Editor’s Note

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is a prominent Irish artist. His drawings and paintings can be consulted on his website at  http://gaelart.net/

As the global economic crisis deepens, one may ask how the artist can play any role in social, economic and political change?

Visual artists have been commenting on society since William Hogarth, a pictorial satirist and social critic during the early 1700s, used art to comment on the politics and customs of his time.

The same challenge still exists today – how can the visual artist make images that have a profound effect on people and their view of society and so hope to contribute to making a better society for all?

A painting may be just physical pigments of colour applied to a canvas but how the image is constructed in terms of composition, tone, colour and line is a very particular process that contrasts sharply with music and literature.

Unlike music its pictorial symbols are very directly ‘read’, and unlike literature it must summarise its images and ideas as parts of one composition, telling a whole story whereas in literature the story can be developed over time.

Thus, in visual art the politics of representation is just as important as the representation of politics. How the people, the political and economic system, work, demonstrations, social structures, oppression, poverty etc. are represented depends on the individual artist’s use of style and composition to make an image. What stylistic choices does the politically conscious figurative artist have today to create art that comments on society?

If we look to the past, we can see that over the centuries artists have developed different visual strategies to encompass the ‘stories’ of their subjects. Four different approaches will be examined here: Allegory, Realism, Expressionism, and Mexicanidad.

One could argue that Allegory and Expressionism have been used as distancing devices while Realism and Mexicanidad draw people in to empathise with the subjects of the composition (usually a reflection of themselves or their own history).

Some artists depict a negative view of society, some keep a neutral perspective (out of a fear of the art becoming ‘propaganda’) and some take a positive view by consciously depicting action and change. There is also an important aspect that, as we shall see, sometimes the artists themselves see the strategies as temporary and that in an ideal world they would make different kinds of art. This reveals itself as a tension between the present and the future, the implicit and the explicit, the necessary and the ideal.

Allegory

Allegory can be described as “a figurative mode of representation conveying meaning other than the literal. Allegory communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation.” [1]

In visual art there is a long history of using symbols to represent ideas, desirable qualities, political and social issues etc. and in some political regimes allegory has been used as one form of comment that was not vulnerable to immediate censorship.

The Irish artist Seán Keating (1889 – 1977) was one socially conscious artist who used allegory in his paintings to explore the turbulent times of the early twentieth century. Keating made many paintings documenting the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War. [2] In one of his allegorical paintings, Night’s Candles are Burnt Out, Keating depicts the construction of  a hydroelectric power plant on the river Shannon in a realistic style but incorporating many allegorical elements to comment on past, present and future aspects of Irish society at that time.

Night’s Candles are Burnt Out (1927-28) by Seán Keating [3]

Keating himself describes what he was trying to achieve thus:

“The title suggests that the dawn has come, when the dim candlelight of surviving medievalism in Ireland is fading before the rising sun of scientific progress, exemplified by the Shannon electricity works, which form the background to my picture. The stage Ireland and the stage Irishman are typified by the skeletons hanging on the left from one of the steel towers which support the electric transmission lines. Beneath are the types of Irish workmen. In the centre of the foreground are two men. One represents the Capitalist, who carries under his arms plans for industrial development. A gunman confronts him menacingly. The two symbolize the constant antagonism between the business elements and the extremists, which hinders the material progress of the State. The priest reading represents the unchanging church, ever present when spiritual guidance is needed but concerning itself only with a kingdom that is not of this world. In short, my picture depicts the transition of Ireland from a country of ancient stagnation to a state of freedom and progress.” [4]

The power of the allegorical style consists in its ability to convey many different aspects of a contemporary issue using multiple elements that would not normally appear in a straightforward realist composition. It allows one to integrate one’s philosophical outlook into the composition and give the painting a symbolic significance beyond the sum of its parts. Allegory allowed Keating to put forward his views of society which were prophetic considering the very recent economic and political turbulence in Ireland. He noted that:

“To endeavour to promote social conscience in the name of God and at the same time to permit – under the guise of modernism and advancement – the activities of a naked commercialism (which has fallen into disrepute among the very people who created it) is a process of auto-frustration. Unbridled self interest and reckless exploitation of the moral and physical needs of the human race has brought about the state of things in which collapse is inevitable.” [5]

Realism

From the Social Realism of the nineteenth century to the Socialist Realism of the twentieth century, Realism as a movement in art has been a sturdy vehicle for the depiction of socio-political causes the world over.

John French Sloan (1871 – 1951), an American artist and a leading figure of the Ashcan School of realist artists  “concerned himself with what we call genre: street scenes, restaurant life, paintings of saloons, ferry boats, roof tops, back yards, and so on through a whole catalogue of commonplace subjects.” [6]

Sloan was active in American left wing politics but refused to make overtly political art which he saw as ‘propaganda’. He tried to keep some distance between his art and his political ideas which were more implicit than explicit in his paintings.


McSorley’s Bar (1912) by John Sloan [7]

Sloan commented on this problem when he stated that:

“I was never interested in putting propaganda into my paintings, so it annoys me when art historians try to interpret my city life pictures as ‘socially conscious.’ I saw the everyday life of the people, and on the whole I picked out bits of joy in human life for my subject matter.” [8]

While highlighting the lives of the poor and the oppressed were implicit in his art, he rejected the implication that this was the only reason why he painted. As if to emphasise the importance of making art as a process in itself he told his students “I have nothing to teach you that will help you to make a living”. [9]

Expressionism

Expressionism was “a cultural movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the start of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world in an utterly subjective perspective, radically distorting it for emotional effect, to evoke moods or ideas.” [10]

Expressionism is an ideal style for political art in that it allows the artist to pour out his/her anger at an oppressive system/government/political party in a very dramatic way. However, as a style it can also sink into an almost Swiftian misanthropism. A good example of this is the German artist George Grosz (1893 – 1959) whose work was described by Robert Hughes thus:

“In Grosz’s Germany, everything and everybody is for sale. All human transactions, except for the class solidarity of the workers, are poisoned. The world is owned by four breeds of pig: the capitalist, the officer, the priest and the hooker, whose other form is the sociable wife.” [11]


The Funeral (Dedicated to Oskar Panizza) (1917 – 1918)
by George Grosz [12]

Even for Grosz himself, Expressionism had its limits:

“My aim is to be understood by everyone. I reject the ‘depth’ that people demand nowadays, into which you can never descend without a diving bell crammed with cabbalistic bullshit and intellectual metaphysics. This expressionistic anarchy has got to stop … A day will come when the artist will no longer be this bohemian, puffed-up anarchist but a healthy man working in clarity within a collectivist society.” [13]

Thus, Grosz hoped that one day the need for such extreme art would not be necessary and that the artist would eventually be integrated into an egalitarian society where he/she would become like the artisan/craft worker of earlier times, a worker without the ego of the contemporary artist.

Mexicanidad
Mexicanidad is an art style which mixes Mexican culture and heritage and was exemplified by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957). His art was based on large figures using bold colours and Aztec influences. This style allowed him to incorporate contemporary political struggle with depictions of the Aztec past. He painted many murals in public places which he saw as a democratic art form that all people could have access to regardless of race and social class. [14]


History of Mexico from the Conquest to 1930 (1929 –1931) by Diego Rivera [15]

Rivera’s influences ranged from the Italian masters to the political warfare on the streets:

“During my seventeen months in Italy, I completed more than three hundred sketches from the frescoes of the masters and from life. Many of the latter depicted street clashes between socialists and fascists which occurred before my eyes. I often sketched while the bullets whistled around my ears.” [16]

Rivera’s style is a consciously and overtly political style (which Sloan would have seen as ‘propaganda’) covering everything from childbirth and education to political demonstrations and revolutionary activity. This style celebrates political activity as a core activity of social life, now and into the future.

Conclusion

The global economic crisis demands a response from artists just as it demands a response from other types of social commentators. The above four visual strategies show starting points that can be used and developed by artists today looking for ways to explore contemporary problems.

Notes:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegory
[2] See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Se%C3%A1n_Keating
[3] http://www.clarelibrary.ie/eolas/coclare/history/shannon_hydroelectric_scheme/shannon_hydro_electric_scheme.htm
[4] Seán Keating: In Focus, Eimear O’Connor (Associated Editions, 2009) p. 20/1
[5] Seán Keating: In Focus, Eimear O’Connor (Associated Editions, 2009) p27
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_French_Sloan
[7] http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/John_French_Sloan
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_French_Sloan
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_French_Sloan
[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expressionism
[11] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Grosz
[12] http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/18/Grosz_Widmung_an_Oskar_Panizza.jpg
[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Grosz
[14] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diego_Rivera
[15] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diego_Rivera
[16] My Art, My Life:An Autobiography Diego Rivera (Dover Publications, Inc. New York, 1991) p.72

Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin is a prominent Irish artist who has exhibited widely around Ireland. His work consists of drawings and paintings and features cityscapes of Dublin, images based on Irish history and other work with social/political themes (http://gaelart.net/).

Thousands Protest Irish Nightmare Economy

December 5th, 2010 by Leo Panitch

Last weekend in Ireland, thousands of people demonstrated against austerity measures and against bearing the burden of the Irish crisis. Just how did the Irish miracle turn into the Irish nightmare? Paul Jay of The Real News Network recently interviewed Leo Panitch. Panitch is a distinguished research professor at York University, teaches political science there, and he’s the author (with Greg Albo and Sam Gindin) of the book In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives.

Paul Jay: So, in your view, how do we get from this miracle economy of Ireland with so low unemployment, and apparently a booming middle class, to bust?

Leo Panitch: Well, we got to it via the bust of the financial sector that Ireland certainly didn’t cause. It was very much a American-made crisis. But insofar as a good part of the Irish boom involved Irish Banks borrowing short in order to lend long to their property boom, and to some extent to lend to foreign investors who were creating jobs, a lot of them American companies but borrowing from Irish Banks, the result of that when the financial boom ended in the United States was that the knock-on effect meant that Irish banks were virtually bankrupt. And one of the first places on the face of the earth that that was felt apart from Iceland was Ireland, and the Irish government immediately guaranteed all bank deposits. And insofar as they did so, they socialized, took onto the public shoulders the private debt of the banks. And you see the consequences.

JAY: So people are saying what happened is the banks bet, helped create a real estate bubble in Ireland. They bet on it, they lost the bets, and now the Irish people are being asked to bail them out. Is that a fair characterization?

PANITCH: Yeah. And, you know, Ireland didn’t have a large public sector deficit, but it now does by virtue of having taken on the burden of the private sector banking deficit. And the result of that is what you see with the Irish debt, the Irish fiscal debt, not being willing – the banking sectors, especially in Europe, who provided most of this lending, not being willing to, as I said before, roll over that debt, not being willing to, in other words, lend any more when Irish bonds come due.

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JAY: Paul Krugman wrote a piece recently where he compares what happened in Ireland to Iceland, where he said Iceland took a different approach toward a somewhat similar situation. What do you make of that?

PANITCH: Yeah. They tried to make the Dutch and the British bear some of the burden and came under a lot of pressure from the Dutch and the British for this and had to compromise somewhat, but they did spread it around a little. But you shouldn’t think that the Icelandic people haven’t had to carry most of that burden they have. Now, I must say, this is now a larger situation. And when the Germans, who always do this, since they never want to take responsibility for this themselves, it always falls more on the American state to organize the bailout. The Germans said that in the future, beginning in 2013, the banks ought to be taking some of the haircut themselves, rather than have the EU states lend – or the IMF or the Americans – lend the Irish state the money, provided they engage in this terrible austerity program. And as soon as the German banks heard that, and not only the German banks, they all the more wouldn’t lend money to Ireland, because they didn’t want to be caught holding Irish debt if they were going to be the ones who would have to take any of the haircut for this.

JAY: So first the banks get saved by the Irish state, and then they beat the hell out of the Irish state ’cause they may not be able to pay off the debt the Irish state took on to save them.

PANITCH: That’s the situation, and there’s nothing new about this.

JAY: Brilliant system. So what are Irish people demanding? What do you think they should be? What’s the alternative for Ireland?

PANITCH: You know, the austerity program involves raising the sales tax – the value added tax, as it’s called there – to 23 per cent (look at the hysteria here in Canada when we have a combined sales tax of 15 per cent), that at a time when corporate taxes in Ireland are famously at 12 per cent and it is being pledged that they will not be raised. And I might point out that the American corporations that have been the largest investors in Ireland in terms of manufacturing investment and exports from Ireland are threatening they’ll pull out unless this 12 per cent corporate tax is maintained. So you see the enormous class inequity that’s built into this, the enormous demonstrations that have taken place in Ireland. And they’re not new. They occurred last year when austerity measures were introduced as well, and being led by a very, very moderate corporatist trade union leadership, which doesn’t want to engage in any class mobilization – less radical than the AFL-CIO, but they’re being forced into undertaking these demonstrations by virtue of the anger of the people. They’re not demanding nearly enough. It’s a very, very defensive set of demands they’re engaged in. As I’ve argued before, the only real solution here is for Ireland to lead the way by defaulting on the debt, to do what Argentina did at the beginning of this century. But that will mean, and I hope it will mean, a much more radical set of responses in Europe, not only in Spain and Portugal and Greece, but much more broadly, whereby people are given a lead in terms of not just socializing the private banks’ bad debts but actually nationalizing the banking system and turning it into a public utility. It’ll mean breaking up the European Union, but reconstructing it on a basis of democratic and cooperative economic planning, where the money, our money that passes through the banking system, the people’s money, is actually allocated in a democratic way. That – we have had a banker’s Europe, a Europe based on free capital flows. It is inevitably one that was highly volatile, inevitably producing one crisis after another. And Ireland is facing the brunt of it at the moment. Greece faced it a few months ago. Portugal’s about to face it at all.

JAY: But what do you make of the argument that the reason these countries are in difficulty is ’cause there’s too much entitlement programs, the pension age is too low, unemployment insurance is too high, and so on?

PANITCH: I think it’s ludicrous. This isn’t the problem. The problem is not that Irish workers are too well off. The problem is the enormous wealth inequality, and above all inequality in power, and irrational investment that has gone on in these countries. And it will mean, if people are going to try to maintain something like the civilization that we’ve known, it’ll mean redefining what our standard of living is. It will mean that we will not be able to engage in the kind of individual consumption, and have to turn to the kind of collective services that would be so rational and so needed – much more, much more extensive public transit and freer public transit, rather than private transit through automobiles that reproduces the ecological crisis and worsens it. But the answer is not that, you know, the Irish working class (give me a break) is so well off and wealthy, much less the Greek one. Now, it’s true that many of these states are corrupt and are indeed the kinds of states that are built on clientalism. The type of democracies we’ve had there, the types of capitalist democracies we’ve had there, have involved bribing people, bribing people to – through agreeing to let them not pay as much taxes or any taxes, through giving them kickbacks, etc.

JAY: And you’re using the public sector to make politicians rich.

PANITCH: Yes, and engaging in the type of relationships between politicians and capitalists that are indeed very, very unsavory, which involve, if not corruption, certainly scratching your back if you scratch mine. So there’s no sense pretending that these have been, you know, wonderful democratic societies. And when one’s calling for a different kind of economy, one needs to call for a different kind of state. •

Resources:

Talk about psyops. If you can’t get the people to eat your dangerous, unwanted frankenfoods, just lie and say the Pope approves it. On November 30, the magazine, New Scientist, published “Vatican scientists urge support for engineered crops,” which the Vatican immediately denied.

“The Vatican did not endorse an 11-page final statement in favor of easing restrictions on and allowing more widespread use of genetically modified crops, especially in poorer nations,” a Vatican official said in a statement published by Catholic News Service.

In fact, “the Vatican has never taken a formal position supporting or opposing genetically modified foods,” reported CNS.

The study group who issued the report mostly include people with financial ties to genetically modified foods. Four employees of Monsanto graced that panel.

There are an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics in the world who now have more reason to distrust biotech scientists.

The New Scientist also quoted a dubious statement by one of the report scientists: 

“There has not been a single documented case of harm to consumers or the environment,” says Potrykus.

It then links to a 2005 article which says the opposite. Whatever. Ingo Potrykus is a Swiss scientist who developed a variety of GM rice.

There are numerous scientific studies condemning the use of GM foods which have been linked to organ damage and sterility in mammals, while others correlate rising diabetes and obesity rates with GMO introduction. There’s also the question of allergic reaction to GM foods, proof of which is hidden by lack of labeling.

GM crops (trees, too) are genetically modified to produce or tolerate pesticides. Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, has been linked to birth defects, cancer and miscarriages in humans. Pesticides are suspected in causing or contributing to mass bee, bat and butterfly die-off, as well as a pandemic amphibian decline. Their use is also linked to 11 million acres of superweeds in the U.S.

Finally, GM crops cannot be contained. They’ve spread in nations all over the world, even becoming established in the wild.

For any scientist to say that no environmental damage is linked to GM crops is unconscionable. Given the biotech industry’s penchant for suppressing science, it’s not surprising to find them extending their lies to the social realm.

Confronting the oft-quoted malarky that GM crops can solve world hunger, CNS reported: 

“The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said earlier this year that it was not a coincidence that in 2009 the use of genetically modified food crops grew by 13 percent in developing countries and that GM crops covered almost half of the world’s total arable land. And yet ‘the number of hungry people in the world has for the first time reached 1 billion people,’ the paper said.” 

CNS further noted that, “Pope Benedict XVI has denounced the continued scandal of hunger in the world, saying its root causes have more to do with problems of distribution and sharing than with there not being enough food in the world.” 

Spiralling out of Control: The Risk of a New Korean War

December 4th, 2010 by Gregory Elich

An artillery duel between North and South Korean forces on November 23 has set in motion a series of events which threaten to spiral out of control.

On November 22, South Korea began its annual military exercise, involving including 70,000 troops, dozens of South Korean and U.S. warships and some 500 aircraft. The following day, South Korean  artillery stationed on Yeonpyeong Island began a live ammunition drill, firing shells into the surrounding sea.

The island is situated quite near to the North Korean mainland, and lies in disputed waters. At the end of the Korean War in 1953, U.S. General Mark Clark unilaterally established the western sea border to North Korea’s disadvantage. Rather than in a perpendicular line, the Northern Limit Line was drawn to curve sharply upwards, handing over islands and a prime fishing area to the South that would otherwise have gone to North Korea. The North, having had no say in the delineation of its sea border, has never recognized the Northern Limit Line. (1)

South Korean troops have been based on the island since the end of the Korean War. There is also a small fishing village in close proximity to the military base; unavoidably so, given that the island is less than three square miles in size.

In response to the South Korean announcement of an impending artillery drill, North Korea telephoned the South Korean military on the morning of November 23, urging them to cancel plans to fire shells into what the North regarded as its territorial waters. The North warned that if the drill proceeded, they would respond with a “resolute physical counter-strike.” (2)

Nevertheless, the artillery drill proceeded and four hours later, North Korean artillery fired on the island. In the first round, 150 shells were shot, of which 60 hit the island. Then 20 more shells were fired in a second round. In all, four people on the island were killed and 18 wounded. (3)

The South Korean military telegraphed the North, asking them to cease, but to no avail. Then their artillery returned fire at the North, firing 80 shells. One shell directly hit a North Korean military barracks. Although many of the shells appeared to have inflicted little damage, an official at the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff noted, “Satellite images show our shells landed on a cluster of barracks in North Korea, so we presume there have been many casualties and considerable property damage.” (4)

Facing a barrage of criticism from domestic hawks for having responded in too tepid a manner, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young resigned from his position. Yet the South Korean response probably could not have been increased significantly without risking a wider conflict.

During the drill, South Korean artillery on Yeonpyeong Island fired in a southward direction, away from the North Korean mainland, and this was not the first time that such drills had been conducted. North Korean forces could have made their point sufficiently by splashing some shells into the sea. Instead, they overreacted in a manner that manifested an inexcusable disregard for human life by targeting the island.

Why the North did so can best be explained by recent developments in relations between the two Koreas. This was, after all, the first artillery duel between the two nations in forty years, so something led to it.

President Lee Myung-bak of the conservative Grand National Party took office in February 2008, vowing to reverse the Sunshine Policy of warming relations with North Korea. The government of Lee’s predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun, had signed several agreements on economic cooperation with North Korea, including joint mining operations in the North. Lee killed every one these agreements, ensuring that they would never be implemented. The railroad leading from the South to the North, which had just been reconnected under former President Roh, is now closed for good. That project had promised to benefit both Koreas, providing the South with a cheaper and more convenient route for shipping goods to China and Russia, and giving the North added income through user fees. South Korean tourist operations at Mt. Kumgang in the North are closed. Reunions of family members separated by the border have stopped. The only remaining remnant of the Sunshine Policy is the presence of South Korean firms operating at an industrial park in Kaesong, North Korea, and its days are probably numbered.

Then there was the incident in which the South Korean corvette Cheonan was sunk, in May of this year. In a stacked investigation, South Korea concluded that a North Korean submarine had targeted the vessel with a torpedo. The evidence, however, does not fully back that assertion and a Russian team’s investigation determined that an accidental encounter with a sea mine was a more likely cause. (5) North Korea’s repeated requests to participate in an investigation, or to at least view the evidence, were consistently rebuffed. Instead the Lee Administration utilized the incident to further sour relations between the two Koreas.

Perhaps most significantly, when Roh Moo-hyun was president of South Korea, emergency communication channels were established between the two Koreas, specifically for the purpose of opening dialogue and limiting or preventing armed conflicts whenever they arose or threatened to do so. On a number of occasions, those communication channels stopped potential conflicts before they either occurred or escalated. Those channels no longer exist, thanks to Lee’s dismantling of agreements with North Korea, and as a result four South Koreans and an unknown number of North Koreans are now dead. (6)

That North Korea would feel threatened is not surprising. Its economy is crippled by the imposition of draconian Western sanctions, and the annual South Korean-U.S. military exercises are intended to intimidate. Furthermore, the rhetoric from Washington has been unremittingly hostile, and now with a more conservative government, so is South Korea’s.

Nor is North Korea unaware of the fact that in February 2003, President Bush told Chinese President Jiang Zemin that if the nuclear issue could not be solved diplomatically, he would “have to consider a military strike against North Korea.” (7) One month later, Bush ordered a fleet into the region, including the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Six F-117 Stealth bombers were sent to South Korea, and nearly 50 fighters and bombers to Guam. The possibility of military action was on the table, Bush told a South Korean official. (8) Due to the efforts of China and South Korea’s progressive president at the time, Bush chose dialogue, albeit offset to a large degree by his imposition of further sanctions against North Korea. It has also certainly not gone unnoticed by North Korea that any halting diplomatic efforts have ceased altogether once President Obama took office. And with the pronounced deterioration in relations set in motion by President Lee Myung-bak, his administration has made it clear that he has no interest in diplomacy either.

Following the clash over Yeonpyeong, China called for dialogue and a reduction of tensions, sending envoys to both South and North Korea. It proposed that the six nations that had at one time participated in denuclearization talks, South and North Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia, meet for emergency discussions “to exchange views on major issues of concern to the parties at present.” The meetings would not be a resumption of talks on denuclearization, although China hoped that “they will create conditions for their resumption.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei stated, “The starting point for China proposing emergency consultations is to ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and provide a platform of engagement and dialogue.” (9)

The Chinese proposal should have been welcomed as the only sensible approach to the problem. But officials of the Obama Administration condemned China for being “irresponsible” by putting forth such a proposal. Instead, they urged China to get on board with the program of pressuring North Korea and further escalating tensions and the risk of war. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs snottily dismissed the proposal by saying that the U.S. and other nations “are not interested in stabilizing the region through a series of P.R. activities.” (10)

South Korea, too, rejected China’s proposal. The U.S., South Korea, and Japan willfully misrepresented China’s proposal as merely being a call for a resumption of the six-party talks on denuclearization. Domestic audiences were not hearing that the proposal’s purpose was to prevent further conflict. Instead, Japan said that talks would be “impossible” under the circumstances, while a South Korean official said that President Lee “made it clear that now is not the time for discussing” six-party talks. (11) Indeed. Not when one’s goal is to further inflame the situation. To further that objective, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting with the foreign secretaries of South Korea and Japan to map out a common program in dealing with North Korea. (12) It goes without saying that dialogue with North Korea will not be part of that program.

President Lee has promised to take a much harder line on North Korea, and already the South has sent 400,000 propaganda leaflets across the border on balloons. (13) There has also been talk of resuming loudspeaker broadcasts across the border. The sending of leaflets was in violation of a 2004 agreement between the two sides to halt propaganda campaigns aimed at each other.

By the end of December, South Korea plans to hold another round of artillery drills on islands lying in disputed waters, including, dismayingly enough, Yeonpyeong Island. Nothing could be calculated to be more provoking under the circumstances. In preparation for the response to the drills that are expected from North Korea, island defenses are being beefed up. South Korea has added multiple rocket launchers, howitzers, missile systems and advanced precision-guided artillery to the Yeonpyeong arsenal. (14)

According to a South Korean official, “We decided to stage the same kind of fire drill as the one we carried out on the island on November 23 to display our determination.” (15)

The new drills appear calculated to provoke a conflict, and this time South Korea is intent on an asymmetrical response. The military is revising its rules of engagement so as to jettison concerns about starting a wider conflict. If former Defense Minister Kim Tae-young is to believed, if there is another North Korean strike, then warships and fighter jets of both South Korea and the U.S. will launch attacks on the North. (16)

Incoming Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin is if anything even more determined to fan the flames of conflict into a wider conflagration. The South Korean military will immediately launch “psychological warfare,” including, presumably, loudspeaker broadcasts across the border. The North has promised to target loudspeakers if they are put in operation,  and that would in turn provide the pretext for the South Korean military to launch combat operations. If there is another exchange of fire with the North, Kim announced, “We will definitely air raid North Korea.” All combat forces available would be mobilized, he promised.  The newly minted rules of engagement are also going to permit “preemptive” strikes on North Korea based on the presumption of a possible attack. In other words, if North Korea fails to provide a pretext for military action, the Lee Administration can attack the North without provocation, if it chooses to do so. (17)

Lee Myung-bak has already achieved his dream of demolishing the Sunshine Policy. Relations between the two Koreas are at their lowest point since the end of military dictatorship in South Korea. Now he aims to deliberately trigger armed conflict in order to demonstrate “toughness,” and not incidentally, drive the final nail into the coffin of the Sunshine Policy. Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin feels that the risk of war is low. “It will be difficult for North Korea to conduct a full-scale war because there are some elements of insecurity in the country, such as the national economy and power transfer.” (18) Those may be arguments against North Korea’s ability to successfully sustain a long-term war over the course of a year or two, but it seriously misreads the ability and will of the North Korean military to put up a determined fight. The extent of possible South Korean air strikes on the North is not clear, but anything other than an extremely limited and localized action is likely to trigger total war. And that is a war that the U.S. will inevitably be drawn into. Even presuming a quick defeat of the North (which would be unlikely), eighty percent of North Korea is mountainous, providing ideal terrain for North Korean forces to conduct guerrilla warfare. The U.S. could find itself involved in another failing military occupation. With both sides heavily armed, the consequences could be much worse for Koreans, and casualties could reach alarming totals. Four million Koreans died in the Korean War. Even one percent of that total in a new war would be unconscionable, and Lee Myung-bak is deluded if he believes he can ride the tiger of armed conflict and remain in control of the path it takes.

Notes

(1)  For a map of the Northern Limit Line and Yeonpyeong’s placement, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_the_shelling_of_Yeonpyeong.svg The blue line identifies the Northern Limit Line recognized by South Korea and the U.S., and the red line, the border as recognized by North Korea. Yeonpyeong Island is marked #1 on the map.

(2) “Panmunjom Mission of KPA Sends Notice to U.S. Forces Side,” KCNA (Pyongyang), November 25, 2010.

(3) “Military Under Fire for Response to N. Korean Attack,” Chosun Ilbo (Seoul), November 25, 2010.

(4) “Military Suggests Counterfire Caused ‘Many Casualties’ in N. Korea,” Yonhap (Seoul), December 2, 2010. Jung Sung-ki, “Satellite Image Shows Damages in NK Artillery Site,” Korea Times (Seoul), December 2, 2010.

(5)  http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20367

(6)  “Containment After N.Korea’s Unacceptable Provocation,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), November 24, 2010.

(7)  Hwang Doo-hyong, “Bush Expresses Frustration at China’s Reluctance to Dissuade N. Korea from Going Nuclear: Memoir,” Yonhap (Seoul), November 10, 2010.

(8) “Bush Admits He Considered a Military Strike Against North Korea,” Korean Broadcasting System (Seoul), March 18, 2004. ”Carl Vinson Strike Group CVN-70 ‘Gold Eagle’,” www.globalsecurity.org  Will Dunham, “U.S. Military Operations for N.Korea Fraught with Peril,” Reuters, April 25, 2003.

(9) Kim Young-gyo, “China Calls for Emergency Talks on N. Korean Nukes,” Yonhap (Seoul), November 28, 2010. ”China Calls for Resumption of Dialogue, Negotiations for Korean Peninsula Situation,” Xinhua (Beijing), November 30, 2010. ”Chinese FM Talks with DPRK, ROK, U.S. Diplomats on Korean Peninsular Situation,” Xinhua (Beijing), November 26, 2010.

(10) Helene Cooper and Sharon LaFraniere, “U.S. and South Korea Balk at Talks with North,” New York Times, November 30, 2010.

(11)  Hwang Joon bum and Park Min-hee, “Lee Administration Rejects Six-Party Talks Proposal,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), November 29, 2010. Tania Branigan, “US Rejects Talks with North Korea,” The Guardian (London), November 30, 2010.

(12) “Kim, Clinton Agree to Reject China’s Proposal for Talks on N. Korea,” Yonahp (Seoul), December 1, 2010.

(13) “S. Korea Sent Propaganda Leaflets to N. Korea After Artillery Attack,” Yonhap (Seoul), November 26, 2010.

(14) Jung Sung-ki, “Seoul Plans Live-Fire Drill Next Week,” Korea Times (Seoul), December 1, 2010. ”New Defence Minister to Decide When to Stage Firing Drills in Yellow Sea,” Yonhap (Seoul), December 3, 2010. ”Tension Mounts as Firing Drill Planned,” JoongAng Ilbo (Seoul), December 2, 2010.

(15) “S. Korea to Stage Fresh Firing Drill on Yeonpyeong Island,” Chosun Ilbo (Seoul), November 30, 2010.

(16) Jung Sung-ki, “Seoul Vows Naval, Air Strikes on NK,” Korea Times (Seoul), November 29, 2010.

(17)  “Defense Minister Nominee Vows Air Strikes if Attacked by N. Korea,” Yonhap (Seoul), December 3, 2010. Kim Kwang-tae, “SKorea Defense Nominee Vows Airstrikes on North,” Associated Press, December 2, 2010. Song Sang-ho, “Kim Warns Air Strike on North Korea,” Korea Herald (Seoul), December 3, 2010. Na Jeong-ju, “Defense Chief-Nominee Vows Air Strikes if Attacked,” Korea Times (Seoul), December 3, 2010. Mark McDonald, “South Korean Outlines Muscular Military Postures,” New York Times, December 3, 2010.

(18)  “Defense Minister Nominee Vows Air Strikes if Attacked by N. Korea,” Yonhap (Seoul), December 3, 2010.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Korea Truth Commission. He is the author of the book Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit.

http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Liberators-Militarism-Mayhem-Pursuit/dp/1595265708

The Beginning of the End of the American Empire

December 4th, 2010 by Tanya Cariina Hsu

The following text is a preview from Global Research Publishers’ recent book on the Global Economic Crisis.  

Scroll down to read an excerpt from Tanya Cariina Hsu`s chapter. 

The Global Economic Crisis


Michel Chossudovsky
Andrew G. Marshall (editors)

The following is a sneak peak of Tanya Cariina Hsu’s chapter in the new book from Global Research, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.” Order now from Global Research.

“I sincerely believe… that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies.”–U.S. President Thomas Jefferson; Letter to John Taylor, May 1816

America is dying. It is self-destructing and bringing the rest of the world down with it.Often referred to as a sub-prime mortgage collapse, this obfuscates the real reason. By associating tangible useless failed mortgages, at least something ‘real’ can be blamed for the carnage. The banking industry renamed insurance betting guarantees as “credit default swaps” and risky gambling wagers were called “derivatives”. Financial managers and banking executives were selling the ultimate con to the entire world, akin to the snake-oil salesmen from the 18th century but this time in suits and ties. And by October 2008, it was a quadrillion-dollar (that’s 1 000 trillion dollar) industry that few could understand.[1] Propped up by false hope, America is now falling like a house of cards.

The Beginning of the End

It all began in the early part of the 20th century. In 1907, J.P. Morgan, a private New York banker, published a rumor that a competing unnamed large bank was about to fail. It was a false charge but customers nonetheless raced to their banks to withdraw their money, in case it was their bank. As they pulled out their funds, the banks lost their cash deposits and were forced to call in their loans. People therefore had to pay back their mortgages to fill the banks with income, going bankrupt in the process. The 1907 panic resulted in a crash that prompted the creation of the Federal Reserve, a private banking cartel with the veneer of an independent government organization. Effectively, it was a coup by elite bankers in order to control the industry.

When signed into law in 1913, the Federal Reserve would loan and supply the nation’s money, but with interest. The more money it was able to print, the more “income” it generated for itself. By its very nature, the Federal Reserve would forever keep producing debt to stay alive. It was able to print America’s monetary supply at will, regulating its value. To control valuation, however, inflation had to be kept in check.

The Federal Reserve then doubled America’s money supply within five years, and in 1920, it called in a mass percentage of loans. Over five thousand banks collapsed overnight. One year later, the Federal Reserve again increased the money supply by 62 percent, but in 1929, it again called the loans back in, en masse.[2] This time, the crash of 1929 caused over sixteen thousand banks to fail and an 89 percent plunge on the stock market.[3] The private and well-protected banks within the Federal Reserve system were able to snap up the failed banks at pennies on the dollar.

The nation fell into the Great Depression and in April 1933, President Roosevelt issued an executive order that confiscated all gold bullion from the public. Those who refused to turn in their gold would be imprisoned for ten years, and by the end of the year the gold standard was abolished.[4] What had been redeemable for gold became paper “legal tender”, and gold could no longer be exchanged for cash as it had once been.

Later, in 1971, President Nixon removed the dollar from the gold standard altogether, therefore no longer trading at the internationally fixed price of 35 dollars. The U.S. dollar was now worth whatever the U.S. decided it was worth because it was “as good as gold”. It had no standard of measure and became the universal currency. Treasury bills (short-term notes) and bonds (long-term notes) replaced gold as value, promissory notes of the U.S. government and paid for by the taxpayer. Additionally, gold could not be traced because it was exempt from currency reporting requirements, unlike the fiduciary (i.e. that based upon trust) monetary systems of the West. That was not in America’s best interest.

After the Great Depression, private banks remained afraid to make home loans, so Roosevelt created Fannie Mae. A state-supported mortgage bank, it provided federal funding to finance home mortgages for affordable housing. In 1968, President Johnson privatized Fannie Mae, and in 1970, Freddie Mac was created to compete with Fannie Mae. Both of them bought mortgages from banks and other lenders and sold them on to new investors.

Flush With Cash

The post World War II boom had created an America flush with cash and assets. With its military industrial complex, war exponentially profited the U.S. and unlike any empire in history, it shot to superpower status. But it failed to remember that historically, whenever empires rose, they also fell in direct proportion.

Americans could afford all the modern conveniences, exporting their manufactured goods all over the world. After the Vietnam War, the U.S. went into an economic decline. But people were loath to give up their elevated standard of living despite the loss of jobs and production was increasingly sent overseas. A sense of delusion and entitlement kept Americans on the treadmill of consumer consumption.

In 1987 the U.S. stock market plunged by 22 percent in one day because of high-risk futures trading, called derivatives, and in 1989 the Savings & Loan crisis resulted in President George H. W. Bush using 142 billion dollars in taxpayer funds to rescue half of the S&Ls.[5] To do so, Freddie Mac was given the task of giving sub-prime (at or near prime-rate) mortgages to low-income families. In 2000, the “irrational exuberance” of the dot-com bubble burst, and fifty percent of high-tech firms went bankrupt, wiping five trillion dollars from their over-inflated market values.[6]

After this crisis, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan kept interest rates so low they were less than the rate of inflation. Anyone saving his or her income actually lost money, and the savings rate soon fell into negative territory.

During the 1990s, advertisers went into overdrive, marketing an ever more luxurious lifestyle, all made available with cheap, easy credit. Second mortgages became commonplace, and home equity loans were used to pay credit card bills. The more Americans bought, the more they fell into debt. But as long as they had a house their false sense of security remained: their home was their equity, it would always go up in value, and they could always remortgage at lower rates if needed. The financial industry also believed that housing prices would forever climb, but should they ever fall the central bank would cut interest rates so that prices would jump back up. It was, everyone believed, a win-win situation.

Greenspan’s rock-bottom interest rates let anyone afford a home. Minimum wage service workers with aspirations to buy a half million dollar house were able to secure one hundred percent loans, the mortgage lenders fully aware that they would not be able to keep up the payments. So many people received these sub-prime loans that the investment houses and lenders came up with a new scheme: bundle these virtually worthless home loans and sell them as solid U.S. investments to unsuspecting countries who would not know the difference. American lives of excess and consumer spending never suffered, and were being propped up by foreign nations none the wiser.

It has always been the case that a bank would lend out more than it actually had, because interest payments generated its income. The more the bank loaned, the more interest it collected even with no money in the vault. It was a lucrative industry of giving away money it never had in the first place. Mortgage banks and investment houses even borrowed money on international money markets to fund these one hundred percent plus sub-prime mortgages, and began lending more than ten times their underlying assets.

Post 9/11 Militarization: Financing the “Global War on Terrorism”

After 9/11, George Bush told the nation to spend, and during a time of war, that’s what the nation did. It borrowed at unprecedented levels so as to pay not only for its war on terror in the Middle East (calculated to cost four trillion dollars) but also pay for tax cuts at the very time it should have increased taxes.[7] Bush removed the reserve requirements in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, from ten percent to 2.5 percent. They were free to not only lend even more at bargain basement interest rates, but they only needed a fraction of reserves. Soon banks lent thirty times asset value. It was, as one economist put it, an “orgy of excess”.[8]

It was flagrant overspending during a time of war. At no time in history has a nation gone into conflict without sacrifice, cutbacks, tax increases, and economic conservation. And there was a growing chance that, just like in 1929, investors would rush to claim their money all at once.

To guarantee, therefore, these high risk mortgages, the same financial houses that sold them then created “insurance policies” against the sub-prime investments they were selling, marketed as Credit Default Swaps (CDS). But the government must regulate insurance policies, so by calling them CDS they remained totally unregulated. Financial institutions were “hedging their bets” and selling premiums to protect the junk assets. In other words, the asset that should go up in value could also have a side-bet, just in case it might go down. By October 2008, CDS were trading at 62 trillion dollars, more than the stock markets of the whole world combined.[9]

These bets had absolutely no value whatsoever and were not investments. They were just financial instruments called derivatives – high stakes gambling, “nothing from nothing” – or as Warren Buffet referred to them, “Weapons of Financial Mass Destruction.”[10] The derivatives trade was “worth” more than one quadrillion dollars, or larger than the economy of the entire world. (In September 2008, the global Gross Domestic Product was sixty trillion dollars).

Challenged as being illegal in the 1990s, Greenspan legalized the derivatives practice. Soon hedge funds became an entire industry, betting on the derivatives market and gambling as much as they wanted. It was easy because it was money they did not have in the first place. The industry had all the appearances of banks, but the hedge funds, equity funds, and derivatives brokers had no access to government loans in the event of a default. If the owners defaulted, the hedge funds had no money to pay “from nothing”. Those who had hedged on an asset going up or down would not be able to collect on the winnings or losses.

The market had become the largest industry in the world, and all the financial giants were cashing in: Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and AIG. But homeowners, long maxed out on their credit, were now beginning to default on their mortgages. Not only were they paying for their house but also all the debt amassed over the years for car, credit card and student loans, medical payments and home equity loans. They had borrowed to pay for groceries and skyrocketing health insurance premiums to keep up with their bigger houses and cars; they refinanced the debt they had for lower rates that soon ballooned. The average American owed 25 percent of their annual income to credit card debts alone.[11]

In 2008, housing prices began to slide precipitously downwards and mortgages were suddenly losing value. Manufacturing orders were down 4.5 percent by September, inventories began to pile up, unemployment was soaring and average house foreclosures had increased by 121 percent and up to 200 percent in California.[12]

The financial giants had to stop trading these mortgage-backed securities, as now their losses would have to be visibly accounted for. Investors began withdrawing their funds. Bear Stearns, heavily specialized in home loan portfolios, was the first to go in March.

This was only an excerpt from Tanya Cariina Hsu’s chapter. To read the rest, order the book from Global Research.

Global Economic Crisis
The Great Depression of the XXI Century

Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall (Editors)

Montreal, Global Research Publishers. Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), 2010.
ISBN 978-0-9737147-3-9   (416 pages)

The Global Economic Crisis


Michel Chossudovsky
Andrew G. Marshall (editors)

This book takes the reader through the corridors of the Federal Reserve, into the plush corporate boardrooms on Wall Street where far-reaching financial transactions are routinely undertaken. Each of the authors in this timely collection digs beneath the gilded surface to reveal a complex web of deceit and media distortion which serves to conceal the workings of the global economic system and its devastating impacts on people`s lives.

Despite the diversity of viewpoints and perspectives presented within this volume, all of the contributors ultimately come to the same conclusion: humanity is at the crossroads of the most serious economic and social crisis in modern history.

“This important collection offers the reader a most comprehensive analysis of the various facets – especially the financial, social and military ramifications – from an outstanding list of world-class social thinkers.” -Mario Seccareccia, Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa

“From the first page of the preface of The Global Economic Crisis, the reasons for all unravel with compelling clarity. For those asking “why?” this book has the answers.” –Felicity Arbuthnot, award-winning author and journalist based in London.

“Today, the economic meltdown is reconfiguring everything – global society, economy and culture. This book is engineering a revolution by introducing an innovative global theory of economics.” -Michael Carmichael, prominent author, historian and president of the Planetary Movement

“This work is much more than a path-breaking and profound historical analysis of the actors and institutions, it is an affirmation of the authors’ belief that a better world is feasible and that it can be achieved by collective organized actions and faith in the sustainability of a democratic order.” -Frederick Clairmonte, distinguished analyst of the global political economy and author. 

Notes

1. Bank for International Settlements (BIS), Triennial Central Bank Survey of Foreign Exchange and Derivatives Market Activity in 2007 – Final Results, 19 December 2007. Report available at http://www.bis.org/press/p071219.htm. The amounts actually exceeded one quadrillion dollars. According to the BIS report, outstanding derivatives worldwide had reached US $1.144 quadrillion, or US $1,144 trillion. This included Listed Credit Derivatives of $548 trillion, plus Over-The-Counter (OTC) notional (or face value) Derivatives of $596 trillion. The latter was comprised of Interest Rate Derivatives at or near $393+ trillion; Credit Default Swaps at or near $58+ trillion; Foreign Exchange Derivatives at or near $56+ trillion; Commodity Derivatives at or near $9 trillion; Equity Linked Derivatives at about $8.5 trillion; Unallocated Derivatives at about USD 71+ trillion. See also http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/mt/archives/2008/10/the_size_of_der.php.

2. Murray N. Rothbard, America’s Great Depression, Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, 2000, p. 102.

3. Susan B. Carter, Scott Sigmund Gartner, Michael R. Haines, Alan L. Olmstead, Richard Sutch and Gavin Wright (Eds.), Historical Statistics of the United States, p. 235, 263, 1001, 1007.

4. President Franklin D. Roosevelt Executive Order 6102, 5 April 1933, requiring “all gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates” to be delivered to the Federal Reserve Bank by May 1st 1933 under a criminal penalty of a $10,000 fine, ten years’ imprisonment, or both.

5. Dan Beighley, “Historical Perspectives”, Orange County Business Journal, 13-19 October 2008. The FDIC places the total loss to the taxpayer even higher, at $153 billion; Timothy Curry and Lynn Shibut, “The Cost of the Savings and Loan Crisis: Truth and Consequences”, FDIC Banking Review, July 2000.

6. NASDAQ Composite Index March 2000 – October 2002 (peak of 5048 to low of 1108).

7. David M. Herszenhorn, “Estimates of Iraq War Cost Were Not Close to Ballpark”, New York Times, http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/times topics/people/h/david_m_herszenhorn/index.ht ml?inline=nyt-per, 19 March 2008.

8. Speech by Richard W. Fisher to New York University, “Responding to Turbulence”, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 25 September 2008.

9. International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA), Mid-Year 2008 Market Survey.

10. BBC News, “Buffett Warns on Investment ‘Time Bomb’”, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/2817995.stm, 4 March 2003.

11. Ben Woolsey and Matt Schulz, Credit Card Statistics, Industry Facts, Debt Statistics, Creditcards.com, 2008.

12. U.S. Census Bureau, Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories and Orders (M3), 2 July 2009; “Foreclosure Activity Up 14 Percent in Second Quarter: Activity Increases 121 Percent From Q2 2007″, Realty Trends, August 2008, http://www.realtytrac.com/News-Trends/newsletter/2008/August.html; “California Foreclosures Up 200% From Last Year”, PRNewswire-USNewswire, 6 September 2008.

JFK and RFK: The Plots that Killed Them

December 4th, 2010 by Prof James Fetzer

Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated 42 years ago in the midst of his campaign for the U.S. presidency. Largely overshadowed by the death of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, the official account of RFK’s tragic end, allegedly shot down by a lone gunman, like his brother, has received vastly less attention. In both instances, we are looking at staged events that fit into a recurrent pattern in U.S. and world history where innocent individuals (or “patsies”) are baited and framed for cover-up purposes. Professor James H. Fetzer, an expert in the scientific study of assassinations, provides a sketch of how we know what happened to them and why, where RFK’s assassination was in part intended to prevent a reinvestigation into his brother’s death.

Introduction

A persistent myth of American history is that lone assassins were responsible for the deaths of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Francis Kennedy. But four of the Lincoln conspirators were hanged from the same gallows at the same time [1]. On June 5, 1968, after RFK won the Democratic primary in California, he was shot down as he passed through the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. The official account maintains that he was taken out by a lone, demented gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian who had written, “RFK must die!”, over and over in a notebook. Like the lone, demented gunman accused of assassinating his brother, John, both murders were products of conspiracies, where Sirhan Sirhan, like Lee Harvey Oswald, was designated as the patsy.

In spite of their history, most Americans continue to believe that their nation is “an exception” and that, while conspiracies occur elsewhere, including Europe and the Middle East, especially, they do not occur at home. The truth, of course, is that conspiracies are as American as apple pie. All that they require is collaboration between two or more individuals to bring about an illegal end. Most American conspiracies are economic, but many are political, too. Franklin Delano Roosevelt observed long ago that, if something important happened in politics, you could bet it was not by accident. And that is certainly the case regarding the brothers.

The assassinations of RFK and JFK were both conspiracies. Both involved the destruction of evidence. Both involved the fabrication of evidence. Both involved framing their patsies. Both involved complicity by local officials. Both involved planning by the CIA. Both were used to deny the American people of the right to be governed by leaders of their own choosing. My purpose here is to outline how these things are done, because the agencies responsible for these events continue to employ the same techniques, not only of killing their targets but of covering them up. The more we understand how these things are done, the less likely we are to be deceived again.

Some basic facts

RFK:

Robert F. Kennedy shot in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. More bullets were fired in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel than could have come from Sirhan Sirhan’s gun. RFK was shot behind the right ear from about 1.5 inches, but Sirhan was never that close and always in front of him. The coroner’s report did not support the Los Angeles’ Police Department’s assassination scenario. The Los Angeles Police Department engaged in massive destruction of evidence from the pantry of the hotel because “it would not fit into a card file”.

JFK:

JFK at Bethesda Hospital. The throat wound had changed from Parkland Hospital, where it was a small, clean puncture wound of entry with a straight-line incision. November 22, 1963. The weapon Oswald is alleged to have used cannot have fired the bullets that killed JFK. The “magic bullet” theory is provably untrue and was not even anatomically possible. JFK was hit four times – in the throat from in front, in the back from behind and in the head from in front and behind X—rays were altered, a brain was substituted, and photos and films were faked to conceal the true causes of his death.

The assassination of RFK completed the decapitation of the left wing in the United States, which had begun with the termination of JFK’s presidency but continued with the gunning down of Malcolm X, who was the most progressive voice on the far left. With the deaths of Martin Luther King (April 4, 1968) and Robert F. Kennedy, the country shifted strongly to the right, in part from the despair induced by the loss of inspiring leaders.

The conditions required for movements capable of historic changes include intelligent, charismatic, and inspirational leaders, of whom there are very few like these. While the execution of Czar Nicholas II and his family in Russia and of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in France meant there was “no turning back”, removing liberal leaders cements the status quo with its distribution of wealth and power.

RFK: The Ambassador Hotel

Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was convicted and sentenced to the gas chamber on May 21, 1969. In 1972, his sentence was commuted to life in prison. Years later, a forensic investigation concluded that Sirhan Sirhan was not the lone shooter.The weapon removed from Sirhan Sirhan was a .22 caliber, eight-round revolver, with serial number H-53725 [2]. Sirhan emptied his weapon from a location in front of Bobby Kennedy. The autopsy performed by Dr. Thomas Noguchi, however, showed RFK was hit by four bullets, all of which were fired from behind at upward angles. And five others were wounded by separate shots [3].

Bullets were removed from holes in the walls and ceiling of the pantry. Since there were as many as thirteen shots—some of which even hit the ceiling behind his location—Sirhan could not have fired them all. And with more than one shooter, a conspiracy had to have been involved [4]. Autopsy reports are usually “the best evidence” about a crime of this kind. Dr. Noguchi’s medical report, however, did not agree with the Los Angeles Police report. The evidence did not point to Sirhan as the killer [5]. In particular, the fatal shot entered behind his right ear from about an inch and a half away, but Sirhan had not been closer than several feet in front of RFK.

Although Sirhan cannot have fired the bullets that killed Kennedy, his defense attorney, Grant Cooper, did not defend him on the ground that he wasn’t guilty but argued instead for “diminished capacity” [6]. Another witness, DeWayne Wofler, even testified that the bullets fired at RFK had come from an entirely different gun [7].

Thane Eugene Cesar, security guard, a prime suspect in the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy.As it happened, a security guard named Thane Eugene Cesar had a weapon with the same caliber and was right behind RFK when the shooting began. Remarkably, even though he admitted having drawn his gun and many witnesses reporting hearing shots from more than one weapon, no one ever asked to examine his gun [8].

Acoustics expert Van Praag tested an H&R 922 of the kind Cesar had and determined that an H&R 922 had been fired at the same time as Sirhan’s [9]. Further indications of conspiracy extended to a couple, including a woman in a polka dot dress, who rushed away from the scene shouting, “We shot him! We shot him! We shot Kennedy!” [10].

RFK: Evidence of Conspiracy

William Turner and Jonn Christian [11] have produced a powerful case indicting Cesar for the crime. They concluded that Sirhan may have been firing blanks, which they support on the basis of witness testimony that his shots created long, visible flames, which are commonly produced by blanks, to insure that those in his field of fire — who actually killed Kennedy — would not be hit by a stray bullet.

That would mean that none of the bullet holes were made by shots from Sirhan’s gun and, indeed, at least one witness reported seeing yet a third shooter in the pantry, perhaps as a back-up if Cesar failed. And the LAPD was very accommodating in destroying evidence that might have exposed those who shot him.

In fact, there are multiple indications that the CIA was involved. A hypnotist named William Joseph Bryan, was on the radio suggesting the assassin was probably “mind controlled” before Sirhan had been identified as a suspect. Bryan later boasted to several hookers that he worked for the CIA and had hypnotized Sirhan [12].

Sirhan’s defense attorney, moreover, had just finished representing the CIA’s contact with organized crime, Johnny Roselli, which may have been why he was so accommodating with respect to his client’s guilt [13]. One way to insure a patsy will be convicted is to have your own man represent him.

Cesar himself had worked at Lockheed and Hughes Aircraft, both of which have extensive connections with the agency [14]. And even more strikingly, three prominent CIA officials—George Joannides, David Sanchez Morales, and Gordon Campbell—have been identified as present at the Ambassador.

Bradley Ayers, an Army captain assigned to the CIA at JM/Wave in Miami from May 1962 to December 1964, had met all three and identified them in film footage from the Ambassador [15]. Gordon Campbell had even been Ayer’s case officer while he was working for the agency.

CIA operative David Sánchez Morales, who is suspected of having participated in the murder of both brothers.Wayne Smith, who served as an ambassador with the Department of of State from 1957-1982 with JFK’s Latin American Task Force, also knew Morales [16]. When he viewed the same footage as Ayers, he immediately recognized Morales. As he later told Shane O’Sullivan, “Bobby Kennedy is assassinated [and] David Morales is there? The two things have to be related” [17].

RFK: The Cover-Up

Ayers and Smith both confirmed the person in the film as Morales [18]. They were both emphatic. Ayers noticed his body language (his way of moving). James Richards, an expert on the CIA, provided me with a photo of Morales, who looks exactly like the Morales-look-alike at the Ambassador. I don’t even think it’s a difficult call [19] [20].

The George Joannides figure seems to be wearing a wig. Richards also sent me a photo of Joannides, which makes it obvious why he would have been wearing one: the man was virtually bald! While it has been claimed that Cambell died on September 19, 1962, he was Ayers’ case officer from 1963-1964. Faking a death certificate would be far easier for the CIA than having an impostor working with Ayers.

The LAPD was not subtle in the destruction of evidence related to the crime. It destroyed the ceiling panels and door frames from the pantry on the ground they were “too large to fit into a card file” and burned some 2,400 photographs, including those taken by 15-year old Scott Enyart, who was standing on a table and took three roles of film [21].

When the department created a Special Unit Senator (SUS) to look into the case, it chose two officers who had ties to the CIA. They badgered witnesses who did not support the official line. One, Manuel Pena, had worked in Special Ops for the CIA. He was responsible for approving SUS interviews [22].

The Shadow of Dallas

David Sanchez Morales also appears to have been involved in the assassination of his brother, John, on November 22, 1963. He said to friends while drinking heavily that he had been in Dallas (“We took care of that son-of-a-bitch!”) and in Los Angeles (where “We got the little bastard!”) [23].

His involvement was confirmed by E. Howard Hunt, who told his son, St. John, that those who were responsible for the assassination of the 35th president included LBJ and CIA officials Cord Meyer, David Atlee Philips, William Harvey, and Morales [24]. Others who knew Lyndon well have also implicated him [25] [26]. And high-level involvement by the government has been confirmed by multiple lines of investigation.

There are more than 15 indications of Secret Service complicity in setting JFK up for the hit [27]. Two agents assigned to the limousine were left behind at Love Field. The flat-bed truck for reporters to that should have preceded the limo was cancelled. The motorcycle escort was cut down to four and was instructed not to ride ahead of the rear wheels. Open windows were not covered, the manhole covers not welded, and the crowd was allowed to spill into the street.

Dubbed as the “Moorman Polaroid”, the picture captures the moment when President Kennedy was shot.Most strikingly, the vehicles were in the wrong order, with the Lincoln first, when it should have been in the middle. This was such a blatant violation of protocol that any security expert could have detected it, which is undoubtedly why, when the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) asked for the Presidential Protection Records for other JFK motor-cades, the agency, instead of providing them, destroyed them [28].

The route was changed just days before the event and included a turn of more than 90°, in violation of Secret Service protocol. After bullets began to be fired, the driver, William Greer, pulled the limo to the left and to a halt [29]. At Parkland Hospital, agents got a bucket of water and a sponge and washed brains and blood from the crime scene [30].

The limousine was taken back to Ford and on Monday, November 25, the day of the formal state funeral, it was stripped to bare metal and rebuilt, including replacing the windshield, which had a through-and-through bullet hole, which spectators had noticed at Parkland and the Ford official responsible for its replacement confirmed, where the Secret Service would later produce yet a third windshield which had only interior cracks [31].

JFK: The “Magic Bullet”

Two wounds were widely reported on radio and television that day, a wound to the throat and a massive wound at the back of the cranium, which was caused by a shot that entered his right temple [32]. Both wounds were observed by many experienced physicians at Parkland Hospital. Charles Crenshaw, M.D., who closed JFK’s eyes before he was placed into the bronze ceremonial casket, sent me drawings of the wound to the throat and of the exit wound to the head [33].

Malcolm Perry, M.D., who had made the incision, described the throat wound as a “wound of entry” three times during the Parkland press conference, which began at 2:16 PM [34]. The Warren Commission would cope with these problems by simply reversing the trajectories, turning the throat wound into a wound of exit, where the damage to the cranium was altered to make it look more like the effect of a bullet fired from above and behind [35].

The greatest problem arose from the discovery that, of the three shots it claimed to have been fired, one had missed and injured a bystander named James Tague. The FBI and Secret Service had concluded that each of the alleged shots had hit: that JFK had been hit in the back, that Texas Governor John Connally had been hit in the back, and that JFK had been hit in the head, which killed him.

Since one shot had missed, the commission now had to create an alternative explanation, claiming the bullet that hit JFK in the back had passed through his neck and exited from his throat, then entered the back of Connally, shattering a rib, existing his chest, damaging his right wrist and finally embedding itself in his left thigh, a most unlikely scenario that is known as the “magic bullet” theory [36].

To make the “magic bullet” theory remotely plausible, Gerald Ford (R-MI), a member of the commission, had the description of the wound to the back changed from “his uppermost back”, which was already an exaggeration, to “the back of his neck”, which would not become known to the public until the first releases from the ARRB [37].

Even The Warren Report (1964) located the hole in the jacket 5 3/8” below the collar and 1 1/8” to the right of its center seam and the hole in the shirt was 5 ¾” below the collar and 1 1/8” right of its center seam [38] — a location that corresponds to an autopsy sketch, an FBI sketch, the death certificate by the president’s personal physician and even reenactment photographs by the commission’s own staff.

JFK: The Cover-Up

A downward bullet at this location means that the throat wound and Connally’s had been caused by other shots and other shooters [39]. Michael Baden, M.D., who chaired the medical panel for the the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), when it reinvestigated the crime in 1977-78, said, on the 40th observance of the assassination, that if the “magic bullet” theory were false, then there had to have been at least six shots from three directions [40].

It is not only false and provably false but turns out to be anatomically impossible, since cervical vertebrae intervene [41]. David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., has shown JFK was hit four times—in the throat from in front, in the back from behind, and twice in the head both from in front and behind [42]. Connally was hit at least once from the side — as he was turning to the left — and at least one shot had missed. So Baden was right for the wrong reasons.

Mantik, moreover, studied the autopsy X-rays using the method of optical densitometry to determine the relative density of the objects whose exposure to X-rays had created the images [43]. He found an area at the back of the head that had been “patched” using material that was too dense to be human bone and that a 6.5mm metallic slice had been added to other X-rays in an apparent effort to connect the shooting with an obscure Italian weapon Lee Oswald was alleged to have used.

Lee Harvey Oswald framed for the assassination of JFK, where this photo was part of the operation. See Jim Fetzer and Jim Marrs, “The Dartmouth JFK-Photo Fiasco” (google).Ironically, while the death certificates and the autopsy report state that JFK was killed by high-velocity bullets, the Mannlicher-Carcano only has a muzzle velocity of 2,000 fps [44]. Since high velocities are above 2,600 fps, the Mannlicher-Carcano does not qualify [45]. So the weapon that Oswald is alleged to have used cannot have fired the bullets that killed JFK.

JFK: The Controversy Endures

Even if the weapon had been far better, such as the M-1 on which he had been trained, the shots themselves were highly improbable. The interactive internet game, “JFK: Reloaded”, which used a superior weapon with a properly aligned sight, a smooth trigger action, and no recoil and allowed endless practice sessions before attempting to hit the target, was won by a shooter who scored only a .782 out of 1.000, so he only scored a “C+” in attempting to replicate the shots [46].

That the simple expedient of locating where the bullet hit JFK’s back is enough to establish the existence of a conspiracy has not inhibited those who want to obfuscate the facts. A controversy over neutron activation analysis persisted for years, as if discovering that bullet fragments found in the car had come from the same lot as those used by the alleged “assassination weapon” would show either the location from which they were fired or the identity of who had fired them [47].

One pseudo-documentary after another continues to be broadcast over the major networks based upon a film whose revision makes it impossible to reconstruct what actually happened in a determined effort to persuade the public that JFK was killed by a lone, demented gunman, even though the authentic evidence, once separated from the fabricated, refutes it [48], [49], [50] and [51]. The demise of the “magic bullet” alone establishes conspiracy.

What it means

Creating a false photographic record of the assassination was crucial to the cover-up. Had JFK been killed in a non-public setting, no one would have believed he had not been taken out by a conspiracy. As much thought was given to concealing the truth from the public as was given to executing the assassination itself. By removing some events and adding others, the home movie known as the Zapruder film became the backbone of the cover-up [52]. As long as it was taken to be authentic, it would be impossible to reconstruct the crime.

Among the most important reasons for recreating the film—which was done using original footage and sophisticated techniques of optical printing and of special effects—was removing the limo stop, which was such an obvious indication of Secret Service complicity. There were conflicts with the film from the beginning [53]. Today, evidence of fabrication is simply overwhelming [54], [55] and [56].

These discoveries have considerable impact on alternative theories of the assassination. The Mafia, which no doubt put up some of the shooters, could not have extended its reach into the Bethesda Naval Hospital to alter X-rays under the control of medical officers of the US Navy, Secret Service agents, and the president’s personal physician.

Neither pro- nor anti-Castro Cubans could have substituted the brain of someone else for that of JFK. And even if the KGB had an ability to alter films equal to that of the CIA and Hollywood, it had no way to gain access to the Zapruder film. Nor could these things have been done by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was incarcerated or already dead.

Political implications

As Martin Shotz has observed, the purpose of the disinformation operation in the death of JFK is not really to convince the public of the official account but to create enough uncertainty that everything is believable and nothing is knowable [57]. The reasons are not difficult to discern for those who understand why he was taken out. He had evolved in office from a traditional cold warrior into a statesman for peace, which threatened the status quo.

JFK was threatening to cut the oil depletion allowance, which the Texas men regarded as their divine right. He had not invaded Cuba against the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Chiefs. He had signed an above ground test ban treaty with the Soviets against their unanimous opposition. And he was initiating the removal of American forces from Vietnam, where the chiefs believed that a stand had to be taken against the expansion of communism.

Bobby, JFK’s Attorney General, was aggressively cracking down on organized crime. Jack was going to reform or abolish the Federal Reserve Bank (Fed) and, perhaps most of all, he was going to shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces. Lyndon wanted to be president of all the people and J. Edgar Hoover wanted to stay on as Director of the FBI. No one could have explained all of this as well as has James Douglass [58].

The policies he represented would have brought about significant change in the distribution of wealth and power, which they were unwilling to accept [59]. Once committed to the crime, they were intent that no one should ever pay for it, lest the public learn the truth about the institutions of their own government. When Bobby allowed that he was going to use the powers of the presidency to uncover the truth about his brother [60], it sealed his fate. And the lies continue.

James Fetzer is McKnight Professor Emeritus in the philosophy of science at the University of Minnesota Duluth; he taught logic, critical thinking and scientific reasoning for 35 years; founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth. In addition to other activities, James H. Fetzer is also the editor of assassinationscience.com and the co-editor of assassinationresearch.com. He has a blog at jamesfetzer.blogspot.com and his academic web site is found at  http://www.d.umn.edu/jfetzer/    

Federal Reserve made $9 trillion in short-term loans to only 18 financial institutions. Since 2000 the US dollar has fallen by 33 percent. The hidden cost of the bailouts.

The Federal Reserve released a stunning report showing the details of bailouts that occurred during the peak of the credit crisis.  They won’t call it “bailouts” but giving money when others won’t is exactly that.  What the report shows is that the Fed operated as a global pawnshop taking in practically anything the banks had for collateral.  What is even more disturbing is that the Federal Reserve did not enact any punitive charges to these borrowers so you had banks like Goldman Sachs utilizing the crisis to siphon off cheap collateral.  The Fed is quick to point out that “taxpayers were fully protected” but mention little of the destruction they have caused to the US dollar.  This is a hidden cost to Americans and it also didn’t help that they were the fuel that set off the biggest global housing bubble ever witnessed by humanity.  A total of $9 trillion in short-term loans were made to 18 financial institutions.  Still think the banking bailout didn’t happen or cost us nothing?  Let us first look at the explosion of assets on the Fed balance sheet.

The Fed is still carrying longer term debt on its books that shouldn’t be there:

federal reserve assets

The Fed typically would carry under $900 billion in high quality government Treasuries on its balance sheet.  But today it is carrying roughly $2.4 trillion in “assets” and the biggest part of this is made up of questionable mortgages:

federal reserve balance sheet

Over $1 trillion of mortgage backed securities sit on the Fed balance sheet and QE2 is only starting. 

Other tens of billions of dollars are sitting in the balance sheet as well that include failed commercial real estate projects and defunct shopping centers around the country. Of course the Fed would like to give the appearance that all is well but no one makes $9 trillion in short-term loans without undergoing serious problems.  And doesn’t it bother the public that an institution that represents our banking system essentially bailed out the world at the expense of US taxpayers (without asking by the way) and now taxpayers are having to deal with a toxic banking system and a jobs market that is hammered into the ground?

This concern was raised:

“(NY Times) But Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont, who wrote a provision in the law requiring the disclosures by Dec. 1, reached a different conclusion.

“After years of stonewalling by the Fed, the American people are finally learning the incredible and jaw-dropping details of the Fed’s multitrillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and corporate America,” he said. “Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations.”

Senator Sanders is absolutely right.  Did you also know that billions of dollars went to foreign central banks as well?  We all know the issues going on with the European Zone today but the Fed never mentioned this during the bailout frenzy.  Don’t be fooled when the Fed says there is no cost associated.  26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed and 44 million Americans are on food assistance.  The US dollar has done the following in the last decade:

us dollar index

Yet this is the response:

“In a statement accompanying the disclosure, the Fed said it had fully protected taxpayers. “The Federal Reserve followed sound risk-management practices in administering all of these programs, incurred no credit losses on programs that have been wound down, and expects to incur no credit losses on the few remaining programs,” it said.”

Sound risk-management?  The entire purpose is to destroy the currency in a slow methodical process and inflate away the debt.  Yet there is a cost to this born by the many for the few.  Over the last decade it has meant the depreciation of the dollar by 33 percent.  That is a real cost.  It might not be a big deal if you hold money in foreign countries but most Americans only have a paycheck that is issued in US dollars.  The actual amount of Fed loans is simply jaw dropping:

“At home, from March 2008 to May 2009, the Fed extended a cumulative total of nearly $9 trillion in short-term loans to 18 financial institutions under a credit program.

Previously, the Fed had only revealed that four financial firms had tapped the special lending program, and did not reveal their identities or the loan amounts.

The data appeared to confirm that Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley were under severe strain after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. All three tapped the program on more than 100 occasions.”

Keep in mind that unemployment insurance will cost roughly $4 billion per month and most of this money will go back into the economy.  Congress is stalling on this yet the media is completely silent on the $9 trillion in Federal Reserve loans?  This should be the headline story over and over until people realize how big the bailout was (and how this false dichotomy is being used as propaganda in the media as if $4 billion a month is going to bankrupt the system).  The banking elites just want to shift the blame to “poor” people while ignoring the elephant in the room which are the trillions of dollars in Fed loans.

Everyone got in the game:

“Big institutional investors, like Pimco, T. Rowe Price and BlackRock, borrowed from the TALF program. So did the California Public Employees Retirement System, the nation’s largest public pension fund, and several insurers and university endowments.”

biggest issuers of debt federal reserve bought

Source:  New York Times

Every big player got into this and you will recall the rhetoric that it was for small businesses and the American consumer.  None of that happened.  Banks are still sitting on incredibly large excess reserves:

excess reserves

The Fed is operating without any checks and balances from Congress and another trillion dollar exposure has come out with the mainstream media channels like ABC, CBS, and NBC all remaining silent.  Can’t interrupt Wheel of Fortune right?

The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, answers readers’ questions about the release of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables

Fwoggie

I’ll start the ball rolling with a question. You’re an Australian passport holder – would you want return to your own country or is this now out of the question due to potentially being arrested on arrival for releasing cables relating to Australian diplomats and polices?

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Julian Assange:
I am an Australian citizen and I miss my country a great deal. However, during the last weeks the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, and the attorney general, Robert McClelland, have made it clear that not only is my return is impossible but that they are actively working to assist the United States government in its attacks on myself and our people. This brings into question what does it mean to be an Australian citizen – does that mean anything at all? Or are we all to be treated like David Hicks at the first possible opportunity merely so that Australian politicians and diplomats can be invited to the best US embassy cocktail parties.

girish89
How do you think you have changed world affairs?

And if you call all the attention you’ve been given-credit … shouldn’t the mole or source receive a word of praise from you?

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Julian Assange:
For the past four years one of our goals has been to lionise the source who take the real risks in nearly every journalistic disclosure and without whose efforts, journalists would be nothing. If indeed it is the case, as alleged by the Pentagon, that the young soldier – Bradley Manning – is behind some of our recent disclosures, then he is without doubt an unparalleled hero.

Daithi
Have you released, or will you release, cables (either in the last few days or with the Afghan and Iraq war logs) with the names of Afghan informants or anything else like so?

Are you willing to censor (sorry for using the term) any names that you feel might land people in danger from reprisals??

By the way, I think history will absolve you. Well done!!!

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Julian Assange:
WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time there has been no credible allegation, even by organisations like the Pentagon that even a single person has come to harm as a result of our activities. This is despite much-attempted manipulation and spin trying to lead people to a counter-factual conclusion. We do not expect any change in this regard.

distrot

The State Dept is mulling over the issue of whether you are a journalist or not. Are you a journalist? As far as delivering information that someone [anyone] does not want seen is concerned, does it matter if you are a ‘journalist’ or not?

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Julian Assange:
I coauthored my first nonfiction book by the time I was 25. I have been involved in nonfiction documentaries, newspapers, TV and internet since that time. However, it is not necessary to debate whether I am a journalist, or how our people mysteriously are alleged to cease to be journalists when they start writing for our organisaiton. Although I still write, research and investigate my role is primarily that of a publisher and editor-in-chief who organises and directs other journalists.

achanth

Mr Assange, have there ever been documents forwarded to you which deal with the topic of UFOs or extraterrestrials?

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Julian Assange:
Many weirdos email us about UFOs or how they discovered that they were the anti-christ whilst talking with their ex-wife at a garden party over a pot-plant. However, as yet they have not satisfied two of our publishing rules.
1) that the documents not be self-authored;
2) that they be original.
However, it is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs.

gnosticheresy

What happened to all the other documents that were on Wikileaks prior to these series of “megaleaks”? Will you put them back online at some stage (“technical difficulties” permitting)?

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Julian Assange:
Many of these are still available at mirror.wikileaks.info and the rest will be returning as soon as we can find a moment to do address the engineering complexities. Since April of this year our timetable has not been our own, rather it has been one that has centred on the moves of abusive elements of the United States government against us. But rest assured I am deeply unhappy that the three-and-a-half years of my work and others is not easily available or searchable by the general public.

CrisShutlar

Have you expected this level of impact all over the world? Do you fear for your security?

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Julian Assange:
I always believed that WikiLeaks as a concept would perform a global role and to some degree it was clear that is was doing that as far back as 2007 when it changed the result of the Kenyan general election. I thought it would take two years instead of four to be recognised by others as having this important role, so we are still a little behind schedule and have much more work to do. The threats against our lives are a matter of public record, however, we are taking the appropriate precautions to the degree that we are able when dealing with a super power.

JAnthony

Julian. I am a former British diplomat. In the course of my former duties I helped to coordinate multilateral action against a brutal regime in the Balkans, impose sanctions on a renegade state threatening ethnic cleansing, and negotiate a debt relief programme for an impoverished nation. None of this would have been possible without the security and secrecy of diplomatic correspondence, and the protection of that correspondence from publication under the laws of the UK and many other liberal and democratic states. An embassy which cannot securely offer advice or pass messages back to London is an embassy which cannot operate. Diplomacy cannot operate without discretion and the
protection of sources. This applies to the UK and the UN as much as the US.

In publishing this massive volume of correspondence, Wikileaks is not highlighting specific cases of wrongdoing but undermining the entire process of diplomacy. If you can publish US cables then you can publish UK telegrams and UN emails.

My question to you is: why should we not hold you personally responsible when next an international crisis goes unresolved because diplomats cannot function.

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Julian Assange:
If you trim the vast editorial letter to the singular question actually asked, I would be happy to give it my attention.

cargun
Mr Assange,

Can you explain the censorship of identities as XXXXX’s in the revealed cables? Some critical identities are left as is, whereas some are XXXXX’d. Some cables are partially revealed.

Who can make such critical decisons, but the US gov’t? As far as we know your request for such help was rejected by the State department. Also is there an order in the release of cable or are they randomly selected?

Thank you.

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Julian Assange:
The cables we have release correspond to stories released by our main stream media partners and ourselves. They have been redacted by the journalists working on the stories, as these people must know the material well in order to write about it. The redactions are then reviewed by at least one other journalist or editor, and we review samples supplied by the other organisations to make sure the process is working.

rszopa

Annoying as it may be, the DDoS seems to be good publicity (if anything, it adds to your credibility). So is getting kicked out of AWS. Do you agree with this statement? Were you planning for it?

Thank you for doing what you are doing.

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Julian Assange:
Since 2007 we have been deliberately placing some of our servers in jurisdictions that we suspected suffered a free speech deficit inorder to separate rhetoric from reality. Amazon was one of these cases.

abbeherrera

You started something that nobody can stop. The Beginning of a New World. Remember, that community is behind you and support you (from Slovakia).
Do you have leaks on ACTA?

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Julian Assange:
Yes, we have leaks on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a trojan horse trade agreement designed from the very beginning to satisfy big players in the US copyright and patent industries. In fact, it was WikiLeaks that first drew ACTA to the public’s attention – with a leak.

people1st

Tom Flanagan, a [former] senior adviser to Canadian Prime Minister recently stated “I think Assange should be assassinated … I think Obama should put out a contract … I wouldn’t feel unhappy if Assange does disappear.”

How do you feel about this?

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Julian Assange:
It is correct that Mr. Flanagan and the others seriously making these statements should be charged with incitement to commit murder.

Isopod

Julian, why do you think it was necessary to “give Wikileaks a face”? Don’t you think it would be better if the organization was anonymous?

This whole debate has become very personal and reduced on you – “Julian Assange leaked documents”, “Julian Assange is a terrorist”, “Julian Assange alledgedly raped a woman”, “Julian Assange should be assassinated”, “Live Q&A qith Julian Assange” etc. Nobody talks about Wikileaks as an organization anymore. Many people don’t even realize that there are other people behind Wikileaks, too.

And this, in my opinion, makes Wikileaks vulnerable because this enables your opponents to argue ad hominem. If they convince the public that you’re an evil, woman-raping terrorist, then Wikileaks’ credibility will be gone. Also, with due respect for all that you’ve done, I think it’s unfair to all the other brave, hard working people behind Wikileaks, that you get so much credit.

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Julian Assange:
This is an interesting question. I originally tried hard for the organisation to have no face, because I wanted egos to play no part in our activities. This followed the tradition of the French anonymous pure mathematians, who wrote under the collective allonym, “The Bourbaki”. However this quickly led to tremendous distracting curiosity about who and random individuals claiming to represent us. In the end, someone must be responsible to the public and only a leadership that is willing to be publicly courageous can genuinely suggest that sources take risks for the greater good. In that process, I have become the lightening rod. I get undue attacks on every aspect of my life, but then I also get undue credit as some kind of balancing force.

tburgi

Western governments lay claim to moral authority in part from having legal guarantees for a free press.

Threats of legal sanction against Wikileaks and yourself seem to weaken this claim.
(What press needs to be protected except that which is unpopular to the State? If being state-sanctioned is the test for being a media organization, and therefore able to claim rights to press freedom, the situation appears to be the same in authoritarian regimes and the west.)

Do you agree that western governments risk losing moral authority by
attacking Wikileaks?

Do you believe western goverments have any moral authority to begin with?

Thanks,

Tim Burgi
Vancouver, Canada

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Julian Assange:
The west has fiscalised its basic power relationships through a web of contracts, loans, shareholdings, bank holdings and so on. In such an environment it is easy for speech to be “free” because a change in political will rarely leads to any change in these basic instruments. Western speech, as something that rarely has any effect on power, is, like badgers and birds, free. In states like China, there is pervasive censorship, because speech still has power and power is scared of it. We should always look at censorship as an economic signal that reveals the potential power of speech in that jurisdiction. The attacks against us by the US point to a great hope, speech powerful enough to break the fiscal blockade.

rajiv1857
Hi,
Is the game that you are caught up in winnable? Technically, can you keep playing hide and seek with the powers that be when services and service providers are directly or indirectly under government control or vulnerable to pressure – like Amazon?

Also, if you get “taken out” – and that could be technical, not necessarily physical – what are the alternatives for your cache of material?

Is there a ‘second line’ of activists in place that would continue the campaign?

Is your material ‘dispersed’ so that taking out one cache would not necessarily mean the end of the game?

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Julian Assange:
The Cable Gate archive has been spread, along with significant material from the US and other countries to over 100,000 people in encrypted form. If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically. Further, the Cable Gate archives is in the hands of multiple news organisations. History will win. The world will be elevated to a better place. Will we survive? That depends on you.

Vietnam: The Last Battle

December 4th, 2010 by John Pilger

Saigon. The rain sheeted down, time washed away. I looked down from the rooftop in Saigon where, more than a generation ago, in the wake of the longest war of modern times, I had watched silent, sullen streets awash. The foreigners were gone, at last. Through the mist, like little phantoms, four children ran into view, their arms outstretched. They circled and weaved and dived; and one of them fell down, feigning death. They were bombers.

This was not unusual, for there is no place like Vietnam. Within my lifetime, Ho Chi Minh’s nationalists had fought and expelled the French, whose tree-lined boulevards, pink-washed villas and scaled-down replica of the Paris Opera, were facades for plunder and cruelty; then the Japanese, with whom the French colons collaborated; then the British who sought to reinstall the French; then the Americans, with whom Ho had repeatedly tried to forge an alliance against China; then Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, who attacked from the west; and finally the Chinese who, with a vengeful nod from Washington, came down from the north. All of them were seen off at immeasurable cost.

I walked down into the rain and followed the children through a labyrinth to the Young Flower School, an orphanage. A teacher hurriedly assembled a small choir and I was greeted with a burst of singing. “What are the words of the song?” I asked Tran, whose father was a GI. He looked gravely at the floor, as nine year olds do, before reciting words that left my interpreter shaking her head. “Planes come no more,” she repeated, “do not weep for those just born … the human being is evergreen.”

The year was 1978. Vietnam was then being punished for seeing off the last American helicopter gunship, the war’s creation, the last B52 with its ladders of bombs silhouetted against the flash of their carnage, the last C-130s that had dumped, the US Senate was told, “a quantity of toxic chemical amounting to six pounds per head of population, destroying much of the ecosystem and causing a fatal catastrophe,” the last of a psychosis that made village after village a murder scene.

And when it was all over on May Day, 1975, Hollywood began its long celebration of the invaders as victims, the standard purgative, while revenge was policy. Vietnam was classified as “Category Z” in Washington, which imposed the draconian Trading with the Enemy Act from the first world war. This ensured that even Oxfam America was barred from sending humanitarian aid. Allies pitched in. One of Margaret Thatcher’s first acts on coming to power in 1979 was to persuade the European Community to halt its regular shipments of food and milk to Vietnamese children. According to the World Health Organization, a third of all infants under five so deteriorated following the milk ban that the majority of them were stunted or likely to be. Almost none of this was news in the west.

Austerity, grief at the millions dead or missing and an incredulity that the war was no more became the rhythms of life in a forgotten country. The “democracy” the Americans had invented and life-supported in the south, which once accounted for half of Amnesty’s worldwide toll of tortured political prisoners, had collapsed almost overnight. The roads out of Saigon became vistas of abandoned boots and uniforms. “When I heard that it was over,” said Thieu Thi Tao Madeleine, “my heart flies.”

Still wearing the black of the National Liberation Front, which the Americans called the Vietcong, she walked with a limp and winced as she smiled. The “Madeleine” was added by her French teachers at the Lycee in Saigon which she and her sister Thieu Thi Tan Danielle had attended in the sixties. Aged 16 and 13, “Mado” and “Dany” were recruited by the NLF to blow up the Saigon regime’s national intelligence headquarters, where torture was conducted under tutelage of the CIA.

On the eve of their mission they were betrayed and seized as they cycled home from school. When Mado refused to hand over NLF names, she was strung upside down and electrocuted, her head held in a bucket of water. They were then “disappeared” to Con Son Island, where they were shackled in “tiger cages”: cells so small they could not stand; quick lime and excreta were thrown on them from above. At the age of 16, Dany etched their defiance on the wall: “Notre bonjour a nos chers at cheres caramades.” The words are still there.

The other day, I returned to Vietnam, whose agony I reported for almost a decade. A poem was waiting in my room in the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon. Typed in English, it was a “heartfelt prayer” for “the stones [of life] getting soft,” and ended with, “I’m still living, struggling … please phone.” It was Mado, though I prefer her Vietnamese name, Tao. We had lost touch; I knew of her work at the Institute if Ecology, her marriage to another NLF soldier and the birth of a son against all the odds of the damage done to her in the tiger cages.

Through the throng of tourists and businessmen in the Caravelle lobby navigated diminutive Dany, now 57. Tao was waiting in a taxi outside. Five years ago, Tao suffered a stroke and lost the use of her voice and much of her body, but these have now returned and although she needs to take your arm, she is really no different from when she told me her heart “flies.” We drove past the sentinels of the new Vietnam, the hotels and apartment blocks under construction, then turned into a lane where wood smoke rose and children peered and frogs leapt in the beam of our headlights.

The walls of Tao’s home are a proud montage of struggle and painful gain: she and Dany at the Lycee Marie Curie; the collected exhortations of Ho; the letters of comrades long gone. It all seemed, at first, like flowers preserved between the pages of a forgotten book. But no: these here the very icons and inspirations of resistance that new generations must recreate all over again, for while battlegrounds change, the enemy does not. “Each time we are invaded,” she said, “we fight them off. At the same time we fight to keep our soul. Isn’t that the lesson of Vietnam and of history?”

I was once told a poignant story by a Frenchman who was in Hanoi during the Christmas 1972 bombing. “I took shelter in the museum of history,” he said, “and there, working by candlelight, with the B52s overhead, were young men and women earnestly trying to copy as many bronzes and sculptures as they could. They told me, ‘Even if the originals are destroyed, something will remain and our roots will be protected’.”

History, not ideology, is a living presence in Vietnam. Here, the experience of history forged a communal ingenuity and patience to the extreme human limits. The NLF leadership in the south was an alliance of Catholics, liberals, Buddhists and communists, and most of those who fought in the northern army were peasant nationalists. With its structures and disciplines, communism was the means by which Vietnam’s protracted wars of independence were fought and won. This is appreciated by Vietnamese today who idly refer to “the communist period” as if the party was no longer in power. What matters here is Vietnam. Visit the museums in Hanoi and it is clear that the word Ho Chi Minh never stopped using was “independence”: “the right you never surrender.” In retirement, President Dwight Eisenhower wrote that had his administration not delayed (sabotaged) the national elections agreed at the United Nations conference on Indochina in Geneva in 1954, “possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for Ho.”

I thought about this on the journey back from Tao’s. More than 20 years of war would not have happened. As many as three million people would have lived. No babies would have been deformed by Agent Orange. No feet would have been blown off by the cluster bombs that were tested here. On the overnight train to Danang, I could tell the bomb craters that joined together, leaving not even Pompeiis of war, except perhaps on a distant rise the gravestones of the anti-aircraft militia. They were often young women like Mado and Dany. In Hanoi, I took a taxi to Kham Thiem Street which I first saw in 1975, laid to waste by B52s which had struck every third house. A block of flats where 283 people died is now a monument of a mother and child. There are fresh flowers; the traffic thunders by.

Sitting in a café with these unnecessary ghosts, I read that Britain’s military chief, General Sir David Richards, had called for NATO”to plan for a 30 or 40 year role” in Afghanistan. NATO is said to spend $50 million for every Taliban guerrilla it kills, and cluster bombs are still a favorite. The general expressed his care for the Afghan people. The French and Americans also said they cared for the “gooks” they killed in industrial quantities.

When I was last in Vietnam 15 years ago, making a film, my only brush with officialdom was the Ministry of Culture’s concern that the footage I had shot at My Lai, where hundreds of mostly women and children were slaughtered, might offend the Americans. In Saigon, the War Crimes Museum has been renamed the War Remnants Museum. Outside, tourists are offered pirated copies of the Lonely Planet guide, with its tendentious devotion to an American sense of “Nam.”

Perhaps the Vietnamese can afford to be generous, but the reason, I think, runs deeper. Since Dai Thang, “the great victory,” the policy has been to end a seemingly endless state of siege. Color and energy have arrived like breaking waves; Hanoi, with its mist-covered lakes and boulevards once pocked with air-raid shelters, is now a gracious, confident, youthful city. There is the kind of freedom that ignores, navigates and circumvents the old Stalinist strictures. The newspapers take officials to task and damn corruption, but then, occasionally, there is the bleakest of headlines: “Alleged agitator to face trial.” Cu Huy Ha Vu, 53, has been charged with “illegal actions against the state.” Such is an ill-defined line you dare not cross.

Bill Clinton came to lunch at my hotel in Hanoi. He runs an AIDS charity that does work in Vietnam. In 1995, as the first modern-era American president to visit Vietnam, he “normalized relations.” That meant Vietnam was allowed to join the World Trade Organization and qualify for World Bank loans provided it embraced the “free market,” destroyed its free public services and paid off the bad debts of the defunct Saigon regime: money which had helped bankroll the American war. The reparations agreed by President Richard Nixon in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords were ignored. Normalization also meant that foreign investors were offered tax-free “economic processing zones” with “competitively priced” (cheap) labor.

The Vietnamese were finally being granted membership of the “international community” as long as they created a society based on inequity and exploited labor, and abandoned the health service that was the envy of the developing world, with its pioneering work in pediatrics and primary care, along with a free education system that produced one of the world’s highest literacy rates. Today, ordinary people pay for health care and schools, and the elite send their children to expensive schools in Hanoi’s “international city” and poach scholarships at American universities.

Whereas farmers in difficulty could once depend on rural credit from the state (interest was unknown), they must now go to private lenders, the usurers who once plagued the peasantry. And the government has welcomed back the Monsanto company and its genetically-modified seeds. Monsanto was one of the manufacturers of Agent Orange, which gave Vietnam its chemical Hiroshima. Last year, the US Supreme Court rejected an appeal by lawyers acting for more than three million Vietnamese deformed by Agent Orange. One of the justices, Clarence Thomas, worked as a corporate lawyer for Monsanto.

In his seminal, Anatomy of a War, the historian Gabriel Kolko says that the party of Ho Chi Minh enjoyed “success as a social movement based largely on its response to peasant desires.” He now says that its surrender to the “free market” is a betrayal. His disillusion is understandable, but the need to internationalize a war-ruined country was desperate, along with building a counterweight to China, the ancient foe. Unlike China, and despite the new Gucci emporiums in the center of Hanoi and Saigon, the Vietnamese have not yet gone all the way with the brutalities of “tiger” or crony capitalism. Since 1985, the rate of malnutrition among children has almost halved. And tens of thousands of those who fled in boats have quietly returned without “a single case of victimization,” according to the EU official who led the assistance program in 1995. In many parts of the country, forests are rising again and the sound of birds and the rustle of wildlife are heard again, thanks to a re-greening program initiated during the war by Professor Vo Quy of Vietnam National University in Hanoi.

For me, keeping at bay the forces that pour trillions into corrupt banks and wars while destroying the means of civilized life is Vietnam’s last great battle. That the party elite respects, perhaps fears, a people who, through the generations, have devoted themselves to throwing off oppressors is evident in the state’s often ambivalent responses to unauthorized strikes against ruthless foreign employers. “Are we in a Gorbachev phase?” said a journalist. “Or maybe the party and the people are watching each other for now. Remember always, Vietnam is different.”

On my last day in Saigon, I walked along Dong Hoi, no longer a street of hustlers and beggars, bar girls and shambling GIs looking for something in the cause of nothing. Then, I would stroll past the Hotel Royale and look up at the corner balcony on the first floor and see a stocky Welshman, his camera resting on his arm. A greeting in Welsh might drift down, or his takeoff of an insane colonel we both knew. Today, the balcony and the Royale are gone, and Philip Jones Griffiths died two years ago. He was perhaps the most gifted and humane photographer of any war. Single-handed, he tried to stop a “search and destroy” operation that would kill a huddled group of women and children, eliciting from an American artillery offer the memorable response: “What civilians?” One of his finest photographs is a Goya-like picture of a captured NLF soldier, terribly wounded and surrounded by the large boots of his captors, yet undefeated in his humanity. Such is Vietnam.

www.johnpilger.com

The price of commodities, particularly food and petroleum products, will be higher in the coming year, which will strain budgets more than ever for those who still have jobs. Unemployment will not get appreciably better and government debt will rise. Government is talking about raising the Social Security retirement age by three years, freezing payments and offering government guaranteed annuities in exchange for those of you that do have retirement plans. Two-thirds of those in and about to retire have only Social Security for 50% of their income. The money collected since 1935 is all gone, having been spent by past politicians. In fact, if you put all present and future commitments together you have a debt of $105 trillion.

The US wants to avoid default and devaluation of the dollar. They can raise taxes, cut spending or default on their Social Security and Medicare commitments, and commandeer personal retirement plans. In whole, or in part, these are options for government. If they cannot manage these changes then the Fed will have to increase money and credit, which is now euphemistically labeled quantitative easing. The powers behind government have looted the system perpetually, but particularly since August 15,1971, when the gold standard was abandoned and the result of this gutting and its consequences is about to manifest itself. Unemployment refuses to fall and little is being done to improve the situation. This year five million American workers lost extended unemployment benefits, as Wall Street, bailed out with taxpayer’s loans, is showering their employees with hundreds of billions of dollars in bonuses. There is no question these are the seeds of which revolution is born. We can as a result expect demonstrations and unrest, as we are now seeing in Europe, which could end up in rioting and other antisocial behavior.

Considering what the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury have done over many years we believe we can expect a continuation of fiscal spending and more money and credit to be injected into the economy. That will lead to higher inflation, which could lead eventually to hyperinflation. In preparation in businesses or professionally, or individually, your cost of doing business or living should be reduced and those savings should be used to purchase gold and silver bullion coins and shares. This is the only way you can protect your investable assets. Business and job opportunities have already fallen off a cliff and we believe that situation will get much worse.

Many of you have IRAs and 401Ks, which we have said your government would like to get their hands on. They are not going to stop pursuing these savings, so you have to act before they do. The government desperately needs that $6 trillion. These funds are at risk, even if all you have in these vehicles are only gold and silver coins or shares. If legislation is passed confiscating these assets and you are given a government guarantee on return, you end up with 100% of nothing. Based on that IRAs and 401Ks should be systematically liquidated with an eye toward tax consequences and penalties. Those who refuse to do so will suffer grievous losses.

If the dollar loses 50% of its value versus other major currencies or even more versus gold and silver you will suffer a major loss of buying power. Those are losses versus inflation. If we have hyperinflation the losses will be even worse. That means you have to get a loan against your 401k and invest those funds in gold and silver related assets. 401Ks and pensions are invested in stocks, bonds and other possible illiquid assets. If the stock and bond markets fall you could lose a big part of your savings. Get whatever you can out now while you still can.

Presently many of our readers tell us that people who they explain the problem to think gold and silver are too high. We heard the same thing when gold was $350.00 and silver was $10.00. Unfortunately, 98% of the population doesn’t have a clue to what is going on. They do not understand the massive printing of dollars and credit that has been flooding the world. The monetization is massive as is the fiscal insanity that has been going on in government over the past ten years. How can anyone even consider being long the dollar? That said, the faster one gets into gold and silver related assets the better off they will be. Those who prefer not to listen we refer you to the 60% to 95% losses absorbed during the “Great Depression” of the 1930s.

It is normal for a world reserve currency such as the dollar to be backed 25% by gold. As you all know that has not been the case since August 15, 1971. Over the 39-year period since then debt has risen exponentially, almost to the point of insanity. The world will awaken in time but the cost for not listening will be dreadful. This is why over the next several years gold will easily go to $7,700 an ounce or higher and silver will range between $100 and $500 an ounce. Remember, gold is the only real money and it does not owe anyone anything. For those of you who do not know it gold has been used as money, along with silver for 6,000 years. Do the elitists really think they can beat that kind of track record? We do not think so.

The Fed is creating money and credit at an annual clip of $1.8 trillion and is going to continue to do so. On top of that they have set interest rates at zero percent and they still cannot create a recovery. Worse they know what they are doing is not going to work. As a result inflation to 6 to 7 percent not the 1.2% government would lead us to believe. When government admits that inflation in the future is 5-1/2%, we can assure you it will really be over 14%. Overall interest rates are negative and being in dollar denominated assets is a losing experience unless you own gold and silver bullion, coins and shares. The only thing that has allowed the dollar to retain value on the USDX is that Europe’s banking system is in a state of collapse. Still, all currencies are falling versus gold. Under the circumstances Europe’s austerity measures were the wrong thing at the wrong time, because at the same time the Fed was beginning QE2 taking them in opposite directions. Next you will see new stimulus being fed into the euro zone by the ECB, the European Central Bank. It is inevitable that the euro zone and the EU will collapse and that will be the linchpin which will take the entire world down financially.

The failure of the international financial system and the inability of elitists to control it leave them open to loss and exposure of what they have been up too.

Mental Ghettos Weaken the US: People Who Lie to Themselves

December 3rd, 2010 by Joel S. Hirschhorn

So many intelligent Americans believe, say and do stupid things. When a large fraction of the population is like this, a nation rots from the inside and succumbs to external forces.

I have always searched for the simplest yet best ways to explain what I see as a multi-decade decline of every aspect of the United States , especially its political system and government. I keep coming back to the inescapable logic that a large fraction of Americans, regardless of their education, economic status and political alignment, must suffer from delusion. This delusion produces denial about hugely important subjects and issues.

Like a law of physics, this combination makes people seem incredibly stupid to others disagreeing with their positions. Stupid, because they are unable to accept facts and truths that conflict with their views.

This special kind of stupidity is independent of inherent intelligence. In this case brain power is overpowered by psychological deficiency, namely self-delusion.

This delusion is not genetically produced, but is a result of external influences, notably political, government, media and corporate propaganda intentionally designed to produce delusional beliefs and thinking. Who does this? All sorts of commercial and political interests. The result is a series of biases and blocks, such as cognitive dissonance, to objective facts and information that creates denial about very important conditions affecting the planet, the nation and individuals. People afflicted with this deadly combination appear stupid to those outside their mental ghetto that they gladly inhabit, along with similarly afflicted people.

National unity breaks down with countless mental ghettos that span economic, political and geographic boundaries.

Conservatives see liberals as stupid and vice versa. Democrats see Tea Party adherents (who only support Republican candidates) as stupid and vice versa. Those seeing climate change and global warming as serious phenomena posing real threats see deniers as stupid. People who give a high priority to tax cuts that mainly benefit the rich and superrich seem stupid to those who recognize that the wealthiest Americans have hijacked the US economy, as shown by endless statistics that reveal their preferential financial benefits. Those who reject religions think the religious stupid. People who shun social networking sites see those addicted to them as stupid. Growing numbers of obese people seem stupid to those eating healthy and exercising regularly to maintain healthy weights.

A prime example of a mental ghetto is the collection of radical, terrorist Muslims sharing hate and violence and blocking out teachings from authentic Muslims about peace and love.

You surely can think of classes of people who seem stupid, because of a particular belief or viewpoint rather than across-the-board limited intelligence. With conversations that have nothing to do with their position (or maybe several), you would likely think of them as reasonably intelligent and smart, not stupid. In other words, stupidity is often topic or issue specific.

Here are two examples of what I call psychological stupidity with their powerful implications for understanding why the nation is seen on the wrong track by so many Americans who cannot unite behind solutions.

There is no mystery why the top 20 percent of the population in terms of wealth votes for Republicans, but they are not enough to win elections. What makes far less sense is why many more middle class Americans vote for Republicans. They seem stupid in voting against their own economic interests because Republicans pursue policies that preferentially reward the richest Americans. This behavior can only be explained by the success of Republican propaganda (mainly trickle down prosperity), lies and deceptions that instill a set of biases and beliefs that enable Republicans to win elections. A prime example is obtaining broad support for keeping taxes on really rich people low.

On the other side, are millions of people who vote for Democrats because they have been sold rhetoric about reforming the government system, as if Democrats are not also in the pockets of a number of special interests that will not accept truly needed deep reforms. Why have we not seen President Obama pursue punishment of many people and companies in the banking, mortgage and financial sectors that caused the economic meltdown? He had received huge campaign contributions from them and then surrounded himself with cabinet officials and advisors from them. Otherwise intelligent people vote for Democrats because of their psychological stupidity based on false promises of change and reform that they have succumbed to.

Psychological stupidity has become a kind of cultural epidemic that no one is addressing, so it just gets worse. It invites manipulation and the continuing corrosion and corruption of government. The rich and powerful know how to take advantage of this stupidity, obtaining government policies and programs they want, selling products and services that consumers do not really benefit from, and grabbing more of the nation’s wealth.

Those afflicted with psychological stupidity are also likely to exhibit moral superiority, making it even more difficult to have intelligent and productive conversations with them. Such arrogance strengthens their defenses against facts and information that conflicts with their cherished views. The answer: Associate with others having exactly the same views and only get information from like-minded media sources, creating mental ghettos (such as the Tea Party and Fox News) that others can take political or commercial advantage of (Republicans and companies selling gold).

Self-deception is the widespread legal narcotic lubricating the slide of American society into the toilet that other once great nations ended up in. Maybe this old Arab proverb warrants respect: People who lie to others have merely hidden away the truth, but people who lie to themselves have forgotten where they put it.

Which mental ghettos do you belong to?

Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through delusionaldemocracy.com. 

How the Oligarchs Took America

December 3rd, 2010 by Andy Kroll

There is a war underway. I’m not talking about Washington’s bloody misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, but a war within our own borders. It’s a war fought on the airwaves, on television and radio and over the Internet, a war of words and images, of half-truth, innuendo, and raging lies. I’m talking about a political war, pitting liberals against conservatives, Democrats against Republicans. I’m talking about a spending war, fueled by stealthy front groups and deep-pocketed anonymous donors. It’s a war that’s poised to topple what’s left of American democracy.

The right wing won the opening battle. In the 2010 midterm elections, shadowy outside organizations (who didn’t have to disclose their donors until well after Election Day, if at all) backing Republican candidates doled out $190 million, outspending their adversaries by a more than two-to-one margin, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. American Action Network, operated by Republican consultant Fred Malek and former Republican Senator Norm Coleman, spent $26 million; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce plunked down $33 million; and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS shelled out a combined $38.6 million. Their investments in conservative candidates across the country paid off: the 62 House seats and six Senate seats claimed by Republicans were the most in the postwar era — literally, a historic victory.

Knocked out of their complacency, no longer basking in the glow of Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, wealthy Democrats are now plotting their response. Left-wing media mogul David Brock plans to create an outside group dubbed American Bridge in response to Rove’s Crossroads outfits that will fight in the trenches of 2012 campaign spending. Many more outfits like Brock’s will surely follow, as liberal and centrist Democrats brace for a promised $500 million onslaught by the Chamber of Commerce and others of its ilk.

Even the Obama administration, which shunned outside groups in 2008, has opened the door to a covert spending war. The Democrats will now fight fire with fire. “Is small money better? You bet. But we’re in a fucking fight,” Democratic strategist and fundraiser Harold Ickes told me recently. “And if you’re in a fistfight, then you’re in a fistfight, and you use all legal means available.”

The endgame here, of course, is non-stop war. No longer will outside groups come and go every two years. Now, such groups will be running attack ads, sending out mailers, and deploying robo-calls year-round in what is going to become a perpetual campaign to sway voters and elect friendly lawmakers. “We’re definitely building a foundation,” was how American Crossroads president Steven Law put it.

This is what nowadays passes for the heart and soul of American democracy. It used to be that citizens in large numbers, mobilized by labor unions or political parties or a single uniting cause, determined the course of American politics. After World War II, a swelling middle class was the most powerful voting bloc, while, in those same decades, the working and middle classes enjoyed comparatively greater economic prosperity than their wealthy counterparts. Kiss all that goodbye. We’re now a country run by rich people.

Not surprisingly, political power has a way of following wealth. What that means is: you can’t understand how the rich seized control of American politics, and arguably American society, without understanding how a small group of Americans got so much money in the first place.

That story begins in the late 1970s and continues through the Obama years, a period in which American policy has been so skewed toward the rich that we’re now living through the worst period of income inequality in modern history. Consider the statistics: 50 years ago, the wealthiest 1% of Americans accounted for one of every 10 dollars of the nation’s income; today, it’s nearly one in every four. Between 1979 and 2006, the average post-tax household income (including benefits) of the wealthiest 1% increased by 256%; the poorest households saw an increase of 11%; middle class homes, 21%, much of which was due to the arrival of two-job families.

Tax guru David Cay Johnston recently crunched new Social Security Administration data and discovered an even starker divide. On the one hand, the number of Americans earning a steady income declined by 4.5 million between 2008 and 2009, and the average wage in the U.S. dipped by 1.2%, to $39,055. On the other hand, the average wage among Americans earning more than $50 million per year was $91 million in 2008 and $84 million in 2009. 

Harvard University economist Lawrence Katz put the situation Americans now find themselves in this way:

“Think of the American economy as a large apartment block. A century ago — even 30 years ago — it was the object of envy. But in the last generation its character has changed. The penthouses at the top keep getting larger and larger. The apartments in the middle are feeling more and more squeezed and the basement has flooded. To round it off, the elevator is no longer working. That broken elevator is what gets people down the most.”

Let’s call those select few in the penthouse the New Oligarchy, an awesomely rich sliver of Americans raking in an outsized share of the nation’s wealth. They’re oil magnates and media tycoons, corporate executives and hedge-fund traders, philanthropists and entertainers. Depending on where you want to draw the line, they’re the top 1%, or the top 0.1%, or even the top 0.01% of the population. And when the Supreme Court handed down its controversial Citizens United decision in January, it broke the floodgates so that a torrent of anonymous donations from this oligarchic class could flood back down from the heights and inundate the political lands below.

“The Thirty-Year War”

How did we get here? How did a middle-class-heavy nation transform itself into an oligarchy? You’ll find answers to these questions in Winner-Take-All Politics, a revelatory new book by political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. The authors treat the present figures we have on American wealth and poverty as a crime scene littered with clues and suspects, dead-ends and alibis.

Unlike so many pundits, politicians, and academics, Hacker and Pierson resist blaming the usual suspects: globalization, the rise of an information-based economy, and the demise of manufacturing. The culprit in their crime drama is American politics itself over the last three decades. The clues to understanding the rise of an American oligarchy, they believe, won’t be found in New York or New Delhi, but on Capitol Hill, along Pennsylvania Avenue, and around K Street, that haven in a heartless world for Washington’s lobbyists.

“Step by step and debate by debate,” they write, “America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefitted the few at the expense of the many.”

Most accounts of American income inequality begin in the 1980s with the reign of President Ronald Reagan, the anti-government icon whose “Reaganomics” are commonly fingered as the catalyst for today’s problems. Wrong, say Hacker and Pierson. The origins of oligarchy lay in the late 1970s and in the unlikely figure of Jimmy Carter, a Democratic president presiding over a Congress controlled by Democrats. It was Carter’s successes and failures, they argue, that kicked off what economist Paul Krugman has labeled “the Great Divergence.”

In 1978, the Carter administration and Congress took a red pen to the tax code, slashing the top rate of the capital gains tax from 48% to 28% — an enormous boon for wealthy Americans. At the same time, the most ambitious effort in decades to reform American labor law in order to make it easer to unionize died in the Senate, despite a 61-vote Democratic supermajority. Likewise, a proposed Office of Consumer Representation, a $15 million advocacy agency that was to work on behalf of average Americans, was defeated by an increasingly powerful business lobby.

Ronald Reagan, you could say, simply took the baton passed to him by Carter. His 1981 Economic Recovery and Tax Act (ERTA) bundled a medley of goodies any oligarch would love, including tax cuts for corporations, ample reductions in the capital gains and estate taxes, and a 10% income tax exclusion for married couples in two-earner families. “ERTA was Ronald Reagan’s greatest legislative triumph, a fundamental rewriting of the nation’s tax laws in favor of winner-take-all outcomes,” Hacker and Pierson conclude.

The groundwork had by then been laid for the rich to pull definitively and staggering ahead of everyone else. The momentum of the tax-cut fervor carried through the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and in 2000 became the campaign trail rallying cry of George W. Bush. It was Bush II, after all, who told a room full of wealthy donors at an $800-a-plate dinner, “Some people call you the elites; I call you my base,” and who pledged that his 2001 tax cuts would be a boon for all Americans. They weren’t: according to Hacker and Pierson, 51% of their benefits go to the top 1% of earners.

Those cuts will be around a lot longer if the GOP has its way. Take Republican Congressman Dave Camp’s word for it. On November 16th, Camp, a Republican from Michigan, said the only acceptable solution when it came to the Bush-era tax cuts was not just upholding them for all earners, rich and poor, but passing more such cuts. Anything in between, any form of compromise, including President Obama’s proposal to extend the Bush cuts for the working and middle classes but not the wealthy, was “a terrible idea and a total non-starter.”

Why should you care what Dave Camp says? Here’s the answer: in January, he’s set to inherit the chairman’s gavel on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, the body tasked with writing the nation’s tax laws. And though most Americans wouldn’t even recognize his name, Camp’s message surely left America’s wealthy elites breathing a long sigh of relief. You could sum it up like this: Fear not, wealthy Americans, your money is safe. The policies that made you rich aren’t going anywhere.

Tear Down This Law

Where rewriting the tax code proved too politically difficult, demolishing regulations worked almost as well. This has been especially true in the world of finance. There, a legacy of deregulation transformed banking from a relatively staid industry into a casino culture, ushering in an era of eye-popping profits, lavish bonuses, and the “financialization” of the American economy.

April 6, 1998: it’s a useful starting point in the story of financial deregulation. On that day, two well-known Wall Street denizens, Citicorp and Travelers Group, agreed to a historic $140 billion merger. The deal required much lobbying, but eventually the chiefs of these banks won an exemption from the Glass-Steagall Act, the New Deal-era law walling off commercial banks from riskier investment houses. The resulting institution, dubbed Citigroup, would be the largest supermarket bank in history, a marriage of teller windows and trading desks, customer banking and high-stakes investing — all suddenly under one deregulated roof. It would prove an explosive, if not disastrous, mix.

The merger stirred visions of a future in which the U.S. would dominate the planet financially. All that stood in the way was undue regulatory red tape. At least that’s the way free marketeers like then-Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas saw it. Gramm, who as an aide to presidential candidate John McCain infamously called America a “nation of whiners,” was, in fact, the driving force behind two of the most influential pieces of deregulation in recent history.

In 1999, President Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a bevy of deregulatory measures that obliterated Glass-Steagall. In December of the following year, Gramm quietly snuck the 262-page Commodity Futures Modernization Act into a massive $384-billion spending bill. Gramm’s bill blocked regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from cracking down on the shadowy “over-the-counter derivatives” market, home to billions of dollars of opaque financial instruments that would, years later, nearly demolish the American economy.

As presidents, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush wrapped their arms around financial deregulation. As a result, in a binge of financial gluttony, Wall Street grew fat in ways never previously seen. Between 1929, the year the Great Depression began, and 1988, Wall Street’s profits averaged 1.2% of the nation’s gross domestic product; in 2005, that figure peaked at 3.3% as industry bonuses soared ever-higher. In 2009, bad times for most Americans, bonuses hit $20 billion. So much wealth in so few hands. Nothing explains the rise of the new American oligarchy more starkly.

Of course, it’s not just what politicians did that helped create today’s oligarchy, but what they failed to do. A classic example: in the 1990s, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a private American accounting regulator, set its sights on a loophole big enough to drive a financial Mack truck through. Until then, stock options included in executives’ skyrocketing pay packages — potentially worth tens of millions of dollars when exercised — were valued at zero when issued. That’s right: zero, zilch, nada. When FASB and the SEC tried to close the loophole, however, big business leapt to its defense. An avalanche of money went into the pockets of an army of K Street lobbyists and leviathan business trade associations. In the end, nothing happened. Or rather, everything continued happening. The loophole remained.

Citizen United‘s Brave New World

Hacker and Pierson ably guide us through 30 years of “winner-take-all” policymaking, politicking, and — from the point of view of the wealthy — judicious inaction. They offer an eye-opening journey across the landscape that helped foster the New Oligarchs, but one crucial vista appeared too late for the authors to include.

No understanding of the rise of our New Oligarchs could be complete without exploring the effects of the Supreme Court’s January Citizens United decision, which set their power in cement more effectively than any tax cut ever could. Before Citizens United, the rich used their wealth to subtly shape policy, woo politicians, and influence elections. Now, with so much money flowing into their hands and the contribution faucets wide open, they can simply buy American politics so long as the price is right.

There’s no mistaking how, in less than a year, Citizens United has radically tilted the political playing field. Along with several other major court rulings, it ushered in American Crossroads, American Action Network, and many similar groups that now can reel in unlimited donations with pathetically few requirements to disclose their funders.

What the present Supreme Court, itself the fruit of successive tax-cutting and deregulating administrations, has ensured is this: that in an American “democracy,” only the public will remain in the dark. Even for dedicated reporters, tracking down these groups is like chasing shadows: official addresses lead to P.O. boxes; phone calls go unreturned; doors are shut in your face.

The limited glimpse we have of the people bankrolling these shadowy outfits is a who’s-who of the New Oligarchy: the billionaire Koch Brothers ($21.5 billion); financier George Soros ($11 billion); hedge-fund CEO Paul Singer (his fund, Elliott Management, is worth $17 billion); investor Harold Simmons (net worth: $4.5 billion); New York venture capitalist Kenneth Langone ($1.1 billion); and real estate tycoon Bob Perry ($600 million).

Then there’s the roster of corporations who have used their largesse to influence American politics. Health insurance companies, including UnitedHealth Group and Cigna, gave a whopping $86.2 million to the U.S. Chamber to kill the public option, funneling the money through the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans. And corporate titans like Goldman Sachs, Prudential Financial, and Dow Chemical have given millions more to the Chamber to lobby against new financial and chemical regulations.

As a result, the central story of the 2010 midterm elections isn’t Republican victory or Democratic defeat or Tea Party anger; it’s this blitzkrieg of outside spending, most of which came from right-leaning groups like Rove’s American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s a grim illustration of what happens when so much money ends up in the hands of so few. And with campaign finance reforms soundly defeated for years to come, the spending wars will only get worse.

Indeed, pundits predict that spending in the 2012 elections will smash all records. Think of it this way: in 2008, total election spending reached $5.3 billion, while the $1.8 billion spent on the presidential race alone more than doubled 2004′s total. How high could we go in 2012? $7 billion? $10 billion? It looks like the sky’s the limit.

We don’t need to wait for 2012 to arrive, however, to know that the sheer amount of money being pumped into American politics makes a mockery out of our democracy (or what’s left of it). Worse yet, few solutions exist to staunch the cash flow: the DISCLOSE Act, intended to counter the effects of Citizens United, twice failed in the Senate this year; and the best option, public financing of elections, can’t even get a hearing in Washington.

Until lawmakers cap the amount of money in politics, while forcing donors to reveal their identities and not hide in the shadows, the New Oligarchy will only grow in stature and influence. Left unchecked, this ultimate elite will continue to root out the few members of Congress not beholden to them and their “contributions” (see: Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold) and will replace them with lawmakers eager to do their bidding, a Congress full of obedient placeholders ready to give their donors what they want.

Never before has the United States looked so much like a country of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

Andy Kroll is a reporter in the D.C. Bureau of Mother Jones and an associate editor at TomDispatch.com. You can email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com.

While over 200 organizations lobbied on the Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510), no one seemed to notice an unconstitutional section in the bill until after it passed on Tuesday. That day, Roll Call advised that the bill contained a provision, Sec. 107, allowing the Senate to raise revenues. This violates Article I, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution, granting that power exclusively to the House.   S.510 opponents now celebrate the House’s use of the “blue slip process” to return the bill to the Senate.

The Alliance for Natural Health figures that, “The only possible ‘quick fix’ would be a unanimous consent agreement in the Senate to strike that revenue-raising provision from the bill—but Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has already stated that he will oppose, so unanimity will be impossible.”  ANH believes it is unlikely that the Senate will return to a debate on S.510, given its full agenda. Its only other option is to “allow the bill to die at the end of this Congress [which means] a new Food Safety Bill will be introduced next year.”

After S.510 passed, President Obama issued a statement: “I urge the House — which has previously passed legislation demonstrating its strong commitment to making our food supply safer — to act quickly on this critical bill, and I applaud the work that was done to ensure its broad bipartisan passage in the Senate.”

Apparently, the Senate moved too quickly. Their overreach only supports the natural foods movement assertion that the entire bill is over-reaching as the federal government seeks complete control over local foods.

The Money and the Vote

In an email, Canada Health whistleblower Shiv Chopra noted, “It is all about corporate control of food and public health.”  He’s not alone in believing that a ‘hidden corporate agenda’ is driving the federal government to impose itself on local food production and distribution. This belief is bolstered by a detailed look at the financial contributors in support of food control legislation. Open Secrets.org reports that 208 groups lobbied on S.510. According to an analysis by Maplight.org, financial supporters of S.510 include:

* The US Chamber of Commerce (no friend to small business); 

* Kraft Foods North America (the world’s second largest food and beverage company;

 * General Mills (which earned $15 billion in revenue in 2009); and the 

* American Farm Bureau Federation (a Big Ag and insurance industry lobbyist that supports the use of genetically modified foods).

According to data at Open Secrets.org, AFB spent $9.5 million since 2009 to lobby for S.510 and against the House version.  Food & Water Watch noted that AFB president Bob Stallman “condemn[s] consumers and farmers who oppose the industrial model of agriculture, referring to them as ‘extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule.’” Clearly, the American Farm Bureau Federation does not favor small farms.

Breaking agribusiness lobby spending down by sector, Open Secrets reports that in 2009, the: 

* Crop production and basic processing industry spent $20.3 million;
* Food processing and sales industry spent $30.2 million; and the
* Agriculture services and products industry spent $34.4 million.

In 2009 and 2010, Pepsi spent over $14 million and Coca-Cola spent $4.5 million on both S.510 and HR 2749 (the House version).  Other groups supporting S.510 include the International Bottled Water Association, International Dairy Foods Association, International Foodservice Distributors Association, and the Snack Food Association. Hardly advocates of small producers or natural foods.

Under the guise of food ‘safety,’ food control legislation has been widely supported by major food industry lobbyists, who spent over $1 billion since 1998 to influence Congress. Do the American people even have a voice in food choice, when measured against the hundreds of millions of dollars multinational corporations foist on Congress to influence legislation?

Monsanto and the Tester Amendment

Two final comments are in order: one on the ineffectual Tester Amendment and the other on Monsanto’s influence over food safety.

First, the Tester Amendment “exemption” — defined as those generating less than $500,000 a year in revenue –  is ludicrously low.  Kraft Foods generates that every seven minutes : it earned $40 billion in revenue in 2009.  There can be no single bill that adequately addresses food production when talking about producers as disparate as these.  Small farms are in a different universe from multinational corporations.

A ten-million-dollar exemption is more reasonable. Farms earning less than $10 million a year are much more similar to Mom & Pop operations than they are to Kraft Foods or Monsanto.  Farms earning between a half million and ten million annually are more likely than Mom & Pop to achieve product consistency and, because of a higher output, lower market price, thus appealing to locavores on three levels. That ludicrously low $500,000 figure only highlights the overreach of an obese federal government.

Second, the Tester Amendment does not exempt small food producers as broadly as proponents claim. Eric Blair noted that “even a ‘very small business’ making less than $500K per year, doing business ‘within 275 miles’ and directly with ‘end-user customers’ is still required to adhere to all of the [other] regulations” in the massive food control bill.

In order to qualify for exemption, he points out that small producers must file three years of detailed financial records, detailed hazard analysis plans, and detailed proof of compliance with local, county and state laws. Then, the Secretary of Health and Human Services must approve each exemption.

How many “food producers” who donate food to the homeless, or who supply homemade products at bake sales, county fairs, church bazaars, and community picnics are going to bother with such hyper-regulation?  Obama’s vision of food “safety” destroys the local economy, and it destroys community relations.

S.510 opponent Sen. Tom Coburn has repeatedly stressed that the bill will not make our food supply any safer and will “drive small producers out of business.” No wonder so many multi-billion dollar corporations support it.

Finally, let’s not forget that Obama has stacked his administration with former employees of Monsanto, making Michael Taylor his Food Czar. Anything this Administration supports in the way of food control will surely benefit Monsanto, while harming the natural foods industry and small producers. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration is already waging a bureaucratic war on private food contracts and natural food producers.

Meanwhile, the battle for food freedom rages on, with a temporary reprieve now that S.510 has been recalled to the Senate Chamber

On December 1 the U.S. and its South Korean military ally completed four days of naval maneuvers in the Yellow Sea where China claims a 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The U.S. dispatched the 97,000-ton USS George Washington nuclear-powered aircraft supercarrier for the exercise, accompanied by a carrier strike group consisting of a guided missile cruiser and three guided missile destroyers. The American deployment included 6,000 sailors and 75 aircraft. South Korea supplied destroyers, corvettes, frigates, support ships, anti-submarine aircraft and an undisclosed amount of military personnel.

The war games, which included live-fire shooting and bombing drills, were the latest in a series of U.S.-led military exercises in South Korea and the seas to its east and west beginning in July of this year:

From July 25-28 the U.S. conducted a joint military exercise with South Korea codenamed Invincible Spirit in the Sea of Japan/East Sea with the involvement of 20 warships including the USS George Washington supercarrier, 200 warplanes including F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and 8,000 troops.

In August the U.S. and South Korea conducted this year’s Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercise, the world’s largest command and control simulation drill, in the latter country with 30,000 U.S. and 56,000 South Korean troops participating.

In early September Washington and Seoul held an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Yellow Sea with two U.S. guided missile destroyers and a fast attack submarine and two South Korean destroyers.

Only the August exercise was a routine one, the latest in a series of Ulchi Freedom Guardian maneuvers held over several decades.

On the day the most recent military exercise ended, December 1, it was announced that the U.S. and South Korea will hold another military exercise this month. [1] The following day “South Korea…readied plans for more live-fire drills as a warning to North Korea and scheduled talks with the United States and Japan on dealing with [North Korea]….” [2] The armed forces of the Republic of Korea will begin five days of artillery drills on December 6 in 29 locations, including on border islands in the Yellow Sea.

On the same day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan in Washington, D.C., in a rebuff to China and Russia, which are partners in the six-party talks – along with the U.S., Japan, South Korea and North Korea – that have been held since 2003 after North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This despite China calling for an emergency meeting of representatives to the six-nation negotiations and winning North Korea’s agreement to rejoin the long-stalled process. On December 2 Russia announced it was ready to participate in emergency talks with the six-country group.

Just as Russia and China were excluded from the U.S.-led investigation of the Cheonan sinking earlier this year, so now they are being brushed aside in favor of a confrontational U.S.-Japan-South Korea initiative.

Two days after the American-led naval exercise in the Yellow Sea concluded, the U.S. began a week-long exercise with Japan off the second nation’s islands near the South Korean coast. The war games, Keen Sword 2011, involve 60 warships, 400 aircraft and 44,000 troops and are the largest-ever joint U.S.-Japan military drills. Kyodo News disclosed that “The maneuvers will be carried out to practice for guarding against ballistic missile attacks and for defending remote Japanese islands,” the latter an allusion to a Chinese-Japanese territorial dispute in the East China Sea. Standard Missile-3 interceptors on U.S. and Japanese Aegis class destroyers deployed in the Sea of Japan and Patriot Advanced Capability-3 anti-ballistic missiles currently stationed at bases from the north to the south of Japan, Hokkaido to Okinawa, will be employed.

  

In the words of an Air Force major assigned to U.S. Forces Japan headquarters: “There’s going to be naval operations, air operations, land – pretty much the full spectrum of military activities. There is going to be a lot of flying, some movement involving the aircraft carrier George Washington.” [3]

South Korea’s military has been invited to attend the exercise as an observer, as Australian, British and French officers were on board USS George Washington for the exercise in the Yellow Sea that ended two days ago. In the words of Australian Minister Stephen Smith, “We had an official on board the USS George Washington as essentially a show of support.” [4] Japanese military personnel observed the Invincible Spirit naval exercise in the Sea of Japan in July.

As a recent Russian commentary characterized the now constant American military activity in East Asia – exemplified by the deployment of the George Washington supercarrier in waters off China’s and Russia’s coasts and island possessions in the Sea of Japan in July, in the South China Sea in August, in the Yellow Sea in November and at the confluence of the Sea of Japan and East China Sea this month – “the Pentagon [is] flexing its muscles against both North Korea and China.” [5]

And not only in respect to conventional forces. On November 22 South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young responded to a question by one of his nation’s members of parliament on “whether the government intends to consider the redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea…in the affirmative.” [6]

Although the sinking of a South Korean corvette, Cheonan, in March has been used in the intervening nine months as the rationale for U.S.-led war games in the seas of East Asia, that incident in no manner accounts for joint American-Vietnamese naval drills in the South China Sea in August, visits to Australia and nine other Asia-Pacific nations by President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen early last month [7], and the overall diplomatic offensive and military maneuvers Washington is intensifying in the region with each passing day.

Three months after the sinking of the Cheonan, President Obama accused his counterpart, Chinese President Hu Jintao, of “willful blindness” in relation to North Korea in what was reported as a “blunt” conversation during the Group of 20 summit in Toronto on June 27. [8]

Since North Korea’s shelling of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong on November 23, the U.S. has intensified pressure on China to rein in North Korea. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen recently told a Washington, D.C. think tank audience that “Beijing’s call for consultations will not be a substitute for action,” and, in reference to China’s military modernization program: “I am concerned about some of the high-end capabilities that they clearly are developing. I don’t underestimate them in terms of capability. Some of the specific capabilities are very clearly focused on and pointed at the United States of America, and they are anti-access capabilities.” [9] That is, China has the temerity to develop defensive capabilities in the face of U.S. military presence off its coasts.

The U.S. is exploiting North Korea as a decoy to target China and is supporting Japan in territorial conflicts with both China and Russia [10] as components of a broader strategy to renew, enlarge and integrate military alliances throughout the Asia-Pacific area. [11]

Washington recognizes the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, administered by Japan, as Japanese, but also refers to the Southern Kuril Islands, which since 1945 have belonged to Russia (and its predecessor state, the Soviet Union) as Japanese territories.

Hillary Clinton’s visit to New Zealand last month resulted in the signing of the Wellington Declaration committing the two countries to a new strategic partnership, annual military consultations and a resumption of joint military exercises. In fact what Clinton secured was the revival of the Cold War-era Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) Security Treaty which was signed during the Korean War and invoked to recruit Australian and New Zealand troops for the Vietnam War.

An Indian commentator said of the top U.S. diplomat’s achievement: “Clinton was not only given a traditional New Zealand Maori’s welcome called Powhiri, the greatest gift that she could bring back to Washington was the release of the New Zealand Defense White Paper 2010 two days before her arrival. The White Paper envisaged Wellington’s greater presence in the South Pacific and strengthening the alliance with Washington and Canberra.” [12]

Kevin Rudd, until recently Australia’s prime minister and now its foreign minister, affirmed on November 28 that “Australia could be drawn in to any military conflict on the Korean peninsula under its alliance with the US.” In his own words, “I…simply state the obvious: that under our alliance with the United States, Article 4 of the ANZUS Treaty is clear about our requirements to act to meet the common danger….” [13]

Similarly, a briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay of Canada revealed that “If war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, Canada could become embroiled due to a half-century-old United Nations military alliance,” the United Nations Command formed by the U.S. and its allies in the Korean War after the armistice was signed in 1953. The memo states that although the main “fighting formation” that would lead military operations against North Korea is the joint U.S.-South Korea Combined Forces Command, that joint command “includes under its strategic organizational umbrella the legacy United Nations Command.” [14]

Other members of the United Nations Command are Canada’s fellow NATO member states the U.S., Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Turkey and Luxembourg; ANZUS members Australia and New Zealand; the Philippines and Thailand, with which the U.S. has defense alliances – and military assistance obligations – comparable to those it has with Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

As with the reactivation of trilateral ANZUS military obligations, so with the U.S.-Japanese mutual military assistance agreement. On October 27 Clinton held a press conference in Hawaii with Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara and when asked about an island chain contested by Japan and China – the Senkakus to Tokyo, the Diaoyus to Beijing – said, “the Senkakus fall within the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. This is part of the larger commitment that the United States has made to Japan’s security. We consider the Japanese-U.S. alliance one of the most important alliance partnerships we have anywhere in the world and we are committed to our obligations to protect the Japanese.”

She also said the Washington-Tokyo alliance “is the cornerstone of American strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific.” [15]

Two weeks later President Obama was in Yokohama, Japan for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and told Prime Minister Naoto Kan that the U.S.-Japan alliance is “the cornerstone of American strategic engagement in the Asia Pacific” and “the commitment of the United States to the defense of Japan is unshakable.” [16]

Clinton’s and Obama’s phraseology was identical.

In late October Clinton, flanked by her Japanese counterpart, said: “This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our alliance, which was forged at the height of the Cold War,” in reference to the aforementioned Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan of 1960. [17]

In advance of the Keen Sword 2011 U.S.-Japan war games currently underway, Air Force Lieutenant General Hawk Carlisle, who is directing the exercise on the American side, stated in the middle of last month: “In 1960, Japan and the U.S. signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. Participation in Keen Sword further enhances the Japan-U.S. alliance, which remains a key strategic relationship in the Asia-Pacific region.” [18]

Clinton’s spokesman, the State Department’s Philip Crowley, backed Japan’s territorial claims on Russia’s Kuril Islands on November 2, even referring to them as the Northern Territories, the Japanese government’s designation. He didn’t go as far as Clinton had five days earlier in pledging adherence to Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan treaty – “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger” – but the prospect of Washington and Tokyo invoking the provision against Russia is not an unimaginable contingency.

On December 4 Japanese Foreign Minister Maehara will arrive at the northern island of Hokkaido “to view four Russian-held islands claimed by Japan, known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.” [19] While in Hokkaido, Maehara will meet with former residents of the Kurils.

Decades-old and until of late seemingly dormant or discarded military blocs, treaties and military assistance clauses are being resuscitated and expanded in the Asia-Pacific region. Military alliances modeled after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the area in the 1950s and their 21st century equivalents are being integrated into an eastern version of and in many ways extension of NATO. At least eight Asia-Pacific nations – Australia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Tonga – have troops assigned to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

As part of the Afghan war effort, NATO maintains a military presence in five nations bordering western China: Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

Last month Japan announced that it was deploying an initial contingent of troops “to its westernmost island in response to Chinese naval manoeuvres in the East China Sea.” The first 100 troops will be sent to Yonaguni, the southernmost of the Ryukyu/Nansei islands less than 100 miles from the Senkaku/Diaoyu island grouping. The Japanese Defense Ministry is “also considering sending troops to the islands of Miyako and Ishigaki west of Okinawa to beef up border security.” [20] Ishigaki is also about 100 miles from the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

Regarding last month’s flurry of visits to the Asia-Pacific region by major U.S. foreign policy and military officials, The Hindu reported: “US visitors…declared Washington’s resolve to expand its footprint in South-East Asia. Clinton called for beefing up US military presence in Singapore, which implies a firmer grip on the strategic Strait of Malacca, strengthening defence cooperation with Thailand and the Philippines…and stepping up interaction with Vietnam.” [21]

The most ambitious element of American plans to forge an Asian equivalent of NATO is the recruitment of India as the largest and most strategically essential partner in the development of an eastern military bloc. The U.S. is moving to supplant Russia as India’s main weapons supplier and historical military ally and employing the South Asian nation to counter China’s emergence as a regional and world power.

Washington is proceeding at a breakneck – an alarming – pace with plans to politically and militarily polarize East Asia, using the crisis on the Korean Peninsula to do so. Attempts by China and Russia to defuse the conflict and resume negotiations aimed at its peaceful resolution are being spurned by headstrong and reckless U.S. government and military officials.

Russia and China share borders with North Korea. The U.S. is a continent away. A new conflagration on the peninsula would directly affect the first two nations. America can exploit a renewal of hostilities to reinstall itself in the Asia-Pacific region and use proxies – Japan as much as South Korea – to accomplish that objective.

  

Notes

1) Vladimir Fedoruk, US and South Korea plan more war games, Voice of Russia, December 1, 2010
2) Radio Netherlands/Agence France-Presse, December 2, 2010
3) Voice of America News, December 2, 2010
4) Australian Associated Press, November 30, 2010
5) Konstantin Garibov, Pentagon flexes muscles in Korea, Voice of Russia, November 26, 2010
6) Itar-Tass, November 22, 2010
7) 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

8) 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]

9) CNN, December 1, 2010
10) 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

11) Asia: Pentagon Revives And Expands Cold War Military Blocs, Stop NATO, September 14, 2010 

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/asia-pentagon-revives-and-expands-cold-war-military-blocs
U.S. Marshals Military Might To Challenge Asian Century, Stop NATO, August 21, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/u-s-marshals-military-might-to-challenge-asian-century

12) Balaji Chandramohan, U.S. Strengthening Old Alliances in Asia Pacific to Contain the influence of China, Diplomatic Courier, November 30, 2010
13) The Australian, November 29, 2010
14) Mike Blanchfield, New Korean war could ensnare Canada, documents suggest, Canadian Press, November 26, 2010
15) U.S. Department of State, October 27, 2010
16) After NATO Summit, U.S. To Intensify Military Drive Into Asia, Stop NATO, November 17, 2010

http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/after-nato-summit-u-s-to-intensify-military-drive-into-asia

17) U.S. Department of State, October 27, 2010
18) Pacific Air Forces, November 15, 2010
19) Xinhua News Agency, November 30, 2010
20) Nikkei/Reuters, November 21, 2010
21) Vladimir Radyuhin, Indo-Russian ties: which way? The Hindu, November 27, 2010,
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/article916376.ece

In its first months in office, the Obama administration sought to protect Bush administration officials facing criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies that governed interrogations of detained terrorist suspects. A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable [1] sent from the US embassy in Madrid to the State Department—one of the 251,287 cables obtained by WikiLeaks—details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution.

The previous month, a Spanish human rights group called the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners had requested that Spain’s National Court indict six former Bush officials for, as the cable describes it, “creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture.” The six were former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon’s former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel. The human rights group contended that Spain had a duty to open an investigation under the nation’s “universal jurisdiction” law, which permits its legal system to prosecute overseas human rights crimes involving Spanish citizens and residents. Five Guantanamo detainees, the group maintained, fit that criteria.

Soon after the request was made, the US embassy in Madrid began tracking the matter. On April 1, embassy officials spoke with chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza, who indicated that he was not pleased to have been handed this case, but he believed that the complaint appeared to be well-documented and he’d have to pursue it. Around that time, the acting deputy chief of the US embassy talked to the chief of staff for Spain’s foreign minister and a senior official in the Spanish Ministry of Justice to convey, as the cable says, “that this was a very serious matter for the USG.” The two Spaniards “expressed their concern at the case but stressed the independence of the Spanish judiciary.”

Two weeks later, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and the embassy’s charge d’affaires “raised the issue” with another official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The next day, Zaragoza informed the US embassy that the complaint might not be legally sound. He noted he would ask Cándido Conde-Pumpido, Spain’s attorney general, to review whether Spain had jurisdiction.

On April 15, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who’d recently been chairman of the Republican Party, and the US embassy’s charge d’affaires met with the acting Spanish foreign minister, Angel Lossada. The Americans, according to this cable, “underscored that the prosecutions would not be understood or accepted in the US and would have an enormous impact on the bilateral relationship” between Spain and the United States. Here was a former head of the GOP and a representative of a new Democratic administration (headed by a president who had decried the Bush-Cheney administration’s use of torture) jointly applying pressure on Spain to kill the investigation of the former Bush officials. Lossada replied that the independence of the Spanish judiciary had to be respected, but he added that the government would send a message to the attorney general that it did not favor prosecuting this case.

The next day, April 16, 2009, Attorney General Conde-Pumpido publicly declared that he would not support the criminal complaint, calling it “fraudulent” and political. If the Bush officials had acted criminally, he said, then a case should be filed in the United States. On April 17, the prosecutors of the National Court filed a report [2] asking that complaint be discontinued. In the April 17 cable, the American embassy in Madrid claimed some credit for Conde-Pumpido’s opposition, noting that “Conde-Pumpido’s public announcement follows outreach to [Government of Spain] officials to raise USG deep concerns on the implications of this case.”

Still, this did not end the matter. It would still be up to investigating Judge Baltasar Garzón [3]—a world-renowned jurist who had initiated previous prosecutions of war crimes and had publicly said that former President George W. Bush ought to be tried for war crimes—to decide whether to pursue the case against the six former Bush officials. That June—coincidentally or not—the Spanish Parliament passed legislation narrowing the use of “universal jurisdiction.” Still, in September 2009, Judge Garzón pushed ahead with the case [4].

The case eventually came to be overseen by another judge who last spring asked the parties behind the complaint to explain why the investigation should continue. Several human rights groups filed a brief [2] urging this judge to keep the case alive, citing the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute the Bush officials. Since then, there’s been no action. The Obama administration essentially got what it wanted. The case of the Bush Six went away.

Back when it seemed that this case could become a major international issue, during an April 14, 2009, White House briefing, I asked press secretary Robert Gibbs if the Obama administration would cooperate with any request from the Spaniards for information and documents related to the Bush Six. He said [5], “I don’t want to get involved in hypotheticals.” What he didn’t disclose was that the Obama administration, working with Republicans, was actively pressuring the Spaniards to drop the investigation. Those efforts apparently paid off, and, as this WikiLeaks-released cable shows, Gonzales, Haynes, Feith, Bybee, Addington, and Yoo owed Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton thank-you notes.

Links:
[1] http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MADRID392.html
[2] http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/spanish-investigation-us-torture
[3] http://motherjones.com/politics/2004/03/longest-arm-law
[4] http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/09/08/spanish-judge-resumes-torture-case-against-six-senior-bush-lawyers/
[5] http://motherjones.com/mojo/2009/04/white-house-joking-about-torture-investigation

Translated from French

While western media have announced that indictments against Hezbollah will be issued shortly by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Russian magazine Odnako challenges the entire UN investigation. Thierry Meyssan posits that the weapon used to assassinate former Prime Minister Rafik Hairiri was supplied by Germany. Former German prosecutor and first commissioner in charge of the UN probe, Detlev Mehlis, seemingly doctored evidence to cover up his country’s involvement. These revelations embarrass the Tribunal and reverse the tide in Lebanon.

All the conflicts rocking the Middle East today crystallize around the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). Peace hinges on it, and so does war. For some, the STL should bring about the dissolution of the Hezbollah, quell the Resistance and establish a Pax Americana. Others consider that the STL is flouting the law and subverting the truth to ensure the takeover of a new colonial order in the region.

The Tribunal was created on 30 May 2007, pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 1757, to prosecute the alleged sponsors of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination. In the political context at that time, this implied nothing more and nothing less than bringing to trial serving Presidents Bashar el-Assad of Syria and Emile Lahoud of Lebanon, not exactly favourites of the neo-conservatives. However, the charges were not pursued since they were based on flimsy evidence planted by false witnesses. With no accused left, the Tribunal could easily have disappeared in the meanders of bureaucracy were it not for a turn of events that catapulted it back into the epicenter of the turbulent Middle East political scene.

On 23 May 2009, Atlanticist journalist Erick Follath disclosed on Der Spiegel Online that the prosecutor was poised to indict new suspects: certain Hezbollah military leaders. For the past 18 months, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary-general, has been proclaiming his party’s innocence. He maintains that the real aim of the proceedings is to decapitate the Resistance and clear the region for the Israeli army. For its part, the U.S. administration in a sudden surge of righteousness pledged that no one would be allowed to shun international Justice.

In any event, the indictment – which all believe to be imminent – against Shia leaders for the assassination of a Sunni leader is of such a nature as to spark off a fitna, namely a Muslim civil war, plummeting the region into new depths of bloodshed and violence.

During his 15 and 16 November official visit to Moscow, Saad Hariri – current Lebanese Prime Minister and son of the deceased – reiterated that the political exploitation of the Tribunal exposes his country to the risk of a new conflagration. President Medvedev retorted that Russia wants Justice to be served and reproves any attempt to discredit, weaken or delay the Tribunal’s proceedings. This position of principle arises from the confidence that the Kremlin decided to place in the STL. But it risks being severely eroded by Odnako’s revelations.

Indeed, we deemed it desirable to delve into the circumstances of Rafik Hariri’s assassination. The data we unearthed has opened a new avenue, making one wonder why it had never been explored until now. In the course of our lengthy investigation, we encountered a great number of actors, too many no doubt, so that the news of our work spread quickly, alarming those for whom the assassination trail implicating the armed Lebanese Resistance represents a real godsent. Aiming to intimidate us, the Jerusalem Post on 18 October launched a preventive attack through a piece referring to our work. In a purely libelous vein, it accuses the author of this article of having received 1 million dollars from Iran to exonerate Hezbollah.

Getting down to facts, Rafik Hariri’s convoy was attacked in Beirut on 14 February 2005. Twenty-three people were killed and one hundred injured. A preliminary report commissioned by the Security Council calls attention to the unprofessional conduct of the Lebanese magistrates and police. To redress the situation, the SC assigned its own investigators, providing them with the important means that Lebanon was unable to offer. From the outset of the investigation, it was generally accepted that the attack had been perpetrated by a suicide bomber driving a van packed with explosives.

Having been established to compensate for the Lebanese lack of professionalism, one would have expected the United Nations mission to scrupulously observe the classical criminal procedures. Not so! The crime scene – on the basis of the topography still intact as well as the photos and video footage shot on that day – was not examined in detail. The victims were not exhumed and no autopsies were performed. For a long time, no attempt was made to ascertain the modus operandi. After discarding the hypothesis of a bomb buried in the ground, the investigators espoused the one involving the van withough bothering to verify it.

And yet, this version is implausible: looking at the crime scene, anyone can easily observe the very large and deep crater that a surface explosion could not have dug out. Faced with the adamancy of the Swiss experts who refused to endorse the official version, on 19 October the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) recreated the crime scene behind closed doors. It didn’t take place in Lebanon, nor in the Netherlands which is the seat of the STL, but in France, one of the countries funding the Tribunal. The buildings surrounding the crime scene were reconstructed and earth was brought in from Beirut. The convoy was reconstituted, including the armoured vehicle. The aim was to demonstrate that the height of the concrete buildings had confined the explosion, making it possible for the blast to produce the crater. The results of this costly experiment have never been divulged.

When looking at the photos and videos taken immediately after the attack, the first most striking feature is the blaze. Car parts and various types of objects are burning all around. Then, the bodies of the victims: they are charred on one side and intact on the other. An astonishing phenomenon which bears no resemblance to what is normally caused by conventional explosives. The theory that the van was transporting a mix of RDX, PETN and TNT does not account for the damages occurred.

What is more, from the photos showing Rafik Hariri’s corpse one can observe that his solid gold wristwatch has melted, whereas the collar of his luxury shirt still hugs his neck in pristine condition.

So, what really happened?

The explosion generated a blast of an exceptionally intense heat and exceptionally brief duration. Thus, the flesh exposed to the blast was instantly carbonized, while the body underneath was not burnt.

High-density objects (such as the gold watch) absorbed the heat and were destroyed. Conversely, low-density objects (like the delicate fabric of Hariri’s shirtcollar) didn’t have enough time to absorb the heat and were unaffected.

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Rafik Hariri’s remains.

Moreover, the videos show that a number of limbs were severed by the explosion. Oddly, the cuts are clean, as if made on clay statues. There is no sign of shattered or jutting bones, nor of any torn flesh. The reason is that the explosion sucked up all the oxygen and dehydrated the bodies, rendering them friable. In the hours that followed, several on-the-spot witnesses complained of breathing ailments. Wrongfully, the authorities interpreted them as a psychosomatic reaction following their psychological trauma.

Such observations constitute the abc of any criminal inquiry. They should have been the starting point, yet they do not figure in any of the reports submitted by the “professional experts” to the Security Council.

When we asked a number of military experts what kind of explosives would be capable of generating such damage, they mentioned a new type of weapon which has been developed over several decades and is featured in reports appearing in scientific journals. The combination of nuclear and nonotechnology science can trigger an explosion the exact strength of which can be regulated and controlled. The weapon is set up to destroy everything within a given perimeter, down to the nearest centimeter.

Always according to the same military specialists, this weapon can also produce other types of effects: it exerts a very strong pressure on the area of the explosion. The minute it stops, the heaviest objects are propelled upwards. Accordingly, cars were sent flying through the air.

There is one unequivocal fact: this weapon is equipped with a nano-quantity of enriched uranium, emanating radiations which are quantifiable. Now, it just so happens that one of the passengers in Rafik Hariri’s armoured car survived the explosion. Former Minister Bassel Fleyhan was taken to a topnotch French military hospital for treatment. The doctors were astounded to discover that he had been in contact with enriched uranium. But no one linked this to the attack.

Technically speaking, the weapon is shaped like a small missile, a few tens of centimeters long. It must be fired from a drone. Actually, several witnesses assured they had heard an aircraft flying over the scene of the crime. The investigators asked the United States and Israel, whose surveillance satellites are permanently switched on, to provide them with the pertinent images. On the day of the attack, the United States had deployed AWACS aircraft over Lebanon. The live feeds could help to establish the presence of a drone and even to determine its flight path. But Washington and Tel Aviv – which indefatigably urge all parties to cooperate with the STL – turned down the request.

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Hezbollah intercepted and released videos from Israeli drones surveying Rafik Hariri’s movements and the scene of the crime.

At a press conference held on 10 August 2010, Hassan Nasrallah showed a video which, according to him, was shot by Israeli military drones and intercepted by his organisation. All of Rafik Hariri’s movements had been registered for months, until the final day when all the surveillance converged on the bend in the road where the attack was staged. Thus, Tel-Aviv had been surveying the area prior to the assassination. Which is not to say, as Mr Nasrallah himself points out, that they were the authors of the crime.

So, who fired the missile?

This is where things get complicated. According to the military experts, in 2005, Germany was the only country which had a handle on this new technology. It is, therefore, Berlin which supplied and set up the crime weapon.

Hence, it is easy to understand why former Berlin Attorney General Detlev Mehlis – a very controversial figure within his own profession – was eager to preside the UN Investigation Commission. He is, in fact, notoriously linked to the German and U.S. secret services. Assigned in 1986 to shed light on the attack against the La Belle disco in Berlin, he diligently covered up all Israeli and U.S. fingerprints to falsely accuse Libya and justify the bombing of Mouammar Khadafi’s palace by the U.S. Air Force. In the early 2000s, Mr Mehlis was lavishly paid for his stint as researcher at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (think-tank linked to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby) and at the Rand Corporation (think-tank attached to the U.S. military industrial complex). All elements which cast a shadow over his impartiality in the Rafik Hariri affair and should have sufficed to have him taken off the case.

Mehlis was seconded by Commissioner Gerhard Lehmann, who is also a well-known German and U.S. secret services agent. He was formally identified by a witness as having taken part in the programme run by the Bush Administration in Europe, involving the abduction, detention and torture of prisoners in “black holes”. His name is mentioned in the ad hoc Report by the Council of Europe. Notwithstanding, he managed to dodge all judicial proceedings on the strength of a strong though unlikely alibi provided by his colleagues in the German police.

Mehlis and Lehmann propagated the theory of the explosives-laden suicide van to deflect the investigation from the German weapon that was used to commit the crime.

Various earth samples were taken from the scene of the crime. They were first mixed, then divided into three jars that were sent to three different laboratories. In the first two no trace of explosives was found. The third jar was kept by Mehlis and Lehmann, who personally sent it to the third laboratory. Here, remnants of explosives were detected. In principle, if the decision is made to resort to three judiciary experts, in case of disagreement it is the majority opinion that prevails. No way! Mehlis and Lehmann violated the protocols. They deemed that theirs was the only reliable sample and embarked the Security Council on a false trail.

The profoundly flawed character of the Mehlis-Lehmann investigations has amply been proven. Their successors acknowledged as much sotto voce and declared entire sections of proceedings nul and void.

Amidst their manipulations, the most famous one relates to the false witnesses. Five individuals purported to have seen the preparations for the attack and incriminated Presidents Bashar el-Assad and Emile Lahoud. While these allegations were fueling the drums of war, their lawyers exposed the lies and the prosecution backed down.

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Detlev Mehlis, President of the UN Investigation Commission violated all the rules of the criminal procedure, fabricated evidence and used false witnesses to exonerate Germany and accuse Syria.

Based on these false testimonies, Detlev Mehlis arrested – in the name of the international community – four Lebanese generals and had them incarcerated for four years. Pushing his way with his cow-boys into private homes, without a warrant from the Lebanese authorities, he also detained for questioning members of their entourage. With his assistants – who spoke Hebrew to each other – he manipulated the families. Thus, on behalf of the international community, he showed the wife of one of the generals a doctored picture to prove that her husband had not only obscured his implication in the murder, but was also two-timing her.

Concurrently, he tried the same maneuver on the son of the “suspect”’, but in this case to convince him that his mother was a woman of loose morals, a situation which had plunged his desperate father into a murderous folly. The aim was to induce a family crime of honour, thereby tarnishing the image of respected and respectable people.

Even more incredible is Lehmann’s proposition to libertate one of the four imprisoned generals in exchange for his false testimony against a Syrian leader.

Moreover, German journalist Jürgen Cain Külbel highlighted a disturbing detail: it would have been impossible to trigger the explosion by remote control or by marking the target without first disactivating the powerful interference system built into Rafik Hariri’s convoy. A system among the most sophisticated in the world, manufactured in … Israel.

Külbel was approached by a well-known pro-Palestinian advocate, Professor Said Dudin, to promote his book. However, the outrageous declarations frequently made by Dudin served to torpedo it instead. Külbel, a former East German criminal police officer, was quick to find out that Dudin had a long-standing reputation for being a CIA mole within the German left-wing. The journalist published a number of old East-German reports attesting to this fact and was sentenced and briefly imprisoned for illicit dissemination of documents; meantime, Dudin was settling into the German Embassy in Beirut for the purpose of infiltrating the families of the four generals.

Overlooked in the Middle East, Germany’s role in this region is worth spotlighting. After Israel’s war of aggression against Lebanon in the Summer of 2006, Chancellor Angela Merkel deployed a very large contingent to join the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). The 2 400 soldiers from Germany control the maritime infrastructure to prevent arms supplies from reaching the Resistance via the Mediterranean. On that occasion, Ms Merkel declared that the mission of the German army was to protect Israel. A wind of rebellion arose among the officers. By the hundreds, they sent letters to remind her that they had enlisted to defend their homeland not a foreign country, be it an ally.

An unprecedented development took place on 17 March 2008 and 18 January 2010, when the German and Israeli governments held a joint Council of Ministers meeting where various programmes were adopted, especially in the defense sector. At this stage, there shouldn’t be too many secrets left between the Tsahal and the Bundeswehr.

The investigation conducted by Detlev Mehlis is both steeped in ridicule as regards the false witnesses, and tainted with the illegal detention of the four generals. To the extent that the UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention formally and firmly condemned this excess of power.

This being said, the opprobrium that befalls Mr Mehlis’ work should not reflect on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon which is in no way responsible for his manipulations. But here, again, things get complicated. The credibility of the STL rests on its ability to curb, in the first place, all those who attempted to mask the truth and falsely accused Presidents Bachar el-Assad and Emile Lahoud, with the intention of provoking a war.

Now, it transpires that the Tribunal refuses to try the false witnesses, giving the impression that it is covering up the manipulations under Mehlis’ watch and is in fact pursuing the similar political objectifs (this time against the Hezbollah, and perhaps against others in future). Even worse, the Tribunal will not hand over to Jamil Sayyed (one of the four generals illegally detained) the minutes of his accusers’ hearings, thereby barring him from requesting compensation and making it look as if it condones four years of arbitrary detention.

In more prosaic terms, the Tribunal is shirking its responsabilities. On the one hand, it must judge the false witnesses to thwart further manipulations and to make plain its impartiality; on the other hand it refuses to undertake a “clean-up” operation which might force it to arrest Prosecutor Mehlis. However, Odnako’s revelations on the German lead render this posture untenable. All the more since it’s already too late: General Jamil Sayyed filed a complaint in Syria and a Syrian examining magistrate has already indicted Detlev Mehlis, Commissioner Gerahrd Lehmann plus the five false witnesses. One can imagine the commotion at the STL should Syria decide to call on Interpol to have them arrested.

Just as the Mehlis commission was supposed to compensate for the lack of professionalism on the part of the Lebanese forces of law and order, the STL should equally have ensured the impartiality that the Lebanese courts may have been short of. But things are far off target, which raises the question of the Tribunal’s legitimacy.

Kofi Annan didn’t want the Lebanon Tribunal to exert international jurisdiction, but to function as a national Lebanese tribunal with an international character. It would have been subjected to Lebanese law while half of its members would have been nationals of other countries. The plan did not materialize because the negotiations came to a sudden end. More precisely, an agreement was reached with the Lebanese government presided at the time by Fouad Siniora, the former authorised representative of the Hariri estate, but it was never ratified either by Parliament or by the president of the Republic. Hence, the agreement was endorsed unilaterally by the UN Security Council (Resolution 1757 of 30 May 2007). The end result is a hybrid and fragile entity.

As pointed out by Kofi Annan, this Tribunal is not analogous to any other so far created within the purview of the United Nations. “It is neither a subsidiary organ of the UN, nor a component of the Lebanese judiciary system”; it is simply “a conventional organ” sitting between the executive authority of the Lebanese government and the UN. Judging by the international rule of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary, the STL cannot be regarded as a genuine tribunal, but rather as a joint disciplinary commission within the executive frameworks of the UN and the Lebanese Government. Whatever decision it may make will inevitably be coated with suspicion.

Worse still, any Lebanese government can terminate it since, not having been ratified, the related agreement was binding only on the previous government. As a result, the present Lebanese coalition government has become a battlefield between partisans and foes of the Tribunal. In an attempt to maintain governmental stability, week after week Lebanese President Michel Sleimane has been dissuading the Council of Ministers from taking a vote on any issue linked with the STL. This embargo cannot hold out forever.

Bad news coming in pairs, suspicions have now extended to the President of the STL, Antonio Cassese. This reputable international jurist was President of the International Criminal Tribunal For the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He happens to be a ardent supporter of the Jewish colonialisation of Palestine. A personal friend of Elie Wiesel, Cassese received and accepted an honorary award, presented by Wiesel himself. He should normally have withdrawn and resigned when Hassan Nasrallah disclosed that Israeli drones had been reconnoitering the crime scene as well as the victim’s movements for months.

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According to the President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Antonio Cassese, the armed resistance in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan should be tried for “terrorism”.

Worst of all, Judge Cassesse personifies an interpretation of international law that causes division in the Middle East. Although his official curriculum vitae obscures it, he took part in the 2005 negotiations between member states of the European Union and those bordering the Mediterranean Sea (“Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean”). His definition of terrorism blocked the discussions. According to him, terrorism is exclusively the act of individuals or private groups, never states. It follows that a struggle against an occupying army would not be considered as “resistance” but as “terrorism”. In the local context, this juridical view is consistent with a colonial framework and disqualifies the STL.

The methods of the Special Tribunal do not differ from those applied by the Mehlis Commission. STL investigators collected mass files on Lebanese students, social security recipients and subscribers of public utility services. On 27 October, in the absence of the Lebanese judges, they even tried to snatch medical records from a gynecological clinic frequented by the wives of Hezbollah members. It is obvious that these probes have no link whatsoever with the Rafik Hariri assassination. Everything leads the Lebanese to believe that the information is actually earmarked for Israel, of which, in their eyes, the TSL is merely an offshoot.

All these problems had clearly been foreseen by President Putin when, in 2007, he had vainly made a pitch for a different wording of the STL founding resolution. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had denounced the “juridical loopholes” of the system. He deplored that the Security Council should threaten to resort to force (Chapter VII) to achieve unilaterally the creation of this “conventional organ”. He had emphasised that while the Tribunal should be working towards the reconciliation of the Lebanese people, it was devised in such a way as to divide them even more. Finally, Russia – as China – refused to endorse Resolution 1757.

The truth ultimately seeps through. The Israeli drone videos released by the Hezbollah expose Israel’s involvement in the crime preparations. The facts revealed by Odnako point to the use of a sophisticated German weapon. The puzzle is nearly complete.

Wikileaks has committed the unforgivable sin of revealing the inner workings of Empire, what the servants of Empire really think and in so doing it has also revealed the extremely comfortable relationship between the media and the state in making sure that the truth behind the headlines is kept from us.

Fascinating, the world of inter-state relations or diplomacy has been by ‘tradition’ (not mine) a closed house, members only with its own private language and rules of conduct. But of course diplomacy has two faces, one public and one private. The private face is not a pretty one but then you knew that already, didn’t you?

The art of diplomacy has been around for centuries and is codified in a set of behaviours that allow states to to talk to each other in what might be best described as the neutral territory of a commonly accepted language. So for example, outright threats to another state will be couched in ‘diplomatic’ language, not “I’ll blow you away unless you do as I say”. This enables states to negotiate in a ‘no man’s land’, conducted by intermediaries, the civil servants of the ruling political class. And the modern-day diplomat needs a real university degree in order to function, not someone with connections, the right family or a ‘degree’ in media studies.

But hand the state machine over to a bunch of halfwits and you get chaos. For proof of this just look at what thirteen years of ‘New’ Labour did to the UK state’s infrastructure. It can’t even keep the roads open when some snow falls.

The fact that around two million people have access to the ‘secret diplomatic’ cables that Wikileaks acquired and millions of other cables, just in the US, points to the obvious fact that global imperialism is a complicated mess, only held together because the mass media is willing and complicit partner in maintaining the charade. Above all else, this means accepting at face value, everything the state makes public. Thus keeping their private musings private is absolutely crucial if the illusion is to be maintained.

And that’s what’s interesting about a lot of these diplomatic cables as it’s apparent that for the most part they’re written by halfwits who have no idea how the real world works, not even in the furtherence of their own interests. It’s a far cry from the days of the real ‘Great Game’, when a relatively small handful of planners ran an empire on behalf of capital.

“If Berlin-Baghdad were achieved, a huge block of territory producing every kind of economic wealth, and unassailable by sea-power would be united under German authority�Russia would be cut off by this barrier from her western friends, Great Britain and France”

Thus said R.G.D. Laftan, a senior British military advisor just before the outbreak of war in 1914 referring to German plans to build a railway from Berlin to Baghdad and neutralize Britain’s control of the high seas. Imagine if you will, the consequences had the diplomatic notes of the time been made public?

The British diplomatic service of Laftan’s day, was a small, coherent and highly motivated group, well able to engineer complex operations of all kinds and strict secrecy was at the heart of it all. But controlling a global empire that has to operate without a centralized, colonial authority, or even admitting to being an empire is a nightmare of conflicting interests but no less deceitful or duplicitous than its infamous ancestor.

The thing is, as has been pointed out elsewhere, what is revealed in these cables is not earth-shattering, nor a surprise, the world’s archives are full of the same, billions of them in fact. What makes these different of course is that they’re not history in the academic sense of the word, nor do they fit well with the public face of the state as echoed through our complicit corporate/state media in selling the lie that our political class are responsible, rational and ethical individuals operating to further the public good.

The reality is that for the most part our leaders are obviously sociopaths, mass murderers, thieves and/or liars. We know this because they’ve been found out and found out the same way Wikileaks exposed the workings of a crumbling psychotic empire; by gaining access to the information that they have kept to themselves for fear of exposure concerning their real intentions and activities.

And now Julian Assange is really pissing them off and they’re out to get him. I think he will have to join Assata Shakur in Cuba pretty shortly if he wants to stay out of jail (or worse).

But above all else, it’s the audacity of the event that has got the political class so furious. You just don’t do things like this! To see the ‘masters of the universe’ for what they really are just blows the entire illusion away, which is why the substantive issues are never actually dealt with in the mass media. Instead, it does what it does best, look for the ‘juicy’ bits, celebrity-style and mount a character assassination attack on the unfortunate Mr. Assange, who has obviously bitten off a lot more than he can chew this time.

Part of the problem is that the releases have not only pissed off the leading players in the less than ‘great game’ but just about every government that has dealings with the Empire, which doesn’t leave many countries out of the equation. Frankly, I would have been a lot more selective and practice the ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’ approach to the cables and just embarrass the hell out of the gringos.

“Mr Putin said the Batman and Robin comparison “aimed to slander one of us”.

“”This is about our interaction, which is an important factor of the domestic policies in this country,” he said. “But to be honest with you, we didn’t suspect that this would be done with such arrogance, with such a push and, you know, being so unethically done.”" — Vladimir Putin, ‘Vladimir Putin slams ‘American arrogance’ after Batman-Robin slur

But I think Vladimir Putin’s comment sums up very well how many of the leaders outside the Anglo-Saxon cabal reacted to the revelations; they are under no illusion about the nature of the beast, but then that’s what diplomacy is meant to be about, not bad mouthing political leaders in such a loutish manner. Worse still, it reveals that the political class is composed of shallow-minded thugs who see the world as something akin to a Marvel comic. Dangerous people indeed.

But it’s too late, the cat is well and truly out of the bag, things will never be the same again. We know the emperor wears no clothes.

The Best Twelve Book on the Global Financial Crisis

December 3rd, 2010 by Danny Schechter

Back in 2007, just as the markets began their meltdown, I started writing a book I called Plunder to investigate the then emerging economic calamity. I had a well-known agent representing me, and, at that time, had published ten books. My agent warned me that I was ahead of the curve but agreed that the subject couldn’t be timelier.

Before we were through, the manuscript went to and was returned by 30 publishers. I was told that there is only one person that a book like mine had to pass muster with, not an economist, not a book editor—but the book buyer who handles business books for Barnes and Noble. If she/she didn’t like it, forget it. (This was before the bottom dropped out of that company that was later  nearly sold.)

So much for their business savvy. I guess Plunder was too much of an anti-business book for them then.

At that point, they were looking for “How to Get Rich” books and volumes with investment advice. Since I was not offering either, my warnings of the collapse ahead were off-message. No sale. Finally, a small press, Cosimo Books put it out. Sadly, with no real advertising budget or retail support, it wasn’t going to go anywhere. It was on the money in one sense — published just before Lehman Brothers went down.

Since then, as the crisis was acknowledged and legitimated, the subject was finally validated for the publishing world, perhaps as millions of people began asking, ‘What the F…? What the hell happened?’

To answer that question, a mighty stream of crisis books were commissioned and soon poured forth. Every publisher wanted one. Some authors blamed psychological factors. Others were technical to a fault and unreadable. Still, others trashed borrowers who bought homes they couldn’t afford. Many framed the problem in terms of Wall Street mistakes and miscalculations, and occasionally greed.

Wrote Satyajit Das, author of Traders, Guns & Money: “The number of books on the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has reached pandemic proportions – the World Health Organization (WHO) is investigating. With the decorum of vultures at a carcass, publishers are cashing in on the transitory interest of the masses (normally obsessed with war, scandal or reality TV shows) in the arcane minutiae of financial matters.”

Few indicted the system; fewer still focused on intentionality– crime in the suites, the subject I explore in my film PLUNDER The Crime Of Our Time and the more detailed companion book The Crime of Our Time (Disinfo).

In the meantime, I tried to keep up with the hype and a flow that is still flowing.

Here are twelve books worth reading:

  1. The Pecora Investigation: Stock Exchange Practices and The Causes of the 1929 Stock Market Crash. This is the just reissued actual text of the US Senate Committee on Banking and Currency in the days before the Congress was bought and sold. Pecora had said “Legal chicanery and pitch darkness were the banker’s stoutest allies.”
  1. So far, in today’s crisis there has been only ONE real Senate hearing, by Senator Levin questioning ONE deal by Goldman Sachs who denied everything until the bank reached a $550 MILLION settlement without admitting any wrong-doing. Clearly we still need a new Pecora-like investigation, not a tepid Congressional inquiry commission

2. Matt Taibbi: Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids and the Long Con that is Breaking America (Spiegel & Grau). As Rolling Stone readers know, Matt is a bold reporter and brilliant stylist turning his rage into brilliant prose and giving no mercy to the Goldman Sachs gang.

 

3. Nomi Prims: It Tales A Pillage: Behind the Bailouts, Bonuses and Backroom Deals from Washington to Wall Street.’ An elegant writer, Nomi knows the financial world up close because she’s ‘been there and done that’ with high paying stints at Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs. You can see her brilliance in my film, PLUNDER. Her book goes much deeper.

4. Les Leopold: The Looting Of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity And What We can Do About It (Chelsea Green). Les is a passionate and compelling writer, teacher and activist. He has been steeped in union politics and knows how to fuse analysis and agitation

5. Joseph E. Stiglitz: Free Fall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the Global Economy (Norton). Siglitz is the economist’s economist, a Nobel Prize Winner, an insider turned fierce critic of our economic crisis. He has the credentials and THE critique and a much needed global perspective.

 

6. Howard Davies: The Financial Crisis: Who is to Blame? (Polity.) I picked this book up at my alma mater, the London School of Economics, which Davies now directs. This is straight down the middle without dismissing more radical insights. He even references my critique of media complicity.

 

7. Randall Lane: The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade that Wall Street Went Insane. A colorful personal account by a gonzo editor who covered the madness for Wall Street pubs. Sample: “Historically, Wall Street has been like one giant extended High School (A boy’s High School). The jocks become trader—large, aggressive men who succeed in the pits based on heft and testosterone. The nerds went into banking, crunching numbers and pumping out spread sheets to determine the efficacy of deals.”

8. Yves Smith: ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy, and Corrupted Capitalism (Palgrave Macmillan). Yves is a rock star in the business of critical economics. A financial industry professional, she defected to the “light side” and founded the must read website, NakedCapitalism.com. This book skewers government policy, the economics “profession” and Wall Street fraudsters.

9. Steig Larsson: The Millennium Trilogy. The late Swedish journalist, turned popular writer, has produced three volumes of best-selling action thrillers with intelligent plots. I cite his work here because he and the character he created, Mikael Blomkvist, were investigative reporters in the financial realm. Larsson describes Blomkvist’s contempt for his fellow financial journalists based on morality: “His contempt for his fellow financial journalists was based on something that in his opinion was as plain as morality. The equation was simple. A bank director who blows millions on foolhardy speculations should not keep his job. A managing director who plays shell company games should do time.”

“The job of the financial journalist was to examine the sharks who created interest crises and speculated away the savings of small investors, to scrutinise company boards with the same merciless zeal with which political reporters pursue the tiniest steps out of line of ministers and members of Parliament.”

His books are more than storytelling. They are also a cry for more truth in media.

And, since I try to practice the investigative protocols of journalism in this sphere, may I call your attention to the republication of one of the greatest American classics of taking on corporate power?

 

10. Ida M. Tarbell may be gone but her work is not forgotten, especially her classic, two volume blistering The History of the Standard Oil Company. I was privileged to write the introduction for the Cosimo edition. She wrote this muckraking blockbuster in 1904 and remains relevant, and an example of the best of us.

 

11. For a left critique, try Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, Editors: The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XX1 Century (Global Research) from the Canadian-based global web site I contribute to.

12. Barry James Dyke: The Pirates of Manhattan: Systematically Plundering The American Consumer and How To protect Yourself Against It. The one financial book I book I saw “blurbed” by Jay Leno (Self published).

So, this is my “cheaper by the dozen” for 2010. I am sure I have overlooked some great work so it is hardly the “end-all” and “be-all.” Many of the new financial books out there are written by journalists for leading newspapers and magazine, as well as mainstream economists, many of whom missed the crisis when they might have warned us about it.

And, while many of us wait for the promised Wikileaks take down of a major bank, many authors and journalists still fail to tackle the really essential issues.

Hopefully, some of the books I am recommending will fill some gaps in your knowledge.

News Dissector Danny Schechter directs Plunder the Crime of Our Time and the wrote the companion book, the Crime of Our Time on the financial crisis as a crime story , (Plundrthecrimeofourtime.com) Comments to [email protected]

The Global Economic Crisis

Michel Chossudovsky
Andrew G. Marshall (editors)
This book can be ordered directly from Global Research 

The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday posted details of its multi-trillion-dollar “shadow bailout” programs, showing that nearly every major US financial institution benefited from billions in unreported government loans.

The data from 21,000 Fed transactions carried out between December 2007 and July 2010 involves eleven special lending facilities set up by the US central bank at the height of the financial crisis to funnel trillions of dollars into large financial companies. The money was lent at close to zero interest with no strings attached. The banks and corporations on the receiving end of the massive bailout were not required to even report what they did with the government cash.

The vast scale of the bailout underscores the fraud of the endless claims that “there is no money” for jobs, mortgage relief or even extended unemployment benefits. The publication of the Fed data simultaneously with the refusal of Congress to extend long-term jobless benefits, Obama’s pay freeze for federal workers and the preparations to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich while slashing social programs and tax benefits for the working class, highlights the naked class interests pursued by the government and both big business parties.

The figures were released in accordance with a provision of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law, passed in July, which was included over the objections of the Fed. The provision required the central bank to release by December 1 the list of banks and other corporations that benefited from its emergency lending facilities.

The figures released Wednesday cover only loans made by the Federal Reserve and do not include the Treasury’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s guarantees on bank debt.

The total in outstanding loans at any one time from the Fed’s various bailout programs reached $3.3 trillion, or more than one fifth of the gross domestic product of the United States. The aggregate amount loaned out, however, is in the tens of trillions. The loans provided by the Term Auction and Primary Dealer Credit facilities alone added up to nearly $13 billion.

The Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the largest program by transaction volume, made an aggregate $9 billion in overnight loans to the largest investment banks. The program, which started in early March 2008, made 1,381 transactions, averaging $6.5 billion.

Every major investment bank, including those that claimed to be healthy, used the facility. Goldman Sachs borrowed money from the facility 84 times between March 18, 2008 and November 26, 2008, with the largest transaction, amounting to $18 billion, taking place on October 15, 2008. Its loans under the program totaled $600 billion.

Merrill Lynch used the facility 226 times. Its largest overnight transaction, carried out September 26, 2008, was $35 billion.

Citing the repeated recourse of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to the Fed’s low-cost overnight loan facility, the Wall Street Journal editorialized Thursday: “This news makes it impossible to argue that either bank would have survived the storm without the Fed’s cash.”

The Journal went on to note that non-bank corporations also dipped into the government till: “The same goes for General Electric, which from late October to late November 2008 tapped the Fed’s Commercial Paper Funding Facility 12 times for more than $15 billion.”

Among the beneficiaries of the Fed’s program were foreign banks, including the London branches of Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch and the US subsidiaries of UBS, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas.

The Term Auction Facility, which provided longer-term loans to a broader range of banks, lent a total of $3.8 billion. The average loan was $900 million.

The New York Times on Thursday noted that hedge funds and big investors made huge speculative profits from the Fed lending programs. One of these programs, the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF), extended low-cost loans for firms to buy securities backed by mortgages, auto loans, student loans and other forms of commercial credit. Among those who profited from such loans, the Times reported, was Kendrick R. Wilson III, a former executive at Goldman Sachs who had been a top aide to Henry Paulson, Bush’s treasury secretary and author of TARP and other bank bailout schemes.

The data also shows that 40 percent of the Federal Reserve’s lending to American International Group, the failed insurance giant, went to its life insurance subsidiaries, which were engaged in wild speculation and would have failed without the Fed bailout. The central bank provided these firms with billions of dollars in financing despite the fact that it had no mandate to regulate or assist them.

While the Federal Reserve insists that virtually all of the money given to the banks has been repaid, this does not alter the fact that upwards of $20 trillion of public funds was doled out to rescue Wall Street from the results of its own recklessness and criminality, and these virtually free loans enabled the banks to continue their speculative ways and reap hundreds of billions more in profits. No small portion of the windfalls underwritten by the Fed and the Bush and Obama administrations went into the personal accounts of bank and hedge fund CEOs and top executives.

One of the ways the banks profited from the crisis was by using their low-cost government loans to buy Treasury securities, in other words, to lend the cash back to the government at double or quadruple the interest rate at which it was borrowed.

The scale of the bailout reflects the scale of the financial elite’s criminality. The entire boom of the Clinton and Bush years was based essentially on a Ponzi scheme. When it came crashing down, as it was inevitably bound to do, the public treasury was looted to make good the financial aristocracy’s losses.

While most of the Federal Reserve emergency programs were wrapped up by 2010, the government has continued to hide losses incurred from them. For instance, the Federal Reserve is holding over $1 trillion of largely worthless mortgage-backed securities on its balance sheet, insisting that they can eventually be sold at full price.

The direct beneficiaries of these policies were the super-rich. Wall Street used its repayment of the TARP loans in 2009, at least in part with money loaned by the Fed, as an excuse to award itself record bonuses. The largest Wall Street firms set aside $145 billion for compensation that year, breaking every previous record.

Obama, Congress Negotiate Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

December 3rd, 2010 by Patrick Martin

The Obama administration has begun closed-door talks with congressional leaders of both parties on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, amid reports that a deal will likely be based on acceptance of the central Republican demand that tax cuts for the wealthy be continued without any income ceiling, either the $250,000 a year proposed by Obama or the $1 million suggested last month by Senate Democrats.

The Wall Street Journal described the talks as “the first step toward a deal this month that many strategists in both parties believe will temporarily extend current tax rates for all income levels.” The New York Times reported that “lawmakers said they could begin to see the contours of a potential outcome that would extend the Bush-era tax rates temporarily while giving Democrats some concessions on unemployment compensation….”

What is coming is a windfall for the wealthy whose estimated value is $700 billion over 10 years, or $70 billion a year if the extension is for a shorter period of time. This handout to the financial aristocracy may be packaged with a revival of extended unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless, which the Obama administration and the Democratic congressional leadership allowed to expire on November 30.

The social necessity for extended benefits was underscored by the release of Labor Department figures on new claims for unemployment benefits, which jumped 26,000 last week to a total of 456,000. New jobless claims have been averaging 450,000 a week throughout 2010, well above the level of 400,000 that US economists cite as indicating a stable, rather than contracting, labor market.

After weeks of avoiding the subject, leading up to the expiration of benefits Tuesday for some 800,000 workers, both the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi staged cynical publicity stunts on Thursday morning to advertise their supposed concern for the unemployed.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report warning that if Congress does not act to restore the extended benefits, a total of 2 million workers will lose coverage by the end of December and a total of 7 million workers will be cut off by November 2011. The result will be a further slowdown in the US economy and the loss of another 800,000 jobs.

In the House of Representatives, the outgoing Democratic majority leadership forced a vote Thursday afternoon on a bill that would extend the Bush tax cuts for the 98 percent of families with incomes below the $250,000 mark. The bill narrowly survived a procedural vote in the morning, passing 213 to 203, with nearly 30 conservative Democrats voting against it. The bill itself was adopted later in the day by a larger margin, 234 to 188.

Pelosi tied the tax cut vote to the expiration of unemployment benefits, lambasting the Republicans for supporting $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy based on further federal borrowing, while adopting the opposite standard for the extended unemployment benefits. “When it comes to the unemployment insurance, and just the renewal we want to have would cost $18 billion,” she said, “they’re saying that has to be paid for. We have to pay for unemployment insurance, we don’t have to pay for tax cuts for the rich.”

Pelosi’s deputy, outgoing Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, chimed in: “I believe that passing unemployment insurance is a moral imperative, not a political deal.”

Neither Pelosi nor Hoyer bothered to explain why, given the top-heavy Democratic majority in the outgoing House, they were unable to pass a bill to continue extended unemployment benefits before the November 30 cutoff. The truth is that the Democrats deliberately allowed the program to expire so that its possible revival could be used to disguise their collusion with the Republicans on extending tax cuts for the wealthy.

The closed-door talks on the tax cut renewal were the only concrete decision taken at the much-publicized White House summit meeting Tuesday between Obama and his top aides and leading congressional Republicans and Democrats. The talks began the next day and continued into Thursday, with White House spokesmen saying they were making progress.

In naming Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Budget Director Jacob Lew to represent the administration in the talks—two figures identified, respectively, with the bailout of Wall Street and fiscal austerity—Obama sent a clear message of the kind of deal he was looking for.

Senate Democrats followed suit, naming Max Baucus, chairman of the finance committee and co-architect of the 2001 Bush tax cuts, as their representative. Congressman Chris Van Hollen, a key aide to Pelosi, represented House Democrats, while the Republicans were represented by Senator Jon Kyl, the minority whip, and Congressman Dave Camp, who will head the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in the incoming Congress.

The talks began with a blatant display of bad faith by the Republicans, as all 42 Republican senators signed a joint letter declaring they would block any legislation during the lame-duck session of Congress until the Senate took up bills to extend all the Bush tax cuts and fund government operations through the rest of the fiscal year.

The letter is remarkable both for its arrogance—42 out of 100 senators is a distinct minority, and could not dictate the agenda in an authentic democracy—and for its timing. It was made public shortly after the bipartisan summit at the White House, which ended with the usual rhetorical boilerplate about cooperation and civility.

Senate Democrats complained that the Republican declaration amounted to an ultimatum, but the Obama administration immediately capitulated. The White House did not condemn the Republican maneuver and went ahead with the scheduled bipartisan talks. One top Democratic aide told Politico.com, “There is growing concern among congressional Democrats that the White House will cave early and without a fight on tax cuts for the middle class and job-creating proposals, and not get much in return.”

Republicans gloated, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissing the House vote on limiting the tax cut, saying, “It’s not going anywhere.” The bipartisan talks would agree on an across-the-board extension of the tax cuts, including the wealthy, he said. The only issue was “just how long that extension will be.” One of the most right-wing Republicans in the Senate, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, said he believed that Obama “has come around to the idea that taxes can’t be raised in a recession.”

The Los Angeles Times observed: “The Republican ultimatum also showed the extent to which power in Washington has shifted in the aftermath of the GOP rout in last month’s midterm elections. Even though newly elected Republicans do not take office until January, the GOP on Wednesday was confident in issuing its demands and united in its vow to employ a filibuster in the Senate to back them up. Meanwhile, Obama appeared unable to move them off their position or exact any sort of political price.”

More is involved here than the aggressiveness of the Republicans and the cowardice of the Democrats. The actual policy differences between the two parties are minimal. Both parties represent that social layer in America that will benefit most from the tax cuts—the super-rich and the most privileged layers of the upper middle class—but the Democrats are compelled to hide their position behind a pretense of concern for working people and the unemployed.

This pretended sympathy is essential for the Democratic Party to play its designated role for the American ruling class as a bulwark against any challenge to its class domination from below. This pretense is wearing thin, however, and will be further undermined by what the New York Timesdescribed, in a considerable understatement, as “the prospect of White House and Congressional Democrats conceding on extending the tax cuts for affluent Americans.”

The social position of the Democrats is most clearly expressed in their response to the proposals from the bipartisan commission appointed by Obama to make recommendations on cutting the federal budget deficit. The final vote of the 18-member panel is set for Friday, but five of the six members selected by Obama have endorsed the report of the two chairmen, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, which calls for sweeping cuts in entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, as well as tax increases for middle-income working people.

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the lone Senate liberal on the panel, commented favorably on the panel report, although he may vote against it. He declared one of the most onerous of the cuts proposed by the chairmen, an increase in the age of eligibility for Social Security to 69 by 2075, to be “acceptable to me.” Raising the retirement age was “not radical,” he said. “These things are sensible and we’ve got to accept sensible alternatives to move forward, on the left and on the right.”

Another Senate Democrat on the commission, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, enthusiastically endorsed the chairmen’s report. He cited the danger of a mushrooming federal deficit under conditions of a global financial crisis. “Anyone watching the spreading debt crisis in Europe over the last few days, in Ireland, Portugal and Spain, understands the threat we face is real,” he said. “We can’t afford to wait until the crisis is upon us.”

U.S., Japan Launch Largest-Ever Joint War Games

December 3rd, 2010 by Global Research

TOKYO — Japan and the United States launched their biggest ever joint military exercise Friday amid tensions on the Korean peninsula, the Japanese defence ministry said.

The “Keen Sword” drills, which mark the 50th anniversary of the Japanese-US alliance, will continue until December 10, officials said.

The drill was planned before North Korea’s artillery barrage of a South Korean island last week but comes just days after a US and South Korean show of military force aimed to deter Pyongyang.

Around 34,000 Japanese military personnel with 40 warships and 250 aircraft are joining more than 10,000 US counterparts with 20 warships and 150 aircraft in the drill off Japan’s southern islands, close to the coast of South Korea.

The manoeuvres include integrated air and missile defence, base security, close air support, live-fire training, maritime defence and search and rescue.

The Pacific allies are for the first time being joined by South Korean military observers, in a bid by Tokyo to demonstrate solidarity among the three countries at a time of high tension in the region.

Japan sent soldiers in an observer capacity to take part in joint US-South Korean military exercises in July, held after the sinking of the Cheonan, a 1,200-tonne South Korean naval vessel, the Japanese defence ministry said.

An international probe blamed North Korea for the sinking, which left 46 South Korean sailors dead.

The joint manoeuvres will be much bigger than a naval exercise staged by Washington and Seoul this week in a show of force after Pyongyang stunned the world with the deadly artillery strike on a South Korean border island.

Japan has been on high alert since the attack, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan instructing his ministers to stay in Tokyo during the US-South Korea drill in the Yellow Sea to prepare for any emergencies.

Japan relies heavily on the United States for its security as under its pacifist constitution, its military is not allowed to attack enemy territories.

China’s newly assertive posture on territorial issues this year has also been a cause for concern for Tokyo and other Asian nations in a region where Washington is seen as an important counterbalance.

Following Pyongyang’s November 23 attack on Yeonpyeong island, which killed four people, China has proposed that the six nations involved in long-stalled North Korean denuclearisation talks hold an emergency meeting on the crisis.

But instead the United States, Japan and South Korea have agreed to hold their own talks in Washington on December 6 in an apparent snub to China. The other members of the six-party process are China, North Korea and Russia.

Interpol has issued an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for “sex crimes”.

Everyone assumed it was for rape.

But it turns out it was for violating an obscure Swedish law against having sex without a condom.

As Newsweek wrote in August:

A Swedish lawyer representing two women whose allegations triggered a sexual-misconduct investigation of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has given [Newsweek column] Declassified the first on-the-record confirmation of the allegations that led to the issuance—and then rapid cancellation—of a warrant on a rape charge and to a parallel investigation into alleged “molestation.” Claes Borgstrom of the Stockholm law firm Borgstrom and Bostrom, who is representing two women who said they had sexual relationships with Assange, said his clients complained to the police of Assange’s reluctance to use condoms and unwillingness to be tested for sexually transmitted disease.

***

Borgstrom said that specific details about the the allegations had not yet appeared in Swedish media. But he acknowledged that the principal concern the women had about Assange’s behavior—which they reported to police in person—related to his lack of interest in using condoms and his refusal to undergo testing, at the women’s request, for sexually transmitted disease. A detailed, chronological account of the women’s alleged encounters with Assange—which in both cases began with consensual sexual contact but later included what the women claimed was nonconsensual sex, in which Assange didn’t use a condom—was published on Tuesday by The Guardian; a Declassified item included a more explicit reference than The Guardian to Assange’s declining to submit to medical tests.

Similarly, the Daily Mail reported in August:

‘When they got back they had sexual relations, but there was a problem with the condom – it had split.

‘She seemed to think that he had done this deliberately but he insisted that it was an accident.’

Whatever her views about the incident, she appeared relaxed and untroubled at the seminar the next day where Assange met Woman B, another pretty blonde, also in her 20s, but younger than Woman A.

***

The [second] woman admitted trying to engage her hero in conversation.

Assange seemed pleased to have such an ardent admirer fawning over him and, she said, would look at her ‘now and then’. Eventually he took a closer interest.

***

What he did not tell her was that the party was being hosted by the woman he had slept with two nights before and whose bed he would probably be sleeping in that night.

***

‘The passion and attraction seemed to have disappeared,’ she said.

Most of what then followed has been blacked out in her statement, except for: ‘It felt boring and like an everyday thing.’

One source close to the investigation said the woman had insisted he wear a condom, but the following morning he made love to her without one.

This was the basis for the rape charge. But after the event she seemed unruffled enough to go out to buy food for his breakfast.

Today, a former attorney for Assange – James D. Catlin – has confirmed that the charges are for having sex without using a condom. He notes that:

The consent of both women to sex with Assange has been confirmed by prosecutors.

He also accuses the prosecutors of “making it up as they go along”, and said that Sweden’s justice system is destined to become “the laughingstock of the world” for pursuing the case against Assange.

And Assange’s current London attorney – Mark Stephens – told AOL news that he doesn’t even know what the charges against Assange are, but that they are not rape:

Stephens, told AOL News today that Swedish prosecutors told him that Assange is wanted not for allegations of rape, as previously reported, but for something called “sex by surprise,” which he said involves a fine of 5,000 kronor or about $715.

***

“We don’t even know what ‘sex by surprise’ even means, and they haven’t told us,” Stephens said, just hours after Sweden’s Supreme Court rejected Assange’s bid to prevent an arrest order from being issued against him on allegations of sex crimes.

“Whatever ‘sex by surprise’ is, it’s only a offense in Sweden — not in the U.K. or the U.S. or even Ibiza,” Stephens said. “I feel as if I’m in a surreal Swedish movie being threatened by bizarre trolls. The prosecutor has not asked to see Julian, never asked to interview him, and he hasn’t been charged with anything. He’s been told he’s wanted for questioning, but he doesn’t know the nature of the allegations against him.”

The strange tale of Assange’s brief flings with two Swedish women during a three-day period in mid-August — and decisions by three different prosecutors to first dismiss rape allegations made by the women and then re-open the case — has more twists, turns and conspiracy theories than any of [Swedish novelist] Stieg Larsson’s best-sellers.

So Assange might be a cad for sleeping with 2 women within a couple of days, and he might be irresponsible for having sex without a condom and then failing to submit to HIV tests afterwards.

But he has not been accused of rape under any traditional meaning of that term.

Of course, if numerous people hadn’t publicly called for Assange’s assassination (and see this and this), this wouldn’t be so surreal.

As Reuters notes:

Stephens said Assange was willing to meet Swedish prosecutors but they did not want to meet him.

“We are in a very, very surreal situation at the moment it’s like a Swedish fairytale.”

Wikileaks: A Government Caught Up in Mendacity and Lies

December 2nd, 2010 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The reaction to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange tells us all we need to know about the total corruption of our “modern” world, which in fact is a throwback to the Dark Ages.  

Some member of the United States government released to WikiLeaks the documents that are now controversial. The documents are controversial, because they are official US documents and show all too clearly that the US government is a duplicitous entity whose raison d’etre is to control every other government. 

The media, not merely in the US but also throughout the English speaking world and Europe, has shown its hostility to WikiLeaks.  The reason is obvious. WikiLeaks reveals truth, while the media covers up for the US government and its puppet states. 

Why would anyone with a lick of sense read the media when they can read original material from WikiLeaks?  The average American reporter and editor must be very angry that his/her own cowardice is so clearly exposed by Julian Assange. The American media is a whore, whereas the courageous blood of warriors runs through WikiLeaks’ veins.

Just as American politicians want Bradley Manning executed because he revealed crimes of the US government, they want Julian Assange executed. In the past few days the more notorious of the zombies that sit in the US Congress have denounced Assange as a “traitor to America.” What total ignorance. Assange is an Australian, not an American citizen. To be a traitor to America, one has to be of US nationality. An Australian cannot be a traitor to America any more than an American can be a traitor to Australia. But don’t expect the morons who represent the lobbyists to know this much.

Mike Huckabee, the redneck baptist preacher who was governor of Arkansas and, to America’s already overwhelming shame, was third runner up to the Republican presidential nomination, has called for Assange’s execution. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/01/us-embassy-cables-executed-mike-huckabee So here we have a “man of God” calling for the US government to murder an Australian citizen.  And Americans wonder why the rest of the world hates their guts.

The material leaked from the US government to WikiLeaks shows that the US government is an extremely disreputable gang of gangsters. The US government was able to get British prime minister Brown to “fix” the official Chilcot Investigation into how former prime minister Tony Blair manipulated and lied the British government into being mercenaries for the US invasion of Iraq. One of the “diplomatic” cables released has UK Defense Ministry official Jon Day promising the United States government that prime minister Brown’s government has “put measures in place to protect your interests.” 

Other cables show the US government threatening Spanish prime minister Zapatero, ordering him to stop his criticisms of the Iraq war or else. I mean, really, how dare these foreign governments to think that they are sovereign.

Not only foreign governments are under the US thumb. So is Amazon.com. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, who is Israel’s most influential senator in the US Senate, delivered sufficiently credible threats to Amazon to cause the company to oust WikiLeaks content from their hosting service. http://news.antiwar.com/2010/12/01/facing-lieberman-boycott-amazon-ousts-wikileaks/ 

So there you have it. On the one hand the US government and the prostitute American media declare that there is nothing new in the hundreds of thousands of documents, yet on the other hand both pull out all stops to shut down WikiLeaks and its founder. Obviously, despite the US government’s denials, the documents are extremely damaging. The documents show that the US government is not what it pretends to be.

Assange is in hiding. He fears CIA and Mossad assassination, and to add to his troubles the government of Sweden has changed its mind, perhaps as a result of American persuasion and money, about sex charges that the Swedish government had previously dismissed for lack of credibility.  If reports are correct, two women, who possibly could be CIA or Mossad assets, have brought sex charges against Assange. One claims that she was having consensual sexual intercourse with him, but that he didn’t stop when she asked him to when the condom broke.

Think about this for a minute. Other than male porn stars who are bored with it all, how many men can stop at the point of orgasm or when approaching orgasm?  How does anyone know where Assange was in the process of the sex act?

Would a real government that had any integrity and commitment to truth try to blacken the name of the prime truth teller of our time on the basis of such flimsy charges? Obviously, Sweden has become another two-bit punk puppet government of the US.

The US government has got away with telling lies for so long that it no longer hesitates to lie in the most blatant way. WikiLeaks released a US classified document signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that explicitly orders US diplomats to spy on UN Security council officials and on the Secretary General of the United Nations.  The cable is now in the public record. No one challenges its authenticity. Yet, today the Obama regime, precisely White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, declared that Hillary had never ordered or even asked US officials to spy on UN officials. 

As Antiwar.com asked: Who do you believe, the printed word with Hillary’s signature or the White House?

Anyone who believes the US government about anything is the epitome of gullibility.

The secret world of “cyber situational awareness” is a spymaster’s wet dream, made all the more alluring by the advent of ultra high speed computing and the near infinite storage capacity afforded by massive server farms and the ubiquitous “cloud.”

Within that dusky haze, obscured by claims of national security or proprietary business information, take your pick, would you bet your life that the wizards of misdirection and deception care a whit that you really are more than a disembodied data point?

Lost in the debate surrounding privacy invasion and data mining however, is the key role that internet service providers (ISPs) play as intermediaries and gatekeepers. From their perch, ISPs peer deeply into and collect and analyze the online communications of tens of millions of users simultaneously, in real-time.

Concerted efforts to eliminate online anonymity, in managed democracies and authoritarian regimes alike, are greatly enhanced by the deployment of deep packet inspection (DPI) sensors and software on virtually all networks.

As Canadian privacy watchdogs DeepPacketInspection.ca tell us, DPI offer ISPs “unparalleled levels of intelligence into subscribers’ online activities.”

“To unpack this a little” they aver, “all data traffic that courses across the ‘net is contained in individual packets that have header (i.e. addressing) information and payload (i.e. content) information. We can think of this as the address on a postcard and the written and visual content of a postcard.”

All of which is there for the taking, “criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial,” Cryptohippie chillingly informs.

Still the illusion persists that communication technologies are somehow “neutral.” Neither good nor bad but rather, much like a smart phone loaded with geolocation tracking chips or the surveillance-ready internet itself, simply there for all to use.

Reality as is its wont, bites with ever-sharper teeth.

As with other recent advances touted as breakthroughs–from the biomedical and pharmaceutical research that spawned factory farming and genetically-modified crops to something as seemingly banal as the highway system that ushered in exurban sprawl–from the workplace to the car-pool lane to idle hours spent trolling the web, our techno-toys function rather handily as instruments of social control.

Simply put, DPI hand our minders an unprecedented means to examine and catalogue our online communications. From blog posts to web searches to the content of email and video files, we’re delivered up every day, figuratively and literally, to advertising pimps or law enforcers, a faceless army of gatekeepers guarding an indefensible system in perpetual crisis.

Subtly guiding internet traffic into fast and slow lanes, based on the size and content of a particular file, or examining said file for malicious or illegal content, DPI has been deployed as a means of conserving bandwidth and as a defense against viral attacks.

Leaving aside the critical issue of net neutrality, linked to moves to further monetize the internet and hold communications hostage to the ability to pay for quicker network speeds, there is no question that ISPs and individual users should have a keen interest in defending themselves against the depredations of organized gangs of identity thieves and predators.

If DPI were solely a tool to weed out malicious hacks or channel traffic in more equitable ways, thereby ensuring the broadest possible access to all, it could provide concrete benefits to users and contribute to a safer and more secure communications’ environment.

This hasn’t happened. Instead, securocrats and corporatists alike are working feverishly to “reengineer the internet”–for the delivery of targeted ads and as a surveillance platform–and both view DPI’s ability to read individual messages, the “deep packet” as it were, as a singular means to do just that.

Last year, Antifascist Calling reported on moves by surveillance mavens to deploy deep packet sniffing Einstein 3 software developed by the National Security Agency on the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure.

As with the agency’s pervasive driftnet spying on Americans, as AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein revealed in his release of internal company documents, DPI and the hardware that powers it is the “secret sauce” animating these illegal programs.

Earlier this year, Klein told Wired Magazine that the documents suggest that NSA’s warrantless wiretapping “was just the tip of an eavesdropping iceberg,” evidence of “an untargeted, massive vacuum cleaner sweeping up millions of peoples’ communications every second automatically.”

Ostensibly designed for detecting and thwarting malicious attacks aimed at government networks, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the packet sniffing Einstein 3 program, developed under the code name TUTELAGE, can screen computer traffic flowing into state portals from private sector networks, including those connecting people to the internet.

“Its filtering technology,” journalist Siobhan Gorman wrote, “can read the content of email and other communications.”

Einstein 3 is considered so toxic to privacy that AT&T sought “legal assurance that it will not be sued for participating in the pilot program,” The Washington Post reported. Although they were given assurances by Bush’s former Attorney General, Michael B. Mukasey, that the firm “would bear no liability,” AT&T deferred until the Obama administration granted the waiver in 2009. So far, the federal government has expended some $2 billion on the program.

Jacob Appelbaum, a security researcher with the Tor Anonymity Project told CNET News in March that expanding Einstein 3 to private networks “would amount to a partial outsourcing of security” to unaccountable corporations.

But it will do much, much more. Appelbaum averred that the project represents “a clear loss of control [for the public]. And anyone with access to that monitoring system, legitimate or otherwise, would be able to monitor amazing amounts of traffic.”

A year later, a related program under development by NSA and defense giant Raytheon, “Perfect Citizen,” relies on a suite of sensors deployed in computer networks that will persistently monitor whichever system they are plugged into. While little has been revealed about how Perfect Citizen will work, it was called by a corporate insider the cyber equivalent of “Big Brother,” according to an email obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

I have pointed out many times that under the rubric of cybersecurity (the latest profit-generating “War on Terror” front), the secret state, America’s telecoms and internet service providers are conjoined at the hip in what are blandly called “public-private partnerships.”

Indeed, the secrecy-shredding web site Public Intelligence, posted a confidential document that provided details on the inner workings of one such initiative, Project 12.

Ultimately, the goal of the secretive enterprise, Public Intelligence averred, “is not simply to increase the flow of ‘threat information’ from government agencies to private industry, but to facilitate greater ‘information sharing’ between those companies and the federal government.”

This will be accomplished once “real-time cyber situational awareness” is achieved across all eighteen critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) sectors identified in the report.

Simply put, NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and a constellation of top secret cybersecurity projects will come to nought if filtering software that examines–and catalogues–the content, or deep packets, of those spied upon aren’t deployed across all networks, public and private.

No surprise then, that the origins of the ghost in the internet surveillance machine lie in unscrupulous efforts by advert pimps to deliver us to market.

“Opting In” to the Corporate Police State

Readers are familiar with the practice of web sites that install tracking “cookies” and other nasty bits of code that follow our antics across the internet.

This information is sold to advertisers by firms such as Google and Yahoo who charge a premium price for the privilege of peering into browsing habits.

Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that a gaggle of niche firms “harvest online conversations and collect personal details from social-networking sites, résumé sites and online forums where people might discuss their lives.”

We’re told that the dubious practice of “web scraping” provides the “raw material” in a rapidly expanding “data economy.” Journal reporters found that marketers “spent $7.8 billion on online and offline data in 2009″ and that “spending on data from online sources is set to more than double, to $840 million in 2012 from $410 million in 2009.”

And with incentives such as these, and virtually nothing in the way of regulation, is it any wonder we find ourselves preyed upon.

While we might garner a measure of privacy from the prying eyes of ISPs, marketing vultures and our political minders through the use of strong encryption, as I reported last month, the Obama administration will soon seek congressional authorization which mandates that software designers and social networking sites build backdoors into their systems.

According to The New York Times, the administration claims this is necessary so that law enforcement and intelligence snoops have a surefire means “to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages,” because their “ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is ‘going dark’.”

Mendacious administration claims are more than matched by those in the online advertising industry.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that deep packet inspection, “one of the most potentially intrusive technologies for profiling and targeting Internet users with ads is on the verge of a comeback, two years after an outcry by privacy advocates in the U.S. and Britain appeared to kill it.”

Advertising grifters Kindsight and Phorm “are pitching deep packet inspection services as a way for Internet service providers to claim a share of the lucrative online ad market.”

Right up front, Phorm declares that theirs’ is a “global personalisation technology company” that “delivers a more interesting online experience,” that is, if your interests lie in having a behavioral profile of yourself created, centered around intrusive web tracking and data mining technologies.

While both firms claim that user privacy is of “paramount” concern, the industry’s track record suggests otherwise. In 2008 for example, internet marketing firm NebuAd planned to “use deep packet inspection to deliver targeted advertising to millions of broadband subscribers unless they explicitly opted out of the service.”

An outcry ensued when the scheme became public knowledge. While NebuAd has gone out of business, “several U.S. ISPs who signed deals with NebuAd have been hit with class-action lawsuits accusing them of ‘installing spyware devices; on their networks,” the Journal averred.

According to Ars Technica, the lawsuit charged the firm and ISPs “Bresnan Communications, Cable One, CenturyTel, Embarq, Knology, and WOW! of all being involved in the interception, copying, transmission, collection, storage, usage, and altering of private data from users.”

NebuAd was accused by plaintiffs of exploiting “normal browser platform security behaviors by forging IP packets, allowing their own JavaScript code to be written into source code trusted by the web browser,” the complaint reads. “NebuAd and ISPs together cooperate in this attack against the intentions of the consumers, the designers of their software, and the owners of the servers they visit,” attorneys charged.

“All of the involved parties,” journalist Jacqui Cheng wrote, were “alleged to have violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, California’s Computer Crime Law, the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the California Invasion of Privacy Act.”

In Britain, a similar controversy erupted when BT Group PLC were forced to disclose that they “had tested Phorm’s technology on some subscribers without telling them. Last year, BT and two other British ISPs that explored deploying Phorm’s service–Virgin Media Inc. and TalkTalk–abandoned it,” the Journal reported.

At the time, the nose-tweaking tech web site The Register revealed that although Phorm refused to state how many BT customers had been profiled, “at the absolute least there are 38,000 BT Retail customers unaware their communications have been allegedly criminally intercepted in the last two years. The number could be as high as 108,000.”

When grilled by The Register as to why Phorm doesn’t believe “people have the right to know how likely it is they were part of a secret test,” a Phorm spokesperson replied “‘We’re just not going to disclose that’.” He claimed “‘they were BT customers and you have to ask BT about that’.”

BT also refused to respond to inquiries. How’s that for transparency!

Why then, should users believe industry professions of faith that ISPs won’t provide them with subscribers’ real identities? After all, as one wag told the Journal, ISPs “feel like they have data and they ought to be able to use it” and “they really desperately want to.”

Accordingly, the Journal reported that Kindsight, owned by telecommunications giant Alcatel-Lucent SA (talk about a seamless web!), “says six ISPs in the U.S., Canada and Europe have been testing its security service this year although it isn’t yet delivering targeted ads. It declined to name the clients.”

CEO Mike Gassewitz told Journal reporters that the company “has been placing ads on various websites to test the ad-placement technology and build up a base of advertisers, which now number about 100,000.”

Phorm’s history hardly inspires confidence. CEO Kent Ertugrul, “a Princeton-educated, former investment banker,” we’re informed by the Journal, honed his business skills in the early 1990s when he formed “a joint venture with the Russian Space Agency to offer joy rides to tourists in MiG-29 fighter jets.”

Coming at the height of the Yeltsin kleptocracy that looted billions of dollars in assets from the sell-off of the prized possessions of the former Soviet Union, at the very least this should have raised an eyebrow or two.

Before changing its name to Phorm in 2007, Ertugrul ran an enterprise called 121Media. According to numerous published reports, the firm produced a spyware application called PeopleOnPage. “This application,” Wikipedia averred, “acted as a browser hijacker and passed details of the user’s currently visited website to central ContextPlus servers, so that the user could be targeted with advertising” in the form of intrusive pop-ups.

The adware component, AproposMedia, was described by InternetSecurityZone.com as “…a malicious executable program that is usually installed without user consent or knowledge. AproposMedia may have the ability to secretly monitor, record, and transmit computer activity.” Indeed, The Register reported that Ertugrul’s PeopleOnPage ad network “was blacklisted as spyware by the likes of Symantec and F-Secure.”

Former pop-up king Ertugrul has called online rights’ campaigners “privacy pirates” who represent a “neo-Luddite retrenchment,” and told The Daily Telegraph last year that Phorm’s technology is a “game changer” in “protecting users’ privacy.”

But armed with a marketing scheme that promises “the potential for companies to collect substantially more revenue for literally any page on the internet,” serious privacy concerns are a real issue when deep packet inspection technologies are touted as a splendid means to do so.

Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee told New Scientist in 2009 that the “ever-increasing power of computers that is helping the internet to grow is also threatening its future.”

Berners-Lee “likened DPI to wiretapping, and pointed out that companies could use it to learn a huge amount about our ‘lives, hates and fears’.”

Information I might add, that is portable and readily exploitable by our political minders and the corporate grifters they so lovingly serve.

And with a national security state already monitoring huge volumes of data collected from the internet and other electronic communications’ platforms, The Guardian warns that Britain and other managed Western democracies are “sleepwalking into a surveillance society.”

Isn’t it time we woke up?

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.

The Hariri Assassination: All Eyes on Lebanon

December 2nd, 2010 by Rannie Amiri

While the world’s eyes are busy reading WikiLeaks cables, Middle Eastern eyes are focused squarely on Lebanon .

If the past week of frenzied diplomacy is any reflection of the region’s anxiety over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon ’s (STL) upcoming indictment in the February 2005 assassination of the late premier Rafiq al-Hariri, imagine the mood in Beirut .

The Lebanese daily Ad-Diyar reported the country’s foreign ministry had received word via its ambassador to the Netherlands , Zaidan as-Saghir, that the STL’s verdict would be issued Dec. 2. Al-Manar TV said Dec. 4 or 5. Others say not until March. The date may be uncertain, but an imminent ruling is not.

Lebanon has been on-edge since it became known that the STL will likely implicate high-ranking Hezbollah officials in Hariri’s murder, despite credible evidence linking Tel Aviv to the crime.

The Hezbollah-led, opposition March 8 Coalition has sought to cut the STL’s funding as Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah called on the government to boycott the tribunal entirely, which he dismissed as an “Israeli project.” Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his Sunni and Christian allies in the ruling March 14 Coalition, on the other hand, have vowed to stand by the court and its judgment. It should be noted that a sizable segment of the Maronite Christian community throws its weight behind former general and current MP Michel Aoun, whose Free Patriotic Movement is a significant March 8 Coalition member and has likewise called for the STL to be sidelined.

The impetus behind the week’s diplomatic flurry was not only that the diametrically opposed positions could lead to government paralysis (which some contend is already the case) but spillover into sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni supporters of the rival coalitions.

Fear over the potential negative fallout from the STL’s report caused Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani to fly into Beirut on a surprise (emergency?) visit to assuage frayed nerves, just hours before Lebanese President Michel Suleiman boarded a plane for Qatar to meet with the emir and inaugurate the new headquarters of the Lebanese embassy in Doha .

Qatar ’s role in resolving disputes between Lebanese parties is legendary; the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, famously brokered the May 2008 Doha Accord that led to the formation of a national unity government and ended an 18-month political stalemate before the near outbreak of civil war. He also helped finance reconstruction of southern Lebanon , devastated in the wake of Israel ’s brutal July 2006 offensive, and was the first visiting Arab head-of-state to tour area he helped rebuild during a July stopover.

Days later came Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogen who hoped to raise his country’s profile as regional peacemaker. Whereas Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was accorded a hero’s welcome by Lebanese Shia when he visited in October, Erdogen was unable to engender the same enthusiasm from Sunnis (and certainly not among Lebanese-Armenians). He nonetheless stressed the need for peace and unity between Lebanon ’s many confessional groups.

Still angered by Israel’s May 31 commando assault on the Gaza-bound relief vessel Mavi Marmara that killed nine Turkish activists—and even more miffed at the lack of a forthcoming apology—Erdogen pledged Turkey would not let Israel attack Lebanon without serious repercussions: 

“Does [Israel] think it can enter Lebanon with the most modern aircraft and tanks to kill women and children, and destroy schools and hospitals, and then expect us to remain silent?” 

Soon after Erdogen left Beirut , Hariri embarked on his first state visit to Iran . Appearing decidedly uncomfortable, he sought to secure the regime’s assistance in tempering Hezbollah’s response to the expected indictment. 

All this shuttle diplomacy comes against the backdrop of an alleged Saudi-Syrian “umbrella” over Lebanon , courtesy of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and President Bashar al-Assad’s mediation efforts. The two leaders’ unprecedented joint visit to Beirut in July aimed to placate the coalitions they backed—March 14 and March 8 respectively—and symbolically reinforce the country’s stability. Whether they ultimately agreed on a practical mechanism to avert a crisis after the STL’s findings are announced remains unknown.

The precarious nature of Hariri’s government and predictions of its eventual collapse parallel the misplaced trust and confidence March 14 Coalition members have in the Netherlands-based tribunal.

Indeed, the STL has neglected to consider several key developments: the exposure of Israeli espionage rings operating in Lebanon resulting in the arrest of more than 100 people on charges of collaborating with the Mossad; the captured agents’ confessions detailing the collusion, including one who said his Israeli handlers instructed him to delude the late prime minister into thinking Hezbollah was out to kill him (Hariri) and so allow the agent to alter the route Hariri’s motorcade would take that fateful February day; Hezbollah’s assertion that its telecommunications network had been infiltrated by Israel, compromising all its communications and causing bogus text messages to be sent.

Earlier this year, four spies were apprehended at Alfa, one of Lebanon ’s mobile service providers. One admitted to installing computer programs and planting electronic chips in Alfa transmitters on Israel ’s behalf.

This is important because the STL is expected to rely heavily on phone records and other telecommunication data in drawing its conclusions. Evidently neither Hezbollah’s latest disclosure nor Israeli agents known to have operated in the critical telecom sector merits further investigation.

In addition, during an August press conference, Nasrallah displayed video footage intercepted from Israeli reconnaissance planes detailing the route of Hariri’s motorcade and the assassination site the same day a bomb detonated underneath it, killing him and 21 others.

Also unaddressed by the STL is the issue of “false witnesses”; those persons who provided information incriminating Syria in Hariri’s murder but whose testimony was later found to have been fabricated (but not before four Lebanese generals spent four years in jail as a result). Without a follow-up judicial inquiry, how can testimony of those now accusing Hezbollah be trusted? 

Regional arbitration and reconciliation efforts between March 8 and March 14 are welcome endeavors. It will be for naught, however, unless all Lebanese parties and well-intentioned Arab and non-Arab states recognize the flawed, politicized nature of the STL, the deliberate oversight of Israel’s motive to kill Hariri, the political and military benefits it reaped from his death and the myriad of ways it could have manipulated evidence to frame Hezbollah.

Until those determined to know the truth behind Hariri’s assassination renounce the STL and its wayward path, justice, peace and stability will have no place in Lebanon.

 

Rannie Amiri is an independent Middle East commentator.

 

North Korea: A convenient threat for US-Japan alliance

December 2nd, 2010 by Feng Zhaokui

During the just-concluded US-ROK military exercises in the Yellow Sea, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked his cabinet ministers to remain in Tokyo, in case of any unforeseen incident that required immediate action.

After the recent exchange of fire between the two Koreas, the Japanese government has strengthened its security vigilance by dispatching more patrol aircraft to the region.

The Air Self-Defense Force at Hanamatsu Airbase has also been put on 24-hour standby. 

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku remarked at a press conference, “I don’t think the present situation is close to a military attack,” but it’s clear that the Japanese leaders are worried about the possibility. 

The US-Japanese role in a new Korean conflict should not be underestimated.

In fact, as early as in the 1990s, the US was preparing to fight a second Korean War. According to historical records, in 1993 the US military began to consult Japan about its support if “something happened in North Korea.”

After Morihiro Hosokawa took office as Japanese Prime Minister in 1993, his administration studied the measures necessary in case of an “emergency on the Korean Peninsula,” and, in particular, what actions the Japanese Self-Defense Forces would take. The study was completed in March 1994, with the code name “Operation 00.”

At the same time, the US envisaged that in the case of a second Korean War, it would gather 400,000 troops, about 200 ships and 1,600 aircraft in South Korea and Japan. The US asked Japan to act as a forward base in the event of war.

In March 1994, Japan received dozens of documents from the US, listing over 1000 requirements, including “de-mining the territorial waters of South Korea” and other military or quasi-military tasks. In December 1995, the Japanese categorized the US requirements into 1,059 items, involving eight categories that Japan provided for the US military: Airports, ports, transport, supply, mine clearance, communications and security.

Of course, numerous strategic plans are constantly drawn up by national militaries to cope with all possible scenarios. But this one was actually part of US global strategy, and was an important measure to strengthen the US-Japan military alliance.

Scholars of international relations generally believe that alliances are fundamentally formed in order to counter a common threat to the member states.

The clearer the threat is, the more vital the alliance is. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the US-Japan alliance lost its common enemy.

Combined with the economic conflicts between Japan and the US, the US was compelled to find a specific threat for the US-Japan alliance as soon as possible.

By doing so, it could end the belief in Japan that an alliance with the US was no longer needed after the Cold War, and make the Japanese feel that they were facing a threat that they could handle alone.

In deliberately exaggerating the severity of the threat posed by North Korea, the US convinced the Japanese that the security provided by the alliance against common threat was greater than the costs Japan had to pay for the alliance.

With the US determined to consolidate its alliances with neighboring countries, especially Japan, the two Koreas should be very careful to avoid playing on the brink of war. They need to avoid the recurrence of accidental discharge incidents, or they will draw fire upon themselves.

The author is a researcher with the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. [email protected]

A farsa e a geopolítica do crime

December 2nd, 2010 by José Claudio S. Alves

Nós que sabemos que o “inimigo é outro”, não podemos acreditar na farsa que a mídia e a estrutura de poder dominante no Rio querem nos empurrar.

Achar que as várias operações criminosas que vem se abatendo sobre a Região Metropolitana nos últimos dias, fazem parte de uma guerra entre o bem, representado pelas forças publicas de segurança, e o mal, personificado pelos traficantes, é ignorar que nem mesmo a ficção do Tropa de Elite 2 [1] consegue sustentar tal versão.

O processo de reconfiguração da geopolítica do crime no Rio de Janeiro vem ocorrendo nos últimos cinco anos.

De um lado, milícias, aliadas a uma das facções criminosas, do outro a facção criminosa que agora reage à perda da hegemonia.

Exemplifico. Em Vigário Geral, a polícia sempre atuou matando membros de uma facção criminosa e, assim, favorecendo a invasão da facção rival de Parada de Lucas. Há quatro anos, o mesmo processo se deu. Unificadas, as duas favelas se pacificaram pela ausência de disputas. Posteriormente, o líder da facção hegemônica foi assassinado pela milícia. Hoje, a milícia aluga as duas favelas para a facção criminosa hegemônica.

O blindado Caveirão. Processos semelhantes a estes foram ocorrendo em várias favelas. Sabemos que as milícias não interromperam o tráfico de drogas, apenas o incluíram na lista dos seus negócios juntamente com gato net, transporte clandestino, distribuição de terras, venda de bujões de gás, venda de voto e venda de “segurança”.

Sabemos igualmente que as UPPs [2] não terminaram com o tráfico e sim com os conflitos. O tráfico passa a ser operado por outros grupos: milicianos, facção hegemônica ou mesmo a facção que agora tenta impedir sua derrocada, dependendo dos acordos.

Estes acordos passam por miríades de variáveis: grupos políticos hegemônicos na comunidade, acordos com associações de moradores, voto, montante de dinheiro destinado ao aparato que ocupa militarmente, etc.

Assim, ao invés de imitarmos a população estadunidense que deu apoio às tropas que invadiram o Iraque contra o inimigo Sadam Husein, e depois, viu a farsa da inexistência de nenhum dos motivos que levaram Bush a fazer tal atrocidade, devemos nos perguntar: qual é a verdadeira guerra que está ocorrendo?

UMA GUERRA PELA HEGEMONIA DO CRIME

Clique para ampliar. Ela é simplesmente uma guerra pela hegemonia no cenário geopolítico do crime na Região Metropolitana do Rio de Janeiro.

As ações ocorrem no eixo ferroviário Central do Brasil e Leopoldina, expressão da compressão de uma das facções criminosas para fora da Zona Sul, que vem sendo saneada, ao menos na imagem, para as Olimpíadas.

Justificar massacres, como o de 2007, nas vésperas dos Jogos Pan Americanos, no complexo do Alemão, no qual ficou comprovada, pelo laudo da equipe da Secretaria Especial de Direitos Humanos da Presidência da República, a existência de várias execuções sumárias é apenas uma cortina de fumaça que nos faz sustentar uma guerra ao terror em nome de um terror maior ainda, porque oculto e hegemônico.

Ônibus e carros queimados, com pouquíssimas vítimas, são expressões simbólicas do desagrado da facção que perde sua hegemonia buscando um novo acordo, que permita sua sobrevivência, afinal, eles não querem destruir a relação com o mercado que o sustenta.

A farsa da operação de guerra e seus inevitáveis mortos, muitos dos quais sem qualquer envolvimento com os blocos que disputam a hegemonia do crime no tabuleiro geopolítico do Grande Rio, serve apenas para nos fazer acreditar que ausência de conflitos é igual à paz e ausência de crime, sem perceber que a hegemonização do crime pela aliança de grupos criminosos, muitos diretamente envolvidos com o aparato policial, como a CPI [3] das Milícias provou, perpetua nossa eterna desgraça: a de acreditar que o mal são os outros.

Deixamos de fazer assim as velhas e relevantes perguntas: qual é a atual política de segurança do Rio de Janeiro, que convive com milicianos, facções criminosas hegemônicas e áreas pacificadas que permanecem operando o crime? Quem são os nomes por trás de toda esta cortina de fumaça, que faturam alto com bilhões gerados pelo tráfico, roubo, outras formas de crime, controles milicianos de áreas, venda de votos e pacificações para as Olimpíadas? Quem está por trás da produção midiática, suportando as tropas da execução sumária de pobres em favelas distantes da Zona Sul? Até quando seremos tratados como estadunidenses suportando a tropa do bem na farsa de uma guerra, na qual já estamos há tanto tempo, que nos faz esquecer que ela tem outra finalidade e não a hegemonia no controle do mercado do crime no Rio de Janeiro?

Mas não se preocupem. Quando restar o Iraque arrasado sempre surgirá o mercado financeiro, as empreiteiras e os grupos imobiliários a vender condomínios seguros nos Pontos Maravilha da cidade.

Sempre sobrará a massa arrebanhada pela lógica da guerra ao terror, reduzida a baixos níveis de escolaridade e de renda que, somadas à classe média em desespero, elegerão seus algozes e o aplaudirão no desfile de 7 de setembro, quando o caveirão [4] e o Bope passarem.

28/Novembro/2010

1. Segunda versão do filme Tropa de elite. Ver O veneno da mensagem em Tropa de Elite 1 e 2
2. UPPs: As chamadas Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora
3. CPI: Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito
4. Caveirão: alcunha de viatura blindada utilizada pela Polícia Militar do Rio de Janeiro

Ver também:

  • Repúdio ao revide violento das forças de segurança pública no Rio de Janeiro, e às violações aos direitos humanos que vêm sendo cometidas

  • Ocupação militar das comunidades desencadeou ataques

  • La “guerra” brasileña

  • A crise no Rio e o pastiche midiático

    [*] Sociólogo da UFRRJ

    O original encontra-se em pcb.org.br/…

    Este artigo encontra-se em http://resistir.info/ .

  • EUA: O fedor da decadência económica fica cada vez mais forte

    December 2nd, 2010 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

    Na véspera do dia e acção de graças o jornal em língua inglesa China Daily e People’s Daily Online informaram que a Rússia e a China havia efectuado um acordo para abandonar a utilização do US dólar no seu comércio bilateral e usaram as suas próprias divisas em substituição. Os russos e os chineses disseram que haviam dado este passo a fim de isolar as suas economias dos riscos que minaram a sua confiança no US dólar como divisa de reserva mundial.

    Isto é grande notícia, especialmente no período de poucas notícias do feriado do dia de acção de graças, mas não a vi relatada na Bloomberg, CNN, New York Times ou em qualquer media impresso ou na TV dos EUA. A cabeça do avestruz permanece na areia.

    Anteriormente, a China concluíra o mesmo acordo com o Brasil.

    Como a China tem uma grande e crescente provisão de dólares com os excedentes comerciais com os quais comercia, a China está a indicar que prefere rublos russos e reais brasileiros a mais US dólares.

    A imprensa financeira americana consola-se com os episódios em que a dívida soberana amedronta a UE e remete o dólar para cima contra o euro e a libra esterlina. Mas estes movimentos de divisas são apenas medidas de actores financeiros a protegerem-se de dívidas perturbadas denominadas em euros. Eles não medem a força do dólar.

    O papel do dólar como divisa mundial de reserva é um dos principais instrumentos da hegemonia financeira americana. Não nos disseram quanto dano a fraude da Wall Street infligiu às instituições financeiras da UE, mas os países da UE já não necessitam do US dólar para comerciarem entre si pois partilham uma divisa comum. Uma vez que os países da OPEP cessem de manter os dólares com que são pagos pelo petróleo, a hegemonia do dólar ter-se-á desvanecido.

    Outro instrumento da hegemonia financeira americana é o FMI. Sempre que um país não pode honrar suas dívidas e reembolsar os bancos americanos, entra o FMI com um pacote de austeridade que esmaga a população do país com impostos mais altos e cortes em programas de educação, cuidados médicos e apoio ao rendimento até que os banqueiros obtenham o seu dinheiro de volta.

    Isto está agora a acontecer à Irlanda e provável que se propague a Portugal, Espanha e talvez mesmo a França. Após a crise financeira causada pela América, o papel do FMI como uma ferramenta do imperialismo estado-unidense é cada vez menos aceitável. O facto poderá tornar-se evidente quando os governos não puderem mais liquidar os seus povos em benefício dos bancos americanos.

    Há outros sinais de que alguns países estão a cansar-se da utilização irresponsável do poder por parte da América. Governos civis da Turquia há muito têm estado sob o controle dos militares turcos influenciados pela América. Contudo, recentemente o governo civil actuou contra dois altos generais e um almirante suspeitos de envolvimento no planeamento de um golpe. O governo civil afirmou-se mais uma vez quando o primeiro-ministro anunciou no dia de acção de graças que a Turquia está preparada para reagir a qualquer ofensiva israelense contra o Líbano. Eis aqui um aliado da NATO americana a libertar-se da suserania americana exercida através dos militares turcos. Quem sabe a Alemanha podia ser o próximo.

    Enquanto isso, na América a administração Obama conseguiu propor uma Comissão do Défice cujos membros querem pagar as guerras de muitos milhões de milhões (trillion) de dólares que estão a enriquecer o complexo militar/segurança e o muitos milhões de milhões de dólares dos salvamentos do sistema financeiro através da redução de aumentos anuais da Segurança Social conforme o custo de vida, da elevação da idade de reforma para 69 anos, do fim da dedução do juro hipotecário, do fim da dedução fiscal de seguro de saúde proporcionado pelo empregador, da imposição de um imposto federal sobre vendas de 6,5 por cento, enquanto corta a taxa fiscal de topo para os ricos.

    Mesmo as baixas taxas de juro do Federal Reserve são destinadas a ajudar os banksters [1] . As baixas taxas de juro privam os reformados e aqueles que vivem das suas poupanças do rendimento do juro. As baixas taxas de juro também privaram pensões corporativas de financiamento. Para colmatar o fosso há corporações que estão a emitir milhares de milhões de dólares em títulos corporativos a fim de financiar as suas pensões. A dívida corporativa está a aumentar, mas não as instalações e equipamentos que produziriam receitas para o serviço da dívida. À medida que a economia piora, servir a dívida adicional será um problema.

    Além disso, os idosos da América estão a descobrir que cada vez menos médicos os aceitarão como pacientes pois um corte de 23 por cento prepara-se nos já baixos pagamentos do Medicare aos médicos.

    O governo americano só tem recursos para guerras de agressão, intrusões de estado policial e salvamentos de banksters ricos. O cidadão americano tornou-se um mero sujeito a ser sangrado para as oligarquias dominantes.

    A atitude de estado policial do Ministério da Segurança Interna em relação a viajantes de linhas aéreas é uma clara indicação de que os americanos já não são cidadãos com direitos mas sujeitos sem direitos. Ainda virá o dia talvez em que americanos oprimidos tomarão as ruas como os franceses, os gregos, os irlandeses e os britânicos.

    29/Novembro/2010

    [1] Banksters: banqueiros+gangsters.

    [*] Foi editor do Wall Street Journal e secretário assistente do Tesouro dos EUA. Seu livro mais recente é How the Economy Was Lost . Contacto: [email protected]

    O original encontra-se em http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22196

    Este artigo foi traduzido por http://resistir.info/ .

    The company that Dick Cheney ran prior to becoming Vice President of the United States was atop the tongue of liberals each time his company was awarded a contract in Iraq.

    Now the company’s name, Halliburton, is being spoken somewhere else: Nigeria.

    According to a story filed late Wednesday, Cheney will be indicted in a Nigerian bribery case as part of an investigation into an alleged $180 million bribery scandal.

    “Last week, Nigeria arrested at least 23 officials from companies including Halliburton, Saipem, Technip and a former subsidiary of Panalpina Welttransport Holding AG in connection with alleged illegal payments to Nigerian officials. Those detained were all freed on bail on Nov. 29,” Bloomberg News’ Elisha Bala-Gbogbo wrote.

    “Authorities in the West African nation are probing Halliburton, Saipem and Technip for the alleged payment of $180 million in bribes to win a $6 billion liquefied natural-gas contract,” Bala-Gbogbo added. “Panalpina is being investigated for illegal payments it allegedly made to Nigerian customs officials on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.”

    The prosecuting counsel for the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said that indictments will be handed down in the next three days and that an arrest warrant for Cheney “will be issued and transmitted through Interpol.”

    Adds Bloomberg, “Obla said charges will be filed against current and former chief executive officers of Halliburton, including Cheney, who was CEO from 1995 to 2000, and its former unit KBR Inc., based in Houston, Texas; Technip SA, Europe’s second-largest oilfield- services provider; Eni SpA, Italy’s biggest oil company; and Saipem Construction Co., a unit of Eni. Obla didn’t identify the former officials whom he said held office when the alleged bribes were paid.”

    A spokesman for Cheney declined to comment.

    The US Securities and Exchange Committee probe focused on the deal as early as 2004. Wrote The Washington Post at the time:

    The Nigerian project, started in the early 1990s, was worth almost $5 billion to TSKJ, a partnership that included a KBR predecessor, as well as companies from France, Japan and the Netherlands.

    At issue are payments made to Tristar, a Gibraltar company that had a consulting arrangement with a corporation formed by TSKJ to “administer the contracts and execute the work” in Nigeria, a Halliburton spokeswoman said in response to questions.

    KBR, the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton, was formed when Halliburton acquired Dresser Industries Inc. in 1998. It was a combination of Halliburton’s Brown & Root and Dresser’s M.W. Kellogg Co. Officials from the SEC and Cheney’s office declined to comment. Early on Thursday, Halliburton said they hadn’t seen the new charges, but still denied their involvement.

    “Halliburton’s oil-field services operations in Nigeria have never in any way been part of the LNG project and none of the Halliburton employees have ever had any connection to or participation in that project,” Tara Mullee Agard, a spokeswoman for the Houston-based company, said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg.

    Added Bloomberg: “Halliburton Co., the world’s second- largest oilfield-services provider, said it hasn’t seen any amended charges by Nigerian authorities who plan to indict current and former employees in a bribery scandal.”

    Fed Data Shows Foreign Banks Huge Beneficiaries of Emergency Lending Programs, Hedge Funds, McDonald’s, Harley-Davidson and Others Also Bailed Out

    Under orders from Congress pursuant to the Dodd-Frank financial legislation, the Fed has finally released details of its emergency lending starting in 2007.

    As Bloomberg notes:

    Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. were among the top borrowers from the Term Auction Facility [TAF]…

    Bank of America had three loans for $15 billion each outstanding from the facility as of Jan. 15, 2009, while Wells Fargo had three loans for $15 billion each on Feb. 26 …

    Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. also availed themselves of the TAF. Citigroup’s Citibank NA subsidiary had three loans under the facility totaling $20 billion on Jan. 15, 2009. JPMorgan’s JPMorgan Chase Bank NA had two loans totaling $25 billion on Feb. 26, 2009.

    Bloomberg notes that foreign banks borrowed heavily from TAF as well:

    Banks with headquarters outside the U.S. were among the first to begin using the facility in December 2007 and were also among its heaviest borrowers. These included the U.S. affiliates of banks such as Manama, Bahrain-based Arab Banking Corp., Madrid-based Banco Santander SA, and Paris-based Societe Generale SA. Beginning on June 18, 2009, Barclays Bank Plc had two loans totaling $23.45 billion outstanding.

    In a second article, Bloomberg points out that despite Goldman’s statements that it would have survived even without help from the Fed, Goldman was a big borrower as well:

    Goldman Sachs Goup Inc., which rebounded from the financial crisis to post record profit last year, was a regular borrower from two emergency Federal Reserve programs in 2008 and early 2009, new data show.

    The firm borrowed from the Fed’s Term Securities Lending Facility most weeks from March 2008 through April 2009, data released by the Fed today show. Two units of the New York-based firm borrowed as much as $24.2 billion from the Fed’s Primary Dealer Credit Facility in the weeks after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy in September 2008, the data show.

    Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, 56, was quoted by Vanity Fair last year as saying the company might have survived the credit crisis without government help. The firm’s president,Gary Cohn, was more definitive, according to the magazine: “I think we would not have failed,” he was quoted as saying. “We had cash.”

    Business Insider quotes the Fed to show that many banks tried to avoid the stigma attached to discount window borrowing by using the TAF program:

    Many banks were reluctant to borrow at the discount window out of fear that their borrowing would become known and would be erroneously taken as a sign of financial weakness.

    ***

    The PDCF functioned as an overnight loan facility for primary dealers, similar to the way the Federal Reserve’s discount window provides a backup source of funding to depository institutions. By providing a source of liquidity to primary dealers when funding was not available elsewhere in the market,

    Business Insider also notes that, “Morgan Stanley, Citi, and Merrill were the biggest users of the PDCF [the Primary Dealer Credit Facility].”

    CNBC points out that foreign banks used the PDCF as well:

    In addition to Barclays, BNP Paribas Securities , Daiwa Securities America, Deutsche Bank Securities, Mizuho Securities USA, Dresdner Kleinwort Securities and UBS Securities all received support from the PDCF.

    In a third article, Bloomberg reports that foreign banks were also among the biggest users of the Fed’s emergency commercial paper facility:

    The U.S. subsidiaries of European financial institutions, led by Zurich-based UBS AG and Brussels- based Dexia SA were among the largest users of a government program to provide emergency short-term funding to U.S. companies and banks during the credit crisis.

    Six European banks were among the top 11 companies that sold the most debt overall to the the Commercial Paper Funding Facility. They sold a combined $274.1 billion, according to data made public today by the U.S. central bank. UBS sold $74.5 billion, the most among all borrowers. The largest U.S.-based user was insurer American International Group, selling $60.2 billion.

    UBS’s figure of $74.5 billion represents the company’s total sales over the life of the program. The bank’s CPFF borrowings peaked at $37.2 billion, an amount the firm rolled over, or re-sold at maturity, once. Other companies rolled over debt in the program as well.

    Zero Hedge writes:

    One may be forgiven to believe that … the Fed only bailed out foreign Central Banks, which in turn took the money and funded their own banks. It turns out that is only half the story: we now know the Fed also acted in a secondary bail out capacity, providing over $350 billion in short term funding exclusively to 35 foreign banks, of which the biggest beneficiaries were UBS, Dexia and BNP. Since the funding provided was in the form of ultra-short maturity commercial paper it was essentially equivalent to cash funding. In other words, between October 27, 2008 and August 6, 2009, the Fed spent $350 billion in taxpayer funds to save 35 foreign banks….

    (click for larger image)

    Zero Hedge also reports that California pension giant Calpers was the largest user of the TALF program, and provides details on the big foreign central bank users of the Fed’s emergency swap lines:

    • Looking at the TALF data, we see that the biggest borrower by subscription is Calpers, with a total of about $5.4 billion
    • More curiously, now disgraced and embroiled in an insider trading scandal hedge fund FrontPoint seems to have been a very active borrower on the TALF facility, having received $4.136 billion on subscription, the bulk of it going to a FrontPoint Michigan Strategic Partnership Investment entity, which has borrowed $2.6 billion
    • Foreign central bank borrowings

      • ECB [European Central Bank] – 271 borrowings for gross rolling total of just over $8 trillion.

      • SNB [Swiss National Bank] – 114 borrowings, for a gross rolling total of $465 billion

      • BOE [Bank of England] – 81 borrowings for a gross rolling total of $918 billion

    Huffington Post is providing an excellent live-blogging round up as new discoveries are made from the Fed’s data release. Here are some of the more interesting insights:

    Mutual funds, hedge funds and bond funds borrowed more than $71 billion from the Fed’s Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, the WSJ reported. This includes $7.1 billion borrowed by the massive bond fund PIMCO, run by veteran investor Bill Gross. Gross’s involvement in the details of the bailout, which included a campaign for public-private partnerships to unwind toxic assets, raised more than few eyebrows from critics.

    ***

    Two European Megabanks Got A Windfall From The Fed … Two European megabanks — Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse — were the largest beneficiaries of the Fed’s purchase of mortgage-backed securities. The Fed’s dollars also flowed to major American companies that are not financial players, including McDonald’s and Harley-Davidson, through unsecured short-term loans.

    ***

    Wall Street firms teetering on the verge of collapse pledged more than $1.3 trillion in junk-rated securities to the Federal Reserve for cheap overnight loans….

    The fact that Wall Street was able to pledge junk to the Fed in exchange for cheap financing is likely to enrage lawmakers who view the Bush and Obama-era crisis programs as largely benefiting Wall Street while “Main Street” has been left behind.

    Adding insult to the perceived slight, banks have ramped up their requirements for new loans to borrowers, making it ever more difficult for cash-strapped households and businesses to take out new commitments.

    Huffington Post also reports that many of these banks borrowed at ridiculously low interest rates.

    Karl Denninger argues that the fact that the Fed took stock in two of AIG’s largest foreign insurance subsidiaries violates Section 14 of the Federal Reserve Act, which prohibits the Fed from taking an equity interest in a company irrespective of the means or terms.

    While Bank of America and Wells Fargo were the biggest TAF recipients, AP reports that – when total government loans and aid are added up – other American banks borrowed much more:

    New documents show that the most loan and other aid for U.S. institutions over time went to Citigroup ($2.2 trillion), followed by Merrill Lynch ($2.1 trillion), Morgan Stanley ($2 trillion), Bear Stearns ($960 billion), Bank of America ($887 billion), Goldman Sachs ($615 billion), JPMorgan Chase ($178 billion) and Wells Fargo ($154 billion).

    However, it may be too early to call the horse race in terms of totals and rankings for emergency loans and aid to the banks. Because of the way that the Fed presented the data, there is a possibility of double-counting across different program categories, or failing to take into account that loans were repaid and then new loans taken out. So it may take a couple of days for a definitive analysis.

    If the US Wants Peace in Korea, it Should Keep its Word

    December 2nd, 2010 by Mike Whitney

    On January 29, 2002, former President George W. Bush designated North Korea as one of three nations in the “axis of evil”. Bush made it clear that these countries were enemies of the United States and that they would be targets of future US aggression. Shortly after Bush’s State of the Union Address, the administration released its National Defense Strategy which claimed the right to preemptively attack countries it saw as threats to US hegemony. Naturally, North Korea took these developments seriously and prepared a strategy to defend itself against a US attack.

    Less than a year after Bush’s speech, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). And, six years after that, on May 25, 2009, North Korea conducted a nuclear weapons test in a remote north-eastern area of the country which triggered a 4.7 magnitude earthquake. Experts now believe that North Korea has a stockpile of between 6 to 9 nuclear weapons.

    North Korean leaders were forced to develop a nuclear arsenal to defend themselves against US aggression. It was a reasonable response to Bush’s saber rattling.

    On November 30, 2010, North Korea announced that it had opened its first uranium enrichment plant. According to the Christian Scientist Monitor:

    “For the first time, North Korea made its uranium enrichment program a matter of written record Tuesday with the proud claim in the country’s leading newspaper of a modern facility that is already operational….

    That revelation… marks another step toward North Korea’s emergence as a nuclear power. The North’s “modern uranium enrichment plan” was still under construction but was already “equipped with several thousand centrifuges,” according to the newspaper. In recent years Pyongyang has already exploded two nuclear devices with plutonium at their core.” (“It’s official: North Korea says ‘modern’ nuclear plant is operating”, Christian Scientist Monitor)

    So, the North has nukes and has thus spared itself a fate similar to Iraq’s. No doubt, leaders in Tehran are looking on with envy. If Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program already, they surely must be considering one now.

    Virtually all of the western media have condemned North Korea’s recent shelling of Yeongpyeong which killed a number of innocent civilians. But the media leave out important details which help to explain why the North acted as it did. South Korea missionary, Gene Matthews breaks down the incident like this in The Progressive:

    “North Korea has always felt threatened by joint military exercises of the U.S. and South Korea, and has always protested against them,” he says. “This time, North Korea stated that the exercises were taking place in North Korean territory and that if shots were fired during the exercise they would retaliate. Shots were fired (not at the North, it should be pointed out but out toward the ocean) and the North retaliated.” (“Keeping Perspective on North Korea”, Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive)

    So we can see that, however foolish, this was not an act of aggression on the part of the North, but defense. The US/South Korea military exercises are intentionally provocative. The North merely did what it felt it had to do to send a message that it will defend its borders. US citizens would expect nothing less if Russia and China were carrying out military maneuvers on the Canadian border or off the coast of San Diego.

    Barack Obama is following in the footsteps of the early Bush administration. Bush eventually learned that hostility does not work with North Korea, so he backed down. After 6 years of belligerence, Bush caved in to nearly all of North Korea’s demands and got nothing in return. The UN’s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, did not gain access to Kim Jong-il’s nuclear stockpile or to its “Top-Secret” file on weapons programs. Nor were IAEA inspectors allowed to conduct surprise “go anywhere, see anything” inspections. None of Bush’s main objectives were achieved, in fact, the ex-president even had North Korea removed from the State Department’s list of “supporters of terrorism”. All the while, the North continued to develop its long-range ballistic-missile delivery system, the Taepodong 2, which will eventually be able to strike cities in the US.

    The Bush policy turned out to be a disaster and was viciously criticized by former supporters on the right. Here’s what Claudia Rosett, of “The Rosett Report” (a favorite at the Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute) said at the time:

    “The lesson to date is that America, faced with nuclear blackmail, will bow down, dignify and fortify tyrants, fork over loot, and celebrate the process as a victory for diplomacy. Were North Korea to detonate a nuclear bomb over Los Angeles tomorrow, I start to wonder if Condi Rice and Chris Hill, would describe the cataclysm as “troubling” and then re-cast it as a candid and informative addendum to North Korea’s promised declaration of its nuclear program.”

    And here’s a blurp from neocon John Bolton:

    “The only good news is that there is little opportunity for the Bush administration to make any further concessions in its waning days in office. But for many erstwhile administration supporters, this is a moment of genuine political poignancy. Nothing can erase the ineffable sadness of an American presidency, like this one, in total intellectual collapse.”

    Now Obama wants to resume hostilities with the North, while expecting a different outcome than Bush; tougher sanctions, more military exercises, more pressure from allies, and a stubborn refusal to conduct bilateral negotiations. It’s madness. There’s been no change in the approach at all. If anything, Obama has taken a harder line than Bush.

    And what does the North want?

    The North wants what it has always wanted. It wants the US to honor its obligations under the 1994 Agreed Framework. That’s it. All Obama needs to do to end the current standoff, is to keep his end of the bargain. Here’s how Jimmy Carter summed it up in a Washington Post op-ed (November 24, 2010):

    “…in September 2005, an agreement that reaffirmed the basic premises of the 1994 accord. (The Agreed Framework) Its text included denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a pledge of non-aggression by the United States and steps to evolve a permanent peace agreement to replace the U.S.-North Korean-Chinese cease-fire that has been in effect since July 1953. Unfortunately, no substantive progress has been made since 2005…

    This past July I was invited to return to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American, Aijalon Gomes, with the proviso that my visit would last long enough for substantive talks with top North Korean officials. They spelled out in detail their desire to develop a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and a permanent cease-fire, based on the 1994 agreements and the terms adopted by the six powers in September 2005….

    North Korean officials have given the same message to other recent American visitors and have permitted access by nuclear experts to an advanced facility for purifying uranium. The same officials had made it clear to me that this array of centrifuges would be “on the table” for discussions with the United States, although uranium purification – a very slow process – was not covered in the 1994 agreements.

    Pyongyang has sent a consistent message that during direct talks with the United States, it is ready to conclude an agreement to end its nuclear programs, put them all under IAEA inspection and conclude a permanent peace treaty to replace the “temporary” cease-fire of 1953. We should consider responding to this offer. The unfortunate alternative is for North Koreans to take whatever actions they consider necessary to defend themselves from what they claim to fear most: a military attack supported by the United States, along with efforts to change the political regime.” (“North Korea’s consistent message to the U.S.”, President Jimmy Carter, Washington Post)

    There it is in black and white. The US can end the conflict today by just keeping its word. Unfortunately, the United States never had any intention of meeting its obligations under the terms of the Agreed Framework or of resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula. From the very beginning, the US stalled on its promise to build 2 lightwater reactors to meet the North’s electrical needs. None of the essential components–turbines or generators–were ever delivered. A foundation was built for one of the reactors, but nothing more. The US also agreed to organize an international consortium to guarantee funding for the reactors, but never followed through. The US never made any effort to keep its end of the bargain. So, (reluctantly) the North withdrew from the NPT and build 9 nuclear weapons. Of course, none of this appears in US media where it might interrupt the daily flow of anti-North Korea propaganda.

    Bottom line: The reason there is no peace in Korea is because Washington doesn’t want peace. It’s that simple.

    Political Power and the World Market

    The twin nemesis of Latin America’s quest for more equitable and dynamic development, US imperial and local oligarchic power have been subject to profound changes over the past decade. New capitalist classes both at home and abroad have redefined Latin America’s relation to world markets, seized opportunities to stimulate growth and forged cross class coalitions linking overseas investors, agro-mineral exporters, national industrialists with a broad array of trade unions, and in some countries peasant and Indian social movements. Parallel to these changes in Latin America, a new militarist and financial political configuration engaged in prolonged wars, colonial occupations and widespread speculation has weakened the structural economic links – dominance – between US imperial economic interests and Latin America’s dynamic socio-economic classes.

    In the present conjuncture, these basic changes in the respective class structures – in the US and Latin America – define the contours, constraints and ‘reach’ of the imperial classes as well as the potential autonomy of action of Latin America’s leading socio-economic classes.

    Notions which freeze Latin America in a time warp such as “500 years of exploitation” or which conflate earlier decades of US political-economic dominance with the present, have failed to take account of recent class dynamics, including popular insurrections, mass electoral mobilizations and failed imperial-centered economic models which have redefined the power equation between the US and Latin America. Equally important, fundamental changes in market relations and market competition has lessened US influence in the world market and opened major growth opportunities for new and established sectors of Latin America’s capitalist class, especially its dynamic export sectors.

    Understanding imperialism, especially the US variant, requires focusing on class relations, within and between countries and regions, the changing balance of power as well as the impact of fundamental changes in world market relations. Equally important the private economic institutions of imperialism (banks, multi-national corporations, investors) are contingent on the composition and policies of the imperial state. Insofar as the state defines its priorities in military and ideological terms and acts accordingly, by channeling resources in prolonged wars, the imperial policymakers weakens their capacity to sustain, finance and promote overseas private economic interests. As we shall analyze and discuss in the following sections, the US has suffered a relative loss of political and economic power over key Latin American regimes and markets as its military commitments have widened and deepened over time. The result is a Latin American political configuration which has changed dramatically over the past two decades.

    Latin American Political-Economic Configurations and US Imperialism

    The upsurge of social movements, the subsequent ascent of center-left political regimes,the dynamic economic growth of Asian economies and the consequent sharp increase in prices of commodities in the world market has changed the configuration of political power in Latin America and between the latter and the US between 2000-2010.

    While the US exercised almost absolute hegemony during the period 1980-1999, the rise of a militarist caste promoting prolonged imperial wars in the Middle East and South Asia and the rise of relatively independent national-popular and social-liberal regimes in Latin America has produced a broad spectrum of governments with greater autonomy of action.

    Depending on the criteria we use, Latin American countries have moved beyond the orbit of US hegemony. For example, if we examine trade and investment, all the major countries, independent of ideology, have to a greater or lesser degree diversified their markets, trading and investment partners. If we examine political alignments, we find that all the major countries have joined UNASUR, a regional political organization that excludes the US. If we examine policy divergences from the US on major regional issues, such as the US embargo on Cuba, its efforts to isolate Venezuela, its proposed military bases in Colombia, Washington remains in splendid isolation, to the point that the new Colombian President Santos, chooses to “postpone” implementation in favor of maximizing billion dollar trade and diplomatic ties with Venezuela. If we focus on ideological divergence between the US and Latin America, particularly on global issues of free trade, military coups and intervention, we find a variety of positions.

    For example, Brazil opposes US sanctions against Iran and supports the latter’s program of uranium enrichment for peaceful uses. If we focus on joint US-Latin American military exercises and support for the Haitian occupation, most Latin countries – with the exception of Venezuela – participate. If we examine the issue of bilateral trade and regional trade agreements, the US proposals on the latter were voted down, while several countries pursue (so far with little success) the former. On a rather fluid measure of ‘affinity for neo-liberal’ ideology, in which a mixture of elements of statism, deregulated markets and social welfare co-exist in varying degrees, we can draw up a tentative 4 fold division between “left”, “center left”, “center right” and “right”.

    On the “left” we can include Venezuela and Bolivia which have expanded the public sector, economic regulations and social spending. On the “center-left” we can include Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador which have increased social spending, public investment and increased employment, wages and reduced poverty, while vastly increasing private national and foreign investment in agro-mineral export sectors. On the center-right we can include Uruguay, Chile and Paraguay, which embrace free market doctrines, with mild poverty programs and an open door to foreign investment. On the right we find Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, all of whom line up with Washington on most ideological issues, even as they may be diversifying trade ties with Asia and Venezuela.

    Internal shifts in class power within Latin America and the US have spurred divergences. Latin America has witnessed greater policy influence by a more ‘globalist elite’ less tied to the US, and an emerging ‘nationalist bourgeoisie’, and greater pressure from reformist working class and public employees trade union. In contrast within the US industrial capital has lost influence to the financial sector and exerts little influence in shaping economic policy toward Latin America, beyond rearguard ‘protectionist’ measures and state subsidies. The US ruling political elite, highly militarized and Zionized, shows little capacity to engage in launching any major new initiatives toward recapturing markets in Latin America, preferring massive military expenditures on wars and paying tribute to their Israeli mentors.

    As a result of major socio-political shifts within the US and Latin America and the singular importance of dynamic changes in the world market, there are four axis of power operating in the Western Hemisphere.

    A. The emerging economic power of Brazil and the growth of intra-regional trade within and between Latin American economies.

    B. The dynamic expansion of Asian trade, investment and markets leading to a long term, large scale shift toward greater economic diversification.

    C. The substantial financial flows from the US to Latin America in the form of “hot money” with destabilizing effects, as well as continued substantial investment, trade and military ties.

    D. The European Union, Russia and the Middle East as real and potential influentials in particular settings, depending on the countries and time frame. 

    Of these 4 ‘vectors of power’, the most significant in recent times in reshaping Latin America’s relation to the US and more importantly in opening up prospects for 21st century capitalist growth, is the boom in commodity prices and demand – the dynamic of the world market. On the ‘negative side’, the prolonged US-EU economic crises has limited trade and investment growth and encouraged greater Latin American integration and expansion of regional markets. A serious threat to Latin America’s growth, autonomy and stability is found in the US currency devaluation and subsequent overvaluating of Latin currencies (especially Brazil) imposing constraints on industrial exports and prejudicing the manufacturing sector. Equally important US and EU manipulation of interest rates – downward – has driven speculative capital toward higher interest rates in Latin America, creating destabilizing “bubbles” which can derail the economies.
     

    US Empire Strikes Back: Protectionism, Devaluation and Unilateralism
     

    By the middle of 2010 it was clear that the US economy was losing the competitive battle for markets around the world and was unable to reduce its trade and fiscal deficit within the existing global free trade regime. The Obama regime, led by Federal Reserve head Bernacke and Treasury Secretary Geithner unilaterally launched a thinly disguised trade war, effectively devaluating the dollar and lowering interest rates on bonds in order to increase exports and in effect ‘overvalue’ the currency of their competitors. In other words the Obama regime resorted to a virile “bugger your neighbor policies”, which outraged world economic leaders, provoking Brazilian economic leaders to speak of a “currency war”. Contrary to Washington’s rhetoric of “greater co-operation”, the Obama regime was resorting to protectionist policies designed to alienate the leading economic powers in the region.

    No longer in a position to impose non-reciprocal trade agreements to US advantage, Washington is engaged in currency manipulation in order to increase market shares at the expense of the highly competitive emerging economies of Latin America and Asia, as well as Germany.

    Equally prejudicial to Latin America, the Federal Reserve’s lowering of interest rates leads to heavy borrowing in the US in order to speculate in high interest countries like Brazil. The consequences are disastrous, as a flood of “hot money”, speculative funds flow into Latin America, especially Brazil, overvaluating the currency and provoking a speculative bubble in bonds and real estate, while encouraging excess liquidity and public and private consumer debt. Equally damaging the overvalued currencies price industrial and manufacturing out of world market competition, threatening to “de-industrialize” the economies and further their dependency on agro-mineral exports. US resort to unilateral protectionism tells us that the decline in US economic power has reached a point where it struggles to compete with Latin America rather than to reassert its former dominant position. Protectionism is a defense mechanism of an empire in decline. While Washington can pretend otherwise, the weapons it chooses to arrest its loss of competitiveness in the short run, sets in motion a process of growing Latin America integration and increased trade with Asian economies, which will deepen Latin America’s economic independence from US control.

    Latin America’s Center-Left and the US: Economic Ties Trump Geopolitical Strategies

    The consolidation of Latin America’s center-left regimes has had major consequences for US policy, namely a reconciliation between arch-adversary Venezuela and Washington’s foremost ally, Colombia. The power of the market, in this case over $4 billion in Colombian exports to Venezuela, has trumped the dubious advantage (if any) of being Washington’s military launching pad in Latin America.

    The election of Lula’s chosen candidate Dilma Rousseff as President of Brazil, the likely re-election of Chavez in Venezuela and Cristina Fernandez in Argentina, means that Washington has little leverage to reverse the dynamic diversification and greater autonomy of Latin America’s leading economies. Moreover, as the political rapprochement between Venezuela and Colombia, including the mutual extradition of Colombian guerrillas and drug traffickers demonstrates, closer economic relations are accompanied by warmer political relations, including a tacit pact in which Colombia abjures from supporting the rightwing opposition in Venezuela, while the latter does likewise toward the Left opposition to Santos. The larger meaning of this obscuring of ideological boundaries is that Latin America’s economic integration advances at the expense of US prompted ideological divisions. The net result will be the further exclusion and diminution of the US as the dominant actor in the Southern Hemisphere. At the same time it should be remembered that we are writing about greater capitalist integration, which means the continued marginalization of class based trade unions and social movements from strategic economic policy making positions.

    In other words, the decline of US hegemony is not matched by an increase in working class or popular power. As both decline, the big winner is the rising business class, mostly, but not exclusively the agro-mineral, financial and manufacturing elites linked to the Latin American and Asian markets.

    The prime destabilization danger now includes US currency wars, the growing potentially volatile extractive exports and the high levels of dependence on China’s (and Asian) appetite for raw materials.

    Imperial Wars, Free Trade and the Lumpen Legacy of 1990’s

    One of the paradoxes leading to the current eclipse of US hegemony in Latin America is found in the very military and economic successes in the 1990’s. A broad swathe of North and Central American and the Andean countries has witnessed the rise of what we call “lumpen political-economic power” which has devastated the formal economy and legitimate political authority. The concept of “lumpen” is derived from ‘lupus’ or Latin for ‘wolf’ a metaphor for a ‘predatory’ actor, or in our context, the rise of a political and economic class which preys upon the public and private resources and institutions of an economy and society. The lumpen power elites are based on the creation of a dual system of legitimate and illegitimate political authority backed by the instruments of coercion and violence. The emergence and formation of a powerful lumpen class of predatory capitalists and their accompanying military entourage is what we refer to in writing of the “process of lumpenization”. Today “lumpenization” no longer merely entails the overt violent organizers of illicit production, processing and distribution of drugs but an entire array of ‘offspring’ economic activity (kidnapping, immigrant smugglers, etc.) as well as large scale long term interaction with ‘legitimate’ economic institutions and sectors, including banking, real estate, agriculture, retail shopping centers, tourist complexes, to name a few.

    Money laundering of illicit funds is an important growth sector, especially providing important flows of capital to and from major US and Latin American financial institutions. Today over three-quarters of Mexico’s territory and governance is contested by over 30,000 organized armed lumpen led by centralized political-economic formations. Central America is a major transit point, production center and terrain for bloody lumpen struggles for power and revenue collection. Colombia is the major center for ‘raw material production’of drugs, marketing,and import and export center under the leadership of powerful lumpen capitalists with long standing ties to the governing political, military and economic elite. The lumpen economy has supply chains further south in Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay and distribution networks through Venezuela and Brazil as well as multi-billion dollar money laundering and financial links in the Caribbean, the US, Uruguay and Argentina.

    Several important issues to keep in mind in discussing the lumpen political economy.These include: (1)the growth in size, scope and significance over the past 20 years (2) the increasing economic importance as the ‘legitimate’ economy goes into crises (both cause and consequence) (3) the increasing public cynicism as previously thought of “legitimate” economic and political actors (capitalists) engage in multi-billion dollar financial swindles and are “bailed” out by political leaders.

    The ‘boom’ in lumpen political-economic growth can be dated to the end of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, coinciding with several major historical events in the region. These include: the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement; the US-oligarchy defeat of the revolutionary movements in Central America and the demobilization but not disarmament of the paramilitary and armed militia; the total militarization and paramilitarization of Colombia especially with the advent of Plan Colombia (2001) and the end of peace negotiations; the deregulation of the US financial system in the mid 1990’s and the growth of a financial bubble economy.

    What is striking about all the countries and regions experiencing ‘deep lumpenization’, is the profound disarticulation of their economies and smashing of their social fabric due to free trade agreements with the US (Mexico and Central America) and the large scale US military intervention during their civil wars (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia). The US politico-military intervention left millions without work and worse, destroyed the possibility of reformist or revolutionary political alliances coming to power and carrying out meaningful structural changes.

    The restoration of US backed neo-liberal-militarist collaborator regimes left the young unemployed peasants and workers with three choices:

    (1)submit to degradation and poverty
    (2) emigrate to North America or Europe
    (3) join one or another of the narco-trafficking organizations, as a risky but lucrative route out of poverty.

    The timing of the rise and dynamic growth of lumpen power coincides with the imposition of US free trade and political victories in the aforementioned regions.From the early 1990’s forward lumpen power spreads across the region fueled by NAFTA decimating the Mexican small producers and the US imposed Central American “peace accords” which effectively destroyed the chances of socio-economic change and dismantled but did not disarm the militias and paramilitary gunmen.

    Case Studies of Lumpen Dual Power: Mexico

    Mexico, unlike the other major economies of Latin America did not experience any popular upheavals or center-left electoral outcomes during the late 1990’s or early 2000. Unlike Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Ecuador, in which new center-left regimes came to power imposing regulatory controls on financial speculation, Mexico witnessed electoral fraud and signed off on NAFTA, deepening its ties to Wall Street .As a result it experienced a series of financial shocks, undermining its capacity to launch a more diversified trading and investment model.

    Unlike Argentina which launched state directed employment generating investment policies, Mexico, under US tutelage, relied on emigration and overseas remittances to compensate for the loss of millions of jobs in agriculture, small and medium manufacturing activity and retail sales. While popular uprisings and mobilization in Latin America led to the rise of center-left regimes capable of securing greater independence in economic policy from the US and the IMF, the Mexican elite literally stole elections in 1988 and 2006, blocking the possibility of an alternative model. It successfully repressed alternative peasant movements in Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero unlike the successes in Bolivia and Ecuador. While the center-left regimes captured the economic surplus from the agro-mineral sectors and increased public and private investment in production and social spending, Mexico witnessed massive illegal and legal outflows of investments into speculative ventures in the US: an outflow of over $55 billion between 2006-2010.

    Regional migration within Latin America fueled by high growth, led to rising income; overseas immigration depleted Mexico of skilled and unskilled labor ; in some cases ‘return migration’from the US of deported gang members, with arms and drug networks fueled the growth of lumpen power . With the severe recession, US immigration policy led to the closing of the border, the massive deportation of Mexican immigrants and the decline of the major source of foreign earnings: remittances. Pervasive and deep corruption throughout the cupula of the Mexican political and economic system, combined with the decline of the legitimate economy, the absence of channels for popular redress and Washington’s insistence that militarization and not social investments was the solution to rising crime, led to the huge influx of young recruits to the growing network of lumpen-capitalist directed narco enterprises. With almost all US and Mexican financial institutions and arms vendors as willing partners and an unlimited pool of young recruits with a ‘lean and hungry look’, Mexico evolved into a fiercely contested terrain between a half dozen rival lumpen organizations,and the Mexican military, with nearly 30,000 deaths between 2006-2010.

    Lumpenization: Central America

    Drug gangs dominate the streets of the major cities and countryside of all the countries which were militarized during the US backed counter-revolutionary wars between the 1960’s to early 1990’s. US proxy military dictators and their civilian clients, in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras decimated civil society and particularly the mass popular organizations. In El Salvador over 75,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were uprooted, driven across borders or into urban shanty towns. In Guatemala over 200,000 mostly Mayan Indians were murdered by the US trained “special forces” and over 450 villages were obliterated in the course of a scorched earth policy. In Nicaragua, the Somoza dictatorship and the subsequent US financed and trained counter-revolutionary (“contra”) mercenary army killed and maimed close to 100,000 people and devastated the economy. In Honduras, the US embassy promoted and financed in-country and cross-border counter-insurgency operations which killed, uprooted and forced thousands of Honduran peasants into exile.

    Highly militarized Central American societies, in which US funded and armed death squads murdered with impunity, in which the economy of small producers was shattered and ‘normal’ market activity was subject to military assaults, led to the growth of illegal crops, drug and people smuggling. With the so-called “peace agreements”, the leaders of the insurgents became “institutionalized”in elite electoral politics,while large numbers of unemployed ex-guerillas and demobilized death squad militia members found no place in the status quo.

    The neo-liberal order imposed by the US client rulers with its free market ideology built “fortress neighborhoods”, hired an army of private “security” guards, while the productive bases of small scale agriculture was destroyed. Millions of Central Americans faced the familiar “routes out of poverty”: outmigration, forming or joining criminal gangs, or attempting to find an economic niche in an unpromising environment. Outmigration for semi-educated former members of armed bands led to their early entrée into armed groups, deportation back to Central America, swelling the ranks of narco traffickers in their “home country”. Highly repressive immigration policies implemented in the new millennium closed the escape valve for most Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty. Former guerrilla fighters and their families, abandoned by their former leaders embedded in electoral parties, turned their military experience toward carving a new living, as security guards for the rich, or as armed traffickers competing for ‘market shares’ with and against the discharged deathsquad militia members.

    Between 2000-2010 the annual number of homicides exceeded the number of deaths suffered during the worst period of the civil wars of the 1980s. US imposed peace agreements and the neo-liberal order which resulted, led to the total lumpenization of the economy and polity throughout the region, the practice of electoral politics and even the election of “center-left” politicos in El Salvador and Nicaragua notwithstanding. Lumpenization was a direct consequence of the ‘scorched earth’ and ‘mass uprooting’ counter-insurgency policies which were central to US re-establishing dominance in the region. Economic and personal insecurity and social misery were the price paid by imperial Washington to prevent a popular revolution.

    Case Study: Colombia

    The ties between the world centers of finance and the most degenerate and blood curdling ruler in the Western Hemisphere were most evident in the slavishly laudatory puff-pieces published in the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal in praise of President Alvaro Uribe, while over 3 million Colombians were driven off their lands, several thousands were murdered, over a thousand trade unionists, journalists and human rights activists were killed. Two thirds of his Congressional backers were financed by narco-traffickers .Incarcerated deathsquad leaders identified top military officials as their primary supporters. All of Colombia’s Presidents collaborated closely with US military missions and all were financed and associated with the multi-billion dollar drug cartels, even as the Pentagon claimed to be engaged in a “war against drug trafficking”.

    Landlords and their financial and real estate backers organized private militias, which terrorized, uprooted and killed hundreds of thousands of peasants, others fled to the urban slums, or across the border to neighboring countries. Others joined the guerrillas, and still others were recruited by the deathsquads and military. With the advance of the guerrilla armies and then President, Pastrana’s opening to peace negotiations, President Clinton launched a $5 billion dollar military scheme, “Plan Colombia” to quadruple Colombia’s air and ground forces and deathsquads. With Washington’s backing, Alvaro Uribe, a notorious narco-deathsquad politico, so identified by US officials, took power and launched a massive scorched earth policy, murdering and displacing millions of peasants and urban slum dwellers in an effort to undermine the vast network of community organizations sympathetic to the agrarian reform, public investment and anti-military program of the guerrilla movements.

    Mass terror and population flight emptied whole swathes of the countryside; livelihoods were destroyed and landlords in alliance with drug cartel bosses and Generals seized millions of acres of land. For the financial and respectable mass media, the massification of terror mattered not: the insurgents were ‘contained’, driven back, put on the defensive. They trumpeted the killing of key guerrilla leaders: foreign corporate property was secure. Rule by Uribe , the military and the narco-deathsquads secured US power and influence and created an ideal “jumping off” location for destabilizing the democratically elected Venezuelan President Chavez. The latter was especially important by the mid 2000’s when Washington’s internal assets attempted coup and lockout were resoundingly defeated in 2002-03. Having gained strategic territorial advantage over the guerrillas, Washington in collaboration with Uribe moved to shift the balance of power between the narco-deathsquads and the state: a disarmament and demobilization and amnesty was proclaimed. The result was detailed revelations of the deep structural links between narco-deathsquads and the Uribe police state regime, up to and including family members and cabinet ministers. While ‘nominally’ the cartels are in retreat, in fact, they have become decentralized .Equally important top politicos and military officials continue to collaborate in the production, processing and shipping of billion dollar cocaine exports … with major US banks laundering illicit funds.

    Rule of Lumpen-Capitalism in the Imperial System

    Drug trafficking has deep roots in the economies of North and South America and has profound ramifications throughout their societies. One cannot understand the tremendous growth of US banking and financial centers if not for the $25 to $50 billion dollar yearly income and transfers from laundering drug funds and double that amount from illegal money transfers by business and political leaders directly and indirectly benefiting from the drug trade. Lumpen capitalists, their collaborators, facilitators paramilitary mercenaries and military partners play a major political role in sustaining the imperial system. Washington’s major influence and principle area of dominance resides in those countries where lumpen power and deathsquad operations are most prevalent, namely Central America, Colombia and Mexico.Both phenomena are derived from US designed ‘scorched earth’ counter-insurgency strategies that prevented alterations, modifications or reforms of the neo-liberal order and blocked the successful emergence of social movements and center-left regimes as took place in most of Latin America.

    The contemporary imperial system relies on lumpen capitalists, their economic networks and military formations in practically every major area of conflict even as these collaborators are constant areas of friction.

    As in Afghanistan and Iraq today and in Central America in the recent past and in Latin America under the military dictatorships, the US relies on drug traffickers, military gangsters engaged in extortion, kidnapping, property seizures and the pillage of public property and treasury to destroy popular movements, to divide and conquer communities and above all to terrorize the general public and civil society.

    The singular growth of the financial sector especially in the US is in part the result of its being the massive recipient of large scale sustained flows of ‘plunder capital’ by lumpen rulers and their economic partners via ‘political crony’ privatizations, foreign loans which never entered the local economy and other such forms of pillage characteristic of ‘predator’ classes.

    The deep structural affinities between Wall Street speculators and Latin lumpen-capitalists provided the backdrop for the ascendancy of a new class of lumpen financiers in the imperial financial centers: bogus bonds, mortgage swindles, falsified assessments by stock ratings agencies, trillion dollar raids on state treasuries define the heart and soul of contemporary imperialism.

    If it is true that the promotion and financing of lumpen warlord capitalists was an essential defense mechanism at the periphery of the empire to contain popular insurgencies, it is also true that the growth of lumpen capitalism severely weakened the very core of the imperial economy, namely its productive and export sectors leading to uncontrollable deficits, out of control speculative bubbles and massive and sustained reductions of living standards and incomes.

    Lumpen classes were both the agencies for consolidating the empire and its undoing: tactical gains at the periphery led to strategic losses in the imperial centers. Imperial policymakers resort to terrorist formations resulted from their incapacity to resolve internal contradictions within a legal, electoral framework. The high domestic political cost of long term warfare led inevitably to the recruitment of mercenary lumpen armies who extracted an economic tribute for questionable loyalty. Lacking any popular constituency, mercenary armies rely on terror to secure circumstantial submission. Having secured control, local warlords preside over the rapid and massive growth of drugs and other lumpen economic practices.

    The alliance of empire and lumpen capitalists against modern secular and traditional insurgencies, brings together high technology weaponry and primitive clan based religious-ethnic racists in Iraq and Afghanistan and deracinated psychopaths in the case of Colombia.,Mexico and Central America.

    For Washington military and political supremacy and territorial conquests take priority over economic gain. In the case of Colombia the scorched earth policy undermined production and lucrative trade with Venezuela. Imperial ascendancy had similar consequences in Asia, the Middle East and Central America.

    When Lumpen Power becomes a Problem for the Imperial State

    Lumpen capitalism develops a dynamic of its own, independent of its role as an imperial instrument for destroying popular insurgency. It challenges imperial collaborator regimes. It displaces, threatens, or cajoles foreign and domestic capitalists. In the extreme, it establishes a private army, seizes territorial control, recruits and trains networks of intelligence agents within the armed forces and police, undermining imperial influence. In a word lumpen organized military capitalism threatens the security of imperial hegemony: newly emerging predators threaten the established collaborators. The imperial attempts to use and dispose of lumpen counterinsurgency forces has failed; the demobilized paras become the professional gunmen of a “third force” – neither imperial nor insurgent. The decimation of the reformist center-left option, which took hold in Latin America, precludes a socio-economic alternative capable of integrating the young combative unemployed, stimulating the productive economy, diversifying markets and escaping the pitfalls of a US centered neo-liberal order.

    The divergence of priorities and strategies between Latin America’s center-left and Washington has as much to do with economic and class interests as it has with ideological agendas. For the US security means defeating the rising power of lumpen military economic formations in their remaining ‘power bases’. For Latin America, security concerns are secondary to diversifying and boosting market shares within Latin America and overseas. Lumpen power is currently under the political control of domestic rulers in Latin America; it is out of control in US clients. The US solution is military; the Latin approach is greater growth; social expenditures and police repression especially in Brazil. The Latin solution has greater attraction, evident in Colombia’s break with the US military base and encirclement strategy toward Venezuela. Colombia’s new President opted for $8 billion dollar trade deals with Venezuela’s Chavez over and against costly million dollar military base agreements with the US.

    Clearly the US economic decline in Latin America as a direct result of its reliance on military and lumpen power, is in full force. The driving force of accelerated decline is not popular insurgency but the attraction and lucrative opportunities of the economic marketplace within Latin America and beyond for the local ruling classes. Insofar as militarism defines the policies and strategies of the US Empire there is no remedy for the challenges of lumpen power in its ‘backyard’. And Washington has nothing on offer to recapture a dominant presence in Latin America. The world market is defeating the empire. Latin America’s twenty-first century capitalists are leading the way to further decline in imperial power.

    Pushing to brink of war: U.S. sends warships, jets to Korea

    December 2nd, 2010 by Deirdre Griswold

    Scores of U.S. warships and fighter jets, carrying more than 6,000 crew members and reinforced by ships, planes and 70,000 soldiers of the armed forces of south Korea, began carrying out joint military “exercises” in the sea west of Korea on Nov. 28. They have brought the divided peninsula to the brink of war.

    In July some 20 U.S. warships and 200 planes had carried out similar maneuvers with the armed forces of the south. So this is the second time in less than six months that Washington and the right-wing south Korean regime of Lee Myung-Bak have carried out a grave provocation against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (socialist north Korea).

    Nor can China, which lies just 200 miles to the northwest across the Yellow Sea, fail to be alarmed at such aggressive military moves by the U.S. Two days before the joint maneuvers began, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “We hold a consistent and clear-cut stance on the issue. We oppose any party to take any military acts in our exclusive economic zone without permission.” (Xinhua, Nov. 26) Nevertheless, the U.S. and south Korea went right ahead with the maneuvers.

    Hostilities began with shells fired at DPRK

    This time the south Korean forces went a step further than in July. Days before the joint exercises with the U.S. were scheduled to begin, they fired live shells into the waters right off the DPRK from the island of Yeonpyeong, which lies far west of the south Korean mainland and very close to the coast of the DPRK. Both the island and the waters are disputed territory. The U.S. had arbitrarily drawn a line on a map years ago claiming the island for south Korea, but the DPRK has never accepted that.

    Thus, the military who ordered these shells fired at 1:00 p.m. on Nov. 23 knew full well that this was a brazen provocation against the DPRK – one that could easily lead to a response in kind, especially since the DPRK had already characterized the “exercises” as a simulated invasion of the north.

    If south Korea and its huge sponsor, the U.S., had wanted to avoid confrontation with the DPRK, would they have fired shells into a disputed area? Especially since the DPRK had already declared that the military maneuvers were “simulating an invasion of the north”?

    The provocation comes from the U.S. and the Lee Myung-bak regime, not the DPRK.

    An hour and a half later, at 2:34 p.m. after making immediate verbal protests, the DPRK retaliated by shelling the south’s military base on Yeonpyeong. According to officials in Seoul, two soldiers were killed. They later claimed that two civilians had died as well.

    Immediately, the propaganda mill in both the U.S. and south Korea went to ear-splitting levels, blaming the DPRK for “irrational” and “brutal” behavior. The Pentagon announced it would have to send the USS George Washington – a nuclear-powered carrier with 6,000 sailors and an air wing of 75 fighter jets that had taken part in the July “exercises”– plus five other warships to back up the forces of the Lee regime in joint naval maneuvers.

    While the south Korean military ultimately takes its orders from the Pentagon, the U.S. claimed it had not been involved with the south Korean “exercises” at the time of the exchange of artillery. But the facts show otherwise. CNN.com on Nov. 23 reported that “Some U.S. forces had been helping the South Koreans in a military training exercise, but were not in the shelled area.” Right. They were part of the provocation but stayed out of range. Like U.S. “advisers” in Vietnam in the early years of that war.

    However, even with a media blitz focused on inventing reasons for north Korean “aggression,” sometimes an article slips through that blows a hole in the fairy tales.

    Thomas D. Farrell, a former U.S. Army Reserve intelligence officer who served in Korea and says he is “no apologist for North Korea,” explains how these events were seen by the DPRK: “This attack occurred on an island in the West (Yellow) Sea. Although there is a clearly defined Military Line of Demarcation on land, there is no clearly defined line running into the ocean. The so-called Northern Limit Line has never been accepted by North Korea, and has been the subject of many skirmishes over the years. A look at a map shows that Yeonpyeong Island is rather close to North Korea. The ROK [south Korean] Navy was dropping shells in nearby waters as part of its annual Hoguk military exercises which, like all military exercises, are condemned by the North Koreans as a provocation and rehearsal for invasion. …

    “The point is that when one views this event from the mindset of the other side, it is perfectly understandable. The grand theories attempting to explain it are gaseous. The real story is that the North Koreans saw the ROK Navy’s actions as a provocation and responded as they might well be expected to.” (Honolulu Star Advertiser, Nov. 29)  

    China also feels threatened

    The imperialist media today are saying that the DPRK’s “belligerence” is trying the patience of China. China has been an ally of the DPRK since 1950, when U.S. forces under the command of Gen. Douglas McArthur invaded north Korea, bombed all its cities, and threatened the new revolutionary government of China with nuclear war.

    But while China is seeking a peaceful solution to the present crisis, there can be no doubt that it sees U.S. belligerence toward the DPRK as a threat to its own peaceful development.

    Li Jie, a researcher with the Chinese navy’s military academy, wrote about the U.S.-south Korean “exercises” scheduled for last July:

    “A joint drill with the ROK [south Korea] in the key waters off its Asian military bases will help the U.S. realize multiple strategic goals in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Li.

    “First, the drill will help the U.S. maintain high-pressure against what it calls a restive DPRK regime. It is also believed to be an explicit indication of the U.S. stance that the world’s sole superpower would stand firmly behind the ROK and Japan in case of a military conflict between Pyongyang and Washington’s two traditional Asian allies.

    “In addition, a well-deliberated military exercise in the Yellow Sea will also help the U.S. collect geographic and military information about some Asian countries [especially China—d.g.] bordering the vast waters.

    “General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, has expressed ‘firm opposition’ to the scheduled U.S.-ROK military maneuver.” (China Daily, July 12)

    But the maneuvers took place anyway, and are now being repeated at an even higher level of provocation. China has called for an emergency meeting with the U.S., south Korea, the DPRK, Russia and Japan to defuse the situation. As of Nov. 29, this call has been ignored by the Obama and Lee administrations.

    There is nothing “irrational” in either the response of the DPRK or the worries of the Chinese. U.S. imperialism waged a horrendous war against the Korean Revolution from 1950 to 1953, one that resulted in millions of deaths. It has occupied south Korea ever since, with a force that still numbers almost 30,000. It has refused to even discuss a peace treaty to formally end that war.

    Should it be surprising, then, that the DPRK knows it has to be ready at any time to repel another invasion? If even a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer knows that the shelling by the south would force the north to respond, didn’t those who ordered the shelling know it too? Wasn’t it deliberately intended to provide the excuse for greater threats against the DPRK, with the intention of provoking “regime change”?

    U.S. pundits are now openly talking about the “reunification” of Korea based on the south swallowing up the north – in other words, an invasion and counter-revolution that would allow capitalism and imperialism a free hand to exploit the workers and farmers there.

    This is something that the DPRK leaders and masses will never allow.

    Is it surprising that the Chinese leaders are also alarmed when U.S. imperialism, while making money off investments and trade there, nevertheless tries to encircle China militarily?

    The chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, reveals the mindset of the Pentagon: “I don’t think this will be the last exercise,” he said. “This is a part of the world that we’ve exercised in for decades and we will continue.” (CNN, Nov. 28)

    Instead of putting out anti-DPRK propaganda in the guise of psycho-analyzing its leaders, why don’t the media ask why the U.S. leaders do what they do? Why have they maintained a hostile policy against the DPRK for more than 60 years, ever since its anti-colonial and anti-capitalist revolution? Why won’t they sign a peace treaty with the DPRK so that the Korean people can work for real disarmament and reunification?

    But that would be to acknowledge that the U.S. is ruled by a class of billionaires that has fattened itself on war and exploitation all over the world and has a long history of creating excuses for the bloody expansion of its imperial reach. The media has been part of this inglorious history, ever since the Hearst papers invented an excuse for invading Cuba in 1898.

    Let’s not fall for another “Bay of Tonkin” or “weapons of mass destruction” lie. The enemy of the working class is right here, in the board rooms and banks of U.S. capitalism, that are destroying everything the people have won over generations of struggle and hard work.

    No aggression against socialist Korea! End the war “games,” lift the sanctions and bring U.S. troops and ships home!

    STOP U.S. War Threats Against Korea

    December 2nd, 2010 by Global Research

    The Homeland Security Department’s customs enforcement division has gone on a Web site shutdown spree, closing down at least 76 domains this week, according to online reports.

    While many of the web domains were sites that trafficked in counterfeit brand name goods, and some others linked to copyright-infringing file-sharing materials, at least one site was a Google-like search engine, causing alarm among web freedom advocates who worry the move steps over the line into censorship.

    All the shut sites are now displaying a Homeland Security warning that copyright infringers can face up to five years in prison.

    According to a report at TorrentFreak, the search engine that was shut down — Torrent-Finder.com — neither hosted copyrighted material nor directly linked to places where it could be found. Instead, the site opened new windows to sites that did link to file-sharing materials.

    “When a site has no tracker, carries no torrents, lists no copyright works unless someone searches for them and responds just like Google, accusing it of infringement becomes somewhat of a minefield,” writes Torrentfreak, “Unless you’re ICE Homeland Security Investigations that is.”

    As of its last update, Torrentfreak counted 76 domains shut down this week.

    Homeland Security’s ability to shut down sites without a court order evidently comes from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a Clinton-era law that allows Web sites to be closed on the basis of a copyright complaint. Critics have long assailed the DMCA for being too broad, as complainants don’t need to prove copyright infringement before a site can be taken down.

    News of the shutdowns has some observers wondering whether the US really needs COICA, the anti-counterfeiting bill that passed through a Senate committee with unanimous approval last week. That bill would allow the federal government to block access to Web sites that attorneys general deem to have infringed on copyright.

    “Domain seizures coming under the much debated ‘censorship bill’ COICA? Who needs it?” quips Torrentfreak.

    However, COICA would allow the government to block access to Web sites located anywhere in the world, while Homeland Security’s take-downs are limited to servers inside the United States. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said he would place a hold on COICA, effectively killing the bill at least until the new congressional session next year.

    The owner of Torrent-Finder.net complained that his search engine was shut down without so much as a court order or prior complaint.

    “My domain has been seized without any previous complaint or notice from any court!” the owner said, without being identified in the Torrentfreak article.

    Earlier this week, Homeland Security shut down a popular hip-hop music site, RapGodfathers.com, which had nearly 150,000 members. The site claims it is compliant with copyright laws, as it doesn’t host copyrighted materials. However, its users posted links to file-hosting services such as Rapidshare and Megaupload, where copyrighted material may have been shared.

    These domains are now “the property of Homeland Security,” writes Gareth Halfacree at Thinq.co.uk, “And there’s no indication that their original owners will ever be able to get them back.”

    Lebanon at Stake: Turkey Must Reveal Its Cards

    December 2nd, 2010 by Ramzy Baroud

    The timing of the Turkish Prime Minister’s two-day visit to Lebanon could not be more judicious. Lebanon’s enemies have been banging the drums of war louder than ever before. All the malevolent plans hatched following the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri are about to converge for one formidable goal: to destabilize and weaken Lebanon, disarm Hezbollah and allow Israel to return, uncontested, and wreck havoc on the tiny country, the way it remorselessly did in 1982.

    The Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Edrogan seemed clear in his intentions during his Lebanon trip. But considering what is at stake, maybe he wasn’t clear enough.

    Israel is full of “uncertainties” and it is “not definite what it will do,” he claimed, according to Turkey’s state Anatolia news agency (AA). “Does (Israel) think it can enter Lebanon with the most modern aircraft and tanks to kill women and children, and destroy schools and hospitals, and then expect us to remain silent?” he asked. “We will not be silent and we will support justice by all means available to us.”

    Erdogan’s words seem decisive, but they are as decisive as the strong messages he’s conveyed earlier, including in response to the Israeli war on Gaza (2008-09). Israel is yet to heed his any of his warnings.

    Lebanon needs all its friends to prevent the possible civil strife that could follow any indictment by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon of Hezbollah members over the assassination of Hariri. The tribunal is a highly politicized venture, strongly backed by the US and Israel. It is seen by many in the region, including Hezbollah itself, as a roundabout attempt to subdue the Lebanese resistance to Israel. Israel’s all-out war against Lebanon in 2006 killed and wounded thousands, and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. However, it failed to dismantle the resistance, but instead provided it with a moral and political boost. Incessant attempts at destabilizing the country since then have yielded meager returns, and never managed to create the political vacuum needed to rationalize an Israeli comeback.

    The verdict of the tribunal might be Israel’s last card in this terrible game. Thus far, it has been a winning card. Accusing Syria and Syria-affiliated Lebanese figures of being behind the Hariri’s assassination has reaped its rewards. 14,000 Syrian soldiers were rushed outside the country only two months after the former Prime Minister’s death. Syria was labeled a foreign occupier of Lebanon by the same Western governments that supported and defended the Israeli war on Lebanon a year later. Once Syria was more or less removed from the Lebanese equation, accusations of Syrian responsibilities were dropped, and an apology by a Western-affiliated Lebanese leader was issued. Mission accomplished.

    Then, the tribunal, along with Israel and its allies, moved on to another target: Hezbollah. While no group is really above suspicion, Hezbollah is still indisputably correct in accusing the tribunal of being politically motivated, with an ultimate aim at disarming the resistance. In fact, Israel has been eagerly anticipating the moment when the tribunal issues arrest warrants for Hezbollah members, and carefully calculating its response. Gulf News reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consulted with top ministers in his cabinet on November 24 to “discuss concerns that Hezbollah could attempt a coup against the government.” An Israeli army statement issued on behalf of Chief of Staff Lt General Gabi Ashkenazi was also quoted by the Gulf News: “There is a real possibility that Hezbollah will take over Lebanon.”

    It’s unclear what the Israel response will entail. In 1982, Israel acted against various resistance groups of Lebanon, demolishing the country in the process, and installing a ‘democratically-elected’ puppet government. This further contributed to Lebanon’s ongoing misery and the state of absolute chaos and civil war. In 2000, when a homegrown Lebanese resistance managed to force the Israeli army out from the south, Lebanon finally began to enjoy some prospects of stability and sovereignty. Then, on February 14, 2005, the Hariri convey was blasted by the equivalent of 1000 kg of TNT, killing the former Prime Minister and many others. The prospect of stability vanished, and once again Lebanon fell into the abyss of dark possibilities.

    In the rush to seize the moment, Israel attacked Lebanon in the summer of 2006. This proved a gross miscalculation. Israel assumed that Lebanon was ripe for the picking, but obviously it wasn’t. The resistance was steadfast, and Israel’s military move proved costly, if not utterly embarrassing. Hezbollah emerged stronger than ever.

    Empowered by Israel’s military failure, Syria began to reclaim its role in the region. Iran too was emboldened. In a series of events that culminated last October, the country’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a scathing speech in south Lebanon, stating that “the world should understand that the Zionists will go.”

    Lebanon is relatively unified, since most parties are aware of the grim realities that await the country should Israel succeed in its plans. Even leaders within the Middle East are becoming somewhat sincere in their efforts to offset the potential crisis. But history has showed that both the Lebanese and Arab fronts are too fractious to withstand consistent and focused outside pressures.

    Now Turkey has appeared in the picture. A new and solid card, it perhaps has the power to change the rules of this painfully predictable game. Israel, in response, is trying to undermine the risk. On November 26, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Israel’s strategy to circumvent Turkey by warming up to and upgrading ties with various Balkan countries: Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia. It is just a matter of replacing financial and political losses in one place with gains in another, according to Israel’s straightforward calculations.

    But Turkey can prove Israel’s estimate wrong. However, promises that Turkey will no longer stand idle as children and women are killed no longer suffice. Israel seems unmoved by words, perhaps betting on Turkey’s military and economic ties to the West. If Turkey is indeed serious, it must reveal some of its cards, and send a clear message to those fanning the flames: that 2010 is not 1982; that Lebanon will no longer be testing grounds for Israel’s and US lethal weapons; that the times have changed for real. Lebanon and the Middle East are counting on Turkey, not as a wild card, but as a true and lasting friend.

     Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com. Visit www.PalestineChronicle.com.  His latest book: My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble and Pluto. Learn More. Watch a short promo in EnglishArabic.

    Wars Are Not Prolonged For the Good of Soldiers

    December 2nd, 2010 by David Swanson

    An excerpt from David Swanson’s new book War Is A Lie.

    We learn a lot about the real motives for wars when whistleblowers leak the minutes of secret meetings, or when congressional committees publish the records of hearings decades later. War planners write books. They make movies. They face investigations. Eventually the beans tend to get spilled. But I have never ever, not even once, heard of a private meeting in which top war makers discussed the need to keep a war going in order to benefit the soldiers fighting in it.

    The reason this is remarkable is that you almost never hear a war planner speak in public about the reasons for keeping a war going without claiming that it must be done for the troops, to support the troops, in order not to let the troops down, or so that those troops already dead will not have died in vain. Of course, if they died in an illegal, immoral, destructive action, or simply a hopeless war that must be lost sooner or later, it’s unclear how piling on more corpses will honor their memories. But this is not about logic.

    The idea is that the men and women risking their lives, supposedly on our behalf, should always have our support — even if we view what they’re doing as mass murder. Peace activists, in contrast to war planners, say the very same thing about this in private that they say in public: we want to support those troops by not giving them illegal orders, not coercing them to commit atrocities, not sending them away from their families to risk their lives and bodies and mental well-being.

    War makers’ private discussions about whether and why to keep a war going deal with all the motives discussed in chapter six of War Is A Lie. They only touch on the topic of troops when considering how many of them there are or how long their contracts can be extended before they start killing their commanders. In public, it’s a very different story, one often told with smartly uniformed troops positioned as a backdrop. The wars are all about the troops and in fact must be extended for the benefit of the troops. Anything else would offend and disappoint the troops who have devoted themselves to the war.

    Our wars employ more contractors and mercenaries now than troops. When mercenaries are killed and their bodies publicly displayed, the U.S. military will gladly destroy a city in retaliation, as in Fallujah, Iraq. But war propagandists never mention the contractors or the mercenaries. It’s always the troops, the ones doing the killing, and the ones drawn from the general population of just plain folks, even though the troops are being paid, just like the mercenaries only less.

    WHY ALL THE TROOP TALK?

    The purpose of making a war be about the people (or some of the people) fighting it is to maneuver the public into believing that the only way to oppose the war would be to sign on as an enemy of the young men and women fighting in it on our nation’s side. Of course, this makes no sense at all. The war has some purpose or purposes other than indulging (or, more accurately, abusing) the troops. When people oppose a war, they do not do so by taking the position of the opposite side. They oppose the war in its entirety. But illogic never slowed down a war maker.

    “There will be some nervous Nellies,” said Lyndon Johnson on May 17, 1966, “and some who will become frustrated and bothered and break ranks under the strain. And some will turn on their leaders and on their country and on our fighting men.” Try to follow the logic: Troops are brave. Troops are the war. Therefore the war is brave. Th erefore anyone opposing the war is cowardly and weak, a nervous Nelly. Anyone opposing a war is a bad troop who has turned against his or her Commander in Chief, country, and the other troops — the good troops.

    Never mind if the war is destroying the country, bankrupting the economy, endangering us all, and eating out the nation’s soul. The war is the country, the whole country has a wartime leader, and the whole country must obey rather than think. After all, this is a war to spread democracy.

    On August 31, 2010, President Obama said in an Oval Office speech: “This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war [on Iraq] from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.” What can this mean? Never mind that Obama voted repeatedly to fund the war as a senator and insisted on keeping it going as president. Never mind that, in this same speech, he embraced a whole series of lies that had launched and prolonged the war, and then pivoted to use those same lies to support an escalated war in Afghanistan.

    Let’s suppose that Obama really did “disagree about the war” with Bush. He must have thought the war was bad for our country and our security and the troops. If he’d thought the war was good for those things, he’d have had to agree with Bush. So, at best, Obama is saying that despite his love (never respect or concern; with troops it’s always love) for the troops and so forth, Bush did them and the rest of us wrong unintentionally. The war was the biggest accidental blunder of the century. But no big deal. These things happen.

    Because Obama’s speech was about war, he spent a big chunk of it, as is required, praising the troops: “[O]ur troops fought block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future. They shifted tactics to protect the Iraqi people,” etc. True humanitarians. And it will no doubt be for their benefit that the War on Afghanistan and other wars drag on in the future, if we don’t put an end to the madness of militarism.

    YOU’RE FOR THE WAR OR AGAINST THE TROOPS

    The media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) noticed in March, 2003, as the War on Iraq began, that media outlets were doing something peculiar to the English language. The Associated Press and other outlets were using “pro-war” and “pro-troops” interchangeably. We were being off ered the choices of being pro-troop or anti-war, with the latter apparently necessitating that we also be anti-troop:

    “For example, the day after bombing of Baghdad began, the AP ran a story (3/20/03) under the headline Anti-War, Pro-Troops Rallies Take to Streets as War Rages. Another story (3/22/03), about pro- and anti-war activities, was labeled Weekend Brings More Demonstrations — Opposing War, Supporting Troops. The clear implication is that those who call for an end to the invasion of Iraq are opposed to U.S. troops, as in the story Protesters Rally Against War; Others Support Troops (3/24/03).”

    This media practice does not outright call one side of a debate “anti- troop,” but neither does it call one side “pro-war,” despite that side’s clear purpose of promoting war. Just as those defending the right to abortion don’t want to be called pro-abortion, war supporters don’t want to be called pro-war. War is an unavoidable necessity, they think, and a means toward achieving peace; our role in it is to cheer for the troops. But war proponents are not defending their nation’s right to wage war if needed, which would be a better analogy with abortion rights. They’re cheering for a specific war, and that specific war is always a fraudulent and criminal enterprise. Those two facts should disqualify war proponents from hiding behind the label “pro-troops” and using it to slander war opponents, although if they’d like to start using the label “anti-peace” I wouldn’t protest.

    One of the most inconvenient pieces of information for campaigns to prolong war to “support the troops” is anything telling us what the troops currently engaged in the war actually think of it. What if we were to “support the troops” by doing what the troops wanted? That’s a very dangerous idea to start floating around. Troops are not supposed to have thoughts. They’re supposed to obey orders. So supporting what they’re doing actually means supporting what the president or the generals have ordered them to do. Taking too much interest in what the troops themselves actually think could be very risky for the future stability of this rhetorical house of cards.

    A U.S. pollster, as noted in chapter five of War Is A Lie, was able to poll U.S. troops in Iraq in 2006, and found that 72 percent of those polled wanted the war to be ended in 2006. For those in the Army, 70 percent wanted that 2006 ending date, but in the Marines only 58 percent did. In the reserves and National Guard, however, the numbers were 89 and 82 percent respectively.197 Since wars are fought to “support the troops” shouldn’t the war have ended?

    And shouldn’t the troops, revealed in the poll to be badly misinformed, have been told the available facts about what the war was and was not for? Of course not. Their role was to obey orders, and if lying to them helped get them to obey orders, then that was best for all of us. We never said we trusted or respected them, only that we loved them. Perhaps it would be more accurate for people to say that they love the fact that it is the troops out there willing to stupidly kill and die for someone else’s greed or power mania, and not the rest of us. Better you than me. Love ya! Ciao!

    The funny thing about our love for the troops is how little the troops get out of it. They don’t get their wishes regarding military policy. They don’t even get armor that would protect them in war as long as there are war-profiteering CEOs that need the money more desperately. And they don’t even sign meaningful contracts with the government that have terms the troops can enforce. When a troop’s time in war is done, if the military wants him or her to stay longer, it “stop losses” them and sends them right back into a war, regardless of the terms in the contract. And — this will come as a surprise to anyone who watches congressional debates over war funding — whenever our representatives vote another hundred billion dollars to “fund the troops,” the troops don’t get the money.

    Usually the money is about a million dollars per troop. If the government actually offered the troops their share of that supportive funding and gave them the option of contributing their shares to the war effort and staying in the fight, if they so chose, do you think the armed forces might experience a wee little reduction in numbers?

    JUST SEND MORE OF THEM

    The fact is that the last thing war makers care about — albeit the first thing they talk about — is the troops. There’s not a politician alive in the United States who hasn’t uttered the phrase “support the troops.” Some push the idea to the point of requiring the slaughter of more troops, and the use of troops in the slaughter of more non-Americans. When the parents and loved-ones of those troops already dead denounce the war that has harmed them and call for its termination, war supporters accuse them of failing to honor the memory of their dead. If those already dead died for a good cause, then it ought to be more persuasive to simply mention that good cause. Yet, when Cindy Sheehan asked George W. Bush what good cause her son had died for, neither Bush nor anyone else was ever able to provide an answer. Instead, all we heard was the need for more to die because some already had.

    Even more frequently we’re told that a war must be continued simply because there are troops currently fighting in it. This sounds sadistic at first. We know that war damages many of its participants horribly. Does it really make sense to continue a war because there are soldiers in the war? Shouldn’t there be some other reason? And yet that’s what happens. Wars are continued when Congress funds them. And even many professed “opponents” of wars in Congress fund them to “support the troops,” thus prolonging what they claim to oppose.

    In 1968, the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, George Mahon (D., Texas) said voting to fund the War on Vietnam was no measure of whether or not one supported the War on Vietnam. Such a vote, he said, “. . . does not involve a test as to one’s basic views with respect to the war in Vietnam. The question here is that they are there, regardless of our views otherwise.” Now, the “they are there, regardless” argument, which seems to never grow stale is an odd one, to say the least, since if the war were not funded the troops would have to be brought home, and then they would not be there.

    To get out of this logical cul-de-sac, war supporters invent scenarios in which Congress stops funding wars, but the wars continue, only this time without ammunition or other supplies. Or, in another variation, by defunding a war Congress denies the Pentagon the funding to withdraw the troops, and they are simply left behind in whatever little country they’ve been terrorizing. Nothing resembling these scenarios has happened in the real world. The cost of shipping troops and equipment home or to the nearest imperial outpost is negligible to the Pentagon, which routinely “misplaces” greater sums of cash. But, purely to get around this nonsense, anti-war congress members including Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), during the Wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, began introducing bills to defund the war and to provide new funds purely for the withdrawal. War supporters nonetheless denounced such proposals as…guess what?…failures to support the troops.

    The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 2007 through 2010 was David Obey (D., Wisc.). When the mother of a soldier being sent to Iraq for the third time and being denied needed medical care asked him to stop funding the war in 2007 with a “supplemental” spending bill, Congressman Obey screamed at her, saying among other things: “We’re trying to use the supplemental to end the war, but you can’t end the war by going against the supplemental. It’s time these idiot liberals understand that. There’s a big difference between funding the troops and ending the war. I’m not gonna deny body armor. I’m not gonna deny funding for veterans’ hospitals, defense hospitals, so you can help people with medical problems, that’s what you’re gonna do if you’re going against the bill.”

    Congress had funded the War on Iraq for years without providing troops with adequate body armor. But funding for body armor was now in a bill to prolong the war. And funding for veterans’ care, which could have been provided in a separate bill, was packaged into this one. Why? Precisely so that people like Obey could more easily claim that the war funding was for the benefit of the troops. Of course it’s still a transparent reversal of the facts to say that you can’t end the war by ceasing to fund it. And if the troops came home, they wouldn’t need body armor.

    But Obey had completely internalized the crazy propaganda of war promotion. He seemed to actually believe that the only way to end a war was to pass a bill to fund it but to include in the bill some minor and rhetorical anti-war gestures.

    On July 27, 2010, having failed for another three and a half years to end the wars by funding them, Obey brought to the House floor a bill to fund an escalation of the War on Afghanistan, specifically to send 30,000 more troops plus corresponding contractors into that hell. Obey announced that his conscience was telling him to vote No on the bill because it was a bill that would just help recruit people who want to attack Americans. On the other hand, Obey said, it was his duty as committee chair (apparently a higher duty than the one to his conscience) to bring the bill to the floor. Even though it would encourage attacks on Americans? Isn’t that treason? Obey proceeded to speak against the bill he was bringing to the floor. Knowing it would safely pass, he voted against it. One could imagine, with a few more years of awakening, David Obey reaching the point of actually trying to stop funding a war he “opposes,” except that Obey had already announced his plan to retire at the end of 2010. He ended his career in Congress on that high note of hypocrisy because war propaganda, most of it about troops, has persuaded legislators that they can be “critics” and “opponents” of a war while funding it.

    YOU CAN CHECK OUT ANYTIME YOU LIKE, BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE

    You might imagine from the efforts Congress goes to in avoiding and recklessly rushing through debates on whether to initially launch wars that such decisions are of minor importance, that a war can be easily ended at any point once it has begun. But the logic of continuing wars as long as there are soldiers involved in them means that wars can never be ended, at least not until the Commander in Chief sees fit.

    This is not brand new, and goes back as many war lies do, at least as far as the first U.S. invasion of the Philippines. The editors of Harpers Weekly opposed that invasion.

    “Echoing the president, however, they concluded that once the country was at war, everyone must pull together to support the troops.”

    This truly bizarre idea has penetrated U.S. thinking so deeply, in fact, that even liberal commentators have fantasized that they’ve seen it enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Here’s Ralph Stavins, speaking of the War on Vietnam:

    “Once the blood of a single American soldier had been spilled, the President would assume the role of Commander in Chief and would be obliged to discharge his constitutional duty to protect the troops in the field. This obligation made it unlikely that troops would be removed and far more likely that additional troops would be sent over.”

    The trouble with this is not just that the clearest way to protect troops is to bring them home, but also that the president’s constitutional obligation to protect the troops in the field doesn’t exist in the Constitution.

    “Supporting the troops” is often expanded from meaning that we need to keep troops in a war longer to meaning that we also need to communicate to them our appreciation for the war, even if we oppose it. This could mean anything from not prosecuting atrocities, pretending the atrocities are extreme exceptions, pretending the war has succeeded or met some of its goals or that it had diff erent goals more easily met, or sending letters and gifts to troops and thanking them for their “service.”

    “When the war begins, if the war begins,” said John Kerry (D., Mass.) just before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, “I support the troops and I support the United States of America winning as rapidly as possible. When the troops are in the field and fighting — if they’re in the field and fighting — remembering what it’s like to be those troops — I think they need a unified America that is prepared to win.”

    Kerry’s fellow presidential candidate Howard Dean called Bush’s foreign policy “ghastly” and “appalling” and loudly, if inconsistently, opposed attacking Iraq, but he stressed that if Bush started a war, “Of course I’ll support the troops.”

    I’m sure troops would like to believe everyone back home supports what they’re doing, but don’t they have other things to worry about during a war? And wouldn’t some of them like to know that some of us are checking up on whether they’ve been sent to risk their lives for a good reason or not? Wouldn’t they feel more secure in their mission, knowing that a check on recklessly turning them into cannon fodder was alive and active?

    In August 2010, I compiled a list of about 100 congressional challengers, from every political party, who swore to me that they would not vote a dime for the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. One Independent Green Party candidate in Virginia refused to sign on, pointing out to me that if he did, his Republican opponent would accuse him of not supporting the troops. I pointed out to him that a majority of the voters in his district wanted the war ended and that he could accuse war supporters of subjecting troops to illegal orders and endangering their lives for no good reason, in fact for a bad reason. While this candidate still did not sign on, preferring to represent his opponent rather than the people of his district, he expressed surprise and approval for what I told him, which was apparently new to him.

    That’s typical. Atypical are congress members like Alan Grayson (D., Fla.). In 2010 he was perhaps the most vocal opponent of the War on Afghanistan, urging the public to lobby his colleagues to vote against funding bills. This led to predictable attacks from his opponents in the coming election — as well as more corporate spending against him than any other candidate. On August 17, 2010, Grayson sent out this email:

    “I’ve been introducing you to my opponents. On Friday, it was Dan Fanelli, the racist. Yesterday, it was Bruce O’Donoghue, the tax cheat. And today, it’s Kurt Kelly, the warmonger.

    “In Congress, I am one of the most outspoken opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before I was elected, I spent years prosecuting war profiteers. So I know what I’m talking about.

    “Unlike chickenhawk Kurt Kelly. On Fox News (where else?) Kelly said this about me: ‘He put our soldiers, and our men and women in the military in harm’s way, and maybe he wants them to die.’

    “Yes, Kurt. I do want them to die: of old age, at home in bed, surrounded by their loved ones, after enjoying many Thanksgiving turkeys between now and then. And you want them to die: in a scorching desert, 8000 miles from home, alone, screaming for help, with a leg blown off and their guts hanging out of their stomachs, bleeding to death.”

    Grayson has a point. Those who fail to “support the troops” can’t very well be accused of putting the troops at risk, since “supporting the troops” consists precisely of leaving the troops at risk. But warmongers like to believe that opposing a war is the equivalent of siding with an enemy.

    ONLY THE ENEMY OPPOSES A WAR

    Imagine an atheist’s position on a debate over whether God is a holy trinity or just a single being. If the atheist opposes the holy trinity position, he’s quickly accused of backing the single being, and vice versa, by those who can’t wrap their minds around the possibility of honestly not wanting to take one side or the other. To those for whom opposition to a war’s existence is incomprehensible, failure to cheer for the red, white, and blue must equate with cheering for some other flag. And to those marketing the war to these people, waving an American flag is enough to nudge them to this conclusion.

    In 1990, Chris Wallace of ABC News asked the former commander of the War on Vietnam William Westmoreland the following question: “It’s become almost a truism by now that you didn’t lose the Vietnam War so much in the jungles there as you did in the streets in the United States. How worried should the president and the Pentagon be now about this new peace movement?”

    With that kind of question, who needs answers? The war has already been sold before you open your mouth.

    When Congressmen Jim McDermott (D., Wa.) and David Bonior (D., Mich.) questioned the Iraq war lies in 2002, Washington Post columnist George Will wrote “Saddam Hussein finds American collaborators among senior congressional Democrats.”

    These war pitchers were equating criticizing a war with fighting a war — on the side of the enemy! Thus ending a war because we the people are against it is the same thing as losing a war to the enemy. Wars can neither be lost nor ended. They must simply be continued indefinitely for the good of the troops. And when the war makers want to escalate a war, they pitch that idea as a means toward ending the war, as we’ll see in chapter nine of War Is A Lie. But when it comes time to demand the funding and force Congressman Obey to reject his conscience, then the escalation is disguised as a mere continuation. It’s easier to fund a war on behalf of the troops out there in harm’s way if nobody knows that what you’re funding is actually the shipping of another 30,000 troops to join the ones already deployed, in which case rejecting the funding couldn’t conceivably strand any troops without bullets; it would just mean not sending more troops to join them.

    At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, we had a good democratic debate over whether to escalate the war in Afghanistan, a debate in the corporate media between the Commander in Chief and his generals. Congress and the public were largely left out. In 2009 President Obama had already launched a similar escalation with no debate at all. For this second round, once the President had caved in to the generals, one of whom he would later fire for a seemingly much more minor act of insubordination, the media ended the story, conducted no more polls, and considered the escalation done.

    In fact, the President went ahead and started sending the troops. And congress members who had sworn they opposed the escalation began talking about the need to fund the “troops in the field.” By the time six months had gone by, it was possible to make the vote on the funding a big story without mentioning that it was for an escalation at all.

    Just as escalations can be described as support-the-troop continuations, war continuations can be disguised as withdrawals. On May 1, 2003, and August 31, 2010, presidents Bush and Obama declared the War on Iraq, or the “combat mission,” over. In each case, the war went on. But the war became ever more purely about the troops as it shed any pretences of having some purpose other than prolonging its own existence.

    SUPPORT THE VETERANS

    As we saw in chapter five of War Is A Lie, no matter how much government officials talk about the troops as their motivation for action, they fail to take action to care for veterans who’ve already been deployed. War veterans are abandoned rather than supported. They need to be treated with respect and to be respectfully told that we disagree with what they did, and they need to be provided healthcare and education. Until we can do that for every living veteran, what business do we have creating more of them?

    Our goal, in fact, should be to put the Veterans Administration out of operation by ceasing to manufacture veterans. Until that time, young men and women should be told that war is not a smart career move. Yellow ribbons and speeches won’t pay your bills or make your life fulfilling. As we saw in chapter five, war is not a good way to be heroic. Why not serve as a member of an emergency rescue crew, a fi refighter, a labor organizer, a nonviolent activist? There are many ways to be heroic and take risks without murdering families. Think of the Iraqi oil workers who blocked privatization and formed a labor union in the face of U.S. attacks in 2003. Picture them ripping off their shirts and saying, “Go ahead and shoot.” They were taking risks for their nation’s independence. Isn’t that heroic?

    I understand the desire to support those making sacrifices supposedly for us, and those who already have made the “ultimate sacrifice,” but our alternatives are not cheering for more war or joining the enemy, creating more veterans or abusing the ones we have. There are other options. That we don’t think so is purely the result of our televisions spouting nonsense with great frequency for so long it begins to smell sensible. Comedian Bill Maher expressed his frustration this way:

    “For the longest time, every Republican election has been based on some sentimental bullshit: the flag, or the flag pin, or the Pledge, or the, ‘It’s morning in America.’ Bill Clinton got a blowjob in the Oval Office. And the Dixie Chicks insulted President Bush on foreign soil. And when that happens, it hurts the feelings of our troops. And then Tinkerbell’s light goes out and she dies. Yes, yes, the love of our troops, the ultimate in fake patriotism. Are you kidding? The troops, we pay them like shit, we fuck them and trick them on deployment, we nickel and dime them on medical care when they get home, not to mention the stupid wars that we send them to. Yeah, we love the troops the way Michael Vick loves dogs. You know how I would feel supported if I was a troop overseas? If the people back home were clamoring to get me out of these pointless errands. That’s how I would feel supported. But, you know, don’t hold your breath on that one fellas because, you know, when America invades a country, we love you long time. Seriously, we never leave, we leave like Irish relatives: not at all.”

    If we all purged ourselves, as Maher has, of the “support-the-troops” propaganda, we wouldn’t have to say “Support the Troops, Bring Them Home.” We could skip half of that and jump ahead to “Bring them home and prosecute the criminals who sent them.” It should go without saying that we wish the troops well. That’s one of the main reasons we don’t want them pointlessly killing and dying! But we do not actually approve of what they are doing. Our praise is reserved for those soldiers who refuse illegal orders and nonviolently resist. And we approve of the work being done courageously and with great dedication by Americans in hundreds of professions other than war. We ought to say we support them once in a while. We all fail to do that, and fortunately we don’t accuse each other of wanting all those people dead, the way we do if someone fails to say “I support the troops.”

    SUPPORT THE MASS MURDER

    Blogger John Caruso collected a list of news items reporting things he especially did not support, things that get brushed aside as too inconvenient when we delude ourselves into believing that wars are fought on behalf of the soldiers fighting them. Here’s part of the list:

    From the New York Times : “We had a great day,” Sergeant Schrumpf said. “We killed a lot of people.” But more than once, Sergeant Schrumpf said, he faced a different choice: one Iraqi soldier standing among two or three civilians. He recalled one such incident, in which he and other men in his unit opened fire. He recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down. “I’m sorry,” the sergeant said. “But the chick was in the way.”

    From Newsday: “Raghead, raghead, can’t you see? This old war ain’t — to me,” sang Lance Cpl. Christopher Akins, 21, of Louisville, Ky., sweat running down his face in rivulets as he dug a fighting trench one recent afternoon under a blazing sun. Asked whom he considered a raghead, Akins said: “Anybody who actively opposes the United States of America’s way…If a little kid actively opposes my way of life, I’d call him a raghead, too.”

    From the Las Vegas Review-Journal: The 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps said he found the soldier after dark inside a nearby home with the grenade launcher next to him. Covarrubias said he ordered the man to stop and turn around. “I went behind him and shot him in the back of the head,” Covarrubias said. “Twice.” Did he feel any remorse for executing a man who’d surrendered to him? No; in fact, he’d taken the man’s ID card off of his dead body to keep as a souvenir.

    From the Los Angeles Times: “I enjoy killing Iraqis,” says Staff Sgt. William Deaton, 30, who killed a hostile fighter the night before. Deaton has lost a good friend in Iraq. “I just feel rage, hate when I’m out there. I feel like I carry it all the time. We talk about it. We all feel the same way.”

     

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

    http://warisalie.org

    http://davidswanson.org

    http://warisacrime.org

    http://facebook.com/pages/David-Swanson/297768373319

    http://twitter.com/davidcnswanson

    http://youtube.com/afterdowningstreet

    U.S. And NATO Prolong And Expand Greater Afghan War

    December 2nd, 2010 by Rick Rozoff

    Over 150,000 foreign troops from more than fifty nations will spend another Christmas in Afghanistan. The tenth since the U.S. and Britain invaded the nation on October 7, 2001 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization activated its Article 5 collective military assistance provision the preceding month.

    Western forces have occupied and waged war in the nation for longer than Soviet troops were stationed there, from December 27, 1979 until February 15, 1989. There are approximately a time and a half as many U.S. and NATO troops in the country as there were Soviet ones at their peak.

    The duration of the war, also the most protracted in U.S. history, is lengthening and the amount of foreign soldiers in theater is growing, with a rash of recent revelations establishing that the foreign occupation will continue to 2014 and perhaps substantially longer and documenting a steady increase in reinforcements from several NATO nations and the recruitment of new troop contributing nations.

    Christmas Day will find troops from the U.S. and NATO allies also based, billeted and bivouacked in Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as well as other generally unacknowledged outposts in the greater Afghan war, one which in truth ranges from the Strait of Gibraltar on the Atlantic Ocean to the Strait of Malacca in the Pacific. In addition to the Afghan campaign, NATO’s invocation of its Article 5 has been employed to support the over nine-year-old Operation Active Endeavor maritime surveillance and interdiction mission throughout the Mediterranean Sea, and U.S. and NATO allies’ naval and air deployments in support of the Afghan war overlap with operations off the Horn of Africa in the Gulf of Aden and throughout the Indian Ocean and into the Persian Gulf.

    Last week the USS Halsey and USS Shoup destroyers rejoined the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group in the northern Indian Ocean region stretching from Pakistan in the east to Somalia and Yemen in the west. The two new warships linked up with the Abraham Lincoln nuclear aircraft supercarrier and its attached warplanes, the guided missile cruiser USS Cape St. George and destroyers USS Momsen and USS Sterett. 

    Indicating the range of the greater Afghan war area of operations, that of the original Operation Enduring Freedom and global war on terror, a U.S. Navy website disclosed that the “Shoup will be initially assigned to counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea; Momsen will be initially assigned to Commander, Task Force (CTF) 152 in the Arabian Gulf; and Halsey will be initially assigned to CTF 50, supporting Abraham Lincoln Strike Group operations.” [1]

    Arabian Gulf is an allusion to what is generally known as the Persian Gulf and its use is an intentional provocation to Iran. Combined Task Force 152, in its own words, “operates in the international waters of the Arabian Gulf and takes part in Operation Enduring Freedom.” [2] CTF 50 is presumably Combined Task Force 150, an American-led multinational naval force with logistics facilities at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, where U.S. Africa Command maintains its only full-service military base on the African continent and stations its Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa whose area of responsibility includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Yemen and increasingly Comoros, Mauritius and Madagascar.

    The theater of operations for the greater Afghan war stretches across the entire expanse of the Arabian Sea. [3]

    After an unscheduled return to home port for repairs, the Charles de Gaulle arrived in the Arabian Sea recently where the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group are currently deployed. The U.S. possesses all eleven of the world’s supercarriers and all but one of its twelve nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the Charles de Gaulle being the other. American supercarriers are accompanied by strike groups and regularly prowl the planet’s oceans and seas.

    In the skies over Afghanistan, the U.S. and its NATO allies delivered 4,615  bombs and missiles to targets in that Asian nation so far this year, already surpassing last year’s total of 4,184, with 1,000 bombs and Hellfire missiles used in October alone. Total combat sorties have risen by 20 percent over the same period.

    On November 29 the French Defense Ministry announced that a Rafale multirole jet fighter plunged into the Arabian Sea a hundred miles off the Pakistani coast after taking off from the Charles de Gaulle and flying a combat mission over Afghanistan.

    The U.S. Defense Department reported to Congress on November 22 that “violence in Afghanistan was at an all-time high since the nine-year-old war started” and “progress made by the NATO-led forces there was limited.” [4] Combat incidents in Afghanistan so far this year are up fourfold over 2007 and what the Pentagon refers to as “kinetic events” – direct and indirect fire, surface-to-air fire and exploded, discovered and disabled roadside bombs – increased by nearly 55 percent in this year’s third quarter, July-September, from the preceding one.

    NATO deaths in Afghanistan during the first eleven months of 2010 are at 700, 30 percent of the total in over nine years of fighting.

    Tony Karon wrote in Time magazine two days before the event that on November 27 the U.S. and NATO “will have been in Afghanistan a day longer than the Soviet Union had been when it completed its 1989 withdrawal.

    “What’s more, the U.S. announced during last weekend’s NATO summit that it intends to spend at least four more years, and possibly longer, in the Hindu Kush. Even then, many Afghans — perhaps even the president installed by the U.S. invasion — appear to doubt that the Americans will succeed where their erstwhile Cold War nemesis failed.” [5]

    Romanian President Traian Basescu was in Afghanistan on November 30, accompanied by his defense minister, Gabriel Oprea, U.S. ambassador to Romania Mark Gitenstein and senior American defense official at the American embassy in Bucharest Colonel Bruce West. The head of state visited some of his nation’s 1,663 troops in the country, all but eight of whom are under NATO command, and announced that the number will rise to 1,800 by the end of this month.

    Since Romania joined NATO in 2004, 17 of its soldiers have been killed and 55 wounded in Afghanistan, the nation’s first casualties in a wartime deployment, along with three killed and eight injured in Iraq, since the Second World War.

    Romania joins its neighbor Bulgaria and other NATO nations including Italy and the Czech Republic in pledging an increase in troops and a shift from other duties to combat roles for an Afghan war that shows no sign of winding down. Just the opposite. In the past year several countries have become new Troop Contributing Nations for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force: Armenia, Montenegro, Mongolia, Malaysia, South Korea and Tonga, and more being enlisted.

    Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell recently referred to the latest deadline for the commencement of a gradual withdrawal of American and other NATO forces from Afghanistan – 2014 – as an “aspirational goal” and the new chief of Britain’s Defence Staff, Sir David Richards, has suggested that Western troops could remain in the country a good half century after the 2001 invasion.

    Romania’s Basescu, flanked by his American handlers but where none but a Romanian reporter could hear him, was equally if not more forthcoming in speaking of NATO’s tenure in South and Central Asia while inspecting his country’s expeditionary troops earlier this week.

    Thanking the latter “for what you do for Romania, for what you do for NATO, for what you do for the civilized world,” he added:

    “As we pledged when we came to Afghanistan, we are only going to leave this country after accomplishing our mission…..But what I am telling you for sure is that 2014 must not be regarded as a deadline [when] NATO withdraws from Afghanistan.

    “Examinations show that 2014 is still an optimistic deadline. Therefore, we shall stay here till Afghanistan is fully secure….” [6]

    If the beginning of a “drawdown” of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan and several neighboring and nearby nations in 2014 is aspirational for the Pentagon, it is at best problematic for Romania’s president and certainly a premature and transparently dishonest schedule to disinterested observers. [7]

    Too many reinforcements, too many new nations providing troops, too many new deployments of military aircraft and armored vehicles, including 14 Abrams tanks to be dispatched to southwest Afghanistan this month, to allow for any other interpretation of events but that of a war expanding without foreseeable abatement.

    Moreover, the war is continuing to expand into Pakistan with its population of 170 million.

    On November 26 and 28 the U.S. delivered the latest of as many as 16 drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas for the month, killing at least eight people, making a total of close to 100 deaths in the Central Intelligence Agency-directed attacks in November.

    Last week a prominent Indian news agency revealed that a U.S. Defense Department report confirmed that American and NATO military personnel will be deployed in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province. [8]

    On November 27 a Pakistani lawyer appealed to the Lahore High Court against the deployment and “submitted before the court that the government had handed over a big area to foreign forces for setting up an airbase, which was against the country’s sovereignty.

    “The government was not authorised to hand over the country’s lands to foreigners.” [9]

    Four days earlier NATO helicopter gunships resumed attacks inside Pakistan, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where the U.S. has launched the bulk of drone missile attacks that have killed almost 2,000 people. “[T]wo NATO gunship helicopters encroached upon Pakistani airspace during flights near Landi Kotal and Torkham and violated international boundaries.

    “Officials…claimed hearing sounds of blasts while the helicopters were hovering over….” [10]

    On November 26 another report surfaced of an attack by NATO helicopters in Pakistan. “Witnesses said two NATO helicopters were hovering for 10 minutes and fired at the Lawra Mandi village in the Datta Khel area in North Waziristan,” injuring three people who were rushed to a hospital in Miranshah, the capital of the tribal district. [11] 

    NATO launched four helicopter attacks in the country in late September, killing three border troops on September 30.

    In October NATO warplanes and helicopter gunships intruded into both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the North-West Frontier Province) and Balochistan.

    NATO warplanes violated Pakistani airspace over Balochistan in February as well.

    A Chinese commentary of late last week warned: “Despite Pakistan’s clear-cut political stance adopted amid stern warnings and the subsequent U. S. written apology and denials, NATO aircraft continued breaching Pakistani airspace, raising [questions] if these incursions are being used as a barometer for testing Pakistani tolerance to possible further advances into [the nation's] territory, a general fear creeping into Pakistani policy.” [12]

    Moves to draw India into the West’s military orbit, both in reference to the Afghanistan-Pakistan war theater and vis-a-vis China, have been typified by visits to that country last month by U.S. President Barack Obama and British Defence Secretary Liam Fox.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently on a four-day trip to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Bahrain.

    Former Indian diplomat and veteran journalist M. K. Bhadrakumar penned a column for The Hindu last week in which he observed:

    “From a seemingly reluctant arrival in Afghanistan seven years ago, NATO is deepening its presence and recasting its role and activities on a long-term basis.

    “The summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in Lisbon constituted a significant event for South Asia. The alliance is transforming itself into playing a global political-military role.”

    He added: “Clearly, the U.S. will be in the driving seat in the Hindu Kush for the long-term. The billions of dollars the U.S. has been pumping in for upgrading Soviet-era military bases in Afghanistan and constructing new military bases now fall into perspective….Overarching these considerations comes the U.S. strategy visualising NATO as the provider of security to the Silk Road that transports the multi-trillion dollar mineral wealth in Central Asia to the world market via the port of Gwadar” on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast. [13]

    NATO’s top military chief, Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral James Stavridis, recently boasted that the U.S.-dominated military bloc is “a wealthy alliance” with a $31 trillion collective Gross Domestic Product and is a “big and capable alliance” with 7 million troops and 3,400 ships….” [14]

    The West’s, particularly Washington’s, geopolitical designs on Eurasia don’t permit it to withdraw from Central and South Asia. Nor do they give the U.S. and its military allies any incentive to do so.

    Notes

    1) Navy NewsStand, November 25, 2010
    2) Combined Maritime Forces
       http://www.cusnc.navy.mil/cmf/152/index.html
    3) Arabian Sea: Center Of West’s 21st Century War
       Stop NATO, October 25, 2010
       http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/arabian-sea-center-of-wests-21st-century-war
       ….
       U.S., NATO Expand Afghan War To Horn Of Africa And Indian Ocean
       Stop NATO, January 8, 2010
       http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/u-s-nato-expand-afghan-war-to-horn-of-africa-and-indian-ocean-2
    4) Xinhua News Agency, November 24, 2010
    5) Tony Karon, The Afghanistan War Reaches a Milestone — and Keeps Going
       Time, November 25, 2010
    6) Romanian News Agency
       December 1, 2010
    7) Timetable Abandoned: U.S. And NATO To Wage Endless War In Afghanistan
       Stop NATO, November 12, 2010
       http://rickrozoff.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/timetable-abandoned-u-s-and-nato-to-wage-endless-war-in-afghanistan
    8) Asian News International, November 25, 2010
    9) Daily Times, November 28, 2010
    10) Geo News/The News International, November 24, 2010
    11) Xinhua News Agency, November 26, 2010
    12) Xinhua News Agency, November 28, 2010
    13) M. K. Bhadrakumar, NATO and South Asian security
        The Hindu, November 26, 2010
        http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article915523.ece?homepage=true
    14) Defense News, November 29, 2010

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    Japan will demonstrate its ties with the United States in huge joint military drills, just days after a US and South Korean show of force amid tensions on the Korean peninsula, officials said Thursday.

    The previously announced “Keen Sword” drills, which were planned before North Korea’s artillery barrage of a South Korean island last week, will take place from Friday to December 10, a defence ministry spokeswoman confirmed.

    “It turns out to be good timing to show the bond between Japan and the United States,” a senior ministry official told the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, with the drill following US-South Korea exercises that ended Wednesday.

    Around 34,000 Japanese Self-Defence Force personnel with 40 warships and 250 aircraft will join more than 10,000 US personnel with 20 warships and 150 aircraft in the drill, defence officials said.

    The biggest US-Japanese drill since 2007 will take place in Japanese waters off its southern islands, close to the southern coast of South Korea, officials said.

    The joint manoeuvres will be much bigger than a naval exercise by Washington and Seoul this week….

    Japan has been on high alert since the attack, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan instructing his ministers to stay in Tokyo during the US-South Korea drill in the Yellow Sea to prepare for any emergencies.
    ….
    Following Pyongyang’s November 23 attack on Yeonpyeong island, which killed four people, China has proposed that the six nations involved in long-stalled North Korean denuclearisation talks hold an emergency meeting on the crisis.

    But instead the United States, Japan and South Korea have agreed to hold their own talks in Washington on December 6 in an apparent snub to China. The other members of the six-party process are China, North Korea and Russia.

    Unlike Zimbabwe, the U.S. can easily get the currency it needs without being beholden to anyone. But wouldn’t that dilute the value of the currency? No.

    A month ago, the bond vigilantes were screaming that the Fed’s QE2 would be the first step on the road to Zimbabwe-style hundred trillion dollar notes.  Zimbabwe (the former Southern Rhodesia) is the poster example of what can go wrong when a government pays its bills by printing money.  Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed in 2008, when its currency hyperinflated to the point that it was trading with the U.S. dollar at an exchange rate of 10 trillion to 1.  On November 29, Cullen Roche wrote in the Pragmatic Capitalist:

    Back in October the economic buzzwords had become “money printing” and “debt monetization”. . . . [T]he Fed was initiating their policy of QE2 and you’d have been hard pressed to find someone in this country (and around the world for that matter) who wasn’t entirely convinced that the USA was about to send the dollar into some sort of death spiral.  QE2 was about to set off a round of inflation that would make Zimbabwe look like a cakewalk.  And then something odd happened – the dollar rallied as QE2 set sail and hasn’t looked back since.

     What really happened in Zimbabwe?  And why does QE2 seem to be making the dollar stronger rather than weaker, as the inflationistas predicted? 

    Anatomy of a Hyperinflation

    Professor Michael Hudson has studied hyperinflation extensively.  He maintains that “every hyperinflation in history stems from the foreign exchange markets.  It stems from governments trying to throw enough of their currency on the market to pay their foreign debts.” 

    It is in the foreign exchange markets that a national currency becomes vulnerable to manipulation by speculators. 

    The Zimbabwe economic crisis dated back to 2001, when the government defaulted on its loans and the IMF refused to make the usual accommodations, including refinancing and loan forgiveness. Zimbabwe’s credit was ruined and it could not get loans elsewhere, so the government resorted to issuing its own national currency and using the money to buy U.S. dollars on the foreign exchange market. These dollars were then used to pay the IMF and regain the country’s credit rating. According to a statement by the Zimbabwe central bank, the hyperinflation was caused by speculators who charged exorbitant rates for U.S. dollars, causing a drastic devaluation of the Zimbabwe currency.

    But something darker seems also to have been going on.  Timothy Kalyegira, a columnist with the Daily Monitor of Uganda, wrote in a 2007 article:

    Most observers and the general public believe Zimbabwe’s economic crisis was brought about by Mugabe’s decision to seize white-owned commercial farms in 2000. That might well be true. But how about another, much more sinister element . . . sabotage?

    Kalyegira asked how a government “with the same tyrant called Mugabe as president, the same corruption, and same mismanagement, kept inflation down to single digit figures [before 2000], but after 2000, the same leader, government, and fiscal policies suddenly become so hopelessly incompetent that inflation is at the latest reported to be over 500,000 percent?”  

    Canadian commentator Stephen Gowans calls it “warfare by other means.”  Devaluing the enemy’s currency has been used as a war tactic historically.  It was used by Napoleon against the Russians and by the British against the American colonists. 

    In 1992, financier George Soros showed how it was done, when his hedge fund virtually single-handedly brought down the British pound.  His fund sold short more than $10 billion worth of pounds, forcing the Bank of England to devalue the currency, earning Soros an estimated $1.1 billion and the title “the man who broke the Bank of England.”  In 1997, the UK Treasury estimated the cost at 3.4 billion pounds.

    War by Other Means

    The push for regime change in Zimbabwe was detailed by Stephen Gowans in a March 2007 article posted on Global Research.  He wrote:

    Before 1980 Zimbabwe was a white-supremacist British colony named after the British financier Cecil Rhodes, whose company, the British South Africa Company, stole the land from the indigenous Matabele and Mashona people in the 1890s. . . .

    Ever since veterans of the guerrilla war against apartheid Rhodesia violently seized white-owned farms in Zimbabwe, the country’s president, Robert Mugabe, has been demonized by politicians, human rights organizations and the media in the West. . . .

    I’m going to argue that the basis for Mugabe’s demonization is the desire of Western powers to change the economic and land redistribution policies Mugabe’s government has pursued; . . . and that the ultimate aim of regime change is to replace Mugabe with someone who can be counted on to reliably look after Western interests, and particularly British investments, in Zimbabwe.

    Timothy Kalyegira concurred in this theory, observing:

    A former undercover operative John Perkins recalled events that are strikingly familiar to what we see in Zimbabwe today: “[In] 1951…Iran rebelled against a British oil company that was exploiting Iranian natural resources and its people…An outraged England sought the help of her…ally, the United States…Washington dispatched CIA agent Kermit Roosevelt…to organize a series of …violent demonstrations, which created the impression that [Iranian Prime Minister] Mossadegh was both unpopular and inept. (Confessions Of An Economic Hit Man, Ebury Press, 2005, page 18)  Clearly, Mugabe’s capital crime was to displace White privilege in Zimbabwe and personally stand up to the White establishment in London and Washington.

    This is not to condone any atrocities of which the Mugabe government stands accused, or to overlook the fact that breaking up the white-owned farms and delivering them to unskilled workers was a disaster for the economy.  The original black workforce did have the necessary skills, and if the farms had been transferred to cooperatives owned by them, little harm would have been done to the economy. 

    The narrow issue considered here is whether the Zimbabwe hyperinflation was the result of the government printing money to fund its budget.  In fact, the government was printing money to buy the foreign currency needed to pay debts owed in a foreign currency, something that subjected it to the whims of speculators.      

    The U.S. Is Not Zimbabwe

    Even if Zimbabwe’s hyperinflation was the result of currency manipulation rather than exploitation by corrupt politicians, couldn’t the same thing happen to the U.S. dollar? 

    The answer is, not likely.  The U.S. does not owe debts in a foreign currency over which it has no control.  It can issue bonds payable in its own currency. 

    Today that currency is issued by the Federal Reserve, which is privately owned by a consortium of banks; but the Fed has been at least semi-captive ever since the 1960s, disgorging its profits to the Treasury.  Its website states, “Federal Reserve Banks are not . . . operated for a profit, and each year they return to the U.S. Treasury all earnings in excess of Federal Reserve operating and other expenses.”  The Federal Reserve Act provides that it can be modified or rescinded at any time, so Congress retains ultimate control.

    Randall Wray, Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, writes that “involuntary default is, literally, impossible for a sovereign government.” 

    The U.S. does not have to rely on foreign investors even to buy its bonds.  If the investors are not interested, the central bank can buy the bonds.  That is, in fact, what the Fed’s second round of quantitative easing is all about: issuing $600 billion for the purchase of long-term government bonds. 

    Unlike Zimbabwe, which had to have U.S. dollars to pay its debt to the IMF, the U.S. can easily get the currency it needs without being beholden to anyone.  It can print the dollars, or borrow from the Fed which prints them. 

    But wouldn’t that dilute the value of the currency? 

    No, says Cullen Roche, because swapping dollars for bonds does not change the size of the money supply.  A dollar bill and a dollar bond are essentially the same thing.  One bears interest and is a little less liquid than the other, but both are obligations good for a dollar’s worth of goods or services in the economy.  If the bondholders had wanted cash, they could have cashed out the bonds themselves.  They don’t have any more money to spend, or any more incentive to spend it, when they’ve been cashed out by the government than when they were holding bonds.     

    Moreover, adding money to the money supply cannot hurt the economy when the money supply is shrinking, as it is now.  Most money today consists simply of bank credit, and bank credit is shrinking because banks are deleveraging.  Bad debts are wiping out capital, which wipes out lending capacity.  QE2 is just an attempt to fill the empty liquidity pitcher back up — and a rather feeble attempt at that.  Financial commentator Charles Hugh Smith estimates that the economy now faces $15 trillion in writedowns in collateral and credit, based on projections from the latest Fed Flow of Funds (September 17, 2010).   Based on his projections, it might be argued that the Fed could print enough money to refinance the entire federal debt without creating price inflation.  (The current inflation in commodity prices is due to other factors, as was discussed in an earlier article, here.) 

    Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, wrote recently concerning the federal deficit:

    There is no reason that the Fed can’t just buy this debt (as it is largely doing) and hold it indefinitely. If the Fed holds the debt, there is no interest burden for future taxpayers. The Fed refunds its interest earnings to the Treasury every year. Last year the Fed refunded almost $80 billion in interest to the Treasury, nearly 40 percent of the country’s net interest burden. And the Fed has other tools to ensure that the expansion of the monetary base required to purchase the debt does not lead to inflation.

    This means that the country really has no near-term or even mid-term deficit problem. The current deficit is a positive. In fact, if it were larger we would have more jobs and growth. Furthermore, there is no reason that the debt being accumulated at present should pose any interest burden on future generations. In this vein, it is worth noting that Japan’s central bank holds debt amounting to almost 100 percent of that country’s GDP. As a result, Japan’s interest burden is considerably smaller than the United States’s, even though Japan’s debt is almost four times as large relative to the size of its economy.  [Emphasis added.]  

    Although Japan’s relative debt is almost four times as large as ours and its central bank holds enough to equal nearly 100% of its GDP, investors are not fleeing the yen or driving the economy into hyperinflation.  In fact Japan still can’t pull itself out of DEFLATION, despite massive quantitative easing.  The country still has willing trading partners and is still the third largest economy in the world, an impressive feat for a small island. 

    If the Fed were to follow the lead of Japan and hold federal debt equal to the country’s gross domestic product, the Fed would be holding $14.75 trillion in federal securities, enough to refinance the ENTIRE U.S. federal debt of $13.8 trillion virtually interest-free. 

    The federal debt hasn’t been paid off since the 1830s under President Andrew Jackson.  It is just rolled over from year to year.  An interest-free debt rolled over indefinitely is the functional equivalent of the government issuing money itself. 

    Andrew Jackson would have said the government SHOULD be issuing the money itself, rather than borrowing from banks that issue it.  If Congress gave itself the right under the Constitution to issue money, he said, “it was conferred to be exercised by themselves, and not to be transferred to a corporation.”  

    Indeed, that may be why the U.S. dollar has been going UP since QE2 was initiated, while the Euro has been going DOWN.  EU governments are doing what the inflation hawks want them to do: cut back on services, privatize their pension money, and otherwise engage in austerity measures to balance their budgets.  The effect has been to depress their economies and throw them deeper and deeper into debt, with nowhere to get the extra cash needed to pay the expanding debt and interest burden. 

    The U.S. and Japan are exploring another model: allowing their currencies to expand to meet the needs of their economies.  This was, in fact, the original money system of the American colonists.  It was revived by Abraham Lincoln to avoid a crippling war debt, after which it was dubbed the “Greenback solution.”

    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.

    US alliance commits Australia

    Matthew Franklin

    Australia could be drawn in to any military conflict on the Korean peninsula under its alliance with the US, the government has confirmed.

    Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said yesterday he was watching events on the Korean peninsula with “razor sharp” eyes, as South Korea and the US began war games in the wake of several instances of aggression from North Korea.
    ….
    Yesterday, amid reports of more artillery fire and the movement of missiles within North Korea, Mr Rudd used a television interview with the Nine Network to express deep concern about the developments and make clear Australia would have obligations to back the US and South Korea in any conflict.

    He said the 1951 ANZUS Treaty set out that any attack on the territory of the signatories or on their armed forces within the Pacific area would require the allies to “act to meet the common danger”, consistent with their constitutional processes. “That does not dictate an immediate course of military action but we need to be mindful of the fact that, when our forebears laid down this alliance, these considerations were taken into account.”

    Asked whether this meant that if the US went to war with North Korea, Australia would follow, Mr Rudd said he wanted to be “cautious and restrained” in his language. “Let’s just ratchet this back a bit,” he said. “There is a lot of instability on the Korean peninsula at the moment. I don’t think any of us should be unnecessarily stoking it up.

    “But I do simply state the obvious: that under our alliance with the United States, Article 4 of the ANZUS Treaty is clear about our requirements to act to meet the common danger and to do so consistent with our constitutional processes.”
    ….
    The Australian asked Mr Rudd whether parliament would debate Australia’s options in the event of a US call for military help. A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd declined to elaborate, saying “Australia would work with the international community to respond in a calm and measured way.”

    For the past three days, the WikiLeaks website (http://wikileaks.org/) has been under a massive “distributed denial of service” attack, “exceeding 10 gigabits a second,” according to the world’s most widely used whistleblower website. Amazon shut down WikiLeaks servers, it reported today on Twitter. But that’s the least of its problems. Yesterday, a senior advisor to the Canadian Prime Minister issued a televised fatwa on Julian Assange. Today, Interpol posted its call for arrest of the website’s founder and Ecuador withdrew its offer of asylum.

    University of Calgary political science professor and key advisor to Canada’s PM Stephen Harper, Tom Flanagan, called on President Obama to “put out a contract and maybe use a drone” during a talk show interview on the CBC News Network Tuesday evening:
    ……….

    Maybe ordering the assassination of a journalist would make a psychopath “feel manly,” but it is abhorrent to normal humans. Tom Flanagan should not only be fired and prosecuted for his criminal call for murder, but he should also seek serious psychological counseling.

    Loon Canada notes that such speech violates “sections of the federal Criminal Code, including the sections which proscribe the counselling or aiding and abetting of culpable homicide.” Canada’s jurist law dictionary includes in its definition of party: “aiding or abetting or conspiring or counselling the commission of an offence.”

    Loon also notes: “Flanagan who is a trusted member of PM Harper’s inner circle of Tory strategists joins Sarah Palin in calling for the death of the Wikileaks director as retribution for the website’s release of confidential diplomatic and intelligence ‘chatter’ this week.”

    Today, Interpol posted a call for the arrest of Assange, the New York Times reported:

    “For nearly two weeks, Interpol has been circulating a broad international call for the arrest of Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing organization, for questioning on sex crimes, Interpol said on its Web site on Wednesday.”

    Interpol’s page shows this information:

    Present family name:
    ASSANGE

    Forename:
    JULIAN PAUL

    Sex:
    MALE

    Date of birth:
    3 July 1971 (39 years old)

    Place of birth:
    TOWNSVILLE, Australia

    Language spoken:
    English

    Nationality:
    Australia

    Categories of Offences:
    SEX CRIMES

    Arrest Warrant Issued by:
    INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC PROSECUTION OFFICE IN GOTHENBURG / Sweden

    Al Jazeerah reports today that “Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has dismissed an offer of residency” to Assange. “The offer by Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas on Monday ‘has not been approved by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino — or the president,’ Correa told reporters.”

    The latest increased pressure on the website may be a reaction to Assange promising to release another megadump of documents that might bring down a major US bank, which he described in sparing detail in a Forbes Magazine interview on Monday.

    While global animosity toward US banks grows in response to private citizens being handed the debts of financial for-profit institutions, others question the authenticity of WikiLeaks. Gordon Duff, a former Marine and private consultant on counter insurgency and defense technologies, believes WikiLeaks is “simple Israeli propaganda.” He’s posted numerous articles on his Veterans Today website describing what he believes is pure psyops to support an invasion of Iran.

    Indeed, the US has been subjected to a massive propaganda campaign for war on Iran, as evidenced in the film, Countdown to Zero; as detailed by Global Research Fellow, Michel Chossudovsky, who discussed fraudulent documents on Iran’s nuclear program; and as Foreign Affairs Editor at Financial Times, David Gardner, opined, saying that he received information from senior intelligence people contradicting the new International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s nuclear program.

    As far back as 2005, the New York Times falsely ascribed a quote to Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying “that Israel must be ‘wiped off the map.’” Chossudovsky disputed this: “The alleged ‘wiped off the map’ statement by Iran’s president was never made. The rumor was fabricated by the American media with a view to discrediting Iran’s head of state and providing a justification for waging an all out war on Iran.” He then cites another Global Research writer, Arash Norouzi, who translated the original quote in question.

    John Pilger, a veteran war correspondent, is not so sure that WikiLeaks is merely a psyops tool. Last August, he defended Assange, considering his actions in line with any journalist’s “duty to publish.”

    Not only is Assange not welcome in his home nation of Australia, but US officials have also condemned these document releases considering the act criminal:

    ……….

    Whether or not the Wikileaks data dumps are part of a massive psyops campaign remains to be verified. Its website has been shut down. That’s a much more extreme step than what occurred with PrisonPlanet.com, when only Google and YouTube blocked the site. These censorship activities follow a massive website shutdown spree by the Dept. of Homeland Security, in the week prior to Thanksgiving. DHS apparently acted without judicial authority, reports Raw Story.

    Meanwhile, it is readily apparent that several key players at high levels consider WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange, a serious threat to the New World Order, at least publicly

     

    US embassy cables: Verdict on the leaks about the Middle East

    What do the cables released by WikiLeaks tell us about diplomacy and US foreign policy in the Middle East?

    • US embassy cables 

      US embassy cables reveal that Hillary Clinton instructed staff around the world to spy on UN staff and leaders. Photograph: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

    Gary Younge: ‘Leaks reveal how tight room for manoeuvre can be’

    Gary Younge

    The behind-the-scenes revelations about American diplomacy really only shock three groups of people.

    The first is those who believe the US is a force for unalloyed good in the world with a foreign policy rooted in principle rather than pragmatism. Even after the past nine years the number of those in that category is higher than many would think. For them, the problem with the US invading Iraq was not that it broke international law on a false pretext, leaving thousands dead or displaced, but that it lost. The lesson they have drawn is not that the US needs to adopt more subtle methods than bombing, torturing and invading but that not all of the world is ready for freedom. Last month, during the final debate between the Colorado Senatorial candidates, Republican, Ken Buck, said: “It’s a fundamental mistake to assume that a people as backward as the Afghans are going to be able to build the industrialised nation and the democracy that it takes to be able to achieve what we would consider a western-style democracy.”

    The second group is those who believe that the US can call the shots unilaterally and need not care about whatever anyone else thinks. This has long been acknowledged by the country’s intelligence forces.

    “Owing to the relative decline of its economic and, to a lesser extent, military power, the US will no longer have the same flexibility in choosing among as many policy options,” concluded the National Intelligence Council (which co-ordinates analysis from all US intelligence agencies) in early 2009.

    The leaks reveal, among other things, just how tight the room for manoeuvre can be in the current period. They show the US attempting to trade a presidential visit to Slovenia in return for the Slovenes taking a Guantánamo prisoner and expose its inability to prevent Syrians arming Hezbollah in Lebanon.

    These first two may appear like straw men. But in the domestic political arena it is a bold national politician who insists that the US is anything but unrivalled in might and morality. And after the Republican victories in the mid-term elections, they will now need to be bolder still.

    But, finally, the third group: those on the left, who mistook American diplomacy for acts of either unalloyed evil or delusion. News of America resisting calls from the Arab world to bomb Iran simply show it is more than capable of a rational appraisal in global affairs. The diplomats in question, charged with looking after their national interests, understand that such an attack would not be in the country’s interests in the region. These were probably the same diplomats who desperately tried to dissuade George Bush from invading Iraq. The state department, lest we forget, voiced internal opposition to the war and predicted many of the things that went wrong.

    If anything, what the leaks tell us is, in light of recent events, is that we should not confuse America’s domestic politics with its diplomatic engagements; nor should we assume that its foreign and military actions are necessarily guided by its diplomatic assessments.

    Seumas Milne: ‘Global mobilisation of US power against Iran is an ominous thread’

    Seumas Milne

    The relentless global mobilisation of US power against Iran – and of Washington-backed Arab autocracies and dictatorships for an American attack on Tehran – is an ominous thread that runs through thousands of the leaked state department WikiLeaks cables published in the Guardian.

    Not only do they underline the danger represented by the threat of aggression against Iran over its nuclear programme, which of course Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes only; but the repeated private demands by the Saudi king Abdullah to “cut off the head of the snake” – backed up by Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain (and, of course, Israel) – also serve to drive home the utterly unrepresentative nature of the client Arab regimes that underpin western power in the Middle East.

    While the Arab rulers fear Iran and want the US to attack it, the majority of their people support Iran’s nuclear programme and believe it would be “positive” for the region if Iran did develop nuclear weapons – according to the most recent poll carried out by the US Zogby polling organisation and Maryland University in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other pro-western Arab states. Asked which countries threatened their security, 88% replied Israel, 77% the US and just 10% Iran.

    No doubt Saudi and Egyptian leaders will be more careful about what they say to American ambassadors in future.

    But then they’re not the only ones. Now it’s emerged from the WikiLeaks cables that Hillary Clinton has instructed US embassy staff around the world to spy on UN staff and leaders, as well as a wide range of political, business and religious figures, down to their biometric and credit card details. Plenty of others who meet US diplomats are likely to keep a closer eye on their pockets.

    Craig Murray: ‘The best policy advice is not shielded from peer review’

    Craig Murray byline

    The securitocracy has been out in force in the media, attacking WikiLeaks and repeating their well-worn mantra: government secrecy is essential to keep us all safe. It is seriously argued that ambassadors will not in future give candid advice if there is a chance that that advice might become public. In the past 12 hours I have heard this remarkable proposition put forward on five different television networks, without anybody challenging it. I was wearily familiar with these pro-secrecy arguments in more than 20 years as a British diplomat, six of them in the senior management structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

    Put it another way and the cracks start to appear. The best advice is advice you would not be prepared to defend in public. Really? Why? In today’s globalised world, embassies are not a unique source of expertise. Often, expatriate, academic and commercial organisations are a lot better informed. The best policy advice is not advice that is shielded from peer review.

    What the establishment mean is that ambassadors should be free to recommend things that the general public would view with deep opprobrium, without any danger of being found out. But should they really be allowed to do that, in a democracy?

    I have never understood why it is felt that behaviours that would be considered reprehensible in private or even commercial life – like lying, or saying one thing to one person and the opposite to another person – should be considered acceptable, or even praiseworthy, in diplomacy.

    When ambassador to Uzbekistan, I was rebuked by the then head of the diplomatic service for reporting to London by unclassified email the details of dreadful human rights abuses by the Uzbek government. The FCO were concerned that the Uzbeks, who were intercepting our communications, would discover that I disapproved of their human rights violations. This might endanger the Uzbek alliance with British forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. For the FCO, diplomacy is synonymous with duplicity.

    Among British diplomats, this belief that their profession exempts them from the normal constraints of decent behaviour amounts to a cult of Machiavellianism, a pride in their own amorality. It is reinforced by their narrow social origins – still in 2010, 80% of British ambassadors went to private schools. As a group, they view themselves as ultra-intelligent Nietzschean supermen, above normal morality.

    Some web commenters have noted that the released diplomatic cables reflect the US’s political agenda, and there is even a wedge of the blogosphere suggesting that WikiLeaks is therefore a CIA front. This is nonsense. Of course the documents reflect the US view – they are official US government communications. What they show is something I witnessed personally, that diplomats as a class very seldom tell unpalatable truths to politicians, but rather report and reinforce what their masters want to hear, in the hope of receiving preferment.

    There is therefore a huge amount about Iran’s putative nuclear arsenal and an exaggeration of Iran’s warhead delivery capability. But there is nothing about Israel’s massive nuclear arsenal. That is not because WikiLeaks has censored criticism of Israel. It is because any US diplomat who made an honest and open assessment of Israeli crimes would very quickly be an unemployed ex-diplomat.

    • Craig Murray is a political activist and former ambassador to Uzbekistan

    Richard Norton-Taylor: ‘Most diplomats and spies will see the leaks as embarrassing more than anything else’

    Richard Norton-Taylor

    An ambassador is a man of virtue sent abroad to lie for his country. To lie, but not to spy, a much more dangerous activity, as the 16th century wit who penned the well-known adage would have known only too well.

    The WikiLeaks cables suggest the lines between diplomacy and spying have become blurred. “The intelligence community relies on state [department] reporting officers for much of the biographical information collected wordwide,” says one of cables. What appears to have shocked most journalist commentators is the apparently brazen and unembarrassed request for detailed personal information, including credit card numbers and frequent flyer account numbers, of senior UN officials.

    Will the US ever learn? Shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a conscientious GCHQ translator, Katharine Gun, leaked a memo from the National Security Agency urging the British to help bug the phones of the UN. It caused a storm in the media.

    Intelligence agencies and diplomats eager for recognition demand more and more information; the question is, is it useful.

    The irony is that these 250,000 or so cables, subjected to varying degrees of classification (but not the highest, there are no intelligence agency cables here) were distributed to 2.5 million people because of the failure to share relevant information before the 9/11 attacks.

    US agencies are flooded with information as it is – what good would it really achieve getting the flyer accounts of a UN official?

    One test is to consider whether the information in the cables contain such information which could – or should – change US policy. Elements in the Iranian, Russian and Chinese regimes, will make use of these leaks. But in the end, most diplomats and spies will see them as simply embarrassing, hugely so but embarrassing more than anything else.

    The work of US diplomats will prove more difficult, perhaps for a long time to come. The real spies are likely to carry on, calmly, and hidden, as before.

    Juan Cole: ‘The yield of the documents is actually thin’

    Juan Cole

    The WikiLeaks revelation that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” and launch a surgical air strike on Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities sounds more sensational than it actually is. The elderly monarch risked nothing by his urgings, which put all the onus, and the possible backlash, on the United States.

    It is no secret that the Sunni Arab leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have been alarmed by the rise of Iran as a regional power. That rise has taken place for three reasons. First, the worrisome deterioration in the condition of stateless Palestinians under rightwing governments of Israel since 2001, and that country’s increasing belligerence toward neighbours, as with the 2006 Lebanon war, have inflamed passions throughout the region, allowing Iran to position itself as a champion of the weak. Second, the Bush administration destroyed the Sunni Arabs’ bulwark against Iran, the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and brought pro-Iranian Shias to power in Baghdad.

    Third, Iran has made progress in its nuclear enrichment program. There is no evidence that the Iranians have a nuclear weapons program, but even for Iran to possess the knowledge of how to close the fuel cycle and enrich to the level needed for a bomb would change the power equation in the Middle East. This development would give Iran the “Japan option” of at any time going for broke to put together a warhead.

    The aged Saudi monarch has been pursuing an unrealistic policy of trying to put the big blue Iranian genie back in its lantern. But note that King Abdullah has also hosted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Riyadh and has kept a dialogue going with Tehran, buttering his bread on both sides.

    Riyadh is not alone in its hysteria. But although Arab officials like Prince Turki al-Kabir of the Saudi foreign ministry threaten the US with a nuclear arms race if Iran gets a warhead, there is no reason to take such assertions as more than a way to put pressure on the Pentagon to do the bidding of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. If the US is wise, it will avoid being stampeded into yet another ruinous Middle Eastern war based on exaggerated fears about alleged weapons programs. Israel already has a nuclear arsenal, which is what is fuelling the current arms race in the region, and if Arab states don’t care enough about Tel Aviv’s nuclear weapons to seek atomic bombs themselves, it is hard to see how Iran’s civilian research program could induce them to do so.

    Despite the breathless headlines they generated, the yield of the documents is actually thin. The most populous and militarily most important Arab state, Egypt, appears not to have been among those urging military action. There is no sign in the diplomatic cables of any practical steps toward an Arab attack on Iran, no evidence of logistical or military preparations. At most there is high-level gossip in Arab capitals that something should be done, and by someone else. In any case, if this is the anti-Iranian Arab axis, Tehran can sleep peacefully at night.

    • Juan Cole is the Richard P Mitchell collegiate professor of history at the University of Michigan and author of Engaging the Muslim World

    Abbas Edalat and Phil Wilayto: ‘Iran’s independent stance is hugely popular among Arabs’

    The latest batch of WikiLeaks revelations give the impression that it is the Arab states that are most energetically pressuring the US to attack Iran. That’s definitely putting the cart before the horse.

    In the first place, the Arab governments mentioned as being hostile to Iran – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates – are all undemocratic, unpopular regimes that depend on US support to stay in power. As such, they seem to have absorbed the US claims that Iran is the region’s greatest threat to peace.

    A completely different view, however, is held by these governments’ own subjects, among whom Iran’s independent stance is hugely popular. According to a recent poll that asked Arab people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates to name two countries they thought were the greatest threat to the region, 88% stated Israel, 77% stated the US and only 10% mentioned Iran.

    Of course, no Arab country has the military capability of launching a serious attack against Iran. Only Israel has that ability in the region, but Israel is dependent for its continued existence on its $3bn in annual US subsidies and its US-supplied diplomatic firewall in the UN security council. There is almost no way Israel could attack Iran unless it had first been given a green light from Washington or because it had calculated the US would have no choice but to back it up with military force.

    Without a doubt, Iran does represent a threat to US imperial interests. Iran takes no orders from Washington, its natural resources are off-limits to Western corporations and it has no love for the corrupt, pro-Western governments that dominate the region. As such, it represents an obstacle to US hegemony.

    To demonise Iran, the US has for eight years promoted the myth of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, much as it demonised Iraq through its false charges about weapons of mass destruction. And while this myth has formed the basis for four sets of UN sanctions against Iran, the US has never provided the first shred of proof and its “evidence” of Iran’s nuclear weapons studies has now been shown to be simply a fabrication.

    No, the principal threat to Iran remains the United States, which for years, prodded by nuclear-armed Israel, has declared that “all options are on the table.”

    On 5 December, Iran is scheduled to begin revived negotiations with the five permanent UN security council members, plus Germany. This would be an ideal time for Washington to make the following declaration: that it will not attack Iran, will not allow an attack by Israel, will end all sanctions against Iran, will recognise Iran’s right under the UN’s Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to pursue peaceful nuclear power, will return Iran’s nuclear file from the UN Security Council to the IAEA in exchange for Iran’s stated pledge to allow the intrusive inspections of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol and will agree to discuss all outstanding differences in a spirit of mutual respect.

    • Abbas Edalat is founder of the Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran. Phil Wilayto is an anti-war activist and author of In Defence of Iran: Notes from a US Peace Delegation’s Journey through the Islamic Republic

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    US embassy cables: Verdict on the leaks about the Middle East | Panel

    This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 11.50 GMT on Monday 29 November 2010. It was last modified at 12.09 GMT on Monday 29 November 2010.

    It was announced on Wednesday, December 1 that the U.S.  and South Korea will  hold more military exercises on Monday, December 6th. Earlier, South Korea and Japan practically torpedoed China’s efforts to calm the volatile situation on the Korean peninsula by calling for urgent consultations by the 6 countries involved in the talks on the Korea nuclear problem.

    Washington and Tokyo have called on China to persuade North Korea not to raise the stakes, but the U.S. and South Korea are creating more problems by their joint military exercises.

    Despite the deliberate irritation, China which has received Pyongyang’s agreement, has proposed the resumption of the long stalled 6-party talks, but Seoul and Tokyo have bluntly refused to go back to the negotiating table. Their refusal is evidence of a desire not to look at North Korea as an equal partner in talks – a highly destructive line to take, says Alexander Zhebin of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the Far East.

    “The strategy of the U.S. and allies to ignore North Korea has failed woefully.”

    The belief that the poor health of North Korean leader, Kim Jung Il, will lead to a struggle for power, complicated by the UN anti-Pyongyang economic sanctions, including U.S., Japanese and South Korean unilateral sanctions, will trigger mass disaffection against the leadership, has evaporated. The hope for a regime change in North Korea has been dashed. North Korea has coped well with its internal problems, leaving the  U.S.  and its allies the daunting task of looking for a face-saving strategy.

    Moscow supports China’s efforts to reduce the high tensions on the Korean peninsula, but if the efforts fail the region will again balance on a knife’s edge from December 6th, when America and South Korea are due to conduct fresh military exercises near the so-called line of separation between the North and South, unilaterally drawn by the U.S. 50 years ago. North Korea does not recognize the line. The latest exchange of heavy artillery fire by the two Koreas was because of the unresolved territorial dispute.

    There is an impression that last week’s artillery exchanges were instigated behind the scene. If that is correct, North Korea can be provoked again.

    The trip taken by the U.S. delegation to the NATO Summit in Lisbon was an expensive one indeed. The decision made there to extend our military occupation of Afghanistan into 2014 (and possibly beyond) will exact untold, unsustainable, unacceptable costs. 

    A war that has tragically already cost us 1,400 American lives will now take many hundreds more. A war that has already drained the treasury of $370 billion will drive us further into debt and stall our economic recovery. And a war that has undermined our national security goals will continue to make us less safe. Here we are patting down holiday travelers at the airport while we escalate a war that is fomenting rather than fighting terrorism. That’s the current state of our national security policy — talk about missing the forest for the trees.

    This decision to stay the disastrous course in Afghanistan represents a broken promise plain and simple — to begin ending this war in July of next year. Meanwhile, as the timetable extends, the tactics seem to grow more violent. Remember shock and awe in Iraq? Well, we’re now engaged in what one American officer called “awe, shock and firepower”, in the form of enormous tanks now rolling into Afghanistan for the first time during this war.

    As if Afghans needed another reminder of the 1980s Soviet invasion, which was heavy on tank artillery and left an indelible mark on the national consciousness. The optics here are very bad, and the rhetoric is disturbing as well, with one official boasting to the Washington Post that “we’ve taken the gloves off” and another saying that counterinsurgency “doesn’t mean you don’t blow up stuff or kill people who need to be killed.”

    Of course, the problem is that we’re killing a lot of people who don’t need to be killed, innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. How exactly are we supposed to win people’s hearts and minds when we’re destroying their homes and exterminating their families? When will we understand that this kind of warfare – this entire war – is the best propaganda tool the Taliban could ask for?

    And besides, tank deployment flies directly in the face of the COIN doctrine that is supposed to be guiding our Afghanistan strategy. We’ve all heard Gen. Petraeus wax philosophical about U.S. troops moving within communities, helping forge a bond between the people and their government. Except that tanks and night raids are about just the opposite — removing our troops from Afghan communities in favor of launching deadly explosives from a safe distance.

    But apparently NATO officials have come up with a creative way out of that contradiction. The Post reports that an Afghan farmer asked a general at a public meeting: “Why do you have to blow up so many of our fields and homes?” He was told that when villagers travel to town to submit a claim for property damage, it helps better connect them to their government.

    I can’t imagine a response more galling. Now we’re not only destroying their property, we’re insulting their intelligence too. This must end. It’s time to bring our troops home.

    Lynn Woolsey  is president of Americans for Democratic Action.

    Extension of Afghan Military Deployment

    December 1st, 2010 by Tim Kennelly

    On November 11, Remembrance Day, Canada’s prime minister Stephen Harper announced that his government has unilaterally decided, without even a debate or vote in Parliament, to extend Canada’s military “mission” in Afghanistan for three more years, until 2014. It subsequently joined in a unanimous decision of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at a summit meeting in Portugal to prolong NATO’s murderous occupation of that country for at least another four years. The move would see the Canadian military presence, currently close to 3,000 troops, reduced to about 1,000 by July of next year.

    The decision has fueled debate over a war that is increasingly unpopular, not least because it is a snub to those Canadians who took Parliament for its word when it voted in 2008 that Canada would withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan by July 2011. That deadline was aimed at deflecting growing disaffection with the war.

    In a new attempt this time to disarm anti-war critics, the Harper government is arguing that Canada’s renewed military contingent will be confined to “training” Afghan police and military. Full-scale combat by Canadians will end, we’re told. Harper failed to explain why – some 10 years after Western military forces toppled the previous government – the Afghan military still needs further training. Some 30 per cent of those trained are reported to defect, many of them taking their weapons to join the growing Afghan resistance to the NATO occupation.

    Harper said there was no need for a vote in Parliament because the decision is consistent with the “spirit” of Canada’s original decision to go to war and he has the support of the largest opposition party, the Liberals. In fact, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae have been publicly urging Harper for some time to extend the mission.

    The two other opposition parties, the Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party, oppose the extension. The Bloc has moved a motion, to be voted in the House of Commons on November 30, that condemns the decision to “unilaterally” extend the military mission. As the motion states, the unilateral decision violates the promise “that any military deployment would be subject to a vote in Parliament.”

    The resolution sparked a rare, lengthy debate on Afghanistan in the House on November 25. However, regardless of its outcome, it is clear that the government now has the votes it needs to endorse its decision to extend the Afghan troop deployment. Liberal leader Ignatieff agrees with Harper that a vote in Parliament is not required to extend the mission. And although there are rumours of divisions within the party over the extension, Ignatieff has enough support to give Harper his majority.

    A Mere “Training Mission”?

    Canada was leaned on heavily by its NATO allies to scrap the 2011 exit date. The Obama administration has been trying to lull the people of the United States and the rest of the world into believing it has an “exit strategy” from Afghanistan that consists of placing Afghan allies in the lead role of a counter-insurgency war with no defined goal or foreseeable end.

    A key part of selling the military extension is the ruse that Canadian troops will largely remain “behind the wire” of their military compounds. However, a different story is emerging from news reports.

    An anonymous government official told the Globe and Mail on November 16 that Canadian soldiers will be posted not only to the relative safe area of Kabul, but to other parts of the country as well. The U.S. and NATO say that “trainers” will be posted everywhere in the country.

    Edmund Whiteside, NATO Council Secretary, told an audience at Concordia University in Montreal on October 25 that “Afghanistan will be a very long military venture.”

    Anti-War Voices

    Anti-war activists have been quick to denounce the government decision as a violation of the rights of the Afghan people. As the Canadian Peace Alliance (CPA) stated, “Regardless of the specifics of the mission, by staying in Afghanistan, Canada continues to enable a corrupt warlord led government that abuses the rights of the Afghan people.”

    In the Vancouver weekly Georgia Straight, CPA co-chair Derrick O’Keefe charged that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is responsible for the prolongation of the Afghanistan adventure. “You can actually fault Ignatieff and the Liberals more (than the Conservative government) because they have been publicly advocating for this war for some time.”

    Scott Taylor, a former Canadian soldier and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine, told CBC’s The Current on November 15 there is “no hint of optimism” in the government’s pronouncements that the new mission would be completed by 2014.

    When asked what role “training” troops could play in Afghanistan, he replied, “I am against us leaving soldiers there in the first place… The things we could be doing, with a little creativity and recruiting of Afghan Canadians… is training Afghans to become plumbers, electricians, masons, anything that would begin to rebuild or build that country.”

    Taylor has produced a one-hour documentary film that premiered on CPAC television on November 21 titled, “Afghanistan: Outside the Wire.” In it, he says that Afghan lives are largely untouched by the billions of dollars in aid money that have poured into the country. Aid programs have “largely failed” the Afghan people.

    War Agenda

    Canada’s rulers are deeply committed to militarism and war. The country’s two national daily newspapers back the course strongly. The Globe and Mail ran a week-long series of articles in October extolling Canada’s new Afghanistan-earned military capacity. The thrust of the series is that Canada now has a model battle-tested army that can and should be used to wage war around the world.

    The support by the Liberals to this latest decision places new strains on those who have looked to a political alliance between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party to unseat the government.

    In 2008 the two parties, with Bloc Québécois support, agreed to form a coalition that would defeat the Harper Conservatives and form a government. At the time, the NDP agreed to set aside its opposition to the “combat mission” in Afghanistan should the coalition find itself in government. The agreement was scuttled when the Liberals elected a new leader, Michael Ignatieff.

    In the lead-up to announcement of the new mission extension, Conservatives and Liberals quietly maneuvered to stifle growing public debate over reports that Canadian troops knowingly transferred captured Afghan resistance fighters and suspected insurgents to Canada’s Afghan allies in full knowledge that they faced probable torture.

    The two parties have buried a Parliamentary examination of the issue under an avalanche of procedure, paperwork and outright stonewalling.

    In a sign of the limits of the Bloc’s anti-war stance, the party voted on November 23 against a Liberal motion to cancel the government’s decision to spend $16-billion-plus on new F35 fighter jets – the largest single purchase in Canadian government history, also decided without a vote in Parliament. The motion was defeated by the votes of Tory MPs, supported by the Bloc. Its leader, Gilles Duceppe, argued that the important thing was not to cancel the contract but to guarantee that Quebec receive its fair share of the economic spin-offs!

    In the Parliamentary debate on November 25, Bloc Québécois and NDP MPs, while critical of the extension, praised the role of Canada’s military in Afghanistan and said a “civilian” mission should be put in place that would assist the Afghan government with policing and oversee the spending of aid and development money.

    Both parties are short on specifics of what such a mission would look like and how it could operate in the midst of an ongoing war. None of the MPs of either party who spoke in the debate called for an end to the NATO-led war or a withdrawal of foreign military occupation forces.

    Anti-War Action

    There have been scattered demonstrations against the extension of the military mission in a number of cities. In Montréal, the anti-war coalition Échec à la Guerre (Stop War) held a “People’s Summit Against War and Militarism” on the weekend of November 19-21, attended by more than 200 people. It issued a strong statement signed by 70 organizations denouncing Canada’s participation in “a war of occupation in Afghanistan” and the militarization of Canadian foreign and domestic policy.

    And a 10-city speaking tour of Canada by British anti-war activist George Galloway, which coincided with the extension announcement, drew audiences in the thousands. Galloway is a former British MP who was kicked out of the Labour Party for his opposition to the war in Iraq while the party was in government and directing Britain’s role in that bloody conflict. He is also an outspoken opponent of the war in Afghanistan and a strong supporter of the struggle of the Palestinian people.

    Galloway was banned from entering Canada in March 2009 because the Canadian government hates his views on the never-ending war against the Palestinian people. He challenged the ban in Federal Court earlier this year and won the right to enter the country.

    A right-wing campaign sprang up against the speaking tour, seeking to block it from taking place or at least minimize its impact. It failed miserably. Galloway is suing the federal government and its Minister of Immigration for the 2009 ban. He promises that every penny awarded, if he is successful, will be dedicated to building a stronger anti-war movement in Canada.

    Former Afghan MP and social activist Malalai Joya completed a successful four-city speaking tour of Canada in early October. She addressed large audiences in Calgary, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver. The tour included a press conference at the Parliamentary Press Gallery and a thirty minute interview on the prestigious CBC national television program, Mansbridge One on One.

    Joya told host Peter Mansbridge that “For nine years, [Canada] has followed the wrong policy of the U.S., which is not only a mockery of democracy and war on terror, to tell you better, it is just a war crime.”

    The public debate that has opened up in Canada on the extension of the war mission in Afghanistan opens new and unprecedented opportunities to mobilize Canadians in demanding that all Canadian and foreign troops leave Afghanistan. This is the starting point of any effort to repay the people there for the terrible destruction that has befallen them at the hands of the U.S., Canada and their other warmaking allies. •

    Tim Kennelly is an activist in Vancouver in the peace movement.

    Roger Annis is an activist in Vancouver. This article published in conjunction with Socialist Voice.

    The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet grew a 4th straight week to $2,328 trillion, up $31 billion in a week. In May the balance sheet was $2,333 trillion.

    Holdings of government securities totaled $901.24 billion, and rose $27.62 billion. Mortgage holdings were unchanged and Agency holdings fell slightly.

    It might interest you to know that over the past seven years federal debt has doubled to almost $14 trillion. That is more than $100,000 for every American household.

    It should be noted that combined expenditures on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are projected to account for 45% of primary federal spending. That is a rise equal to 62% of GDP to 185% in 2035. 70% of US Treasuries are held by private investors and once they start to realize the US is really broke the game is over.

    On a European note, Germany cannot keep paying for bailouts without going bankrupt itself. Germany is drowning in the debt of other countries.

    Assets under management in commodities hit a record high of $340 billion in October.

    A very important event is that China and Russia are going to quit using the US dollar. This is big news. In spite of the current USDX dollar rally it will reduce demand for dollars and expedite the dollar’s demise. Once the dollar rally, induced by European problems is over, the dollar should take out 74 on the USDX. Current US insolvency is being ignored as the five-euro zone PIGGS get gored.

    In addition, we wonder whether even the strongest country, Germany, can survive the onslaught of the 5 PIGGS and their financial problems. The Germany people are very upset that they have to bail out these Club Med countries. The US has the same problem with large liberal states with vast amounts of illegal aliens that are broke and will have to depend on the federal government for perpetual funding. Accompanying that funding will come further Federal control.

    This presents two similar sets of circumstances. A breakup of the euro zone, which we have felt was inevitable since 1997, and a breakup of the unnatural alliance known as the European Union. In the US a similar set of circumstances could bring to the forefront the state sovereign movement. It will be interesting to see how both develop. It could well end up as everyman for themselves. Worldwide banks, individuals and corporations are insolvent in very large numbers. The banks, Wall Street and the City of London have been the root cause of these problems and by the countries bailing them out and transferring the debt to the taxpayer; they have in turn destroyed the value of their currencies versus gold. The problem is not currency versus fiat currency, but all currencies versus gold. The real exodus from currencies hasn’t even as yet begun because 95% of the world hasn’t discovered the problem as yet. Once the debt markets discover this the stampede will begin and not everyone will be able to get out the door at the same time – virtual chaos will ensue. The gold and silver markets are already telling you that. Those who act now can save their wealth, the rest, as we have seen in the past, will loose most everything. Next year worldwide more and more will join the flight to quality as prices soar. Confidence in all currencies will lessen as currencies head for a massive crackup. A compounding factor is that exchanges such as the LBMA in London and the Comex in NYC have sold scores more contracts in gold and silver than they can deliver. That will create a delivery crisis, not only for them, but also in the derivatives market as well. That could well destroy the Exchange Traded Funds GLD and SLV in a scenario when everyone loses their investments. The manipulation that has gone on in the gold and silver pits has been ongoing since August 1988, but now they make no effort to cover up what they are doing. It’s in your face and arrogant. There have not been free markets for many years, thanks to our government, the CFTC and the SEC as regulators for government and in behalf of government and those who control government. This is an absolute disgrace in a democracy. Obviously we no longer have a democracy or a republic, but in its place corporatist fascism.

    Desperate people do desperate things and that goes for governments as well. Many governments are broke. We know about governments in Europe, known as the 5 PIGGS, then there are many in Eastern Europe, England and the US. They all are in desperate shape and that is why the US and the UK in particular are suppressing gold and silver. If they go up in value more and more people will realize something is terribly wrong. The lynchpin of the entire world financial system, the US, is broke and the US dollar is not worth the paper it is written on. The last time we looked at the forex holdings of all nations 59-1/2% was held in US dollars, which means when the dollar falls lower all nations are going to suffer.  Those nations, individuals and corporations that figure out the truth through the smoke and mirrors can save what they have by dumping dollar for gold and silver. Once the panic begins it will be too late.

    There have been statements as of late in reference to a gold standard from what we consider official sources. We believe the elitists realize that they cannot begin to consider a worldwide trading unit no matter what its form without gold backing. Countries are not going to allow themselves to get hung out to dry again, as they have been with a fiat dollar. We know most economists want the present system to continue, so they do not have to learn real economics. Even so-called conservative economists and analysts believe in the current system, which has been an abysmal failure. That has been borne out by two depressions and a population growth is no excuse for not using gold backing for currencies. It has little to do with central banks and governments creating money and credit. Gold production is falling not rising and adds only 1.5% to existing supply, making it rare and to be valued. The presence of gold backing helps demand for expansion. Keynesians always like to forget wars and the distortations they create, such as fiscal debt and expansion of the fractional banking system. Today we still have wars amidst a new declining world population; a sort of double whammy restricting the excuse for more money and credit.

    The real problem is gold caps what central banks and banks can do. That limits leverage that is why the wealth accumulating elitists hate gold and besides gold’s upward movement tells us something is wrong within the system. Over and over again every time the system gets in trouble more money and credit is issued. That might for a time keep the system afloat but it also is debt creation, which in turn depreciates the dollar. It is impossible to separate debt and the affect it has on currency, as German Chancellor Ms. Merkel tried to do this past week. All she did was make a fool out of herself. One has to follow another. Each day credibility is strained and each day gold has another reason to rise. This is why gold-based accounts are starting to appear in Europe, mainly Austria, and under the circumstances that trend will grow as the flight to quality rises. Such responses are understandable as governments compete at destroying their currencies. Every time they want to depreciate the value of their currency, to create more of it, buy dollars thereby cheapening their currency, and use the result to purchase US dollar bonds in a US dollar that is also depreciating versus other currencies and in particular gold. Remember, all currencies have fallen versus gold for the past ten years. Thus, the rat race continues in the currency road to oblivion. 

    In the final analysis in a form of natural progression exporters may demand to be paid in gold, or a gold backed currency, or simply dump other currencies for their own currency, gold, commodities or something else physical. This is where all this is headed. We could also see, gold, silver and commodity bonds backed by physicals or the shares of producing companies. There will be gold and silver backed accounts, which have begun being offered in Austria. As long as fiat currencies continue to depreciate there will be a growing demand for such accounts, which at worst will maintain gold at some permanent level. The value of gold and silver will remain strong. Even gold backed debit cards could come into everyday use. It is absolutely essential that monetary policy include gold if confidence is to ever be restored in the minds of people worldwide.

    Afghan Trainee Kills Six US Troops

    December 1st, 2010 by Bill Van Auken

    The killing of six US soldiers by an Afghan police officer is one of the bloodiest in a series of incidents that call into question the US-NATO strategy of turning over combat operations to Afghan forces in 2014.

    Monday’s “fragging” of US Army trainers took place at a remote outpost in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border. An Afghan border policeman, subsequently identified as Ezzatullah, turned his weapon on the American soldiers as they were conducting a training exercise in the use of mortars. He was also shot and killed in the confrontation.

    Two separate armed opposition groups took responsibility for the killings, claiming that the Afghan police officer had infiltrated the security forces to conduct just such an attack.

    “We can not rule out that he was used by the enemy, but he had been a border policeman for three years, and had been a good boy,” Gen. Mohammed Zaman Mamozai, a senior official in the Afghan Interior Ministry, who previously headed the border police in the region, told the New York Times Tuesday.

    The killings marked the sixth such incident in just over a year. Earlier this month, an Afghan soldier gunned down two US Marines at a forward operating base in Helmand Province and then disappeared. Last August, an Afghan policeman shot to death two Spanish paramilitary troops engaged in training, together with their interpreter. In July there were two such attacks by Afghan soldiers, one in which two US civilian trainers were killed, and another in which three British Gurkhas died.

    Monday’s attack was the most deadly, surpassing an incident last December, when five British soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan police officer whom they had been “mentoring” in Helmand. The Afghan officer escaped after the shooting.

    In the wake of the latest episode—referred to in military parlance as a “green-on-green” incident—NATO spokesman Lt. Col. John Dorrian stated: “Incidents of this nature are a tragic reality of this kind of effort. Although we do everything we can to prevent them.”

    The spokesman did not spell out why such killings are an inevitable feature of “this kind of effort.” Clearly, they are the result of a colonial-style war in which broad masses of the Afghan population oppose the foreign occupation and the US-led forces are largely unable to distinguish friend from foe.

    The killings are particularly troubling for Washington and NATO given that the goal affirmed at the recent NATO summit in Lisbon is to train Afghan security forces to take the “leading role” in combat operations by the end of 2014, with US and other foreign troops staying on beyond then in a “supporting role.”

    To meet this goal, the occupation authorities have instituted less than selective criteria for recruitment into the Afghan puppet forces, which are in turn ostensibly serving a government seen as illegitimate by the bulk of the Afghan population.

    The US strategy for reaching this 2014 goal entails bleeding the armed opposition groups white in order to force them into negotiations based on Washington’s terms, which are designed to secure Afghanistan as an American semi-colony and base for projecting US military power into the energy-rich region of Central Asia.

    This has taken the form of special operations raids aimed at assassinating suspected leaders and members of the Afghan resistance, increased air raids and a major US military offensive around the southern city of Kandahar.

    The Associated Press Tuesday reported that aerial bombardments in Afghanistan are up sharply, with US warplanes dropping 1,000 bombs and missiles on targets in the country in the month of October alone.

    In an interview with the AP, Col. James Sturgeon, chief of the air operations control center in Kabul, said, “We’re seeing about a 20 percent increase in sorties over last year.”

    The former top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, had issued orders curtailing air strikes based on the conclusion that they were inflicting large numbers of civilian casualties, which were in turn fueling popular support—and recruitment—for the Taliban and other resistance organizations. President Barack Obama’s dismissal of McChrystal last summer was apparently due in part to a decision to escalate such attacks.

    The AP interviewed Mohammad Rahman Danish, a former district leader in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, who said that air raids there are now taking place “both day and night.”

    “The people in the area are very angry at both sides,” he said. “The Taliban are coming and influencing the residents, and the Americans are conducting operations. The local people are suffering. Houses are destroyed. The land is destroyed in the operations. That is the reality.”

    The Obama administration is set to issue a formal review of its Afghanistan strategy this month, with administration and Pentagon officials predicting that it will propose no change of course and will claim progress in achieving US goals.

    Two assessments issued on the eve of this review strongly dispute the official optimism in Washington, warning that the US-led occupation is actually losing ground to the armed opposition.

    In a report entitled “Afghanistan at the Breaking Point,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace warned: “The current strategy of defeating the Taliban militarily is unrealistic. The coalition is on the defensive across much of Afghanistan and, with current troop levels, can at most only contain the insurgency. On present course, the coalition is swiftly heading toward an impasse.”

    The report predicted that merely to maintain itself in the areas it is now attempting to secure through the ongoing military offensive, the US-led occupation will be compelled to significantly increase troop levels next year, rather than initiate the beginning of the drawdown that Obama promised last December.

    The report states that independent experts, journalists, consultants and humanitarian aid workers in Afghanistan reject the Pentagon’s claims of “reversing the momentum” of the insurgency.

    “They maintain that the insurgency has made considerable headway in recent months and has not experienced significant reversals in the south,” the report states. “The facts have so often been at odds with the optimistic tone of NATO’s public statements that there is a risk of undermining the confidence of public opinion and political decision makers.” It pointedly added that the military’s conclusions “do not appear to be shared by Western intelligence agencies, notably the CIA.”

    Describing the situation of the US-led occupation, the report states: “U.S. outposts are totally isolated, and it takes hours to leave a base, even to travel just a few hundred meters. There are no Afghan forces to provide backing for coalition forces, neither in Kandahar nor in Helmand. The state apparatus is nonexistent, and the idea of ‘government in a box’ has proven unworkable.

    “Afghan security forces, notably the police, are subjected to constant pressure, and very few village leaders dare to work with the coalition. Villagers rarely collaborate with Western forces, and the fact that most improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are planted during the day suggests that many villagers are complicit in the insurgency. It is naïve to think that—at least in this region—the local population wants to be protected from the Taliban; a large majority oppose the coalition presence, which they see as bringing about fighting and civilian losses.”

    Another report issued by the International Crisis Group reaches similar conclusions. “While success is being measured in numbers of insurgents killed or captured, there is little proof that the operations have disrupted the insurgency’s momentum or increased stability,” it states. “The storyline does not match facts on the ground.”

    The report states that Afghan security forces “have proven a poor match for the Taliban” and “remain dangerously fragmented and highly politicized.”

    On the other hand, the insurgency has managed “to proliferate in nearly every corner of the country,” the report warns. “Contrary to US rhetoric of the momentum shifting, dozens of districts are now firmly under Taliban control.”

    Obama Administration Seeks to Criminalize WikiLeaks

    December 1st, 2010 by Patrick Martin

    Top officials of the Obama administration have threatened criminal prosecution of WikiLeaks for its latest release of secret US diplomatic documents. Attorney General Eric Holder, at a press conference Monday, declared, “There’s a predicate for us to believe that crimes have been committed here and we are in the process of investigating those crimes.”

    White House press secretary Robert Gibbs flatly declared WikiLeaks guilty without any investigation, saying, “Wikileaks and people that disseminate information to people like this are criminals.”

    Press reports suggested that the focus of the Justice Department investigation was possible charges under the Espionage Act. TheWashington Post reported, “the FBI is examining everyone who came into possession of the documents, including those who gave the materials to WikiLeaks and also the organization itself.”

    No one except government employees has been successfully prosecuted under the Espionage Act for receiving and passing on secret documents. The law was adopted in 1917, during World War I, and has rarely been applied. WikiLeaks leaders like Julian Assange cannot be charged with treason since they are not US citizens. Assange is Australian, and many of his associates are from western Europe, including Iceland, Germany and Sweden.

    Holder suggested that new legislation might be required to deal with WikiLeaks. “To the extent there are gaps in our laws,” he said, “we will move to close those gaps, which is not to say…that anybody at this point, because of their citizenship or their residence, is not a target or a subject of an investigation that’s ongoing.”

    An attempt under the Bush administration to apply the Espionage Act to two employees of the pro-Zionist lobby AIPAC, who obtained the material from a US intelligence analyst, Larry Franklin, and then passed it on to Israel, ended in failure, as courts acquitted the two employees, despite the evidence provided by the analyst, Larry Franklin, who was the source of the leak.

    The US Attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, which conducted the AIPAC prosecution, is reportedly involved in the Justice Department review of possible charges against WikiLeaks.

    The Post reported that the Pentagon is leading the prosecution, and “it remains unclear whether any additional charges would be brought in the military or civilian justice systems.” This refers not only to the ongoing investigation of Private First Class Bradley Manning, described as the source of at least some of the material published by WikiLeaks, but to possible trial of Assange and others before military tribunals, like the alleged terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay.

    At least one congressman, Republican Peter King of New York, has called on the State Department to declare WikiLeaks a terrorist organization, a legal step that would trigger US economic, diplomatic and even military action against any country that “harbored” the Internet-based group.

    Under the powers claimed by the Obama administration for the “commander-in-chief,” designation of WikiLeaks as a terrorist organization would provide the legal basis for Obama ordering the kidnapping or even assassination of Assange and others linked to the organization.

    Right-wing media spokesmen have already endorsed such measures. TheWall Street Journal, in its editorial Tuesday, declared Assange an “enemy of the United States” and claimed, “If he were exposing Chinese or Russian secrets, he would already have died at the hands of some unknown assailant.”

    The US government should be no less ruthless, the editorial argued: “As a foreigner (Australian citizen) engaged in hostile acts against the U.S., Mr. Assange is certainly not protected from U.S. reprisal under the laws of war.”

    Given that Assange’s “hostile acts” consist of nothing more than Internet postings, this is a sweeping doctrine indeed. Apparently, the Journal is prepared to sanction the extermination of political opponents of US imperialism throughout the world.

    In addition to countenancing the assassination of Assange, the Journal also backs the execution of Private Manning, declaring, “At a minimum, the Administration should throw the book at those who do the leaking, including the option of the death penalty. That would probably give second thoughts to the casual spy or to leakers who fancy themselves as idealists.”

    According to press accounts, WikiLeaks offered the latest documents to theJournal, in part because of dissatisfaction with the handling of previous releases by the New York Times, including a vicious smear article attacking Assange. The Journal refused to take the documents, and was joined in its cover-up by the cable television network CNN.

    After the WikiLeaks postings this summer of US documents relating to atrocities committed by American military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration set in motion a politically motivated persecution of Assange in Sweden, where prosecutors were induced to file sexual assault charges against him. Last month, Interpol issued an arrest warrant for Assange based on the Swedish charges.

    The exact whereabouts of Assange are uncertain, as he has had to be constantly on the move because of threats against his life, as well as the trumped-up criminal charge. At least one country, Ecuador, has offered him residency. The nationalist government of President Rafael Correa forced the closure of the US air base at Manta and the withdrawal of US planes that were engaged in surveillance flights over neighboring Colombia, in support of the military operations against the FARC guerrillas there.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas said Monday that Assange would be welcome in Ecuador. “We are open to giving him residency in Ecuador, without any problem and without any conditions,” he said.

    “We are going to try and invite him to Ecuador to freely present, not only via the Internet, but also through different public forums, the information and documentation that he has,” he said.

    Lucas added that Ecuador was concerned about the espionage activities conducted by US embassies in many countries, including Ecuador itself. WikiLeaks has not yet made public the more than 1,600 cables in its possession that originated from the US embassy in Quito.

    Who precisely is attacking the world?

    December 1st, 2010 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

    The stuck pigs are squealing. To shift the onus from the US State Department, Hillary Clinton paints Wikileaks’ release of the “diplomatic cables” as an “attack on the international community.”  To reveal truth is equivalent in the eyes of the US government to an attack on the world.

    It is Wikileaks’ fault that all those US diplomats wrote a quarter of a million undiplomatic messages about America’s allies, a.k.a., puppet states.  It is also Wikileaks’ fault that a member of the US government could no longer stomach the cynical ways in which the US government manipulates foreign governments to serve, not their own people, but American interests, and delivered the incriminating evidence to Wikileaks.

    The US government actually thinks that it was Wikileaks patriotic duty to return the evidence and to identify the leaker. After all, we mustn’t let the rest of the world find out what we are up to. They might stop believing our lies.

    The influential German magazine, Der Spiegel, writes: “It is nothing short of a political meltdown for US foreign policy.”

    This might be more a hope than a reality. The “Soviet threat” during the second half of the 20th century enabled US governments to create institutions that subordinated the interests of other countries to those of the US government. After decades of following US leadership, European “leaders” know no other way to act. Finding out that the boss badmouths and deceives them is unlikely to light a spirit of independence.  At least not until America’s economic collapse becomes more noticeable.

    The question is: how much will the press tell us about the documents? Spiegel itself has said that the magazine is permitting the US government to censure, at least in part, what it prints about the leaked material. Most likely, this means the public will not learn the content of the 4,330 documents that “are so explosive that they are labelled ‘NOFORN,’” meaning that foreigners, including presidents, prime ministers, and security services that share information with the CIA, are not permitted to read the documents. Possibly, also, the content of the 16,652 cables classified as “secret” will not be revealed to the public.

    Most likely the press, considering their readers’ interests, will focus on gossip and the unflattering remarks Americans made about their foreign counterparts. It will be good for laughs. Also, the US government will attempt to focus the media in ways that advance US policies.

    Indeed, it has already begun.  On November 29, National Public Radio emphasized that the cables showed that Iran was isolated even in the Muslim world, making it easier for the Israelis and Americans to attack. The leaked cables reveal that the president of Egypt, an American puppet, hates Iran, and the Saudi Arabian government has been long urging the US government to attack Iran. In other words, Iran is so dangerous to the world that even its co-religionists want Iran wiped off the face of the earth.

    NPR presented several nonobjective “Iranian experts” who denigrated Iran and its leadership and declared that the US government, by resisting its Middle Eastern allies’ calls for bombing Iran, was the moderate in the picture. The fact that President George W. Bush declared Iran to be a member of “the axis of evil” and threatened repeatedly to attack Iran, and that President Obama has continued the threats–Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has just reiterated that the US hasn’t taken the attack option off the table–are not regarded by American “Iran experts” as indications of anything other than American moderation.

    Somehow it did not come across the NPR newscast that it is not Iran but Israel that routinely slaughters civilians in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank, and that it is not Iran but the US and its NATO mercenaries who slaughter civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yeman, and Pakistan.

    Iran has not invaded any of its neighbors, but the Americans are invading countries half way around the globe.

    The “Iranian experts” treated the Saudi and Egyptian rulers’ hatred of Iran as a vindication of the US and Israeli governments’ demonization of Iran.  Not a single “Iranian expert” was capable of pointing out that the tyrants who rule Egypt and Saudi Arabia fear Iran because the Iranian government represents the interests of Muslims, and the Saudi and Egyptian governments represent the interests of the Americans.

    Think what it must feel like to be a tyrant suppressing the aspirations of your own people in order to serve the hegemony of a foreign country, while a nearby Muslim government strives to protect its people’s independence from foreign hegemony.

    Undoubtedly, the tyrants become very anxious. What if their oppressed subjects get ideas?  Little wonder the Saudis and Egyptian rulers want the Americans to eliminate the independent-minded country that is a bad example for Egyptian and Saudi subjects.

    As long as the dollar has enough value that it can be used to purchase foreign governments, information damaging to the US government is unlikely to have much affect.  As Alain of Lille said a long time ago, “money is all.”

    Civil Rights and Social Control

    As the American civil rights movement emerged in the 1950s, the established American oligarchy, in all its various forms and avenues of influence, set in motion simultaneous attempts to control the evolution of the movement, in order to both divide the movement and its leaders against each other, and also to control its direction. The Civil Rights Movement arose as an independent and people-driven movement in a struggle for black rights in America. In this, the movement presented a great threat to the establishment oligarchy, as historically the subjugation of black people within western society was not merely a result of western policies, but lies at the very foundations and bedrock of western ‘civilization’, politically, socially, and economically. Thus, challenging the segregation of race inevitably challenges the entire political, economic and social system.

    The National Security State and its various apparatus, such as the CIA, FBI, police and military structures, saw the Civil Rights Movement as a threat to the status quo (as it was), and treated it as an ‘enemy of the state’. The apparatus of the National Security State were spying, infiltrating and disrupting the civil rights movement, and were ultimately planning for its elimination. Simultaneously, the major philanthropic foundations of America’s richest families and billionaire elites (whose imperial interests are served through the National Security State), moved in to actively fund the Civil Rights Movement, so as to control its progress and make it ‘safe for Capitalism.’ The idea was to prevent the Civil Rights Movement from remaining an organic people-driven movement and taking its natural course, which falls outside the false boundary of the social construct of race, and would seek to unite all oppressed and impoverished people of the world in one struggle against the system, itself. The role of the billionaire philanthropies was to ensure that the ‘Civil Rights Movement’ remained race-based, and that it became about black people being absorbed into and rising within the system, instead of fighting against it. It was about financially co-opting the movement to suit the interests of the ruling oligarchy.

    Martin Luther King, the most articulate, intelligent and respected leader of the Civil Rights Movement, was also the most hated by the ruling oligarchy. The wealthy philanthropies attempted to co-opt him, the political establishment attempted to use him and the ‘National Security State’ despised him and hated him. King was tolerated by the oligarchy so long as his focus was on the issue of race, as the oligarchy has always functioned on the basis of ‘divide and conquer’, so ‘identity politics’ – that is, basing political, economic and social views based upon one particular identity you have (whether it is race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc) – lends itself to being easily controlled. If everyone adheres to ‘identity politics’, then people will remain divided and the overall power structures of society will remain intact, and actually increase in legitimacy.

    When Martin Luther King began speaking about more than race, and openly criticized the entire social structure of empire and economic exploitation, not simply of blacks, but of all people around the world and at home, he posed too great a threat to the oligarchy to tolerate him any longer. It was at this point that the National Security State chose to assassinate Martin Luther King, and the philanthropies greatly expanded their financing of the Civil Rights Movement to ensure that it would be led in their desired direction.

    Civil Rights and the National Security State

    A Congressional investigation in the 1970s revealed that the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover, began a program in 1956 called COINTELPRO (Counterintelligence Program), which was “a secret, often illegal FBI campaign of surveillance and sabotage against a wide variety of right-and left-wing groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”[1] Among the key targets of COINTELPRO was the Civil Rights Movement, which largely emerged in 1955 with Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Boycott was organized by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., who was thrown into the national spotlight as a result:

    COINTELPRO involved not only wiretapping, but as the investigation showed, attempts to disrupt, discredit, and defame perceived political radicals. Hoover targeted few figures as relentlessly as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. The charge, Communist influence in the civil rights movement.[2]

    Of particular note, was in August 1963 when King gathered more than a quarter of a million Americans in the march on Washington to champion Civil Rights. Hoover was not amused:

    That march spurred Hoover to action. A little more than a month later, the FBI Director petitioned the Attorney General, then Robert F. Kennedy, to approve a wiretap on King’s telephone. Kennedy only agreed, according to his attorney Nicholas Katzenbach, in order to protect King.[3]

    In fact, in December of 1963, no more than a month after the John F. Kennedy assassination, FBI officials met in Washington to explore ways to “neutralize King as an effective Negro leader.”[4]

    When, in 1964, three civil rights workers disappeared, Martin Luther King “publicly questioned whether the FBI had done enough to safeguard the lives of civil rights activists and black citizens. An enraged Hoover then began to publicly denounce King, telling reporters that King was, ‘The most notorious liar in the country’.” Hoover had “decided that Martin Luther King was an enemy to the country.” The FBI then began a massive campaign to discredit King, with the FBI compiling “a tape recording of Reverend King with extra marital lovers.” King was sent a copy with an anonymous note which said, “King, there is only one thing left for you to do. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, fraudulent self is bared to the nation,” and “King and his advisors interpreted the note as calling for him to commit suicide.”[5]

    Important in understanding the nature of COINTELPRO, is that, “COINTELPRO was not just surveillance, it was active disruption. It was putting agents into the movement to incite rivalries, a jealousy, to try to get people fighting against each other and not trusting each other.”[6]

    As a Congressional investigation into the activities of COINTELPRO revealed, “the infiltration of an informant into the top post of the United Klans of America, then largest of several major Ku Klux Klan organizations, was seriously considered in 1967.” Further, “in the early 1970s the leadership of the Black Panthers was so riddled with FBI informants that the bureau virtually ran the organization.”[7]

    Even the National Security Agency, the massive intelligence agency that dwarfs the CIA in its size, had begun in the 1960s, compiling a watch list of US citizens whose phone calls were wiretapped. In 1967, “the list was expanded to include the names of U.S. citizens involved in antiwar and civil-rights activities.”[8]

    The Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964, which banned discrimination based on “race, color, religion, or national origin” in employment practices and public accommodations. Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the same year. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed. In 1966, Black Power was created as a group designed to be armed and ready to take on the Ku Klux Klan, and was made most famous by the Black Panther Party.

    In April of 1967, Martin Luther King gave a speech entitled, “Beyond Vietnam,” in which he most publicly and famously spoke out against not just the Vietnam War, but all war. He declared that he could not confront the evils of poverty without confronting “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.” King stated, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”[9]

    After delivering such a monumental speech against war and empire, King was attacked by the national media; with Life Magazine calling the speech, “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,” and the Washington Post saying that, “King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”[10]

    Martin Luther King was vastly contributing to the use of the apparatus of government in expanding and strengthening the democratic nature of society. This was largely at odds with the aims and methods of the National Security State “secret government,” operating through the realm of ‘deep politics.’ This was particularly prescient as the civil rights movement coalesced with the antiwar movement, posing a significant political threat to the established powers. When King spoke out against the Vietnam War and imperialism, the ‘secret government’ could no longer tolerate him. Protests in the civil rights and antiwar movements were often becoming violent, and prompted violent state responses. In regards to COINTELPRO, “efforts to discredit Reverend King intensified as he began to criticize as he began to criticize the Vietnam War.”[11]

    In 1967, “the National Guard was called out twenty-five times to deal with rioting, gunfire, arson, and looting.” In 1968:

    The Pentagon took unusual steps to combat civil disturbance. A plan and command, named Operation Garden Plot, was devised for “DOD [Department of Defense] components [that is, U.S. armed forces] to respond to reasonable requests from the FBI for military resources for use in combating acts of terrorism.”[12]

    Under Operation Garden Plot, “Military Intelligence – working with the FBI, local county and state police forces – undertook and directed a massive domestic intelligence-gathering operation.” Further, “security forces ranging from Army troops to local police were trained to implement their contingency plans.” The name of this Army task force that took on this operation was the Directorate of Civil Disturbance Planning and Operations.[13] In the Army surveillance of King, as Peter Dale Scott documented:

    The 20th Special Forces Group is reported to have used reservists from the Alabama National Guard, who in turn traded arms for intelligence from the Ku Klux Klan. In other words the U.S. Army with these programs, consciously or not, was countering a militant left by building up and arming a militant right.[14]

    On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The murder was blamed on James Earl Ray, a fugitive who was later arrested in London and extradited to the United States. Even after King’s death, J. Edgar Hoover “continued the campaign to discredit the civil rights leader.”[15]

    The King family had for a long time, publicly acknowledged that they believed the accused killer, James Earl Ray, to have been innocent of the crime he was accused. In fact, in 1999, the case was taken to court, in one of the most important, and yet least-widely reported court cases in the last century. O.J. Simpson’s trial became a national issue seared into the collective cultural subconscious, while the trial of the charge of government conspiracy in the murder of Martin Luther King, received barely a whisper of attention. The jury at the trial concluded that:

    Loyd Jowers, owner of Jim’s Grill, had participated in a conspiracy to kill King, a conspiracy that included J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, Richard Helms and the CIA, the military, the Memphis Police Department (MPD), and organized crime. That verdict exonerated James Earl Ray who had already died in prison.[16]

    Upon the announcement of the verdict, Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King’s widow, said, “There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief.” She continued:

    The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.[17]

    William Pepper, the lawyer for the King family who took the case to trial, and who was previously the lawyer for James Earl Ray, spoke upon the final verdict of the jury. He stated that Martin Luther King:

    took on those forces, powerful economic forces that dominated politics in this land, they killed him. He was killed because he could not be stopped. He was killed because they feared that half a million people would rise in revolution in the capitol of this country, and do what Mr. Jefferson said needed to be done every 20 years, to cleanse this land. This land has not been cleansed. This nation has not faced the problems that Martin Luther King, Jr. died trying to face and confront. They still exist today, the forces of evil, the powerful economic forces that dominate the government of this land and make money on war and deprive the poor of what is their right, their birthright. They still abound and they rule.[18]

    As it was revealed at the trial:

    Members of the Army’s 111th Military Intelligence Group, based at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia, had come to Memphis and were keeping King under 24 hour a day surveillance.[19]

    William Pepper, the lawyer for the King family, later wrote a book on the trial and the evidence for the assassination, titled, “An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King.” In it, he lays out the evidence:

    of how Martin Luther King was killed, not by James Ray, a bumbling patsy, but by a Memphis policeman in league with the Mafia, backed by soldiers — some armed with high-powered rifles, others with cameras to film the event — in a special Military Intelligence unit.[20]

    Judge Joe Brown had presided over James Earl Ray’s final appeal of his conviction, which thrust him into the national spotlight. It was out of this that he got the job to host the television court program, “Judge Joe Brown.” However, he continued to speak out on matters of the Martin Luther King assassination. Brown has publicly stated that James Earl Ray did not shoot King, and that, “Dr. King was shot with an M-21, which is a specially accurized edition of the M-14 semi-automatic weapon that the military used.”[21]

    Following the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968, the Pentagon’s Directorate of Civil Disturbance Planning and Operations emerged “during the massive rioting that broke out in black ghettos of nineteen cities after the assassination.” The headquarters of the Directorate was in the basement of the Pentagon, in “the domestic war room.” As Peter Dale Scott explained:

    In effect, plans and programs were being established to institutionalize martial law on a long-term or even permanent basis. A number of steps were taken toward eroding the prohibition, established in the Posse Comitatus Act of 1876, against the ongoing use of the army in civilian law enforcement.[22]

    The military intelligence operation “was supplemented at various stages by the CIA, the Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the National Security Administration.”[23] By 1968:

    many Justice Department personnel knew that the military was preparing to move in massively if needed to quash urban riots, and some officials feared the development of a large national military riot force. It was well known among top officials that the Department of Defense was spending far more funds than the Justice Department on civil disorder preparations indicative of the growing trend at the federal level toward repression and control of the urban black rioters.[24]

    A US Senator later “revealed that Military Intelligence had established an intricate surveillance system covering hundreds of thousands of American citizens.” Further:

    At first, the Garden Plot exercises focused primarily on racial conflict. But beginning in 1970, the scenarios took a different twist. The joint teams, made up of cops, soldiers and spies, began practicing battle with large groups of protesters…

    As time went on, “Garden Plot evolved into a series of annual training exercises based on contingency plans to undercut riots and demonstrations, ultimately developed for every major city in the United States. Participants in the exercises included key officials from all law enforcement agencies in the nation, as well as the National Guard, the military, and representatives of the intelligence community.[25]

    Garden Plot oversaw suppression of antiwar and civil rights protests and riots from the 1960s into the 1970s, having been called to a variety of cities over that period of time. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was, at the time, campaigning for the presidency, broke the news to a large gathering of African Americans in Indianapolis, Indiana. He spoke, not of campaign issues, but of the man and ideas that King was and represented:

    What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.[26]

    The Billionaire Oligarchy and the Civil Rights Movement

    The major philanthropic foundations of America (primarily the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and a host of others), represent the interests of the most highly concentrated sources of power in the world. The foundations are run by and for major elite interests, who simultaneously control the economic and political apparatus of entire nations and the world economy. The foundations were founded in the early 20th century as a means of these same elites to steer social progress, and ultimately undertake projects of social engineering. It was these very same foundations that were the principle financiers of the eugenics movement, which gave birth to scientific racism and ultimately led to the Holocaust.[27] In short, these foundations had one principle aim: to socially engineer society according to the wishes of their owners. Through the banks and corporations these elites owned, they came to dominate the global economy. Through the think tanks they established, they steered politics and imperial foreign policy, and through the foundations, they engineered ‘culture’ and co-opted social movements into social engineering projects. Thus, every threat to the established social order would become an asset in its advancement and legitimization.

               

    In the 1950s, the Ford Foundation began taking an interest in the Civil Rights movement, and after convening a study on how to “improve race relations,” the Ford Foundation began giving grants to black colleges “to improve the quality of their educational offerings.”[28] By 1966, the Civil Rights movement was one of the major areas of Ford Foundation funding. Against the backdrop of the summer of 1966 in which there were 43 “urban disorders” (riots in ghettos), which had been “precipitated by confrontations between blacks and the police,” the Ford Foundation announced that it would “direct significant resources to the social justice area.” Among the aims of the Foundation were: “to improve leadership and programming within minority organizations; to explore approaches to better race relations; to support policy-oriented research on race and poverty; to promote housing integration; and to increase the availability of legal resources through support of litigating organizations and minority law students.”[29]

               

    There was a transformation between 1966 and 1967 of the notion of ‘black power’, which was increasingly viewed by elites and ‘authorities’, such as J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI, as “the beginning of a true black revolution.” Many advocates of ‘black power’ saw it as the beginnings of a revolt against “white western imperialist” America.[30]

               

    The problem for elites was in having such prolific and anti-establishment leaders of social change movements. King was accepted by the established powers, although very reluctantly, as it was a political necessity to support him unless one wanted to risk a revolution. However, when King moved against not only the issue of racial inequality, but the issues of poverty and imperialism, and drawing the connections between these areas and building opposition to them, King could no longer be tolerated by the established powers. Thus, they killed him. King, who was without a doubt, the leader of the Civil Rights movement, was, in his last year, steering the Civil Rights movement against poverty and empire. This would have been the natural progression of the Civil Rights movement had King lived longer, fighting for the rights of all people around the world and at home, and aiming to unite them all under a common cause of liberation against systemic oppression. This was simply too much for the oligarchy to accept, and thus King was killed. With King gone, the movement lent itself to be more easily steered in “safer” directions.

               

    The Civil Rights movement was originally “launched by indigenous leadership and primarily mobilized the southern black community.” Thus, it was essential for large foundation funding of the movement, to effectively control its direction and impetus. This “elite involvement would seem to occur only as a response to the threat posed by the generation of a mass-based social movement.” The major foundations “supported the moderate civil rights organizations in response to the ‘radical flank’ threat of the militants, while non-elites (churches, unions and small individual donors) spread their support evenly.”[31] Elite patronage of the Civil Rights movement “diverted leaders from indigenous organizing and exacerbated inter-organizational rivalries, thereby promoting movement decay.”[32]

               

    Foundation funding for civil rights did not become significant until 1961-62, five years after the Birmingham bus boycott, and the peak of foundation support for civil rights was in 1972-73, four to five years after the assassination of King.[33] This indicated that foundation grants to civil rights were ‘reactive’, in that they were designed in response to changes in the movement itself, implying that foundation patronage was aimed at social control. Further, most grants went to professionalized social movement organizations (SMOs) and in particular, the NAACP. While the professional SMOs initiated only 14% of movement actions, they accounted for 57% of foundation grants, while the classical SMOs, having carried out roughly 36% of movement actions, received roughly 32% of foundation grants. This disparity grew with time, so that by the 1970s, the classical SMOs garnered 25% of grants and the professional SMOs received nearly 70% of grants. Principally, the NAACP and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund were the most endowed with foundation support.[34] Many of the foundations subsequently became “centrally involved in the formulation of national social policy and responded to elite concerns about the riots.”[35]

               

    It became clear that the older, established and moderate organizations received the most outside funding, such as the National Urban League, the NAACP and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund.[36] As the black struggles of the 1960s increasingly grew militant and activist-oriented in the latter half of the 1960s, “foundation contributions became major sources of income for the National Urban League, the

    Southern Regional Council, and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund.”[37]

               

    The NAACP and the National Urban League represent the more moderate civil rights organizations, as they were also the oldest, with membership primarily made up of middle class African Americans, leading to many, including King himself, to suggest they were disconnected from the reality or in representing poor blacks in America.[38] The radicalization of the black protest movement led to the emergence of challenges to the NAACP and Urban League in being the ‘leaders’ in civil rights, as new organizations emerged which represented a broader array of the black population. Among them were the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which Martin Luther King led. Foundations increased funding for all of these organizations, but as activism and militancy accelerated in the latter half of the 1960s, the funding declined for the more radical, militant and activist organizations and increased dramatically for the established and moderate organizations. This trend continued going into the 1970s.

               

    In 1967, Martin Luther King’s SCLC received $230,000 from the Ford Foundation, yet after his assassination, the organization received no more funding and virtually fell to pieces. That same year, the Ford Foundation gave the NAACP $300,000, and gave the Urban League $585,000. The Rockefeller Foundation granted the League $650,000, with the Carnegie Corporation coming in with $200,000. The Ford Foundation also gave the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) $175,000 in 1967.[39]

               

    In 1968, with the SCLC out of the picture, Ford increased funding for CORE to $300,000, increased grants to the NAACP to $378,000, and gave the Urban League a monumental grant of $1,480,000. The same year, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation gave the NAACP $500,000 and $200,000 respectively. Clearly, the foundations were supporting the older established and moderate organizations over the new, young and activist/radical organizations. From the following year, 1969, CORE received no more grants from foundations, while the Ford, Rockefeller and Carnegie foundations increased their grants to the NAACP and the Urban League. In 1974, the NAACP received grants of $950,000 from the Ford Foundation, $250,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation, and $200,000 from the Carnegie Corporation. The Urban League received grants of $2,350,000 from the Ford Foundation and $350,000 from the Rockefeller Foundation.[40]

               

    This co-optation of the civil rights movement was so vital to these elite interests for the principle reason of the movement taking its natural course, out of an ethnic or race-based focus and into a class and global social focus. A. Philip Randolph, a civil rights leader, spoke in 1963 at an ALF-CIO convention at which he stated, “The Negro’s protest today is but the first rumbling of the ‘under-class.’ As the Negro has taken to the streets, so will the unemployed of all races take to the streets.”[41] This was clearly the sentiment of Martin Luther King in 1967, when he spoke of how poverty, empire, war and economic exploitation are faced not simply by one race or one people, but all people, everywhere. It was an issue and an approach and a natural progression from the civil rights movement, coupled with the anti-war movement, which would ultimately unite all people against the prevailing imperial structures and ideas.

               

    In 1970, pamphlets were circulating in which it was said that the black woman “allies herself with the have-nots in the wider world and their revolutionary struggles.” While in the past, wrote Patricia Robinson in one pamphlet, the poor black woman did not “question the social and economic system,” now she must, and “she has begun to question aggressive male domination and the class society which enforces it, capitalism.”[42]

               

    Ultimately, the methods, amounts and sources of elite financing for civil rights organizations had the desired effects. The strategy for civil rights became integration and reform, not agitation and revolution. The distinctly anti-capitalist sentiments of many in the civil rights movement, as well as exponentially increasing criticisms of American imperialism and campaigns against poverty, not simply as a racial issue, but as social and class issues, all ceased to accelerate and advance. From this point on, civil rights procedures took a distinctly institutionalized approach, preferring the legal route rather than the activist route. The legal route was instrumental in advancing notions of black integration into the system (ex: ‘affirmative action’), as opposed to black activist-inspired reorganization or revolution of the system. In this sense, the major foundations had the effect of co-opting one of the most promising social movements in recent history, so that it did not negatively damage the prevailing systems and structures of power, and instead, focused on ‘reforming’ appearance rather than substance, so that blacks can be included within the system, thus removing the impetus for them to fight against it.

    Elite Ideology: Social Movements are “Dangerous” to Democracy

    It is important to briefly address some of the institutional ideologies of the elite, so as to understand their motivations for co-optation of social movements and their preference and proclivity for social engineering.

               

    In 1970, David Rockefeller became Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, while also being Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan. In 1970, an academic who joined the Council on Foreign Relations in 1965 wrote a book called Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era. The author, Zbigniew Brzezinski, called for the formation of “A Community of the Developed Nations,” consisting of Western Europe, the United States and Japan. Brzezinski wrote about how “the traditional sovereignty of nation states is becoming increasingly unglued as transnational forces such as multinational corporations, banks, and international organizations play a larger and larger role in shaping global politics.” David Rockefeller had taken note of Brzezinski’s writings, and was “getting worried about the deteriorating relations between the U.S., Europe, and Japan,” as a result of Nixon’s economic shocks. In 1972, David Rockefeller and Brzezinski “presented the idea of a trilateral grouping at the annual Bilderberg meeting.” In July of 1972, seventeen powerful people met at David Rockefeller’s estate in New York to plan for the creation of the Commission. Also at the meeting was Brzezinski, McGeorge Bundy, the President of the Ford Foundation, (brother of William Bundy, editor of Foreign Affairs) and Bayless Manning, President of the Council on Foreign Relations.[43] So, in 1973, the Trilateral Commission was formed to address these issues.

               

    The Commission’s major concerns were to preserve for the “industrialized societies,” in other words, seek mutual gain for the Trilateral nations, and to construct “a common approach to the needs and demands of the poorer nations.” However, this should be read as, “constructing a common approach to [dealing with] poorer nations.” As well as this, the Commission would undertake “the coordination of defense policies and of policies toward such highly politicized issues as nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and aerial hijacking, and such highly politicized geographic areas as the Middle East or Southern Africa.”[44]

               

    In 1975, the Trilateral Commission published a Task Force Report entitled, “The Crisis of Democracy,” of which one of the principal authors was Samuel Huntington, a political scientist and close associate and friend of Zbigniew Brzezinski. In this report, Huntington argues that the 1960s saw a surge in democracy in America, with an upswing in citizen participation, often “in the form of marches, demonstrations, protest movements, and ‘cause’ organizations.”[45] Further, “the 1960s also saw a reassertion of the primacy of equality as a goal in social, economic, and political life.”[46] Huntington analyzed how as part of this “democratic surge,” statistics showed that throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, there was a dramatic increase in the percentage of people who felt the United States was spending too much on defense (from 18% in 1960 to 52% in 1969, largely due to the Vietnam War).[47]

               

    Huntington wrote that the “essence of the democratic surge of the 1960s was a general challenge to existing systems of authority, public and private,” and that, “people no longer felt the same compulsion to obey those whom they had previously considered superior to themselves in age, rank, status, expertise, character, or talents.” Huntington explained that in the 1960s, “hierarchy, expertise, and wealth” had come “under heavy attack.”[48] He stated that three key issues which were central to the increased political participation in the 1960s were:

    social issues, such as use of drugs, civil liberties, and the role of women; racial issues, involving integration, busing, government aid to minority groups, and urban riots; military issues, involving primarily, of course, the war in Vietnam but also the draft, military spending, military aid programs, and the role of the military-industrial complex more generally.[49]

    Huntington presented these issues, essentially, as the “crisis of democracy,” in that they increased distrust with the government and authority, that they led to social and ideological polarization, and led to a “decline in the authority, status, influence, and effectiveness of the presidency.”[50]

               

    Huntington concluded that many problems of governance in the United States stem from an “excess of democracy,” and that, “the effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.” Huntington explained that society has always had “marginal groups” which do not participate in politics, and while acknowledging that the existence of “marginality on the part of some groups is inherently undemocratic,” it has also “enabled democracy to function effectively.” Huntington identifies “the blacks” as one such group that had become politically active, posing a “danger of overloading the political system with demands.”[51]

               

    Huntington, in his conclusion, stated that the vulnerability of democracy, essentially the ‘crisis of democracy,’ comes “from the internal dynamics of democracy itself in a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society,” and that what is needed is “a more balanced existence” in which there are “desirable limits to the indefinite extension of political democracy.”[52] Summed up, the Trilateral Commission Task Force Report essentially explained that the “Crisis of Democracy” is that there is too much of it, and so the ‘solution’ to the crisis, is to have less democracy and more ‘authority’.

               

    This is the principle ideology behind the political, economic and social institutions and apparatus of power: to control people and protect and expand centralized authority. ‘Democracy’ used in this sense simply implies maintaining an ‘image’ of democracy, with a legislature, judiciary, and executive branch, and of course, voting. Ultimately, a system in which the political, economic and social spheres are directed by and serve the interests of a tiny elite (national or international in composition) is not a true democracy. Voting is a cruel fraud on the people promoting a façade of democracy by allowing the people to vote between two elite-chosen candidates. This is not ‘democracy,’ this is oligarchy.

               

    The Civil Rights Movement is an excellent example of how the imperial structures of society can be turned against an indigenous social movement to either crush or co-opt it. The natural progression of the Civil Rights Movement as a global struggle for liberation against not only racism, but empire, poverty and exploitation was interrupted and deconstructed; but it should not be forgotten. We are coming to a time, now, where the world is more ready for a resurgence of the ideas of Martin Luther King, the very ideas he was articulating in his final year alive, and the very ideas that are capable of uniting all of humanity against our common oppressors. All power structures, in every facet of society, should have their legitimacy challenged and ultimately have their power withdrawn in place of indigenous power: people power. What systems and structures arise will be plentiful and with successes and failures, and no one can say what the “right” system is; but what is very evident, is that the current system is wrong, and should be challenged on every level, and by every person.

               

    “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered… The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”

                                        – Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam,” 1967

    Andrew Gavin Marshall is a Research Associate with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).  He is co-editor, with Michel Chossudovsky, of the recent book, “The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century,” available to order at Globalresearch.ca. He is currently writing a book on ‘Global Government’ due to be released in 2011 by Global Research Publishers.

    Notes

    [1]        Time, The Nation: FBI Dirty Tricks. Time Magazine: December 5, 1977: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,915760,00.html

    [2]        Ed Gordon, COINTELPRO and the History of Domestic Spying. NPR: January 18, 2006: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5161811

    [3]        Ibid.

    [4]        Maria Gilardin, Who Killed Martin Luther King? Dissident Voice: April 4, 2008: http://dissidentvoice.org/2008/04/who-killed-martin-luther-king/

    [5]        Ed Gordon, COINTELPRO and the History of Domestic Spying. NPR: January 18, 2006: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5161811

    [6]        Ibid.

    [7]        Time, The Nation: FBI Dirty Tricks. Time Magazine: December 5, 1977: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,915760,00.html

    [8]        Patrick Radden Keefe, Chatter: Uncovering the Echelon Surveillance Network and the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping. (Random House: New York, 2005), page 147

    [9]        Rev. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html

    [10]      Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, The Martin Luther King You Don’t See on TV. FAIR: January 4, 1995: http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2269

    [11]      Ed Gordon, COINTELPRO and the History of Domestic Spying. NPR: January 18, 2006: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5161811

    [12]      Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), pages 27-28

    [13]      Ibid.

    [14]      Ibid, page 29.

    [15]      Ed Gordon, COINTELPRO and the History of Domestic Spying. NPR: January 18, 2006: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5161811

    [16]      Maria Gilardin, Who Killed Martin Luther King? Dissident Voice: April 4, 2008: http://dissidentvoice.org/2008/04/who-killed-martin-luther-king/

    [17]      The Transcription of the King Family Press Conference on the MLK Assassination Trial Verdict. The King Center: December 9, 1999: https://www.thekingcenter.org/KingCenter/Transcript_press_conference.aspx

    [18]      Ibid.

    [19]      Maria Gilardin, Who Killed Martin Luther King? Dissident Voice: April 4, 2008: http://dissidentvoice.org/2008/04/who-killed-martin-luther-king/

    [20]      Douglas Valentine, An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King. Counter Punch: February 11, 2003: http://www.counterpunch.org/valentine02112003.html

    [21]      NPR, James Earl Ray’s Undying Appeal for Freedom. NPR: April 4, 2008: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89372294

    [22]      Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), page 28

    [23]      Ibid.

    [24]      Frank Morales, U.S. MILITARY CIVIL DISTURBANCE PLANNING:

    THE WAR AT HOME. Covert Action Quarterly, No. 69, Spring/Summer 2000: http://cryptome.info/0001/garden-plot.htm

    [25]      Ibid.

    [26]      NPR, Robert Kennedy: Delivering News of King’s Death. NPR: April 4, 2008: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89365887

    [27]      Edwin Black, The Horrifying American Roots of Nazi Eugenics, History News Network, 23 November 2003: http://hnn.us/articles/1796.html

    [28]      Lynn Walker, “The Role of Foundations in Helping to Reach the Civil Rights Goals of the 1980s,” Rutgers Law Review, (1984-1985), page 1059

    [29]      Ibid, page 1060.

    [30]      Robert C. Smith, “Black Power and the Transformation from Protest to Policies,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 96, No. 3, (Autumn, 1981), page 438

    [31]      J. Craig Jenkins and Craig M. Eckert, “Channeling Black Insurgency: Elite Patronage and Professional Social Movement Organizations in the Development of the Black Movement,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 51, No. 6, (Dec., 1986), page 814

    [32]      Ibid, page 815.

    [33]      Ibid, pages 819-820.

    [34]      Ibid, page 821.

    [35]      Ibid, page 826.

    [36]      Herbert H. Haines, “Black Radicalization and the Funding of Civil Rights: 1957-1970,” Social Problems, Vol. 32, No. 1, Thematic Issue on Minorities and Social Movements, (Oct., 1984), page 38

    [37]      Ibid, page 40.

    [38]      Martin N. Marger, “Social Movement Organizations and Response to Environmental Change: The NAACP, 1960- 1973,” Social Problems, Vol. 32, No. 1, Thematic Issue on Minorities and Social Movements, (Oct., 1984), page 22

    [39]      Ibid, page 25.

    [40]      Ibid.

    [41]      Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States (Harper: New York, 2003), page 464

    [42]      Ibid, page 465.

    [43]      Holly Sklar, ed., Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World Management. South End Press: 1980: pages 76-78

    [44]      Richard H. Ullman, Trilateralism: “Partnership” For What? Foreign Affairs: October, 1976: page 5

    [45]      Michel J. Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki, The Crisis of Democracy. (Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, New York University Press, 1975), page 61

    [46]      Ibid, page 62.

    [47]      Ibid, page 71.

    [48]      Ibid, pages 74-75

    [49]      Ibid, page 77.

    [50]      Ibid, page 93.

    [51]      Ibid, pages 113-114.

    [52]      Ibid, page 115.

    Cholera Deaths in Haiti

    November 30th, 2010 by Fidel Castro Ruz

    Yesterday I explained that in Haiti 1,523 persons had died as a result of cholera and at the same time, the measures adopted by the Party and Government of Cuba.

    I didn’t think I would be writing anything today about the problem. However I give up that idea in order to write a short Reflection on the subject.

    Dr. Lea Guido, PHO-WHO representative en Cuba ?at this moment is representing both organizations in two countries and is a person with a wealth of experience ?, stated this afternoon that under current conditions Haiti can expect that the epidemic will affect 400,000 persons.

    On the other hand, the Deputy Minister of Health of Cuba and Chief of the Cuban Medical Mission, our country’s ambassador in Haiti and other comrades in the mission, have been meeting all day with President René Preval, Dr. Lea Guido, the Haitian Minister of Health and other officials from Cuba and Haiti, drawing up measures that will be urgently applied.

    The Cuban Medical Mission is looking after 37 centres dealing with the epidemic where, until today, they have cared for 26,040 persons affected with cholera; to these they will immediately add, along with the Henry Reeve Brigade, 12 more medical centres (for a total of 49) with 1,100 new beds, in tents that were designed and made for those purposes in Norway and other countries, already purchased with earthquake funds, delivered to Cuba by Venezuela for the reconstruction of the Haitian health system.

    Late today encouraging news arrived from Dr. Somarriba: during the past seven days there has not been one single death from cholera in the centres looked after by the Cuban Medical Mission. That figure would be impossible to keep up since other factors can come into play in that result, but the acquired experience, suitable methods and the degree of dedication achieved provides us with a very cheering idea.

    We are also pleased that President René Preval, whose term in office ends next January 16th, has made the decision to transform the struggle against the epidemic into the most important activity of his life, one he will leave as a legacy to the people of Haiti and to the government that follows him.

    Fidel Castro Ruz

    November 27, 2010

    Is a War Looming on the Korean Peninsula?

    November 30th, 2010 by Global Research

    Dear Readers, 

    We bring to your attention a selection of Global Research articles on the ongoing crisis on the Korean Peninsula. 

    The US is seeking a pretext to intervene militarily in the Korean Peninsula. North Korea is said to constitute a threat to Global Security.

    These articles provide a detailed understanding of the causes and consequences of the conflict.

    ALSO CONSULT OUR NORTH KOREAN DOSSIER


    KNOW THE FACTS: North Korea lost close to 30% of its population as a result of US bombings in the 1950s

    - by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-11-27

    Reviewing the Evidence of DPRK Culpability for the Cheonan Warship Incident
    - by Mark E. Caprio – 2010-11-27


    Pentagon flexes muscles in Korea: US Threatens China and North Korea
    - by Konstantin Garibov – 2010-11-26


    VIDEO: South Korea Admits to Firing Shells at North Korea
    Breaking news on GRTV
    - 2010-11-24


    Rising Tensions. Korea-stone Cops: The Shelling of One of 30 Disputed Islands

    - by Eric Walberg – 2010-11-24


    Pentagon Ratchets Up Korea Tensions Over Nuclear Facility

    - by Bill Van Auken – 2010-11-23

    Skirmish between North and South Korea: South Korea Fired the First Shot
    - 2010-11-23

    US and Japanese Air Forces Target North Korea
    Misawa American Base Town in Northern Japan
    - by Saito Mitsumasa – 2010-10-08

    Crimes By U.S. Soldiers in South Korea on the Rise
    - 2010-08-30

    Dangerous Crossroads: US War Games in Asia Target China, Russia and North Korea
    Drills around China raise temp
    - by Fu Wen – 2010-09-25

    More War Games, Rising Tensions: US, South Korea to Stage Another Military Exercise
    - 2010-08-15


    Shock wave and bubble: the untruth about the Cheonan
    ‘proof’ that the Cheonan was sunk by North Korea has been thoroughly discredited.
    - by Hilary Keenan – 2010-08-01

    Aggressive Move by Washington: US Deploys Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier to South Korea
    - by Anne Flaherty – 2010-07-20

    Threatening North Korea and China? South Korea Develops 1,500km Cruise Missile
    - 2010-07-19

    China Calls for Restraint as U.S., South Korea Plan Military Drill
    - 2010-07-16


    Financial Crisis Conducive to Instability of Asia’s Currency Markets: South Korea Imposes Currency Controls
    - by Kavaljit Singh – 2010-06-23


    The Korean Crisis: Cui Bono?
    The alleged North Korean sinking of a South Korean boat has dramatically escalated tensions between North and South Korea
    - by F. William Engdahl – 2010-05-31


    VIDEO: The US rather than North Korea is a Threat to Global Security
    US Military confirms that 20% of North Korea’s Population was Killed during Korean War
    - by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-05-29


    False Findings Intent Upon Triggering Confrontation between North and South Korea
    - by Kim Myong Chol – 2010-05-28

    Environmental Catastrophe: US Naval Base on Jeju Island, South Korea
    Call for Signatures Protesting Navy Base Construction that will Destroy Coral Reefs
    - by Bruce Gagnon – 2010-01-12

    US Braces for Possible Nuclear War With North Korea
    - by Jung Sung-ki – 2009-09-10

    North Korea and Iran: So what does the West want?
    - by William Bowles – 2009-08-06


    History Too Long Denied: Japan’s Unresolved Colonial Past and Today’s North Korea Problem
    - by Gavan McCormack – 2009-07-22


    “Rogue Hacker” and Black Ops
    Behind the Cyberattacks on America and South Korea
    - by Tom Burghardt – 2009-07-12

    We are on the brink of war with the South, says North Korea
    - 2009-01-31

    Inside North Korea
    An Interview with Christine Ahn
    - by Gregory Elich – 2008-09-23

    US Coverup: Extrajudicial Killings in South Korea
    - 2008-07-06

    New mass protest against government, US beef in South Korea
    - 2008-07-06


    North Korea and the Supernote Enigma
    Allegations that North Koreans are counterfeiting U.S. currency
    - by Gregory Elich – 2008-05-07

    There is Little Proof North Korea was behind Fake $100 Bills
    - by Kevin G. Hall – 2008-01-14


    Korea-US Free Trade Agreement Pre-Mortem: Turning South Korea into an “American colony”
    - by Walter Hendler – 2007-04-11

    Russia Expects US Flexibility with Iran as shown with North Korea
    - 2007-02-15

    Russia expects the United States to show the same flexibility in resolving the problem of Iran’s nuclear program as it did with North Korea, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

    Moscow demands clarification from U.S. over Gates remarks about targeting Russia
    - 2007-02-13

    Russia has demanded an explanation from the United States over Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ remarks, which suggested that Russia was being identified as a potential threat.

    The Vigilant Shield 07 War Games: Scenario opposing the US to Russia, China, Iran and North Korea
    - by William M Arkin – 2007-02-10

    Former US Sec of Defense suggests Military action against North Korea
    - 2007-01-19

    Japan now has a Ministry of Defence
    - 2007-01-10

    Japan has officially created a Defence Miistry and raised its military budget in a move to militarize.

    APEC heads refuse to put condemnation of North Korea into writing
    - 2006-11-20

    APEC leaders refuse to condemn North Korea in writing or publicly

    Iran urges nuclear-free Korean Peninsula
    - 2006-11-19

    Iran calls for the Korean Peninsula and the world to be free of nuclear weapons.

    British Monarch: Homeland Security top Priority, North Korea and Iran will be addressed
    British Homeland Security State
    - 2006-11-15

    British Monarch gives throne speech on “Security Measures” in Britain.

    North Korea accuses US of deploying atomic bombs in South Korea
    - 2006-11-15

    Understanding North Korea
    - by Stephen Gowans – 2006-11-12

    North Korea is a country that is alternately reviled and ridiculed. Its leader, Kim Jong-il, is demonized by the right and mocked by the left.


    US speeds Attack Plans for North Korea
    - by Bill Gertz – 2006-11-03


    Why Bush is seeking Confrontation with North Korea
    - by Gregory Elich – 2006-10-29

    North Korea’s nuclear test and UN sanctions have brought relations between the U.S. and North Korea to their lowest point since President Bush took office.

    The Nuclear Arms Race and National Sovereignty
    - by Rodrigue Tremblay – 2006-10-22

    Anthrax Vaccine For Soldiers Serving In Iraq, Afghanistan And South Korea
    - 2006-10-17

    Rummy’s North Korea Connection
    - 2006-10-16

    Rumsfeld Was On ABB Board During North Korea Nuke Deal
    - by Jacob Greber – 2006-10-15

    North Korea and America: Where is the Nuclear Threat?
    U.S. had Contingency Plans to Drop up to 30 Nuclear Warheads on North Korea
    - 2006-10-14


    America’s Preemptive Nuclear Strike Program: US Tests ICBM
    After criticizing North Korea’s missile tests, the U.S. conducted a test of its own
    - by Cheong Wook-sik – 2006-07-30

    Missile Mania: US and Japan Threaten North Korea
    - by Gregory Elich – 2006-06-27

    North Korea: U.S. Keeps Mum on Warships in East Sea
    - 2006-06-20

    U.S. in Sweeping Plan to Strangle North Korea’s Cash Flow
    - 2006-01-28

    An Antidote to disinformation about North Korea
    Book Review
    - by Al Olson – 2005-12-28

    A Turning Point in the North Korean Nuclear Dispute
    - by Gregory Elich – 2005-10-20

    In the early days of his second term, President Bush made a renewed effort to obstruct North-South economic cooperation


    US Subversion of Diplomacy and North Korea’s Phantom Nukes
    - by Gregory Elich – 2005-02-18

    In the months ahead, the U.S. can be expected to intensify its pressure on South Korea and China to back more aggressive measures and it is probable that the U.S. will ask the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against North Korea.


    What Drives Washington to Crush North Korea
    - by Stephen Gowans – 2004-12-14

    Hawk Engagement: A Dangerous Turn in US Plans for North Korea
    - by Gregory Elich – 2004-11-30

    US had Contingency Plans to Drop up to 30 Nuclear Warheads on North Korea
    - by Reuben Staines – 2004-11-08

    ALSO CONSULT OUR NORTH KOREAN DOSSIER

    VIDEO: Iraqi Concentration Camp Exposed

    November 30th, 2010 by Global Research

    Kosovo to become NATO member

    November 30th, 2010 by Global Research

    Kosovo to become NATO member within four years — acting PM

    “During my term, Kosovo will become a NATO member”

    SARAJEVO: Kosovo, which unilaterally proclaimed its independence from Serbia in 2008, may get NATO membership within four years, Kosovo’s acting premier said.

    The Kosovo government, led by Hashim Thaci, had to resign after the parliament voted in favor of a no-confidence motion introduced by the opposition. However, Thaci hopes to regain the post as a result of the early parliamentary elections slated for December 12.

    “I hope that during the first 15 month of my second term [as prime minister] we would get a visa-free regime with the European Union. And, during my term, Kosovo will become a NATO member,” he said in an interview with Austria’s national daily, Der Standard.

    He also expressed readiness to resume dialog with Belgrade to discuss efforts to locate persons who went missing during the 1998-1999 conflict with Serbia. Pristina is also willing to discuss issues of infrastructure, transport, energy, communications and fight against organized crime.

    Thaci also said in the interview that Serbia and Kosovo would recognize each other’s independence and get the European Union membership “as two sovereign states” as a result of the talks.

    The timeframe and agenda for the dialog between Belgrade and Pristina is yet to be set, but the talks are widely expected to begin after the December 12 elections.

    The UN International Court of Justice ruled on July 22 that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate general international law. But Resolution 1244 on Serbia’s territorial integrity remains in force.

    A total of 69 out of 192 UN member states have recognized Kosovo, which unilaterally proclaimed independence in February 2008. Serbia, Russia, China, India and some other countries have not recognized it, saying international law was violated.

    Kosovo’s independence from Serbia is formally recognized by 22 out of 27 EU member states. Despite calls from the European Parliament to do so, Kosovo has not been recognized as a sovereign state by Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia, Romania and Spain.

    I have repeatedly documented the detrimental impacts of dispersants on humans, wildlife and seafood safety. See this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

    As I noted in September, scientists from Oregon State University found elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in the Gulf, and blamed dispersants.

    Now, the website of the prestigious Journal Nature is also reporting on the increase of PAH contamination due to the use of dispersants in the Gulf:

    Peter Hodson, an aquatic toxicologist from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, presented his case on 9 November at a meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Portland, Oregon…

    The problem, explains Hodson, is that the dispersed cloud of microscopic oil droplets allows the PAHs to contaminate a volume of water 100–1,000 times greater than if the oil were confined to a floating surface slick. This hugely increases the exposure of wildlife to the dispersed oil. …

    Worse, the toxic constituents of oil hang around longer than other components, another speaker told the meeting. “This idea that there’s an oil biodegradation rate doesn’t hold,” says Ronald Atlas, a microbiologist at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, who has studied the aftermath of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Alkanes, the simple hydrocarbons that comprise the bulk of oil, are degraded more readily than the PAHs, he points out.

    As the Press Register notes:

    “These chemicals, these are PAHs that are carcinogenic. … These items are not in any way appropriate for anyone to eat,” said Ed Cake, an environmental consultant from Ocean Springs. “There’s no low-dose level that’s acceptable to eat.”…

    [William Sawyer], the [veteran] Florida toxicologist, said the government tests do not look for total petroleum hydrocarbons in the seafood. He said his tests of Gulf shrimp have shown unsafe levels of the compounds, which can cause liver or kidney damage in a matter of weeks.

    And see this:

    Raw Story reports:

    Dr. William Sawyer… said… “We found not only petroleum in the digestive tracts [of shrimp], but also in the edible portions of fish.

    “We’ve collected shrimp, oysters and finned fish on their way to marketplace — we tested a good number of seafood samples and in 100 percent we found petroleum.”

    The FDA says up to 100-PPM of oil and dispersant residue is safe to consume in finned fish, and 500-PPM is allowed for shellfish.

    Dr. Sawyer, who has long been a vocal critic of these rules, called the government’s tests “little more than a farce.”

    Maine Public Radio points out:

    “We’re more concerned about the dispersant and the dispersant mixed with oil–the dispersed oil, if you will–than we are about the crude oil itself.”

    Tests conducted in recent months by [University of Southern Maine Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health director John] Wise’s lab, using human cell lines, show that dispersants cause cell death and DNA damage, which has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems.

    WFTV Orlando reports:

    Brand new laboratory test results just in Monday morning are showing troubling problems with gulf seafood… the results are raising a lot of red flags.

    WFTV put gulf shrimp to the test by ordering raw shrimp over the Internet and shipping it to a private lab. …

    Scientists found elevated levels of Anthracene, a toxic hydrocarbon and a by-product of petroleum. The Anthracene levels were double what the FDA finds to be acceptable.

    The scientist who tested the shrimp said she would not eat it based on the results…

    I’ve also previously reported that dispersants were used long after BP and the government said they had stopped using them in July. Now, Cherri Foytlin and Denise Rednour claim to have pictures of 176 empty containers of ‘discontinued’ COREXIT 9527A found… With a ship date of August 10th. And the president of a county seafood workers’ association claims that dispersant is still being applied.

    In related news:

    • An NSF-funded workgroup notes: “Storms are likely to resurrect the oil that is currently hidden from sight” — “Much oil persists” nearshore
    • A Florida State University professor says the oil is still there: “most of that Deepwater Horizon oil — as much as 70 percent to 79 percent of it —sank to the ocean floor, where it remains, sucking up oxygen and inhibiting life.
    • A University of Florida scientist says “clear evidence that much of the oil is still below the surface in subsurface plumes”
    • Alabama shrimpers find catch “coated in oil” at area open for fishing — Boat to be decontaminated

    The New York Times published a number of documents from a planned Wikileaks release on Sunday evening, including one regarding Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s views on the peace process and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    The document, dated June 2, 2009 and sent from the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, details Barak’s visit with a two Congressional delegations. It quotes Barak as saying that “‘no option should be removed from the table’ when confronting Iran and North Korea.”

    “Barak asked rhetorically how a lack of firm response to North Korea would be interpreted by Iran’s leadership, speculating the US government would be viewed as a ‘paper tiger’,” the diplomatic cable reads.

    Why does the FBI Orchestrate Fake Terror Plots?

    November 30th, 2010 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

    The latest one snared Osman Mohamud, a Somali-American teenager in Portland, Oregon. The Associated Press report by William Mall and Nedra Pickler (11-27-10) is headlined in Yahoo News: “Somali-born teen plotted car-bombing in Oregon.”

    This is a misleading headline as the report makes it clear that it was a plot orchestrated by federal agents. Two sentences into the news report we have this: “The bomb was an elaborate fake supplied by the [FBI] agents and the public was never in danger, authorities said.”

    The teenager was supplied with a fake bomb and a fake detonator.

    Three sentences later the reporters contradict the quoted authorities with a quote from Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon: “The threat was very real.”

    The reporters then contradict Balizan: “White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said Saturday that president Barack Obama was aware of the FBI operation before Friday’s arrest. Shapiro said Obama was assured that the FBI was in full control of the operation and that the public was not in danger.”

    Then Shapiro contradicts himself by declaring: “The events of the past 24 hours underscore the necessity of remaining vigilant against terrorism here and abroad.”

    The story arrives at its Kafka highpoint when President Obama thanks the FBI for its diligence in saving us from the fake plot the FBI had fabricated.

    After vacillating between whether they are reporting a real plot or a orchestrated one, the reporters finally come down on the side of orchestration. Documents released by US Attorney Dwight Holton “show the sting operation began in June.” Obviously, the targeted Portland teenager was not hot to trot. The FBI had to work on him for six months. The reporters compare “the Portland sting” to the recent arrest in Virginia of Faroque Ahmed who was ensnared in a “bombing plot that was a ruse conducted over the past six months by federal officials.”

    Think about this. The FBI did a year’s work in order to convince two people to participate in fake plots.

    If you are not too bright and some tough looking guys accost you and tell you that they are Al Qaeda and expect your help in a terrorist operation, you might be afraid to say no, or you might be thrilled to be part of a blowback against an American population that is indifferent to their government’s slaughter of people of your ethnicity in your country of origin. Whichever way it falls, it is unlikely the ensnared person would ever have done anything beyond talk had the FBI not organized them into action. In other cases the FBI entices people with money to participate in its fake plots.

    Since 9/11, the only domestic “terrorist plot” that I recall that was not obviously organized by the FBI is the “Times Square plot” to which Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty to trying to set off a car bomb in Manhattan. This plot, too, is suspicious. One would think that a real terrorist would have a real bomb, not a smoke bomb.

    In his May 19, 2009 article (reprinted Nov. 27, 2010), Joe Quinn of online site, Sott.net, collects some of the fake plots, some of which were validated by torture confessions and others by ignorant and fearful juries. The US government comes up with a plot, an accused, and tortures him until he confesses, or the government fabricates a case and takes it to jurors who know that they cannot face their neighbors if they let off a media-declared “terrorist.”

    Perhaps the most obvious of these cases is “the Miami seven,” a hapless group of Christian-Zionist-Muslims that called themselves the “Sea of David” and were quietly living in a Florida warehouse awaiting biblical end times. Along came the FBI posing as Al Qaeda and offered them $50,000 and an Al Qaeda swearing-in ceremony.

    The FBI told them that they needed to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and various government buildings. An honest reporter at Knight Ridder revealed: “The Justice (sic) Department unveiled the arrests with an orchestrated series of news conferences in two cities, but the severity of the charges compared with the seemingly amateurish nature of the group raised concerns among civil libertarians,” who noted that the group had “no weapons, no explosives.”

    The Justice (sic) Department and tamed media made a big show out of the “militaristic boots” worn by the hapless “plotters,” but the FBI had bought the boots for them.

    The biggest piece of evidence against the hapless group was that they had taken photos of “targets” in Florida, but the US government had equipped them with cameras.

    The US government even rented cars for its dupes to drive to take the pictures.

    It turns out that the group only wanted the $50,000, but an American jury convicted them anyhow.

    When the US government has to go to such lengths to create “terrorists” out of hapless people, an undeclared agenda is being served. What could this agenda be?

    The answer is many agendas. One agenda is to justify wars of aggression that are war crimes under the Nuremberg standard created by the US government itself. One way to avoid war crimes charges is to create acts of terrorism that justify the naked aggressions against “terrorist countries.”

    Another agenda is to create a police state. A police state can control people who object to their impoverishment for the benefit of the superrich much more easily than can a democracy endowed with constitutional civil liberties.

    Another agenda is to get rich. Terror plots, whether real or orchestrated, have created a market for security. Dual Israeli citizen Michael Chertoff, former head of US Homeland Security, is the lobbyist who represents Rapiscan, the company that manufactures the full body porno-scanners that, following the “underwear bomber” event, are now filling up US airports. Homeland Security has announced that they are going to purchase the porno-scanners for trains, buses, subways, court houses, and sports events. How can shopping malls and roads escape? Recently on Interstate 20 west of Atlanta, trucks had to drive through a similar device. Everyone has forgotten that the underwear bomber lacked required documents and was escorted aboard the airliner by an official.

    © Unknown Snakes in suits: ex-Homeland Security chief Chertoff and ex-AG Gonzalez The “war on terror” provides an opportunity for a few well-connected people to become very rich. If they leave Americans with a third world police state, they will be living it up in Gstaad.

    This despite the fact that everyone on the planet knows that it is not lactating mothers, children, elderly people in walkers and wheelchairs, members of Congress, members of the military, nuns, and so on, who are members of Al Qaeda plotting to bring aboard a bomb in their underwear, their shoes, their shampoo and face creams.

    Indeed, bombs aboard airliners are a rare event.

    What is it really all about? Could it be that the US government needs terrorist events in order to completely destroy the US Constitution? On November 24, National Public Radio broadcast a report by Dina Temple-Raston: “Administration officials are looking at the possibility of codifying detention without trial and are awaiting legislation that is supposed to come out of Congress early next year.” Of course, the legislation will not come out of Congress. It will be written by Homeland Security and the Justice (sic) Department. The impotent Congress will merely rubber-stamp it.

    The obliteration of habeas corpus, the most necessary and important protection of liberty ever institutionalized in law and governing constitution, has become necessary for the US government, because a jury might acquit an alleged or mock “terrorist” or framed person whom the US government has declared prior to the trial will be held forever in indefinite detention even if acquitted in a US court of law. The attorney general of the United States has declared that any “terrorist” that he puts on trial who is acquitted by a jury will remain in detention regardless of the verdict. Such an event would reveal the total lawlessness of American “justice.”

    The United States of America, “the city upon the hill,” “the light unto the world,” has become Nazi Germany. It was the practice of the Gestapo to ignore court verdicts and to execute or hold indefinitely the cleared defendant in the camps. The Obama regime is in the process of completing Dick Cheney’s dream by legislating the legality of indefinite detention. American law has collapsed to the dungeons of the Dark Ages.

    This Nazi Gestapo policy is now the declared policy of the US Department of Justice (sic).

    Anyone who thinks the United States is a free society where people have liberty, “freedom and democracy” is uninformed.

    Canada is under pressure from U.S. officials to further comply with American security rules which in some cases, threatens its sovereignty and the privacy of its citizens. As a result of the war on terrorism, the U.S. government now has more power to restrict air travel and is not only dictating North American, but also international security measures.

    Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Aeronautics Act would require Canadian airline carriers that fly over the U.S. to provide the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with passenger information. This includes name, date of birth, gender, as well as passport and itinerary details when applicable. Airlines landing in the U.S. already have to supply this information, but allowing personal data to be shared on passengers who are only flying through American airspace essentially shreds existing Canadian protection and privacy laws. Bill C-42 complies with the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Security Flight Program which would take effect globally at the beginning of next year. Most Canadian commercial flights pass over the U.S. while en route to Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe which in many cases would give the DHS the final say on who is allowed to travel to and from Canada.

    Under Canada’s Passenger Protect Program, “airlines must compare passenger’s names against a list that is controlled and managed by Transport Canada before a boarding pass is issued.” Secure Flight transfers that authority from airlines to the DHS. TSA will be responsible for pre-screening passengers and their personal information against federal government watch lists. According to the Secure Flight Final Rule document issued in 2008, “If necessary, the TSA analyst will check other classified and unclassified governmental terrorist, law enforcement, and intelligence databases, including databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, National Counter Terrorism Center, and Federal Bureau of Investigation.” With many well documented issues surrounding the accuracy of security watch lists, U.S. mistakes could further prevent more Canadians from flying to foreign destinations. There are also concerns that data collected on Canadian citizens will be readily accessible to a broad range of U.S. agencies and just what might be done with the information.

    Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart recently appeared before a committee examining Bill C-42. She acknowledged privacy concerns caused by increased aviation security measures which, “have resulted in the creation of massive government databases, the use of secretive no-fly lists, the increased scrutiny of travellers and airport workers and greater information sharing with foreign governments.” Stoddart explained that Bill C-42, “will allow American or other authorities to collect personal information about travellers on flights to and from Canada that fly through American airspace and this, in turn, will allow American authorities to prevent individuals from flying to or from Canada.” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has insisted that the U.S would only use the personnel data for air security purposes, but Stoddart admitted, “our understanding is that information collected can be disclosed and used for purposes other than aviation security, such as law enforcement and immigration purposes.” The Canadian government has failed to sufficiently safeguard the privacy of its citizens and there are fears any information collected could be misused.

    In October, NDP Member of Parliament Don Davies warned that Bill C-42 would give U.S. security agencies unprecedented access to Canadians’ personal information. He addressed a whole subset of data that could be obtained by U.S authorities through the passenger name record created when booking with travel agents. This includes, “credit card information, who we are travelling with, our hotel, other booking information such as tours or rental cars, any medical condition of the passenger that may have been disclosed, dietary preferences, our email address, our employer information, our telephone information, our baggage information.” Davis also added, “This bill would effectively allow the United States to determine when Canadians can leave Canada to fly to many destinations in the world that have nothing to do with the United States. This bill violates Canadians’ freedoms. It violates Canadians’ mobility rights.” Bill C-42 is an encroachment on sovereignty and gives the U.S. unprecedented power over who can board planes that fly over its airspace.

    In January of this year, following the failed underwear bombing and at the request of the U.S., Canada installed full body scanners at its major airports. So far, the Canadian government maintains that they will not institute aggressive TSA-style pat-downs, but another incident could change that. The new airport security measures can only be described as intrusive and degrading with some critics also labelling them as ineffective. In the U.S., there has been a growing public backlash against the use of naked body scanners and other invasive TSA security procedures. In an effort to prevent this discontent from spreading across the border, Canadian Transport officials have begun installing private search areas at designated airports. Booths set up at security checkpoints will give passengers the option of private pat-downs. In the near future, airport security practices could be expanded to other modes of public transportation. Implementation of a high-tech control grid would further restrict, track and trace our movements. 

    Although the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) may no longer be active (in name only), the harmonizing of some of its key priorities in areas such as traveller, cargo and aviation security, as well as others continues through different initiatives. Part of the SPP agenda also called for merging no-fly lists into a single North American database. In an effort to keep travel and trade moving across the border, Canada will be further pressured to adopt a single security strategy dominated by U.S. interests.

    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 site at beyourownleader.blogspot.com