One can see how the Rostov region is gradually turning into an area neighboring the combat zone. Thousands of refugees cross the border fleeing the territory of Donetsk People’s Republic. It becomes clear we face a serious disaster with grave consequences to follow. On June 4, Vassily Golubev, the Rostov region governor, declared emergency in 15 border areas. According to regional authorities, 995 Ukrainians including 489 children, found refuge in the region as of June 6. The flow increased the following days. The recent report says 7335 Ukrainian citizens entered the Rostov region while 4272 left. A local source informed that there were 2102 people, 930 children, given refuge in 15 municipal districts.  About half of the refugees were given accommodated by local people while  many of   them are living in tents.

It was my job to take care of refugees – or potential refugees – from Donbass. The people from Ukrainian Lugansk region also go to the office of unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic to ask for help. We do our best, but it’s not that easy.  We help the refugees from the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics to cross the border and we temporarily accommodate them but the resources are scarce. We should admit that the local branches of Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations are doing a perfect job. Still the problems are plentiful. The refugee’s legal status is to be defined. Are they foreigners? Immigrants compelled to change the place of residence?  They never know what is in store for them and how long they are going to stay in Russia.  The tragedy is immense. Summer will fly away soon. It’ll become colder. What next?

They tell a lot of things media outlets never report, especially war stories. A former special operations officer saving the children from shells, 17 year old boys on barricades defending the Donbass populated areas from Ukrainian tanks.  The people in Rostov and other Russian cities call and send letters and e-mails offering help. Time will pass and many things will be obliterated. But these unobtrusive people ready to act like heroes will always stay in memory.  The growing refugee flow is a direct consequence of punitive action conducted by Ukrainian regime against its own people. At least that’s how they are supposed to treat these people in Kiev.  And they are actually waging an undeclared war against Russia. The events unfold rapidly. It does not boil down to the Donbass tragedy only. It’s evident that the President-elect Poroshenko acts according to a thoroughly elaborated plan. The goals of this plan and the means to achieve them are something that inevitably evokes concern.

What is happening on the territory of Donbass declared a combat zone by Kiev where it conducts its “anti-terrorist operation”?  There is a large concentration of Ukrainian troops there.  The government regular units fail to defeat a much smaller in size “separatists” force no matter they enjoy a great advantage in weapons and equipment. They use MLRS, artillery, armor and aviation that strikes populated areas… The insurgents use obsolete weapons, for instance WWII vintage tanks (!). The gap is really wide. No matter that the Ukrainian punitive forces cannot win. They never will.

Ask me why.

The answer is – spirit is stronger than any weapon. The Ukrainian army and National Guard recruit Nazi nationalists (Pravy Sector). They have all things rotten. These warriors are guided by perverse mentality; they are rather chasteners, not regular army servicemen.

They are opposed by people who defend their homes and families. No special legal terms, they literally do it.  The Kiev regime is exhausted, its resources overstretched, with every bombing it has more enemies to face. Volunteers come from Russia, South Ossetia, Poland, Israel and other countries. The chasteners’ losses grow.  The protests against the terrorist like military activities in the south-east of the country are on the rise. Women, the mothers and wives of soldiers called for service, block the roads in Volyn, fathers stage protest actions at military registration and enlistment offices in Lviv.  Coffers go back to Western Ukraine. It all leads to social unrest, especially against the backdrop of Ukrainian economy being in doldrums.   The grapes of people’s wrath will get mature and Petro Poroshenko, the President – suicide bomber who sponsored the coup, will have to face the implications.

He knows it all well. He is a double hostage of Washington and circumstances. That’s why he goes to any length to expedite the military victory over the Donbass anti-fascist resistance.  But he cannot win. Time works against him. The new Ukrainian President is pushing the country to the abyss of national disaster. The Ukraine’s armed forces are not fighting the Donbass people’s liberation army but rather the people of Donbass. What goals are pursued by the “anti-terrorist operation” conducted by government forces?  To provoke panic and mass refugee flows to the neighboring regions in Russia along with the collapse of social welfare system. Thousands of families have already suffered and the numbers are growing.  The Russian people can see it all with their own eyes. Indirectly the Kiev regime is waging a war against Russia creating a humanitarian disaster on Russian soil.

I deal with the problem of refugees from Donbass and I can testify to the fact that the numbers are increasing exacerbating the social tension in Donbass and here in Russia. The state of emergency was declared for 15 districts of Rostov region when the number of refugees went up to 12 thousand.  According to some estimates, the number could go up to 100 thousand soon. Is it not genocide?  If not than what is?

Eduard Popov, the head of the Donetsk People’s Republic representative office in Rostov-on-Don.

The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a group from which even Al Qaeda has broken because of its excessive violence and sectarian fanaticism, constitutes a searing indictment of the crimes carried out by US imperialism in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

The overrunning of Mosul on Tuesday has been followed by the capture of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, as well as parts of both Samara—barely 75 miles from Baghdad—and Kirkuk to the north. Troops of an Iraqi army created by the US at the cost of some $20 billion have melted away, their commanders first, stripping off their uniforms and throwing down their weapons.

It was reported late Wednesday that Iraqi government special forces troops were forming a defensive line 20 miles north of Baghdad in anticipation of an assault on the capital.

Over half a million people have fled the fighting in Mosul, described by one aid agency as “one of the largest and swiftest mass movements of people in the world in recent memory.”

This city, like the rest of Iraq, was devastated by the US war and occupation that began in 2003. Its infrastructure was destroyed and whatever reconstruction efforts took place were mismanaged exercises in corruption that did little to ease the suffering of the population. The city’s professionals—doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, journalists and scientists—were either killed or forced to flee for their lives.

A sectarian civil war ignited by the US occupation’s divide-and-conquer strategy wrecked the multi-ethnic character of the city, as Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Assyrian and other populations were driven out of areas where they constituted minorities in a bloody exercise in “ethnic cleansing.”

This sectarian policy has been continued under the Iraqi regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the leader of a Shia religious-based political party, who was installed under the American occupation. Jailing, exiling and killing prominent Sunni politicians and treating any opposition to his rule among the Sunni population as “terrorism,” Maliki has increased the desperation of the population of predominantly Sunni Anbar province, creating a base of support for elements such as ISIS.

The reaction of the US media to the debacle in Iraq has been dominated by stunned disbelief combined with questions as to how this could have happened after all of the “sacrifices” made by the United States—4,500 troops killed and tens of thousands of wounded, along with trillions of dollars spent.

What hypocrisy! The catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is the direct product of the crimes—both past and present—carried out by US imperialism in its attempt to assert its hegemony over the Middle East and its massive energy reserves.

The US invaded Iraq in March 2003 on the pretext that the regime of Saddam Hussein was developing “weapons of mass destruction” and cementing ties to Al Qaeda, which supposedly raised the imminent threat of a nuclear 9/11.

As the entire world now knows, this pretext was a lie from start to finish. There were no WMDs, and Saddam’s regime, whatever its crimes, was secular and opposed to Al Qaeda, which had no presence in Iraq until the US invaded and devastated the country.

The crimes carried out under Bush in Iraq—leading to over one million Iraqi deaths and the destruction of an entire society—have been followed by those of the Obama administration in Libya and Syria, where US imperialism has fostered and armed proxy forces based on Sunni Islamist and Al Qaeda-linked elements to wage wars for regime-change. One result has been an immense strengthening of these forces throughout the region.

These wars have been based on the “war on terrorism” narrative used by the Bush administration and still employed by the Obama White House as a justification for global militarism. Wars launched in response to a terrorist attack carried out by 19 individuals—15 of them Saudis—who were allowed to enter the US and hijack airplanes, have now led to the creation of a de facto Al Qaeda state that straddles the Iraq-Syria border and stretches from Aleppo, near the Mediterranean Sea in the west, toward the border with Iran in the east.

The Obama administration has made the overthrow of the Assad regime in Damascus a central US policy objective. It suffered a humiliating setback last year when it was forced to back down from plans to launch US air strikes on Syria in the face of overwhelming popular opposition at home, internal divisions among policy makers, and lack of support from its principal imperialist ally, Britain. Instead, it was compelled to accept a Russian-brokered plan to secure Syria’s chemical disarmament and start talks between the Assad regime and the so-called “rebels.”

The result has been a series of strategic reversals for the US-backed “rebels” in Syria, who are dominated by Islamist Sunni militias, including ISIS. Washington is desperate to change the situation on the ground.

There has been an increasingly intense debate within ruling circles over the arming of the “rebels,” with the former US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, writing a column for Wednesday’s New York Times urging the provision of mortars, rockets and surface-to-air missiles to “moderates” among the Islamist-led militias, as well as placing them directly on the US payroll. Of course, Ford, like other US officials, claims that such aid to the “moderates”—whose organizations are never named—would serve as well to isolate the Al Qaeda-linked elements. This caveat, however, is meant merely to cover up the real criminality of US operations, in which these very elements play the decisive role.

While official Washington publicly wrings its hands over the fall of Mosul, the effect of this development on the US proxy war in Syria may not be all that unwelcome within sections of the US military and intelligence apparatus.

The fall of Iraqi military stockpiles to ISIS has provided one of the most dramatic increases in the firepower of the forces seeking to topple the Syrian government since the US-backed civil war began. Hundreds of armored vehicles have been captured—enough to outfit a full armored division, according to one source. ISIS has overrun the Mosul airport, gaining access to military helicopters and other aircraft. Huge amounts of arms and ammunition have been seized, and virtually all of it is being sent back across the border into Syria. Thousands of Islamist prisoners have been freed from Iraqi jails to go and fight there.

The demand to provide US arms to the “rebels” has been largely met in practice by the developments in Mosul. The result will be a further escalation of the bloodbath in Syria.

In every case where Washington attempts to utilize militarism to advance US imperialism’s interests and offset the economic decline of American capitalism, it is the masses of people who suffer, from the millions killed and displaced in nearly nine years of US war and occupation in Iraq, to the carnage unleashed on the people of Syria, and now the turning of a half a million impoverished residents of Mosul into homeless refugees.

No one has been held accountable for these actions, which indisputably constitute war crimes. Those responsible include not only George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others in the previous administration. Both major political parties, the media, the corporations and every American institution are responsible for the lies that have pervaded US policy—both foreign and domestic—for the past decade and a half. All of the criminal policies under Bush—aggressive war, torture—have been continued and deepened by the Obama administration. With its “pivot” to Asia and coup in Ukraine, it is preparing military confrontation with Russia and China and laying the groundwork for a nuclear Third World War.

Syria held its first democratic presidential elections on June 3, 2014. While the US government and its allies condemned this election, international observers from a large number of countries, many of whom are parliamentarians, provided an assessment which contradicts Washington’s position. s.

What the international observers witnessed on the ground across Syria was high turnout, with enthusiastic throngs of Syrians rushing to the polling stations in their areas to cast their ballots in the presidential elections.

The following is a short GRTV documentary by CRG Research Associate Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, who was one of the international election observers in Syria.

The report focuses on the voting process with particular reference to the Mediterranean coastal Syrian governates of Latakia (Lattakia) and Tartus (Tartous).

 

A year ago, the Munich-based Graf company published the diary of Lena Mukhina in German. Mukhina had witnessed as a student the first year of the German Wehrmacht’s blockade of Leningrad. Her diary was discovered in archives by Russian historians only a few years ago and was first published in Russian in 2011.

The diary is an important historical document relating to one of the greatest, although often forgotten, war crimes of German imperialism. About 1.1 million people lost their lives during the Nazis’ blockade of Leningrad between late summer 1941 and early 1944. It was one of the longest sieges of a city in world history.

More than a million Red Army soldiers died in the defence of Leningrad and another 2.4 million were wounded. Some 130,000 soldiers died on the German side, while 480,000 were wounded and 220,000 disappeared or were captured.

Lena’s diary begins in May 1941 and ends in late May 1942, when she was evacuated from Leningrad. At the beginning of the diary, the reader is introduced to an introverted, 16-year-old girl. Lena lives with her aunt Lena and Aka, a family friend, in a communal apartment in Leningrad. The family is poor and survives mainly by borrowing money. Lena has few friends at school and is unhappily in love with Vova, a boy in her class. Despite her efforts to be a “good Soviet schoolgirl,” her grades are not very good.

The tone of the diary changes abruptly on June 22, 1941, when the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. Like millions of other Soviet citizens, she hears the speech of Foreign Minister Molotov on the radio. Stalin, shocked by the Nazi invasion he had failed to anticipate despite numerous warnings, would not make a statement until two weeks after the outbreak of war.

Nurses assisting the wounded during the first bombardment

On June 23, Lena notes that the population is unprepared for war. She writes:

“To tell the truth, neither we nor any of the people in our block of flats are ready to deal with an attack: We don’t know where to find a medical aid centre, a decontamination site, an air-raid shelter; we don’t know where there are any air defence units or how we are supposed to react to bombing raids and firebombing.” [p. 53]

Only a few weeks before the war began, Lena had recorded her thoughts about Soviet military exercises in her diary: “Day

after day, soldiers are training with their commanders, and when the enemy attacks us—and that’s bound to happen, sooner or later there’ll be war—we can be absolutely sure of victory. We know what we’ll be defending, how we’ll be defending it and who we’ll be defending.” [p. 42]

In fact, the Soviet Union was far from being militarily prepared for the attack. Much of the leadership of the Red Army had been exterminated in the Great Terror of 1937. Most of the victims had been trained and educated under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, who led the Red Army from 1919 to 1924. Stalin decimated the country’s military leadership–much to Hitler’s delight.

Hitler’s assumption of power in January 1933 was a result of the false policies of the Stalinist bureaucracy. The ultra-left course it imposed on the German Communist Party prevented a united struggle of the German working class against the Nazis and made Hitler’s victory possible.

In the months that followed, the Stalinist bureaucracy swung to the right and adopted the disastrous strategy of the “Popular Front.” A struggle for socialism via the revolutionary mobilisation of the working class was explicitly rejected. Instead, workers in Spain and France were to limit themselves to supporting bourgeois democracy against fascism.

The result was further devastating defeats. At the same time, tens of thousands of Trotskyists and hundreds of thousands of other socialist workers and intellectuals were murdered in the Soviet Union.

In 1939, Stalin entered upon a pact with Hitler, believing it would prevent a German attack on the Soviet Union. In reality, the pact paved the way for the German invasion of Poland a week later.

While Leon Trotsky laboured incessantly in exile to warn of a Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, the Stalinist bureaucracy was set on lulling the population into a false sense of security.

For Lena, as for millions of workers, intellectuals and peasants, the attack on the Soviet Union came as a shock. The Red Army was forced into retreat in the first months of the war. By the end of the year, the Wehrmacht had reached the outskirts of Moscow. The Soviet army and people were deeply demoralised. Confidence in the Soviet government, as far as it still existed after the bloody terror of the 1930s, was shattered.

After the Red Army was forced to surrender the Ukrainian capital of Kiev—some 500,000 Red Army soldiers had lost their lives defending the city—Mukhina wrote on September 22:

“I am still alive and able to write in my diary. I’m no longer convinced at all that Leningrad won’t be abandoned. So much has been said, we’ve heard so many fine words and speeches: Kiev and Leningrad are impregnable fortresses!!!… Never will a fascist set foot in the flourishing capital of the Ukraine, never will he be able to enter our country’s northern pearl, Leningrad. But today it was reported on the radio … after several days of bitter fighting our army … withdrew from Kiev! What does this mean? No one can understand it.” [pp. 115-16]

The Volkovo cemetery

Already by the autumn of 1941 Leningrad was virtually encircled. Only Lake Ladoga had not been cut off by the Nazis and continued to provide a connection to the outside world. In September, air attacks began with both conventional and incendiary bombs, which led to approximately 50,000 casualties by the end of the war—16,474 dead and 33,782 injured. [1]

Several of Mukhina’s entries give vent to her hatred of the fascists, who perpetrated massacres and rapes in their advance, while reducing entire regions to rubble.

From November, the Nazis began the targeted bombing of bread factories, stockyards, large communal kitchens and electricity plants. Thus, by the winter one of the coldest of the 20th century the city’s food and energy supply networks had almost completely collapsed. Water emerged only occasionally from the pipes. Mukhina’s diary entries, which until then usually dealt with her political and personal worries and thoughts, increasingly focus on only two things: the cold and hunger. On November 21, her birthday, she has almost nothing to eat. The bread ration for pupils at this time is restricted to 125g—the equivalent of one extremely thin slice of bread. Apart from this, Lena, her aunt and Aka survive mainly on hot gruel and a few sweets.

On November 22, Mukhina writes:

“The gas supply has stopped, you can’t buy any kerosene, people cook their daily meal on the ovens fuelled with firewood and wood shavings. But most people are relying on the various canteens. Nowadays, hardly anyone goes down into the air raid shelters any more; they no longer have the energy to climb up and down the stairs due to systematic malnutrition.” [p. 146]

Like hundreds of thousands of others, hunger forces Mukhina’s family to kill their house pet, a tomcat, in December. By the end of the year, all dogs, cats and even rats and mice have disappeared from Leningrad.

Most of the blocks of flats are unheated. The extreme cold and malnutrition lead to widespread deaths. In December, nearly 40,000 people die; in January and February 1943, the figure reaches almost 100,000 each month. By the summer of 1942, a further 150,000 people die. There are outbreaks of cannibalism.

Aka and Lena’s aunt also waste away in the winter. Aka, who is already 76 and completely worn out by hunger, dies on January 1, 1942.

Mukhina’s diary entries become more and more despairing.

On January 3, she angrily writes:

“We are dying like flies here because of the hunger, but yesterday Stalin gave another dinner in Moscow in honour of Eden [British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden]. This is outrageous. They fill their bellies there, while we don’t even get a piece of bread. They play host at all sorts of brilliant receptions, while we live like cavemen, like blind moles.” [pp. 187-88]

Mukhina’s aunt dies in early February. She is desperate and on the point of dying from starvation. Only her aunt’s food cards, which she is able to continue using, enable her to survive.

Almost entirely on her own, Mukhina now makes plans to escape from Leningrad over the “road of life,” Lake Ladoga. She intends to go and live with relatives in Moscow.

By April, more than half a million people are evacuated over Lake Ladoga. Mukhina manages the escape probably around the end of May. Her diary suddenly ends on May 25.

From 1943, following the victory at Stalingrad, the Red Army was able to strike back at the Wehrmacht with several offensives, including one at Leningrad. However, the city was not completely liberated until January 27, 1944. By then, every third citizen of Leningrad had been killed and over a million Red Army soldiers had fallen in defence of the city.

After the war, Mukhina was unable—as she had once wished—to continue her education. She underwent training and worked at different factories. Like many survivors of the blockade, she suffered from serious medical problems for the rest of her life. She died in 1991, a few months before the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The high casualty figures of the blockade were anything but an unintended byproduct of the war. Rather, the extermination of the population in and around Leningrad was an integral part of the Nazis’ so-called “Master Plan East” [Generalplan Ost], on which the war of annihilation against the Soviet Union was based.

The planners of the Economic Staff East wrote: “Many tens of millions of people will be superfluous in this area [northern and central Russia] and will have to either die or emigrate to Siberia.” A total of 30 million Soviet citizens were to be abandoned to starvation.

The aim of the plan was to create “Living space [Lebensraum] in the East.” Germans were to be resettled in western Russia and eastern Europe in place of the “Slavs.”

The war of extermination in the East was also intended to ensure that the Wehrmacht and German population were adequately supplied with food, in order for Germany to win the war against Britain. This food was to come from Russia and Ukraine.

The “Master Plan East” was based on the military strategy and experiences of German imperialism in the First World War. Even then, Ukraine was to be brought under German control as the “breadbasket of Europe.” Like the military strategy against France, however, the one in the East failed. Enormous supply shortages led to mass starvation in the German Empire: approximately 800,000 people starved to death in Germany between 1914 and 1918. The widespread poverty and hunger were among the main driving forces of the German November Revolution of 1918/19, which was thwarted only by the betrayal of social democracy.

The Nazis wanted to avoid such a situation at all costs. Hermann Göring, commander of the German Air Force in World War II, played a major role in the decision of autumn 1941 not to conquer Leningrad, but to besiege it and starve it out. “If someone is to starve, it won’t be a German,” he declared.

The sieges of Leningrad and Moscow, as well as other major cities like Kiev, Kharkov and Sevastopol in Ukraine, were an integral part of this strategy. But nowhere was the blockade enforced so mercilessly as at Leningrad. Hitler himself said that the city was to be razed to the ground. There was no place for Leningrad, with its three-million-strong population, in the plans for “Germanised Russia.”

The city was significant in several respects. It was there that the first workers’ revolution in world history had taken place in October 1917. Leningrad was therefore of great symbolic importance to both the Soviet population and the Nazis. The latter wanted to destroy the Soviet Union and the achievements of the working class.

Moreover, Leningrad was the second largest industrial centre in the Soviet Union. The Nazis’ “strategy of annihilation” in western Russia and the major cities was primarily aimed at the working class. The port city of Leningrad was also important for strategic reasons. The Nazis wanted to conquer it in order to gain control over the Baltic region.

 Notes

[1] Jörg Ganzenmüller: Das belagerte Leningrad 1941-1944: Die Stadt in den Strategien von Angreifern und Verteidigern [ Leningrad under siege 1941-1944: The City in the Strategy of its Attackers and Defenders ], Paderborn 2007, p. 66

[2] Quoted in ibid, p. 47

[3] Quoted in ibid, p. 63

Marchan en Canadá contra los oleoductos

June 11th, 2014 by Jorge Zegarra

In a pre-dawn raid on Friday, June 6, Papua New Guinea (PNG) police Mobile Units evicted residents from Wingima village near Barrick’s Porgera gold mine and burnt down some 200 houses, according to reports from eye witnesses in Porgera as well as from local Member of Parliament Nixon Mangape. Victims said they had no warning and were not given eviction notices in advance of the attack.

In a repeat of house burnings in 2009, MiningWatch has been informed that this raid was also accompanied by Mobile Unit police violence against villagers and the rapes of at least ten women and young girls.

The Tiene clan of Wingima, which was also targeted in 2009, are the traditional local landowners. People who have now lost shelter and the contents of their houses are Tiene landowners or relatives who can only live in the village at the invitation of the Tiene.

Barrick’s Porgera Joint Venture (PJV) mine houses, feeds, and financially supports units of PNG’s infamous Mobile Units, in spite of their ­reputation for violence and their previous involvement in hundreds of house burnings in the mine’s lease area, as documented by Amnesty International.

Following the 2009 house burnings, the Porgera Lando­wners Association (PLOA) reportedly obtained an order from the National Court of Papua New Guinea restraining the State from burning down more houses. However, reportedly, following a request by Barrick (Nuigini) Limited, the National Court removed the restraining order, arguing that the police has ultimate power to execute such operations under the terms of a State of Emergency (SOE).

In April, a State of Emergency was called by the Government of PNG, leading to the deployment of additional Mobile Units to the Porgera Valley, to supplement those already supported there by the PJV mine. One reported goal of the SOE was to crack down on unauthorized scavenging of ore by residents living around the mine. Barrick Gold has not managed to stop dangerous incursions into the pit and across its massive waste flows of desperate people eking out a living. The mine and its uncontrolled waste flows have destroyed agricultural land and traditional subsistence activities.

The raid took place while the leadership of the PLOA were away from the Porgera Valley. They had reportedly travelled to Kokopo, East New Britain, for a meeting with PJV’s Community Affairs Manager and representatives of the National Government, and the Provincial Government of Enga Province, where the mine is located. The meeting was an attempt to come to agreement on terms for a new Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the operation of the mine. The meeting reportedly broke down on Tuesday June 3. On the 5th of June, Barrick (Nuigini) Limited won a court order restraining the PLOA and its President, Mark Tony Ekepa, from interfering in the operations of the mine (attached). The raid started the morning of June 6th.

One of the issues to be discussed in the context of a new MOA was the long-standing question of re-settlement. Porgera landowners affected by the mine’s operations have long sought to be resettled away from the mine, as life has become untenable for the local indigenous communities who find themselves surrounded by the pit and its massive waste flows. This request for resettlement was most recently made by PLOA through a complaint to Canada’s National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines. Barrick has consistently turned down requests for resettlement of all landowners living in the mine lease area in favour of moving small groups when the mine’s needs encroach directly on their land or when the waste flows and mine operations have made the ground they live on “geotechnically unstable.”

“It is simply unconscionable that Barrick is turning its back on the obvious need to resettle these communities away from the mine, but continues to house and financially support PNG Mobile Units that have a history of human rights abuses, including house burnings, in those communities,” says Catherine Coumans, Asia-Pacific Program coordinator at MiningWatch Canada. “It is unacceptable that violence is being used to manage the very serious problems associated with this mine and its negative impacts on the ability of local people to live healthy lives and to sustain themselves.”

Race, Class and the World Cup in Brazil

June 11th, 2014 by Mike LaSusa

The Brazilian government and big business wanted the World Cup very badly. But the people wanted better public services – especially the majority that identify as non-white.“Government studies have shown that people who identify as black or brown make incomes that are less than half those of their white counterparts and they are much more likely to lack access to basic services like security, education, healthcare and sanitation.”

“The police have chased the poor away from the beaches and hotels and shopping districts back to the slums.”

At 5pm local time on June 12, the national soccer teams of Brazil and Croatia will kick off the 2014 World Cup at the São Paulo Arena in Brazil’s largest city. The players will compete before a live crowd of tens of thousands and a televised audience of millions more.

At a total cost of roughly $11 billion - and at least eight workers’ lives – Brazil will host the most expensive World Cup in history. Though this is not to understate the scandalous unfolding atrocity in Qatar). Brazilians overwhelmingly supported bringing the event to their country when FIFA awarded them the honor in 2007 (no other nation in the Americas volunteered), but a recent poll from DataFolha indicates that a majority of citizens now oppose it.

Widespread anti-Cup protests have been roiling Brazil’s cities and social media networks for months. The demonstrators’ grievances range from public transportation fare hikes to inadequate wages, housing, education, security and healthcare, among other things. But as evidenced by their use of the slogan “Não vai ter Copa!” (“There will be no Cup!”), it is clear that they intend to use the lavish international spectacle both as a symbol of their concerns and a spotlight to shine on them.

On June 3, a group of anti-Cup activists inflated giant soccer balls in the capital city Brasilia. Protest organizer Antonio Carlos Costa told Agence France Presse, ”We want the Brazilian government to ask the nation’s forgiveness because it promised something it never delivered. It invested a fortune of public money in things that weren’t necessary.” A recent Pew poll found that 61% of respondents believed hosting the World Cup is a ”bad thing” “because it takes money away from public services.”

Not all of the protests have been peaceful. AFP interviewed one of a growing number of so-called “Black Bloc” activists, who went by the pseudonym Elizabeth:

Black Bloc is not a formal group, she says, but “a tactic for action that anyone can join.”

During the past year’s protests its adherents have destroyed banks, trashed public property, thrown petrol bombs and attacked police with stones and clubs.

But Elizabeth says that is merely “a reaction to violence by the police, who always hit first.”

The government response to the outpouring of protests, strikes, and strike threats over recent months and weeks by various segments of society – from airline employeesteachers and homeless workers to police and even the main federal employee’s union -  has consisted largely of either ignorant denialism or  harsh intimidation and repression. Amidst this unrest, the administration of President Dilma Rousseff has made repeated assurances to the international community that – despite still-unfinished stadia, like the one that will host the opening match in São Paulo, and numerous incomplete infrastructure projects -  the Cup will go off as planned.

“A recent Pew poll found that 61% of respondents believed hosting the World Cup is a ‘bad thing’ ‘because it takes money away from public services.’”

A particularly representative series of events unfolded on June 5, one week before kickoff. While Dilma and FIFA president Joseph Blatter expressed their confidence in Brazil’s ability to put on the “Cup of all Cups,” thousands of homeless workers marched peacefully on the São Paulo Arena as police clashed with striking subway workers nearby. One of the strikers reportedly told a police officer, “Put the gun down. There are only workers here. We’re workers just like you.”

That same day at a concert in the city, the audience cursed out Dilma over her handling of the World Cup preparations and popular rapper Marcelo Falcão told the crowd the following:

“The legacy that comes with this Cup is a very vile one…[W]e love soccer, but for the first time we have to be honest…In all reality [society] doesn’t have the necessary health, education and all it needs in terms of security and transportation, amongst other things…I am standing by the entire country who wanted something good…If it’s not good, I’m not going to [applaud].”

This level of discontentment is remarkable given the complex and deeply-rooted cultural and political history of soccer in Brazil, especially with regard to race and class. As former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva said without hyperbole when his country was chosen as the future host of the world’s most-watched sporting event in 2007, ”Soccer is more than a sport for us, it’s a national passion.”

O Jogo Bonito

In 1888, around the same time that soccer was introduced to Brazil by upper-class British expatriates, it became the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. After importing approximately 40% of the African people who were kidnapped and shipped to the Americas during that era, the post-abolition government subsidized a racial miscegenation program known as “branqueamento” (“whitening”) that brought an influx of working-class immigrants from various European countries to Brazil during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These white European laborers introduced to Brazil’s black and brown working class what soccer demi-god Pelé would later call “o jogo bonito“ (“the beautiful game”).

It should be mentioned that unlike the post-abolition United States, Brazil did not enforce a system of legal segregation or discrimination after it did away with slavery. Race in Brazil has been defined socially, by appearance, not legally or officially, by heritage. As Thomas Skidmore wrote in his 1992 essay ”Fact and Myth: Discovering a Racial Problem in Brazil;”

The result was a system of social stratification that differed sharply from the rigid color bifurcation in the U.S. (both before and after slavery) and in Europe’s African colonies. There was and is a color…spectrum on which clear lines were often not drawn. Between a “pure” black and a very light mulatto there are numerous gradations, as reflected in the scores of racial labels (many pejorative) in common Brazilian usage.

Echoing Roberto Damatta‘s 1991 discourse on Brazilian society’s classist and racist “authoritarian rituals,” Joaquim Barbosa, the first black judge to sit on the country’s Supreme Federal Court, put it more simply, but still poignantly, for The Guardian in 2012; “Racism in Brazil is well hidden, subtle and unspoken…It is nevertheless extremely violent.”

For years, soccer in Brazil had been enjoyed almost exclusively by wealthy, mostly British elites, but the sport’s simplicity made it an accessible activity for poor laborers with very little disposable income. The formation of recreational clubs and leagues in the first decades of the 20th century was actually encouraged and sometimes financially supported by employers who were happy to have their workers playing and watching soccer rather than organizing with the radical socialist and anarchist groups that were emerging around that time.

With the active encouragement of the capital-owning class and without any other sports to compete with it, soccer rapidly became the country’s national pastime. In 1923, more than two decades before Jackie Robinson broke the color line in American baseball, the Vasco de Gama soccer club in Rio de Janeiro fielded a team consisting primarily of black and mixed-race athletes. The squad went on to win the city championship that year, breaking the color line in Brazilian soccer with emphasis.

As Joseph A. Page writes in his 1996 ethnography The Brazilians, the sport was inherently “suited to the Brazilian temperament…[of] individual and collective self-expression…Soccer seemed to merge sport and samba,” a traditional style of Afro-Brazilian music and dance. For Page, “the improvisational style of Brazilian soccer” derived from “the Brazilian way of overcoming poverty” – a communal effort rooted in mutual reciprocity – a sort of metaphor for the model “Brazilian” political society.

Futebol & Democracia Racial

In 1930, Uruguay hosted and won the inaugural World Cup, in which Brazil fielded a mixed-race team. They failed to progress past the first round. One of the black players, Fausto dos Santos, “A Maravilha Negra“ (“The Black Wonder”), was widely considered the best Brazilian mid-fielder of his time, but he nonetheless faced racism at home as well as during his brief stint in European leagues in following years.

Just months after Brazil was eliminated from the 1930 Cup, a bloodless military coup brought the authoritarian corporatist Getúlio Vargas to power as president of Brazil. The Vargas regime dissolved congress became a dictatorship in 1937, forcibly crushing out the leftist opposition, including various Afro-Brazilian movements. Still, the 1934 and 1938 World Cup teams (both of which failed to make the finals) fielded black and mulatto players, including Brazil’s biggest star until Pelé, the legendary striker Leônidas da Silva, known as “O Diamante Negro” (“The Black Diamond”), as well as the man who would later “discover” Pelé, Waldemar de Brito.

World War II put international soccer competitions on hold, but brought economic development to Brazil, in large part due to its deepening ties with the United States. As the war wound down, Vargas seemed unable to reconcile being the only South American country to send troops to fight against the Axis dictatorships with the authoritarian nature of his own regime. Beginning around 1943, he attempted to tack to the democratic populist left, but was overthrown by coup in 1945.

Nevertheless, Vargas won election to the Senate in 1946 and the candidate he endorsed, Marshal Eurico Gaspar Dutra, won the presidency. Vargas was elected Dutra’s successor in 1950, espousing an economic policy that consisted essentially of “capitalism with a human face” while un-ironically attacking Dutra’s economic policies for having favored the rich.

1950 was also the year that Brazil hosted the World Cup – the first since the tournament was suspended due to the war and the last to take place in Brazil until this year. Political, economic and athletic hopes were high. In front of some 200,000 fans at the Estádio de Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro – then the largest soccer arena on Earth – the Brazilian national team faced off against Uruguay in the championship match.

Brazil lost, 2 to 1.

“Many Brazilians were willing to believe that their country would never win the World Cup with a racially-mixed society.”

As Page describes it, the 1950 World Cup loss was “a catastrophe the extent of which is difficult for outsiders to grasp.” Citizens dubbed it the Maracanazo, using the same disaster-signifying suffix as the Bogotazo - the 1948 assassination of the Colombian populist Liberal politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and the ensuing riots which decimated the capital city and killed thousands, ultimately leading to decades of bloody internal conflict. As Page writes:

This tragic loss brought to the surface not only the self-doubt Brazilians have always harbored, but also the racism that lurked beneath their inferiority complex. Both Barbarosa [the goalkeeper] and Bigode [a defender], the principal scapegoats, were dark-skinned, and many Brazilians were willing to believe that their country would never win the World Cup with a racially-mixed society.

At the same time, many Brazilians thought of their country as a “democracia racial” (“racial democracy”) – a society that does not discriminate based on skin color or ethnicity. This ideology essentially dismissed the very notion of racism in Brazil, arguing instead that European miscegenation had ”whitened” Brazilian society to its benefit and that societal inequalities were the result of circumstance, not race.

Dilma showed how entrenched this ideology remains in Brazil in December 2012. Moments before protests broke out against excessive police violence and the upcoming Confederations Cup – the “dry run” for the World Cup – Dilma told a global television audience that Brazil was a country “with no prejudice or exclusion and where there is a respect for human rights.” As discussed further below, the president’s statement was demonstrably untrue, but it reveals Brazil’s ongoing struggle to come to terms with the historical influence of race and class on its modern society.

Ordem e Progresso 

A period of economic and political instability followed the demoralizing 1950 loss, culminating in the suicide of President Vargas in August 1954, just a few weeks after Brazil had been eliminated from that year’s World Cup quarter-finals. Brazil was left to be ruled by tenuous caretaker governments until the administration of President Juscelino Kubitschek, who took office in 1956.

With the motto, “50 years of progress in five,” Kubitschek further opened his country to foreign capital and promoted ambitious development projects. One of his most grandiose plans was the construction of the a brand new capital city, Brasilia, completely from scratch in just four years.

Kubitschek’s policies helped grow and industrialize the economy, although issues like homelessness, poverty and inequality persisted. As Page put it, Brazilians felt at the time that their economy’s nascent modernization “had not required slavish imitation of foreign models. [They] could win in their own way.” Brazil won the 1958 World Cup in Sweden – the country’s first international title. Two years after the official inauguration of their new capital city, Brazil picked up their second at the very next tournament in Chile in 1962.

However, the “miracle” began to dawn in 1964 when a United States-backed military coup deposed leftist president and former Vargas Labor Minister, João Goulart. Goulart was succeeded by one of the military officers who had led his ouster, Marshal Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco. The Branco government proceeded to institute drastic neoliberal economic reforms that resulted in massive unemployment and civil unrest, while carrying out an often violent purging of leftists reminiscent of the Vargas government.

At the 1966 World Cup in England, the Brazilian national team was humiliatingly eliminated in the initial stage, suffering 3-1 losses first to Hungary and then to its former colonial master, Portugal. In 1968, Brazil’s military government dissolved congress and began resorting to assassinations, forced disappearances and torture (with help from the US and the UK) to suppress dissent.

Brazil won the World Cup for a third time in 1970, but as Page put it, “the glory soon faded.” Despite relatively strong economic growth under military rule, human rights abuses, inequality, unemployment, poverty and illiteracy continued throughout the dictatorship’s political “abertura” (“opening”) of 1974 and beyond.

O Rei de Futebol

Brazilian soccer legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known worldwide as Pelé, plays a particularly allegorical role in the political history of soccer in Brazil. “O Rei do Futebol” (“The King of Soccer”) was born in 1940 in Três Corações, Minas Gerais. He began his professional career at the age of 16 and at 17 he made his debut with Brazil’s first championship-winning squad at the 1958 World Cup.

The youngest athlete to ever play in a Cup match, Pelé scored three of the goals that led Brazil to a crushing 5-2 victory in the final game against host country Sweden. Pelé also played on the 1962 championship team and in 1970 he set a record he still holds by becoming the only person to have played on three Cup-winning squads.

Pelé, “A Pérola Negra” (“The Black Pearl”), is an officially-designated national treasure. He the first black man on the cover of Life magazine and Brazil’s first black minister. In 1967, the combatants in Nigerian civil war called a ceasefire so they could watch Pelé play.

But the dark-skinned Brazilian from a working-class family has been remarkably apolitical as an international soccer superstar, rarely voicing a strong opinion on social or political issues and never openly condemning the atrocities of the Brazilian military dictatorship.

In this regard, Pelé stands in sharp contrast to former national team striker Romário de Souza Faria, who played on the World Cup-winning 1994 and 2002 teams. The dark-skinned soccer star-turned-congressman has been a fierce critic of social inequalities and a strong supporter of the the ongoing protests.

”Pelé has no fu..ng awareness of what’s going on in this country.”

In June 2013, the infamously apolitical Pelé called on Brazilians to “forget” the anti-Cup protests occurring at that time and to support the national soccer team. Many Brazilians were outraged. Romário said at the time, ”Pelé has no fucking awareness of what’s going on in this country.” Even Pelé’s more recent condemnations of the government’s World Cup preparations failed to recognize both the sources and the scope of the country’s many problems.

In 2011, it was revealed that Pelé had been investigated by Brazilian authorities in 1970 for suspected leftist ties. Despite no evidence of Pelé being involved in any political movements or actions himself, he had allegedly received a manifesto from a government employee seeking amnesty for political prisoners. Whether because of lack of conviction or government intimidation, Pelé kept quiet.

On July 18, 1971 Pelé played his last international match for Brazil against Yugoslavia, a game that ended in a 2-2 draw. Many Brazilians began to view Pelé as a sell-out when he left Brazil (with some help from Henry Kissinger) for the US in 1974, where he earned millions of dollars lending his talent and international prestige, not to a local team his own country, but to the North American Soccer League as a player for the New York Cosmos.

Retorno à Democracia

Mirroring the quarter-century of political and economic asphyxiation Brazil underwent during the years of the dictatorship, the country would not win another World Cup until 1994 – a full five years after Fernando Alfonso Collor de Mello became the first directly-elected president since the 1960s.

Janet Lever described the 1994 World Cup victory in her book “Soccer Madness:”

“The country literally stopped for the final matches - Congress adjourned, schools closed, and businesses shut down…After the victory people poured into the streets creating a noisy carnival of dancing and fireworks. There were no riots. Casualties included those in car accidents caused by inebriated drivers and people with high blood pressure who got sick from excitement.”

The symbolism of winning Brazil’s first post-Pelé Cup – its fourth altogether, another record – on American soil by beating a European country was powerful. Still, the Washington Consensus-style neoliberalization forced upon Brazil by the IMF had already exposed many elements of its economy to the pressures of globalized capitalism, including its beloved national pastime. Only half of the players on the 1994 roster (and only 3 of the starting 11) played professionally for Brazilian club teams. The rest played in European leagues, which paid much higher wages.

At the time, professional soccer was also becoming less accessible to average Brazilians. Workers’ wages were stagnating as the price of admission to local matches rose, and many players were forced to work second jobs to supplement their insufficient salaries. As Lever wrote, “This is a vicious cycle: the more players leave, the worse the quality of regular league competition becomes, and consequently, fewer fans are willing to pay to see their teams.” On the 2014 squad, only four of the 23 athletes play for Brazilian club teams. The rest all play in the European, Russian or Canadian leagues.

Cardoso e Lula

In 1994, the year they once again made soccer history, Brazilians elected the neoliberal former Finance Minister Fernando Henrique Cardoso as president. Cardoso, the son of wealthy Portuguese immigrants, continued privatizing state enterprises and dismantling social programs like education and healthcare. Growth slowed, corruption abounded, crime was on the rise and many of the socially-oriented reforms promised by his administration had been only partially fulfilled or slow to materialize.

After yet another decade of unfulfilled ”free market” promises, the Brazilian people were ready to forge a different path. In June 2002, Brazil broke their own record by winning a fifth World Cup. In October, they chose their fourth directly-elected president since the end of the dictatorship; Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known simply as “Lula.”

However, the scope of the change promised by Lula and his “socialist” Worker’s Party (PT) was mitigated by the influence of Brazil’s integration into the global capitalist system – including the $41 billion IMF “aid” package the country had accepted under Cardoso in 1998. By early 2002, capital markets were threatening to pull the plug on the country’s economy if it did not redouble its commitment to neoliberal reform.

Worried that his election as a self-proclaimed socialist could spark a financial attack on the country, Lula and the PT’s campaign rhetoric started to become much more market-friendly. Lula wrote and published an open letter to the Brazilian people during the final days of the 2002 World Cup, expressing his desire to avert a fate similar to that of their soccer arch-rival Argentina (which had been eliminated in the tournament’s first round):

“What is important is that this crisis must be avoided, because it would cause irreparable suffering for the majority of the population. To avoid this crisis it is necessary to understand the margin for maneuver in the short run is small.”

Lula was elected later that year and whatever “crisis” was averted was replaced by an IMF-dictated economic policy that helped spawn a regressive social spending system. Nevertheless, when Lula handed off the presidency in 2011 to his former chief of staff Dilma Rousseff, he had an 83 percent approval rating – the highest of any president since the dictatorship.

As Favelas

Nearly four years into the Rousseff administration, more than half of Brazilians view her has a bad influence on the country. Economic growth has slowed. The poverty rate has barely budged after falling from 35% during Lula’s first term to around 20% by the time he left office. Similarly, unemployment has hovered around 5% after being halved from 12% to 6% during the Lula years. Brazil, along with many of its Latin American neighbors, still ranks among the worst countries in the world for income inequality.

According to recent studies the vast majority of Brazilians believe racism exists in their society, but only a tiny percentage consider themselves to be racist. While few people still refer to Brazil as a “racial democracy”, the essence of the ideology still survives despite a decade-long crawl toward racial affirmative action policies in public education and employment.

In 2011, the year Dilma took office, government census data showed that people who identify as “white” are a minority in Brazil for the first time since the 19th century. Government studies have shown that people who identify as black or brown make incomes that are less than half those of their white counterparts and they are much more likely to lack access to basic services like security, education, healthcare and sanitation.

One particularly illustrative example of this race-class conflation can be found in the illegal settlements, known as “favelas,” that exist in most major Brazilian cities. Migrants from rural Brazil, many of them of black or indigenous ancestry, flooded into rapidly-industrializing urban areas during the early 20th century. Combined with the government-sponsored importation of European labor under the “whitening” program, this created an urban housing crisis that Brazil has never truly solved. According to government statistics, 1.8 million of Brazil’s roughly 200 million people are homeless. More than 1 million are estimated to live in favelas.

“These protests are an exhortation to the government to finally prioritize ‘equality.’”

Many favela residents have no legal title to the land or structures they occupy, which has enabled the government to carry out forcible evictions of entire neighborhoods to make way for “development” projects in recent decades. In 2011, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the right to adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik (a native Brazilian), expressed concern with “a pattern of lack of transparency, consultation, dialogue, fair negotiation, and participation of the affected communities in processes concerning evictions undertaken or planned in connection with the World Cup and Olympics.”

Reports of police torturing, assassinating and “disappearing” the poor, mostly black and brown residents of Brazil’s criminalized urban communities are neither new nor uncommon. The killing of a young favela resident in April 2014 sparked protests in Rio as well as the Twitter cheered for the championship 1970 team from the jail where she was imprisoned and tortured by the contemporary military government.

Antagonizing the World Cup has a deep cultural significance, but also a more obvious motivation. The state has razed people’s houses to build soccer stadium parking lots. The police have chased the poor away from the beaches and hotels and shopping districts back to the slums, only to invade and occupy their neighborhoods in order to “pacify” them. The government has spent nearly $1 billion on World Cup security alone while many favelas still lack basic utilities.

Brazil is not, as Dilma put it, a country “with no prejudice or exclusion and where there is a respect for human rights,” but it is striving to become one, as it has been for a long time. In his famous essay “Do You Know Who You’re Talking To?!” Brazilian sociologist Roberto DaMatta attempts to define what he calls the “Distinction between Individual and Person in Brazil:”

“In my opinion, the same basic process of constructing the individual or the person [in Brazil] takes place during great public festivals like Carnival, when persons become individuals and submit to the general rules of the revelry – of the reign of the clown king Momus – and accept their status as anonymous human beings. By the same token of inversion, anonymous individuals cease to be merely members of the labor force and marginal workers and become persons: noblemen, singers, dancers, and characters of a national drama. The same thing happens in futebol (soccer), where by identifying with their teams (and clubs), fans transform themselves into persons entitled to certain rights in victory and defeat. The prize here, as in Carnival, is highly significant: it is the right to hierarchize the position of equals or to change the position of superiors, the drama always having as motif the relationships between equality and hierarchy.”

DaMatta goes on to describe Brazilian society as “midway between equality and hierarchy”, “satisfied with its modern set of universal laws but framed in a markedly hierarchical skeleton…[wherein] the codes of personal relationships are the structural components of the social structure, not mere ‘survivals’ from the past that will soon be swept away by the introduction of modern political and economic institutions.”

Many favela residents volunteer their limited spare time to help their neighbors build, repair, and upgrade their homes in a practice known as a “mutirão“. Participatory budgeting projects begun under the Lula administration showed the benefits of democratic community participation in spending decisions. Giant state projects rife with injustice, corruption and mismanagement like the World Cup debacle only serve to remind Brazilians that in many key moments of the country’s history, the government has been an impediment to true progress.

At the individual level, the protests may be about evictions, security, wages or any number of other things. In totality they express a deep desire for the government to rectify the injustices of the past, rather than forever pursuing future greatness while blinding itself to a centuries-long legacy of political and economic exclusion based on race and class. An anonymous Black Bloc protester described his interpretation of the zeitgeist to presidential race is the centrist social democrat Aecio Neves, who garners about half as much support as the incumbent. Despite significant gains in recent years against poverty and unemployment, a vast majority of Brazilians disapprove of the current economic situation.

On June 7, Dilma claimed that the protests were part of a “systemic campaign” not necessarily against the World Cup but against some nebulous “us.” Pace Dilma, Brazilians’ discontent stems largely not from what the government has done, but from what it has not. Brazil is ready to move forward with socialism, not to retreat from it. These protests are an exhortation to the government to finally prioritize “equality,” one of the bedrock principles of socialism, over the capitalistic values of “growth” and “power” for the first time in Brazil’s history.

As the multibillion-dollar capitalist bonanza of the World Cup plays out – Laurel Wentz at AdAge described it “like having the Super Bowl every day for an entire month” – leftists and radicals should lend their solidarity to the movements opposed to what the World Cup symbolizes for so many Brazilians; capitalistic exploitation, enduring racism and ongoing criminalization of the poor, as well as the symbiotic nature of those systems of oppression.

Mike LaSusa is a freelance writer and researcher in Washington, DC, concentrating on organized crime, ethnic and indigenous politics, and radical political and social movements in Latin America. He currently works for the Latin America-focused advising firm Southern Pulse as a contributing editor. Previously he served as a researcher at the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami and. Reach him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @mikelasusa.

A quaint comparison of what money can buy in today’s market has Bill Gates being able to afford every home in Boston. His $76.6 billion reported by the Washington Post or the $78.4 billion by Forbes seems a pittance when put up against John D. Rockefeller’s peak wealth of $318.3 billion (based on 2007 US dollar).

According to your resident commissars over at MSNBC, “The median net worth of American households hasn’t changed much over the past decades, it’s about $20,000.” So if Gates decided to purchase all the Beantown houses, whom would he pay for the bricks and mortar? Certainly, most Americans may think of ”their home is their castle”, but few actually own a debt free deed to their grand estate. No wonder the banks and financial institutions, are so fond of placing liens on real property.

billionairehousing.jpg

The proportional context of looking at individual wealth within the relative value of global wealth is examined in the essay; It’s A “0.6%” World: Who Owns What Of The $223 Trillion In Global Wealth, seems trite. Zerohedge concludes, “The bottom line: 29 million, or 0.6% of those with any actual assets under their name, own $87.4 trillion, or 39.3% of all global assets.”

 

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Here are the stunning facts:

“In 2012, 3.2 billion individuals – more than two-thirds of the global adult population – have wealth below USD 10,000, and a further one billion (23% of the adult population) are placed in the USD 10,000–100,000 range.

The average wealth holding is modest in the base and middle segments of the pyramid, total wealth amounts to USD 39 trillion, underlining the potential for new consumer trends products and for the development of financial services targeted at this often neglected segment.

The remaining 373 million adults (8% of the world) have assets exceeding USD 100,000.

And then the top of the pyramid: 29 million US dollar millionaires, a group which contains less than 1% of the world’s adult population, collectively owns nearly 40% of global household wealth.

Some 84,500 individuals are worth more than USD 50 million, and 29,000 are worth over USD 100 million.”

After absorbing this macro economic analysis, it should ease the pain that the stewardship of world wealth is in such trustworthy hands. No need to burden the masses with the weight of building wealth, when that formula for getting to the top of the financial pyramid, has room for only the few. The expert obelisk creators never meant for wealth sharing and the tools to construct one’s own prosperity are not included in your capital accumulation education. The liability of mortgage and property tax obligations to retain your edifice requires regular payments to maintain the privilege of possession. Ownership is only a conditional wealth asset.

Investopedia says 3 Simple Steps To Building Wealth are:

“You need to make it. This means that before you can begin to save or invest, you need to have a long-term source of income that’s sufficient enough to have some left over after you’ve covered your necessities.

You need to save it. Once you have an income that’s enough to cover your basics, you need to develop a proactive savings plan.

You need to invest it. Once you’ve set aside a monthly savings goal, you need to invest it prudently.”

Ordinary consumers do not build great fortunes. The elementary prescription for “getting ahead” is severely limited in thinking for a world that frequently conducts business as a blood sport. However, many of the enterprises that carve out a market for their products or services have a distinct edge over the unconnected entrepreneur. Namely, government directed and controlled startups or collaborated ventures frequently become the commercial giants of the economy. Here lays the confusion when defining wealth as an accounting device of personal ownership of assets.

In addition, governments are often in the privatization and sale of state assets. The Economists reports that the “IMF estimate that non-financial government assets average 75% of GDP in advanced economies. In most countries, these are worth more than financial assets (stakes in listed firms, sovereign-wealth and securities holdings and the like).”Liquid cash flow and high worth individuals, especially with inside track contacts, are able to cherry pick sweet heart deals. Such opportunities, usually transfers treasure, but infrequently are engines of new wealth creation. The only guarantee is that money, made or lost depending upon the accounting needs of the vulture predator, is never an option for the normal hard working taxpayer.

Unless people accept the reality that creating and growing wealth is a noble objective that involves the widespread commerce participation of a merchant class, the outrageous disparity of the top down wealth stream will widen even more, as the top tier inclusion narrows to fewer mega-billionaires.

Global business encourages transnational conglomerates with commercially identifiable names and logos. When entire economies prevail under a business plan that eliminates any rival competition, and achieves sole market dominance, the prospects to advance the individual wealth ledger of the average person diminishes.

An opportunistic society can only exist when independent business flourishes. Government bureaucrats and corporate technocrats oppose an unambiguous free market economy. As the map of the über-billionaires illustrates, their checkbook could swallow up entire cities. However, digesting, let alone growing communities into quality environments for future generations, takes an active involvement in the wealth building process that rewards contributing players.Without a widespread populace practicing mutually beneficial business transactions, the capacity to achieve the skills necessary to compete successfully, will never develop. Instead of making money, saving money and investing money, learn the aptitude of business as a lifelong endeavor.

The poor will always be scraping the bottom, until they learn how to advance their abilities for the betterment of their own families. The alternative to greater concentration of wealth is to initiate a viable substitute to the financial stranglehold that furthers the appetites of egomaniacs like the character, Bretton James in the movie Money Never Sleeps. In the end, the true individual wealth that anyone can attain is the sincerity and moral substance of his or her own character. Money may not snooze from making more cash, but is only a means to elevate living a life worth lived.In such a quest, the super rich may have a net worth equivalent to one’s property, but they can never afford the essence of your family or measure of your community.

74 School Shootings Since Sandy Hook – Detailed Map

June 11th, 2014 by Global Research

An as-yet unidentified school shooter attacked Reynolds High School in Portland, Oregon today, killing at least one student. It was the 74th school shooting since Adam Lanza’s infamous assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut — and, as this map shows, they’ve happened all over the country.

The data comes from Everytown for Gun Safety, a recently formed gun control advocacy group. Everytown defines school shooting as “assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings” that take place “inside a school building or on school or campus grounds.” Huffington Post editor Mark Gongloff mapped Everytown’s data and tweeted it out.

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Shootings at K-12 schools in red, at colleges/universities in purple. Everytown for Gun Safety/Mark Gongloff

It’s hard to find statistically reliable research about school shootings, but there’s no doubt gun violence is still a serious problem in America. Despite the fact that the gun homicide death has declined substantially in the past two decades,  about 11,000 Americans are still killed every year in firearm homicides. About 19,000 die in gun suicides.

That’s a much higher rate than anywhere else in the developed world. The causes are complicated, but there’s mounting evidence that America’s loose gun laws contribute to both the suicide and homicide problem.

The U.S. “war on terror” has increased terrorism.

Here are the number of terror attacks in Iraq between 1979 and 2011 courtesy of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism Global Terrorism Database (part of a joint government-university program on terrorism, is hosted at the University of Maryland):

Al Qaeda wasn’t even in Iraq until the U.S. invaded that country. And U.S. policy in Libya is partly responsible for sending an influx of Al Qaeda terrorists – and heavy weapons – into Iraq.

And now things are getting a whole lot worse …

You may not have heard, but Al Qaeda allies took over the Iraqi city of Fallujah 6 months ago.

And today, Al Qaeda-linked extremists in Iraq captured Iraq’s second-biggest city, the major oil center of Mosul.

(The jihadis call themselves “The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”.   The fact that the U.S. is backing Al Qaeda in Syria is probably a continuing factor).

To make matters worse, the army fled, so the militants seized huge caches of U.S. supplied weapons, including humvees:

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McClatchy notes the extremists captured:

A civilian airport, a military airport, a military division headquarters, a border crossing with Syria, a weapons depot, government offices, banks and television stations.

Conflict Reporter tweets:

#UNBELIEVABLE FOOTAGE … #ISIS conquers the Iraqi army headquarters in #Mosul, takes/destroys all #US #MRAP|s

They also captured one or more black hawk helicopters. As Conflict Reporter tweets:

#Mosul airport is normally crowded with #Blackhawk and #Kiowa helis. Let’s see how many ended up in #ISIS hands…

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One person tweets:

Black Hawk, one of ghaneemas taken by .

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Moreover, there were:

Surreal scenes in #Mosul, #Iraq as US trained troops leave behind their uniforms and flee from #ISIS to #Kurdistan. pic.twitter.com/eUyL65lnWa

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And mass chaos as civillians tried to flee.  As the BBC reports:

About 150,000 people thought to have fled Iraq city of #Mosul after militants take control http://bbc.in/SurMVl pic.twitter.com/6MzMlp59me

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Mission accomplished?

March 10, 1966: After 31 assassination attempts against his life, Charles De Gaulle ordered France’s withdrawal from NATO’s military integrated command. This decision was formally reversed almost half a century later under Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency.  De Gaulle adopted a foreign policy independent of the Anglo-american axis.

His March 10 1966, not only pertained France’s decision to withdraw from NATO’s integrated military command, but also to remove NATO’s headquarters from French territory, thereby leading the establishment of the Alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.

In today’s World, the leaders of the EU and the Western military alliance, above all the elites of France, Germany, Italy are scared, terrorized of a potential US backlash, a reaction like the “reaction” that produced 31 assassinations attempts against the French leader.

This reaction would no doubt be forthcoming if they decided to defend the national interest of their countries, e.g by opposing the the destabilization of Ukraine and the financial looting of the EU by Wall Street and the city of London.

But this is the historical moment, in which these countries are gambling their future existence as sovereign states, and US political intimidation can be fought back. But these European leaders are corrupt and coopted by Washington.

De Gaulle gave an example and because he challenged openly the forces that tried to kill him — and, above all, kill France as and independent and sovereign country – he won. He was able to send the occupation forces of NATO packing. He won a second Resistance after that against Nazism.

Aldo Moro and Enrico Mattei

Also Aldo Moro, the Italian statesman was probably concerned for his personal security when he decided to go ahead with his project of a strong “non-destabilization” government which was able to avoid what had happened in Chile with the coup against President Salvador Allende in 1973.

But Moro proceeded and there was no Chile-style coup in Italy. He paid with his life, however, in 1978 when a super sophisticated military team presenting itself as Red Brigades kidnapped him, kept him prisoner in the middle of Rome and then murdered him.

And most likely Enrico Mattei was concerned for his life when he defended Italy’s right to economic development and cheap and abundant energy against the so-called Seven Sisters – the international oil company. He was killed in a plane crash in 1962. Today has been ascertained that the plane was sabotaged. Mattei concluded oil and gas deal with the countries of North Africa and Russia independently and against the “advises” of the Seven Sisters cartel.

Alfred Herrhausen

And what about Alfred Herrhausen the paradoxical non-monetarist banker who preached and practiced a debt cancellation for the unpayable debts of several countries? Alfred Herrhausen, the successful and brilliant German banker and economist who knew that one cannot make money from money, but one needs a real economy.

Alfred Herrausen, who prepared a Grand Plan for the development of the real economy of Eastern Europe and Russia after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Alfred Herrhausen, who conducted a war against the monetarist speculators on two fronts, in Germany within his own Deutsche Bank and outside with the IMF, World Bank, Wall Street.

An non-existent “third generation” RAF (Baader Meinhof gang) terrorist team killed him on Nov 30 1989, in a military operation  of a complexity without precedent…

The Deutsche Bank was pushed in the hands of the speculators from the city of London typified by the Merrill Lynch’s Anshu Jain who was allowed to conquer the leadership of the bank, transforming Deutsche Bank into a corrupt swamp that openly sabotaged Germany real economy.

The political leadership of Germany while aware of these tendencies, largely caved into accepting these financial shifts imposed by the Anglo-american banking axis.  This also explains their support of the US sponsored regime in Kiev. The power of these “financial gangsters” over Germany is the real reason why Germany is paralyzed, unable to defend its basic interests and, apparently, pushed into a confrontation with its main economic partner, Russia.

De Gaulle, Herrhausen, Mattei, Moro — these leaders saved whatever is left of Europe today. This foregone European project did not include the Anglo-american financial oligarchy. As De Gaulle made clear, the Europe of independent and sovereign nations he envisioned did not include Britain, which he rightly considered as part of the Anglo-American financial cartel whose main thrust was to weaken and destabilize Europe, while undermining the so-called Franco-German alliance, which broadly prevailed until the onset of the Iraq war in March 2003.

The legacy of these leaders must now be taken up by Europe.

 How De Gaulle did it his way

The author using the pen name of William Torbitt describes how De Gaulle decided to do what looked (and to many European leaders looks, still today) impossible: the immediate expulsion of foreign namely US military forces from French soil. This was a clear example for the leaders of France, Germany, Italy on how a real leader (not a Hollywoodian caricature of a leader) acts in a moment of deep crisis for his country.

Today, Washington and London – and behind them Wall Street and the City of London – are threatening retribution against those political leaders who dare uphold the national interest of their respective countries, while also refusing to accept a confrontation with Russia and China.

These leaders are instructed by Washington to be accomplices in the process of destruction and destabilization of the European project.

From ‘The Assassination Attempt on De Gaulle’ by William Torbitt:

General De Gaulle was furious at the assassination plots and attempted assassination upon himself. He called in his most trusted officers with the French Intelligence Agency and they advised him that they were already working on the investigation to ferret out who was behind DeGaulle’s attempted assassination.

The French Intelligence Agency in a very short while completely traced the assassination attempt through Permindex, the Swiss corporation, to the Solidarists, the Fascist White Russian emigre intelligence organization and Division Five, the espionage section of the FBI, into the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, Belgium.

French intelligence thus determined that the attempts on General De Gaulle’s life were being directed from NATO in Brussels through its various intelligence organizations and specifically, Permindex in Switzerland, basically a NATO intelligence front using the remnants of Adolph Hitler’s intelligence units in West Germany and also, the intelligence unit of the Solidarists headquartered in Munich, Germany. The overall command of the De Gaulle assassination unit was directed by Division Five of the FBI.

Upon learning that the intelligence groups controlled by the Division Five of the FBI in the headquarters of the NATO organization had planned all of the attempts of his life, DeGaulle was inflamed and ordered all NATO units off of French soils. Under the contract between France and NATO, General De Gaulle could not force them to move for a period of time somewhat exceeding one year; yet, he told NATO to get off the soil of France and put the machinery in operation to remove them within the treaty agreements with the organization.

The Defense Intelligence Agency, the intelligence arm of all armed forces in the United States and Division Five, the counter-espionage agency for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, were both found to have been the controlling agencies in NATO directing the assassination attempts on De Gaulle’s life. DIA and Division Five of the FBI were working hand in glove with the White Russian emigre intelligence arm, the Solidarists, and many of the Western European intelligence agencies were not aware of the assassination plan worked directly through NATO headquarters.  http://www.ctrl.org/essay2/torbitt.html

Image Credits: travelgardeneat / Flickr (Lake Superior near Duluth, Minn. on Memorial Day weekend.)

In complete contrast to the claims of “global warming,” Lake Superior has experienced the highest concentration of ice in late May since modern satellite records began in 1980, and the ice coverage may even be the highest since at least 1897.

In comparison, reconstructed past records on the largest of the Great Lakes of North America show that ice coverage for May is typically far, far less and ice is almost unheard of for June, which is fast approaching.

The records also indicate that average April ice coverage for Lake Superior is usually 17%, butthe lake was covered nearly 60% in ice last month.

None of these facts, of course, fit into the “global warming” rhetoric promoted by the White House, which has since rebranded “global warming” as “climate disruption” in an attempt to spin this year’s record cold weather into its carbon tax agenda.

“A growing body of evidence suggests that the extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues,” claimed Obama science czar John P. Holdren, who advocated the formation of a global police force that would enforce totalitarian measures for social control in his 1977 book Ecoscience.

It should be no surprise that someone who would advocate a planetary regime would also advocate the expansion of governments around the world in order to combat so-called “global warming.”

This strategy was laid out in The Report from Iron Mountain, a 1966 think tank study written by government analysts no different than Holdren who explored the ways a government could perpetuate itself in power while preventing its citizens from rebelling.

“Roughly speaking, the presumed power of the ‘enemy’ sufficient to warrant an individual sense of allegiance to a society [government] must be proportionate to the size and complexity of the society,” the report stated. “Today, of course, that power must be one of unprecedented magnitude and frightfulness.”

The report suggested that a suitable candidate for that enemy, the global threat, was the environmental-pollution model, of which “global warming,” or “climate disruption,” fits right into.

“This was viewed as the most likely to succeed because it could be related to observable conditions such as smog and water pollution – in other words, it would be based partly on fact and, therefore, be credible,” G. Edward Griffin wrote in his book The Creature from Jekyll Island. “Predictions could be made showing end-of-earth scenarios just as horrible as atomic warfare.”

“Accuracy in these predictions would not be important; their purpose would be to frighten, not inform.”

And the recent “global warming” predictions pushed by the White House can be described as fear mongering to say the least.

Just last week, Secretary of State John Kerry warned graduates of Boston College that they have utter annihilation to look forward to if they don’t take “climate change” more seriously.

“And I know its hard to feel the urgency as we sit here on an absolutely beautiful morning in Boston,” he said. “You might not see climate change as an immediate threat to your job, your communities or your families.”

“But let me tell you, it is.”

And on Monday, Prince Charles, who shares many of the same views as the Obama administration, suggested that capitalism must end as we know it in order to stop the “dangerously accelerating climate change” that would “bring us to our own destruction.”

Such rhetoric has already increased anxiety levels across the board for children who are now afraid the planet is doomed due to “climate disruption” and populations around the world are being told that “climate change” will displace millions of people, increase violent crimes and rapes and wipe trillions from world economies.

“The masses would more willingly accept a falling standard of living, tax increases and bureaucratic intervention in their lives as simply ‘the price we must pay to save Mother Earth,” Griffin added. “A massive battle against death and destruction from global pollution [such as global warming] possibly could replace war as justification for social control.”

In what may be the bloodiest “friendly fire” incident involving US troops in 13 years of war and occupation in Afghanistan, five special operations soldiers were killed Monday in an air strike they themselves had called in against Afghan insurgents who ambushed their patrol.

The incident took place in a remote area of southern Zabul province, which borders Kandahar and is a center of armed opposition to the US-backed regime in Kabul.

The deaths came just days before the June 14 second round of Afghan presidential elections and in the wake of US President Barack Obama’s announcement of plans for a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, now numbering approximately 33,000 out of a total of nearly 50,000 US, NATO and other foreign forces that occupy the country.

“The casualties occurred during a security operation when the unit came into contact with enemy forces,” the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement Tuesday. “Tragically, there is the possibility that fratricide may have been involved. The incident is under investigation.”

Afghan sources, however, left no doubt that the deaths were caused by a US air strike. “After an operation, the troops were on the way back to their base when they were ambushed by the Taliban,” an aide to the governor of Zabul province told the Wall Street Journal. “They called on an air strike, and the strike mistakenly killed them.” The official reported that, in addition to the five American special operations troops, an Afghan army officer and an Afghan interpreter were also killed.

In a statement published online, a spokesman for the Taliban, Qari Mohammad Yusof Ahmadi, said fighters from the Arghandab District in Zabul Province reported that they had “conducted an armed attack on invading forces in the Magzak area near Qala village of this district at 2100 [local time] last night.”

The statement continued:

“Following the attack, enemy helicopters arrived in the area and heavily bombarded their own soldiers, who were on foot. Eyewitnesses say that they saw half of the body of one invading soldier, the body of another invading soldier and 17 hands and feet at the scene of the incident. All praises be to God mojahedin [Taliban fighters] were not hurt in the clash.”

An NBC News report, however, quoted US officials as saying the strike was carried out by a B-1 Stealth bomber and “somehow went terribly awry.”

Similar “friendly fire” incidents have taken place throughout the 13 years of the Afghan war, in which US and other foreign forces have relied heavily on air support to defend themselves from Afghan forces opposing the occupation.

Just last March, five Afghan Army soldiers were killed in the eastern province of Logar after a NATO air strike was called in against their position. And in 2002, four Canadian troops died when a US warplane dropped a bomb on them as they were carrying out a live-fire exercise.

US use of air power became a major bone of contention between the US military and the puppet government of President Hamid Karzai, who condemned air strikes carried out against villages and other populated areas for inflicting high numbers of civilian casualties.

He made an end to both air strikes and night raids against Afghan homes a condition for signing a bilateral security agreement with the US providing for the continued deployment of American troops in the country. Karzai has still not signed the agreement, which Washington insists must include guarantees that no American forces will be liable under Afghan or international law for war crimes carried out in the country.

However, both contenders in the June 14 run-off election—Abdullah Abudllah, a former “foreign minister” for the warlords of the Northern Alliance, and Ashraf Ghani, a former senior official at the World Bank and a US citizen—have both vowed to sign the deal demanded by Washington and made clear they will subordinate themselves to US interests.

While Obama announced last month that the US military presence in Afghanistan would be reduced to 9,800 troops by the beginning of 2015, and US officials have indicated that only some 1,000 US troops would still be in the country after 2016, there is no doubt that the kind of fighting that resulted in the “friendly fire” deaths of the five special operations soldiers Monday will continue indefinitely.

Pentagon officials revealed last week that out of the 9,800 US soldiers and Marines who will remain in Afghanistan at the beginning of 2015, at least 1,800, or close to 20 percent, will be special operations forces dedicated to conducting so-called “anti-terror” operations alongside elements of the Afghan Army. US officials said that they are counting on the American special ops forces being augmented by their counterparts from Britain and Australia.

While Washington has claimed that these operations will be directed against Al Qaeda, American military and intelligence officials have long acknowledged that the Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan is negligible. The real target of these attacks are the Taliban and other armed groups opposed to the US-led occupation and the Western-backed regime in Kabul.

US military forces remaining behind in Afghanistan will be augmented by thousands of private contractors, whose numbers will significantly exceed those of American uniformed personnel. Last month, the web site Salon reported the details of a leaked document from SAIC, one of the largest US military and intelligence contractors. The document outlines the main areas covered by a five-year, $400 million contract between the Pentagon and the corporation. These include “Expeditionary Warfare, Irregular Warfare, Special Operations, Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations.” The deal, which expires in 2015, is being renewed.

The article quoted a spokesman for the Pentagon agency handling the contract as saying these deadly functions could be contracted out to private contractors because they “do not require either the exercise of discretion in applying government authority or the making of value judgments in making decisions for the government.”

The latest casualties bring the total number of American deaths in “Operation Enduring Freedom,” as the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan was dubbed, to 2,330. The total number of US-led foreign occupation troops killed has risen to 3,449, including 453 British soldiers, 158 Canadians and others from 27 different countries.

Afghan casualties certainly number in the many tens of thousands. Last year alone, nearly 3,000 civilians were killed. According to a report issued by the International Crisis Group, the number of casualties in the same year—both killed and wounded—rose to an estimated 9,500 for anti-government fighters and 8,200 for Afghan security forces.

According to the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Powers will travel to Jordan and then Turkey to discuss a “range of issues, including the effects of the conflict in Syria.”

The meetings are to take place starting on June 10th until the 14th. Powers is a war hawk and a supporter of the American Empire who has advocated for air strikes against the government of Bashar al-Assad in the past. Powers wrote an article for the New Republic that explains her stance, the title alone says it all ‘Force Full.’ She wrote:

These days, though, the best argument for marrying power and principle is that power exerted in a unilateralist, morally selective, ahistoric, unprincipled fashion is not simply harming foreigners; it is gravely undermining U.S. security. The terrorists will thrive in a sea of anti- Americanism. That sea will not be drained by adding another $46 billion to the U.S. defense budget. It will not be drained by training more Arabists in the U. S. government. Liberals and conservatives, hawks and doves alike, must see that American power can be a force for human rights around the world, and greater human rights enjoyment is an indispensible requirement for the preservation of U.S. power.

Embedding U.S. power in an international system and demonstrating humility would be painful, unnatural steps for any empire, never mind the most potent empire in the history of mankind. But more pain now will mean far less pain later

It is a bold statement made by Powers to admit that the US Empire is a force for good in the world. In a 2013 speech at the Center for American Progress, Powers explains to the audience why limited off-shore strikes against Syria were necessary. She said:

From 1992, when the Bosnian genocide started, til 1995, when President Clinton launched the air strikes that stopped the war, public opinion consistently opposed military action there. Even after we succeed in ending the war, and negotiating a peace settlement, the House of representatives, reflecting public opinion, voted against deploying American troops to a NATO peace-keeping mission.

There is no question that this deployment of American power saved lives and returns stability to a critical region of the world and a critical region for the United States.

We all have a choice to make, whether we are Republicans or Democrats, whether we have supported past military interventions or opposed to them, whether we have argued for or such action in Syria prior to this point

The Obama administration is re-launching a campaign to remove President Bashar al-Assad even though he won more than 88% of votes in recent elections which does legitimize his presidency. What will the US government attempt besides aiding the rebels with more military hardware? Will they attempt to launch limited air strikes into Syrian territory? Better yet, Will Turkey and Jordan follow Washington’s orders to destabilize Syria?

The Turkish government has supported Syrian opposition groups who crossed into Syrian borders with US backing. Turkey also has a joint military-intelligence apparatus with Israel that gathers information on Syria. Turkey has also pressured Damascus to conform to Washington’s demands for regime change. Turkey and Jordan has given covert support to the Syrian rebels including the transfer of weapons across borders since the civil war began. Turkey and Jordan is subservient to Washington and Israel. Samantha Powers is planning the next step to remove the Assad government with the help of both Turkish and Jordanian governments.

Powers or the Obama administration is not interested in preventing war or genocide of innocent civilians as Powers has claimed in the past, it really is about US imperial ambitions over the resource rich Middle East region.

At the moment, most global trade is conducted in U.S. dollars and more than 60 percent of all global foreign exchange reserves are held in U.S. dollars. This gives the United States an enormous built-in advantage, but thanks to decades of incredibly bad decisions by America, this advantage is starting to erode.

Discussions and rumours about “de-dollarization” have been circulating for some years now, but finally, the Eurasian anti-U.S. Dollar axis is rapidly taking shape, with recent events catalysed and certainly accelerated by U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine, which has merely succeeded in pushing Russia that much closer, and faster, to China.

The heads of three Russian banks said recently that Russian companies will make bypassing the U.S. dollar in international transactions a top priority, in the latest sign that Russia is turning its back on the West and moving toward Asia. The head of Deutsche Bank in Russia, Pavel Teplukhin, said: “Over the last few weeks there has been a significant interest in the market from large Russian corporations to start using various products in [Chinese] renminbi and other Asian currencies and to set up accounts in Asian locations.” These developments follow Russia’s state VTB bank deal with Bank of China to pay each other in domestic currencies. Furthermore, Alexei Miller, the head of Russian state-owned Gazprom, which supplies Europe with 30 percent of its natural gas supply, announced that the oil company would shift “nine out of 10” payment contracts from dollars to euros, with the ultimate goal of transitioning those contracts to roubles of renminbi.

Russia is not the only country that aims to de-dollarize. The Chinese are now accelerating their long-term plan to dethrone the U.S. dollar. It is important to note that China currently owns about 1.3 trillion dollars of U.S. debt, and this enormous exposure to U.S. debt is starting to become a major political issue within China. The country is also the largest producer of gold in the world, and it has also been importing massive amount of gold from other nations. But instead of slowing down, the Chinese appear to be accelerating their gold buying. Many are convinced that China eventually plans to back the yuan with gold and try to make it the number one alternative to the U.S. dollar.

The aggressive policy of Washington over the last few years has created a sense of urgency for countries such as Russia and China to act fast to protect their interests. The financial crisis of 2008 was also a reminder that the neo-liberal world order created by America is not stable and is not beneficial to the global economic system. Though complete de-dollarization is still a long way away, the process has begun and is unlikely to reverse.

Alexander Clackson is the founder of Global Political Insight, a political media and research organisation. He has a Master’s degree in International Relations. Alexander works as a political consultant and frequently contributes to think-tank and media outlets.

Iraq plunged further toward full-scale civil war Tuesday when Sunni insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) took control of most of Mosul after four days of fighting.

ISIS (also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham) seized government buildings, television stations, police headquarters, prisons, military installations and the airport in the country’s second largest city when Iraqi army and police forces abandoned their posts and weapons and fled.

The collapse of government forces, said to number 60,000 in the region, before several hundred insurgents is a humiliation for the central government, exposing its extreme weakness and placing a question mark over its continued existence. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has presided over a sectarian Shia government that has alienated Sunni tribal leaders by removing leading Sunnis from office and otherwise marginalizing them.

Coming just two and a half years after the withdrawal of the last of a US occupation force that at its peak numbered over 157,000—deployed in a war sold to the US public as a struggle against terrorism—the fall of Mosul to Al Qaeda-linked guerrillas also constitutes a searing indictment of the criminal character of US policy in the region.

With the takeover of the west bank and center of Mosul, a mostly Sunni city of 1.8 million people 220 miles north of Baghdad, ISIS controls a large swath of territory stretching from the eastern outskirts of Aleppo in Syria to Fallujah and part of Ramadi in Iraq’s western Anbar Province, to large parts of Nineveh Province and its capital, Mosul.

ISIS’ goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate comprising the two countries.

Iraq has been hit in recent months by an eruption of sectarian bombings and killings, mostly directed against Shiite Muslims, Kurds and Christians. ISIS practices a particularly savage form of Sunni fanaticism, carrying out widespread massacres of civilians in both Syria and Iraq.

Mosul is known as the political capital of northern Iraq and is strategically located on the border of the autonomous Kurdish region, home to large oil reserves. The city is a key transit point for exports of Iraqi petroleum. It has been at the center of a power struggle between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government over control of the oil in the region.

On Tuesday, Maliki went on television to declare a nationwide state of “maximum preparedness” and request that the Iraqi parliament approve a state of emergency. He did not, however, indicate how or when he would attempt to dislodge ISIS from Mosul. The jihadist group has maintained control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi since early January, beating back all attempts by government forces to retake the cities.

Officials in Nineveh urged Kurdish authorities to mobilize their peshmerga military force against the ISIS attackers, but Kurdish spokesmen said they had first to receive a request from the central government in Baghdad. The population on the east bank of Mosul, which has as yet not been occupied by ISIS, is mostly Kurdish. Maliki gave no indication of making such a request in his remarks Tuesday.

The ISIS offensive in Mosul has compounded a worsening humanitarian crisis. The United Nations refugee agency reported last week that nearly 500,000 people had been displaced so far this year in fighting, primarily in Anbar Province. The BBC reported Tuesday that some 150,000 people had already fled Mosul. The Mosul refugees are heading to nearby Kurdistan to seek protection from marauding ISIS forces.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Mahmoud Al Taie, a dentist, saying, “The whole of Mosul collapsed today. We’ve fled our homes and neighborhoods, and we’re looking for God’s mercy. We are waiting to die.”

Reuters cited Amina Ibrahim, who was leaving the city with her children. She said, “Mosul is now like hell. It’s in flames and death is everywhere.” Her husband had been killed last year in a bombing. The news agency cited one of its reporters as seeing “the bodies of soldiers and policemen, some mutilated, littering the streets.”

The UN estimates that 8,868 people were killed in Iraq in 2013, the worst death toll since the height of the sectarian fighting in 2006 and 2007. The UN mission in Iraq reported that May was the deadliest month so far this year, with 799 Iraqis killed in violence, including 603 civilians. The past few days, in addition to the fighting in Mosul, have seen ISIS attacks in a number of cities and a wave of sectarian bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere. On Tuesday, bombs exploded near a funeral procession in Baquba, 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 20 people.

On Sunday and Monday, offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Communist Party of Kurdistan in Diyala Province, north of Baghdad, were bombed, killing some 40 people in all. ISIS claimed responsibility for these attacks.

Last week, ISIS sent a column of fighters into Samara, a Sunni city that includes a famous Shia shrine, and stormed Anbar University outside Ramadi, taking some 100 students hostage. ISIS withdrew its forces from both places after being challenged by government forces and released most of the hostages taken at the university.

On Saturday night, seven car bombs exploded within an hour in Baghdad, killing at least 52 people, mostly Shiites.

Washington reacted with alarm to the ISIS seizure of Mosul. There are reports that the insurgents gained access to bank deposits and government funds in addition to seizing advanced weaponry, including helicopters and planes, from the fleeing Iraqi troops. ISIS also freed hundreds of prisoners, mostly ISIS and Al Qaeda supporters, who are likely to join the insurgency.

The US has been attempting to isolate and subdue ISIS in Syria, mobilizing other jihadist forces, including the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, in order to create the conditions to resume its war for regime-change against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It does not want to see ISIS increase its influence in Iraq. The private intelligence service Stratfor reported Tuesday that Washington has accelerated its arming of the Baghdad regime since the fall of Fallujah and Ramadi in January. According to Stratfor, the US has increased its sale of small arms, ammunition and Hellfire missiles to Baghdad, is training Iraq’s special forces in Jordan, and plans to deliver the first F-16 jets to the Iraqi regime before the end of the year.

The US State Department issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned” by the developments in Mosul and that Washington would “support a strong, coordinated response.”

The statement went on to say that the United Sates would “provide all appropriate assistance to the government of Iraq,” adding that ISIS was “not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region.”

This is the height of hypocrisy and cynicism. US imperialism is entirely responsible for the catastrophe engulfing Iraq, including the rise of forces such as ISIS. The American invasion and nearly decade-long occupation killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, wounded countless more, turned millions into refugees and destroyed the economic and social infrastructure of the country.

While the Bush administration fabricated claims that there were ties between the Saddam Hussein regime and Al Qaeda in an attempt to convince the American public that the war of aggression was retaliation for 9/11, in reality there was no Al Qaeda presence in Iraq until after the US invasion toppled the Iraqi government.

Washington deliberately fomented and exploited sectarian differences in order to overthrow the Sunni-based regime of Saddam Hussein and destroy the Baathist political establishment. It then encouraged Shia resentment against the old Sunni-based elite and installed a Shia sectarian government in order to block the emergence of a unified opposition to its neo-colonial occupation. This created a fertile environment for Al Qaeda-linked forces.

In Syria, it has similarly played the sectarian card in its attempt to pit the majority Sunni population against the Assad regime. The US has promoted, financed and armed Sunni jihadist forces such as ISIS to wage the civil war that has devastated that country.

Detention under spurious charges in Ethiopia is nothing new. With the second highest rate of imprisoned journalists in Africa[1] and arbitrary detention for anyone who openly objects to the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime’s despotic iron fist, the Western backed government in Addis Ababa is a dab hand at silencing its critics.

Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu are just two of the country’s more famous examples of journalists thrown in prison for daring to call the EPRFD out on their reckless disregard for human rights. This April the regime made headlines again for jailing six[2] bloggers and three more journalists on trumped up charges of inciting violence through their journalistic work. Repeated calls for due legal process for the detainees from human rights organisations and politicians, such as John Kerry, have fallen on deaf ears as they languish in uncertainty awaiting trial. This zero-tolerance approach to questioning of government repression is central to the EPRDF’s attempts to control its national and international image and doesn’t show much signs of letting up.

Stepping up their counter-dissent efforts the regime just this week detained another journalist Elias Gebru – the editor-in-chief of the independent news magazine Enku. Gebru’s magazine is accused of inciting student protests[3] which rocked Oromia state at the end of April. The magazine published a column which discussed the building of a monument[4] outside Addis Ababa honouring the massacre of Oromos by Emperor Melinik in the 19th century. The regime has tried to tie the column with protests against its plans to bring parts of Oromia state under Addis Ababa’s jurisdiction. The protests, which kicked off at Ambo University and spread to other parts of the state, resulted in estimates[5] of up to 47 people being shot dead by security forces.

Ethiopia has a history of student protest movements setting the wheels of change in motion. From student opposition to imperialism in the 1960s and 1970s to the early politicisation of Meles Zenawi at the University Students’ Union of Addis Ababa.  The world over things begin to change when people stand up, say enough and mobilise. Ethiopia is no different. Similar to its treatment of journalists Ethiopia also has a history of jailing students and attempting to eradicate their voices. In light of such heavy handed approaches to dissent the recent protests which started at Ambo University are a telling sign of the level discontent felt by the Oromo – the country’s largest Ethnic group. Long oppressed by the Tigrayan dominated EPRDF, the Oromo people may have just started a movement which has potential ramifications for a government bent on maintaining its grip over the ethnically diverse country of 90 million plus people.

Students and universities are agents of change and the EPRDF regime knows this very well. The deadly backlash from government forces against the student protesters in Oromia in April resulted in dozens[6] of protesters reportedly being shot dead in the streets of Ambo and other towns in Oromia state. Since the protests began scores more have been arbitrarily detained or vanished without a trace from campuses and towns around the state. One student leader, Deratu Abdeta  (a student at Dire Dawa University) is currently unlawfully detained in the notorious Maekelawi prison for fear she may encourage other students to protest. She is a considered at high risk of being tortured.

In addition to Ms. Abdeta many other students are suspected of being unlawfully detained around the country. On May 27th 13 students were abducted from Haramaya University by the security forces. The fate of 12 of the students is unknown but one student, Alsan Hassan, has reportedly committed suicide by cutting his own throat all the way to the bones at the back of his neck after somehow managing to inflict bruises all over his body and gouging out his own eye. His tragic death became known when a local police officer called his family to identify the body and told them to pay 10,000 Birr ($500) to transport his body from Menelik hospital in Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa town in Oromo state.  Four of the other students have been named as Lencho Fita Hordofa, Ararsaa Lagasaa, Jaaraa Margaa, and Walabummaa Goshee.

Detaining journalists and students without fair judicial recourse may serve the EPRDF regime’s short term goal of eradicating its critics. However, the reprehensible silencing of opponents is one sure sign of a regime fearful of losing its vice-like grip. Ironically the government itself has its own roots in student led protests in the 1970s. No doubt it is well aware that universities pose one of the greatest threats to its determination to maintain power at all costs. Countless reports of spies monitoring student and teacher activities on campus, rigid curriculum control and micro-managing just who gets to study what are symptoms of this. The vociferous clamp-down on student protesters is another symptom and just the regime’s latest attempt to keep Ethiopia in a violent headlock. The regime would do well to remember that stress positions cause cramps and headlocks can be broken. It can try to suppress the truth but it can’t try forever.

Paul O’Keeffe is a Doctoral Fellow at Sapienza University of Rome. His research focuses on Ethiopia’s developing higher education system.

[1] http://www.cpj.org/2014/05/ethiopia-holds-editor-in-chief-without-charge.php
[2] http://allafrica.com/stories/201404290650.html
[3] http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/may/22/ethiopia-crackdown-student-protest-education
[4] http://www.war-memorial.net/Aanolee-Martyrs-memorial-monument-and-cultural-center-1.367
[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-27251331
[6] http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/05/ethiopia-brutal-crackdown-protests

Socialism is by no means dead, except in the minds of much of what passes for the Left in the West. Socialists are struggling to overcome capitalist relations of power in various places around the world. “Radicals would benefit much from studying the cooperative economic and political structures of the Bolivarian process.”

After over two decades since the destabilization of the socialist bloc, the debate brought on by Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” proclamation has taken a turn left.  “The end of history” argument was the bourgeoisie’s claim to victory over socialism. Capitalism and imperialism have indeed expanded, ravaging the people of the world with poverty, war, racism, and instability in every corner of the planet.  Yet, Fukuyama’s implied conclusion of socialism’s defeat was, and still is, dead wrong. The world is far from a “post-ideological” order. Although not the only example of a still existing and developing challenge to global capitalism, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution in particular has inspired a left movement in Latin America called 21st Century Socialism.  What can revolutionaries and radicals in the US learn from this movement as we rebuild our forces in the US imperial center?

The fact that socialism is becoming more “popular” in the US is reason enough to examine the idea of 21st Century Socialism further.  A Pew Research Center Poll in 2011 found that nearly half of young people in the US find socialism favorable over capitalism.  However, socialism’s definition is unclear in the study. Arguably, the meaning of socialism is unclear for most left-leaning folk in the US whose primary source of information is the corporate media and capitalist education.  21st Century socialism has the potential to provide renewed clarity for progressive and radical forces in the US desperately seeking a model of resistance against US imperialism.

In Venezuela, 21st century socialism represents a break from US-sponsored imperialism and neo-liberalism. From the power and organization of the nation’s working class and poor, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has implemented vast political and economic changes to Venezuelan society.  Social welfare programs, called “Missions,” have greatly reduced poverty, homelessness, and unequal access to healthcare and education.  Politically, the electoral process has been transformed from a two-party competition between the wealthy national elite into a practice of direct-democracy. Neighborhood ”Bolivarian circles” and a revised Constitution ensure popular participation in all branches of government.  These reforms have caught the attention of imperialist instruments.  The UN heralded Venezuela for reducing poverty in the region more than any other Latin American country in 2012.  Former US president Jimmy Carter called Venezuela’s election process “the best in the world.”

21st Century socialism has the potential to provide renewed clarity for progressive and radical forces in the US.”

Revolutionaries in the US have much to learn from the Bolivarian process. While Venezuelans are building infrastructure for universal healthcare, education, and housing, the US government is privatizing these human necessities. The leadership of the Bolivarian government has taken defiant positions against US imperialism in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, while some who pose as left “leadership” in the US has been caught cheering US imperial invasions from Libya to Syria.  Organizing efforts like Jackson Rising in Mississippi remain anomalies in the US. Radicals would benefit much from studying the cooperative economic and political structures of the Bolivarian process. Such structures have allowed Venezuela’s revolutionary leadership and masses to defend the gains of the revolution from imperialist subversion and deepen the revolutionary process despite the untimely death of Hugo Chavez in 2013.

It is important that radicals in the US avoid romanticizing the Bolivarian Revolution and 21st Century socialism, but do so with solidarity and internationalism in mind.  The US’s racist and capitalist roots have been a centuries-long roadblock to socialist construction. This has been true since European colonialism bloodily uprooted communal and collective indigenous societies in the Americas five centuries ago.  When the US took the reigns as top imperial power halfway through the 20th century, anti-communism and racism were combined into a comprehensive domestic and international strategy for capitalist domination over the growing influence of the socialist Soviet Union and China in world affairs. US intelligence (COINTELPRO) neutralized communists and socialists in the US at the same time that the US military apparatus was conducting imperialist invasions of Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and many other nations around the world that were breaking free from imperialist rule. 21st Century socialism in Venezuela overlooks this history in a balancing act with current global political conditions.  The Bolivarian revolution is building its political and economic infrastructure in the midst of US imperialist attack, and US radicals would do well to understand the affect of these concrete conditions on the political direction of this movement.

The Bolivarian revolutionary movement for 21st century socialism has positioned itself as a “third way” to distinguish the movement from the racist “Cold War” rhetoric that painted capitalism as “benevolent” and communism and socialism as “evil.”  Although Venezuela’s socialist movement has taken firm positions in defense of nations under imperialist attack, 21st century socialism’s “third way” politics present future problems for implementation in the US imperialist center. A revived and rejuvenated US radicalism needs to build a clear internationalist framework that defends and learns from all nations currently struggling against imperialism, not just Venezuela. This means fighting the racism and mythology surrounding nations like Cuba and North Korea, two socialist countries that have transformed their societies to better meet the needs of workers and peasants despite a decades-long struggle against US imperialism. It also means revisiting the conflict between the Soviet Union and the US, a period of history that needs desperate revision after nearly a century-long disinformation campaign waged by US imperialism.  Simply put, US radicals and revolutionaries need to take a firm position on the self-determination of all nations and peoples to their own political and economic destinies, something 21st Century socialism leaves open to debate within its “third way” non-communist but yet non-capitalist framing.

The Bolivarian revolution is building its political and economic infrastructure in the midst of US imperialist attack.”

US radicals and revolutionaries cannot emulate the creation of “one…two…many Vietnams” that Che Guevara had in mind for the anti-imperialist struggle of the Third-World when it comes to building a “21st Century” socialist movement in the US imperial center.  It is impossible to fathom an alternative model of economic development existing in the US alongside the imperialist state. Venezuela is currently under threat of US sanctions and has been struggling for years against US-coup attempts and proxy violence.  Many of Venezuela’s continued problems with inflation and instability derive from the intentional obstruction of and hostility to working class power from Venezuela’s oligarchy. Radicals and revolutionaries in the US have more than a few tasks ahead of them, one of them being the obligation to stand in solidarity with sovereign nations against imperialism. Another critical task is to begin defining and promoting socialism as the transfer of property, wealth, and production out of the private grips of the capitalist class and into the collective hands of the workers, oppressed, and exploited everywhere.  This is the definition of socialism that needs to endure into the 21st century and beyond.

Danny Haiphong is an activist and case manager in the Greater Boston area. You can contact Danny at: [email protected]

As the war in the southeast of (former) Ukraine rages on, more proof is emerging of active Polish participation there. This participation has thus far been indirect (i.e. no official Polish military units), although this does not mean that it is no less lethal. Not only has Poland been complicit in training urban terrorists in the run-up to the EuroMaidan chaos, but it has also sent loads of mercenaries to forcibly put down the anti-coup protesters rising up against the junta.

Now, photographic proof linking Poland to the Ukrainian madness has arisen. Jerzy Dziewulski, the security advisor to former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, was photographed last week with Turchynov in Slavyansk. Dziewulski is a notorious counter-terrorism expert, having been trained in the US, Israel, France, and Germany, and he currently runs his own private ‘security’ organization. Despite Sikorski playing dumb about the presence of Polish mercenaries in Ukraine and saying he’d “report the fact to the country’s prosecution office”, Dziewulski’s photo with Turchynov proves that he is lying. In reality, Sikorski and Dziewulski represent Poland’s strategic and tactical interference in Ukraine’s civil conflict, and one can no longer be separated from the other.

Photo taken at the outskirts of Slavyansk, at the HQ of Ukrainian "antiterrorist operation" command. Jerzy Dziewulski (left) and Alexander Turchinov (center).

Photo taken on the outskirts of Slavyansk, at the HQ of Ukrainian “antiterrorist operation” command. Jerzy Dziewulski (left) and Alexander Turchinov (center).

Reports of mercenary teams operating in (former) Ukraine started sprouting up on the eve of the Kievan junta’s punitive operation in April, but only recently has proof begun to emerge of Poland’s contribution to this force. The late-May report about Polish mercenaries being shipped to Ukraine was almost immediately challenged by Sikorski, despite Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister stressing that foreign mercenaries, “particularly from Poland”, are active on the ground. Sikorski is now just as easily dismissingthe actual capturing of these mercenaries and their Polish commanders, with the Polish Foreign Ministry simply stating that such information is “black propaganda”. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since Sikorski is on record nearly a week prior speaking about the illegality of these mercenaries in the first place, and thus, he will never confirm that they exist. Now that the photo of Dziewulski (dressed in full combat fatigues, helmet, and appearing to have a pistol holstered to his chest) with Turchynov in Slavyansk has hit the internet, it is impossible to deny Poland’s participation in that conflict zone.

To properly understand the significance of the photo in catching the Polish government red-handed, a few words must be said about Dziewulski. As taken from his website, he is an anti-terrorism expert who founded Poland’s Commission for Special Services (special forces). He is licensed in mine warfare, pyrotechnics, and as a sniper. He underwent operational training in Israel, the US, Germany, and France, even training with the State Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms during his time in America. He advertises himself as the premier expert on all things related to security, including the use of security companies (read: private military companies) and the “customization of security plans” (read: directing the mercenary offensives). Considering his previous intimate association with Kwasniewski, it is highly probable that he is an important cog in Poland’s national security complex. This makes it all the less likely that Sikorski would not know about such a high-profile government-connected individual’s militant involvement in a festering conflict next door.

Jerzy Dziewulski

Jerzy Dziewulski

What has transpired is that Sikorski and Dziewulski have commandeered Polish policy towards Ukraine and now present a unified two-pronged offensive against the people in Donbass. Sikorski,maneuvering for the EU’s top foreign policy spot, has almost completely overshadowed Poland’s own Prime Minister, whom 69% of Europeans can’t even recognize. Sikorski’s approach is to present the high-level strategy that Poland uses to advance its interests in the lands of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the revival of which the Yanukovich-era head of Ukraine’s security services credits as motivating Polish participation in the February coup).

Dziewulski represents a more underhanded and, prior to the photo’s publication, covert approach towards the east. He is the on-the-ground militant power that tactically carries out Sikorski’s strategy. His extensive previous experience could even possibly mean that it is he who is controlling the legions of mercenaries scouring Donbass (and thus responsible for any war crimes carried out by them. After all, it is not likely that Turchynov would waste his time being photographed with an insignificant (which we know Dziewulski is not) figure near the front lines of his offensive. Sikorski and Dziewulski together thus form a unified and aggressive combination of ‘brains and brawn’ that represent the arm and hammer of the ‘Slavic Turkey’s’ Neo-Commonwealth plans.

Andrew Korybko is the American Master’s Degree student at the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO).

The Fateful Triangle: Russia, Ukraine and the Jews

June 11th, 2014 by Israel Shamir

The erotic reliefs of Hindu temples with their gravity-defying and anatomy-challenging positions have found a new modern competitor in the Ukrainian crisis. Each party wants to get the Jews on their side, while claiming that the other side is anti-Jewish and a Jewish puppet at once. This impossible, Kama-Sutraesque position is the result of extremely confusing alliances: the Kiev regime lists devout Jews and fiery antisemites among its mainstays.

The leading figures of the regime (including the president-elect) are of Jewish origin; strongman and chief financier Mr. Igor (Benya) Kolomoysky is a prominent Jewish public figure, the builder of many synagogues and a supporter of Israel. The most pro-active force of the regime, the ultra-nationalists of the Svoboda party and the Right Sector, admire Hitler and his Ukrainian Quisling, Stepan Bandera, “liberators of Ukraine from the Judeo-Muscovite yoke”. Jews are ambivalent, and the sides are ambivalent about them, and a most dramatic intrigue has been hatched.

The Russians tried to pull Israel and American Jews to their side, with little success. President Putin condemned the antisemitism of the Svoboda party; he mentioned the desecration of the Odessa Jewish cemetery in his important talk.

The Russians re-vitalised the World War Two narrative, fully identifying the Kiev regime with the Bandera gangs and the Nazi enemy. Still, this rhetoric is not taken seriously by Jews who refuse to feel threatened by cuddly Kolomoysky. “These Nazis are not against Jews, they are against Russians, so it is not a Jewish problem”, they say.

The Kiev regime mirrored the Russian attitude, if not Russia’s tactics. Being rather short of facts to brandish, they faked a leaflet from Donetsk rebels to local Jews calling upon them to register and pay a special poll tax “for the Jews support the Kiev regime”. This rude and improbable hoax was immediately and convincingly disproved, but not before it was used by, no less, Barak Obama and John Kerry.

The American Jewish newspaper of record, The Forward, obfuscated the issue by saying that Russians and Ukrainians are antisemites by birth and their denials are to be taken with a grain of salt. This mud-slinging was effective – the hoax has made the front pages, while its debunking was published on the back pages.

The Russians had the facts on their side, and the West knew that: the US refused entry to Oleg Tyagnibok and other Svoboda leaders (now members of Kiev government) because of their antisemitism as recently as 2013. But Russian appeals to Jewish and American sensitivities failed to make an impact. They know when to feign indignation and when to hush.

Pro-Hitler commemorations are frequent in Estonia, Latvia, Croatia, and cause no lifting of a censorious brow, for these countries are solidly anti-Russian. In March of this year, the Obama administration’s special envoy on anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, flatly denied everything and said to the Forward that Putin’s assertions of Svoboda’s antisemitism “were not credible”. The US wants to decide who is an antisemite and who is not; like Hermann Goering wanted to decide who is a Jew and who is not in the Luftwaffe. In the Ukrainian crisis, the Jews remain divided, and follow their countries’ preferences.

Israel is neutral

Recently Prime Minister Netanyahu called President Putin. Putin is always available for and always courteous to Netanyahu, as opposed to President Obama, who shows signs of irritation. (Admittedly Obama has to listen to Netanyahu much more often and for hours.) Netanyahu apologised that he wouldn’t be able to come to St Petersburg for Israeli Culture Week; instead, old reliable Shimon Peres, Israel’s President, will make the trip. He apologised for leaking the news of this visit cancellation to the media, as well.

This is quite typical for the Israeli PM: at first, he asks for an invitation, Russia extends it, then he cancels his visit and leaks it to the press, thus earning brownie points with the Americans. He did it at the Sochi Olympic games, and now again, in St Petersburg. This is his way of expressing Israeli neutrality.

Israel is explicitly neutral in the Ukrainian crisis. Israelis walked out and did not vote on the UN GA Crimea resolution at all, annoying its American sponsors. The Israelis had a flimsy excuse: their Foreign Office was on strike. The Americans weren’t satisfied with this explanation. Strike or not, vote you must!

We learned from our Israeli colleagues the details of the Putin-Netanyahu phone conversation, which elaborated the reasons for Israeli neutrality. Israel is worried that as an asymmetric response to the US sanctions, Russia would deliver its potent air defence systems to Iran and Syria. Iran and Russia had signed a weapons supply contract a few years ago, Iran duly paid; then the shipment was suspended. Iran went to court demanding a massive compensation for the breach of contract. Likewise, the Syrians were supposed to get the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, able to protect its skies from Israeli raids.

The deliveries commenced; PM Netanyahu beseeched Putin to put it on hold. Initially Putin objected, stressing the defensive nature of the system. Netanyahu told the Russian president that the S-300 would allow the Syrians to cover the whole North of Israel, at least all the way to Haifa, rendering important airfields unusable and endangering civil aviation as well. Putin agreed to stop the deliveries.

Vladimir Putin is friendly to Israel. He promised he would not allow the destruction of Israel; he promised to save its population if the situation should become truly dangerous. During the recent visit of PM Netanyahu to Moscow, Putin was not carried away by Netanyahu and Liberman’s hints of possible Israeli re-alliance with Moscow instead of Washington. He told the Israelis that their ties with the US are too strong for such a re-alliance being conceivable. Putin said that Russia is satisfied with the present level of friendship and does not demand that Tel Aviv weaken its ties with Washington. Putin visited Israel a few times, he received the Israeli PM in Kremlin. The Israeli ambassador Mme Golender sees Putin more often than do her American or French counterparts.

This friendly attitude has a down-to-earth reason: Putin is not fluent in English or French, while Mme Ambassador speaks Russian to him, eliminating the bothersome need of an interpreter. A deeper reason is Putin’s background: a scion of liberal elites, brought up in St Petersburg, schooled by ultra-liberal Mayor Sobchack, anointed by Boris Yeltsin, Putin is naturally friendly to Jews and to Israel. This friendly attitude annoyed some Russian ultra-patriots, who excitedly circulated his photo taken in the obligatory kippah near the Wailing Wall. They also counted and recounted the names of Jewish oligarchs in Moscow.

True, some of them – Berezovsky, Gusinsky, Hodorkovsky – had to flee their Russian homeland, but the Russian president is surely not the Jewish-tycoons-Nemesis and the-new-Hitler he is sometimes made out to be. Abramovich and Friedman, to name just two, retain his trust and access. Putin does not mind any oligarch (Jewish or Gentile) – as long as he stays out of politics.

Putin is also friendly with Jewish intellectuals and gentlemen-of-the-media, even if they are outright hostile to him. Masha Gessen, and magazine editor; Alexey Venediktov, Jewish chief editor of Echo Moskvy, a popular liberal medium that attacks Putin every day; many others enjoy access to Putin, – while no Russian nationalist including Dr Alexander Dugin can boast of having met with the president privately.

Putin’s affability does not turn him into a bountiful source for every Jewish initiative. He stopped S-300 deliveries to Iran, but rejected all Israeli overtures asking him to ditch Iran, or Syria, or Hamas. In the course of their last phone conversation, Netanyahu claimed the Israelis discovered proofs of Iranian nukes. Putin politely expressed his doubts and re-addressed him to IAEA. He agreed to receive the Israeli “experts” with their proofs in Moscow, but nothing came of it. Russia’s support for Palestine is unwavering, – there is a Palestinian embassy in Moscow, too.

Putin supported building of a spacious Jewish museum in Moscow and personally contributed to its budget – but Russian street advertising proclaims the Resurrection of Christ, Eastertide, and His Nativity at Christmas. No “season’s greetings”, but open affirmation of Christianity. Russia is not like the US or EU, where external signs of Christian faith are forbidden, Easter and Christmas can’t be mentioned and whatever Jews request must be done immediately. Western Jews are annoyed (so their organisations claim) by public displays of Christian faith, but Russian Jews do not mind; moreover, they intermarry, convert and enter the Church in previously unheard of numbers. They are not strongly pro-Israeli, those that were already left for Israel.

So the Jews of Russia are not an influential factor to the Russian President. Putin will do what is right according to the Christian faith, and what is good for Russia, as he understands it — and he can’t be convinced to give up really important points. Other considerations – such as friendship with Israel – would normally take a much lower place in his priorities. However, in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, as the Russians are worried by sanctions and by threats of isolation, they try to pull Jews to their side. This makes them increasingly susceptible to Israeli manipulation, whether state-authorised or a private venture.

Last week, Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld visited Moscow. In 2003, he famously threatened Europe with nuclear destruction (the “Samson Option”), saying “Israel has the capability to take the world down with us, and that will happen before Israel goes under”. Now he has explained to Russians Israel’s new policy: While the US enters the period of its decline, Israel must diversify and hedge its bets by drawing close to Moscow, Beijing and Delhi, he wrote in Izvestia daily. Perhaps, but without going too far. A flirt – yes, switching sides – not yet.

Israel prefers to stick to its neutrality. This is easy, as the Israeli populace (excepting its Russians) is not interested in Russian/Ukrainian affairs, does not know the difference between Russia and the Ukraine and is rather unfriendly to Russians/Ukrainians. This goes for both the Left and Right; the Israeli Left is even more pro-American than the Israeli Right. As for Russian Israelis, they are equally divided between supporters of Russia and supporters of Kiev regime. While observing niceties towards Russia, Israel does not intend to side with Moscow. The Jewish oligarchs of Ukraine – Kolomoysky, Pinchuk, Rabinovich – are integrated within the Kiev regime, and they support Israeli right-wing on a large scale. Israeli businessmen are invested in the Ukraine, and the oligarchs are invested in Israel. Kolomoysky controls YuzhMash, the famed missile construction complex in Dnepropetrovsk, and holds the secrets of the Satan ballistic missile, the most powerful Russian strategic weapon. He allegedly intends to share these secrets with the Israelis. If Israel were to side with Moscow regarding Ukraine, the breach with Washington would be unavoidable, and Israel does not intend to provoke it.

Some marginal Israeli right-wingers support Russia; they claim that they represent Israeli public opinion and government. They try to collect on their promises before they deliver. However, this is not an ordinary scam: they are trying to turn Russia into a supporter of right-wing Zionism.

Consider Russian-Israeli far right activist Avigdor Eskin. He impossibly claims that the Israeli government has already decided to jump from the US train to join the Russian one, that Israeli commandos are on their way to fight for the Russians in Donetsk, that Israeli authorities intend to strip Mr Kolomoysky of his Israeli citizenship. Naturally, all that is a load of bunkum, but Russians swallow it hook, line and sinker.

Avigdor Eskin is a colourful personality: a convert to Jewish faith (his mother is not Jewish), an observant Jew, an ex-Kahanist who was arrested in Israel for an alleged attempt to desecrate Al Aqsa mosque and a Muslim cemetery, and who served two or three years in Israeli jail; he styles himself a “Rabbi” and wears a full beard. After serving his time in jail, he moved to Russia and built a network of Israel supporters among the Russian far right. His message is “Israel is a true friend of Russia, while Muslims are Russia’s enemies”. He also adds that Israeli settlers are anti-American and pro-Russian. (If you believe that, the tooth fairy is the next step.)

Recently he claimed that the Aliya Battalion of “experienced Israeli commandos and sharpshooters” came to warring Donbass to fight on the Russian side against the Kiev regime troops. The Aliya Battalion is a battalion in the sense Salvation Army is an army. This is an Israeli NGO, established by Russian Israelis of far-right Zionist persuasion and of some Russian military background. It is not a part of Israeli Army. For a short while, the NGO provided guards for Jewish settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, but the settlements stopped using them as they were extremely unreliable. They boasted of murdering Palestinian civilians, of torturing and killing children, but this was just a sick sadist and racist fantasy, people say. Afterwards, the Battalion leaders turned its name into a profitable scam, roaming American Jewish communities and collecting donations for their supposedly secret activities. As this scam was exposed by Israeli TV (RTVI network; it is available on the YouTube), they had disappeared from the public eye. Now Avigdor Eskin resurrected the old scam, and made a lot of headlines in the Russian media.

Eskin found a soulmate in prominent Russian media man Vladimir Solovyev. The Solovyev is of partly Jewish origin, lived abroad, then returned to Russia; he runs an important political show Sunday Evening on Russian TV. The Saker (a well-known blogger) described him as follows:

“This show is hosted by a famous personality, Vladimir Solovyev, who is a very interesting guy. Solovyev is a Jew, and he is not shy about reminding his audience about it, who was even elected as a member of the Russian Jewish Congress. He is also a Russian patriot, and he is an outspoken supporter of Putin and his policies. His position on the Ukraine is simple: he as a Jew and as a Russian has zero tolerance for Ukrainian nationalism, neo-Nazism or Banderism. He is a determined and total enemy of the new Kiev regime.”

It is possible Solovyev is going through some personal identity crisis: from celebrating his Russian roots, he moved to proclaiming his Jewish origin. Alternatively, it is possible (and more likely) that the Russian decision-makers want to pull Jews on their side, and Solovyev is acting with US Jews in mind. Stalin did it, so Putin could repeat the trick. In 1942, as Nazi onslaught threatened Russia, Stalin had sent some Russian Jews to the US, to speak Yiddish to Jewish communities and lobby for the USSR. The American Jewish community surely carries some clout… Now Solovyev and others are trying to influence Jews abroad; or at least to show to their superiors they are trying.

The price Eskin extracts for his fantasy stories is high. In Solovyev’s prime time programme, he called for the destruction of al Aqsa mosque and for the building of the Jewish temple on its place. He called Palestinians “the people of Antichrist”. Even in Israel such statements can’t be voiced on public TV. In confused Moscow, Eskin was feted and given a place in another important political programme, that of Arcady Mamontov. Who is conning whom: is Eskin conning his Russian hosts, or are his media hosts using him to con their superiors, or are their superiors trying to con the Russian people? Or is Israel hedging its bets? Who knows?

Ukrainian Jews beg to differ

Jews came to the Ukraine a thousand years ago, perhaps from Khazaria. This is not a homogeneous community; rather, they represent several communities. A lot of them emigrated to Israel; even more moved to Russia. They speak Russian and usually do not speak Ukrainian, though they picked up the vernacular over last twenty years. Normally, they wouldn’t care about Ukraine’s independence, as Jews traditionally side with the strong, be it Poles under Polish rule, with Russians under Moscow rule, or with Germans under Vienna or Berlin. Now many of them have decided to side with the US or EU. One of the reasons why so many people of Jewish origin do well is that the ruling ethnic groups trust the Jews and rely upon their loyalty to the powerful and lack of compassion for their Gentile neighbours.

Another reason is the vague definitions. For last three or four generations, Jews have intermarried freely; children of these mixed marriages are often considered ‘Jews’. These are the ‘Jews’ to the present regime; often they have only one Jewish grandparent.

Ukraine, following its independence in 1991, moved into the Western sphere of influence, but Eastern Ukraine (Novorossia) retained its Russian character and links. Jews did well in both parts. Mr Kolomoysky is a prominent member of the Jewish community, and a mainstay of the Kiev regime. He is a ruthless businessman, famous for his raiding of others’properties and for his Mafia connections. Rumours connect him with many killings of business adversaries.

On the other side, in Kharkov, the Mayor and the district Governor (nicknamed Dopah and Gepah) are Jewish, and they can be considered pro-Russian. It was thought that Kharkov would become the centre of rising Novorossia; president Yanukovich fled to Kharkov hoping to find allies and supporters. But Dopa and Gepa disabused him, so he continued his flight all the way to the Russian city of Rostov. Their decision to remain loyal to Kiev did not work well for them: one was shot, and the second one has been imprisoned and his attempt to run for president thwarted.

Kharkov is also home to Mr. Hodos, a wealthy and prominent Jew who fought most valiantly against Habad, the Jewish spiritual movement of which Mr Kolomoysky is a prominent member. The Jews of Novorossia apparently support the general pro-Russian trend, though there are exceptions. Practically all Ukrainian Jews have relatives in Russia, and had Russian education.

Israel has a strong network of agents in the Ukraine. They snatched a Palestinian engineer and flew him to an Israeli dungeon, and that could not be done without support of Ukrainian security services. However, the stories of Israeli soldiers fighting in Ukraine are somewhat exaggerated: these are individuals of dual citizenship who act at their own will, not a state representatives.

US Jews are divided

US Jews are divided on the Ukraine, as they were divided on Palestine. Friends of Palestine, people with a strong anti-imperialist record and sound knowledge of East European history – Noam Chomsky and Stephen F. Cohen — recognised and renounced the US attempt to sustain their hegemony by keeping brazen Russia down. A subset of people, Gilad Atzmon aptly called AZZ (anti-zionist zionists), Trots and other faux-Leftist shills for NATO like Louis Proyect – called for American intervention and brayed for Russian blood.

The notorious Israel Lobby is strictly anti-Russian. The State Dept. official Victoria (“Fuck EU”) Nuland personally directed the Kiev coup; she handpicked the government and the president of the new American colony on the Dnieper River. Her husband, Robert Kagan, is a founder of FPI, the successor of infamous PNAC, the extremist Zionist think tank which promoted wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and pushed for a war with Iran. Now they attack Russia, but they do not forget about their support for Israel.

Consider a young American gender activist and journalist, James Kirchick. He entered the Neocon network by shilling for the Lobby. He pink-washed Israel (“Israel as the best friend of gays on earth, while the Palestinians are homophobes who deserve to be bombed”). After doing the Israeli stint, he moved on to fighting Russia. He worked for the CIA-owned and US Congress-funded Radio Free Europe; stage-managed the sensational Liz Wahl’s on-air resignation from the RT and protested alleged mistreatment of gays in Russia. His dirty tricks were revealed by Max Blumenthal, a Jewish American journalist, a known anti-Zionist (working together with a Palestinian Rania Khalek).

While Israel is neutral re Ukraine, Israeli friends in EU and US are hostile to Russia and supportive of American hegemony, while friends of Palestine stand for Russia’s challenge to the Empire. The French Zionist media philosopher Bernard Henri Levy is an example of the former, while Michel Chossudovsky of Global Research is a representative of the latter. Leading critical (“anti-Zionist”) websites Counterpunch, Antiwar, Global Research sympathise with Russia, while pro-Israeli sites are hostile to Russia.

Zionists are enemies, but they make even worse friends. Edward N. Luttwak is friendly to Russia; he called upon the US to make up with Russia. Strategic union of Russia and America is necessary, he says. Who cares about Ukraine? And here is his pitch line: Russia should fight China for the US benefit. Another Zionist friend, Tony Blair, also calls for peace with Russia – so Russia can fight the Muslim world for Israel. Quite similar to Eskin who offers his pathetic support to Russia in order to neutralise her positive influence and defence of Palestine.

The bottom line: Israel remains neutral for its own reasons. While Jews as individuals differ on Ukraine, there is a correlation with their stand on Palestine and on Syria. Enemies of Putin in Russia, Ukraine, Europe and US do support Israel and are hostile to Palestine, to Syria of Bashar, to Venezuela of Chavez. And the most dangerous lot are those who support Israel and Russia, as they are surely plotting some mischief.

Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]  Language editing by Ken Freeland

Mainstream Media and the Illusion of Debate

June 11th, 2014 by David Edwards

When corporations own the news and advertisers ‘sponsor’ the shows, journalists know they are above all answerable to the company managers and allied interests who pay their salaries. The mere public, especially voices of dissent, can be treated with indifference, even contempt. Journalists have power without responsibility, and they know it.

On March 6, the fast-talking presenter of ABC Radio Triple 6′s Mornings with Genevieve Jacobs in Canberra described the shameful suffering of indigenous Australians exposed by John Pilger’s important film, Utopia.

‘What veteran filmmaker John Pilger had to present for his film was in many ways a Third World country, a place where there is despair and dispossession, desperate injustice.’

Jacobs quoted football legend and ‘Australian of the year’, Adam Goodes, on ‘mainstream’ Australia’s response to Pilger’s film:

‘Our response, our muted response, is a disgrace. It is disturbing and hurtful that we just don’t evidently care all that much.’

Jacobs then interviewed Pilger, asking him:

‘So what does that say about the state of the national debate?’

It was a good question, one that would soon return to haunt the questioner.

Like so many journalists responding to so much serious criticism, Jacobs breezily insisted that her organisation was different, it had embraced all points of view: ‘John, that’s a debate we’re very aware of here in Canberra… I think we’re well aware of that, John!’ she told Pilger repeatedly, who exposed the usual, key flaw in the argument:

‘Intensely discussed, yes, you’re absolutely right. But discussed in the narrowest terms.’

This recalled the sublime moment when Noam Chomsky rendered a brash young Andrew Marr temporarily speechless, after the BBC interviewer had commented of the Gulf War:

‘There was a great debate about whether there should have been a negotiated settlement.’

Chomsky interrupted: ‘No, sorry, no, that’s not [the] debate…’

Jacobs, though, was insistent:

‘Certainly here in Canberra we do have that discussion vigorously and often… I have spoken to people in the studio… I think that has been widely discussed.’

Given that the issues had in fact been endlessly discussed, what on earth was the point of Pilger’s film? Jacobs asked again:

‘That’s my question though – what do you bring that is new to this?’

Pilger replied: ‘Well, have you seen the film?’

Jacobs: ‘I haven’t seen the film, but…’

Like her audience, Jacobs knew exactly what was coming next:

‘Well then, how can we…? This is the problem, you see. And forgive me for raising it. How can you have a discussion with me about a film you haven’t seen?… You say you’re having a lot of debate there, but you apparently haven’t watched the film that we’re supposed to be talking about!’

Pilger’s voice dropped and slowed as he circled the flailing interviewer like a ‘Saltie’ croc:

‘I’m giving you the opportunity to explain to me and your listeners why you haven’t, why you haven’t watched the film before you discuss with the filmmaker the film?’

Jacobs explained that she hadn’t seen the film ‘because my producer suggested to me this morning that it would be a really good idea to discuss this’. But there was no place to hide:

‘You run a programme, and with all respect to you, that’s what Adam Goodes is talking about – that people like you cannot be bothered! And that’s what he’s writing about. Don’t you find this so exquisitely ironic?’

Jacobs instantly shut down the debate and turned to emailed comments sent in by listeners. Would these be favourable to the guest who had just sunk the host? Jacobs blurted:

‘Gus says to me, “Doesn’t ‘Triple 6′ ever get tired of having people on the radio to lecture us about how racist we are? Didn’t we say sorry? Are we going to move on?”‘

And by way of balance:

‘Rob says, “While I don’t disagree with Pilger on many issues he’s tackled over the years, his holier than thou, patronising tone alienates those who support his efforts and hardens the attitudes of those who don’t.”‘

Paul Mason – ‘Yeah, But I Deal In Fact’

The collision between the idea of what a free press is supposed to be about – telling the truth, standing up for the oppressed, holding power to account – and the reality of a corporate media culture that just ‘cannot be bothered’ is tragicomic indeed.

In March, we challenged Channel 4′s Paul Mason (formerly of BBC Newsnight, now economics editor of Channel 4 News) to explain why he believed the failure of the US to bomb Syria in August 2013 was a ‘Disaster!

Mason invited us to email him, which we did. He failed to reply. After repeated nudges, he promised to reply when he had the time. More than two months later, journalist Ian Sinclair reminded Mason that he had still not responded. Mason replied:

‘Believe it or not, I still have more important things to do’

We answered:

‘Well, Chomsky – famously, the world’s busiest human – typically replies within 24 hours with detailed comments’

Mason’s sage response:

‘yeah but I deal in fact, not ideology’

We replied again:

‘Time allowing, you should read @ggreenwald’s new book, No Place To Hide - it might relieve you of that conceit.’

This is one of the passages in Glenn Greenwald’s book that we had in mind:

‘As we are told endlessly, journalists do not express opinions; they simply report the facts.

‘This is an obvious pretense, a conceit of the profession. The perceptions and pronouncements of human beings are inherently subjective. Every news article is the product of all sorts of highly subjective cultural, nationalistic, and political assumptions. And all journalism serves one faction’s interests or another.’ (Greenwald, No Place To Hide – Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State, Penguin, digital edition, 2014, p.471)

Greenwald concludes of the US press:

‘”Objectivity” means nothing more than reflecting the biases and serving the interests of entrenched Washington. Opinions are problematic only when they deviate from the acceptable range of Washington orthodoxy.’ (p.474)

Mason’s magnificently daft, one-word reply to the suggestion that he might read Greenwald’s book:

‘nope’

Like Pilger’s interviewer, Mason simply cannot be bothered, just as he cannot be bothered to answer us. We have previously discussed similar unfulfilled promises to respond from the Guardian’s Seumas Milne.

Debunking De Botton

Alain de Botton also has no time for dissident views in his latest book The News: A User’s Manual(Penguin digital edition, 2014). In what affects to be a penetrating analysis of contemporary news media, de Botton warns that ‘when news fails to harness the curiosity and attention of a mass audience through its presentational techniques, a society becomes dangerously unable to grapple with its own dilemmas…’. (p.38)

De Botton really is arguing that ‘presentational techniques’ should be a key focus for media reformers, who need to deal with the fact that ‘no one is particularly interested’ in news. (p.98)

The solution, then, ‘is to push so-called serious outlets into learning to present information in ways that can properly engage audiences. It is too easy to claim that serious things must be, and can almost afford to be, a bit boring.’ (p.38)

In the grand tradition of no-holds-barred dissent, de Botton adds:

‘Why do news organisations focus so much on the darkness? Why so much grimness and so little hope? Perhaps they think that their audiences are a little too innocent, sheltered and pleased with themselves…’ (p.89)

Instead, society’s news should ‘train and direct its capacity for pride, resilience and hope’. (p.54)

Key problems with the media are thus identified: they don’t try hard enough to be interesting, they’re too boring, they’re too focused on negative events – a desperately superficial and misguided analysis.

De Botton’s discussion is so disconnected from the reality of today’s corporate media that it does not merit close attention. But he is a bestselling author whose book sales have been measured in the millions.

The word ‘corporate’ features once in The News, the word ‘corporation’ twice. At no point does de Botton even mention that the media is corporate in nature, let alone discuss the implications. At no point does he mention the disastrous reliance on corporate advertising, with even ‘quality’ newspapers like the Guardian dependent to the tune of 60 per cent of their revenues.

In a rare gesture in the direction of dissent, de Botton comments that ‘foreign reporting implicitly defers to the priorities of the state and business, occupying itself almost exclusively with events which touch on military, commercial or humanitarian concerns’. (p.106)

But note, he is arguing that foreign reporting defers to particular types of ‘events’ that are of interest to state and business, not to an elite worldview through which foreign reporting typically interprets those events. In reality, foreign reporting focuses on ‘humanitarian concerns’, for example, only when those concerns suit the needs of state-corporate power. Embarrassing humanitarian concerns are not on the agenda. Unwilling or unable to recognise this level of structural bias, de Botton is able to declare:

‘To become powerful once more, foreign news needs only to submit itself to some of the processes of art.’ (p.115)

The key, again – presentation needs to be more humanly interesting.

De Botton reverses the truth of public exclusion:

‘The financial needs of news companies mean that they cannot afford to advance ideas which wouldn’t very quickly be able to find favour with enormous numbers of people.’ (p.93)

Like the endless promotion of wars in Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, perhaps – including the Guardian and Independent’s tireless advocacy for the West’s supposed ‘responsibility to protect’ – despite the clear disfavour of readers and viewers. In fact, the financial needs of newspapers mean that they cannot afford to advance ideas which fail to find favour with the 1 per cent, and above all the 0.1 per cent, which owns and controls them.

Ours, it seems, is an innocent age:

‘The news is committed to laying before us whatever is supposed to be most unusual and important in the world.’ (p.8)

Again, an exact reversal of the truth described by Chomsky:

‘The basic principle, rarely violated, is that what conflicts with the requirements of power and privilege does not exist.’ (Chomsky, Deterring Democracy, Hill and Wang, New York, 1992, p.79)

De Botton observes that ‘newspapers and news bulletins are in truth thimblefuls of information arbitrarily pulled out of a boundless ocean of data by hard-pressed editors, daily forced to do no better than guess at the desires of a putative “average reader”. Inevitably, they don’t always get it right.’ (p.296)

In fact, their job is to shape, not indulge, the political and material desires of their readers on behalf of elite owners, parent companies, advertisers and state allies. De Botton contradicts his own claim that news content is ‘arbitrarily’ pulled out of an ocean of information:

‘We should at least be somewhat suspicious of the way that news sources… seem so often to be in complete agreement on the momentous questions of the day.’ (p.90)

And why might that be? Could it be related to the fact that the media are all giant, profit-seeking, ad-dependent corporations owned by even larger profit-seeking conglomerates owned by wealthy individuals?

Reading The News was a particularly depressing experience for us. De Botton is an intelligent, well-intentioned individual, and he has previously (albeit in private) commented positively on our own work. Moreover, we had written to him on November 30, 2012:

‘Hi Alain

‘Hope you’re well. Interested to hear about the topic of your new book on Twitter. Are you reading Herman and Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, or watching the documentary about Chomsky’s media analysis of the same name? Fascinating stuff. Can you say any more about the book?’

‘Best wishes

‘David Edwards’

De Botton replied:

‘Dear David,

‘Thanks for your interest. Yes, I’m reading Herman and Chomsky carefully – many thanks. I can’t say more for now – and respect your and Medialens’s activities very much.

‘With good wishes,

‘Alain’

It may be that de Botton’s intention was to avoid triggering a negative reaction from media gatekeepers, to reach readers with at least some analysis of the news. Or it could be that, like so many commentators, he was wary of alienating a corporate system that has made him a household name. But what is interesting, disturbing, and such a feature of our time, is that de Botton surely did read unfiltered, accurate analysis of the media, and chose to ignore it.

Afghanistan: Ciò che non dice la Mogherini

June 11th, 2014 by Manlio Dinucci

L’Italia non abbandonerà l’Afghanistan con la fine dell’Isaf, ma continuerà a occuparsene, mantenendo l’impegno preso: lo assicura il ministro Mogherini sul manifesto (7 giugno). Quale sia l’impegno lo chiarisce l’aeronautica: in sei anni i cacciabombardieri italiani hanno effettuato in Afghanistan 3.583 sortite, «traguardo mai eguagliato da velivoli da combattimento italiani in operazioni fuori dai confini nazionali dal termine del secondo conflitto mondiale». Nella loro ultima missione, il 28 maggio, due cacciabombardieri Amx hanno distrutto l’obiettivo individuato da un drone Predator e dalla Task Force Victor (classificata come «unità speciale e semisegreta» dalla Rivista Italiana Difesa). Mentre gli elicotteri Mangusta dell’Esercito, schierati a Herat, hanno varcato la soglia delle 10mila ore di volo. L’impegno delle forze armate italiane in Afghanistan ha dunque un nome, che la Mogherini si guarda bene dal pronunciare: guerra. Che non terminerà con la fine dell’Isaf. «La nostra Joint Air Task Force – comunica l’aeronautica  – continuerà ad operare in Afghanistan con aerei da trasporto tattico C-130 J e da guerra elettronica EC-27 della 46a Brigata aerea di Pisa e i velivoli a pilotaggio remoto Predator B del 32° stormo di Amendola». In altre parole, la guerra continuerà in forma coperta, con apposite unità aeree e forze speciali che avranno il compito anche di addestrare quelle locali. Sempre sotto comando degli Stati uniti che, dopo 13 anni di guerra costati oltre 600 miliardi di dollari (solo come spesa militare ufficiale), non sono riusciti a controllare il paese e cercano ora di farlo con la nuova strategia. A tale proposito il presidente Obama ha chiamato il 27 maggio il premier Renzi, trasmettendogli di fatto gli ordini. L’Italia continuerà così a partecipare a una guerra che provocherà altre vittime e tragedie sociali, scomparendo però dalla vista. L’Afghanistan  – situato al crocevia tra Asia centrale e meridionale, occidentale e orientale – è di primaria importanza geostrategica rispetto a Russia, Cina, Iran e Pakistan, e alle riserve energetiche del Caspio e del Golfo. E lo è ancora di più oggi che la strategia Usa/Nato sta portando a un nuovo confronto con la Russia e, sullo sfondo, con la Cina. Restare in Afghanistan significa non solo continuare a partecipare a quella guerra, ma essere legati a una strategia che prevede una sempre maggiore presenza militare occidentale nella regione Asia/Pacifico. Secondo il racconto della Mogherini, l’asse portante dell’impegno italiano in Afghanistan sarà «il sostegno alla società civile» nel quadro dell’Accordo di partenariato firmato a Roma nel 2012 da Monti e Karzai, approvato dalla Camera a schiacciante maggioranza e dal Senato all’unanimità. Esso prevede la concessione al governo afghano di un credito agevolato di 150 milioni di euro per la realizzazione di «infrastrutture strategiche» a Herat (mentre L’Aquila e altre zone disastrate non hanno i soldi per ricostruire) e altri finanziamenti, che vanno ad aggiungersi ai circa 5 miliardi di euro spesi finora per le operazioni militari. L’aiuto economico di 4 miliardi di dollari annui, che i «donatori» (tra cui l’Italia) si sono impegnati a fornire a Kabul, finirà in gran parte nelle tasche della casta dominante, come la famiglia Karzai arricchitasi con i miliardi della Nato, gli affari sottobanco e il traffico di droga. La Mogherini annuncia l’impegno del governo ad «aumentare le risorse e renderle stabili». Parte servirà a finanziare quelle Ong embedded che, come crocerossine, vanno a curare le ferite della guerra per darle un volto «umanitario».

The Global Economic Crisis: Causes and Devastating Consequences

June 10th, 2014 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

This important collection provides the reader with “a most comprehensive analysis of the various facets – especially the financial, social and military ramifications – from an outstanding list of world-class social thinkers.”

The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century

Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, Editors

originalThe complex causes as well as the devastating consequences of the economic crisis are carefully scrutinized with contributions from Ellen Brown, Tom Burghardt, Michel Chossudovsky, Richard C. Cook, Shamus Cooke, John Bellamy Foster, Michael Hudson, Tanya Cariina Hsu, Fred Magdoff, Andrew Gavin Marshall, James Petras, Peter Phillips, Peter Dale Scott, Bill Van Auken, Claudia von Werlhof and Mike Whitney.

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 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.

Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century
Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, Editors

Global Research Price: US $17.00
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HIGHLIGHTS

We bring to the attention of our readers some of the highlights of this important collection with selected excerpts from the various chapters.

PREFACE

In all major regions of the world, the economic recession is deep-seated, resulting in mass unemployment, the collapse of state social programs and the impoverishment of millions of people. The economic crisis is accompanied by a worldwide process of militarization, a “war without borders” led by the United States of America and its NATO allies. The conduct of the Pentagon’s “long war” is intimately related to the restructuring of the global economy.

The meltdown of financial markets in 2008-2009 was the result of institutionalized fraud and financial manipulation. The “bank bailouts” were implemented on the instructions of Wall Street, leading to the largest transfer of money wealth in recorded history, while simultaneously creating an insurmountable public debt.

With the worldwide deterioration of living standards and plummeting consumer spending, the entire structure of international commodity trade is potentially in jeopardy. The payments system of money transactions is in disarray. Following the collapse of employment, the payment of wages is disrupted, which in turn triggers a downfall in expenditures on necessary consumer goods and services. This dramatic plunge in purchasing power backfires on the productive system, resulting in a string of layoffs, plant closures and bankruptcies. Exacerbated by the freeze on credit, the decline in consumer demand contributes to the demobilization of human and material resources.

-Michel Chossudovsky

TO READ THE COMPLETE TEXT OF THE PREFACE CLICK HERE

PART I THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISIS

We are at the crossroads of the most serious economic crisis in world history. The economic crisis has by no means reached its climax, as some economists have predicted. The crisis is deepening, with the risk of seriously disrupting the structures of international trade and investment.

What is distinct in this particular phase of the crisis is the ability of the financial giants –through stock market manipulation as well as through their overriding control over credit – not only to create havoc in the production of goods and services, but also to undermine and destroy large and well established business corporations.

This crisis is far more serious than the Great Depression. All major sectors of the global economy are affected. Factories are closed down. Assembly lines are at a standstill. Unemployment is rampant. Wages have collapsed. Entire populations are precipitated into abysmal poverty. Livelihoods are destroyed. Public services are disrupted or privatized. The repercussions on people’s lives in North America and around the world are dramatic.
-Michel Chossudovsky, Chapter I.

   ♦

America is dying. It is self-destructing and bringing the rest of the world down with it.

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.
-Tanya Cariina Hsu, Chapter II 

   ♦

Much attention has rightly been paid to the techniques whereby mortgages were packaged together and then sliced and diced and sold to institutional investors around the world. Outright fraud may also have been involved in some of the financial shenanigans. The falling home values following the bursting of the housing bubble and the inability of many sub-prime mortgage holders to continue to make their monthly payments, together with the resulting foreclosures, was certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back, leading to this catastrophic system failure.
-John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff, Chapter III

   ♦

A world depression, in which upward of a quarter of the world’s labor force will be unemployed, is looming. The biggest decline in trade in recent world history defines the future. The immanent bankruptcies of the biggest manufacturing companies in the capitalist world haunt Western political leaders. The “market” as a mechanism for allocating resources and the government of the U.S. as the “leader” of the global economy have been discredited.

All the assumptions about “self-stabilizing markets” are demonstrably false and outmoded. The rejection of public intervention in the market and the advocacy of supply-side economics have been discredited even in the eyes of their practitioners.

Among almost all conventional economists, pundits, investment advisors and various and sundry experts and economic historians, there is a common faith that in the long-run, the stock market will recover, the recession will end and the government will withdraw from the economy. Fixed on notions of past cyclical patterns and historical trends, these analysts lose sight of the present realities which have no precedent: the world nature of the economic depression, the unprecedented speed of the fall, and the levels of debt incurred by governments to sustain insolvent banks and industries and the unprecedented public deficits, which will drain resources for many generations to come.
-James Petras, Chapter 4.

   ♦

Is there an alternative to plundering the earth? Is there an alternative to making war? Is there an alternative to destroying the planet? No one asks these questions because they seem absurd. Yet, no one can escape them either.

Until the onslaught of the global economic crisis, the motto of so-called “neoliberalism” was TINA: “There Is No Alternative!”No alternative to “neoliberal globalization”?  No alternative to the unfettered “free market” economy?

The notion that capitalism and democracy are one is proven a myth by neoliberalism and its “monetary totalitarianism”. The primacy of politics over economy has been lost. Politicians of all parties have abandoned it. It is the corporations that dictate politics. Where corporate interests are concerned, there is no place for democratic convention or community control. Public space disappears. The res publica turns into a res privata, or – as we could say today – a res privata transnationale (in its original Latin meaning, privare means “to deprive”). Only those in power still have rights. They give themselves the licenses they need, from the “license to plunder” to the “license to kill”.
-Claudia Von Werlhof, Chapter 5.

   ♦

The mainstream media is now – for political reasons – in a constant clamor for the economy’s elusive “rock bottom”. This is so people will be more hopeful, less agitated, and more willing to let those who destroyed the economy continue running the country un-challenged. Every time a new economic indicator comes out that wasn’t “as bad as expected”, Wall Street cheers and politicians give their “we’ve turned the corner” speeches. Reality is thus turned on its head.

The recession is creating a “fight or die” environment for corporations and governments around the world. The super rich that currently control both entities are using their influence to ensure that workers carry the brunt of this burden. It doesn’t have to be so. The fight for jobs, a living wage, progressive taxation, social security and single payer healthcare are all issues capable of uniting the vast majority of U.S. citizens.
-Shamus Cooke Chapter 6

PART II  GLOBAL POVERTY

The sugar-coated bullets of the “free market” are killing our children. The act to kill is instrumented in a detached fashion through computer program trading on the New York and Chicago mercantile exchanges, where the global prices of rice, wheat and corn are decided upon. People in different countries are being impoverished simultaneously as a result of a global market mechanism. A small number of financial institutions and global corporations have the ability to determine the prices of basic food  staples quoted on the commodity exchanges, thereby directly affecting the standard of living of millions of people around the world.

The provision of food, fuel and water is a precondition for the survival of the human species. They constitute the economic and environmental foundations for development of civilized society. In recent years, both prior and leading up to the 2008-2009 financial meltdown, the prices of grain staples, including rice, corn and wheat, gasoline and water, has increased dramatically at the global level with devastating economic and social consequences.
-Michel Chossudovsky, Chapter 7

   ♦

Globalization is accompanied by the increasing impacts of world hunger and starvation. Over 30 000 people a day (85 percent are children under the age of five) die of malnutrition, curable diseases and starvation. The numbers of unnecessary deaths has exceeded 300 million people over the past forty years.

American people cringe at the thought of starving children, often thinking that there is little they can do about it, proclaiming, I am glad I live in America. However, in a globalized economy there are no safe enclaves, poverty and starvation elsewhere can become poverty and wretchedness here as well.
-Peter Phillips, Chapter 8

PART III  WAR, NATIONAL SECURITY AND WORLD GOVERNMENT

Economic conquest is an integral part of America’s military adventure. The U.S. military and intelligence apparatus consults with Wall Street and the Texas oil giants. Conversely, the IMF and the World Bank, which have a mandate to supervise macroeconomic reform in developing countries, are in liaison with the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.

Economic warfare supports Washington’s military roadmap. The manipulation of market forces through the imposition of strong “economic medicine” under the helm of the IMF supports U.S.-NATO strategic and geopolitical objectives. Similarly, the speculative attacks waged by powerful banking conglomerates in the currency, commodity and stock markets are acts of financial warfare. They seek to destabilize the monetary systems of nation states.

Historically, warfare has been an instrument of economic conquest. U.S. foreign policy and the Pentagon’s war plans are intimately related to the process of economic globalization.
-Michel Chossudovsky Chapter 9

   ♦

Strange as it may seem and irrational as it would be in a more logical system of world diplomacy, the “dollar glut” is what finances America’s global military build-up. It forces foreign central banks to bear the costs of America’s expanding military empire: effective “taxation without representation”.

The military overhead is much like a debt overhead, extracting revenue from the economy. In this case it is to pay the military-industrial complex, not merely Wall Street banks and other financial institutions. The domestic federal budget deficit does not stem only from “priming the pump” to give away enormous sums to create a new financial oligarchy; it contains an enormous and rapidly growing military component.

The domestic federal budget deficit does not stem only from “priming the pump” to give away enormous sums to create a new financial oligarchy; it contains an enormous and rapidly growing military component.
-Michael Hudson, Chapter 10

   ♦

The bailout measures of late 2008 may have consequences at least as grave for an open society as the response to 9/11 in 2001. Many members of Congress felt coerced at the time into voting against their inclinations, and the normal procedures for orderly consideration of a bill were dispensed with.

America escaped from the depression of the 1890s with the Spanish-American War.  It only escaped the Great Depression of the 1930s with the Second World War. There was even a recession in the late 1940s from which America only escaped with the Korean War. As we face the risk of major depression again, I believe we inevitably face the danger of major war again.
-Peter Dale Scott, Chapter 11

   ♦

As the global economic crisis deepens, ongoing efforts by the defense and security establishment to shore-up the empire’s crumbling edifice consumes an ever-greater proportion of America’s national budget

The “black” or secret portions of the budget are almost as large as the entire expenditure of defense funds by America’s allies, hardly slouches when it comes to feeding their own militarist beasts.
-Tom Burghardt, Chapter 12

   ♦

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence, Obama’s new Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, warned that the deepening world capitalist crisis posed the paramount threat to U.S. national security and warned that its continuation could trigger a return to the “violent extremism” of the 1920s and 1930s. Clearly underlying his remarks are fears within the massive U.S. intelligence apparatus as well as among more conscious layers of the American ruling elite that a protracted economic crisis accompanied by rising unemployment and reduced social spending will trigger a global eruption of the class struggle and the threat of social revolution.
-Bill Van Auken, Chapter 13

   ♦

The world is moving towards establishing, within decades, a global government structure. Moving the utopian rhetoric of such an undertaking aside, we must analyze how such a structure is being built. Given the global economic crisis, the governments of the world are restructuring their economies, and the global economy as a whole, into a corporatist structure. Thus, this new international economic system being constructed is one representative of economic fascism.

The governments now work directly for the banks, democracy is in decline everywhere, and the militarization of domestic society into creating “Homeland Security states” is underway and accelerating.
-Andrew Gavin Marshall, Chapter 14

PART IV  THE GLOBAL MONETARY SYSTEM

Any notion of a “free market” must be dispelled in its true meaning, for as long as the central banking system has been dominant, central bankers have managed and controlled capitalism for the benefit of the few and at the expense of the many. Comprehending the nature of central banking is necessary in order to understand the nature of the current economic crisis.

The central banking system has been the most powerful network of institutions in the world; it reigns supreme over the capitalist world order, almost since its inception. Central banks are the perfect merger of private interests and public power. They have played key roles in every major development and drastic change in the capitalist world economy, and continue to do so.

Central bank policies caused the Great Depression and played an enormous role in creating the Global Economic Crisis of 2008 onwards. As the “solutions” to the economic crisis are being implemented, it would appear that those that created the crisis are being rewarded. The central banking system is becoming more globalized, more centralized, and more powerful.
-Andrew Gavin Marshall, Chapter 15

   ♦

Wary observers might say that this is how you pull off a private global dictatorship: (1) create a global crisis; (2) appoint an “advisory body” to retain and maintain “stability”; then (3) “formalize” the advisory body as global regulator. By the time the people wake up to what has happened, it’s too late.

If we the people of the world are to avoid abdicating the sovereignty of our respective nations to a private foreign banking elite, we need to insist on compliance with the constitutional and legal mandates on which our nations were founded.
-Ellen Brown, Chapter 16

   ♦

The very concept of a global currency and global central bank is authoritarian in its very nature, as it removes any vestiges of oversight and accountability away from the people of the world, toward a small, increasingly interconnected group of international elites. Indeed, the policy “solutions” tend to benefit those who caused the financial crisis over those who are poised to suffer the most as a result of the crisis: the disappearing middle classes, the world’s dispossessed, poor, indebted people.

It is imperative that the world’s people throw their weight against these “solutions” and usher in a new era of world order, one of the People’s World Order; with the solution lying in local governance and local economies, so that the people have greater roles in determining the future and structure of their own political-economy, and thus, their own society. With this alternative of localized political economies, in conjunction with an unprecedented global population and international democratization of communication through the internet, we have the means and possibility before us to forge the most diverse manifestation of cultures and societies that humanity has ever known.
-Andrew Gavin Marshall, Chapter 17

   ♦

Real economic democracy, defined as the unfettered opportunity for every person to achieve his productive potential and be fairly rewarded for doing so, does not exist on the earth today. The economic life of the world today is based on predatory capitalism, where the people with the most money are the ones in charge.

Instrumental in control of economics by the rich has been the debt-based monetary system, where credit is treated as the monopoly of private financial interests who in turn control governments, intelligence services and military establishments. Politicians are bought and sold, elected or removed, or even assassinated for this purpose. The global monetary system is tightly controlled and coordinated at the top by the leaders of the central banks who work for the world’s richest people.

The worldwide monetary reform movement has come into existence to secure the benefits of control of the monetary supply by the community rather than monopolistic cliques exemplified by the Western banking system. While this is only one means of attaining economic democracy, it may be the most important one, because money as an instrument of law controls all commodities.
-Richard C. Cook, Chapter 18

PART V THE SHADOW BANKING SYSTEM

When the smartest guys in the room designed their credit default swaps, they forgot to ask one thing – what if the parties on the other side of the bet don’t have the money to pay up?

If there are no rules, the players can cheat; and cheat they have, with a gambler’s addiction.

The Ponzi scheme that has been going bad is not just another misguided investment strategy. It is at the very heart of the banking business, the thing that has propped it up over the course of three centuries.

A Ponzi scheme is a form of pyramid scheme in which new investors must continually be sucked in at the bottom to support the investors at the top.
-Ellen Brown, Chapter 19

   ♦

Is it possible to make hundreds of billions of dollars in profits on securities that are backed by nothing more than cyber-entries into a loan book? It is not only possible; it has been done. And now those who cashed in on the swindle have lined up outside the Federal Reserve building to trade their garbage paper for billions of dollars of taxpayer-funded loans.

Where is the justice? Meanwhile, the credit bust has left the financial system in a shambles and driven the economy into the ground like a tent stake.

The unemployment lines are growing longer and consumers are cutting back on everything from nights-on-the-town to trips to the grocery store. And it’s all due to a Ponzi-finance scam that was concocted on Wall Street and spread through the global system like an aggressive strain of Bird Flu. This is not a normal recession; the financial system was blown up by greedy bankers who used “financial innovation” game the system and inflate the biggest speculative bubble of all time. And they did it all legally, using a little-known process called securitization.
-Mike Whitney, Chapter 20

Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century
Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, Editors

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“This deployment of strategic bombers provides an invaluable opportunity to strengthen and improve interoperability with our allies and partners.”

– Admiral Cecil Haney, commander, US Strategic Command on the deployment of B-2 stealth bombers to Europe.

“Against stupidity, no amount of planning will prevail.”

- Carl von Clausewitz

Less than 24 hours after Ukraine’s new president Petro Poroshenko announced his determination to retake Crimea from Russia, US Admiral Cecil Haney confirmed that the US Air Force had deployed two B-2 stealth bombers to Europe to conduct military exercises. The addition of the multipurpose B-2, which is capable of delivering nuclear weapons, is intended to send a message to Moscow that the United States is prepared to provide backup for Ukraine’s fledgling government and to protect its interests in Central Asia. News of the deployment was reported in the Russian media, but was excluded by all the western news outlets.

The B-2 announcement was preceded by an inflammatory speech by Poroshenko at the presidential “swearing in” ceremony in Kiev. In what some analysts have called a “declaration of war”, Poroshenko promised to wrest control of Crimea from Russia which annexed the region just months earlier following a public referendum that showed 90 percent support for the measure. Here’s part of what Poroshenko said:

“The issue of territorial integrity of Ukraine is not subject to discussion…I have just sworn ‘with all my deeds to protect the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,’ and I will always be faithful to this sacred promise…

“Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is and will be Ukrainian soil…Yesterday, in the course of the meeting in Normandy, I told this to President Putin: Crimea is Ukraine soil. Period. There can be no compromise on the issues of Crimea, European choice and state structure…” (New York Times)

On Thursday, the day before Poroshenko was sworn in, “President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron set a deadline for Russia to comply with its demands or face harsher economic sanctions that would be imposed by members of the G-7. Once again, the threat of new sanctions was largely ignored by the western media but was reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“To avoid even harsher sanctions.. Putin must meet three conditions: Recognize Petro Poroshenko’s election as the new leader in Kiev; stop arms from crossing the border; and cease support for pro-Russian separatist groups concentrated in eastern Ukraine.

“If these things don’t happen, then sectoral sanctions will follow…”

Obama said the G-7 leaders unanimously agree with the steps Cameron outlined.” (Haaretz)

The United States is ratcheting up the pressure in order to widen the conflict and force Russian president Vladimir Putin to meet their demands. It’s clear that the threat of sanctions, Poroshenko’s belligerent rhetoric, and the steady buildup of military assets and troops in the region, that Obama and Co. still think they can draw Putin into the conflict and make him look like a dangerous aggressor who can’t be trusted by his EU partners. Fortunately, Putin has not fallen into the trap. He’s resisted the temptation to send in the tanks to put an end to the violence in Donetsk, Lugansk and Slavyansk. This has undermined Washington’s plan to deploy NATO to Russia’s western border, assert control over the “bridgehead” between Europe and Asia, and stop the further economic integration between Russia and the EU. So far, Putin has out-witted his adversaries at every turn, but there are still big challenges ahead, particularly the new threats from Poroshenko.

If Poroshenko is determined to take Crimea back from Moscow, then there’s going to be a war. But there are indications that he is more pragmatic than his speeches would suggest. In a private meeting with Putin at the D-Day ceremonies in France, the Ukrainian president said he had a plan to “immediately stop the bloodshed”

Here’s how Putin summarized his meeting with Poroshenko:

“Poroshenko has a plan in this respect; it is up to him to say what kind of plan it is… I cannot say for sure how these plans will be implemented, but I liked the general attitude, it seemed right to me, so, if it happens this way, there will be conditions to develop our relations, in other areas, including economy.

“It’s important to stop the punitive actions in the southeast without a delay. That’s the only way to create conditions for the start of a real process of negotiations with the supporters of federalization. No one has yet said anything concrete to the people (living in the southeast of Ukraine) and nothing practical has been offered to them. People there simply don’t understand how they’ll live in the future and what the parameters of the new Constitution will look like.” (Poroshenko tells Putin of plan to immediately stop bloodshed in Ukraine, Itar-Tass)

If the report is accurate, then there’s reason to hope that Poroshenko is moving in Russia’s direction on most of the key issues which are; greater autonomy for the people in East Ukraine, Constitutional provisions that will protect them from future abuse by Kiev, and an immediate end to the violence. Putin has sought assurances on these issues from the very beginning of the crisis. Now it looks like he might get his way. Of course, it is impossible to know, since Poroshenko is sending mixed messages.

So why is Poroshenko sounding so conciliatory in his private meetings with Putin, but so belligerent in public?

It could be any number of things, but it probably has a lot to do with Monday’s scheduled tripartite meetings of representatives from the European Union, Ukraine and Russia. These meetings will have incalculable impact of Ukriane’s economic future. They will resolve the issues of price for future gas purchases as well as a plan for settling all previous claims. (Russia says that Ukraine owes $3.5 billion in back payments for natural gas.)

On April 1, Gazprom cancelled Ukraine’s discount and raised the price of gas to 485.5 dollars per 1,000 cubic meters nearly doubling the rate of payment. (It had been $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters) It is impossible to overstate the impact this will have Ukraine’s economy. Even Ukrainian hardline Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was candid in his dire assessment of the situation. He said, “I could have made a populist statement but it is not true. We cannot refrain from using Russian gas.”

If Poroshenko sounds conciliatory, this is why.

Putin refused to discuss the gas issue with the media, but implied that political developments in Ukraine would factor heavily into any decision by Gazprom.

“Russia will be compelled to enact economic protection measures to defend its market if Ukraine signs the association agreement with the EU. “As soon as that accord is signed, we’ll start taking measures to defend our economy,” Putin said. (Itar-Tass)

In other words, if Ukraine doesn’t play ball, it’s going to have to go-it-alone. Kiev cannot expect “most favored trade partner-status”, gas discounts, or other perks if they’re going to stab Moscow in the back and jump into bed with the EU. That’s just not the way things work. Putin is merely warning Poroshenko to think about what he’s about to do before taking the plunge. ( “Average gas prices for Ukrainian households began rising by more than 50 percent in May, and heating prices are expected to climb by about 40 percent, starting in July.” World Socialist Web Site)

This is a much more important issue that most analysts seem to grasp. Many seem to think that IMF, EU and US loans and other assistance can buoy Ukraine’s sinking economy and restore it to health. But that’s a pipedream. In a “must read” report by the Brookings Institute, authors Clifford G. Gaddy and Barry W. Ickes spell it out in black and white, that is, that “Ukraine is a prize that neither Russia nor the West can afford to win.” Here’s a clip from the text:

“It is clear to most observers that the West would not be able to defend Ukraine economically from a hostile Russia…The simple fact is that Russia today supports the Ukrainian economy to the tune of at least $5 billion, perhaps as much as $10 billion, each year…

When we talk about subsidies, we usually think of Russia’s ability to offer Ukraine cheap gas — which it does when it wants to. But there are many more ways Russia supports Ukraine, only they are hidden. The main support comes in form of Russian orders to Ukrainian heavy manufacturing enterprises. This part of Ukrainian industry depends almost entirely on demand from Russia. They wouldn’t be able to sell to anyone else…

If the West were somehow able to wrest full control of Ukraine from Russia, could the United States, the other NATO nations, and the EU replace Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine? The IMF, of course, would never countenance supporting these dinosaurs the way the Russians have. So the support would have to come in the way of cash transfers to compensate for lost jobs. How much are we talking about? The only known parallel for the amount of transfer needed is the case of German reunification. The transfer amounted to 2 trillion euros, or $2.76 trillion, over 20 years. If Ukraine has per capita income equal to one-tenth of Germany’s, then a minimum estimate is $276 billion to buy off the east. (In fact, since the population size of eastern Ukraine is larger than East Germany’s, this is an underestimate.) It is unthinkable that the West would pay this amount.” (Ukraine: A Prize Neither Russia Nor the West Can Afford to Win, Brookings)

The authors go on to show that “a NATO-affiliated Ukraine — is simply impossible under any real-world conditions” because it assumes that Russia will either “become an enthusiastic EU and NATO member itself” (or) “will it return to being the bankrupt, dependent, and compliant Russia of the 1990s.” In other words, the Obama administration’s strategic objectives in Ukraine do not jibe with economic reality. The US cannot afford to win in Ukraine, that’s the bottom line. Even so, we are convinced the aggression will persist regardless of the presumed outcome. The train has already left the station.

At the D-Day ceremonies, Putin and Poroshenko also met briefly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande although the content of their discussions was not revealed. Public support for the two leaders’ Ukraine policy is gradually withering as the fighting continues in the East without any end in sight. An article in the popular German newspaper Die Zeit indicates that elite opinion in Europe is gradually shifting and no longer sees Washington’s Ukraine policy as being in its interests.

Here’s a brief summary from the WSWS: “It goes on to argue that Washington’s aggression is laying the foundations for a Chinese-Russian-Iranian axis that “would force the West to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy to secure its access to important but dwindling raw materials such as oil.” In opposition to this, the commentary insists that Germany’s independent interests lie “with preserving and deepening Europe’s relations with Russia,” while pursuing similar ties with Iran.” (D-Day anniversary: Commemorating the Second World War and preparing the Third, World Socialist Web Site)

This is an important point and one that could put a swift end to US aggression in Ukraine. Washington’s objectives are at cross-purposes with those of the EU. The EU needs a reliable source of energy and one, like Russia, that will set its prices competitively without resorting to coercion or blackmail. Washington, on the other hand, intends to situate itself in this century’s most prosperous region, Eurasia, in order to control the flow of oil from East to West. This is not in Europe’s interests, but promises to be a source of conflict for the foreseeable future. Case in point: Just last week Bulgaria’s prime minister, Plamen Oresharski, “ordered a halt to work on Russia’s South Stream pipeline, on the recommendation of the EU. The decision was announced after his talks with US senators.”

According to RT News, Oresharski stopped construction after meeting with John McCain, Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson during their visit to Bulgaria on Sunday.

McCain, commenting on the situation, said that “Bulgaria should solve the South Stream problems in collaboration with European colleagues,” adding that in the current situation they would want “less Russian involvement” in the project.

“America has decided that it wants to put itself in a position where it excludes anybody it doesn’t like from countries where it thinks it might have an interest, and there is no economic rationality in this at all. Europeans are very pragmatic, they are looking for cheap energy resources – clean energy resources, and Russia can supply that. But the thing with the South Stream is that it doesn’t fit with the politics of the situation,” Ben Aris, editor of Business New Europe told RT.” (Bulgaria halts Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline project, RT)

Once again, we can see how US meddling is damaging to Europe’s interests.

Western elites want to control the flow of gas and oil from East to West. This is why they’ve installed their puppet in Kiev, threatened to levy more sanctions on Moscow, and moved B-2 stealth bombers into the European theater. They are determined to succeed in their plan even if it triggers a Third World War.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

With just days to go to the June 12 opening of the World Cup football (soccer) tournament in Brazil, the country has been shaken by a series of strikes and protests, including a six-day walkout by transit workers that has paralyzed the country’s largest city, São Paulo, with a population of nearly 12 million people.

The authorities have confronted the transit strikers with naked repression and violence. Military police shock troops have been deployed against workers’ picket lines and demonstrations, employing tear gas, rubber bullets and sound grenades against strikers and their supporters, dozens of whom have been arrested.

A São Paulo labor court, in an unprecedented Sunday session, ruled the strike “abusive” and illegal. A mass assembly of transit workers voted the same day to continue the walkout in defiance of the court ruling and of the threat from the state government that all strikers who failed to return to work on Monday would be fired.

São Paulo Metro strikers [Photo: Oliver Kornblihtt / Midia NINJA]

A meeting between union officials and representatives of the São Paulo state government Monday afternoon broke up without any agreement being reached. Brazilian media reported that the union had been willing to accept a wage settlement below the 12.2 percent hike it had demanded, but insisted that the firing of some 60 strikers for actions on the picket lines be withdrawn.

São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, who was the 2006 presidential candidate backed by the Brazilian right, took a hardline position that there was “nothing to discuss,” i.e., that there would be no wage offer other than 8.7 percent originally offered, and none of those who had been fired would be given their jobs back.

Transit officials claimed Monday afternoon that 29 percent of the workforce was on the job Monday and that 50 out of 65 train stations were open, but with limited service.

The union held an assembly late Monday in which workers voted to suspend the strike until Wednesday, when they are to meet again to decide whether to resume the walkout—on the day of the World Cup’s first game—if their demand for the rehiring of the fired strikers is not met.

The transit strike follows similar actions by teachers in both São Paulo and Río de Janeiro, bus workers and other sections of the working class. These strikes have been accompanied by mass demonstrations across the country rejecting the vast expenditures on the World Cup amid mass poverty and inadequate government spending on education, health care, housing and other basic necessities.

Organized by the International Football Federation (FIFA), the tournament, which takes place every four years, brings in the national teams of many countries. The football tournament is expected to generate US$4 billion and over US$2 billion in profits for FIFA and the Cup’s corporate promoters. This record sum is roughly twice the revenue generated at the South Africa games in 2010.

Authorities claimed to have “learned the lessons” of the protests that rocked Brazil a year ago, when demonstrators fought pitched battles with security forces outside stadiums hosting the so-called Confederation Cup, which serves as a rehearsal for the larger World Cup tournament.

The government is spending close to $1 billion on organizing a huge repressive force, including an army of 57,000 troops and 100,000 police and security agents to protect the games primarily from social protests and strikes—though inevitably terrorism has been raised as a pretext.

The buildup to the tournament was a major factor in the mass demonstrations that brought millions into the streets of Río de Janeiro, São Paulo and other cities a year ago. While those protests were triggered by threatened transit fare hikes, the demonstrators pointed to the public expenditure of 18 billionreais (US$8 billion) that the government had budgeted for building and upgrading stadiums and airports, while education, health care and other human needs were neglected.

In the wake of last year’s mass protests, the Workers Party (PT) government promised to comply with the demands for improved education, health care and housing. However, since then, President Dilma Rousseff has failed to make good on these promises and instead has repeatedly made use of federal security and military forces to repress strikes and protests.

The military police have been employed as an occupation force in the favelas (shantytowns), including the Maré complex of 15 favelas in Río de Janeiro, which straddles the route between Río’s international airport and the wealthy tourist districts.

As early as 2009, the government had begun building walls around Río de Janeiro hillside slums (favelas) in preparation for their militarization in anticipation of the World Cup. Having failed to resolve the social issues, the government has made use of the police. Government security forces have killed over 5,600 Brazilians since 2007, many of them in the occupied favelas.

This is the second time that the FIFA cup is being held in Brazil. The first was in 1950 and marked the resumption of the games following their suspension during World War II.

Brazil at the time was a nation in the process of rapid industrialization. War-imposed shortages had stimulated domestic production, spurred by government import-substitution policies. Millions were abandoning the countryside and settling in the coastal cities and the industrial south. Plans would soon take shape for creating a new capital, Brasilia, in the center of the country, in large measure to isolate the government from mass strikes and social struggles. Even though more than half of the nation’s inhabitants were in poverty, living standards and life expectancy were on the rise, infant deaths had declined, and more Brazilians had access to medical services.

Despite this accelerated growth, successive governments were unable to resolve long-standing social and regional conflicts and free the country from the stranglehold of US imperialism. The latter played a crucial role in imposing, in 1964, a brutal military-fascist dictatorship that lasted until 1985.

Sixty-four years have passed since the 1950 World Cup. In contrast to that earlier event, this time the country is in the midst of economic decline. For many Brazilians, their country is moving in reverse. A poll released last week showed that 72 percent of the population are dissatisfied with the way things are going, compared to 55 percent a year ago.

In 2003, when FIFA announced that Brazil would host the championship, a PT government, under former union leader Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, had come to office and had raised expectations that Brazil, along with the group of so-called emerging economies known as the BRICs (including Russia, India and China), would find a path to increasing economic growth and greater social equality.

The PT model of “Lulalism” or “Brasilia consensus,” consisted of free market policies, privatizations and de-regulations combined with populist demagogy and minimal assistance programs for the most impoverished layers of the population. It was promoted as a free market alternative to both the “Bolivarian Revolution” of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and to the “Washington consensus” of savage cuts in social programs. The government was to deregulate businesses and privatize state industries, and create a Central Bank independent of the government but under the control of global financial institutions, while still devoting some resources to social programs.

In the end, neither Brazil, the BRICS, nor the rest of the emerging economies proved stronger than the world capitalist crisis and the deterioration of global commerce and the collapse of world commodity prices, due in Brazil’s case to a drop in orders from China.

The world price of iron ore, for example, up until recently Brazil’s main export product, has fallen by more than 20 percent this year alone. The Reuters news agency recently interviewed officials of Brazilian iron producer Vale, who indicated that less efficient and exhausted mines are being shut down in an attempt to support ore prices. Since 2010, Brazil has faced rising inflation, unemployment and capital flight.

The PT was created as a political instrument for diverting the explosive eruption of mass workers’ struggles at the end of the military dictatorship into safer reformist and parliamentary channels. Various pseudo-left tendencies participated in its construction and hailed it as a model for organizing workers internationally.

Since then, it has been exposed as a corrupt bourgeois party and, after over a decade in power, the favored instrument of rule of the Brazilian financial and corporate elite. The pretense that this party has anything to do with social reform has become more threadbare with each passing day. As it hosts the 2014 World Cup, the Rousseff administration reveals itself as a government that lives in fear of the Brazilian working class and poor and which is prepared to resort to police state repression to guarantee the interests of big business.

While the death toll among civilians is growing in Ukraine the United States continues its policy aimed at escalation of the conflict. It offers all kinds of support to Kiev including military aid. Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said the cooperation is going to get a new impetus with instructors sent to beef up the modernization efforts of Ukraine’s armed forces. 

The US Congress is to pass a bill to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine. The bill authorizes an additional $100 million to bolster security cooperation among the United States, European Union and countries in Central and Eastern Europe and further authorizes the President to provide defense help and additional security assistance to Ukraine and other countries in the region. According to Igor Dolgov, Ukraine’s Ambassador to NATO, the alliance is to provide logistics and gratuitously train Ukrainian personnel. It will also intensify intelligence collecting efforts against Russia including AWACS aircraft. Anders Fogh Rasmussen says no military actions against Russia are planned, but the facts tell otherwise.

Having won the presidential election on May 25, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko secretly met with strange American delegation headed by the Director of the National Service of Covert Operations (the CIA’s National Clandestine Service) Frank Archibald, which also included former CIA chief in Ukraine Jeffrey Egan, the current – Raymond Mark Davidson, Mark Buggy (CIA, Istanbul), Andrzej Derlatka, a CIA agent in the Polish intelligence Agency and member of CIA Kevin Duffin who is working as senior Vice President of the insurance company Brower. Poroshenko and Archibald signed a paper entitled an “Agreement on Military Cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine”…

The composition of the U.S. delegation, which is rather mysterious at first glance, is explained by the fact that the professional diplomats would not understand at all what it was about, and by the fact that the U.S. Congress would not authorize the usual military cooperation agreement which involves sending military trainers and direct participation of American troops in the armed conflict in Ukraine.

However, the National Service of Covert Operations can bypass the lawmakers through channels such as private insurance company Brower, belonging to the CIA. It can provide large-scale military aid to other countries using its operatives and employees of private military contractors. Aside from the military cooperation with the United States,   the Ukrainian government signed an agreement to revive the concept of LITPOLUKRBRIG (the Lithuanian – Polish – Ukrainian Brigade) to make it reach operational status. The brigade is a planned multinational formation  consisting of units from the Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian army units. An agreement on its creation was signed on November 16, 2009.

In his remarks on “anti-terrorist operation” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Russia Today that he felt U.S. officials were quick to blame his nation for everything going awry in Ukraine and to insist Moscow can unilaterally solve it all. Lavrov said that while those in Ukraine’s east and south who defiantly oppose the Kiev-based government are “not puppets” of the Kremlin, such a characterization would describe the relationship between Ukraine’s leadership in Kiev and the United States. “Americans have, I think, overwhelming influence,” he said. “They act in a much more open way, without any scruples; compared to the Europeans … You cannot avoid the impression that they are running the show very much, very much.” It’s worth to note that Lugansk was shelled the very same day US Assistant Secretary of Defense Derek Chollet visited Kiev. According to the sources coming from Ukrainian special services, the US official was immediately involved in the planning of the punitive operation.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the process of the alliance expansion to the East will continue.

NATO is using the Ukrainian crisis as a smoke screen for a war plan and the US has already decided to permanently station troops in Eastern Europe”, says Harvard-educated professor Francis Boyle, a US-based expert on Russia.

NATO leaders are poised to meet in September to debate the initiative to permanently base additional forces in Eastern Europe. “This is just a trial balloon, but in reality it is a war plan unfolding here,” Boyle told RIA Novosti on May 8. “The Ukrainian crisis had been planned as well as the war. There was a war plan, there was a war game. Then it was revised and implemented.” “We are seeing steps now being taken that were planned in advance,” Boyle said, adding, “This is all being used as a pretext to bring NATO military forces, as Rasmussen said, by air, sea, and land right up to the borders of the Russian Federation. They are clearly going ahead with this.”

Boyle extolled Russia for trying to exhaust all diplomatic means possible to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, and accused the United States and NATO of deliberate escalation.

So, that the US won’t be provided with any more pretexts for hostile provocative maneuvers that they are going to take in any event,” Boyle asserted. The professor emphasized that Russian President Vladimir Putin is in a very difficult and dangerous situation and needs to be very careful. “The US has already resumed the Cold War with the neo-Nazi coup d’état in Ukraine that the United States sponsored, controlled, and directed,” he said.

In his inauguration speech on June 7 Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko promised to use his diplomatic experience to accomplish the goal of reaching an international security agreement,

I will use all my diplomatic experience to ensure the signing of an international treaty that would replace the Budapest memorandum. Such a treaty should provide reliable guarantees of peace and security, up to military support in case of a threat to [Ukraine's] territorial integrity. Any aggressor at the Ukrainian border must remember this biblical adage: he who comes with a sword will be defeated by a sword.”

If the stated goal comes true than the need for formal membership of Ukraine in NATO will lose relevance – the country will host NATO forces without formal accession to the alliance.

Rasmussen used the Ukrainian crisis as a pretext for calling on NATO members to increase military expenditure. Pursuing the goal of convincing the NATO member-states to hike military spending, Washington sides with Poland and the Baltic States who raise alarm over the alleged Russian threat.  Obama rushed to reassure them. On his tour of Eastern Europe he made his message to the NATO countries in the region clear: 

“As allies we have a solemn duty, a binding treaty obligation to defend your territorial integrity and we will. We stand together now and forever, for your freedom is ours. Poland will never stand alone. But not just Poland, Estonia will never stand alone, Latvia will never stand alone, Lithuania will never stand alone, Romania will never stand alone. These are not just words, they are unbreakable commitments.”

The President has also pledged a billion dollars’ worth of extra military aid for Eastern Europe’s NATO members. And he’s agreed to expand non-lethal aid to Ukraine’s new government, so it now includes items like night-vision equipment and body armor. And he was clear too that Ukraine could also reply on American moral support: 

“I met with President-elect Poroshenko this morning and I told him that just as free nations offered support and assistance to Poland in your transition to democracy, we stand with Ukrainians now, Ukraine must be free to choose its own future for itself and by itself.”

On March 4 NATO decided to step up its military activities.  The U.S. sent 12 F-16 fighter jets to Poland on the Polish government’s request. The U.S. also agreed to send four F-15 jets to Lithuania. There is a U.S. Air Force presence in the Baltic States because of NATO air-patrol responsibilities, which rotate in four-month intervals between member countries. US warships moved to the Baltic and Black seas. In June the defense chiefs from Germany, Denmark and Poland, which work together in NATO’s Multinational Corps Northeast, told NATO counterparts they had agreed to upgrade the readiness of the corps’ headquarters in Szczecin, Poland, a NATO official said. The headquarters is likely to get more staff and equipment so it could take command of exercises and potentially any reinforcement effort needed in Eastern Europe. However, Poland, which wants large numbers of NATO troops stationed permanently on its soil, said beefing up the headquarters was not enough. “We don’t want the strengthening of the command center to be seen as the only aspect of bolstering NATO presence in the east. We expect much more and we are talking about this,” Polish Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told reporters in Brussels.

Deputy NATO Secretary Alexander Vershbow called for NATO strategy to be reviewed.

The US President wants Congress to give him $5 billion blank check to fund contingencies aboard. The new fund would be established for the purpose. The sum is to be added to the administration’s Pentagon budget request for the upcoming fiscal year inside what’s known as the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund. The money is to be spent of foreign wars and not be included into the Defense Department’s core budget.

Talking to West Point graduates Obama said the United States will lead the world for another one hundred years.  It looks more like mantra against the background of inflated public debt and rapid emergence of multipolar world. The Russia-China gas deal and the both countries’ planned switch to national currencies settlements, prospective payments in Russian national currency for European gas supplies and the tangible trend of BRICS moving to financial independence – all told it becomes evident the dollar’ status of global reserve currency is jeopardized.  Japan, the US loyal ally, has already expressed its wish to join the dollar boycott threatening the very system of US-led military alliances and shaking the very foundation of US global leadership.

Sheer inertia makes the United States continue to act like if it were the only global leader. For instance, Obama says the United States armed forces are unmatched in the world,

In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise – who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away – are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics. Think about it. Our military has no peer. The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low, and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.

The issue of Ukraine was on the agenda of the highly secretive Bilderberg group holding its 62nd annual conference in Denmark from May 29 to June 1 in Copenhagen, Denmark. This year they talked about the concerted actions of the United States and the European Union in case Russian troops enter Ukraine and the readiness of the West for a world war.

In the celebratory atmosphere last week as the Palestinian unity government was sworn in, ending a seven-year feud between Fatah and Hamas, it was easy to overlook who was absent.

Hamas had agreed to remain in the shadows to placate Washington, which is legally obligated to refuse aid to a government that includes a designated terrorist group. The new Palestinian cabinet looked little different from its predecessor; Hamas’ input was limited to three independents, all in low-level ministerial positions.

And because this transitional government is still operating within the confines of Israeli occupation, the three ministers from Gaza were refused permits to travel to the West Bank for the swearing-in ceremony on June 2.

The appointment of a temporary government of technocrats is likely to be the easiest phase of the reconciliation agreed in late April. The deal has endured so far – unlike earlier agreements – because Hamas, in even more desperate straits than its rival, Fatah, has capitulated.

For that reason, the United States and most of the world hurried to offer their blessing. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, made dire warnings about the “strengthening of terror” and okayed 3,300 settler homes to punish the Palestinians.

A far trickier stage is still to come: the Palestinian cabinet under President Mahmoud Abbas needs to oversee a bitterly contested national election between Fatah and Hamas expected early next year.

The elections are seen as vital. Palestinians have had no say in who rules them since 2006, when Hamas was victorious. A year later, after brief and vicious fighting, Hamas and Fatah created separate fiefdoms in Gaza and the West Bank. Both need to prove their legitimacy at the ballot box.

Should voting take place, and Hamas win again, the US and others can be expected to boycott the new government – withdrawing desperately needed aid – as they did back in 2006.

But far more likely, Israel will not allow the elections to take place.

Eight years ago, in the months prior to voting, Israel initiated a wave of arrests of Hamas leaders in an attempt to stymie the democratic process. Israel also hoped to block voting in occupied East Jerusalem, which it considers part of its “eternal, indivisible” capital. But the White House – realising a ballot without Jerusalem would lack credibility – pressured Israel into grudging acquiescence.

Less well remembered is that Fatah quietly conspired with Israel to try to postpone the national vote. Fearing that Hamas would sweep the board, Fatah hoped to use Israeli intransigence in Jerusalem as the necessary pretext to delay the wider elections to a time more favourable to its candidates.

Netanyahu has already announced that he will not allow an election in East Jerusalem, as well as indicating that Hamas will be barred from running elsewhere. That is hardly surprising: Israel has spent the past eight years eradicating Hamas from Jerusalem by jailing its leaders or expelling them to the West Bank.

But Fatah’s behaviour in 2006 hints at an even bigger obstacle to consummating the reconciliation. The reality is that Hamas and Fatah have entered the process only out of mutual despair.

Hamas’ political and geographical isolation in Gaza has plumbed new depths since the Egyptian regime turned hostile. Blockaded on all sides, Hamas has seen its support erode as the enclave’s economic crisis has deepened. A deal with Fatah seems the only way to open the borders.

The credibility of Fatah and Abbas, meanwhile, has been steadily undermined by years of cooperation with Israel – all while the settlements have expanded – in the hope of extracting a concession on statehood. With little to show for it, Fatah is increasingly seen as Israel’s craven security contractor.

Abbas’ new strategy – creating a momentum towards statehood at the United Nations – requires that his government-in-waiting establish its democratic credentials, territorial integrity, and a national consensus behind the diplomatic option.

The priority for Netanyahu is not only to void the elections but to weaken the two sides’ commitment to unity by punishing them for their insolence. He can do so given Israel’s control over all aspects of Palestinian life.

Israel has begun not only with another glut of settlement building, but by declaring war on the Palestinian economy, refusing to accept shekel deposits from Palestinian banks, and by imposing collective daily blackouts on Palestinians for unpaid bills to Israel’s electricity company.

Abbas, now responsible for paying the salaries of tens of thousands of public employees in Gaza each month, will be even more vulnerable to Israeli threats to refuse to transfer tax and customs revenues. On Monday it was reported that Israel had also been lobbying foreign capitals to ensure the Palestinian president is held directly responsible for any rockets fired from Gaza.

Hamas faces a no less difficult period ahead. If it strays too far from Fatah’s dictates, it will be blamed for destroying the unity pact; but if it adheres too close to Fatah, it will lose its identity and risk being outflanked by more militant groups like Islamic Jihad.

Samah Sabawi, a political analyst, observed of the unity government: “What we need more than ministries and authorities is resistance and liberation.” The unity government – whether of technocrats or elected officials – will still operate within the limitations imposed by Israel’s occupation.

In fact, the unity government simply breathes new life into the illusion – created by the Oslo accords of two decades ago – that good governance by the Palestinian Authority can change the Palestinians’ situation for the better. In practice, such governance has entailed submitting to Israel’s security demands, a Palestinian obligation Abbas termed “sacred” last week.

As Sabawi suggests, an occupied people needs not better rubbish collection or street lighting but an effective strategy for resistance.

Palestinians will not benefit from a PA that polices the occupation simply because it becomes more “unified”. Rather, their struggle to attain real freedom will grow that bit more daunting.

 

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books).  His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Dear Colleagues, dear Friends:

First of all, thank you very much for organizing the very interesting and important Peace Event in Sarajevo from June 6th to 9th, which you’ve called “the biggest international peace event 2014.” You have put together a compelling program.

Weeks ago I purchased my flight tickets to Sarajevo. I looked forward to the meetings and discussions with colleagues. I was also grateful for the opportunity to show a film, “The Killing Floor,” and to co-present a workshop about the first Global Action Day against the Use of Drones for Surveillance & Killing on October 4, 2014.

Only very recently did I notice that the donors for Peace Event Sarajevo include not only respected NGOs and foundations, but also the French Foreign Ministry (Ministère des Affaires Etrangères) and USAID (United States Agency for International Development).

How can this be? What do the governments of France and the United States hope to achieve by financing a peace event in Sarajevo? Have you perhaps heard this same concern from other conference participants?

After all, the U.S. is by far the most aggressive war power in the world, with annual military spending that dwarfs that of all other countries and with operations all over the planet in violation of the sovereignty of other nations and international law. Among European nations, France is playing a particularly aggressive role, especially in Africa, and is working to persuade its European partners in NATO and the EU to join in more military ventures, often in the guise of “peacemaking” and “humanitarian” intervention.

Since I am a U.S. citizen, in the remainder of this letter I wish to explain more fully why I strongly object to the acceptance of a donation from USAID for a peace conference.

As you must know, USAID was founded at the height of the Cold War in 1961 and has played a controversial role in U.S. government destabilization efforts in various countries ever since, beginning with Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The USAID website sets forth the mission of this agency:

“USAID is a U.S. Government agency that provides economic, development, and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States.”

“Although technically an independent federal agency, USAID operates subject to the foreign policy guidance of the President, Secretary of State, and the National Security Council.”

“Further, since 9/11, America’s foreign assistance programs have been more fullyintegrated into the United States’ National Security Strategy.”

Over the years, many countries have expelled USAID. In 2012 Russia expelled USAID because of “attempts to influence political processes through its grants,” and Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Venezuela called on all the Latin American ALBA countries to expel USAID.

It seems that these countries had good grounds to expel USAID. For example, in 2013 Wikileaks exposed how USAID worked in Venezuela to destabilize its government. In April 2014, an investigative article by the Associated Press exposed USAID attempts to destabilize Cuba by setting up a Cuban Twitter service. Some 40,000 Cubans joined the Twitter service, unaware of the U.S. role in setting it up. They also were unaware that the U.S. government was monitoring their private Twitter communications. The U.S. had planned to subsequently intervene in Cuban social networks by sending messages to the Twitter subscribers with the aim of fomenting unrest in Cuba. Reporting on the Cuban Twitter scandal, the well-known U.S. independent news program Democracy Now asked: “Is USAID the New CIA?”

Nearer to Sarajevo, USAID has played a leading role in the U.S. “regime change” effort in the Ukraine. USAID of course supports the coup government in Kiev, which includes acknowledged fascists and has unleashed terror and death on countless Ukrainians. Over the last twenty years, USAID pumped $1.8 billion into various Ukrainian projects, including $1.25 million to subsidize the pro-Kiev media in advance of the May 25th presidential election. In May 2014 USAID brokered a U.S. government loan guarantee of another billion dollars.

And here in Germany, USAID is partnered with AFRICOM, the United States Africa Command in Stuttgart, which is part of the Pentagon and the central command for all U.S. military ventures in Africa, including intelligence gathering, illegal drone murders, clandestine special forces ventures, and providing training and assistance for African military forces allied with the U.S. The U.S. military activities in Africa are often conducted in close association with those of France, and the U.S. has provided France with Reaper drones for use in Africa. To summarize, USAID provides a “humanitarian” veneer for brutal neo-colonial policies in Africa. USAID is the glove on the massive U.S. military fist.

Acceptance of the USAID donation damages the reputation of Peace Event Sarajevo 2014 and of its participants, and undermines the conference’s credibility.

Acceptance of the donation also helps the nefarious USAID to spruce up its image through association with well-respected peace activists, so that USAID can continue to “talk of peace” while preparing wars.

Peace Event Sarajevo 2014 should immediately return the USAID donation.

If for some reason it is not possible to return the USAID donation, Peace Event Sarajevo organizers should at the beginning of the conference disclose to all conference participants all details concerning the USAID donation, including how it came about, its amount, and any donor letters, contracts or correspondence.

Furthermore, Peace Event Sarajevo organizers must assure conference participants that their contact data and other personal information have not been and will not be made available to USAID for future schemes to influence social networks as was attempted by USAID in the Cuban Twitter project.

UPDATE (June 8, 2014):

The organizers of Peace Event Sarajevo recently removed USAID from the list of donors posted on their website under:

http://www.peaceeventsarajevo2014.eu/our-partners/articles/our-donors-are.html.

But the USAID financing is still listed on page four of this downloadable program:

http://www.peaceeventsarajevo2014.eu/tl_files/a_downloads/program_peace_event.pdf.

As far as I know, the organizers have not returned the financing from USAID, nor have they so far been open to a public discussion regarding this financing. Many participants in the Peace Event have expressed concern about the USAID and French Foreign Ministry financing, and several petitions are circulating. Two Members of the German Parliament, Heike Hänsel and Alexander Neu, have written to the organizers to express their concerns about the USAID financing.

Many conference participants were shocked upon arrival to see the ca. 200 local Bosnian volunteers for the event all wearing T-shirts with “USAID Peace Event Sarajevo 2014″ printed on them. The Bosnian version of the “Peace Event” newspaper has USAID prominently displayed on the first page and other donors only in very fine print on the back page. It seems that among the population in Bosnia, USAID was promoted as virtually the only donor for Peace Event Sarajevo.

USAID is hardly a “neutral” source of financing for a peace event in Sarajevo. The continued US military presence in Bosnia is controversial here and is particularly resented by the large Bosnian Serbian minority of ca. 30%. Several Bosnians I have spoken with in the two days I have been here have complained that they feel as though under a continuing US occupation. They are also dependent on USAID as virtually the sole source available to them for cultural and other projects.

The US has a huge embassy in Sarajevo. The US military base Camp Eagle in Bosnia would provide essential military infrastructure for any US and NATO military intervention in Ukraine. The George W. Bush Presidency is reported to have used Camp Eagle for the secret extrajudicial detention of ghost prisoners, which (along with Camp Bondsteel in nearby Kosovo) has been called a smaller version of Guantanamo.

Elsa Rassbach (in Sarajevo)

The Big Money World of Mercenaries and Private Security

June 10th, 2014 by Global Research News

By Jasmine Henrique 

Private Security Beginnings:

13th Century B.C.: Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses the II hires Nubians (popularly known as Medjai), Libyans, Syrians, and Sherdens (from Sardinia) to compliment his own military and security forces.
400 A.D. During the Byzantine empire, emperors contracted foreigners for their personal security, forming the Varangion Guard.
1748: Harry Fielding, in the UK, proposed the founding of a permanent well paid professional security force.
1850s: Allan Pinkerton (a former Chicago police detective) created the Pinkerton Agency, his own private security agency.

Private Security
Source: SecurityDegreeHub.com

In an Increasingly Violent World:

526,000: number of people killed by armed violence every year
Every minute: 1 person dies of armed violence
87.8: percentage of people killed annually in non conflict settings
12.2: percentage killed in conflict settings
1 in 10: number of people killed in conflict, or terroristic settings a year

The most dangerous places in the world (global average, 7.9 persons killed per 100,000 people):

• Syria: 3,750: Average number of violent deaths per month. More than 140,000 people have been killed in the past two years, including 7,000 children.
• El Salvador: 61.9 people killed per 100,000 every year
• Iraq: 59.4/100,000 (but on the rise)
• Jamaica: 58.1/100,000
• Afghanistan: 14.3 deaths per 1,000

4,000: Number of homicides in Caracas, Venezuela in 2012

 

The Rise of Private Security Services in Modern Times:

2005: At the Height of the Iraqi War:
• 20,000: number of non-Iraqi security contractors
Of these, 5-6,000 were British, American, South African, Russian or European; another 12,000 are from Third World countries, such as Fiji, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and India.
• 15,000 Iraqi security contractors
Most were hired mainly by the British security firm Erinys to guard Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

Today: 
#1: U.S. is the number top user of private contract security services in the world
$174+ billion: amount spent on security services, worldwide, 2010
35: percentage of worldwide security services market is in U.S., 2014
17: percentage growth anticipated by 2015
$210 billion: amount projected worldwide demand of security services, in 2015

Fueling demand of personal security:
• Increased urbanization
• Need to protect assets
• Lack of faith in public safety
• Fear of crime and terrorism

Fueling the growth of the personal security industry:
• Foreign investment
• Economic recover
• Overloading of public services

In the U.S.:

Private Security
2 million: number of private security personnel
90,000: number of private security organizations

Vs. Law Enforcement
765,000: employed law enforcement personnel
17,985: number of state and local law enforcement agencies
80: percentage of private security personnel employment from 1980-2010
Less than 1: percentage of applicants hired by elite security firms.

What private security firms do:

Personal protection of:
• Business executives
• Celebrities
• Government officials
• Consulting and Training
• Threat assessment
• Threat management
• Investigation
• Legal support
• Background checks
• Information security

On the Sea: Private Maritime Security vs. Piracy
• $400 million: Annual cost of multinational naval presence
• 0: number of ships hijacked with private security aboard
• 140: number of maritime private security firms now operational
• 35,000: number of cargo ships that must pass through high risk zones
• $5.5 million: average ransom paid to pirates

Personal protection: about 50 % of private security services requested is for personal security
Guards for private security firms can make between $400 and $600 per day.
Guards employed by Blackwater, a high-profile American company that guarded Ambassador Paul Bremer in Iraq, were paid up to $1000 a day.

The world’s most powerful mercenary armies:
• G4S: employs 625,000
• Presence in more than 125 countries
• 2nd largest employer in the world (after WalMart)
• Unity Resources Group: 1,200 employees
• Strong presence in Iraq
• Erinys: more than 15,000 (unofficial)
• Asia Security Group, employs 600. Formerly owned by Karzai, president of Afghanistan.
• Dyncorp: staff in excess of 5,000.

 

How to Prepare for Mercenary Employment

Step 1 – Obtain military or law enforcement related experience.
• Previous experience working in the special forces of the army, USMC, navy, or air force if seeking the higher paying security-related jobs.
• Most private security companies will be looking for a minimum of 3-5 years of relevant experience on one’s resume.
Step 2 – Obtain proficiency in a foreign language.
• Develop a skill set in another commonly spoken language such as French, German, Arabic, Russian, or Spanish will make you more attractive to future employers.
Step 3 – Get into great physical shape.
• Many of the private security firms will require a physical fitness test be passed before making a new employee permanent.
Step 4 – Build your resume.
• Focus on job skills, qualifications, and experience that directly relate to the mercenary job(s) that you are interested in filling.
Step 5 – Gather required documentation.
• Most American private security firms require a valid U.S. driver’s license, tourist passport, the DD-214 provided on separation from the military service.

 

Sources:
http://dyonder.hubpages.com/hub/The-History-of-Private-Security
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/warriors/faqs/
http://www.humanosphere.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/global-burden-of-violence.jpg
http://www.businessinsider.com/bi-mercenary-armies-2012-2?op=1
http://www.mercenaryjobs.org/how-to-become-a-mercenary.html

The European Commission has indicated it will obstruct the building of a new gas pipeline to bypass Ukraine. South Stream is a Russian sponsored natural gas pipeline. As planned, the pipeline would run under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and continue through Serbia with two branches to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Croatia. From Serbia the pipelines crosses Hungary and Slovenia before reaching Italy. Its planned capacity is 63 billion cubic metres per year.

The key partner for Russia’s Gazprom in the South Stream project is Italy’s largest energy company, ENI.

Russia signed intergovernmental agreements with Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Greece as far back as 2008 and with Slovenia in 2009 and Croatia and Austria in 2010.

Now the EU energy chief, German Gunther Oettinger has claimed to the German media that EU objections to the South Stream project are both political and legal.

“With civil war-like conditions in eastern Ukraine and without Moscow’s recognition of the Kiev government, we will certainly not arrive at a political conclusion of our negotiations,” he said.

He added that talks in a special EU-Russia “working group” on South Stream can continue, but only if Russia is “ready for constructive co-operation on the basis of our energy law”.

The EU’s so-called third energy package forces energy firms to separate production and distribution assets and to allow competitors access to infrastructure.

Legal threat against Bulgaria

The Commission cannot force member states to abandon the project, but it can obstruct progress by launching legal cases against the contracts which underpin its future. It already threw one spanner in the works this week by launching “infringement proceedings” against Bulgaria on alleged non-compliance with EU public procurement law in its handling of tenders.

Last December, the Commission said that all bilateral agreements (IGAs) for the construction of South Stream gas, signed between Russia and Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria, are all in breach of EU law and need to be renegotiated from scratch. Klaus-Dieter Borchardt, director for energy markets at the European Commission, speaking in the European Parliament said the deals were in breach of EU law.

“The Commission has looked into these intergovernmental agreements and came to the conclusion that none of the agreements is in compliance with EU law,” Borchardt said.

The Commission official highlighted at least three major issues about the deals:

First, the EU’s so-called network ownership “unbundling” rules need to be observed, he said. This means that Gazprom, which is both a producer and a supplier of gas, cannot simultaneously own production capacity and its transmission network;

Secondly, non-discriminatory access of third parties to the pipeline needs to be ensured. There cannot be an exclusive right for Gazprom to be the only shipper; and

Thirdly, the tariff structure needed to be addressed.

EU challenged over claim that its rules should prevail over international law

Russian deputy minister for energy Anatoly Yankovski, who delivered a speech shortly afterwards made the obvious point that Russia could not accept that EU rules should apply to trans-boundary projects such as pipelines, which are not stationed solely on EU territory. He added that EU law could not prevail in EU-Russia relations, which are governed only by international law. In other words, the intergovernmental agreements concluded by Russia over South Stream were prevailing over other legal norms, Yankovski said.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso upped the ante by warning Bulgaria that the EU executive would impose infringements on Bulgaria regarding pipeline declaring that its construction is in breach of EU laws.

The total value of the construction works on Bulgarian territory will be 3.5 billion Euros, with 20 to 30% of the implementation being sub-contracted to Bulgarian firms.

The Commission has objected precisely on the grounds that the Bulgarian-Russian bilateral agreement on South Stream gives preference to companies from Bulgaria and Russia, which is against EU competition rules.

Despite the Commission’s position that the IGA violates EU law, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller confirmed last month that the building of the Bulgarian and Serbian portions of the pipeline will begin in July.

In end-April, Russia filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the European Union over the EU’s Third Energy Package.

As I was researching Nineteen Eighty-four in Chinese, I wondered whether Orwell ever wrote about China. His interest in India, where he was born in 1903, is well known, and he served in the Burma Police after leaving school and before becoming a writer, but my guess was that China didn’t concern him greatly. But when I went to the British Library to check in his massive, 20-volume Complete Works [CW], I was surprised to discover that he wrote quite a lot about China and its fate under Japanese occupation, in particular when he was working for the BBC’s Eastern Service during World War II.

And of direct relevance to this article, it turns out that he asked his publishers to send a copy of Nineteen Eighty-four to his colleague, the literary critic William Empson in Peking, where he was teaching English literature. When he was seriously ill in a sanatorium in Gloucestershire in 1949, Orwell wrote to his agent Leonard Moore:

“William Empson in China has asked for a copy of 1984 [sic]. I think it might be wise to get two copies sent, one from London and one from New York. He already seems uncertain as to whether his letters are being opened, so could you ask both publishers not to enclose the usual card saying ‘Compliments of the Author’, as this might just conceivably be embarrassing to him.”

Helpfully he gave Empson’s address as 11, Tung Kao Fang, Near Peking Normal University, Peiping 9, China (30 August 1949, CW, vol 20, p 162).

It so happens that a neighbour of mine was a close friend of the Empsons and a couple of years ago she introduced me to their son Jacobus, who has written a book about his parents’ unconventional marriage and his childhood in Peking. Jake tells me that not only did at least one copy of Nineteen Eighty-four arrive safely in Peking, but that he remembers his parents reading it so eagerly that “they had to tear it in half so they could both read it at once!” (J. Empson, email to the author, 8 March 2014).

Orwell had written three months earlier that

“I had vague ideas of writing [to Empson], but thought it might be embarrassing for foreigners in China to get letters from outside at the moment. Hetta, Empson’s wife, is or used to be a Communist, & he himself is not particularly hostile to Communism, but I doubt whether that would do much good under a Chinese Communist régime”

(letter also from Gloucestershire, to his American publisher Robert Giroux. Orwell adds that “I have been horribly ill for the last month or so…” 19 May 1949, CW, vol 20, p 117). Orwell seems to have been somewhat bemused by the Empsons’ departure for Peking, and in another letter to Giroux, he says: “I’d like to know what he [Empson] has to say about “[King] Lear,” (a reference to Empson’s recent essay on Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool). He has disappeared into China the way people do…” (14 April 1949, CW, vol 20, p 84). Jake says Orwell’s assessment of his parents’ political stances is accurate.

“My mother was a member of the Communist Party from 1937 until 1956, so Orwell was quite correct in her case – my father’s political opinions were more nuanced, as they say these days, but he could have been rightly described as a sympathiser – wearing his Chinese communist uniform when attending a conference in the U.S. in about 1950, for instance.”

But despite Orwell’s suspicions about the Empsons, he did not include them in his famous (or infamous) list of alleged communists that he drew up for the Information Research Department, a branch of the British Foreign Office, a year or two before he died (CW, vol 20, pp 240-259). This list of 135 “crypto-Communists & fellow-travellers” sparked a furore when it finally came to light in the late 1990s, with some denouncing Orwell as a government informer and others defending him because he viewed the Communist Party as a totalitarian menace. The list includes comments such as “Half-Caste…Main emphasis anti-white but reliably pro-Russian on all major issues”.. Empson was a highly influential literary critic who taught in Peking and Kunming in the late 1930s and returned to teach at Peking Normal University from 1947 to 1952, witnessing the last years of the Chinese civil war and the Communist takeover.

Orwell’s main interest in China was related to its attempts to resist the Japanese, who had first invaded the northeast in 1931 and the rest of the country six years later, and he voiced his anger in several BBC scripts. He was appalled at the eye-witness stories of extreme Japanese cruelty that came to his attention at the BBC. With unusual insight, he dated the beginning of World War II not to the German invasion of Poland in 1939 but to the Japanese invasion of China.

“[The war] started, properly speaking, in 1931 when the Japanese invaded Manchuria, and the League of Nations failed to take action. From then onwards, we have seen a long series of aggressions … [I]t was inevitable that Soviet Russia, however anxious to remain at peace, should sooner or later be drawn into the war on the side of the democracies. It was inevitable that Britain and China should ultimately find themselves fighting on the same side, whatever differences there may have been between them in the past …”

Predictably perhaps, Orwell does not seem to have been sympathetic to the Communists, and gives the Nationalists the credit for China’s success in resisting the Japanese. He notes that when the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, “China was in a state of chaos, and the young Chinese republic was in no condition to resist. Six years later, however, when the invasion of China proper began, order had been restored under the leadership of Marshal Chiang Kai-shek, and a powerful national spirit had grown up.” Orwell adds that the main reason the Chinese kept on fighting against enormous odds is that “they are fighting for their liberty, and the will to surrender does not exist in them” (16 May 1942, CW, vol 13, p 324).

He also noted that “This is [Japan's] third war of aggression in 50 years. On each occasion they have wrenched away a piece of Chinese territory and then exploited it for the benefit of two or three wealthy families who rule Japan, with absolutely no regard for the native inhabitants” (17 January 1942, CW, vol 13, p 127).

It was surely Japanese cruelty towards the Chinese that angered Orwell the most.

“By almost universal agreement it is a regime of naked robbery with all the horrors of massacre, torture and rape on top of that. The same will happen, or has already happened, to all the lands unfortunate enough to fall under Japanese rule. Perhaps the best answer to the propaganda which the Japanese put out in India and other places is simply three words LOOK AT CHINA” (13 March 1943, CW, vol 15, p 28).

In Nineteen Eighty-four Orwell envisaged a world divided into Eurasia, Eastasia and Oceania which are continually at war against each other, and shortly after the end of World War Two he envisaged how “More and more obviously the surface of the earth is being parcelled off into three great empires, each self-contained and cut off from contact with the outer world, and each ruled, under one disguise or another, by a self-selected oligarchy.”

“The haggling as to where the frontiers are to be drawn is still going on, and will continue for some years, and the third of the three super-States–East Asia, dominated by China–is still potential rather than actual,” Orwell declared. “But the general drift is unmistakable,” he said, adding rather puzzlingly that “every scientific discovery of recent years has accelerated it” (‘You and the Atom Bomb,’ Tribune, 19 Oct 1945, CW, vol 17, p 320). This seems to be the closest that Orwell got to linking current politics to the horrific world of his final novel.

Orwell is famous for his interest in political language, and this includes the use of appropriate words for various ethnicities, not a matter that troubled many writers of his time but one which concerned him a great deal and which he returned to again and again. In 1943 he wrote to Penguin Books with the corrected proofs of the forthcoming Penguin edition of his first novel, Burmese Days. Apart from correcting a few misprints, “I have also made a few minor alterations,” Orwell says, adding that

“I draw attention to these as it is important that they should not be missed. Throughout, whenever it says in the text, ie. not in the dialogue, I have altered ‘Chinaman’ to ‘Chinese’. I have also in most cases substituted ‘Burmese’ or ‘Oriental for ‘native’, or have put ‘native’ in quotes. In the dialogue, of course, I have left these words just as they stand. When the book was written a dozen years ago ‘native’ and ‘Chinaman’ were not considered offensive, but nearly all Orientals now object to these terms, and one does not want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” (21 November 1943, CW, vol 15, p 338).

Of course “Oriental” is now almost – or just as – objectionable as “Chinaman”, and the words “racist” or “racism” would be bound to crop up in any modern discussion of such terms, but Orwell was surely ahead of his time in his sensitivity to such issues. The word Negro is now archaic, but in Orwell’s time it was a word of respect, and he insisted (more than once) that it should be written with a capital N: in a review of a special supplement to New Republic magazine, entitled The Negro: His Future in America he highlighted how “the facts it reveals about the present treatment of Negroes in the U.S.A. are bad enough in all conscience. In spite of the quite obvious necessities of war, Negroes are still being pushed out of skilled jobs, segregated and insulted in the Army, assaulted by white policemen and discriminated against by white magistrates….

“In Asiatic eyes the European class struggle is a sham. The Socialist movement has never gained a real foothold in Asia or Africa, or even among the American Negroes: it is everywhere side-tracked by nationalism and race-hatred…

“The word ‘native,’ which makes any Asiatic boil with rage, and which has been dropped even by British officials in India these ten years past, is flung about all over the place. “Negro” is habitually printed with a small n, a thing most Negroes resent.” He adds how he has been substituting “Chinese” for “Chinaman” in Burmese Days, adding: “The book was written less than a dozen years ago, but in the intervening time ‘Chinaman’ has become a deadly insult. Even ‘Mahomedan’ is now being resented: one should say ‘Moslem.’ These things are childish, but then nationalism is childish. And after all we ourselves do not actually like being called ‘Limeys’ or ‘Britishers.’” (‘As I Please’, 2, Tribune, 10 December, 1942, CW, vol 16, pp 23-24).

Orwell holding his adopted son Richard

Orwell returned to this theme in 1947, devoting an entire ‘As I Please’ column to it. It has an added poignancy because the reason he was looking at a child’s illustrated alphabet is no doubt because he was by now a widower with a small adopted son, Richard. It’s a forceful piece without a wasted word:

Recently I was looking through a child’s illustrated alphabet, published this year. It is what is called a “travel alphabet.” Here are the rhymes accompanying three of the letters, J, N and U.

J for the Junk which the Chinaman finds

Is useful for carrying goods of all kinds.

N for the Native from Africa’s land.

He looks very fierce with his spear in his hand.

U for the Union Jacks Pam and John carry

While out for a hike with their nice Uncle Harry.

The “native” in the picture is a Zulu dressed only in some bracelets and a fragment of leopard skin. As for the Junk, the detail of the picture is very small, but the “Chinamen” portrayed in it appear to be wearing pigtails.

Perhaps there is not much to object to in the presence of the Union Jack. This is an age of competing nationalisms, and who shall blame us if we flourish our own emblems along with all the rest? But is it really necessary, in 1947, to teach children to use expressions like “native’ and “Chinaman”?

The last-named word has been regarded as offensive by the Chinese for at least a dozen years. As for “native,” it was being officially discountenanced even in India as long as twenty years ago.

It is no use answering that it is childish for an Indian or an African to feel insulted when he is called a “native.” We all have these feelings in one form or another. If a Chinese wants to be called a Chinese and not a Chinaman, if a Scotsman objects to be called a Scotchman, or if a Negro demands his capital N, it is only the most ordinary politeness to do what is asked of one. (27 Feb 1947, Daily Herald for Tribune, CW, vol 19, pp 50-51).

As the article below is about translation, I would also like to add Orwell’s touching words that he added to a list of translations of his works (he lists no translation into Chinese but does mention editions of Animal Farm in Japanese and Korean, produced by the U.K. Liaison Mission, Tokyo and the U.S. Army, respectively). He added as a note:

“Some of the above translations, chiefly of ANIMAL FARM, were not paid for. I most particularly do not wish payment to be demanded for translation of any book, article, etc., by any groups of refugees, students, working-class organisation, etc., not in any case where translation will only be made if the rights are given free.

Ditto with reprints in English (I don’t think Braille versions are ever paid for, but in any case I don’t want payment for any that may be made).”

Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four with
a banner advertising
Murakami Haruki’s 1Q84

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four is just the kind of book that you would expect to be banned in China, all that talk of Big Brother, Newspeak and the rewriting of history is far too close to the bone, surely. So I was amazed to come across it on open sale in a state-run bookshop in Yanji 延吉on the North Korean border in fact.

Nineteen Eighty-four is all over the place in China in fact. A Chinese website lists no fewer than 13 translations published in the PRC between 1985 and 2012, and it’s easy to find at least three or four downloadable or online translations on a quick internet search. Apart from anything else I’m speechless at the amount of reduplicated effort all these translations involve, and also wonder how much “borrowing” has taken place between the various translations. And in addition to all the Mainland translations, about 10 have been published in Taiwan or Hong Kong, according to a University of Hong Kong M. Phil. thesis. (There is some overlap between the two categories as some translations first published in Taiwan have since been reprinted in the PRC).

I’m not sure why the Chinese government takes such a relaxed attitude to a book that condemns totalitarianism in such ferocious terms, or why there are so many different translations. It’s certainly quite unlike the Soviet Union, where the novel was banned. Certainly the squalid, Dickensian atmosphere of Nineteen Eighty-four doesn’t remotely evoke the glitzy skyscrapers of 21st century Beijing or Shanghai, but it is remarkable that the authorities are so nonchalant about a book that is supposed to frighten the wits out dictators everywhere. Perhaps it’s the fact that the book is by a foreigner and is set explicitly in London that makes the Chinese Communist Party feel that it can brush it off so casually. Orwell’s other masterpiece, Animal Farm, translated literally as 动物庄园, seems also to be widely available in China, which is equally surprising, and the translator of Animal Farm has thrown some light onto why the authorities have taken such a relaxed attitude to Orwell. David Goodman of the University of Sydney quotes his late friend Fu Weici 傅惟慈 (1923-2014) as saying: “I recall talking to Fu about Animal Farm and its translation a long way back. He said that as long as one equated the dystopia with the USSR there was no problem. This was presumably if asked, outside the text Fu was always…healthily cynical.” This Chinese Wikipedia entry says the first Chinese translation of Animal Farm was published by the leftist Commercial Press 商务印书馆 in 1948 and lists seven subsequent translations. It’s hard to imagine an original Chinese dystopian novel or political allegory being remotely tolerated.

Fu Weici holding a copy of his translation of
Animal Farm (courtesy of David Goodman)

The first, and probably the best known, of the many Chinese translations of Nineteen Eighty-four published on the Mainland is by Dong Leshan 董乐山 (1924-99), who, like Orwell, was an independent-minded socialist and who like almost all Chinese intellectuals suffered badly during the Cultural Revolution. Dong, who translated the first PRC edition of the novel that was published in 1979, wrote a remarkably frank introduction which is downloadable here in an edition published by the Liaoning Educational Publishing House in 1998.

“Orwell is not a so-called anti-communist writer in the general meaning of the phrase, and Nineteen Eighty-four is not simply a so-called anti-Soviet work….Orwell was first and foremost a socialist, and next he was anti-totalitarian and his struggle against totalitarianism is the inevitable result of his belief in socialism,”

Dong declared. “He believed that only if totalitarianism is defeated can socialism be victorious.” Dong’s condemnation of the Chinese Communist Party’s brutality and authoritarianism is clear enough, and becomes even more direct when he praises Orwell for not being like those Western intellectuals in the 1930s who “paid homage to the ‘new Mecca’ [Stalin's Soviet Union] and were led by the nose through ‘Potemkin villages’ and when they returned raved how they had seen the bright sunshine of a new world.” (Dong was too astute to mention the Western leftists who praised Mao’s China in the 1960s and 70s in similar awestruck terms). But Dong saved his most daring critique for last, concluding with the words:

“The twentieth century will soon be over, but political terror still survives and this is why Nineteen Eighty-four remains valid today. In any case so far as we are concerned, only if we thoroughly negate the terror of totalitarianism associated with the ‘Cultural Revolution’ can those people who fought for socialism for so many years bring about true socialism which is worth aspiring to.”

Although the Cultural Revolution is now officially regarded as one of Mao’s greatest mistakes, open discussion of the period remains strictly banned, and Dong was extremely brave to mention the direct parallel between it and the terrifying world of Nineteen Eighty-four.

It’s widely claimed that Dong’s translation of Nineteen Eighty-four was first published one year after the eponymous year, in 1985, but that isn’t correct. David Goodman has kindly provided me with the introduction and editor’s note to the first edition of Dong’s translation, which was published in neibu 內部 (internal/restricted) form in 1979. This would have been available only to senior officials and intellectuals deemed politically reliable enough to be permitted access to such material. It was published in three installments in the “irregularly published” periodicalSelected Translations from Foreign Literature 国外作品选译 and is marked “Internal publication. Look after carefully” 内部刊物 注意保存. The first installment appeared on April 15, 1979, with further installments in May and July.

Dong says in his short introduction that Nineteen Eighty-four “accorded with the needs of the Cold War that was then taking place and has long been a classic anti-communist work that is highly influential, and anyone who takes an interest in contemporary international political material will almost inevitably encounter this book.”

Orwell holding a puppy in Spain
during the Spanish Civil War

Orwell is a “bourgeois intellectual” who fought on the Republican side in the Spanish civil war, while the novel is “modeled on how [Orwell] imagined the future of Soviet society and enormously exaggerated some aspects which were incompatible with his bourgeois individualist liberalism.” The 1979 introduction, published just three years after the death of Mao and the official ending of the Cultural Revolution, is notably more orthodox than the highly outspoken foreword published a decade later. The earlier introduction refers to Orwell as a ‘bourgeois intellectual” and his “bourgeois individualist liberalism” while the later one seems to have been written during a brief cultural thaw – in Liaoning at least – which Dong took full advantage of. It also notes how expressions such as “big brother” and “doublethink” have entered the English language, “which shows how great its influence is.” The (anonymous) editor’s note makes a similar point, noting that the phrase “‘Orwellian society’ is a frequently used English expression”, and says “Western newspapers and magazines even directly or indirectly refer to this book as an anti-communist ‘classic’”. It says Orwell “changed from a ‘left-wing’ to an extreme right-wing writer”, and adds: “The way the book exaggerates and distorts all aspects of this future society under totalitarian rule is used to incite anti-Soviet and anti-communist feelings in the service of the Cold War and ideological war that was then waging.”

It may seem surprising that a book by an anti-communist “extreme right-winger” was published in China, even in a neibu edition, but heretical works, including books by Trotsky and Bakunin, were made available to top officials, often labelled 反面教材 (negative teaching materials). (See here for a discussion of this in Chinese). I recall seeing the best-selling novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull as well as Gone with the Wind in neibu editions when I was a student at Fudan University, Shanghai in 1975-76, and I believe other Western novels were also published at this time as “negative teaching materials”.

There is an interesting account here of how Dong’s translation of Nineteen Eighty-four was first published. Dong’s friend and fellow translator Wu Ningkun 巫宁坤also recalls Dong and his efforts to translate Nineteen Eight-four. Dong joined the underground Communist Party in Shanghai in 1940, but like most intellectuals he was persecuted and imprisoned during the 1957 Anti-rightist campaign and during the Cultural Revolution. He was allowed to return to Beijing after injuring himself on a tractor, and this is when he came across The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich 第三帝国的兴亡 by William Shirer. According to Wu he saw close parallels between the Nazi period in Germany and the Cultural Revolution. He secretly translated at night Shirer’s eye-witness account of Nazi Germany which after the Cultural Revolution was published as a neibu publication for senior officials and was later published openly. He first encountered Nineteen Eighty-four in the early 1970s when he had found a job in Beijing at Xinhua news agency 新华社 where he had worked in the 1950s. He came to the notice of the deputy director of the agency, Chen Shiwu 陈适五, who was editing a periodical with the title Selected Translations from Foreign Literature 国外作品选译. Chen seems to have been quite an independent-minded official for he told Dong he was looking for “material which has reference value and is quite long and is unconventional in character, for leaders and other comrades to refer to.”. Dong decided that Nineteen Eighty-four was the ideal candidate, and as mentioned above it was published in installment form in 1979. Only 5,000 copies of the periodical were printed. The novel was first issued in book form in China in Guangzhou in 1985, again as a neibu publication. This was the idea of Cai Nüliang 蔡女良, an editor at Huacheng Publishing House 花城出版社, who had it published in a set together with Brave New World and We. It was republished openly by Huacheng three years later. It is worth noting that although Wu quotes from Dong’s introduction in which he states how Nineteen Eighty-four remains valid today, for clearly political reasons he omits the reference to the Cultural Revolution.

Dong Leshan

Fu Weici translator of Animal Farm, recalled in a moving tribute to Dong how his friend was in the 1970s reluctant at first to propose that Nineteen Eighty-four be translated into Chinese because of the all too clear parallels with recent Chinese history including the Cultural Revolution, and much later, in 1997, he had trouble getting a two-volume selection of Orwell’s writings published. There seems to have been no problem with the first volume, which was a collection of essays and criticism, but the second volume was to have consisted of Nineteen Eighty-four andAnimal Farm, the latter translated by Fu. At the time Fu wrote the memoir, his translation of Animal Farm had still not been published, although it has since appeared, both alone and in combination with Nineteen Eighty-four. Incidentally Fu notes that Dong’s later translations include Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy 锅匠、裁缝、士兵、间谍 by John Le Carré, The Last Temptation of Christ 基督的最后诱惑 by Nikos Kazantzakis (co-translated with Fu, this was particularly controversial apparently, though Fu doesn’t give details) and Darkness at Noon 正午的黑暗 by Arthur Koestler.

The first ever Chinese translation of Nineteen Eighty-four appeared in Taiwan in 1950, according to Walter Tsang Ka Fa’s 曾家輝 master’s thesis, A study of three Chinese translations of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four (2005), which is based mainly on translations by Qiu Suhui 邱素惠 (Taipei, 1975), Joseph S.M. Lau (Liu Shaoming) 劉紹銘(Taipei, 1984) and Dong Leshan (Guangzhou, 1985). Lau is perhaps the best known of the translators in the west, and is co-editor of Classical Chinese Literature: An Anthology of Translations (New York, 2000) and author of Hong Kong Remembered (Hong Kong, 2002). Most of the translations listed by Tsang have been published in several different editions. In fact, he lists no fewer than 16 different translations, although he says Qiu’s translation is “grossly abridged”, which has not stopped it from being published in 15 different editions, and this does not include recent Mainland reprints. Tsang compares how different translators translate particular passages (including the famous slogan “Big Brother is watching you”) and says “there is no noticeable distinction between the translations that may be attributable to political considerations.” Regarding Dong’s Mainland translation, he says that

“It seems the political environment at the time of translating the novel does not bother Dong at all. This is because he resolutely declares in his preface to the translation that he abhors totalitarianism and would like to warn readers – presumably readers in China in particular as it was first released by a Guangzhou publisher – of such horror with Orwell’s novel” (pp. 125-6).

Tsang doesn’t consider the possible influence of censorship on the various translations, and one should bear in mind that Taiwan in the 1950s and 60s was almost as authoritarian as the PRC.

Here’s my translation of the short foreword to the 2010 edition I bought in Yanji which was published by Qunyan Press 群言出版社 in Beijing. The translation (and presumably the foreword) are by Fu Qiang 富强, which is a pseudonym meaning “rich and strong”. I have uploaded the Chinese original here.

Foreword

George Orwell (1903-1950) was a British novelist. Among world novels there are the so-called “dystopian trilogy, consisting of We 我们 by the Soviet Union’s Zamyatin, Brave New World 美丽新世界 by Britain’s Huxley and the present work by Orwell, 1984.

To put it briefly, this book is a political satire. The plot is strange, grotesque, but it seems to obey certain rules of social development. The novel describes the evil development of totalitarianism which has developed to an appalling degree – human nature has been strangled, freedom has been eradicated, thought has been suppressed and life has become extremely monotonous.

Just like this book, the book that made Orwell famous, Animal Farm, is a very accurate – but similarly biased – novel. All the characters are animals, and the plot is strange and original, with a strong comic element, and to this extent it is pervaded by fear. But Nineteen Eighty-four is entirely lacking in comedy and a bone-chilling sense of fear fills the entire work.

The fear isn’t gory and physical however but reflects a hopeless feeling that human nature has been extinguished. For example, the novel describes an official language called Newspeak 新语言 whose use is compulsory and whose purpose is to reduce the number of words in the language to the smallest possible number so that people will not be able to think except in terms of concepts that the state has decided. Furthermore, no Party member can avoid being officially monitored and there is an electronic screen in every room that cannot be turned off, and the screen accurately transmits each sound [that it hears] to the “Thought Police”.

Nineteen Eighty-four is Orwell’s [most] enduring work. Not only do readers love it but it is deeply respected by scholars. Some of the words and phrases invented in the book, such as Big Brother 老大哥,Doublethink 双重思想,Newspeak and Thought Police 思想警察are listed in authoritative English dictionaries and are even in world circulation. Everybody acknowledges that Nineteen Eighty-four is an extremely graphic description of totalitarianism, and is also an extremely fierce retort 反抗 to totalitarianism. The New York Times praised this book: “No other work of this generation has made us desire freedom more earnestly or loathe tyranny with such fullness.” Many people are convinced that “if one more person reads Orwell, there will be one more guarantee of freedom.”

In fact, Nineteen Eighty-four isn’t purely a political novel but is a journey that asks questions about good and evil and beauty and ugliness in human nature and about reality. But while it cares about human nature it does not turn the novel into a dry textbook or manifesto. If that’s all it was it wouldn’t have attracted so many readers from all around the world. Even though what it talks about is politics, what it is really concerned about is human nature. Mixing and human nature together so they are inseparable is Orwell’s most successful achievement.

This is a book which reveals great truths and no matter how many times you read it you will reach a deeper understanding each time. So far as the reader is concerned, this is a challenge to his or her intelligence and is also a rare opportunity to gain wisdom.

It’s worth noting incidentally that the comments about human nature being strangled, freedom eradicated, thought suppressed and life becoming extremely monotonous seem to have been taken straight from Fu Weici.

Recommended Citation: Michael Rank, “Orwell in China: Big Brother in every bookshop,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 23, No. 2, June 9, 2014.

Michael Rank is a British journalist and translator. He graduated in Chinese Studies from Downing College, Cambridge in 1972 and was a British Council student in Peking and Shanghai from 1974 to 1976. He was a Reuters correspondent in China from 1980 to 1984, followed by two years in east and southern Africa. He has written about an English school in Tibet in the 1920s for the Bulletin of Tibetology as well as news reports.

We bring to the attention of GR readers, a selection of videos by the anti-Maidan Southern Front. ЮЖНЫЙ ФРОНТ

 

Will Fracking Cause our next Nuclear Disaster?

June 10th, 2014 by Dahr Jamail

This article was first published byTruthout

The idea of storing radioactive nuclear waste inside a hollowed-out salt cavern might look good on paper. The concept is to carve out the insides of the caverns, deep underground, then carefully move in the waste. Over time, the logic goes, the salt will move in and insulate the containers for thousands of generations.

“The whole game is to engineer something that can contain those contaminants on the order of tens of thousands of years,” Tim Judson, the executive director of the Nuclear Information Resource Service(NIRS), told Truthout. NIRS is intended to be a national information and networking center for citizens and environmental activists concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy issues, according to Judson.

Salt-cavern storage was the plan for the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP), the world’s third-deepest geological repository, constructed and licensed to permanently dispose of radioactive waste for 10,000 years. The repository sits approximately 26 miles east of the town of Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico.

Since shipments began in 1999, more than 80,000 cubic meters and 11,000 shipments of waste have been transferred to WIPP.

But at the moment, there are several ongoing critical problems at the site, which has been closed and unable to accept shipments of radioactive waste ever since a fire and radiation release in February. Dozens of barrels of radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Lab, like the one that caused the radiation leak, now pose an “imminent” or “substantial” threat to public health and the environment.

Yet, these problems could pale in comparison to what might happen at the site if an earthquake were to strike, or if the protective salt layer were compromised by nearby drilling for oil and gas, and in particular, hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is a technique used in obtaining gas and petroleum, in which water is mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, and the mixture is injected at extremely high pressure into a wellbore to create small fractures.

Thus, one would logically deduce that fracking should never be done anywhere near WIPP. However, it is being done there, and experts expect it to increase.

“In the last three years, a dozen fracking wells have become operational within five miles of the site [WIPP],” Don Hancock, the director of the Nuclear Waste Safety Program at Southwest Research and Information Center, told Truthout.

Given that it is already well known that fracking causes earthquakes, it is clear that the nuclear waste storage site is now in danger of having its structural integrity compromised.

“These are the major concerns,” Hancock warned. “There is clearly a possibility that the deep fracking can affect the stability, but even more likely is fracking liquids nearing or entering the waste beds – which would be a very bad thing.”

“They Are Drilling All Around It”

Truthout spoke with a state of New Mexico employee who is intimately familiar with the permitting and drilling processes related to WIPP. The employee spoke on condition of strict anonymity, due to a fear of reprisals from the pro-drilling administration of radical right-wing Tea Party Governor Susana Martinez.

“There is so much drilling coming online down there now,” the employee explained. “They are going back into existing fields and drilling horizontally, and the WIPP siteis located right in the middle of all these fields, so they are drilling all around it.”

The source said that the oil and gas companies who are drilling and fracking near WIPP “have permission to go under the [WIPP] boundary to target the reservoirs there, so it appears as though most of the wells are horizontal, and that is a concern.”

According to the employee, “The fracking fluids they are injecting are very unstable, and if it continues like this there could be big problems…. There was a 5.2 [earthquake] in West Texas from fracking, and that’s a big concern given the sensitivity of the WIPP site and what the possible consequences could be.”

The WIPP site was chosen in the mid-1970s because there was no oil or gas found within several miles of it. The thought at the time was that the area was outside the active oil and gas production area.

“One of the original criteria for siting is there shouldn’t even be a borehole let alone active drilling within two miles of the site,” Hancock explained. “But that ended up being reduced to a mile.”

As time went on, oil and gas drilling started getting closer and closer to the site, so it started being something people paid attention to.

“We became concerned, because inadvertently drilling through nuclear waste containers on your way to find gas has generally had been thought of being a bad idea,” Hancock added sarcastically.

Since the federal government “doesn’t really control fracking” according to Hancock – and since most of the land around the site is controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the state of New Mexico, whose governor is extremely pro-oil and gas and anti-environment – the area has been allowed to be treated just like any other in New Mexico, when it comes to being exploited for oil and gas.

“Those government agencies, federal and state, none of them have fracking restrictions, because the goal is to maximize mineral production because that is the law and it generates income for the feds and state from the royalties,” Hancock added.

The 16-square-mile WIPP site is surrounded by more than 100 operating oil and natural gas wells within a mile of the boundary. There are at least 350 wells within three miles of the boundary, and the number is growing.

In addition to the eventuality of fracking causing earthquakes that could damage the natural salt container around the waste, Hancock also warned, “There is some likelihood of fracking fluids penetrating areas at or near waste emplacement.”

Judson is also concerned about this possibility, because water contamination that comes with fracking creates groundwater seepage that can compromise the integrity of the site, by allowing water into the area where the nuclear waste containers are stored.

“There are also stable rock formations that evolved over millennia, and you are disturbing those rocks and that causes geologic instability,” he added.

Judson also expressed concern about a highly pressurized brine reservoir directly beneath the site, which he says presents “lots of possibilities for problems.”

“The brine is a big pool of very salty water underneath the site,” he explained.

“The repository itself is a salt repository. The concept is you hollow out salt caverns in the earth and move in the waste, and over time the salt moves in and insulates the containers for a long time. But under the site is this salt pond, and if disturbed, [it] can cause wastewater to leak up into the site and corrode waste canisters, and cause waste to migrate if it leaks, and compromise the integrity of the entire site.”

Given that the principle behind WIPP is that it is built so that burying the waste there means the site will resist the dispersal of nuclear waste for thousands of years, Judson warned, “Anything allowing water migration or canister corrosion can compromise the stability of the site itself.”

“A Massive External Release”

State and federal authorities who’ve granted permissions for the oil and gas drilling, along with fracking close to WIPP, say they don’t believe any of these activities will be a problem, because the oil and gas they are going for are several thousand feet below WIPP, which is just over 2,000 feet deep at its deepest point.

According to Hancock, however, this argument is weak.

“Fracking causes earthquakes and other kinds of fracturing, and it’s not like fracking is an exact engineering process. So if you’re fracking at eight or nine thousand feet, this doesn’t mean you can’t have problems at two thousand one hundred feet, or close enough to WIPP to cause difficulties at the level where the waste is,”

he said.

Hancock believes that fracking near the site could cause a release from the underground containment area itself, which could have immediate and long-term effects. This is what we witnessed in February, by way of a small radiation release that shut the site down for nearly four months, and will likely keep it closed for several months to come.

Hancock issued a dire warning about the consequences of fracking near the site: “It [fracking] is potentially a shutting-down-the-facility kind of thing, and worst case scenario, that could cause catastrophic injuries to workers and a massive external [radiation] release which would be an extremely serious problem.”

A Growing Number of Problems

Due to the ongoing problems at WIPP, the federal government’s Department of Energy (DOE) recently notified the state of New Mexico that it would be unable to meet a June 30 deadline to remove 3,706 cubic meters of nuclear waste from the mesa at Los Alamos National Lab where it is stored.

“As we work to assess the conditions of the transuranic waste program at the lab, we have decided to halt further shipments until we can reassure the public that it is safe to do so,” DOE Deputy Under Secretary David Klaus said.

As a result of the February radiation leak and fire within the facility, WIPP officials at the site discounted any effect of the current leak on human health, saying no radiation escaped to the surface. But they did not speak about the extent of the problem or how it eventually would be cleaned up.

“Officials at WIPP continue to monitor the situation,” DOE spokeswoman Deb Gillsaid at the time of the leak. “We are emphasizing there is no threat to human health and the environment.”

Contradicting Gill’s assurances, plutonium readings were detected at a DOE field office half a mile from the site. Joe Franco, the manager of the DOE field office, confirmed the readings.

Nothing will change unless the left and progressives take seriously the subjective underpinnings of oppression in the United States.

If breathed or swallowed, plutonium generally stays in the body for decades and continues to expose the surrounding tissues to radiation.

The WIPP site remains shut down as the DOE and other groups investigate the cause of the release. There is no date set for when the site will reopen, which means areas like Los Alamos will continue to have to store radioactive waste on site.

Wildfires in 2011 burned precariously close to the radioactive waste site at Los Alamos, where the waste is stored aboveground in barrels.

Several times wildfires have come close to the nuclear waste at Los Alamos, nearly causing what would be a national disaster. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)Several times wildfires have come close to the nuclear waste at Los Alamos, nearly causing what would be a national disaster. (Photo: Erika Blumenfeld)

Given the ongoing severe drought in New Mexico and most of the rest of the western US, this wildfire season is expected to set records once again.

Meanwhile, the domino effect from WIPP’s mounting problems is evident, as nuclear power plants across the US are already making preparations for long-term storage of nuclear waste at their sites, due in part to the ongoing crisis at WIPP.

Further complicating the situation at WIPP is the fact that it is located in Eddy County, where there were 592 oil and gas-related spills (63 percent of all the spills in New Mexico) in 2013.

During the first three months of 2014 there were 127 spills in Eddy County, which constituted 91 percent of the spills in the state. Not one enforcement action was referred to state Attorney General Tannis Fox, whose responsibility would have been to enforce state protocols against the spiller. Hence, by not referring actions to the attorney general, the state need not hold accountable the oil and gas companies responsible for spills. In fact, there has not been one enforcement action referred to the state attorney general during the entire time Governor Martinez has been in office.

As of May 2014, more than 3,600 reported violations of the New Mexico oil and gas drilling regulations had not been acted on. Several of these occurred in the vicinity of WIPP.

Despite these disconcerting statistics, the federal government has opted not to inspect high-risk wells and drilling in the area around WIPP.

Hancock pointed to yet another potentially catastrophic situation related to WIPP. “Eddy County has the highest highway accident rate in the state because of the heavy trucks with the fracking and oil and gas drilling, so we expect accidents with fracking and drilling vehicles and WIPP trucks, assuming the site gets reopened,” he warned, as the trucks carrying large containers of radioactive waste en route to WIPP travel alongside those of the oil and gas companies. “Thus, traffic accidents could cause releases on the surface.”

Thousands of Generations

Hancock, who has been monitoring WIPP since 1975 and is intimately familiar with the technical policy, regulatory and legal issues related to the site, reiterated what should be an obvious point: “Given that some of the wastes at WIPP are dangerous for thousands of generations, it is not an ideal place for storing wastes,” he said. “That being the case, we can’t predict what will happen with fracking ramifications that far into the future. The likelihood that the stability of the site will be disrupted is clear.”

Judson was blunt about his assessment of what have been the formative years of the WIPP project.

“The issues of management and mismanagement just 15 years into the project speaks to the difficulties the government faces in managing nuclear waste,” he said. “Given there is a renewed push to reopen Yucca Mountain, which has many of the same problems of WIPP, it raises a real question about the quality of management within DOE for the nuclear waste program.”

WIPP contains plutonium and very toxic radio nuclides that could, if the integrity of the site is comprised as a result of the increasing fracking activity nearby, leak into New Mexico’s groundwater and contaminate it for hundreds of thousands of years to come.

Judson asked why there is not a mandatory 100-mile boundary around the site, and his concluding comment remains what is perhaps the most important unanswered question of all: “Isolating nuclear waste is a national priority, but how much of a priority is it if they are going to allow these kinds of activities near a site like this?”

Dahr Jamail, a Truthout staff reporter, is the author of The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, (Haymarket Books, 2009), and Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq, (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

Let’s pretend that we want to start an organization to defend the rights of people across the globe that has no affiliation to any government or corporate interest. Which of the following characters should we therefore exclude from intimate roles in our organization’s operation? (You may choose more than one answer.) 

 

  1. An individual who presided over a NATO bombing, including various civilian targets.
  2. An individual who was formerly a special assistant to President Bill Clinton, a speechwriter for Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright and a member of the State Department’s policy planning staff who in 2009 declared that, under “limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for the illegal CIA rendition program that has seen an untold number of innocent people kidnapped and tortured.
  3. A former US Ambassador to Colombia, who later lobbied on behalf of Newmont Mining and J.P. Morgan — two US firms whose track records of environmental destruction would suggest that human wellbeing falls below elite profit on their list of priorities.
  4. A former CIA analyst. 

If you answered “all of the above,” you’re one step ahead of Human Rights Watch, which has played institutional host not only to persons matching descriptions A–D but to many others with similar backgrounds.

Javier Solana, for example, was NATO secretary general during the 1999 assault on Yugoslavia, an event HRW itself described as entailing “violations of international humanitarian law.” Solana is now on the group’s Board of Directors.

Tom Malinowski, whose partial CV appears in description B, was HRW’s Washington Director from 2001 to 2013 and has now returned to full-fledged government activity as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Myles Frechette, a former US Ambassador to Colombia, is a member of HRW Americas’ advisory committee, an entity that for many years also counted on the expertise of former CIA analyst Miguel Díaz, currently an Intelligence Community Associate at the State Department. 

It’s no wonder, then, that despite its claims of independence and objectivity, HRW stands accused of participating in a revolving door scheme with the US government.

The apparent conflict of interest is the subject of a recent letter to its executive director Kenneth Roth which was signed by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Mairead Maguire, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General Hans von Sponeck, and more than 100 scholars. Their proposed solution? Shut the door.

The HRW seal of approval

Founded in the US in 1978 under the name Helsinki Watch to monitor human rights violations in the former Soviet bloc, HRW pledges in its mission statement to “scrupulously investigate abuses, expose the facts widely and pressure those with power to respect rights and secure justice.”

But scrupulousness and pressure can be selective at times. As the letter to Roth notes, during Venezuela’s 2012 candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, HRW berated then-President Hugo Chávez for a human rights record that was allegedly “far short of acceptable standards.”

The letter continues: “At no point has US membership in the same council merited censure from HRW, despite Washington’s secret, global assassination program, its preservation of renditions, and its illegal detention of individuals at Guantánamo Bay.”

Given HRW’s trumpeting of fabricated and sensational claims concerning official press censorship in Venezuela, one can imagine the reaction that might ensue were Caracas to, say, inaugurate its own policy of torture-renditions, or its own independent human rights outfit to condone said policy “under limited circumstances.”

Washington, DC-based journalist Keane Bhatt, a one-man truth squad on the issue of HRW’s revolving door, has repeatedly drawn attention to the organization’s entanglement with US interests. In an email to me, he noted its propagandistic insistence on “hurling epithets like ‘authoritarian’” at the Venezuelan government following the late-nineties rise of chavismo, the left-wing political ideology developed by Chávez.

Over the same period, on the other hand, neighboring Colombia has been apparently immune from such labels, despite being the worst human rights abuser in the hemisphere. Bhatt notes that in 1997 HRW research associate Robin Kirk sent a memo to Congress stating that

We are not opposing [US] aid to the [Colombian] Anti-Narcotics Police because of their good human rights record … You’re fully welcome to refer to this as the HRW ‘Seal of Approval’ for police aid, if you wish. Hang onto it — it doesn’t come often!

Unfortunately, the police in question enjoyed high-level ties to the notorious right-wing paramilitary group Los Pepes, responsible for various acts of terrorism in the 1990s including a series of bomb blasts in Medellín.

Why such different treatment? It’s simple. Colombia is a critical US ally — particularly following the surge of left-leaning governments in Latin America — and Venezuela is not.

Honduras, another traditional pal of the US and a de facto US military base, offers a similar example. After a 2009 right-wing coup overthrew then – President Manuel Zelaya — who had grown a bit too chummy with Venezuela for the US’s taste — 90 international scholars published a letter urging HRW to end its month-and-a-half-long silence in the face of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary detentions, physical assaults and attacks on the press carried out by the new regime.

While HRW did initially denounce Zelaya’s overthrow, its six weeks of subsequent inaction contributed to the new regime’s consolidation. Elections held months after the coup served up the illusion of a return to democracy, which the US gleefully embraced, its political and corporate interests having been safeguarded from the threat posed by the overthrown government.

From Cuba to Ecuador to Syria to Ethiopia, HRW’s edicts and positions have often been suspiciously in line with US policy. Cuba is regularly demonized as a human rights offender, when the US’s own offenses — not least in Guantánamo Bay — are far more serious. In Ethiopia, a committed US ally, HRW has been disproportionately lenient on repressive government behavior.

Even in the run-up to the illegal 2003 war that devastated Iraq and spawned all manner of human rights violations, HRW demurred: “We avoid judgments on the legality of war itself because they tend to compromise the neutrality needed to monitor most effectively how the war is waged.” So much for the scrupulous and widespread exposure of injustice.

How to shut a revolving door

If HRW wants to rectify its compromised neutrality, it could stop granting prominent organizational roles to individuals with firm ties to the state and the corporate sector. As Bhatt documents, there’s no dearth of links to companies such as ExxonMobilCoca-Cola, and Boeing — all of which have been accused of acute human rights violations. HRW’s board is co-chaired by investment bankers and its vice chair is a private equity manager.

This is not to argue that HRW is an inherently malevolent government puppet or that it is incapable of making valuable contributions to the field of human rights. But the much-needed reports and analyses it regularly produces are inevitably tainted by its institutional biases. HRW currently fulfills a function not totally dissimilar from that of the establishment media, which, while playing an important watchdog role, simultaneously provides a veneer of independent validation to destructive political endeavors. (Recall, for example, the retinue of Iraq war cheerleaders at the New York Times.)

Bhatt warns that if HRW wishes to “retain credibility,” particularly in Latin America, “it must begin to extricate itself from elite spheres of US decision-making.” He added that HRW must abandon its “internalization of US exceptionalism” (the idea that the US is inherently a force for good).

To stop the revolving door, the signatories to the letter to Roth recommended the following:

Bar those who have crafted or executed US foreign policy from serving as HRW staff, advisors or board members. At a bare minimum, mandate lengthy ‘cooling-off’ periods before and after any associate moves between HRW and that arm of the government.

It’s far from an instant remedy, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction that would help ensure that the rights of humans don’t get confused with the prerogatives of empire.

DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy

The Senior Medical Officer (SMO) at Guantanamo who attended at least two of three high-profile “suicides” at Guantanamo nearly eight years ago concluded at the time that, contrary to the conclusions of a later government investigation, the detainees did not die by hanging but by “likely asphyxiation” from “obstruction” of the airway. Moreover this SMO found a prisoner he examined and pronounced dead had “cotton clothing material in [his] mouth and upper pharynx.” (See pgs. 5-7 of this PDF to view the SMO’s original findings.)

The finding is consistent with other accounts, and with the theory the three prisoners died from a torture procedure known as “dryboarding,” as researcher Almerindo Ojeda described in an 2011 story at Truthout.

Yet, unaccountably, the SMO was never formally interviewed by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), which had the Department of Defense mandate to investigate the supposed suicides. Furthermore, the SMO’s account was not included in the NCIS final report. This new finding is one of a number of such discoveries detailed in a new investigatory report published last month by The Center for Policy and Research (CPR) at Seton Hall University School of Law.

Thus far, their report has been totally ignored by the press.

Other findings in CPR’s new report either ignored or overlooked in previous investigations include the fact that guards who searched the deceased’s rooms only hours prior to their deaths did “not discover anything that a detainee could hang himself with…. in the manner of the rumors” of their death by hanging.

CPR’s report, “Uncovering the Cover-ups: Death in Camp Delta,” was supervised by Seton Hall law professor (and attorney for some Guantanamo detainees) Mark Denbeaux, and co-written by Charles Church, Ryan K. Gallagher, Adam Kirchner and Joshua Wirtshafter. Joseph Hickman, who was at Guantanamo at the time of the deaths, and who figured so prominently in Scott Horton’s January 2010 Harper’s article, “The Guantanamo Suicides,” acted as lead investigator. A full PDF download of the paper is available at this link.

This article will summarize CPR’s findings, but it is highly recommended that readers study the entire report.

Newly Uncovered Documents

Last month, Scott Horton wrote an article at Harpers Magazine, “The Guantanamo ‘Suicides,” Revisited,” which reproduced and annotated a document that had been suppressed in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) release of documents concerning their investigation into three purported suicides at Guantanamo on June 10, 2006. The document, part of a group of documents associated with a separate Staff Judge Advocate investigation of the deaths, had sat unexamined on a DoD FOIA website for literally years, until both Seton Hall and Scott Horton brought it to the public’s attention. The original can be found on pgs. 15-17 of this PDF.

The explosive document — a sworn statement by Master of Arms Denny called to attend to the suicides that evening — states a number of facts from a witness on the scene that directly contradicts the story promulgated by Guantanamo officials and the NCIS report into the deaths. (Denny was named by Horton, but not described by name in the CPR report.) Horton and CPR describe Denny’s account in some detail, including the fact attempts to revive a still living “suicide” were not made for some time, and that cloth wrapped tightly around his neck was not removed.

Government authorities contend the three prisoners died in an act of simultaneous suicide by hanging, an act JTF Guantanamo Commander Harry Harris described only one day after the deaths as “asymmetrical warfare.” It is this version of what happened that has been accepted by a wide section of the press. Horton’s article surmises that the prisoners may have died at Guantanamo’s “Camp No,” also known as “Penny Lane,” thought to be a special CIA black site at Guantanamo used to coerce prisoners, including through torture, to turn informants for the U.S. government.

CPR’s report goes much farther than Horton’s article in documenting exactly how the government pulled this document — Exhibit 25 of the NCIS report — and replaced it with random pages from elsewhere in the group of documents gathered in the course of the investigation. Detailed in Appendix D of the report, the work is an impressive piece of forensic research.

This deliberate suppression of information contrary to the government’s story should be a matter of public outrage and congressional investigation, but the CPR report also shows how the Obama administration’s Justice Department deliberately misled congressional queries about the report in the wake of the 2010 Harpers report and earlier Seton Hall CPR investigation and report, “Death in Camp Delta” (PDF).

Unfortunately, for reasons that are not clear at present, Horton’s recent article, which drew upon work done by Seton Hall’s (CPR), did not include reference to to a number of other new findings and documents CPR uncovered in their ongoing analysis of the Guantanamo deaths (including the SMO report). The documents describe how important evidence contradicting the official narrative were withheld from the NCIS report. Furthermore, when congressional representatives went to the Department of Justice to ask for an investigation, they were lied to about how long the investigation had taken, and whether or not there was evidence that showed something other than death by hanging.

According to the CPR Executive Summary, besides the findings discussed above, the new report concludes:

• Contrary to standard investigative protocol, NCIS never authenticated “suspected suicide notes.”

• Contrary to standard suspected suicide protocol, NCIS never investigated the behavior, state of mind, or emotional condition of the dead men during the minutes, hours, days, and weeks before they died.

• NCIS failed to investigate multiple irregularities in protocol, among them: tampering with the contents of cells where the men were reported to have died, as well as more than fifty discrete events so irregular that they had no specific designation in the log book, and that were so secret that their details were redacted which occurred for hours before the alleged crime scene was secured and investigated by NCIS….

• Contrary to extensive protocol, the Camp Commander ordered the cessation of video recording of the events.

Cover-up or “Conspiracy building”?

The most compelling evidence of a cover-up consists of contemporaneous reports that all three prisoners were found with socks or other cloth material shoved deep into their throats. It was this account of the deaths that Guantanamo authorities moved quickly to cover-up and replace with a story that the detainees had hanged themselves.

According to Horton’s 2010 article, the Joint Detention Group Commander, Michael Bumgarner, gathered camp personnel hours after the deaths and told them “you all know” the prisoners had died from swallowing rags and choking to death, but the press would be told something different: the prisoners had died by hanging themselves.

In May 2011, Alex Koppelman, then writing for Adweek, but currently the News Editor for The Guardian/US, wrote an influential article criticizing Scott Horton for “conspiracy building.” He decried the story about Baumgarner’s speech about “rags” — because Bumgarner denied to him having ever made it. Koppelman’s account was later cited in a government legal brief used to counter a lawsuit by the relatives of two of the Guantanamo “suicides.” I deconstructed Koppelman’s account in a series of articles that examined his arguments in detail.

But the new evidence in Horton’s article and the Seton Hall report demonstrates conclusively that multiple witnesses on the scene, including the Senior Medical Officer, found cloth material inside the deceased’s mouths and throats. This was no “conspiracy building”: the evidence was covered up.

Among many telling details in the new documents, Master of Arms Denny’s account of how one detainee, ISN 093, Yasser Talal al Zahrani, was found alive even two hours after he supposedly hanged himself. Denny witnessed cloth matching a ligature placed around Zahrain’s throat being wrapped around his hands:

I observed a Corpsman wrapping an altered detainee sheet… around the detainee’s right wrist. The other side of the material was bound to the detainee’s left wrist with approximately a foot of cloth in between. The cloth was not on the detainees [sic] wrists when the Camp 1 guards removed the handcuffs a few minutes earlier.

The fact all the “suicides” had their hands bound was supposed to be evidence of collaboration in the “asymmetrical warfare” that was simultaneous suicide. But Denny’s account shows the “evidence” was being fabricated after the supposed suicides themselves.

The Seton Hall report deserves wide exposure and Congress must undertake its own investigation, as it’s evident that DOJ and the Obama administration have no intention of looking further into what happened. But according to Seton Hall’s Executive Director for Communications, Janet LeMonnier, attempts to get attention from multiple attempts at media outreach have garnered “very little interest,” and CPR personnel are frustrated at the lack of response.

Even so, Mark Denbeaux told me in a phone interview that Seton Hall’s investigations are going forward, and another report with even more new revelations is due out early next year.

DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy

CIA drones have not hit Pakistan for over five months – some now suggest it is a permanent end to strikes.

The hiatus in drone strikes continues as Pakistan’s military takes the fight to the Taliban.

A US drone strike kills at least four amid an ongoing Yemen military offensive against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Another month without a reported US attack in Somalia as al Shabaab attacks neighbouring countries.

New case studies added to the Naming the Dead project.

Pakistan

May 2014 actions

Total CIA strikes in May: 0
Total killed in strikes in May: 0


All actions 2004 – May 31 2014

Total Obama strikes: 332
Total US strikes since 2004: 383
Total reported killed: 2,296-3,719
Civilians reported killed: 416-957
Children reported killed: 168-202
Total reported injured: 1,089-1,639

For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

More than five months have passed without a drone strike in Pakistan, and some analysts suggest the campaign is drawing to a close.

The Associated Press reported that CIA drones are still flying armed missions over Pakistan and analysts are still adding targets to the kill list. But the US intends to continue drawing down its forces in Afghanistan, leaving altogether by 2016. This would mean the air bases from which the drones fly and the intelligence outposts that provide them with their targets will close.

Congressman Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, told AP: ‘By the end of this year we will have a noticeable degradation in our ability to collect intelligence on people of concern.’

President Obama made a major speech on foreign policy at West Point military academy, in which he confirmed the US will continue to conduct off-battlefield drone strikes. But he mentioned Pakistan only once, declaring that ‘al Qaeda’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated’.

The Pakistan military has stepped up operations in North Waziristan, continuing the air strikes that began in April and also attacking Taliban targets with artillery, helicopters and ground forces. There have been reports of high casualties from the strikes; at least 60 people reportedly died in a series of attacks on May 21. Thousands of people have already reportedly been displaced, fleeing to neighbouring Bannu region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The Pakistan Taliban has reportedly fragmented this month as infighting between factions continued. A faction based in South Waziristan, made up of Mehsud tribesmen commanded by Khan Said, has broken from the main group commanded by Mullah Fazlullah. Said’s Mehsud group is reportedly on good terms with the Pakistani government and there is hope this schism could lead to increased stability in South Waziristan.

The US government agreed to publish a redacted version of the memo outlining the legal basis for killing US citizens overseas. The move came after an appeals court ordered the publication last month. However, a week after the judgment, the Justice Department sought a fresh court hearing to redact further sections of the memo, beyond those agreed by the court. The government also sought to have the new hearing held in secret. The court agreed to hear the government’s case for further redactions but refused to do so entirely behind closed doors.

This month the Bureau published major research analysing all strikes that have taken place in Pakistan. This revealed that drones have attacked more domestic buildings than another type of target – more than 60% of strikes hit houses, killing at least 222 civilians.

Since 2008 in Afghanistan air strikes on domestic buildings have been banned in all but the most urgent situations, as part of measures to reduce civilian casualties. But they have been the most frequent targets of attacks in Pakistan in each year of the campaign, including since 2008. The research, a collaboration with Forensic Architecture and Situ Research, is also presented in an interactive map, Where the Drones Strike.

Yemen

May 2014 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 1
Further reported/possible US strike events: 0
Total reported killed in US operations: 4-6
Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 0


All actions 2002 – May 31 2014*

Confirmed US drone strikes: 64-76
Total reported killed: 334-488
Civilians reported killed: 34-84
Children reported killed: 7-8
Reported injured: 78-196

Possible extra US drone strikes: 93-112
Total reported killed: 315-505
Civilians reported killed: 24-48
Children reported killed: 6-9
Reported injured: 85-118

All other US covert operations: 14-79
Total reported killed: 150-386
Civilians reported killed: 59-88
Children reported killed: 24-26
Reported injured: 22-115
Click here for the full Yemen data.

* All but one of these actions have taken place during Obama’s presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range we have recorded in US drone strikes and covert operations reflects this.

A US drone killed at least four people in a vehicle in the Wadi Abeeda area of Mareb province. Witnesses named two of the dead as alleged al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members Naif Faraj andMousleh al Arahabi.

The Yemeni military continued to carry out operations against AQAP in the central and southern Yemeni provinces of Shabwa, Abyan and al Bayda, with casualties to both sides. AQAP responded with attacksand bombings in the capital and other cities.

The UN estimates more than 24,000 refugees have been displaced by the fighting, as of May 20. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Yemen Red Crescent have been providing humanitarian relief.

There have been few reports of civilian casualties beyond five civilians killed on May 22, when Yemeni government forces targetted their vehicle with artillery. However the Yemeni government appears to have been taking steps to shut down critical media coverage of its activities.

On May 20 a team of al Jazeera reporters were detained in Shabwa by government forces while covering the conflict and ‘evacuated’ to the capital, Sana’a.

On May 8 the Yemeni authorities expelled Adam Baron, a reporter for McClatchy who had worked in the country for more than three years. On May 12 Iona Craig of The Times left the country; at the airport she was told she would not be allowed to return. She later wrote: ‘The foreign media may not be welcome in Yemen, but if they are quietly trying to remove us then the greatest threat to be faced will be to domestic reporters.’

Barack Obama cited Yemen in his West Point speech, as part of his declaration that the US will continue to launch drone strikes ‘when we have actionable intelligence’. He also announced the US would spend $5bn on developing and training counter-terrorism forces in countries around the world, pointing to the US’s direct support for Yemen’s security forces as an example of the work this new programme will do.

Also this month, it emerged Saudi Arabia had bombed northern Yemen with US-made cluster bombs in 2009 and 2010.

Somalia

May 2014 actions

Total reported US operations: 0


All actions 2007 – May 31 2014

US drone strikes: 5-8
Total reported killed: 10-24
Civilians reported killed: 0-1
Children reported killed: 0
Reported injured: 2-3

All other US covert operations: 8-11
Total reported killed: 40-141
Civilians reported killed: 7-47
Children reported killed: 0-2
Reported injured: 11-21
Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.

There was again no reported US strikes in Somalia – it is now more than four months since the last confirmed US attack in the country.

However al Shabaab continues to penetrate security to carry out attacks in Mogadishu, including an attack on the parliament building that killed 10 people.

The attack came two weeks after 100 Somali MPs signed a letter calling on the president to resign for failing to improve the security situation. The MPs threatened to impeach him. The president rejected the call for his resignation.

African Union peacekeeping forces (Amisom) continue to battle al Shabaab south and west of the capital. On May 18 Kenyan jets killed at least 50 alleged militants in a strike described as an Amisom operation. Howeverthe peacekeeper’s UN mandate extends to ‘an appropriate aviation component of up to twelve military helicopters’; not jets. On May 28 the militants hit back, ambushing a column of Amisom forces and killing 32 Ethiopian troops.

Al Shabaab also attacked a restaurant in the tiny African state, Djibouti to the north of Somalia, killing three people. This country is home to the only permanent US base in Africa as well as a French base and EU and Nato naval forces involved in counter-piracy operations. The group has also vowed to take its fight into Kenya. It has continued to attack targets in Kenya, in the capital, Nairobi and in the coastal city of Mombassa. At least 13 were killed in two bomb blasts in Nairobi on May 16.

There is increasing concern that the attacks in Kenya are doing serious damage to the economy, particularly to the  tourism industry - the country’s second-biggest source of foreign currency.

Kenya has continued to crack down on ethnic Somalis living in the country in operations Amnesty International described as ‘a disturbing wave of serious human rights violations’.

Naming the Dead

New case studies on the Naming the Dead website this month include profiles of British brothers Abdul Jabbarand Mohammed Azmir Khan, who died in separate drone strikes in North Waziristan in 2010 and 2011. Following reports that an Australian and Yemeni citizen died in a drone strike in Yemen, we have profiledSaifullah, described in reports as an Australian militant, and Zahirullah, the owner of the house in which Saifullah died. Emeti Yakuf, commander of a Chinese militant group, has also been profiled.

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With news that the US is planning to keep almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan–a day after seeing some headlines about the war’s “end”–you might wonder if journalists can get the troop counting right in the first place.

On NPR’Morning Edition (5/26/14)Scott Horsley told listeners:

Some 32,000 Americans are currently serving in Afghanistan, a war the president is determined to wind down by year’s end.

Moments later, he added this history:

This is Obama’s fourth visit to Afghanistan as president and his first since 2012. Since that time, US troop levels here have been cut by about two-thirds.

This is incomplete–and misleading.

Hearing that “US troop levels here have been cut by about two-thirds” shortly after you hear that Obama is determined to end the war gives a very distorted picture of the war under Obama’s watch.
In reality, current US troop levels–about 32,000–are actually about what they were when Obama took office (Think Progress,6/22/11). A graph that accompanied an NPR story (6/29/11) shows this pretty clearly.

Late last year the New York Times offered similarly misleading spin (FAIR Blog,11/25/13), reporting that Obama “has reduced the forces in Afghanistan from about 100,000 in 2010 to about 47,000 today.”  That’s technically true, but ignores the fact that the troop levels had only gotten that high as a result of Obama’s policy of massive escalation.

It’s often said that Afghanistan is America’s forgotten war. But when the war is remembered, the barest facts about US involvement manage to disappear, too.

Revolutionary Activism in the 20th Century and Beyond

June 10th, 2014 by Derrick O'Keefe

Not long ago, I overheard a prominent social democratic politician in British Columbia repeating an old saw sometimes attributed to Winston Churchill, “Any man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist at age 40 has no head.” He was offering this line to the editor of the Vancouver Sun – a joking way to put a right-wing journalist at ease. The implication was clear: despite a left-wing public image, rest assured he understood the limits of things and could be trusted on to deliver reasonable and moderate policies.

The limits of debate in mainstream media and society at large are exceedingly narrow, and everyone these days it seems must rush to prove their moderation and reasonableness. In practice this means that – rhetorical flourishes and youthful exuberance aside – one must pay due tribute to big business and avoid threatening the prerogatives of corporate power. For a politician, it means letting a right-winger know you might be left-wing, but you’re not one of those left-wingers. I offer this anecdote to illustrate the rotten state of political life today. The popularity of this cliche that suggests one must inevitably become more right-wing as one gets older is a sign of the deep cynicism of politicians and their ilk.

Against this cynical “common sense,” fortunately, new generations are once again being won over to radical ideas. The Occupy Wall Street movement brought back the language of class struggle into popular circulation. Socialism is no longer a dirty word in North America. An openly socialist candidate was just elected to city council in Seattle. More and more environmentalists are reaching explicitly anti-capitalist conclusions. Young people are again seeking out the rich traditions of Marxist ideas – a new left is again taking shape to meet the daunting challenges of our times.

Our History

This memoir by Ernie Tate is a valuable resource for these new generations coming into political life. First, because it contains a trove of movement history for us here in Canada, much of it documented in depth for the first time. For instance, Ernie recounts the formation of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in Canada, and the singular contribution of Verne Olson. The solidarity movement built around defence of the Cuban Revolution helped to attract thousands in Canada to socialist ideas. Ernie also recounts his participation in the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and then the NDP, with a chapter focusing on the debates around the 1961 formation of that social democratic party.

The political landscape has shifted a great deal in the half century since, but the discussions and dilemmas related to the NDP are still with us in Canada. This first volume of Ernie’s memoir is an important contribution to the history of the Canadian left. Volume two covers his time as a socialist organizer in the UK, where he participated in the sometimes byzantine factional struggles of the Trotskyist movement, while also interacting with some of the towering figures of 20th century scholarship and progressive activism, including Bertrand Russell, Ernest Mandel and Isaac Deutscher.

Perhaps even more important than the particular historical details, this book tells the story of a life lived in the struggle for a better world. Ernie Tate’s life shows us that age doesn’t have to mean a gradual slide to the right. Age can just mean an accumulation of experience and wisdom – more compassion, less dogma and better political judgment. After growing up in poverty in Northern Ireland – leaving school at the age of 14 to work in factories – Ernie came to Canada and began his life of socialist activism in the mid-1950s, not long after the height of Cold War anti-communism. His career as a militant organizer began in those lean times for the left, but was then followed by the tumultuous youth radicalization of the 1960s and early 70s.

The past three decades of Ernie Tate’s life and activism are sketched only briefly. He provides a rough outline of his disagreements with the leadership of the small socialist organization to which he belonged, and explains his reasons for eventually leaving active membership. This memoir recounts honestly the challenges and failures of socialist groups, unions and other progressive organizations. Despite these experiences, he has remained an active socialist, never wavering from his beliefs and ethics. This is a real achievement, and worth noting. Capitalism works to grind us down in our working life but also in our moral life. It takes strength of personality, in addition to collective organization, to resist cynicism.

I first met Ernie and his wife Jess close to a decade ago, through mutual friends in Toronto. They both exude warmth and humility – I felt an instant sense of comradeship. It’s an honour to write a preface to this volume of Ernie’s memoir. I hope more of his generation and his stature – the real organizers – write their memoirs. The left has in many ways adapted to the youth fetishization so rampant under capitalism, and so we pay too little attention to learning our own history or honouring the wisdom of our movement’s elders.

We have a lot to learn. It’s not easy to change the world; it’s not, and it never has been, easy to wrest political power from the brutal and selfish ruling classes. But I think learning what previous generations have been through helps steel us for the long battle, helps us keep perspective and understand ourselves better.

This memoir also reminds us that there is dignity and joy in the struggle for a better world. And for all the trials and tribulations of the left, we are part of a real and proud tradition. Whatever their age, everyone with a heart to feel and a head to think should be a socialist.

Derrick O’Keefe is an author and journalist based in Vancouver, and the former Editor of rabble.ca. He is the author of The Lesser Evil? and the co-writer of A Woman Among Warlords, with Afghanistan’s Malalai Joya. He is currently involved with the new web-native, crowdfunded media project Ricochet.

World War II: The Unknown War

June 10th, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

In my June 6 column, “The Lies Grow More Audacious,” I mentioned that Obama and the British prime minister, who Obama has as a lap dog, just as George Bush had Tony Blair as lap dog, had managed to celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany at the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion without mentioning the Russians.

I pointed out the fact, well known to historians and educated people, that the Red Army defeated Nazi Germany long before the US was able to get geared up to participate in the war. The Normandy invasion most certainly did not defeat Nazi Germany.  What the Normandy invasion did was to prevent the Red Army from overrunning all of Europe.

As I have reported in a number of columns, many, if not most, Americans have beliefs that are not fact-based, but instead are emotion-based.  So I knew that at least one person would go berserk, and he did.  JD from Texas wrote to set me straight.  No one but “our American boys” won that war. JD didn’t know that the Russians were even in the war.

JD had the option of consulting an encyclopedia or a history book or going online and consulting Wikipedia prior to making a fool of himself. But he chose instead to unload on me. JD epitomizes US foreign policy: rush into every fight that you know nothing about and start new ones hand over fist that someone else will win.

It occurred to me that World War II was so long ago that few are alive who remember it, and by now even these few probably remember the propaganda version that they have heard at every Memorial Day and July 4th occasion since 1945. Little wonder that neither Obama nor Cameron or their pitiful speech writers knew nothing about the war that they were commemorating.

Propaganda has always been with us. The difference is that in the 21st century Americans have nothing but propaganda. Nothing else at all. Just lies. Lies are the American experience. The actual world as it exists is foreign to most Americans.

In 1973 a British television documentary series was released that chronicled WW II. Of the 28 episodes, only 3 and a part of a 4th acknowledge Russian participation in the war. From the British standpoint, victory was an Anglo-American victory.

This did not sit well with the Soviet government. The Soviets offered their film archives to the West. In 1978 a 20 part series of 48 minutes per episode was released in an American documentary television series narrated by Burt Lancaster. The documentary was titled: “The Unknown War.”

Certainly, it was a war unknown to most Americans, raised as they are on propaganda.

The Unknown War was a revelation to Americans because it demonstrated beyond all doubt that Nazi Germany lost World War II on the Russian front. Of the 20 episodes, “The Allies,” that is, the Anglo-Americans and free French, feature only in number 17. One out of twenty is about the correct proportion of the West’s participation in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

If you google The Unknown War you will find an entry on Wikipedia. The series might still be available on YouTube. It was taken off the air when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, a folly repeated by dumbshit Washington. It was more important to Washington that Russia be demonized than any truths should be presented, so the truth revealed in The Unknown War was removed from US TV. Later the documentary  reappeared on the History Chanel.

In my June 6 article, I said, following the consensus of historians, that Nazi Germany lost the war at Stalingrad. In this article: http://www.globalresearch.ca/70-years-ago-december-1941-turning-point-of-world-war-ii/28059  historian Dr. Jacques R. Pauwels says that Germany lost the war 14 months earlier at the Battle of Moscow in December 1941. He makes a good case. Whether one agrees or not, the facts he presents are eye openers for the “exceptional, indispensable Americans” who believe nothing happens without them.

Normandy, June 1944, is 2.5 years after Germany lost the war in the Battle of Moscow. As historians have made clear, by June 1944 Germany had little left with which to fight.

Whatever was left of the German military was on the Eastern Front.

At the 70th annual Normandy landing celebration in France, Obama informed his French vassal, President Hollande, that he, Obama, the ruler of the Exceptional Country, would not sit down to dinner with the Russian Putin. Americans are too good to eat dinner with Russians. So Hollande had to have two dinners. One for Obama, and then one for Putin. As food is still good in France thanks to the banning of GMOs, probably Holland didn’t mind. I myself would have enjoyed being at both dinners for the food alone.

Like all news that is important, the dinner for Putin, and its meaning, escaped the attention of the American presstitute media, the world’s greatest collection of whores. If memory serves, normally the Russians are left out of the Normandy commemoration celebrations. If the war was won in the West, what did the Russians have to do with it? Nothing, of course. “Our boys” did it all, just as JD informed me. Russians? What Russians?

But this time France invited Putin to the Normandy celebration, and Putin was not too proud to come. Putin spoke with European politicians in the off moments, and these politicians saw a real person, unlike Obama, a total fake.

The superiority of Russian diplomacy over Washington’s is clear to all. Putin’s position is: “we are here for you, we can work things out.” Washington’s position is: “do as we say or we will bomb you into the stone age.”

Russia is accommodating to its client states. Washington is not. Putin says that he is willing to work things out with the billionaire corrupt Oligarch imposed on Ukraine by Washington, but Washington has forced the Bulgarians to stop work on the South Stream Pipeline. This natural gas pipeline bypasses Ukraine by going under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. As Washington’s new puppet state in Ukraine has not paid its multi-billion dollar natural gas bill to Russia and threatens to disrupt the pipeline to Europe and to steal gas from it, Russia, despite Western sanctions, made preparations for a new pipeline route in order that Europeans do not suffer from winter cold and have their industries shut down and economies collapse from lack of energy.

Washington sees Putin’s commitment to Europe as a threat and has gone to work to prevent any Russian energy flows to Europe.

In contrast with Putin’s position, Washington’s position is: We don’t give a hoot what happens to our European puppets.  Like the rest of humanity, European puppets don’t count and are dispensable, mere collateral damage, in the Indispensable Country’s war for world hegemony.

All that is important to Washington is that Russia is damaged regardless of the damage done to the puppet regimes in Western and Eastern Europe, including the moronic Polish government, possibly the only government on earth more foolish than Obama’s.

Washington is trying to break off Europe’s economic relations with Russia. Washington is promising to supply Europe with US natural gas obtained by fracking. This promise is a lie, like everything else Washington says.

On May 20 the Los Angeles Times reported that “federal energy authorities have slashed by 96% the recoverable oil buried in California’s vast Monterey Shale deposits.”

The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation’s shale oil reserves, and only 4% are recoverable.  http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-oil-20140521-story.html

William Engdahl has reported that at best the US has 20 years of natural gas from fracking, and that the price of the gas will be the despoiling of US surface and ground waters. Experts have pointed out that the infrastructure for transporting US natural gas to Europe does not exist and that it would take three years to build the infrastructure. What will Europe do for three years while it waits for US energy to replace the cut-off Russian energy? Will Europe still be there?

Washington’s European vassals should take note: Washington is prepared to destroy the economies of its vassals in order to score a one up on Russia.

How is it possible that by now Europe doesn’t understand how Washington thinks? Those bag full of money must be very large.

As I have reported several times, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security affairs told me years ago that Washington purchases European politicians with bags full of money. It remains to be seen if European “leaders” are willing to sacrifice their peoples and their own reputations in order to be complicit in the war that Washington is planning with Russia, a war that could mean the end of life on earth.

It is Europe’s call. If leaders emerge who tell Washington, “no dice,” the world is saved.

If instead European politicians want the money, the world is doomed.

Europe would be the first to go.

Farmer and shepherd Montana Jones has had a rough couple of years. Since 2010, she’s been fighting a downward battle with a ruthless agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Before all of this, she was living a simple life as a farmer and blogger in a rural part of Ontario, Canada.

“Along with other heritage breed livestock, I raise Heritage Shropshire sheep, a breed that is on the Rare Breeds Canada Endangered livestock list. The British genetics in my Wholearth flock had pedigrees dating back to the early 1900′s when the first British stock was imported here” Jones wrote in one of her blog entries.

It was clearly her passion and life’s work, breeding the beautiful sheep to keep the endangered species alive and strong with there being only a small amount of the animals alive today. Her life changed for the worst in 2010, when the CFIA swooped down on her little heritage farmstead and declared that a ewe that she had sold many years prior (to a livestock hauler and farmer in Alberta) had tested positive for a sheep disease called Scrapie. There had only been 10 cases in all of Canada the year before. The disease is not a human health risk either.

The Scrapie infected sheep did not have the traceability I.D. ear tag that was there when Jones had sold it, apparently the owner “didn’t have it,” but CFIA were told it was originally her sheep. The CFIA agreed it was quite possible that it had been infected in the time since it had left Jones’s farm.

“Scrapie is easy to spot, and my flock NEVER had a single sign or symptom. The CFIA went ahead and conducted live tests that have an 88% accuracy rate in detecting the disease. The ‘dead’ test on obex brain tissue has only slightly higher accuracy. As I predicted…all tests came back negative. But that wasn’t good enough. The CFIA issued an order to kill them anyway.”

sheep2

Jones goes on to explain how she tried her hardest to find alternatives to the dire situation,

“I offered many other risk free alternatives and suggested we work together to find out if indeed any illness had ever been in the flock. ”Kill first””ask questions later” is not the best option to conserve a rare breed. The CFIA did not even respond to my proposal. The CFIA wouldn’t listen to over 5,000 petitioners on Change.org either. The CFIA is not pleased that I made their unjust actions public knowledge.

I am horrified at the degree of harm a government agency can do with an incredible amount of money and a superfluous number of relatively incompetent employees. Who was I to suggest that our government re-examine their protocols regarding agricultural biodiversity?
I was advised to roll over, let the CFIA kill my healthy sheep, take their compensation money and move on. Other commercial sheep producers did…why shouldn’t I?”

The situation didn’t get any better for Jones. Without mercy, the CFIA ordered Jones to dig a large hole to bury her sheep.

“They demanded I hire an excavator and have a deep grave dug, and said they would kill them before my eyes and leave me to bury them all. A 15-foot pit was dug at the top of my hill overlooking the farm…the hill they grazed peacefully for so many years.

Then the CFIA told me they changed plans, and decided to load my sheep for a stressful 5 hour transport to a killing facility at a pet food plant near Ottawa, and that I would have to pay the bill.”

“There were many calls, emails and messages from outraged people saying they’d take, hide or move the sheep to protect them. The CFIA arrived early April 2 to kill the flock, but the sheep were gone, with only a note left. Months later they were discovered on a distant farm, and the CFIA killed them and their newborns. All of the the tests came back negative.”

sheep3

Jones admits her quality of life has been destroyed by the CFIA,

“My farm is still in quarantine, CFIA has effectively halted my farm income and ensured that each day revolves around them, and defending my right to live peacefully. They have attacked, stripped bare, twisted up and torn down. It’s non-sensical: am I that much of a threat? I was just quietly living and farming with a few animals, growing vegetables, selling at local farmers market…well, I was. Not now.

The CFIA continued to issue press releases announcing the high risk to the nation and “dangerous” nature of the missing sheep situation. The CFIA claimed they understood what a severe impact their procedures had on “affected” producers (implying that my destroyed flock they killed had indeed been infected with “disease” they weren’t) …and how difficult it must be and announced publicly that they properly compensate producers for their losses. Simply not true.

Armed with search warrants, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigators and Ontario Provincial Police raided my home, Michael Schmidt’s and two others on August 2nd, 2012.

The CFIA charged myself and raw milk activist farmer Michael Schmidt and 2 others with numerous criminal offences including conspiracy, for allegedly trying to save Canada’s heritage sheep and preserve our country’s agricultural biodiversity.

The domino effect of the CFIA’s invasion meant selling off my heritage turkey breeding stock because I had no way to feed them. My beautiful pastured Tamworth pigs too, and two white Percheron mares. My farm truck died last fall. Then my car followed suit in December.”

If convicted, Jones faces up to 12 years in jail and up to $1.5 million dollars in charges and fees. She has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money to support her cause.

“More people need to know what our government is doing with the power we have vested in them, on the pretence of protecting us. I refuse to believe that the gross misuse of power wielded by this government body might go unnoticed.

First, I need to ensure the farm will not be lost. Then, to raise funds for legal defense against the CFIA’s charges, and to raise awareness about how their policies are affecting all of us, and work to get them changed.”

Jones says she has managed to stay strong through the support of so many people who have been following her story since the initial raid in 2010.

“The encouragement of all those who have been following this story has been a huge support to me. It constantly reminds me that we are all in this together:no matter how different our personal suffering or challenges. This is not the worst thing that ever happened to anybody, but it IS happening, and it needs to stop.

With your help, we’ll breathe life back into this farm once again. “

Montana Jones has already managed to raise $95,000 dollars with the help of so many caring souls. Help spread the awareness around Jones’s story and support her GoFundMe campaign today!!

Jeff Roberts – Another soul searcher like you my friends, trying to make sense out of our human experience. I’ve been with CE for over a year now and it’s been an awesome ride so far. Simply put, I love to write, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. If you have a question or wanna chat you can contact me at [email protected].

Far from being ‘like Hitler’ as Prince Charles accuses, Putin is sober, cautious, defensive, a stickler for international law, determined to modernise Russia, and anxious to avoid military confrontation. Israel Shamir sees through the NATO propaganda …

Putin’s choice is not an easy one. As Russia procrastinates, as the US doubles the risks, the world draws nearer to the nuclear abyss. Who will chicken out?

It is not much fun to be in Kiev these days. The revolutionary excitement is over, and hopes for new faces, the end of corruption and economic improvement have withered.

The Maidan street revolt and the subsequent coup just reshuffled the same marked deck of cards, forever rotating in power.

The new acting President has been an acting prime minister, and a KGB (called ‘SBU’ in Ukrainian) supremo.

The new acting prime minister has been a foreign minister. The oligarch most likely to be ‘elected’ President in a few days has been a foreign minister, the head of the state bank, and personal treasurer of two coups, in 2004 (installing Yushchenko) and in 2014 (installing himself).

His main competitor, Mme Timoshenko, served as a prime minister for years, until electoral defeat in 2010.

The new rulers are the ones that ruined Ukraine

These people had brought Ukraine to its present abject state. In 1991, the Ukraine was richer than Russia, today it is three times poorer because of these people’s mismanagement and theft.

Now they plan an old trick: to take loans in Ukraine’s name, pocket the cash and leave the country indebted. They sell state assets to Western companies and ask for NATO to come in and protect the investment.

They play a hard game, brass knuckles and all. The Black Guard, a new SS-like armed force of the neo-nazi Right Sector, prowls the land. They arrest or kill dissidents, activists, journalists.

Hundreds of American soldiers, belonging to the ‘private’ company Academi (formerly Blackwater) are spread out in Novorossia, the pro-Russian provinces in the East and South-East.

IMF-dictated reforms slashed pensions by half and doubled the housing rents. In the market, US Army rations took the place of local food.

Kiev – even the pretence of democracy has gone

The new Kiev regime had dropped the last pretence of democracy by expelling the Communists from the parliament. This should endear them to the US even more.

Expel Communists, apply for NATO, condemn Russia, arrange a gay parade and you may do anything at all, even fry dozens of citizens alive. And so they did.

The harshest repressions were unleashed on industrial Novorossia, as its working class loathes the whole lot of oligarchs and ultra-nationalists.

After the blazing inferno of Odessa and a wanton shooting on the streets of Melitopol the two rebellious provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk took up arms and declared their independence from the Kiev regime. They came under fire, but did not surrender.

The other six Russian-speaking industrial provinces of Novorossia were quickly cowed. Dnepropetrovsk and Odessa were terrorised by personal army of Mr Kolomoysky. Kharkov was misled by its tricky governor.

Russia did not interfere and did not support the rebellion, to the great distress of Russian nationalists in Ukraine and Russia who mutter about “betrayal”. So much for the warlike rhetoric of McCain and Brzezinski.

An exasperating respect for international law

Putin’s respect for others’ sovereignty is exasperating. I understand this sounds like a joke, – you hear so much about Putin as a “new Hitler” – most recently in unguarded comments from Prince Charles on his Canadian tour.

As a matter of fact, Putin had legal training before joining the Secret Service. He is a stickler for international law. His Russia has interfered with other states much less than France or England, let alone the US.

I asked his senior adviser, Mr Alexei Pushkov, why Russia did not try to influence Ukrainian minds while Kiev buzzed with American and European officials. “We think it is wrong to interfere”, he replied like a good Sunday schoolboy.

It is rather likely Putin’s advisors misjudged public sentiment. The majority of Novorossia’s population does not like the new Kiev regime, but being politically passive and conservative, will submit to its rule”, they estimated.

“The rebels are a small bunch of firebrands without mass support, and they can’t be relied upon”, was their view. Accordingly, Putin advised the rebels to postpone the referendum indefinitely, a polite way of saying “drop it”.

A convincing vote for secession

They disregarded his request with considerable sang froid and convincingly voted en masse for secession from a collapsing Ukraine. The turnout was much higher than expected, the support for the move near total.

As I was told by a Kremlin insider, this development was not foreseen by Putin’s advisers.

Perhaps the advisors had read it right, but three developments had changed the voters’ minds and had sent this placid people to the barricades and the voting booths.

1. The Odessa incineration

The first one was the fiery holocaust of Odessa, where the peaceful and carelessly unarmed demonstrating workers were suddenly attacked by regime’s thugs – the Ukrainian equivalent of Mubarak’s shabab – and corralled into the Trade Unions Headquarters.

The building was set on fire, and the far-right pro-regime Black Guard positioned snipers to efficiently pick off would-be escapees.

Some fifty, mainly elderly, Russian-speaking workers were burned alive or shot as they rushed for the windows and the doors. This dreadful event was turned into an occasion of merriment and joy by Ukrainian nationalists who referred to their slain compatriots as “fried beetles”.

It is being said that this auto-da-fé was organised by the shock troops of Jewish oligarch and strongman Kolomoysky, who coveted the port of Odessa.

Despite his cuddly bear appearance, he is pugnacious and violent person, who offered $10,000 for a captive Russian, dead or alive, and proposed a cool $1 million for the head of Mr Tsarev, a Member of Parliament from Donetsk.

2. The Mariupol pogrom

The second was the Mariupol attack on May 9, 2014. This day is commemorated as V-day in Russia and Ukraine (while the West celebrates it on May 8). The Kiev regime forbade all V-day celebrations.

In Mariupol, the Black Guard attacked the peaceful and weaponless town, burning down the police headquarters and killing local policemen who had refused to suppress the festive march. Afterwards, Black Guard thugs unleashed armoured vehicles on the streets, killing citizens and destroying property.

The West did not voice any protest. Nuland and Merkel weren’t horrified by this mass murder, as they were by Yanukovich’s timid attempts to control crowds.

The people of these two provinces felt abandoned. They understood that nobody was going to protect and save them but themselves, and went off to vote.

3. The Eurovision Song Contest. Yes, seriously …

The third development was, bizarrely, the Eurovision jury choice of the Austrian transgender singer Conchita Wurst as winner of its 2014 song contest. The politically correct judges of the jury chose to “celebrate tolerance”, in line with Western European cultural trends.

However this support for re-gendering did not go down well with most Russians and / or Ukrainians, who remain socially conservative on such issues. Traditionally minded Novorossians want no part of such a Europe, which they see as an affront to their values, traditions, religion and culture.

The Russians have readjusted their sights, but they do not intend to bring their troops into the two rebel republics, unless dramatic developments should force them.

Sochi Olympics were meant to showcase the new Russia

Imagine: you are dressed up for a night on Broadway, but your neighbours are involved in a vicious quarrel, and you have to gun up and deal with the trouble instead of enjoying a show, and a dinner, and perhaps a date. This was Putin’s position regarding the Ukrainian turmoil.

A few months ago, Russia had made a huge effort to become, and to be seen as, a very civilised European state of the first magnitude.

This was the message of the Sochi Olympic games: to re-brand, even re-invent Russia, just as Peter the Great once had, as part of the First World; an amazing country of strong European tradition, of Leo Tolstoy and Malevich, of Tchaikovsky and Diaghilev, the land of arts, of daring social reform, of technical achievements, of modernity and beyond – the Russia of Natasha Rostova riding a Sikorsky ‘copter.

Putin spent $60 billion to broadcast this image. The old fox Henry Kissinger wisely said:

“Putin spent $60 billion on the Olympics. They had opening and closing ceremonies, trying to show Russia as a normal progressive state. So it isn’t possible that he, three days later, would voluntarily start an assault on Ukraine.

“There is no doubt that … at all times he wanted Ukraine in a subordinate position. And at all times, every senior Russian that I’ve ever met, including dissidents like Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky, looked at Ukraine as part of the Russian heritage. But I don’t think he had planned to bring it to a head now.”

But the US does not want a modern Russia

However, Washington hawks decided to do whatever it takes to keep Russia out in the cold. They were afraid of this image of “a normal progressive state” as such a Russia would render NATO irrelevant and undermine European dependence on the US.

They were adamant about retaining their hegemony, shattered as it was by the Syrian confrontation. They attacked Russian positions in the Ukraine and arranged a violent coup, installing a viciously anti-Russian regime supported by football fans and neo-Nazis, paid for by Jewish oligarchs and American taxpayers.

The victors banned the Russian language and prepared to void treaties with Russia regarding its Crimean naval base at Sebastopol on the Black Sea. This base was to become a great new NATO base, controlling the Black Sea and threatening Russia.

Putin had to deal quickly and so he did, by accepting the Crimean people’s request to join Russian Federation. This dealt with the immediate problem of the base, but the problem of Ukraine remained.

A Ukraine hostile to Russia is not acceptable

The Ukraine is not a foreign entity to Russians, it is the western half of Russia. It was artificially separated from the rest in 1991, at the collapse of the USSR.

The people of the two parts are interconnected by family, culture and blood ties; their economies are intricately connected. While a separate viable Ukrainian state is a possibility, an ‘independent’ Ukrainian state hostile to Russia is not viable and can’t be tolerated by any Russian ruler.

And this for military as well as for cultural reasons: if Hitler had begun the war against Russia from its present border, he would have taken Stalingrad in two days and would have destroyed Russia in a week.

A more pro-active Russian ruler would have sent troops to Kiev a long time ago. Thus did Czar Alexis when the Poles, Cossacks and Tatars argued for it in 17th century. So also did Czar Peter the Great, when the Swedes occupied it in the 18th century. So did Lenin, when the Germans set up the Protectorate of Ukraine (he called its establishment “the obscene peace”). So did Stalin, when the Germans occupied the Ukraine in 1941.

Washington’s geo-political goals

Putin still hopes to settle the problem by peaceful means, relying upon the popular support of the Ukrainian people. Actually, before the Crimean takeover, the majority of Ukrainians (and near all Novorossians) overwhelmingly supported some sort of union with Russia. Otherwise, the Kiev coup would not have been necessary.

The forced Crimean takeover seriously undermined Russian appeal. The people of Ukraine did not like it. This was foreseen by the Kremlin, but they had to accept Crimea for a few reasons.

Firstly, a loss of Sevastopol naval base to NATO was a too horrible of an alternative to contemplate. Secondly, the Russian people would not understand if Putin were to refuse the suit of the Crimeans.

The Washington hawks still hope to force Putin to intervene militarily, as it would give them the opportunity to isolate Russia, turn it into a monster pariah state, beef up defence spending and set Europe and Russia against each other. They do not care about Ukraine and Ukrainians, but use them as pretext to attain geopolitical goals.

No succour from the EU

The Europeans would like to fleece Ukraine; to import its men as ‘illegal’ workers and its women as prostitutes, to strip assets, to colonise. They did it with Moldova, a little sister of Ukraine, the most miserable ex-Soviet Republic.

As for Russia, the EU would not mind taking it down a notch, so they would not act so grandly. But the EU is not fervent about it. Hence, the difference in attitudes.

Putin would prefer to continue with his modernisation of Russia. The country needs it badly. The infrastructure lags 20 or 30 years behind the West.

Tired by this backwardness, young Russians often prefer to move to the West, and this brain drain causes much damage to Russia while enriching the West.

Even Google is a result of this brain drain, for Sergey Brin is a Russian immigrant as well. So are hundreds of thousands of Russian scientists and artists manning every Western lab, theatre and orchestra.

Meeting the aspirations of Russia’s young people

Political liberalisation is not enough: the young people want good roads, good schools and a quality of life comparable to the West. This is what Putin intends to deliver.

He is doing a fine job of it. Moscow now has free bikes and Wi-Fi in the parks like every Western European city. Trains have been upgraded. Hundreds of thousands of apartments are being built, even more than during the Soviet era.

Salaries and pensions have increased seven-to-tenfold in the past decade. Russia is still shabby, but it is on the right track. Putin wants to continue this modernisation.

As for the Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states, Putin would prefer they retain their independence, be friendly and work at a leisurely pace towards integration a la the European Union. He does not dream of a new empire. He would reject such a proposal, as it would delay his modernisation plans.

If the beastly neocons would not have forced his hand by expelling the legitimate president of Ukraine and installing their puppets, the world might have enjoyed a long spell of peace. But then the western military alliance under the US leadership would fall into abeyance, US military industries would lose out, and US hegemony would evaporate.

Peace is not good for the US military and hegemony-creating media machine. So dreams of peace in our lifetime are likely to remain just dreams.

What will Putin do?

Putin will try to avoid sending in troops as long as possible. He will have to protect the two splinter provinces, but this can be done with remote support, the way the US supports the rebels in Syria, without ‘boots on the ground’.

Unless serious bloodshed on a large scale should occur, Russian troops will just stand by, staring down the Black Guard and other pro-regime forces.

Putin will try to find an arrangement with the West for sharing authority, influence and economic involvement in the failed state. This can be done through federalisation, or by means of coalition government, or even partition.

The Russian-speaking provinces of Novorossia are those of Kharkov (industry), Nikolayev (ship-building), Odessa (harbour), Donetsk and Lugansk (mines and industry), Dnepropetrovsk (missiles and high-tech), Zaporozhe (steel), Kherson (water for Crimea and ship-building), all of them established, built and populated by Russians.

An independent Novorussia?

They could secede from Ukraine and form an independent Novorossia, a mid-sized state, but still bigger than some neighbouring states. This state could join the Union State of Russia and Belarus, and / or the Customs Union led by Russia.

The rump Ukraine could manage as it sees fit until it decides whether or not to join its Slavic sisters in the East. Such a set up would produce two rather cohesive and homogeneous states.

Another possibility (much less likely at this moment) is a three-way division of the failed Ukraine: Novorossia, Ukraine proper, and Galicia&Volyn. In such a case, Novorossia would be strongly pro-Russian, Ukraine would be neutral, and Galicia strongly pro-Western.

The EU could accept this, but the US probably would not agree to any power-sharing in the Ukraine. In the ensuing tug-of-war, one of two winners will emerge. If Europe and the US drift apart, Russia wins. If Russia accepts a pro-Western positioning of practically all of Ukraine, the US wins.

The tug-of-war could snap and cause all-out war, with many participants and a possible use of nuclear weapons. This is a game of chicken. The one with stronger nerves and less imagination will remain on the track.

Pro and Contra

It is too early to predict who will win in the forthcoming confrontation. For the Russian president, it is extremely tempting to take all of Ukraine or at least Novorossia, but it is not an easy task, and one likely to cause much hostility from the Western powers.

With Ukraine incorporated, Russian recovery from 1991 would be completed, its strength doubled, its security ensured and a grave danger removed. Russia would become great again. People would venerate Putin as Gatherer of Russian Lands.

However, Russian efforts to appear as a modern peaceful progressive state would have been wasted. It would be seen as an aggressor and expelled from international bodies.

Sanctions will bite: high tech imports may be banned, as in the Soviet days. The Russian elites are reluctant to jeopardise their good life. The Russian military just recently began its modernisation and is not keen to fight yet, perhaps not for another ten years. But if they feel cornered, if NATO moves into Eastern Ukraine, they will fight all the same.

The Ukrainian national interest lies with Russia

Some Russian politicians and observers believe that Ukraine is a basket case. Its problems would be too expensive to fix. This assessment has a ‘sour grapes’ aftertaste, but it is widespread.

An interesting new voice on the web, The Saker, promotes this view. “Let the EU and the US provide for the Ukrainians, they will come back to Mother Russia when hungry”, he says. The problem is, they will not be allowed to reconsider. The junta did not seize power violently in order to lose it at the ballot box.

Besides, Ukraine is not in such bad shape as some people claim. Yes, it would cost trillions to turn it into a Germany or France, but that’s not necessary. Ukraine can reach the Russian level of development very quickly – in union with Russia. Under the EC-IMF-NATO, Ukraine will become a basket case, if it’s not already.

The same is true for all East European ex-Soviet states: they can modestly prosper with Russia, as Belarus and Finland do, or suffer depopulation, unemployment, poverty with Europe and NATO and against Russia, vide Latvia, Hungary, Moldova, Georgia.

It is in Ukrainian interests to join Russia in some framework. Ukrainians understand that. For this reason they will not be allowed to have democratic elections.

Putin’s hard choices

Simmering Novorossia has a potential to change the game. If Russian troops don’t come in, Novorossian rebels may beat off the Kiev offensive and embark on a counter-offensive to regain the whole of the country, despite Putin’s pacifying entreaties. Then, in a full-blown civil war, the Ukraine will hammer out its destiny.

On a personal level, Putin faces a hard choice. Russian nationalists will not forgive him if he surrenders Ukraine without a fight. The US and EU threaten the very life of the Russian president, as their sanctions are hurting Putin’s close associates, encouraging them to get rid of or even assassinate the President and improve their relations with the mighty West.

War may come at any time, as it came twice during the last century – though Russia tried to avoid it both times. Putin wants to postpone it, at the very least, but not at any price.

Putin’s choice is not an easy one. As Russia procrastinates, as the US doubles the risks, the world draws nearer to the nuclear abyss. Who will chicken out?

Israel Shamir can be reached at [email protected]

We came dangerously close to nuclear war when the United States was fighting in Vietnam, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg told a reunion of the Stanford anti-Vietnam War movement in May 2014. He said that in 1965, the Joint Chiefs of Staff assured President Lyndon B. Johnson that the war could be won, but it would take at least 500,000 to one million troops. The Joint Chiefs recommended hitting targets up to the Chinese border. Ellsberg suspects their real aim was to provoke China into responding. If the Chinese came in, the Joint Chiefs took for granted that we would cross into China and use nuclear weapons to demolish the communists.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower also recommended to Johnson that we use nuclear weapons in both North and South Vietnam. Indeed, during the 1964 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Barry Goldwater argued for nuclear attacks as well. Johnson feared that the Joint Chiefs would resign and go public if Johnson didn’t follow at least some of their recommendations, and he needed some Republican support for the “Great Society” and the “War on Poverty.” Fortunately, Johnson resisted their most extreme proposals, even though the Joint Chiefs regarded them as essential to success. Ellsberg cannot conclude that the antiwar movement shortened the war, but he says the movement put a lid on the war. If the president had done what the Joint Chiefs recommended, the movement would have grown even larger, but so would the war, much larger than it ever became.

“The Most Dangerous Man in America”

Ellsberg, a former US military analyst and Marine in Vietnam, worked at the RAND Corporation and the Pentagon. He risked decades in prison to release 7,000 top-secret documents to The New York Times and other newspapers in 1971. The Pentagon Papers showed how five presidents consistently lied to the American people about the Vietnam War that was killing thousands of Americans and millions of Indochinese. Ellsberg’s courageous act lead directly to the Watergate scandal, Nixon’s resignation, and helped to end the Vietnam War. Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s national security advisor, called Ellsberg “the most dangerous man in America,” who “had to be stopped at all costs.” But Ellsberg wasn’t stopped. Facing 115 years in prison on espionage and conspiracy charges, he fought back. The case against him was dismissed due to egregious misconduct by the Nixon administration. Ellsberg’s story was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America.” Edward Snowden told Ellsberg that film strengthened his intention to release the NSA documents.

The April Third Movement

On April 3, 1969, 700 Stanford students voted to occupy the Applied Electronics Laboratory (AEL), where classified (secret) research on electronic warfare (radar-jamming) was being conducted at Stanford. That spawned the April Third Movement (A3M), which holds reunions every five to 10 years. The sit-in at AEL, supported by a majority of Stanford students, lasted nine days, replete with a printing press in the basement to produce materials linking Stanford trustees to defense contractors. Stanford moved the objectionable research off campus, but the A3M continued with sit-ins, teach-ins and confrontations with police in the Stanford Industrial Park. Many activists from that era continue to do progressive work, drawing on their experiences during the A3M. This year, we discussed the political economy of climate change, and the relationship between the counterculture of the 1960s and the development of Silicon Valley. Highlights of the weekend included three keynote addresses – Ellsberg’s, one delivered by Stanford political science Professor Terry Karl, and a talk by Rutgers professor of English and American Studies, H. Bruce Franklin.

“Accountability for War Crimes: From Vietnam to Latin America”

Terry Karl is a Stanford professor who has published widely on political economy of development, oil politics, Latin America and Africa, and human rights. She also testifies as an expert witness in trials against Latin American dictators and military officers who tortured, disappeared and killed civilians in the 1970s and 1980s, when their governments were supported by the United States. Karl’s testimonies have helped to establish guilt and accountability for the murders of El Salvador’s Archbishop Romero, the rape and murders of four American churchwomen and other prominent cases.

Karl quoted President George H.W. Bush, who announced proudly after the first Gulf War in 1991, “The specter of Vietnam has been buried forever in the desert sands of the Arabian peninsula.” Nevertheless, Karl observed, we have been involved in “permanent war” since Vietnam, in part because there had been no accountability, abroad or at home, for each of our past wars. The US global military presence around the world, according to Karl, is not there for defense, but rather to maintain the United States “at the top.” No defense can be based on having soldiers in 150 countries.

Beginning with Vietnam, we stopped paying taxes for the wars we fight, Karl said. The Korean War was financed with taxes, but the Vietnam War was paid for through inflation. This helped to produce the recession that was the basis for the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Wars in Central America, Iraq and Afghanistan have been “paid for” through debt. In this respect, permanent war not only threatens our democracy, Karl pointed out, but also our economic future. In one example, Karl noted that the United States fights wars to secure oil and gas, yet the largest consumer of oil in the world is the Department of Defense because of those very wars.

Karl also observed that we have not “won” all of those unpaid wars – if measured against their original objectives. The United States fought in Vietnam to prevent communist reunification of the country, yet that is exactly what happened. The Reagan administration decided to “draw the line” in El Salvador to prevent FLMN rebels from coming to power, yet the FMLN is the government today. And the Reagan administration supported the contras in Nicaragua to prevent the Sandinistas from governing that country; the Sandinistas are now in control. She predicted we would see similar “victories” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Cultural Memory of the Vietnam War in the Epoch of Forever War” 

H. Bruce Franklin was the first tenured professor to be fired by Stanford University, and the first to be fired by a major university since the 1950s. Franklin, who was a Marxist and an active member of the A3M, was terminated because of things he said at an antiwar rally, statements that, according to the ACLU, amounted to protected First Amendment speech. A renowned expert on Herman Melville, history and culture, Franklin has taught at Rutgers University since 1975. He has written or edited 19 books and hundreds of articles, including books about the Vietnam War. Before becoming an activist, Franklin spent three years in the US Air Force, “flying,” he said, “in operations of espionage and provocation against the Soviet Union and participating in launches for full-scale thermonuclear war.”

Franklin told the reunion about myths the US government has promulgated since the Vietnam War. “One widespread cultural fantasy about the Vietnam War blames the antiwar movement for losing the war, forcing the military to ‘fight with one arm tied behind its back,’” Franklin said. “But this stands reality on its head,” he maintains. Franklin cited the American people’s considerable opposition to the war. “Like the rest of the movement at home,” he noted, “the A3M was inspired and empowered by our outrage against both the war and all those necessary lies about the war coming from our government and the media, as well as the deceitful participation of institutions that were part of our daily life, such as Stanford University.” The war finally ended, Franklin thought, because of the antiwar movement, particularly opposition to the war within the military.

The other two myths Franklin debunked are first, that the real heroes are the American prisoners of war (POW’s) still imprisoned in Viet Nam; and second, that many veterans of the Viet Nam War were spat upon by antiwar protestors when they returned home. The black and white POW/MIA (missing in action) flag has flown over the White House, U.S. post offices and government buildings, the New York Stock Exchange, and appears on the right sleeve of the official robe of the Ku Klux Klan, according to Franklin. “The flag now came to symbolize our culture’s dominant view of America as the heroic warrior victimized by ‘Viet Nam’ but then reemerging as Rambo unbound,” he said. After talking to several Japanese scholars he met on a trip to Japan, Franklin realized he had missed the “most essential and revealing aspect” of the POW/MIA myth. The scholars told him, “When militarism was dominant in Japan, the last person who would have been used as an icon of militarism was the POW.  What did he do that was heroic?  He didn’t fight to the death.  He surrendered.” Franklin told the reunion:

Both the POW and the spat-upon vet become incarnations of America, especially American manhood, as victim of ‘Vietnam,’ which is not a people or a nation but something terrible that happened to us.”

He also said that there is absolutely no evidence that any Viet Nam vet was spat upon by an antiwar protestor. “These two myths turned ‘Vietnam’ into the cultural basis of the forever war,” Franklin said. He quoted George H. W. Bush who proclaimed in 1991, “By God, we’ve kicked the Viet Nam Syndrome once and for all.”

The Legacy of the Vietnam War

But, as Karl and Franklin observed, we are now engaged in a “permanent war” or “forever war.” Indeed, the US government has waged two major wars and several other military interventions in the years since Vietnam. And in his recent statement on US foreign policy, President Barack Obama said: “The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it – when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.” Obama never mentioned the United Nations Charter, which forbids “unilateral” intervention – the use or threat of military force not conducted in self-defense or with the consent of the Security Council.

The US military, Karl noted, teaches that the Vietnam War was a success. And, indeed, during the next 11 years, leading up to the 50th anniversary of that war, the US government will continue to mount a false narrative of that war. Fortunately, Veterans for Peace has launched a counter-commemoration movement to explain the true legacy of Vietnam. It is only through an accurate understanding of our history that we can struggle against our government’s use of military force as the first, instead of the last, line of defense.

It is well-documented that the U.S. government has – at least at some times in some parts of the world – protected drug operations.

(Big American banks also launder money for drug cartels. See this, this, this and this. Indeed, drug dealers kept the banking system afloat during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis. And the U.S. drug money laundering is continuing to this day.)

The U.S. military has openly said that it is protecting Afghani poppy fields:

As Wikipedia notes:

Opium production in Afghanistan has been on the rise since U.S. occupation started in 2001.

Indeed, a brand new report from the United Nations finds that opium production is at an all-time high.

Common Dreams notes:

The cultivation of opium poppy in Afghanistan—a nation under the military control of US and NATO forces for more than twelve years—has risen to an all-time high, according to the 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey released Wednesday by the United Nations.

According to the report, cultivation of poppy across the war-torn nation rose 36 per cent in 2013 and total opium production amounted to 5,500 tons, up by almost a half since 2012.

“This has never been witnessed before in the history of Afghanistan,” said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, the outgoing leader of the Afghanistan office of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which produced the report.

***

The U.S. military has allowed poppy cultivation to continue in order to appease farmers and government officials involved with the drug trade who might otherwise turn against the Afghan Karzai government in Kabul. Fueling both sides, in fact, the opium and heroin industry is both a product of the war and an essential source for continued conflict.

 

Public Intelligence has published a series of photographs showing American – and U.S.-trained Afghan – troops patrolling poppy fields in Afghanistan. Public Intelligence informs us that all of the photos are in the public domain, and not subject to copyright, and they assured me that I have every right to reproduce them.

We produce these photos and the accompanying descriptions from Public Intelligence without further comment.

 

 

 

 

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Noel Rodriguez, a team leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, communicates with an adjacent squad while on patrol in Sangin, Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 1, 2012. Marines patrolled to provide security in the area and interact with the local populace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hypocrisy of Human Rights Watch

June 10th, 2014 by Keane Bhatt

This article was first published by Global Research on February 8, 2014.

Over more than a decade, the rise of the left in Latin American governance has led to remarkable advances in poverty alleviation, regional integration, and a reassertion of sovereignty and independence. The United States has been antagonistic toward the new left governments, and has concurrently pursued a bellicose foreign policy, in many cases blithely dismissive of international law.

So why has Human Rights Watch (HRW)—despite proclaiming itself “one of the world’s leading independent organizations” on human rights—so consistently paralleled U.S. positions and policies? This affinity for the U.S. government agenda is not limited to Latin America. In the summer of 2013, for example, when the prospect of a unilateral U.S. missile strike on Syria—a clear violation of the UN Charter—loomed large, HRW’s executive director Kenneth Roth speculated as to whether a simply “symbolic” bombing would be sufficient. “If Obama decides to strike Syria, will he settle for symbolism or do something that will help protect civilians?” he asked on Twitter. Executive director of MIT’s Center for International Studies John Tirman swiftly denounced the tweet as “possibly the most ignorant and irresponsible statement ever by a major human-rights advocate.”1

HRW’s accommodation to U.S. policy has also extended to renditions—the illegal practice of kidnapping and transporting suspects around the planet to be interrogated and often tortured in allied countries. In early 2009, when it was reported that the newly elected Obama administration was leaving this program intact, HRW’s then Washington advocacy director Tom Malinowski argued that “under limited circumstances, there is a legitimate place” for renditions, and encouraged patience: “they want to design a system that doesn’t result in people being sent to foreign dungeons to be tortured,” he said, “but designing that system is going to take some time.”2

Similar consideration was not extended to de-facto U.S. enemy Venezuela, when, in 2012, HRW’s Americas director José Miguel Vivanco and global advocacy director Peggy Hicks wrote a letter to President Hugo Chávez arguing that his country was unfit to serve on the UN’s Human Rights Council. Councilmembers must uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, they maintained, but unfortunately, “Venezuela currently falls far short of acceptable standards.”Given HRW’s silence regarding U.S. membership in the same council, one wonders precisely what HRW’s acceptable standards are.

One underlying factor for HRW’s general conformity with U.S. policy was clarified on July 8, 2013, when Roth took to Twitter to congratulate his colleague Malinowski on his nomination to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL). Malinowski was poised to further human rights as a senior-level foreign-policy official for an administration that convenes weekly “Terror Tuesday” meetings. In these meetings, Obama and his staffers deliberate the meting out of extrajudicial drone assassinations around the planet, reportedly working from a secret “kill list” that has included several U.S. citizens and a 17-year-old girl.4

Malinowski’s entry into government was actually a re-entry. Prior to HRW, he had served as a speechwriter for Secretary of State Madeline Albright and for the White House’s National Security Council. He was also once a special assistant to President Bill Clinton—all of which he proudly listed in his HRW biography. During his Senate confirmation hearing on September 24, Malinowski promised to “deepen the bipartisan consensus for America’s defense of liberty around the world,” and assured the Foreign Relations Committee that no matter where the U.S. debate on Syria led, “the mere fact that we are having it marks our nation as exceptional.”5

That very day, Obama stood before the UN General Assembly and declared, “some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional.” Assuming that by “exceptional” Obama meant exceptionally benevolent, one of those who disagreed was Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who had opened the proceedings at the same podium by excoriating Obama’s “global network of electronic espionage,” which she considered a “disrespect to national sovereignty” and a “grave violation of human rights and of civil liberties.” Rousseff contrasted Washington’s rogue behavior with her characterization of Brazil as a country that has “lived in peace with our neighbors for more than 140 years.” Brazil and its neighbors, she argued, were “democratic, pacific and respectful of international law.”Rousseff’s speech crystallized Latin America’s broad opposition to U.S. exceptionalism, and therefore shed light on the left’s mutually antagonistic relationship with HRW.

*

Malinowski’s background is but one example of a larger scenario. HRW’s institutional culture is shaped by its leadership’s intimate links to various arms of the U.S. government. In her HRW biography, the vice chair of HRW’s board of directors, Susan Manilow, describes herself as “a longtime friend to Bill Clinton,” and helped manage his campaign finances. (HRW once signed a letter to Clinton advocating the prosecution of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes; HRW made no case for holding Clinton accountable for NATO’s civilian-killing bombings despite concluding that they constituted “violations of international humanitarian law.”)Bruce Rabb, also on Human Rights Watch’s Board of Directors, advertises in his biography that he “served as staff assistant to President Richard Nixon” from 1969-70—the period in which that administration secretly and illegally carpet bombed Cambodia and Laos.8

The advisory committee for HRW’s Americas Division has even boasted the presence of a former Central Intelligence Agency official, Miguel Díaz. According to his State Department biography, Díaz served as a CIA analyst and also provided “oversight of U.S. intelligence activities in Latin America” for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.As of 2012, Díaz focused, as he once did for the CIA, on Central America for the State Department’s DRL—the same bureau now to be supervised by Malinowski.

Other HRW associates have similarly questionable backgrounds: Myles Frechette, currently an advisory committee member for the Americas Division, served as Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean from 1990-93, and then became U.S. Ambassador to Colombia from 1994-97. Frechette subsequently worked as the executive director of a “nonprofit” group called the North American-Peruvian Business Council, and championed the interests of his funders in front of Congress. His organization received financing from companies such as Newmont Mining, Barrick Gold, Caterpillar, Continental Airlines, J.P. Morgan, ExxonMobil, Patton Boggs, and Texaco.10

Michael Shifter, who also currently serves on HRW’s Americas advisory committee, directed the Latin America and Caribbean program for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a quasi-governmental entity whose former acting president Allen Weinstein told The Washington Post in 1991 that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”11 Shifter, as current president of a policy center called the Inter-American Dialogue, oversees $4 million a year in programming, financed in part through donations from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the embassies of Canada, Germany, Guatemala, Mexico and Spain, and corporations such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Boeing, and Western Union.

To be sure, not all of the organization’s leadership has been so involved in dubious political activities. Many HRW board members are simply investment bankers, like board co-chairs Joel Motley of Public Capital Advisors, LLC, and Hassan Elmasry, of Independent Franchise Partners, LLP. HRW Vice Chair John Studzinski is a senior managing director at The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm founded by Peter G. Peterson, the billionaire who has passionately sought to eviscerate Social Security and Medicare. And although Julien J. Studley, the Vice Chair of the Americas advisory committee, once served in the U.S. Army’s psychological warfare unit, he is now just another wealthy real-estate tycoon in New York.

That HRW’s advocacy reflects its institutional makeup is unremarkable. Indeed, an examination of its positions on Latin America demonstrates the group’s predictable, general conformity with U.S. interests. Consider, for example, HRW’s reaction to the death of Hugo Chávez. Within hours of his passing on March 5, 2013, HRW published an overview—“Venezuela: Chávez’s Authoritarian Legacy”—to enormous online response. In accordance with its headline’s misleading terminology, HRW never once mentioned Chávez’s democratic bona fides: Since 1998, he had triumphed in 14 of 15 elections or referenda, all of which were deemed free and fair by international monitors. Chávez’s most recent reelection boasted an 81% participation rate; former president Jimmy Carter described the voting process as “the best in the world.”12The article neglected to cite a single positive aspect of Chávez’s tenure, under which poverty was slashed by half and infant mortality by a third.

In contrast, HRW’s August 21, 2012 statement regarding the death of Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi was decidedly more muted: “Ethiopia: Transition Should Support Human Rights Reform,” read the headline. Leslie Lefkow, HRW’s deputy Africa director, urged the country’s new leadership to “reassure Ethiopians by building on Meles’s positive legacy while reversing his government’s most pernicious policies.” Regarding a leader whose two-decade rule had none of Chávez’s democratic legitimacy (HRW itself documented Ethiopia’s repressive and unfair elections in both 2005 and 2010), the organization argued only that “Meles leaves a mixed legacy on human rights.”13 Whereas HRW omitted all mention of Chávez-era social improvements, it wrote, “Under [Meles’s] leadership the country has experienced significant, albeit uneven, economic development and progress.”

The explanation for this discrepancy is obvious: as a New York Times obituary reported, Meles was “one of the United States government’s closest African allies.” Although “widely considered one of Africa’s most repressive governments,” wrote the Times, Ethiopia “continues to receive more than $800 million in American aid each year. American officials have said that the Ethiopian military and security services are among the Central Intelligence Agency’s favorite partners.”14

*

2390

Jose M. Vivanco at Senate hearing in 2004. Photo by Jeremy Bigwood.

HRW has taken its double standard to cartoonish heights throughout Latin America. At a 2009 NED Democracy Award Roundtable, José Miguel Vivanco described Cuba, not the United States, as “one of our countries in the hemisphere that is perhaps the one that has today the worst human-rights record in the region.” As evidence, he listed Cuba’s “long- and short-term detentions with no due process, physical abuse [and] surveillance”—as though these were not commonplace U.S. practices, even (ironically) at Guantánamo Bay.15 Vivanco was also quoted in late 2013, claiming at an Inter-American Dialogue event that the “gravest setbacks to freedom of association and expression in Latin America have taken place in Ecuador”—not in Colombia, the world’s most dangerous country for trade union leaders, or in Honduras, the region’s deadliest country for journalists (both, incidentally, U.S. allies).16

Latin America scholars are sounding the alarm: New York University history professor Greg Grandin recently described HRW as “Washington’s adjunct” in The Nation magazine.17 And when Vivanco publicly stated that “we did [our 2008] report because we wanted to show the world that Venezuela is not a model for anyone,” over 100 academics wrote to the HRW’s directors, lamenting the “great loss to civil society when we can no longer trust a source such as Human Rights Watch to conduct an impartial investigation and draw conclusions based on verifiable facts.”18

HRW’s deep ties to U.S. corporate and state sectors should disqualify the institution from any public pretense of independence. Such a claim is indeed untenable given the U.S.-headquartered organization’s status as a revolving door for high-level governmental bureaucrats. Stripping itself of the “independent” label would allow HRW’s findings and advocacy to be more accurately evaluated, and its biases more clearly recognized.

In Latin America, there is a widespread awareness of Washington’s ability to deflect any outside attempts to constrain its prerogative to use violence and violate international law. The past three decades alone have seen U.S. military invasions of Grenada and Panama, a campaign of international terrorism against Nicaragua, and support for coup governments in countries such as Venezuela, Haiti, Honduras, and Guatemala. If HRW is to retain credibility in the region, it must begin to extricate itself from elite spheres of U.S. decision-making and abandon its institutional internalization of U.S. exceptionalism. Implementing a clear prohibition to retaining staff and advisers who have crafted or executed U.S. foreign policy would be an important first step. At the very least, HRW can institute lengthy “cooling-off” periods—say, five years in duration—before and after its associates move between the organization and the government.

After all, HRW’s Malinowski will be directly subordinate to Secretary of State John Kerry, who conveyed the U.S. attitude toward Latin America in a way that only an administrator of a superpower could. In an April 17, 2013 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, a member of Congress asked Kerry whether the United States should prioritize “the entire region as opposed to just focusing on one country, since they seem to be trying to work together closer than ever before.” Kerry reassured him of the administration’s global vision. “Look,” he said. “The Western Hemisphere is our backyard. It is critical to us.”19

Keane Bhatt is a regular contributor to the Media Accuracy on Latin America (MALA) section of NACLA Report and the creator of the Manufacturing Contempt blog on nacla.org.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Although Tom Malinowski was confirmed by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in September 2013, as of publication, he and 70 other Obama appointees have yet to be approved by the Senate. 

Notes

1. Kenneth Roth, followed by John Tirman’s response, Twitter, August 25, 3013,http://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/371797912210407424.

2. Greg Miller, “Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool,” Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009.

3. José Miguel Vivanco and Peggy Hicks, “Letter to President Chavez on Venezuela’s Candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council,” Human Rights Watch, November 9, 2012.

4. Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” The New York Times, May 29, 2012.

5. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Statement for the Record by Tom Malinowski,” September 24, 2013.

6. “Text of Obama’s Speech at the U.N.,” The New York Times, September 24, 2013. Statement by H.E. Dilma Rousseff, United Nations, September 24, 2013.

7. Human Rights Watch, “Major Rights Groups Oppose Immunity for Milosevic,” October 6, 2000. HRW, “New Figures on Civilian Deaths in Kosovo War,” Februrary 8, 2000.

8. Human Rights Watch, “Board of Directors,” www.hrw.org, accessed November 16, 2013.

9. U.S. Department of State, “Franklin Fellows Alumni,” September 8, 2011,http://careers.state.gov/ff/meet-the-fellows/franklin-fellows/miguel-diaz, accessed November 16, 2013.

10. Ways and Means Committee, “Statement of Myles Frechette, the North American Peruvian Business Council,” U.S. House of Representatives, May 8, 2001.

11. David Ignatius, “Innocence Abroad: The New World of Spyless Coups,” The Washington Post, September 22, 1991.

12. Keane Bhatt, “A Hall of Shame for Venezuelan Elections Coverage,” Manufacturing Contempt (blog), nacla.org, October 8, 2012.

13. Human Rights Watch, “Ethiopia: Government Repression Undermines Poll,” May 24, 2010.

14. Jeffrey Gettleman, “Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dies at 57,” The New York Times, August 22, 2012.

15. National Endowment for Democracy, “José Miguel Vivanco: 2009 NED Democracy Award Roundtable,” Youtube.com, Jun 29, 2009.

16. Eva Saiz, “Indígenas de Ecuador denuncian en EEUU la norma de libre asociación de Correa,” El Pais, October 28, 2013.

17. Greg Grandin, “The Winner of Venezuela’s Election to Succeed Hugo Chávez Is Hugo Chávez,” The Nation, April 16, 2013.

18. Venezuelanalysis.com, “More Than 100 Latin America Experts Question Human Rights Watch’s Venezuela Report,” December 17, 2008.

19. Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, “Hearing: Securing U.S. Interests Abroad: The FY 2014 Foreign Affairs Budget,” April 17, 2013. 

Chicken Meat Sold in America Contains Cancer-Causing Arsenic

June 10th, 2014 by Global Research News

After years of sweeping the issue under the rug and hoping no one would notice, the FDA has now finally admitted that chicken meat sold in the USA contains arsenic, a cancer-causing toxic chemical that’s fatal in high doses.

But the real story is where this arsenic comes from: It’s added to the chicken feed on purpose!

Even worse, the FDA says its own research shows that the arsenic added to the chicken feed ends up in the chicken meat where it is consumed by humans. So for the last sixty years, American  consumers  who eat conventional chicken  have been swallowing arsenic, a known cancer-causing chemical. (http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/loc…)

Until this new study, both the  poultry industry  and the FDA denied that arsenic fed to  chickens ended up in their  meat.  The fairy-tale excuse story we’ve all been fed for sixty years is that “the arsenic is excreted in the chicken feces.” There’s no scientific basis for making such a claim… it’s just what the poultry industry wanted everybody to believe.

But now the evidence is so undeniable that the manufacturer of the chicken feed product known as Roxarsone has decided to pull the product off the shelves (http://www.grist.org/food-safety/20…). And what’s the name of this manufacturer that has been putting arsenic in the chicken feed for all these years? Pfizer, of course — the very same company that makes vaccines containing chemical adjuvants that are injected into children.

Technically, the company making the Roxarsone chicken feed is a subsidiary of Pfizer, called Alpharma  LLC. Even though Alpharma now has agreed to pull this toxic  feed chemical off the shelves in the United States, it says it won’t necessarily remove it from feed  products  in other countries unless it is forced by regulators to do so. As reported by AP:

Scott Brown of Pfizer Animal Health’s Veterinary Medicine Research and Development division said the company also sells the ingredient in about a dozen other countries. He said Pfizer is reaching out to regulatory authorities in those countries and will decide whether to sell it on an individual basis.” (http://www.usatoday.com/money/indus…)

  But even as its arsenic-containing product is pulled off the shelves, the FDA  continues its campaign of denial, claiming arsenic in chickens is at such a low level that it’s still safe to eat. This is even as the FDA says arsenic is a carcinogen, meaning it increases the risk of  cancer.

The National Chicken Councilagrees with the FDA. In a statement issued in response to the news that Roxarsone would be pulled from feed store shelves, it stated, “Chicken is safe to eat” even while admitting arsenic was used in many flocks grown and sold as chicken meat  in the United States.

What’s astonishing about all this is that the FDA tells consumers it’s safe to eat cancer-causing arsenic but it’s dangerous to drink  elderberry   juice! The FDA recently conducted an armed raid in an elderberry juice  manufacturer, accusing it of the “crime” of selling “unapproved drugs.” (http://www.naturalnews.com/032631_e…) Which  drugs  would those be? The elderberry juice, explains the FDA. You see, the elderberry juice magically becomes a “drugs” if you tell people how it can help support good health.

The FDA has also gone after dozens of other  companies  for selling natural herbal products or nutritional products that enhance and support  health. Plus, it’s waging a war on raw milk which it says is dangerous. So now in America, we have a food and drug regulatory agency that says it’s okay to eat arsenic, but dangerous to drink elderberry juice or raw milk.

Eat more poison, in other words, but don’t consume any healing foods. That’s the FDA, killing off Americans one meal at a time while protecting the profits of the very companies that are poisoning us with their deadly ingredients.

Oh, by the way, here’s another sweet little disturbing fact you probably didn’t know about hamburgers and conventional beef  : Chicken litter containing arsenic is fed to cows in factory beef operations.  So the arsenic that’s pooped out by the chickens gets consumed and concentrated in the tissues of cows, which is then ground into hamburger  to be consumed by the clueless masses who don’t even know they’re  eating  second-hand chicken crap. (http://www.naturalnews.com/027414_c…)

Copyright Intellhub and World Truth TV 2013

Coretta Scott King: “We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the widest possible audience.” – King Family Press Conference, Dec. 9, 1999.

From the King Center on the family’s civil trial that found the US government guilty in Martin’s assassination:

After four weeks of testimony and over 70 witnesses in a civil trial in Memphis, Tennessee, twelve jurors reached a unanimous verdict on December 8, 1999 after about an hour of deliberations that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. In a press statement held the following day in Atlanta, Mrs. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict, saying ,

“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. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself. It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation.

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. I want to make it clear that my family has no interest in retribution. Instead, our sole concern has been that the full truth of the assassination has been revealed and adjudicated in a court of law… My husband once said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To-day, almost 32 years after my husband and the father of my four children was assassinated, I feel that the jury’s verdict clearly affirms this principle. With this faith, we can begin the 21st century and the new millennium with a new spirit of hope and healing.”

TRANSCRIPTS

View Full Trial Transcript>

View Transcript of King Family Press Conference on the Verdict

KING FAMILY STATEMENT ON MEDIA REQUESTS REGARDING THE MEMPHIS VERDICT

The King family stands firmly behind the civil trial verdict reached by twelve jurors in the Memphis, Tennessee courtroom on December 8, 1999.

An excerpt from remarks made by Mr. Dexter Scott King, Chairman, President, and CEO of The King Center, during the December 9, 1999 press conference regarding the verdict that may be used in support of this family decision:

“We can say that because of the evidence and information obtained in Memphis we believe that this case is over. This is a period in the chapter. We constantly hear reports, which trouble me, that this verdict creates more questions than answers. That is totally false. Anyone who sat in on almost four weeks of testimony, with over seventy witnesses, credible witnesses I might add, from several judges to other very credible witnesses, would know that the truth is here.”

The question now is, “What will you do with that?” We as a family have done our part. We have carried this mantle for as long as we can carry it. We know what happened. It is on public record. The transcripts will be available; we will make them available on the Web at some point. Any serious researcher who wants to know what happened can find out.”

The King family feels that the jury’s verdict, the transcripts of the conspiracy trial, and the transcripts of the King family’s press conference following the trial — all of which can be found on The King Center’s website — include everything that that family members have to say about the assassination.

Therefore, the King family shares the conviction that there is nothing more to add to their comments on record and will respectfully decline all further requests for comment.

Related Downloads

Assassination Trial – Family Press Conference.pdf

Assassination Trial – Full Transcript.pdf

Excerpt from Verdict  [Global Research Editor, emphasis added, for further details see full transcript]

(Verdict form passed to the Court.)

THE COURT: I have authorized
this gentleman here to take one picture of
you which I’m going to have developed and
make copies and send to you as I promised.
Okay. All right, ladies and
gentlemen. Let me ask you, do all of you
agree with this verdict?
THE JURY: Yes (In unison).
THE COURT: In answer to the
question did Loyd Jowers participate in a
conspiracy to do harm to Dr. Martin Luther
King, your answer is yes. Do you also find
that others, including governmental agencies,
were parties to this conspiracy as alleged by
the defendant? Your answer to that one is
also yes. And the total amount of damages
you find for the plaintiffs entitled to is
one hundred dollars. Is that your verdict?
THE JURY: Yes (In unison).
THE COURT: All right. I want
to thank you ladies and gentlemen for your
participation. It lasted a lot longer than
we had originally predicted. In spite of
that, you hung in there and you took your
notes and you were alert all during the
trial. And we appreciate it. We want you to
note that our courts cannot function if we
don’t have jurors who accept their
responsibility such as you have.
I hope it has been a pleasant
experience for you and that when you go back
home you’ll tend tell your friends and
neighbors when they get that letter saying
they’ve been summoned for jury duty, don’t
try to think of up those little old lies,
just come on down and it is not so bad after
all.
I know how much you regret the fact
that you won’t be able to come back for the
next ten years. I don’t know, I may or may
not recognize you if I see you on the street
some day, but if you would see me and
recognize me, I sure would appreciate you
coming up and reminding me of your service
here.
To remind you of your service, we
have some certificates that we have prepared
for you. They look real good in a frame.
Not only will they remind you of your service
here, but they will remind you also of that
wonderful judge who presided over this. We
do thank you very much on behalf of everyone
who has participated in this trial.
You were directed not to discuss the
case when you were first sworn. Now that
your verdict has been reached, I’m going to
relieve you of that oath, meaning that you
may or may not discuss it. It is up to you.

No one can force you to. And if you discuss
it, it will only be because you decide that
you wanted to.
I guess that’s about all except that
I want to come around there and personally
shake your hand. You are what I would call
Trojans.
Having said that, as soon as I get
around there and get a chance to shake your
hands, you’ll be dismissed.
(Judge Swearengen left the bench
to shake the jurors hands.)
THE COURT: Those of you who
would like to retain your notes, you may do
so if you want to.
I guess that’s about it. So
consider yourselves dismissed and we thank
you again.
Ladies and gentlemen, Court is
adjourned.
(The proceedings were concluded
at 3:10 p.m. on December 8th, 1999.)

DANIEL, DILLINGER, DOMINSKI, RICHBERGER, WEATHERFORD
(901) 529-1999
2287
COURT REPORTERS’ CERTIFICATE
STATE OF TENNESSEE:
COUNTY OF SHELBY:
We, BRIAN F. DOMINSKI, MARGIE
DAUSTER, SARA ROGAN, KRISTEN PETERSON and
SHERYL WEATHERFORD, Reporters and Notaries
Public, Shelby County, Tennessee, CERTIFY:
1. The foregoing proceedings were
taken before us at the time and place stated
in the foregoing styled cause with the
appearances as noted;
2. Being Court Reporters, we then
reported the proceedings in Stenotype to the
best of our skill and ability, and the
foregoing pages contain a full, true and
correct transcript of our said Stenotype
notes then and there taken;
3. We am not in the employ of and
are not related to any of the parties or
their counsel, and we have no interest in the
matter involved.
WITNESS OUR SIGNATURES, this, the
____ day of ___________, 2000.
___________________________
BRIAN F. DOMINSKI
Certificate of Merit
Holder; Registered
Professional Reporter,
Notary Public for
the State of Tennessee at
Large ***
DANIEL, DILLINGER, DOMINSKI, RICHBERGER, WEATHERFORD
(901) 529-1999
2288
___________________________
MARGIE ROUTHEAUX
Registered
Professional Reporter,
Notary Public for
the State of Tennessee at
Large ***
___________________________
SARA ROGAN
Registered

 

Chi ha sabotato il gasdotto South Stream

June 10th, 2014 by Manlio Dinucci

Il governo bulgaro ha annunciato domenica di aver interrotto i lavori di costruzione del South Stream, il gasdotto che dovrebbe trasportare gas russo nell’Unione europea senza passare per l’Ucraina. «Ho ordinato di fermare i lavori – fa sapere il premier Plamen Oresharski – Decideremo gli sviluppi della situazione dopo le consultazioni che avremo con Bruxelles». Nei giorni scorsi il presidente della Commissione europea, Josè Manuel Barroso, aveva annunciato l’apertura di una procedura Ue contro la Bulgaria per presunte irregolarità negli appalti del South Stream.

Appena tre giorni prima, il 5 giugno, la direzione del Partito socialista bulgaro, che sostiene il governo Oresharski, dava per sicuro che il tratto bulgaro del gasdotto sarebbe stato costruito nonostante la richiesta di Bruxelles di fermare il progetto. «Per noi è d’importanza vitale», sottolineava il vicepresidente della commissione parlamentare per l’energia, Kuiumgiev. E il presidente della Camera dei costruttori, Glossov, dichiarava che «il South Stream è una boccata d’ossigeno per le imprese bulgare».

Che cosa è avvenuto? Il progetto nasce quando, nel novembre 2006 (durante il governo Prodi II), la russa Gazprom e l’italiana Eni firmano un accordo di partenariato strategico. Nel giugno 2007 il ministro per lo sviluppo economico, Pierluigi Bersani, firma con il ministro russo dell’industria e dell’energia il memorandum d’intesa per la realizzazione del South Stream. Secondo il progetto, il gasdotto sarà composto da un tratto sottomarino di 930 km attraverso il Mar Nero (in acque territoriali russe, bulgare e turche) e da uno su terra attraverso Bulgaria, Serbia, Ungheria, Slovenia e Italia fino a Tarvisio (Udine).  Nel 2008-2011 vengono conclusi tutti gli accordi intergovernativi con i paesi attraversati dal South Stream. Nel 2012 entrano a far parte della società per azioni che finanzia la realizzazione del tratto sottomarino anche la tedesca Wintershall e la francese Edf con il 15% ciascuna, mentre l’Eni (che ha ceduto il 30%) detiene il 20% e la Gazprom il 50%.  La costruzione del gasdotto inizia nel dicembre 2012, con l’obiettivo di avviare la fornitura di gas entro il 2015. Nel marzo 2014 la Saipem (Eni) si aggiudica un contratto da 2 miliardi di euro per la costruzione della prima linea del gasdotto sottomarino.

Nel frattempo, però, scoppia la crisi ucraina e gli Stati uniti  premono sugli alleati europei perché riducano le importazioni di gas e petrolio russo, che costituiscono circa un terzo delle importazioni energetiche della Ue. Primo obiettivo statunitense (scrivevamo il 26 marzo) è impedire la realizzazione del South Stream. A tale scopo Washington esercita una crescente pressione sul governo bulgaro. Prima lo critica per aver affidato la costruzione del tratto bulgaro del gasdotto a un consorzio di cui fa parte la società russa Stroytransgaz, soggetta a sanzioni statunitensi. Con tono di ricatto, l’ambasciatrice Usa a Sofia, Marcie Ries, dichiara: «Avvertiamo gli uomini d’affari bulgari di evitare di lavorare con società soggette a sanzioni da parte degli Usa». Il momento decisivo è quando, domenica scorsa a Sofia, il senatore Usa John McCain, accompagnato da Chris Murphy e Ron Johnson, incontra il premier bulgaro trasmettendogli gli ordini di Washington. Subito dopo Plamen Oresharski annuncia il blocco dei lavori del South Stream.

Una vicenda emblematica: un progetto di grande importanza economica per la Ue viene sabotato non solo da Washington, ma anche da Bruxelles per mano dallo stesso presidente della Commissione europea. Ci piacerebbe sapere che cosa ne pensa il governo Renzi, dato che l’Italia – come ha avvertito Paolo Scaroni, numero uno dell’Eni – perderebbe contratti per miliardi di euro se venisse affossato il South Stream.

 

Discontent among the people with the French-imposed government in the capital of Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) has erupted in demonstrations by both the Muslim and Christian communities.

These developments are taking place amid the increasing deployment of foreign military forces mandated for peacekeeping operations by United Nations Security Council and other regional bodies.

The number of troops now occupying the CAR include a bolstered French force of 2,000 along with 6,000 personnel from regional African states (MISCA), European Union Forces (EUFOR) of 1,000 and the impending intervention of some 12,000 other soldiers under the rubric of the Security Council. Nonetheless, the minority Muslim community is still facing organized violence while more people are being forced out of Bangui and other cities across the country.

Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza was appointed after the forced removal at the aegis of Paris of the previous transitional leader Michel Djotodia in January. A Muslim, Djotodia came to power in March 2013 when Seleka Coalition rebels entered Bangui without any real opposition from French troops that were already maintaining a presence in the CAR.

Subsequent human rights violations against the Christian community during the rule of Seleka prompted reprisal attacks by the Anti-Balaka forces composed of armed youth who have been accused of attacking Muslim residents, their homes, mosques and businesses.

On May 30 people took to the streets of the capital protesting the deteriorating security situation. Earlier in the same week 17 people were killed in a church that was attacked while people were taking refuge in the building.

According to CNN,

“Hundreds also came out in the streets to protest against the international peacekeeping forces — French troops and the MISCA forces — whom they accuse of doing too little to protect the people. The unrest continued Friday. (May 30) The International Red Cross described the situation in Bangui as ‘fluid and somewhat chaotic.’ Its teams on the ground have received reports of injured people in the demonstrations but are still assessing the number of casualties, it said.” (May 30)

Foreign troops in efforts to control the demonstrations, which other sources report to have involved thousands of people, opened fire resulting in three demonstrators being killed by gunshot wounds. Rather than calming the situation, the deaths of the three people fueled anger and further unrest throughout the following week.

Text Messages Banned Amid Call for General Strike

Tensions escalated through June 6 when the current government issued a ban on text messaging. The blocking of the technology was done to minimize the impact of a call for a general strike in opposition to the government and the role of so-called peacekeepers.

In an article published by the London-based Guardian newspaper, it reports that “Mobile phone users in the CAR who try to send texts get the response:

‘SMS not allowed.’ Abdallah Assan Kadre, the communications minister issued a statement saying ‘On the instruction of the prime minister … in order to contribute to the restoration of security in the country, the use of SMS by all mobile-phone subscribers is suspended.’” (June 6)

Moreover, the Guardian continued by noting

“The clampdown came after a mass SMS (text message) was circulated urging a general strike in response to more than a year of conflict between Christian and Muslim militias that has killed thousands of people. An organization called Collectif Centrafrique Debout sent out the texts last weekend urging people to stay at home and demanding complete disarmament, especially of the PK5 Muslim neighborhood in the capital, Bangui.” (June 6)

Anti-French sentiment is growing both among the Christian and Muslim populations who have been bitterly divided by the present neo-colonial system of governance. France and other imperialist countries maintain mining interests in the diamond, gold and uranium sectors.

On June 1 Prime Minister André Nzapayeke urged people to end the strike and mass demonstrations in order to return to work in the capital after several days of unrest that had virtually shut down Bangui. Nzapayeke also appealed for a voluntary national disarmament campaign where all residents were requested to hand in their weapons by June 8.

French troops were heckled by residents on June 7 and 8 in Miskine, a Christian-dominated area of Bangui. In Muslim neighborhoods chants of “No to France!” and anti-French insults are commonly shouted at the occupying forces. (AFP, June 6)

Noël Ngoulo, the Secretary General of Bangui University, was quoted by the AFP as saying that

“When they arrived, (French troops) we had hope that they were going to disarm the country. But as time has gone on, the population noticed that the disarmament was delayed. People are angry at the French because they have the impression that the mission objective has changed, from a mission of disarmament to one of simple intervention.” (June 6)

Recent events in the CAR illustrate that the deployment of troops from former colonial and present imperialist countries will only further destabilize the political situation in Africa. The United States has provided logistical and intelligence support to the French-led occupation of the CAR.

These foreign policy initiatives are being headed by the Pentagon through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) whose presence and influence is being strengthened and enhanced by the administration of President Barack Obama. African workers, farmers and youth will inevitably escalate their opposition to the western military interventions being carried out across the continent.

Take a look at every corner of the globe today. Like never before seen on this planet, the global chessboard is fast being carved up with provocative red lines drawn in the sand resulting from rapid military armament and troop deployment throughout this ever increasing bipolar world.

Cold War Part Two was jump started with February’s US backed Ukraine coup and overnight the old familiar East versus West scenario is once again threatening the start of World War III. Wherever untapped precious natural resources can still be extracted from the sea and ground is where opposing military forces from each side are lining up and ready for the end-of-world war. If it wasn’t so alarming, it would be absurdly laughable. Can you hear the global ring announcer? “In the West’s corner, the current and still only heavyweight champion of the superpower world, the greatest empire on earth, the world bully of all bullies, the US-NATO forces! And in this East corner, the up and coming wannabe challenger, once again making its re-appearance on the global stage, the original axis-of-evil we all have all come to love to hate – the armies of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea!”

Beyond the border of the Western nations that are the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Western Europe including Asian allies Japan and South Korea and the Eastern nations of Russia and China, virtually everywhere else on earth the West is now locked in a global power grab battling to plunder the earth’s remaining turf and resources before and against the East gets to it first in a fight to the finish. Perhaps this colliding path to increasing conflict, death and destruction can best be graphically understood in terms of geographic regional breakdowns of the various East versus West confrontations.

The champion bully so used to throwing its weight around the world is clearly the American Empire’s high powered killing machine and its right hand killer puppet NATO. But the bully has met its match with the emerging powerful Eastern bloc of a reaffirmed Russia-China alliance threatening to tilt the power away from previously unchecked US global hegemony. Several weeks ago Russia and China  signed a $400 billion gas deal ensuring that Russia’s largest export will only grow regardless of what might happen with supplying Europe. Since the US-induced Ukraine crisis, in self-defense to America’s global aggression and imperialism, Russia and China have reestablished old ties.

Recently discovered evidence exposes the US Empire’s extended Gladio operations into the twenty-first century Europe using strong arm bullying and subversive aggressive tactics against various socialist and left leaning politicians within the European Union who might oppose NATO, tactics that include possible assassination as well as “softer” character assassination techniques. This proves just how much Europe, its EU and NATO are all completely dominated and controlled by any and all means necessary as puppets of the US Empire. 

The US is pushing its “full spectrum dominance” to purposely escalate tensions with encircling Russia and China by militarizing every nation on their border. In the meantime, through mainstream media’s state sponsored propaganda, the US government is attempting to demonize Russian President Putin and his nation as the vilified aggressor when in fact US Empire has always been the warmongering state inciting war after war. Despite the lies and saber rattling propaganda, more Americans are finally seeing the true villain is in fact the hegemonic Empire. And with the overthrow of another democratically elected sovereign government in Ukraine earlier this year, by perpetual US aggression the next war could well be in Eastern Europe against nuclear armed Russia.

In Poland last week Obama promised a billion dollar military aid package to strengthen Ukraine and NATO nations in preparation for war with Russia. US Air Force and Army units along with F-16’s are arriving en masse throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia along the Russian border and will be serving on a rotational basis for years to come. Additionally, long time scheduled nuclear powered warhead missile sites are being lined up in Poland and already this year in Romania pointed across the border to Russia. In Romania Obama’s also rolling out the newest version of the star wars program of nukes from space, capable of taking out Russian target cities with a first strike while neutralizing Russia’s response with its anti-missile defense system. Thus, overwhelming evidence indicates Obama is currently planning and preparing for the likelihood of World War III with Russia and its allies. The geopolitics game of course has everything to do with global hegemony, which in turn has everything to do with money, oil pipelines and access to earth’s most precious resources. 

US Empire agenda has always been to target any nation that defies preservation of the US dollar and petrodollar as the fiat international currency standard to ensure the central banking cabal’s global control of the world population through a feudalistic debtor system. Both Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi went down quickly after planning to no longer trade in US dollars.

The underlying escalation in conflict with Iran centers greatly on Russia and other BRIC nations trade with Iran with rubles and gold. Even NATO ally Turkey’s president yesterday was making a deal with Iran’s visiting leader to buy Iran’s oil through payment in gold rather than the US petrodollar. With Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa all BRIC members that are choosing to not trade in US dollars, they are leading the charge that will soon bring down the US oligarch’s paper fiat. As more and more of the world moves against the US dollar, at some point in the near future the US economy will plunge into a freefall nosedive of a severe depression. But then this also has been the oligarchs’ eventual plan in the making for some time. 

In fact the biggest East vs. West geographical bone of contention covers the elongated stretch of land 10,000 miles long spanning every country bordering Russia and China, all those onetime outer Soviet state nations that end in “stan” that Americans can neither pronounce nor remember. From Europe through the trans-Caucasus of Central Asia to Tibet all the way to East Asia, the big East vs. the big West face-off in recent months has been heating up with noticeable mounting tensions throughout.

And the current hottest of all hotspots in this vast arena of course has been the civil war well underway now in Ukraine. With increasing violence the Ukraine military has been destroying hospitals, schools, residential areas and municipal buildings in eastern Ukrainian cities like Lugansk. Meanwhile Russian troops have overall shown restraint although just recently the southeastern Ukraine border crossing checkpoints have been abandoned by Kiev government forces and are now under Russian control. The impending war between Ukraine and Russia appears increasingly eminent.

But in short order, all along the Russia-China bloc’s own backyard, the West is fomenting and creating dirty secret wars spilling death squad bloodshed in any number of these highly unstable, corrupt, resource-rich borderlands. The strategy is to head Russia off at the pass from forming its own Eurasian Union (EAU) by next year with Kazakhstan and Belarus. A number of other nations in the region like Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that may even include prior Western leaning nations like Georgia have all expressed an interest in also joining this EAU as well. If Putin succeeds in acquiring these pivotal nations on its side, the EAU would rival the EU and NATO in economic and military power. This development would weaken and potentially threaten the oligarchs’ central banking cabal. To ensure that it does not happen, World War III is more likely to happen first.

One relatively new global region where the US-NATO military is currently facing off against the Russian armed forces is fighting over the disputed waters accounting for 30% of the world’s vast oil reserves sitting underneath the Arctic Ocean floor. As the global warming rapidly melts the polar icecaps, the result makes the value of its mineral and oil reserves both more assessable and coveted by all the nations that share Arctic territory. The melted ice also opens up new trade routes never available before. Thus competition and potential conflict is ratcheting up as Russia the nation with the most Arctic territory has been building a military presence in the region since 2007 and currently possesses ten military bases along the northern sea route. Only in the last year has NATO recognized the need to match Russia’s head start both militarily and economically.

Recently 16,000 soldiers from the US and NATO participated in the largest Western joint military exercise north of the Arctic circle in a hurry up effort to try and catch up to the 70,000 troop buildup of the Russian Army already stationed on the northern tundra. Russia has the distinction of being the only nation in the world with a nuclear icebreaker fleet

Last month Norway’s defense minister echoed the NATO party line seeing Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a direct threat to all NATO countries and called for an increased focus on matching Russia’s Arctic circle growth. In April Russia successfully shipped its first oil from its Arctic drilling operations. Canada, the US, Norway and Denmark through Greenland all have a vested NATO interest in the Arctic for its plentiful deposits of oil, gas and minerals. And the Russian Federation has beaten NATO to the punch both in its resource extraction as well as its military stronghold in the region. 

The US never ratified a UN treaty among the Arctic nations that irons out how access and extraction of resources will be conducted. Even though the oil corporations, the military and environmental groups all agree the US should ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, once again the dysfunctional US Congress has continually voted it down. It seems the US purposely desires to undermine any judicious international solution to the intensifying competition as if a subsequent conflict and potential war is purposely part of the Empire agenda.

In Africa Obama’s exceptionalism manifests in the form of Special Operations on the ground busily training and militarizing the entire continent so the Empire can outmaneuver and undercut surging China’s economic power interest as the continent’s leading trading partner. Training death squads in so called counterinsurgency operations has become the Special Ops modus operandi. The US is spending 1.2 billion dollars to build and expand an outpost into a major military base housing 4000 soldiers at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. America took advantage of the recent Boko Haram kidnapping of girls to ensure its military presence including drone operations secured an even stronger foothold in Nigeria. Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Sudan, Libya and Congo have all been targeted for a growing drone surveillance and missile strike program in answer to intelligence claims that Islamic extremists have posed a rising terrorist threat on the continent. AFRICOM has now extended its operations to all African nations but two. Of course the stronger US military presence and activity are precursors for securing the region for expanding transnational corporations into Africa to compete with China’s economic dominance. 

Historically in modern times the Middle East has never stopped being the world hotspot for multi-layered international conflict. Aside from the longstanding Israeli apartheid genocide against Palestinians and the broader Jewish vs. Muslim antagonism, the focal point for over three years now has been the devastating war in Syria where Iran, Russia and China are aligned with the Assad government while the US-NATO-Israel-Saudi Arabia alliance has been financially backing, arming and deploying thousands of al Qaeda mercenaries to fight their proxy war against Syria and the Eastern alliance.

Iran and Syria have long been in the US imperialistic crosshairs as the final two of seven nations on that neocon regime change list dating back prior to 9/11 and still remain unfinished business. Controlling Ukraine and conquering Syria and Iran would cut off Russia’s oil supply to Europe and America could effectively control the outgoing oil supply from the Middle East to the rest of the world. Thus, Obama is still sending more sophisticated high powered weaponry to the so called moderate anti-Assad rebels in Syria that could potentially end up in the hands of al Qaeda militants who have already pledged to use the US made arms against America. And this comes when the Syrian government forces have begun to gain the upper hand in the bloody war against the US proxy lowlifes.

In a Reuter’s article (June 9, 2014) a Free Syrian Army general warned against Obama’s plan to arm rebel groups in Syria as he believes it will create warlords like in Somalia and Afghanistan that will operate as loose cannons not answering to anyone and only creating more problems for anti-government forces. This view only reinforces the common perception that Obama’s poor, misguided and erratic leadership in the Middle East has diminished America’s international power, reputation and credibility, grossly undermined by Obama’s empty, paper tiger rhetoric and inconsistency.

Though the US-NATO military forces can occupy nations along the entire border of Russia’s and China‘s backyard, the double standard that is US exceptionalism ensures that Chinese and Russian armies are forever banned far from North and South America. Other than Cuba, gaining a foothold of influence and power within the US dominated Western hemisphere has been tenuous for Russia and China. The exploitative and over controlling (with roots back to the Monroe Doctrine) American Empire has driven Latin American nations toward seeking an intra-continental alliance promoting a degree of independence, solidarity and defense from the reigning clutches of the sole world superpower to the north. Nations like Venezuela through the efforts of the late Hugo Chavez have taken a bold and defiant stance against US hegemony, calling Bush “the devil” at the UN a few years ago. Similar to long sanctioned Cuba, resistance to American aggression has taken the form of embracing both Russia and China for bolstered support through economic development and trade. While the US was busy focusing on waging wars on multiple warfronts, China from 2000 to 2009 quietly increased its trade with Latin America by 600%. As a result, China is gaining influence in America’s hemispheric “backyard.” 

Lastly, in the final continent East Asia tensions have only increased between America and China there as well. During his recent so called pivot tour to the Far East, Obama reaffirmed and strengthened military ties with South Korea, Japan and the Philippines. In response to the increasing territorial squabbling between China and other US allies in Asia like Japan, Philippines and more recently Vietnam, always the opportunist the US in Secretary of State Kerry recently invited Vietnam’s deputy prime minister to Washington to discuss establishment of a US naval base in Vietnam. Another recent issue causing friction is the US allegation that Chinese military officers spied on American corporations breaching security to gain valuable information. Of course the fact that the US was caught with the Snowden revelations spying on the entire world has no impact on the US willingness to chastise and accuse others nations. The rest of the planet readily recognizes America’s double standard hypocrisy in constantly objecting to other nations that are merely doing the same behavior that America does. 

The polarizing effect on the world brought on by America’s arrogance, exceptionalism and widespread bullying and aggression has created dangerous conflicts that are leading to military tensions and hostilities that in turn appear to be leading to major wars with nuclear powers Russia and China as well as unpredictable North Korea. And unlike the false propaganda of the US government and its presstitute media outlets, this increasingly militarized, armed and dangerous world is the direct intended result of US foreign policy. As the puppet to the oligarch puppet masters, it is by design that war is on the horizon and the end game of World War III looms ever closer with each passing month. It again must be up to us rational citizens of the world who know better than to plunge into a war that no one can win but all of us earth inhabitants can lose if we allow our leaders to push us off the doomsday cliff.
 
Joachim Hagopian is a West Point graduate and former US Army officer. He has written a manuscript based on his unique military experience entitled “Don’t Let The Bastards Getcha Down.” It examines and focuses on US international relations, leadership and national security issues. After the military, Joachim earned a masters degree in Clinical Psychology and worked as a licensed therapist in the mental health field for more than a quarter century. He now concentrates on his writing.

Let’s Remove Unemployment

June 9th, 2014 by Aleksandar Sarovic

Unemployment exists in order for employers to be able to buy cheap labor. Through policy, employers maintain the unemployment rate at a level that suits them best. A higher unemployment rate produces a cheap labor force because the workers are pressured to accept poorly paid jobs in order to feed their families.

Consequently, underpaid workers are not able to buy enough goods produced by private companies. It seems that an unemployment rate of about 5 percent suits the employers best. Thus, economists accept this as a “normal” state. This “normal” state allows the exploitation of workers through low labor costs while the total workers’ purchasing power is still large enough for private companies to produce profit.

Today’s economists recognize the existence of  cyclical, frictional, and structural unemployment. Cyclical unemployment is the result of oscillations in the process of expansion and recession of production which oscillates demand for work. The economists do not see that burden of crisis and benefits from profits should be more equally distributed.

Frictional unemployment is the result of people willing to move between jobs, careers and locations. The economists do not see that workers should do it in a day. Structural unemployment is the consequence of a change in technology which results in an absence of demand for the available workers.

The economists do not see that prequalification of workers should also be the responsibility of those who profit the most. The economists today are so indoctrinated with false teaching that they believe unemployment is the unavoidable price which must be paid for technological development. They even believe that 0% unemployment is not a positive thing1. I want to stress here that 0% unemployment will solve most of the existing economic problems.

The current philosophy of economics is based on the preservation of capital as a requirement for the protection of the individual. This is wrong. As a result, we can see the deterioration of the individual and capital. The individual has to be more important than capital. The new economy will be based on the protection of the individual. From this point a much better economy will emerge.

The exploitation of workers cannot form a sane basis for the formation of a good society. A good society can only develop on equal human rights. A just society requires the availability of work to everyone. In order to achieve a proper balance between the supply and demand of labor, it will be necessary to create a balance between the number of jobs and workers. If job creation is not needed, full employment will be achieved by reducing the work hours proportionally to the unemployment rate. This is a political measure which needs to be accepted by people and must be conducted in both the public and private enterprises.

The shortening of working hours will reduce employees’ salaries proportionally to the shorter working hours. For example, an unemployment rate of 10% will shorten the working hours of all workers by 10% and the workers’ wages would be 10% lower. The 10% saved will be deployed to the newly hired workers. With this point of view the employers would not be burdened with additional labor costs and all workers would be employed. Initially, the workers would perceive the lower wages as a disadvantage, but in the long run their salaries will significantly grow because the employers will be forced to increase workers’ salaries in the reduced work market in order to hire workers.

The shortening of working hours will bring great benefits to society. Firstly I need to point out that a slightly lower salary for workers is not even close to the disadvantage the unemployed workers bear by receiving no salary. Such a measure would guarantee that unemployment and economic insecurity of workers can no longer exist.

People are accustomed to fluctuations in living standards depending on the performance of the economy. The purchasing power of wages fluctuates more than the unemployment rate due to changes in supply and demand, economic crisis, inflation and deflation. Workers silently accept such fluctuations in purchasing power. They accept that they live worse through the crisis. So, why would they not accept this measure in the name of solidarity among workers, which will help them establish a healthy long-term basis to achieve higher standards of living?

Shortening work hours proportionally to the rate of unemployment will not only eliminate unemployment but it will also solve the problem of exploitation. Here is a simple explanation: If there are a total of two workers who apply for a total of one work post, the competition among the workers will reduce the cost of labor; the worker who gets the job will be exploited. If there is a total of one worker and a total of two jobs, the competition among employers would increase the wage of the worker. Regarding this, the reduction of work hours proportionally to the rate of unemployment will put workers in a better position in the production process. A lower availability of workers will raise the value of the labour of workers and thus, employers would pay workers more than they do today.

Overtime work will continue to be allowed. In the Western world, overtime work is paid time and a half. Employers who intend to solve labour shortage with overtime work will not reduce unemployment. Then the policy that follows the will of the people will further shorten working hours of all employees, and employers will have to pay more overtime hours. Let the employers themselves realize whether it is more worth it to hire new workers or to pay more overtime hours per worker.

The task of a good policy is to simplify regulation as much as possible while achieving the greatest positive impact on society. Today’s policy regulates minimum income which has a very limited impact on the overall distribution of incomes. In the developed world, a large number of workers earn minimum wage while inflation reduces the real value constantly. Workers of the American corporation Walmart generally receive minimal income due to the high unemployment in America. The salaries in Walmart cannot cover basic needs, and so the workers receive social assistance from the U.S. government. They live at the expense of U.S. tax payers while Walmart continues to be one of the most profitable companies in America.

A good policy will regulate the length of working hours and not the minimum income. When unemployment is removed by reducing work hours, employers who need more labor must take it from other employers by offering more money because available workers do not exist. They will have to compete by increasing workers’ wages in order to attract workers from other companies. This will cause a chain reaction in which the workers’ wages will rise. If employers do not increase wages they would simply not have workers. This is just a fair labor market. The regulation of a minimum income will not be required any longer. There will be no need for unions as intermediaries in protecting workers’ rights.

The reduction of work hours is not a new idea. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Robert Owen2 realized the absurdity of daily work that lasted between 12 and 16 hours. In 1817 he proposed the reduction of work hours to 8 hours a day so people would have 8 hours a day for recreation and 8 hours for rest. Employers were strongly opposed to it and did not let the reduction occur. The workers were very dissatisfied. The first significant worker resistance occurred in Chicago, on May 1st, 1867, and the day was declared International Labor Day. The struggle between employers and workers has been difficult and often bloody. It took around 100 years of struggle for the idea of the eight-hour workday to be accepted worldwide.

But this reduction of work hours is not enough today. French socialists3 in power adopted a new law in 1988 which shortened the work hours of all employees from 39 to 35 hours per week. They did this in order to reduce unemployment and enable more free time to workers. But the shorter work hours did not lead to an increase in employment because employers burdened employed workers more. That says to me that there is not even a need for a seven hour workday because the automation in the manufacturing process has reduced the need for manpower. Socialists should have been aware that the employers, who are accustomed to exploiting workers, would not easily give up. The socialists needed to implement a higher reduction of work hours, until employers are forced to hire unemployed workers. I would recommend decreasing the work week length to 30 hours per week. The struggle between the privileged and underprivileged people has never been easy. The French Socialists were not sufficiently committed, and ten years later the Conservatives abolished the limitation of 35 work hours per week. So the idea of social justice lost once again.

Privileged people always find a way to oppress the marginalized and that has always been the main source of problems in society. But in the 14th century, a huge natural tragedy helped the disenfranchised. The Black Death killed one-third of the European population, which produced a huge labor shortage. The shortage of servants, craftsmen, and workmen, and of agricultural workers and laborers, left a great many lords and people without service and attendance. The crops in the fields languished because there were not enough people harvest them. Suddenly, workers and their labor were in much higher demand, enabling those who survived the Black Death to be in a much better position to negotiate work conditions. They could hardly be persuaded to serve the eminent without tripled wages. Historian and economist Thorold Rogers4 recorded that the peasants were given virtually everything they asked for. Karl Marx displayed the time as “the golden age of European proletariat”

Now what? Shall we wait for a new tragedy of humanity, or will we, in the name of justice and solidarity among people, be smart enough to shorten working hours as long as unemployment exists? Only that would force companies to hire unemployed workers. Only that would build justice and balance in the process of production and distribution. Such a regulation of the market will use the invisible hand to balance the demand for labor and income heights in the most acceptable way for workers and employers.

Increasing the wages of workers will be at the expense of employers. Employers would not like it, of course, but they must understand that they cannot earn more if there is not a large enough consumer purchasing power. They must understand that the purchasing power of the society cannot be increased without increasing the wages of workers. They should understand that there is not a better distribution neither for employers nor for workers than the one achieved through a fair labor market. Shortening work hours proportionally to the rate of unemployment would ensure a fair distribution to society. A fair distribution will provide greater purchasing power to the people, which will ensure a greater flow of goods, which would again bring greater profits to the owners of capital. This would eradicate the current economic crisis because the crisis is primarily based on the lack of trade in goods and services. Shorter work hours will form a better capitalism and bring prosperity to society.

I received a lot of criticism about the fact that more expensive work propels capital to where labor is cheaper. Is that not the situation that we have today anyway? Does capital not go to Asia? But this situation will come to an end, because if workers in developed countries do not earn enough they cannot buy enough of the goods that the large capitals produce. The less the capital invests in society the more it will lose. Capital must invest in order to survive. On the other hand, the departure of capital cannot bring workers into an existential threat any more. The eventual increase in unemployment caused by the departure of capital would result in a greater reduction of working hours of workers, thus economic security would still be guaranteed to all people. The shortening of working hours will reduce the incomes of workers but they would remain high enough to provide a decent life. Capitalism has spent a lot of energy in developing the consumer mentality, which is very unnecessary, and egotistical character trait of workers which is wrong. The solidarity in shortening working hours will fundamentally change it.

The question is why has such a simple idea never been suggested? The reason should be sought in the conspiracy of big businesses, which by their economic power prevent the advent of new ideas that can improve society. Big businesses supported the ideas that cannot improve society. Big businesses supported Marxism as the leading ideology of the Left because big businesses have always known that Marxism cannot create a good society, and as such it does not constitute a hazard to them. Otherwise, Marxism, as a vehicle of the violent revolutionary ideology, would have been outlawed. Marxism is useful to big businesses because it mistakenly directs the Left. This is proved by the practice of the socialist revolutions.

Thanks to the conspiracy of big business, my ideas do not have access to the media, universities, politics, and so, nor to the people. But one day the idea of reducing work hours proportionally to the unemployment rate will break through and society will necessitate its implementation. This will reduce the privileges of employers and increase workers’ rights. It will also reduce the difference between the earnings of employers and workers. In such an environment, capital will lose its significance. A fair labor market will spontaneously initialize a new social and economic system that will replace capitalism and greatly meet the needs of society as a whole. I have presented this system in detail in my book Humanism5. Humanism would be equally acceptable to all people and would further improve society.

 

Aleksandar Šarović is a free thinker who has worked on the improvement of society for 30 years. His work can be found atwww.sarovic.com.

Notes:

1. Economics Http://economics.about.com/od/helpforeconomicsstudents/f/unemployment.htm

2. Robert Owen - socialist enterprise at New Lanark - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day

3. The 35-Hour Workweek in France – Marcello Estevão and Filipa Sá http://dev3.cepr.org/meets/wkcn/9/973/papers/estevao_sa.pdf

4. A History of Agriculture and Prices in England from 1259 to 1793 - James Edwin Thorold Rogers

5. Humanism – Aleksandar Šarović - http://www.sarovic.com/table_of_contents.htm

Most pundits of historical developments tend to perceive another global war, often called WW III, in a manner similar to World Wars I and II; that is, large scale deployment of military means in pursuit of defeat, destruction or subjugation of contending opponents.

While prospects of such an ominous scenario certainly cannot be ruled out, there is reason to believe, however, that the much talked-about WW III may be of a different type: more interclass than international. Viewed in this light, WW III is already here; it has indeed been raging on for years: the unilateral, cross-border neoliberal war of austerity economics that is waged by the transnational class of financial oligarchy against the overwhelming majority of world citizens, the global 99%.

Globalization of capital and interdependence of world markets has reached a point where large scale military clashes of the magnitude of World Wars I & II could lead to financial catastrophe for all. Not surprisingly, the network of transnational financial elites, who often elect politicians and run governments from behind the scenes, seem to be averse to another wholesale international war that could paralyze worldwide financial markets.

This explains why imperialistic aggressions of late have often taken the form of “soft-power” interventions: color-coded revolutions, “democratic” coup d’états, manufactured civil wars, economic sanctions, and the like. Of course, military option always lurks in the background to be employed when/if “soft-power” strategies of regime change fail or prove insufficient. Even then, however, all efforts are made (by the major capitalist powers) to make such military interventions “controlled” or “manageable,” that is, limited to local or national levels. While “controlled” wars tend to safeguard the fortunes of war profiteers and beneficiaries of military spending (mainly the military-security-industrial complex and major banks), they would not cause paralysis of international financial markets.

This also explains why major world powers such as China, Russia, India, and Brazil tend to shy away from standing up more robustly to the bullying policies of the United States. Wealthy oligarchic circles in these countries have more in common with their elite counterparts in the U.S. and other core capitalist countries than their fellow countrymen at home. “Whether they maintain primary residences in New York or Hong Kong, Moscow or Mumbai, today’s super-rich are increasingly a nation unto themselves,” points out Chrystia Freeland, Global Editor of Reuters, who travels with the elites to many parts of the world. It is therefore only logical to believe that a de facto alliance exists between members of this global “nation” of the super-rich, which helps facilitate the operations of imperialist schemes of regime change. For example, when/if Russia is threatened by the U.S. and its European allies, Russian oligarchs tend to clandestinely collaborate with their class counterparts in the West, thereby undermining Russia’s resistance to such interferences from Western powers.

A brief look at recent schemes of regime change in countries like Iraq and Libya, on the one hand, and Ukraine and Iran, on the other, can help an understanding of when or where the imperialist powers resort to direct military action to bring about regime change (as in Iraq and Libya), and where or when they resort to “soft-power” tactics to achieve the same goal, as in Ukraine and Iran. Two major reasons or considerations can be identified in this context, that is, in regard with the imperialist choice of the means or tactics of regime change.

The first is related to the level of class differentiation within countries targeted for regime change. Due to extensive (and often scandalous) privatization of public property in both Ukraine and Iran, there have emerged quite wealthy circles of financial oligarchs in both of these countries. These Western-oriented money magnates tend to collaborate with the interventionist forces of regime change from abroad; they are essentially agents of regime change from within, in collaboration with imperialist forces from without. This explains (at least partially) why schemes of regime change in these two countries have relied primarily on “soft-power” and color revolutions instead of direct military intervention.

By contrast, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Qaddafi’s Libya lacked such influential and internationally connected wealthy classes. While neither Saddam nor Qaddafi were paragons of virtue or champions of democracy, they did played the role what is sometimes called “enlightened dictators”: they implemented extensive welfare state programs, maintained strong public-sector economies, opposed privatization of public services such as health and education, and kept major or “strategic” industries such as energy and banking/financial system under state ownership and control. Combined, these policies prevented the rise of powerful financial elites such as those emerged and developed in Iran or Ukraine. This meant, among other things, that “soft-power” and/or color revolution tactics of regime change, which heavily rely on native or local allies, the so-called comprador bourgeoisie, did not have a good chance of success in these countries—hence the use of “hard-power” or direct military intervention/occupation of both Iraq and Libya.

The second imperialist consideration in the choice of soft- versus hard-power tactics of regime change is related to whether a war to be waged in pursuit of regime change can be controlled and managed at the local or national level, or whether it may spin out of control and become regional and/or global. In the case of Ukraine, for example, a direct military aggression would certainly have involved Russia, very likely become global, with disastrous economic/financial consequences beyond the control of imperialist powers—hence the choice of soft-power and/or “democratic” coup d’état in Ukraine. A similar concern that an all-out war against Iran may get out of control likewise explains why schemes of regime change in that country too have (so far) focused primarily on economic sanctions and other soft-power tactics, including the color-coded “green revolution” of 2009.

By contrast, “hard power” or sheer military force was used for regime change in Iraq and Libya out of near-certain knowledge that the wars of regime change against these countries could be controlled fairly successfully, that is, prevented from becoming regional or global.

The Case of Ukraine

The recent and ongoing crisis in Ukraine serves as a clear case of how transnational financial elites tend to avoid cataclysmic international wars of the scale of World War I or II in favor of controllable and often interclass wars by means of economic sanctions and other types of “soft-power” tactics.

In the immediate aftermath of the February 22 (2014) putsch in Kiev, which ousted the duly elected President Viktor Yanukovych and brought to power the U.S.-backed coup regime, tensions between Russia and Western powers ran so high that many observers warned of “the impending WW III.” While those earlier tensions and the concomitant danger of major military clashes between the two sides still exist, they have subsided considerably since the early May when President Putin of Russia effectively blinked in the standoff with Western powers and announced (on May 7th) that Russia would respect the presidential election in Ukraine, and work with whomever is elected—which turned out to be the billionaire oligarch Petro Proshenko.

Despite the fact that the brutal crackdown on the autonomy-seeking activists in Ukraine’s eastern/south-eastern provinces continues unabated, diplomatic maneuvers spearheaded by the representatives of the financial elites from the U.S., Europe, Ukraine and Russia have nonetheless succeeded in averting a military clash between the U.S. and Russian sides.

So, what changed all the earlier threats of wholesale sanctions and/or military actions against Russia to the somewhat diffused tensions and “diplomatic solutions” of today?

The answer, in a nutshell, is that the powerful economic interests vested in international finance, trade and investment (that is, the financial elites in Russia, Ukraine and the core capitalist countries) simply could not risk another uncontrollable world war. Surely, big banks and the influential military-security-industrial complexes tend to flourish on perpetual wars and international tensions. But they also tend to prefer “manageable” or “controllable” wars at the local or national levels (such those waged against Iraq or Libya, for example) to cataclysmic large scale wars on a regional or global level.

It is no secret that as Russia’s economy has become increasingly intertwined with Western economies (largely due to economic power and behavior of its transnational oligarchs), it has also become increasingly vulnerable to global market fluctuations and threats of economic sanctions. This explains, to a large extent, President Putin’s conciliatory gestures and accommodating policies to diffuse hostilities over Ukraine crisis diplomatically.

What is less known, however, is that Western economies too are vulnerable to sanctions from Russia, should Russia decide to retaliate. In fact, Russia has at its possession some powerful economic weapons with which to retaliate, if necessary. Economic wounds from such reciprocal sanctions could be very painful to a number of European countries. Due to interconnection of most economies and financial markets, tit-for-tat sanctions could significantly exacerbate the already fragile European and, indeed, world economy:

“Sanctions on Russian exports would greatly expose the EU. Europe imports 30 percent of its gas from the Russian state-owned company Gazprom. Russia is also Europe’s biggest customer. The EU is, by far, Russia’s leading trade partner and accounts for about 50 percent of all Russian exports and imports. In 2014, EU-Russia overall trade stands at around 360 billion Euros per year. Russia’s total export to the EU, which is principally raw materials such as gas and oil, stands at around 230 billion Euros, while Russia’s imports from the EU amount to around 130 billion Euros of mainly manufactured products as well as foodstuff. The EU is also the largest investor in the Russian economy and accounts for 75 percent of all foreign investments in Russia” [1].

Russia could also retaliate against Western powers’ policies and threats of freezing the assets of Russian individuals and companies by freezing the assets of Western companies and investors:

“In case of Western economic sanctions, Russian lawmakers have announced that they would pass a bill to freeze the assets of European and American companies that operate in Russia. On the other side, more than 100 Russian businessmen and politicians are allegedly targeted by the EU for a freeze of their European assets. Besides Alexey Miller, head of the state-owned Gazprom, the CEO of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, is also apparently on the sanction hit list. Rosneft is the largest listed oil company in the world and, as such, has partners worldwide, including in the West. For example, the U.S.-based company Exxon-Mobil has a $500 million oil-exploration project with Rosneft in Siberia, and Exxon-Mobil is already in partnership with the Russian giant oil company to exploit Black Sea oil reserves” [2].

Russia has at its disposal additional economic weapons to inflict damage to the U.S. and European economies. For example, in reaction to threats to its assets being frozen by the U.S. and its European allies, Russia liquidated (in late February and early March 2014) more than $100 billion of its holdings in U.S. Treasury Bonds. Escalation of such reckless threats of freezing the assets of “unfriendly” governments could well involve China with disastrous consequences for the U.S. dollar, as “China owns an estimated $1.3 trillion in U.S. Treasury Bonds and is the number one investor amongst foreign governments” [3].

This high degree of economic/financial interconnection explains why—with the backing of Washington and the nodding of Moscow—European diplomats from Berlin and Brussels rushed to Kiev, engineered the establishment of the so-called Round Table Discussions and paved the way for the bogus May 25th presidential election, thereby giving legitimacy to the regime of coup d’état and averting the prospect of a mutually destructive escalation of economic sanctions and/or military actions.

Comparison with Iraq and Libya

Regime change in Libya (2011) and Iraq (2003) by means of “hard-power” military interventions (as opposed to “soft-power” schemes of regime change) tend to support the main argument of this essay that, in pursuit of regime change, imperialist powers resort to direct military action where (a) such military involvements can be controlled or restricted to the targeted country, and (b) there is an absence of significant or powerful local allies in the targeted country, that is, local forces of wealthy oligarchs with ties to global markets and, therefore, to external forces of regime change.

Although both Qaddafi and Saddam ruled their countries heavy handedly, they maintained strong public-sector economies and widely nationalized industries and services. This was especially true in the case of strategic industries such as energy, banking, transportation and communications, as well as vital social services such as health, education and utilities. They did this not so much out of socialist convictions (although they occasionally claimed to be champions of “Arab Socialism”), but because, in their struggles against earlier rival regimes of tribal and landed aristocracies, they had learned that control of national economies through bureaucratic state management, along with a strong welfare state, was more beneficial to the cause of stability and continuity of their rule than allowing the development of unbridled market forces and/or the emergence of powerful industrialists and financiers in the private sector.

Whatever the motivation, the fact remains that neither Saddam nor Qaddafi countenanced the rise of powerful financial elites with significant ties to global markets or Western powers. Not surprisingly, opposition figures and forces that collaborated with the imperialist schemes of regime change in these two countries consisted largely of either the remnants of the royal/tribal days, or petty intellectual expats and military nemeses of Saddam and Qaddafi who were forced to live in exile. Unlike the financial elites in Ukraine, for example, opposition forces in Iraq and Libya lacked either the economic means to finance the forces of regime change, or an extensive social base/support in their native countries. They also lacked strong or reliable financial and political ties with Western markets and political establishments.

This explains why economic sanctions and other “soft-power” tactics (such as mobilizing, training and funding opposition forces) proved insufficient to change the regimes of Saddam and Qaddafi; and why U.S. imperialism and its allies had to deploy the “hard-power” of military action/occupation to achieve this nefarious goal. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, interventionist imperial powers were certain that (contrary to the cases of Ukraine or Iran, for instance) such military invasions could be controlled and prevented from going beyond the borders of Libya or Iraq.

The Case of Iran

The U.S. policy of regime change in Iran seems to resemble more the pattern that has been followed in Ukraine than those pursued in Iraq or Libya. This is largely because (a) it is feared that direct military intervention in Iran could not be controlled or limited to that country alone, and (b) Iran has a relatively well-developed, Western-oriented financial oligarchy on whom the U.S. and its allies can rely to bring about reform and/or regime change from within.

It is, of course, not an either-or policy: either military power or “soft power.” It is rather a matter of more or less reliance on one or the other policy, depending on specific circumstances. Indeed, the imperialist agenda of regime change in Iran since the 1979 revolution in that country has included a number of (often concurrent) tactics. They range from instigating and supporting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran (in 1980), to training and funding destabilizing anti-Iran terrorist organizations, to constant war and military threats, to efforts to sabotage the 2009 presidential election through the so-called “green revolution,” and to systematic escalation of economic sanctions.

Having failed (so far) at its nefarious plots of “regime change” from without, the U.S. seems to have shifted emphasis in recent years to regime change (or reform) from within; that is, through political and economic collaboration with the Western-oriented currents within the ruling circles of Iran. What seems to have made this option more attractive to the U.S. and its allies is the rise of an ambitious capitalist class in Iran whose chief priority seems to be the ability to do business with their counterparts in the West. These are largely the wealthy Iranian oligarchs who literally mean business, so to speak; for them, issues such as nuclear technology or national sovereignty are of secondary importance. Having methodically (and often scandalously) enriched themselves in the shadow of the public sector of the Iranian economy, or by virtue of political/bureaucratic positions they held (or still hold) in various stations in the government apparatus, these folks have by now lost all appetite they once had for radical economic measures required for economic self-reliance in order to resist or withstand the brunt of the brutal economic sanctions. Instead, they now seem eager to strike business and investment deals with their transnational class allies abroad.

More than any other social strata, President Rouhani and his administration represent the interests and aspirations of this rising capitalist–financier class in Iran. Representatives of this class of financial oligarchy wield economic and political power mainly through the highly influential Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture (ICCIMA). Ideological and/or philosophical affinity between President Rouhani and the power-brokers residing within ICCIMA is reflected in the fact that, immediately upon his election, the president appointed the former head of the Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Nahavandian, a U.S.-educated neoliberal economist and an advisor to former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, as his chief of staff.

It was through the Iran Chamber of Commerce that, in September 2013, an Iranian economic delegation accompanied President Rouhani to the United Nations in New York to negotiate potential business/investment deals with their American counterparts. The Iran Chamber of Commerce has also organized a number of economic delegations that have accompanied Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif to Europe in pursuit of similar objectives.

Many observers of the U.S.-Iran relations tend to think that the recently initiated diplomatic dialogue between the two countries, including regular contacts within the framework of Iran’s nuclear negotiations, started with the election of Mr. Rouhani as President. Evidence shows, however, that behind-the-scene contacts between representatives of the financial elites in and around the U.S. and Iranian governments started long before Mr. Rouhani was elected as president. For example, a relatively well-researched report by the Wall Street Journal recently revealed that

“Top [U.S.] National Security Council officials began planting the seeds for such an exchange months earlier—holding a series of secret meetings and telephone calls and convening an assortment of Arab monarchs, Iranian exiles and former U.S. diplomats to clandestinely ferry messages between Washington and Tehran, according to current and former U.S., Middle Eastern and European officials briefed on the effort” [4].

The report, showing how the “intricate communications network helped propel the recent steps toward U.S.-Iran rapprochement,” indicated that the often behind-the-scene “meetings were held in Europe, primarily the Swedish capital of Stockholm.” Using international diplomatic conduits such as the Asia Society, the United Nations Association and the Council on Foreign Relations, “The American and Iranian sides gathered in hotels and conference halls, seeking formulas to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program and avert a war,” the report further pointed out. The authors of the report, Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee, also wrote:

“The Asia Society and the nongovernmental Council on Foreign Relations hosted roundtables for Messrs. Rouhani and Zarif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September. The two men used them to explain Tehran’s plans to American businessmen, former government officials, academics and journalists.

“Mr. Obama personally reached out to Mr. Rouhani last summer soon after Rouhani’s election). The U.S. president penned a letter to the new Iranian leader, stressing Washington’s desire to end the nuclear dispute peacefully. Mr. Rouhani responded with similar sentiments.

“Mr. Zarif, meanwhile, reconnected with prominent American foreign-policy officials he met while serving as Iran’s ambassador to the U.N. in the 2000s.

“Ms. DiMaggio of the Asia Society says she was among those in New York who contacted Mr. Zarif shortly after he was brought in to the Rouhani government. A veteran facilitator of informal contacts between Iranian and American officials, she held numerous meetings over the past decade with the U.S.-educated diplomat on ways to end the nuclear impasse” [5].

This explains why President Rouhani (and his circl of outward-looking, Western-oriented advisors) chose Mr. Zarif as foreign minister; and why they have, perhaps unwisely, pinned all their hopes of an economic recovery in Iran on political and economic rapprochement with the West, that is, on free trade and unrestricted investment from the U.S. and other major capitalist countries. (Incidentally, this also explains why President Rouhani’s team of nuclear negotiators has, willy nilly, been condemned to a weak bargaining position in their discussions with the group of P5+1 countries; and why the Iranian negotiators have given up so much for so little.)

Conclusion and Implications

While powerful beneficiaries of war and military spending—Major banks (as primary lenders to governments) and the military-security-industrial complex— thrive on war and international tensions, they nonetheless tend to prefer local, national, limited, or “manageable” wars to large scale regional or global wars that, in a cataclysmic fashion, could paralyze global markets altogether. This goes some way to explain why in pursuit of regime change in Iraq and Libya, for example, the United States and its allies relied on direct military action/occupation; whereas in cases like Ukraine and Iran they have (so far) avoided direct military intervention and relied, instead, on “soft-power” tactics and color-coded revolutions. As noted earlier, this is largely because, for one thing, it is feared that war and military intervention in Ukraine or Iran may not be “controllable”; for another, there are large and sufficiently influential pro-Western financial elites in both Iran and Ukraine who could be relied upon in pursuit of reform and/or regime change from within, that is, without risking another catastrophic world war that could destroy the fortunes of the transnational capitalist class along with everything else.

Interventionist powers have almost always been keen on the utility of the age-old divide and rule tactics. What is relatively new in the context of this discussion is that, in addition to older patterns of utilization of this tactic (which have often relied on divisive issues such as nationality, ethnicity, race, religion and the like), recent instances of the use of this scheme are increasingly relying on class divisions. The calculation seems to be that, when/if a country like Iran or Ukraine can be divided across the class lines, and alliances can be built with the wealthy oligarchs of the countries targeted for regime change, why embark on a wholesale military attack that could in an undiscriminating fashion hurt your own and your local allies’ interests along with those of your foes. When economic sanctions along with alliances and collaborations with the economically powerful native oligarchs can be used to carry out “democratic coup d’états or color-coded revolutions (often through bogus elections) why risk an indiscriminate military attack with uncertain and potentially catastrophic consequences.

This shows (among other things) how imperial policies of aggression have evolved over time—from the earlier stages of “crude” military occupation of the colonial days to today’s subtle, multipronged and stealthy tactics of intervention. In terms or in the context of recent U.S. foreign policy adventures, it can be argued that while the former pattern of blatantly imperialistic aggressions finds relevance to President George W. Bush’s unabashedly militaristic foreign policies, the latter pattern finds parallels in President Barack Obama’s insidiously “sophisticated” and stealthily interventionist policies. While champions of the blatantly militaristic faction of the U.S. ruling elite criticize Mr. Obama as a “gun-shy” or “weak” president, the fact is that his relatively low-key but sneaky policy of methodically building coalitions—both with traditional allies of the United States and the oligarchic or comprador forces in countries targeted for regime change—has proven more effective (in terms of regime change) than the Bush-Cheney-type policy of unilateral military action. This is neither speculation nor simply theoretical: Secretary of State John Kerry recently made this point quite clear in the context of the Obama administration’s policy toward Ukraine and Iran. When he was asked on May 30, 2014, by Gwen Ifill of Public Broadcasting System (PBS): “Does the president get a bad rap, in your opinion, for being weak or not taking the long homer runs instead of the base hits?” Mr. Kerry replied:

I don’t think the president, frankly, takes enough credit for the successes that are on the table right now. . . . I mean, if you look at what has happened in Ukraine, the president led an effort to try to keep Europe unified with the United States, to put difficult sanctions on the table. Europe wasn’t thrilled with that but they came along. That was leadership. And the president succeeded in having an impact ultimately, together with the Europeans, on the choices that face President Putin.

In addition, the president has engaged with Iran. We were on a course to absolute collision where they were building a nuclear system and the world was standing opposed to that. But the president put in place a series of sanctions, a capacity to be able to bring Iran to the table. We are now in the middle of negotiations. Everyone will agree the sanctions regime has held together. The weapon – the nuclear program has been frozen and rolled backwards. And we now have expanded the amount of time that Iran might have for a breakout. That’s a success.

So I think we are as engaged, more engaged than in any time in American history, and I think that case is there to be fully proven and laid out.

And that is the essence of the foxy imperialism characteristic of the Obama administration, versus the adolescent imperialism of Bush (Jr.) administration.

 

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007), and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). He is also a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press 2012).

 

References

 [1] Gilbert Mercier, “Ukraine’s Crisis: Economic Sanctions Could Trigger a Global Depression,” <http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/28/ukraines-crisis/>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Wall Street Journal, “U.S.-Iran Thaw Grew From Years Of Behind-the-Scenes Talks,” <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303309504579181710805094376>.

[5] Ibid.

East of Vienna, that’s where the military action and bloody confrontation in Ukraine is being played out on the ground. But the furtive diplomatic goings on in Vienna are no less intensive nor internationally important, from the standpoint of a small and neutral, (although EU member state). While the US is discreetly conducting “low–key” talks here with another “bad boy” or similarly sanctioned state namely Iran (which after decades of being demonized by the west, is finally coming out of its international isolation), the Austrian government, is  attempting to play an instrumental intermediary role in breaching Russia’s western imposed isolation. It’s a delicate matter indeed. Especially as the threat of further western sanctions against Moscow are looming ominously over Russia.

 G-7, US and EU: All Stick and no Carrot

For example, in an ultimatum which harkens back to the prewar period of June 1914, the “so-called” G-7” (now minus Russia) has warned Moscow, unless it recognizes the results of the recent Ukrainian elections, withdraw its troops from the Russian Ukrainian border, and stops supporting separatist elements fighting in Eastern Ukraine that new sanctions will be imposed. Obama has effectively given Putin “between two to four weeks” to comply with these demands. Tough talk for sure!

With the threat of further western punitive measure against Putin’s Russia looming in the background Austria has stepped into the diplomatic fray. In a surprise announcement, the Austrian President Heinz Fischer has invited his Russian counterpart to Vienna on June 24th. The head of state is effectively extending a helpful hand or at least a handshake to his counterpart in the Kremlin, at a time when the EU and US (in a simulations and well-coordinated fashion) are seeking to minimize Russia’s resurgence as a great power to be in the 21st century.

This past week, the Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz told “Die Presse” (05/07/2012) the state visit seeks to “open channels of communication”. Between whom? The EU and Russia? That’s so far remains unclear.

After Brussels, Paris all eyes are now on Vienna

Is Austria playing the role of diplomatic go-between as it has during the height of the Cuban missile crisis? Maybe so, but in any case, the post –imperial capital, going back almost two hundred years or to the “Congress of Vienna”, has always been a key or central place for sorting out international conflicts. And today’s tensions are no exception to this rule. Hence the Austrian overture to Putin.

“Whoever wants to mediate, must [be willing] to talk with both sides,” the foreign minister said. For his part, the Austrian head of state, (whose office officially announced Putin’s upcoming visit to Vienna) believes that in the midst of the current Russia vs. EU and US standoff, talking directly with the Kremlin leader is essential.  “Dialogue in this present phase is of special significance,” President Fischer told the influential Austrian daily.

Are Austrian Sanction- busters ready for “business as usual”?

Whether the Russians are adored or despised by the Austrians themselves remains uncertain. Undoubtedly, both states have had historically, a tumultuous and intensive relationship with each other.  In any case, the current Ukraine conflict (and the harsh sanctions regime) apparently hasn’t hurt closer bi-lateral economic, or business friendly ties at all, between the two states. Austria does lots of business in Russia. It sells machinery over there and also has according to the Austrian National bank has lent over the years, an overall sum of 36,3 billion Euros to the Russian federation in credit outlays.

In return, Russia, delivers vital oil and gas supplies to the land locked alpine country. So expect to see some big energy contracts signed during the Putin-Fisher meetings.  Moreover, as part of this strange courtship, Austria has adeptly taken advantage of its much vaunted neutrality to act according to national interests, instead of abiding by EU-wide policy directives.  Austria thus, has more room to maneuver diplomatically than Brussels does, when it comes to dealing with Russia. And the country is in full gear, as regards to resolving the ongoing crisis to its East.

This surely riles Germany and the US very much.

And it hasn’t forgotten the days when like Russia it was considered a “Black Sheep” within the EU or the “international community”. Back in the 1990s when a right wing party under Jorg Haider, partook in the sharing of governmental power (within a coalition government) Brussels slapped Austria on the wrist with symbolic political sanctions, which nearly  relegated the country to  “pariah state” status inside the EU .

Vienna felt left out or ostracised back then (or the way Moscow might feel today with respect to the west). The resentment from those days remains present in the minds of several Austrian diplomats and policy makers and politicians alike. And perhaps besides business considerations also explains why Putin now shunned on the multilateral scene, (and vilified by the western mainstream media) is hardly unpopular among influential and prominent Austrians.

Portugal is bombarded daily with the prime minister’s discourse. It is an unmistakable discourse, unlike any known speech. I cannot find adequate words to describe it.

Hypocritical? Irrational? These are insufficient to express the style, purpose and content of his pompous harangues. It is a mad, neo-fascist discourse, which turns reality on its head and offends people’s intelligence.

In the last few days, tirelessly, Prime Minister Pedro Passos has traveled the country to glorify his administration. The central theme of these harangues is a justification of what his government has been doing.

He calls attention to the people’s gratitude. He has no doubts about the approval of the Portuguese for his policy (a word he uses and abuses to the point of perversion) that imposes “sacrifices” on them. He knows that he demanded much of them, but what comforts him is the certainty that they accept the harsh laws and decrees designed to satisfy the “greater interests of the nation.”

He feels proud of the wise measures taken by his ministerial team that convey an unprecedented but humanistic concept of solidarity, misinterpreted by people who refuse to understand that reducing wages will in the end bring about an indirect sort of solidarity.

He thinks of himself now as a revolutionary reformer and that history will judge his strategy as one that brought justice.

What pains him is the total lack of understanding among the opposition parties, those incapable of realizing that his government is ensuring the welfare state, combating unemployment, demanding much from the powerful, protecting the poorest – this opposition is so blind they fail to see the growth of the economy and the admiration the major powers of the European Community and the IMF for the results of his diligence in fulfilling the demands of the “memorandum” signed with the troika.

The judgment of the Constitutional Court, which ruled that three measures enforced in the state budget were unconstitutional, aroused the indignation of the prime minister, his government and its parliamentary majority.

Passos and his people did not limit themselves this time to expressing disagreement with the decisions of that sovereign body. They unleashed an unprecedented campaign against the court, with an insulting tone.

The Prime Minister set the tone by questioning the competence of the constitutional judges, suggesting basic changes in the appointment process.

The arrogant letter to the president of the Constitutional Court demanding a clarification of the judgment is a shameful document that accurately reflects the level of political degradation to which the scum ensconced in power has sunk.

The remarks pronounced in Parliament by the representatives of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the CDS in an attempt to justify the submission of this defiant letter illuminate the incompatibility of the menagerie of Passos & Portas* with the universal principles of constitutional law.

The gesture should have raised widespread repudiation by the media. But it did not.

Authoritative TV channels and newspapers promoted debates and roundtables in which many commentators – spokespeople for the ideology of the ruling class — took the opportunity to criticize the Constitutional Court.

Some did not even hesitate to express understanding for the insane speech of the prime minister, who is the defender of the interests of big business, ally of imperialism and enemy of the workers.

The response of the victims of the brutal tax policy, of the unemployed, of the retired workers whose pensions were stolen, will be given in factories, schools, in the service industries and in all workplaces.

The people, as the subject of history, will intensify the fight against a government whose policy, in a different context, reminds us increasingly of Salazar. It falls to the CGTP union confederation and the Communists to give leadership to this patriotic struggle.

* President Paulo Portas (Passos & Portas means steps & doors)

Ithaca, New York: How can you be in the past and present at the same time?

Go to your college reunion.

I did, this past weekend, up on the forever beautiful and very green Cornell campus in Ithaca, New York. About 350 members of a class of 2400 trekked back to remember how we were, and to see how the ravages of age and affluence have affected us.  I probably hadn’t bonded with as many fellow students because I was an independent, and not in a fraternity or athletic team. I was an early responder to activism.

We also had a moving memorial for more than a hundred, of the fallen, including my late friends Bernie Moss, Daniel Patrick  Cassidy and Robin Williams. My co-editor Kenneth Barry Rubin of Dialogue Magazine was not on the list because he had dropped out earlier.

There were many people there I didn’t know then, and perhaps didn’t want to know, but I did run into some old friends and was thrust back into discussions of the racial /civil rights issues that mobilized us to care in our college years, and still top the list of the University’s and the country’s unfinished business.

Somehow, there was a convergence of concerns raised about the color line, the crisis that the black scholar, W.E.B Dubois, saw as the THE issue of the 20th Century. It is not surprising that it continues to dominate what should top our agenda in this century even as Cornell turns 150 this year.

It was also the weekend of the memorial service for the great Maya Angelou, (who once, believe it or not, gave me an award), and the weekend that our ever so funny hip black comedian, Tracey Morgan, (whose career started in my Bronx high school) was nearly killed in a brutal highway accident caused by a Walmart truck. He is fighting for life.

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich noted this weekend that the past we fought over then has an insidious way of not dying:

“Mississippi used its new voter-identification law for the first time Tuesday — requiring voters to show a driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID at the polls. The official reason given for the new law is alleged voter fraud, although the state hasn’t been able to provide any evidence that voter fraud is a problem.

The real reason for the law is to suppress the votes of the poor, especially African-Americans, some of whom won’t be able to afford the cost of a photo ID.

It’s a tragic irony that this law became effective almost exactly fifty years after three young civil rights workers — Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman – were tortured and murdered in Mississippi for trying to register African-Americans to vote.”

Reich was a friend of  Mickey Schwerner.  Schwerner and I worked with CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality, and after he died, I took over his job as a dishwasher at the AE Pi fraternity house.

Schwerner and his compatriots were remembered in President David Skorton’s, “State of the University speech. (Skorton is leaving to take over the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.)

After he was done, I was outside the hall, handing out leaflets  the way I used to but a rarity in our digital age, communicating the proposal of today’s students, organizations, faculty members and alums to build a prominent memorial on campus to honor the civil rights movement.

Our statement read:

“Fifty years ago, on June 21, 1964, these three civil rights activists were brutally murdered in Mississippi. James Chaney was a native son of that state. Michael Schwerner graduated from Cornell in 1961. Andrew Goodman had extensive family connections to Cornell.

Over the past year, distinguished faculty, hundreds of students, over 40 students organizations, and an alumni committee have asked Cornell to authorize the construction of a prominent outdoor memorial to the memory of these three martyrs. Members of the S-C-G Memorial Project believe that a memorial to the heroism of these young men would serve as a campus touchstone for the values that inspired them and for which they gave their lives: social justice, democracy, and equal rights.  Their example and commitment must not be forgotten by future generations of Cornellians.

Cornell has stated that it deeply desires that this memorial be built. However, challenges remain. If you would like to become a project supporter or would just like more information, please contact Bill Schechter, ’68, at [email protected].”

The President’s speech candidly discussed not only how few African Americans students had been in the college when I was there—just four in my freshman class— but also reprised the history of struggle on the issue, most notably dramatized by the 1969 takeover by armed black students of the student union at Willard Straight Hall, an event that gave Cornell global publicity of a kind the Administration was most unhappy about.

Cornell’s then president, James Perkins, quit or was forced out, although, it now turns ou,t he played a major behind the scenes role in integrating Cornell.

One of the leaders of that take-over, Tom Jones, was there on the reunion weekend, He went from the trenches of that guerilla battle to a seat at the Trustees table. He  told me he supports our campaign for the memorial.

I also spoke with President Skorton who also said he backs it too, as well as the former head of the Board of Trustees, and Svante Myrick, the dynamo Mayor of Ithaca who is a Cornell grad and just 26 years old.

The University is officially on record supporting the monument proposal, but, so far, no funds for it have been allocated and there may be battles ahead on what it should be and where it should be located.

The campaign itself raised consciousness in this generation about this all too quickly forgotten history, building alliances across racial, religious sexual, and generational lines.

Some of us are still active on these issues.

My old friend Eric Mann, a Cornell fraternity boy back in the day, was there. His life was changed by the civil rights movement of our era. He is now the brilliant organizer of the very militant and well-organized interracial Bus Riders Union in LA, fighting today’s racism and demanding services for the inner city poor.

That campaign is ongoing and has seen many victories, but, in our unequal and divided society, there are problems building coalitions between the impoverished majority and more affluent white middle class. The people who depend on public transportation are largely not supported by the black of Latino middle classes either.

Ivy League Cornell ranks 15th among American universities. It has become a global player with campuses and offerings in the Middle East and China. It won a competition to build a multi-million dollar state of the art Tech Campus on New York’s Roosevelt island in partnership with Michael Bloomberg and an Israeli technical institution that could lead to more political problems.

In the fall, a new $25 million dollar computer center named for and paid for by Bill Gates opens on campus,

In the town many locals call “Mythica,” Cornell is admired for its power and resented for its elitism. At least now, it seems willing to look at its past critically and do more to promote economic as well as racial diversity.

There is a free spirit. Over 400 students attended a Gay and Lesbian dance the last time I was there.

Like every university, Cornell is coping with growing student debt—student debt surpassed mortgage debt this Spring—and is trying to make education relevant at a time, that many graduates cannot find jobs.

I saw through many of the contradictions when I was on campus, but I also have to acknowledge that going there—I was at the Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) School—reinforced my values and taught me a hell of a lot about what needs changing in these disunited States of America. I went back this weekend because in many ways I had never left.

It was there that I deepened my involvement in civil rights activism and socially committed journalism, and enlisted in the fight against apartheid and war

Also, the School’s colors resonated with me me: Big Red!

News Dissector Danny Schechter later attended the London School of Economics and Harvard. He blogs at Newsdissector.net, and edits Mediachannel.org. Comments to [email protected]

European Central Bank Goes Sub Zero

June 9th, 2014 by Mike Whitney

On Thursday, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi dropped rates on overnight deposits to minus 0.1% thereby charging commercial banks to keep their money at the ECB. The move, which was applauded by the media as a “historic measure to fight deflation”, is nothing of the kind. Negative rates have been used in both Sweden and Denmark in recent years, but to little effect. The policy will not “get the banks lending again” as the ECB suggests, nor will it ease the high unemployment and slow growth that have plagued the Eurozone for the last six years. In truth, the rate change will have no impact at all. It’s merely public relations stunt designed to create the impression that the ECB is aggressively addressing the crisis for which it is largely responsible. Here’s how the World Socialist Web Site summed it up:

“The move is an expression of the fact that, nearly six years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the world economy remains mired in deep crisis, for which the world’s central banks have no solution outside of pumping trillions into banks and financial firms. While trillions are handed out to the banks, workers throughout the continent are told that there is “no money” to pay for pensions, social programs, and healthcare benefits.” (European Central Bank cuts interest rate below zero, World Socialist Web Site)

Stock traders loved the news that the ECB was going “sub zero”. As we’ve seen before, any indication that the easy money regime is here-to-stay is enough to send equities skyrocketing, which it did. All the main indices notched substantial gains on the day while the SandP 500 surged to a new record of 1,940.

The idea that charging the banks a small fee on overnight deposits will induce them to lend more freely, demonstrates a laughable misunderstanding of how the system really works. Banks don’t need piles of reserves to issue loans. What they need is creditworthy customers and strong demand. But, of course, demand is weak because the ECB has taken steps to keep the EU in a permanent state of Depression through its austerity policies. What this shows, is that the objectives of the class war precede the requirements for a healthy economy. Draghi and his cohorts would rather decimate the welfare state and reduce EU working people to abject poverty, then implement the policies that would generate a strong economic recovery.

But won’t the lower rates lead to more lending, you ask? After all, when the price of money falls, borrowing becomes more attractive, right?

It’s a persuasive theory, but it doesn’t work that way. For example, check out this blurb from Reuters and you’ll see what I mean:

“Lending to companies in the euro zone contracted at the fastest pace on record in November, piling pressure on the European Central Bank to do more to revive the currency bloc’s economy…

“Worryingly, there is still no sign of any trend change in bank lending to euro zone businesses…” said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Economics…

Corporate borrowing in the euro zone overall declined at the fastest pace on record, November’s 3.9 percent drop comparing with a 3.8 percent decline on the year in the previous month.

Bank lending to Italian firms fell at an annual pace of 5.9 percent in November, the sharpest decline in the measure’s 10-year history. That was also true for the euro zone’s smallest economy, Malta, which recorded a 10.4 percent drop….The biggest decline was in Spain, where lending to companies fell 13.5 percent.” (Euro zone corporate lending shrinks at record pace in November, Reuters)

The reason bank lending saw “the sharpest decline in the measure’s 10-year history”, is because the economy is in a depression, and people don’t borrow tons of dough in a depression. They cut back, hunker down and squirrel-away whatever they can. Draghi knows this. He’s just going through the motions to make it look like he cares. It’s all PR. What he really cares about is his constituents, and what they want, is an end of the welfare state.

What’s so irritating about all of this, is that we know how fix the economy. We know how to increase activity. We know how to boost demand, create jobs, and raise GDP. None of this is new.

When the private sector (consumers and businesses) can’t spend for some reason, then the government has to step up and spend like crazy to keep the economy going. The only alternative is to allow consumption to fall sharply, which will push up unemployment, push down GDP and do vast damage to both the economy and financial system. Why would anyone want to do that, especially when all they have to do is increase the budget deficits temporarily while consumers patch their balance sheets and get back on their feet again?

Monetary policy has not and will not fix the economy. How many years are we going to repeat the same mistake before we acknowledge that? The whole presumption that this pointless, circle-jerk policy is designed to do anything other than provide another bailout for underwater, insolvent financial institutions and the crooked bank bondholders who own the whole friggin’ planet is laughable in the extreme. Check this out from Bloomberg:

“In a bid to get credit flowing to parts of the economy that need it, the ECB also opened a 400-billion-euro ($542 billion) liquidity channel tied to bank lending and officials will start work on an asset-purchase plan. While conceding that rates are at the lower bound “for all practical purposes,” he signaled the the ECB is willing to act again.” (Bloomberg)

So that’s what this is really all about, eh? Draghi is just laying the groundwork for a European version of QE?

Yep. Sure is. And that means another $542 billion will go to the chiseler class. Another $542 billion propping up crooked banks by purchasing their unwanted, toxic Asset-Backed Securities. (ABS) Do you think I’m kidding? I’m not. That’s what the money is earmarked for.

The point is, monetary policy alone will not produce a strong, self sustaining recovery, which is a point that Keynes makes in Chapter 12 of “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money”. Here’s what he says:

“For my own part I am now somewhat skeptical of the success of a merely monetary policy directed towards influencing the rate of interest. I expect to see the State, which is in a position to calculate the marginal efficiency of capital-goods on long views and on the basis of the general social advantage, taking an ever greater responsibility for directly organizing investment; since it seems likely that the fluctuations in the market estimation of the marginal efficiency of different types of capital, calculated on the principles I have described above, will be too great to be offset by any practicable changes in the rate of interest.” (John Maynard Keynes, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money”, marxists.org, 2002)

Keynes is just stating the obvious, that during periods of weak demand, the sensible option is for the government to take up the slack by “directly organizing investment”, in other words, spending money to keep the economy running. Doesn’t that seem infinitely more reasonable than the Draghi approach which involves a decade of experimental monetary policy that ends in social upheaval, high unemployment, and political unrest?

And here’s the thing: Keynes “The General Theory” was published in 1936. That’s nearly 80 years ago! This isn’t some new-fangled theory concocted by pointy-head crackpots like Bernanke. This is settled science. Fiscal stimulus works. If the government spends, unemployment will drop. If the government spends, the economy will grow. What else do you need to know?

We’ve been hoeing this same row for 6 years now and the economy is still in the dumps. And, in the EU, it’s even worse. Youth unemployment is above 50 percent in Spain and Greece, GDP stuck at a miserable 0.2 percent, business and consumer lending still shrinking, bond yields on sovereign debt are in the toilet, civil disorder and fascism are on the rise, and with the entire 17-member union is rushing headlong into deflation.

And Draghi thinks that negative rates are going to fix all this and put the economy back on the road to recovery?

In your dreams! The only way out of a mess like this is to spend like a madman, which is what Keynes recommended in his famous statement about bottles stuffed with banknotes. Here’s what he said:

“If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again… there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.” (p. 129)

Okay, so it sounds crazy, but it’s really no different than Bernanke’s “helicopter drop” theory, that is, that –during a severe downturn–the government needs to find a way to stimulate demand. The best way to do that, is to avoid the normal transmission mechanisms (which don’t function properly during a slump) and get money directly into the hands of the people who will spend it quickly and get the economy growing again. It’s all about spending, spending, spending. It doesn’t matter if people buy Ipads or Ant Farms. Just spend, dammit. Spending is activity, activity is growth, growth reduces unemployment, which leads to more investment, more jobs and a virtuous circle.

If it seems to you, dear reader, that Keynes antidote for the ailing economy is more likely to succeed than Draghi’s, then you are certainly right. Massive doses of fiscal stimulus WILL revive the EU economy, lower unemployment, and boost growth. The question is whether that’s a goal the public should really support or not? In other words, is there any point in trying to restore a system which, at its very core, is unstable, self destructive and exploitative? Here’s how Counterpunch economics writer Rob Urie sums it up:

“John Maynard Keynes created a host of economic patch-jobs to save capitalism from more effective solutions. In the pit of the Great Depression FDR implemented programs based on Mr. Keynes’ ideas (which) produced minor relief now deemed by the economic insightful-lite to be a ‘robust’ economic recovery….. But the cause, leveraged (finance) capitalism gone wild, was only temporarily tamped down by regulation while its intrinsic instability was left intact…

Calls for re-regulation, managed capitalism, beg the question: re-regulate what? As demonstrated by history, the system of finance capitalism is intrinsically unstable and economically destabilizing. Under the guise of reviving a functioning financial system a dysfunctional system has been revivified, not revived, and nearly all benefits continue to accrue to a tiny economic elite.” (Financial Crises and Economic Depressions, Rob Urie, CounterPunch)

So, yeah, Keynes’ remedies will work. They’ll definitely get the economy up-and-running again and keep it sputtering-along until the next crisis. But why bother?

Why not just scrap the whole thing and move on to Plan B.

 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

Mérida – Several figures within the hard-line faction of the Venezuelan opposition are facing charges of conspiracy and instigation of violence in relation to their activities during the opposition’s recent unrest movement.

The most well known case is that of Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the right-wing party Popular Will. In a hearing before a Caracas court this week, Judge Adriana Lopez decided that Leopoldo Lopez should face trial for four crimes: public incitement (to violence), damage to property, fire damage (public and private) and association for conspiracy. The trial will take place in August, according to Lopez’s lawyers.

Lopez turned himself in to authorities on 18 February, a week after he spoke at a demonstration in Caracas which turned violent, and resulted in damage to public property and several deaths. Authorities consider Lopez to be one of the “intellectual authors” of the violence which came to be associated with the opposition’s unrest.

The opposition’s demonstrations in early February were organised as part of a strategy launched by Lopez and other hard-line opposition leaders, called “The Exit”. The government has labelled the subsequent protests and militant street barricades as an attempt to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro, while the opposition defended the protests as peaceful and solely denouncing problems surrounding the economy and insecurity.

Forty-two people were killed and around 900 were injured during the unrest, which claimed the lives of government supporters, opposition activists, members of security forces and civilian bystanders.

Since he was taken into custody, Lopez has been held at the Ramon Verde military prison, 35 kilometres south of Caracas. If he is found guilty and is sentenced to the full extent of the law, he could face between six to ten years in prison. Supporters argue that Lopez is innocent of any wrongdoing, and that the charges against him are politically motivated.

The charges are not Lopez’s first brush with the law since the Bolivarian government was elected to power in 1998. In 2008 Lopez was banned from holding public office for six years due to acts of corruption committed in 1998, when public funds were diverted from state oil company PDVSA to Lopez’s fledgling political party.

Lopez also participated in the short-lived 2002 coup against former president Hugo Chavez, signing the decree which dissolved the Venezuelan constitution and appointed business leader Pedro Carmona as interim president.

Meanwhile, one of Lopez’s closet political allies, Carlos Vecchio, has fled from Venezuela to escape an arrest warrant on charges similar to Lopez’s.

Vecchio, who is the political coordinator of the Popular Will party, is currently residing in New York. In declarations to CNN and AP, the opposition politician said he plans to initiate a tour to denounce the situation in Venezuela and what he alleged were “human rights abuses” being committed against opponents of the Venezuelan government.

Two opposition politicians have been given jail sentences so far for their role during the unrest. Mayors Enzo Scarano and Daniel Ceballos were jailed for 10 ½ and 12 months respectively for refusing to obey a Supreme Court order to dismantle militant opposition street barricades in their municipalities. The street barricades were associated with much of the violence and many of the deaths which occurred during the unrest.

Maria Corina Machado to give testimony

Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched by the Attorney General’s office after authorities released messages written by several opposition figures which purportedly show the existence of a plan to assassinate President Nicolas Maduro. The messages also appear to show collaboration between members of the Venezuelan opposition and figures in the United States government, such as the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker.

The alleged author of one message is former parliamentary deputy and hard-line opposition leader Maria Corina Machado. On 23 May, she allegedly wrote to political colleague Diego Arria, “I think it is time to gather efforts; make the necessary calls, and obtain financing to annihilate Maduro, and the rest will fall apart by itself”.

Since the messages were made public, Machado has agreed to go to the Attorney General’s office on 16 June to give her testimony on an alleged plot. Machado is an ally of Leopoldo Lopez and also participated in the 2002 coup against the Chavez administration.

Machado has admitted that the messages were sent from her email account but rejects them as “false”, saying that she wants Maduro to resign, but not for him to be assassinated.

Describing the accusations against her as “persecution”, Machado has asked supporters to accompany her to the Attorney General’s office to give her account. “I’ve always shown my face and I won’t stop struggling until we achieve victory,” she declared.

However, top Venezuelan government figures announced yesterday that authorities also possess evidence that officials from the U.S. State Department are involved in the alleged plot to assassinate President Maduro.

Jorge Rodriguez, a United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader, said this evidence would be made available in the next few days. He added that the hard-line opposition’s messages around the alleged plot had been released publicly in order to raise awareness of the conspiracy’s existence and to protect the constitutional order in Venezuela.

“We received the message from the president [Maduro] that a very serious denouncement had to be made, because it’s his obligation as head of state to ensure that [national] security [is paramount]”, he said.

The comments were made at an event titled “Media Plot against Venezuela”, where officials, journalists, intellectuals and researchers discussed what Rodriguez described as an international and local media campaign “to promote all forms [of reportage] that result in a situation of destabilisation, un-governability, crisis, and violence for political ends”.

The Western media is seeking to downplay the prominent role of fascists in the new Ukrainian government. Several of the regime’s ministries are headed by members of the far-right Svoboda party, and the militias of the neo-Nazi Right Sector are active in violently repressing resistance in the east of the country.

Both Svoboda and Right Sector played a crucial role in the February 22 coup in Kiev, which was strongly backed by Berlin and Washington. This is no coincidence. The close collaboration of Germany and the US with Ukrainian fascists has a long history, reaching back over the last hundred years.

The roots of Ukrainian nationalism

In contrast to many other European countries, there has never been a strong capitalist national movement in Ukraine. Ukraine has been divided between Poland and Russia since the late Middle Ages. After the carve-up of Poland at the end of the eighteenth century, Ukraine became part of the Russian Empire. Only a section of what is now western Ukraine was integrated into the Hapsburg Empire.

The weakness of the Ukrainian national movement was due on the one hand to the country’s economic backwardness and lack of a strong middle class. Significant industrialisation occurred only in the era of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, a large proportion of the urban population consisted of Russians, Germans and Jews, while the rural population was mainly Ukrainian.

When capitalist forces finally erected a Ukrainian nation-state, following the 1917 February Revolution’s overthrow of the tsar in Russia, they were immediately confronted with a revolutionary working class. The Bolsheviks, who seized power in Russia in October, received powerful support from the workers of Ukraine. Ever since then, nationalism in Ukraine has been characterised by virulent anti-communism, pogroms against revolutionary workers and Jews, and attempts to win the support of imperialist powers.

The Social Democratic-dominated Rada (parliament), which proclaimed Ukraine’s independence in January 1918, tried to reach an agreement with Germany. After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, however, the Soviet government was forced to cede Ukraine to Germany. When German troops marched into the country, the military dispensed with the Rada and established a dictatorship under Hetman (pre-eminent military commander) Pavlo Skoropadskyi, a landowner and former tsarist general. Skoropadskyi proceeded to make Kiev a rallying point for extreme right-wing and anti-Semitic politicians and military officers from all over Russia. (See: Anti-Semitism and the Russian Revolution: Part two)

Germany’s defeat in the First World War led to its forced retreat from Ukraine. Bloody battles engulfed Ukraine during the ensuing civil war in Russia. Supported by Western powers on Ukrainian soil in its fight against the Soviet government, the volunteer army under General Denikin committed horrific crimes and organised anti-Jewish pogroms. An estimated 50,000 Jews were murdered by the Whites in the second half of 1919 alone.

Symon Petliura, one the many Social Democrats who became nationalists, headed a directorate that took power in Kiev. This body also sought the backing of the Western powers in its war against the Soviet government and was responsible for the murder of more than 30,000 Jews. Both Petliura and Stepan Bandera, who emerged later as a leading figure, are regarded as role models by present-day Ukrainian nationalists.

Lenin advocated self-determination for Ukraine, and this democratic demand played a crucial role in winning the oppressed Ukrainian workers and peasants to the side of the Bolsheviks, who eventually won the civil war in 1921. In 1922, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic officially became part of the newly formed Soviet Union. However, western Ukraine remained under Polish rule.

Genuine independence from imperialism and development of national culture were possible in Ukraine only during the early years of the Soviet Union. These advances emerged from Lenin and Trotsky’s nationalities policy, which conceded to the nations within the Soviet confederation a comprehensive right to self-determination. The oppression of nationalities, as was common in the tsarist empire, was decisively rejected by the Bolsheviks.

The cultural life and material living standards of the Ukrainian masses underwent a dramatic improvement in the 1920s. The illiteracy rate declined sharply, as educational institutions and universities were established throughout the country. The Ukrainian language and culture were widely promoted, and this greatly stimulated intellectual life. As Leon Trotsky wrote in 1939, thanks to this policy, Soviet Ukraine became extremely attractive to the workers, peasants and revolutionary intelligentsia of western Ukraine, which remained enslaved by Poland.

However, the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy brought an end to this nationalities policy. Lenin had attacked Stalin because of his centralist and bureaucratic tendencies in relation to the Georgian and Ukrainian questions. But after Lenin’s death, Stalin became increasingly ruthless in his attacks on non-Russian nationalities.

“The bureaucracy strangled and plundered the people within Great Russia, too,” wrote Trotsky in 1939. “But in the Ukraine matters were further complicated by the massacre of national hopes. Nowhere did restrictions, purges, repressions and in general all forms of bureaucratic hooliganism assume such murderous sweep as they did in the Ukraine in the struggle against the powerful, deeply-rooted longings of the Ukrainian masses for greater freedom and independence.” [1]

The Ukrainian peasants were particularly affected by the forced collectivisation of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Approximately 3.3 million people fell victim to this policy.

The devastating consequences of the nationalist polities of the Stalinist bureaucracy strengthened “nationalist underground groups… which were led by fanatical anti-Communists, successors of Petliura’s supporters and forerunners of Bandera’s people,” writes Vadim Rogovin in his book Stalin’s War Communism. [2]

Stalin’s murderous policies of repression played into the hands of Ukrainian nationalists and fascists, who agitated in the western parts of the divided Ukraine and collaborated with Hitler when he invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Despite the crimes of Stalinism, however, the great majority of Ukrainians fought in the Red Army to defend the Soviet Union.

The crimes of the Ukrainian fascists in World War II

Among the most significant organisations that collaborated with the Nazis was the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Its members were recruited mainly from veterans of the Civil War who had fought on the side of Petliura against the Bolsheviks.

During the 1930s, the OUN carried out numerous terrorist attacks in Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia. Its ideological head was Dmytro Dontsov (1883-1973), who became one of the leading ideologues of the Ukrainian extreme right-wing through his journalistic activities, among which were Ukrainian translations of Mussolini’s Dottrina del Fascismo ( The Doctrine of Fascism ) and excerpts from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf .

Dontsov had earlier developed his thesis of “amorality.” According to historian Frank Golczewski, this asserted the obligation “to collaborate with every enemy of Great Russia, regardless of their own political goals.” It “created an ideological justification for the subsequent collaboration with the Germans” and the lineup of Ukrainian nationalists behind the United States during the Cold War. [3]

In 1940, the OUN split into the Bandera (B) and Melnyk (M) factions, which bitterly fought each other. Bandera’s more extreme group was able to attract more followers than Melnyk’s. It began by establishing Ukrainian militia (the Roland and Nightingale Legions) on German-occupied territory in Poland which, in league with the Wehrmacht (German army), invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.

After the withdrawal of the Red Army from areas conquered by the Germans, the legions and special militias acted as auxiliary troops in countless massacres of Jews. Following the entry of the OUN-B into Lviv on June 29, 1941, the Bandera militias (Nightingale Legion) unleashed murderous pogroms against the Jews lasting several days. Ukrainian militia continued massacring Jews in Ternopil, Stanislau (today Ivano-Fankisk) and other places. Documentary evidence relating to the first few days of the Wehrmacht’s advance reveals that about 140 pogroms were perpetrated in western Ukraine, in which 13,000 to 35,000 Jews were murdered. [4]

On June 30, 1941, Bandera and his deputy head of the OUN-B, Yaroslav Stetsko, proclaimed the independence of Ukraine in Lviv. Stepan Lenkavski, the OUN-B government’s director of propaganda, openly advocated the physical extermination of Ukrainian Jewry.

The Nazis used their Ukrainian collaborators to commit murders and acts of brutality that were too disturbing even for the SS units. For example, SS task force 4a in Ukraine confined itself to “the shooting of adults while commanding its Ukrainian helpers to shoot [the] children.” [5]

Dealing with Ukrainian and other collaborators in the Soviet Union was a controversial issue in the Nazi leadership. While Alfred Rosenberg, one of the main Nazis responsible for the Holocaust, urged greater involvement of local fascist forces, Hitler opposed the nationalists’ so-called independence projects. On Hitler’s orders, the OUN-B leaders were eventually arrested and the Ukrainian legions disarmed and relocated.

From 1942, the Ukrainian militia served the Third Reich in the “anti-partisan campaign” in Belarus, in the “security service,” and as armed personnel in concentration camps. Bandera and Stetsko remained in custody in Sachsenhausen concentration camp until September 1944.

When Hitler’s armies went into retreat after their defeat at Stalingrad, members of the OUN legions returned to Ukraine and formed the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in 1943. Immediately after his release by the German authorities, Bandera headed back to Ukraine to lead the UPA.

The UPA was supplied with German weapons and attempted to implement an extensive ethnic cleansing program in order to create the conditions for an ethnically pure Ukrainian state. In 1943 and 1944, the UPA organised massacres that claimed the lives of 90,000 Poles and thousands of Jews. It also brutally terrorised, tortured and executed Ukrainian peasants and workers who wanted to join the Soviet Union. The UPA went on to kill some 20,000 Ukrainians before the insurrection was completely crushed in 1953.

This is the first part of a two-part article.

Notes

[1] Leon Trotsky, “Problem of the Ukraine,” Trotsky Internet Archive 

[2] Vadim Rogovin: Stalins Kriegskommunismus, Essen 2006, p. 377

[3] Frank Golczewski: Die ukrainische Emigration, (Hrsg.): Geschichte der Ukraine, Göttingen 1993, p. 236

[4] Per Anders Rudling: “The Return of the Ukrainian Far Right. The Case of VO Svoboda,” in: Ruth Wodak, John E. Richardson (ed.): Analyzing Fascist Discourse: European Fascism in Talk and Text, London 2013, pp. 228-255. The article is accessible online.

[5] Quoted in Christopher Simpson: Blowback. America’s Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effects on the Cold War, London 1988, p. 25

Global Economic Austerity and the US War Agenda

June 9th, 2014 by James Corbett

In this stage of advanced globalization, banks earnings and corporate profits continue to soar even as real wages continue to plummet. This does not just lead to mass poverty and unrest, but it sows the seeds for geopolitical conflict and military confrontation.

Find out more about this relationship in this week’s GRTV Backgrounder on Global Research TV.

With US Vice President Joseph Biden in the audience, Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire confectioner, was formally sworn in Saturday as president of Ukraine. Delivering a bellicose speech, he pledged to confront Russia, suppress the separatists in Ukraine’s east and fully militarise the country. At the same time, he alluded to his plans to impose brutal austerity measures on the Ukrainian working class.

Poroshenko began by paying homage to the fascistic forces that spearheaded his installation, via a US- and European Union-backed putsch in February followed by an election held May 25 amid a reign of terror and military violence in eastern Ukraine. He enthused over the “victorious revolution” by “Ukrainian patriots” and “warriors.”

While the Western media portrayed it as a powerful performance, the speech only underscored the fact that Poroshenko is nothing but a front man for German and particularly American imperialism, and is entirely dependent on them. Adopting a provocative stance toward Russia, he declared he would never accept Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and vowed to repudiate the Budapest Agreement that restricts the deployment of Western military forces within former Soviet states.

“Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is and will be Ukrainian soil,” Poroshenko insisted. Referring to a brief meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the D-Day commemoration in France, he said: “Yesterday, in the course of the meeting in Normandy, I told this to President Putin: Crimea is Ukraine soil. Period. There can be no compromise on the issues of Crimea, European choice and state structure.”

Fresh from talks in France with US President Barack Obama, Poroshenko rejected any negotiations with pro-Russian separatist forces in Ukraine’s east. He vowed instead to swiftly put an end to the resistance to February’s pro-Western, fascist-led coup in Kiev.

He depicted those holding control in dozens of eastern cities and towns as “bandits,” “criminals,” “terrorists” and “Russian mercenaries,” foreshadowing a renewed offensive by the Ukrainian military and allied right-wing militias.

Even as Poroshenko spoke, there was an assassination attempt on Denis Pushilin, a pro-Russian leader in Donetsk, resulting in the shooting death of an assistant, Maksym Petruhin. Photographs on Ukrainian news sites showed Petruhin, wearing a business suit, lying face down on a street alongside a parked car with at least seven bullet holes in the rear door panel.

“For peace to become lasting, we must get used to living in constant combat readiness,” the tycoon known as Ukraine’s “chocolate king” declared. “We have to keep the gunpowder dry. The army and its re-equipment by means of national military-industrial complex is our top priority… Our army must become a true elite of the Ukrainian community.”

Insisting that “great sacrifices” would have to be made by the Ukrainian population, Poroshenko stated: “Those who grudge money for the armed forces feed the foreign army… Our most reliable allies and the best guarantors of peace are our army, fleet, the National Guard and professional special forces.”

At a meeting with Poroshenko, Biden reiterated American support for his regime. “America’s with you,” Biden said. “That is not hyperbole.”

In conjunction with Biden’s visit, the White House announced $48 million in new aid to Ukraine, as well as $8 million for Moldova and $5 million for Georgia, both of which are also expected to sign agreements with the EU this month.

According to the White House statement, the aid would help the Ukrainian government “conduct key reforms, build law enforcement capacity, and strengthen national unity.” It specifically committed the US to supporting Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “economic development,” including “the reforms needed to make its IMF and World Bank programs.”

Poroshenko promised to move swiftly to an economic agreement with the EU from which Ukraine’s former government backed away last November, fearing the social unrest that would be triggered by the austerity dictates of the EU and the International Monetary Fund. “My pen is in my hands,” he said, pointing out that the EU association agreement was but the first step “towards fully-fledged membership of Ukraine in the European Union.”

The unelected interim government installed in February has already begun to implement the austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF, including scrapping domestic energy subsidies and allowing the currency, the hryvnia, to depreciate about 30 percent against the US dollar. Average gas prices for Ukrainian households began rising by more than 50 percent in May, and heating prices are expected to climb by about 40 percent, starting in July.

Far harsher measures are still to come, including a freeze on public-sector wages, mass redundancies of government workers, the cancellation of scheduled pension increases and a range of social spending cuts.

The Wall Street Journal reported concerns about Poroshenko’s capacity to deliver. “It looks like people are ready to accept this decline in living standards,” Vitaliy Vavryshchuk, head of research at Kiev-based investment house SP Advisors, told the newspaper, but Ukrainians expected economic improvement. “Patience is not unlimited,” he warned.

For all the efforts of the Western powers and the compliant media to dress up Poroshenko as a popular and democratic figure, he is a particularly venal representative of the corrupt Ukrainian elites that enriched themselves by looting the assets of the former Soviet Union. He held senior cabinet posts under both the pro-Western government of President Viktor Yushchenko that followed the US- and EU-backed 2004 “Orange Revolution” and, after Yushchenko’s disgrace, the Moscow-aligned leadership of recently ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

Having served as Yushchenko’s foreign minister and Yanukovych’s trade minister, Poroshenko is well-known in the Western corridors of power as a pliable instrument for promoting their interests.

Russian President Vladimir Putin who, like Poroshenko, represents the oligarchy that arose from the liquidation of the Soviet Union, is desperately trying to reach an accommodation with the Kiev regime and Washington. At a press conference, after meeting with Poroshenko for about 15 minutes in France, he declared: “I liked his attitude,” adding: “I cannot but welcome the position of Poroshenko on the necessity to end the bloodletting immediately in the east of Ukraine.”

There is every indication that Putin is prepared to give Poroshenko a free hand to crush the resistance in eastern Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal reported that for weeks, “Mr Putin has been sending back-channel messages to the West trying to distance the Kremlin from the actions of the rebels and suggesting it was prepared to support efforts to de-escalate violence in eastern Ukraine.”

Moscow returned its ambassador, Mikhail Zurabov, to Kiev to attend the inaugural festivities, and Russian news agencies reported that Putin had ordered tighter controls on the border to prevent people from crossing to fight against the regime in Kiev.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande reportedly arranged the French meeting between Putin and Poroshenko, seeking to facilitate a settlement. German and French imperialism, while fully backing the Kiev coup, have close economic and energy ties with Russia, as well as their own historic aspirations to dominate Ukraine and Russia. Washington, however, has made it clear that it intends to fully pursue its underlying agenda: to exploit the Ukrainian crisis in order to subjugate Russia and transform it into a US semi-colony.

Benghazi, the CIA, and the War in Libya

June 9th, 2014 by Eric Draitser

The unfolding violence and chaos in Libya’s second city of Benghazi should be understood as a power struggle between competing factions, each struggling to assert its own authority over the critical commercial center. However, what is purposely omitted from the Western media narrative is the fact that both groups – one a military command led by Libyan General Hifter, the other an Islamist terror group called Ansar al-Sharia – are proxies of the United States, each having received US support through a variety of channels in recent years. Seen in this way, the unrest in Libya must be understood as a continuation of the war waged against that country by the US-NATO forces.

As firefights, explosions, and air strikes become the norm in Benghazi and the surrounding areas, the nature of the conflict remains somewhat murky. On the one hand is Army General Khalifa Belqasim Haftar (also spelled Hifter), a longtime military commander under Gaddafi who fled Libya for the United States where he became a principal asset for the CIA until his return to Libya at the height of the US-NATO assault on that country. On the other hand is the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia organization, led by Ahmed Abu Khattala, which has been implicated in the September 11, 2012 attack on the US-CIA compound in Benghazi which killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens. In examining both the conflict and connections between these two individuals and the factions they lead, the fingerprints of US intelligence could not be more apparent.

However, the situation in Benghazi, and the Cyrenaica region more generally, is far more complex than simply these two factions. There are other important militias which have played a significant role in bringing the region to the brink of total war. From blockading Benghazi and Cyrenaica’s oil ports to internecine conflicts within the militia movements/coalitions, these militias have made the possibility of reconciliation almost unthinkable. And so, despite the fact that the combat phase of the US-NATO war in Libya ended nearly three years ago, the country is still undeniably a war zone.

The War for Benghazi

The news coming from Benghazi is growing steadily more troubling. On Monday June 2nd, nearly one hundred Libyans, many of them being civilians, were killed or wounded in the coastal metropolis and surrounding towns when the Islamist Ansar al-Sharia militia attacked a camp occupied by forces loyal to Army General Hifter. Hifter’s men, equipped with modest but effective air power including the use of combat helicopters, responded to the attack, driving off many of the Ansar al-Sharia militants. In the process however, residents of Benghazi were forced to flee or take refuge in their homes, with many businesses and schools remaining closed due to the sporadic gunfire and other fighting.

Though the clash was modest in scope in comparison to the horrors of the US-NATO war on Libya in 2011, it is a stark reminder of the sad reality that is modern Libya – a once proud nation reduced to a patchwork of competing militias, clans, and tribes, with no central authority ruling the country, no reliable social services, and a complete absence of the rule of law. It is within this maelstrom of political and social conflict that we must examine the nature of the conflict in Benghazi.

The city has been rocked by fighting and political posturing since the overthrow and assassination of Gaddafi in 2011. While a provisional government in Tripoli was established by the so called National Transitional Council (NTC), real power on the streets was exercised by competing militias loyal to their tribal and/or clan affiliations, and usually restricted to one major town or city. Although there are a number of Islamist militias operating in or around Benghazi, the two most powerful and well organized are the February 17 Martyrs Brigade and Ansar al-Sharia. While both organizations are nominally independent, each has outwardly expressed either a direct or indirect affiliation with the terror brand known as Al Qaeda.

Opposing both 17 February and Ansar al-Sharia is the so called Libyan National Army, a collection of militias and smaller units loyal to General Hifter. Having recently gained notoriety for declaring a quasi-coup against the Tripoli government in February 2014, the Libyan National Army has been waging a low-intensity war against the Islamist militias in hopes of gaining control over Benghazi and the Cyrenaica region. Naturally, General Hifter’s plans extend well beyond Benghazi, as he intends to use the conflict there as the pretext by which he hopes he’ll bring the country under his leadership. While there are some who see this as an unlikely scenario, it is nevertheless an important part of the strategic calculus.

Finally, there is the lingering question of other militias which have, at various times, controlled critical oil terminals and port facilities in Benghazi and the East generally. Of particular note is the militia surrounding Ibrahim al-Jathran, a young tribal leader who has called for regional autonomy for Cyrenaica from the central government in Tripoli. Jathran and his men have numerous times blockaded key oil facilities as a means of leveraging their demands. Though as yet they have succeeded only in causing a political and diplomatic problem for Tripoli, al-Jathran’s militia, and others like it, only further complicate the endlessly complex politics of the Libyan street.

Libya’s “Revolution” and US Intelligence

From the outset of the war against Libya, the United States and its NATO allies utilized a variety of terror groups and other intelligence assets to topple the Gaddafi government. While some had been directly linked to the CIA, others were pulled from the stable of terror organizations utilized at various times by the US as mujahideen in Afghanistan, Kosovo, and elsewhere. Essentially then, the US developed a loose network of proxies, some of which were ideologically opposed to the US and to one another, that it unleashed on Libya to do Washington’s dirty work.

One key group allied with US intelligence is Hifter’s Libyan National Army. The organization was founded by Hifter after his defection (or expulsion) from Libya in the early 1980s. From there, Hifter became a significant asset for the CIA in its quest to topple Gaddafi. Using Hifter’s forces in Chad during the Libya-Chad war of the early 1980s, the CIA attempted the first of many regime change efforts in Libya. As the New York Times reported in 1991:

The secret paramilitary operation, set in motion in the final months of the Reagan Administration, provided military aid and training to about 600 Libyan soldiers who were among those captured during border fighting between Libya and Chad in 1988…They were trained by American intelligence officials in sabotage and other guerrilla skills, officials said, at a base near Ndjamena, the Chadian capital. The plan to use the exiles fit neatly into the Reagan Administration’s eagerness to topple Colonel Qaddafi.

As the above cited Times article noted, the regime change efforts failed and Hifter and his associates were then given safe passage and residence in the US. A State Department spokesman at the time explained that the men would have “access to normal resettlement assistance, including English-language and vocational training and, if necessary, financial and medical assistance.” Indeed, Hifter spent nearly two decades living comfortably in a suburban Virginia home, just a short drive from CIA headquarters at Langley. He became known as the CIA’s “Libya point man,” having taken part in numerous regime change efforts, including the aborted attempt to overthrow Gaddafi in 1996.

And so, when Hifter conveniently showed back up in Libya to take part in the 2011 regime change operation, many political observers noted that this meant that the hand of the CIA was intimately involved in the uprising. Indeed, as the war evolved and more became known about the deeply rooted connection between US intelligence and the so called “rebels,” the truth about Hifter became impossible to conceal. However, Hifter was certainly not alone in being a willing puppet of NATO and the CIA.

Another critical group in this regard is the infamous Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) led by international terrorist Abdelhakim Belhadj whose credits include killing Americans in Afghanistan and beyond while being directly linked to Al Qaeda. Having been imprisoned by Gaddafi, the leadership of the LIFG immediately sought to align itself with the US in hopes of occupying the power vacuum that would emerge post-Gaddafi. Led by Belhadj, the LIFG became a critical part of the rebel movement that toppled Gaddafi, including LIFG taking the lead in the attack on Gaddafi’s compound at Bab al-Aziziya. In this regard, LIFG was provided intelligence, and likely also tactical support, from US intelligence and the US military, particularly through its AFRICOM network based out of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

Once Gaddafi had fallen, Belhadj became the military commander of Tripoli, temporarily acting as dictator-in-chief. However, in order to continue to sell the “Libya as democracy” mythology, Belhadj’s US-NATO paymasters decided to put in his place the so called “transitional government” which is today regarded as ineffectual at best, and utterly irrelevant at worst.

The February 17 Martyrs Brigade is yet another terror group with close ties to both the “government” in Tripoli and, most importantly, to the CIA. Having emerged from the regime change operation as the most viable, well-trained, well-armed and organized militia, the February 17 Martyrs Brigade quickly rose to prominence within the post-war political landscape. Posturing as a trusted force to be employed by the authorities in Tripoli, February 17 quickly came to be a security detail for hire. It is here that the CIA and February 17 came into direct association. As the Los Angeles Times reported:

Over the last year, while assigned by their militia to help protect the U.S. mission in Benghazi, the pair had been drilled by American security personnel in using their weapons, securing entrances, climbing walls and waging hand-to-hand combat…The militiamen flatly deny supporting the assailants but acknowledge that their large, government-allied force, known as the Feb. 17 Martyrs Brigade, could include anti-American elements…The Feb. 17 brigade is regarded as one of the more capable militias in eastern Libya.

It is essential to note that the so-called “consulate” in Benghazi was no typical diplomatic mission. Rather, it was a CIA installation likely used by Ambassador Stevens as a headquarters from which arms and fighters could be organized for the destabilization campaign in Syria. So, in examining exactly what the arrangement in Benghazi was, it would be accurate to say that the United States acted as the patron and employer for a violent terrorist organization whose own members admit that their group “could include anti-American elements.”

Ansar al-Sharia of course fit into the September 11, 2012 attack narrative, conveniently acting as the aggressors against the CIA compound defended by their sometime rivals (and sometime allies) the February 17 Martyrs Brigade. Ansar al-Sharia, headed by a man named Ahmed Abu Khattala, is reputedly the group that carried out the attack on the CIA station in Benghazi. In fact, Khattala himself admits to having been part of the assault on the compound, though he only admits to being present, not leading it.

Despite professing radical Islam that is anti-Western and rooted in the notion of sharia law, Ansar al-Sharia, and Khattala specifically, did not seem particularly troubled with collaborating with “American infidels.” In fact, as the New York Times noted in its expose, Khattala and his organization likely played the role of executioner in one of the most significant assassination operations (aside from that of Gaddafi himself) of the entire conflict.

The abduction and assassination of Libyan General Abdul Fattah Younis, until 2011 regarded as the US handpicked successor to Gaddafi, was a major turning point. As the Times explained, “After Islamists sent a team to take the general to an impromptu judicial inquiry in July 2011, his captors held him overnight in the headquarters of Mr. Abu Khattala’s brigade. The bodies of General Younes and two of his aides were found on a roadside the next day, riddled with bullets.” So, even according to mainstream accounts, Khattala and Ansar al-Sharia are at least indirectly, if not directly, responsible for the death of Younis.

This becomes particularly important in light of the long-standing competition between Younis and Hifter for control of the post-Gaddafi “secular” forces inside Libya. It would be fair then to argue that, in the power struggle between Hifter and Younis, the CIA darling Hifter was the beneficiary of the actions of a nominal terror organization. And now, these two factions are at war with each other. So goes modern Libya.

Any analysis of the current conflict in Libya, and specifically in Benghazi, must take into account the role of the US (and other nations’) intelligence agencies that have been deeply involved from the very beginning. In particular, in examining the nature of the fighting, Benghazi must be understood as both a turf war, and an ideological struggle. On the one hand, it is a competition for control over the most important city in the country with the exception of the capital in Tripoli. On the other hand, it is an existential struggle for the future of Libya. Hifter and his faction envision a mostly secular Libya open to Western financiers, speculators, and corporations. Ansar al-Sharia and the other terror groups see in Libya the building blocks of an Islamic state to be governed by sharia. And, lurking in the background, above and behind all the principal actors in the conflict, is the CIA and the US geopolitical agenda. And so the war continues; no end in sight.

Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City, he is the founder of StopImperialism.org and OP-ed columnist for RT. This article was written exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.