Because of torrential rains lasting several days Pakistan is facing one of the worst predicaments in human and material terms for the last 80 years. The damage inflicted is stunning. About 22 million people are affected by the floods. Many infrastructures have been unable to withstand the onslaught of rain. Roads and harbours can no longer be used. Millions of people have had to leave their houses, and the UN estimates that there are 5 million left homeless. Makeshift refugee camps have been set up, and some 1 million people already live there in disgraceful sanitary conditions. The south of the country, and more particularly the province of Snidh, has been badly shaken by this catastrophe. Economic losses amount to billions with the farming industry severely hit, large tracts of farmland having been destroyed.

Pakistan needs help. On 20 August 2010, UN member countries committed to giving USD 200 million, but this was a mere promise, and past experience has taught us that only a limited portion will actually reach the country. The Asian Development Bank, which was to manage the consequences of the December 2004 tsunami, declared that it would lead the reconstruction effort in Pakistan and already announced a USD 2 billion loan. The World Bank added a loan of USD 900 million. Deeply damaged by a natural catastrophe, Pakistan now has to face a significant increase in its debt.

While emergency aid is essential, we have to consider what is at stake in Pakistan. In August 2008 the country was close to defaulting. Compelled to accept the help of the IMF, it has received so far a total of 11.3 billion dollars in loans with particularly harsh conditionalities: the sale of a million hectares of farmland, an end to government subsidies on fuel, an increase in the price of electricity, drastic cuts in social expenditures, etc. Only the military budget has been spared. Finally this loan has made living conditions even more difficult while jeopardizing the country’s sovereignty.

Today Pakistan’s external debt amounts to 54 billion dollars with 3 billion paid back every year. This debt, which exploded after 2000, is largely odious. The former regime of General Pérez Musharraf was a strategic ally of the US in the region, particularly after 9/11. Major creditors never baulked at granting Musharraf the funds he needed to pursue his policies. In the fall of 2001 the US asked for Pakistan’s support in its war against Afghanistan. Musharraf had accepted that his country be used as a support base for US troops and those of its allies. Later the Musharraf regime contracted more debts, with the active help of the World Bank and major powers. The loans granted have no legitimacy: they were used to buttress Musharraf’s dictatorship and did not improve the living conditions of the Pakistani people. The debt contracted by this dictatorial regime is odious. Creditors were aware of the situation when they granted their loans, and given these facts it is outrageous that the Pakistani people be made to pay for the odious debt contracted by Musharraf.

In such circumstances outright cancellation of the debt is a minimum demand. As Ecuador did in 2007-2008, several countries have now carried out an audit of their debts in order to cancel their odious parts. Pakistan can and should follow such an example.

Another legal mechanism of non-payment should be taken into account in this country devastated by floods – namely the state of necessity. In this context it can claim that funds must be used to meet vital needs and not to repay its debt, without being sued for reneging on its commitments. The potential savings of three billions dollars could then be used for social expenditures to help the population.

It is therefore high time for the government of Pakistan to suspend payment of its external debt, to carry out an audit of the same, and to decide on a repudiation of the part of it that is odious. Far from being an end in itself, these measures should be a first step towards a radically different model of development based at long last on a guarantee of fundamental human rights.

Damien Millet is spokesperson for CADTM France (Committee for the Cancellation of the Third World Debt, www.cadtm.org), Sophie Perchellet is vice-president of CADTM France, Eric Toussaint is president of CADTM Belgique. Latest publication: La crise, quelles crises ? , CADTM/Aden/CETIM, December 2009.

Translated from the French original 

The equities markets are in disarray while the bond markets continue to surge. The avalanche of bad news has started to take its toll on investor sentiment. Barry Ritholtz’s “The Big Picture” reports that the bears have taken the high-ground and bullishness has dropped to its lowest level since March ‘09 when the market did a quick about-face and began a year-long rally. Could it happen again? No one knows, but the mood has definitely darkened along with the data. There’s no talk of green shoots any more, and even the deficit hawks have gone into hibernation. It feels like the calm before the storm, which is why all eyes were on Jackson Hole this morning where Fed chairman Ben Bernanke delivered his verdict on the state of the economy on Friday.

Wall Street was hoping the Fed would “go big” and promise another hefty dose of quantitative easing to push down long-term interest rates and jolt consumers out of their lethargy. But Bernanke provided few details choosing instead this vague commitment:

“The Committee is prepared to provide additional monetary accommodation through unconventional measures if it proves necessary, especially if the outlook were to deteriorate significantly.”

Check. There’s no doubt that Helicopter Ben would be in mid-flight right now tossing bundles of $100 bills into the jet-stream like confetti if he had the option. But Bernanke is fighting a rearguard action from inside the FOMC where a fractious group of rebels want to wait and see if the recent downturn is just a blip on the radar or something more serious, another tumble into recessionary hell.

This week, the markets were blindsided by two days of dismal housing news, grim durable goods orders, a slowdown in manufacturing, and modest gains in employment. 4 years later, and housing is still mired in a depression. When does it end? Households and consumers are buried under a mountain of debt; personal bankruptcies, delinquencies, defaults and foreclosures continue to mount while politicians threaten to tighten the purse-strings putting more pressure on families who can barley put food on the table let alone pay the mortgage.

Just months ago, 57 out of 57 economists surveyed predicted that the economy would avoid a double dip recession. Now they’re not so sure. Stock market gains have been wiped out and the S&P 500 has dropped 14 percent from its high in April. All of the main economic indicators are testing new lows. The so-called “soft patch” is looking like another hard landing. The fear is palpable. On Thursday, the Dow slipped another 74 points by the end of the session. It could have been worse. The markets have been holding on by their fingernails hoping that Bernanke will bail them out. But it’s going to take more than the usual promise of low interest rates for an “extended period” to boost enthusiasm. Wall Street is looking for the “big fix”, a trillion dollar resumption of the Fed’s bond purchasing program (QE) to pump up flaccid asset prices, electro-shock demand, and raise consumer inflation expectations. The big banks and the brokerage houses want Bernanke to rout the Cassandras and the gloomsters and pump some adrenalin into sluggish indexes. The Fed chairman promised to help…..but not just yet, which is why the markets continue to seesaw.

Bernanke takes the threat of deflation seriously. His earlier speeches laid out a deflation-fighting strategy that is so radical it would shock the public and Wall Street alike. Here’s an excerpt from a speech he gave in 2002 which illustrates the Fed boss’s willingness to move heaven and earth to fend off the scourge of pernicious deflation:

Ben Bernanke: “My thesis here is that cooperation between the monetary and fiscal authorities in Japan could help solve the problems that each policymaker faces on its own. Consider for example a tax cut for households and businesses that is explicitly coupled with incremental BOJ purchases of government debt – so that the tax cut is in effect financed by money creation. Moreover, assume that the Bank of Japan has made a commitment, by announcing a price-level target, to reflate the economy, so that much or all of the increase in the money stock is viewed as permanent.

Under this plan, the BOJ’s balance sheet is protected by the bond conversion program, and the government’s concerns about its outstanding stock of debt are mitigated because increases in its debt are purchased by the BOJ rather than sold to the private sector. Moreover, consumers and businesses should be willing to spend rather than save the bulk of their tax cut: They have extra cash on hand, but – because the BOJ purchased government debt in the amount of the tax cut – no current or future debt service burden has been created to imply increased future taxes.

Essentially, monetary and fiscal policies together have increased the nominal wealth of the household sector, which will increase nominal spending and hence prices….from a fiscal perspective, the policy would almost certainly be stabilizing, in the sense of reducing the debt-to-GDP ratio….

Potential roles for monetary-fiscal cooperation are not limited to BOJ support of tax cuts. BOJ purchases of government debt could also support spending programs, to facilitate industrial restructuring, for example. The BOJ’s purchases would mitigate the effect of the new spending on the burden of debt and future interest payments perceived by households, which should reduce the offset from decreased consumption. More generally, by replacing interest-bearing debt with money, BOJ purchases of government debt lower current deficits and interest burdens and thus the public’s expectations of future tax obligations.” (Some Thoughts on Monetary Policy in Japan, Governor Ben S. Bernanke, The Federal Reserve Board Tokyo, Japan, May 31, 2003)

Yikes! This is monetization writ large. Anyone who thought Bernanke lacked cohones should reread this passage. The Fed chair is prepared to launch the most radical intervention in history, monetary Shock and Awe. But will the bewhiskered professor be able to persuade congress to follow his lead, after all, the fiscal component is critical to the program’s success. They’re two spokes on the same wheel. Here’s how (I imagine) it would work: Congress passes emergency legislation to suspend the payroll tax for two years stuffing hundreds of billions instantly into the pockets of struggling consumers. The Fed makes up the difference by purchasing an equal amount of long-term Treasuries keeping the yields low while the economy resets, employment rises, asset prices balloon, and markets soar. As the economy accelerates, the dollar steadily loses ground triggering a sharp increase in exports and sparking a viscous trade war with foreign trading partners. Then……it’s anyone’s guess? Either Bernanke’s “nuclear option” succeeds in resuscitating the comatose economy or foreign holders of dollars and dollar-backed assets dump their gargantuan trove of US loot in a pile and set it ablaze. It’s all a roll of the dice.

The Congressional Budget Office thinks the country faces serious budget problems, as well as serious economic problems, because it estimates that the deficit for 2011 will be $1.066 trillion. In addition it sees fiscal 2010, which ends on September 30th, at $1.34 trillion, or 9% of GDP. Last year was 9.9%.

The lesson in Ponzi finance has not been lost on foreign investors who continue to buy less dollar denominated investments. That in spite of what the Federal Reserve is buying through its fronts overseas, which includes foreign central banks. The purchase of Treasuries and Agencies are so vital that you hear few references to deflation or inflation in the major media. All there is is the canard that there is no inflation. You would think these boobs in government would rig inflation at 1-1/2% to make it believable, but that obviously is beyond their mental capabilities, when real inflation is over 7%. The only conclusion we can come to is that government wants to obscure the fact that investing for a 10-year T-note at 2.50% is a 4.50% loser with inflation at 7%. These low rates of return, a zero interest rate policy and the creation of $2.5 trillion still has not been able to bring lasting recovery to the economy. That is because the present solutions have never worked and there is no intention of making them work. The idea is to destroy the US and world economy to force its inhabitants to accept world government.

What is obvious for whatever reason, is that quantitative easing, or throwing money at the problem, doesn’t work. We have just witnessed the greatest monetary expansion ever and no one seems to notice it didn’t work. In fact the Fed is creating another bubble in relation to interest rates and the bond market. This could be much worse than 2005 and 2006. In spite of this probable outcome, banking, Wall Street and corporate America are clamoring for more stimuli as consumption again fades. Again there is no historical basis to believe that today’s corporate fascist Keynesianism will work, in fact history tells us just the opposite. The extreme fiscal and monetary measures that have been chosen simply do not work. If QE or fiscal spending does not create inflation, then deflationary depression will become predominate and the entire financial system will collapse taking the world economy with it.

This cycle of inflation to deflation has been going on since the 1960s and each time finance and the economy were resurrected a new cycle began with greater damage. Today we have finally reached the end of the line.

Those who look at today’s bond bubble forget the bond rally of the early 1990s and the subsequent bust in 1994 when the 30-year bond hit 8-3/16%. Incidentally that was one of our first forecasts, which helped the IF get off the ground. Later in the 90s we called the Asian contagion, Russian failure of their currency engineered by criminals from Harvard and the failure of LTCM, which was bailed out by Wall Street. Their greatest mistake was being short gold. When all was said and done it cost $7 billion. Wall Street lies so much who knows how much was recovered.

Some wonder why leadership doesn’t seem to care. They do care, they deliberately created this monster. Those not in on the planning and execution possibly go along for the ride. If they do, they do not their jobs but in most instances if they do not they never work at their professions again. Some even meet an untimely end. What the pundits don’t understand is that it was planned this way. Stabilization and recovery are not part of the plan. Only extension of the economy until the right spot is reached to pull the plug on the entire system. The key to that is the bond market, which is ten times larger than the stock market. That is where the smart money resides and that is where eventually the biggest losses will be taken. Yes, fiscal debt and monetization are going to take the system down and anyone with any foresight can see that.

Our mortgage market led by the GSEs, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae and FHA, for the past three years have been insuring and writing loans, most of which are subprime. That is now triggering a 50% failure rate, again. This has been done to keep real estate from totally collapsing. Today we have zero interest rates and 4.42%, 30-year fixed rate mortgages. This is another national socialist program that we predicted seven years ago when we wrote that Fannie and Freddie were broke. You know what has happened since. You can now see, as those in Italy and Germany in the 1930s saw, there are no longer any limits to government intrusion. The result has been the deflation in prices and to offset that the deliberate creation of inflation. Within all of this the Fed is still bailing out those connected within the elitist system and those who own the Fed and are designated too big to fail. That is what the enormous fiscal and monetary stimulus is all about. It’s about lowering the economy in stages until it’s ready for total destruction. There are no policies for relief or recovery. This depression will last for many years as government tightens its grip on the people and extinguishes their freedom. The stitches are being pulled from the fabric one by one.

The economy is being allowed to move sideways via monetization. As we move forward in time more and more confidence will be lost as inflation increases, wages and unemployment remain stagnant, free trade and globalization continue to flourish and the structural underpinnings of our economic and financial system collapse. As each day passes the situation worsens, although its planned demise is imperceptible to most. The global economy is in a financial bubble and there is no escape. The bubble is being ignored and that is sure to bring great heartache to all the world’s inhabitants. If you have wealth the only way you can protect it is via gold and silver assets. There is no other choice.

All this is covered in words that are new and different. We call them euphemisms. Lying is socially and politically acceptable. Price stability is merely price fixing and TARP the Troubled Asset Relief Program, is simply the bailout of the financial structure by the taxpayer. Socialism for the rich in the cloak of fascism. Then, of course, we have quantitative easing, is the creation of money and credit out of thin air. That is followed by lower interest rates, which gives banks the incentive to lend under the fractional banking system. It’s all manipulation, but under the Federal Reserve Act it is all legal. This is what so-called monetary policy is all about. Unfortunately that game will soon be over. We are about to follow that shinning example Japan into monetary oblivion. After 20 years of depression the land of the rising sun is about to descend deeper into depression and the world is about to follow. Their venture into chaos has been delayed by the ability to easily access export markets and a huge domestic pool of savings, which was tapped to keep their system going. Those advantages are ending and the rest of the world will follow, but not in 20 years. That is because the world’s debt has been borrowed from foreign sources that must be repaid albeit in cheap dollars or currency. A massive erosion of fiat value. The profligated spending of governments is being paid for by bondholders and by the fall in the purchasing power of the currency, as expressed via inflation.

At this juncture the Fed has no options excepting a deflationary depression. They have zero interest rates and continue to monetize as a fiscal policies create $1.5 trillion annual deficits. If they don’t continue stimulus and zero rates the economy and financial structure will collapse. It really is as simple as that. The Fed’s, Mr. Bernanke, is an expert on depressions. He knows there is no way out. We also find it of interest that the current phase of the crisis was deliberately caused by the Greek crisis, which had been common knowledge for years.

As we plow forward we see the trade deficit for June at a record deficit of $7.9 billion, which is in part a reflection of the phony dollar rally of earlier in the year, when the dollar ran from 74 on the USDX to 89, which made US goods and services 12% to 16% more expensive than euro zone exports.

At the same time real unemployment is 21-1/2% with about ten million working an average of 34.2 hours per week. The sting is strong as borrowers reduce credit card debt by 8% and the use of credit cards has fallen by 23.2%.

In just four months the yield on the 10-year t-note fell from 3.99% to 2.42%. Needless to say, the bonds are trading near a high. This is by design and a reflection of QE. As this unfolded daily, the PPT buys SPUs, which keeps the stock market from tanking. This is how the Fed rigs the stock market that is by injecting reserves into the system. They are assisted by propriety trading desks and hedge funds, which the PPT uses.  It is not surprising that Goldman thinks the Fed will buy at least another $1 trillion in securities – bonds. We envision $2.5 trillion over the course of the coming year. The Fed is also in the process of reselling more than $1.8 trillion in CDOs and MBS back to the banks. The Fed refuses to tell us what they paid the banks for the toxic waste, because it is a state secret. We believe it was $0.80 on the dollar and we bet the buyback by the banks will be $0.20 on the dollar. The taxpayer makes up the difference, which is about $1.1 trillion. The remaining $700 billion plus will be used by the Fed to buy Treasuries and Agencies. It will have cleaned up its balance sheet, and the banks’ books to some extent at the same time. The injection of funds will be assisted by bank lending and Treasury and Agency purchases of $1 trillion plus. At this writing these tactics have resulted in mortgage rates of 4.42% on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, which will probably fall lower. These mortgages will add to the load of guarantees, already at 97%, of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae and the FHA. This is how you tie the ends together. These circumstances will continue on indefinitely, because the minute the Fed ceases to monetize the system will collapse.

As of yet low mortgage rates are not producing new residential real estate buying. Most of the buying is by speculators. New and used home sales have fallen off a cliff and will continue to do so without special incentives.

At the same time the administration has no intention of cutting deficit spending as revenues continue to fall. There will be annual $1 trillion budget deficits as far as the eye can see. Any leader who steps in tries to stop this band of criminals will quickly be liquidated. Do not forget they control the dark side of the CIA. All the administration is concerned about is lengthening the maturity of Treasury debt, so that they can continue their fiscal profligacy. Of course, the Fed will assist them in this endeavor.

The precise location in New York City of a new community center that includes a Muslim mosque is being converted into a major national campaign issue by the conservative Republican Party as the Nov. 2 Congressional and state elections in the U.S. draw closer. The Muslim world is watching this development unfold with deep interest and some anxiety.

The centrist Democratic Party, which controls the White House and Congress, is expected to lose some seats in both the Senate and House, but the Republicans are seeking a larger victory by resorting to blatant Islamophobia. In general the Democrats support President Barack Obama’s somewhat tepid backing for the project.

Since the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of religion and the right of religious groups to build houses of worship, Republican politicians, their “Tea Party” warriors (a national right wing activist organization) and far right militias are livid about plans to situate the facility two blocks from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed in a terrorist attack nine years ago this Sept. 11.

This calculated tantrum over the essentially trivial issue appears to have seduced a majority of Americans — over 60% —  into opposing a project intended to improve relations between different faiths in the U.S., and “in particular between the Muslim world and the United States,” according to its backers.

Recognizing that the continuing economic recession and high unemployment in America are the principal issues of the campaign — and that they offer little to the voters on that score — the “Grand Old Party” (the GOP — another name for the Republicans) hopes that the “emotional” issues of an Islamic institution “violating the sanctity of ground zero” will bring in the additional votes.

Republican politicians, joined by some Democratic office holders including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, insist the planned community center be moved an unspecified distance from the “hallowed ground” where 2,749 people lost their lives (among them hundreds of Muslims working in the twin towers). Not to do so, they claim, will amount to a grievous affront to the victims and their families.

The implication of the Republican campaign is that the 9/11 attack by a fringe extremist sect of Islam was actually an assault by the religion of Islam against the United States and its way of life. Otherwise, why would the existence of Muslims at prayer two blocks away be considered a desecration that would cause pain to victim families?

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, one of a handful of centrist Republicans, is a staunch supporter of the community center project. He declared Aug. 24 that he opposed establishing a “no mosque zone” around ground zero. “There is already a mosque four blocks away,” he said. “Should it, too, be moved? This is a test of our commitment to American values. We must have the courage of our convictions. We must do what is right, not what is easy.

“We would send a signal around the world,” he said, “that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam.”

President Obama spoke out Aug. 13 in defense of the project. “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion, as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

The next day Obama equivocated: “I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”

A few days later, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd criticized Obama’s clarification: “Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning…. Our enemies struck at our heart, but did they also warp our identity?…. The war against the terrorists is not a war against Islam. In fact, you can’t have an effective war against the terrorists if it is a war on Islam.”

The Cordoba Initiative, as the New York City project is called, is the brainchild of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a leader for the last 27 years of a Lower Manhattan mosque a dozen blocks from ground zero, and his wife, Daisy Khan, Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Rauf is the chairman.

Cordoba House —the name of the planned community center — is to occupy the reconstructed, long-empty 15-story Burlington Coat Factory building in a neighborhood of small and large stores, food venders, businesses, small and skyscraper buildings, tourist stores and attractions, fast food restaurants, strip clubs and the nearby financial district surrounding the 16-acres once occupied by the World Trade Center complex.

When completed, Cordoba House will include an auditorium, library, mosque, daycare space, restaurant, cooking school, swimming pool, basketball courts, and more. According to its backers, who are just starting to raise the $100 million necessary to complete the project, the facility will be “a community center open to all New Yorkers, much like a YMCA and the city’s  Jewish Community Center, with a designated prayer space (mosque) in one area to serve the needs of the large existing community of American Muslims in the neighborhood.” Part of the building has been utilized as a mosque for some time.

Why “Cordoba?” The website explains: “A thousand years ago Muslims, Jews, and Christians coexisted and created a prosperous center of intellectual, spiritual, cultural and commercial life in Cordoba, Spain.”

Although right wing commentators rant that Imam Rauf supports terrorism and seeks to impose Sharia (the sacred law of Islam) in the United States, he is fastidiously moderate, rarely deviating from the center. Ironically, both the Bush and Obama State Departments have sent Rauf on four speaking tours to the Middle East so far to explain America to Muslim audiences. The State Department distributes copies of his book overseas — “What’s Right With Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West.” Rauf has even lectured to an FBI seminar on U.S.-Muslim relations.

The right wing is attempting to keep the mosque issue alive and intensifying until the election — and it is already generating increased hostility to Muslims in several American cities, including an Aug. 24 knife attack on New York City cab driver Ahmed Sharif. The purpose is to stir up anti-Muslim antagonisms to help generate enough votes for the Republicans to weaken or end Democratic control of Congress. Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and ex-Republican House majority leader Newt Gingrich are among the public leaders of this effort.

Gingrich believes that Obama is “pandering to radical Islam” and that the Cordoba Initiative feeds into “an Islamic cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.” To build support for halting the Cordoba  House project he conflated the Muslim religion with German and Japanese fascist imperialism of World War II: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington,” he said. “We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.” 

No reason except the Constitution, that is. No reason except that 9/11 was the product of a small group of religious fanatics, not one of the world’s great religions. But Gingrich — who still harbors presidential ambitions — hopes to create a large enough backlash to catapult his party to power. And if it takes extreme national chauvinism, bellicose “patriotism,” xenophobia and Islamophobia, so be it.

Nearly all top Republican politicians — such as House GOP leader Rep. John Boehner — emphatically oppose situating the projected Islamic community center close to the lower Manhattan site.  New York State Republican candidate for governor, Rick Lazio — echoing former Republican New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — suggests foreign intrigue is involved, demanding: “Open the books! Let’s see who’s giving the money to construct this mosque. Is it foreign governments? Are they radical organizations? We deserve to know.”

The Anti-Defamation League, a prestigious and long established Jewish civil rights organization, astonished the inter-faith community by opposing the Lower Manhattan location and declaring: “We are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.”

In suggesting nefarious backing for the project, the ADL is hardly unaware that the rightist Israeli government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is strongly opposed to Obama’s halting efforts to improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world.

Most New York State Democratic politicians support President Obama’s position, including Senators  Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Democratic Gov. David Paterson, however, suggests moving the project elsewhere, and he has met with New York City’s Catholic Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan to discuss arranging a compromise. Sheldon Silver, Democratic speaker of the State Assembly, has called for a compromise by moving “to a suitable place that doesn’t create…. controversy.”  Four New York House Democrats have so far objected to the location.

In many cases, comments in opposition to the planned center were accompanied by slurs against Muslims and the religion of Islam. For example, Tea Party leader Mark Williams, who was deeply involved in opposing the New York City project, described Islam as having a “monkey god,” among other comments. He also was called to task for anti-Semitic and anti-African American comments. Williams was finally expelled in mid-July by the National Tea Party Federation for “clearly offensive” remarks.

According to two national opinion polls, Pew Research Center and Time Magazine, 61% of the American people oppose building the Muslim center near the World Trade Center site.

Time reported Aug. 19 that “More than 70% concur with the premise that proceeding with the plan would be an insult to the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center.” The magazine also stated that “the survey also revealed that many Americans harbor lingering animosity toward Muslims. Twenty-eight percent of voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly one-third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President.”

At the same time, while opposing a mosque just two blocks away form the former Trade Center, the Time poll showed “55% of respondents say they would favor the construction of an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from their home, and an equal number say they believe most Muslims are ‘patriotic Americans.’”

The CNN/Opinion Research survey showed that 68% oppose the plan to build the mosque in Lower  Manhattan, compared to 29% who favor it.  According to a Marist poll, 53% of New York City residents opposed the location. (About 8.4 million people live in New York City, though there are many more in its broad metropolitan area. Up to 800,000 city people are Muslims, and their growing population requires additional mosques.)

Going completely against this tide were 69% of the 1.6 million residents of Manhattan, where the World Trade Center was located, who approved building the Muslim Center close to the very epicenter of the 9/11 attack. This might be expected from the most sophisticated of New York City’s five boroughs and the financial, cultural and commercial center of the world. Aside from Mayor Bloomberg, other supporters of the Lower Manhattan location include Democratic Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and Democratic Rep. Gerald Nadler, who represents the district that includes ground zero. They view the project as

Bloomberg , who is Jewish, as are Stringer and Nadler, has supported the project from the beginning as a gesture of reconciliation, tolerance and respect for civil rights. His exemplary stance in the face increasing opposition to Cordoba House has earned him deserved tributes from the Muslim community. It was hardly surprising the mayor met with the injured cab driver, his wife and children for an hour in City Hall Aug. 26.

The New York Times, which is housed in Manhattan, published an editorial Aug. 4 titled “A Monument to Tolerance,” which said in part: “It has been disturbing to hear and read the vitriol and outright bigotry surrounding the building of a mosque two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. So it was inspiring when New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9 to 0 on Aug. 3 to reaffirm one of the basic tenets of democracy: religious tolerance….

“The attacks of Sept. 11 were not a religious event. They were mass murder. The American response, as President Obama and President George W. Bush before him have said many times, was not a war against Islam…. There was simply no excuse for the behavior of the Anti-Defamation League, which eagerly piled on with the opponents of the mosque. It should not be built ‘in the shadow’ of the World Trade Center, the group said, because it would ’cause some victims more pain.’ It was distressing to see the rationalization of bigotry used by an organization that has been fighting discrimination of all kinds.”

In addition to leading the campaign to convince the American people that Democratic politicians who support building the Islamic center in downtown Manhattan are disloyal to America and contemptuous to the families of 9/11 victims, the continuing right wing effort to depict President Obama as a Muslim and a non-citizen has been making progress.

The Pew Research Center poll released Aug. 19 reports that 18% of the American people now believe President Obama is a Muslim (it was 12% nearly two years ago), and 43% say they “don’t know” his religion (it was 32% in October 2008).  Even though the White House and Obama himself have stressed repeatedly that he is a Christian, only 34% of the people claim to be aware of this fact (it was 51% in the earlier poll).

These figures testify to the extraordinary ignorance of a not insubstantial sector of the American people — but what explains the increase in false knowledge in the last two years? Evidently it’s due to the success of the continuous right wing media campaign to mislead the masses into believing Obama not only sides with the “enemy” but by supporting the right to build a mosque near ground zero he is actually in league with the enemy.

According to the Pew results, “The view that Obama is a Muslim is more widespread among his political opponents then among his backers. Roughly a third of conservative Republicans (34%) say Obama is a Muslim, as do 30% of those who disapprove of Obama’s job performance.”

Despite a birth certificate showing Obama is an American citizen born 49 years ago in the State of Hawaii, a CNN/Opinion Research poll made public on his Aug. 4 birthday determined that 27% of all Americans think he was “definitely” or “probably” born in a foreign country. Among Republicans, 41% definitely or probably believe he was foreign born, and thus a non-citizen and an “illegal” President.

The right wing will evidently go to extreme lengths to take back Congressional seats on Nov. 2, including untruths, national chauvinism, and anti-Muslim propaganda. Many millions of Americans have been misled about the community center and mosque planned near the former World Trade Center.  But millions more average Americans know better and say so in plain terms.

The Wall St. Journal sent a reporter to examine the neighborhood immediately surrounding ground zero where the Cordoba House is to be situated. The reporter noted that there were two strip clubs within three blocks of what some critics of the mosque consider to be a “sacred” space. Without condescension, the reporter interviewed Chris from the Pussycat Lounge, and Cassandra from New York Dolls about the mosque controversy.

Said Chris: “They’re not building a mosque in the World Trade Center” grounds itself. “It’s all good. You have your synagogues and your churches. And you have a mosque.” Said Cassandra: “I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s freedom of religion — you know?”

Americans with a commitment to civil liberties absolutely agree. It’s freedom of religion — you know?

OCEAN SPRINGS, Mississippi, U.S., Aug 26, 2010 (IPS) - Another massive fish kill, this time in Louisiana, has alarmed scientists, fishers and environmentalists who believe they are caused by oil and dispersants.

On Aug. 22, St. Bernard Parish authorities reported a huge fish kill at the mouth of the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.

“By our estimates there were thousands – and I’m talking about 5,000 to 15,000 – dead fish,” St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro told reporters. “Different species were found dead, including crabs, sting rays, eel, drum, speckled trout, red fish, you name it, included in that kill.”

The next day, a thick, orange substance with tar balls and a “strong diesel smell” was discovered around Grassy Island, near the fish kill, according to a news release.

Taffaro admitted that there was oil in the area, but cautioned against assuming it was the cause of the fish kill.

Dr. Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer, as well as a marine and oyster biologist, has “great concern” about this fish kill, and many others in recent weeks, which he feels are likely directly related to the BP oil disaster.

“As a scientist, my belief is that this fish kill is 75 percent likely due to hypoxic conditions, not enough oxygen in the water to sustain life,” Dr. Cake said. “Because it was both bottom dwelling fish and crab, and other fish from the middle of the water column, whatever caused this covered the entire water column. That gives me great concern. The scientist in me says there was some other triggering mechanism.”

Dr. Cake believes the “triggering mechanism” is likely oil and toxic dispersants from the BP oil disaster.

Recent weeks have seen other huge fish kills. One occurred in Mississippi from Long Beach to Pass Christian, and another at Cat Island. The kill earlier this week in East St. Bernard Parish is of note, because taken in the context of the other two, all of these areas share the same body of water – that which comprises both of the Mississippi and Chandeleur Sounds.

On Aug. 18, a team from Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia released a report that estimates that 70 to 79 percent of the oil that gushed from the well “has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem”.

Nevertheless, regarding the St. Bernard Parish fish kill, the head fisheries biologist for the state of Louisiana, Randy Pausina, blamed it solely on hypoxic conditions caused by extreme heat mixed with nutrient-rich waters.

But Dr. Cake, along with commercial fishermen and Gulf Coast environmentalists, are drawing direct parallels to BP’s oil disaster and the use of toxic dispersants as the likely cause of the increased numbers of fish kills they are witnessing.

“There are several parallels to the spill,” Dr. Cake added. “We have evidence from fisherman operating in the VOO [Vessels of Opportunity] fleet and fishermen in the area who observed the spraying of dispersants by both aircraft and vessels in the immediate vicinity of the fish kills. Therein lies one triggering mechanism.”

He said another factor is that dispersed oil “provides nutrients for phytoplankton, and this may have triggered a bloom of plankton, otherwise known as a red tide, and you would then have a fish kill from the red tide organisms. I understand that the phytoplankton out there is causing fish kills, but still the triggering mechanism is the presence of the oil and dispersants.”

“A fish kill from a red tide, as I’ve observed, causes fish to come to the surface to be in distress, flopping around, and slowly they die, and new ones come up. This was not observed in any of these kills. All we had was a massive amount of dead fish coming to the surface,” he said.

Two commercial fishermen in Mississippi who worked in BP’s VOO programme, James Miller and Mark Stewart, recently told IPS they were eyewitnesses to BP spraying dispersants via airplane and from boats into areas of the Mississippi Sound, as well as outside the barrier islands.

“Right now there’s barely any shrimp out there to catch,” David Wallis, a fisherman from Biloxi, told IPS. “We should be overloaded with shrimp right now. That’s not normal. I won’t eat any seafood that comes out of these waters, because it’s not safe.”

Chasidy Hobbs, with Emerald Coastkeeper in Pensacola, Florida, is on the City of Pensacola Environmental Advisory Board and directs the environmental litigation research firm, Geography and Environment.

Hobbs recently informed IPS of a one mile-long fish kill on Aug. 20 near Pensacola, and said of the BP oil disaster and ongoing use of dispersants, “We’re poisoning the entire Gulf of Mexico food web. It’s criminal.”

“There are two theories on what is causing these fish kills,” Jonathan Henderson, with the Gulf Restoration Network, told IPS. “Hypoxia and the BP disaster. Whichever is the cause, they are both still bad.”

Henderson has logged hundreds of hours in boats and planes across the Gulf documenting the oil disaster. He has seen fish kills himself.

“A few weeks ago at Pass Christian, I saw flounder, trout, and crabs, washed up into the rock barriers in front of the marina,” he said.
The growing dead zone in the Gulf, which scientists believe will be the size of Massachusetts this year, is now already extremely close to shore.

“The fact that the dead zone is this close to shore is alarming to me,” Henderson said, “And we don’t know the effect the dispersants are having on the dead zones and it very well may be that they are making it worse.”

According to the EPA’s latest analysis of dispersant toxicity released in the document ‘Comparative Toxicity of Eight Oil Dispersant Products on Two Gulf of Mexico Aquatic Test Species’, Corexit 9500, along with 9527 – BP’s two dispersants used in the Gulf – “at a concentration of 42 parts per million, killed 50 percent of mysid shrimp tested.” Most of the remaining shrimp died shortly thereafter.

“Local fisherman in Alabama report sighting tremendous numbers of dolphins, sharks, and fish moving in towards shore as the initial waves of oil and dispersant approached in June,” Environmentalist Jerry Cope wrote recently. “Many third- and fourth-generation fishermen declared emphatically that they had never seen or heard of any similar event in the past. Scores of animals were fleeing the leading edge of toxic dispersant mixed with oil. The Gulf of Mexico from the Source into the shore is a giant kill zone.”

“I was amongst all these dead fish in St. Bernard Parish,” Dr. Cake added, “And there were off-bottom fish there as well, which was the same thing we had at the fish kills at Cat Island and Long Beach-Pass Christian, so I see a trend here. Prior to the BP oil spill and the widespread applications of dispersants in all three of these recent fish-kill areas, we have never had evidence of such widespread kills.”

Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches
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Dahr Jamail’s new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.

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Signs of the ongoing US-South Korea military drill show that the joint war game is not simply a warning or a show of force after the sinking of the Cheonan, nor is it a deliberate attempt to provoke China in the Yellow Sea.

China has to be careful of the two allies’ strategic goal, which is to create turmoil in North Korea in the face of a pending political power transition.

China must also be wary of the US putting the entire Korean Peninsula under its influence.

The two Koreas have been deadlocked for nearly six decades. Not many people believe the situation can last forever.

Any change will mean a massive strategic change of power in Northeast Asia, as well as a change in the global balance of power.

Washington has made plans in the event of various scenarios, and has long been trying to push the situation in the direction that favors a US global strategy.

To put it simply, the US has never changed its basic policy toward North Korea, which is to ensue a regime change.

Although Washington is not openly talking about the policy, its goal remains to overthrow the current North Korean government.

The US-South Korean joint military exercises are a move to accelerate this momentum. It is a strategy to push and prepare for change, and take the initiative if the regime change really happens.

The controversial sinking of the South Korean battleship, in retrospect, is more like a convenient excuse for the US to conduct a long-planned drill that envisions the occupation of the North, rather than a single reaction toward an emergency.

US military leaders have been drawing up such plans since the end of last year.

The South’s unification ministry has also admitted that the South was practicing a “stabilization” program aimed at turning North Koreans into South Korean citizens.

The Korean Peninsula is too important to ignore in the realm of global geopolitics. US control of the peninsula will pose a realistic threat to China and Russia.

North Korean leadership is expected to change hands soon. The world is watching the change closely, as North Korea is still not back to the Six-Party Talks that aim to persuade it to drop its nuclear weapon program.
A smooth transition of power in the North is vital for the stability of Northeast Asia.

China needs to clearly realize this, and try to play an active role in preserving the peace on the Korean Peninsula, as well as look after its own interests.

En Costa Rica no hay ejercito, pero el 1 de julio el Congreso de Costa Rica aprobó el ingreso al país de 46 buques de guerra de la Armada de Estados Unidos, 200 helicópteros, aviones de combate y 7 mil marines.

La excusa es “la lucha contra el narcotráfico”, a pesar que “de las ganancias que deja el narcotráfico, 97% se queda en EE UU y Europa”, como explicó Carlos Abrego, amigo y pensador contemporáneo. “Tendríamos que enviar nuestros ejércitos a esos países para parar el tráfico y consumo” validamente agregó.

Pero, ¿Porqué desembarcan en Costa Rica marines de Estados unidos? ¿Cuál es la guerra? ¿La del narcotráfico?. El permiso aprobado por el Congreso, tuvo el apoyo del oficialista Partido de Liberación Nacional (PLN) y de Laura Chinchilla, Presidenta de la Nación.

Este nuevo escenario en Costa Rica, modifica las relaciones bilaterales que éste ha tenido con Estados Unidos. No es de ignorar que Costa Rica ya colaboraba en la llamada lucha contra las drogas, sin embargo y cómo arguye la oposición, los pasados acuerdos no incluían buques de guerra y la exagerada y “desproporcionada” cantidad de marines.

Pero no solo eso, las relaciones regionales han entrado en una nueva tensión. Muchos países lo ven como una amenaza directa, como el avance de la “militarización estadounidense” en Latinoamérica. Y la historia lo demuestra.

Brasil en su momento, a través del presidente Lula, criticó duramente la instalación de las 7 bases militares “gringas” en Colombia, considerándola junto al bloque de UNASUR, como una amenaza para la región.

Además de Colombia, Haití fue abatida con militares estadounidense el pasado enero, cuando solo a dos días del terremoto, más de 5 mil efectivos militares fueron movilizados hacía este país caribeño, “en uno de los mayores esfuerzos de asistencia humanitaria”, según lo definió el presidente Barack Obama e informó la BBC.

Ciertamente, Haití no necesitaba militares sino medicina, comida, asistencia médica. Sin contar que hasta ahora, la población de ese país aún espera la ayuda económica prometida por el presidente Obama para la reconstrucción de ese país.

La historía de militarización continúa. En El Salvador persiste una base militar “gringa”, la de Comalapa. En Honduras hay otra, desde donde partió forzadamente el ex presidente Manuel Zelaya hacia Costa Rica, después del golpe de estado cívico y militar en junio del 2009, según revela TeleSur.

En México, recientemente el gobierno de Obama envió 4 mil tropas a la frontera de este país. Y como informa Narco News, durante la mayor parte de los años 2000, la “ayuda” militar y policial significó el 40 por ciento de toda la ayuda enviada de los EEUU a América Latina.

Lo anterior, es una revelación de que Estados unidos reactivó la IV Flota, flota de la marina a cargo de las aguas del Comando Sur.

Es hora de revisar todas las oscuras conexiones que enredan el negocio de las drogas con los intereses políticos, militares y hegemónicos de Estados Unidos. Cada militar estadounidense en tierras de nuestra Abya Yala, no es solo una amenaza latente y terrible, sino un atropello a la dignidad de nuestros pueblos.

Mientras la atención del mundo podría estar en una inminente guerra de Estados Unidos contra Irán, la situación de Costa Rica con sus nuevas relaciones bilaterales con EEUU, significa también la agudización de la ya establecida guerra del norte contra el sur.

¿Porque la exagerada presencia de efectivos militares y armas de guerra en Costa Rica?, ¿Parte de la lucha contra las drogas o una jugada más para reforzar la dominación del norte en la región?.

 

“[General McChrystal says that] for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.” The Runaway General,” Rolling Stone, 6/22/10

The truth that many Americans find hard to take is that that mass U.S. assassination on a scale unequaled in world history lies at the heart of America’s military strategy in the Muslim world, a policy both illegal and never seriously debated by Congress or the American people. Conducting assassination operations throughout the 1.3 billon-strong Muslim world will inevitably increase the murder of civilians and thus create exponentially more “enemies,” as Gen. McChrystal suggests—posing a major long-term threat to U.S. national security. This mass assassination program, sold as defending Americans, is actually endangering us all. Those responsible for it, primarily General Petraeus, are recklessly seeking short-term tactical advantage while making an enormous long-term strategic error that could lead to countless American deaths in the years and decades to come. General Petraeus must be replaced, and the U.S. military’s policy of direct and mass assassination of Muslims ended.

The U.S. has conducted assassination programs in the Third World for decades, but the actual killing—though directed and financed by the C.I.A.—has been largely left to local paramilitary and police forces. This has now has changed dramatically.

What is unprecedented today is the vast number of Americans directly assassinating Muslims—through greatly expanded U.S. military Special Operations teams, U.S. drone strikes and private espionage networks run by former CIA assassins and torturers. Most significant is the expanding geographic scope of their killing. While CENTCOM Commander from October 2008 until July 2010, General Petraeus received secret and unprecedented permission to unilaterally engage in operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, former Russian Republics, Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, the Horn of Africa, and wherever else he deems necessary.

Never before has a nation unleashed so many assassins in so many foreign nations around the world (9,000 Special Operations soldiers are based in Iraq and Afghanistan alone) as well as implemented a policy that can be best described as unprecedented, remote-control, large-scale “mechanized assassination.” As the N.Y. Times noted in December 2009: “For the first time in history, a civilian intelligence agency is using robots to carry out a military mission, selecting people for killing in a country where the United States is not officially at war.”

This combination of human and technological murder amounts to a worldwide “Assassination Inc.” that is unique in human affairs.

The increasing shift to direct U.S. assassination began on Petraeus’s watch in Iraq,where targeted assassination was considered by many within the military to be more important than the “surge.” The killing of Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was considered a major triumph that significantly reduced the level of violence. As Bob Woodward reported in The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008:

“Beginning in about May 2006, the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence agencies launched a series of top secret operations that enabled them to locate, target and kill key individuals in extremist groups. A number of authoritative sources say these covert activities had a far-reaching effect on the violence and were very possibly the biggest factor in reducing it. Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) responsible for hunting al Qaeda in Iraq, (conducted) lightning-quick and sometimes concurrent operations When I later asked the president (Bush) about this, he offered a simple answer: ‘JSOC is awesome.’” [Emphasis added.]

Woodward’s finding that many “authoritative sources” believed assassination more important than the surge is buttressed by Petraeus’ appointment of McChrystal to lead U.S. forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s major qualification for the post was clearly his perceived expertise in assassination while heading JSOC from 2003-‘08 (where he also conducted extensive torture at “Camp Nama” at Baghdad International Airport, successfully excluding even the Red Cross).

Another key reason for the increased reliance on assassination is that Petraeus’ announced counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan obviously cannot work. It is absurd to believe that the corrupt warlords and cronies who make up the “Afghan government” can be transformed into the viable entity upon which his strategy publicly claims to depend—particularly within the next year which President Obama has set as a deadline before beginning to withdraw U.S. troops. Petraeus is instead largely relying on mass assassination to try and eliminate the Taliban, both within Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The centrality of assassination to U.S. war plans is revealed by the fact that it was at the heart of the Obama review of Afghan policy last fall. The dovish Biden position called for relying primarily on assassination, while the hawkish McChrystal stance embraced both assassination and more troops. No other options were seriously considered.

A third factor behind the shift to mass assassination is that Petraeus and the U.S. military are also determined to attack jihadi forces in nations where the U.S. is not at war, and which are not prepared to openly invite in U.S. forces. As the N.Y. Times reported on May 24, “General Petraeus (has argued) that troops need to operate beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to better fight militant groups.”

The most significant aspect of this new and expanded assassination policy is President Obama’s authorizing clandestine U.S. military personnel to conduct it. The N.Y. Times has also reported:

In roughly a dozen countries—from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife—the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists (Military) Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies.

Particularly extraordinary is the fact that these vastly expanded military assassination teams are not subject to serious civilian control. As the N.Y. Times  has also reported, Petraeus in September 2009 secretly expanded a worldwide force of assassins answerable only to the military, without oversight by not only Congress but the president himself:

The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents. The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa. Unlike covert actions undertaken by the C.I.A., such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress. [Emphasis added]

Although sold to the American public and Congress as targeted, selective assassination aimed only at a handful of “high value” insurgent leaders, the program has in fact already expanded far beyond that. As personnel and aircraft devoted to assassination exponentially increase, so too do the numbers of people they murder, both “insurgents” and civilians.

While it is reasonable to assume that expanding the number of Special Operations commandos to its present worldwide level of 13,000 will result in increasing assassinations, the secrecy of their operations makes it impossible to know how many they have murdered, how many of those are civilians, and the effectiveness of their operations. It is not known, for example, how many people U.S. military assassins murder directly, and how many they kill indirectly by identifying them for drone strikes. Much of their activity is conducted, for example, in North Waziristan in northwest Pakistan which, as the N.Y. Times reported on April 4 “is virtually sealed from the outside world.” 

More information, however, has emerged about the parallel and unprecedented mass mechanized assassinations being carried out by the C.I.A. drone programs. It is clear that they have already expanded far beyond the official cover story of targeting only “high-level insurgent leaders,” and are killing increasing numbers of people.

The CIA, of course, is no novice at assassination. Former CIA Director William Colby’s Operation Phoenix program in South Vietnam gave South Vietnamese police quotas of the number of civilians to be murdered on a weekly and monthly basis, eventually killing 20-50,000 people. CIA operatives such as Latin American Station Chief Duane “Dewey” Clarridge also established, trained and operated local paramilitary and death squads throughout Central and Latin America that brutally tortured and murdered tens of thousands of civilians, most notably in El Salvador where CIA-trained and -directed killers murdered Archbishop Romero and countless other Salvadorans.

But the present CIA assassination program in Pakistan and elsewhere is different not only because it is Americans who are themselves the assassins, but because of the unprecedented act of conducting mechanized mass assassination from the air. The CIA, as Nick Turse has reported for TomDispatch.com, is exponentially increasing its drone assassination program:

“(Drone) Reapers flew 25,391 hours (in 2009). This year, the air force projects that the combined flight hours of all its drones will exceed 250,000 hours. More flight time will, undoubtedly, mean more killing.” 

There were already signs in 2009, when drone strikes were a fraction of what they are now, that they were striking large numbers of civilians and proving militarily and politically counterproductive. Most Pakistanis believe it is largely civilians who are being killed, and anti-American hatred is growing accordingly. A Gallup poll conducted in July 2009, based on 2,500 face-to-face interviews, found that “only 9 percent of Pakistanis supported the drone strikes.” A Global Research study documented the drone murder of 123 civilians in January 2010 alone.

A particularly significant indication of the drone strikes’ military ineffectiveness has come from Colonel David Kilcullen, a key Petraeus advisor in Iraq, who testified to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 23, 2009, that, “Since 2006, we’ve killed 14 senior Al Qaeda leaders using drone strikes; in the same time period, we’ve killed 700 Pakistani civilians in the same area. We need to call off the drones.”

Kilcullen’s testimony was ignored, however, and as drone strikes have not only been continued but exponentially increased, there are increasing signs that they have vastly increased the scope of the killing far beyond the claimed “high-level insurgent leaders.” The N.Y. Times reported on Aug. 14:

[The CIA has] broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.

Reuters reported on May 5 that

The CIA received approval to target a wider range of targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas, including low-level fighters whose identities may not be known, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. Former intelligence officials acknowledged that in many, if not most cases, the CIA had little information about the foot soldiers killed in the strikes.

What this means is clear: the CIA is assassinating an expanding number of “low-level” people, labeling them as “fighters,” but has little if any idea of who they really are. The history of such mechanized campaigns from the air, such as Laos where I have studied the U.S. 1964-‘73 air war intensively, is that increased warfare from the air inevitably becomes increasingly indiscriminate, destroying civilian and military targets alike. As the drone program continues to expand, it will inevitably wind up killing more civilians—and, if McChrystal is right, exponentially create more people committed to killing Americans.

Numerous moral, legal and ethical objections have been raised to this program of mass assassination. Philip Alston, the United Nations special representative on extrajudicial executions, has stated that “this strongly asserted but ill-defined license to kill without accountability is not an entitlement which the United States or other states can have without doing grave damage to the rules designed to protect the right to life and prevent extrajudicial executions.”

The notion that a handful of U.S. military and CIA officials have the right to unilaterally and secretly murder anyone they choose in any nation on earth, without even outside knowledge let alone oversight, is deeply troubling to anyone with a conscience, belief in democracy, or respect for international law. It was precisely such behavior that made the Gestapo and Soviet secret police symbols of evil. Since the U.S. Congress has never reined in an Executive Branch that has routinely ignored international law since 1945, however, it is likely that the question of whether this program will be continued will be determined by its perceived effectiveness, not its morality. 

The evidence is mounting that U.S. assassinations are so ineffective they are actually strengthening anti-American forces in Pakistan. Bruce Reidel, a counterinsurgency expert who coordinated the Afghan review for President Obama, said: “The pressure we’ve put on (jihadist forces) in the past year has also drawn them together, meaning that the network of alliances is growing stronger not weaker.”

Reidel’s striking conclusion that jihadi forces in Pakistan are stronger after six years of drone airstrikes the CIA claims are weakening them, is echoed by numerous other reports indicating that General Petraeus’ strategy of using military force against Al Qaeda, Afghan and local insurgent forces in Pakistan has pushed them further east from isolated northwest areas into major cities like Karachi, where they operate freely and work together far more closely than before. The general’s miscalculations regarding Pakistan are reason enough for him to be replaced.

In the long run, General Petraeus’ strategy of expanding both ground and mechanized assassination throughout the 1.3 billion-strong Muslim world is likely to do the greatest disservice to his country’s interests. It is true that U.S. leaders have used local forces to assassinate tens of thousands since 1945 and that while these programs were largely ineffectual, they did not lead to attacks on American soil.

But 9/11 has changed the calculus. It is clear that in today’s wired and globalized world, marked by large-scale immigration, cheap telecommunications and airline travel, where crude technologies like car bombs or IEDs can be as easily detonated in New York as in Kandahar, and where America’s enemies are growing increasingly technologically sophisticated even as nuclear weapons proliferate and become miniaturized, it is the height of folly to foment geometrically growing anti-American hatred in the volatile Muslim world.

A growing number of military and counterinsurgency experts support Colonel Kilcullen’s belief that these assassination programs abroad are not protecting Americans at home. Both the “Underwear” and the “Times Square” bombers attributed their attempts to blow up Americans to their anger at the drone strikes. While Americans were saved by their incompetence, the U.S. may not be so lucky the next time, and the time after that. One thing is crystal clear: inflaming anti-American hatred throughout the Muslim world can only exponentially increase the numbers of those committed to killing Americans.

Such fears are increasing in Washington, as the N.Y. Times reported in the wake of the Times Square bombing:

A new, and disturbing, question is being raised in Washington: Have the stepped-up attacks in Pakistan—notably the Predator drone strikes—actually made Americans less safe? Are they inspiring more attacks on America than they prevent? As one American intelligence official said, “Those attacks (on two Pakistani Taliban leaders) have made it personal for the Pakistani Taliban—so it’s no wonder they are beginning to think about how they can strike back at targets here.”

As General Petraeus and the U.S. military “make it personal” to increasing number of people throughout the Muslim world, they are recklessly sowing a whirlwind for which many of us, our children and grandchildren may well pay with our lives for decades to come.

It is difficult for most Americans to grasp the fact that their leaders’ incompetence—Republican and Democrat, civilian and military—poses one of the single greatest threats to their own safety. But only when Americans do so will there be any hope of making America more secure in the dangerous years to come.

A clear place to begin protecting America is to abandon the assassination approach to war, ditch General Petraeus, end the military and CIA’s focus on worldwide and mechanized mass assassination, and halt its reckless expansion of U.S. war-making into nuclear-armed Pakistan and so much more of the Muslim world.

Final Note: Duane ‘Dewey’ Clarridge: The True Face of U.S. Policy Toward the Muslim World

“We’ll intervene whenever we decide it’s in our national security interest. And if you don’t like it, lump it. Get used to it, world!” -- Duane Clarridge, interviewed by John Pilger in “The War on  Democracy”

As the N.Y. Times reported, Clarridge is presently advising CIA assassination efforts in Pakistan. (“Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.”) Watch an extraordinary three-minute video interview with Clarridge [link below] that reveals the true face of U.S. policy in the Muslim world.

Fred Branfman, the editor of “Voices From the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War” (Harper & Row, 1972), exposed the U.S. secret air war while living in Laos from 1967 to 1971. 

Bookseller Tony Blair Belongs In War Crimes Dock

August 27th, 2010 by Edward Horgan

Bookseller Tony Blair belongs in court

Seven Irish soldiers are now serving with this NATO occupation force in Afghanistan, in clear breach of Ireland’s so-called military neutrality.

The proposed visit by former British prime minister Tony Blair to Ireland on September 3-4 to publicise his autobiography should be used by the Irish people to express their opposition to the wars and military occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were carried out in contravention of the UN Charter and have cost the lives of an estimated one-and-a-half million people so far.

With the withdrawal of US operational troops from Iraq, that country is now on the brink of a renewed outbreak of civil war, resulting from the US-led invasion.

The prospects for democracy and peace for the people of Iraq are very remote.

In Afghanistan, Mr Blair falsely claimed that one of the reasons for British participation in the overthrow of the Afghan government in 2001 was to stop the flow of drugs to Europe, yet he must have known when he made that statement that one of the few positive achievements by the Taliban government by 2001 was the virtual elimination of drug production, as confirmed by the UN at the time.

The US and British occupation was achieved by knowingly creating an alliance with the warlords and drug barons, thereby restoring the production of drugs.

The export of drugs from Afghanistan to Europe is now at an all-time high.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghan people have been killed and seriously injured, and the abuse of women and children, especially girls, has worsened rather than improved under the Karzai government, supported by the NATO occupation forces.

Seven Irish soldiers are now serving with this NATO occupation force in Afghanistan, in clear breach of Ireland’s so-called military neutrality.

Mr Blair should be at The Hague war crimes tribunal as a defendant, not selling books in Ireland.

Edward Horgan

International Secretary, Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance,

Castletroy, Limerick

Letters to Editor

Why are home sales plummeting?

On the surface, it is because the government’s tax-credit for first-time home buyers lapsed in April. It takes a couple of months lag-time between buyer purchase decisions and the actual close of escrow, and so the expiration of the tax-credit is just now hammering the market.

And there is a huge backlog of housing stock.

And sellers are holding out hope that they can get close to peak prices for their homes, while buyers believe that prices will fall further – and so are waiting until prices decline further.

But there is a more fundamental reason that home sales are plummeting.

Specifically, when housing crashed in 2007 and 2008, the government had two choices. It could have:

(1) Tried to artificially prop up housing prices;

or

(2) Created sustainable jobs, broken up the big banks so that they stop driving our economy into a ditch, and restored honesty and trustworthiness to the economy and the financial system. All this would have meant that the economy would recover, and people would have enough money to afford to buy a new house. (See this).

The government opted to try to prop up prices.

Indeed, as I have repeatedly pointed out, the government’s entire strategy has been to try to artificially prop up the prices of all types of assets.

For example, I noted in March:

The leading monetary economist told the Wall Street Journal that this was not a liquidity crisis, but an insolvency crisis. She said that Bernanke is fighting the last war, and is taking the wrong approach. Nobel economist Paul Krugman and leading economist James Galbraith agree. They say that the government’s attempts to prop up the price of toxic assets no one wants is not helpful.

The Bank for International Settlements – often described as a central bank for central banks (BIS) – slammed the easy credit policy of the Fed and other central banks, the failure to regulate the shadow banking system, “the use of gimmicks and palliatives”, and said that anything other than (1) letting asset prices fall to their true market value, (2) increasing savings rates, and (3) forcing companies to write off bad debts “will only make things worse”.

***

David Rosenberg [former chief economist for Merrill Lynch] writes:

Our advice to the Obama team would be to create and nurture a fiscal backdrop that tackles this jobs crisis with some permanent solutions rather than recurring populist short-term fiscal goodies that are only inducing households to add to their burdensome debt loads with no long-term multiplier impacts. The problem is not that we have an insufficient number of vehicles on the road or homes on the market; the problem is that we have insufficient labour demand.

Indeed, as I pointed out in April, unemployment is so bad that 1.2 million households have “disappeared”, as people move out of their own houses and move in with friends or family.

BIS wrote in 2007:

Should governments feel it necessary to take direct actions to alleviate debt burdens, it is crucial that they understand one thing beforehand. If asset prices are unrealistically high, they must fall. If savings rates are unrealistically low, they must rise. If debts cannot be serviced, they must be written off.

I pointed out in March 2009:

Paul Krugman wrote a couple of weeks ago:

The truth is that the Bernanke-Geithner plan — the plan the administration keeps floating, in slightly different versions — isn’t going to fly ….

Why won’t it fly?

One reason is that economic psychologists tells us that consumer psychology has shifted for many years to come, and Americans are hunkering down and not buying anything other than the bare necessities. The Fed can try to play the part of all of the actors in the economy, but it won’t work.

Today, Edward Harrison’s must-read post explains provides additional reasons why the Geithner-Summers-Bernanke plan to prop up asset prices cannot succeed (if you don’t read the whole post, at least read the following excerpts):

The U.S. government’s efforts point in [only one direction]:

Increase asset prices. If the assets on the balance sheets of banks are falling, then why not buy them at higher prices and stop the bloodletting? This is the purpose of the TALF, Obama’s mortgage relief program and the original purpose of the TARP.

***

There is only one direction the government is headed: increase asset prices (or, at least keep them from falling). Read White House Economic Advisor Larry Summers’ recent prepared remarks to see what I mean. (Summers on How to Deal With a ‘Rarer Kind of Recession’ – WSJ) ….

These plans are not going to work
As aggressive as this campaign by the U.S. government is, it will have limited effectiveness because the extent of the writedowns of assets already on the books is going to be too massive. …

And Ryan Grim reported in April 2009:

Critics of Geithner, including Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, insist that the real problem is an asset collapse that led to a crisis of solvency in the banking system. In other words, Krugman argues that home values have come back to Earth, while Geithner hopes to solve the problem by pushing home values back to where they were. The conflict is a serious one because it dictates what response is appropriate.

***

At a closed-door meeting with House Democrats on Monday night, according two members of Congress who were in the meeting, Geithner repeated that he believed the problem with the financial system was a lack of liquidity and that if he could get credit flowing again, the problem would right itself. Key to this analysis is the question of whether one thinks the rise of housing prices was an artificial bubble or if the collapse is reversible and we can return to those highs. Policymakers have resisted labeling it as a bubble. [head of the president's Council of Economic Advisers Christina] Romer, on Monday, came close, referring to a “run-up in housing prices that sure looks like a bubble.”…

If the crisis is understood as one of liquidity, then the appropriate response is to continue injecting capital into the banking system and fiscal stimulus into the general economy until asset prices return toward previous highs. Japanese policymakers initially understood their crisis to be one of liquidity and injected hundreds of billions during the 1990s, to little effect. But if the problem is something different — a solvency crisis brought on by essentially permanent asset-price declines — then the policy response needed is different.

So were housing prices in a bubble or not? And – if so – have housing prices now come back to earth?

Well, as liberal PhD economist Dean Baker points out:

Real [i.e. inflation-adjusted] house prices are still 15-20 percent above long-term trend.

In other words, housing was in a bubble, and still has a ways to go before it is back to normal.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote in January:

Housing economist Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, laid out his case at a risk conference last week for why we still have a housing bubble. Adjusted for inflation, home prices are still 15-20% higher than they were in the mid-1990s. “There’s no plausible fundamental explanation for that,” he says.

Why? Simple, he says: Economic fundamentals are all going in the other direction. Rental apartment vacancies are reaching record highs. Many segments of the housing market are still oversupplied. And the core demographic in the country—the baby boomers—are reaching the age where they’re more likely to downsize, buying less house in the years to come.

Far from some rosy estimates that housing is going through a temporary, once in a lifetime downturn, and that once the market bottoms, homes will again appreciate well beyond the rate of inflation, Mr. Baker argues that home prices are far more likely to increase annually at the rate of inflation, at best.

“If anything, I expect housing to be weaker than normal rather than stronger over the next decade,” he says. “People who say this is a temporary story, there’s no real reason to believe anything like that.”

The recent burst of good housing news has been fueled by government stimulus, including the tax credit, low mortgage rates and easy financing from the Federal Housing Administration. Mr. Baker, who had been a skeptic of the tax credit, concedes that it has worked. So, too, he says, has the FHA effectively supplied credit to goose sales.

But that’s likely for the worse, he argues, taking the opposite view of policymakers at the FHA.

“As a matter of policy I can’t see that we want people to buy a house in 2009 that’s 10-20% higher than it would sell for in 2011,” he says. “In so far as the FHA was encouraging people to buy homes in bubble markets that were not deflated, that’s not good for the FHA and you didn’t help the homeowner. We didn’t do those people a favor.”

Indeed, Baker said last November that the government’s hasn’t really helped homeowners, but has really been helping out the big banks instead:

The big talk in Washington these days is “helping homeowners”. Unfortunately, what passes for help to homeowners in the capitol might look more like handing out money to banks anywhere else.

***

So, who benefits from “helping homeowners” in this story? Naturally the big beneficiaries are the banks. If the government pays for a mortgage modification where the homeowner is still paying more for the mortgage than they would for rent, then the bank gets a big gift from the government, but the homeowner is still coming out behind.

***

There are simple, low-cost ways to help homeowners who were victims of the housing bubble and lending sharks…. But this would mean hurting the banks rather than giving them taxpayer dollars, and we still don’t talk about hurting banks in Washington DC.

Similarly, Zack Carter wrote yesterday:

The Treasury Dept.’s mortgage relief program isn’t just failing, it’s actively funneling money from homeowners to bankers, and Treasury likes it that way.

***

Economics whiz Steve Waldman [writes]:

The program was successful in the sense that it kept the patient alive until it had begun to heal. And the patient of this metaphor was not a struggling homeowner, but the financial system, a.k.a. the banks. Policymakers openly judged HAMP to be a qualified success because it helped banks muddle through what might have been a fatal shock. I believe these policymakers conflate, in full sincerity, incumbent financial institutions with “the system,” “the economy,” and “ordinary Americans.”

The bottom line is that home sales are plummeting because housing was in a bubble. While most assuming that Americans are being more frugal and deleveraging – so that we will soon “get thorough this” and home sales will finally bottom – that assumption might not be true.

And there are huge waves of foreclosures coming down the pike. See this, this and this.

Indeed, it is possible that housing prices may never return to their peak bubble levels. See this, this and this.

Instead of fixing the real problems with our economy or genuinely helping struggling homeowners, the government has made everything worse by trying to artificially prop up asset prices in a way that only helps the big banks.

South Africa wants to join BRIC

August 27th, 2010 by Boris Volkhonsky

[I]f and when South Africa joins BRIC (and there is no reason to believe the prospect is unreal), the new grouping (whether it will be called BRICSA or SABRIC) will acquire a really global character representing all major continents.

On Tuesday South African President Jacob Zuma, while on a state visit to China, expressed the desire and willingness of his country to join the informal club of four developing nations, namely Brazil, Russia, India and China, known as BRIC.

This statement made by the South African leader clearly demonstrates the growing global interest towards this informal grouping which until very recently was basically disregarded both by world policy makers and political scientists.

The very term BRIC was coined by Goldman Sachs’ economist Jim O’Neill as early as 2001 and ever since has been used to define the four rapidly rising economies of the world which by 2050 would surpass the total economic potential of G7 countries and become the most dominant economies in the world. Some economists even predict that this could happen even much earlier that the initially outlined date.

Although the theses of Goldman Sachs’ experts concerning the purely economic aspects of the four nations’ development have never been seriously questioned, another question for quite a long time remained much vaguer: is there anything, apart from similarities in the course of economic development, which can bring the four together?

From a political point of view the answer seemed to be “no”.

First, geographically speaking, Brazil is too distant from the other three to have much common interest with them.

But even if we look upon the three regionally close powers, we must state that there are too many contradictions that hardly help them form a strategic alliance. The idea of a strategic triangle ‘Moscow – New Delhi – Beijing’ was first put forward by the then Russian Prime Minister Evgeny Primakov in December, 1998. But this idea was never realized, and one of the reasons that it was actually still-born was the old rivalry between China and India for regional supremacy, as well as some old unresolved border issues between the two countries.

So, even little more than a year ago, for many observers the concept of bringing together the four major developing nations seemed unrealizable. A famous Russian public intellectual and member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Glazychev wrote in February 2009, ‘BRIC is an intellectual phantom.’ And this view was shared by many observers.

But time has shown that skeptics were far from being right. Despite all difficulties, BRIC has turned into an effectively working body, even if it has not been institutionalized. BRIC summits have become annual. All four countries belong to the G20 group which, in many aspects, have started to play even a greater role that the G7 in formulating the global principles of coping with the challenges the world is facing.

Yes, all four countries, like the rest of the world, were hit hard by the global economic crisis of 2008-2009 and the rate of economic growth slowed down. But, as many economist point out, the negative impact on the developing economies was much lesser than the one suffered by developed nations of Western Europe and North America.

The South African President’s statement made in Beijing shows that BRIC’s role is not limited to the economy, and the phenomenon may well surpass the G7 group not only in purely economic terms, but in politics as well. Before coming to China Jacob Zuma within a short period of time had made visits to the other three BRIC countries, and therefore his optimism concerning South Africa’s future membership in the group is well founded.

“We think that the BRIC expresses a very important grouping in a changing world today”, said Jacob Zuma, and also mentioned that there is currently no African member in BRIC. South Africa’s “participation in BRIC would mean that an entire continent that has a population of over 1 billion people is represented,” he said.

So, if and when South Africa joins BRIC (and there is no reason to believe the prospect is unreal), the new grouping (whether it will be called BRICSA or SABRIC) will acquire a really global character representing all major continents.

The Alyeska BP Oil Spill Coverup?

August 26th, 2010 by Jason Leopold


Tank 190 is surrounded by a containment area that has an impermeable liner. (Photo: Alyeska Pipeline Service Company)

An Alyeska Pipeline Service Company engineer sent a letter to federal regulators and BP’s Office of the Ombudsman claiming internal company documents were altered following a 4,500-barrel oil spill May 25 to cover up the fact that Alyeska allegedly failed to perform maintenance on a key piece of equipment.

Additionally, the concern letter, obtained exclusively by Truthout, also contained numerous other allegations about the overall safety and integrity of the 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) and the way in which Alyeska has been operating it.

For example, the employee’s letter said the pipeline has been shut down numerous times over the past four years because equipment is neglected and routinely breaks and repairs are not being addressed in a timely manner due to a personnel shortage. And electrical technicians have not been properly trained to work on electrical equipment, but are expected to do so regardless.

Alyeska is majority owned by BP. TAPS moves anywhere from 600,000 to 700,000 barrels of oil per day and accounts for 15 percent of the country’s oil supply.

Alyeska spokeswoman Michelle Egan said the company is investigating the anonymous employee’s claims as well as others the employee raised about the overall integrity of TAPS.

The letter of concern was filed about a month after an attorney hired by Alyeska wrapped up an investigation into a separate set of employee concerns that alleged Alyeska, under pressure by BP, implemented deep budget cuts which resulted in a “large ‘bow wave’ of deferred projects and program work” and threatened the safety of TAPS. The investigation, conducted by Alyeska confidante Charles Thebaud of the Washington, DC-based law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, substantiated the employee’s concerns about budget cuts, the deferral of maintenance and low morale, but he concluded those issues did not have an immediate impact on the safety or integrity of the pipeline.

The employee’s letter was also sent to Melvin Jessee, Alyeska’s Employee Concerns Program coordinator, before the company’s Senior Vice President, Greg Jones, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials about the circumstances behind the May oil spill and safety and integrity concerns related to the operation of TAPS in general. Neither Jones nor any other Alyeska officials disclosed to committee members the allegations in the employee’s letter or that the company was investigating the charges, several committee staffers told Truthout.

Lawmakers have stepped up their scrutiny of oil companies and their corporate practices ever since the explosion aboard the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April, which killed 11 workers and ruptured a deep sea well that spewed hundreds of millions of gallons of oil across the Gulf of Mexico.

Last month, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called on Alyeska to conduct an internal review of the pipeline to ensure its operating safely.

Alyeska said the company would hire a third party to conduct an independent review of TAPS, but the company would still maintain control of the review. Alaska State Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks), who has been critical of the company’s cost-cutting measures, said Alyeska could not be trusted to investigate itself.

The fact that Alyeska is run by a consortium of oil companies led by BP and, like the British oil company, has a reputation for placing profits ahead of safety and integrity has made Alyeska a target of criticism.

During a closed-door meeting in mid-June with staffers who work for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan), the chairman of the House Energy Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Alyeska Chief Executive Officer and President Kevin Hostler was grilled about his management style, of which Thebaud’s report was harshly critical, and the oil spill at pump station 9, located about 100 miles southwest of Fairbanks, Alaska, and the site of four other serious accidents, including a fire in January 2007.

Hostler announced his retirement from Alyeska one day after Truthout published an exposé on the company.

The May 25 spill resulted when oil started to flow back into a storage tank after a backup battery system failed during a planned shutdown of the facility to test the fire-and-gas and valve leak systems. During one of the tests, which required disconnecting the pump station from the electrical grid, a battery powered uninterrupted power supply system (UPS) that is supposed to provide backup power failed and caused critical station control systems to shut down as well.

Because the power was out and the facility was not manned with trained operators, no one recognized that the relief valves, which open during a power outage, discharged oil into the on-site relief tank. The oil pouring into the tank, eventually overflowed and spilled and forced Alyeska to shut TAPS down for more than three days, which led to a spike in oil prices.

The employee who wrote the letter told Truthout there have been 15 separate documented incidents involving UPS failures at pump stations 1, 3 and 4 since 2006 that no one at Alyeska ever looked into. At pump station 9, UPS failures were a common occurrence and were the catalyst behind pipeline shutdowns, but Alyeska failed to take action to correct the issue even though the company was informed about it, the employee said.

Alyeska’s internal report into the spill was shared with Stupak’s staffers. But they were not satisfied with the findings or Hostler’s explanation about the circumstances behind the spill and requested that the company turn over additional documents to the committee, according to two Oversight Committee staffers.

Stupak’s office was also troubled by claims that Alyeska would not allow inspectors from the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) into the pump station for three days following the oil spill, according to two committee staffers.

Egan, the Alyeska spokeswoman, disputed the committee staffers’ assertions. She said federal regulators were “on site” in the aftermath of the spill and spoke with two supervisors who responded to the incident. But access to the pump station was limited due to safety concerns.

“The issue in question seems to be interviewing key personnel on Wednesday May 26,” Egan said. “On Wednesday, those key personnel were involved in making the site secure and safe and we did not want to pull them off that work until the serious safety risk was mitigated,” Egan said. “Crude oil vapors were present. We verified there were no ignition sources. Staff worked on risk assessments that needed to be complete before work was performed … Instead of releasing these five or so individuals from their safety-related work, we made others available on Wednesday, including the VP of Operations. [PHMSA inspectors] had his full attention for over an hour on a teleconference … They had the full opportunity to ask any questions they had. They also agreed in this meeting to hold off on the other interviews until the site was safe and the personnel could take time out for interviews.”

Egan said Alyeska offered PHMSA inspectors an opportunity to meet with the workers who had addressed the safety issues at the pump station earlier in the day on the evening of Wednesday, May 26.

“They were not interested due to the lateness of the day,” Egan said. “On Thursday, [May 27] the requested interviews occurred.”

However, a Democratic Hill source familiar with the spill and the federal response effort took issue with Egan’s explanation.

“Egan said [PHMSA inspectors] were allowed in – yes they were – to an office,” said the Democratic source, who requested anonymity because the incident is still under investigation by federal lawmakers and regulators. Inspectors “were not allowed near the scene of the spill even though they are trained to handle any potential safety issues they would encounter.”

Backdating Maintenance

Although one of the conclusions in the internal report into the spill determined that Alyeska has suffered from a “trend of operational discipline deficiencies” over the years, the probe was flawed, said a BP master root cause specialist with behavioral safety as well as business management experience, because investigators were unable to replicate the reasons the backup generator failed and as a result were unable to identify the root cause as to why it malfunctioned.

“This is the inherent weakness of strategic reconfiguration: unmanned pump station,” the BP official told Truthout earlier this month. “This event could have been much worse if it had occurred when people were not there. Everything is dependent on no power failures, redundant power supplies to work and all equipment to set up in the right safe condition upon loss of power.

“The recommendations resulting from this investigation as well as other investigations identified in the report lack specificity as to what [Alyeska] needs to do in order to prevent future failures of equipment and people,” the BP official said. “Investigators were not able to replicate the breaker failure and therefore were not able to identify a root cause for the failure. This means that the device remains in service with the likelihood of a similar failure in the future.”

The UPS failure could not be replicated, according to the employee concern letter, because Bill Amberg, the Fairbanks Maintenance Base manager, who responded to the spill at pump station 9, “did not do as directed.”

The anonymous employee claims Amberg “was instructed not to do anything so that the [the technical failures leading up to the spill] could be recreated.”

“The emergency [65 kilowatt] generator had a charger and battery fail a couple of months prior to the [oil spill],” the concern letter alleges. “Amberg’s team failed to address this maintenance issue. When [oil that spilled into the tank began to overflow], Amberg rushed down to [pump station 9] and repaired the above charger and battery ” and backdated a work order to “cover-up the fact that it had never been done.”

The employee told Truthout that a work order was written up six weeks before the spill “to address problems with the charge and battery for starting the [65 kilowatt] generator.”

“Why wasn’t the work done?” the employee asked in the concern letter. “This is the most critical piece of equipment of the new [Strategic Reconfiguration Plan] installation.”

The Strategic Configuration Plan is a cost-savings measure that, among other things, calls for removing personnel from pump stations to address declining oil production on Prudhoe Bay.

The plan “calls for electrification of pump stations and installation of new control systems for the pipeline. After reconfiguration, each pump station will be manned from Alyeska’s operations control center in Anchorage,” according to Congressional documents released last month.

“According to Alyeska’s prior president, David Wight, who also served as President of BP Amoco Energy Company: ‘When we are done, Strategic Reconfiguration will shave millions of dollars from the annual cost of moving oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.’”

Amberg referred calls for comment to Egan. About a dozen other engineering employees who spoke to Truthout said they, too, were aware of “rumors” that Amberg backdated a maintenance word order. But none of the employees were able to provide documentary evidence to back up the claims.

Egan emphasized that the allegations against Amberg are unsubstantiated. “One should not assume that any allegations are true until all of the facts are known and the investigation is complete,” Egan told Truthout, adding that the findings of the investigation will be communicated directly to the employee who filed the written complaints.

Jerry Brossia, an official with the Joint Pipeline Office (JPO) in Alaska, the consortium of state and federal agencies that regulates TAPS, also received a copy of the anonymous Alyeska employee’s concern letter. Brossia said JPO is “just getting started” on its own investigation into the allegations. But he said the charges leveled against Amberg in particular does not square with what his office knows about Amberg’s integrity and reputation.

“I know Bill Amberg from Valdez [Marine Terminal where Amberg was maintenance manager],” said Brossia. “He cleaned up an awful lot of the maintenance problems there. These charges from an anonymous employee does not fit with the reputation [Amberg] has with our office.”

Brossia added that Alyeska told his office that the allegations against Amberg are “flat-out not true.” But he did not know whether there was validity to the claim that the company did not perform maintenance on the backup generator that failed to kick in during the power outage prior to the spill.

Brossia did say, however, that “things have been tripping on and off” at pump station 9 “for years” and it’s a concern “because it can lead to a catastrophe.”

Alyeska has “had a variety of different problems” at pump station 9 related to the UPS, he said. “I know Alyeska is now looking at that.”

In an internal email sent to employees Wednesday obtained by Truthout, Senior Vice Presidents Mike Joynor, Greg Jones, Jordan Jacobson; the company’s general counsel; and Mike Muckenthaler, Alyeska’s chief financial officer; said “a thorough Management Action Plan is being implemented to address issues that led to the overflow” at pump station 9.

“We are working to address the challenges Alyeska has faced in recent months,” the email said. “We will make sure we learn from this event and apply those learnings across TAPS,” they wrote.

A spokesperson for PHMSA told Truthout the agency is “continuing to investigate the failure at pump station 9.” PHMSA issued a corrective order following the May 25 spill requiring Alyeska to keep personnel on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week and perform inspections every 30 minutes for “leaks and any abnormal operations or activities.”

The employee who wrote the concern letter told Truthout the same mandate should be applied to other unmanned pump stations because those facilities are also vulnerable.

PHMSA inspectors and Congressional staffers were supposed to be in Alaska earlier this month to inspect the pipeline and the pump stations as well as review internal Alyeska documents and records to ensure the company is in compliance. But the trip was delayed due, in part, to the death of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was killed in plane crash.

Drawings

Another serious allegation the employee raised in the concern letter says Alyeska does not have updated “as-built” drawings for its fire and gas system and the Strategic Reconfiguration Plan.

As ProPublica reported, “final design drawings, called ‘as-built’ drawings, are considered an essential safety component. They prove that a piece of equipment … was built the way it was supposed to be. Those drawings are thus the final checks to make sure the equipment operates properly. They also serve as instruction manuals for emergencies.”

But according to the employee’s concern letter, Alyeska “put [pump station 9] online without [as-built] drawings being complete” and although the company is “gradually” updating the drawings the fact that they have been unavailable for at least three years put the pipeline at risk and led to an untold number of close calls.

Moreover, “hundreds if not thousands of these [Strategic Reconfiguration Plan] drawings have been stamped ‘poor quality’ for a brand new installation,” the employee’s concern letter alleges. “We complain and complain but the atmosphere is so bad that we can only push so hard.”

The fire and gas as-built drawings are in an even worse “state of affairs.”

“We do not know how the [fire and gas systems] are supposed to work,” the letter says. “The fire systems engineers do not engage Operations enough with their fire procedures and obviously do not understand consequences of their actions.”

The employee’s email also claims that some of the critical as-built drawings are also unavailable for pump station 1, and likely missing for pump stations 3 and 4.

“A privileged few have the drawings on their thumbdrives,” the concern letter says.

New CEO

Separately, the email sent to Alyeska employees Wednesday by the company’s senior vice presidents said, “TAPS owners have engaged an executive search firm to assist in selecting a new CEO and President” to replace Hostler. “It’s very possible that our next CEO will be an Alyeska employee, instead of an executive from an Owner or Owner affiliated company, which has been the standard practice.”

Alyeska’s past presidents were BP executives.

Rebranding Iraq: Playing with Numbers and Human Lives

August 26th, 2010 by Ramzy Baroud

The soldiers of the US 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division hollered as they made their way into Kuwait. “We won,” they claimed. “It’s over.”

But what exactly did they win?

And is the war really over?

It seems we are once again walking into the same trap, the same nonsensical assumptions of wars won, missions accomplished, troops withdrawn, and jolly soldiers carrying cardboard signs of heart-warming messages like “Lindsay & Austin … Dad’s coming home.”

While much of the media is focused on the logistics of the misleading withdrawal of the “last combat brigade” from Iraq on August 19 – some accentuating the fact that the withdrawal is happening two weeks ahead of the August 31 deadline – most of us are guilty of forgetting Iraq and its people. When the economy began to take center stage, we completely dropped the war off our list of grievances.

But this is not about memory, or a way of honoring the dead and feeling compassion for the living. Forgetting wars leads to a complete polarization of discourses, thus allowing the crafters of war to sell the public whatever suits their interests and stratagems.

In an August 22 Washington Post article entitled “Five myths about the Iraq troop withdrawal”, Kenneth M Pollack unravels the first “myth”: “As of this month, the United States no longer has combat troops in Iran.” Pollack claims this idea is “not even close” because “roughly 50,000 American military personnel remain in Iraq, and the majority are still combat troops – they’re just named something else. The major units still in Iraq will no longer be called “brigade combat teams” and instead will be called “advisory and assistance brigades”. But a rose by any other name is still a rose, and the differences in brigade structure and personnel are minimal.

So what if the US army downgrades its military presence in Iraq and re-labels over 50,000 remaining soldiers? Will the US military now stop chasing after perceived terrorist threats? Will it concede an inch of its unchallenged control over Iraqi skies? Will it relinquish power over the country’s self-serving political elite? Will it give up its influence over every relevant aspect of life in the country, from the now autonomous Kurdish region in the north all the way to the border with Kuwait in the south, which the jubilant soldiers crossed while hollering the shrieks of victory?

The Iraq war has been one of the most well-controlled wars the US has ever fought, in terms of its language and discourse. Even those opposed to the war tend to be misguided as to their reasons: “Iraqis need to take charge of their own country”; “Iraq is a sectarian society and America cannot rectify that”; “It is not possible to create a Western-style democracy in Iraq”; “It’s a good thing Saddam Hussein was taken down, but the US should have left straight after”. These ideas might be described as “anti-war”, but they are all based on fallacious assumptions that were fed to us by the same recycled official and media rhetoric.

It’s no wonder that the so-called anti-war movement waned significantly after the election of President Barack Obama. The new president merely shifted military priorities from Iraq to Afghanistan. His government is now re-branding the Iraq war, although maintaining the interventionist spirit behind it. It makes perfect sense that the US State Department is now the one in charge of the future mission in Iraq. The occupation of Iraq, while it promises much violence and blood, is now a political scheme. It requires good public relations.

The State Department will now supervise future violence in Iraq, which is likely to increase in coming months due to the ongoing political standoff and heightened sectarian divisions. An attack blamed on al-Qaeda in an Iraqi army recruitment center on August 17 claimed 61 lives and wounded many. “Iraqi officials say July saw the deaths of more than 500 people, including 396 civilians, making it the deadliest month for more than two years,” reported Robert Tait in Radio Free Europe.

Since the March elections, Iraq has had no government. The political rift in the country, even among the ruling Shi’ite groups, is large and widening. The disaffected Sunnis have been humiliated and collectively abused because of the misguided claim that they were favored by Saddam. Hate is brewing and the country’s internal affairs are being handled jointly by some of the most corrupt politicians the world has ever known.

Washington understands that it needs to deliver on some of Obama’s many campaign promises before the November elections. Thus the re-branding campaign, which could hide the fact that the US has no real intention of removing itself from the Iraq’s military or political milieus. But since the current number of military personnel might not be enough to handle the deepening security chaos in the country, the new caretakers at the State Department are playing with numbers.

“State Department spokesman P J Crowley said [a] plan would bring to some 7,000 the total security contractors employed by the government in Iraq, where since the 2003 US invasion private security firms have often been accused of acting above the law,” according to Reuters.

It’s important that we understand the number game is just a game. Many colonial powers in the past controlled their colonies through the use of local forces and minimal direct involvement. Those of us oppose the Iraq war should do so based on the guiding principle that foreign invasions, occupations and interventions in sovereign countries’ affairs are a direct violation of international law. It is precisely the interventionist mindset that must be confronted, challenged, and rejected.

While it is a good thing that that thousands of American dads are now coming home, we must also remember that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi moms and dads never did. Millions of refugees from the US-led invasion are still circling the country and the Middle East.

War is not about numbers and dates. It’s about people, their rights, their freedom and their future. Re-branding the army and the war will provide none of this for grief-stricken and vulnerable Iraqis.

The fact is, no one has won this war. And the occupation is anything but over.

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

Chuck Norris is no pinko-liberal-commie, and Human Events is a very conservative publication. The two have come together to produce one of the most important articles of our time, “Obama’s US Assassination Program.”

It seems only yesterday that Americans, or those interested in their civil liberties, were shocked that the Bush regime so flagrantly violated the FlSA law against spying on American citizens without a warrant. A federal judge serving on the FISA court even resigned in protest to the illegality of the spying. 

Nothing was done about it.  “National security” placed the president and executive branch above the law of the land. Civil libertarians worried that the US government was freeing its power from the constraints of law, but no one else seemed to care.

Encouraged by its success in breaking the law, the executive branch early this year announced that the Obama regime has given itself the right to murder Americans abroad if such Americans are considered a “threat.”  “Threat” was not defined and, thus, a death sentence would be issued by a subjective decision of an unaccountable official.

There was hardly a peep out of the public or the media. Americans and the media were content for the government to summarily execute traitors and turncoats, and who better to identify traitors and turncoats than the government with all its spy programs.

The problem with this sort of thing is that once it starts, it doesn’t stop. As Norris reports citing Obama regime security officials, the next stage is to criminalize dissent and criticism of the government.  The May 2010 National Security Strategy states: “We are now moving beyond traditional distinctions between homeland and national security. …  This includes a determination to prevent terrorist attacks against the American people by fully coordinating the actions that we take abroad with the actions and precautions that we take at home.”

Most Americans will respond that the “indispensable” US government would never confuse an American exercising First Amendment rights with a terrorist or an enemy of the state. But, in fact, governments always have. Even one of our Founding Fathers, John Adams and the Federalist Party, had their “Alien and Sedition Acts” which targeted the Republican press.

Few with power can brook opposition or criticism, especially when it is a simple matter for those with power to sweep away constraints upon their power in the name of “national security.” Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan recently explained that more steps are being taken, because of the growing number of Americans who have been “captivated by extremist ideology or causes.” Notice that this phrasing goes beyond concern with Muslim terrorists.

In pursuit of hegemony over both the world and its own subjects, the US government is shutting down the First Amendment and turning criticism of the government into an act of “domestic extremism,” a capital crime punishable by execution, just as it was in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. 

Initially German courts resisted Hitler’s illegal acts. Hitler got around the courts by creating a parallel court system, like the Bush regime did with its military tribunals. It won’t be long before a decision of the US Supreme Court will not mean anything. Any decision that goes against the regime will simply be ignored.

This is already happening in Canada, an American puppet state. Writing for the Future of Freedom Foundation, Andy Worthington documents the lawlessness of the US trial of Canadian Omar Khadr. In January of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the interrogation of Khadr constituted “state conduct that violates the principles of fundamental justice” and “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.” According to the Toronto Star, the Court instructed the government to “shape a response that reconciled its foreign policy imperatives with its constitutional obligations to Khadr,” but the puppet prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, ignored the Court and permitted the US government to proceed with its lawless abuse of a Canadian citizen.

September 11 destroyed more than lives, World Trade Center buildings, and Americans’ sense of invulnerability. The event destroyed American liberty, the rule of law and the US Constitution.

The Fergana Valley – a region with a history of ferocious conflicts – happens to be a potential site where a scenario similar to the Kosovo case can easily materialize. It is no coincidence that the recent events in Kyrgyzstan can to an extent be traced back to the drug mafia – the fact likely reflects attempts to build the Central Asian republic into a trans-Eurasian drug trafficking route in which the pseudo-independent Kosovo plays the role of a key link.

The first group of experts from the international commission investigating the June, 2010 clashes in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan plans to be in Osh by early September.

Commission chief Kimmo Kiljunen said on August 23 that Kyrgyz president Roza Otunbaeva reaffirmed Bishkek’s support for the initiative of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark to launch an independent international investigation into the hostilities.

Kiljunen said the investigation would last throughout September-November and the report would be ready in December [1]. He added that the report would not be released before the parliamentary elections in Kyrgyzstan.

The OSCE also seems keenly interested in the elections and even plans to dispatch to Kyrgyzstan its own police mission with an unclear mandate but with a clear objective to intervene in the republic’s internal conflict on the side of its current administration.

Osh mayor Melis Myrzakmatov reacted negatively to the plan. He told Russia’s Kommersant daily that “the deployment of the OSCE police forces in South Kyrgyzstan would be tantamount to replaying the Kosovo scenario in the Fergana Valley”, obviously meaning that in the Kosovo case a piece of the sovereign country had been torn out of it by force.

Myrzakmatov said the majority of the population in Osh did not welcome foreign presence in the region and the city council rejected the idea. “We believe they are guilty of the Kosovo tragedy. We will not allow to do in the Fergana Valey what had been done in Kosovo and [will] regard them as strangers”, said Myrzakmatov [2].

It is natural that political leaders outside of the Balkan region increasingly invoke the Kosovo case. The unilateral proclamation of independence by the province in 2008, its snap recognition by the West, and the unconvincing advisory opinion on the case issued by the International Court of Justice altogether created an atmosphere of total arbitrariness and double standards.

For the first time in post-World War II Europe a large faction of the international community greenlighted the cessation of a province of a UN-member country without its consent.

At the time of the proclamation of independence, Kosovo in fact had no federative status and was run by a special mission instituted by the UN, while UN resolutions explicitly banned such unilateral steps.

As a result, nationalist, separatist, or basically any other groups in any of the world’s conflict zones currently can cite the Kosovo case as an argument in favor of their agendas.

The Fergana Valley – a region with a history of ferocious conflicts – happens to be a potential site where a scenario similar to the Kosovo case can easily materialize. It is no coincidence that the recent events in Kyrgyzstan can to an extent be traced back to the drug mafia – the fact likely reflects attempts to build the Central Asian republic into a trans-Eurasian drug trafficking route in which the pseudo-independent Kosovo plays the role of a key link.

The developments in Kyrgyzstan highlighted an important aspect of the activity of the OSCE and other international organizations in crisis zones: the explanation behind the inefficiency of the organizations is not their ineptness but their intention to deliberately provoke and escalate conflicts.

In 1998, the OSCE deployed a verification mission of 1,400 international representatives and 1,500 locals in Kosovo. In part, the mission succeeded in separating the warring sides and stabilizing the situation in the province, and for a period of time there was an impression that a political deal between Belgrade and Pristina loomed on the horizon.

Obviously, this was not what mission chief, US diplomat William Walker, and the forces backing him wanted. The forces had surfaced during covert operations in Latin America in the 1980s, and William Walker happens to be a familiar figure in Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador (where he served as the US ambassador in 1988-1992) Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, and Argentine.

He made full use of his expertise in subversion in Kosovo – it was William Walker who floated the myth about the Račak massacre in January, 1999. The actual circumstances of the drama remain obscure and the likeliest conclusion stemming from available evidence is that Albanian separatists and their Western curators dressed the corpses of killed Albanian guerrillas in civilian clothes to present them as victims of ethnic cleansing.

Walker had serious reasons to force all independent experts and journalists to leave Račak – after that he confidently charged Belgrade with war crimes.

The rest of the story – strikes on Yugoslavia and the separation of Kosovo by force – is well-known. Labour Party Member of the Parliament Alice Mahon amassed a bulk of documents exposing Walker’s involvement in the scandal sparked by the supply of arms to the Contras in Nicaragua and in the organization of the propaganda campaign which accompanied the NATO intervention in Kosovo.

Interestingly, in November, 2008 Albanian president Bamir Topi granted to William Walker the title of an honorary citizen of Albania, and on January 15, 2009 – on the second anniversary of the Račak incident – Walker was awarded the freedom medal by the president and the premier of self-proclaimed Kosovo. The Albanian regalia do seem to weigh on the reputation of an official of an organization touting its neutrality and unbiased approach.

No doubt, quite a few people in the OSCE feel bad about the above forms of “crisis response” and settlement of interetnic conflicts, but the organization’s Balkan tenure, markedly pro-Georgian position in the Caucasus, and the practice of interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries under the pretext of monitoring elections make the OSCE interest in the situation in Kyrgyzstan look suspicious.

There is a high probability that new William Walkers are going to land in the Central Asian republic as members of the police mission and the international investigative commission.

Notes

[1] http://www.24.kg/community/81103-kimmo-kilyunen-mezhdunarodnoe-rassledovanie.html

[2] Kommersant, 19.08.2010.

[3] http://www.president.al/shqip/foto.asp?id=6331

Petr Iskenderov is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Science and an international commentator at Vremya Novstey and the Voice of Russia.

‘McCarthyism’ Rises in Israel

August 26th, 2010 by Jerrold Kessel

JERUSALEM, Aug 26, 2010 (IPS) – Rightwing Israeli groups financially supported by Jewish and fundamentalist Christian groups from abroad are on a campaign to undermine free thought in Israeli universities. Collaterally, a move is under way by right-wing parties in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to limit the freedom of action of civil and human rights-minded NGOs.

Under the semblance of seeking “no more than balance”, the right-wingers are pressuring hard for a clampdown on professors and lecturers who are deemed to have an “anti-Zionist tilt”.

The first target was Tel Aviv University with the country’s largest student body.

An organisation called the Institute for Zionist Strategies is demanding that the TA University president survey the reading material proposed by a number of sociology lecturers with a view to balancing them with other lecturers who hold stridently opposing views.

The Institute which alleges that most prominent Israeli universities have “a post-Zionist bias” in their sociology, history and political science departments defines post-Zionism in its own published documents as “the pretence to undermine the foundations of the Zionist ethos and an affinity with the radical leftist dream.”

Another ultra-rightist group, Im Tirtzu, has taken the lead in a widespread campaign against the Ben-Gurion University based in Beersheba. It said in a letter to university President Prof. Rivka Karmi that if the “anti-Zionist tilt does not end”, it will persuade donors, both in Israel and abroad, to stop contributing to the University.

The organisation gave the university one month to accede to its demands. If there is no satisfactory comeback, it would also advise students to boycott the university, the organisation said.

The chairman of Im Tirtzu, Ronen Shoval, said in his letter to Karmi that nine of 11 permanent political science faculty members were involved in “radical leftwing political activities” such as encouraging young Israelis not to serve in the Israeli army.

Karmi, however, is standing her ground — for now, saying she would not respond: “As a matter of principle, I don’t respond to threats or extortions, or in this case, of a witch hunt.”

But, alarmed at the sudden assault and surge of such “McCarthyist pressure”, as one university lecturer put it, the heads of Israel’s seven leading universities did respond. In a joint statement, they urged “condemnation of this dangerous attempt to create a thought police.

“No Israeli university has to prove its staff’s love of their homeland to any organisation, and certainly not to a political one that is trying to present a tendentious political position to advance its own public relations.

“As is proper in an enlightened democratic country,” the statement continued, “Israeli academia is not a political body, and members of faculty are selected solely according to objective criteria of excellence in research and teaching.”

What has disturbed many academics is the at least partial backing accorded by Israel’s education minister Gideon Sa’ar to the right-wing campaign against academic staff. He took an especially harsh position earlier this year when there was a call for the dismissal of Prof. Neve Gordon, a department chairman at Ben Gurion University, who had urged a “social, economic and political boycott of Israel” to end the Occupation.

Yossi Sarid, a former education minister in the ‘peace governments’ of the ’90s lambasted Sa’ar for jumping on the Im Tirzu bandwagon, and for giving succor to the advocates of “thought police”.

“We should be aware of a disturbing trend,” wrote Sarid in his column in the liberal Tel Aviv paper, Haaretz. “When Israeli academia is besmirched and slandered, it is liable to capitulate and include in its syllabus ‘The Science of Occupation’.” And, he continued, “Only unabashed rightists or unadulterated patriots will be allowed to teach such a course — their supreme contribution to the glory of the State of Israel and its global legitimacy.”

Tel Aviv University president, Prof. Joseph Klafter, asked whether academic freedom in Israel was under threat, said bluntly: “There have been some frightening attempts to harm academic freedom. I hope it is still possible to contain this phenomenon.”

He added, “Anyone who criticises our universities for lacking concern about the values of Zionism does not understand that maintaining a pluralistic environment is the cornerstone of the Zionist and democratic vision on which the State was founded. Only through discourse is it possible to educate generations of citizens who are aware of such basic democratic and liberal values.”

That would not seem to be the main purpose of right-wing legislators who are preparing a parallel campaign to clip the wings of liberal Israeli NGOs.

A bill that would require Israeli NGOs to report every donation they receive from foreign governments, or from any source mostly funded by a foreign government, has been approved for first reading by the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. The bill would subject NGOs that fail to report such donations to a NIS 30,000 (8,000 dollar) fine.

Coalition whip Zeev Elkin of the dominant Likud party explained that the new legislation is aimed at “preventing a recurrence of the Goldstone report, which is mostly based on material provided by Israeli organisations…financed by foreign states. NGOs often cooperate with foreign elements which use them to infiltrate messages or carry out acts that are opposed to basic national Israeli interests.”

Some critics believe the new bill will not in fact be able to supervise NGOs and would be only a “bureaucratic nuisance”, but left-wing parties, labeling the proposed legislation “McCarthyist”, say it is clearly meant to intimidate NGOs whose positions are opposed to that of the right-wing coalition.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel is concerned that the bill would undermine the legitimate activity of NGOs based on their political positions: “Freedom of association is not subject to political horse-trading; it is the preserve of anyone who wants to organise to advance civil causes, whether a given party or political majority at any given time likes it or not,” an ACRI spokesman said.

Sound too conspiratorial to be true? Like the cover-up ops of spy novels? Well, it’s reality. And it is possibly the most bizarre, inhumane and abusive way that the White House is expanding its power over the American people.

It’s not an extremist belief or theory of the far right. It’s a fact that has been confirmed by The New York Times, The Washington Post and MSNBC and even documented by the far-left online magazine Salon.com.

And it’s the gravest nightmare of U.S. citizens and abandonment of our Constitution to date: a presidential assassination program in which U.S. citizens are in the literal scopes of the executive branch based upon nothing more than allegations of terrorism involvement as the branch defines it.

Of course, the CIA has executed covert assassinations of foreigners for decades. But tragically, Obama is expanding this program to include American, non-Islamic, stateside, homegrown terrorists.

It all started in January, when The Washington Post reported: “As part of the operations, Obama approved a Dec. 24 strike against a (Yemeni) compound where a U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, was thought to be meeting with other regional al-Qaeda leaders. Although he was not the focus of the strike and was not killed, he has since been added to a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing or capture.”

“A shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing”?

That’s right. No arrest. No Miranda rights. No due process. No trial. Just a bullet.

While the Obama administration continues its Bush-blaming for the economy, it is mega-morphing Bush policy in covert ops overseas, which was, according to the Post, “to kill U.S. citizens abroad if strong evidence existed that an American was involved in organizing or carrying out terrorist actions against the United States or U.S. interests.”

Well, in recent weeks, the Obama administration has taken this overseas killing op to a new low: stateside assassinations.

A former director of national intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, confessed before Congress: “We take direct actions against terrorists in the intelligence community. If we think that direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.”

If you are wondering who the “we” are to whom Adm. Blair refers, they are Smith, Wesson and the White House.

Now we know what deputy national security adviser John Brennan meant when he admitted in May, “And under President Obama, we have built upon the work of the previous administration and have accelerated efforts in many areas.” (Remember when Bush’s eavesdropping on U.S. citizens seemed harsh?)

Brennan further explained then that the problem of homegrown terrorists ranks as a top priority because of the increasing number of U.S. individuals who have become “captivated by extremist ideology or causes.” He went on to say, “There are … dozens of U.S. persons who are in different parts of the world and … are very concerning to us.”

Do you think “different parts of the world” doesn’t include their country of origin?

Conveniently, the Obama administration also is integrating a pervasive plan to ensure the termination of radicals as the feds deem them abroad and domestic, too, with the resurrection of the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, introduced by Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif. Also known as H.R. 1955, it was passed in the House by the Democratic majority but was rejected by the Senate.

Everyone thought that legislation was dead until the Obama administration resurrected its tenets in its 52-page “National Security Strategy,” released in May. So alarming is the feds’ potential abuse of power that officials from London to the Kremlin are recognizing the threat to U.S. citizens.

The European Union Times reported, “Foreign Ministry reports circulating in the Kremlin today are warning that an already explosive situation in the United States is about to get a whole lot worse as a new law put forth by President Obama is said capable of seeing up to 500,000 American citizens jailed for the crime of opposing their government.”

Woodrow Wilson, during his reign as president, incarcerated more than 2,000 U.S. citizens for speaking out against the government. And now for the first time since, a U.S. president is highlighting the threats of homegrown terror and literally hunting U.S. citizens as terrorists. One senior administration official said, “For the first time since 9/11, the (national security strategy) integrates homeland security and national security.”

And what type of “integration” does that entail?

President Obama explained in an often overlooked statement within the “National Security Strategy”:

“We are now moving beyond traditional distinctions between homeland and national security. … This includes a determination to prevent terrorist attacks against the American people by fully coordinating the actions that we take abroad with the actions and precautions that we take at home.”

Could it be any clearer? Right out of the horse’s mouth. Or do I need to spell out what “fully coordinating the actions that we take abroad with the actions and precautions that we take at home” means?

Remember the words “a shortlist of U.S. citizens specifically targeted for killing”?

That’s right. No arrest. No Miranda rights. No due process. No trial. Just a bullet.

In Part 2 next week, I will give further evidence of “Obama’s U.S. assassination program” and explain why I say the administration is going after non-Islamic stateside radicals. Check out other reasons I oppose the Obama administration in my new PSA (“patriot service announcement”) at http://www.BlackBeltPatriotism.com.

Chuck Norris is a Martial arts master, actor, and concerned citizen.

VIDEO: America’s Secret War: From Latin America to Iraq

August 26th, 2010 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

CHURCHILL, Canada: A senior Canadian official said on Wednesday that two CF-18 Hornet fighters of Canada had driven off two Russian Tu-95 Bear aircraft 30 nautical miles away from Canadian soil.

Dimitri Soudas, press secretary of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said the two CF-18 Hornet fighters visually identified the two Russian aircraft approximately 120 nautical miles north of Inuvik in Northwest Territories on Tuesday.

“At their closest point, the Russian aircraft were 30 nautical miles from Canadian soil,” he said in a news release. “The CF-18s shadowed the Bear aircraft until they turned around. The two CF-18s came from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta.”

Soudas said the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) carefully monitors all air activities and considers all options to protect the air sovereignty of Canada and the United States.

Soudas also reaffirmed the Canadian government’s commitment to replacing the CF-18 fleet after its retirement with new, highly capable and technologically-advanced F-35.

The Government Can Use GPS to Track Your Moves

August 26th, 2010 by Adam Cohen

Excerpt of Time article.

For complete article click http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2013150,00.html?artId=2013150?contType=article?chn=us#ixzz0xig4ImAv

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant.

It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich. In these highly partisan times, GPS monitoring is a subject that has both conservatives and liberals worried. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s pro-privacy ruling was unanimous — decided by judges appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. (Comment on this story.)

Plenty of liberals have objected to this kind of spying, but it is the conservative Chief Judge Kozinski who has done so most passionately. “1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last,” he lamented in his dissent. And invoking Orwell’s totalitarian dystopia where privacy is essentially nonexistent, he warned: “Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we’re living in Oceania.”

Adam Cohen, a lawyer, is a former TIME writer and a former member of the New York Times editorial board.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2013150,00.html?artId=2013150?contType=article?chn=us#ixzz0xig4ImAv

Something is rotten in the province of Alberta! And it’s not just the tar sands. It’s the way political and corporate elites do whatever it takes to extinguish potential threats to the bituminous megaproject. The attempt to protect the tar sands from criticism can be framed as a part of a broader effort to protect the ‘rights’ of private interests to profit from bitumen production.

There are a number of ways in which this protective maneuvering takes shape. These range from gushing expressions of Western Canadian nationalism which portray the resource as a splendorous treasure, to more sinister efforts aiming at silencing opposition. Acting on behalf of the world’s oil giants, the Government of Alberta has bought full page advertisements in U.S. newspapers to convince Americans that synthetic crude is environmentally friendly. Premier Ed Stelmach himself has ‘written’ opinion pieces defending Alberta’s God-given right to extract the bitumen that lies beneath Canada’s boreal forests. And let’s not forget the assurances Stelmach made to Canada’s petroleum producers at an oil and gas symposium in 2007: “The response of some has been to demand that we ‘touch the brake.’ That approach has been rejected by my government. It’s my belief that when government attempts to manipulate the free market – bad things happen.”[1]

As the Premier’s words suggest, a battle of ideas has emerged between environmental groups launching ‘dirty oil’ campaigns that seek – at the very least – a moratorium on new approvals, and the private interests that stand to gain from bitumen production. For their part, big oil, and in particular their political pawns in the provincial and federal government, have responded to the environmental movement as if it were a Cold War opponent. In a recent article called “Tar Sands Dream,” Adam Albright notes that:

“today those who speak the truth [about the tar sands] are discredited and banished. Openly criticize and your job will disappear. Write a story and your services will no longer be needed. Publicize a health threat and you will be run out of the province. Try to enact a Climate Law and the Minister of Environment will go to the far reaches of the continent to make sure it does not pass. The Giant Machine just rolls along as million dollar PR campaigns are trotted out at the first sign of dissent.”[2]

Parliamentary Scandal: Killing the Report

This ‘Giant Machine’ of propaganda – operated largely by the oil lobby and provincial and federal politicians – recently pulled off another heist. Earlier this summer the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development decided to pull its much-awaited report on the impact of bitumen development on water. Astonishingly, an official parliamentary document on this particular issue will no longer be released. As tar sands ‘truth-seeker’ Andrew Nikiforuk explains, “the parliamentarians even destroyed draft copies of their final report.”[3]

One simple question Canadians should be asking is ‘why?’ Why did an all-party federal committee on the tar sands decide at the last minute not to publicly release a final assessment in this specific investigation? Nikiforuk suggests that the committee did not want U.S. oil customers, industry investors and Canadian taxpayers ‘to know’ that the resource is being severely mismanaged by the federal government. In short, the 300-plus pages of evidence compiled during the committee’s two-year investigation clearly point to the failure of government agencies in fulfilling their responsibility to protect the Athabasca and Mackenzie watersheds in Northern Canada.

However, a more sinister reason behind the ditching of the parliamentary water report might be considered. After all, the hundreds of pages of evidence compiled by the subcommittee are available to the public. Further, environmentalists have been hollering at the top of their lungs for years about the impact of development on water. In other words, most Canadians already know that the Klein-Stelmach and Chrétien-Harper governments have consistently failed to protect the environment.

Could it be possible that the report was killed because it would have given legal recourse to intervene in Alberta bitumen production? Is it possible that the evidence makes such a solid case for intervention that the Harper government would be teetering on the edge of illegality by failing to put a halt – at least temporarily – to bitumen production?

While the tar sands constitutionally fall under provincial jurisdiction, there nevertheless exist multiple avenues through which the federal government could intervene. The feds have jurisdiction over the regulation of greenhouse gases, for example. This raises the question of why they have not already intervened in this colossal energy project, the nation’s fastest growing source of emissions (at 5 per cent of Canada’s total). Second, the industrialization of the boreal forest and the pollution on site, downwind, and downstream has significantly hindered the ability of multiple First Nations to find traditional sustenance on lands belonging to them under Treaties to which the federal government is a signatory. These two fields of intervention are unlikely to be pursued by the Harper Conservatives, given the government’s flagrant disregard for both aboriginal rights and climate change (as displayed by the government’s decision not to sign the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and its role in watering down the Copenhagen Accord of 2009).

However, the destruction of the Athabasca watershed may offer a more plausible opportunity for federal intervention – particularly because the evidence so clearly demonstrates violations of environmental law, that spill across provincial jurisdictions. In particular, the megaproject contravenes the Canadian Fisheries Act in multiple ways. This Act covers coastal and inland fisheries, migratory birds, and fiduciary responsibilities to First Nations. Further, the Act supersedes provincial legislation. Under the federal rules, it is considered a violation to discharge substances that contaminate waters where aquatic animals (broadly defined) might be found. Any firm can be charged up to $1-million and face three years imprisonment for violating the Act, regardless of their intention. Theoretically, at least, federal water laws could also be used to shut down operations and criminally prosecute polluting companies – if it was clearly shown on the public record that bitumen production was having severe ecological impacts.

Water Depletion

Severe ecological damage is occurring as a result of both water depletion and water contamination. Tar sands operations have been associated with the depletion of fresh water as a result of withdrawals from rivers and groundwater sources. While government claims that up to 90 per cent of the water could be ‘recycled’ by plants, a study by the Pembina Institute finds that practically none of the water used by industry is actually returned to its natural source. The same study notes that various species of fish – in particular walleye, goldeye, and long-nose sucker – are adversely impacted by unnatural fluctuations in the river’s water level, and this is directly attributed to industrial use.[4] To produce each barrel of synthetic oil, multiple barrels of water are required, and as a result the megaproject uses more than 550 million cubic meters of water each year, 80 per cent of which is from the Athabasca River.[5] In fact, the average annual flow of the Athabasca River has been steadily declining since 1970 – dropping 29 per cent in volume between 1970 and 2005.[6] Expanses of boreal wetlands are also negatively impacted by industrial development, as these important habitats are interconnected by subsurface flows of water. In other words, the impacts of development on fresh water extend far beyond the local area of damage. This has brought extreme danger to multiple species of North American songbirds and waterfowl that rely upon boreal forest ecosystems as breeding grounds – species that are supposed to be protected by the Fisheries Act.

Water Contamination

The contamination of the Athabasca River is especially problematic because the water flows northward into the Peace-Athabasca and the Mackenzie deltas, which together hold more than one sixth of Canada’s remaining freshwater reserves! The problem stems from the wastewater yielded through bitumen extraction and upgrading operations, which is then stored in large tailings ponds. In turn, the ponds pose a serious risk to all forms of life due to the presence of highly toxic substances such as naphthenic acids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phenolic compounds, ammonia, and mercury.[7] The ponds are also growing in volume and cover an enormous area – 130 square kilometers of inhospitable terrain. Of course, the ponds leak: one study found that 11 million litres of contaminated water escape from the tailings ponds every day.[8]

The contamination of the Athabasca River is a deep concern to ecologists and population health experts. One study found that concentrations of arsenic, mercury, and PAHs in the water (and flora and fauna) downstream from the bituminous sands are higher than normal, and rising, suggesting that the release of these toxic compounds is directly related to development, and may be responsible for the high incidence of cancer and other illnesses in Fort Chipewyan.[9] These findings have been confirmed by Canada’s preeminent water scientist, David Schindler, who says that the PAHs in the water are at toxic levels.[10] Some have suggested a relationship between contaminated water and deformed fish found in Lake Athabasca and the Athabasca River; walleye in particular have been found to have toxic levels of mercury. In short, an overwhelming body of evidence points to the contamination of water as a result of industrial activity in the bituminous sands.

Back to the Parliamentary Report

The federal government is responsible for protecting multiple forms of wildlife and communities that require clean, healthy watersheds. Yet so far it has opted to protect private corporations, their shareholders, and laissez-faire capitalism. Nevertheless, tar sands operations clearly contravene the Fisheries Act, and a report detailing evidence from the subcommittee’s investigation would have officially made the case for government intervention into market processes. The Water Management Framework, a joint document supported by both the Albertan and Canadian governments, has failed to do anything other than support a business-as-usual approach to the bitumen industry. A new approach, beginning at the very least with some form of intervention into synthetic oil production, is direly needed. Perhaps a report documenting impacts to fresh water would serve as a viable option for imposing such interventions, as it would give ammunition to public service agencies and officials with good intentions.

Because the decision to ditch the parliamentary committee’s report was made during an in camera session, we do not know exactly what led to its demise, and thus we are left to conjecture. It is telling, however, that opposition MPs within the committee – such as the NDP’s Linda Duncan and the Liberal’s Francis Scarpaleggia – have promised to publish their own reports based on the collected evidence. Yet, these private member reports will neither have the legal sway or the general public impact that an official parliamentary report would.

Like a trial witness taken out by the mafia before testifying, the findings in the committee’s water study had to be blocked from official documentation. Everybody knows that the Athabasca River and the Mackenzie watershed are adversely affected by development. By publishing the evidence within an official parliamentary report, the Conservative governments of Harper and Stelmach in Ottawa and Edmonton would face more extra-parliamentary mobilization and pressure for their inaction. By ditching the official report, the Conservatives have returned to disputing the evidence just as they always have. The federal wing of the ‘Great Machine’ of propaganda has done its job: doing whatever it takes to protect the production of bitumen, and whatever it takes to ensure that private capitalist interests continue to profit from the environmental destruction of Canada’s north and of the earth’s atmosphere.

Links: Tar Sands Campaigns

A host of Canadian civil society and environmental organizations have organized campaigns around the detrimental impacts of bitumen development in Alberta. The following links connect to various campaigns, which you may want to participate in:

  • The Council of Canadians issued an action alert specifically regarding the publishing of the report. Their website contains the email addresses of those Members of Parliament who served on the subcommittee, as well as more info: www.canadians.org/campaignblog.

  • The Polaris Institute-sponsored website ‘Tar Sands Watch’ provides a series of campaigns related to the ecological impacts of development: www.tarsandswatch.org/all-campaigns.

  • The Rainforest Action Network has focused its campaign on shaming the financiers of dirty oil: act.ran.org.

  • Greenpeace’s Tar Sands Campaign provides form letters to Premier Stelmach and Prime Minister Harper: www.greenpeace.org/canada.

  • The ReThink Alberta Campaign is sponsored by a number of organizations. It attempts to threaten the province of Alberta into rethinking its development policy or face a boycott on tourism: rethinkalberta.org.

  • The ‘Dirty Oil Sands’ network runs a website by the same name which also contains links to numerous actions and campaigns: dirtyoilsands.org. •

Ryan Katz-Rosene is a PhD. student in Geography at Carleton University.

Notes

1. Ed Stelmach, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) Oil and Gas Investment Symposium [Speech]. Calgary: June 19th, 2007.

2. Adam Albright, “Tar Sand Dreams,” Onearth, June 18, 2010.

3. Andrew Nikiforuk, “What Those Who Killed the Tar Sands Report Don’t Want You To Know,” The Tyee, July 15th, 2010.

4. Mary Griffiths, Amy Taylor and Dan Woynillowicz, Troubled Waters, Troubling Trends: Technology and Policy Options to Reduce Water Use in Oil and Oil Sands Development in Alberta, Drayton Valley: The Pembina Institute, 2006.

5. Peggy Holroyd and Terra Simieritsch, The Waters That Bind Us: Transboundary Implications of Oil Sands Development, Calgary: Pembina Institute, 2009.

6. David Schindler, W. Donahue, and J.P. Thompson, Running Out of Steam, The Munk Centre for International Studies and Environmental Research and Studies Centre, University of Alberta, 2007.

7. P.G. Nix and R. W. Martin, “Detoxification and Reclamation of Suncor’s Oil Sand Tailings Ponds,” Environmental Toxicology and Water Quality 7, no. 2, 1992: pp. 171 – 188. See also MacKinnon, Michael D. and H. Boerger, “Description of two treatment methods for detoxifying oil sands tailings pond water,” Water Pollution Research Journal of Canada 21, 1986: pp. 496 – 512.

8. Matt Price, 11 Million Litres a Day: The Tar Sands’ Leaking Legacy, Toronto: Environmental Defence, 2008.

9. Kevin P. Timoney, A study of water and sediment quality as related to public health issues, Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Treeline Ecological Research, 2007.

10. David Schindler, et al., “Oil sands development contributes polycyclic aromatic compounds to the Athabasca River and its tributaries,” PNAS 106, no. 52, December 29, 2009.

Mercenaries Hired By BP Are Now Applying Toxic Dispersant

August 26th, 2010 by Washington's Blog

Bob Naman is an analytical chemist with almost 30 years in the field, based in Mobile, Alabama. When WKRG News 5 gave Naman samples of water from the Gulf of Mexico, Naman found oil contamination, and one of his samples actually exploded during testing due – he believes – to the presence of methane gas or Corexit, the dispersant that BP has been using in the Gulf:


WKRG.com News
But the story only starts there.

A few days ago, Naman was sent a sample of water from Cotton Bayou, Alabama.

Naman found 13.3 parts per million of the dispersant Corexit in the sample:

That’s a little perlexing, given that Admiral Thad Allen said on August 9th that dispersants have not been used in the Gulf since mid-July:

We have not used dispersant since the capping stack was put on. I believe that was the 15th of July.

***

But I would tell you, there are no dispersants being used at this time.

More imporantly, Naman told me that he found 2-butoxyethanol in the sample.

BP and Nalco – the manufacturer of Corexit – have said that dispersant containing 2-butoxyethanol is no longer being sprayed in the Gulf. As the New York Times noted in June:

Corexit 9527, used in lesser quantities during the earlier days of the spill response, is designated a chronic and acute health hazard by EPA. The 9527 formula contains 2-butoxyethanol, pinpointed as the cause of lingering health problems experienced by cleanup workers after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and propylene glycol, a commonly used solvent.

Corexit 9500, described by [Nalco's spokesman] as the “sole product” Nalco has manufactured for the Gulf since late April, contains propylene glycol and light petroleum distillates, a type of chemical refined from crude oil.

Moreover, Naman said that he searched for the main ingredient in the less toxic 9500 version – propylene glycol – but there was none present. In other words, Naman found the most toxic ingredient in 9527 and did not find the chemical marker for 9500.

Since BP and Nalco say that no dispersant containing 2-butoxyethanol has been sprayed in the Gulf for many months, that either means:

(1) BP has been lying, and it is still using 2-butoxyethanol. In other words, BP is still Corexit 9527 in the Gulf

or

(2) The dispersant isn’t breaking down nearly as quickly as hoped, and the more toxic form of Corexit used long ago is still present in the Gulf.

Naman told me he used EPA-approved methods for testing the sample, but that a toxicologist working for BP is questioning everything he is doing, and trying to intimidate Naman by saying that he’s been asked to look into who Naman is working with.

I asked Naman if he could rule out the second possibility: that the 2-butoxyethanol he found was from a months-old applications of the more toxic version of Corexit. I assumed that he would say that, as a chemist, he could not rule out that possibility.

However, Naman told me that he went to Dauphin Island, Alabama, last night. He said that he personally saw huge 250-500 gallon barrels all over the place with labels which said:

Corexit 9527

Naman took the following picture of the label:


(The A version of the dispersant – 9527A – contains 2-butoxyethanol).

Naman further said he saw mercenaries dressed in all black fatigues, using gps coordinates, applying Corexit 9527 at Dauphin Island and at Bayou La Batre, Alabama. The mercenaries were “Blackwater”-type mercenaries, and Naman assumed they must have been hired either by BP or the government.

Naman also told me that Corexit 9527 is being sprayed at night, and that it is being applied in such a haphazard manner that undiluted 9527 is running onto beach sand. For confirmation of many of Naman’s claims, see this, this and this.

Naman sent me the following additional pictures showing Corexit pollution, use and storage (none show the mercenaries dressed in fatigues; apparently, such photos would have been too risky):





A bird eating a fish right next to the area where Corexit is handled:


Naman also sent me the following picture showing a strange oil mixture in the Gulf:


Mossad in America

August 26th, 2010 by Philip Giraldi

Israeli government claims that it does not spy on the United States are intended for the media and popular consumption. The reality is that Israel’s intelligence agencies target the United States intensively, particularly in pursuit of military and dual-use civilian technology. Among nations considered to be friendly to Washington, Israel leads all others in its active espionage directed against American companies and the Defense Department. It also dominates two commercial sectors that enable it to extend its reach inside America’s domestic infrastructure: airline and telecommunications security. Israel is believed to have the ability to monitor nearly all phone records originating in the United States, while numerous Israeli air-travel security companies are known to act as the local Mossad stations.

As tensions with Iran increase, sources in the counterintelligence community report that Israeli agents have become more aggressive in targeting Muslims living in the United States as well as in operating against critics. There have been a number of cases reported to the FBI about Mossad officers who have approached leaders in Arab-American communities and have falsely represented themselves as “U.S. intelligence.” Because few Muslims would assist an Israeli, this is done to increase the likelihood that the target will cooperate. It’s referred to as a “false flag” operation.

Mossad officers sought to recruit Arab-Americans as sources willing to inform on their associates and neighbors. The approaches, which took place in New York and New Jersey, were reportedly handled clumsily, making the targets of the operation suspicious. These Arab-Americans turned down the requests for cooperation, and some of the contacts were eventually reported to the FBI, which has determined that at least two of the Mossad officers are, ironically, Israeli Arabs operating out of Israel’s mission to the United Nations in New York under cover as consular assistants.

In another bizarre case, U.S.S. Liberty survivor Phil Tourney was recently accosted in Southern California by a foreigner who eventually identified himself as an Israeli government representative. Tourney was taunted, and the Israeli threatened both him and journalist Mark Glenn, who has been reporting on the Liberty story. Tourney was approached in a hotel lounge, and it is not completely clear how the Israeli was able to identify him. But he knew exactly who Tourney was, as the official referred to the Liberty, saying that the people who had been killed on board had gotten what they deserved. There were a number of witnesses to the incident, including Tourney’s wife. The threat has been reported to the FBI, which is investigating, but Tourney and Glenn believe that the incident is not being taken seriously by the bureau.

FBI sources indicate that the increase in Mossad activity is a major problem, particularly when Israelis are posing as U.S. government officials, but they also note that there is little they can do to stop it as the Justice Department refuses to initiate any punitive action or prosecutions of the Mossad officers who have been identified as involved in the illegal activity.

In another ongoing Israeli spy case, Stewart Nozette appears to be headed towards eventual freedom as his case drags on through the District of Columbia courts. Nozette, an aerospace scientist with a top secret clearance and access to highly sensitive information, offered to sell classified material to a man he believed to be a Mossad officer, but who instead turned out to be with the FBI. Nozette has been in jail since October, but he has now been granted an additional 90-day delay so his lawyers can review the documents in the government’s case, many of which are classified. If Nozette demands that sensitive information be used in his defense, his case will likely follow the pattern set in the nine-times-postponed trial of AIPAC spies Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who were ultimately acquitted in April 2009 when prosecutors determined that they could not make their case without doing significant damage to national security. A month after Rosen and Weissman were freed, Ben-Ami Kadish, who admitted to providing defense secrets to Israel while working as an engineer at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, walked out of a Manhattan court after paying a fine. He did no jail time and continues to receive his substantial Defense Department pension.

The mainstream media reported the Rosen and Weissman trial intermittently, but there was virtually no coverage of Ben-Ami Kadish, and there has been even less of Nozette. Compare that with the recent reporting on the Russian spies who, by all accounts, did almost nothing and never obtained any classified information. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that spying for Israel is consequence free.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer, is the Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest. His “Deep Background” column appears every month exclusively in The American Conservative.

Israel Penetrating Lebanese Institutions

WMR has learned from its Lebanese intelligence sources that the Lebanese government is coming to realize that Israeli intelligence penetration of all political groups in the country is worse than originally believed.

Israel’s Mossad, once content on penetrating the Christian and Druze parties in the country, has now thoroughly infiltrated the top echelons of Sunni and Shi’a parties, as well. Recently, Lebanon charged retired General Fayez Karam, a senior member of retired General Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, which is allied with Hezbollah, with spying for Mossad.

Among the political parties penetrated by Israeli intelligence is the Future Movement of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the son of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut in 2005. The UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is expected very soon to charge Lebanon’s Hezbollah with the assassination. However, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah recently announced the group had video evidence from Israeli drones that showed the Israeli Defense Force was tracking Hariri before his assassination.

The STL’s chief prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare of Canada, requested the evidence from Hezbollah. However, WMR has learned that Bellemare is suspected by Lebanese intelligence of having close previous contacts with agents of both the CIA and Mossad. WMR previously reported that Bellemare is suspected to have allowed and introduced into evidence against Hezbollah in the Hariri assassination, doctored cell phone intercepts pointing the “smoking gun” at Hezbollah. It is feared that Bellemare might give Hezbollah’s evidence to Mossad for the Israelis to determine the source of the leak of classified videos.

Mossad is also reported to be grooming a successor to the Lebanese Shi’a political leader Nabih Berri, currently the speaker of the Lebanese parliament. The Mossad operation is being actively supported behind the scenes by Saudi Arabia, a country that is fast becoming one of Israel’s most “open secret” allies in the Middle East.

According to WMR’s sources in Lebanon, one network that Israel and the United States can rely on to support the UN after the expected indictment of Hezbollah for Hariri’s assassination is a Sunni network in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. It includes a member of the same family as Ziad al-Jarrah, one of the alleged United flight 93 hijackers on September 11, 2001.

Lebanese intelligence has linked the Ziad al-Jarrah, who hailed from the Bekaa Valley, to a Saudi-supported Salafist network that includes “Al-Qaeda” associates that will be used to target Shi’as throughout Lebanon in the wake of the Bellemare charges against Hezbollah. Lebanese intelligence discovered that members of this same Mossad-supported Salafist/Al Qaeda network also targeted top Shi’a leaders in Iraq. WMR has learned that Ziad al-Jarrah was used by the Mossad, the CIA, and Saudi intelligence as a “patsy” in the 9/11 conspiracy, just as similar “patsies” are being used in Iraq and elsewhere to help keep the myth of “Al Qaeda” and Osama bin Laden alive.

The same Salafist/Al Qaeda network in Lebanon, while still in an embryonic stage, was used by Mossad and the CIA to spy on Palestinian groups in Lebanon during the 1980s and 90s, as well as on Syria during its occupation of Lebanon.

The Israeli espionage network also extends to Syria. Lebanese sources report that former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, who accused Syrian President Bashar al Assad of ordering Rafik Harir’s assassination, is tactically backed by Israel and the United States. Khaddam, who heads the exiled National Salvation Front (NSF), is seeking to overthrow Assad. The NSF not only receives support from Israeli and U.S. intelligence but also from the French and German intelligence. The NSF maintains offices in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, and Washington, DC and it is suspected of working behind the scenes with Bellemare to bring chargss against Hezbollah for the Hariri assassination. However, previous attempts to have Assad and pro-Syrian Lebanese generals indicted for the assassination fell through due to lack of any credible evidence.

Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. He has written for several renowned papers and blogs.

Preparazione per la III guerra mondiale, colpire l’Iran

August 25th, 2010 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Parte I: La Guerra Globale

L’umanità è a un bivio pericoloso. Preparativi di guerra per attaccare l’Iran sono in “uno stato avanzato di preparazione”. Sistemi di armi Hi tech tra cui testate nucleari sono completamente schierati.

Questa avventura militare è sul tavolo da disegno del Pentagono dal novanta. Prima l’Iraq, poi l’Iran stando a un documento declassificato del comando centrale USA del 1995.

L’escalation è parte dell’agenda militare. Mentre l’Iran, è il prossimo obiettivo insieme con la Siria e Libano, questo dispiegamento militare strategico minaccia anche Corea del Nord, Cina e Russia.

Dal 2005, gli Stati Uniti ed i suoi alleati, compresi i partners NATO dell’America e Israele, sono coinvolti nel vasto schieramento e accumulo di avanzati sistemi di armi. I sistemi di difesa aerea degli Stati Uniti, dei paesi membri della NATO e di Israele sono completamente integrati.

Si tratta di un  sforzo coordinato  Pentagono-NATO-Forza di Difesa di Israele, con la partecipazione attiva di militari di diversi paesi partner non appartenenti alla NATO compresi gli Stati del fronte arabo(membri del Dialogo Mediterraneo della NATO e dell’iniziativa di cooperazione di Istanbul), Arabia Saudita, Giappone, Corea del Sud, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, tra gli altri. (La NATO è costituita da 28 Stati membri NATO . Altri 21 paesi sono membri del Consiglio di partenariato euro-atlantico (EAPC), il dialogo Mediterraneo e l’iniziativa di cooperazione di Istanbul includono dieci paesi arabi più Israele.)

I ruoli di Egitto, Arabia Saudita e Stati del Golfo (all’interno dell’estesa Alleanza militare) è di particolare importanza. L’Egitto controlla il transito delle navi da guerra e petroliere attraverso il canale di Suez. L’Arabia Saudita e gli Stati del Golfo occupano le coste sud occidentali del Golfo Persico, lo stretto di Hormuz e il Golfo di Oman. Ai primi di giugno, “l’Egitto secondo quanto riferito ha consentito ad una nave sraeliana e undici navi  degli Stati Uniti di passare attraverso il canale di Suez in… .un evidente segnale all’Iran. … Il 12 giugno, fonti della stampa regionale hanno riferito che i sauditi avevano concesso a Israele il diritto di sorvolare il loro spazio aereo…” (Muriel Mirak Weissbach, L’lnsana guerra di Israele contro l’Iran deve essere evitata., Global Research, 31 luglio 2010)

Nella dottrina militare  post 9/11, questo massiccio dispiegamento di armamenti militari è stato definito come parte della cosiddetta “Guerra globale al terrorismo”, per colpire le organizzazioni terroristiche “non statali” compresa al Qaeda ed i cosiddetti “stati sostenitori del terrorismo”. compreso l’Iran, Siria, Libano, Sudan.

La creazione di nuove basi militari, la costituzione di scorte di avanzati sistemi di armi, comprese le armi nucleari tattiche, ecc., sono state implementate come parte della dottrina militare difensiva preventiva sotto l’ombrello della “guerra globale al terrorismo”.

Guerra e  crisi economica

Più ampie implicazioni di un attacco di Israele-U.S.A.-NATO all’Iran sono di vasta portata. La guerra e la crisi economica sono intimamente legate. L’economia di guerra è finanziata da Wall Street, che si attesta come creditore dell’amministrazione statunitense. I produttori di armi statunitensi sono i destinatari dei contratti multimiliardari del Dipartimento della difesa USA per l’approvvigionamento di sistemi avanzati di armi. A sua volta, “la battaglia per il petrolio” in Medio Oriente e Asia centrale serve direttamente gli interessi dei giganti del petrolio anglo-americani.

Gli Stati Uniti ed i suoi alleati stanno “battendo i tamburi di guerra” al culmine di una depressione economica in tutto il mondo, per non parlare della più grave catastrofe ambientale  nella storia del mondo. In un amaro risvolto, uno dei principali attori (BP) sullo scacchiere geopolitico Medio Oriente Asia Centrale , precedentemente noto come Compagnia Petrolifera anglo-persiana, è responsabile del disastro ecologico nel Golfo del Messico.

Disinformazione dei Media

L’opinione pubblica, influenzata dalla montatura dei  Media  è tacitamente solidale, indifferente o ignorante dei probabili effetti di quella che viene accolta come un’operazione “punitiva” ad hoc nei confronti degli impianti nucleari dell’Iran, piuttosto che come una  guerra totale. I preparativi di guerra comprendono lo schieramento di armi nucleari prodotte da Stati Uniti e Israele. In questo contesto, le conseguenze devastanti di una guerra nucleare vengono banalizzate o semplicemente non menzionate.

La “crisi reale” che minaccia l’umanità, secondo i media e i governi, non è la guerra ma il riscaldamento globale. I media montano ad arte una crisi dove non c’è alcuna crisi: “un allarme globale”–la pandemia globale H1N1–ma nessuno sembra temere una guerra nucleare sponsorizzata dall’America.

La guerra contro l’Iran è presentata all’opinione pubblica come un problema tra gli altri. Essa non viene considerata una minaccia per la “Madre terra” come nel caso del riscaldamento globale. Non è una notizia da prima pagina. Il fatto che un attacco contro l’Iran potrebbe portare ad una escalation e scatenare potenzialmente una guerra”globale” non è un motivo di preoccupazione.

Il culto dell’uccisione e distruzione

La macchina di uccisione globale è sostenuta anche da un culto insito di morte e distruzione che pervade i films di Hollywood, per non parlare delle serie TV di guerra e criminalità  in prime time sulla rete televisiva. Questo culto di uccisione è approvato dalla CIA e dal Pentagono che supportano (finanziariamente)anche le produzioni di Hollywood come strumento di propaganda di guerra:

“L’ex Agente della CIA Bob Baer ci ha detto,”C’è una simbiosi tra la CIA e Hollywood” e ha rivelato che l’ex direttore della CIA George Tenet è attualmente,”ad  Hollywood,.”a parlare  agli studios (Matthew Alford e Robbie Graham, Luci, Camera… Azione coperta: La politica oscura di Hollywood, globale di ricerca, 31 gennaio 2009).

La macchina di uccisione è schierata a livello globale, nell’ambito della struttura del comando unificato di combattimento. Essa viene regolarmente sostenuta dalle istituzioni di governo, dalle corporazioni dei media e dai mandarini ed intellettuali del Nuovo Ordine Mondiale da  think tanks  ed istituti di ricerca  e studi strategici  di Washington, come uno  strumento indiscusso di pace e di prosperità globale.

Una cultura di uccisione e violenza è diventata insita nella coscienza umana.

La guerra è ampiamente accettata come parte di un processo sociale: La Nazione deve essere “difesa” e protetta.

“Violenza legittimata” e uccisioni extragiudiziarie nei confronti di “terroristi” sono accolti dalle  democrazie occidentali, come strumenti necessari per la sicurezza nazionale.

Una “guerra umanitaria” viene appoggiata dalla cosiddetta comunità internazionale. Non viene condannata come un atto criminale. I suoi principali architetti sono ricompensati per il loro contributo alla pace nel mondo.

Riguardo all’Iran, ciò che si sta svolgendo è la pura e semplice legittimazione della guerra in nome di un’illusoria idea di sicurezza globale.

Un attacco aereo “Preventivo” contro l’Iran porterebbe all’escalation

Attualmente ci sono tre teatri di guerra separati in Medio Oriente Asia Centrale: Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq e Palestina.

Se l’ran dovesse essere oggetto di un attacco aereo “preventivo” da parte delle forze alleate, l’intera regione, dal Mediterraneo orientale alla  frontiera occidentale della Cina con l’Afghanistan e il Pakistan, si infiammerebbero, conducendoci potenzialmente in uno scenario da III guerra mondiale.

La guerra si estenderebbe anche a Libano e Siria.

È altamente improbabile che i bombardamenti, se dovessero essere attuati, sarebbero circoscritti agli impianti nucleari dell’Iran come sostenuto dalle dichiarazioni ufficiali U.S.-Europa-NATO. Ciò che è più probabile è un attacco aereo su infrastrutture militari e civili, sistemi di trasporto, fabbriche, edifici pubblici.

L’Iran, con un  dieci per cento stimato delle riserve mondiali di petrolio  e gas, si colloca al terzo posto dopo l’Arabia Saudita (25%) e l’Iraq (11%) per la dimensione delle sue riserve. In confronto, gli Stati Uniti possiedono meno del 2,8% delle riserve di petrolio a livello mondiale.

Le riserve di petrolio degli Stati Uniti sono stimate in meno di 20 miliardi di barili. La più vasta regione del Medio Oriente e Asia centrale ha riserve di petrolio che sono più di trenta volte quelle degli Stati Uniti, che rappresentano oltre il 60% della riserva totale del mondo. (Vedere Eric Waddell, la battaglia per il petrolio, Global Research, dicembre 2004).

Di rilievo è la recente scoperta  in Iran delle seconde riserve di gas naturale più grandi conosciute a Soumar e Ouvéa stimate in  12,4 trilioni (milioni di milioni) di piedi cubici.
Colpire l’Iran significa non solo recuperare il controllo anglo-americano sull’economia di petrolio e gas iraniani, compresi i percorsi delle condutture, ma  anche contestare  la presenza e l’influenza della Cina e della Russia nella regione.


Il previsto attacco contro l’Iran fa parte di una coordinata road map militare globale. Fa parte della “lunga guerra” del Pentagono, una guerra senza frontiere guidata dal profitto, un progetto di dominazione mondiale, una sequenza di operazioni militari.

I pianificatori militari della NATO-U.S. hanno previsto vari scenari di escalation militare. Sono anche consapevoli delle implicazioni geopolitiche, vale a dire che la guerra potrebbe estendersi al di là della regione mediorientale dell’Asia centrale. Inoltre, sono stati analizzati gli impatti economici sui mercati petroliferi, ecc.

Mentre Iran, Siria e Libano sono gli obiettivi immediati, Cina, Russia, Corea del Nord, per non parlare di Venezuela e Cuba, sono anch’esse oggetto di minacce da parte degli Stati Uniti.

In gioco è la struttura di alleanze militari. I dispiegamenti militari di U.S.-NATO-Israele comprese le esercitazioni militari e le esercitazioni condotte sulla Russia e sulle immediate frontiere della Cina sono in rapporto diretto con la guerra proposta all’Iran. Queste minacce velate, compresa la loro durata, costituiscono un suggerimento evidente per le ex potenze dell’epoca della guerra fredda di non intervenire in alcun modo per  ostacolare un attacco contro l’Iran guidato dagli USA.

Guerra globale

L’obiettivo strategico di medio termine è colpire l’Iran  e neutralizzare gli alleati dell’Iran, attraverso una diplomazia di corvetta. L’obiettivo militare più a lungo termine è quello di colpire direttamente la Cina e la Russia.

Mentre l’Iran è l’obiettivo immediato, lo spiegamento militare non è in alcun modo limitato al Medio Oriente e all’Asia centrale. È stata formulata un’agenda militare globale.

Il dispiegamento di truppe della coalizione e sistemi avanzati di armi dagli Stati Uniti, dalla NATO e dai suoi partners avviene simultaneamente in tutte le principali regioni del mondo.

Le recenti azioni militari al largo della costa della Corea del Nord compreso lo svolgimento dei giochi di guerra USA sono parte di un progetto globale.

Dirette principalmente contro la Russia e la Cina, le esercitazioni militari di Stati Uniti, NATO e alleati, esercitazioni di guerra, distribuzioni di armi, ecc vengono condotte contemporaneamente nelle principali aree geopolitiche sensibili.

-La penisola coreana, il Mar del Giappone, lo stretto di Taiwan, la Cina meridionale per minacciare la Cina.

-La distribuzione di missili Patriot in Polonia, il centro di allarme precoce nella Repubblica ceca per minacciare la Russia.

-Dispiegamenti navali  in Bulgaria, Romania, sul Mar Nero, per minacciare la Russia.

-Dispiegamenti  di truppe USA e NATO in Georgia.

-Un formidabile dispiegamento navale nel Golfo Persico compresi sottomarini israeliani contro l’Iran.

Contemporaneamente nel Mediterraneo orientale, Mar Nero, Caraibi, America centrale e regione andina del Sudamerica sono aree  in corso di militarizzazione. In America latina e nei Caraibi, le minacce sono dirette contro Cuba e  Venezuela.

“Aiuto militare” USA

A sua volta, trasferimenti di armi su larga scala sono state intraprese sotto la bandiera degli  “aiuti militari”  statunitensi ai paesi selezionati, tra cui un affare di armi da 5 miliardi di dollari con l’India, che mira a costruire le capacità dell’India contro la Cina. (Enorme vendita di armi USA-India per contenere la Cina, Global Times, 13 luglio 2010).

“[La] vendita di armi migliorerà i legami tra Washington e New Delhi e, intenzionalmente o non, avrà l’effetto di contenere l’influenza della Cina nella regione.” citato da Rick Rozoff, Affrontare sia la Cina che la Russia: gli Stati Uniti  rischiano scontri militari con la Cina nel Mar Giallo, Global Research, 16 luglio 2010)

Gli Stati Uniti hanno accordi di cooperazione militare con un certo numero di paesi del sud-est asiatico, inclusi Singapore, Vietnam e Indonesia, che riguardano “aiuti militari”, nonché la partecipazione a giochi di guerra guidati dagli USA in Oceania (luglio – agosto 2010). Questi accordi sono favorevoli  al dispiegamento di armi dirette contro la Repubblica popolare cinese. (Vedere Rick Rozoff, Affrontare sia la Cina che la Russia: gli Stati Uniti  rischiano scontri militari con la Cina nel Mar Giallo, Global Research, 16 luglio 2010).

Allo stesso modo e più direttamente in relazione all’attacco pianificato sull’Iran, gli Stati Uniti stanno armando gli Stati del Golfo (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar ed Emirati Arabi Uniti) con missili intercettori a terra, Patriot ad avanzata funzionalità-3 e Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) come pure Missili  intercettori Standard-3 sul mare installati su navi da guerra di classe Aegis nel Golfo Persico. (Vedere Rick Rozoff, ruolo della NATO nell’accerchiamento militare dell’ Iran, Global Research, 10 febbraio 2010).

L’ora per i militari di immagazzinare e distribuire

Ciò che è fondamentale per quanto riguarda i trasferimenti di armi statunitensi ai paesi partners e agli alleati sono i tempi effettivi di consegna e dispiegamento. Il lancio di un’operazione militare sponsorizzata dagli USA si verificherebbe  normalmente una volta che questi sistemi di armi sarebbero collocati, dispiegati in modo efficace con l’attuazione dell’addestramento del personale. (ad esempio, India).

Quello di cui ci stiamo occupando è un disegno  militare globale attentamente coordinato controllato dal Pentagono, che coinvolge le forze armate unite di più di quaranta paesi. Questo dispiegamento militare globale multinazionale è di gran lunga la più grande esibizione di sistemi avanzati di armi nella storia del mondo.

A loro volta, gli Stati Uniti e i suoi alleati hanno stabilito nuove basi militari in diverse parti del mondo. “La superficie della terra è strutturata come un  vasto campo di battaglia”. (Vedi Jules Dufour, la rete mondiale delle basi militari statunitensi, Global Research, 1 luglio 2007).

La struttura di comando unificato divisa in comandi combattenti geografici si basa su una strategia di militarizzazione a livello globale. “L’esercito degli Stati Uniti ha basi in 63 paesi. Nuovissime basi militari sono state costruite dopo l’11 settembre 2001, in sette paesi. In totale, ci sono 255,065 unità di personale militare statunitense distribuite nel mondo.” (Vedere Jules Dufour, la rete mondiale delle basi militari statunitensi, Global Research, 1 luglio 2007

Fonte: DefenseLINK-Unified Command Plan

Scenario III guerra mondiale

“Le Aree di Responsabilità dei Comandanti nel Mondo” (vedi la mappa qui sopra) definiscono il disegno militare globale del Pentagono, che è la conquista del mondo. Questo dispiegamento militare si sta verificando in parecchie regioni simultaneamente sotto il coordinamento dei comandi regionali USA, che comporta la costituzione di scorte di sistemi di armi made in USA da parte delle forze statunitensi e dei paesi partner, alcuni dei quali sono ex nemici, tra cui il Vietnam e il Giappone.

Il contesto attuale è caratterizzato da un incremento militare globale controllato da una superpotenza mondiale, che sta usando i suoi numerosi alleati per scatenare guerre regionali.
Al contrario, la seconda guerra mondiale fu un’associazione di teatri di guerra regionali separati. Date le tecnologie di comunicazione e sistemi di armi degli anni quaranta, non vi era alcun coordinamento strategico in “tempo reale” durante azioni militari tra grandi regioni geografiche

La Guerra Globale si basa sull’impiego coordinato di una sola potenza militare dominante, che supervisiona le azioni dei suoi alleati e partners.

Ad eccezione di Hiroshima e Nagasaki, la seconda guerra mondiale è stata caratterizzata dall’uso di armi convenzionali. La pianificazione di una guerra globale si basa sulla militarizzazione dello spazio. Se fosse avviata una guerra diretta contro l’iran, non verrebbero utilizzate solo armi nucleari, ma  sarebbe utilizzata anche  l’intera gamma di nuovi sistemi di armi avanzate, tra cui armi elettrometriche e tecniche di modificazione dell’ambiente (ENMOD).

Il Consiglio di sicurezza delle Nazioni Unite

Il Consiglio di sicurezza ha adottato all’inizio di giugno una quarta serie di sanzioni contro la Repubblica islamica dell’Iran, che comprendeva un embargo espanso come pure ampi e “più severi controlli finanziari”. Per un’amara ironia, questa risoluzione è passata durante i giorni  in cui il Consiglio di Sicurezza dell’ONU ha rifiutato apertamente  di adottare una mozione di condanna di Israele per l’attacco in acque internazionali contro la Freedom Flotilla diretta verso Gaza.

Cina e Russia, per le pressioni da parte degli USA, hanno approvato il regime delle sanzioni UNSCR, a loro discapito. La loro  decisione all’interno del Consiglio di sicurezza contribuisce ad indebolire la loro stessa alleanza militare, l’organizzazione di cooperazione di Shanghai (SCO), in cui l’Iran ha lo status di osservatore. La risoluzione del Consiglio di sicurezza blocca le rispettive cooperazioni militari di Cina e Russia e gli accordi bilaterali di scambi con l’Iran. Ha gravi ripercussioni sul sistema di difesa aerea dell’Iran che dipende in parte dalla tecnologia e dall’esperienza russa.

La risoluzione del Consiglio di sicurezza concede de facto “luce verde” a scatenare una guerra preventiva contro l’Iran.

L’Inquisizione americana: Costruire un consenso politico per la guerra

In coro, i media occidentali hanno bollato l’Iran come una minaccia alla sicurezza globale in vista del suo programma di presunte armi nucleari (inesistente). Riecheggiando dichiarazioni ufficiali, i media ora chiedono l’attuazione di bombardamenti punitivi nei confronti dell’Iran in modo da salvaguardare la sicurezza di Israele.

I media occidentali stanno battendo i tamburi di guerra. Lo scopo è quello di instillare tacitamente, attraverso reiterati rapporti dei media, nausea, all’interno dell’inconscio popolare, la nozione che la minaccia iraniana è reale e che la Repubblica islamica dovrebbe essere “conquistata”.

Un consenso alla costruzione del processo per fare la guerra è simile all’Inquisizione spagnola. Esso richiede ed esige l’accettazione dell’idea che la guerra è un impegno umanitario.

Noto e documentato, la vera minaccia alla sicurezza globale proviene dall’Alleanza U.S.-NATO-Israele, eppure la realtà in un ambiente inquisitorio viene capovolta: i guerrafondai sono impegnati per la pace, le vittime della guerra sono presentate come i protagonisti della guerra. Considerando che nel 2006, quasi due terzi degli americani erano contrari ad un’azione militare contro l’Iran, un recente sondaggio Ernst-Reuter-Zogby del febbraio 2010 suggerisce che il 56% degli americani è favorevole ad  un’azione militare USA-Europa-NATO contro l’Iran.

Un consenso politico che si basa su una totale menzogna non può, tuttavia, basarsi unicamente sulla posizione ufficiale di coloro che sono la fonte della menzogna.

Il movimento anti-guerra negli Stati Uniti, che in parte è stato infiltrato e cooptato, ha assunto una posizione debole riguardo all’Iran. Il movimento anti-guerra è diviso. Ha posto l’accento  sulle guerre che si sono già verificate (Afghanistan, Iraq) piuttosto che opporsi con forza alle guerre che sono in preparazione e che sono attualmente sul tavolo da disegno del Pentagono. Dopo l’inaugurazione dell’amministrazione Obama, il movimento anti-guerra ha perso molto del suo slancio.

Inoltre, coloro che si oppongono attivamente alle guerre in Afghanistan e in Iraq, non necessariamente si oppongono ai “bombardamenti punitivi” diretti contro l’Iran, né considerano questi bombardamenti come un atto di guerra, che potenzialmente potrebbe essere il preludio alla III guerra mondiale.

Il peso della protesta anti-guerra in relazione all’Iran è stato minimo rispetto alle dimostrazioni di massa che hanno preceduto il bombardamento del 2003 e l’invasione dell’Iraq.

La vera minaccia alla sicurezza globale proviene dall’Alleanza U.S.-NATO-Israele.

L’operazione Iran non viene contrastata  nell’arena diplomatica dalla Cina e dalla Russia; ha il sostegno dei governi del fronte degli Stati arabi che sono integrati nel dialogo mediterraneo sponsorizzato dalla NATO. Ha anche il tacito sostegno dell’opinione pubblica occidentale.

Ci rivolgiamo alle persone su  tutta la terra, in America, Europa, Israele, Turchia e in tutto il mondo perchè si ribellino contro questo progetto militare, contro i loro governi che sono a favore di un’azione militare contro l’Iran, contro i mass media, che servono a camuffare le conseguenze devastanti di una guerra contro l’Iran.

L’agenda militare supporta un profitto guidato da un distruttivo sistema economico globale che impoverisce ampi settori della popolazione mondiale.

Questa guerra è pura follia.

La Terza Guerra Mondiale è un terminale. Albert Einstein aveva capito i pericoli della guerra nucleare e dell’estinzione della vita sulla terra, che è già iniziata con la contaminazione radioattiva derivante dall’uranio impoverito. “Non so con quali armi sarà combattuta la III guerra mondiale, ma la IV guerra mondiale sarà combattuta con clave e pietre.”

I media, gli intellettuali, gli scienziati e i politici, in coro, offuscano la verità indicibile, vale a dire che la guerra fatta usando testate nucleari distrugge l’umanità, e che questo complesso processo di graduale distruzione è già cominciato.

Quando la menzogna diventa  verità non c’è più modo di tornare indietro.

Quando la guerra viene accolta come un impegno umanitario, la giustizia e l’intero sistema giuridico internazionale sono stravolti : il pacifismo e il movimento anti-guerra vengono criminalizzati. Essere contro la guerra diventa un atto criminale.

La menzogna deve essere svelata per quello che è e per quello che fa.

Sanziona l’abbattimento indiscriminato di uomini, donne e bambini.

Distrugge le famiglie e le persone. Distrugge l’impegno delle persone verso gli altri esseri umani.

Impedisce alle persone di esprimere la loro solidarietà per coloro che soffrono.

Sostiene la guerra e lo stato di polizia come l’unica linea di approccio.

Essa distrugge sia il nazionalismo che l’internazionalismo.

Rompere la menzogna significa rompere un progetto criminale di distruzione globale, in cui la ricerca del profitto è la forza prevalente.

Questo profitto guidato dall’agenda militare distrugge i valori umani e trasforma le persone in zombie inconscienti.

Dobbiamo invertire la marea.

Sfidare  i criminali di guerra in alte cariche e i potenti gruppi di pressione corporativi che li supportano

Rompere l’Inquisizione americana.

Minare la crociata militare U.S.-NATO-Israele.

Chiudere le fabbriche di armi e basi militari.

Portare a casa le truppe.

I membri delle forze armate dovrebbero disobbedire agli ordini e rifiutarsi di partecipare ad una guerra criminale.

La Parte II di questo saggio sarà pubblicata prossimamente.

Preparazione per la terza guerra mondiale. Natura e storia dell’operazione militare programmata contro l’Iran
Include l’analisi del ruolo di Israele

Michel Chossudovsky è un premiato autore, professore di economia (Emerito) presso l’Università di Ottawa e direttore del centro per la ricerca sulla globalizzazione (CRG), Montreal. Egli è l’autore di “La globalizzazione della povertà e il nuovo ordine mondiale” (2003) e “Guerra al terrorismo dell’America” (2005). È anche un collaboratore dell’enciclopedia Britannica. I suoi scritti sono stati pubblicati in più di venti lingue. può essere raggiunto a globalresearch.ca sito Web

Fonte: Global Research
Traduzione di: Dakota Jones

Wikileaks Posts Classified CIA Memo

August 25th, 2010 by Global Research

The whistleblower organisation Wikileaks has released a classified CIA document asking what would happen if foreign countries began to view the US as an “exporter of terrorism”.

The document was prepared by the CIA’s “red cell”, a unit responsible for preparing analysis papers from an adversarial perspective.

It notes that a number of Americans have travelled overseas to commit violent acts, like David Headley, the Pakistani-American man who helped the Mumbai attackers in 2008; and Baruch Goldstein, the Jewish extremist who killed dozens of Palestinians in Hebron in 1994.

US citizens also provided “financial and material support” for armed groups in Northern Ireland: much of the funding for the Irish Republican Army, for example, came from Irish-Americans.

“Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon,” the report said.

Pentagon’s New Global Military Partner: Sweden

August 25th, 2010 by Rick Rozoff

The longest war in U.S. history and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s first armed conflict outside Europe, as well as its first ground war, is nearing the beginning of its tenth year.

Over 120,000 troops are serving under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in addition to 30,000 under American command, and the Western military bloc recently confirmed that Malaysia has become the 47th official Troop Contributing Nation (TCN) for the war effort.

Never before have forces from so many nations served under a common command in one country, one war theater or one war.

All 28 full NATO member states have supplied soldiers for the campaign, as have over 20 Alliance partners in Europe, the South Caucasus, the South Pacific, Asia, Africa and South America. With the inclusion of contingents deployed and pledged by nations such as Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Colombia and Tonga as well as the 47 official troop contributors, there are military personnel from every populated continent assigned to the West’s war in Afghanistan.

European nations that have maintained neutrality since the end of World War Two and in some cases decades and centuries longer have provided NATO with troops for its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Austria, Ireland and Switzerland have sent nominal contingents under Partnership for Peace (PfP) obligations. PfP member Finland has approximately 150 troops attached to NATO’s Afghan command and Sweden has 500. The Swedish consignment was until lately the second-largest of all non-NATO member states, only surpassed by Australia until over 750 more U.S. Marine Corps-trained Georgian troops arrived in the South Asian nation in April. (Last month Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili said that the 1,000 total troops he deployed were matriculated in the “school of Afghan warfare” for use in future conflicts like those of the five-day Georgian-Russian war of two years ago.)

The main function of the Partnership for Peace program – whose name is counterintuitive, Orwellian and blasphemous given the fact it has graduated 12 Eastern European nations into full membership in the world’s only military bloc and prepared them for deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq – is to integrate nations in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia for NATO operations abroad. The major beneficiary of that process is the Pentagon.

Over twenty nations currently in that category are having their armed forces, military doctrines, weapons arsenals and foreign policy orientation transformed for interoperability with the Western alliance and in particular its leading member, the United States.

The PfP is training the armies of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Bosnia, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Macedonia, Montenegro and Sweden for the war in Afghanistan and, complementarily, is employing the war there to provide the militaries of those states combat experience and to build a globally deployable force for future NATO operations, including ones nearer the respective nations’ borders. [1] Other components of the strategy include conducting ever more frequent and large-scale war games and other combat training in partnership nations with Afghanistan the immediate battlefield destination but with general applicability for other locations, and expanding the arsenals of PfP states with – NATO interoperable – unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), armored combat vehicles, artillery, attack helicopters, advanced warplanes and other engines of war.

Al Burke and his dedicated colleagues with the Stop the Furtive Accession to NATO initiative in Sweden are conducting a tireless campaign to sound the alarm over the surreptitious and accelerating drive to integrate the nation into NATO’s – and the Pentagon’s – global military sphere. [2]   
   
For over a year Swedish troops in charge of ISAF operations in four northern Afghan provinces have been engaged in regular firefights, the first combat operations the nation has conducted in almost two hundred years. Two Swedish officers were killed in February, the first troops killed in an exchange of fire with Afghan rebels.

On July 1 the Swedish government ended 109 years of conscription and made the country’s armed force entirely voluntary; that is, Stockholm – to use the approved term – professionalized the military according to NATO standards and demands.

As a result, “All Swedish soldiers will in future be liable to be sent abroad on missions against their will. Any soldiers who refuse could lose their jobs….” [3]

The four unions representing the nation’s military personnel are all opposed to the compulsory overseas deployment provision. 

As a press agency reported on the day of the announcement, “At the same time, it was decided to loosen the country’s traditionally strict neutrality to allow participation in more international military operations, like the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.” [4]

Last year Sweden hosted the ten-day Loyal Arrow 2009 NATO military exercise in its north. The war games consisted in part of “the biggest air force drill ever in the Finnish-Swedish Bothnia Bay” [5] and included the participation of 2,000 troops from ten nations, 50 warplanes and a British aircraft carrier. An account of it stated, “The exercise is based upon a fictitious scenario. Within this scenario, elements of the NATO Response Force (NRF)…will be deployed to a theatre of operations.” [6] The allegedly fictitious situation in question was one which could well be applied in the Baltic nations of Estonia and Latvia, the South Caucasus, Transdniester and other locations where NATO forces and war machinery could come into direct contact with their Russian opposite numbers.

Late this May NATO’s top military commander made a tour of inspection to Sweden, commending its government for deploying and maintaining 500 troops in Afghanistan. American Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, visited the country on the invitation of the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Sverker Goranson. He also consulted with the State Secretary to the Prime Minister, Gustav Lind, and the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Frank Belfrage. [7]

A few days later several special representatives from “NATO Partner Nations Austria, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland,” among them Veronika Wand-Danielsson, ambassador of Sweden to NATO, met with French Air Force General Stephane Abrial, commander of Allied Command Transformation (ACT) at the latter’s headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia.

The European envoys “were also briefed by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Lawrence Rice of U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) on that command’s mission and on the achievements and future of the ACT-USJFCOM cooperation.” [8]

NATO is and has always been designed to recruit nations into a military bloc so the Pentagon can integrate them into its own network as well. Where NATO advances, U.S. troops and bases follow, as with Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Poland where Washington has acquired air, training, interceptor missile and strategic airlift bases over the past five years.

In June Swedish troops were among 3,000 from 12 countries participating in the annual U.S.-led Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) NATO Partnership for Peace maneuvers, “the largest multinational naval exercise in the Baltic
Sea,” [9] which included 500 U.S. Marines, 130 of whom stormed a beach in Estonia, the U.S. Marine Corps’ “first amphibious landing exercise in a territory that was once part of the Soviet Union,” [10] 90 miles from the Russian border.

At the same time United States Air Forces in Europe launched this year’s Unified Engagement “wargame designed to explore future joint warfare concepts and capabilities” [11] in Estonia. Last year’s version was conducted in Sweden.

The American delegation was led by the commander of United States Air Forces in Europe, General Roger Brady, and worked with “counterparts from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden to strengthen relationships, and improve interoperability and future cooperation.” [12]

The United States Air Forces in Europe website described the event as a “transformation war game to explore future combined warfighting concepts and capabilities.”

According to Brady, “Because of training seminars like Unified Engagement, the U.S. Air Force and our partners worldwide are better prepared for future operational challenges.” [13]

In mid-June it was announced that “Swedish armed forces operating in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will be equipped with their first tactical UAV capability since deploying into theatre….”

Shadow 200 unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) systems, “Already operated by the US Army and Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq,” will be deployed by the Swedish air force within months. [14]

During the same week the Finnish government announced it was presenting a proposal to the nation’s parliament to join the NATO Response Force, following up on a decision of three years ago to do so “as part of a joint decision and simultaneous membership with Sweden.” [15]

The U.S. led the annual NATO Partnership for Peace Sea Breeze multinational military exercises in Ukraine in the first half of July – in the Crimea, near the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol – with Alliance members and partners Sweden, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Moldova, Poland and Ukraine.

In late July and early August the U.S. 555th Fighter Squadron with 250 airmen spent two weeks in Sweden conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground exercises with the host country’s air force during which “the U.S. Air Force worked side-by-side with their Swedish allies both in the skies and on the ground conducting more than 180 flying missions that tested their air combat capabilities as well as their precision weapons scoring….”

The deputy commander of the participating Swedish unit, Övlt (Lieutenant Colonel) Harri Larsson, stated on the occasion: “We really appreciate working with the U.S. Air Force because it gives us dimension…training with someone else, other equipment, other tactics, working in the English language, which is not our native language….I believe it gives us a lot of good experience which we can use in the future.”

He added that the air combat exercises were important for integrating the warfighting capabilities of his nation’s Gripen pilots with U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcon counterparts. “They can improve their training and we become more interoperable.”

Larsson also revealed the purpose behind the joint maneuvers: “Our government wants us to become more flexible and be able to, on a short notice, go abroad. (Therefore), we need to work with other countries, especially the U.S. (as) the U.S. is the biggest contributor to NATO and the UN. [F]rom our point of view it’s necessary to work with the U.S.”

As the American squadron returned to the Aviano Air Base in Italy, Övlt Larsson said “the F 21 Wing hopes to host its American allies again in the near future.” [16] The F 21 Wing, also known as the Norrbotten Air Force Wing, hosted the fifty NATO warplanes used in last year’s Loyal Arrow war games.

Last week the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead arrived in Sweden to inspect some of the country’s warships and a submarine and meet with his counterpart Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad to “discuss present and future operations between the two navies in the region and around the globe.” [17]

Sweden’s top military commander, General Sverker Goranson, was at the Pentagon on August 5 to meet with Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Goranson had earlier studied at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and served as military attache in the United States.

With eleven years of NATO expansion and the Alliance’s transformation into the world’s first internationally-oriented military bloc, no nation in Europe is permitted to be neutral and none can avoid involvement in military missions, including wars, abroad. Sweden is no exception, having joined scores of other previously non-aligned nations around the world in being pulled into the Pentagon’s orbit in the post-Cold War period.

To illustrate how widely the network has expanded, on July 16 military officers from 63 nations enrolled at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College – Swedish military chief Goranson’s alma mater – visited state officials in Topeka, Kansas.

The officers were from Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia, Botswana, Britain, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda and Ukraine. [18]

Related articles:

End of Scandinavian Neutrality: NATO’s Militarization Of Europe
Stop NATO, April 10, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/end-of-scandinavian-neutrality-natos-militarization-of-europe

Scandinavia And The Baltic Sea: NATO’s War Plans For The High North
June 14, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/scandinavia-and-the-baltic-sea-natos-war-plans-for-the-high-north

Afghan War: NATO Trains Finland, Sweden For Conflict With Russia
July 26, 2009
http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/afghan-war-nato-trains-finland-sweden-for-conflict-with-russia

Notes

1) Afghan War: NATO Builds History’s First Global Army
   Stop NATO, August 9, 2009
   http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/09/01/afghan-war-nato-builds-historys-first-global-army
2) Stop the Furtive Accession to NATO
   http://www.stoppanato.se/english/proposal.htm
   http://www.stoppanato.se/english/guides.htm
3) The Local (Sweden), July 13, 2010
4) Agence France-Presse, July 1, 2010
5) Barents Observer, June 8, 2009
6) Allied Air Component Command HQ Ramstein, April 9, 2009
7) North Atlantic Treaty Organization
   Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
   May 12, 2010
8) North Atlantic Treaty Organization
   Allied Command Transformation
   May 21, 2010
9) U.S. European Command, June 7, 2010
10) Associated Press, June 15, 2010
11) Russian Information Agency Novosti, June 7, 2010
12) United States Air Forces in Europe, June 8, 2010
13) Ibid
14) Shephard Group, June 16, 2010
15) Defense News, June 16, 2010
16) United States Air Forces in Europe, August 13, 2010
17) Navy NewsStand, August 24, 2010
18) The Capital-Journal, July 16, 2010

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US troops fired on thousands of Afghan civilians as they protested outside the massive US military base at Bagram on Monday.

A provincial police official said that at least one civilian was killed in the incident, but Nato asserted that no civilians had been killed or injured.

The Western military alliance claimed that soldiers had only fired “warning shots” to disperse residents after they surrounded a military patrol and attacked vehicles outside the sprawling facility with rocks and iron bars.

But Parwan province deputy police chief General Faqir Ahmad was adamant that one civilian had been killed – although he said he could not be sure who fired the fatal bullet.

Gen Ahmad said that the Nato shooting had served to enrage the crowd, which he put at about 2,000 people.

He said that some responded by using rocks and sticks to attack police and the head of the district government, Kabir Ahmad, who had tried to calm the situation.

He reported that Mr Ahmad and a police officer had sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Gen Ahmad went on to say that the rally had been triggered by the arrest of a religious teacher suspected of taking part in a rocket attack on occupation forces.

Also on Monday, officials and residents of Baghlan province in the north of the country accused Nato troops of killing eight civilians during a pre-dawn raid.

Mohammed Ismail, the governor of the Talah wa Barfak District, said that foreign troops broke into a district house at 2am and killed eight civilians, injured 12 and took nine prisoners.

The province’s governor Munchi Abdul Majid confirmed the attack but could not provide details.

Nato spokesman Major Michael Johnson said that he was unaware of any such attack.

Meanwhile the Taliban has reportedly attacked and torched a Nato convoy carrying fuel and materiel to US troops in the south.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack on the lorries destined for Helmand and alleged that the assault prompted US forces to evacuate their military base in Sangin.

Nato denied the Taliban’s claims and boasted that US-led troops had killed 40 militants in offensives this week in eastern Afghanistan.

Monday’s clash between locals and occupation forces outside the Bagram base is the second such incident in 10 days.

On August 15 hundreds of residents participated in a militant demonstration in protest at the construction of military facilities on land owned by villagers.

Protesters threw “baseball-size rocks” at troops as they escorted a mercenary to the base, according to Nato

In the past year Amir Khadir, Québec Solidaire‘s first elected MNA (Member of the National Assembly), has become one of Quebec’s most popular personalities. He has won plaudits from all observers and more importantly, from the public for his performance in and out of the Quebec parliament. His widely publicized positions denouncing political corruption among the ruling Liberals, supporting the battles against the government’s spring austerity budget or lambasting mining and pharmaceutical corporations, have won him a growing recognition among working people and the wider public.

A recently released poll confirmed Khadir as the second most popular political personality in Quebec with an approval rating of 50%, putting him ahead of the sovereignist Parti Québécois’s Pauline Marois, and a whopping 26% in front of Liberal Premier Jean Charest. Commenting on the results, pollster Christian Bourque, said:

Amir Khadir in the Quebec National Assembly.

“Khadir has become a star of Quebec politics. It is surprising for a party with just one elected official and such a limited speaking time in the National assembly. But he has the ability to broadcast his message very effectively on both television and the radio. He is fast becoming the second official opposition all by himself.”[1]

Not surprisingly, Québec Solidaire (QS) is now credited with a steady 8% to 10% in the polls, more than twice its result in the general elections of 2008.

Doors Open in Labour Movement

It is in this climate of rising sympathy for Québec Solidaire that the Parti Québécois (PQ) pulled a surprising move earlier this spring. At a meeting of the party’s leading bodies, Pauline Marois, hit out at a mildly left ‘political club’ inside the party called Syndicalistes et Progressistes pour un Québec Libre, known by its acronym SPQ Libre. She removed their label of a ‘recognized political club inside the party’ and abolished their token representation in the PQ’s National Council. To add insult to injury, Marois herself a former member of SPQ Libre, called on the party to “finally modernize its program” by recognizing that “individual Quebecers, not the state, should henceforth be the driving force in Quebec wealth creation.” She thus cast away one of the PQ’s most cherished “social-democratic” shibboleths.[2]

SPQ Libre, made-up of some high-profile labour activists (Marc Laviolette, the former President of the Confédération des Syndicats Nationaux (CSN) labour central, for one) and financed by a few unions, had claimed since 2004 to represent labour and social democracy within the PQ. While not amounting to much inside the party, the SPQ Libre candidate in the 2005 PQ leadership race had merely garnered a paltry 1.22%, the club did act as the interface with a section of the labour leadership and played an important symbolic role.

The negative fall-out was swift and massive. Jean-Pierre Fortin, Quebec director of CAW, an early powerful backer of SPQ Libre and Vice President of the Quebec Federation of Labour (Quebec’s main labour central with half-a-million members), publicly vented his disappointment. Noting that he was “the only Vice President of the QFL to have openly supported the PQ in the last elections” he sternly added that this shift to the right “will likely cause the PQ to lose some of its most dynamic and mobilizing elements.”[3] Amir and the QS leadership reacted just as swiftly declaring that “the PQ has now definitively shifed to the right” and welcomed all those who wanted to join the ranks of the left-wing party.

As a result many local and middle-level labour leaders angered by the Parti Québécois’ open snub have come closer or joined Québec Solidaire. Some have chosen to appear publicly at QS functions.

The earliest example occurred the very same weekend that SPQ Libre was being drummed out of the PQ. At a public meeting held in Longueuil, Montreal’s south shore, Régine Laurent, head of the Quebec-wide nurses union, pointedly remarked “it is time that Quebec labour drops its long-standing policy of neutrality and opts to support its real friends.” Amir was a guest at the same public event. Another striking example was provided by Francine Levesque, head of Quebec’s largest health sector union, the Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS), the biggest single affiliate of the CSN with 108,000 members. She appeared at a QS function in Amir’s riding and openly thanked him and Québec Solidaire for being “the only MNA and party that are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Public Sector Union Common Front in our negotiations with the government.”

Yet another occurred at the recently held 34th convention of the Montreal Labour Council of the CSN. Amir Khadir received a tumultuous standing ovation after being introduced by the local leader, Gaétan Chateauneuf, “as our candidate since 2003.” It dwarfed the lukewarm reception afforded to former leaders of the labour council, Gérald Larose and Pierre Paquette, who are now solidly identified respectively with the PQ or the Bloc Québécois. The CSN’s Montreal Labour Council with 90,000 members has officially supported Amir in his last three election campaigns despite the CSN’s top leadership prolonged flirt with the PQ. (The CSN is Quebec’s second biggest central with some 350,000 members.)

As a result of this latest swing to the right, the PQ’s social democratic veneer lays in tatters, its neoliberal character more exposed than ever. Labour support is becoming muted and many activists are casting an eye toward Québec Solidaire.

QS: Founded as a “Political United Front”

Where can QS be situated on the political and ideological map? Québec Solidaire is essentially a “political united front” of various left and radical trends opposed to neoliberal and neoconservative policies. So far, it has abstained from rejecting capitalism or calling for socialism. But its staunch denunciation of the PQ’s ‘neoliberalism with a social face’ puts it in direct opposition to many social democrats and their perpetual subservience to the ‘sovereignist’ PQ.

Some analysts have attempted to cast QS as a Quebec variant of western social democracy, but that is definitely not the case. The new party has integrated in its platform the main demands of the social movements and added a strong call for increased public ownership in clean energy production and the health sector. It is also anti-imperialist and anti-war, strongly opposed to Canada’s participation in the U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan. It is strongly supportive of the Palestinian people’s struggle and sympathetic toward the Latin American left governments.

Furthermore, it is steadily moving in its political practice toward the dual tactic of ‘the ballot box and the street.’ After granting an inordinate amount of attention to electoral work in its first two years, courtesy of back-to-back Quebec general elections in 2007 and 2008, QS is now actively supporting and participating in the rising social and labour battles erupting daily in the province. The party is also a highly vocal critic of the federal Tories. Significantly, Khadir was the first political personality in Quebec to denounce the police crackdown on the G20 demonstrators in Toronto this past June. In a highly public move, furiously denounced by some right-wing media pundits, he paid the bail for a well-known Quebec activist held in a Toronto jail after the demos.[4]

In its program and practice the new party is well to the left of any Western social democratic party, not to speak of the meek and mild Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP). As I have argued elsewhere, QS can be more properly understood as a “new left” formation, similar in nature to those that have appeared in several Western countries in the past decade. The best known cases being the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) in France and Die Linke (The Left) in Germany.

The programmatic challenges facing QS also bear a striking similarity to those faced by the NPA and Die Linke. While the ‘anti’ aspect of the platform or program of these formations is well spelled-out, the ‘pro’ aspect is yet to be clearly defined. By their own admission, the socialism espoused by the NPA and Die Linke is kept somewhat vague at this stage of their development.

Public Discussions Ahead of 2011 Congress

As for Québec Solidaire, it has just begun to query the ‘post-neoliberal’ society it advocates. In its April 2009 manifesto, the question of the link between capitalism and neoliberalism is explicitly stated for the first time and the question posed openly: “Pour sortir de la crise: dépasser le capitalisme?” (To fight the crisis: should we go beyond capitalism?).

This question lies at the root of QS’s ongoing attempt to define its program. Following its recently held 5th congress centered on the National Question, the party is now tackling the socio-economic and environmental parts of the program. The preliminary documents put forth by the Political Commission are opening the door to an energetic discussion of anti-capitalism and ecosocialism:

“As we work on our program, we should spell out the nature and limits of the system, and ask ourselves the following question: isn’t the capitalist system, based as it is on maximizing profit and irresponsible exploitation of nature, the main obstacle to social progress and a healthy attitude to the environment? We need a serious debate on the question so we can determine whether our social problems can be corrected by reforms that respect the logic of the system or if we need to adopt the perspective of going beyond the system.”[5]

Internal debates and public discussions have already started in preparation of the next congress scheduled for February 2011. The process will be a highly public one with submissions sought from members and the public posted on the QS website and many open party educational conferences held throughout the fall. Discussions are kicking off in earnest during the last week of August with leaders and members of QS, as well as trade-unionists and social movement activists, attending and speaking at the ‘summer university’ of Nouveaux Cahiers du socialisme, a Quebec socialist review, and/or the ‘summer camp’ of Alternatives, an international solidarity organization. On the agenda are many conferences and workshops on such questions as ecosocialism, activating the fightback against the government austerity budget and building a climate justice movement.

It is a tricky question that the party membership must ponder as both Québec Solidaire’s electoral future and its anti-systemic aspirations are up for discussion. While some members are calling for maintaining the party’s “Rainbow Coalition” character, warning “that socialist sentiments have presently little popular appeal” and hence QS should set its sights “on immediate changes that can be realized within the framework of capitalism”;[6] others argue instead that QS should take advantage of “favourable objective and subjective conditions“ to evolve “toward an anti-capitalist party acting within a broad-based movement against neoliberalism.”[7]

All QS members agree that the PQ’s definitive swing to the right “opens a window of opportunity for the constitution a broad political bloc of all those seeking political change.” The thorny question being, as always, how does a left-wing party move in to fill that void?

Quebec has a history of radical left activism as two recently published scholarly essays on the long suppressed history of 1960s and 1970s activism show.[8] Keeping in mind the defeats and disappointments of the past, today’s new activists are much more keenly aware of the imperative of building a broad-based popular movement in order to obtain any success in the 21st century. •

Roger Rashi is a founding member of Québec Solidaire and presently sits on the party’s Commission on the environment. He is also a member of Masse critique, a recognized anti-capitalist and ecosocialist collective within Québec Solidaire.

Notes

1. See “Sondage Léger Marketing. Le Devoir-The Gazette. Le PQ maintient son avance,” Le Devoir, June 14th 2010.

2. See “PQ severs ties to SPQ libre,” The Gazette, March 15th 2010.

3. See “Le PQ montre la porte au SPQ Libre,” Radio Canada, March 15th 2010.

4. See “Quebec politician posts bail for Jaggi Singh,” CBC July 13th 2010.

5. See: Québec Solidaire “Pour une société solidaire et écologique. Cahier de participation au programme. Enjeu 2,” June 2010, p. 5.

6. See: François Cyr and Pierre Beaudet, “Québec solidaire doit rester une coalition arc-en-ciel”, Les Nouveaux Cahiers du socialisme, June 15th 2010.

7. See: Roger Rashi: “Québec solidaire: vers un parti anticapitaliste s’inscrivant dans un large mouvement de lutte au néolibéralisme,” Les Nouveaux Cahiers du socialisme, August 13th 2010.

For a somewhat similar argument, see: André Frappier and Bernard Rioux, “Le défi de Québec solidaire, devenir un parti de transformation écologique et sociale,” PTAG, July 6th 2010.

8. See Sean Mills highly informative account of 1960s radicalism in Quebec: The Empire Within, Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 2010; and Jean-Philippe Warren’s essay on Quebec’s Marxist-Leninist movement of the 1970s: Ils voulaient changer le monde. Le militantisme marxiste-léniniste au Québec, Montreal:VLB éditeur, 2007. Mills judged Montreal to have been in the 1970s “a Maoist centre unmatched elsewhere in North America” (p. 210). While Warren opines that two main Marxist-Leninist (Maoist) organizations “dominated the Quebec left for 7 to 8 years in the 1970s grouping thousands of members and sympathizers to the point where they became the most important left trend in the post-war era” (p. 16). Both organizations, In Struggle (En Lutte) and the Workers Communist Party (Parti communiste ouvrier), dissolved in the early 1980s.

On March 13, 2008, Canada’s Parliament voted to extend the country’s military “mission” in Afghanistan to July 2011. The motion by the minority Conservative government was supported by the opposition Liberals. The warmakers correctly estimated that fixing an exit date would deflect mounting opposition to the war among the Canadian public and buy time for Canada’s continued participation. Since then, the political and military situation in Afghanistan has continued to deteriorate for the occupying forces, and leading politicians are now floating proposals to extend Canada’s claimed exit date for a military mission that already constitutes a gross violation of the national sovereignty and human rights of the Afghan people.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the government will stick to its date. However, he also says that Canada will maintain a military presence in Afghanistan after 2011, to train Afghan police and military personnel. This is a de-facto extension of the military mission and not, as the government claims, in a non-combat role.

Following a visit to Afghanistan in late May, Liberal MP and Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae said it is time to revisit the exit date and prepare for a longer intervention. Even the New Democratic Party’s military affairs critic, Jack Harris, doesn’t rule out a continued military role. He was on the same delegation as Rae and told reporters in Kandahar, “Obviously, there are considerable humanitarian and institution-building concerns about Afghanistan. Whether that involves the military or not is another question, indeed. … There are other ways we can help build institutions.”

The Canadian government’s vast increases in military spending belie the promise of withdrawal. A 2009 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated that Canada would spend $21-billion on its military in 2009-2010, a 56% increase since 1998-1999. Recently, it announced a $9-billion purchase of new fighter jets, one of the largest purchases in Canadian history.

The Escalating War

The war continues to escalate out of control. By mid-August, 425 soldiers of the U.S.-led foreign occupation forces have been killed in 2010. At this rate, it will be the deadliest year for the imperialist coalition in the nine years of the war.

June and July were the first and second most deadly months of the war respectively for the foreign forces. One hundred and two of their soldiers were killed in June, and 89 in July. July was the highest monthly troop loss for the U.S. in Afghanistan, with 66 soldiers killed.

Since taking office in January 2009, U.S. President Obama has significantly escalated the war in Afghanistan. His reckless troop “surge” will result in 100,000 U.S. troops on the ground by the end of August, three times the number when he took office. The only tangible result of this surge has been an increase in deaths of Afghans at the hands of foreign forces and more imperialist troop deaths as resistance fighters wage their own “counter-surge.”

Obama has also expanded the war into Pakistan, where aerial attacks by unmanned drones have killed countless Pakistanis in the mountainous region along the border with Afghanistan.

A War for Democracy and Women’s Rights?

The U.S. and its imperialist allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) say that the goal of their war is to protect democracy and women’s rights in Afghanistan. Both claims are disproven by the realities on the ground.

The U.S. has backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a representative of the wealthy and corrupt elite in Afghanistan. His regime consists of landowners, businessmen, and noted war criminals and their cronies. They make up the majority of representatives in the Afghan parliament. Their government has done nothing to improve the conditions of ordinary Afghans, and is despised by a large majority of the population.

The situation facing Afghan women remains as dire as ever. Since 2004, the Afghan parliament has reenacted most of the anti-women policies that existed under the pre-2001 Taliban-led government. Some go beyond anything in place in that earlier time. Instances of sexual abuse and assault against Afghan women are as high as ever, with the perpetrators of such acts going unpunished. Instances of women committing suicide by self-immolation are at an all-time high.

A July 31 New York Times article by Alissa Rubin reports that “girls’ schools are closing; working women are threatened; advocates are attacked; and terrified families are increasingly confining their daughters to home.”

U.S. Military Strategy Fails as Worldwide Opposition Deepens

Since June, Obama’s “surge” has been concentrated around Kandahar City, the main centre of NATO operations in southern Afghanistan since 2004. The need to concentrate the surge in the city itself shows the weakness of the U.S./NATO presence. Equally significant is the increasing ability of resistance forces to launch attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

The Obama administration received a further blow to its strategy in Afghanistan with the July 26 Wikileaks release of the “Afghan War Diary,” a collection of 91,000 secret U.S. military reports on the war, covering the years 2004 to 2009 (some 15,000 of the documents are yet to be released). According to Wikileaks, the diary is “the most significant archive about the reality of war to have ever been released during the course of a war.”

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told Democracy Now in an interview on July 27 that:

“What is most important is the vast sweep of the abuses that have occurred during the past six years, the vast sweep of the everyday squalor and carnage of the war… most civilian casualties occur in incidences where 1, 2, 10 or 20 people are killed, and they really numerically dominate the list of events.”

The documents reveal that much of the war has been conducted covertly by U.S. special operations forces, such as the now famous Task Force 373. These forces operate mostly at night, under the radar of the media, and kill with impunity.

Afghan civilian casualties are far higher than admitted by the occupation forces. According to an August 6 article by independent journalist Justin Podur, the War Diary records 15,219 Afghans killed in combat. There is every reason to believe that many of the reported Afghans killed in combat are in fact civilians. There are 3,994 civilian deaths reported, though only 34 of these are attributed to the occupation forces.

The Diary revelations occur in the aftermath of the removal in late June of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McCrystal. McCrystal was replaced by General David Petraeus, architect of the Bush Administration’s “surge” in Iraq in 2007. McCrystal’s firing indicates disarray among leading figures in the Pentagon and the Obama administration, and reflects growing doubts among the general population, if not the military itself, about the “winnability” of the war.

A CBS News poll conducted in early July shows that 62% of Americans are unhappy about the war, an increase of 13 percentage points since May. The same poll shows that 54% of Americans want the U.S. government to draw up a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Ignoring the rise in opposition, the U.S. Congress approved the War Funding Bill on July 27. It funds Obama’s “surge” to the tune of $37-billion. But Congressional support is no longer unanimous. One hundred and two Democrats voted against the bill, forcing Obama to rely on Republican votes to pass the measure.

Obama claims that the surge will end in 2011, and that the U.S. will begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Yet the U.S. remains committed to enabling the Afghan regime to handle “security” for the country. The U.S. and other governments backing the Karzai regime recently held a conference in Afghanistan and resolved to militarily assist the regime until such time as it can handle military action on its own. They estimate that date to be 2014 at the earliest.

Similar rhetoric is being applied by the U.S. in Iraq. On August 2, Obama announced that the U.S. will end its combat mission there by the end of the month. Yet 50,000 soldiers and 4,500 “special forces” troops will remain on the ground, along with countless air and naval bases. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants to increase Special Forces personnel to 7,500.

According to writer Jeremy Scahill, the Obama policy in Iraq represents a continuation of the preceding Bush administration policy. He told Democracy Now in an interview on August 3 that:

“President Obama is implementing the policy that was on the desk of George W. Bush when he left the White House. This is essentially the Petraeus-Bush Iraq plan. So the idea that Obama is making good on a campaign pledge to end the war is sort of playing with words, because the reality is he just implemented what was current U.S. policy when he came into the White House.”

Afghan Detainee Torture Scandal

The Canadian government has been dogged by deep controversy over the treatment of Afghan detainees by Canadian forces. Allegations that the Canadian military knowingly handed Afghan detainees over to Afghan police authorities and were routinely tortured first surfaced in 2007 when University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran produced heavily censored documents obtained through an Access to Information request. They suggested that Afghan detainees handed over to Afghan officials by the Canadian military were tortured.

The allegations gained fresh legs in November 2009 when Richard Colvin, for a time the second highest ranking member of Canada’s diplomatic service in Afghanistan, delivered explosive testimony before a parliamentary committee confirming that Afghan detainees turned over by Canada were tortured and that Canadian officials, possibly even the government itself, turned a blind eye. Prime Minister Harper then asked the Governor General to prorogue (suspend) Parliament for a few months in order to avoid a deeper probe of the scandal. The request was granted.

When Parliament resumed in March, the Opposition parties passed a motion obliging the government to release the uncensored documents concerning the issue. The government refused. In June, the government struck a deal with the Liberals to appoint a three person panel that will determine how much of the documentation will be released to the public.

The Anti-War Movement

Polling numbers in all the warmaking countries show increased opposition to the war. Attacks on democratic rights and cuts to government social spending that accompany the wars’ pursuits are also prompting growing voices in opposition.

Despite the apparently small numbers of people mobilized in the streets to oppose the Afghan war, there are signs of progress toward broader mobilizations. The Netherlands has been obliged to withdraw its 1,900 troops after the sitting government failed to secure a majority in Parliament to keep them there. It is the first major NATO country to withdraw. The governments of Germany and Britain are under extreme pressure to follow suit.

In the United Kingdom, war resister Joe Glenton, who spent a year in prison for refusing to return to Afghanistan, has emerged as a strong leader against the war.

In the U.S., 850 people attended a July 23-25 United National Antiwar Conference in Albany, New York. The conference called for “unity in action, massive mobilizations, inclusion of the broadest popular sectors of society, democratic functioning, and the construction of a mass social movement that operates independently of all political parties while seeking to influence their rank and file.” It plans to hold a wide range of activities beginning this fall, culminating in mass demonstrations in New York and San Francisco on April 9, 2011.

The Canadian Peace Alliance – the country’s largest anti-war network – plans to coordinate a campaign throughout the fall against another extension of Canada’s war in Afghanistan, and to host a series of major events in October featuring Afghan social activist Malalai Joya. Recently in Toronto, Josie Forcadilla, the mother of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, spoke at a rally of 200 against the war.

As the crisis facing the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan deepens, the withdrawal of the Netherlands shows that the war can be stopped. “Yes we can” build a vocal opposition in the streets, bring the troops home, end the war in Afghanistan, and set the world on an alternative course of social and environmental justice. •

For more information on the anti-war movement in Canada, check out the Canadian Peace Alliance.

Tim Kennelly is an activist in Vancouver in the peace movement and on Palestinian solidarity. This article published in conjunction with Socialist Voice.

Record drop in US home sales

August 25th, 2010 by Barry Grey

Sales of existing US homes in July plunged by a record 27.2 percent from the previous month, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Association of Realtors.

The virtual collapse in home sales affected every region of the country and was more than twice as bad as anticipated by economic analysts, who had forecast a drop of 12.1 percent. Sales fell to 3.83 million units, compared to June’s downwardly revised figure of 5.26 million.

On a year-over-year basis, existing home sales in July were down 25.5 percent from an annual rate of 5.14 million units in July 2009.

The July figure was the largest monthly drop since records began in 1968. It brought the rate of US home sales on an annualized basis to the lowest level since 1995.

Home sales fell 29.5 percent in the Northeast, 22.6 percent in the South, 25 percent in the West and 35 percent in the Midwest. The link between the housing collapse and the social distress caused by long-term mass unemployment was underscored by two pieces of data: nearly a third of the homes sold were distressed properties, and sales tumbled particularly sharply for homes in the lower to mid-priced ranges. In the Midwest, sales of homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000 plunged nearly 47 percent.

The July figure marked the third consecutive monthly decline since the April 30 expiration of a federal tax credit for home-buyers. The impact of the termination of the tax credit on the housing market has been compounded by the soaring number of foreclosed homes and the rising rate of mortgage payment delinquency.

Home foreclosures are running about ten times higher than before the housing bust of 2007. A survey released last week by Deutsche Bank showed that the rate of serious mortgage payment delinquency (more than 90 days) in the average US congressional district has nearly tripled from the time of the 2008 election.

The realtors’ report also recorded a sharp rise in the inventory of unsold existing homes in July. At the end of the month, 3.98 million homes were available for sale, which translates into a 12.5-month supply, up from 8.9 months in June and the highest level in over a decade. A six-month supply of available homes is considered a healthy level.

The disastrous home sales report is consistent with dismal reports last week on housing starts and new housing permits and other data, including a nine-month high for initial jobless benefit claims, which reflect a sharp contraction in economic growth and point to a further rise in unemployment, already near Depression levels.

Most economists believe that when the Commerce Department issues its revised estimate for second quarter US economic growth on Friday, it will downgrade the figure from the 2.4 percent it reported last month to 1.3 percent. Even this grim prediction may be overly optimistic. For the past several weeks, virtually every economic indicator has been worse than economists’ forecasts.

Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist for Miller Tabak & Co., spoke in a research note Tuesday of a “near, if not outright, collapse in housing.”

Paul Dales of Capital Economics said, “It is becoming abundantly clear that the housing market is undermining the already faltering wider economic recovery. With an increasingly inevitable double-dip in housing prices yet to come, things could get a lot worse.”

In a note analyzing the housing numbers, Nigel Gault, chief US economist for HIS Global Insight, wrote, “A sustained upturn [in the housing market] will depend on an improvement in the jobs market, which at the moment is slowing down rather than gathering pace.” He added, “There is no sign of any underlying recovery despite rock-bottom interest rates.”

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage has sunk to 4.42 percent, the lowest rate in decades. That home sales continue to plummet despite such attractive rates underscores the depth of the economic crisis and absence of any real recovery. Workers who would otherwise be in the market are not buying either because they have lost their job or they fear joining the jobless ranks. Banks have also tightened their requirements and cut back on loans.

Stock markets around the world fell sharply on the latest sign of a slowdown in the US economy. Asian stocks, which fell Tuesday morning, in part in anticipation of the US housing report, resumed their decline on Wednesday. European stocks fell by more than 1 percent Tuesday, as did US stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 133 points, a decline of 1.3 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the Nasdaq fell even more sharply on a percentage basis. It was the fourth consecutive decline on Wall Street.

Other global indicators pointed to an erosion of confidence and mounting fear of a “double-dip” recession. Crude oil prices fell below $72 a barrel, their lowest level in eleven weeks. Gold for December delivery closed $4.90 higher at $1,233.40 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. The yield on ten-year US Treasuries fell to 2.499 percent, reflecting a “flight to safety” by big investors.

Neither the Obama administration nor its Republican opponents are proposing any serious measures to create jobs or provide relief for the more than 20 million workers who are either unemployed or underemployed. The Democrats and Republicans differ only on the most effective tactics for imposing the full burden of the capitalist crisis on the working class.

On Tuesday, John Boehner, the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, made a demagogic speech in which he attempted to present himself as the advocate for unemployed and economically threatened working people. He denounced Obama for failing to stem the jobs crisis and called for the resignation of Obama’s top economic advisers, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, the director of the White House National Economic Council.

However, his only concrete proposal was to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy—the 2 percent of households making more than $250,000 a year. He also criticized the extension of federal emergency jobless benefits and the $26 billion in federal aid to the states recently passed by Congress.

In response, the Democrats, speaking out of both sides of their mouths, sought to foist the blame for mass unemployment and growing poverty on the Bush administration, while touting the supposed “success” of Obama’s economic policies. Vice President Joseph Biden said that Obama’s 2009 stimulus package was “working to rescue the economy from eight years of failed economic policy and rebuild it even stronger than before.”

Speaking from the exclusive Massachusetts resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, where Obama is vacationing, White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton said Boehner “would fire the very people who helped to make the tough decisions, who helped to do the hard work to get our economy moving in the right direction again.”

Those “tough decisions” include the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the banks, the forced bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, liquidation of tens of thousands of auto jobs, and imposition of a 50 percent cut in newly-hired auto workers’ wages, as well as the rejection of any further stimulus measures and focus instead on deeper cuts in social programs.

Biden cited Obama’s auto policy as an example of successful “innovation.” The essence of this policy is to keep unemployment painfully high and use it as a bludgeon to permanently reduce the wages and living standards of the American working class, narrowing the differential between US workers and super-exploited workers in China, India and other “emerging economies.” On this basis, the Obama administration is seeking to revive US manufacturing as a cheap-labor platform for export to global markets.

A team of scientists published a paper today in the journal Science which provides some hopeful news.

Specifically, a team of scientists have discovered a new species of oil-eating microbes which thrive in the deepwater of the Gulf of Mexico:

The biological effects and expected fate of the vast amount of oil in the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon blowout are unknown due to the depth and magnitude of this event. Here, we report that the dispersed hydrocarbon plume stimulated deep-sea indigenous -proteobacteria that are closely related to known petroleum-degraders. Hydrocarbon-degrading genes coincided with the concentration of various oil contaminants. Changes in hydrocarbon composition with distance from the source and incubation experiments with environmental isolates demonstrate faster-than-expected hydrocarbon biodegradation rates at 5°C.

Even better, the scientists believe that this new species (pronounced “gamma-proteo-bacteria”) may not suck up as much oxygen as previously-discovered species:

Based on these results, the potential exists for intrinsic bioremediation of the oil plume in the deep-water column without substantial oxygen drawdown.

This discovery is especially important given that a leading expert on oil-eating microbes – Dr. David Valentine – failed to find any of the leading known oil-eating bacteria in the deepwater plumes.

Many well-known bacteria – such as Salmonella, Yersinia (plague), Vibrio (cholera), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (lung infections in hospitalised or cystic fibrosis patients) and E. coli (food poisoning), as well as a number of geothermic ocean vent dwellers which eat methane or hydrogen sulfide – are members of the Gammaproteobacteria class of microbes. The scientists found a BP oil-eating species within that broader class of bacteria.

As Lawrence Berkeley Labs – a U.S Department of Energy lab – notes, the new species is closely related to Oceanospirillales, an order within the Gammaproteobacteria class of microbes:

Results in the Science paper are based on the analysis of more than 200 samples collected from 17 deepwater sites between May 25 and June 2, 2010.

***

The dominant microbe in the oil plume is a new species, closely related to members of Oceanospirillales family, particularly Oleispirea antarctica and Oceaniserpentilla haliotis.

***

Frequent episodic oil leaks from natural seeps in the Gulf seabed may have led to adaptations over long periods of time by the deep-sea microbial community that speed up hydrocarbon degradation rates.

One of the concerns raised about microbial degradation of the oil in a deepwater plume is that the microbes would also be consuming large portions of oxygen in the plume, creating so-called “dead-zones” in the water column where life cannot be sustained. In their study, the Berkeley Lab researchers found that oxygen saturation outside the plume was 67-percent while within the plume it was 59-percent.

However, as Science News points out, not all experts agree with the new report:

The team reports data from late May to early June showing that those deep-sea plumes enticed a hitherto unknown cold-water–adapted bacterium to rapidly chow down on the oil.

Indeed, [lead author Dr. Terry Hazen, co-director of the Earth Sciences Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories] says, those bugs have been so voracious that for one plume of oil his team had been following, “within the last three weeks we no longer detect a deep plume. At all.” It went away approximately two weeks after the well was capped on July 15, he observes. Its oil “is completely undetectable.”

Also, the unusual population of oil-digesting bacteria that had inhabited that plume — and that would ordinarily be expected to stay with it as it moved — remained behind in a vestigial microbial cloud. “Doesn’t that suggest biodegradation?” he asks.

Speaking of deep-sea plumes, “I’ve heard rumors they might have gone missing,” notes David Valentine, a microbial geochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara — but currents might simply have moved them into hiding. It would be nice to think the oil has been removed, he says. “But if it sounds too good to be true,” he cautions, “it probably is.” And yes, “This sounds too good to be true.”

***

Hazen’s interpretation has its skeptics. “Most of the science associated with this spill has been oversimplified,” says John Kessler, a chemical oceanographer at Texas A&M University in College Station. In a good-faith effort to make sense of what’s going on, many researchers look to offer interpretations based on too few data, he charges.

For instance, he says, “what Hazen was measuring was a component of the entire hydrocarbon matrix,” which is a complex mix of literally thousands of different molecules. Although the few molecules described in the new paper in Science may well have degraded within weeks, Kessler says, “there are others that have much longer half-lives — on the order of years, sometimes even decades.”

Moreover, he points out, many of the tools traditionally used to gauge biodegradation don’t work well in the field. A few teams have lately begun transitioning to use of more sensitive probes, he says.

And data from those more sensitive tools are fueling his skepticism of Hazen’s report that microbes have been erasing deep-sea plumes. As recently as August 22, Kessler says, “I spoke to some of those researchers out there [in the Gulf], and they told me they were still seeing plumes.”

Similarly, as Reuters notes:

According to WHOI oceanographer Richard Camilli, the plume could already be hundreds of miles from its previous location, and Hazen’s team could simply have missed it. “The plume is not a stationary object,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

***

University of South Florida microbial ecologist John Paul, part of a recent study that found oil in Florida fish spawning beds and contradicted federal claims of the oil’s disappearance, wasn’t convinced by the new results.

The differences in bacterial abundance, diversity and hydrocarbon degrading potential are “slight” between plume samples and regular Gulf seawater, said Paul. He also said that the gene-tagging technologies used by Hazen’s team are used by few researchers “because they are often problematic in execution and interpretation of results.”

According to University of Maryland aquatic toxicologist Carys Mitchelmore, Hazen’s team only measured the breakdown of select compounds in the oil. “There’s lots of other chemicals in the oil,” she said.

She also stressed that it’s essential to identify what happens when oil is degraded. That catch-all term implies that it just vanishes, but “sometimes things can be degraded into more toxic components,” said Mitchelmore. The latest study did not make those measurements, nor did it test how microbes interacted with chemical oil dispersants used during the disaster.

“The big take-home is that we don’t know much about many things related to this spill, the oil fate and its effects” said Mitchelmore. “There are huge data gaps and uncertainties, conflicting data from many aspects, and this will continue to happen based on the huge complexity of studying this.”

“Above all,” said Mitchelmore of the latest study, “note this is all based on 17 sample sites from the field.

As Lawrence Berkeley Labs notes, the research was funded by BP:

Hazen … conducted this research under an existing grant he holds with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to study microbial enhanced hydrocarbon recovery. EBI is a partnership led by the University of California (UC) Berkeley and including Berkeley Lab and the University of Illinois that is funded by a $500 million, 10-year grant from BP.

Reuters also picks up on the potential conflict of interest:

Funding for the study was provided by the Energy Biosciences Insitute, a joint project of the University of California, Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of Chicago at Illinois-Champaign and BP, who gave the EBI a $500 million, 10-year grant. Terry Hazen sits on the EBI’s Executive Committee, as does BP executive Tom Campbell. Conflicts of interest are rarely as black-and-white or simple as they seem, but this ought to be mentioned.

Voter Beware Concentrated Corporate Power is Creating Deceptive Elections

 

The Republican Party is Being Replaced with Secret Donors and Unlimited Donations as Concentrated Corporate Interests Spend Hundreds of Millions in the Mid-Term Elections

In the last week Democrats were gloating about how little money the Republican Party had in its campaign coffers. The Republican National Committee has just over $5 million in the bank for the final stretch of the 2010 midterm election campaign and is carrying over $2 million in debt.

These figures have Democrats jumping for joy, but their excitement is misplaced.  The combination of Michael Steele and Citizens United is creating a paradigm shift in how elections are funded among Republicans. Rather than giving to the Republican Party, where Michael Steele controls the money, their name is made public and they are limited by regulation as to how much they can give, major donors have abandoned the RNC and are giving to 527 and 501(c)(4) organizations, which can also take money directly from corporations.  This new approach to campaign finance will alter U.S. politics reducing the power of political parties and increasing the power of concentrated corporate wealth.

The best example is the “Shadow RNC” American Crossroads, a Republican 527 and American Crossroads, GPS, a sister 501(c)(4) organization. These organizations are being run by Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and Michael Duncan.  Gillespie was the former chair of the Republican Party and Duncan, also a former RNC Chair, was a challenger to Michael Steele for Chairman of the Party. Duncan had the most votes in the first round but Steele won the contested nomination in six rounds.

Steele’s missteps, gaffes and embarrassments have led major donors to American Crossroads which has become known as the “Shadow RNC.”  Others have described American Crossroads as a coup of the RNC.  The former political strategist for President Reagan, Ed Rollins, has described Michael Steele as a “disaster” who “has failed miserably in the things you’re supposed to do [as Chair of the RNC] — raise money and basically go out and articulate the message.” Despite that, he concluded: “what he says or does in the next 11 weeks is not going to matter.”  He described Steele and the RNC as irrelevant.

Indeed, American Crossroads will be doing the functions normally done by the RNC. This includes the nuts and bolts of political campaigns: advertising for and against candidates, polling, opposition research, data base acquisition and management as well as get out the vote efforts.  They have even created a party platform which they call the “7 in 11” plan, consisting of blocking and obstructing taxing the rich, preventing stimulus spending, cutting back spending on Medicare and Social Security, preventing implementation of health care reform, aggressive immigration enforcement, and speeding up nuclear, coal, oil and other energy production.

American Crossroads is like the RNC except, unlike political parties where there are limits to the amount of money political parties can take from individuals and are required to report their donors; American Crossroads is not limited on the size of the donations and in many cases do not have to report the names of the donors.  American Crossroads can also take money directly from corporations which under Citizens United can spend as much as they want on elections.

The two American Crossroads organizations have raised $17.6 million through mid-August. The initial fundraising of the 527 organization came from just four individual billionaires cited as donating over 97 percent of the 4.7 million total. Their 501(c)(4), American Crossroads GPS, raised $5 million in June, its first month of operation.  The source of those funds is not reported and once again, there are no limits to how much an individual can give to a 527 or (c)(4).  American Crossroads plans to raise and spend over $52 million to influence the 2010 elections.

The American Crossroads strategy is not only built on the failure of Michael Steele, but Citizens United which opened up unlimited campaign spending by corporations.  During a July broadcast on Fox News Rove acknowledged that the American Crossroads groups would benefit from the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that ruled corporations could donate unlimited amounts of money to political organizations which can purchase unlimited amounts of political advertising. The “Shadow RNC” of Rove and Company seeks to elect candidates loyal to the GOP’s wealthiest donors.

American Crossroads is building a campaign team.  It “is currently hiring operatives with state-specific campaign knowledge to bolster the operation.” It is spending millions on advertisements in key House and Senate races.  They have already aired advertisements in the Ohio, Colorado and Nevada senate races and have targeted 11 Senate races — Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, Florida, Illinois and Washington State.  American Crossroads will be hiring a media consultant and pollster to develop a tailored message for each campaign.

The election watchdog group for which I serve as spokesperson, Protect Our Elections, is seeking an Advisory Opinion from the FEC finding that American Crossroads is subject to the same rules that govern the RNC since it is functioning as political party. We have also written the Attorney General urging him to make a public statement that all electoral activities will be closely monitored, requiring organizations involved in elections or issue advocacy related to elections to preserve all documents and emails, set up a task force to monitor, investigate and prosecute illegal electoral activities, set up a tip line for whistleblowers to report campaign finance violations and impanel a grand jury to investigate these matters during the campaign season.  The actions of Rove and Company should be examined as a coup d’état of the Republican National Committee.

At the same time that the RNC is being minimized and the less regulated American Crossroads is taking over party functions, corporations are getting heavily into the mid-term elections.  The Chamber of Commerce, led by Rove ally Tom Donohue, seeks to spend as much as either political party on the mid-term elections –  $75 million – focusing on 10 senate races and 40 House races. The Chamber has already weighed in on Senate contests, spending more than $4 million so far in Massachusetts, Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Ohio with California next. The Chamber is the largest corporate player leading 15 conservative organizations planning on spending $300 million in the mid-term elections.  

I recently received a letter from an insider-whistleblower at the Chamber of Commerce in response to a reward offered for information leading to the prosecution and conviction of the Chamber’s president, Tom Donohue.  The whistleblower described how the Chamber promises business donors that it will protect their identity and describes fraud, campaign finance violations and financial impropriety that could be proven with a criminal investigation. We have shared this information in a letter to the Department of Justice and urged them to conduct a criminal investigation of the Chamber.

Individual industries are also planning to spend big.  The Center for Public Integrity reports that five insurance giants, Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp., Humana Inc., United HealthCare Inc. and WellPoint Inc., plan to spend $20 million on close House races.  The coal industry is also planning on spending millions to influence races in Kentucky and Tennessee.

On the Democratic side, the political party apparatus is holding its own in fundraising, and the Dems will get their usual support from union and other Democratic leaning groups. The Service Employees International Union will spend $44 million on the mid-term elections.  The AFL-CIO is planning on spending more than $50 million and is focusing its efforts on six states: California, New York, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But the Republicans have adapted to Citizens United more quickly, in part due to necessity created by the shortcomings of Michael Steele. As a result concentrated corporate funding will dwarf unions and others allied with the Democrats.

And, with the failure thus far of the Congress to pass the DISCLOSE Act voters will not be told who is funding advertising campaigns.  The Chamber has a history of this deceptive approach, creating front groups that sound like citizen groups but which are really funded by concentrated corporate interests.  As a result Americans may need to learn a new Latin phrase, one that goes along with caveat emptor, buyer beware;  the new phrase when it comes to voting – caveat suffragium, voter beware. Due to the massive spending by concentrated corporate interest’s deception will even more so become the foundation of American elections.

Kevin Zeese is executive director of Prosperity Agenda (www.ProsperityAgenda.US) and spokesperson for Protect Our Elections (www.ProtectOurElections.org).

Philippines: Pawn In U.S. Encirclement of China

August 24th, 2010 by Erick San Juan

Like Sen. Santiago, I can sense the urgency to resolve the VFA issue because we might be overtaken by events unfolding on the US-China relations when it comes to the South China Sea territorial disputes.
As one of the claimants on the disputed islands, together with some of our neighbors, we are being led (like a herd of cattle) towards a regional conflict where China is the main enemy.

An increased defense alliance with the U.S. leading to a quiet escalation of its military presence will make the Philippines a pawn in the Pentagon’s plan of containment and encirclement of China.

The week following the call of Senator Miriam Santiago to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was filled with uncertainties and vague answers as to the fate of the said treaty.

According to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, the Palace is open for the review of the VFA but its abrogation is not an option in the discussions made.

Statements and press releases from the different departments made the review of the VFA, and much more its abrogation, a minor issue and not the immediate concern of the administration. Such disposition changed overtime when the US Pacific Command Chief Adm. Robert Willard visited the country and attended the RP-US Mutual Defense Board meeting at Camp Aguinaldo last August 18.

According to the Department of National Defense Spokesman, Eduardo Batac, “This matter is being taken up by the Senate. It has been presented. We will wait for the debates or action on this,” and “… we will just heed the recommendations of the legislators. When there is necessity for us, we will review it (VFA).”

In reference to the Joint Resolution No. 3 filed by Sen. Santiago, the Congress as a whole can terminate the VFA. Now the ball is with the legislators and the country will just wait on how long they will “dribble” the decision on the matter. Like Sen. Santiago, I can sense the urgency to resolve the VFA issue because we might be overtaken by events unfolding on the US-China relations when it comes to the South China Sea territorial disputes.

As one of the claimants on the disputed islands, together with some of our neighbors, we are being led (like a herd of cattle) towards a regional conflict where China is the main enemy.

An increased defense alliance with the U.S. leading to a quiet escalation of its military presence will make the Philippines a pawn in the Pentagon’s plan of containment and encirclement of China. If Aquino III makes the mistake of succumbing to this pressure, he runs the risk of antagonizing Beijing’s trade ties with Manila and its growing investments in mining, electronics, and other industries.

It could provoke retaliation from China in the disputed Spratly islands. (Source: Center for People Empowerment in Governance). Even the US government (and our government) kept on denying that there is no American military base in Mindanao and that their troops are here only for military trainings, but we just cannot deny the reality that the US is using the VFA to have their military base here.

As reported by the New York Times – “at least 600 American troops under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, headquartered in the Philippine military camp in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City, have remained in the country and have been using the VFA as a means to stay.”

Moreover, the controversial agreement has created an atmosphere of dependency on the part of our AFP and will continue to do so now that the US government has approved the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) $434 million to fund three projects in the Philippines for five years.

On top of this was the reported $18.4 million worth of precision – guided missiles and the suggested leasing of a squadron of F-16 along with T-38 supersonic trainers, aircraft for maritime patrol and two FFG-7 guided-missile frigates to provide a recognized capability to enforce the Philippines’ offshore territorial claims.

Based on the abovementioned facts, Filipinos should be wary on the US visit of President Aquino III next month for this might be the beginning of what the previous presidents did – the continuing subservience to a perceived master. If this scenario will push through, let those who voted for PNoy ask, where is the CHANGE you promised?

And the rest of us will say – for whom is the VFA anyway?

Israelis Risk Jail to Smuggle Palestinians

August 24th, 2010 by Jonathan Cook

Nearly 600 Israelis have signed up for a campaign of civil disobedience, vowing to risk jail to smuggle Palestinian women and children into Israel for a brief taste of life outside the occupied West Bank.

The Israelis say they have been inspired by the example of Ilana Hammerman, a writer who is threatened with prosecution after publishing an article in which she admitted breaking the law to bring three Palestinian teenagers into Israel for a day out.

Ms Hammerman said she wanted to give the young women, who had never left the West Bank, “some fun” and a chance to see the Mediterranean for the first time.

Her story has shocked many Israelis and led to a police investigation after right-wing groups called for her to be tried for security offences.

It is illegal to transport Palestinians through checkpoints into Israel without a permit, which few can obtain. If tried and found guilty, Ms Hammerman could be fined and face up to two years in jail.

But Israelis joining the campaign say they will not be put off by threats of imprisonment.

Last month, a group of 11 Israeli women joined Ms Hammerman in repeating her act of civil disobedience, driving a dozen Palestinian women and four children, including a baby, through a checkpoint into Israel.

The Israeli women say they are planning mass “smugglings” of Palestinians into Israel over the coming weeks.

“The Palestinians who join us are mainly looking to have a good time after years of confinement under the occupation, but for us what is most important is our act of defiance,” said Ofra Lyth, who helped establish an online forum of supporters after attending a speech by Ms Hammerman.

“We want to overturn this immoral law that gives rights to Jews to move freely around while keeping Palestinians imprisoned in their towns and villages,” she said, referring to regulations that bar most Palestinians in the occupied territories from entering Israel, and Israelis from assisting them. Exceptions are made for Palestinians with permits, sometimes issued for a medical emergency or to some labourers with security clearance.

For the Palestinian women, though, it is not about making a statement or defying an unjust law, said Ms Lyth.

“The Palestinian women tell us: ‘Go ahead and make your political point, but for us we’re breaking the law so that we can enjoy ourselves and remember how life was before the checkpoints and the wall.’ One woman told me: ‘I just want to be able to breathe again’.”

For Palestinians in the West Bank, it is not often easy to breathe. The territory is home to a growing population of 300,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. The settlers are able to drive into Israel on roads that the army oversees with checkpoints.

It was through one such settler crossing, near Beitar Ilit, south of Jerusalem, that Ms Hammerman took the three Palestinian teenagers this year.

For their protection, she has not identifed the young women or the West Bank village where they live. She refers to the women as Aya, Lin and Yasmin. They, too, could face jail for breaking the law.

In Ms Hammerman’s article, published in the Haaretz newspaper in May, she admitted that she was aware her actions were illegal.

She told the women, who were 18 and 19, to take off their hijabs for the day and dress in western-style clothes to avoid attracting attention from soldiers at the checkpoint. She also taught them an easy Hebrew phrase — Hakull beseder, or “Everything is okay” — in case a soldier spoke to them.

She then took them on a tour of Tel Aviv, visiting the city’s university, a museum, a shopping mall and the beach, which she noted none of them had ever seen even though it is only about 40km from their village.

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, said Israel introduced a permit system to limit Palestinian movement out of the West Bank in the early 1990s – about the time the young women were born.

Ms Hammerman wrote that the only dangerous moment during the trip was when a plain-clothes policeman stopped them and asked for the women’s identity cards. Ms Hammerman lied to the officer, telling him that the women were Palestinians from East Jerusalem and therefore entitled to enter Israel.

In June, Yehuda Weinstein, the attorney general, was reported to have approved a police investigation of Ms Hammerman after a settler organisation, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, complained.

The ranks of Ms Hammerman’s supporters have swollen since the group placed an advertisement, titled “We refuse to obey”, in Haaretz this month. The ad said the group was “acting in the spirit of Martin Luther King”, the US civil rights leader, and demanded that Palestinians be treated as “human beings, not terrorists”.

Over the past week, the online forum has attracted more than 590 Israelis signing up to repeat Ms Hammerman’s act of civil disobedience.

“That has really surprised and encouraged me,” she said. “I did not realise there were so many other Israelis who have had enough of this outrageous law.”

Still, the coverage of Ms Hammerman and her supporters in the Israeli media has been largely hostile. During a television interview last week, she was accused of endangering Israelis with her trips. The show’s host, Yaron London, asked whether she had inspected the Palestinian women’s underclothes for explosives before allowing them into her car.

She will will not be deterred, though. She said the group had discussed future trips for Palestinians, including taking them to pray at al-Aqsa, the mosque in Jerusalem that has been inaccessible to most Palestinians for at least a decade, and visits to Palestinian relatives they cannot see in Jerusalem and Israel.

“We need to get Israelis meeting Palestinians again, having fun with them and seeing that they are human beings with the same rights as us.”

She said her immediate goal was to kick-start a discussion among Israelis about the legality and morality of Israel’s laws and challenge the public’s “blind obedience” to authority.

Ms Lyth added that the Palestinian women “who have gone on our trips are the heroes of their village. They and their families know they are taking a big risk in breaking the law, but harassment is part of their daily lives anyway”.

Till now the trips have been restricted to smuggling Palestinian women and children only, said Ms Hammerman. “It is harder to bring men in without being discovered and the authorities would be likely to treat Palestinian men much more harshly if they were caught.”

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi.

US controls threaten Internet freedom

In May 2009, Microsoft announced on its website that they would turn off the Windows Live Messenger service for Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea, in accordance with US legislation.
In January 2010, Google, the company which owns the largest Internet information resources, declared that in order to establish a more open Internet environment, they had to abandon the Chinese market.
What is even more worrying is that Senator Joseph Lieberman, chairman of US Homeland Security Committee, recently presented to the US Senate a bill titled “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset.”

To control the world by controlling the Internet has been a dominant strategy of the US.

From the network infrastructure protection of the Clinton era to the network anti-terrorism of the Bush era and to the “network deterrence” of the Obama era, the national information security strategy of the US has evolved from a preventative strategy to a preemptive one.

Meanwhile, the methodology has moved from trying to control Internet hardware to control of Internet content.

The ultimate goal is for the US to hold the ability to open and shut parts of the Internet at will.

In 1993, the Clinton administration proposed to build up “the national information infrastructure” and listed six possible enemies who might attack US key network infrastructure, including sovereign states, economic competitors, as well as all kinds of criminals, hackers, terrorists and insiders. It was a defensive strategy.

After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration officially upgraded Internet security to the strategic height of national security.
Anti-terrorism was the theme of Internet security during the Bush era.
In 2004, the US cut off the “.ly” domain name by using the root server, resulting in Libya’s disappearance in Internet for three days. It generated worldwide criticism of the US hegemony on the Internet and concerns over Internet security.

In 2009, according to the network security assessment announced by Obama, the threat to the Internet had become one of the most serious economic and military threats that the US was confronted with.
Obama made two important decisions.

The first was to cut conventional weapons, including the F22 fighters, while the second was to build up network commands and substantially increase investment in network offensive weapons.

So far the network security strategy of the Obama administration has been “focusing on attack and assisting with deterrence.”

At present, the five core areas of Internet infrastructure are monopolized by US IT giants, including high-performance computers, operating systems, database technologies, network switching technologies and information resource libraries.

Across the world, around 92.3 percent of personal computers and 80.4 percent of super computers use Intel chips, while 91.8 percent of personal computers use Microsoft operating systems, and 98 percent of core server technology lies in the hands of IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

Meanwhile, 89.7 percent of database software is controlled by Oracle and Microsoft, and 93.5 percent of core patented network switching technology is held by US companies.

After the control of Internet infrastructure and hardware and software systems, the US is now turning to Internet content.

The US government has adopted macro-control and focus-funding to actively use IT giants to create a global Internet infrastructure which could be manipulated by the US.

The US actively promotes the participation of IT giants in Internet content control work.

In May 2009, Microsoft announced on its website that they would turn off the Windows Live Messenger service for Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea, in accordance with US legislation.

In January 2010, Google, the company which owns the largest Internet information resources, declared that in order to establish a more open Internet environment, they had to abandon the Chinese market.

What is even more worrying is that Senator Joseph Lieberman, chairman of US Homeland Security Committee, recently presented to the US Senate a bill titled “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset.”

Under this proposal, whenever an emergency occurs in the US, the president could order Google, Yahoo and other search engine operators to suspend Internet services.

And other US-based Internet service providers could also be under the control of the president when “Internet security emergencies” occur.
If so, the US president would officially have the power to open or close the Internet.

Although there is no international law to regulate Internet sovereignty, the Internet is founded to benefit all mankind across the globe.

If the US, which invented and controls the Internet, cut off or shut down the Internet in the name of national security, it would certainly neglect and violate the interests and benefits of international netizens.

The author is a researcher at the Development Research Center of the State Council of China.

In the week since the much publicized withdrawal of “combat” troops from Iraq it has become more evident that the Iraq War continues under a new name: “Operation New Dawn.”

The first off-message comments came from the Department of Defense. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said shortly after the “end” of the war, “I don’t think anybody has declared the end of the war as far as I know. Counter-terrorism will still be part of their mission.” He said the more than 50,000 remaining troops will be well armed and that among their responsibilities will be counter-terrorism which will mean taking on Islamist militants in combat situations. The former head of the Central Command who had been in charge of military operations in Iraq echoed the Pentagon sentiments when Petraeus told CBS News, “We’re not leaving” Iraq and that the troops remaining behind will have “an enormous capability.”

To make matters worse, General Ray Odierno said it was possible that U.S. combat troops would return to Iraq if the security situation worsened. Odierno also said that he was certain the U.S. would consider staying in Iraq after 2011 if invited. There is more talk of the U.S. staying beyond the 2011 deadline for withdrawal of all troops. Iraq’s top military officer said last week that American forces may be needed for another decade, something to which Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says the U.S. is open.

Army Times reported that combat brigades remain in Iraq but their name has been changed to “Advise and Assist Brigade, the Army’s designation for brigades selected to conduct security force assistance.”  There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security” and two combat aviation brigades also remain in Iraq.  Combat Brigades are the source for the Advise and Assist Brigades “to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009.”

As the Washington Post reports combat is still on the agenda for America’s no longer labeled combat troops: “American troops in Iraq will still go into harm’s way. They will still accompany Iraqi units on combat missions — even if only as “advisers.” American pilots will still fly combat missions in support of Iraqi ground forces. And American special forces will still face off against Iraqi terrorist groups in high-intensity operations. For that reason, when American troops leave their bases in Iraq, they will still, almost invariably, be in full “battle rattle” and ready for a fight.”

And sadly, the war’s “end” does not mean an end to deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. An American soldier was killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq on Sunday, the U.S. military said, marking the first American fatality since the last “combat” unit in Iraq was pulled out of the country. The military did not provide a lot of information on what the soldier was doing but said he was conducting operations in Iraq’s southern province of Basra.

It also does not mean an end to deployments of new troops to Iraq. Five peace activists blockaded six buses carrying Fort Hood Soldiers deploying to Iraq. The buses were slowed to a halt; while police made no arrests, they forced the activists out of the street using automatic weapons and police dogs so the deploying soldiers could proceed.

In addition to soldiers remaining in Iraq, the country remains in miserable condition. Foreign Policy in Focus reports: “Iraq has between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums. The killing of innocent people has become part of daily life.” They also report that half the urban residents in Iraq live in slums, up from 20% before the U.S. invasion.

But the deception continues. President Obama is planning a speech on Iraq when he returns from summer vacation. Reportedly the speech will highlight Obama keeping his promise to end the war.  In fact, keeping troops in Iraq was always part of Obama’s plan.  During the campaign he called them “residual” troops and would never say how many tens of thousands would remain after he “ended the war.”

Please join me in writing President Obama and urging him to level with the American people. Tell him the disaster Iraq continues to be and that more than 100,000 U.S. troops and mercenaries remain, continuing to engage in combat and continuing to die. Let him know that Americans can handle the truth and do not want to be lied to. You can send a letter by clicking here.

And, then join efforts to really end the Iraq War, bring home all the troops and hand over all military bases.  The U.S. needs to get out of Iraq – as well as Afghanistan.

Kevin Zeese is executive director of Voters for Peace (www.VotersForPeace.US).

Belarus: Dictatorship or Democracy?

August 24th, 2010 by Gearóid Ó Colmáin

Since the pronouncement of former US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice in 2008 calling the democratically elected president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko“Europe’s last dictator”, the image and reputation of this noble country has been fanatically tarnished by the mainstream media.

The irony here is that Belarus is indeed deeply familiar with the iniquities of dictatorship. They, more than any other country, suffered the worst of Nazi atrocities during World War 11.Belarus has always been a multicultural country with Jews, Christians and Muslims living side by side for centuries. This deep tolerance for cultural and religious differences is still celebrated in Belarus today. Yet the European Union, Israel and the United States, never cease from spreading atrocious lies and disinformation concerning the Republic of Belarus.

Belarus has generally received scant coverage from alternative and left-wing media, which is rather surprising considering the fact that Fidel Castro has awarded Alexander Lukashenko with the order of Jose Marti, the highest honour bestowed upon friends of the Cuban people.  In a recent visit to Belarus, the president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez praised Belarus as a model of socialist development, one which Venezuela should emulate.  Yet there is a paucity of books and articles about this country and its ‘controversial’ leader. One notable exception to this hiatus comes from Stewart Parker who published  a clear and revealing book on Belarus and the policies of Alexander Lukashenko in particular. For readers seeking an insight into this fascinating country, Parker’s The Last Soviet Republic: Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus(2007) is a brilliant exposé  of the lies and distortions emanating from the European Union and the US concerning ‘human rights’ violations in Belarus and the absence of ‘democracy’.  What follows is an attempt to summarise and evaluate the findings of this valuable study.

Alexander Lukashenko came to power after a landslide victory in 1994. A former director in a collective farm during the USSR era, Lukashenko was one of the few Belarusian politicians to oppose the break up of the Soviet Union in 1990.  Although the Belarusian leader had always been an outspoken critic of the USSR’s corruption, he remained committed to Marxism-Leninism, and opposed the rampant privatisation proposed by Boris Yeltsin and his followers.   In the final years of the Soviet regime, Lukashenko, then a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, formed a group called ‘Communists for Democracy’. Lukashenko argued that the  real problem in the USSR was the decline in democratic participation and the parasitism and corruption of the ruling bureaucracy. He also advocated more autonomy for the USSR’s constituent Republics.

Belarus had always been the most advanced Soviet Republics, which high achievements in education and science.  In spite of economic stagnation and increasing corruption in other republics of the USSR, Belarus’s state planning had continued to yield impressive results with economic growth continuing throughout the Brezhnev era.  In 1993 Lukashenko was appointed head of an ‘anti-corruption committee’. One of the numerous myths repeatedly circulated since the fall of the USSR is that a majority of the Soviet people wanted free market capitalism. This was certainly not the case in Soviet Republic of Belarus.  It was Alexander Lukashenko’s defence of Soviet values, together with his outspoken criticisms of the Communist Party of the USSR and the apparatchiks of the soviet regime that earned him the respect and confidence of the Belarusian people. In 1994 Lukashenko was elected President of Belarus with over 80 percent of the votes.

Finding a place for Belarus in the post-soviet chaos was a difficult task for the young president. One of the first issues concerned the national flag. The BPF, a nationalist party, wanted to restore the white, red and white flag of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which had been the national flag under the puppet regime of the German empire in 1918. It was also used by the collaborators with the Nazi Wehrmacht during World War II.  The people finally settled for maintaining the Soviet flag minus the hammer and sickle. Radio Free Europe later lamented the dropping of the Nazi collaboration flag as a ‘heavy blow to democratic forces’.

In the intervening years since the fall of the USSR and the rise of Lukashenko over  15 billion dollars had been siphoned out of the country. Privatisation and the lifting of price-controls had caused inflation to soar with prices rising over 432 times. The Soviet economy was being replaced by mafia gangsters. Western ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ was taking its toll!

Through a series of referenda Lukashenko was able to set in motion a democratic social programme which has made Belarus one of the most prosperous and least-corrupt countries in Eastern Europe. Just like Venezuela, a clause in the constitution decided by a referendum permits the indefinite re-election of the president should the Belarusian people wish to do so.  Over 80 percent of industry in Belarus remains in public ownership. In 1996 the unemployment figure in the country amounted to 4 percent. Lukashenko’s administration has since reduced this figure to little over 1 percent, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world.  Industrial output rose by 9.7 percent in 2004. Wages have been increasing significantly every year since Lukashenko’s accession to power.

Economic growth in Socialist Belarus has been so impressive. Even the World Bank and the IMF have had to acknowledge this incontrovertible fact. In June 2005, the World Bank published a report titled ‘Belarus: Window of Opportunity’ which admitted that the Belarusian economy was growing steadily, while the IMF admitted that Belarus had significant wage increases coupled with low government debt. Good news for Belarus, bad news for the World Bank and IMF, whom Lukashenko, speaking before the Russian Duma in 1999, had  called ‘a pack of swindlers’.

In a world where the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, Belarus offers real hope that economics does not have to function that way. According to the system developed by the Italian statistician Corrado Gini, known as the Gini coefficient, Belarus ranks as the most equal country on earth.

The Gini coefficient for Belarus in 2005 was 0.217, the lowest out of 113 countries. In Belarus, the lowest income is only five times lower than the highest income. This means that the notion of ‘corporate greed’ one hears about in the United States and Europe is virtually non-existent in the Republic of Belarus.

Belarus also comes out on top in education.  Adult literacy in Belarus is the highest in the CIS nations at 99.7 percent. This is because Belarus spends more money on education than most other nations. Over 10 percent of the Belarusian state budget goes into education. This surpasses all other CIS countries, the USA and most European countries.

In contrast to Western ‘democracies’ where social security is being systematically destroyed to sustain the financial oligarchies, male workers in Belarus retire at 60 while women retire at 55 with full pension entitlements.

Needless to say, the attitude of the EU  and the United States nomenclatura, that is to say, the self-proclaimed ‘international community’ is that Belarus is not a ‘democracy’. Media disinformation has backed this hostility by European and US elites to Belarus by publishing an impressive quantity of lies. At the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2005 President Lukashenko put the US ‘human rights’ obsession thus:

‘If there are no pretexts for intervention-imaginary ones are created. To this end a very convenient banner was chosen, democracy and human rights, and not in the original sense of the rule of people and personal dignity, but solely and exclusively in the interpretation of the US leadership’.

 In order to promote the US ‘interpretation’ of human rights, President Clinton sent Michael Kozak to Belarus in 2000. Kozak distinguished himself during the 1970s in the Iran/contra scandal where he was instrumental in organising the sale of arms to the contra terrorists in Nicaragua in exchange for cocaine, which the CIA  sold to poor Americans on the streets of Los Angeles, the same poor people who would subsequently be incarcerated for ‘possession of narcotics’. While poor people were forced to make military uniforms in US prisons for their drug convictions, Kozak was one of Washington’s key handlers of Daniel Noriega, a CIA narco-trafficker and dictator of Panama. Clinton had deep confidence in Kozak’s democratic credentials as he himself was governor of Arkansa, from where the CIA operation was conducted. The US-funded terrorist campaign in Nicaragua cost the lives of over 30,000 people, most of them civilians. Kozak had the perfect credentials for spreading ‘democracy’ American style in socialist Belarus.

Upon his arrival in Minsk, US ambassador Micheal Kozak, Clinton’s former CIA gun-for-drugs terrorist handler, now US ‘pro-democracy’ diplomat, was quick to make contact with his European counterparts. Representing the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe  Hans Georg Wieck. Wieck worked closely with Kozak to groom ‘opposition’ candidates in Belarus suitable to Washington and Brussels.

When Lukashenko won another landslide victory in the presidential elections of 2001, the OSCE condemned the elections as unfair without producing a shred of evidence to corroborate their claims

After the September  11th attacks in New York, the US showed the real motives behind the ‘global war on terror’ when Senator John McCain declared

‘Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus cannot long survive in a world where the United States and Russia enjoy a strategic partnership and the United States is serious about its commitment to end outlaw regimes whose conduct threatens us…September 11th opened our eyes to the status of Belarus as a national security threat’.

McCain was referring to the sale of arms by Belarus to the CIA’s disobedient puppet dictator Saddam Hussein, a claim denied by President Lukashenko.Here we see the US accusing other countries of crimes which it itself committed for years when it sold arms to the Iraqi dictator. But the real crime committed by Lukashenko was his progressive social policies which are setting a bad example for other countries strangled by the financial interests of the US global oligarchy; US ‘national security’ meaning the security of the financial elite and ‘global war on terror’ meaning global war on freedom.

But the US was determined to launch its global terror campaign against any state that dared to resist casino capitalism. Belarus and Lukashenko himself would pay a heavy price for standing up to the IMF and the World Bank. In 2004 the United States proceeded to take action with the passing of the Belarus Democracy Act, calling for sanctions against Belarus and funding for ‘pro-democracy’ groups.  Most opposition groups in Belarus today receive funding from the United States government, paid for by cash-strapped US tax payers. This funding almost culminated in the so-called ‘denim revolution’ in 2006, a CIA-funded attempt to arouse popular opposition to the Lukashenko government in order to replace it with a pro- US regime. However, unlike their neighbours in other Eastern European countries, the Belarusians did not take the US bait and Lukashenko stayed in power.

After the failure of the ‘Denim Revolution’, the EU imposed a travel ban on Lukashenko and 30 ministers, preventing them from traveling to any part of the EU. This shows the extent of the anxiety among the EU elite in the face of Belarus’s popular democracy.

Stewart Parker sites a number of poignant examples in his book which reveal the extent to which reveal systematic anti-democratic interference in Belarusian affairs by the United States and their vassal-states in Europe.  What is particularly ‘totalitarian’ about socialist Belarus is not the Belarusian state, but rather the way in which that state is portrayed by the so-called democratic authorities of the EU and the US.

But the absurdities promoted by the mainstream media come from all sides. Lukashenko has been accused of anti-Semitism, in spite of the fact that the thriving Jewish community in the country seem to be unaware of this fact. In fact, the chief Rabbi of Belarus has praised the Belarussian president for his support of the Jewish community,  yet the EU, the US and Israel insist that Lukachenko is ‘anti-Semitic’ and also opposes ‘free media’.

The Belaurus government has also been accused of internet censorship and media control. More lies! The Open Net Initiative carried out a study after the ‘disputed’ elections of 2006 to see if the claims about Internet censorship were true. They  “found no evidence of systematic and comprehensive interference with the Net. Any regime-directed tampering that may have taken place was fairly subtle, causing disruptions to access, but never turning off the alternative information tap”

Another slander against the Belarusian president came  from Russia’s ‘free media’. In 1995, Dr. Marcus Zeiner interviewed Lukashenko for the German newspaper Handelsblatt. The interview with Dr. Martin Zeiner was cleverly mistranslated to include positive references to Hitler. This was confirmed by the interviewer himself who subsequently said “”a tape of the interview had been quoted out of context and with the sequence of comments altered”    The BBC continues to propagate this lie about Lukashenko which only serves to prove the desperation of the corporate media in the face of popular leaders whose policies threaten their empire of lies.

Stewart Parker’s book the Last Soviet Republic, is an indispensable guide to a country and a leader the bourgeois media does not want you to know about.  It is, to my knowledge, the only comprehensive study of a country that only receives attention when vicious opportunities for anti-socialist propaganda present themselves.  We have much to learn from this brave little country, that sacrificed so much to defeat the forces of fascism of Europe’s past and those same fascist forces which have resurfaced today in the name of ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. In a world dominated by the ideology of the financial elite, those who stand for the common man and woman are beaten down ruthlessly.  Alexander Lukashenko stands for democracy, human rights and freedom, which is why the corporate media call him a ‘dictator’.

What You Will Not Hear About Iraq

August 23rd, 2010 by Prof. Adil E. Shamoo

Iraq has between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums. The killing of innocent people has become part of daily life. What a havoc the United States has wreaked in Iraq.

UN-HABITAT, an agency of the United Nations, recently published a 218-page report entitled State of the World’s Cities, 2010-2011. The report is full of statistics on the status of cities around the world and their demographics. It defines slum dwellers as those living in urban centers without one of the following: durable structures to protect them from climate, sufficient living area, sufficient access to water, access to sanitation facilities, and freedom from eviction.

Almost intentionally hidden in these statistics is one shocking fact about urban Iraqi populations. For the past few decades, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent. Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent: 11 million of the 19 million total urban dwellers. In the past decade, most countries have made progress toward reducing slum dwellers. But Iraq has gone rapidly and dangerously in the opposite direction.

According to the U.S. Census of 2000, 80 percent of the 285 million people living in the United States are urban dwellers. Those living in slums are well below 5 percent. If we translate the Iraqi statistic into the U.S. context, 121 million people in the United States would be living in slums.

If the United States had an unemployment rate of 25-50 percent and 121 million people living in slums, riots would ensue, the military would take over, and democracy would evaporate. So why are people in the United States not concerned and saddened by the conditions in Iraq? Because most people in the United States do not know what happened in Iraq and what is happening there now. Our government, including the current administration, looks the other way and perpetuates the myth that life has improved in post-invasion Iraq. Our major news media reinforces this message.

I had high hopes that the new administration would tell the truth to its citizens about why we invaded Iraq and what we are doing currently in the country. President Obama promised to move forward and not look to the past. However problematic this refusal to examine on the past — particularly for historians — the president should at least inform the U.S. public of the current conditions in Iraq. How else can we expect our government to formulate appropriate policy?

More extensive congressional hearings on Iraq might have allowed us to learn about the myths propagated about Iraq prior to the invasion and the extent of the damage and destruction our invasion brought on Iraq. We would have learned about the tremendous increase in urban poverty and the expansion of city slums. Such facts about the current conditions of Iraq would help U.S. citizens to better understand the impact of the quick U.S. withdraw and what are our moral responsibilities in Iraq should be.

Adil E. Shamoo is a senior analyst at Foreign Policy In Focus, and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He writes on ethics and public policy. He can be reached at: [email protected]

Russian Nuclear Reactor Chief Leaves a Puzzle

August 23rd, 2010 by Global Research

As Iran began fuelling its first nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr, remarks by the Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom’s chief Sergei Kiriyenko that it was a “big international project” continued to puzzle political observers.

Kiriyenko joined Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, to open the facility on August 21 after almost four decades of sporadic work. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were also on hand to open the nuclear fuel containers and oversee their transportation to the reactor.

The Moscow Times reported on August 20 that in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin the previous day, Kiriyenko had called the construction of Bushehr nuclear power plant a “big international project” in which more than ten European Union and Asia-Pacific countries had taken part.

This remark puzzled observers because the state-run nuclear holding had never before referred to any foreign participation in constructing the controversial plant, which Russia first agreed to complete in 1992.

“The one billion dollar project has been stalled repeatedly amid international sanctions and what Tehran has called Moscow’s pandering to the West,” wrote the Moscow Times, adding: “Russian political leaders have defended the pace of the work as Rosatom seeks to gain a larger foothold in the lucrative and highly competitive market for nuclear power construction deals.”

The launch of the nuclear power reactor “coincides with Russia’s position that any country in the world has the right to nuclear energy for peaceful use,” provided that it is monitored by the IAEA, Kiriyenko told Putin, according to the government website http://premier.gov.ru.

According to the official Russian government website, Kiriyenko told the Russian Prime Minister: “What is important, Mr. Putin, is that we have shown that Russia always fulfils its obligations. Russia’s position is that any country in the world has the right to use nuclear power peacefully under IAEA supervision while observing international rules and regulations.

“It is also important that it is a large international project. Of course, most of the work has been done by Russia, but deliveries have come from more than 10 other countries, including many in the European Union and the Asia-Pacific Region.

“It is therefore a kind of international project, large and global, that demonstrates that if Iran can develop peaceful nuclear energy under IAEA supervision and it complies with the standards of international legislation, this possibility can become reality both for Iran and for any other country. Russia always fulfils the obligations it undertakes.”

A Rosatom spokesman could not be reached to comment on foreign participation in the Bushehr project. A spokeswoman for Atomstroiexport, the Rosatom unit that specializes in construction of nuclear power facilities abroad, was also unavailable for comment, the Moscow Times said.

Observers wondered whether Kiriyenko was overstating the extent of foreign contributions, particularly in view of the pressure from Washington to hold off on starting the facility. Construction on Bushehr was started by the German Kraftwerk Union in 1974, which was formed after Siemens and AEG merged their activities 1969 in the sector of conventional and nuclear power plants. Siemens pulled out of the country in 1980.

WILD FIRES

Kiriyenko’s meeting with Putin covered subjects other than the Bushehr nuclear reactor too, in view of the fact that a heat wave had led to hundreds of wildfires burning across forested areas in western Russia, some threatening nuclear facilities. A state of emergency was declared in seven western regions and many additional deaths were reported from air pollution caused by the fires.

Rosatom director general Kiriyenko informed Putin further: “The most difficult situation was in Sarov. Because it is surrounded by woods, fires attacked us three times. At first, it came from the west. Then it crept up from the south. The last blaze encroached from a nature reserve to the east.” He added that more than 3000 men and 300 pieces of fire fighting equipment were used to control the fires at Sarov.

He told Putin that, as a precautionary measure, Rosatom had stopped work at key nuclear sites and removed nuclear and radioactive as well as other explosive materials from the sites. Kiriyenko said: “That is to say, we ensured that even if the flames break through the defensive perimeter, there would be no nuclear, radiation or environmental risk. Now our production is returning to normal.”

Although the fires have been brought under control and Rosatom continues to resume its work schedule, Kiriyenko warned that a risk remains that, should winds pick up, any remaining embers and pockets of fires could be fanned. Therefore, he said, lookouts have been posted to monitor the situation and fire fighting equipment is being kept on hand.

He told Putin that, in preparation of possible future forest fires, the fire-breaks around nuclear facilities will be widened by 100 metres as the current fire-breaks were insufficient. In addition, special robots and monitoring devices will be used to “keep a close eye on our key facilities,” Kiriyenko said.

He noted that the use of thermal imagers on helicopters had proved useful in monitoring the wildfires. A new system — known as ‘Lidar’ — will be installed at some facilities, he said, which will “spot any hotbed of fire or change within 15 kilometres.”

When asked about plans for new nuclear generating capacity, Kiriyenko told Putin that the second unit at the Rostov nuclear power plant, which started up in March 2010, was on schedule and reached full generating capacity of 1000 MWe in the week ending August 20.

ARMENIA AND UKRAINE

According to the World Nuclear News (WNN), he also noted progress in a number of overseas projects. Next month, Russia plans to reach an intergovernmental agreement on the construction of Vietnam’s first nuclear power plant so that such an agreement can be signed in October when Putin visits the country.

Meanwhile, an intergovernmental agreement was signed August 20 between Russia and Armenia for cooperation in the construction of a new nuclear power plant in southwestern Asian country, Armenia.

The agreement — signed in Yerevan by Kiriyenko and Arman Movsisyan, Armenia’s minister of energy and natural minerals — stipulates that Russia will build a new nuclear power plant in Armenia based on VVER-1000 reactors and supply fuel for the plant. The exact size and design of the plant has yet to be decided.

The plant, to be built by AtomStroyExport, will be owned and operated by a joint Armenian-Russian company, ZAO Metsamorenergoatom.

Armenia’s existing Metsamor nuclear power station originally hosted two reactors. Both were closed down after a severe earthquake in 1988 triggered concerns about their seismic vulnerability. One unit is now undergoing decommissioning, but the other restarted operations in 1995 and is earmarked for closure around 2016.

Armenia relies on Metsamor for over 40 percent of its electricity and in November 2007 the United States also signalled its support for nuclear new build in the country, pledging a reported $2 million towards planning studies.

In June 2009, the Armenian government passed legislation providing for construction of up to 1200 MWe of new nuclear capacity from one or more reactors. Cost estimates were in the range of $4-$5 billion. Construction is slated to begin in 2011-12, with commissioning by 2017.

In addition, the Ukrainian state-owned Nuclear Fuel concern has signed an agreement on August 18 with Rosatom to take a 10 percent stake in the International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) to be sited at the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Combine in Siberia.

The IUEC is a joint initiative of Russia and Kazakhstan to provide assured supplies of low-enriched uranium for power reactors to new nuclear power states and those with small nuclear programs, giving them equity in the project, but without allowing them access to the enrichment technology. The project has so far gained the participation of Armenia and Ukraine. However, currently Russia owns 90 percent of the IUEC, while Kazakhstan holds 10 percent. (IDN-InDepthNews/22.08.2010)

Ex-Prime Minister and post-Downing Street millionaire Tony Blair, to celebrate the publication of his book A Journey, is holding a ‘signing’ session at Waterstones, Piccadilly on 8 September.  That this man, responsible for taking us into an illegal war, playing his part in the ruination of an ancient country because he ‘believed he was right’, should advertise himself in this way has caused outrage. Time, I think, to look at where we, and Blair, actually stand in terms of what we can and cannot do to call him to account.


What hope for international law?

We have spent years constructing that body of treaties, statutes and conventions known as international law only to ignore it when it is most needed. How often has any state or rather, how many powerful Western states have been brought to account for breaching international law?  And how many exempt themselves from the laws while insisting others abide by them?

The world’s record at upholding its own laws is poor.  The United Nations passes Resolutions where states have breached international law, demanding compliance. It imposes sanctions, hoping to force compliance.  But beyond that what is done, except to threaten belligerence? What other routes are available?

When the UN was set up, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) also came into being.  It can settle disputes between states and it can give advisory opinions on legal matters when asked by recognised bodies or coalitions of such. A good example of the latter is the opinion they delivered in 1996 for the World Court Project on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons.  In neither case does this really result in accountability.

Of the permanent Security Council members only the United Kingdom has made a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court.  Nevertheless, they all have judges sitting on the Court’s bench, and one of them, Sir Christopher Greenwood, aided the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith with his legal opinion okaying the Iraq invasion in March 2003. 

But – the UN Charter authorises the Security Council to enforce the Court’s rulings. Security Council members can thus veto any judgement that interferes with the political agendas of those states or their allies.  Political interests always seem to override the rule of law.

Why is it necessary to get someone like Tony Blair into court?  It is the only way to demonstrate to those in power that no one is above international law, and we cannot, regardless of what statements we issue or pieces of paper we sign (or in America’s case, ‘unsign’) simply decide we are exempt in every case where it could be proved we are guilty.  To get just one of the West’s leaders into court and thereby create a legal precedent, will make all the world’s leaders sit up and take note.


Prosecuting Blair

In 1998, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted, opening the way to establishing the ICC.  When the Court was proposed, its importance was such that 60 rather than the usual 30 ratifications were required.  Considering that the Convention on Cluster Munitions took four years to reach 30 ratifications allowing it to pass into law, support for the ICC was obviously keen in that the Rome Statute gained twice the number of ratifications in the same amount of time.  Clearly, many countries felt the need for such a Court, but of the Security Council’s big 5, only the UK and France are fully signed up.

Following the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, many British campaigners attempted to get Tony Blair into court.  Encouraged by Chris Coverdale of Legal Action Against War, (LAAW), we approached our county police forces and asked them to act.  The reasoning behind this was that any British citizen, believing that a crime has taken place, has the duty to inform the police and ask them to investigate.  In this case we used the International Criminal Court Act 2001, which Blair’s own government had incorporated into British domestic law.

In November 2003 Peacerights held a Legal Inquiry to examine aspects of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and their panel of international lawyers then compiled a full report on the evidence from eye and expert witnesses, together with their legal opinion that war crimes had been committed in Iraq.  This was presented to the Attorney General and the ICC, which was unable to act.

The ICC cannot consider a prosecution unless it can be proved that efforts to prosecute in the home country have failed.  To do that one needs to demonstrate why.  And we didn’t know why, only, unofficially, that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had told the Metropolitan Police Force (the Met) that no prosecution would be allowed.  And by ‘we’, I do not mean just campaigners.  The lawyers also did not know and could not find out – which is where the Dorset Police came in.

In September 2003 I wrote a letter to Dorset ’s Chief Constable, requesting that Dorset Police investigate Mr Blair and members of his government for war crimes with a view to prosecuting them under the ICC Act 2001.  Unlike Chris Coverdale who, in the template letter he sent round to campaigners, was accusing Blair of genocide, I decided to go for war crimes and crimes against humanity, these being much easier to prove under the definitions of the Act (cluster munitions and depleted uranium weapons cause disproportionate harm to civilians, constituting war crimes).  Also, rather than swamping Dorset Police with what I thought was evidence, I simply sent them a copy of the relevant part of the Act, knowing full well that it would have been unread by the majority of the British police.

I received a letter from the Chief Constable saying that the matter was under consideration.  That in itself was a major difference between Dorset and other UK police forces.  The difficulty was that any complaint of illegal behaviour by members of the government comes under the jurisdiction of the Met, so any requests to investigate with a view to prosecution go through them to the CPS, the body that decides which public prosecutions go ahead.  All other police forces simply refused any such requests made of them.

It took weeks, plus letters and phone calls to the Met from the Chief Inspector who was trying to further my request, before the Met informed him that the CPS had refused permission for a prosecution some months back.  This was in answer to LAAW’s application, the CPS having instructed the Met at the end of November 2003, but the Met not informing LAAW until sometime in January 2004.  My local force must have felt both insulted and angry at being treated in such an offhand manner by the Met, and this may explain why I ended up achieving more than I hoped.

In late March I finally met the Chief Inspector who had with him a copy of the CPS letter, detailing why the prosecution was refused.  Forbidden to show me the letter, give me a copy or read it out to me, he managed in one short meeting to give enough information about the CPS reasons for refusal to allow us to prove we could not go further in this country (one reason being that ‘the ICC Act was not detailed enough to allow for prosecution’). 

I informed Professor Nick Grief, from Peacerights’ Legal Inquiry panel, Phil Shiner (Public Interest Lawyers) took a witness statement from me, and that joined the Peacerights report in The Hague .  Where it sits, gathering dust.

Well, you didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?


The ICC and the Crime of Aggression

The crime of aggression (then known as ‘crimes against peace’) was said at Nuremburg to be the supreme international crime, and when the ICC was brought into being, it was clear that many saw the crime of aggression as integral to the crimes that would come under its jurisdiction.  So the most pressing subject for discussion at the Rome Statute Review Conference that took place earlier this year was the defining of this crime and how a prosecution would be brought at the Court (the so-called ‘trigger’ mechanism).

One of the main blocks to progress is that the decision allowing a prosecution to take place lies with the Security Council, placing it under the control of politicians rather than judiciary.  Former judge Richard Goldstone, speaking on the BBC World Service, said one couldn’t put the crime of aggression into the hands of the ICC.  It would be very ‘political’ to make judgements on the decision to go to war.  But the ICC prosecution would not be for the decision to go to war.  That decision is always political.  Even in civil wars, the propaganda that drives neighbour to attack neighbour is mostly politically driven.  It is the act of waging war that is the crime to be prosecuted, and the decision is only part of that act.  While the ‘trigger’ allowing a prosecution to take place remains under the control of the Security Council it is impossible for any of the permanent members of the Council to be prosecuted for a crime they show an unhealthy willingness to commit.  Indeed, three of them are able to control an international body they do not support.

A letter I received from the Foreign Office states “A provision on aggression that does not make reference to the Security Council would also be bad for the Court.  We want to avoid the ICC being politicised… The Prosecutor needs to know that, before he embarks on an investigation, he has behind him the political support of the international community and that can only be expressed through the Security Council.”  That political support would be more honestly and democratically expressed through the General Assembly, where all nations can have their say.  And the best way to avoid the ICC being ‘politicised’ is to keep it well away from the Security Council.

How successful was the Review Conference in resolving this conundrum?  Amendments have been incorporated which include both the definition of the crime of aggression (identifying the decision and initiation processes, preparations for war and the various actions that, as a whole or in part, constitute a crime of aggression), and a set of conditions for the exercise of jurisdiction by the court in relation to that crime.  The conditions make no reference to the exclusive need of the Security Council for predetermination before allowing the ICC to investigate and prosecute.  Instead, if after 6 months the Council has not acted, the Prosecutor can seek a formal authority to investigate from 6 judges of the Court itself.

The amendments agreed at Kampala have to go through the same ratification process as the original Statute, although only 30 states are required this time, and this must be completed by January 1st 2017.  Everyone, including the UK government says that this means nothing will happen until 2017 and, according to the Foreign Office, “ICC States parties now have a seven-year period before making a further decision on the conditions under which the Court will exercise its jurisdiction”.  But look at it another way. They have seven years to obtain half the ratifications they originally achieved in four. 110 countries have ratified the Statute, and a further 35 have signed but not ratified.  Even with behind-the-scenes arm twisting, surely 30 states will step forward and clear the way for prosecuting the crime of aggression?  They must do it by January 2017 to get the crime of aggression onto the books.  But it is entirely possible they will fulfil that condition before then.

However – read the Kampala resolution carefully and you will see that this clause has been added to Article 15 of the Rome Statute:

‘The Court may exercise jurisdiction only with respect to crimes of aggression committed one year after the ratification or acceptance of the amendments by thirty States Parties.”

So if and when the crime of aggression is incorporated into our domestic law, we can forget about seeing Blair prosecuted for it.

But is this the only way to bring him to account?

Lesley Docksey is Editor of Abolish War 

Last spring, Antifascist Calling reported on the launch of the Pentagon’s secretive X-37B mini space shuttle, a 29-foot long unmanned orbital test vehicle (OTV).

Built by Boeing Corporation, the multibillion dollar project was the culmination of a decades-long dream of Pentagon space warriors: to field a reusable spacecraft that combines an airplane’s agility with the means to travel at 5 miles per second in orbit.

After the craft’s successful April 22 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) denied that the X-37B was a prototype for a near-earth weapons platform.

Back in 2005 however, The New York Times reported that General Lance W. Lord, then commander of AFSPC, told an Air Force conference that “space superiority is not our birthright, but it is our destiny. … Space superiority is our day-to-day mission. Space supremacy is our vision for the future.”

And with no public debate whatsoever, new weapons programs spawned in the bowels of the Pentagon’s black budget parallel universe are on coming on-line.

We do know however, that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) the secretive Defense Department satrapy that builds and flies America’s fleet of spy satellites, is ramping up operations for the “most aggressive launch schedule that this organization has undertaken in the last 25 years,” NRO director Bruce Carlson said in a speech at the National Space Symposium, according to Aviation Week.

Among the most heavily-outsourced American secret state agencies, NRO and its sister organization, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) are preparing the “battlespace” for new imperial adventures. The AllGov web site reported Friday that NGA “recently awarded $7.3 billion in contracts for its EnhancedView commercial imagery program, which is intended to yield higher resolution photos of earth targets than what is currently available to the military.”

Reporters David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff tell us that “DigitalGlobe operates three satellites capable of collecting imagery at resolutions of better than 1 meter, and GeoEye has two satellites in orbit that can photograph objects as small as half a meter in size.” Perfect for zeroing-in on “anti-government forces” or perhaps pesky dissidents and whistleblowers here in the heimat.

A short blurb on AFSPC’s web site hailing the space plane’s orbital insertion was long on cheesy boilerplate but short on details of what the mission hoped to accomplish.

The Air Force informed us that “the X-37B … will provide an ‘on-orbit laboratory’ test environment to prove new technology and components before those technologies are committed to operational satellite programs.”

What that “test environment” might produce is anyone’s guess and the Air Force isn’t saying.

Prior to the launch however, AFSPC was far less coy, proclaiming “if these technologies on the vehicle prove to be as good as we estimate, it will make our access to space more responsive, perhaps cheaper, and push us in the vector toward being able to react to warfighter needs more quickly.”

Such as bombing any point on earth in under an hour as the mad Prompt Global Strike program hopes to do, or, given the X-37B’s diminutive profile, serving as an anti-satellite weapon that could threaten the space assets of other nations, particularly those of China and Russia.

While speculation as to what X-37B capabilities are have run the gamut from an orbital delivery system for conventional or nuclear weapons, to a satellite killing drone, to a relatively inexpensive means to launch mini-satellite swarms into orbit, the best guess is that all three are plausible hypotheses.

Despite contrary claims by the Obama administration, the “space superiority” that the Air Force lusts after include plans to weaponize space, imperialism’s “high frontier.” Or, as Gen. Lord would have it, the “freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack” in earth orbit.

“International Cooperation” and other Fairy Tales

Writing in The Diplomat, journalist David Axe reported last month that during the 2008 presidential campaign candidate Barack Obama made opposition to space-based weapons “part of his platform.”

According to the changling’s campaign material, “He [Obama] believes the United States must show leadership by engaging other nations in discussions of how best to stop the slow slide towards a new battlefield.”

“Yet just two years into the Obama presidency,” Axe wrote, “it’s clear that these noble sentiments aren’t being matched by US deeds.”

Brian Weeden, the author of a briefing paper for the Pentagon- and industry-connected Secure World Foundation (SWF), claims that the mini space plane “has near zero feasibility as an orbital weapons system for attacking targets on the ground.”

Weeden alleges that the X-37B’s payload bay is too small for carrying an effective space-launched weapon, and moves too slowly to carry out bombing runs when re-entering the atmosphere, unlike the hypersonic glide vehicle under development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a component of the Pentagon’s “Prompt Global Strike” program.

Policy wonks such as Eric Sterner, an analyst with the Washington, D.C.-based Marshall Institute, a rightist think tank chock-a-block with former Cold Warriors, retired Pentagon clock-punchers and corporatist bag men, told Axe that “in theory” the X-37B could be weaponized or might be ideal for sneaking up on and probing, capturing, or even destroying an adversary’s satellites.

“You open the payload bay, you can have in it anything you want, like a hard-point on an aircraft,” Sterner told The Diplomat. “You can put sensors in there, satellites in there. You could stick munitions in there, provided they exist.”

Sterner should know. After all, the Marshall Institute is pushing for the accelerated development of a “robust” U.S. missile defense system.

The Institute, along with right-wing grifters from the American Foreign Policy Council, the Claremont Institute, the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, The Heritage Foundation, High Frontier, the Institute of the North and a gaggle of defense corps, are the dark heart of the Rumsfeldian Independent Working Group (IWG).

Last year, the IWG published another in a series of alarmist screeds urging deployment of this exquisitely destabilizing first strike weapons system.

The group’s 2009 report, Missile Defense, the Space Relationship & the Twenty-First Century, told us that “Missile defense has entered a new era. With the initial missile defense deployments, the decades-long debate over whether to protect the American people from the threat of ballistic missile attack was settled–and settled unequivocally in favor of missile defense.”

Although the United States is a founding member of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and is a signatory to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty banning orbital nuclear weapons, as the previous administration amply demonstrated, international treaties and agreements are so many worthless scraps of paper to be tossed aside when it inconveniences the Empire.

Ratcheting up tensions in the wake of the 9/11 provocation as plans to invade Iraq were secretly being hatched by the Bush crime family, at former SecDef Rumsfeld’s insistence, the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty with Russia and proclaimed that it would build–and deploy–a missile defense system.

With a cover story that the system would be based in Central Europe to “protect” NATO allies from a nonexistent “Iranian threat,” Washington believes it has the right to threaten and cajole other nations because of its status as the world’s “sole superpower.”

Mikhail Barabanov, the editor of Arms Export magazine, believes that the “real motivation of the multibillion-dollar undertaking is the desire to expand U.S. military and strategic capacities and constrict those of other states that have nuclear missiles, Russia and China most of all,” UPI reported.

Barabanov argued that “even a limited missile defense system injects a high degree of indeterminacy into the strategic plans of other countries and undermines the principle of mutual nuclear deterrence.

“With Russia continuing to reduce its nuclear arsenal significantly and China maintaining a low missile potential,” Barabanov said that “the Americans’ ability to down even a few dozen warheads could deprive the other side of guaranteed ability to cause the U.S. unacceptable damage in a nuclear war.”

In response to the American threat, Barabanov wrote that “the only way to prevent a slow growth of the American strategic advantage is a significant increase in the purchase of new ballistic missiles by Russia.”

America’s drive for nuclear- and space superiority excludes any attempt to limit deployment of new weapons systems anywhere, including space. While Bush and his minions may have receded from the headlines, Washington militarists are up to their old tricks–and semantic parlor games–rebranded as “change.”

In June, The New York Times reported that the administration will “consider proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies.”

As with all things Obama however, the administration’s “new space policy” mantra is more public relations puffery than substance.

Peter Marquez, director of space policy at the National Security Council told the Times that Washington would “oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access or use of space.”

This of course, is a red herring since no other nation has sought to “prohibit or limit” America’s “access or use of space” for peaceful purposes. As a means to preclude the prospect for negotiating a new arms control treaty for space, despite international backing by China, Russia and America’s NATO allies, caveats and distortions by the NSC are deal killers.

“Those are the gates,” Marquez told the Times, “that the arms control proposals must come through before we consider them.” In other words, the global godfather has spoken so forget it.

If the U.S., as candidate Obama declared, is truly interested in stopping the “the slow slide towards a new battlefield,” why then has the Pentagon embarked on a crash program to field a new generation of orbital weapons?

Washington’s lack of transparency when it comes to the X-37B’s potential to compromise other nations’ satellite systems reveal that Obama’s pledge to strengthen “international cooperation” for de-escalating conflicts in space, like his promise to close the Guantánamo Bay gulag, end torture or halt secret state domestic spying, are a cynical pack of lies.

Space Situational Awareness: Preparing the Orbital Battlespace

With the upcoming launch of the first in a series of spysats called the Space Based Surveillance System (SBSS) by AFSPC, we can expect more in the orbital dirty tricks department.

Built by usual suspects Boeing and Northrop Grumman for the Air Force, the SBSS, The Register tells us “is intended to make life much easier for the US air force Space Superiority Wing, which tries to keep tabs on all other nations’ military ‘space assets’.”

In Aril, Defense Systems reported that AFSPC has “identified four pillars” of space situational awareness: “intelligence characterization, data integration and exploitation, threat warning, and attack reporting.”

To address those “pillars,” three new hardware programs are coming on-line: “the Space Based Space Surveillance (SBSS) space vehicle, Space Fence and Space Surveillance Telescope (SST).”

SBSS is viewed by Pentagon star warriors as an ideal spy platform because it “offers a resilient space-based capability that weather cannot affect. It doesn’t have foreign basing issues. And it provides more timely revisit rates for high-interest objects at geosynchronous orbit.”

Or, more realistically, given Pentagon proclivities to shoot first and analyze later, provide wannabe starship troopers with real-time targets for efficient takedown.

While deliberate meddling with other nation’s satellites is strictly forbidden by international treaty, The Register informs us that “America might not be above a little bit of unattributable orbital naughtiness itself at some point in the future.”

Indeed, “unattributable orbital naughtiness” is the name of the game. Last week, The Register reported that the Pentagon’s new “‘fractionated’ swarm satellites–in which groups of small wirelessly-linked modules in orbit will replace today’s large spacecraft–will be able to scatter to avoid enemy attacks and then reform into operational clusters.”

According to a DARPA press release, “System F6 (Future, Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft) demonstrator program [will] emphasize development of an open and ubiquitous space architecture and an associated set of open standards. The fractionated spacecraft concept replaces large, monolithic space assets with clusters of smaller, wirelessly-interconnected modules that share resources to create, in effect, a ‘virtual satellite’.”

In other words, satswarms in constant communication with their Pentagon masters on the ground.

With an emphasis on “real-time, fault-tolerant resource sharing over wireless cross-links; algorithms for safe and agile multi-body cluster flight; persistent broadband communications between low earth orbit (LEO) spacecraft and the ground; and a robust and scalable multi-level information assurance architecture,” DARPA believes the F6 program will “enable multiple payloads supplied by different agencies, services or even countries to share common infrastructure at multiple levels of security.”

DARPAcrats say the project will “exploit benefits of democratization of innovation” and find better ways to kill people in the process. How’s that for innovation!

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,  his articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, 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.


(Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

The scene is post-apocalyptic. Under a grey sky, two families play in the surf just off the beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana. To get to the beach, we walk past a red, plastic barrier fence that until very recently was there to keep people away from the oil-soaked area. Now, there are a few openings that beach goers can use. The fence is left largely intact, I presume, for when they will need to close the beach again when the next invasion of BP’s oil occurs.

Families on beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

A father jokingly throws sand at his little boy who laughs while dodging it. This, against a background of oil rigs and platforms looming in the Gulf. In the foreground, littering the beach, are tar balls. We stroll through the area, eyeing even more tar balls that bob lazily underwater, amidst sand ripples in the shallows … they are in the same location where the father sits, grabbing handfuls of sand to toss near his son.

Two military Humvees, one olive green, the other tan, are parked near the road just yards from our car.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

We stroll back to our hotel. Beside us is a large beach house that has been rented to the National Guard. Two military Humvees, one olive green, the other tan, are parked near the road just yards from our car. It is a grim feeling here, like living in the bowels of some greed-driven, security-obsessed, lumbering giant so disconnected from its heart that reality has long since ceased to figure into its outer perception.

The next morning, we head out in a boat from Fourchon with Jonathan Henderson from the Gulf Restoration Network, his friend Randy, who is a cameraman, and Craig, our charter fishing captain and guide. It is August 16, the day that several of Louisiana’s fisheries have been reopened for shrimping.

A passing shrimper has caught nothing.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Just after leaving the boat launch, we pass a shrimper coming back in.

“How did you do out there?” Craig asks him. “Nothing. Nothing at all,” the despondent fisherman replies. “How much do you usually catch?” Craig asks. “Hundreds of pounds, sometimes a thousand pounds,” comes the reply.

Craig looks at me and says, “That’s not good.”

Minutes later another shrimper passes us, returning to port. “How’d you do?” Craig asks. “We caught 12 shrimp,” he replies, “That’s one-two shrimp.”

A brief reminder of the toxicity of the dispersants BP is using in the Gulf: “According to the EPA’s latest analysis of dispersant toxicity released in the document Comparative Toxicity of Eight Oil Dispersant Products on Two Gulf of Mexico Aquatic Test Species, Corexit 9500, at a concentration of 42 parts per million, killed 50% of mysid shrimp tested.” Most of the remaining shrimp died shortly thereafter.

Craig worked as a deckhand on a shrimp boat when he was 12 years old, and has been on the water ever since. He knows these areas like the back of his hand, and he is torn up by what he sees. “We find fish feeding that cause fish-oil slicks atop the water,” he explains as we make our way out of the bayou towards the Gulf. “But now, thanks to BP, most of the slicks we see are oil.”

A little further, we pass dozens of large shrimp boats laden with boom and skimming gear.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

A little further, we pass dozens of large shrimp boats laden with boom and skimming gear. They’ve been converted into response vessels for BP’s fading Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program that has created a false economy for the now out of work fishermen. “BP is buying out a way of life,” Craig says when he sees me eyeing the boats, all of which are tied to the dock. “Generations of shrimping … done.”

After a short time we arrive in Devil’s Bay, to find forests of white PVC pipe sticking out of the water. The pipe is used to hold absorbent boom in place. Much of the boom is washed ashore, or gone completely. “That PVC doesn’t rot,” Craig comments, “It’ll be there a long time.”

Birds on boom. Boom contaminated with oil is abundant.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Boom contaminated with oil is abundant. Craig turns the boat out towards the bay, which is empty. “Right now, there should be 50 or 60 shrimp boats in here, but now it’s like this … closed, and most folks are afraid to fish. We need good testing of the seafood, and it needs to be done right. We only have one shot at this.”

The boat is accompanied by an unmarked Carolina Skiff, driven by a man wearing desert camouflage pants and a tan shirt.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Out in Devil’s Bay we encounter a boat pulling a closed-off harbor skimmer: equipment used to skim up oil slicks. The boat is accompanied by an unmarked Carolina Skiff, driven by a man wearing desert camouflage pants and a tan shirt. Our captain will not let us get close enough to the boat pulling the skimmer to talk to its captain, nor will the boat’s captain even look at us.

“These boats don’t even have their Louisiana numbers,” Craig says, annoyed. “Somebody brought these boats down here and threw them in the water, and they are not even from this state. It’s another part of the scam.”

I’ve written recently about how private contractors are being brought in from out of state to use these boats to spray dispersant on oil located by fisherman working in the VOO program in the four most heavily affected states.

We carry on to arrive at Casse-tete Ise. We find large amounts of absorbent boom washed ashore. Some of this had been there so long it is largely covered in sand.

Boom and oiled PVC pipes washed ashore.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

“I guarantee you they’ll come pick that up,” Craig says angrily, mocking BP. Given that there is boom washed ashore and oiled PVC pipes around much of the island, it’s clear that BP is aware of the island being hit by oil. It is also clear that nobody has been back to check on it for a very long time.

We offload from the boat and step ashore. Oil-soaked marsh abounds, and the island smells like a gas station. Noxious fumes infiltrate my nose, causing me to cough. Piles of oiled oysters rest on the tide line.

Tide pools filled with brown oil and sheen.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Everywhere I step near the water, sheen bubbles up out of the soil. Hermit crabs scuttle over dead, oiled marsh grass. Inland, we find tide pools filled with brown oil and sheen. The horrible smell makes me dizzy and nauseous. Each of us walks around on our own, trying to take in the devastating scene. Anger and a deep sadness comingle inside me. Rage at BP melds into a broader anger at all of us for having let it come to this.

Boom washed ashore.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Tide pools filled with brown oil and sheen.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Boom washed ashore.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Tide pools filled with brown oil and sheen.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

I watch a bird looking for food among the blackened stubs of marsh grass. I think of how the oil brings death to everything it touches, sooner or later.

We get back in Craig’s boat and move on toward another island, but skirt the coast of this one whilst en route. Around the south side we find the entire coast oiled. Contaminated sorbent boom litters the coast above tide line.

“So when are they gonna come pick this up?” Craig asks angrily to no one. “In 10 years? So did they just not care about this island?”

There is another forest of PVC pipe sticking out of the water.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

There is another forest of PVC pipe sticking out of the water.

I look down at Craig’s GPS map on the boat. We float in the bay, but the map shows us on land. “This is a post-Katrina map,” Craig points out. “That’s how fast we’re losing the marsh.”

Early upon our arrival in Louisiana, I was made aware of how every 30 minutes, the state loses a football-field-sized chunk of land to the Gulf of Mexico. The first of two primary causes is the hemming in of the Mississippi River, which prevents it from dumping sediment to replenish the land. The second is the oil and gas industry, which has carved out channels and canals, causing between 30-60 percent of this erosion. One third of the island on Craig’s map is now gone. There are other islands on his map that no longer exist.

As we continue on, Craig says that the water seems odd, and “not as crisp” as it usually is. He says, “It seems like it has cellophane over it.” Several times throughout the day Craig makes this comment. To me, given that the water has a slight chop, it is hard to see his point – but that will soon change.

We arrive at Timbalier Isle, a barrier island of Timbalier Bay. After we offload, Jonathan calls me over. He’d filled his rubber boots with water while wading ashore. He pulls off one of his boots and dumps the contents on the sand. The water is full of silvery sheen as it splashes onto the sand. We both shake our heads.

We begin walking and find tar balls everywhere. In some places, there are literally huge mats of fresh tar.

We begin walking and find tar balls everywhere. In some places, there are literally huge mats of fresh tar.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

We begin walking and find tar balls everywhere. In some places, there are literally huge mats of fresh tar.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

We begin walking and find tar balls everywhere. In some places, there are literally huge mats of fresh tar.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

The farther inland we travel, the worse things become. It’s as though the entire island is a sponge filled with sheen and oil. There is a pile of yellow boom, and another of red boom, in the middle of the southern beach. BP knows of this island, too. It has had workers here. And again, no one has been here in a very long time.

We walk along the bank of an inland lagoon. Fiddler crabs skitter away from us as we walk across sheen-covered sand. The pool is covered in brown, stringy oil and sheen – the rainbow colors tracing lazily across the surface. My stomach feels sick when I think of these crabs, and all the others along the Gulf Coast, that are filtering in sheen, oil and dispersants. We watch them move toward the waters oily edge, and stop. Are they trying to enter the water, as is their nature, and can’t because it is too toxic? What will become of these crabs? What will become of the marine life and wildlife that feed on these crabs?

What will become of these crabs? What will become of the marine life and wildlife that feed on these crabs?

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

There are several inland pools that are literally oil pits.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

There are several inland pools that are literally oil pits. We are appalled at what we find. In one of the pools, brown liquid oil floats atop areas where the sand underneath is literally black with crude oil.

Sorbent booms blackened and browned with oil lay chaotically in the lagoon.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Sorbent booms blackened and browned with oil lay chaotically in the lagoon.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

Sorbent booms blackened and browned with oil lay chaotically in the lagoon.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

The scene is apocalyptic. Sorbent booms blackened and browned with oil lay chaotically in the lagoon. It is one of the more disgusting, vile scenes I’ve ever seen. All of us fall silent. All we can do is take photos. The stench is overpowering. I gag. My eyes water from the burning chemicals in the air, but also from sadness. My throat is sore, my voice instantaneously hoarse, and I feel dizzy. I look over to see Erika taking photos, tears running down her cheeks.

All of us are devastated. “This is some of the worst I’ve seen,” says Jonathan, who has been out investigating the results of the BP oil disaster every week since it started in April. He continues to take samples. I hear him gagging and look over as he coughs the stench from his lungs before bending down again to take another sample.

Shortly thereafter he finishes taking samples, and we are off, all of us hobbled and shaken by what we’ve just seen, along with the exposure to such a vast amount of chemicals.

During the ten-minute walk back to the boat, we hardly speak. I look out at the Gulf, the oil rigs and platforms in the distance, then down at the sheen oozing out of the sand at the water’s edge as I walk alongside another tide pool.

Craig picks us up in the boat, and we begin the trip back to Fourchon. I climb up atop the “crow’s nest,” a small seat overlooking Craig’s boat. I write in my notepad about what we’ve just seen, but mostly, I just look out at the Gulf. I’ve long since surrendered trying to get my head around the enormity and longevity of this disaster. The government cover-ups and its complicity with BP. The profiteering happening from this disaster, not dissimilar to the rampant war profiteering I’ve seen in Iraq.

The cost of this? The Gulf of Mexico, the ninth largest body of water on the planet, befouled with oil and toxic dispersants.

About halfway back to port we come upon a thick sheen layer that is covered in emulsified, white foam … the same kind I’ve seen in videos taken by VOO workers, in which dispersants have been used atop oil.

We stop so Jonathan can take more water samples. As we do so, the stench burns my eyes.

We carry on, only to pass more slicks like this. The entire day we’ve been in sheen, and we’ve traveled more than 40 nautical miles, much of it in open Gulf waters. All the water we’ve boated across and all the islands we’ve explored are entirely covered in sheen or oil.

From back atop my platform, I'm amazed at the myriad rigs and platforms we pass, sometimes thick enough in number to resemble floating cities.

Photo by Erika Blumenfeld © 2010

From back atop my platform, I’m amazed at the myriad rigs and platforms we pass, sometimes thick enough in number to resemble floating cities.

Throughout the day, the question “what have we done” drifts into my consciousness. What have we done? How has it come to this?

Thousands of lives along the Gulf Coast are being devastated by this disaster. This is merely the beginning of yet another toxic epoch for the Gulf of Mexico, all the humans that live along the coast, and all the marine life and wildlife that make their homes here.

What have we done? How has it come to this? Where do we go from here? 

The two major civil service unions on strike against the South African (SA) government vow to intensify pressure in coming days, in a struggle pitting a million members of the middle and lower ranks of society against a confident government leadership fresh from hosting the FIFA World Cup.

Along with smaller public sector unions, teachers from the SA Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and nurses from the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) continued picketing at schools, clinics and hospitals, leading to widespread shutdowns starting on August 18. Skeleton teams of doctors and military personnel were compelled to send non-emergency cases home.

In several confrontations with police at town centres, clinics and schools late last week, workers were shot with rubber bullets and water cannons. On Saturday the courts enjoined workers to return to jobs considered to be emergency services. In dozens of hospitals and clinics, military healthworkers took over.

President Jacob Zuma threatened mass firings and attacked labour movement activists who successfully disrupted health and education facilities: “Even during the campaigns against the apartheid government we did not prevent nurses from going to work.” The South African Communist Party (SACP) issued a statement defending the strikers but requesting the labour movement and ruling African National Congress (ANC) to desist “flinging irritable insults at each other, while the private sector and anti-worker elements sit back and laugh.”

Nepotism

Notwithstanding reasonably high popularity enjoyed by the affable Zuma, recent reports about vast profits in ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ deals for his son, nephew and inner-circle allies are raising anger. Moreover, NEHAWU’s press statement lambasted Pretoria’s hedonistic state managerial class: “We read on a daily basis government’s wasteful expenditure on World Cup tickets, cars, hotels, parties and advertising.”

Indeed, Pretoria subsidized the World Cup to the tune of $5-billion, by most estimates, including more than $3-billion on stadiums that are now widely recognized as ‘white elephants,’ unable to fill the stands and too expensive for the weakly-supported local soccer teams. (Even the cricket and rugby teams which attract more fans are hesitant to move from their current world-class venues.) Corporations sponsoring the soccer tournament took home more than $4-billion in profits, tax free without exchange controls.

During June-July, South Africa displayed to foreign visitors and television audiences an opulence that belied its increasingly stressed economy and extreme inequality. The recovery from a 2 per cent GDP decline in 2009 is faltering, with 3 per cent announced growth this year widely derided, as the first half of 2010 witnessed continuing job losses. More than one million of the 13 million workers in South Africa’s formal economy have lost their jobs since 2008.

In spite of the pressure, workers have become surprisingly militant, winning above-inflation wage settlements from the transport and electricity parastatals in recent weeks, assisted by pressure they wielded before and during the World Cup. With inflation at 4.5 per cent, the government’s latest offer of a 7 per cent annual increase plus a $25 rise in the monthly housing allowance (to $90) would ordinarily be a strong settlement.

Some unions would be happy with a 8.6 per cent raise and a rise to $130/month for housing assistance, but NEHAWU demands are much higher, including an 11 per cent wage increase (backdated three months) and a $195 housing allowance, as well equality in the state medical aid subsidy.

Government Response

The Cabinet responded on August 18: “We had to make a choice between increasing the salary bill to unaffordable levels by meeting the union demands and cutting other urgently needed services. It’s a choice between improving the wages of state employees and continuing to address the service delivery needs of poor communities and the unemployed.”

In addition to higher taxes on business and the rich (which had fallen sharply from 1994 levels thanks to four neoliberal finance ministers), unions point out other places that state waste and corporate subsidies could be cut. Vast spending on infrastructure has come under strong criticism, especially given that the four major components – two new coal-fired power plants ($35-billion) financed partly by the World Bank, a ($3-billion) fast-train from the Johannesburg airport to the main financial district, a ($1-billion) airport in Durban, and new (multibillion dollar) dams for big mining and agricultural interests – mainly benefit elites and come at the cost of infrastructure for poor people.

Public transport continues to decay and electricity prices are increasing by 25 per cent each year to pay for the new power plants. Yet two corporations, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, will continue receiving the world’s cheapest electricity (one seventh of the price ordinary workers pay, thanks to 40-year apartheid-era deals). The two consume more than 10 per cent of the country’s electricity, and environmentalists insist on phasing out energy-gorging smelters, foregoing the second power plant and instead investing in renewable energy.

But while the case for a redirection of state funds is strong, the question arises as to whether a potential ‘labour aristocracy’ will enjoy affluence at a time of ongoing job cuts and misery for the unskilled, unemployed masses. The union reply is typically that each worker in turn supports large extended families, insofar as apartheid-era migrancy relations still tie South Africans to kinship networks stretching hundreds of kilometers.

To make matters worse, until the mid-1980s, women were compelled through ‘Pass Laws’ to remain in rural ‘bantustan’ homelands, while their fathers, husbands and sons laboured in the cities, and the more rapid spread of AIDS in formerly settler-colonial and plantation economies suffering such migrancy is just one lasting inheritance. Once liberation was won, an ‘insider’ status for the urban workers emerged, including perks for housing, healthcare and pensions.

In turn, trade union leaders point out that no other social force in South Africa campaigns so actively for broader socio-economic rights that benefit the unemployed, such as a proposed National Health Insurance and Basic Income Grant ($15/person/month) that would reach the most marginalized communities. But the unions are mainly losing these social-wage battles.

The unions’ greatest disappointments with Zuma’s government are its amplification of neoliberal economic policies such as exchange control liberalization and monetarism (high interest rates), and its failure to ban labour brokers which supply hundreds of thousands of cheap, casualized ‘outsourced’ workers at far lower wages.

In reply, government leaders typically point to a variety of state social grants (pensions, disability and child-care) that have indeed achieved a slightly greater flow of funds to the rural poor. But the most recent authoritative study of poverty, by University of Cape Town researchers in January 2010, showed an absolute increase in urban poverty.

Dissatisfaction

Also reflecting the widening social divides are the several thousand protests that police record each year. Many have flared up spontaneously as localized ‘service delivery’ riots, with results that include vandalism of municipal offices and even xenophobic outbreaks. Unfortunately, no major urban social movement has emerged to capture and channel the frustrations into a sustained, democratic force.

This is mainly due to the residual township loyalty to the ruling African National Congress (ANC) even in these protest-rich communities, and a decade-old split between the (now fading) radical ‘new social movements’ in SA’s cities and the ANC. The new movements had hoped the most left-leaning forces in the SACP and Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) would break away from the ANC, but instead they attacked not the ruling party but its leader, former President Thabo Mbeki. Having thrown him out of power in September 2008, labour and the communists expected more than the handful of marginalized seats they received in the cabinet.

The feeling of betrayal was made explicit in the widely circulated ‘Ruth First Memorial Lecture’ delivered last Tuesday by COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, one of the most radical voices in contemporary South Africa. In 1982, First was assassinated by an apartheid letter bomb while in exile in Maputo.

Vavi paid tribute to First’s politics and prolific campaigning, research and writing:

“Her contempt for private ownership of the means of production, for exploitation and for all forms of oppression is evident in all of Ruth First’s undertakings, from her journalistic writings to her scholastic works. National liberation and the defeat of class exploitation were for her two sides of the same coin.”

Ruth First, 1961.

Then Vavi turned to an unusual narrative: deploying a past hero against present liberation movement leaders:

“Ruth First would be shocked to learn that 16 years after our emancipation we have not moved decisively away from an economic system she died fighting against. She will seriously ask whether it was worth all the sacrifices she made when she learns that … South Africa (is) now the country with the biggest inequalities in the world.”

Vavi has been hitting raw nerves in the Cabinet by regularly scolding Zuma’s closest political allies for corruption of both a personal and political nature:

“What will annoy Ruth First most is that despite this mounting and unfolding catastrophe, she would have heard some of the leaders who were at some point serving with her in the SACP Central Committee, assuring private capital, locally and abroad during their endless trips, that the economic fundamentals are in place and the country will stay the course despite mounting evidence that this market fundamentalism is dismally failing humanity.”

Ruth First was married to SACP leader Joe Slovo, who by the time of his 1995 death had begun endorsing the neoliberal project, especially in the housing ministry he ran. Said Vavi of First,

“She would ask where her SACP is, and why it has not led a united working class in a struggle to change the direction we seem to be taking. She would ask where all other democrats have gone to after reading about the proposed Protection of Information Bill that, if it goes through in its current form, will make a mockery of her work as a journalist committed to fighting injustice.”

The top two SACP leaders, Blade Nzimande and Jeremy Cronin, have defended Zuma’s current attacks on the media and access to information, including legislation that would chill South Africa’s scandal-sheet press as well as more serious investigative journalists.

Zuma has long taken a beating in the media because of numerous personal, financial, sexual and political scandals. His lawyers have filed defamation lawsuits against Jonathan Shapiro, whose brilliant ‘Zapiro’ cartoons depict the president with a showerhead attached to his head, reminding readers of his sex – and alleged rape – with an HIV+ daughter of a family friend.

While a settlement favourable to labour is expected within coming days, given how tough the unions are fighting, the pressures in the economy and society will keep growing. And the wedges now being driven between the ruling partner and its labour and communist allies will not be easily healed. •

Patrick Bond ([email protected] ) is director of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban: www.ukzn.ac.za/ccs

Oil Prices Spiral Downwards as Economic Gloom Intensifies

August 23rd, 2010 by Darrell Delamaide

Crude oil prices continued their downward spiral during the week as new data confirmed that  U.S. economic growth is slowing.

The benchmark West Texas Intermediate contract settled 2.6% lower for the week on Friday, at $73.46 a barrel compared to the $75.39 close a week ago, itself a decline of 7% from the previous week.

News Thursday of an increase in jobless claims and a slowdown in manufacturing activity in the key mid-Atlantic region knocked both stock prices and commodity prices.

The Friday close marked oil’s lowest price since the beginning of July as recurring doubts about the economy take the steam out of any rally in prices. Market participants speak of a malaise in the absence of any breakthrough on the economic front.

Initial claims for jobless insurance in the U.S. rose 12,000 in the week to 500,000, the Labor Department reported on Thursday. Consensus forecasts had predicted a drop in jobless claims. Separately, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said on Thursday that its index of manufacturing activity in the region fell to  -7.7 points in the month, after registering 5.1 points in July. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4% to 10,271 in Thursday trading.

Economists continue to debate the prospects of a double dip recession, with some claiming that the U.S. actually is in the grip of a long recession punctuated by periods of slow growth that don’t really constitute a recovery. Unemployment remains stubbornly high at 9.5%.

Although crude oil inventories declined in the week, according to Wednesday’s report from the Energy Information Administration, the decline was less than expected and overall stockpiles of crude and refined products remained at record levels amid the sluggish demand. Supplies rose to 1.13 billion barrels, the EIA said, the highest level since the introduction of weekly reports in 1990.

Not even the weather cooperated in a dismal week for oil. One low-pressure system over the Atlantic looked like it would turn north, avoiding the Gulf of Mexico and possible disruption of oil supplies. The system, which would be named Danielle, has only a 40% chance of becoming a tropical depression, the National Hurricane Center said.

By. Darrell Delamaide

U.S. Missiles In Poland: More Continuity Than Change

August 23rd, 2010 by Global Research

Is Obama’s new security plan for Eastern Europe really what it seems?

Since the US delivered Patriot missiles to northern Poland in April, military experts have been asking themselves this question. The Polish Defense Ministry says the SM-3 rockets in Morag are serving training purpose.

“The US Patriot missiles were brought to Morag for training purposes,” said Robert Rochowicz, from Poland’s Defense Ministry. “Every several months, US servicemen go to that military base and teach their Polish personnel how to operate them. We know of similar plans in another military base in the town of Radzikowo.”

But the Washington Post reported that the installation in Morag doesn’t look at all like a training camp.

An anonymous Pentagon official said the battery is only the first step in a reviewed security plan. The source says that a radar station would be installed in either Bulgaria or Turkey by next year, as well as in the Czech Republic.

The new security plan will be complete with Aegis ships in the Mediterranean Sea, capable of shooting down an Iranian ICBM.

The Stop the War movement – the driving force of the anti-shield protests – says the new blueprint is no different than that of the previous US administration.

“Installation of any type of missiles in our territory throws us back two decades,” said movement member Maciy Wiechorkowski. “It was 20 years ago that our countries started dismantling missiles, now we’re being equipped again. The world would be a safer place not if we arm ourselves, but if we try to resolve the threats in their origins. These missiles in Eastern Europe only serve Washington’s economic interests.”

Former president George W. Bush’s initial missile defense shield plan consisted of ballistic missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic, sparking mass protests in those countries.

After consultations with Moscow last September, US President Barack Obama replaced it with a different blueprint.

“It’s not about intercontinental rockets, it’s now about short range and medium range,” said Polish Parliament member Tadeush Iwinski. “This is a change and a sort of a compromise. And one has to distinguish between those training rockets in Morag and those planned according to George Bush.”

Poland has hinted that more US missile batteries will appear in their country in the next 8 years.

The whole system will cost around $1 billion and it is yet unclear whether Washington will be footing the bill. As the Washington Post reports, it is also vague what purpose this shield can serve.

After what seemed to be a diplomatic compromise between Russia and the United States, Moscow said that Washington started the rocket deployment unilaterally.

The information published in the Washington Post cannot be considered entirely truthful, as it can from an anonymous source. But a recent initiative from Pentagon to invest $2 million into building a radar station in the Czech Republic has only added to the claims.

Now experts are left to wonder what exactly Obama changed from the earlier plan of his predecessor.

On Friday, Inter Press Service reported:

Danny Ross, a commercial fisherman from Biloxi… said he has watched horseshoe crabs trying to crawl out of the water, and other marine life like stingrays and flounder trying to escape the water as well. He believes this is because the water is hypoxic. …

David Wallis, another fisherman from Biloxi… [said] “I’ve seen crabs crawling out of the water in the middle of the day. This is going to be affecting us far into the future.”

This has been a common occurrence since BP started spilling oil into the Gulf.

The Post Chronicle noted on August 12th:

Some local fishermen say they are seeing strange behavior by marine life — mullets, crabs and other creatures which normally stay well under water have been sighted congregating on the surface — and they relate this to the spill.

***

“It looks like all of the sea life is trying to get out of the water,” said Alabama fisherman Stan Fournier. “In the 40 years I have been on these waters I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

The Advocate-Messenger pointed out on July 31st:

Besides potentially maintaining higher levels of toxicity, the oil trapped in the water column is also suffocating the ocean, causing radical drops in oxygen levels never before seen, [Monty Graham, a biological oceanographer specializing in plankton at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on the coast of Alabama] said.

Following the oil and methane spill, Graham’s measurements of oxygen levels in the waters where he studies plankton dropped to two to three times lower than normal, to a level so low most animals cannot tolerate it.

That suffocating effect is why all kinds of sea animals have been showing up in greater and greater numbers, closer and closer to shore — they can’t breathe in their normal habitats anymore.

And AP wrote in June:

Dolphins and sharks are showing up in surprisingly shallow water just off the Florida coast. Mullets, crabs, rays and small fish congregate by the thousands off an Alabama pier. Birds covered in oil are crawling deep into marshes, never to be seen again.

Marine scientists studying the effects of the BP disaster are seeing some strange — and troubling — phenomena.

Fish and other wildlife are fleeing the oil out in the Gulf and clustering in cleaner waters along the coast. But that is not the hopeful sign it might appear to be, researchers say.

The animals’ presence close to shore means their usual habitat is badly polluted, and the crowding could result in mass die-offs as fish run out of oxygen. Also, the animals could easily get devoured by predators.

“A parallel would be: Why are the wildlife running to the edge of a forest on fire? There will be a lot of fish, sharks, turtles trying to get out of this water they detect is not suitable,” said Larry Crowder, a Duke University marine biologist.

Tragically, when sea animals crowd into shallow water in an attempt to escape pollution, they can quickly use up all available oxygen.

As the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection writes:

The warmer water is the less dissolved oxygen it is able to hold. If the fish schooled very tightly in shallows very close to shore for any reason, they may have simply used up all the oxygen that was available to them and died.”

Eight Banks Fail in Four States

August 23rd, 2010 by Philip van Doorn

Eight banks were shuttered by regulators Friday, bringing the 2010 tally of U.S. bank failures to 118.

Six of the eight failed banks were included in TheStreet’s Bank Watch List of undercapitalized institutions, based on second-quarter regulatory data provided by SNL Financial.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. found buyers for the deposits and branches for all of the failed institutions and estimated the combined cost to its deposit insurance fund would be $473.5 million.

The largest failure on Friday was ShoreBank of Chicago, which had $2.16 billion in total assets. ShoreBank received wide media coverage after Bloomberg reported Aug. 5 that the institution had been denied federal bailout funds that would have been required to complete an earlier deal to raise $145 million in capital from an investor group that included Citigroup(C), Bank of America(BAC), JPMorgan Chase(JPM), Wells Fargo(WFC), Morgan Stanley(MS), Goldman Sachs(GS) and Northern Trust(NTRS).

Early Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the same investor group had agreed to back ShoreBank’s new management team in a new bid to buy ShoreBank’s assets from the FDIC were it to fail.

This is indeed what happened. After Illinois regulators shuttered ShoreBank, the FDIC sold the failed institution’s deposits for a 0.50% premium to the newly formed Urban Partnership Bank of Chicago, which also acquired ShoreBank’s assets, with the FDIC agreeing to share in 80% of losses on $1.41 billion of the acquired assets.

Because of the unusual nature of the failed bank’s resolution and the wide media coverage before ShoreBank’s failure, the FDIC released additional details about its marketing efforts for the failed bank, saying that the Urban Partnership Bank bid was the only one received and emphasizing that the senior managers retained form ShoreBank were the new management team that had joined the bank in June.

FDIC spokesman David Barr told TheStreet that if the agency hadn’t received the offer from the Urban Partnership group, liquidating ShoreBank could have cost the deposit insurance fund “close to $700 million.” He also emphasized that ShoreBank was a designated community development bank with a business strategy of serving “underserved low-to-moderate income communities,” and that Urban Partnership Bank’s management would follow the same strategy and eventually seek the same designation from the Treasury.

The 15 branches of ShoreBank in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland were set to reopen during normal business hours as branches of Urban Partnership Bank. The FDIC estimated the cost to the deposit insurance fund would be $367.7 million.

Four California Failures

The California Department of Financial Institutions took over Butte Community Bank of Chico, Calif., which had $499 million in total assets, and Pacific State Bank of Stockton, which had total assets of $312 million. The FDIC was appointed receiver and sold the deposits and assets of both failed banks to Rabobank, NA of El Centro, Calif. Rabobank paid the FDIC a 4.05% premium for Butte Community’s deposits, but it paid no premium for Pacific State Bank’s deposits

The failed banks were not affiliated with each other. Their combined 23 branches were scheduled to reopen during normal business hours as Rabobank branches. The FDIC agreed to share in losses on $425 million of Butte Community Bank’s assets and $250 million of Pacific State Bank’s assets and estimated the cost to the deposit insurance fund would be $17.4 million for Butte Community’s failure and $32.6 for Pacific State Bank

California regulators also shut down Sonoma Valley Bank of Sonoma, Calif., which had $337 million in total assets. The FDIC sold it to Westamerica Bank of San Rafael, Calif., which is the main subsidiary of Westamerica Bancorporation(WABC).

Westamerica paid the FDIC a 2% premium for the failed bank’s deposits. The FDIC estimated the cost of Sonoma Valley Bank’s failure to the deposit insurance fund would be$10.1 million. The failed bank’s branches were set to reopen Saturday as Westamerica branches.

The Office of Thrift Supervision closed Los Padres Bank of Solvang, Calif., which had $870 million in total assets. The FDIC sold the failed bank to Pacific Western Bank of San Diego, Calif., with the acquirer paying a 0.45% premium for Los Padres Bank’s deposits.

Pacific Western Bank is held by PacWest Bancorp(PACW).

The FDIC agreed to share in losses on $580 million in assets acquired by Pacific Western Bank and estimated the cost to the deposit insurance fund would be $8.7 million. The failed bank’s 14 offices were scheduled to reopen as branches of Pacific Western on Monday.

Two Florida Failures

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency shut down Community National Bank at Bartow and Independent National Bank of Ocala, Fla. The FDIC was appointed receiver and arranged for CenterState Bank of Florida to acquire all of the deposits and assets of both failed banks. CenterState is held by CenterState Banks of Florida(CSFL).

Community National Bank at Bartow had $68 million in total assets, and Independent National Bank had $156 million in total assets. The FDIC agreed to share in losses on $52 million of the assets CenterState acquired from Community National Bank at Bartow and $120 million of the assets acquired from Independent National Bank. The failed banks’ five branches were scheduled to reopen during normal business hours as CenterState branches.

The FDIC estimated the deposit insurance fund would incur costs of $10.3 million for Community National Bank at Bartow’s failure and $23.2 million for Independent national Bank.

Imperial Savings and Loan

The OTS shut down Imperial Savings and Loan of Martinsville, Va. The FDIC was appointed receiver and sold the failed thrift, which had $9.4 million in total assets, to River Community Bank, NA, also of Martinsville, Va. The sole office of Imperial Savings and Loan was scheduled to reopen Monday as a River Community branch, and the FDIC estimated the cost to the insurance fund would be $3.5 million.

Ongoing Bank Failure Coverage

All previous bank closures since the beginning of 2008 are detailed in TheStreet’s interactive bank failure map:

CLICK HERE FOR TABLE

The bank failure map is color-coded, with states having the greatest number of failures highlighted in red, and states with no failures in gray. By moving your mouse over a state you can see its combined 2008-2010 totals. Clicking on a state will open a detailed map pinpointing the locations of the failures and providing additional information about each one.

Who Actually Owns BP?

August 22nd, 2010 by Rand Clifford

Most relevant sources agree that 40% of the shares of BP are held in the United Kingdom, 39% of the shares are held in the United States, while the remaining 21% are held throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The largest single holder of shares is getting harder to track down. Generally an Internet search will lead to the other 9 leaders, roughly 23%:

BlackRock (New York) 5.9%
Legal & General (United Kingdom) 4%
Barclays Global Investor (owned by BlackRock) 3.8%
Norges Bank Investment Management (Norway) 1.8%
Kuwait Investment Authority (manages funds for the Kuwaiti Government) 1.75%
M & G Investment Management (UK asset owned by the Prudential) 1.67%
Standard Life (Scottish insurance company) 1.5%
Capital Research & Management Company (Los Angeles) 1.3%
China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange 1.1%

Too many sites fail to mention who owns a whopping 28.34% of BP—more than the other 9 out of the top 10 together. That would be Wall Street’s JPMorgan Chase. And that certainly explains why our own government has offered mostly limp and phony bluster and coverup as BP has done pretty much whatever it wants in our new energy sacrifice zone—such as the deliberate blockage of oil collection in favor of bringing in “Carolina Skiffs” and huge aircraft to spray dispersants at night. BP lies, our government lies and covers, and the Gulf dies. Evidently, our government’s top priority is limiting BP’s liability.

Nalco is the company that manufactures Corexit dispersant which, despite being banned in the UK because of its toxicity, has been used by the millions of gallons in the Gulf. Corexit has been approved by our EPA—but only for surface use. Well, the EPA illegally issued a permit for BP to inject Corexit at the gushing well head. BP even admitted they used Corexit illegally. They made an enormous catastrophe even much worse by polluting the Gulf with Corexit. Injecting Corexit right at the well head, they created massive plumes of dispersed oil that float around below the surface, killing life in the Gulf for…long enough. That’s what energy sacrifice zones are for; BP greatly reduced its liability by killing the Gulf. Our government tried to convince us that “most” of the oil is miraculously gone—that only 24% remains! Who would have imagined that our own CorpoMedia would be the one to nix that fairy tale, actually telling the truth that 80% of the oil is still in the Gulf, floating around in those dispersed, biocidal plumes? When CorpoMedia controverts CorpoGov, it’s obvious that something extraordinary is up. It’s called goodbye to life in the Gulf of Mexico. There’s a lot of oil and gas down there, and all the Gulf’s biology is in the way.

What “Size of People” Are You?

Preliminary work involved in transforming the Gulf of Mexico into an energy sacrifice zone has given BP executives ample opportunity to prove that their mouths are big enough to hold both feet. They have not disappointed. Who can forget CEO Tony Hayward in that sleazy infomercial about how much BP cared—that BP would “…make things right”? It was like Corexit spraying from every TV in America. And of course there was his whining about wanting his life back as he dallied off to a yacht race in UK waters. But perhaps the most telling gaffe came from the Swedish mouth of BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, right after his meeting with Obama. Svanberg used the term “small people” to refer to those damaged by BP’s catastrophe-magnified-with-Corexit. Once wasn’t enough, he used it 3 times; the first time saying that President Obama was “…frustrated, because he cares about the small people”, then he noted that “We at BP care about the small people”, concluding with how much BP “…cares about the small people”. Of course he abjectly apologized later for speaking “clumsily”, but, hey, Carl-Henric, it’s the thought that counts.

So, yes, unfettered capitalism has replaced the sanctity of human life with different “sizes” depending on the amount of moneypower one commands. The vast and rapidly growing majority of us are “small people”. From there upward, transparency falls off precipitously, so it’s progressively more difficult identifying larger sizes—but there’s no stopping conjecture. Perhaps the mediums include our political class, those doing to the smalls what they are told to do. Most millionaires probably belong in this group, maybe even Carl-Henric Svanberg himself. In the large size are the billionaires, as well as many of those behind blacked-out windows being chauffeured to annual Bilderberg meetings. Beyond the large, secrecy becomes so profound it’s like lying on the bottom of a stream and trying to spot airplanes cruising by at 40,000 feet. In the X-large and XX-large sizes are surely those who make the final decisions about wars, depressions, and the major energy sacrifice zones. Top multi-national corporations are up in this zone. And it’s a safe bet that anyone or anything this high probably ascended on the power of fossil fuels. In 2010, 3 of the 5 largest corporations in the world are: #2, Royal Dutch Shell; #3, Exxon Mobil; #4, BP.

The Actual Costs of Fossil Fuels

This is another realm where transparency gets muddied by secrecy, indirection and lies. But when you start factoring in oil wars, and wars over transfer routes (both currently disguised as wars on terror), you quickly transcend the cost of all the “economically unfeasible” clean and renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, ocean wave, biomass…. Then when you consider things such as pollution, including anthropocentric loading of the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, fossil energy becomes—perhaps with climate change—terminally expensive. And then there’s the social damage of extreme wealth concentration, and attendant commodification and stratification of human life (the different sizes, just like shirts), along with the rapidly growing assembly of energy sacrifice zones—pushed by climate change into possibly including the magnificently-complex life support system of our one and only little blue world…could any energy be more expensive? It seems the answer is no.

Yet we drill and fracture and bulldoze maniacally in our quest to wring out remaining oil, natural gas, and coal that has possibly already killed everything. The answer to the question WHY? would be just another cost of fossil fuel.

The medium, large, X-large and XX-large have proven they will do anything to perpetuate the system that has given them their size. Meanwhile, it appears the only salvation for the vast bulk of humanity, along with most of Earth’s species, is in the hands of the small people. We vastly outnumber all other sizes put together, and that leads to one of the scariest questions of all: Just how small are we?

Rand’s novels CASTLING, a “Story of the Power of Hemp”…and, TIMING, the sequel…are published by StarChief Press.

We know we live in hard times that are on the verge of getting harder with 500,000 new claims for unemployment last week, a recent record.

The stock market may be over for now as fear and panic drives small investors out. Big corporations hoard stashes of cash rather then hire workers. The D-Word (depression) is back in play.

Foreclosures are up, and the Administration’s programs to stop them are down, well below their stated goals, only helping 1/6th of those promised assistance.

And here’s a statistic for you: 300,000. That’s the number of foreclosure filings every month for the past 17 months. This year, 1.9 million homes will be lost, down from 2 million last year. Is that progress? In July alone, 92, 858 homes were repossessed.

At the same time, the number of cancelled mortgage modifications exceeded the number of successful ones. According to Ml-implode.com, last month, “the number of trial modification cancellations surged to 616,839, greatly outnumbering the 421,804 active permanent modifications.”

And don’t think this is only a problem that affects the homeowners about to go homeless. The New York Times quotes Michael Feder, the chief executive of the real estate data firm Radar Logic to the effect that we are all at risk.

“My concern is that if we have another protracted housing dip, it’s going to bring the economy down,” Mr. Feder said. “If consumers don’t think their houses are worth what they were six months ago, they’re not going to go out and spend money. I’m concerned this problem isn’t being addressed.”

The larger point is that even if you believe the economy is already down, it can go lower. No one knows how to “fix it” either just as BP couldn’t plug the “leak” that, truth be told, is still oozing oil.

So what are we doing about it? Are we demanding debt relief or a moratorium on foreclosures? Are we shutting down the foreclosure factories?

Nope.

Progressives are spending time and wasting passion this August debating on an Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero, invariably responding to the provocations and agenda of adversaries. They are always on the defense, never taking the offense.

Who is beating the drum for job creation and a new economic policy? Maybe the unions, but their voice is muted and ignored in the electronic noise machine. Marches are planned by the UAW and Rev. Jesse Jackson on August 28th in Detroit and in Washington on 10.02.10. But the expected war of the words between Rev. Al Sharpton and Glenn Beck over the legacy of the March on Washington is expected to generate more heat.

Meanwhile, even as the Administration seems to be finding signs of a “recovery,” a parade of failures march on from the discovery that there is an oil slick the size of Manhattan in the Gulf to the persistence of frauds in finance from state pension funds in New Jersey to the case against the head of the Bank of America.

Even worse, Shorebank, one of the banks that community activists considered a national model of social responsibility has gone down in Chicago, the 104th bank to fail this year with 15 branches including some in Detroit and Cleveland. It was also active in 40 countries. In June, it reported over $2 billion in deposits. By August, it was gone.

In all, 349 US banks have disappeared since 2007.

ShoreBank promoted itself as a community development and environmental bank. It was based in Michelle Obama’s old neighborhood with the slogan “Lets Change The World.” Now the world of Wall Street has changed the bank with a partnership of investors including American Express, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs taking over under the name “United Partnership.”

Hundreds of other banks are on the FDIC hit parade and may be next.

There were many worse casualties in banking in the past according to Barry James Dyke’s informative book, Pirates of Manhattan. He notes that ten thousand banks failed during the depression and 2,900 bit the dust in the S&L crisis. The current number may have been higher had Congress not bailed out the Banksters who used some of our money to play PacMan, gobbling up smaller institutions.

AP reported, “ShoreBank lost $39.5 million in the second quarter amid soured real estate loans. The bank had been under a so-called cease and desist order from the FDIC for more than a year, requiring it to boost its capital reserves. ShoreBank was able to raise more than $146 million in capital this spring from several big Wall Street institutions. It was unable, however, to secure federal bailout funds it sought from the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.”

Republicans are “investigating” alleged Administration support for the Bank,

AP explained, “Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the senior Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to a White House legal adviser asking specific questions on possible contacts between administration officials and executives of ShoreBank or potential investors.

The White House has said no administration officials met with ShoreBank concerning its rescue or requested help from financial institutions on its behalf.” ‘

Questions raised by Republicans, of course, seek to politicize the issue when it is the FDIC ‘s deal with the big banks that needs to be probed, as Zero Hedge explains:

“As it stands, Goldman and 11 other banks are receiving a multimillion dollar gift to conduct a portfolio liquidation run-off of ShoreBank’s assets, while merely making sure existing deposits are serviced.”

(Note: the FDIC is led by a Republican. Hmm.)

Blogger Mike, “Mish” Shedlock concludes: “The FDIC’s handling of Shore Bank smells as bad as a pile of dead alewives on a Chicago beach in mid-July

My question is: Why didn’t the Administration help shore up ShoreBank (if it could be shored up) as they did so many of the “too big to fail” banks?

Their hands-off attitude, perhaps in fear of being criticized, as they were anyway, helped doom the bank and, by extension, the idea that we could have socially responsible lending institutions.

So much for the priorities and power of Obama’s “Chicago Mafia.”

If they don’t have the guts to save a bank in their own hometown they know has meant so much to so many, is it any wonder they won’t take on the crimes on Wall Street?

Last week, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was complaining that he is being falsely identified as a “Goldman Guy,” insisting he never worked for the financial institution that was recently branded a “Giant Squid On The Face Of Humanity.”

He doesn’t seem to realize that the speculation is not based on the details of his resume but on an assessment of his track record as a toady for the pals he worked with when he ran the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

And by the way, Tim, why the hold–up on the appointment of Elizabeth Warren to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in your old institution? Is she too smart and popular for you?

Why the fiddling while our modern Rome burns?

News Dissector Danny Schechter directed Plunder The Crime of Our Time, a DVD and a companion book, The Crime Of Our Time on the financial crisis as a crime story. Comments to: [email protected]  

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and the Russian Federation Air Force conducted a cooperative air defense exercise from August 8-11 that focused on combating terrorism.

Vigilant Eagle was hailed as a milestone exercise between the Cold War era rivals. It included Russian, U.S., along with Canadian Air Force personnel operating from command centers inside Russia and the United States directing fighter jets, as well as civilian air traffic controllers. It took several years to stage the drill which centered around, “an international air terrorism scenario exercised over the Pacific Ocean consisting of forces from the U.S. and Russia responding to the simulated hijacking of a B-757 en route to the Far East.” The joint exercise was, “designed to establish clear communication processes that would allow the two forces to work together during a real crisis.” Russian Air Force Col. Alexander Vasilyev emphasized the importance of cooperation in combating the dangers of air terrorism. He stated, “Terrorism is something that affects all our countries. So it is very important that we work together to develop procedures and bring the relationship between our countries closer together to unite our countries in the fight against terrorism.”

In April, it was announced that, “NATO and Russia have begun a testing phase of a joint system for air traffic coordination. This will be the first NATO-Russia system of this kind to be fielded. The system focuses primarily on the fight against terrorism and will provide a shared radar picture of air traffic and early notification of suspicious air activities.” The report entitled the Moscow Metro Bombings and Terrorism in Russia also addresses the possibility of developing further practical NATO-Russia cooperation in regards to terrorism. President Barack Obama has called for Russia and the U.S. to further deepen collaboration on security and anti-terrorism matters. In May, the Associated Press reported that, “Obama told a Russian television station that no single country can defeat terrorists who have attacked targets throughout the world. He said he looks forward to ‘increasing cooperation between the United States and Russia’ on fighting terrorism.” Despite any past or present tension between the two countries, the seemingly endless shadowy war on terrorism has provided a common enemy and demonstrated how the global conflict can at times make strange bedfellows.

The recent NORAD-Russian air drill was preceded by an incident where Canadian fighter jets repelled two long-range Russian bombers off the coast of Labrador near the Arctic. Russia contends the flight was simply a training mission and deny trying to enter Canadian airspace. They maintain that the Canadian military was aware of the exercise contrary to Defence minister Peter MacKay who insists that they were not notified. NORAD fighters have intercepted between 12 and 18 bombers annually since 2007. In advance of President Obama’s visit to Canada back in February of 2009, Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to head off Russian bombers approaching its airspace. Prime Minster Stephen Harper promised that Canada would defend its airspace and sovereignty by responding every time the Russians make any kind of intrusion into its Arctic territory. At times, Canada and Russia have both been guilty of a war of words in regards to Arctic sovereignty. The latest so-called Russian bomber incursion appears to be nothing more than an attempt by the Conservative government to capitalize on the event to further its political interests.

The Harper government is using the most recent confrontation between Canadian and Russian military planes to justify its plans to buy 65 new jet fighters and draw attention to its stance on Arctic sovereignty. In July, the Canadian government announced plans to acquire the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II which will replace its fleet of CF-18 Hornets. The first F-35’s are expected to be delivered by 2016. Including maintenance of the fighter jets, the total price tag is expected to cost Canadian taxpayers over $16 billion. The government insists they are getting the best aircraft for the best value. Some have questioned the purchase considering Canada is running its largest deficit in history. The Liberal party has been critical of the deal and its lack of transparency. Not to mention that one of Canada’s biggest military acquisitions was done without a single competing bid. The Conservatives argue that they exercised options and that the F-35 was the only next-generation fighter plane that meets the operational requirements of the Canadian Forces. They continue to defend their decision making a case that the new jets are part of its obligation to its allies and will protect Canada’s sovereignty well into the future.

Controversy has surrounded Canadian Defence Department computers being used to alter online Wikipedia entries. This includes the removal of some information which was critical of the Harper government’s decision to spend billions on the new F-35 stealth jet. The New Democrats are demanding answers. NDP MP Claude Gravelle stated, “At worst this type of manipulative behaviour is indicative of the government’s culture of information control.” He went on to say, “Even if this apparent misuse of resources is the work of a lone DND staffer ‘freelancing,’ it raises questions about oversight in that department.” Defence Department computers were also used to insert insults on Wikipedia aimed at the Liberals who have questioned the jet aircraft purchase. Gravelle also added, “Some of the comments posted regarding Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and the media were particularly worrisome. We do not expect to see this type of big brother behaviour in Canada. Unfortunately Canadians are starting to see a pattern in the desire to control the message.” This illustrates how web based institutions such as Wikipedia can act as gatekeepers and be used to spread propaganda in an effort to guide public perception.

It is expected that the Commons Standing Committee on Defence will hold hearings near the end of August on the Conservative’s proposed purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Liberals remain critical of the plan and have said that if they form the next government, they would put the contract on hold until further review. In the end, they would approve it. The truth is that on most major issues there is hardly a difference between the Liberals and Conservatives and they differ on rhetoric alone. Even the Globe and Mail had a recent headline Tories and Grits are as one on defence policy. Both parties have advanced North American integration through NAFTA, the Security and Prosperity Partnership and other initiatives. They have also supported Canada’s mission in Afghanistan which is slated to end in 2011, but could be extended. In the coming years, Canada could be asked to play a bigger role in the war on terrorism, including participation in future American and NATO military operations. Many would like to see a return to its more traditional role as a peacekeeping nation, one which has garnered praise from the rest of the world.

Whether or not the majority of Canadians support the government’s decision to purchase the new F-35 jets, it does represent a continued commitment to NATO and NORAD. It is also closely tied to deeper U.S.-Canada military integration and a North American security perimeter.

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, as well as other issues. Contact: [email protected]. Visit his blog site at beyourownleader.blogspot.com

Toxic Contamination: Gulf Oil May Not Degrade for DECADES

August 22nd, 2010 by Washington's Blog

As you might have heard, scientists are finding gigantic under oil plumes from the BP spill, including one that is more than 22 miles long, more than a mile wide and 650 feet deep.

On Thursday, Dr. Ian MacDonald and and Dr. Lisa Suatoni testified to a Congressional subcommittee that the oil will stay toxic, and will not degrade much further, for decades. MacDonald is an expert in deep-ocean extreme communities including natural hydrocarbon seeps, gas hydrates, and mud volcano systems, a former long-time NOAA scientist, and a professor of Biological Oceanography at Florida State University. Suatoni has a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Yale, and is Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Oceans Program.

Dr. MacDonald told Congress that the oil has already degraded, emulsified and evaporated about as much as its going to, and it is going to very resistant for further biodegradation. The oil will be in the environment for a long-time, he said, and the imprint of the BP discharge will be detectable “for the rest of my life” (he’s 58, and the average lifespan for American men is about 76; so that’s some 18 years).

Dr. Suatoni told Congress that oil which goes into low-oxygen zones will remain in a full toxic form for decades.

Why isn’t the oil degrading faster?

As National Georgraphic noted Thursday:

The oil plume’s stability is “a little unexpected,” study leader Richard Camilli, of WHOI’s Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, said at a Thursday press briefing in Washington, D.C.

“We don’t have any clear indication as to why it set up at that depth.”

It’s unclear why the Gulf’s microbes aren’t eating the oil plume, but the organisms are infamous for being unpredictable, said study co-author Christopher Reddy, a marine chemist at WHOI.

***

Further studies are needed to figure out why the plume isn’t degrading, Reddy said during the press briefing ….

Indeed, one of the world’s leading experts on oil-eating bacteria told me yesterday that the main oil-eaters aren’t even present in the underwater plumes he sampled.

Scientists say the oil plume is 35km long and located deep below the ocean’s surface

Scientists have found a 35km-long plume of oil deep in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, despite US government claims that most of the oil from a ruptured well had dispersed.

The report released on Thursday in the journal Science is the first conclusive evidence of an underwater oil plume, a phenomenon which could explain the location of much of the oil that had been presumed to have disappeared.

Oil floating about 1,200 metres below the surface, where temperatures are 4.5 degrees Celsius, breaks down at a slower pace than oil on the surface, posing an unseen threat to marine life, scientists said.

“Many people speculated that the sub-surface oil droplets were being easily downgraded,” Dr Richard Camilli, the study’s chief author, told journalists.

“Well, we didn’t find that. We found that it was still there,” Camilli, a member of the research team from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, said.

Contradictory claims

On August 4, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the “vast majority” of oil had evaporated, been removed by clean-up teams or was dispersing naturally.

The remaining 26 per cent, an estimated 1.3 million barrels of oil, was classified as “residual”.

“Any self-respecting microbe will want to eat oil … but microbes are a lot like teenagers; they work on their own time”

Government data suggested that it was located “either on or just below the surface as residue and weathered tar balls, has washed ashore or been collected from the shore, or is buried in sand and sediments”.

The plume discovery appears to call those claims into question, although the scientists were careful not to overstate the conclusions of an expedition which lasted from June 19 to June 28.

The plume would have been undetectable without the scientists’ high-tech equipment, including a special underwater mass spectrometer used to detect the chemical signature of the oil, which was carried deep below the surface by submersible devices.

“At this point, we know the plume exists, and we will know more about its potential biological activity in the future,” Dr Chris Reddy, another of the article’s authors, said.

The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20, which caused it to collapse and fracture the well head. Eleven people were killed in the incident.

About 4.9 million barrels of oil are thought to have spewed from the well in the Gulf of Mexico before it was capped last month.

Micro-organisms

Prior to the release of this study, scientists assumed micro-organisms in the water had eaten much of the oil, taking it out of the ocean.

But the size and depth of the plume means the role of microbes is less clear.

The spill has affected animals birds and marine life [Gallo/Getty] “Any self-respecting microbe will want to eat oil … but microbes are a lot like teenagers; they work on their own time, their own scale … it is difficult often to make predictions about microbe degradation,” Reddy said.

“It may vary substantially in the Gulf in any one time.”

When asked directly if the study’s conclusions contradict US government data, one of the authors said: “I can tell you that we found the plume and I can’t tell you how much oil is in it because we don’t have the values yet”.

Steve Murawski, the chief fisheries scientist for the NOAA, the organisation which provided the disperal data to the US government, attended the release of the new study and agreed that the plume could hurt marine life.

“This is a highly sensitive ecosystem,” Murawski said. “The animals down at 3,000 to 3,400 feet [below the surface] grow slowly.”

The oil, which includes toxic components such as benzine, could cause genetic problems for marine life even at low concentrations, Murawski said.

Towards the end of the news conference, a reporter with the Times Picayune in New Orleans, Louisiana, the epicentre of the spill, asked what affect the plume would have on fisherman who depend on marine life in the Gulf.

“How this equates to the fishery at this time, I can’t say anything about that,” one of the study’s authors said.

Oil is no longer flowing from the well and Barack Obama, the US president has said the well is capped, but the replacement cap will not be completed until the middle of September.

Obama’s Delusions: The Economy and Iraq

August 22nd, 2010 by Shamus Cooke

If you’ve listened to recent speeches the President has given about the economy and the Iraq war, you’d think that two of the biggest social issues facing working Americans are improving.  But facts are stubborn things.

Take for example the numbers of jobs lost in the last two months: 221,000 in June, 131,000 in July.

Instead of taking the drastic measures needed to stop the continued hemorrhaging, the President had this to say on August 5th:

“Even though it’s going to take years to repair all the damage caused by this recession, I am absolutely convinced that this nation is finally headed in the right direction. Our economy is growing again. We are adding jobs again [!]. America is moving forward again…”

Since Obama has access to the above job numbers, we must assume that he is either delusional or lying. We also cannot attribute this comment to a one-time slip of the tongue, because Obama has essentially made the same speech several times while promoting Democratic candidates nationwide.

Contrary to his recent statements, Obama has not improved the economy.  He has overseen a catastrophic destruction of jobs on a state-by-state basis, in part due to state budget crises and the pathetic lack of response on the national level: Obama’s first stimulus was under-funded and misdirected (too much emphasis on tax cuts for businesses, etc.), while Obama’s recent “stimulus”— only $26 billion — is simply farce.          

The state budget crises are not over; many states are projecting long-term deficits in the billions of dollars that, if left untouched, will contribute further to the massive unemployment that continues to drive down wages for the employed workers.

In fact, the U.S. economy is in such sad shape, it was recently announced, that call center workers in India now make a similar wage to their U.S. counterparts, while autoworkers are being pressured to make 50 percent wage concessions.

When it comes to the Iraq war, Obama is equally off kilter. He recently announced the end of “combat operations” in Iraq, which we are meant to interpret as “mission accomplished.”

Meanwhile, we are told, 50,000 troops will stay in Iraq — along with unknown thousands of “private contractors”(mercenaries) — capable of conducting “counter-terrorism operations.”   But the war has been advertised as one giant counter-terrorism operation for years, meaning, that very little has changed.  

Obama’s Bush-style war propaganda will do nothing to impress the Iraqis, who still live in a war-torn hell-hole, with over a million dead, millions of refugees having fled the country, while the remaining inhabitants are left to rot in a destroyed economy lacking widespread access to jobs, water, sanitation, electricity, etc, etc.

Of course, the troops leaving Iraq will simply be shifted to Afghanistan, while the troops staying in Iraq will be there to prop up a government that functions in limbo, lacking all authority outside the violence it learns from the remaining U.S. “trainers and advisors.” Middle East Journalist Robert Fisk adds:

“[The U.S.] injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib — a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam’s vile rule… They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together.”

In short, the U.S. invasion of Iraq has made things worse for Iraqis, and Obama is selling the war as a victory as he recklessly dashes over to Afghanistan to repeat the atrocity.

The hundreds of billions of dollars that Obama will use to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan could just as easily go to create jobs in the United States: public works could be financed by the government, as they were during the last Depression, that directly create jobs.  The war money could also go to states suffering massive cutbacks in social services and public education.   If working Americans sit idle, nothing will change, since power concedes nothing without a demand.  

On October 2nd workers will directly confront the Obama administration over the above policies.  Hopefully, these nationwide demonstrations, organized by the One Nation coalition, will begin a movement that challenges the corporate agenda we’ve suffered under for decades.  Some in the coalition will attempt to channel the momentum to elect Democrats in November; the majority will demonstrate to challenge the policies of both the Democrats and Republicans. For more info: www.onenationworkingtogether.org  

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

READ SHAMUS COOKE’S CHAPTER IN NEW BOOK FROM GLOBAL RESEARCH:
The Global
Economic Crisis


Michel Chossudovsky
Andrew G. Marshall (editors)

Blood Money.

August 21st, 2010 by Felicity Arbuthnot

Let me ask you one question, is your money that good? Will it buy you forgiveness? Do you think that it could?” (Bob Dylan, Masters of War.)

Sometimes a topic simply will not go away. These weeks, Anthony Charles  Lynton Blair, Q.C., former British Prime Minister, alleged potential war criminal, surreal Middle East Peace Envoy – who led an administration which shared responsibility for, if not quite rivers of blood, bloodied market places, mosques, squares, homes, humans, hospitals, beyond counting – just keeps coming back and back.

Fresh from the Balkans, after accepting a solid gold “Freedom Medal”, Kosovo’s highest Award – from a nation less than a shining example of the rule of law, where streets and the capitol’s main square are named after him,(1) he immediately re-invented himself as best selling author. His book signing is a “must attend” event, at literary emporium  Waterstone’s showcase store, in London’s Piccadilly, on 8th September (2) – if you are prepared to relinquish your handbag, laptop, keys, cash, backpack, and other belongings, to a stranger, at the door.

Symbolic, really. Iraq and Afghanistan were stripped of their assets at missile and gun-point. Blair, seemingly, will have armed body guards.

A certain furore has greeted the book signing, for which he reportedly received a £4.6 million advance, on top of the now estimated up to £46 million, since he left office, including from interests in oil exploration in Iraq, over which he is reported to have fought a two year battle with the (UK) parliamentary independent scrutiny committee, to be anything but scrutinised. Details he said, were “commercially sensitive.” You bet. His networks of companies through which his money gushes are, says Mike Warburton, senior partner at tax accountants Grant Thornton : “… opaque. We do not know where the money comes from or where it goes to, but at the end of the chain, you have a company that does not file accounts, so one can only presume it is to keep secret.”

Financial diversities too numerous to mention include : “… taking £90,000 to appear at the opening of a methanol power plant in Azerbaijan last year.”

Three years on from his relatively modest Prime Ministerial salary of under £200,000 a year, his family property portfolio : ” … now contains seven homes worth £14 million, including four in central London. Latest addition is a four-storey, Grade II-listed town house, a snip at just under £1.3million, a few streets away from (their) £3.7million Connaught Square home.”

“His elite security team costs the taxpayer £6 million annually, because he is also accompanied by up to five personal bodyguards while travelling the world.”(3)

However, with Teflon Tony’s latest re-invention of himself as author, has has also re-invented himself as bountiful benefactor.

In recognition of: ” ..  the courage and sacrifice the (UK) armed forces demonstrate day in, day out …”, he is, seemingly, to donate the full £4.6 million advance for the book to the armed Services charity,The Royal British Legion, after: ” … having witnessed (Services actions) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and Kosovo”, stated a Blair minion, omitting that anything he had witnessed was a carefully orchestrated, literally “blow-in” photo-op, by helicopter, to a mega-fortified base, flanxed by a sizeable personal army and a larger surrounding one. Hardly sleeve-rolling-up, coal face mastery or solidarity. Also unsaid is that arguably, in four out of the five stated places, British troops had no business being, with the Iraq invasion openly declared illegal, even by no less than the former UN Secretary General.

“This is his way of honouring their courage and sacrifice”, added the hireling. “The proceeds will go to the Royal British Legion’s “Battle Back” challenge centre, a project that will provide state-of-the-art rehabilitation services for seriously injured troops returning from the front line”, he clarified.

Whilst the Charity’s Director General expressed his delight at “this very generous offer”, it is worth casting an eye on what Lord Blair of Kut al Amara – as dubbed by Robert Fisk, referring to one of the British army’s most humiliating defeats – has cost the country in the historic folly of just Iraq and Afghanistan. Under a Freedom of Information Act request (4) sums revealed include, for Iraq:

* £2.3 million in compensation to troops suffering from trauma

* £6.1 million compensation for 179 killed and hundred injured

* £14 million in one off payments to families of those killed

* £9.4 million in other payments to dependents of the dead.

A “flood” of claims is expected relating to the (as now) 325 service personnel killed in Afghanistan. To now, only £317,000 has been paid out.

Meanwhile other charities, such as Combat Stress, are struggling with the psychological fallout from the invasions, dealing already with over 4,000 cases. They point out that the majority of serious problems, on average, take fourteen years to present, a ticking financial, Blair-generated time bomb, for maybe decades, to come. Their expenditure is around £20 million annually. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Famies Association expend well in excess of £40 million; Help for Heroes, who aim to rehabilitate the numerous who have lost limbs – some, all of them – sight, movement, is aiming for £20 million this year. The British Legion needs around £40 million annually.

These figures, relating directly or indirectly to Blair’s feckless, forays, however pale against the cost, so far of the Afghan and Iraq oil, mineral and resources grabs to Britain, in “fighting”, and in which, strangely, “diplomacy” is factored : £20 billion, to the taxpayers of a small island off France.

So has Mr Blair’s munificence contributing to delivering a mollified and grateful public? Not exactly.

First to weigh in was Peter Brierley, whose young son Shaun died in Iraq, and who had refused to shake Blair’s hand at a commemoration service for the troops, at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. They were, he said, covered in blood. “Blood money” he said of the donation to the Press Association, adding: “£4.6 million cannot wash Blair’s hands clean.”

Political satirist and columnist Mark Steel was less than compromising: “Imagine if the British Legion announced: ‘You’ll never guess what. Today we got another donation of £4 million, from the latest DVD by Osma Bin Laden. It really has been our lucky week. ”

Writer and activist, David Wilson, suggested other book signings he deemed apt for the relevant week, to the Guardian:

 

“Waterstones are pleased to announce a programme of book signings for

 the week of 6 – 10 September 2010.

 

 6 September, Osama bin Laden: ‘Town Planning in Manhattan’

 7 September, Radovan Karadzic: ‘Hill Walks above Sarajevo’

8 September, Tony Blair: ‘A Journey’

9 September, General Than Shwe: ‘Gated Communities in Rangoon’

10 September, President George W Bush: ‘Shock and Ore.’ “

Judas feeling guilty over his thirty pieces of silver crops up a bit. The Daily Finance unkindly point out that: “The donation will significantly cut his tax bill, by an estimated £2.3 million.”

Seeming acres of ungenerous comments gather pace. However, here are some different financial costings:

*£4.6 million, is exactly the estimated amount of Iraqis displaced by the invasion, internally and externally, who have lost everything. His donation would equal one pound each.

*For the five million orphans created since 2003, less than a pound each.

*For the million widows, a little over four pounds each.

*To the families of the upper estimate of one and a half million resultant dead, under four pounds each.

The Book Signing Occasion, falls in the week that America commemorates 9/11.That day, arguably, the beginning of Blair’s “Journey” – into dodgy dossiers, destruction of two of nations, the spectre of the unexplained death of an eminent scientist, weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly, having said publicly he thought the wmd claims might have been “sexed up” – and his unshakeable, blind, messianic certainty of being “right.” 

On the course of this journey, between Iraq and Afghanistan, possibly approaching two million dead, lie strewn along the way.

A shame the signing could not be moved to Saturday,11th September. Were there an arrest, citizens’ or otherwise, no more fitting day for him to begin another journey – to the Hague.

One can only wistfully wish, and fantasize.  

On 28th July, former weapons inspector, Hans Blix, told the Chilcot Inquiry in to the invasion, of a conversation he had with Blair on 20th February, 2003, when the invasion was already, clearly, unstoppable: “Wouldn’t it be paradoxical if you invade Iraq with 250,000 men and find very little?”

As this was being written, Britain commemorated the 70th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s speech of 20th August, 1940, which includes the lines: “Never has so much been owed by so many to so few.” Perhaps it should be re-fashioned for our times: “Never have so many died, for being ripped off by so few.”

 

Notes

 1. http://theglobalrealm.com/2010/07/25/tony-blair-a-bright-shining-lie-part-ii   

 2. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20604

 3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/tony-blair/7948653/Tony-Blair-and-the-millions-he-keeps-out-of-the-public-eye.html

 4. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/1632m-stress-payouts-for-troops-are-tip-of-iceberg-2036916.html  

August 20, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

The presence of Pakistan army personnel speaks to the fact that the breach of Jamali bypass was intentional and ordered from above.

It has been reported earlier that the US Air Force has denied the relief agencies use of the Shahbaz airbase for the distribution of aid and assistance. Soldiers of the Pakistan army, a federal minister and the administration of Sindh province are blamed for the incident involving Shahbaz Airbase at Jacobabad district in Sindh province in which it has been reported that flood waters were diverted in order to save the airbase. The diversion of the floodwaters is blamed for inundating hundreds of houses and the displacement of 800,000 people. According to the media reports, the Federal Minister of Sports along with soldiers from the army and a contingent of officials from the Sindh provincial government breached the Jamali Bypass in Jafferabad district of Balochistan province during the night between August 13 and 14 to divert the water entering the airbase which has remained in US Air Force hands since the war on terror started in 2001.

Mr. Ejaz Jakhrani, the Minister of Sports, while explaining the situation to the media said that if the water was not diverted the Shahbaz Airbase would have been inundated. Mr. Jakhrani himself was present along with the district coordination officer of the Jacobabad district, district police officer and other officials when the breach was made. It is reported in the media that Mr. Jakhrani was assigned to protect the air base by officials at the Pakistan army’s headquarter as he was elected from Jacobabad district.

A former prime minister, Mr. Mir Zafar Ullah Khan Jamali said that in order to save Shahbaz Air Base, Jamali bypass was demolished and the town of Dera Allahyar was drowned. Mr. Jamali said that if the airbase was so important, then what priority might be given to the citizens. He blamed minister Jakhrani, DPO and DCO Jacobabad for deliberately diverting the course of the floodwaters towards Balochistan.

In the meantime, during the discussion in the standing committee of the Senate the federal secretary of health has revealed that health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is under the control of the US Air Force. The coordinator of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre, Dr Jahanzeb Aurakzai, told the committee that foreign health teams could not start relief operations in remote areas because there are no airstrips close to several areas, including Jacobabad.

The electronic media has also reported that since 2001 the government of Pakistan, during the regime of general Musharraf, turned over Shahbaz Airport to US forces fighting against terrorism on a lease so it the responsibility of the government and the Pakistan armed forces to protect the agreement done in favour of US forces. The discussions in the media have also pointed out that the presence of army soldiers during the breach of Jamali bypass is a clear indication that the Pakistan army has been ordered to save the airbase from the floodwaters.

In the end, after the seven days of controversy surrounding the air base, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) said that the Shahbaz Airbase was under the complete operational control of the PAF and brushed aside reports that floodwaters had been diverted to save the base. Air Vice Marshal, Mr. Abdul Quddus, hurriedly arranged a visit of journalists to Shahbaz Airbase and asked them as to whether they could see any Americans? He told journalists that there are no drones and no Americans; seeing, he said, is believing!

However, there was no reasonable answer to the question raised that when almost the whole of Jacobabad district of Sindh and its adjoining district of Jafferabad of Balochistan province were under floodwaters why the airbase was not affected. This could only be due to the intentional breach of the Jamali bypass. The media was also very critical of the arrangement of the visit to Shahbaz airbase at a time when much more attention is needed to focus all efforts for the relief of the affected people. The visit by the journalists has been seen as a scripted stage play as when journalists were present a C130 cargo plane landed with 200 tons of relief goods which the people of that particular affected area badly needed. Such a plane has not been seen landing there in recent times so this was too much of a coincidence.

The federal minister and former prime minister have not retracted their statements that the floodwater was intentionally diverted to Dera Allahyar, Balochistan to save the air base.

There is rough estimation by the media about the displacement of 800,000 people by the divergence of the waters to the poorer areas. Over 150,000 people have been evacuated from Dera Allahyar and other areas. 350,000 people of Jafferabad district have been shifted to Dera Murad Jamali, Sibi and Quetta, parts of Balochistan, and over 300,000 people had earlier moved to Dera Murad Jamali and Sibi from the Sindh province particularly from Jacobabad.

There can be no doubt that the presence of the Pakistan army personnel at the breach of Jamali bypass indicates the fact that this was an intentional breach. This must be investigated along in order to ascertain who gave the orders. Those giving the orders must be prosecuted. The government of Pakistan must also probe the allegations of deliberate breaches; not only in the incident involving Shahbaz airbase but also those reported earlier where the agricultural lands belonging to senior ministers was protected from the floodwaters also by intentional breaches.

It is a gross contradiction that the United States of America is now one of the biggest donors of relief to Pakistan and it is therefore unacceptable that they are allegedly refusing permission to use Shahbaz airbase for the distribution of that relief.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Challenging the Blockade: Canadian Humanitarian Boat To Gaza

August 21st, 2010 by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Montreal, August 20, 2010 – The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) is encouraging Canadians to send mail to Gaza aboard a Canadian boat to be sent there in the fall under the humanitarian Canada Boat to Gaza project. The Israeli government is currently preventing other countries’ postal services and the Palestinian Postal Service from dealing with each other directly. It announced on July 20 that it would not allow international postal service to Gaza. Gazans have been without international mail since then. So far, Canada Post has failed to find an alternative route to deliver Canadian mail to Gaza, which is surrounded by a 40-foot iron wall with only three entry points, two controlled by Israel and a third by Egypt.

The union’s statement has drawn considerable response from the public. According to union sources, 80 to 90 percent of the comments support the union’s position. However, in an August 19 article, the Toronto Sun -long hostile to Canada’s unions – implied that CUPW’s position contradicted its campaign to insist that national postal services, rather than private companies, be the ones to handle international mail. CUPW President Denis Lemelin disagrees, saying “we are still defending public mail services. This boat is sponsored by the public, which is aware that the people of Gaza are already suffering, and that the cutting off of international mail only intensifies that suffering.” Lemelin urges people around the world to pressure Israel to stop blocking postal service to Gaza, saying “restoring international mail service to Gaza should be the first step in lifting the blockade completely.” Faced with international criticism, Israeli authorities are now claiming that they are blocking mail service to Gaza because the Palestinian Postal Service has not yet appointed a replacement for the chief of mail transfers. He was recently arrested by Israeli forces.

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) welcomes CUPW’s position. “It is heartening that a Canadian union is raising its voice against this cruel interference with Gazans’ postal service,” says CJPME President Thomas Woodley. He notes that international law stipulates that people in an occupied territory have the right to communicate with the outside world.
 
Canada Boat to Gaza is being supported by dozens of Canadian human rights groups, CUPW, CJPME, as well as individuals such as Kevin Neish – a Canadian survivor of the May 31 Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship – and retired US colonel Ann Wright, a Freedom Flotilla survivor.
 

Few people in the world know more about oil drilling disasters than Dr. Robert Bea.

Bea teaches engineering at the University of California Berkeley, and has 55 years of experience in engineering and management of design, construction, maintenance, operation, and decommissioning of engineered systems including offshore platforms, pipelines and floating facilities. Bea has worked for many years in governmental and quasi-governmental roles, and has been a high-level governmental adviser concerning disasters. He worked for 16 years as a top mechanical engineer and manager for Shell Oil, and has worked with Bechtel and the Army Corps of Engineers. One of the world’s top experts in offshore drilling problems, Bea is a member of the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, and has been interviewed by news media around the world concerning the BP oil disaster.

Washington’s Blog spoke with Dr. Bea yesterday.

WB: Is BP sharing information with the government?

Bea: No. BP is using a “cloak of silence”. BP is not voluntarily sharing information or documents with the government.

In May, for example, Senator Boxer subpoenaed information from BP regarding footage of the seafloor taken before the blowout by BP’s remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). We still have not received a response 12 weeks later.

[Bea subsequently clarified that he's not sure whether BP has failed to release the information, or Senator Boxer's committee has sat on the information. My bet is on BP. Indeed, BP has refused to answer some very basic written questions from Congressman Markey, chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. See this and this. Indeed, it is unclear whether BP is sharing vital details even with Thad Allen, Secretary of energy Chu, or the Unified Command].

WB: Might there be problems with the relief wells? I know that it took a couple of relief wells to finally stop the Ixtoc leak, and it has taken as many as 5 relief wells to stop some blowouts.

Bea: Yes, it could take repeated attempts.

WB: Are there any conditions at BP’s well which might make killing the leak with relief wells more difficult than with the average deepwater oil spill?

Bea: That’s an interesting question. You have to ask why did this location blow out when nearby wells drilled in even deeper water didn’t blow out.

You have to look at the geology of the Macondo well. It is in a subsalt location, in a Sigsbee salt formation. [For background, see this and this]

The geology is fractured.

Usually, the deeper you drill, the more pressure it takes to fracture rock. This is called the “fracture gradient“.

But when BP was drilling this well, the fracture gradient reversed. Indeed, BP lost all pressure as it drilled into the formation.

WB: Is it possible that this fractured, subsea salt geology will make it difficult to permanently kill the oil leak using relief wells?

Bea: Yes, it could. The Santa Barbara channel seeps are still leaking, decades after the oil well was supposedly capped. This well could keep leaking for years.

Scripps mapped out seafloor seeps in the area of the well prior to the blowout. Some of the natural seeps penetrate 10,000 to 15,000 feet beneath the seafloor. The oil will follow lines of weakness in the geology. The leak can travel several horizontal miles from the location of the leak.

[In other words, the geology beneath the seafloor is so fractured, with soft and unstable salt formations, that we may never be able to fully kill the well even with relief wells. Instead, the loss of containment of the oil reservoir caused by the drilling accident could cause oil to leak out through seeps for years to come. See this and this for further background].

WB: I know that you’ve previously said that you’re concerned that there might be damage to the well bore, which could make it more difficult for the relief wells to succeed.

Bea: Yes, that’s still a concern.

WB: I have heard that BP is underestimating the size of the oil reservoir (and see this). Is it possible that the reservoir is bigger than BP is estimating, and so – if not completely killed – the leak could therefore go on for longer than most assume?

Bea: That’s plausible.

WB: The chief electronics technician on the Deepwater Horizon said that the Macondo well was originally drilled in another location, but that “going faster caused the bottom of the well to split open, swallowing tools”, and that BP abandoned that well. You’ve spoken to that technician and looked into the incident, and concluded that “they damn near blew up the rig.” [See this and this].

Do you know where that abandoned well location is, and do you know if that well is still leaking?

Bea: The abandoned well is very close to the current well location. BP had to file reports showing the location of the abandoned well and the new well [with the Minerals Management Service], so the location of the abandoned well is known.

We don’t know if the abandoned well is leaking.

WB: Matthew Simmons talked about a second leaking well. There are rumors on the Internet that the original well is still leaking. Do you have any information that can either disprove or confirm that allegation?

Bea: There are two uncorroborated reports. One is that there is a leak 400 feet West of the present well’s surface location. There is another report that there is a leak several miles to the West.

[Bea does not know whether either report is true at this time, because BP is not sharing information with the government, let alone the public.]

WB: There are rumors on the Internet of huge pockets of methane gas under the well which could explode. I’ve looked into this rumor, and have come to the conclusion that – while the leak is releasing tremendous amounts of methane – there are no “pockets” of methane gas which could cause explosions. Do you have any information on this?

Bea: I have looked into this and discussed methane with people who know a tremendous amount about it. There is alot of liquid and solid methane at the Macondo site, but no pockets of methane gas.

WB: That’s good news, indeed.

Bea: But there was one deepwater leak I worked with where tremendous amounts of hydrogen sulfite were released. We had to evacuate two towns because of the risk. [I didn't ask Dr. Bea if there were any dangerous compounds which could be formed from the interaction of the crude oil and methane with chemicals in the ocean water or dispersants].

And with the Bay Charman oil leak, more than 50% of the oil stayed below the surface of the ocean. [As I've previously pointed out, the US Minerals Management Service and a consortium of oil companies, including BP, found that as little as 2% of the oil which spill from deepwater wells ever makes it to the surface of the ocean. And the use of dispersant might decrease that number still further].

WB: I have previously argued that nuking the well would be a bad idea. What do you think?

Bea: [Bea agreed that nuking the well would be counter-productive. He told me a story about a leaking deepwater well that he was involved in killing. A nuclear package was on its way to the well site but - fortunately - the well stopped by itself before a nuke was deployed. I'm not sure whether this is classified information, so I won't disclose the name of the well. Bea also discussed alternatives in the form of high-pressure, high-temperature conventional explosives, echoing what Bill Clinton said recently].

WB: Thank you for your generous time and for sharing your expertise with us, Dr. Bea.

Bea: You’re welcome.