilian and infrastructure targets in Libya. Ironically, NATO claimed such bombing was about the protection of civilians.(3) Similarly a self appointed “Contact Group” on Libya set as its goal, regime change in Libya. Members of the Security Council who expressed opposition to these activities, arguing they were contrary to SCR 1973, had no means to stop such usurpation of Security Council control over the implementation of the resolution.

The December 2 press conference with Ambassador Churkin helped to illustrate and examine this problem.

In an earlier Security Council meeting, Brazil had indicated it was planning to do a concept paper on the “responsibility while protecting” under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept. (4) Brazil’s two year term on the Security Council will be over at the end of December, but no such concept paper has yet been presented. When Churkin was asked what he could tell journalists about the progress on this paper, he said, “My understanding is that it is going to be a serious process, a fundamental process of revisiting those things.”

On the issue of the Security Council’s summary of what had happened in the course of implementing Resolution 1973 against Libya, Ambassador Churkin explained the dilemma this posed for the Council.“As to lessons learned, this is a much broader issue which unfortunately I think we cannot put together as council members. It is something for round tables, academics, politicians to discuss in various flora. We discussed that. We have had a number of discussions of the various lessons we have learned, and the things we need to do or not to do.”

He recommended looking back at the Security Council meetings held in open chambers, particularly at the statements he had made in his capacity as the Russian Federation Permanent Representative. “I minced no words about some of the conclusions that need to be drawn from our Libyan experience,” he said, “But I am sure the Libyan experience is something that will have an impact of such importance that this will be a subject of attention for years to come.”

Asked whether the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) concept had been misused by the Security Council, Ambassador Churkin responded, “This is a very dangerous thing.”  This was not only the view of his delegation, but also of others both on the council and outside of the council, he explained.

“That is something that makes the life and work on the Security Council very difficult because words are no longer what they used to be. They have different meanings,” he said, offering as an example the implementation of the No Fly Zone on Libya contained in SCR 1973.

He described how, “No Fly Zone in the good old world, used to mean that nobody’s flying. That you prevent aircraft from being used against civilians.” 

“In the brave new world,” though, said Churkin, “No Fly Zone means freewheeling bombing of the targets you choose to bomb in whatever modality and mode you want to bomb. Close air support ok. Bombing a television station, ok. And that is a matter of grave concern.”

The significance of there being such a big difference in how words are being used, Churkin explained, was that, “Now we have to think not only about the words and concepts, but about the enormous ability of some of our colleagues to interpret the world out of them. And this is a very serious issue.”

“We need to return to the Council, to our interaction and cooperation with our colleagues, a clear understanding of what we mean,” maintained Churkin.

Demonstrating the significance of this discrepancy between how different members of the Council interpreted the words of resolutions, Churkin pointed out that in the case of Libya, there had been reports that the Gaddafi regime was using airplanes to bomb civilians. (But no evidence was ever presented to support these claims, at the time, or since.-ed) (5)

There were, however, no such reports about Syria. How then could there be “such uncritical enthusiasm” for setting up a No Fly Zone for Syria, Churkin wondered. Where was this enthusiasm coming from?

“Is it,” he asked, “an indication that in fact when they are saying that they don’t plan any military action (against Syria-ed), they don’t really mean it? When they talk about a No Fly Zone, they are already planning targets to bomb in Syria?”

Referring to the implication of this problem, Churkin noted, “On various issues which can have dramatic repercussions for regions and countries, and unfortunately this is clearly the case about Syria and about Iran and about some other issues, so it is not a perfect day for diplomacy, a perfect day to work in the Security Council.”
 
III- Security Council Action Against Syria

In response to several questions from journalists asking about the Russian Federation’s view of what action was appropriate with respect to Syria, Churkin explained the principles that should guide such action.

“We think it’s the role of the international community to try to help resolve internal crises by promoting dialogue,” Churkin told journalists, “This is what we have been doing with our contacts with the Syrian authorities, opposition, and the Arab League.”

Referring to the proposal of the Arab League to conduct a monitoring mission in Syria, he explained, “We think that the Arab League has a unique opportunity to play a constructive role in Syria.”

This required, however, that the Arab League be willing to consider Syria’s proposed amendments to the Arab League proposal, rather than just offering Syria an ultimatum that it had to accept the Arab League proposal with no negotiations over it, said Churkin. 

“We think the Syrian government’s proposed amendments to that plan could have been considered,” he explained. “Personally I looked at the two texts. I haven’t seen in the texts anything which couldn’t have been bridged there with some negotiations on the modalities of the deployment of that mission.”

Concerned that, “this opportunity to really mediate between the government and the opposition is not lost,” Churkin proposed that the Arab League economic sanctions imposed on Syria were “counterproductive.”

Comparing Security Council action on Syria with its action on Yemen, Churkin said that Russia was able to “exercise our position of principle” in Security Council Resolution 2014 (2011) about Yemen, “by encouraging dialogue and political accommodation on the basis of the Gulf States initiative.”(6) In the case of Yemen, Churkin noted, the Security Council and the international community had rallied in support of the action that Russia proposed.

But when it came to Syria, he described how Russia and China had proposed a resolution that “had many of the same elements which were contained in the resolution which was adopted on…Yemen.” In the case of Syria, however, the Russian-Chinese sponsored Resolution, was not supported by several other members of the Council.(7)

“So I think in Yemen the international community can be proud that even in a situation with bloodshed and very serious conflict in a country we were giving a strong signal in favor of dialogue and of political accommodation and this is what we achieved,” said Churkin.

“What we don’t understand,” he noted, “is why if that can be done in Yemen, why that can’t apply to Syria.”

Furthermore, in the case of Syria, he said, the Security Council met with opposition from some of the capitals, to any form of dialogue to resolve the Syrian conflict. The governments opposed to dialogue, he reported, took the position that there was, “no way dialogue can help. That those who go into dialogue they should stop it immediately,” and that “there is no future in the Arab League initiative.”

Such action is, he proposed “something very counterproductive. And this is something that has acerbated the situation in Syria.”

While maintaining that there is “no prescription for different countries” since they are all structured differently with regard to their traditions and political set up, Churkin proposed that there is a general attitude and principles that can be applied in a general way. This is that “the international community is not there to smell blood and to fan confrontation. But the international community is there to prevent further bloodshed and to encourage dialogue.”

Reflecting on the importance of such an international effort in favor of domestic dialogue, Churkin said, “This is what the United Nations is all about. This is what the Security Council is about.”

IV-Concerns about Libya
 
With respect to Gaddafi, Churkin said members of the council, including Russia, thought that what happened to Gaddafi is something that shouldn’t have happened.”

Ambassador Churkin was asked whether the Security Council was concerned about the conditions in Libya for those who had supported the Gaddafi government and particularly, about the situation of Saif al Islam Gaddafi and whether it was conceivable he could get a fair trial in Libya when there was no functioning legal system in the country.

Churkin responded that these concerns about the situation in Libya had been discussed very often and the delegation of the Russian Federation and of a number of other countries had raised these concerns. Also he spoke to concern over the plight of migrant workers in Libya. “We directed the UN mission in Libya to pay proper attention to these issues,” he said.

He indicated that they would continue to follow these issues closely.

V-Conclusion

Ambassador Churkin’s press conference was an important and all too rare example of a press conference held by a member of the Security Council which helps to shed light on the workings of the Council. All too often the problems that develop in the course of Security Council activity are shrouded in shadows and kept from public view. This is contrary to the obligations of the Council, which is obliged to report on its actions to the General Assembly in annual and special reports under the UN Charter, Article 15(1). Members of the General Assembly responding to the annual report from the Security Council ask for more analytical reports, rather than just summaries of the activities that have gone on over the year. 

In his December 2 press conference, Ambassador Churkin shared some of the problems that developed in the Security Council over the course of the implementation of the resolutions on Libya. In the process he has helped clarify what future difficulties in the Security Council will be given a failure to understand and resolve the problems he has outlined. By helping to reveal the difficulties in the functioning of the Security Council, Ambassador Churkin has provided important details that need further attention and consideration.

Notes

1) Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation and President of the Security Council for the month of December 2011 on the Programme of Work of the Security Council for the month.

http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2011/12/press-conference-ambassador-vitaly-churkin-president-of-the-security-council.html

2) See for example the critique of Resolution 1973 by the Concerned Africans, “An Open Letter to the Peoples of Africa and the World from Concerned Africans,” July 2011.

http://www.concernedafricans.co.za/

See also Mahmood Mamdani, “A Ugandan’s Perspective: What Does Gaddafi’s Fall Mean for Africa.”

http:// www.unaatimes.com/2011/10/

3) For some of the examples of NATO’s bombing of civilians that went on during its military campaign against Libya see:
Global Civilians for Peace in Libya

http://globalciviliansforpeace.com/tag/bombing/

“Libya: War Without End” by Stephen Lendmain, ThePeoplesVoice.org, October 30, 2011.

http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/Voices.php/2011/10/30/libya-war-without-end

4) See Nov. 9, 2011 meeting of the Security Council on Protecting Civilians in the Situation of Armed Struggle, S/PV.6650, pg. 16

Ambassador Viotti said:
“The Brazilian delegation will shortly circulate a concept paper. It elaborates on the idea that the international community, as it exercises its responsibility to protect, must demonstrate a high level of responsibility while protecting.”

http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/PRO/N11/585/43/PDF/N1158543.pdf?OpenElement

5)Actually no evidence was ever presented that airplanes were ever used to bomb civilians under the Gaddafi government. It was only under NATO that there is evidence that airplanes were used resulting in the bombing of civilians. See for example:

http://globalciviliansforpeace.com/reports

“Despite detailed investigation we could not find any evidence that the three regions of Tripoli cited in UN resolution 1973  had been subjected to government forces bombardment nor that  their had  been fighting between government troops and the people, we received many testimonies to the contrary.”

6) See Security Council Resolution 2014 (passed October 21, 2011)

7) See for example Ronda Hauben, “UN Security Council Challenges Hidden Agenda on Syria,” taz.de/netizenblog

http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2011/10/27/security_council_veto_on_syria/

Ronda Hauben has been a resident correspondent at the UN for the past 5 years covering the UN first for the English edition of OhmyNews International, and more recently as a blog columnist at taz.de .  She is co-author of the book “Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet.”

This article appears on my blog.
http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2011/12/14/lessons-from-unscr-1973-on-libya

VIDEO: NATO Troops on Syrian Border

December 15th, 2011 by James Corbett

Class and Capitalism in the Gulf

December 15th, 2011 by Adam Hanieh

Ed Lewis (EL): You see the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – as being at the centre of the Middle East economically and politically, but not simply because of their vast reserves of oil. What, then, is your account of how the Gulf states have come to be in this position of centrality?

Adam Hanieh (AH): There are a number of factors involved here. First, of course, is the question of oil. The GCC’s supplies of oil and gas are among the highest in the world. There are various estimates here – and the assessment of oil reserves is highly controversial – but a commonly cited figure is that the GCC holds about 40-45 per cent of global proven oil reserves and 20 per cent of world gas. It currently produces close to 20 per cent of the world’s total oil production. Given the centrality of fossil fuels – both as an energy source and feedstock for the petrochemical industry – this gives the region a vital importance to the patterns of accumulation in the global economy.

 

A related factor is the huge levels of surplus capital that have accrued in the region as a result of sales of crude oil, gas and petrochemicals. These ‘petrodollars’ have been a key feature in the development of the global financial architecture. This is not a new aspect; during the 1970s financial flows from the Gulf were an essential part of the development of the Eurodollar markets (U.S. dollar deposits held in banks outside the United States) and also in supporting the purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds (see David Spiro‘s work on this). In this way, petrodollars have been key to buttressing U.S. dollar hegemony and in sustaining the global financial imbalances that have characterized the world market over recent decades. The rapid financialization of the global economy has thus been partly premised upon the integration of the GCC into the world market and its financial circuits.

What this means is that the way that the world market has developed over the last few decades, with complex production chains stretching from the manufacture of goods in low-wage zones to the sale of commodities in the advanced capitalist countries, depends heavily upon both the Gulf’s commodity production as well as its financial surpluses. In this sense, the nature of class and state formation in the GCC region has occurred alongside (and is very much linked to) the broader development of the capitalist world market.

These are the reasons for the GCC’s significance at the global scale. But within the Middle East and North Africa itself there have been some fundamental transformations over recent decades that cast a very particular character to the role of the Gulf within the region.

The most striking feature of the last two decades has been the generalization of neoliberal policies across most states of the region. This occurred in close collaboration with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, regional groups like the World Economic Forum’s Arab Business Council and Regional Agenda Council on the Middle East and North Africa, and other bilateral institutions like USAID. Key among these neoliberal policies were the liberalization of ownership laws, particularly in the real estate, financial and telecommunication sectors; opening up to foreign investment flows; privatization of state-owned industries; restructuring of tax regimes; termination of subsidies on food and energy; and the relaxation of trade barriers.

At the national scale these policies have had a pronounced impact, leading to impoverishment of populations on one hand and the concentration of wealth on the other. There has been a large growth in the ‘informal’ sector in many Arab economies, as well as the movement of hundreds of thousands of people into urban areas (or across borders) as survival became difficult on the land. The tightened relationship of the MENA region with the world market – typified by a reliance on export-oriented development, migrant remittances and movements in food and energy prices – exposed many countries to the winds of the global economy. All of these factors are critical to appreciating how the region was hit by the 2008 economic crisis, and the possible impact of the ongoing turmoil in the global economy.

But most importantly, these neoliberal measures did not just reconfigure class power at the national scale. They have also been accompanied by the increasing significance and weight of the regional scale. It is not possible to understand the ‘nation-state’ in the Middle East as a self-contained political economy separate from the ways it intertwines with this broader regional scale. There are different aspects to this, but fundamental is the very rapid internationalization of GCC-based capital, particularly following the rising financial surpluses that began in 1999 and peaked in 2008. Of course the bulk of the GCC’s surplus capital continues to be invested outside the region. But, over the last two decades, much of these flows have been directed to other states in the Middle East. Viewed from the regional scale – the GCC has been a main beneficiary of the last decade or so of privatization, de-regulation and market opening.

A few quick statistics illustrate this. In the 2008-2010 period, according to the EU-based ANIMA database that tracks investment in the region, the GCC taken as a whole was the top-ranked source of FDI for Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia and ranked second in Morocco and Syria. In 2010, GCC-based capital was responsible for the single largest FDI projects announced in Algeria, Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia. These are very striking figures. And they do not include portfolio investments in the region’s stock markets or other forms of ‘development loans’ that flow to the rest of the Middle East from the Gulf. It should also be noted that, contrary to common misconceptions, these flows are not necessarily directed by sovereign wealth funds or state-owned GCC companies. A large proportion of these flows come from privately owned GCC capital aimed at real estate projects, financial institutions, shopping malls, telecommunications and other investments.

The processes I’ve described were accentuated by the widening regional differentiation that arose in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. In the GCC itself, although there were a few high profile financial casualties due to the heavy indebtedness of some large conglomerates, the crisis had the principal effect of strengthening the position of the Gulf’s dominant classes. The nature of class formation in the GCC (more on this below) permitted the displacement of crisis onto migrant workers and, coupled with state support to the largest Gulf financial and industrial entities, meant that Gulf elites were largely shielded from the worst impacts of the economic downturn.

The differentiated experience of the crisis across the region indicates not only the relative strengthening of the largest GCC conglomerates and ruling families within the Gulf itself, but also the widening gap between GCC and other Middle East states. This indicates that neoliberalism, when viewed from the regional scale, has both enriched individual national capitalist classes and, simultaneously, consolidated the position of the GCC within the region as a whole.

EL: How does the relationship between the GCC and the major external powers, primarily the U.S. but also others, now shape the inter-state politics of the Middle East?

AH: As noted above, the importance of the GCC to the world market has been strengthened with the deepening internationalization and financialization of capital at the global level. One indication of this is the eastward shift of Gulf oil, gas and petrochemical exports, which has played an important role in underpinning the rise of Chinese production. From 2000-2006, world energy consumption increased by close to 20 per cent, with China alone responsible for 45 per cent of the increase in the world’s global energy use during this period. By 2007, nearly 50 per cent of China’s crude oil imports came from the Middle East. Today, half of Saudi Arabia’s oil output goes to China, exceeding that of Saudi exports to the U.S., and by 2025, Chinese imports of Gulf oil are expected to be three times more than U.S. imports from the region. Alongside these hydrocarbon exports is the ongoing flow of GCC financial surpluses into the markets of the advanced capitalist countries.

In the context of a relative decline in U.S. power, and the emergence of an increasingly multi-polar world, this has meant that the GCC (and, by extension, the Middle East as a whole) is a key zone in how competitive rivalries between the leading capitalist states will play out. This is the reason for the central emphasis that long-term U.S. strategy places upon the tight military and political relationship with the GCC states. This relationship was forged in the post-World War 2 era, but continued to deepen through the 1980s (indeed, the actual formation of the GCC in 1981 was very much part of consolidating the Gulf states under a U.S. military umbrella in the context of the Iran-Iraq war). Dominance of the region was a key strategic factor in the U.S.-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ongoing struggles around control of Central Asia. The rising bellicosity against Iran also needs to be seen in this light. The announcement by the U.S. government a few weeks ago that it would be repositioning its military forces located in Iraq to the GCC is further confirmation of this. Already, the GCC hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet (in Bahrain) and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forward headquarters (in Qatar) – responsible for all U.S. military engagement, planning and operations across 27 countries from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia. The monarchies in the GCC are fully dependent upon U.S. military protection as well as univocal political support from the West (as the reaction to the uprising in Bahrain indicates). Of course there are rivalries and points of tension in the U.S.-GCC relationship (as there are between the states of the GCC itself), but the central point is that this relationship is a key feature of U.S. dominance at the global scale.

This is the overall framework for understanding how the U.S. and other foreign powers view the Middle East in its entirety. Other explanations – such as the vacuous and essentially liberal arguments about an ‘Israeli lobby’ that supposedly drives U.S. foreign policy making – should be rejected in my opinion.

But the rivalries of competing states in the capitalist world market also need to be seen alongside their shared interests. Class formation in the GCC is deeply interpenetrated with the development of capitalism as a whole, and the greatest fear of any of the leading states in the world market – and this, it should be stressed, includes China and Russia – is a significant challenge to that class structure. It is, in other words, a shared concern of all leading capitalist states to ensure that the GCC remains fully aligned with the interest of world capitalism. The policies of leading foreign powers in the Middle East thus have a dual character – on one hand, attempting to extend their individual competitive interests while, on the other, working cooperatively to prevent any popular challenge that would see the region’s wealth used to benefit the broad masses of people rather than a tiny parasitic social layer. This is the deeper meaning of the uprisings that have unfolded over this year.

EL: With the partial exception of Bahrain, the Gulf states are generally known for a very low level of political discontent, leaving its authoritarian regimes with a firm grip on power, despite very deep material inequalities. What accounts for this? Is it largely a result of domestic factors or is it significantly shaped by the relationship between the Gulf and the global order?

AH: There is a hidden and largely forgotten history of significant social struggles in the Gulf. From the 1950s to 1970s, there were several well-organized and militant Arab nationalist and left-wing movements across the region. The role of these movements could be seen, to mention only a few examples, in strikes and protests across the Saudi oil fields, the guerrilla struggle in the Dhofar region in Oman, and the widespread support in Kuwait and elsewhere for the Palestinian struggle. There was a strong sympathy among the Gulf populations for Palestinian and Arab nationalist causes, often linked to the presence of Arab workers from Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and so forth.

These movements were met with repression by the ruling monarchies (strongly backed by British and U.S. advisors). But in addition to this repression, there was also a transformation in the nature of the region’s labour markets that became evident through the 1980s and 1990s. During this time, particularly following the deportations that took place around the 1990-1991 Gulf War, there was a shift away from Arab workers toward temporary migrant workers from South and East Asia. These workers were brought on short-term contracts, often housed in camps away from the citizen population, and subject to severe restrictions on labour and political rights. In many cases, particularly in low-wage sectors such as construction, it was very difficult for these workers to bring their families with them.

Today, the Gulf states are distinguished by their very high reliance upon this type of temporary migrant labour, with around 70% of these workers from South and East Asia and 30% from the Middle East (the proportion had been essentially the opposite in the mid-1970s). These labour flows differ from the permanent migration flows seen in other areas of the world because they are short-term in nature, lack associated citizenship rights, and are focused on maximizing remittance flows back to the country of origin. In all of the GCC states, temporary migrant workers represent more than half of the entire labour force and in four of these states (Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the UAE) the proportion is greater than eighty per cent. This heavy reliance on temporary labour flows closely ties the key labour exporting regions to accumulation patterns in the GCC.

The relative stability and adaptability of Gulf capitalism and its ruling elites is closely connected to this class structure. High levels of exploitation are enabled because a worker’s residency status is directly tied to holding a job. Once they become unemployed they become ‘illegal’ and are required to leave the country. In other words, because the right to be in the country is conditioned on employment, employers hold an enormous power differential over the worker. Moreover, generational reproduction of the class is highly fragmented because workers generally return home when they finish their contracts – class memory and bonds of solidarity are weak, and collective action very difficult to undertake. Legal restrictions codify these barriers to class-based action, with unions banned in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and severely restricted elsewhere.

Contrary to the generally accepted picture of these societies, relative poverty does exist among the citizen population in countries such as Saudi Arabia (and elsewhere in the Gulf). But the absence of a local, citizen working class means that political struggles lack an effective social base. Political conflict in these states (with the exception of Bahrain which I will discuss below) thus generally originates in inter-elite discord (such as between different branches of the ruling family, and the conflict between religious scholars and the monarchy) or Islamist movements – not from any widespread class struggle. This relative political calm can be contrasted with the situation in two oil-rich neighbouring countries, Iraq and Iran, where the working class has a long history of mobilization and persistent opposition to Western policies in the Gulf and wider Middle East.

The implications of this could be seen in the reaction to the 2008 economic crisis. In the immediate wake of the crisis, the Gulf states saw little popular protest or anger. It is certainly true that many high-profile projects were halted, consumer demand plummeted and businesses shut their doors – but the citizen population emerged relatively unscathed. Instead, there was a slowdown in hires of migrant workers and – in places such as Dubai – thousands were sent home. This meant that the real pain of the crisis was felt by the swelling numbers of unemployed across the Gulf’s surrounding regions.

Bahrain, however, is an important partial exception to this pattern. It has less oil wealth than other GCC states (only 0.03% of proven GCC reserves), and the peculiarities of its historical development meant that a significant sectarian divide was established between a largely Sunni ruling elite (dominated by the Al Khalifa monarchy) and a majority Shi’a population. Yet Bahrain’s social structure is not a question of some obdurate religious conflict between Shi’a and Sunni (as it is usually portrayed in the media and purposively promoted by the Bahraini monarchy). Rather, the discrimination against the country’s Shi’a majority cannot be understood separate from the ways in which class formed. While the country continues to rely heavily upon migrant labour – in 2005, around 58% of the Bahraini population were non-citizen migrant workers – much of its Shi’a majority remain unemployed, poor and face entrenched, systemic discrimination.

Over recent years Bahrain has also endured a lengthier and more advanced experience of neoliberalism (relative to other GCC states). This has deeply accentuated the unevenness of capitalist development – widening gaps between poorer citizens (concentrated among Shi’a) and the private sector and state elites that have benefitted from Bahrain’s position as the “freest economy in the Middle East” (according to the Heritage Foundation 2010 Index of Economic Freedom). In 2004, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights estimated that over half of Bahraini citizens were living in poverty and yet, simultaneously, the richest 5200 Bahrainis had a combined wealth greater than $20-billion. The more proletarianized character of the Bahraini citizen population, which overlaps with the sectarian discrimination and has been reinforced by the deep impact of neoliberalism, has meant that labour and left-wing movements remain significant within the country. Every few years there have been major uprisings and labour strikes in the country – the intifada of 2011 is the latest of these movements.

Moreover, the significance of Bahrain extends beyond the country itself. There is a sizeable Shi’a population in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province – just across from Bahrain. There were protests in this region in early 2011, and there exists a great fear among all the Gulf states (and the Western powers that support them) that a successful movement in Bahrain would quickly detonate similar struggles in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. This explains the furious repression that has been unleashed on the Bahraini people over 2011, including the sending of Saudi, UAE and Qatari troops to the country in an attempt to quell the uprising. But we can be sure that the story of Bahrain’s uprisings is far from over.

EL: How important is the battle over oil prices? What interests are at stake, and how does it shape regional states’ policies and the external policies of foreign powers (like the USA)?

AH: The factors determining the price of oil are related to availability and supply of different oil grades and other energy sources, global demand, levels of capital investment in the industry, speculation, and the political situation in the Middle East. There has been a generally upward movement in the price since 1999 (punctuated by a large fall in the immediate wake of the 2008 economic crisis) and, if the most common estimates of global supply and demand are accurate, the price will likely remain high into the mid-term future.

High prices of oil are strongly correlated with recessionary periods and, as the 1970s showed, those countries that are reliant upon oil imports can be badly hit by high prices. Indeed, this was a major factor (partly facilitated through the recycling of Gulf petrodollars) in the explosion of Southern debt from the 1970s onwards. The further trend of rising food prices in the current period (partially linked to the price of hydrocarbons) means that the impact of high oil prices can be devastating in multiple ways.

The other side to this, however, is the interest of the Gulf states (and, of course, oil companies) in a higher price. There are various estimates of the ‘break even’ points for the GCC states – the necessary price of oil for these states to meet their fiscal requirements. The IMF estimated in 2008 that Saudi Arabia needed oil at $49/barrel to balance its fiscal account for the year. The lower range of the IMF estimates for the GCC was the UAE ($23) and Kuwait ($33) and the highest were found in Bahrain ($75) and Oman ($77). The GCC as a whole averaged $47/barrel. However, these estimates are probably too low. We need to remember that the GCC states have launched a massive program of government spending in the wake of the uprisings to undercut any dissent within their countries. The Institute of International Finance, a peak-body association of the world’s largest banks, estimated in March 2011 that Saudi Arabia would need oil to sell at an average of $88/barrel in 2011 for government spending to break even. Saudi Arabia is a key producer because it is one of the few states with the ability to increase supply to the world market and thus lower the price of oil (although some industry analysts question to what extent this is really possible and claim that Saudi reserves have been overstated). In short, there are many different factors that are complexly inter-related here. But I think the likely scenario in the near future is a continued high price and persistent growth in the surpluses of the GCC states.

EL: Could the ‘Arab Spring’ serve to threaten the regional balance of power as well as the balance of class forces that prevail within the Gulf states?

AH: This is absolutely the real potential of the uprisings through 2011. The two processes I’ve described above – the increasing weight of the regional economy and the differentiated impact of the global crisis – mean that it is impossible to treat the national and regional scales as two distinct political spheres. What appear on the surface to be ‘national’ struggles that are contained within individual nation-states, inevitably grow to confront the construction of these broader regional hierarchies. This is the context in which the Arab uprisings have unfolded.

There are different aspects to this. On the one hand we can see the role of the U.S. and other foreign powers in the region and, very importantly, the position of Israel. The uprisings (particularly that of Egypt) confront all of these features because the regimes that are being challenged were central to how this regional order was constructed. It is thus wrong to see the uprisings as solely a question of ‘democracy’ – as if the ‘political’ can be separated from the ‘economic’ or the ‘national’ from the ‘regional.’

Likewise with the role that the GCC states play in the regional political economy. I am not claiming that the slogans and demands of the uprisings explicitly target the GCC states in this manner (or, indeed, Israel or the U.S.), but contained within their logic is an implicit challenge to the regional order as it has developed over the last two decades. The social structures that characterized political rule in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere are themselves part of how the GCC – linked to the domination of foreign powers and the position of Israel – established its place atop the hierarchies of the regional market. The struggles against dictatorship that the uprisings represent are, simultaneously, intertwined with the way that capitalism has developed across the region and, in this sense, are also struggles against the Gulf.

This explains the furious attempts by the GCC states to hold back and derail these uprisings – they are absolute central to the counter-revolutionary wave that is being unleashed today in the region. I think a convincing case can be made that imperialism in the region is articulated with – and largely works through – the GCC states. The NATO-led invasion of Libya is a clear example of this, with Qatar and the UAE, in particular, playing a very important role in this invasion. The Gulf states sent troops, money and equipment and – perhaps most importantly – provided the political legitimacy for this attack. There are many other examples – we can see it in the billions of dollars that are being promised by the Gulf states to the regimes in Egypt and Tunisia; the military intervention in Bahrain; the offer made to Jordan and Morocco to join the GCC (thereby bringing together all the reactionary monarchies in the region within a single bloc); and the centrality of the GCC to attempting to mediate and steer the uprisings in Syria and Yemen. And, perhaps most significantly, the rising threats that are being made against Iran. Indeed, the question of Iran is just as much a question of the GCC as it is of Israel.

So yes, the uprisings present a real possibility of shifting the regional order. Egypt, with its large, better organized working class and much stronger Left organizations is the key point of struggle. But to return to the themes above, in the long-run there are no ‘national’ solutions to the broader problems of uneven development facing the Middle East and North Africa. These require a pan-regional solution and, centrally, that means confronting the position of the GCC states as the core of capitalism in the region.

Adam Hanieh is a lecturer in development studies at SOAS, and is an editorial board member of Historical Materialism. He is the author, most recently, of Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States. In conjunction with the most recent edition of the Socialist Register – The Crisis and the Left – New Left Project’s Ed Lewis interviewed Adam Hanieh about the international political economy of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This interview was first published on the New Left Project website.

Pentagon Plans Space Telescopes To Spy Anywhere On Earth

December 15th, 2011 by Global Research

If the U.S. military wants live video of a missile launcher vehicle halfway around the world, it must rely upon spy planes or drones in danger of being shot down. Tomorrow, the Pentagon wants space telescopes hovering in geosynchronous orbit that could take real-time images or live video of any spot on Earth.

Contrary to Hollywood’s ideas, today’s spy satellites that orbit the Earth at fast speeds and relatively lower altitudes can only snap photos for the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Taking live video of a single location would require satellites to hover by matching the Earth’s rotation in geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) high — but creating and launching a space telescope with the huge optics arrays capable of seeing ground details from such high orbit has proven difficult.

As a solution, DARPA — the Pentagon’s research arm — envisions a lightweight optics array made of flexible membrane that could deploy in space. Ball Aerospace has just completed an early proof-of-concept review as part of a DARPA contract worth almost $37 million.

“The use of membrane optics is an unprecedented approach to building large aperture telescopes,” said David Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colo.

DARPA eventually wants a space telescope with a collection aperture (light-collecting power) of almost 66 feet (20 meters) in diameter. By comparison, NASA’s next-generation James Webb Space Telescope is designed to have an aperture of just 21 feet (6.5 m).

Such a telescope should be able to spot missile launcher vehicles moving at speeds of up to 60 mph on the ground, according to the DARPA contract. That would also require the image resolution to see objects less than 10 feet (3 m) long within a single image pixel.

But first, Ball Aerospace must create and test a 16-foot (5 m) telescope in the DARPA project’s second phase. Phase three would involve launching a 32-foot (10 m) telescope for flight tests in orbit.

If all goes well, U.S. military commanders and intelligence agents may someday get live streaming video and up-to-date images of battlefields or trouble spots around the world. Such capability could complement the swarms of cheap drones providing battlefield surveillance today, and might even spare the U.S. embarrassment from losing spy drones over Iran or other countries.

NASA may also want a similarly flexible solution for cheaper space telescopes — except aimed away from Earth rather than spying on this blue marble of a planet.

Congress Authorizes Pentagon To Wage Internet War

December 15th, 2011 by Steven Aftergood

Congress has given the U.S. military a green light to conduct offensive military activities in cyberspace.

“Congress affirms that the Department of Defense has the capability, and upon direction by the President may conduct offensive operations in cyberspace to defend our Nation, allies and interests,” said the FY 2012 defense authorization act that was adopted in conference this week (section 954).

The blanket authorization for offensive cyber operations is conditional on compliance with the law of armed conflict, and the War Powers Resolution, which mandated congressional consultation in decisions to go to war.

“The conferees recognize that because of the evolving nature of cyber warfare, there is a lack of historical precedent for what constitutes traditional military activities in relation to cyber operations and that it is necessary to affirm that such operations may be conducted pursuant to the same policy, principles, and legal regimes that pertain to kinetic capabilities,” the conference report on the defense authorization act said.

“The conferees also recognize that in certain instances, the most effective way to deal with threats and protect U.S. and coalition forces is to undertake offensive military cyber activities, including where the role of the United States Government is not apparent or to be acknowledged.”

“The conferees stress that, as with any use of force, the War Powers Resolution may apply.”

This is an odd formulation which suggests that the War Powers Resolution may also not apply.  In any case, the Resolution is a weak reed that has rarely been used by Congress to constrain executive action.

According to the Congressional Research Service, “Debate continues on whether using the War Powers Resolution is effective as a means of assuring congressional participation in decisions that might get the United States involved in a significant military conflict.”

Putin Lashes Out At McCain Over Libya-Russia Parallel

December 15th, 2011 by Global Research

Vladimir Putin has lashed out at John McCain over his threats that the PM may face same fate as the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The Russian premier speculated that the US senator has been traumatized by his POW experience.

Putin presented his version of how Gaddafi was killed, and it allocates a dubious place for NATO in the scenario.

“All the world saw him being killed, all bloodied. Is that democracy? And who did it? Drones, including American ones, delivered a strike on his motorcade. Then commandos, who were not supposed to be there, brought in so-called opposition and militants. And killed him without trial,” Putin explained.

“Mr. McCain is known to have fought in Vietnam. I believe he has enough civilian blood on his hands. Is it that he can’t live without such horrible disgusting scenes as the butchering of Gaddafi?” the Russian prime minister speculated.

“Mr. McCain was taken prisoner in Vietnam and was put, not just in jail, but in a pit! He sat there for several years. Any person would go nuts from that!” he added.

Putin also said hawkish politicians like McCain are targeting, not him personally, but rather Russia, because it has the strength to protect its sovereignty and its international interests rather than submit to world domination pretenses. But there are more those who want to see Russia as a partner, not as an enemy.

“The West is not monolithic, and we have more friends than enemies,” Putin assured.

President Barack Obama used his speech to US troops at Fort Bragg, North Carolina Wednesday to embrace the nine-year war in Iraq that he had ostensibly opposed and to declare the destruction of the country a “success.”

Obama exploited a captive audience of 3,000 soldiers assembled at the largest US Army base in the world as part of a cynical attempt to use the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, which is to be completed by the end of this month, to promote his own reelection campaign.

The speech appeared to have been written by someone who threw out Abraham Lincoln’s famous adage and adopted the view that you can “fool all of the people all of the time.”
The Democratic president presented the complete withdrawal of American forces as an “extraordinary achievement” for his administration, while telling the troops that it was necessary to “remember everything that you did to make it possible.”

The reality is that the withdrawal of America’s armed forces from Iraq is not the deliberate outcome of US policy, but rather the unavoidable result of Washington’s failure to negotiate a new Status of Forces agreement to permit the administration’s favored plan, which was to leave behind as many as 20,000 troops.

That failure was based on the refusal of the Iraqi government, and indeed all of the major political forces in the country, to accede to Washington’s demand for blanket immunity for US troops from Iraqi law. Mass popular opposition, based on the bitter experiences of the Iraqi people over nearly nine years of US occupation, with all of its death and brutality, made any such agreement impossible.

Even as Obama used the Fort Bragg speech to wrap himself in the American flag and associate himself with the US military—he referred to himself as “commander-in-chief” three times, while his wife Michelle introduced him to the military audience by that title—he sought to promote the illusion among his liberal Democratic base that the withdrawal represents the fulfillment of a 2008 campaign pledge.

This is a bare-faced lie. Obama won the 2008 election in large measure due to the deep-going hostility among the American electorate to the wars begun under the Bush administration. He pledged to end the war in Iraq within 16 months of coming to office. Once in the White House, however, he retained Bush’s secretary of defense, Robert Gates, and largely ceded policy decisions to the Pentagon brass.

The December 31, 2011 deadline for completing troop withdrawals was set not by Obama, but was rather part of the Status of Forces Agreement reached between Bush and the Iraqi regime in 2008. Bush, like Obama, had fully intended to renegotiate this pact to allow permanent stationing of US troops in the country.

As it is, Washington is doing its best to maintain its grip on Iraq, replacing uniformed troops with an army of up to 17,000 under the nominal direction of the US State Department. It is to include a force of 5,500 private mercenary security contractors, a massive CIA station, and Special Operations troops operating covertly out of uniform. Tens of thousands of US troops are being kept in place across Iraq’s border in Kuwait and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf, while the US Navy and the US Air Force remain in control of the country’s coastlines and airspace.

US imperialism remains poised to intervene once again in the country, even as it engages in unceasing saber-rattling against its neighbor, Iran. Obama’s hailing of “the end of the war in Iraq” may prove decidedly premature.
Obama’s speech, which included no hint of his own supposed opposition to the Iraq war, was filled with empty rhetoric—such as, “there is something profound about the end of a war that has lasted so long”—meant to obscure and falsify what the war was all about. He sought to portray it as a crusade for democracy and the liberation of the Iraqi people.

“We remember the early days—the American units that streaked across the sands and skies of Iraq: the battles from Karbala to Baghdad,” said Obama, as if recounting some heroic exploit. In reality, the “early days” were the days of “shock and awe,” when massive US bombardments killed civilians and largely defenseless Iraqi troops alike in an unprovoked attack on an oppressed and impoverished country.

“We remember the grind of the insurgency,” he added, declaring that the will of the troops “proved stronger than the terror of those who tried to break it.” Here one has the inevitable and time-worn rhetoric of colonialism.
Those resisting the foreign occupation of their country are “terrorists,” while occupiers are endowed with the supreme right to impose their will.

“We remember the specter of sectarian violence,” he continued, telling the troops, “in the face of ancient divisions, you stood firm to help those Iraqis who put their faith in the future.” One would never guess that the bloody carnage and ethnic cleansing had itself been unleashed by the US invasion, the destruction of the Iraqi state, and the deliberate promotion by Washington of sectarian divisions as a means of conquering the country.

Obama referred to the “heavy cost of this war,” citing the nearly 4,500 US troops killed and the more than 30,000 wounded. Yet, he suggested, it was worth it, because nearly nine years of war had led to a “moment of success.”

“Now Iraq is not a perfect place,” he said. “It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”
Missing from this narrative was any reference to the cost that the US war imposed on its unwilling victims, the Iraqi people. According to credible estimates, these costs include a million Iraqi lives. Some four million people were driven from their homes, forced to flee the country or become internal refugees. Basic infrastructure was smashed, leaving masses of the population without adequate access to electricity, clean water and other basic necessities of life.

A country of 30 million has been left with 4.5 million orphans, some 600,000 of them living in the streets. There are an estimated 1.5 million widows in the country, 10 percent of Iraq’s female population.
The poverty rate has risen from 15 percent before the war and occupation to 55 percent today, with a quarter of the population living in extreme poverty. The United Nations gives the unemployment rate at 28 percent, while others suggest that the share of the population without real jobs is closer to 50 percent.

Meanwhile, lethal violence continues, with an average of 243 Iraqi civilians killed in each of the first six months of this year. On the day Obama delivered his speech at Fort Bragg, just the initially reported incidents of bombings in Baghdad and Ishaqi and shootings in Mosul and Fallujah killed at least 11 people, leaving many more wounded.

Nine years of US war and occupation have indeed left Iraq less than “a perfect place.”

What is perhaps most stunning about what is being billed as Obama’s keynote speech on the end of the Iraq war is his complete inability to present even the semblance of a coherent explanation of why the US went to war in the first place.

“Because you sacrificed so much for a people that you had never met, Iraqis have a chance to forge their own destiny,” he said. “That’s part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right.”

In another passage, he told the assembled soldiers: “Never forget that you are part of an unbroken line of heroes spanning two centuries—from the colonists who overthrew an empire, to your grandparents and parents who faced down fascism and communism, to you—men and women who fought for the same principles in Fallujah and Kandahar, and delivered justice to those who attacked us on 9/11.”

This is all nonsense and lies. Do the White House speechwriters really expect anyone to believe that 170,000 American troops were deployed in Iraq to give Iraqis “a chance to forge their own destiny” with no thought for the 112 billion barrels of oil within the country—the second largest proven reserves in the world?

People in Iraq had been forging their own destiny for thousands of years without the help of American bombs, missiles and bullets. Far from an unbroken line from the colonists who overthrew an empire in the 18th century,

America’s ruling elite in the 21st century embarked upon naked colonial-style wars aimed at imposing US hegemony over the world’s key energy producing regions of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.
As for delivering “justice” to those who attacked the US on September 11, 2001, there is no record of anyone allegedly involved in these attacks having come from Fallujah or Basra, where Al Qaeda had never been heard of before the US military invaded Iraq.

Obama merely recycles some of the old lies of the Bush administration, while wisely skipping over the principal pretext given to the American people for the war: an imminent threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that did not, in fact, exist.

As Obama gave his speech at Fort Bragg, thousands of Iraqis demonstrated in the streets of Fallujah, scene of the bloodiest US sieges of the war in 2004 and 2005, which claimed thousands of lives and left virtually the entire city of half a million people in rubble.

The demonstration was called as a “festival to celebrate the role of the resistance” in forcing an end to the US occupation. Demonstrators carried photographs of friends and relatives killed in the American offensive as well as placards bearing slogans such as “Now we are free” and “Fallujah is the flame of the resistance.” Others burned US flags.

“I’m glad to see the Americans are leaving Iraq,” a taxi driver, Ahmed Jassim, told Reuters. “It’s only now we truly feel the taste of freedom and independence. We will not see American forces anymore. They remind us of strife and destruction.”

In his cynicism, Obama may think that the American people do not remember how the US got into Iraq. He may reassure himself that they have no alternative in any case, given that both Democrats and Republicans are fully implicated in this criminal war of aggression.

The lying and glorification of the Iraq war—which gave the world the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the siege of Fallujah, the massacre in Haditha and countless other war crimes—is not just a matter of electoral calculations. Obama is compelled to defend this war because its original aims—the use of military might to offset the decline of American capitalism through the armed occupation of the world’s key energy producing regions—are still pursued by the US ruling elite.

With all the talk about the ending of a decade of war, the downward spiral of US and world capitalism is creating the conditions for global military conflagrations that will eclipse the crimes committed by American militarism in Iraq.

The Obama administration declared Wednesday afternoon that it was abandoning its nominal threat to veto a military authorization bill that explicitly authorizes the indefinite military detention of anyone the federal government declares to be a terrorist or supporter, including US citizens.

The final passage of the bill is now virtually assured by the end of the week. It marks a new stage in the collapse of the most basic democratic rights in the United States and the erection of the framework of a military-police state.

From the beginning, the administration has supported all fundamental components of the bill, while criticizing it largely from the standpoint of defending executive power. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that a few cosmetic changes this week ensured that it “does not challenge the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate terrorists and protect the American people.”

A few hours later, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation, 286-136, with support from both big business parties. Democrats split 93-93 on the bill, while Republicans voted for it by a margin of 193-43.

The Senate is expected to vote on it Thursday, before it arrives at the president’s desk. Both houses of Congress had already passed earlier versions of the same legislation, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The bill would allow for the open-ended detention of anyone caught up in the “war on terror,” without trial or charges, including US citizens. This is the first explicit legislation to effectively abolish habeas corpus (the right to challenge unlawful detentions) and the constitutional rights to a fair trial (the Sixth Amendment) and due process (the Fifth Amendment).

Another provision requires that such individuals be taken into military custody, with an exception for US citizens. The military seizure of US citizens is left to the discretion of the executive branch. This means the effective abolition of the Posse Comitatus Act, which has restricted use of the military for domestic policing for more than a century.

The main concern of the administration was that the requirement for military custody could hamper actions of other agencies engaged in counterterrorism operations, such as the FBI and CIA. An earlier policy statement from last month outlined the White House position that the requirement on military detention was an “unnecessary, untested, and legally controversial restriction of the President’s authority to defend the Nation from terrorist threats that would tie the hands of our intelligence and law enforcement professionals.”

The White House has cited the extra-judicial assassination of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki (a US citizen) as evidence that there should be no restraints on the form through which executive power is exercised.

In response to White House pressure, House and Senate negotiators on Monday agreed to compromise language that states that nothing in the bill will affect “existing criminal enforcement and national security authorities of the FBI or any other domestic law enforcement agency…regardless of whether such… person is held in military custody.”

Another measure would allow the president to waive requirements on the grounds of “national security.”

The administration also expressed the concern that the explicit authorization of indefinite detention was not necessary, as the White House claims that this power is already incorporated in the Authorization to Use Military Force, passed in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. Its inclusion in the bill could prompt judicial review. Carney’s statement declared, “Though this provision remains unnecessary, the changes ensure that we are merely restating our existing legal authorities and minimize the risk of unnecessary and distracting litigation.”

Commenting on the amended version, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement earlier this week: “The sponsors of the bill monkeyed around with a few minor details, but all of the core dangers remain—the bill authorizes the president to order the military to indefinitely imprison without charge or trial American citizens and others found far from any battlefield, even in the United States itself.”

This assault on fundamental democratic rights has been packaged into a $662 billion military spending bill, including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill also includes new sanctions against Iran and the renewal of the AUMF, which was passed after the September 11 attacks and used to justify everything from aggressive war to domestic spying.

It incorporates a sweeping definition of those who are subject to the law, including anyone who “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces” and “any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities.” This language can be stretched to include virtually anyone, including political opponents of US wars justified on the pretext of the “war on terror.”

The battlefield is defined in the legislation to encompass the entire world, including the “homeland”—that is, the United States. A person can be detained “under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities”—that is, forever.

The White House was particularly concerned to ensure that the legislation not restrict the ability of the executive to detain US citizens indefinitely. During the early drafting procedure, it requested that Congress strip out language that would have excluded citizens from the indefinite detention clause.

The entire “debate” within the political establishment over the NDAA testifies to the collapse of any commitment to democratic rights within the American ruling class.

The Arab Spring and the “Unemployment Trap”

December 15th, 2011 by Dr. Ali Kadri

Prior to the Arab Spring, the official rate of unemployment in the Arab World was the highest globally. The labour share was as low as a quarter of national income. Productivity was negative. If a more sensible method of assessing unemployment is carried out, more than half of the labour force could be considered unemployed. The real economy was de-industrialising and shrinking relative to oil rent, and its capacity to reemploy people perished.
 
A propos, a 2004 technical report on economic performance in the Arab World stated that ‘the predisposition of major macroeconomic and demographic variables towards an inevitable collision implies that there is little space for argument over the unavoidability of change. The built-up of imbalances in a regional economy that does not expand at a rate commensurate with the demands of the demographic transition means that, unless the system experiences a chance occurrence of heavy oil rent fallout, change cannot be gauged as a matter of degree.’ This report took about a year in preparation, so these remarks were written sometime earlier when oil prices were at historically low levels. The chance occurrence of high oil prices did indeed take place soon after, a matter which became pellucidly clear in 2005. But the massive oil rents could not avert an inevitably violent political and, only political and not social so far, restructuring or what has come to be known as the Arab spring. 

Notwithstanding its mention of the welfare benefits of public sector employment, the report noted that ‘for every person finding a job in the eighties, there were two new entrants into the labour market reaching working age. By the late nineties, there were nearly four new entrants to every person finding a job. For a good part of two decades, the Arab Mashreq’s real wages have either declined or stood still while labour supply continued to outgrow labour demand.’ What the report however, did not say is that the underlying process generating unemployment was one of massive dispossession of the working population combined with supply-side economics. These two mechanisms of encroachment usually work together. On the one hand, wars – and there is no shortage of conflicts here – policies transferring public into private assets, including the rolling back of land reforms, and the curtailment of autonomous civil society, in particular, labour unions, de-valorise labour and existing wealth altogether. On the other, piecemeal policies of neo-liberalism facilitate the transfer of resources abroad at fire-sale prices and/or, subject to a system of prices, which is selfishly brokered by superior global powers. These are resources that could have otherwise been recirculated within the national economy and, consequently, contributed to sustaining a decent living condition for the working population.
 

As evidenced by the recent revolts, the neoliberal age meant disaster for the Arab World. While the majority of the labour force was becoming effectively unemployed as a result of the shrinkage incurred by the productive economy, the policy advice of the World Bank and the ILO remained set on private-sector-led development and supply-side aspects of the labour market.  As to the results of private-sector led development, from a high of over thirty percent in 1980, the investment rate fell to around fifteen percent in 2006. In an uncertain and war-stricken region in which the very existence of nation states was in question, investment went into ephemeral rent- seeking activity and not to employment-generating plant and equipment endeavours. As to the salient labour market policies of educating the labour force and fitting the right person in the right job, it was plain to see that the economy was becoming more anaemic, producing fewer and fewer jobs and, consequently, there were many and different types of workers available for any new fitting job.  At any rate, as other sectors shrank relative to oil, it became apparent that oil-rent economies need not socially invest in the labour force for the simple reason that income is rooted in rent and not in knowledge-based productive activity. The skilled labour force emigrated while the rentier class hired unskilled labour from Asia for the service sector under cruel terms. That was an unemployment trap in which, trade in labour services amounted to underpriced value transfer from the poorer to the richer regions, hence accentuating global differences and uneven development.  

So after all that has been said about the rosy prospects of private-sector driven development in the Arab world, a social disaster has been done. Instead of growth and jobs, the net result was on average poor growth and few jobs.

Instead of social and political rights, tighter civil liberties came about. Instead of environmental responsibility, working people witnessed the very basis of their livelihood corrode before their eyes. The transformation incurred to the social structure was dramatic: from an even-distribution public-sector led economy with a paternalistic type welfare state, to a highly-uneven private-sector and privately-owned public-sector led economy.

The ideological arsenal deployed to obfuscate was gripping enough to the point where it justified open pillage of the public sector. Illusory suppositions such as free competition, voluntary unemployment, and scarcity became the unquestionable premises upon which rested policy design and making. Reality was assumed away. Yet, while child malnutrition was rising in Egypt at astonishing rates, Al Quds reported that two percent of the Egyptian population controlled 98 percent of the Egyptian economy.  

What will be the path of the Arab Spring:  will it continue as a political tremor or will it be transformed into a social revolution?

Currently, one group of countries is headed towards open civil war and the possible demise of the state and governmental structure.

This process, if it were to continue, will feed the transfer of value through militarism and encroachment. Wars cheapen the foremost input into accumulation, that is, human life. Another group, where Islamic political parties assumed power through the ballot box, will most likely remain trapped in the policies of the past further under-developing these social formations. The corruption that any revolutionary process is supposed to reverse has to do with stemming the transfer of value and under-priced resources to the more advanced countries. So long as these political parties sanctify property rights irrespective of the degree of mal-distribution, ordain a repressive labour process, and place obligations before rights, it will not be possible for a volte face of policy to occur.

In view of the fact that the majority of the working population has been dispossessed and that these economies cannot conceivably reemploy the massive redundant population under the received efficiency criterion of productivity expansion, it is time to introduce a different social benchmark for employment creation.  The state must act as employer of last resort and equity must precede efficiency until the revalorisation of socially valuable work begins to pay off.  

For full employment policies to succeed, a relative delinking of these economies through partial protectionism, selective and multiple exchange and interest rates policies that ensure the recycling of values and a locking-in of national resources are required. These were applied in the past in Egypt and Syria and represented a golden age of development. For the political revolution to become a social one, two conditions must be satisfied: a strengthening of national security by enhancing the security of working people through security from want, and a management of the price system to oversee and restrain the usurpation of the social product.  
 

You Don’t HAVE to Lock up Joey For The Rest Of His Life Because He Called You A Mean Name, But You CAN Lock Him Away And Throw Away The Key And Then Falsely Accuse Him Of Being a Suspected Bad Guy If It Would Make You Happy

In response to my essay documenting that the indefinite detention bill does apply to American citizens on U.S. soil, a commentator posted:

Can somebody explain to me like I am 5, why [one of the bill's provisions - which discusses U.S. citizens] does not protect citizens?

Yes, let me explain it in words that even a 5-year-old can understand …

The bill says that the military must indefinitely detain anyone SUSPECTED of helping bad guys.

One provision says that the mandatory (“must”) indefinite detention doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens … but the government CAN indefinitely detain any U.S. citizen it feels like without trial, without presenting evidence, without letting the citizen consult with a lawyer, and without even charging the citizen.

This would destroy our Constitutional rights to trial, to face our accuser and to consult with an attorney.

Indeed, it would destroy rights created in England in 1215.

In other words, it’s like saying “you don’t HAVE to lock up Joey for the rest of his life because he called you a mean name, but you CAN lock him away and throw away the key and then falsely accuse him of being a suspected terrorist if it would make you happy”.

Get it?

That is why Congressman Justin Amash wrote:

Senators McCain and Levin have teamed up to promote one of the most anti-liberty pieces of legislation of our lifetime, S 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act. This bill would permit the federal government to indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil, without charge or trial, at the discretion of the President. It is destructive of our Constitution.

… A few commenters have suggested that the dangerous provisions in S 1867 (discussed in my previous post) do not apply to American citizens because of this language in Sec. 1032: “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.” This language appears carefully crafted to mislead the public. Note that it does not preclude U.S. citizens from being detained indefinitely, without charge or trial, it simply makes such detention discretionary.

Amash subsequently wrote:

Pres. Obama and many Members of Congress believe the President ALREADY has the authority the bill grants him. Legally, of course, he does not. This language was inserted to keep proponents and opponents of the bill appeased, while permitting the President to assert that the improper power he has claimed all along is now in statute.

***

They will say that American citizens are specifically exempted under the following language in Sec. 1032: “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.” Don’t be fooled. All this says is that the President is not REQUIRED to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial. It still PERMITS him to do so.

The ACLU notes:

Don’t be confused by anyone claiming that the indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. It does. There is an exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032 of the bill), but no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial (section 1031 of the bill). So, the result is that, under the bill, the military has the power to indefinitely imprison American citizens, but it does not have to use its power unless ordered to do so.

See this.

VIDEO: Former Ambassador: ‘US to control Iraq oil always’

December 14th, 2011 by Ranjit Singh Kalha

The White House has used the imminent withdrawal of all but a handful of US troops from Iraq to promote Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. The president’s strategists are conducting a cynical propaganda operation aimed at simultaneously identifying him with the military and pushing the claim that the pullout is a fulfillment of his 2008 campaign promises.

The president used the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the White House Monday to proclaim, “After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq ends this month.” Today, he and his wife Michelle fly to Fort Bragg, North Carolina to deliver an address to a captive audience of American soldiers.

Recent polls have shown that three out of four Americans support the complete withdrawal of all American forces from Iraq. At the same time, they indicate that two-thirds of the population believes the war was not worth fighting, given its terrible costs.

Nearly 4,500 American soldiers and Marines were killed in the nearly nine years of war, while tens of thousands returned home severely wounded and many more suffered psychological and emotional trauma that will last a lifetime.

According to conservative estimates, the war’s costs will amount to over $3.5 trillion, a vast expenditure that is being paid for through unending cutbacks in public sector jobs and social programs upon which millions depend.

For the people of Iraq, the costs were far steeper, with an estimated one million lives lost and many millions more wounded or driven from their homes and turned into refugees. The war will forever be associated with horrific crimes such as the “shock and awe” bombing of Baghdad, the siege of Fallujah and the mass torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib, deeds that horrified and repulsed people all over the world, including in the US itself.

In packaging the Iraqi troop withdrawal that is supposed to be completed by the end of this month as an end to war and fulfillment of his campaign promises, Obama is merely recycling the illusions he peddled in 2008. Then he pledged that his administration would represent a clean break with the criminal policies of the Bush administration. Nearly four years later, the US military is at war in more countries than under Bush, Guantanamo and its military trials, along with torture, continue, and the police-state measures imposed in the wake of September 11, 2001 have been substantially expanded.

As for the withdrawal from Iraq, it was not Obama’s intention, but rather the result of the failure to negotiate a deal with the Maliki government to allow up to 20,000 US troops to remain in the country. The sticking point was Washington’s demand for blanket immunity for American forces from Iraqi prosecution. After all of the killing and brutality of the last nine years, such a guarantee was vehemently opposed by the Iraqi people.

It would be more appropriate to describe the current withdrawal as a repositioning of US forces for a continuation and expansion of war throughout the region.

In Iraq itself, uniformed troops are being replaced by a new army in civilian clothes. A massive, fortress-like American embassy in Baghdad has been erected in a walled compound of 104 acres—larger than the Vatican—with two similar facilities having been opened as consulates in the southern oil center of Basra and the Kurdish capital of Arbil in the north.

Operating out of these American fortresses will be up to 17,000 personnel. They will include 5,500 armed military contractors. The CIA will maintain its largest station anywhere in the world, and, according to reports, commandos of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command will covertly continue their presence, out of uniform. The plans led Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (Democrat of Massachusetts), a close Obama ally, to question whether the US was “replacing a military presence with a private mercenary presence.”

As troops are pulled out of Iraq, deployments are being beefed up in the surrounding region, above all just across the border in Kuwait, where some 25,000 US military personnel are currently stationed and negotiations are underway to augment their numbers.

Tens of thousands more soldiers, sailors and Marines are deployed in the Persian Gulf and the other monarchical Gulf states—Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia—which comprise the bastion of Middle East reaction known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Washington is attempting to turn the GCC into an extension of NATO as the US and its Western allies steadily escalate military threats against Iran.

Asked by NBC News Monday whether US military forces in the region were prepared to intervene in Iraq if US interests were threatened, Centcom Commander Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen responded, “I know they would.”

The ongoing global eruption of American militarism has found fitting expression in a tour being conducted by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in which unannounced stops are being added on virtually a daily basis.

Panetta was in Kabul, Afghanistan Tuesday, where the US military is preparing another “surge” in violence and negotiations are underway toward securing permanent US military bases and the continuing presence of tens of thousands of American troops long after the 2014 deadline announced by the Obama administration for the completion of an American withdrawal.

Before reaching Kabul, Panetta touched down in Djibouti, the tiny nation on the Horn of Africa, where the US now has more than 3,500 military personnel deployed, carrying out drone strikes and Special Forces operations against Somalia, Yemen and other countries in the region. There, Panetta suggested that the focus of the “global war on terrorism” had shifted to the African continent.

In the course of the trip, Panetta also announced that he would visit Libya, where the US and NATO carried out a six-month war of “regime-change” to install a more pliant puppet state in Tripoli and secure control over the largest oil reserves on the African continent.

The turn toward Africa is bound up with a broader attempt by US imperialism to counter the influence of China. This finds its epicenter in the demonstrative US “return” to Asia, in which military might is being used in an attempt to offset China’s supplanting of American capitalism as the chief economic power and trading partner in the region.

The US withdrawal from Iraq does not represent a turn away from militarism. Rather, it is part of the tactical preparations for far more devastating wars to come. The explosive development of US militarism, which gave rise to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is driven by the decline of American capitalism and the crisis of the world capitalist system, which have deepened immensely over the past decade.

For the third time in a century, the threat of world war is emerging ever more palpably from the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The struggle against this threat can be waged only by means of the independent political mobilization and international unity of the working class against the capitalist profit system, which is the source of militarism and war.

-It is a matter of deep concern that Nato has extended its military operations to Pakistan. Nato is a military alliance in search of an enemy.

-Once we thought this one-of-a-kind American president could do great things. In his inaugural address he focused more on “soft power” and told the Muslim world that he wants “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect”. All that seems to have changed. His message for Pakistan now is loud and clear: do as I tell you, or else. This is not the way the Americans treated us or talked to us when they were wooing us. This is what happens when you have been in the harem too long.

Saturday, November 26 will go down in our history as a black day. On that day, America’s “war on terror” reached Pakistan’s Salala Post, in Mohmand Agency, manned by jawans of the Pakistan army. While our soldiers were sleeping, US and Nato gunships targeted the post without any provocation. Innocent blood was spilled in pursuit of Obama’s ambitions and nightmares. Missiles rained down killing 24 soldiers, including two officers, and injuring many others.

The deadly Nato operation led by an American general lasted for three hours. Dead bodies lay all around the post. It was not a mistake, it was targeted. No apology from President Obama, the Secretary of State or the Pentagon. Not surprisingly, anger in Pakistan reached a fever pitch. People all over Pakistan boiled over in righteous indignation.

When the US strikes, an apology for a wrong committed is unnecessary because, of course, the United States is never at fault. America has never apologised to the Iraqi people for years of carnage carried out in the name of WMDs, weapons that were never found because they were never there. Obama dodges the need to apologise on the premise “that we are up against people who show no shame, no remorse, no hint of humanity”. “The unfortunate”, Mirabeau once said, “are always wrong”, even when they are the victims. Our moment of truth arrived on November 26. We are at the crossroads.

On the eve of Mr Jinnah’s departure, from New Delhi for Karachi, Henry F. Grady, the American ambassador to India, paid him a farewell call.

Expressing great admiration for the United States, Mr Jinnah reiterated his hope that America would assist Pakistan “in its many problems”. When Grady asked whether he desired to indicate any specific matter, Jinnah replied laconically, “not at this time”. It did not take him long to realise that Pakistan faced a much stronger and wily adversary, determined to strangle it in the crib; and that Pakistan stood alone in the ring. Faced with the prospects of such a desperate situation, the Quaid-e-Azam turned to the United States for assistance. This was the beginning of our romance with the United States. What went wrong?

The alienation between the people of Pakistan and the United States has never been more intense. Relations between Pakistan and the US have never been as stormy as they are today. Relations have been steadily deteriorating ever since a Navy Seal team killed Osama bin Laden near Abbottabad in May. Matters became still worse in September, when Admiral [Michael] Mullen, [then-] Chairman Joint Chief of Staff, accused Pakistan of supporting an attack on the American embassy in Kabul. On Saturday, November 26, the relationship hit a new low when a Nato air strike killed two dozen soldiers in Salala.

On July 12, 1961, when President Ayub visited Washington, he told a Joint Session of the Congress of the US: “The only people who will stand by you are the people of Pakistan provided you are also prepared to stand by them. So, I would like you to remember that whatever may be the dictates of your commitments, you will not take any steps that might aggravate our problems or in any fashion jeopardise our security. As long as you remember that our friendship will grow in strength”.

In his welcome address, President Kennedy said that Pakistan was ‘a friend of immediacy and constancy’, and observed that ‘Americans in private and in their public life appreciate the value of friendship and the constancy of friends’. Fine words and noble sentiments but they ring so hollow today. In the real world, as every student of international relations knows, there are no permanent friends, only permanent national interests.

The Washington Times’ portrayal of Pakistan as America’s ‘retriever dog’ deeply offended the people of Pakistan and sparked a wave of protest all over the country. The cartoon clearly shows what the Americans think of Pakistan and its people. They do not appreciate the value of friendship and the constancy of friendship. They use Pakistan whenever the need arises, throwing it away when no longer needed.

Who says we are friends? We have never been friends. There can be no friendship between the strong and the weak. There can be no friendship between unequals, neither in private life nor in public life. “The strong do what they can”, the Athenians told the intractable Melians, “and the weak must suffer what they must”.

The farewell address of George Washington will ever remain an important legacy for small nations like Pakistan. The father of the American Republic cautioned that “an attachment of a small or weak toward a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter”. “It is folly in one nation”, George Washington observed, “to look for disinterested favours from another…it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character”. No truer words have been spoken on the subject.

Today say “Pakistan” and what comes to mind: sham democracy, fraudulent referendum, rigged elections, a corrupt president, a rubber stamp parliament, a figurehead prime minister. Democracy in the West means a political system marked not only by free, fair and impartial elections, but also by rule of law, and an independent election commission. All these institutions are non-existent in Pakistan. So how can Pakistan resist American pressure and be secure in its independence when it is not free in its spirit; when it is not free in its institutions?

It is a matter of deep concern that Nato has extended its military operations to Pakistan. Nato is a military alliance in search of an enemy. It had been created, in Lord Ismay’s famous words, “to keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down”. Confronted by a Western Europe still in ruins and a Soviet Union triumphantly consolidating its conquests, Europeans joined hands, in 1949, with Americans and Canadians to create a military alliance to stem the further encroachment of the Soviet tide. Soviet Union died long ago. What is Nato doing so close to our border? That is the question.

Once we thought this one-of-a-kind American president could do great things. In his inaugural address he focused more on “soft power” and told the Muslim world that he wants “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect”. All that seems to have changed. His message for Pakistan now is loud and clear: do as I tell you, or else. This is not the way the Americans treated us or talked to us when they were wooing us. This is what happens when you have been in the harem too long.

“The single greatest threat to (Pakistan)”, Obama said recently, “comes from Al-Qaeda and their extremist allies”. This is not true. All our major problems stem from American occupation of Afghanistan and its frequent intrusions into our tribal territory. It has turned our tribal area into a protracted ulcer, a quagmire – a place where Pakistan is spending blood and treasure to protect American interests.

Once we could do no wrong in the American eyes. Now we are in the dock, alone in the ring, facing all kinds of charges. We have achieved the impossible. We have the dubious distinction of alienating both the superpowers. And to add insult to injury, America has found a new dance partner in India. Today Pakistan is out in the cold, marooned, rejected, discarded. One thing is clear: the belief that Pakistan has no alternative but to slavishly obey its master’s voice could turn out to be one of seminal strategic miscalculations of the 21st century.

The writer is a former federal secretary of the government of Pakistan.

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Stories from Harlem

December 14th, 2011 by Li Onesto

There’s something about elevators and stairwells in high-rise housing projects. If the walls could speak they’d tell a whole lot about what generations of poor Black families have had to endure. Not just the daily reality of living in substandard housing, but the whole way you’re treated by the authorities, like you’re somehow a criminal.

In Harlem some of the projects are over 20 stories high, with several thousand residents. Lack of adequate city services means basic repairs don’t get made, trash cans are always overflowing, there’s rat infestation. But it’s not just this. Horrible and demeaning living conditions are just one part of what people here have to put up with.

There’s another kind of infestation and invasion. Something way more dangerous to people’s health. There is the constant knowledge that the housing authority, child services, and other government officials can come down on you at any time. There are the Viper cameras, installed in the entrances and hallways, which mean people are under constant surveillance. It feels a lot like prison. And then there’s the POLICE—who serve as a frontline in a concerted and conscious effort by the powers-that-be to repress, control and contain a whole section of society. These armed men roam about, in ones and twos or in packs, sweating people on the streets and in the playgrounds. And for them, a favorite stalking ground is the housing projects where they target especially the youth.

Just look at the reality of the NYPD’s official stop-and-frisk policy. The NYPD is on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011, or more than 1,900 people each and every day. The authorities argue this is about stopping crime and “keeping the streets safe.” But check out the facts: More than 85 percent of those stopped and frisked are Black or Latino. More than 90 percent of them were not even alleged to be doing something wrong when the police stopped them. All of this is totally and blatantly illegitimate and illegal under the stated laws of this country. And it’s not just in New York City that this kind of thing goes on. Throughout the U.S., they might not call it stop-and-frisk, it might not always be a stated policy. But for millions of Black and Latino people, especially the youth, getting stopped, harassed, and made to “assume the position” is a basic fact of life—where if you’re “lucky” you won’t end up being brutalized or killed. But if you’re not, the police report chronicling the last moments of your life might say you were shot because you made a “furtive movement,” “looked like a suspect,” or doesn’t list any reason at all.

This is one step in a pipeline that has locked 2.3 million people in prison. This is one of the “entry points” for a whole repressive trajectory—where the cops, the courts, the whole legal system—feeds mass incarceration.

*****

Anyone who reads the basic statistics on stop-and-frisk should be horrified and outraged. But these facts only tell a scrap of the whole story. When I talk to Jessie, who has lived in one of the projects in Harlem, she gives me a vivid picture of what this means for people. Jessie [not her real name] has a teenage son who has been a constant victim of stop-and-frisk police harassment and brutality. When we knock on her door she is literally packing up her apartment, getting ready to move. She is being kicked out of public housing because she has been deemed an “undesirable tenant.” Why? Because her son has been arrested too many times by the police.

At first Jessie says she can’t talk right now, she’s too busy getting ready to move. But then, within five minutes, the stories start pouring out.

She starts talking about how the police are always jacking up her son and other youth, just ’cause they’re hanging around outside the buildings. The police come up with all kinds of pretexts—there was a robbery, they found a gun in the trash can; usually nothing that has anything to do with the kids they’re harassing. Jessie says she has actually been banned from the precinct. She says:

“They banned me, said if I didn’t leave they were going to arrest me—because I was saying you’re dirty, you’re fucking corrupt, you’re trying to murder our children and they didn’t like the words coming out of my mouth. They trying to take our kids from us. And now they’re trying to threaten them, take them into the staircase and go in their clothes. They touch their personal parts, they pull their pants down. They bring them up in the elevator and take them into the staircase cause they can’t do it any other [legal] way, and they take off their clothes to make sure they don’t have anything on them. So they do it the illegal way. This has happened to my son twice. When they don’t find anything they give them a loitering ticket. And then you have to go to court, you got to answer these tickets cause if you don’t answer these tickets, once you get like two or three, then a warrant comes out. Then they come get you.

“If I have to go to jail, I’ll go to jail. They can’t tell me I can’t be there for my son. I get very belligerent because I want everybody to know that they’re trying to kill our children, they’re trying to destroy our children. So now, ’cause they can’t catch them for something they’re taking them into the staircases and stripping them naked.

“My son has had a case since 2009, there’s no reason a case should be in court from 2009, we’re going to 2012. But they keep that case open so they can catch him for something else and then they can charge him like that, adding on when he goes to court for a serious case, which was actually a school fight…”

And she tells me about how this has really badly affected her son getting a job and staying in school.

“My whole thing about this case is the fact that he can’t go get a job nowhere cause he has an open case. Close it—either you charge him or let him go. The job thing is he has a record and that’s going to stand against him, as long as that case is open. [When he goes for a job] they have asked him if he has any cases open and he says yes.”

Jessie tells me she has lived in these projects since she was five years old. She’s now 50 and being forced out.

“They keep harassing me and because with the harassment and the arrests, Housing [Authority], they said to me you need to put your child out of your house, because he’s been arrested, he has a record. You’re not allowed to be in this housing if they feel you’re ‘undesirable.’ I’m considered ‘undesirable.’ One of the big things was my son was arrested when he was visiting somebody. They busted down the door and they found guns, they found weed in the house. They arrested everybody in the house. And I had to fight, fight, fight. I had to get a lawyer. Because they tried to charge my son. No, my son was not participating, he was just there. They took me to housing court—they got me for that. They made a decision, they took me to court, they voted against me… The housing court took me up on charges too, for him being there [in the apartment that was raided].”

“I’m deemed undesirable too. Housing court decided against me. What they did was they said your lease is terminated. But mind you, the kicker is, I took my case to the state Supreme Court and they backed housing up.”

We’ve been standing out in the hallway this whole time and Jessie goes back into the apartment, then quickly comes back out holding what looks to be about a three-inch-thick pile of paper. She says:

“See this. This is my case against the New York City Housing Authority. I have so many pages it just drives me crazy. This has been going on a year and a half. But my thing is, my son has never been to jail. So how would you come to that decision when he has never been to jail. He’s never been convicted.”

I say, and even if he had been convicted of something, why does that give them the right to deem you “undesirable,” to kick you out.

“Because I refused to put my child in the street.”

And if you had kicked him out would they have let you stay?

“No, they still wouldn’t let me. At the end of the time, I took him off the lease and let him go somewhere else. But it didn’t matter.”

***

Jessie has a lot of stories—she’s just telling me a few. There was the time they came banging on her door, looking for her son. She tells this one with an ironic, comical edge.

“One time they came to my house. Boom, boom. Boom, boom. My son is in jail [at the time], mind you. ‘Open the door, open the door.’ I’m looking through my peephole. ‘Open my door for what? I’m not opening my door, not me, you’re not coming in my house.’ [They say,] ‘Open the fucking door.’

“I finally opened the door. They got a sergeant because he had on a white shirt and he was like, ‘you need to open the door now.’ So when I opened the door I yelled to my neighbor to come out cause I had to have a witness. The police said to me, ‘your son just robbed somebody.’ And my son was in jail! If my son would have been home, he would have been arrested and charged with robbery. They said they saw him. I said how could my son have robbed someone when he’s in jail, motherfucker.”

This whole time I was talking with Jessie, her next door neighbor, Marleen [not her real name], has been popping in and out of her apartment, getting in on the conversation, adding detail to these stories. She too has a son who’s a victim of police harassment. Marleen starts talking about how people are not allowed to walk up and down the stairs, that they have to take the elevator. The VIPER surveillance cameras are up all over the entrances and hallways, but not in the staircases. She says they can’t even just use the staircases to go up or down a couple of stories. And when I ask her why, she shrugs her shoulders and says, “They just tell us what we can’t do.”

She tells her own horror story of how her apartment was raided by the police.

“They busted the door down. And they never found nothing but they ripped up the house. They lined everyone against the wall in the hallway. People heard the commotion and came out and they told everyone to go back inside. They dragged one person out [of my apartment] with a gun pointed to his head.”

Jessie recounts, “I opened the door and saw the whole family lined up in handcuffs.”

Then Marleen says something that kind of concentrates in a way, the absolute outrageousness of the almost matter-of-fact, daily, fascistic repression they’re subjected to.

She tells me that when the kids go out to the store, mothers use binoculars to watch them because they’re afraid of what might happen to them with the police.

Just think about that for a moment. Mothers are buying binoculars. They’re standing at the window, looking down, watching in anticipation, as their sons and daughters go outside to get something at the store. They need to know that their kids are all right, that they are going to come back—and not just disappear after being stopped and frisked. They know that if something bad does happen, they need to be a witness.

***

One of the things that keeps coming through in all these stories is how the police not only brutalize you, but they seem to make a sport of really trying to do everything they can to humiliate the people, especially the youth. And the people know it and deeply feel this. Jessie tells of one time when the police chased down her son and were beating him. She came out to try and get them to stop and Jessie says, “That’s when they made the remark, go the f**k back to the projects where you belong.”

Jessie tells the story of how the police take the youth into the staircase and make them take off their clothes. She said, “My son told me, they humiliate you when they catch you. That’s the word he used. And if you run from them they might shoot you.”

“They don’t want a loudmouth. But now I know it’s my time to move because my son said, ‘Ma please be quiet. I love you.’ He told me that they always talk shit to him. He’s like, ‘When I’m outside I got to deal with them telling me about you. [They say,] your mother is a bitch, your mother better keep her mouth shut and then they harass him some more.’ So when I see them I don’t want to say nothing because I don’t want to cause him shit.”

Jessie has to get back to packing. But before we leave she makes clear to us that, even though she’s being forced out, she isn’t giving up. In fact she says, now she will have time to get more involved in things like the struggle against stop-and-frisk.
 

Li Onesto is the author of Dispatches from the People’s War in Nepal and a writer for Revolution newspaper (www.revcom.us). She can be contacted at: [email protected]

Western Elite Wages Info-war to Justify Syria Invasion?

December 14th, 2011 by Prof. Igor Panarin

Escalating tensions surrounding Syria are preparation for aggression. Writer and political scientist Igor Panarin believes that part of the British-American and Israeli elite is waging an information war to justify a military invasion of Syria.

In the article below, Panarin explains his view.

The mass protests that broke out in a number of Arab countries in 2011 were orchestrated from London, which essentially became their coordination center. The BBC and Qatar’s supposedly-independent Al-Jazeera channel (which in reality is ideologically controlled by a part of the British-American elite) led the way in providing media support.

For instance, the BBC reports that an independent commission of UN human rights experts accused Syrian authorities of committing crimes against humanity as they dispersed anti-government protests. But French journalist Thierry Meyssan found out that the commission clearly fabricated the evidence they used in their investigation. For instance, according to the UN commission, Syrian security forces killed over 3,500 peaceful protesters.

But the figure is hardly credible, as it comes from a mysterious London-based human rights organization called Observatoire Syrien des Droits de l’Homme (OSDH) [Syrian Observatory of Human Rights – RT]. According to Meyssan, many of the 3,500 protesters supposedly killed by Syrian security forces are in fact alive and well. Their names, distributed by the OSDH, were in fact taken from the phonebook. Meyssan says an information war is being waged against Syria and that at least some of the footage distributed by Al-Jazeera is produced in special studios that reproduce the main squares of Syria’s major cities. The same trick was used with Libya, when the footage of street fighting in Tripoli on August 23, 2011, was actually shot in Qatari studios, which opened a new chapter in information warfare.

The Syrian government recently banned iPhones to stop the propagation of lies among protesters. Some of the protesters still use banned smartphones to disseminate false reports, announce protest rallies and distribute anti-government materials using the “Syria Alone” application. The application, launched on November 18, was developed by British and US experts specifically to help the opposition coordinate their protests. Information warfare specialists use Syria Alone to publish anti-government materials and criticize the work of law enforcers. The Syrian authorities believe that by banning the iPhone they can stop misinformation from spreading. In addition to the US and the EU, the anti-Syrian coalition now includes the Arab League, which recently expelled Damascus and then introduced tough sanctions against Syria.

A part of the British-American elite is playing the leading role in media campaign against Syria, which is no surprise after their success in Libya, where their media attacks preceded NATO’s direct military intervention. A similar strategy is now used against Syria. 

For instance, the decision to suspend Syria’s membership in the Arab League leads to further international isolation, which is clearly what the West wants to achieve. The Arab League first took a similar decision regarding Libya in late February, and then it recognized the NATO-backed Transitional National Council as the only legitimate body representing the people of Libya, in August. In other words, what we see today is the same scenario being reproduced in Syria, with the Western multinational elite launching a media attack against that country.

The Syrian army and police are facing a strong opponent, including foreign mercenaries. According to some sources, there are around 10,000 of them, mainly from Arab countries and Pakistan and Pashtuns from Afghanistan.

Russia’s approach to the conflict in Syria radically differs from that of the United States and its allies. The Kremlin vetoed the UN Security Council resolution, which would have made it possible to repeat the Libyan scenario in Syria. Moscow is doing its best to avoid the escalation of the conflict, to prevent military intervention (among other things, by sending an aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean) and to establish a constructive peaceful dialogue.

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Editor’s Note:

THE IRAN-DRONEGATE SAGA

Welcome to what might be described as the “Iran-DronGate Saga”, a diplomatic endgame directed against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Global Research will be providing detailed coverage of this important topic.


Michel Chossudovsky, December 14, 2011

The downing of the spy drone is a sign that Iran is militarily powerful and efficient. However, the secret mission of the drone, which is purported to have been the collection of secret data on the Iranian nuclear sites, consolidates the idea that Washington is more than ever bent on carrying out secret black operations inside Iran and that it is harboring a malicious plan to orchestrate an attack on the Iranian nuclear sites if not an Armageddon in the region.

In what seems to be nothing but US-style barefaced arrogance, President Barack Obama has demanded the return of a spy drone which violated the airspace of the Islamic Republic but which was to the humiliation of the US officials downed by the Iranian army.

The top-secret RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which was used by Washington as part of the covert operations the US officials have already vowed to conduct inside Iran, was hunted down by an electronic ambush and landed with a minimal degree of damage over the city of Kashmar about 140 miles inside Iran.

Consciously blind to the realities of Washington’s abysmal policies, the Western media treated the report with a predilection for suspicion and disbelief and used the somewhat innocuous-sounding term ‘reconnaissance drone’. However, when Pentagon later acknowledged the “mysterious loss of a surveillance drone”, they had no choice but to face the truth.

What strikes as bizarrely ridiculous is the fact that Washington has demanded the return of the drone which they have confessed was sent on a secret mission for gathering information.

”We have asked for it back. We’ll see how the Iranians respond,” Mr. Obama has said.

Nonetheless, Iran says that it has no intention of returning the drone and that Washington should compensate Tehran for violating the country’s airspace.

Brushing aside the possibility of returning the drone, Chairman of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said on Tuesday that the White House must face the consequences of violating Iran’s airspace.

Washington’s insistence on having the drone returned springs from some secret concern over the nature of what the Iranians would glean technologically from the spy drone.

Iranian military experts are reportedly in the final stage of extracting information from the drone. The extracted information will be used to sue the United States, an Iranian official says.

When asked at a White House news conference if he was concerned that Iran could weaken US national security by obtaining intelligence from the downed drone, Obama said, “I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters that are classified.”

Without directly referring to the spy drone, Obama had earlier repeated the same old threat that ‘all options are on the table in dealing with Iran’, saying, “Today Iran is isolated, and the world is unified in applying the toughest sanctions that Iran has ever experienced. They can break that isolation by acting responsibly and forswearing the development of nuclear weapons . . . or they can continue to operate in a fashion that isolates them from the entire world.”

Obama’s threatening words against Iran evidently reek of the literature of his predecessor George W. Bush. In fact, he is following in the footsteps of Bush and has metaphorically metamorphosed into the belligerent personality of the latter.

It is manifest that Washington has recently ramped up its espionage activities in Iran.

On May 21, 2011, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry arrested an espionage network comprising of 30 individuals who were working for the CIA and another 42 CIA operatives who had links with the network. The CIA-linked network deceived citizens into spying for the agency under the pretext of issuing visas, assisting with US permanent residency, and offering job and study opportunities in American universities.

According to Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, the disbanded network was chiefly focused on targeting the country’s nuclear plants, energy fields, and sensitive oil and gas centers with the main purpose of sabotaging these areas.

Iranian intelligence officials have learned that the CIA agents had gathered information from universities and scientific research centers in the field of aerospace, defense and biotechnology industries.

Also, on November 24, 2011, Iran arrested another 12 CIA agents who were working with Israel’s Mossad and targeted the country’s military and nuclear program. Member of the Iranian Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Parviz Sorouri said that the CIA and Mossad espionage apparatuses were making efforts to damage Iran both from inside and outside and deal a heavy blow with the help of regional intelligence services.

“Fortunately, with the swift reaction of the Iranian intelligence department, their attempts proved abortive,” Sorouri said.

If truth be told, the downing of the spy drone has surely delivered a heavy blow to the intelligence apparatus of the CIA and rustled many feathers in Washington. In an atrociously antagonistic manner, former US Vice President Dick Cheney unleashed his anger on President Barack Obama, saying that he should have doubled down on being caught spying with an overt attack on Iran.

“The right response would have been to go in immediately after it had gone down,” Cheney said.

Confusing Iran with Iraq and Afghanistan, he suggested that this could have been done either with a land invasion to recover the lost drone or by bombing the area until the drone was destroyed.

“The right response to that would have been to go in immediately after it had gone down and destroy it. You can do that from the air. You can do that with a quick airstrike, and in effect make it impossible for them to benefit from having captured that drone. I was told that the president had three options on his desk. He rejected all of them. They all involved sending somebody in to try to recover it, or if you can’t do that, admittedly that would be a difficult operation, you certainly could have gone in and destroyed it on the ground with an airstrike. But he didn’t take any of the options. He asked for them to return it. And they aren’t going to do that.”

The fury of poor Mr. Cheney is quite perceptible and pathetic and the predicament of President Obama is not hard to imagine.

However, it would be better if the US officials confessed to the military prowess of Iran instead of attributing the desperate loss of their drone to their President’s ineptitude.

The downing of the spy drone is a good sign that Iran is militarily powerful and efficient. However, the secret mission of the drone, which is purported to have been the collection of secret data on the Iranian nuclear sites, consolidates the idea that Washington is more than ever bent on carrying out secret black operations inside Iran and that it is harboring a malicious plan to orchestrate an attack on the Iranian nuclear sites if not an Armageddon in the region.

Dr. Ismail Salami is an Iranian author and political analyst. A prolific writer, he has written numerous books and articles on the Middle East. His articles have been translated into a number of languages. He was the former editor-in-chief of the Tehran Times and is now the webpage editor of Press TV.

New Satellite Images Reveal A Secret US Drone Base In Nevada

December 14th, 2011 by Eric Goldschein

A secret U.S. airfield, used for the testing and training of unmanned drones, has been found on Google Earth by aviation website Flight Global (via rt.com).

The airfield, located in Yucca Lake, Nevada, has been analyzed and is said to contain a 5,200 foot runway with an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs, or drones) on the parking ramp, as well as hangers, a parking lot, a security perimeter and a special clamshell hanger used for housing special drones, called “Beasts.”

With America still scrambling to explain why and how they lost a drone aircraft over Iran last week, the Pentagon is trying to make sense of how another high-tech unmanned spy craft crashed Tuesday morning in the Seychelles.

For the second time in two weeks, American authorities lost contact with a drone aircraft, this time resulting in a fiery crash in the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. The United States has operated an Air Force base there since 2009 to dispatch drones for use in anti-piracy missions and to patrol the skies over Somalia and elsewhere.

Officials at the US embassy in Mauritius confirmed the crash onTuesday morning, revealing that an MQ-9, or “Reaper” drone, had landed at Seychelles International Airport, citing mechanical issues.

A week earlier, the Department of Defense denied losing a drone, only for Iran authorities to in turn publish video proof of an American craft that they have recovered. The Pentagon later admitted that they lost contact with the drone while allegedly flying it over Afghanistan, prompting President Obama to ask Tehran to return the spy plane. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has shot down Obama’s plea, however, telling Venezuelan state television this week, “The Americans have perhaps decided to give us this spy plane. We now have control of this plane.” Ahmadinejad added that Iranian authorities are able to make sense of the craft’s complex technical system, perhaps providing a crucial addition to Iran’s arsenal as tensions between Tehran and Washington intensify over a budding nuclear program overseas.

The Department of Defense has remained relatively mum on the exact capabilities of the lost craft, although insiders insist that the drone in question can sniff out chemicals in the sky and intercept cell phone transmissions miles in the sky while remaining undetected.

The loss of the second drone within days raises questions about security within the US military and the unmanned crafts themselves. It was reported earlier this year that drones dispatched from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada were plagued with a computer virus that made its way into the cockpits of the crafts without American authorities able to quickly identify it. Even though US military officials claimed that the virus didn’t harm the security of US aircraft, it is suspicious that now two American drones have been downed in only such a short amount of time, raising questions whether it is possible retaliation from Iran for an alleged cyber attack the year prior. Stuxnet, a 2010 computer warm that targeted Iranian nuclear facilities, was suspected to be perpetrated by American intelligence agencies, much to their dismissal.

In the case of the down drone over Seychelles, authorities say that government officials of the island nation were “immediately notified” and are coordinating an effort with the United States to arrange for “the removal of debris,” says the US Air Force. Pending further investigation, the US Air Force released a statement on Tuesday saying that “It has been confirmed that this drone was unarmed and its failure was due to mechanical reasons.”

Editor Gervais Henrie of the local Le Seychellois Hebdo tells the Washington Post that the craft burst into blames upon crashing, describing the wreckage in a phone interview as charred and “totally destroyed.”

The MQ-9 Reaper has the capability of launching laser-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles, although the DoD says the craft in question was not armed and no injuries resulted in the crash.

This is a birds eye report of the Seychelles military threat to America

Orwell and Beyond: Legislating Tyranny in America

December 14th, 2011 by Stephen Lendman

Obama won’t prosecute CIA torturers, Wall Street crooks, other corporate criminals, lawless war profiteers, or other venal high-level civilian or government officials.

Instead, expect him to sign into law (or at least tacitly approve) indefinite military detentions of US citizens allegedly associated with terrorist groups, with or without corroborating evidence.

Post-9/11, US freedoms and other democratic values dramatically eroded. Enactment of police state provisions in the FY 2012 National Defense Authorization Act comes closer to ending them entirely.

On December 5, the ACLU headlined, “Indefinite Detention, Endless Worldwide War and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA),” saying:

Enactment of this measure will authorize “the military to pick up and imprison people, including US citizens, without charging them or putting them on trial.”

Secretly with no hearings, both Houses are rushing to complete a “joint version” before leaving for Christmas break. “Fundamental American values and freedoms are on the line.” Given the stakes, they’re perilously hanging by a thread.

On December 13, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) urged Obama to veto NDAA in its present form. Otherwise, he’ll “be responsible for signing into law one of the greatest expansions of executive power in our nation’s history, allowing the government to lock up citizens and non-citizens without the right to fair trials.”

Indefinite detentions violate core democratic freedoms, including fundamental Bill of Rights ones already gravely eroded.

On November 27, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2524, declaring December 15 Bill of Rights Day to commemorate its 150th 1791 ratification.

At the time, he hailed “America(‘s) charter of personal liberty and human dignity,” including “freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the free right to petition the Government for redress of grievances.”

Although American freedom then was far less than he claimed, today it hangs by a thread and may pass entirely any time for any reason.

In response to global imperial wars, corporate favoritism, unbridled private sector criminality, and political corruption at the highest levels, causing economic crisis conditions at home, thousands began protesting nationwide for social justice.

In response, militarized police confront them violently as NDAA heads for enactment to stop anyone from challenging US hegemony and corporate power by throwing them indefinitely in military dungeons to rot.

Equity and justice are fast eroding entirely to advance America’s imperium. On May 26, the House passed HR 1540, 322 – 96. Doing so took a giant step toward abolishing freedom entirely.

On December 1, the Senate’s S. 1867 followed suit, 93 to 7. Both versions assure no one anywhere is now safe, including law-abiding US citizens.

Enactment means anyone anywhere, including US citizens, may be indefinitely held without charge or trial, based solely on suspicions, baseless allegations or none at all.

No reasonable proof is required, just suspicions that those detained pose threats. Under subsection (b)(1), indefinite detentions can follow mere membership (past or present) or support for suspect organizations.

Presidents will have unchecked authority to arrest, interrogate and indefinitely detain law-abiding citizens if accused of potentially posing a threat.

Constitutional, statute and international laws won’t apply. Presidential diktats will replace them.

US military personnel will be authorized to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone globally, including US citizens. No one anywhere will be safe.

Due process, civil protections, and judicial fairness will be null and void. Presidents could order anyone arrested and imprisoned for life without charge or trial. Abuse of power will replace rule of law protections. It can happen in days.

Ahead of their holiday break, leaders from both Houses are meeting secretly to resolve final language differences before sending NDAA to Obama to sign.

Promising a veto, he lied. He broke every major promise made. This one’s no exception at a time he can go either way, given enough congressional votes to override him.

Moreover, Senate bill sponsor Carl Levin said administration officials, in fact, lobbied against language excluding US citizens from indefinite military detentions without trials or due process. According to Levin:

“The language which precluded the application of Section 1031 to American citizens was in the bill that we originally approved….and the administration asked us to remove (it) which says that US citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.”

“It was the administration that asked us to remove the very language which we had in the bill which passed the committee. (W)e removed it at the request of the administration….It was the administration which asked us to remove the very language, the absence of which is now objected to.”

In other words, Obama wants US citizens indefinitely detained in military prisons whether or not charged. He fully supports police state repression. Only his disingenuous rhetoric says otherwise.

Earlier by Executive Order, he authorized indefinite detentions with or without military commission trials for persons designated national security threats. Intended specifically for Guantanamo detainees, it could be stretched to include anyone.

In addition, he authorized CIA operatives and Special Forces death squads to kill targeted US citizens abroad. As a result, they may be hunted down and murdered in cold blood for any reason or none at all.

Outspoken Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen living in Yemen at the time, was killed for opposing Washington’s imperium, not alleged or committed crimes. His murder comes perilously close to replicating assassinations at home, whether covertly or openly.

In fact, administration lawyers called US citizens legitimate targets if deemed national security threats, with or without corroborating evidence. As a result, indeed no one’s safe, whether or not NDAA passes in its current form.

According to CIA counsel Stephen Preston and Pentagon lawyer Jeh Johnson, US citizens at war with America have no immunity. Executive branch officials, not courts, will decide guilt or innocence issues.

In other words, anyone voicing opposition to America’s imperium risks being targeted for arrest, detention or assassination.

With regard to Obama’s NDAA position, his White House November 17 Statement of Administration Policy said:

“The Administration supports Senate passage of (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012.”

“Section 1031 attempts to expressly codify the detention authority that exists under the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) (the “AUMF”). The authorities granted by the AUMF, including the detention authority, are essential to our ability to protect the American people from the threat posed by al-Qaida and its associated forces….”

“Because the authorities codified in this section already exist, the Administration does not believe codification is necessary and poses some risk….While the current language minimizes many of those risks, future legislative action must ensure (against) unintended consequences that could compromise our ability to protect the American people.”

Senate bill S. 1867, Section 1031, affirms the “authority of the armed forces of the United States to detain covered persons,” including US citizens.

Section 1032 requires suspects held in military custody, outside constitutionally mandated civil protections, without habeas rights, due process, and other judicial procedures.

Obama may object to legislative language, not its intent. As a result perhaps, wiggle room wording changes may assuage his concerns, while leaving sweeping indefinite military detention authorization unchanged.

In other words, presidents henceforth may order anyone indefinitely detained in military prisons uncharged, including US citizens.

A Final Comment

Even before 9/11, Washington began militarizing police forces nationwide. Sophisticated weapons and training are provided, including military robots, M-16 assault rifles, helicopters, armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and other weapons previously used only by military forces.

In 1997, the so-called 1033 Program (formerly the 1208 Program) let the Defense Secretary “transfer, without charge, excess US Department of Defense (DoD) personal property (supplies and equipment) to state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs).”

As a result, they’ve been supplied with land, air and sea vehicles, weapons, computer equipment, body armor, fingerprint equipment, night vision equipment, radios and televisions, first aid equipment, tents, sleeping bags, photographic equipment, and more.

In 2011 alone, about $500 million in military related hardware was supplied. Next year’s amounts are expected to increase fourfold. Doing so coincides with OWS crackdowns.

More than ever, America is being militarized to quash popular social justice protests at a time equity and justice are fast disappearing. Moreover, military forces may intervene if local cops need help.

Post-9/11, police state terrorism was institutionalized. It’s being hardened more than ever to crush dissent.

Constitutional, statute, and international law protections no longer apply. Planned tyranny will replace them, leaving no one safe anywhere henceforth.

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

Also 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 incendiary finance capitalism unleashed by Britain 25 years ago is at the heart of Europe’s raging debt woes

You either have to admire British Prime Minister David Cameron’s brass neck, or wince at his arrogant stupidity. The smart money is probably on the latter option.

For here you had the British leader heading to the European Union summit convened last week to “salvage” the EU from its the terminal debt crisis – a crisis that is threatening the survival of the Euro single currency, the political future of the European Union and may even be sounding the death knell for the faltering capitalist world economy.

Yet, given the stakes involved, all Cameron wanted to do was exploit the crisis in order to claw further concessions for the City of London’s stock exchange. Such self-serving opportunism was rebuffed by his German and French counterparts, whereupon Cameron stomped his feet and declared that Britain would exercise its veto over EU plans for tighter fiscal controls on member states.  The British veto may now hamper the EU’s ability to assuage the financial markets, which are daily extracting pounds of flesh with exorbitant rates of borrowing on government bonds.

Not that the leaders of the other 26 EU states are acting as noble knights in shining armour, vying to protect their populaces from further economic suffering. The revised EU treaty they have in mind will only deepen that suffering by expanding austerity and cutbacks for the majority of people across Europe. The fiscal and economic policies of member states will henceforth be dictated by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. That is, national sovereignty supposedly serving the people, according to their votes, is to be replaced by the rule of unelected bankers and technocrats. In a very real way, the debt crisis of Europe is serving to usher in a dictatorship of finance capitalism.  As Paul Craig Roberts noted recently on Global Research with regard to the EU – “the banks have taken over” [1].

Ironically, it is German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her French collaborator, Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who are foremost in marching mainland Europe into the arms of this dictatorship.

However, Cameron’s one-man crusade at the EU summit was no act of Churchillian defiance to defend the rights of the people in the face of financial fascism. Britain under this present Conservative leader has been bludgeoned with one of the most draconian austerity budgets inflicted anywhere across Europe, wielded without mercy against workers and aimed deliberately at placating first and foremost the finance markets. Indeed, Cameron’s government is one of the main advocates of deeper social spending cuts for the rest of Europe.

So the notion that the British leader was in some way making a fight-them-on-the-beaches kind-of stand towards other European leaders/quislings of finance capital is risible.

And what is even more risible is that the sole objective of Cameron and his foreign secretary William Hague was to secure concessions for the City of London. Many people in Europe have good reason to believe that it is the City of London and its brand of finance capitalism that has created and provoked the debt crisis in the first place.

It was Cameron’s much-admired predecessor Margaret Thatcher who oversaw the systematic deregulation of the London Stock Exchange, starting in 1986 with what became known as the “Big Bang” – the wholesale removal of controls on financial transactions. From then on, the British economy went from one based on manufacture and production to one hallmarked by financial speculation. London became the money capital of the world, outflanking New York. The financialisation of other economies would follow the British slash-and-burn economic path, as the new culture of predatory financiers and investors used speculative profiteering to gut manufacturing bases.

The deregulation of financial markets was a showpiece policy of subsequent British governments, whether Conservative or Labour. It spawned a plethora of “financial innovations” such as hostile takeovers, downsizing, short selling and derivative trading, whereby money and debt were recycled and multiplied fictitiously – with inevitable catastrophic consequences. This of course is the ineluctable, historic dynamic of late capitalism. The system tends to mount up massive poverty and thereby becomes incapable of producing goods and services because the conventional profit system becomes exhausted. That is why late capitalism has more and more turned into a form of debt-ridden financial arson in order to recklessly eke out the last reserves of profit.

In previous centuries, it was England that innovated industrial capitalism. At the end of the 20th Century it was the British (and their Anglo-American culprits) who have the dubious honour of unleashing finance capitalism on the rest of the world. The new brand of capitalism can be traced directly to the collapse of banks and institutions, such as Barings, Lehman Brothers and Long-Term Capital Management, and to the collapse of pension funds and property assets dragging millions of people into debt. And now this particular British innovation of incendiary capitalism can be traced to the collapse of entire countries.

The spectacle of bankrupt David Cameron swaggering over to Europe to ask equally bankrupt European governments for more deregulatory concessions for the City of London is about as stupefying as an arsonist returning to the scene of the crime – and asking for more gasoline.

Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa correspondent

[email protected]

Notes

[1] http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27872

After watching Europe’s performance last week the only thing they really were after was an ESM, European Stabilization Mechanism, to tie down all EU nations to a tighter regional set up. As it turns out England and others did not agree. Britain obviously does not want to become part of a new treaty that deprives them of their sovereignty. This regional government concept appeared in the early 1960s and is now going to be pushed in Europe with the US to follow. Our question, is England just trying to protect the advantages of the “City of London,” or is the disagreement deeper than that? A new treaty will take two years for ratification, but in the meantime an agreement will hold forth on what can be called a handshake. Evidence is still out on whether this is an attempt by Germany to break up the euro zone and the EU or a genuine effort to set up a platform for world government. We know that since WWII that the internationalists have been setting up Europe as the foundation for world government. On the other hand we know that 65% to 70% of the German people want no part of it from any standpoint.

The main players in the end treated the debt crisis as a secondary problem, probably because the Federal Reserve had it covered for them. The only main player that displayed real nervousness was France’s Sarkozy. France had to have its banks bailed out and had to avoid one or two rating downgrades. Not only would those downgrades entail higher costs, but also they would impair France’s ability to help bailout the six unsound economies. The Fed is bailing out French banks short-term. Once the situation is more stable American short-term bond buyers will return and the Fed can concentrate aiding in other areas. That, of course, is if stability returns. Bailouts can only emanate from central banks and governments and any such operations in and of themselves are inflationary and if persistent will lead to hyperinflation.

This means all of the banks in the solvent countries will have to be nationalized, all or in part. At the same time these same banks and countries have to bail out the dreaded six countries. That will be a tall order, as some are not even cooperating. That could mean three or more of these countries could default leaving sound countries and their banks with big holes in their balance sheets. Overall none of this has been solved, because France and Germany were more interested in changing treaty rules than addressing the debt problem. These massive bailouts are on the way for the sound and the unsound, accompanied by higher inflation. Needless to say, all of this solves nothing on the short to intermediate term. It is another temporary respite. All we see is avoidance. Von Mises has told us only purging the system works. The bankers, politicians and bureaucrats do not want to see that happen, because the key to their power lies in the banking system and once purged their power is lost and countries are free to survive on their own. That is why the world has wars to keep the elitist bankers as our overseers. Under such circumstances nations are forced to amalgamate to bring order and to provide for the common defense. None of us are on the inside, so we do not know which avenue will be taken. Both choices mean lots more trouble ahead. The EU and the euro zone structures do not need to be changed, but the debt problem certainly needs to be addressed.

The quest for more power via the ESM is obvious to those in favor of world government. There will be nothing democratic about the ESM and most players will be appointees. Someone should tell these elitists bigger is not better and that more than half of Europe knows what they are up too. Whether it is called the EU, or Soviet Union, National Socialist Bund or the North American Union, they are all the same. They are totalitarian governments within one form of socialism at its core. This is government by appointment and regulation, which has no intention of letting the public participate. Every move or change will require no input from the people, only edicts from above.

That brings us to the position that England has taken. PM David Cameron is an elitist and one directly chosen at the Queen’s request. His position at last week’s meeting was surprising as he wanted guarantees of protection for the “City of London,” which supplies 40% of London’s jobs and 10% of jobs in England. This is the gang that was deeply involved in Bear Stearns, Lehman Bros., AIG and the Madoff scandals.

Among other things, Britain has objected and threatened to veto any kind of tax, even 1%, which on a compound basis would be far higher. Cameron believes this would cause financial sector business to move to Frankfurt. This rebellion within the EU ranks has far reaching implications. Cameron is no conservative and is part of the elitist operatives; obviously few of these characters trust each other. This is why England never committed to the euro. Cameron’s action has finally set Britain apart from the EU, never to join the euro, and cuts England off in part from the attempted consolidation on the Continent. That means it will have difficulty in fronting for American interests, and such interests will become more transparent.

Such a new treaty could take years and in the meantime Germany expects an agreement to do the very same thing. You have to wonder if there really are any rules here. This is why Britain said no to the treaty. At the last minute Hungary, the Czech Republic and Sweden agreed to the arrangement. National parliaments have to approve such a treaty in Denmark, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria. Remember, this is not what this was to be about. It was about providing funds for the six unsound economies, all of which was shunted into the background, as a sort of afterthought. There is no question this was the plan from the beginning. Change the treaties, moving European power to Germany and deal with the debt as they go. The US and UK are not going to like that. The US could withdraw support from the financial perspective. Germany is saying we want more centralized power if we are going to pay all these debts. It would demand balanced budgets. If not feasible then raise taxes. The agreement would give the EU power over each legislative action, which means sovereign nations would lose their sovereignty.

These central planners believe they will lose a number of euro zone members along the way and that does not concern them. They’ll just absorb the debt for their government and their banks, nationalizing them in the process. From the very beginning, years ago, we saw this coming, and it is here. The formation of a hardcore socialist bloc controlled by bureaucratic technocrats (bankers) with the public having little to say about proceedings.

That takes us to the other side of the equation – the six problem countries, led by Greece. Greece is a banker looting operation and when their man Papandreou couldn’t get the job done they had their man Lucas Papademos appointed to do the job. He is a Trilateralist and Bilderberg. In spite of Papademos’ position he is accomplishing very little. The Troika seems to be running in circles. It won’t be long before Mr. Samoras is in charge, perhaps 2-1/2 to 3 months. Polls show him with half the votes in a three party race. The people are enraged and rightly so. On September 20th almost $11 billion is coming into Greece and all but $1 billion will go to pay bankers’ interest, which means this coming year taxes will rise to pay the bankers even more interest. The financial treadmill Greece is on is running ever faster. At the same time the Troika wants government to fire even more people. This group is making no effort to create jobs, only to save banks and large corporations. The Troika wants to destroy Greece and pick up the pieces for 10 cents on the dollar. The result domestically is that crime is running rampant. People on the edge, who normally would never commit crime, have been forced to become criminals just to live. The police have even become criminals, because they cannot support their families on much lower salaries.

Mr. Samaras has put Mr. Papadimos on notice that real elections have to come quickly. If elections do not come soon it certainly will lead to serious trouble.

Those in office and those who have been in office are at great risk of being charged civilly and criminally. The politicians, bureaucrats and bankers have almost totally destroyed the country. Many could go to jail including Papandreou and Papadimos and then again Mr. Samaras could end up dead. These people are playing for the highest stakes and they should remember there is real trouble headed their way.

Next we expect there is a chance that Greece will enter the nether world of selective default; you might say they’ll follow the path of 199 to 2002 Argentina. It seems Greece will get the $157 billion to cover their in house debt which means they will be lossers all around. There then will be not only default in Greece, but among the other failing countries as well. Is debt repayment going to be extended in whole or in part? The answer is probably. The interest rates will probably be 3 to 4 percent. It looks like help is on the way and the EU is going to bail out those in trouble no matter what the cost. That is $6 trillion or more, which will be created for the most part out of thin air, which will be very inflationary. Owners of debt may have it phased out over three years and may end up getting 80%. That is if the Greeks agree. We do not expect them to agree.

We find it amusing that the Bundesbank finds financing the Greek government unacceptable, while they have no trouble funding Greek banks. Germany is trying to reinterpret the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties and fit in the EFSF and next the ESM, whatever it takes to change things to their satisfaction, just as Germany did in the Rhineland and Saarland starting in 1936 in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.

This push by Germany to dominate other euro zone and EU members could lead to serious political problems in France. The economy in France is weakening. Strauss-Kahn looks to be out of the race. Germany’s power is visualized in France as to turning France into a German satrapy and that has the French very upset. France was a very big buyer of toxic bonds and faces a rating reduction and perhaps even a double reduction. That will cost the French; it’s Bank of France, its banks and citizens more to do business with higher interest rates. These events have set the stage for the National Front’s, Marine Le Pen to improve her poll percentage currently at about 21%, up to 26%, which would put her into round two.

French voters have stepped further from the center since the late 1980s when Jean-Marie Le Pen garnered 21% of the final vote and lost the election, as head of the National Front. Traditional parties continue to lose ground in France whereas in other countries major parties hold their ground and third parties continue to find the going difficult. People in Europe see more clearly that with the exception of Germany, the Netherlands and Finland that their countries are being mismanaged. In France can a change come via Marine Le Pen? We think so, she has much common sense and the first thing she would do is leave the euro. She has stated this and many French agree. Like the average German many of the French want out. We have lived in both countries for an extended period of time, speak both languages, and deeply understand their cultures, which are like night and day. We see it amazing that the euro has held together as long as it has. Le Pen is acutely aware of these differences. She reflects national feeling far better than any French leader. She should be able to siphon off enough votes from Sarkozy to enter the finals, which she could win setting a whole new course for France. We must state here that we are friends of the Le Pen family and have known Marine since her teens, so we express favoritism in this case.

As we have stated for more than 15 years, the euro zone and the EU are unnatural associations that can never hope to work.

Britain’s approach is a perfect example of the dichotomous situation. The main mission of PM Cameron was to make sure there were no treaty changes that were detrimental to England. He accomplished that at a great price. The Monarchy and all its defenders, such as the “City of London” were proud he stood his ground. Germany and others were unwilling to accept such impertinence from a country they believe shouldn’t be in the EU in the first place. England is not against more spending to delay the inevitable – it had to protect the greatest wealth center in the world, the City of London. They also know just as the other members do, that they’ll be no meaningful reforms and more debt has to be created to service current debt, until the system collapses. Via this system the UK and US control the world and intend to continue to do so. This is a UK-US holding action until another series of wars, or a major war can be put in place to take the blame for the current financial failures. Just look at history. That is how it works and has worked for centuries. For the UK and US, Germany is the problem and France just tags along. That is something Marine Le Pen is well aware of and she wants to change that. French bankers hate her, because she knows exactly what they have been up too.

Treaty changes require unanimous consent, so there are not going to be any changes until the City of London is exempt from additional taxation. There are still several countries that have to approve by Parliamentary consent in their countries, so Mr. Cameron may have some company in bolstering his position. In fact whether they have their meetings or not, Britain has cast the die and now Germany must respond. It is either let’s make a deal or the EU and the euro zone breaks up. Who knows, perhaps that is what Germany is after?

US Troops Surround Syria on the Eve of Invasion?

December 13th, 2011 by Global Research

A former official from within the ranks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is reporting that US and NATO forces have landed outside of Syria and are training militants to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, formerly a translator with the FBI, wrote over the weekend that American soldiers are among the NATO troops that have mysteriously and suddenly, landed on the Jordanian-Syrian border.

According to her, several sources internationally have confirmed the news, although the US media has been instructed to temporarily censor itself from reporting the news.

Additionally, Edmonds says that American and NATO forces are training Turkish troops as well, to possibly launch a strike from the north of Syria.

Edmonds writes that an Iraqi journalist based out of London has confirmed that US forces that vacated the Ain al-Assad Air Base in Iraq last week did in fact leave the country as part of President Obama’s drawdown of troops, but rather than return home, the soldiers were transferred into Jordan during the late hours of Thursday evening. Another source, writes Edmonds, informs her that “soldiers who speak languages other than Arabic” have been moving through Jordan mere miles from the country’s border with Syria. Troops believed to be NATO/American-affiliated have been spotted between the King Hussein Air Base in al-Mafraq and the Jordanian village of Albaej and its vicinity.

Nizar Nayouf, a correspondent for Edmond’s Boiling Frog Post whistleblower site, says an employee of the London-based offices of Royal Jordanian Airlines has further confirmed that at least one US aircraft transporting military personnel has brought American troops into Jordan in recent days. Nayouf, the former editor-in-chief of Sawt al-Democratiyya (Democracy’s Vote), had previously been sentenced to a decade behind bars for critiquing the Syrian government. He later won several human rights awards and the 2000 UNISCO prize for press freedom.

Since the uprising of rebel forces opposing al-Assad’s regime over Syria nearly a year ago, American officials have been critical of the country’s government but insist that they have otherwise distanced themselves from becoming involved in the protests. Following the deaths of dozens of protesters in the spring of 2011, the United States imposed strict sanctions against the official government of Syria.

Navi Pillay, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, revealed this week that the uprising in Syria has caused over 5,000 deaths since it began in early 2011. In the case of the crackdown against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, NATO involvement began only one month into the uprising. Nine months later, the total death toll of the Libyan Civil War is estimated to be close to 30,000.

In her report, Edmonds says that NATO troops have been training soldiers just outside of Syria since as early as May, and that US media is prohibited from reporting on it until today. The Turkish paper Milliyet also reports that defected Syrian colonel Riad al-Assad is preparing troops to take over the Syrian government as well.

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This Holiday Season, Remember: Peace comes through Awareness

December 13th, 2011 by Global Research

Worldwide, the mass commercialization of the holiday season is hitting a fever pitch as people who are indebted, facing foreclosure and unable to make ends meet are told to spend, spend, spend to help the economy and spread festive cheer. The paradox is clear: spend money you don’t have in order to save the economy that was cruelly and fraudulently bankrupted on your behalf. And do it with a merry smile. 

For all but the 1%, this is a tall order, indeed.

Regardless of belief, geography or history, there is something special about this time of year when we look back on our accomplishments of the past months and consider how to face the future. Optimism is sorely lacking in this day and age and the festive spirit is a hard pill to swallow for many families worldwide this holiday season who are grappling with financial pressures and the prospect of ever-increasing militarization across the globe. While taking stock of a year that has been plagued by illegal war, humanitarian crises and financial degradation, many are feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders.

If there is to be hope for peace, however, it has to come through responsible engagement, through active and thoughtful social participation and above all, through real awareness.

Therefore, we have a suggestion for you this holiday season: instead of bleeding your bank accounts on disposable commodities that are obsolete before the red ribbon is even off the package, why not help others understand the workings of the world so that they can feel empowered in taking steps toward, real sustainable peace? And how about doing it for little to no cost?

For starters, Global Research offers you three of our best-selling titles in PDF format, which can be purchased for far less than the cost of a book and emailed directly to you without creating unnecessary waste.

Our newest title and the first in the Global Research E-Book series is a timely collection by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky, entitled “Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War“. This new E-Book strives to forcefully reverse the tide of war, challenge the war criminals in high office and the powerful corporate lobby groups which support them.

Two other titles by award-winning author Michel Chossudovsky are PDF versions of the best-selling books, “The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order“, which includes lucid explanation and cogently argued critique of the fundamental directions in which our world is moving financially and economically, as well as “America’s ‘War on Terrorism’“, which blows away the smokescreen, put up by the mainstream media, that 9/11 was an “intelligence failure”.

All are available in convenient, portable PDF format!

Please note that due to PayPal procedures, each PDF needs to be purchased SEPARATELY in order to avoid incurring automatic shipping charges on your electronic files!

This holiday season, give yourself and your friends the gift of awareness!

As a bonus, don’t forget the first FREE Interactive Reader from Global Research: “Libya and “The Arab Spring”: Neoliberalism, “Regime Change” and NATO’s “Humanitarian Wars”“, a comprehensive collection by top Global Research contributors Michel Chossudovsky, Finian Cunningham and Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya. Be sure to bookmark it for yourself and pass it along to others!

This holiday season, as with every day that goes by, our wish is for peace, and it is our hope that in exposing media lies and spreading the truth, we’ll come closer to welcoming the New Year with true hope and optimism.

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-The Global Research Team

By highlighting rising inequality and poverty in America and asking why “the one percent” has been so successful in tilting state policy in its favour, the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OSW) is raising old and new questions about the nature and quality of the country’s democracy.  It has brought into the spotlight the fact that the vast majority of the country’s citizens are unable to exercise the countervailing power needed to wrest for themselves some basic entitlement that are largely available to citizens of many social democratic countries.

Whether the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) can sustain its fight for a more equitable America remains to be seen. But it has succeeded in raising two critical issues. It has highlighted the issue of rising inequality and poverty in America attracting considerable attention from academics and the media.  It has also interrogated the quality of American democracy, raising an old question once again. Why has “the 1 percent” been so successful in tilting state policy in its favour in a democracy that is supposed to favour the majority?  This article attempts to offer some observations that shed light on these questions. It is organized in three parts. First it briefly examines the evidence showing rising inequality and increasing deprivations of the disadvantaged classes. Second it draws on some scholarly work on comparative politics to argue that the capacity of American democracy to achieve equity-enhancing and redistributive outcomes has continued to be at a very low end in comparison with other western democracies. The decisive factor, it argues, is the absence of a social democratic state and of countervailing movements and parties of the lower classes to counter the power of the corporate elite. For unbridled capitalism, unchecked by democratic pressures from below, in fact results in monopoly capitalism and its political cousin oligarchy. In the final part it offers some comments on the ideology of individualism and anti-statism that supports laissez-faire capitalism in an attempt to shed some light on its persistence and even resurgence in the face of the evidence of the systemic nature of America’s poverty and inequality.

Rising inequality and poverty

A spate of recent studies support the truth of the movement’s core grievance about rising inequality and increasing deprivations of the country’s disadvantaged classes. The respected Economist magazine (no enemy of capitalism) stated in a recent article (October 26, 2011) that the “We Are the 99%”  banner is, in fact, “underpinned by some solid economics”1. It added that the  top 1 percent “have made out like bandits over the past few decades, and that now everyone else must pick up the bill”. The article was referring to a recent study by the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO, 2011) which reported that between 1979 and 2007 the top 1 percent saw their average real after-tax household income grow by 275 percent and that much of this increase had taken place in the past few years of the new millennium. It also noted that between 2005 and 2007, the after-tax income received by the 20 percent of the population with the highest income exceeded the after-tax income of the remaining 80 percent.  Another study by Reardon and Bischoff ( 2011) showed that not only was income disparity increasing and the middle class shrinking, but that the increasing divide was leading to newer and greater segregation of affluent and low income neighbourhoods.  According to Julius Wilson, a sociologist at Harvard who has seen the study, the “rising inequality is beginning to produce a two-tiered society in America in which the more affluent citizens live lives fundamentally different from the middle- and lower-income groups. This divide decreases a sense of community.” (New York Times, 2011)

These reports only confirmed what has already been known to many social scientists. For example, the sociologist G. William Domhoff who has studied rising inequality in America for years provides detailed data in the 6th and latest edition of his book on the subject (2010). He documents in detail how the top 1 percent has been gaining in recent years and how a decade into the new millennium this 1% held 34.6% of all wealth (2007)  and 21.3% of  income (2006). It is not surprising, then, that America’s Gini-coefficient of 40.8 is one of the highest (compare with Canada’s  32.6 or Norway’s 25.8) among the  47 countries listed in UNDP’s  Very High Human Development category or VHHD(UNDP, 2011).

But the more shocking figures appeared in a report released by the US  Census Bureau (CBO) earlier this month about the “losers” in the system.  According to its  Research Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2010,  a whopping 49.1 million or 16 percent of the total population are now living in poverty. The Supplementary Measure attempts to provide a more reliable and comprehensive view of poverty than the earlier CBO report by factoring in benefits such as food stamps and tax credits as well as out of pocket expenses such as medical bills. It added 3 million more to the earlier official figure of 46.2 million or 15.1 of the population, already the highest proportion since 1994. Predictably, the poverty figures are much higher for vulnerable groups: 25.4 percent for African Americans and 28.2 percent for Hispanics. One of the findings especially noted in the Supplementary Report is the high poverty rate of the age group of 65 plus which stood at 15. 9 compared to 9 percent in the earlier report. It turns out that the decisive factor that made the difference was out of pocket medical expenses that had not been taken into account in the earlier report.

The US health system has been in the spotlight in the aftermath of the “Obamacare” controversy.  It leaves over 50 million Americans without health insurance coverage despite being the most expensive in the world (more on this below).  Not surprisingly,  health indicators in America compare unfavourably with those in UNDP’s  VHHD group of 47 countries (UNDP, 2011); compare, for example America’s Life Expectancy  of  78.5,  Health Adjusted Life Expectancy of  70, and Under 5 mortality rate of  8 with  Canada’s 81, 73,  6 and Japan’s  83.4, 76,3).  Health indicators too vary greatly across social groups; Infant Mortality Rates (IMR), for example, range from a low of 5.7 for whites to a high of 14 for blacks (Burd-Sharps et al. 2008). Observers such as Amartya Sen have noted that life expectancy of African American males in the United States is lower than that of males in the Indian state of Kerala.

Recent reports about food insecurity in America present an even more scandalous picture of hunger amidst plenty in a country that is the world’s largest exporter of food and home to the most powerful agribusiness corporations. A recent study on food insecurity by the US department of agriculture reported that 50.2 million Americans (15% of the population) including 17.2 million children (one in four) were food insecure in 2009 (Nord et al 2010).  Another study (NCBR 2010: 2) stated that the number of people seeking emergency food assistance each year through food banks has increased 46% since 2006, from 25 million to 37 million, the highest numbers seen in the organisation’s 26-year history.

Interrogating American democracy

The “occupy movement”, then, is an expression of public anger (though it still may not show the intensity needed to be labelled a “movement of rage”) in the face of these facts that have affected so many people’s daily lives. This movement, the context of relative deprivation that triggered it and the response (or the lack there of) to the movement from the country’s policy makers provide the point of departure for this section dealing with America’s democracy. On the last point about response, it is pertinent to note that the recent preoccupation in Washington has been not with this movement (largely dealt with by the police) but with the proposed budget reduction of 1.2 trillion dollars needed to balance the country’s budget. What is clear is that for the poor and the middle classes there will be no bail outs, only more cutbacks of their social safety nets.  In the face of fierce resistance to all attempts to shift some of the burden to the rich (eg., by increasing their taxes), it appears that  the proverbial Marie Antoinette will tell the poor what they should eat.  The question(s) for us, then, is quite clear:  what is it about American democracy that a) does so poorly in translating its wealth into general social well-being, in spreading its bounties more equitably across its population and in making better provision for social welfare and security, and b) makes it so impervious to the demands (or is it cries?) of the disadvantaged classes?

We examine these questions by drawing on the works of scholars who have explored these from American and especially cross-cultural perspectives. For example, the late American political sociologist Lipset, the leading theorist of   “American exceptionalism” [2]  has highlighted three elements of America’s outlier status (among Western democracies) that are important for our discussion. First, America, he says, “… combines exceptional levels of productivity, income, and wealth with exceptionally low levels of taxation and social spending and equally exceptional levels of income inequality and poverty”[iii], and that this has continued to be the case even after Europeans have moved farther to the right in the past two decades. Second, America also stands out for its weak labour unions and the absence of any strong working class movement, socialist or social democratic party. A third and related element (though not a direct target of the OWS) is the absence of even a minimally effective green movement or party, and this in a country that is the world’s biggest polluter and emitter of CO2[iv]. The nexus among these elements seems obvious, but first it would be helpful to broaden our perspective by drawing on some pertinent findings of comparative studies that include the newer democracies in the global south (including India).This is of  particular relevance at a time when America leads the western project to export democracy and good governance across the world. Note that our interest here is on “degrees of democracy” in terms of not only their formal and procedural dimensions, but more importantly their substantive and effective dimensions[5].

A general conclusion offered by these studies, cogently stated by Heller (2000, 490), is that effective (vibrant, deep, high-energy) democracies give rise to redistributive pressures.  Heller quotes Przeworsky in explaining the logic underlying this generalization: “If the median voter is decisive, and if the market-generated distribution of income is skewed toward lower incomes (as it always is) then majority rule will call for an equality of incomes”. While Przeworsky’s focus here is on voting ( a critical aspect of democracies), these studies also examine democratic processes beyond voting by which mobilized social groups and political parties – robust, rational legal organizations such as unions and farmers and students organizations- engage with and exert organized pressure on the state to produce greater equity-enhancing and redistributive outcomes. These may range from strikes and demonstrations to lobbying through unions and political parties.  Holding up the social democracies of Scandinavia and western Europe as their standards, they have, nevertheless, found successful models of “social democracies in the global south” (eg., Sanbrook et al, 2007, Heller, 2000, Tharamangalam,2010).  One of the most significant findings from the success stories of the global south is that there is a substantial difference in quality of life and social well-being (measured as social or human development) between countries or regions with comparable economic growth or per capita incomes, and the decisive factor here is the quality of  its pattern of democracy (governance, politics) which determines the degree to which the historically disadvantaged classes have been able to exert pressure on the state or even to re-constitute the state to act on their behalf[6]. Well known examples of these are Costa Rica, Chile, Mauritius, and the state of Kerala in India. Kerala, the last considered to be decades ahead of India (especially the socially backward North Indian states) in human development, achieved  its gains mostly at a time it was actually below the Indian average in economic growth and per capita incomes[7].  Furthermore, Kerala has also shown far greater capacity to translate its growth into poverty reduction; growth elasticity of poverty here has been four times that of north Indian states such Bihar.

India, the world’s largest democracy, is perhaps as interesting a case as America since its poor record in reducing poverty and inequality and in the provision of social security among the developing countries is, in many ways comparable to America’s poor record among the developed countries. One of the best accounts of this failure has been provided by Atul Kohli, whose investigations of the Indian case has also benefited from his considerable comparative work on the subject.  According to him the redistributive capacity of the Indian state, always low, declined even further in the past two decades. This latter period, he says, has been marked by a shift in the Indian state from “a reluctant pro-capitalist state with a socialist ideology to an enthusiastic pro-capitalist state with some commitment to inclusive growth”. He then asks if and how democratic politics can counter class power and if   “democracy and activism of the poor (can) modify this dominant pattern of development“(2010,182)[8].  In the end he seems to be cautiously optimistic as he sees some promising signs of such democratic activism and pro-poor policies (eg., the National Rural Employment Guarantee Policy, the Right to food campaign).  Kohli concludes his study with some policy prescriptions for more inclusive growth (asset re-distribution, more investment in human capital, some welfare), and this final remark: “Policy regimes that have succeeded in pursuing such a program have more often than not been social democratic” (2010, 282). 

Kohli’s observation underscores the well documented fact that on measures of equality, human development and poverty alleviation social democratic and socialist countries have had a much better record. It may be noted that on the whole the former socialist countries, despite many changes and even some reversals in achievements, continue to have high HD indicators, several of them still ranking among the VHHD group (UNDP, 2011). Cuba, still sustaining its socialist system, ranks 51 in the HDI with a non-income HDI value (0.904) on par with the top few in the VHHD group. Behind these achievements is a history of democratic struggles. Social  democracies (of the European and Canadian vintage), founded on a historical class compromise and social contract, have systems of social distribution and  public provisioning for social security, and for  public goods such as education and health and guarantee what Amartya Sen calls citizen’s entitlements.

But America is exceptional as noted by Lipset above. There is no social democratic party  of the European vintage (earlier such movements never having taken deep roots), but political actors ranging from the Tea Party and  the Christian right to the mainstream republican party react with a certain visceral rage to social programmes that they label “socialist”.  A case in point is  “Obamacare”, in effect a rather  modest medicare system in comparison with what is available to citizens of democracies in western Europe and Canada.  Anxiety about cost cannot be the cause of this rage because, in fact, the US spends a far higher proportion of its GDP per capita to keep the current inequitable system than any other country in the world.  The figure for 2008 (WHO, 2011) was 15.2 ($7164 in PPP); by contrast Canada spent 9.8 of its GDP and Japan 8.3 percent with better and certainly more equitable health outcomes. The political right is outraged because it sees any system of universally accessible medicare as  socialist,  inimical to the American  ethos of self reliance that keeps the state out of people’s lives. There is a cruel irony here in that the 1 percent super-rich (and the next 19 percent of privileged professionals such as lawyers and doctors), through their electoral contributions and lobbyists and monopolistic guilds, have successfully used the state to sustain and enhance their privilege and have increasingly become rent-seeking classes. In David Harvey’s words (2005) much of the transfer of wealth to the upper classes during the neoliberal period has been the result of  “accumulation by dispossession”,  a far cry from the ideal of a creative laissez-faire capitalism, held up by the political right for its unique ability to reward innovators and wealth creators. It appears that the laissez-faire concept contains its opposite:  free-market capitalism, unchecked by democratic pressures, leads to monopoly capitalism and its political cousin, oligarchy, as indeed well recognized by classical theorists from Lenin to Baran and Sweezy (1966).

A Note on ideology

Why did socialist and social democratic movements, critical in shaping the effective democracies discussed above, fail to take any deep root in America? A recent article about Obama’s supposed plan to foist social democracy upon Americans was interestingly titled:  “It Can’t Happen Here: Why Obama won’t bring European social democracy to America” (Weisberg, 2009).  The author argues that European style social democracy “can’t happen here” because “Americans are defined by a history of immigration in pursuit of freedom and opportunity” and an ethos (of laissez-faire) “too ingrained in culture and tradition to imagine trading places”.  That history, of course, is a complex one, and the immigrants who shaped it were of classes ranging from slave traders and slave masters, cow boys and robber barons, speculators, fortune makers and adventurers to slaves, wage labourers, traders and independent farmers on the other. The historical weakness of lower class movements and parties has many causes, institutional and cultural. Scholars such as Lipset have especially noted the highly differentiated and heterogeneous (ethnic, religious, linguistic, etc)  character of America’s  lower  classes and the ingrained ideology that Weisberg refers to.  The following observations about this ideology, it is hoped, will shed some light on the kind of political debate in America and the fierce opposition from the right to the provisioning of health care and other public goods that they see as socialist.

This ideology has many strands, and a benign side as well as a not-so benign one. Its benign side is underscored by the ideal of attracting and rewarding innovators and inventors and the story, both real and legendary ( eg., Horatio Alger), of the many who have followed the call to the “land of opportunity” for the pursuit of excellence in so many business, academic, scientific and artistic fields. This idea was best described to me by the late Indian philosopher and writer A.K Ramanujam at a private lunch I was privileged to have with him in the mid 1970s. There was no country like America, he said, where a bright, ambitious and enterprising researcher and scholar (like himself) could find the best opportunity to pursue his scholarly work with practically unlimited resources and encouragement and with almost complete freedom and non-interference from jealous superiors in the bureaucratic hierarchy, a pattern he knew very well from his Indian past.

The other, not so benign side of this ideology also has different strands. One of these celebrates the pursuit of self-interest (in less charitable terms, greed ) as the necessary engine of development  with a paradoxical promise that this will eventually converge in the common good (by the invisible hand , but also through the trickling down effect). As Lipset (2000) aptly puts it,  “at best, it holds out the promise of a lottery, but like all such awards, the jackpots go to a relatively small minority of players’’. Another, more invidious strand of this ideology legitimises the deprivations of the disadvantaged classes as their due. It may  have historical roots in the  Social Darwinism that was widely prevalent among the robber barons of the 19th century,  an ideology that sees the world as an arena in which each person must fend for herself, a world in which the fittest survive and the winner takes it all. Social Darwinism was also closely linked to a religious ethos that Max Weber labelled the protestant ethic. The latter not only promoted the ethic of hard work, thrift and asceticism among the entrepreneurial and working classes, but in a more insidious manner also disparaged the “do- gooders and bleeding hearts” who sympathised with the plight of the deprived classes. Compassion for the poor was seen as both futile and counterproductive as their suffering was seen as natural and inevitable. As noted by Weber, such an ethos may have been linked to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, which, though unintended by Calvin, nevertheless contributed to the belief that the suffering of the poor is their desert (much like the way the theory of karma legitimized the social disabilities of India’s low castes). It devalued the earlier Christian virtue of charity as well as the ethical ideal that the state ( sovereign) must look after the public good.  Admittedly, this is an oversimplification since ideologies are always contested, and since there were counter movements and the ideal of philanthropy by the rich (who, for example, contributed much to the promotion of education). But I believe it helps to make some sense of the otherwise bewildering beliefs held by the Christian right in America.

Ideologies, as masks obscuring and mystifying social reality, take on the garb of science or of religious dogma. The current dogma that bankers get bail-out (too big to fail) while the poor get cutbacks of their social safety nets is also presented in the garb of an immutable scientific law governing the health of a country’s economy. That the scientists (in this case neoliberal economists) who propound these laws enjoy certain credibility among the policy makers and chattering classes shows the dominant (if not hegemonic) status of this ideology in today’s capitalist societies.  But the very fact that the OWS movement has spontaneously spread across America and across the world and may even be sustained, albeit in mutated forms , (just as the public enthusiasm generated by the promise of change held out earlier by Obama’s “yes we can” campaign) is evidence that the current form of capitalism and the ideology that buttresses it are not  uncontested, and that  both social criticism and oppositional movements are alive. The extent to which these have the ability to exert greater redistributive pressures on the system is still an open question.

Notes:

[1] Striking a slightly different note, the Time magazine devoted a recent issue (Nov.14, 2011) to the issue with a cover package titled “Can you still move up in America?”. It argues that upward mobility in the US is now well below that in most European countries and highlights the nexus between social mobility and income inequality.

[2] Note that this concept has been used to mean different things by different people, for example by some sections of the Christian right to refer to their belief that America is the “Promised Land” or the “New Jerusalem”. For Lipset the critical elements here are the absence of left movements and an American “creed” behind this.

[3] The quotation is from Lipset  2000,p3.   See also  Lipset, 1997 for his more detailed and scholarly work on the subject.

[4] According to the  WWF (Living Planet  Report, 2010 ), 4.5 Earths would be required to support a global population living like an average resident of the US.  Note also that the link between “Sustainability and Equity” is the main theme of HDR, 2011.

[5] For a small selected sample, selected to include material on India,  see Heller,  2000, 2007; Kohli, 2009,2010; Sandbrrok et al, 2007, Tharamangalam, 2010.

[6] I have dealt with  this issue elsewhere more extensively while discussing the findings of our own comparative study of the Indian state of Kerala and Cuba, both considered success stories in terms of their relatively high Human Development (HD) indicators at their levels of economic development and income. See for example, Tharamangalam, 2009, and 2010). Sandbrood et al deal with a number of similar success stories, but exclude Cuba apparently because they do not regard it a “social democracy”. 

[7] Today Kerala’s growth rate is higher than the Indian average. Indeed, it is ahead of every other Indian state in the measure of monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE). Perhaps Kerala’s record proves the argument made by scholars such as Amartya Sen that early investments in education, health and social security are not only good for human development, but have instrumental value in creating human capital and triggering economic growth.

[8]  On the subject of Indian democracy even the venerable liberal Indian economists, Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen have come to the conclusion that if  the poor in India (who also form the world’s largest pool of poor, hungry, malnourished,  and multiply deprived people according to such international research reports as the Global Hunger Index, the Multi-dimensional; poverty index and UNDP’s Human Development Index)  are to achieve any improvements in their appalling condition they need “ to build countervailing power through better political organization of underprivileged groups” (Dreze and Sen, 2002,339-40, emphasis added). 

References:

Baran, Paul and Paul Sweezy (1966): Monopoly Capital ( New York: Monthly Review Press).

Burd-Sharps, Sarah, Kristen Lewis, and Eduardo Borges Martins, ed. (2008): The measure of America: American Human Development Report 2008–2009 (NewYork: Columbia University Press).

Congressional Budget Office(CBO) , Congress of the United States (2011): Trends in the Distribution of household income between 1979 and 2007

Domhoff, William G. (2010): Who rules America?, 6th ed., (New York: McGraw Hill).

Viewed on 10 Nov 2011(http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html).

Dreze, Jean and Amartya Sen (2002): India: Development and Participation (New Delhi:Oxford University Press).

Harvey, David ( 2005): A Brief history of neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press).

Heller,  Patrick ( 2000): “Degrees of Democracy: Some Comparative Lessons from India”,  World Politics, 52 (4):484-519.

___________( 2007): “Kerala: Deepening A Radical Social Democracy” Richard Sandbrrok et al. Social Democracy in the Global Periphery: Origins, Challenges, Prospects. (Cambridge University Press).

Kohli,Atul (2009): Democracy and development in India ( New Delhi: Oxford University Press).

________ ( 2010): “ State and Redistributive Development in India”,  R. Nagaraj. (ed.) UNRISD Flagship Report on Poverty Project on Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes, Country Study: India. UNRISD

Litset, Seymour (1997): American Exceptionalism:A Double-Edged Sword.   (W.W.Norton Norton & Company).

Lipset , 2000. “Still the Exceptional Nation?”, The Wilson Quarterly (Winter)

NCBR [Northern Colorado Business Report]( 2010):  “USDA Reports Hunger Reaching Record High”. Viewed on 21 November 2010 (http://www.ncbr.com/article.asp?id=54681).

New York Times (2011, November 16): “Middle-Class Areas Shrink as Income Gap Grows, New Report Finds”.

Nord, Mark, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Margaret Andrews and Steven Carlson (2010): “Measuring Food Security in the United States: Household Food Security in the United States ”, USDA, Economic Research Service.

Reardon, Sean F and Kendra Bischoff (201): “ Growth in the Residential Segregation of families by Income, 1970-2009”, Viewed on 16 November 2011 (http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/RussellSageIncomeSegregationreport.pdf).

The Economist (2011. Oct 26): “Income inequality in America, the 99 percent: ‘Occupy Wall Street’ gets a boost from a new report on income distribution”.

Time. (2011. Nov.14): “What Ever Happened to Upward Mobility?”.

Weisberg, Jacob (2009): “ It Can’t Happen Here: Why Obama won’t bring European social democracy to America”. Slate, Saturday, March 7.

UNDP (2011): Human Development Report 2011(New York: UNDP)

US Bureau of Census. (2011): The Research SUPPLEMENTALPOVERTY MEASURE: 2010

WHO( 2011): World Health Statistics.,2011. Geneva. Viewed on November 11 2011.  (http://www.who.int/whosis/whostat/EN_WHS2011_Full.pdf

WWF (2010): Living planet report. Gland, Switzerland: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Earlier this week, Stephen Colbert announced dramatically that there were important developments underway in Europe that we should know about.

True to form, Colbert’s Repor didn’t talk about the big problem. His story, ha ha ha, was about a butter shortage in Norway. Talk about going from the obscure to the ridiculous.

We all know that European countries have been wrestling with what to do about saving the Euro.

There have been warnings of an economic catastrophe if the Euro falls, and its plain that the already shaky American economy will take a big hit if it happens.

The drama in Europe seems to be beyond the ability of both comedy and financial programs to explain. Perhaps it’s more of a divine comedy in the Danteian sense, because we are all perched on the edge of circle of hell that many of us don’t want to wrap our minds around.

While many news outlets prefer to recycle endless soundbites of Gingrich bashing Romney and vice versa, and as American diplomats seem to be cranking up a war against Iran as if that can save the economy the way World War 2 pulled us out of a depression, the world economy is tottering thanks to all the debt American firms sold Europeans who then managed it so stupidly and corruptly.

Now we have Timesman Paul Krugman, for years an economist holding up the liberal middle, finally admitting that nothing is working;

“It’s time to start calling the current situation what it is: a depression. True, it’s not a full replay of the Great Depression, but that’s cold comfort. Unemployment in both America and Europe remains disastrously high. Leaders and institutions are increasingly discredited. And democratic values are under siege.

The Obama Administration, with an election to try to win, is in full panic mode with Tim Geithner hop-scotching all over Europe to try to push Angela Merkel to act, forthwith and with dispatch, to recognize the emergency and pump money at it.

Germany’s conservative Chancellor who was disgusted when given an unwanted back rub by George Bush is resisting the unwanted snow job by Barack Obama who is jumping up and down to push her to play the game of bailout.

The Germans may or may not be right about wanting a longer term solution because they have historic fears of inflation and a return to the wheel barrows of money it took to buy bread after the last depression. They don’t want a new Hitler to emerge either. They know their society better than Americans do.

The US keeps saying, “wrong lesson, wrong lesson.” Remember the thirties, not the twenties, and stop an economic collapse, before it occurs. This very emphasis shows that their fears of a collapse are well advanced.

Berlin, aware of how ineffectual Obama’s “recovery” effort has proven in the US, is not taking his unwanted advice. Many Europeans see the US financial industry as the source of all evil, as, ironically, does Occupy Wall Street, and want to use the crisis to impose restraints on it.

They want strict new budget rules and more “centalization,” (ie German influence.)

Britain’s David Cameron pulled out of negotiations because he opposes a tax on financial transactions, a step that most reformers think is a very good idea.

So, welcome to the Thunderdome of finance. The stalwarts of the status quo don’t want to budge, and only the self-interested define what national interests should be.

Fortunately for them, the German economy is strong and can, in effect, dictate to a divided Europe which lacks the wherewithal to challenge them. France has already buckled, as Sarkozy faces a new electoral challenge to his rule and looks as if he has aged in a month.

So now, its up to “The Markets,’ an elusive instutution, driven, they say, by “animal spirits” or market psychology. Markets don’t like change, especially when it constrains powerful companies but they like instability even less.

Germany is banking that they will ultimately see it’s not in their interest to bring the house down.

Don’t think of markets as beyond manipulation. Moe Saceriby, once a VP at Standard and Poors told me for my film Plunder, “I think we had a transition from what truly was a free- market system to something now that is out of control and probably what I would define as a predatory system, where we are not so much dealing anymore about the notion of fair prices, and the notion of markets that – that work transparently. In fact frequently markets are manipulated for the end of maybe a few out there, a few investors, mega-investors. Even that’s very difficult to tell.”

The Treasury Department operates a shadowy Exchange Stabilization Fund. Reports the libertartian Daily Bell, “Officially in charge of defending the dollar, the ESF is the government agency which controls the New York Fed, runs the CIA’s black budget, and is the architect of the world’s monetary system (IMF, World Bank, etc).”

Add this to another shadowy entity in Treasury, The Working Group on Financial Markets, better known as the Plunge Protection Unit, that directly intervenes in markets.

It is, as I discuss in my book the Crime of Our Time, a “secret branch of government has a sophisticated war room, using every state of the art technology to monitor markets worldwide. It has emergency powers. It doesn’t keep minutes.”

There is no freedom of information access to its deliberations. There are l47,000 entries in Google on this powerful body, but I could only access ten. The reports on it are sketchy, including one from the Washington Post:

“These quiet meetings of the Working Group are the financial world’s equivalent of the war room. The officials gather regularly to discuss options and review crisis scenarios because they know that the government’s reaction to a crumbling stock market would have a critical impact on investor confidence around the world.”

New York Magazine hinted at a conspiracy, noting many suspect, ‘it’s just a backroom market-rigging cabal for the Establishment. Or, you could think of it as the Wall Street Superfriends, equipped with X-ray vision to see deep into our financial malaise, and magic.”

Is it magic or manipulation?

Remember this administration claims to worship an unregulated “free market,” and yet, here they are, freely big footing these very same markets.

No doubt there is some connection here to recent reports of Members of Congress tapping secret information to engage in Insider Trading.

Talk about corruption. Its pervasive. The less our compromised media investigates all these wheelers and dealers, the more we will not get at the truth and will soon experience the consequences. And they won’t be pretty!

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs daily at NewsDissector.com. His film Plunder exposes financial crimes. (Plunderthecrimeofourtime.com) Comments to [email protected]

Solidarity with the Palestinian People

December 13th, 2011 by Eric Walberg

As people of conscience around the world marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, ever new actions help bring Palestinians closer to achieving a state of dignity, says Eric Walberg

Just in case there was an iota of doubt left in your mind, Israel was officially declared an apartheid state during a session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in Cape Town on 7 November.

Among depositions, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza cited the Fourth Geneva Convention and the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court which prohibits “the transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

This was just in time to honour the UN-endorsed International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, marked on 29 November to coincide with the anniversary of the UN vote for the Partition Plan, and first celebrated in 1976. Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists in 10 European countries staged more than 60 actions as part of a Day of Action calling on supermarkets and governments to “Take Apartheid off the Menu”.

In the UK, 26 November was declared a national BDS Day of Action targetting Britain’s largest supermarket chain Tesco, the only supermarket in the UK that is openly selling illegal settlement goods. Activities ranged from street protests, e-lobbying, relabelling, flash protests and internetworking. While Agrexco may be kaput as Israel’s largest supplier of fresh produce to Europe, Mehadrin has taken its place and was the target of the European Day of Action Against Israeli Agricultural Produce Exporters.

Demonstrators in the US boarded buses run by Veolia to educate passengers about Israel’s apartheid policies. Boston activists launched a campaign challenging the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Company’s contract with Veolia. In Baltimore, activists demonstrated at Penn Station during rush hour, singing a freedom song and drawing connections between the Palestinian and American struggles for equality, linking Veolia’s profiteering from racism and exploitation in Israel/Palestine to the City of Baltimore’s contracts with its own workers.

In a cynical rearguard bid to attract Christmas shoppers, Israel Lobby activists launched Buy Israel Week November 28, hastily put together to counter the growing BDS tide. Luke Akehurst, director of We Believe in Israel, called for two BUYcott days, featuring discount coupons, sponsored by StandWithUs, El-Al, the Jewish National Fund and other such pillars of Israeli apartheid.

While American sympathisers were politely tolerated in their protests against Veolia’s transport activities in Israel, their compatriots in Palestine proper were violently arrested for confronting Veolia and Egged, the two major culprits, and targets of BDS activists in Europe.

Inspired by their Western supporters, six Palestinian Freedom Riders emulated the legendary Freedom Riders of the American south of the 1960s, riding settler bus 148 near the illegal settlement of Psagot. Much like those courageous black and white Americans (including many Jews) of yesteryear, the Palestinians were forcibly removed and arrested.

This new generation of Freedom Riders will further inspire Westerners for whom “It is a moral duty to end complicity in this Israeli system of apartheid,” according to arrested Hebron resident Badee Dwak. Fellow arrestee Basel Al-Araj minced no words: “The settlers are to Israel what the KKK was to the Jim Crow South — an unruly, fanatic mob that has enormous influence in shaping Israeli policies today and that violently enforces these policies with extreme violence and utter impunity.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker wrote: “Board the buses to Everywhere. Sit freely. Go into Jerusalem with my blessing. Like many of my country people, I have witnessed this scenario before and know where it can lead. To a straightening of the back and a full breath taken by the soul. Some of us have shed blood, others have shed tears. Some have shed both. All sacred to the cause of the dignity we deserve as beautifully fashioned citizens and Beings of this Universe.”

Sadly, as he honoured the Freedom Riders of the 1960s for their courage and dedication fifty years ago, President Barack Obama had no such words for the equally brave ones in Israel today.

In the Arab world, 29 November activities took BDS the logical extra step, with 7,000 Jordanians gathering in the Jordan Valley and marching to the Israeli border to condemn Israel’s settlement expansion, calling for the liberation of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the second holiest site for Muslims. “We sacrifice our souls and blood for Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Quds,” the Jordanians chanted after noon prayers, calling on Jordanian authorities to scrap its peace treaty with Israel.

Even as 100,000s of Cairenes gathered to defend the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square 26 November, a rally co-sponsored by Al-Azhar and the Union of Muslim Scholars attended by 5,000 called on Muslims to fight “Jerusalem’s Judaisation”. Al-Azhar Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb said: “We are telling Israel and Europe that we shall not allow even one stone to be moved there.” Activists chanted: “Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, judgment day has come.”

In other boycott news, a victory for a clutch of brave and principled tennis fans arrested for protesting at the New Zealand Women’s Tennis Open last December, which featured Israeli Shahar Peer. After a year of trials, they were finally exonerated in a landmark decision by High Court Justice Paul Heath, who said “Disruption of an individual’s enjoyment of a sporting event was not the same as disruption of public order.” Quipped a free John Minto, “Annoyance is not a crime, annoyance is part of being in democracy.” The judge said it was clear the protest was meant to convey to the tennis player the concerns at the way Israel treated the Palestinian Territories.

In contrast to the tidal wave of Western artists now boycotting Israel-linked events (the Yardbirds just cancelled a scheduled Tel Aviv show), iconic singer and actor Barbra Streisand performed at a fundraising gala in Los Angeles for Friends of the IDF. Streisand supports OneVoice, which promotes a two-state solution that fails to address structural injustices and has long been discredited. Guests of honour included media magnate Haim Saban and former Israeli Military Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who commanded the attacks on Gaza in 2008-09 which killed 1,400 Palestinians. An Israeli propaganda video about Streisand’s appearance at the gala features armed Israeli soldiers running in a scenic sunset. A shameful sunset in her own career.

In a wonderfully shocking divestment move, Israeli powers-that-be are furious at BNP Paribas for shutting down its operations in Israel. Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Banks Supervisor David Zaken believe the bank’s board of directors caved to pressure groups, in the first case in years of a foreign bank leaving Israel. BNP Paribas has had operations in Israel since 2003. The bank claims it sustained serious damage from the Greek crisis, yet the only foreign branch it is closing is its Israeli one.

Unfortunately, as yet, no international governmental sanctions against Israel have been imposed in the past few months. On the contrary, the US continues to oppose attempts to boycott Israel, putting great pressure especially on Arab League states, which officially support BDS. Under US antiboycott legislation enacted in 1978, US firms are prohibited from compliance with any such boycott directly or for a third party, and are required to report any such request to the US Department of Commerce. The WTO is an accomplice, as Israel is supposed to be treated as a Most Favoured Nation by member states.

This pressure has unfortunately had its effect. Morocco and Gulf Coordination Council members, especially Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, acceded to US arguments that boycotting Israel harmed the “peace process” and turn a blind eye to third-party economic relations with Israel and even quietly conduct direct trade.

But the Arab Spring is forcing these truant governments to wake up to their people’s demands. And the US showpiece for its vision of the new Middle East — Iraq — doesn’t dare end boycott activities, which were the hallmark of Iraqi politics prior to the US invasion.

Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/ You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/ His Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at http://claritypress.com/Walberg.html  

Trial of Khmer Rouge leaders underway in Cambodia

December 13th, 2011 by John Roberts

The trial of three top leaders of the former Khmer Rouge regime began in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh last month, with the first evidence being presented last week.

The three—Nuon Chea, 85, regarded as the Khmer Rouge’s chief ideologist; Khieu Samphan, 80, the former head of state; and Ieng Sary, 86, the former foreign minister—are facing charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity during the regime’s rule in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. All have pleaded not guilty.

A fourth accused, former social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, was declared medically unfit to stand trial due to Alzheimer’s disease. The prosecution is appealing this ruling, issued by the presiding judges before the opening statements of the trial last month.

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) proceedings are expected to take months or perhaps years. There is no doubt that the trial is dealing with one of the great crimes of the twentieth century. In the first phase of the trial, the accused are being prosecuted for the forced movement of people from urban areas into the countryside.

The Documentation Centre of Cambodia has estimated that during this process one million Cambodians were executed and a similar number died from starvation, disease and overwork—20 percent of the country’s population at the time.

However, the political character of the court and trial has been clear from the outset. The ECCC has been carefully contrived to convict the Khmer Rouge leaders while covering up the role of the major powers, which bear much of the responsibility for the tragedy that engulfed Cambodia and its people.

The prosecution took a day and a half to outline the crimes, focussing exclusively on the culpability of the Khmer Rouge. International co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley declared that the defendants could not simply blame Pol Pot, the top Khmer Rouge leader who died in 1998. “These crimes were the result of an organised plan developed by the accused and other leaders and systematically implemented,” he said.

Against all the evidence, Nuon Chea denied that the Khmer Rouge government was responsible for crimes against humanity, saying: “It was the Vietnamese who killed Cambodians.” Anti-Vietnamese chauvinism was a central theme in Khmer Rouge propaganda once it came to power in 1975.

The Khmer Rouge government, backed by China, stoked up tensions with Vietnam over unresolved border issues leading to a series of clashes. A Vietnamese invasion in 1978 toppled the regime and installed the current Prime Minister Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge cadre, in power. China, tacitly backed by the US, responded by invading Vietnam in a short but bloody war designed to undermine Vietnam’s role in Indochina.

While the prosecutors and media routinely refer to the Khmer Rouge leadership as “communist,” the party was a product of Stalinism and its reactionary nationalist perspective of “socialism in one country.” It emerged from the Khmer People’s Revolutionary Party (KPRP), formed in the early 1950s through the breakup of the Stalinist Indochinese Communist Party into national units based in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Pol Pot, Ieng Sary and Khieu Samphan were all part of a Cambodian student group in Paris in the 1950s that rose to prominence within the KPRP on returning to Cambodia. Their orientation was not to the working class, but, under the influence of Maoism, to the peasantry.

Despite its “communist” label, the Khmer Rouge reflected the suspicion and hostility of backward layers of the peasantry to urban life, education and culture. Having seized Phnom Penh in 1975, the new regime emptied the capital of its people, who were forced into harsh rural labour. The Khmer Rouge’s persecution of “class enemies” was directed at intellectuals, urban workers and sections of the urban middle class as well as against ethnic minorities, especially the Vietnamese.

While the Khmer Rouge leaders are certainly responsible for horrific crimes, the ECCC has been deliberately limited in its investigations to the 1975-1979 period, in order to cover up the role of the major powers in these events. Negotiations on the structure of the court took years in order to ensure that the interests of the Hun Sen government in Cambodia, as well as those of the United States, China and other powers, were protected. The result is a complex balancing of Cambodian and international officials, prosecutors and judges to assure joint control over every aspect of the trials.

The importance of the time limits was underscored by the call by Nuon Chea’s lawyer last month for Henry Kissinger, US President Richard Nixon’s national security adviser and later secretary of state, to be brought before the court. The New York Times noted: “The references to US culpability are clearly aimed at the public and historical record, since the charges in this case are strictly limited to the Khmer Rouge period from 1975 to 1979.”

This dismissive comment is to obscure the enormity of US crimes in Cambodia and Vietnam. Beginning in 1969, the Nixon administration, without the approval of the US Congress, launched a massive bombing campaign against Cambodia, supplemented by troop operations into the country. The bombing was widespread and not just confined to the border areas where the North Vietnamese moved supplies into South Vietnam. Some estimates put the death toll from the bombing at around 600,000.

In 1970 the CIA organised a coup that toppled the government of Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, who had sought to manoeuvre between Hanoi and Washington and maintain neutrality. The coup installed General Lon Nol, setting off a civil war that eventually led to the Khmer Rouge seizure of power in 1975.

Following the collapse of the US puppet regime in Saigon in 1975, Washington quietly shifted its support behind the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge regime as a means of countering Vietnamese influence. After 1979, China, the European Union and the US continued to recognise the deposed Khmer Rouge as the legitimate government of Cambodia. The US worked with China and Thailand to supply Pol Pot’s insurgents with arms, ignoring the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities during the 1975-1979 period.

Eventually, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, during which Moscow had backed Vietnam, transformed relations with regard to Indochina. As part of the Paris Peace Agreement in 1991, Vietnam withdrew its troops from Cambodia, to be replaced by UN “peacekeeping” troops. The Hun Sen regime began to open up Cambodia as a cheap labour production platform for foreign investors.

It was not until 1997 that the UN began its investigations. The US and other major powers recognised that the crimes of the Khmer Rouge had to be somehow laid to rest, but worked to ensure that none of their own crimes saw the light of day.

The ECCC was finally set up in 2006 but has tried only one previous case. In July 2010, Kaing Guek Eav, known also as Duch, was convicted of multiple murders as the commandant of the notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh where over 12,000 people were killed. Conveniently, Duch pleaded guilty, expressed remorse and claimed he was just obeying orders. The trial was a preparation for the far more significant cases now being heard.

All those with a stake in the current trial—from the Hun Sen regime to China, the US and European powers—recognised the danger that the current defendants could expose the wider culpability of other governments in the catastrophe that befell Cambodia. Every aspect of the trial is geared to ensuring that this does not take place.

Reform vs. Revolution Within Occupy

December 13th, 2011 by Shamus Cooke

Many Occupiers have expressed a valid concern over the Obama campaign attempting to hijack the Occupy movement. To avoid this pitfall some Occupiers advocate more radical methods, ideas and strategies. But sometimes these tactics create new problems. While swerving safely left of the Democrats’ grasp, some Occupiers have overreached and exited the orbit of most working people, who would otherwise naturally gravitate to the Occupy movement. Some Occupiers dismiss this new worry, viewing the Occupy movement as an unstoppable social movement.  

This raises the question: is Occupy a real social movement or one still struggling to be born? The answer to this question helps determine what strategy the Occupy movement should take, what demands it should fight for and the level of confrontation of its actions. If you believe that the Occupy movement is still struggling for a mass base, as this writer does, then you’ll likely agree that Occupy needs to immediately focus on broadening its base and wage militant struggles for demands that will bring in the wider working class community.  

Such a campaign may not at first appear as radical as some Occupy actions, and will likely draw accusations of “reformism” (the Democrats cannot be lumped into the reformist category, because they are not advocating pro-worker reforms; they are basically for maintaining the corporate dominated status quo by rolling back previously won reforms). Some “reformist” demands might include: a massive public Jobs program, Save Social Security and Medicare, End the Wars, Tax the Rich and Corporations, Medicare for All, etc.    

Yet these demands are more radical than the Democrats can stomach, but make some Occupiers yawn. The irony is that only a truly mass movement of working people has the potential to achieve the various demands of the Occupy movement. And only a militant campaign fighting for these immediate demands has the real mass, revolutionary potential of organizing working people into a cohesive unit. But an Occupy movement that ignores these popular demands and fails to unite the vast majority– and instead fights for more radical demands that are now only embraced by a relative few — has no real revolutionary potential, since it ignores the basic needs of the majority of working people.   

This is the reformist-revolutionary paradox. It may seem bizarre to many radicals that previous revolutionary movements were won on the basis of a few basic demands: the Spanish revolution in the 1930s mobilized the 99% over land and freedom. The Russian revolution of 1917 aroused virtually the entire population with the demands for bread, peace, land and rule by the majority.

Countless other revolutionary movements united around a few, seemingly modest demands.  This is because there are few things that directly effect the majority of working people enough that they will assemble in the streets to fight.  In times of economic crisis these types of demands have revolutionary potential, since they are not freely granted by the employers nor their government, but must be fought for. 

Occupy has yet to win over the majority of the population, or even one-third. There have been several nationwide polls that support this. And although polls are not a perfect way to measure public support, they cannot be ignored (as President Bush insisted on doing). The following conclusion was drawn from a recent USA Today/ Gallup poll:  

“Americans’ views about the Occupy Wall Street movement have changed little since mid-October, with most Americans taking a neutral stance toward it.”    

Polls aside, it seems obvious that most people in America are on the fence as to whether or not to support or reject Occupy. These people cannot be dismissed as Conservatives or “apathetic.” Many of them will be willing to fight with Occupy in the streets, as some unions have, if they see Occupy’s fight as their own. Occupy must demonstrate to the 99% that it is serious about waging a real struggle for working class demands, since tens of millions of working people are suffering and would rally to a movement they saw as providing real hope, not merely moments of bravery combined with anti-1% rhetoric.     

The USA Today poll also showed a concerning shift of support against the tactics employed by the Occupy movement, as did a poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP). A pollster for PPP concluded: 

“I don’t think the bad poll numbers for Occupy Wall Street reflect Americans being unconcerned with wealth inequality… [but]The controversy over the protests is starting to drown out the actual message.”  

This is almost certainly true, and may soon become critically important.  Since the majority of people in the U.S. are still waiting to see if their interests will be represented by Occupy, organizing smaller confrontational/radical actions over more radical demands that do not connect with most working people may only deepen the above divide. Such concerns may seem naturally repulsive to many Occupiers, who deeply want “change now” — an understandable frustration. But this impatience can be self-destructive if more radical acts separate the current Occupy activists from the wider community. The media is doing its best to drive a wedge between the radical occupiers and the wider population of working people, giving them opportunities to use this wedge tactic should be avoided.  

The police are also driving this wedge deep, using an excessive police presence combined with excessive force to frighten average people from attending demonstrations that include civil disobedience or other confrontational tactics. And although the police deserve total blame for their tactics, Occupiers must out-flank them with a political strategy that leans towards organizing massive events, so that the police’s power is muted and the media cannot portray Occupy as a minority of “extremist” activists playing cat and mouse with the police.  

The police and politicians are basing their level of repression against Occupy on the level of popularity that the movement has with the wider population; many of the Occupy camps were torn down only after demonstrations became smaller and anti-Occupy coverage influenced the still-indecisive majority of people. Occupy must use the same barometer as the police and politicians for the opposite purpose: successful actions should be judged by whether or not they connect with the majority of the population and increasingly draw them into rallies and actions of massive numbers. By implementing this approach to organizing it will become unmistakable that working people stand with Occupy and Occupy with them. Together they are one.

The Occupy movement has inspired people around the country and world by opening debates about inequality that were shut before. But in order to grow into a democratic revolutionary movement, the working majority of the population must join in, requiring that Occupy broadcast a message based on concrete working-class demands. Working people instinctively know that their demands can only be won by a massive movement, that the power of the 1% can only be challenged by the prolonged mobilization and militant action of the majority of the 99%.  

Working people also want “change now,” since they are deeply affected by the jobs, housing and health care crisis. They are not apathetic, just not convinced that Occupy is fighting for them; they want to see if this fight is a serious fight or just a symbolic one.  

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org

Notes

http://www.gallup.com/poll/150896/support-occupy-unchanged-criticize-approach.aspx     

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2011/11/occupy-wall-street-favor-fading.html   Public Policy Polling 

Libya on the verge of chaos and civil war: experts

December 13th, 2011 by Alexander Vatutin

-”[I]f Libya falls apart, the US, France, the UK and other intruders will be responsible.”

Warnings from many experts are coming true: Libya is being pulled into a civil war. Now anti-Gaddafists are carving up power and Libya’s capital of Tripoli is already seeing clashes as the rebels are fighting for the local airport.

Libya…is now on the verge of chaos. Late Saturday, so-called Libyan national guards attempted to seize control over the Tripoli airport and attacked their former allies from the city of Zintan. Their attempt failed but left some people killed and injured. The national guards pledged to try again and were only calmed down by tribal elders.

At the same time, militants attempted to murder Libya’s Chief Commander Khalifa Haftar.

Right after Libya’s National Transitional Council announced the country’s liberation on October 23, Gaddafi’s supporters carried out several attacks. But the opposition hasn’t clashed with one another till recently. Experts say that they’re fighting for the helm. The rebels’ common enemy, Gaddafi, is dead and thus they have a new pretext to start showing who is stronger and who’ll get access to the country’s oil riches.

The current situation is the moment of truth for those who pledged to get rid of the legacy of Gaddafi’s 40-yeard old reign. However, he somehow managed to hold the multi-tribal country together and even simulate some kind of statehood. The rebels brought no new ideology, they’re simply carving up the power pie, says expert in Oriental Studies Andrei Volodin:

“They’re divided into various factions that have no idea what unity and territorial integrity are. No foreign country would interfere into the conflict at this stage as the West is too weak.  Moreover, this conflict was triggered by the West. Thus, if Libya falls apart, the US, France, the UK and other intruders will be responsible.”

Experts are also skeptical about the NTC powers as it’s quite heterogeneous, comprising both liberals and radical Islamists who pursue their own aims, says Oriental researcher Sergei Demidenko:

“Libya is loose as a state and it will continue to get deeper into economic and political chaos. No democratic elections or Constitution would help as Libya’s society is split and hardly unifiable. As for the tribes, they are entering a new level of hostility and sometimes break all their laws and codes.”

Now experts are mostly negative about Libya’s future and believe that it could break up into parts

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Asia: Cold War To World War?

December 13th, 2011 by Global Research

“If China’s core interests, such as its sovereignty, national security, and unity are intruded on, a military conflict will be unavoidable.” This was the statement by Maj. Gen. Luo Yuan, the Deputy Secretary General of the China Society of Military Science, after Pres. Obama’s announcement of the new military basing operations in Australia. (People’s Daily, Nov. 17)

This statement came about after the so-called summit that was supposed to create an atmosphere of cooperation and finding peaceful solutions to some issues especially the disputed area in the South China Sea. Just like what I wrote in my last article www.ericksanjuan.blogspot.com) the event was more confrontational rather than what it has projected to the world.

The planned permanent military basing by US in Australia was another irritant to US-China relations, to note:

“A remark by Defense Ministry spokesman, Geng Yansheng, was China’s strongest reaction yet to the announcement by President Barack Obama in November of the US plan to strengthen military ties with Australia and to eventually station 2,500 Marines on Australia’s remote northern coast. To Quote- “We believe this is all a manifestation of a Cold War mentality,” Mr. Geng said at a monthly press briefing, according to text of his remarks posted on the Defense Ministry’s website. “We hope relevant parties do more things that are beneficial for the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, rather than the opposite.” (Source: The Wall Street Journal-Asia online 12/1/11)

The Cold War was the most important political and diplomatic issue of the later half of the 20th Century. The main Cold War enemies were the United States and the Soviet Union. The Cold War got it’s name because both sides were afraid of fighting each other directly.

In such a “hot war,” nuclear weapons might destroy everything. So, instead, they fought each other indirectly. They played havoc with conflicts in different parts of the world. They also used words as weapons. They threatened and denounced each other. Or, they tried to make each other look foolish. (Source: globalsecurity.org)

If this “cold war mentality” will continue, could it be that the real “shooting war” is not far behind?

The blame game worsened when last October, US lawmaker Michael Turner, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee focusing on strategic weapons and other security programs voiced concern about an extensive tunnel complex designed to house China’s nuclear missiles.(www.breitbart.com)

“The tunnels would allow China to launch a nuclear counter-attack if it was hit by a nuclear strike”, said Mark Schneider, senior analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy.

It was corroborated by Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center. He said that the tunnel complex could allow the Chinese army to conceal its weapons.

The plot thickens when CNN TV last December 1, featured some Georgetown University students in Washington DC who have blown the lid off one of China’s best kept military secrets that it’s nuclear arsenal could be up to 40 times bigger than thought.

According to London Telegraph, Philip Karber and Nick Yarosh of Georgetown University said that China could have as many as 3,000 nuclear warheads,far more than the current estimates of between 80 to 400.

ATS quoted China’s army general, Chi Haotian, the vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission when he said, “We have made a tremendous effort to construct ‘The Great Wall Project’, to build up, along our coastal and land frontiers as well as around large and medium-sized cities, a solid underground ‘great wall’ that can withstand a nuclear war.”

With the events unfolding gearing towards a global war, the rest of the world especially nations in Asia Pacific, should find a way to avert another world war. Unfortunately, our country’s leadership did not see this coming and lacked the expertise in the field of geopolitics when it gave its support to Uncle Sam at the East Asia Summit.

Actually, such action virtually dragged us into supporting a possible regional conflict that might trigger another world war. Again, we will be part of a war that we never wanted. We hope that this week’s US-Sino annual defense talks will produce positive results and adhere to peaceful resolutions on major defense and military issues.

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“… laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt.” Tacitus

For a society to be well governed, it’s laws must be just and moral. The Ancients knew that “Those who are rightly governed . . . do not fill their porticoes with written statutes but only cherish justice in their souls; for it is not by legislation, but by morals that states are well directed.” Nations that use repressive laws to exact conformity do so because they have no interest in perfecting society. Without an interest in perfecting society, morality has no content and nations disintegrate. What the world needs are fewer laws and more morals.

While reading a piece about Libya a few days ago, I found that Abdul Jalil has said that the new Libya would be a nation of laws. I immediately said to myself, “Oh dear, pity the poor Libyans. Ours is a nation of laws and look at the mess we’re in.”

I’m always amazed at how much more was known by our forefathers than seems to be known today. Read the federalist and anti-federalist papers and learn how much the founders of this nation knew about the democracies that had existed prior to 1775. These people not only knew what nations had tried democracy but why their democracies had failed. The hope was that Americans would avoid the things that had destroyed those democracies. But look at America’s political establishment today and compare what you see to what the founders said. You will notice that all the things we were told to avoid have been adopted instead. Instead of learning from the past, we have reproduced it.

I am also always amazed at how much progress mankind has made in knowledge and how little progress it has made in social cohesion. In terms of societies, the world today is little different from what it was when the Greeks and Persians were hell bent on slaughtering each other 2,500 years ago. Today we have midget Alexanders attempting to conquer The Near East and Southern Asia just as Alexander attempted to. Alexander was far more successful than we. When he died, his generals divided his conquests into their personal realms but failed to make them into Greek colonies. Instead, the conquerors were quickly assimilated by the conquered. Instead of Palestinians and Egyptians becoming Greeks, the Greek conquerors became Palestinians and Egyptians. Today, in its attempt to export Western democracy, nothing has been accomplished except the installation of governments in Baghdad and Kabul that are as corrupt as those in London and Washington. The British put a corrupt government in India, and the Indian people are still paying the price. So how do these governments control their peoples. Well, they become nations of laws. Yet the language of law that passes for conventional wisdom is mostly meaningless. Nation of laws indeed!

Sometimes this expression is written as a nation of laws, rather than men, but the addition is hardly helpful. Aren’t laws promulgated by men? The meaning of the phrase is at best obscure.

When an expression doesn’t display its meaning on its face, it can mean whatever anyone wants it to. So ask yourself, what this expression’s contrary is. Is it a nation without laws? Perhaps, but somehow that sounds wrong. Has any nation anywhere been without laws? Furthermore, can anyone point to a nation of laws that is better governed than some other kind of nation? Are westerners better governed than Saudis or Mongolians or Tibetans? How would anyone collect evidence to answer the question?

The notion of law itself is not univocally clear. When anyone tries to think clearly about it, it becomes evident that even why it exists is enigmatic. Why do nations promulgate laws? To regulate behavior? No, laws don’t do that; if they did, we would have no prisons. To distinguish between right and wrong? No, laws don’t do that either; if they did the phrase “bad law” would be meaningless. People don’t obey laws because they are promulgated. Laws are obeyed by people because they have no reason not to. When a law is violated and the violator is caught, the police always seek a motive, a reason? People are not inclined to do what they’re told merely because they’re told to. All that laws do is indicate how the establishment wants people to behave. What happens when people don’t want to behave that way? Well, a lot of laws are broken.

And what about law enforcement? What do police do when they engage in law enforcement? They certainly don’t compel obedience. They’re not even involved until a law has been violated.

Since neither the promulgation of law nor its enforcement compels behavior of any kind, why do we have laws? Because they provide justifications for punishing nonconformity, meting out retribution to those who refuse to conform. Law is just a way of telling people how those in control of a society want the society’s members to behave and of justifying penalties as a means of trying to compel compliance. Law is mostly just an instrument of repression. The more laws promulgated, the more repressive the state, and when the police “enforce” laws, only the establishment’s position is being protected. Just look at what the police protect when dealing with the Occupy movement. Certainly not the demonstrators. They are confronted by police clad in more armor and holding more powerful weapons than the American infantryman possessed when he landed on Omaha beach. If laws are instruments of repression, those who enforce them also are instruments of repression. Your neighborhood policeman is not there to protect you, he’s there to get you to conform to the establishment’s wishes and protect the establishment’s values. The same is true of armies. Ask yourself why so many nations that have no belligerent neighbors have armies and how many have used their armies to suppress popular dissent.

Only societies in which social order is lacking require numerous laws. If order exists in a society, law is unnecessary, and if law is necessary, order is absent. Law and order are incompatible concepts. Societies with huge amounts of law are comprised of a lot of people who are unwilling to voluntarily comply with the ruling class’ wishes, so the governments of such societies attempt to compel conformity by enacting laws that micromanage behavior and become more and more repressive. Ultimately such societies collapse.

Non-conformity in the United States is astronomical: Richard Posner in the November 17 issue of the New Republic writes, “the percentage of our [U.S.] population that is incarcerated is the highest of any country in the world; . . . it exceeds by factors of 4 to 7 the percentage incarcerated in any of our peer countries.” In fact, crime in America has reached a level of absurdity. Americans are reaching the point of having to release a previously incarcerated person to make room for a newly convicted one (see California). If things continue as they have, the threat of incarceration will be completely empty and sentences become absurd. So compelling conformity to society’s wishes can not be and has never been effective. (Compare the Stalinist Gulag.)

As a society, the United States is in disarray. Its foreign policies have made it necessary to protect Americans from foreign “terrorists” while our domestic policies have made it necessary to protect Americans from other Americans. But no society that must protect itself from everyone can possibly be said to be well governed. There are many ways to show that the United States is a failed state. It’s use of laws is one of them.

For a society to be well governed, its laws must be ones its people want to obey. Only one kind of such law exists—reasonable, just and moral law. The Ancients knew this too: Isocrates in his speech entitled Areopagiticus said, “Those who are rightly governed . . . do not fill their porticoes with written statutes but only cherish justice in their souls; for it is not by legislation, but by morals that states are well directed.” No nation full of filled prisons can even pretend to be well directed. Yet many do.

Nations that use repression to exact conformity do so because they have no interest in perfecting society, and that is their greatest fault. Their leaders prefer societies as they are, full of violence, injustice, unfairness, poverty, helplessness, and hopelessness. The people in such societies are easily herded into disparate groups. The cohesion a society requires is shattered. The state becomes not merely ill-governed but ungovernable. Many now claim that America has reached that stage. Without an interest in perfecting society, morality too is a meaningless concept.

The immorality of today’s governments of laws world-wide makes it impossible for the world’s peoples to live together peacefully, and consequently, generation after generation of human beings are regularly sacrificed to protect ruling classes and fulfill their wishes. Things won’t change until governments function for the benefit of people everywhere, not organizations, institutions, or practices.

Throughout the world, governments are doing the opposite. People are being sacrificed for the benefit of a financial system that is bereft of even a tincture of morals. The peoples of entire nations are being asked by their elected “representatives” to sacrifice so that investors who elected no one and who wagered their money and lost can be repaid. The world is standing on its head, a world that cares not a wit for the welfare of people, a world that seeks to preserve a decadent, criminal financial system that benefits the establishment. Even some economists are beginning to see the light: Mark Thoma has recently written, “the point is that we need to focus policy on people, not banks.” Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers said it millennia ago. What the world needs are fewer laws and more morals. People have to be taught the wisdom and advantages of doing good instead of exploiting others; yet the ruling classes have no incentive or inclination to do that.

Eighty-nine percent of Americans say they don’t trust government to do the right thing. What percentage of Afghans do you believe trust their government to do the right thing? Or Brits or French or Russians or Chinese or Italians or Canadians or or or or and or? Nations that don’t do the right thing do what’s wrong. That’s what the world’s nations are doing. The Arab Spring must become a world-wide freezing Winter. Although many sing paeans to it and others pray for it, only when hell freezes over will “peace on earth; goodwill to men” become a reality.

 
My thanks to Barry S M Condell for reminding me of Isocrates.

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

Le smart bombs di Wall Street

December 13th, 2011 by Manlio Dinucci

Ci sono vari tipi di smart bombs, «bombe intelligenti», usate da quello che Les Leopold definisce efficacemente il «governo segreto di Wall Street», la potente oligarchia finanziaria che controlla lo stato (http://www.voltairenet.org/Wall-Street-secret-government). Le prime sono quelle propagandistiche che colpiscono il cervello, annebbiando gli occhi e facendo vedere cose inesistenti. Sono oggi massicciamente impiegate per mistificare la realtà della crisi, per convincerci che essa è provocata dal debito pubblico e che, per salvarci, dobbiamo fare duri sacrifici tagliando le spese sociali. Il debito pubblico è però conseguenza, non causa della crisi. Essa è dovuta al funzionamento stesso del mercato finanziario, dominato da potenti banche e gruppi multinazionali. Basti pensare che il valore delle azioni quotate a Wall Street, e nelle Borse europee e giapponesi, supera quello di tutti i beni e servizi prodotti annualmente nel mondo. Le operazioni speculative, effettuate con enormi capitali, creano un artificioso aumento dei prezzi delle azioni e di altri titoli, che non corrisponde a una effettiva crescita dell’economia reale: una «bolla speculativa» che prima o poi esplode, provocando una crisi finanziaria. A questo punto intervengono gli stati con operazioni di «salvataggio», riversando denaro pubblico (e quindi accrescendo il debito) nelle casse delle grandi banche e dei gruppi finanziari privati che hanno provocato la crisi. Solo negli Stati uniti, l’ultimo «salvataggio» ammonta a oltre 7mila miliardi di dollari, dieci volte più di quanto ufficialmente dichiarato. Come ciò possa avvenire lo spiega il fatto che i candidati presidenziali sono finanziati, attraverso «donazioni» e in altri modi, dalle grandi banche, tra cui la Goldman Sachs, e che l’amministrazione Obama, appena entrata in carica, ha nominato in posti chiave loro persone di fiducia, facenti parte della Commissione Trilaterale. La stessa in cui Mario Monti, consulente internazionale della Goldman Sachs e ora capo del governo italiano, riveste il ruolo di presidente del gruppo europeo. Non c’è quindi da stupirsi se il governo segreto di Wall Street impiega, in funzione dei suoi interessi, anche «bombe intelligenti» reali. Non a caso le ultime guerre, effettuate dagli Stati uniti e dalla Nato, hanno «intelligentemente» colpito stati situati nelle aree ricche di petrolio (Iraq e Libia)  o con una importante posizione regionale (Jugoslavia e Afghanistan). Stati come l’Iraq di Saddam Hussein, che minacciava di sganciarsi dal dollaro vendendo petrolio in euro e altre valute, o come la Libia di Gheddafi, che programmava di creare il dinaro d‘oro quale concorrente del dollaro e promoveva organismi finanziari autonomi dell’Unione africana, il cui sviluppo avrebbe ridotto l’influenza della Banca mondiale e del Fondo monetario internazionale. Per analoghe ragioni si prendono ora di mira Siria e Iran. Crisi e guerra sono due facce della stessa medaglia. Anche perché la guerra fa crescere la spesa militare che, appesantendo il debito pubblico, impone ulteriori sacrifici. L’Italia, stima il Sipri, è arrivata a una spesa militare annua di 28 miliardi di euro, all’incirca il costo della manovra. Ma non se ne parla. Le bombe di Wall Street sono davvero intelligenti.

Remembering His-Story – Iran Attack Next?

December 13th, 2011 by Bruce Gagnon

This map tells the whole story. Each star represents a U.S. military base. In the middle, in blue, is Iran. Iran has no military bases outside its borders. Just north of Iran is Georgia that has essentially become a U.S./NATO base. Turkey belongs to NATO. Iran has been checkmated. North of Georgia is Russia. Can there be any wonder why Russia is so alarmed about an attack on Iran?

Imagine if we saw a map of the U.S. with Russian or Chinese military bases throughout Canada and Mexico along with their warships just off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The American people would be going ballistic. But when we do it to others, no one even blinks an eye.

Following the recent spy drone fiasco over Iran the U.S. has been working hard to justify these flights. In an Associated Press story yesterday it was reported that the covert operations in play are “much bigger than people appreciate,” said Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser under George W. Bush. “But the U.S. needs to be using everything it can.” Hadley said that if Iran continues to defy U.N. resolutions and doesn’t curb its nuclear ambitions, the quiet conflict “will only get nastier.”

Hadley’s statement “But the U.S. needs to be using everything it can” has the sound of immanent danger, of desperation. But after looking at this map where does the danger really lie? Iran is actually no danger to anyone. The real danger is that the U.S./NATO/Israel have their itchy fingers on the war trigger and could attack at any time.

One last thing is Mr. Hadley himself. Unknown to the public at large, Stephen Hadley carried on a quiet career in the shadow of Brent Scowcroft and Condoleeza Rice. A business lawyer convicted of fraud, he became the counselor for the largest arms manufacturer in the world, Lockheed Martin. He advised the candidate George W. Bush, helped write the U.S.’s new aggressive nuclear doctrine, helped create the Department of Homeland Security, supervised new entries into NATO, and helped sell the invasion of Iraq. Ever faithful, he protected Bush the father from the Irangate scandal and Bush the son from the lies of the Iraq war. He found himself rewarded by becoming George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor. 

At the beginning of the 1980s, Mr. Steven Hadley ran an insurance fraud of close to $1.1 million. He was discovered, found guilty by a court in Iowa, and forced to reimburse the money. To erase any trace to his crime, he changed his name to Stephen John Hadley. 

When Ronald Reagan took the White House, Mr. Hadley stayed in the private sector. However, in 1986, the Irangate scandal broke. President Reagan appointed a commission of three wise men to “investigate”. It was composed of the Texan Senator John Tower, Edmund Muskie, and Brent Scowcroft who called Stephen J. Hadley to his side. In spite of the evidence, the commission concluded that President Reagan and Vice-President Bush were innocent. They found that the financing of the Contras in Nicaragua through the trafficking of drugs and illegal weapons sales to Iran was a secret initiative of over-zealous members of the National Security Council, put into place without the knowledge of their superiors. No big heads rolled. 

As lawyer for Lockheed Martin, Hadley worked with the directors of the firm, including Lyne Cheney (wife of Dick). He became close with Bruce P. Jackson, the vice-president of the firm in charge of creating new markets. Together they initiated the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO into which they brought Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. The Committee engineered the entry of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland into NATO in 1999. Then that of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latonia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Each time, the leaders of the new member states were solicited to bring their armies up to the scale (interoperability) with NATO, in other words, to purchase new military hardware from Lockheed Martin. 

Global Network board member Karl Grossman reported 10 years ago that Hadley was also instrumental in helping Donald Rumsfeld write his report calling for U.S. control and domination of space. “Space is going to be important. It has a great future in the military,” Hadley told the Air Force Association Convention in a 2001 speech. Introduced as an “adviser to Governor George W. Bush,” Hadley said that Bush’s “concern has been that the [Clinton] Administration…doesn’t reflect a real commitment to missile defense.” In 1998 Rumsfeld’s commission reversed a 1995 finding by the nation’s intelligence agencies that the country was not in imminent danger from ballistic missiles acquired by new powers, declaring that “rogue states” did pose such a threat. The answer? Missile defense. 

It is obvious that Hadley has been at this game a very long time. His connections to Lockheed Martin, and even the Bush administration, have been long forgotten. So when he is quoted in a current news story few see the irony of him defending CIA spy drone flights over Iran. It is good that we take a moment though and remember the real “his-story” otherwise we are likely to repeat the terror and carnage of past U.S. snake oil invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

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The Congress is rushing through S. 1867, the Defense Authorization Bill.  It contains a radical change in law – allowing the use of the military inside the United States, against U.S. citizens and residents, allowing their indefinite military detention based merely on suspicion of being engaged in hostilities against the U.S. This amendment, sponsored by Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, was added in the senate after a closed door hearing and has received bi-partisan support on the Senate floor, with very little debate.

At the request of the White House language that exempted American citizens and legal residents from indefinite military detention was removed from the bill passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, as Senator Levin said on the senate floor.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/PLiKvSz_wX8

This is a major shift from a country that forbids the use of the military domestically under the Posse Comitatus Act passed in 1878 during the Reconstruction Era. There have been holes in the domestic use of the military primarily in drug enforcement.  Indeed, I worked on one case involving Esequiel Hernandez, an 18 year old high school student killed on the Texas-Mexican border by Marines on drug patrol in 1997.  The Hernandez killing shows why the U.S. military is the wrong tool for enforcement inside the United States and raises questions for young soldiers ordered to turn their weapons on Americans.

On Friday Occupy Washington, DC on Freedom Plaza had a discussion on the Department of Justice’s responsibility to uphold the rule of law when it comes to abuses of the military and CIA regarding human rights abuses like torture and the killing of civilians.  During that discussion Ray McGovern, a retired 27 year veteran of the CIA, who provided the morning intelligence briefing to multiple presidents and security advisers, said that he thought the provisions allowing domestic use of the military and military detention were being added because of fear of civil unrest at home. 

The Tea Party and Occupy Movement are signs of an American revolt – a revolt against a corrupt government that funnels wealth to the top 1% while leaving Americans economically insecure.  When I asked McGovern about this he said he could not see any reason for the domestic use of the military except for the fear of the elites:

“I think it may be fear.  They worry that the DC police, Park Police, even Capitol Police will be subverted into seeing that they are really part of the 99%; that when push comes to shove (literally) they cannot be relied upon to carry out mass arrests/imprisonments; that the powers-that-be need to be able to call on the Army, which can be more dependably relied upon to carry out whatever bloody orders may be required at the time.” 

In fact, there have been examples of police criticizing and not participating in efforts to arrest or remove occupiers. In Albany, NY police refused to arrest occupiers saying they were not causing any trouble. In Baltimore, the police union endorsed the occupy and urged the mayor to let them stay. Retired Philadelphia Police Captain Ray Lewis went to Zucotti Park to urge police to join the occupiers. When a police commander in New York pepper sprayed arrested women, you can hear another police officer saying on the video tape, “I can’t believe he just pepper sprayed her.” Oakland police officer Fred Shavies who had gone undercover against the Occupy Movement now says he supports it and knows police are part of the 99%.  From the beginning at Freedom Plaza we have described the police as part of the 99%. Police have mostly treated us with respect; some have even made financial donations to our effort.  Those police who abuse their power will create more divides among police and pull more to our side because most know we only seek fairness, justice and participatory democracy.

But, will the military obey orders to shoot Americans or make mass arrests of non-violent civilian protesters?  That is an open question. There is dissent in the military as well.  United States Marine Corps. Sgt. Shamar Thomas from Roosevelt, NY told New York City policy, in a widely watched, now iconic video, there is no heroism in attacking unarmed civilians. No doubt many who have volunteered to serve in the military feel the same way as Sgt. Thomas.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/WmEHcOc0Sys

The the vague language of the amendment allows the military to be used against protesters.  In subsection A of Section 1032 it states that the military can be used against people (including U.S. citizens) that “are substantially supporting, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or (B) have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A).  The key, vague words are “substantially supporting” “associated forces” “engaged in hostilities” “in aid of a . . . organization or person.”  There is a lot of flexibility in those words and when they apply – no need for probable cause, a trial, jury verdict or sentencing – just on suspicion you get indefinite military detention.

The military’s role in the United States has been growing. In 2002 President Bush established NorthCom, a military command inside the United States based in Colorado with additional bases in Alaska, Florida, Texas, Virginia and the DC area. On October 1, 2008, the 3rd Infantry Division (United States)’s 1st Brigade Combat Team was assigned to U.S. Northern Command, marking the first time an active unit had been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command.  In 2008 The Pentagon announced plans to deploy 20,000 troops inside the United States, set to be trained by 2011. The change in law in the new Defense Authorization comes at a time of rapidly creeping domestic military expansion.

Could the elites actually see protesters seeking a participatory democracy who challenge concentrated wealth as terrorists?  Well, in a December 2, 2011 document issued by City of London police entitled a “Terrorism/extremism Update” given to London businesses, the police defined Occupy London as a terrorist group.  In the section on domestic terrorism the Occupy Movement and other critics of capitalism were singled out as terrorists.  As the Guardian reported the document said: “As the worldwide Occupy movement shows no sign of abating, it is likely that activists aspire to identify other locations to occupy, especially those they identify with capitalism.” The document went on to say that police had “received a number of hostile reconnaissance reports concerning individuals who would fit the anti-capitalist profile,” and asked businesses to be “vigilant for further sign of occupation activity.”

When the Guardian asked the police about the document rather than apologizing, they defended it saying the “City of London police works with the community to deter and detect terrorist activity and crime in the City in a way that has been identified nationally as good practice . . . We’ve seen crime linked to protests in recent weeks, notably around groups entering office buildings, and with that in mind we continue to brief key trusted partners on activity linked to protests.” While the terrorist label has not been applied to U.S. occupiers, the counterterrorism unit of the NYPD has been used at Zucotti Park.

The Occupy Movement is in its infancy, less than three months old, and already it has the elites petrified.  As a top Republican pollster, Frank Luntz, told a Republican Governors meeting last week, I’m “scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death.”  The Tea Party, which has its roots in similar economic insecurity and economic unfairness has for the most part been co-opted by the Republican Party and lost its energy, but the Occupy Movement has resisted co-option by the Democratic Party and its operatives.

The Occupy Movement, despite more than 5,100 arrests and aggressive police actions across the country, is not going anywhere.  In fact, it strives to become an even bigger movement and more powerful political force.  Plans are being made to bring occupiers from across the country to Washington, DC for an American Spring. If the elites are scared now, what will it be like when this movement grows and matures?

This is all occurring when economic insecurity is getting worse.  The economy is not done collapsing, critical resources are getting more limited and hence more expensive, the greed of the elites seems unquenchable, the global economy means that the middle class will have a hard time getting decent paying jobs as more jobs are shipped to less expensive labor markets and the very limited social safety net is under attack while poverty rises.  The elites know they are not solving critical problems, are incapable of doing so because of their own corruption and that the political system cannot respond.  As economic insecurity gets worse, the economic unfairness becomes more evident resulting in growing anger and action.

It is not that the economic problems are unsolvable. When Occupy Washington, DC held its own Occupied Super Committee hearings and asked experts to put forward evidence-based solutions to the economic mess, they did so.  By facing up to the 1% and the military industrial complex, we achieved the super committee’s deficit reduction targets in two years, created millions of jobs, forgave student debt, restored the housing market and began to democratize the economy.  Knowing solutions exist, but the dysfunctional government cannot implement them will lead to more Americans joining the Occupy Movement.

One of the gravest grievances described in the Declaration of Independence was the misuse of standing armies against the colonialists.  Numerous state constitutions declared standing armies a threat to liberty and the U.S. Constitution showed antipathy to militarism. Now, the Congress and President Obama are prepared to turn the military against Americans and allow indefinite military detention without any finding of guilt.  If the elites think military force against Americans will quell the revolt of the people they are wrong; it will have the opposite effect and fuel the revolt against the elites.

Wednesday, December 14th is a national day of action against the use of the military in the United States.

More Information:

Christopher A. Andrews, Behind Closed Doors: Congress Trying to Force Indefinite Detention Bill on Americans, Huffington Post,  December 9, 2011.

David Kopel, Defense bill will allow President to indefinitely detain American citizens, The Volokh Conspiracy, November 30, 2011.

Glenn Greenwald, Congress endorsing military detention, a new AUMF, Salon, December 1, 2011.

Coleen Rowley, BRINGING the War on Terror Home, Consortium News, December 4, 2011.

Matt Taibbi, Indefinite Detention of American Citizens: Coming Soon to Battlefield U.S.A., Rolling Stone, December 9, 2011.

Kevin Zeese is an organizer of the Occupation of Washington, DC, co-director of It’s Our Economy and co-chair of Come Home America.

Humanity at the Crossroads: Destruction or Rebirth

December 13th, 2011 by Devon DB

Currently humanity finds itself at a crossroads in history. The current global economic, political, and social situation is under strain and a battle is taking place between the masses and the elite who control society.  Humanity now as a whole has a choice to make: We can either create a future that does away with the old order and establishes an environment in which we can survive and prosper or we can keep the status quo which will lead to our destruction.

Economically, the eurozone crisis is threatening to derail the global economic recovery. Due to the fiscal problems in Europe, the Eurozone may very well collapse or stay intact, yet result in even further economic centralization, thus bringing the world closer to a United States of Europe, that some are calling for, which threatens the economic and political sovereignty of all Eurozone nations. In addition to this there is the ongoing, yet unmentioned threat of the Western debt crisis in which the US and Europe have crushing, unpayable debts. The US is now over $15 trillion in debt and the current austerity measures that are being thrust upon the populaces of both America and Europe are only going to damage the economy in the short-term as the measures lower income, thus lowering the amount of money people can put into the economy. Austerity measures also hurt long-term as they make long-term unemployment worse. Thus, we are only going to see the situation get worse in the Western world and due to the fact that the world’s financial markets, Wall Street and London, are based in the West, any negative economic activity that effects the West will effect the world at large.

Socially, there is massive societal unrest in Europe as a new general strike occurs in Greece and Britain. In the United States, the Occupy movement took place and even though it has been broken up, it is still around and evolving as they move to aid those families who have had their homes foreclosed on them. While these movements are encouraging, they have all revealed police brutality in so-called democratic countries, where people are being sent the message that if they do not accept the destruction of their futures and decide to make an attempt to resist, they will be brutally crushed.

Politically, the situation is getting worse and worse as the US-NATO-Israeli alliance uses the recent IAEA report on Iran to beat the drums of war, even though the reportleaves the world where it has been since 2002, “with lots of belligerent talk but with no definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.” Yet, the US and Israel are still arguing for war with Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich agreeing that military action should be taken against Iran. The President as well stated that the US was “‘not taking any options off the table’” and that if Iran obtained nuclear weapons “‘would pose a threat not only to the region but also the United States.’” The West seems to be determined to intervene in Iran sometime in the future which is quite dangerous as it could easily lead to a World War 3 scenario. However, things are not only occurring in Central Asia, but in the greater Asian region as the US is provoking China and Russia, potentially leading to conflict with the two powers.

All around the world the elites are being confronted by a mass protest movement.  The latter argues for a new order in which human rights, national sovereignty, economic prosperity, and environmental protection are a must. To maintain their control, the elite have co-opted several mass uprisings, with such examples as during the Egyptian revolution where several Egyptian civil societies had direct connections to the US State Department. The Occupy Wall Street movement also recieved support from corporate foundations, not to mentioned the CIA-sponsored Optor movement. The co-optation of grassroots movements such as these puts the changes of true, radical change at risk. Instead it promotes a false change that encourages participants to work within the confines of the system rather than creating a new one. This will only result in slight reforms to the current order as a way to pacify the masses and lull them into a false sense of victory.

The current order is degrading the environment, causing global economic downturns, and perpetuating a system of war, neo-colonialism, and neo-imperialism that threatens the destruction of the entire planet. At this moment people around the world now have a choice: to either fight for the new order and create a new peaceful and prosperous world or continue with the current order which may very well seal our fate and either lead to World War III  or create a world of neofeudalism.

Let’s pray we make the right choice.

Canadian Mining Companies Make the Big Move into Afghanistan

December 13th, 2011 by Michael Skinner

Mining in Afghanistan. Photo by Patrick Andrade www.patrickandrade.com

On 24 November 2011, the Government of Afghanistan awarded a Canadian mining company, Kilo Goldmines, approximately 25 percent of the stake to develop the massive Hajigak iron deposit in Bamiyan Afghanistan. A consortium of Indian companies won the other 75 percent of the development.

The Hajigak deposit – the largest iron deposit in Asia and possibly the world – is “truly significant on a global scale”.

Developing Hajigak among approximately 1,500 other geological deposits in Afghanistan is significant not only economically, but also geopolitically in the global battle for control of Eurasia.

Investments measured in the tens of billions of dollars are necessary to develop the Hajigak mine and the transportation, communications, and energy infrastructure needed to support it. This is big business at work at its biggest scale working in tandem with the most powerful and wealthiest governments in the world.

With the announcement that a Canadian mining company will begin to reap some of the dividends of Canada’s significant military investment in Afghanistan, you might think the story would have been front-page news in Canada. It wasn’t. The story only made news in the mining journals.

Not surprisingly, it was news for Afghans, however.

Canadian mining in Bamiyan, Bamiyan province, Afghanistan.

The city of Bamiyan, near Hajigak, is the capital of Bamiyan province and the centre of Hazarajat – the home of the Hazara people. The Hazara are one of many distinct nations that compose the diverse multi-national state of Afghanistan. They are also one of the most oppressed and persecuted of the many Afghan nations.

I visited Bamiyan in 2007. A geologist, I’ll call Aziz, who we met at the University of Bamiyan, first told us about the significance of the Hajigak deposit.

View from Shahr-e Gholghola across the Bamiyan Valley. Photo Michael Skinner

Aziz guided my research partner and I on the short climb up Shahr-e Gholghola, a squat mountain that sits alone in the centre of the Bamiyan Valley. Sitting atop Shahr-e Gholghola, with the verdant Bamiyan Valley as his backdrop, Aziz told us his story of war, empire, and mining in Afghanistan.

I wrote:

“Looking over the Bamiyan Valley, we can see that productive and sustainable agriculture fills every available niche in a delicate balance of nature. It is an extremely fragile environment, similar to the arid American southwest. Building a railway through the valley, spewing toxic waste into the atmosphere during the smelting process, and dumping tons of slag onto the watershed would have an incredibly destructive impact on the delicate ecological balance that has been maintained for millennia by local farmers. Aziz reminded us of the genocidal slaughter of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas as they were displaced to make way for economic development and the ecological destruction that resulted from resource extraction. Recognizing that, to this day, resource extraction practices continue to disrupt social and environmental systems, Aziz fears for the future of the Hazara people of Bamiyan and all Afghans throughout his country.”

Like so many Afghans I met, in 2007, Aziz did not believe the propaganda that a “humanitarian” empire invaded Afghanistan to liberate Afghans from oppression, or to secure the world from terrorists.

Many Afghans confronted daily by the brutal facts of war, believe an American led Empire of Capital invaded Afghanistan to liberate Afghans from their resource wealth, estimated at more than $3 trillion,  and to secure priceless geopolitical advantages for the most wealthy and powerful states, including Canada, that comprise this globalizing empire.

Whether these Afghans’ fears are accurate may be unclear. It is clear that hundreds of billions of dollars were invested in the military intervention. Now tens of billions of dollars are flowing into industrial development expected to benefit investors generally based in a few key financial centers.

The investment measured in human development projects that could benefit Afghans, such as repairing schools and medical facilities, can be measured in a few tens of millions of dollars. Investment in human development pales in comparison to investment in the military mission and now the investment in industrial development.

Who will benefit from Canadian investments in Afghanistan?

Ed Fast, Canada’s Minister of International Trade as well as Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, stated on 4 December 2011: “Canada is strongly committed to helping Afghans rebuild their country, and this investment by Kilo Goldmines will create jobs and prosperity for Afghans and Canadians alike”

Minister Fast’s claim might provide hope for Afghans and make investors in Kilo Goldmines feel good, but it is hardly based in reality.

The truth is that “Canadian mining companies are far and away the worst offenders in environmental, human rights and other abuses around the world”, according to a study commissioned by, of all people, the Canadian mining industry itself.

Watch CTV’s W5 exposé of Canadian mining in Guatemala, “Searching for Gold at the end of the Guatemalan rainbow”, if you want to see the abhorrent ways some Canadian miners operate abroad and how the Canadian government supports these companies.

In 2005, in Solola, Guatemala, protestors blockade mining equipment destined for Canadian owned Glamis gold mine in San Marcos. The Canadian ambassador orders the Guatemalan president to end the blockade. One man is killed when police attack protestors.

Afghanistan will likely prove to be an even more difficult place for Canadian mining companies to do business than Guatemala.

But the people at Kilo Goldmines know how to exploit resources in conflict zones. Kilo made much of its fortune in the DR Congo, where, despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, government forces and insurgents continue to fight a bloody war that has killed an estimated 3 million people.

In Afghanistan, Kilo Goldmines and the other Canadian companies likely to soon invest in Afghanistan will be able to rely on the Afghan military and police forces for protection – that’s what we are training those Afghans to do after all.

Investors will undoubtedly line up behind the façade of the Government of Canada’s promise that “Kilo Goldmines will create jobs and prosperity for Afghans

Canadians need look no further than our own backyard to Attawapiskat on the Ontario shore of Hudson Bay to see how empty that promise may prove to be.

South African mining in Attawapiskat, Ontario, Canada

In the 1990s, the South African DeBeers Company proposed building a diamond mine to exploit a rich vein of diamonds beneath Attawapiskat land in northern Ontario.

You might think that if someone discovered diamonds buried in your backyard, you would become rich. Alas, in Ontario, like the rest of Canada, the law generally states, if a mining company wants to exploit the resources found on your land, the best you might hope for is to negotiate with the company for compensation.

Of course your ability to negotiate depends on many factors particularly how much money you can afford to pay competent legal advisors and negotiators.

The people of the Attawapiskat First Nation tried to negotiate fair compensation with DeBeers for years. The process divided the community between those who wanted to protect their ancestral land in its natural state, and those who hoped to benefit from exploiting their resources either by getting good jobs at the mine or by starting businesses to service the mine.

In the end, DeBeers was the big winner. The people of Attawapiskat lost at least as much as they gained in the Impact Benefit Agreement (IBA) they signed with DeBeers, in 2005.

The diamonds mined on Attawapiskat land, since 2008, may not be “blood diamonds”, but there is no such thing as “clean diamonds”. Diamond mining may be marginally cleaner than some types of mining, but every mine affects the environment.

In addition to environmental concerns, the social and economic impact on the people of Attawapiskat has not proven positive. Only a fraction of the promised jobs ever materialised and the mining company does little business with the community of Attawapiskat.

Gaining a diamond mine in their backyard certainly didn’t help many of the people of Attawapiskat; most are worse off today.

Less than a year after miners began to dig up diamonds, the people of Attawapiskat began a series of protests in front of the DeBeers offices in Timmons, Ontario.

The protestors complained DeBeers was not upholding its end of their contract with the people of Attawapiskat. The people of Attawapiskat had expected their contract with DeBeers would at least mitigate if not solve their problems of inadequate housing, unsafe drinking water, lack of sewage and sanitation services, and their lack of an adequate elementary school.

Like so many other Indigenous communities throughout Canada and Quebec, the Government of Canada had consistently failed to uphold its promises to the people of Attawapiskat. Many people had false hopes that the deal with DeBeers would solve their problems; it didn’t.

Seeing that the protests at the DeBeers office, in 2008, did not yield results, the protestors took direct action in early 2009. They blockaded the seasonal ice road that services the mine.

The miners have only a few weeks during the coldest time of winter, when they can bring in transport trucks bearing supplies and heavy equipment via the ice-road. The mine is inaccessible overland for the rest of the year.

The protestors at the ice road blockade claimed DeBeers was not fulfilling the promises made in the BA contract issued a list of demands to DeBeers.

The news media neglected the story for years. Among few reports is a mining journal that noted, in 2009, that “discontent is simmering”, in Attawapiskat.

Only in recent weeks have the horrific problems faced by the people of Attawapiskat hit the headlines in Canada.

The problems of the people of Attawapiskat may have been breaking news for most Canadians, but it has been the daily reality lived by Aboriginal Peoples displaced from their land in Canada and elsewhere.

Few if any articles that have exposed the reality of Attawapiskat in recent weeks, however, question the inequities of a South African diamond mining company reaping profits from Attawapiskat land, and governments reaping mining royalties from the mining company, while the people of Attawapiskat continue to suffer from poverty.

The processes of imperialism from Attawapiskat to Afghanistan

The processes of imperialism that investors and their governments employ during both war and peace, and the effects these processes have on people are hardly new.

Tactics have changed, since the East India Company first began to occupy India in 1600, and invaded Afghanistan in the early 19th century. The tactics have changed since the Virginia Company and Hudson’s Bay Company among others began to occupy North America.

The occupiers no longer justify their corporate missions as Christianising-civilising missions; today these are liberalizing-democratizing missions.

The intimate nexus of states and corporations in the past may have enjoyed greater public legitimacy than today. State leaders now pretend to separate state and corporate agendas, but they really are playing an ideological game of pretend with no foundation in reality.

Corporate mercenary forces were considered legitimate until the 19th century. But the Indian rebellion of 1857 against the military dictatorship of the East India Company ended that legitimacy. While perceived as problematic today, corporate mercenary forces are re-emerging as state’s offload many military functions to corporations.

Despite these and other tactical differences between the empires of the past and today, the strategic goals remain the same. The strategic goals are: that investors make a profit; and that corporations and the states that support them and are co-dependent with them for survival, stay on top of a globalizing system of free enterprise.

What happens to the people of either Attawapiskat or Afghanistan is only of concern in this system of corporate/state empire when it negatively affects the corporate bottom-line and the wealth and power of the occupying states.

I have no doubt many people in Canada, perhaps even a majority are generally concerned about the welfare of our fellow human beings in places like Attawapiskat and Afghanistan.

However, ours are not the loudest voices heard by the government. Look at lobby groups like the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE)  if you want to know who does have the most influential voices in government.

Another world is possible, however.

Legendary investigative journalist I.F. Stone famously observed: “All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.” Amongst Washington elites and the courtier press, it appears that more than a pipe or two has been passed around of late as the political and psychological ground is prepared for a military attack on Iran.

Do ‘All Options’ Mean Nukes?

During a White House press briefing Thursday, President Barack Obama said that “No options off the table means I am considering all options.”

Many of those “options” are already in play. Ranging from a covert program of assassination and industrial sabotage to planting computer malware as “beacons” for future attacks on civilian and defense infrastructure, the United States, NATO and Israel are already engaged in a campaign of violent destabilization inside the Islamic Republic.

As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi pointed out on Antiwar.com, “the White House has issued several findings to the intelligence community authorizing stepped-up covert action against both Damascus and Tehran.”

“A ‘finding,’” Giraldi noted, “is top-level approval for secret operations considered to be particularly politically sensitive. Taken together, the recent findings, combined with the evidence of major intelligence operations being run in Lebanon, amount to a secret war against Iran and its allies in the Mideast.”

In 2007, President Bush “authorized attacks against Iranian nuclear scientists and other facilities in Tehran and elsewhere as well as coordination with the Israelis to develop computer viruses to disrupt the Iranian computer network, a program that led to the production of the Stuxnet worm.”

“While the media credits ‘the Israelis’ in the assassination of Iranian scientists,” Giraldi noted “the reality is that no Israeli (or American) intelligence officer could possibly operate effectively inside Iran to carry out a killing.”

“The assassinations, which are acts of war, have actually been carried out by followers of the dissident Iranian Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), the separatist Baluch Jundallah, and the Kurdish PJAK, all acting under direction from American and Israeli intelligence officers,” Giraldi grimly observed.

More ominously however, five years ago The New Yorker revealed that “One of the military’s initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites,” such as the one at Nantaz.

At the time, a “senior intelligence official” familiar with the plans told Seymour Hersh: “‘Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout–we’re talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don’t have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out’–remove the nuclear option–’they’re shouted down’.”

As Global Research analyst Michel Chossudovsky warned in Towards a World War III Scenario: “Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, ‘Theater Iran Near Term’, simulations of an attack on Iran were initiated in May 2003 ‘when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level (meaning large-scale) scenario analysis for Iran’.”

“In 2004,” Chossudovsky wrote, “drawing upon the initial war scenarios under TIRANNT, Vice President Dick Cheney instructed USSTRATCOM to draw up a ‘contingency plan’ of a large-scale military operation directed against Iran ‘to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States’ on the presumption that the government in Tehran would be behind the terrorist plot. The plan included the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state.”

Writing on Iran war plans back in 2005, Philip Giraldi disclosed in The American Conservative magazine, “The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option.”

“As in the case of Iraq,” Giraldi wrote, “the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing–that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack–but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.”

While Israel is portrayed as an irrational actor which the United States is powerless to control, this manufactured reality is a smokescreen meant to conceal America’s hidden hand.

According to Chossudovsky, “What we are dealing with is a joint US-NATO-Israel military operation to bomb Iran, which has been in the active planning stage since 2004. Officials in the Defense Department, under Bush and Obama, have been working assiduously with their Israeli military and intelligence counterparts, carefully identifying targets inside Iran.”

“In practical military terms,” Chossudovsky averred, “any action by Israel would have to be planned and coordinated at the highest levels of the US-led coalition.”

With these disturbing facts in hand, and the chilling implications of policies which have been concealed from the American people, one can reasonably inquire: Is this what President Obama means when he says “no options off the table means I am considering all options”?

Given the heated rhetoric employed by the president and his national security team, moves towards economic- and other forms of warfare by Congress, as well as even-more bellicose threats by Republican presidential contenders angling for the Oval Office, the use of a nuclear weapon in any attack upon Iran cannot be ruled out.

‘Sentinel Down’

Much to their consternation, Iran may not be the pushover claimed by the war hawks and their media acolytes.

After decades of regaling the public with lurid tales of U.S. technological prowess, replete with grandiose plans for “full-spectrum dominance,” the Aerospace Division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) released video Thursday of the captured RQ-170 Sentinel spy drone brought down last Sunday some 140 miles from the Afghan border, well into Iranian territory.

The incident has become a huge embarrassment to the Pentagon and chest-thumping American politicians who have oversold their oft-repeated claim that the United States is the world’s “sole superpower.”

According to PressTV, a Tehran-based English language media outlet which reflects the views of the Iranian government, Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh said: “After the aircraft’s entry into the country’s eastern [air]space, it fell in the electronic ambush of the Iranian Armed Forces and was brought to the ground with minimum damage [caused to it].”

Also on Thursday, DebkaFile, a Jerusalem-based military intelligence web site with close ties to ultra-rightists in Israel and the United States, reported that the RQ-170 captured December 4 in “almost perfect condition confirmed Tehran’s claim that the UAV was downed by a cyber attack, meaning it was not shot down but brought in undamaged by an electronic warfare ambush.”

How did the Iranians bring the Sentinel down? While speculation is rife amongst aviation experts, a plausible theory has emerged.

According to the Israeli defense industry publication, Defense Update, “Russia has transferred a number of Kvant 1L222 Avtobaza Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) systems to Iran in October.” Each “system includes an passive ELINT signals interception system and a jamming module capable of disrupting airborne radars including fire control radars, terrain following radars and ground mapping radars as well as weapon (missile) data links.”

The Russian-supplied system, Defense Update analysts report, is also “capable of intercepting weapon datalink communications operating on similar wavebands. The new gear may have helped the Iranians employ active deception/jamming to intercept and ‘hijack’ the Sentinel’s control link.”

On Saturday, the AviationIntel web site, citing photographic documentation released by Iran that the “evidence is unbelievably conclusive” that Iranian cyberwarriors captured the U.S. spy craft.

In other words, AviationIntel analysts averred, “there is no reason why [that] system [Avtobaza] could not have detected the Sentinel’s electronic trail and either jammed it and/or have alerted fighter aircraft and SAM [surface-to-air missile] installations as to its whereabouts.”

While the RQ-170 “could have operated with limited electronic connectivity, making it less visible,” AviationIntel reported that a “more likely scenario” would be that the Sentinel actively transmitted “live video, detailed radar maps, or electronic intelligence, in real-time,” making detection all-the-more easier when “pinged” by the Russian-designed system.

However you care to spin this story, the Iranian military are no slouches; an attack on the Islamic Republic would hardly be the proverbial “cake-walk” touted by the neocons and other armchair warriors.

In a further sign that the Tehran government take ongoing terror attacks by London, Tel Aviv and Washington very seriously, The Daily Telegraph reported that IRGC commander, General Mohammed Ali Jaafari, “raised the operational readiness status of the country’s forces, initiating preparations for potential external strikes and covert attacks.”

The Telegraph disclosed, citing unnamed “Western intelligence officials,” that Iran’s armed forces “had initiated plans to disperse long-range missiles, high explosives, artillery and guards units to key defensive positions.”

“The Iranian leadership fears the country is being subjected to a carefully co-ordinated attack by Western intelligence and security agencies to destroy key elements of its nuclear infrastructure,” The Telegraph reported.

In response to bellicose threats emanating from Western capitals, a new round of crippling sanctions meant to crater the economy and attacks by intelligence agencies and terrorist assets operating inside Iran, orders were issued “to redistribute Iran’s arsenal of long-range Shahab missiles to secret sites around the country where they would be safe from enemy attack and could be used to launch retaliatory attacks.”

On Friday, The Christian Science Monitor reported that conservative lawmaker Mohammad Kossari warned that “‘Iran will target all US military bases around the world,’ in case of further violations … [and that] Iran’s response would be ‘terrifying’.”

Investigative journalist Scott Peterson, who has done yeoman’s work exposing the propaganda blitz by current and former U.S. intelligence officials and lawmakers to delist the bizarre Iranian political cult, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations, disclosed that “the drone flights have apparently not yielded new evidence that would change conclusions by the United States and the United Nations that Iran stopped systematic nuclear weapons-related work in 2003.”

This of course, confirm Iranian assertions that efforts by Western imperialists over Iran’s alleged “nuclear weapons programs” is a pretext for “regime change.”

Defense journalist Robert Densmore, a former Navy electronic countermeasures officer told Peterson that the capture of the RQ-170 drone is “very significant.”

“Strategically,” Densmore told the Monitor, “the US will suffer from the loss of this because … it has radar, a fuselage, and coating that makes it low-observable, and the electronics inside are also very high-tech.”

But perhaps the biggest loss to the Pentagon is not the drone’s bat-wing design nor coatings which render the craft less visible to detection by radar–long known to America’s capitalist rivals China and Russis–but the “cutting-edge cameras and sensors that can ‘listen in’ on cellphone conversations as it soars miles above the ground or ‘smell’ the air and sniff out chemical plumes emanating from a potential underground nuclear laboratory,” as the Los Angeles Times disclosed.

Built by defense giant Lockheed Martin at a cost to taxpayers of some $6 million dollars per unit, the secret state’s drone program, greatly expanded by the Obama regime, may be a boon to Washington’s opaque Military-Industrial-Surveillance Complex but it is also something of an Achilles’ heel.

“Ever since it was developed at Lockheed Martin Corp.’s famed Skunk Works facility in Palmdale,” the Los Angeles Times averred, “the Sentinel drone has been cloaked in tight secrecy by the U.S. government. But now the drone that the Iranian military claims to have brought down for invading its airspace might be made far more public than the Pentagon or Lockheed ever intended.”

On this count, along with many other assumptions underpinning the doctrinal constructs of Washington’s technophilic military, they have no one to blame but themselves.

As Antifascist Calling reported back in 2009, Iraqi insurgents deployed $26 off-the-shelf spy kit that enabled them to intercept live video feeds from Predator drones.

According to The Wall Street Journal the Pentagon’s “potential drone vulnerability lies in an unencrypted downlink between the unmanned craft and ground control.” Although this flaw was known to the Pentagon since the 1990s during imperialism’s campaign to dismember socialist Yugoslavia, nothing was done since it might prove too costly to the drone’s prime contractor, General Atomics Inc.

The Journal noted “the stolen video feeds also indicate that U.S. adversaries continue to find simple ways of counteracting sophisticated American military technologies.”

In fact, as the Journal disclosed in a subsequent report, the video feed wasn’t encrypted “because military officials have long assumed no one would make the effort to try to intercept it.”

Talk about imperial hubris!

“‘It’s bad–they’ll have everything,’ in terms of the secret technology in the aircraft,” an unnamed U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times. “‘And the Chinese or the Russians will have it too’.”

The Associated Press reported that “Iran will not return a U.S. surveillance drone captured by its armed forces, a senior commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard said Sunday.”

“Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy head of the Guard, said in remarks broadcast on state television that the violation of Iran’s airspace by the U.S. drone was a ‘hostile act’ and warned of a ‘bigger’ response. He did not elaborate on what Tehran might do.”

“‘No one returns the symbol of aggression to the party that sought secret and vital intelligence related to the national security of a country’,” Salami said.

On the diplomatic front, the drone’s capture was a tactical boost for Tehran.

On Thursday, Iran’s UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee complained in a letter to the UN Security Council that the “blatant and unprovoked air violation by the United States Government is tantamount to an act of hostility against the Islamic Republic of Iran in clear contravention of international law, in particular, the basic tenets of the United Nations.” Khazaee demanded “condemnation of such aggressive acts.” Needless to say, none will be forthcoming.

A One-Two Punch: Iran and China

As Washington seeks to impose a stranglehold over vital petrochemical resources in Central Asian and Middle Eastern energy corridors, efforts to overthrow the Tehran government, as with U.S. machinations against Libya and now Syria, are daggers aimed directly at Washington’s largest creditor and geopolitical rival, China.

Writing in Asia Times Online, analyst Kaveh L. Afrasiabi warned that the “United States government is on the verge of taking its problems with the Islamic Republic of Iran to a whole new and ominous level that portends clashing interests with China and a number of other countries, including in Europe, which receives some half a million barrels of oil from Iran on a daily basis.”

As previously reported, the 2012 Defense Authorization Act, wending its way through Congress will impose new crippling economic sanctions on Iran, and threaten any corporation or financial institution that does business with Iran’s Central Bank with stiff punitive measures.

“Unwilling to compromise, hawkish lawmakers sponsoring the bill and their impressive army of pro-Israel lobbyists have mounted a counter-attack,” Afrasiabi averred, “arguing that the bill is sound and does not require any ‘watering down’ that would weaken its impact on Iran–the hope being that this will bring Tehran to its knees over the nuclear issue.”

Last week, pro-Israel lobby groups, including the the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee, “began a loud campaign in favor of the latest US sanctions bill, pressuring Obama to go along and reminding him of his ‘waiver authority’” under terms of the draconian legislation.

“This argument traps the White House into difficult choices, for example, exempting China, which receives 13% of its imported oil from Iran, would ignite a bush fire of political criticism, and not doing so on the other hand would inevitably harm US-China relations,” Afrasiabi wrote.

Indeed, the current legislation is a double-edged sword aimed at both Iran and China because “the bill in effect asks Beijing to forego its energy ties with Iran and look elsewhere, clearly not something the Chinese are prepared to do in today’s age of energy insecurity.”

“That insecurity,” Asia Times reports, “would be exacerbated as a result of an oil embargo on Iran, which relies on its oil exports for some 80% of its foreign income. Oil prices would jack up, perhaps to about US$250 a barrel as warned by Tehran,” and would have a deleterious effect on countries “such as Spain and Greece, which receive 14% of their oil from Iran, some on Iran credit,” directly impacting their already troubled economies.

Reframing Western Propaganda

Underscoring Western unity regarding the terrorist campaign targeting Iran, the director of “Germany’s Institute for Security and International Affairs (SWP), Volker Perthes, and their Iran expert Walter Posch” argued in a secret 2010 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks that “a policy of covert sabotage (unexplained explosions, accidents, computer hacking etc) would be more effective than a military strike whose effects in the region could be devastating.”

As German Foreign Policy reported last month, the “German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) recently recalled the cause for the renewed escalation of tensions. ‘Since the demise of British colonial rule and the announcement of the 1957 Eisenhower Doctrine,’ according to the think tank’s recent analysis, the USA has been pursuing the objective of thwarting the rise of any Middle East country to become a regional predominating power–’if necessary by military means’.”

“‘The growth of power and influence of a regional player’ would ‘automatically be equated with loss of US power and influence in that region.’ Washington has always sought, through ‘alliances and inter-alliance policies, to create a regional balance of power’ that guarantees western hegemony in this resource-rich region.”

“Therefore,” GFP’s analyst concludes, “the conflict between the West and Iran–regardless of ideological wrappings–is simply a hegemonic conflict.”

This has been borne out by recent statements by neoconservatives in the United States. Shifting gears, neocons in leading U.S. think tanks are busily manufacturing new reasons why the United States, Israel, or both, need to attack Iran–now.

As journalist MJ Rosenberg pointed out for Media Matters, “suddenly the struggle to stop Iran is not about saving Israel from nuclear annihilation.”

Rosenberg reported that “after a decade of scare-mongering about the second coming of Nazi Germany, the Iran hawks are admitting that they have other reasons for wanting to take out Iran, and saving Israeli lives may not be one of them.”

“Suddenly,” Rosenberg wrote, “the neoconservatives have discovered the concept of truth-telling, although, no doubt, the shift will be ephemeral.”

In late November Danielle Pletka, the head of the American Enterprise Institute’s “foreign policy shop” explained: “The biggest problem for the United States is not Iran getting a nuclear weapon and testing it, it’s Iran getting a nuclear weapon and not using it. Because the second that they have one and they don’t do anything bad, all of the naysayers are going to come back and say, ‘See, we told you Iran is a responsible power. We told you Iran wasn’t getting nuclear weapons in order to use them immediately.’ … And they will eventually define Iran with nuclear weapons as not a problem.”

Never mind the inconvenient fact that Iran has repeatedly stated their nuclear program is exclusively for civilian purposes, a point clearly established by two National Intelligence Estimates by American secret state agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Indeed, no evidence exists that Iran has diverted enriched uranium towards a secret military program to develop a weapon, despite howls of protest to the contrary by powerful pro-Israel lobby groups and their pets in Congress.

“Earlier this week,” Rosenberg reported, “one of Pletka’s colleagues at AEI said pretty much the same thing. Writing in the Weekly Standard, Thomas Donnelly explained that we’ve got the Iran problem all wrong and that we need to ‘understand the nature of the conflict.’”

Donnelly continued: “‘We’re fixated on the Iranian nuclear program while the Tehran regime has its eyes on the real prize: the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and the greater Middle East’.”

In other words, warmongers on both sides of the rather narrow Washington “divide” view Iran not as a so-called “existential threat” to America’s “stationary aircraft carrier in the Middle East,” Israel, which possesses upwards of 200 nukes, but as a direct competitor for hegemony over the control of the vast petrochemical resources of Central Asia and the Middle East.

As Seumas Milne wrote last week in The Guardian, “a US or Israeli attack on Iran would turn that regional maelstrom into a global firestorm.”

“Iran would certainly retaliate directly and through allies against Israel, the US and US Gulf client states, and block the 20% of global oil supplies shipped through the Strait of Hormuz. Quite apart from death and destruction, the global economic impact would be incalculable.”

As Reuters reported, “the chance of a military strike on Iran has roughly tripled in the past year, the senior geopolitical risk analyst at Barclays Capital said on Thursday.”

“New York-based analyst Helina Croft, writing in a note titled ‘Blowback: Assessing the fallout from the Iranian sanctions’, said even increased sanctions without an all-out military strike was increasing the risk of a spike in oil prices.”

“We still contend that the risk of either an Israeli or US strike on the Iranian nuclear facilities remains low, but it has risen, in our view, from 5-10 percent last year to 25-30% now,” Croft said.

Despite, or possibly because the severe economic fallout an attack on Iran would threaten their global competitors, the crisis-ridden U.S. Empire just might view the risks as “manageable.”

But as the World Socialist Web Site warned, “what is being attempted is no less than redrawing the political map of the entire Middle East. It threatens not only region-wide conflict, but to involve those major powers Washington is trying to exclude from this area of vital geostrategic concern: Russia and China.”

This dangerous and deadly game is fraught with peril. As Michel Chossudovsky warned on Global Research: “If such a war were to be launched, the entire Middle East-Central Asia region would flare up. Humanity would be precipitated into a World War III Scenario.”

Such a scenario, as readers undoubtedly surmise, would be anything but “manageable.”

In this light, it is hardly an accident that the same 2012 Defense Authorization Act which threatens to collapse Iran’s economy also targets dissident Americans with loss of their constitutional rights and indefinite detention under a creeping martial law regime.

One crime begets another.

 


 
Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research,  he is a Contributing Editor with Cyrano’s Journal Today. His articles can be read on Dissident Voice, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

VIDEO: FOX Fakes Moscow Protest with Athens Clashes

December 12th, 2011 by Global Research

December 11, 2011 – As the evidence begins to mount pointing the accusing finger at the increasingly illegitimate corporate-financier occupiers of the West’s governments as having built up Russian opposition movements and being behind the current unrest filling Russia’s streets, the corporate media has already started to rewrite events as they unfold.



Wall Street and London’s media machine claims Russia’s protests are “leaderless” and not being organized by political opposition movements – even as it interviews protest organizers such as the above pictured opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, who takes to stages build amidst supposedly “spontaneous” protests with a troupe of US NED-funded NGO leaders and opposition parties cheerleading what is clearly yet another Western-funded color revolution.
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An amazing piece of mid-event revisionism titled, “Moscow braces as election protest goes viral,” desperately attempts to portray the protests as “leaderless” even as the article itself interviews “organizers.” Quoting unnamed, and most likely nonexistent protesters, the article featured in the Sydney Morning Herald insists protesters claimed, “I came on my own. I learnt about it on the web.” But the article then states (emphasis added), “and last night, thanks to the web, organisers were expecting more than 30,000 people to demonstrate against what they see as the rigged results of last Sunday’s elections, because that’s how many have committed themselves to a sign-up sheet on Facebook.”

While the article claims that no political party is recruiting protesters, earlier reports out of the Western media contradict this entirely, with the London Telegraph reproducing a blog post by US NED-funded opposition leader Boris Nemtsov stating before the December 10 protests, “I am talking about pickets at Petrovka 38 (the main police station) and on Simferopol Boulevard where the detained are being held, and other actions too. We start from today. I will take part in all this myself. On Saturday, December 10, a general meeting will be held on Revolution Square (in Moscow) at two o’clock to protest against these false elections. “

The Daily Mail has also reported,”and Moscow rally organiser, opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkov, has announced there will be another protest on December 24, which he says will be twice as large,” and RIA Novosti News reporting, “on a stage emblazoned with the logo “Return Power to the People” Russia’s best known opposition figures, from cultural leaders like Navalny and opposition music critic Artemy Troitsky to opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Solidarnost youth leader Ilya Yashin, addressed the hyped-up crowds.”


Images: Opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov’s movement is not only a beneficiary of US funding, but Ryzhkov himself is a card-carrying member of the US NED World Movement for Democracy (WMD). The WMD “About Us” page clearly indicates that the group is a subsidiary of the US State Department funded National Endowment for Democracy. (click to enlarge)
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It should be noted that Boris Nemtsov’s political adviser, Vladimir Kara-Murza, is also a member of “activist” Ilya Yahsin’s Solidarnost group, and an attendee of a recent NED-funded seminar titled, “Elections in Russia: Polling and Perspectives.” Ilya Yahsin’s Solidarnost group helps head the US-NED funded “Strategy 31″ campaign in tandem with the Moscow Helsinki Group, a NED, Ford Foundation, USAID, and Soros’ Open Society-funded NGO. Also noteworthy is Alex Navalny’s ties to the National Endowment for Democracy, as he is one of the co-founders of the NED-funded DA! (Democratic Alternative) activist movements, as stated in his Yale World Fellows bio.


Image: A screen shot from the “Moscow Helsink Group” clearly subsidized from abroad. The significance of this group & its affiliates leading protests, indicates nothing less than foreign-funded sedition unfolding in the streets of Russia. (click to enlarge)
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Hardly leaderless, hardly unorganized, hardly even indigenous, the presence of stages and opposition leaders as well as calls for future protests already being made by the likes of US NED-funded Wold Democracy Movement steering committee member Vladimir Ryzhkov and his partner Boris Nemtsov, casts very serious doubts not only on the Sydney Morning Herald’s nonsensical claims of the protest’s spontaneous nature and its legitimacy, but on the Herald’s journalistic integrity itself for finding such nonsense fit for print. At the bottom of the article, the Herald writes “Washington Post,” a name already synonymous with propaganda and compromised interests entangled with the agenda of the corporate-financier elite of Wall Street and London.

And even as the Sydney Morning Herald and Washington Post attempt to portray the Russian protests as spontaneous, apolitical uprisings against electoral fraud “exposed” by USAID and US NED-funded Golos, a poll monitor who now has been caught sending e-mails back and forth to its US sponsors, conspiring against Russia’s leadership, the very real, centralized leadership of these clearly politically motivated protests are already calling for another round of unrest on December 24. Not only are the protests and their US-funded leadership illegtimate, but by shamelessly twisting public perception to see them as anything but foreign-funded sedition, the corporate media has once again failed the public in pursuit of carrying out Wall Street and London’s corporate-financier driven agenda.


Image: A screenshot from US National Endowment for Democracy’s (NED) website indicating its funding for “independent” poll monitor Golos. USAID also funds Golos. Golos’ shrieking accusations of electoral fraud have been cited as the rhetorical justification for NED’s troupe of foreign-funded opposition groups to flood into Russia’s streets. (click to enlarge)
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Beware of these revisionists and the increasingly unsubstantiated, even flat-out ridiculous claims being made by the media. Name names, follow the affiliations, research the organizations, click on “About Us,” follow the money, and discover the truth the corporate media is willfully hiding from the public. Expose both this duplicitous agenda being pursued in Russia, as well as the disingenuous liars throughout the Western media’s press peddling it. And above all, boycott and replace the corporate interests driving this agenda to begin with.

December 11, 2011 – Before watching this full 46 minute interview by ABC News with Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the disgraceful behavior of ABC’s Barbra Walters it would useful to note several facts completely dispelling the false premises from which Walters is operating from.

1. The UN human rights report on Syria consisted of no evidence, simply interviews of alleged witnesses produced by Syria’s opposition and interviewed in Geneva. The report itself was compiled in part by Karen Koning AbuZayd, a director of the US Washington-based corporate think-tank, Middle East Policy Council, that includes Exxon men, CIA agents, US military and government representatives, and even the president of the US-Qatar Business Council, which includes amongst its membership, AlJazeera, Chevron, Exxon, munitions manufacturer Raytheon (who supplied the opening salvos during NATO’s operations against Libya), and Boeing.

2. Violence amongst protests was confirmed and documented by even the mainstream press as early as April 2011, where protesters were committing arson on public buildings including administrative centers and police stations. Reports of snipers attacking protesters and troops simultaneously were also reported. These gunmen are now claimed to be working amongst the “Free Syrian Army.” As early as June, hundreds of Syrian troops had already been reported dead.

3. It is confirmed that Libya’s Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG, listed by the US State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, #26) led by Abdulhakim Belhaj is on the Turkey-Syrian border preparing militants to fight the Syrian government with the assistance of Turkey’s government. This hardly constitutes a “Syrian uprising,” but rather a foreign funded and facilitated invasion by proxy led by NATO and consisting of a very real terrorist threat.

4. Regime change in Syria was a foregone conclusion as early as 1991. General Wesley Clark in a 2007 speech in California relayed a 1991 conversation between himself and then Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz indicated that America had 5-10 years to clean up old Soviet “client regimes,” namely Syria, Iran, and Iraq, before the next super power rose up to challenge western hegemony.

5. The unrest in Syria from the beginning was entirely backed by Western corporate-financier interests and part of a long-planned agenda for region-wide regime change. Syria has been slated for regime change since as early as 1991. In 2002, then US Under Secretary of State John Bolton added Syria to the growing “Axis of Evil.” It would be later revealed that Bolton’s threats against Syria manifested themselves as covert funding and support for opposition groups inside of Syria spanning both the Bush and Obama administrations.

In an April 2011 CNN article, acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner stated, “We’re not working to undermine that [Syrian] government. What we are trying to do in Syria, through our civil society support, is to build the kind of democratic institutions, frankly, that we’re trying to do in countries around the globe. What’s different, I think, in this situation is that the Syrian government perceives this kind of assistance as a threat to its control over the Syrian people.”

Toner’s remarks came after the Washington Post released cables indicating the US has been funding Syrian opposition groups since at least 2005 and continued until today.

In an April AFP report, Michael Posner, the assistant US Secretary of State for Human Rights and Labor, stated that the “US government has budgeted $50 million in the last two years to develop new technologies to help activists protect themselves from arrest and prosecution by authoritarian governments.” The report went on to explain that the US “organized training sessions for 5,000 activists in different parts of the world. A session held in the Middle East about six weeks ago gathered activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon who returned to their countries with the aim of training their colleagues there.” Posner would add, “They went back and there’s a ripple effect.” That ripple effect of course is the “Arab Spring,” and in Syria’s case, the impetus for the current unrest threatening to unhinge the nation and invite in foreign intervention.

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With these facts in mind, viewers can fully appreciate the frothing duplicity, discourtesy, and intellectual depravity displayed by Barbra Walters who “saw pictures,” read a fraudulent UN report written by authors with ties to US corporate-financier interests, and listened to an Obama speech and therefore is an expert on the premeditated, US-facilitated chaos sweeping across parts of Syria. And even as she sits in Syria’s calm capital of Damascus, invited in by Assad who has been accused of barring foreign reporters (foreign journalist Dr. Webster Tarpley’s interview while in Syria can be found here), she still insists the nation is in utter chaos, irrationally closing itself off from the world, and with a population completely turned against the Syrian government.

For the record: Assad’s reference (at 33:30) to the 1992 LA Riots and the US using troops to restore order, it should be noted that indeed the US Army and Marines were deployed, and between military and police, they killed 10 during operations to restore order throughout the city. Barbra Walters either out of ignorance or additional duplicity, claims the US didn’t kill anyone.

The Republican presidential candidates are falling all over themselves competing for who can be the most “pro-Israel”, with Newt Gingrich taking the game to a whole new level  last week when he said in an interview with The Jewish Channel that Palestinians were an “invented” people. When asked whether he considered himself a Zionist, Gingrich responded (his emphasis):

Well, I believe that the Jewish people have the right to have a state, and I believe that the commitments that were made at the time—remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons, we have sustained this war against Israel now, since the 1940s, and it’s tragic.

Shall we take that as a “Yes”? During the ABC News Republican debate in Iowa on December 10, Gingrich defended his comments by saying:

Is what I said factually correct? Yes. Is it historically true? Yes. Are we in a situation where every day rockets are fired into Israel while the United States—the current administration—tries to pressure the Israelis into a peace process. Hamas does not admit the right of Israel to exist and says publicly, “Not a single Jew will remain.” The Palestinian Authority Ambassador to India said last month, “There is no difference between Fatah and Hamas, we both agree Israel has no right to exist.” Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, “If there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?” We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts and stand up and say, “Enough lying about the Middle East.”

Unfortunately, Newt Gingrich isn’t someone who has the guts to stand up and tell the truth, preferring instead with utmost hypocrisy to repeat numerous lies about the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Where to begin? Gingrich’s comment that the Palestinians are an “invented” people is not new. It’s simply a reiteration of old Zionist propaganda, dating back to before Israel even existed.

Chaim Weizmann, in a letter to Lord Arthur Balfour, wrote in May 1918 to say how the only guide to resolving the growing conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine was through applying what he called “the democratic principle”. Since “the brutal numbers operate against us, for there are five Arabs to one Jew”, Weizmann wrote, the “present state of affairs would necessarily tend towards the creation of an Arab Palestine, if there were an Arab people in Palestine”. His meaning was not that there were no Arabs inhabiting the land—he had just acknowledged they were a large majority—but that they didn’t meet the criteria for a “people”, and thus that their right to self-determination could be denied to them under the colonialist application of “the democratic principle”.

In 1936, David Ben-Gurion, head of the Labor faction of the Zionist movement, similarly declared that “there is no conflict between Jewish and Palestinian nationalism because the Jewish Nation is not in Palestine and the Palestinians are not a nation.” His meaning, of course, was that Palestine was not “Palestine”, but the “Jewish Nation”, which belonged not to the Arabs but entirely to the Jews, the minor problem of the Arabs constituting the majority and possessing most of the land being of no consequence, since the colonialist “democratic principle” could be applied.

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir more famously remarked in 1969, “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”

The basic logic of Gingrich’s argument about Palestine being part of the Ottoman Empire follows much along the same principle. Since the Arab inhabitants of the land never exercised sovereignty over Palestine as an independent nation before, this logic dictates, we may therefore continue to reject their right to self-determination today. Gingrich is effectively reiterating the same racist and colonialist “democratic principle”.

In the debate, Gingrich added:

The fact is the Palestinian right of return is based on a historically false story. Somebody ought to have the courage to go all the way back to the 1921 League of Nations mandate for a Jewish Homeland, point out the context in which Israel came into existence—and “Palestinian” did not become a common term until after 1977. This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage, and we refuse to tell the truth while the other side lies, and you’re not going to win in the long run if you’re afraid to stand firm and stand for the truth.

Would that Gingrich would stand for the truth, instead of lying and repeating Zionist propaganda. He claimed to be speaking “as a historian”, but his narrative is a fiction from start to finish. The truth is that the inhabitants of Palestine were known as “Palestinians” long before Israel was established. An example has already been shown, in the above quote from Ben-Gurion, who elsewhere described the Arab revolt of 1936 as “an active resistance by the Palestinians to what they regard as a usurpation of their homeland by the Jews” (emphasis added). Notice in this usage, “Palestinians” refers specifically to the Arabs, even though the term was also used to refer to native Jewish inhabitants.

Shall we dare to go back to the Palestine Mandate? We first must go back even further, to the document known as the Balfour Declaration of 1917, in which Lord Balfour said in a letter to Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild, a representative of the Zionist movement:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine….

It’s worth noting that President Wilson established a commission to examine the question of Palestine, headed by Henry Churchill King and Charles R. Crane. The King-Crane Commission report of 1919 observed, with regard to the British policy, that the creation of a Jewish state would constitute “the gravest trespass upon the ‘civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.’” In their discussions with Zionist representatives, “the fact came out repeatedly … that the Zionists looked forward to a practically complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine”. The report concluded that if the principle of self-determination was to rule, the will of the people of Palestine must be respected, and the great majority of the population was “emphatically against the entire Zionist program.”

The British government elucidated on its policy in the Churchill White Paper of June 1922, which emphasized that the Balfour Declaration had not aimed “to create a wholly Jewish Palestine”, but that the “Jewish National Home” they envisioned would be “in Palestine” (emphasis added). The paper stated further that “all citizens” of Palestine “in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian”—notice we again find the term Gingrich says didn’t come into use until 1977. The paper went on to describe its vision of what amounted to autonomous Jewish communities existing within a greater state of Palestine.

The League of Nations issued its Palestine Mandate the following month, July 1922. Although the Covenant of the League of Nations stated that the wishes of the population of occupied territories “must be a principle consideration in the selection of the Mandatory”, the Palestinians were not consulted. The Zionist Organization, on the other hand, was. In issuing the Mandate, the League of Nations included the wording that Britain “should be responsible for putting into effect the [Balfour] declaration”, the terms of which were repeated.

British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon objected strongly to the Mandate. He recognized that while his government officially did not support the establishment of a Jewish state, its policy effectively furthered that Zionist goal. “The Zionists are after a Jewish State with Arabs as hewers of wood and drawers of water,” he said. “So are many British sympathizers with the Zionists.”

That category included Lord Balfour, who had once declared to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis, “I am a Zionist”, and who admitted that despite Western rhetoric about democracy and self-determination, “in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country”.

Continuing, Curzon pointed out that British policy consisted of “flagrant” contradictions and blasting the hypocrisy of the Mandate. “Acting upon the noble principles of self-determination,” he said, the League of Nations “then proceed[ed] to draw up a document which … is an avowed constitution for a Jewish State.” In the British Parliament, Lord Sydenham, in a reply to Balfour, admonished that “the harm done by dumping down an alien population upon an Arab country … may never be remedied”. The injustice done to the Arabs would “start a running sore”, he presciently proclaimed, “and no one can tell how far that sore will extend.”

One widely propagated myth about the conflict is that Israel was created by the United Nations. While this belief is extremely popular, it is categorically false. The truth is that the report of the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine explicitly acknowledged that its majority recommendation to partition Palestine was a rejection of the Arabs’ right to self-determination. The General Assembly’s own ad-hoc committee appointed to further review UNSCOP’s majority recommendation rejected it as “contrary to the principles of the [U.N.] Charter”. The U.N., the committee observed, could not “deprive the majority of the people of Palestine of their territory and transfer it to the exclusive use of a minority in the country … in complete disregard of the wishes and interests of the Arabs of Palestine.”

The Assembly nevertheless adopted Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947. This resolution did not partition Palestine. It was merely a recommendation, which was all the General Assembly was authorized to do under the Charter. It had no legal authority to partition Palestine, and it didn’t purport to. It referred the matter to the Security Council, where it died. The Council rejected the plan because the only way to implement it would be through the use of force against the will of the majority of the population. The U.S. delegate, Warren Austin, eloquently pointed out that such a use of force would be contrary to the principles of the very Charter under which they operated.

Israel was not created by U.N. fiat in 1947. It was created on May 14, 1948 when the Zionist leadership under Ben-Gurion unilaterally declared its existence, without defining its borders. It is important to stress that Jews at that time owned only 7% of the land of Palestine, and that Resolution 181 neither partitioned Palestine nor conferred upon the Zionist leadership any legal authority for its unilateral declaration.

In the conflict that ensued, more than 750,000 Arabs were ethnically cleansed from Palestine. The right of return is an internationally recognized legal right guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, recognized explicitly in the case of Palestinian refugees first in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 of December 11, 1948.

Which brings us back to Gingrich’s remarks. When he speaks of the “commitments that were made at the time”, he is referring the Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate and the fiction that the latter constituted some kind of legal basis for the establishment of the state of Israel, which falsehood rests further upon the racist and colonialist assumption that the nations of the West somehow had the authority to take land away from the Arabs and give it to the Jews.

When he says that Palestinians “had a chance to go many places” and explicitly rejects their right of return, what he is saying is that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was a legitimate action, and that Palestinians—who apparently must have no special affinity for their birthplace or the land of their ancestors—should just accept its legitimacy.

When he says the U.S. has “sustained” a “war against Israel”, what he means is that the U.S. doesn’t recognize the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of Israel. Gingrich was joined in this sentiment onstage at the debate by fellow Zionist Rick Santorum, who said, “The Israelis have the right to determine what happens in their land, and all of Israel, including the, quote, ‘West Bank’, is Israeli land.”

The truth is that all of the West Bank—including East Jerusalem—and Gaza are “occupied Palestinian territories”, to quote from the judgment of the International Court of Justice. Israel’s annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem has been rejected by the international community as “illegal”, “null and void” in numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions, including 252, 267, 271, 298, 446, 452, 465, 471, 476, 478, 592, 605, 607, 636, 694, 726, and 799. Similarly, all of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank “have been established in breach of international law”, to quote again from the ICJ ruling. And whatever “history” and “truth” Zionists like Gingrich and Santorum would have Americans believe, the fact that all of the West Bank and Gaza are Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories under international law is completely uncontroversial.

As for Palestinian militant groups firing rockets into Israel from Gaza, Gingrich is absolutely right to condemn such violence, indiscriminate in nature and thus a war crime under international law. But what Gingrich hypocritically neglected to mention was the fact that Israel is responsible for the vast preponderance of the violence and murdering of civilians, which it carries out with full U.S. support.

Israel’s massacre in Gaza from December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009, codenamed “Operation Cast Lead”, for instance, was a U.S.-backed full-scale military assault on the civilian population perpetrated with U.S.-supplied arms, including F-16s and Apache helicopters. The U.S. took its complicity in Israel’s war crimes and other violations of international law in blocking the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, the most important of which was that the Security Council—where the U.S. exercises a veto—should refer the matter to the ICJ.

Gingrich said President Obama is guilty of pressuring Israel into the so-called “peace process”. The truth is that this is the process by which the U.S. and Israel have sought to block implementation of the international consensus on a two-state solution, which envisions a full Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-June 1967 armistice lines, with minor and mutually agreed revisions to the final border. The truth is that Obama has pressured the Palestinians to return to this “peace process”, and demanded that they do so “without preconditions”, which means while Israel’s illegal colonization of the West Bank continues. The Palestinian leadership  ultimately rightfully rejected a return to the “peace process” and its rejectionist framework in favor of turning to the international community to recognize their legal rights and legitimate political aspirations. The transparent truth of the matter, to anyone who has eyes to see or ears to hear, is that the U.S. hasn’t been waging a war on Israel for many decades, but on Palestine.

And what about Gingrich’s comment that Hamas rejects Israel’s “right to exist” and wants to expel or exterminate all the Jews? It is true that Palestinians don’t recognize that Israel has a “right to exist”. And, of course, it doesn’t. No state does. This is an absurd formulation. The proper framework for discussion is the right to self-determination, and it is this right that is being denied not to the people of Israel, but to the Palestinians. The demand that Palestinians recognize Israel’s “right to exist” is a demand that they accept that the Zionist’s unilateral declaration of the existence of the Jewish state of Israel and ethnic cleansing of Palestine (required for the state to be demographically “Jewish”) were legitimate—as Gingrich clearly himself believes. Furthermore, the truth is that Hamas’s leadership has repeatedly and for many years reiterated its willingness to accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel on the ’67 borders.

And Gingrich’s comments about Palestinians teaching their children to hate Jews, that they learn math by subtracting numbers of Jews? Glenn Kessler touched on that in his Washington Post blog, The Fact Checker, in which he stated, “We cannot immediately find evidence of the statement claimed by Gingrich.” Kessler further cites the U.S.’s own State Department as observing that “International academics concluded the [Palestinian] textbooks did not incite violence against Jews, but showed imbalance, bias, and inaccuracy”, all of which certainly applies to school textbooks in the U.S., or in Israel, for that matter. Kessler also cited the Israeli daily Haaretz observing that Israel’s education system “is hardly better than the Palestinian one when it comes to inserting political messages in textbooks.”

But let us congratulate Mr. Gingrich for at least one true statement: This is indeed a propaganda war. And let us applaud his statement that it is about time for someone to have the courage to stand up and say, “Enough lying about the Middle East!” The lying certainly does need to stop, but Mr. Gingrich should begin with the plank in his own eye.

Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and founding editor of Foreign Policy Journal. He was a recipient of the Project Censored 2010 Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his work covering the ’08-’09 Gaza Conflict. He is currently writing a book on the U.S. role, with a particular focus on the Obama administration, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

VIDEO: US Covert Ops may be First Phase of War on Iran

December 12th, 2011 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

NATO’s war against Serbia is far from over. Even before Serbia’s government, a pro-Western puppet regime, could come to a conclusion about whether or not to join NATO, NATO troops were already present on Serbian soil, more precisely in its southern province of Kosovo.


 


After the NATO bombing of the then-existing Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the agreement of Kumanovo, the installation of a UN Mission to Kosovo and the retreat of the Yugoslav army and Serbian police forces were agreed upon. In reality this has meant the expulsion of 250,000 Kosovo Serbs, Roma and other minorities by members of the NATO-hatched “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA) and other Albanian extremists, under the command of its so-called “protection force”. As a result, hundreds of civilians (many of them Albanians who opposed the KLA regime) were murdered, and in the remaining Serbian enclaves locals now lead a ghetto existence. Up to this point, only in the North of Kosovo has the Serbian population managed to lead a more or less self-determined lifestyle, thanks in no small part to the administrative border to the rest of Serbia. Nonetheless, they are increasingly isolated, impoverished and vulnerable, receiving little to no support from Serbia’s government.


 


After Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 under the leadership of alleged organ trader and recognized terrorist Hashim Thaci, the situation deteriorated further: in the manner of a Catch-22, NATO troops, known locally as “Kosovo Force” (KFOR), and the so-called “European Union Rule of Law Mission” (EULEX) were mandated to enforce the “sovereignty” of a territory which chose to separate against international laws, a process which also included the installation of Albanian customs officers along its Northern border in order to eradicate Serbian “parallel structures”.

In response, Serbian inhabitants constructed approximately 20 street barricades last July in the predominantly Serbian region of Northern Kosovo (consisting of the communities of Leposavić, Zvečan and Zubin Potok and the Northern section of Kosovska Mitrovica) in order to keep out EULEX and the “Kosovo government” frontiersmen. Clashes have already been provoked several times by KFOR soldiers who attempted to remove some of the barricades, employing the use of tear gas and truncheons against unarmed protesters.



Activists from Belgrade recently started to organise free bus trips into the Northern region of Kosovo in order to supply moral and material support to the Serbian population. The author was permitted to join one of these trips on the 26th of November, as one of approximately 200 participants. The group could be described as heterogeneous, ranging from members of Serbian youth organisations and humanitarian activists, to writers and private persons of all ages. Some of the people had roots in the different regions of the Province of Kosovo (now completely under Albanian/NATO control), such as a doctor whose father was killed by the KLA in 1999, and a young man living in Belgrade, who had to flee with his family from the provincial capital of Priština when he was still a child.


 


The administrative border of Kosovo can be passed without customs control and the Belgrade convoy arrived in Northern Mitrovica towards evening. Once there, inhabitants showed the visitors the first barricade, built with gravel and concrete, over the Ibar River that separates the Serbian North and the Albanian South of the town. Many graffiti with the label “1244” can be seen, which refers to the 1999 UN Resolution that explicitly excludes the possibility of an independent Kosovo. On the other side of the river silhouettes of pedestrians can be seen, locals who would probably never cross the few meters to the other side of town — a case which applies even more strictly in the reverse. It is not for nothing that in a nearby store, postcards with the engraving “bridge of disunion” can be purchased.



 


Barricade on the bridge dividing Northern and Southern Mitrovica
 


Northern Mitrovica is a place where civilians have become victims of assault again and again, the worst incident since 1999 being in March of 2004, when an Albanian mob killed 19 people and caused much destruction, both in the town as well as within the enclaves.



 


Barricade within the town of Mitrovica
 


While at the barricade, members of a Serbian writers’ association started to decorate the structure with hundreds of books that would later be donated to the local library. In a nearby tent tea was being served to the people to warm up during the night, while a gusle player performed for the crowd. (The gusle is a traditional South Slavic string instrument.)


 


Later several activists held speeches and a number of writers read their poetry. Volunteers were invited to donate blood for the local population. Several nearby coffee houses, as well as conversations with the bridge guards, made the night pass unexpectedly fast. The bridge guards are there to protect the people from assaults, and some have been doing their jobs already since the retreat of the Yugoslav Army in 1999. Protection has not been available from any other sources, the only exception being a group of French soldiers, who in the beginning at least tried to prevent attacks against civilians on some occasions. The German soldiers have a reputation locally that is considerably worse.

Early the next morning further excursions were organised, including visits to the localities of Rudar, Jagnjenica and Dudin Krs, where the most recent violent incidents took place a short time before the trip. Locals and soldiers are separated by barbed wire, and although the atmosphere seemed to be quiet, the previous happenings have shown that this can change rapidly.


Meters of barbed wire separate the people from NATO soldiers



With winter setting in, the question arises of what the future holds for the locals. After the 9th of December, when Serbia was denied status as an EU candidate, it can be expected that President Boris Tadić will try to strengthen pressure on the Kosovo Serbs to abandon their barricades. Tadić has his sights set on bringing Serbia closer to the European Union in order to gain the support of people who still think that Serbian membership might improve their living conditions, as the corporate media are saying. 


In fact many people across all of Serbia, facing unemployment and privatisation, say that the current government is the worst and most unsocial one they have ever had. Certainly the Kosovo Serbs cannot count on the support of President Tadić’s pro-Western government, but they do have most of Serbia’s public support on their side, as demonstrated by the convoys being sent to the barricades.



 
More makeshift barricades block the roads within Kosovo


During the trip back to Mitrovica, a cemetary catches the visitor’s eye: the names on the tombstones are all Albanian, and in stark contrast to the centuries-old Serbian Orthodox monasteries and graves that have been decimated in recent years, this place is in good shape and there are no signs of vandalism. It is also not unusual to hear people speaking in Albanian in the Serbian-majority region of Northern Mitrovica, and in fact the whole city used to be ethnically mixed before the war. 


Arguably, the lives of Albanians in what is now the Serbian-populated North seem to be more bearable than is the case for Serbs in the Albanian-dominated South: according to Serbian media there is one sole Serbian person left in Southern Mitrovica, an elderly retired woman who generally does not leave her house and receives her supply of daily goods through an Albanian colleague.


Another local ethnic group that has suffered significantly are the Roma. In June 1999, a short time after the NATO bombings, Albanian extremists burned down the “Romska Mahala” in Southern Mitrovica, which was one of the oldest Roma settlements in the Balkans. The UN administration settled them in a camp in the North, close to the famous Trepča mines. Tragically, because of lead poisoning, dozens of children became seriously ill.

The trip back to Belgrade was a time to reflect upon the experience as a whole. It is impossible to picture the population in the North of Kosovo ever accepting the reign of a force that is responsible for some of the most terrible crimes that could be imagined, from alleged organ trade and child prostitution to countless ethnically-motivated murders. Not to mention the NATO presence that dominates all of Kosovo.


 


The justified resistance of the Kosovo Serbs against a regime of globalised war, terror and poverty has to be treated as such and deserves support from across the globe. The name of Kosovska Mitrovica should stay in the memory of all engaged citizens, alongside names like Gaza, Caracas, Fallujah and the many other places where people stand up for a life of dignity.


 



People who are interested in getting more information on the issue or want to help or participate in a trip to the barricades are asked to contact Mr. John Bosnitch: [email protected]

Benjamin Schett is an independent Swiss-based researcher and student of East European History at the University of Vienna.

As we come to the end of the second half of 2011, it is evident that 15,000 billion in ghost assets have gone up in smoke since last July, just as was anticipated by LEAP/E2020 (GEAB N°56 ). And, according to our team, this process figures to continue at the same rate throughout the year to come. Indeed we estimate that, with the introduction of a 50% discount on Greek government debt, the global systemic crisis has entered a new phase: that of the generalized discount on Western public debt and its corollary, the fragmentation of the global financial markets. Our team believes that 2012 will bring an average discount of 30% of total Western public debt (1), plus an equivalent amount in loss of assets from the balance sheets of worldwide financial institutions. Specifically, LEAP/E2020 anticipates the loss of 30,000 billion ghost assets by early 2013 (2), with an acceleration in 2012 of the partitioning process of the global financial market (3) into three increasingly disconnected currency areas: Dollar, Euro, and Yuan. These two phenomena feed into each other. They will also be the cause of a sharp decline of 30% on the part of US currency in 2012 (4), as we announced last April (GEAB N°54 ), which will occur amidst a sharp reduction in demand for the US dollar and the worsening of the US governmental debt crisis. The end of 2011 will therefore see, as anticipated, the trigger of the European debt crisis detonating a US bomb.

In this GEAB N°59 we will analyze in detail this new phase of the crisis as well as the deepening US debt crisis. Moreover, we will begin to present, as indicated in previous GEABs, our forecasts about the future of the United States between 2012 and 2016 (5) starting with a fundamental aspect of Euro-US relations (and more generally the global system that has been in place since 1945), namely the strategic and military relations between the US and Europe. We have estimated that by 2017 the last US soldier will have left European continental soil. Finally, LEAP/E2020 will present its recommendations, dealing this month with currency, gold, capital-based pensions, the financial sector, and commodities.

In this public announcement we have chosen to present the various elements that will determine the next escalation of the US debt crisis, while taking stock of the October EU summit and the Cannes G20 summit.

As anticipated by LEAP/E2020 for several months, the G20 summit in Cannes turned out to be a resounding failure, resulting in no significant measures, and demonstrating an incapability of addressing the issues of change in the international financial system, global economic recovery, or reform of global governance. If the Greek question took center stage during the summit, it is partly because the latter was lacking in content to begin with. George Papandreou enabled the G20 leaders to carry on “as if” Greek affairs had interrupted their work (6), when in fact the Greek crisis allowed them to disguise their inability to craft a common agenda.

Meanwhile, the decisions of the EU summit in the week before the Cannes summit have pointed to the official emergence of Euroland (with now two fixed summits each year) (7), the primacy of which will confer de facto decision-making authority within the EU (8). The pressure from this crisis has, in the last few days, helped to build the capacities of Euroland policies, putting it on the path to greater integration (9), a prerequisite to any positive developments towards a post-crisis world (10).

Comparison of national Italian (red), German (blue), and French (gray) budgets and debts, as percentage of GDP (2002-2011) - Source: Spiegel, 10/2011
Comparison of national Italian (red), German (blue), and French (gray) budgets and debts, as percentage of GDP (2002-2011) – Source: Spiegel, 10/2011
With a government of national unity finally in place in Greece (11), a modern state must literally be built from the ground up, with a proper land registry and an effective administration enabling the Greeks to become “normal” members of Euroland, not subjects of a feudal system where prominent families and the church share the wealth and power. Thirty years after its unconditional integration into the European Community, Greece must go through a five or ten year transitional phase similar to that of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe before their EU accession: painful, but inevitable.

Italy, meanwhile, has managed to rid itself of a leader altogether typical of the world before the crisis, characterized by his “bling”, his racketeering, his unscrupulous acquisition of money, his unfounded self-satisfaction, his hold on the media, his constant Euro-criticism and junk nationalism (12), not to mention his overflowing libido. The scenes of joy in the streets of Italy show not all is wrong with this global systemic crisis! As we indicated in the previous GEAB, we believe that 2012 will for Euroland be a year of transition on the road to building the world after the crisis, instead of just suffering the woes of the collapsing system.

At the same time the United Kingdom has basically been kicked out of the Euroland meetings (13). EU members outside the Eurozone have backed Euroland in refusing to support the British proposal concerning the right of the 27 to veto Euroland decisions. The United Kingdom’s drift has been boosted by the efforts of British Eurosceptics (generally the foot soldiers of the City) (14) to try to sever as quickly as possible the strongest ties with continental Europe (15). Far from being proof of their policy’s success, it is rather an admission of complete failure (16). After twenty years of continuous efforts, they failed to disrupt the European integration process, which has been revived by the pressures of the crisis. So they are now “dropping hawsers” out of a fear – well founded, by the way (17) – of seeing the UK absorbed into Euroland by the end of this decade (18).

All told, it is a desperate march forward which, as pointed out by Will Hutton in a remarkably lucid article in the Guardian on 30/10/2011, can only lead the UK towards a break with a Scotland seeking to recover not only its independence (19) but also its European anchorage, and towards the socio-economic condition of an off-shore financial market without social protection (20) or an industrial base (21): in sum, a Dis-United Kingdom adrift (22).

And with its US ally in dire straits itself, that drift may drag on for years, to the great misfortune of a British people growing increasingly discontented with the City. Even veterans are beginning to join the Occupy the City movement (23); obviously, on this point, there is a convergence between the views of the British people and those of Euroland!

For consolation, British financiers can say that they hold the largest proportion of Japanese state assets outside of Japan, but when the IMF warns Japan of the systemic risk of maintaining public debt above 200% of GDP (24), is that such a consolation?

Japanese asset allocation (United States, United Kingdom, Euroland, China, Asia), in (1) percentage of countries’ GDP and (2) percentage of total foreign assets - Source: European Central Bank, 06/2011
Japanese asset allocation (United States, United Kingdom, Euroland, China, Asia), in (1) percentage of countries’ GDP and (2) percentage of total foreign assets – Source: European Central Bank, 06/2011
Speaking of public debt, it is time to turn to the United States. The coming weeks figure to remind the world that it is this country, not Greece, that is at the epicenter of the global systemic crisis. In one week’s time, on November 23, the Congressional “Supercommittee” in charge of reducing the US federal deficit will admit its failure to find 1,500 billion US dollars in savings over ten years. Each side is already crafting arguments that will blame the other side (25). As for Barack Obama, apart from his televised simpering with Nicolas Sarkozy, he now contemplates the situation passively, while noting that Congress has torn into pieces his grand jobs project introduced only 2 months ago (26). And it is not the utterly unrealistic announcement of a new Pacific Customs Union (excluding China) (27) on the eve of an APEC summit where Chinese and Americans are expected to confront one another harshly, which will enhance his stature as head of state, let alone his chances for reelection.

The predictable failure of the “Supercommittee”, which reflects the overall paralysis of the US federal political system, will have an immediate and drastic consequence: a new series of credit ratings deteriorations. The Chinese agency Dagon has opened fire, confirming that it would once again lower the rating upon the failure of the “Supercommittee” (28). S&P will probably lower one more time the US rating, and Moody’s and Fitch will have then no other choice but to get on board, having given the US a reprieve until the end of the year under condition of effective results in terms of public deficit reduction. Incidentally, in order to dilute the flow of negative information in this regard, it is likely that there will be an attempt to reinforce the public debt crisis in Europe (29) by lowering France’s rating in order to weaken the European Financial Stability Fund (30).

All of this makes for an eventful season for the financial and monetary markets, casting severe blows on Western banking systems and, beyond that, on all US T-Bond holders. But beyond the failure of the “Supercommittee” to reduce the federal deficit, the entire US pyramid of debt will be thoroughly examined, in a context of global – and of course US – recession : falling tax revenues, unemployment increases, increases in the number of unemployed no longer receiving benefits (31), further drops in home values, etc.

US (in red) and Greek (in blue) private sector as a percentage of GDP (2000-2010) - Source: SuddenDebt, 03/2011
US (in red) and Greek (in blue) private sector as a percentage of GDP (2000-2010) – Source: SuddenDebt, 03/2011
Let’s keep in mind that the state of US private debt is far worse than in Greece! In this context, we are not far from a panic-inducing situation abount the United States’s capacity to repay its debt other than with a devalued currency. The end of 2011, then, will see many US debt-holders seriously considering this ability and of the precise moment when it might suddenly be called into question by all financial players (32).

What could the United States offer after the failure of its “Supercommittee”? Not much, particularly in an election year! On the one hand it was created because other actions were not working, and on the other the issue is not so much one of amount but of the very ability to undertake a significant and sustained reduction. The failure of the “Supercommittee” will rightly be seen as evidence of this inability of the US in tacking the deficit problem.

In terms of the amounts at stake, a quick calculation by a USreader of GEAB gives some sense of how much the “efforts” undertaken to reduce the budget deficit are ridiculous in relation to the needs : Treating the US federal budget as that of a household, things become abundantly clear. Simply remove 8 zeros for budget that comes to mean something for the average citizen:

Annual household income (income tax): + 21,700
Family expenses (federal budget): + 38,200
New credit card debt (new debt): + 16,500
Past credit card debt (federal debt): + 142,710
Budget cuts already made: – 385
Budget reduction targets of the Supercommittee (for one year): – 1,500

As can easily be seen, the Supercommitte (like Congress last August) cannot even agree to a 10% reduction … of the annual increase in federal debt. This is how it is: unlike in Europe, which, over the months, has introduced new mechanisms and takes steps to reduce expenditures and debts (33), the US continues to run full speed into increasing debt. As a matter of fact, ni the next semester, Washington plans to issue 846 billion US dollars worth of Treasury bonds, 35% more than this time last year (34).

September 2011: Beginning of the loss of confidence by foreign central banks with respect to US Treasury – Trends in foreign central bank transactions concerning US Treasury and agency holdings (2000-2011) (in brown: monthly increases / green line: above, central banks are buying; below, they are selling Treasury bonds) - Source: CaseyResearch, 10/2011

September 2011: Beginning of the loss of confidence by foreign central banks with respect to US Treasury – Trends in foreign central bank transactions concerning US Treasury and agency holdings (2000-2011) (in brown: monthly increases / green line: above, central banks are buying; below, they are selling Treasury bonds) – Source: CaseyResearch, 10/2011
With the failure of the MF Global investment fund, we have seen that Wall Street titans can crumble at once due to errors made regarding public debt trends in Europe. Jon Corzine is no Bernard Madoff. In moral terms, he is perhaps close, but as for the rest, there is no comparison. Madoff was a Wall Street maverick, but Corzine was a member of the aristocracy: former CEO of Goldman Sachs, former governor of New Jersey, main donor to the Obama 2012 presidential campaign, sensed to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary last August (35), and one of the “creators” of Obama back in 2004 (36). This affair goes to the heart of the incestuous relationship between Wall Street Washington, one which is now being denounced by a majority of Americans (37).

In August, it appeared as if he was untouchable, on top of Wall Street; nevertheless he was completely mistaken about the course of events. He believed that the world had not changed, and that private creditors would continue to be paid “cash on the barrelhead”. The result: huge losses, bankruptcy, innumerable customers bilked, and 1,600 employers out on the street (38).

We announced in the previous GEAB that we have entered a phase involving the decimation of Western banks. This phase is truly in swing, and customers of all financial operators (banks, insurance companies, investment funds, pension funds) (39) are now questioning the soundness of these institutions. As is evident from the Corzine affair, they should not assume that these institutions are a priori stronger than others just because they or their leaders are famous or enjoying a strong reputation (40). It is not knowledge of the rules of the financial game of yesterday, which formed those reputations, that now counts; but rather it is the understanding that the rules have changed that has become crucial.

 
Notes

(1) Amounting to 45,000 billion USD in the US, the UK, Japan, and the Euroland alone.

(2) As the crisis worsens, the greater the amount of phantom assets increases. This process will continue until we can find a ratio of financial assets to real assets consistent with sustainable socio-economic functioning, somewhere around the ratios from the years 1950-1970.

(3) Engagement with the Greek debt crisis means a quick release of the financial system in Euroland from of the Dollar. The fact that this process was initiated originally by Wall Street and the City in order to “break” the Eurozone only illustrates on the one hand the irony of history, and on the other that at the end of the day all of the actions of world players are coming back to haunt them.

(4) Even the Financial Times recognizes that the Dollar has become more fragile than the Euro. Source: FT, 04/11/2011.

(5) Our predictions regarding the EU and Euroland will be featured in an upcoming edition of GEAB.

(6) The only thing that has been seriously disrupted by the Greek situation is French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to use the European and G20 summits as a double springboard to try to regain credibility with the French. This proved, however, a double failure. Far from having been resolved, as he had announced on television, the Greek crisis exploded again on the eve of the G20, handing the summit’s organizer a note reading: zero! LEAP/E2020 takes this opportunity to reiterate its prediction of 15 November 2010 (GEAB N°49, maintaining that the candidate of the UMP (Sarkozy or otherwise) will not participate in the second round of 2012 French presidential election, which will be decided between the candidate of the Socialist Party, François Hollande, and the candidate of the National Front, Marine Le Pen.

(7) And we can only note that it is decision-makers from the European level (Mario Monti, the Italian former European Commissioner, and Lucas Papademos, Greece’s former Vice-President of the ECB) who, in Greece and Italy, are taking the reins power, this providing another signal of the Eurozone’s accelerating integration – including at the political leve. This will also reinforce the urgent need of institutional reforms for democratic governance in Euroland, since people will not accept for more than a year that these developments take place as they stand as mere spectators. Note that the majority of Germans, French, Italian, Spanish, etc. have not found aberrant the Greek proposals for a referendum on anti-crisis measures, unlike their leaders. Without realizing it, George Papandreou has probably greatly increased the demand for a future referendum on the trans-Euroland governance of the Eurozone by 2014/2015. For more, see Franck Biancheri’s article published in the Forum Anticipolis, 06/10/2011

(8) The UK pays an immediate price (as we discuss in this GEAB), with its marginalization confirmed and reinforced, losing all its ability to influence Euroland. As a sign of the times, Nicolas Sarkozy has severely rebuked David Cameron, saying that the leaders of the Eurozone were tired of hearing Cameron’s advice for the proper management of the Euro while being fundamentally against the European currency. Nicolas Sarkozy being only strong with the weak, this is an indicia of the extent to which Cameron has fallen. Source: AlJazeera, 24/10/2011

(9) Source: Business Week, 14/11/2011

(10) This does not mean that LEAP/E2020 believes that the situation is fine in Euroland as a whole, with the EU already in recession (like the United States for that matter), with the challenge of public debt still open even if the tools to address the problem are multiplying (including new public debt discounts), and with popular anger, as elsewhere in the world, being amplified, in particular in countries where no political alternative seems possible. Sources: Le Monde, 17/10/2011; Libération, 18/10/2011; La Tribune, 07/11/2011; ANSA, 08/11/2011; Spiegel, 11/11/2011; Les Affaires, 10/11/2011

(11) A historic premiere. Source: Spiegel, 07/11/2011

(12) Both trends generally go together with political leaders. Their Euroscepticism is mostly the ideological dressing of a much more down-to-earth reality: their desire to continue to wield power as they wish in their country. From Vaclav Klaus in the Czech Republic to the conservative Eurosceptics in the UK, and from Berlusconi’s Euro-criticism to that of the Swedish Eurosceptics elite, one thing is in common: let us do as we wish in our country, and do not come and disrupt our citizenry with external ideas. To influence public opinion, just change the majestic “we” to a collective one, and make the people believe that it is their own power that European integration will challenge! This, in general, works rather well, given the current number of citizens who rightly resent the lack of democratic debate on the financial mechanisms in place in Euroland to manage the crisis, and who raise hue and cry along with the Eurosceptic leaders of their countries … when in fact they often have no idea how these same mechanisms work in their own country. Take the example of France, where those who have denounced the interplay between private banks and state debt under the Treaty of Maastricht are unaware that that was already the case in France since 1973!

(13) Source: Spiegel, 31/10/2011

(14) A “City” that David Cameron described as “under siege” by Euroland. Incidentally, this declaration by the British prime minister confirms that there is indeed a war between the City and the Euro, contrary to what the Anglo-Saxon media has to say. Source: Telegraph, 28/10/2011

(15) Source: Telegraph, 28/10/2011

(16) Source: Guardian, 23/10/2011

(17) According to LEAP/E2020, the inevitable failure of the British “Sonderweg” by 2020 will lead England to end up doing like Scotland and Wales, who will refuse to follow “road to nowhere”… not even to America. Moreover, even in the Eurosceptic Daily Telegraph, where the quality of analysis is often able to overcome its ideology, mention is made that a crisis in Euroland will deepen that of the UK. Source: Telegraph, 09/11/2011

(18) This hysterical British attitude towards Euroland integration (called, over the Channel, the “Euro-crisis”) is marked by delusional fantasies published in the mainstream press, combining nostalgia for the victory of 1945 with a vulnerable sentiment without precedent in Great Britain, due to which the Franco-German axis becomes a war machine aimed at Britain. In this genre, the article published 31/10/2011 in the Daily Mail is a must–read. In the same manner, the Telegraph could not resist writing in a 22/10/2011 article about the “new European empire.”

(19) The former British army chief is even considering opening the debate on future Scottish armed forces in light of the proposed referendum on independence coming in three to four years. Source: GoogleNews, 18/10/2011

(20) With massive unemployment, and youth left to their own devices without education, work, or future prospects. Sources: Guardian, 14/11/2011; Telegraph, 14/11/2011

(21) Source: Telegraph, 01/11/2011

(22) … which will continue its descent in the classification of the most important economies on the planet, with Brazil poised to overtake the UK this year. With the financial crisis continuing, the decline of the City will considerably reduce the size of the UK economy, which depends so much on this world financial center. Source: Telegraph, 31/10/2011

(23) Source: Guardian, 12/11/2011

(24) Bear in mind that public debt in Italy is only equal to 120% of its GDP. Source: Ahram, 12/11/2011

(25) Source: New York Times, 08/11/2011.

(26) Source: Newsdaily, 03/11/2011

(27) Aside from the absence of China in such a project, the announcement of this declaration of intention was without any detailed foundation, leaving concrete aspects for later. But these are “promises made”: there will be a customs union! Hollywood film scenarios are often unrealistic, but this is something of a fairy tale.

(28) Source: Guardian, 12/11/2011

(29) Even the most moderate of voices, like Jean-Pierre Jouyet, president of the French Authority of Financial Markets, now recognizes that there is a war between the Dollar and the Euro. Source: JDD, 12/11/2011

(30) This will result, in order of increasing importance, in the reduction of the electoral prospects for Nicolas Sarkozy, the acceleration of financial and fiscal integration in Euroland, and the advancement of the idea of a large Euoland public borrowing to disengage, once and for all, from the Anglo-Saxon financial markets. This last option will, according to our team, be put into place by the first half of 2013. We will discuss its nature in another GEAB.

(31) Leaving the unemployment system gives an impression of improvement on this front – we will not return to the issue of the reliability of US unemployment statistics, which has been addressed previously in GEAB. Two facts can be acknowledged, however: last year at this time 75% of the unemployed were receiving benefits, as opposed to 48% today; and more than 26 million Americans are now considered under-employed, a historic record. Sources: CNBC, 05/11/2011; Business Insider, 20/10/2011

(32) These phenomena, being essentially psychological, can manifest suddenly.

(33) Except in France, where Nicolas Sarkozy, alongside his Prime Minister François Fillon, have continued to degrade public finances, multiplying miniature measures with little long-term efficiency in the hopes of contributing to reelection. The European Commission has been sounding alarms on this very subject.

(34) This alone is three times the total public debt of Greece before discount! Source: ZeroHedge, 01/11/2011

(35) Source: New American, 05/08/2011

(36) Another common ground between Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy, two representatives of the world before the crisis: their intimacy with the financial sector. Sources: Le Monde, 22/10/2011 ; Minyanville, 04/11/2011

(37) And this failure shows that everything continues in Wall Street as before 2008, despite the so-called financial sector control measures adopted by US authorities. This scandal will have a profound impact on the 2012 US elections. Sources: CNBC, 01/11/2011; USAToday, 18/10/2011

(38) Source: FINS, 11/11/2011

(39) For example, ABP, the largest pension fund in the Netherlands, will have to reduce its payments to retirees because of losses in recent months. This is a very real consequence of the disappearance of ghost assets.

(40) One can notice a growing concern amongst investors and investing firms in New York and London. Source: Huffington Post, 12/11/2011

Mercredi 16 Novembre 2011

“When you own a big chunk of the bloody Third World, the babies just come with the scenery.”  Pretenders, “Middle of the Road”

On November 24, 2011, while many of the more privileged humans on Planet Earth marked Thanksgiving—with or without a dead turkey, with or without awareness of the near-extermination of the indigenous population—a US-taxpayer subsidized air strike in southern Afghanistan killed seven civilians. Six of them were children.

The Afghani kids who’ve so far avoided death-by-drone are hardly better off. A decade after the illegal and immoral US-led invasion, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world—257 deaths per 1,000 live births—while 70% of the population lacks access to clean water.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, it’s been found that one in seven US drone strikes result in a child fatality.

And we have the balls to wonder: Why do they hate us?

Madeleine Albright sez: “The United States is good. We try to do our best everywhere.”

Ward Churchill sez: “Stop killing our kids, if you want your own to be safe.”

What’s that? You’re not killing anybody’s kids? Au contraire, mon ami

With 54% of US tax dollars going to the military, the vast majority of Americans have contributed to enough murders to make Kissinger blush.

Exhibit A: The US-enforced sanctions imposed on Iraq from August 1990 and to November 2003—sanctions that were responsible at one point for the deaths of 300 Iraqi children a day.

Did the 1% (of either party) flinch at such carnage?

On the May 12, 1996 edition of 60 Minutes, then US Ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright had the following exchange with Leslie Stahl:

Stahl: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And—and you know, is the price worth it?”

Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice but the price—we think the price is worth it.”

Shortly afterwards, noted liberal savoir Bill Clinton named Albright as his Secretary of State. In the world of the 1%, killing brown children by the hundreds of thousands, it seems, is a real boost for the resume.

Howard Zinn sez: “I wonder how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own.”

It’s not just foreign policy, Howie.

Whether the figurehead calls himself Republican or Democrat, US hegemony and corporate imperialism has helped cultivate and sustain a global culture that produces hunger-related numbers like this:

  • Under-nutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.
  • One out of four children—roughly 146 million—in developing countries is underweight
  • More than 70% of the world’s underweight children (aged five or less) live in just 10 countries, with more than 50% located in South Asia alone
  • 10.9 million children under five die in developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60% of the deaths

Overall, somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 children under the age of five die each day from preventable causes.

Neil Young sez: “There’s one more kid that will never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool.”

So, where do you stand on all this? Do you block it out or does it keep you up at night? Do you want to live in a society where children are made to suffer and die so that 1% of humanity can accumulate vast material wealth? If not, why aren’t you fighting back?

You may think the Occupy protesters are unwashed or lazy but they’re fighting for those kids.

You may think this is not your fight or believe you don’t have the time or energy to get involved. You may have even convinced yourself that time is not running out.

You just might expect an elected official to do the fighting for you.

Well, the latest liberal savoir, Barack Obama, made his position quite clear on the day he was sworn into office: “We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense.”

Mic Check…

We must make our position equally as clear. We must also refuse to apologize for the changes we seek, for the justice we demand, for the children we wish to save.

We must never apologize for our way of life…nor can we ever again waver in its defense. It’s now or never…

Arundhati Roy sez: “Once you see it, you can’t un-see it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”

Please open our eyes and see and if you can’t find a reason to fight for yourself, then just do it for the children.

We are the 99%. Expect us. Join us…

#OccupyParticipation. #OccupyEndurance. #Occupy4Children.

Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook.

El ejército chino  ha realizado maniobras militares muy importantes cerca de Pakistán para responder al aumento de tropas americanas en la región, ya que un alto funcionario del gobierno chino advirtió que cualquier amenaza para Pakistán sería considerada como una amenaza directa a China.

Citando un informe de la Televisión Central china Junshija, un funcionario anónimo del gobierno advirtió que “cualquier amenaza para Pakistán es una amenaza para China”, en respuesta al recrudecimiento de hostilidad que Estados Unidos y la OTAN dirigieron hacia Pakistán, y a que la OTAN mató a 26 soldados pakistaníes la semana pasada.

Pakistán ha respondido al ataque aéreo cerrando su frontera con Afganistán impidiendo así que los suministros lleguen al país ocupado por Estados Unidos.

Según el informe, los Estados Unidos están concentrando tropas en la frontera pakistaní en un acto de agresión que China ve como un ataque directo a su estrecha alianza con el país. En respuesta a esta situación, China ha enviado recientemente en el noroeste de la meseta, cerca de Pakistán, una buena parte del segundo regimiento de artillería del Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL) con sofisticados DF-21C y misiles tácticos de corto alcance DF-11 con el fin de hacer ejercicios militares importantes cuya meta es mostrar la “actitud de China hacia la amenaza de los Estados Unidos a Pakistán”.

Los ejercicios se llevaron a cabo del 14 al 27 de noviembre e implicaron a las tropas pakistaníes. Estas informaciones provienen de varias fuentes de noticias chinas.

El informe hace especial hincapié en la posición de China afirmando que su alianza con Pakistán representa una “fraternidad” y que “China nunca estará en paz si Pakistán se pierde”.

“A nivel militar, China llevará a cabo importantes ejercicios de combate en el desierto de Pakistán el 16”, declara el informe traducido. “América siempre ha deseado Pakistán, especialmente en los últimos años. Mientras la guerra americana se prolonga en Afganistán y que acciones militares contra la determinación de Irán se hacen cada vez más probables, la amenaza de confrontación con China aumenta también, y Pakistán es el lugar para Estados Unidos para obtener una ventaja militar estratégica y geográfica”. 

Como se informó anteriormente, mientras que la retórica de los medios chinos en lengua inglesa habla de hostilidades hacia Pakistán e Irán de manera moderada, los debates que tienen lugar en China se hacen de manera mucho más bélica. 

En respuesta a una creciente hostilidad occidental hacia Irán, el Mayor General Zhang Zhaozhong comentó que “China no dudará en proteger a Irán, incluso si desencadenase una tercera guerra mundial”. Estos comentarios provocan muchos debates en China.

El tema de Irán se discute también en el informe de los medios de comunicación chinos. No se recomienda ningún asalto militar occidental en Irán. China quiso ejercer una presión a este propósito a través de la demostración de la potencia de sus recientes maniobras militares. El embajador chino ante la ONU ha advertido al director general de la IAEA, YukiyaAmano, de no crear pruebas “sin fundamento” para justificar un ataque contra Irán en nombre de detener su controvertido programa nuclear.

Texto en francés: http://www.mondialisation.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27999

Traduzido por Stéphanie Dehorter para Mondialisation.ca

Pakistan: U.S. Challenged As NATO Surrounds Iran

December 12th, 2011 by M. K. Bhadrakumar

The United States-Pakistan relationship has reached a turning point reminiscent of the run-up to October 1958, when Washington encouraged General Ayub Khan’s coup, apprehending the coming into power of an elected government in Pakistan that might have refused to collaborate as the US’s Cold War ally against the Soviet Union.

An innocuous-looking thing happened on Sunday – Pakistan regained possession of the Shamsi air base in Balochistan near the border with Iran after evicting the US military presence from there. The base itself had been leased to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since 1992.

The event is at once symbolic and tactical, while at the same time highly strategic even as war clouds are on the horizon over Iran. Symbolic in the sense that it is an assertion of Pakistan’s sovereignty; tactical because the US war strategy, which heavily depended on the drone attacks on North Waziristan, will now have to be reworked. Is the drone era in the Afghan war coming to a brusque end?

However, in all of this, what needs some careful analysis is why the US’s eviction from Shamsi holds strategic implications.

A mild stimulus

Washington initially viewed Islamabad’s decision to expel the US personnel and drone systems from Shamsi with disbelief as a knee-jerk reaction by the Pakistani generals upset over the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) air strike on the border post at Salala in the Mohmand Agency on November 26, which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Thus, Washington pressed its ally the UAE into a mediatory role.

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zeyed al-Nahyan met President Asif Ali Zardari to seek revocation of the Pakistani decision or at least an extension of the 15-day deadline, but returned empty-handed. On getting the bad news from the sheikh, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, which was followed by a call a day later by President Barack Obama to Zardari.

Both Clinton and Obama drew a blank and thereafter the Pentagon reluctantly began the evacuation from Shamsi.

Clearly, the US underestimated the downstream consequences of the November 26 attack on Pakistan. Pakistani director general of military operations, Major General Ashfaq Nadeem told the federal cabinet and the parliament’s defense committee last week in a detailed briefing in Islamabad that the NATO attack bore the hallmark of a well-planned “plot” by the US and NATO command in Afghanistan.

If the likely US intention was to “engage” the Pakistani military leadership with a mild stimulus of “shock and awe”, it proved counter-productive. The civil-military leadership in Pakistan still continues to talk in the same voice. Gilani’s “ex-post facto” endorsement of army chief General Ashfaq Kiani’s decision to deploy the defense systems on the Afghan border to “detect any aircraft or helicopter and to shoot it down”, at their meeting in Islamabad on Saturday is the latest evidence of this.

But the crux of the matter is that the Obama administration has once again ceded policy to the Pentagon. With the Central Intelligence Agency also headed by an army general, David Petraeus, the Pentagon is pushing through a long-term military presence in Afghanistan although a political solution is Obama’s stated goal. The US military aims to step up the fighting. The “drawdown” strategy outlined by Obama last year is being conveniently reinterpreted for this purpose.

The US’s most recent statements have shed the strategic ambiguity over the “drawdown” and it is now crystal clear that tens of thousands of American combat troops are after all going to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014 for an indeterminate future in addition to the trainers and advisers devoted to “capacity-building” of the Afghan armed forces.

The New York Times noted that Pentagon had been “quietly pushing” for this policy shift for some time. In essence, even as the negotiations over the US-Afghan strategic pact paving the way for the establishment of American military bases in Afghanistan have come to the final stage, the US is discarding the strategic ambiguity about the scope and nature of its long-term military presence.

Demand-driven partnership

This shouldn’t have come as a surprise. But Pakistan is facing a difficult situation. Contrary to Pakistan’s line of thinking that the military path is futile, the US is sticking to the “fight-talk” approach, which is to go on fighting while exploring the scope for opening talks with a militarily degraded Taliban from a position of strength.

Two, the US is not willing to concede a central role for Pakistan in the peace talks and is non-committal about Pakistan’s wish to have a “friendly” government in Kabul, because it seeks to choreograph a settlement that first and foremost would meet the needs of its regional strategies.

Three, paradoxical as it may seem, the continued fighting actually suits the US in the coming period, because it not only provides the justification for the long-term deployment of combat troops in Afghanistan despite regional (and Afghan) opposition but also gives the raison d’etre for the Northern Distribution Network (read US-NATO military presence in Central Asia), which Russia is showing signs of linking to the resolution of the dispute over the US’s missile defense system and the dissipation of the US-Russia “reset”.

Over and above all this, Obama’s decision to keep a large force of combat troops in Afghanistan needs to be viewed against the backdrop of the growing tensions in the US-Iran relations. In the eventuality of any conflict with Iran in a near future, this sort of massive military presence on Iran’s eastern flank would be a great strategic asset for the US and NATO.

Make no mistake, the US intends to use the military bases in Afghanistan as a springboard to invade eastern Iran if conflict erupts, no matter what President Hamid Karzai may think or say. By the way, Shamsi is also key air base close to the Iran border. Unsurprisingly, NATO is considering a “joint center” in the Persian Gulf region with the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Thus, the US hopes to “box in” Iran militarily from the Persian Gulf on one side and Afghanistan on the other.

Indeed, NATO is fast transforming as a “smart alliance” based on a security partnership between the 28 members and the rest of the world, thanks to the military intervention in Libya. Ivo Daalder, the US ambassador to NATO, put it explicitly in a recent briefing:

“The Libya operation was a logical outflow of the view that we need to have partnerships with countries around the world…The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Morocco not only supported the operation, but also participated in it … Lebanon was also a key in the operation, as it was president of the UN Security Council at that time and enacted the 1973 resolution…This is a demand-driven partnership. A demand by Arab countries.”

All in all, therefore, the “hidden agenda” of the Afghan war is out in the open. Pakistan finds itself between the devil and the deep blue sea. First of all, the Pakistani military distrusts the US’s intentions behind such large-scale intelligence penetration of its security apparatus in the recent years under the pretext of the “war on terror”, including the Inter-Services Intelligence and the military. In particular, the military leadership fears that the US harbors intentions of seizing Pakistan’s nuclear assets at an opportune moment.

Obama’s unprecedented decision to promote Petraeus as the Central Intelligence Agency head rang alarm bells in the Pakistani mind. Second, US interests and priorities in Afghanistan are increasingly in conflict with Pakistan’s. Third, Pakistan simply cannot afford to alienate China and Iran (or Russia for that matter). Finally, the US will sooner or later deploy its missile defense system in the region, which will threaten Pakistan’s strategic capability.

Shaking the albatross

The message of the US strike of November 26 was a test case intended to “soften up” the Pakistani military leadership and compel it to fall in line with the US’s strategy. Sheikh Nahyan tried to talk some good sense into the minds of the Pakistani generals. But the Shamsi episode underscores that the contradiction in US-Pakistan relations is far too acute to be reconciled easily or in a near term.

The point is, it is turning out to be contradiction of a fundamental character. The implications are serious. Pakistan is “obstructing” the US’s regional strategy. Put differently, Pakistan is a vital cog in the wheel of the US strategy.

Pakistan dissociated openly from the agenda of the recent Istanbul conference (November 2), which aimed at creating an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe-type regional security mechanism for Central and South Asia and launching the New Silk Road project aimed at rolling back Russian and Chinese influence in Central Asia. Pakistan also boycotted the Bonn conference (December 5) that was expected to legitimize the long-term US military presence in Afghanistan. To be sure, the two events floundered.

Washington is now left guessing whether Pakistan’s strategic defiance is for real. Its historical experience is that the Pakistani elites eventually buckle under American pressure. But the “strategic defiance” over Shamsi would come as a surprise. Meanwhile, by ceding Afghan policy to the Pentagon (and CIA), Obama has taken the precaution of minimizing the scope of this problem area causing controversy during his re-election bid next year. Petraeus is also well liked by the Republicans.

This is an “Ayub-Khan moment” in the US-Pakistan relationship. Once again, popular opinion in Pakistan threatens to intrude into the relationship. But then, there are key differences, too. Kiani is far from the jovial Sandhurst-trained general Ayub Khan was, who was fond of his drink and all good things in life and was used to obeying orders.

Besides, China is not only not the Soviet Union or an adversary of Pakistan, but is in reality its one and only “all-weather friend”. How can or why should Pakistan possibly collaborate with the US’s containment strategy toward China?

The most important difference between 1958 and 2011, however, is, firstly, that Kiani’s “nativist traditions” require him to act within the collegium of corps commanders who are acutely conscious of the mood within the armed forces, which is that Pakistan should shake off the albatross that was hung around its neck in late 2001.

Second, the Pakistani army is taking great and meticulous care that while traversing the shark-infested waters in the months ahead, it holds the hands of the country’s civilian leadership at every stage, every moment.

The challenge facing the US is to locate an Ayub Khan, but it is an improbable challenge.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

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Según numerosos informes de organizaciones humanitarias, de medias occidentales y de la ONU, un gran número de manifestantes pacíficos fueron asesinados por las fuerzas sirias desde el principio de las perturbaciones en el país a mitad de marzo. Pero ¿de dónde surgen estas cifras?

Muchos informes sobre la supuesta represión sangrienta por el gobierno sirio no mencionan la fuente de sus informaciones y repetidas veces sólo hacen referencia a “grupos de defensa de los  derechos humanos” o a “activistas”:

“Grupos de defensa de los derechos humanos afirmaron el domingo que tropas reprimieron a manifestantes pacíficos matando a ocho personas en la provincia norteña de Idlib y a otros cuatro en zonas centrales cerca de Hama. (Syrian Forces Kill 12 as ICRC Head Visits Damascus, 4 de septiembre de 2011.)Estas manifestaciones representan un desafío sin precedentes del presidente Bachar Al-Assad y de su familia que gobierna el país desde hace más de 40 años. Los costes son muy altos: muchos ciberactivistas han sido encarcelados y, según grupos de defensa de los derechos humanos, por lo menos 200 personas murieron. (Deborah Amos, Syrian Activist In Hiding Presses Mission From Abroad, NPR, 22 de abril de 2011.)

Activistas de los derechos humanos han informado a Amnistía Internacional que al menos 75 personas fueron asesinadas hoy en Siria en importantes manifestaciones […]

Treinta personas fueron asesinadas en el sur de la ciudad de Izzra, 22 en Damas, 18 en la región de Homs y el resto en otras ciudades y pueblos, afirmaron los activistas […] (Scores killed in Syria as ‘Great Friday’ protests are attacked, Amnesty Internacional, 22 de abril de 2011.)

En ciertas circunstancias, uno puede entender la necesidad de ser “anónimo” cuando se dice que la disidencia constituye un peligro de muerte. Sin embargo, esta actitud siembra automáticamente la duda: las “cifras” pueden ser utilizadas para denigrar al gobierno como parte de las operaciones encubiertas de los Estados u organizaciones interesados en un cambio de régimen en Damas. Está claro que varias potencias extranjeras, de las cuales los Estados Unidos e Israel, quieren desde hace mucho tiempo derrocar al régimen sirio.

La confianza que los medios de comunicación dan a esta información de grupos anónimos transmite una comprensión sesgada de las manifestaciones en Siria, apoyando el objetivo más amplio de desestabilización del régimen sirio.

Cuando informaciones sobre el número de muertos de fuentes anónimas están publicadas por un media dominante o un organismo de defensa de los derechos humanos reconocido, estas informaciones se transmiten “como pruebas” por otras fuentes de informaciones o cajas de reflexión, y eso sin ninguna averiguación. Además, de paso, la información está sujeta a la deformación. He aquí un ejemplo de este fenómeno:

El grupo de defensa de los derechos humanos Amnistía Internacional dijo el viernes que había registrado los nombres de 171 personas asesinadas desde que murieron los primeros manifestantes en Daraa el 18 de marzo.  

El grupo se basó en informaciones dada por activistas de derechos humanos, abogados y otras fuentes, y dijo que la mayoría de la gente parecía haber sido asesinada a tiros por las fuerzas de seguridad. (Protesters killed in southern Syria, Al Jazeera, 9 de abril de 2011.)

El artículo anterior se basa en la siguiente declaración:

Tras la muerte de al menos otras ocho personas durante las manifestaciones, Amnistía Internacional señaló hoy que al menos 171 personas fueron asesinadas durante las tres semanas de disturbios sociales en Siria.

Hoy el número de víctimas de los enfrentamientos podría aumentar dramáticamente según los informes de activistas de los derechos humanos en el país.

Amnistía Internacional ha registrado los nombres de 171 personas asesinadas. Las informaciones vienen de fuentes incluyendo a activistas para los derechos humanos y abogados. (Death toll rises amid fresh Syrian protests, Amnesty International, 8 de abril de 2011.)

La información inicial de Amnistía Internacional (AI) afirma que “171 personas habrían sido asesinadas”, esta información demuestra que aunque ha “registrado los nombres de 171 personas asesinadas”, la organización no pudo confirmar esta información. Al Jazeera omite esta “incertidumbre” y describe así como un hecho la suposición de que 171 personas fueron asesinadas.

He aquí otro ejemplo de este tipo de deformación:

A pesar de que prometió poner fin a la represión, las fuerzas de seguridad sirias han seguido suprimiendo a manifestantes antirégimen, matando por lo menos a 18 personas el jueves en la ciudad de Homs (al-Jazeera) (sic). (Jonathan Masters, Assad’s Broken Promises, Council onForeignRelations, 3 de noviembre de 2011.)

Este análisis proviene del Council onForeignRelations (CFR), la famosa y muy potente caja de reflexión sobre la política exterior de Estados Unidos. Se basa en el siguiente artículo de Al-Jazeera en el que la información a propósito de la matanza es muy diferente.

Decenas de personas habrían sido asesinadas el jueves en la ciudad de Homs, el lugar de mayores enfrentamientos, mientras que las fuerzas de seguridad sirias bombardearon zonas residenciales con tanques.

Los Comités de coordinación locales de Siria, un grupo activista que monitorea el levantamiento del país, dijo que las muertes señaladas tuvieron lugar el jueves en el distrito de Bab Amor en Homs. (Syria “violence defies peace deal”, Al Jazeera, 4 de noviembre de 2011.)

La formulación de Al Jazeera “habrían sido asesinadas” y “muertes señaladas” revela que estas muertes no están confirmadas. Los medios de comunicación de Qatar señalaron también que estas declaraciones vienen de una sola fuente, es decir un grupo de activistas llamado Local CoordinationCommittees of Syria (Comités de coordinación locales, CCL). El artículo del CFR ha transformado las suposiciones de Al Jazeera en hechos concretos.

Cuando se trata de contar las muertes, los medios de comunicación citan a menudo al CCL como fuente de información en los informes de asesinatos cometidos por las autoridades sirias, lo podemos ver en los siguientes ejemplos:

Otro grupo de oposición, los Comités de coordinación locales (Comités de coordination locaux), dijeron que no podían corroborar el balance del SyrianObservatory [Observatorio Sirio] en lo que concierne las pérdidas militares, aunque también hayan cualificado la jornada del lunes como una de las más sangrientas del sublevamiento, con la muerte de al menos 51 civiles. “No tenemos ninguna prueba de lo que afirman”, dijo Omar Idlibi, un portavoz de los Comités de coordinación locales. (Nada Bakri and Rick Gladstone, Syria Faces New Threats as Opposition Seeks Allies, The New York Times, el 15 de noviembre de 2011.)

Según la red de la oposición, los Comités de coordinación locales, por lo menos cinco personas fueron asesinadas durante la ofensiva militar: tres en la provincia central de Homs, una en TallKalakh, una ciudad fronteriza del este, y otra en Idleb, a lo largo de la frontera con Turquía. (RoulaHajjar, Syria: Activists report manhunt for defectors and protesters, Los Angeles Times, 5 de septiembre de 2011.)

Un activista de la SyrianRevolutionCoordinatorsUnion (SRCU) [Unión de los coordinadores de la revolución Siria] declaró a Al Jazeera que la policía secreta empezó a disparar y lanzar gas lacrimógeno para dispersar a más de 10 000 manifestantes en DeirEzzor, en el este tribal de Siria. Diez manifestantes fueron heridos y unos 40 fueron detenidos, afirmó él.

La SRCU es el nombre dado esta semana a una de las redes populares de oposición en Siria. La SRCU trabaja en colaboración con los Comités de coordinación locales (CCL), otra red de oposición popular. (Al Jazeera Live Blog – Syria, 3 de junio de 2011.)

Al menos 2200 personas fueron asesinadas en Siria desde el principio de las perturbaciones sociales según el balance de las Naciones Unidas. Un grupo de activistas, [la SRCU], afirmó el martes que, sólo durante el Ramadán, 551 personas fueron asesinadas. El grupo declaró que otras 130 personas murieron el 31 de julio, la víspera del Ramadán, en un ataque contra la ciudad de Hama, que fue también el escenario de una feroz represión en 1982.

Mataron a cuatro personas el martes en Hara y a otras dos en Inkil, dos ciudades de la provincia de Dara, según los Comités de coordinación locales, otro grupo de activistas que documenta los acontecimientos. (Naka Bakri, Syrian Security Forces Fire on Worshipers as Ramadan Ends, The New York Times, el 30 de agosto de 2011.)

El último artículo cita un informe de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) como si se tratara de una fuente independiente de información. Sin embargo, según uno de sus informes, la ONU se basa ella también en la misma fuente de información, el CCL, e indica en una nota ser incapaz de confirmar si las informaciones proporcionadas por este grupo son verdaderas:

En el momento de redactar este informe, la misión había recibido más de 1900 nombres e informaciones de personas que fueron asesinadas en la República Árabe Siria desde mitad de marzo de 2011. Todos serían civiles [26].

26. Estas informaciones están recopiladas por Comités de coordinación locales activos en la República Árabe Siria, donde documentan los nombres de las víctimas y detalles sobre ellas. La misión no es capaz de verificar estas informaciones de forma independiente. (Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic – A/HRC/18/53, el 15 de septiembre de 2011.)

¿Qué son los Comités de coordinación locales (CCL)?

Según un artículo del Christian Science Monitor, el grupo CCL forma parte del Consejo nacional sirio (CNS), una entidad no electa. Aunque la mayoría de sus miembros vivan en el exilio y que sus miembros en Siria quedan desconocidos, presentan al CNS como la autoridad legítima de Siria y ha sido reconocido por el Consejo Nacional de Transición Libio, otro organismo no electo reconocido por las potencias occidentales como representante “democrático” del pueblo libio.

Los líderes de la oposición siria han establecido formalmente el Consejo nacional sirio [CNS] (Conseil national syrien) en un encuentro el domingo en Turquía que reunía así a los grupos más disparates que buscan derrocar al presidente sirio Bachar Al-Assad (président syrien Bachar Al-Assad).

AssociatedPress informa que el consejo incluye en otros a los Comités de coordinación locales (Comités de coordination locaux) que organizaron la mayoría de las manifestaciones en el país, a los Hermanos musulmanes sirios y a otros grupos kurdos. La casi mitad de los miembros [del CNS] están actualmente en Siria según el Washington Post, respondiendo así a la gran preocupación de que el consejo contaría demasiado con los exilados. (Ariel Zirulnick, Syrian oppositon groups formally unify overcoming key hurdle, 3 de octubre de 2011.)

 

Logotipo del CCL

El CCL es bastante anónimo. El grupo rechazó una entrevista por teléfono pero aceptó contestar a algunas preguntas por correo electrónico. Se afirma que por razones de seguridad, el número de miembros dentro de la organización no puede ser revelado, pero se indica que 13 de ellos son miembros del CNS. “Tenemos suficientes miembros para organizar una manifestación en el lugar, para los medios de comunicación y para los grupos de socorros.”

Los miembros serían de diversas procedencias y de todos los grupos de edad; algunos obrarían en Siria, otros en el exterior del país. El CCL señala que, en Siria así como en otros países, sus miembros han sido amenazados, detenidos y torturados por las autoridades sirias.  

¿Cómo se han vuelto una fuente de información para los medios de comunicación extranjeros? Porque proporcionan hechos creíbles, afirma el portavoz.

¿Cuál es el objetivo final del CCL? “Nuestro objetivo es cambiar el régimen sirio y como primera etapa, queremos poner fin al mandato del actual presidente, él cual es política y legalmente responsable de crímenes cometidos por su régimen contra el pueblo sirio. Luego, queremos transferir el poder de una forma segura.”

En resumidas cuentas, el CCL quiere un cambio de régimen en Siria y parece constituir la fuente principal de información para los medios de comunicación occidentales y las organizaciones humanitarias. Aunque este grupo de oposición afirma dar “hechos creíbles”, no existe ningún medio para verificar estos hechos. Los supuestos hechos podrían perfectamente ser propaganda para desacreditar el régimen actual y para galvanizar a la opinión pública en favor de un cambio de régimen que el grupo desea llevar a cabo.

Aunque el portavoz se negara a revelar los nombres de los miembros del grupo, algunos han aparecido en los medios de comunicación dominantes. Uno de los miembros o colaboradores es RamiNakhle, un ciberactivista que vive en exilio en Beyrouth, en Libán.

“Hoy, después de 98 días de protestaciones, vive en la negación”, declara RamiNakhle, un sirio que trabaja en Beyrouth con los Comités de coordinación locales, un centro de intercambio para las manifestaciones y las actividades de la oposición siria. “Ahora es obvio para todos que Bachar Al-Assad no puede cambiar. No se da cuenta de que Siria ha cambiado para siempre, pero sigue siendo el mismo presidente, él que hemos oído por última vez en abril.” (Nicholas Blanford, Assad’s speech may buy time, but not survival, The Christian Science Monitor, 20 de junio de 2011.)

Según NRP, el activista tiene una relación privilegiada con Al Jazeera:

Cuando el canal árabe Al-Jazeera transmite las últimas noticias, las imágenes provienen de la red de Nakhle. (Deborah Amos, Syrian Activist In Hiding Presses Mission From Abroad, 22 de abril de 2011.)

Cabe señalar aquí que Al Jazzera ha desempeñado un papel clave en la promoción de un cambio de régimen en Libia.

La ciberdisidencia

CyberDissident.org, una página web presentada por el Bush Center como una “Voz de la libertad en línea” pinta un retrato de Nakhle que no va sin recordar los otros retratos parecidos en la prensa mainstream, los cuales lo describían únicamente como siendo un ciberdisidente, como si nunca hubiera tenido otras ocupaciones:

RamiNakhle es un ciberdisidente de 27 años. Su utilización de los medios de comunicación sociales para difundir información sobre la revolución siria ha llamado la atención de las autoridades sirias, por eso huyó a Libán en enero de 2011. Desde los tres últimos años, trabaja con el seudónimo MalathAumran. Aunque la policía se