Remember the bizarre “Kony 2012” video last year that was supposed to mobilize us all to fight the really bad guys in Uganda? (Or at least get behind the State Department and AFRICOM’s efforts to fight the “really bad guys” in Uganda)? The video was supposedly viewed by millions and gazillions of people who then demanded that the State Department, CIA, and AFRICOM (who all had a hand in funding the “NGO” that made the film) do something about the horrible John Kony and his “Lord’s Resistance Army.”

Never mind that no one had heard of him before viewing the film and never mind that Kony himself had disappeared and was presumed dead years before the film was even made. After watching the film, Americans demanded that the US government do something about all those bad people in Africa, and AFRICOM and other US government agencies happily complied.

Remember how indignant the newly-mobilized and propagandized became after viewing the film, spending all their cash on various t-shirts, bracelets, and “Kony 2012″ posters? Remember how equally quickly those posters came down from suburbanite human rights warriors’ windows when it became obvious that the “charity” was a scam and its leaders overpaid stooge lunatics?

Well guess what? This past week’s emergency continuing resolution and debt ceiling adjustment bill that miraculously yanked the US from the edge of the abyss of what we were assured would be an apocalyptic US debt default contained in a deep dark corner an authorization to keep the money flowing to foreign governments who were fighting the US proxy wars in Africa against the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Not that you would know it by the sneaky wording in the rescue bill, HR 2775. Here is how they put it in the bill:

SEC. 122. The authority provided by sections 1205 and 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (Public Law 112–81) shall continue in effect, notwithstanding sub-section (h) of section 1206, through the earlier of the date specified in section 106(3) of this joint resolution or the date of the enactment of an Act authorizing appropriations for fiscal year 2014 for military activities of the Department of Defense.

As typical, it means nothing. But a trip back to Public Law 112–81 reveals the real intent of this snuck-in bit:

SEC. 1206. SUPPORT OF FOREIGN FORCES PARTICIPATING IN OPERATIONS TO DISARM THE LORD’S RESISTANCE ARMY.(a) AUTHORITY.—Pursuant to the policy established by the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 (Public Law 111–172; 124 Stat. 1209), the Secretary of Defense may, with the concurrence of Secretary of State, provide logistic support, supplies, and services for foreign forces participating in operations to mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army as follows:…(c) FUNDING.—(1) IN GENERAL.—Of the amount authorized to be appropriated for the Department of Defense for each of fiscal years 2012 and 2013 for operation and maintenance, not more than $35,000,000 may be utilized in each such fiscal year to provide support under subsection (a).(2) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS ACROSS FISCAL YEARS.— Amounts available under this subsection for a fiscal year for support under the authority in subsection (a) may be used for support under that authority that begins in such fiscal year but ends in the next fiscal year.

So despite the emergency measures taken by those dedicated to getting the government back open, they somehow found millions of dollars to continue US proxy wars in Africa. There are a lot of minerals and oceans of oil in Africa, however…

Syrian Peace Talks

October 22nd, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Obama’s war on Syria rages. Opposition forces are divided. Kofi Annan’s March 2012 six-point plan failed. Three months later, so did Geneva I.

June 2012 talks were called a “last ditch effort” to halt violence. Similar headlines followed Annan’s plan. Fighting rages daily.

Obama bears full responsibility. He deplores peace. He wants regime change. He’s supporting proxy death squads. He has been all along.

They target Assad loyalists. Dozens of innocent civilians die daily. Assad’s wrongfully blamed for their crimes. Nothing suggests change ahead.

Geneva I talks included America, Russia, China, Britain, France, Turkey, Iraq (Chair of the Summit of the League of Arab States), Kuwait (Chair of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the League of Arab States), and Qatar (Chair of the Arab Follow-up Committee on Syria of the League of Arab States).

Foreign Affairs and Security Policy High Representative Catherine Ashton attended. So did then UN/Arab League Envoy for Syria Kofi Annan.

Iran and Syria were noticeably absent. Excluding them compromised discussions. On June 30, 2012, Action Group members issues a final communique. Steps and measures agreed on included:

  • ending armed conflict;
  • implementing Annan’s peace plan;
  • adhering to provisions of Security Council Resolutions 2042 and 2043;
  • releasing detainees;
  • ensuring “freedom of movement throughout the country for journalists on a non-discriminatory visa policy for them;”
  • respecting freedom of association and right to demonstrate peacefully;
  • respect for and cooperation with UNSMIS (UN Supervision Mission in Syria) observers and securing their safety and security;
  • allowing immediate and full humanitarian access to areas needing help;
  • evacuating the wounded and civilians wishing to leave; and
  • adhering fully with international law provisions.

Political transition guidelines and principles included:

  • a Syrian-led transition for everyone in the country;
  • establishing clear steps and a firm time frame toward realizing stated goals;
  • ensuring safety, stability and calm to assure doing so; and
  • avoiding further bloodshed and violence.

Agreed on steps, measures, guideline and principles failed to resolve conflict. Will Geneva II be different? It’s hard imagining how.

On Sunday, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said talks are scheduled for November 23 and 24.

At the same time, UN/League Special Envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said no date is confirmed. Many obstacles remain.

“I will visit a number of regional countries to know their stances and opinions on the conference to end the crisis in Syria and halt the war through a cease-fire or at least decreasing it,” he said.

Syrian National Council (SNC) spokesman Najib Ghadbian earlier said some opposition forces won’t participate. Elements refusing say attending depends on Assad stepping down.

It’s unclear which opposition groups will participate. It’s uncertain if any will. It’s unknown if Geneva II will be held as planned.

It was initially scheduled for June. Now it’s November. Perhaps further delays will follow.

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said his government will attend with no preconditions. Resolving conflict requires committed peace partners. It demands reversing longstanding US policy.

Syria won’t negotiate with terrorists or Takfiris (Muslims accusing others of apostasy).

“Political solution has been the original choice for the Syrian government since the beginning of aggression,” al-Zoubi added.

Syria prioritizes it. On Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with Russia’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. They did so in Moscow.

A Foreign Ministry statement said:

“The focus was put on the task of speeding up conveying the crisis in Syria into the course of the political settlement through the international conference, Geneva 2, with the aim of implementing the Geneva statement issued last June 30, 2012.”

Days earlier, SNC president George Sabra refused to attend Geneva II talks, saying:

“The Syrian National Council, which is the biggest bloc in the Coalition, has taken the firm decision not to go to Geneva, under the present circumstances.”

“This means that we will not stay in the Coalition if it goes.”

At issue is wanting to negotiate from strength. Opposition elements are no match against Syria’s superior military.

Sabra wants direct US intervention. Perhaps later. Not now. Without it, opposition forces have no chance to advance their objectives.

Car bombings and other terror tactics continue daily. Innocent civilians die. Others are abducted, tortured and murdered. Syrians deplore what’s happening.

They want nothing to do with belligerent anti-government elements. They want no one interfering with their right to choose who’ll lead them.

On October 14, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said SNC president George Sabra’s refusal to participate in talks “proves again that it is necessary to convene the conference as soon as possible.”

“The key obstacle is that our partners (mainly Washington) are unable to make the Syrian opposition to go to Geneva and start talks with the government.”

It’s “necessary to determine the date of the conference as soon as possible because the delay plays in the hands of Jihadists, radicals, extremists and terrorist groups that strengthen their positions more and more. Risks are real that they can win in several areas of Syria.”

“By delaying the Geneva-2 conference, we create favorable conditions for continuing the bloody war and strengthening the positions of radical and extremist forces.”

Washington assumed responsibility for assuring opposition participation, said Lavrov.

“Our partners said they would succeed in gathering all parties to take part in the conference under the auspices of the National Coalition,” he explained.

“These days my colleague John Kerry has told me they will deal with this matter.”

“But there is no progress till now. Moreover, statements are being made to refuse to go to Geneva and to withdraw from the National Coalition, which, for its part, loses its position and its prestige.”

“The Syrian National Council and the groups, which represent its interests and carry on war on its land, give up cooperation with it.”

“We’ve heard reports saying these processes are being actively supported and financed by influential regional players that is why our warnings many obstacles will be created from those who come against any political process and who only seeks to use force against Syria in order to overthrow the regime are of high priority.”

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement expressed concern about opposition elements discussing Geneva II separately.

Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said:

“We have always aspired when working on Syria to act as a consolidated platform and to avoid various unofficial – separate, to be precise – discussions.”

“The UN Security Council Resolution 2118 passed on September 27 namely calls for joint work.”

“The fact that the agenda of the meeting mentioned includes preparations for the international conference on Syria, raises questions.”

On Tuesday, Western and Arab countries will meet with opposition elements. They’ll do so in London.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said participants will “discuss preparations for the Geneva Conference, support for the (opposition) Syrian National Coalition, and our efforts to achieve a political settlement to this tragic conflict.”

John Kerry will attend. He lied saying he’s “trying to move the (peace) process forward.”

“We’re working towards this Geneva conference, not that we know what the outcome is.”

Opposition elements plan holding separate discussions in Istanbul. Doing so indicates internal divisions.

Russia’s gone all out for peaceful conflict resolution. It’s done so since conflict began. Washington obstructs it. Nothing suggests policy change now.

Direct and indirect US funding, arming, training and directing insurgents continue. Doing so reveals America’s real intentions. They exclude peaceful conflict resolution. Obama didn’t wage war to end it.

Talks won’t change longstanding US regime change plans. Previous ones failed for that reason. Don’t expect this time to be different.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

Saudi Arabia Turns Down UN Security Council Seat

October 22nd, 2013 by Peter Symonds

In an unprecedented move, Saudi Arabia last Friday indicated that it intended to turn down the temporary seat on the UN Security Council to which it was elected last week. While couched in general terms, its statement of protest points to deep concerns in the Saudi regime, a longstanding American ally, that the US is cutting across its interests in the Middle East.

The decision clearly came from the highest levels. The Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, initially welcomed his country’s seat on UN’s top body, only to be countermanded by a statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry, which castigated the UN for its “double standards.”

The statement focussed in particular on the UN Security Council’s “inability to perform its duties” to end the war in Syria, declaring that the UN’s inaction had allowed the Syrian regime “to kill its people and burn them with chemical weapons in front of the entire world and without any deterrent or punishment.”

The accusations against President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government are a repetition of the lies about the August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that was exploited by the US as it prepared to devastate Syria in early September. The Obama administration’s decision to temporarily pull back from the air strikes in the face of overwhelming public opposition clearly angered Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has been intimately involved in funding and arming US-backed Islamist opposition inside Syria. Evidence also points to the involvement of Saudi intelligence in staging the chemical weapons atrocity, to provide the excuse for a US-led war. In early August, Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin Sultan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a bid to pressure Moscow to drop its support for Assad. When Putin refused, Bandar warned that the situation in Syria would “intensify” and predicted that there was “no escape from military action” (see “Saudi-Russian talks raise questions on Syrian war drive, Boston bombings).

Three weeks later, the chemical weapons attack provided the pretext that the US had been seeking. A report on August 29 by Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak and independent journalist Yahya Ababed provided substantial evidence that Syrian opposition militias had carried out the attack, using chemical weapons provided by Saudi Arabia (see: “Report links US-backed Syrian opposition to Ghouta gas attack”). Unlike the Assad regime, Riyadh had a clear motive: it wanted to involve the US in the Syrian war in order to reverse the military setbacks inflicted on the Al Qaeda-linked opposition militias.

The Saudi decision to reject the UN Security Council seat is not the only indication of bitterness over the US decision to postpone an attack on Syria. During the UN session last month, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal staged his own protest by declining to give a customary speech to the general assembly.

Saudi Arabia was not only dismayed by the deal struck between the US and Russia to avert immediate military action against Syria, but also by the Obama administration’s steps toward negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programs. However unlikely, the last thing that Riyadh wants is a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran. Former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan, told Reuters this month: “The Saudi’s worst nightmare would be the [Obama] administration striking a grand bargain with Iran.”

Reflecting the thinking in Saudi ruling circles, Abdullah al-Askar, foreign affairs committee chairman of the country’s advisory body, told Reuters: “I am afraid in case there is something hidden. If America and Iran reach an understanding it may be at the cost of the Arab world and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia.”

The Saudi autocracy has always regarded Iran as its chief rival for regional influence. It backed the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in its war with Iran in the 1980s and was deeply concerned when the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq led to the emergence of a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad with connections to Tehran.

As revealed in a 2008 WikiLeaks cable, Saudi King Abdullah exhorted top US officials “to cut off the head of the snake” and use Tehran’s nuclear programs as the pretext for a war on Iran. With Washington’s tacit support, Riyadh has whipped up anti-Shiite sectarianism and assisted reactionary Sunni extremists in the Middle East in a bid to undermine Tehran’s allies in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.

The autocratic regimes in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states were deeply fearful of the revolutionary eruptions in Tunisia and Egypt. Saudi Arabia, together with Qatar, regarded the US-backed regime-change operation in Syria as an ideal opportunity to remove a key Iranian ally and to weaken Tehran. With Washington’s backing, both countries have provided arms and money to right-wing Syrian militias, including those linked to Al Qaeda.

In last Friday’s statement, Saudi Arabia also complained that the UN Security Council had failed to free the Middle East of “all weapons of mass destruction”—a reference to Israel’s stockpile of nuclear weapons, as well as Iran’s nuclear programs. Despite the lack of evidence supporting claims that Iran is building nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia remains concerned and has hinted that it could launch a nuclear effort.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met yesterday with Saudi Foreign Minister al-Faisal in Paris in a bid to allay Saudi concerns and encourage it to take up its UN Security Council seat. Among Arab countries, Qatar publicly backed Riyadh’s decision, while the Arab grouping in the UN called on it to reconsider.

Whatever Saudi Arabia’s final decision, the episode has provided another revealing glimpse into the growing regional tensions and rivalries that the US interventions in the region have stoked up. While the Obama administration has stepped back from a war with Syria, for the time being at least, any new military action has the potential to set off the regional tinderbox that the US has created.

After the U.S. government shutdown you’d expect Republicans and Democrats to remain at each others’ throats, so different was their vision for the country, or so it appeared.   In reality, however, only a bit of the political theater was reserved for “Tea Party” Republicans to invest in their political future by denouncing Obamacare, which they know will enrage millions of people forced to buy shoddy corporate health care; many of these future victims of Obamacare will become diehard Teapartiers.  

But the real intent behind the government shutdown was lost on the mute American media. The Republicans were once again allowed to use the threat of government default to steer the Obama administration to the right — the right-leaning tail wagging the dog of government in the direction of a “Grand Bargain” to cut “entitlement” programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and other public services. But like real dogs, government body and tail cannot be separated: the Democrats are allowing themselves to be “wagged” because they fully agree with the Republican’s neoliberal agenda. 

The essence of neoliberalism can be reduced to the following: government should be used exclusively to help big business and the wealthy with tax cuts, subsidies, privatizations, anti-labor laws, etc., while all government programs that help working and poor people should be eliminated. It’s really that simple.    In practice, Obama’s neoliberalism is blatant: after bailing out the banks he continues to approve of the printing of thousands of billions of Federal Reserve dollars to give to the wealthy and big banks who are racking in record profits, while the jobs crisis is ignored and public services slashed on a state by state level without hope of a government bailout. 

Since Obama has been in office, a shocking 95 percent of income gains went to the richest 1%. This is not the blind hand of the free market, but government policy, which can be adjusted to reflect the priorities of working people. http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2013/09/10/some-95-of-2009-2012-income-gains-went-to-wealthiest-1/

Obama dodges responsibility for his neoliberal policies by giving empty speeches about “hope” and whining about the very wealth inequality that he creates via policy. He gives speeches to labor unions about how it’s “unfair” that the rich just happen to be getting richer, while working people continue to suffer. Working people learned long ago to ignore Obama’s “progressive” blather, while the leaders of national unions drink in his words as if gulping from the Holy Grail. 

The first steps of the coming Grand Bargain have already been taken: the “sequester” — massive cuts to national social programs including Medicare — have been extended as a result of government shutdown “negotiations.” And now the media is casually reporting that a Grand Bargain that further “reduces entitlements” is inevitable, but it will be only a “small” bargain, so no need to worry. 

The New York Times reports:

“Republicans on Capitol Hill are determined to mitigate those [military sequester] cuts by spreading them among various social programs, like education and Social Security…”

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/20/us/lobbyists-ready-for-a-new-fight-on-us-spending.html?hp&_r=0

Obama has said several times that he’s more than prepared to use Social Security as a bargaining chip in his Grand Bargain.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/obama-chained-cpi

At a time when more services are needed, they will be cut instead. Aside from the suffering it will cause millions of people, a “small” Grand Bargain will also create a precedent for even more “bargains” in the future, since the first step in creating negative social change is often the hardest, but once the foot is in the door the process accelerates.  

Neoliberalism has already advanced on a state-by-state basis in the U.S., with Democrat and Republican governors in bi-partisan agreement that has drastically cut education and other social services, attacked the wages and benefits of state workers, while lowering the state taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Large scale neoliberalism on a national level — like the coming Grand Bargain — is sometimes referred to as a “structural reform,” meaning that a major component of a nation’s economic policy is shifted, or eliminated.

For example, Social Security and Medicare are two bedrock social programs that constitute a major piece of U.S. budget spending, affecting hundreds of millions of people. 

The attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and public education are neoliberal-style ”structural reforms,” essentially a corporate attempt to change the underlying social compact of U.S. society that was created under Franklin D. Roosevelt and expanded under Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs.   

How was the U.S. social compact formed? Like all social policy, it was a reflection of power, specifically the balance of forces between the corporate and working classes in the U.S. In the 1930s and 1940s, massive strike waves led to an ever-larger unionized workforce that repeatedly flexed its muscles by demanding living wages, health care, and other social programs.

These demands were backed up by waging mass demonstrations and industry-wide actions along with sympathy strikes. After WWII a third of the U.S. workforce was organized in labor unions, which shifted the entire labor market in favor of all working people, while also shifting the ground on which national social policy was created. A semblance of democracy was not possible without recognizing the demands of the powerfully organized working class.

When arch-conservative Richard Nixon famously declared “we’re all Keynesians now,” he was merely recognizing the balance of power that existed in the U.S. political system, and the unwillingness of the elites to challenge this social pact for fear of the destabilizing effects that would result. 

This Keynesian consensus was essentially a truce declared in the U.S. class war, where the power of both sides — capital and labor — were balanced, both independently strong enough to repel attacks from the other. In response, Nixon’s economic policies make Obama seem like a right-wing neoliberal fanatic.   

But while Nixon agreed to the Keynesian consensus at home, he gave his blessing to the radical right-wing economist Milton Freidman to “reform” the economy of Chile under the bloody dictator, Pinochet, whom the U.S. brought to power over the corpse of the democratically elected President Salvador Allende, as well as the thousands of his supporters who were butchered. Chile was essentially a neoliberal experiment that, if successful, would be transferred to the United States. 

Due to the Keynesian consensus, Milton Freidman’s radical pro-corporate doctrine was at the time viewed as right-wing fanaticism, which it is.  Now, however, with labor’s faltering power, the corporations feel confident enough to flex their muscles unhindered. To enhance their new power they needed an accompanying ideology — Friedman’s neoliberalism, free market capitalism unleashed. 

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s “revolution” ushered in the neoliberal transformation of the U.S. after seeing the “success” of the Chilean economy. Chile successfully increased corporate profit rates by removing “barriers” to profits, such as trade unions, socialists, and any democratic voice that opposed the “restructuring” of the Chilean economy to reflect the interests of the rich, finally unshackled from the “constraints” of wealth accumulation. Reagan and Thatcher followed in lock-step, targeting unions for destruction, lowering tax rates for the rich, and preaching the virtue of neoliberal “trickle down” economics. 

Implementing the neoliberal shock doctrine breaks the social contract and thus ends the truce of the class war. The first shots were fired by Reagan and the onslaught has continued under the two Bush’s as well as under Bill Clinton. The 2008 recession has pushed both parties to double down on neoliberalism as their solution to the ongoing economic crisis. 

Naomi Klein’s book, “The Shock Doctrine,” tells in gruesome detail the brutality that has accompanied the “implementation” of neoliberal reforms across the globe over the last 30 years. And while the U.S. has slow played this process since 2008, U.S. politicians are slated to follow the example of the European Union elites by accelerating the cuts on a national level. 

The labor and community groups that have tried to deal with the corporate attack by hiding from it still have time to unite their forces to fight for full funding for a national jobs program, expanded Social Security, Medicare for all, accessible, quality public education, and other public services, all to be paid for by taxing the rich and corporations. 

 

France’s Le Monde published a report Monday based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden describing National Security Agency (NSA) spying operations directed against the French population and the French business and political leadership. Between December 2012 and January 2013, according to Le Monde, the NSA collected over 70 million French communications, which were then categorized either as “Drtbox” or “Whitebox.”

The collection process included reading and listening to the content of communications.

The report provides yet another exposure of the Obama administration’s global spying operations, which are carried out in flagrant violation of US and international law. Le Monde summarized the NSA spying as “intrusion on a vast scale, both into the private space of French citizens and the secrets of major national firms.” Describing aspects of the surveillance, Le Monde wrote, “When a telephone number is used in France, it activates a signal that automatically triggers the recording of the call. Apparently this surveillance also picks up SMS messages and their content using key words.” Le Monde also released a Power Point presentation titled “PRISM/US-984X Overview” detailing NSA electronic surveillance procedures. The slide, headed “You Should Use Both,” lists “upstream collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past (FAIRVIEW, STORBREW, BLARNEY, OAKSTAR” and “PRISM collection directly from the servers of these US Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

The slides show that the NSA carries out “voice collection” using both upstream and PRISM collection methods.

One slide, entitled PRISM Collection, lists “current providers” as “Microsoft (Hotmail, etc.), Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, Apple.” The slide reads: “What Will You Receive in Collection (Surveillance and Stored Comms)? It varies by provider: in general: E-mail, Chat-video, voice, Videos, Photos, Stored data, VoIP, File transfers, Video Conferencing, Notifications of target activity–logins, etc., Online Social Network details, Special Requests.”

The slides also contain a chart showing the dates when PRISM began collecting data from the various providers, from Microsoft in September of 2007 to Apple in October of 2012, along with detailed flow charts illustrating the various components of the surveillance apparatus.

Top French officials expressed indignation over the Le Monde report. Speaking to Europe 1 Radio, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls described the spying exposure as “shocking” and declared, “If an allied country is spying on France, it’s totally unacceptable.”

The French government publicly demanded an explanation from the American ambassador. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris Monday and was set to meet the following day with Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to discuss issues relating to the Middle East and Iran.

Fabius commented, “This sort of practice between partners that invades privacy is totally unacceptable and we have to make sure, very quickly, that this no longer happens.”

In light of previous revelations that the NSA spies on US allies such as Mexico, Brazil, England and Germany, it is implausible that France’s political establishment would be genuinely shocked by the new revelations. French officials began inquiries into the NSA operations during the summer after it became public that US agency had targeted various European governments for surveillance.

France 24 interviewed former French Air Force General Alain Charret on the matter. Charret said that NSA spying was already well known to the French government, that France has surveillance programs of its own, and that the legal authorities of the European Union are powerless to prevent mass spying by the NSA on the continent because the data access points are not on French soil.

“When we say that the NSA is spying in France, we must realize that the agency is using satellites or underwater cables that are not on French territory,” Charret said. “Even if the European Court of Human Rights condemned the NSA for violation privacy, it would not prevent the intelligence agency from continuing to listen to telephone conversations in France and elsewhere,” he continued.

According to Charret, “there have been proven examples of NSA wiretapping that cost French companies lucrative contracts in Brazil and Saudi Arabia.” He added that over the summer, French officials were instructed to use “specially encrypted telephones when discussing certain information,” which indicated that “French authorities were aware that the NSA was listening to communications of some French people.”

With regard to the reaction of Valls and Fabius, Charret said, “This whole thing smacks of hypocrisy… we probably have a programme that resembles the one in the US, albeit on a smaller scale.”

NSA spying on foreign governments has produced frictions between the US and Latin American governments. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a trip to the US in September after learning that she had been targeted by the NSA.

According to Der Spiegel, the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division hacked into then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s email account in May of 2010. Der Spiegel said that documents acquired form Snowden show that the NSA penetrated a “central server” in the computer network used by the Mexican president, giving the agency access to Calderon’s communications along with those of other members of his cabinet.

“This practice is unacceptable, illegal and against Mexican and international law,” said Mexico’s foreign ministry in a statement released Monday.

U.S. “War On Terror” Has INCREASED Terrorism

October 22nd, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Charts Show that U.S. Policy Has Increased Terror Attacks

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Global Terrorism Database – part of a joint government-university program on terrorism -  is hosted at the University of Maryland.

START is the most comprehensive open source terrorism database, which can be viewed by journalists and civilians lacking national security clearance.

A quick review of charts from the START database show that terrorism has increased in the last 9 years since the U.S. started its “war on terror”.

This chart shows the number of terror attacks conducted in Iraq:

 

Afghanistan:

 

 

The Middle East:

 

 

Asia:

 

 

Africa:

 

 

Indeed, global terrorism had been falling from 1992 until 2004 … but has been skyrocketing since 2004:

 

 

Our Wars In the Middle East Have Created More Terrorists

Security experts – including both conservatives and liberals – agree that waging war in the Middle East weakens national security and increases terrorism. See this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.

Ooops.

Killing innocent civilians is one of the main things which increases terrorism. As one of the top counter-terrorism experts (the former number 2 counter-terrorism expert at the State Department) told me, starting wars against states which do not pose an imminent threat to America’s national security increases the threat of terrorism because:

One of the principal causes of terrorism is injuries to people and families.

The Iraq war wasn’t even fought to combat terrorism. And Al Qaeda wasn’t even in Iraq until the U.S. invaded that country.

And top CIA officers say that drone strikes increase terrorism (and see this).

Furthermore, James K. Feldman – former professor of decision analysis and economics at the Air Force Institute of Technology and the School of Advanced Airpower Studies – and other experts say that foreign occupation is the main cause of terrorism

University of Chicago professor Robert A. Pape – who specializes in international security affairs – points out:

Extensive research into the causes of suicide terrorism proves Islam isn’t to blame — the root of the problem is foreign military occupations.

***

Each month, there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined.

***

New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture.

More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research [co-authored by James K. Feldman - former professor of decision analysis and economics at the Air Force Institute of Technology and the School of Advanced Airpower Studies] that we conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day. As the United States has occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, which have a combined population of about 60 million, total suicide attacks worldwide have risen dramatically — from about 300 from 1980 to 2003, to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. Further, over 90 percent of suicide attacks worldwide are now anti-American. The vast majority of suicide terrorists hail from the local region threatened by foreign troops, which is why 90 percent of suicide attackers in Afghanistan are Afghans.

Israelis have their own narrative about terrorism, which holds that Arab fanatics seek to destroy the Jewish state because of what it is, not what it does. But since Israel withdrew its army from Lebanon in May 2000, there has not been a single Lebanese suicide attack. Similarly, since Israel withdrew from Gaza and large parts of the West Bank, Palestinian suicide attacks are down over 90 percent.

***

The first step is recognizing that occupations in the Muslim world don’t make Americans any safer — in fact, they are at the heart of the problem.

Our Program of Torture Created Terrorists

In addition, torture creates new terrorists:

  • A top counter-terrorism expert says torture increases the risk of terrorism (and see this).
  • One of the top military interrogators said that torture by Americans of innocent Iraqis is the main reason that foreign fighters started fighting against Americans in Iraq in the first place (and see this).
  • Former counter-terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke says that America’s indefinite detention without trial and abuse of prisoners is a leading Al Qaeda recruiting tool
  • A 30-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate who rose to the most senior managerial ranks, says:

    Torture creates more terrorists and fosters more acts of terror than it could possibly neutralize.

“The administration’s policies concerning [torture] and the resulting controversies … strengthened the hand of our enemies.”

  • General Petraeus said that torture hurts our national security
  • And the reporter who broke Iran-Contra and other stories says that torture actually helped Al Qaeda, by giving false leads to the U.S. which diverted its military, intelligence and economic resources into wild goose chases

So the widespread program of torture under the Bush administration didn’t help.

Nice Job Creating More Terrorists, You Morons …

Additionally – in the name of fighting our enemies – the U.S. has directly been supporting Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups for the last decade. See this, this, this, this and this.

Why Have We Given Up Our Rights If the Government Can’t Keep Us Safe?

We have given up the fundamental rights which make us American.

The government insisted that – if we gave up our liberties – it would keep us safe.

It has failed to do so, and has instead squandered our national treasure, our resources and our troops on efforts which have only increased the risk of terrorism.

Wasted Defense Spending

 

A large amount of the homeland security spending has been wasted … producing “a bunch of crap”.

For example, spending money on zombie apocalypse training  or other silly programs is a bad investment which led to a false sense of security.

Spending defense money on a workshop called “Did Jesus die for Klingons too?” and DOD-run microbreweries is probably not helping stop terrorist attacks.

Moreover, using homeland security resources to spy on average Americans or crack down on peaceful protesters or government critics distracts from getting the actual bad guys.

At the same time, both the Bush and Obama administrations have slashed funding for programs which would actually help prevent terror attacks.

Heck of a job, guys …

The Real Agenda

Regime change was planned throughout the Middle East and North Africa were planned 20 years agolong before 9/11.

As just one example, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, 4-Star General (and CENTCOM commander with responsibility for Iraq) John Abizaid, key war architect John Bolton,  a high-level National Security Council officer, President George W. Bush, Bush speech writer David Frum, Senator John McCain, Fed boss Alan Greenspan and Sarah Palin  all say that the Iraq war was about oil.   Documents from Britain show the same thing.

Much of the war on terror is really a fight for natural gas.  Or to force the last few hold-outs into dollars and private central banking.

Senior government officials have described terrorist attacks as a “small price to pay for being a superpower”.  And while politicians talk about ending the war on terror, endless war is a feature – not a bug – of our foreign policy.

Whatever the real agenda one thing is clear …  In the same way that NSA spying isn’t about preventing terrorism (proof here, here, here and here), the war on terror is cover for other shenanigans.

Selling Empire: American Propaganda and War in the Philippines

October 22nd, 2013 by Global Research News

by Susan Brewer

And of all our race He has marked the American people as his chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America, and it holds for us all the profit, all the glory, all the happiness possible to man. Senator Albert J. Beveridge, 1900

I thought it would be a great thing to give a whole lot of freedom to the Filipinos, but I guess now it’s better to let them give it to themselves. Mark Twain, 1900

At the turn of the twentieth century, Americans and Filipinos fought bitterly for control of the Philippine Islands. The United States viewed the Pacific islands as a stepping-stone to the markets and natural resources of Asia. The Philippines, which had belonged to Spain for three hundred years, wanted independence, not another imperial ruler. For the Americans, the acquisition of a colony thousands of miles from its shores required a break with their anti-imperial traditions. To justify such a break, the administration of William McKinley proclaimed that its policies benefited both Americans and Filipinos by advancing freedom, Christian benevolence, and prosperity. Most of the Congress, the press, and the public rallied to the flag, embracing the war as a patriotic adventure and civilizing mission. Dissent, however, flourished among a minority called anti-imperialists. Setting precedents for all wartime presidents who would follow, McKinley enhanced the power of the chief executive to build a public consensus in support of an expansionist foreign policy.1

This article explores McKinley’s use of wartime propaganda extolling national progress and unity to aid his successful navigation of the transition of the United States to great power status. The president and his supporters did not portray the United States as an imperial power in the European manner. To win support for far-reaching changes in foreign policy, McKinley explained overseas expansion in terms of American traditions and drew on familiar themes from the past. The last Civil War veteran to serve as president, he celebrated the coming together of the North and South to fight a common enemy. He portrayed American expansion in the Pacific as a continuation of manifest destiny. He compared the Filipinos to Native Americans, calling them savage warriors or “little brown brothers.” Appealing to popular attitudes of the times, he encouraged Americans to fulfill their manly duty to spread Christian civilization. The United States, he asserted, was a liberator, not a conqueror.2


Hawaii, Cuba, and the Philippines celebrate the Independence Day of the United States. July 1898. Charles L. Bartholomew, Minneapolis Journal. (Cartoons of the Spanish-American War by Bart, Minneapolis: Journal Printing Co, 1899).

To rally support for his policy, the McKinley administration mastered the latest communication technology to shape the portrayal of the war by the media of the day. McKinley was the first to have his inauguration filmed and to have a secretary who met daily with the press, “for a kind of family talk,” as journalist Ida Tarbell put it. Reporters were provided with a table and chairs in the outer-reception room of the Executive Mansion where they could chat with important visitors and even the president if he approached them first. McKinley paid special attention to the representatives of the wire services, the news agencies that sent syndicated stories by telegraph to subscribing newspapers across the country. The president’s staff, which grew from six to eighty, monitored public opinion by studying daily hundreds of newspapers from around the country. To make sure that reporters accurately conveyed the president’s views, his staff issued press releases, timing the distribution so that reporters on deadline filed only the administration’s version of the story. Through news management, the McKinley administration disseminated war propaganda based on facts, lies, ideas, patriotic symbols, and emotional appeals.3

In contrast to the more rambunctious expansionists of the day, the genial McKinley exuded calm and dignity. As noted by his contemporary, the British historian and diplomat James Bryce, American leaders put considerable effort into leading opinion while appearing to follow it. The president spoke publicly of America’s expanded influence in the Caribbean and the Pacific as though it had happened by chance or been willed by God. His actions, however, made the acquisition of an empire no accident. In addition, his public position of passivity made it difficult for critics to challenge his policies until they were well under way. McKinley, observed the astute Henry Adams, a grandson and great-grandson of presidents, was “a marvelous manager of men.” While politicians, members of the press, and military men freely expressed their criticisms of U.S. policy, the president and his fellow expansionists took the country to war with Spain, built a consensus for keeping the Philippines, and maintained support for waging war against Filipinos who fought for their independence. In doing so, they constructed a persuasive version of U.S. policy in the Philippines as a “divine mission” that not only disguised the realities of war and conquest, but also would serve in years to come as an example of America’s commitment to spreading freedom.4

Competition for Empire

The war between the Americans and the Filipinos was just one of many colonial wars taking place in the late 1800s and early 1900s as the world’s industrialized powers scrambled for dominance in Africa and Asia. Britain doubled its imperial territory, France acquired three and a half million square miles including Indochina, and Russia expanded east. The aging Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Spanish empires struggled to hang on to what they had. Up-and-coming nations—Germany, Japan, and the United States—sought to expand their influence. Imperial powers clashed over faraway frontiers and subdued native peoples who resisted foreign rule. New technologies often made these fights one-sided. To fuel economic expansion, businessmen and traders competed over investments, raw materials, and markets, backing railroad construction in China, digging copper mines in Africa, and selling sewing machines to Pacific Islanders. Missionaries of many faiths crusaded for the souls of the “heathen,” preaching ancient beliefs as well as western attitudes about culture and consumer goods. Explorers raced to plant their flags. Claims of national glory accompanied many of these exploits, along with justifications of spreading progress and stability. Such fierce competition for territory, economic gain, and souls often produced upheaval instead.5

His goal, McKinley told Governor Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin was to “attain U.S. supremacy in world markets.” The United States had settled its western frontier, wrapping up thirty years of conflict with the Native Americans. With their own continental empire to manage, American expansionists seemed more interested in indirect imperialism—informal dominance through economic power—than direct imperialism, which entailed hands-on governance. For instance, U.S. companies already had made fortunes out of bananas and minerals from Latin America. To further economic expansion, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan of the U.S. Navy advocated the construction of a canal through Central America, the buildup of a strong navy to protect trade routes, and the acquisition of refueling bases in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Mahan’s ideas had powerful support from McKinley, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R-MA), Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, and other expansionists, called “jingoes.” In particular, the United States wanted access to China with its millions of potential customers. So did Japan, Britain, Germany, Russia, and France. The imperial powers threatened to divide up China as they had Africa. In January 1898, the U. S. Minister to China warned Washington, “partition would destroy our markets.” Within months the United States would be a Pacific power practicing direct imperialism in the Philippines to advance indirect imperialism in China.6

American expansionists of the white, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant middle and upper classes were confident that they could lead at home and overseas. Citing Social Darwinism and scientific studies that demonstrated the superiority of the white race, they viewed white American men to be dominant by virtue of their evolved good character and civilized self-control. The men of decadent Spain, they thought, had gone soft. They considered non-white people to be no more than children, primitive and wild, in need of the guidance of a big brother or great white father. Women, viewed as weak and passive, also required protection. Such attitudes reassured these leaders of their natural supremacy at a time when millions of Catholic and Jewish immigrants arrived from Southern and Eastern Europe, the women’s suffrage movement agitated for the vote, African Americans challenged the “color line” drawn by segregationists in the South, and workers and farmers demanded radical reforms. These leading men preferred the status quo at home. War overseas provided an escape from “the menace and perils of socialism and agrarianism,” thought Henry Watterson, the editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, just “as England has escaped them, by a policy of colonialism and conquest.” In a nation at war, the leaders believed, everyone would know and accept their place in society whether at the top or the bottom. Freedom was only for “people capable of self-restraint,” said Theodore Roosevelt, who ironically was seen as a bit of wild man himself.7

American expansionists drew on these beliefs and interests to justify war with Spain in the summer of 1898 and the fighting in the Philippines that followed. For most Americans, the conflict with Spain was about the liberation of Cuba. By 1896, Cuban rebels, who carried out ruthless economic warfare by destroying cane fields, sugar mills, and railroads, had taken charge of more than half the island. To prevent civilians from supporting the rebels, Spanish authorities forced Cubans out of their villages into guarded “reconcentration camps,” where 100,000 died of disease and starvation. As Cubans and Spaniards fought on, American investors in Cuban railroads and sugar plantations lost millions. At his inauguration in March 1897, President McKinley referred to the turbulence in Cuba and declared that the United States wanted “no wars of conquest.” What the United States did want in Cuba was stability and economic access. McKinley informed Spain that it should put an end to the revolt, institute reforms, stop the reconcentration policy, and respect the human rights of the Cubans. Madrid proposed reforms that satisfied no one. As the upheaval continued, McKinley stepped up the pressure by ordering the new battleship U.S.S. Maine to Havana to protect American lives and property.

Americans followed the story of the Cuban Revolution in their many newspapers. New Yorkers alone could choose among eight morning and seven evening papers. They could read the Republican or Democratic papers for news that shared their politics. Or they could turn to the independent and, at three cents a paper, high-priced New York Times. For the less highbrow readers, there were the sensational “yellow journals.” To increase circulation, publishers Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and St. Louis Post Dispatch and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal and San Francisco Examiner competed for readers (and advertisers) with exposés, stunts, comics, sports coverage, women’s features, and exciting accounts of foreign conflicts. They believed that war, especially the way they reported it, sold papers. Some histories have blamed yellow journalism for stirring up such frenzy for war with Spain that McKinley was compelled to undertake one. Although McKinley’s actions do not support this view, the stories featured in the yellow press did shape popular perceptions of the conflict. In contrast to the anti-war papers, with their accounts of complicated political problems and atrocities committed by both sides, the high circulation yellow press filled their pages with one-sided stories of Spain’s crimes of mutilation, rape, and murder.8

When the Maine blew up in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, Americans were stunned by the loss of 266 sailors and outraged at the destruction of their ship. The administration asked for calm, appointed an expert board of inquiry to investigate the explosion, and accepted Madrid’s expressions of sympathy. Speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, McKinley said Washington would rely on God for guidance. Privately, he told Senator Charles W. Fairbanks (R-IN) that the administration would “not be plunged into war until it is ready for it.”9 The jingoes, meanwhile, were bursting with anticipation for war. Luck was with them when the official inquiry, without consulting the navy’s ordnance expert or chief engineer, concluded that an external explosion caused by a mine had destroyed the Maine, a verdict that was widely interpreted to mean that Spain was culpable even though the report did not say so. In a later investigation, the U.S. Navy determined that an internal explosion involving the fueling system most likely had destroyed the ship. At the time, however, McKinley fed the widespread impression of Spain’s guilt by saying that anything that happened in Havana was ultimately its responsibility.

McKinley prepared for war by calling for a military buildup. Congress appropriated fifty million dollars, three-fifths of which went to the Navy. The rest went to the Army, which assumed that only small forces would be needed to take beaches and aid the Cubans and so used most of its appropriation on coastal fortifications. In late February, without permission, the gung-ho Assistant Secretary Roosevelt put naval units on alert. Although all attention was on the Caribbean, he did not ignore Spain’s colony in the Philippines. He ordered George Dewey, the commander of the Asiatic Squadron, who had been busy searching the coast of China for the best site for an American port, to proceed to Hong Kong and stand at the ready. Secretary of the Navy John Long and the president countermanded most of Roosevelt’s orders, but not the one to Dewey. As for Spain, it had 150,000 troops in Cuba exhausted by fighting and disease, 20,000 in the Philippines, and an antique navy. Well aware that a single U.S. battleship could take out one of their entire squadrons, Spanish officers steeled themselves for what they hoped would be an honorable defeat.10

As the Spanish government searched for a compromise solution, the European powers considered whether they should take sides. From the Vatican, the pope asked McKinley to avoid a war by accepting Spain’s promise of an armistice with the rebels. Germany, which had its eye on Spanish possessions in the Pacific, and France proposed mediation. McKinley politely rejected these offers. The British decided to support the Americans by doing nothing. The president received reports that American business leaders had concluded a war might enhance opportunities for trade, investments, and profits. Congressional support consolidated after Senator Redfield Proctor (R-VT) returned from Cuba with a vivid description of the suffering under Spanish rule. His colleague from Wyoming, Senator Francis E. Warren, expressed growing indignation, “that we, a civilized people, an enlightened nation, a great republic, born in a revolt against tyranny, should permit such a state of things within less than a hundred miles of our shore as that which exists in Cuba.”11

Once ready to wage war, McKinley explained his reasons to Congress on April 11, 1898. By custom, he did not deliver his message in person, but sent it to be read out loud to the legislators by clerks. The president defined U.S. aims as ending the war between Spain and Cuba, establishing a stable government in Cuba, and insuring peace and security for both the citizens of Cuba and the United States. After calling for the use of force to achieve these purposes, the president mentioned in passing that Spain had proclaimed a suspension of hostilities in Cuba. In other words, Spain had made one more major concession. He closed by asking Congress to consider this development as it pondered action true to “our aspirations as a Christian, peace-loving people.” The Philippine Islands were never mentioned.

As Congress prepared to declare war on Spain, the big debate was not over whether to go to war, but whether the United States should recognize the revolutionary government in Cuba. The debate illustrated the gap between the public’s and the administration’s perceptions of what the war was about. McKinley’s aim was American access to a stable Cuba, not Cuban independence. As historian Louis Pérez has pointed out, the Cuban rebels were on the verge of achieving independence on their own. If they did, they might decide to pursue freedom from foreign domination not only by kicking out Spain, but also the United States. McKinley persuaded the lawmakers not to recognize Cuban independence. The United States and Spain declared war on each other at the end of April.12

As much as he could, McKinley centralized war news in the Executive Mansion. In the war room, he installed twenty telegraph wires and fifteen phone wires with direct connections to the executive departments and Congress. From the Executive Mansion, it took a speedy twenty minutes for a message to reach army headquarters in Cuba. To protect the secrecy of troop movements, McKinley ordered military censorship in Florida and in New York City, home of the wire services. The press complained, but complied. On May 17, the Associated Press (AP) resolved “to loyally sustain the general government in the conduct of the war” by avoiding publication of “any information likely to give aid to the enemy or embarrass the government.”13

To expand the regular army, McKinley called up 200,000 volunteers from National Guard units; each state was given a quota based on population. The commander-in-chief personally chose officers, considering party obligations, competence, and his theme of national unity. Most famously he gave commands to former Confederates, General “Fightin’ Joe” Wheeler and Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of General Robert E. Lee who had surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865. The troops’ lack of preparation was remarked upon by Kansas newspaper editor William Allen White. “The principal martial duty the National Guards had to perform before they were mustered out,” noted White, “was to precede the fire company and follow the Grand Army squad in the processions on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.” White was confident that American citizen soldiers, as clumsy as they were, soon would be transformed into a disciplined regiment, a “human engine of death.”14

On the first of May, George Dewey sailed his fleet from Hong Kong to the Philippines and into Manila Bay. He gave the order “You may fire when ready, Gridley,” and oversaw the efficient destruction of Spain’s Pacific naval force without losing a single American sailor. Ships from the British, French, and German navies witnessed his triumph. As Dewey’s fleet attacked, a British naval band showed their support by playing “The Star Spangled Banner,” a song whose lyrics had been composed by an American as the British bombarded Baltimore in the War of 1812. The Germans, with their five warships in Manila Bay, proved more troublesome as time went on, making clear their interest in any available islands. The British for their part much preferred the United States as a partner in the Pacific to Germany. To control information from his end, Dewey cut the transoceanic cable, which meant that news of his victory was transmitted through Hong Kong and reached the United States on May 7. The dramatic reports of Joseph L. Stickney of the New York Herald, who blurred the line between reporter and participant by serving as Dewey’s aide during the battle, Edward W. Harden of the New York World and the Chicago Tribune, and John McCutcheon, cartoonist of the Chicago Record made Dewey a national hero. Quick to capitalize on the victory, entrepreneurs slapped Dewey’s picture or name on songs, dishes, shaving mugs, baby rattles, neckties, and chewing gum.15

McKinley adopted a public face of reluctance and uncertainty about the Philippines while he moved to take control. He remarked that “old Dewey” would have saved him a lot of trouble if he had sailed away once he defeated the Spanish fleet. Although certainly true, McKinley followed up Dewey’s victory by sending 20,000 troops under General Wesley Merritt to the islands. The president decided, “While we are conducting war and until its conclusion, we must keep all we get. When the war is over we must keep what we want.” He told committed expansionist Henry Cabot Lodge that he had doubts about keeping all of the islands, but “we are to keep Manila.” The president continued, “If, however, as we go on it is made to appear desirable that we should retain all, then we will certainly do it.” Over the next several months, Senator Lodge and his fellow jingoes dedicated themselves to make it “appear desirable.” As for American troops, they were shipped overseas on an open-ended mission with inadequate intelligence. Caught by surprise, the War Department could provide Merritt’s staff with only an encyclopedia article on the Philippines. Even so, Lt. Col. Edward C. Little of the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment, had a good idea of their objective. He told his men, “We go to the far away islands of the Pacific to plant the Stars and Stripes on the ramparts where long enough has waved the cruel and merciless banner of Spain.”16

On their way to the Philippines, U. S. forces stopped to take the island of Guam from Spanish officers who didn’t know they were at war. At the same time, McKinley stepped up plans to acquire the Hawaiian Islands. The president told his secretary, “We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is manifest destiny.”17 Five years earlier, U.S. marines and warships had provided support for the overthrow of Queen Lili’uokalani led by pro-American plantation owners. Urging annexation during the war with Spain, Senator Lodge made the case that if the United States didn’t take the islands now someone else would, an argument that he would use again regarding the Philippines. Congress made Hawaii a U.S. territory by joint resolution despite petitions of protest from Hawaiians. With the islands of Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines, the United States would have the refueling bases for naval and merchant ships in the Pacific so desired by expansionists. The U.S. defeat of Spanish forces in Cuba in mid-July enhanced U.S. dominance over the Caribbean.

In the Philippines, the big problem for the U. S. military was not Spain, but the army of Filipinos headed by the twenty-seven year old Emilio Aguinaldo. Spanish colonial administrators had faced a growing nationalist movement led in 1897 by Aguinaldo who declared the Philippines independent, named himself president, and called for rebellion. When Spain began to use the same repressive tactics it used in Cuba, Aguinaldo accepted a truce, which included his exile to Hong Kong. He remained there until Dewey had him returned to the Philippines to help the Americans in their fight against Spain. In short order, Aguinaldo resurrected an army, took control of all of the islands with the exception of Manila, a few ports, and the areas inhabited by Muslims, issued a declaration of independence, and set up an elite-dominated government with a national assembly of lawyers, doctors, educators, and writers. Then U. S. army troops arrived, carrying instructions that they were not to share authority in the islands with the Filipinos. General Thomas M. Anderson sent Aguinaldo a message: “General Anderson wishes you to inform your people that we are here for their good and that they must supply us with labor and material at the current market prices.”18

Recognizing the Filipino people as the real threat, the American command worked out a deal with the Spaniards to stage a mock battle of Manila on August 13, 1898. They would shoot at each other and then Spain would surrender before the Philippine Army of Liberation could take part. As the Americans raised their flag over Manila, the outraged Filipinos cut off the city’s water supply. General Merritt was forced to negotiate and allow Filipinos access to their capital city. Merritt sailed for the Spanish-American peace conference held in Paris, leaving General Elwell S. Otis, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a veteran of Gettysburg and the Indian wars, in command. Relations between the Filipinos and the Americans were both tense and friendly. Manila was an “odd place,” wrote volunteer Wheeler Martin to his family in Idaho. “They cant talk english nor we can’t understand them,” but there lived “some of the prettyest women I ever saw in my life.” A number of U.S. soldiers, who referred to the Filipinos as “niggers” and “gugus,” expected deference from the “natives.” Filipinos, who knew something about the tragic history of Native Americans and African Americans, expressed their belief that it might be better to die fighting than live under U.S. control.19

Uncle Sam, wearing the badge “World’s Humane Agent,” considers what to do with the Philippines as Porto Rico and Cuba look on, July 1898, Charles L. Bartholomew, Minneapolis Journal. (Cartoons of the Spanish-American War by Bart, Minneapolis: Journal Printing Company, 1899)

Its victory over Spain meant that the United States had become a world power. “Our army’s greatest invasion of a foreign land was completely successful,” war correspondent Richard Harding Davis wryly concluded, “because the Lord looks after his own.” Other commentators were from “the Lord helps those who help themselves” school of analysis. McClure’s Magazine ran an article replete with statistics and charts showing that the United States had become so strong it could prevail in war against any combination of European nations. Blue and gray had fought together, celebrated McKinley. Theodore Roosevelt trumpeted the uniting in battle of the economic and social classes so divided by industrial strife between business and labor. The fashion magazine Vogue wasn’t so sure that class unity was a positive development. It expressed regret that “our democracy” required gentlemen to mingle with the other classes in military units, fearing that “constant contact with the rougher element … would affect a man’s character.” Spain, which had been so vilified in the weeks leading up to war, was now seen as gallant in defeat. The peoples of Cuba and the Philippines who the Americans had pledged to liberate began to be portrayed by the administration and the press as child-like, violent, incompetent, and untrustworthy.20

Campaign to Keep the Philippines

As the peace talks with Spain began in the fall of 1898, McKinley announced that he would make a speaking tour to “sound out” opinion on what to do with the Philippines. His real purpose was to build support for keeping them. In fifty-seven appearances, McKinley linked patriotism with holding the islands. At train stops, he frequently commented with pleasure on seeing children waving “the glorious old banner of the free.” He also sought approval to keep troops in the Pacific, even though, as Democratic leaders pointed out, the men had enlisted to free Cuba. McKinley’s aides made sure that his appearances in mid-western towns reached a wide audience. They took along a train carload of reporters from the wire services, national magazines and big city newspapers. The president’s staff distributed advance copies of formal speeches along with numerous bulletins complete with human-interest anecdotes, which frequently appeared word for word as news stories. Newspaper editors got the message and reported that it looked like the United States would be keeping the Pacific islands.21

President McKinley greets the citizens of Alliance, Ohio, from the rear platform of his train, 1900. (Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-102871)

McKinley struck two major themes, unity and progress, as he spoke to cheering crowds in Iowa. To the people of Clinton, he said, “North and South have been united as never before. People who think alike in a country like ours must act together.” He suggested that where war and foreign policy were concerned politics should stop at the water’s edge. At Denison, he said, “Partisanship has been hushed, and the voice of patriotism alone is heard throughout the land.” In Chariton, he spoke of the peaceful acquisition of Hawaii in addition to the Spanish territories. “And, my fellow-citizens, wherever our flag floats, wherever we raise that standard of liberty, it is always for the sake of humanity and the advancement of civilization,” proclaimed McKinley. “Territory sometimes comes to us when we go to war for a holy cause, and whenever it does the banner of liberty will float over it and bring, I trust, blessings and benefits to all the people.” At Hastings, the president was direct about the rewards of war: “We have pretty much everything in this country to make it happy. We have good money, we have ample revenues, we have unquestioned national credit; but we want new markets, and as trade follows the flag, it looks very much as if we were going to have new markets.” To the people of Arcola, Illinois, the president spelled out what it meant to have foreign markets: “When you cannot sell your broom-corn in our own country, you are glad to send the surplus to some other country, and get their good money for your good broom-corn.” When McKinley returned to Washington, he remarked that “the people” seemed to expect that the United States would keep all of the Philippines.22

Pioneer Uncle Sam plows Civilization into the Philippine Field behind Justice and Humanity without a Filipino in sight. September 1898. Charles L. Bartholomew, Minneapolis Journal. (Cartoons of the Spanish-American War by Bart, Minneapolis: Journal Printing Company, 1899)

The administration had wanted Manila as a base and decided early on to hold the island of Luzon to protect the capital city. When the Navy argued that it would be better to have all of the islands, McKinley agreed. He accepted General F. V. Greene’s pro-expansion report on the commercial opportunities of the islands. Numerous articles and books about “our new possessions” outlined their potential for supplying Americans with coffee, sugar, and mineral wealth. Washington instructed U.S. authorities in the Philippines not to promise anything to “the natives” or to treat them as partners, but to avoid an outright conflict. For their part, Aguinaldo and his supporters, committed to the goal of independence, were divided on how best to proceed, unsure whether to ask for American protection of their independence or formal recognition. 23

“Uncle Sam to Little Aguinaldo — See Here Sonny, Whom Are You Going to Throw Those Rocks At? September 1898. Charles L. Bartholomew, Minneapolis Journal. (Cartoons of the Spanish-American War by Bart, Minneapolis: Journal Printing Company, 1899)

McKinley organized the Peace Commission so that expansionists would dominate the delegation to Paris, carefully including prominent Senators since the Senate would have to ratify any treaty. During their deliberations, the commissioners were briefed by General Charles A. Whittier, who said that, based on his meetings with Aguinaldo, the Filipino leader would not be difficult to manage. Furthermore, he reassured them as to “the ease with which good soldiers could be made out of the natives, provided they were led by white officers.”24 With Spain, the commissioners negotiated a treaty which gave the United States control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and for twenty million dollars, the Philippine Islands.

Shortly after the president signed the treaty, but before it was submitted to the Senate for ratification in late December 1898, he sent orders to General Otis in the Philippines announcing that “the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation.” McKinley continued, “In the fulfillment of this high mission, supporting the temperate administration of affairs for the greatest good of the governed, there must be sedulously maintained the strong arm of authority, to repress disturbance and to overcome all obstacles to the bestowal of the blessings of good and stable government upon the people of the Philippine Islands under the free flag of the United States.” This elaborate message expressed the desired combination: a free United States and a stable Philippines. The War Department instructed Otis to “prosecute the occupation” with tact and kindness, avoiding confrontation with the insurgents by being “conciliatory but firm.” Aguinaldo, convinced that the Senate would reject the treaty because it so grievously violated American principles, maintained a siege of Manila. His envoy Felipe Agoncillo traveled to Paris where both sides at the peace talks ignored him. Agoncillo returned to Washington to make the case that the “greatest Republic of America” should recognize the first Republic of Asia or there would be conflict, but no official would see him.25

As McKinley’s plan to take the Philippines became clear, a number of Americans spoke out in opposition for a variety of reasons, some principled, some practical. Anti-imperialists included former presidents, the Democrat Grover Cleveland and the Republican Benjamin Harrison, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, labor leaders Samuel Gompers and Eugene V. Debs, philosopher William James, and writer William Dean Howells. Satirists Mark Twain and Peter Finley Dunne mocked the high-sounding rhetoric of humanitarianism and morality, which they saw as a cover for racism and greed. Dunne’s famous character, the barkeeper Mr. Dooley, said it was a case of hands across the sea and into someone’s pocket. African American leaders Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois believed that the Filipinos could govern themselves and certainly would do a better job than the United States judging by its record with non-white people at home. Other anti-imperialists were white supremacists who believed that any effort to prepare Filipinos for self-government would fail. Women’s rights groups, still fighting for the vote, sympathized with the Filipinos who faced the prospect of being governed without their consent. Those with strategic concerns pointed out that the United States always had depended on the Pacific Ocean as a barrier, protecting it from attack. Acquisition of hard-to-defend bases at Manila and Pearl Harbor would make the United States more vulnerable.26

Despite the organization of the Anti-Imperialist League with its 30,000 members, the Senate ratification of the peace treaty appeared likely. The economy was booming and the Republicans did well in the off-year elections. The president’s critics accused him of either being a genial hack, the tool of bosses and capitalists, or a mastermind, craftily forging an empire by trampling over the Constitution and Congress, a sure indication that they were demoralized and did not know how to challenge him. The president made another tour to promote his Philippines policy, this time through the South, where in Savannah he asked, “Can we leave these people, who, by the fortunes of war and our own acts, are helpless and without government, to chaos and anarchy, after we have destroyed the only government they have had?” He answered, “Having destroyed their government, it is the duty of the American people to provide for a better one.” The president dismissed as unpatriotic any suggestion that the American people were incapable of creating a new government for others. On February 6, 1899, the Senate ratified the treaty with one vote to spare, dividing largely along party lines, which meant that partisan politics may have had more to do with the outcome than the outbreak of fighting in the Philippines the day before.27

War in the Philippines

“Insurgent dead just as they fell,” 5 February 1899. (National Archives, III-AGA-3-22)

No one knows for sure who fired the first shot. The opening battle followed weeks during which both sides had engaged in provocations. Most accounts identify Americans from the 1st Nebraska Regiment as the ones who opened fire when three or four Filipinos failed to halt as ordered. But the story that first reached the Executive Mansion, courtesy of the New York Sun, reported that the insurgents had attacked. McKinley never wavered from this version, later elaborating on it by claiming that the attacking insurgents had violated a flag of truce and shot down U.S. soldiers while they treated wounded Filipinos. How the Filipinos came to be wounded went unexplained. The president was confident that the United States would easily and quickly pacify the islands. Reports of the first battle in which forty-four Americans and seven hundred Filipinos were killed helped to inspire such confidence. Washington called the conflict an insurrection; the Philippine Republic considered it a fight for independence.28

Between February and November 1899, Americans and Filipinos fought a conventional war with regular armies and set battles. The American forces maintained an average troop strength of 40,000, the Filipinos between 80,000 to 100,000 regulars. Military historian Brian McAllister Linn described the Filipino Army as intrepid and courageous with an impressive infantry, but suffering from inadequate training and lack of weapons and ammunition. The Americans had greater skills, effective and powerful weapons, and a navy that shut down coastal and island traffic. Late in the year, Filipino forces turned to guerrilla tactics designed to hit the Americans at their weak points. U.S. troops occasionally sighted and pursued the enemy, only to come upon farmers working hard in a field. Private Frederick Presher of New Jersey suspected they were “quick change artists,” but had no proof. Aguinaldo exercised less control over his forces in the guerrilla phase, and the fighting continued after he was captured in 1901. The Filipino strategy aimed to wear out the Americans and make their occupation too costly to continue.29

Emilio Aguinaldo (second seated man from right) and other insurgent leaders. (National Archives, 391-PI-34).

To carry out benevolent assimilation, the U.S. Army pursued a “carrot and stick” policy developed during the Civil War and Indian wars. It rewarded cooperation with reforms and punished opposition with coercion, destruction of property, and death. General Otis applied his significant administrative skills to civic action programs. McKinley established a Philippines Commission to visit the islands and determine what should be done to maintain “order, peace and the public welfare.” The commissioners reported that the Filipinos were not ready for independence. McKinley set up a second Commission, led by William Howard Taft, a fellow Republican from Ohio, to serve as the U.S. governing authority. The U.S. civilian and military authorities attempted to woo Filipino elites with promises of opportunity and privilege. General Arthur MacArthur ordered his soldiers to establish “friendly relations with the natives.”30 Otis, like McKinley, was confident of success because he mistakenly thought only a small percentage of Filipinos opposed American rule.

At home, millions of viewers saw the administration’s optimism about the war reflected in films. The new motion picture companies discovered that audiences were eager to watch dramatic scenes of their military forces in victorious action. The films, each less than a minute long, served as a “visual newspaper and as propaganda,” according to film historian Charles Musser. Some films featured actual footage of troops marching and ships sailing. Others were faked and called “reenactments.” For example, the box-office hit Battle of Manila Bay was made on top of a roof in New York City with cardboard ships floating in a table turned upside-down and filled with water. Thomas Edison’s company produced six reenactment films set in the Philippines and shot in New Jersey. In Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan, made in June 1899, white American soldiers wave the flag as they triumphantly defeat the Filipinos played by African Americans. Such films and others in which actors in blackface played Filipinos reinforced the perception that the war was about superior, white Americans subduing a dark and inferior enemy. Theater owners further enhanced the spectacle with the sound of gunfire or spreading smoke through the audience who would hiss at the enemy and cheer the raising of the American flag. Musser concludes that, during the war, the movie showmen “evoked powerful patriotic sentiments in their audiences, revealing the new medium’s ideological and propagandistic force.”31

Press reports from the Philippines indicated that victory might not be as imminent as the film reenactments or Otis’s official reports suggested. The military placed few restrictions on war correspondents, who traveled, ate, camped, and sometimes joined in combat operations with the troops. Reporters wrote that Otis “never visited the lines” and refused to heed the analysis of those at the front. In the popular magazine Collier’s Weekly, Frederick Palmer noted, “General Otis does not impart his plans to anybody either before or after they have failed.” One general told Palmer that he disagreed with Otis on strategy: “I want to lick the insurrectos first and reason with them afterward. He wants to reason with them and lick them at the same time.” In June 1899, correspondent John Bass, who reported for Harper’s Magazine, observed that the “whole population of the islands sympathizes with the insurgents” and that “the American outlook is blacker now than it has been since the beginning of the war.”32 Reporters, who for the most part endorsed expansionist policies, criticized what they saw as Otis’s ineffectiveness because they wanted the U.S. military to succeed.

Reporters also objected to what they saw as excessive censorship. The Army controlled the one telegraph line out of Manila and reviewed all press reports. Otis assured Washington that his censors allowed reporters to cable “established facts,” but not the “numerous baseless rumors circulated here tending to excite the outside world.” In the summer of 1899, the censor blocked a story reporting that General Henry Lawton thought it would take at least 75,000 troops to pacify the islands, a story that reinforced the impression that all was not going as well as Otis claimed. When correspondents objected, Otis threatened to expel or court-marital anyone who sent a formal letter of complaint from Manila. The frustrated reporters transmitted their complaint to the United States via Hong Kong and charged that censors clamped down on news not because it would harm operations but because it would upset people back home. They accused Otis of attempting to make things look better than they were by fixing casualty reports, overrating military accomplishments, and underestimating the Filipinos’ commitment to independence. The administration was implicated in these charges because it released Otis’s official reports, making it hard to tell, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, “whether Otis misled the administration or the administration misled the public on its own.” Even the expansionist press joined in the criticism, except the McKinley loyalists who argued that only the president could be in the position to know what news of the war was safe to report. The president announced that he would continue to support Otis’s censorship policies.33

Although soldiers and reporters tended to believe that Filipinos were inferior to Americans, some learned to respect their opponents’ tenacity. For example, Colonel Frederick Funston told a correspondent that the enemy was “an illiterate, semi-savage people, who are waging war, not against tyranny, but against Anglo-Saxon order and decency.” Palmer’s reporting, however, gave the Filipinos credit for effective fighting. “But the island of Luzon is large,” he wrote, “and the Lawton expedition, such is the excellence of Aguinaldo’s intelligence bureau, was not more than fairly started before the Filipino army appeared on the flank of MacArthur’s division opposite to where it was wanted and began taking pot shots at the worn and cynical Montana regiment.”34

“Our Boys entrenched against the Filipinos,”1900. (National Archives, 165-F5-16-13634)

William Oliver Trafton, a 22-year-old Texas cowhand who enlisted for adventure, referred to the enemy as savages, wild varmints, and Indians. When he endured more hardship than adventure, he developed some admiration for the Filipinos. Before a battle Trafton talked with his friend:

He says, “Hell, they sure won’t kill only 40 of us.”

I says, “You told me that we could whip the whole thing in two weeks.”

He says, “Haven’t we licked them every time that we have had a fight?”

I says, “Yes, but the damn fools won’t stay whipped.”35

Like many Americans, Trafton had underestimated the Filipinos’ determination to resist.

The Debate over Empire

The resistance of the Filipinos to U.S. rule required some adjustment in the administration’s presentation of its policy. McKinley still portrayed the American cause as humanitarian, expressing his sorrow that certain “foolish” Filipinos had failed to recognize the benefits of American generosity. A year after the sinking of the Maine, McKinley stood in the Mechanics’ Hall in Boston, the capital of the anti-imperialist movement, before portraits of Washington, Lincoln, and himself labeled “Liberators,” to explain to an audience of almost six thousand that the United States sought to emancipate the Philippines.“No imperial designs lurk in the American mind,” he asserted. Dismissing controversy, McKinley said it was not “a good time for the liberator to submit important questions concerning liberty and government to the liberated while they are engaged in shooting down their rescuers.” Ironically, the news that the Filipinos were fighting for their independence was used to justify the argument that they weren’t ready for it. With exasperation, the anti-imperialist Nation commented, “McKinley is one of the rare public speakers who are able to talk humbug in such a way as to make their average hearers think it excellent sense, and exactly their idea.”36

As opposition to the war grew at home, McKinley linked support for the troops with support for his policies. The president spoke at the August homecoming of the Tenth Pennsylvania Regiment in Pittsburgh. He expressed his confidence in General Otis, his praise for the troops who served their country “in its extremity,” and his disdain for critics who said the soldiers should be brought home. He argued that without U.S. soldiers, the Philippines would be in chaos and suffering under the rule of “one man, and not with the consent of the governed.” Here he somehow implied that the Filipinos themselves prevented the establishment of “the consent of the governed,” but in the same speech he stated that the goal was the creation of a government there under the “undisputed sovereignty” of the United States. The most dramatic moment of the ceremony came when McKinley slowly read a list of the regiments engaged in the Philippines: “First California, First Colorado, First Idaho, Fifty-first Iowa, Twentieth Kansas, Thirteenth Minnesota, First Montana, First Nebraska, First North Dakota, Second Oregon, Tenth Pennsylvania, First South Dakota, First Tennessee, Utah Artillery ….” As he did, the soldiers of Pennsylvania roared their appreciation for each regiment. By celebrating unity with a roll call of the states, the president, with the help of cheering soldiers, could drown out dissent.37

President McKinley reviews the state militia in Los Angeles, 1901. (Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-122820).

McKinley and his fellow expansionists linked national glory to power and economic interests. Just before he left on another autumn tour to promote his policies, the president privately told his secretary, George Cortelyou, “one of the best things we ever did was to insist upon taking the Philippines and not a coaling station or an island, for if we had done the latter we would have been the laughing stock of the world. And so it has come to pass that in a few short months we have become a world power.” The president, who tended to be less specific about American power in public, left the more assertive statements to his supporters. In Collier’s Weekly, Lodge made the persuasive case that if left alone, the Philippines would be vulnerable to takeover by some European power not bothered by issues of self-government. He described the islands as rich in natural resources and a large potential market “as the wants of the [Filipinos] expand in the sunshine of prosperity, freedom and civilization.” Moreover, the islands provided access to even greater markets in China. “Will the American people reject this opportunity?” Lodge asked. “Will they throw away all this trade, and all this wealth?” He didn’t think so.38

The expansionists mustered racial arguments to justify U.S. policies. Senator Albert J. Beveridge told the Senate that race was more powerful than the Constitution. “God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. No!” he declared. “He has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns.”39 Without U.S. control, Lodge predicted “bloody anarchy” among the eight million people of many different races and tribes speaking fifty or sixty languages and dialects on the 1,725 islands of the Philippines. He denounced Aguinaldo as “an irresponsible Chinese Mestizo” (Aguinaldo’s maternal grandfather was Chinese) and a “self-seeking dictator of the ordinary half-breed type” leading one portion of a tribe in rebellion. Theodore Roosevelt compared the Filipino insurgency to the Indian wars when he accepted the Republican vice-presidential nomination in 1900; the parallels, he declared, were so “exact” that self-government to the Philippines “would be like granting self-government to an Apache reservation under some local chief.” War correspondent John Bass shared some of the racial views of the expansionists, but was less confident that the use of force in the Philippines would succeed. Writing in Harper’s Magazine about the Moros or Muslims of the islands of Sulu and Mindinao, he predicted that these people, like the Native Americans, would succumb eventually to the superior race. In the meantime, although their “land of promise” could flourish with tobacco and coffee plantations, it was best to leave the Moros with their wives and their Koran alone, concluded Bass. If they were forced to change, he correctly predicted, they would fight.40

Much was made of manly duty. In Madison, Wisconsin, McKinley announced that, since the army and navy had “brought us” new territories, Americans must meet their responsibilities “with manly courage, respond in a manly fashion to manly duty, and do what in the sight of God and man is just and right.” Theodore Roosevelt, advocate of the strenuous life, insisted that military service toughened American manhood, which too much civilization tended to undermine. American men, in particular, had an obligation to set an example. “The eyes of the world are upon us,” declared Philippines Commissioner Dean C. Worcester, recalling Puritan founder John Winthrop in a speech before prominent Chicagoans. Quoting Rudyard Kipling’s new poem, “The White Man’s Burden,” Worcester called for Americans to take up their imperial responsibilities over their “new-caught, sullen peoples, half-devil and half-child.”41

As later recalled by a minister, McKinley’s most quoted explanation for his Philippines policy was oddly personal. Speaking to a delegation of Methodists in 1899, he insisted that he had not wanted the Philippines and “when they came to us, as a gift from the gods, I did not know what to do with them.” He described praying on his knees for guidance when it came to him that it would be “cowardly and dishonorable” to give the islands back to Spain, “bad business” to give them to commercial rivals Germany and France, and impossible to leave them to “anarchy and misrule” under unfit Filipinos. “There was nothing left for us to do,” he concluded, “but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them.” In this account of divine guidance, McKinley neglected to mention that many Filipinos were Roman Catholic or that the Philippines had a university older than Harvard. This explanation, nevertheless, summed up the key principled, pragmatic, and prejudiced justifications of the president’s imperial policy.42

Anti-imperialists also cited principles and national self-interest to argue against U.S. policy in the Philippines. To state the opposing position, Collier’s Weekly invited Republican George F. Hoar, the respected senior Senator of Massachusetts and Lodge’s counterpart. The debate, Hoar argued, was between republic and empire, between liberty and slavery, between the Declaration of Independence and imperialism. Standing by its traditional principles, the United States had become “the strongest, freest, richest nation on the face of the earth.” Americans would deny their own heritage, he asserted, if instead of dealing with the people of the Philippines as Christians who desired independence, they treated them as “primitives to be subdued so that their land might be used as a stepping-stone to the trade of China.” Other anti-imperialists used satire to contrast U.S. policy with Christian values. William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., the son of the noted abolitionist, rewrote a popular hymn.

Then onward, Christian soldier! Through field of crimson gore,

Behold the trade advantages beyond the open door!

The profits on our ledgers outweigh the heathen loss;

Set thou the glorious stars and stripes above the ancient cross!

The New York Evening Post justified such opposition, saying, “Anti-Imperialism is only another name for old-fashioned Americanism.”43

For imperialists and anti-imperialists interested in expanding American trade in the Pacific, the debate centered on the question whether the Filipinos on their own were capable of providing the Americans with the economic opportunities they wanted. In his Annual Message, now called the State of the Union address, President McKinley told the nation that the Filipinos “are a race quick to learn,” but “should be helped … to a more scientific knowledge of the production of coffee, india rubber, and tropical products, for which there is demand in the United States.” The anti-imperialist Senator George Turner of Washington acknowledged the vast interests in Asia, but pointed out that if Manila became a great trading port, it would be at the expense of American ports on the Pacific coast. “It will profit principally a motley population of foreigners, for whom we care nothing,” Turner concluded. He suggested that, by letting the Filipinos govern themselves, the United States could then make commercial treaties with the islands without the burdens of governing. Even Senator Hoar desired access to the Pacific; he simply objected to the means by which the United States was obtaining it. So did the editors of Harper’s Weekly, who felt that the United States had made a mistake in the Philippines. Echoing the president, however, they concluded that once the country was at war, everyone must pull together to support the troops.44

Also fueling anti-imperialist anger was the perception that the administration had abused its power and deceived the public. Senator Hoar believed that the American people had been misled when they were told that the Filipinos were “barbarous and savage” and had made “an unprovoked attack … upon our flag.” Referring to “McKinley’s War,” anti-imperialists charged the president with waging war by military authority, not a congressional declaration. Mark Twain thought that the American people and the Filipinos were being “sold a bill of goods,” featuring two different brands of civilization. “For home consumption,” he thought, the “blessings of civilization”—justice, gentleness, Christianity, law and order, temperance, liberty, equality, education—were prettily and attractively displayed. For export to “the heathen market,” in contrast, “civilization” meant blood, tears, destruction, and loss of freedom. The war, he felt, betrayed the Filipinos and the “clean young men” sent to fight them. Twain tried to imagine what the Filipinos thought: “There must be two Americas: one that sets the captive free, and one that takes a once-captive’s new freedom away from him, and picks a quarrel with him with nothing to found it on; then kills him to get his land.” He said he wished he could see how the United States was going to get out of what had become “a mess, a quagmire.”45

The debate over the war became more politicized in the 1900 presidential election. The Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan called for Congress to consider granting independence to the Philippines. Anti-imperialist and philosopher William James hoped that if the Filipinos held out long enough, Americans would come to their senses and reject “imperialism and the idol of a national destiny, based on marital excitement and mere ‘bigness.’” The administration and the military condemned the anti-imperialists for, as they saw it, encouraging the Filipinos to resist by denouncing U.S. policies. Taft thought with justification that the insurgents would fight on in hope of a Democratic victory in November.46 Bryan centered much of his campaign on the Philippine issue, declaring it a betrayal of principles and a violation of the sacred mission of America. McKinley spoke of jobs and economic growth. Roosevelt, with his escort of armed cowboys, campaigned for virile, nationalistic Republicanism. At his second inauguration in March 1901, McKinley began his speech talking about currency and ended with the Philippines. “We are not waging war against the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands. A portion of them are making war against the United States,” he declared. “By far the greater part of the inhabitants recognize American sovereignty and welcome it as a guaranty of order and of security for life, property, liberty, freedom of conscience, and the pursuit of happiness.”47

This cartoon in the May 12, 1900 issue of Judge showed Bryan with an axe and McKinley with the flag. The caption reads “Take Your Choice—Do you want a man who, having raised the stars and stripes in our new possessions, will maintain them with dignity; or a man who will cut down “Old Glory” and make us the laughing stock of the world?” Victor Gillam, artist. (Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-5391)

After McKinley’s re-election, U.S. forces escalated the repression. In May 1900, Otis had been succeeded by MacArthur who rejected “benevolent assimilation” and with it the belief that most Filipinos really wanted American rule. In December, MacArthur ordered U.S. forces to wage war against the civilian population in hostile areas. The Americans employed torture, executed prisoners, raped women, looted villages, and destroyed the rural economy. The most effective way to punish a guerrilla fighter, explained General Robert P. Hughes, was to attack his women and children. Funston tricked Aguinaldo into surrender by pretending to be a prisoner of disguised Filipino scouts, entering the leader’s camp, and taking him captive. Aguinaldo called for the end of resistance; several of his generals surrendered and many guerrillas went home. Where the fighting continued, both sides carried out atrocities. In Batangas province in 1901 and 1902, the Americans used reconcentration camps that had caused such outrage when Spain used them in Cuba. An estimated 200,000 Filipinos died from disease and starvation. The punitive policies succeeded in breaking the resistance. Colonel Arthur Murray, who had opposed brutal actions that would make enemies out of civilians assumed to be friendly, concluded that if he had it to do over, he would have had done “a little more killing and considerably more burning.”48

The conciliation side of U. S. policy was the responsibility of Taft, who was confident of the ability of the United States to bring justice and order to the islands. He believed that once laws governing land, mining, banking, and transportation were in place and schools, roads, and hospitals were built, enterprise and prosperity would follow. Yet, he was dogged by problems everywhere. The Filipinos were ignorant and superstitious, he reported. “We shall have to do the best we can with them.” Taft’s deeper frustrations were reserved for his fellow Americans. He condemned the U.S. military officers who treated the Filipinos with cruelty and prejudice, because such behavior inspired more recruits for the insurgents. To Secretary of War Elihu Root, Taft complained about the behavior of U. S. civilians. “You know we have the rag tag and bob tail of Americans, who are not only vicious but stupid,” wrote Taft. “They are most anxious to have Congress give an opportunity to open this country and develop it, but instead of facilitating a condition of peace and good feeling between the Americans and the Filipinos, they are constantly stirring up trouble.” Taft, who was trying to win over the Filipino upper class, despaired when a visiting congressman announced at a press interview in Manila that the Filipinos were “nothing but savages, living a savage life and utterly incapable of self government and without the slightest knowledge of what independence is.” The same attitudes about Filipino inferiority that expansionists had expressed to justify the takeover now interfered with the administration’s efforts to carry it out.49

Taft also had to respond to Washington’s concerns about news reports that described Manila as a den of sin, drunkenness, and prostitution. In contrast to the administration’s claims that its purpose was to bring Christian uplift to the Philippines, the occupation of the islands instead seemed to have corrupted the morals of U.S. troops. Taft blamed the negative press for upsetting the people at home, but had to admit the characterization was valid. He defensively noted that Manila at least was more sober than American cities of its size. The army, alarmed by the spread of venereal disease, established a system for examining prostitutes and confining the diseased to hospitals. As historian Kristin Hoganson has noted, such news prompted anti-imperialists to challenge the administration’s portrayal of its policy as a civilizing mission. Critics declared that instead of enhancing masculine nobility, imperialism led to degeneracy or “going native.”50

At home, McKinley concentrated on spreading the word of progress. In his last speech given in September at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, the president praised the fair for recording “the world’s advancement.” Extolling industrial growth, commercial advantage, and new communications technology, he declared, “Isolation is no longer possible or desirable.” For the instruction and entertainment of millions of fair-goers, the fair directors constructed a Filipino Village–their idealized version of the Philippines–alongside Mexican, Hawaiian, Cuban, Eskimo, and Japanese villages. To enter the eleven-acre Filipino Village, fair-goers passed U.S. soldiers on parade at the gates. Once inside they saw one hundred Filipinos at work and play, thatched huts, water buffalo pulling carts, a Catholic church, and a theater where a Filipino band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The organizers included representatives of the more “primitive tribes” having decided against putting Aguinaldo on display. The exposition’s artificial global order was shattered when Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist and the son of Polish immigrants, shot the president. After McKinley died eight days later, anarchists and socialists were arrested around the country, demands escalated for immigration restriction, and the price of souvenirs at the exposition skyrocketed.51

Peaceful Filipinos display economic productivity in the Philippine Village at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, September 1901. Frances Benjamin Johnston, photographer. (Library of Congress, Lot 2967 (G) Box 1)

Theodore Roosevelt’s administration defended the ongoing conflict in the Philippines and the extreme methods used to fight it. Under pressure from Senator Hoar, the Senate investigated the conduct of the war in April and May 1902. News stories of the reconcentration program and torture practices had appeared in the press. Anti-imperialists bypassed military censorship in the Philippines by publishing eye-witness accounts of atrocities reported by returning soldiers. Chaired by Senator Lodge, the hearings led to light fines for a few officers and a court martial for General Jacob H. Smith, who had ordered his troops to kill every person over ten years old on the island of Samar, which ended in a reprimand. Lodge said that he regretted the atrocities but blamed American behavior on Filipino culture. “I think they have grown out of the conditions of warfare, of the war waged by the Filipinos themselves, a semicivilized people, with all the tendencies and characteristics of Asiatics, with the Asiatic indifference to life, with the Asiatic treachery and the Asiatic cruelty, all tinctured and increased by three hundred years of subjection to Spain,” he explained. Roosevelt dismissed reports of U.S. atrocities, calling the American troops’ behavior at the massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee worse. Moreover, he denounced the army’s critics “who walk delicately and live in the soft places of the earth” for dishonoring the “strong men who with blood and sweat” suffered and died “to bring the light of civilization into the world’s dark places.”52

A Century of Selling Empire

On July 4, 1902, President Roosevelt declared the war in the Philippines over. The editors of the Washington Post noted that, between the two of them, Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt had tried to pronounce the war over six times already. The Philippine Commission defined any continuing Filipino insurgence as “banditry.”53 Forty-two hundred Americans had died along with hundreds of thousands of Filipinos. The fighting between Filipinos and Americans continued until 1910 and against the Moros on Mindinao until 1935. Six years later, in December 1941, the Japanese attacked the Philippines and defeated U.S. forces led by General Arthur MacArthur’s son, General Douglas MacArthur, who vowed to return and liberate the islands. Aguinaldo, his father’s old adversary, sided with the Japanese. After World War II, the United States granted the Philippines independence on July 4, 1946, but kept major naval and air bases on the islands until the early 1990s. Aguinaldo, ever the survivor, marched in the first Philippine Independence Day parade waving the revolutionary flag he first had raised in 1898.

President McKinley had announced a new global role for the United States when he acquired the Philippines. The United States ran its colony in the interests of powerful Americans, specifically those with influence in Washington. “Any connection between these interests and those of the Filipino people at large—or, for that matter, of the American people at large—was basically coincidental,” concluded historian H. W. Brands. The United States had become a Pacific power, but the costs of running a colony exceeded the profits. The experience of the Americans in the Philippines reinforced their preference for economic expansion in Asia without direct imperialism. McKinley nevertheless did not hesitate to assert U.S. interests. For instance, in 1900, the president dispatched 5000 American troops from the Philippines to China to join the other imperial powers who were dedicated to putting down the Chinese government-backed rebellion against foreign influence known as the Boxer Rebellion. By ordering U.S. forces to fight overseas against a recognized government without congressional approval, McKinley had created a new presidential power. And he had proven Senator Lodge to be right. The acquisition of the Philippines meant no other power could “shut the gates of China” on the United States and that included China.54

Uncle Sam spreads his coat tails to cover the Philippines, Hawaii, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, December 1898, Charles. L. Bartholomew, Minneapolis Journal. (Cartoons of the Spanish-American War by Bart, Minneapolis: Journal Printing Company, 1899)

McKinley, who, according to Root, “always had his way,” claimed to follow the will of the people as he shaped opinion. 55 He established the White House as the producer of news, and through the emerging mass media, delivered his messages which balanced principles and interests with something for almost everyone: gung-ho expansionists, do-gooders and missionaries, businessmen, and flag-waving audiences at train stations across the country. He presented the United States and himself as servants of a higher power, fulfilling an extended version of Manifest Destiny. He declared that “trade follows the flag” and the flag must be honored wherever it waved. Although he spoke of the benefits of new markets and enhanced prestige, McKinley assured Americans that this policy was not mainly one of self-interest. It was a “divine mission” in which Americans took on the responsibility of guiding and protecting Filipinos. Popular films, cartoons, and fair exhibits reinforced the official messages that such a mission meant profit and glory. At the same time, such assertions of America’s moral and material superiority were challenged by a drawn-out war, heavy loss of life, and reports of atrocities. Critics expressed concern that war for empire could damage the republic. And the argument made by anti-imperialists–that Americans should not just preach their democratic traditions overseas but actually practice them–would survive.

With gusto, President Theodore Roosevelt associated American expansion with the progress of civilization. It was the task of the “masterful race,” announced Roosevelt in 1901, to make the Filipinos “fit for self-government” or leave them “to fall into a welter of murderous anarchy.” In his Annual Message of 1902, he asserted that, as civilization had expanded in the last century, warfare had diminished between civilized powers. “Wars with uncivilized powers,” Roosevelt explained, “are largely mere matters of international police duty, essential for the welfare of the world.”56 It would be the job of his successors to define who was civilized and who was not.

To justify interventions elsewhere, future presidents would recall McKinley’s attractive version of U.S. involvement in the Philippines. In 1950, President Harry Truman used the Philippine example to defend U.S. intervention in the Korean War. “We helped the Philippines become independent,” he announced in a radio address, “and we have supported the national aspirations to independence of other Asian countries.” The United States, Truman explained, stood for freedom against communist imperialism. That was why, he announced following the outbreak of war in Korea, he had ordered the expansion of U.S. commitments to the Chinese nationalists on Taiwan, to the French rulers of Vietnam, and to the American-sponsored government of the Philippines, which received U.S. military and CIA advisors along with economic aid to assist it in putting down the radical nationalist Huk movement. Notably, Truman presented these three nationalist struggles in Asia as Cold War conflicts. Such a portrayal required little explanation of what was actually happening in these countries and it positioned the United States as their protector in a global struggle defined by Truman as a battle between freedom and totalitarianism.57

“A new totalitarian threat has risen against civilization,” announced President George W. Bush in a speech before the Philippine Congress in October 2003. “America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people,” declared the president. “Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule.” As he rallied support for U.S. leadership in the global war on terror, Bush asserted that the Middle East, like Asia, could become democratic as illustrated by the Republic of the Philippines six decades ago. Not only did President Bush gloss over the inconvenient facts of the past, but he also put a positive face on the present. Uneasy about instability in the Philippines, Bush announced a joint American-Filipino five-year plan to “modernize and reform” the Philippine military. U.S. policymakers were worried about Abu Sayyaf, a terror group thought to have links to Al Qaeda and Islamic extremism. A few thousand U.S. marines were already in the southern Philippines assisting local forces in fighting an Islamic separatist movement with roots going back to the resistance against the Americans a century before.58

McKinley’s portrayal of American rule in the Philippines as the “advancement of civilization,” and “a guaranty of order and of security for life, property, liberty, freedom of conscience, and the pursuit of happiness” held its appeal. His successors also would manipulate media coverage, present war as a humanitarian mission, and call for support of the troops when the “natives” resisted and criticism on the home front grew louder. The propaganda designed to build support for America’s first land war in Asia created an illusion of the United States as a benevolent liberator that lives on.

Susan A. Brewer is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She is the author of Why America Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009) and To Win the Peace: British Propaganda in the United States during World War II (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997).

Related articles

• Paul Kramer, Guantánamo: A Useful Corner of the World

• Jeremy Kuzmarov, American Police Training and Political Violence: From the Philippines Conquest to the Killing Fields of Afghanistan and Iraq

• Paul A. Kramer, The Military-Sexual Complex:Prostitution, Disease and the Boundaries of Empire during the Philippine-American War

• Paul A. Kramer, The Water Cure. An American Debate on torture and counterinsurgency in the Philippines—a century ago

• Paul A. Kramer, Race-Making and Colonial Violence in the U.S. Empire:The Philippine-American War as Race War

• Catherine Lutz, US Military Bases on Guam in Global Perspective

• Catherine Lutz, US Bases and Empire: Global Perspectives on the Asia Pacific

Notes

1 This article first appeared as Chapter 1, “The Divine Mission”: War in the Philippines,” in Why America Fights: Patriotism and War Propaganda from the Philippines to Iraq (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 14-45 and is reprinted in revised form here with the permission of Oxford University Press.

2 “He is evidently going to make unity—a re-united country—the central thought.” Diary of George B. Cortelyou, 9 December 1898, Box 52, George B. Cortelyou Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Anders Stephanson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansion and the Empire of Right (New York; Hill and Wang, 1996), 66-111; Matthew Frye Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917 (New York: Hill & Wang, 2000), 221-65; For an excellent historiography on the United States as empire see Paul A. Kramer, “Power and Connection: Imperial Histories of the United States in the World,” American Historical Review 116 (December 2011): 1348-1391.

3 Ida Tarbell, “President McKinley in War Times,” McClure’s Magazine, July 1898, 209-24; Stephen Ponder, “The President Makes News: William McKinley and the First Presidential Press Corps, 1897-1901,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 24 (Fall 1994): 823-37; For an outstanding collection of political cartoons see Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, Helen Toribio, The Forbidden Book: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons (San Francisco: T’boli Publishing, 2004).

4 James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol. 2, 3rd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1899), 252-54; Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961), 374.

5 Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000 (New York: Random House, 1987), 150.

6 Walter LaFeber, The American Search for Opportunity, 1865-1913 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 133, 138.

7 Robert Hannigan, The New World Power: American Foreign Policy, 1898-1917 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 1-16; Thomas Schoonover, Uncle Sam’s War of 1898 and the Origins of Globalization (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2003), 98.

8 Robert Hilderbrand, Power and the People: Executive Management of Public Opinion in Foreign Affairs, 1897-1921 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981), 17-28.

9 Margaret Leech, In the Days of McKinley (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1959), 167-68.

10 Allan R. Millett and Peter Malowski, For the Common Defense: A Military History of the United States of America (New York: Free Press, 1994), 287-88.

11 LaFeber, American Search, 142-43; Lewis L. Gould, The Presidency of William McKinley (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1980), 77.

12 Louis A. Pérez, Jr., The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 10-12.

13 Hilderbrand, Power and the People, 32.

14 William Allen White, “When Johnny Went Marching Out,” McClure’s Magazine, June 1898, 198-205.

15 Leech, Days of McKinley, 209.

16 Leech, Days of McKinley, 238; Gould, Presidency of William McKinley, 101.

17 Gould, Presidency of William McKinley, 50.

18 Walter Millis, The Martial Spirit (1931; reprinted, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1989), 334.

19 Paul A. Kramer, “Race-Making and Colonial Violence in the U.S. Empire: The Philippine War as Race War,” Diplomatic History 30 (April 2006): 190; Paul A. Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the Philippines (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 102-5.

20 John Seelye, War Games: Richard Harding Davis and the New Imperialism (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2003), 275; F. W. Hewes, “The Fighting Strength of the United States,” McClure’s Magazine, July 1898, 280-87; Edna Woolman Chase and Ilka Chase, Always in Vogue (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1954), 47.

21 Hilderbrand, Power and the People, 36, 41.

22 William McKinley, Speeches and Addresses of William McKinley: From March 1, 1897 to May 30, 1900 (New York: Doubleday & McClure Co., 1900), 85, 97, 109, 113-14, 124.

23 Gould, Presidency of William McKinley, 132, 139; George B. Waldron, “The Commercial Promise of Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippines,” McClure’s Magazine, September 1898, 481-84.

24 H. Wayne Morgan, ed., Making Peace with Spain: The Diary of Whitelaw Reid, September-December 1898 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965), 215.

25 McKinley to Secretary of War, transmitted to General Otis, 21 December 1898; Adjutant General to Otis, 21 December 1898; Alger to Otis, 30 December 1898, Box 70, Cortelyou Papers; H. W. Brand, Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 48.

26 Robert L. Beisner, Twelve Against Empire: The Anti-Imperialists, 1898-1900 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Roger J. Bresnahan, In Time of Hesitation: American Anti-Imperialists and the Philippine-American War (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day, 1981).

27 Leech, Days of McKinley, 353; McKinley, “Speech at Banquet of Board of Trade and Associated Citizens,” Savannah, 17 December 1898, in Speeches, 174.

28 Diary, 5 February 1899, Box 52, Cortelyou Papers; McKinley, “Address Before the Tenth Pennsylvania Regiment,” Pittsburgh, 28 August 1899, in Speeches, 215.

29 Brian McAllister Linn, The Philippine War, 1899-1902 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2000), 34, 325; Glenn Anthony May, A Past Recovered (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day, 1987), 133.

30 Kramer, Blood of Government, 112-13.

31 Charles Musser, The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990), 225-61; Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan (Thomas A. Edison, Inc., 1899), (here); Nick Deocampo, “Imperialist Fiction: The Filipino in the Imperialist Imagery,” in The Philippine-American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream, 1899-1999, ed. Angel Velasco Shaw and Luis H. Francis (New York: New York University Press, 2002), 224-36; Amy Kaplan, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002), 146-60.

32 Linn, Philippine War, 132-36; Frederick Palmer, “The Campaign in Luzon,” Collier’s Weekly, 4 November 1899, 3.

33 Otis to Adjutant General, 17 January 1899, Box 71, Cortelyou Papers; Linn, Philippine War, 135, 325; Hilderbrand, Power and the People, 49.

34 Brands, Bound to Empire, 58; Palmer, “Campaign in Luzon,” 3.

35 William Oliver Trafton, We Thought We Could Whip Them in Two Weeks, ed. William Henry Scott (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day, 1990), 65-66.

36 McKinley, “Speech at Dinner of the Home Market Club,” Boston, 16 February 1899, in Speeches, 185-93; Nation, 23 February 1899, 140.

37 McKinley, “Address Before the Tenth Pennsylvania Regiment,” in Speeches, 211-17.

38 Diary, 17 September 1899, Box 52, Cortelyou Papers; Henry Cabot Lodge, “Shall We Retain the Philippines?” Collier’s Weekly, 10 February 1900, 4.

39 “Albert J. Beveridge’s Salute to Imperialism,” in Major Problems in American Foreign Relations, vol. 1, 4th ed., ed. Thomas G. Paterson and Dennis Merrill (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath, 1995), 425.

40 Lodge, “Shall We Retain,” 3; Walter L. Williams, “American Imperialism and the Indians,” in Indians in American History: An Introduction, ed. Frederick E. Hoxie and Peter Iverson (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, 1998), 244; John F. Bass, “Jolo and the Moros,” Harper’s Weekly, 18 November 1899, 1159.

41 Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 152-53; McKinley, “Speech at Madison, Wisconsin,” 16 October 1899, in Speeches, 318; Dean C. Worcester, “Some Aspects of the Philippine Question,” 15 November 1899, Hamilton Club of Chicago, Serial Publications. No. 13.

42 William McKinley, “William McKinley’s Imperial Gospel,” 1899, in Major Problems, ed. Paterson and Merrill, 424.

43 George B. Hoar, “Shall We Retain the Philippines?” Collier’s Weekly, 3 February 1900, 2-3; Alan McPherson, “Americanism against American Empire,” in Americanism: New Perspectives on the History of an Ideal, ed. Michael Kazin and Joseph A. McCartin (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 176.

44 William McKinley, “Annual Message,” 5 December 1899, (here); Speech of Hon. George Turner, U.S. Senate, 22-23 January 1900, Washington DC; Editorial, “The Country and Its War,” Harper’s Weekly, 3 June 1899, 540.

45 Hoar, “Shall We Retain,” 3; “Anti-Imperialist League Pamphlets,” Box 7, Moorfield Storey Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Mark Twain, “To the Person Sitting in Darkness,” February 1901, in Mark Twain’s Weapons of Satire: Anti-Imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War, ed. Jim Zwick (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1992), 22-39.

46 William Howard Taft to Elihu Root, 11 August 1900, Series 21, Reel 640, William Howard Taft Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Kramer, Blood of Government, 133.

47 McPherson, “Americanism,” 175; William McKinley, “Second Inaugural Address,” 4 March 1901, (here).

48 Linn, Philippine War, 221.

49 Taft to Root, 14 July 1900, Series 21, Reel 640, Taft Papers; Taft to Root, 14 October 1901, Container 164, Elihu Root Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

50 Root to Taft, 15 January 1901, Taft to Root, 17 January 1901, Root to Taft, 21 January 1901, and Root to McKinley, 24 January 1901, Series 21, Reel 640, Taft Papers; Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood, 180, 191.

51 “Extracts from President McKinley’s Last Speech,” 5 September 1901, Joseph Tumulty to Woodrow Wilson, 20 September 1919, Container 50, Joseph Tumulty Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Robert W. Rydell, All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876-1916 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 126-53.

52 Kramer, Blood of Government, 145-56; Roosevelt to the Secretary of War, 18 February 1902, Container 162, Root Papers.

53 Kramer, Blood of Government, 155.

54 Brands, Bound to Empire, 79; LaFeber, American Search, 177.

55 Leech, Days of McKinley, 384.

56 Theodore Roosevelt, “Annual Message,” 3 December 1901 and “Annual Message,” 2 December 1902, (here).

57 “President Truman’s Address,” 1 September 1950, Box 46, George M. Elsey Papers, Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri.

58 George. W. Bush, “Remarks by the President to the Philippine Congress,” 18 October 2003, (here); David E. Sanger, “Bush Cites Philippines as Model in Rebuilding Iraq,” New York Times, 19 October 2003.

Copyright Asia Pacific Journal 2013

The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Its Critics

October 22nd, 2013 by Global Research News

TPP批判 序論と要望書

by Sachie Mizohata and the Association of University Faculties

See the petition in English and Japanese.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement is a proposed trade pact that Japan is currently negotiating with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam (as of September 2013).  The TPP aims to increase the liberalization of economies in the Pacific region through abolition of tariffs on trade as well as reregulation.1  In 2008, the United States joined the talks “and has espoused a hard core complete free trade policy,” which has vastly expanded the scope of the negotiations.2  With both the US and Japan as participants, the pact would cover nearly 40% of the world’s economy.3  Japan officially joined one of final rounds of the negotiations in July 2013 in Malaysia, as the participating countries intend to finalize the TPP negotiations (at least partially) by the end of 2013.4

The TPP agreement affects not only trade issues, but also nontrade matters that immensely impact lives of citizens in all participating countries.5  The areas at stake include, for example:

  • domestic court decisions and international legal standards (e.g., overriding domestic laws on both trade and nontrade matters, foreign investors’ right to sue governments in international tribunals that would overrule the national sovereignty)
  • environmental regulations (e.g., nuclear energy, pollution, sustainability)
  • financial deregulation  (e.g., more power and privileges to the bankers and financiers)
  • food safety (e.g., lowering food self-sufficiency, prohibition of mandatory labeling of genetically modified products, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease)
  • Government procurement (e.g., no more buy locally produced/grown)
  • Internet freedom (e.g., monitoring and policing user activity)
  • labor (e.g., welfare regulation, workplace safety, relocating domestic jobs abroad)
  • patent protection, copyrights (e.g., decrease access to affordable medicine)
  • public access to essential services may be restricted due to investment rules (e.g., water, electricity, and gas)

For a brief explanation, see the video made by workers across the Pacific Rim (on right).

Although the TPP negotiations have been held in the name of the people, the draft texts have been shrouded in secrecy not only from the public, but also members of the Diet, and civil society, thereby precluding public scrutiny and public input.  Reportedly, the countries have signed up not to reveal the contents of the agreement for four years after the signing of the agreement. 6  All public information comes from leaked texts.  Bizarrely, the TPP makes a special exception to “a group of some 600 trade ‘advisers,’ dominated by representatives of big businesses.”7

The TPP is a Trojan horse, branded as a “free trade” agreement, but having nothing to do with fair and equitable treatment.  In reality, it is precisely “a wish list of the 1% ―a worldwide corporate power.”8  “Only 5 of its 29 chapters cover traditional trade matters, like tariffs or quotas.”9  “The other chapters enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them.”10  As the Japanese people have increasingly become concerned about its potential implications on their lives, some groups have voiced their objections to the TPP.

One such group is the Association of University Faculties (AUF), a Board which Seeks Japan’s Immediate Withdrawal from the TPP negotiations.  On April 10, 2013, some AUF members held a press conference, announcing that they had established the association and submitted a letter with an 839 signature petition to Prime Minister Abe to withdraw from the TPP negotiations.11  Since then, they have publicly warned against entering the negotiations, calculating estimated losses (see their website) due to the TPP and holding workshops and press conferences.  On September 14, the AUF plans to hold a symposium with the members of Japan Medical Association, Network of Lawyers who oppose the TPP, Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (or JA-Zenchu), Federation of Housewives, and other civic groups to explore how to stop the TPP.

Looking back at the history of TPP, Yonekura Hiromasa, chairman of Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation) said in October 26, 2010: “Japan will be left out as an orphan in the world” if we do not join the negotiations.12  Note that “Yonekura is also chairman of Sumitomo Chemical, which in 2010 signed a tie-up agreement with American agrichemical giant Monsanto.”13  Besides this orphan language, pro-TPP adherents used the kaikoku (opening the country) campaign, widely publicized by the mass media.  The then Prime Minister, Kan Naoto called the TPP “the third opening of the country.”14

The kaikoku rhetoric evokes the history of the US-Japan relationship and coercive unequal treaties.15  “The first opening” was at the arrival of the Black Ships of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, subsequently signing the US-Japan Treaty of Amity and Commerce with no tariff autonomy to the Japanese side.  “The second opening” refers to the US military occupation and its continuation to date.  After defeat in the Pacific War in 1945, Japan accepted the Potsdam Declaration, unconditional surrender, and occupation by the US military, subsequently signing the Security Treaty along with the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951.16

Obviously, both orphan and kaikoku languages are empty rhetoric.  Japan is no longer isolated under the sakoku foreign relations policy.  Rather, the country has been a World Trade Organization member since its creation of 1995.17  In addition, “actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low.”18  Thus, the removal of tariffs (e.g., 2 to 3% in the United States) will have little effect on exports.19

On November 11, 2011, Kan’s successor, Noda Yoshihiko of the Democratic Party announced Japan’s interest in joining the TPP negotiations.20  On December 16, 2012, Abe Shinzo’s Liberal Democratic Party took back power, in part by pledging not to enter the negotiations (see the famous poster), which was conducive to favorable electoral results.  Soon after winning the election, Abe announced Japan’s entrance to the negotiations on March 15, 2013, although groups of people warned him against the participation since Japan was required to accept all existing agreements made during prior negotiations by other countries, sight unseen.21

Professor Suzuki Nobuhiro at Tokyo University, former civil servant, informed by close confidants, reveals that the TPP scenario above had been well prepared by high-rank officials right after 3.11.22  Some career bureaucrats perversely saw 3.11 as a big opportunity; as the country was in a state of collective shock, they understood that it helps to hide away from public attention to advance the TPP negotiations behind closed doors.  Deceiving the public and the members of the Diet by participating in “meetings to gather necessary information prior to decision-making,” career bureaucrats privately negotiated deals on deregulation of auto, BSE, Post Office to satisfy “admission requirements” as demanded by the US, while selling out Japanese public interests.23

This secret history brings us to the thesis of Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine, which examines the use of “moments of collective trauma to engage in radical social and economic engineering” that would be almost impossible during normal less chaotic times.24  While Japan still reels from the Fukushima shock, the government is bent on trying “to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy―tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation.”25  Above all, this US-Japan history confirms the persistence of the “Servile Line” discussed by Magosaki Ukeru or “Client State” by Gavan McCormack.26

Amongst many woeful issues of the TPP mentioned above, the Japanese might need to pay special attention to two issues (for more details, see the AUF petition).  First, is Investor-State Dispute (ISD) resolution.  Public Citizen, a non-profit U.S.-based consumer rights advocacy group, explains: “Under this regime, foreign investors can skirt domestic courts and laws, and sue governments directly before tribunals of three private sector lawyers operating under World Bank and UN rules to demand taxpayer compensation for any domestic law that investors believe will diminish their ‘expected future profits.’” 27  The ISD issue is especially serious. Tsuruoka Kouji of the Foreign Ministry, TPP chief negotiator, has said that Japan will accept the inclusion of ISD in its trade deals for possible disputes with “undeveloped” countries.28  However, the ISD allows corporations to attack “developed” countries such as Japan or the US.  “Over $3 billion has been paid to foreign investors under U.S. trade and investment pacts, while over $14 billion in claims are pending under such deals, primarily targeting environmental, energy, and public health policies.”29  Also, this can be applied to “anything from government proceurement contracts and environmental protection to financial regulation.”30 See companies that could use such investor rights in the map.

Second, Japan’s nationalized health-care system is at stake.  The annual US-Japan Business Council (USJBC) held in Tokyo on November 8-9, 2012, issued a public announcement:  “USJBC companies can connect with Japanese industry and government to help shape transparent trade rules, standards and regulations in this dynamic region – particularly if Japan decides to pursue membership in TPP.”31  The USJBC’s chairman was Charles Lake II.  Note that he is chairman of the American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus (Aflac) Japan, whose company revenues were $16.6 billion in 2008, about 70% of them from Japan.32  If the government embraces lucrative privatization accepting the ISD system, it would be detrimental to Japan’s long cherished national health-care system.

In conclusion, we have reviewed this extraordinary agreement, which would ruinously reverse and rewrite the history of humanity with its repeated struggles for democracy, freedoms, human rights, and welfare.  As noted, “the secrecy of the Trans-Pacific Partnership process represents a huge assault on the principles and practice of democratic governance.”33  In translating the AUF’s “youbousho” as “petition,” I thought of another word: list of grievances.  One such formal set of letters was “Cahiers de Doléances” written in 1789, the year the French Revolution started.  Similarly, I thought of letters written by our ancestors on the eve of peasant uprisings in feudal Japan.  The AUF petition evokes such indignation of citizens as it brings the TPP under public scrutiny.

Notes

1 Though, some exceptions may be made, by keeping import tariffs on certain goods and services for 7 to 10 years.  See Nobuhiro Suzuki, “最悪の選択・TPP.許しがたい背信行為 (The TPP: the worst choice.  Perfidy that is hard to forgive),” Sekai, April 2013 (842), pp. 40-48.

2 James Simpson, “TPP a risky venture for Japan,” The Japan Times, March 12, 2013. 

3 Cherrie Lou Billones, “Japan and US reach agreements on auto exceptions in TPP,” The Japan Daily Press, March 6, 2013.

4 See here (accessed September 7, 2013).

5 Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy, “Obama’s Covert Trade Deal,” The New York Times, June 2, 2013; Dean Baker, “The Pacific free trade deal that’s anything but free,” The Guardian, August 27, 2012; On the site of Public Citizen, “More Power to Corporations to Attack Nations,” (accessed September 7, 2013).  Also, see www.exposethetpp.org (accessed September 7, 2013).

6 Satoshi Daigo’s blog. (accessed September 7, 2013).

7 Ibid.

8 Laurel Sutherlin, “What You Need to Know About a Worldwide Corporate Power Grab of Enormous Proportions,” AlterNet, 2012 (accessed Sepember 7, 2013).

9 Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy, 2013.

10 Laurel Sutherlin, 2012.

11 See here. (accessed Sepember 7, 2013).

12 See here.  (accessed Sepember 7, 2013).

13 Philip Brasor, “Japan’s farming could be going to seed,” The Japan Times, January 6, 2013.

14 Yasumi Iwakami. (accessed September 7, 2013).

15 Ibid. Also, Magosaki Ukeru.戦後史の正体 (The truth behind the postwar history). Tokyo: Sougensha, 2012.

16 Yasumi Iwakami.

17 See here. (accessed Steptember 7, 2013).

18 Dean Baker, 2012.

19 Ukeru Magosaki, “最悪の選択・TPP.国家主権投げ捨てる安倍政権 (The TPP: the worst choice.  The Abe administration that throws away the national sovereignty),” Sekai, April 2013 (842), pp. 49-54.

20 See here. (accessed September 7, 2013).

21 See here. (accessed September 7, 2013).

22 Nobuhiro Suzuki, 2013.

23 Ibid.

24 Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine. London: Penguin Books, 2007, p. 8.

25 Ibid., p. 7.

26 Gavan McCormack, “Japan’s Client State (Zokkoku) Problem,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 11, Issue 25, No. 2, June 24, 2013.

27 See here. (accessed September 7, 2013).

28 Magosaki Ukeru’s note.  (accessed September 7, 2013).

29 See here. (accessed September 7, 2013).

30 see here. (accessed, September 7, 2013).

31 See here. (accessed September 7, 2013). 

32 Daniel P Amos, “Aflac’s CEO Explains How He Fell for the Duck,” Harvard Business Review. Jan/Feb 2010, Vol. 88, Issue 1/2, pp. 131-134; Ukeru Magosaki, “最悪の選択・TPP.国家主権投げ捨てる安倍政権 (The TPP: the worst choice.  The Abe administration that throws away the national sovereignty),” Sekai, April 2013 (842), pp. 49-54.

33 Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy, 2013.

Copyright Asia Pacific Journal 2013

The notion of a “Libya” has ceased to have any meaningful practical application. As a concept that either refers to some degree of national unity, an imagined community, sovereignty, or the exercise of authority by a state over the territory within its borders, “Libya” has been driven back to the time when it had yet to become formalized as a concept.

Those once celebrated as “rebels” and “revolutionaries” — by Obama, NATO states, UN bodies, Western media, and a range of liberal imperialist opinion along with those “socialists” who, after an extended period of internalized structural adjustment now model their thinking to better accord with neoliberal principles — are rarely if ever held up now as paragons of the “better future” that was to come. Visions, as in hallucinations and delusions, of the better that would come once Gaddafi was dutifully executed, abounded in the politically prepubescent writings of an “Arab Spring.”

If there ever was an “Arab Spring” in Libya, within days it quickly turned into an African nightmare. This was especially true with respect to the racist terrorism launched against scores of unarmed black Libyan civilians and African migrant workers. To the extent that “Libya” exists any longer, it is either as an absence or as a shameful stain. Libya is now Africa’s newest apartheid “state” and torture “regime”. Why the quotes? Unlike apartheid South Africa, the “new Libya” lacks any kind of cohesion as either a state or among actual or prospective rulers as a class, and in fact class analysis when applied to Libya by using Marx as a how-to-manual, produces laughable results to be expected from orthodox Eurocentrics, from those who cast the present in non-western settings as a mere projection or repetition of “Stalinism”.

The grotesque and criminal torture, murder, and butchering of Muammar Gaddafi should have symbolized what would soon be done to all of Libya, just like it had been done to thousands of black Libyans and African migrants by the “heroic rebels” of NATO’s 2011 war against Libya. Libya is being dismembered as this is being written, sinking into a war of all against all for the benefit of a few.

Days, weeks, then months and now years have passed marked by daily kidnappings, acts of torture, wrongful imprisonment, assassinations, bombings, raids and bloody clashes between rival militias, armed extortion, strikes that have reduced the oil sector to a mirage of what “once was,” and an explosion of racialism, religious fundamentalism, and regionalism. If “Gaddafi” was their enemy, then Libyans have a funny way of showing it: by slaughtering each other, armed Libyans declare that they are each other’s worst enemies. Gaddafi was clearly not the problem: he was the solution that had to be broken in order for Libya to be “fixed,” to be fixed good and proper from the standpoint of the cruel tyrants in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the U.S.

If Libya has suffered a thousand deaths since the brutal overthrow of Gaddafi and all of what he had achieved, gone too–and this is happy news–are all of the jejune and childishly simplistic pretenses at theory that are founded on Eurocentric binary oppositions and ideas that are barely veiled translations of the idiotic, demonizing caricatures of Gaddafi.

So here was “the dictator,” but who apparently ruled without a state, if you believe what Reuters tries to pass off as political analysis. (No amount of “being there” will cure you if you’re insistent about your ignorance.) Here was the “brutal” dictator, but who apparently kept his army weak. Or there was a state, but it was also a one-man show–whatever, something, anything to cast all blame on the past and take our eyes away from all those who have responsibility for the present.

If they’re continuing to fight “Gaddafi,” and credit/blame Gaddafi for everything in the present, then there was no “revolution” either, just multiple, continuous reenactments of all that was “Gaddafi.” If militia leaders see Gaddafi everywhere and in everyone, it is because they are nowhere. Gone too are the grandiose declarations–that passed for expert analysis by Juan Cole and friends–of all of Libya “rising up,” united, to “throw off the regime,” a people against a dictator. I mean really, this is embarrassing when you think that supposed adults — “scholars” even — were behind such cartoonish drivel.

To those “socialists” in the West who cheered the Libyan “revolutionaries,” let’s ask them: where do you see socialism in Libya today? To those liberals who spoke of “democracy” and “human rights,” where do you see either of those today? To the advocates of “humanitarian” principles of intervention and “protection,” why did you go so silent after the lights were turned off with Gaddafi’s murder? To those who imagined would-be “massacres” to come that accompanied the demands of British and U.S. altar boys that “Gaddafi had to go,” why does your imagination suddenly fail you when confronted with the actual massacres that you yourselves committed and enabled?

To those who claim “lives were saved,” where were you when the bodies began to pile up amidst swarms of flies in blood-stained, abandoned hospitals? When patients in hospitals were gunned down in their beds, and when handcuffed prisoners lying on their stomachs were executed at such close range that the grass beneath their heads was scorched, did you wince? In other words, where do you all see this great “success story” in the charnel house that is now “Libya”?

It’s polite analysis to speak of the time-space compression of globalization, that presumably explains how many iPad imperialists personally vested themselves in “correcting” Libya so it could become more like what they imagined they possessed. They would not stand idly by, no, not when another chance presented itself to flatter themselves with a reinvigorated cultural evolutionism, applied by the force of NATO bombardments.

Libya was now “ready for democracy,” and the cruise missiles showed just how ripe Libya was for “improvement.” Time-space compression? The globalization of consciousness? Consciousness, however much there ever was, was certainly compressed: into a tiny a nut-shell that prohibited considering contrary opinions, as right as they consistently proved to be.

In that vein, I recommend that the reader invest a mere 40 minutes or so in reviewing how things looked before we became deluded by our own lies. These are overviews of Libya and Gaddafi, produced by the BBC and CBS news (believe it or not), when the demonological fantasies had not yet fully hatched, taken wing, and unloaded so many propaganda droppings on our heads as come from Obama’s vainglorious, imperial monologues. Challenge yourself, and look at some of what Libya has lost, all in the name of the great nothingness.

BBC: Libya and Gaddafi in 1976

BBC: Libya and Gaddafi in 1979

CBS: Libya and Gaddafi in 1980


Slouching Towards Sirte:
NATO’s War on Libya and Africa

by Maximilian Forte

ISBN: 978-1-926824-52-9
Year: 2012
Pages: 352 with 27 BW photos, 3 maps
Publisher: Baraka Books 

Price: $24.95 

CLICK TO ORDER FROM GLOBAL RESEARCH

U.S. Conducts Industrial Espionage Globally

France’s largest English-language newspaper – The Local – reports:

Le Monde said the documents gave grounds to think the NSA targeted not only people suspected of being involved in terrorism but also high-profile individuals from the world of business or politics.***

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault [said]  “I am deeply shocked…. It’s incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defence,” he told journalists in Copenhagen.

Der Spiegel notes:

The NSA has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years.

***

In the space of a single year, according to the internal documents, this operation produced 260 classified reports that allowed US politicians to conduct successful talks on political issues and to plan international investments.

The NSA was recently revealed to have been spying on Brazil’s largest oil company.

Guardian columnist Seumas Milne correctly notes:

#NSA-#GCHQ about power not security: hacked #Mexico president for political/investment edge, leak shows, like #Brazil….

The NSA was also recently busted spying on Chinese technology company Huawei.

German companies are concerned that the NSA has conducted espionage in that country. And the leaders of Latin American countries have also expressed disgust at the industrial espionage.

The NSA is also spying on the biggest financial payments systems such as VISA and Swift.

In a slide leaked by Edward Snowden, “economic” was one of the main justifications for spying.

The top U.S. spy’s justification for such financial spying is:

“We collect this information for many important reasons: for one, it could provide the United States and our allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy. It also could provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behavior which could affect global markets.”

(Top financial experts say that the NSA and other intelligence agencies are also using the information to profit from this inside information.  And the NSA wants to ramp up its spying on Wall Street … to “protect” it.)

The Spying Has Been Going On For Decades

It is true that the spying is about power, and not security. Proof here, here and here.

But this has actually been going on for decades.

It has long been clear that the U.S. spying program is being used for industrial espionage. The New Statesman wrote about it in 1988. Die Zeit in 1999.

The New York Times reported in 1995:

Each morning, they gave Mickey Kantor, the United States trade representative, and his aides inside information gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Tokyo station and the electronic eavesdropping equipment of the National Security Agency, sifted by C.I.A. analysts in Washington.

Mr. Kantor received descriptions of conversations among Japanese bureaucrats and auto executives from Toyota and Nissan who were pressing for a settlement, and read about the competing pressures on Japan’s Trade Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto.

When the negotiations came to a climax in Geneva, the intelligence team was in place at the Intercontinental Hotel, working alongside Mr. Kantor’s negotiators, offering assessments of how far the Japanese side could be pressed.

***

Spying on allies for economic advantage is a crucial new assignment for the C.I.A. now that American foreign policy is focused on commercial interests abroad. President Clinton made economic intelligence a high priority of his Administration, specifically information to protect and defend American competitiveness, technology and financial security in a world where an economic crisis can spread across global markets in minutes.

***

At the Treasury Department, the trade representative’s office and the Commerce Department, officials say they now receive a torrent of information from the C.I.A.

BBC reported in 2000:

A report published by the European Parliament in February alleges that Echelon twice helped US companies gain a commercial advantage over European firms. [Here's the report.]

Duncan Campbell, the British intelligence expert and journalist who wrote the report, raises the prospect that hundreds of US Department of Commerce “success stories”, when US companies beat off European and Japanese commercial opposition, could be attributed to the filtering powers of Echelon.

***

The European consortium Airbus lost a $6bn contract with Saudi Arabia after NSA found Airbus officials were offering kickbacks to a Saudi official.

The paper said the agency “lifted all the faxes and phone-calls between Airbus, the Saudi national airline and the Saudi Government” to gain this information.

***

The US firm Raytheon used information picked up from NSA snooping to secure a $1.4bn contract to supply a radar system to Brazil instead of France’s Thomson-CSF.

***

Former CIA director James Woolsey, in an article in March for the Wall Street Journal, acknowledged that the US did conduct economic espionage against its European allies, though he did not specify if Echelon was involved.

The Militarization of the Police. Are We Living in A Police State?

October 21st, 2013 by Global Research News

 by Amiya Fernando

 Are we living in a police state?

- There has been a 4000% increase in “no knock,” militarily-armed swat team raids over the past thirty years.

- Mid 80′s: 2,000-3,000 raids per year

- Present day: 80,000 raid estimate

The  Militarization of the Police
Image source: www.topcriminaljusticedegrees.org

The editors at Top Criminal Justice Degrees decided to research the topic of:

 The Militarization of the Police

Are we living in a police state?
- There has been a 4000% increase in “no knock,” militarily-armed swat team raids over the past thirty years.
- Mid 80′s: 2,000-3,000 raids per year[1]
- Present day: 80,000 raid estimate[1]
- ——————
- Pros:
- –Element of Surprise
- –Suspect can’t destroy evidence
- Cons:
- –Invasion of privacy
- –Seconds for suspect to decide if these or cops or break in.
- –Faulty intelligence

- ————

Case Study

- Basics:[4]
- Ogden, Utah. 1/4/12 8:40 pm.
- Local swat team battered down Matthew David Stewart’s door with no warning. Thinking his home was being invaded, Stewart readied his pistol.
- Stewart: 31 rounds fired
- Swat: 250 rounds fired
- Tip: Stewart’s girlfriend saying he might be growing weed.
- Previous record: Clean, veteran.
- Result: 6 wounded swat. 1 killed. Stewart shot twice.
- Findings: 16 small pot plants. No intent to sell.
- Outcome: Upon losing hearing about search warrent legality. Stewart hangs himself in jail cell.

- ————-

And that’s just one of potentially hundreds of similar tragedies.
- Spotlight: NY
- 1994: 1,447 swat style drug raids
- 2002: 5,117
- “I have my own army in the NYPD–the seventh largest army in the world.” Michael Bloomberg

- ————
- Swat Armament:[3]
- Submachine Guns
- Automatic Weapons
- Breaching Shotguns
- Sniper Rifles
- Stun Grenades
- Heavy Body Armor
- Motion Detectors
- Advanced Night Vision Wear
- Armored Personal Carriers
- “From the Gulf war to the drug war–Battle proven” Heckler and Koch’s slogan for the M5[6]

- ————-

These “criminals” are heavily armed too, right?
- WRONG:
- [Weapon used in violent crime: %]
- Gun: 12.7%
- Knife: 10.1%
- Other: 12.1%
- Unknown weapon: 1.8%
- None: 55.8%
- Don’t Know: 5.8%

- —-
- So how can we allow this? The fact is, we don’t.
- 1970: The “no-knock” law is passed with the beginning of the war on drugs.
- 1974: The law was repealed.
- Today: “No knock” happens ALL THE TIME.
- ——
- Leading to more and more unnecessary, intrusive, illegal, and deadly SWAT raids.

- Raids leading to civilian injuries, death, or intrusion of the privacy of innocents.

- While injuries from “no knock” raids have been around since the inception of the swat team. Paramilitary like brutality has become a feature of the increasing armed SWAT of the last 10 years.

- Using the military in civic life is like using a hammer when you need a butter knife. There’s bound to be collateral damage. It could happen to you, your neighbors, your friends, or your family.

Speak out against the militarization of the police.

Citations

-http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-02-14-noknock14_ST_N.htm

-https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform-free-speech-technology-and-liberty/too-many-cops-are-told-theyre-soldiers

-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SWAT

-http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323848804578608040780519904.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories

-http://www.cato.org/raidmap

social

by Arij Riahi

For the first time, a Canadian mining company will appear in a Canadian court for actions committed overseas. Hudbay Minerals, Inc, will be standing trial for murder, rapes and attacks committed against Indigenous Guatemalans by security personnel working for Hudbay’s subsidiary, Compañía Guatemalteca de Níquel (CGN). The court case is proceeding thanks to a precedent-setting decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which ruled this past July in favour of the Mayan Q’eqchi’ people of Lote Ocho, near El Estor, Guatemala.

“It is a massive victory for our clients and for human rights,” Cory Wanless, an attorney with the Toronto-based Klippensteins law firm, told The Dominion. “Before this decision, no claim brought by individuals that had been harmed by Canadian mining abroad had ever gotten into Canadian courts at all. They didn’t even have the ability to forward their claims.”

The community of La Union was home to Adolfo Ich, an outspoken mining critic who was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors
The community of La Union was home to Adolfo Ich, an outspoken mining critic who was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors

Wanless represents the Q’eqchi’ plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing the company of negligence in its ground management of the Fenix open-pit nickel mine project. They allege that security personnel—under the control of Hudbay—gang-raped 11 women, shot dead an Indigenous leader and outspoken critic of mining practices and left another man paralyzed from the chest down after sustaining a gunshot wound.

Grahame Russell of Rights Action, a Canadian organization working mainly with Indigenous communities in Central America, has been doing solidarity work with the Q’eqchi’ people for almost 10 years and has worked closely on the case. “Two major pre-trial issues were fought over. One was jurisdiction, and one [was] whether Hudbay could be held accountable—directly or via its subsidiary CGN—over what happened in Guatemala,” Russell told The Dominion.

“We won on both counts. First, the company accepted that Canada can be the appropriate jurisdiction. Second, the judge decided in our favour, saying that it is appropriate to try to hold Hudbay accountable [for their negligence] in Guatemala.”

Russell explained that the conflict is rooted in unresolved tensions around what can be referred to in Canada as “prior land claims.” The events in question occurred between 2007 and 2009 in the context of a land dispute between the Q’eqchi’ people and the mining company.

“The specific context of the attack, rape[s] and murder is related to the mining company wanting to get the Q’eqchi’ people off their land so they can get the mineral resources under the ground,” Russell said. “There have been waves of repression in this region related to Canadian mining companies going back to the 1970s and early 1980s. This is an old story that is replaying itself out all over again.”

Rachel Small is an environmental justice activist working with communities impacted by Canadian extractive industry. “The abuses carried out by Canadian mining companies in Central America are part of a long and violent history of colonization, which continues today,” she told The Dominion.

Small, who visited the Q’eqchi’ community of Lote Ocho in 2010, said the Hudbay case is a classic example of environmental injustice. “Resources are being extracted for the benefit of Canadians—and primarily Canadian stockholders—at the expense of primarily Indigenous communities in Guatemala. It’s a blatant example of one of the ways that colonization plays out today and the costs are unimaginably huge for the communities who are being exploited.”

The Superior Court of Ontario’s decision, written by Judge Carole Brown, concluded that there was enough initial evidence to allow the actions to proceed to trial. Judge Brown emphasized that Hudbay is headquartered in Toronto, is incorporated under Canadian laws and was fully in control of its subsidiary. Hudbay has decided not to appeal the ruling.

The court decision argued that “the pleadings disclose a sufficient basis to suggest that a relationship of proximity between the [Q'eqchi'] plaintiffs and the defendants [Hudbay and CGN] exists, such that it would not be unjust or unfair to impose a duty of care on the defendants.” The decision also listed a number of factors that might, at trial, prove the proximity between Hudbay and its subsidiary.

This problem of proximity is one that has sunk many attempts to hold Canadian companies accountable in Canadian courts for human-rights abuses committed in other countries. Most mining companies have a complex corporate structure with a head office in one country, smaller offices in others and operations in the Global South. In courts, they have repeatedly been able to draw a line between the legal responsibility of a parent company that controls management and the subsidiary that controls daily operations on the ground.

In November 2012, a group of Congolese people exhausted all legal options with a final failed attempt to drag Anvil Mining in front Canadian courts for its involvement in a massacre of civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The company admitted to a United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) that it had provided transportation, food and lodging to the Congolese soldiers who committed the massacre. Yet the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that there was no sufficient link between the company’s Quebec office and the events that led to the killings, and that Quebec’s courts therefore had no jurisdiction over the matter. At the time of the events, Anvil’s headquarters were in Australia.

Wanless said that Hudbay’s corporate ties to Canadian law might explain why the case was allowed to go through while the Anvil case never made it to court. “The question in [the case of] Hudbay is different because there was no question that Ontario did have jurisdiction over Hudbay. It was an Ontario company through and through.”

Since the July 22, 2013, decision, Rights Action has reported that some Mayan Q’eqchi’ women have received threats pressuring them to withdraw the lawsuits. “This is a new wave of intimidation,” said Russell, who speaks with members of the community on a weekly basis. “In the past, it has targeted Angelica Choc—the wife of Adolfo Ich, [the man] who was shot and killed. Now, it is targeting the women, trying to turn some women against the other women.”

When asked to comment on the threats, both Small and Wanless said they are an unsettling development, but one that is not surprising. Small highlighted how geographical isolation could add to the community’s vulnerability.

“The fastest way to reach Lote Ocho requires an uphill drive in a Jeep or all-terrain vehicle, followed by an over-two-hour trek up the side of a densely forested mountain,” she explained. “The limited access to communication with family, friends and allies in other places certainly impacted Lote Ocho’s ability to respond to threats and attacks.”

Though the pre-trial decision has been hailed as a victory, the trial to follow could still take years. “[The decision] is absolutely a breakthrough, but this won’t all of sudden bring proper and full accountability,” said Russell. “It was a step that had be fought for and won, but there is still a hugely long way to go.”

Small said the injustices committed in other countries implicate Canada’s whole political and economic system. “Canadian government actively supports the [mining] industry, both financially—such as through pension plan investments—and politically.” She listed a host of political players, including Canadian embassies and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, who negotiate international trade deals and partnerships with mining companies operating in the Global South.

For Small, this means that the problems faced by the Q’eqchi’ won’t be solved in one courtroom. “We’re looking at complex systems…that serve to concentrate power and resources in the hands of a small few, especially at the expense of Indigenous peoples. It’s going to be a long struggle to reverse these patterns, and one that needs to play out on more than one continent and in a multitude of settings.”

Wanless was cautiously optimistic about the court’s decision. “This case is the first of this kind but I think that claims like this are going to be much more common,” he said. “It is no longer possible for Canadian courts to deny that this is a Canadian problem that deserves a Canadian solution.”

Arij Riahi is a legally trained writer based in Montreal. Arij tweets as @arijactually.

Copyright The Dominion, 2013

Where is “The Left”? “Are We Being Served”

October 21st, 2013 by William Bowles

Central to us on the left is the dilemma of a seemingly indifferent working class to the changes that impact directly not only on our material well-being but on the corporatisation of our cultural lives. Some argue that it’s down to the prevailing sense of powerlessness as the gulf between those who govern and the governed, deepens and widens. But there is perhaps another explanation for our disenfranchisement; the role of the ‘middle class’ as a mechanism of social control.

Both my parents were what you would call working class. My mother, who left school at fourteen, worked on the stage as a chorus girl (the Tiller Girls) and in pantomime before becoming a ‘housewife’ and my father, a self-taught engineer/toolmaker and professional musician and trade union organiser for the Musicians Union, left school without any formal qualifications (that I know of) at about the same age. Instead, he went to evening classes to improve his language skills and knowledge of the world and how it worked.

Yet both were communists and by any definition, intellectuals. So were they both still working class? What makes one working class? What is it to be ‘middle class’? Is there such a thing as middle class or is it yet another illusion created by capitalism? After all, if you sell your labour, whether by the hour or by salary, aren’t you still working class? Or is your education (or lack of it) the definition? Or is it perhaps some combination of education, income and ‘status’? Isn’t the myth that we all aspire to becoming middle class (and as current events show, how easily it is to be thrust back whence you came)?

I think I was perhaps the third or fourth person in my entire family to get a higher education and that simple, yet irrevocable act of going to university, separated me from my peers. Indeed created a gulf. ‘Rising out’ of the working class was and perhaps still is, seen as a progressive step and no doubt, achieving a higher education, in theory at least–but given the role of the universities as weapons of control, it’s one that I question–gave me access to opportunities denied the great majority of my peers. But at what price? Perhaps the price of forgetting my roots.

Our roots, we are often reminded, are the anchor of our lives, both individually and collectively. But whose roots are they? Our roots are what define us, or so the theory goes. Living in Africa, I learned that the Ancestors are central to most peoples’ lives and although for me, a symbolic gesture, calling on the Ancestors for advice, creates an unbreakable link with one’s past. Moreover, a link that is in many respects, impervious to the propaganda of capitalism.

One of the things I learned during my time living in Africa, was the importance of acknowledging the existence of the ancestors, although for me it translated into being connected to the past rather than believing in them literally. For through a connection to the ancestors, the past becomes solid ground rather than shifting sand. The ancestors are a transmission line to the past that remains stubbornly unbroken. Through the ancestors, a different history is preserved and carried down, not by education, books, or TV. It is both a private conversation and a collective memory, as in speaking to oneÕs ancestors you are also speaking to their time, calling upon their experience, their wisdom. – ‘Listen to your Ancestors‘, 18 October 2003

Yes, my Art School education was, for me, a privilege. It gave me five years of freedom, without the pressure to ‘earn a living’ (back then they actually paid you to go to college!). In exchange however, it was required of me to dump my past, forget my Ancestors, the working class. It was an experience I was never to really accept. It was not until I left this country and moved to New York, where I found myself in a culture doubly damned by capitalism, the Puerto Rican community of East Harlem (and beyond), that my working class roots were accepted. There I experienced our communality of interests and struggle and my skills and experience found a real home. It was quite an eye opener for me to be accepted into a community in a way that I had never experienced in London, my birthplace.

Currently, there is a major retrospective of Manchester-born artist, Lowry, an avowedly working class artist, who even today, has his credentials as it were, questioned, largely because he was avowedly working class. His work has variously been labeled as primitive, crude, naive and unsophisticated. Yet, commodity-wise his works now sell for tens of thousands of pounds (and perhaps explains why in spite of his ‘crude’, ‘primitive’ and ‘naive’ technique, he now warrants a major retrospective).

What this does reveal however, is the contradictions of a culture whose identity is determined almost entirely by our elites. To be working class is to be uncultured, uncouth and uncool (at best, an historical hangover). Just look at how working class life is portrayed on television and all of it produced by an intellectual elite that hasn’t the foggiest idea of what working class life is really like. Of what it’s like not to have the tools of a decent education, or the resources to realize your dreams? The odd one like me, who somehow make it through are the exception that proves the rule.

So what am I and those like me, who have allegedly ‘risen’ out of their class (Michael Caine notwithstanding)?

This issue has plagued me since my art school days, where art schools were (and are) almost exclusively the domain of the ‘middle classes’ and ‘Art’ an intellectual pursuit shrouded in the mystique of a hidden language of form and ultimately determined by the ‘guardians of taste’ in the shape of critics, galleries and a parasitical academia, let alone the bozos who buy it, largely as an investment, it should be added.

‘Working class’ art was, as the example of Lowry so clearly demonstrates, inferior to ‘high art’. Anyway, what the hell is working class art? More to the point, what is working class culture?

The bottom line is, that in a capitalist world, working class culture, in all its forms, from football to rock ‘n roll, to hip-hop is a bottomless reservoir of creativity that the ruling elites could never, ever produce, not in a million years. All they can do is appropriate, market and valorize. These are the vampires of capitalism, who suck the creative life out of us and in the process impoverish our cultural lives as they corporatise our culture.

The less you eat, drink, buy books, go to the theater, go dancing, go drinking, think, love, theorize, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save and the greater will become that treasure which neither moths nor maggots can consume Ñ your capital. The less you are, the less you give expression to your life, the more you have, the greater is your alienated life … So all passions and all activity are submerged in greed Ð Karl Marx, Notebooks, 1844

One of my favourite quotations from Papa Marx. It’s interesting to note that even before the end of WWII and the victory of the Labour government, in 1944 it was the previous (largely) Tory government that produced the then new Education Act, not the Labour Government. Education was far too important to be left even to reformist socialists like Beveridge and the Tories spelt it out in no uncertain terms and explains why, unlike the National Health Service, it was the Tories not the Labour government who introduced it.

The Butler Act as it was called after the then Tory education minister RAB Butler, recognized that if there was to be ‘universal’ education up to the age of fifteen, then it was incumbent on the state to make sure that those ‘educated’ were immersed in the ideology of capitalism (my high school ‘history’ text book stopped at 1914). Thus the so-called tripartite education system was created, with 80% of those in secondary education not even getting a chance at higher education or even some kind of formal certificate. Instead, they were relegated to so-called Secondary Modern schools and leaving school aged 15 for either menial office or factory work.

At best, the Butler Act was a nodding recognition that teaching the ‘Three Rs’ simply didn’t cut it in the postwar world. After all, education hadn’t changed much since the early 1900s. Churchill, along with most of his class, wanted nothing to do with even the minimal reforms of the 1944 act. Educate the labouring classes? Are you kidding! And it’s through this understanding that I was to get a sense of just how backward and reactionary our capitalist class really is, even by its own standards, such as they are. And today’s neoliberal government confirms my view as it rolls back the minimal advances achieved since 1945 with all its talk about ‘free schools’ and religious-based schooling and ‘choice’, back to the 19th century.

Central to us on the left is the dilemma of a seemingly indifferent working class to the changes that impact directly not only on our material well-being but on the corporatisation of our cultural lives. Some argue that it’s down to the prevailing sense of powerlessness as the gulf between those who govern and the governed, deepens and widens. But there is perhaps another explanation for our disenfranchisement; the role of the ‘middle class’ as a mechanism of social control.

An interesting essay by Carl Rowlands on the last book by economist GK Galbraith, The Culture of Contentment published in 1992, indirectly explains why a gutted education system is so crucial to the neoliberal model, not only because it simply doesn’t need so many ‘educated’ people (having exported their jobs elsewhere and automated the rest) but perhaps more importantly, because of the role the education system plays in creating divisions within the working class to the advantage of the ruling elite.

Working strictly within the parameters of contentment as a ‘people’s party’, New Labour, when it eventually emerged after the death of John Smith in 1994, openly sought to lead a revolt of the comfortable and personally ambitious. One of its central ideological demands was for ‘improved’ and increasingly individualised delivery of those universal services from which the middle-class disproportionately benefits, to be delivered by a growing cohort of customer-focused private sector players. At the same time, New Labour bore down upon public services regarded as belonging to those on the fringes of public life, such as social security, local authority care homes and social work.

Galbraith correctly identified the blurring and melding together of corporate and public life. Much of corporate culture is highly bureaucratic, demanding passivity from its workforce to ensure compatibility with the hubristic exercise of managerial and executive power. This hubris, linked to ‘bonus culture’ and the excesses of financial capitalism, was to also become a hallmark of New Labour…Such a mode of governance is fundamentally corrosive of social solidarity. Ultimately, in a political culture of contentment, we will let those less fortunate than ourselves go to hellÑjust as most of us probably would, if we were working in an office or factory which faced restructuring. Our own position depends upon compliance with executive decisions. Resistance is left to the powerless and the occasional whistle-blower.

/../

[W]hile the most vulnerable have been hit hard, the existence of an underclass is entirely compatible with, and indeed necessary for, the continued operation of the culture of contentment. As Galbraith argues, our society is structured to allow large numbers of people not to be involved in the tough, repetitive manual work of the industrial era. These people are dependent on an effectively marginalised domestic minority to do the hard labour, as well as those working in developing countries. Such marginalisation can be overtly political, but it is perhaps most clearly reflected in the extreme inequality that characterises the housing and labour markets. Those on the sharp end of these inequalities are blamed as the architects of their own misfortune and prescribed hard labour solutions, possibly in the form of workfare or highly-visible community service on the other; solutions from which the comfortable would naturally recoil. The threat of tough manual labour, in the form of work-camp prisons or workfare, lurks about the culture of contentment like the spectre at the feast. — The Winter of Content By Carl Rowlands.

What this amounts to is perhaps two-thirds of our population living comfortably (even if perhaps one-half of them now have a reduced level of ‘contentment’, but not enough to rock the boat) whilst one-third of the population (the marginalised minority) can, as Rowlands says, go to hell. Thus we hear the government talking about the ‘work-shy’ and that social welfare creates a ‘culture of dependency’ never mind those ‘hardworking’ upstanding ‘traditional’ families, the mythical ‘middle England’. We have, in the space of a few short years, been catapulted back into the world of 19th century, Victorian capitalism, replete with all the pseudo-scientific explanations that rationalise why so many are poor.

Are You Being Served cast 001

It is within this reality, that what passes for a left in this country attempts to apply its outmoded and reformist vision. A vision that was already out-of-date over one hundred years ago when it was formulated. For the ‘left’ is just as much a part of the culture of contentment as those it claims to lead.

The title by the way, is a reference to the BBC sitcom, ‘Are you being served‘, set in an old-fashioned department store in London and full of stereotypes, some actually quite funny if you ignore the insults, including an ex-army officer, a raging queen, a blue rinse lady, and yer typical working class ‘shirker’, the dialogue chockablock full of double entendres. This is capitalist culture as it presents the working class to itself.

Former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich explained, saying:

“Of all developed nations, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income, and we’re surging towards every greater inequality.”

America’s 400 richest elites have more wealth than half the population. Jacob Kornbluth’s new documentary film “Inequality for All” examines disturbing truths.

US inequality is at historic highs. Since 1970, America’s economy doubled. The top 1% benefited hugely. They earn more than 20% of national income. It’s triple their 1970 percentage.

The gap between rich and all others keeps widening. Inequality hurts everyone, says Reich. Since economic recovery began in 2009, America’s top 1% got 95% of the gains.

Adjusted for inflation, median household income keeps declining. Where will most people “get the money they need to keep the economy going,” asked Reich?

“We’re the richest economy in the history of the world. For the majority of Americans not to get the benefits of this extraordinarily prosperous economy, you know, there’s something fundamentally wrong.”

America has less upward mobility than any other developed country. If you’re poor, you’ll stay that way.

If you’re lower middle class, “the cards are going to be stacked against you. You will probably never get anywhere,” says Reich.

“Who is actually looking out for the American worker? The answer is nobody.”

The nation is headed toward becoming a “100 percent plutocracy.” Inequality this extreme fuels public anger. It hurts economic growth. Force-fed austerity assures worse ahead.

Reich teaches a popular Wealth and Poverty course at UC Berkeley. His book “Beyond Outrage” explains what’s wrong with America’s economy.

It doesn’t work. It benefits the privileged few. It harms most others. Doing so undermines America. Expect worse ahead unless people react, he says.

He’s never been more concerned about things than now. He cites “the corrupting effects of big money in politics,” regressive hard right policies, and unprecedented “wealth and power at the very top.”

Things are “perilously close” to falling apart altogether. People are right to be outraged. It’s a “prerequisite for social change.” It’s vital to “move beyond outrage and take action.”

The stakes are too high to be ignored. Nothing good happens in Washington unless people mobilize, organize and demand it.

“Nothing worth changing in America will actually change unless you and others like you are committed to achieving that change,” he stresses.

So-called US economic recovery is fake. Main Street poverty, unemployment, underemployment, hunger and homelessness are at Depression era levels.

Half of all US households are impoverished or bordering it. Recovery benefited only America’s most well off. Most others endure deepening deprivation.

According to economist Emmanuel Saez:

 ”For the first time in nearly 100 years, the percentage of income taken by the top 10 percent of Americans topped 50 percent.”

 From 2009 to 2012, “(t)op 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew by only 0.4%.” Adjusted for inflation, they declined considerably.

From 2007 – 2009, average real family income declined 17.4%. It’s more than any period since the Great Depression. Wealthy Americans recovered and then some. Conditions for most others went from bad to worse.

According to Saez:

“We need to decide as a society whether this increase in income inequality is efficient and acceptable and, if not, what mix of institutional and tax reforms should be developed to counter it.”

Russell Sage Foundation president Sheldon Danziger said:

“The continued high rate of poverty is no surprise, given ongoing high unemployment, stagnant wages and government spending cuts.”

 ”Poverty is higher today than it was in 2000, and household incomes are lower. The ‘lost decade’ is likely to turn into ‘two lost decades.’ “

 According to Marx:

“Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, and mental degradation at the opposite pole.”

 America’s wealth distribution is extreme. It keeps shifting disproportionately upward. Most people are more than ever on their own.

Financial elites run America. Whatever they want they get. Popular needs go begging. Things go from bad to worse.

In 1962, Michael Harrington’s “The Other America: Poverty in the United States” exposed the nation’s dark side, saying:

 ”In morality and in justice, every citizen should be committed to abolishing the other America, for it is intolerable that the richest nation in human history should allow such needless suffering.”

“But more than that, if we solve the problem of the other America we will have learned how to solve the problems of all of America.”

 Jack Kennedy addressed the issue. In his January 8, 1964 State of the Union address, Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty.

He barely scratched it. Inequality was severe. Today, it’s unprecedented and growing. It bears repeating. Census data show around half of US households impoverished or bordering it.

Government data most often over-estimate good news and understate what’s bad. Unprecedented numbers of US households are impoverished under protracted Main Street Depression conditions.

Bipartisan harshness assures greater pain and suffering. Over 20% of US households haven’t enough money for food and other essentials.

On November 1, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit cuts are coming. One-person households will get $11 per month less.

For 2 people, it’s $20. For three it’s $29. For four it’s $36. Expect more cuts ahead. Food costs are rising. Family incomes are falling. More help is needed. Congress and Obama intend less.

America’s most needy will be harmed most. So will tens of millions of children. They may end up without enough to eat.

America’s great divide is greater than ever. In 2009, around half of US households had no assets. Today it’s more than half.

Most Americans don’t earn enough to live on. Things go from bad to worse. Hardwired inequality is deepening. Casino capitalism takes precedence.

America’s criminal class alone benefits. Ordinary people are swindled. Venal politicians serve wealth, power and privilege. Democrats and Republicans are in lockstep. Few benefit at the expense of most others.

On July 28, AP headlined “Exclusive: Signs of Declining Economic Security,” saying:

“Four out of 5 US adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives.”

 It’s a disturbing “sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.”

“Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized US economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.”

Hardship for white Americans is rising. AP-GfK poll numbers show “63 percent of whites called the economy ‘poor.’ ”

Fifty-two-year-old Irene Salyers perhaps spoke for others, saying:

“I think it’s going to get worse. If you do try to go apply for a job, they’re not hiring people, and they’re not paying that much to even go to work.”

 Economic insecurity is much worse than government data show. It affects over three-fourths of white Americans.

It’s defined as experiencing unemployment some time during working years or needing government aid to survive.

According to Professor William Julius Wilson:

 ”It’s time that America comes to understand that many of the nation’s biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are increasingly due to economic class position.”

 Government data fall short of explaining things. Conditions are much worse than official reports. Most Americans struggle to get by. Impoverishment or close to it affect them.

 It’s harder than ever for millions of disadvantaged households to survive. Their numbers keep growing exponentially. Vital social protections are eroding. It’s happening when they’re most needed.

“By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent.”

 ”But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.”

 ”By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality, close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the US will experience bouts of economic insecurity.”

 According to Professor Mark Rank:

“Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them.’ It’s an issue of ‘us.’ Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need.”

 Data Professors Tom Hirschl and John Iceland compiled provide more context. They show:

  • for the first time in nearly three decades, impoverished single-mother households surpassed or equaled black ones; they exceeded numbers of Hispanic single mother families; and
  • numbers of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods increased.

According to a University of Chicago General Social Survey, whites are more pessimistic about their futures than since the depths of the early 1980s.

“Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America,” said AP.

Polls show over 80% of Americans mostly don’t trust government. Congress’ approval rating is 11%.

It’s barely above its all-time February and August 2012 10% low. Given the margin of error, they’re’s virtually no difference between then and now.

Americans are suffering. Things go from bad to worse. Republicans and Democrats are in lockstep. They’re cutting social protections when they’re most needed.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/americas-economic-dark-side/

After the third round of exploratory talks on Thursday last week, the representatives of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) have agreed to enter into negotiations to form a grand coalition. The CDU executive then confirmed this on Friday. The SPD held a party convention on Sunday, which voted with a large majority in favor of coalition talks. The talks will start on Wednesday.

A meeting of the three party leaders, Angela Merkel (CDU), Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) and Horst Seehofer (CSU) had cleared up the last obstacles to the coalition negotiations. During the exploratory talks, there were conflicts over reform of the federal system and the expiry of the system of fiscal equalization between Germany’s Länder (states). In the end, both delegations agreed unanimously to begin coalition negotiations.

So far, only fragmentary information has emerged about the talks. The SPD convention passed a resolution dropping any demand for tax increases for the rich. Gabriel said it would be difficult to implement social-democratic policies after the CDU emerged strengthened from the elections. “I will not hide the fact that this makes the situation extremely difficult,” the SPD leader said at a congress of the IG BCE union covering the mining, chemicals and energy sectors.

The SPD uses such formulations to cover up its own anti-social programme. Its election campaign demands were never more than empty phrases. With its Agenda 2010 assault on welfare and labour rights when in government, the SPD is responsible for the deepest social cuts since the Second World War. According to media reports, it proposes to head the finance and labour ministries, areas that will play a central role in developing new cuts.

CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt emphasised this orientation; growth, financial stability and employment in the next four years would be at the heart of government work, he said. “We have the impression that we can find common solutions in a coalition agreement to these mega-issues”—a euphemism for wage cuts and cuts in social spending. This is the programme that the grand coalition will enforce.

According to the constitutionally mandated “debt ceiling,” from 2016 the federal government may not take on any new debts over 0.35 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the current budget. From 2020, the federal states are prohibited from carrying out any net borrowing. Already, many of Germany’s federal states face insolvency.

Municipalities have also been hit particularly hard by social cuts at the federal level. Moreover, they have lost income due to cuts in business taxes. From 2007 to 2011, municipal debt rose from €111 to €130 billion. Nearly €48 billion of this consists of so-called cash advances, which are intended only to bridge short-term bottlenecks and are particularly expensive.

In this tight budgetary situation, the bank bailout threatens to tear new holes in the federal budget. Of about €290 billion provided in 2008 and 2009 to rescue the German banks, only 15 percent has been repaid, according to a recent IMF report.

In addition, the guarantees for the euro rescue consisting of at least €300 to €400 billion are rapidly maturing. Last week, at the behest of Brussels and Berlin, the Italian government approved a brutal austerity budget that will deepen the two-year recession the country has already experienced. In relation to Greece, experts have long agreed that the country should have a debt “haircut” and needs other emergency loans to avoid national bankruptcy. That would directly impact the German budget to the tune of at least €10 billion.

Under these conditions, a grand coalition would have the task of recouping the billions from the population and creating “Greek conditions” in Germany. An important question for the coalition negotiations will be how this agenda can be enforced against popular opposition.

The central axis in this project will be introducing a minimum wage. The SPD conducted its election campaign with a demand for a minimum wage of €8.50 an hour, while the CDU rejected a nationwide minimum wage.

In recent days, several Union (CDU/CSU) politicians have already signalled agreement on this question. Seehofer told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that he was willing to accept a minimum wage of €8.50 if the SPD waived taking on new debt and pushing through tax increases. Hesse state premier Volker Bouffier (CDU) has also agreed to a minimum wage. The same applies to Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), who spoke at the IG BCE congress for a “nationwide minimum wage.”

After Thursday’s talks, Gabriel said, “The Union knows that a universal legal minimum wage of €8.50 is a central issue without which a coalition would not make sense in the eyes of the SPD.”

Such a mini-minimum wage would not increase the incomes of most workers already on a low wage, many of whom already depend on state benefits. Even the Labour Agency regards €8.50 as a low wage.

This is why the SPD’s plans have the support of most German companies. A survey conducted by polling organisation Forsa among German executives in July found 57 percent of managers favoured a statutory minimum wage; on average, they advocated one of €8.88.

Far from combating poverty, such a minimum wage would serve to enforce the upcoming social attacks. It would become the standard wage, leading to a depression of the general wage level. And it would serve as a political means of creating a broad front of social cuts. In this way, it will be made easier for the trade unions, the Left Party and its pseudo-left devotees to support the government.

The Left Party has already indicated its support for such a project and announced it will vote for a minimum wage well below the €10 level it had previously demanded. With the invitation for Merkel, Gabriel and von der Leyen to attend its congress, the IG BCE is signalling support for a grand coalition on behalf of all the trade unions.

The Greens are also prepared to support this policy. After breaking off the exploratory talks with the CDU last week, they want to keep open the possibility of a CDU/CSU-Green Party coalition in the event the CDU-SPD coalition talks fail. The main motion at the Green Party conference next weekend deliberately keeps this option open.

However, if a grand coalition does materialise, the Greens and the Left Party will be of great importance in their role as a loyal opposition. Even though the SPD and CDU have a two-thirds majority in the Bundestag (lower house of parliament), they lack a majority in the Bundesrat (upper house) if it should come to a grand coalition in the Hesse state legislature. The CDU and SPD would then have to depend on the support of at least one opposition party in the Bundesrat .

US newspapers on Sunday led with reports of a tentative settlement between JPMorgan Chase and the Obama Justice Department of numerous investigations into the bank’s fraudulent sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities in the lead-up to the 2008 Wall Street crash.

The reports presented the deal, under which the nation’s largest bank will pay $9 billion in fines and provide relief to consumers worth $4 billion, as a victory for the Justice Department and a major step in holding the banks responsible for the economic catastrophe they inflicted on the country and the world.

This is nonsense. JPMorgan and its CEO, Jamie Dimon, have pressed for such a blanket deal to allow the bank to pay a fine and obtain in return the equivalent of a general amnesty for illegal actions that have led to the impoverishment of countless millions of people. The systematic marketing of worthless securities enabled the bank to pocket tens of billions of dollars and further enrich top executives such as Dimon.

When the Ponzi scheme collapsed, the government used trillions of dollars in taxpayer money to bail out the banks and financial firms. Since 2009, it—along with governments all over the world—has been engaged in a savage offensive to recoup the debts taken on by the state by destroying social programs and the living standards of the working class.

The $9 billion fine, the largest penalty ever imposed on a US corporation, is less than half the $21 billion profit JPMorgan recorded in 2012. The bank is pulling in enormous profits despite having set aside $28 billion since 2010 to cover legal costs.

It is necessary to place the size of the fine in the context of the economic damage resulting from the bank’s practices. Reportedly, $4 billion will go to settle a suit by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) charging JPMorgan with knowingly making false statements and omitting material facts in selling $33 billion in worthless mortgage bonds to the government-sponsored mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at the height of the subprime mortgage bubble (2005-2007). That is about 2 percent of the $188 billion in taxpayer money the government has spent thus far to prop up the firms.

In setting the fine, the Obama administration calculated that the bank could absorb the loss with minimal damage. At the same time, the size of the penalty indicates that the Justice Department has abundant evidence of illegality—on a massive scale.

Yet it has refrained from indicting Dimon, any other high-ranking JPMorgan executive, or the bank itself. Instead, Attorney General Eric Holder, the country’s top law enforcement official, has been spending much of his time in secret negotiations with Dimon over the precise wording of any eventual admission of wrongdoing, so as to minimize the criminal liability of the bank and its leading officers.

As the New York Times wrote on Sunday, “The government also prefers to settle with big companies rather than indict them, fearing that criminal charges could unnerve the broader economy.” Last March, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder acknowledged that the failure of the Obama administration to prosecute a single major Wall Street banker was part of a calculated policy.

He told the committee that the big banks are so large and powerful that “if we do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

What does this astonishing admission signify? First, that the financial elite is above the law. It, like the aristocracies of old, is immune from the laws that apply to the lower orders. In America, people are routinely sentenced to long prison terms for petty crimes that involve hundreds of dollars. The speculators and swindlers who steal millions and billions, however, do so with impunity. They control the government and both political parties.

Second, it shows that criminality is so pervasive within the corporate-financial establishment that to attack it threatens to undermine the foundations of the financial system.

JPMorgan is a case in point. Just last month, it agreed to pay close to $1 billion to settle charges that it lied to investors and government regulators and committed accounting fraud to conceal $6.2 billion in losses in derivatives bets last year. A 300-page report on the so-called “London Whale” scandal issued last March by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations concluded that the bank used accounting dodges “to hide hundreds of millions of dollars of losses,” and “misinformed investors, regulators, and the public about the nature of its risky derivatives trading.”

The report also concluded that Dimon lied when he downplayed the losses. At the time when he called the matter “a complete tempest in a teapot,” he “was already in possession of information about…sustained losses for three straight months” and “the exponential increase in those losses during March [2012],” the Senate committee wrote.

Yet Dimon and other top executives were exonerated of any intentional wrongdoing in the carefully drafted “admission” that accompanied the fine. Instead, the government claimed they were misled by subordinates and culpable only for insufficient oversight.

The London Whale and subprime mortgage probes are only two among a host of investigations into the bank’s operations, concerning such offenses as credit card fraud, illegal debt collection practices, rigging of energy markets, complicity in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, illegal home foreclosures, bribing Chinese officials, and involvement in the Libor rate-rigging scandal.

JPMorgan is the rule, not the exception. Every major US bank is the subject of multiple investigations and lawsuits. In 2011, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a 630-page report on the financial crash detailing illegal activities by Washington Mutual, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs that contributed to the global crisis. The report also documented the collusion of the credit rating firms and government regulatory agencies.

The committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin, said at the time that the investigation had found “a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest and wrongdoing.”

The Obama administration, both political parties, Congress and the courts have worked assiduously to cover up the snake pit and shield the snakes from prosecution. The role of the government in running interference for the banks and protecting the financial aristocracy is illuminated by one little-noted detail of the negotiations between Dimon and Holder.

While the press has reported that Dimon was joined by his bank’s chief counsel, Stephen Cutler, in the Friday night conference call where the agreement was reached, the media has failed to note that Cutler headed the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission between 2001 and 2005.

By Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark

The NSA has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years.

It hacked into the president’s public email account and gained deep insight into policy-making and the political system.

The news is likely to hurt ties between the US and Mexico.

Photo Gallery: NSA Hacked Into Mexican President's Email Account 
The National Security Agency (NSA) has a division for particularly difficult missions. Called “Tailored Access Operations” (TAO), this department devises special methods for special targets.

That category includes surveillance of neighboring Mexico, and in May 2010, the division reported its mission accomplished. A report classified as “top secret” said: “TAO successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican Presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderon’s public email account.”According to the NSA, this email domain was also used by cabinet members, and contained “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability.” The president’s office, the NSA reported, was now “a lucrative source.”

This operation, dubbed “Flatliquid,” is described in a document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, which SPIEGEL has now had the opportunity to analyze. The case is likely to cause further strain on relations between Mexico and the United States, which have been tense since Brazilian television network TV Globo revealed in September that the NSA monitored then-presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and others around him in the summer of 2012. Peña Nieto, now Mexico’s president, summoned the US ambassador in the wake of that news, but confined his reaction to demanding an investigation into the matter.

Now, though, the revelation that the NSA has systematically infiltrated an entire computer network is likely to trigger deeper controversy, especially since the NSA’s snooping took place during the term of Peña Nieto’s predecessor Felipe Calderón, a leader who worked more closely with Washington than any other Mexican president before him.

Brazil Also Targeted

Reports of US surveillance operations have caused outrage in Latin America in recent months. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a planned trip to Washington five weeks ago and condemned the NSA’s espionage in a blistering speech to the United Nations General Assembly.

The US surveillance of politicians in Mexico and Brazil is not a one-off. Internal documents show these countries’ leaders represent important monitoring targets for the NSA, with both Mexico and Brazil ranking among the nations high on an April 2013 list that enumerates the US’ surveillance priorities. That list, classified as “secret,” was authorized by the White House and “presidentially approved,” according to internal NSA documents.

The list ranks strategic objectives for all US intelligence services using a scale from “1″ for high priority to “5″ for low priority. In the case of Mexico, the US is interested primarily in the drug trade (priority level 1) and the country’s leadership (level 3). Other areas flagged for surveillance include Mexico’s economic stability, military capabilities, human rights and international trade relations (all ranked at level 3), as well as counterespionage (level 4). It’s much the same with Brazil — ascertaining the intentions of that country’s leadership ranks among the stated espionage targets. Brazil’s nuclear program is high on the list as well.

Read Complete article on Spiegel Online

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/nsa-hacked-email-account-of-mexican-president-a-928817.html

Copyright Spiegel online 2013

by Claire Quiney

How pop culture and Hollywood portray a working poor life as uncomplicated, void of stress, pure, and moral.

Working poor is not a lifestyle choice:

Romanticizing Poverty
Source: Socialworkdegreecenter.com

Romanticizing Poverty

How pop culture portrays a working poor life as uncomplicated, void of stress, pure, and moral.

Working poor is not a lifestyle choice:

Job promotions and performance reviews[1]

Or

Simple routine and morality

We’re oversimplifying.

Movie Portrayals of Poverty:

1.)Deeply moralistic and contented:
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Slumdog Millionaire,The Son,Good Will Hunting[1]

2.)In need of assistance from a wealthy–often white–character from higher socioeconomic status:
The Help,The Soloist,The Dark Knight Rises

In pop-culture and fashion:

Bohemian: pushes aside capitalist framework and stability for what they are passionate about.[1]
Bourgeois-Bohemian: mimic the daily “simplicity of working poor, without giving up financial stability.

Dick Haynes, President and Founder, Urban Outfitters:[1]
Urban Outfitters is for the “upscale homeless.”
Nothing says homeless like the $144 “Bitching & Junkfood Algardi Velvet Swing Dress”[2]

The “live below the line” campaign challenged participants to live below Canada’s poverty line ($1.75 a day)[1]
FOR 5 DAYS…
With the knowledge they can return to overblown savings accounts.

We think of working poor as a destination. It’s exotic. But that stage wears off.

1.)Poverty shrinks your brain from chronic stress:
Long term stress shrinks the prefrontal cortex[8], insular cortex, and subgenual anterior cingulate[9] regions.[7]

All of which affect reasoning, decision making, emotions, and self-control.

So… you’re deeper in the hole.

2.)It has the highest correlations to substance abuse, broken homes, violence, and health problems

For every 1 child abused in a house making >$30,000:[5]
22 are abused in houses making <$15,000

Those with only a high school education 12% likelier to commit violent crimes.[6]

For every one child who is stunted, or in the hospital, twice as many impoverished children suffer from the same conditions.[10]

3.) Those living in poverty die earlier.

4.) And for many it never ends (it’s cyclical):
71% of children whose parents were born in the lower half of income distribution are upwardly mobile, but by much.[4]

Only 38% of people born into the lower half of income distribution make it to the upper half.[4]

Romanticizing poverty makes people think it doesn’t need to change. Don’t romanticize poverty.

Citations:

  1. https://medium.com/editors-picks/a29bf287ba17
  2. http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=28802635&parentid=W_APP_DRESSES
  3. http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v67n3/v67n3p1.html
  4. http://www.bestpsychologydegrees.org/parents-matter/
  5. http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/conferences/2A-4/Protecting_Children_Article_on_Poverty_and_Neglect.pdf/
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3015237/table/T2/#TFN3
  7. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-risky-is-it-really/201203/chronic-stress-can-shrink-your-brain
  8. http://mybrainnotes.com/amygdala-prefrontal-cortex.jpg
  9. http://dericbownds.net/uploaded_images/Sub_gen.gif
  10. http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/07_02_03.pdf (Table 1)

1013-03-Romanticizing-PovertyThumb

 

This week’s anti-fracking protest has put Canada’s First Nations at the forefront of Canada’s political life, injecting spirit back into our moribund political scene. Canadians watching the evening news were shocked by scenes of burning police cars, an riot squad of 100 police wielding tear gas and tasers on horseback.

Demonstrations to protest shale gas exploration on native lands near Rexton, New Brunswick, had been mounting for months, and when the RCMP moved in to take down the Mikmaq Elsipogtog tribe’s barriers, it was hardly surprising that the standoff became violent, starting with demonstrators throwing rocks, bottles and paint, and, when Chief Arren Sock was arrested, setting fire to six police cars. At least 40 people were arrested Thursday for violating a court-order injunction and disturbing the peace.

Fracking is a method of gas extraction where water is mixed with sand and chemicals and injected at high pressure into a wellbore to create small fractures, yielding natural gas and petroleum. In the process, it pollutes ground water, which now bears toxic chemicals and dangerously high levels of radiation, as well as emitting foul odors. The local Mikmaq claim that the Canadian subsidiary of the American frackers, Southwest Energy (SWN), is operating illegally on tribal land, and activists began blocking the highway between Rexton and Sainte-Anne-de-Kent on 28 September. SWN used its muscle and money to get a court injunction evicting the protestors.

But SWN’s irresistible force had met an immovable object. Speaking on “Columbus Day” on 12 October, “a day which celebrates 521 years of genocide and oppression of Indigenous peoples”, Mikmaq Warrior Society activist Suzane Patles declared 18 October to be a day of protest against the court injunction, calling for other native groups across the country to raise their banners in solidarity.  Renaming Columbus Day “Treaty Day”, Chief Sock presented a Band Council Resolution stating that his community is prepared to reclaim all unoccupied Crown Lands in Signigtog District (New Brunswick), stating, “Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian government have washed their hands with regards to the environmental protection of our lands and waters.” Chief Sock issued his own eviction notice, warning the oil and gas company to leave native land.

The RCMP claimed that at least one shot was fired Thursday “by someone other than an officer”, recalling past escalations between police and natives. In 1990, the Mohawks blockaded a bridge in Oka, Quebec, to protest the building of a golf course on native lands. That standoff also involved armed resistance resulting in the death of a Quebec policeman, and became a national crisis. Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney ordered the mobilization of 2,500 Canadian troops. The courage of the Oka Mohawks inspired First Nations protests across Canada and forced the government to ‘buy back’ the land from the municipality (land which was never theirs in the first place) and prevent any further development.

Another now legendary standoff was at Ipperwash Provincial Park in Ontario in 1995, over the confiscation of a sacred Ojibwa burial ground in 1942 to use as a firing range for the Canadian Army. The natives had been camping on the firing range since 1993 to stop the desecration of their ancestors, and warned in the spring of 1995 that they would occupy the park if nothing was done. Nothing was done—by another Conservative leader, Ontario Premier Mike Harris—and when the tourists packed up on Labour Day and the natives moved in, Harris ordered a police sniper team to get “the fucking Indians out of my park”. This led to the shooting and death of one of the leaders, Dudley George (and a suspended two-year sentence for the sniper). Finally, in 2009, 65 years after it was stolen, the land was returned by the government, just as in Oka, and as will surely happen in New Brunswick.

The legacy of the latest corporate insanity—fracking—will last for generations, poisoning ground water, destroying wildlife and making vast tracks of land uninhabitable, speeding up global warming—all for the sake of burning every-increasing amounts of energy. Instead of opposition party leaders joing the Mikmaqs on the barricades in protest, Canadians are left with the impression that natives are violently violating the ‘law’. But whose ‘law’?

Since Stephen Harper came to power at the head of the Conservative Party in 2006, he has been busy dismantling laws that virtually all that Canadians hold dear, with no effective opposition from the Liberals or New Democrats. His legacy includes withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocols, twice proroguing parliament and stifling freedom of speech, and electoral fraud (“robocalls”).

His government has been notable for its refusal to try to resolve simmering treaty disputes with Canada’s First Nations. Instead, in 2008, he signed a ‘treaty’—a public security cooperation “partnership”—with Israel, a country which, like Canada, violates its treaty obligations with its own native Palestinians. The Conservatives’ Bills C-38 and C-45 were blatant attempts to replace the government’s treaty obligations with market mechanisms, spelling the death knell of its obligations to First Nations.

Saskatchewan native women began a hunger strike in protest last November, which Ontario Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence brought to national attention with her own hunger strike near Ottawa’s Parliament Hill in December. Their actions gave rise to Idle No More, a pan-Canadian native organization that has attracted support from Canadians of all stripes.

In this latest standoff, as the police cars burned, Chief Sock was released and spirited to a 3-hour meeting with New Brunswick Premier David Alward. Sock called for a 30-day moratorium to allow tempers to cool and for reflection. The blockade of highway 11 continues, and native activists from across Canada are joining the Mikmaq in solidarity. Meanwhile, demonstrations broke out in cities across Canada, including Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and Thunder Bay, as well as in New York and at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC.

This principled action by New Brunswick natives is being echoed in dozens of other campaigns by native communities across Canada, where natives are stubbornly refusing to be swallowed up by corporate Canada. Even more appalling than fracking—if that’s possible—are the Alberta tar sands, Canada’s largest source of greenhouse gases, arguably the most environmentally destructive undertaking in history. And the construction of the necessary pipelines to bring the toxic sludge to happy consumers across North America and beyond. All enthusiastically promoted by the Harper government.

Demonstrations against the tar sands are going on this very minute across Canada and the US, with natives in the forefront. The “No Line 9!” campaign to stop a pipeline between Sarnia and Montreal, passing through 18 First Nation communities, held a protest at the National Energy Board in Toronto 19 October, even as the Alberta government declared a state of emergency and evacuated residents when 13 rail cars carrying crude oil and liquefied gas exploded and leaked their poison, as if to prove the demonstrators’ point.

In Saugeen Shores, Ojibwa First Nation Chief Randall Kahgee refuses to be railroaded into approving a plan by Ontario Power Generation to turn the Bruce Peninsula, a World Biosphere designated area, into a nuclear waste dump. The Saugeen First Nation chief told the Joint Review Panel: “Those generations yet to come, they’re going to want to know, what did our ancestors do to make sure we still have our relationship to those lands and those waters.”

Northern Ontario natives are now being pressured by both Harper and ‘advised’ by former Liberal and NDP leader Bob Rae to open their fragile sub-Arctic territories to chromite mining and smelting projects in the James Bay ‘ring of fire’. What does Rae think of the Mikmaqs’ refusal to allow fracking on their lands? The tar sands? The nuclear waste dump in Bruce County? Will Rae convince his tribal friends to cede the rights to their fragile sub-Arctic lands for a few hundred million dollars?

There is ample evidence that fracking is disastrous. River water in western Pennsylvania has radium levels 200 times higher than normal downstream from a gas treatment plant, according to a Duke University study. The toxic tar sands project has prompted Europe to threaten to boycott Canadian oil. Nuclear waste will continue to ‘give’ for tens of thousands of years.

For the first time in Canadian history—from the native point of view, a history of occupation, dispossession and manic economic development—the Mikmaqs of New Brunswick and their allies across Canada in Idle No More are putting the option of “No!” on the table, not just “How much money will we get to let the corporations destroy our land?” “Treaty Day” replaces Columbus Day on my calendar, and I hope, will someday be celebrated as an official Canadian holiday.

By Sam Pizzigati
The U.S. Supreme Court is mulling a case that could end up giving America’s wealthy a perpetual green light to contribute as much as they want directly to politicians and political parties.

Credit Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama businessman who owns an electrical engineering company, for getting this ball rolling. In the 2012 election cycle, McCutcheon contributed heavily to conservative candidates and Republican Party committees. But the experience left the mega millionaire feeling terribly aggrieved.

pizzigati-watergate-tonynetone

Federal campaign finance reform legislation enacted four decades ago in the wake of the Watergate scandal limits how much individuals can give directly to candidates and political parties. In 2012, McCutcheon ran up against those limits, then sitting at about $46,000 for candidates and $70,000 for party committees.

McCutcheon had wanted to give candidates and party panels much more. Under the law, he couldn’t then — and he can’t now either. The current, inflation-adjusted aggregate limit for the 2014 congressional elections: $123,000.

But wealthy individuals like McCutcheon, thanks to previous court decisions, can spend on their own, independently of candidate and party campaigns, as much as they want to influence a federal election’s impact.

In other words, a billionaire can’t currently give a particular congressional candidate a $1 million check. But the same billionaire can legally hand a TV station $1 million to run 30-second ads that extol that candidate’s virtues — or attack that candidate’s opponent.

This sort of “independent expenditure” can make a major impact as campaigns play out. Independent expenditures can also complicate campaigns, especially when deep-pockets go “off-message” in the advertising they finance. In most situations, candidates and political parties would much rather have billionaires contribute directly to them and not go off and spend independently.

If the Supreme Court uses the McCutcheon case to erase our last remaining Watergate-era campaign funding limits, these political insiders will get their way. For the first time in years, they would be able to solicit unlimited contributions from America’s wealthy.

That turn of events, public interest groups point out, would leave political candidates and party officials even more eager to grant wealthy donors improper influence.

Fred Wertheimer, America’s elder statesman of campaign finance reform, is imparting a particularly dire warning. Repealing limits on direct contributions to candidates and parties, he contends, would take us right back to the same political corruption that led to the Watergate scandals.

But Wertheimer may actually be understating the danger. Repealing limits on direct contributions to candidates and parties would likely create a political environment far more toxic than anything we experienced before Watergate.

Back before Watergate, in the mid 20th century, America’s rich didn’t have nearly as much wealth.

Some numbers: In 1972, the year of the Watergate burglary, the nation’s top 0.1 percent averaged, in today’s dollars, the equivalent of $1.48 million in income. In 2012, America’s top 0.1 percent averaged $6.4 million. That’s more than a four-fold increase.

But the gap between rich then and rich now becomes even greater when you take taxes into effect. In 1972, taxpayers averaging $1.48 million in today’s dollars paid 40.7 percent of their total incomes in federal income tax. In 2012, note Tax Policy Center estimates, taxpayers in the top 0.1 percent paid federal income taxes at about half that rate.

The bottom line: America’s really rich in 2012 had over six times more after-tax dollars in their pockets, after inflation, than their counterparts in 1972.

We shouldn’t fear a wave of Watergate corruption. If the Supreme Court ends all limits on the campaign cash the super rich can throw at their candidates, American politics faces dangers far more troubling than anything Richard Nixon ever imposed upon us.

OtherWords columnist Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, edits the inequality weekly Too Much. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class. OtherWords.org

Introduction

US relations with Venezuela illustrate the specific mechanisms with which an imperial power seeks to sustain client states and overthrow independent nationalist governments.  By examining US strategic goals and its tactical measures, we can set forth several propositions about (1) the nature and instruments of imperial politics, (2) the shifting context and contingencies influencing the successes and failures of specific policies, and (3) the importance of regional and global political alignments and priorities.[1]

Method of Analysis

A comparative historical approach highlights the different policies, contexts and outcomes of imperial policies during two distinct Presidential periods: the ascendancy of neo-liberal client regimes (Perez and Caldera) of the late 1980’s to 1998; and the rise and consolidation of a nationalist populist government under President Chavez (1999-2012).[2]

During the 1980’s and 1990’s, US successes in securing policies favorable to US economic and foreign policy interests under client rulers fixed, in the mind of Washington, the optimal and only acceptable model and criteria for responding (negatively) to the subsequent Chavez nationalist government.[3]

US policy toward Venezuela in the 1990’s and its successes were part and parcel of a general embrace of neo-liberal electoral regimes in Latin America .  Washington and its allies in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) promoted and supported regimes throughout Latin America , which privatized and de-nationalized over five thousand public enterprises in the most lucrative economic sectors.[4]  These quasi-public monopolies included natural resources, energy, finance, trade, transport and telecommunications.  Neo-liberal client regimes reversed 50 years of economic and social policy, concentrated wealth, deregulated the economy, and laid the basis for a profound crisis, which ultimately discredited neo-liberalism. This led to continent-wide popular uprisings resulting in regime changes and the ruse if nationalist populist governments.

The historical-comparative approach allows us to analyze Washington’s response to the rise and demise of its neo-liberal clients and the subsequent ascendency of populist-nationalism and how regional patterns and changes influence the capacity of an imperial power to intervene and attempt to re-establish its dominance.

Conceptual Framework

The key to understanding the mode and means of imposing and sustaining imperial dominance is to recognize that Washington combines multiple forms of struggle, depending on resources, available collaborators and opportunities and contingencies.[5]

In approaching client regimes, Washington combines military and economic aid to repress opposition and buttress economic allies by cushioning crises. Imperial propaganda, via the mass media, provides political legitimacy and diplomatic backing, especially when client regimes engage in gross human rights violations and high level corruption.

Conversely when attempting to weaken or overthrow a nationalist-populist regime, the empire will resort to multiple forms of attack including:[6] (1) corruption (buying off government supporters), (2) funding and organizing opposition media, parties, business and trade union organizations, (3) organizing and backing disloyal military officials to violently overthrow the elected government, (4) supporting employers’ lockouts to paralyze strategic sectors of the economy (oil),(5) financing referendums and other ‘legal mechanisms’ to revoke democratic mandates, (6) promoting paramilitary groups to destabilize civil society, sow public insecurity and undermine agrarian reforms, (7) financing electoral parties and non-governmental organizations to compete in and delegitimize elections, (8) engaging diplomatic warfare and efforts to prejudice regional relations and (9) establishing military bases in neighboring countries, as a platform for future joint military invasions.

The multi-prong, multi-track policies occur in sequence or are combined, depending on the opportunities and results of earlier tactical operations.  For example, while financing the electoral campaign of Capriles Radonski in April 2013, Washington also backed violent post-election assaults by rightist thugs attempting to destabilize the government in Caracas .[7]

Secretary of State John Kerry, while pursuing an apparent effort to re-open diplomatic relations via negotiations, simultaneously backed inflammatory declarations by Samantha Power, United Nations representative, which promised aggressive US intrusion in Venezuela ’s domestic politics.

US-Venezuelan relations provide us with a case study that illustrates how efforts to restore hegemonic politics can become an obstacle to the development of normal relations, with an independent country.  In particular, the ascendancy of Washington during the ‘Golden Age of Neo-liberalism’ in the 1990’s, established a fixed ‘mind set’ incapable of adapting to the changed circumstances of the 2000’s, a period when the demise and discredit of ‘free market’ client politics called for a change in US tactics.  The rigidity, derived from past success, led Washington to pursue ‘restoration politics’ under very unfavorable circumstances, involving military, clandestine and other illicit tactics with little chance of success – given the new situation.

The failure of the US to destabilize a democratically elected nationalist popular regime in Venezuela occurred when Washington was already heavily engaged in multiple, prolonged wars and conflicts in several countries ( Iraq , Afghanistan , Pakistan , Somalia , and Libya ). This validates the hypothesis that even a global power is incapable of waging warfare in multiple locations at the same time.

Given the shift in world market conditions, including the increase in commodity prices, (especially energy), the relative economic decline of the US and the rise of Asia, Washington lost a strategic economic lever – market power – in the 2000’s, a resource which it had possessed during the previous decade.[8]  Furthermore, with the shift in political power in the region and the rise of popular-nationalist governments in most of Latin America, Washington lost regional leverage to ‘encircle’, ‘boycott’ and intervene in Venezuela .  Even among its remaining clients, like Colombia , Washington could do no more than create ‘border tensions’ rather than mount a joint military attack.

Comparative historical analysis of the strategic changes in international and regional politics, economies, markets and alignments provides a useful framework for interpreting US-Venezuelan relations, especially the successes of the 1990’s and the failures of the 2000’s.

US-Venezuela Patron-Client Relations 1960’s -1998

During the 40-year period following the overthrow of the Dictator Perez Jimenez (1958) and prior to the election of President Hugo Chavez (1998), Venezuela ’s politics were marked with rigid conformity to US political and economic interests on all strategic issues.[9]  Venezuelan regimes followed Washington ’s lead in ousting Cuba from the Organization of American States, breaking relations with Havana and promoting a hemispheric blockade.  Caracas followed Washington ’s lead during the cold War and backed its counter-insurgency policies in Latin America .  It opposed the democratic leftist regime in Chile under President Salvador Allende, the nationalist governments of Brazil (1961-64), Peru (1967-73), Bolivia (1968-71) and Ecuador (in the 1970’s).  It supported the US invasions of the Dominican Republic , Panama and Grenada .  Venezuela ’s nationalization of oil (1976) provided lucrative compensation and generous service contracts with US oil companies, a settlement far more generous than any comparable arrangement in the Middle East or elsewhere in Latin America .

During the decade from the late 1980’s to 1998, Venezuela signed[10] off on draconic International Monetary Fund programs, including privatizations of natural resources, devaluations and austerity programs, which enriched the MNCs, emptied the Treasury and impoverished the majority of wage and salary earners.[11]  In foreign policy, Venezuela aligned with the US, ignored new trade opportunities in Latin America and Asia and moved to re-privatize its oil, bauxite and other primary resource sectors.  President Perez was indicted in a massive corruption scandal.  When implementation of the brutal US-IMF austerity program led to a mass popular uprising (the ‘Caracazo’) in February 1989, the government responded with the massacre of over a thousand protestors. The subsequent Caldera regime presided over the triple scourge of triple digit inflation, 50% poverty rates and double digit unemployment.[12]

Social and political conditions in Venezuela touched bottom at the peak of US hegemony in the region, the ‘Golden Age of Neo-Liberalism’ for Wall Street.  The inverse relation was not casual: Venezuela , under President Caldera, endured austerity programs and adopted ‘open’ market and US-centered policies, which undermined any public policies designed to revive the economy.  Moreover, world market conditions were unfavorable for Venezuela , as oil prices were low and China had not yet become a world market power and alternative trade partner.

US and the Rise of Chavez:  1998-2001

The US viewed the Venezuelan elections of 1998 as a continuation of the previous decade, despite significant political signs of changes.  The two parties, which dominated and alternated in power, the Christian democratic ‘COPEI’, and the social democratic ‘Democratic Action Party’, were soundly defeated by a new political formation headed by a former military officer, Hugo Chavez, who had led an armed uprising six years earlier and had mounted a massive grass-roots campaign, attracting radicals and revolutionaries, as well as opportunists and defectors from the two major parties.[13]

Washington’s successes over the previous decade, the entrenched ascendancy of neo-liberalism and the advance of a regional US ‘free trade agreement’ blinded the Clinton regime from seeing (1) the economic crisis and discredit of the neo-liberal model, (2) the deepening social and economic polarization and hostility to the IMF-USA among broad sectors of the class structure and (3) the decay and discredit of its client political parties and regimes.  Washington tended to write-off Chavez’s promises of a new constitutional order and new ‘Bolivarian’ foreign and domestic policies, including nationalist-populist reforms, as typical Latin American campaign rhetoric.  The general thinking at the US State Department was that Chavez was engaging in electoral demagogy and that he would ‘come to his senses’ after taking office.[14]  Moreover Washington ’s Latin Americanists believed that the mix of traditional politicians and technocrats in his motley coalition would undermine any consequential push for leftist radical changes.[15]

Hence Washington , under Clinton , did not adopt a hostile position during the first months of the Chavez government.  The watchword among the Clintonites was ‘wait and see’ counting on long-standing ties to the major business associations, friendly military officials, and corrupt trade union bosses and oil executives to check or block any new radical initiatives emanating from Venezuelan Congress or President Chavez.  In other words, Washington counted on using the permanent state apparatus in Caracas to counter the new electoral regime.

Early on, President Chavez recognized the institutional obstacles to his nationalist socio-economic reforms and immediately called for constitutional changes, convoking elections for a constituent assembly, which he won handily.  Washington ’s growing concerns over the possible consequences of new elections were tempered by two factors:  (1) the mixed composition of the elected assembly (old line politicians, moderate leftists, radicals and ‘unknowns’) and (2) the appointment of ‘moderates’ to the Central Bank as well as the orthodox economic policies pursued by the finance and economic ministries.  Prudent budgets, fiscal deficits and balance of payments were at the top of their agendas.

The new constitution included clauses favoring a radical social and nationalist agenda.   This led to the early defection of some of the more conservative Chavez supporters who then aligned with Washington , signaling the first overt signs of US opposition.  Veteran State Department officials debated whether the new radical constitution would form the basis of a leftist government or whether it was standard ‘symbolic’ fare, i.e. rhetorical flourishes, to be heavily discounted, from a populist president addressing a restive ‘Latin’ populace suffering hard times but not likely to be followed by substantive reforms.[16]  The hard liners in Caracas , linked to the exile Cuban community and lobby argued that Chavez was a ‘closet’ radical preparing the way for more radical ‘communist’ measures.[17]  In fact, Chavez policies were both moderate and radical: His political ‘zigzags’ reflected his efforts to navigate a moderate reform agenda, without alienating the US and the business community on the one hand, and while responding to his mass base among the impoverished slum dwellers (rancheros’) who had elected him.

Strategically, Chavez succeeded in creating a strong political institutional base in the legislature, civil administration and military, which could (or would) approve and implement his national-populist agenda.  Unlike Chilean Socialist President Salvador Allende, Hugo Chavez first consolidated his political and military base of support and then proceeded to introduce socio-economic changes.

By the end of 2000, Washington moved to regroup its internal client political forces into a formidable political opposition.  Chavez was too independent, not easily controlled, and most important moving in the ‘wrong direction’ – away from a blind embrace of neo-liberalism and US-centered regional integration.  In other words, while Chavez was still well within the parameters of US hegemony, the direction he was taking portended a possible break.

The Turning Point:  Chavez Defies the ‘War on Terror’ 2000-2001

The first decade of the new millennium was a tumultuous period which played a major role in defining US-Venezuelan relations.  Several inter-related events polarized the hemisphere, weakened Washington ’s influence, undermined collaborator-client regimes and led to a major confrontation with Venezuela .

First, the neo-liberal model fell into deep crisis throughout the region, discrediting the US-backed clients in Bolivia , Argentina , Ecuador , Brazil and elsewhere.  Secondly, repeated major popular uprisings occurred during the crisis and populist-nationalist politicians came to power, rejecting US-IMF tutelage and US-centered regional trade agreements.[18]  Thirdly, Washington launched a global ‘war on terror’, essentially an offensive military strategy designed to overthrow adversaries to US domination and establish Israeli regional supremacy in the Middle East .  In Latin American, Washington ’s launch of the ‘war on terror’ occurred precisely at the high point of crisis and popular rebellion, undermining the US hope for region-wide support.  Fourthly, beginning in 2003, commodity prices skyrocketed, as China’s economy took off, creating lucrative markets and stimulating high growth for the new left of center regimes.

In this vortex of change, President Chavez rejected Washington’s ‘War on Terror’, rejecting the logic of ‘fighting terror with terror’.  By the end of 2001, Washington dispatched a top State Department official and regional ‘enforcer’ to Caracas where he bluntly threatened dire reprisals – destabilization plans – if Caracas failed to line up with Washington’s campaign to reimpose global hegemony.[19]  Chavez dismissed the official’s threats and re-aligned his nation with the emerging Latin American nationalist-populist consensus.  In other words, Washington’s aggressive militarist posture backfired: polarizing relations, increasing tensions and, to a degree, radicalizing Venezuela’s foreign policy.

Washington’s intervention machine (the ‘coup-makers’) went into high gear:  Ambassador Charles Shapiro held several meetings with the FEDECAMARAS (the Venezuelan business association) and the trade union bosses of the CTV (Venezuelan Trade Union Confederation).[20]  The Pentagon and the US Southern Command met with their clients in the Venezuelan military.  The State Department increased contacts and funding for opposition NGO’s and rightwing street gangs.  The date of the coup had been set for April 11, 2002.  With the buildup of pressure, preparatory for the threatened coup, the Chavez government began to assess its own resources, contacting loyal military units, especially among the armored battalions and paratroopers.

In this heated and dangerous atmosphere, local neighborhood committees sprang up and mobilized the poor around a more radical social agenda defending their government while the US-backed opposition unleashed violent street clashes.[21]  The coup was warmly welcomed by Washington and its semi-official mouthpiece, the New York Times,[22] as well as by the rightwing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar [23].  The illicit coup regime seized President Chavez, dismissed Congress, dissolved political parties and declared a state of emergency.  The masses and leading sectors of the military quickly responded in mass:  Millions of poor Venezuelans descended from the ‘ranchos’ (slums surrounding Caracas) and gathered before Miraflores, the Presidential Palace, demanding the return of their elected President – repudiating the coup.  The constitutionalist military, led by an elite paratroop battalion, threatened a full-scale assault against the palace. The coup-makers, realized they were politically isolated and outgunned; they surrendered.  Chavez returned to power in triumph.  The traditional US policy of violent regime change to restore its hegemony had been defeated; important collaborator assets were forced into exile and purged from the military.

Washington had played a risky card in its haste and lost on several fronts:  First of all, US support for the coup strengthened the anti-imperialist sectors of Chavez’s Bolivarian movement.  Chavez discarded any residual illusions of ‘reaching an accommodation’ with Washington.  Secondly, the loss of key military assets weakened Washington’s hope for a future military coup.  Thirdly, the complicity of the business groups weakened their ability to influence Chavez’s economic policies and nudged him toward a more statist economic strategy.  Fourthly, the mass mobilization of the poor to restore democracy moved the government to increase spending on social welfare programs.  Anti-imperialism, the demand for social welfare and the threat to Venezuelan national security led Chavez to establish strategic ties with Cuba, as a natural ally.

Washington’s escalation of aggression and overt commitment to regime change altered the bilateral relationship into one of permanent, unbridled hostility.  Spurred on by its having supported a failed coup, Washington resorted once again to ‘direct action’ by backing a ‘boss’s lockout’ of the strategic oil industry.  This was led by ‘client assets’ among the executives and corrupt sectors of the petroleum workers union.

Washington implemented its ‘global militarization’ of US foreign policy.  Under the subterfuge ‘War on Terror’ – a formula for global intervention, which included the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and, the war against Iraq in 2003, imperial policymakers have plunged ahead with new aggressive policies against Venezuela.

The pretext for aggression against Venezuela was not directly linked to oil or Chavez’s appeal for Latin American integration.   The trigger was Chavez direct and forthright refusal to submit to a militarist global US empire as demanded by President Bush – one which conquered opponents by force and maintained a network of collaborator vassal states.  The oil conflicts – Chavez’ nationalization of US oil concessions and his appeal for regional integration, excluding the US and Canada, were a result of and in response to US overt aggression.  Prior to the US-backed April 2002 failed coup and the oil-bosses’ lockout of December 2002 – February 2003, there were no major conflicts between Chavez and US oil companies.  Chavez’s conception of the Bolivarian unity of all Latin American states was still a ‘vision’ and not a concrete program for action.  Chavez’s takeover of US oil concessions was a defensive political move to eliminate a powerful political adversary which controlled Venezuela’s strategic export and revenue sectors.  He did not intervene in European oil companies.  Likewise, Chavez’s move to promote regional organizations flowed from his perception that Venezuela required closer ties and supportive relations in Latin America in order to counter US imperial aggression.

In other words, US empire builders used (and sacrificed) their economic assets in their attempt to restore hegemony via military means.  The military and strategic dimensions of the US Empire took precedence over ‘Big Oil’.  This formed a template clearly evident in all of its subsequent imperial actions against Iraq, Libya and Syria and its severe economic sanctions against Iran.  The same hegemonic priorities played out in Washington’s intervention in Venezuela – but failed.

Contrary to some theorists of imperialism, who have argued that imperialism expands via economic ‘dispossession’ [24], recent history of US-Venezuela relations demonstrate that 21st US imperialism grows via political intervention, military coups and by converting economic collaborators into political agents willing to sacrifice US corporate wealth to secure imperial military-political domination.

The imperial policymakers decided to overthrow Chavez because he had defied Washington and opposed Bush’s global military strategy.  The White House thought it had powerful assets in Venezuela:  the mass media, the two major opposition parties, the principle business federation (FEDECAMARAS), the official trade union bureaucracy, sectors of the military and the church hierarchy … Washington did not count on the loyalty and affection that the unorganized masses and the popular movements has for President Chavez.  Nor did imperial strategists understand that strategic military units, like the paratroops, retained nationalist, personal and political ties with their democratically-elected President.

Within 48 hours of the coup, Chavez was restored to power – striking the first blow to Washington’s ambitions for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela.  The second blow came with the defeat of the US-backed oil bosses’ lockout.  Washington had counted on its close ties with the senior executives of the state oil company (PDVS) and the heads of the oil workers union.[25]  Washington did not realize that about half of the oil workers and a number of company and union bosses would staunchly opposed the lockout while other Latin American oil producers would supply Venezuela and break the ‘bosses’ strike.

These twin defeats, the military-business coup and the bosses’ lockout, had a profound impact on US-Venezuelan relations.  The US lost its strategic internal assets – business and trade union elites who then fled to ‘exile’ in Miami or resigned.  Pro-US oil executives were replaced by nationalists. Washington’s direct imperial intervention pushed the Chavez government in a new, radical direction as it moved decisively from conciliation to confrontation and opposition.  The government of Venezuela launched a radical, nationalist, populist agenda and actively promoted Latin American integration.  Venezuela inaugurated UNASUR, ALBA and PetroCaribe, undermining the US-centered free trade treaty (ALCA).

Washington’s military-interventionist strategy was undermined by the loss of their key collaborators. The White House switched to its clients in the opposition parties and, especially, to so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) channeling funds via the ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ and other “front groups”.  They bankrolled a ‘recall referendum’, which was decisively defeated, further demoralizing the rightwing electorate and weakening remaining US clients.[26]

Having lost on the military, economic and electoral fronts, Washington backed a boycott of Congressional elections by the opposition parties- leading to the final debacle in its program to de-legitimize and destabilize the Chavez government.  Pro-Chavez candidates and parties swept the election gaining an overwhelming majority.  They went on to approve all of the government’s nationalist-social reform agenda.  The US-backed opposition lost all institutional leverage.

The US imperial failures from 2002-2005 did not merely ‘reflect’ mistaken policies; these signaled a more profound problem for the empire – its inability to make an accurate estimate of the correlation of forces.  This strategic failure led it to continue throwing its marginalized domestic assets into conflict with less resources and support.  Despite repeated defeats, Washington couldn’t grasp that popular power and nationalist allegiances within the military had successfully countered the US business-military intervention.  Political hubris underpinning a military-driven imperialist ideology had blinded Washington to the realities in Venezuela, i.e. Hugo Chavez possessed massive popular support and was backed by nationalist military officers.  Desperate for some political ‘victory’ in its conflict with the government of Hugo Chavez, Washington staggered from one adventure to another without reflecting on its lost assets or disappearing opportunities.  Washington did not understand the decisive political shifts occurring in Latin America and favorable global economic conditions for petroleum exporters.  Organizing a ‘recall referendum’ in the face of Venezuela’s double-digit growth, its radicalized population and the booming world prices for oil, was the height of imperial imbecility.[27]

Imperial Policy During the Commodity Boom 2004-2008

With virtually no collaborators of consequence, Washington turned toward the ‘outside’ destabilization strategy using its only loyal regional client, the death squad narco-President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia.  Bogota granted Washington the use of seven military bases, numerous airfields and the establishment of Special Forces missions- preparatory for cross border intrusions.  The strategy would be to launch a joint intervention under the pretext that Venezuela supplied and sheltered the FARC guerillas.

World events intervened to thwart Washington’s plans: the invasion of Iraq and the bloody occupation of Afghanistan, looming conflicts with Iran and low intensity warfare in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, had weakened the empire’s capacity to intervene militarily in Venezuela.  Every country in the region would have opposed any direct US intervention and Colombia was not willing to go it alone, especially with its own full-scale guerrilla war against the FARC.

Venezuela’s trade surplus and high export revenues rendered the traditional Washington financial levers like the IMF and World Bank impotent.[28]  Likewise, Venezuela had signed multi-billion dollar arms trade agreements with Russia, undermining any US boycott.  Trade agreements with Brazil and Argentina reduced Venezuela’s need for US food imports.

All the oil multinationals continued normal operations in Venezuela, except US companies.  The government’s selective nationalization program and gradual increases in taxes and royalty payments undercut EU support for the US, given the high world price of oil (exceeding $100 dollars a barrel).  Chavez’s left-turn was well-funded. The oil revenues funded a wide-range of social programs, including subsidized food, housing and social welfare, healthcare and educational programs led to a sharp drop in poverty and unemployment.   This secured a strong electoral base for Chavez.  The ‘pivot to the Middle East’, following Bush’s declaration of the ‘Global War on Terror, bogged the US down in a series of prolonged wars, undermining its quest to regain regional power.[29]

More significantly, the ‘Latin Americanists’ in the State Department and Pentagon were stuck in the 1990’s paradigm of ‘free markets and vassal states’ just when the most important countries in the region had moved toward greater independence in terms of trade, greater intra-regional integration and social inclusion.  Unable to adapt to these new regional realities, Washington witnessed the region’s rejection of US-centered free trade accords.  Meanwhile China was displacing the US as the region’s main trading partner.[30]  Without its collaborator elites among the military to act as ‘coup-makers for empire’, the US-imperial reach shrunk.  Coups failed in Bolivia and Ecuador further radicalizing political relations against the US.

Washington did not lack partners:  New bilateral trade agreements were signed with Chile, Panama, Colombia and Mexico.  The Pentagon engineered a bloody coup in Honduras against a democratically elected President.  The National Security Agency engaged in major cyber-spying operations in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and the rest of the continent.[31]  The White House poured over six -billion dollars into Colombia’s armed forces to serve as a proxy for the US military.  These “gains” had little impact.  US support for the coup-makers in Honduras may have overthrown an ally for Chavez in ALBA but it led to even greater diplomatic isolation and discredit for Washington throughout Latin America. Even Colombia denounced the US coup against the Honduran president.  While US military support for Colombia contributed to some border tensions with Venezuela, the election of President Santos in Bogota brought significant movement toward peaceful reconciliation with Venezuela. Whereas trade between Colombia and Venezuela had fallen to less than $2 billion dollar a year, with Santos’ conciliatory policy it rose sharply to nearly $10 billion.[32]

Washington’s external strategy was in shambles.  The program of NSA cyber-spying against regional leaders, revealed by Edward Snowden, resulted in outrage and greater animosity toward Washington. The President of Brazil was especially incensed and cancelled a scheduled major state White House visit and allocated $10 billion dollars to set up a nationally controlled IT system.  Imperial policy makers had relied exclusively on interventionist strategies with military-intelligence operations and were clearly out of touch with the new configuration of power in Latin America.  In contrast, Venezuela consolidated its economic ties with the new regional and global economic power centers, as the foundations for its independent policies.

Washington viewed President Chavez and, his successor President Maduro’s regional strategy as a security threat to US hegemony rather than an economic challenge.  Venezuela’s success in forging bilateral ties, even with US clients like Colombia and Mexico, and a number of English-speaking Caribbean islands, undermined efforts to ‘encircle and isolate’ Venezuela.  Caracas success in financing and backing multi-lateral regional economic and political organizations in South America and the Caribbean, which excluded the US, reflects the power of oil diplomacy over saber rattling.  Venezuela’s PetroCaribe program won the support of number of neo-liberal and center-left regimes in the Caribbean, which had previously been under US hegemony.  In exchange for subsidized oil prices, medical aid and interest-free loans, these US clients started rejecting Washington’s intervention.  ALBA brought together several center-left governments, including Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, into a common political bloc opposing US meddling.

ALBA rejected regime change via coups throughout Latin America and opposed Washington’s wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere.  Venezuela successfully joined the powerful economic bloc, MERCOSUR, enhancing its trade with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.  Venezuela’s strategic alliance with Cuba (trading its oil for Cuba’s medical services) made the massive Bolivarian health program for the poor a great success, cementing Chavez and Maduros’ electoral base among the Venezuelan masses. This undermined Washington’s well-funded program of ‘NGO’ subversion in poor neighborhoods.  Venezuela successfully undercut Bush and Obama’s efforts to use Colombia as a ‘military proxy’ when it signed a historic peace and reconciliation agreement with President Santos.  Colombia agreed to end its cross-border paramilitary and military incursions and withdrew its support for US destabilization operations in exchange for Venezuela closing guerrilla sanctuaries, re-opening trade relations and encouraging the FARC to enter into peace negotiations with the Santos regime.[33]  Santos’ embrace of Venezuela’s trade and diplomatic ties eroded Washington’s policy of using Colombia as a trampoline for military intervention and forced imperial policy-makers to turn to its domestic Venezuelan clients through elections as well as internal ‘direct action’, e.g. the sabotage of power stations and the hoarding of essential food and commodities.

While Washington’s imperial rhetoric constantly protrayed Venezuela as a ‘security threat’ to the entire hemisphere, no other country adopted that position.  Latin America viewed Caracas as a partner in regional trade integration and a lucrative market. US diplomacy does not reflect its trade relations with Venezuela:  only Mexico is more dependent on the US oil market.  However, Venezuela’s dependence on the US to purchase its oil has been changing.  In 2013 Venezuela signed a $20 billion dollar investment and trade deal with China to extract and export ‘heavy oil’ from the Orinoco Basin.  Venezuela’s deep trade ties with the US are in sharp contrast with the hostile diplomatic relations resulting in the mutual withdrawal of ambassadors and Washington’s gross interference in Venezuelan elections and other internal affairs. For example, in March 2013, two US military attaches were expelled after they were caught trying to recruit Venezuelan military officers.  A few months later, in September, three US Embassy officials were kicked out for their participation in destabilization activity with members of the far right opposition.[34]

Imperialism’s Multi-Track Opposition

US hostility toward Venezuela occurs at three levels of conflict:  At the country-level, Venezuela marks out a new development paradigm which features public ownership over the free market, social welfare over multi-national oil profits and popular power over elite rule.  At the regional level Venezuela promotes Latin American integration over US-centered Latin American Free Trade Agreements, anti-imperialism over “pan-Americanism”, foreign aid based on reciprocal economic interests and non-intervention as opposed to US military pacts, narco-military collusion and military bases.[35]

At the global-level Venezuela has rejected the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, ignored US trade sanctions against Iran, opposed Washington and NATO’s bombing of Libya and the proxy invasion of Syria.  Venezuela condemns Israel’s colonization and annexation of Palestine.  In other words, Venezuela upholds national self-determination against US military driven imperialism.[36]

Presidents Chavez and Maduro have presented a successful alternative to neo-liberalism. Venezuela demonstrates that a highly globalized, trade dependent economy can have an advanced welfare program.  The US, on the other hand, as it ‘globalizes’, has been eliminating its domestic social welfare programs in order to finance imperial wars.  Venezuela has shown the US public that a market economy and large social welfare investments are not incompatible.  This paradigm flies in the face of the White House’s message.  Moreover, US Empire builders have no economic initiatives compete with Venezuela’s regional and global alliances.  This situation is very different from the 1960’s when President Kennedy proposed the ‘Alliance for Progress’, involving trade, aid and reforms, to counter the revolutionary appeal of the Cuban revolution.[37]  Presidents Bush and Obama could only ‘offer’ costly military and police co-operation and worn-out neo-liberal clichés accompanied by market constraints.

Despite its severe diplomatic setbacks, regional isolation, the loss of its military platform, and an economic boom, driven by the high world price of oil, Washington keeps on trying to destabilize Venezuela.  Beginning in 2007, imperial strategy re-focused on elections and domestic destabilization programs.  Washington’s first success occurred when it backed a campaign against new constitutional amendments in December 2007 defeating Chavez by 1%.  This happened right after his substantial Presidential re-election victory.  The overtly socialist constitution proved too radical for a sector of the Venezuelan electorate.[38]

Since 2008 Washington has infused large sums of money into a variety of political assets, including NGOs and middle class university students’ organization engaged in agitation and anti-Chavez street demonstrations.[39]  The goal was to exploit local grievances.  US funding of domestic proxies led to extra-parliamentary, destabilization activity, like sabotage, disrupting Venezuela’s economy while blaming the government for ‘public insecurity’ and covering up opposition violence.

The business community started hoarding essential goods in order to provoke shortages and whip up popular discontent.  The opposition media blamed the shortages on state ‘inefficiency’.  Opposition political parties started receiving significant US funding, on condition that they unified and ran on a single slate in contesting elections and questioned the legitimacy of the election results (claiming ‘fraud’) after their defeat.

In summary, US efforts to restore its hegemony in Caracas involved a wide range of domestic clients from violent paramilitary groups, NGO’s, political parties, elected officials and manufacturing and commercial executives linked to the production and distribution of essential consumer goods.

The shifts in Washington’s policies, from internal violence (coup of 2002, oil lockout of 2002-03), and cross border military threats from Colombia (2004-2006), returning to internal domestic elections and campaigns of economic sabotage reflects recent attempts to overcome failed policies without surrendering the strategic objective of restoring hegemony via overthrowing the elected government (“regime change” in the imperial lexicon).

Seven Keys to Imperial Politics:  An Overview

            Washington’s effort to restore hegemony and reimpose a client regime in Caracas has last over a decade and involves the empire’s capacity to achieve seven strategic goals:

1.)   Imperial capacity to overthrow a nationalist government requires a unified collaborator military command.  President Chavez made sure there were loyalists in strategic military units able to counter the coup-making capacity of imperial proxies.

2.)      Imperial capacity to intervene depends on not being tied down in ongoing wars elsewhere and on securing regional collaborators.  Neither condition was present.  The armies of the empire were bogged down in prolonged wars in the Middle East and South Asia creating public hostility to another war in Venezuela.  The plans to convert Colombia into an ally in an invasion of Venezuela failed because Colombia’s business elite were already shouldering significant trade losses due to the cross-border skirmishes and Washington had little or nothing in economic compensation or alternative markets to offer Colombian exporters and most of US “aid” (Plan Colombia) involved direct military transfers and sales – useless to domestic producers.

3.)        The imperial destabilization campaign wasted its strategic assets through premature, ill-calculated and high-risk operations where one failure seemed to lead to even higher risk interventions in an effort to cover-up Washington’s bankrupt strategy.  The US-backed coup of 2002 was clearly based on poor intelligence and a grotesque underestimation of President Chavez’s support among the military and the masses.  Washington did not understand how Chavez’s astute institutional changes, in particular his promotion of loyalist sectors of the armed forces, undercut the capacity of its domestic collaborators.  Blinded by its racist and ideological blinders, Washington counted on its business allies and trade union bureaucrats to ‘turn-out the crowds’ to back the junta and provide a legal cover.  In the face of serious losses resulting from the subsequent purging of client elites in the military and business associations, Washington then unleashed its client oil executives and trade union officials to mount an oil lockout, without any support from the military.  Eventually the shutdown of oil production and delivery managed to alienate broad sectors of the business community and consumers as they suffer from fuel and other critical shortages.  In the end, over ten thousand US clients among senior and middle management were purged and the PDVSA (the state oil company) was restructured and transformed into a formidable political instrument funding Venezuela comprehensive social welfare programs.

 Increases in social spending in turn boosted Chavez’s support among voters and consolidated his mass base among the poor.  Imperial strategists switched from failing to overthrow Chavez by extra-parliamentary tactics to launching an unsuccessful referendum and suffered a decisive and demoralizing defeat in the face of strong popular for Chavez’ social initiatives.  To make a virtue of its serial disasters, Washington decided to backed a boycott of the Congressional elections and ended up with near unanimous Chavista control of Congress and a wide popular mandate to implement Chavez executive prerogatives. Chavez then used his executive decrees to promote an anti-imperialist foreign policy with no congressional opposition!

4.)      The US’ ill-timed ideological warfare (both the ‘neo-liberal’ and ‘war on terror’ variants) was launched against Venezuela from 2001 on – just when revolts, uprisings and collaborator ‘regime change’ were occurring throughout Latin America.  The continent-wide rebellion against US-centered free-market regimes resonated with Chavez’s nationalist-populism. Washington’s ideological appeals flopped…  Its blind, dogmatic embrace of a failed development strategy and the continued embrace of hated clients ensured that Washington’s ideological war against Venezuela would boomerang:  instead of isolating and encircling Venezuela, there was greater Latin American regional solidarity with the Bolivarian regime.  Washington found itself isolated.  Instead of dumping discredited clients and attempting to adapt to the changing anti-neo-liberal climate, Washington, for internal reasons (the ascent of Wall Street), persisted in pursuing a self-defeating propaganda war.

5.)       Imperial efforts to reassert hegemony required an economic crisis, including low world demand and prices for Venezuela’s commodities, declining incomes and employment,  severe balance of payment problems and fiscal deficits – the usual mix for destabilizing targeted regimes.  None of these conditions existed in Venezuela.  On the contrary, world demand and prices for oil boomed.  Venezuela grew by double-digits.  Unemployment and poverty sharply declined. Easy and available consumer credit and increased public spending greatly expanded the domestic market.  Free health and education and public housing programs grew exponentially.  In other words, global macro-economic and local social conditions favored the anti-hegemonic perspectives of the government. US and clients’ efforts to demonize Chavez flopped.  Instead of embracing popular programs and focusing on the problems of their implementation and mismanagement, Washington embraced local political collaborators who were identified with the deep socio-economic crisis of the ‘lost decade’ (1989-1999) – the period of real misery for the Venezuelan masses prior to Chavez ascent to power.  Imperial critics in Latin America  easily refuted Washington’s  attacks on the Chavez development model by citing favorable employment, income, purchasing power and living standards compared to the previous neoliberal period.[40]

6.)     Imperial policy makers were way out of step in Latin America, emphasizing its brand of global ideological-military confrontation while leaders and public opinion in Latin America were turning toward growing market opportunities for their commodities.  The ‘War on Terror’, Washington’s hobby-horse for global supremacy, had minimum support among the people of Latin America.  Instead, China’s demand for Latin American commodities displaced the US as the major market their exports.  In this context, global militarism was not going to restore US hegemony; Latin American leaders were focused on domestic and Asian markets, poverty reduction, democracy and citizen participation. During past decades, when Latin America was ruled by military regimes, US global militarism resonated with the elites.  Washington’s attempt to restore an earlier model military-client rule by backing the coup in Honduras was denounced throughout the continent, not only by center-left governments, but even by conservative civilian regimes, fearful of a return to military rule at their expense.

7.)    The change from a Republican to a Democratic presidency in Washington did not result in any substantive change in imperial policy toward Venezuela or Latin America.  It only led to the serving up of ‘double discourse’ as President Obama touted a ‘new beginning’, ‘new overtures’ and ‘our shared values’.  In practice, Washington continued military provocations from its bases in Colombia, backed the Honduras military coup and supported a violent destabilization campaign in April 2013 following the defeat of its favored presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, by the Chavista Nicholas Maduro.  The Obama regime stood isolated throughout the hemisphere (and the OECD) when it refused to recognize the legitimacy of the Maduro’s election victory. In imperial countries, political changes from a liberal to a conservative executive, (or vice versa), does not in any way affect the deep imperial state, its military interests or strategies.   President Obama’s resort to the ‘double discourse, to talk diplomatically and act militarily, as a mode of hegemonic rule quickly lost its luster and effectiveness even among centrist-post-neo-liberal leaders.

Imperialism is not simply a ‘policy’ it is a structure.  It has a powerful military aid component dependent on strategically placed collaborators and supporters in targeted countries and operating in a favorable (crisis-ridden) environment.  Imperialism flourishes when its military and diplomatic approach serves economic interest benefiting both the ‘home market’ and local collaborators.  In the second decade of the 21st century, the dominance of ‘military-driven imperialism’ bled the domestic economy, destroying and impoverishing the targeted society and shattering living standards. The recent devastating wars in the Middle East have dismantled entire societies and weakened US-client elites.

Latin American and Venezuelan development-oriented leaders took a long look at the destruction wrought by US policy elsewhere and turned to new partners – the newly emerging economic powers with growing markets.  These new partners, like China, pursue economic ties, which are not accompanied by military and security threats of intervention.   Chinese investments do not include military missions and massive spy networks, like the CIA, DEA, and NSA, posing threats to national sovereignty.

The Imperial Dynamic and the Radicalization of Venezuelan Politics

Imperial intervention can have multiple and contrasting effects:  It can intimidate a nationalist government and force it to renege on its electoral promises and revert to a liberal agenda.  It can lead to an accommodation to imperial foreign policies and force a progressive government to moderate domestic reforms.  It can lead to concessions to imperial interests, including military bases, as well as concessions to extractive capital, including the dispossession of local producers, to facilitate capital accumulation.  Covert or overt intervention can also radicalize a moderate reformist government and force it to adopt anti-imperialist and socialist measures as defensive strategy.  Over time incremental changes can become the basis for a pro-active radical leftist agenda.

      The range of systemic responses illustrates the analytical weakness of the so-called ‘center-periphery’ framework, which lumps together: a) disparate political, social and economic internal configurations, b) opposing strategies and responses to imperialism and c) complex international relations between imperial and nationalist regimes.  The polar opposite responses and political-economic configurations of the US and China (so-called ‘centers’) to Venezuela further illustrates the lack of analytical utility of the so-called ‘world system’ approach in comparison with a class-anchored framework.

The imperial dynamic, the drive by Washington to reassert hegemony in Venezuela by violent regime change, had the unintended consequence of radicalizing Chavez’ policies, consolidating power and furthering the spread of anti-imperialist programs throughout the region.[41]

In the first years of the Chavez government, 1999-2001, Venezuela pursued largely orthodox policies and sought friendly relations with Washington, while espousing a Bolivarian vision.  In this period, Chavez did not implement his vision.  He did not try to set up any regional organizations that excluded the US.

Nevertheless, Washington retained its ties to the opposition and sought to influence a motley collection of opportunist politicos who had jumped on the Chavez bandwagon while countering the leftists in the coalition government.

The first big break in this Caracas-Washington peaceful co-existence was caused by the Bush Administration’s big push for global power via the so-called ‘War on Terror’ doctrine.  Its demand that Chavez support the military offensives against Afghanistan and Iraq or face retaliation provoked the break.  Chavez resisted and adopted the position that the ‘War on Terror’ violated international law.  In other words, Venezuela upheld traditional international norms just when Washington had turned to global military extremism.  Washington perceived Chavez’s policy as a grave threat, an example for other ‘recalcitrant’ states within Latin America and across the globe to follow in resisting the US bullying.  This led to an overt warning from the US State Department that “he (Chavez) would pay a price” for not submitting to the US global military offensive.[42]   Washington immediately started to implement plans to overthrow the Chavez government leading to the bloody, but unsuccessful coup of April 2002. If the trigger for US imperial intervention was Chavez lawful opposition to Washington’s global military strategy, the defeat of the coup and his restoration to power, led a re-definition of Venezuelan-US relations.  Bilateral relations went from co-existence to confrontation.  Venezuela began looking for regional allies, actively supporting left and nationalist movements and governments in Latin America.  Simultaneously it pursued relations with imperial rivals and adversaries, including Russia, China, Belarus and Iran.  Washington launched its second effort to unseat Chavez by backing the oil bosses’ lockout – severely damaging the economy.

The defeat and purge of the US-backed PDVS oil executives led to the radicalization of social policy in Venezuela, with the vast reallocation of oil revenues to working class-based social programs.  Chavez appointed nationalists to key economic ministries, selectively nationalizing some enterprises and declaring a radical agrarian reform program, which included the expropriation of un-cultivated land.  In part, the radical policies were ‘pragmatic’, defensive measures in pursuit of national security.  They also were in response to the support for the Bolivarian government from the newly mobilized urban and rural poor.  Radicalization was also a response to pressures from the nationalist and socialist elements in the newly formed Socialist Party and allied trade union confederations.  US imperial efforts to isolate Venezuela in the hemisphere, copying the 1960’s ‘blockade of Cuba’ failed.  There was a region-wide trend in line with Venezuela: nationalist populist and leftist movements and coalition governments were replacing US client regimes.  Washington’s policy backfired by regionalizing the conflict under unfavorable conditions: Venezuela gained popularity and support while Washington was isolated, leading to the demise of its plan for a regional free trade agreement.

The threat from the US pushed Chavez to re-define the nature of the political process from ‘reform’ to ‘revolution’; from moderate nationalism to 21st century socialism; from a bilateral conflict to a regional confrontation.  Venezuela sponsored and promoted several key alliances including ALBA and PetroCaribe; Chavez later broadened Venezuela’s regional ties to include UNASUR and MERCOSUR.

Venezuela’s radical rejection of US hegemony was, however, tempered by structural limitations which provided US empire builders and internal clients with access points to power.  The ‘socialization’ program did not affect 80% of the economy. Banking, foreign trade, manufacturing and agriculture remained under private ownership.   Over 95% of the public watched programs from a domestic mass media owned by US-backed private clients.[43]   Transport, food distributors and supermarkets remained privately owned.  Campaigns and elections remained vulnerable to foreign funding by the National Endowment for Democracy and other US conduits.  While the mixed economy and open electoral system, secured approval from Latin America’s center-left regimes and neutralized some of the hostile US propaganda, they also allowed the empire to use its local collaborators to commit sabotage, hoard vital consumer goods and create shortages, stage violent street confrontations during elections and permitted the mass media openly call for insurrection.

 The dialectic confrontation between US imperial aggression and Venezuelan nationalism deepened the revolution and spread its appeal overseas. Venezuela’s successful defiance of US imperialism became the defining reality in Latin America.

Imperialism, based on militarism and regime destabilization, led Venezuela to begin a process of transition to a post neo-liberal, post-capitalist economy rooted in regional organizations.  Yet this process continued to reflect economic realities from the capitalist past.  The US remained Venezuela’s most important petroleum market.  The US, caught up in Middle-East wars and sanctions against oil producers (Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria) was not willing to jeopardize its Venezuelan oil imports via a boycott.  Necessity imposed constraints on even imperial aggression as well as Venezuela’s ‘anti-imperialism’.

Conclusion

 US-Venezuela relations provide a casebook study of the complex, structural and contingent dimensions of imperialism and anti-imperialism.  Contemporary US empire building, with its global engagement in prolonged serial wars and deteriorating domestic economy, has witnessed a sharp decline in its capacity to intervene and restore hegemonic influence in Latin America. 

Throughout Latin America, Venezuela’s success in resisting imperial threats, demonstrates how much imperial power is contingent on local client regimes and collaborator military elites to sustain imperial hegemony.  The entire process of imperial capital accumulation through direct exploitation and ‘dispossession’ is based on securing control over the state, which, in turn, is contingent on defeating anti-imperialist and nationalist governments and movements. 

Imperialist hegemony can be based on either electoral processes (‘democracy’) or result from coups, lockouts and other anti-democratic, authoritarian mechanisms.  While, historically, economic interests are an important consideration of imperial policymakers, contemporary US imperialism has confronted emerging nationalist governments because of their rejection of its ‘global war’ ideology.  In other words Venezuela’s rejection of the ideology and practice of offensive wars and violations of international law is the trigger that set in motion imperial intervention.  Subsequent conflicts between Washington and Caracas over oil company expropriations and compensation were derived from the larger conflict resulting from US imperial militarism.  US oil companies had become economic pawns and not the subjects of imperialist policymakers.

 US imperialist relations in Latin America have changed dramatically in line with the internal changes in class relations.  US financial and militarist elites, not industrial-manufacturers, now dictate policy. The relocation of US manufacturers to Asia and elsewhere has been accompanied by the ascendancy of a power configuration whose political pivot is in the Middle East and, in particular, in their own words, ‘securing Israel’s superiority in the region’.  This has had two opposing effects: On the one hand it has led imperial policymakers to pursue non-economic militarist agendas in Latin America and, on the other, to ‘neglect’ or allocate few resources, investments and attention to cultivating clients in Latin America.  Inadvertently, the ‘Middle East pivot’ and the militarist definition of reality has allowed Latin America to secure a far greater degree of independence and greater scope for cultivating diverse economic partners in the 21st century than was possible for the greater part of the 20th century.

      Have US-Latin American relations permanently changed?  Has Venezuela consolidated its independence and achieved the definitive defeat of imperial intervention?  It would be premature to draw firm conclusions despite the substantial victories achieved during the first decade and a half of the 21st century.

      Pro-US regimes and elites still wield influence throughout Latin America. As was evident in the Presidential elections in Venezuela in April 2013, the US-funded opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, came within 2% of winning the election.  And Washington, true to its vocation to destabilize, has refused to recognize the legitimacy of the election.  Since then several officials of the US Embassy have been implicated in plots to overthrow the Maduro government.  The ongoing, intrusive imperial cyber-spying system under the US National Security Agency introduces a new element in colonial intervention reaching into the highest political and economic spheres in the entire region, incurring the wrath of Brazil, the largest country in Latin America.  Unrepentant, Washington has affirmed its right to colonize and dominate Brazilians and Venezuelan cyber-space and control all communications between strategic elites.

      Obama’s affirmation of the US ‘right to spy’ prompted new anti-imperialist measures, including proposals to end ties to US-based and controlled information networks.  In other words, new imperial methods of colonization based on new technologies triggers new anti-imperial responses, at least for independent states.

      The anti-neoliberal governments in Latin America, heading up the struggle against US hegemony, face serious challenges resulting from the continuing presence of private banking and finance groups, US based multi-nationals and their local collaborators in the political parties.  Except for Venezuela and Bolivia, on-going US-Latin American joint military programs provide opportunities for imperial penetration and recruitment.

      The high dependence of Venezuela and the other center-left countries (Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, etc.) on commodity exports (agriculture, minerals and energy) exposes the vulnerability of their finances and development and social welfare programs to fluctuations and sharp downturns in global export revenues.[44]

 So far world demand for Latin American commodities has fueled growth and independence and weakened domestic support for military coups.  But can the mega-cycles continue for another decade?  This is especially important for Venezuela, which has not succeeded on diversifying its economy with oil still accounting for over 80% of its export earnings.  The China trade, which is growing geometrically, has been based on exports of raw materials and imports of finished goods.  This reinforces neocolonial economic tendencies within Latin America.

 Intra-Latin American trade (greater regional integration) is growing and internal markets are expanding.  But without changes in class relations, domestic and regional consumer demand cannot become the motor force for a definitive break with imperialist-dominated markets.  In the face of a second world economic crisis, the US may be forced to reduce its global military operations, but will it return to hemispheric dominance?  If commodity demand drops and the Chinese economy slows, do post-neoliberal regimes have alternative economic strategies to sustain their independence?

Imperial power in Latin America and in Venezuela in particular, has suffered serious setbacks but the private property power structures are intact and imperial strategies remain. If the past half-century offers any lessons, it is that imperialism can adapt different political strategies but is never surrenders its drive for political, military and economic domination.

 Political Chronology of Venezuela

December 1998:   Chavez elected

1999: Three referendums all successful:  to establish constituent assembly to draft new constitution; to elect membership of constituent assembly; to approve new constitution.

July 2000:  ‘Mega-election’: to elect President, national legislators and state and municipal officials.  Chavez wins 6 year term with approx. 60% of the popular vote, his Patriotic Pole coalition wins 14 of 23 governorships and majority of seats in National Assembly

April 2002:  Failed US backed military-civilian coup

December2, 2002 – Feb. 4, 2003:      Failed oil executive and businessmen lockout to topple Chavez government.

August 2004:  Recall referendum which Chavez wins by substantial margin

December 2005:  Legislative elections:  opposition boycotts, results in Chavez supporters dominating the National Assembly.

December 2006:  Chavez re-elected with approx. 63% of the popular vote

December 2007:  Chavez constitutional amendment package (‘21st Century Socialism’) narrowly defeated in national referendum

2008:  Chavez moves to unite supporters into a single party – the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV)

November 2008:  State and municipal elections: pro-Chavez candidates won 17 of 22 governors’ races and 80% of more than 300 mayoral races

January 2009:  National Assembly votes to hold referendum on constitutional amendment to abolish terms limits for all elected government officials.

February 2009:  Referendum approved 55% to 45%.

September 2010: National Assembly elections, Chavez supporters won 98 seats (94 for PSUV candidates) versus 87 seats for opposition parties (65 won by 10 opposition parties known as Democratic United Platform/MUD).  But the Government failed to win enough seats to enact various part of government agenda such as approving constitutional reforms.

October 2012 Presidential elections:  Chavez wins with approx. 55% of popular vote.

December 2012:  State and municipal elections, PSUV sweeps to victory.

April 2013:  Chavez successor Nicholas Maduro wins election by 51% to 49%.

Notes

[1] James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer,  Imperialism and Capitalism in the 21st Century  (Ashgate:  London 2013)

[2] Steve Ellner Rethinking Venezuelan Politics:  Class, Conflict and the Chavez Phenomenon (Lynn Reiner:  Boulder , Colorado (2009)

[3]James Petras, “US-Latin American Relations:  Ruptures, Reaction and Illusions of Times Past”, JPetras LaHaine, 11/2/06

  [4] World Development Reports (World Book:  1991-2001)  Washington D.C. , IMF Staff Country Report No 98/117, October 1998, Washington , DC

  [5] James Petras, “Rethinking Imperialist Theory”, JPetrasLaHaine, 12/21/2010

  [6] James Petras, “US-Venezuelan Relations:  Imperialism and Revolution”, JPetrasLaHaine, 1/5/2010.  Eva Golinger, The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela (Olive Branch Press 2006).

[7] James Petras, “Venezuelan Elections:  A Choice and Not an Echo”, JPetrasLaHaine, 10/4/12 and “Beyond President Chavez Electoral Victory:  Socialism in a Rentier State ”, JPetrasLaHaine, 10/26/2013.

[8] James Petras, “Networks of Empire and Realignments of World Power”, JPetrasLaHaine, 1/2/2011; Financial Times 4/26/2011, Special Supplement “ Latin America :  New Trade Routes”

  [9]Richard Gott, Hugo Chavez:  The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela (Verso:  London 2005).  Gregory Wilpert, Changing Venezuela by Taking Power:  The History and Policies of the Chavez Government (Verso:  London 2007).

  [10] James Petras et al, The Nationalization of Venezuelan Oil (Praeger:  New York 1977).

  [11] IMF Staff Country Reports, No. 98/17, October 1998.

  [12] World Bank Country Report:  2000. (Washington DC 2001)

  [13] Ellner opcit and Wilpert opcit

  [14] Interviews State Department, November 2009

[15] ibid

[16] Interviews State Department, January 2001

[17] ibid

[18] James Petras and Henry Veltmeyer, Social Movements  in Latin America; Neo-Liberalism and Popular Resistance (New York:  Palgrave/MacMillan 2013).

[19] Interview with President Chavez, January20, 2002

  [20] Eva Golinger, Bush versus Chavez (New York:  Monthly Review Press 2007)

  [21] George Ciccariello Maher, We Created Chavez:  A Peoples History of the Venezuelan Revolution (Durham:  Duke University Press 2013).

  [22] New York Times, April 12, 2002, page 1

[23] El Mundo (Madrid) April 12, 2002, page 1

[24] David Harvey, The New Imperialism (London Oxford Press 2005)

[25] Ellner opcit; Wilpert opcit

[26] Eva Golinger, The Chavez Code, ibid

 

[27] Ellner opcit

  [28] In 2008 5the Chavez government broke ties with the IMF and World Bank.  Interview official Venezuelan Foreign Office, November 2008

  [29] Mark Weisbrot and Luis Sandoval: The Venezuelan Economy in the Chavez Years. (Center for Economics and Policy) Washington D.C. 2008; National Institute of Statistics cites the reduction of extreme poverty of over 50%, a decline from 5.4 million Venezuelans in 1998 to 2.4 million in 2011.

  [30] James Petras, “Networks of Empire and Realignments of World Power”, JPetrasLaHaine, 1/2/11. Financial Times “China is now Regions Biggest Partner”, Special Report, 4/26/2011 and page 4.

  [31] La Jornada, September 30, 2013.

  [32] James Petras, “Chavez Right-turn:  State Realism versus International Solidarity”, JPetrasLaHaine, 6/13/2011

  [33] James Petras, “President Chavez and the FARC:  State and Revolution”, JPetrasLaHaine, 7/3/2008

  [34] La Jornada, September 30, 2013.

  [35] Interview President Chavez Caracas, November 7, 2006

[36] Ibid

[37] James Petras and Maurice Zeitlin, Latin America:  Reform or Revolution, (New York Fawcett 1968)

 

[38] Gregory Wilpert, “An Assessment of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution at Twelve Years”, Venezuelanalysis.com, 2/2/2011

 

[39] Eva Golinger “Documents Reveal Multimillion-dollar Funding to Journalists and Media in Venezuela”, HTTP://chavezcode.com/2010/07/documebts-4reveal-multimilliion-dollar.html

  [40] Weisbrot and Sandoval, opcit

[41] George Ciccariello-Maher, We Created Chavez, opcit. Steve Ellner, Rethinking Venezuelan Policies, opcit

[42] Interview Foreign Affairs official, Caracas, November 6, 2006

  [43] “Private Opposition TV Continues to Dominate in Venezuela”, Center for Economy ad Policy Research:  Washington D.C., 12/13/2010.

  [44] “Beyond President Chavez Electoral Victory” Socialism in a Rentier State”, JPetrasLaHaine, 10/26/12; G. Wilpert, “An Assessment …”, opcit.

According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey:

“Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next.  Deeper involvement is hard to avoid … A decision to use force is no less than an act of war, and we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.” 

In a letter to Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Dempsey warns that the price of military involvement in Syria would be enormous, ultimately costing well over 1 billion dollars per month.

For sixteen days this month, from October 1 through October 16, the United States government was paralyzed by a shutdown of its dysfunctional system, imperiling  the world economy, shattering global confidence in the United States , which was crippled amidst a fierce dispute about budget expenditures.  At stake are expenditures for  medical care, social security and other social services which provide the mere basic necessities of life for the majority of United States taxpayers, a dispute over billions of dollars for care for American citizens.

 It is staggering to recall that little more than one month ago, the Wall Street Journal headlined:  “US Makes Case for Strike as Military Builds in Mideast,” despite the alarming assessment by the US military’s chief expert, General Dempsey,  explicitly advising against the dire risks and exorbitant cost of US military action against the Syrian Government.

Nowhere is the irrational , indeed suicidal character of the capitalist system revealed more blatantly than in this glaring disconnect between the warning of the disastrous cost and consequences of military action, by the foremost military expert in the United States, General Dempsey, and the decision to ignore his expertise, and recklessly embark on that most profitable of oligarch capitalist enterprises, war.  This decision was announced on the front page of the Wall Street Journal merely one month after Dempsey  clearly opposed such wanton, reckless military action.

President Obama, a professor of Constitutional Law, had decided to attack the government of Syria, a sovereign nation which had not attacked the United States, without authorization by the United Nations Security Council, “without the international consensus he championed during his rise to power…Britain wouldn’t be a partner, neither would the Arab League.  No other multilateral institution had authorized the use of military force against Syria.”  Perhaps to avoid the risk of impeachment, perhaps restrained by a rational reluctance to further bankrupt the already failing United States economy, and possibly ignite a world war, Obama decided to leave the decision to a Congressional vote, with bleak prospects for support there.

In one of history’s great ironies, it was Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov who rescued the Obama Administration from the self-destructive military adventure it had embarked upon, and provided the practical, face-saving solution to Obama’s dilemma of appearing either weak or outrageously irresponsible. Russia offered Obama a solution by advising the removal and destruction of chemical weapons from Syria instead of military strikes, thereby throwing a lifeline to the American President,  sparing him  the ignominy and insanity of another military involvement, (by now abhorrent to the war-weary majority of United States citizens),  avoid an embarrassing no-confidence vote from Congress, and step back from the cliff of unilateral military action, possibly this time igniting a world war,  obliging the Nobel Prize Committee to demand the return of the Peace Prize they had so rashly awarded him several years ago.

And this time, the Obama administration was promised the United Nations Security Council resolution it had long coveted, confirming the agreement between Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry,  Resolution 2118 (2013) adopted unanimously on September 27th in New York.

This resolution, though clearly adamant in neither recommending nor authorizing  any punitive or military action against the Assad government,  is nevertheless vulnerable to abuse and misinterpretation, and, as was the case of Resolution 1441 on Iraq in 2003, can be misrepresented in the future, and falsely portrayed as support for military action against Syria, despite its apparently total  omission of any authorization for force or military action.  The resolution states:

“Recalling the obligation under resolution 1540 (2004) that all states shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-state actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, and their means of delivery”  and, “18:  Reaffirms that all Member States shall refrain from providing any form of support to non-state actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery and calls upon Member States, in particular Member States neighboring the Syrian Arab Republic, to report any violations of this paragraph to the Security Council immediately.”

These paragraphs explicitly prohibit the arming of the rebel forces in Syria (non-State actors) and would implicate Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey or even the United States if these Member States persist in sending weapons to the rebels.  These paragraphs appear to establish equal restraint upon both the Syrian government and the opposition forces, and imply that both sides of the civil war are potentially culpable and responsible for perpetrating the  criminal activities and massive human rights violations.  The neutrality in attribution of responsibility and blame would appear to be further reiterated in Annex 1, OPCW Executive Council Decision which states:  “The use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances would be reprehensible and completely contrary to the legal norms and standards of the international community.”

 Although Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with exquisite clarity, states the imperative that the resolution “does not fall under Chapter VII and does not allow for any automatic use of coercive measures  of enforcement…any violations will have to be 100 per cent proved,” the “Achilles Hell” of this resolution, which  potentially re-opens  the future risk of military conflagration in the Mideast – and beyond – is contained in “21”  which states: “ Decides, in the event of non-compliance with this resolution, including unauthorized transfer of chemical weapons, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in the Syrian Arab Republic, to impose measures under Chapter  VII of the United Nations Charter.”

  The inclusion of the ultimate threat within this same resolution:  upon “non-compliance” to “impose measures under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter “ leaves Syria vulnerable to the same fate as Iraq in 2003:  Resolution 1441, which also referred  to possible use of force (“serious consequences”) contained in Chapter VII, required a subsequent meeting of the Security Council to vote upon the authorization for the use of force against Iraq.  This second, required Security Council meeting, failed to approve the use of force, which was vetoed by France.  Nevertheless, the Bush administration had what it claimed was United Nations support for its attack on Iraq, in the original Un Security Council Resolution, merely because it included the reference to possible future imposition of measures under Chapter VII.

Similarly, history may repeat itself.  Although prior to September 27 the Obama administration failed to obtain a single United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing Chapter VII action against Syria, and was forced to threaten unilateral military strikes against Syria, which would have been in brazen violation of international law,…(”Without the international consensus he championed during his rise to power…Britain wouldn’t be a partner, neither would the Arab League…no other multilateral institution had authorized the use of military force against Syria,”),  today the United States government has the United Nations Security Council Resolution that may be misrepresented and portrayed, to a naïve public, as United Nations approval in any future  attempt to follow the clearly established pattern of aggression against the formerly independent governments  Iraq and Libya.

 Despite the cautious and deliberate wording of  Resolution 2118, and the technical necessity for another Security Council meeting  in the event of “non-compliance”  in order to determine which “measures under Chapter VII” could be imposed, the September 27 Resolution can be portrayed to those unaware of the details, as UN Security Council support for Chapter VII measures against Syria.

It will be no problem for US-NATO to contrive, or fabricate “non-compliance” by the government of Bashir Assad,  thus triggering Chapter VII enforcement measures.  This  Resolution’s  timeframe for Syrian chemical weapons disarmament and destruction of chemical weapons is exceedingly stringent, requiring:  “(c) “complete the elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014,  (d) Complete as soon as possible and in any case not later than 1 November 2013, the destruction of chemical weapons production and mixing/filling equipment.”

 According to The New York Times, September 15, 2013,

“The United States effort to get rid of its own stockpile has now taken 28 years and $35 billion, and is not yet over.”  “When Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi had to convince the world 10 years ago that he was serious about giving up his chemical weapons, he dragged warheads and bombs into the desert and flattened them with bulldozers.  When Saddam Hussein, defeated in the Persian Gulf War of 1991 had to demonstrate that he was giving up his chemical arsenal, Iraqis protected by little more than tattered cloths over their faces poured some of the agents into ditches and set them on fire – to the shock of inspectors warching in heavy ‘moon suits.’  “  “The agreement calls for the destruction of chemical agent mixing equipment by November, and perhaps most ambitious, for Syria to completely rid itself of chemical weapons and production facilities in less than a year, a timetable that would set a speed record and one that many experts doubt could be completed even with Syria’s full cooperation…But the destruction of chemical agents is a painstaking process that to be done safely and securely can easily take decades.”  “Mr. Assad also knows that Mr Hussein and Colonel Qaddafi were both deposed and ultimately executed years after giving up their weapons.  ‘The history does not exactly create an incentive’  a senior administration official said.”

“Raymond A. Zelinskas, a senior scientist at the Montrey Institute of International Studies and a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, said chemical experts would get up early to beat the desert heat, donning full body protective suits that protected them from hazardous fumes at sites where lethal toxins were being incinerated in open pits.  ‘They’d supervise the Iraqis’ he said of the United Nations inspectors.  But the local workers themselves, he added, ‘wore sandals and put rags over their faces.’”

Despite all these efforts, “Libya is left with thousands of pounds of mustard blister agents that it is still working to destroy, two years after Colonel Qaddafi’s death.”

Let us, for the moment , leave aside the possibility that the Syrian rebels could easily have obtained some of Libya’s still remaining chemical weapons, and thus could be held responsible for the chemical weapons disaster of August 21, 2013, as Russia has suggested, and as Mother Agnes Miriam, the Lebanon born nun who had lived in Syria for years also alleges, having been in Damascus at the time of the attacks.  According to the New York Times, September 22, 2013,

“Through conversations with Syrians and clergy throughout the country, Mother Agnes Miriam said she uncovered ‘the false flag of the Arab Spring.’  Instead of a popular uprising by citizens enraged by economic stagnation and political oppression, she said she found a conspiracy cooked up by international powers to destroy Syria.  She said the government’s brutal crackdowns on peaceful protesters had been concocted by the news media, and she dismissed the slow transformation of the opposition movement into an armed uprising, saying the rebels had rushed to violence.  While allowing that some protesters had good intentions, she said the conflict was driven by foreign powers, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.  ‘What happened is the interference of half the globe in Syrian affairs, infiltrating Syria with foreign fighters, recycling Al Qaeda and putting under threat the civilian population.’”

 Resolution 2118 demands complete disarmament and destruction of chemical weapons in Syria by the first half of 2014, and the destruction of chemical weapons production and mixing/filling equipment by November 1, 2013, a deadline that many experts consider impossible to meet  ‘even with Syria’s full cooperation.’”

Resolution 2118’s unrealistic deadline  sets up the Syrian government to be inevitably condemned for ‘non-compliance,’  triggering the imposition of Chapter VII action.  And consequently, those in US-NATO intent on military aggrandizement,  in the service of captalism’s geopolitical agenda , and in defiance of the Pentagon’s own General Martin Dempsey’s warning of a bankrupting cost of more than 1 billion dollars each month, now have the UN Security Council imprimatur, a Resolution that can be distorted and misrepresented to provide a fig-leaf falsely rationalizing  military strikes and the ultimate destruction of the Syrian government, reducing that once progressive nation to the status of a failed state of terrorists, with Shiites and Sunnis slaughtering each other as well as Christians, Jews and all other “infidels,”  much as the once functioning countries of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan have been demolished and reduced to squabbling, impoverished balkanized fragments.

Their rich resources are now vulnerable and unprotected, and free to be ravaged by those multinational corporations and plundered by transnational  “interests” who have plundered so much of the earth to enable dynastic oligarchic powers to amass their great fortunes.  To quote Voltaire:  “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.”

May 17, 2013 The New York Times headlined:

“War’s Pressure is Causing Syria to Break Apart : Many Factions at Odds:  Even if Assad Leaves, Deep Splits Imperil Nation’s Integrity.”  “After more than two years of conflict, Syria is breaking up, a constellation of armed groups battling to advance their own agendas are effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs:  As the war expands in scope and brutality, its biggest casualty appears to be the integrity of the Syrian State.”

 September 5th, 2013, across five columns of the front page of The New York Times a color photo displays the naked, flayed backs of prisoners whose wrists are tied behind them, and whose faces are pushed into the dirt by armed Syrian rebels.  The headline reads:  “Rebel brutality in Syria Posing Dilemma in West:  Assad Foes Executing Soldiers after Capture”  by C. J. Chivers:

“The Syrian rebels posed casually, standing over their prisoners with firearms pointed down at the shirtless and terrified men.  The prisoners, seven in all, were captured Syrian soldiers.  Five were trussed, their backs marked with red welts as the rebel commander recited a bitter revolutionary verse…The moment the poem ended the commander known as ‘the uncle,’ fired a bullet into the back of the first prisoner’s head.  His gunmen followed suit, promptly killing all the men at their feet.” (So much for democracy, due process and Article 22 of the Geneva Conventions governing treatment of prisoners of war.)  “This scene was documented in a video smuggled out of Syria a few days ago by a former rebel who grew disgusted by the killings.  As the United States debates whether to support the Obama Administration’s proposal that Syrian forces should be attacked for using chemical weapons against civilians, this video, shot in April, joins a growing body of evidence in an increasingly criminal environment populated by gangs of highwaymen, kidnappers and killers.”

August 23, 2013, The New York Times bylined C. J. Chivers reporting:

“Matthew Schrier was helpless.  An American photographer held in a rebel-controlled prison in the Syrian city of Aleppo, he and a fellow prisoner had been caught trying to gouge a hole in their cell’s wooden door.  The captors took his cellmate, he said, beat him and brought him back with blood-streaked ankles and feet.  Now it was Mr. Schrier’s turn.  Wearing masks,  his jailers let him out, sat him down and forced a car tire over his knees.  They slid a wooden rod between his legs, locking the tire in place.  Then they rolled him over.  Mr. Schrier was face down on a basement floor, he said, legs immobilized, bare feet facing up.  ‘Give him 115’ one of his captors said in English as they began whipping his feet with a metal cable.  When the torture ended, Mr. Schrier could not walk.  His captors, he said, dragged him to his cell.  For seven months, Mr  Schrier, 35, was a prisoner in Syria of jihadi fighters opposed to President Assad.  Held in prisons run by two Islamist rebel groups, he said, he was robbed, beaten and accused of being an American spy by men who then assumed his identity online.  His captors drained one of his bank accounts.  They shopped in his name on eBay.  They sent messages from his e-mail account to his mother and his best friend assuring them he was fine.”

Friday, September 13, 2013, The New York Times:

“ Saudi Arabia, quietly cooperating with American and British intelligence and other Arab governments, has modestly increased deliveries of weapons to rebels fighting in Southern Syria, the rebels say…Publicly the Saudis expressed patience with pro-monarchy newspapers saying that the negotiations over Syrian chemical weapons would probably founder and that American military strikes would follow sooner or later.  But behind the scenes analysts say, leaders in Saudi Arabia and allies like Qatar chafed as rebel leaders fumed that their larger need – a way to shift the balance in the two-year old civil war – was being ignored…for months, Saudi Arabia has been quietly funneling arms, including antitank missiles, to Free Syrian Army groups through Jordan, working covertly with American and British intelligence and Arab governments that do not want their support publicly known…Gen. Salim Idris, the nominal commander of the Free Syrian Army, declared his ‘absolute rejection’ of the chemical weapons deal offered by the Syrian and Russian governments.”

 On July 28, 2013 The New York Times headlined:

“Worries mount as Syria Lures West’s Muslims;  Radical Fighters seen as Threat on Return  ..’Syria has become really the predominant jihadist battlefield in the world’  “Matthew G. Olsen, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center told a security conference in Aspen, Colorado this month.  He added, ‘The concern going forward from a threat perspective is there are individuals traveling to Syria becoming further radicalized, becoming trained and then returning as part of really a global jihadist movement to Western Europe and potentially, to the United States.’”  “More Westerners are now fighting in Syria than fought in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or Yemen…there is concern that they will come back with a burst of jihadist zeal, some semblance of military discipline, enhanced weapons and explosives skills, and in the worst case, orders from affiliates of Al Qaeda to carry out terrorist strikes.”

 It should by now be clear that among the deadliest weapons of mass destruction are he exponentially increasing and expanding jihadists, especially “martyr brigades” of suicide bombers., infiltrating, metastasizing, destabilizing normally functional independent societies.  It is strange, indeed, that no genuine attempt is being made to stanch the increasing spread of religious terrorists that prey upon and are spawned by increasing numbers of economically destitute areas of the developing world – and elsewhere.  This scourge spreads daily – by October 10th The New York Times reports:

“Extremist group Based in Somalia Gains Foothold in Kenya:  Kenya’s slums have long provided a fertile recruiting ground for Muslim extremists.”  The utility of the jihadist weapon of mass destruction in implementing and advancing the geopolitical interests of Western capitalism is increasingly obvious.  Syria is the fulcrum beyond which lies the exorbitant riches of natural gas and oil in Russia and Central Asia, stretching to China, the burgeoning superpower whose rise to global prominence threatens the dominance of the West.  In this larger context, reports leaked in the London Telegraph on August 30, 2013 of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan expose the Western blueprint for dominance.  Among these reports, Prince Bandar threatens President Putin that if he does not agree to help force Syrian President Assad from power, Chechen terrorist attacks may be carried out on the Russian hosted Winter Olympics next year in Sochi.  Bandar is quoted stating:  “The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us.”

According to these leaked reports, Putin replied:

“We know that you have supported the Chechen terrorist groups for decades   And that support, which you have frankly talked about just now, is completely incompatible with the common objectives of fighting terrorism that you mentioned.”  Bandar evidently replied that there would be no escape from the military option of Russia declines the Saudi ultimatum.

On July 4th, according to The New York Times,

“Russia’s most wanted terrorist, Doku Umarov uttered his most direct threat to date that he plans to attack the Winter Olympic Games that Russia will host next year.  The Caucasus Emirate, led by Mr. Umarov – a former Chechen nationalist leader who now heads a broad Muslim separatist movement and advocates global jihad – and its predecessor organizations in the Chechen independence movement of the 1990’s have a record of staging horrific terrorist attacks…’In 2010 Mr. Umarov took responsibility for two separate suicide bombings on the Moscow subway.  The bombings killed 40 Muscovites.  Mr. Umarov also claimed responsibility for the 2011 attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport which resulted in the slaughter of a huge number of innocent civilians.”

 The New York Times, August 9, 2013 headlined:

“Militants flood havens in Syria posing a threat: 6,000 Foreign Fighters – Western Officials Fear Qaeda Rise.”  “Western intelligence officials describe this influx of foreign Islamic militants as ‘one of the biggest terrorist threats in the world today.’  “Many are assembling under a new, even more extreme umbrella group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, that is merging some Syrians with fighters from around the world – Chechnya, Pakistan, Egypt and the West as well as Al Qaeda in Iraq.”  “Known as fierce fighters, willing to employ suicide car bombs, the jihadist groups now include more than 6,000 foreigners, counterterrorism officials say…In Raqqa recently a commander of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a Syrian, described this movement’s goals as reaching far beyond the country’s borders.  He did not speak of attacking the United States.  But he threatened Russia, suggesting that Russia is a legitimate target.  This week the jihadist group Jaish al-Muhajireen wal Ansar, or the Army of Emigrants and Supporters, led by a fighter from the Caucasus known as Abu Omar al Shesheni – the Chechen – worked with Free Syrian Army battalions to take the Menagh air base in Aleppo Province after 10 months of trying.”

Every country that US-NATO has attacked, ostensibly to impose and enforce ‘democracy,’ from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya and now Syria, has disintegrated into havens for Islamic terrorists, deadly conflicts between religious extremist factions, spawned by economic disasters resulting from Western military attacks and the destruction of their hitherto functioning economic and social infrastructure.   This social and economic infrastructure had, prior to US-NATO military intervention, provided health and education facilities for their citizens, who are now ravaged and overrun by terrorism, criminal gangs, etc.

The September 29 New York Times envisioned a “remapped Middle East” where “5 countries could become 14″.  Absent a coherent nation state government apparatus, the entire area is ripe and vulnerable for plunder by capitalism’s multinational corporate entities – transnational predators denuding the area of its wealth of resources.

With this spreading deterioration in sovereignty and territorial integrity, one cannot deny the legitimacy of China’s fear that the Uighur separatist movement may ultimate pose such a potential threat to China’s survival.  According to recent reports, Uighur separatist agitation continues within the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a strategically important area in Western China bordering Central Asia.

The Chinese government contends that many of the Muslim Uighur separatist agitators are linked to global jihadists.  In view of the disintegration into chaos of the many countries within which Islamic Jihadists have been spawned and are exerting increasing control – and terrorist violence – including the Caucasus in Southern Russia, and even areas on the Russian Volga, Tartarstan and Bashkurtistan, China has valid reasons to fear for its own survival, and those controlling the Islamic jihadists, now admittedly Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia,  and his allies, have reason to escalate their support for terrorism.

Increasing Global poverty assures an inexhaustible supply of foot-soldiers for terrorist operations, foot-soldiers whose destitution in this world makes them willing to violently leave it for religion’s promise of 70 virgins and hope in the afterlife beyond a martyr’s death.

Another Nobel Peace Prize – Another Farce?

October 20th, 2013 by Felicity Arbuthnot

The Nobel Peace Prize brings another surprise – or farce, depending on your view.

In relatively recent history, there has been Henry Kissinger (1973) architect supreme of murderous assaults on sovereign nations; the United Nations (2001) whose active warmongering or passive, silent holocausts (think UN embargoes) make shameful mockery of the aspirational founding words.

In 2002 it was Jimmy Carter, whose poisonous “Carter Doctrine” of 1980 included declaring the aim of American control of the Persian Gulf as a “US vital interest”, justified “by any means necessary.” 2005 saw the Award go to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which promotes nuclear energy, creating the most lethal pollutants to which the planet and its population has ever been subjected. The nuclear waste from the industry the IAEA promotes, is now turned in to “conventional”, but never the less, nuclear and chemical weapons, by a sleight of hand of astonishing historical proportions.

Barack Obama (2009) has since declared himself executioner, by assassination in any form, any time, any place, anywhere, of anyone deemed by him (not judge or jury) connected to that now catch all phrase “terrorism” – half a world away.

The Guantanamo concentration camp to which he unequivocally committed closing (17th November 2008,“60 Minutes”) asserting:

“I have said repeatedly that I will close Guantanamo and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America does not torture. And I’m gonna make sure that we don’t torture … those are part and parcel of an effort to … regain America’s moral stature in the world.” Gulag Guantanamo remains with its prisoners, pathetic, desperate untried, or those ordered released, languishing year after year. America’s “moral stature” has plummeted lower than the Nixon years, Libya lies in ruins, Syria barely survives, with the terrorists’ backers aided via Washington’s myriad back doors – and in global outposts, US backed or instigated torture thrives.

2012’s Nobel lauded the European Union, which, since its inception, has crippled smaller trading economies, put barriers, unattainable conditions, or indeed, near extortion on trade with poorer countries (often former colonies.)

EU Member States have also enjoined punitive embargoes against the most helpless of nations and enthusiastically embraced the latest nation target to be reduced to a pre-industrial age (correction: be freed to embrace democracy and the delights of rule by imposed despots, or a long, murderous, unaccountable foreign occupation and asset seizure.) Eminent International Law Expert, Professor Francis Boyle, called the EU Award: “A sick joke and a demented fraud.”

This year’s Peace Prize awarded, on Friday, 11th October, went to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the Netherlands based organization, founded only in 1997, unheard of by most, charged with ridding the world of chemical weapons.

The Award came ten days after an OPCW team arrived in Syria to eliminate the country’s chemical weapons stock. A brief visit in August had them scuttling out, an apparent courage free entity, within days. President Assad had requested their investigations back in March, after it was claimed terrorist factions had used chemical weapons – insurgents now believed to be from some eighty three countries, backed primarily by the US, UK, Quatar and Saudi Arabia.

The OPCW’s return, on 1st October, is now touted as a breakthrough with an intransigent regime who had previously blocked them at every turn – rather than had the door open for them since March – the team, now billed as brave souls, working in a war zone – in which the Syrian people and government live – and die – every day – in a blood-soaked insurgency of that that famed “international community’s” making.

Is the annual Nobel justified anyway to an organization which has, in spite of the nightmare hazards to an entire population, agree to destroying an alleged 1,000 tons of highly dangerous chemicals (if we believe what we are told) in just months?

In context, the US still has over three times as much chemical weaponry (estimated at over 3,100 tons) and has defied the specified April 2012 deadline for their disposal, on the basis that the dangers are so great that they cannot complete building the appropriate facilities until 2020 (some reports state 2023.) For the same reasons of technical and safety obstacles, Russia has a believed five times the US amount left to destroy.(i) Shameful double standards rule supreme.

Wade Mathews, who worked on the U.S. chemical stockpile destruction, is uncertain that Syria can meet the deadline. He states that the U.S. disposal took billions of dollars, the cooperation of many levels of government – including the military – and a safe environment, to make sure the destruction was safely executed. (See i.)

To the observer, it would seems that the OPCW has taken on a high profile, rushed, reckless enterprise, under pressure from the US/UN, which could potentially poison Syria’s people and environment in orders of magnitude beyond the alleged horrors unleashed by, near certainly, the insurgents.

 So what possible reason for the OCPW Nobel, and why now? Interestingly, OPCW Director-General, Ahmet Üzümcü, is Turkish, a former Consul in Syria’s Aleppo, former Ambassador to Israel, a former Permanent Representative of Turkey to NATO and then to the UN in Geneva.

 Apart from Director General Üzümcü obviously having some remarkably useful inside tracks, Syria’s neighbour, Turkey is the sole Middle East NATO Member State (never mind it has no connection to the North Atlantic, being set amid the Mediterranean, Aegean, Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles.)

NATO is certainly not asleep at the wheel when it comes to Syria, as neither are the European Union, which Turkey – in spite of being “Gateway to the Orient” with the majority of the country in it – also aspires to be a Member. Britain and France are, of course EU Members, joined as one with Turkey in meddling in Syria.

NATO, has long sought footholds further east. In an enlightening letter quoted over the years in these columns, but worthy of revisiting, on 26th June 1979, General Alexander Hague, on his retirement as NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, wrote to the then Secretary General, Joseph Luns.

The focus then, of course, was in the context of the Cold War, however the regional geography and the diplomatic skills of President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov in the Syria crisis make the tactics outlined again starkly relevant, especially as President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have arguably been diplomatically eclipsed to near irrelevance.

The US-EU-NATO aspirations for the Baghdad-Damascus road to lead to Tehran (diplomatic “break through” or not) should never be under estimated. Neither indeed, as has been demonstrated since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall, the desire to encircle Russia as confirmed by encroachment of US-NATO bases at astonishing speed and with equal chutzpah.(ii)

The tactics in the NATO letter are arguably as relevant to aims today as when it was written, albeit, targets, circumstances, field of play (or planned war) widened. The penultimate paragraphs read:

“We should constantly bear in mind the necessity of continuously directing attention to the … threat and of further activising our collaboration with the mass media.

“If argument, persuasion and impacting the media fail, we are left with no alternative but to jolt the faint hearted in Europe through the creations of situations, country by country, as deemed necessary, to convince them where their interests lie.

“The course of actions which we have in mind may become the only sure way of securing the interests of the West.”

Back to the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. Norwegian Fredrik Heffermehl, jurist, writer, translator, former Vice President of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms, amongst numerous other prestigious international appointments, has long been a thorn in the side of the Norway based Nobel Committee.(iii)

Heffermehl has argued in his published study: “The Nobel Peace Prize. What Nobel Really Wanted”, that the Norwegian Parliament had distorted Alfred Nobel’s intention for the Prize. His researches found numerous academic studies that supported his thesis. The Norwegian Parliament and the Nobel Committee emphatically did not. His dissertation, however has been published and expanded in Chinese, Swedish, Finnish, Russian and in December 2011 was endorsed by Michael Nobel, of the Nobel Family Association, who supported Heffermehl in his assertion that on their present course, Norwegian politicians might lose their control of the Peace Prize.

Norway is, of course is in the NATO “family.” Interesting is the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize nomination. The Nobel website stipulates:

“Deadline for submission. The Committee bases its assessment on nominations that must be postmarked no later than 1st February each year … … In recent years, the Committee has received close to 200 different nominations for different nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. The number of nominating letters is much higher, as many are for the same candidates.”

So who, in the year to 1st February 2013 rushed to nominate the near unheard of OPCW? And is it conceivable there might have been some accommodation with the date (heaven forbid.)

Well, unless you are very young, you may never know, there is a while to wait:

“The names of the nominees and other information about the nominations cannot be revealed until 50 years later”, states the Nobel website.

It might be worth noting the rotating Members of the Executive Council for the OPCW for 2012-2013 include countries which have done more than a little meddling in the affairs of Syria, including France, the UK and US, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Norway is also on the year’s Council.

Britain’s Foreign Office Minister, Hugh Robertson, sent enthusiastic congratulations to the OPCW on their Award, adding:

“ The UK is providing an initial contribution £2million to support the work of the OPCW in Syria and we stand ready to provide further assistance.”(iv)

Robertson also lauds the OPCW, referring to: “The recent use of chemical weapons by the regime in Syria …” an entirely unproven and arguably, even libelous allegation.

Speculation, however, as to how another surprising Nobel Peace Prize came about is vacuous. In fifty years though, it is worth a bet that honest historians will be shaking their heads in disbelief.

Another Nobel, another farce.

Oh, and should you have missed: Monsanto and Syngenta, this same month, won the World Food Prize – dubbed the “Nobel Prize for Agriculture.”(v)

We live in very strange times.

Notes

Mexico is in the grip of a murderous drug war that has killed over 150,000 people since 2006. It is one of the most violent countries on earth. This drug war is a product of the transnational drug trade which is worth up to $400 billion a year and accounts for about 8% of all international trade.

The American government maintains that there is no alternative but to vigorously prosecute their zero tolerance policy of arresting drug users and their dealers. This has led to the incarceration of over 500,000 Americans. Meanwhile the flood of illegal drugs into America continues unabated.

One thing the American government has not done is to prosecute the largest banks in the world for supporting the drug cartels by washing billions of dollars of their blood stained money. As Narco sphere journalist Bill Conroy has observed banks are ”where the money is” in the global drug war.

HSBC, Western Union, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase&Co, Citigroup, Wachovia amongst many others have allegedly failed to comply with American anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

The Mexican drug cartels have caught the headlines again and again due to their murderous activities. The war between the different drug cartels and the war between the cartels and government security forces has spilled the blood of tens of thousands of innocent people. The drug cartels would find it much harder to profit from their murderous activity if they didn’t have too big to fail banks willing to wash their dirty money.

In March 2010 Wachovia cut a deal with the US government which involved the bank being given fines of $160 million under a ”deferred prosecution” agreement. This was due to Wachovia’s heavy involvement in money laundering moving up to $378.4 billion over several years. Not one banker was prosecuted for illegal involvement in the drugs trade. Meanwhile small time drug dealers and users go to prison.

If any member of the public is caught in possession of a few grammes of coke or heroin you can bet your bottom dollar they will be going down to serve some hard time. However, if you are a bankster caught laundering billions of dollars for some of the most murderous people on the planet you get off with a slap on the wrist in the form of some puny fine and a deferred prosecution deal.

Charles A. Intriago, president of the Miami-based Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists has observed, “… If you’re an individual, and get caught, you get hammered.

“But if you’re a big bank, and you’re caught moving money for a terrorist or drug dealer, you don’t have to worry. You just fork over a monetary penalty, and then raise your fees to make up for it.

“Until we see bankers walking off in handcuffs to face charges in these cases, nothing is going to change,” Intriago adds. “These monetary penalties are just a cost of doing business to them, like paying for a new corporate jet.”

This failure on the behalf of the US government to really crack down on the finances of the drug cartels extends to British banks as well. In July 2012 the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs issued a 339 page report detailing an amazing catalogue of ”criminal ” behaviour by London based HSBC. This includes washing over $881 for the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel and for the Norte del Valle Cartel in Colombia. Besides this, HSBC affiliated banks such as HBUS repeatedly broke American AML laws by their long standing and severe AML deficiencies which allowed Saudi banks such as Al Rajhi to finance terrorist groups that included Al-Qaeda. HBUS the American affiliate of HSBC supplied Al Rajhi bank with nearly $1 billion in US dollars.

Jack Blum an attorney and former Senate investigator has commented, “They violated every goddamn law in the book. They took every imaginable form of illegal and illicit business.”

HSBC affiliate HBUS was repeatedly instructed to improve its anti-money laundering program. In 2003 the Federal Reserve Bank of New York took enforcement action that called upon HBUS to improve its anti-money laundering program. In September 2010 the Office of Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) sent a,”blistering supervisory letter” to HBUS listing numerous AML problems at the bank.

In October 2010 this was followed up with the OCC issuing a cease and desist order requiring HBUS to improve its AML program a second time. Senator Carl Levin chairman of the Senate investigation into HSBC has commented that ,”HSBC’s Chief Compliance Officer and other senior executives in London knew what was going on, but allowed the deceptive conduct to continue.”

Let us look at just a couple of the devastating findings in the Senate report. The main focus of the report is the multiple failures of HSBC to comply with AML laws and regulations:

”The identified problems included a once massive backlog of over 17,000 alertsidentifying possible suspicious activity that had yet to be reviewed; ineffective methods foridentifying suspicious activity; a failure to file timely Suspicious Activity Reports with U.S. law enforcement; … a 3-year failure by HBUS [a HSBC affiliate] , from mid-2006 to mid-2009, to conduct any AML monitoring of $15 billion in bulk cash transactions … a failure to monitor $60 trillion in annual wire transfer activity bycustomers …inadequate andunqualified AML staffing; inadequate AML resources; and AML leadership problems. Sincemany of these criticisms targeted severe, widespread,and long standing AML deficiencies,…..”

The report catalogues in great detail the failings of HSBC affiliates HBUS in America and HMEX in Mexico:

”from 2007 through 2008, HBMX was the single largest exporter ofU.S. dollars to HBUS, shipping $7 billion in cash to HBUS over two years, outstripping larger Mexican banks and other HSBC affiliates. Mexican and U.S. authorities expressed repeated concern that HBMX’s bulk cash shipments could reach that volume only if they included illegal drug proceeds. The concern was that drug traffickers unable to deposit large amounts of cash in U.S. banks due to AML controls were transporting U.S. dollars to Mexico, arranging for bulk deposits there, and then using Mexican financial institutions to insert the cash back into the U.S. financial system. … high profile clients involved in drug trafficking; millions of dollars in suspicious bulk travelers cheque transactions; inadequate staffing and resources; and a huge backlog of accounts marked for closure due to suspicious activity, but whose closures were delayed.”

In the Senate hearing on 17 July 2012 Carl Levin Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs explained how HMEX helped the Mexican drug cartels:

”Because our tough AML laws in the United States have made it hard for drug cartels to find a U.S. bank willing to accept huge unexplained deposits of cash, they now smuggle U.S. dollars across the border into Mexico and look for a Mexican bank or casa de cambio willing to take the cash. Some of those casas de cambios had accounts at HBMX. HBMX, in turn, took all the physical dollars it got and transported them by armored car or aircraft back across the border to HBUS for deposit into its U.S. banknotes account, completing the laundering cycle.”

Senator Levin went on to note how:

”Over two years, from 2007 to 2008, HBMX shipped $7 billion in physical U.S. dollars to HBUS. That was more than any other Mexican bank, even one twice HBMX’s size. When law enforcement and bank regulators in Mexico and the United States got wind of the banknotes transactions, they warned HBMX and HBUS that such large dollar volumes were red flags for drug proceeds moving through the HSBC network.”

In December 2012 the Department of Justice cut a deal with HSBC which imposed a record $1.9 billion dollar fine. It may sound a lot to ordinary folks but it is a tiny fraction of its annual profits which in 2011 totalled $22 billion. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Bauer announced the settlement at a press conference on 11 December 2012. His comments reveal why the US government decided to go soft on such criminal behaviour and show quite clearly how there is one law for the richest 1% and one law for the rest of us. Lenny Bauer said:

 ”Had the U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

Think about that statement for a moment. A bank that has quite clearly been caught out helping murderous drug criminals, terrorist groups, third world dictatorships and all sorts of criminal characters is to be let off with a slap on the wrist. No criminal prosecutions or even a mention of criminal behaviour due to the fears that to do so would put the world economy in jeopardy. So there you have it. Banksters who engage in such behaviour that is regarded as criminal by the vast majority of people on the planet are not only too big to fail they are also too big to jail.

After the Department of Justice announcement of the deferred prosecution HSBC Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver said,

“We accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again.”

Such statements will provide little solace to the families of the 150,000 people estimated by US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta to have been killed in Mexico’s drug war. Nor will it help the hundreds of thousands of Mexican citizens who have been forced to flee their homes and escape the violence by going to the United Sates or moving to other parts of Mexico.

Senator Elizabeth Warren appearing at a meeting of the Senate Banking Committee in February expressed frustration with officials from the US Treasury Department and US Federal Reserve over the issue of why criminal charges were not pressed on HSBC or any of its officials. The officials were evasive when she tried to draw them on the issue of what it takes for a bank to have its licence withdrawn:

”HSBC paid a fine, but no one individual went to trial, no individual was banned from banking, and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC’s activities here in the United States. So, what I’d like is, you’re the experts on money laundering. I’d like an opinion: What does it take — how many billions do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate — before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?”

Senator Warren finished the session by commenting on the glaring double standards within the US justice system:

“You know, if you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night, every single individual associated with this. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.”

On 4 March 2013 HSBC announced profits of $20.6 billion in 2012 while it paid out a $3 million bonus to its CEO. This outrageous state of affairs beggars belief after HSBC has been clearly caught out engaging in activity on behalf of murderous drug lords, terrorist financing banks and brutal third world dictatorships. Where is the British Government’s condemnation of HSBC? You may be waiting a long time for that considering the fact that Chancellor George Osborne and his fellow ministers are intimately connected to the British banking elite.

Long time observer of the Mexican drug war Bill Conroy comments that the deal cut with HSBC by the Department of Justice,

”should illuminate for all the great pretense of the drug war — no matter how hard US prosecutors, via the mainstream media, attempt to convince us otherwise. …And it should lead us to conclude, if we are honest with ourselves, that the so-called drug war is little more than one immense “drug deal.”

Employees of a construction company contracted by Newtown to demolish Sandy Hook Elementary School must sign non-disclosure agreements before commencing work on the project, scheduled to begin October 21.

The contracts reserve the right to pursue legal action against workers who publicly discuss what might be observed as the 57-year-old structure is leveled. Penalties also apply to employee attempts at removing any physical remains from the site.

Exhaustive in scope, the agreement requires workers to refrain from leaking information on virtually anything encountered on Sandy Hook grounds during or after their time of employment with Consigli Construction, the company subcontracted to carry out the demolition.

No unauthorized disclosure or removal of confidential information from the school, including any oral, written, graphic, software, technology, or virtually any items that belong to the school.

All measures [will] be taken to protect the secrecy and avoid disclosure of confidential information into the public domain; notification to the town of any disclosure of confidential information that may come to the company’s attention.

No publication or posting of any information related to the project, and no photographs, drawings or other images of the school; no removal of any items from the school from dirt and bricks to doorknobs and window glass; any town documents be returned to the town; these commitments survive beyond the conclusion of an individual’s employment.[1]

Newtown officials claim that such far-reaching precautions are necessary to preserve the privacy of victims’ families. “It’s a very sensitive topic,” Newtown Selectman Will Rodgers said. “We want it (the site) to be handled in a respectful way.”[2]

Newtown First Selectman E. Patricia Llodra similarly noted how the goal involves preventing exploitation of any building remnants. “We’re going to every possible length to eliminate any possibility that any artifacts from the building would be taken from the campus and … end up on eBay,” she told the Associated Press. [3]

Much of the building’s debris will be thoroughly crushed and hauled away to an unnamed location. Newtown also is requesting documentation that non-destructible metal and similar materials are taken off-site and destroyed.[4]

The Sandy Hook investigation has proceeded under a cloak of unusual secrecy, with very little substantive evidence or documentation disclosed that might reveal what exactly took place on December 14, 2012 and, moreover, Adam Lanza’s culpability. The corporate media have nevertheless proceeded to push a narrative with Lanza as the sole culprit.

Llorda and her Newtown cohorts swung into action three weeks ago on September 24 when Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy offered the township $50 million to tear down Sandy Hook School and build a new facility.

The $50 million price tag is seven times the average cost of building an elementary school in the United States ($7,393,000), according to ReedConstructionData.com.[5]

On October 5 Newtown leaders presented residents with a referendum to accept the $50 million that passed by a nine-to-one margin.

On October 7 contractors were on the Sandy Hook campus to begin drawing up plans for the project.

On October 11 the Newtown Bee reported that local authorities received a go-ahead from the State of Connecticut to contract with remediation vendor Bestech to oversee the entire venture.[6]

This means town officials will not have to go out and bid for a separate demolition contractor. Llodra notes how the use of a single entity will allow a two-to-three-week jump on work at the site, wholly ensuring that both the structure and post demolition debris will be removed by the first anniversary of the shooting.

Further, the use of Bestech will also minimize the number of workers on the site, allow for easier security credentialing, and thereby ensure controls preventing the unwanted acquisition of any debris or images generated during the demolition process.[7]

Notes

[1]  Nanci G. Hutson, “Non-Disclosure Required for Sandy Hook School Crew,” Newstimes.com, October 14, 2013.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Dave Collins, “Newtown Conn. To Keep School Razing Under Wraps,” Associated Press / ABC News, October 15, 2013.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Shepard Ambellas, “Newtown School District Awarded $50 Million Payout to Rebuild Sandy Hook Elementary,” Intellihub.com, October 6, 2013.

[6] John Voket, “State Action Gets Sandy Hook School Project Off to a Fast Start,” Newtown Bee, October 14, 2013.

[7] Ibid.

For years, the dismantling of Yugoslavia was no more than a half-completed job in the eyes of Western leaders. The United States and Western European nations lavished financial, diplomatic, political and military support on secession-minded forces until only two republics remained in the federation. To the annoyance of Western leaders, Serbia and Montenegro stubbornly clung to the Yugoslav ideal and a predominantly socialist-oriented economy. Although the 1999 NATO war succeeded in carving yet another piece off Yugoslavia, the province of Kosovo, the Yugoslav government remained intact.

Driving a Wedge between Serbia and Montenegro

If Montenegro could be separated from Serbia the Yugoslav federation would cease to exist, and Serbia would be furthered weakened. U.S. leaders recognized that Montenegro offered prospects for success, and sustained Western contacts with Montenegrin President Milo Djukanović began to pay dividends. Soon he transformed himself from a socialist ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević into his neoliberal opponent. Djukanović steadily distanced his republic from Serbia, implemented a series of free market economic measures, and began openly advocating secession from Yugoslavia, a goal he was to eventually to achieve in 2006.

During the NATO bombing of his country, Djukanović was in daily contact with NATO officials, behavior which many justifiably regarded as treasonous. [1] Just one month after the end of the NATO war, Djukanović met President Clinton in Slovenia. Djukanović emphasized to Clinton “the importance of providing more substantial economic support to Montenegro to develop infrastructure and accelerate economic activity, particularly economic activity linked to continued privatization.” Pleased with such rhetoric, Clinton promised to encourage “U.S. corporations and banks to invest capital in Montenegro.” [2]

November 1999 saw the introduction of the German mark as an official currency in Montenegro and the passage of legislation eliminating socially-owned property. The following month, several state-owned firms were put up for sale, including the Electric Power Company, the 13th July Agricultural Complex, and the Hotel-Tourist firm Boka. [3]

Montenegro’s economic program for 2000 called for privatization of most state-owned industries and the passage of measures to “protect domestic and foreign investors.” To support that program the United States granted Montenegro $62 million, primarily via the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which announced that the aid would “support economic reform and restructuring the economy….to advance Montenegro toward a free market economy.” James Dobbins, U.S. policy advisor on the Balkans, said the U.S. viewed the “market-oriented reforms of the Djukanović regime as a model and stimulus for similar reforms throughout the former Yugoslavia.” The European Union provided an additional $36 million to Montenegro. “From the first day,” remarked Montenegrin President Milo Djukanović, “we have had British and European consultants.” [4]

In a July 2000 phone call to Djukanović, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright promised to give an additional $16.5 million. That same week, Djukanović claimed that Montenegro “is no longer part of Yugoslavia,” and made the astonishing claim that he considered it a “priority” for Montenegro to join NATO, the organization that had bombed his nation only the year before. In August, Albright revealed that she and Djukanović “try and talk to each other and meet on a regular basis.” [5]

In anticipation of a rift with Serbia, Djukanović built up a private army of more than 20,000 Special Police, armed with anti-tank weapons and mortars. Sources in Montenegro disclosed that Western Special Forces were actively training this private army. In 2000, Djukanović asked NATO to establish an “air shield over Montenegro.” A member of Montenegro’s Special Police confirmed that the British SAS provided training. “If there is a situation where weapons will decide the outcome, we are ready,” he said.  “We are training for that.” In August 2000, two armored vehicles bound for Montenegro were discovered in the port of Ancona, Italy. One of the vehicles was fitted with a turret suitable for mounting a machine gun or anti-tank weapon. Italian customs officials, the Italian news service ANSA reported, were “convinced” that trafficking in arms to Montenegro was “of far greater magnitude than this single episode might lead one to believe.” Reveling at the prospect of armed conflict, Djukanović boasted, “Many will tuck their tails between their legs and will soon have to flee Montenegro.” [6]

The United States recognized that Montenegro offered a potential pretext for military intervention. As early as October 1999, U.S. General Wesley Clark drew up plans for a NATO invasion of Montenegro. The plan envisioned an amphibious assault by more than 2,000 Marines, who would storm the port of Bar and secure it as a beachhead for pushing inland. Troops ferried by helicopters would seize the airport at Podgorica, while NATO warplanes bombed and strafed resisting Yugoslav forces. American officials revealed that other Western nations had developed plans of their own for invasion. [7]

Sending a message to the Yugoslav government that it should not defend itself, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke cautioned, “We are in constant touch with the leadership of Montenegro,” and any conflict in Montenegro “would be directly affecting NATO’s vital interest.” [8] NATO General Secretary George Robertson was even more explicit.  “I say to Milošević: watch out, look what happened the last time you miscalculated.” [9]

Subverting Yugoslavia

Since the early 1990’s, the United States and Great Britain furnished funding and equipment to opposition media and maintained contacts with political parties opposed to Slobodan Milošević. In the months before the NATO war, the level of aid sharply increased.

In a series of meetings held toward the end of 1998, U.S. President Bill Clinton and administration officials decided to overthrow the government of Yugoslavia. The aim, sources said, would be “the end of Milošević as the obvious solution.” [10]

One way to achieve the “end” of Milošević was to kill him. During the NATO war at around 3:00 AM one morning, the U.S. fired cruise missiles into Milošević’s home, including one that targeted his bedroom. The attempt failed, as Milošević and his wife had taken the precaution of sleeping in a bunker. They were a difficult target, changing their sleeping quarters on a frequent basis throughout the duration of the war. Less blunt methods would have to be used to eliminate Milošević.

Just weeks after the end of the NATO war, opposition leaders were called to Montenegro, where U.S. envoy Robert Gelbard urged them to engage in violence. Vuk Drašković, leader of the Serbian Renewal Movement, was less than enamored with the proposal and refused to go along. The plan called for his party to “do the dirty work” and “start the bloodshed,” while the other opposition leaders would leave Serbia. “They would wait abroad for NATO troops to bring the peace here. Then they would return after the civil war, riding on NATO tanks,” he complained. [11]

Not to be deterred, one month later President Clinton ordered the CIA to conduct a covert operation to topple the government of Yugoslavia. The plan called for the agency to provide financial backing to the opposition and for the U.S. Information Agency to broadcast Western news reports into Serbia. U.S. sources revealed that American military and intelligence officials planned to encourage Yugoslav military officers to oppose their government or attempt a coup d’état, an approach that had previously borne fruit in Chile in 1973. Kicking off the effort, Madeleine Albright met with Western European foreign ministers to coordinate contacts with the opposition.[12]

The crucial component of the plan entailed the recruitment of Yugoslav government officials to betray their country. Hundreds of prominent Yugoslav citizens were on the U.S. and European Union sanctions list, forbidden to travel abroad, and their assets in foreign banks having been seized. U.S. intelligence agents paid personal visits to many of the sanctioned individuals, implying that their names would be removed if they agreed to cooperate in the Western campaign to overthrow the government of Yugoslavia. In some cases, American agents even hinted that uncooperative individuals would face trumped-up war crimes charges and be spirited away and placed on trial before the criminal tribunal at The Hague. [13]

Some Yugoslav officials were disaffected and thus easy prey for Western agents. Others succumbed to bribery. “The difficult bit was the calculation of when to offer, the moment to try,” recalled an MI6 officer. According to a Yugoslav Military Intelligence source, “When the outside was looking for people, they looked for those they could either blackmail, pay, or who simply had enough common sense to know that time was running out.” [14]

In some cases fear proved to be a powerful motivator. A number of prominent government officials were murdered over the course of many months; to this day it is not known who was responsible. A Serbian industrialist who had intelligence contacts observed, “A lot of people started thinking ‘Well, if the Americans can get the Defense Minister then they can easily get me.’ It followed on that people began to look for a way off the sinking ship.” [15]

Periodic demonstrations by the opposition fizzled out with consistently disappointing turnouts. Exasperated over the ineptness of the opposition and its failure to unite, Western officials scheduled a meeting with opposition leaders in Berlin on December 17, 1999. “We read the riot act to the opposition and told them to get their act together,” said one Western diplomat. [16]

In a meeting held in Banja Luka with Bosnian Serb officials, Albright expressed impatience, saying that U.S. officials had expected that Western sanctions against Yugoslavia would cause people to “blame Milošević for this suffering.” She could not understand “what was stopping the people from taking to the streets.” In a comment that revealed the U.S. was looking for a pretext to intervene, Albright snapped, “Something needs to happen in Serbia that the West can support.” [17]

The announcement that national elections would be held in Yugoslavia provided Western leaders with the opportunity they sought. The first order of business was to get the opposition parties to unite in a coordinated effort. This was a less easy task than it would appear, given their history of internal squabbling and the evident dislike many opposition leaders had for one another.

The National Democratic Institute (NDI) hired an U.S. firm to conduct eleven public opinion polls, the results of which American officials used to persuade the opposition to unite behind a single candidate. The candidate who could garner the most support, an official of the polling firm told opposition leaders, was Vojislav Koštunica, the leader of a small party. Getting the parties to accept the candidate the U.S. had selected took some time, but in the end opposition leaders came around to the U.S. view. They had no choice if they wanted to continue receiving aid. [18]

Through U.S. efforts, the opposition parties coalesced into a coalition, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). NDI designed the coalition’s campaign structure and gave it an election platform. It also trained thousands of activists in electoral organizing tactics. [19]

The United States essentially ran the DOS electoral campaign, and a coalition marketing official said that DOS discussed “every word” of its short political messages beforehand with U.S. consultants. Parliamentary candidates and tens of thousands of local candidates received training. The International Republican Institute organized a training session in Budapest for members of the antigovernment student organization Otpor, where the principal speaker was retired U.S. Colonel Robert Helvey. The campaign involved several U.S. organizations, and the U.S. Agency for International Development paid for the printing of millions of stickers with the anti-Milošević slogan “He’s finished,” which Otpor pasted everywhere. [20]

Helvey led multiple training sessions for Otpor in Budapest and Montenegro, instructing them in techniques for undermining the government. Each time Otpor members returned to Serbia laden with cash and equipment. [21] Otpor was also the recipient of a substantial quantity of computers and cell phones.[22]

According to Slobodan Homen, one of the founding members of Otpor, “We had a lot of financial help from Western non-governmental organizations and also some Western governmental organizations.” Otpor also received significant covert aid, the scale of which has never been reported. No ordinary student organization was this; it received millions of dollars in funding from the Unites States. American officials expected something in return for their largesse. At a meeting in Berlin, Madeleine Albright exhorted her Otpor audience to take action. “We want to see Milošević out of power, out of Serbia and in The Hague [criminal tribunal].” [23]

In the year leading up to the election, the United States poured $35 million into the coffers of opposition parties and the European Union added a further $6 million to opposition media. Germany gave nearly $9 million. [24] This was no new development. “Bags of money had been brought in for years,” reported a journalist who enjoyed close contacts with Western intelligence agencies. [25] However, the scale of Western intervention in the Yugoslav political scene had now grown so much that it had become pervasive. American officials assured opposition media “not to worry about how much they’re spending now” because more money was on the way. [26]  Soon not only cash, but computers, broadcast equipment and printing presses were flowing to media organizations. [27]

British intelligence established contacts with Yugoslav Army commanders who were wavering under pressure. The British wanted to confirm that the military would not stand in the way of the coup that Western officials and DOS were planning. [28]

The United States and its allies waged a secret war on many fronts. They constructed a series of radio towers in surrounding countries, from which they broadcast anti-government programs from the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, the BBC, Deutsche Welle, USA Radio, and other stations into Yugoslavia. Many of these transmissions used the same frequencies as state-owned stations, thereby usurping them. [29]  As early as August, 1999, U.S. aircraft, ships, and transmitters in neighboring countries began jamming state-owned Yugoslav radio and television frequencies, with the aim of eliminating any counterweight to Opposition and Western media broadcasts. The act was a blatant violation of international law governing telecommunications.[30]

The Americans were also listening. U.S. radio centers were set up in Bosnia to monitor Yugoslav communications, and Bulgaria operated its own radio-listening center, passing on intelligence to the United States. [31]

Centers were established in neighboring countries from which the United States managed the campaign to bring down the Yugoslav government. Opposition leaders were frequent visitors, and often given suitcases full of money to take home with them. The main center was in Budapest, where more than thirty intelligence and propaganda agents were stationed. [32]

The United States was not only supplying cash, equipment and training. Western intelligence agents infiltrated Serbia using diplomatic passports. One Yugoslav with British intelligence contacts described these men as “technicians in seizing power,” and said they “lobbied with the establishment, they helped set up the network.” [33]

Just days before the election, the European Union issued a “message to the Serbian people,” in which it announced that sanctions would be lifted if opposition candidate Vojislav Koštunica was voted into office. [34] This was a powerful inducement for a population desperate for relief from the misery induced by the sanctions regime. The Western Europeans and the Americans had a curious concept of democracy, in which they picked the opposition candidate, funded his campaign, and meted out punishment to the people of Yugoslavia through sanctions, promising to stop only if people would vote for the Western-backed candidate.

CIA Director George Tenet visited Bulgaria for three days in mid-August 2000, where he held talks with the Bulgarian president and administration officials, as well as Bulgarian intelligence and military officials. [35] According to an unnamed Bulgarian source, the split of Montenegro from Serbia was at the top of the agenda, and Tenet wished to establish a logistics center in Sofia for managing the split and dealing with any conflict that might result. [36] Tenet also demanded that Bulgaria agree to allow a CIA center to be set up in Sofia for supporting the Yugoslav opposition. Two weeks later, the center in Sofia was fully operational and conducting a ten day training course for Otpor activists while another center in Bucharest was doing the same.[37] The overthrow of the Milošević government was one of Tenet’s prime agenda items, and the Bulgarian newspaper Monitor reported that the “CIA coup machine” was in motion. “A strike against Belgrade is imminent” and Bulgaria was to serve as one of its bases. [38]

U.S. meddling in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia was unrelenting, as U.S. State Department official William Montgomery observed. “Seldom has so much fire, energy, enthusiasm, money – everything – gone into anything as into Serbia in the months before Milošević went.” [39]

If, despite all efforts, the U.S. failed to bring down the Milošević government through electoral means or by coup d’état it reserved the option of resorting to military force. During the period of September 4-26, NATO military forces conducted a training exercise at an airbase near Constanta, Romania. Some 700 military personnel and 40 planes war-gamed the scenario of a “fictional” country where opposition demonstrators clashed with the police, escalating into a civil war and leading to NATO intervention. [40] Simultaneous NATO war games took place in Bulgaria and northwestern Romania. [41]

Disputed Election

The long-awaited day arrived on September 24, 2000. As soon as voting got underway, U.S. officials were charging without evidence that fraud and irregularities marred the voting process and that Milošević wanted to “steal” the election. Persistent American accusations planted the perception among the Western public and Serbian opposition supporters that fraud had taken place, even though official early returns showed Koštunica with a commanding lead.

Charges made by the United States, which had no electoral observers on the ground, were reported as fact by the Western media, while the experiences of international observers from 54 countries who witnessed the electoral process were entirely ignored.

The Canadian election observer team noted that all parties were freely able to campaign and advertise. [42] Russian parliamentarians visited 150 polling stations, and observed that the opposition was given “every opportunity to monitor the process.” [43] Konstantin Kosachev of the Russian State Duma explained, “All ballot papers were numbered, ballot boxes sealed, verification slips signed by all members of the electoral commissions.”  In the view of Kosachev’s team, “no large-scale falsification of the election in Yugoslavia was possible.” [44]

Almost immediately, the Koštunica campaign claimed victory, even though many votes remained to be counted and the returns were showing that Koštunica would probably fall short of the 50 percent necessary for outright victory.

The Democratic Opposition of Serbia issued its own figures, which the Western media uncritically accepted as accurate and reliable. No one appeared to notice that DOS’s statistics were internally inconsistent. According to figures given by DOS Electoral Staff spokesman Čedomir Jovanović on September 26, Koštunica held the lead with 54.66 percent of the vote, based on 97.5 percent of the ballots processed. The next day, DOS announced that Koštunica was in the lead with 52.54 percent, and the total vote count that DOS reported rose by less than 64,000. If Koštunica lost every one of those additional votes his percentage would have dropped to 52.75 percent, higher than the announced 52.54 figure. The numbers did not add up.

DOS disposed of this awkwardness by issuing significantly different vote totals. On September 26, Jovanović said that Koštunica led with 2,783,870 votes, yet on the next day he claimed that when all votes were counted, “Koštunica will have 2,649,000 votes.” A neat trick that, when addition results in subtraction. Four days later, Jovanović claimed 2,424,187 votes for Koštunica, and then on October 2 opposition spokesman Zoran Šami lowered the total still further to 2,414,876, for a percentage of 51.34.  In the end, the final figures presented by DOS claimed 2,377,440 votes and a percentage of 50.35 for Koštunica. [45]

Exactly which votes had yet to be counted also seemed to shift in DOS’s imaginary world. On September 26, it said 130,000 votes “and the votes from Kosovo and Montenegro” had yet to be processed by DOS. The next day, it was unprocessed ballots from soldiers and mail-in ballots that were said to have remained uncounted.

The final figures offered by DOS differed from the official government totals only in that DOS intentionally excluded from the count votes cast in Kosovo and by refugees from Kosovo, precisely the constituencies that heavily favored Milošević.[46] It was only through such trickery that DOS could claim a first round victory for Koštunica.

Western media dismissed the official election results and proclaimed the opposition figures to be based on precise and meticulous tallying of ballots. Loud and repeated accusations of fraud were leveled against the Yugoslav government. Clearly, there had been fraud, but it was DOS that was perpetrating it, not the government.

Despite persistent claims by Western reporters that the government was withholding figures, the official vote count was publicized widely in Yugoslavia. Vojislav Koštunica won 48.96 percent of the vote, while President Milošević trailed with 38.62 percent. There would have to be a runoff, as neither candidate garnered more than half of the vote. As prescribed by law, a runoff election for the top two candidates was scheduled for October 8. [47]

Emboldened by Western officials, DOS announced that it was refusing to participate in the second round, and claimed that Koštunica had already won a majority in the first round. DOS filed a complaint first with the Federal Election Commission and then with the Constitutional Court. DOS demanded the annulment of votes by refugees from Kosovo and by voters in Kosovo itself, where President Milošević led by a wide margin. The Constitutional Court upheld a proposal by Milovan Živković of the Federal Election Commission for returns from all voting districts to be reexamined so as to dispel doubts. [48] It was a reasonable decision meant to bring order to an increasingly chaotic situation, and it was the threat of a recount that motivated the almost daily reduction in the number and percentage of votes claimed by DOS for its candidate. The offer was not accepted.

The Western powers made a show of military force, sending a signal to the Yugoslav government that it risked being attacked if it defended itself from the coup that was forming. The British sent 15 ships to the Mediterranean, including the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible. “Let’s give Milošević a clear message while he is trying to decide who won,” blustered British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. Meanwhile, the U.S. conducted a joint amphibious landing and live fire training with Croatian forces during the five day period following the election. Then Cook issued another threat, reminding Milošević that if he tried to stay in power, the Western powers had a “very substantial capacity in the region.” [49]

Coup d’état

U.S. hopes were not misplaced, and bogus accusations of electoral fraud proved to be the catalyst for regime change. At the end of September, demonstrations broke out in cities and towns throughout Serbia. By October 2nd, DOS demonstrators were blockading roads in Belgrade and forcing a halt to bus and streetcar traffic in many parts of the city. Meanwhile DOS activists applied pressure on schools to close their doors. [50] As the demonstrations grew in scope and size, paralyzing the country, Koštunica announced that the demonstrations would continue until Milošević conceded defeat in the first round. [51]

October 5th was the date that the Americans and British had chosen for DOS to seize power in a coup d’état. The night before, Yugoslav Military Intelligence officials whom the West had managed to turn met with MI6 and CIA officials in a Bosnian village. The message the Yugoslavs gave their Western contacts was that the Army would not obey any order to mobilize in response to the coup. This was the message the Western intelligence officials were hoping to hear, and they duly passed that information to opposition leaders. [52]

Demonstrations were not the spontaneous affair they were made out to be. Plans had been made months before. DOS activists infiltrated the police and knew in advance of their plans. Columns of opposition supporters advanced on Belgrade from all sides. Mayor Velimir Ilić of Čačak organized a convoy of 230 trucks laden with weapons and rocks intended to be used as projectiles, and his column of 20,000 demonstrators headed toward the capital on October 5. Along the route, DOS activists threatened police at roadblocks by telling them that they knew where their families lived and hinting at violence if they failed to stand aside. Meanwhile, DOS supporters smashed through two police barricades and demolished police trucks, using crowbars, hammers and stones. Police vans were pushed into a ditch. [53]

According to opposition sources, around 10,000 of the activists who swarmed into Belgrade were armed and ready to do battle if necessary. [54] A one thousand-strong unit of paramilitaries, armed with automatic rifles and anti-tank weapons, was also organized to support the coup. [55]

The coup headquarters was established at a factory in an outlying district of Belgrade, under the control of former Belgrade mayor Nebojša Čović. “There were thousands of weapons at the factory and at least 2,000 trained and armed men there,” a Yugoslav Military Intelligence source reports. “There was a plan to split up and support the crowds in various places and to seize all of the government ministries.” [56]

Otpor founder Slobodan Homen visited U.S. diplomat William Montgomery in Budapest, informing him that this was “the decisive day, and we’re ready to occupy the Federal Parliament and the Serbian TV building.” Homen requested U.S. military intervention if police resisted. Montgomery declined, knowing that outside military intervention at this moment would rally people around the government, but he “made it clear that pressure” by DOS on the government “had to be maintained, could not stop.” [57]

Surging crowds of DOS supporters overwhelmed a police guard and swarmed into the Parliament, where they smashed furniture and computers, looting anything of value and setting the building ablaze. At Radio Television Serbia, a bulldozer smashed an opening, allowing crowds to seize the building and drive out and beat the station’s employees. Ambulances throughout the city were taking wounded policemen to the hospital, only to be stopped by drunken DOS demonstrators who demanded that the injured policemen be turned over to them. DOS supporters roamed the city, waving weapons and setting police cars afire. [58]

In preparing the coup, DOS established prior contacts with police and soldiers, some of whom joined their ranks in attacking government buildings on October 5. “I was constantly in touch by telephone with an army general and sections of the interior ministry hierarchy” that had switched sides, Velimir Ilić revealed. [59] DOS also recruited the police guarding Radio Television Serbia. This police unit, Ilić said, were “completely on our side,” and “supported us fully.” [60]

As drunken mobs surged throughout Belgrade, Koštunica told a crowd of supporters, “Democracy has happened in Serbia.” [61] In a demonstration of their commitment to democracy, DOS supporters demolished the headquarters of the Socialist Party of Serbia and that of the New Communist Party of Yugoslavia. [62] In Leskovac, demonstrators torched the home of the local head of the Socialist Party, before proceeding to wreck the local headquarters of the Socialist Party and the Yugoslav United Left. [63]

Socialist directors of state-owned firms were driven from their positions or forced to resign, often at gunpoint. Throughout Serbia, offices of the Socialist Party and other Left parties were under attack. In Kragujevac, DOS supporters tied up and abused Socialist Party officials for ten hours. Then the socialists were released into a crowd, where they were spat at, cursed, kicked and beaten. In Niš, Dragiša Vučić of the Socialist Party was so badly beaten that she became hospitalized. Throughout Serbia, the homes of local Socialist Party officials were attacked. [64]

Shortly after the election, DOS filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, asking that the ballots of voters in Kosovo and refugees from Kosovo be tossed out. When its complaint was rejected, DOS appealed to the Constitutional Court, which upheld the decision by the Federal Election Commission. The political landscape was altered by the coup, and to oppose the demands of DOS became a risky proposition. The Constitutional Court backtracked and rescinded its own earlier verdict, issuing a new decision in which the Court annulled all of the votes cast in Kosovo. The Court based its decision on the dubious grounds that because polls closed in Kosovo at 4:00 PM for safety reasons, whereas they were open until four hours later elsewhere in Yugoslavia, this somehow invalidated every vote that had been cast.[65] This act granted Koštunica legal authority for his claim that he had won the election in the first round, even if the rights of voters in Kosovo got trampled in the process.

Given the commanding lead Koštunica held in the first electoral round a victory in the October 8 runoff was a near certainty, yet DOS preferred to bring down the government by force. The election of Koštunica alone would not have been enough to dismantle the socialist-oriented economy. Wider control of the reins of government would be needed, and the October election left Milošević’s governing coalition with a solid majority in the Assembly, with 78 out of 137 seats in the Chamber of Citizens and 28 out of 40 seats in the Chamber of Republics.[66] The Left-led coalition also held a commanding majority in the Parliament, where members had been elected in 1998 to four-year terms. [67] By seizing power, Koštunica was able to dissolve Parliament and call an early election. With DOS holding a complete monopoly on both state-owned and private media, the parties that had governed under Milošević were shut out, and in an atmosphere of intimidation it was no surprise that the snap election gave DOS the substantial majority of seats it needed in order to transform the economy.

The Coup Bears Fruit

Just days before the coup, in words that would prove prescient, President Milošević addressed the nation, warning that DOS was an instrument in the Western campaign to impose neocolonial control over Yugoslavia. Those nations that came under the sway of the Western powers, he pointed out, “have speedily become impoverished in a manner destroying all hope for more just and human social relations.” In Eastern Europe, there was a “great division into a poor majority and a rich minority,” and under DOS “that picture would also include us,” where “public and social property would quickly be transformed into private property” owned predominately by foreigners. [68]

The United States and Western European powers expected something in return for all of the support they have given DOS, and it was time for the new Yugoslav government to deliver.

Koštunica moved quickly in dismantling state-owned and socially-owned property. Privatization minister Aleksandar Vlahović announced a plan to sell 7,000 state-owned firms.[69]  Vlahović later elaborated on the plan in more detail, admitting, “We do not expect that all 7,000 firms will be privatized, and at least one half will go bankrupt, with predictable results.” It was recognized that Western investors would be the chief beneficiaries. “Our goal,” said Vlahović “is to maximize the inflow of foreign capital and foreign direct investment through privatization.” Hundreds of thousands of workers were thrown out of work. Responding to criticism from workers made redundant by the privatization process, Vlahović retorted, “If we want a market economy it’s time we realized there are no secure jobs.” Many of the first firms offered were intentionally assigned a book value of one third of their true value, “in order to attract potential foreign investors.” Sharply reduced tax rates were offered as further inducement for foreign investors.[70]

On July 21, 2001, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation signed an agreement with Yugoslavia on increasing U.S. investment and encouraging further privatization.  After the signing, OPIC CEO and President Peter Watson announced, “Today’s agreement not only signals the green light for the U.S. investors but indeed is a signal to the international investment community that Yugoslavia is open for business.”[71]

Serbia-Montenegro, having dropped the name ‘Yugoslavia’ at Western insistence, was obligated by the IMF in 2005 to implement a number of measures. Among these included the “reform” of the pension system through cutting benefits, implementing deep cuts in public spending, and the layoff of several hundred thousand workers. The IMF also demanded the selloff of major industries such as the oil refineries in Novi Sad and Pančevo.[72]

Companies privatized in accordance with the 2001 privatization law showed a decrease of 45 percent in employment over the first two years of private ownership. Those privatized under the privatization law of two years later saw a decrease of 15 percent, the lower figure due only to the law’s requirement for staff to be slashed prior to sale in order to attract investors.[73] In either case, it was the workers who paid the price.

Unemployment in Serbia steadily grew after the coup, quickly reaching 32 percent within four years.[74] By 2012 it stood at 24 percent. The apparent improvement was illusory, having to do mainly with the adoption of the modern American model for calculating unemployment. Under this method, workers who are not regularly and actively seeking jobs are counted as “discouraged,” “out of the job market,” and therefore not belonging to the ranks of the unemployed. If one adds back in the number of workers who are classified as “inactive” but who profess both the ability and the desire to work, then the real unemployment rate was 34 percent.[75]

To put this in perspective, at its peak in 1933, unemployment during the Great Depression in the United States reached 25 percent, a figure that was then not calculated to exclude a significant portion of workers. Today Serbian workers are enduring their own Great Depression, but one that subordination to Western corporate interests has imposed on them. For those who lose their livelihoods, there is little hope. Nearly 80 percent of the non-discouraged unemployed have been without work for a year or longer, and 44 percent have been looking for a job for four years or longer. [76] They are society’s discards.

Even when one has a job, survival is a struggle. “Pay is often barely enough for basic needs including food and bills,” points out one analyst. “There is absolutely no way for them to get a mortgage from a bank to buy a car, let alone affording a flat.” At an unemployment center, a woman remarks, “Of course I could not get employment.” Seeing little hope, she was applying for a reduced early pension. “I am a 50-year old engineer holding a university degree and the only place I can find a job is at a fast-food restaurant. Think how humiliated I would feel after 30 years of work at the office to start flipping burgers at some local shop.” A British resident of Belgrade relates that the “Serbian people are crying out to be able to get mortgages and loans that will allow them to move out of their parents’ houses before they turn 40, and by that same token they are crying out for the kind of financial responsibility that will see them become voluntary slaves to their companies; living in fear of losing their jobs.”[77] The free market had come to Serbia, with all of the advantages that it bestows.

Western intervention did not end with the overthrow of the Milošević government. Indeed, it increased. The coup opened the door for a vast expansion of Western meddling in the affairs of Serbia and Montenegro.

Representing the views of the U.S. corporate world, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implemented a number of programs in Serbia designed to promote those interests. Among other things, USAID said, its efforts helped “deepen structural reforms.” One of the agency’s programs designed to advance that objective was the Bankruptcy and Enforcement Strengthening (BES), which helped the Serbian Privatization Agency Bankruptcy Unit “privatize state and socially-owned enterprises through bankruptcy, reorganization and/or liquidation in a more efficient and effective manner.” [78] Not coincidentally, the purchase price of these enterprises thereby became cheaper for the Western investor.

Another component of the agency’s efforts in Serbia was the Municipal Economic Growth Activity (MEGA), which saw its role as “facilitating private sector growth” through a variety of means, including advocating policies and supporting legislative action. [79] That “support” went so far as to include direct participation in the drafting of Serbian legislation.[80]

MEGA’s most important accomplishment was the establishment of the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED), “through which leaders from both business and local governments gather together around issues of common interest.” [81] Interests, it went without saying, that were inimical to those of the working population. NALED initiated what it termed the Business Friendly Certification, which it awarded to those local governments that proved sufficiently subservient to USAID’s demands.

In 2009, Mayor Igor Pavličić of Novi Sad declared, “Since we joined USAID’s Municipal Economic Growth Activity program, many expert analyses have been developed on how to rationalize the city’s budget expenditures. Program experts have advised us on how to use the budget funds for the capital investments in infrastructure. From now on, public utilities will have to take care of their budgets and to move on to a more market oriented approach.”[82] One wonders who ran the city, the mayor or USAID?

In Niš, the city assembly passed a decision to offer land for industrial construction. MEGA personnel wrote the draft legislation, which the city dutifully passed with the backing of the mayor. Eager to please, the mayor announced that the city would be “offering a number of incentives to new investors.” [83]

Another organization actively involved in Serbia was the American Chamber of Commerce, which sought to promote U.S. business interests. Its “support” of the reform process involved actively writing Serbian legislation and having proposed legislation submitted for its review and approval. [84]

The Foreign Investors Council (FIC) represented the interests of Western corporations in Serbia. Its purpose was “to assist Serbia in fully accepting and nurturing market economy and introducing a system of European values and standards.” In order to “improve the investment and business development climate in Serbia,” the Foreign Investors Council made “concrete reform proposals.”[85] In plain language, it meddled in the Serbian regulatory and legislative process just as the American Chamber of Commerce did.

The World Bank, while acknowledging the cuts that Serbia had already made in public services, felt that more could be done. The government of Serbia should consider additional methods of “reducing [pension] benefits on a permanent basis,” it advised. Pension benefits are “too high,” the bank complained. “The pension due to a new retiree in Serbia is equal to nearly 60 percent of the net average wage.” Something would have to be done about such a state of affairs. After all, a person might survive on such a sum. The goal of pension reform, the World Bank stated, would be to turn the pension system “into a surplus-generating system which pays very low benefits.” [86]

No measure is likely to dislodge the chokehold that Western power has on Serbia in the foreseeable future. The powers arrayed against workers are too powerful, and Serbia occupies too important a geographical position in the Balkans, one that Western corporations will not readily relinquish. Centrally located in the Balkans, and along the Danube, the country has the region’s major road, rail and river navigation routes. The nation’s location is essential in integrating the entire Balkans under the neoliberal model and the shipment of goods from this low-wage region to the West.

Western sponsorship of the coup in 2000 was an investment, from which multinational companies have profited handsomely in the years that followed. Serbia and Montenegro, now separated, have lost their independence and been compelled to grant a substantial degree of control over their economies to U.S. and Western European interests. Every means was used to crush Yugoslavia, which became a laboratory in which techniques of subversion were perfected. The 2000 coup served as a template for the “color” revolutions that installed pliant governments in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and many of the techniques have been used on a smaller scale against such targets as Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The tragedy of the Yugoslav coup was not only that it plunged the population into immiseration. The wider tragedy is that the coup’s very success has encouraged an increased reliance on subversion as one of the primary tools of Western policy, and people across the globe are paying the price for that success.

Gregory Elich is the author of Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit

Notes

[1] William Booth and Steve Mufson, “Montenegro’s Leader Caught in the Middle as Friend of the U.S.,” Washington Post, May 14, 1999.

[2] Statement by Milo Djukanović, “Important Step in Opening New Perspectives for Montenegrin State Policy,” June 22, 1999.

[3] Ljubinka Cagorovic, “Montenegro Assembly Scraps Socially-Owned Property,” Reuters, November 13, 1999.

“Montenegrin Government Prepares to Privatise Economy,” Tanjug (Belgrade), December 25, 1999.

[4] “Southeastern Europe Business Brief,” Central and Eastern European Business Information Center, February 3, 2000.

“Southeastern Europe Business Brief,” Central and Eastern European Business Information Center, April 27, 2000.

Anne Swardson, “West Grows Close to Montenegro,” Washington Post, May 24, 2000.

[5] “Albright Renews Montenegro Support,” Associated Press, July 13, 2000.

“Montenegro Wants to Join NATO and the EU,” Agence France-Presse, July 10, 2000.

Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State, “Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic,” Press Stakeout at Excelsior Hotel, Rome, Italy, August 1, 2000.

[6]  “Montenegro Ahead of Elections: Boycott and Threats,” BETA (Belgrade), August 9, 2000.

“Montenegro and Elections – Boycott Becomes Official,” BETA (Belgrade), August 17, 2000.

Phil Reese, “We Have the Heart for Battle, Says Montenegrin Trained by SAS,” The Independent (London), July 30, 2000.

“Montenegro: Camouflaged Military Vehicles Seized in Ancona,” ANSA (Rome), August 21, 2000.

“Montenegro: Traffic in Camouflaged Armored Vehicles: Investigation into Documentation,” ANSA (Rome), August 22, 2000.

“SAS Training Montenegrin Police,” The Sunday Times (London), October 1, 2000.

[7]  Richard J. Newman, “Balkan Brinkmanship,” US News and World Report, November 15, 1999.

[8]  “Clinton Warns Milosevic ‘Remains a Threat to Peace,” Agence France-Presse, July 29, 2000.

[9]  “NATO’s Robertson Warns Milosevic on Montenegro,” Reuters, July 27, 2000.

[10] Paul Beaver, Ed Vulliamy, Chris Bird, “Clinton Tells CIA to Oust Milosevic,” November 29, 1998.

[11] Aleksandar Vasovic, “Serb Opposition Leader Raps West,” Associated Press, September 3, 1999.

[12] Douglas Waller, “Tearing Down Milosevic,” Time, July 4, 1999.

Bill Gertz, “Clinton has Plans to Unseat Milosevic,” Washington Times, June 30, 1999.

[13] John Donnelly, “US Tries to Turn Yugoslav Officials,” Boston Globe, August 29, 1999.

[14] Shadowplay, p. 176, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[15] Shadowplay, p. 196, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[16] “Germany, Norway Funded Yugo Opposition,” Reuters, October 7, 2000.

[17] Borislav Komad, “At Albright’s Signal,” Večernje Novosti (Belgrade), May 18, 2000.

[18] “Europe: Central & Eastern: Yugoslavia: Serbia,” National Democratic Institute.

Shadowplay, p. 196, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[19] “Europe: Central & Eastern: Yugoslavia: Serbia,” National Democratic Institute.

[20] Michael Dobbs, “U.S. Advice Guided Milosevic Opposition,” Washington Post, December 11, 2000.

[21] Shadowplay, p. 186-187, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[22] Shadowplay, p. 198, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[23] Roger Cohen, “Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?”, New York Times Magazine, November 25, 2000.

[24] “Berlin Funded Serb Opposition: Media,” Agence France-Presse, October 7, 2000.

George Jahn, “U.S. Funding Yugoslavian Reformers,” Associated Press, September 29, 2000.

[25] Shadowplay, p. 178, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[26] Steven Erlanger, “Milosevic, Trailing in Polls, Rails Against NATO,” New York Times, September 20, 2000.

[27] Shadowplay, p. 178, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[28] Shadowplay, p. 200-201, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[29] Nicholas Thompson, “A Good Way of Getting Rid of the Bad Guys,” Washington Monthly, March 2001.

BETA (Belgrade), August 11, 1999.

“RTS Being Jammed by Foreign Radio Stations from Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Borba (Belgrade), September 8, 1999.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, “Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs Addresses a Memorandum to the UN Security Council,” Yugoslav Daily Survey, October 5, 2000.

Zlatko Stević, “Attack on Radio Novosti,” Večernje Novosti, April 4, 2000.

[30] “Minister: Foreign Ships, Aircraft Jamming State Radio, TV,” Tanjug (Belgrade), August 14, 1999.

“Envoys to UN, UNESCO Protest against Frequency Jamming,” Tanjug (Belgrade), August 23, 1999.

[31] Miroslav Lazanski, “Washington’s Balkan Connection,” Večernje Novosti (Belgrade), October 1, 2000.

“Empty Threats,” Večernje Novosti (Belgrade), September 29, 2000.

[32] Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, “Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs Addresses a Memorandum to the UN Security Council,” Yugoslav Daily Survey, October 5, 2000.

[33] Shadowplay, p. 203, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[34] Press Release, “Message to the Serbian People,” European Union, September 19, 2000.

[35] “Bulgaria – US – CIA Director’s Visit,” BTA (Sofia), August 15, 2000.

[36] “CIA Director’s Forthcoming Visit,” BTA (Sofia), August 14, 2000.

[37] “The Balkans are Latin America for CIA,” Monitor (Sofia), August 28, 2000.

Tanjug, August 28, 2000.

[38] “Bulgaria Press Review,” BTA (Sofia), August 14, 2000.

[39] Roger Cohen, “Who Really Brought Down Milosevic?”, New York Times Magazine, November 25, 2000.

[40] “Cooperative Key,” www.globalsecurity.org

Isabella Alexandrescu, Iuliana Anghel, Christian Levant, “The Yugoslav Information Minister Denounces: Anti-Milosevic Commando Launched from Romania,” Evenimentul Zilei (Bucharest), September 20, 2000.

[41] “Five Years after Dayton,” NATO Review, 2000-3.

“Seven Star Exercise in Plovdiv,” N. Khasapopoulos, To Vima (Athens), September 28, 2000.

[42] Press Release, “Canadian Observers in Yugoslavia,” September 26, 2000.

[43] ITAR-TASS, October 2, 2000.

[44] Broadcast, Mayak Radio (Moscow), October 2, 2000.

[45] BETA (Belgrade), September 26, 2000.

BETA (Belgrade), September 27, 2000.

“Federal Electoral Commission – DOS Election Staff Misinformed Public,” Tanjug (Belgrade), October 3, 2000.

“Who Lies Kostunica?”,  Statement by the Socialist Party of Serbia, October 11, 2000.

[46] “Federal Electoral Commission – DOS Election Staff  Misinforms Public,” Tanjug (Belgrade), October 3, 2000.

[47]  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia web site, www.gov.yu, “Total Election Results,” and “The Federal Elections Commission Statement.” Both statements were removed following the coup.

“Final Results of FRY Presidential Election,” Tanjug (Belgrade), September 28, 2000.

[48] “Yugoslav Constitutional Court Holds Public Debate on DOS Appeal,” Tanjug (Belgrade), October 4, 2000.

BETA (Belgrade), September 29, 2000.

[49] “No Political Motive Behind Armada in Mediterranean: Britain,” Agence France-Presse, September 26, 2000.

Press Release, “U.S. Forces Travel to Croatia for Amphibious Exercises,” U.S. Department of Defense, September 12, 2000.

“U.S. War Game in Adriatic; U.K. Navy in Mediterranean,” Reuters, September 26, 2000.

[50] Tanjug (Belgrade), October 2, 2000.

BETA (Belgrade), October 2, 2000.

[51] “Yugoslav Opposition to Step Up Protests Despite Crackdown Threat,” Agence France-Presse, October 4, 2000.

[52] Shadowplay, p. 209-210, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[53] Danica Kirka, “Activists Planned Uprising that Led to Milosevic’s Ouster,” Associated Press, October 20, 2000.

Shadowplay, p. 211-212, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[54] Jonathan Steele, Tim Judah, John Sweeney, Gillian Sandford, Rory Carroll, Peter Beaumont, “An Outrage Too Far,” The Observer (London), October 8, 2000.

[55] R. Jeffrey Smith, Peter Finn, “How Milosevic Lost his Grip,” Washington Post, October 14, 2000.

[56] Shadowplay, p. 213, by Tim Marshall, Samizdat B92, Belgrade, 2003.

[57] Steven Erlanger, Roger Cohen, “How Yugoslavia Won its Fight for Freedom,” New York Times, October 15, 2000.

[58] Dusan Stoyanovic, “Protesters Seize Yugoslav Building,” Associated Press, October 5, 2000.

“Protesters Storm Yugoslav Parliament,” Associated Press, October 5, 2000.

[59] “Cacak Mayor Says He Led Assault on Yugoslav Parliament,” Agence France-Presse, October 8, 2000.

[60] Danica Kirka, “Activists Planned Uprising that Led to Milosevic’s Ouster,” Associated Press, October 20, 2000.

[61] “Milosevic’s Power Crumbles as Opposition Seizes Parliament, TV,” Agence France-Presse, October 6, 2000.

[62] “Milosevic Party HQ Ransacked by Protestors,” Agence France-Presse, October 5, 2000.

“Counter-Revolutionary Attacks Begin,” email communication from New Communist Party of Yugoslavia, October 6, 2000.

[63] “Group of Demonstrators Demolished the House of the District Head,” BETA (Belgrade), October 6, 2000.

[64] Statement, “Information for the Public (as of October 7, 2000),” Socialist Party of Serbia, October 7, 2000.

“Yugoslav Workers Sack Milosevic-Era Bosses in Droves,” Agence France-Presse, October 12, 2000.

[65] BETA (Belgrade), October 7, 2000.

[66] “The Federal Elections Commission Statement,” Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, September 28, 2000.

[67] George Jahn, “Milosevic Allies Break Off Talks,” Associated Press, October 10, 2000.

[68] “Yugoslav President Addresses the Nation,” Tanjug (Belgrade), October 3, 2000.

[69] Beti Bilandzic, “Serbia Eyes New Privatization Law by April,” Reuters, January 28, 2001.

[70] “Vlahović Says Privatization Well Underway,” Tanjug (Belgrade), March 12, 2002.

Introductory Speech by Minister Vlahović at the Opening of Parliamentary Debate of the New Legislation on Privatization,” Serbia-Montenegro Ministry of Foreign Affairs, www.mfa.gov.yu

“World Bank Adviser Expects 800,000 to Lose Jobs in Privatization,” Tanjug (Belgrade), January 24, 2002.

“Finance Minister Promises 50 Percent Tax Relief to Foreign Investors,” Tanjug (Belgrade), February 26, 2002.

“First 10 Companies for Privatization through Auction Identified,” Tanjug (Belgrade), March 27, 2002.

BETA (Belgrade), June 1, 2003.

[71] “Deal Lets U.S. Investors
Back into Yugo,” Reuters, July 21, 2001.

[72]  Davor Konjikusic, “Serbia Faces Economic Challenges in 2005,” Southeast European Times, January 17, 2005.

“Unemployment to Soar,” BETA (Belgrade), January 3, 2005.

“Serbia: IMF Offers Bitter Pill to Heal Economy,” Adnkronosinternational (Rome), May 9, 2005.

“IMF Approves Loan Extension,” B92 (Belgrade), May 12, 2005.

[73] “Impact Assessment of Privatisation in Serbia,” Privatization Agency, Republic of Serbia, October 27, 2005.

[74] “Unemployment in Serbia and Montenegro,” www.worldwide-tax.com

[75] “Labour Force Survey, 2012,” Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 2013.

[76] “Labour Force Survey, 2012,” Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, 2013

[77] Ljubisa Bojic, “Serbia: Unemployment and Low Salaries,” Global Voices, August 30, 2009.

[78] “Building a Strong Investment Climate,” USAID Serbia.

[79] “Municipal Economic Growth Activity (MEGA),” USAID Serbia.

[80] “Municipal Economic Growth Activity: Program Components,” US AID Serbia.

[81] “Municipal Economic Growth Activity (MEGA),” USAID Serbia.

[82] “Interview with the Mayor of Novi Sad Igor Pavličić,” Radio Television Vojvodina 1, June 2, 2009.

[83] “Niš Offers 10 Hectares of Land for Industrial Construction,” NTV, Niš, April 28, 2009.

[84] “Meeting at the Ministry of Finance,” AmCham Serbia, Belgrade, September 3, 2009.

[85] “About Us,” Foreign Investors Council in Serbia.

[86] “Serbia: Doing More with Less,” The World Bank, June 16, 2009.

The Police State Wants What The Police State Wants

October 20th, 2013 by William Boardman

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”  The Fourth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution

The founding document of the United States is inherently suspicious of a government’s willingness to abuse its powers, a suspicion rooted in centuries of tyranny around the world. Even the U.S. government, as well as state and local governments, have abused their powers from time to time since the country’s beginning. The drift toward an American police state intensified under the guise of anti-Communism, but that was mostly a convenient cover for state intrusion into people’s lives. The Soviet Union collapsed, but the nascent American police state kept growing. The Patriot Act of 2001, a massive assault on personal and political liberty, was largely written before 9/11 and passed, largely unexamined, in the hysterical atmosphere and raw panic of that over-hyped “new Pearl Harbor.”

Now we have a police state apparatus of almost unimagined dimension, most of which is kept secret and remains unknown, despite the efforts of a few reporters and whistle blower, who tell the truth at their personal peril.

The “American police state” is likely an abstraction in the minds of many people, and as long as they remain unknowing and passive, it’s likely to leave them alone. But even law-abiding innocence is not a sure protection of a person’s right to be secure.  And when the police state comes after you in one of its hydra-headed forms, the assault can be devastating.

For starters, the state won’t always tell you when it begins

The intrusion of the police state into your life can shatter your world even before you realize it’s begun. Fight it, or surrender to it, the cost is huge. Recovery may be possible, eventually, if it’s ever allowed, but it will be hard, and it will take time.

In May 2013, Ladar Levison was 32 when the police state first came after him. The dreaded “knock on the door” was actually only an FBI business card on his door at home. And Levison’s initial interactions with the FBI were reportedly mild and civil, at first by email and later in person. The FBI was interested in Levision because he owned and operated a secure email service called Lavabit. From the FBI point of view, Lavabit was too secure, because the NSA and the rest of the security state couldn’t get into it.

Right out of college, Levison had started Lavabit as a sole proprietorship in April 2004 (the same month Google launched Gmail at a much greater scale). Having grown up in San Francisco, Levison studied computer science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he still lives. While working on his start-up, he supported himself mostly with internet security projects for financial services. He also worked as a consultant on website development for clients such as Dr Pepper, Nokia, and Adidas.

What Lavabit was selling was secure email, much more secure than anything Google, Microsoft, or most other email providers were offering.  The demand was not that great at first.  It took six years for Lavabit to gather enough paying subscribers to allow Levison to devote himself to the business fulltime in 2010. Even when the FBI became interested in Lavabit in May 2013, it was still a small company, with two employees and about 400,000 subscribers. But one of those subscribers was another American about Levison’s age, 30-year old Edward Snowden, the whistleblower whose leaked documents have added so much to our understanding of the dimensions  and activities of the American police state. Snowden opened his [email protected] email account in 2010.

Political repression may not be the government’s overt intent, but it works  

At this point, there’s no indication that Levison and Lavabit ever had anything but a commercial relationship with Snowden.  It’s even possible that Snowden had nothing to do with the FBI’s initial interest in Lavabit.  It may be that Lavabit’s effective security was sufficient offense to the surveillance forces to make it an object of attack for its own sake.  In May 2013, Levison says he had the impression the FBI agents who talked to him didn’t even know who or what was the subject of their investigation. The FBI hasn’t said.

Levison is not an obviously political person, he hasn’t been revealed to be involved in party politics or political causes. “Until last summer, Mr. Levison, a Republican of libertarian leanings, had not been active in politics,” according to the New York Times October 9. He seems to be the person he seems to be: a thoughtful, hardworking, physically fit, computer business guy who has had a dog named Princess since January 2010 and who spends a lot of his spare time keeping in shape playing beach volleyball.

Princess has her own album on his Facebook page, where the dominant theme by far is Levison’s competition in beach volleyball (with albums for Sunday Night, as well as Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Nights) and there is one picture of Levison with Rep. Ron Paul. Levison’s page shows membership in just one Facebook group, “OCCUPY (Support) EDWARD SNOWDEN and All Other Whistleblowers,” to which someone else added him about two months ago. Among his 43 “Likes,” Levison lists two Interests (programming and computers), lots of volleyball Activities, and six books, including William Gibson’s “Neuromancer,” George Orwell’s “1984,” and Dostoevski’s “Crime and Punishment.”

From another perspective, Levison is as political as the Fourth Amendment, which is as profoundly political as it gets. It was the Patriot Act’s assault on the Fourth Amendment, Levison says, that contributed to his decision to start Lavabit in 2004, when the act was up for renewal and much in the news.  Among the many objections to the act was that it gave to federal agents excessive authority to, in effect, write their own search warrants on no other authority but their own. In the Orwellian language of the act, these personal searched warrants are known as “national security letters.” Levison designed the security architecture of the Lavabit email and storage services to be beyond the reach of unwarranted searches, even in national security letters. As Levison recalled on Democracy NOW! in August:

“And as I was designing and developing the custom platform, it was right around when the PATRIOT Act came out. And that’s really what colored my opinion and my philosophy, and why I chose to take the extra effort and build in the secure storage features and sort of focus on the privacy niche and the security focus niche…. [for] people who want email but don’t necessarily want it lumped in and profiled along with their searches or their browsing history or any of their other Internet activities.”

You can’t reveal what you don’t know – and that provides more security

During May 2013, Levison met for “a couple hours” with FBI agents at his office, where he explained how his security system and his business operated. As Levison told Democracy NOW! the service included his personal pledge of security:

“I’ve always liked to say my service was by geeks, for geeks. It’s grown up over the last 10 years, it’s sort of settled itself into serving those that are very privacy-conscious and security-focused. We offered secure access via high-grade encryption. And at least for our paid users, not for our free accounts—I think that’s an important distinction—we offered secure storage, where incoming emails were stored in such a way that they could only be accessed with the user’s password, so that, you know, even myself couldn’t retrieve those emails.

“And that’s what we meant by encrypted email. That’s a term that’s sort of been thrown around because there are so many different standards for encryption, but in our case it was encrypted in secure storage, because, as a third party, you know, I didn’t want to be put in a situation where I had to turn over private information. I just didn’t have it. I didn’t have access to it.”

Over the years, Lavabit has received and complied with “at least two dozen subpoenas” from the local sheriff’s office to the federal courts, Levison says, “I’ve always complied with the law.” Each of those subpoenas targeted a specific individual and appeared to Levison to be consistent with the Fourth Amendment. As recently as June 2013, he complied with an unrelated subpoena seeking information on one of his subscribers accused of violating child pornography law.

A secret subpoena from the American police state is different

On June 6, 2013, the Guardian began publishing surveillance state revelations based on documents from Edward Snowden, the Lavabit.com email subscriber. On June 9, Snowden revealed that he was the whistlblower who leaked documents to the Guardian and others. The first secret court order against Lavabit came the next day.

On or about June 10, the Justice Dept., on behalf of the FBI, went to federal court to compel Lavabit to provide information “relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation” involving someone with a single Lavabit email account. The FBI has not identified the subject of this investigation, but it is widely believed to be Snowden.

 The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (the Fourth Circuit) granted the FBI’s request and issued the disclosure order against Lavabit that same day. A one-page, single-spaced attachment to the order listed the categories of information to be disclosed, including names, addresses, phone records, other subscriber identities, billing records, activity records, and “information about each communication” – in other words, everything about the email account “not including the contents of communications.”  The order did not mention encryption keys, SSL keys, or the like.  These are closely guarded secrets in a security business like Lavabit.

The U.S. Magistrate Judge who signed the initial order gave Lavabit 10 days to comply.  He also sealed the court records from public view and further ordered that Lavabit “shall not disclose the existence of the application of the United States, or the existence of this order” to anyone except “an attorney for Lavabit.”  In other words, Levison was subject to a gag order before he ever found out the FBI was definitely coming after him.

In the meantime, on June 14, the Justice Dept. filed a sealed criminal complaint against Snowden, who was then in Hong Kong. The government accused him of three offenses – theft of government property and two forms of “unauthorized communication” the Espionage Act of 1917. The criminal complaint, which was made public a week later, gave the government 60 days to file a formal indictment.

Getting unsatisfying compliance, the FBI decided to raise the stakes

According to a later Justice Dept. filing: “Mr. Levison received that order on June 11, 2013.  Mr. Levison responded by mail, which was not received by the government until June 27, 2013.  Mr. Levison provided very little of the information sought….” [emphasis added]

On June 28, the day after getting Levison’s belated response to the June 10 order, the Justice Dept. went back to the Fourth Circuit Court in Alexandria seeking an order “authorizing the installation and use of a pen register/trap device on an electronic mail account” – an FBI wiretap on email. Levison had no notice of the government motion and no opportunity to contest it.  A new judge on the case, Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan, promptly ordered the wiretap installed on the basis that the government “has certified that the information likely to be obtained by such installation and use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation….” Like the first order, this order did not mention encryption keys, SSL keys, or the like.

FBI special agents met with Levison in Dallas the same day to discuss the new order, which Levison had not yet received, as well as a prior summons to appear before a grand jury. The agents presumably explained to Levison that the court had issued a secret order based on a secret motion, itself based on secret evidence (or none at all) and that Levison was not only compelled to comply but was also still under court order to keep the whole secret process a secret, this time with no exception even for his attorney.

According to a later government filing, “Mr. Levison told the agents that he would not comply with the pen register order and wanted to speak to an attorney. It was unclear whether Mr. Levison would not comply with the order because it was technically not feasible or difficult or was not consistent with his business practice of providing secure, encrypted email service for his customers.”

As Levison months later explained to reporters about Lavabit: “We’re wholly focused on secure email. Without it, we have no business.” In Levison’s view, breaking Lavabit’s security without the right to tell his customers would have been to commit commercial fraud.

Judge Buchanan keeps the pressure on Levison and Lavabit

Following this meeting, the Justice Dept. immediately went before Judge Buchanan seeking an order to compel Lavabit to comply with the other Magistrate’s earlier order and install the FBI wiretap and to “furnish agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, forthwith, all information, facilities, and technical assistance necessary to accomplish the installation and use of the pen/trap device…” as ordered pursuant to federal law [U.S. Code, Title 18, sec. 3123].

Judge Buchanan immediately granted the “Order Compelling Compliance Forthwith,” based in part on her findings that “Lavabit informed the Federral Bureau of Investigation that the user of the account had enabled Lavabit’s encryption services and thus the pen/trap device would not collect the relevant information” and that “Lavabit informed the FBI that it had the technological capability to obtain the information but did not want to ‘defeat [its] own system’…”

Judge Buchanan ordered Lavabit to provide “unencrypted data pursuant to the Order.” Noting that failure to comply “forthwith” would subject Lavabit to “any penalty within the power of the court,” Judge Buchanan added in her own handwriting, “including the possibility of criminal contempt of court.” This order was issued under seal.

Previously, Levison faced the possibility of being fined for civil contempt if he failed to comply. Now he also faced going to jail. And the court’s most recent orders, in their plain language, prevented Levison from discussing his situation with anyone, not even an attorney.

According to the FBI, agents “made numerous attempts, without success, to speak and meet directly with Mr. Levison” during the next ten days. On July 9, the Justice Dept. returned to the Fourth Circuit court seeking an order for Lavabit to show cause why it “has failed to comply with the orders entered June 29” by Magistrate Buchanan, and why Lavabit should not be held in contempt of court for its failure to comply.

Judge Hilton decides a hearing with the parties present might help

Judge Claude Hilton issued the show cause order the same day, including a summons for Lavabit to appear at a hearing a week later. Judge Hilton is a secrecy case veteran, having served on the secretive FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court from 2000 to 2007. The Judge continued to keep the Lavabit case under seal, but reinstated Lavabit’s exception to the gag rule when consulting with an attorney.

The next day, Levison went to the FBI field office in Dallas for a meeting/conference call that included prosecutors and FBI agents in Washington and his attorney in San Francisco, convened “to discuss Mr. Levison’s questions and concerns… [that] focused primarily on how the pen register device would be installed on the Lavabit LLC system, what data would be captured by the device, what data would be viewed and preserved by the government… [and] whether Mr. Levison would be able to provide ‘keys’ for encrypted information.”

The parties did not reach an agreement at the meeting and the next day, July 11, Levison’s attorney informed the FBI that she no longer represented Levison or Lavabit. The same day, Levison “indicated that he would not come to court [for the July 16 show cause hearing] unless the government paid for his travel,” according to a government filing.

Rather than engage in a dispute over travel expenses, the FBI served Levison with a subpoena to appear before a Fourth Circuit grand jury, also on July 16. The government is responsible for the travel arrangements of grand jury witnesses, and the FBI so advised Levison by email. The grand jury subpoena left little wriggle room in its effort to force Lavabit to surrender the encryption keys that were essential to its business:

“In addition to your personal appearance, you are directed to bring to the grand jury the public and private encryption keys used by lavabit.com in any SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or TLS (Transport Security Layer) sessions, including HTTPS sessions with clients using lavabit.com website and encrypted SMTP communications (or Internet communications using other protocols) with mail servers;

“Any other information necessary to accomplish the installation and use of the pen/trap device ordered by Judge Buchanan on June 28….”

“I don’t trust you, but you should trust me” and vice-versa

Levison responded on July 13 with an email to the U.S. Attorney’s office, offering an alternative to the FBI-operated wiretap. Levison proposed that he would collect the court-designated data himself. While he didn’t state it in the email, this would address one of Levison’s primary concerns, that there was no effective oversight to prevent the FBI from gathering more data than the court had allowed.  Levison proposed to design and implement the solution, gather the data manually, and provide it to the FBI at the end of the 60-day court order – for a price of $2,000. For another $1,500, he offered to provide data “more frequently,” which would require implementing an automated system.

The U.S. Attorney chose not to explore the offer. In a brusque and internally contradictory reply email the same day, an assistant U.S. Attorney explained “that the proposal was inadequate because, among other things, it did not provide for real-time transmission of results, and it was not clear that Mr. Levison’s request for money constituted the ‘reasonable expenses’ authorized by the statute.” The government later admitted to the court that it was “unclear” as to precise details of the proposal. The clear implication of Levison’s proposal is a willingness to provide real-time transmission for reasonable compensation. But that would leave Levison in control. The government didn’t consider that a useful compromise.

On July 15, Levison flew to Washington for his show cause hearing at 10 the next morning, although he thought it was set for 10:30 and arrived late.  He was appearing pro se, representing himself without an attorney.

Even a federal court hearing can be a comedy of errors

The government goal for the July 16 hearing remained unchanged: “Lavabit LLC may comply with the pen register order by simply allowing the FBI to install the pen register devise and provide the FBI with the encryption keys.”  Lacking compliance, the government asked the court to impose a civil contempt sanction of $1,000 a day until Lavabit complied.

The government also requested a search warrant for the encryption keys. Judge Hilton granted the search warrant before the hearing began.

As it turned out, the 20-minute hearing resulted in no change in the legal standing of the parties, but did produce a transcript with moments of unintentional hilarity.

Present in the courtroom were Judge Hilton and the court staff.  U.S. Attorney James Trump represented the government, along with three other lawyers and an FBI agent. Levison was alone.

The U.S. Attorney wanted to know if Levison was going to comply with the wiretap order, but Judge Hilton wouldn’t ask and Levison wouldn’t say.  Or rather, Levison said he had always been ready and willing to comply with installation of the wiretap, but he was reluctant to give up the encryption codes, which would give the FBI access to all 400,000 of his subscribers even though the court order named only one. “There was never an explicit demand that I turn over those keys,” Levison said.

 The U.S. Attorney argued that Judge Buchanan had effectively if not specifically ordered Levison to turn over the encryption keys. Judge Hilton wasn’t touching that: “I’m not sure I ought to be enforcing Judge Buchanan’s order.” Judge Hilton said that his order was to install the wiretap and Levison had said he’d do that, so – “You’re trying to get me to deal with a contempt before there’s any contempt, and I have a problem with that.”

Levison moved to unseal all but the sensitive information in the proceedings.  Judge Holton denied the motion, based on the underlying criminal investigation.  Levison asked the judge to order “some sort of external audit to ensure that your oders are followed to the letter” as to FBI data collection.  The judge refused.  Levison moved to continue the hearing to allow him to retain counsel.  Judge Hilton granted the continuance.

Levison and Lavabit get legal representation from a Virginia firm

Levison’s new attorney is Jesse Binnall of Bronley & Binnall PLLC in Fairfax, Virginia. Binnall, 34, was a communication major at George Mason University and graduated from the Law School there in 2009. Binnall and Levison would later be among the first guests on the New Ron Paul Channel in mid-August.

On July 25, Binnall filed under seal a “Motion to quash” the outstanding grand jury subpoena and the search warrant against Lavabit. The motion requested “that this Court direct that Lavabit does not have to produce its Master Key. Alternatively, Lavabit and Mr. Levinson request that they be given an opportunity to revoke the. current encryption key and reissue a new encryption key at the Government’s expense. Lastly, Lavabit and Mr. Levinson request that, if they are required to produce the Master Key, that they be reimbursed for its costs which were directly incurred in producing the Master Key….”

In support of his motion, Binnall made a number of arguments against the actions of the government, which had not faced serious legal opposition up to this point.

Binnall pointed out that giving the government access to Lavabit’s Master Key is tantamount to giving the government access to all of Lavabit’s 400,000 users.  That amounts to a general warrant that is unconstitutional, Binnall wrote, and:

“It is axiomatic that the Fourth Amendment prohibits general warrants [with Supreme Court cases cited]….  The Fourth Amendment’s particularity requirement is meant to ‘prevent the seizure of one thing under a warrant describing another’ [citation omitted]. This is precisely the concern with the Lavabit Subpoena and  Warrant and, in this circumstance, the particularity requirement will not protect Lavabit. By turning over the Master Key, the Government will have the ability to search each and every ‘place,’ ‘person [and] thing’ on Lavabit’s network…. Additionally, the Government has no probable cause to gain access to the other users accounts.”

The government seemed unconcerned about Levison’s business survival

Bindall also argued that the court should quash the subpoena and search warrant as creating an “undue burden” on Lavabit as defined by law [U.S. Code Title 18, sec. 2703]:

“Not only has Lavabit expended a great deal of time and money in attempting to cooperate with the Government thus far, but, Lavabit will pay the ultimate price –the loss of its customers’ trust and business – should the Court require that the Master Key be turned over. Lavabit’s business, which is founded on the preservation of electronic privacy, could be destroyed if it is required to produce its Master Key.”

Also on July 25, Binnall filed a motion to unseal court records and to lift the gag order on his client, since the “gag order infringes upon freedom of speech under the First Amendment, and should he subjected to constitutional case law. “

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Attorney filed a motion in opposition.

At the motion hearing on August 1, Judge Hilton engaged in lengthy colloquy with attorney Binnall. Before the 25-minute hearing was half over, the judge had denied both motions and the U.S. Attorney had said little more than “Good morning.” Judge Hilton gave Levison and Lavabit until 5 p.m. Dallas time on August 2 to comply.

Levison’s compliance took an unexpected form

The next day in Dallas, at about 1:30 p.m., Levison provided information that purported to be full compliance with the court’s orders. Whether it was actual compliance remains uncertain.  The government was not happy and engaged with attorney Binnall to achieve satisfactory compliance, without success. On August 5 the government filed a motion for sanctions against Levison, calling his apparent compliance “unworkable” and describing it as follows:

“Mr. Levison gave the FBI a printout of what he represented to be the encryption keys needed to operate the pen register. This printout, in what appears to be 4-point type, consists of 11 pages of largely illegible characters. See Attachment A. (The attachment was created by scanning the document provided by Mr. Levison; the original document was described by the Dal!as FBI agents as slightly clearer than the scanned copy but nevertheless illegible.) Moreover, each of the five encryption keys contains 512 individual characters – or a total of 2560 characters. To make use of these keys, the FBI would have to manually input all 2560 characters, and one incorrect keystroke in this laborious process would render the FBI collection system incapable of collecting decrypted data.”

When this compliance effort became public two months later, TechCrunch called it “an epic troll.” At the time, the government was not amused and called for the court to sanction Levison $5,000 a day, beginning at noon August 5.  The court promptly granted the motion, while reminding the parties that all aspects of the matter remained under seal. Known only to the participants and some court employees, the case was still unknown to the public.

Levison makes a tantalizing public announcement

That secrecy ended on August 8, when Ladar Levison shut down Lavabit, posting a short notice on the Lavabit.com website, together with a link to the Lavabit Legal Defense Fund.  As Levison explained:

“I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on – the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

“What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

“This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.”

Also on August 8, Levison fully complied with the Fourth Circuit courts orders, turning over the encryption keys to a now defunct service. He had incurred 2 days of sanctions – owing the government $10,000 – which remains pending.

The next day, Silent Circle, a global encrypted communications service, stayed in business but preemptively wiped out its email service (about 5 per cent of its customers) in anticipation of a government request that the company wouldn’t want to have to obey. “Meanwhile, Silent Circle is working on replacing its defunct e-mail service with a system that doesn’t rely on traditional e-mail protocols and keeps no messages or metadata within the company’s grasp. It is based on a protocol often used for instant messages and other applications. [CEO Mike] Janke says the goal is for this to not be e-mail, but ‘for all intents and purposes it looks, feels, and acts like e-mail,’” according to MIT Technology Review.

  Lavabit’s closing drew some news coverage over the next week, but any story was hampered by the gag order that severely limited what Levison and Binnall could safely say.  As Levison told Forbes the day after shutting down Lavabit:

“This is about protecting all of our users, not just one in particular. It’s not my place to decide whether an investigation is just, but the government has the legal authority to force you to do things you’re uncomfortable with….The fact that I can’t talk about this is as big a problem as what they asked me to do…. The methods being used to conduct those investigations should not be secret.”

The FBI and the Justice Dept. Have not commented publicly about the Lavabit case beyond their court filings.

Being secret, federal court appeal gets no news coverage

On August 15, Lavabit attorney Binnall filed notice – under seal – that he was appealing the federal district court’s rulings of August 1 and August 5 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In other words, the government can not only keep the public ignorant of what it’s doing, it can also prevent the public from knowing that anyone objects to the government’s actions as unconstitutional.

  In the Lavabit case, at least, this changed abruptly on October 2, when Judge Claude Hilton ordered a censored version of 23 documents (162 pages) made public. The redactions in these documents appear, from context, to be intended mostly to conceal details of the criminal investigation into Snowden or some other lavabit.com user. Since the unsealing of the court documents, news coverage had expansed, and Levison and Binnall have appeared in public across the country to argue their cause. As Levison put it on his Facebook page October 2:

“If the Obama administration feels compelled to continue violating the privacy rights of the masses just so they can conduct surveillance on the few then he should at least ask Congress for laws providing that authority instead of using the courts to force businesses into secretly becoming complicit in crimes against the American people.”

On 2005, a U.S. Senator addressed a similar concern, when Congress was about to pass a law creating the “national security letter,” a secret government process much more intense and unforgiving what Levison went through last summer:

  “This is legislation that puts our own Justice Department above the law. When national security letters are issued, they allow federal agents to conduct any search on any American, no matter how extensive, how wide-ranging, without ever going before a judge to prove that the search is necessary. All that is needed is a sign-off from a local FBI agent. That’s it.

“Once a business or a person receives notification that they will be searched, they are prohibited from telling anyone about it, and they’re even prohibited from challenging this automatic gag order in court. Even though judges have already found that similar restrictions violate the First Amendment, this conference report disregards the case law and the right to challenge the gag order.

“If you do decide to consult an attorney for legal advice, hold on. You will have to tell the FBI that you’ve done so. Think about that. You want to talk to a lawyer about whether or not your actions are going to be causing you to get into trouble. You’ve got to tell the FBI that you’re consulting a lawyer. This is unheard of. There is no such requirement in any other area of the law. I see no reason why it’s justified here.

  “And if someone wants to know why their own government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document, through the library books that you read, the phone calls that you’ve made, the emails that you’ve sent, this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a search in a court of law. No judge will hear your plea; no jury will hear your case. This is just plain wrong.”

  The question is: how much of a police state do we have already?

  That Senator was concerned eight years ago, and that Senator was Barack Obama.  Today, national security letters are part of the law of the land, the Obama administration uses them, and if you get one, talking about it is against the law. In that context, since Ladar Levison apparently did not get a national security letter, he was lucky. The country, not so much.

On October 10, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Lavabit filed the opening brief of its appeal of the lower court’s orders.  The United States has until November 4 to file its answer.  This will take awhile, it will take effort to follow, but it matters.

Note: Since the lifting of the federal court gag order on October 2, Ladar Levison and his company, Lavabit, have been getting some media attention (including a somewhat snide and incomplete story on page one of the New York Times). What follows in an effort to reconstruct at least the outline of a personal nightmare inflicted by our government on a small business owner who had done no wrong, even in the government’s eyes ­– at least until he started taking his constitutional rights seriously.

How should the healthcare needs of a society be met? Conspicuously absent from international media coverage and under fire from conservative critics at home, Venezuela is developing a public healthcare system distinct from both U.S. market-driven and European welfare-state models. Perhaps nothing makes this system more unique than the kind of doctors being trained to run it.

The first remarkable thing to note about Venezuela’s comprehensive community medicine program is how little is known about it outside of Venezuela. The attempt to train tens of thousands of aspiring doctors in Cuban-style preventative community medicine, the majority of these new physicians from lower-income backgrounds, has merited next to no attention from the international mass media. Compared to issues of crime, inflation and sporadic shortages in the economy, for these outlets the effort to create an “army of white jackets” to make the vision of a free, universal healthcare service with clinics in every neighbourhood a reality is seemingly not of importance for understanding Venezuela today.

Yet Venezuela’s new community doctors are now central to the performance and future shape of the country’s revitalised public healthcare system. Further, at a time when medicine is usually a vocation only open to elites and public healthcare services are being increasingly fractured and privatised by anti-popular governments, the Venezuelan example of constructing a robust public healthcare system in often difficult circumstances is demonstrative on a global level.

In progressive and independent media important work has already been done to open the world’s eyes to new programs offering free public healthcare in Venezuela. This article focuses on the next stage of this project: the training of tens of thousands of new doctors under the Cuban-supported comprehensive community medicine program. With the first wave of community doctors graduating in December 2011, these are the professionals who are now developing the country’s new national public healthcare system, from local community clinics to hospital level. Between the following article and direct interviews with graduates, this investigation aims to shine a light on Venezuela’s, and indeed Latin America’s, new type of doctor: their quality, their values, and their future vision for healthcare in Venezuela and the wider world.

The Origins of Medicina Integral Comunitaria (MIC) in Venezuela

Comprehensive community medicine (MIC in its Spanish acronym) in Venezuela was born out of a health accord signed in 2005 between presidents Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. As part of the agreement, in exchange for oil shipments Cuba would help Venezuela train 30,000 community doctors to staff Venezuela’s “Barrio Adentro”(Inside the Barrio) public health program.

Established with Cuban assistance and staffed by thousands of Cuban doctors, Barrio Adentro grew rapidly from 2003 and forms a key part of Venezuela’s expanded public healthcare system. The Barrio Adentro network has four stages, delivering free healthcare from 7,000 local community clinics up to hospital level. The program is measured to have administered over 500 million consultations and saved over 1.4 million lives since its founding.[1]

In conjunction with other government social programs, Barrio Adentro has been an important factor in the improvement of health indicators in the South American nation over the previous decade. This was highlighted in a study by the Council for Social and Economic Research which found that among other indicators, between 2003 – 2006 alone infant mortality fell in Venezuela from 18.5 per 1000 births to 14.2 per 1000 births.

Of course the expansion of Venezuela’s public healthcare system over the previous decade has required the influx of thousands of extra doctors, with the number of doctors per 10,000 inhabitants rising from 18 to 58 from 1998 – 2012. However the great majority of these new doctors could not be drawn from within Venezuela’s traditional medical profession. When the Chavez administration first sought to increase public healthcare provision in the early 2000s it found the country’s elite medical schools reluctant to open their doors to more students, especially those from poorer backgrounds. Meanwhile, with honourable exceptions, few aspiring young doctors or established specialists from the traditional system had much interest in going to work in the urban barrios (poorer neighbourhoods) or remote rural practices, preferring to seek high paid jobs in up-market private clinics.

Instead the Chavez government turned to its ally Cuba for help, not just to send doctors from Cuba, but also for assistance in training a new type of doctor in Venezuela prepared to serve the healthcare needs of the whole Venezuelan population. Thus in 2005 the National Training Program in Comprehensive Community Medicine (MIC) was born. Under the initiative, the Cuban doctors working in Barrio Adentro would double up as teachers, training their Venezuelan replacements to gradually take over the running of the country’s public healthcare system.

By 2013 this plan is bearing fruit. Over 14,000 community doctors are now working in public clinics and hospitals throughout the country (8,160 graduated in December 2011 and 6,200 in December 2012) as part of an obligatory two-year urban / rural residency which all community doctors must complete after graduating. In fact the program is now being extended, with the Venezuelan government aiming to train a total of 60,000 community doctors by 2019. Meanwhile postgraduate programs are being prepared for those who are completing their residency and want to become specialists in a given area of medicine.

Aspects and Goals of Comprehensive Community Medicine

Beyond supplying new doctors for Venezuela’s public healthcare system, a second aim of MIC is to implement a new model of medical education and healthcare delivery in Venezuela based on the preventative, community-based model utilised in Cuba. Supported by the state’s new academic institutions such as the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV), the comprehensive community medicine degree program lasts a total of six years plus a pre-medical preparatory training course. Unlike traditional medical degrees, from the first year students are brought into direct contact with patients by assisting doctors in local clinics and accompanying them on house to house community visits. As described by author Steve Brouwer, who has written extensively on the MIC program, Cuban doctors thus assume the role of “demonstrating, by their comportment and attention to preventative healthcare in the barrios, how a revolutionary doctor promotes trust among his or her patients in the community, and then involves them in creating a healthier society”.[2] Students also undertake hospital and rural internships during their final two years of study, increasing patient contact and practical experience.

Another difference with the traditional model of medical education taught in Venezuela is that the MIC program is more interdisciplinary in nature. In the classroom, rather than introducing the individual medical sciences in isolated components, the same material is delivered in a “sophisticated curriculum” through interdisciplinary courses weaving together subjects from anatomy to immunology. Advocates argue this methodology better applies scientific knowledge for a holistic understanding of the human body and complex morphology.[3] Classes are generally held in the health centres of the Barrio Adentro network, with students grouped geographically into different study groups, or nuclei.

A third aim of the program is to create doctors with values different from those of the market-driven model of healthcare prevalent in the United States and the wealthier echelons of Venezuelan society. Community doctors are expected to be both rigorously trained and socially-conscious; committed to public healthcare and focused on the needs of their patients and communities rather than seeking lucrative careers in private clinics. Hugo Chavez urged community doctors in training to become “doctors of socialism”, and declared to newly graduated community doctors during a ceremony in February 2012 that “The doctor should be a social leader; a true doctor doesn’t only stay in the clinic, but goes out to the community”.

The MIC program forms part of the more inclusive higher education model developed under the Chavez administration.  Those studying comprehensive community medicine do not pay tuition and receive a small stipend (currently around 40% of the minimum wage) toward living costs, with a great number of students coming from less well off backgrounds. The program has thus given an opportunity to thousands of aspiring medical students who would not have been able to enter the country’s traditional medical schools, either because they could not afford it or because of concealed class discrimination in these schools’ admittance processes. Further, the majority of MIC students are women: 77% of the community doctors who graduated in December 2012 were female.

Venezuela has also spread comprehensive community medicine to Latin America and the wider world through the “Salvador Allende” Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Caracas. Through this institution, 2,200 students from 42 countries are currently being trained, courtesy of the Venezuelan government, in comprehensive community medicine. Once they finish their studies they are expected to return to their home countries to strengthen public healthcare systems there and serve the healthcare needs of their peoples.

Evaluating the Program

Writing in 2010, U.S. journalist Steve Brouwer suggested that it would likely take several years before the quality, professionalism and values of community doctors could be fully assessed. Indeed, with the first wave of community doctors graduating in December 2011, only now that these new physicians have begun to work in the national public healthcare system is it possible to begin to do so with any definitive basis.

Nevertheless, based on his own research and observation of MIC’s curriculum and training, Brouwer gave a positive assessment of the program. He reported on the work of the National Academic Coordinating Committee of Barrio Adentro in recommending improvements to the program and reported that “initial shortcomings of the program were rapidly overcome”, which was reflected in a rising pass and retention rate for new students between 2006 and 2008. Further, he reported that studies by Cuban and Venezuelan medical researchers “indicate that Medicina Integral Comunitaria (MIC) is headed in the right direction”.[4]

Government ministers have also given a positive appraisal of community doctors, who of course are the product of one of the government’s own educational programs. During the first graduation ceremony of community doctors in February 2012, late President Hugo Chavez told graduates, “I have the first reports of your extraordinarily positive work. You are serving the people”, while the minister for university education, Yadira Cordova, said that community doctors would be “the best doctors this country has given birth to”.

However, the quality of the MIC program and its graduates have been criticised by members of the conservative opposition, sectors of the pro-opposition private media, and most virulently, by Venezuela’s traditional medical establishment. These voices argue that students of comprehensive community medicine lack practical training in hospital settings and with technology. They also claim that the program lacks infrastructure, teaching is poor and evaluation lax.

The National Academy of Medicine, the organisation representing traditional doctors in Venezuela, appears to have led criticism of MIC. In a 2012 National Academy report gauging traditional medical specialists’ opinion of new community doctors undertaking hospital placements, eighty percent of the specialists consulted described community doctors’ performance as “bad”, and none as “excellent”. The report went on to describe the comprehensive community medicine program as a “true educational fraud”.

The National Academy also opposed the entry of community doctors into the public hospital system, arguing against a change to Venezuela’s law on the exercise of medicine in 2011 to allow the first MIC graduates to legally practice. In aninterview with flagship conservative paper El Universal in October 2011, the president of the National Academy, Claudio Aoun Soulie, launched a series of criticisms against the program to justify this stance. However almost all of the criticisms cited were factually incorrect; for example that MIC students are ignorant of the main pathologies affecting Venezuelans, that they never enter surgeries or perform births, and that they don’t undertake rural or accident and emergency placements. The representative of Venezuela’s medical elite went on to argue, “If we don’t stop healthcare being put into the hands of non-qualified personnel, the complaints of malpractice will multiply minute by minute”.

As the first wave of community doctors graduated in December 2011 these criticisms took on the characteristics of a campaign to discredit the MIC program. Blog “exposés” of supposed malpractice by MIC students and mocking memes and other online jokes depicting community doctors as incompetent and stupid proliferated, while criticisms from the traditional medical system appeared disproportionate, harsh, and at times outright false. In an interview with Venezuelan newspaper El Tiempo in November 2012, the head of the College of Doctors in Anzoátegui state, Asdrúbal González, went as far as to claim that Cuban doctors in Venezuela have a “60 – 70% diagnostic error rate”, and said of the community doctors they were training, “I don’t know for what it is they are being trained, but it’s definitely not to be doctors”.

The campaign against comprehensive community medicine created misunderstandings among many citizens as to the nature of the program and the quality of its graduates. This misinformation was highlighted in a street survey by Venezuelan media outlet Noticias 24 in February 2012 of citizen opinion of community doctors. While there were many positive responses, one respondent said that she would only see a doctor from the traditional medical establishment and not a community doctor, declaring, “If to study medicine you have to train for five years and then do postgraduates, it doesn’t make sense to me to go to a doctor that’s studied the degree for less time”. Trainee community doctors in fact study for six years, including rural and hospital internships, before undertaking a two year residency and then moving on to postgraduate study, as with other doctors.

For practitioners and supporters of comprehensive community medicine, this campaign has represented more than just the attacking of a government program or raising any possible legitimate criticisms of MIC. It also indicates the hostile reaction of Venezuela’s medical elite and those defending a market-based model of medical care toward of a perceived threat to this sector’s privileges and interests. To Venezuela’s traditional medical sector, the influx of thousands of Cuban-trained doctors from low-income backgrounds, who are now working in public hospitals directly alongside doctors from the traditional sector, is at once a political and class affront. It is quite possible that some traditional doctors also perceive community doctors as a source of competition for entry into postgraduate programs and jobs, further increasing hostility towards them.

Advocates of comprehensive community medicine have responded to criticisms and disinformation by explaining the program’s content and nature while pointing to community doctors’ practical performance. For example, six months after the National Academy president’s warning of “minute by minute” malpractice by MIC graduates, the Ministry of Health reported that it had not received one single complaint of malpractice by a community doctor. Defenders of the program also highlight that students receive a comprehensive curriculum by doctors trained inworld-recognised Cuban medicine [5], gain extensive practical experience in the Barrio Adentro health network, and during their fifth and sixth years of study undertake demanding rural and hospital internships. In addition to this, many graduates of the program feel proud of the unique characteristics community medicine teaches them as doctors, such as playing an active role in community healthcare and supporting public over private healthcare.

Authorities also highlight that the comprehensive community medicine program has been constantly improved since its inception. Recent changes include implementing a series of specialist workshops for students in their final two years, supplying students with more teaching equipment, and having MIC students begin hospital internships from their third year of study.

As such, French journalist Jean Araud has drawn a parallel between the campaign against community doctors and the opposition’s campaign in 2003 against incoming Cuban doctors of the Barrio Adentro system, who were painted either as Cuban spies or medically incompetent. Araud predicted that as in 2003, criticisms against MIC graduates will fail to deter the population from seeking out their care, as community doctors “are no longer “infiltrating Cuban agents” but instead are graduated Venezuelan doctors,” offering humane and quality healthcare to society as a whole.

Concluding Thoughts

The Venezuelan government’s effort to establish a new medical education program from the ground up and train tens of thousands of doctors for the country’s revitalised public health system has been a bold initiative, and one whose benefit is now being seen the length and breadth of the country. Of course the program has had to confront many obstacles and difficulties, such as an initial lack of infrastructure, the requirement for practicing Cuban doctors to take on the demanding task of teaching a new curriculum, and a hostile attitude from the traditional medical establishment. Further, given the experimental nature of comprehensive community medicine in its early phases and the expectation for students to engage in a great amount of independent study, there are likely some graduates who are not fully up to standard; something which such individuals will have to confront in their two years of residency. Nevertheless, the same could also likely be said of some graduates from the country’s traditional medical schools.

However based on the information available and in concordance with the anecdotal findings of this investigation, the great majority of Venezuela’s new community doctors appear to be humane, well trained, and professionally competent. The evidence suggests that it is now falling on the traditional sector to accept that many of their comprehensive community colleagues are far better trained than they had originally imagined, and that much of the criticism aimed at the MIC program has proven to be unfair at best, and deliberately misleading at worst. Many conventional doctors will have been shocked when in a recent competition to enter postgraduate study in the prestigious University of the Andes in Mérida, three of the four community doctors who applied were accepted to the forty-something places offered, while up to two hundred graduates from traditional universities were not.

By 2019 it is possible that around 60,000 community doctors will be working in Venezuela’s free public healthcare system, following what Social Medicine Journaldescribes as “the most ambitious example of scaling up of physician training in a single country”.[6] This is a huge investment of resources for a country that, despite its oil income, is regarded as belonging to the “third world” with multiple challenges to its development. While in many nations the political class informs the population that the resources do not exist to support public healthcare and that the private sector must play an ever greater role in healthcare delivery, Venezuela’s experiment with community medicine offers a different path. With the political will it is indeed possible to guarantee all members of society the right to free healthcare, and it is also possible to train the doctors needed to ensure this service is humane, professional, and public. Perhaps that’s why not a squeak about comprehensive community medicine has been heard from in the international mainstream media up to now.

Beyond what the Venezuelan government, the traditional medical establishment and foreign observers have concluded about comprehensive community medicine, this investigation invites readers to look at what recently-graduated community doctors themselves think about the program. In the second part of this study these new professionals from all walks of life give their first-hand accounts of their training and their experiences working alongside conventional doctors in the nation’s public hospitals. The interviews also reveal a lot about the values and future aspirations of Venezuela’s “army in white jackets”.



[1] Venezuela’s public healthcare system is split into two different networks, both of which are free to use and open to the public, and which to some extent overlap and collaborate. One of these is the new Barrio Adentro network, which is staffed by Cuban doctors and Venezuelan community medicine students and graduates. This network focuses on primary and community level care, and service is completely free, including medicines. This network also offers higher level care and technology in Comprehensive Diagnostic Centres (CDIs), Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centres (CRIs), and mid-level clinics called ambulatories.

The second network is the traditional public hospital system, in which conventional Venezuelan doctors work, many of whom also work in the private sector. These professionals are trained in the country’s traditional medical schools and politically are considered to be generally favourable to the conservative opposition.

In their first years of study, students of comprehensive community doctors are trained by Cuban doctors and gain their practical experience within the Barrio Adentro network. However in their final years of study, trainee community doctors also undertake placements in the public hospital system, and work alongside traditional sector doctors. After graduating, community doctors also undertake an obligatory two year residency which can include placements in both public health networks, thus continuing to work in public hospitals alongside conventional doctors. The working relationship between these two groups is explored in more depth in the interviews conducted with graduates of comprehensive community medicine in a separate article.

[2] Brouwer, Steve, (2011). Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba are Changing the World’s Conception of Healthcare, Monthly Review Press, New, York, p112

[3] Ibid, p120 – 121

[4] Ibid, p122 – 125

[5] Further, according to a MEDICC Review report in 2008, 68.5% of teachers on the program hold the rank of Instructor or Assistant Professor under requirements established by Cuba’s Ministry of High Education. By 2013 this percentage may well be higher, as Cuban doctors on the program also continue to develop their teaching capacities.

[6] Borroto Cruz & Salas Perea (2008), The National Training Program for Comprehensive Community Physicians, Venezuela, Social Medicine, Vol. 3 No. 4

Forecast: War, Economic Depression and Social Unrest

October 20th, 2013 by Washington's Blog

Kyle Bass, Larry Edelson, Charles Nenner, James Dines, Nouriel Roubini, Jim Rogers, Marc Faber, Jim Rickards and Martin Armstrong Warn or War

 

We’re already at war in numerous countries all over the world.

 

But top economic advisers warn that economic factors could lead to a new world war.

 

Kyle Bass writes:

 

Trillions of dollars of debts will be restructured and millions of financially prudent savers will lose large percentages of their real purchasing power at exactly the wrong time in their lives. Again, the world will not end, but the social fabric of the profligate nations will be stretched and in some cases torn. Sadly, looking back through economic history, all too often war is the manifestation of simple economic entropy played to its logical conclusion. We believe that war is an inevitable consequence of the current global economic situation.

 

Larry Edelson wrote an email to subscribers entitled “What the “Cycles of War” are saying for 2013″, which states:

 

Since the 1980s, I’ve been studying the so-called “cycles of war” — the natural rhythms that predispose societies to descend into chaos, into hatred, into civil and even international war.

I’m certainly not the first person to examine these very distinctive patterns in history. There have been many before me, notably, Raymond Wheeler, who published the most authoritative chronicle of war ever, covering a period of 2,600 years of data.

However, there are very few people who are willing to even discuss the issue right now. And based on what I’m seeing, the implications could be absolutely huge in 2013.

 

Former Goldman Sachs technical analyst Charles Nenner – who has made some big accurate calls, and counts major hedge funds, banks, brokerage houses, and high net worth individuals as clients – says there will be “a major war starting at the end of 2012 to 2013”, which will drive the Dow to 5,000.

 

Veteran investor adviser James Dines forecast a war is epochal as World Wars I and II, starting in the Middle East.

 

Nouriel Roubini has warned of war with Iran. And when Roubini was asked:

 

Where does this all lead us? The risk in your view is of another Great Depression. But even respectable European politicians are talking not just an economic depression but possibly even worse consequences over the next decade or so. Bearing European history in mind, where does this take us?

 

He responded:

 

In the 1930s, because we made a major policy mistake, we went through financial instability, defaults, currency devaluations, printing money, capital controls, trade wars, populism, a bunch of radical, populist, aggressive regimes coming to power from Germany to Italy to Spain to Japan, and then we ended up with World War II.

Now I’m not predicting World War III but seriously, if there was a global financial crisis after the first one, then we go into depression: the political and social instability in Europe and other advanced economies is going to become extremely severe. And that’s something we have to worry about.

 

Billionaire investor Jim Rogers notes:

 

A continuation of bailouts in Europe could ultimately spark another world war, says international investor Jim Rogers.

***

“Add debt, the situation gets worse, and eventually it just collapses. Then everybody is looking for scapegoats. Politicians blame foreigners, and we’re in World War II or World War whatever.”

 

Marc Faber says that the American government will start new wars in response to the economic crisis:

 

 

 

We’re in the middle of a global currency war – i.e. a situation where nations all compete to devalue their currencies the most in order to boost exports. And Brazilian president-elect Rousseff said in 2010:

 

The last time there was a series of competitive devaluations … it ended in world war two.

 

Jim Rickards agrees:

 

Currency wars lead to trade wars, which often lead to hot wars. In 2009, Rickards participated in the Pentagon’s first-ever “financial” war games. While expressing confidence in America’s ability to defeat any other nation-state in battle, Rickards says the U.S. could get dragged into “asymmetric warfare,” if currency wars lead to rising inflation and global economic uncertainty.

 

As does Jim Rogers:

 

Trade wars always lead to wars.

 

Martin Armstrong wrote in August:

 

Our greatest problem is the bureaucracy wants a war. This will distract everyone from the NSA and justify what they have been doing. They need a distraction for the economic decline that is coming.

 

Armstrong argued last month that war plans against Syria are really about debt and spending:

 

The Syrian mess seems to have people lining up on Capital Hill when sources there say the phone calls coming in are overwhelmingly against any action. The politicians are ignoring the people entirely. This suggests there is indeed a secret agenda to achieve a goal outside the discussion box. That is most like the debt problem and a war is necessary to relief the pressure to curtail spending.

 

And given that many influential economists wrongly believe that war is good for the economy … many are overtly or quietly pushing for war.

 

Moreover, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said that the Iraq war was really about oil , and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill says that Bush planned the Iraq war before 9/11. And see this and this. If that war was for petroleum, other oil-rich countries might be invaded as well.

 

And the American policy of using the military to contain China’s growing economic influence – and of considering economic rivalry to be a basis for war – are creating a tinderbox.

 

Finally, multi-billionaire investor Hugo Salinas Price says:

 

What happened to [Libya's] Mr. Gaddafi, many speculate the real reason he was ousted was that he was planning an all-African currency for conducting trade. The same thing happened to him that happened to Saddam because the US doesn’t want any solid competing currency out there vs the dollar. You know Gaddafi was talking about a gold dinar.

 

Indeed, senior CNBC editor John Carney noted:

 

Is this the first time a revolutionary group has created a central bank while it is still in the midst of fighting the entrenched political power? It certainly seems to indicate how extraordinarily powerful central bankers have become in our era.

Robert Wenzel of Economic Policy Journal thinks the central banking initiative reveals that foreign powers may have a strong influence over the rebels.

This suggests we have a bit more than a ragtag bunch of rebels running around and that there are some pretty sophisticated influences. “I have never before heard of a central bank being created in just a matter of weeks out of a popular uprising,” Wenzel writes.

 

Indeed, some say that recent wars have really been about bringing all countries into the fold of Western central banking.

 

Many Warn of Unrest

 

Numerous economic organizations and economists also warn of crash-induced unrest, including:

 

 

 

 

 

NSA is one of 16 known US spy agencies. It operate globally. It’s the world’s biggest spy agency. Advanced technology lets it go where no previous counterpart went before.

Privacy no longer exists. Congress ignores its lawlessness. Oversight is absent. NSA takes full advantage. 

Two Washington Post articles revealed more. They’re based on documents Edward Snowden provided. Expect lots more disclosures ahead.

On October 14, WaPo headlined “NSA collects millions of e-mail address books globally.” Many belong to Americans.

“The collection program (hasn’t) been disclosed before.” Intercepts include email address books and so-called buddy lists.

They’re from online instant messaging and/or cell phone text displays. They’re lists people we want to keep track of.

They show who’s online or off, on but away from their computer, people with their phones on or off, and who’s currently using them.

NSA collects contact lists in large numbers. They amount to a sizable portion of email/instant messaging accounts.

Data analysis lets NSA “search for hidden connections.” It permits mapping relationships “within a much smaller universe of foreign intelligence targets,” said WaPo

In one day last year,

“NSA’s Special Source Operations branch collected 444,743 e-mail address books from Yahoo, 105,068 from Hotmail, 82,857 from Facebook, 33,697 from Gmail and 22,881 from unspecified other providers.”

These figures are typical. They repeat daily. They add up. They “correspond to a rate of more than 250 million a year.” .

NSA has access to about 500,000 buddy lists as well as huge numbers of web-based email accounts.

A previous article called NSA spying worse than you think. Rules followed are its own.

It can monitor virtually everyone everywhere electronically. Doing so is unconnected to terrorism or other national security concerns.

They read your emails. They know what web sites you visit. They know your medical and financial history.

  They know because they can go where no previous spy agencies went before. They exceed their capabilities.

  “(S)ecret arrangements with foreign governments or allied intelligence services” controlling online traffic permits collecting  buddy lists and emails, said WaPo.

Millions of Americans are affected. NSA won’t say how many. Perhaps its tens of millions. NSA can target virtually everyone everywhere.

 DNI spokesman Shawn Turner lied saying it’s “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets like terrorists, human traffickers and drug smugglers.”

 ”We are not interested in personal information about ordinary Americans.”

 False! It targets you, me, our neighbors, families and friends.

NSA collects virtually all telecommunication records. They gotten under a separate program. Director Keith Alexander defends the practice.

He lied calling it an essential counterterrorism/foreign intelligence tool, saying:

“You need a haystack to find the needle.” He finds virtually none. So-called terror plots exposed were fake. Domestic ones virtually don’t exist. What’s claimed is fabricated.

It’s done for political advantage. It generates fear. It justifies lawless NSA operations.

 Online call lists provide “far richer sources of data than call records alone,” said WaPo.

 Address books include email addresses, phone numbers, street locations, as well as business and personal information.

Combined they let NSA “draw detailed maps of a person’s life.” Doing so creates false impressions.

NSA isn’t authorized to collect bulk contact lists. According to senior intelligence officials, doing so from US facilities is illegal.

 NSA does what it wants anyway. It accesses information globally. When obtained from overseas, it assumes “you’re not a US person,” it claims.

 Global sweeps target everyone. Americans are as vulnerable as foreigners. So-called “checks and balances built into (its) tools” don’t exist or aren’t used.

NSA claims authorization under the Patriot Act’s Section 215. It oversteps. It’s unconstitutional.

It permits warrantless searches without probable cause. It violates First Amendment rights.

It does so by mandating secrecy. It prohibits targeted subjects from telling others what’s happening to them. It compromises free expression, assembly and association.

It does so by authorizing the FBI to investigate anyone based on what they say, write, or do with regard to groups they belong to or associate with.

It violates Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections by not telling targeted subjects their privacy was compromised.

It subverts fundamental freedoms for contrived, exaggerated, or nonexistent security reasons. Doing so turns constitutional rights on their head.

 Separately WaPo headlined “Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program.”

NSA claims it “focuse(s) on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets.”

It does so, it says, to “protect the nation and its interests from threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

Drone warfare makes more enemies than friends. Most deaths are innocent men, women and children. Few are so-called high-value targets.

In search for them, NSA “draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan,” said WaPo.

Anything electronic can be tracked. NSA’s secret Counterterrorism Mission Aligned Cell (CT MAC) is involved in doing it.

 It focuses on hard-to-find terrorism targets. Considerable time and effort goes into doing it.

 NSA’s Alexander claims his mission is “noble.” He lied again saying:

 ”Our job is to defend this nation and to protect our civil liberties and privacy.”

He’s way over-the-top out-of-control. He defends imperial lawlessness. He destroys civil liberties and privacy in the process.

 Records indicate NSA “depends heavily on highly targeted network penetrations to gather information that wouldn’t otherwise be trapped in surveillance nets that it has set at key Internet gateways,” said WaPo.

It assigned senior analysts to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Others work alongside CIA counterparts. They do so at almost all major US embassy and overseas military bases.

According to a former US intelligence official:

It “you wanted huge coverage of the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), NSA had 10 times the manpower, 20 times the budget, and 100 times the brainpower.”

He compared NSA with CIA’s Information Operations Center (IOC).

“NSA relies on increasingly sophisticated versions of online attacks that are well-known among security experts.”

“Many rely on software implants developed by the agency’s Tailored Access Operations division with code-names such as UNITEDRAKE and VALIDATOR.”

Other methods are used. NSA obtains vast amounts of information. Its Tailored Access Operations division extends way beyond Pakistan.

 It targets Yemen, African and other locations. Murder, Inc. is official Obama administration policy. US citizens are as vulnerable as foreigners.

Death squads operate in 120 or more countries. CIA agents are everywhere. They’re licensed to kill. NSA secretly tracks suspects.

Summary judgment means no arrests. No Miranda rights. No due process. No trial. Just death by diktat.

 Obama appointed himself judge, jury and executioner. He decides who lives or dies. CIA chief John Brennan helps him choose.

With or without evidence, anyone called Al Qaeda or accused of terrorist connections gets marked for death.

NSA’s job is find them. CIA’s job is kill them. Only eliminating America’s enemies matter. Whether real or imagined makes no difference.

 Everyone is fair game. Right or wrong is someone else’s problem. Advancing America’s imperium alone matters.

 A Final Comment

On October 11, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court released a new legal opinion. It reauthorized NSA’s collection of virtually all American made phone calls without warrants.

Doing so violates Fourth Amendment protection against lawless searches and seizures. It applies to all unreasonable intrusions.

Telecommunication call log meta-data must be approved every 90 days. Doing so is virtually rubber-stamp. Police states operate that way. America is by far the worst.

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

 His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/new-nsa-revelations/

Commander of Iran’s Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli and Russian Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Viktor Bondarev in a meeting in Tehran on Sunday discussed mutual cooperation in defense fields.

During the meeting in Tehran today, Brigadier General Esmayeeli and Lieutenant General Bondarev also discussed exchange of information, air defense techniques, electronic and radar as well as missile systems.

Lieutenant General Bondarev arrived in the Iranian capital at the head of a military delegation on Sunday.

Earlier today, Iranian Air Force Commander Brigadier General Hassan Shah Safi and his Russian counterpart discussed mutual cooperation and regional developments.

The two top air force commanders underlined the need for the further expansion of bilateral and mutual cooperation.

The Iranian and Russian air force commanders also exchanged views over important issues, including missile and defense cooperation.

Lieutenant General Bondarev is also scheduled to meet Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh in Tehran later today.

In 2007, Iran signed a contract worth $800mln to buy five Russian S300 missile defense systems.

But the deal was scrapped in 2010 by the then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was unilaterally expanding on sanctions against Iran imposed by the UN Security Council.

Iran filed a $4bln lawsuit against Russia in the international arbitration court in Geneva, which is currently pending review.

Moscow has struggled to have the lawsuit dropped, including by offering the Tor anti-aircraft systems as replacement, media reported in August, adding that the offer was rejected by Tehran.

The Antei-2500, however, may be a better solution. The system does not formally fall under the existing sanctions against Iran while still being useful for the Middle-Eastern country.

While the S-300 was developed for the use by missile defense forces, the Antei-2500 was specifically tailored for the needs of ground forces, which could also be an advantage for Iran, known for its large land force.

The S-300 is a series of Russian long range surface-to-air missile systems produced by NPO Almaz, all based on the initial S-300P version. The S-300 system was developed to defend against aircraft and cruise missiles for the Soviet Air Defense Forces. Subsequent variations were developed to intercept ballistic missiles.

The S-300 system was first deployed by the Soviet Union in 1979, designed for the air defense of large industrial and administrative facilities, military bases, and control of airspace against enemy strike aircraft.

A New State Secrecy Law for Japan? The Abe Proposal

October 19th, 2013 by Lawrence Repeta

The last major change to Japan’s secrecy law was made in 2001 when the Diet revised the Self-Defense Forces Law (jietai-ho) to include a new provision protecting information designated as a “defense secret” (boei himitsu).1 During the extraordinary Diet session that opens on October 15, the Abe administration plans to submit a “Designated Secrets Protection” bill (tokutei himitsu hogo hoan) to the Diet with the goal of strengthening Japan’s secrecy regime.2Compared to the 2001 law, the proposed rules would dramatically extend the range of state secrets in two ways. First, the categories of information subject to secrecy designation would be expanded. The 2001 Law empowers the Minister of Defense to designate information he determines to be “especially necessary to be made secret for Japan’s defense.” It covers no other information. The proposed bill would apply to four categories of information, including defense, diplomacy, “designated dangerous activities,” and prevention of terrorism.3Second, the list of government offices empowered to designate information secret would be expanded beyond the Defense Ministry to include every Cabinet Ministry and major agency of the government.4 Moreover, in order to better enforce the new regime, the maximum penalty for violation of the law would be increased from five years imprisonment under the 2001 Law to ten years under the proposed law.

In democratic societies, any law or regulation that would grant the government power to conceal information from the people must be carefully examined. Government claims of a need for secrecy must be balanced against the people’s right to know about the actions of their government agents. Japan’s bar associations and other advocates of constitutional democracy have expressed deep concern that the proposed law would disrupt this balance by foreclosing the people’s right to know about a broad range of government actions.5

To assess their claim, we must consider several key questions. For example, does the proposed law provide any checks to protect against overclassification? When in doubt, the “safe choice” for any government official is to label a document secret rather than risk its release. Overclassification has long been identified as the most serious structural fault in the American system, as discussed below. What about the “life cycle” of designated information? What will happen to the information after the need for secrecy has passed? Will it be declassified and transferred to archives accessible by historians and other members of the public?

Questions like these are yet to be answered. After examining some of these issues below, we will consider the “The Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Know” (commonly known as the “Tshwane Principles”), a new set of model rules intended to balance the people’s right to know against government need to maintain the confidentiality of national security information. The Principles were created through the work of numerous experts around the globe and released in Tshwane, South Africa, on June 11, 2013.6

But first we should consider Japan’s track record under the existing 2001 “defense secret” regime. This is surely the best evidence for what to expect under the proposed law.

The “Life or Death Cycle” of Defense Secrets under Japan’s Self Defense Forces Law

The most heavily reported unauthorized release of Japan’s defense information in recent years concerns a video recording of a Chinese fishing boat ramming a Japan Coast Guard vessel near the Senkaku (Chinese: Diaoyu) islands in September 2010.7 But the video itself was not classified as a “defense secret,” so its release cannot be considered a breach of the Self-Defense Forces Law (“SDF Law”). The leaker, who was identified as a member of the Japan Coast Guard, was not prosecuted for any crime.8 However, the 2010 incident incited demands for stronger secrecy protection laws and led to the appointment of a new government committee to study the issue.

The rarity of high profile leaks of confidential Japanese government information is a sharp contrast to the United States, where federal prosecutors have brought as many as eight cases against accused leakers since President Obama took office in 2009.9 Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are known all over the world for releasing masses of secret data for publication in mainstream news media and online publishers like Wikileaks.

For open government advocates, one of the most fundamental questions concerns the life cycle of defense secrets. Secrecy designations are ordinarily limited to fixed periods of time. The proposed Designated Secrets Protection Law would set a maximum term of five years. At the expiration of this term, officials could either decide that information remains sensitive and therefore extend the secrecy term or that it is no longer sensitive and the information can be declassified and released to the public or transferred to a public archive for easy access.

When NHK10 reporters recently asked Defense Ministry officials to describe the life cycle of defense secrets under the 2001 Law, they received a detailed response. During the five-year period from 2006 through 2011, approximately 55,000 records were designated “defense secrets” under the SDF Law. What is the current status of these 55,000 records? According to Defense Ministry officials, 34,000 were destroyed once they reached the end of their fixed secrecy period. When asked how many of the records were de-classified for potential release to the public, the officials delivered a very precise response: one.11

This track record confirms the worst fears of open government advocates.

Thousands of records are designated secret for fixed periods. When these periods lapse, the secrecy designation is either extended or the information is destroyed. The Defense Ministry system is airtight. Under this practice, there will never be a reliable historical record of government actions documented in the destroyed files. Those files can never be used to hold government officers accountable for their actions or assure future generations of access to the historical record on critical issues. Hard evidence of the truth disappears into a black hole.

Japan’s Public Records Act

The issue of preserving the historic record of government action was supposed to have been solved by a statute that took effect in April 2011. The “Public Records and Archives Management Act” (the “Public Records Act”) requires that officials create records of important actions and records with important historic value be stored in public archives.12 The purposes clause includes the high-minded declaration that government records constitute “a shared intellectual resource of the people” and a “pillar of healthy democracy.”13 A central purpose of the Act is to ensure that the experience of Japan’s “defense secrets” does not occur. In final bargaining over the terms of this statute, open government activists insisted that there be some check on the wholesale destruction of the people’s legacy by anonymous government operatives. Their efforts led to insertion of Article 8(2) of the Law, which requires that government agencies obtain the consent of the Prime Minister before records are destroyed.

Alas, drafters of the Public Records Act also decided that the Act would not apply to defense secrets, so all decisions whether to preserve or destroy time-limited defense secrets are made by Defense Ministry officials. As noted above, during the period from 2006 through 2011, they reached the conclusion that information should be declassified and made available to the public in only one case. The in-box for “former secrets” at Japan’s national archive is empty.

One obvious question for the sponsors of the proposed “Designated Secrets Protection Law” is whether secrets protected by this law will also be exempt from the Public Records Act and will therefore disappear into the same black hole as secrets under the 2001 SDF Law. When NHK reporters posed this question to officials of the Cabinet “Information Study Office” (joho chosa shitsu), the response was “we’re thinking about it.”14

Will “Designated Secrets” Ever Be Declassified and Released?

In the days leading up to the opening of the autumn 2013 Diet session, newspapers reported that the Abe administration was responding to widespread criticism and more particularly to demands by representatives of the Komeito, a member of the governing coalition, by acceding to demands that the new statute include language that would protect the people’s right to know.15

As noted at the outset, the proposed bill would dramatically expand the range of information designated secret and placed beyond the reach of reporters, historians, and ordinary citizens. If government practice under this law follows the “defense secret” example under the SDF Law, an enormous body of secret records could be created and later destroyed, leaving little trace.

To address this problem, open government advocates have demanded that the Abe administration bill be amended to include provisions establishing an independent third party review board with the power to declassify information. Precedents for independent review boards have been established under Japan’s information disclosure and individual information protection laws.

The authors of the Tshwane Principles present the establishment of such an independent review panel as a sine qua non of a reasonable secrecy protection system.16 U.S. President Jimmy Carter established such a board, the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), in 1978.17

So far the Abe administration has shown no inclination to create such an independent panel. Unless the new law’s drafters include such provisions or some other concrete procedure for declassifying information that need not be kept secret, abstract references to respect a “right to know” will not be credible.18

Notes from the U.S. Experience

“Overclassification”

When Bradley Manning disclosed an estimated 700,000 classified documents in 2010, he was only 22 years old and held the second lowest rank in the U.S. Army. When Edward Snowden escaped from the United States in June of 2013 with a mass of secret material, he was not even an employee of the US government; he worked for a consulting firm. The 29-year old Snowden did not graduate from college, but like Manning, he held a “Top Secret” clearance and was in a position that gave him wide access to information the US government labels secret.19 Why were these two young men selected to serve as guardians of the American “government of secrets?” The answer is that the body of information classified by the U.S. government is so vast that a huge army of operatives must access this “secret” information in order to do their jobs every day. According to the annual report of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, more than four million people hold a security clearance that enables them to view classified information.20 Among them, an astounding 1.4 million hold the “Top Secret” clearance, just like Manning and Snowden did.

National Security Agency Headquarters, Fort Meade, Md

Many experts think that, rather than making the U.S. safer against external threats, the US secrecy system actually makes the country more vulnerable. As explained by national security expert Morton Halperin, “Every study that has been done on this question has concluded that one essential step is to drastically reduce the amount of information that is classified.”21 Halperin says that because so much ordinary information is classified, “it is hard to protect real secrets.” Moreover, this creates a related problem: “it is difficult to persuade government officials that they are doing harm by providing information which is classified to the press and the public.”

Tens of millions of U.S. government records are classified every year.22 Such a massive secrecy operation inflicts severe damage on any public “right to know” about the actions of government. Without the actions of individuals like Manning, Snowden and others, the American people would have no way to learn about the boundless electronic surveillance operations of the National Security Agency or countless other questionable activities carried out in their name.

The idea that such a massive system involving so many people can effectively manage the nation’s secrets is absurd. The giant Mississippi of US government secrets is continually overflowing its banks or spilling through leaks in dikes.

Aggressive Prosecution

Confronted with the impossible task of maintaining the secrecy of such a vast amount of information, the US government has demanded extreme punishments for the leakers it can identify and capture. In its prosecution of Private Manning, the government demanded a prison term of 60 years. In a judgment rendered in August, a court ordered Manning to prison for 35 years. (With parole, the actual time served could possibly be reduced to 10 years.)

Manning was not a spy employed by a foreign government. The information he disclosed was not delivered to a foreign intelligence agency; it was published by Wikileaks and in establishment newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian to be read by Americans and people around the world. In comparable cases, the penalties in most countries are far less than in the United States.

In Britain, the United States’ closest military and intelligence ally, the maximum penalty for public disclosure of intelligence or security information is two years. The maximum in Spain and Sweden is four years; in Belgium, Germany, Poland and Slovenia, the maximum is five years. In France, it is seven.

Since Britain’s Official Secrets Act (OSA) of 1989 entered into force, 10 public servants with authorized access to confidential information have been prosecuted under the Act. Of those, the longest sentence—one year in prison—was served by a Navy petty officer who pled guilty to the selling to a newspaper of security and intelligence information concerning a plot by Saddam Hussein to launch anthrax attacks in the UK.23 In the United States, that offense would be prosecuted under the same law used to prosecute Bradley Manning.

US prosecutions are based on the Espionage Act of 1917, a statute adopted just after the US entered World War I, written at a time when our understanding of the powers of government were very different from today. The phrase “Right to Know” would not appear until the 1950s and the US Freedom of information Act would not be adopted until 1967. The 1917 US Espionage Act is a poorly written law that has been criticized as vague and overbroad, even by the judges who must enforce it. But it remains in effect and provides the US government with frightening power to punish anyone accused of a violation. Moreover, the government need not show that any harm was caused by the disclosures in order to obtain a conviction.24

The prosecutions of individuals like Manning and Snowden make big headlines and severely punish selected individuals, but they do not solve the important issue of protecting national security information. This is not a model for Japan to follow.

There is a better way.

A New Model to Balance the Need for Information Security with the Public’s Right to Know

A new model appeared this year that deserves careful study. The “Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information” (also known as the “Tshwane Principles” because they were finalized and issued at meetings held in the city of Tshwane, South Africa) provide detailed guidelines for drafting, revising or implementing laws or provisions relating to the state’s authority to withhold information on national security grounds or to punish the disclosure of such information.25 Japan’s lawmakers and others concerned with these issues should study the Tshwane Principles carefully.

Work on the Tshwane Principles was carried out over two years and involved hundreds of experts from around the world, including government and former government officials and military officers. The Principles address such issues as the public’s right to know, the scope of national security information that governments may legitimately keep confidential, protection for journalists, independent oversight bodies, and others that must be considered by Japan’s legislators and the Japanese people as they evaluate state secrecy proposals.

The Principles are based on international and national law, standards, good practices, and the writings of experts. There is broad consensus that the Principles provide a practical plan for balancing information security and the public right to know.

On October 2, the Principles were endorsed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).26 The report could provide the source for information policies of countries across Europe.

(A summary of the key points of the Tshwane Principles appears here.)

Excessive Secrecy and Government Wrongdoing

The most serious problem is that excessive secrecy creates the ideal environment for government wrongdoing. This is the most disturbing lesson learned from the Manning and Snowden affairs.

The materials that Private Manning gave to WikiLeaks lifted the veil on American military and diplomatic activities around the world. They included a video taken during an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which civilians were killed, including two journalists. Manning also gave WikiLeaks some 250,000 diplomatic cables, dossiers of detainees being imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among other things, the files exposed the abuse of detainees by Iraqi officers under the watch of American forces and showed that civilian deaths during the Iraq war were most likely significantly higher than official estimates.

Based on information that Edward Snowden leaked to The Guardian newspaper of London in May 2013, it published a series of exposés that revealed hitherto secret surveillance programs conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA), the giant American electronic spying agency. Due to Snowden’s revelations, we have learned of the existence of the PRISM and other Internet surveillance programs and that the NSA utilizes such programs and secret agreements with telephone and Internet providers to monitor the communications of ordinary American citizens and to intercept the communications of political leaders around the world, including the leaders of Japan and other U.S. “allies.” Snowden’s release of NSA material was called the most significant leak in US history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg.

Without the actions of Manning, Snowden and other leakers and whistleblowers, we might never know about many wrongful actions by the US government. And while Manning sits in prison and Snowden is in hiding abroad, there is no punishment for the government leaders who launched distant wars based on lies about “weapons of mass destruction” and created systems that secretly monitor communications around the world.

Disclosure of government information does more than protect the people’s right to know. It also serves to stop wrongdoing. Government officials and others who know their actions will be subject to public scrutiny may refrain from wrongdoing. Those who act in secret can act with impunity.

Conclusion

Japanese readers can take some comfort from the knowledge that their countrymen are not involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere around the world and that Japan has no equivalent of the American NSA. But who knows what the future may bring?

LDP proposals to amend Japan’s Constitution would eliminate the restrictions of Article 9, transform the Self-Defense Forces into a national defense military (kokubogun) and make the Prime Minister its supreme commander (saiko shikikan).27

Constant pressure from senior officers of the U.S. government is an important factor driving Japan to tighten its secrecy laws.28 Prime Minister Abe has repeatedly declared that the need for a tougher secrecy law is indispensable to his plan to create a National Security Council based on the American model. Because Japan’s national security is so heavily dependent on the United States, Japan NSC officials would surely need to access much U.S. classified information to do their jobs. To gain this access, Japanese officials must satisfy their American counterparts that Japan’s secrecy protection is sufficiently robust. Their frame of reference is the American model: a vast information bureaucracy, periodic front-page leaks of highly embarrassing and sometimes damaging information, and severe criminal punishment for the leakers who get caught. Is this the path Japan will follow?

Lawrence Repeta is a professor on the law faculty of Meiji University in Tokyo. He has served as a lawyer, business executive, and law professor in Japan and the United States. He is best known in Japan as the plaintiff in a landmark suit decided by the Supreme Court of Japan in 1989 that opened Japan`s courts to note-taking by courtroom spectators. He serves on the board of directors of Information Clearinghouse Japan (情報公開クリアリングハウス) (www.clearing-house.org), an NGO devoted to promoting open government in Japan and is affiliated with other organizations that promote individual rights. He has been awarded an Abe Fellowship by the Center for Global Partnership to conduct research at the National Security Archive, a non-profit research institute located at George Washington University (www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv). His guide to Japan’s information disclosure movement is available at www.freedominfo.org/regions/east-asia/japan. His article “Reserved Seats on Japan’s Supreme Court” was published in the Washington University Law Journal and is available at (http://lawreview.wustl.edu/in-print/vol-886/). He is author of “Limiting Fundamental Rights Protection in Japan – the Role of the Supreme Court,” in Critical Issues in Contemporary Japan, edited by Jeff Kingston (Routledge, forthcoming).

Related articles

• Lawrence Repeta, Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change

• Lawrence Repeta, Mr. Hashimoto Attacks Japan’s Constitution

• Klaus Schlichtmann, Article Nine in Context – Limitations of National Sovereignty and the Abolition of War in Constitutional Law

• Koseki Shoichi, The Case for Japanese Constitutional Revision Assessed

• John Junkerman, Gavan McCormack, and David McNeill, Japan’s Political and Constitutional Crossroads

Notes

1 The text of the Self-Defense Forces Act is available here (in Japanese). There is no English translation available on the Japanese government website. Article 96(2) of the Law, adopted in the aftermath of the 9/11 Incident in 2001, empowers the Minister of Defense to designate information he determines to be “especially necessary to be made secret for Japan’s defense.” The unauthorized release of information so designated is subject to prosecution with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

2 The Asahi Shimbun published a detailed summary of the bill on September 27, available here (in Japanese). The author’s comments on the proposed bill are primarily based on this document. Note that, unless otherwise indicated, all translations from Japanese that appear in this article were made by the author.

3 The Addendum to the draft bill published by the Asahi provides lists of the types of information that may qualify for secrecy designation under the four categories. The list makes reference to weapons, plans, communications, secret codes, information required to be kept confidential under international agreements and many other items.

4 Article 100 of the National Public Employees Law imposes a duty on all national government employees to protect government secrets. Article 109 of that law mandates punishment of up to one year imprisonment for violations. In 1978, the Supreme Court of Japan overturned the not guilty verdict of a lower court and found Mainichi News reporter Nishiyama Takichi guilty of violating Article 109 by using improper means to entice a government employee to disclose confidential information.. An English translation of the statute is available here. For background on this case, see “Disgraced Mainichi Journalist Reopens 30-year-old Scandal Over Okinawa Reversion – David Jacobson

5 A statement in opposition to the secrecy bill was published on the website of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations on October 4, 2013. Statement In Opposition to the Secrecy Bill.. See also the statement released by the Japan Civil Liberties Union. (The author of this article is a director of the JCLU.) The best source for ongoing commentary on these issues is the collection of news reports, columns and blog and twitter commentary by Miki Yukiko, chairperson of the NGO Joho Kokai Clearinghouse, available here: Joho Kokai Clearinghouse Website (Japanese only).

6 The Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information at OpenSociety Foundations

7 For details, see JapanTimes – Senkaku Collisions Video Leak Riles China

8 An interview of the leaker, Isshiki Masaharu, appeared in the Asahi Shimbun on October 5, 2013. 「政府の隠匿にも罰則必要」 “Punishments are also needed for government concealments” The interview was accompanied by Mr. Isshiki’s color photo.

9 See, e.g., “Obama’s efforts to control leaks ‘most aggressive since Nixon’, report finds,” The Guardian – Obama Leaks Aggressive Nixon Report Prosecution and “U.S. accused of unpreced ented assault on press freedom,” at Truth-Out – US Accused of Unprecedented Assault on Press Freedom

10 NHK is Japan’s national public television broadcaster.

11 “Most ‘defense secrets’ are destroyed” 「「防衛秘密」の多くが廃棄」, NHK news report broadcast at 7:16 PM on October 3, 2013 (accessed on October 10, 2013).

12 An English translation together with the original Japanese text are available here: Japanese Law Translation

13 Public Records Act, article 1.

14 NHK, “Most ‘defense secrets’ are destroyed.”

15 Asahi Shimbun, October 13, 2013, “Right to Know Guarantee Inadequate” 「知る権利担保不十分」.

16 Principles 31 – 36 set forth provisions that should govern independent oversight bodies. OpenSociety : Principles 31-36

17 The National Archive Information Security Oversight Office

18 Anyone can file a request to examine any government record under Japan’s national information disclosure law, any information designated secret under the proposed law would almost certainly be deemed exempt from disclosure. An English translation of the law is available here. See especially Articles 5(iii) and 5(iv).

19 U.S. state secrets are designated according to three levels established by presidential executive order: Top Secret, Secret and Classified. See Executive Order 13526

20 US Intelligence 2012 Report on Security Clearance Determinations

21 Morton H. Halperin, “Criminal Penalties for Disclosing Classified Information to the Press in the United States.”

22 National Archives – Information Security Oversight Office Releases 33rd Annual

23 See Sandra Coliver, “National Security Whistleblowers: The U.S. Response to Manning and Snowden Examined.”

24 See Halperin, “Criminal Penalties,” n. 21 for a description of the Espionage Act and its various interpretations.

25 The full text of The Principles.

26 See Sandra Coliver, “A question of public interest,”

27 See Lawrence Repeta, “Japan’s Democracy at Risk – the LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change,”

28 Among other examples, the Asahi reports that U.S. Cabinet officers take advantage of the regular “2×2” meetings to demand tighter Japan secrecy protections. “Japan’s laws protecting secrets are weak – U.S.” 「米「日本は秘密守る法律弱い」」, Asahi Shimbun, October 6, 2013, p. 1.

If you think the SNAP food stamps debate is about poor people’s need to eat, you’re wrong. It’s about big corporations’ need to profit. “Xerox, JPMorgan Chase and eFunds Corporation have all successfully turned poverty into a profit center.” So have Coca Cola, Kroger, Wal-Mart, Kelloggs and a large slice of the rest of the Fortune 500 corporations.

Discussions about government spending are inherently bogus because the elephant in the room, big business, is absent.”

The federal and state governments operate under a system which is of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. Ordinary governmental functions which could easily be carried out with public money are instead privatized, depriving the public sector of revenue and jobs and making the neediest citizens unnecessarily dependent on the private sector. Governmental largesse on behalf of big business is focused primarily on poor people, the group most at the mercy of the system. Corporations collect child support payments and then imprison the poor people who can’t pay. While imprisoned, another corporation provides what passes for medical care. The crime is a perfect one.

When the Republicans demanded cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, the debate revolved around human need versus the call for fiscal austerity. Scarcely anyone mentioned that JPMorgan Chase, Xerox and eFunds Corporation make millions of dollars off of this system meant to help the poor.

It all came to light on October 12th, when many SNAP recipients in the states of Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia were unable to make purchases with their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards because of a computer system malfunction at Xerox.

may at first have seemed odd for a Fortune 500 corporation to have anything to do with the SNAP program, but Xerox, JPMorgan Chase and eFunds Corporation have all successfully turned poverty into a profit center. Food stamps were once literally stamps until the 1996 welfare reform act required all state SNAP benefits to be digitized. At that point JPMorgan, Xerox and eFunds were quite literally in the money. Only the state of Montana administers its own SNAP program. Every other state pays one of these three corporations millions of dollars in fees to do what they could do themselves. Since 2007, Florida has paid JP Morgan $90 million, Pennsylvania’s seven-year contract totaled $112 million and New York’s seven-year contract totaled $126 million.

Every policy decision in state capitols and Washington DC is made with the needs of big business in mind.”

Food stamps are not the only government program that is administered by private corporations. WIC payments and child support collections are also moneymakers for Xerox and the rest of the financial services industry.

Like so many other debates in America, discussions about government spending are inherently bogus because the elephant in the room, big business, is absent. Millions of Americans are angry because food stamp recipients can use their benefits to buy junk food but don’t realize that they are able to do so because corporate America wouldn’t have it any other way.

Coca Cola, Kroger, Walmart, Kelloggs and other corporations have all lobbied the United States Department of Agriculture and congress to prevent any measures being put in place that would restrict SNAP use to healthy food choices. It isn’t difficult to understand why this is the case. They want to make as much money as possible and won’t abide anything that impedes their ability to keep turning huge profits. In just one year, nine Walmart Supercenters in Massachusetts received more than $33 million in SNAP revenues, which is more than four times the amount of SNAP benefits received at all farmers’ markets nationwide.

The recent congressional fracas about food stamp expenditures was like the shutdown debate, all for show. The Republican right wing advocates the most extreme anti-government positions in order to satisfy their base. Democrats rightly complain about cruelty to the poor but while the drama goes on the real welfare cheats keep cashing in, unlikely to be disadvantaged by either side after the dust settles.

If Americans knew that tasks easily carried out by their states were contracted out to big business, they would be very angry. That explains why no one tells them the truth. Governors, state legislators, and members of Congress are unlikely to expose their own timidity and corruption and the corporate media do as little reporting on serious issues as they can possibly get away with.

It is no exaggeration to say that every policy decision in state capitols and Washington DC is made with the needs of big business in mind. Wars against drugs and dead beat dads may resonate with the public, but the end result always includes a means of increasing corporate profits.

No matter what happens after the shut down kabuki theater ends, Walmart will not lose one penny of its food stamp revenues. No one on Capitol Hill will mess with the 1%. The business of America is still business.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

The Times might as well have run a riff on the old Dixie headline: ‘Black Buck Runs Amuk: Major City Destroyed by Negro Rule.’”

Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit’s former “Hip Hop Mayor,” emerged from behind bars last week, just long enough to be re-embedded in the public mind as the burly, 6’4” personification of all that is wrong with “urban” – i.e. Black – America. The judge sentenced him to 28 years [11] on two dozen counts of racketeering, extortion, bribery and fraud that may have cost the city some tens of millions of dollars during his eight years in office. Yet, the mega-swindle of his career, the $1.4 billion derivatives deal that that could cost Detroit twice that much over the next two decades and represents one-fifth of the city’s total obligations to creditors, appears nowhere in the indictment or sentencing.

In the twisted world of finance-dominated, late-stage capitalism, the 2005 ultra-complex interest rates swap-plus-loans monstrosity that Kilpatrick arranged with Wall Street banks was perfectly legal – as is the convoluted derivatives scheme that Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr plans to submit to a bankruptcy court on behalf of Detroit’s unwilling residents, next week – a formula for the banks to swallow Detroit’s assets whole.

Kilpatrick’s greatest crime against the people of Detroit was committed in league with – or rather, under the detailed and exquisite direction of – Wall Street, and was, therefore, not deemed to be a crime, at all. But the resulting insolvency of a major city requires a Black villain – a Wanted Poster Child, if you will. Kilpatrick fits the bill, the self-made stereotype of Black political venality, perfectly crafted for white supremacist consumption.

The insolvency of a major city requires a Black villain.”

On the day of his sentencing, the New York Times ran an article that skillfully blurred the relatively more minor crimes for which Kilpatrick was convicted, with the fiscally fatal 2005 derivatives deal, for which he and his Wall Street co-conspirators remain legally blameless. The Times might as well have run a riff on the old Dixie headline: “Black Buck Runs Amuk: Major City Destroyed by Negro Rule.” The story gives the impression that Kilpatrick was finally facing the music for his interest rate swap sins in “a corruption scandal so vast that prosecutors say it helped accelerate Detroit’s march toward bankruptcy.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The ex-mayor won’t serve a day for his financial instruments chicanery (for which he was feted on Wall Street and given an award – see the picture at top). Eight years later, Kilpatrick’s derivatives pact with the devils of Wall Street is slated to morph into Kevyn Orr’s derivatives deal and payout to the same parties – leaving a foreign bank in line for possession of everything of value in the city.

In the United States, racism has always been the bankers’ best friend. Mass white supremacism is what put Euro-Americans to “flight” from perfectly good housing in places like Detroit, two generations ago, creating vast “economic development” possibilities in the farmlands surrounding the urban core. The advent of (white) suburbia changed the relationship of housing to the overall economy in the United States, with the banks as the primary beneficiaries.

White racism also allowed Wall Street to impose a subprime mortgage regime on virtually every Black neighborhood in the United States, across the whole spectrum of African American income earners. Years before the housing bubble finally burst, Detroit, by far the Blackest big city in the country, had been irreversibly stripped of its tax base. The Black Buck didn’t run amuk – white men in lower Manhattan and the City of London did.

However, the Black Misleadership Class are perfect foils for the Lords of Capital. Deeply in thrall of power and money, they become helplessly drunk in the presence of banksters. Jefferson County, Alabama, commission president Larry Langford, the former mayor of Birmingham, sank the county in a cesspool of derivatives deals, finally resulting in bankruptcy in 2011. Langford was sentenced to 15 years in prison, not for his scheming with the likes JP Morgan, but for other scams involving criminals of only middling wealth.

The Black Misleadership Class are perfect foils for the Lords of Capital.”

Langford and Kilpatrick were no more capable of fashioning the fiscal time bombs that blew up their jurisdictions than were Miami’s Liberty City Seven capable of bringing down the Sears Tower. Derivatives are creatures of Wall Street, designed by the bankers that market them for sale to other bankers or to whatever non-banking fools that can be lured into the instruments’ deadly coils, where the victims marinate. The Lords of Capital are preparing for a feast, such as the nation has never seen. But the feeding frenzy cannot begin in earnest until the supporting political narrative is firmly in place. This being America, the justification is ready-made: The irresponsible, profligate, corruption-prone Blacks, with their ghetto pathologies, are the problem. Austerity is the answer – especially in those localities where African Americans are too tightly concentrated – under the firm fiscal management of Wall Street.

A specially selected Negro corporate lawyer, Kevyn Orr – who craves the good life as much as Kwame Kilpatrick and lives in a $5,100 a month penthouse; a gift, he claims, of a rich admirer – will next Wednesday submit to a bankruptcy judge a proposal to restructure Detroit’s debt. The $350 million scheme, financed by Britain’s giant Barclay’s bank, would pay off the Wall Street banks that ensnared (a very willing) Kilpatrick and other Detroit leaders in a web of derivatives and loans. With the original corporate conspirators now made whole, the Brits would then “move to the head of the line,” as people’s lawyer Tom Stephens explains, as Detroit’s super-priority creditor – meaning, Barclays gets paid first when the city’s assets are liquidated or otherwise dispensed.

This is the real crime against the people, and only the people can stop it.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected]

As informal budget talks between congressional Democrats and Republicans got underway in the wake of the 16-day federal government shutdown, the White House and Democratic leaders signaled their readiness to agree to sharper cuts in basic social programs.

Leaders of the House-Senate budget conference committee met Thursday, with the top Democratic negotiator, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray of Washington State, repeating the Democratic mantra of bipartisan compromise. Saying “All issues are on the table,” she declared, “We believe there is common ground.”

Her counterpart, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, made clear that the goal of the talks would be more sweeping austerity measures. The aim of the conference committee, he said, was “to get our debt under control, to do smart deficit reduction.”

Ryan voted against the bill passed late Wednesday to extend funding for the government through January 15 and raise the national debt ceiling through February 7, denouncing it for failing to include spending cuts.

Despite opinion polls showing popular support for the Republican Party at its lowest point in decades due to its aggressive role in precipitating the shutdown, the Democrats agreed to Republican demands that spending caps on federal agencies mandated by the across-the-board “sequester” process remain in place during the temporary funding extension. As a result, the sequester will automatically continue, imposing even deeper cuts in 2014 than the $85 billion slashed this year, should the conference committee fail to agree on a budget blueprint by December 13.

In a White House statement Thursday, President Obama made clear that he would push for new cuts in social programs, leading to major attacks on the core programs for retirees dating from the New Deal and the Great Society—Social Security and Medicare. “The key now is a budget that cuts out the things that we don’t need,” he said, adding, “The challenges we have right now are not short-term deficits; it’s the long-term obligations around things like Medicare and Social Security.”

Obama boasted of having already carried out massive cuts in social spending, saying, “This shouldn’t be as difficult as it’s been in past years because we already spend less than we did a few years ago. Our deficits are half of what they were a few years ago.”

Later on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney peppered a news briefing with invocations of “bipartisan compromise” and the search for “common ground.” He noted that the budget proposal Obama submitted earlier this year made “tough choices” toward “further reducing our deficit.” The phrase “tough choices” is a Washington euphemism for unprecedented attacks on social program on which tens of millions of working people rely.

Carney, in keeping with the Democratic/White House line, also spoke of the need for “investments,” a code word for modest tax increases favored by Democrats to provide a false cover of fairness to an intensification of the assault on the working class. In the so-called “grand bargain” spending and tax deal Obama offered the Republicans in 2011, spending was to be cut ten times more than taxes were to be raised.

Obama is meanwhile pushing for a huge cut in corporate taxes as part of a long-term budget deal.

As underscored by the immediate aftermath of the government shutdown, both parties are seeking to use the latest budget crisis, and the threat of a new one when the extensions on funding and the debt ceiling expire early next year, to push through deeply unpopular social attacks that would previously have been considered politically impossible. This takes place in the context of an ongoing economic and social crisis that is devastating working class living standards, even as corporate profits, stock prices and CEO bonuses hit new record highs.

Just this week, the staggering growth of poverty in America was brought home with the release of a new study showing that 48 percent of US school children are poor, up 32 percent since 2001. (See “Nearly half of US public school children are poor”).

Behind the appearance of partisan gridlock and mutual recrimination, the differences between the two parties are tactical, concerning the ways and means of reversing all of the social gains of the working class and the pace of the onslaught, not the need to carry it out. The major difference is on taxes, with the Republicans rejecting any new government revenue from taxes and insisting that the budget deficit be slashed and the national debt reduced entirely through spending cuts.

That the Democrats are prepared to accommodate the Republicans by ratcheting up the scale and pace of spending cuts, so long as they can obtain the political sop of minor tax increases, was reiterated by Charles Schumer of New York, the number three Democrat in the Senate. “The old bugaboo that has made other conferences fail is revenues,” Schumer said on Thursday.

The mandate of the 29-member House-Senate budget conference committee is to reconcile divergent ten-year budget blueprints approved earlier this year by the two chambers. Both budget bills propose punitive attacks on working people and offer no serious measures to provide jobs or relief for the millions of people impacted by mass unemployment, wage-cutting and social cuts already enacted. As always, the Republican version is even more draconian than the Democratic, establishing the framework for a reactionary “compromise.”

On health care, the Democratic Senate budget proposes $275 billion in cuts, mostly to Medicare providers. The House budget, drafted by Congressman Ryan, proposes $2.7 trillion in cuts, including a repeal of Obama’s health care overhaul, massive cuts in the Medicaid government health insurance program for the poor, and the transformation of Medicare into a privatized voucher system.

The Senate proposal calls for an end to sequestration. The House bill leaves it intact, but redistributes military cuts to social spending, with the reductions totaling $995 billion over ten years.

On other mandatory spending programs, the Senate bill cuts $79 billion, including $4 billion in food stamps. The House bill cuts $962 billion, including $39 billion in food stamps.

The Democratic bill would cut $382 billion in discretionary spending, mostly from the military, but including $127 billion in social cuts. The Republican version cuts $249 billion, including major cuts in transportation programs.

The Democratic bill includes a derisory $100 billion over a decade in new spending for job training and infrastructure. The Republican bill provides zero in new spending.

Press reports on Friday suggested that the budget conferees would likely aim for a narrow agreement by the mid-December deadline, laying down a tax and spending framework for one or two years and saving a broader agreement on long-term cuts in “entitlement” programs such as Medicare and Social Security for later. Most of the haggling will, evidently, center on how to continue in one or another form the sequester cuts to social spending while reducing or eliminating the cuts to military, intelligence and “homeland security” agencies.

The New York Times wrote: “On the table are ideas left over from past, failed bargaining: possible reductions in other programs–like farm subsidies, federal pensions, the Postal Service and unemployment insurance–and relatively minimal tax loophole closings, possibly as little as $55 billion.”

That such cuts–in themselves catastrophic for millions of working class families–are only a foretaste of the assault to come was indicated by a report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday. The article noted that ten days into the federal shutdown, aides to Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor met with “senior” Obama aides to discuss broader budget talks that would include means-testing for Medicare and cuts in federal workers’ retirement benefits.

“De-Americanize”: The Man Who Usurped The Constitution

October 19th, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Just as you think the Republicans have destroyed themselves with their government shutdown default antics, along comes Obama and appoints a fascist murderer head of Homeland Security.

RT  reports that Jeh Johnson, a drone proponent and the Pentagon General Counsel who authorized the unconstitutional extrajudicial murder of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, has been nominated to head Homeland Security. 

Jeh Johnson is also the Pentagon lawyer who accused WikiLeaks of “illegal and irresponsible actions” and of giving aid to terrorists. Will Congress confirm this tyrant to police state power?

According to an Obama spokesperson, Jeh Johnson was picked to head Homeland Security because “during his tenure at the Department of Defense, he was known for his sound judgment and counsel” and “because he is one of the most highly qualified and respected national security leaders.”

So now we know what it takes to have “sound judgment and counsel” and to be a “highly respected national security leader.”

De-Americanization Of The World

GlobalEurope agrees with my conclusion that the power and prestige of the US government are on the wane. In public announcement GEAB # 78 on October 16 echoing the Chinese government, GlobalEurope reports: “Everyone is trying to free itself from American influence and let go of a United States permanently discredited by recent events over Syria, tapering, shutdown and now the debt ceiling. The legendary US power is now no more than a nuisance and the world has understood that it’s time to de-Americanize.”

Further indication of Washington’s declining influence comes from last month’s rulings by the European Court of Justice overturning EU sanctions against Iranian corporations and financial institutions that were pushed into implementation by Washington. 

http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/268742/Export+controls+Trade+Investment+Sanctions/The+European+Court+of+Justice+Overturns+Unfreezes+EU+Iran+Sanctions  

As Lawrence Stratton and I show in our book, The Tyranny Of Good Intentions, for a number of years the US has been abandoning “innocent until proven guilty” and adopting Jeremy Bentham’s totalitarian formulation of “pre-emptive arrest,”  the arrest of people in the absence of a crime on the supposition that they might possibly commit a crime in the future. The European Court of Justice ruled that sanctions could not be imposed on Iranian business entities simply on the presumption that there was a risk that a business entity might provide support for nuclear proliferation in the future. In other words, punishment requires a crime, not the possibility that one might be committed in the future. 

Washington, still overflowing with hubris and arrogance, will pay no attention to the EU court’s rulings.  If the EU countries follow their court’s rulings, does this mean that Washington will sanction the EU countries for not obeying Washington’s sanctions? Are EU governments now caught between Washington and their own court?

Worse Is To Come

Matt Taibbi’s report on the looting of state and municipal pension funds in behalf of Wall Street’s financial gangsters heralds what is in store for our private pensions.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/looting-the-pension-funds-wall-street-is-grabbing-money-meant-for-public-workers/5352934  

American conservatives who are so pleased that “those damned bureaucrats who live on the public tit” are getting their comeuppance fail to see the precedent for their own private pensions.  

As long ago as the Clinton regime, Alicia Munnell, an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston who was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, the position I had held in the Reagan administration, advocated confiscating 15 percent of private pension funds on the basis of the argument that the pensions had accumulated tax free.

The writing is on the wall for private pensions.  Once the dollar becomes too weakened by the printing of vast amounts of them in order to finance Washington’s budget deficit and to support the solvency of “banks too big too fail,” QE will have to end. Desperate for money to fill the gap, Washington will turn to confiscation of private assets should any be left after the coming economic collapse.

Darth Vader In The White House

Meanwhile, rest assured.  The US is not an empire and does not behave as one, so Obama assured the United Nations.  The US, Obama said, is simply the one dominant power that can bring order to the world and prevent “a vacuum of leadership.” 

http://www.salon.com/2013/09/26/sorry_obama_america_imperialism_is_alive_and_well_partner/singleton/  

Bin Laden’s “Killing”

Seymour Hersh, America’s famous investigative reporter, joins me in the ranks of “conspiracy theorist,” that is, a person who tells the truth.  Hersh says that the dramatic story of the murder of Osama bin Laden by US Navy SEALs in 2011 is “one big lie, not one word of truth in it.” 

http://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2013/sep/27/seymour-hersh-obama-nsa-american-media  

I told you so, and so did Mohammad Bashir. 

http://paulcraigroberts.org/2013/10/16/original-pakistani-tv-bashir-interview-massimo-mazzuccos-911-documentary/  

For the Love Of  Money: Wealth and Compassion
Source: For the Love Of Money: Wealth and Compassion

The editors at Cheapest Colleges decided to research the topic of:

For the Love Of Money: Wealth and Compassion

Matthew 19:23

- Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. – King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Cambridge Edition
- Plato and Aristotle deemed greed to be at the root of personal immorality, arguing that greed rives desires for material gain at the expense of ethical standards.
- “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies and cuts through to the essence of the evolutionary spirit.” – Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas in the movie, Wall Street)

Hall of infamy: America’s Greediest

William H. Vanderbilt, 1821-1884

He inherited vast wealth, and then got richer. Arguably the most wealthy and powerful man of his time, he controlled the world’s largest railroad network and became famous for saying: “The public be damned!… I don’t take any stock in this silly nonsense about working for anybody but our own.”

Charles Ponzi, 1882-1949

- So greedy, he had an entire scheme named after him.

Dennis Kozlowski 1946 -

As CEO of Tyco International, he defrauded shareholders of more than $400 million. He once spent $6,000 in company funds on a gold shower curtain, and had the company pay half the $2 million price tag on his wife’s birthday party, which featured toga-clad hostesses.

Bernard Madoff 1938 -

He ran what might be the biggest fraud ever, totaling as much as $50 billion. Among his victims were several charities and people he claimed as friends. He and his wife have the yachts, cars, an exclusive Upper East Side apartment and other real estate holdings to prove it.

Wealth…and Greed

- Myth: Lower-class individuals may be more motivated to behave unethically to increase their resources or overcome their disadvantage.
- Truth: The opposite may be true: namely, that the upper class may be more disposed to the unethical. Greater resources, freedom, and independence from others among the upper class give rise to self-focused tendencies , which facilitate un-ethical behavior.

A 2012 U. of California, Berkeley research study showed upper-class individuals

- 1. Are more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. AMAZING: Upper-class drivers are more likely to cut off pedestrians at a crosswalk. In the study, 34.9% of drivers failed to yield to the pedestrian. Also, upper-class drivers are significantly more likely to drive through the crosswalk without yielding to the waiting pedestrian.
- 2. Exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies, relative to lower-class individuals
- 3. Take valued goods from their mothers
- 4. Lie in negotiations, more than lower-class individuals
- 5. Cheat in their chances of winning prizes more than lower-class individuals
- 6. Endorse unethical behavior at work more than lower-class individuals
- 7. Tend to abandon moral principle in their pursuit of self-interest

- The recent economic crisis has been attributed in part to the unethical actions of the wealthy .

- Relative to lower-class individuals, upper-class individuals are worse at identifying the emotions that others feel.

- FUNNY: upper-class individuals are more disengaged during social interactions, like they check their cell phones or doodle on a questionnaire – compared with their lower-class peers.

- In general, individuals from upper-class backgrounds are also less generous and altruistic.

- Nationwide survey data showing that upper-class households donate a smaller proportion of their incomes to charity than do lower-class households, suggesting that upper-class individuals are particularly likely to value their own welfare over the welfare of others and, thus,

- $717,000: Average income of the top 1 percent of the American population.

- $51,000: Average income of the rest of the population

- FACT: The 1 percent are worth about $8.4 million, or 70 times the worth of the lower classes.

- Within the 1 percent is an even smaller and wealthier subset of people, 1 percent of the top, or .01 percent of the entire nation.

- $27 million: Average income of the top .01 percent of American population. That is 540X the national average income.

- 43: percentage of the nation’s wealth controlled by the top 1 percent.

Who are the 1 percent?

- 80 percent of millionaires in America are the first generation of their family to be rich. They didn’t inherit their wealth; they earned it.
- According to a recent survey of the top 1 percent of American earners, slightly less than 14 percent were involved in banking or finance.
- 1/3 of millionaires were entrepreneurs or managers of nonfinancial businesses.
- 16 percent of millionaires are doctors or other medical professionals.
- Lawyers made up slightly more than 8 percent of millionaires, and engineers, scientists and computer professionals another 6.6 percent.
- Sports and entertainment figures composed almost 2 percent of millionaires.
- NYU sociologist Dalton Conley says that “higher-income folks work more hours than lower-wage earners do.”
- Overall, the rich pay an effective tax rate (after all deductions and exemptions) of roughly 24 percent. For all taxpayers as a group, the average effective tax rate is about 11 percent.
- Households with more than $1 million in income donated more than $150 billion to charity last year, roughly half of all US charitable donations.

Why the behavior?

- 1. Wealth and abundance give a sense of freedom and independence from others.
- 2. The less the wealthy have to rely on others, the less they may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused.
- 3. Attitudes towards greed. Like Gordon Gekko, upper-class people may be more likely to endorse the idea that “greed is good.” Wealthier people are more likely to agree with statements that greed is justified, beneficial, and morally defensible. These attitudes ended up predicting participants’ likelihood of engaging in unethical behavior.

But wait…

On a more positive note, here’s a shout out to America’s top 5 philanthropists and the amount they gave in 2012.
- 1. Warren Buffett, $3.1 billion
- 2. Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, $499 million
- 3. John and Laura Arnold, $423 million
- 4. Paul Allen, $309 million
- 5. Sergey Brinn and Anne Wojcicki, $223 million

Citations

- http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-wealth-reduces-compassion
- http://nymag.com/news/features/money-brain-2012-7/
- http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/07/03/money-may-make-you-mean-but-can-you-buy-a-heart/
- http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023293192
- http://money.msn.com/family-money/why-are-rich-people-such-jerks-weston.aspx
- http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/02/21/1118373109.full.pdf+html
- http://www.wsbradio.com/weblogs/nealz-nuze/2011/nov/09/greedy-filthy-millionaires/
- http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/galleries/2009/03/23/photos-the-greediest-people-of-all-time.html#slide4
- http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/03/21/average-america-vs-the-one-percent/
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/10/rich-people-compassion-mean-money_n_1416091.html
- “Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior,” Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720; and Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 3E6

 

social

On October 17 the RCMP launched a violent assault on a blockade protest against shale gas fracking company on the outskirts of the New Brunswick village of Rexton, just north of Moncton. The protest action has been led by the Mi’kmaw people of the Elsipogtog First Nation. A symbolic protest that was slowing traffic on a nearby highway has been in place since September 30 to halt the fracking activities of Houston-based SWN Resources.

 The fracking company obtained an injunction to halt the protest and the RCMP moved in to enforce it yesterday. They attacked the protesters with guns drawn, using pepper spray and dogs while camouflaged police snipers had rifles pointed and at the ready. Forty people were arrested, including Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock. When Chief Sock was arrested, RCMP vehicles were set on fire and trees were cut to block the nearby highway adjoining the scene.

Former Elsipogtog chief Susan Levi-Peters told the Globe and Mail, “It’s Oka all over again,” referring to the historic, months-long, armed standoff between the Mohawk people and the Canadian and Quebec governments in 1990 at Oka, Quebec, just outside of Montreal.

Chief Sock and some of the other people arrested were released from jail yesterday. Solidarity actions are taking place across Canada and in the United States today. The Real News Network is showing video footage of the clash.

News: Grand Chief Stewart Philip of Union of BC Indian Chiefs condemns police assault in New Brunswick, from the Vancouver Observer, Oct 18, 2013.

The situation has calmed overnight and presently there are only small numbers of protesters and police on site.

The Mi’kmaw say the fracking is taking place on traditional hunting lands and is a violation of their sovereign rights. Their concerns are shared by many other residents in the region and across the province. All are deeply concerned about the pollution of fresh water and land that fracking will cause.

New Brunswick is governed by a Conservative Party government elected in 2010. It supports gas fracking but the issue is highly contested. In 2011, the Union of New Brunswick Municipalities voted by just 22-18 against a resolution in favour of a province-wide moratorium. Mayors in the eastern New Brunswick region where the RCMP assault took place voted 16-1 in July of this year to ask the government to impose a fracking moratorium in their region. (See more background on fracking in New Brunswick here.)

There were arrests this summer at the protest site near Rexton. Twenty five of 35 charges have been dropped so far, according to CBC News.

The Mi’kmaw are the Indigneous people of the lands now known as the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The late Donald Marshall Jr. was the most well-known modern Mi’kmaw by virtue of his victory against a police frame-up that saw him serve 11 years in prison in the 1970s and 1980s for a murder he did not commit. He later won a court victory establishing historic fishing rights that had been taken from his people.

Pamela Palmateer has written an excellent background article on this story that appears in today’s Rabble.ca. She writes,

“Yesterday morning, we awoke to reports from the Mi’kmaw of swarms of RCMP dispatched to Elsipogtog to enforce Harper’s aggressive natural resource agenda. He has effectively declared war on the Mi’kmaw.”

“It is more than coincidental timing – it was obviously strategically calculated with the completion of the Governor General’s speech from the throne and the end of the United Nations Special Rapporteur James Anaya’s visit to Canada.”

 Her commentary details the long history of police and government assault against the rights of the Mi’kmaw people. •

 Roger Annis resides in Vancouver and can be reached at [email protected]. This article first published in the Vancouver Observer, and also published on his blog www.rogerannis.com.

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”— George Orwell

Canada’s colonial past is present, however much Prime Minister Stephen Harper seeks to obfuscate the reality of the history of this land. This week has served as a prime example of how denial of past colonialism helps to perpetuate ongoing colonial relationships. The current flashpoint is the small town of Rexton, New Brunswick, where the Elsipogtog First Nation and their supporters are facing down massive RCMP repression of their protests against activity by SWN Resources, a company that is carrying out seismic testing for proposed oil and gas fracking operations in the area. On October 17, hundreds of RCMP officers, including snipers and many heavily armed officers, moved in against Elsipogtog land defenders who have maintained a protest camp and presence in the area for months. Dozens were arrested, and there were reports of rubber bullets fired by police forces. Several RCMP vehicles were set ablaze.

Fracking may have been the latest spark, but Harper’s government has been fanning the flames for years – denying the true colonial history of Canada even while continuing to actively undermine the sovereignty and rights of First Nations. On Wednesday this week, the Conservative government presented their much-hyped Speech from the Throne, in which they asserted the founders of Canada:

“dared to seize the moment that history offered. Pioneers, then, few in number, reached across a vast continent” and “forged an independent country where none would have otherwise existed.”

This was no one off rhetorical flourish. This was just the latest expression of “Harper’s History.” In 2009, Harper, with a straight face, informed a press conference at a G20 summit that Canada “had no history of colonialism.”

Colonialism Denial

These seem like astounding and easily disproven assertions, but colonialism denial is real and useful because it serves colonialism present; it serves the primary purpose of the Conservative government today, which is to push through resource extraction projects – many of which are in direct contradiction with Indigenous peoples – at all costs.

The repression at Rexton and Harper’s latest bald-faced lie about Canadian history come in the same week that James Anaya, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, issued a scathing report after a nine-day visit across the country. Anaya concluded that “Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country.”

Rexton, New Brunswick – Elsipogtog – now takes its place in a long and shameful history, joining Oka, Ipperwash, Gustafsen Lake and so many more. At Ipperwash, unarmed protester Dudley George was murdered by the OPP. At Gustafsen, 14 Sun Dancers asserting Indigenous sovereignty were met with 400 RCMP officers, troops, armoured personnel carriers and 70,000 rounds of ammunition. And this is just recent history.

Contrary to the myth of seamless and peaceful nation-building, the modern Canadian state was built through the projection of force over and against Indigenous peoples.

Contrary to the myth of seamless and peaceful nation-building, the modern Canadian state was built through the projection of force over and against Indigenous peoples. The RCMP, and before it the Northwest Mounted Police, was formed with this express purpose. This is the colonial reality behind all assertions of the “rule of law,” past and present. It’s all about whose laws get enforced. Indigenous law? International law? Not in Harper’s Canada today, where the law of corporate profit rules. Only we can change that, and solidarity actions with the courageous land defenders of Elsipogtog are the first order of business.

Susan Levi-Peters, a former chief, makes it clear that they remain determined in the face of RCMP sniper rifles, rubber bullets and tear gas: “Nobody is leaving … We don’t want shale gas here. We have been asking for consultations for three years now and nothing has happened. Instead they just put our people in jail.”

IdleNoMore has already shown us that creative, determined actions can reach across a vast continent, creating powerful movements where none would otherwise have existed. So let us seize the moment that history is offering. Let us stand with Elsipogtog.

Find your local solidarity action at www.wearepowershift.ca. •

Derrick O’Keefe is a writer, editor, and activist based in Vancouver. This article first appeared on the Georgia Straight website.

“War on Terror” Advocate to Head Homeland Security

October 19th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Obama intends to nominate former Defense Department general counsel Jeh Johnson as new DHS chief.

He’s responsible for endorsing some of Washington’s most lawless policies. His rap sheet reveals great cause for concern. More on him below.

Post-9/11, police state terror followed. Obama expanded it.

It’s unprecedented in size, scope and ruthlessness.

DHS is America’s Gestapo. The November 25, 2002 Homeland Security Act established it. Twenty-two federal agencies were combined under one authority.

 They include Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Transportation Security, the Secret Service, FEMA, National Protection and Programs Directorate, and the Coast Guard among others.

DHS concentrates unprecedented executive branch military and law enforcement empowerment. It’s a rogue agency. It’s insidious.  It’s a police state apparatus writ large. It’s a dagger at the heart of freedom.

Its four main mandates include:

  • border and transportation security;
  • emergency and disaster preparedness;
  • developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons countermeasures; and
  • centralizing storage and analysis of potential threat information.

US Northern Command (NORTHCOM) was established months earlier (April 25, 2002). Doing so was unprecedented.

 For the first time, America’s mainland, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Gulf waters, Florida straits, and portions of the Caribbean were militarized. Troops may be deployed on US streets.

Doing so violates core 1807 Insurrection Act and 1878 Posse Comitatus Act principles.

They prohibit using federal and National Guard forces for domestic law enforcement except as constitutionally allowed or expressly authorized by Congress in times of insurrection or other national emergency.

No longer. Usurped diktat authority lets presidents claim emergency powers, declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, and deploy federal and/or National Guard troops on US streets to suppress whatever is called disorder.

Fundamental freedoms are endangered. First Amendment ones matter most. Without them all others are at risk. They include free expression, assembly, religion, and right to petition government for redress.

Police state ruthlessness defines today’s America. International, constitutional and US statute laws no longer matter. They lie in history’s dustbin.

Diktat power replaced them. No one any longer is safe. Doing the right thing is dangerous. Guilt by accusation is policy.

 Anyone can be arrested, held uncharged, and detained indefinitely. Due process, judicial fairness, and other civil rights no longer protect.

 If confirmed, Johnson will replace Janet Napolitano. She reflected the worst of repressive governance. Throughout her tenure, she violated fundamental rule of law principles.

She terrorized Latino immigrants. She waged war on Occupy Wall Street. She obstructed FOIA requests.

She advanced America toward full-blown tyranny. Expect Johnson to pick up where she left off. His record gives pause for concern.

His legal career combined private and government service. From 1989 – 1991, he was GHW Bush’s Assistant US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

From 1998 – 2001, he was Clinton’s Air Force Department general counsel. He’s currently a Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison partner.

 His former Defense Department responsibilities included legal review and approval of all military related operations.

 An unnamed senior Obama administration official said:

“The president is selecting Johnson because he is one the most highly qualified and respected national security leaders, having served as the senior lawyer for the largest government agency in the world.”

“During his tenure at the Department of Defense he was known for his sound judgment and counsel.”

 It includes defending military commission prosecutions. They’re for so-called “unprivileged enemy belligerents.” Bush called them “unlawful enemy combatants.”

Francis Boyle called this designation a “quasi-category to create an anti-matter universe of legal nihilism where human beings (including US citizens) can be disappeared, detained incommunicado, denied access to attorneys and regular courts, tried by kangaroo courts, executed, tortured, assassinated and subjected to numerous other manifestations of State Terrorism.”

Johnson supports all of the above. Doing so qualifies him to head DHS. He endorses targeted assassinations by drones or other means.

He defends lawless NSA spying. He champions waging war on terror at home and abroad.

On November 30, 2012, he addressed the Oxford Union in London. He titled his talk “The Conflict Against Al Qaeda and its Affiliates: How Will It End?”

He claimed credit for working with Congress “to enact the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2009.” It renewed its initial 2006 authorization.

It scrapped habeas protection. It granted sweeping police state powers. They’re unchanged today. MCA states:

“(N)o (civil) court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause for action whatsoever…relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission (including) challenges to the lawfulness of (its) procedures…”

With or without evidence, “Any person is punishable who aids, abets, counsels, commands, procures,” or in any way provides “material support” to alleged terrorists.

 Charged suspects are guilty by accusation. Enhanced interrogations (aka torture) are authorized.

So is denying detainees international law protections. Presidents can authorize military commissions at their discretion.

Torture coerced confessions are admissible. Hearsay and secret evidence is permitted. Kangaroo court justice follows.

Johnson vowed to keep fighting Al Qaeda. “(W)e are taking the fight directly to AQAP (Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula),” he said.

He omitted explaining that Washington uses Al Qaeda and similar groups strategically as enemies and allies.

He called targeting Al Qaeda “a new kind of war. It is an unconventional war against an unconventional enemy.”

He implied that old rules don’t apply. Waging war on Al Qaeda won’t “end in conventional terms,” he said.

The most “unconventional” tactics are used. Fundamental rule of law principles are violated doing so.

On February 16, 2012, New York City Bar President Samuel Seymour wrote Johnson, saying:

“(W)e write to express our concern with the Order Governing Written Communications Management for Detainees Involved in Military Commissions, dated December 27, 2011.”

“The Association is alarmed at the dramatic impingement on the attorney-client privilege resulting from the procedures set forth in the Order.”

 ”The sanctity of the attorney-client privilege is fundamental to our system of justice.”

“If the Order is implemented, (it) will be gravely undermined.”

“We urge the appropriate authority to vacate the Order and (replace it with) a (proper) legal framework.”

 It’s in stark contrast to civil proceedings. It’s fundamentally unfair and unjust.

Seymour’s letter was comprehensive. It was lengthy. It ran nine pages.

He concluded saying “the Association believes the Written Communications Order is problematic because it invades the attorney-client privilege, inappropriately inserts outsiders into the defense team, and reverses the presumption that the privilege should be respected, all on a blanket basis and without any particularized showing of need.”

“We believe the Order threatens to undermine the proper functioning of the adversary system and” helps delegitimize military commission prosecutions.

 On March 18, 2013, Johnson spoke at the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School.” He titled his address “A ‘Drone Court:’ Some Pros and Cons.”

 He claimed “appropriate lethal force” made America’s homeland safer. It’s never been less safe.

He advocates drone killings. He asked what about establishing a drone court? He’s comfortable about an authority acting as judge, jury and executioner.

 He wants it kept within the executive branch. Targeted assassination authorizations aren’t suited for judicial review. Quick action is needed to implement them.

 Doing so violates core international, constitutional and US statute laws. Johnson didn’t explain. Nor that drones mostly kill innocent civilians.

 A tiny fraction of deaths are so-called “high value targets.” Innocent men, women and children comprise most others. It doesn’t matter.

 Johnson calls “targeted lethal force” justifiable. “The essential mission of the US military is to capture or kill an enemy,” he said.

In a February 2012 Yale Law School address, he called US citizens fair game.

“Belligerents who also happen to be US citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives,” he said.

 ”(U)nder well-settled legal principles, lethal force against a valid military objective, in an armed conflict, is consistent with the law of war and does not, by definition, constitute an ‘assassination.’ “

 America’s domestic “war on terror” will be in good hands with Johnson. Expect freedom to suffer another major body blow. Perhaps it won’t survive his tenure. Ends justifying means alone matters.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

 Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/war-terror-advocate-head-homeland-security/

A report by a UN expert urges the US to ‘release its own data on the level of civilian casualties’ caused by drone strikes and attacks the lack of transparency surrounding CIA and US special forces drone operations.

Ben Emmerson, a British barrister and UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, has released the second of two major UN reports in a week to examine the use of drones both in conflict zones and in covert settings.

In the earlier report, Christof Heyns also called for increased transparency around the use of drones. In the new report Emmerson emphasises that this is a vital step to ensuring accountability and redress for the civilian victims of drone strikes.

The Special Rapporteur does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data’
- Ben Emmerson

Emmerson says: ‘The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively.’

Related story – UN expert calls for increased transparency over armed drones

The report says the involvement of the CIA in drone operations has created an ‘almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency’, and he is also critical of the ‘almost invariably classified’ nature of special forces drone operations in Yemen and Somalia. ‘The Special Rapporteur does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data.’

Drones currently operate in an ‘accountability vacuum’, Emmerson says, adding that there is a legal obligation on states to launch a full investigation into claims from ‘any plausible source’ of civilian casualties – including those made by non-governmental organisations. The results of such investigations should be made public, ‘subject to redactions on grounds of national security’, he adds.

He notes that the current director of the CIA John Brennan has called for the release of data relating to civilian casualties. The US government is in the process of moving its drone operations from the CIA to the Department of Defense to improve transparency, he says, adding that he understands this is due to be completed ‘by the end of 2014′.

The report highlights ‘differences of view’ over who should be considered a civilian in situations where non-uniformed fighters live and operate among the civilian population. He points to ‘considerable uncertainty’ over the criteria used to identify individuals as legitimate targets and calls for further clarification.

Emmerson examines US, British and Israeli drone operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Libya and Gaza.

Only in the most exceptional of circumstances would it be permissible under international human rights law for killing to be the sole or primary objective of an operation’  - Ben Emmerson

The Pakistani government released data to Emmerson showing at least 400 civilian casualties – a number close to the Bureau’s lower-end estimate – and a further 200 were ‘regarded as probable non-combatants’. Emmerson wrote ‘those figures were likely to be an underestimate’ according to local officials. He told MSNBC there is no reason ‘on the face of it’ to question this data as it echoed independent estimates.

For Yemen drone operations, the report cites the Bureau’s estimate of 21-58 civilian casualties as the highest such figures. But the report does not provide estimates for drone operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Somalia or Gaza, pointing to a lack of official figures specifically covering civilians killed in drone strikes.

Kat Craig, Legal Director of the human rights charity Reprieve, which represents civilian victims of drone strikes, said: ‘This report highlights the US’ failure to reveal any information whatsoever about their shadowy, covert drone programme. Hiding the reality of civilian deaths is not only morally abhorrent but an affront to the sort of transparency that should be the hallmark of any democratic government. Some basic accountability is the very least people in Pakistan and Yemen should expect from the CIA as it rains down Hellfire missiles on their homes and villages.’

Related story – Pakistan government says ‘at least 400′ civilians killed in drone strikes

Emmerson also addresses the legality of drone strikes outside of military conflict areas, saying that where no official conflict exists lethal action will ‘rarely be lawful… because only in the most exceptional of circumstances would it be permissible under international human rights law for killing to be the sole or primary objective of an operation’.

The US claims it can legally carry out such lethal operations – but Emmerson says this ‘gives rise to a number of issues on which there is either no clear international consensus, or United States policy appears to challenge established norms’. The US has claimed that it carries out drone strikes in countries including Pakistan and Yemen in legitimate self-defence against imminent threats and that it is in a state of continuing war against al Qaeda and associated groups.

The report recommends that a clear international legal consensus is reached and Emmerson is currently consulting states with a view to ‘clarifying their position on these questions’.

He writes that he has identified 33 strikes that appear to have led to civilian casualties and ‘undoubtedly raise issues of accountability and transparency’. The full findings on these strikes will be published at a later stage.

A White House spokeswoman, Laura Magnuson, said: ‘We are aware that this report has been released and are reviewing it carefully.’

The reports by Heyns and Emmerson will be presented to the UN General Assembly in New York next week. Also next week on October 22 Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch will publish reports on drone operations in Pakistan and Yemen respectively.

New Report Reveals 30 Million People Enslaved Worldwide

October 19th, 2013 by Sara Flounders

A report by an international foundation on modern slavery has revealed that nearly 30 million people are enslaved across the globe.

The index released by the Walk Free Foundation (WFF) on Thursday said the slaves are either trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labor, fall victims to debt bondage, or are even born into servitude.

Almost half of these people are in India, where “by far the largest proportion of this problem is the exploitation of Indian citizens within India itself, particularly through debt bondage and bonded labor,” the survey found.

The index also showed that aside from India, the problem is most rampant in the West African country of Mauritania, where four percent of the population is estimated to be held in slavery.

The report by the Australian-based group described Mauritania as a nation with “deeply entrenched hereditary slavery,” where “people in slavery may be bought and sold, rented out and given away as gifts.”

Benin, Gambia, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Haiti and Nepal are among other countries with the highest prevalence of modern slavery, the report said.

The WFF index ranked 162 countries on the number of people living in slavery, the risk of enslavement, and the strength of government action to counter the illegal activity.

Figures indicate human trafficking along with arms dealing is the second largest industry in the world after drug dealing.

Press TV speaks with Sara Flounders, Co-Director of the International Action Center in New York to get further information.


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The budget brinkmanship has cost the world’s largest economy billions of dollars – as well as the trust of investors around the globe. And it also sparked calls to de-americanize the world economy.

For more, RT talks to Pepe Escobar, Asia Times Online roving correspondent.

US President Barack Obama has signed legislation passed by Congress Wednesday to temporarily lift the debt ceiling and end the government shutdown, averting the threat of default just hours before the October 17 deadline.

The legislation funds the government through to January 15 and lifts the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling until February 7. The White House budget director, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, said she has issued a directive to all government employees to return to work.

The 16-day budget crisis has subtracted an estimated $24 billion in from the American economy and triggered a flurry of criticism from major foreign lenders and domestic business captains.

As promised, Obama signed the legislation shortly after it was passed in the House of Representatives.

As indicated before the US Senate vote, Republican House Speaker John Boehner did not block the fiscal deal from moving on, and it passed by a vote of 285-144 in the lower chamber.

The measure was supported by every Democratic member of the House, but was rejected by a sizeable portion of Boehner’s GOP caucus.

Conservative Republicans were nearly unanimous in their opposition to the plan, as the federal health care law – the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare – they so object to will go virtually unscathed after all.

The Senate approved the proposal by a vote of 81-18 earlier on Wednesday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spent previous days constructing a deal as the House failed to come to an agreement on a proposal Tuesday.

“This compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs. It’s never easy for two sides to reach consensus. It’s really hard, sometimes harder than others. This time was really hard,” Reid said ahead of the vote. “The country came to the brink of a disaster. But in the end, political adversaries set aside their differences and disagreement to prevent that disaster.”

Republicans Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio were among the 18 ‘nay’ votes in the Senate.

“This is a terrible deal,” said Senator Ted Cruz on the Senate floor before the vote. “This deal embodies everything about the Washington establishment that frustrates the American people.”

President Obama said in a statement after the Senate vote that Washington must begin to gain back the trust of voters given that more confrontations on debt, governmental budgeting, and other issues await.

“Hopefully next time, it won’t be in the eleventh hour. We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis,” Obama said.

The US Treasury’s authority to borrow money to pay down US debt obligations was scheduled to end Thursday, October 17. With no full spending bill from Congress, many government operations have been on hold since October 1.

The 16-day government shutdown has cost the US $1.7 billion per week in lost economic output, according to a study by IHS Global Insight, a Massachusetts-based research firm. The S&P ratings agency declared Wednesday the shutdown has subtracted $24 billion from the US economy, cutting 0.6 percent from the fourth quarter GDP growth.

Major US creditors like China – which holds $1.3 trillion in US Treasuries – have openly discussed “de-Americanizing” as the crises-hopping US government has become increasingly volatile to the world economy. China has introduced a so-called “haircut,” or a discount, on the value of US Treasuries held as collateral against futures trades.

Developing and developed nations are equally concerned, and institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have issued several warnings.

Some US business leaders are too voicing their discontent with Washington’s political turmoil.

“Most CEOs I speak to in the United States say they’re seeing a slowdown in business because of this,” Laurence Fink, the CEO of giant asset manager BlackRock Inc, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

“I was on a conference call with many of them, and I heard across the board, a slowdown from the American consumer because of this narrative, so it’s having an impact on our economy already – and it’s going to have an impact on job creation at a time when we need more job creation,” he added.


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What the public were told by the US government via the corporate media, and what actually happened during the White House’s much-celebrated “Bin Laden Raid” in 2011 – are not the same.

One thing which becomes clearer by the day about the fabled Bin Laden Raid which took place in Abbotabad, Pakistan, is that the US government has intentionally deceived the public about what happened. In other words, what President Obama described when he addressed the American people following “the raid” – was a work of pure fiction.

Navy-Seal-Team-6-Bin-Laden-raidThe following interview appeared on Pakistani broadcast channel, Sama TV, and includes a translation in English from an eye witness on the scene.

If the translation is accurate, then this eye witness blows the lid off of another plank in the White House’s fictional drama.

The following is an interview with Muhammad Bashir, who lives next door to the alleged ”compound” of Osama bin Laden. He claims that the first US helicopter suffered an explosion, which killed all of its US military occupants, somewhere between 10 and 20 men.

Based on this man’s testimony, we have to ask the question: did the White House cover this up in order to protect the Dear Leader from a devastating “Jimmy Carter moment” (1979 Iran hostage rescue cock-up).

That’s certainly what this looks like at first glance. Would Obama lie to protect his and his party’s political legacy? We’ll let the readers answer that question.

“It seems that although initially, the TV station was overjoyed with this interview, they changed their tune, twenty four hours later (for some unknown reason)”. You decide why…

 
So the original lie, the 9/11 Operation, was covered up by the next lie – the Bin Laden Raid. Following on to this, it only stands to reason that the Abbotabad lie should be concealed by the next lie. The next lie is that no one knows where Bin Laden’s body is. In stark contrast to President Obama’s declaration that bin Laden was “buried at sea”, US Navy Sailors on the USS Carl Vinson have stated on record did not witness an at-sea burial of Osama bin Laden. Therefore, someone is lying. Did Barack Obama chop down the cherry tree?

So if Osama bin Laden was not at Abbotabad, or on the USS Carl Vinson – as the evidence, and lack thereof, dictates, then where is he? More than likely, he was dead years before Obama’s glorious raid, but it served two US Administrations to keep his image alive in order to justify the unprecedented military, and security police state build-up which ensued following 9/11. In case readers aren’t aware, there are many high ranking official statements that back up this claim, and at least one of those who spoke of this in public, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated shortly after saying it.

Hollywood even made a blockbuster propaganda film to back-up the US government’s tall tale. It was called Zero Dark Thirty, and it was a big money maker too. So everyone is happy, right? No really, as the can must be kicked down the road one more time…

One more lie, before we wrap this up. According to the same government sources from the first two lies listed, on August 6, 2011, a U.S. Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter, with the call sign Extortion 17, was shot down in Wardak province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, amazingly, killing all 38 people on board including 25 American special operations personnel. The US claimed that the bodies were so badly burnt that they were forced to cremate them immediately, as if on some sort of deadline to make them disappear. Again, and with both 9/11 and the Bin Laden raid, there are no survivors, no bodies, no photos, and no real evidence available that prove the government’s creative version of events. How do we even know those men actually died in that same Chinook crash? Will we ever know? Not if the US government is allowed to tell its people endless lies, all in the name of national security.

After viewing Pakistani TV interview (above), former Assistant US Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts explains, “I am confident that no news organization believes that it could confront such an important US national myth in this way. The killing of bin Laden satisfies the emotional need for revenge and justice. In the least, a news organization that challenged the government’s story would be cut off from all government sources and be denounced by politicians and a large percentage of the gullible US population as an anti-American terrorist-serving organization.”

Read full transcript of the Pakistani news translation here.

By the way, no one in Abbotabad, or in Pakistan it seems, actually believes the fictional Bin Laden raid drama either. Watch:

-

The Pentagon plans to sell $10.8 Billion worth of military weapons to its closest allies in the Middle East besides Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the Pentagon will sell Saudi Arabia and the UAE, two of the worst dictatorships in the world missiles, munitions and “Bunker-Busting” bombs worth up to $10.8 Billion.

The report said that “the move follows a series of U.S. weapons deals in recent years that have bolstered the air power and missile arsenals of Gulf States, which view Iran as a menacing rival with nuclear ambitions.”  It is a move that would surely concern Iran and its allies in the region.  Having Israel’s nuclear capabilities on one hand and having the Gulf States armed with US military hardware including thousands of “Bunker Busting” bombs on the other is a scenario that threatens Iran’s sovereignty.

The Talks between Iran and the six world powers seemed to be positive, but selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is a step towards a confrontation if the talks fail.  The selling of weapons to both countries who are enemies of Iran, Syria and others in the region is an insurance policy for the US military if it decided along with Israel to strike Iran.  Saudi Arabia and the UAE would follow orders to attack Iran if Washington gave them the green light since both countries are “Puppet” Monarchies of the West.  The report said that numerous bombs and missiles would be available to both governments once the sales are approved.  It stated the facts on what types of weapons would be sold as a result:

Officials said the Defense Department notified Congress this week of the planned deal that will provide a thousand bunker-buster GBU-39 bombs to the Saudis and 5,000 to the UAE.  The sale will also include sophisticated air-launched cruise missiles that can hit targets from a long distance.  The weapons are designed for use with U.S.-made F-15 and F-16 fighter jets previously purchased by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to a statement made by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

 The report also said Israel purchased the same bombs in 2010.

In 2010, Israel bought the same bunker-buster “precision-guided glide bombs,” fueling speculation that it was preparing for potential pre-emptive airstrikes against underground nuclear sites in Iran.

It is interesting to note that the announced sales of these weapons are in contrast to a recent speech given by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset commemoration this week during the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War making a case for a preemptive strike against Iran.  The Times of Israel wrote what he said at Knesset commemoration:

“The first lesson is to never underestimate a threat, never underestimate an enemy, never ignore the signs of danger. We can’t assume the enemy will act in ways that are convenient for us. The enemy can surprise us. Israel will not fall asleep on its watch again” he vowed “The second lesson, he added, was that “we can’t surrender the option of a preventive strike. It is not necessary in every situation, and it must be weighed carefully and seriously. But there are situations in which paying heed to the international price of such a step is outweighed by the price in blood we will pay if we absorb a strategic strike that will demand a response later on, and perhaps too late.”

 It is not only selling weapons to both governments that’s concerning but also training its troops and giving logistical support:

The proposed sales “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States” by improving the security of friendly countries that remain forces for “stability,” the DSCA said.  Under the arms package, the Saudis were due to receive approximately $6.8 billion in weapons, parts, training and logistical support.

Washington and their Middle East partners are preparing for war as the report confirms what type of weapons will be used for a preemptive attack.

The Saudis and the UAE will purchase hundreds of Standoff Land Attack missiles, or SLAM-ERs, and Joint Standoff Weapons. These advanced missiles will enable their warplanes to hit radar installations and other targets from beyond the range of air defense systems.  The Saudis will purchase 650 of the Boeing-manufactured SLAM-ERs and 973 Joint Standoff Weapons, made by Raytheon, in addition to other missiles. The United Arab Emirates is due to purchase $4 billion worth of weaponry, including the bunker-buster bombs, 300 SLAM-ERs and 1,200 JSOW missiles.

Washington will move forward with the sale of these weapons with congressional approval.  Keep in mind that the majority of both Republicans and Democrats are in the pockets of the Military-Industrial Complex and the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Washington or Israel would launch a preemptive strike against Iran if it they had the chance to.  Syria would have given them the opportunity to advance if they had defeated or even weaken Syrian Forces and remove President Bashar -al Assad from office.  But the Syrian Crises was defused (at least for now ) from turning into a war with the help of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government’s relentless efforts.

With the US financial system (which Israel depends on) in decline it would be more difficult to start a war without the funds to do so, but then again maybe not.  If the US economy does collapse, war would be the only obvious answer for Washington.

Moncton, New Brunswick – I have been camping at the current blockade along highway 134 since the inception of the encampment, filing almost daily reports for the Media Coop. During June and July of this year, when protests against shale gas exploration in New Brunswick were of far less national interest, I was doing the same.

Around 6am yesterday morning, October 17th, RCMP forces again blocked off both sides of the anti-shale gas encampment along highway 134, this time with an as yet unseen amount of police force. For numerous days prior, RCMP were allowing first walking traffic, then one lane of automobile traffic, to pass freely through the blockaded area. Anti-shale activists, as a measure of good faith, and in deference to emergency vehicles in particular, had days earlier removed two felled trees that had completely blocked off vehicular traffic.

The move, of course, allowed traffic flow to resume to near normal. It also allowed unhindered access to RCMP, who as it will be made clear were scouting out the area and making plans for an ultimate take-down of the traffic-slowing, but completely peaceful, protest.

War Chief Seven Bernard wasunarmed, outmanned and off the path of SWN's injunction. Was any of this necessary? [Photo: Miles Howe]
War Chief Seven Bernard wasunarmed, outmanned and off the path of SWN’s injunction. Was any of this necessary? [Photo: Miles Howe]
Grappling with a young Warrior. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Grappling with a young Warrior. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Elsipogtog youth runs in fear as RCMP descend into madness. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Elsipogtog youth runs in fear as RCMP descend into madness. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Far from the Mi'kmaq's last stand. District War Chief Jason Augustine faces down the barrels of 20 pistols. [Photo: Miles Howe]
Far from the Mi’kmaq’s last stand. District War Chief Jason Augustine faces down the barrels of 20 pistols. [Photo: Miles Howe]

 

Yesterday, I first heard that the roads were blocked off by someone screaming in a tented area near the entrance gate to the compound that housed SWN Resources Canada’s seismic testing equipment, in the vicinity of where I was camped. At the time, I was asleep.

I could hear police beginning to identify themselves, and a rustling through the trees that suggested numerous bodies moving around. RCMP, I surmised, were everywhere, and the always possible event of the RCMP serving SWN’s injunction against blocking their equipment was upon us.

SWN, the Texas-based gas company, had earlier been given a ten day extension to their injunction against the encampment, due to expire on October 21st. We had heard that the injunction had been printed in Irving-owned newspapers. Due to Irving’s collusion with SWN (the compound in which SWN’s equipment was housed, for example, is Irving-owned), there had been something of a ban on Irving newspapers. We had also been advised by various sources that peace would remain at the encampment until at least Friday, October 18th, when a public hearing against the injunction was set to occur at the Moncton courthouse.

Clearly not.

I grabbed my car keys and ran the 100-odd metres towards the Mi’kmaq Warrior encampment.

What I saw was surprising.

The ditch opposite me was already filled with 20-odd police in tactical blue uniforms, pistols already drawn. Three police officers dressed in full camouflage, one with a short-chained German Shepherd, were also near the ditch.

In the far field, creeping towards the Warrior encampment – which was comprised of one trailer and about ten tents – were at least 35 more police officers. Many of these wore tactical blue and had pistols drawn. At least three officers were wearing full camouflage and had sniper rifles pointed at the amassing group. The Warriors, for their part, numbered about 15.

Through a police loud speaker towards the highway 11 off-ramp, an officer began reading the injunction against the blocking of SWN’s seismic equipment. This was all before dawn.

Still in the pre-dawn dark, about seven molotov cocktails flew out of the woods opposite the police line stationed in the ditch. I cannot verify who threw these cocktails. They were – if it matters – lobbed ineffectively at the line of police and merely splashed small lines of fire across the road. A lawn chair caught fire from one cocktail. Two camouflaged officers then pumped three rounds of rubber bullet shotgun blasts into the woods.

Shortly after, three so-called warriors with a journalist in tow – who claim to have arrived two nights ago from Manitoba – appeared to have determined that the situation was too extreme for them. Two of them have since been identified as Harrisen Freison and ‘Eagle Claw’. They promptly ran down the road towards the far end of the police blockade. Until last night no one had ever seen these individuals before.

About ten minutes later, with tensions now becoming highly escalated between the encroaching line of police in the field adjacent to the encampment and the Warriors now on a public dirt road, two officers approached Seven Bernard, chief of the Warrior Society. They attempted to serve Bernard with SWN’s contentious injunction. Dozens of guns from all angles were pointed at all of us.

Seven Bernard began to walk away from the officer attempting to serve him the injunction. If it matters, the officer in question was the same Sergeant Rick Bernard who had earlier in the summer arrested me on charges of threats and obstruction of justice – both of which amounted to nothing and were subsequently dropped.

Sergeant Bernard threw the injunction at his namesake, saying: “Consider yourself served.”

I could hear the RCMP surrounding us speaking about someone having a gun. I did not see any Warrior carrying a firearm. I can say with certainty, however, that no live round was ever fired by the Warrior side. If, as the RCMP are now claiming, that a single shot was discharged, it was not from this altercation.

Before continuing, it is important to note that the Warrior encampment was on government – or Crown – land. Crown land, legally, is being held for Canada’s indigenous people, in this case the Mi’kmaq people. Through negligence of the Crown, this is often forgotten, especially by Canada’s non-indigenous populations.

Equally as forgotten is the fact that none of Canada’s Maritime provinces are ceded land. The Crown is tied to the original indigenous inhabitants – and their land – through treaties of peace and friendship. Nothing more.

It is also important to note that the entire encroaching police formation was focused on a group of about 15 Warriors, all of whom were now on a public dirt road, away from SWN’s so-called blockaded equipment.

The injunction was meant to focus on protestors blocking access to SWN’s equipment on highway 134. All of the subsequent arrests at this end of the altercation were made on Hannah Road.

With RCMP forces having entirely overwhelmed any remaining activists at the compound gate, the question must be asked:

Why focus on a small band of Warriors, clearly away from all of SWN’s equipment and entirely incapable of reforming a blockade, with over 60 guns of various calibre drawn on them?

Indeed, a van belonging to one Lorraine Clair from Elsipogtog First Nation had the evening before been removed from the compound gate. It was the main blocking factor to SWN’s – or anybody’s, really – access to their equipment.

Tensions at this stand-off further escalated when a group of Elsipogtog youth began running up the dirt road towards the Warriors, and police. It is unclear how the youth, on foot, had managed to come up a back road towards a highly volatile situation. The police attempted to halt the approaching youth, for what reason is unclear.

Mi’kmaq Warrior Suzanne Patles, in a last ditch attempt to defuse a situation now spiralling into a screaming match with police guns pointing in every direction, ran into the middle of the field screaming: “We were given this tobacco last night!”

Now crying, in her hand she held a plug of tobacco, provided to her by RCMP negotiators wrapped in red cloth as a traditional token of peace the night before.

Skirmishes then broke out in every direction. From the highway side, District War Chief Jason Augustine was being chased by numerous police. In front of me, everywhere really, Warriors were being taken down by numerous RCMP officers in various clothes. Rubber bullet shots were fired by the RCMP, and both Jim Pictou and Aaron Francis both claim that they were hit – in the back and leg respectively.

I continued to try photographing what had quickly become a chaotic scene until one officer in camouflage and assault rifle pointed at me, saying: “He’s with them. Take him out!”

I was taken to the ground and arrested.

Myself and approximately 25 individuals then spent a varying amount of time at the Codiac detention centre. Some of us, apparently on a haphazard basis, were provided blankets and mattresses. Others spent about 20 hours on hard concrete.

At about 12am, I was taken for fingerprinting and told my charge would be obstruction of justice, for running at an altercation (taking photographs all the while, mind you). I was refused release when I could not procure a $500 note of promise.

An hour later, I was brought back to the release desk. My charge was now mischief, with conditions to stay 1 kilometre away from SWN’s equipment and personnel.

I refused to sign these documents at this point, preferring to see a judge the next day. At approximately 3am I was told that all charges against me had been dropped and that I would be read SWN’s injunction and then released.

I refused to sign the injunction, and at 3:15am was released into the Moncton night.

I can only assume that my ever-reducing charges were due in no small amount to a public outcry over once again arresting me while covering the ongoing seismic testing story in New Brunswick.

I give thanks for this continued support.

Again, one must wonder at the RCMP’s pre-sunrise, decidedly violent, means of attempting to enforce an injunction against blocking SWN’s equipment. Again, one must reiterate that neither members or the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society or anyone else was anywhere near the newly-unblocked compound gate. Nor were they at all capable of reforming any blockade style formation.

Again, it must be reiterated that Lorraine Clair’s van the main impediment to accessing the equipment had been removed the night before.

Instead, with guns drawn, the RCMP appeared intent on provoking a violent climax on the near three-week blockade.

I say in no uncertain terms that it is miraculous that no one was seriously injured yesterday, indeed killed. The RCMP arrived with pistols drawn, dogs snapping, assault rifles trained on various targets, and bus loads of RCMP waiting from across the province and beyond.

As solidarity actions spring up across the country, yesterday’s actions have perhaps invited a far greater climax to New Brunswickers fight against shale gas.

Finally, while the mainstream media will go far to paint this as a “Native” issue, it is vital to remember that the blockade, until yesterday, had been supported by various allies from across the province. It is also key to note that an original 28 groups, representing New Brunswickers from all walks of life, had demanded an end to all shale gas exploration or development.

This all occurred long before images of bandana-ed Indigenous people, who veracity as true grassroots activists and not provocateurs is now being closely examined, ever set fire to a single RCMP squad car in Rexton.

 

September 2013 Report

Sanctions against Iran started from 1979 and it has found new dimensions through time. But the new set of sanctions imposed against Iran in 2006 intensely influenced this country and directly affected people’s lives. Especially after 2012, the sanctions have shifted toward civilians and its disastrous effects instead of aiming at nuclear technology development process, have made a huge humanitarian crisis. Sanctions on petroleum industry, cargo shipment, shipping insurance, followed by sanctions on banking system has damaged the economic situation in Iran, having destructive effects on providing commodities and services. While UN, EU, and the US sanctions do not directly include importation of humanitarian goods, these sanctions have acutely decreased Iranian people’s access to commodities and major services, including medicine and treatment. (A list of sanctions which have influenced this field in somehow have been attached to this report)

This report aims at representing a part of destructive effects of sanctions on people in health care field. This impact is so severe that has violated basic human rights of Iranian citizens, and threatens their lives and quality of life. So in this situation, generally in medical field, educational levels, research and industry, these effects can be discussed separately.

Methodology

To prepare this report, four diseases were selected as representatives of different group of diseases for treatment section: Cancer treatment as representative of high mortality diseases; Asthma as a prevalent disease, decreasing quality of life; MS as a prevalent disease in Iran, disturbing daily life; and surgery for Dystonia and Parkinson’s disease as a high-tech surgery. For this study, we referred to medical specialists for each disease and some patients, and generated interviews in written forms or recorded videos. In some cases, information about diseases were gained from treatment centers or related associations. In doing research on medicine access, interviews were taken from pharmacists, managers of medicine producer companies, medicine importers and managers of distribution companies. Some information was also taken from 13Aban Central Pharmacy (the early pharmacy was founded by pharmacy college of University of Tehran), 1490 health system (a 24hrs/7days hotline designed to help patients by giving information about where different drugs could be accessed), and associations of some of these diseases. A set of this information is used to prepare this report and is referred to.

Treatment phase

The condition of Cancer patients in Iran

Cancer is a type of disease in which body cells lose their ability to divide and usual growth and turn to tumor which leads to capture, destruction and corruption of healthy tissues. Worldwide cancer mortality in 2006 has been 6.7 million which include 13 percent of worldwide mortality statistics. It is predicted that this number will increase up to 9 million people in 2015.

According to the latest statistical and epidemiologic surveys in Iran, cancer is the third mortality factor after cardiovascular diseases and unintentional accidents (Dr. Mohammadali Mohagheghi, director of research center at Cancer Institute, Imam Khomeini Hospital, in an interview with “healthcare and treatment” reporter of Iranian Students News Agency).

About 85 thousand cancer cases are detected in the country annually, from which 30 thousands result in death. It should be noted that the number of newly diagnosed patients from 17765 in 2000 had increased to 55855 cases in 2005, and the latest statistics show that it had reached to 85000 cases in 2011. The age of cancer incidence has decreased to less than 30 years old. Its reasons include air pollution and modern lifestyle which goes along with smoking, consumption of alcoholic drinks, low physical activity, fibreless diets with high amount of fat and sugar.

The 181 percent growth of cancer in Iran is worrisome and according to the predictions of  Professor Nasser Parsa, a member of American Cancer Society, Iran will face a cancer tsunami in 2015. According to World Health Organization, Iran has the highest cancer prevalence in the Middle East (Mohammad Esmaeel Akbari, director of cancer research center at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences)

The most prevalent cancers in Iran are stomach or gastric cancer in men and breast cancer in women. Iran has 61 cancer treatment hubs and the government provides great subsidies for its treatment, but unfortunately fast growth of this disease in one hand, and its high costs in the other hand has made governmental aids ineffective, especially because of the inflation due to the economic sanctions of Iran in 2006 and then in 2012 which paralyzed treatment system of these centers and hindered their development. As a result, unfortunately half of these patients may not respond to the treatment because of the disease progress and die very soon (Alireza Zali, assistant director of Medical Council of Iran, annual cancer conference, 2012).

Cancer in Iran damages the patient in some respects:

Psychological problems: more than one third of patients in the world experience anxiety and depression resulted from anguish and stress after their disease diagnosis. This issue may affect the family of patients too. Though, this statistics may apply to half of the patients. Also, due to the following problems, these worries may be multiplied.

Financial problems and costs of medicine: The fear from high costs and financial problems is the second psychological problems. The results of Bazyar study shows that half of the cancer patients in Iran had to borrow money (in the research sample). Some of them had to move because they were in debt and more than half of them are living in a critical psychological and financial condition because of high costs, even in the first steps of the treatment (life threat, the major challenge for the patients after cancer diagnosis, Nursing and Obstetric College of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, (Hayat) vol. 18, no. 5, 1391, pp. 12-22)

Social work section of the Tehran Cancer Treatment Center informed the research team that before 2006, nearly all of the treatment and medicine costs were covered by the hospital and they were focusing on the psychological problems of the patients, but after 2006 and then suddenly in 2012 with multiple increase of the medicine prices because of sanctions, the patients turned to this center for the medicines too. The number of patients has been doubled or more in recent year. ( Data provided by Social work section of the Tehran Cancer Treatment Center )

Currently, with insurance coverage and extra governmental aids, the patient has to pay for 20-30 percent of the prices, but it is not still affordable for many of them. Some special medicines are not covered by insurance and due to lack of purchase, have become scarce in market. After sanctions on banking system, the medicines without Iranian equivalents no longer exist, and when a kind of medicine becomes available in another city for example, people rush to that city and they encounter many people in a pharmacy (Dr Aghili Interview transcripts attached to this report). So in addition to financial problem, the patients have access problems too.

Consequently, there are some patients who have left their cancer treatment because of sudden increase in medicine prices and lost their lives. The number of these patients is increasing, though the treatment in this center is free.

Due to the high costs of treatment and medicines, the patients do not refer to private centers and because of the lack of economic justification, these centers are semi-closed. So a large number of cancer patients from different social stratums rush to the social work centers, and the people from vulnerable stratum of the society are not the only clientele anymore. This reference rate is obvious in statistics of the recent year (Mrs. Zohre Gholamhosein Fard, social work supervisor at Cancer Institute).

For instance, some patients like “Mahmud Ostad Mohammad”, a famous theatrical figure passed away, due to lack of medicine in last three months of his life, though he was well-to-do (to see price growth rate, refer to the statistics of this center and the complete interview transcripts attached to this report).

The problems of treatment access: altogether, the necessary facilities for cancer surgeries and also the related medicines (except the nuclear medicines for cancer diagnoses) are not under sanctions currently. But the usage overlap of radiotherapy pieces and some military devices (like radars) has made the sanctions focused on these pieces. The accelerator devices which are used for deep radiotherapies have been practically under sanctions, as in some cases after purchase and paying the money, the device, equipment or software were not delivered (for example, the Varian device.) Also, because of the sanctions, the other old devices couldn’t get the necessary sources (radioactive cobalt), after the old sources were ran out. These devices broke down one by one and the patients who have been in their waiting list were added to the waiting lists of other remaining devices. Every morning, stressful crowds, gather in treatment centers with active devices, waiting for their treatment turn.

The golden time of treatment for some patients is wasted in waiting lists, and some even die, waiting for their turn. On the other hand, treatment personnel work day and night and are worried about overloading the devices and losing these few devices too. While the special rooms for radiotherapy had been made with high costs, they are now used as storerooms because purchasing new devices were impossible (Dr. Aghili’s interview transcripts attached to this report.)

Later, sanctions just included the public sector, but the private sector still didn’t have the financial strength to buy such equipments and also the financial problems of patients led to the bankruptcy of some private sector agencies and thus, left the market. Devices were not still sold to the governmental sector. By imposing sanctions against banking system of the country, it was not possible to purchase these medical equipments because money transfer became impossible, while it is said that sanctions on medical equipments had been entirely removed! On the other hand, decrease in value of Iranian Rial currency, increased the prices for these devices in a sudden as it became practically impossible to buy them. As a result, cancer patients are deprived of this classic and standard option of treatment and lose their lives.

Healthcare system had to import low-quality Chinese devices. Later, it was found that they are harmful for patients because of their voltage fluctuations, so using these devices became obsolete.

Consequently, considering the inflation caused by sanctions, just a few well-off patients who are still able to afford costs of going abroad travel to countries like Turkey or Malaysia for radiotherapy treatment, and other patients are deprived of treatment or are still waiting in treatment queues of the remaining devices. In this situation, there are physicians and necessary specialties, but lack of access to equipments is the major factor of cancer mortalities (Dr. Kazemian Interview transcripts attached to this report).

It’s worth noting that once, Iran has been a center for training foreign residents and also a cancer treatment center for patients from the region, but sanctions has made the neighbor countries lose this opportunity (Dr. Aghili Interview transcripts attached to this report).

The condition of Asthma patients in Iran

Asthma as a disruptive disease which affects quality of life doesn’t have high mortality rate, but makes the patient unable to do his daily activities. About 250 thousand people lose their lives because of asthma annually. The exact reason is not clear, but this disease is a combination of inherent and genetic characteristics of the person (like allergies), which may outbreak due to the environmental elements (like smoking or viruses). The financial cost of this disease is equal to the overall costs of diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis and is in the same level with diabetes and Alzheimer.

According to immunology research center, 2010 asthma and allergy, the average prevalence of asthma in Iran is estimated 13 percent for children and 5-10 percent for adults. Actually, there are 7.5 million people with asthma. In the most polluted cities like Tehran, the level of this disease has been reported to be up to 35 percent.

Iran’s ministry of health has planned programs for prevention as well as confrontation with this disease, which one of its most important strategies is increasing public awareness and informing different groups of society, from healthy people to the authorities, about chronic respiratory diseases. Strategic and restricting plan of chronic respiratory diseases is also prepared in this line to be implemented in medical science universities. As Dr. Masoud Movahedi, director of Iranian Society for Asthma and Allergy, mentioned, with all of these efforts, due to different factors such as high amounts of contaminants in large cities, asthma is not under control yet.

If Asthma patients have no access to the medicines, they will spend a hard time, not having the opportunity of living a normal life or succeeding in their profession because of the respiratory difficulties. Some medicines are found in the market which many of them are mainly expired or their expiration date has been manipulated. For example, Floxitide is a medicine which has been omitted from the market and many patients do not respond to Beclomethasone and they have to use edible Prednisolone Tablets. These alternative medicines may develop some complications like osteoporosis or more serious ones like femur break and other complications.

The medicine has a similar low-quality Indian product which is ineffective or less-effective on some patients. As a result, these medicines maybe provided for a limited number of people through smuggling, passengers, and other unethical ways. The case of research team is Dr. Kamran Aghakhani, one of the prominent Iranian physicians, forensics specialist and faculty member of Iran University of Medical Sciences. Despite his extended relations, asthma sprays and other medicines are inaccessible for him as well. (Dr. Kamran Aghakhani Interview transcripts attached to this report)

On the other hand, unfortunately when it became apparent that these medicines are inaccessible in Iran, like many other medicines, similar counterfeit medicines were produced by some illegal Indian and Chinese companies and were imported through illegal ways and are now used by the patients which may follow irreparable complications.

Considering the prevalence rate and its lack of control in Iran, asthma medicines have been wiped out of the market and have disrupted lives of many patients in recent years. Though asthma is not a fatal disease like cancer, in addition to its effects on people’s lives, asthma mortality rate in Iran has been increasing which is a humanitarian crisis.

The asthma patients in Iran, considering their incurable disease, acknowledged that the issue of their disease should be noticed in international and humanitarian assemblies, and their access to medicines, and as a result a normal life, be provided in a way.  Apart from increase in medicine prices, most of the medicine centers believe that the lack of cooperation of foreign banks for transferring money is the major problem in medicine inaccessibility which is due to the sanctions against Iran’s banking system. Also, asthma specialists with their up-to-date knowledge prescribe new medicines which have been recently used in modern countries, but there is not a hope to access them in Iran.

These patients wish to have access to the medicines somehow, just like the people in other countries. Finally, as Dr Aghakhani stated, “Disease does not select the patient; poor and rich may become affected by the disease, but it is not proper that the patients’ access to treatment and medicine be selective and dependent to condition”.

The condition of M. S. patients in Iran

After accidents, M. S. is the most prevalent cause of disabilities among young people and no definite treatment for this disease has been discovered yet. But the existing medicine can decrease the attacks and disabilities resulting from this disease.

Development and exclusive signs are different in every patient and are not predictable. M.S. is appears after destruction of central neural tissues. Based on the place of destruction on the nervous system, it shows different signs, including impaired vision, blurred vision, impaired balance, tremor, lack of balance in walking, vertigo, weakness and torpidity in body, inability to do harmonic movements, frequent urination, urgent urination, impaired bladder emptying, urinary incontinence. In some patients the attack intervals maybe a year or it is possible to have an attack which is followed by continuous attacks.

M. S. is growing shockingly fast in Iran. The number of patients in Tehran has reached to 50 in every 100 thousands and in Isfahan are 73 in 100 thousands, which are similar to statistics of the European countries. Totally, the number of M. S. patients in Iran is 52.9 in every 100 thousands and there are 50 thousand patients currently in Iran. So Iran is among the countries with highest rate of M. S. prevalence. There are no exact statistics from M.S. patients in Iran, but with the mentioned estimations it seems that Iran is among the top ten countries with high numbers of M. S. patients. This disease appears in people between 20-40 years old. The great youth population of Iran is a reason for high rates of this disease in young people. Most of them are young women (twice or three times more than men). It is more prevalent among the educated people and even the physicians themselves (Sahraian, neurologist and director of scientific committee of M.S. society, international M.S. day)(Jamshid Lotfi, director of M.S. society in an interview with “Shargh”).

The research team had the opportunity for an interview with Dr. Mohammadali Sahraian, neurologist and director of scientific committee of M. S. society and asked about the patients’ problems. (Interview transcripts attached to this report)  He said that stress will increase the intensity of the disease and the number of attacks in M. S. patients. Stress and tension could be one of the factors which increases the number of M. S. patients in Iran.

Conditions of the society, especially the economic condition of people, intensely affect their normal lives and enforce a great deal of stress and tension on individuals. The daily deteriorating trend of these issues adds to the stress and tensions of these people and affects them in a negative way, and this trend may be one of the factors in growing number of M. S. patients.

M. S. is a disease that severely disrupts the patient’s life and enforces many problems. As a neurological disease, stress and tensions may intensely influence the number of attacks. In Iran, patients are affected by lack of medicines in two ways: First, the stress about the scarcity of medicines increases the number of attacks. Second, lack of medicine consumption for more than one or two months again increases the number of attacks.

M. S. makes the patient dependent to one type of medicine. Considering the lack of the European medicine, when the same medicine with the same producer was imported from Turkey with a Turkish label, its medical effectiveness on the patients had decreased severely. While Iran has the knowledge and ability, and produces 70 percent of the medicine, still the psychological non-acceptance of the Iranian medicines has made them less effective on the patients.

The same as other diseases, the most problematic issue is the increase in prices because of sanctions against banking system. Actually, the difficulties in money transfer have increased the prices very much or have completely wiped them out of the market. For example the German Methaferone was 900000 rials eight years ago, but gradually its price went up and suddenly it reached to 16000000 rials, which is unimaginable for its monthly consumption.

Rebif which has not the similar Iranian product has reached from 450000 to 6000000 rials for per month consumption, Tysabri costs 4000 USdollars per month, Avonex from 900000 to 10000000 and then suddenly reached to 20000000 rials.

Also, sanctions on banking system, high costs and the lack of primary ingredients of medicines, have increased the prices for the Iranian products too. Actually, the non-acceptance of money and inability to open LC are the major problems in scarcity of medicines. Banks and then companies do not accept the money.  The money transferred by patients or charity organizations has been blocked in Armenian and Azeri banks and patients cannot get the medicine even when they spend money. In the time of interview with Dr. Sahraian, for example Rebif was found in the market, but Avonex tablets and Methaferone were rare.

The condition of Dystonia and Parkinson’s patients

Dystonia is a neurological-dynamic disruption which results in repeated or long contractions in muscles. Dystonia often causes the appearance of unnatural and disabling movements. The main causes of this disease are hereditary and genetic, trauma and physical injuries, some kinds of infections, some medicine complications, oxygen shortage and injuries at the time of birth, and more than usual increase in bilirubin in the infancy period. Also some of the problems related to internal organs and skull may affect the outbreak of Dystonia.

Dystonia may appear local (for example, involuntary and continuous opening and closing of eyelid with several spasms, which prevents the proper movements of the eyes and eyelids and direct sight of the person) or as a generalized kind, is one the most disabling kinds of Dystonia. Because this disease involves all parts of the body including face, neck and spine, the patient’s appearance becomes unusual (Mrs. Jalili, Asie Karimi and Hosein Oroujzade) and walking becomes difficult too. Some of them (like Amoushahi, Rahimi, Jahed and Zamani) at first walk on their toes or the external edge of their feet and when they start walking their feet twist. They don’t have control over their muscles when they try to write; their fingers open and their hands tremble. These signs gradually increase, as in children the unnatural movements of neck toward a direction (like Faride Hamidinia), the continuous movement of head, spine and waist curve (Asie Karimi), involuntary gestures of mouth and uncontrollable movements of tongue (Hosein Oroujzade) causes speech and swallowing problems.

Dystonia is one of the diseases that almost show resistance against treatment. In the early stages, edible medicines, and sometimes botulism and Botox injection, maybe effective on temporary muscle paralysis. These toxicants have a temporary effect and after a while the human body produces antibodies and resists against them. New methods are based on stimulation of deep parts of brain. With electric stimulation of some deep parts of the brain through surgery and implanting electrode in it, it is possible to control patient’s movements, but this is a very professional surgery. This surgery which is one of the advanced surgeries is done in Iran and its costs are very low in comparison with the European countries. Dystonia is not a fatal disease, but it is paralyzing as the patients always has involuntary gestures, unusual way of walking and severe uncontrollable movements which makes usual daily activities impossible, and sometimes the patient has to sit on a wheelchair or on bed.

As mentioned before, Dystonia surgery is an advanced surgery, based on using high-tech instruments and equipments. Dr. Gholamali Shahidi is a neurologist with fellowship in movement disorder, doing the related surgeries from 2005. In an interview of research team with Dr. Shahidi, the problems and issues of these patients were examined. (Interview transcripts attached to this report) They have done 128 surgeries with good results, similar to the European surgeries, which 26 of them had been Dystonia. Contrary to the other countries, most of these patients are young. So this treatment improves their quality of life and returns them to the normal social life.

Pacemaker battery which makes electric pulses works between 1.5-5 years, depending to the kind of disease and should be replaced by a new one when it is necessary. Otherwise, if the battery finishes suddenly, it returns the patient to a condition worse than before and it is even possible that the patient faces medical risks, including dystonic storm and death. The battery is produced by the American company of Metronix exclusively. In many cases there were problems of importation due to its exclusiveness and they didn’t easily extend its license for the representative company. On the other hand, increase in dollar price from 650 to 900 tomans because of sanctions, and after sanctions against oil industry and banking system from 1226 to 3100, made this battery very expensive. It reached from 13 million tomans to 54 million tomans. This high price is not affordable for many patients. In addition, after sanctions against banking system, the problems of money transfer practically has made it impossible to purchase new batteries. The patients have to wait for example three months. When the capacity of the battery reaches 2 percent, it is a life-threatening condition for the patient. Many patients turn to doctors to adjust their batteries on low consumption; thus increasing the involuntary movements, to keep the battery alive until they could replace it.

Many cases were introduced to the research team. For example, Dr, Hasan Farjak, a 60 years old professional, an educated man with a PhD and an active lifestyle, or Mr. Zolfagharlou a 40 years old lawyer who had to decrease his battery consumption to 50 percent until he finds a new battery and now has lost his ability for normal daily activities. Mohammad lived in a village and he had come late to change his battery and died three months after his battery was discharged. Roya Jahed was living with 52 pills when she was 15 and now has a normal life after surgery. She is married now and is doing her genetic tests before pregnancy. Zamani, Masoudi, Koosha Khoshghadam, Farshad and many others are worried about their batteries now.

The issue of medicine:

The Iranian economy is heavily dependent on crude oil export; in fact Iran derives 80% of its hard currency from crude oil export. After the intensive sanctions imposed on Iranian oil export, Iran’s ability to provide basic goods for its citizens was severely limited. Further sanctions on cargo shipment and shipping insurance limited the government’s ability to provide humanitarian goods such as medicine and medical equipment. The global sanctions targeting Iranian banking system and money transaction effectively influenced the entire economy and import\export processes of the country.

Although none of the sanctions imposed against the Iranian government directly ban export of humanitarian goods such as pharmaceuticals to this country, their indirect devastating effect on the healthcare, welfare and access of ordinary people to these services is notable.

Iranian drug manufacturers’ issues:

The main concerns of the Iranian manufacturing companies are:

  • Acquiring the currency needed to purchase bulk material as the value of the Rial fell dramatically during the last 2 years.
  • Opening accounts in the foreign country for purchasing process.
  • And finding a way to sidestep sanctions and import products to Iran, despite insurance and cargo sanctions.

Each part of the process is costly, time consuming and uncertain. Every day with the imposing of new sanctions, companies find it harder to work and indeed the quality of medications are questionable as the manager at Abidi pharmaceuticals said in an interview (transcripts attached to this report ) with the research team, “sometimes pharmaceutical product’s transfer and shipment is delayed up to 8 months, this not only poses a drug shortage but certainly affects the drug’s quality which hadn’t been stored in an ideal condition”. Therefore sanctions have cut off manufacturer’s access to key pharmaceutical and medical supplies and have made it difficult to import key materials for manufacturing pharmaceuticals which comprises 90 percent of Iran’s pharmaceutical market.

Whenever importation of a kind of bulk material was restricted from western sources, manufactures shifted to Indian or Chinese sources, although this procedure was costly and time consuming due to paper work, legal issues and the need to repeat quality control tests and stability tests to determine the products’ quality, but manufactures at the end were able to partially retain their pre-sanctions production rates. This nevertheless was at the cost of decline in overall quality since alternative sources are generally less qualified and partially have unknown side effects.

About the medicine production, Dr. Namazi said that the low-quality primary sources need purification and also processing devices which cannot be imported due to their dual usage in nuclear issues, except through smuggling the pieces separately to the country. And then there are maintenance problems and if the device breaks down and need repair, there would be problems with the manufacturer company.

By banning and sanctioning main roots of import or at least making it extensively difficult, the foreign companies or entities reasonably lose their interest to deal with Iran. The international community has opened the door for illegal smuggling of medicines. “Opportunists are taking advantage of the public’s vulnerability in the time of medicine shortage”, mentioned the manager at Abidi pharmaceuticals in an interview with the research team. Many patients refer to black market to buy vital medicines, sometimes at prices 3 times higher than the original price. For many years Naserkhosro Street (the hub of illegal drug dealers) had been quiet and empty; nowadays it’s crowded with illegal drug dealers. These medicines are of unknown by origins, haven’t been stored properly and might be actually counterfeit.

“Although US law technically exempts food and medicine from sanctions in order to minimize the impact on civilians, the increasing implementation of financial sanctions has discouraged exporters from shipping to Iran, because they face problems getting paid, due to barring of money transaction and additional banning of insuring shipments to Iran, and because the U.S. Treasury Department’s licensing requirements are too time consuming and complicated,” Said, dean of faculty of pharmacy at Tehran University of Medical Sciences. (Interview transcripts attached to this report). Most of vital medicines like chemotherapy medicines, medicines for treatment of Thalassemia and other blood complications such as anti-bleeding medicines for hemophilia and immunosuppressive medicines for patients undergoing transplant surgeries are manufactured by western companies. The sanctions, although put some relief for importing medicines from China and India which are very strict regarding importations from western countries, this has led to many miseries and loss of lives.

Data from June 2012 until September 2012, shows an average monthly shortage of 83 drugs, but from October 2012 the number of drug shortages dramatically rises from September 2012 until June 2013, when the average drug shortages was 144. There is a significant gap between the shortage of imported drugs and manufactured drugs in Iran. (Data is provide in the attachments)

The data obtained contains total number of calls made to 1490, in a period of four months, from 21 March to 23 July 2013. This data clearly shows how in a period of time a drug’s accessibility has declined.

Warfarin sodium (anti-blood clot) is a good example; in the first month (21 Mar -20 Apr) the number of calls made to check warfarin’s availability was zero, the second month (21 Apr. -21 May) the number of calls was only 2 and was successfully guided to the nearest pharmacy. But in the third month (22 May-21 June) the number of calls dramatically increases to 790 calls and in the fourth month (22 June-23 July) the number of calls reaches to 1701 calls. This irrespective of whether 1490 hotline was able to direct callers to a pharmacy shows that patients couldn’t simply find the drug needed by reaching a regular pharmacy and had to call 1490 for help. Data shows that 27% of the callers in the 3rd month and 30 percent of callers in the 4th month, faced the shortage and they couldn’t access the drug, respectively.

Methohexal (cardiovascular), for the 4 months above, Methohexal had a very low accessibility and an average of 77% of the calling patients were faced with the drug shortage and only 23% of the callers were guided to a pharmacy which could help them.

1296 kind of drugs were unavailable and the patients tried to access them by calling 1490. There are several vital drugs among them which their shortage endangers the health of the patients and even may cost their life. The data contains number of phone calls which 1490 failed to help them simply because of the lack of drugs in the country. These numbers are shown under “Failed Calls” column.

In following charts some statistics are given which are related to the drugs used to cure or help patients suffering diseases discussed in the previous section. The research is not focusing on the soaring prices of the drugs. Many of these are expensive drugs due to the declining state of Iranian economy -in part a result of sanctions- but it’s worth mentioning that even if patients somehow gain access to these drugs, very few can actually buy them.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) No. of calls
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) treatment Extavia 385
  Betaferon 1233
  Cinnovex 109
  Avonex 172

 

Drug Classification

Drug(Generic/Brand)

Failed calls

Contrast media

(Essential for radiological examination, are used to visualize vessels and tissues in radiography and CT imaging. Diagnosis of fatal complications are impossible without them.)

Visipaque

1760

Iodixanol

180

Omnipaque

1077

Ultravist

955

Iopromide

105

Scanlux

235

Iohexol

106

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
 Anticancer chemotherapy

(Shortage in chemotherapy drugs is very worrisome since lack of receiving a proper chemotherapy treatment in time, would possibly endanger a patient’s life.)

Flutamide 895
Flutamid 299
Remicade 804
Diferelin 520
Diphereline 202
Diferlin 494
Microrelin 246
Decapeptyl 232
Erbitux 599
Chlormbucil 336
Xeloda 148
Zeloda 102
Leukeran 225
Infliximab 203
Zometa 189
Thalidomide 183
Nexavar 171
Bcg 182

 

 

There are also other drugs. The director of Iran’s hemophilia society introduced cases like Manouchehr Esmaili-Liousi, a 15 years old teenager from tribes near the city of Dezful. He suffered from hemophilia and died on 14 November 2012 in hospital after his family failed to find the vital drug he needed to stop the bleeding. Or Taha Mahdi Hatamibabanari, a 4 years old hemophilic boy who died of bleeding caused by an injury. The necessary medicine could not be found while his parents and the hospital could not reach any due to shortage of access to hemophilia medicines. He stated that in the last two years the patients’ accessibility to antihemophilic drugs have declined to one third, compared to the past years. Patients face high emotional stress every day not being able to find their medication. In the last two years, major hospitals in Iran many times completely lacked antihemophilic drugs and many affected children are suffering as a result.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls

Hemophilia, vonwillebrand’s disease, diabetesbinsipidus

Minirin

179

 

About the Thalassemia patients, Dr. Arasteh noted that because of the difficulties resulting from sanctions on importing drugs and bulk materials for thalassemia drugs, the supply chain has been disrupted and patients are facing many adversaries, including diabetes, heart disease, skeletal problems, and liver problems.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Chelator Desferal 115

 

Some 20.000 Organ transplant patients are at risk currently. These patients have to permanently take immune suppressant drugs in order to prevent organ rejection. These patients might suffer organ rejection or even die if they miss even one dose of their drug.

Their drugs have become tremendously expensive and rare patients have to spent days searching for their prescription drugs. The table below shows the amount of callers faced with drug shortage.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Transplant Cellcept 274

 

Another vital drug is warfarin (anti blood clot). It prevents strokes and heart attacks due to thromboembolism, but in recent months its shortage has made so much panic for the patients and their families. The table below shows in a span of four months, the number of patients who weren’t able to access their drugs after calling 1490.

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Anticoagulant Warfarin sodium 716

 

There are other drug classifications which the major ones are provided here, extracted from the data.

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antiasthma Symbicort 398
  Seroflo 171
  Seretide 1368
  Salmeterol 108

 

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antidysrhythmic Flecainide 242
  Flecainide acetate 233
  Sotahexal 139

 

 

 

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antidiabetes Metohexal 491

 

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Volume expander Albumin 144

 

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Anticonvulsant Valproate sodium 212
  Depakine 149
  Orlept 124
  Tegretol 144

 

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Adhd treatment Ritalin 684

 

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Pregnancy termination Misoprostol 601

 

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antiparkinson agent Madopar 2356
  Levodopa 185
  Levodopa/benserazide 151

 

 

 

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Alzheimer’s disease treatment Galantamine 353
  Reminyl 166

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antimalarial Pyrimethamine 164

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antidepressant Asentra 436
  Zoloft 382
  Sertraline 137
  Doneurin 141

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Antiviral Ganciclovir 345
  Tenofovir 228
  Tenobiovir 146

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
Infertility treatment Hcg 1067
  Cetrotide 191
  Cetrorelix acetate 132

 

Drug Classification Drug(Generic/Brand) Failed calls
 vaccine Gardasil 119
  Bcg 182

There are two tables here, showing the comparative data of drug shortage in a period of 15 days in the years 2012 and 2013. Significant rise in number of drugs shortage comparing the exact dates from two years shows that during last year the situation has exacerbated and will continue if no solution is considered.

Conclusion

It should be noted that the represented study and report is depicting a small part of the disaster occurring in Iran. During the study, many problems and issues in the field of treatment and medicine were discussed which there was not enough time to cover all of them. According to Dr. Namazi, a medical ethics specialist, there are many problems in healthcare field, including X-ray, access to radioactive medicines used in different types of CT scan and MRI, anesthetic medicine used in usual surgeries, lack of laboratory kits which make them to send a blood sample or urine sample to Turkey for a simple test.

The effects of sanctions on medicines have other dimensions too, for example undesirable effects on human food. For instance, the lack of bestial medicines leads to the prevalence of bestial diseases which affects humans too. As a result, more antibiotics are used to prevent the diseases, which severely have increased harmful antibiotics dosage in the bodies of Iranian people.

Clearly, with changing direction of sanctions, they are practically targeting the Iranian people. Also, sanctions against insurance and shipment are not just aimed at the government or political structure anymore. And these are civilians who have lost their primary access to the necessities such as treatments and medicines, and thus engaged in a life-threatening situation.

Financial isolation of people entirely for the political structure and politics, which is endangering their lives, is neither rational nor fair. It seems that political objectives and the existing problems between the governments have been preferred over the basic human rights and had influenced them.

Currently, the equipment and devices of treatment, medicines and other basic needs are under sanctions too, the same as automobile industry equipment or the sale of petroleum products, though apparently it is not like this. Actually, the medical equipment are not under sanctions, but it is sanctions on banking system that has made them difficult to be imported. And the only objective of this sanction is damaging people.

These sanctions have violated human rights in different ways and different public dimensions. When the rights of many people is violated it means that “the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being” as stated in the article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also “the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health” as stated in Article 12 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights are violated too. Also, the rights of children and women as stated in article 24 of “Convention on the Rights of the Child”, and article 12 and 14 of “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” is violated too. It is the same for different ethnicities living in Iran, including Persians, Turks, Azeris, Kurds, natives of Luristan, Arabs, Baluchis and other ethnicities, as stated in article 5 of “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”; and for disabled people as stated in article 25 of  “Final report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities” as well. Now there are many people with different races and ethnicities in every part of this country struggling over their lives. This is a silent, continuous and hidden genocide.

Sanctions should be revised. With the high population in this century, sanction is a very unjust way of putting pressure on governments, because they trample rights of people. At least, sanctions should be devised purposefully under observation of Human Rights Organization, unless they are not fair.

We hope that after this report and representing a small part of what is happening in Iran, the aware conscience of gentle minds do something in this direction to prevent from a disaster. There should be at least a way to provide the basic needs of people.

‘Disappearing Palestine’ vs. “Jewish Loss of Land”

October 18th, 2013 by Global Research News

Marty Roth

(Image: StandWithUs)

 

The response ads were put up by a group called StandWithUs which bills itself as “supporting Israel around the world.” The organization had previously countered pro-Palestinian advertising in Denver, Houston, Helena, Missoula and elsewhere. “A combination of anti-Israel groups pretend to be pro-Palestinian,” StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein said. “The bottom line is they don’t want an Israel. They want Israel to be gone.”

 

Palestinian Wall ad

 

The original Vancouver ads were designed and paid for by seven actual local pro-Palestinian groups: Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign, Building Bridges, Canada Palestine Association, Canada Palestine Support Network, Independent Jewish Voices, Seriously Free Speech and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, later joined by a national Canadian organization, Canadian Friends of Sabeel / Near East Cultural & Educational Foundation.

I am a member of IJV-Vancouver, and I believe that our design was as territorially accurate as it could be, given the graphic streamlining of advertising. A professor of political science at the University of British Columbia stated that the ads simply showed “statements of fact,” but his name, Hani Faris,  got him disqualified as an expert by a writer in the Jewish Independent (We wondered if we could work the same magic on Alan Dershowitz sometime ). Our design was pretty straightforward: a graphic illustration of statements like the following:

In over 60 years, around 700 Jewish communities have been established in Israel’s pre-1967 borders–but just seven for Arab citizens (and those were built in the Negev for “concentrating” the Bedouin population). The average Palestinian community inside Israel has lost up to 75% of its land since 1948, while a quarter of all Palestinian citizens are internally displaced, their property confiscated for use by the state and Jewish towns” (Ben White, The New Statesman, February, 2005).

The lands in question were actually not taken over in the name of the state, since this could be construed as illegal confiscation, but handed over in trust to the Jewish National Fund for state and individual Jewish use. We thought this obvious fact might still be a new and alarming piece of information for many in our intended Canadian audience. Similar graphics exist by the hundreds on the Internet and have been the basis of billboard and transit advertising at many US sites. This very graphic is used by Wikipedia to illustrate its article on Palestine.

The response ads were quite unhinged: the first panel shows a sprawling mass of territory identified as the “Ancient Jewish Kingdom” of 1000 BCE, while the second shows a territory easily three times as large as the present state, identified as the “Jewish Homeland” of 1920, i.e. all of British-controlled Mandate Palestine (regardless of the actual minuscule Jewish population). The third panel shows the present State of Israel with Gaza and the West Bank identified as “disputed territories”–a breathtaking act of geopolitical chutzpah.

The nature of a coalition is such that it erases all sharp extremes, so we naively thought that we had advanced a non-controversial statement of fact designed to educate the Canadian public: the land had disappeared, and we didn’t even blame any entity for its disappearance. But the response told us we had done something despicable and devastating. The backlash was vicious, and hysterical–as it so often is–quite out of keeping with the “provocation.” The response came, not from the Jewish community, but only from that bullying sector that always responds fiercely to any criticism of Israeli policy. In a curious way, the ferocity of the pro-Israel response guaranteed the success of our campaign better than anything we could have done ourselves. (The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) even wrote, “Countering these ads in the public domain (on buses, for example) would only raise the profile and lend credibility to these marginal groups,” to solace their supporters.

We couldn’t be called self-hating Jews, since only one of the groups was Jewish, but we were nonetheless accused of wanting to destroy the state of Israel, and we had timed the ads so that they would appear over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In fact we had no control over the timing, but as my wife Martha pointed out, the interval between the two holy days is traditionally a time for reflection and repentance.

Mitchell Gropper, chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, called the ads a provocative attack on Jewish people that would incite hatred. “This is of grave concern to our community at large, because the ads make the use of the buses unwelcome and unsafe,” Gropper continued, linking it with terrorist attacks in Israel that often target buses. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto agreed that TransLink was running ads “that are provocative and incite hatred and contempt.” Stephen Schachter, the co-chair for CIJA, told us that there were  “members of the Jewish community who say they are not going to use transit and are very concerned about safety issues as a result of this kind of advertising,” a motif that was elaborated on by an op-ed writer in the Vancouver Sun:  “I can’t imagine the anxiety of a Jewish parent, with no other transportation option, sending their child off to school wearing a yarmulke on a bus featuring these ads. I’m worried that these ads could, at any time, provoke an unbalanced or even just ill-informed person to lash out verbally or physically.”

It was just the right emotional context for unconscious betrayals: we were accused of wanting to wipe out the state of Israel when we were claiming that that was almost precisely what Israel had already done to Palestinian territory. It was a trenchant instance of an old Hebrew adage that says “The accuser accuses himself.” And the B’nai Brith Canada hinted at indecent exposure in the typo in the title of their article:  “Exposé: Whose Behind Anti-Israel Ads in Vancouver.”

Liana Shlien of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies told us that Palestinian land could not be disappearing because, “In truth, an official state of Palestine had never existed, while Jewish contiguous presence on the land is a record of fact.” And others lathered on the same stock distortions and misstatements that are regularly used to silence criticism of Israel. To all of which we could only repeat that Palestine is universally understood as the name of a geographical region in southwest Asia on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, inhabited for centuries, and without interruption, by a people known as the Palestinians who are of different faiths: Muslim, Christian and Jewish; and who assumed a predominantly Palestinian Arab culture in the seventh century. All of these elements, Palestinian land ownership, the indigenous people of the land and the indigenous culture, are disappearing, as our four maps show. To say or imply that these things cannot be disappearing because the boundaries of a Palestinian state have not yet been set by an occupying power and a subject population is the sheerest casuistry.

A subsequent donation allowed us to keep the wall mural up for an extra month, and our opponents then changed tactics: tearing down the ads three times, immediately after we had them put up again. We assume it was our opponents (or some small subset of them); we couldn’t imagine ordinary criminals taking such offense at our images.

We are thinking about what to do next, but our efforts will continue.

Introduction

            US and world political and economic leaders are faced with what they describe as a ‘systemic catastrophe’:  the inability to pay global creditors, including domestic and foreign banks, investors and governments, who hold $16.7 trillion in US Treasury notes.  There is a related crisis: the government cannot secure passage of a budget to finance its military and civilian agencies and activities, including large-scale payments to military contractors, the financing of business, agriculture and banking operations and social programs.  The raising of the debt-ceiling is central to the functioning of the financial ruling class as it extracts hundreds of billions of tax dollars in interest payments from the US Treasury.  Raising the debt ceiling allows the State to keep borrowing and pay its billionaire creditors.  In turn, as long as the US Treasury has liquidity, it remains a ‘safe haven’ for investors thus providing guaranteed profits.  In addition, as long as the dollar remains the principle currency for global transactions, it allows the US Treasury to print money at will and to borrow at a lower cost – at the expense of its competitors and adversaries.

             Financing the budget deficit requires borrowing, which involves the sale hundreds of billions of dollars worth of US government bonds through Wall Street – but at a cost to the taxpayer.  The common denominator is that the entire edifice of finance capital and all of its support structures depend on debt financing by the State.  By borrowing and then taxing its citizens the Treasury extracts wealth from the vast majority of Americans.

            To understand the fight to raise the debt ceiling and to pass a deficit budget it is necessary to analyze the long-term, large-scale sources of State debt.

Imperial Wars, the Ascendancy of Finance Capital and the Debt Crisis

            The ever-increasing debt and the constant raising of the debt ceiling is a result of long-term, large-scale military spending to build the US Empire.  The imperial enterprise has generated a huge deficit:  the cost/benefit ratio has been overwhelmingly negative.  Contrary to militarist propaganda, the empire has not been ‘self-financing’:  Wars and occupation in Iraq , Afghanistan and elsewhere have cost the US taxpayers trillions of dollars, not off-set by incoming imperial plunder or domestic economic expansion.

            Parallel to the cost of wars and occupations, the rise of finance capital has largely resulted from the pillage of the US Treasury.  Huge bailouts, low interest loans, large-scale interest payments on bonds, subsidies and tax exemptions have created a financial ruling class based on maintaining a debt-laden, interest-paying State, which meets its obligations to the creditors while it privatizes (and eliminates) social programs.  The result is a ‘poor indebted State’ and a rich and prosperous Wall Street.  Wall Street stands to gain trillions with the privatization of the multi-billion dollar health (Medicare) and retirement plans (Social Security): this will form an integral component of the “Grand Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling.

Who are the Beneficiaries of Raising the Debt Ceiling?

            The principle and immediate beneficiaries of increasing the debt ceiling are the wealthy, bond-holders and the medium and long-term beneficiaries are the military-intelligence-empire-builders who can continue to secure over $700 billion in annual budget allocations.  The principle strategic losers from raising the debt ceiling will be the hundreds of millions of beneficiaries of social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and their family members.  As part of the ‘Grand Bargain’ struck by the Democratic President and Republican Congress – between $1.3 trillion and $1.4 trillion in social cuts will take effect over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  The cuts in Social Security will occur by raising the age of eligibility for full benefits to 70 years, resulting in a loss of $120 billion, as many older retired workers would be expected to die before drawing a single payment while millions of Americans  will be forced to delay retirement and work an extra five years.

Secondly, the earliest age of eligibility for partial benefits will increase from 62 to 64 years – resulting in an additional loss of $144 billion dollars from workers.

Thirdly, the cost of living index would be reduced – a ten- year loss of $112 billion dollars.

Fourthly, the calculation for initial benefits would discard the wage-based method for a so-called “price-index”, resulting in American workers losing another $137 billion dollars over 10 years.  In sum, workers’ social security benefits would be reduced by more than half a trillion dollars – an enormous transfer of wealth to the billionaire creditors, investors and empire builders – all in the name of ‘debt reduction’.

The cuts in MEDICARE and MEDICAID would result in an even more retrograde class polarization.  The ‘Grand Bargain’ could lead to additional losses of over $419 billion dollars.

The biggest cost to the workers will come in the form of an increase in their  monthly premium  for physician services (MEDICARE Part B) from the current 25%  to 35%, resulting in a loss of $241 billion dollars.  The second biggest loss to workers will result from raising the age of eligibility for MEDICARE from 65 to 67 years costing workers an additional S125 billion dollars.  The third loss for workers will be a $53 billion hit  from restricting the use of MEDIGAP insurance – supplementary policies that cover MEDICARE cost sharing requirements.

Further cuts of $187 billion in MEDICAID– the medical plan for the poor and disabled– would result when the federal government shifts its direct funding to block grants to the states that would severely cut services for the poor – a plan first proposed during the Clinton Administration with regard to welfare funding.

Once these reactionary cuts in basic social programs are in place, the beneficiaries, who are able, will be forced to buy alternative supplementary private medical insurance and private retirement plans, while the poor will go without.  The running down of public social services by Wall Street has been a deliberate, cynical strategy to cause popular discontent paving the way for the gradual privatization of services: adding costs, eliminating options and limiting medical treatment, surgery and procedures, especially for the elderly.  The privatization of Social Security, MEDICARE and MEDICAID, will maximize insecurity while minimizing services and lead to untreated and under-treated illness, greater suffering and economic distress.  Bi-partisan Congressional –White House agreements via the “Great Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling will widen and deepen inequalities in the United States .

In sum, “the Grand Bargain” will cause American workers to lose over $1.119 trillion dollars over the next 10 years, leading to a sharp decline in life expectancy, access to health care, living standards and quality of life.

The Samson Solution

            Given the harsh terms, which accompany the “Grand Bargain” to raise the debt ceiling, it would be better if no agreement were reached.  The financial elite is counting on the ‘Grand Bargain’ to leverage their debt collection over the lives and welfare of hundreds of millions of Americans.  It would be better to shake the pillars and pull down this Temple of Mammon (the ‘Samson Solution’) making them pay a price!

            The ‘shock and awe’ induced by default would shake the very foundations of the financial pillage of the US Treasury and the taxpayers; default would seriously undermine the financial basis for imperial wars, spying, torture and death squads.  The entire empire building project would crumble.

            True, in the short-run, the workers and middle class would also suffer from a default.  But the discredit of the ruling political parties, the political elite and Wall Street, could lead to a new political alignment, which would fund social programs by, in David Stockman’s phrase, “soaking the rich” – raising corporate taxes by 50%, imposing a financial transaction tax of 5%, uncapping the social security tax and collecting taxes on overseas US multi-nationals’ profits.  Additional billions would be saved by ending imperial wars, closing bases and canceling military contracts.  Tax reform, imperial dismantlement and increased domestic investment in productive activity would generate domestic growth leading to a budget surplus, extending MEDICARE to all Americans, reducing the age of retirement to 62 and providing a living wage for all workers!

The Post’s report, “Documents reveal NSA’s extensive involvement in targeted killing program,” testifies to the integration of the surveillance apparatus exposed in recent months into US imperialism’s global military operations. Officials cited by the Post said that the NSA has deployed analysts to work along side Central Intelligence Agency personnel at the CIA Counterterrorism Center and at “every major US embassy or military base overseas.”

The report further documents the NSA’s systematic attempts to overcome encryption, including the extraction of PGP encryption keys from targets. The agency reportedly was able to capture 16 keys from a single electronic raid on a suspected Al Qaeda computer.

According to the report, the NSA’s “Tailored Access Operations,” a cyber-warfare and intelligence gathering program, conducts surveillance of targets in Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Iran, and throughout Africa. TAO runs programs such as UNITEDRAKE and VALIDATOR, which launch cyber attacks using “software implants” to grab sensitive data such as keystroke logs and audio files.

ArsTechnica reported in August that advanced software used by TAO enables operatives to tap directly into hardware such as “routers, switches and firewalls,” and that TAO’s activities are integrated into data systems such as XKeyscore.

Information gathered by the NSA has been used in particular in the course of the CIA’s drone war in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan. As summarized by the Post, the NSA has “draped a surveillance blanket over dozens of square miles of northwest Pakistan.” One US intelligence official told the Post, “NSA threw the kitchen sink at the FATA.” To date, at least 3,000 people have been killed as a result of US drone operations in Pakistan, including hundreds of civilians.

Both the NSA surveillance and the policy of drone war that it facilitates are criminal operations, carried out in violation of international law. The Obama administration asserts the right to kill anyone in the world without due process, including US citizens, in violation of the Bill of Rights. Among those killed have been US citizens including Anwar al-Awlaki and his teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in Yemen.

A full accounting of the Pakistanis murdered by US drones may never be completed. However, a study published by Stanford University and New York University earlier this year showed that large sections of the population living in the FATA suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the buzzing of drones overhead and the never-ending barrage of ordnance raining down on the area.

UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights Ben Emmerson wrote in March of this year, “As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent, and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”

The Post described the leaked NSA documents as “self-congratulatory in tone” and “drafted to tout the NSA’s counterterrorism capabilities.” According to Fox News, the Post withheld substantial information about the drone strikes “at the request of US intelligence officials.”

The Post report highlights the case of Hassan Ghul, who was killed as a direct result of intelligence acquired through electronic surveillance operations run by the NSA. After his capture in 2004, Ghul was held at a secret CIA prison in Eastern Europe until 2006, where he was subject to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture), including slapping, sleep deprivation, and stress positions.

In 2006, Ghul was transferred to Pakistan, where he was released and rejoined Al Qaeda militants in Waziristan. Ghul worked to set up logistical networks for Al Qaeda after being freed, according to a Treasury Department document from 2011. No explanation has been offered by US or Pakistani authorities for Ghul’s release.

Ghul was then killed in 2012 by a drone strike in Mir Ali, after having been monitored for a year prior to his death by a secret NSA unit called the Counter-Terrorism Mission Aligned Cell (CT MAC), which specializes in finding high priority targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Ghul’s location was discovered through analysis of an email sent to him by his wife. His death was never officially acknowledged by the US government, despite the fact that his interrogation supposedly provided intelligence about an Al Qaeda courier named al-Kuwaiti, which supposedly led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The scope of the integration of the NSA, CIA, military and police agencies extends far beyond what is taking place in Pakistan. The entire world is the subject both of the intelligence-gathering operations of the NSA and the drone strikes of the CIA.

Under the Obama administration, the NSA’s surveillance operations gather the communications of every telephone and Internet user on the planet, US citizens and non-citizens alike. This week has already seen new evidence emerge that the NSA is stealing address books—which often contain large amounts of personal information—from various web platforms and storing them in its archives. (See “ NSA ‘harvesting’ electronic address books and contact lists”)

The possibility of strikes being launched against American targets has been raised by top officials, and drones are already deployed on non-strike missions over the US. In a letter of March 4, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the president “has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial,” saying that in certain cases such action would be “necessary and appropriate.”

If and when such operations are initiated, the state will have no shortage of data with which to target Americans, whose communications are subject to constant scrutiny by the surveillance apparatus.

Beltway theatrics don’t surprise.

Late Wednesday, 16 days of government shutdown ended. Denouement came with a whimper, not a bang.

The Senate approved reopening government 81 – 18. The House followed suit 285 – 144. Obama signed the measure shortly after midnight.

HR 2775: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 authorizes funding through January 15. It raises the debt ceiling through February 7.

It maintains $986.3 billion for five appropriation bills. It includes other unreported provisions. It’s standard Washington sausage-making. It makes the real thing look good by comparison.

Section 122 “(e)xtends authority for activities to counter Lord’s Resistance Army” activities. It’s a Ugandan guerrilla force. It’s waging low intensity war against repressive governance.

Section 123 “Extends authorization for construction of Olmsted Locks and Dams included within the President’s FY 14 budget request, FY 14 House-passed and Senate-reported Energy and Water Appropriations bills and similar to language included in the Water Resources Development Act.”

Doing so earmarks about $3 billion for Kentucky. It’s Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state. Critics call it the “McConnell Kickback.”

They do so for good reason. He and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. NV) agreed on legislative terms. A few billion for constituents is common Capitol Hill practice. Doing so reflects business as usual.

Section 126 provides $26 million in judiciary funding. Other sections provide additional funding for Interior Department and Forest Service firefighting.

Section 146 provides Senator Frank Lautenberg’s widow a $174,000 gratuity. Numerous other sections include other add-ons.

Note: Five versions of HR 2775 were introduced:

“1. To condition the provision of premium and cost-sharing subsidies under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act upon a certification (to) program to verify household income… (Introduced in House).

2. No Subsidies Without Verification Act (Engrossed in House) (Passed House).

 3. No Subsidies Without Verification Act (Placed on Calendar Senate – PCS).

4. Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 (Engrossed Amendment Senate – EAS).

(5) Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014 (Enrolled Bill) (Passed House and Senate).”

In three months, high drama repeats. On Thursday, federal employees went back to work.

 Shutdown theatrics left America more than ever discredited. Brinksmanship masked what’s going on.

 Real crisis conditions persist. They aren’t addressed. Venal politicians ignore them. So do media scoundrels.

Poverty, real unemployment, underemployment, hunger, homelessness, and overall deprivation persists at Depression era levels.

America is permanently at war. Imperial direct and proxy ones rage out-of-control. New conflicts are planned.

Police state harshness targets whistleblowers, journalists who report their disclosures, and other right over wrong defenders.

Industrial America is being hollowed out. It’s disappearing in plain sight. Offshoring high pay/good benefit jobs lowers household income. It reduces US tax revenue. It erodes economic growth.

It continues America’s decline. Out-of-control militarism, police state harshness, and corporate favoritism bear full responsibility for today’s deficit.

It approaches $17 trillion. It’s nearly $54,000 for every US citizen. It’s impossible to repay. Fed money printing madness masks a growing debt crisis.

Creating a trillion dollars annually out of thin air debases the currency. It’s the basis of dollar hegemony. It’s why China urges de-Americanizing.

It wants a new world order. It wants out from under beltway banditry. It’s tired of US perniciousness. It wants an entirely new financial architecture. It’s not alone.

According to Paul Craig Roberts, America’s economy isn’t “salvageable in its present form.” It’s too far gone to be fixed.

Collapse “seems the most likely forecast,” he says. Perhaps rebuilding from ruins will change things, he hopes. Not without entirely changing America’s political process.

 Duopoly power subverts responsible governance. It bears full responsibility for crisis conditions. Rogues, crooks and morons run America.

They’re suffocating it. They’re hollowing it out. They’re destroying it. They’re doing it for power, self-enrichment and other benefits they enjoy. They’re doing it at the expense of ordinary Americans.

They’re ruthlessly exploited. The worst is yet to come. What’s emerging is similar to what happened in August 2011 and December 2012.

The debt ceiling was increased in exchange for a $1 trillion in social spending cuts. Another $1.2 trillion in sequestered ones became effective January 2013.

Around $4 trillion of Bush’s $4.6 trillion tax cuts were permanently extended. Bipartisan duplicity agreed on $6.2 trillion irresponsibly. Rich elites benefitted hugely. They did so at the expense of ordinary Americans.

Bipartisan double-dealing intends more massive social spending cuts on top of earlier ones.

At the same time, expect generous corporate tax cuts. They’re agreed on. They’re not discussed. Enacting them under the radar is planned. Don’t expect major media headlines explaining them.

The difference between now and earlier will be enacting more of what corporate America wants. In exchange, the debt ceiling will be increased.

A political armistice will persist through November 2014 mid-term elections. Business as usual will continue.

Cutting Obamacare was a ruse. It was smoke and mirrors. It was red meat rhetoric for Tea Party conservatives. It was never part of resolving things.

Both parties are in lockstep on massive social spending cuts. Details and timing alone separate them. Social Security and Medicare are prime targets.

 They’re erroneously called entitlements. They’re insurance programs. They’re funded by worker/employer payroll tax deductions.

They’re contractual federal obligations. They’re for eligible recipients who qualify. Targeting them reflects grand theft.

Robbing poor Peter to benefit rich Paul is official bipartisan policy. Obama’s as hardline as most Republicans. Public squabbles mask double-dealing complicity.

Social America is being destroyed in plain sight. It’s on the chopping block for elimination. Disadvantaged households are out of luck. So are seniors and retirees.

Washington reform is deform. Neoliberal force-fed austerity reflects it. America is the world’s richest country. It isn’t broke. It misallocates its resources.

Expect much greater misallocation ahead. It’ll be phased in incrementally. It’ll hammer ordinary Americans hugely. They’ll be increasingly on their own.

Millions will be entirely out of luck. A decade from now or earlier, New Deal/Great Society benefits no longer will exist. Dark age harshness will replace them.

 Wall Street crooks demand it. Whatever they want they get. Ripping off ordinary Americans benefits them hugely. Market manipulation lets them use added riches to make more of them.

 The dirty game continues. Grand theft America is policy. Venal politicians are in league with corporate crooks.

The more they get, the more they want, the more political Washington obliges. Brinkmanship theatrics mask it. Public pain is real.

Media scoundrels don’t explain. They support business as usual. They’re in lockstep with what demands condemnation.

Union bosses are just as duplicitous. No one represents Main Street. Ordinary Americans are increasingly on their own sink or swim. Harder than ever hard times loom.

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

His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

http://www.dailycensored.com/washington-brinksmanship-resolution/

By Kim Bo-geun, director of the Hankyoreh Unification Institute

In September, Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok-ki was indicted on charges of plotting an insurrection. His court battle started on Oct. 14 when he requested that his trial be dismissed in his first pretrial hearing. Lee’s arrest on sedition charges has had a significant impact on South Korean society, and it almost overtook the agenda for reform of the National Intelligence Security (NIS).

This is therefore an appropriate time to look back on the events that led to Lee’s situation and take a careful approach in seeking a thorough understanding. Is there anything that South Korea might have missed out, especially considering the unique situation with the divided Korean peninsula?

Sometimes what we see as natural can appear unnatural from an outside point of view or a different angle, and this becomes particularly true when you compare the different viewpoints between inside and outside. A good example could be a situation when universal rights are disrespected with the justification that the case is unique. This means that we may fool ourselves by looking at only trees and thinking that’s all there is, without actually looking at the whole forest.

With this in mind Hankyoreh interviewed Professor Michel Chossudovsky, an emeritus professor of economics at Ottawa University in Canada and founder of the Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG) regarding Lee Seok-ki’s arrest on sedition charges.

It was believed that outside views could help better understand Lee’s case. Professor Chossudovsky is a well-known scholar in South Korea through his publications including, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, War and Globalization, and Towards a World War III scenario: the dangers of nuclear war. He has written many books and given lectures that persistently showed his criticism over the imperialistic features of the US and IMF.

Professor Chossudovsky said he has followed Lee Seok-ki’s case by reading related articles. His understanding of the ‘trees’ may not be as deep as what Koreans can grasp directly, but this widely respected scholar could have the good perspective on the ‘forest’ that Koreans may have missed. The professor said, “Freedom of expression and ideology is absolutely fundamental to the modern democratic society”. He strongly criticized by saying this is essentially corroborative evidence that shows South Korean society is working based on a totalitarian system.

Hankyoreh: The first question is – Are you aware of the so-called Lee Seok-ki sedition case?

Chossudovsky: The arrest of Lee Seok-ki on sedition charges has all the appearances of a personal vendetta by President Park against a political opponent within the parliament. It is taking [his] words and building a national security pretext for his arrest. And in that regard it is not the expression of a democratic government but indeed what I would describe as a democratic dictatorship – a totalitarian rule under the disguise of democracy. And essentially it is characteristic of a bygone era of Korean politics, namely that of military rule. This kind of political action is totally at odds with the nature of Korean society, its institutions, its parliament, and to go after political opponents because they are opposed to the head of state and because they expose the fraudulent behavior of the governing party, particularly in relation to the elections, and of course the KCIA’s involvement in manipulating the electoral process – this is totally unacceptable in any democratic society. It is reminiscent, as I said, of the heyday of military rule in Korea.

Hani: The National Intelligence Service has alleged that at a gathering of 130 people on May 12, Rep Lee Seok-ki said the following-“All actions in North Korea are patriotic, but they are treason in South Korea”; “We not only need a political situation, but also military”; “Let us counter war. Let us prepare for war. We need political and military preparation”; “We can create a Joseon nation with a self-reliant ideology, a unified ideology, kick out the Americans and create a new, self-reliant society without exploitation or corruption. For this, we need to go all out on a nationwide scale for a decisive battle to construct a new future.” Among progressives in South Korea, there are varying responses to the situation.

Rep Lee Seok-ki’s group argues that these quotes are all fabricated and falsely attributed. As long as the National Security Law exists, it is understandable why they need to assert this to protect themselves from the law. Progressives who follow the PD line, on the other hand, contend that by arguing that these quotes are fabricated, Lee Seok-ki’s group and his lawyers give up the opportunity to assert their right to freedom of ideology. What are your thoughts on this?

Chossudovsky: I can’t actually comment on the quotations as they are presented, but I think that to take the statement of a member of the national parliament out of context and accuse him of treason is pushing the analysis of political rhetoric to an unreasonable stage. I think if I read correctly what Lee Seok-ki was saying – is that any kind of critique of the regime in the Republic of Korea of its links to the United States, of the the fact that there are 37,000 troops on Korean soil, that those Korean forces are not under national command but under U.S. command, is an act of treason.

In other words, it is an act of treason to question the legitimacy of the President and the Commander in Chief, both in terms of the election and the relationship between the head of state and the U.S. government. The fact of the matter is that, as it stands, the Republic of Korea is under military occupation, that U.S. military presence has a direct impact on the formulation of policy, the U.S. military controls the Korean military. That is clear because they’ve signed a joint defense agreement, which grants a four-star U.S. general the de facto role of Commander in Chief of the ROK, overriding the powers of the President and Commander in Chief, who is Mrs. Park. “To kick out the Americans and create a new self-reliant society without exploitation and corruption” – I cite the words of Rep Lee Seok-ki – is, I think an objective which ultimately should be sought by all Koreans.

There can only be treason when you work for a foreign power against the interests of the Korean people. And what I would say is that Mrs. Park is committing acts of treason, because she is taking her orders directly from the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon.

She does not exercise her duty as a head of state, nor does she exercise her responsibilities as commander in chief, so that she is the person who is committing treason, not Mr. Lee Seok-ki, who is calling for the unification of the Korean nation under a unified ideology without the presence of American troops. It is not a statement that is necessarily embracing a communist ideology by any means. It is a statement which is embracing a unified national identity and ideology, which is entrenched in Korean history. That’s the way I see it. Acts of patriotism [are] in relation to the Korean nation, but they cannot be expressed in relation to a divided nation. You cannot be a patriot in relation to the Republic of Korea which is occupied by U.S. troops. You can be a patriot in relation to a unified nation where two countries, which have been divided as a result of the Korean War, are reunited.

Hani: In your opinion, how much should freedom of ideology be allowed in modern society? How important is freedom of ideology for the development of modern society? Should a society coerce people to give up ideology that challenges the status quo or allow it co-exist?

Chossudovsky:I think that freedom of ideology is absolutely essential in modern society. There may be certain political tendencies which you wish to control, such as neo-Nazi elements. But in effect if we look at what’s happening in the European Union, even the neo-Nazis have the powers of free expression and they are allowed in the political spectrum. We have to protect freedom of expression but ultimately the freedom to confront political leaders, which is the basis of democracy, the freedom to unseat those leaders if they act in a corrupt or fraudulent way, which is part of the process of impeachments but there are various mechanisms to confront those leaders. And I think that we can look to the experience of other countries. There are certain minimal standards and unfortunately those minimal standards do not prevail under the presidency of President Park in the Republic of Korea.

Hani: How much is freedom of ideology allowed in Canada or the U.S.? The U.S. also experienced extreme anti-communism, as exemplified in McCarthyism. Do you think this is now a thing of the past?

Chossudovsky: I think that in the United States at this moment there is the development of a national security state, or a homeland security state, which is derogating certain fundamental rights. And this is tied into developments, which started under the Bush administration and which continue under the Obama administration. I should mention that in the United States today, there is a U.S communist party, and in Canada there is a Canadian communist party. Canada and the U.S. are not necessarily models of democracy, but people are not normally arrested for expressing their opposition to the government or pointing to corruption and fraud in the election process. And members of the U.S. congress or senators in the United States, and members of parliament and senators in Canada cannot be arrested for criticizing the government.

Hani: How do you see U.S. – North Korea relations? The tensions between North Korea and the U.S. contribute to heightening tensions on the Korean peninsula. What do you think is the fundamental reason why there is no dialogue between the two countries? Is it due to North Korea’s nuclear weapons? Or U.S.’ imperialist policy?

Chossudovsky: The United States has been threatening North Korea for over 60 years, ok? Certainly since the end of the Korean War, the United States has been threatening North Korea. The United States has also been routinely engineering tension between north and south, preventing a dialogue, preventing a dialogue on trade, cultural exchanges, and sabotaging the reunification process.

It has conducted, almost on an annual basis, war games directed against North Korea, involving South Korean forces and U.S. forces. It has contributed to the political indoctrination of the people of South Korea from primary school onwards. It has rewritten history books. Essentially, it wants to prevent that process of reunification from taking place.

Now with regards to the nuclear threat, the United States has threatened North Korea with nuclear weapons for more than 50 years. We can recall that history. And there’s an asymmetry between the United States’ capabilities in term of nuclear weapons and those of North Korea. I should mention that if the United States were to use nuclear weapons against North Korea, these would inevitably engulf the entire peninsula, because the demilitarized zone is approximately 50 kilometers from the capital of the Republic of Korea, namely Seoul.

Hani: South Korea has the National Security Law, which outlaws favorable expressions of North Korea as it is defined as an anti-state organization. What are your thoughts on the National Security Law?

Chossudovsky: It’s a derogation of the right to freedom of expression. It can be used, it can be construed in any way you want to make it go. It essentially means that South Koreans are not in a position to even express their opinion on what’s gong on in North Korea, either in a positive or negative sense, or they’re only allowed to say negative things.

I think this National Security Law is totally at odds with the workings of a democratic society and it really is, at this stage, obsolete. It goes back to the 1950s. I think we are at the stage when expressing one’s views on North Korea at all levels of Korean society is absolutely necessary, because North Korea and South Korea are part of the same cultural and historical entity. They can’t be separated out artificially. And it’s an issue of the identity of the Korean nation. Whether we say positive or negative things about North Korea is not the issue. The issue is it has to be discussed and debated, because it is part of the heritage of the Korean people.

Hani: Some say that the very existence of the National Security Law makes not only conservatives but even progressives to interpret the situation surrounding Rep Lee Seok-ki in a distorted or conservative way. What are your thoughts on this?

Chossudovsky: I think the substance of this question is that this is the “chilling effect”, whereby the arrest of Representative Lee Seok-ki is being used to spearhead an atmosphere of fear and intimidation across the land, throughout the Republic of Korea, so that you have to watch what you say. So you have to apply a form of self-censorship, you have to tow the line, you mustn’t say anything against Mrs. Park, ok? It’s the chilling effect and I think that was one of the intended effects.

It’s not necessarily limited to Representative Lee Seok-ki; it is directed to all progressive elements within Korean society and maybe against everybody, because people are now going to accept the lies as the truth, they’re going to accept U.S. occupation, they’re going to accept a distorted view of history, they’re going to refuse reunification as a concept, which means they’re going to deny the Korean nation, its history, its culture.

Essentially that’s really what a totalitarian system is all about. It prevents people from thinking, from expressing themselves, from criticizing their leaders. And I would suspect that even conservatives within Mrs. Park’s party will also… they will also sway away from any form of critique which they might have even within their own political group. It’s what I call the “chilling effect,” which is a legal term in British law, and it’s very much an element that you want to censor your whole view so that you’re not the object of any kind of political repression, so that you essentially tow the line and you sing the government’s song. And that’s the whole nature of a totalitarian system.

Hani: I guess there’s some debate in South Korea about what strategy is appropriate in this situation. So far the Unified Progressive Party has maintained that these quotes are taken out of context, that they have been manipulated and fabricated by the NIS and have been falsely attributed to Lee Seok-ki. Some other progressives are saying, “You shouldn’t deny that you said these things, if you said these things. Just assert your right. Even if we may not agree with what you think, you have your right to have your own thoughts and talk about your own ideology.” I guess there’s a difference in terms of strategy, of how to respond to this situation. So I think they want to know your thoughts on this.

Chossudovsky: When he says “Let us counter war” – I‘m assuming these quotes are not taken out of context – “Let us Counter War” or “Let us prepare for war,” he is also warning, I would assume, Koreans that their country is occupied by a foreign power. I should mention another thing. The fact that you have 37,000 U.S. troops in Korea has a direct impact on the sovereignty of the government and we saw that in 1997 at the height of the Asian crisis, when the U.S. embassy ultimately demanded – in fact Washington demanded through the U.S. embassy – that the finance minister be sacked, the governor of the central bank be sacked. That was in late ’97; it was during an election campaign, and the outgoing government had no other choice but to sack the finance minister and the governor of the central bank and that would not have taken place had there been no U.S. troops on Korean soil.

If he says “we need political and military preparation,” I understand that to mean that “we need also to take possession of our own armed forces,” because the armed forces of the Republic of Korea are not under the control of the head of state. And it should also be understood that all the weapons which are purchased by the ROK from the United States – advanced weapons systems – are in fact at the service of the Untied States but they are paid by the Korean taxpayers. Please direct questions or comments to [[email protected]]

Original Bashir interview that contradicts Washington’s account of killing bin Laden

A website in the UK, themindrenewed.com, that downloaded the video from the link in my original report of the Pakistani TV interview with Mohammad Bashir has posted the interview with the original English subtitles. You can view it here:

..

This interview of an eyewitness to the entire event is powerful evidence that the Obama regime’s story of the killing of Osama bin Laden and his burial at sea is a hoax and a lie. Pakistani Samaa TV confirms that Bashir is who he says he is and that he lives next to the alleged bin Laden compound. Samaa TV also confirms that neighbors knew the residents of the “compound.” There has never been any mention of the Bashir interview in the presstitute media.

http://themindrenewed.com/interviews/2013/334-int-32 [2]

Published on Oct 16, 2013

Mohammad Bashir, Abbottabad resident and neighbour to the alleged “compound” of Osama bin Laden, gives his eyewitness account of what he saw happen on 2 May 2011 (local time), when – according to the official story – US Navy SEALs assassinated Osama bin Laden. In this interview, soon after the event, with a Pakistan national TV station (Samaa.tv), Bashir gives an account which fundamentally contradicts the official story.



For a transcript of the interview, please see: http://paulcraigroberts.org/2013/09/16/pakistani-national-tv-reveals-that-obamas-claim-to-have-killed-osama-bin-laden-is-an-american-hoax-paul-craig-roberts/

http://www.luogocomune.net/site/modules/sections/index.php?op=viewarticle&artid=167 [4]

2. On YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1GCeuSr3Mk (Preview)  [5]

The Homeless in America

October 18th, 2013 by Global Research News

The Homeless are the most at-risk population. And we’re waging a war on them.

The basics:

On any given night in January 2012[1]
633,782 people are homeless in the U.S.
394,379 as individuals(62%)
and 239,403 as families(38%)
62,619 were veterans (10%)
–With 6,371 homeless veterans in L.A. Alone
99,894 people are chronically homeless(16%)
[Chronic homelessness= being homeless for more than a year. Or having four episodes of homelessness is 3 years, and a disability.]

War Against the  Homeless

 

The editors at Social Work Degree Guide decided to research the topic of:

 War Against the Homeless

The Homeless are the most at-risk population. And we’re waging a war on them.

The basics:

On any given night in January 2012[1]
633,782 people are homeless in the U.S.
394,379 as individuals(62%)
and 239,403 as families(38%)
62,619 were veterans (10%)
–With 6,371 homeless veterans in L.A. Alone
99,894 people are chronically homeless(16%)
[Chronic homelessness= being homeless for more than a year. Or having four episodes of homelessness is 3 years, and a disability.]

With 5 states accounting for nearly half the homeless population:[1]
California (20.7%)
New York (11%)
Florida (8.7%)
Texas (5.4%)
Georgia (3.2%)

And these states having the highest rates of unsheltered homeless:[1]
[state:% unsheltered]
Wyoming:73.8%
California: 64.9%
Florida:64.1%
Arkansas:62%
Nevada: 60%
Georgia: 59.4%
Mississippi: 56.8%
Colorado: 56.7%
Louisiana:51%

Our ability to provide shelter is increasing
[type of shelter: year:number of beds]
Emergency Shelter:
2007:211,451
2008:211,222
2009:219,381
2010:236,798
2011:267,106
2012:274,786
Transitional Housing:
2007:211,205
2008:205,062
2009:207,589
2010:200,623
2011:201,879
2012:197,192
Permanent Supportive Housing:
2007:188,636
2008:195,724
2009:219,381
2010:236,798
2011:267,106
2012:274,786

Total beds: 746,764
Point in time Homeless:633,782
[112,982 extra beds!]
we have more beds than we need, even if they aren’t always close enough for the homeless to use.
Beds in permanent supportive housing have increased by 46% in 5 years.

But only if we choose to:
Case Study: Columbia, SC[2]
“People are afraid to get out of their cars when they see a homeless person”
“It’s virtually impossible for us, or anybody, to create a sustainable business model.”
A bill was passed to move the homeless shelter 15 miles out of town.
Excluding the homeless from any opportunities they might have had.
With similar policies being pursued nationwide.
Particularly in:
Portland, OR
And Tampa, FL
—————-
Prohibitions against panhandling and loitering allow homeless to be locked up.
—————-
Endangering people’s livelihood, and inalianable rights, in the name of development and business models.

This is a matter of human rights
Universal Decleration of Human Rights (1946)
“Everyone has a right to an adequate standard of living…including the right to housing.”

Protect humans over business. Support equal rights for all.

SOURCES

- https://www.onecpd.info/resources/documents/2012AHAR_PITestimates.pdf
- http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/26/us/south-carolina-city-takes-steps-to-evict-homeless-from-downtown.html?_r=0
- http://www.nlchp.org/content/pubs/SimplyUnacceptableReport1.pdf

 

social

The Establishment of “Social Enterprises” in Bolivia

October 18th, 2013 by Richard Fidler

 On October 7, President Evo Morales issued a government decree that allows workers to establish “social enterprises” in businesses that are bankrupt, winding up, or unjustifiably closed or abandoned.

These enterprises, while private, will be operated by the workers and qualify for government assistance.

Enatex workers

Morales issued Supreme Decree 1754 at a ceremony in the presidential palace marking the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia (CGTFB – the General Confederation of Industrial Workers of Bolivia). The Minister of Labour, Daniel Santalla, said the decree was issued pursuant to article 54 of Bolivia’s new Constitution, which states that workers

“in defense of their workplaces and protection of the social interest may, in accordance with the law, reactivate and reorganize firms that are undergoing bankrupty, creditor proceedings or liquidation, or closed or abandoned without justification, and may form communitarian or social enterprises. The state will contribute to the action of the workers.”

In his remarks to the audience of several hundred union members and leaders, President Morales noted that employers often attempt to blackmail workers with threats to shut down when faced with demands for higher wages. “Now, if they threaten you in that way, the firm may as well go bankrupt or close, because you will become the owners. They will be new social enterprises,” he said.

The Process Begins

Labour Minister Santalla noted that the constitutional article had already been used to establish some firms, such as Enatex, Instrabol, and Traboltex, and that more such firms could now be set up under the new decree.

Business spokesmen predictably warned that the new provisions would be a disincentive to private investment and risk the viability of companies.

Santalla also said that firms that do not comply with their workforce obligations under the law will lose preferential mechanisms to export their products to state-managed markets. And he cited some recent cases in which the government had intervened in defense of workers victimized for their attempts to form unions. In one such case last month, Burger King, the company was fined 30,000 Bolivianos ($4,300 U.S.), ordered to reinstate the fired workers and to recognize the union.

In the following article Alfredo Rada, Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Coordination with the Social Movements, draws attention to some important developments within the country’s labour movement and suggests some means by which the unions can be more effectively incorporated within the “process of change” being championed by the government of the MAS-IPSP, the Movement for Socialism – Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples. My translation from the Spanish. •

Richard Fidler is an Ottawa member of the Socialist Project. This article first appeared on his blog Life on the Left.

The Working Class and the Political Process in Bolivia

Alfredo Rada

Five months ago, I was in Tarija participating in a forum debating the political process in Bolivia, a process we call the Democratic and Cultural Revolution. One of those attending asked me whether it was possible to deepen this revolution, to make it an economic and social revolution, without the participation of the working-class. My immediate response was no, that to consolidate a period of transition to the construction of a new form of communitarian socialism it was absolutely necessary that the workers participate within the revolutionary social bloc that has managed this process of transformations starting in 2000 in the so-called water war, when the overthrow of neoliberalism began.

It was a very relevant question since at that moment, in May of 2013, the mobilizations over the Pensions Act called by the leadership of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB – Bolivian Workers Central) in opposition to the government of Evo Morales were at their height.[1] Strongly influenced by ultraleft political tendencies organized around the self-described “Partido de los Trabajadores” [PT – Workers Party], the COB committed a monumental error in mobilizing their ranks with fevered speeches calling for replacing Evo with “another government,” as a leader of the urban teachers in Santa Cruz put it.

This maximalist orientation led the COB inexorably to defeat, since the strike and the mobilizations never met with popular support and in the end the union leadership had to retreat in virtual disarray. The diversion that led to the defeat originated in the characterization that the ultraleft makes of the present government as “bourgeois and pro-imperialist,” a simplistic deceit peculiar to the political currents of an excessively classist and workerist ideological mould that blocks them from understanding the varied nature of the Bolivian social formation, which can only be analyzed in terms that combine nation and class.

Communitarian Socialism

The present process of change is made up of a dynamic deployment of social class struggles within capitalism that are combined, sometimes in a contradictory way, with the historic struggle of the indigenous nations against the internal capitalism. That is the dialectical nature of this process, in which the anticapitalist and anticolonialist structural tendencies expressed in the political action of exploited classes and oppressed nations make possible the revolutionary transformation of the economic relations of exploitation, the political relations of exclusion and the cultural relations of oppression. Yet there is always the risk that this course of transformations, as a result of external pressures, internal fragmentation or programmatic concessions, will become exhausted or reversed.

Turning to the conflict with the COB, following its dénouement the government set itself the task of rapidly mending its relationship with the working-class sectors while at the same time the rank and file workers began to settle scores with the ultraleft leaderships within the unions. That is what has just occurred in the Sindicato Mixto de Trabajadores Mineros de Huanuni [Combined Union of the Mining Workers in Huanuni], an emblematic organization because that district, located in the western department of Oruro, has the largest proletarian concentration in the entire country. Its 4,500 miners more than a year ago had elected a union leadership radically opposed to the government. This leadership led in the May strike, the blockade of roads in Caihuasi and the blowing up of a bridge located in that locality. Today, weakened and isolated, that ultraleft that was perched for some time in the Huanuni union has ended up being removed by a mass general meeting of the workers, who also decided to approve the construction of a new political pacto de unidad [unity agreement] with the government of Evo Morales.

No doubt such repositioning within the workers’ movement will have a major impact on the future of the PT since that political instrument has now lost its backbone; the effects will also be felt in the orientation of the Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Mineros de Bolivia [Federation of Mining Workers of Bolivia] and in the COB itself.

Construction Workers

Let’s look at another industrial sector, that of the construction workers. This is one of the fastest growing sources of employment owing to the expansion in public and private investment in new building construction. Everywhere in Bolivia’s cities you can see building and housing complexes under way, and with them the hiring of many workers as casual or piecework labour. But the unions in this sector are weak and dispersed, partly because their leadership tends to be controlled by the big construction companies but also because of the sparse regulation exercised by the state.

This submissiveness of the unions began to change at the most recent national congress of the Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores en Construcción de Bolivia [Bolivian Construction Workers Union Confederation], which met in the city of Santa Cruz. The construction workers elected a new union leadership and set their sights on the mandatory organizing of all the building workers, teachers and assistants, replacing oral agreements with the bosses with collective labour contracts in all construction projects. This will also be a means of overcoming the situation of “informal workers” that is one of the worst legacies of neoliberalism in a country in which less than 20 per cent of the workers are unionized.

Manufacturing workers have been one of the hardest-hit sectors, decimated by the massive layoffs euphemistically labelled “relocations” by Supreme Decree 21060 of August 1985. The manufacturing sector was subsequently subjected for almost two decades to the labour flexibility policies of neoliberalism in order to reduce payloads and increase the profits of capital.

Today the manufacturing sector is undergoing a rapid reorganizing of the unions that has helped to strengthen the Confederación General de Trabajadores Fabriles de Bolivia [General Confederation of Manufacturing Workers of Bolivia]. Yet to be consolidated is the organization of new unions, particularly in the cities of El Alto and Santa Cruz, the two major concentrations of industrial factories in Bolivia.

The importance given to reincorporating workers in the process of transformations around a common programmatic agenda with the Morales government lies not only in the fact that it will help to bring together a strong labour base of support, but also that it will strengthen the anti-imperialist and revolutionary tendencies in the process. The programmatic agenda to which we refer could address the following aspects: (1) a new General Labour Law which, while preserving the advances already in the present law, will grant new rights to the workers; (2) a natonal campaign of massive union organization in all industries that are unorganized; and (3) the strengthening of the social and communitarian sector of the economy, in alliance with the nationalized state sector. •

Alfredo Rada is Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Coordination with the Social Movements. The original Spanish version of this article first published at Rebelión.

Notes:

 1. The COB demanded an increase in state pensions to 8,000 bolivianos ($1140) annually for miners, and 5,000 bolivianos ($715) for other sectors. The government offered 4,000 and 3,200 bolivianos respectively ($600/$470), saying that any more would risk the financial sustainability of its pension scheme.

The conflict saw miners, teachers and health workers take to the streets of La Paz, while roadblocks and strikes took place across the country. Police were deployed to break up blockades in Cochabamba and La Paz, leading to several arrests and injuries, while workers at the state-run Huanuni mine joined the La Paz protests, paralysing tin production and costing several million dollars.

Other social sectors in Bolivia organized counter-marches in favour of the government. Representatives of the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSUTCB), and the Confederación de Mujeres Campesinas y Originarias Bartolina Sisa marched in La Paz to reject the blockades and mobilisations organized by the COB, while coca workers also protested in favour of the government in Cochabamba. At a rally in La Paz, Morales strongly criticised the COB leaders, accusing them of being at the service of imperialism, capitalism and neoliberalism.

After 16 days of protest, COB leaders agreed to lift the strike for 30 days to allow time to analyse a government offer to reform the current pensions system. Union leaders negotiated for several days in La Paz with officials from the labour and finance ministries, during which the union lowered its demand on pensions to 4,900 bolivianos for miners and 3,700 bolivianos ($700 and $530 respectively) for other sectors. It remains to be seen whether permanent settlement can be reached. (Source: “Strikes and blockades organized by trade unions in pension protest,” Bolivia Information Forum, News Briefing May-June 2013)

The US political crises and its Debt limit problem is a warning sign for China over its $1+Trillion it holds in US treasuries.  Although the crisis is temporarily resolved until January, uncertainties will still remain.  Before a deal was reached on Wednesday, Chinadaily.com reported that

 “Even if the debt impasse is eventually solved before Thursday’s deadline, the political brinkmanship unfolding on the world stage, and the tremendous uncertainty around it, reminded Chinese economists and media of the risk of excessive exposure to US Treasury bills.“ 

Li Daokui, an economist at Tsinghua University said that “many argue that China has few alternatives to investing in US debt, but I don’t think this is true.”  China is reported to have over $3.6 Trillion in foreign exchange reserves mostly in US treasury bonds.   He said that there are alternatives to US treasuries.  He stated the following three alternatives:

A possible alternative, according to Li, is to sell half of the current holdings and reorient them to three kinds of financial assets. The first is the stocks of multinationals that have invested in the Chinese market. That is the equivalent of investing in its own economy.  The second choice is other economies’ sovereign debts that have a rating higher than AA+. The third choice is utility corporations in mature economies.

China’s purchases of US debt are supposed to keep US-China relations stable according to Daokui

“The only explanation why China continues to hold such a gigantic share of US debt, according to Li, is out of broader concern for US-China relations” he continued “But no one can guarantee that the government can resist the domestic pressure, especially from those economists who have called for diversified investment and smaller US Treasuries buying.” 

Xinhua News Agency stated the following on the US government’s political crises and why a new reserve currency is crucial to the world economy:

The developing and emerging market economies need to have more say in major international financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, so that they could better reflect the transformations of the global economic and political landscape.

 What may also be included as a key part of an effective reform is the introduction of a new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant U.S. dollar, so that the international community could permanently stay away from the spillover of the intensifying domestic political turmoil in the United States.

 The online Australian based Business Spectator reported that Liao Qun, a Hong Kong-based economist for Citic Bank International said “If there really is a default, the Chinese government will definitely speed up foreign exchange reserve diversification, seeking safer bonds of other countries,” he also said that “If there is an acceleration in diversifying, there might also be a reduction in holdings (of US Treasuries)”. 

Although reducing its holdings would devalue its US treasuries, China would have to make a difficult decision that would affect their economy because they would have no other choices unless they want to go along with a sinking ship.  Japan seems to be on board to diversify its holdings of US treasuries even though Japan-US relations are relatively stable due to Washington’s political and economic influence which would make its situation more difficult than China’s.  The Business Spectator report quoted chief economist Yoshikiyo Shimamine on Japan’s US treasuries.  Only second to China:

In the longer term Japan may also rebalance its portfolio a tad to diversify away from holding US government debt, said Yoshikiyo Shimamine, executive chief economist with Dai-ichi Research Institute in Tokyo. However Tokyo’s political dependence on Washington – for example, in its defense pact – mitigates against a sudden switch, he added.

 If Japan follows through with its diversification as China has been doing, then the future outlook for US treasuries is bleak.  “But China is committed to reducing risk by diversifying its reserves, while at the same time shifting investment away from purely financial products to industrial projects” the report said.  It is a matter of time, perhaps in one to two years, that China will unload its current US treasuries.  The United States government and its political, financial and military institutions have lost its moral obligations (if it had any to begin with) by what Xinhua’s October 13th article described as “outright lies”:

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has gone to all lengths to appear before the world as the one that claims the moral high ground, yet covertly doing things that are as audacious as torturing prisoners of war, slaying civilians in drone attacks, and spying on world leaders.

Under what is known as the Pax-Americana, we fail to see a world where the United States is helping to defuse violence and conflicts, reduce poor and displaced population, and bring about real, lasting peace.

Moreover, instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.

 As a result, the world is still crawling its way out of an economic disaster thanks to the voracious Wall Street elites, while bombings and killings have become virtually daily routines in Iraq years after Washington claimed it has liberated its people from tyrannical rule.

Let’s see what happens In January as the drama continues to unfold.

NATO’s Terror Campaign in Central Asia

October 17th, 2013 by James Corbett

In this age of manufactured terror, one of the most vital regions on the global chessboard is also an area that few in the West know anything about: Central Asia.

This geostrategic and resource-rich area on the doorstep of China and Russia finds itself in the middle of an all out terror campaign. But, as key national intelligence whistleblowers are pointing out, these terrorists are working hand-in-glove with NATO.

This important GRTV Backgrounder was originally aired on Global Research TV on March 14, 2013.

Ever since the staged false flag attacks of 9/11, the US government and its complicit corporate media have focused their attention on fighting the shadowy, all-pervasive, all-powerful, ill-defined and undefeatable “Al Qaeda” enemy that is supposedly menacing the US and its allies at home and abroad. The term “Al Qaeda” of course is merely a cipher for “excuse to invade.” In the case of Afghanistan, for instance, the US used the threat of Al Qaeda as the excuse for their 12 year long invasion and occupation of the country. In Libya and Syria, the US and its allies are supporting those same self-described Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters. The ruse has long since become obvious.

Less obvious, then, because it has been taking place completely under the radar of media attention, is another front in the so-called war on terror: Central Asia and the Caucasus region. Encompassing the region surrounding the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, this area has long been identified as perhaps the most geostrategically vital part of the globe. It provides access to the exceptionally rich Caspian oil and gas deposits, hosts the “New Silk Road,” a vital trade route between China and Europe, and sits on the doorstep of China and Russia. And it just so happens to have a terrorist problem.

At first blush, it may seem odd that in this “age of terror” the American population has been told so little about the growing terrorist insurgency in Central Asia and the Caucasus. But when examined in the light of regional geopolitics, this deafening silence makes perfect sense.

Indications of how and why this region is so important come from numerous geostrategists, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama’s acknowledged mentor and a key advisor to his administration. In his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski identified the Central Asian / Caucasus region as part of a larger area he called “The Eurasian Balkans.”

The countries in this region, he wrote, are “of importance from the standpoint of security and historical ambitions to at least three of their most immediate and more powerful neighbors, namely, Russia, Turkey, and Iran, with China also signaling an increasing political interest in the region. But,” he continued, “the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals, including gold.”

Brzezinski knew very well what he was writing about. As National Security Advisor under President Carter, he had overseenOperation Cyclone, the US government’s since-declassified plan to arm, train and fund Islamic radicals in Pakistan and Afghanistan to draw the Soviet Union into a protracted war in the region. This, famously, led to the foundation of what became known as Al Qaeda in the 1980s, a point that Brzezinski has since admitted and even bragged about, claiming that the creation of a “few stirred up Muslims” helped to bring down the Soviet Union.

It is no surprise, then, that Brzezinski went on to predict in his 1997 book that the first major war of the 21st century would take place in this region, which is exactly what happened with the NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. And it is also no surprise that even NATO’s hand-picked Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, is now openly accusing the US of supporting the Taliban in the country to convince the public that they will need US protection after the planned troop withdrawal date in 2014.

Global Research contributor and Stop NATO International Director Rick Rozoff appeared on the Boiling Frogs Post podcast in 2011 to discuss this region and the overlap between NATO’s strategic interests and Islamic extremism.

It has long been understood that the terror operations in Chechnya and other key parts of the Central Asia and Caucasus region have been supported, funded and protected by NATO to help destabilize the region surrounding their main geopolitical rivals, Russia and China, in an operation very similar to Operation Cyclone in the 70s and 80s. This has, until now, remained mostly within the realm of speculation. But in a recent groundbreaking series of interviews on The Corbett Report, FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds has confirmed that this is, in fact, exactly what is happening.

If it is true that the people perish for lack of knowledge, perhaps it is nowhere more true than in the phoney, NATO-created war of terror. Without the understanding provided by Edmonds and others in identifying the Central Asia / Caucasus terror campaign as a NATO proxy war, the entire concept of Islamic terrorism becomes inscrutable to geopolitical analysis.

As this information will never be disseminated by the complicit corporate media, it is vitally important that the people take this task into their own hands by sharing this information with others and contributing to the analysis of the terror campaign being waged in the region.

The seeds of the next great world conflict are being sowed in Central Asia, on the doorstep of Russia and China, and regardless of whether or not this conflict, too, is being manipulated and managed behind the scenes, the lives of countless millions hang in the balance of the specter of that all-out war. Only an understanding of NATO’s active complicity in fostering and protecting these Muslim extremists can help break the tool of propaganda by which they will try to convince their population to acquiesce to such a war.


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Did Connected Insiders Cynically Trade On Impending Attacks?

Mass surveillance by the NSA and other government agencies is not really making us safer, but is being used for other reasons.

For example:

Saudi Prince Bandar – head of Saudi intelligence – helped to arm the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, and is now arming Al Qaeda in Syria. (Background).

Respected financial writer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says that Prince Bandar admitted that Saudi Arabia carries out false flag terror.  Indeed,  U.S. government officials say that the Saudi government had a hand in 9/11.

Moreover, several financial and economic experts – such as Jim Rickards, Max Keiser, German central bank president Ernst Welteke, Swiss economists Remo Crameri, Marc Chesney, Loriano Mancini and Bill Bergman (senior financial markets policy analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for 13 years) – say that there were insider trades right before 9/11 by people who knew the attacks were coming … people  with “no conceivable ties to al-Qaeda” according to the 9/11 Commission.

You don’t have to believe that 9/11 was an inside job to believe that this theory is at least possible. After all, 9/11 was foreseeable to people in intelligence services worldwide … as was Al Qaeda flying planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

For example, the NSA, CIA and other intelligence agencies were listening in on the hijackers’ calls, and an FBI informant rented a room to two of the hijackers in San Diego.

Now, Max Keiser alleges that this story is about to be blown wide open:

Within a few months, there’s a book coming out by a friend of mine who’s already had a very popular book which went to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s a new book, he’s shown me the gallies. Chapter 1: talks about his eyewitness accounts being in the room in the CIA discussing trading inside information days ahead of 9/11. He’s talking about [Saudi intelligence chief Prince] Bandar, he’s talking about Tony Blair, he’s talking about [then executive director of the CIA] Buzzy Krongard.

Is Keiser right? Will the book really be published, and will it really make this allegation? Is the former CIA officer and bestselling author credible?

 

We’ll have to wait to find out.