The Collapse of Lebanon’s Government

January 13th, 2011 by Rannie Amiri

Wednesday’s timeline from the Lebanese news portal Naharnet.com read as follows:

5:17 pm Agence France Presse: Prime Minister Saad Hariri went into talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the moment that Opposition ministers resigned from the Lebanese government.

5:32 pm Minister of State Adnan Sayyed Hussein announced in a statement his resignation from Cabinet.

In that 15 minute span, President Obama went from meeting Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri to ex-Prime Minister Hariri. The unity government under his premiership had fallen, and deservedly so.

Events had rapidly unfolded.

Last weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Hariri in New York . The visiting prime minister was holding consultations with Saudi Arabia ’s King Abdullah, recuperating from recent back surgery there, on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon ’s (STL) impending indictments.

The STL is widely expected to implicate Hezbollah members in the February 2005 assassination of late premier Rafiq Hariri despite evidence pointing to Israel ’s complicity in the crime. Saad Hariri’s Western-backed ruling March 14 coalition backs the tribunal while the opposition March 8 coalition has called for its boycott.

Hopes have been riding on a Saudi-Syrian, or “S-S” initiative that would effectively mediate between the rival camps on how best to handle the STL’s imminent verdict. Syrian President Bashar Assad and King Abdullah, respective patrons of the March 8 and March 14 blocs, sought to broker a solution to both side’s satisfaction.

Although details of the alleged initiative were not made public, speculations exists it may have entailed Hariri distancing himself from the STL decision in exchange for March 8 dropping its pursuit of charges against the “false witnesses”—those who initially fingered Syria for Hariri’s murder but whose testimony against Damascus was ultimately found to have been fabricated. Some of these witnesses are thought to be Hariri confidantes.

Not long after Hariri had finished meeting with Clinton , opposition leader and Free Patriotic Movement head Michel Aoun declared Tuesday the S-S initiative was dead:

“We thank the Saudi king and the Syrian president for the efforts they have exerted, although their initiative has ended with no results. The Hariri-led camp didn’t respond to these efforts, that’s why we’ve reached a dead end.”

A statement released by the opposition said the endeavor “ … reached a dead end due to U.S. pressures and the other camp’s compliance with these pressures, despite the fact that we had positively dealt with that initiative and provided it with chances of success.”

Progressive Socialist Party head and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt remarked, “Saad Hariri was on the brink of making a major concession as concerns the tribunal, but occult forces prevented him from doing so.” After meeting with the Maronite Patriarch on Wednesday, he said, “dark forces intervened in the ongoing Syrian-Saudi talks and sidetracked this initiative from its original course.”

According to Labor Minister Muhammad Fneish, the Saudi-Syrian effort was sabotaged by “American intervention and the inability of the other side to overcome American pressure.” When asked why it ultimately failed, Fneish replied, “Ask Mrs. Clinton.”

The Obama administration and the U.S. State Department never wanted, nor would they have tolerated, an intra-Arab solution to Lebanon ’s predicament. They ensured there would be no obstacle in the way of a discredited tribunal from issuing its findings based on doctored evidence, one that would sully Hezbollah’s reputation in Lebanon and throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

When it became clear the S-S initiative and whatever promise it held had been quashed, opposition members called on Hariri to urgently convene a cabinet meeting by the following day (Wednesday) to address what the government’s position toward the STL would now be.

The prime minister, still in New York , refused.

Ten opposition ministers in his 30-member cabinet then proceeded to tender their resignations.

Because the “one-third-plus-one” formula mandates at least 11 resign before the cabinet can be dissolved, one more minister was needed. That came when Minister of State Adnan Sayyed Hussein—one of five ministers directly appointed by President Michel Suleiman—announced his resignation. With that, Hariri’s 14-month-old government fell.

“The grace period has ended, and the waiting stage that we lived through without any result has ended,” said Energy Minister Jibran Bassil.

Saad Hariri rightly wants to see those who murdered his father and 22 others that fateful February day brought to justice. It is a wish shared by all Lebanese.

But Hariri and his coalition allies could not put their political and sectarian biases aside long enough to see how badly compromised the STL had become; its subjective investigatory methods, its reliance on Israeli-infiltrated telecommunication data, its refusal to even entertain the notion that Tel Aviv could possibly be involved in the assassination despite plausible evidence procured against it (not to mention the military benefits it reaped from Rafiq Hariri’s killing).

Although a compromise appeared at hand, one that would satisfy both coalitions and guarantee the nation’s well-being, Hariri was unwilling to overcome U.S. pressure. He allowed Secretary of State Clinton to veto overnight a plan that was months in the making.

What Clinton ’s action did make clear is that any outside solution will always be subject to such interference. It only reinforced calls for the Lebanese to assume control of their own affairs and reach an agreement a third party cannot abrogate.

After meeting with Hariri, Clinton embarked on a tour of Persian Gulf countries, continuing the mission to promote division between Arab and Iranian, Sunni and Shia. When asked on Al-Arabiya television to comment on the situation in Lebanon , she said “stability requires justice.”

Ironically, a concept she tried to subvert and one Hariri never understood.

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.

Bonus Bonanza for UK’s Top Bankers

January 13th, 2011 by Robert Stevens

The five biggest UK banks are set to pay out massive bonuses for 2010. Chief executives at HSBC, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Lloyds and Standard Chartered will receive millions in bonuses, as working people endure unprecedented cuts in pay, working conditions and social services imposed by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government.

According to the Centre for Economics & Business Research, around £7 billion will be paid out by the banking industry to senior directors and executives this year.

The move by the banks came as a report predicted that the big five will reach profit levels of £51.7 billion in 2011. This equates to a profit of £200 million for each working day for each of the five banks.

Commenting on the decision to pay out the bonuses, the Financial Timeswrote that “they will press ahead with bonus pay-outs despite the danger of a renewed public backlash.”

Two of the five banks, RBS and Lloyds, had to be taken under state ownership to avert collapse resulting from the rampant speculation leading up to the global financial crisis in the autumn of 2008. RBS is 83 percent owned by the state and has already received at least £45 billion of taxpayers’ money to shore it up. A further £280 billion of its high-risk loans have been covered by the state. Another £8 billion of taxpayers’ money has been set aside to cover future losses.

Lloyds received £20 billion from the public purse when it was taken into public ownership.

All told, more than £1 trillion of public money, directly and indirectly, was handed over to the banks by the then Labour government in order to bail them out. These same banks are now rewarding their top executives grotesque amounts of money. The two banks in state hands alone are set to pay out more than £1 billion in bonuses to its senior staff this spring. Stephen Hester, the chief executive of RBS, is to be paid up to a £2.5 million bonus as part of a £6.8 million package for 2010.

Stuart Gulliver, the CEO at HSBC, received a £9 million bonus for 2009 and according to a close source expected to receive a “decent” pay-out for 2010.

In the run-up to the annual bank bonus “season”, figures within the government were forced to respond to growing public anger over the vast sums the banks were accruing in profits with populist statements. Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said of the banks, “They don’t operate in a social vacuum…. The banks should not be under any illusion, this government cannot stand idly by. It is wholly untenable to have millions of people making sacrifices in their living standards, only to see the banks getting away scot-free.”

Last October, Vince Cable, the business secretary, referred to bankers as “gamblers” and “spivs”.

Despite the crocodile tears of politicians of all stripes, there has been no serious attempt to regulate any of the banks’ activities, let alone to restrict the payments of massive bonuses to senior executives. Last year the UK Financial Investments (UKFI), which was charged with overseeing the state investment in the banking system, gave its approval to the £1.3 billion bonus pool at RBS. One survey last year found that 2,800 bankers received £1 million or more in the form of a bonus.

Following the formation of the coalition government last May, the banking industry has been in close contact with senior government figures. At the behest of then Barclays CEO John Varley, “Project Merlin” was formed with the aim of coming to a settlement regarding any further regulation of the banking industry. The government had previously called for bankers to commit to a certain level of lending to businesses to be put into place as part of any agreement.

At the Conservative Party conference last year, Chancellor George Osborne said, “We will not allow money to flow unimpeded out of those banks into huge bonuses, if that means money is not flowing out in credit to the small businesses who did nothing to cause this crash and suffered most in it.”

According to the Daily Telegraph, at “a pre-Christmas meeting, senior bankers made an offer of £200 billion of business lending but that number is thought to have been seen as too low by certain government ministers.”

In November, the Financial Times pointed out, “Merlin represents a more immediate exercise in self-preservation. The Barclays chief is attempting to broker a ceasefire involving commitments from the banks on remuneration and tax in return for political assurances that no further unilateral levies will be imposed on the industry.”

The plan of the bankers was to have a pact in place by Christmas, well ahead of the planned bonus payments in the spring. In the event, no such formal pact has materialised, and none was needed insofar as the government has now confirmed there will be no political interference with the banks’ “right” to hand out huge bonus payments. Not only has the government stood “idly by” and given the banks carte blanche to pay whatever level of bonus they like, but any further restrictions on the activities have now been lifted. All that is being offered is that bonuses be reined in a tad, providing that wages rise in compensation.

On Sunday’s BBC Andrew Marr Show, Prime Minister David Cameron stated that he was opposed to any “banker-bashing”. Exonerating the banks for the financial crisis, he stated, “We need to recognise though, that there were a lot of people to blame for the mess we are in and that we shouldn’t just think it’s an easy scapegoat to pick one in view.”

“What you won’t hear from me this week is sort of easy, cheap lines kind of just beating up on the market system, bashing the financiers,” he said.

What was required was a “settlement where we recognise that a successful banking sector is part of a successful market economy.”

Stating that the bankers would have free rein to take what they want in pay and bonuses, a spokesman for Cameron later confirmed, “We are not going to set bonus pools for individual banks. We are not going to set pay policy for individual members of staff.”

Even the limited 50 percent tax on any bonus above £25,000 that the banks had to pay in 2010 is to be scrapped. This scheme, which raised £3.5 billion for the Treasury, is to be scrapped and replaced by a new levy on bank holdings that is only expected to raise £1.3 billion in 2011-2012.

Every regulation or piece of legislation that might impinge on the ability of the banks to accrue vast profits is now being challenged. In an interview with theSunday Telegraph, Andrew Tyrie MP, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, said, “It may be difficult to maintain global leadership of financial services with a top rate of income tax at 50pc.”

Denouncing any attempt to cuts bankers pay, he added, “Crude banker-bashing won’t solve anything.”

Three of the five banks have appointed new chief executives. This change in personnel has been jumped on by the banking industry to claim that a “new generation” is now in control not associated with past bad practise and who should be entitled to enrichment. Quoted in the Financial Times, one “asset management executive” stated, “There has been generational change…. Now is a good time to ensure that top executives are appropriately remunerated so that they are not lured abroad or into hedge funds.”

Just two years after bringing the UK and world economy to the point of meltdown, the banks refuse to accept any check on their speculative activities and self-enrichment. Their representatives in government are only too willing to carry out their every demand.

Sections of the establishment have voiced concerns that allowing the banks free rein will provoke a political and social backlash. In a leader Monday entitled, “A shameful surrender in the battle of the bonuses,” the Independentwarned, “If, as seems increasingly likely, the Government waves through large bonuses this year, it will prove a fateful decision. The public sector spending cuts will bite hard over the next 12 months and the cost of living will rise steeply. Meanwhile, unemployment, which is painfully high, could well increase further.

“The financial gulf between those privileged few working in the financial sector and the rest of society is on course to widen. The Government’s claim that ‘we are all in it together’ is about to be tested, probably to destruction.”

Britain’s beekeepers are at war over their association’s endorsement for money of four insecticides, all of them fatal to bees, made by major chemical companies.

The British Beekeepers’ Association has been selling its logo to four European pesticide producers and is believed to have received about £175,000 in return.

The active ingredient chemicals in the four pesticides the beekeepers endorsed are synthetic pyrethroids, which are among the most powerful of modern insect-killers.

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The deal was struck in secret by the beekeepers’ association executive without the knowledge of the overwhelming majority of its members.

After news of the deal emerged, some members expressed outrage and others resigned.

The beekeepers have now said they will end their pesticide endorsements – but have left the door open to future deals with agrochemical companies.

The battling beekeepers will have a showdown this weekend at the National Beekeeping Centre at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire.

An open letter signed by prominent figures in the world of the environment and agriculture condemns the British Beekeepers’ Association for its commercial relationship with the German chemicals giants Bayer and BASF, the Swiss-based Syngenta and the Belgian firm Belchim – and demands that it permanently sever commercial links with agrochemical companies.

“A charity that claims to have the interests of bees and beekeeping at heart should never put itself in a position where it is under the influence of corporations whose purpose is to sell insecticides which are able to kill bees,” said Philip Chandler, a Devon beekeeper and one of the organisers of the open letter, which has been signed by the botanist David Bellamy, the author and television wildlife presenter Chris Packham and Lord Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, the organic farming body. “It is the equivalent of a cancer research charity being controlled by a tobacco company,” Mr Chandler added.

The beekeepers’ executive, which effectively controls all the association’s affairs, has thus far fended off attempts by its membership at getting the policy reversed.

The beekeepers’ association’s deal with the chemical companies had been running since 2001, and it received £17,500 a year for endorsing four pesticides: Bayer’s Decis, BASF’s Contest (also known as Fastac), Syngenta’s Hallmark and Belchim’s Fury.

The British Beekeepers’ Association referred to the pesticides on several occasions in the newsletter BBKA News as “bee friendly” or “bee safe”. Yet a 2003 study in the Bulletin of Insectology on modelling the acute toxicity of pesticides to honey bees found that cypermethrin, the active ingredient of Fury and Contest, and deltamethrin, the active ingredient of Decis, were in the top four most toxic to bees of all the 100 substances evaluated. Cypermethrin was second most toxic, and deltamethrin was fourth. (The active ingredient of Hallmark, lambda-cyhalothrin, was not included in the test.) Other studies confirm these conclusions.

Protests have mounted as the revelations came out. Such has been the anger of grass-roots beekeepers that the executive announced a strategic review of its links with “the plant protection industry”, which concluded that endorsement and “related product specific payments” would cease “as soon as practically possible”.

Yesterday the British Beekeepers’ Association president, Martin Smith, confirmed the pesticide endorsements had finished, although he said there might still be some pesticide packaging in circulation bearing the BBKA logo. “We would expect that to be withdrawn within three months,” he said.

Mr Smith said that the deals had been originally done as a means of developing good practice in relation to bees with the pesticides when they had been introduced, but that this aim had been achieved – so they were no longer necessary.

His announcement left the door open to future deals by insisting that “the trustees do not preclude accepting funds in the future from either the crop protection industry… or individual companies”. Some beekeepers feel this is insufficient and want all links to be broken.

At this weekend’s meeting a motion put down by the Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeeping Association stipulates that “the BBKA cease any commercial relationships with agrochemical or associated companies, including all endorsement of pesticides”.

One of the drafters of the motion, Kate Canning, said last night: “They’re leaving the door open for future agro-chemical relationships. Our bees deserve better than this. It’s time for a clean, green break.”

The beekeepers executive is trying to head off the move by inserting its own motion ahead of the Twickenham and Thames Valley one, which asks delegates to support them in the way in which it “should manage its intellectual property”. It goes on: “This includes the use of its logo and maximises the benefits which can be gained from these assets and its reputation.”

Mr Smith said the logo would not be used on pesticides in the future.

The Federal Reserve was set up by bankers for bankers, and it has served them well.  Out of the blue, it came up with $12.3 trillion in nearly interest-free credit to bail the banks out of a credit crunch they created. That same credit crisis has plunged state and local governments into insolvency, but the Fed has now delivered its ultimatum: there will be no “quantitative easing” for municipal governments.

On January 7, according to the Wall Street Journal, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced that the Fed had ruled out a central bank bailout of state and local governments.  “We have no expectation or intention to get involved in state and local finance,” he said in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee. The states “should not expect loans from the Fed.”

So much for the proposal of President Barack Obama, reported in Reuters a year ago, to have the Fed buy municipal bonds to cut the heavy borrowing costs of cash-strapped cities and states.

The credit woes of state and municipal governments are a direct result of Wall Street’s malfeasance.  Their borrowing costs first shot up in 2008, when the “monoline” bond insurers lost their own credit ratings after gambling in derivatives.  The Fed’s low-interest facilities could have been used to restore local government credit, just as it was used to restore the credit of the banks.  But Chairman Bernanke has now vetoed that plan.

Why?  It can hardly be argued that the Fed doesn’t have the money.  The collective budget deficit of the states for 2011 is projected at $140 billion, a mere drop in the bucket compared to the sums the Fed managed to come up with to bail out the banks.  According to data recently released, the central bank provided roughly $3.3 trillion in liquidity and $9 trillion in short-term loans and other financial arrangements to banks, multinational corporations, and foreign financial institutions following the credit crisis of 2008. 

The argument may be that continuing the Fed’s controversial “quantitative easing” program (easing credit conditions by creating money with accounting entries) will drive the economy into hyperinflation.  But creating $12.3 trillion for the banks – nearly 100 times the sum needed by state governments — did not have that dire effect.  Rather, the money supply is shrinking – by some estimates, at the fastest rate since the Great Depression.  Creating another $140 billion would hardly affect the money supply at all. 

Why didn’t the $12.3 trillion drive the economy into hyperinflation?  Because, contrary to popular belief, when the Fed engages in “quantitative easing,” it is not simply printing money and giving it away.  It is merely extending CREDIT, creating an overdraft on the account of the borrower to be paid back in due course.  The Fed is simply replacing expensive credit from private banks (which also create the loan money on their books) with cheap credit from the central bank.  

So why isn’t the Fed open to advancing this cheap credit to the states?  According to Mr. Bernanke, its hands are tied. He says the Fed lang=EN-US>is limited by statute to buying municipal government debt with maturities of six months or less that is directly backed by tax or other assured revenue, a form of debt that makes up less than 2% of the overall muni market.  Congress imposed that restriction, and only Congress can change it.

That may sound like he is passing the buck, but he is probably right.  Bailing out state and local governments IS outside the Fed’s mandate.  The Federal Reserve Act was drafted by bankers to create a banker’s bank that would serve their interests.  No others need apply.  The Federal Reserve is the bankers’ own private club, and its legal structure keeps all non-members out.  

Earlier Central Bank Ventures into Commercial Lending

That is how the Fed is structured today, but it hasn’t always been that way.  In 1934, Section 13(b) was added to the Federal Reserve Act, authorizing the Fed to “make credit available for the purpose of supplying working capital to established industrial and commercial businesses.” This long-forgotten section was implemented and remained in effect for 24 years.  In a 2002 article called “Lender of More Than Last Resort” posted on the Minneapolis Fed’s website, David Fettig summarized its provisions as follows:

· [Federal] Reserve banks could make loans to any established businesses, including businesses begun that year (a change from earlier legislation that limited funds to more established enterprises).

· Reserve banks were permitted to participate [share in loans] with lending institutions, but only if the latter assumed 20 percent of the risk.

· No limitation was placed on the amount of a single loan.

· A Reserve bank could make a direct loan only to a business in its district.

Today, that venture into commercial banking sounds like a radical departure from the Fed’s given role; but at the time it evidently seemed like a reasonable alternative.  Fettig notes that “the Fed was still less than 20 years old and many likely remembered the arguments put forth during the System’s founding, when some advocated that the discount window should be open to all comers, not just member banks.” In Australia and other countries, the central bank was then assuming commercial as well as central bank functions.

Section 13(b) was repealed in 1958, but one state has kept its memory alive.  In North Dakota, the publicly owned Bank of North Dakota (BND) acts as a “mini-Fed” for the state.  Like the Federal Reserve of the 1930s and 1940s, the BND makes loans to local businesses and participates in loans made by local banks. 

The BND has helped North Dakota escape the credit crisis.  In 2009, when other states were teetering on bankruptcy, North Dakota sported the largest surplus it had ever had.  Other states, prompted by their own budget crises to explore alternatives, are now looking to North Dakota for inspiration. 

The “Unusual and Exigent Circumstances” Exception

Although Section 13(b) was repealed, the Federal Reserve Act retained enough vestiges of it in 2008 to allow the Fed to intervene to save a variety of non-bank entities from bankruptcy.  The problem was that the tool was applied selectively.  The recipients were major corporate players, not local businesses or local governments.  Fettig writes:

Section 13(b) may be a memory, . . . but Section 13 paragraph 3 . . . is alive and well in the Federal Reserve Act. . . . [T]his amendment allows, “in unusual and exigent circumstances,” a Reserve bank to advance credit to individuals, partnerships and corporations that are not depository institutions.

In 2008, the Fed bailed out investment company Bear Stearns and insurer AIG, neither of which was a bank.  John Nichols reports in The Nation that Bear Stearns got almost $1 trillion in short-term loans, with interest rates as low as 0.5%.  The Fed also made loans to other corporations, including GE, McDonald’s, and Verizon. 

In 2010, Section 13(3) was modified by the Dodd-Frank bill, which replaced the phrase “individuals, partnerships and corporations” with the vaguer phrase “any program or facility with broad-based eligibility.”  As explained in the notes to the bill:

Only Broad-Based Facilities Permitted. Section 13(3) is modified to remove the authority to extend credit to specific individuals, partnerships and corporations.  Instead, the Board may authorize credit under section 13(3) only under a program or facility with “broad-based eligibility.”

What programs have “broad-based eligibility” isn’t clear from a reading of the Section, but long-term municipal bonds are evidently excluded.  Mr. Bernanke said that if municipal defaults became a problem, it would be in Congress’ hands, not his. 

Congress could change the law, just as it did in 1934, 1958, and 2010.  It could change the law to allow the Fed to help Main Street just as it helped Wall Street.  But as Senator Dick Durbin blurted out on a radio program in April 2009, Congress is owned by the banks.  Changes in the law today are more likely to go the other way.  Mike Whitney, writing in December 2010, noted:

So far, not one CEO or CFO of a major investment bank or financial institution has been charged, arrested, prosecuted, or convicted in what amounts to the largest incident of securities fraud in history. In the much-smaller Savings and Loan investigation, more than 1,000 people were charged and convicted. . . . [T]he system is broken and the old rules no longer apply.

The old rules no longer apply because they have been changed to suit the moneyed interests that hold Congress and the Fed captive.  The law has been changed not only to keep the guilty out of jail but to preserve their exorbitant profits and bonuses at the expense of their victims. 

To do this, the Federal Reserve had to take “extraordinary measures.”  They were extraordinary but not illegal, because the Fed’s congressional mandate made them legal.  Nobody’s permission even had to be sought. Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act allows it to do what it needs to do in unusual and exigent circumstances to save its constituents.

If you’re a bank, it seems, anything goes.

So Who Will Save the States?

Highlighting the immediacy of the local government budget crisis, The Wall Street Journal quoted Meredith Whitney, a banking analyst who recently turned to analyzing state and local finances.  She said on a recent broadcast of CBS’s “60 Minutes” that the U.S. could see “50 to 100 sizable defaults” in 2011 among its local governments, amounting to “hundreds of billions of dollars.”

If the Fed could so easily come up with 12.3 trillion dollars to save the banks, why can’t it find a few hundred billion under the mattress to save the states?  Obviously it could, if Congress were inclined to put non-bank lending back into the Fed’s job description.  Then why isn’t that being done?  The cynical view is that the states are purposely being kept on the edge of bankruptcy, because the banks that hold Congress hostage want the interest income and the control.

Whatever the reason, Congress is standing down while the nation is sinking. Congress must summon the courage to take needed action; and that action is not to impose “austerity” by cutting services, at a time when an already-squeezed populace most needs them.  Rather, it is to create the jobs that will generate real productivity.  To do this, Congress would not even have to go through the Federal Reserve.  It could issue its own debt-free money and spend it on repairing and modernizing our decaying infrastructure, among other needed works.   Congress’ task will become easier if the people stand with them in demanding action, but Congress is now so gridlocked that change may still be long in coming. 

In the meantime, the states could take matters in their own hands and set up their own state-owned banks, on the model of the Bank of North Dakota.  They could then have their own very-low-interest credit lines, just as the Wall Street banks do.  Rather than spending or selling off valuable public assets, or hoarding them in massive rainy day funds made necessary by the lack of ready credit, states could LEVERAGE their assets into a very strong and abundant local credit system, following the accepted business practices of the Wall Street banks themselves. 

The Public Banking Institute is being launched on January 13 to explore that alternative.  For more information, see http://PublicBankingInstitute.org

Ellen Brown is an attorney and the author of eleven books, including Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free.  Her websites are webofdebt.com, ellenbrown.com, and public-banking.com.

From NAFTA to CETA: Canada-EU Deep Economic Integration

January 13th, 2011 by Dana Gabriel

Canada and the European Union (EU) have already held five rounds of negotiations towards a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) which will go beyond NAFTA. With the sixth round of talks scheduled to take place in Brussels, Belgium from January 17-21, Canadian and EU officials remain optimistic that a deal could be finalized by the end of 2011. Thus far, negotiations have included key areas such as goods, rules of origin, services, investment, government procurement, as well as others. As talks enter their final crucial stages, there are growing concerns over the threat CETA poses to Canadian sovereignty. Coupled with the financial turmoil sweeping Europe, deep economic integration with the EU could prove disastrous.

In a recent article Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, points out the dangers Canada faces with the current CETA trade model. She warns that, “CETA will open up the rules, standards and public spending priorities of provinces and municipalities to direct competition and challenge from European corporations.” Barlow goes on to say, “Europe is seeking a comprehensive and aggressive global approach to acquiring the raw materials needed by its corporations. At its heart, this deal is a bid for unprecedented and uncontrolled European access to Canadian resources.” She also added, “CETA will likely have a NAFTA-type investor-state enforcement mechanism, which means that European corporations will have the same right that U.S. companies now enjoy to sue the Canadian government if it introduces new rules to protect the environment.” If CETA includes something similar to NAFTA’s Chapter 11 which gives corporations the power to challenge laws and regulations that restrict their profits, U.S. and Mexican companies could benefit from any rulings that favour the EU. Ultimately, like NAFTA and other trade deals, CETA will further serve corporate interests.

A report released in December of last year, entitled Public Water for Sale: How Canada will privatize our public water systems, “exposes how CETA would open up public municipal water systems across Canada to privatization.” The paper prepared by the the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees cautions that, “public water in Canada will be lost unless the provinces and territories take immediate steps to remove water from the scope of the proposed Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.” The Union of B.C. Municipalities supports a resolution by those cities and towns who wish to receive a clear, permanent exemption from CETA. Others have voiced opposition to any deal that could deny government the ability to favour local businesses and create jobs. There has been increased pressure on Ottawa to either fully or partly shield the municipal sector from government procurement of goods and services. Giving the EU full access to sub-national purchasing and contracting in Canada would open up areas such as school boards, universities, hospitals, as well as other provincial agencies.

The October 2010 report, Out of Equilibrium: The Impact of EU-Canada Free Trade on the Real Economy written by economist Jim Stanford warns that Canada’s bilateral trade deficit with the EU could grow under CETA. Released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the paper, “models three scenarios to provide a range of estimates regarding the likely impacts of EU-Canada free trade. In every case, Canada’s bilateral trade balance worsens significantly. The simulations suggest an incremental loss of between 28,000 and 150,000 Canadian jobs.” Many of these could be good jobs in sectors such as machinery, chemicals, electronic, food-processing, apparel-making and the auto industry. The study on the economic impacts of CETA also, “estimates direct losses in Canadian GDP between 0.56% and almost 3%, experienced over several years of adjustment to the new trade pact. Indirect losses of spin-off production, employment, and investment could add significantly to those economic losses.” Stanford concluded, “Free trade with Europe will take a bad situation for Canada, marked by large deficits and lost jobs, and make it much worse.”

It is becoming apparent that Canadian sacrifices in regards to a free trade agreement with the EU outweighs any potential benefits. While Canada does need to lessen its dependency on the U.S. economy, CETA is based on the failed NAFTA trade model and will only serve to accelerate the corporate takeover of the country. The sixth round of negotiations are expected to focus on sensitive areas such as tariffs on dairy imports, intellectual property rights investment and regulatory standardization, as well as public procurement. CETA is part of a larger agenda and could be used as a blueprint for a future US-EU trade agreement and a stepping-stone to a NAFTA-EU free trade zone.

At the EU-U.S. Summit held in Lisbon several months back, leaders reaffirmed their close partnership, as well as their desire to bring greater prosperity and security to both sides of the Atlantic. They recognised the central role of the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) and entrusted, “the TEC to develop a transatlantic agenda to stimulate growth and create jobs in key emerging sectors and technologies.” The TEC was called upon to, “identify ways to improve transatlantic consultation before regulators and agencies develop regulation in economically promising new technologies and sectors, to share best practices, and to develop joint principles with the aim of promoting maximum compatibility of regulations and the freest possible transatlantic flow of ideas, products, and services.” The TEC was established in 2007 in an effort to work towards increasing investment, eliminating trade barriers and streamlining harmonization on regulations. It is the framework for advancing transatlantic economic integration between the U.S. and the EU.

In December of last year, the TEC met in Washington where “European Commissioners and leading US government representatives took the first concrete steps to ensure the TEC process creates a forward-looking business environment that reduces regulatory barriers and encourages innovation, shared standards and high-tech business.” An agreement on a common approach to electronic health record systems and a declaration on energy efficiency was also signed. The TEC meeting identified other, “key areas for joint activities in the innovation sector and discussed ways to ensure secure trade and strengthen the customs cooperation between the two partners.” The TEC has been compared to the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Along with NAFTA, the SPP agenda which continues to move forward through other initiatives, is essentially laying the foundation for a North American Union. A Canada-EU trade deal would be an incremental step towards a Free Trade Area of the Atlantic and an eventual Transatlantic Union.

Canada has fared better than other countries during the current financial crisis. With parts of Europe still marred in recession and debt trouble, a trade agreement with the EU, especially under the template in which it is being negotiated could prove costly. Failed monetary policies and government managed free trade agreements that favour corporate interests, deserve their share of the blame for the current global economic predicament. Yet, we are still being told that more globalization is the solution to our financial woes. In order to further restructure the world, the ruling elite seek to capitalize on the economic chaos which in many ways they engineered.

Dana Gabriel is an activist and independent researcher. He writes about trade, globalization, sovereignty, security, as well as other issues. Contact: [email protected]. Visit his blog at beyourownleader.blogspot.com.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri was visiting president Barack Obama in Washington when Jubran Basil the Lebanese energy secretary announced in Beirut the resignations of eleven Hezbollah ministers, which led to the immediate demise of Lebanon ’s unity government. [1].

The resignations’ announcement was apparently planned to take place while the Prime Minister visits the American capital.

According to Al-Jazeera news the unity government has collapsed after the Hezbollah movement and its political allies resigned from the cabinet over arguments stemming from a UN probe into the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, in 2005. Ten ministers tendered their resignations on Wednesday after reports that al-Hariri’s son Saad, the prime minister, had refused their call to convene a cabinet meeting to discuss controversial issues including the investigation by the STL. An eleventh member, Adnan Sayyed Hussein, later stood down from the 30-member cabinet, automatically bringing down al-Hariri’s government. The request to convene a cabinet meeting came on Tuesday after Syria and Saudi Arabia , who have for months been attempting to act as mediators in Lebanon ‘s political crisis, announced their efforts had failed. [1].

Despite evidence that implicates Israel in the 2005 Hariri assassination, the politically driven STL has focused on Hezbollah in the hope that implicating the party of God would eventually lead to their disarmament. As a result, political tensions have been recently fomenting in Lebanon amid signs that Hezbollah members were entwined in the Hariri assassination and could be indicted by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

Apparently, Hariri’s visit with the American president was cut short as he was driven to Dulles international airport after talks with Obama at the White House. The US President threw his full support behind the embattled Lebanese Prime Minister as Hezbollah toppled his unity government during his White House visit. [2]. Hariri will also be stopping in Paris on his way back to meet Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president for additional guidance. Al-Jazeera also reported that a spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said that the secretary general is monitoring closely developments in Lebanon , where the situation is fast evolving. He also emphasized the importance that calm be preserved. “The secretary-general further called for continuing dialogue among all parties and respect for the constitution and the laws of Lebanon . He also reiterated his full support for the independent work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon . [1].

Hezbollah, which has denied any role in the assassination, has denounced the tribunal as an “Israeli project” and urged al-Hariri to reject any findings by the court, which has not yet announced its decisions. But al-Hariri has refused to break co-operation with the tribunal, What led to the political muscle flexing by the Hezbollah party and their withdrawal from the government. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton told a news conference in Doha, Qatar, where she was attending a meeting of regional leaders “we view what happened today as a transparent effort by those forces inside Lebanon, as well as interests outside Lebanon, to subvert justice and undermine Lebanon’s stability and progress.” [1].

Apparently, Mr. Hariri was shafted by Hezbollah when he decided to run to Washington for directions instead of dealing directly and honestly with the brewing problems in his country. Lebanon ’s puppet government has once again collapsed because of the continuous loyalty of the Lebanese factions to outside forces instead of loyalty to Lebanon .

What is next for Lebanon ?

Could this standoff between Al-Hariri’s camp and Hezbollah over the UN tribunal spark a new sectarian violence similar to the one that brought the country close to civil war in May 2008? Or is the purpose of the STL to disarm Hezbollah and destabilize Lebanon ?

References

1. Al Jazeera English (01- 12, 2011). Lebanese Government Collapses Government falls after Hezbollah and allies withdraw from coalition in row over UN probe into murder of Rafiq al-Hariri.

2. Kaleej times (01-12-11). Obama backs Hariri as Lebanon in turmoil.

Former Kosovo “Freedom Fighters” charged with war crimes

January 13th, 2011 by Global Research

European prosecutors charged two former top Kosovo Albanian guerrillas with war crimes during the 1998-99 conflict, according to a definitive indictment obtained by AFP Friday.

The former commander of the military police for the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) Sabit Geci, 52, and Riza Alija, 50, were charged with “war crimes against (the) civilian population” committed in two KLA camps in neighbouring Albania, the indictment said.

The indictment, seen by AFP in its Albanian version, was issued by EULEX, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo.

It was filed for EULEX by US prosecutor Robert L. Dean, said the camps in the northern towns of Kukes and Cahan set up by the KLA were “logistic, training and supply” sites.

However, the two accused used them to detain “civilians and persons who were not taking part in the war,” it said.

It was not clear when the trial would start.

The war between KLA guerrillas and Serbian forces loyal to then Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic ended after the June 1999 NATO air campaign ousted Serbian forces from Kosovo.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008 and has so far been recognised by 72 countries, despite Belgrade’s strong opposition.

The 3,000-member EULEX mission was launched in December 2008 to enforce the rule of law in the newly declared country and supervise its police, customs and judiciary.

EULEX has the power to step in and take on cases that the local judiciary and police are unable to handle because of their sensitive nature.

The indictment comes at a time when Pristina is still reeling from allegations of atrocities committed by the KLA in a report by the Council of Europe’s envoy Dick Marty.

Marty linked Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and other senior KLA commanders to organ trafficking and organised crime.

Thaci has denied the allegations, condemning them as a smear campaign.

One of the indicted men, Geci is mentioned in Marty’s report as suspected of the “killing of a civilian in Kukes who was beaten and shot.”

According to Dean’s indictment, the two men accused allegedly detained Kosovars who fled the conflict and were suspected of collaborating with the then Serbian regime or had “political views that differed from the KLA.”

Geci and Alija were “directly involved in ordering and took part in mistreating persons kept in these detention centres,” from the end of March or beginning of April to June 1999, the document said.

Civilians “were beaten regularly and were hit with batons and nightsticks (truncheons), kicked, mistreated and verbally abused,” it added.

“They were kept in filthy and… unhealthy conditions…. They were denied food, water and medical treatment,” the indictment said.

The indictment described an incident in Kukes where two detainees were ordered to put on bulletproof jackets and afterwards “were shot by a firing squad” as a way of torture.

A EULEX pre-trial judge has already decided that the Kosovo judiciary has the jurisdiction over the case despite the alleged war crimes having taken place in Albania.

Geci had been arrested by European police in May and Alija in June.

The EULEX prosecution provided testimonies of around 20 detainees — whose identities were not revealed — who had said they has suffered great physical and psychological trauma “because of the conditions they were being kept and as the result of beating and torture.”

Their names are coded in a special, confidential annex of the indictment as a way for the court to keep their identities secure.

Following the release of Marty’s report, Thaci warned that those “fake patriots” in Kosovo who had cooperated with the Council of Europe envoy in his investigation might face consequences.

“These names are known and they will be made public very quickly,” Thaci said in a weekend interview with Kosovo private TV station Klan.

From the ongoing hell of Haiti’s earthquake victims to the horror of families being swept to their deaths in Australia’s catastrophic floods, one conclusion is clear despite the mainstream news media’s usual myopic coverage: this is the perverse payback of the capitalist system. A system in which the private profit of an elite dominates all other needs of the common people – no matter how vital those needs are.

Decades of exploitation and neglect of social needs are now magnifying manifold the impacts from natural phenomena that are part and parcel of living in a physical world. Such events are inevitable, but the extent of destruction is not – only it is inevitable because of the perverse profit system that mandates death and destruction in the wake of its seismic injustice.

Whether it is profiteering by US transnational corporations from Haiti’s sweatshop poverty or profiteering by Australian property developers and banks – all aided and abetted by supine governments that do the bidding for these entities by slashing taxes on the wealthy and giving free rein to their depredations – the appalling bottom line is that the vast majority of citizens are being abandoned more than ever in the face of the consequences. The same gargantuan scam of privatizing profits, socializing costs is evident elsewhere around the world as countless people die from freezing weather in North America and Europe simply because they can’t afford to heat their homes or even live in a home.

Adding insult to injury is the pathetic, callous response of these servile governments as the increasing havoc of crony capitalism descends. Despite initial pledges of generous aid to Haiti from the US government, scarcely a cent has actually been sent as more than a million people in that Caribbean country continue to live in makeshift tents and thousands more die from cholera. (By contrast, the solidarity of ordinary Americans digging deep into their already threadbare pockets to send over $1 billion in aid to Haiti is truly edifying – and a sign of hope for the coming necessary historic change.)

Meanwhile, the Australian government talks about handing out millions-of-dollars-worth of aid to tens of thousands of flood victims, compared with billions-of-dollars-worth of profits that were siphoned off by a coterie of bankers and developers who were allowed to build whole towns on high-risk lands. But through its crocodile tears this same government insists that federal budgets must still be balanced to placate the same financial oligarchy. Citizens are exhorted – via the usual media mouthpieces – to drum up “self-reliance”. One wonders what the mothers who had babies ripped from their arms by the torrents make of that scrap of advice.

Among the insults from the global oligarchy is the absurd response to the Australian crisis from British prime minister David Cameron who announced that the United Kingdom stood ready to help its former colony. What? Help from a government that is forcing draconian austerity budgets on its populace and sending in police riot squads to bludgeon civil protest. Surely this is public relations at its most absurd. Or how about the report that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is making a personal (but undisclosed) donation to help her subjects in Queensland. How touching that this blue blood antecedent of the global oligarchy should dip into the £10 million or so a year that she sucks from the taxpayers.

So there you have it. The ordinary workers and citizens spend a lifetime being exploited, neglected, degraded and ripped off by the wealth-siphoning system – otherwise known as capitalism – and then when the walls of that same unsustainable system come crashing down, we are informed through a loudhailer by the rich and their puppets on safer ground: you are on your own.

But the truly heartening and inadvertent thing is that we are not alone. We are in vast and growing numbers, and through the mayhem and misery, we – the vast majority of ordinary people around the world – are realizing that the empire of capitalism is finished and its last vestiges of rotten corruption must be swept away and a new society needs to be built; one where social needs are served by economics and politics. It is a harsh and horrendous way to learn, but we are nevertheless learning.

 

Finian Cunningham is a journalist and musician: [email protected], www.myspace.com/finiancunninghammusic

U.S. Recruits Japan As Global Military Partner

January 13th, 2011 by Rick Rozoff

During the preceding week the U.S.’s top military officer identified Asia as the central focus of the Pentagon’s attention in the world, U.S. warships joined Japanese counterparts in military maneuvers in the East China Sea for the second time in a month, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in East Asia on a trip that began in China and will end in Japan and South Korea on January 14.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara at the State Department on January 6 after summoning him and South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan to Foggy Bottom a month earlier and holding a joint press conference with Maehara in Hawaii in late October. Following the last-named event, Clinton toured the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and met with Admiral Robert Willard, head of U.S. Pacific Command, before embarking on a trip to the Asia-Pacific region that took her to Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia from October 27 to November 8. In the last two countries she renewed, strengthened and expanded military ties with her hosts. [1]

Clinton’s meetings with her Japanese and South Korean opposite numbers, dealing in large part as they did with the conflict on the Korean Peninsula, intentionally – indeed brazenly – circumvented the six-party talks format which also includes North Korea, China and Russia. On October 27 she assured the Japanese foreign minister the U.S. viewed the Chinese-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu island chain as covered by the Article 5 military assistance clause of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, and five days later her spokesman Philip Crowley referred to Russia’s South Kuril Islands as the Northern Territories, the term used by Japan, which lays claims to them. [2]

During the recent Clinton-Maehara meeting, the participants “agreed to boost security cooperation” and announced that “the goals for cooperation will be revealed during Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s visit to the U.S. in spring.” [3]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen visited the capitals of South Korea and Japan on December 8 and 9 where he campaigned for both a tighter and deeper trilateral military partnership with his hosts and the forging of a Japanese-South Korean defense alliance. He advocated that South Korea and Japan accelerate that cooperation without being “hung up on what’s happened in the past,” a reference to the hundredth anniversary of Japan’s post-invasion annexation of Korea in 1910. He also “proposed joint military drills among South Korea, Japan and the U.S….” [4]


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa in Tokyo on December 9, 2010

At the beginning of this month the Japanese foreign minister affirmed his nation’s commitment to forming the first military links between Japan and South Korea, stating: “We hope to conclude an alliance with South Korea to ensure security.” [5]

At the same time an official at the South Korean Defense Ministry confirmed Maehara’s assertion in revealing that Seoul and Tokyo intend to sign a defense agreement. “The pact, if signed, will open a new chapter in the development of military relations between South Korea and Japan,” he stated.

The South Korean news source from which the above is extracted added that “the U.S. has been urging the two neighbors to build a stronger military relationship.” [6]

On January 10 the defense ministers of Japan and South Korea, Toshimi Kitazawa and Kim Kwan-jin, met in the South Korean capital to plan “future-oriented” joint military relations and to “start discussing two pacts designed to facilitate their ties.” [7]

The defense chiefs signed a General Security of Military Information Agreement and an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, the first providing for the pooling of intelligence and the second for exchanging military supplies for so-called peacekeeping missions – which is how Japanese and South Korean troop deployments to Iraq after 2003 and military assistance for the war in Afghanistan (troops from South Korea and ships from Japan) have been characterized – and military exercises.

The efforts of Admiral Mullen, Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Gates have borne fruit.

The U.S. has led almost monthly naval war games in East Asia since late last July, when Mullen, Clinton and Gates visited South Korea for the sixtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War, with the last two traveling to the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

USS George Washington

The USS George Washington nuclear-powered supercarrier and its assigned carrier and expeditionary strike groups have participated in exercises in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), South China Sea, Yellow Sea and East Sea in that interim.

The Yellow Sea is bordered on the north and west by China, which maintains a 300-mile exclusive economic zone off its coasts there, and the Sea of Japan is abutted by the Russian port city of Vladivostok and reaches to oil-rich Sakhalin island, the southern part of which Japan owned until the end of the Second World War.

Last month the U.S. and Japan conducted the latest Keen Sword naval exercise in the East China Sea, which encompasses the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. It was the largest U.S.-Japanese joint military operation ever held, with 44,000 troops, 400 aircraft and over 60 ships, including USS George Washington. It also (deliberately) corresponded with the half-century anniversary of the U.S.-Japan mutual defense treaty.

USS Carl Vinson

On January 10 the two nations reprised the drills on a more modest scale, with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and the destroyers USS Gridley and USS Stockdale joining the Japanese destroyer JS Kurama and helicopters from both nations in naval maneuvers in the East China Sea. The three American warships, joined by the guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, then headed for South Korea. Vinson and Bunker Hill visited Busan, where last October the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen participated in the first Proliferation Security Initiative [8] exercise hosted by South Korea. In all ten warships and fourteen nations – including Australia, Canada, France and Italy – participated in what was codenamed Eastern Endeavour 2010.

Since the sinking of the Korean corvette Cheonan last March and President Obama’s upbraiding of Chinese President Hu Jintao over the incident three months later [9], the official rationale for regular U.S. war games in East Asia have been the actions of North Korea.

But the deployment of an Aegis class warship capable of launching Standard Missile-3 anti-ballistic missiles – USS Lassen – off the coast of South Korea in a drill nominally aimed at monitoring the “trafficking of weapons of mass destruction” and the dispatching of one of the U.S.’s eleven nuclear supercarriers to the East and South China Seas have nothing to do with putative threats from Pyongyang.

Confirmation of that fact recently appeared in an unlikely location. The official armed forces publication Stars and Stripes ran a feature on January 11 entitled “China real reason for South Korea, Japan military pact?”

Referring to the preliminary military agreements reached by Japan and South Korea the day before, the newspaper stated that “The top two U.S. allies in Asia are inching toward greater military cooperation,” in “an incremental but important development in Asian defense cooperation with an eye toward China.”

It quoted Denny Roy of the East-West Center, a think tank established by the U.S. Congress in 1960, as asserting: “South Korea-Japan (military) cooperation has more implications for China than the Korean peninsula. North Korea provides the political excuse for what would otherwise be a strategic move” against China. “It’s a fig leaf.”

The Stars and Stripes article added: “Should conflict erupt on the Korean peninsula, Japan would likely play a crucial role in U.S. and South Korean combat efforts, experts said.

“South Korea and Japan sent observers to participate in each other’s military exercises with the U.S. last year, a development viewed as an important step toward deeper military cooperation.” [10]

Japan deployed military observers to the U.S.-South Korea Invincible Spirit war games in the Sea of Japan in July and South Korea returned the favor during the Keen Sword 2011 exercise in the East China Sea in December.

Invincible Spirit

Keen Sword 2011

The South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh also reflected on the groundbreaking Japanese-South Korean military agreements signed on January 10, warning:

“A military pact between South Korea and Japan is problematic first and foremost because it legitimizes Japanese military expansion. Tokyo has been striving for some time to broaden the range of activity for the JSDF [Japan Self-Defense Forces]. In 1999, it enacted the Surrounding Situation Act, and has recently been mulling over an amendment of the law in connection with collective self-defense rights. The attempt to form a military pact with South Korea is part of this current. For example, the proposed agreement on munitions support would allow the two countries’ armed forces to loan out food, water, and fuel during times of emergency. Naturally, this would bolster the expansion of the range of JSDF activity.

“Moreover, Japan has recently been inquiring about dispatching forces to the Korean Peninsula in a time of emergency. Some time ago, Prime Minister Naoto Kan raised the possibility of the JSDF operating in North Korea and South Korea, on the pretext of rescuing Japanese refugees and abduction victims. At this point, our country should have grilled Japan on its true intentions at yesterday’s talks and strongly demanded that the misguided notion be withdrawn.

“There are also major concerns that military cooperation between South Korea and Japan will further develop the New Cold War structure taking shape in Northeast Asia. To date, the United States has been in the middle urging stronger military cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo, and Japan has actively welcomed this. The reason for this is that the strategic interests of those two countries coincide in their intent to curb Beijing.”

The paper’s editorial also penetratingly remarked on the consequences of the U.S.-Japan-South Korea military axis arrogantly excluding the other three members of the six-party format:

“It is not at all a desirable outcome for [South Korea] if military cooperation with the United States and Japan leads to stronger military cooperation among North Korea, China, and Russia and the Korean Peninsula becomes a stage for confrontation between these two sets of forces.” [11]

Confrontation – armed conflict and in the worst case war – is precisely what is being prepared for and which may be precipitated by Washington’s consolidation of the tripartite military alliance.

The National Defense Program Guidelines for 2011 adopted by the Japanese Ministry of Defense last month identified its major regional concerns as follows:

“North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues are immediate and grave destabilizing factors to the regional security.

“Military modernization by China and its insufficient transparency are of concern for the regional and global community.

“Russia’s military activities are increasingly robust.” [12]

According to the Japanese press, Tokyo’s new military strategy has shifted to “a posture that can effectively deal with possible contingencies on Japan’s vulnerable southern islands and China’s growing military presence.” [13]

An appendix to the guidelines details plans to increase the nation’s submarines from 16 to 22, acquire next-generation fighter jets and add to the number of Aegis class destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles from the present four. [14] (South Korea has recently awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin to outfit another of its warships with Aegis missile defense technology. The third such destroyer is to be sea-ready next month.)

Japan will then equip all its six Aegis destroyers with Standard Missile-3 interceptors, and “Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles will be deployed at air bases nationwide,” [15] including those at Aibano, Ashiya, Gifu, Hakusan, Hamamatsu, Iruma, Kasuga, Kasumigaura, Narashino, Takaradai, Takeyama and Tsuiki.

The U.S. already maintains a Patriot battery at the Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

In the meeting between Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Maehara earlier this month, the two sides “agreed to establish new common strategic goals for the Asia-Pacific region and other parts of the world.”

They also concurred that “the six-party talks on North Korea’s denuclearization and bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang can resume only if the North stops its provocative actions and takes concrete steps to abandon its nuclear program,” a rude rebuff to Chinese and Russian efforts to resume the talks without preconditions. China and Russia share borders with North Korea and can ill afford the consequences resulting from the further destabilization of the peninsula.

Clinton said that U.S.-Japanese collaboration should include the “full range of global and strategic issues, from nuclear proliferation to maritime security.” [16]

Japan will soon send a delegation of military officials to the U.S. to inspect Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles for acquisition “at a time of heightened tensions with neighbouring China and North Korea.”

“The defense ministry will start fully fledged research in the next fiscal year starting April, and intends to make a final decision on whether to deploy such aircraft by the end of fiscal 2015.” [17]

Global Hawks fly at an altitude of 60,000 feet, can survey up to 40,000 square miles of territory a day, and cost $35 million apiece.

The day Clinton met with the country’s foreign minister, it was reported that Japan will “move the command post for its missile defense system from a Self-Defense Force facility to a US airbase this year.”

Japan’s Defense Ministry said that “the plan will see the Air Self-Defense Force Command in Fuchu, Tokyo move into the compound of the US Yokota airbase in the same city.

“The shift will begin in March and is expected to be complete within the year. [T]he move will help the Self-Defense Force improve its speed of detection and response to incoming missiles identified by US early-warning satellites….” [18]

On January 10 the Japanese press disclosed that the “government will approve the transfer by the United States of next-generation antimissile missiles currently under joint Japan-U.S. development to third-party countries,” in the most fragrant violation yet of the constitutional prohibition against so-called collective self-defense.

The initiative will permit “the United States to have…SM-3 [Standard Missile-3] Block IIA missiles deployed in Europe and other parts of the world” and is “aimed at showing Japan’s resolve to deepen its alliance with the United States, several government sources have revealed.

“The Obama administration has been seeking Japan’s accord on deployment of the next-generation missiles, which are being developed primarily to beef up Japanese, U.S. and European missile defense networks.” [19]

Standard Missile-3 launch

What Japan and the U.S. are collaborating on is the deployment of dozens of SM-3 missiles adapted for land-based deployments (as part of what the U.S. calls the Aegis Ashore program) in Romania, Poland and other nations on and near Russia’s western borders.

At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Lisbon, Portugal in November, the 28-member military bloc endorsed U.S. plans to place the European continent under an American-dominated interceptor missile shield.

The SM-3 is the interceptor missile heart of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System developed by the Pentagon, which has as its only partner to date the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

In 2007, 2008 and again in October of last year Japanese Aegis class warships launched SM-3s in tests run from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii. In the most recent test, the recently upgraded JDS Kirishima guided missile destroyer fired an SM-3 100 miles over the Pacific to destroy a ballistic missile target, a “significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the area of missile defense.” [20]

Tokyo’s new National Defense Program Guidelines mandate equipping all six of its Aegis class warships with SM-3s as observed earlier.

JDS Kirishima Aegis class destroyer

In addition to rendering the U.S. services for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Japan is also planning to become the first non-NATO nation to join the Pentagon in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti by opening its first overseas military base since World War Two. [21]

Japan’s military partnership with the U.S. will include joint endeavors in three continents – Asia, Europe and Africa – and the Middle East and the Arabian Sea.

On January 5 one of the main architects of heightened U.S.-Japan and U.S.-Japan-South Korea strategic military integration, Admiral Michael Mullen, released his Joint Chiefs of Staff’s guidance for 2011, “relaying the admiral’s priorities and strategic objectives for the year.” [22]

The document addresses Pentagon plans for the world and these component policies:

-”We will contribute to stability and defend our vital national interests in the broader Middle East and South Central Asia.

-”Over the last year, the balance of our resources and effort shifted from the war in Iraq to the one in Afghanistan.

“We must continue to transition well in Iraq and lay the foundation for a long-term partnership between our two countries.

“This transition in Iraq has allowed us to alter our posture and focus in the Gulf and in the Levant.”

-”The most significant threat to regional stability remains an Iranian regime that seeks the development of nuclear weapons, even as it continues to support terrorist organizations and acts throughout the broader Middle East.

“Accordingly, and in keeping with the President’s National Security Strategy, we will reassure our partners and allies through our efforts to build their defense capabilities and capacity.

“We will continue to plan for a broad range of military options should the President decide to use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms. Pursuant to that, we will maintain – as we have maintained – a robust force presence in the Gulf region.”

-”We face additional challenges and opportunities elsewhere around the globe. We must continue to support local efforts to combat the extremist threat that emanates from places like Somalia, Yemen and North Africa.”

-”In Europe, we will…implement a new NATO Strategic Concept by placing increased emphasis on cyber security, ballistic missile defense, and nonproliferation.”

And, most saliently:

“In the response to an aggressive North Korea and a more assertive China, our efforts to balance risk have increasingly focused on Asia.

“We will be prepared to support and defend our freedom of navigation and access to the global commons. Our partners and allies are our greatest strategic asset in the region. We will work with them to conduct multilateral exercises and operations….” [23]

At the forefront of the Pentagon’s strategic assets in the Asia-Pacific area and increasingly far beyond is Japan.

Notes

1) Obama, Gates And Clinton In Asia: U.S. Expands Military Build-Up In The East Stop NATO, November 7, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/obama-gates-and-clinton-in-asia-u-s-expands-military-build-up-in-the-east

2) U.S. Supports Japan, Confronts China And Russia Over Island Disputes Stop NATO, November 4, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/u-s-supports-japan-confronts-china-and-russia-over-island-disputes

3) Russian Information Agency Novosti, January 7, 2011
4) Yonhap News, January 4, 2011
5) Russian Information Agency Novosti, January 3, 2011
6) Yonhap News, January 4, 2011
7) Xinhua News Agency, January 10, 2011
8) Proliferation Security Initiative And U.S. 1,000-Ship Navy: Control
Of World’s Oceans, Prelude To War Stop NATO, January 29, 2009

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/proliferation-security-initiative-and-us-1000-ship-navy-control-of-worlds-oceans-prelude-to-war

9) U.S. Risks Military Clash With China In Yellow Sea Stop NATO, July 16, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/07/16/u-s-risks-military-clash-with-china-in-yellow-sea

10) Stars and Stripes, January 11, 2011
11) Hankyoreh, January 11, 2011
12) Summary of National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG), FY 2011

http://www.uk.emb-japan.go.jp/en/news/NDPG.pdf.

13) Asahi Shimbun December 11, 2011
14) U.S. Builds Military Alliance With Japan, South Korea For War In The East Stop NATO, December 14, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/u-s-builds-military-alliance-with-japan-south-korea-for-war-in-the-east

15) Kyodo News, December 11, 2010
16) Japan Times, January 11, 2011
17) Radio Netherlands/Yomiuri Shimbun, December 30, 2010
18) Japan Broadcasting Corporation Monitored by Kuwait News Agency January 6, 2011
19) Yomiuri Shimbun, January 10, 2011
20) Global Security Newswire, October 30, 2010
21) Japanese Military Joins U.S. And NATO In Horn Of Africa
Stop NATO, April 25, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/japanese-military-joins-u-s-and-nato-in-horn-of-africa

22) Department of Defense, January 5, 2011
23) GJCS Guidance for 2011

http://www.jcs.mil//content/files/2011-01/011011165132_CJCS_Annual_Guidance_2011.pdf

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VIDEO: Life No Better in Haiti, One Year Later

January 12th, 2011 by Nicole Lee

The CIA File on Luis Posada Carriles

January 12th, 2011 by Peter Kornbluh

Washington, D.C., January 11, 2011 - As the unprecedented trial of Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles begins this week in El Paso, Texas, the National Security Archive today posted a series of CIA records covering his association with the agency in the 1960s and 1970s. CIA personnel records described Posada, using his codename, “AMCLEVE/15,” as “a paid agent” at $300 a month, being utilized as a training instructor for other exile operatives, as well as an informant.  “Subject is of good character, very reliable and security conscious,” the CIA reported in 1965. Posada, another CIA document observed, incorrectly, was “not a typical ‘boom and bang’ type of individual.”

Today’s posting includes key items from Posada’s CIA file, including several previously published by the Archive, and for the first time online, the indictment from Posada’s previous prosecution–in Panama–on charges of trying to assassinate Fidel Castro with 200 pounds of dynamite and C-4 explosives (in Spanish).

“This explosive has the capacity to destroy any armored vehicle, buildings, steel doors, and the effects can extend for 200 meters…if a person were in the center of the explosion, even if they were in an armored car, they would not survive,” as the indictment described the destructive capacity of the explosives found in Posada’s possession in Panama City, where Fidel Castro was attending an Ibero-American summit in November 2000.

The judge presiding over the perjury trial of Posada has ruled that the prosecution can introduce unclassified evidence of his CIA background which might be relevant to his “state of mind” when he allegedly lied to immigration officials about his role in a series of hotel bombings in Havana in 1997. In pre-trial motions, the prosecution has introduced a short unclassified “summary” of Posada’s CIA career, which is included below.  Among other things, the summary (first cited last year in Tracey Eaton’s informative blog, “Along the Malecon”) reveals that the CIA anonymously warned former agent and accused terrorist Luis Posada of threats on his life.

A number of the Archive’s CIA documents were cited in articles in the Washington Post, and CNN coverage today on the start of the Posada trial. “The C.I.A. trained and unleashed a Frankenstein,” the New York Timesquoted Archive Cuba Documentation Project director Peter Kornbluh as stating.  “It is long past time he be identified as a terrorist and be held accountable as a terrorist.”  

Posada was convicted in Panama in 2001, along with three accomplices, of endangering public safety; he was sentenced to eight years in prison. After lobbying by prominent Cuban-American politicians from Miami, Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso pardoned all four in August 2004. A fugitive from justice in Venezuela where he escaped from prison while being tried for the October 6, 1976, mid air bombing of a Cuban jetliner which killed all 73 people on board, Posada showed up in Miami in March 2005. He was arrested on May 17 of that year by the Department of Homeland Security and held in an immigration detention center in El Paso for two years, charged with immigration fraud during the Bush administration.  Since mid 2007, he has been living on bail in Miami. In April 2009, the Obama Justice Department added several counts of perjury relating to Posada denials about his role in organizing a series of hotel, restaurant and discotheque bombings in 1997.  Since mid 2007, he has been living on bail in Miami

According to Kornbluh, “it is poetic justice that the same U.S. Government whose secret agencies created, trained, paid and deployed Posada is finally taking steps to hold him accountable in a court of law for his terrorist crimes.”

Read the Documents

Document 1: CIA, Unclassified, “Unclassified Summary of the CIA’s Relationship With Luis Clemente Posada Carriles,” Undated.

This unclassified summary of the relationship between Luis Posada Carriles and the CIA, which was provided to the court by the US Justice Department, says the CIA first had contact with Posada in connection with planning the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. He remained a paid agent of the CIA from 1965-1967 and again from 1968-1974. From 1974-76, Posada provided unsolicited threat reporting. (Additional documents introduced in court show that he officially severed ties with the CIA in February 1976.) According to this document, the CIA last had contact with Posada in 1993 when they anonymously contacted him in Honduras by telephone to warn him of a threat to his life. (This document was first cited last year in Tracey Eaton’s informative blog, “Along the Malecon.”)

Document 2: CIA, “PRQ Part II for AMCLEVE/15,” September 22, 1965.

“PRQ Part II,” or the second part of Posada’s Personal Record Questionnaire, provides operational information. Within the text of the document, Posada is described as “strongly anti-Communist” as well as a sincere believer in democracy. The document describes Posada having a “good character,” not to mention the fact that he is “very reliable, and security conscious.” The CIA recommends that he be considered for a civil position in a post-Castro government in Cuba (codenamed PBRUMEN).

Document 3: CIA, Cable, “Plan of the Cuban Representation in Exile (RECE) to Blow Up a Cuban or Soviet Vessel in Veracruz, Mexico,” July 1, 1965.
 
This CIA cable summarizes intelligence on a demolition project proposed by Jorge Mas Canosa, then the head of RECE. On the third page, a source is quoted as having informed the CIA of a payment that Mas Canosa has made to Luis Posada in order to finance a sabotage operation against ships in Mexico. Posada reportedly has “100 pounds of C-4 explosives and some detonators” and limpet mines to use in the operation.

 Document 4: CIA, Memorandum, “AMCLEVE /15,” July 21, 1966.

This document includes two parts-a cover letter written by Grover T. Lythcott, Posada’s CIA handler, and an attached request written by Posada to accept a position on new coordinating Junta composed of several anti-Castro organizations. In the cover letter, Lythcbtt refers to Posada by his codename, AMCLEVE/I5, and discusses his previous involvement withthe Agency. He lionizes Posada, writing that his ”performance in all assigned tasks has been excellent,” and urges that he be permitted to work with the combined anti-Castro exile groups. According to the document, Lythcott suggests that Posada be taken off the CIA payroll to facilitate his joining the anti-Castro militant junta, which will be led by RECE. Lythcott insists that Posada will function as an effective moderating force considering he is “acutely aware of the international implications of ill planned or over enthusiastic activities against Cuba.” In an attached memo, Posada, using the name “Pete,” writes that if he is on the Junta, “they will never do anything to endanger the security of this Country (like blow up Russian ships)” and volunteers to “give the Company all the intelligence that I can collect.”

Document 5: CIA, Personal Record Questionnaire on Posada, April 17, 1972.

This “PRQ” was compiled in 1972 at a time Posada was a high level official at the Venezuelan intelligence service, DISIP, in charge of demolitions. The CIA was beginning to have some concerns about him, based on reports that he had taken CIA explosives equipment to Venezuela, and that he had ties to a Miami mafia figure named Lefty Rosenthal. The PRQ spells out Posada’s personal background and includes his travel to various countries between 1956 and 1971. It also confirms that one of his many aliases was “Bambi Carriles.” 

Document 6: CIA, Report, “Traces on Persons Involved in 6 Oct 1976 Cubana Crash,” October 13, 1976.

In the aftermath of the bombing of Cubana flight 455, the CIA ran a file check on all names associated with the terror attack. In a report to the FBI the Agency stated that it had no association with the two Venezuelans who were arrested. A section on Luis Posada Carriles was heavily redacted when the document was declassified. But the FBI retransmitted the report three days later and that version was released uncensored revealing Posada’s relations with the CIA.

Document 7: CIA, Secret Intelligence Report, “Activities of Cuban Exile Leader Orlando Bosch During his Stay in Venezuela,” October 14, 1976.

A source in Venezuela supplied the CIA with detailed intelligence on a fund raiser held for Orlando Bosch and his organization CORU after he arrived in Caracas in September 1976. The source described the dinner at the house of a Cuban exile doctor, Hildo Folgar, which included Venezuelan government officials. Bosch was said to have essentially asked for a bribe in order to refrain from acts of violence during the United Nations meeting in November 1976, which would be attended by Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez. He was also quoted as saying that his group had done a “great job” in assassinating former Chilean ambassador Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C. on September 21, and now was going to “try something else.” A few days later, according to this intelligence report, Luis Posada Carriles was overheard to say that “we are going to hit a Cuban airplane” and “Orlando has the details.”

Document 8: First Circuit Court of Panama, “Fiscalia Primera Del Primer Circuito Judicial De Panama: Vista Fiscal No. 200”, September 28, 2001.

This lengthy document is the official indictment in Panama of Luis Posada Carriles and 4 others for the attempted assassination of Fidel Castro at the 10th Ibero-American Summit in November 2000. In this indictment, Posada Carriles is accused of possession of explosives, endangerment of public safety, illicit association, and falsification of documents. After traveling to Panama, according to the evidence gathered, “Luis Posada Carriles and Raul Rodriguez Hamouzova rented a red Mitsubishi Lancer at the International Airport of Tocumen, in which they transported the explosives and other devices necessary to create a bomb.” (Original Spanish: “Luis Posada Carriles y Raul Rodriguez Hamouzova rentaron en el Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen de la referida empresa el vehículo marca Mitsubishi Lancer, color rojo, dentro del cual se transportaron los explosives y artefactos indicados para elaborar una bomba.”)  This bomb was intended to take the life of Fidel Castro; Castro was to present at the Summit on November 17th, and what Carriles had proposed to do “wasn’t easy, because it occurred at the Summit, and security measures would be extreme.” (Original Spanish: “lo que se proponía hacer no era fácil, porque ocurría en plena Cumbre, y las medidas de seguridad serían extremas.”)
 
After being discovered by agents of the Explosives Division of the National Police, they ascertained that “this explosive has the capacity to destroy an armored vehicle, buildings, steel doors, and the effects of an explosive of this class and quality can extend for 200 meters.” Additionally, “to a human, from a distance of 200 meters it would affect the senses, internal hemorrhages, and if the person were in the center of the explosion, even if they were in an armored car, they would not survive…the destructive capacity of this material is complete.” (Original Spanish: “Este explosivo tiene la capacidad de destruir cualquier carro blindado, puede destruir edificios, puertas de acero, y que la onda expansiva de esta calidad y clase de explosive puede alcanzar hasta 200 metros…Al ser humano, sostienen, a la distancia de 200 metros le afectaría los sentidos, hemorragios internos, y si la persona estuviese en el centro de la explosion, aunque estuviese dentro de un carro blindado no sobreviviría…la capacidad destructive de este material es total.”)

The indictment states that when Posada was “asked about the charges against him, including possession of explosives, possession of explosives that endanger public safety, illicit association, and falsification of documents…he expresses having combated subversion against democratic regimes along several fronts, specifically anti-Castro subversion.” (Original Spanish: “Preguntado sobre los cargos formulados, es decir Posesión de Explosivos, Posesión de Explosivos que implica Peligro Común, Asociación Ilicita, y Falsedad de Documentos…Expresa haber combatido en distintos frentes la subversión contra regimens democráticos, ‘quiero decir la subversión castrista.’”)

Posada and his accomplices were eventually convicted of endangering public safety and sentenced to 8 years in prison. He was pardoned by Panamanian president, Mireya Moscosa, after only four years in August 2004 and lived as a fugitive in Honduras until March 2005 when he illegally entered the United States and applied for political asylum.

The strange case of accused swindler and suspected CIA banker R. Allen Stanford became a whole lot stranger last week.

During a preliminary hearing in Houston, U.S. District Judge David Hittner ruled that Stanford, charged with orchestrating an $8 billion dollar Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of investors, cannot be tried until he undergoes detoxification for a drug addiction acquired after his incarceration in a federal detention facility.

Talk about a convenient turn of events!

“Nothing can be done until the medical aspect is cleared up,” Hittner told defense lawyers and prosecutors during an all-day hearing that examined Stanford’s mental competence to stand trial, Bloomberg News reported.

The banker’s court-appointed defense team is seeking a two-year delay, citing the mountain of evidence, some two million pages at last count, they must review before the trial can proceed. Stanford’s apparent inability to participate in his own defense would certainly complicate matters.

With a net worth once estimated at $2 billion, the accused fraudster was declared indigent last fall after his assets were seized and (known) accounts frozen following his 2009 arrest and indictment.

In October, U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas ruled that Stanford and codefendants Laura Pendergest-Holt, Gilberto Lopez, Mark Kuhurt and Leroy King, the former chief regulator of the Bank of Antigua, cannot tap a $100 million Lloyds of London insurance policy to pay attorney fees.

According to the ruling, “lawyers for Lloyds had proven at a trial in August that it was likely that Stanford had committed money laundering.” The court declared “that the policy’s money laundering exclusion applies to justify underwriters’ denial of insurance coverage at this time,” Reuters reported.

Indicted eighteen months ago on 21 civil and criminal counts, including mail, wire, securities fraud and money laundering, Stanford is also suspected of running another in a long line of “full service banks” for American secret state agencies, including the CIA.

Interestingly enough, one of Stanford’s early defense teams was led by none other than Robert S. Bennett, the high-powered attorney who successfully fought off prosecution for his client, Jose A. Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s clandestine division, accused of destroying 92 torture videotapes of prisoners held at Agency “black sites.”

This latest twist in the sleazy affair raise uncomfortable questions for prosecutors: just how does one become drug addicted while in federal custody?

According to Bloomberg, “three psychiatrists, one working for the government and two working for the defense, testified that Stanford’s dependency on prescription anti-anxiety medication and the after-effects of a head injury he sustained in a jailhouse beating left him unfit for the trial” which was slated to begin later this month.

Victor Scarano, a defense psychiatrist testified that the banker’s dependency on the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam, along with the powerful anti-depressant mirtazapine, was the result of “overmedication” by his jailers.

Scarano testified that for more than a year Stanford “has been taking 3 milligrams a day of the anti-anxiety drug clonazepam, and that a normal dose is up to 1 milligram a day for no longer than two weeks,” the Houston Chronicle disclosed.

The psychiatrist told the court that “he is unable to work effectively and rationally with his attorneys in his defense against the charges.”

“He is unable to focus, he’s unable to keep a train of thought,” Scarano testified.

A second psychiatrist, Steven Rosenblatt, hired by the government, “testified that Stanford is suffering from delirium, likely brought on by the medication.”

During Thursday’s hearing, Stanford’s attorney Ali Fazel, told the court that his client had been assaulted while in federal custody, severely beaten and that it was prison physicians who prescribed the medications to which the accused swindler is now addicted. “It’s the government that caused the problem,” Fazel said.

The Independent averred this will raise “fresh and disturbing questions about the deterioration of Stanford’s mental and physical health in the 18 months he has already spent behind bars.”

Among the questions likely to be raised is why, for some unknown and still unexplained reason prison doctors dispensed triple the normal dose of a suite of drugs known to produce untoward side effects.

According to Wikipedia, clonazepam is used to treat epilepsy, anxiety disorder and panic disorder, and in combination with lithium and haloperidol, it is also used for the initial treatment of mania or acute psychosis.

This is certainly a curious choice for long-term treatment of a concussion. While Stanford may be a notorious huckster who believed he could do no wrong, even as he allegedly robbed investors blind, there is no evidence he suffered a psychotic break with reality. In fact, the evidence suggests quite the opposite.

Clonazepam is characterized by its “fast onset of action and high effectiveness rate and low toxicity in overdose but has drawbacks due to adverse reactions including paradoxical effects, drowsiness, and cognitive impairment.”

According to scholarly literature cited by Wikipedia, “cognitive impairments can persist for at least 6 months after withdrawal of clonazepam; it is unclear whether full recovery of memory functions occurs. Other long-term effects of benzodiazepines include tolerance, a benzodiazepine dependence as well as a benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome occurs in a third of people treated with clonazepam for longer than 4 weeks.”

Common side effects include drowsiness, interference with cognitive and motor performance, irritability and aggression, psychomotor agitation, lack of motivation, loss of libido, hallucinations, short-term memory loss, and what are described as “anterograde amnesia (common with higher doses)” or, the “loss of the ability to create new memories … leading to a partial or complete inability to recall the recent past.”

The second drug dispensed to Stanford, the anti-depressant mirtazapine, is used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and is said to “exacerbate some patients’ depression or anxiety or cause suicidal ideation,” Wikipedia informs us.

While “the potential for dangerous drug interactions with mirtazapine is considered to be very low,” the drug may “increase the effects of … benzodiazepines,” e.g. clonazepam, the apparent drug of choice deployed by Stanford’s jailers as part of his “treatment.”

Attorneys and psychiatrists told the court that the accused swindler was treated for more than a year with triple the “normal dose” of a drug known for producing “paradoxical effects” including “a partial or complete inability to recall the recent past.”

The question is why?

While Stanford’s “overmedication” may have an innocent explanation, we cannot dismiss the possibility that someone or some entity perhaps, say an intelligence agency with decades of pharmacological knowledge derived from illicit human experiments might be interested in inducing permanent “cognitive impairment” in the dodgy banker.

A simpler explanation however, such as gross negligence on the part of his jailers cannot be ruled out. It is even quite possible, as assistant U.S. attorney Gregg Costa asserted, that Stanford “could have been faking the delirium in order to be let out of jail before facing trial” as The New York Times reported.

And given the wretched conditions that exist in American gulags, where control of prison populations through overmedication is the norm not the exception, this could also be a mitigating factor in Stanford’s case. As Human Rights Watch points out, prisoners adjudged mentally ill often receive “inappropriate kinds or amounts of psychotropic medication that further impairs their ability to function.”

On the other hand, Allen Stanford’s high-profile, his close proximity to drug-fueled intelligence operations, decades of hastily-closed investigations into alleged security frauds and a “stand down” by the SEC “at the request of another federal agency” as The New York Times disclosed, coupled with drugs investigations that “lie buried in the paperwork” gathered by the SEC as the Houston Chronicle averred, however one cares to slice it, a drug addiction acquired in federal custody does open a new, and highly suspicious, chapter in the Stanford drama.

The maddeningly complex character of Allen Stanford’s operations as the Financial Times revealed, and what role other giant banks including Bank Julius Baer, Credit Suisse and HSBC, which acted as SIB’s correspondent bank for all European deposits played in the affair, may never be unraveled if he cannot stand trial.

In this respect, a permanent “inability to recall the recent past” induced by federal prison authorities may be just what the doctor ordered.

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.

Major Die-Off of Fish Along Lakefront

January 12th, 2011 by Dale Bowman

A bizarre scene is evolving on the Chicago lakefront, with Canada geese and mallard ducks gulping down dead or dying gizzard shad.

A major die-off of what appears to be the 2010 class is happening in Chicago harbors. Thousands, perhaps far more than that, of dead gizzard shad in the 3- to 5-inch range are frozen in the ice of Chicago harbors or floating around in open patches of water.

“Gizzard shad are pretty sensitive,’’ Lake Michigan Program biologist Dan Makauskas said. “On the toughness scale, the herrings are pretty soft.’’

Gizzard shad, members of the herring family, are more sensitive to drops in oxygen levels than most fish. And thick ice came early to Chicago harbors in December.

The massive die-off was first documented Thursday by Carl Vizzone, a North Side fisherman who sits on the board of Perch America. What caught his eye was Canada geese and mallards eating dying shad at open water by DuSable and Diversey harbors. “This is not normal,’’ he said.

He’s right, agreed naturalist Joel Greenberg, author of A Natural History of the Chicago Region. Canada geese and mallards normally don’t eat fish, but, Greenberg said, “They are opportunistic.”

Other species of fish do not appear to be involved in the die-off.

Makauskas, who speculated that the young shad may not have built up enough reserves to survive the early onslaught of extreme cold, agreed the die-off is abnormal.

Dale Bowman is the outdoors columnist for the Sun-Times

Housing Slump Worse than the Great Depression

January 12th, 2011 by Washington's Blog

Zillow’s reports:

The Zillow Home Value Index has now fallen 26% since its peak in June 2006. That’s more than the 25.9% decline in the Depression-era years between 1928 and 1933.

November marked the 53rd consecutive month of home value declines, with the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) falling 0.8% from October to November, and falling 5.1% year-over-year.

***

In the near term, home values will continue to fall thanks to excess inventory of homes, high negative equity and foreclosure rates, and weakened demand due to elevated unemployment.

The mainstream media is starting to pick up on the story. For example, Reuters writes:

Home prices fell for the 53rd consecutive month in November, taking the decline past that of the Great Depression for the first time in the prolonged housing slump, according to Zillow.

Home prices have fallen 26 percent since their peak in 2006, exceeding the 25.9 percent drop registered in the five years between 1928 and 1933 ….

And CNBC notes:

The housing market, on the other hand, just crossed that threshold.

Home values have fallen 26 percent since their peak in June 2006, worse than the 25.9-percent decline seen during the Depression years between 1928 and 1933, Zillow reported.

November marked the 53rd consecutive month (4 ½ years) that home values have fallen.

What’s worse, it’s not over yet: Home values are expected to continue to slide as inventories pile up, and likely won’t recover until the job market improves.

***

The value of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue [i.e. the White House] has dropped by $80 million, or nearly 25 percent since the peak of the housing boom. It’s current value is $251.6 million, according to Zillow, down from $331.5

TEHRAN, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) — Iran said Monday it has dismantled an Israeli spying network and arrested a group of its terrorist-spies who were linked to the assassination of its nuclear scientist.

According to an announcement by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, the Iranian security forces arrested the elements of the terror attack on Iran’s nuclear scientist, Dr. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, and annihilated the “spying and terrorist network of the Zionist regime” of Israel linked to the assassination, Iranian state IRINN TV reported.

The announcement said that “In order to carry out its non-human, anti-Islamic and anti-Iranian wills, the Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency) has used its bases in some European, non- European and some neighboring states of the Islamic Republic to conduct the terror attack against Dr. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi,” according to the TV report.

In January 2010, Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, the nuclear scientist from Tehran University, was killed by a remote-controlled bomb attached to a motorbike parked near his house.

Following clever security operations, Iran finally succeeded in arresting the main agents behind the terrorist incident and dismantled a network comprising of spies and terrorists commissioned by Israel, an Intelligence Ministry announcement was quoted as saying by local satellite Press TV on Monday.

The announcement was also quoted as saying by IRINN that in the near future the detailed information concerning the arrests will be issued.

In the meantime, Iranian lawmaker Esmail Kowsari said Monday that the assassins of Ali-Mohammadi were trained by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, the local Fars news agency reported.

“Long before the assassination of Ali-Mohammadi, the intelligence officials of Israel, the UK and the U.S. had publicly threatened to kill our nuclear scientists,” Kowsari was quoted as saying by Press TV.

“They (the assassins) have confessed that they were trained for terror acts by Mossad and all the (terror) equipment were given to them by Mossad,” Kowsari, member of National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of Iranian Majlis (parliament), said according to Fars.

“Due to the confessions of the assassins of Ali-Mohammadi, the judiciary system of the country will punish them soon,” said Kowsari.

In November 2010, another Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriar was also killed by a bomb attached to his car on the way to his work.

Iranian authorities has been accusing the United States and Israeli intelligence services of behind the assassinations. 

Gun Idolatry in Current American Culture

January 12th, 2011 by Prof Rodrigue Tremblay

“We are devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities. As the Brady Campaign, we work to enact and enforce sensible gun laws, regulations, and public policies through grassroots activism, electing public officials who support gun laws, and increasing public awareness of gun violence.” Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Mission statement 

Is the real American motto of the current American generation “In Guns We Trust”? This could surely be the impression one gets from the unfolding of recent events.

There exists currently in the United States an unhealthy obsession with guns, —a form of idolatry of the gun as a useful tool to settle differences between individuals. Increasingly, it seems, when someone feels slighted in any way, the reaction is often to rely on the gun to settle things. Instances of appalling gun-related incidents seem to multiply and to be occurring on a daily basis in the current American cultural climate.

A disgruntled employee is let go; the upset person goes home, takes a gun and comes back to the work site to set the score straight, killing many people in a shooting rampage. A deranged political extremist campaigns against a candidate who is nevertheless elected; the disappointed individual takes his easily available gun and shots at the politician and kills half a dozen other people. A devout religious fanatic feels that somehow his religion and its adepts are not well considered; he takes his gun and he assassinates at random everybody around. Frustrated students fail at school or are ostracized somewhat by classmates; they go home, take their parents’ gun and kill teachers and scores of fellow students.

Even some disturbed ten-year olds now resort to the gun and turn it against their mother or father when they have been scolded, the gun being conveniently stashed in their room. It’s a far cry from the commandment “Honor Thy Mother and Father”!

There would appear to be a firearms-related homocide crisis in the United States, but the idea that guns are required in the daily life of individuals is so well entrenched and propagated that a state of collective denial persists. Two hundred years ago, the vast majority of people lived on farms. Understandably, guns were then a necessity for hunting and for protection in a still wild and relatively lawless environment. Nowadays, the vast majority of people live in large urban areas where no hunting is allowed. What is then the need for large and small firearms, if not to shoot other people?

There is, of course, the persistent myth that Americans have the “right” to amass large quantity of firearms and to use them. Here again this seems to be a relic of bygone times when the young American republic was threatened by its former British masters and could lose its recently acquired independence through a British invasion. At that time, there was a perceived need to constitute rapidly a militia to defend the homeland, and armed farmers could provide such an instant army. That is the logical interpretation that can be given to the second amendment of the U.S Constitution of 1789 that says: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The most logical implication here is that some convenient precautions can be taken to defend the state with “well regulated” armed militias, at a time when the U.S. federal government was perceived to be weak and incapable of mounting a federal military response to an outside invasion or to a domestic armed uprising, and that it should not prevent the states from raising militias to maintain order. Such was the constitutional climate at the time. —This provision in the U.S. Constitution was hardly designed to be an open license for each and every individual to arm oneself, to use such arms at will, and to constitute a “non-regulated” one-man militia if he chooses to do so.

Such a wide and extravagant interpretation in a modern urban environment would seem to be a sure recipe for social and political anarchy. Moreover, nowadays, the U.S. federal government is in full control of a powerful U.S. military organization and has no need whatsoever of private militias to defend the territory. Also, today, the state national guards have de facto taken the place that quickly enrolled private militias could have occupied in the past. There is no need today for readily available private armed militias to defend the territory.

Nevertheless, some American judges have ruled, and some American politicians have agreed, that the centuries-old right to form “well regulated” militias and to carry arms to defend the homeland really means that anybody, in the current modern environment, has an absolute individual right to own dangerous firearms of the nature and quantity he chooses, including sophisticated assault weapons, and to use them, and that no elected government can interfere.

The most recent case on this issue has been the ruling on Parker v District of Columbia, in which the District of Columbia Circuit court of appeals ruled on March 9, 2007 that a D.C. ban on handgun ownership without a license violated individual rights under the U. S. Second Amendment. —And that’s where things stand today… and the killing continues.

How many tragedies will be needed before mentalities change?

Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and can be reached at [email protected]. He is the author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics” at: www.TheCodeForGlobalEthics.com/

 The book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, by Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay, prefaced by Dr. Paul Kurtz, has just been released by Prometheus Books.

Please visit the book site at:

www.TheCodeForGlobalEthics.com/

‘Hit Men Kill 240 Iraqi Officials’

January 12th, 2011 by Global Research

Iraqi Interior Ministry’s Under-Secretary for Security Major General Hussein Kamal says nearly 240 security men and intelligence officials have recently been killed by hit men.

Nearly 360 Iraqis, including 240 high-level security officials, have been killed by so-called ‘hit men,’ a recent phenomenon that has taken root in Iraq, General Kamal added on Tuesday, the Iraqi daily Al-Zaman, a newspaper published simultaneously in London and Baghdad, reported. 

The tactic involves utilizing silencers on pistols and rifles to enable an attacker to silently kill their victim and then flee without being noticed, the Iraqi official added. 

Such weapons were produced during the Baath regime; however, there is a possibility that they are smuggled into the country from the porous northern, eastern and southern borders, General Kamal explained. 

The deputy Iraqi interior minister further added that Iraqi counter-terrorism forces were taking measures to track down the attackers supposedly belonging to al-Qaeda and the Baath Party of executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. 

The Iraqi Council of Ministers has agreed to recruit 200,000 policemen and interior ministry staff for better protecting Baghdad, Kamal said earlier. 

The force will approximately double the number of the current policemen in the Iraqi capital. 

Militant threats and a lack of hotel space for delegations pose stiff challenges to Iraq’s plans to host for the first time in 20 years the annual Arab League meeting on March 23. 

Israel Calls for Attack on Iran

January 12th, 2011 by Global Research

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for “a credible military option against Iran” to force Tehran to end its nuclear energy program.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said that military action should be taken by the international community and headed by the United States. 

“You have to ratchet up the pressure and… I don’t think that this pressure will be sufficient to have this regime change course without a credible military option that is put before them by the international community led by the United States,” he stated. 

He went on to say that sanctions are not enough to stop Iran’s nuclear energy program, and they should be backed by some military action. 

He has made similar bellicose remarks in the past, but they were always rejected by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. 

Netanyahu made the comments a week after Tehran announced Iran’s nuclear sites were being opened to envoys representing “geographical and political groups” in the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

The invitation came ahead of the multifaceted talks between Iran and the P5+1 group — Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany — that are scheduled to be held in Turkey from January 21 to 22. 

Iran and the P5+1 group wrapped up two days of comprehensive talks in Geneva on December 7, during which the two sides agreed to hold the next round of negotiations in Turkey. 

Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili represented Iran at the talks and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton represented the P5+1 group. 

The UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran last year. 

But Tehran says sanctions have failed to hamper its efforts to master peaceful nuclear technology. 

And the IAEA continues to conduct regular inspections and camera surveillance of Iran’s nuclear facilities. 

Iranian officials say the talks provide an opportunity to display Iran’s policy of nuclear transparency to the international community. 

Islamophobia and the Plight of Christian Arabs

January 12th, 2011 by Nicola Nasser

Suddenly, the U. S. – European alliance is acting to protect the “existence” of the Christian Arab minority against the Muslim Arab majority whose very existence is besieged and threatened by this same alliance, drawing on a wide spread Islamophobia while at the same time exacerbating Islamophobia among western audiences whom the international financial crisis is now crushing to the extent that it does not spare them time or resources to question the real political motives of their governments, which have been preoccupied for decades now with restructuring the Arab world geographically, demographically, politically and culturally against the will of its peoples with  a pronounced aim of creating a “new Middle East.”

Ironically this sudden western awakening to the plight of Christian Arabs comes at a time when all Arabs, both Muslims and Christians, are crushed by U.S. and Israeli military occupation or foreign political hegemony, but worse still when they are in the grip of a social upheaval in the very states that are by will or by coercion loyal to this alliance, where unbalanced development and an unemployment rate more than double the world average are pushing masses onto the streets to challenge the legitimacy of their own pro – west governments. Exactly at this time, when Arab masses need their “social” unity for national liberation, sovereignty, liberty and freedom, a European campaign is being waged to divide them along religious and sectarian lines.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy — who on Dec. 9, 2009 wrote in Le Monde defending a Switzerland vote banning Muslim mosques from building minarets and made a national fuss on banning less than two thousand French citizens from wearing Niqab — said on Jan. 6 that he “cannot accept” what he described as “religious cleansing” of Arab Christians. His Foreign Minister, Michele Alliot-Marie, wrote to the EU’s foreign affairs baroness, Catherine Ashton, asking for the union to draw up a plan of action in response. France took the initiative to call a meeting of the UN Security Council last Nov. 9 to discuss international protection of Iraqi Christians. On Dec. 22, Italy’s foreign Minister Franco Frattini said his country was presenting a resolution to the UN to condemn their “persecution.” Together with his French, Polish and Hungarian counterparts, Frattini wrote a joint letter to Ashton asking her to table the issue at the foreign ministers meeting on January 31 and to consider taking “concrete measures” to protect them. On Dec. 17, the German Bundestag passed a resolution defending the freedom of religion around tee world, but viewed with “great concern” the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council on March 25 last year against the “defamation of religions” because it “undermines the existing human rights understanding.”

The European political reaction sounds excessively selective in its concern over an allegedly missing right of the freedom of religion of the Christian minority in a region where civil and human rights for the Muslim majority are missing thanks in the first place for the support the regional governing regimes, which confiscate these same rights, receive from the U.S. – European alliance, and the European selectivity allegedly in defense of the “threatened” existence of the Christian Arab minorities speaks louder when it is compared with the deafening European silence over the threatened existence of the Arab and Islamic cultural identities of the majority, let alone the European incitement against both identities, a double standard that explicitly invokes suspicious questions about the credibility and sincerity of the European “rights” concerns and about the real political goals behind these pronounced concerns. For example, more than 300 mosques were attacked, some of them of a UNESCO World Heritage Center standards, hundreds of Muslim clerics were murdered, millions of Muslims were forced either to migrate internally or immigrate externally in the U.S. – occupied Iraq, and the plight of Iraqi Christians has been and still is merely a side show of the overall destruction of the whole state there, but the European rights consciousness did not and still does not find it worth a similar call for defense and protection.

Unfortunately, this traditional European divide – and – rule policy in the Arab world, as it was the case for centuries, is today finding ample papal blessing from the Vatican to justify itself, not in the eyes of Arabs, but in the eyes of its own audiences. President Sarkozy’s whistle blower cry this January 6 that Christians in the Arab – Islamic world are victims of a planned ‘religious cleansing,” came on the backdrop of the Vatican’s Pope Benedict XVI repeated call on the world leaders to rise up for the protection and “defense of the Christians in the Middle East.” It is a cry fraught with the connotations of the historical precedent of the Vatican – blessed Fourth Crusade, which consisted mainly of a crusading army originating from areas within France and which was diverted from invading Egypt by sea to the sacking of Constantinople, the capital of the political and spiritual rival, the Orthodox Church, to which the overwhelming majority of Christians in the Arab – Muslim world belong, instead of “liberating” Jerusalem from Muslims.

Pope Benedict XVI’s wilful or careless indifference towards exploiting his church concerns by “secular” politicians like Sarkozy to serve their down to earth goals, or towards exacerbating Islamophobia, which in turn fuels Christianphobia, is reminiscent of how the older Sarkozy –type “Christ – abiding” and non – secular politicians concealed from the bulk of the crusading army a letter from Pope Innocent III, who made the new Fourth Crusade the goal of his pontificate, warning against the diversion of the crusade, forbidding any atrocities against “Christian neighbors” and threatening excommunication. In as much as the indifference of the crusader pope to carry out his threat had led to the demise of the Byzantine Empire, the fall of Constantinople in the hands of the Muslims less than three hundred years later and turning the crusades into a war against the rival church more than against the Muslims, the indifference of the present day Pope Benedict XVI is threatening to counterproductively achieve the demise of Christian existence in the “East,” which he has made, it seems, the goal of his pontificate.

Ever since the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople in 1204, Arab Christians in the Muslim world have been wary of the messages and emissaries of Rome as a cultural spearhead of foreign invasion and hegemony. Even a Catholic loyal to the Vatican like the incumbent Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, had this to tell the Israeli Haaretz exclusively four days before Benedict XVI’s “pilgrimage” to the Holy Land in September 2009: “The thing that worries me most is the speech that the pope will deliver here. One word for the Muslims and I’m in trouble; one word for the Jews and I’m in trouble. At the end of the visit the pope goes back to Rome and I stay here with the consequences.” Patriarch Twal’s fears were vindicated last week when Egypt recalled its Vatican envoy for consultations over the Pope’s remarks on Egyptian Copts: The “new statements from the Vatican” are “unacceptable interference” in Egypt’s “internal affairs,” the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement. Syrian analyst Sami Moubayed recently wrote that similar papal remarks were to the “fundamentalists .. a blessing in disguise.”

Pope Benedict XVI since he occupied the papacy seat seems totally insensitive to the worries of his representative in Jerusalem; he doesn’t seem short of words and seems careful not to miss an opportunity to utter provocative anti-Muslim pronouncements that place both his church clergy and followers on the defensive among both their Christian as well as Muslim compatriots. However, he places them in a more critical position by his helplessness to find any words or an opportunity in his latest torrential rhetoric about the protection of Christians and their plight in Holy Land itself, where they have been victims of actual ethnic and religious cleansing for more than sixty years now since the Palestinian Nakba in 1948, when the state of Israel was declared independent on the ruins of their homes.

From a regional perspective, both Christian and Muslim, the very existence of Christians is threatened, besieged and gradually cleansed by the Israeli military occupation in the Palestinian cradle of Christianity – - where Christ was born, spread the word of God, love and peace and crucified. The papal silence on this simple fact of life is much louder in the region than Pope’s pronounced appeals for the defense and protection of Christians on the peripheries of the birthplace of Christianity, in Iraq, Egypt or Lebanon for example, because when the center of Christian gravity crumbles in Jerusalem, the periphery supports would not hold for long and even the important St, Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican would be a pale substitute, and the center of Christian gravity in Jerusalem is almost totally Judaized, and is off limits to the Christians both in the Palestinian cradle of Christianity as well as to their brethren on the Arab and Muslim periphery, unless they are granted an Israeli military permit to visit, which is rare and very tightly selective.

Viewed from Christian regional perspective, the papal appeals for their protection could hardly be described other than contradictory, if not hypocrite, particularly in view of a Vatican’s document in July 2007, approved by Benedict XVI, which declared Catholicism as “the only true church of Christ” and “other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches.”  So, “what” Christians Pope Benedict is appealing to defend and protect? A year earlier, Coptic Pope Shenouda III denied there was any dialogue or contacts with the Vatican although thirty three years before both sides agreed to form joint committees for bilateral dialogue. With the exception of Armenian church as a late newcomer but nonetheless an independent church, the Coptic, Orthodox, Chaldean, Assyrian, Syriac, Melkite and other Eastern communions have existed and coexisted among and with Arabs since the earliest days of Christianity, because they are Arabs either by ethnicity or by culture and they are the overwhelming majority of Christians in the Middle East and an integral part of the Arab society.

Islamophobia is warning that Muslims are “returning” to Islam, but is it not top on the agenda of Pope Benedict XVI to return Europe to Christianity? “We must reject both secularism and fundamentalism,” the Pope said in his annual address on Christmas Day, but is it not secularism that the Pope, Europe and the U.S. are preaching now to de-Arabise and de-Islamise Arabs? This double standard ironical western contradiction deprives their calls for the protection of Arab Christians of whatever credibility it might still have in the Arab eyes. Their “protection” will prove counterproductive sooner or later. Christianphobia that fuels anti – Christian blind terror is an already active byproduct.

The ‘Church of Islam’  

Commenting on the Synod of Middle East Christian leaders that convened in the Vatican last October, the spiritual leader of the Melkite “Catholics,” Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, Gregorios III, had this to say, quoted by the Lebanese Daily Star last December: “The Synod for the Middle East is a Synod for Arab countries, for Arabs, a Synod for Arab Christians in symbiosis with their Arab society. It is a Synod for the ‘Church of the Arabs’ and ‘Church of Islam’.” The adviser to the Muslim Sunni Mufti of Lebanon, Dr. Mohammad Al – Sammak, who was invited to the Synod, recognized the Arab identity of Christians in the Middle East: “I cannot live my being Arabic without the Middle Eastern Christian Arab .. They are an integral part of the .. formation of Islamic civilization,” he told the Synod. 

Politically and religiously these Christians have been on the other side of the Vatican – blessed old or modern western conquests, and politically and religiously they have been all along protected by Arabs and Muslims, otherwise they would not have survived. Their existence is now under threat because the existence of their Arab – Islamic incubator is on the line, besieged either by direct military occupation in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan or by economic sanctions and political hegemony; their existence was not threatened when the Arab – Islamic state was an empire and a world power, nor was it threatened during the crusades despite the atrocities committed by their western co-religious crusaders, which would have invited a reprisal had it not been for the teachings of Islam itself.

The U.S. – led world war on terror targeting mainly Arabs and Muslims is perplexing western pro – law, peace and human rights audiences by smoke –screening their governments’ military adventures and modern crusades, which is the real action that created terrorism as the only possible reaction expected by the overpowered nations. However the invading creator and the created terrorists in their bloody divide are smoke – screening also any possible resurface of the forgotten Islamic covenants that protected the indigenous two thousand – year old Arab Christians since the advent of Islam in the seventh century. In the year 628 AD, a Christian delegation from St. Catherine’s Monastery, in Egypt’s Sinai, met Prophet Mohammad and requested his protection. The Prophet granted them a protection charter.

Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and a fellow of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, wrote this about the charter: “The document is not a modern human rights treaty but even though it was penned in 628 A.D., it clearly protects the right to property, freedom of religion, freedom of work, and security of the person. A remarkable aspect of the charter is that it imposes no conditions on Christians for enjoying its privileges. It is enough that they are Christians. They are not required to alter their beliefs, they do not have to make any payments and they do not have any obligations. This is a charter of rights without any duties! The first and the final sentence of the charter are critical. They make the promise eternal and universal. By ordering Muslims to obey it until the Day of Judgment the charter again undermines any future attempts to revoke the privileges. These rights are inalienable.” In the year 631, Prophet Muhammad received a delegation of sixty Christians from Najran in the Prophet’s mosque in Medinah, allowed them to pray in the mosque, and concluded the “covenant to the Christians of Najran” treaty which granted them religious and administrative autonomy as citizens of the Islamic State. In 637, Islamic Caliph Omar ibn al – Khattab granted the similar “Covenant of Omar” to the Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronius.

However, neither Islamophobians nor their terrorist Islamists have any interest but to dump these Islamic ideological covenants for the protection of Arab Christians. No Arab Christian fears for his life form his Muslim neighbor or his government, but he or she definitely fears these two protagonists, who are both foreign to his history and culture. No foreign protection of Arab Christians could match the protection and solidarity they received from their Muslim compatriots both in Iraq and Egypt following the bombings of a church in Baghdad on October 31 and a church in Alexandria on New Year Eve. In the latter case there were reports of Muslim human shields to protect the Christmas religious celebrations of Egyptian Christians, let alone the solidarity statements by both outlawed Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya and the Muslim Brotherhood and the thousands of police deployed for the same purpose, in a remarkable show of national unity and historic coexistence.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), scheduled to meet in the UAE on January 19, will discuss the situation of Christians in member states, according to Lebanon parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri. On this background, there are also reports that Egypt will ask the Arab League economic summit this month, to discuss foreign, and in particular western, interference in Arab Affairs. European offers of protection are already backlashing. 

The only real threat to the existence of Arab Christians showed for the first time when the European colonialism first, then the U.S. imperialism, self – appointed western powers as their protectors. It is noteworthy that in both the Iraqi and Egyptian cases the native Christian Arabs are now paying the heavy price of the U.S. anti – Pan –Arabism of both late Jamal Abdul Nasser and Saddam Hussein. Their plight started with the forcing of pro – U.S. regimes in both countries.

To describe the latest attacks against Christians as a plan of “religious cleansing,” as President Sarkozy has done, suggests a persecution that doesn’t exist; this is “not the case in the Middle East at the moment,” it is “not supported by the wider community,” said Fiona McCallum of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, who is a specialist on the Christian communities in the Middle East, adding: “It’s important to also note that immigration takes place from the region from both Christians and Muslims as well.”

Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Bir Zeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

In October 2010, Truthout tested several water and soil samples from the Gulf of Mexico for chemicals in BP’s crude oil and toxic dispersants. One sample of dead marine life was also tested.

Truthout also obtained and had analyzed a sample of pure Corexit 9500, one of the toxic dispersants used to sink the crude oil. The dispersants BP has used in the Gulf of Mexico are banned in at least 19 other countries. BP has used at least 1.9 million gallons of the dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico to sink their 4.9 million barrels of crude oil.

The samples were tested in a private lab via gas chromatography by an analyst who requested anonymity.

Pass Christian Harbor at dusk. Photo: Erika Blumenfeld

Pass Christian Harbor at dusk. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

Lab tests have confirmed oil and chemicals from the dispersants in the samples tested, which contradicts ongoing statements from both BP and the Obama administration that the Gulf of Mexico is safe from the effects of the BP oil disaster.

Corexit 9500

Lab tests with Corexit 9500, oil, and saltwater.

Lab tests with Corexit 9500, oil, and saltwater. (Photo: Scientist who performed lab analysis)

These two vials were filled with saltwater and a small amount of motor oil. Two drops of Corexit 9500 were added to the vial on the left and both vials were gently shaken for 30 seconds. Both samples then sat for one hour before this picture was taken.

The milky color of the water in the vial on the left displays the manner in which the dispersant causes a portion of the oil to dissolve into the water. When crude oil in the Gulf is treated with dispersant, a large portion of the oil is also dissolved into the seawater, allowing harmful volatile contaminants to also dissolve into the water, which would have otherwise evaporated had the oil been sitting on the surface.

This theory is nothing new, but this picture displays this phenomenon visually. After nine days, there was still no sign of any separation between the dissolved oil and water at all. In fact, it currently appears that the effect has only increased over time.

The foam atop the vial containing the dispersed oil resembles foam that this writer, other journalists, BP cleanup workers and fishermen along the Gulf Coast have witnessed present in the wake of areas of oil having been sprayed with dispersants.

Many of the chemicals present in the oil and dispersants are known to cause headaches; nausea; vomiting; kidney damage; altered renal functions; irritation of the digestive tract; lung damage; burning pain in the nose and throat; coughing; pulmonary edema; cancer; lack of muscle coordination; dizziness; confusion; irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat; difficulty breathing; delayed reaction time; memory difficulties; stomach discomfort; liver and kidney damage; unconsciousness; tiredness/lethargy; irritation of the upper respiratory tract; and hematological disorders.

Solid Samples

Mississippi Gov. Hailey Barbour has claimed that Mississippi coastal waters are clear, the beaches clean and that the seafood caught in the Gulf is safe to eat.

Yet, soil samples taken along the beach at Long Beach, Mississippi, on October 21, 2010, confirmed the presence of crude oil. One sand sample, from location 3012.45N, 8930.41W, contained 9.35 parts per million (ppm) of Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons (ORO), confirming the presence of crude oil. This sample also contained ethanol, which is a chemical in BP’s dispersants.

Another sand sample taken from the same area contained 160 ppm ORO.

Samples with no oil or chemicals should test at 0 ppm.

Foamy substance at Long Beach, Mississippi that contains oil and ethylene glycol.

Foamy substance at Long Beach, Mississippi that contains oil and ethylene glycol. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

A third sample from the area, containing both sand and a brownish foam on the water that local residents and fishermen believe is the result of dispersed oil, contained 14.68 ppm ORO, confirming the presence of crude oil. This sample also contained ethylene glycol, a chemical in the dispersants.

The US Coast Guard, federal government and BP claim that no dispersants have been used since mid-July.

Black granular material at Long Beach, Mississippi that tested positive for crude oil.

Black granular material at Long Beach, Mississippi that tested positive for crude oil. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

Another sample from the area taken from sand covered in what local residents described as “coffee grounds” contained 8.65 ppm ORO, confirming the presence of crude oil.

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A small inlet on the beach was filled with brown foam and oil sheen. A sample of sand covered with the foamy sheen contained 175 ppm ORO.

Foamy substance along shoreline at Long Beach, Mississippi that tested positive for crude oil.

Foamy substance along shoreline at Long Beach, Mississippi that tested positive for crude oil. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

On January 7, federal and Louisiana officials took a boat tour of an area in southern Louisiana that remains fouled with oil from the BP disaster. They found areas in Barataria Bay where oil continued to eat away at the fragile marshland, where no protective boom nor cleanup workers could be found. Affected areas were up to 100 feet wide in some sections.

“This is the biggest cover-up in the history of America,” Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told reporters.

Nungesser was angered by claims by the Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials he was with, who said a plan was being developed to clean the area.

“It’s like you’re in bed with BP,” Nungesser told the officials. “Don’t tell me I got a voice in the way you put together that crappy document,” Nungesser said as WDSU TV filmed the altercation. “It ain’t worth the paper it’s printed on. That is bullshit.” Nungesser then told one of the federal officials, “You cover up for BP.”

Marine Life

A dead jellyfish found on Long Beach, Mississippi, nearby a large amount of the aforementioned thick, brown foam, was tested and found to contain 15 ppm of ethanol, one of the chemicals in the dispersants, along with low levels of n-Butanol, another chemical present in the dispersants that are manufactured by Nalco Holding Company.

Nalco Holding Company has corporate ties to BP.

Based on comparative analysis of Corexit 9500 and the sample collected, the sample appears to contain approximately 500 ppm of dispersant.

Water

A water sample in the same area, taken in an area covered in thick, brown foam, contained propylene glycol, one of the confirmed ingredients of Corexit 9500.

Samples were also taken from a beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Blood Beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Blood Beach in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

A water sample at this area also contained ethelene glycol, as did a water sample taken from a fish pond in the front yard of a resident’s home in Ocean Springs.

Another water sample from the beach contained diethylene glycol BE.

Dead sea turtle, Blood Beach, Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Dead sea turtle, Blood Beach, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

Additional Sampling and Conclusions

Earlier this month, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, in conjunction with the Subra Company, released results of sampling in the coastal regions of Louisiana.

Their press release states:

“The wetlands and ecosystem soil/sediment from Atchafalaya Bay eastward to the Louisiana/Mississippi state line contained 6 to 89 individual Alkylated Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Oil Range Organic Petroleum Hydrocarbons (ORO) up to 11,600 mg/kg [ppm] (1.16%) which corresponded to the fingerprint of the BP Louisiana Sweet Crude.”

Sixty percent of the soil/sediment samples the groups tested contained up to 18 PAHs in excess of the marine sediment screening levels.

The groups tested seafood and found, “Alkylated PAHs were and continue to be detected in aquatic seafood species from the wetlands and estuaries along the Louisiana coast from Atchafalaya Bay eastward to the Louisiana/Mississippi border.”

For example, they found oyster samples with up to 8,815 to 12,500 mg/kg (ppm) ORO, and blue crab samples containing up to 2,230 to 3,583 mg/kg (ppm) ORO.

Shrimp, mussels, fish and snail samples also contained exceedingly high levels of ORO and PAHs.

The press release concluded:

“Wetlands and ecosystem soil/sediment samples and aquatic tissue samples from all areas sampled contained Alkylated PAHs and Oil Range Petroleum Hydrocarbons.”

Mississippi’s Governor Barbour has said that Gulf seafood has been “tested more than any other food in the history of the universe.”

State health departments in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had issued swimming advisories while BP’s well continued to gush oil into the Gulf of Mexico last summer. Since then, however, all three states have declared their beaches, waters and seafood safe from oil disaster related toxins.

Florida never issued any advisories, despite many residents reporting illnesses they attribute to the oil disaster.

US federal government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and the NOAA ,along with President Barack Obama himself, have declared the Gulf of Mexico, its waters, beaches and seafood, safe and open to the public.

The testing conducted on the samples taken by this writer only represent a tiny part of the Gulf compared to the massive area that has been affected by BP’s oil catastrophe. A comprehensive sampling regime across the Gulf, taken regularly over the years ahead by independent scientists, is clearly required in order to implement appropriate cleanup responses and take public safety precautions.

The U6 number fell to 16-7/8% from 17% last month, thus, the real unemployment number is 22-1/4%, off 3/8 of 1 percent in two months. The average duration of unemployment heads back up to a new record 34.2-weeks and when the share of the unemployed ranks looking for a job without success rises 2% to 44.3% you have a problem. It is hardly a winner. The workweek was unchanged at 34.3-hours. The employment rate was 58.3%, the same level it was at late in 1983. In order to re-ascend to peak employment levels 11 million jobs would have to be created. That cannot happen as the transnational conglomerates execute free trade, globalization, offshoring and outsourcing. That would be 2.75 million jobs annually over the next four years. Still millions of illegal aliens are streaming across our borders to find work and push American citizens out of their jobs.

There has been a decline in the number of jobless claims, but layoffs of state, country and city employs has added to the jobless, some 20,000 a month. Even with all the funds being injected into the system, the economy is still stagnant. The municipal layoffs will become acute in the last quarter of the year and carry over into 2012, as more and more towns, cities and states seek protection from bankruptcy. 

Personal income is stagnant, as are hours worked, as inflation increases robbing workers of purchasing power, thereby negatively affecting consumption. Adding to this discouraged workers hit a record high of 1.32 workers. If it were not for extended unemployment benefits we might just be approaching revolution. You can throw in food stamps as well for 44 million Americans; 16% of the elderly are below the poverty line and 15.7% of the public is in the same boat.

Last week the Dow rose 0.8%, S&P gained 11.1%, the Russell 2000 gained 0.5% and the Nasdaq 100 jumped 2.7%. Banks gained 1.3%; broker/dealers gained 2.0%; utilities 0.9% and the high-tech 2.5%; semis 3.4%; Internets 3.1% and biotechs 0.8%. Gold bullion fell $51.00, the HUI lost 7.2% and the USDX gained 2.6% to 81.08.

The two-year US-T bill was unchanged at 0.59%, the 10-year T-note rose 3 bps to 3.33%, and the 10-year German bund fell 9 bps to 2.87%.

This year foreign governments will finally realize that Europe and the US won’t be able to repay most of their debts. In Europe, during the first 6-months of the year, countries will be stressed to pay back debt. All of the funding necessary won’t be available and the six with debt problems will need more assistance from the more solvent EU countries, the ECB and the IMF. There will be negotiations concerning how to solve this problem throughout the remainder of the year. The damage to European countries will be staggering. Not only will the debtor countries be hanging on by a thread, but due to a massive funds outflow the solvent countries will be in trouble as well.

In the US the problems of municipalities will finally start to be addressed as federal funding and loans are ended. We warned of the possible bankruptcy of municipal insurers, AMBAC being the focus of our concerns. At that time, three years ago, we recommended the sale of municipals and have done so since.

These predictions came to fruition in December 2010 when AMBAC went bankrupt.

In the final quarter of this year both the European and American problems will be exposed full force. This will bring about a worldwide financial crisis as the true depths of the problems are fully revealed. The impact on western finance will be more devastating than the Bear Stearns and Lehman Bros. collapses. At this juncture the timing is difficult, but that time frame seems reasonable.

Our prediction of QE2 and perhaps QE3 last May proved to be correct. Others didn’t begin to catch on until August. We projected another form of government stimulus and it came in the subtle form of a pork tax package. The renewal of the Bush tax cuts. That ended up being $868 billion. That means the Fed or someone will have to come up with about $1.6 trillion to keep the economy from keeling over and going sideways. We projected a full expenditure of $2.5 trillion in exchange for a 2 to 2-1/4% growth in GDP.

As we write European and US debt is expanding at a fast clip. The service of this debt is being exacerbated by lack of a recovery, which began in the Treasury market in June. During the past six months banks have tried to increase lending to middle and small sized companies, but there have been few who wanted to borrow. This lack of growth has impeded tax revenues for both the federal government and state entities. The fall in the stream of funds has forced major new borrowing by both groups. This trap mitigates against drawing savings from foreign countries. This limitation has started to force real interest rates higher as we have recently seen with the US 10-year note whose yield jumped from 2.40% to 3.50%. This in turn has forced interest rates on 30-year fixed rate mortgages to more than 4.8%.

Beneath the surface both in the US and Europe all matter of things are being done to keep both entities afloat. What is being done is being done without the consent of the people. Politicians are terrified and are doing as they are being told. The financial community and central banks are making all the decisions. In order to cover-up what is going on they simply lie about everything. These Sherpa’s working behind the scenes fashioning a solution are preparing for debt settlement and some sort of a stabilization fund.

            As we have predicted in the past we see a meeting of all countries, as opposed to unilateral action by Europe or the US. A meeting along the lines of the Smithsonian talks in the 1970s, the Plaza Accord of 1985 and the Louvre Accord of 1987, where all nations will revalue and devalue and default multilaterally 50% to 66%. Everything will be on the table. By doing it this way it becomes a simple business transaction and not a situation where everyone is ostracized. This will be detrimental to currencies, bonds and shares. Commodities and gold and silver and the shares will appreciate as they did in the 1930s and the late 1970s. It’s a hard road to take, but it is the only one open to the elites.

One of Ayn Rand’s disciples, one Alan Greenspan, spent his entire time as Chairman of the Federal Reserve destroying money. Ms. Rand warned of destroyers appearing among men who would destroy money. As she said, “This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Paper is a check, drawn by legal looters upon which an account which is not theirs.”

Today we have the destruction of money – the mediums of exchange – free trade, globalization and the phony terrorism all linked together. A 3-pronged attack to create confusion and fear and as an extension to control and destroy the wealth of the masses. This is a marriage of monetary, fiscal, geopolitical, economic and financial terrorism. The terrorists are in the banks, on Wall Street, in the City of London and running transnational conglomerates that are destroying our society and that of Europe. This complex paradigm is relentlessly day by day creating chaos within society. Needless to say, we have war and occupation thrown in for good measure in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a profitable distraction and at the same time a method of culling the population of useless eaters. As this all transpires, immune from prosecution, Wall Street and banking pull one outrageous fraud after another. As an example, as we predicted, the Attorney Generals have rolled for the bankers in Foreclosuregate. Five major banks are being allowed to settle with some 50 states. This decision was made in secret by your elected states’ Attorney Generals. This is one of the biggest frauds in American history and all that will happen is the major banks involved will get a slap on the hand and a chump change fine. The public will get nothing. Any fraud by the too big to fail banks is now permissible.

The fraud is now so pervasive and systemic that foreigners, particularly at the upper levels of the corporate world simply refuse to do business with American companies. American executives, particularly from Wall Street and banking, contend there are simply no rules or only their rules. This will elevate into trade war eventually, which has been coming for a long time and actually a trump card for US elitists. The ugliness is still under the surface, but it exists and is gaining momentum. Once that becomes reality the financial system will break down. As we have said many times once that happens all these criminals will become fugitives from justice. If other countries try to hide these people they will be sanctioned and isolated, and that shouldn’t take long. We should have courts to try these crooks. They should go to jail and their entire families be stripped of their wealth, which would go to the US Treasury. Those who committed treason should have all their assets confiscated and they should be hung.

The BIS, the Bank for International Settlements, says the six nations in trouble in Europe are indebted more than $350 billion to these sovereign nations. As we have said month’s ago it will take more than $3 trillion to bail these sovereigns out and if not bailed out many central banks and the ECB will be wiped out. As usual the bankers are trying to stall for time, hoping some miracle or some war will bail them out. Either way the taxpayers, they have decreed will pay the bill. We wonder what the rating agencies, that have been propping up the dollar and the pound will do, when they can no longer get away with lying about these ratings? We don’t believe Spain, Portugal and Belgium and perhaps Italy can survive without going bankrupt. That will take many other nations close to insolvency as well.

We have sited many examples of fraud in this publication.

We have finally come to the conclusion that our system could not function without the rampant fraud in our society.

You have seen this in the operations of “The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets,” in mortgage lending and the daisy chain it created. Then the foreclosures, which lenders didn’t own, because they had sold them many times over. The major lawsuits against Goldman Sachs in mortgage syndication and the suits against JPM and HSBC for rigging the silver market. It just goes on and on not to mention Madoff. Many corporations are carrying two sets of books like that was normal. The Fed creating money and credit to the tune of $13.8 trillion most of which went to Europe. It goes on and on.

As yet we do not know how much money the Fed has spent on QE2, which secretly began last June, as we predicted. As inflation is allowed to rise by design it mysteriously doesn’t show up in official figures. As you can see, within government you can have it both ways. The results have been a move in the 10-year T-note from 2.40 to a 3.5 percent yield to reflect the risk of inflation that already exists. This rise in yield and the fall in Treasuries on the long end for the past couple of months has been the result of professional selling. The 18 Wall Street banks and brokerage houses that are primary dealers that trade with the Fed, have been cutting their holdings in Treasuries at the fastest pace since 2004, because they see a stronger economy, a rising market and further strength and demand for shares than for bonds.

These dealers cut their long positions in long dated notes and bonds from $81.3 billion on 11/24/10 to $2.34 billion on 12/29/10. The Fed has not been able to control the long end of the market, only the short end. That has led to higher mortgage rates. This will reverse as the stock market corrects or it becomes obvious that the economy is not advancing or recovering.

Price inflation continues unabated and that will worsen substantially as the year wares on. Sellers will not absorb basic price increases; they will be passed on. One printer told me he had had seven price increases on paper in the past year. That is certainly not 1.2% inflation, but the real inflation we talk about at 6.8%.

Gold and silver just completed another mini-correction and again 95% of newsletter writers, analysts and economists were wrong. As we say, go long and stay long. These fools continue to try to justify their existence. As you can see the US government, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and HSBC cannot hold prices down for more than several days. The physical demand is overwhelming.

Haiti’s Election: a Travesty of Democracy

January 12th, 2011 by Mark Weisbrot

What is it about Haiti that makes the “international community” think they have the right to decide the country’s fate without the consent of the governed? Yes, Haiti is a poor country, but Haitians have fought very hard, and lost many lives, for the right to vote and elect a government.

Yet, on 28 November, nearly three quarters of Haitians did not vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. That is what we at the CEPR found when we went through 11,181 tally sheets from the election. This is a ridiculously low turnout for a presidential election.

Now, according to an AP report, the Organisation of American States has decided that the election should go to a runoff, finding that the top two finishers were former first lady Mirlande Manigat and the popular singer Michel Martelly. The OAS is proposing a runoff between presidential candidates who received about 6% and 4%, respectively, of the electorate’s votes in the first round.

One reason that most Haitians did not vote is that the most popular political party in the country, Fanmi Lavalas, was arbitrarily excluded from the ballot. This was also done in April 2009, in parliamentary elections, and more than 90% of voters did not vote. By contrast, in the 2006 presidential elections, participation was 59.3%. And it has been higher in the past, even for the parliamentary (non-presidential) election in 2000.

Haitians have taken great risks to vote when there was political violence, and have been pragmatic about voting even when their first choice was not on the ballot (as in 1996 and 2006). But the majority won’t vote when they are denied their right to choose. This is the big story of the election that most of the major media have missed entirely.

Our recount of the vote also showed that even among the votes cast, there was a sizable proportion of votes – about 12.7% – that were never received by the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) or were quarantined by it. This quantity is much higher than was previously reported by either the CEP or the OAS.

A statistical analysis of the vote totals found that some 8.4% of tally sheets had vote totals that were irregular (that is, with irregularities that could be expected to occur by chance less that one in a hundred times). Another 5.4% of tally sheets had obvious clerical errors – for example, total votes cast exceeding the number of registered voters at a voting booth. We did not include these errors among the irregular vote totals, because they did not necessarily affect the outcome. But the high percentage of clerical errors on the tally sheets further undermines confidence in the overall results.

Our analysis confirmed what many observers saw on the ground, including ballot box stuffing, fraud and people unable to vote because they did not appear in the registry. People in the areas hardest hit by the earthquake had much lower participation rates.

This election was the first round of an election that was supposed to proceed to a runoff election, which has now been postponed until February. The top three finishers were Manigat, Martelly and the government’s candidate, Jude Celestin. But since second and third place were separated by just 0.6 percentage points, there is no way – given the massive irregularities – to tell which two candidates would proceed to the second round.

Clearly, an election that was so severely flawed and plagued by irregularities cannot be considered legitimate. But even less excusable is the exclusion of the country’s most popular political party – the equivalent of banning the Democrats or Republicans in the United States. This “exclusion will undermine both Haitians’ right to vote and the resulting government’s ability to govern,” wrote 45 Democratic members of Congress to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 7 October 2010. They asked her not to provide “funding for elections that do not meet these minimum, basic democratic requirements”. These pleas were ignored.

Haiti’s first and last democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown (for the second time) in a coup that Washington helped to bring about in 2004. According to his account, he was kidnapped and put on a US plane to Africa, where he remains in exile, in violation of the Haitian constitution and international law.

Three weeks ago, Ricardo Seitenfus, the OAS’s special representative to Haiti, was removed from his post for publicly criticising the role of the UN mission and the international community in Haiti. Last week, he revealed something even more damning:

“At the meeting of Core Group (donor countries, UN and OAS), something that seemed just creepy [was discussed]. Some representatives suggested that President Rene Preval should leave the country and we should think of an airplane for that. I heard it and was appalled.”

Washington and its allies, including the people who are currently making decisions about Haiti at the OAS, are pushing these illegitimate elections for the same reason that they overthrew Aristide, and will not let him back into his own country – in violation of the Haitian constitution and international law. These people want to determine who rules Haiti, without allowing the majority of Haitians themselves to decide. There will be resistance to this, as to the dictatorships and foreign occupations of the past. We can only hope that it does not result in similar levels of violence.

Will U.S. Labour Challenge Austerity?

January 12th, 2011 by Brian Tierney

Across the U.S., working-class people are struggling, scraping together meager sums in order to get by. In state and local governments throughout the country, workers are watching public services slashed in the name of balanced budgets. Trillions of dollars have been doled out to Wall Street titans and big banks. And while the epidemic of home foreclosures and cuts to public services rages on, corporate profits are soaring to record highs, and banks are sitting on hordes of accumulated capital. Still, we are told, there simply isn’t enough money to help the millions struggling in these economic hard times.

Earlier this month, in the same city where Congress is enacting cuts from the bottom, more budget cuts affecting child care and affordable housing were voted on by the city council of Washington, D.C. Community activists and affected residents insisted on a different path: increasing the tax rate by up to 1 per cent on the city’s top income-earners.

One young unemployed single mother on disability approached Council Chair Vincent Gray. Her glassy black eyes peered into the darting glances of a city bureaucrat, who nervously recoiled before the faces of low-income residents affected by his decisions. In her soft, trembling voice, she told the chairman that she might lose her daughter if the council carries through with the budget cuts. With a straight face, Gray – who will soon replace Adrian Fenty as mayor of the District – looked at the young woman and said, “If you can print money, please do.”

On the same day and in the same chamber, Gray led the council in voting down a resolution that would have modestly raised taxes on the top income-earners in D.C. and staved off cuts that hurt the poorest residents in the city.

This is the human face of Merriam-Webster’s word of the year: austerity.

Congress’ Priorities

The reality of a system based on such backward priorities that reward the rich and punish workers and the poor was again laid bare in the waning days of the lame-duck Congress of 2010. Many were left wondering why it was that the only “pragmatic” way to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed was to extend tax cuts for the rich.

We live in a society where Congress becomes deadlocked in dispute over aiding the jobless, while it simultaneously passes a massive war spending bill without so much as a symbolic show of debate.

Workers demonstrate against austerity, September 29, 2010 in Brussels [more pictures].

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, scenes of barricades, burning park benches, outraged students “kettled” by police and striking workers stand against the backdrop of plumes of tear gas. From Greece to Ireland, harsh austerity measures that threaten to eradicate the already besieged traditional welfare states of Europe are inspiring rolling strikes and student mobilizations against fee hikes.

By contrast, the streets in the U.S. remain comparatively calm. Where is the organized uproar of workers in the U.S.? Where is the labour movement? The weakness of a small, institutionalized labour movement in the U.S., as compared to the clout of trade unionism in Europe, helps to explain some of the discrepancy. But in addition to its shrinking numbers, a major qualitative failing prevents the U.S. labour movement from becoming a fighting force against austerity. Organized labour in the U.S. is impaired by its entanglement in one of the political machines championing austerity in the first place: the Democratic Party.

Much has been said about the fury that erupted among President Barack Obama’s liberal base since the White House pushed its “tax-cut compromise.” The deal struck between Obama and the Republicans adds on to the administration’s ever-growing rap sheet of offenses that infuriated progressives.

The Labour Movement

And somewhere between Obama’s band of centrist apologists and his spurned liberal base lies the U.S. labour movement, a disjointed community of institutional organs for collective bargaining and the 15 million rank-and-file workers they represent. The labour movement may be fragmented in many ways, but the loyalty of labour leaders to the Democratic Party has for the last three decades remained a point of unity.

In 2008, labour spent an unprecedented amount of money – more than $400-million – to support the election of Obama and Democratic candidates to Congress. And even after a Congress controlled by labour’s supposed allies dropped the Employee Free Choice Act – labour’s top legislative priority that would have made it easier for workers to join unions – unions stuck by Obama and the Democrats.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) alone spent $87.5-million to support Democrats in 2010. A few weeks after the 2010 midterm elections, the Obama administration showed its appreciation for labour’s undying fidelity by announcing a two-year pay freeze for federal employees, one of the most unionized sectors of the workforce.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka condemned the wage freeze. But leaders like Trumka have been increasingly caught in the awkward position of defending Obama while condemning anti-worker policies pushed by his administration. “No one is served by our government participating in a ‘race to the bottom’ in wages,” Trumka said of the federal pay freeze. “The president talked about the need for shared sacrifice, but there’s nothing shared about Wall Street and CEOs making record profits and bonuses while working people bear the brunt.”

Politicians on the right would have us believe that it’s not Wall Street that caused the economic mess vexing the nation. Rather, it’s public sector workers. Those workers and their unions are the new scapegoats for the country’s economic woes. Incoming GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker recently declared, “We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and the taxpayers who foot the bill are the have-nots.”

In early December, AFSCME announced it was launching a media campaign called “Stop the Lies” to “expose right-wing lies” against public sector workers.

But Democrats have also joined the efforts to demonize public workers. The campaign of Democratic Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo of New York included calls for public-sector unions to grant massive concessions in order to ease the state’s budget gap. The incoming governor is rallying business-lobbying groups to his side to launch a $10-million anti-union effort against worker in the public sector.

Meanwhile, Obama’s deficit commission, with its crosshairs trained on Social Security and other “entitlements,” has set the terms for congressional debate on reducing the nation’s deficit through punishing austerity measures.

So it’s fair to ask how far to the right Obama and the Democratic Party will shift before the labour movement can no longer support them. How much longer can labour leaders continue to justify to their membership the massive sums of money spent to prop up Democrats, whose allegiance to corporate welfare surpasses whatever expressed interests they share with working-class people?

Losing Strategies

Looking forward to 2012, Chris Townsend, political action director of the rank-and-file-driven United Electrical Workers Union (UE), doesn’t see the abusive relationship between Democrats and labour ending anytime soon:

“Labour leaders and the apparatus they control will go all out and spend even more money than they did this year. They see no other way to proceed. They don’t call it the two-party ‘trap’ for nothing. Labour will not support third-party efforts, and they will not sit out the election, either. So they will crank up the negative campaign and scare machinery to mobilize for the Democrats and against the even-worse Republicans.”

What’s more, unions are increasingly spending huge portions of their budgets on these political losing strategies and devoting fewer resources toward organizing and workplace activism, a trend that Townsend describes as a kind of “reverse syndicalism.” As he put it, “It is obvious to me that growing numbers of unions are opting to demobilize and dismantle workplace structures, replaced by election-time activities to prop up Democrats.”

As the White House cleared the final hurdles in Congress to secure the tax-cut deal, Trumka described the compromise thusly: “This is a huge relief for the more than 1.4 million long-term job seekers who already have lost their emergency unemployment benefits. But this deal comes at a terrible price: It rewards obstructionists with huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires.”

If ever there was a time for the labour movement to assert bold political independence rather than a slavish deference to Democratic talking points, that time is now. But Trumka is careful not to be too critical of Obama, reserving the main thrust of his criticism for Republican obstructionists.

Any hope of the labour movement helping to forge a genuine progressive alternative independent of Republicans and Democrats is, of course, diminished by the continued division of the labour unions in two separate camps – the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations. But that hope is even more hampered by the culture of union leadership that is so thoroughly intertwined with Democratic Party politics.

The latest tax-cut deal with Republicans is certainly another compromise by Obama and the Democrats that tacked decidedly to the right, leaving progressives feeling profoundly betrayed and further harnessing the livelihoods of workers to the welfare of Wall Street.

But so long as the lesser-evil calculus of the two-party system remains the prevailing wisdom among liberals, Obama and the Democrats can always count on browbeating much of their progressive base, including labour, to come around again when it’s time to hit the campaign trail. Short of a mass grassroots movement on the left buttressed by a unified, independent labour movement, there is little reason for politicians like Obama to fear being held accountable by workers.

A serious challenge is needed to stop the agenda of austerity that both political parties are using to bludgeon workers and the poor. But fighting back against the bipartisan cutback consensus requires higher levels of bottom-up organization, as opposed to top-down institutionalization. And it requires an independent labour movement through which workers can chart their own political course.

If the conventional political wisdom among unions is that the Democrats are the only game in town, then we must ask when the labour movement will step out from the sidelines. •

Brian Tierney is a freelance labour journalist. This article appeared on the socialistworker.org website.

One Year Since the Earthquake in Haiti

January 12th, 2011 by Bill Van Auken

Today marks the first anniversary of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti, leaving a quarter of a million of its people dead, more than 300,000 injured, and approximately a million and a half homeless.

One year after this natural disaster, the horrors facing Haiti’s population have only deepened, with a cholera epidemic claiming thousands of lives and a million left stranded in squalid tent camps.

This festering crisis underscores the social and political sources of the suffering inflicted upon Haiti’s working class and oppressed masses. That such conditions prevail virtually on the doorstep of the United States, which concentrates the greatest share of the world’s wealth, constitutes a crime of world historic proportions and an indictment of the profit system.

Those familiar with the conditions on the ground in Haiti provide an appalling account of the indifference and neglect of American and world imperialism toward the country’s people.

“The mountains of rubble still exist; the plight of the victims without any sign of acceptable temporary shelter is worsening the conditions for the spread of cholera, and the threat of new epidemics becomes more frightening with each passing day,” said former Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, the Caribbean community’s special representative to Haiti. “In short, there has been no abatement of the trauma and misery which the Haitian populace has suffered.”

Roland Van Hauwermeiren, country director for the NGO Oxfam in Haiti, described 2010 as “a year of indecision” that had “put Haiti’s recovery on hold.” He added, “Nearly one million people are still living in tents or under tarpaulins and hundreds of thousands of others who are living in the city’s ruins still do not know when they will be able to return home.”

Of the approximately one million people living in makeshift tents or under tarps in the crowded camps of Port-au-Prince, more than half are children.

The Haitian capital remains buried in rubble. It is estimated that less than 5 percent of the debris has been cleared by Haitian workers attacking the mountains of fallen concrete and twisted metal with shovels and their bare hands. Heavy equipment has not been present in any significant amount since the withdrawal of the US military more than six months ago.

At its height, the US deployed some 22,000 soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen in Haiti, seizing unilateral control of the country’s main airport, port facilities and other strategic facilities. The US military’s priority was to secure the country against the threat of popular upheaval and to deploy a Coast Guard and naval force to prevent Haitian refugees from making their way to the US.

To those ends, in the critical first weeks after the earthquake when aid was most needed to prevent loss of life and limb for the hundreds of thousands of injured, the Pentagon repeatedly turned away planes carrying medial aid and personnel in order to keep runways free for US military assets.

Within just 11 days of the earthquake, the US-backed Haitian government of President Rene Preval declared the search and rescue operation over—with only 132 people having been pulled alive from the rubble. Had an adequate response been organized, many more could have been saved. Decisions were taken in Washington based not on humanitarian considerations, but rather on the cold calculus of national interests and profits. Undoubtedly, this included the calculation that rescuing injured Haitians would only create a further drain on resources.

In contrast, the spontaneous response of the people of the United States and the entire world was one of solidarity with the suffering Haitian masses. An unprecedented outpouring of support yielded $1.3 billion in contributions from the US alone, the vast majority of it coming from ordinary working people.

One year later, however, just 38 percent of those funds have actually been spent to aid in the recovery and rebuilding of Haiti, according to a survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. In Haiti, there are widespread suspicions that vast amounts of money have been diverted into the coffers of NGOs and aid organizations.

Even worse is the response of governments. At a donors’ conference convened in March of last year, more than $5.3 billion was pledged. Of that, only $824 million has been delivered. Worst of all is the response of Washington, which pledged $1.15 billion for 2010, only to subsequently announce that it was postponing payment of virtually the entire pledge until 2011.

Last July, former US President Bill Clinton, who serves as the Obama administration’s envoy to Haiti, the UN’s special envoy to the country and the co-chair together with Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC), expressed frustration over the slow pace of the payments and promised to pressure donors to make good on their promises. Apparently he has had little success in this effort, including with his own wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. He has repeatedly made it clear that the only acceptable path to Haiti’s reconstruction lies through private investment and the assurance of profitable conditions—based largely on starvation wages–for US-based banks and transnationals.

On top of the earthquake’s devastation has come an epidemic of cholera, which has already claimed 3,600 lives and is expected to infect at least 400,000 people. Public health experts acknowledge that the spread of the disease has still not peaked, yet the terrible toll of this disease merits barely a mention in the US media.

The Obama administration’s indifference to Haitian life has been underscored by the decision to resume deportations to the country, with 350 Haitians slated to be sent back this month. With many of these people destined for incarceration in Haitian jails, which are rampant with cholera, the action amounts to a death sentence.

The epidemic is not a product of the earthquake, but rather, like the extraordinarily high death toll from the quake itself, the outcome of grinding poverty and backwardness resulting from the domination of Haiti by imperialism and, in particular, the role played by the US government and American banks and corporations over the past century.

Haiti is by far the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Even before the earthquake, less than half of the urban population and less than a fifth of those in rural areas had access to sanitation, leaving the country vulnerable to cholera. Prior to the quake, nearly three quarters of the Haitian populace was living on less than $2 a day, while barely 20 percent had jobs in the formal economy and 86 percent of urban dwellers were housed in slums.

These conditions are inextricably bound up with an oppressive political and social order that was forged through the US military occupation from 1915 to 1934, the savage 30-year dictatorship of the US-backed Duvalier dynasty, and the subsequent enforcement of so-called “liberal free market” policies by Washington and the International Monetary Fund.

The growing frustration and anger of the Haitian people over the criminal policies of Washington and the country’s narrow and corrupt financial elite have erupted repeatedly in mass resistance in recent months, first against the United Nations troops over the spread of cholera and then in response to the fraudulent November 28 election.

This popular resistance deserves the full support of working people in the US and internationally. The demand must be raised for immediate and massive aid to Haiti.

But aiding the people of Haiti and rebuilding the country on the basis of human needs rather than the interests of the native elite and the foreign banks and corporations can be achieved only by uniting the working class in Haiti, the US and throughout the hemisphere in a common fight for the socialist transformation of society.

La diplomacia estadounidense y la disidencia cubana (1/2)

January 11th, 2011 by Salim Lamrani

Introducción

Desde hace medio siglo, la política exterior de Washington hacia La Habana, cuyo objetivo es conseguir un cambio de régimen, se basa en dos pilares fundamentales: la imposición de sanciones económicas drásticas –que afectan a todos los sectores de la sociedad cubana– y la organización y financiación de una oposición interna.

Así, el 6 de abril de 1960 Lester D. Mallory, subsecretario adjunto de Estado para los Asuntos Interamericanos, recordaba en un memorándum a Roy R. Rubottom Jr., entonces subsecretario de Estado Para los Asuntos Interamericanos, el objetivo de las sanciones económicas:

“La mayoría de los cubanos apoya a Castro. No hay oposición política eficaz […]. El único medio posible para aniquilar el apoyo interno [al régimen] es provocar el desencanto y el desaliento por la insatisfacción económica y la penuria […]. Se deben emplear rápidamente todos los medios posibles para debilitar la vida económica de Cuba […]. Una medida que podría tener un fuerte impacto sería negar todo financiamiento o envío a Cuba, lo que reduciría los ingresos monetarios y los salarios reales y provocaría el hambre, la desesperación y el derrocamiento del gobierno”.1

De 1959 a 1990, el programa de creación de una disidencia interna se mantuvo secreto. Así, los archivos estadounidenses parcialmente desclasificados confirman la existencia de múltiples programas destinados a crear una oposición al gobierno de Fidel Castro, la cual serviría los intereses de Estados Unidos que deseaba un cambio de régimen. A partir de 1991, tras el desmoronamiento de la Unión Soviética, el apoyo financiero y logístico a los disidentes cubanos se ha vuelto público y se ha integrado en la legislación estadounidense.

La financiación de la oposición interna

Durante una reunión del Consejo de Seguridad Nacional celebrada el 14 de enero de 1960, el subsecretario Livingston Merchant declaró: “Nuestro objetivo es ajustar todas nuestras acciones con vistas a acelerar el desarrollo de una oposición en Cuba [...]”. Por su parte el secretario adjunto para los Asuntos Interamericanos, Roy Rubottom, afirmó que “el programa aprobado [destinado a derrocar al gobierno cubano] nos ha autorizado a brindar nuestra ayuda a elementos que se oponen al gobierno de Castro en Cuba para que parezca que su caída es el resultado de sus propios errores”.2

A partir de 1991, persuadido de que la hora final de la Revolución había llegado, Estados Unidos no ha vacilado en afirmar públicamente su apoyo a la oposición interna. La sección 1705 estipula que “Estados Unidos proporcionará asistencia a las organizaciones no gubernamentales adecuadas para apoyar a individuos y organizaciones que promueven un cambio democrático no violento en Cuba”.3

La sección 109 de ley Helms-Burton de 1996 prevé que «el presidente [de Estados Unidos] está autorizado para proporcionar asistencia y ofrecer todo tipo de apoyo a individuos y organizaciones no gubernamentales independientes para unir los esfuerzos con vistas a construir una democracia en Cuba».4

El primer informe de la Comisión de Asistencia a una Cuba Libre prevé la elaboración de un «sólido programa de apoyo que favorezca la sociedad civil cubana». Entre las medidas previstas se destina una financiación, por importe de 36 millones de dólares, al “apoyo de la oposición democrática y al fortalecimiento de la sociedad civil emergente”.5

El 3 de marzo de 2005 Roger Noriega, secretario adjunto para los Asuntos del Hemisferio Occidental de la administración Bush, señaló que se habían añadido 14,4 millones de dólares al presupuesto de 36 millones de dólares previsto en el informe de 2004. Noriega reveló la identidad de algunas de las personas que se encargan de la elaboración de la política exterior estadounidense contra Cuba, a saber, Marta Beatriz Roque, las Damas de Blanco y Oswaldo Payá.6

El segundo informe de la Comisión de Asistencia a una Cuba Libre prevé un presupuesto de 31 millones de dólares para financiar, todavía más, a la oposición interna. Además está prevista una financiación de al menos 20 millones de dólares anuales, con el mismo objetivo, para los años siguientes «hasta que la dictadura deje de existir» El plan prevé también «entrenar y equipar a periodistas independientes de la prensa escrita, radiofónica y televisiva en Cuba».8

La Agencia estadounidense para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID), que depende del gobierno federal, admite que financia a la oposición cubana. Según la Agencia, para el año fiscal 2009, la suma de la ayuda destinada a los disidentes cubanos se elevó a 15,62 millones de dólares. “La gran mayoría de esta suma se destina a individuos que se encuentran en cuba. Nuestro objetivo es maximizar la suma del apoyo del cual se benefician los cubanos en la isla”.9

 

La organización gubernamental enfatiza también el siguiente punto: “Hemos formado a centenares de periodistas en un periodo de diez años cuya labor ha aparecido en grandes medios de comunicación internacionales”. Esta declaración destroza las afirmaciones sobre el carácter independiente de los periodistas opositores en Cuba. Formados y estipendiados por Estados Unidos, responden ante todo a los intereses de Washington, cuyo objetivo es, como lo señalan los documentos oficiales del Departamento de Estado, un “cambio de régimen” en la isla.10

 

Desde un punto de vista jurídico, esta realidad ubica de hecho a los disidentes que aceptan los emolumentos ofrecidos por la USAID en una situación de agentes al servicio de una potencia extranjera, lo que constituye una grave violación del código penal en Cuba, pero también en cualquier país del mundo. Consciente de esta realidad, la Agencia recuerda que “nadie está obligado a aceptar o formar parte de los programas del gobierno de Estados Unidos”.11

 

La representación diplomática estadounidense en La Habana, la Sección de Intereses Norteamericanos (SINA) lo confirma en un comunicado: “La política estadounidense, desde hace mucho tiempo, es proporcionar asistencia humanitaria al pueblo cubano, específicamente a familias de presos políticos”.12

Laura Pollán, del grupo disidente las Damas de Blanco, admite que recibe dinero de Estados Unidos: “Aceptamos la ayuda, el apoyo, desde la ultraderecha hasta la izquierda, sin condiciones”.13 El opositor Vladimiro Roca confiesa que la disidencia cubana está subvencionada por Washington alegando que la ayuda financiera recibida es «total y completamente lícita». Para el disidente René Gómez, el apoyo económico de Estados Unidos “no es una cosa que haya que ocultar o de la que tengamos que avergonzarnos”.14 Del mismo modo, el opositor Elizardo Sánchez confirma la existencia de una financiación por parte de Estados Unidos: “La clave no está en quién envía la ayuda, sino en qué se hace con la ayuda”.15 Por su lado, Marta Beatriz Roque declara que la ayuda financiera recibida de Estados Unidos es indispensable para su actividad de disidente.16

Agence France-Presse informa de que «los disidentes, por su parte, reivindicaron y asumieron esas ayudas económicas».17 La agencia española EFE, alude a los «opositores pagados por Estados Unidos».18 Según la agencia de prensa británica Reuters, «el gobierno estadounidense proporciona abiertamente un apoyo financiero federal para las actividades de los disidentes, lo que Cuba considera un acto ilegal».19

La agencia de prensa estadounidense The Associated Press afirma que la política de fabricar y financiar una oposición interna no es nueva: «Desde hace años, el gobierno de Estados Unidos gasta millones de dólares para apoyar a la oposición cubana».20 También recuerda el nivel de vida de los disidentes que se benefician a la vez de los emolumentos de Washington y del sistema social cubano:

«Una parte del financiamiento proviene directamente del gobierno de Estados Unidos, cuyas leyes promueven el derrocamiento del gobierno cubano. La Agencia Internacional para el Desarrollo de Estados Unidos (USAID), que supervisa el apoyo financiero del gobierno para una ‘transición democrática’ en Cuba, ha dedicado más de 33 millones de dólares a la sociedad civil para el presente año fiscal [2008]».

Casi todos los cubanos, incluso los disidentes, disponen de una vivienda gratuita, de acceso gratuito a la salud y a la educación hasta la universidad. Raciones de arroz, patatas, jabón y otros productos básicos permiten a las personas satisfacer sus necesidades básicas durante casi todo el mes21

El diario francés Libération señaló que “Fariñas nunca ha negado que rtecibe ‘donaciones’ de la Sección de Intereses Norteamericanos para procurarse una computadora y ejercer su oficio de ‘periodista independiente’ en Internet”.22

Amnistía International admite que «personas a las que considera presos de conciencia» han «recibido fondos o materiales del gobierno estadounidense para realizar actividades que las autoridades consideran subversivas y perjudiciales para Cuba».23

Wayne S. Smith, último embajador estadounidense en Cuba, confirma el carácter subversivo de la política estadounidense. Según él, es completamente “ilegal e imprudente mandar dinero a los disidentes cubanos”.24 Agrega que “nadie debería dar dinero a los disidentes y menos todavía con el objetivo de derrocar al gobierno cubano» pues “cuando Estados Unidos declara que su objetivo es derrocar al gobierno cubano y después afirma que uno de los medios para lograrlo es proporcionar fondos a los disidentes cubanos, éstos se encuentran de facto en la posición de agentes pagados por una potencia extranjera para derrocar a su propio gobierno”.25

Una disidencia que carece de toda base popular según Washington

A pesar de los recursos políticos, económicos, mediáticos y financieros que se dedican a la oposición cubana, ésta siempre ha carecido de toda base popular. Además, está profundamente dividida y envejecida. Es la amarga constatación que hace Jonathan D. Farrar, actual jefe de la SINA en La Habana, en un memorándum confidencial del 15 de abril de 2008 titulado “Estados Unidos y el papel de la oposición en Cuba” dirigido al Departamento de Estado.26

El diplomático señala primero que el presidente cubano Raúl Castro se encuentra actualmente en “una posición de autoridad indiscutida”. En cuanto al papel de la disidencia, es “nulo” pues “los grupos de opositores se hallan dominados por individuos con fuertes egos que no trabajan juntos”. Farrar precisa que “el movimiento disidente en Cuba envejece y está completamente desconectado de la realidad de los cubanos ordinarios”. En efecto, gracias a los emolumentos que recibe, la disidencia cubana lleva un tren de vida que ningún ciudadano normal puede permitirse.27

 

Farrar reconoce que está regularmente en contacto “con la mayoría del movimiento disidente oficial en La Habana”, cuyos miembros visitan frecuentemente la SINA. No obstante, señala que “ninguna prueba permite demostrar que las organizaciones disidentes dominantes en Cuba tengan una influencia sobre los cubanos ordinarios. Los sondeos informales realizados entre los solicitantes de visa y asilo han mostrado que apenas tienen conocimiento de las personalidades disidentes o de su agenda”.28

Farrar explica eso por la edad de los opositores, la mayoría entre 50 y 70 años, y cita a Francisco Chaviano, René Gómez Manzano y Oswaldo Payá. “Tienen muy pocos contactos con la juventud cubana, y su mensaje no interesa a este segmento de la sociedad”. El diplomático lamenta las luchas internas dentro de los diferentes grupos y la falta de unidad. Su juicio es implacable: “A pesar de las afirmaciones según las cuales representan a ‘miles de cubanos, no tenemos ninguna prueba de semejante apoyo, por lo menos en lo que se refiere a La Habana donde nos encontramos”. Agrega que “no tienen influencia en la sociedad cubana y no ofrecen una alternativa política al gobierno de Cuba”.29

Otros diplomáticos europeos comparten esta opinión, y la expresaron durante un encuentro con Farrar. “Los representantes de la Unión Europea durante la reunión descalificaron a los disidentes en los mismos términos que los del gobierno de Cuba, insistiendo en el hecho de que ‘no representan a nadie’”.30

Hay una razón para ello y se encuentra en la idiosincrasia cubana. La sociedad cubana está lejos de ser monolítica y los sectores insatisfechos de la población se muestran severos en sus críticas hacia las autoridades cuando se trata de denunciar las contradicciones, las aberraciones, el sectarismo y las injusticias que engendra a veces el sistema cubano. Los reproches son acerbos y sin concesiones y los medios cubanos los difunden según Farrar. La SINA apunta que “muchos artículos de prensa son muy críticos con las políticas actuales”.31 No obstante, a pesar de las vicisitudes cotidianas, los cubanos siguen siendo visceralmente celosos de su independencia y su soberanía nacionales y no pueden concebir que uno de sus compatriotas pueda aceptar estar al servicio de una potencia extranjera que siempre ha anhelado retomar la posesión de la isla. Se trata de la herencia política “antiimperialista” que dejaron los próceres de la historia de la nación como José Martí, Antonio Maceo, Máximo Gómez, Julio Antonio Mella, Antonio Guiteras, Eduardo Chibás y Fidel Castro.

La diplomacia estadounidense señala también otra razón: la persistente popularidad de Fidel Castro entre los cubanos cincuenta años después de su llegada al poder. “Sería un error subestimar […] el apoyo del cual dispone el gobierno, particularmente entre las comunidades populares y los estudiantes”.32 Farrar enfatiza “la significativa admiración personal por Fidel” en la sociedad cubana.33

La SINA fustiga también la falta de programa así como la codicia de los opositores, sólo interesados por los ingresos que puede traer el negocio de la disidencia. “Su mayor esfuerzo consiste en conseguir suficientes recursos para que los principales organizadores y sus partidarios puedan vivir cómodamente. Una organización política nos afirmó abierta y francamente que necesitaba dinero para pagar los salarios y presentó un presupuesto con la esperanza de que la SINA se encargara de los gastos. Además de la búsqueda de fondos, que es su principal preocupación, su segunda prioridad parece que es criticar o marginalizar las actividades de sus competidores, para preservar su poder y el acceso a los recursos”.34

No obstante, Farrar reitera la importancia de la oposición en la realización de los objetivos estadounidenses y, por ello, “hay que apoyarla”, y buscar al mismo tiempo una alternativa con el fin de estimular al movimiento disidente en Cuba.35

Sigue:

-“La prioridad Yoani Sánchez” (2/2)

Revisado por Caty R.

Notas

1 Lester D. Mallory, « Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mallory) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) », 6 de abril de 1960, Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/4-660, Secret, Drafted by Mallory, in Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba: (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1991), p. 885.

2 Marion W. Boggs, « Memorandum of Discussion at 432d meeting of the National Security Council, Washington », 14 de enero de 1960, Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, NSC Records, Top Secret, in Foreign Relations of the United States 1958-1960 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1991), pp. 742-743.

3 Cuban Democracy Act, Título XVII, Sección 1705, 1992.

4 Helms-Burton Act, Título I, Sección 109, 1996.

5 Colin L. Powell, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington: United States Department of State, mayo 2004). www.state.gov/documents/organization/32334.pdf (sitio consultado el 7 de mayo de 2004), pp. 16, 22.

6 Roger F. Noriega, « Assistant Secretary Noriega’s Statement Before the House of Representatives Committee on International Relations », Department of State, 3 de marzo de 2005. (sitio consultado el 9 abril 2005).

7 Condoleezza Rice & Carlos Gutiérrez, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington: United States Department of State, julio 2006). www.cafc.gov/documents/organization/68166.pdf (sitio consultado el 12 de julio de 2006), p. 20.

8 Ibíd., p. 22.

 

9 Along the Malecon, « Exclusive: Q & A with USAID », 25 de octubre de 2010. http://alongthemalecon.blogspot.com/2010/10/exclusive-q-with-usaid.html (sitio consultado el 26 de octubre de 2010).

10 Ibíd.

11 Ibíd.

12 The Associated Press/El Nuevo Herald, « Cuba: EEUU debe tomar ‘medidas’ contra diplomáticos», 19 de mayo de 2008.

13 El Nuevo Herald, « Disidente cubana teme que pueda ser encarcelada », 21 de mayo de 2008.

14 Patrick Bèle, «Cuba accuse Washington de payer les dissidentes», Le Figaro, 21 de mayo de 2008.

15 Agence France-Presse, «Prensa estatal cubana hace inusual entrevista callejera a disidentes», 22 de mayo de 2008.

16 Tracey Eaton, «Factions Spar Over U.S. Aid for Cuba», The Houston Chronicle, 18 de diciembre de 2010.

17 Agence France-Presse, «Financement de la dissidence: Cuba ‘somme’ Washington de s’expliquer», 22 de mayo de 2008.

18 EFE, «Un diputado cubano propone nuevos castigos a opositores pagados por EE UU», 28 de mayo de 2008.

19 Jeff Franks, «Top U.S. Diplomat Ferried Cash to Dissident: Cuba», Reuters, 19 de mayo de 2008.

20 Ben Feller, «Bush Touts Cuban Life After Castro», Associated Press, 24 de octubre de 2007.

21 Will Weissert, «Activistas cubanos dependen del financiamiento extranjero», The Associated Press, 15 de agosto de 2008.

22 Félix Rousseau, «Fariñas, épine dans le pied de Raúl Castro», Libération, 17 de marzo de 2010.

 

23 Amnesty International, «Cuba. Cinq années de trop, le nouveau gouvernement doit libérer les dissidents emprisonnés», 18 de marzo de 2008. http://www.amnesty.org/fr/for-media/press-releases/cuba-five-years-too-many-new-government-must-release-jailed-dissidents-2 (sitio consultado el 23 de abril de 2008).

24 Radio Habana Cuba, «Former Chief of US Interests Section in Havana Wayne Smith Says Sending Money to Mercenaries in Cuba is Illegal», 21 de mayo de 2008.

25 Wayne S. Smith, «New Cuba Commission Report: Formula for Continued Failure», Center for International Policy, 10 de julio de 2006.

26 Jonathan D. Farrar, «The U.S. and the Role of the Opposition in Cuba», United States Interests Section, 9 de abril de 2009, cable 09HAVANA221. http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/04/09HAVANA221.html (sitio consultado el 18 de diciembre de 2010).

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid.

30 Joaquin F. Monserrate, «GOC Signals ‘Readiness to Move Forward’», United States Interests Section, 25 de septiembre de 2009, cable 09HAVANA592, http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/09/09HAVANA592.html (sitio consultado el 18 de diciembre de 2010).

31 Jonathan D. Farrar, «Key Trading Parters See No Big Economic Reforms», United States Interests Section, 9 de  febrero de 2010, cable 10HAVANA84, http://213.251.145.96/cable/2010/02/10HAVANA84.html (sitio consultado el 18 de diciembre de 2010).

32 Michael E. Parmly, «Comsec Discusses Freedom and Democracy With Cubain Youth», United States Interests Section, 18 de enero de 2008, 08HAVANA66, http://213.251.145.96/cable/2008/01/08HAVANA66.html (sitio consultado el 18 de diciembre de 2010).

33 Jonathan D. Farrar, «The Speculation on Fidel’s Health », United States Interests Section, 9 de enero de 2009, cable 09HAVANA35, http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/01/09HAVANA35.html (sitio consultado el 18 de diciembre de 2010).

34 Jonathan D. Farrar, «The U.S. and the Role of the Opposition in Cuba », United States Interests Section, 9 de abril de 2009, op. cit.

35 Ibid.

 

Salim Lamrani : Doctor en Estudios Ibéricos y Latinoamericanos de la Universidad Paris Sorbonne-Paris IV, Salim Lamrani es profesor encargado de cursos en la Universidad Paris-Sorbonne-Paris IV y en la Universidad Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée y periodista francés, especialista de las relaciones entre Cuba y Estados Unidos. Acaba de publicar Cuba: Ce que les médias ne vous diront jamais. Disponible en librerías y en Amazon: http://www.amazon.fr/Cuba-Medias-Vous-Diront-Jamais/dp/2953128417/ref=pd_rhf_p_t_1 Para cualquier petición dedicada, contactar directamente: [email protected] , [email protected]

Primas para Wall Street

January 11th, 2011 by Jérôme Duval

En un contexto de crisis que afectaba sobre todo a los hogares humildes que ya no podían garantizar el pago de su vivienda, los grandes bancos ofrecieron primas astronómicas y otras ventajas a sus directivos. En octubre de 2007, en plena crisis de las «subprime», Merrill Lynch decidió la salida anticipada de su presidente y consejero delegado, Stan O’Neal, y le concedió una indemnización de 160 millones de dólares (cerca de 30 millones en concepto de jubilación y 129 millones en stock options). Es así como Merril Lynch daba el ejemplo: agradeciéndole al presidente de un gran banco mundial haber asumido personalmente la responsabilidad de las pérdidas ligadas a las hipotecas de riesgo («subprime»). Algunos días más tarde, en noviembre de 2007, fue el turno de Charles Prince, presidente de Citigroup, a quien reconocieron los servicios prestados con una prima de 12,5 millones de dólares. En 2007, el presidente y consejero delegado del banco Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, pulverizó el récord de primas concedidas al primer ejecutivo de un banco al verse recompensado con 68 millones de dólares.

Según una encuesta del Wall Street Journal, en 2007 las principales entidades financieras estadounidenses se embolsaron 130.000 millones de dólares en concepto de remuneración (salarios más primas). Si sólo se contabilizan las primas, ese mismo año los banqueros y brokers de Wall Street percibieron 33.000 millones de dólares, lo que constituye una cifra astronómica en una época en la que los países industrializados se deslizaban hacia una crisis profunda y duradera. Este importe sólo es moderadamente inferior al récord de 2006, cuando se autoconcedieron más de 34.000 millones de dólares, justo antes del inicio de la crisis. En 2008, un año después, las autoridades del Estado de Nueva York anunciaron que las mismas entidades de Wall Street que habían recortado ese año 19.200 puestos de trabajo (esto es, un recorte del 10,3% de la plantilla del sector financiero) pagaron 18.400 millones de dólares en primas a sus trabajadores: incluso si esa cifra es un 44% inferior a la del año anterior, queda patente que los despidos de muchos se producen para mantener las primas exorbitantes de unos cuantos.

Así pues, esas prácticas se continúan aplicando incluso después de que las entidades financieras hayan percibido las ayudas del Estado para salir a flote, en un momento en el que el desempleo y la precariedad campan a sus anchas en pleno apogeo de la crisis. En los Estados Unidos, la tasa de desempleo oficial se duplicó en dos años, y pasó del 4,6 % en 2007 al 10 % de la población activa en el cuarto trimestre de 2009 (según datos de la OCDE) por lo que perdió más de 8,5 millones de empleos a partir de diciembre de 2007. Los 55,8 millones de estadounidenses que perciben una pensión de la seguridad social volverán a experimentar por segundo año consecutivo una congelación de éstas, sin que tengan derecho a una subida correlativa a la inflación.

Mientras tanto, según lo publicado por el Wall Street Journal el 11 de octubre de 2010, las remuneraciones totales de los directivos de Wall Street apuntan a un nuevo récord de 144.000 millones de dólares para 2010. Por otra parte, el mayor exportador de armas del mundo no deja de acrecentar su gasto militar, que entre 1998 y 2008 se incrementó en un 66,9 % para situarse en más de 607.000 millones de dólares en 2008. Inmune a las esperanzas que había despertado, y a pesar de la crisis financiera mundial, la administración Obama no logra atajar la tendencia belicosa de su antecesor (durante su presidencia, entre 2000 y 2008, Georges W. Bush consiguió aumentar el presupuesto militar en un 63 %). Nada más llegar al poder, la administración Obama pactó un presupuesto militar de 661.000 millones de dólares para 2009 (el 43 % del presupuesto militar mundial), de los cuales 65.000 millones se destinaron a financiar la guerra de Afganistán, donde el Pentágono duplicó sus efectivos militares. Por lo tanto, el presupuesto estaba más dirigido a financiar la guerra en Afganistán, el armamento y el mantenimiento de la gran cantidad de bases estadounidenses (más de 700) instaladas por todo el mundo –como las nuevas bases en Honduras o Colombia–, o las primas a los banqueros, que para los gastos sociales que benefician a la población.

Desde el inicio de la crisis en el 2007 hasta el 2009, los banqueros y brokers de Wall Street percibieron más de 70.000 millones de dólares en primas. Ahora bien, el 29 de enero de 2009 el flamante Presidente de los Estados Unidos no ocultó su enfado por las primas distribuidas por los grupos financieros estadounidenses a sus trabajadores en 2008: «Entre otras cosas, será necesario que la gente de Wall Street que está pidiendo ayuda muestre moderación, disciplina y un mayor sentido de la responsabilidad». A pesar de su llamada a la moderación, Obama no se pronunció sobre los 118 millones de dólares percibidos en concepto de salario, primas y acciones entre 1999 y 2008 por uno de sus asesores principales, el antiguo responsable de Citigroup, Robert Rubin. Tampoco hizo referencia a Timothy Geithner —nombrado por Obama secretario del Tesoro—, cuando éste defraudó al fisco al ocultar los ingresos que había percibido del FMI. En definitiva, los bonitos discursos sólo sirven para tranquilizar a la opinión pública y distraer su atención cuando hace falta.

Traducido del francés por Griselda Piñero y Maria Rodrigo Stinus.

*Es miembro del Comité para la Anulación de la Deuda del Tercer Mundo (CADTM), de ATTAC País Valencia y miembro fundador de Patas Arriba, ATTAC-CADTM Valencia

Crisis irlandesa, el fracaso absoluto del neoliberalismo

January 11th, 2011 by Eric Toussaint

Desde hace diez años los más fervientes promotores del capitalismo han presentado a Irlanda como el modelo a seguir. El «Tigre Celta» ostentaba una tasa de crecimiento más alta que la media europea. El impuesto de sociedades se redujo al 12,5%[1] y el impuesto que realmente pagaban las numerosas multinacionales domiciliadas en el país oscilaba entre el 3 y el 4%, ¡un sueño! Déficit presupuestario igual a cero en 2007. Tasa de desempleo del 0% en 2008. Una auténtica maravilla: a todo el mundo le salían las cuentas. Los trabajadores tenían empleo (muy a menudo precario, por cierto), sus familias consumían alegremente, disfrutaban del efecto riqueza y los capitalistas, tanto nacionales como extranjeros, conseguían resultados fabulosos.

En octubre de 2008, dos o tres días antes de que el gobierno salvase de la quiebra a los grandes bancos «belgas» (Fortis y Dexia), a expensas de los ciudadanos, Bruno Colmant, director de la Bolsa de Bruselas y profesor de Economía se explayó en una carta abierta en Le Soir, el diario belga francófono de referencia, afirmando que Bélgica debería seguir totalmente el ejemplo irlandés y desregular todavía un poco más su sistema financiero. Según Bruno Colmant, Bélgica debía modificar el marco institucional y legal con el fin de convertirse en una plataforma del capital internacional como era Irlanda. Unas semanas después el Tigre Celta estaba derribado.

En Irlanda la desregulación financiera impulsó una explosión de préstamos a los hogares (el endeudamiento familiar llegaba al 190% del PIB en vísperas de la crisis), especialmente en el sector inmobiliario, el motor de la economía (industria de la construcción, actividades financieras, etc.). El sector bancario se infló de forma exponencial con la instalación de numerosas empresas extranjeras[2] y el crecimiento de los activos de los bancos irlandeses. Se formaron las burbujas bursátil e inmobiliaria. El total de las capitalizaciones bursátiles, las emisiones de obligaciones y de los activos de los bancos suponían catorce veces el PIB del país.

Entonces, aquello que no podía llegar a ese mundo maravilloso, llegó: en septiembre-octubre de 2008 el castillo de naipes se hundió, las burbujas financieras e inmobiliarias explotaron. Las empresas cerraron o abandonaron el país, el desempleo se disparó (del 0% en 2008 saltó al 14% a principios de 2010). El número de familias incapaces de pagar las deudas creció rápidamente. Todo el sistema bancario irlandés estaba al borde de la quiebra, y el gobierno completamente enloquecido y ciego garantizó el conjunto de los depósitos bancarios, que llegaba a 480.000 millones de euros (más del triple del PIB irlandés, que se elevaba a 168.000 millones de euros). El gobierno nacionalizó el Allied Irish Banck, principal financiador de la inmobiliaria, inyectándole 48.500 millones de euros (alrededor del 30% del PIB).

Las exportaciones se ralentizaron. Los ingresos del Estado bajaban. El déficit presupuestario saltó del 14% del PIB en 2009 al 32% en 2010 (del cual más de la mitad es atribuible al apoyo masivo a los bancos: 46.000 millones de aportación a fondos propios y 31.000 de compra de activos de riesgo).

El plan europeo de ayuda con la participación del FMI de finales de 2010 se eleva a 85.000 millones de euros en préstamos (de los cuales el FMI aporta 22.500) y ya está demostrado que no será suficiente. A cambio, el remedio de caballo impuesto al Tigre Celta en realidad es un plan de austeridad drástico que cae pesadamente sobre el poder adquisitivo de las familias, con la consecuencia de una reducción del consumo, de los gastos públicos en el ámbito social, de los sueldos de los trabajadores públicos y en las infraestructuras (en beneficio del reembolso de la deuda) y de los ingresos fiscales. Las principales medidas del plan de austeridad son terribles en el ámbito social:

- Supresión de 24.750 puestos de funcionarios (8% del total, equivalente a 350.000 puestos suprimidos en Francia).

- Las nuevas contrataciones se harán con un 10% menos de sueldo.

- Reducción de las transferencias sociales con disminución de las prestaciones por desempleo y familiares, bajada importante del presupuesto sanitario, congelación de las pensiones.

- Aumento de los impuestos, a cargo principalmente de la mayoría de la población víctima de la crisis, especialmente la subida del IVA del 21 al 23% en 2014; creación de un impuesto inmobiliario (que afecta a la mitad de los hogares que anteriormente no cotizaban).

- Bajada de 1 euro del salario mínimo por hora (de 8,65 a 7,65, es decir, el 11%).

Irlanda debe pagar tipos de interés elevados por los préstamos contraídos: 5,7% para los préstamos del FMI y 6,05% para los préstamos europeos. Sin embargo, ese dinero le servirá al gobierno irlandés para pagar a los tenedores de títulos de la deuda irlandesa, esencialmente bancos y otras sociedades financieras que adquieren esos títulos con préstamos del Banco Central Europeo, al 1% de interés. O sea, otra auténtica ganga para los financieros privados. Según la AFP, «el Director General del FMI, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, declaró: ‘Esto funcionará, pero por supuesto es difícil […] porque es duro para la gente ‘que tiene que hacer sacrificios en nombre de la austeridad presupuestaria’».

La oposición en la calle y en el Parlamento ha sido muy fuerte. El Dail, la Cámara Baja, aprobó el plan de ayuda de 85.000 millones de euros por sólo 81 votos contra 75. Lejos de abandonar su orientación neoliberal, el FMI ha señalado que entre las prioridades de Irlanda está la adopción de reformas para suprimir «los obstáculos estructurales para los negocios», con el fin de «mantener la competitividad en los próximos años». El socialista Dominique Strauss-Kahn se declara convencido de que la llegada de un nuevo gobierno tras las elecciones previstas a principios de 2011 no cambiará la situación: “Estoy convencido de que da igual que los partidos de la oposición, el Fine Gael o el partido laborista, critiquen al gobierno y el programa […] ellos comprenden la necesidad de llevarlo a cabo.”

En resumen, la liberalización económica y financiera que pretendía atraer a cualquier precio las inversiones extranjeras y las empresas financieras internacionales, ha desembocado en un fracaso total. Para añadir el insulto a los daños sufridos por la población víctima de esta política, el gobierno y el FMI no han encontrado nada mejor que profundizar la orientación neoliberal practicada desde hace 20 años e infligir a la población, bajo la presión de las finanzas internacionales, un programa de ajuste estructural calcado de los que se imponen desde hace tres decenios a los países del Tercer Mundo. Por el contrario, esos tres decenios deben servir de ejemplo de lo que no se debe hacer. Por eso es urgente imponer una lógica radicalmente diferente, en beneficio de los pueblos y no de las finanzas privadas.

Este artículo está ampliamente inspirado en un diaporama realizado por Pascal Franchet («Actualité de la dette publique au Nord», http://www.cadtm.org/IMG/ppt/Actualite_de_la_dette_publique_dans_les_pays.ppt).

Fuente: http://www.cadtm.org/La-crise-irlandaise-fiasco-complet

Traducido para Rebelión por Caty R.

[1] El impuesto de sociedades es del 39,5% en Japón, 39,2 en Gran Bretaña, 34,4% en Francia y 28% en Estados Unidos.

[2] Las dificultades del alemán  Hypo Reale Estate (rescatado en 2007 por el gobierno de Angela Merkel) y la quiebra del banco de negocios estadounidense Bear Sterns (rescatado en marzo de 2008 por JP Mogan con la ayuda del gobierno de Bush) proceden especialmente de los problemas de sus fondos especulativos, cuya sede está en Dublín.

Deuda de los países en desarrollo:

January 11th, 2011 by Eric Toussaint

Resumen de la primera parte: En cifras absolutas y en porcentaje del producto interior bruto, los países más industrializados tienen deudas mayores que los países en desarrollo (PED). El Norte y el Sur del planeta se ven afectados en forma diferente por la crisis. Provisoriamente, la coyuntura parece favorable a los gobiernos de los países en desarrollo, pero la prolongación de esta situación depende de políticas aplicadas en los países más industrializados y en China. Es posible que se produzca un cambio desfavorable de la coyuntura. En estas condiciones, los gobiernos de los PED no deberían esperar demasiado tiempo para poner en práctica políticas radicalmente distintas a las promovidas por el FMI, el Banco Mundial, la OMC y el G20. Como lo demuestran muchos ejemplos, una alternativa real es perfectamente posible.

 I. En cifras absolutas y en porcentaje los países más industrializados están más endeudados que los países en desarrollo (PED)[1]

En millones de dólares

Deuda externa pública de todos los países en desarrollo[2]

1.456.000

Deuda externa pública de Francia[3]

1.200.000

Deuda externa pública de España

318.000

Deuda externa pública del África subsahariana

130.000

Deuda externa pública de Estados Unidos

3.500.000

Deuda externa pública de América Latina

410.000

Deuda externa pública de Asia del Sur y del Este

440.000

Deuda pública interna y externa de las administraciones centrales de los países más industrializados: 32.000.000 millones de dólares o sea 32 billones de dólares.[4]

Deuda total externa, suma de la deuda pública y de la deuda privada,

en % del Producto interior bruto (PIB)

América Latina

22 %

Asia del Sur

21 %

Pakistán

29 %

India

19 %

Asia del Este + Pacífico

13 %

Irlanda

979 %

España

169 %

Portugal

233 %

Grecia

168 %

Alemania

148 %

Estados Unidos

100 %

Gran Bretaña

400 %

Una tercera tabla muestra que durante las graves crisis de la deuda que afectaron a los PED en el curso de los últimos treinta años, su deuda externa en porcentaje del PIB correspondiente era netamente inferior a la de los países más industrializados durante estos últimos años, presentada en la tabla precedente

Deuda exterior de algunos PED en el momento de las crisis de la deuda, en % del PIB

País

Año de la crisis

De la deuda

% de la deuda total externa

con respecto al PIB

Argentina

1982

55,1 %

ídem

2001

53,3 %

Brasil

1983

50,1 %

Chile

1983

96,4 %

Colombia

1982

26,4 %

México

1982

46,7 %

Venezuela

1982

48,6 %

Rusia

1998

58,5 %

Turquía

1978

21,0 %

India

1997

23,0 %

Indonesia

1997

63,2 %

Corea del Sur

1997

26,6 %

Malasia

1997

47,1 %

Filipinas

1983

70,6 %

ídem

1997

61,6 %

Tailandia

1997

72,7 %

II. Coyuntura favorable para los países en desarrollo que provoca un peligroso sentimiento de despreocupación, incluso de euforia

El contexto actual es favorable, en muchos aspectos, a los PED debido a tres factores que conducen a un peligroso estado de despreocupación, cuando no de euforia, en los jefes de gobierno de los países emergentes, incluso de todos los PED. En cuanto a las poblaciones del Sur, en su gran mayoría aprovechan en forma muy marginal esta coyuntura favorable, o ven empeorar su situación debido a los efectos combinados de la crisis alimentaria de 2007-2008,[5] de la política de acaparamiento de tierras, de los efectos de la frenética explotación de los recursos naturales de sus países, de los efectos del cambio climático y de la prolongación de las políticas neoliberales dictadas por el FMI, el Banco Mundial y la OMC.[6]

Primer factor: El reembolso de la deuda pública es coyunturalmente sostenible.[7] ¿Por qué? Porque los bancos centrales de los países del Norte están aplicando un tipo de interés muy bajo (alrededor del 0 % en Japón desde hace unos 20 años, 0,25 % en Estados Unidos desde 2008, 1 % en la eurozona desde 2009,[8] etc.) y ponen en circulación enormes cantidades de moneda.[9] Banqueros y otras sociedades financieras del Norte son los que se benefician de esta situación ya que les permite aumentar su liquidez. El efecto colateral de esta política es que los gobiernos de los PED pueden refinanciar sus deudas externas en el Norte a buen precio. El interés de esas renegociaciones está basado en el tipo de interés director de los bancos centrales de los países del Norte, al que se le agrega una prima de riesgo-país, dependiente de las notas que emiten las agencias de calificación de riesgos. Con respecto a los países emergentes, estas primas de riesgo bajaron estos últimos años (varios países emergentes deben pagar una prima de riesgo inferior a las que afectan actualmente a Grecia o Irlanda). Por otra parte, para algunos países pobres muy endeudados, los efectos de las anulaciones de la deuda anunciadas desde hace mucho tiempo por el Club de París, el Banco Mundial y el FMI comienzan a aliviar realmente el servicio de la deuda pública externa. Sin embargo, sus problemas están muy lejos de solucionarse, pero el peso del reembolso de la deuda es menor. Este alivio es la contrapartida a la prosecución de las políticas neoliberales dictadas por el FMI y el BM que fragilizan las economías de estos países, especialmente al desfavorecer a los productores locales y al continuar con la privatización de los sectores clave de la economía.

Segundo factor: El alza de los precios de las materias primas (desde el año 2003) aumenta los ingresos de los países exportadores y, al mismo tiempo, aumenta sus reservas en divisas fuertes, que facilitan el reembolso de sus deudas externas (pagadas en divisas).

Tercer factor: La existencia de un enorme volumen de liquidez circulando a través del mundo permite un flujo de capitales que temporalmente pueden ir del Norte hacia las bolsas de los países emergentes. Un ejemplo: entre enero y septiembre de 2010, la bolsa de la India atrajo 34.000 millones de dólares de inversiones extranjeras. Sin embargo, durante ese mismo período, las inversiones directas extranjeras cayeron un 35 %.[10] A causa de esta entrada de capitales volátiles, la moneda india (la rupia) alcanzó su nivel más alto desde 2007. El mismo escenario se repite en otros países que ven como su moneda se aprecia frente al dólar y otras divisas fuertes.[11]

De manera general, el peso relativo del pago de la deuda externa pública de los PED ha bajado en el curso de los 3 o 4 últimos años para una mayoría de PED, incluidos los más pobres. La situación se complica claramente si se tiene en cuenta la deuda pública total puesto que la deuda pública interna va en aumento. En consecuencia: el peso del servicio de la deuda pública con respecto al presupuesto del Estado es ahora, en muchos casos, idéntico al de hace unos años. En el caso de Brasil, cuyo gobierno se felicita de haber resuelto el problema de la deuda, el reembolso de la deuda pública (interna más externa) representa el 35, 5 % del presupuesto del Estado, mientras que los gastos en educación sólo representan el 2,9 % y el de sanidad el 4,6 %.[12] Con el fin de mostrar hasta qué punto su política era un éxito, el gobierno brasileño participó en 2010 en los préstamos concedidos a Grecia por un monto superior a 200 millones de dólares. También prestó dinero al FMI con el objetivo de aumentar su capacidad de intervención para ir en «ayuda» de algunos países más industrializados

Los gobiernos del Sur, el Banco Mundial y el FMI ponen el acento sólo sobre la deuda externa, de manera que la situación parece, a primera vista, mejorar. Sin embargo, incluso desde el punto de vista de la deuda externa, la situación de los PED no es tan brillante como las autoridades lo pretenden. La deuda pública externa de todos los PED, tomada conjuntamente, aumentó entre 2007 y 2009, y ha pasado de 1,324 billones de dólares en 2007 a 1,374 billones en 2008 y a 1,459 billones en 2009.[13] Y este aumento continúa en forma inexorable.

III. Esta coyuntura favorable es frágil puesto que depende de factores que los PED no controlan

 

1.- China: La evolución de este país, que se considera un PED, tendrá un papel determinante. El «taller del mundo» es el más grande importador de materias primas. El mantenimiento de un nivel elevado de importación permite un nivel alto de precios. Si los pedidos chinos se redujeran de manera significativa, habría un gran riesgo de que el precio de las materias primas bajara o se desplomara (sobre todo si se combinara con el estallido de la burbuja especulativa sobre las materias primas que ha ido aumentando a un ritmo sostenido desde 2007-2008 —véase el punto siguiente—)

Varios factores pueden debilitar el crecimiento actual de China, que tendría como resultado una reducción de su demanda: En primer lugar, la especulación bursátil en  una Bolsa que sufre fluctuaciones considerables y en segundo lugar, el desarrollo de una burbuja inmobiliaria que está alcanzando proporciones inquietantes —las autoridades chinas lo han reconocido—, todo ello en un contexto de endeudamiento exponencial con una explosión de acreencias dudosas que podrían conducir a un debilitamiento del sistema bancario chino, que es esencialmente público. También se teme el estallido de varias burbujas en China,[14] cuyas repercusiones no se sabe qué efecto tendrían en el resto del mundo, incluido en los PED.

El hecho de mencionar el peligro que representa el importante endeudamiento interno chino y el desarrollo de una enorme burbuja inmobiliaria se topa, en general, con cierto escepticismo ya que la situación no es bien conocida. ¿Y qué es lo que pasa? En 2008, las autoridades chinas pusieron en marcha un vasto plan de reactivación por un monto de 4 billones de yuan (cerca del 12 % del PIB siendo 1 USD= 6,8 yuan; 1 euro=9,4 yuan; el Renminbis ( Rmb) es el nombre oficial de la divisa china, siendo el yuan su unidad). La implantación de este plan conllevó un aumento considerable de los préstamos concedidos por los bancos públicos a las empresas públicas y a las administraciones. El total de los nuevos préstamos concedidos en 2009 alcanzó los 9, 6 billones de yuan ( o sea un poco más de 1 billón de euros, cerca del 30 % del PIB chino). Y eso representaba el doble de lo prestado por los bancos chinos el año anterior. En 2010, el volumen de los nuevos préstamos debería alcanzar los 7 billones de yuan. Frente a esa inflación de préstamos y al aumento de los riesgos de estallido de una crisis bancaria, las autoridades chinas exigieron a los bancos que aumentaran su capital y la liquidez que disponen. Las acreencias dudosas aumentan ya que una parte importante de los créditos fueron concedidos a autoridades locales y a empresas públicas, con la intención de apoyar la voluntad de las autoridades chinas, pero sin tomarse la pena de verificar la solvencia de los destinatarios de esos préstamos ni de su destino. Una parte no despreciable de ese dinero fue utilizado en compras inmobiliarias que acrecentaron un poco más la burbuja. Si ésta estallara, produciría una enorme depreciación de los activos, quiebras no solamente en el sector inmobiliario sino también en todos los sectores que participaron en ese casino. Las familias, que se endeudaron fuertemente para adquirir un bien inmobiliario, se encontrarán en la situación de no poder seguir pagando sus hipotecas.

2.- Los tipos de interés en los países industrializados. Algún día aumentarán. Desde 2008-2009, en América del Norte y en la Unión Europea, los bancos privados tienen acceso en los Bancos Centrales a un recurso monetario muy poco costoso, o sea, con un interés muy bajo. Con esta enorme liquidez, los bancos prestan, pero en forma limitada, a las empresas que invierten en producción y a las familias que consumen. El resto, grandísimo, les sirve para especular con las materias primas, con los alimentos (en bolsas como la de Chicago), con los títulos de la deuda pública, o sobre las monedas (el volumen diario del mercado de cambio alcanza los 4 billones de dólares)… Con respecto al precio elevado de las materias primas se debe al efecto combinado de la demanda china y de la especulación.

Los Bancos Centrales de los países más industrializados saben que se están formando nuevas burbujas y —al menos en principio— tendrían que aumentar los tipos de interés para disminuir la liquidez en circulación. Pero dudan, puesto que si se resuelven a hacerlo existe de nuevo un riesgo de quiebras bancarias, de compañías de seguro, de empresas comerciales e industriales, ya que todos refinanciaron sus antiguas deudas, contrayendo nuevas, aprovechando los bajos tipos de interés. Muchas empresas también colocaron a medio plazo el dinero prestado a corto plazo. Esta situación es la que produce los dilemas de los bancos centrales: si los tipos de interés permanecen bajos, las nuevas burbujas continuarán desarrollándose; si los tipos aumentan, estas burbujas corren el riego de estallar rápidamente.

Si la burbuja de las materias primas estallara produciría una reducción de sus precios. Si los tipos de interés aumentan, el coste del reembolso de la deuda pública (y privada) aumentará tanto en el Norte como en el Sur. En resumen: si los tipos de interés terminan aumentando, los PED corren el riesgo de una estrangulación: encarecimiento del servicio de la deuda aunado a una reducción en la entrada de divisas debido al descenso del precio de las materias primeas (véase el punto precedente).

3.- Flujo de capital volátil del Norte hacia el Sur. Finalmente, los flujos de capitales que van hacia las bolsas de los países emergentes pueden en forma muy rápida volver a partir, debilitando a esas economías. Es lo que vimos a lo largo de los años 1990 (crisis Tequila en México en 1994-1995; crisis asiática en 1997-1998; etc.) Actualmente, la India es un ejemplo emblemático. Como hemos mencionado anteriormente, entre enero y septiembre de 2010, la bolsa india atrajo 34.000 millones de dólares de inversiones extranjeras pero durante las dos primeras semanas de noviembre de 2010 repartieron 5.000 millones. Como dice la prensa financiera, los banqueros y otros inversores institucionales occidentales cogieron sus beneficios, al revender una parte de las acciones que habían comprado en los meses anteriores, y se fueron.

Conclusión intermedia: Si no están atentos, los PED se arriesgan a encontrarse de nuevo en la situación que sufrieron en los años ochenta: el alza de los tipos de interés decidida por la reserva federal de Estados Unidos hacia fines de 1979 (seguida de la de los bancos centrales de los países más industrializados y la de los bancos privados) provocó un aumento brutal de los pagos de las deudas efectuados por los PED que, al mismo tiempo, se veían enfrentados a un disminución de sus ingresos por exportación debida a la caída de los precios de las materias primas (hay que señalar que los precios de las materias primas mantuvieron una tendencia a la baja desde 1981 hasta 2003).[15]

Recomendaciones: Los gobiernos de los países en desarrollo, bajo la presión de los movimientos sociales, deberían aprovechar esta coyuntura favorable para imponer a los diferentes acreedores una solución al problema de la deuda. La mayor parte de los PED disponen de reservas de cambio en cantidades que jamás se habían logrado antes reunir, lo que les permitiría mantener una posición de poder frente a las diferentes instituciones financieras extranjeras y a los Estados más industrializados, que pueden amenazar con cerrar el grifo del crédito. Argumento suplementario a favor de una acción enérgica de los PED en materia de anulación de las deudas: desde el comienzo de la crisis del Norte en 2007-2008 hasta el 2º trimestre del 2010, los bancos privados de los países más industrializados borraron de sus libros de contabilidad cerca de 1,6 billones de dólares (y eso todavía no terminó) de acreencias dudosas ligadas al extravagante montaje financiero construido en el periodo 2004-2007. En comparación con esta suma, las acreencias que los bancos privados poseen de los poderes públicos de los PED representan muy poco: 136.000 millones de dólares, o sea, solamente el 8,5 % de los 1,6 billones que hicieron desaparecer. Si los banqueros privados fueron capaces de anular 1,6 billones de acreencias en menos de 3 años, no vemos por qué los gobiernos del Sur no podrían imponerles en la misma forma un esfuerzo para el alivio de la carga de la deuda externa pública.

Por otra parte, el total de las acreencias bilaterales de los países más industrializados sobre los

poderes públicos de los PED se elevaba a 326.000 millones de dólares a fines del año 2009. Esta suma es fiable si se la compara con las sumas desembolsadas entre 2008 y 2010 por los gobiernos europeos para rescatar a sus banqueros pirómanos debido a la crisis después de octubre de 2008: se les suministró en total 1,1 billones de euros (o sea, 1,446 billones de dólares),[16] la mayor parte a fondo perdido puesto que los gobiernos no supieron aprovechar la oportunidad de asumir el control permanente de esos bancos e imponer un cambio radical de la manera de operar del sector financiero. También es necesario tener en cuenta las ayudas a los banqueros concedidas por el gobierno de Estados Unidos que sumaron más de 700.000 millones de dólares. Por lo tanto, el total de las ayudas europeas y estadounidenses en líquido a los bancos privados en el período 2008-2010 se elevó 2,140 billones de dólares, es decir 7 veces el monto total de las deudas bilaterales de los PED con los países más industrializados. Después de una auditoría completa, los gobiernos de los países en desarrollo deberían rechazar el reembolso de las deudas bilaterales identificadas como ilegítimas que, de todas maneras, representan bien poco frente a los regalos que recibió la banca.

Finalmente, los gobiernos de los PED deberían también rechazar la prosecución de los pagos de las sumas reclamadas por las instituciones multilaterales (FMI, Banco Mundial, bancos regionales de desarrollo…), evaluadas en 490.000 millones de dólares a fines de 2009, argumentando que esa parte multilateral de la deuda sirvió para imponer el Consenso de Washington, cuyas consecuencias sociales, económicas y ambientales fueron y son desastrosas y que abrieron la puerta a prácticas escandalosas que condujeron a la crisis actual.

En cuanto a las alternativas, algunos avances, aunque modestos, se han realizado en algunos países con gobiernos progresistas, en especial en América Latina.

 

IV. Las alternativas

 

1.- Auditoría de la deuda pública bajo control ciudadano

 

El CADTM propone una medida fundamental concerniente a la deuda pública: la suspensión unilateral (de un solo país) o multilateral (si se constituyera un frente de países endeudados) del pago de la deuda. Durante ese período las autoridades de los países afectados realizarán una auditoría de la deuda pública (bajo control ciudadano), con el fin de determinar qué deudas deben anularse/repudiarse o renegociarse de manera drástica a causa de ilegitimidad, ilegalidad o por su carácter odioso

 

Primer recuadro

 

Ecuador realizó una auditoría integral de la deuda

 

Siete meses después de haber sido elegido, el presidente ecuatoriano Rafael Correa decidió la ejecución de un análisis de la deuda del país, y de las condiciones en las que esa deuda había sido contraída. A este fin, una comisión de auditoría de la deuda compuesta por 18 expertos, entre ellos el CADTM, se puso en marcha a partir de julio de 2007. Después de 14 meses de trabajo, se elaboró un informe que mostraba que numerosos préstamos habían sido concedidos violando las reglas más elementales. En noviembre de 2008, el nuevo gobierno de Correa se basó en ese informe para suspender el reembolso de bonos de la deuda que vencerían, unos en 2012 y otros en 2030. Finalmente, el gobierno de ese pequeño país de Latinoamérica salió victorioso del pulso mantenido con los banqueros norteamericanos, tenedores de esos bonos de la deuda ecuatoriana. El gobierno compró por 1.000 millones de dólares títulos que valían 3.200 millones, ahorrando así el tesoro público ecuatoriano cerca de 2.200 millones de dólares del stock de la deuda, a los que hay que sumar los 300 millones de dólares de interés por año, durante el período 2008-2030. Finalmente, el gobierno consiguió de esa manera nuevos recursos financieros que le permiten aumentar los gastos sociales en sanidad, educación, ayuda social y en el desarrollo de infraestructuras de comunicación.

Fin del primer recuadro

2. El recurso de los Estados a efectuar «actos soberanos»

Hay ejemplos recientes, en particular en Latinoamérica, de actos soberanos para resistir a la dominación de las instituciones financieras internacionales, acreedores privados, empresas transnacionales o países dominantes:

• La suspensión unilateral del pago de la deuda por Ecuador, mencionado más arriba.

• El repudio, con éxito, que hizo Paraguay, en 2005, de una deuda ilegal contraída con bancos suizos.[17]

• La suspensión del reembolso de su deuda por parte de Argentina, en 2001, que finalmente logró renegociar en 2005 al 45 % de su valor.

Segundo recuadro

 

Argentina

 

Argentina suspendió el pago de su deuda entre 2001 y 2005. Como lo escribe el economista Claudio Katz: “El default no fue voluntario, organizado, ni previsto, pero resultó conveniente para el país. Los financistas decían que el aislamiento sería trágico, pero ocurrió todo lo contrario. El corte de las relaciones financieras internacionales permitió un gran alivio económico. Especialmente la ausencia de pagos externos contribuyó a impulsar la reactivación interna. El default facilitó la negociación con los acreedores, confirmando que cuándo una deuda es elevada el problema lo tienen los banqueros.” [18]
Gracias a esa moratoria unilateral sobre los títulos de la deuda por un monto de cerca de 100.000 millones de dólares, el país consiguió la renegociación, en marzo de 2005, con una quita del 55 %. Con ese ahorro de dinero, pudo invertir sus recursos y reanudar su crecimiento (8 % a 9 % de crecimiento anual en el período 2003-2010).[19]

Argentina todavía tiene una deuda con miembros del Club de París de 6.000 millones de dólares. Desde diciembre de 2001 no hace ningún reembolso a los países miembros del Club y lo lleva muy bien. El Club de París representa los intereses de los países industrializados y no quiere publicidad acerca del no pago de la deuda argentina, ya que teme que otros gobiernos puedan seguir el ejemplo. Hay que destacar que Argentina forma parte actualmente del G20 y que, por lo tanto, no está en absoluto marginada a pesar de sus actos unilaterales soberanos. El 16 de noviembre de 2010, después de nueve años de suspensión unilateral del pago de la deuda, anunciaba que había logrado que el club de Paris aceptara reanudar el diálogo, agregando que había conseguido también imponer una condición precia: el FMI no estaría autorizado a aconsejar sobre la política económica del gobierno argentino. Situación que se debe seguir de cerca.

Fin del segundo recuadro

• Cansados de estar condenados por el tribunal del Banco Mundial en materia de litigios sobre las inversiones (Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias Relativas a las Inversiones o CIADI) que, generalmente, da la razón a las sociedades privadas transnacionales en los juicios contra Estados que toman medidas favorables al interés público, algunos países ya notificaron al CIADI que dejarán de reconocer sus decisiones y arbitrajes. Es el caso de Bolivia y Ecuador. Además, en 2009, Ecuador denunció 21 tratados bilaterales sobre inversiones.

• La recuperación del control público sobre los recursos naturales, especialmente por medio de las nacionalizaciones, y de otros sectores clave de la economía, como es el caso de Venezuela desde 2002 y de Bolivia a partir de 2006.

• La imposición de nuevos contratos con las sociedades transnacionales activas en las industrias extractivas (petróleo, gas, minerales…) con el fin de aumentar fuertemente los impuestos y royalties que pagan a los Estados. Bolivia, Ecuador y Venezuela han hecho avances en este sentido.

• El fin unilateral de las concesiones concedidas por los Estados a algunas transnacionales que hacen políticas contrarias al interés público. Bolivia puso fin a las concesiones acordadas a la sociedad Bechtel (en el año 2000 en Cochabamba), y a la sociedad Suez (en el año 2005 en El Alto, periferia de La Paz) en el sector de la distribución y depuración del agua.

3.-La Constitución ecuatoriana: un modelo en materia de endeudamiento publico[20]

En materia de endeudamiento, la Constitución ecuatoriana, aprobada por sufragio universal en septiembre de 2008, representa un gran avance que puede servir de ejemplo a otros países y que se debe poner en práctica (véase el recuadro). En efecto, los artículos 290 y 291 determinan y limitan estrictamente las condiciones en las que las autoridades del país pueden contraer deudas. También rechazan la posibilidad del crédito para pagar antiguas deudas. Así mismo rechazan las deudas constituidas por capitalización de los intereses de retraso (lo que se conoce como anatocismo), práctica corriente de los acreedores miembros del Club de París. Por otra parte advierten a los prestamistas que si otorgan préstamos en condiciones ilegítimas, serán llevados ante la justicia. Se consideran imprescriptibles los delitos concernientes al endeudamiento público. Excluyen la posibilidad de que el Estado asuma la deuda de los banqueros privados o de otras entidades privadas. Y prescriben la instauración de un mecanismo de auditoría integral y permanente del endeudamiento público interno y externo.

Tercer recuadro

La Constitución ecuatoriana y el endeudamiento público: un gran avance que se debe poner en práctica

 

Sección tercera,  Endeudamiento público

Art. 289.- La contratación de deuda pública en todos los niveles del Estado se regirá por las directrices de la respectiva planificación y presupuesto y será autorizada por un comité de deuda y financiamiento de acuerdo con la ley,  que definirá su conformación y funcionamiento. El Estado promoverá las instancias para que el poder ciudadano vigile y audite el endeudamiento público.

Art. 290El endeudamiento público se sujetará a las siguientes regulaciones:

1. Se recurrirá al endeudamiento público sólo cuando los ingresos fiscales y los recursos provenientes de la cooperación internacional sean insuficientes.

2. Se velará para que el endeudamiento público no afecte a la soberanía, los derechos humanos, el buen vivir y la preservación de la naturaleza.

3. Con endeudamiento público se financiarán exclusivamente programas y proyectos de inversión para infraestructuras, o que tengan capacidad financiera de pago. Sólo se podrá refinanciar deuda pública externa, siempre que las nuevas condiciones sean más beneficiosas para el Ecuador.

4. Los convenios de renegociación no contendrán, de forma tácita o expresa, ninguna forma de anatocismo o usura.

5. Se procederá a la impugnación de las deudas que se declaren ilegítimas por organismo competente. En caso de ilegalidad declarada, se ejercerá el derecho de repetición.

6. Serán imprescriptibles las acciones por las responsabilidades administrativas o civiles causadas por la adquisición y manejo de deuda pública.

7. Se prohíbe la estatización de deudas privadas.

[…]

Art. 291.-Los órganos competentes que la Constitución y la ley determinen realizarán análisis financieros, sociales y ambientales previos del impacto de los proyectos que impliquen endeudamiento público, para determinar su posible financiación. Dichos órganos realizarán el control y la auditoría financiera, social y ambiental en todas las fases del endeudamiento público interno y externo, tanto en la contratación como en el manejo y la renegociación.

Fin del tercer recuadro

 

4.- Para complementar las medidas soberanas unilaterales, conviene desarrollar iniciativas de integración regional que refuercen la solidaridad entre los pueblos.

 

El ALBA (Alianza Bolivariana de las Américas) es un proyecto de integración alternativa propuesto en 2003 por el presidente de Venezuela Hugo Chávez en respuesta al ALCA (Asociación de Libre Comercio de las Américas), iniciativa lanzada en su momento por el presidente estadounidense Hill Clinton. Operacional desde 2004, el ALBA comprende actualmente a Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominica, San Vicente y Granadinas, Ecuador y Antigua y Barbados. Las perspectivas de integración incluyen proyectos en varios ámbitos como las finanzas, la educación, las infraestructuras, la ciencia y la tecnología, la energía, el medioambiente, etc. La iniciativa más importante hasta hoy es la de Petrocaribe, que suministra petróleo venezolano en condiciones favorables para el resto de países miembros. En su apogeo de 2008, el valor total de las exportaciones de petróleo venezolano a los socios de Petrocaribe llegaron a los 10.000 millones de dólares.

El proyecto bolivariano del ALBA quiere conferir un contenido de justicia social al proyecto de integración continental, y tiene como objetivos la recuperación del control público sobre los recursos naturales de la región y sobre los grandes medios de producción, de crédito y de comercialización, la nivelación por arriba de las conquistas sociales de los trabajadores y de los pequeños productores, así como la reducción de las desigualdades entre las economías de la región. En la cumbre del ALBA que se reunió en Cochabamba (Bolivia) el 17 de octubre de 2009El ALBA, se adoptó el tratado constitutivo del SUCRE (Sistema Unificado de Compensación Regional)[21] una unidad de cuenta que será utilizada por los intercambios comerciales entre los países de la Alianza. El objetivo está claramente explicitado en la declaración final firmada por los jefes de Estado y es hacer del SUCRE un «instrumento para conquistar la soberanía monetaria y financiera» y de conseguir «la eliminación de la dependencia del dólar US en el comercio regional, la reducción de asimetrías y la consolidación progresiva de una zona de desarrollo compartido».[22] ¿ Un primer paso hacia una moneda común?[23]

El Banco del Sur puesto en marcha en 2007 por siete países de América del Sur (Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela) les permitirá tener una institución multilateral pública que podrá financiar proyectos que favorezcan la integración y la reducción de las asimetrías entre estos países.[24] En los acuerdos suscritos entre los siete gobiernos se habla de soberanía en materia alimentaria y energética, de los recursos naturales, del conocimiento y de la salud (los proyectos financiados por el Banco deberían estar allí). Desgraciadamente el Banco del Sur todavía no ha comenzado sus actividades.[25]

Todas esas medidas mencionadas constituyen solamente una parte de las políticas que se podrían poner en marcha para terminar con tres décadas de políticas neoliberales. Las diferentes publicaciones del CADTM desarrollan un conjunto completo y coherente de medidas para poner en práctica con el objetivo de alcanzar la justicia social. Os invitamos a revisarlas.

Como vemos, las alternativas a la sumisión a la deuda existen y la coyuntura es favorable para los PED. Pero esta situación puede durar poco y por lo tanto es urgente que los movimientos sociales y los ciudadanos y ciudadanas preocupados por la justicia social aumenten fuertemente la presión sobre los dirigentes del Sur. Pero en este combate, podrían recibir el sostén de numerosas organizaciones del Norte, ya que debido a la crisis internacional comenzada en 2007-2008, las poblaciones del Norte se hallan también sometidas a una aplastante deuda.

Continuación: Segunda parte: La deuda de los países más industrializados.

 

Traducido por Griselda Pinero y Raúl Quiroz

[1] Según los organismos internacionales (FMI, BM, OCDE), forman parte de los PED todos los países de América Latina y del Caribe, de África, del Oriente Medio, los países de la Europa del Este ( incluidos varios miembros de la Unión Europea y Rusia), los países de Asia (incluida China), salvo Japón y Corea del Sur.

[2] Las cifras corresponden al año 2009. Fuente: Banco Mundial, Global Development Finance, datos en la red.

[3] Este dato sólo incluye la deuda del gobierno central. Fuente: OCDE, Dette de l’administration centrale, Annuaire statistique 200-2009, París 2010, p. 31.

[4] Alemania, Australia, Austria, Bélgica, Canadá, Corea del Sur, Dinamarca, España, Estados Unidos, Finlandia, Francia, Gran-Bretaña, Grecia, Islandia, Irlanda, Italia, Japón, Luxemburgo, Noruega, Nueva-Zelanda, Países-Bajos, Portugal, Suecia, Suiza. En total 24 países. Cálculos del autor sobre la base de la OCDE, Dette de l’administration centrale, Annuaire statistique 200-2009, París 2010, p.29.

[5] Véase Damien Millet y Éric Toussaint, Volvamos a hablar de las causas de la crisis alimentaria, agosto 2008 www.cadtm.org/Volvamos-a-hablar-de-las-causas . Véase también Eric Toussaint, La crisis global, El Viejo Topo, Mataró, 2010.

[6] Véase Renaud Vivien y Éric Toussaint, vers une nouvelle crise de la dette du Sud?, abril 2010, www.cadtm.org/Vers-une-nouvelle-crise-de-la

[7] Aclaración del autor: Aunque el reembolso de la deuda fuera sostenible para el presupuesto, este hecho no libera en absoluto a los gobiernos de su obligación de hacer una auditoría para identificar las deudas ilegítimas y/o ilegales, incluso odiosas con el fin de repudiarlas. Además, la noción de sostenibilidad es totalmente subjetiva: el pago es sostenible con la condición de que se reduzcan los gastos sociales con el fin de destinar un máximo de recursos públicos para los acreedores. Desde el punto de vista de las poblaciones, esta política es insostenible mientras que el Banco Mundial, el FMI y una aplastante mayoría de gobiernos opinan lo contrario.

[8] Estos tipos de interés son en realidad negativos puesto que son inferiores a la inflación.

[9] La reserva federal de Estados Unidos decidió a comienzos de noviembre de 2010 comprar a los bancos privados bonos del Tesoro por un monto de 600.000 millones de dólares (lo que se agrega a las compras anteriores). El Banco Central Europeo (BCE), entre mayo y octubre de 2010, compró a los bancos títulos pública por valor de 65.000 millones de euros (Fuente: Finantial Times, 9 de noviembre de 2010). Al comprar esos títulos públicos a los bancos, los bancos centrales emiten moneda que los banqueros se precipitan a prestar con el fin de obtener sus beneficios. Los banqueros privados prestan ese dinero a los Estados o a las empresas privadas, tanto del Norte como del Sur. Es un circulo vicioso.

[10] Financial Times, 26 de octubre de 2010

[11] Sus exportaciones pierden competitividad. Algunos países como Brasil han tomada medidas para limitar la entrada de capitales, tanto más que esos capitales pueden partir rápidamente con un fuerte efecto desestabilizador.

[12] Véase: http://www.divida-auditoriacidada.org.br/config/graficoorcamento2009.jpg/image_view

[13] Banco Mundial; Global Development Finance, datos en la red.

[14] Es lo que se denomina particularmente crisis gemelas: una crisis bursátil y una crisis inmobiliaria que desembocan en un crash bancario, que es lo que pasó en Japón en 1990 y en Estados Unidos en 2007-2008.

[15] Véase Damien Millet y Éric Toussaint, 60 preguntas, 60 respuestas sobre la deuda, el FMI y el Banco Mundial, Icaria Editorial, Barcelona, 2010, pregunta 11.

[16] Si también se tiene en cuenta las garantías ofrecidas por los gobiernos a los bancos, se llega a la suma de 4,598 billones de euros en ayuda públicas. Véase el sitio de la Comisión Europea http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/1635&format=HTML&aged=0&language=FR&guiLanguage=en

[17] Ver Hugo Ruiz Diaz http://www.cadtm.org/Decision-soberana-de-declarar-la

[18] http://www.cadtm.org/Grecia-2010-Argentina-2001

[19] Por supuesto, la tasa de crecimiento del PIB como medida del éxito social de un país es totalmente insuficiente. Este dato sólo nos da una indicación del estado de la economía.

[20] La nueva Constitución del Ecuador de 2008, así como la de Bolivia adoptada el mismo año y la de Venezuela adoptada en 1999, contienen otros elementos de alternativas extremadamente interesantes. Os aconsejamos ver el texto completo de estas constituciones.

[21] La decisión de principio de crear una nueva moneda, el SUCRE fue ratificada el 16 de abril de 2009 a Cumana (Venezuela) por los principales dirigentes del ALBA. El SUCRE servirá fundamentalmente de unidad de cuenta para saldar los intercambios comerciales entre los países que lo subscribieron. Podría ser un inicio de un proyecto de moneda común. Debe su nombre a un héroe de la independencia sudamericana, José Antonio Sucre (1795-1830)

[22] Léase la Declaración final de la cumbre del ALBA (en castellano) en http://alainet.org/active/33762

[23] Si bien el SUCRE debía comenzar a implantarse gradualmente a partir de 2010, ningún calendario fue sugerido en Cochabamba para pasar en un determinado plazo a la moneda única.

[24] Véase Éric Toussaint, El Banco del Sur y la nueva crisis internacional, El Viejo Topo, Mataró, 2008

[25] Entrevista a Éric Toussaint en el diario suizo Le Courrier, del 16 de octubre de 2010. http://www.lecourrier.ch/index.php?name=NewsPaper&file=article&sid=447171 o http://www.cadtm.org/Du-Venezuela-a-l-Equateur-des

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- by Boris Volkhonsky – 2010-12-31

La renegociación del Tratado de Itaipú, a iniciativa del Paraguay, es un gran avance hacia la recuperación del control de sus recursos naturales. Pero esta tentativa del Paraguay de restablecer su soberanía energética choca frontalmente con los intereses de Brasil. En efecto, este Tratado firmado en 1973, durante la época en que los dos países tenían dictaduras militares,[1] determina el uso de los recursos hidroeléctricos de acuerdo a la soberanía común en el seno de la empresa binacional Itaipú (o sea, una empresa en copropiedad entre Brasil y Paraguay), y presenta un gran desequilibrio a favor de Brasil. Dada esta situación, el gobierno del presidente Lugo decidió, en 2008, con total legitimidad, comenzar una renegociación del Tratado con el gigante latinoamericano. El Paraguay exige, entre otras cosas, la libre disposición de sus recursos hidroeléctricos, un precio justo para la venta de su electricidad a Brasil y la anulación de las deudas ilegítimas de Itaipú. Sobre este último punto, un empujón considerable: la Contraloría General de la República, que realiza una auditoría de la deuda de Itaipú, ha declarado ilegal una deuda de más de 4.000 millones de dólares.

La empresa binacional Itaipú ha acumulado miles de millones de dólares de deudas ilegítimas, imputables en gran parte a Brasil y a sus empresas. En efecto, Brasil recurrió a los préstamos internacionales en muy pequeña proporción, prefiriendo endeudar a la empresa binacional Itaipú ante la empresa brasileña de electricidad Electrobras. Desde entonces, en colusión con esta última y aprovechando el estado de corrupción que reinaba en el Paraguay, Brasil pudo fijar las condiciones de préstamo y la utilización de los recursos así obtenidos en condiciones que le eran totalmente favorables: tipos de interés usureros, del 7,5 %, remisión por Electrobras del 85 % de los contratos de construcción de Itaipú a firmas y consultoras brasileñas (Camargo Correa, Andrade Gutérrez, etc.), sobrefacturación de costes, etc. Por una serie de prácticas ilegales, Electrobras posee actualmente cerca del 90 % de las acreencias de la empresa binacional Itaipú. De todas maneras, la deuda de la empresa binacional pertenece por mitades a cada una de las partes del Tratado. El Paraguay debe por lo tanto a Brasil 10.000 millones de dólares vía Electrobras. Por decisión propia pronunciada el 16 de diciembre de 2010, la Contraloría General de la República señala uno de los actos ilícitos salidos del proceso leonino ejecutado por Brasil.

El aviso de la Contraloría establece que la aplicación de una «tarifa provisoria» de 10 dólares US por kilovatio-mes, decidida en marzo de 1985, para la venta de la energía producida en Itaipú era ilegal. Los motivos son los siguientes: el concepto de «tarifa provisoria» no está previsto en el Tratado; la electricidad ha sido vendida a un precio inferior a su coste de producción, lo que está prohibido por el Tratado. Este establece que la tarifa de la electricidad debe ser igual a su coste de producción. Sin embargo, entre 1985 y 1996, las empresas brasileñas de electricidad FURNAS y ELECTROSUL y en menor medida la Administración Nacional de Electricidad del Paraguay (ANDE) no respetaron este principio, aplicando una tarifa inferior al coste real. Hasta el 31 de diciembre de 1996, ITAIPÜ acumuló una deuda ilegítima de 4.200 millones de dólares, engendrada en un 97,5 % por las empresas brasileñas y en un 2,5 % por la empresa pública paraguaya ANDE. Más de 4.000 millones de dólares de deudas son, por lo tanto, directamente imputables a las empresas brasileñas.

Sin embargo, en marzo de 1997, durante una reunión en São Paulo, Brasil, en plena crisis económica, convenció al presidente paraguayo de esa época Carlos Wasmosy (1993-1998) que reconociera esa deuda ilegítima como una parte del pasivo de Itaipú. Este reconocimiento condujo al Paraguay a tener que reembolsar el 50 % de esa deuda ilegítima de Itaipú, a pesar de que no había obtenido ningún provecho de ella y que solamente el 2,5 % de esa deuda había sido generado por ANDE.

Mientras los «barones de Itaipú» (Wasmosy y consortes, que acumularon grandes fortunas mediante el sistema de corrupción) ratificaban esos hechos fraudulentos, del lado paraguayo, la Contraloría estaba investigando esa deuda ilegítima de 4.200 millones de dólares y establecía, ya en 1997, que:«el Paraguay asumió parte de una deuda que no le correspondía debido a una decisión improcedente del Consejo de Administración (de Itaipú)de fijar la tarifa ilegalmente por debajo de lo que correspondía cobrar en ese momento según lo establecido en el Anexo C».[2]

El mismo año, la Comisión Bicameral de Investigación del Congreso paraguayo investigó también sobre esa deuda y remitió sus conclusiones en mayo de 1997. La Comisión declaraba «…nulas en sus efectos y alcances las resoluciones del Directorio Ejecutivo y el Consejo de Administración (de Itaipú) que ocasionaron la deuda ilícita de más de US $ 4.000 millones por violar reiteradamente preceptos establecidos en el Tratado de Itaipú. Por consiguiente, los acuerdos de renegociación de la deuda arribados al 31 de marzo pasado carecen de fundamentación legal y no comprometen a la República del Paraguay…»[3]

Trece años más tarde, el aviso reciente de la Contraloría General de la República atestando la ilegitimidad de esa deuda confirma las posiciones anteriores sobre la ilegalidad de la deuda de Itaipú. Esto permite a Paraguay repudiar la deuda ilegítima de Itaipú y reforzar su posición en la renegociación con Brasil del Tratado de Itaipú. ¡La pelota está ahora en el tejado del gobierno paraguayo!

Texto en francés : http://www.mondialisation.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22702

Traducido por Griselda Piñero, CADTM.

[1]  El Paraguay estaba bajo la dictadura del general Stroessner, de 1954 hasta 1989, mientras que Brasil estaba dirigido por la dictadura de Garrastazú Medici. (1969-1974)

[2]  Contraloría General de la República del Paraguay. Examen especial, Administración Nacional de Electricidad (ANDE), dispuesto por Resolución nº 346 del 17 de abril de 1997.

[3] Comisión Bicameral de Investigaciones (CBI), Congreso Nacional. Expediente «En relación a las negociaciones con el Brasil en torno a la deuda de Itaipú», Conclusión Nº 3/BN/E.103, del 19 de mayo de 1997.

“Hate Speech” and the Risks of Free Speech

January 11th, 2011 by Kieran Manjarrez

As sure as rain follows upon dark clouds, the cry has gone up to “do something” about so-called hate speech. Fairly typical of the reactions to the shooting of Congreswoman Gifford and several others by Jared Loughner was ‘ Tikkun’s’ Rabbi Michael Lerner, who rhetorically intoned: “Isn’t it time for us to demand that our government investigate the violence-generating discourse of the racists and the haters?”

The Constitutional answer is: absolutely not! Lerner and those of like mind need to read — thrice and slowly — the words of James Madison on this very issue:

“There are … two methods of removing the causes of [political] faction: the one, by destroying the liberty which is essential to its existence; the other, by giving to every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.

“It could never be more truly said of the first remedy, than it was worse than the disease. Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.

“The second expedient is as impracticable as the first would be unwise. As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed.” (Federalist Paper No. 10.)

What Lerner is urging, in modern form, is the revival of laws against sedition. The “protected values” (or in modern legal lingo, the “cognized groups”) may be different but the principle is the same: words which have a “tendency” to incite violence and/or threaten the security or wellbeing of … [insert your cherished value-of choice here]… need to be outlawed and criminally punished.

Whether enacted in 1789, 1918 or 2011, laws against sedition are inimicable to a free society; and no amount of spurious sociological “impact studies” (so-called) can change that constitutional fact.

What does it actually mean to call for government “investigation” of “violence-generating” speech?

The investigation part is fairly easy to answer: it means police and FBI agents keeping tabs of what you say, interviewing your neighbors about what do, getting warrants to poke into your reading habits and ultimately detaining you for further questioning. Such investigations inevitably entail what the Nazis called “block wardens” — neighbors and other snitches who make it their business to overhear your chat and take note of the books and guests you bring home. Already both the government and various interest groups have set up networks and web pages to recruit security-volunteers to poke around and keep an ear out for terrorism- or racist- generating violence.

What then is to be the casus for such inquisitions? What exactly is ‘violence-generating’ speech?

Let us be plain and simple, for Thucydides tells us that simplicity of speech is the mark of a noble man. Websters (1913 edition), defines violence as “physical force, strength of action or motion; as the violence of a storm; the violence of a blow or conflict;” also, “to assault or injure”. By metaphorical extension: “moral force; vehemence.”

Clearly (and simply) words are not violence; they do not cause physical injury. Concoctions like ‘verbal assault’ are confusions of speech which are the marks of hysteria or sophistry.

Words may be uttered with “moral vehemence.” Preachers do it all the time. Implacable foes along the Great Abortion Divide are very morally vehement. But is it ‘violence generating’ to call abortion murder?

According to Lerner, violence-generating words are those which “create a climate of hate.” Murder is certainly loathsome. Pictures of aborted foetuses certainly engender revulsion and disgust. But are the pictures false? If abortion foes cannot call abortion “murder” then what must they call it? Whether it is or is not murder is the whole issue of the debate. In effect, Lerner’s demand “creates a climate” where abortion foes are intimidated (under threat of government investigation) into silence. The same holds true when the intimidation works in the other direction.

Attentive readers of Lerner’s article will have noticed a subtle switch from his vaguish opening reference to “violence-generating” speech to the ensuing and even more vague reference to “rhetoric” which “contributes” to a “climate of hate” which “individuals act on.”

The reason for the verbal shuffling is that Lerner can’t quite get himself to say that speech causes violence. It doesn’t, period. The quintessential scientific test of causality is replication and predictability; and no one has ever demonstrated that a particular word, phrase or book has consistently and predictably caused a violent reaction — the dread ‘Mein Kampf’ included. Even if human predispositions are genetically determined or environmentally influenced, action is the result of free will.

Sometimes, action is the result of craziness as in Loughner’s case or as in the case of Don Quixote who devoured novels of chivalry until “being quite out of his wits, he hit upon the strangest notion that ever a madman in this world hit upon, and that was that it was right and requisite that he should make a knight-errant of himself, roaming the world in full armor on horseback … righting every kind of wrong, and exposing himself to peril and danger from which he was to reap eternal renown and fame.” In other words, he became a militia-man.

But the underlying point of Cervantes’ satire was precisely that books do not cause madness. In case anyone might not get it, he made this clear in a prefatory couplet where he wrote that madness is the “cure” for sadness. What drove Don Quixote on his errands of mayhem, chaos and absurdity was an inner grief.

The fact is that people make of words what they will, often bending them all out of shape to suit some inner purpose or drive. Perhaps we might all be better off without speech altogether. As Jesus advised, “let your speech be, Yea or Nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (Math. 5:37) But Man is nothing if not a loquacious animal, and the desire to speak freely is the foremost urge of our souls or at least of our egos.

Laws against sedition, in whatever guise, are an attack on free speech. They are always couched in vague, open ended terms because the real target is not the alleged “dangers” protected against but some political agenda or ideology that is opposed.

Section 2 of the Alien and Sedition Act of 1789 provided

“…be it further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish,… any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, … with intent to defame the said government, … or to excite against [it] … the hatred of the good people of the United States, …”

The Sedition Act of 1918 made it a crime to

“willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States….”

California’s Criminal Syndicalism Act 1919 made it a crime to advocate or teach “any doctrine or precept” that espoused “unlawful acts of force and violence or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing a change in industrial ownership or control or effecting any political change.”

Section 13 of the Reich Editorial Law (4 October 1933) prohibited publication of anything which “tends to weaken the strength of: the German Reich, outwardly or inwardly, the common will of the German people, the German defense ability, culture or economy….” (1933 Reichsgesetzblatt, Part I, page 713.)

What all these laws have in common is a heap of nefarious adjectives coupled with a “tendency” connected to some protected good.

The United States Supreme Court initially upheld these laws precisely on the grounds that they combatted a subversive climate.

In Frohwerk v. United States (1919) 249 U.S. 204 the Court held that “a person may be convicted of a conspiracy to obstruct recruiting by words of persuasion.” In that case the defendant had published a pamphlet in which he called war “murder” and in which he went “on to give a picture, made as moving as the writer was able to make it, of the sufferings of a drafted man.” Most horribly, the author had sneered at various British nobles and had said that “the sooner the public wakes up to the fact that we are led and ruled by England, the better.”

In Debs v. United States (1919) 249 U.S. 211, the Court followed suit and upheld the criminalization of a pamphlet by Eugene Debs in which the famous labor leader had given:

“illustrations of the growth of Socialism, a glorification of minorities, and a prophecy of the success of the international Socialist crusade, with the interjection that ‘you need to know that you are fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder.’ “

That statement, the Court held, did not simply oppose war in general but opposed the present and the particularly noble war the nation was embarked upon and “opposition was so expressed that its natural and intended effect would be to obstruct recruiting.” (Id., at p. 251.)

This line of reasoning culminated in Whitney v. California, (1927) 274 U.S. 357, where the Court ruled that “the Constitution d[id] not confer an absolute right to speak, without responsibility, whatever one may choose,” and that government had the power to punish those who “abused” their rights of speech “by utterances inimical to the public welfare, tending to incite crime, disturb the public peace, or endanger the foundations of organized government and threaten its overthrow.” (Id., at p. 371.)

The common theme of these and too many like cases is that they sought to punish a “tendency” which is subjectively perceived to “endanger” some asserted good. Just as typically, some untoward event such as a Reichstag Fire, a bombing or the murder of an official, was exploited as the necessity to protect “public safety.”

Tyranny always rides to town on the pony of safety.

Today’s political correctness mavens may use adjectival gerunds and verbal-burble which has an impressive sociological sounding ring, but the mental paradigm is the same. They either seek to mandate a uniformity of opinion on whatever subject they are obsessing over, or they seek to cast any opposition to their pet-rocks as creating some kind of danger.

Often times they heighten the “climatology” by invoking a so-called “clear and present danger” to something or other. But this erstwhile standard — derived from Schenck vs. United States (1919)249 U.S. 47 — is simply a rhetorically tweaked version of the “bad tendencies” rule. Any danger is always “present” precisely because a ‘danger’ is simply the present prospect of some possible future harm. Schenck was overruled because, as Justice Douglas put it, “[t]he only difference between the ‘expression of an opinion’ and an ‘incitement’ … is the speaker’s enthusiasm for the result. (Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) 395 U.S. 444, 452.)

And Man is certainly an enthusiastic animal. Once again it behooves us to listen to Madison:

“As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinions and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other….

“The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.” (Federalist Paper No. Ten.)

Madison’s misanthropy is more than justified by the media’s screaming rabble-rousers and by Palin’s smart-alec thuggishness. But Madison also understood that “the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property.” (Ibid) Put another way, the human tendency toward disputatious vehemence is increased by inequality and insecurity.

Thus, it is a useless, if pretty, piety to urge everyone to be “civil” in their discourse. The reason for the inflamed nature of present political debate in the United States is that the country is in decline and economic inequality and insecurity have destroyed our social and cultural fabric. This creates a terminal downward spiral because the insecurity-generated yelling and accusing prevents the emergence of fair and reasonable solutions to economic and social problems whose very gravitational pull is aggravated by the inflamed rhetoric generated.

To make matters even worse, some of the very forces which generate the economic inequality also finance the spewing of inflamed rhetoric which they then assert needs to be controlled in the name of personal or national safety.

It is a false consciousness to think that “civility” in discourse can be restored by political correctness or laws against seditious incivility. A greater modicum of civility will be restored to political discourse when and only when our civis itself becomes more fair and just and when we cease chasing after the chimera of militarized security. That will be a hard reversal to manage.

Kieran Manjarrez is a lawyer (US) and blog author of the Woodchip Gazette

The Society For Professional Journalists [SPJ] is preparing to jump on the “kick Helen Thomas when she is down” campaign that honors this great American journalist. She is being sanctioned for speaking out against Israel in a manner that offended some, despite her clarification.

This new, knee-jerk, self-righteous “look how responsible we are” capitulation to outside pressure must be resisted.

A fellow Detroiter, former editor and media executive, Lloyd H. Weston, is challenging his fellow SPJ members to support Helen and has backed her in a letter to Editor & Publisher magazine. He wrote the following to SPJ’s Executive Commitee which has now postponed its decision for ten days by referring the decision to their whole board.  He writes in part:

“Distinguished Members of the Executive Committee
 

Allow me to introduce myself in the context of this serious, important and, to me, disturbing issue that is on your agenda for the January 8, 2011 meeting of your committee.

 

My name is Lloyd H Weston and I am one of you. I have been a journalist and a newspaperman for at least 50 of my 68 years of life. In junior high school I learned to set type, manually, one letter at a time, and how to use a hand printing press. Today, I am teaching myself the “magic” of transposing newspapers and magazines onto iPads.

 

In between, I joined this beloved organization in the early 1960s, becoming president of the Wayne State University chapter of Sigma Delta Chi and graduating with a degree in journalism and an SDX key in 1964. Until I moved to Chicago I was a member of the Detroit Professional Chapter, and am now a member and past-director of the Chicago Headline Club.

 

I have been a reporter, editor, publisher and newspaper owner, most recently (like so many of our colleagues these days) involuntarily retired from the Chicago Sun-Times News Group and Pioneer Press Newspapers.

 

I have been active in synagogues, B’nai B’rith and other Jewish organizations all my life, and I have been a reporter for both The Chicago Jewish News and The Forward newspaper. Never once in my entire career – until about a month ago – have I felt any sense of conflict between Judaism and Journalism. I have since — in my own mind and through this and other letters I have written in the last few weeks – concluded – as I have really known all my life — that there is no conflict. Ask me to show you two people in the entire world who cherish freedom more than life itself, and I will show you an American Jew and an American Journalist!

 

(Giving a nod to full disclosure, let me say that I have been – and remain — a fan of Helen Thomas since I watched those 1960s JFK press conferences in college. But I did not actually meet Helen until I ran into her one day in the Press Compound at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. I introduced myself as a fellow WSU alumnus. She hugged me and we chatted briefly. I could not have been more delighted than a teenage girl meeting her favorite rock star. The next and last time I saw Helen was a few years later at a book signing in the Chicago area… a meeting which gravely saddened me at how old and feeble [she was very hard of hearing] she had become in such a short time.

 

(Let me add that, a couple of weeks ago I did receive a complimentary e-mail from Helen’s nephew, whom I have never met. I have not, however, communicated with Helen in any way, or heard from her, since that book signing, nor do I expect to.)

 

I no more believe that Helen Thomas is an anti-Semite than I believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But the issue before you this week has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. It is not about Israel or Zionism. It is not about the Jews, the Palestinians or the Arabs. It is not even about Helen Thomas.

 

The only issue on your table today is whether SPJ stands for the unabridged right of any journalist – any American – to speak his or her opinion, on any subject, without fear of punishment or retribution from any government, individual, private or professional organization. To remove Helen Thomas’ name from the SPJ Lifetime Achievement Award, I believe, would constitute such dire abridgement, punishment and retribution.”

I, for one, will return an award I received from the SPJ for investigative journalism if they go ahead with this disgraceful decision, and I will appeal to other colleagues who have been honored by the SPJ to do the same.

Rather than have this Board–hardly representative of all journalists–prounounce on Helen Thomas’s integrity, I would suggest a referendum open to all journalists and slightly broader.

Let’s ask America’s journalists if they sided with Helen Thomas when, practically alone, and when it mattered, she challenged the claims of the Bush Whiite House on WMDs or now back Ari Fleisher, the then Press Secretary, who has called for these sanctions against the far more honest and gutsy Thomas?

How many journalists are proud of way mainstream journalism became another kind of SPJ in that period–a SOCIETY OR PROFESSIONAL JINGOISTS? 

(In the event, you forgot how groveling and syncophantic so many media outlets were during the invasion of Iraq, consult the many books that have documented this outrage including my <strong>Embedded</strong>(Prometheus Books)  (2003) and<strong> When News Lies: Media Complicity And The Iraq War. </strong> Select Books, (2006.)

If you can’t read, you might want to watch my film <strong>WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception </strong>that shows and documents a journalistic capitualtion that would do Joe Stalin proud.)

How many journalists today believe that journalists are somehow forbidden from having opinions on the settlement practices in Israel that have been condemned for years by UN resolutions and editorials in newspapers throughout the world?

Have we lost that “decent respect for the opinions of mankind” called for in our Declaration of Independence?

Are we only allowed to believe and parrot the views of the Israeli government with its super thin majority, or the powerful Lobby it coordinates and helps fund?

Why all the silence?

Contrast our “journalism” on this subject with what appears in the media worldwide.

Who will history honor, the likes of Judith Miller or Helen Thomas?

William Shanley, who is making a film about Helen’s career, commented:

“Pathetic. America has become a country in which a thief is on the cover of Time Magazine, the Golden Rule is under the boot of empire and the truth about the illegal occupation of Palestine, the theft of land and the mass incarceration of its people, cannot pass lips.”

The other point is that Helen is now a commentator and has been for ten years which frees her from “objectivity.”

And where was the SPJ when CNN Walter Isaacson ordered newsrooms to not show the effects of US bombing in Afghanistan? Did the SPJ speak out against this outrageous suspension of standard journalistic practice?”

Let the SPJ know how you feel about this continuing persecution of Helen Thomas.  Call Hagit Limor, SPJ President at 513-852-4012, or write [email protected] 

<strong>

Speak up now so that all the Helen Thomas’ of the world can speak up and speak out without fear and retribution.</strong>

New Dissector Danny Schechter, editor or Mediachannel.org earlier denounced a “media Hit Job” on Helen Thomas in a commentary carried by websites worldwide eliciting thousands of comments. Your comments welcome to [email protected]

The Next World War: The “Great Game” and the Threat of Nuclear War

January 10th, 2011 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

The “Great Game” never ended. It is the “long war” that Mackinder talked about to establish a “World-Empire.” It has changed names from the “Cold War” and the “Great War” to the “Global War on Terror.” It may end with World War III.

In PART I of this article, the formation of a counter-alliance in Eurasia was discussed. PART II provided an overview of the multiple fronts of the “Great Game” in different regions of the World. In Part III the dangers of a global nuclear war are analysed.

The “Great Game” and the Conquest of Eurasia: Towards a World War III Scenario?
Mackinder’s Geo-Strategic Nightmare
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2010-11-30

PART I Eurasia’s Global Counter-Alliance to US-NATO expansionism.

The US-NATO March to War and the 21st Century “Great Game”
 
- by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya – 2010-12-05

PART II Russia’s strategic bombers have resumed their Cold War practice of flying long-distance missions to territories patrolled by the United States.

Mistrust between the Major Eurasian Powers

Mistrust between the triple entente of Eurasia — Russia, China, and Iran — and their other allies still exists. Ahead of a state visit to India in 2007, the Belarusian President, Aleksandr Lukashenko, expressed the tensions in the geo-political climate of Eurasia during an interview. He was asked about Minsk’s ambitions in regards to entering the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). President Lukashenko stated: “We see great prospects for [the] SCO provided it can harmonise interests and overcome a certain mistrust among its members, for example between Russia and China, or India and China.” [54]

The nation-states of Eurasia are carefully working to eliminate this mutual mistrust. All the Eurasian powers are potential rivals and adversaries, but under the current realities of the global environment they realize that they must work together to challenge the strategic U.S.-NATO threat. 

The alternative to Eurasian cooperation would be that the Eurasian nations themselves face collapse, dismantlement, and regime change, which could potentially transform them into foreign-controlled economic territories modelled on the successor republics of the former Yugoslavia.

The Eurasians also want to de-link the U.S. from its E.U. and NATO allies, specifically France and Germany. The Eurasianist strategy in the Kremlin still has plans for cooperation with the E.U. and for incorporating several European states into the Russian alliance with China and Iran. This also includes the objective of merging the E.U. within a broader geo-political Eurasian entity.

Once the distrust between the Eurasians is fully overcome, America and its partners will have no choice, but to give up their dreams of control over Eurasia or resort to other means, including acts of war. This is when the threat of full spectrum warfare involving nuclear weapons could become a real possibility.

 

The Writing on the Wall: The Rise of Eurasia

Since the end of the 1991 Gulf War, led against Iraq by the U.S., the groundwork for the campaign to control Eurasia was put in place. The objective was  to prevent Eurasian cohesion and the rise of China as a superpower. 

This campaign to control Eurasia was conveyed by George H.W. Bush Sr. in his Gulf War victory speech on March 6, 1991. In this speech he explained the meaning of this initative in the context of creating a “New World Order.”

As part of this campaign, continuous reports about the growing threats of Iran, Russia, and China emerged. The demonization process had begun. In 1996, U.S. Secretary of Defence, William Perry, started raising the alarms and saying that Iran was a “growing threat to stability in the [Persian] Gulf.” [55]

Before 2001, Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran were aware that the U.S. and its allies were preparing some form of land invasion into the Eurasian Heartland. On March 12, 2001 (six months before 9/11), the Russian Federation formally agreed to resume sales of Russian weaponry to Iran. Russia was helping Iran to develop its military capabilities in response to veiled U.S.-NATO threats. Moscow and Tehran also agreed to cooperate in the energy sector and on nuclear technology. [56] According to The New York Times :

[The] announcements, neither unexpected, came during the first meeting in four decades between Iranian and Russian heads of state. The warm session was billed in advance as a diplomatic turning point. Just as clearly, it was a pointed signal to the Bush Administration by both the Iranians and the Russians that they intend to limit American influence in the Middle East by both diplomatic and military means. Economically, Russia is interested in cooperation. And politically, Iran should be a self-sufficient, independent state that is ready to protect its national interests [e.g., in a military face-off against the U.S., Israel, and Britain], Mr. Putin said. [57]

As a sign of what was in store, on the same date as the signing of the Russian-Iranian agreement, The New York Times reported that Beijing could be the target of U.S. plans for a missile shield project that would threaten China. [58] During October 2000, the Kremlin also initiated the push for the formation of a Eurasian Union, which would mirror the European Union. [59] The seeds of this Eurasian Union under a customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus (and possibly Ukraine) will see entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a single entity. [60]

While Tehran and Moscow signed an important cooperation agreement on March 12, 2001, a few months later Moscow and Beijing signed the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation (July 24, 2001, less than two months before September 11, 2001). 

The Chinese, the Russians, and the Iranians all saw the writing on the wall. Geo-political conflict was on the horizon and the U.S. and NATO war machine was getting ready to march into Eurasia.

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 were the first drum beats, or the opening salvos, of a much wider conflict.

Did U.S. foreign policy facilitate the creation of a Eurasian bloc? No doubt, Washington was aware that it was encouraging Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran to join hands.

Was the coming together of the main players of the Eurasian Heartland an inevitability or the result of U.S. actions?

America may have acted as a catalyst, but the 2000 proposal for a Eurasian Union and the Sino-Russian rapprochement show that Eurasian cohesion is an inevitability. It is this merger in Eurasia that the U.S. and the E.U. want to crush.

 

Seeds of the Next World War? Orwellian Perpetual War: Oceania versus Eurasia? 

In regards to power projection, Friedrich Ratzel and Alfred Mahan both stipulated that sea power was superior to land power. Mackinder, who originally put a stronger emphasis on land power, would also come to emphasize sea power in the same way as Ratzel and Mahan.

Sea power is the basis of the strength of the U.S., Britain, much of Western Europe, and Japan. Land power on the other hand has traditionally been the basis of the strength of Russia, China, India, and Iran. It must be noted that these traditional land powers have in recent years significantly increased their naval capabilities. 

Are the Eurasians acting to insure that they can extend their power beyond Eurasia in the event of a war? The land powers of Eurasia are developing their naval powers with a view to extending their influence worldwide. 

The threats of war are getting louder. Such threats include those against Iran. Iran is a geo-strategic and security pillar for both Moscow and Beijing.

In 2007, Secretary-General Bordyuzha of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) alliance warned the U.S. government against any aggressive moves against Iran, saying there would be major consequences. The CSTO is a post-Soviet defense organization based in Europe, albeit its eastern fringes, and Asia. Any CSTO retaliations will have a direct effect on all of Europe, apart from the Middle East and Central Asia. Any American-led aggression against Iran will be limited as Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. agent, has suggested. [61]

It is in this context that Russian troops began to mobilize in the Caucasus region, near Iran’s borders. Similarly, Russia has reached a military agreement with Armenia, which allows for the use of Armenia’s military bases by Russian forces. [62] China has also started to upgrade its naval forces to protect China’s energy lifeline through the Indian Ocean in case of a major war.

In the event of a conflict, the U.S. and NATO have envisaged cutting off China’s sources of energy. This has been characterized by American pressure on Myanmar (Burma) as well as the creation of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI). Admiral Mullen’s objectives of uniting NATO’s navy into a “thousand ship navy” is largely directed against China. [63] 

Moreover, the informal NATO-like military alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordon, Egypt, Bahrain, and the U.A.E. is also a challenge to the Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition.

in response to these developments, Russian and Chinese planes and vessels have, since 2006, been venturing into the operating spaces of America and NATO extending from North America to the Pacific and the British Isles.

In turn, the Pentagon strategy calls for enhanced militarization as well as the creation of “a military belt” around Eurasia by NATO and its Asian allies including Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Australia. The objective of this military encirclement is to neutralize both Russia and China.

Globally, there is a state of perpetual war. Several regional war theatres exist. Yet, all these regional theatres are part of a much larger global project, characterized by the clash between Eurasia on the one hand and the ocean-based powers of the Periphery, which lie on the fringe of Eurasia (Western Europe, North America, and the Pacific). Thus, these two geo-political entities are marching towards war.

The March to War: Nuclear Escalation

In 2007, Britain began to rearm itself with an updated Trident nuclear missile system, which was violently opposed in the British House of Commons. [64] British Prime Minister Tony Blair faced a revolt in his own party over the issue as well as protests in the streets of London. The move was a gross breach of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which stipulates that all nations with nuclear weapons must disarm. Britain is not alone; the U.S. has also continued to build its deadly nuclear arsenal in violation of the NPT.

In April 2010, there were two separate and very different nuclear disarmament summits held by the U.S. and Tehran. At the summit in Tehran, the main outcome was an Iranian-led demand for total global nuclear disarmament, while at the American summit, President Obama attempted to redefine the NPT by saying that Iran and North Korea would not be covered by the American pledge under international law not to use nuclear weapons against states complying with the NPT. [65] Tehran subsequently lodged a formal complaint to the U.N. about the threat of an American nuclear attack. [66]

General Leonid G. Ivashov (retired), a noted Russian military analyst has persistently warned of a planned Israeli-U.S. nuclear attack against Iran. Ivashov has also warned that the U.S. and NATO are threats to Russia and all Eurasia. Ivanshov was a major actor in the 2001 “turning point” military and diplomatic exchanges between Tehran and Moscow. He also made the headlines in Russia and the former U.S.S.R. by announcing under the auspices of the Geopolitical Science Academy of Russia that Moscow should use stronger wording to clarify its nuclear doctrine, with a view to protecting its CSTO allies. [67] The suggestions of Ivashov have been met: a Russian nuclear umbrella now exists over all CSTO members.

The CSTO was unveiled in 2002, after the 2001 invasion of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and whilst preparations were underway for the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. This in itself says something. The post-Soviet defence organization was initially founded on the framework of the Treaty on Collective Security (also known as the Collective Security Treaty or CST), which was signed on May 15, 1992.

The CSTO, however, is different from the post-Soviet CST, signed under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.). The CSTO focuses on collective security within an institutionalized organization, like NATO, with the aim of an expanded membership in Eurasia. The creation of the CSTO, like the SCO, was a Russian answer to U.S. and NATO expansionism in Eurasia.  Moscow has also been pushing for the formal recognition of CSTO by NATO and a CSTO-NATO agreement on post-2001 Afghanistan, something NATO has been reluctant to do. [68]

Aside from a nuclear umbrella over the CSTO, Moscow has also adopted a new nuclear doctrine of pre-emptive attack that came into effect in 2010. [69] This new Russian pre-emptive nuclear attack doctrine is in response to the U.S.-NATO pre-emptive nuclear war doctrine. In other words, Moscow has made a defensive move that symmetrically mirrors that of the U.S. and NATO. This new nuclear attack doctrine would also allow Moscow to use nuclear weapons in regional theatres, as in the case of a war with Georgia, Japan, or the Baltic States. [70]

The military budget of Russia has grown annually by 20% since 2006 reaching about a trillion rubbles in 2008. [71] This is a significant increase. Beijing too, has been upgrading its military power and bolstering its nuclear weapons arsenal as a result of U.S. threats.

Coupled with the adoption of Russia’s pre-emptive nuclear attack doctrine, Moscow has also threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. In 2007, the head of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff intimated that Russia could withdraw from the Treaty in response to US NATO threats. [72] 

Under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in 1987, the Russian military is limited in its possession of short-range and medium-range or intermediate-range missiles, which are missiles that have striking distance ranges of 500 kilometres (300 miles) to 5,500 kilometres (3,400 miles).

From a strategic military standpoint, in the event of a U.S.-NATO war against Russia and the CSTO, the Russian military would be forced to use its long-range or inter-continental ballistic missiles (IBMs) in Europe or regional war theatres near its borders instead of targeting the U.S. and the North American continent, which could remain unscathed. Russian threats to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Treaty in effect mean that the Kremlin wants the ability to be able to target and threaten the U.S. with a nuclear strike capability.

The CSTO-SCO Alliance versus NATO

Russia has also called for a full effort by the SCO to become involved in NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan. It has also challenged NATO’s so-called stabilization monopoly in Afghanistan. [73] Moreover, the CSTO and the U.N. signed a cooperation agreement in March 2010 similar to that secretly signed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and NATO on October 9, 2008. [74]

Both the SCO and CSTO are set to expand in Eurasia as counter-weights to NATO. Under the proper geo-political environment, Ukraine, Iran, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Serbia are possible candidates to join CSTO. After the 2010 election victory of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine, Moscow said that the Ukraine would be welcomed as a full member of the CSTO. [75]

The case of an Iranian bid to join CSTO or the SCO is complicated. The Secretary-General of the SCO, Bolat Kabdylkhamitovich Nurgaliyev, welcomed the Iranian bid to join the SCO as a full member in March 2008. [76] Iran, with the help of Tajikistan, has also accelerated and put greater muscle behind its drive to become a full member of the SCO. [77] Starting in 2007 Russia had openly, but quietly, lobbied for the full inclusion of Iran into the SCO. [78] Kyrgyzstan also started supporting Tehran’s bid at that time. [79] The Iranian bid, however, was rejected by the SCO in 2010. [80] This was a strategic move by Russia and China to push Tehran to entrench itself deeper into their triple entente.

After the death of Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov (“Turkmenbashi” or the “Leader of the Turkmen”), his successor, President Berdymukhammedov, removed Turkmenistan from its state of self-imposed neutrality and has brought Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) closer to Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing. Turkmenistan has also started to participate in SCO meetings and events.  Belarus and Sri Lanka became dialogue partners in 2009 and began to participate within the SCO. The SCO has also started discussions about the framework for a bloc currency for its members.

Both the CSTO and the SCO cover much of the same space in Eurasia and the two Eurasian organizations may indeed merge when the time is right. The agreements being signed between the member states of these two organizations parallel those between NATO and the European Union. Both CSTO and the SCO are pushing towards the formation of a Eurasian Union. They have also signed a military cooperation agreement, which effectively makes China a member of CSTO and creates a unified defensive bloc from the Yellow Sea to Central Asia and Eastern Europe. [81]

In July 2007, the CSTO proposed that the SCO and CSTO collaborate together in NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan. [82] In February 2008, the secretary-generals of the CSTO and the SCO, Nikolai Bordyuzha and Bolat Nurgaliyev, met at CSTO Headquarters in Moscow for a second round of consultations. The meeting between both men, one a former Russian colonel-general and the other a former Kazakhstani diplomat, was arranged to develop and implement the CSTO-SCO October 2007 agreement signed in Tajikistan.

Resumption of Cold War-style Flights

Cold War flight routes have been resumed. These flights are called strategic flights. What they are in essence is a military threat to strike rivals in the event of a war.

Interception of Russian combat aircraft by NATO fighters have become a common occurrence since Russia resumed strategic bomber patrol flights over the international waters of the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean by order of Vladimir Putin in August, 2007. Since that time until the end of August, 2008 there were almost eighty such strategic Russian flights. 

During flights over internationally neutral airspace, Russian jets and ships have been accompanied or monitored by NATO warplanes and vessels. On April 9, 2008 four Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers and four Il-78 aerial tankers flying near Alaska were intercepted and followed by NATO planes. [83] This was the second such incident in less than a month; on March 19, 2008 two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 strategic bombers were intercepted and followed by F-16 Tornado fighter jets. [84]

The globe is not being de-militarized. Russia has since sent its warplanes and strategic nuclear bombers flying through the Caribbean and Latin America where the Bolivarian Bloc has greeted them as allies. These flights are synonymous with increasing global tensions.

War and Global Governance

The geo-political issues pertaining to Kosovo, Iraq, Korea, the Iranian nuclear energy program, NATO expansionism, and the U.S. missile shield project  in Eastern Europe and Asia are interrelated. The inter-linked nature of all these geo-strategic conflicts is potentially unstable.

At its roots the state serves elitist interests. In this context it is worth quoting George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. An excerpt from a fictitious book, Emmanuel Goldstein’s The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, being read by Orwell’s protagonist Winston sums this point:

The war, therefore, if we judge it by standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. [...] But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognise their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word [and conceptualization of] ‘war’, therefore has been misleading. [85]

Today the globe is in the middle of an economic war, while a system of global governance is also being put in place to avert a global war over resources via political and economic takeovers. This is also what organizations like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) are for. 

Mackinder also stipulated about a future system of global governance: “[I]f the Freedom of Nations is to be secure, it must rest on a reasonable approach to equality of resources as between a certain number of the larger Nations.” [86] What Mackinder was implying was a compact between the so-called major powers that would turn the planet into a condominium to manage global resources.

In this regard, the trilateral November 2010 meeting between the foreign ministers of India, China, and Russia in Wuhan, China outlined the establishment of a shared system of global governance. [87] Their joint communiqué outlined this in various ways, such as outlining reforms at the U.N. Security Council. Of particular interest was Article 13:

The Ministers reiterated their support for the G20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, and welcomed the decisions of the G20 summit in Seoul including on IMF quota reform. They reiterated that the goal of the reform of international financial institutions was to achieve, step by step, equitable distribution of voting power between developed and developing countries. [88]

Global tensions are also in part a result of friction over the configuration of a system of global governance and an incomplete consensus amongst global elites.

Each and every group is trying to maximize their share of global control and resources in an evolving system of global governance. The negotiations between Iran and the great powers through the “Permanent Five plus One” (P5+1) format, which includes the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France, and Germany, as well as the E.U., also have ties to this process. The talks between Tehran and the P5+1 are much broader negotiations tied to the role that Iran would play in a system of global governance and are not merely focused on the Iranian nuclear energy program.

Inter-Play between Oceania and Eurasia for Control in a System of Global Governance?

The threat of war exists, but not merely against Syria, Lebanon, and Iran. Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq are merely in the positions that Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina were in the Balkans on the eve of the First World War when the Habsburg Empire or Austro-Hungary was searching for an excuse to invade and control Serbia within the broader framework of economic rivalry between major European and global powers. The tensions against Iran and Syria have the undertones of a far broader and historical conflict involving the Eurasian Heartland and the oceanic-states on the fringes of the Eurasian landmass and in North America — “Eurasia versus Oceania.”

Through a public relations (P.R.) toolbox, all types of excuses and pretexts are being wielded and fashioned to justify a future war against Iran and its allies including claims by Hillary Clinton that Iran is becoming a military dictatorship. 

Hillary Clinton told a Qatari audience the following: “We see the government of Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship [under the Iranian Revolutionary Guard].” [89] Daniel Meridor, the deputy prime minister and intelligence and atomic energy minister of Israel, has gone on the record to say that the standing of the U.S. on the globe will be determined by the course of Iran and that the question of Iran is not essentially about nuclear weapons, but about the balance of global power. [90]

Commenting on this change in the global balance of power, the Syrian President told the Italian newspaper La Republica that a new geo-political alternative is arising through an alliance between Syria, Iran, Russia, and Turkey through their common interests and integration in the “centre of the world.” [91] In the context of this new geo-political reality in Eurasia, Tehran also provided support to military drills held in September 2010 between Chinese and Turkish air units by allowing Chinese military jets to use Iranian military bases. [92] The Turko-Chinese military drills are not as significant as Iran allowing the use of its airspace and facilities to the Chinese warplanes, because China and Turkey, like Israel and China, started military cooperation in the 1990s.

Mackinder said something very crucial to understanding the direction that these wars are headed towards:

The great wars of history — we have had a world-war about every hundred years for the last four centuries — are the outcome, direct or indirect, of the unequal growth of nations, and that unequal growth is not wholly due to the greater genius and energy of some nations as compared with others; in large measure it is the result of the uneven distribution of fertility and strategical opportunity upon the face of our Globe. In other words, there is in nature no such thing as equality of opportunity for the nations. Unless I wholly misread the facts of geography, I would go further, and say that the grouping of lands and seas, and of fertility and natural pathways, is such as to lead itself to the growth of empires, and in the end of a single World Empire. If we are to realise our ideal of a League of Nations which shall prevent war in the future, we must recognize these geographical realities and take steps to counter their influence. [93]

The nature of modern wars is based on usurping natural resources and the wealth of nations. Thus, these wars are materialist wars, either fought on strategic grounds to acquire wealth and power or to directly usurp it. Any ideological framework is used to deceive the masses. These wars are therefore criminal acts.

Thinking the Unthinkable: A Nuclear War in the Middle East against Iran?

“Iran is a complex nation and it does not appear that Israel has the power to challenge it.” -Javier Solana (Der Tagesspiegel, January 13, 2007)

The Iranian nuclear energy program is a pretext for aggression against Iran. The U.S. and its allies are seriously contemplating a nuclear attack against Iran. The political groundwork, the military procedures, the dissemination of disinformation, and the media work have all been underway for years. 

Despite its psychological warfare and all its propaganda for creating the mirage of being a military powerhouse, Tel Aviv is incapable of waging and winning a conventional war against the Iranians. Despite the large Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), Iran is a far stronger military power than Israel. In 2009, Iranian military power started being reviewed under the same annual assessments that the U.S. reserves for Chinese military expansion. [94] Even the former commander of the entire Israeli military, Daniel Halutz, has warned that Israel cannot tackle Iran by itself. [95] This is why Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli government have asked the U.S. to militarily engage Iran. [96]

Any attack on Iran will be a joint operation between Israel, the U.S., and NATO. Such an attack will escalate into a major war. The U.S. could attack Iran, but can not win a conventional war. General Yuri Baluyevsky, the former chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff and Russian deputy defence minister, even publicly came forward in 2007 to warn that an attack on Iran would be a global disaster and unwinnable for the Pentagon. [97]

Such a war against Iran and its allies in the Middle East would lead to the use of nuclear weapons against Iran as the only means to defeat it. Even Saddam Hussein, who during his day once commanded the most powerful Arab state and military force, was aware of this. In July 25, 1990, in a meeting with April C. Glaspie, the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein stated: “But you know you [meaning the U.S.] are not the ones who protected your friends during the war with Iran. I assure you, had the Iranians overrun the region, the American troops would not have stopped them, except by the use of nuclear weapons.” [98]

The diabolically unthinkable is no longer a taboo: the use of nuclear weapons once again against another country by the U.S. military. This will be a violation of the NPT and international law. Any nuclear attack on Iran will have major, long-term environmental impacts. A nuclear attack on Iran will also contaminate far-reaching areas that will go far beyond Iran to places such as Europe, Turkey, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, Pakistan, and India.

Within the NATO alliance and amongst U.S. allies a consensus has been underway to legitimize and normalize the idea of using nuclear weapons. This consenus aims at paving the way for a nuclear strike against Iran and/or other countries in the future. This groundwork also includes the normalization of Israeli nukes.

Towards the end of 2006, Robert Gates stated that Israel has nuclear weapons, which was soon followed by a conveniently-timed slip of the tongue by Ehud Olmert stating that Tel Aviv possessed nuclear weapons. [99] Within this framework, Fumio Kyuma, a former Japanese defence minister, during a speech at Reitaku University in 2007 that followed the statements of Gates and Olmert, tried to publicly legitimize the dropping of atom bombs by the U.S. on Japanese civilians. [100] Because of the massive public outrage in Japanese society, Kyuma was forced to resign his post as defence minister. [101]

The Uncertain Road Ahead: Armageddon at Our Doorstep? The March into the Unknown Horizon…

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Beijing is a barometre on whether Iran will be attacked and it seems unlikely by the acceleration in trade between China and Iran. [102] Still a major war in the Middle East and an even more dangerous global war with the use of nuclear weapons should not be ruled out. The globe is facing a state of worldwide military escalation. What is looming in front of humanity is the possibility of an all-out nuclear war and the extinction of most life on this planet as we know it.

Nor do the events leading to a new global war necessarily need to be based on a large destructive event that arises at all at once. The events could be numerous and the process slow and calculated. The first Cold War never really ended, or at least the mentality behind the first Cold War never really went away.  

The United States, Britain, NATO, and their allies have been positioning themselves globally for conflict. They have literally been preparing the global chessboard for warfare. In this context, the U.S. is entrenching itself in pivotal areas that can be used as control points, strategic launch pads, and chokepoints in future military conflicts.

In Yemen the U.S. is setting up bases to control one of the most vital global maritime routes, which connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. In Eastern Europe, from the Balkans to the Baltic, the U.S. and NATO are deploying troops and setting up extensive military infrastructure to castrate and dominate Belarus, Ukraine, and the European core of Russia. In the Caucasus, the U.S. and NATO are using Georgia to challenge Russia. In the Persian Gulf the military forces of the U.S., Britain, France, Israel, and NATO are working to tackle Iran and to ultimately control substantial amounts of global energy. In Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula the U.S. military is actively involved in war preparations against North Korea and mainland China and is deliberately arming Taipei against Beijing as part of a broader military circle being raised around the People’s Republic of China. Finally, Columbia is being used by the U.S. as a bridgehead against Venezuela and Ecuador and Haiti is being used as a U.S. base in the Caribbean.

What is certain is that the so-called “Great Game” never ended — it has always been part of the “long war” that Mackinder talked about in the historical process of establishing a “World-Empire” — it only changed its name. Yesterday it was the “Cold War,” the day before it was the “Great War” and today it is the “Global War on Terror.” Who knows what it will be called tomorrow — maybe World War III — and where it will take humanity. It is no game and there is nothing great about it, but this so-called “Great Game” may lead humanity to the footsteps of Megiddo and Yathrib.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a Research Associate at the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

NOTES

[54] Vladimir Radyuhin, “India is top priority for Belarus”, The Hindu, April 16, 2007.
[55] “Iran builds up military strength at mouth of Gulf”, Cables News Network (CNN), August 6, 1991.
[56] Michael Wines, “Iran and Russia Sign Oil and Weapons Pact”, The New York Times, March 12, 2001.
[57] Ibid.
[58] Trevor Corson, “Backing Beijing Into a Corner”, The New York Times, March 12, 2001.
[59] Sebastian Alison, “Putin Pushes for ‘Eurasian Union’”, Reuters, October 10, 2007.
[60] “Russia, EU may soon reach agreement on WTO – Putin”, The Information Telegraph Agency of Russia/Informatsionnoye telegrafnoye agentstvo Rossii (ITAR-TASS), “Ukraine eyes customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), November 26, 2010; “Ukraine may join Customs Union, constitutional amendments needed – Yanukovich”, The Information Telegraph agency of Russia/Informatsionnoye telegrafnoye agentstvo Rossii (ITAR-TASS), November 26, 2010.
[61] Geoff Elliott, “US ‘poised to strike Iran’”, The Australian, August 25, 2007.
[62] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, “The March to War: Détente in the Middle East or ‘Calm before the Storm?’” Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), July 10, 2007; Harutunian, “Russia extends military”, Op. cit.
[63] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, “The Globalization of Military Power: NATO Expansion”, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), May 17, 2007.
[64] “New Trident system approved”, The Hindu, March 16, 2007.
[65] Parisa Hafezi, “Iran, at nuclear conference, hits out at ‘bullies’”, Reuters, April 17, 2010; Peter Baker and David E. Sanger, “Obama Limits When U.S. Would Use Nuclear Arms”, The New York Times, April 5, 2010.
[66] “Iran to launch protest with U.N.”, The Hindu, April 13, 2010.
[67] “Russia must use nuclear deterrent to protect allies – analyst”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), March 12, 2008; “Russia to Be Sanctioned to Use Nuclear Weapons to Defend CSTO Members”, Kommersant, March 12, 2008.
[68] “Moscow urges NATO-CSTO treaty on Afghanistan”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), March 11, 2008.
[69] Ilya Kramnik, “Who should fear Russia’s new military doctrine”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), October 23, 2009.
[70] Ibid.
[71] “Russian defense spending to grow 20% in 2008, to $40 bln”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), February 26, 2008.
[72] Vladimir Isachenkov, “Reports: Russia may exit Arms Treaty”, The St. Petersburg Times, February 15, 2007. 
[73] “Russia is for SCO observing countries cooperation activization”, Kazakhstan Today, July 9, 2007.
[74] “UN, CSTO sign cooperation agreement”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), March 18, 2010; Rodger McDermott, “Moscow Pushes For Formal Cooperation Between UN, CSTO”, Radio Free Europe (RFE), October 16, 2009; “Russia stunned by UN-NATO cooperation deal”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), October 9, 2008.
[75] “Russia would welcome Ukraine into CSTO post-Soviet security bloc”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), May 18, 2010.
[76] “SCO Chief welcomes Iran’ SCO membership”, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), March 28, 2008.
[77] “Mottaki: Iran ready to join Shanghai Cooperation Organization”, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), March 24, 2008; “Iran seeks quick SCO membership”, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), April 11, 2008.
[78] “Iran’s SCO Membership on the Cards – Lavrov”, Kommersant, July 11, 2007
[79] “Mottaki: Iran spares no efforts to broaden ties with Kyrgyzstan”, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), February 21, 2008; “Mottaki: Tehran calls for expansion of all-out ties with Bishkek”, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), February 21, 2008.
[80] “Shanghai group set to deny membership to Iran”, Agence France-Presse (AFP), June 11, 2010.
[81] Vladimir Radyuhin, “Defence pact to balance NATO”, The Hindu, October 7, 2007.
[82] “CSTO proposes to SCO joint effort on post-conflict Afghanistan”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), July 31, 2007.
[83] “NATO fighters again accompany Russian bombers near Alaska”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), April 9, 2008.
[84] “NATO fighters scramble again to intercept Russian Bear bombers”, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), March 19, 2008.
[85] George Orwell, Nineteen Eight-Four (Toronto: Penguin Books, 2000), p.207.
[86] Halford John Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality (London, U.K.: Constables and Company Ltd., 1919), p.236.
[87] Joint Communiqué of the Tenth Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation and the Republic of India, signed November 15, 2010, People’s Republic of China – Republic of India – Russian Federation, Ministry of External Affairs of India: <http://meaindia.nic.in/mystart.php?id=100016682&pid=1869>.
[88] Ibid.
[89] Borzou Daragahi, “Iran moving toward military dictatorship, Clinton says”, The Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2010.
[90] Herb Keion, “Assad: US has lost influence in the ME”, The Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2010.
[91] Ibid.
[92] “Chinese warplanes refueled in Iran en route to Turkey”, Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review, October 11, 2010.
[93] Mackinder, Democratic Ideals, Op. cit., pp.2-3.
[94] Viola Gienger, “Iran’s Military Power Subject to New U.S. Study Used for China”, Bloomberg, November 3, 3009.
[95] Dan Williams, “Israel general doubts power to hit Iran atom sites”, ed. Mark Trevelyan, Reuters, February 13, 2010.
[96] Jeffrey Heller, “Netanyahu to press U.S. for military threat on Iran”, ed. Christopher Wilson, Reuters, November 7, 2010.
[97] “U.S. could strike Iran but not win: Russian general”, Reuters, April 3, 2007.
[98] “Excerpts From Iraqi Document on Meeting with US Envoy”, The New York Times, Septmber 22, 1990, p.19; it should be noted that more than one transcript exists from the 1990 meeting of President Hussein and Ambassador Glaspie and the one cited from The New York Times was done so out of convenience.
[99] “Incoming U.S. Defense Secretary tells Senate panel Israel has nuclear weapons”, Associated Press (AP), December 9, 2006; Allyn Fisher-Ilan, “Olmert, in Europe, hints Israel has nuclear arms”, Reuters, December 11, 2006; Philippe Naughton, “Olmert’s nuclear slip-up sparks outrage in Israel”, The Times (U.K.) December 12, 2006.
[100] Christopher Hogg, “Japan gets woman defence minister”, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) News, July 4, 2007.
[101] Ibid.
[102] Clayton Jones, “China is a barometer on whether Israel will attack nuclear plants in Iran warplanes refueled in Iran” Christian Science Monitor, August 6, 2010.

Srebrenica: The Star Witness

January 10th, 2011 by Edward S. Herman

A review of Germinal Chivikov’s book Srebrenica: The Star Witness (orig. Srebrenica: Der Kronzeuge, 2009, transl. by John Laughland) – “a devastating indictment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).”

The book shows that the Tribunal “does not behave according to the traditions of the rule of law”–it is a political rather than judicial institution, and has played this political role well. It is not the first work to effectively assail the Tribunal—Laughland’s own book Travesty (Pluto: 2006), and Michael Mandel’s How America Gets Away With Murder (Pluto: 2004) are powerful critiques. But Civikov’s book is unique in its intensive and very effective focus on a single witness, Drazen Erdemovic, and the ICTY’s prosecutors and judges handling of that witness. Erdemovic was the prosecution’s “star witness,” the only one in the trials of various Serb military and political figures to have claimed actual participation in a massacre of Bosnian Muslim prisoners. It is therefore of great interest and importance that Civikov is able to show very convincingly that this key witness was a charlatan, fraud, and mercenary, and that the ICTY’s prosecutors and judges effectively conspired to allow this witness’s extremely dubious and contradictory claims to be accepted without verification or honest challenge.

Erdemovic was a member of a Bosnian Serb military unit, the “10th Sabotage Unit,” an eight-man team of which he claimed shot to death 1,200 Bosnian Muslim prisoners at Branjevo Farm north of Srebrenica in Bosnia on July 16, 1995. Erdemovic confessed to having personally killed 70-100 prisoners. He was initially arrested by Yugoslav authorities on March 3, 1996, and quickly indicted, but was turned over to the ICTY at pressing U.S. and ICTY official request on March 30, 1996, supposedly temporarily, but in fact, permanently. He was himself eventually tried, convicted, and served three and a half years in prison for his crimes. This was a rather short term for an acknowledged killer of 70-100 prisoners, but longer than he had anticipated when he agreed to testify for the ICTY—he had expected complete immunity, as he told Le Figaro reporter Renaud Girard (“Bosnia: Confession of a War Criminal, “ Le Figaro, March 8, 1996). He claimed to have an agreement with the ICTY whereby “in return for his evidence he will be allowed to settle in a Western country with his family. He will enter the box as a witness, not as an accused, and will thus escape all punishment.” But his earlier arrest, indictment and publicity in Yugoslavia may have made some prison term necessary for the ICTY’s credibility. He ended up after his prison term in an unknown location as a “protected witness” of the ICTY. But even before his own sentencing he had begun his role as star witness in the ICTY’s (and U.S. and NATO’s) trials of accused Serbs. He appeared in five such trials, and from beginning to end was taken as a truth-teller by prosecutors, judges, and the mainstream media.

One of the most remarkable and revealing features of the Erdemovic case is that although he named seven individuals who did the killing with him, and two superiors in the chain of command who ordered or failed to stop the crime, not one of these was ever brought into an ICTY court either as an accused killer or to confirm any of Erdemovic’s claims. These co-killers have lived quietly, within easy reach of ICTY jurisdiction, but untroubled by that institution and any demands seemingly imposed by a rule of law. The commander of his unit, Milorad Pelemis, who Erdemovic claimed had given the order to kill, made it clear in an interview published in a Belgrade newspaper in November 2005, that the Hague investigators have never questioned him. He had never gone into hiding, but has lived undisturbed with his wife and children in Belgrade. Nor have ICTY investigators bothered with Brano Gojkovic, a private in the killer team who Erdemovic claimed was somehow in immediate command of the unit (a point never explained by him or prosecutors or judges). Civikov points out that only once did the judges in any of the five trials in which the star witness testified ask the prosecutors whether they were investigating these other killers. The prosecutors assured the judges in 1996 that the others were being investigated, but 14 years later the Office of the Prosecutor had not questioned one of them. And from 1996 onward the judges never came back to the subject.

As these seven were killers of many hundreds in Erdemovic’s version, and the prosecutors and judges took Erdemovic’s version as true, why were these killers left untouched? One thing immediately clear is that the ICTY was not in the business of serving impartial justice even to the point of arresting and trying wholesale killers of Bosnian Muslims in a case the ICTY itself called “genocide.” But ignoring the co-perpetrators in this case strongly suggests that the prosecutors and judges were engaged in a political project—protecting a witness who would say what the ICTY wanted said, and refusing to allow any contesting evidence or cross-examination that would discredit the star witness. Civikov points out that the only time Erdemovic was subject to serious cross-examination was when he was questioned by Milosevic himself during the marathon Milosevic trial. And Civikov shows well that the ICTY presiding judge in that case, Richard May, went to great pains to stop Milosevic whenever his questions penetrated too deeply into the area of Erdemovic’s connections or credibility.

In April 2004, a Bosnian Croat, Marko Boskic, was arrested in Peabody, Massachusetts, for having caused a hit-and-run car crash while drunk. It was soon discovered that Boskic was one of the members of Erdemovic’s killer team at Branjevo Farm But journalists at the ICTY soon discovered that the Tribunal did not intend to ask for the extradition of this accused and confessed murderer. A spokesman for the Office of the Prosecutor stated on August 2004 that the prosecutor was not applying for the extradition of Boskic because it was obligated to concentrate on “the big fish.” So killing hundreds, and being part of a “joint criminal enterprise” murdering 1,200, does not yield big enough fish for the ICTY. In fact, this is a major lie as dozens of cases have been brought against Serbs for small-scale killings or even just beatings, and the ICTY has thrived on little fish for many years. In fact, the first case ever brought by the ICTY was against one Dusko Tadic in 1996, who was charged with a dozen killings, all dismissed for lack of evidence, leaving him guilty of no killings whatsoever, but only of persecution and beatings, for which he was given a 20 year sentence. A number of other Serbs were given prison sentences, not for killing people, but for beatings or passivity in not exercising authority to constrain underlings (e.g., Dragolic Prcac, 5 years; Milojica Kos, 6 years, Mlado Radic, 20 years, among others). The dossier of ICTY prosecution of little (Serb) fish is large.

Thus, the Boskic case does not fall into any little-fish-disinterest category. Rather, it is perfectly consistent with the failure to bring to court Pelermis or any of the seven known co-perpetrators of the massacre. Civikov’s very plausible hypothesis is that this is another manifestation of star witness protection—the ICTY does not want his convenient testimony to be challenged. Little fish like Boskic might gum up a political project. Civikov contrasts the extremely alert and aggressive actions of the ICTY and U.S. authorities in getting Erdemovic transferred to the Hague in March 1996 with this remarkable reluctance to even question Erdemovic’s fellow killers. He was seen quickly as a man who might make proper connections to enemy targets, so no holds were barred then, or later..

Another remarkable feature of the handling of Erdemovic is his use as a star witness immediately after he had been declared mentally impaired and before his own sentencing. Following his first confession of guilt on May 31, 1996, on June 27, 1996 Erdemovic was declared by his trial judges to be unfit for questioning in his own sentencing hearing because psychiatrists found him to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the doctors urging a pre-hearing review of his mental condition in six to nine months time. But on July 5th, little more than a week after this medical report, Erdemovic was put forward as the star witness in a pre-trial hearing to publicize the current allegations against Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

This was a remarkable spectacle. The two accused had not been apprehended, so they were not present to defend themselves, nor were their attorneys. It was only the prosecutors and ICTY judges in action. The same judges who had just declared him mentally unfit for questioning in his own hearing now pushed him forward without any further medical examination. The presiding judge Claude Jorda explained that Erdemovic’s own trial and sentencing were postponed “because we have asked for some further medical information,” which suppresses the fact that the judgment of the doctors was that Erdemovic was “unfit to be questioned,” presumably not just in his own trial. But Jorda’s service to the political project runs deeper—he not only allows the Prosecutor to put on the stand a just-declared medically unfit person, and does this before this self-admitted murderer is sentenced, he even assures Erdemovic that his evidence as a witness for the prosecution “might be taken into consideration.” It was mainly on the basis of unverified and unchallenged (and unchallengeable) testimony of this sick man and mass killer still facing his own trial and sentencing, that arrest warrants were issued for Karadzic and Mladic.

What Erdemovic was prepared to do in service to the ICTY program was to help build the case that there was a line of command between himself and his co-murderers at Branjevo Farm and the Bosnian Serb high command, i.e., Karadzic and Mladic, and hopefully eventually Milosevic. He did this poorly, never showing those leaders’ involvement in or knowledge of this killing expedition, but mainly just asserting that its local commanders were under the authority of central Bosnian Serb headquarters. He claimed that immediate authority over the killing operation was held by Brano Gojkovic, a private in a team that also included a Lieutenant, and he mentions a mysterious and unnamed Lieutenant Colonel who took the unit to the killing site and then left. Erdemovic is not consistent on whether Pelermis ordered the killing or this unnamed Lieutenant Colonel. He also asserts that Colonel Petar Salpura, an intelligence officer of the Bosnian Serb army had direct command responsibility for the massacre. He vacillates on Gojkovic’s power, sometimes making him “commander” with great authority, sometimes merely serving as an intermediary. Erdemovic himself was allegedly without authority and coerced into killing, but Civikov makes a very good case that at that time Erdemovic was a sergeant, and that he had joined the team voluntarily. But he and a Lieutenant Franc Kos were supposedly bossed by private Gojkovic in this killing enterprise. This line of command is very messy!

Civikov shows that the prosecution and judges strove mightily and successfully to prevent any challenges to Erdemovic’s implausible and contradictory, and partly disprovable, claims about the line of command. This includes, importantly, their refusal to call before the court even one of those “little fish” co-murderers and higher commanders who might have clarified the facts. Instead of calling to the stand his boss, Lieutenant Pelermis, or Pelermis’s boss, Colonel Petar Salpura, the ICTY is happy to stop with “a psychologically disturbed and apparently demoted sergeant,” who makes the ties that this court is pursuing with undue diligence.

Erdemovic and a number of his colleagues in the .10th Sabotage Unit were clearly mercenaries, and after the ending of the Balkan wars served the French in Africa. Erdemovic himself had worked for a time with the Bosnian Muslim army, then with the Croatians, and then with the Bosnian Serbs. He was trained as a locksmith, but never managed to work that trade. He found military service, and eventually serving as a star (and protected) witness, more profitable, but he regularly claimed before the Tribunal that he was a good man, hated war, was coerced into participating in the Branjevo Farm mass murder, and confessed to his crimes there because he was a man of conscience. The ICTY judges believed him, never saw him as a mercenary despite his performing military service for all three parties in the Bosnian warfare, and the ICTY took pains to exclude any witnesses from testifying who would put him in a bad light. They could not avoid several awkward witnesses in other trials: Colonel Salpura, a defence witness in the Blagovic and Jokic trials, denied authority over the 10th Sabotage Unit, and gave clear evidence that the killer team was on holiday leave on July 16, 1995; Dragan Todorovic, a witness for the prosecution in the Popovic case and officer of the Drina Corp of the Bosnian Serb army, also testified that the killer unit was on leave, that Lieutenant Kos, not private Gojkovic, signed out for the arms to be used by the unit, and that Erdemovic volunteered to be a member of that unit, and was not coerced into joining it.

Except for these awkward witnesses, the prosecutors and judges were able to keep out of the court record the fact that the Erdemovic unit that went to the Branjevo Farm did so during a ten-day vacation leave, not during regular service hours. Erdemovic himself never mentioned this fact. They also successfully buried the fact that, according to an early interview with Erdemovic, he claimed that his colleagues received a large sum of gold, perhaps 12 kilos, for some kind of service rendered. This payment, which suggests mercenary service, and not payment by the Bosnian Serb army, was never explored by prosecutors or judges in any of the trials in which Erdemovic participated, and was only raised by Milosevic, who, as noted, was harshly limited in his questioning by Judge Richard May. The facts that members of the killing group were on leave on July 16, 1995, and later findings of a French secret service connection of Pelemis and several of his colleagues, and the subsequent recruitment of soldiers from the 10th Sabotage Unit for mercenary service in Zaire to fight in the war there on the side of Mobutu, are suggestive. So is the fact that this mass murder of prisoners was extremely unhelpful to the Bosnian Serb cause, but worked out very well for the NATO powers. And it is clear why the ICTY, in service to NATO, would refuse to explore these questions and linkages.

The protection of Erdemovic and the notable ICTY-NATO success in getting his problematic testimony accepted as truth in five separate trials of Serbs owes much to the media, which in the United States and Britain raised no questions and swallowed the party line intact (for a case study, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “Marlise Simons on the Yugoslavia Tribunal: A Study in Total Propaganda Service,” ZNet, 2004). This applied not just to the mainstream media but to the supposedly left and dissident media, with only Z Magazine in the United States publishing reviews of serious critical works dealing with the ICTY (notably, Mandel, Laughland and Johnstone).

Germinal Civikov points out that killing 1,200 people in five hours, ten at a batch, as claimed by Erdemovic, would allow under three minutes for each batch, including getting them out of the buses, taking them to the shooting zone, shooting them, making sure of their being dead, and disposing of the bodies. There were also claimed interludes of drinking, arguing, and cavorting. Why did the prosecutors, judges and media never address this issue of timing? Why did the prosecutor sometimes speak of only “hundreds” killed at the Branjevo Farm? Could it be related to the fact that fewer than 200 bodies were recovered from the site, and no aerial photos were ever produced that showed body removal or reburial? Civikov says, “So something between 100 and 900? This lack of knowledge, incidentally, will not prevent the judges, several months later, from putting the figure of 1,200 in their judgment after all—mind you without any proof, then or now, apart from the accused’s own claim.” Once again, why did they not call any other perpetrator to discuss numbers?

One would love to know what the ICTY prosecutors and judges said behind the scenes in confronting Erdemovic’s numbers, lines of authority, role, lies and contradictions. Perhaps the ICTY insiders did discuss them, but they and the media have played dumb. A Wikileaks was, and still is today, desperately needed to deal with the Erdemovic/ICTY travesty—and in fact, a Wikileaks on the ICTY would wreak havoc in the trial of Karadzic and pursuit of Mladic. So will Civikov’s Srebrenica: The Star Witness if it gets the exposure that it deserves.

Why Socialism?

January 10th, 2011 by Albert Einstein

This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called “the predatory phase” of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: “Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?”

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept “society” means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is “society” which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists’ requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers’ goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

Wikileaks: Bradley Manning and the Rule of Law

January 10th, 2011 by Kevin Zeese

Put aside Bradley Manning’s guilt or innocence and ask — what should Bradley Manning have done when he saw evidence of war crimes, other crimes and constant deception of the American people and others?  Should he have hidden the evidence? Taken it up a chain of command that was complicit?  Or, expose it?  Manning exposed it not because he is a traitor but because he is a patriot that wants to make the United States a more perfect union. 

The case of Private Bradley Manning raises legal issues about his pre-trial detention, freedom of speech and the press, as well as proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Putting aside Manning’s guilt or innocence, if Bradley Manning saw the Afghan and Iraq war diaries as well as the diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks what should he have done? And, what should be the proper response of government to their publication?

A high point in the application of the rule of law to war came in the Nuremberg trials where leaders in Germany were held accountable for World War II atrocities. Justice Robert Jackson, who served as the chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials while on leave from the U.S. Supreme Court, said “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” 

One of the key outcomes of the Nuremberg trials was that people who commit war crimes or crimes against humanity will be held accountable even if they were following orders.  This is known as Nuremberg Principle IV which states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” The Nuremberg principles were enshrined in a series of treaties.

How do the Nuremberg Principles and other laws of war apply to Bradley Manning?

What is a person who does not want to participate in war crimes or hiding war crimes supposed to do when he sees evidence of them? If Manning hid the evidence would he not be complicit in the crimes he was covering up and potentially liable as a co-conspirator? These were questions that Bradley Manning allegedly wrestled with.  According to unverified chat logs Manning, talking with Adrian Lamo on email, asks: “Hypothetical question, if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?”

In Iraq, Manning was ordered “to round up and hand over Iraqi civilians to America’s new Iraqi allies, who he could see were then torturing them with electrical drills and other implements.” Manning questioned the orders he was being given to help round up Iraqis and brought his concerns to the chain of command.  He pointed to a specific instance where 15 detainees were arrested and tortured for printing “anti-Iraqi literature” he found that the paper in question was merely a scholarly critique of corruption in the government asking “Where did the money go?” He brought this to his commander, who told him to “shut up” and keep working to find more detainees. Manning realized he “was actively involved in something that i was completely against…”

He wrestled with the question of what to do.  According to the unverified chat logs with Lamo Manning told Lamo that he hoped the publication of the documents and videos would spur “worldwide discussion, debates, and reform.”  He went on to say, “I want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”  The command structure would not listen, so Manning went beyond them to the people who are supposed to control the military in our democratic republic. He wanted Americans to know the truth.

In the chat logs, Lamo asked Manning why he did not sell the documents to a foreign power.  Manning realized he could have made a lot of money doing so, but he did not take that path. He explained: “it belongs in the public domain – information should be free – it belongs in the public domain – because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge – if its out in the open… it should be a public good.”  These are not the words of a traitor, of someone out to hurt the United States, these are the words of someone trying to improve the United States, trying to get the country to live up to its highest ideals.

Manning is charged so far with three counts of unlawfully transferring confidential material to a non-secure computer, i.e. leaking state secrets.  Manning faces up to 52 years if convicted of these crimes and it is likely that he will be charged with additional offenses.  The charges against Manning end stating that Manning’s “conduct being prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces and being of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.” 

Well, what exactly did the materials Manning allegedly leak show? 

The video that is the focus of these initial charges is known as the Collateral Murder video. The video shows American soldiers in an Apache helicopter gunning down a group of innocent men, including two Reuters employees, a photojournalist and his driver, killing 16 and sending two children to the hospital. The video, which has been viewed by millions, shows initial blasts at the group killing and wounding people. U.S. forces watch as a van pulls up to evacuate the wounded. The soldiers again open fire from the helicopter, killing more people. A crew member is heard saying, “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards.” But, that was not the end, journalist Rick Rowley reported that the man who they drove over had crawled out of the van and was still alive when the tank drove over him, cutting him in half.

Marjorie Cohn, who teaches criminal law and procedure, evidence, and international human rights law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, describes multiple war crimes from this single video.  First, targeting and killing civilians who do not pose a threat violated the Geneva Conventions. Second, when soldiers attacked the van attempting to rescue the wounded they violate the Geneva Conventions which allows the rescue of wounded.  Third, the tank rolling over the wounded man, splitting him in two, is a war crime and even if he were already dead disrespecting a body violates the Geneva Conventions. 

The Collateral Murder video documents war crimes according to this legal expert on human rights law.  When Manning saw these war crimes, what should he have done?  Should he have covered up the evidence of potential war crimes?  Should he try to go up the chain of command – a strategy that he had already unsuccessfully tried?  If Manning did what he is accused of, he did the only thing that could stop these crimes from continuing.

Other documents Manning allegedly provided to WikiLeaks showed the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan, in which as many as 140 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a U.S. attack. The Australian reported that the airstrike resulted in “one of the highest civilian death tolls from Western military action since foreign forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.”  The Afghan government has said that around 140 civilians were killed, of which 93 were children – the youngest 8 days old – 25 were women and 22 were adult males.  The U.S. military had said that 20-30 civilians were killed along with 60-65 insurgents.

Allegedly, Manning released hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks who, working with traditional media outlets has released a small percentage of them.  He left it to journalists to decide what was appropriate for release. The small percentage of documents released show widespread and systemic abuses in U.S. foreign policy and in the conduct of wars.  WikiLeaks documents including the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs and the diplomatic cables show: 

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

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

-        The President of Afghanistan is not trustworthy, that Afghanistan is rife with corruption and drug dealing;

-        The Pakistan military and intelligence agencies aid Al Qaeda and the Taliban;

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

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

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

These are a few examples among many. The documents published by WikiLeaks, allegedly provided to them by Manning, are of critical importance to understanding that U.S. foreign and military policy is not what Americans are told.  No doubt historians, human rights lawyers, academics and others will be reviewing these documents and reporting in greater detail the systemic nature of the unethical and often illegal behavior of U.S. foreign policy.  This already has the world looking at the United States with new eyes.

Experience inside the U.S. military turned a young man from Oklahoma who believed in America into someone who doubted it.  Manning believed in American freedom, especially economic freedom and believed the United States played a positive role in the world. He wanted to serve his country. In doing so he became someone who questioned the leadership of the nation, its foreign policy and its conduct of wars.  He saw war crimes, violations of law and constant deception. After much soul searching he decided that the quest for a more perfect union required him to share this information.

Justice Robert Jackson, during his Opening Address at the Nuremberg Trials, said: “If we can cultivate in the world the idea that aggressive war-making is the way to the prisoner’s dock rather than the way to honors, we will have accomplished something toward making the peace more secure.” Bradley Manning joins in this enlightened viewpoint and is working to make peace more secure and the United States a better nation. 

A mature American leadership, rather than prosecuting Manning, would encourage an honest debate about U.S. foreign policy. Thomas Jefferson warned that “oppressions are many” and that for the people to govern we should “leave open . . . all the avenues to truth.” Manning has provided an avenue to truth where we can look honestly at our government and dramatically change direction. Enlightened leadership would renounce blackmail, threats and spying of foreign officials, as well as torture and war.

Instead Manning is suffering a fate Thomas Jefferson warned about: “Most codes extend their definitions of treason to acts not really against one’s country.  They do not distinguish between acts against the government and acts against the oppressions of the government.” Manning has been sitting in solitary confinement for seven months awaiting trial.  He is suffering this fate for the betterment of the nation.  People who care about the United States and our impact on the world should stand with Bradley and work to transform American foreign policy away from militarism and toward one where we work cooperatively with nations for the advancement of all.

To stand with Bradley visit: Stand With Brad

To prevent prosecution of WikiLeaks vist: WikiLeaksIsDemocracy.org

Kevin Zeese is executive director of Voters for Peace is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network and WikiLeaksIsDemocracy.org.  

El Magreb se levanta contra los dictadores

January 10th, 2011 by Zehira Houfani

Este inicio del año 2011 estará marcado por el movimiento de las revueltas populares que está sacudiendo el Magreb. Revueltas del hambre, dicen algunos, pero seguramente por la justicia y el final de las dictaduras y otros regímenes mafiosos que gobiernan estos países por la fuerza y la represión. Mientras que en Túnez prosiguen los disturbios desde hace algunas semanas, en Argelia los barrios populares de la capital y de las grandes ciudades se inflaman desde el miércoles [5 de enero] en la explosión de cólera de los jóvenes alimentada por una realidad cotidiana de lo más absurda en un país que se hunde bajo el peso de los petrodólares, de los que se apoderan abiertamente desde hace años los déspotas en el poder.

Se calcula que la juventud argelina forma más del 70 % de la población, pero en las políticas oficiales no se ofrece nada de apertura ni se ocupan seriamente de estos millones de jóvenes abandonados a su suerte sin la menor esperanza en el horizonte. Están abocados tanto a un paro endémico, a la toxicomanía y a la prostitución, a la hogra* [injusticia] y a los intentos desesperados de migración clandestina* y con frecuencia suicida, como a la indigencia, este descomunal vacío cultural y político de un país al que han abandonado el sentido común y la sal de la vida porque está asfixiado bajo las leyes del estado de emergencia, destruido por la corrupción de los gobernantes y sometido a la ignorancia y a su más fiel avatar: la intolerancia.

Saliendo a las calles para manifestarse violentamente contra sus opresores los jóvenes magrebíes ponen así al mundo por testigo de su desesperación, pero indican también su resentimiento hacia sus elites y otros dirigentes de la oposición. Esto es tanto más cierto en Argelia, donde los jóvenes se sienten dejados a su suerte y abandonados por las generaciones precedentes, la de la Revolución, que fue la gloria del país, y la de la Independencia, que nunca supo asumir el papel que era el suyo, es decir, realizar el Estado de derecho, objetivo último de la Revolución argelina.

Desde la violación de la constitución por parte del presidente Buteflika para regalarse un tercer mandato a pesar de que el balance de los dos anteriores ha sido de lo más deplorable tanto para el país entregado a los incondicionales del mercantilismo local e internacional con frecuencia sin escrúpulos, como para el pueblo sometido a unas condiciones de vida espantosas y que lucha denodadamente para sobrevivir al tiempo que es agredido por el lujo indecente que exhiben abiertamente quienes detentan el poder. La situación ha ido empeorando desde hace años pero hay que  constar que al seguir humillando y despreciando al pueblo, reprimiendo la libertad de expresión, prohibiendo la apertura del campo político y mediático, garantizando la impunidad a los grandes violadores y corruptos conocidos por la opinión pública y denunciados por múltiples prevaricaciones y traiciones, el régimen de Buteflika es ya responsable de cualquier tragedia que amenace a Argelia.

El presidente ha faltado a todas sus promesas electorales, ha mentido a los argelinos y, peor, ha innovado en la mala gobernanza rodeándose de 13 o 14 ministros de su propio pueblo, con lo que vuelve a poner de moda el poder de los clanes en vez de moralizar un tanto las costumbres políticas iniciando y balizando una buena gobernanza, preludio del Estado de derecho que había prometido. El único deal [acuerdo, en inglés] que parece importarle al presidente aparte de la megalomanía y la vanidad que caracterizan a los dirigentes árabes, deal que ha ejecutado bien desde su llegada al poder, es el de bombear más petróleo para que el peculio que se reparte entre su clan y los militares sea cada vez más imponente y garante de una clientela totalmente entregada a su presidencia. Una clientela que ha elegido vivir lejos de la miseria ambiente, en unas fortalezas señoriales, ciudadelas inaccesibles con verdes extensiones y playas públicas privatizadas por “decreto” para robarlas al patrimonio público. Con el dinero del pueblo han edificado pequeños paraísos y se han convertido en los más afortunados de los millonarios porque contrariamente a los occidentales que con frecuencia se han esforzado para edificar sus fortunas, los dictadores, entre ellos los dirigentes argelinos, sólo tienen que recurrir al patrimonio público de sus países para saciar el menor de sus deseos. Una situación que el pueblo argelino ya no quiere soportar. Reivindica la dignidad humana que le ha confiscado el poder totalitario privándole de un mínimo decente para vivir, a saber, de una distribución equitativa de los recursos nacionales, el derecho a un trabajo correctamente remunerado, a una vivienda para fundar una familia y, por supuesto, esta libertad de pensar y de evolucionar serenamente. Tantas reivindicaciones que no se llevan bien con una dictadura sino que más bien exigen la instauración de un Estado de derecho .

¿Es esto en principio del fin de las dictaduras en el Magreb? La pelota está en el campo de las elites y de los políticos íntegros de estos países que deben no sólo asumir las reivindicaciones de sus pueblos sino también hacer que se escuchen no sólo en las tribunas locales sino también en la escena internacional. Una manera de hacer ver sus responsabilidades a las grandes potencias que apoyan a las dictaduras despreciando a tantos pueblos del planeta. En adelante ya no puede perdurar la negación de los derechos humanos, ni en el Magreb ni en África ni en América Latina. Los gobernantes se han puesto de acuerdo para promover, e incluso imponer, la globalización de los mercados y hoy, en  2011, los pueblos se lanzan a la globalización de la democracia.      

* N. de la t.: El término utilizado por la autora es “harraguisme”, que procede de la palabra árabe “harraga” con la que se designa en el Magreb a las personas que antes de cruzar el Estrecho queman sus papeles para salir del país sin dejar rastro y dificultar así su repatriación. Por su parte, la palabra “hogra”, “desprecio” en dialecto argelino, es el término que expresa a la vez el desprecio, el abuso de poder y la injusticia de las autoridades argelinas hacia su pueblo.

Texto original en francés : http://www.mondialisation.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22676

   
Traducido para Rebelión por Beatriz Morales Bastos

Global Research Editor’s Note

Is this a real sale? Who will control these weapons? Developing a proxy Iraqi force controlled by the US-NATO alliance? Building up Iraq’s external debt.

What is the significance of this transaction? How does it affect the broader geopolitics of Central Asia and the Middle East. Does this constitute a military build-up directed against Iran?  

Abu Dhabi: Iraq will buy armaments worth $13 billion from the United States by 2013 and will spend another $13 bn on weapons later, a Baghdad newspaper reported citing an Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman.

Al Ittihad quoted Major General Mohammed Al Askari as saying that Iraq has already concluded a contract worth more than $13 bn with the United States.

The money will be used to buy aircraft, helicopters, tanks, other armored vehicles, warships and missiles, to enter service with the Iraqi defense and interior ministries.

ETA decreta un alto el fuego permanente, general y verificable, como “compromiso firme” con un proceso de solución definitivo y el final de la confrontación armada.

Riots Shake Tunisia and Algeria

January 10th, 2011 by Alex Lantier

Police repression of mass protests in Tunisia and Algeria last week has led to the deaths of over a dozen people, with hundreds injured. There was rioting against food price increases and state subsidy cuts across Algeria, amid ongoing demonstrations in Tunisia against unemployment and the regime of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The Algerian protests reflect deepening mass opposition to the free-market policies of the army-backed regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, of the National Liberation Front (FLN). Prices of essential, state-subsidized food items including flour, cooking oil, and sugar have doubled in the past few months in Algeria. World market prices are rising, and the state has tried to pass part of the price increase through to grocers and consumers.

More broadly, the protests reflect mass anger at terrible social conditions in Algeria. According to the International Monetary Fund, 75 percent of the Algerian population is under 25; they face a 30 percent unemployment rate. The state is also trying to impose a 17 percent sales tax on street vendors in Algeria’s large informal sector.

After reports of sporadic rioting throughout the country, there was large-scale rioting in Algeria’s major cities at the end of last week.

Squads of riot police set up roadblocks and attacked protestors in the Belcourt and Bab el-Oued districts of Algiers on Friday. Protestors sacked police stations, banks, or government offices in “several eastern cities” including Constantine, Jijel, Setif, and Bouira, according to Algeria’s official APS news agency. AFP also reported violent clashes in Oran, Algeria’s second-largest city, Annaba, and Tizi Ouzou—the main city of the ethnic-minority Kabylie region.

The government backtracked yesterday, announcing it would cut prices by slashing duties on sugar and oil by 41 percent. However, certain sources, including the web site Tout Sur l’Algérie, contested government figures, claiming the measures’ net effect would only be a 5 percent cut in food prices.

The government has also banned football (soccer) matches. The BBC noted that matches are “seen as a potential catalyst for protests.”

Algerian Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia confirmed yesterday that three youths had been killed during the protests, in M’sila, Tipasa, and Boumerdes. Official statistics claim that 300 people were injured. Le Figaro reported that Sadek Bendjedid, a 65-year-old taxi driver, died from smoke inhalation from intense police barrages of tear gas.

Unrest deepened in Tunisia over the weekend, amid reports of pitched battles between protestors and sections of the security forces.

The BBC wrote that 14 people were killed in two cities, Kasserine and Tala. Tunisia’s official TAP news agency released a statement saying: “Several government buildings in Kasserine were attacked by groups who set fire to and destroyed three banks, a police station, and a filling station, and set fire to a police vehicle.” Four people were reported killed in Regueb.

The protests started when an unemployed university graduate working as an itinerant vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in front of government offices in Sidi Bouzid to protest the police’s confiscation of his stock. Police claimed that he did not have a permit to sell vegetables. Bouazizi died on January 4.

AFP reported that the marchers at the funeral chanted: “Farewell, Mohammed, we will avenge you. We weep for you today, we will make those who caused your death weep.”

His uncle, Mehdi Horchani, told AFP: “Mohammed gave his life to draw attention to his condition and that of his brothers.” As in Algeria, Tunisia faces a crisis of youth unemployment, as the state’s free-market policies have slashed jobs and made it virtually impossible to obtain employment without personal connections or paying bribes.

Le Monde wrote: “In the strongly state-supported economy, an advanced degree used to guarantee a stable job, often in the state or para-state sector. But things changed with the major structural reforms of the post-Bourguiba era,” with unemployment rising rapidly in the late 1990s. The youth unemployment rate is now comparable to Algeria’s.

A French businessman in Tunisia told Le Monde: “Here it’s not rare to be served at a gas station by someone with a master’s degree in sociology. Cleaning women have English degrees, the fruit vendor has a doctorate in mathematics, and so on.”

Trying to disrupt the organization of protests and halt media reporting, the Tunisian government is clamping down on the Internet. It blocked secure access to Facebook and web mail applications last week; journalists and political activists in Tunisia have reported that their accounts have since been hacked and taken over.

In particular, the Ben Ali regime is anxious to block sites that discuss WikiLeaks material on Tunisia. Though US and European firmly support the Ben Ali clique against the Tunisian population, US diplomats’ frank assessment of the situation in Tunisia—usually hidden from the public—paints a devastating portrait of the government.

In a July 2009 cable published by WikiLeaks, US diplomats wrote: “While we share some key values and the country has a strong record on development, Tunisia has big problems. President Ben Ali is aging, his regime is sclerotic and there is no clear successor. Many Tunisians are frustrated by the lack of political freedom and angered by First Family corruption, high unemployment and regional inequities.”

In another cable—titled “Corruption in Tunisia: What’s Yours is Mine”—US diplomats wrote: “Corruption in Tunisia is getting worse. Whether it’s cash, services, land, property, or yes, even your yacht, President Ben Ali’s family is rumored to covet it and reportedly gets what it wants. … President Ben Ali’s extended family is often cited as the nexus of Tunisian corruption. Often referred to as a quasi-mafia, an oblique mention of ‘the Family’ is enough to indicate which family you mean. Seemingly half of the Tunisian business community can claim a Ben Ali connection through marriage, and many of these relations are reported to have made the most of their lineage.”

These assessments highlight the imperialist double standards of US and European regimes in dealing with regimes in the Middle East. When defeated, US-backed Iranian candidate Mirhossein Mousavi tried to steal the June 2009 Iranian presidential elections, US and European governments denounced the Iranian government’s suppression of the protests.

Ben Ali’s use of violence and censorship to defend the interests of Tunisia’s ruling clique has elicited no protest, however, as he is viewed as a Western ally.

France—the former colonial power in Algeria and Tunisia, and which has large populations of immigrants from the two countries—has made no official statements on the protests. Le Monde noted: “Tunisia has long been a privileged partner of Europe on economic matters, in the war on immigration and terrorism. It has solid allies in Italy and France, which is certainly the reason for the embarrassed silence that has dominated until now.”

US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley issued a statement calling for “restraint on all sides” in Tunisia Saturday. At the same time, the Tunisian ambassador was summoned to the State Department for talks.

There is rising concern in the bourgeois media and diplomatic establishment about the possibility that these protests could spread. Indeed, their fundamental causes—social deprivation enforced by governments unresponsive to the population—are problems facing workers around the world.

Saudi Arabia’s Arab News bluntly wrote: “Those who see these disturbances as a local North African difficulty should think again. The hopelessness that drove this young Tunisian to his death, that has prompted several thousands of his compatriots to do the rare thing for Tunisia—take to the streets and riot—and that has seen young Algerians looting and rioting this week against price rises are a breakdown in law and order that was waiting to happen. It can happen elsewhere in the Arab world. It is not just in North Africa that the specter of unemployment looms.”

Protests could also spread to Europe, with its large populations of oppressed North African immigrants. In France, there was a demonstration supporting Algerian and Tunisian protestors in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille yesterday.

Obama Eyeing Internet ID for Americans

January 10th, 2011 by Global Research

STANFORD, Calif. – President Obama is planning to hand the U.S. Commerce Department authority over a forthcoming cybersecurity effort to create an Internet ID for Americans, a White House official said here today.

It’s “the absolute perfect spot in the U.S. government” to centralize efforts toward creating an “identity ecosystem” for the Internet, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt said.

That news, first reported by CNET, effectively pushes the department to the forefront of the issue, beating out other potential candidates including the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The move also is likely to please privacy and civil liberties groups that have raised concerns in the past over the dual roles of police and intelligence agencies.

The announcement came at an event today at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, where U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Schmidt spoke.

The Obama administration is currently drafting what it’s calling the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, which Locke said will be released by the president in the next few months. (An early version was publicly released last summer.)

“We are not talking about a national ID card,” Locke said at the Stanford event. “We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities.”

The Commerce Department will be setting up a national program office to work on this project, Locke said.

Details about the “trusted identity” project are unusually scarce. Last year’s announcement referenced a possible forthcoming smart card or digital certificate that would prove that online users are who they say they are. These digital IDs would be offered to consumers by online vendors for financial transactions.

Schmidt stressed today that anonymity and pseudonymity will remain possible on the Internet. “I don’t have to get a credential if I don’t want to,” he said. There’s no chance that “a centralized database will emerge,” and “we need the private sector to lead the implementation of this,” he said.

Inter-agency rivalries to claim authority over cybersecurity have exited ever since many responsibilities were centralized in the Department of Homeland Security as part of its creation nine years ago. Three years ago, proposals were were circulating in Washington to transfer authority to the secretive NSA, which is part of the U.S. Defense Department.

In March 2009, Rod Beckstrom, director of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity Center, resigned through a letter that gave a rare public glimpse into the competition for budgetary dollars and cybersecurity authority. Beckstrom said at the time that the NSA “effectively controls DHS cyber efforts through detailees, technology insertions,” and has proposed moving some functions to the agency’s Fort Meade, Md., headquarters.

Arizona Assassination Spree Tied to Political Right

January 10th, 2011 by Bill Van Auken

Mounting evidence has linked the 22-year-old gunman who severely wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killed a federal judge and killed or wounded 18 others in Tucson, Arizona to the political right.

According to a memo issued by the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of the shooting spree at a Tucson, Arizona strip mall Saturday, Internet activity by the gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, linked him to American Renaissance, which DHS described as an “anti-government, anti-immigration, anti-ZOG [Zionist Occupation Government], anti-Semitic.” The online publication of the organization advocates white supremacy and racial separation.

Giffords was critically wounded in the hail of gunfire unleashed by Loughner as the Democratic Congresswoman was holding a “Congress on the corner” event, meeting with constituents outside a local supermarket. Killed in the attack were federal Judge John Roll, Gifford’s aide Gabe Zimmerman, a nine-year-old girl, Christina Green, and three others.

Doctors voiced “cautious optimism” about Giffords’ prognosis after surgery for what they described as a “devastating wound.” She was reported to be in a medically induced coma Sunday night.

Loughner was charged in a federal indictment issued Sunday on first degree murder charges for the killing of Judge Roll and Gabe Zimmerman and the attempted murder of Congresswoman Giffords and two other of her aides. He is to appear in court today on the charges, which carry the federal death penalty. The gunman will face state charges in relation to the other victims who were not US government employees.

Judge Roll, who was the chief federal judge in Arizona, was himself the subject of hundreds of death threats in 2009 when he presided over a case brought on behalf of undocumented immigrants against an Arizona rancher. Vilified by right-wing talk show hosts in the state, Roll received hundreds of calls threatening to kill him and his family. “They said, ‘We should kill him. He should be dead,’” US Marshal David Gonzales told the Arizona Republic. Roll and his family were placed under 24-hour protection.

Speaking in Tucson Sunday, FBI Director Robert Mueller said that he did not believe any “specific threat remains” after the shooting, but that he did not “preclude that additional charges may be brought under the domestic terrorism statutes as the investigation continues.”

Investigators reported that a search of Loughner’s home uncovered an envelope with the words “My assassination”, “I planned ahead” and “Giffords”, together with what appeared to be Loughner’s signature. Also found in the house was a letter from Giffords thanking Loughner for attending a previous “Congress on the corner” in 2007.

Various classmates and neighbors have described Loughner as a loner who exhibited erratic behavior and signs of emotional and mental instability that led him to be suspended from a local community college last fall. Authorities demanded that he present a mental evaluation confirming that he did “not present a danger to himself or others” before he would be readmitted.

The gunman had attempted to enlist in the Army in December 2008, but was rejected. The media quoted unnamed sources as saying that he failed a drug test.

While he had a record of minor criminal charges, he was able to buy the Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol used in the shooting after passing an FBI background check.

Material posted by Loughner on the Internet included rambling and incoherent references to “conscience dreaming” and sleep walking. Intermixed with these seemingly irrational observations was rhetoric that appeared to have been absorbed from the stock in trade of the political right.

In a YouTube video posting consisting of scrolling text and music, Loughner railed against the “second constitution”, a term used by the political right to refer to the post-Civil War 13th Amendment banning slavery and the 14thAmendment guaranteeing citizenship to all those born in the US and equal protection under the law in every state.

On the eve of Loughner’s shooting spree, Republicans in the US Congress launched a vitriolic campaign seeking the scrapping of the 14th Amendment in order to deny the right to citizenship for children born to undocumented immigrants within the US. Arizona has been an epicenter of this reactionary anti-immigrant campaign. The incoming Republican leader of the Arizona State Senate, Russell Pearce, who authored the state law criminalizing immigrants without papers—since blocked by a federal court—is pushing this year for a state law denying citizenship to babies born to the undocumented and is leading a campaign nationally to promote similar legislation in other states.

Similarly, the YouTube video included the declaration, “No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver.” This is a standard theme sounded by Fox News commentator Glenn Beck and others on the extreme right, who have joined to their reactionary ideology the promotion of gold sales as a lucrative side business.

Whatever Loughner’s mental issues, it is readily apparent that his violent actions were prepared and guided by right-wing political forces that openly promote and legitimize violence against their opponents. These forces have in turn been amplified far beyond any genuine popular base by the media network of Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and elements such as the Koch brothers and other wealthy financiers who have poured vast amounts of money into promoting the Tea Party and other phony political fronts for the extreme right.

Among the most frank and forthright in explaining this connection to the vicious crime was given by the seven-term sheriff of Pima County, Clarence Dupnik, who was leading the local investigation. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, he denounced “the vitriol and rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from the people in the radio business and some people in the TV business”.

The sheriff’s remarks stood in sharp contrast to the response of so-called liberal Democrats from President Barack Obama and other elected officials to television commentators who, in their vast majority, cautioned against drawing any political conclusions other than the need for “civility.”

Dupnik cited previous attacks launched against Giffords over issues such as health care legislation and immigration. A former Republican, Giffords joined the conservative Blue Dogs Democratic caucus, but voted with the party leadership on these issues.

“Some of the vitriol got a lot of people very agitated,” said Dupnik. “There is no doubt in my mind that when a number of people night and day try to influence the public, there is going to be some consequences.”

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government—the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country, is getting to be outrageous,” he continued. “And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

The state has seen the increasing activity of vigilante white supremacist groups drawn to the border with Mexico in the hunt for undocumented immigrants. There is ample evidence that Giffords, the first Jewish woman elected to Congress in Arizona, was hated by these fascistic elements.

Last year, someone dropped a handgun at one of her public events, while an unknown attacker shot out the glass door to her campaign office.

Giffords was targeted by the Republican right in the 2010 elections and won a third term only by a 1 percent margin in the majority Republican district. Her political survival was a source of considerable frustration for the Republican right, which managed to oust Democrats in most other so-called swing districts.

Her opponent, Tea Party favorite and former Marine Jesse Kelly, had organized an event inviting supporters to join him in firing M16 assault weapons as part of the campaign to “help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office.”

In the course of the election campaign, right-wing protesters would gather weekly near her office carrying signs with slogans such as “It’s time to reload” and “One way or another, you’re gone.”

During the campaign, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin put up a web page that included Gifford among 19 other Democratic members of Congress whose districts were shown with a sniper sight’s crosshairs super-imposed upon them.

At the time, Giffords condemned the tactic, warning “When people do that, they have got to realize there are consequences to that action.” In response to such criticism, Palin replied on twitter, “Don’t retreat, reload.”

After the Tucson shootings, Palin’s web site removed the page, while an aide claimed incredibly that the crosshairs were not meant to represent a rifle sight, but rather a “surveyor’s symbol.”

Patricia Maisch, a 61-year-old woman whose actions in grabbing an ammunition magazine from Loughner as he was attempting to reload has been credited with helping to prevent an even more horrific massacre, was interviewed Sunday night on Fox News. Anchor Shepherd Smith asked her if she had any “words of hope” based on her experience.

“I don’t think so,” she responded. “Extreme right reporters on radio and TV have added to this problem. The extreme right has gone too far.”

Similarly, Congresswoman Gifford’s father, when asked if his daughter had any enemies, replied, “The whole Tea Party.”

Tokyo: The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will hold drills in the East China Sea involving U.S. warships on Monday, the Japanese Defense Ministry said.

The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), a U.S. Navy Nimitz class supercarrier capable of carrying 90 fighter jets and helicopters, and U.S. destroyers will participate in the exercises, to be held to the west of the Kyushu island, the ministry said.

Japan’s NHK TV channel has said the drills are aimed at deterring possible naval operations by North Korea and China.
….
In December, Seoul held large-scale military drills involving hundreds of military personnel and more than 100 types of weapons, including tanks, anti-tank missiles, helicopters and fighter jets. North Korea then warned its opponent of a possible “holy war” using its nuclear deterrent.

Earlier in January, Pyongyang proposed Seoul to start “unconditional and early” talks to repair strained relations between the countries

The Student Loan Debt Bubble

January 10th, 2011 by Alan Nasser

It was announced last summer that total student loan debt, at $830 billion, now exceeds total US credit card debt, itself bloated to the bubble level of $827 billion. And student loan debt is growing at the rate of $90 billion a year.
 
There are far fewer students than there are credit card holders. Could there be a student debt bubble at a time when college graduates’ jobs and earnings prospects are as gloomy as they have been at any time since the Great Depression?
 
The data indicate that today’s students are saddled with a burden similar to the one currently borne by their parents. Most of these parents have experienced decades of stagnating wages, and have only one asset, home equity.  The housing meltdown has caused that resource either to disappear or to turn into a punishing debt load. The younger generation too appears to have mortgaged its future earnings in the form of student loan debt.
 
The most recent complete statistics cover 2008, when debt was held by 62 % of students from public universities, 72 % from private nonprofit schools, and a whopping 96 % from private for-profit (“proprietary”) schools.
 
For-profit school enrollment is growing faster than enrollment at public schools, and a growing percentage of students attending for-profit schools represent holders of debt likely to default. In order to get a better handle on the dynamics of student debt growth, it is helpful to sketch the connection between the current crisis in public education and the recent rapid growth of the for-profits.
 
Crisis of Public Education Precipitates Private School Growth
 
Since the most common advise to the unemployed is to “get a college education”, and tuition at public institutions is at least half or less than private-school rates, public higher education institutions have been swamped with an influx of out of work adults. This has resulted in enrollment gluts at many state colleges. At the same time, tuition is increasing just when household income and hence the affordability of higher education are declining.
 
Here is how this scenario unfolds:
 
With few exceptions, state-funded colleges and universities set tuition rates based on policy and budget decisions made  by state legislatures. High and increasing unemployment and declining wages have resulted in  declining public revenues. This in turn leads to  budget cut directives from legislative bodies to public higher education institutions, often accompanied by the authority to increase tuition.
 
For example, a 14% budget cut to an institution may be “offset” by giving the governing boards of the school the authority to raise tuition by a maximum of 7%. Often the imbalance created by a cut to the base budget and an increase in tuition is made worse by limits on enrollment. A state legislative body may cut an institution’s budget, allow it to increase tuition, but not provide per-student funding increases to keep pace with the accelerating enrollment demand.
 
This affects tuition rates at for-profit institutions. More students who would otherwise attend a state institution or a private, non-profit school are finding themselves without a seat at over-enrolled campuses. More students are pushed into the online and for-profit sectors, and proprietary schools sieze the day by inflating their tuition costs.
 
Because online colleges lack the enrollment constraints of a physical campus, they are uniquely poised to capture huge proportions of the growing higher education market by starting classes in non-traditional intervals (the University of Phoenix, for example, begins its online classes on a 5-week rolling basis) and without regard to space, charging ever-increasing rates to students who have no other choice.
 
Instead of waiting for an admissions decision or a financial aid package from a traditional college, students can enroll immediately online. This ease of use and accessibility to any student has allowed the for-profit sector to capture a growing portion of the higher education market and a growing proportion of education-targeted public money. Enrollments at for-profit colleges have increased in the last ten years by 225%, far outpacing public institution increases.
 
Thus, the neoliberal assault on public education not only tends to push more students into private institutions, it also generates upward pressure on tuition costs. This results in growing pressure on enrollees at proprietary schools to take on student loan debt.
 
How Healthy Are Student Loans?
 
The extraordinary growth of student debt paralleled the bubble years, from the beginnings of the dot.com bubble in the mid-1990s to the bursting of the housing bubble. From 1994 to 2008, average debt levels for graduating seniors more than doubled to $23,200, according to The Student Loan Project, a nonprofit research and policy organization. More than 10 percent of those completing their bachelor’s degree are now saddled with over $40,000 in debt.

Are student loans as financially problematic as the junk mortgage securities still held by the biggest banks? That depends on how those loans were rated and the ability of the borrower to repay.
 
In the build-up to the housing crisis, the major ratings agencies used by the biggest banks gave high ratings to mortgage-backed securities that were in fact toxic. A similar pattern is evident in student loans.
 
The health of student loans is officially assessed by the “cohort-default rate,” a supposedly reliable predictor of the likelihood that borrowers will default. But the cohort-default rate only measures the rate of defaults during the first two years of repayment. Defaults that occur after two years are not tracked by the Department of Education for institutional financial aid eligibility. Nor do government loans require credit checks or other types of regard for whether a student will be able to repay the loans.
 
There is about $830 billion in total outstanding federal and private student-loan debt. Only 40% of that debt is actively being repaid. The rest is in default, or in deferment (when a student requests temporary postponement of payment because of economic hardship), which means payments and interest are halted, or in forbearance. Interest on government loans is suspended during deferment, but continues to accrue on private loans.
 
As tuitions increase, loan amounts increase; private loan interest rates have reached highs of 20%. Add that to a deeply troubled economy and dismal job market, and we have the full trappings of a major bubble. As it goes with contemporary bubbles, when the loans go into default, taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab, since just about all loans to date are backed by the federal government.
 
Of course the usual suspects are among the top private lenders: Citigroup, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan-Chase.
 
Financial Aid and the Federal Tilt to Private Schools

A higher percentage of students enrolled at private, for-profit (“proprietary”)  schools hold education debt (96 %) than students at public colleges and universities or students attending private non-profits.
 
Two out of every five students enrolled at proprietary schools are in default on their education loans 15 years after the loans were issued.
In spite of this high extended default rate, for-profit colleges are in no danger of losing their access to federal financial aid because, as we have seen, the Department of Education does not record defaults after the first two years of repayment.
 
Nor have the disturbing findings of recent Congressional hearings on the recruitment techniques of proprietary colleges jeopardized these schools’
access to federal funds. The hearings displayed footage from an undercover investigation showing admissions staff at proprietary schools using recruitment techniques explicitly forbidden by the National Association of College Admissions Counselors. Admissions and enrollment employees are also shown misrepresenting the costs of an education, the graduation and employment rates of students, and the accreditation status of institutions.
 
These deceptions increase the likelihood that graduates of for-profits will have special difficulties repaying their loans, since the majority enrolled at these schools are low-income students. (Forbes magazine, Oct. 26, 2010, “When For-Profits Target Low-Income Students”, Arnold L. Mitchem)
 
A credit score is not required for federal loan eligibility. Neither is information regarding income, assets, or employment. Borrowing is still encouraged in the face of strong evidence that the likelihood of default is high.
 
Loaning money to anyone without prime qualifications was “subprime lending” during the ballooning of the housing bubble, when banks were enticing otherwise ineligible candidates to buy houses they could not afford.
 
Shouldn’t easy lending without adequate credit checks to college students with insecure credit also be considered “subprime lending”?
 
Government’s Bias Toward the Private Educational Sector
 
In 2009 President Obama initially pledged $12 billion in stimulus funds to help community colleges through the economic crisis. Last March that sum was slashed to $2 billion.  The umpteenth example of a broken Obama promise.
 
We see a drastic cut in federal stimulus funding even as state funding for higher education is expected to fall even further. At a time when community colleges across the country are overflowing with returning students seeking new skills and high school graduates who can’t afford ever-rising tuition rates at many four-year schools, the majority of education-bound stimulus funds are going to for-profit institutions, not community colleges. (Our home state of Washington illustrates the general direction of the administration’s “reform” of higher education: for the first time in the state’s history, public funds no longer pay the majority of higher education costs.)
 
Apart from stimulus funding, overall government student aid is disproportionately aimed at those attending proprietary schools. Nearly 25% of federal financial aid is spent on students attending for-profit colleges, even though these colleges enroll less than 10% of the nation’s college students.
 
Proprietary schools now rely on federal financial aid – PELL Grants and federal loans – as their primary source of revenue.
 
Even the most profitable proprietary schools receive the majority of their funding from federal financial aid programs. According to a U.S.-Senate-sponsored study, The University of Phoenix, the largest private university in North America, receives 90% of its funding from the federal government. Not-so-incidentally, proprietary schools are among the largest donors to Education Committee members.
 
Proponents of the system defend it by pointing out that public colleges also rely on taxpayer subsidies for the majority of their revenue. But this overlooks a decisive difference: what proprietary schools don’t have that  public schools do, is an obligation as a state agency to deliver a high quality education to its students. Instead, proprietary schools have a legal fiduciary duty to their stockholders, like any other for-profit enterprise. As a result, according to a PBS Frontline investigation, the sector spends 20 to 25 % of its budget on marketing and only 10 to 20 % on faculty.

The Track Record of For-Profit Colleges
 
The track record of for-profit colleges does not justify their disproportionate share of government largesse.
 
Drop out rates are higher than they are at public and non-proprietary private schools, often as high as 50 %. Irrespective of whether a student drops out, the for-profit college has already pocketed tuition and fees. The student is left still burdened with a substantial loan obligation.
 
As for graduation rates, a 2008 report by the National Center for Education Statistics puts the graduation rate for students at for-profits beginning their studies in 2002 at 22%,  an 11% drop from students enrolling in 2000. The same cohort attending public and private non-profits graduated at rates of roughly 54% and 64%, respectively. Graduate or not,  the debt burden remains.
 
Suppose the student does not drop out but either seeks to transfer to a public or another non-profit, or completes her studies and enters the job market with a proprietary degree?  Many students assume that credits are transferable to a public or nonprofit, but they aren’t, so they pay twice to attain their degree. The school holds out the lure of high-paying jobs upon graduation, but either no such jobs exist or they require education or experience beyond what the school provided. Congressional studies have shown that the earnings of proprietary graduates are the lowest of all graduates. According to a 2009 Bloomberg report on salary comparisons between traditional and online degree-holders, graduates with bachelor’s degrees from traditional colleges earn a median salary of $55,200, while those with degrees from the University of Phoenix earn only $50,500, and $43,100 from for-profit American Intercontinental.
 
On top of these earnings and job-prospect disadvantages, proprietary graduates bear the heaviest academic debt burden. The Education Department reports that 43 % of those who default on student loans attended for-profit schools, even though only 26% of borrowers attended such schools. Many of those who attended for-profits don’t earn enough to repay their loans. It’s not uncommon for a student who either paid out of pocket or took out a loan for a $30,000 degree to find herself stuck in a $22,000 a year job. This only adds insult to injury: a Government Accounting Office study reports that “A student interested in a massage therapy certificate costing $14,000 at a for-profit college was told that the program was a good value. However, the same certificate from a local community college cost $520.00.”
 
Paying back student loans out of low income and over a long period of time can rule out the possibility of making other financial investments required for the vanishing American Dream, such as buying a house, or saving for retirement or for one’s children’s education.
 
All in all, the for-profits’ track record is more than dismaying. In too many cases, students leave proprietary schools in worse financial shape than they were in before they enrolled. The problem is not limited to proprietary graduates: most of this generation of college grads now possess more debt than opportunity.
 
You might think that the unflattering record of for-profit schools would restrain government gift-giving. After all, the Obama administration’s current education policy would punish “underperforming” public schools and teachers. But these policies target the public sector exclusively: the aim is to undermine teachers’ unions and encourage privatization by boosting charter schools. It is entirely consistent with Washington’s agenda that the dismal performance of proprietary schools does not jeopardize their future access to public financial aid funds – as long as the student does not default on their loan within two years of dropping out.
 
The Career College Association, the lobbying arm of publicly traded colleges, finds all this to be irrelevant. It relies on a different type of indicator from the rest of the higher education sector to measure the success of its for-profit colleges: stock prices. Remarkable. We see the disproportionate flourishing of  “schools” whose primary concern has nothing to do with education.
 
Proprietary Schools and the Military
 
Proprietary schools target the military market with an aggressive and highly successful marketing campaign. For-profit colleges are the destination of high numbers of active duty and recently discharged military personnel. Data from the US Army and Defense Department show that the University of Phoenix is the third largest receiver of education funding from the US Army.
 
29% of military enrollments are in the for-profit sector, and 40% of annual tuition assistance to veterans winds up going to proprietary schools. Often targeted while still enlisted, military personnel are attracted to the relative ease with which they can attend school, often at night, on the weekends, or for active-duty military, even while deployed. With the recent reduction of troops in Iraq, more service members are returning to the United States. Waiting for them are generous G.I. Bill benefits, allowing them to pursue vocational or baccalaureate degrees at accredited colleges. The for-profit sector is poised to corner that market as public institutions squeeze their enrollments, raise tuition and watch public support of higher education dwindle in the current resurrection of pre-Keynesian economic policy.
 
The job prospects for military personnel at for-profits are predictably poor. A Bloomberg report quotes a retired Marine Corps Colonel who now directs human resources for U.S. Fields Operations at Schindler Elevator Corp., as saying “we don’t even consider” online for-profit degree-holding candidates for the company’s management development program.
 
THE PRIVATE LENDERS: SECURITIZATION AS USUAL
 
The two largest holders of student loans are SLM Corp (SLM) and Student Loan Corp (STU), a subsidiary of Citigroup. SLM -Sallie Mae-  was originated as a Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) in 1972. The idea was to prime it for eventual privatization. In 1984 the company began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol SLM. In 2002  Sallie Mae shed the its GSE status and became a subsidiary of the Delaware-chartered publicly traded holding company SLM Holding Corporation. Finally, in 2004 the company officially terminated its ties to the federal government.
 
As the nation’s largest single private provider of student loan funding, SLM has to date lent to more than 31 million students. In 2009 it lent approximately $6.3 billion in private loans and between $5.5 billion and $6 billion in 2010.
 
In the 1990s, well before its full privatization, Sallie’s operations were increasingly swept into the financialization of the economy. It jumped whole hog onto the securitization bandwagon, lumping together and repackaging a large portion of its loans and selling them as bonds to investors. SLM created and marketed its own species of asset-backed securitized student loans, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities (SLABS). When derivatives trading went through the roof following the 1998 repeal of Glass-Steagal, increasingly diverse tranches of Sallie-Mae-backed SLABS entered the market. The company is now also buying  and selling the obligations of state and nonprofit educational-loan agencies.
 
Student loans were included in the same securities that are blamed for the triggering of the financial crisis, and financial products containing these same student loans continue to be traded to this day. The health of these tranches and securities is, as we have seen, highly suspect.
 
SLM’s risk was minimized as long as the feds guaranteed its loans. But as part of last March’s health care legislation, starting in July 2010 federally subsidized education loans were no longer available to private lenders. What do education loans have to do with health care? Since the government took federal loan originations in-house, making them available only through the Department of Education, it no longer has to pay hefty fees (acting as the guarantee) to private banks. The Obama administration expects to save $68 billion between now and 2020. $19 billion of this will be used to pay for the $940 billion health care bill.
 
SLM will do quite well despite this seeming setback. The company anticipated the change in government lending policy by executing an ingenious trick as a borrower. Early last year it made its insurance subsidiary a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, which agreed to lend to big-borrower SLM at the extraordinary rate of .23%. And anyhow,  subsidized loans are almost always insufficient to cover the entire cost of a college degree. For a while the student gets to enjoy the benefits of a government loan. Interest rates are lower and during deferment interest does not accrue. But eventually many students must also take out a private loan, usually in larger amounts and with higher interest rates which continue to mount during deferment.
 
THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO: GOING BANKRUPT
 
Credit card and even gambling debts can be discharged in bankruptcy. But ditching a student loan is virtually impossible, especially once a collection agency gets involved. Although lenders may trim payments, getting fees or principals waived seldom happens.
 
The Wall Street Journal ran a revealing report on the kinds of  situation that can lead to financial catastrophe for a student borrower. (“The $550,000 Student Loan Burden: As Default Rates on Borrowing for Higher Education Rise, Some Borrowers See No Way Out”, Feb. 13, 2010) Here is an excerpt:
 
When Michelle Bisutti, a 41-year-old family practitioner in Columbus, Ohio, finished medical school in 2003, her student-loan debt amounted to roughly $250,000. Since then, it has ballooned to $555,000.
 
It is the result of her deferring loan payments while she completed her residency, default charges and relentlessly compounding interest rates. Among the charges: a single $53,870 fee for when her loan was turned over to a collection agency.
 
Although Bisutti’s debt load is unusual, her experience having problems repaying isn’t. Emmanuel Tellez’s mother is a laid-off factory worker, and $120 from her $300 unemployment checks is garnished to pay the federal student loan she took out for her son.
 
By the time Tellez graduated in 2008, he had $50,000 of his own debt in loans issued by SLM… In December, he was laid off from his $29,000-a-year job in Boston and defaulted.
 
Heather Ehmke of Oakland, Calif., renegotiated the terms of her subprime mortgage after her home was foreclosed. But even after filing for bankruptcy, she says she couldn’t get Sallie Mae, one of her lenders, to adjust the terms on her student loan. After 14 years with patches of deferment and forbearance, the loan has increased from $28,000 to more than $90,000. Her monthly payments jumped from $230 to $816. Last month, her petition for undue hardship on the loans was dismissed.”
 
THE FIRST AUSTERITY GENERATION’S JOB PROSPECTS
 
Most of those affected by the meltdown of 2008 had completed their education and were either employed or retired. The student loan debt bubble signals a generation that enters the work of paid work cursed with what is more likely than not to be a life of permanent indebtedness and low wages.  
 
Both recent trends and the most informed projections for the future of the labor market reveal that most of the current cohort of indebted students will face earnings prospects far poorer than what job seekers could expect during the period of the longest wave of sustained economic growth and the highest wages in US history, 1949-1973. The present generation will experience the indefinite extension of Reagan-to-Obama low wage neoliberalism.
 
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers more than 50 % of all 2007 college graduates who had applied for a job had received an offer by graduation day. In 2008, that percentage tumbled to 26 percent, and to less than 20 % in 2009. And a college education has been producing diminishing returns. For while a college degree does tend to correlate with a relatively high income, during the last eight to ten years the median income of highly educated Americans has been declining.
 
Every two years the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues projections of how many jobs will be added in the key occupational categories over the next ten years. The projected future jobs picture indicates that the grim employment situation is not merely a temporary reflection of the current unusually severe downturn. But you miss this if you get your news only from mainstream sources. The New York Times’s report on the most recent BLS projections, issued in December 2009, paints an unduly optimistic picture of future employment opportunities. (Catherine Rampell, “Where the Jobs Will Be”, Dec. 15, 2009) Here is how a misleading report can be produced without falsifying the facts:
 
BLS releases two job projections, on the Fastest Growing Occupations (www.bls.gov/emp/ep_103.htm <http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_103.htm> ) and on  Occupations With the Largest Job Growth (www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_104.htm). The Times focuses on the former, where the two fastest growing occupations, biomedical engineers and network systems and data communications analysts, require a college degree.  The Times echoes BLS’s comment that occupations requiring postsecondary (a bachelor’s degree or higher) credentials will grow fastest. This is redolent of the ideology of the “New Economy” : the US is turning into a society of professionals and knowledge workers, and the key to success in this upgraded economy is a college education.
 
But we need more information, about  the degree requirements of the total number of job categories listed in both projections, and about the number of new jobs expected to materialize in each projection. Of the total jobs listed, only one of five require a postsecondary degree. By far the fastest growing category is biomedical engineers, projected to grow 72.02 %, from 16,000 in 2008 to 27, 600 in 2018. That’s 11,600 new jobs. Is that a lot? Well, compared to what? The percentage figure, 72.02, is high, but what about the number of new jobs? Let’s compare that Fastest Growing occupation with retail salespersons, the fifth occupation on the Largest Growth list. Retail sales workers will grow by a mere 8.35 %. But that amounts to almost 375,000 new jobs, an increase from 4,489,000 jobs in 2008 to 4,863,000 jobs in 2018. Compare that to the 11,600 new jobs at the top of the Fastest Growing list. Just do the simple math on all the categories on both lists: the great majority of new jobs will be low-paying.

The US is a nation of knowledge workers? Most new jobs will offer the kind of wage we would expect from an economy in which, according to one of Obama’s most repeated mantras, “we” will “consume less and export more”. BLS avers as much when it projects 51 million “job openings due to growth and replacement needs,” fewer than 12 million of which will require a bachelor’s degree.
 
Our first austerity generation will be in debt to its teeth and stuck with low-wage work. The relative penury will require more debt still. Michael Hudson calls this debt peonage. We need to begin thinking of political organization that has little to do with the ballot box. And thinking won’t be enough…
 
Alan Nasser is professor emeritus of Political Economy at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He can be reached at nass[email protected]. Kelly Norman is an independent researcher, a graduate student in Public Administration, and works for Admissions at Evergreen.

U.S., UK, Israel killing Iran scientists’ : Castro

January 10th, 2011 by Global Research

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has accused the United States, Britain, and Israel of organizing the “butchery” of Iranian scientists to undermine Tehran’s nuclear program.

In an article published on Friday entitled “What Would Einstein Say?”, the 84-year-old Castro cited reports in the international media, particularly one article in the U.S. magazine The Atlantic, describing efforts by the intelligence agencies of the three countries to subvert Tehran’s nuclear program and torpedo international negotiations on it through sabotage, which sometimes includes the “coordinated disappearance” of Iranian scientists, AFP reported.

“There are other serious developments related to the butchery of scientists, organized by Israel, the United States, Britain, and other powers,” he wrote.

In his article, Castro asked what Einstein would say if he had learned about the operations by the U.S., Britain, and Israel to make the nuclear scientists disappear.

He said several Iranian scientists have been assassinated since 2007, including Massoud Ali-Mohammadi and Majid Shahriari.

Professor Ali-Mohammadi, a lecturer at Tehran University, was killed by a booby-trapped motorbike in the Iranian capital in January 2010. The bombing took place near the professor’s home in the Qeytariyeh neighborhood of northern Tehran.

On November 29, unidentified terrorists attached bombs to the vehicles of Iranian university professors Majid Shahriari and Fereydoun Abbasi and detonated them. Professor Shahriari was killed immediately, but Dr. Abbasi and his wife sustained minor injuries and were rushed to hospital.

“There were other serious incidents targeting Iranian scientists organized by Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other powers which are not relayed by the world mainstream media,” said the former Cuban leader.

He also cited an article in the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph, pointing to the role played by Israel’s Mossad in the death of Iranian scientists.

“I do not remember another moment in history in which the assassination of scientists has become official policy of a group of powers armed with nuclear weapons,” Castro said.

The Risk of a Nuclear War with Iran. What would Einstein say?

January 10th, 2011 by Fidel Castro Ruz

In a Reflection published on August 25, 2010 under the title of “The Opinion of an Expert”, I mentioned a really unusual activity of the United States and its allies which, in my opinion, underlines the risk of a nuclear conflict with Iran. I was referring to a long article by the well-known journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, published in the US journal The Atlantic in September of that year, entitled “The Point of No Return”.

Goldberg was not anti-Israeli, quite the opposite; he is an admirer of Israel and holds double citizenship with the US and also did his military service in that country.

At the start of his article he wrote: “It is possible, as well, that “foiling operations” conducted by the intelligence agencies of Israel, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western powers—programs designed to subvert the Iranian nuclear effort through sabotage and, on occasion, the carefully engineered disappearances of nuclear scientists—will have hindered Iran’s progress in some significant way”
The parentheses in the paragraph are also his.

After mentioning the enigmatic phrase, I carried on with the analysis of that Gordian knot of international politics that could lead to the war which was so feared by Einstein. What would he say if he had learned about the “frustration operations” destined to make the most capable nuclear scientists disappear?

Maybe because it was so absurd and incredible, I didn’t pay too much attention to it, but months later, upon reading the recent accusations by the Iranian government, as well as news and opinions of well-informed people, the memory of that paragraph returned to my mind with a vengeance.

Four weeks before the end of 2010, an AFP agency dispatch informed:

“An Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed.
“Teheran accuses the United States and Israel of being behind a double assassination.“AFP. November 30, 2010

“‘The hand of western governments and the Zionist regime is behind the assassination attempts’. Mahmud Ahmadineyad had no doubts when it came to look for the people guilty of the double attack on the nuclear experts that took place early yesterday in Teheran. Majid Shariari, professor at the Shahid Beheshti University of Teheran and member of the Nuclear Society of Iran lost his life and his wife was injured in an explosion reported a few metres from their home. His colleague Fereydoon Abbasi, a laser physicist at the same university and his wife were also injured after a similar attack. Even though some newspapers announced Abbasi’s death, it was finally the Mehr agency that confirmed that he had managed to save his life. According to the Fars agency, ‘unknown terrorists’ on motorcycles drove closet o the vehicles to plant the lapa bombs.”

“Members of the Ahmadineyad Executive and the Minister of the Interior, Mostafa Mohamad Najjar, directly accused the CIA and Mossad – the intelligence services of the US and Israel, respectively – of being behind these actions that presume a new blow for the country’s nuclear race at the doors of a possible new round of talks with the 5+1 members…”

“With yesterday’s attempt there are now three Iranian scientists who have been killed since 2007. Dr. Masoud Alí Mohamadi lost his life in Teheran last January after the explosion of a bomb as he was leaving his home, a death that has not yet been cleared up by the authorities who also accused the western intelligence agencies of trying to abort what they considered to be a right, the nuclear race for civilian purposes. The first victim in the heart of the scientific community was Ardeshir Hosseinpour, killed under strange circumstances in 2007 at the nuclear centre of Isfahan.”

I don’t remember any other moment in history when the assassination of scientists has been transformed into official policy on the part of a group of powers armed with nuclear weapons. The worst is that, in the case of Iran, it is being applied on an Islamic nation, with which, even if they are able to compete and surpass it in technology, they could never do it in a field where, for cultural and religious questions, it could surpass them many times in the willingness of its citizens to die at any moment if Iran should decide to apply the same absurd and criminal formula on the professionals of their adversaries.

There are other serious events related to the carnage of scientists, organized by Israel, the US, Great Britain and other powers against the Iranian scientists, something about which the mass media does not inform world opinion.

An article by Christian Elia published on the Rebelión website on August 25, 2010, reports that:

An explosion has killed the father of the “drones” (unmanned planes) – of Iran – but he is just the last of the scientists who have lost their lives in the country.

“To find a photo of Reza Baruni on the Internet is a mission impossible. However, in the last few days, his name was at the centre of a mystery that has many international aspects…”
The only thing certain is that Reza Baruni, the Iranian aeronautical engineer, is dead. An air of absolute mystery hangs over everything else. All the industry analysts consider Baruni to be the father of the [...] UAVs (unmanned vehicles) of the Islamic Republic [...]. On August 1st, 2010, his house was blown up.”
“On August 17, 2010, Debka (very close to Israeli intelligence) publishes news of Baruni’s death and reveals its conclusions: the Iranian engineer’s home blew up because of the explosion of three very powerful explosive devices. Baruni was murdered.”

“But the murkiest episode in contrast is the death of Massud Ali-Mohammadi, professor of nuclear physics at Teheran University, murdered on January 11, 2010 in the Iranian capital. Professor Ali-Mohammadi died in the explosion of a motorcycle-bomb detonated from a distance at the time the professor was leaving his home to go to work…”
An article published on the CubaDebate website informs:

“Israel acknowledges that it has murdered an Iranian scientist last week.”

“Mossad, the Israeli secret service, acknowledged that last week it murdered Majid Shahriari and wounded another physicist in Iran, according to Mossad sources, in an operation carried out in Teheran. ‘It is the latest operation by the head of the Mossad’, the people heading Israeli secret services state with satisfaction at a meeting in their Gelilot headquarters to the north of Tel Aviv.”

“Gordon Thomas, a British expert in the Mossad, confirmed in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph that Israel is responsible for this double murder destined to obstruct the Iranian nuclear program.”

“Thomas states that all the Israeli assassination attempts in the last few years against personalities associated with the Iranian nuclear project have been committed by the Kidon (bayonet) unit. According to the Jewish newspaper Yediot Ahronot this unit is made up of 38 agents. Five of them are women. They are all between 20 and 30 years old and they speak several languages – including Persian – and they are able to come and go from Iran with ease. They are based in the Negev Desert.”

In the days of the Diaspora, the left wing in the world united in solidarity with the people of Israel. Persecuted for their race and religion, many of them fought in the ranks of the revolutionary parties. The peoples condemned the concentration camps that the European and world bourgeoisie wanted to ignore.

Today the leaders of the State of Israel practice genocide and are associating themselves with the most reactionary forces on the planet.

The alliance between the leaders of that State and the South Africa of the hateful apartheid regime is still to be cleared up; in complicity with the United States they supplied the technology to develop the nuclear weapons directed towards striking at the Cuban troops which, in 1975, were confronting the invasion of racist South Africa, whose disdain and hatred of the African peoples was no different from the Nazi ideology which murdered millions of Jews, Russians, gypsies and other European nationalities in the concentration camps of Europe.

If it hadn’t been for the Iranian revolution – stripped of weapons it swept over the best-equipped ally of the United States on the flank of the Soviet super-power – today it would be the Shah of Iran, supplied with nuclear weapons, and not Israel, who would be the principal bulwark of the Yankee and NATO empire in that region that is so strategic and immensely rich in oil and gas for the sure supply of the most developed countries on the planet.

It is an almost inexhaustible subject.

Fidel Castro Ruz

January 6, 2011

8:16 p.m.

The global effects of the crisis have been made even worse by what is happening in Europe. For thirty years the contradictions of capitalism have been overcome with the help of an enormous accumulation of phantom rights to surplus value. The crisis has threatened to destroy them. The bourgeois governments have decided to preserve them claiming that we have to save the banks. They have taken on the banks’ debts and asked for virtually nothing in return. Yet it would have been possible to make this rescue conditional on some assurances. They could have banned speculative financial instruments and closed the tax loopholes. They could even have insisted that they take responsibility for some of the public debt that this rescue increased so dramatically.

We are now in the second phase. Having shifted the debt from the private sector to the public the working class has to be made to pay. This shock therapy is delivered through austerity plans which are all broadly similar – a cut in socially useful spending and hiking up the most unfair taxes. There is no alternative to this form of social violence other than making the shareholders and creditors pay. That is clear and everyone understands it.

The Collapse of a Ruling Class Plan

But the European working class is also being asked to pay for the collapse of the ruling class project for Europe. The ruling class thought that it had found a good system with the single currency, the budgetary stability pact (“Stability and Growth Pact”), and the total deregulation of finance and the movement of capital . By creating a competition between social models and wage earners squeezing wages became the only means of regulating inter-capitalist competition and intensifying the inequalities that benefitted only a very narrow stratum of people in society.

However this model put the cart before the horse and wasn’t viable. It presupposed that the European economies were more homogeneous than they actually are. Differences between countries increased due to their place in the global market and their sensitivity to the euro exchange rate. Inflation rates didn’t converge and interest rates favoured property bubbles and so on. All the contradictions of a curtailed programme of European integration which the Euro liberals are discovering today existed before the crisis. But these are blowing apart under speculative attacks against the sovereign debts of the most exposed countries.

Underneath the abstract concept of “financial markets” there are mainly European financial institutions which speculate using capital which states lend to them at very low interest rates. This speculation is only possible due to the states’ policy of non-intervention and we should understand it as a pressure applied to consenting governments to stabilise budgets on the back of the people of Europe and to defend the banks’ interests.

Two Immediate Tasks

From the point of view of the working class it’s obvious what has to be done: we have to resist the austerity offensive and refuse to pay the debt which is nothing but the debt from the banking crisis. The alternative plan on which this resistance must be based demands another way of sharing society’s wealth. This is a coherent demand. It is in fact against the squeezing of wages, in other words the appropriation of an increasing portion of surplus value by capital.

The alternative requires a real fiscal reform which takes back the gifts which for years have been given to businesses and the rich. It also implies the cancellation of the debt. The debt and the interests of the majority of the population are completely incompatible. There can be no progressive outcome to the crisis which does not put the debt in question, either by defaulting on it or restructuring it. In any case some countries will probably default and it’s therefore important to anticipate this situation and say how it should be managed.

Leaving the Euro?

The offensive, which the peoples of Europe are facing, is undeniably made worse by the European straightjacket. For example the European Central Bank, unlike the Federal Reserve in the United States, cannot monetise public debt by buying treasury bonds. Would leaving the euro allow the straightjacket to be loosened? That is what some on the left like Costas Lapavitsas and his colleagues are suggesting for Greece as an immediate step. He proposes that it is done immediately without waiting for the left to unite to change the euro zone, something he thinks is impossible.

This idea is put forward elsewhere in Europe and is met with an immediate objection that even though Britain is not part of the euro zone it has not been protected from the climate of austerity. It is also easy to understand why the far right, such as the Front National in France wants to leave the euro. By contrast it is hard to see what could be the merits of such a slogan for the radical left. If a liberal government were forced to take such a measure by the pressure of events it is clear that it would be the pretext for an even more severe austerity than the one we have experienced up to now. Moreover it would not allow us to establish a new balance of forces, which is more favourable to the working class. That is the lesson that one can draw for all the past experiences.

For a left government leaving the euro would be a major strategic error. The new currency would be devalued as that is, after all, the desired objective. But that would immediately open up a space, which the financial markets would immediately use to begin a speculative offensive. It would trigger a cycle of devaluation, inflation and austerity. On top of that, the debt, which until that point had been denominated in euros or in dollars would suddenly increase as a result of this devaluation. Every left government which decided to take measures in favour of the working class would certainly be put under enormous pressure by international capitalism. But from a tactical point of view it would be better in this test of strength to use membership in the euro zone as a source of conflict.

It is basically true that the European project based on the single currency is not coherent and is incomplete. It removes a variable of adjustment, the exchange rate, from the set of different prices and salaries inside the euro zone. The countries in the periphery thus have the choice between the German path of freezing wages or suffering a reduction in competitivity and loss of markets. This situation leads to a sort of impasse and there are no solutions that can be applied straight away: going backwards would throw Europe in a crisis which would hit the most fragile countries hardest.; and beginning a new European project seems out of reach at the moment.

If the euro zone explodes the most fragile economies would be destabilised by speculative attacks. Not even Germany would have anything to gain because its currency would appreciate in value uncontrollably and the country would undergo what the Unites States is today trying to impose on several countries with its monetary policy.[1]

Other solutions exist which need a complete recasting of the European Union: a budget which is financed by a common tax on capital and which finances harmonisation funds and investments which are both socially and ecologically useful and richer countries help poorer ones with their public debt. But again this outcome is not possible in the short term, not through lack of alternative plans but because implementing them requires a radical change in the balance of forces at the European level.

What should we do at a very difficult moment like this? The struggle against the austerity plans and refusing to pay the debt are the launch pad for a counter offensive. We then have to make sure that the resistance is strengthened by arguing for an alternative project and work out a programme which offers both “practical” answers as well as a general explanation of the class content of the crisis.[2]

The specific task of the radical, internationalist left is to link the social struggles happening in each country with arguing for a different kind of Europe. What are the ruling classes doing? They are facing up to the policies they have to follow because they are defending interests which are still largely nationally based and contradictory. Yet as soon as they have to impose austerity measures on their own working classes they present a solid united front.

There are better things to do than emphasise the very real differences that exist between the countries. What’s at stake is having an internationalist point of view on the crisis in Europe. The only way of really opposing the rise of the far right is by suggesting other targets than the usual scapegoats. We can affirm a real international solidarity with the peoples who are suffering most due to the crisis by demanding that the debts are shared equally across Europe. Thus we have to oppose an alternative project for Europe to that of the European bourgeoisie which is dragging every country backwards socially. How is it possible not to understand that our mobilisations, which are faced with coordination of the ruling class at a European level, need to be based on a coordinated project of our own? While it is true that struggles happen in a national framework they would be strengthened by a perspective like this instead of being weakened or led down nationalist dead ends. The students who demonstrated in London chanting “all in this together, all in this together” are a symbol of this living hope.

For a European Strategy

The task is as difficult as the period which the crisis has opened. However the radical left must not get locked into the impossible choice and start the risky adventure of leaving the euro and a utopian idea of currency harmonisation. We could easily work on some intermediate targets which challenge the European institutions. For example:

  • The states of the European Union should borrow directly from the European Central Bank (ECB) at very low rates of interest and private sector banks should be obliged to take over a a certain proportion of the public debt.

  • A default mechanism should be put in place, which allows public sector debt to be written off in proportion to tax breaks for the rich and money spent on bank bailouts.

  • Budgetary stabilisation has to be reformed by a fiscal reform which taxes movements of capital, financial transactions, dividends, large fortunes, high salaries and incomes from capital at a standard rate across Europe.

We have to understand that these objectives are neither further or closer away than an “exit from the euro” which would be beneficial to working people. It would definitely be absurd to wait for a simultaneous and co-ordinated exit by every European country. The only strategic hypothesis that one can then conceive of must take as its starting point the experience of a social transformation which starts in one country. The government of the country in questions takes measures, for example imposing a tax on capital. If it is thinking clearly it will anticipate the retaliation for which it will be the target and will impose controls on capital. By taking this fiscal reform measure it is openly in conflict with the rules of the European game. It has no interest in unilaterally leaving the euro. This would be an enormous strategic mistake since the new currency would immediately come under attack with the aim of pulling down the economy of the “rebel” country.

We have to give up on the idea that there are “technical” shortcuts, assume that conflict is inevitable and build a favourable balance of forces of which the European dimension is a part. One point of support for that is the ability to damage capitalist interests. The country, which starts, could restructure the debt, nationalise foreign capital etc, or threaten to do it. The “left” governments of Papandreou in Greece or Zapatero in Spain have not even dreamed of doing this.

The main point of support comes from taking the measures cooperatively. This is completely different from classic protectionism, which basically always tries to gain ground by nibbling at parts of the global market. Every progressive measure on the other hand is effective to the extent that it is shared across a number of countries. We should therefore be talking about a strategy, which is based on the following idea: we are willing to tax capital and we will take the necessary steps to protect ourselves. But we are also hoping for these measures, which we propose, to be implemented across Europe.

We can sum up by saying that rather than seeing them in opposition to each other we have to think hard about the link between breaking the neoliberal European project and our project of creating a new Europe. •

Notes

1 Michael Hudson, “U.S. ‘Quantitative Easing’ Is Fracturing the Global Economy.”

2 Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) Portugal: “On the crisis and how to overcome it,” May 23rd 2010.

 

Dartmouth University wrote in 2001:

In a recent article in the journal NeuroToxicology, a research team led by Roger D. Masters, Dartmouth College Research Professor and Nelson A. Rockefeller Professor of Government Emeritus, reports evidence that public drinking water treated with sodium silicofluoride or fluosilicic acid, known as silicofluorides (SiFs), is linked to higher uptake of lead in children.

Sodium fluoride, first added to public drinking water in 1945, is now used in less than 10% of fluoridation systems nationwide, according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) 1992 Fluoridation Census. Instead, SiF’s are now used to treat drinking water delivered to 140 million people. While sodium fluoride was tested on animals and approved for human consumption, the same cannot be said for SiFs.

Masters and his collaborator Myron J. Coplan, a consulting chemical engineer, formerly Vice President of Albany International Corporation, led the team that has now studied the blood lead levels in over 400,000 children in three different samples. In each case, they found a significant link between SiF-treated water and elevated blood lead levels.

“We should stop using silicofluorides in our public water supply until we know what they do,” said Masters. Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency have told Masters and Coplan that the EPA has no information on health effects of chronic ingestion of SiF-treated water.

***

Also requiring further examination is German research that shows SiFs inhibit cholinesterase, an enzyme that plays an important role in regulating neurotransmitters.

“If SiFs are cholinesterase inhibitors, this means that SiFs have effects like the chemical agents linked to Gulf War Syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome and other puzzling conditions that plague millions of Americans,” said Masters. “We need a better understanding of how SiFs behave chemically and physiologically.”

Here is Masters’ scientific paper on SiFs (also called “fluosilicic acid” and “fluorosilicic acid“).

Where does this compound come from?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Toxicology Program, reported in 2001:

Sodium hexafluorosilicate is produced by treating fluorosilicic acid with sodium hydroxide, sodium carbonate, or sodium chloride; alkalinity is adjusted to avoid the release of the fluoride. Fluorosilicic acid is mainly produced as a byproduct of the manufacture of phosphate fertilizers where phosphate rock is treated with sulfuric acid.

***
The major use of sodium hexafluorosilicate and fluorosilicic acid is as fluoridation agents for drinking water.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey:

An estimated 40,000 tons of fluorosilicic acid (equivalent to about 70,000 tons of 92%
fluorspar) was recovered from phosphoric acid plants processing phosphate rock. Fluorosilicic acid was used primarily in water fluoridation, either directly or after processing into sodium silicofluoride.

The USGS also noted in a 2000 report:

Fluorosilicic acid is a byproduct of the phosphate fertilizer industry and is not manufactured for itself alone …

In other words, even though neither the EPA or any other government agency has studied the effects of long-term ingestion of fluorosilicic acid, it is being used instead of sodium fluoride because it is cheaper.

As Edward Urbansky from the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, National Risk management Research Laboratory, Water Supply and Water Resources Division wrote in 2002:

The most common fluoridating agents used by American waterworks are sodium fluoride (NaF), hexafluorosilicic acid (H2SiF6), and sodium hexafluorosilicate
(Na2SiF6) as shown in Figure 1.14 Although 25% of the utilities reported using NaF, this corresponds to only 9.2% of the U.S. population drinking fluoride-supplemented tap water. … The cost savings in using fluorosilicates result in large systems using those additives instead.

***

In the United States, the primary sources of fluoridating agents are rocky mineral deposits containing mixtures of fluorite and apatite; the fluoridating agent itself is produced as a byproduct of phosphate fertilizer manufacture.

***
The EPA is aware of papers positing links between fluoridation agents and lead in the bloodstream or challenging the accepted chemistry. To truly investigate such hypotheses, better chemical knowledge of the speciation is required.

And see this.

Spinning Unemployment Figures in a Collapsing Empire

January 10th, 2011 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Friday that the economy gained only 103,000 new jobs in December–not enough to keep up with population growth–but the rate of unemployment (U.3) fell from 9.8% to 9.4%. If you are confused by the report, you are among the many. 

In truth, what fell was not the number of unemployed people but the number of unemployed people who are actively looking for work. Those who have become discouraged and have ceased looking for work are not considered to be in the work force and are not counted as unemployed in the U.3 measure. The unemployment rate fell because discouraged workers increased, not because employment rose.

The BLS counts short-term discouraged workers (less than one year) in its U.6 measure of unemployment. That unemployment rate is 16.7%.  When statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) adds the long-term discouraged, the US unemployment rate as of December 2010 was 22.4%.

The question to ask yourself is: why does the media focus on the unemployment measure that does not count any discouraged workers?  The answer is that the U.3 measurement only counts 42% of the unemployed and makes the situation appear to be a lot better than it is.

Where are the 103,000 new jobs?  As I have reported for years, the jobs are in non-tradable domestic services: waitresses and bar tenders, health care and social assistance (primarily ambulatory health care services), and retail and wholesale trade.

Today the United States has only 11,670,000 manufacturing jobs, less than 9% of total jobs. Yet, despite America’s heavy dependence on foreign manufactures and foreign creditors, the idiots in Washington think that they are a superpower standing astride the world like a colossus. 

John Williams reports that “the level of payroll employment still stands below where it was a decade ago, despite the U.S.population growing by more than 10% in the same period. The structural impairments to U.S. economic activity continue to constrain normal commercial activity, preventing any meaningful recovery in business activity.”

Another way of saying this is that American corporations have taken American jobs offshore and given them to the Chinese. So much for big business patriotism.

Williams also reports that, unless it is finagled, next month’s BLS benchmark revision of payroll employment data will lower the level of previously reported employment by more than 500,000.

Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke used his testimony before the Senate Budget Committee last Friday to warn that the U.S. government must get its budget deficit under control or “the economic and financial effects would be severe.”  Here Bernanke is acknowledging that the Federal Reserve cannot indefinitely print money in order to finance wars and bailouts of the mega-rich.

But how is the government to get its budget under control?  The U.S. government, regardless of political party or president, is committed to American hegemony over the world. The Congress has just passed the largest military budget in history, and there is no indication that any of America’s wars and military occupations are near an end.

The financial crisis is not over, with more foreclosures and more losses for the financial sector that will result in more taxpayer bailouts for those “too big to fail.”  John Williams says that the double-dip is already happening, just disguised by faulty statistics, and that the deficit implications are horrendous and are likely to result in hyperinflation as the Federal Reserve will have to monetize the otherwise un-financeable deficits. 

The dollar is also in danger, its role as reserve currency undermined by the Federal Reserve’s creation of more and more dollars.  Temporarily, the dollar is buttressed by the grief that Wall Street’s sale of fraudulent derivative financial instruments to Europe
has caused the euro.

The Republicans will try to destroy Social Security and Medicare in order to pay for wars and bailouts. If Americans are capable of realizing that they are threatened on a much greater level by the Republicans’ evisceration of the social safety net than they are by terrorists, the Republican assault on what they call “the welfare state” will fail.

The fallback target will be private pensions, assuming any survive plunder by the Wall Street investment banks. Pension funds could be required to invest in Treasury debt or they could face a levy. In the Clinton administration, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Alicia Munnell proposed confiscating 15% of all pension assets on the grounds that they had accumulated tax free. Certainly Washington will steal Americans’ pensions, just as Washington has stolen Americans’ civil liberties, in order to continue the empire’s wars of hegemony.

Increasingly, the rest of the world views America as the single source of its financial and political woes. While the superpower massacres Muslims in the Middle East and Central Asia, people in the rest of the world have learned from WikiLeaks that the U.S. government manipulates, bribes, threatens, and deceives other governments in order to  have those governments serve the U.S. government’s interest at the expense of the interests of their own peoples.

The American Imperial Empire rests on puppet governments that are increasingly distrusted and hated by the peoples under their rule. Like the Soviet Union’s Eastern European empire, the American Empire is ruled not directly but through puppet states.
Puppet governments are caught between the empire’s power and the power of the local population. To the extent that Europeans have a moral conscience, they will find America’s foreign policy increasingly repugnant. To the extent that Muslim solidarity grows, the Muslim puppet governments that support America’s and Israel’s massacres of Muslims will find themselves threatened from within.

The American Empire is on the rocks, despite its vast arsenal of nuclear weapons and its control over the foreign and domestic policies of its subservient puppet states in  Western and Eastern Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, parts of Africa, the Middle East, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Baltic states, Georgia, Kosovo, Mexico, Central America, Columbia, and, no doubt, others. 

A country that is the font of war and oppression, whose dominance rests on the weak reed of puppet states, and whose economy is collapsing will not long remain dominant.

Intergenerational Poverty in America

January 9th, 2011 by Devon DB

Poverty today is greater than ever, with about 1/6th of the American population living in such conditions, according to the US Bureau of Census.  

“There are over 4 million more Americans living in poverty than previously reported and poor people make up 15.7 percent of the population instead of 14.3 percent, according to new figures for 2009 released by the US Census Bureau” (See Barry Grey, US Census Bureau: Rising Levels of Poverty in America, wsws.org, 2011-01-07)

It is a highly talked about and debated topic, yet it seems that the plight of those suffering from intergenerational poverty is ignored. Whereas poverty is ““the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor; indigence,”[1] which could potentially be limited to one person, intergenerational poverty is the state of generations of a family being impoverished.

Intergenerational poverty mainly stems from education and economics. In terms of education, being well-educated lowers the chances of being in poverty. Even having only a high school diploma or equivalent can help as “those in households headed by persons with no high school degree are the most likely to enter poverty of any educational grouping.”[2] And when one factors in that “urban schools systematically receive less qualified teachers than their suburban counterparts”[3], one can assume they will not receive a quality education, thus having a greater chance of being impoverished. One can also assume that the children of these urban-dwellers also will be impoverished seeing as how “social and economic deprivation during childhood and adolescence can have a lasting effect on individuals, making it difficult for children who grow up in low-income families to escape poverty when they become adults.”[4] Thus the cycle of intergenerational poverty begins.  The parent, having been the victim of circumstances, was unable to attain a quality education, and thus was unable to find a well-paying job and wound up in poverty. The child, still living in that same area, is also suffering from not having a quality education and the results are the same: more poverty.

Economically, it is a fact that children who are born poor are likely to remain poor. According to a 2009 study of the National Center for Children in Poverty, “children who were born to families at the top of the income structure have the highest probability of being in the highest income strata as adults, while those born at the bottom have the highest probability of being poor as adults.”[5]

A cycle of poverty that starts with the adult continues for generations and only gets worse, seeing as how workers wages have not increased since the 1970s. Also, this decrease in wages is also exacerbated by globalization, in which companies pit workers from all around the world against one another in what results as a race to the bottom in terms of wages, which only serves to increase the number of impoverished people globally.

Helping to end intergenerational poverty should be a serious matter for every government, seeing as how they would benefit from it.

Spending money on eliminating poverty can be looked at as an investment “which generated returns to society over time in the form of higher real gross domestic product (GDP), reduced expenditures on crime or health care problems, reduced costs borne by crime victims or those in poor health, and improvements in everyone’s quality of life in a wide variety of other ways as well.”[6]

Thus ending poverty helps the health of the economy and saves the government and community money in terms of not needing to aid the impoverished, as well as allowing people to reach their full potential.

Ending poverty truly aids everyone, and a full long-term plan needs to be developed to effectively break the cycle.  

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

References:

1: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/poverty

2: http://www.heartlandalliance.org/whatwedo/advocacy/reports/causes-of-poverty.pdf

3: www.stanford.edu/~sloeb/papers/TeacherSorting.pdf

4: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pdf/text_909.pdf

5: Ibid.

6: http://npc.umich.edu/publications/u/working_paper07-04.pdf

With so much misinformation circulating in different media outlets around the world about Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez, it’s time to set the record straight. Venezuela is not a dictatorship and President Chavez is no dictator. Just last evening the Venezuelan head of state participated in a meeting with a group of housing activists, who not only criticized – live on television – government policies and inaction on tenant and housing issues, but also proposed laws, regulations and projects that were received with open arms by Chavez himself. And last week, the Venezuelan President vetoed a law on higher education that had been approved by the prior year’s majority pro-Chavez legislature, calling for more “open and wide” debate on the subject, to include critics and those who had protested the bill. That is not the behavior of a brutal dictator.

As someone who has been living on and off in Venezuela for over 17 years, I can testify to the extraordinary transformation the country has undertaken during the past decade since Chavez first was elected in 1998. He has been reelected by landslide majorities twice since then.

When I arrived to Venezuela for the first time in 1993, the country was in severe turmoil. Constitutional rights had been suspended and a nationwide curfew was imposed. Repression was widespread, the economy was in crisis, several newspapers, television and radio stations had been shut down or censored, and the government had imposed a forced military draft targeting young men from poor communities. There was an interim president in power, because the actual president, Carlos Andres Perez – hailed by Washington as an “outstanding democrat” – had just been impeached and imprisoned for corruption. Perez eventually escaped confinement and fled to Miami, where he resided until his death last month, living off the millions he stole from the Venezuelan people.

Even though a new president was elected in 1994, constitutional rights remained suspended on and off for years, until the elections in 1998 that brought Chavez to power. Since then, despite a short-lived coup d’etat in 2002, an economically-shattering sabotage of the oil industry in 2003 and multiple attempts against his government during the following years, President Chavez has never once limited constitutional rights nor imposed a curfew on the population. He hasn’t ever ordered a state of emergency that would limit rights or shut down any media outlets. He even issued a general pardon in 2007 giving amnesty to all those involved in the 2002 coup, with the exception of individuals directly responsible for crimes against humanity or homicide.

Under the Chavez administration, poverty has been reduced in half, universal, quality free healthcare and education have been guaranteed for all Venezuelans, new industries have been created and more and more political power has been placed in the hands of “ordinary” people who were previously excluded by the elite that ruled the country throughout the twentieth century.

So why do so many newspapers and broadcast media classify him as a dictator?

You may not like Hugo Chavez’s way of speaking, or the fact that he was born into poverty, comes from the military, is a leftist and doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a head of state. But that doesn’t make him a dictator.

In Venezuela, more than 80% of television, radio and print media remain in the hands of private interests critical of the government. So, despite what some international press claim, there is no censorship or violation of free expression in Venezuela. Calls to overthrow the government or to incite the armed forces to rebel against the state, which would clearly be prohibited in most nations, are broadcast on opposition-controlled television channels with public concessions (open signals, not cable). Just last month, the head of the Venezuelan chamber of commerce, Fedecamaras, gave a press conference broadcast live on television and radio stations, during which he called the armed forces “traitors” who would “pay the price” if they didn’t disobey government orders and “obey” the dictates of business operators.

I can only imagine if a business leader in the United States were to go on television and call the US Army “traitors” if they didn’t disobey the federal government. Secret Service would arrest the man immediately and the consequences would be severe. But something like that would never happen in the US, since no television station would ever broadcast anything that constituted a call to rebellion or disobedience against the government. That’s illegal.

So, not only is there no censorship in Venezuela, there is an excess of “free” expression. One positive aspect of the permissive attitude assumed by the Chavez government with regards to media has been the proliferation of community and alternative media outlets throughout the nation, which have provided space and voice to those ignored by mainstream corporate media. During governments prior to the Chavez administration, community and alternative media were banned.

Recently, the Venezuelan legislature passed a law called the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio, Television and Digital Media. The law does not censor internet or any other form of media. What it does do is disallow calls to assassinate the president or other individual, as well as prohibit incitement to crime, hate or violence on web sites operated from Venezuela. This is a standard in most democracies and is a sign of civility. The law also instills on media a responsibility to contribute to the education of citizens. Media have a huge power over society today. Why shouldn’t they be responsible for their actions?

Another issue widely manipulated in mass media is the Enabling Act that was approved last month by the Venezuelan parliament. This law gives “decree” powers to the Executive to legislate on specific issues as stipulated in the bill. The Enabling Act does not usurp, inhibit or limit legislative functions of the National Assembly, nor is it unconstitutional or anti-democratic. The parliament can still debate and approve laws as usual within its authority. The Enabling law, which is permitted by the Constitution, was requested by President Chavez in order to provide rapid responses to a national emergency caused by torrential rainfall that devasted communities nationwide at the end of last year and left over 130,000 homeless. The law will not affect any constitutional rights nor impose a “dictatorship” on the country, it is merely a valid, legitimate response to an emergency situation that needs quick solutions.

And speaking of the Venezuelan legislature, there is a lot of deceitful information repeated and recycled in media worldwide about the composition of this year’s new parliament. Venezuela had legislative elections in September 2010, and opposition – anti-Chavez – parties won 40% of the seats. Some say this is a majority, which is very strange. The pro-Chavez PSUV party won 60% of seats in the National Assembly, as the Venezuelan legislative body is called. That’s 97 out of 165 seats, plus 1 more which was won by the pro-Chavez PCV party, for a total of 98.

On the other hand, the opposition bloc won 65 seats represented by 13 different political parties that don’t necessarily agree on most issues. Two other seats were won by a third, independent party, PPT.  So, the PSUV party won 97 seats in parliament and the next party in line is Accion Democratica (AD) with 22 seats. Who has the majority?

In 2005, the opposition parties boycotted the electoral process, and lost the near 50% they had in parliament from the year 2000. Now, their bloc has been reduced to 40%, yet they claim to have “grown” in numbers. This perspective has been reiterated in mainstream media, despite its erroneous and manipulative nature.

The opposition bloc has already announced it will seek foreign intervention to help overthrow the government. Not only is this illegal, it’s incredibly dangerous. Many of the candidates and most of the parties that conform the opposition in Venezuela have already been receiving millions of dollars annually in funding from several US and international agencies, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), both financed with US taxpayer monies. The stated purpose of this funding has been to “promote democracy” in Venezuela and help build the opposition forces against Chavez. This is a clear violation of Venezuelan sovereignty and a waste of US taxpayer dollars. US citizens: Is this the way you want your hard-earned money to be spent?

This week, opposition leaders will meet with their counterparts in Washington. They have already said their mission is to seek more aid to help remove President Chavez from power. Unfortunately, their undemocratic actions have already been welcomed in the US Capitol. Representative Connie Mack (R-FL), now head of the House Sub-Committte on Foreign Relations for the Western Hemisphere, announced on the first day of Congress that his one goal this year is to place Venezuela on the list of “state sponors of terrorism”. And Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), now head of the House Foreign Relations Committee, has backed that objective, even going as far as to publicly state she would welcome the “assassination of Fidel Castro or any other repressive leader” such as Hugo Chavez.

On January 1, President Chavez held a brief, informal and amicable encounter with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Brasilia, during the inauguration of Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s new president. No agreements were reached, but the exchange of hands and smiles stabilized an escalation in tensions between both nations, which had produced a diplomatic crisis at the end of last year. But upon her return to Washington, Clinton was severely criticized by media, particularly The Washington Post, which accused her of being too “soft” on Venezuela.

The Washington Post’s calls for war against Venezuela are dangerous. Remember, conditioning of public opinion is necessary to justify aggression against another nation. The campaigns of demonization against Saddam Hussein, Iraq and Islam were essential to initiate the wars in the Middle East which have yet to cease. Is the public willing to be influenced by media that have a political (and economic) agenda that seeks to oust a democratically-elected and popularly supported government just because they don’t like its policies?

With the recent tragic events in Arizona it should become even more evident that media have power and influence over individual actions. Hate speech, demonization campaigns, manipulative and deceitful information are dangerous and can lead to abominable consequences, including war.

It’s time to stop the escalating aggression against Venezuela and accept the facts: Venezuela is not a dictatorship, and while many of you may not like Hugo Chavez, a majority of Venezuelans who voted for him do. And in this scenario, they’re the ones who matter.

Ecological Civilization

January 9th, 2011 by Fred Magdoff

Given the overwhelming harm being done to the world’s environment and to its people, it is essential today to consider how we might organize a truly ecological civilization—one that exists in harmony with natural systems—instead of trying to overwhelm and dominate nature. This is not just an ethical issue; it is essential for our survival as a species and the survival of many other species that we reverse the degradation of the earth’s life support systems that once provided dependable climate, clean air, clean water (fresh and ocean), bountiful oceans, and healthy and productive soils.

There are numerous ways to approach and think about the enormous harm that has been done to the environment. I will discuss the following: (1) the critical characteristics that underlie strong ecosystems; (2) why societies are not adequately implementing ecological approaches; and (3) how we might use characteristics of strong natural ecosystems as a framework to consider a future ecological civilization.

I. Ecological Principles: Learning from Nature

The study of ecology developed as scientists began to understand how natural systems functioned. Scientists quickly realized that they needed to think and study in a multidisciplinary fashion—there was no way to comprehend the full complexity of such systems by focusing on one particular discipline or sub-discipline. In fact, even after intense study, it is usually impossible to understand fully a highly complex system—with interactions and positive and negative feedback loops—to the extent that you can accurately predict all the results that will occur when you intervene in some way. Frederick Engels described this phenomenon well, over a century ago in 1876:

Let us not…flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel out the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries. When the Italians of the Alps used up the pine forests on the southern slopes, so carefully cherished on the northern slopes, they had no inkling that by doing so they were cutting at the roots of the dairy industry in their region; they had still less inkling that they were thereby depriving their mountain springs of water for the greater part of the year, and making it possible for them to pour still more furious torrents on the plains during the rainy seasons….Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature—but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.1

Learning to “know and correctly apply” the “laws” of nature has progressed greatly since Engels’s time. Although we must always proceed with caution when working with complex ecosystems (as Engels warned, there may be unforeseen consequences), much has been learned about how natural systems operate, about the importance of the interactions of organisms among themselves and with their physical/chemical/climatic environment. There are fragile natural ecosystems that are easily disturbed, and may become degraded as a result of slight disturbance. However, many natural ecosystems are strong, able to resist significant perturbation and/or quickly return to normal functioning following a disturbance. Natural disturbances of an ecosystem may be sudden—a wildfire started by a lightening strike, huge winds generated by hurricanes, floods, etc.—or gradual, as with changes in long-term precipitation trends. More resilient systems are better able to adapt to long-term gradual changes as well as sudden ones.

Metabolism and Metabolic Connections

The term metabolism is usually used in reference to the work done inside an organism or a cell as it goes about its normal operations: the building up of new organic chemicals and the breaking down of others, the recovering of energy from some compounds, and the use of energy to do work. But a critical part of the metabolism of a cell or large organism is the exchange of materials with the environment and other organisms: obtaining energy-rich organic molecules and individual elements necessary to make all the stuff of life, including oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients (such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium), and water. Without access to these resources outside itself, an organism would run out of energy and die. Plants and animals, as well as fungi and most bacteria, need to be able to obtain oxygen from the atmosphere or water in order to live. In addition, all organisms must rid themselves of waste products such as carbon dioxide that can be toxic if allowed to accumulate inside the organism. Thus, metabolism involves not only processes internal to the organism but also a continual exchange of materials between an organism and its immediate environment—the soil, air, water, and other organisms. (See Figure 1.)

Almost all organisms use the energy derived from sunlight—either producing it themselves by photosynthesis or feeding on plant material or organisms that have themselves fed on plant material. However, organisms, from the “simplest” bacteria to mammals, interact with one another and with the chemical and physical aspects of their local environment. The waste of one cell—or the whole organism itself—becomes food for another. And many organisms contain other organisms, either inside or on their surfaces, most living in a mutually beneficial, symbiotic association. The huge number of bacteria inside the human gut (as there are inside those of other animals) plays an important part in our metabolism and assists in the normal functioning of the body.

Soil is not just a medium for supporting plants so they can grow upright. It is also composed of minerals, gases (atmosphere), water, decomposing organic material, and literally millions of organisms such as fungi, bacteria, nematodes, earthworms, and so on, all continually interacting and providing resources to one another. There is a strong metabolic interaction between plants and soil. Plants, as they grow, provide food for many soil organisms, as material produced by photosynthesis in green tissue is translocated to the roots and exuded. (See Figure 1, which outlines some of the main metabolic connections in a natural ecosystem in which humans are part.)

Many of the microorganisms close to roots provide organic chemicals that support healthy plant growth. All plants also take up nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and nitrogen. Some plants, such as legumes, which function symbiotically with bacteria inside the plants, supply energy-rich products of photosynthesis to the bacteria, which in turn supply the plant with available forms of nitrogen. When plants or plant roots die, they become food for fungi and bacteria that then become energy sources for organisms such as nematodes that then become food for other organisms further up a complex metabolic foodweb of life. (A foodweb is the term now used in place of food chain—because organisms are connected in complex, branching ways and not in an orderly, ladder-like chain.) Although plants make their own energy-rich compounds using the sun’s energy to power photosynthesis, the essential inorganic compounds that plants take up from the soil also participate in the foodweb. As organisms feed on dead plant material, they use energy contained in the residue for their life processes and, at the same time, convert nutrients in their food into forms that can be used by plants in the future.

Plants living in the same ecosystem are frequently connected to one another metabolically. The release of available nitrogen from a legume can, for example, be taken up by a neighboring grass plant. The threads of fungi (hyphae) that help plants take up water and nutrients frequently connect one plant to another. In addition, some plants provide resources and refuge to insects that attack insects that feed on other plants.

Plants and soils are important participants in the hydrologic cycle. Plants take up water from soil and use some for growth, while most water evaporates from leaves, returning to the atmosphere to fall back to Earth again as rainfall. Precipitation may filter into the soil and be stored there for plants to use, or it may percolate down to recharge the water table. If the soil is open and porous and has a cover of organic mulch, a high percentage of rainfall can infiltrate. Conversely, if soils are compact and have no surface organic mulch and few plants, rainfall tends to run off the land, eroding soil as it flows.

There is also an intimate and important metabolic connection between plants and higher animals, as animals feed on plants (or other animals that fed on plants), using nutrients from the soil and solar energy that have been stored in plants. In the living and reproducing processes of animals, energy is used to do work, and nutrients are returned to the soil as waste materials. There are strong animal-to-animal metabolic relationships, as carnivores, omnivores (humans included), parasitoids (insects that parasitize other insects), etc. go about their normal lives.

Humans create forms of metabolic interaction with the earth in many ways—agricultural systems, fishing, mining, production and use of industrial commodities, production and utilization of transportation systems, heating homes and cooking, disposing of solid waste (garbage), changing the landscape to accommodate road construction, etc. However, in this section, we include only human metabolic relationships with the earth as they are expressed through the consumption of food and excretion of bodily waste. This allows us to focus on what can be learned from natural systems.

Strong Natural Ecosystems

The continuity of the natural soil-plant-animal metabolic connections is critical to maintaining strong ecosystems. And within the soil, the metabolic interactions of the great diversity of organisms help provide the nutrients and stimulating compounds that are essential for growing healthy plants as well as enhancing infiltration of rainfall and storage capacity for water for later use by plants.

A number of characteristics can be thought of as pillars supporting strong natural ecosystems. These have been described as follows:

  • Diversity. A great biological diversity, both aboveground and in the soil, characterizes many strong natural ecosystems in temperate and tropical regions. The metabolic connection between so many organisms provides biological synergies, nutrient availability to plants, checks on disease or insect outbreaks, etc. For example, competition for resources and specific antagonisms (such as antibiotic production by some soil bacteria) among the multitude of soil organisms usually keep soil borne plant diseases from severely damaging a natural grassland or forest. And a great diversity in species aboveground (plants and animals) and in the soil, some with overlapping niches or functions, means that if one is harmed by a disease or insect, there are frequently others that promote the continuity of ecosystem functioning.

  • Efficient Natural Cycles through Closely Linked Metabolic Relationships. Efficiency of natural systems’ natural cycles is arrived at through close biological interactions and associations and biological synergies. Tight energy and nutrient flows—with little wasted or “leaking out”—are characteristic of strong natural systems. Because of the wide variety and great populations of organisms and their many natural niches in soils and on the soil surface and the presence of significant quantities of stored solar energy in crop and manure residues, energy flows efficiently, as organisms consume organic residues and one another. Natural ecosystems with healthy soils and diverse plant species also tend to be efficient in capturing and using rainfall and in mobilizing and cycling nutrients. This efficiency in use of nutrients, energy, and water helps to keep the ecosystem from “running down” through the excessive loss of energy and nutrients (and topsoil) and, at the same time, helps maintain the quality of the groundwater and surface waters. Precipitation tends to enter the porous soil, rather than run off, providing water to plants and recharging ground water, slowly releasing water to springs, streams, and rivers.

  • Self-Sufficiency. A consequence of diversity and efficient natural cycles is that natural terrestrial ecosystems are self-sufficient—requiring only inputs of sunlight and rainfall. Natural ecosystems run on current and recently past solar energy (stored as soil organic matter). The sun’s energy, captured by green plants, is then used by many organisms, as fungi and bacteria decompose organic residues and are then fed upon by other organisms, which are themselves fed upon by others, higher up the foodweb.

Cycling of nutrients from soil to plant to animal and back to soil is essential for an ecosystem to be stable and resilient. There are low levels of nutrients, such as nitrates, that come along with rain and are deposited as dust settles. Other nutrients then become available as soil minerals dissolve. But, to a great extent, nutrients cycle and energy flows efficiently within the system. As organisms decompose dead plants and animals, nutrients are recycled at the same time that energy stored in the food source is utilized. The essential nutrient, nitrogen, needed for making proteins, is provided by a number of species of bacteria (free living as well as those living symbiotically on or in plant roots) that are able to convert nitrogen gas in the atmosphere into amino acids, directly usable by plants, and to release mineral forms of nitrogen that plants can also use.

  • Self-Regulation. With plants and animals filling the numerous niches aboveground, many species are able to exist side-by-side, for instance, in grasslands. But they metabolically interact with one another and are intimately connected. Because of the great diversity of organisms present, outbreaks (or huge population increases) of diseases or insects that severely damage plants or animals are uncommon. For example, a particular beetle that feeds on plants may encounter numerous other species that keep its population from getting too high—“a variety of predatory bugs and beetles in the foliage of the plants, and pathogenic nematodes and fungi that inhabit the soil attack pupating adults below ground.”2

Animals have many systems to defend themselves when under attack by other organisms, including, in mammals, their own immune systems. But plants also have a number of defense mechanisms—some stimulated or induced by soil organisms—that help protect them from attack by fungi and bacteria. There are also organisms that prey on (or lay their eggs in) insects that feed on plants. Amazingly, plants being eaten by plant-feeders (herbivores) send out chemical signals that recruit the specific organism to attack the particular plant-feeders.3

  • Resiliency through Self-Renewal. Disturbances occur in all ecosystems, natural or not. The stronger ecosystems are more resistant to disturbances and are able to bounce back quicker.4 Such resiliency is the “bottom line” characteristic of strong and stable ecosystems, with other characteristics contributing to the ability for self-renewal. Seeds stored in the soil, which germinate after a fire are an example of the self-renewal of plants.

Are There Lessons to Learn from Bees?

The natural world contains many interesting examples that may have some analogies in human activity. For example, when beehives grow too large, bees swarm to a temporary location. Scouts go out in different directions and then report back by performing a dance that provides information about the location scouted and its conditions. Other bees congregate around the original scout they think has selected the best site. When enough bees agree on one of the locations, the entire swarm then goes off to build a hive there.5

When a large enough number of bees agree about a site, they end up selecting the best one. There is an analogous situation with humans. People in groups, provided with the necessary information, tend to make better decisions than individuals making decisions for the group. A diversity of people (backgrounds, skills, outlooks) allows a group to evaluate issues better. Because they are, as a group, involved in the decision-making process, they feel more ownership of the decision and a desire to help implement it.

II. Why Are Societies Not Applying Ecological Knowledge?

With every day that passes we are acquiring a better understanding of these laws and getting to perceive both the more immediate and the more remote consequences of our interference with the traditional course of nature. In particular, after the mighty advances of natural science in the present century, we are more than ever in a position to realise, and hence to control, also the more remote natural consequences at least of our day-to-day productive activities. But the more this progresses the more will men not only feel, but also know their oneness with nature, and the more impossible will become the senseless and unnatural idea of a contrast between mind and matter, man and nature, soul and body.

—Frederick Engels, 18766

Although the science of ecology was born in the nineteenth century, it developed only gradually over the years. During this process, our understanding about the functioning of natural systems and the interaction of organisms with the environment has deepened. How can we reconcile this growing knowledge with the accelerating pace of environmental destruction? The answer is that nearly the entire world is now part of a global capitalist system, which is, at its heart, an anti-environmental economic/social system. Having accumulation of capital without end as its motivating force and only goal, capitalism creates environmental havoc locally, regionally, and globally.

As Engels explained:

As individual capitalists are engaged in production and exchange for the sake of the immediate profit, only the nearest, most immediate results must first be taken into account. As long as an individual manufacturer or merchant sells a manufactured or purchased commodity with the usual coveted profit, he is satisfied, and does not concern himself with what afterwards becomes of the commodity and its purchasers. The same thing applies to the natural effects of the same actions. What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertiliser for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees—what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock!7

These words are, if anything, more critical today than when Engels wrote them. The accumulation of capital, the driving and motivating force of capitalism, leads naturally to many consequences that harm the environment. The system proceeds assuming—contrary to all evidence—unlimited resources (including cheap energy) and unlimited natural “sinks” for wastes generated.

Human activity breaks or greatly alters the metabolic connections discussed above and tends to impoverish and weaken the ecosystem, making it function less effectively and with less resilience. Although human-induced metabolic disturbances and rifts occurred in the precapitalist era—for example, the cutting down of forests in the Mediterranean region thousands of years ago led to accelerated runoff of rainfall, soil erosion, and the drying of springs in the dry season—the logic of capitalism and the technology it developed, along with the increased number of people on Earth, led to much greater and more intensive disruptions in the natural cycling of matter, affecting not only local and regional ecologies, but global ones as well.

Recognition of problems that arise as metabolic rifts occur commonly brings about interventions to counteract the effects, or attempts to shift the problems around. But the result more often than not, as Engels pointed out, is the emergence of unanticipated secondary and tertiary effects, many of which are extremely detrimental. The effects of both the ecological rifts and their attempted remedies are local, regional, and global. Hence, there are numerous examples of severe degradation, if not the actual breaking of soil-plant-animal-atmospheric metabolic relationships. (See Figure 2 for rifts during development of cities and capitalist agriculture; Figure 3 for consequences of interventions to try to deal with rifts; and Table 1 on the entire set of disturbances and their consequences.)

Rifts in Nutrient Cycles (see [a] in Figures 2 and 3)

A number of nineteenth-century observers were concerned with an aspect of capitalism that is still a problem today, though in an increasingly egregious form—the breaking of the cycle of nutrients from soil to plants and farm animals to humans and back to soil, with all its ramifications. For example, Marx wrote in Volume I of Capital:

Capitalist production collects the population together in great centres, and causes the urban population to achieve an ever-growing preponderance….[I]t disturbs the metabolic interaction between man and the earth, i.e., prevents the return to the soil of its constituent elements consumed by man in the form of food and clothing; hence it hinders the operation of the eternal natural condition for the lasting fertility of the soil.8

Until the discovery of phosphate deposits and the practice of making the phosphorus in them more available to plants, one of the sources of phosphorus for European agriculture became the bones of former soldiers—which were harvested from the Napoleonic battlefields and burial grounds. The quest for nutrients to replenish soils in the later part of the nineteenth century led to “guano imperialism,” as countries competed to capture islands rich in this natural fertilizer.9 Peru had the world’s richest guano deposits and was the center of the international guano trade.

Figure 1. Soil-plant-animal-atmosphere metabolic interactions

Imported Chinese laborers (“coolies”) worked on the guano islands, extracting this valuable fertilizer for export to the global North. Undernourished, physically beaten, choking on dust, they labored as beasts of burden under conditions, as noted by Marx, “worse than slavery.”10 Today huge quantities of nitrogen fertilizer are produced by the Haber-Bosch process, while large amounts of potash and phosphorus minerals are mined and treated. The use of increasing amounts of energy (especially for nitrogen production) by the Haber-Bosch process, as well as by mining and processing of phosphorus, causes great ecological disturbance and pollution.

The metabolic rift of people removed from land that produces their food continues unabated with the transfer of large populations from rural areas to cities. This phenomenon that began in earnest with the British land foreclosures that forced peasants off the land between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries continues today with modern foreclosures, as farmers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are forced off the land and migrate to cities that hold few jobs for them. Most enter the “informal economy” and struggle for existence.11

In the second half of the twentieth century, another rupture of nutrient cycling occurred as large, integrated capitalist firms concentrated beef cattle feedlots, poultry production, and hog operations near slaughtering facilities. This overwhelmed the supplies of locally grown feed sources, forcing the importation of feed, mainly corn and soy, from hundreds, even thousands, of miles away. This had two effects: the depletion of nutrients on grain farms (forcing them to purchase large amounts of commercial fertilizers) and the accumulation of mountains of manure on animal farms (causing water pollution due to the excess level of nutrients).

A further accentuating factor was caused by a change in crop rotations. Perennial forage legumes and grass-legume mixtures were once a central part of farm rotations. The multiyear hay and pasture crops produced numerous positive effects. One of these was that the nitrogen remaining from the legumes could be supplied to following crops of grains such as corn or wheat. Tractors replaced animal traction, beef cows were increasingly raised in large feedlots, and dairy cow numbers per farm grew. Many former dairy or mixed crop-livestock farms were converted to mechanized crop farms, often raising only grains and soybeans. These “cash grain” farms had no use for rotations containing perennial legumes to feed as hay or to pasture animals—because they had no farm animals. Nor did their neighbors. Thus, many farms stopped producing their own nitrogen (from legumes) for grain crops and were thereby compelled to purchase large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer—produced with massive amounts of energy, usually natural gas. (Although soy, an annual crop, is a legume, it leaves little nitrogen available for a following grain crop.)

Figure 2. Interferences in soil-plant-animal-atmosphere metabolic interactions

Rifts in the Circulation of Organic Matter and the Carbon Cycle (see [a] and [f] in Figures 2 and 3)

When discussing soil organic matter, keep in mind that, as with all organic compounds, it is composed of carbon-rich substances. In fact, there is about three times more carbon stored in soils in the form of soil organic matter than is in the atmosphere. Agricultural practices affect how much carbon is stored in soils as organic matter and how much is released back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. When forests or grasslands are converted to agricultural production, there is usually a great loss of organic matter from the soil, as plowing and other disturbances accelerate the use of stored organic matter by organisms. This accelerated microbial metabolism leads to massive carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Once soil organic matter is very depleted (see below), the soil may stop being a net source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

In addition to influencing nutrient cycling, the separation of humans and farm animals from the land that grows their food contributes to the break in the soil-plant-animal-human organic matter cycle. Decreased return of organic residue to the soil means that less food is provided to soil organisms. This occurs not only because manure and human waste are not returned to the field but also because of the more simplified agroecosystems that eliminate soil-building perennial hay crops from rotations. Although some crop residues remain in the soil in these simplified systems, organic matter declines or remains low, and organisms have less food, reducing the population and diversity of soil life.

Disruption of the Hydrologic (Water) Cycle
(see [d] and [e] in Figures 2 and 3)

Numerous practices of capitalist development—such as concentrating people in large cities, raising animals on factory farms, over-pumping water from aquifers for irrigation, clearcutting of forests, and mountaintop removal for coal mining—have caused a significant alteration in the hydrologic cycle in ways that have degraded local and regional ecosystems.

The enormous amount of water being pumped from aquifers—mainly to irrigate crops—is having a significant effect on the global hydrologic cycle. “People are drawing so much water from below [ground] that they are adding enough of it to the ocean (mainly by evaporation, then precipitation) to account for about 25 percent of the annual sea level rise across the planet.”12 In important agricultural areas such as northwestern India, northeastern China, northeast Pakistan, California’s central valley, and the Great Plains of the United States, waters are being pumped from aquifers in such excess that water tables are falling rapidly, threatening continued irrigated agriculture. With much of the water for irrigation coming from the world’s rivers, some rarely reach their normal outlets—for example, China’s Yellow River, the Colorado River in the United States and Mexico, and the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers in the Middle East. Although damage occurs to life in the estuaries, most of the water used for irrigation is transpired by plants and evaporated from soils and is then returned as rainfall.

As simplified agroecosystems develop, and less land is devoted to perennial hay/pasture crops, less organic matter is returned to soils (see “organic matter cycle above”). As organic matter decreases, soil structure deteriorates, and water infiltrates more slowly into the soil. Use of heavy equipment, especially when the soil is wet, causes compaction. Under these conditions, a significant portion of rainfall, especially from intense storms, runs off the land, causing soil erosion that takes organic matter-enriched topsoil. Plants thus become more dependent on irrigation, even in humid regions.

Figure3. Reactive interventions and primary consequences

Clearcutting, the quickest way to make money from forests, leaves the soil without trees to intercept rainfall and lessen its impact. As roots die, their ability to hold onto soil decreases. Surface organic matter may also decrease, enhancing erosion. In large tropical rainforests, water vapor lost to the atmosphere by transpiration from tree leaves travels downwind and returns to the forest as precipitation. The loss of large areas of tropical rainforest greatly reduces this continual cycling of water—with more running off into streams and rivers.

As cities and suburbs and shopping centers grow, and streets are paved, there is less exposed soil for water infiltration. This results in larger runoff volumes during rains, less recharge of local aquifers, and less streamflow during periods of low rainfall.

Rifts in the Interactions among Organisms
(see [b] and [c] in Figures 2 and 3)

Simplified agroecosystems (few crops [with homogenous genetics], short rotations, eliminating hedge and tree rows) in place of forests and grasslands, and removing animals from crop farms cause decreased plant/animal diversity aboveground and diversity of organisms belowground. There are fewer habitats for wildlife and for beneficial organisms in and around fields. Within the soil, the decreased quantities and variety of organic matter return leads to decreased soil organic matter levels and decreased diversity and organism activity. As plant, soil, and animal biodiversity decreases, outbreaks of insect pest and diseases become more common (less self-regulation), inducing the use of increasing amounts of pesticides. (An interesting experiment in China has shown that providing genetic diversity by growing different varieties of rice in alternating strips can help decrease disease prevalence.13)

Interventions to Try to Bridge Metabolic Rifts—Or Transfer the Problems Elsewhere

Faced with the problems associated with severely degraded metabolic relationships, the main responses have been as follows (see also Figure 3): (1) transport food and feed large distances to cities and to where farm animals are concentrated, routine use of antibiotics in animal feed; (2) apply large amounts of fertilizers on crop farms to deal with the rift in the nutrient and organic matter cycles; (3) use pesticides to overcome insect, weed, disease, and nematode pests that develop with simplified systems (monocultures, poor rotations, and depleted soil organic matter); (4) use extra irrigation water to deal with decreased ability of soil to allow rainfall to infiltrate and to store water for plants; (5) transport water from water surplus regions long distances to where aquifer and river water is depleted.

The interventions then have the unintended effect of water pollution by nutrients and pesticides, and contamination of farmer, farm worker, and food with pesticides and development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. More and more interventions are needed to obtain reasonable crop yields from soils depleted of organic matter, with low amounts of biological diversity, and greatly simplified aboveground agroecosystems.

The Complexity of Ecological Disruptions

Marx emphasized the loss of “the lasting fertility of the soil” as a result of the net export of nutrients, as people moved (or were forced to move) to cities during the early phase of capitalist development. This created what he called an “irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism, a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself.”14 But many of the large-scale agricultural systems are inefficient at cycling nutrients for other reasons, as well. Huge amounts of nitrogen fertilizer are lost in growing corn on most farms, as nitrate leaches into ground water, which then contaminates streams and rivers. (Significant amounts of phosphorus also tend to be lost from these systems, along with sediments in surface runoff and erosion.) Excess nitrate from the corn grown in the U.S. Midwest is believed to be the primary cause of the low-oxygen (sometimes called “dead”) zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River. There are hundreds of these low-oxygen zones around the world, the largest of which occurs in Europe’s Baltic Sea. A smaller, though significant, amount of soil nitrogen is converted to nitrous oxide and diffuses into the atmosphere where it is a potent greenhouse gas, and also destroys ozone in the stratosphere.

The need to use so much fertilizer results from losses of nutrients in runoff, the leaching and volatilization in inefficiently designed systems, and separation of people and animals from the land that produces their food. One consequence of continuous loss of nutrients from soil is the need to import fertilizers on crop farms, with severe environmental cost in terms of mining disruption and energy use. Production of nitrogen fertilizer is especially energy intensive. Approximately 1,200 m3 of natural gas is needed to produce one metric ton of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer (equivalent to about 1,700 kg of N).15 Approximately one third of the energy used to grow a crop of corn in the U.S. Midwest is used to produce, ship, and apply nitrogen fertilizer. And every ton of phosphorus as fertilizer, after acid has been added to the rock to make it more soluble, results in five tons of waste, which contains radioactive substances and leaches highly acidic water. In addition, the world may be close to “peak phosphorus” extraction, after which phosphorus will be more expensive and difficult to obtain. The lack, or prohibitively high cost, of phosphorus fertilizers may turn out to be one of the largest disruptions in the world’s agriculture.

As discussed above, the changes in agricultural practices accompanying agricultural intensification go far beyond the issue of the depletion of soil nutrients and suggest ramifications for other metabolic connections.

Another critical issue is the abysmal treatment of labor in capitalist agricultural systems. Migrant workers, especially those from other countries, have few rights and are frequently treated as virtual slaves. Farm laborers and their families are also commonly heavily contaminated with pesticides. Conditions of labor on large agricultural plantations, mainly in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, are usually the most exploitative. Workers are paid very low wages, violence or immediate firing is used to stop unionization, and pesticides (many banned in the rich countries) are used freely, with severe health effects.

Groundwater may be contaminated with pesticides, as well. For example, Costa Rica’s coordinator for the Pesticide Action Network told a news reporter that the pineapple plantations “use organophosphates, organochlorines, hormone disruptors, chemicals that are known to cause cancer, chemicals that are reproductive toxins.”16 And it is not just the workers and local water that are contaminated—so is the produce that people eat. Some 94 percent of the pineapples imported to Britain from Costa Rica contained “residues of the fungicide triadimefon, a reproductive toxin and suspected hormone disruptor.”17

The Wider Metabolic Rifts Engendered by Industrial Production/Consumption

We have discussed almost exclusively natural systems and the causes and consequences of disturbed metabolic relationships that have occurred with the introduction and growth of capitalist agriculture. A full discussion of degraded metabolic relationships and other problems associated with the industrial/service economy in general is beyond the scope of this paper. However, we must at least note that industrial mining and refining of raw materials and production of commodities, with profit as the sole aim, result in significant environmental problems, such as: (1) numerous toxic chemicals are used (polluting human bodies and the rest of the ecosystem); (2) carbon dioxide and other pollutants are emitted by power plants and oil refineries; (3) nonrenewable resources are depleted and renewable resources are undermined and even depleted; (4) the land itself is destroyed in such ventures as “mountaintop removal” in the mining of coal; (5) the massive production of unneeded commodities for a small minority of the world’s population (and persuading them to buy them), while not meeting the basic needs for a larger portion of humanity.

The characteristics of capitalist economies derive from the motive force—the accumulation of capital without end.18 As Richard Levins has explained, “Agriculture is not about producing food but about profit. Food is a side effect.”19 The same could be said about the production of almost anything, or the provision of any service in a capitalist system. Capitalism, in its pursuit of accumulation of capital as means to further accumulation, “ad infinitum,” engages in extreme forms of both the division of labor and the division of nature. The result is to simplify and degrade them both, creating metabolic disturbances and rifts between human beings and nature and rupturing the entire social metabolism.

Table 1. Consequences of Degradation or Rift in Metabolic Relationships

III. Creating an Ecological Civilization

Capitalism is incompatible with a truly ecological civilization because it is a system that must continually expand, promoting consumption beyond human needs, while ignoring the limits of nonrenewable resources (the tap) and the earth’s waste assimilation capacity (the sink). As a system of possessive individualism it necessarily promotes greed, individualism, competitiveness, selfishness, and an Après moi le déluge philosophy.20 Engels suggested that “real human freedom” can be achieved only in a society that exists “in harmony with the laws of nature.”21

Although it is impossible to know what future civilizations will be like, we can at least outline characteristics of a just and ecologically based society. As a system changes, it is the history of the country and the process of the struggle that bring about a new reality. However, in order to be ecologically sound, a civilization must develop a new culture and ideology based on fundamental principles such as substantive equality. It must (1) provide a decent human existence for everyone: food, clean water, sanitation, health care, housing, clothing, education, and cultural and recreational possibilities; (2) eliminate the domination or control of humans by others; (3) develop worker and community control of factories, farms, and other workplaces; (4) promote easy recall of elected personnel; and (5) re-create the unity between humans and natural systems in all aspects of life, including agriculture, industry, transportation, and living conditions.

An ecological society is one that will need to be the opposite of capitalism in essentially all aspects. It would: (1) stop growing when basic human needs are satisfied; (2) not entice people to consume more and more; (3) protect natural life support systems and respect the limits to natural resources, taking into account needs of future generations; (4)make decisions based on long-term societal/ecological needs, while not neglecting short-term needs of people; (5) run as much as possible on current (including recent past) energy instead of fossil fuels; (6) foster the human characteristics and a culture of cooperation, sharing, reciprocity, and responsibility to neighbors and community; (7) make possible the full development of human potential; and (8) promote truly democratic political and economic decision making for local, regional, and multiregional needs.

When considering the characteristics of strong ecosystems to explore those of strong economic/social systems, there will be overlap—some vital traits clearly belong to more than one “characteristic” or “pillar.” Nevertheless, the analytical separation of these traits/characteristics helps provide a basis for organizing our thoughts on the issues involved. An ecological civilization will depend on creating appropriate human social-ecological metabolism, so that society can perpetually meet human and environmental needs. The discussion below is not meant either to be a complete outline or a blueprint, but rather to stipulate some of the crucial characteristics of an ecological civilization.

Self-Regulation

Decisions are made—to as great an extent as possible—at the level where the effects will be most felt. Self-regulation in this sense is democratic self-governing and needs to occur at the workplace, community, multi-community, regional, and multiregional levels, so that major political and economic decisions are in the hands of an empowered populace. A system of economic and political democracy provides better identification of, and solutions to, problems. This system will require a public that is well educated, informed about alternative possibilities, interested, and encouraged to participate in making decisions. Although local inhabitants know their area and needs best, people must have the knowledge and analytical skills to make informed decisions. An embryonic example of this is the system of community councils in Venezuela in which one hundred to four hundred families participate in making decisions regarding investment needs in their communities and are provided resources to implement these decisions.

The labor and production process governing the human-social metabolism with nature is collectively organized and controlled. Farmers and workers in factories and offices—together with their local communities—control their workplace. People will be encouraged to participate in leadership, while a system also needs to be established for regular review of persons in authority at all levels of society—and easy removal, if necessary. All decisions will take into account the meeting of basic human needs and the allowance for the full development of human potential, while maintaining or recreating the healthy local/regional/global environment essential for healthy humans and the rest of life.

Diversity

It comes in many forms—diversity of opinions and talents (because people have different backgrounds and experiences). It can also apply to the details about how communities and regions are organized—as long as all are dedicated to similar goals. Diversity provides significant strengths and security, and adds to the community socially and culturally, as well as economically. Better decisions are made by taking into account the thoughts of people looking at the same issues through different lenses. Diversity of opportunities for education, recreation, development of particular interests strengthens the community and society. Biological diversity is encouraged through more complex agriculture cropping systems that emphasize building healthy soils, and through better integration of less disturbed (“natural”) areas within agricultural and urban landscapes.

Efficient Natural Cycles through Closely Linked Metabolic Relationships

The concept of capitalist efficiency—simplification of production processes, producing with the least amount of (and most unskilled) labor possible, lowering labor and other costs to reap maximum profits, using less gasoline to travel more miles in your car—will be replaced by ecological concepts of metabolic efficiency in the cycling of materials and energy that permit the sustainability of the civilization. These rely on synergies that develop among people living in cooperation with each other (instead of in competition and individualist isolation) and with nature (instead of attempting to overwhelm and dominate it). Social metabolism, or human interactions with each other, is analogous to the metabolic interactions among nonhuman organisms (microorganisms, plants, insects, other animals) in natural systems. Working fewer hours—if everyone participates to produce life’s needs—means that people will have more time to spend with family and community. And stronger communities are developed when individualism, consumerism, and competition are replaced with cooperative ties among people, as the communities develop procedures and systems for meeting the basic physical, cultural, and recreational needs for everyone.

Principles of ecological design will be used for agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and assisting recovery of damaged ecosystems. Living in cooperation with nature leads to tightly coupled nutrient, energy, and water flows, and to maintaining the functioning of natural cycles and flows. A regenerative agriculture based on ecological principles is an agriculture that works with nature, instead of against it, to create and maintain healthy and diverse habitat in and around fields and in productive soils.22 Raising animals on farms where their feed is produced allows for efficient nutrient cycling and synergies of better crop rotations, while reducing dependence on processed mineral deposits (for phosphorus and potash) and exorbitant use of energy to produce nitrogen fertilizers. This also provides a purpose for growing perennial forage legumes and grasses more widely as feed for ruminants. If no industrial waste or other contaminants are allowed to degrade the usefulness of human sewage, we can rely on the efficient cycling of nutrients from human waste back to the land that grows our food.

People will, to as great an extent as possible, live near where they work, use public mass transit, and eat food produced in reasonable proximity to their homes. People will work fewer hours, because, with all unnecessary jobs (for example in advertizing and other parts of the sales effort, and much of finance, real estate, and insurance) eliminated, it will not take that much work to produce the basic needs of society. But everyone who can work will have a job.

An ecological civilization cannot be based on private automobiles as the main, or even a significant, transportation system. No matter how fuel efficient cars and trucks become, the use of buses and trains for the main regional transportation systems will be more energy efficient. A less car-dependent society will use up fewer materials, cause less disturbance, and use less land for road construction and all the businesses connected to an automobile culture (such as McDonald’s drive through restaurants). Luxury commodities will not be produced, and products will not come in the elaborate packaging now used, which overwhelms the earth’s landfills. People will live in homes designed to be attractive and comfortable but also to be energy efficient and to take advantage of natural heating/cooling possibilities.

Industrial production of human needs will necessarily entail some disturbance of natural systems, just as agriculture does. But care must be taken to minimize negative effects of such practices, along with mining. Production systems will be based on “cradle-to-cradle” concepts, where easy reuse of materials or structures is built into the original product.23 Extreme forms of both the division of labor and the division of nature that create rifts within life itself will be avoided.

Self-Sufficiency

Complete self-sufficiency is neither possible nor desirable for all regions and all communities. However, self-sufficiency with regard to many needs, such as food, water, housing, and energy should be a goal toward which communities and regions strive. In this way, most of the knowledge and skills needed for providing the basics reside within the local community or group of neighboring communities. Self-sufficiency may include using relatively small-scale local forms of renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, or hydro instead of relying on energy generated at large facilities far away (“green” or not) and depending on long-distance transmission. Community-based food systems (production and distribution) based on an agriculture that relies on ecosystem strengths and close nutrient cycling, will run as much as possible on current energy.

Again, this does not mean that all communities and regions should be completely self-sufficient (for example, it makes no sense for all communities to produce their own buses or refrigerators). Rather, they should strive toward that goal—especially for the basic foods. Redundancy in peoples’ skills and in production facilities enhances self-sufficiency.

Resiliency through Self-Renewal

The degree of resiliency and self-renewal depends on how well all the traits discussed above have been developed and incorporated into society. Community and regional social structures and economies that can better withstand adverse events and recover quickly will be more sustainable. The characteristics, or pillars, discussed above—self-regulation, self-sufficiency, diversity, and efficiency through closely linked metabolic relationships—all contribute to creating a resilient society. Community and regional structures and economies based on these characteristics should be able to withstand adverse events and recover more quickly through a process of self-renewal. Global cultural interchange and cooperation (made more viable because it will be between mutually self-determining communities that are not in competition with each other) also enhance resiliency.

It is inconceivable that capitalism itself will lead directly to an ecological civilization that provides the basic needs for all people. However, building an ecological civilization that is socially just will not automatically happen in post-capitalist societies. It will occur only through the concerted action and constant vigilance of an engaged population.

Notes

  1. Frederick Engels, “The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man,” in Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, vol. 25 (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 460-61.

  2. Lindsay Turnbull and Andy Hector, “How to Get Even with Pests,” Nature. 466 (July 1, 2010): 36-37.

  3. A more detailed description of plant defense mechanisms can be found in pages 77 to 81 in Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es, Building Soils for Better Crops (3rd edition), http://sare.org/publications/bsbc/bsbc.pdf. n 

  4. Fred Magdoff, “Ecological Agriculture: Principles, Practices, and Constraints,” Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 22, no. 2 (2007): 109–17.

  5. Peter Miller, “Swarm Behavior,” National Geographic, July 2007; Thomas D. Seeley, Honeybee Democracy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010).

  6. Engels, “The Part Played by Labour,” 461.

  7. Ibid., 463.

  8. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (London: Penguin, 1976), 637.

  9. John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, “Liebig, Marx and the Depletion of Soil Fertility: Relevance for Today’s Agriculture,” Monthly Review 50, no. 3 (1998):32-45.

  10. John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York, The Ecological Rift (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010), chapter 15.

  11. George Packer, “The Megacity: Decoding the Legacy of Lagos,” The New Yorker, November 13, 2006; Patrick Barta and Krishna Pokharel, “Megacities Threaten to Choke India,” Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2009.

  12. “Groundwater Use Increasing Sea Level Rise,” a description of Bierkens, M.F.P. et al. in “A worldwide view of groundwater depletion,” Geophysical Research Letters, http://seaweb.org/news.

  13. Youyong Zhu, Hairu Chen, Jinghua Fan, Yunyue Wang, Yan Li, Jianbing Chen, JinXiang Fan, Shisheng Yang, Lingping Hu, Hei Leung, Tom W. Mew, Paul S. Teng, Zonghua Wang, and Christopher C. Mundt, “Genetic Diversity and Disease Control in Rice,” Nature 406 (2000): 718-22.

  14. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 3 (London: Penguin, 1981), 949.

  15. Clark Gellings and Kelly E. Parmenter, “Energy Efficiency in Fertilizer Production and Use,” Encyclopedia: Efficient Use and Conservation of Energy, vol. 2, http://eolss.net/ebooks.

  16. Felicity Lawrence, “Bitter Fruit: The Truth about Supermarket Pineapple,” The Guardian [UK], October 2, 2010.

  17. Ibid.

  18. For a more detailed discussion, see Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster, “What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know about Capitalism,” Monthly Review 61, no. 10 (March 2010): 1-30.

  19. Richard Levins, “Why Programs Fail,” Monthly Review 61, no. 10 (March 2010).

  20. Après moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and every capitalist nation. Capital therefore takes no account of the health and length of life of the workers unless society forces it to do so.” Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, 381.

  21. Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring, in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. 25 (New York: International Publishers, 1975), 106.

  22. Magdoff, “Ecological Agriculture: Principles, Practices, and Constraints.”

  23. William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle (New York: North Point Press. 2002).

Attacking Public Employees: Will New York Lead?

January 9th, 2011 by Prof. Richard D. Wolff

As in other states, New York’s new governor has focused attention on the state’s budget woes: revenues insufficient to cover expenditures.  His major response has been to blame public employees and their unions as if their pay, benefits, and especially pensions were chief causes of the problem.  He loudly demands they “share the burden” of fixing the state’s budget crisis.

Many political leaders across the states and in both major parties have been pushing the same agenda.  Yet before New York helps draw other states down this path, a quick examination of New York State’s finances suggests a very different and far fairer way to fix New York’s as well as other states’ budgets.  New York has three major kinds of taxes: the personal income tax hits nearly everyone’s earnings, the sales and excise taxes hit everyone’s expenditures, and the corporate and business profits tax hits them.  In 2010 (fiscal year), personal income taxes raised $34.8 billion; sales and excise taxes raised $12.2 billion; and corporate and business profits taxes raised $6.6 billion.  Not only do businesses pay a very small portion of the state’s total tax take, but business taxes rose less than the other two kinds over the last decade.  From 2000 to 2010, personal income taxes rose 50%, sales and excise taxes rose 24%, and corporate and business taxes rose the least, 20%.

One reality jumps out from these numbers.  If taxes on corporations and businesses were raised by 50% over what they yielded in 2000 — equaling what happened to New York’s personal income taxes — New York State’s budget would get much healthier.  Such a business tax would generate more new revenue for New York than would be saved by the new governor’s proposed wage freezes and other public employee cutbacks.

Sales and excise taxes are the most regressive kinds of taxes.  They do not tax persons according to ability to pay (as do both New York’s and the federal income tax systems).  A Rockefeller and you pay the same 4% state sales tax when purchasing a taxable good or service.  There is little justice in having regressive taxes, but there is absolutely none in raising them more over the last 10 years than taxes on businesses.

Finally, consider the personal income tax.  New York has 7 brackets: you pay a higher percentage of your net income (adjusted by allowable deductions from your gross income) the higher the net income you receive.  Those in the bottom bracket (earning $8,000 or less annually) pay 4 % while those at the top (earning over $500,000 annually) pay 7.7%.  Let’s first ask why no more brackets exist for the very highest income earners who are most able to pay.  For example, why not 8 or 9% for those earning over $1,000,000 annually and perhaps 15% for those earning over $2,000,000?  Such additional brackets would only impact the top 1-2% of New Yorkers.  Moreover they deduct taxes paid to New York from their federal taxable income, thereby recovering over a third of their tax payments to New York.

A genuinely progressive governor would begin work on the state budget by correcting unfairly low levels of taxation of business, reducing regressive taxes, and increasing the progressivity of personal income taxes.  The new governor instead chooses not to raise taxes on those whose wealth insulated them from the worst effects of the economic crisis and who got most of Washington’s “recovery” spending since 2007.  Public workers were not a significant cause of the global economic crisis that plunged all state budgets into crisis.  In contrast, the biggest businesses and the richest citizens of New York were precisely groups whose members included major players in the financial excesses and speculations that were major causes of the crisis.

It is fashionable to worry that business and the rich might retaliate against raised taxes by moving to other states.  If the new governor really cared about that, he might rally other governors and the mass of people to support federal laws or agreements among states preventing corporations from playing states against one another.  But the new governor neither says nor does anything about that.  When personal income and sales taxes are raised — as they have been — where are the worries about the economic consequences that result when squeezed family budgets cut short children’s educations, reduce family members’ visits to doctors, and shape a thousand other family decisions damaging to their, the state’s, and the nation’s futures?  And where are the worries about similar consequences from freezing public workers’ wages and cutting state payrolls?

Neither economic efficiency nor the people’s welfare motivates the current attack on New York’s public workers disguised as “responding to” the state budget crisis.  Rather, the pressure is on state budget policies to serve the biggest businesses and the richest citizens (who own or manage those businesses).  Using the profits their workers make possible, they press state government to meet their needs while taxing mostly others, especially the private and public employees paying the personal income, sales, and excise taxes.

Richard D. Wolff is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and also a Visiting Professor at the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York.   He is the author of New Departures in Marxian Theory (Routledge, 2006) among many other publications.  Check out Richard D. Wolff’s documentary film on the current economic crisis, Capitalism Hits the Fan, at www.capitalismhitsthefan.com.  Visit Wolff’s Web site at www.rdwolff.com, and order a copy of his new book Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It.

At the beginning of the century, while the United States was still embroiled in military interventions in the Balkans and had launched what would become the longest war in its history in Afghanistan with the invasion of Iraq to follow, it was also laying the groundwork for subordinating the African continent to a new military command.

With 4.5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for approximately 30 percent of crude oil consumption. Although the world’s third largest producer of crude, it imports over 60 percent of what it consumes (12.4 of 20.7 million barrels it uses daily). A decade ago 15 percent of those imports came from the Gulf of Guinea region on Africa’s Atlantic Ocean coast, mainly from Nigeria, and it is projected that the proportion will increase to 25 percent in the next four years.

The National Energy Policy Report issued by the Office of Vice President Richard Cheney on May 16, 2001 stated: “West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market. African oil tends to be of high quality and low in sulfur…giving it a growing market share for refining centers on the East Coast of the U.S.”

The following year, the Washington, D.C.-based African Oil Policy Initiative Group conducted a symposium entitled “African Oil: A Priority for U. S. National Security and African Development,” with the participation of American legislators, policy advisers, the private sector and representatives of the State Department and Defense Department, at which Congressman William Jefferson said:

“African oil should be treated as a priority for U.S. national security post 9-11. I think that…post 9-11 it’s occurred to all of us that our traditional sources of oil are not as secure as we thought they were.”

As is customary in regards to American foreign policy objectives, the Pentagon was charged with taking responsibility. It immediately went to work on undertaking three initiatives to implement U.S. energy strategy in the Gulf of Guinea: U.S. Africa Command, the first overseas military command inaugurated since 1983. The U.S. Navy’s Africa Partnership Station as what has developed into the major component of the Global Fleet Station, linked with worldwide maritime operations like the 1,000-ship navy and the Proliferation Security Initiative and piloted in the area of responsibility of U.S. Southern Command and the U.S. Fourth Fleet reactivated in 2008: The Caribbean Sea and Central and South America. The NATO Response Force designed for rapid multi-service (army, air force, navy and marine) deployments outside of the bloc’s North American-European area of responsibility.

In recent weeks Ghana joined the ranks of African oil producers, pumping crude oil for the first time from an offshore field in the Gulf of Guinea.

“The Jubilee oil field, discovered three years ago, holds an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil, and will begin producing around 55,000 barrels per day in the coming weeks. Oil production is expected, however, to rise to about 120,000 barrels over the next six months, making the country Africa’s seventh largest oil producer.” [1]

The Ghanaian oil exploitation is run by a consortium led by Tullow Oil plc, which is based in London and has 85 contracts in 22 countries.

The same source quoted above added:

“The Gulf of Guinea increasingly represents an important source of oil, with the US estimating that it will supply over a quarter of American oil by 2015. It has already sent US military trainers to the region to help local navies to secure shipping.

“Nearby Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo Republic are already exporting oil from the Gulf, while Liberia and Sierra Leone remain hopeful of joining the club.”

In March of 2010 95 U.S. Marines led by General Paul Brier, commander of U.S. Marine Forces Africa, deployed to the Bundase Training Camp in the Ghanaian capital of Accra for a three-week exercise with the armed forces of the host country, “part of the Africa Partnership Station,” which also included the participation of the USS Gunston Hall dock landing ship and “embarked international staff” in the Gulf of Guinea.

According to the government of Ghana, “The US and Ghana [are] at the highest level, work together and at the military level inter-operate, train together, share ideas and skills and…it is important for the two countries’ militaries to come together so that Ghana can be at par with the US Army.” [2]

Washington’s energy strategy in regards to West Africa is a reflection of its international policy of not only gaining access to but control over hydrocarbon supplies and delivery to other nations, in particular to those countries importing the largest amount of oil and natural gas next to the U.S. itself: China, Japan, India, South Korea and the nations of the European Union.

While, for example, Chinese companies are expanding oil exploration in the African nation of Chad and are embarked on a program to build the country’s first refinery and a 300-kilometer pipeline, a U.S-led consortium has been extracting oil in the south of Chad and sending it by pipeline through Cameroon to the Gulf of Guinea, paralleling U.S. strategy in the Caspian Sea Basin vis-a-vis Russia and Iran.

Late last year the Atlantic Council, the preeminent pro-NATO think tank on either side of the Atlantic [3], co-released a report entitled “Advancing U.S., African, and Global Interests: Security and Stability in the West African Maritime Domain.” It proceeds from the fact that “The Gulf of Guinea is at the brink of becoming a greater supplier of energy to the United States than the Persian Gulf and is therefore of far higher strategic importance than has historically been the case.”

The report recommends enhanced U.S. government concentration on “a vital region to maintaining U.S. energy security, prosperity, and homeland security.”

It also calls for a higher level of integration between U.S. and European nations – that is, NATO and European Union member states – in respect to Africa, and promotes the following programmatic goals:

The establishment of “an interagency coordinating body to conduct strategic planning, oversee implementation and track progress in West African maritime security assistance and performance.”

Working with local security organizations like the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and its affiliated African Standby Force brigade on “a comprehensive proof of concept pilot project…to develop the capabilities and conditions necessary for securing the maritime domain as a model for the region.”

Setting up a Gulf of Guinea coastal naval operation, “including the sharing of assets, establishment of joint operations centers, and assignment of key functions and centers of excellence.”

And to expand and deepen the work of the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission established by the U.S. State Department last April “as a vehicle for security cooperation, including maritime security.” [4]

Three months after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton inaugurated a strategic dialogue with Nigeria, she met with Foreign Minister Ansuncao Afonso dos Anjos of Angola (on the southern end of the Gulf of Guinea) in Washington to sign the U.S.-Angola Strategic Partnership Dialogue, “which formalizes increased bilateral partnerships in energy, security, trade and democracy promotion.”

On the occasion, Clinton recounted that after her visit to Angola in August of the preceding year “a bilateral group on energy cooperation met in November 2009 to outline shared U.S. and Angolan objectives in developing Angola’s oil and gas reserves, promoting greater transparency in its oil sector and developing renewable energy sources.” [5]

The security and defense agreements with Nigeria and Angola, and demands by the Atlantic Council and like-minded parties that they be qualitatively and comprehensively expanded to the entire region, are the inevitable culmination of efforts by the Pentagon over the past nine years.

During that period U.S. naval vessels, troops and major military officials have been in Gulf of Guinea littoral states continuously, solidifying relations with Liberia (where the Pentagon has built a military from scratch), Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Angola, and Sao Tome and Principe. [6] All except for Ivory Coast, which is currently in turmoil and facing the prospect of armed intervention by ECOWAS African Standby Force troops and the armed forces of assorted NATO states.

Until AFRICOM achieved full operational capability on October 1, 2008, Africa was assigned to U.S. European Command (EUCOM) except for Egypt, the nations of the Horn of Africa and four Indian Ocean island states that were under Central Command and Pacific Command.

The top commander of EUCOM is jointly NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe. AFRICOM, then, was created as the Pentagon’s first post-Cold War foreign military command under the tutelage of Marine General James Jones from 2003 to 2006 and Army General Bantz John Craddock from 2006 to 2009.

AFRICOM and the Africa Partnership Station (APS) have been envisioned since their inception as U.S. military operations that included the involvement of NATO, especially its member states that are the former colonial masters in the Gulf of Guinea area: Britain, France, Portugal and Spain. [7] In 2005 the U.S. submarine tender Emory S. Land led naval exercises in the Gulf of Guinea with naval officers from Benin, Gabon, Ghana, and Sao Tome and Principe along with counterparts from Britain, France, Portugal and Spain.

APS deployments include military officers from other NATO states and the African Standby Force is modeled after the NATO Response Force.

In 2002 U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld demanded the creation of a new NATO rapid reaction force, a 21,000-troop strike group that could “deal swiftly with crises outside its traditional area of operation.” [8] He won support for the concept at a meeting of Alliance defense chiefs in September and two months later what became the NATO Response Force was endorsed at the NATO summit in Prague.

At the next summit of the U.S.-controlled military bloc in Istanbul, Turkey in 2004, Rumsfeld stated, “The reality is that NATO is a military alliance that has no real relevance unless it has the ability to fairly rapidly deploy military capabilities.” [9]

In 2005 the Washington, D.C.- based Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Task Force on Gulf of Guinea Security released a report reiterating and updating U.S. strategy in West Africa which stated that “The Gulf of Guinea is a nexus of vital US foreign policy priorities.”

The Task Force consisted of “oil executives, academics, diplomats and retired naval officers under the chairmanship of Nebraska’s Senator Chuck Hagel and received briefings from serving US ambassadors, oil companies, the CIA and US military commanders.” [10]

In the same year U.S. Naval Forces Europe announced that it had embarked on “a 10-year push to help 10 West African nations either develop or improve maritime security.” The nations are Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Príncipe, and Togo, all on the Gulf of Guinea.

When the above report appeared, in July, U.S. European Command had already “conducted 18 military-to-military exercises in Africa so far in 2005.” [11]

The following month a U.S. Coast Guard cutter visited the waters off petroleum-rich Sao Tome and Principe, travelling “through the seas of West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, where an oil boom could outpace Persian Gulf exports to America in a decade.” [12]

In 2002 the president of Sao Tome and Principe, Fradique De Menezes, reportedly agreed to host a U.S. naval base, disclosing that “Last week I received a call from the Pentagon to tell me that the issue is being studied.” [13]

In 2006 the Ghanaian press wrote that “Marine General James L. Jones, Head of the US European Command, said the Pentagon was seeking to acquire access to two kinds of bases in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Kenya and other African countries.” [14]

Later in the year Jones was cited confirming that “Officials at U.S. European Command spend between 65 to 70 percent of their time on African issues…Establishing [a military task force in West Africa] could also send a message to U.S. companies ‘that investing in many parts of Africa is a good idea.’” [15]

In his other capacity, that of top NATO military commander, Jones asserted that “NATO was going to draw up [a] plan for ensuring security of oil and gas industry facilities” [16] and “raised the prospect of NATO taking a role to counter piracy off the coast of the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, especially when it threatens energy supply routes to Western nations.” [17]

Also in 2006, while still Supreme Allied Commander Europe, he announced that “NATO is developing a special plan to safeguard oil and gas fields in the region,” adding that “a training session will be held in the Atlantic oceanic area and the Cabo Verde island in June to outline activities to protect the routes transporting oil to Western Europe” and “the alliance is ready to ensure the security of oil-producing and transporting regions.” [18]

As Jones had alluded to, in June the NATO Response Force (NRF) was first tested in Exercise Steadfast Jaguar war games on and off the coast of the African Atlantic Ocean island of Cape Verde with 7,100 Alliance military personnel, including French and German infantry, American fighter pilots and Spanish sailors, along with warplanes and warships. “The exercise [was] the first to bring together the land, sea and air components of the NRF. Once operational, it will give the Alliance the ability to deploy up to 25,000 troops within five days anywhere in the world.” [19]

A Western news agency at the time described the exercise in these terms: “The land, air and sea exercises were NATO’s first major deployment in Africa and designed to show the former Cold War giant can launch far-flung military operations at short notice.”

It also quoted then-NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer boasting that “You are seeing the new NATO, the one that has the ability to project stability.” [20]

In September of 2007, Captain John Nowell, commodore of the Africa Partnership Station, travelled from Sao Tome and Principe to Ghana “to lay the groundwork for upcoming Africa Partnership Stations with local government and military officials from both countries.” [21]

Late in the following month the U.S. activated the Africa Partnership Station by deploying the USS Fort McHenry amphibious dock landing ship and the embarked Commander Task Group 60.4 (later joined by High Speed Vessel Swift) to the Gulf of Guinea. The APS deployment included stops in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal and Togo. USS Fort McHenry had staff from other NATO nations on board.

In November of 2007 Associated Press reported that with ships assigned to the U.S. Sixth Fleet patrolling the Gulf of Guinea, “U.S. naval presence rose from just a handful of days in 2004 to daily beginning this year.” [22]

On October 1 U.S. Africa Command was launched as (in Pentagon lingo) a temporary sub-unified command under U.S. European Command.

Voices of concern were raised throughout Africa, typified by these excerpts from commentaries in the Nigerian press:

“The issue of Africa Command is…because of the oil interest on the Gulf of Guinea, going out to the coast of Liberia and so on. Americans are
finding an easy place where they can extract oil, and you know is a much shorter route than going around from the Middle East.” [23]

“From the current data on production capacities and proven oil reserves, only two regions appear to exist where, in addition to the Middle East, oil production will grow and where a strategy of diversification may easily work: The Caspian Sea and the Gulf of Guinea.

“Some of the problems linked to Caspian oil give the Gulf of Guinea a competitive edge. Much of its oil is conveniently located off shore.

“[T]he region enjoys several advantages, including its strategic location just opposite the refineries of the US East Coast. It is ahead of all other regions in proven deep water oil reserves, which will lead to significant savings in security provisions. And it requires a drilling technology easily available from the Gulf of Mexico.

“Curiously, the newly formed NRF [NATO Response Force] carried out its first exercise code named STEADFAST JAGUAR in Cape Verde, here in West Africa, from 14-28 June 2006.” [24]

“I am normally a fan of the United States of America….But over this matter of plans by the United States to establish what it calls the Africa Command or Africom in the Gulf of Guinea, it is time to call for deep caution and to agree with Nigerian officials that we should take the American initiative with a pinch of salt.

“The Gulf of Guinea has emerged as the second largest pool of commercial petroleum resources in the world, next only to the Persian Gulf and its territorial environs.

“In fact, it has recently surpassed the Persian Gulf as America’s highest supplier of crude oil.

“Not satisfied with only a small piece of the new oil destination of the world, America stepped up its formation of Africom, making open moves to extend the kind of cohabitation it enjoys with Sao Tome and Principe to Nigeria.” [25]

“The whole thing about this Africa Command by the US is all borne out of their interests in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, which they have…been angling to take over. The Nigerian government should not fold its arms to allow the US government re-colonise it.

“[T]he US had concluded plans to establish a military base in Africa with the intent of protecting the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea and also to forestall the economic incursion of China into Africa, especially Nigeria.

“The US has completed all the groundwork and has moved into the offshore of Sao Tome and Principe, Angola and Guinea to secure positions for their submarines and other security facilities.” [26]

“The gulf’s oil and gas deposits are put in the region of 10 billion barrels. Statistics show that as of 2004 Africa as a whole produced nearly 9 million barrels of oil a day, with approximately 4.7 million barrels a day coming from West Africa.

“Also, African oil production accounted for approximately 11 percent of the world’s oil supply, while the continent supplied approximately 18 percent of US net oil imports. Both Nigeria and Angola were among the top 10 suppliers of oil to the US.” [27]

The apprehensions were not without foundation. On October 3 U.S. ambassador-designate to Gabon and to Sao Tome and Principe, Eunice Reddick, issued the following statements:

“Mismanaged, an oil boom could threaten Sao Tome and Principe’s young democracy, security and stability.”

“The United States has trained Gabonese forces under the African Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) program….To promote the security of the strategic Gulf of Guinea region, origin of a growing share of U.S. oil imports, U.S. military engagement with Gabon has developed in several areas….If confirmed, I will work closely with the Gabonese civilian and military leadership, our European Command and the new Africa Command….” [28]

As noted above, the month after AFRICOM’s preliminary activation the U.S. Navy dispatched its first Africa Partnership Station mission to the Gulf of Guinea, described by the Pentagon as a multinational maritime security initiative.

The guided missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman visited Cape Verde for three days in early November “to consolidate a growing sense of partnership between the U.S. Navy and the Caboverdian armed forces” [29] at the same time USS Fort McHenry began the Africa Partnership Station’s maiden mission with a visit to Senegal en route to the Gulf of Guinea.

In 2008 the NATO secretary general at the time, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, visited Ghana, meeting with the country’s president and defense minister “on deepening the cooperation between NATO and Africa,” and delivered a speech on the topic at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra. [30]

In July of that year U.S. European Command conducted the Operation Africa Endeavor 2008 multinational interoperability and information exchange exercise in Nigeria with the participation of the armed forces of Nigeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda. General William Ward, commander of AFRICOM, attended the closing ceremonies at Nigerian Air Force Base, Abuja.

The following year’s Africa Endeavor exercises were held in Gabon, with “more than 25 nations participating…the second largest communications exercise in the world.” For the first time run under the command of AFRICOM, it focused on “interoperability and information sharing among African nations via communication networks and collaborative communications links with the United States, NATO and other nations with common stability, security and sustainment goals/objectives for the African continent.” [31] Participants included the Economic Community of West African States and Gulf of Guinea nations Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sao Tome and Principe.

At the time Associated Press reported:

“Just a few years ago, the U.S.military was all but absent from the oil-rich waters of West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea.

“This year, it plans to be there every day.

“Africa — including Algeria and Libya in the north — supplies the U.S. with more than 24 percent of its oil, surpassing the Persian Gulf at 20 percent, according to statistics from the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration. Of that amount, 17 percent comes from the Gulf of Guinea and Chad, which runs a pipeline to the Atlantic Ocean through Cameroon.” [32]

A spokesman for the U.S. Sixth Fleet said that in terms of “ship days” in the Gulf of Guinea, U.S. naval presence had increased 50 percent from 2006 to 2007 and the U.S. Navy was expected to have a daily presence in 2008.

The Pentagon and its NATO allies are firmly ensconced in the Gulf of Guinea, in part to realize one of the decisions agreed upon at last November’s NATO summit in Portugal: To “develop the capacity to contribute to energy security,” as the summit declaration stated.

The Pentagon has forged both bilateral and regional military partnerships with every African nation except for Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Libya, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

What began in the Gulf of Guinea has now absorbed an entire continent.

Notes

1) Associated Press, December 15, 2010
Al Jazeera/Daily Mail (Ghana), December 20, 2011
2) Ghana Government, March 18, 2010
3) Atlantic Council: Securing The 21st Century For NATO
Stop NATO, April 30, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/atlantic-council-securing-the-21st-century-for-nato

4) Advancing U.S., African, and Global Interests: Security and Stability
in the West African Maritime Domain
Atlantic Council, November 30, 2011

http://www.acus.org/publication/advancing-us-african-and-global-interests-security-and-stability-west-african-maritime-d

5) U.S. Africa Command, July 12, 2010
6) AFRICOM Year Two: Seizing The Helm Of The Entire World
Stop NATO, October 22, 2009

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/africom-year-two-taking-the-helm-of-the-entire-world

7) NATO: AFRICOM’s Partner In Military Penetration Of Africa
Stop NATO, March 20, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/03/20/nato-africoms-partner-in-military-penetration-of-africa

8) Agence France-Presse, September 24, 2002
9) U.S. Department of Defense, June 27, 2004
10) Agence France-Presse, July 22, 2005
11) Stars And Stripes, July 31, 2005
12) Associated Press, August 7, 2005
13) BBC News, August 22, 2002
14) Ghana Web, February 23, 2006
15) U.S. Department of Defense, August 18, 2006
….
Global Energy War: Washington’s New Kissinger’s African Plans
Stop NATO, January 22, 2009

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/global-energy-war-washingtons-new-kissingers-african-plans

16) Trend News Agency, May 3, 2006
17) Associated Press, April 24, 2006
18) Associated Press, May 2, 2006
19) North Atlantic Treaty Organization, June 30, 20016

http://www.nato.int/docu/update/2006/06-june/e0628a.htm

20) Reuters, June 22, 2006
21) United States European Command, September 18, 2007
22) Associated Press, November 6, 2007
23) Malu Suleiman Mohammed and Olumide Bajulaye
Why US Wants to Establish Military Base in the Country
Daily Trust, November 24, 2007

http://allafrica.com/stories/200711240118.html

24) Abba Mahmood, Country, Gulf of Guinea And Africom
Leadership, November 22, 2007

http://allafrica.com/stories/200711220187.html

25) Ochereome Nnanna, Nigeria: No to U.S. Army Base
Vanguard, November 22, 2007

http://allafrica.com/stories/200711220612.html

26) Juliana Taiwo, U.S. Military Base – Country Begins Diplomatic Inquiries
This Day, October 2, 2007

http://allafrica.com/stories/200710020239.html

27) Horatius Egua, Nigeria too late to stop US military on base in Africa
Business Day, September 27, 2007

http://businessdayonline.com/National/208.html

28) United States Department of State, October 3, 2007
29) United States European Command, November 13, 2007
30) North Atlantic treaty Organization, November 25, 2008
31) U.S. Africa Command, January 14, 2009
32) Associated Press, November 5, 2007

How Afghanistan Became a War for NATO

January 8th, 2011 by Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON, Jan 3 (IPS) – The official line of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO command in Afghanistan, is that the war against Afghan insurgents is vital to the security of all the countries providing troops there.

In fact, however, NATO was given a central role in Afghanistan because of the influence of U.S. officials concerned with the alliance, according to a U.S. military officer who was in a position to observe the decision-making process.

“NATO’s role in Afghanistan is more about NATO than it is about Afghanistan,” the officer, who insisted on anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the subject, told IPS in an interview.

The alliance would never have been given such a prominent role in Afghanistan but for the fact that the George W. Bush administration wanted no significant U.S. military role there that could interfere with their plans to take control of Iraq.

That reality gave U.S. officials working on NATO an opening.

Gen. James Jones, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) from 2003 to 2005, pushed aggressively for giving NATO the primary security role in Afghanistan, according to the officer.

“Jones sold [Defence Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld on turning Afghanistan over to NATO,” said the officer, adding that he did so with the full support of Pentagon officials with responsibilities for NATO. “You have to understand that the NATO lobbyists are very prominent in the Pentagon – both in the Office of the Secretary of Defence and on the Joint Staff,” said the officer.

Jones admitted in an October 2005 interview with American Forces Press Service that NATO had struggled to avoid becoming irrelevant after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. “NATO was in limbo for a bit,” he said.

But the 9/11 attacks had offered a new opportunity for NATO to demonstrate its relevance.

The NATO allies were opposed to the U.S. war in Iraq, but they wanted to demonstrate their support for stabilising and reconstructing Afghanistan. Jones prodded NATO member countries to provide troops for Afghanistan and to extend NATO operations from the north into the west and eventually to the east and south, where U.S. troops were concentrated.

That position coincided with the interests of NATO’s military and civilian bureaucrats and those of the military establishments in the member countries.

But there was one major problem: public opinion in NATO member countries was running heavily against military involvement in Afghanistan.

To get NATO allies to increase their troop presence in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, Jones assured member states that they would only be mopping up after the U.S. military had defeated the Taliban. On a visit to Afghanistan in August 2004, Jones said, “[W]e should not ever even think that there is going to be an insurrection of the type that we see in Iraq here. It’s just not going to happen.”

Reassured by Washington and by Jones, in September 2005, NATO defence ministers agreed formally that NATO would assume command of southern Afghanistan in 2006.

But conflicts immediately arose between the U.S. and NATO member countries over the NATO mission in Afghanistan. Britain, Germany, Canada and the Netherlands had all sold the NATO mission to their publics as “peacekeeping” or “reconstruction” as distinct from counterinsurgency war.

When the Bush administration sought to merge the U.S. and NATO commands in Afghanistan, key allies pushed back, arguing the two commands had different missions. The French, meanwhile, were convinced the Bush administration was using NATO troops to fill the gap left by shifting U.S. troops from Afghanistan to Iraq – a war they strongly opposed.

The result was that one NATO member state after another adopted “caveats” that ruled out or severely limited their troops from actually carrying out combat in Afghanistan.

Even as the Bush administration was assuring its NATO allies that they would not have to face a major Taliban uprising, U.S. intelligence was reporting that the insurgency was growing and would intensify in spring 2006.

Gen. Karl Eikenberry, who had just arrived as commander of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2005, and newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann were warning Washington that the well-publicised domestic debates in NATO member states over troop commitments were “generating a perception of NATO political weakness”, as Neumann recalls in his memoirs on Afghanistan published in 2009.

Neumann wrote that both he and Eikenberry believed “the insurgents would see ISAF’s expansion and the U.S. contraction as the moment to rekindle the war.”

But Eikenberry assured the news media that the insurgency was under control. In a Dec. 8, 2005 press briefing at the Pentagon, Eikenberry asserted that the more aggressive Taliban tactics were “very much a sign of weakness”.

Asked if he wasn’t concerned that the situation in Afghanistan was “sliding towards an Iraqi scenario”, Eikenberry replied, “[W]e see no indications that such is the case…”

A few weeks later the Taliban launched the biggest offensive since its regime was ousted in 2001, seizing control of much of Helmand, Kandahar and several other southern provinces.

Eikenberry, clearly under orders from Rumsfeld, continued to carry out the policy of turning the south over to NATO in mid-2006. He was rewarded in early 2007 by being sent to Brussels as deputy chairman of NATO’s Military Committee.

Eikenberry acknowledged in testimony before Congress in February 2007 that the policy of turning Afghanistan over to NATO was really about the future of NATO rather than about Afghanistan. He noted the argument that failure in Afghanistan could “break” NATO, while hailing the new NATO role in Afghanistan as one that could “make” the alliance.

“The long view of the Afghanistan campaign,” said Eikenberry, “is that it is a means to continue the transformation of the alliance.”

The Afghanistan mission, Eikenberry said, “could mark the beginning of sustained NATO efforts to overhaul alliance operational practices in every domain.” Specifically, he suggested that NATO could use Afghan deployments to press some member nations to carry out “military modernisation”.

But Canadian General Rick Hillier, who commanded NATO forces in Afghanistan from February to August 2004 and was later chief of staff of Canadian armed forces from 2005 to 2008, wrote in his memoir “A Soldier First”, published in 2009, that NATO was an unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan.

He recalled that when it formally accepted responsibility for Afghanistan in 2003, NATO had “no strategy, no clear articulation of what it wanted to achieve” and that its performance was “abysmal”.

Hillier said the situation “remains unchanged” after several years of NATO responsibility for Afghanistan. NATO had “started down a road that destroyed much of its credibility and in the end eroded support for the mission in every nation in the alliance,” Hillier wrote.

“Afghanistan has revealed,” wrote Hiller, “that NATO has reached the stage where it is a corpse decomposing…”

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

According to Time magazine, Che Guevara was one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. Che’s legend has continued to grow since his death in 1967, and the revolutionary, anti-imperialist ideals he lived and died for now appeal to a new generation of 21st-century men and women.

Che Guevara is one of the most controversial and iconic figures in recent memory and is still a hero to many. Che Guevara: A Biography provides a balanced and engaging introduction to the famous revolutionary leader. Based on original research, the biography reveals how Che’s early life prepared him for leadership in the Cuban Revolution. It also explores his revolutionary activities in Africa and Bolivia, as well as the circumstances surrounding his tragic death on October 9, 1967.

More than just a record of events, the book cogently examines Che’s contributions to the theory and tactics of guerrilla warfare, his ideas about imperialism and socialism, and his enduring political legacy. It includes original information on the 1997 discovery of the hidden remains of his body and on the celebration of his life and ideals by the socialist regime in Cuba. And it looks at the reasons why contemporary leftist political leaders, movements, and governments in Latin America and the Caribbean still pay homage to this charismatic man.

Book Features: • Photographs • An up-to-date annotated bibliography of the major print and electronic sources of information on Che Guevara • A timeline of key events in his life

About the Author

Richard L. Harris, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Global Studies at California State University, Monterey Bay. He has written extensively on Che Guevara and is the author of many books and articles on politics, economics and revolutionary change in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

BP Gulf Oil Spill: ‘Biggest cover-up in US history’

January 8th, 2011 by Global Research

Months after the US government declared the waters in the Gulf of Mexico safe, thick layers of oil have been found along Louisiana coastal marshes, prompting local officials to accuse relevant authorities of ‘cover-up.’

Louisiana officials say parts of the state’s coastline are still being fouled more than eight months after British Petroleum’s (BP) Deepwater Horizon rig caused the biggest oil disaster in the United States.

“This is the biggest cover-up in the history of America,” AP quoted Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser as saying.

On Friday, Robert Barham, secretary of Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, joined Nungesser on a tour of the area.

“It has been eight months since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, and five months since the well was capped. While workers along the coast dedicated themselves to cleaning up our shores there is still so much to be done,” Barham said in a statement.

The heavily saturated area that reporters saw was 30 feet (9 meters) to 100 feet (30 meters) wide in sections.

“There’s been no mechanism to clean that up thus far,” the parish president said.

“Every day, this shoreline is moving inland,” lessening flood protection for residents, Nungesser added.

This is while US President Barack Obama and one his daughters went for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico last summer in an attempt to portray the water as safe and boost tourism industry reeling in the affected areas after millions of barrels of oil leaked into the gulf.

Nungesser has been a frequent and outspoken critic of the cleanup effort ever since the oil explosion began infiltrating the environmentally delicate Louisiana coast line in April 20.

The wildlife and fisheries department, meanwhile, said oiled boom remains in “numerous locations, forgotten or lost by contractors charged with their maintenance and removal.”

The officials said biologists have found several oiled birds in the past few days, including at least two dead brown pelicans.

The explosion that destroyed the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and, according to the government estimates, led to more than 200 million gallons (757 million liters) of oil spewing from a hole a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico.

Wikileaks: Israel planned to strike Hamas financially

January 8th, 2011 by Global Research


A Wikileaks document states that Israeli Anti-Terrorism Bureau chief Danny Arditi had devised a plan to strike Hamas by boosting financial support to the West Bank government headed by Salam Fayyad, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir said Friday.

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Wikileaks: Israel planned to strike Hamas financiallyBEIRUT (Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - A Wikileaks document states that Israeli Anti-Terrorism Bureau chief Danny Arditi had devised a plan to strike Hamas by boosting financial support to the West Bank government headed by Salam Fayyad, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir said Friday.

The plan is intended to establish a special Palestinian intelligence monetary unit under US and EU supervision.

The cable quotes Arditi as saying the proposal is aimed at destroying the Hamas group in Gaza financially and giving Fatah time to rebuild needed support.

According to the document, Israel’s national security council has committed to an initiative to provide the Gaza Strip with enough money to buy only basic materials.

Adriti said Israel is discussing downsizing the amount of monies transferred to the Strip monthly, allowing only enough to prevent a collapse in the banking sector.

Former CIA Asset Luis Posada Goes to Trial

January 8th, 2011 by Peter Kornbluh

On January 10 one of the most dangerous terrorists in recent history will go on trial in a small courtroom in El Paso, Texas. This is not the venue the Obama administration has finally selected to prosecute the perpetrators of 9/11; it is where the reputed godfather of Cuban exile violence, Luis Posada Carriles, may finally face a modicum of accountability for his many crimes.

In the annals of modern justice, the Posada trial stands out as one of the most bizarre and disreputable of legal proceedings. The man identified by US intelligence reports as a mastermind of the midair destruction of a Cuban airliner—all seventy-three people on board were killed when the plane plunged into the sea off the coast of Barbados on October 6, 1976—and who publicly bragged about being behind a series of hotel bombings in Havana that killed an Italian businessman, Fabio Di Celmo, is being prosecuted for perjury and fraud, not murder and mayhem. The handling of his case during the Bush years became an international embarrassment and reflected poorly on the willingness and/or abilities of the Justice Department to prosecute crimes of terror when that terrorist was once an agent and ally of America. For the Obama administration, the verdict will carry significant implications for US credibility in the fight against terrorism, as well as for the future of US-Cuban relations.

Posada’s trial gets under way almost six years after he brazenly appeared in Miami and announced that he would seek political asylum in the United States. Here was a fugitive from justice in Venezuela—Posada escaped from prison there in 1985 while on trial for the plane bombing—who had been imprisoned in Panama from November 2000 to August 2004 for trying to assassinate Fidel Castro with more than 200 pounds of dynamite and C-4 explosives. Despite an outstanding Interpol warrant for his arrest, for two months the Bush administration permitted him to flaunt his presence in Miami, where he is still considered a heroic figure in the hardline anti-Castro exile community. Confident of his welcome, Posada even filed an application to become a naturalized US citizen. Only after the media turned their attention to the hypocrisy of a White House that claimed to be leading a war on international terrorism while allowing a wanted terrorist to flit freely around Florida did agents from the Department of Homeland Security finally detain Posada, on May 17, 2005.

Initially Posada was incarcerated in El Paso for illegal entry into the United States. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) went through the motions of trying to deport him, but no country would take him. At the same time, the United States refused to extradite him to the one country that had a legitimate claim to him—Venezuela. Only after the immigration court decided to release him on bail did ICE officially identify him as a terrorist: Posada’s “long history of criminal activity and violence in which innocent civilians were killed,” ICE wrote, meant that his “release from detention would pose a danger to both the community and the national security of the United States” [see Kornbluh, "Test on Terrorism," Oct. 16, 2006].

To its credit, the Justice Department did quietly empanel a grand jury in New Jersey to weigh an official indictment of Posada for masterminding the hotel bombings in Havana. (Evidence gathered by the FBI indicates that Posada raised funds for that operation from Cuban-American benefactors in Union City, New Jersey.) In April 2006 government lawyers decided to hold a naturalization interview with Posada while he was in jail, surreptitiously gathering self-incriminating evidence against him in the hotel bombing case.

But, for reasons that remain under seal, the New Jersey grand jury proceedings stalled. Initially, as a senior State Department official confided, prosecutors were unable to secure a key piece of evidence—the tape recordings of an interview Posada had given to then–New York Times stringer Ann Louise Bardach in 1998, in which he appeared to take full responsibility for the hotel bombings. “The Italian was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I sleep like a baby,” Posada proclaimed, according to his statements published in the Times. Under subpoena, Bardach turned over the tapes to the grand jury on December 15, 2006. But no indictment was ever handed down.

Instead, on January 11, 2007, Posada was indicted in El Paso on six counts of making “false statements” and one of fraud about how he came to the United States and for his use of false names and false passports—charges that carry an maximum sentence of five to ten years each. To make matters worse for the credibility of the US legal system, four months later Judge Kathleen Cardone dismissed all charges against Posada. The government, she ruled, had engaged in “fraud, deceit and trickery” in obtaining evidence against Posada under the guise of conducting a naturalization review. The court, she declared, could “not set aside [Posada's legal] rights nor overlook Government misconduct [just] because Defendant is a political hot potato.”

A free man, Posada took up residence in Miami. Since he is on the government’s no-fly list, Posada was forced to drive back to Florida, where he has lived openly for the past several years, attending right-wing exile fundraisers and even participating in public protests against Castro’s Cuba.

But in August 2008 the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overruled Cardone’s decision and ordered Posada to proceed to trial. In another positive turn of events in this long, twisted legal saga, in April 2009 the new Obama Justice Department used the New York Times tapes of Posada’s interview with Bardach to file several additional counts of perjury and fraud relating specifically to lying about “soliciting other individuals to carry out…[the hotel] bombings in Cuba.” To be sure, Posada is still not being charged with actually perpetrating those terrorist operations, only with lying about aspects of his involvement in orchestrating them. But for the first time in a US court, a team of lawyers from the Justice Department’s Counterterrorism Division will present concrete evidence to prove that Posada was indeed behind a series of terrorist attacks on Cuban soil.

*  *  *

Obtaining a conviction will not be easy. Posada will turn 83 on February 15; he suffers from a variety of physical ailments and does not fit the image of a “terrorist alien,” as government records describe him. Posada’s lawyers have charged that the key evidence against him—the Bardach tapes—contain unexplained gaps and erasures. Bardach, who will be called as a witness to authenticate the tapes, has publicly decried their use in the trial as a government violation of freedom of the press and an assault on the rights of the Fourth Estate.

Moreover, in a pretrial ruling, Judge Cardone denied a Justice Department motion to “exclude all testimony, evidence, questioning and argument concerning defendant’s relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency.” Posada’s past agency associations were “irrelevant to the charges,” prosecutors submitted in court filings; introducing his CIA connection in court would “divert the jury’s attention away from the basic charges in the indictment.” But the judge ruled that Posada could offer the existence of his relationship with the CIA “to show his state of mind” when he allegedly made false statements to authorities—as long as he used only unclassified information.

The government has introduced into the court record an “Unclassified Summary of the CIA’s Relationship with Luis Clemente Posada Carriles,” which states that he first joined the agency as part of its Bay of Pigs operation in 1961. “Posada was a paid asset of the CIA from 1965 to 1967,” when he left the United States to set up operations in Caracas as an intelligence official of the Venezuelan secret police, DISIP, “and again from 1968 to 1974,” states the summary. “From 1974 to 1976, CIA had intermittent contact with Posada.” The document reveals that in 1993, when Posada was an escaped fugitive wanted by Interpol for the Cuban airplane bombing, the agency intercepted intelligence on an assassination plot against him and surreptitiously “contacted him in Honduras by telephone to warn him about a threat to his life.”

CIA documents, obtained and posted by my organization, the National Security Archive, show that in the mid-1960s Posada worked at a salary of $350 a month as an instructor in sabotage and demolition for the CIA’s Maritime Training Section. The declassified records, which identify Posada using his CIA cryptonym, AMCLEVE/15, also reveal his work as an active snitch on other violent Cuban exile groups. “I will give the Company all the intelligence that I can collect,” Posada promised his CIA handlers in 1966. “A/15 is dedicated to the overthrow of Castro,” his “Company” supervisor Grover Lythcott noted in one secret report on Posada, but he “is not a typical ‘boom and bang’ type of individual. He is acutely aware of the international implications of ill planned or over enthusiastic activities against Cuba.” In an observation that proved to be wholly inaccurate, Lythcott noted that Posada would “discourage activities which would be embarrassing to WOLADY”—the CIA’s codeword for the United States.

Ironically, it is now the legal proceedings against Posada that could be embarrassing to, and carry significant implications for, WOLADY. In the six years Posada has been in the United States, his case has become a spectacle around the world. Now, if he is found guilty and in effect proven to be a mastermind of terrorism, the US government will have to address the scandalously short sentence the perjury charges carry. If he is found innocent and released, the Obama administration will have to confront the fact that the US legal system is inadequate to hold Posada even minimally accountable for his violent crimes, and that the United States is, in the end, harboring an international terrorist.

For Havana, where officials routinely refer to Posada as “the Osama bin Laden of Latin America,” the case remains a particular sore point in US-Cuba relations. The Cubans have readily assisted the Justice Department by welcoming teams of FBI agents and US prosecutors, turning over more than 1,500 pages of documents as evidence from the hotel bombings and making Posada’s alleged accomplices in Cuba available for depositions. But even as the US government allowed Posada to live freely in Miami, it has kept Cuba on its terrorism list because, the State Department claims, Cuba has not done enough to support the international effort against terrorism. To add insult to injury, in the wake of the Christmas 2009 terrorist attempt aboard a Detroit-bound plane, the Obama administration put Cuba on the list of fourteen countries, including Iran and Syria, whose citizens receive extra security screenings when traveling to the States—escalating tensions between Havana and Washington to their highest level since Obama took office.

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As the Posada case illustrates anew, the danger of terrorism relating to Cuba has emanated not from Cuban territory but from the shores of the United States. Just five years ago, Posada’s ally and benefactor, Santiago Álvarez, was busted in Miami by the FBI for illegally accumulating a warehouse of war-grade armaments, presumably for use against the island. Indeed, the Cubans are incensed by the contrast between how the US legal system has treated Posada and the severe treatment meted out to five Cuban counterterrorism agents sent to the United States in the mid-1990s as part of La Red Avispa (Wasp Network)—an espionage operation to gather intelligence on the activities of Posada’s supporters and other violent exile groups in Florida. (It was Cuban agents spying on exile groups who ferreted out information that led to Posada’s November 2000 arrest in Panama for the attempted assassination of Castro.) The so-called Cuban Five—Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and René González—were arrested in 1998, thrown into solitary confinement, prosecuted on maximum charges of conspiracy and even homicide, and given sentences from fifteen years to life. A court has reduced the sentences of two of them, but the Cuban government continues to make their release a top priority in communications with the Obama administration.

A guilty verdict in the Posada case, and a determination by the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security that Posada should be imprisoned indefinitely as a perpetrator of terrorism, could still contribute to conditions for better US-Cuban relations. As the trial starts, however, the last word on its significance belongs to Posada’s victims. “He is not being charged as a terrorist but rather as a liar,” says Livio Di Celmo, whose brother, Fabio, was killed in one of the hotel bombings in Cuba. “My family and I are outraged and disappointed that a known terrorist, Luis Posada, is going to trial for perjury and immigration fraud, not for the horrific crime of masterminding the bombing of a civilian airliner,” Roseanne Nenninger, whose 19-year-old brother, Raymond, was aboard the Cuban plane, told The Nation. “Our hope is that the US government will designate Posada as a terrorist and hold him accountable for the pain, suffering and loss he has caused to us and so many other families.”

Jerusalem: a cauldron of nationalistic and religious acrimony, a persistent flashpoint for global crisis. Exactly where you want to put the world’s most notorious private security firm.

International Development Solutions, a recent joint venture between Blackwater-spinoff U.S. Training Center and a different security company, just received a task order under the State Department’s $10 billion Worldwide Protective Services contract to protect Jerusalem-stationed U.S. diplos. Jeff Stein reports that the bid is as much as $84 million. Israeli drivers, watch out.

But that’s not all. According to Stein, Blackwater — ahem, sorry, Xe Services – isn’t actually part of International Development Solutions anymore. Xe, recently purchased by a surprisingly crunchy group of investors, apparently offloaded U.S. Training Center — although it’s likely that its personnel will continue to train on the same Moyock, North Carolina facilities as Blackwater, and “many of its operatives” are Blackwater people, Stein writes.

If so, it would suggest that Blackwater’s new owners, known as USTC Holdings, meant it when they played down Blackwater’s security tasks. “USTC Holdings, LLC will acquire the Xe companies that provide domestic and international training, as well as security services,” it said in a statement last month. Message: we’re a training company, not a mercenary firm infamous for shooting Iraqi civilians and taking guns intended for Afghan cops.

We’re waiting to hear from USTC Holdings spokespeople precisely what relationship pertains between Xe and International Development Solutions now. It wouldn’t be surprising if, as Jeff’s reporting indicates, there’s still some arrangement between the two — that’s how Blackwater rolls.

On the other hand, if the new owners have really divested themselves of the diplo-guarding business, then it may be the end of an era: Blackwater won’t have any other contracts with State; and it just lost a big police-training contract in Afghanistan to DynCorp. We’ll update when we know more.