West’s Praise for Mandela is Based On Its Own Interests

December 9th, 2013 by Abayomi Azikiwe

In the wake of US Vice-President Joe Biden’s visit to Asia last week, tensions continue to mount over China’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea. Over the weekend, South Korea extended its own ADIZ to overlap with China’s zone, while two other US allies—Australia and Japan—were involved in sharp diplomatic exchanges with China.

The South Korean announcement was made yesterday, after President Park Geun-hye briefed Biden during his visit, which ended the previous day. Korea’s ADIZ now includes a disputed submerged reef, known as Ieodo in South Korea and Suyan Rock in China, that Beijing included in its own zone, announced on November 23. South Korea currently controls the reef and has built a marine research station on it.

South Korea’s ADIZ was originally established 62 years ago in the midst of the Korean War. It has now been expanded for the first time—southward by more than 300 kilometres. The decision affects military aircraft, which will be required to provide advance notification before entering the zone, raising the danger of an aerial confrontation if they fail to do so. The US State Department, which was highly critical of China’s new ADIZ, indicated its support for South Korea’s decision.

By giving the green light for the South Korean ADIZ, Biden has compounded an already tense situation in the East China Sea. The US responded to China’s ADIZ by provocatively flying B-52 bombers into the zone without notifying Chinese authorities. Washington further declared it would back Japan in any conflict with China over several disputed rocky outcrops, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, which Beijing included in its ADIZ.

In South Korea last Friday, Biden emphasised the Obama administration’s “absolute” commitment to its “pivot to Asia,” aimed at undermining China diplomatically and encircling it militarily. His comments were designed to quell doubts in Asia about the “pivot,” following Obama’s non-attendance at recent key Asian summits, and to reinforce key allies within the region.

The sharpness of tensions was all too evident at a meeting between Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Beijing last Friday. Ignoring diplomatic niceties, Wang publicly rebuked Australia in front of Chinese and international journalists, declaring that what Canberra had “said and done” over China’s ADIZ had “jeopardised mutual trust and affected the sound growth of bilateral relations.”

Immediately following China’s ADIZ announcement, the Australian government summoned the Chinese ambassador to Canberra for a dressing down, saying the move was “unhelpful in light of current regional tensions, and will not contribute to regional stability.” Speaking at that time, Bishop declared that Australia was opposed to “any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the East China Sea.”

While clearly surprised by Wang’s remarks last Friday, Bishop did not resile from her government’s condemnation of China’s air defence zone. As journalists were ushered out of the room, she declared: “I must take issue with you on the matter of the East China Sea. We stand by our views and that reflects the importance of peace and stability.” She again insisted “that there be no unilateral actions, nor coercive actions.”

Such public brawling reflects deep antagonism. Wang’s decision to take the unusual step of publicly censuring Bishop is an attempt to push back against the concerted campaign of the US and its allies over the ADIZ. For its part, the new Australian government has already signalled its support for the US military build-up in Asia, opening up further Australian bases for US forces. Canberra’s decision to buy into the ADIZ dispute, thousands of kilometres from Australian shores, underlines its unequivocal backing for the “pivot,” regardless of the consequences of a falling out with its largest trading partner, China.

While Bishop was in Beijing, tensions between Japan and China also intensified. The Japanese parliament’s lower house passed a resolution last Friday protesting China’s “reckless and risky measures” and calling on it to act “responsibly” and rescind its ADIZ. The Chinese parliament responded the next day, declaring that Tokyo had “no right to criticise” Beijing, blaming Japan for the tense situation in the East China Sea, and reiterating China’s claims over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

Beijing’s declaration of the ADIZ was the latest provocative step in a tit-for-tat campaign that escalated dramatically after September 2012, when Tokyo “nationalised” several of the disputed islands, which had been owned privately in Japan. Japan has repeatedly scrambled fighter aircraft in response to Chinese maritime aircraft entering Japan’s ADIZ around the islands.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also threatened to shoot down unmanned Chinese drones entering what Japan regards as its airspace. The US “pivot” has directly encouraged Japan’s more aggressive stance toward China.

Diplomatic relations between Japan and China have slumped to a new low. The governments of both countries are whipping up nationalism and militarism to divert attention from social tensions at home. Abe, a right-wing nationalist, who took office last December, has only met his counterpart Chinese President Xi Jinping once—for a few minutes at an international gathering. The Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers have not met in 14 months. Yesterday, Abe called for a summit with Xi to “reset” relations, but gave no indication as to the basis for such talks.

The poisonous character of relations in North East Asia and the wider region is a sharp warning of the dangers of a war breaking out through misjudgment or accident. These worsening tensions are being fuelled by the deepening global crisis of capitalism that erupted in 2008. The most destabilising factor is the determination of US imperialism to ensure its continued dominance in Asia and internationally by all means—including, if necessary, war. Having engaged in one war after another over the past decade, the US is setting the stage for a conflict with China that threatens to engulf the region and the world.

Picture: Oleg Tyagnibok from the far-right nationalist Svoboda (Freedom)

Protesters marched in Kiev yesterday demanding the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, in the largest of a series of pro-European Union protests against Yanukovich’s November 21 decision to abandon an association agreement with the EU.

The right-wing parties leading the protests in coordination with EU officials and politicians had called for a “million man march.” Ultimately, some 250,000 to 300,000 people gathered on Maïdan (Independence) Square. It was the largest protest in Kiev since the 2004 “color revolution” organized by US and European imperialism—the so-called Orange Revolution that ousted the pro-Russian Yanukovich and brought the pro-Western tandem of President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko to power.

Protesters on Nezalezhnost Square chanted “Resignation! Resignation!” while listening to speeches on the square. Some subsequently fanned out to occupy government buildings in Kiev.

The reactionary assembly of speakers on Nezalezhnost Square included representatives of various billionaire oligarchs, far-right groups, and patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Evgenia Tymoshenko, the daughter of former prime minister and billionaire natural gas magnate Julia Tymoshenko, whom Yanukovich has jailed, read a message from her mother calling for Yanukovich’s “immediate” ouster.

Oleg Tyagnibok, a neo-Nazi from the far-right nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party notorious for his anti-Semitic statements, denounced Yanukovich’s government for working out trade deals with Russia instead of the EU. He declared: “Today, they fall on their knees in front of the president of Russia and surrender us to the [Russian] customs union… We demand to make public what these secret negotiations were about. They bring us back to the time of Stalinism.”

A group of protesters carrying Svoboda party flags pulled down and destroyed a statue of Vladimir Lenin, the co-leader with Leon Trotsky of the October Revolution of 1917 that founded the Soviet Union.

The situation remains explosive, with protesters blockading government buildings and fearing a crackdown by the security forces. A bitter factional struggle is taking place between oligarchs such as Tymoshenko who are oriented to the EU, and others around Yanukovich who seek closer relations with Moscow.

After the failure of last week’s motion of no-confidence in parliament against Yanukovich, there are signs of demoralization in the opposition.

The French daily Le Monde wrote, “On social media, the million man march was renamed ‘last-chance march’… The leaders who speak each day on Nezalezhnost Square no longer call for ‘revolution,’ as they did at the beginning of the week, and ‘behind-the-scenes’ negotiations are ongoing with the government, indicated journalist Vitaly Portnikov,” a journalist with the US government-backed Radio Free Europe.

The protest leaders themselves are aware that, even among the more right-wing social layers they have mobilized, there is only limited support for integration into the free-market EU. “People have dignity,” protest organizer Svitlana Zalischuk told the New York Times. “This is why they are here: not because they are against Yanukovich, not because they are for the European Union, but because they have dignity, and they want to live with dignity.”

Another protester added that he was primarily opposed to the government’s decision to “beat students and innocent people.” He continued, “The question of Europe doesn’t motivate everybody. We hope the people will be heard and the government will resign.”

The ability of such right-wing protests to proceed and win support among broader layers of the population, who do not necessarily support the EU’s social austerity agenda, reflects the deep crisis of political perspective facing the Eastern European working class.

The anti-communism that has come to dominate political life in the ex-Soviet republics has left these countries easy prey to looting by international capital and political manipulation by Western imperialism and corrupt Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs. The deep social discontent that exists finds expression mainly through movements that are exploited by reactionary, even fascist forces and agencies of imperialism. These movements are then used to turn the political situation even further to the right and mount further social attacks on the population.

Ukraine is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with the world’s second-highest mortality rate (15.75 per 1,000, second after South Africa). Social anger is rising after a budget crisis led the Yanukovich government to cut off unemployment insurance to hundreds of thousands of workers in June.

The major banks and financial markets have cut off lending to Ukraine, which is expected to need $18 billion in emergency financing by March. The state currently has enough financing only for two months of operations. There is rising fear of a possible new devaluation of the national currency, the hryvnia, which collapsed during the hyper-inflation of the early 1990s, following the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 and the restoration of capitalism by the Stalinist bureaucracy.

The EU is working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), demanding deep austerity measures—a 40 percent increase in gas and heating prices, state budget cuts, and freezes on minimum and average wages—in exchange for a $15 billion loan. These cuts aim to deepen the exploitation of the working class and make Ukraine more profitable for European businesses that would set up operations after Ukraine established closer relations with the EU.

The pro-EU and pro-Russian oligarchic factions are both maneuvering to keep the billions they looted from the theft of state property and the restoration of capitalism and to place the full burden of the financial crisis on the working class. This is the more fundamental reason why the Yanukovich government has not sought to mobilize other social layers against the right-wing, pro-EU protests.

The feuding between these different oligarchic factions offers free play for manipulation by European imperialism, which—while it savagely loots Greece and tramples on mass popular opposition to austerity at home—hypocritically poses as the defender of democracy in Ukraine.

Yesterday, Germany’s Der Spiegel reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had decided to “build up” Ukrainian professional boxer Vitaly Klitchko as the “leading oppositionist and rival candidate to President Viktor Yanukovich.” Klitchko is scheduled to travel to Brussels in the middle of the month to meet with Merkel and representatives of the European People’s Party, the federation of right-wing and Christian Democratic parties in the EU countries.

Klitchko’s Udar (“Punch”) party already receives “logistical support” from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the CDU’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Der Spiegel reported.

As for Svoboda, it has close ties to France’s neo-fascist National Front (FN), working with the FN’s Bruno Gollnisch and Hungary’s anti-Semitic Jobbik Party within the Alliance of European National Movements.

Israel, culpable de genocidio

December 9th, 2013 by Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC)

KUALA LUMPUR, 25 de noviembre de 2013 – El Tribunal de Crímenes de Guerra de Kuala Lumpur (KLWCT) emitió su sentencia en el caso de las acusaciones contra el Estado de Israel y el general militar jubilado Amos Yaron después de escuchar los testimonios de 11 testigos de la fiscalía y un nutrido conjunto de pruebas documentales y los argumentos de la fiscalía y los amicus curiae.

Tras ponderar las pruebas presentadas por la fiscalía y tanto por el equipo acusador como el equipo defensor deamicus curiae el Tribunal declaró al Estado de Israel culpable de genocidio y a Amos Yaron culpable de crímenes de lesa humanidad y genocidio.

En el fallo, leído por el presidente del jurado Tan Sri Lamin, el Tribunal afirma haber escuchado los testimonios de 11 testigos de Gaza, Cisjordania, testigos periciales y un reputado historiador.

Chahira Abouardini, habitante del campamento en Chatila, fue testigo del asesinato a sangre fría de los miembros de su familia a manos de la milicia falangista libanesa bajo las órdenes de las fuerzas israelís comandadas por el General Amos Yaron. También se escucharon explicaciones periciales de la masacre de Sabra y Chatila gracias a la presencia de la destacada cirujana y escritora Ang Swee Chai, quien trató a los heridos de la masacre, y la testigo pericial Bayan al Hout, cuyo libro Sabra and Shatila September 1982 narra la historia de la masacre. Según Bayan, la masacre de Sabra y Chatila fue una de las más cruentas del siglo XX. La Dra. Ang relató detalladamente los ataques aéreos, los bombardeos y los disparos. Familias enteras murieron y fueron llevadas al hospital. Los informes desclasificados y previamente contenidos en el Archivo Nacional Británico sitúan el número de muertes en 3.500.

Los testigos de la Operación Plomo Fundido en Gaza, entre ellos los adolescentes Mahmoud Al-Samouni y Salah al-Samouni, narraron los horrorosos hechos que causaron la pérdida de numerosas vidas de civiles y la destrucción de propiedades, hechos de los que incluso los niños fueron víctimas. Paola Manduca, testigo pericial, genetista y profesora jubilada de la Universidad de Génova en Italia, rindió testimonio sobre el impacto de las armas en la salud reproductiva a raíz de los ataques en Gaza, en especial en los niños. El historiador y activista socialista israelí Ilan Pappe presentó una reveladora explicación de la estrategia de los dirigentes sionistas para despojar a los palestinos de su patria desde la década de 1940.

El genocidio se define como aquellos actos cometidos con la intención de destruir total o parcialmente a un grupo de determinada nacionalidad, etnia, raza o religión, como la matanza de miembros de dicho grupo, causar graves daños físicos o mentales a miembros de dicho grupo, la imposición deliberada de condiciones de vida calculadas para propiciar su destrucción física parcial o total, la imposición de medidas diseñadas para evitar los nacimientos dentro del grupo o la entrega forzada de los niños del grupo a otro grupo.

El Tribunal coincidió con el argumento de la fiscalía a favor de que las acusaciones en torno al cargo de genocidio contra Israel se situaran en un contexto histórico más general; el precedente de tal enfoque se encuentra en la opinión consultiva de la CIJ sobre la construcción del muro y el hecho de que, desde 1948, ha habido masacres de palestinos a manos del ejército israelí o con su cooperación, incluidos los ataques contra palestinos refugiados en el campo libanés de refugiados en Sabra y Chatila en 1982, y en Jenin y Nablus en 2002.

La Operación Plomo Fundido, que duró tres semanas y mató a 1.400 palestinos, entre ellos 300 niños y cientos de civiles desarmados, fue un ataque meticulosamente planeado por seis meses. Grandes extensiones fueron arrasadas y miles de personas perdieron su hogar, y la economía quedó en la ruina.

La fiscalía añadió que la destrucción causó daños acumulativos de índole cultural y religiosa, se cambiaron los nombres de los poblados y se destruyeron templos, hay repercusiones económicas y físicas, graves restricciones a la libertad de movimiento, escasez y control del agua, y condiciones adversas a la vida, además de impacto de los ataques de 2006 y el uso de fósforo blanco en 2009 en la salud reproductiva de la población de Gaza. En resumen, de manera deliberada se impusieron duras condiciones de vida a fin de destruir a un grupo humano, y los actos cometidos son equivalentes a una guerra con intenciones genocidas.

La fiscalía demostró, fuera de toda duda razonable, que Israel es culpable del crimen de genocidio conforme a la Convención para la Prevención y la Sanción del Delito de Genocidio y la Carta sobre Crímenes de Guerra de Kuala Lumpur.

El Tribunal no confluyó con el argumento de los amicus curiae según el cual no hay nada que juzgar, pues un Estado no puede ser acusado de responsabilidad criminal sin que se haya sometido a la jurisdicción del tribunal de marras, ya que los Estados gozan de inmunidad soberana.

El Tribunal encontró que la inmunidad absoluta es una doctrina anticuada y prefirió desestimar tal restricción. El Tribunal rechaza la inmunidad absoluta en casos de genocidio y crímenes de guerra, pues no existe la aplicación equitativa de la ley. Las naciones débiles son victimizadas por las potencias con total impunidad. Además, el Tribunal concluyó que la fuerza ejercida por el Ejército Israelí fue excesiva y completamente desproporcionada, y violó el derecho internacional. Los métodos empleados son indeciblemente inhumanos y constituyen crímenes de guerra.

El Tribunal concluyó que el Informe Kahan muestra claramente que el Ejército Israelí detentaba el control en el crucial momento de la masacre en Sabra y Shatilla en septiembre de 1982, y Yaron estaba en funciones como comandante responsable de las fuerzas que entraban y salían de la zona; estaba a cargo y permitió que los falangistas llevaran a cabo una masacre que duró días.

El Tribunal determinó la existencia de una larga lista de acciones, desde 1948 a la fecha, que constituyen un reiterado patrón de agresión contra el pueblo palestino: expulsiones, asesinatos, ataques brutales con armamento de alto poder y otras acciones demostradas durante el juicio. Se han impuesto condiciones insoportables a todo un pueblo. Resulta increíble que se perpetren estas atrocidades durante más de 60 años en plena era de los derechos humanos y que haya personas capaces de trivializar tanta falta de humanidad. Por unanimidad, el Tribunal considera que las acciones emprendidas en contra del pueblo palestino en los últimos 67 años constituyen un genocidio.

El Tribunal ordena la indemnización de las víctimas denunciantes de crímenes de guerra en proporción a los daños, perjuicios, dolor y sufrimiento irreparables que les fueron infligidos. Aunque se trata de un tribunal de conciencia que carece de facultades de sanción por incumplimiento, el Tribunal encuentra que los testigos tienen derecho ex justitiaal pago de indemnizaciones a cargo de las dos partes condenadas. El Tribunal espera que los testigos, gracias a los hallazgos del tribunal, en el futuro cercano encuentren un Estado o entidad judicial internacional capaz y dispuesta a ejercer jurisdicción y hacer cumplir su veredicto. El fallo del Tribunal respecto a las indemnizaciones será entregado a la Comisión sobre Crímenes de Guerra a fin de facilitar la determinación y recolección de indemnizaciones por parte de las Víctimas Denunciantes de Crímenes de Guerra.

El presidente Lamin continuó la lectura: “En tanto tribunal de conciencia, el Tribunal es plenamente consciente de que su veredicto es solo de naturaleza declaratoria. El Tribunal no tiene facultades de sanción por incumplimiento. Lo que podemos hacer conforme al artículo 34 del capítulo VIII de la segunda parte de la Carta es recomendar a la Comisión de Crímenes de Guerra de Kuala Lumpur la entrega de esta condena del Tribunal, junto con el registro de este proceso, al Procurador General de Justicia de la Corte Penal Internacional, a la Organización de las Naciones Unidas y al Consejo de Seguridad.

Además, el Tribunal recomienda, conforme al artículo 35 del mismo capítulo, que los nombres de las dos partes condenadas queden inscritos en el Registro de Criminales de Guerra de la Comisión y se anuncien en todo el mundo. Asimismo, el Tribunal recomienda que la sentencia reciba la mayor difusión internacional posible, ya que se trata de crímenes universales ante los cuales las naciones tienen la responsabilidad de instituir procesos penales.

El Tribunal señaló que deplora el hecho de que las instituciones internacionales no penalicen al Estado de Israel por sus crímenes y su falta absoluta de respeto al derecho internacional y las instituciones de las Naciones Unidas. El Tribunal instó a la Comisión a emplear todos sus medios en la difusión del proceso y, en particular, en lo relativo a los Parlamentos y las Asambleas Legislativas de las grandes potencias, como los miembros del G8, y a exhortar a esos países a intervenir y poner fin a las políticas colonialistas y racistas del Estado de Israel y sus simpatizantes.

Al frente del jurado estuvo Tan Sri Dato Lamin bin Haji Mohd Yunus Lamin, juez jubilado del Tribunal Federal Malasio que también fungió como juez ad litem en la Corte Penal Internacional en el caso de la ex República de Yugoslavia. El resto del jurado incluye a personalidades destacadas, como Tunku Sofiah Jewa, abogada y autora de numerosas publicaciones sobre derecho internacional; el profersor Salleh Buang, ex consejero federal de la Procuraduría y reconocido autor; el profesor emérito Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, prominente académico y catedrático de derecho; Dato’ Saari Yusof, ex juez del tribunal de apelaciones; John Philpot, abogado litigante de Canadá, y Tunku Intan Mainura de la Facultad de Derecho de la UiTM y especialista en derecho internacional.

El proceso estuvo a cargo de Gurdial S . Nijar, destacado profesor de derecho y autor de diversas publicaciones jurídicas, y Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman, reconocido abogado, apoyado por un equipo de legistas.

El juicio, abierto al público, se llevó a cabo del 20 al 25 de noviembre de 2013 en las instalaciones de la Fundación para Criminalizar la Guerra de Kuala Lumpur (KLFCW) en Jalan Perdana 88, Kuala Lumpur. La audiencia fue transmitida en directo y la grabación puede consultarse en www.criminalisewar.org.

Acerca de la Comisión sobre Crímenes de Guerra de Kuala Lumpur (KLWCC)

La KLFCW fundó la Comisión sobre Crímenes de Guerra de Kuala Lumpur para investigar aquellos casos de crímenes de guerra desatendidos por instituciones establecidas, como la Corte Penal Internacional. La Comisión busca influir en la opinión pública internacional en cuanto a la ilegalidad de las guerras y las ocupaciones emprendidas por las grandes potencias occidentales.

Así, el objetivo de la Comisión es responsabilizar de sus acciones a quienes perpetren crímenes de guerra, especialmente cuando las entidades jurídicas internacionales no cumplan con esta tarea.

La Comisión

Las funciones de la Comisión son:

i) recibir las denuncias de cualquier víctima(s) de cualquier conflicto en cuanto a:

(a) Crímenes contra la paz

(b) Crímenes de lesa humanidad

(c) Crímenes de genocidio

(d) Crímenes de guerra

ii) investigar tales denuncias y elaborar un informe con sus conclusiones. Solicitar pruebas adicionales o, cuando así lo considere, recomendar el inicio del juicio.

El equipo jurídico

El objetivo del equipo jurídico es presentar las denuncias de la(s) víctima(s) de cualquier conflicto y actuar conforme a las recomendaciones del informe de la Comisión, formular los cargos y procesar a la(s) persona(s) acusada(s).

El Tribunal

El Tribunal se pronunciará sobre los cargos presentados contra la(s) persona(s) acusada(s).La correspondiente ponderación de prueba ha de estar exenta de toda duda razonable .

Acerca de la Fundación para la Criminalización de la Guerra de Kuala Lumpur (KLFCW)

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, cuarta persona en ocupar el cargo de Primer Ministro en Malasia, creó la Fundación para la Criminalización de la Guerra de Kuala Lumpur, una ONG establecida el 12 de marzo de 2007 conforme a las leyes malasias.

Los principales objetivos de la KLFCW, estipulados en sus estatutos, son, entre otros, los siguientes:

1. Adoptar todas las medidas e iniciativas necesarias para criminalizar la guerra y procurar la paz;

2. Brindar alivio, asistencia y apoyo a las personas y comunidades que sufren las repercusiones de la guerra y el conflicto armado en cualquier lugar del mundo y sin discriminación por nacionalidad, origen racial, religión, credo, edad, sexo o cualquier otra forma de diferenciación inadmisible;

3. Fomentar la educación de las personas y comunidades que sufren las repercusiones de la guerra y el conflicto armado;

4. Promover esquemas para aliviar el sufrimiento humano causado por la guerra y el conflicto armado;

5. Procurar mecanismos o procedimientos con miras al cumplimiento de lo anterior.

 

criminalisewar.org

Traducido del inglés para Rebelión por Atenea Acevedo.

The Geneva Agreement with Iran: A Result of the Sanctions Policy?

December 9th, 2013 by Ali Fathollah-Nejad

After intense negotiations between Iran and the great powers (chiefly among them the United States), 24 November 2013 saw a historic breakthrough: In a six-month interim agreement Tehran committed itself to a substantial freezing of its nuclear program in return for “modest relief” (U.S. President Barack Obama) in sanctions. The agreement shall be a first step towards achieving a comprehensive solution, with which the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program shall be ensured while all sanctions against the country would be lifted.

Now, there has been much speculation over the degree in which the decade-long transatlantic Iran strategy of coercive diplomacy was responsible for reaching this diplomatic victory. Was it the permanent threats of war or the increasingly crippling sanctions which in the eyes of many Western observers led Iran to “give in”?

Arguably, it rather was a shift away from that policy of threats and pressure, and towards serious diplomacy aiming at a reconciliation of interests (especially during the month of November), which rendered the deal possible. But yes, without any doubt the sanctions did have an impact: They severely deepened Iran’s economic malaise, considerably harmed a variety of social groups, while part of the power élite quite comfortably adjusted to the sanctions. Consequently, the power gap separating the state and (civil) society was even boosted.

Yet, the immense damage that sanctions have done to society does not bear much relevance for policy-makers. However, what has gone largely unnoticed to supporters of the sanctions policy is the Realpolitik fact that contrary to their stated goal the escalation of sanctions was accompanied by the one of Iran’s nuclear program: When Obama entered the White House, they were not even 1000 centrifuges spinning in Iran; today it is almost 19,000. The reason for that is that the West views sanctions through the cost-benefit lens, according to which it can only be a matter of time until the sanctioned party will give in. In contrast, Tehran sees sanctions as an illegitimate form of coercion, which ought to be resisted, for the alternative would be nothing less than capitulation. Nonetheless, many commentators sardonically insist on praising the sanctions’ alleged effectiveness for aiding diplomacy. This not only is a sign of analytical short-sightedness, but also constitutes the not-so-covert attempt to shed a positive light on the coercive diplomacy that was pursued so far. 

In reality, Iran’s willingness to offer concessions is rooted within a wider context. Firstly, Iran already demonstrated its readiness to compromise during the last three years, which the Obama administration did not dare to accept due to domestic political issues, i.e. re-election. Secondly, and this is likely to have been crucial for achieving the agreement in Geneva, Iran’s current foreign policy is primarily not a result of the pressure through sanctions, but is embedded into a specific foreign-policy school of thought which is characterized by realism and a policy of détente. Notably, with Hassan Rohani’s election the ‘defensive realist’ school of thought reasserted power, which had been already leading during Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Khatami’s administrations. Their prime objective is a policy of détente and rapprochement especially towards the West, but also neighboring Arab states, chief among them Iran’s geopolitical adversary, Saudi Arabia.

In contrast to the ‘offensive realists’ who were taking the lead under the Ahmadinejad administration, ‘defensive realists’ do not view foreign policy as a zero-sum game but as an arena in which win–win situations ought to be explored – especially with the United States. Another pivotal difference between these schools of thought is their estimation of U.S. power. While ‘offensive realists’ see the superpower’s power-projection capabilities rapidly declining, the ‘defensive’ camp rightly acknowledges that even a U.S. in relative decline can inflict substantial damage on weaker countries like Iran. The historically unprecedented Iran sanctions regime is a prime example for the veracity of the latter view.

Ultimately, the agreement in its core has to be seen as an American–Iranian one which expresses the will of both sides to secure their interests in a rapidly changing regional geopolitical landscape. To what extent this will affect the Washington’s traditional regional allies in Tel Aviv and Riyadh will be highly interesting to watch.

 Note: A version of this article will be published in the next issue of the German Middle East journal inamo. Translated from German into English by Manuel Langendorf; edited by the author.

The Rage of Exile: In the Wake of Fukushima

Shoji Masahiko; translated and introduced by Tom Gill

A Statement by one of those who lost their homeland to the Fukushima nuclear disaster

Translator’s foreword:

For the last two and a half years, I have been studying the inhabitants of Nagadoro, one of the twenty small hamlets in Iitate village, which has been evacuated and barricaded due to particularly high levels of radiation. Present government policy is to maintain the status of Nagadoro as a no-go zone for at least another four years. Among the 250 inhabitants is Shoji Masahiko, who until the nuclear disaster supported his wife and four children as a part-time farmer and part-time carpenter. In March of this year, Masahiko handed me the document which, after an inexcusable delay, I have now translated below. The Japanese original follows. TG

Recently I have started to take a first, tentative look into the things being said [about the situation in Fukushima] by university professors, world opinion, the specialist media, and experts from various foreign countries, and I feel moved to set down on paper my own thoughts and ideas, before it is too late, about how things are, what should be done, and to give my opinion and an appeal on what should be done internationally, socially, humanly and humanitarianly, regarding this important and weighty issue.

Shoji Masahiko, 2013.3.10 (Sunday)

All of a sudden two years have passed since that once-in-a-thousand-years calamity, the Great East Japan Earthquake, and the explosions that followed at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant – and nothing has changed. All that has happened is that our houses are crumbling, our fields are running to weeds, and our village is drifting back to a primitive state. Today I am thinking, I am worrying, and I am starting to feel resentment. “For us, in this reality, in this situation, what really matters? The village we were living in? To defend, to inherit, and to pass on to generations the home-place we were living in, the land our forefathers built upon, our property? Ah, but now what really matters is human health. That’s where it all starts” – with such words I question myself, then question once again. The national government and the village mayor insist now as ever that they will decontaminate the village, that they will enable us to go home, to return to the village as soon as humanly possible, that their plans will be executed swiftly, that the living environment will be getting the top priority as they open up the road to recovery, and no-one wants to abandon their homeland. But why, when human life and health should be the top priority, should that be reason to choose return, return to the village, as a higher priority than the people’s health, our children’s health, our grandchildren’s health? – That is something I cannot fathom.

A cherry blossom party at Nagadoro in the days before the disaster [photo: Shigihara Yoshitomo]

For my part I have actually started to think that we are being used as the world’s first human guinea-pigs, in an experiment to demonstrate to the world that “here in Japan, in the prefecture of Fukushima, in the village of Iitate, in an area of particularly high radiation, the people have come home, the village has been repopulated, and we have succeeded in restoring life as it was before the Great East Japan Disaster, and before the nuclear accident.” The youngsters, the young couples bringing up children, have been forced into activities and a living environment of extremely exaggerated caution, in which information on radiation and on health is zealously collected and shared. I think that is only natural for parents, for mothers. As such, these young people, these households with children, will not contemplate going home, they think not of returning to the village, nor will they until the radiation level is below world standards, and it is possible to live safely, with a sense of security, living off the fruits of the land – until that happens, I think it is only natural to stay away from the village, and as a parent of children myself that is the best I can hope for. To avoid having to shut up our children and grandchildren indoors. That seems to be something that the officials, cabinet ministers and bureaucrats in the capital cannot apprehend.
 

The only way for the officials, cabinet ministers and bureaucrats to convince and persuade the local people that it is safe to return is for them to come and experience life in the village for themselves, to prove by experiment with their own bodies that one can live in safety and peace of mind in our village; unless they turn their own experience into data, we will not be able to believe anything they tell us – this is the minimal responsibility of the nation that promoted nuclear energy and the Tokyo Electric Power Company. Electricity from the Fukushima nuclear power plant was electricity for Tokyo; we villagers of Iitate saw no benefit from it but only suffered the consequences – we could not see the radiation, we were told there was no immediate threat to health, even as hydrogen explosions burst out one after the other at the plant after March 12, 2011; only on April 22 were we told by the authorities – as a means to evade responsibility – to prepare for planned evacuation about a month later. And as a matter of fact, although our village was a high-level radiation zone, we accepted evacuees from Minami-Soma and some of those from Namie whose escape had been delayed, and in each of the village’s twenty hamlets, we prepared food for those evacuees, thinking it was aid, but we fed them irradiated food, and unnecessarily increased their dose of internal radiation.

Shoji Masahiko, photographed on 24 April 2011 with two baskets full of home-grown shiitake mushrooms that had to be destroyed because of their radiation level [photo: Tom Gill]

The possibility of internal radiation poisoning implies heavy responsibility. We meant well, and can but pass on the responsibility for the deed to the government and Tokyo Electric Power, but if my memory serves me, we accepted some 2,000 evacuees. The national government should take absolute responsibility for any harm to health that emerges from internal or external radiation absorbed by those people. We who gave them the emergency supplies are full of remorse that we knew not of the danger in what we were doing, and we pray from the bottom of our hearts that no harm to health will result.

Only a tiny part of the decontamination plan drawn up by the government for FY2012 (April 1, 2012~March 31, 2013) has been implemented, and no site has been secured for storing the radioactive materials to be removed after decontamination. At present the information I have says that only 1% of the area slated for decontamination has actually been treated. Moreover, as the work of decontamination has commenced, it has proved difficult to secure workers with the right technical expertise to do the work, even in the numerous areas with low levels of radioactivity, where the forests are far from the houses, where there is plenty of space around the living quarters and where there are plenty of forests to serve as windbreaks [factors considered to help decontamination work]. This makes it highly questionable whether the decontamination plan can be carried out, and even if it were, I believe it would only be for the sake of being able to say they gave it a try, though without succeeding in reducing the radiation to a level where people could actually live there again. It is totally incomprehensible to me why vast amounts of the taxpayers’ money is being invested in this, even though it is unclear whether a safe and reassuring environment will result; nor can I understand why they are once again planning to put the local people’s lives at risk by making them go back before it is safe. Goodness knows how many billions of yen the work will cost, but the village office’s estimate for Iitate village alone is 322 billion yen (over $3 billion).

A single Coca-cola vending machine in a field in the evacuated hamlet of Nagadoro on 30 May 2011 [photo: Tom Gill]

The village only has about 1,700 households, so even if they were compensated to the tune of 100 million yen (about $1 million) per household, that would still come to 170 billion yen. A much larger sum than that is now being spent on decontamination – and it is perfectly clear that this is mostly to give more jobs to the big construction companies. I believe this is a truth that cannot be concealed. Even if the village is decontaminated, the young people will not return, and if they cannot come back then the village will naturally perish, and it will be reported around the world as a ruined village. Rather than trying to protect the village, should not more attention be paid to the health of its people? Surely none of the villagers want their community to become a guinea pig for the world – but if guarantees and compensation payments are cut off, then I think most of the villagers will have no choice but to return to the village, more out of resignation than anything else. The sad fact of the matter is that those people are mostly old people with nowhere else to go. Such, I think, is the unspoken truth. We will never forgive those responsible – the national government, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, and those who helped make this happen!

Translator’s afterword: After the disaster, Masahiko and his family were evacuated to a temporary housing facility on a disused industrial estate in Matsukawa, in the south of Fukushima city. When he wrote this document, marking the second anniversary of the 3.11 disasters, he was still living there, in very cramped conditions, with his wife, mother and one of his sons. I am glad to say that a few months later he was finally able to buy a house on the outskirts of Fukushima city, paid for in part by compensation payments from Tokyo Electric Power Company, where he is now starting to settle down and plant vegetables on a small plot of land. While he still dreams of returning to his ancestral homeland, he has no idea when that might become possible, and for now, he feels he must improvise a new way of life elsewhere.

After the spectacular hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, the government ordered a series of evacuations from areas close to the plant. But the evacuation orders were based on the false assumption that safety increased with distance from the plant. In fact, as the world now knows, prevailing winds carried the radiation in a northwest direction, where a lot of it was deposited on the village of Iitate. Consequently, as Shoji-san says, some 2,000 evacuees sent to Iitate from Minami-Soma (closer to the plant than Iitate, but lying to the south and hence away from the heart of the radiation plume) were actually evacuating to a more dangerous location, where they were given contaminated food and water by the villagers who had no idea of the possible danger. It later transpired that the government knew about the direction of the radioactive plume thanks to its SPEEDI early warning system, yet withheld the data from people in the affected region, ostensibly to avoid causing panic. This was one of the many scandals arising from the early days of the Fukushima crisis.

 

Shoji Masahiko (far right) with Tom Gill (second from right) and two friends, Matsukawa temporary housing complex, 15 August 2011 [photo: Manami Gill].

Shoji-san’s factual references are generally correct. The figure he cites of 322 billion yen for decontaminating the village is on p. 8 of a report from the Iitate village office dated September 28 2011. He also writes that no more than 1% of the land of Iitate has been decontaminated so far. That was what the government claimed in March 2013. Accessing the relevant page in December 2013 shows that the government is now claiming about 2%. The government also claims to have decontaminated 110 houses, or 6% of the housing stock of Iitate. But who would return to a house surrounded by land and forests not yet decontaminated? As for Masahiko’s hamlet, Nagadoro, it has been formally excluded from the decontamination project anyway, as having too high a level of radiation.

The Environment Ministry decontamination data for Iitate is available at this website.

Tom Gill is a professor at Meiji Gakuin University. He is the author of Men of Uncertainty: the Social Organization of Day Laborers in Contemporary Japan and co-editor of Globalization and Social Change in Contemporary Japan.

For more on this topic, see my paper, “This Spoiled Soil: Place, People and Community in an Irradiated Village in Fukushima Prefecture,” in the recently published collection, Japan Copes with Calamity: Ethnographies of the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters of March 2011 (Oxford: Peter Lang).

A Japanese version of the paper, 場所と人の関係が絶たれるとき――福島第一原発事故と「故郷」の意味may be found in the Japanese version of the collection, 東日本大震災の人類学――津波、原発事故と被災者たちの「その後」(京都:人文書院). Both books are edited by myself, Brigitte Steger and David Slater. Shoji Masahiko is featured in the paper, and there is a photograph of him on p.212 of the Japanese edition.

Recommended citation: Shoji Masahiko, ‘The Rage of Exile: In the Wake of Fukushima.’ translated and with an introduction by Tom Gill,

亡命の憤り

原発事故で故郷が奪われた福島の被災者の証言

《私が最近、諸専門分野の大学教授、世界の見解、専門メディア、諸外国の専門分野の見解、の情報を少しかじり始め思い、考え、成すべきと思うこと、又は、国際的、社会的、人間的に成すべきことの重要な、重大な、課題としての、意見及び訴えたいことを過ぎ去らないように書く!》

2013.03.10 日曜日

庄司正彦

千年に一度といわれる東日本大震災、それに伴い福島原発の爆発事故が起きてから早くも2年が過ぎ去ります、あれから何も変わらない。それどころか、 住宅、田畑は、風化、老朽化、原始化し続けているばかりです。そんな今日この頃、思い、悩み、怨み始めたことです。「私たちは、この現実で、この状況の中 で、住んでいた村が大事なのか、住んでいた故郷、先祖が築き上げた土地、財産が大事なのか、それを守り、受け継ぎ、後継する事の方が重要なのか?、いま一 番大事なことは、人間の健康だろうが。それが原点のはずだろう!と」、自分を問い詰め、問いただしてみる。政府(国)、村(村長)は、除染をして住めるよ うにするから、一日も早く帰村できるようにするし、早い段階で実行するという考えで、帰還、帰村の考えを崩さないし、住環境除染だけを最優先的な復興の筋 道と自負しているが、誰しも、故郷を捨てたくはないし、それ故に、「命と健康を大事にすること」が優先であるはずなのに、何故に、人間の、子供の、孫の健 康よりも、帰還、帰村を優先の選択にするのか見当がつかない。自分的には、「日本の福島県の飯舘村で原発事故による、特に放射線量が高い区域で帰還、帰村 して東日本大震災、及び原発事故以前のように復活しました。」ということを世界にアピールするための実証試験にしか思われなく、世界初の人間モルモット的 な存在にされているのではないかと、現実的に思い始めています。若者、子育て中の若い世帯は、放射線に関して、健康に関しての情報を収集し、共有し、極め て過敏な行動、生活環境を強いられています。それは、親として、母としてあたりまえな行動だと思います。それが故に、若者、子育て世帯の家族は、帰還、帰 村の考えはしないと思うし、放射線量が世界基準値以下、そして安心安全で生活でき、自給自足できる生活が成り立つまでは村から退避するのが当然であると思 うし、それは子の親としても最大限望むことである。子孫を閉ざさないためにも。そんなことは、被災者ではない都会にいる国の役人、閣僚、官僚の人間には察 知できないのではないのかと思う。

安全であることを住民に納得させるには、役人、閣僚、官僚が身をもって体験し、安心安全に生活できる事を実証体験し、データー化しなければ、何も信 用はできないであろう。全ては、国策で原子力発電を推奨してきた国と、東電の最低限の責任であるから。福島原発の電力は、東京のための電力であり、私たち 飯舘村民は、一際の恩恵も受けておらず、ただ犠牲になり、目には見えない、直ちに健康に被害はないと、2011.3.12から次々に水素爆発の原発事故 後、ようやく責任逃れに4月22日に計画的避難の指示を出し、概ね1カ月をめどに避難の準備をし、避難することの避難勧告指示。また、現実的には、高放射 線量の区域の村だったのに、南相馬、一部逃げ遅れた浪江町の避難者が、高線量区域の飯舘で一時避難受入れし、村の要請で村の各行政区(20行政区)に避難 して宿泊滞在している人たちに対し、炊き出し支援を行い、救援と思いきや、被爆食料を支援し、無用な被爆をさせた。この時点で内部被爆をさせた疑いは責任 重大であるが、「無知の善意で」国と東電への責任転嫁になってしまうが、確信持てる記憶ではないが、2,000人規模避難者を受け入れたという記憶が残っ ている。この事実、状況原因により、内部被爆及び外部被爆被害が発覚した状況時は、国が絶対的な責任を取るべきであるはず。汚染された支援物資を提供した 我々としては、そんな事とは知らず本当に申し訳なかったなぁと、心より、健康に被害が及ばないことを心底祈るばかりです。

現段階の除染状況では、当初の除染計画の、平成24年度の実施計画の目標のほんのわずか一部分しか、実施できず、除染後に発生した放射線汚染物を移 染する仮置きする敷地も確保できず、現段階では、飯舘村全村の除染面積の1%の実績にしか至らないとの情報もある。ましてや、案外、除染作業するうえで、 放射線量も低い地域で、森林も民家より、遠ざかっている地域なのに、これから除染する区域の中には、屋敷の面積も広く、屋敷周辺の防風林も多い地区が多数 あるのに、その道の専門技術者も確保できず、如何にして、計画を達成できるのか、見当もつかないし、やったとしたら、ただ除染を試みたというだけで、放射 線量を下げて、生活できる住環境に改善したという状況下には至らない結果にあると思う。何故に多額の税金を投資して、安心安全な住環境も補償保証出来ない 状況なのに行事消化のように、国民の税金の無駄遣いをするのかさっぱり意味不明であり、再び、地域住民を健康被害の危険にさらそうとするのか理解できな い。そんな何千億か見当はつかないが、飯舘村内だけの除染費用の見積額だけでさえ3,224億円とか。飯舘村の全世帯が約1,700世帯程度、1世帯当た り1億円の配分としたとしても、1,700億円の出費で賄えるのに、労働者の雇用拡大にかまけて、日本のゼネコンの雇用拡大にしか思えない状況は見え見え である。この現実は、隠しきれない現実であると思う。除染しても、若者が帰還、帰村できなければ、村は、自然消滅してしまうだろうし、廃墟の村として世界 に報じられることと思う。村を守る事より、そこで生活してきた住民の健康を重視すべきではないか。飯舘村民を世界のモルモットにしては欲しくないと村民誰 しも願う心境であるはず、ただ単に保証、賠償が打ち切られ、生きていけないがために、諦め半分以上で帰村する人が大半であると思う。それも行き場のない年 寄りばかりであるのが、悲しい現状であり、誰も認めたくない事実であると思う。一生怨みます。東電と国とこの事を推進した人物を!

 

Seymour Hersh publishes his latest, illuminating essay on the machinations of the US security state, this time in regard to Syria. Hersh makes a very convincing case that the US had no credible intelligence that August’s chemical weapons attack in Ghouta using sarin was carried out by Assad’s troops but that it did know that jihadi groups there, especially the al-Nusra Front, almost certainly had sarin and could use it.

While reading this piece, I kept thinking one thing: If Barack Obama had not been forced to scrap his plan to bomb Syria at the last minute, we would now be reading about these deceptions after thousands, or more likely tens of thousands, of Syrian civilians had been killed in allied bombing runs.

We might also be reading Hersh (or more likely not reading him, given the likely war hysteria) after US forces had got sucked into a ground invasion as the Assad regime collapsed. Hersh’s piece suggests that the US military had a plan to invade if there was any danger that Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile was in danger of being taken over by the rebels, as would have been inevitable had the regime fallen.

All of this sounds very familiar indeed. It was a rerun of Iraq and the bogus intelligence about its supposed WMD.

There are two important conclusions to be drawn from this story, in addition to the obvious one: that our governments keep lying to us to further their (not our) geopolitical interests and they invariably do so under the pretence of “humanitarianism”.

The first is that, not only do our governments lie as a matter of course, but our media lie entirely in sync with our governments. Hersh exposes a catalogue of journalistic failures in his piece, just as occurred in Iraq. He even points out that at one vital White House press conference, where the main, false narrative was set out, officials refused to invite a critical national security correspondent, presumably fearing that he might expose the charade.

Note that this piece by Hersh was rejected by the New Yorker, his usual home, and by the Washington Post, which may not be surprising given that the latter emerges from this article looking like a major offender in this journalistic farce.

Instead Hersh was forced to turn to the London Review of Books, a London literary publication that has on occasion served as a sanctuary for important articles spurned by the mainstream media. (The same happened with Walt and Mearsheimer’s infamous long essay on the Israel lobby, which later became a best-selling book called The Lobby.)

The other is that we as citizens (ruled over by our governments) and as readers (of their media) have to start waking up to these serial deceptions. Too many otherwise clever people fall time and again for the false narratives we are spun. There is a simple lesson: stop swallowing the so-called intelligence you are being told to justify aggression, most especially when it clashes with the precepts of common sense. This should be our position on Iran too.

Similarly, not only must we become less gullible but we must inoculate ourselves against those who are more susceptible to the virus. Those of us who tried to warn that we must be wary of official efforts to manipulate the intelligence and our understanding of events were denounced, as always happens in these circumstances, as Assad apologists.

Finally, it should be noted that Hersh’s role in exposing these deceptions, as in so many previous ones, should not lull us into a false complacency. His work does not demonstrate that our media is free and pluralistic. It shows something very different.

There will always be the odd investigative reporter like Hersh at the margins of the mainstream media. And one can understand why by reading Hersh closely. His sources of information are those in the security complex who lost the argument, or came close to losing the argument, and want it on record that they opposed the government line. Hersh is useful to them because he allows them to settle scores within the establishment or to act as a warning bell against future efforts to manipulate intelligence in the same manner. He is useful to us as readers because he reveals disputes that show us much more clearly what has taken place.

Unfortunately, Hersh’s role has been mainly one for the historians. He tells them after the event what really took place inside the corridors of power. But he could be so much important if we listened to him properly. For he keeps repeating the same truth: Beware our leaders.

www.lrb.co.uk/2013/12/08/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin

The Voice of Russia  has published an article entitled “British agents in Russia instructed to find Snowden – Canadian NGO”

http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_12_05/British-intelligence-agents-in-Russia-instructed-to-find-Snowden-Canadian-NGO-3126/

where it states that:

“The British intelligence MI-6 station in Moscow has been given the task of locating former US intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, who was granted temporary political asylum in Russia, says the Center for the Study of Globalization, a Canadian non-governmental organization based in Montreal.”

We wish to clarify that this does not refer to the Center for Research on Globalization (CRG) and nobody in our research center held an interview with the Voice of Russia regarding this matter.

We have requested a clarification from the Voice of Russia.

Climate Change: ‘The Greatest Challenge of Our Time’

December 9th, 2013 by Carlo Fanelli

“Climate change is life or death. It is the new global battlefield. It is being presented as if it is the problem of the developed world. But it’s the developed world that has precipitated global warming.”  Noble Peace Prizewinner Wangari Maathai.

The 2014 issue of Alternate Routes came together as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth report in Stockholm, Sweden. Founded in 1988 by the United Nations (UN) and the World Meteorological Organization, the most recent IPCC report brings together over 600 climate scientists from over 130 countries. Because every last word of the IPCC reports must be signed off by all UN members, the reports are among the world’s most comprehensively vetted and exhaustively reviewed scientific publications. As a result of this wide-ranging consensus, however, it is by design conservative, drawing attention only to the most expansively agreed upon scientific consensuses. Despite the conservatism, however, 2013 IPCC co-chair Thomas F. Stocker made clear that “Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time… In short, it threatens our planet, our only home.” (Gilis, 2013).

Since the publication of the IPCC’s first assessment report in 1990, the scientific evidence demonstrating that anthropogenic climate change is intensifying around the world has been strengthened. In 1995, the IPCC estimated that it was “more likely than not” (which translates to a 50 per cent probability) that human-produced greenhouse gases (GHG) – as opposed to natural variability – were the main causes of climate change. This certainty rose to “likely” (66 per cent) in 2001, “very likely” (90 per cent) in 2007 and now stands at “extremely likely” (95 per cent). The 2013 report puts an exclamation point on what is already known about anthropogenic climate change, refining our understandings and deepening interconnections among them. It is perhaps not a stretch of the imagination to suggest that if present trends continue the next report slated for publication sometime in 2019-2020 will increase this probability of occurrence to “virtually certain” (99 per cent). When it comes to the science of anthropogenic climate change, like evolution, the debate is over: It is no longer a matter of debate whether or not human activity is influencing climate change, but the speed and scope of such change and its potential consequences for all life systems. Indeed, more than 97 per cent of peer-reviewed climate scientists argue that the globe is warming as a result of anthropogenic GHG emissions. Put differently, of some 33,700 peer-reviewed climate change papers published between 1991 and 2012, only 34 rejected that climate change was caused by human activities (Powell, n.d.; 2012).[1]

Understanding Climate Change as a Political Process

And yet, despite the overwhelming scientific consensus, climate change continues largely unabated. In light of the overwhelming scientific consensus how is it that nearly half of Britons and Americans, and some 42 per cent of Canadians, believe that human activities are not affecting climate change? Despite the consensus or perhaps precisely because of it, it is a mistake to assume that valid science will communicate itself (Dembicki, 2013). Rather, because people are not inherently radical or conservative but adapt to the structured conditions they encounter, a multiplicity of factors from diverse interests and levels of class consciousness to personal experiences, socio-economic status, race, gender, culture and political ideology play a central role in the acceptance or rejection of climate change science. These deeply ingrained sentiments, mediated by competing narratives jostling for hegemony, obscure our understanding of climate change as an inherently political process. It is little wonder, then, that white elites, in particular men, overwhelmingly deny climate change. While just over 7 per cent of non-white U.S. men believe that the potential impacts of climate change are exaggerated or unlikely to happen, this number jumps to nearly 30 per cent of white males and increases in tandem as perceived understanding of climate change rises (McCright and Dunlap, 2011; Pyper, 2011). “A position on climate change has become almost like a tribal totem… I am conservative, therefore, I cannot believe in climate change.” (Lewandowski in Mooney, 2013).

Conservatives tend to question climate change not only on the validity of its scientific conclusions, but equate understanding with broader political and ideological factors such as a skepticism of government or university funded research, liberal conspirational theories, perceived misrepresentations of the data, a belief in the infallibility of markets and technology, media biases, distrust of scientists’ alleged political leanings, and perceived injustices against individual liberties and profit-making freedoms (Washington and Cook, 2011; Oreskes and Conway, 2012; Dunlap and Jacques, 2013). Of course, ideological and identificational factors span the political spectrum, but climate change denialism tends to overwhelmingly be the refuge of conservatism. While some 3 per cent of climate scientists deny that human activities are directly associated with climate change, skeptics and denialists tend to make up 34 per cent of U.S. media coverage (Cook et al., 2013). And climate change coverage by the media is diminishing across the U.S. and Canada having dropped 20 per cent in 2011 over 2010, and more than 40 per cent since 2009. This is evident in fewer reporters covering stories, fewer outlets publishing articles and, perhaps most strikingly, a particular silence (and 50 per cent decline) from the nation’s editorial boards denouncing the lack of action on climate change (Zerbisias, 2012). The growing import of climate change denialists in the popular press and, subsequently, society at large, has risen despite increasing scientific agreement among scientists to the contrary. This is in no small part explained by vast clandestine networks of climate change denial – from media personalities to think-tanks, academics and politicians – that have spent more than $120-million between 2002-2010 to discredit climate change science (Goldenberg, 2013; Greenpeace, 2013).

Interest in climate change decreased just as the economic turbulence, political instability and social insecurity of the Great Recession made its way around the world. But as Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reminded: “This [climate change] is worse than a debt because there is no bailout and if you have two or three good budget years a debt can be reduced, but emissions hang around for 100 years.” (CBC, 2013). In fact, the 2013 IPCC report emphasizes that things are getting worse more rapidly than the best previous models could predict. From global temperature increases to melting ice sheets, retreat of glaciers, rising and acidifying oceans, deforestation, shifts in weather patterns, food chains, plant and animal life, water shortages and massive species extinctions, socio-ecological crises are escalating across the biosphere. For example, the 2013 report estimates that global temperatures will increase somewhere between 1.8 and 4 degrees Celsius by the midway point of this century; sea levels could rise between 18 and 59 centimeters, especially if recent melting in Greenland and Antarctica continues, by the end of this century; Arctic sea ice could disappear by the summer of 2050; and extreme rainfall and heat waves will likely increase in frequency. What’s more, even if emissions were stabilized today these trends would continue well into the future as some 60 per cent of CO2 emissions remain in the atmosphere for 20 years, 45 per cent remains for 100 years and 20 per cent remains 1,000 years after which they are emitted.

It is important to emphasize that for the past five-hundred thousand years GHG’s have fluctuated in a narrow band of between 260 and 280 parts per million (ppm). Today, however, they are over 400ppm CO2, which is roughly 30 per cent higher than previous peaks in volume during interglacial periods. The report stresses that beyond a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise, humans could lose the ability to take actions that would substantially remedy or mitigate climate change, after which a “danger zone” would be entered in which the climate could become unpredictable and the consequences largely unforeseen. It has been estimated that if present trends continue two-thirds of the world population could suffer from water shortages, 12 per cent of bird species and 25 per cent of mammals are threatened with extinction and over 70 per cent of the earth’s fisheries could become depleted, fully-fished and/or over-exploited (Woodin & Lucas, 2004; Gupta, 2001). Climate scientists predict that food production could be cut in half, having already risen 140 per cent in cost between 2002-2008, and threatening some 2 billion food insecure and impoverished persons around the world. What’s more, the Amazon rainforest – dubbed the lungs of the world – could turn to a dry savannah, while melting icecaps could raise sea levels by more than 30 per cent worldwide engulfing land presently occupied by more than 1 billion people (Lean, 2007; Walsh, 2013).

The 2013 IPCC report does not take into account worst case or supposed scenarios such as the releasing of terrestrial and oceanic methane (a GHG thirty times more potent than CO2) as a result of thawing permafrost and undersea reserves. But threatening messages about climate change have their limitations (for a snapshot of the debate see, Lilley et al., 2012; Angus, 2013). Thus while there is certainty about the severity of climate change, the IPCC reports remain moderate reflecting only what are “extremely likely” projections. As one well known phrase puts it: ‘Trying to predict climate change is like trying to predict where the next bubble will pop in a pot of boiling water. We understand how the process works but can’t pin-point exactly where the next stream of bubbles will be.’

250 Years of Capitalist Activity

The IPCC report uses the baseline year 1750 to distinguish between pre-industrial and industrial concentrations of GHG emissions, showing a marked increase in the role of human activities in regards to climate change over the period ever since. Despite some 200,000 years of human activity on earth, however, it is only in the last 250 years (and 150 years in particular) that the long-term viability of the earth as a sustainable place for inhabitation has been called into question. In this regard, it is important to stress that the broad frame of human activity masks what is specifically capitalist activity: a historically unique form of social relations based on the exploitation of labour, which alters humankind’s historic relationship with nature creating deep fissures, i.e., a ‘metabolic rift.’ In historical terms, then, destructive anthropogenic climate change is of recent vintage. What, then, lies at the root of climate change?

Grappling with such a question must inevitably reflect on the ways in which climate change and capitalism are symbiotic – that is to say, how the underlying social relations and forces of (re)production (historically unique and dominant since, say, 1750) are in actuality an instituted compulsion. One where the requirements of life are embedded in a political and economic framework that obscures class exploitation through a complex web of market dependence in which cut-throat competition, labour rationality and profit maximization permeate all aspects of social life. This class exploitation which lies at the root of capitalism, at once gendered, racialized and informed by a host of cross-cutting identificational markers, must be central to our understanding of climate change as socio-ecological crises intersect in myriad non-linear and cascading ways.

Since orthodox economists assume that everything has a price and that the market will inherently sort out all problems, mainstream approaches to climate change suffer from an inherent inability to deal adequately with the climate crisis. The assumption that everything, no matter how ecologically destructive, socially unhealthy or politically unjust has profit-making potential and can be solved by technological or market means must inevitably come to terms with the biophysical impossibility of unlimited economic growth. Said differently, if solutions to the climate crisis are to be found they must be radicalized (i.e. get to the root of the problem) and move away from so-called market based solutions to what are ineradicably market based problems: the capitalist system is inherently incompatible with the goal of sustaining the earth for future generations.

The systemic imperatives of capitalism run counter to any socio-ecological notions of natural limits, critical thresholds and limitations on conspicuous consumption, let alone social justice, since all relations are subordinated to profit maximization. In this sense, it is important to recall the words of Engels (1934) who reminds: “[Nature] is the foundation upon which we human beings, ourselves products of nature, have grown up… at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst.” In other words, “Man lives from nature, i.e. nature is his body, and he must maintain a continuous dialogue with it if he is not to die. To say that man’s physical and mental life is linked to nature simply means that nature is linked to itself, for man is a part of nature” (Marx, 1964, p.112).

It is perhaps not a coincidence that such a large segment of conservative and other groups are adamantly opposed to the science of climate change for substantive solutions require a radical reversal of business as usual – that is to say, a critique of political economy that explicitly rejects capitalist growth as an end in itself and proposes alternative means of organizing society. There are no limitedly scientific, technological or market-based solutions to climate change, only social and political ones that challenge the power of capital to exploit workers, the unwaged, those denied a chance to work and the natural environment upon which all life on earth is based.[2] Countering climate change denialism, then, is a process of politicization as information is rarely neutral and scientific evidence seldom speaks for itself. In this regard, the reputation of Canada as an international pariah is especially disconcerting as even the mildest talk of environmental regulation, especially in a recession, sends captains of industry and their political backers into a tailspin threatening further job cuts.

Canada and Climate Change Inaction

Among the first acts of business by the Stephen Harper Conservatives was to, in the iconic words of the Prime Minister, pull out of the “socialist scheme” that is the Kyoto protocol, which in his view was designed to suck money out of rich countries. Since 2006, environmental monitoring, legislation and protective agencies have been steadily gutted. This includes the elimination, reduction and curtailment of over forty environmental programs related to air, water, transport, oil and gas monitoring, agriculture, hazardous waste management, species at risk, weather services and research funding. The most notable of these include over $222-million being cut from Environment Canada, the elimination of over one thousand scientists and over $100-million in funding at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Parks Canada, the repeal of the Environmental Assessment Act, Elimination of the Experimental Lakes Area program, changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act in order to ease transport restrictions on crude oil, and a host of closures to arms-length government agencies as a result of cuts to funding (Nikiforuk, 2013; 2010; CAW, 2013). What’s more, as part of this strategy to delegitimize climate change and social justice activists, Conservative Ministers have gone to great lengths to publically threaten, cajole and intimidate environmental groups characterizing them as anti-Canadian, radical ideologues and foreign saboteurs hijacking the political process (Oliver, 2012; Payton, 2012).

In an effort to turn Canada into an “energy superpower” the Conservatives have pledged to triple tar sands production by 2035, have eased environmental regulations in order to allow mining and oil companies to explore Canada’s Arctic, and have established the “Oil Sands Advocacy Strategy” in the Department of Foreign Affairs. This is on top of subsidies in excess of $1.4-billion to the oil, mining and gas industry, and Herculean efforts to ensure that the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Keystone XL are implemented despite broad-ranging resistance. Part of this strategy has resorted to preventing public scientists from speaking out about Canada’s abysmal environmental record. Indeed, a recent survey of government scientists found that 90 per cent of respondents felt as though they could not speak freely about their work; 86 per cent feared retaliation if they went public about their research on public health or environmental science; 71 per cent felt that political interference compromised policy development based on scientific evidence; nearly half said they were aware of cases in which their department or agency suppressed information for political reasons; and 25 per cent responded to having been asked to directly exclude or alter information for “non-scientific” purposes (Chung, 2013; Cheadle, 2013).[3] Furthermore, 86 per cent (along with four former federal fisheries ministers) said they felt changes to the Fisheries Act would drastically hamper Canada’s ability to protect fish and habitat provisions as only those deemed economically viable would now be covered (Galloway, 2012; Barlow, 2012; Paris, 2012). The chasm between public servants conducting research and elected officials propagating party lines speaks volumes about the political nature of climate change science and the underlying political efforts to stem serious environmental reforms (for a recent example, see, De Souza, 2013).

The federal Conservatives have also been working diligently to undermine stiffer environmental protocols in other countries, such as California’s Low-Carbon Fuel Standard and the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive. This adds to a growing list of federal international inaction illustrated by Canada’s unwillingness to sign onto a global treaty reining in carbon emissions in Copenhagen in 2009, as well as stifling of plans to implement an international financial transactions tax at the 2010 Toronto G20 meetings. In fact, Canada’s carbon emissions will be 20 per cent higher than the Harper government’s own promised reductions under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord; in actuality some 66 and 107 per cent higher than what is needed to meet Canada’s international obligation to prevent global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius. Not only will the federal Conservatives miss their own emission reduction target cut of 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020, they will actually be 2 per cent higher by the end of the decade. Actual emissions in 2011 were twenty-four times higher than 1990 (Environment Canada, 2013).

Canada now stands alone among the G8 as the only nation to not only lack a national housing, transit and infrastructure strategy, but also a national renewable energy program, the last incarnation having been eliminated in 2011. Even the U.S., hardly a bastion of renewable energy investment, spends eighteen times more per capita in federal investments in renewable energy than Canada (Climate Action Network Canada, n.d.). It is plain to see that the federal Conservatives lack any serious plans to deal with climate change. Since 2006 not only has business as usual continued, it has been expanded in scale and scope registering hardly a blip on the federal policy front.[4]

Indeed in policy terms, not only has this exacerbated the class dimensions of climate change as rich nations globally exploit the labour power of the Third World and poor and working-class communities cope with decreased access to public services, transportation, decent work, rising food prices and general social insecurity, but also its simultaneously gendered and racialized implications. Across the Global South, for example, women are overwhelmingly responsible for subsistence agriculture and ecosystems services. Climate change-induced reductions to food crop production, shifting weather patterns, forced migration, war, water shortages and increases in communicable diseases, coupled with women’s generally lower socio-economic status, levels of education, ownership and access to resources, means that although women are largely under-represented in decision-making capacities they must bare the brunt of its consequences.

Though varying in form and intensity, even in the Global North the gendered implications of climate change are significant as women remain responsible for the majority of unpaid domestic labour and are thus often expected to make up for reductions to public services and programs as well as child and elder care, which face added pressures in light of natural disasters, climate displacement, housing, food and water insecurity. Racialized communities, (im)migrants, refugees and those denied status often fare far worse as instances of poverty and malnutrition are intensified by exploitative labour market conditions and higher instances of precarious work. In both North and South, increasing concentration in urban centres without the social and physical infrastructure needed to meet the challenges of climate change threatens to intensify urban air pollution, traffic congestion, water contamination, sanitation issues and the health and well-being of all living systems. Automobile-dependent urban sprawl wipes out farmland reinforcing a sub/urban growth dynamic and expensive low-density infrastructure, while pushing working-class and racialized communities, in particular women and single-parent households, to the margins (UNEP, 2011; Global Gender and Climate Alliance, 2009).

Breaking the cycle of climate change inaction means recognizing the relationship between climate change and capitalism. In an era of unprecedented and growing income inequality, climate change threatens to exacerbate health problems, social injustices and violent conflicts around the world. It has been estimated that capitalist-impelled climate change causes some 300,000 deaths and 5 million illnesses annually. And this is expected to double by 2030. What’s more, inaction is already estimated to cost $125-billion annually and is expected to rise to $600-billion by 2030 (Vidal, 2009). The class composition of climate change is such that those most vulnerable, exploited and degraded will suffer the most as the capitalist class thrives on disaster recognizing them as opportunities (Semeniuk, 2013; CBC, 2013c). As is evidenced from the global tumult of the Great Recession, neoliberal capitalism has emerged stronger and more consolidated than ever despite a temporary, if short-lived, crisis of legitimacy. Never letting a crisis go to waste means using those opportunities as moments to do things that were seemingly unlikely or impossible beforehand.

In Canada, this has meant an emboldened radicalism from conservatives and segments of capital as so-called right-to-work laws, new pressures on privatizing public services, in particular healthcare, pensions and post-secondary education, the removal of public sector collective bargaining rights, the implementation of a free trade agreement with Europe that trumps NAFTA, work for welfare initiatives, attacks against social assistance, the weakening of employment standards legislation, reductions to old age security and the erosion of progressive taxation, once deemed central to the social fabric of Canada, are now destined for the proverbial dustbin of history (Fanelli and Evans, 2012; Banting and Myles, 2013; Himelfarb and Himelfarb, 2013; Swift, 2013; Braedley and Luxton, 2010). Climate change, then, far from necessarily compelling any progressive changes may provide opportunities for capitalism to assert itself as the only alternative regardless of the social, environmental and human costs. As such, dealing with climate change is among the most pressing social and political, that is, class struggles of our time.

Taking Climate Change Seriously

Despite a crisis of capitalism with few historical parallels, anti-capitalist activists have rarely been as isolated and marginalized as they are today.[5] While the economic crisis should have put labour and social justice activists on the offensive, it has been capital that has determined the agenda ushering in a series of regressive reforms that has made life more insecure and precarious for most, while ironically enhancing the lives of those that caused the Great Recession in the first place (Rexrode, 2013; Goodway, 2012). Unfortunately, despite sporadic and localized battles, there has been no subsequent radicalization of labour unions, social movements and anti-capitalist groups in a coordinated and structured way. Developing a movement that challenges austerity and climate change will need to experiment with new forms of organizing that more effectively breaks out of labour and activist subcultures and builds on the heterogeneity of the working-class. One of the few exceptions have been First Nations communities, long subjected to British and later Canadian colonialism, and Idle No More protestors that have defended the rights of the earth against unbridled capitalist exploitation (CBC, 2013b; Barrera, 2013; Dobbin, 2013). While this is not the place for an overview of debates about left regroupment, the challenge facing trade union, environmental and social justice activists is to move to the anti-capitalist Left or risk increasingly becoming an impediment to rather than an instrument of a renewed working-class politics. The failure to do so may regrettably amount to an historic class defeat.

If climate change and overlapping crises – from air, ocean and water pollution to displacement, disease and labour degradation – are to be comprehensively challenged, it will mean addressing not only its effects but its causes: the capitalist system which degrades the earth and alienates labour. This means integrating rather limited but important individual behaviours, lifestyle and consumptive habits into a broader social justice framework that addresses the structural and systemic roots (i.e. exploitative relations and forces of [re]production) of labour and environmental degradation (Albo, 2007). Far from grand-theorizing or proselytizing, foresight, not hindsight, is the only realistic starting point from which to move forward. The challenge is for the working-classes to develop the confidence and capacities to think as ambitiously and radical as capital, the ruling class, has done since the onset of the recession. Taking climate change seriously means rethinking living and working arrangements, leaving fossil fuels in the ground and retooling manufacturing industries to develop an array of renewable energies (e.g. wind, solar, tidal, geothermal), massively expanding public transportation in order to reduce a dependence on individual modes of transportation, renewing local polycultural farming practices, reversing the erosion of progressive taxation, retrofitting homes and industries and, most importantly, moving away from a reliance on the private sector as the engine of economic growth in favour of the expansion of the public sector.

Socializing and democratizing the banking and finance sectors would mean placing social and environmental priorities ahead of board members, stock owners and corporations’ profitability. Reigning in corporate power means recapturing decision-making capacities as part of a larger class project to reclaim and strengthen social and political justice across all facets of life. Additionally, this means dispensing with opaque notions of more or less state and instead emphasizing the need to build a different kind of state – a different kind of society.

Unfortunately, social democracy has demonstrated a recurring inability to stand up to austerity, often deepening and extending market forces rather than challenging its central tenets. In order to challenge market forces, rebuilding the political capacities of organized labour is crucial, but so too is organizing the unorganized, unwaged and swaths of workers engaged in low-wage, insecure and precarious forms of work and labour. Rooted in struggles for racial and gender equality, new political formations will need to come to terms with the limitations of militancy alone which, in the absence of a transformative project, has been incapable of countering the drumbeats of austerity and neoliberalism. In the absence of an anti-capitalist politics, then, we risk hampering rather than facilitating political change if we settle for anything less (Williams, 2010; MacKay, 2009; Foster, 2009; Boggs, 2012; Rowbotham et al., 2013; Salleh, 2009).

While redistribution is important, a focus on what happens pre-distribution (i.e. extraction, production, social reproduction) raises a set of demands for non-commodified labour. Putting the needs of the earth’s inhabitants first means that food and water sovereignty, along with housing, healthcare and education, are prioritized as human rights. Universal social programs, from child and elder care to pensions, public spaces, art and cultural centres are crucial to developing a socio-ecological praxis that seeks to deepen and extend collective civic engagement rather than an individualized social policy arena. In light of historically low interest rates, major public works investments in housing, transit, renewable energy, infrastructure and denser development would lessen a reliance on private capital, decarbonizing the economy, encouraging more locally rooted and regionally coordinated production, and socializing access to basic services. Meeting the social and political challenges of climate change within an explicitly anti-capitalist framework is not utopian or impractical, far from it, the real utopians are the ones who think business can continue as usual. Decades of governmental inaction, subterfuge and capitalist class war have shown that the radical is now the only thing that is practical.[6]

Carlo Fanelli is an Instructor and SSHRC Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Politics & Public Administration, Ryerson University. Follow him on Twitter at @carlofanelli.

notes:

1. See also Richard, 2012; Oreskes, 2004

2. Carbon markets have done next to nothing to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, often precipitating more problems than they have solved. Consider the failure of the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme which, far from reducing carbon emissions, are actually set to cancel out over 700m tonnes of emissions saved through renewable energy and energy efficiency effort (Carrington, 2013; Lohman, 2011).

3. Among the 4,000 respondents included scientists from Environment Canada, Health Canada, Department of Defence, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Food Inspection Agency, Agriculture Canada and Natural Resources Canada. Even Maclean‘s (Gatehouse, 2013), a bastion of all things conservative, criticized the Harper government’s muzzling of climate scientists as bordering on Orwellian.

4. The New Democrats, supported by the Bloc Quebecois and Liberals, put forward a private member’s bill titled the Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-311) that called for the government to establish five-year plans outlining how it would reduce GHG emissions. Bill C-311 aimed to set regulations that would bring emissions down 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050. Despite being passed by a majority of members of parliament, the unelected Conservative majority in the senate used their power to defeat Bill C-311 without debate or study (Galloway, 2010).

5. Panitch and Gindin (2012) have characterized the Great Recession of 2008 as the fourth major structural crisis of capitalism. The first occurred in the last quarter of the 19th century, the second – introduced by the stock market crash in 1929 – ran through the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the third emerged in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

6. For an expansion of the view that the radical is now the only thing that is practical, see Gindin, 2012.

 

References:

 

            The recent interim accord between the six world powers and Iran has been hailed as an “historic breakthrough”, a “significant accomplishment” by most leading politicians, editorialists and columnists (Financial Times, (FT) 11/26/13, p. 2), the exceptions being notably Israeli leaders and the Zionist power brokers in North America and Western Europe (FT 11/26/13, p. 3).

             What constitutes this “historic breakthrough”?  Who got what? Did the agreement provide for symmetrical concessions?  Does the interim agreement strengthen or weaken the prospects for peace and prosperity in the Gulf and the Middle East ?  To address these and other questions, one also has to include the powerful influence wielded by Israel on US and European policymakers ( Stephen Lendman <[email protected]  11/26/13; 11/27/13).  Equally important, the current ‘interim’ agreement is just that – it is a first, limited agreement, which does not in any way spell out the strategic objectives of the major imperial powers.  Any realistic appreciation of the significance of the interim agreement requires putting it into historical perspective.

  The Historical Record:  Past Precedents

            For over a decade the major US intelligence agencies have published detailed accounts of Iran ’s nuclear program (see especially the National Intelligence Estimate 2007 (NIE)).  The common consensus has been that Iran did not have any program for developing nuclear weapons (National Intelligence Estimate 2004, 2007).  As a consequence of this ‘absence of evidence’, the entire Western offensive against Iran had to focus on Iran ’s “potential capacity” to shift sometime in the future towards a weapons program.  The current agreement is directed toward undermining Iran ’s potential ‘capacity’ to have a nuclear weapons program: there are no weapons to destroy, no weapon plans exist, no war plans exist and there are no strategic offensive military operations on the Iranian ‘drawing board’.  We know this, because repeated US intelligence reports have told us that no weapons programs exist!  So the entire current negotiations are really over weakening Iran ’s ongoing peaceful, legal nuclear program and undermining any future advance in nuclear technology that might protect Iran from an Israeli or US attack, when they decide to activate their “military option”, as was pulled off in the war to destroy Iraq .

             Secondly, Iran ’s flexible and accommodating concessions are not new or a reflection of a newly elected President.  As Gareth Porter has pointed out: Nearly ten years ago, on Nov. 15, 2004, Iran agreed “on a voluntary basis to continue and extend an existing suspension of enrichment to include all enrichment related and reprocessing activities” (Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service 11/26/13).  According to Porter, Iran was ending “all manufacturing, assembly, installation and testing of centrifuges or their components”.  Despite these generous concessions, on March 2005, the Europeans and the US refused to negotiate on an Iranian proposal for a comprehensive settlement that would guarantee against enrichment toward weapons grade.  Iran ended its voluntary suspension of all enrichment activity.  The US , led by Zionists embedded in Treasury, (Stuart Levey) then escalated sanctions.  Europe and the UN Security Council followed in kind.  The practice of the US and Europe first securing major concessions from Iran and then refusing to reciprocate by pursuing a comprehensive settlement is a well established diplomatic practice.  Iran ’s flexibility and concessions were apparently interpreted as “signs of weakness” to be exploited in their push toward ‘regime change’ (An Unusual Success for Sanctions Policy, FT 11/27/13, p. 10).  Sanctions are seen as “effective” political-diplomatic weapons designed to further weaken the regime.  Policy-makers continue to believe that sanctions should be maintained as a tool to divide the Iranian elite, disarm and dismantle the country’s defensive capacity and to prepare for “regime change” or a military confrontation without fear of serious resistance from the Iranians.

            The entire charade of Iran ’s ‘nuclear weapons as a threat’ has been orchestrated by the Israeli regime and its army of ‘Israel Firsters’ embedded in the US Executive, Congress and mass media.  The ‘Big Lie’, promoted by Israel ’s propaganda machine and network of agents, has been repeatedly and thoroughly refuted by the sixteen major US Intelligence Estimates or NIE’s, especially in 2004 and 2007.  These consensus documents were based on extensive research, inside sources (spies) and highly sophisticated surveillance.  The NIEs categorically state that Iran suspended all efforts toward a nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has not made any decision or move to restart that program.  However, Israel has actively spread propaganda, based on fabricated intelligence reports, claiming the contrary in order to trick and push the US into a disastrous military confrontation with Israel ’s regional rival.  And the President of the United States ignores his own intelligence sources in order to repeat Israel ’s ‘Big Lie’!

             Given the fact that Iran is not a ‘nuclear threat’, now or in the past, and given that the US , European and Israeli leaders know this, why do they continue and even increase the sanctions against Iran ?  Why do they threaten to destroy Iran with pre-emptive attacks?  Why the current demands for even more concessions from Tehran ?  The current negotiations and ‘agreement’ tell us a great deal about the ‘ultimate’ or final strategic aims of the White House and its European allies.

The ‘Interim Agreement’:  A Most Asymmetrical Compromise

            Iran ’s negotiators conceded to the’ 5 plus 1’ all their major demands while they received the most minimum of concessions, (FT 1/25/13, p. 2).

             Iran agreed (1) to stop all enrichment to 20 percent, (2) reduce the existing 20 percent enriched stockpile to zero, (3) convert all low enriched uranium to a form that cannot be enriched to a higher level, (4) halt progress on its enrichment capacity, (5) leave inoperable half of its centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of those at Fordow, and (6) freeze all activities at Arak heavy water facility which when built could produce plutonium.  Iran also agreed to end any plans to construct a facility capable of reprocessing plutonium from spent fuel.  The Iranian negotiators agreed to the most pervasive and intensive “inspections” of its most important strategic defense facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been closely allied with the US and its EU counterparts.  These “inspections” and data collection will take place on a daily bases and include access to Natanz and Fordow.  The strategic military value of these inspections is inestimable because it could provide data, heretofore unavailable, for any future missile strike from the US or Israel when they decide to shift from negotiations to the ‘military option’.  In addition, the IAEA inspectors will be allowed to access other strategic facilities, including sites for developing centrifuges, uranium mines and mills.  Future “negotiations” may open highly sensitive military defense sites such as Parchin, where conventional missiles and warheads are stored.

           Obviously, there will not be any reciprocal inspections of the US missile sites, warships and military bases in the Persian Gulf, which store weapons of mass destruction aimed at Iran !  Nor will the IAEA inspect Israel ’s nuclear weapons—facilities in Dimona – despite Israeli threats to attack Iran .  No comparable diminution of “military capacity” or nuclear weapons, aimed at Iran by some members of the ‘5 plus 1 and Israel ’ is included in this “historic breakthrough”.

The ‘5 plus 1’ conceded meager concessions:  Unfreezing of 7% of Iranian-owned assets sequestered in Western banks ($7 billion of $100 billion) and ‘allowing’ Iran to enrich uranium to 5 percent –and even that “concession” is conditioned by the proviso that it does not exceed current stockpiles of 5% enriched uranium.  While the Iranian negotiators claim they secured (sic) ‘the right’ to enrich uranium, the US refused to even formally acknowledge it!

            In effect, Iran has conceded the maximum concessions regarding its strategic national defenses, nuclear facilities and uranium enrichment in what is supposedly the ‘initial’ round of negotiations, while ‘receiving’ the minimum of reciprocal concessions.  This highly unfavorable, asymmetrical framework, will lead the US to see Iran as ‘ripe for regime change’ and demand even more decisive concessions designed to further weaken Iran ’s defensive capacity.  Future concessions will increase Iran ’s vulnerability to intelligence gathering and undermine its role as a regional power and strategic ally of the Lebanese Hezbollah, the current beleaguered governments in Syria and Iraq and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

The ‘Final Settlement’:  Decline and Fall of the Islamic Nationalist Republic ?

            The real goals of the US sanctions policy and the recent decision to enter into negotiations with Iran have to do with several imperial objectives.  The first objective is to facilitate the rise of a neo-liberal regime in Iran , which would be committed to privatizing major oil and gas fields and attracting foreign capital even at the cost of strategic national defense.

President Rohani is seen in Washington as the Islamic version of the former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.  Rohani, like his ‘model’ Gorbachev, ‘gave away the store’ while expecting Iran ’s imperial adversaries to reciprocate.

            The ‘5 plus 1’, mostly veterans of the ‘imperial shake down’, will take all of Rohani’s concessions and demand even more!  They will “allow” Iran to recover its own frozen assets in slow droplets, which the neo-liberals in Tehran will celebrate as ‘victories’ even while the country stagnates under continued sanctions and the people suffer!  The US Administration will retain sanctions in order to accommodate their Israeli-Zionist patrons and to provoke even deeper fissures in the regime.  Washington ’s logic is that the more concessions Teheran surrenders, the more difficult it will be to reverse the process under public pressure from the Iranian people.  This ‘rift’ between the conciliatory government of Rohani and the Iranian people, according to CIA strategists, will lead to greater internal discontent in Iran and will further weaken the regime.  A regime under siege will need to rely  even more on their Western interlocutors.  President Rohani ‘relying on the 5-plus-1’ will be like the condemned leaning into the hangman’s noose.

Rohani and the Neo-Liberal Collaborators

            The ascendancy of Rohani to the Presidency brings in its wake an entire new political-economic leadership intent on facilitating large-scale, long-term penetration by Western and Chinese oil and gas companies in the most lucrative sites.  Iran ’s new oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, has made overtures to all the oil majors, and offers to revise and liberalize the terms for investment and provide concessions designed to greatly enhance multinational profits, in the most lucrative fields (FT, 11/27/13, p. 2).  Zangeneh has kicked out the nationalists and replaced them with a cohort of liberal economists.  He is preparing to eventually lay-off tens of thousands of public sector oil employees as an incentive to attract foreign corporate partners.  He is prepared to lower fuel subsidies for the Iranian people and raise energy prices for domestic consumers. The liberals in power have the backing of millionaires, speculators and political power brokers, like Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani head of the key Expediency Council, which drafts policy.  Many of Rafsanjani’s followers have been appointed to key positions in President Rohani’s administration (FT, 11/26/13, p.3).

            Central to the ‘Troika’s (Rohani-Rafsanjani-Zangeneh) strategy is securing the collaboration of multi-national energy corporations.  However that requires lifting the US-imposed sanctions against Iran in the shortest time possible.  This explains the hasty, unseemly and one-sided Iranian concessions to the ‘5-plus-1’.  In other words, the driving force behind Iran ’s giveaways is not the “success of sanctions” but the ascendancy to power of the Iranian comprador class and its neo-liberal ideology which informs their economic strategy.

Several major obstacles confront the ‘Troika’.  The major concessions, initially granted, leave few others to concede, short of dismantling the entire nuclear energy infrastructure and lobotomizing its entire scientific and technical manpower, which would destroy the legitimacy of the regime.  Secondly, having easily secured major concessions without lifting the sanctions the ‘5-plus-1’ are free to escalate their demands for further concessions, which in effect will deepen Iran’s vulnerability to Western espionage, terrorism (as in the assassination of Iranian scientists and engineers) and preemptive attack.  As the negotiations proceed it will become crystal clear that the US intends to force the ‘Troika’ to open the gates to more overtly pro-western elites in order to eventually polarize Iranian society.

            The end-game is a weakened, divided, liberalized regime, vulnerable to internal and external threats and willing to cut-off support to nationalist regimes in the Middle East, including Palestine , Iraq , Syria and Lebanon .  The US recognized and seized upon the rise of the new neo-liberal Rohani regime and secured major unilateral concessions as a down payment to move step-by-step toward bloody regime change.  Washington ’s “end game” is the conversion of Iran to a client petrol-state allied with the Saudi-Israeli axis.

As far-fetched as that appears today, the logic of negotiations is moving in that direction.

The Israeli-US Differences:  A Question of Tactics and Timing

            Israeli leaders and their Zionist agents, embedded in the US government, howl, pull out their hair and bluster against the ‘5-plus-1’ transitional agreement with Iran .  They downplay the enormous one-sided concessions.  They rant and rave about “hidden agenda”, “deceit and deception”.  They fabricate conspiracies and repeat lies about secret “nuclear weapons programs” beyond the reach (and imagination) of any non-Zionist inspector.  But the reality is that the “historic breakthrough” includes the dismantling of a major part of Iran ’s nuclear infrastructure, while retaining sanctions – a huge victory of the Zionists! The ‘5-plus-1’ negotiated a deal which has secured deeper and more extensive changes in Iran while strengthening Western power in the Persian Gulf than all of  Netanyahu’s decade-long campaign of issuing ‘military threats’.

             Netanyahu and his brainwashed Zionist-Jewish defenders in the US insist on new, even harsher sanctions because they want immediate war and regime-change (a puppet regime).  Echoing his Israeli boss Netanyahu, New York Senator Chuck “the schmuck” Schumer, commenting on the interim agreement brayed, “The disproportionality of this agreement makes it more likely that Democrats and Republicans will pass additional sanctions” (Barrons 12/2/13 p14)   This is the same stupid policy that the embedded Zionists in Washington pursued with Iraq .  Under the Bush Presidency, top neo-con Zionists, like Wolfowitz, Ross, Indyk, Feith, Abrams and Libby, implemented Ariel Sharon’s war dictates:  (1) murdered Saddam Hussein (regime change) (2) destroyed the Iraq’s economy, society and modern infrastructure, and (3) provoked ethnic fragmentation and religious war – costing the US over 2 trillion dollars on the war, thousands of US lives (millions of Iraqi lives) and at a cost of hundreds of billions in high oil prices to US consumers – further shattering the US domestic economy.

Among the few moderately intelligent and influential Zionist journalists, Gideon Rachman, who realizes the strategic value of the step-by-step approach of the Obama regime, has called for the White House “to take on the Israel lobby over Iran ” (FT, 11/26/13, p. 10).  Rachman knows that if Israel’s howling stooges in the US Congress drag the country into war, the American people will turn against the Israeli lobby, its fellow travelers and, most likely, Israel.  Rachman and a few others with a grain of political sophistication know that the Rohani regime in Tehran has just handed over key levers of power to the US .  They know that the negotiations are moving toward greater integration of Iran into the US orbit. They know, in the final instance, that Obama’s step-by-step diplomatic approach will be less costly and more effective than Netanyahu’s military ‘final solution’.  And they know that, ultimately, Obama’s and Israel ’s goal is the same:  a weak neo-liberalized Iran , which cannot challenge Israel ’s military dominance, nuclear weapons monopoly, annexation of Palestine and aggression against Lebanon and Syria .

Conclusion

            Having secured a “freeze” on Iran’s consequential nuclear research and having on site intelligence on all Iran’s major national defense and security facilities, the US can compile a data base for an offensive military strategy whenever it likes.  Iran , on the other hand, receives no information or reports on US, European or Israeli military movement, weapons facilities or offensive regional capabilities.  This is despite the fact that the ‘5-plus-1’ countries and Israel have recently launched numerous devastating offensive military operations and wars in the region ( Iraq , Afghanistan , Lebanon , Libya and Syria ).  Having set the agenda for negotiations as one of further unilateral concessions from Iran , the US can at any point, threaten to end negotiations – and follow up with its ‘military option’.

             The next step in the unilateral disarmament of Iran will be the US demand to close the strategic Arak heavy water plant.  The US will demand that Iran produce a basic minimum amount of uranium and retain a stock pile to cover a few days or weeks for energy, research or medical isotopes.  Washington will strip Iran of its capacity to enrich by imposing quantitative and qualitative limits on the centrifuges that Iran can possess and operate.  During the next round of negotiations, the US will preclude Iran from undertaking the reprocessing of uranium at Arak or any other site.  The US will tell ‘the Troika’ that the “right” (sic) to enrich does not extend to the right to reprocess.  The US will demand stringent “transparency” for Iran , while maintaining its own high level secrecy, evasion and ambiguity with regard to its military, diplomatic and economic sanctions policy.

            In a word, the US will demand that Iran surrender its sovereignty and subject itself to the colonial oversight of an imperial power, which has yet to make a single move in even reducing economic sanctions.  The loss of sovereignty, the continued sanctions and the drive by the US to curtail Iran’s regional influence will certainly lead to  popular discontent in Iran – and a response from the nationalist and populist military (Revolutionary Guards) and the working poor.  The crisis resulting from the Troika’s adoption of the “Gorbachev Model” will lead to an inevitable confrontation.  Overtime the US will seek out an Islamist strongman, an Iranian version of Yeltsin who can savage the nationalists and popular movements and turn over the keys to the state, treasury and oil fields to a “moderate and responsible” pro-Western client regime.

             The entire US strategy of degrading Iran ’s military defenses and securing major neo-liberal “reforms” depends on President Rohani remaining in power, which can only result from the Obama regime’s compliance in lifting some of the oil and banking sanctions (FT 12/1/13, p. 6).  Paradoxically, the greatest obstacle to achieving Washington ’s strategic roll-back goal is Netanyahu’s power to block sanction relief – and impose even, harsher sanctions.  The result of such an Israel Firster victory in the US would be the end of negotiations, the strengthening of Iran ’s nuclear program, the demise of the oil privatization program and added support to regional nationalist movements and governments.  President Rohani desperately needs western imperial reassurance of the benefits (sanction relief) of his initial giveaways.  Otherwise his credibility at home would be irreparably damaged. 

            The imperial prize of a militarily weakened and neo-liberalized Iran , collaborating in maintaining the status quo in the Middle East, is enormous but it clashes with the Zionist Power Configuration, which insists on all power to the Jewish state from the Suez to the Persian Gulf !

Syria: Whose Sarin?

December 8th, 2013 by Seymour M. Hersh

Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts.

Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.

In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

In his nationally televised speech about Syria on 10 September, Obama laid the blame for the nerve gas attack on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta firmly on Assad’s government, and made it clear he was prepared to back up his earlier public warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’: ‘Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people,’ he said.

‘We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.’

Obama was going to war to back up a public threat, but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August.

He cited a list of what appeared to be hard-won evidence of Assad’s culpability: ‘In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.’ Obama’s certainty was echoed at the time by Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, who told the New York Times: ‘No one with whom I’ve spoken doubts the intelligence’ directly linking Assad and his regime to the sarin attacks.

But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’

The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack. The military intelligence community has for years produced a highly classified early morning intelligence summary, known as the Morning Report, for the secretary of defence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a copy also goes to the national security adviser and the director of national intelligence. The Morning Report includes no political or economic information, but provides a summary of important military events around the world, with all available intelligence about them. A senior intelligence consultant told me that some time after the attack he reviewed the reports for 20 August through 23 August. For two days – 20 and 21 August – there was no mention of Syria. On 22 August the lead item in the Morning Report dealt with Egypt; a subsequent item discussed an internal change in the command structure of one of the rebel groups in Syria. Nothing was noted about the use of nerve gas in Damascus that day. It was not until 23 August that the use of sarin became a dominant issue, although hundreds of photographs and videos of the massacre had gone viral within hours on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites. At this point, the administration knew no more than the public.

Obama left Washington early on 21 August for a hectic two-day speaking tour in New York and Pennsylvania; according to the White House press office, he was briefed later that day on the attack, and the growing public and media furore. The lack of any immediate inside intelligence was made clear on 22 August, when Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the State Department, told reporters: ‘We are unable to conclusively determine [chemical weapons] use. But we are focused every minute of every day since these events happened … on doing everything possible within our power to nail down the facts.’ The administration’s tone had hardened by 27 August, when Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary, told reporters – without providing any specific information – that any suggestions that the Syrian government was not responsible ‘are as preposterous as suggestions that the attack itself didn’t occur’.

The absence of immediate alarm inside the American intelligence community demonstrates that there was no intelligence about Syrian intentions in the days before the attack. And there are at least two ways the US could have known about it in advance: both were touched on in one of the top secret American intelligence documents that have been made public in recent months by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

On 29 August, the Washington Post published excerpts from the annual budget for all national intelligence programmes, agency by agency, provided by Snowden. In consultation with the Obama administration, the newspaper chose to publish only a slim portion of the 178-page document, which has a classification higher than top secret, but it summarised and published a section dealing with problem areas. One problem area was the gap in coverage targeting Assad’s office. The document said that the NSA’s worldwide electronic eavesdropping facilities had been ‘able to monitor unencrypted communications among senior military officials at the outset of the civil war there’. But it was ‘a vulnerability that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces apparently later recognised’. In other words, the NSA no longer had access to the conversations of the top military leadership in Syria, which would have included crucial communications from Assad, such as orders for a nerve gas attack. (In its public statements since 21 August, the Obama administration has never claimed to have specific information connecting Assad himself to the attack.)

The Post report also provided the first indication of a secret sensor system inside Syria, designed to provide early warning of any change in status of the regime’s chemical weapons arsenal. The sensors are monitored by the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency that controls all US intelligence satellites in orbit. According to the Post summary, the NRO is also assigned ‘to extract data from sensors placed on the ground’ inside Syria. The former senior intelligence official, who had direct knowledge of the programme, told me that NRO sensors have been implanted near all known chemical warfare sites in Syria. They are designed to provide constant monitoring of the movement of chemical warheads stored by the military. But far more important, in terms of early warning, is the sensors’ ability to alert US and Israeli intelligence when warheads are being loaded with sarin. (As a neighbouring country, Israel has always been on the alert for changes in the Syrian chemical arsenal, and works closely with American intelligence on early warnings.) A chemical warhead, once loaded with sarin, has a shelf life of a few days or less – the nerve agent begins eroding the rocket almost immediately: it’s a use-it-or-lose-it mass killer. ‘The Syrian army doesn’t have three days to prepare for a chemical attack,’ the former senior intelligence official told me. ‘We created the sensor system for immediate reaction, like an air raid warning or a fire alarm. You can’t have a warning over three days because everyone involved would be dead. It is either right now or you’re history. You do not spend three days getting ready to fire nerve gas.’ The sensors detected no movement in the months and days before 21 August, the former official said. It is of course possible that sarin had been supplied to the Syrian army by other means, but the lack of warning meant that Washington was unable to monitor the events in Eastern Ghouta as they unfolded.

The sensors had worked in the past, as the Syrian leadership knew all too well. Last December the sensor system picked up signs of what seemed to be sarin production at a chemical weapons depot. It was not immediately clear whether the Syrian army was simulating sarin production as part of an exercise (all militaries constantly carry out such exercises) or actually preparing an attack. At the time, Obama publicly warned Syria that using sarin was ‘totally unacceptable’; a similar message was also passed by diplomatic means. The event was later determined to be part of a series of exercises, according to the former senior intelligence official: ‘If what the sensors saw last December was so important that the president had to call and say, “Knock it off,” why didn’t the president issue the same warning three days before the gas attack in August?’

The NSA would of course monitor Assad’s office around the clock if it could, the former official said. Other communications – from various army units in combat throughout Syria – would be far less important, and not analysed in real time. ‘There are literally thousands of tactical radio frequencies used by field units in Syria for mundane routine communications,’ he said, ‘and it would take a huge number of NSA cryptological technicians to listen in – and the useful return would be zilch.’ But the ‘chatter’ is routinely stored on computers. Once the scale of events on 21 August was understood, the NSA mounted a comprehensive effort to search for any links to the attack, sorting through the full archive of stored communications. A keyword or two would be selected and a filter would be employed to find relevant conversations. ‘What happened here is that the NSA intelligence weenies started with an event – the use of sarin – and reached to find chatter that might relate,’ the former official said. ‘This does not lead to a high confidence assessment, unless you start with high confidence that Bashar Assad ordered it, and began looking for anything that supports that belief.’ The cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war.

The White House needed nine days to assemble its case against the Syrian government. On 30 August it invited a select group of Washington journalists (at least one often critical reporter, Jonathan Landay, the national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, was not invited), and handed them a document carefully labelled as a ‘government assessment’, rather than as an assessment by the intelligence community. The document laid out what was essentially a political argument to bolster the administration’s case against the Assad government. It was, however, more specific than Obama would be later, in his speech on 10 September: American intelligence, it stated, knew that Syria had begun ‘preparing chemical munitions’ three days before the attack. In an aggressive speech later that day, John Kerry provided more details. He said that Syria’s ‘chemical weapons personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations’ by 18 August. ‘We know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.’ The government assessment and Kerry’s comments made it seem as if the administration had been tracking the sarin attack as it happened. It is this version of events, untrue but unchallenged, that was widely reported at the time.

An unforseen reaction came in the form of complaints from the Free Syrian Army’s leadership and others about the lack of warning. ‘It’s unbelievable they did nothing to warn people or try to stop the regime before the crime,’ Razan Zaitouneh, an opposition member who lived in one of the towns struck by sarin, told Foreign Policy. The Daily Mail was more blunt: ‘Intelligence report says US officials knew about nerve-gas attack in Syria three days before it killed over 1400 people – including more than 400 children.’ (The number of deaths attributable to the attack varied widely, from at least 1429, as initially claimed by the Obama administration, to many fewer. A Syrian human rights group reported 502 deaths; Médicins sans Frontières put it at 355; and a French report listed 281 known fatalities. The strikingly precise US total was later reported by the Wall Street Journal to have been based not on an actual body count, but on an extrapolation by CIA analysts, who scanned more than a hundred YouTube videos from Eastern Ghouta into a computer system and looked for images of the dead. In other words, it was little more than a guess.)

Five days later, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence responded to the complaints. A statement to the Associated Press said that the intelligence behind the earlier administration assertions was not known at the time of the attack, but recovered only subsequently: ‘Let’s be clear, the United States did not watch, in real time, as this horrible attack took place. The intelligence community was able to gather and analyse information after the fact and determine that elements of the Assad regime had in fact taken steps to prepare prior to using chemical weapons.’ But since the American press corps had their story, the retraction received scant attention. On 31 August the Washington Post, relying on the government assessment, had vividly reported on its front page that American intelligence was able to record ‘each step’ of the Syrian army attack in real time, ‘from the extensive preparations to the launching of rockets to the after-action assessments by Syrian officials’. It did not publish the AP corrective, and the White House maintained control of the narrative.

So when Obama said on 10 September that his administration knew Assad’s chemical weapons personnel had prepared the attack in advance, he was basing the statement not on an intercept caught as it happened, but on communications analysed days after 21 August. The former senior intelligence official explained that the hunt for relevant chatter went back to the exercise detected the previous December, in which, as Obama later said to the public, the Syrian army mobilised chemical weapons personnel and distributed gas masks to its troops. The White House’s government assessment and Obama’s speech were not descriptions of the specific events leading up to the 21 August attack, but an account of the sequence the Syrian military would have followed for any chemical attack. ‘They put together a back story,’ the former official said, ‘and there are lots of different pieces and parts. The template they used was the template that goes back to December.’ It is possible, of course, that Obama was unaware that this account was obtained from an analysis of Syrian army protocol for conducting a gas attack, rather than from direct evidence. Either way he had come to a hasty judgment.

The press would follow suit. The UN report on 16 September confirming the use of sarin was careful to note that its investigators’ access to the attack sites, which came five days after the gassing, had been controlled by rebel forces. ‘As with other sites,’ the report warned, ‘the locations have been well travelled by other individuals prior to the arrival of the mission … During the time spent at these locations, individuals arrived carrying other suspected munitions indicating that such potential evidence is being moved and possibly manipulated.’ Still, the New York Times seized on the report, as did American and British officials, and claimed that it provided crucial evidence backing up the administration’s assertions. An annex to the UN report reproduced YouTube photographs of some recovered munitions, including a rocket that ‘indicatively matches’ the specifics of a 330mm calibre artillery rocket. The New York Times wrote that the existence of the rockets essentially proved that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack ‘because the weapons in question had not been previously documented or reported to be in possession of the insurgency’.

Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at MIT, reviewed the UN photos with a group of his colleagues and concluded that the large calibre rocket was an improvised munition that was very likely manufactured locally. He told me that it was ‘something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop’. The rocket in the photos, he added, fails to match the specifications of a similar but smaller rocket known to be in the Syrian arsenal. The New York Times, again relying on data in the UN report, also analysed the flight path of two of the spent rockets that were believed to have carried sarin, and concluded that the angle of descent ‘pointed directly’ to their being fired from a Syrian army base more than nine kilometres from the landing zone. Postol, who has served as the scientific adviser to the chief of naval operations in the Pentagon, said that the assertions in the Times and elsewhere ‘were not based on actual observations’. He concluded that the flight path analyses in particular were, as he put it in an email, ‘totally nuts’ because a thorough study demonstrated that the range of the improvised rockets was ‘unlikely’ to be more than two kilometres. Postol and a colleague, Richard M. Lloyd, published an analysis two weeks after 21 August in which they correctly assessed that the rockets involved carried a far greater payload of sarin than previously estimated. The Times reported on that analysis at length, describing Postol and Lloyd as ‘leading weapons experts’. The pair’s later study about the rockets’ flight paths and range, which contradicted previous Times reporting, was emailed to the newspaper last week; it has so far gone unreported.*

The White House’s misrepresentation of what it knew about the attack, and when, was matched by its readiness to ignore intelligence that could undermine the narrative. That information concerned al-Nusra, the Islamist rebel group designated by the US and the UN as a terrorist organisation. Al-Nusra is known to have carried out scores of suicide bombings against Christians and other non-Sunni Muslim sects inside Syria, and to have attacked its nominal ally in the civil war, the secular Free Syrian Army (FSA). Its stated goal is to overthrow the Assad regime and establish sharia law. (On 25 September al-Nusra joined several other Islamist rebel groups in repudiating the FSA and another secular faction, the Syrian National Coalition.)

The flurry of American interest in al-Nusra and sarin stemmed from a series of small-scale chemical weapons attacks in March and April; at the time, the Syrian government and the rebels each insisted the other was responsible. The UN eventually concluded that four chemical attacks had been carried out, but did not assign responsibility. A White House official told the press in late April that the intelligence community had assessed ‘with varying degrees of confidence’ that the Syrian government was responsible for the attacks. Assad had crossed Obama’s ‘red line’. The April assessment made headlines, but some significant caveats were lost in translation. The unnamed official conducting the briefing acknowledged that intelligence community assessments ‘are not alone sufficient’. ‘We want,’ he said, ‘to investigate above and beyond those intelligence assessments to gather facts so that we can establish a credible and corroborated set of information that can then inform our decision-making.’ In other words, the White House had no direct evidence of Syrian army or government involvement, a fact that was only occasionally noted in the press coverage. Obama’s tough talk played well with the public and Congress, who view Assad as a ruthless murderer.

Two months later, a White House statement announced a change in the assessment of Syrian culpability and declared that the intelligence community now had ‘high confidence’ that the Assad government was responsible for as many as 150 deaths from attacks with sarin. More headlines were generated and the press was told that Obama, in response to the new intelligence, had ordered an increase in non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. But once again there were significant caveats. The new intelligence included a report that Syrian officials had planned and executed the attacks. No specifics were provided, nor were those who provided the reports identified. The White House statement said that laboratory analysis had confirmed the use of sarin, but also that a positive finding of the nerve agent ‘does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination’. The White House further declared: ‘We have no reliable corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.’ The statement contradicted evidence that at the time was streaming into US intelligence agencies.

Already by late May, the senior intelligence consultant told me, the CIA had briefed the Obama administration on al-Nusra and its work with sarin, and had sent alarming reports that another Sunni fundamentalist group active in Syria, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), also understood the science of producing sarin. At the time, al-Nusra was operating in areas close to Damascus, including Eastern Ghouta. An intelligence document issued in mid-summer dealt extensively with Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta. The consultant told me that Tariq had been identified ‘as an al-Nusra guy with a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and someone who is implicated in making and using sarin’. He is regarded as a high-profile target by the American military.

On 20 June a four-page top secret cable summarising what had been learned about al-Nusra’s nerve gas capabilities was forwarded to David R. Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. ‘What Shedd was briefed on was extensive and comprehensive,’ the consultant said. ‘It was not a bunch of “we believes”.’ He told me that the cable made no assessment as to whether the rebels or the Syrian army had initiated the attacks in March and April, but it did confirm previous reports that al-Nusra had the ability to acquire and use sarin. A sample of the sarin that had been used was also recovered – with the help of an Israeli agent – but, according to the consultant, no further reporting about the sample showed up in cable traffic.

Independently of these assessments, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, assuming that US troops might be ordered into Syria to seize the government’s stockpile of chemical agents, called for an all-source analysis of the potential threat. ‘The Op Order provides the basis of execution of a military mission, if so ordered,’ the former senior intelligence official explained. ‘This includes the possible need to send American soldiers to a Syrian chemical site to defend it against rebel seizure. If the jihadist rebels were going to overrun the site, the assumption is that Assad would not fight us because we were protecting the chemical from the rebels. All Op Orders contain an intelligence threat component. We had technical analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, weapons people, and I & W [indications and warnings] people working on the problem … They concluded that the rebel forces were capable of attacking an American force with sarin because they were able to produce the lethal gas. The examination relied on signals and human intelligence, as well as the expressed intention and technical capability of the rebels.’

There is evidence that during the summer some members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were troubled by the prospect of a ground invasion of Syria as well as by Obama’s professed desire to give rebel factions non-lethal support. In July, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, provided a gloomy assessment, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee in public testimony that ‘thousands of special operations forces and other ground forces’ would be needed to seize Syria’s widely dispersed chemical warfare arsenal, along with ‘hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers’. Pentagon estimates put the number of troops at seventy thousand, in part because US forces would also have to guard the Syrian rocket fleet: accessing large volumes of the chemicals that create sarin without the means to deliver it would be of little value to a rebel force. In a letter to Senator Carl Levin, Dempsey cautioned that a decision to grab the Syrian arsenal could have unintended consequences: ‘We have learned from the past ten years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state … Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.’

The CIA declined to comment for this article. Spokesmen for the DIA and Office of the Director of National Intelligence said they were not aware of the report to Shedd and, when provided with specific cable markings for the document, said they were unable to find it. Shawn Turner, head of public affairs for the ODNI, said that no American intelligence agency, including the DIA, ‘assesses that the al-Nusra Front has succeeded in developing a capacity to manufacture sarin’.

The administration’s public affairs officials are not as concerned about al-Nusra’s military potential as Shedd has been in his public statements. In late July, he gave an alarming account of al-Nusra’s strength at the annual Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. ‘I count no less than 1200 disparate groups in the opposition,’ Shedd said, according to a recording of his presentation. ‘And within the opposition, the al-Nusra Front is … most effective and is gaining in strength.’ This, he said, ‘is of serious concern to us. If left unchecked, I am very concerned that the most radical elements’ – he also cited al-Qaida in Iraq – ‘will take over.’ The civil war, he went on, ‘will only grow worse over time … Unfathomable violence is yet to come.’ Shedd made no mention of chemical weapons in his talk, but he was not allowed to: the reports his office received were highly classified.

*

A series of secret dispatches from Syria over the summer reported that members of the FSA were complaining to American intelligence operatives about repeated attacks on their forces by al-Nusra and al-Qaida fighters. The reports, according to the senior intelligence consultant who read them, provided evidence that the FSA is ‘more worried about the crazies than it is about Assad’. The FSA is largely composed of defectors from the Syrian army. The Obama administration, committed to the end of the Assad regime and continued support for the rebels, has sought in its public statements since the attack to downplay the influence of Salafist and Wahhabist factions. In early September, John Kerry dumbfounded a Congressional hearing with a sudden claim that al-Nusra and other Islamist groups were minority players in the Syrian opposition. He later withdrew the claim.

In both its public and private briefings after 21 August, the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons. This was the message conveyed in the various secret briefings that members of Congress received in the days after the attack, when Obama was seeking support for his planned missile offensive against Syrian military installations. One legislator with more than two decades of experience in military affairs told me that he came away from one such briefing persuaded that ‘only the Assad government had sarin and the rebels did not.’ Similarly, following the release of the UN report on 16 September confirming that sarin was used on 21 August, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’

It is not known whether the highly classified reporting on al-Nusra was made available to Power’s office, but her comment was a reflection of the attitude that swept through the administration. ‘The immediate assumption was that Assad had done it,’ the former senior intelligence official told me. ‘The new director of the CIA, [John] Brennan, jumped to that conclusion … drives to the White House and says: “Look at what I’ve got!” It was all verbal; they just waved the bloody shirt. There was a lot of political pressure to bring Obama to the table to help the rebels, and there was wishful thinking that this [tying Assad to the sarin attack] would force Obama’s hand: “This is the Zimmermann telegram of the Syrian rebellion and now Obama can react.” Wishful thinking by the Samantha Power wing within the administration. Unfortunately, some members of the Joint Chiefs who were alerted that he was going to attack weren’t so sure it was a good thing.’

The proposed American missile attack on Syria never won public support and Obama turned quickly to the UN and the Russian proposal for dismantling the Syrian chemical warfare complex. Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal. Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)

The administration’s distortion of the facts surrounding the sarin attack raises an unavoidable question: do we have the whole story of Obama’s willingness to walk away from his ‘red line’ threat to bomb Syria? He had claimed to have an iron-clad case but suddenly agreed to take the issue to Congress, and later to accept Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical weapons. It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans.

The UN resolution, which was adopted on 27 September by the Security Council, dealt indirectly with the notion that rebel forces such as al-Nusra would also be obliged to disarm: ‘no party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer [chemical] weapons.’ The resolution also calls for the immediate notification of the Security Council in the event that any ‘non-state actors’ acquire chemical weapons. No group was cited by name. While the Syrian regime continues the process of eliminating its chemical arsenal, the irony is that, after Assad’s stockpile of precursor agents is destroyed, al-Nusra and its Islamist allies could end up as the only faction inside Syria with access to the ingredients that can create sarin, a strategic weapon that would be unlike any other in the war zone. There may be more to negotiate.

is writing an alternative history of the war on terror. He lives in Washington DC.

Tributes to Nelson Mandela fill the media, with stories of his lengthy prison term and his “willingness to forgive” his oppressors.

Nowhere in sight is the real story of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress that he headed, a story best told by Naomi Klein in her wonderful book, The Shock Doctrine.

The ANC’s Freedom Charter, adopted in June 26, 1955, in Kliptown South Africa, begins with the promise,

“The People Shall Govern…”

It promises Land to the landless. Equality. Free and compulsory education. Freedom of movement, and more.

From prison, Mandela wrote a note to his supporters in January of 1990, a month before his release. Here’s what he wrote:

“The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and the change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable. Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable.”

In the 1980s, young Black South Africans, weary from three decades of patience, took to the streets to fight for their beloved Freedom Charter.

When Mandela was released from prison after 27 years, on February 11, 1990, most spent on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa under the ANC appeared ripe to fulfill their dream: the Freedom Charter.

Great Expectations: yet, South Africa took the route characterized by Mandela as “inconceivable.” Political successes, but economic ruin. South Africa is now among the most unequal societies in the world.

World attention focused on the high profile political talks between the ANC’s Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, leader of the National Party. The ANC was determined to win this political fight, and did. de Klerk had the guns and the money, but Mandela had millions of people with him.

The lower profile economic negotiations under the ANC’s Thabo Mbeki, were disastrous.

Mandela’s government fell victim to a process pioneered in Chile before the government was taken over by the democratically elected Salvador Allende: democracy-proofing capitalism.

Key sectors of economic decision making such as trade policy and the role of the central bank were portrayed by the de Klerk government as “technical” or “administrative.”

Control of these power centres was handed to supposedly “impartial experts” such as officials from the IMF and the World Bank… in a “balkanization” strategy. A Constitutional clause protecting all private property made land reform virtually impossible.

Instituting currency controls to prevent wild speculation would violate an $850 million IMF deal which also promoted “wage restraint,” which prevented raising minimum wages.  

 The South African Central Bank was privatized, and run by the same man who had run it under apartheid. Derek Keyes, the white finance minister under apartheid, retained his post.

There was no betrayal by Mandela’s ANC negotiators: they were simply outmanoeuvred. de Klerk and the whites had the international financial control necessary to leverage their way. When Mandela was released from prison, the South African rand dropped by 10 percent and the stock market collapsed in panic. Whenever a party official hinted that the Freedom Charter would become policy, the rand went into free fall. In a single month in 1996, the rand plummeted 20 percent.

Klein quotes Yasmin Sooka, a prominent South African human rights activist.

“[Business said] We’ll keep everything and you [the ANC] will rule in name…You can have political power, you can have the façade of governing, but the real governance will take place somewhere else.”

So, despite the ANC revolution headed by Nelson Mandela, the economy, the land and the “banks, mines and monopoly industry” that Mandela pledged to nationalize remain firmly in the hands of Whites who are just ten percent of the population.

In a quote you will seldom read elsewhere, Klein cites Mandela, who told the ANC’s national conference in 1997 that the globalization of capital, “makes it impossible for countries…to decide national economic policy…”

With its wrists handcuffed, Mandela’s ANC opted for neo-liberal shock therapy of more privatization, cutbacks to government spending, looser controls on money flows, fewer labour laws, and selling off state-owned firms to service a horrendous debt owed to the oppressors.

The only way out of this mess for South Africa today is to follow the lead of Venezuela’s former president Hugo Chavez: introduce a new constitution. Pay off the IMF debts, and follow the South American nations which have gained economic independence. Then, you can institute the Freedom Charter.

Dr. James Winter is Professor of Communication, Media & Film, University of Windsor, Ontario Canada. He is the author of the following books: Lies The Media Tell Us, 2007; MediaThink, 2002; Democracy’s Oxygen, 1997; The Big Black Book (with Maude Barlow) 1997; Common Cents, 1992; along with other edited books, chapters and articles. He has published with: Stoddart Publishing, Toronto, the University of Ottawa Press, Black Rose Books Montreal, and Ablex N.Y. [email protected]

 

The Asia Foundation was a creation of the CIA, and to this day remains a front for the US State Department and the corporate financier interests of Wall Street and London. Their attempts to overthrow the sovereign institutions of Thailand by backing the regime of Thaksin Shinawatra has required them to conduct extensive research into the population of Thailand in order to find the strengths and weaknesses of both the Thai establishment, and their proxy, the Shinawatra regime.

To that end, they have conducted several “national public perception surveys of the Thai electorate,” (2010′s full .pdf here), revealing what must have been for them and their proxies, very unpleasant realities within Thai society.

Graph: Up from 62% the year before, the public perception of the military as an important independent institution stood at 63%. Even in in the regime’s rural strongholds, support stood at 61%. The only group that did not support the military, was the regime’s tiny “red” minority, but even amongst them, 30% still supported the army.

….

It was revealed that Thais identifying themselves as the regime’s “red” supporters represented a minuscule minority - some 14%, half of which only described themselves as “leaning toward “red.”  More importantly, it was revealed that many more Thais (62%) believed the Thai military, who ousted Thaksin Shinawatra from power in 2006 in a bloodless coup, and who put down two pro-Thaksin insurrections in 2009 and 2010, was an important independent institution that has helped safeguard and stabilize the country.

While the West and the Shinawatra regime itself attempt to portray the army as widely reviled for its “undemocratic interventions,” the Thai people simply do not see it that way. The West of course, does not honestly believe the Thai Army is “undemocratic” – instead, they understand that it is an independent institution over which they exert very little influence, and that it constitutes the ultimate check-and-balance of last resort, standing between the Kingdom of Thailand and Wall Street’s wholesale pilfering of the nation.

Despite years of the West attempting to cultivate close relationships with the Thai military through operations like the annual “Cobra Gold” exercise, Thailand’s brass appears to be cogent enough to value their freedom more than slick promises, funding, and vague enticements the West has made and then broken with so many nations before. Like the Egyptian and even Pakistani armies, they are more than willing to take funding, training, and weapons, and still carry on with an independent agenda. 

Image: Thailand’s military mobilized in 2006 to oust Wall Street-backed dictator Thaksin Shinawatra, who just the previous evening was sitting before the CFR giving his foreign sponsors a progress report. While the West attempts to portray the Thai military as “undemocratic,” the reality is the Thai army carried out what it was duty-bound to perform – the defense of Thailand against all enemies, foreign and domestic. 

….

The hope for the West is eventually establishing a contact somewhere in the upper brass that will take the Pentagon’s “phone call” at a pivotal moment in Thailand’s history. However, the pressure the US has put on the Thai military since 2006′s ousting of US-backed Thaksin Shinawatra, should be evidence enough for senior and junior officers to understand the true nature of the West’s overtures. The final goal for the West is to reduce the military as subordinate to which ever proxy regime they are able to eventually install, curtailing indefinitely the military’s widely respected, unique traditional role in Thai society.

The military would then become yet another tentacle of Wall Street’s influence, like in Cambodia where entire units are literally sold out to foreign interests as mercenaries to protect land seized out from under the Cambodian people. 

In Thailand today, as the West’s embattled proxy regime struggles to stay in power, the Western media is again aiming its rhetoric at the Thai military, attempting to preemptively shame it into standing on the sidelines. Of course, the West’s media has lost significant statue in recent years, and attempts to shame the Thai military into inaction during a pivotal point in Thai history should be perceived both inside and beyond Thailand as negligible at best.

Photo: Deposed autocrat, Thaksin Shinawatra before the CFR on the even of the 2006 military coup that would oust him from power. Since 2006 he has had the full, unflinching support of Washington, Wall Street and their immense propaganda machine in his bid to seize back power.
….

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in front of which Thaksin Shinawatra spent his last evening as Thailand’s prime minister, and whose corporate-financier interests it serves has backed Shinawatra for nearly a decade, has recently published an op-ed titled, “Can Thailand Break Its Coup Addiction?

Despite Thailand being run openly by convicted criminal, mass murder, and fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra, who was not elected, not on the ballot, and is not even in the country, the CFR’s piece implies that the current regime is a legitimate “parliamentary democracy,” and that coups are outdated, unnecessary, and undermine the country’s “democracy.” Should the CFR have its way, Thaksin Shinawatra would not only be allowed to continue running the country via his nepotist-appointed sister, current prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra – already a breathtaking display of banana republic-style corruption – but eventually return both to Thailand and to power, to repay the West for the last decade of stalwart support it has provided him.

Of course, the CFR in no way speaks for the West, but rather an increasingly exposed and unpopular edifice of Wall Street’s unwarranted influence. Should the Thai military limit any of its actions based on the “noise” coming from these interests and their vastly conflated propaganda, it would truly be a miscalculation.

The military of any nation is authorized and in fact duty-bound to guard against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In the case of Wall Street-backed Thaksin Shinawatra, there exists a potent foreign and domestic threat in one regime. It is a threat that must be met, if possible with as little intervention as possible from the military, but with full commitment if necessary. 

Thailand has set an example by which other nation’s armed forces should follow. The imaginary line drawn between unhinged corruption and inevitable national tragedy, and the military being able to intervene is just that, imaginary. Officers with courage and commitment to the future of their nation rather than what padding is promised for their pockets can, and do, easily cross that line.Thailand has yet to make that mistake. It would be truly tragic if the rhetoric filling unread columns written by the CFR and other corporate media outlets, was the reason Thailand finally did make that mistake.

 

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The Australian government’s moves to suppress further exposures of its surveillance operations suffered a blow yesterday when it was revealed that three more whistleblowers have given statements to the East Timorese government about the illegal installation of bugging devices in the walls of Dili’s cabinet offices. The bugging involved Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) agents posing as aid workers helping renovate Timorese government buildings.

Two weeks ago a preliminary meeting was held in The Hague ahead of East Timor’s legal claim at the Permanent Court of Arbitration to nullify an oil and gas revenue-sharing treaty because of the Australian spying. The Timorese representatives told the Australian delegation they intended to use the testimony of four Australian whistleblowers to support their case. This information almost certainly triggered Tuesday’s Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) raids on East Timor’s Canberra-based lawyer Bernard Collaery, and the interrogation of one of the whistleblowers, a retired ASIS technical operations director.

Attorney-General George Brandis, who authorised the raids, subsequently issued an extraordinary ministerial statement to the Senate, threatening to charge the lawyer and the ex-ASIS officer with divulging official secrets, an offence that carries jail terms of up to seven years. In addition, the government seized the former ASIS official’s passport, preventing him from going to The Hague to testify.

East Timor’s government, which condemned the “invasion” of its lawyer’s office as “inconceivable and unacceptable conduct,” is seeking legal advice on whether it can demand the return of the sensitive documents seized in the raids. According to Collaery, the material includes his own correspondence with Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, as well as a legal opinion by East Timor’s international law experts Sir Elihu Lauterpacht and Professor Vaughan Lowe.

If the raids were conducted on the basis of information obtained during the arbitral procedure in The Hague, that would constitute a legal contempt of the proceedings, entitling East Timor to the return of the documents. East Timor’s representatives also revealed that at a second preliminary hearing one week ago, the Australian government agreed not to arrest the whistleblowers before the case was heard.

Basic legal and democratic rights are threatened as well. In his Senate statement, Brandis declared that the centuries-old principle of lawyer-client confidentiality would not protect Collaery from being charged with serious criminal offences. Lawyer-client privilege is a bedrock protection, preventing lawyers from being forced to pass on to the government and its security apparatus any sensitive or potentially incriminating information obtained while giving legal advice.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government is intensifying the drive, commenced under the previous Labor government, to shut down East Timor’s legal case and prevent further public exposure of the spying operation, which began in 2004 during negotiations in Dili on the $40 billion oil and gas treaty.

On Thursday, as East Timor and Australia held private talks at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Brandis made another bid to block the hearings. He insisted that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case because East Timor had not “sufficiently engaged in or exhausted the prior consultation machinery” required under the treaty.

Collaery told reporters this was “arrant, misinformed nonsense.” The lawyer pointed out that the previous Labor government’s foreign minister, Bob Carr, and attorney-general, Mark Dreyfus, publicly disclosed East Timor’s case in May. At that time, Carr refused to deny the spying allegations, citing the “convention” barring ministers from commenting on intelligence matters.

East Timor also revealed that a year ago Prime Minister Gusmao wrote to Australia’s then Labor prime minister, Julia Gillard, stating that his government had reservations about the treaty and wished to re-open negotiations. However, Gusmao received no response. At a subsequent meeting arranged between the two countries in London, the Australian delegates did not turn up. At a follow-up meeting in Bangkok later in 2012, only junior members of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade attended. These diplomatic snubs underscored the utter contempt of Australian imperialism for its tiny impoverished neighbour.

On Thursday and Friday, a small protest was held outside the Australian embassy in Dili. The demonstrators, mostly students and young political activists, carried banners stating: “Australia is a thief” and “Australia has no morals.” They shouted: “Australia, imperialist, capitalist!” and “Australia is a thief of world oil.”

The oil and gas treaty gave Australia a half share in the massive Greater Sunrise field—which lies just 150 kilometres south of East Timor and 450 kilometres northwest of Darwin—contravening international maritime border principles that would give East Timor sovereignty over the entire project. The main beneficiaries were Woodside Petroleum, a major Australian company, and its US consortium partners. Both Abbott’s Liberal-National Coalition and the Labor Party have intimate connections with Woodside. The previous Howard government’s foreign minister, Alexander Downer, who was in charge of ASIS in 2004, now runs a public relations firm that works for Woodside. The former Labor government’s resources minister, Gary Gray, was employed by Woodside from 2001 to 2007.

The lengths to which the Abbott government, like its Labor predecessor, is going to block the spying revelations indicates that much more is stake than the immediate issue of energy reserves in the Timor Sea. The extensive bugging would have been invaluable as part of Canberra’s violent regime change operation that was launched in 2006 against then Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri’s Fretilin government. This involved the instigation of a split within the Timorese armed forces, and a renewed Australian military intervention.

Canberra’s machinations, always backed by Washington, flowed from the 1999 dispatch of Australian troops to East Timor, supposedly to secure the half island’s independence from Indonesia. The territory is a highly strategic part of the Indonesian archipelago, which is now pivotal to Washington’s war preparations against China. Critical sea lanes, on which China depends for its trade, pass through Indonesia, and have been identified by the Pentagon as “choke points” to be blockaded in the event of war.

It is also clear, from the documents leaked by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, that the strategic espionage in East Timor is part of a wider pattern. The NSA and its partners in the global US-led “Five Eyes” surveillance network—Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—have spied on the populations and governments of countries around the world, including tapping the personal phones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and targeting the Brazilian oil company Petrobras and other international firms. Australian diplomatic missions throughout the Asia-Pacific, including in Indonesia and China, function as NSA listening posts.

Within the Australian political, media and legal establishment there has been a marked absence of opposition to the anti-democratic implications of the ASIO raids. The Labor opposition has sided with the government. The Law Council of Australia, which represents the legal profession, has raised no objection to the Abbott government’s threat to prosecute Collaery. The silence is another indication that critical imperialist interests are at stake—not just those of Australia, but its powerful ally, the United States.

The White House said Friday it would agree to a budget deal with the Republicans that excludes an extension of federal benefits for the long-term unemployed, which are scheduled to expire at the end of the month.

By the administration’s own figures, allowing the federally-funded extended benefit program to expire will end cash assistance for 1.3 million people immediately after the holidays and impact an additional 3.6 million people in the first half of 2014.

With this cruel and callous act, Obama and the Democratic Party are prepared to join with the Republicans in condemning nearly 5 million people and their families to destitution. In prior recessions, emergency unemployment benefits, beyond the standard aid offered by the states, have never been terminated when unemployment remained at such high levels as those prevailing today.

Obama’s own Council of Economic Advisers this week pointed out that long-term unemployment in the US is 2.6 percent, more than double “any other time that we have allowed benefits” to lapse.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney made clear at his Friday press briefing that Obama would not make an extension of long-term benefits a precondition for reaching an agreement in current talks between leaders of a House-Senate conference committee tasked with coming up with a budget by December 13.

The conference committee, headed by Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, was set up as part of the agreement that ended the partial government shutdown in October. The temporary federal spending authorization that ended the 16-day shutdown expires on January 15.

Exuding the cynicism that typifies the Obama administration, Carney said it would be “terrible to tell more than a million families across the country just a few days after Christmas that they’re out of benefits,” while making clear that the White House was prepared to do just that.

Friday’s announcement came just two days after Obama gave a speech in which he called income inequality the “defining challenge of our time” and declared that “over the course of the next year, and for the rest of my presidency,” his administration would “focus all our efforts” on narrowing the gap between rich and poor.

His readiness to end jobless benefits for millions of out-of-work people has already given the lie to his absurd pretense of championing working Americans and opposing concentrated wealth. It reflects the real substance of the policies he has pursued since taking office, which have been devoted to further enriching the ruling elite at the expense of the broad mass of the population.

The announcement came as well the same week that a federal bankruptcy judge ruled in favor of the bankruptcy of Detroit, which the Obama administration has supported, opening the way for the pensions of city workers in Detroit and throughout the country to be gutted.

It also coincided with the Labor Department’s employment report for November, showing moderate job growth and a drop in the official unemployment rate to 7.0 percent. The most significant aspect of the report, however, was its data showing a further growth in the ranks of the long-term unemployed. The government now estimates there are 4.1 million people who have been out of work for a half-year or more—a huge figure that nevertheless understates the actual level of long-term unemployment.

According to the Labor Department, the average duration of unemployment increased by more than a week in November, to 37.2 weeks, while the percentage of the jobless who have been out of work for more than six months hit 37.3 percent, up from 36.1 percent in October.

The official unemployment rate, which excludes laid-off workers who have given up looking for a job and young people who have been unable to land their first position, vastly underestimates the real level of joblessness.

The overriding reason for the decline in the official unemployment rate since 2009 has been the exit of millions of workers from the labor force. According to a survey by the Economic Policy Institute, five million “missing workers” have dropped out of the labor force over the past five years. While the percentage of the population that is employed rose slightly last month, to 58.6 percent, it is still below what it was in July and down 4.4 percentage points since 2006.

According to multiple press reports, Democrats and Republicans on the budget conference committee are close to a deal on a one- or two-year budget agreement. What has been reported makes clear that the White House and congressional Democrats are preparing to accept a reactionary plan that will continue to cut social spending while imposing new taxes on consumers in the form of “user fees.”

The deal will leave in place the framework of automatic cuts in domestic discretionary spending under the so-called “sequester” process that took effect last March. However, certain cuts will be pared back, mainly those affecting the military. Billions of dollars in other, unspecified future cuts will be mandated to offset the increased military spending.

The Democrats are preparing to drop their demand for ending corporate tax loopholes, and instead agree to regressive fees on consumers, including a surcharge for air travel. Some $20 billion in savings are to come from an increase in federal workers’ contributions to their pension plans. The increased pension contributions will come on top of three years of frozen wages for federal workers and income losses from unpaid furloughs resulting from the sequester.

These developments underscore the fact that behind the partisan wrangling, there is complete unanimity between the Democrats and Republicans on intensifying the attack on the working class and expanding the transfer of wealth from the bottom to the very top of American society.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook School shooting public incredulity with the official version of events led to numerous speculations on what really happened. In short order corporate media marshaled pundits to disparage such alternative interpretations as “conspiracy theories” and the work of deranged and even malevolent Sandy Hook “truthers.”

The now-prevalent phenomenon where only the narratives authorized by law enforcement and government authorities are worthy of serious consideration suggests the unmistakable extent to which public discourse has declined. In such an ideational system journalists and academics are expected to either fall silent or perform the rearguard action of deflecting criticism from the state.

Events such as Aurora or Sandy Hook have profuse informational gaps and a multitude of questions authorities have not begun to adequately address. Regardless of political stripe journalists and academics especially should be instinctively distrustful of such momentous incidents. Unfortunately many put short term interests of preserving reputation and livelihood above the obligatory search for truth.

Today’s project of policing the public sphere for unorthodox thoughts is a form of stealth authoritarianism that combines the weight of academic or journalistic expertise with a phony liberalism (or conservatism) to confirm the often unexamined perspectives of a specific political constituency. Such a technique is most readily employed against the apparently irrational ideas, beliefs and practices of a foreign other. In this regard “conspiracy theorists” and “truthers” typically play the “straw man” role.

For example, a recent piece by Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan exhibits anxiety over major media’s attention toward individuals critical of what authorities have told them to believe about Sandy Hook.[1] Nyhan is fearful that research into the Newtown massacre contradicting the government’s official narrative—what he emphatically terms “conspiracy mongering” and “obscure myths”–may be given a platform by more “prominent advocates” from the political realm. From here the dangerous notions could gain the support of the unenlightened–“credulous believers” and “new adherents who would not otherwise have been exposed to or persuaded by false claims.” Such verboten ideas, Nyhan argues, should instead be allowed to “wither and die.”

The problem with this stance is that it consciously paves the way for the official false claims and myths that powerful political entities and corporate news and entertainment media are capable of forcing upon the public mind and collective memory, be they Osama bin Laden masterminding the 9/11 attacks, babies being thrown from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals, or North Vietnamese forces firing the first shots in the Vietnam War. Such a position is not unusual from a palace court intellectual; whether it is morally sound and faithful to the liberal tenet of speaking truth to power is a matter for another day.

In reviewing other articles of those using this form of defamatory innuendo toward the Sandy Hook truth community I encountered numerous poorly reasoned arguments and claims that could not withstand serious scrutiny and amounted to a bulwark for the official narrative–indeed, arguments most appealing to those with a dangerously unexamined faith in state power and lacking the inclination to consider alternative perspectives or investigate the event for themselves.

This prompted me to contact several notable “conspiracy theory” decriers and request an interview with each of them. Instead of mere name-calling, I remain sincerely interested in better understanding why such apparently intelligent individuals have come to arrive at their conclusions and become the self-appointed guardians of legitimate public exchange. I thus set about assembling a set of questions on a wide array of “conspiracy”-related issues and phenomena.

I figured I would begin by reaching out in a collegial manner to Professor Nyhan himself. “Sorry, not interested,” he replied, rather tersely. I next contacted Ben Smith and C J Lotz, staff writers at the popular liberal website Buzzfeed.com, who wrote a piece remarkably similar to Dr. Nyhan’s titled, “Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theories Edge Toward the Mainstream.”[2] Smith and Lotz never responded to my emails.

Undeterred, I contacted the operators of the well-known liberal “fact check” website Snopes.com. “I’m sorry, I’m afraid we just can’t,” Barbara Mikkelson replied. “I fear this is the downside of having a small operation.”

Next I dropped Salon.com political writer and ThinkProgress assistant editor Alex Seitz-Wald a line. The youthful Seitz-Wald prides himself as being one of today’s foremost “truth” skeptics. Since early January he has written a series of articles generally disparaging Sandy Hook researchers. “I’m writing one more story on this,” he said, “but really not interested in getting back into this subject or enduring more hate mail.”

I moved on to career anti-conspiracist and former High Times editor John Foster “Chip” Berlet. Calling himself a progressive and champion of liberal democracy, Mr. Berlet wrote profusely on the resurgence of the so-called “new right” throughout the 1990s.[3] “I do not spend time with people promoting crackpot conspiracy theories,” he replied, somewhat peevishly. “It is annoying, counterproductive, and gives me a headache. Nevertheless, I support your First Amendment right to waste bandwidth and electricity.”

Just when I was about to give up hope Jonathan Kay, editor at Canada’s National Post and author of Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Conspiracist Underground [4] responded favorably to my interview request. “Sure,” he said, much to my delight. Yet when I provided Kay with the questions he balked. “Just about all the answers to these questions are in my book,” he replied. I countered that very few of the questions were actually addressed in the book. “I get the sense that my perspective wouldn’t really be that meaningful to you. I’m going to pass on this.”

In the end while skilled at defending the varied machinations of our out-of-control police state by helping to confirm their immediate audiences’ prejudices, none of the foremost conspiracy cynics and debunkers opted to have a dialogue–one where they would likely be compelled to interrogate their own claims and assumptions.

Could it be that what these commentators desire in lieu of dialogue is a one-way transmission of their ideas devoid of critique or interpretation–one where the pursuit of “truth” itself is caricatured as a fool’s errand? If liberalism is based in part on a free and open exchange perhaps some of the foremost figures and media outlets touting themselves as progressive and liberal, and purporting to preserve and defend rational discourse, really aren’t so open-minded after all.

The following are the questions I was hoping my would-be interlocutors would address.

  • The main thrust of John Milton’s Areopagetica is that in a fair exchange an argument based on the truth will triumph over lies and deception. Do you think that the major media’s use of terms such as “truther” or “conspiracy theorist” to designate individuals or groups with ideas and theories that differ from government and/or corporate entities is a productive part of the journey toward truth and enlightenment Milton envisioned?
  • To what degree do you think citizens and the press should hold government officials accountable for momentous events such as the terror attacks of September 11, 2001?
  • What characterizes a conspiracy theory? How can we distinguish between a conspiracy theory and a valid assessment of a specific phenomenon, issue, or event?
  • US political leaders uniformly maintain that Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network were the sole agents behind the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 Commission’s report attributed this set of events to “a lack of imagination” in terms of government agencies’ preparation. In your view, what are the most compelling pieces of evidence to support this official explanation of the 9/11 events?
  • Historian Richard Hofstadter argues in his well-known essay, “The Paranoid Style of American Politics,” that regardless of how much evidence the conspiratorially-minded gather and present on a topic or phenomenon they are not worthy of a hearing as their views may endanger rational political discourse and consensus. Does such a position potentially jeopardize effective and honest journalistic practice?
  • In your estimation, is the tendency to entertain or proffer conspiracy theories a sign of a potential psychiatric condition? Along these lines, are at least some conspiracy theorists inherently dangerous?
  • In 1977 Carl Bernstein reported that through “Operation Mockingbird” and related activities many major news organizations were infiltrated by CIA operatives or consciously aided the CIA in intelligence gathering activities and “planting” stories in the press. CIA document 1035-960 suggests how the agency went about thwarting criticism of the Warren Commission’s examination of President Kennedy’s assassination by utilizing intelligence assets in news outlets to bolster the Warren Commission’s legitimacy and labeling critics “conspiracy theorists.” In your estimation, is the intelligence community’s penetration of the press an ongoing phenomenon? Is it more widespread today or has it subsided to any significant degree?
  • Political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith cites The Declaration of Independence as a conspiratorial document and asserts that the ideology of America’s founders was in many ways motivated by paranoia toward British rule. In fact, the notion of conspiracy has been a consistent theme in American politics. With this in mind, what is it about modern forms of governance that render such impulses and worldviews irrational, obsolete, and perhaps even dangerous?
  • The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City brought into public consciousness the notion of “homegrown terrorism.” At the same time the event provided the pretext for laws compromising Americans’ civil liberties and paved the way for the PATRIOT Act that was enacted in the wake of 9/11. Is it reasonable for the public to conclude that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were the sole or principal agents in the bombing? Have you examined the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee’s 2001 report on the incident? If so, would you consider its findings to be sound and cause for a new judicial interrogation of the event?
  • The official theory of what transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 involves 20-year-old Adam Lanza going on a murderous rampage that resulted in the deaths of 20 children and 7 adults. Major media outlets appear to have unquestioningly gone forward with this scenario. In your estimation, have law enforcement and medical authorities produced evidence sufficient to support this theory of events?
  • There are a variety of public figures and websites that deem themselves as “alternative” sources of political news and analysis, such as Alex Jones and Infowars.com, and Dr. Webster Tarpley of Tarpley.net. Why do you believe such individuals are frequently held up as promoters of conspiracy theories? In your view, what is it that makes these commentators and sources of analysis less reliable than, say, CNN’s Piers Morgan, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, or the editorial and op-ed pages of a regional or national newspaper?
  • Philanthropic foundations contribute large sums to a wide array of non-governmental organizations and media outlets in the United States. What role, if any, do you believe such entities play in shaping public discourse and opinion around controversial issues and events?

Notes

[1] Brendan Nyhan, “Boosting the Sandy Hook Truther Myth,” Columbia Journalism Review, January 22, 2013. Dr. Nyhan speaks dismissively of this author yet it is difficult to find a conventional article addressing independent Sandy Hook analysis that does not. I chose this piece to aid in analyzing its argument and a specific sociocultural tendency rather than its author. CJR seeks “to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society” and its “major funders” include George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the Rockefeller Family Fund.

[2] Ben Smith and C J Lotz, “Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theories Edge Toward the Mainstream,” Buzzfeed.com, January 22, 2013.

[3] For example, see the barely concealed political tracts Chip Berlet (editor), Eyes Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash, Boston and Somerville MA: Political Research Associates and South End Press, 1995, and the quasi-academic Too Close for Comfort: Right Wing Populism in America, New York: Guilford Press, 2000.

[4] Jonathan Kay, Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Conspiracist Underground, New York: Harper Collins, 2011.

Syria Terrorists: The Kidnapping of Nuns in Maaloula

December 8th, 2013 by Mother Agnes Mariam

Shipping Crude Oil by Rail: New Front in Tar Sands Wars

December 8th, 2013 by Global Research News

As debate over the Keystone XL and other pipeline projects continues, crude oil from the Alberta tar sands and western U.S. oil fields is increasingly being hauled by railroad. Critics warn that this development poses a threat not only to the environment but to public safety.

by Jacques Leslie

On New Year’s Eve 2009, a train with 104 tank cars of light crude oil traveled 1,123 miles from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields to a terminal in Stroud, Oklahoma, and opened a new front in the war over development of Canada’s tar sands.

It didn’t seem that way at the time. EOG Resources, the company that owned the oil, simply needed a way to get its crude out of North Dakota,

Crude oil rail transport

Andrew Burton/Getty Images Tanker cars at a  depot in North Dakota, where railroads now move 600,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken fields.

where production since the advent of oil fracking there nearly a decade earlier had far exceeded the capacity of available pipelines and trucks. The 2009 shipment is now considered a bellwether event, marking the first significant movement of U.S. crude oil by rail in many decades. Less than four years later, railroads have shipped as much as 600,000 barrels a day from the Bakken and are transporting crude not just from North Dakota but from oil-fracking sites in Montana, Texas, Utah, Ohio, Wyoming, Colorado, and southern Canada. Across North America, trains are now moving nearly a million barrels of crude a day, and that number will continue to grow rapidly.

Some analysts have declared that crude from Alberta will find a way to refineries regardless of Keystone XL’s fate.

A million barrels a day is more than the capacity of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, 830,000 barrels — a fact that has led some oil industry analysts to declare that heavy crude from Alberta’s tar sands will find a way to refineries regardless of Keystone XL’s fate. Even The New York Times has supported this claim. An October 30 Times news story, headlined “Looking for a Way Around Keystone XL, Canadian Oil Hits the Rails,” said, “Even if President Obama rejects the pipeline, it might not matter much” because of rail’s emergence. That’s also the prevailing view at the U.S. State Department, whose March 2013 environmental assessment of Keystone XL concluded that rail “should be capable” of transporting all tar sands crude even “if there were no additional pipeline projects approved.”

Tar sands advocates are happy to promote the idea that continued development of the tar sands is inevitable because it implies that opposition to Keystone XL is futile and that Americans should therefore cash in on its jobs and construction expenditures before somebody else does. However, as tar sands opponents point out, much evidence suggests that this conclusion is at best premature and perhaps flat-out wrong.

What is certain is that rail has now joined a half-dozen proposals for tar sands pipelines as an arena of contention, with the future of the Florida-sized Alberta basin of western Canada at stake. Just as pipeline safety has been a key issue in the Keystone XL debate, this development

Safety questions have intensified since a tanker accident in Quebec last July that killed 47 people.

has raised questions about the safety of crude-by-rail to new prominence, especially since a tanker accident in Quebec last July that killed 47 people. With these safety questions, such arcane matters as the design of tank cars and the carbon-hydrogen ratio of their contents have taken on heightened importance. How regulations governing these issues are decided will help determine whether the tar sands basin — the world’s largest fossil fuel reserve outside Saudi Arabia — stays close to its current production level of 1.8 million barrels a day or expands to four or five times as much, as its developers hope. That in turn will have a significant impact on climate change’s intensity in coming decades.

Of the million barrels now being shipped by rail in North America, only a small fraction — around 50,000 barrels — consists of the “heavy crude” that is produced in the tar sands; the rest is “light crude” from southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the U.S. Light crude is hydrogen-heavy and carbon-light; its high hydrogen content enables it to flow easily but also makes it alarmingly explosive. Bitumen, the chief constituent of heavy crude, is the opposite, carbon-heavy and hydrogen-light, as viscous as peanut butter, unable to flow through pipelines unless diluents are added to it, but also unable to be loaded into railcars unless it is heated or diluted. Heavy crude is therefore more expensive to transport by rail than light crude, which is one reason tar sands crude lags far behind light crude in rail shipments. Another is that few rail cars are equipped to carry heavy crude. Some oil industry analysts predict that both obstacles will eventually fall away, leading to massive heavy crude transport by rail, while others think that rail will never serve more than a niche market, serving newly developed oil fields only until pipelines to them are built.

Sandy Fielden, an energy markets consultant at RBN Energy and blogger whose entries include “Crude Loves Rock’n'Rail,” said in an interview, “If there is money to be made, people will figure out a way of getting oil to market. Pipelines are the safest and most efficient way to accomplish that, but if there aren’t pipelines, people will figure out alternatives, and clearly the current emphasis on crude-by-rail is one such alternative.”

Yet the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, whose member companies produce about 90 percent of Canada’s crude oil and natural gas, takes a less upbeat view of rail transport. Rail is “a complement to pipelines,” said Greg Stringham, the group’s vice president for markets and oil sands. “The rail companies can provide some service on a short-term, short-distance basis, maybe even longer-distance, until a pipeline is in place…They’re seeing this as an opportunity to be much more complementary to the long-haul pipeline system that needs to be built.”

Whether rail replaces or only complements pipelines, the oil industry’s budding romance with it is not necessarily a sign of the tar sands’ rosy prospects, for it could also be an indication of developers’ setbacks in building pipelines. Although American media provide relentless coverage of Keystone XL’s prospects, their focus is myopic. Keystone XL is only one of seven proposed pipelines intended to transport tar sands crude — the projects extend from Alberta not just south to the Gulf of Mexico but east and west to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and are aimed at reaching vast export markets from ports in Portland, Maine; St. John, New Brunswick; Kitimat, British Columbia; and Anacortes, Washington.

The Canadian and Alberta governments avidly support all these proposals, yet opponents have entangled every one in so much protest and legal conflict that their fates are uncertain. Based on the assumption that at least some of the pipelines will be approved, tar sands developers are investing at a current rate of $19 billion a year in tar sands projects. Now they face the real possibility that delays in pipeline construction (never mind outright rejections) will leave them without transport outlets within a year or two. That’s one reason that last month Alberta bitumen sold for as low as $29.40 a barrel, while benchmark West Texas light crude sold for $94.25. There’s a hint of desperation in the developers’ embrace of rail.

Just like pipelines, railroads face significant obstacles as conveyors of tar sands crude — and for some of the same reasons. Just as pipelines leak, trains derail, sometimes with devastating consequences. On the night of July 6, 2013, a train with 72 tank cars carrying Bakken light crude was left on a hill overlooking the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, 130 miles east of Montreal. The train’s sole engineer apparently failed to apply hand brakes to enough rail cars before he checked into a hotel for the evening, and at 12:56 a.m. the train began rolling. It reached a speed of 60 miles per hour — far exceeding a 10-mile-per-hour limit considered safe in the town — when, just after crossing Lac-Mégantic’s main street, it derailed. Bakken crude is highly flammable, and explosions went on for hours, leveling half the town of 6,000 people, destroying 30 buildings and killing 47 people, including six whose bodies were so thoroughly vaporized in the prodigiously high temperatures that no trace of them was found.

The accident was the biggest Canadian train disaster in more than a century. It received massive coverage in Canada, but it got far less attention in the U.S. That’s unfortunate, since it revealed the lax state of regulation of the railroad industry in both Canada and the U.S — and the huge expansion of rail-by-crude increases the odds that such accidents will happen again. Employing only one engineer to operate a train that was nearly a mile long might have been imprudent, but it did not violate regulations. The light crude in the Lac-Mégantic train turned out to have been mislabeled as conventional crude, which is not explosive, but even with proper labeling, the dangerous cargo wouldn’t have had to be handled any differently.

As long ago as 1991, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board singled out the model of tank car used in the Lac-Mégantic train for its susceptibility to releasing its contents when derailed. Nevertheless, this model, known as the DOT-111, dominates North American tank fleets. Older versions are entirely unsuited to carrying light crude, but thanks to the crude-by-rail boom there’s a backlog of at least two years on orders for an upgraded, somewhat safer version that has been in circulation since 2011.

Frustrated by the halting pace of change to federal railroad regulations, the American Association of Railroads voluntarily tightened tank car rules in 2011. Last month, after a 90-car train carrying Bakken light crude derailed and ignited in western Alabama, the association called on federal regulators to require retrofits of 72,000 older DOT-111s and upgrades in 14,000 newer ones to lessen the likelihood of light crude explosions after derailment. If carried out quickly, this change would limit the supply of tank cars even more, and would place still another obstacle in the way of a rapid buildup in rail shipments of tar sands crude.

Unlike Bakken crude, bitumen-laden heavy crude is not explosive, but rail shipments of it pose another sort of danger: If bitumen is spilled into a body of water, it sinks, making cleanups highly difficult, if not impossible. That was clearly demonstrated when an Enbridge Inc. pipeline leaked more than 31,000 barrels of tar sands crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo

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Tar Sands Oil Boom Drives<br /><br /><br />Push for A Northern Pipeline

The rapid development of Alberta’s tar sands has spawned a proposed 731-mile pipeline that would transport oil to the British Columbia coast. As Ed Struzik reported last year, the project is strongly opposed by conservationists and First Nations leaders, who fear the environmental risks it would bring.
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River in July 2010. Bitumen covered 36 miles of riverbed, triggering a complicated cleanup that has so far cost the company about a billion dollars and is far from complete.

In addition, some refineries lack offloading facilities to handle crude arriving by rail. An October 8 Goldman Sachs report questioned whether refiners “have access to sufficient terminal off-loading capacity to handle the growing rail volumes of heavy crude oil.” Shipping crude by rail is more expensive than using pipelines, and construction of new loading and offloading facilities will drive the cost higher.

On top of this, some of these projects are certain to face local opposition. Communities with refineries may oppose proposed facilities to offload tar sands crude, since refining bitumen emits substantially more pollutants than conventional crude; communities with ports may fear that proposed crude-by-rail terminals will increase chances of oil spills in their waterways. And because tar sands oil extraction releases far more greenhouse gases than conventional crude does, some communities may also resist as a way of fighting climate change. Such concerns were reflected in recent decisions in Benicia, California, and Grays Harbor, Washington, to delay construction of crude-by-rail terminals while environmental evaluations are conducted.

“The rail guys right now are in the same space the pipeline guys were five years ago,” said Keith Stewart, Greenpeace Canada’s climate and energy campaign coordinator. “They’re assuming they can have massive growth rates and there won’t be any hiccups along the way. I think the pipeline guys have now realized it’s not that easy, and the unnatural exuberance about rail will soon come crashing down in the same way.”

Copyright Jacques Leslie, Yale Environment 360, 2013

“With contaminated water from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear complex continuing to pour into the Pacific, scientists are concerned about how that radioactivity might affect marine life. Although the ocean’s capacity to dilute radiation is huge, signs are that nuclear isotopes are already moving up the local food chain.”

This study was first published in April 2011 in the immediate wake of the Fukushima disaster. Recent reports published by Global Research more than confirm the results of this early study pertaining to the contamination of the Pacific Ocean.

GR Editor, Michel Chossudovsky, December 8, 2013


Fukushima: Radioactivity in the Pacific Ocean, Diluted, But Far from Harmless

by Elizabeth Grossman

Over the past half-century, the world has seen its share of incidents in which radioactive material has been dumped or discharged into the oceans. A British nuclear fuels plant has repeatedly released radioactive waste into the Irish Sea, a French nuclear reprocessing plant has discharged similar waste into the English Channel, and for decades the Soviets dumped large quantities of radioactive material into the Arctic Ocean, Kara Sea, and Barents Sea. That radioactive material included reactors from at least 16 Soviet nuclear-powered submarines and icebreakers, and large amounts of liquid and solid nuclear waste from USSR military bases and weapons plants.

Still, the world has never quite seen an event like the one unfolding now off the coast of eastern Japan, in which thousands of tons of radioactively contaminated water from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are pouring directly into the ocean. And though the vastness of the ocean has the capacity to dilute nuclear contamination, signs of spreading radioactive material are being found off Japan, including the discovery of elevated concentrations of radioactive cesium and iodine in small fish several dozen miles south of Fukushima, and high levels of radioactivity in seawater 25 miles offshore.

How this continuing contamination will affect marine life, or humans, is still unclear. But scientists agree that the governments of Japan, the United States, and other nations on the Pacific Rim need to ramp up studies of how far this contamination might spread and in what concentrations.

“Given that the Fukushima nuclear power plant is on the ocean, and with leaks and runoff directly to the ocean, the impacts on the ocean will exceed those of Chernobyl, which was hundreds of miles from any sea,” said Ken Buesseler, senior scientist in marine chemistry at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

“My biggest concern is the lack of information. We still don’t know the whole range of radioactive compounds that have been released into the ocean, nor do we know their distribution. We have a few data points from the Japanese — all close to the coast — but to understand the full impact, including for fisheries, we need broader surveys and scientific study of the area.”

Buessler and other experts say this much is clear: Both short-lived radioactive elements, such as iodine-131, and longer-lived elements — such as cesium-137, with a half-life of 30 years — can be absorbed by phytoplankton, zooplankton, kelp, and other marine life and then be transmitted up the food chain, to fish, marine mammals, and humans. Other radioactive elements — including plutonium, which has been detected outside the Fukushima plant — also pose a threat to marine life. A key question is how concentrated will the radioactive contamination be. Japanese officials hope that a temporary fishing ban off the northeastern Japanese coast will be enough to avert any danger to human health until the flow of radioactive water into the sea can be stopped.

But that spigot is still running. Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the resulting damage to the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, huge quantities of water have been poured on four stricken reactors to keep them cool. Thousands of tons of radioactively contaminated water have then been released from the Fukushima complex into the ocean. And even though the Japanese this week stopped a leak of highly radioactive material from the badly damaged Reactor No. 2, the water used to cool the reactor cores continues to flow into the sea. In addition, atmospheric fallout from the damaged reactors is contaminating the ocean as prevailing winds carry radioactivity out over the Pacific.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has reported that seawater containing radioactive iodine-131 at 5 million times the legal limit has been detected near the plant. According to the Japanese news service, NHK, a recent sample also contained 1.1 million times the legal level of radioactive cesium-137.

Studies from previous releases of nuclear material in the Irish, Kara and Barents Seas, as well as in the Pacific Ocean, show that such radioactive material does travel with ocean currents, is deposited in marine sediment, and does climb the marine food web. In the Irish Sea — where the British Nuclear Fuels plant at Sellafield in the northwestern United Kingdom released radioactive material over many decades, beginning in the 1950s — studies have found radioactive cesium and plutonium concentrating significantly in seals and porpoises that ate contaminated fish. Other studies have shown that radioactive material from Sellafield and from the nuclear reprocessing plant at Cap de la Hague in France have been transported to the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. A study published in 2003 found that a substantial part of the world’s radioactive contamination is in the marine environment.

But what impact this radioactive contamination has on marine life and humans is still unclear. Even the mass dumping of nuclear material by the Soviets in the Arctic has not been definitively shown to have caused widespread harm to marine life. That may be because containment vessels around some of the dumped reactors are preventing the escape of radiation. A lack of comprehensive studies by the Russians in the areas where nuclear waste was dumped also has hampered understanding. Two events in the early 1990s — a die-off of seals in the Barents Sea and White Sea from blood cancer, and the deaths of millions of starfish, shellfish, seals and porpoises in the White Sea — have been variously attributed by Russian scientists to pollution or nuclear contamination.

How the radioactive materials released from the Fukushima plants will behave in the ocean will depend on their chemical properties and reactivity, explained Ted Poston, a ecotoxicologist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a U.S. government facility in Richland, Washington. If the radionuclides are in soluble form, they will behave differently than if they are absorbed into particles, said Poston. Soluble iodine, for example, will disperse rather rapidly. But if a radionuclide reacts with other molecules or gets deposited on existing particulates — bits of minerals, for example — they can be suspended in the water or, if larger, may drop to the sea floor.

“If particulates in the water column are very small they will move with the current,” he explained. “If bigger or denser, they can settle in sediment.”

If iodine-131, for example, is taken up by seaweed or plankton, it can be transferred to fish, which are in turn eaten by larger fish, as has been seen in the Irish Sea. Fish can also take in radionuclides in the water through their gills, and radionuclides can be ingested by mollusks. But Edward Lazo, deputy division head for radiation protection at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said, “This is not a fully developed science and there are lots of uncertainties.”

Radioactive iodine is taken up by the thyroid in humans and marine mammals — or in the case of fish, thyroid tissue — and is also readily absorbed by seaweed and kelp. Cesium acts like potassium and is taken up by muscle. Cesium would tend to stay in solution and can eventually end up in marine sediment where, because of its long half life, it will persist for years. Because marine organisms use potassium they can also take up cesium. “Cesium behaves like potassium, so would end up in all marine life,” said Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland. “It certainly will have an effect.”

Tom Hei, professor of environmental sciences and vice-chairman of radiation oncology at Columbia University, explained that the mechanisms that determine how an animal takes in radiation are the same for fish as  they are for humans. Once in the body — whether inhaled or absorbed through gills or other organs — radiation can make its way into the bloodstream, lungs, and bony structures, potentially causing death, cancer, or genetic damage. Larger animals tend to more sensitive to radiation than smaller ones. Yet small fish, mollusks and crustaceans, as well as plankton and phytoplankton, can absorb radiation, said Poston. How the radiation accumulates depends on the degree of exposure — dose and duration — and the half-life of the element, said Hei.

Depending on its chemical form and by what organisms it is taken up, radiation can also concentrate when it moves through the food chain. A 1999 study found that seals and porpoises in the Irish Sea concentrated radioactive cesium by a factor of 300 relative to its concentration in seawater, and a factor of 3 to 4 compared to the fish they ate.

So far, the Japanese government and TEPCO have provided only limited data on marine contamination from the Fukushima plant. Given the emergency situation, independent monitoring along the coast is difficult, said Jan Beránek, director of Greenpeace International’s nuclear energy project. On April 5, the Japanese government set its first standards for allowable levels of radioactive material in seafood. A number of countries have banned seafood imports from Japan. The U.S. has barred food imports from the prefectures closest to Fukushima and the Food and Drug Administration says it is closely monitoring imported food products, including seafood, for radiation contamination.

MORE FROM YALE e360

Anatomy of a Nuclear Crisis:
A Chronology of Fukushima

Anatomy of a Nuclear Crisis:<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />A Chronology of Fukushima

The world’s worst nuclear reactor mishap in 25 years was caused by a massive natural calamity but compounded by what appear to be surprising mistakes by Japanese engineers. The result has been a fast-moving disaster that has left officials careening from one emergency to the next.
READ MORE

“This is not an imminent health concern, but we haven’t seen the end of it,” said Theo Theofanous, professor of chemical and mechanical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it is not conducting any monitoring of the marine environment for radiation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is monitoring airborne radiation, but its spokespeople were unable to say whether the EPA was monitoring the marine environment as well.

Experts such as Buesseler of Woods Hole, as well as activists like Beránek, said an international effort should quickly be launched to sample and measure radionuclides in the ocean, seafloor, and marine life, with close attention paid to which direction ocean currents can be expected to transport water potentially contaminated by Fukushima.

Elizabeth Grossman is the author of Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry, High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health, and other books. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Salon, The Washington Post, The Nation, Mother Jones, Grist, and other publications.

Copyright Elizabeth Grossman, Environment 360, 2011

Nuclear Energy, Ground Water and “Uranium Bioremediation”

December 8th, 2013 by Global Research News

The following 2009 Science Daily article sheds light on an important process which may be of relevance to the debate on the Fukushima disaster.  “A team of scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory has investigated effectiveness of several electron donors for uranium bioremediation in a study funded by the Department of Energy’s Environmental Remediation Sciences Program.”

The procedure, however, pertains to uranium rather than to plutonium contamination. It does not focus on the issue of radiation. (GR Editor M. Ch).

*    *    *

The legacy of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy development has left ground water and sediment at dozens of sites across the United States and many more around the world contaminated with uranium.

The uranium is transported through ground water as uranyl (U6+). In one bioremediation strategy, uranium immobilization in contaminated ground water and sediment may be achieved by the addition of organic molecules known as electron donors to stimulate microbial activity. The microbial community utilizes the electron donors as ‘food’, consuming all of the available oxygen during aerobic respiration. Once the ground water becomes anaerobic, U6+ may be converted to U4+ as UO2, a solid mineral, sequestering the uranium within the sediment. Researchers have been investigating the effectiveness of various electron donors, but have been frustrated by residual U6+ which is not converted to insoluble U4+.

A team of scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory has investigated effectiveness of several electron donors for uranium bioremediation in a study funded by the Department of Energy’s Environmental Remediation Sciences Program. Madden et al. report that the particular electron donor chosen affects not only the rate of uranium removal from solution, but also the extent of U6+ conversion to U4+. Results of the study were published in the January-February issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality.

Microcosm experiments containing uranium-contaminated sediment and ground water demonstrated equivalent rapid uranium reduction when amended with ethanol or glucose. In contrast, reduction was delayed by several days when microcosms were amended with methanol. Spectroscopic analyses of uranium oxidation state in stimulated microcosm sediment slurries demonstrated almost complete uranium reduction when methanol was the donor, as compared with less than half reduced using ethanol or glucose. However, addition of methanol did not always result in uranium reduction. These results suggest that the use of donors such as methanol which are not as readily and rapidly coupled to microbial metal reduction may lead to increased stability of the subsurface towards uranium immobilization.

Research is ongoing at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to investigate the effectiveness of various electron donors for long-term uranium immobilization. Further research is needed to understand the coupling between the microbial community and the biogeochemical processes that occur to immobilize the uranium. While previous research has focused on individual groups of bacteria which most efficiently reduce uranium, these results suggest the need for understanding the microbial community system.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Crop Science Society of America.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:

  1. Madden et al. Donor-dependent Extent of Uranium Reduction for Bioremediation of Contaminated Sediment Microcosms. Journal of Environmental Quality, 2009; 38 (1): 53 DOI: 10.2134/jeq2008.0071

Copyright Science Daily 2009

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has today released its new research report titled ‘GM Maize: Lessons For Africa-Cartels, Collusion And Control Of South Africa’s Staple Food’ showing how a select group of companies, including Tiger Brands, Pioneer and Premier Foods who have previously fixed the price of bread and maize meal, commandeer the entire maize value chain and continue to squeeze the poorest South Africans.

The ACB has recently shown that the entire maize meal market is saturated with GM maize.i

The-Terrible-10

Download the publication.

The report shows that the South African government, through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) is the largest investor in Tiger Brands, and that over 50% of the company’s shares are held outside South Africa. Pioneer Foods’ largest shareholder is Zeder, the agribusiness investment arm of PSG Konsult Group, a private financial services company. Premier Foods is 80% owned by private equity firm Braite, listed on the Euro MTF market in Luxemburg but domiciled in Malta, both jurisdictions being notorious tax havens. ‘These ownership patterns have increased the distance between food producers and consumers, and are lucrative avenues for capital accumulation by actors far removed from these firms’ locales.’ Said Mariam Mayet, Director of the ACB.

According to Gareth Jones, researcher at the ACB, ‘It appears as if South Africa’s major millers and retailers are making healthy profits from our staple food and certainly not passing falling maize prices onto consumers.’ The report shows that from April 2007 to April 2013, the average cost of a 5 kg bag of maize meal increased by 43.7% in rural areas, and 51.8% in urban areas. ‘These sharp price increases aggravate the already appalling conditions that millions of South Africans live under. This is particularly significant for the poor, who spend 41% of their income on an average “food basket” ‘ said Jones.

Further findings of the report include:

  • Two companies Monsanto and Pioneer Hi-Bred control the maize seed market;
  • Maize handling and storage is dominated by three companies Senwes, NWK and Afgri, all former co-ops;
  • Louis Dreyfus and Cargill, international grain traders, dominate the maize trade on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange;
  • A highly concentrated value chain feeds into an equally concentrated food retail sector, with four major retailers: Shoprite/Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworths dominating the market.

Rest of Continent at risk

According to the report, Premier and Pioneer have all expanded their operations on the continent. Tiger Brands already operates in 22 countries on the continent and is a key player in establishing maize value chains in Southern Africa. ‘Having already gorged their profit margins on the poorest of the poor in South Africa, these corporate giants are now glancing covetously to the vast African market north of the Limpopo. Experiences from South Africa should serve as stark warnings’ said Mayet.

Urgent Change Needed

The ACB report calls for an urgent reversal of this economic concentration and for mechanisms to be put in place to develop small players throughout the maize value chain, from farmers to millers and retailers. This should include the promotion of agro-ecological production methods, decentralised value chains and public maize breeding programmes that provide access to seed that can be freely shared and exchanged.

i ACB (2013). Food Fascism in South Africa: Tiger Brands, Pioneer and Premier Force Feeding the Nation Risky GM Maize

Gareth Jones 081 493 4323
Mariam Mayet 083 269 4309

Copyright The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) 2013

Juegos de guerra de la OTAN, EE.UU. y Turquía frente a la costa siria

December 8th, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Según informaciones de la prensa turca, el Alto Comando de Turquía auspiciará el ejercicio militar Invitex, de la OTAN, en el Mediterráneo oriental en un claro acto de provocación dirigido contra Siria.

 Los juegos de guerra Invitex en el Mediterráneo oriental tendrán lugar del 4 al 14 de noviembre.

Silencio ensordecedor. Ni un solo medio occidental ha informado de estas maniobras.

El comunicado oficial del Alto Comando TKS sugiere un escenario de juegos de guerra que involucrará una guerra regional, siguiendo la suposición de que la actual guerra encubierta de EE.UU., la OTAN e Israel contra Siria podría conducir a una escalada militar. Los países considerados amenazas para Turquía y la OTAN no se menciona.

Según un comunicado de prensa de las fuerzas armadas turcas, habrá varios tipos de operaciones navales. Mientras la palabra “guerra” no se menciona, el objetivo declarado consiste en el “manejo de una crisis regional”, presumiblemente por medios militares y no diplomáticos.

El enfoque es “realzar la cooperación y el entrenamiento mutuo entre países participantes”. Leyendo entre líneas esto sugiere una cooperación militar realzada dirigida contra potenciales países enemigos en Medio Oriente, incluyendo Siria e Irán.

“Las plataformas de la OTAN, la Armada de EE.UU. y los Guardacostas, la Armada y la Fuerza Aérea turcas participarán en el ejercicio, señaló el 4 de noviembre una declaración de las Fuerzas Armadas Turcas (TKS) (Hurriyet Daily News, Turquía).

Se ha planificado un significativo despliegue de poder naval y aéreo. Según el comunicado del TKS, las unidades participantes son: OTAN SNMG-2 (tres fragatas), Armada de EE.UU. (una fragata), Armada Turca (tres fragatas, dos corbetas, cuatro embarcaciones de ataque rápido, dos buques cisterna, dos patrulleras, un barco de desembarco, un remolcador, un avión de patrulla marítima, cinco helicópteros, un equipo anfibio, un Equipo Naval de Destrucción de Armas de Destrucción Masiva, (el Centro Multinacional de Excelencia de Seguridad Marítima), los Guardacostas turcos (tres barcos guardacostas) y aviones de la Fuerza Aérea Turca. (Ibíd.).

Las fragatas Tromp HNLMS se utilizan para operaciones anfibias y desembarco de fuerzas terrestres. Hay que señalar que los juegos de guerra incluyen siete fragatas, aparte de un barco de desembarco y un equipo anfibio.

SNMG-2 se refiere al Grupo Marítimo Permanente 2 de la OTAN, las fuerzas marítimas permanentes de la OTAN de Reacción Inmediata. SNMG-2 es una fuerza marítima integrada multinacional compuesta por naves de varias naciones aliadas, que entrenan y operan juntas como un solo equipo. No se revela cuáles son los Estados miembros de la OTAN involucrados en los juegos de guerra.

Es importante señalar que estos juegos de guerra se superponen con ejercicios militares bilaterales entre Turquía y Jordania que incluyen la participación de fuerzas especiales de ambos países.

No se ha informado de esos juegos de guerra bilaterales turco-jordanos. Deben terminar el 9 de noviembre. Esos ejercicios militares bilaterales tienen el propósito de realzar la cooperación militar entre los dos países. Ambos están utilizando fuerzas especiales en el entrenamiento y apoyo a mercenarios rebeldes.

El objetivo de los juegos de guerra es amenazar a Siria

Los dos conjuntos de juegos de guerra se coordinarán. Lo que parece visualizarse al respecto es un escenario de invasión de un país enemigo no definido desde barcos de guerra estacionados en el Mediterráneo oriental, apoyados por fuerzas aéreas. Esto se realizaría en coordinación con fuerzas especiales en el terreno de EE.UU.-OTAN y sus aliados operando desde Turquía y Jordania en apoyo a fuerzas rebeldes afiliadas a al Qaida.

Está ampliamente documentado que Turquía y Jordania apoyan la llegada a Siria de mercenarios y de fuerzas especiales encubiertas, incluyendo escuadrones de la muerte, respectivamente en las fronteras septentrional y meridional de Siria.

¿Amenaza a Rusia este juego de guerra? Rusia es aliada de Siria. Tiene una base naval en el Mediterráneo oriental que opera desde el puerto de Tartus, en el sur de Siria.

Coincidiendo con los ejercicios militares Invitex de la OTAN, la Alianza Atlántica está realizando juegos de guerra a gran escala en proximidad de la frontera rusa. Ucrania, que no es un país de la OTAN, está participando en esos juegos de guerra dirigidos contra Rusia.

“El ejercicio militar, denominado “Jazz Inconmovible”, incluirá la participación de 6.000 soldados, marineros y aviadores en Polonia y la región del Mar Báltico del 2 al 9 de noviembre…”

Mientras tanto, EE.UU. amenaza a China como parte del giro asiático de Obama: del 25 al 28 de octubre, el Grupo de Ataque Cinco de Portaaviones de la Armada de EE.UU. (el mayor grupo de ataque de EE.UU.) dirigido por el USS George Washington realizó ejercicios militares conjuntos en el Mar del Sur de China.

Michel Chossudovsky es escritor, profesor emérito de Economía de la Universidad de Ottawa, fundador y director del Centro de Investigación sobre la Globalización (CRG), Montreal, y editor de la web globalresearch.ca. Es autor de The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) y de America’s “War on Terrorism”( 2005). Su último libro es Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War (2011). También es colaborador de la Encyclopaedia Britannica. Sus escritos se han publicado en más de 20 idiomas.

Traducido para Rebelión por Germán Leyens

Fuente: http://www.globalresearch.ca/regional-war-scenario-nato-us-turkey-war-games-off-the-syrian-coastline/5356804

No More US Boots at Afghan Doorsteps?

December 8th, 2013 by Dr. Ismail Salami

In his refusal to sign the Afghan-US security pact which would enable some US troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is signaling a clear message to the United States: Afghanistan does not need US troops on its ground any more.

Unlike the US claim that the presence of its troops is meant to safeguard security and safety in the country, Karzai is manifestly no longer capable of bringing himself to envisage a safe country with American boots at its doorsteps. On the contrary, in the presence of US troops lingers an overriding sense of insecurity which has cast its phantasmagorical dark shadows over the entire region.

The NATO now has some 84,000 troops in Afghanistan, the majority American. In a tone which clearly sought to underestimate the authority of the Afghan President, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Afghanistan’s defense minister or government could instead sign the pact.

The controversial Bilateral Security Pact will determine how many US troops can stay in Afghanistan after the planned withdrawal of foreign forces at the end of 2014. Further to that, it will give legal immunity to American soldiers who remain in Afghanistan, an issue which has become a sticking point.

On November 19, Afghan President Hamid Karzai rejected a key provision of the pact which allowed the US forces to enter homes and said it was an act of aggression.

Besides, US troops in Afghanistan are disrupting order in the country as they interfere in the affairs of the Afghan police and military forces.

On Sunday, Karzai issued a statement claiming that US-NATO forces were withholding fuel and other material support from their Afghan counterparts in an effort to force him to sign the security agreement.

“This deed is contrary to the prior commitment of America,” Karzai’s statement said. “Afghan forces are facing interruption in conducting of their activities as a result of the cessation of fuel and supportive services.”

“From this moment on, America’s searching of houses, blocking of roads and streets, military operations are over, and our people are free in their country,” he said.

“If Americans raid a house again, then this agreement will not be signed,” he said, with the American ambassador, James B. Cunningham, in the audience.


Karzai has come under severe attacks by many in the US and in the West.

A senior US official has even warned that Afghanistan will eventually lose global support if Karzai keeps contributing to this recalcitrant attitude.

Tom Donilon, Obama’s national security adviser until earlier this year, has said Karzai was “reckless” for risking a situation in which no US or allied troops would remain in his country after next year.

“I think it’s reckless in terms of Afghanistan, and I think it also adversely impacts our ability to plan coherently and comprehensively for post-2014,” Mr. Donilon told ABC News.

In another diatribe on Karzai, Dianne Feinstein, a senior Democratic senator, described the Afghan president as “a cipher”. She said Karzai is “the victim of what thought occurs to him right at the moment based on some anger that he feels about something that may not even be related.”

An ill-founded observation in this regard also comes from Omar Samad, former Afghanistan ambassador to France (2009-2011) and to Canada (2004-2009) and spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry (2002-2004). In his article titled: Be patient, the Afghans are fed up with Karzai which he has penned for CNN, he argues, “What lies at the heart of his aggressive posturing is the future of his family’s political and financial interests after his second term ends in 2014. That strategy has also been markedly shaped by 12 long and strenuous years of Machiavellian exploits, insecurity and frustration with his Western backers.”

Certainly Samad has been exposed to frequent political rote learning by the Westerners. And he wishes to hammer home an idea which hardly fits into any logical argumentation.

In other words, the only reason he sees behind Karzai’s opposition to the security pact is purely personal rather than anything beyond.

Karzai who was even awarded an honorary knighthood by the British Queen at Windsor Castle is no longer an asset, a friend as he now stands in the way of the very pivotal forces which used to prop him up.

The deferment in signing the pact on the part of Afghan President has naturally frayed Washington’s nerves and exhausted their patience. No doubt, the pact is of utmost significance to the US as it guarantees the success of any future military or intelligence operations in the region. That is why Iran has responded negatively to the pact. On Sunday, Iranian Foreign Ministry said Iran does not believe the security deal will prove beneficial to the Afghan government and nation.

The pact, if signed, will allow the US to maintain their nine permanent military bases in Afghanistan, which borders on China, Pakistan, Iran and the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

As the situation stands, pressure is piling up on the weakened Afghan government and the Americans apparently seek something more than a sheer presence in the war-weary country. Viewed as an American blank check, the agreement can well serve long-term military and intelligence purposes in the region.

While alleged representatives of American democracy foam at the mouth over the fictional threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon, the real world existence of thousands of such weapons passes almost without notice. But that’s only in the eyes, ears and forcibly emptied minds of many western consumer-citizens, occupied with going into debt for the holy days of shopping and left with little time to contemplate material reality, especially since it is rarely presented to them in an individually understandable and socially coherent form.

After wreaking havoc on the democratic process in Iran many years ago when the USA and Britain conspired to destroy an elected government and replace it with a royal puppet of the west, the Iranian revolution of 1979 placed that nation on a hate list on a par with the old Soviet Union. In fact, these Muslims were painted as possibly bigger threats to mindless consumption and earth raping than the evil commies since they were driven by faith in god, something the west only uses for political manipulation of its voting consumers.

Sincere belief in a religious moral code among a people with real grievances against the west was quite frightening. The attacks on Iran since 1979 have been ongoing and deadly, both in financing wars against that nation and organizing political economic crimes that can take as many lives as a war.

Any efforts by Iran to take its place among others in what passes for an international community, that is, to actually participate in the creation of a real global community of nations, has been met by furious opposition in the west. It should be understood that “the west” amounts to the USA, Israel and its few lapdogs in Europe. Israel is not physically located in the west but it plays a western role in the fading but still deadly neo-colonial control of international majorities by a minority deeming themselves chosen people-master race-exceptional nations, and this with no evidence to back their alleged superiority except their massive military power able to waste millions of lives.

This is like a 400 lb brute pillaging, raping and murdering while considering himself a god for pleasuring and having power over so many women and not noticing that they are now armed, their numbers have grown and that he is close to being surrounded by them. Unfortunately, once he does notice, his desperate irrational fear and wrath will cause him to rape and murder even more – while insisting he is spreading more joy – until he is finally subdued. That is a simple description of the global situation as imperial capital, threatened as never before, strives to survive not only in its usual bloody fashion but even more dangerously by increasingly couching its crimes in the language of democracy and diplomacy.

Humanity – not just Iranians – needs to maintain hope for a better future, but also to be far more careful and wary of the growing danger even as possibilities for success grow. The empire is under stress everywhere and it is straining to maintain itself at any cost, however cosmetic the language employed by its leadership and their puppets. There may never have been a time of greater hope for the human race but conversely, humanity has never been living under the threat represented by a dying system which could take all of us down with it. National identity, such as presently strived for in Iran and countless other places formerly entirely under the boot heel of capital may be an important short term step in the direction of salvation, but internationalism is the giant step we need to take towards a better future for all.

The problem we confront is international and its solution will ultimately call for a democratic internationalism such as the world has never known before. Without it, we may face a future far more bleak than the worst forecasts of the present.

The Deadly Impacts of GMO and Biotechnology

December 7th, 2013 by Global Research News

Denuncian la tragedia que sufre el pueblo sirio

December 7th, 2013 by Jorge Zegarra

2013 is almost over and the US has still not managed to get NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai to sign the Pentagon’s bilateral security agreement. The agreement is of vital strategic importance for the US and NATO in respect to having a position amidst the main players in Eurasia. The United States has set December 2014 as its so-called military withdrawal date from the NATO-manned Central Asian country. Despite the claims of the US, the Pentagon wants to keep a figure of 20,000 or more military personnel in Afghanistan, retain at least nine bases, and to use Afghan airspace and territory for Pentagon operations in Central Asia and beyond…

Afghanistan sits at a strategically important crossroad in the world and the United States has always sought to capitalize on this. The idea of an American military withdrawal from NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan has always been viewed by the Pentagon as a strategic rollback in Central Asia and more broadly as a rollback from Eurasia. Regardless of the US government’s claims, leaving NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan has always been out of the question for the US military. Nonetheless, it was claimed in July 2013 that President Obama was mulling a total withdrawal from the NATO-manned Central Asian country, or so claim the unnamed US and European officials that the reporters Mark Mazzetti and Mattew Rosenberg quoted for The New York Times (NYT). When it was published, the July 2013 NYT report by Mazzetti and Rosenburg raised many skeptical eyebrows. The news came while Washington was trying to stamp out some type of long-term security pact with Kabul to let the Pentagon continue using Afghanistan as a giant military base.

The quibbling between the US and its own indigent Afghan puppet, President Karzai, has been nuanced by another set of negotiations that the US had started. Washington had started secretive negotiations with the Taliban that scared America’s Afghan puppets in Kabul. The fear of being betrayed by Washington caused Karzai to protest and eventually forced the Obama Administration into using intimidation by threatening a total withdrawal that would leave the puppets in Kabul to fend for themselves against the Taliban and the opposition groups in NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan. Even US Secretary of State John Kerry’s personal pleas in October 2013, during an unannounced visit aimed at getting Kabul to sign the security treaty, were rejected by Karzai. Finally, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice delivered an ultimatum to Karzai in November 2013 saying that if he delayed signing that he would be left to his own devices against the Taliban in 2014.

Is the Taliban back in Washington’s Good Graces?

US talks with the Taliban are a threat to the interests of China, India, Iran, and Russia. It was the old Taliban that had kept all of America’s rivals out of Afghanistan for Washington. The talks also come at the expense of Washington’s own Afghan pawns. Karzai, long derided jokingly as the “Mayor of Kabul” due to his lack of authority outside of the Afghan capital, has been deeply alarmed by Washington’s negotiations with the Taliban. His corrupt administration also objected to the fact that a Taliban office has been given recognition by the US government under the name of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is the name that the old Taliban had imposed on Afghanistan during their reign of terror that was supported by the US and only recognized diplomatically by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates. The Taliban office in Doha essentially functioned as an embassy or diplomatic mission. This status could even have led to the germination of a parallel Afghan government.

Although the Taliban of 2013 is very different from the Taliban of 2001, the tune of American officials has changed since George W. Bush Jr. and Tony Blair invaded Afghanistan and vowed to cleanse the country of the Taliban. The US now appears to be ready to throw in the towel in the fight against the Taliban fighters fighting American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban of 2013, more properly described as a series of armed groups opposed to the US-supported Afghan government and to foreign troops on their soil, is insidiously gaining favour in Washington. This is the same brand of geopolitical-cum-regime change US favour that Al-Qaeda affiliated groups like Al-Nusra have enjoyed in Syria and Libya since the so-called Arab Spring erupted.

The Saudi takeover of Qatar’s Shows?

The Taliban office that was opened for negotiations with the US government was located in Doha, Qatar. As noted earlier, the Taliban office in Qatar functioned as the embassy of a Taliban government-in-exile. Karzai repeatedly protested about the Taliban office in Qatar until the office was closed by the Taliban itself in July 2013. Formally, the Taliban closed the office after its white standard version of Afghanistan’s flag and its sign were both removed by Qatari authorities. There is a chance that the office was closed just to eliminate the limelight and end Karzai’s protests while negotiations between the US and the Taliban continued silently.

Just as the Emirate of Qatar tried to act as the patron of the Muslim Brotherhood, Doha appeared to have been positioning itself to become some type of patron for the Taliban too. This could possibly have been an attempt to compensate slightly for Qatar’s lost investments on the declining Muslim Brotherhood’s regional project or it could have been part of the same initiative all along. Regardless, Qatar’s Al-Thani regime would never have dared to take such bold steps as hosting the Taliban without American approval. Ultimately, Qatari patronage over both the Muslim Brotherhood and its planned patronage over the Taliban have been in service of Washington’s interests and, in a manner of speaking, the US had outsourced these particular jobs to the Qataris.

Qatar’s regional role declined after the Saudi-supported military coup in Egypt toppled President Morsi and the failure of the regime change project in Syria. Qatar was sidelined by the Saudis in Syria too. Prince Bandar had taken over the lead in trying to oust the Syrian government too. It now seems that Saudi Arabia may also take the lead with the Taliban. In discussions between Afghani and Pakistani officials it was announced that a Taliban office may open up either in Turkey or Saudi Arabia. Karzai has tried to push instead for a Taliban office closer to home, and to his spies and informants, in neighbouring Pakistan as a means of being able to monitor the group’s negotiations with the United States.

A Redo of Egypt in Afghanistan?

Would the US let Karazi be ousted and replaced with the Taliban even though he has admittedly been on the CIA’s payroll as a US employee? The answer is absolutely yes. Just looking at what happened in Egypt at the start of July 2013, it should be clear why Karzai may be nervous or distrustful of the US. The Obama Administration betrayed the very same Muslim Brotherhood government that Washington itself was propping up in Egypt. The Egyptian military even consulted the Pentagon before the coup against President Morsi took place. It was Washington that gave the green light for the military to roll out the tanks in Cairo and to oust their own ally Morsi. Of course there are more nuances about the events in Egypt and about why Obama abandoned Morsi, but the example of betrayal, or expendability, here is still undeniable. Obama played all sides and used the Egyptian military, Muslim Brotherhood, and segments of the Egyptian opposition against one another. The same thing can happen in NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan. It is not surprising that Karazi and his corrupt Kabuli entourage have become alert over Washington’s secret talks with the Taliban.

Egypt’s military leaders want to diversify their ties precisely because of the US strategy of playing one domestic faction against another. In Egypt it has been realized that Cairo can no longer be too dependent on the US. Moreover, all of America’s allies and clients realize that the US imperial order is sinking in the broader Middle East. This is also one of the reasons why the American clients and puppets in the Middle East are suddenly becoming brave and speaking out against Washington.

Who can blame the officials in Kabul for thinking that the US government is involved in Machiavellian backdoor deals that could see Obama playing the Taliban against them. Ironically, the Taliban itself use to be an American ally, which the US government even provided with financial and logistical support, before it was tossed aside in 2001 under the pretext of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.* Karzai has actually demanded that the peace negotiations with the Taliban take place directly with the Afghan government itself. The American response has been to effectively refuse to allow direct peace negotiations between Karzai and the Taliban forces. As a result, in June 2013, Karzai suspended the bilateral negotiations on the security treaty. Karzai also announced that the Afghan government would take steps to take its security into its own hands and later to say that he would eventually sign the treaty if revisions were made and after the presidential elections in 2014. Washington’s response was to threaten to pull out all of its troops in Afghanistan, which would force Karzai’s fledgling military forces to face-off against the Taliban. Funds and supplies to Karzai’s military were also cutoff. Susan Rice would also demand that the Karzai sign the treaty before April 2014, which is the date that he suggested.

There is an added dimension to this narrative. Even though the US has committed itself to preparing and equipping Afghanistan’s military and security forces, it has been taking very contradictory steps the whole time. In an unprecedented move, the US has been destroying approximately seven billion dollars (US) worth of military equipment as it reduces its military presence in NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan. Instead of helping to strengthen the Afghan military by handing over the Pentagon’s old military equipment to it, the US government has opted to do the opposite by destroying its military equipment.

Afghanistan is the Pentagon’s Base in the War for Eurasia

America needs Afghanistan to challenge Russia, China, and Iran. Obama’s threats to pullout from NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan are part of a bluff designed to intimidate Kabul. The Pentagon wants to beef up its infrastructure in Central Asia and not to reduce it. Afghanistan is viewed as a means of entry for the US and NATO into Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the Caspian Sea. It is also a doorway into the Indian sub-continent. The Pentagon would never surrender its military bases in such a strategically important geographic location that borders Iran, China, Pakistan, and the post-Soviet space. Furthermore, the Pentagon’s troop reduction is also being compensated by private battalions of security contractors or, in plain language, mercenaries that will allow the US to bypass many legalities and international liabilities by utilizing private armies.

Washington wants to stay in Afghanistan without fighting the Taliban. This is the Pentagon’s real objective. It is with this objective in mind that Obama is trying to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban while he is also trying to secure a bilateral security treaty with a scared Karzai who is worried about his own skin.

Karzai rightly suspects that the US could be willing to let him collapse if a deal with the Taliban is reached. These are the reasons why Afghan officials have refused to cooperate with Obama by signing the Pentagon’s bilateral treaty. As a means of intimidating Karzai into signing the security treaty, this is what has forced Obama to use the threat of withdrawing all US troops as leverage and cut aid to the Afghan military. What a total US withdrawal would mean for Afghanistan’s government is that Kabul would come under siege by the Taliban and others in a battle for power.

In spite of everything, these games between Hamid Karzai and the US government are not new. Washington and Karzai have put pressure on one another whenever there have been differences between the two sides. US officials put pressure on Karzai in 2009 when there were arguments about the Afghan elections and the political configuration of the Afghan government. Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Karzai’s brother, was exposed in the crossfire as a CIA operative and drug dealer by US officials. Karzai’s response came by way of General Khodadad, Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics minister, who revealed to IRNA in a tit-for-tat statement that the drugs in Afghanistan are mostly “stockpiled in two provinces controlled by troops from the US, the UK, and Canada” which “NATO forces are taxing” as accomplices in the international narcotics trade.

The US strategy in NATO-garrisoned Afghanistan seeks to pit the different Afghan factions as counter-weights to one another as a means of ensuring the continuation of US influence. Washington could tilt the balance of power to one side when another side gets out of line and refuses to comply with Washington’s edicts and desires. Nevertheless, it is not skeptical whatsoever to speculate that in the process of making peace with the Taliban that Washington may hand over much of Afghanistan back to them. It is in this context that the Russian government had warned in June 2013 that peace talks require direct consultations between Afghan officials and the Taliban whereas visiting Afghan officials led by Ershad Ahmadi, Karzai’s deputy foreign minister, have been warned in Tehran not to trust the US with their fate.

NOTE

* The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US were no committed by the Taliban or any Afghan citizens. The Taliban leadership originally offered to hand Osama bin Ladin over to the US if the US government provided evidence of his involvement in the event. After the US began the war, the Taliban even offered to surrender Osama bin Ladin to the United States.

We knew the world would not be the same. Few people laughed, few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”

-Robert Oppenheimer, scientific director of the Manhattan Project which created the first atomic devices. [1]

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The harnessing of the power of the atom was one of the signature technological achievements of the twentieth century.

The awesome possibilities of nuclear energy presented humanity with an opportunity to mature beyond the need for endless war and conquest with ever more potent weapons, or to destroy itself in a blaze of neutronic hubris.

An opportunity to evolve or perish.

One thousand days now separate us from the earthquake and tsunami that wrought what former nuclear industry senior vice president Arnold Gundersen called `the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind.` [2] It would appear that our species has not only failed to vanquish the nuclear dragon, or tame it. Our civilization seems to remain wholly subservient to it, surrendering to its promise of military mastery and industrial supremacy in the here and now at the cost of toxic waste that will survive far beyond the extinction of our species.

The guests on this week`s Global Research News Hour speak of cover-up. Yoichi Shimatsu spoke to the Global Research News Hour about the misleading statements coming from the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) about the explosions from March of 2011, the radiative effects, and the secretive role of Fukushima as a storage site for Plutonium and nuclear weapons.

Hatrick Penry goes even further. Penry utilizes documents disclosed from unimpeachable documentary sources, attained through Freeedom of Information requests, to show that much more radiation was released into the atmosphere than is generally recognized.

Moreover, the exercise of removing spent fuel rods from a waste pool at Fukushima`s Unit 4 would seem to be a fabrication.                                             

Mainstream media and government officials have apparently done a better job containing the truth of the Fukushima disaster, than they have the radio-active debris the catastrophe has generated.

THe Fukushima cover-up is about more than mendacious and criminal behaviour on the part of corporate and government officials. It shines a spotlight on the power and clout of the trans-national nuclear industry, and how they co-opt not only media, but whole sectors of economic and military endeavour.

Yoichi Shimatsu is a veteran investigator and former editor of the Japan Times Weekly. He has travelled to the fukushima exclusion Zone on several occasions since the accident.

Hatrick Penry is otherwise known as Tony Muga. He uncovered documents revealed through Freedom of Information requests with which he essentially discredits current and ongoing claims about the state of the facility. His site is http://hatrickpenry.wordpress.com

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The Global Research News Hour, hosted by Michael Welch, airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Fridays at 1pm CDT. The programme is also broadcast weekly (Monday, 5-6pm ET) by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Port Perry Radio in Port Perry, Ontario – Thursdays at 1pm ET

 Notes:

1)  “J. Robert Oppenheimer on the Trinity test (1965)”. Atomic Archive. http://www.atomicarchive.com/Movies/Movie8.shtml

2) Dahr Jamail, June 16, 2011, “Fukushima: It’s much worse than you think”, Al Jazeera; http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/06/201161664828302638.html

Building Solidarity to End South African Apartheid

December 7th, 2013 by Greg Guma

This text was first published in Toward Freedom, December 1981

The American movement to break a rapidly developing alliance between South Africa and the United States was launched in October, 1981 at an historic conference in New York. 

Just days after the US stood alone in the United Nations by refusing to condemn South Africa’s attack on Angola, the Conference in Solidarity with the Liberation Struggles of the Peoples of South Africa adopted a forceful anti-apartheid declaration and a comprehensive plan of action designed to isolate the apartheid regime and assist liberation struggles in both South Africa and Namibia.

Representatives of hundreds of labor, religious, academic, youth and grassroots organizations gathered at New York’s Riverside Church from October 9-11 in an optimistic mood – despite the escalation of violence in southern Africa and the Reagan administration’s willingness to move toward full relations with South Africa.

 Still, there were few illusions. Although the National Program of Action adopted on the final day focused on sanctions, a cutoff of aid and investment, and an end to cultural and sports contact between the US and the apartheid regime, most delegates accepted – in fact, embraced – the necessity of armed struggle in order to liberate while-dominated Namibia and South Africa.

The unanimously-adopted conference declaration made this stance quite clear. “We are inspired,” it stated, “by the example of the men and women of SWAPO and the ANC, who, having exhausted all peaceful means, have been compelled to take up arms to free Namibia from illegal South African control, and to free the people of South Africa from the racist dictatorship that has made it an outcast among nations.”

Congressional representatives and labor leaders echoed the call. After describing her horror at witnessing the destruction of a black settlement, Rep. Shirley Chisholm said she was now certain South Africa had no intention of changing its racial policies. Later Cleveland Robinson, long-time activist with the United Auto Workers, advised that, “If the freedom fighters of the ANC and SWAPO decide they have to take up arms, our obligation is to support them.”

In fact, that phase of the struggle was already well underway. ANC and SWAPO representatives reported on the upsurge in labor, student and military actions, including the destruction of communication lines, police stations and, in Pretoria itself, a military headquarter.

The conferees nevertheless understood that resistance and pressure within the US was essential to the success of movements in southern Africa. The 21-page program emerging from the event detailed ways to organize a groundswell of opposition to apartheid that would isolate South Africa, force its withdrawal from Namibia, reinforce the much-abused embargo, and provide material assistance to both the liberation movements and the frontline states, which increasingly felt the effects of South African aggression.

A State Department policy paper reviewed in New York linked a Namibian settlement with the removal of Cuban troops from Angola and a demand that the Angolan government share power with UNITA. Furthermore, the paper suggested that US officials cover up that linkage: “We would insist that these are unrelated, but in fact they would be mutually reinforcing…”

Ultimately, the US State Department and South African regime hoped to forestall an expected victory for SWAPO in an election. Prior to President Reagan’s election, terms for that vote had been worked out. But now South African flatly refused to move forward with the plan.

Sanctions, Delays and Propaganda

According to Randall Robinson of TransAfrica, the US was willing to give the South Africans about two years to “work something out – the get the government the US wants in Namibia.” The assumption was that the longer it took the more possible became the defeat of SWAPO by internal forces. But conference delegates heard from SWAPO and observers that its base of support was actually growing, while the focus shifted from political to military strategy.

The approach to changing US policy toward Namibia from within America included work toward a criminal tribunal for mercenaries, congressional action to impose comprehensive sanctions – military, economic, political, social and cultural, lobbying to protect and extend the Clark Amendment, and nationwide educational efforts to counteract what many conferees called “propaganda” inspired by South Africa to cloak US-SA collaboration in national security assumptions.

Among the people to address the media’s role was Michigan Congressman George Crockett, who bluntly stated that the “American people are misinformed and lied to about what is going on in other countries.” Noting that the South African government had the money and media connections “to sell apartheid like a tube of toothpaste,” he maintained that, in reality, the regime had to plans to abandon its homelands policy, pass laws, use of Namibia as a military staging area, or the exploitation of that country’s natural resources.

Quoting Fidel Castro’s statement that the main core of the current US government was fascist, Crockett said that actions by the Reagan administration had persuaded him to agree. And if that rightward shift continued, he concluded, a resource war could emerge.

In working sessions, experts in media and cultural relations with South Africa supported Crockett’s accusation concerning the impact of propaganda within the US. For example, Rutgers University Associate Professor George Wilson explained how South Africa planted stories in the US with the help of the CIA. He also pointed to an increase in South African investment in US media. One US businessman, John McGoff, had received more than $1.7 million from the South African government to purchase a controlling interest in UPI Television, the second largest news-film producer in the world.

South African businessmen working with their government had also gained control over six daily and 61 weekly US newspapers, Wilson claimed. In response, once working group proposed research to identify South African-influenced media with an eye to initiating legal action against some publishers as unregistered South African agents.

A Mobilization Begins

The UN’s special interest in the role of the mass media was also reviewed. Having declared 1982 International Year of Mobilization for Sanctions Against Apartheid, it had held a conference on mass media in Berlin in August. That conference urged that all media workers “mobilize world opinion against apartheid.”

Like most of the proposals adopted in New York, that would be difficult to implement. It seemed unlikely, for instance, that major US media would adopt such an advocacy stance. In fact, during the weekend of the conference not one word about it appeared in The New York Times.

On the other hand, features generally supportive of South African-backed UNITA recently appeared in The Washington Post, and columnists such as James Kilpatrick persisted in downplaying apartheid and South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia while attacking the UN as an “impotent body” unworthy of support.

The delegates were nevertheless optimist about the struggle. The overall mood was proud and angry; the participants were ready to support both congressional lobbying efforts through the black caucus and open war to topple the South African regime.

At the final plenary session, human rights lawyer Lennox Hinds called the event “the seed that will take root in every city, village and state across the United States.” He reminded delegates that despite the myopic view often taken in US and reinforced by mass media, “the global struggles for liberation are winning.”

His message, despite entrenched racism and US complicity, was powerful and compelling. Quoting an ANC slogan, Hinds told an enthusiastic crowd, “Victory is certain.”

Greg Guma has been a writer, editor, historian, activist and progressive manager for over four decades. His latest book, Dons of Time, is a sci-fi look at the control of history as power. He edited Toward Freedom for more than a decade. This was his first article for the publication.

For the second time during recent anti-regime protests, a mass mobilization is planned to begin this Monday, December 9, 2013 at 9:39am at Democracy Monument. Universities across Bangkok are setting times and locations for pre-rally staging.

Protesters who individually attended the last mobilization, the largest in modern history, are better organized for this coming Monday – gathering their own smaller groups to join larger staging areas for a mass march across the city.

According to even the Western press, who has thus far attempted to shelter the Wall Street-backed regime, at least 200,000 protesters filled the streets last month, dwarfing entirely anything the regime has ever accomplished even at the height of its popularity. Since then, the regime has used excessive force, made draconian threats, and even unleashed armed militants to create bloodshed – further alienating itself, and galvanizing the Thai people.

Many of the individual pre-mobilizations will be as large as a typical pro-regime rally. These will then march across the city and merge. The last mass mobilization was peaceful, even festive.

This Monday, the message is a non-violent one, for the regime to see and hear the voices of the people who reject it wholly and will no longer comply with its entrenched, abusive power.

Video: While the regime uses camera tricks to “fill” even a single stadium, this was taking overhead of last November’s mass-mobilization, near Bangkok, Thailand’s Democracy Monument using a camera drone. The protesters can be seen stretching out in all directions. Other roads were similarly filled. This Monday, December 9, 2013, Thais will have another chance to participate in a similarly unprecedented gathering.

….

What to do if you want to participate:

1. Do participate! Do not be afraid of rumors of violence, nor allow empty regime threats to deter you. That the regime attempts to discourage free speech is all the more reason to come out and topple it.

2.Contact other like minded people today. Pick a place and time BEFORE 9:39am this Monday, to meet and set off for larger pre-rally locations.

Many universities across the city are serving as starting points including: Ramkamhaeng, Mahidol, Kasetsart, King Mongkut Institute Thinburi, and Thammasat (Tha Prachan) University. Other universities are giving their tacit support by closing on this Monday, December 9, to allow students to participate.

3. Bring water, a hat, and comfortable shoes. Eat a decent meal before going out as you will be doing a lot of walking and may not have an opportunity to eat until later on.

4. Bring a smart phone or a camera to both photograph and record the event (and any incidents), as well as to publish them live to social media (Facebook, Twitter), blogs, and websites. If you don’t have a Twitter account, make one before Monday.

In each message, ensure that you type hash tags such as #Thailand #Bangkok and  #Dec9Rally.

The six-month nuclear agreement among Iran and the “5+1” countries has been described as a breakthrough, a departure, a disaster or a betrayal, depending on the speaker. Much of the language of the agreement reached in Geneva on Nov. 24 reeks of imperialist arrogance.

Whatever one’s attitude toward the agreement, however, it is essential first and foremost for all progressive forces to unite and make a clear call to end all the criminal sanctions and attacks on the sovereignty of Iran and the imperialists’ targeting of the Iranian population.

In examining this interim agreement, we should first look at the reasons why Iran and the U.S. signed it, and who benefits.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — plus Germany are the “5+1.” The U.S. and its allies based their approach on the repeated charge that Iran’s developing nuclear energy leads to production of nuclear weapons, which they allege is an ominous threat to world peace.

All six nations involved in the talks with Iran have used nuclear energy for more than 50 years. All but Germany have a nuclear weapons arsenal. The U.S. has the largest such arsenal “ready to deliver,” is the only one that has ever used nuclear bombs on people, and U.S. imperialism continues to routinely threaten first nuclear strikes against countries that have no such weapons.

There is a clear meaning to the term every U.S. president since Truman has used: “All options are on the table.” U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers and Trident nuclear submarines, capable of destroying all life on earth in one launch, prowl the seas, including the waters directly off the coast of Iran.

The Geneva talks were based on the premise that the U.S. and its allies would ease sanctions strangling Iran’s economy; in return, Iran would freeze and then roll back its nuclear technology development. This is the imperialists’ goal, even though the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed, guarantees each country the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

U.S. sanctions legislation has demanded that every country in the world participate in a blockade of Iran or face severe U.S. trade, banking and insurance sanctions. The global blockade resulted in undermining Iran’s currency by more than 60 percent and oil production by more than 50 percent.

No demands are made on Israel, the U.S. proxy in the region. Israel possesses 100 to 300 nuclear weapons and has not signed the NPT nor ever submitted to an inspection.

 Terms of the agreement

It is worth reading the short, 1,500-word “Joint Plan of Action” signed with Iran. It begins with this outrageous assertion: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.” Of course, none of the 5 +1 have ever agreed to any similar pledge.

In order to gain access to $7 billion of the more than $100 billion of its own funds seized and frozen in accounts around the world, Iran must agree to undergo daily and unannounced inspections of its modest nuclear energy program. This includes its reactors, production workshops, storage facilities, uranium mines and mills, and all records of these facilities.

Developing nuclear weapons requires enriching uranium to more than 90 percent of the fissionable U-235 isotope. Iran must agree to not enrich its uranium to more than 5 percent and to dilute its limited stock of uranium already enriched to 20 percent.

The agreement stipulates that accepting these intrusive measures on Iran’s sovereignty will lead to a six-month pause in efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales and suspension of U.S. sanctions on Iran’s auto industry and spare parts for Iran’s civil aviation.

The agreement will allow Iran to purchase, with funds the U.S seized, food and agricultural products, medicine, medical devices and pay the tuition of Iranian students studying in universities abroad.

Lifting even a little of the thick, strangling web of sanctions shows just how invasive and targeted the sanctions are.

Sanctions began with 1979 Revolution

In evaluating this agreement, it is essential to know that U.S. hostility and U.S.-imposed sanctions began long before Iran revived its nuclear energy program.

After the revolutionary overturn of the brutal U.S.-imposed monarchy in 1979 fundamentally decreased U.S. influence in the entire region, the first U.S. sanctions on Iran began. The anti-imperialist upheaval — with a radical Muslim religious current playing a leading role — transformed Iranian society. It also liberated Iran’s oil and gas resources from the unequal contracts serving the giant oil corporations of Exxon, Mobil and Shell.

U.S. strategy since 1979 has been to destabilize the Iranian state and sabotage Iran’s economy in order to again dominate the country’s rich resources. Washington has used industrial sabotage, assassinations of political leaders and scientists, and military encirclement.

In 1979, Washington seized $10 billion of Iran’s own money held in U.S. banks. Over the years, Wall Street has seized billions in other Iranian assets that now total more than $100 billion in frozen funds. U.S. pressure included economic ruptures through the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Export-Import Bank and cancellation of hundreds of contracts.

Long before Iran revived its nuclear energy development to meet growing energy needs, the U.S. made every attempt through sanctions to block Iran’s ability to build oil refineries to refine its own oil and gas. Iran was a major exporter of crude oil, but was forced to import refined oil products at far higher costs.

Finally in 2011, after completion of seven new refineries, Iran ceased being a gas importer. But sanctions blocked Iran’s plans to export refined gas.

By developing its economy independent of Wall Street theft and domination and controlling its own resources, Iran was transformed within three decades from an underdeveloped country into a modern state with a highly educated population. While capitalist relations prevail, the population was still able to win guaranteed, comprehensive, free medical care; free education, including university; a modern infrastructure; and housing with full electrification.

Women’s education has improved from majority illiteracy to full literacy. More than 60 percent of university students are now female.

The Iranian revolution has enraged Wall Street and all the forces of reaction and feudal power in the region by providing political and material support to the Palestinian liberation struggle, the Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation and the Syrian government resisting regime change.

Along with failing to destabilize Iran, the U.S. has utterly failed to stabilize its rule in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, despite massive destruction. Its plans for a quick overturn in Syria have also met determined resistance, despite billions of dollars in funds, equipment and training of mercenary forces.

As its economic position declines, Washington planners are trying to shift their overextended military power further east to confront China’s growing economic position. Overwhelming sentiment in the U.S. against another war has also pressured Washington to try new tactics.

Washington’s broken treaties

The U.S. government’s record of 200 years of unequal and broken treaties with the Indigenous nations of North America shows that diplomacy and talks have always been used as a form of warfare. For Wall Street, intervals of peace are preparatory periods for the next war.

More recently, in 2003 the U.S. agreed to relax pressure on Libya if that country gave up nuclear ambitions. By 2006, all sanctions on Libya were ended and many economic deals with the West opened up. Yet in 2011, the U.S. and NATO engineered the destruction of Libya.

The outcome of the continuing nuclear talks in Geneva won’t change the basis of U.S. corporate power’s decades of hostility towards Iran.

That Washington actually did sign this interim agreement with Iran, however, has shown that imperialist plans to totally destroy an oppressed country have fallen short. If the imperialists can’t outright steal what they want, it means at least a limited victory for the oppressed.

These treaties have similarities to the class struggle represented in every union contract. Even with a strong union, workers are never paid the full value of their labor under capitalism. Nevertheless, it is a struggle and a victory to win even a minimal, signed union contract.

The Iranian government has years of experience in U.S. duplicity. In 2003, Iran’s then President Khatami, with current President Rouhani as the chief negotiator, voluntarily suspended nuclear enrichment and for two years allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to make intrusive inspections, with the expectation that the imperialists would cut back on sanctions. President George W. Bush nevertheless ratcheted up new sanctions, listed Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil” and one of the three nations targeted for regime change.

Sections of the U.S. ruling class might well look to sign an agreement with some Iranian forces that U.S. strategists believe might make an accommodation with imperialism or that they could utilize to open up a deeper struggle inside Iran. Washington would seize on any internal instability in Iran as an opportunity for a new offensive.

Other powerful U.S. corporate forces that have a far more profitable stake in war and militarism will attempt many ways to sabotage even this short-term agreement. Israel and Saudi Arabia, as dependent U.S. proxies in the region and whose position and billions of dollars in military equipment is based on their role promoting war and instability, are both threatened by any form of agreement with Iran. New U.S. congressional sanctions may put an end to even this minimal thaw.

What does Iran gain?

Immediately following the agreement, France’s Peugeot, Citroen and Renault auto manufacturers, along with representatives of German, South Korean and Japanese car makers, announced they were sending executives to an automotive conference in early December in Tehran, considered the starting gun in a race for post-sanctions business.

Before the latest round of U.S.-imposed international sanctions, France shipped semibuilt cars to Iran as “kits” for assembly by Iranian companies such as Iran Khodro and SAIPA.

More than 100,000 autoworkers were laid off as sanctions hit Iran’s biggest manufacturing industry, forcing plants to operate at less than half capacity.

The six-month agreement “will have a pretty swift impact in a sector that is a big source of Iranian jobs — so this is more than just symbolic,” said Thierry Coville, an Iran specialist at IRIS, a French international relations think tank.

Iran is planning how to get beyond the six-month interim agreement and is looking to expand its contacts beyond Peugeot and Renault to prevent future trade restrictions. There are also contacts at the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce. India announced plans to accelerate an Indian port project at Chabahar to access Iranian goods coming via Afghanistan. The leading Turkish pharmaceutical company, Abdi Ibrrahim, is looking at sales of medicine and medical devices. (Reuters, Nov. 29)

Iran’s long struggle for sovereignty over its resources and its own future will at least gain some breathing space in this round of diplomatic war. If the continued talks are sabotaged, then the people of Iran will again learn by their own experience what imperialism is.

By raising the many difficulties imposed by past sanctions, the anti-war movement here can stay focused on demands to end all the sanctions and war threats against Iran.

December 23rd marks the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve. Dissatisfaction with its track record has prompted calls to audit the Fed and end the Fed.  At the least, Congress needs to amend the Fed, modifying the Federal Reserve Act to give the central bank the tools necessary to carry out its mandates.

The Federal Reserve is the only central bank with a dual mandate. It is charged not only with maintaining low, stable inflation but with promoting maximum sustainable employment. Yet unemployment remains stubbornly high, despite four years of radical tinkering with interest rates and quantitative easing (creating money on the Fed’s books). After pushing interest rates as low as they can go, the Fed has admitted that it has run out of tools.

At an IMF conference on November 8, 2013, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers suggested that since near-zero interest rates were not adequately promoting people to borrow and spend, it might now be necessary to set interest at below zero. This idea was lauded and expanded upon by other ivory-tower inside-the-box thinkers, including Paul Krugman.

Negative interest would mean that banks would charge the depositor for holding his deposits rather than paying interest on them. Runs on the banks would no doubt follow, but the pundits have a solution for that: move to a cashless society, in which all money would be electronic. “This would make it impossible to hoard cash outside the bank,” wrote Danny Vinik in Business Insider, “allowing the Fed to cut interest rates to below zero, spurring people to spend more.” He concluded:

. . . Summers’ speech is a reminder to all liberals that he is a brilliant economist who grasps the long-term issues of monetary policy and would likely have made an exemplary Fed chair.

Maybe; but to ordinary mortals living in the less rarefied atmosphere of the real world, the proposal to impose negative interest rates looks either inane or like the next giant step toward the totalitarian New World Order. Business Week quotes Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office: “We’ve had four years of extraordinarily loose monetary policy without satisfactory results, and the only thing they come up with is we need more?”

Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, calls the idea “harebrained.” He is equally skeptical of quantitative easing, the Fed’s other tool for stimulating the economy. Roberts points to Andrew Huszar’s explosive November 11th Wall Street Journal article titled “Confessions of a Quantitative Easer,” in which Huszar says that QE was always intended to serve Wall Street, not Main Street.  Huszar’s assignment at the Fed was to manage the purchase of $1.25 trillion in mortgages with dollars created on a computer screen. He says he resigned when he realized that the real purpose of the policy was to drive up the prices of the banks’ holdings of debt instruments, to provide the banks with trillions of dollars at zero cost with which to lend and speculate, and to provide the banks with “fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed’s QE transactions.”

A Helicopter Drop That Missed Its Target

 All this is far from the helicopter drop proposed by Ben Bernanke in 2002 as a quick fix for deflation. He told the Japanese, “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.” Later in the speech he discussed “a money-financed tax cut,” which he said was “essentially equivalent to Milton Friedman’s famous ‘helicopter drop’ of money.” Deflation could be cured, said Professor Friedman, simply by dropping money from helicopters.

But there has been no cloudburst of money raining down on the people. The money has gotten only into the reserve accounts of banks. John Lounsbury, writing in Econintersect, observes that Friedman’s idea of a helicopter drop involved debt-free money printed by the government and landing in people’s bank accounts.

“He foresaw the money entering the economy through bank deposits, not through bank reserves which was the pathway available to Bernanke. . . . [W]hen Ben Bernanke fired up his helicopter engines he took the only path available to him.”

Bernanke created debt-free money and bought government debt with it, returning the interest to the Treasury. The result was interest-free credit, a good deal for the government. But the problem, says Lounsbury, is that:

The helicopters dropped all the money into a hole in the ground (excess reserve accounts) and very little made its way into the economy.  It was essentially a rearrangement of the balance sheets of the creditor nation with little impact on the debtor nation.

. . . The fatal flaw of QE is that it delivers money to the accounts of the creditors and does nothing for the accounts of the debtors. Bad debts remain unserviced and the debt crisis continues.

Thinking Outside the Box

Bernanke delivered the money to the creditors because that was all the Federal Reserve Act allowed. If the Fed is to fulfill its mandate, it clearly needs more tools; and that means amending the Act.  Harvard professor Ken Rogoff, who spoke at the November 2013 IMF conference before Larry Summers, suggested several possibilities; and one was to broaden access to the central bank, allowing anyone to have an ATM at the Fed.

Rajiv Sethi, Barnard/Columbia Professor of Economics, expanded on this idea in a blog titled “The Payments System and Monetary Transmission.” He suggested making the Federal Reserve the repository for all deposit banking. This would make deposit insurance unnecessary; it would eliminate the need to impose higher capital requirements; and it would allow the Fed to implement monetary policy by targeting debtor rather than creditor balance sheets. Instead of returning its profits to the Treasury, the Fed could do a helicopter drop directly into consumer bank accounts, stimulating demand in the consumer economy.

John Lounsbury expanded further on these ideas. He wrote in Econintersect that they would open a pathway for investment banking and depository banking to be separated from each other, analogous to that under Glass-Steagall. Banks would no longer be too big to fail, since they could fail without destroying the general payment system of the economy. Lounsbury said the central bank could operate as a true public bank and repository for all federal banking transactions, and it could operate in the mode of a postal savings system for the general populace.

Earlier Central Bank Ventures into Commercial Lending

That sounds like a radical departure today, but the Fed has ventured into commercial banking before. In 1934, Section 13(b) was added to the Federal Reserve Act, authorizing the Fed to “make credit available for the purpose of supplying working capital to established industrial and commercial businesses.” This long-forgotten section was implemented and remained in effect for 24 years. In a 2002 article on the Minneapolis Fed’s website called “Lender of More Than Last Resort,” David Fettig noted that 13(b) allowed Federal Reserve banks to make loans directly to any established businesses in their districts, and to share in loans with private lending institutions if the latter assumed 20 percent of the risk. No limitation was placed on the amount of a single loan.

Fettig wrote that “the Fed was still less than 20 years old and many likely remembered the arguments put forth during the System’s founding, when some advocated that the discount window should be open to all comers, not just member banks.” In Australia and other countries, the central bank was then assuming commercial as well as central bank functions.

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

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

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

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

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

What programs have “broad-based eligibility” is not clear from a reading of the Section, but it isn’t individuals or local businesses. It also isn’t state and local governments.

No Others Need Apply

In 2009, President Obama proposed that the Fed extend its largess to the cash-strapped cities and states battered by the banking crisis. “Small businesses and state and local governments are having serious difficulty obtaining necessary financing from debt markets,” Obama said. He proposed that the Fed buy municipal bonds to cut their rising borrowing costs.

The proposed municipal bond facility would have been based on the Fed program to buy commercial paper, which had almost single-handedly propped up the market for short-term corporate borrowing. Investors welcomed the muni bond proposal as a first step toward supporting the market.

But Bernanke rejected the proposal. Why? It could hardly be argued that the Fed didn’t have the money. The collective budget deficit of the states for 2011 was projected at $140 billion, a drop in the bucket compared to the sums the Fed had managed to come up with to bail out the banks. According to data released in 2011, the central bank had provided roughly $3.3 trillion in liquidity and $9 trillion in short-term loans and other financial arrangements to banks, multinational corporations, and foreign financial institutions following the credit crisis of 2008. Later revelations pushed the sum up to $16 trillion or more.

Bernanke’s reasoning in saying no to the muni bond facility was that he lacked the statutory tools.. The Fed is limited by statute to buying municipal government debt with maturities of six months or less that is directly backed by tax or other assured revenue, a form of debt that makes up less than 2% of the overall muni market.

The Federal Reserve Act was drafted by bankers to create a banker’s bank that would serve their interests. It is their own private club, and its legal structure keeps all non-members out.  A century after the Fed’s creation, a sober look at its history leads to the conclusion that it is a privately controlled institution whose corporate owners use it to direct our entire economy for their own ends, without democratic influence or accountability.  Substantial changes are needed to transform the Fed, and these will only come with massive public pressure.

Congress has the power to amend the Fed – just as it did in 1934, 1958 and 2010. For the central bank to satisfy its mandate to promote full employment and to become an institution that serves all the people, not just the 1%, the Fed needs fundamental reform.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, president of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Her blog articles are at EllenBrown.com.

Abby Martin speaks with former genocide investigator Keith Harmon Snow, about the whitewashing of human atrocities in the Middle East and Africa and how western powers profit from genocide.

Watch the video below to get the full story.


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Now that Madiba is dead…

beware the icon makers
they will say he was great
they will laud his calls for peace
they will wring their hands and cry
speaking only of the man
disregarding the people
explaining away the movement
pretending the revolution was won
they will deny their guilt
denying their privilege
obscuring his birth in the pains and the blood of his people
denying the capital crimes
of neoliberal friends of apartheid still alive
now that Mandela is dead

they will say no one else will come
they will wink that we still organize
they will pretend that de Klerk was his friend
they will ignore the birth pangs in Jo’burg today
pretending to honor him with deceitful silence
in the face of Capetown shanties and Manenburg misery
and Durban oppression
while former murderers still prey
and bougie negros still play
while lying bishops still pray
and corporations still rape
and the people in South Africa still die
like people across the Global South
as the Revolution dies as Madiba’s children live in squalor
as the wine growers awake in shacks
as the homeless sleep beneath the floors of stores—after hours
when they will not be seen while they are still being sold

beware the speakers of phrases that lie
they will disremember liberation struggles
that have yet to be won
they will pretend that Mandela belonged to them
denying the people to whom he belonged

remember to remember Chris Hani
remember to remember Robben Island
remember to remember the South African Charter
remember to remember that icons created by oppressors
will never liberate the people
remember to remember that they are still killing Martin
remember to remember that they are still killing Malcolm
remember to remember that Assata still lives
remember to remember that our liberation will be sold to us for profits
unless we work for it with our minds and our actions
then we will remember Mandela as he was
for he will live inside us
and the lies will no longer deceive
because the struggle will continue
and the last will be first at last

From M Thandabantu Iverson, http://on.fb.me/1iIdvAc

Forwarded by Ezili’s Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network

The French planned operation in the Central African Republic is a part of the ongoing inner-imperialist rivalry between France and the United States for control of post-colonial Africa, Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire, told RT.

President Hollande has said that France will take immediate military action as sectarian violence escalates in the Central African Republic.

 Earlier the UN Security Council voted to allow French troops to join an African peacekeeping force.

 Fresh clashes between local militias in the capital Bangui have killed about 100 people and wounded scores more.

RT: Shouldn’t France have taken action earlier as the violence there has been escalating since March when the president was toppled? Why now is this suddenly an issue?

Abayomi Azikiwe: This is something that has been planned now for several months. The French already have troops inside the Central African Republic, [in] the capital of Bangui. They’ve admitted to at least 650 troops who have been there for considerable amount of time. They claim they are there to protect France’s interests as well as French citizens. This is a former French colony.

We also have to keep in mind that this is not the first time that France intervenes in the affairs of the Central African Republic or other former French colonies on the African continent. So this is something that has been anticipated now for several months. At this point they feel very strongly that they have the backing of the UN Security Council in pursuing this effort.

RT: Do you think that the French-led troops are even capable of taking control over the situation in the country? Is foreign intervention an answer?

AA: No, foreign intervention is not the answer. I don’t believe that France has the capability of normalizing the situation inside the Central African Republic. France is only pursuing its own national interests. It’s also competing with the role of the United States on the African continent. The US has intervened extensively over the last several years in Africa in numerous countries. There is the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) that has thousands of troops right now involved in operations all over the continent and even off the coast of both East and West Africa.

So France doesn’t want to be left out of this new scramble for Africa. People have to keep in mind that the Central African Republic has very important strategic resources such as gold, diamonds and uranium, which are essential to the overall international economic system. So this is a part of the ongoing inner-imperialist rivalry between France and the United States for control of post-colonial Africa.

RT: You mentioned that France is acting in its own interests. But from the outside it definitely looks like a repetition of what we’ve seen in Mali, where local authorities called for French assistance in curbing the Islamic insurgency. Why is Paris so interested in helping France’s former colonies out?

AA: Well, they are not interested in helping the former colonies out, they are interested in pursuing their own economic, political and strategic interests, and [interests] of the opposition in the Central African Republic, which has requested French intervention. But the Seleka government, which is there in power now, has a very small margin of support inside the country, and Seleka itself is not a uniform coalition. It is composed of four different former rebel organizations.

The leader of the group Michel Djotodia is Islamic and the Muslim population there constitutes less than 20 percent of the overall demographics inside the Central African Republic. They can utilize the fact politically that Seleka is a Muslim-dominated coalition, which is trying to control the government there, but by no means is it Islamic or Orient in terms of this political outlook inside the country. You also have competing forces outside of Seleka. Some of them are still loyal to the former president François Bozizé who himself was overthrown earlier this year.

Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire

 The White House refusal to recognize China’s new air-defense identification zone (ADIZ) is a knee-jerk reaction that reveals an astounding ignorance of historical, legal and geopolitical issues in Asia and the Pacific. The US-Japan Security Treaty, as a defense agreement to protect the Japanese homeland against foreign invasion, was never intended for settling boundary conflicts, as in the current cases of the Senkaku-Diaoyu islets dispute with China, the Tokishima-Tokdo tussle with South Korea and the Northern Territories-South Kurile claim against Russia. Washington should not poke its long nose into these bilateral matters of limited local concern, just as Japan should never militarily intervene in the U.S. border problems with Mexico.

If anything should cause Washington to desist from war-mongering, it is the Japanese claim that there exists no islets dispute whatsoever. Tokyo maintains the pretense that the Senkaku-Diaoyu issue is just being exploited by Beijng for energy-exploration domination of the seabed and that the controversy will soon blow over like a summer squall. This diplomatic posture is, in reality, contradicted by the dispatch of battle-ready Japanese warships and fighter aircraft to the surrounding waters and airspace.

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Japan has drawn its own ADIZ, modeling it after the 1945 airspace map drawn up by the U.S. occupation force.  The Japanese claim includes not just those barren rocks but also a vast swath of far inside the continental shelf, which is claimed by China and South Korea. In 2011, Beijing and Seoul filed a joint position paper and complaint with the United Nations against Japanese encroachment across the continental shelf.

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Rejecting the World Court

The quickest resolution to the Senkaku-Diaoyu quarrel, along with the overlapping air-defense zones, is to bring a territorial case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world court that handles international boundary disputes at The Hague. The ICJ requires sovereign parties involved in the dispute to accept the court’s jurisdiction and abide by its ruling. Japan’s rejection of an ICJ case therefore indicates serious weaknesses in its territorial claims under existing international law.

The U.S. is thus backing a sure loser under the UN Law of the Sea, rendering its support for Japanese control over the Senkaku an untenable and probably illegal act of maritime aggression and territorial expansionism. For a nation that from its very inception has supported freedom of navigation and national sovereignty, Washington’s bias toward the Japanese claim runs counter to America’s traditional standards of maritime law.

Before proceeding, as someone born on Japanese soil it is difficult not to be arguing instead in Japan’s defense against hostile neighboring countries. Protection of one’s native land is paramount, especially when considering the fact that Japan has so little acreage compared with its gigantic neighbors. By the same token, for its national honor, Japan should relinquish any territory that might still be illegally held as a vestige of the colonialist policies of the past 120 years. The seizure and renaming of those tiny islets was a disgraceful act of international deception, which harms Japan’s postwar policy of legitimate self-defense under international law.


Logic of Air Defense Zones

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China’s recent move to declare an air-defense zone is not precedent-setting, since the U.S., Japan and South Korea have already imposed their own arbitrary ADIZ boundaries in the East China Sea. Under ADIZ rules, which by the way are not regulated by any international treaty, civilian aircraft are required to notify the relevant national air-traffic authority of its flight plan and aircraft number.

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These security measures are especially needed over disputed maritime areas to avert the shoot-down of a civilian aircraft mistaken as a military intruder. The potential for the deliberated downing of a passenger jet was highlighted in the missile that struck KAL007 in 1983, when a Korean Airline jet was flown on a CIA espionage mission over a Soviet air-defense base on the Kamchatka Peninsula, just north of Japan. An air-defense zone is therefore sometimes necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation and to discourage harmful incidents by intelligence agencies or terrorist hijackers.

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There is a darker side to this airspace dispute, which none of the parties are willing to admit. Former Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, during his last year in office, led an ultranationalist team of civil engineers to plan the construction of a helipad, capable of landing light aircraft, on the largest islet Uotsuri. Donations for Tokyo’s Olympic bid were allegedly misappropriated in 2012 for the quasi-military project, according the city press.

Ishihara’s intervention in the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute was initiated much earlier, back  in 1996 with the construction of a lighthouse on the islets, intended to enable boat landings, by the Japan Youth Federation. This rightist organization was created by a Ginza-based yakuza group whose members are “zai-nichi” or ethnic Koreans, specifically descendants of collaborators with the Japanese colonialist occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1895 to 1945. The ethnic gangster group provided campaign funds for Tokyo Metropolitan Governor Ishihara in spite of his racist agitation against third-world immigrants from Korea, China and the Philippines.

Manchurian Memories

More worrisome perhaps from the Chinese historical perspective is the potential for covert sabotage of one of Japan’s own passenger jets. A violent plane crash, blamed on Beijing, could rally international support for invoking the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to launch a counterstrike against Beijing. Then notorious precedent for false-flag attacks was set in the 1931 Mukden Incident, when Imperial Army officers bombed the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railroad (Mantetsu). The clandestine operation provided the pretext for an outright military invasion of northeast China . Soon after the plot was exposed in the world press, Japanese Foreign Minister Yosuke Matsuoka, former head of the Mantetsu, led the 1933 walk-out from League of Nations, which marked the actual start of World War II.

 The legacy of the Manchurian covert operation is also a major chapter in the family history of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose grandfather Nobusuke Kishi became the finance and economy minister of the puppet state of Manchukuo as a direct beneficiary of that false-flag attack. Inside Manchuria , Kishi sponsored the infamous bioweapons Unit 731, which launched mass-murder attacks on populous cities with bubonic plague and Hanta virus. Simultaneously, Kishi served as wartime head of the Munitions Ministry, which developed an atomic bomb program on Konan ( Hungnam Island ) in northern Korea and inside Fukushima Prefecture .

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is an unrepentant admirer of his grandfather Kishi, often quoting his forebear on the necessity of nuclear weapons for Japan . The naval standoff around the Senkaku-Diaoyu islets, as a provocation campaign, is connected with the continuing nuclear armaments program centered in Fukushima Prefecture, where the military ran uranium and thorium mines in the late 1930s, under a secret project codenamed BUND-1.

The pall of secrecy is being reinforced by the Liberal Democratic Party, which has just rammed through a state secrets law aimed at suppressing whistleblowers and journalists on grounds of national security in foreign affairs. While the Senkaku-Diaoyu clash serves as a news diversion from the massive radioactive releases from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, the maritime conflict also serves as a rallying point for Abe’s calls for “nuclear capability”.

The postwar “peace” Constitution, forbidding Japan from war as an instrument of state policy, was drafted with assistance from Americans aiming to prevent a repeat of the wartime horrors. However, a by-now forgotten point that needs reminding is that the United States was a de facto ally of Japanese militarist aggression in Manchuria, where U.S. Army observers and railway engineers with the Harriman-owned Union Pacific Railway were stationed until just before the Pearl Harbor attack..

Statements by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in support of Tokyo’s claims on the islets reveal a deep-seated split between the Pentagon’s global military agenda and the State Department’s traditional support for democracy and sovereignty.

Deceptions in History

Tokyo’s claim to the Senkaku group is based on the principle of “terra nullis”, a Latin term that means the site was uninhabited and unclaimed until discovery by Japan. On historical record, however, the Diaoyu group was registered as part of Toucheng Township in northeast Taiwan, the closest land mass to those islets (140 kilometers versus 170 km distance from Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture).

Japanese “discovery” of the islets in January 1895 happened to coincide with the seven-month-long First Sino-Japanese War. That conflict ended in April of that same year with the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, under which diplomats of the defeated Qing Dynasty ceded the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan to Japanese rule.

While that treaty, drafted and signed under coercion, did not specifically mention the Diaoyu group, those islets formed the critical flank for subsequent Japanese naval operations, which began in June against resistance from the newly declared Republic of Formosa. Japanese cruisers and troop carriers had to cruise past the Senkaku isets to attack the offshore Pescadore Islands in the Taiwan Strait and then proceed to the southernmost tip of Taiwan. In short, capture of the Daioyu was an integral step in Japan’s first war against China and in preparation for its military takeover of Taiwan.

Roots of American-Japanese militarism

Taiwan was the victim of aggression from the first joint U.S.-Japan military operations decades prior to the Nine-Power intervention against the Boxer Rebellion, which destroyed Beijing and Tianjin at the turn of the century. The punitive Taiwan Expedition of 1874 was organized by American Civil War veteran Gen. Charles Le Gendre, while the Japanese invasion forces were led by Saigo Tsugumori. These real-life figures inspired the fictional characters for the film “The Last Samurai” with Tom Cruise in the role of Capt. Nathan Algren (modeled after Le Gendre) and Ken Watanabe as Katsumoto (Saigo Takamori, Tsugumori’s elder brother).

In contrast to the romantic Orientalism of that Hollywood version of events, the actual historical figures were not traditionalist practitioners of the warrior code known as “bushido.” In fact, Le Gendre and the Saigo brothers were military modernizers and aggressive imperialists responsible for the slaughter of Taiwanese aboriginal people who established the guidelines for Japanese expansionism into Korea and China.

Since the 1879 visit to Japan of retired President and Civil War hero Ulysses Grant and as continued by Theodore Roosevelt during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War, the United States was firmly allied with its fellow republic, Meiji Japan , against a “backward” East Asia . The American view of republican Japan conveniently ignored the “deep-state” power of a coterie of militarist aristocrats and war industrialists who stood above the law from the 1868 Restoration until the 1945 defeat. The Cold War and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam led to the revival of the military-industrial complex known as the “zaibatsu”, which is now, at this very moment, proceeding to eliminate the democratic rights of a cowed Japanese public.

The Pacific War of 1941-45 was therefore a rare rupture i the historical cooperation between the hegemonic powers of West and East. The rise of China now threatens to upset this longstanding alliance between Washington and Tokyo, and so their joint military forces are mobilizing at the “strategic pivot” to roll back unwanted challenger. The fulcrum of the pivot, around which the entire Western Pacific now turns, is the Senkaku islets, where American and Japanese naval and air forces have a formidable strategic and tactical advantage over the People’s Liberation Army.

Meiji Japan’s spectacular victories over the navies of Qing-dynasty China and tsarist Russia, along with the capture and colonization of Taiwan and Korea, were made possible by top-of-the-line battleships built at Scottish shipyards with loans from J.P. Morgan bank and with gunnery training from British and American officers. Ever since those days of gunpowder and glory, the domination of continental Asia remains a vital part of the globalist agenda of the financial and political elites in New York, Tokyo and London. The threat of another world war arises from these global centers, and certainly not from a defensive Beijing, Pyongyang or Moscow.

Maritime Resource Rivalry

In its policy paper on the Senkaku non-dispute, Japan’s Foreign Ministry claimed that China never claimed sovereignty over the islets until oil resources were discovered in the vicinity in the late 1970s. The credibility of this claim, however, was overturned by a 2012 revelation from LDP veteran Hiromi Nonaka, an expert on security affairs, in his recollection of the late Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka’s unexpected query to Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai in September 1972.

Aides from the Foreign Ministry were reportedly taken aback by Tanaka’s off-the-cuff question to Premier Zhou about China’s position on the islets dispute. Given the urgency to normalize relations with the US and Japan, while negotiating for an end to the Vietnam War, the Chinese statesman suggested a deferral of the Senkaku negotiations until the unspecified future, according to Nonaka, who was present at that historic summit. Foreign Ministry spokesmen have since claimed that the diplomatic archives contain no record of this exchange, which is certainly not the first or last time that the historical record disappears in Tokyo.

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Taiwan left out

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Even among diehard supporters of Taiwan independence, Beijing and not Taipei has been recognized as sovereignty holder in the bilateral dispute. As a former LDP parliamentarian, Shintaro Ishihara organized the Blue Wave club of Diet members who supported Taiwan independence. In wake of the Tokyo subway gassing, however, Ishihara resigned from the Liberal Democrats due to media disclosures of his role in founding the Russo-Japan College, which was run by the subway sect Aum Shinrikyo as a front for smuggling weapons of mass destruction from a collapsing Russian economy. His close partner in creating the doomsday sect was the late Foreign Minister Shintaro Abe, father of the present prime minister.

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Despite his verbal support for an independent Taiwan, Ishihara never acknowledged that the Senkaku islets or disputed Yonaguni Island were part of Taiwan, and instead focused on opposing mainland China as the sovereign power and sworn enemy. Ishihara’s bluster and antics on the islets have united the Chinese worldwide as never before, a backlash with negative ramifications for Japan’s economy as well as its diplomacy.  The landing by Hong Kong activists on the islets lends even more support for a united Chinese claim on the Diaoyu as a part of Taiwan Province.

A note in passing: Yonaguni, famed for its mysterious underwater “pyramid”, is the southernmost island of the Ryukyu chain, and was traditionally controlled by Taipei. In the 1970s, then President Chiang Ching-kuo sent Taiwanese jet fighters on flyovers to assert Taipei’s territorial claim over that small inhabited island

Maritime Markers

Today, the barren outcrops are far more important as markers for 200 nautical mile maritime economic zones, under the UN Law of the Sea, than for their land value. The countries of East Asia are vying for fishery resources and more importantly the mineral and petroleum deposits below the seafloor.

Chinese and Korean claims to the East Asian continental shelf add up to about 1 million square kilometers of maritime area, excluding the Paracel and Spratley archipelagos, which are disputed by Southeast Asian nations.

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In contrast, Japan’s ever-expanding Exclusive Economic Zone comprises 4.5 million square kilometers, a dozen times larger than Japan’s landmass. While fixating the news media on the Senkaku-Diaoyu confrontation, Tokyo has quietly laid claim to more than 30 islands and atolls on the far ends of the North Pacific, along with the 200-mile oceanic zone around every reef and outcrop.

The Senkaku islands comprise only about 9 hectares of steep rock jutting out of rough seas. In comparison, the land area lost to the Fukushima nuclear disaster within the exclusion zone amounts to some 3,000 square kilometers. More than 33,000 Senkaku archipelagos could fit inside the radioactive dead zone.

A die-hard supporter of nuclear power, Prime Minister Abe is willing to throw away millions of dollars “defending” a remote fringe of the East China Sea while failing to provide compensation and living expenses, much less alternative land and homes, to 160,000 evacuees from radioactive areas of Fukushima in the Honshu heartland. The current emphasis on national security and nuclear capability are completely out of kilter with the increasingly harsh conditions faced by the Japanese people.

Winners and Losers

The islets conflict has also permanently harmed Japan’s chances of ever recovering from Russia two of the four disputed islands of the South Kurile chain, which are lush with vegetation and once inhabited by Japanese fisher folk, who have lived in exile on Hokkaido since the war’s end. Provoking China and South Korea, while alienating Russia, have wrecked any hopes for regaining the Northern Territories.

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The only winner in the islets dispute is the Chinese navy, which by now has overwhelming and unquestioning domestic support for naval modernization and fleet expansion.  Tokyo’s confrontational attitude has resurrected painful memories of past atrocities and imperialist arrogance during the two modern wars against China. It is just a matter time before an aging and less agile Japan slips badly, and the Chinese forces move in – hopefully for no more than those tiny outcrops.

The strategic pivot policy promises only costly military spending and humiliating setbacks ahead. Japanese policymakers should accept a world court judgment, if only to prevent future losses of legitimate national territory, which is more vulnerable than any military strategist is ready to admit in public. The long-term interests of Japan and the US are better served by a maritime security treaty and resource partnership with China and Russia, not a self-defeating rivalry against these East Asian powers.

If a strategic retreat is not implemented sooner than later, the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute could rapidly escalate into the last battle of the Pacific War and the first shots fired in World War III. Diplomacy, as the art of compromise, is needed more than ever to prevent the unthinkable.

Yoichi Shimatsu, a Hong Kong-based journalist, is former editor of the Japan Times Weekly in Tokyo .

This article was published in July 2013

Today is Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday, but forget the crocodile tears from the U.S. government about Mandela’s poor health. Imperialist diplomacy with all of its sugar-coated phrases is nothing more than a form of historical perjury.

Nelson Mandela’s arrest in 1962, which led to 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment on Robbins Island, was based on the work of the CIA. The CIA and National Security Agency worked as partners with the racist, apartheid regime’s vicious military and intelligence services.

Mandela was a leader of the African National Congress (ANC) that organized civil resistance and an armed struggle against South Africa’s white racist apartheid regime. The United States and the other western capitalist governments supported the racist, fascist apartheid regime.

Mandela was labeled a terrorist by the United States. So was the entire ANC. Even as late as 2008 the U.S. State Department had to pass special waivers so that Mandela or any ANC leader could visit the United States because he and the ANC were still on the “terrorist watch list.”

The ANC’s struggle for Black majority rule and the liquidation of apartheid received critical support from Cuba, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. The ANC had an active alliance with South African Communist Party in the struggle for Black majority rule.

Even after the fall of the apartheid government ANC members applying for visas to the USA were flagged for questioning and forced to ask for waivers to enter the country. Former ANC chairman Tokyo Sexwale was denied a visa in 2002

In an act of shameless duplicity, the various leaders of the U.S. imperialist government have pretended that they were always opposed to Mandela’s imprisonment.

In 2007, Barbara Masekela, South Africa’s ambassador to the United States until the year prior was denied a visa to visit a dying cousin living in the United States.

U.S. Imperialism was the enemy of African Liberation

The CIA and NSA spy services—with the full collaboration of such transnational corporations at IBM,  Kodak and many others—worked at all levels and for decades for apartheid and against the African National Congress activists who were routinely murdered, tortured and sentenced to life terms in the hell holes of South Africa.

The ANC was labeled and treated as a terrorist organization and pro-communist by the CIA and successive U.S. administrations, Democratic and Republican alike. Congress, too, was an enthusiastic cheerleader for this vile partnership with the planet’s most disgustingly racist regime.

The House of Representatives only voted to call for Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1986 when it was clear that the fascist apartheid regime’s days were numbered, leading the United States and Britain to abruptly shift course and broker a negotiated end to the white supremacist system. A mass worldwide anti-apartheid movement had completely isolated South Africa. Dick Cheney voted against the House resolution in 1986, pointing out that the U.S. government was still retaining the ANC on the official  U.S. “terrorist list.”

The U.S. and Britain knew the end had finally come for the usefulness of the apartheid government when its seemingly invincible military was decisively defeated by the Angolan army and thousands of Cuban volunteers in the historic battle of Cuito Canavale.

As Mandela said, “When Africa called, Cuba answered.”

Shameless duplicity

In an act of shameless duplicity, once Mandela was released from prison, each successive U.S. administration  has pretended that the United States was always opposed to Mandela’s imprisonment and stood with him against apartheid.

After getting out of prison, Mandela came to the United States to meet President George H.W. Bush on June 25, 1990. He was being touted as a hero and a champion in the fight against racism. The U.S. government, working through propagandists in the corporate-owned media, tried to instill a society-wide case of amnesia about the fact that they were the defenders of apartheid and directly responsible for Mandela’s imprisonment.

But one reporter had the gall to ask an unscripted question.

Bush’s press secretary, Marlin Fitzwater, was asked in the days before the June 25 meeting with Bush whether the president would apologize to Mandela for the U.S. role in his arrest.

Fitzwater was angry and caught off guard. He said, “I just don’t like it when people question our motives on blacks or on Mandela because of an incident that happened 20 years ago in another administration.”

Today, on Mandela’s 95th birthday and when the U.S. government celebrates Mandela, will any of the corporate media expose the bloody role of the CIA, NSA and other U.S. intelligence services in their war against the African liberation movements?

Nelson Mandela is a beacon for the oppressed. He is a hero and he will be remembered as such. Not true for the CIA and NSA which worked as the spy service for the racist, apartheid regime as it hunted down and captured Mandela and captured or killed his comrades.

The (interim) nuclear agreement that was signed on 24 November 2013 by Iran and the so-called P5+1 group in Geneva is questionable on a number of grounds.                                               

 The Irony and Absurdity of the Negotiations: When the Guilty Tries the Innocent

The underlying logic for the Iran nuclear negotiations was (and continues to be) altogether preposterous: on one side of the negotiating table sat major nuclear powers who are all in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires them to have either dismantled or drastically reduced their nuclear arsenal; on the other side, an NPT–compliant country (Iran) that neither possesses nor pursues nuclear weapons—a fact that is testified to both by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies. Yet, in an ironically perverse way, the culprits have assumed the role of the police, the prosecutor and the judge, shamelessly persecuting and prosecuting the innocent for no other reason than trying to exercise its NPT-granted right to peaceful nuclear technology.

This obviously means that Iran is essentially negotiating under duress. Largely shut out of normal international trade, and constantly threatened by economic strangulation, it is essentially negotiating with a bullet to its head. As an astute observer of the negotiations has pointed out, “Iran voluntarily agreed to the [nuclear] deal the same way that a robbery victim voluntarily agrees to give up valuable possessions” to save his/her life (source).

The Imbalance between what Iran Gave and what it Took

To reach the interim deal, the Iranian negotiators agreed to a number of concessions with very little reciprocity in terms of relief from sanctions. These included: limiting its enrichment of uranium to only 3-5 percent purity, from the current level of 20 percent purity;rendering unusable its existing stockpile of 20 percent fuel for further enrichment; not using its more advanced IR-M2 centrifuges for enrichment; not activatingits heavy-water reactor in Arak; and consenting to highly intrusive inspections.

This means that under the deal, the Iranian negotiators have agreed to more than freezing Iran’s nuclear technology; perhaps more importantly, they have reversed and rolled back significant scientific achievements and technological breakthroughs of recent years. One can imagine the feeling of disappointment (and perhaps betrayal) on the part of the many dedicated scientists, engineers and technicians who worked so hard to bring about such scientific advances; only to see them dishonored or degraded by reversing and freezing them at a much lower level.

In return for these significant concessions, the U.S. and its allies would agree: to unfreeze less-than 7 billion dollars of Iran’s nearly 100 billion dollars of oil revenue frozen in bank accounts overseas; to consider easing sanctions banning trade in precious metals, petrochemicals and auto industry; andto suspend the EU and U.S. sanctions on insurance and transportation services for the drastically reduced sale of Iran’s oil.

The most crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil and banks, which served as the financial facilitators of international trade, would remain intact under the proposed interim deal.

 Threat to Iran’s Sovereignty

 A careful reading of the interim agreement reveals that the Iranian negotiators gave up more than scaling down and freezing their country’s nuclear technology and/or knowledge. More importantly, if implemented, the deal effectively places Iran’s nuclear program (through IAEA) under total control of the United States and its allies. This is no speculation; it follows from the interim deal’s vastly invasive inspections regime, which is described under the subheading “Enhanced Monitoring”:

- Provision of specified information to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of the adoption of these measures.

- Steps to agree with the IAEA on conclusion of the Safeguards Approach for the reactor at Arak, designated by the IAEA as the IR-40.- Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification, Interim Inventory Verification, Physical Inventory Verification, and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records, at Fordow and Natanz.

- IAEA inspector managed access to: centrifuge assembly workshops; centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and, uranium mines and mills.

The fact that provisions of “enhanced monitoring” tend to infringe upon Iran’s national sovereignty was implicitly acknowledged by theWashington Postwhen it reported on the morning following the signing of the deal (24 November 2013) that, according to Western officials in Geneva, the Iranian concessions “not only halt Iran’s nuclear advances but also make it virtually impossible for Tehran” to make any changes in its nuclear technology “without being detected.”

 Another indication of Iran’s national sovereignty being threatened is the interim deal’s establishment of“a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian trade for Iran’s domestic needs. . . . This channel could also enable: transactions required to pay Iran’s UN obligations; and, direct tuition payments to universities and colleges for Iranian students studying abroad.” Although the financial channel would be using Iran’s own money, currently frozen abroad, it would not be controlled or managed by Iranians—sadly reminiscent of Iraq’s “oil for food” neo-colonial deal under Saddam Hussein.

Did Iran Have to Give up so Much to get so Little?

Deprived of more than half of its oil exports/revenue, and largely locked out of the international banking and/or trade system, the Iranian economy and its people are already gravely suffering from the ravages of economic sanctions. Additional sanctions, which are pre-packaged and frequently brandished as Damocles’ Sword in the background of the nuclear negotiations, are bound to further depress Irans economy and the living conditions of its people.

 Under these circumstances, Iran basically faced (or faces) two options. One option would be embarking on the path of a war economy, as it has, in effect, been subjected to a brutal economic war by the United States and its allies. This would be similar to the eight years (1980-88) of war with Iraq, when at the instigation and support of regional and global powers Saddam Hussein launched a surprise military attack against Iran. The other option would be compromising its legal and legitimate rights to peaceful nuclear technology in order to appease the global bully (the U.S.) and its minions in the hope that this may prevent a further tightening of the noose of economic sanctions around the neck of the Iranian people.

 During the eight-year war with Saddam’s Iraq, not only did the Western powers and their allies in the region support the Iraqi dictator militarily but they also subjected Iran to severe economic sanctions. With its back against the wall, so to speak, Iran embarked on a revolutionary path of a war economy that successfully provided both for the war mobilization to defend its territorial integrity and for respectable living conditions of its population. By taking control of the commanding heights of the national economy, and effectively utilizing the revolutionary energy and dedication of their people, Iranian policy makers further succeeded in bringing about significant economic developments. These included: extensive electrification of the countryside, expansion of transportation networks, construction of tens of thousands of schools and medical clinics all across the country, provision of foodstuffs and other basic needs for the indigent at affordable prices, and more.

Despite its record of success, this option is altogether ruled out by today’s Iranian ruling powers. There are a number of reasons for this aversion to a regimented war economy. A detailed discussion of such reasons is beyond the purview of this essay. Suffice it to say that many of the revolutionary leaders who successfully managed the 1980-88 war economy have now become business entrepreneurs and prosperous capitalists. Having effectively enriched themselves in the shadow of the public sector economy, or by virtue of the political/bureaucratic positions they held (or still hold) in various stations in the government apparatus, these folks have by now lost all appetite they once had for the radical economic measures required by a war economy. Instead, they now seem eager to strike business and investment deals with their counterparts in the West.

More than any other social strata, President Rouhani and his administration represent the interests and aspirations of this ascending capitalist–business class in Iran. Representatives of this class wield economic and political power through the highly influential Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines, and Agriculture (ICCIMA). Ideological and/or philosophical affinity between President Rouhani and the power-brokers residing within ICCIMA is reflected in the fact that, immediately upon his election, the president appointed former head of the Chamber of Commerce Mohammad Nahavandian, a U.S.-educated neoliberal economist and an advisor to former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, as his chief of staff.

 It was through Nahavandian and the Iran Chamber of Commerce that, in September 2013, an Iranian economic delegation accompanied President Rouhani to the United Nations in New York to negotiate (behind the scenes) potential business/investment deals with their American counterparts. The Iran Chamber of Commerce also organized a number of economic delegations that accompanied Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif to Geneva in pursuit of similar objectives in Europe.

It is understandable, therefore, why major factions within Iran’s ruling circles, especially the Rouhani administration and their allies and co-thinkers, have no stomach for a regimented, war-like economy; and why, instead, they opted for compromises over Iran’s nuclear program. The question remains, however, why did they make so many concessions in return for so little? Did they have to compromise as much as they did?

 Two major reasons can be identified for why they could strike a better nuclear deal in Geneva than they actually did. For one thing, President Rouhani’s and his team of negotiators’ liaison with the P5+1 group got off on the wrong foot: they showed their hand prematurely by approaching the negotiations with a sense of desperation and an attitude of eagerness to reach a deal.

Indeed, it is fair to argue that President Rouhani condemned Iran to an unsound or flawed deal long before he was elected. He did so during his presidential campaign by pinning his chances for election on economic recovery through a nuclear deal. This was a huge mistake, as it automatically weakened Iran’s bargaining position and, by the same token, strengthened that of the United States and its allies. By exaggerating (perhaps opportunistically) the culpability of his predecessor in the escalation of economic sanctions against Iran, he committed two blunders: one downplaying the culpability of the U.S. and its allies; the other (and by the same token) placing the onus of reaching a nuclear deal largely on Iran.

 Secondly, whereas the U.S. and its junior partners constantly brandished the so-called “stick” of additional sanctions in the background of the Geneva negotiations to extract more concessions from Iran, the Iranian side does not seem to have effectively used its country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region to resist the one-sided concessions. While the United States and its allies have in recent months experienced a major setback over the Syrian crisis, Iran and its allies (Russia, Syria, Hezbollah and, indirectly and minimally, China) have by the same token experienced success. And while the results of the U.S. military adventures of the past dozen years or so have been chaos and civil war in countries like Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, Iran remains a relatively stable and an ascending regional power, indeed, a powerbroker—sanctions-induced economic distress notwithstanding.

It is thus altogether reasonable to argue that had the Iranian negotiators (a) not gone to Geneva with such an openly eager attitude to reach a nuclear deal, and (b) taken more effective advantage of their country’s recent geopolitical successes in the region, they could have struck a better nuclear deal than they actually did. For example, while agreeing on the freezing of their nuclear technology was (under the circumstances) unavoidable, they could more strongly argue that there was no reason for them to roll back Iran’s scientific achievements from 20 percent enrichment of uranium to 5 percent—20 percent enrichment is both NPT-sanctioned, or legal, and required for the Tehran Research Reactor, which manufactures medical isotopes.

 Likewise, while agreeing to more intrusive inspections of nuclear sites was (again, under the circumstances) inescapable, Iranian negotiators could reasonably resist allowing inspectors access to and monitoring of their country’s centrifuge assembly workshops, or its uranium mines and mills. Furthermore, the Iranian team could, again quite reasonably, insist on making the elements of the “final agreement,” which is supposed to remove all of the sanctions against Iran, more specific. As they now stand, these elements are so vague, fluid and inconsistent that they seem to be crafted in order to be broken.

 Regime Change From Within

Ever since the 1979 revolution in Iran, which significantly undermined the U.S. influence in Iran and elsewhere in the region, the United States has been on a “regime change” mission in that country. Its efforts in pursuit of this nefarious goal are rather well established. They range from instigating and supporting Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, to training and supporting destabilizing terrorist organizations to attack Iran, to constant war and military threats, to efforts to sabotage the 2009 presidential election through the so-called “green revolution,” and to systematic escalation of economic sanctions.

Not only have these imperialistic schemes fallen short of their goal of “regime change” in Iran, they have, in fact, driven that country to become a major power in the region, which has further thwarted the geopolitical plans of the United States in the area. While the U.S.–supported mercenary forces in Syria as well as its allies in Ankara, Cairo and Riyadh have experienced serious setbacks in their efforts to overthrow the government in Damascus, the Iran-Russia-Syria-Hezbollah alliance has (by the same token) gained strength and prestige in recent months.

 Having thus failed at its plots for “regime change” in Iran from without, the U.S. (or more precisely, a major faction of its ruling powers) now seems to have opted for regime change (or reform) from within; that is, through political and economic rapprochement with Iran. Even some of the U.S. alliessuch as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israelthat have always been wary of Iran’s radical influence in the region, and who initially opposed vehemently the Iran–P5+1 nuclear agreement, are beginning to see the “moderating” or “stabilizing” benefits of the success of this tactic.

What has made this option more promising (to the U.S. and its client regimes) is the rise of an ambitious capitalist class in Iran whose chief priority seems to be the ability to do business with their counterparts in the West. These folks literally mean business, so to speak; for them, issues such as nuclear technology or national sovereignty are of secondary importance. As mentioned earlier, they are the staunchest supporters of President Rouhani and the unquestioning supporters of his lopsided concessions in the nuclear deal. Also as mentioned before, it was the representative delegations of this class of Iranian capitalists that accompanied President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif to the United States and Europe in order to negotiate business/investment deals with their counterparts in the West.

To be sure, the jingoistic factions of the U.S. ruling circles, headed by the beneficiaries of war dividends and the Israeli lobby, continue to push for direct military intervention and/or further economic strangulation of Iran. But the leaders and/or beneficiaries of non-military industries such as oil, automobile, airlines, agriculture, and the like are lobbying the Obama administration for economic and political rapprochement with Iran.

Which of these two major factions of the U.S. ruling powers (Proponents of regime change from within or from without) would succeed, depends largely on the process and/or outcome of nuclear negotiations. While making threats of additional sanctions, the hardline or militaristic faction seem to be for now sitting on the fence: if Iran continues to make more one-sided concessions, which would basically mean giving up its right to a level of uranium enrichment that is necessary for its peaceful domestic needs, they would soften their positions and gradually lower their shrill and menacing voices. On the other hand, if Iran does not relent on its legal and legitimate enrichment rights, and insists that the U.S. and its allies need to reciprocate Iran’s interim concessions by lifting the sanctions, they would further harden their positions by calling for additional sanctions and/or military intervention. Under this latter scenario, proponents of rapprochement with Iran, having failed in their tactic of regime change/reform from within, would most probably join the hardliners, thereby embarking, once again, on the long-standing policy of regime change from without—back to square one, so to speak.

So, how would all of these new developments on both the Iranian and the U.S. side affect and/or be affected by the interim nuclear deal toward a “comprehensive final step”?

 Problematic and Uncertain Future of the Interim Nuclear Deal

Components of the interim agreement are so vague, inconsistent and even contradictory that it makes them subject to divergent interpretations and, therefore, potential breaches of the deal in the future. This explains why soon after the agreement was signed conflicting understandings of it began to surface. While the Iranian president and his team of negotiators have frequently declared that the agreement acknowledges the country’s right to uranium enrichment, the U.S. side, headed by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, has vigorously denied that right.

Equally vague and (potentially) problematic is the meaning of the “elements of the final step of a comprehensive solution.” According to Iran’s negotiators, the “final step” would “Comprehensively lift UN Security Council, multilateral and national nuclear-related sanctions,” as it is, indeed, stipulated as such in the interim agreement. However, the agreement immediately adds that the final step would

“Involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon.”

And it is this ambiguous and condition-laden (“mutually defined enrichment…, mutually agreed parameters…, agreed limits on scope…, for a period to be agreed upon”) sentence in the interim deal that is frequently highlighted by the United States as governing the status of the “final step.”

This is an indication, as pointed out by Gareth Porter (among others), “of uncertain U.S. commitment to the ‘end state’ agreement.”

U.S. reservations or unfaithfulness toward a clear, comprehensive and sanctions-free final deal, Gareth Porter further points out,

“came in a background press briefing by unidentified senior U.S. officials in Geneva via teleconference late Saturday night [23 November 2013]. The officials repeatedly . . . referred to the negotiation of the ‘comprehensive solution’ outlined in the deal . . . as an open-ended question rather than an objective of U.S. policy” (source).

It is this ambiguous, unsure and noncommittal U.S. approach to the nuclear deal that serves as grounds for the pessimistic conclusion that the deal is facing an uncertain future.

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave–Macmillan 2007) and the Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989). His latest book, titled Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis: Parasitic Finance Capital, is forthcoming from Routledge Books.

Britain: Racism, Social Decadence and Moral Deterioration

December 6th, 2013 by Dr. Ismail Salami

 Britain is gradually plunging into the depths of moral deterioration and social decadence day in and day out as it refuses to make concrete efforts to curb the escalating trend of racism and hate crimes.

A recent egregious instance of racism in Britain is the brutal murder of an Iranian man named Bijan Ebrahimi at the hands of a group of extremist thugs who beat him unconscious and set fire to his body in Brislington, Bristol while he was still alive. Bijan was a disabled Iranian national who was wrongly labeled as a pedophile by neighbors “after photographing youths he suspected of vandalizing his treasured hanging baskets.”

“Whatever the cause of it, there were a number of neighbors who were hostile to Mr Ebrahimi and alleged he was a pedophile,” the prosecutor said. “There is in fact no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.”

Although Avon and Somerset Chief Constable Nick Gargan has recently owned to a “collective failure” on the part of statutory agencies and others to protect vigilante murder victim Bijan Ebrahimi, there is barely any ground for justifying their failures.

Lee James, 24, pleaded guilty to murder and was given a minimum sentence of 18 years. Norley pleaded guilty to assisting an offender and was given four years. That is the kind of justice meted out to a pair of killers in Britain.

It is reported that after murdering Ebrahimi and burning his body, James told his girlfriend: “We sorted him out. We took care of things.”

James told police he had kicked Ebrahimi “like a football… I had so much anger in me”.

Bijan Ebrahimi who moved to the UK in 2001 made several calls to police in the 48 hours before his murder, but “those calls were not responded to”.

Bijan’s sister Manizhah Moores recalls her brother as “a kind man whose main interests at home were caring for his stray cat and for his flower baskets. Unfortunately he was also subjected to horrendous bullying by bad people on a daily basis. Call it racism, call it prejudice – it doesn’t really matter what you call it, the things our brother was subjected to were barbaric. They included setting his home on fire when he lived in West Town Lane [an area of Brislington, Bristol], causing our beloved, softly-spoken brother to slip further and further into depression.”

Bijan is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, a tragic sense of racism and hatred is permeating through the very fabric of the British society, eating it away like a kind of canker.

Racism, which in fact an abject form of dehumanization, has a rather long history in Britain and there are groups and organizations who capitalize on racism and other forms of discrimination as a means to achieve their diabolical goals and paint an untrue picture of a race or religion.

One of the most notorious racist and hate groups in Britain is English Defense League AKA EDL which has been sowing seeds of hatred across the country against the Muslim community in particular by launching physical attacks on the Muslims and their Islamic centers. A former EDL leader, Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley Lennon) used to be a member of the fascist British National Party known as BNP. Interesting, the BNP has worked in league with EDL and other racist groups in Britain and made concrete steps towards seeking to stamp out all vestiges of Islamic culture within the British society.

Their shared agenda includes the following tenets:

1) They are implacably opposed to the Labour/Tory regimes’ mass immigration policies which, “if left unchecked, will see Britain and most of Europe colonized by Islam within a few decades.”

2) They believe that “Islam is by its very nature incompatible with modern secular western democracy.” So, they deem fit to antagonize it in all forms and by all means.

3) They believe that the burka and the building of further mosques in Britain should be banned. 4) They demand that Islamic immigration be halted and reversed. 5) They are diligent in promoting Islamophobia in Britain.

Unfortunately, racism is on the rise in Britain and the authorities are terribly remiss in taking responsible measures in order to stymie the violence springing therefrom. According to a BBC report, only between 2007 and 2011, nearly 88,000 racist incidents were recorded in Britain’s schools. Data from 90 areas shows “87,915 cases of racist bullying, which can include name calling and physical abuse. Birmingham recorded the highest number of incidents at 5,752, followed by Leeds with 4,690. Carmarthenshire had the lowest number with just 5 cases.”

With racism being institutionalized across the country, there is little hope for the burgeoning of multiculturalism, hybridity and the possibility of a reliable future for immigrants and the like.

The Bijans of our time are the victims of blind prejudice and loathsome ignorance of those who consciously choose to relegate some people to the category of subhumans and put themselves instead on a pedestal of supremacy.

CIA Central In Mandela’s Arrest … Labelled Him a Terrorist Until 2008

Everyone from President Obama to the mainstream news is lionizing Nelson Mandela.

But the New York Times reported in 1990:

The Central Intelligence Agency played an important role in the arrest in 1962 of Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress leader who was jailed for nearly 28 years before his release four months ago, a news report says.

The intelligence service, using an agent inside the African National Congress, provided South African security officials with precise information about Mr. Mandela’s activities that enabled the police to arrest him, said the account by the Cox News Service.

***

Newsweek reported in February that the agency was believed to have been involved.

***

At the time of Mr. Mandela’s arrest in August 1962, the C.I.A. devoted more resources to penetrating the activities of nationalist groups like the African National Congress than did South Africa’s then-fledgling security service.

***

A retired South African intelligence official, Gerard Ludi, was quoted in the report as saying that at the time of Mr. Mandela’s capture, the C.I.A. had put an undercover agent into the inner circle of the African National Congress group in Durban.

 

Indeed, Nelson Mandela was only removed from the U.S. “terrorist” list in 2008.

Mandela was highly critical of U.S. foreign policy.  And anyone – even U.S. citizens – critical of U.S. policy may be labelled a bad guy.

The world is remembering Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who spent 27 years in prison on his way to defeating apartheid and becoming South Africa’s first black elected leader.

Now joining us to talk about Nelson Mandela and his legacy is Glen Ford.  He’s the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. He also colaunched, produced, and hosted America’s Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated black news interview program on commercial television.

More at The Real News

Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

The world is remembering Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who spent 27 years in prison on his way to defeating apartheid and becoming South Africa’s first black elected leader.

Now joining us to talk about Nelson Mandela and his legacy is Glen Ford. He’s the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. He also colaunched, produced, and hosted America’s Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated black news interview program on commercial television.

Thank you for joining us, Glen.

GLEN FORD, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLACKAGENDAREPORT.COM: Thank you for your invitation.

NOOR: Now, Glen, Nelson Mandela obviously had a tremendous impact on South Africa and the world. Can you talk a little bit about his contributions?

FORD: Nelson Mandela, to both foreigners and to South Africans, is really a kind of embodiment of the South African liberation struggle. He is the spawn of a royal [koUs@] family from the Transvaal. He became a lawyer. And he was one of the founding members of the African National Congress’s youth wing. So this struggle has been his life’s work. He figured prominently in all of the milestones of the African National Congress’s rise to power. He was arrested in the 1956 great Treason Trial, when the South African white regime basically captured and detained all of the leadership of the anti-apartheid movement, including people from all races.

He was a founder, along with members of the Communist Party, of the armed wing of the African National Congress, the Umkhonto we Sizwe, which means spear of the people. So he’s not seen just as the world statesman that most foreigners and Americans think of him as, but he was one of those who were instrumental in launching the armed struggle in South Africa. In 1962, while running the armed wing and also making contacts all over the world on behalf of the struggle so that there would be support for this growing movement, he was captured and sentenced to life in prison. That was in 1962. And he did not emerge from prison until 1990.

But it’s important to understand that in the latter half of the ’80s, the white regime, which was fraying at the edges, which was under constant assault both from the oppressed nonwhite majority within South Africa but also militarily in Africa–it had suffered defeats at the hands of the Angolans and their Cuban allies in Angola, and the myth of South African military invulnerability had been shattered–the regime seems to have suffered at least a crisis of morale. And that finally resulted in Mandela being released without conditions in 1990. All of the parties that had been banned by the white regime were unbanned and made legal. And then we enter into this crucial period with Mandela now the unquestioned leader of not just the African National Congress but the resistance as a whole, this period from 1990 to 1994, when the negotiations begin in earnest as to what a free South Africa, a majority-ruled South Africa is going to look like. So when we talk about Nelson Mandela’s legacy, his legacy is the South Africa that we see today. And to speak of his accomplishments, we have to speak of the state of South Africa.

NOOR: Glen, I wanted to ask you about Nelson Mandela’s relationship with United States. He was on the U.S. government terrorist watchlist until as recently as 2008.

FORD: That’s right. And the United States government, which was a fast friend of apartheid, a loyal supporter of that regime, as were the Israelis, the United States designated as terrorist whoever the white apartheid South African regime designated as terrorist. And that of course included all of the resistance, all of the leaders of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party who were partners, along with COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, in this great struggle against that regime. The United States would simply designate as terrorist whoever their allies the South Africans did. And somehow they grew so deep into the habit that they forgot to take Mandela’s name off the list until only a few years ago. He was officially a terrorist to the United States even as he was the president of South Africa.

NOOR: And, Glen, talk about what Mandela’s legacy means today. Ronnie Kasrils, who was a fighter with the ANC, just republished an introduction to his autobiography, Armed and Dangerous. Can you tell us about the significance of this?

FORD: Ronnie Kasrils is a friend of mine, and we’ve had extensive conversations about that critical period in South Africa from 1990, when Mandela and other political prisoners were released and the political parties that had been banned were unbanned, and 1994, when he finally had the first nonracial elections, which resulted in Nelson Mandela becoming president. During that four years, the parties, the resistance, those three main actors, were struggling with the question of shall we make this an easy transition for those who are in power, that is, the white minority and the corporations, domestic and multinational, that they defend, shall we avoid at all costs the kind of bloodbath that people had been expecting in South Africa before whites would relinquish power by making a deal that does not live up to our ideals, does not live up to the 1955 Freedom Charter, which had been the document, as far as South Africa’s people were concerned, the embodiment on paper of what the resistance was all about, shall we compromise with this document, which called for the nationalization of all the mines and the redistribution of the land in South Africa. That is a fundamental change. Or should we go, at this stage, at least, for a simple transition of government through a simple one man, one vote deal?

They chose, that is, the ANC, the South African Communist Party, and COSATU chose to make it an unfinished revolution, a change in regime, but not a change in the relationships of economic power, so that we had what’s been called the sunset clause. And the sunset clause was an agreement with the whites that the white civil service would be allowed to keep their jobs, well, for life and that there would be no nationalizations of the mines and the multinational corporations. That is, the economy would proceed as normal and the bloated bureaucracy which had been a welfare system for especially the Boer whites would remain in place. In return, blacks would get the vote.

What we have seen since that time is a South Africa that has made some progress in terms of providing housing, but was operating from such a deficit of services and resources to the overwhelmingly poor black majority that no transformation has taken place, and by many measurements the living conditions of the masses of people have gotten worse. So South Africa is now in a crisis that the deal that was made with this sunset clause, which puts much of the resources of South Africa out of reach of the state because of that agreement, starves the state of the resources that it needs in order to serve the people and make good on the promises of the revolution. So as we talk about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, that contradiction, which is coming to a head, is also part of his legacy.

NOOR: So, Glen, I want to end with just your final thoughts on what this revelation by Ronnie Kasrils means for the future of South Africa.

FORD: It was not so much a revelation but a conversation that Ronnie Kasrils and other members of the ANC and the South African Communist Party had been having for some time as they wrestle with the question of did we lose our nerve, did we in fact call the revolution prematurely, did we lack confidence in the masses of people, that they would stick with the revolution even in the face of this threatened massive bloodletting by the whites, did we compromise too much and lay the groundwork for the suffering that we see all around us. And Ronnie Kasrils has decided that the answer is yes. And he, as a veteran and a former member of the government under Nelson Mandela, says that he’s going to own up to the mistakes that he made, and he challenges others in the South African leadership to do similarly.NOOR: Glen Ford, thank you so much for joining us.FORD: Thank you.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

 

Accusing politicians or former politicians of “breathtaking hypocrisy” is not just over used, it is inadequacy of spectacular proportions. Sadly, searches in various thesaurus’ fail in meaningful improvement.

The death of Nelson Mandela, however, provides tributes resembling duplicity on a mind altering substance.

President Obama, whose litany of global assassinations by Drone, from infants to octogenarians – a personal weekly decree we are told, summary executions without Judge, Jury or trial – stated of the former South African’s President’s passing:

“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again … His acts of reconciliation  … set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.

“I studied his words and his writings … like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, (as) long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him …  it falls to us … to forward the example that he set:  to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love …”

Mandela, said the Presidential High Executioner, had: “… bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”(i)

Mandela, after nearly thirty years in jail (1964-1990) forgave his jailors and those who would have preferred to see him hung. Obama committed to closing Guantanamo, an election pledge, the prisoners still self starve in desperation as their lives rot away, without hope.

The decimation of Libya had no congressional approval, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s dismembered. Drone victims are a Presidential roll call of shame and horror and the Nobel Peace Laureate’s trigger finger still hovers over Syria and Iran, for all the talk of otherwise. When his troops finally limped out of Iraq, he left the biggest Embassy in the world and a proxy armed force, with no chance of them leaving being on even the most distant horizon.

Clearly learning, justice and being “guided by love” is proving bit of an uphill struggle. Ironically, Obama was born in 1964, the year Mandela was sentenced to jail and his “long walk to freedom.”

Bill Clinton, who (illegally, with the UK) ordered the near continual bombing of Iraq throughout his Presidency (1993-2001) and the siege conditions of the embargo, with an average of six thousand a month dying of “embargo related causes”, paid tribute to Mandela as: “a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation … a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was … a way of life. All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived.” Tell that to America’s victims.

In the hypocrisy stakes, Prime Minister David Cameron can compete with the best. He said:

“A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.

… Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life.

On Twitter he reiterated: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time.” The flag on Downing Street was to hang at half mast, to which a follower replied: “Preferably by no-one who was in the Young Conservatives at a time they wanted him hanged, or those who broke sanctions, eh?”

Another responded: “The Tories wanted to hang Mandela.You utter hypocrite.”

The two tweeters clearly knew their history. In 2009, when Cameron was pitching to become Prime Minister, it came to light that in 1989, when Mandela was still in prison, David Cameron, then a: “rising star of the Conservative Research Department …  accepted an all expenses paid trip to apartheid South Africa … funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime.”

Asked if Cameron: “wrote a memo or had to report back to the office about his trip, Alistair Cooke (his then boss at Conservative Central Office)  said it was ‘simply a jolly’, adding: ‘It was all terribly relaxed, just a little treat, a perk of the job … ‘ “

Former Cabinet Minister Peter Hain commented of the  trip:

“This just exposes his hypocrisy because he has tried to present himself as a progressive Conservative, but just on the eve of the apartheid downfall, and Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, when negotiations were taking place about a transfer of power, here he was being wined and dined on a sanctions-busting visit.

“This is the real Conservative Party … his colleagues who used to wear ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ badges at university are now sitting on the benches around him. Their leader at the time Margaret Thatcher described Mandela as a terrorist.” (ii)

In the book of condolences opened at South Africa House, five minutes walk from his Downing Street residence, Cameron, who has voted for, or enjoined all the onslaughts or threatened ones referred to above, wrote:

“ … your generosity, compassion and profound sense of forgiveness have given us all lessons to learn and live by.

He ended his message with: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” Hopefully your lower jaw is still attached to your face, dear reader. If so, hang on to it, worse is to come.

The farcically titled Middle East Peace Envoy, former Prime Minister Tony Blair (think “dodgy dossiers” “forty five minutes” to destruction, illegal invasion, Iraq’s ruins and ongoing carnage, heartbreak, after over a decade) stated:

“Through his leadership, he guided the world into a new era of politics in which black and white, developing and developed, north and south … stood for the first time together on equal terms.

“Through his dignity, grace and the quality of his forgiveness, he made racism everywhere not just immoral but stupid; something not only to be disagreed with, but to be despised. In its place he put the inalienable right of all humankind to be free and to be equal.

“I worked with him closely … “ (iii) said the man whose desire for “humankind to be free and equal” (tell that to the Iraqis) now includes demolishing Syria and possibly Iran.

As ever, it seems with Blair, the memories of others are a little different:

“Nelson Mandela felt so betrayed by Blair’s decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq that he launched a fiery tirade against him in a phone call to a cabinet minister, it emerged.

“Peter Hain who (knew) the ex-South African President well, said Mandela was ‘breathing fire’ down the line in protest at the 2003 military action.

“The trenchant criticisms were made in a formal call to the Minister’s office, not in a private capacity, and Blair was informed of what had been said, Hain added.

‘I had never heard Nelson Mandela so angry and frustrated.” (iv)

On the BBC’s flagship morning news programme “Today” former Prime Minister “Iraq is a better place, I’d do it again” Blair, said of Nelson Mandela:

“ … he came to represent something quite inspirational for the future of the world and for peace and reconciliation in the 21st century.”

Comment is left to former BBC employee, Elizabeth Morley, with peerless knowledge of Middle East politics, who takes no prisoners:

“Dear Today Complaints,

“How could you? Your almost ten minute long interview with the war criminal Tony Blair was the antithesis to all the tributes to the great man. I cannot even bring myself to put the two names in the same sentence. How could you?

“Blair has the blood of millions of Iraqis on his hands. Blair has declared himself willing to do the same to Iranians. How many countries did Mandela bomb? Blair condones apartheid in Israel. Blair turns a blind eye to white supremacists massacring Palestinians. And you insult us by making us listen to him while our hearts and minds are focussed on Mandela.

How could you?” (Reproduced with permission.)

As the avalanche of hypocrisy cascades across the globe from shameless Western politicians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflected in two lines the thoughts in the hearts of the true mourners:

“We are relieved that his suffering is over, but our relief is drowned by our grief. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Notes 

i. http://www.businessinsider.com/nelson-mandela-dead-obama-statement-2013-12#ixzz2mg2vrGbd

ii. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/camerons-freebie-to-apartheid-south-africa-1674367.html

iii. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/nelson-mandela-dead-live-updates-2895110#ixzz2mhBKAdVA

iv. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/12/nelson-mandela-tony-blair-peter-hain-iraq-invasion

“Mandela deserves great credit for ending racial apartheid in South Africa, but his legacy includes the continuation of mass poverty

‘The mood here in South Africa is terribly somber.

This was the day that everyone knew would come. And in the last few months Mandela’s been in hospital four times.

But it’s hard to come to grips with the loss of someone who has ruled in a moral and spiritual way just as much as in a political way in his first five years as the president of the Democratic South Africa in 1994 to ’99.”

..
More at The Real News

 

Patrick Bond is the Director of the Center for Civil Society and Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Bond is the author and editor of the recently released books, Politics of Climate Justice and Durban’s Climate Gamble.

Transcript

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Nelson Mandela has passed away. The larger-then-life anti-apartheid figure is leaving behind the legacy of being South Africa’s first black president. Here to give us his perspective on his life is Patrick Bond. Patrick is the director of the center for civil society and a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.Thank you for joining us, Patrick.

BOND: Jaisal, the mood here in South Africa is terribly somber. This was the day that everyone knew would come. And in the last few months Mandela’s been in hospital four times. But it’s hard to come to grips with the loss of someone who has ruled in a moral and spiritual way just as much as in a political way in his first five years as the president of the Democratic South Africa in 1994 to ’99. Prior to that, Mandela prepared the country for democracy.

He was released in February 1990 after 27 years in jail, and he skillfully maneuvered the negotiations so that at least political democracy, one person, one vote in the unitary state was one, whereas the prior rulers, the Afrikaner Nationalist Party, had tried all manner of gimmicks–Jim Crow laws and property-based voting–and had done their best to weaken ANC, also through slaughtering thousands of ANC activists in the period between 1990 and ’94. Mandela drove through negotiations, occasionally breaking them off, and showed the stature of someone who could forgive on a personal level, arrange the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and also inspired the nation to do an extraordinary job of transiting from racial apartheid to a more normal democracy, albeit one with worsening inequality, worsening unemployment, worsening ecological conditions. And these too will be part of Mandela’s legacy.

NOOR: And, Patrick, can you talk more about this economic legacy that the African National Congress has left behind?

BOND: Yes. Well, the African National Congress will probably rule, thanks to how strong Mandela put together the coalition in 1994, for many years. It may be that in 2019 they face their first electoral challenge, and that will come because of policies that were adopted during Mandela’s time. I happened to work in his office twice, ’94 and ’96, and saw these policies being pushed on Mandela by international finance and domestic business and a neoliberal conservative faction within his own party. And that faction’s been outed when former minister of intelligence and minister of water Ronnie Kasrils, probably the country’s greatest white revolutionary ever, has made a major confession in a new edition of his autobiography, Armed and dangerous, in which he says, we were absolutely incapable of dealing with the period of 1990 to ’95, ’96, in which the left agenda, and possibly a socialist current that had been strong when the Soviet Union was a major benefactor–and when in 1990 the Soviet Union fell away, it looked like, as Ronnie Kasrils has put it, the confidence of the left within ANC had completely collapsed. And that meant that many concessions were made that if one looks back at them perhaps needn’t have been done. And that’s why Kasril’s statement does leave a shadow on Mandela’s government. He basically says that as a ruler Mandela gave in way too much to rich people. So he replaced racial apartheid with class apartheid.

NOOR: Patrick, can you tell us more about some of the details that Ronnie Kasrils has revealed in this writing?

BOND: Yes, indeed. It was really about this critical period just before the 1994 elections, and it included an International Monetary Fund loan to the incoming government that was arranged as the outgoing one had a transitional executive committee. And that loan called for the standard structural adjustment conditions at just about the same time, late 1993, the final constitution was agreed upon that gives property rights extraordinary dominance and also gave the central bank, the South African Reserve Bank, insulation from democracy–in addition, an agreement to prepay the apartheid debt, which Mandela for so many years, in the spirit of sanctions, indeed hand-in-hand with Martin Luther King, calling in the early 1960s for the United Nations and big international corporations to pull out of South Africa. And yet, unfortunately, Mandela felt the need to repay the loans–$25 billion worth–that were coming due as he became president in 1994. He later bitterly remarked about those loans having set back the cause of delivering desperately needed services. And in all of that time, one saw the distinction between the radical Mandela, who had endorsed Marxism back in the 1950s, as particularly the Freedom Charter of 1955 called for the expropriation of the mines and banks and monopoly capital and their sharing for the people as a whole–. When Mandela came out of prison in 1990, he said, that is the policy of the ANC and a change in that policy is inconceivable. But it was only a few months later before–I certainly witnessed that in Johannesburg in that transition period, 1990 to ’94–major compromises were made with big business. And big business basically said, we will get out of our relationship with the Afrikaner rulers if you let us keep, basically, our wealth intact and indeed to take the wealth abroad. And so exchange controls were relaxed very soon after Mandela took over. And just as he left office in 1999, big businesses said, we now want to take our money out of here forever. So they relisted from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange to London, New York, and Australia. So this is the great tragedy of capital flight. Big business never really believed in Mandela, never truly invested in the country. And there were more symbolic victories, like the Rugby World Cup that was won with Mandela promoting especially the Afrikaans-dominated team. And that was to great symbolic effect, but didn’t do much for delivering services and redistributing wealth. Our wealth redistribution was the second worst of major countries after Brazil, and now is much, much, much worse, is the worst major country in the world. A GINI coefficient that fell from about 0.56 to 0.67, meaning very, very extreme inequality, got much worse during Mandela’s government.

NOOR: And talk more about this inequality. It’s quite remarkable that a people breaking the bonds of apartheid are now facing greater inequality than they faced during apartheid.

BOND: Well, that’s right. And in a book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein describes this quite well. I think she in a sense describes the shock and awe of winning a victory and many people believing that these great leaders like Mandela, many of his colleagues were not only as sophisticated in getting the democracy–one person, one vote–that was always demanded, but also that they would deliver the Reconstruction and Development Programme–the promise is about 150 pages.

Soon thereafter, one of the other competing politicians, Gatsha Buthelezi, renamed this RDP–rumors, dreams, and promises. And, unfortunately, if you go through it, as I’ve done on commission from the African National Congress and audited that RDP, it was really only the more conservative elements that Mandela allowed to push through. His first major interview, for example, he said nationalization is not in the RDP. In fact, it is there on page 80. So this was one of the small indications that Mandela didn’t really have the agenda of redistribution. He wanted to manage a very tumultuous society where white Afrikaners, especially the generals in the army, did pose a major threat and where white business seemed to be, in the conditions of neoliberalism of the 1990s (with no other opposing force on the left in the world to work with), quite dominant, and pleasing big business was really the order of the day.

NOOR: Now, what are South Africans doing today to challenge the corporate grip on their government, on their economic policies? And what proposals are being discussed to decrease this continuing inequality?

BOND: Well, I’ve been spending a little bit of time with the trade unions in Johannesburg. Their leaders, like ['[email protected]@.'vA.vi], considered the most powerful left leader in the country, have not been in the least intimidated by the African National Congress’s continuing neoliberal policies, and they continue to oppose them very vocally.

In addition, the protests that continue at the grassroots level at probably about the highest rate per person in the world have typically demanded access to services–water and electricity, decent housing, and clinics for better medical care, and better schools, recreational facilities, waste removal. And these protests, they often pop up, and they fall back down. But you do get a sense being in this country for even a short amount of time that whether it was Nelson Mandela encouraging people to exercise their democratic muscles or just that pent-up demand that during the 1980s, when widespread resistance to apartheid intensified and a honeymoon of a small degree with Mandela nevertheless leading to widespread discontent at this state of affairs, where public policy is much more pro-banker than pro-people. And I suspect these will continue.

And maybe without Mandela’s overarching symbolic power and the glue that he represented in keeping this very diverse alliance within the African National Congress together, with that era now passed it may not be too long before the long-predicted split between the different factions of the ANC occurs, with somewhat corrupt and nationalist and Zulu ethnic faction currently in power continuing and more left-wing trade unions dropping out. In 2008, a similar split occurred when those close to Thabo Mbeki dropped out, and they got about 9 percent of the vote in the next year’s election. And it may well be that not in the 2014 but in the 2019 election, whoever is Jacob Zuma’s successor will face quite a challenge and the aura of claiming Mandela’s mantle will continue. That mantle, by the way, has been even claimed by the center-right party, the Democratic Alliance.

And I think everyone is mourning. There’s no question that this is a great tragedy, the death of a founder of a nation. And yet I think South Africans do a lot of behind-the-scenes negotiations as to what kind of new power bloc might emerge, and even a new party from Steve Biko’s former partner, Mamphela Ramphele, called Agang, has just come up. And these are the sorts of things that make the situation fluid even though the African National Congress still commands about 60 percent of the popular support.NOOR: Patrick Bond, thank you for joining us.BOND: Thank you.

NOOR: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

Copyright The Real News Network, 2013

Nelson Mandela has become one of the most publicised icons of liberation struggle in modern times, in Africa certainly, but even in Asia and South America. He will be popularly mourned and saluted by millions of people around the world and his passing will no doubt be hailed as the end of an era. Most associate his name with other greats like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Ghandi, but unlike these other patron saints, the ever smiling Mandela didn’t make enough enemies to be assassinated.

Nelson Mandela is to be respected for the part he played in trying to reconcile the inequalities and conflicts between the racial and economic divide that has troubled his country, a process that is nowhere near complete. Despite the veneer of apparent congeniality between black and white South Africans today, careful observation of social and political discourse and private conversations reveal that the racial mistrust and prejudice still runs deeply as ever and the injustices persist. Not that Mandela is to blame for the persistence, it’s just that civil war [that’s what the liberation struggle was] never ends with real forgiveness, justice and love, but always with grudges, bitterness and a lingering wish for revenge after the dust settles; and there’s not much leaders of liberation struggle can do about that.

In reality Nelson Mandela was a created icon of liberation struggle, a creation of the real movers and shakers of the global scene for a larger political agenda. Without the interest and obsession of foreign imperialist powers in South Africa’s massive mineral wealth, Mandela would have been forgotten in his jail [where he served a sentence for treason and terrorism] until the day he died or was released on humanitarian grounds in his twilight years.

Without all those billions of dollars of international sponsorship, fanning the flames of revolution through Mandela’s ANC party, and without the international limelight given to political activists in their frenzied aim of toppling the country and removing the hard-nose, anti-British, Afrikaner government, Nelson would have continued to be the relatively unknown and powerless leader-in-exile of an organization that had been divided and ineffective for decades while Britain controlled his country. It was only after the hard-nose, anti-British, Afrikaner government of South Africa liberated itself from colonial slavery to Britain, and powered itself into the prime position as an independent superpower on the African continent that the mega-powerful military industrial complex of the United States and Great Britain summoned the UN and their European allies to support the struggling ANC party and re-colonize his country.

The hidden motive behind the sanctions for crippling and replacing the independent-minded Afrikaner government of South Africa was the same as the strategy and motive for toppling the governments of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In South Africa, the real global political players were slowly losing control over international trade and markets in strategic minerals. It was never really known [or admitted] outside the old government intelligence circles in South Africa that control over international trade and markets in strategic minerals strengthens the quest for global dominance. While South Africa was a British colony, that control was securely in the hands of the mega-powerful Anglo-American military industrial complex. But the Afrikaner government [having lost the war of independence against Britain half a century before] was slowly wrestling loose from imperialist control. Another civil war was needed to restore control. This time it was both black against white and black against black – Mandela’s ANC party also fought a relentless and often violent battle for supremacy against the Inkatha Freedom Party of the rival Zulu tribe.

Mainstream media created the myth that Nelson Mandela brought democracy to South Africa. But long after democratic governments had been established by and for European settlers and gradually duplicated for the other ethnic groups in the country, the vast majority of Mandela’s people were still living relatively undisturbed in vast rural areas under the dictatorship of tribal chiefs and their councils of warlords. Nelson Mandela and his ANC party fought for the privilege of taking over the democratic system established by the Europeans. Even today, the tribal chiefs in South Africa retain their authority, rights and privilege by tradition, not as a democratically elected office.

The harm that was done to the country as political violence evolved into a culture of crime and hatred will not be easily undone, not by Nelson Mandela’s ANC party. Given the character and vision of this tenacious man, he would have changed the attitudes of the people if he could. But, as the hard facts and evidence show, he was only a much photographed figurehead and very much sought-after-celebrity, but never any real transforming power. His influence over his followers and enemies was not nearly as great as the media has made out or he would no doubt have created a really great nation out of that troubled region in troubled Africa. In reality, Nelson Mandela’s rainbow republic still struggles to rise from the heap of human misery. It still staggers under the load of an opulent, gold and diamond studded crown of corrupt, super rich, upper-class back and white political supremacists.

Without realizing it, Nelson Mandela had helped his country become another minion of the United States rather than of Britain. The extent to which his organization bowed to its international patrons can be seen from the fact that his was the only government ever to voluntarily dismantle a nuclear weapons program; something established [possibly with help from Israel] as a guarantee of self-preservation by the independent-minded government of the Afrikaner legacy. His ANC party has become the key hired agency in Africa that enables the USA to achieve its unrivalled position in the world today.

Mandela was a man of courage, dignity and grace, ever optimistic and compassionate about his people, but neither he nor his party could fix all the problems created by foreign governments that schemed and plotted, connived and lobbied in their efforts to create enough chaos in the country to bring it to it’s knees and force upon it the status of a gold-plated banana republic. Did Africa’s icon of liberation really improve the lot of indigenous South Africans? Free, indeed, yes, South Africa’s people are free, free to be poor, free to be unemployed, robbed, raped and diseased. Many of his people would say they are definitely NO better off!  But now they have their very own patron saint and that will keep them voting for his ANC party as long as his name is engraved upon it.

Ukraine: Orange Revolution 2.0?

December 6th, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Ongoing Ukrainian protests bear its earmarks. Whether it succeeds remains to be seen.

Ordinary Ukrainians are being manipulated. Internal street thugs are involved. They’re militants. They’ve been recruited to cause trouble. They’re mostly young. They’re Western oriented.

Washington’s dirty hands are involved. Color revolutions are a US specialty. At issue is eliminating independent sovereign states.

It’s co-opting former Soviet Republics. It’s drawing them into NATO. It’s increasing American dominance.

It’s using EU membership as bait. It’s doing so despite no tangible benefits. Promises made to be broken substitute. Weakening Russia is prioritized.

So-called spontaneous uprisings are manufactured. Ukrainians should know better. They’ve been through this before.

Memories are disturbingly short. Washington manipulated Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution.

Ordinary people ended up losers. Promises made were fake. Exploitation followed. Once deceived should have been enough.

Good sense isn’t a man on the street attribute. PT Barnum allegedly said “(t)here’s a sucker born every minute.” Con men, corporate predators, and ruthless nations take full advantage.

Ukrainians were had once. They’re being set up again.

Awakenings usually come too late to matter. Shutting stable doors after horses are stolen won’t get them back. What’s ahead remains to be seen.

Washington developed manipulating tactics through years of trial and error. They’re down to a science now. Often they work.

Rand Corporation strategists were involved. In the 1990s, they developed the concept of “swarming.” It relates to communication patterns and movements of bees and other insects.

They’re applied to military conflicts and street protests. Key US organizations are involved. More on swarming below.

The usual suspects include the National Endowment of Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Freedom House, the Open Society Foundation, and other corporate groups.

They serve US imperial and corporate interests. They exploit ordinary people doing so. Various activities are ongoing in different countries.

Different strategies are featured. Sustained mass protests are one step removed from revolutionary violence.

So-called color revolutions mask dark intentions. Ordinary people are easy marks. They’re manipulated like pawns.

Ukrainians are protesting against their own self-interest. Succeeding assures harming their welfare.

Whether Ukrainian officials succeed in calming things remains very much up for grabs. Daily images aren’t encouraging.

Opposition elements allied with Western interests. On December 4, Russia Today headlined “Ukraine opposition vows to maintain protests, PM calls to end violence.”

Opposition MPs blocked parliament. They demand President Viktor Yanukovych’s government resigns.

A Tuesday no confidence vote failed. It fell 40 votes short of a majority. It didn’t affect Yanukovych. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and cabinet ministers were targeted.

Yanukovych tried to quell public anger. So did Azarov, saying:

“We have extended our hand to you.” He erred adding “if we encounter a fist, I will be frank. We have enough force.” Honey catches more flies than vinegar.

He accused opposition elements of an attempted coup. They have “an illusion” about toppling the government, he said. “They have a plan. It includes taking control of Ukraine’s parliament by force.”

Deep-seated internal problems persist. Poverty, unemployment and widespread corruption need addressing.

Ukrainians are justifiably angry. Allying with troubled EU economies won’t help. Their best interests lie more East than West.

On Tuesday, Yanukovych flew to China. He did so to discuss a bilateral trade deal. He hopes to sign it. He’ll head to Russia next.

Moscow offers Ukraine tangible benefits. So do China, Iran and other non-Western states. Washington and EU intentions assure greater trouble than already.

It’s hard making ordinary Ukrainians understand. Even Western oriented ones. They have an illusion of EU-aligned future prosperity. Hard lessons often are learned too late.

According to Russia Today, “Ukraine is sending government delegations to both Moscow and Brussels to discuss economic ties.”

Kiev want “considerable (EU) aid to compensate for Ukraine’s losses.” Brussels won’t offer “any special treatment or review” alliance terms. Sticks substitute for carrots.

On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin attributed Ukraine protests to attempts to undermine its government.

“As far as the events in Ukraine are concerned,” he said, “to me they don’t look like a revolution, but rather like ‘pogrom.’ ”

“However strange this might seem, in my view it has little to do with Ukrainian-EU relations.”

Putin called protests pre-arranged. He believes opposition elements intended them ahead of February 2015 presidential elections. They jumped the gun, he thinks.

Ukrainian presidents serve for five years. Yanukovych was elected in 2010. He hopes for another term.

Putin called ongoing protests a “false start due to certain circumstances.”

Video footage shows “how well organized and trained militant groups operate,” he added. People are being manipulated.

“They say that the Ukrainian people are being deprived of their dream. But if you look at the contents of the (EU) deal – then you’ll see that the dream” is more illusion than reality.

EU terms are “very harsh,” Putin stressed. They involve sticks, not carrots.

“I want to stress,” he added, “that regardless of the choice of the Ukrainian people, we will respect it.”

Dark US and other Western sources accused him of pressuring Yanukovych to back down.

Russian Federation Council international affairs committee head Mikhail Margelov blames Brussels for Ukraine’s refusing an alliance deal.

“Brussels mistook Ukraine for some microstate, for which joining the European Union means making history,” he said.

“And it is mostly Brussels rather than some pressure from Russia that is to blame for Kiev’s decision not to sign the agreement in Vilnius.”

Ukraine is a “coveted prize,” he added. Brussels thinks inviting a former Soviet republic is too high an honor to refuse.

No matter that membership minuses way exceed pluses. Ukraine benefits most by turning East. Brussels offers little incentive to do otherwise.

On December 4, a Ukrainian delegation left for Moscow. At issue is restoring trade and economic ties.

A Brussels visit will follow. John Kerry is currently there. He didn’t surprise. He lied claiming “very powerful evidence” shows most Ukrainians want an EU alliance.

“We stand with the vast majority of the Ukrainians who want to see this future for their country,” he said.

Unacceptable meddling in other nations’ affairs is longstanding US policy. Doing so includes spreading malicious misinformation.

Western Ukrainians favor an EU alliance. Why they’ll have to explain. Eastern Donbas region and Crimean Peninsula ones are opposed.

Most Ukrainians favor a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Two-thirds oppose joining NATO. They do so for good reason They’re against global militarism.

They don’t want Ukraine involved in NATO wars. The Atlantic Alliance serves America’s imperial ambitions. Ukrainians oppose compromising good relations with Russia.

Current street tactics resemble 2004. In 1997, RAND Corporation researchers John Arquilla and David Ronfeld developed them. They titled their concept “Swarming & the Future of Conflict.”

It involves waging war by other means. It exploits the information revolution. It takes full advantage of “network-based organizations linked via email and mobile phones to enhance the potential of swarming.”

In 1993, Arquilla and Ronfeldt prepared an earlier document titled “Cyberwar Is Coming!

They said “warfare is no longer primarily a function of who puts the most capital, labor and technology on the battlefield, but of who has the best information” and uses it advantageously.

State-of-the art IT techniques use “advanced computerized information and communications technologies and related innovations in organization and management theory,” they explained.

Information technologies “communicate, consult, coordinate, and operate together across greater distances.”

Cyberwar today is what blitzkrieg was to 20th century warfare. In 1993, Arquilla and Ronfeldt focused on military conflicts.

In 1996, they studied net and cyberwar. They did so by examining “irregular modes of conflict, including terror, crime, and militant social activism.

In 1997, they developed the concept of swarming. They suggested it might “emerge as a definitive doctrine that will encompass and enliven both cyberwar and netwar.”

They envisioned “how to prepare for information-age conflict.” They called swarming a way to strike from all directions.

Effectiveness depends on various elements able to interconnect using revolutionary communication technology.

What works on battlefields proved effective on city streets. US-instigated color revolutions achieved regime change in Serbia (2000/2001), Georgia (2003), and Ukraine (2004), and Kyrgyzstan (2005).

Other efforts fell short. Color revolutions reflect America’s modern day new world order strategy. They followed the Soviet Union’s dissolution. Proxy and direct hot wars rage at the same time.

US strategy is multi-faceted. Subversion, mass surveillance, and destabilization play major parts. Successful swarming tactics accomplish coup d’etats by other means.

Anti-Iranian Green Revolution efforts failed. Street protests and clashes followed June 2009 elections.

CIA elements instigated black operations. They did so to destabilize Tehran’s government. Regime change plans haven’t changed. What happens going forward bears close watching.

Ukraine is currently in the eye of the storm. Protests have been ongoing since November 21. They show no signs of ebbing.

Ukrainian independence is at stake. Key is holding firm against US-led Western interference. It’s doing it nonviolently.

It’s transforming Ukraine responsibly. It’s initiating popular reforms It’s turning East more than West. It’s acting before it’s too late.

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

The United Nations Security Council has announced sanctions against the Central African Republic (CAR) and has also given the French a big green light to use its military, as well as spearhead African Union forces in order to put down violence and restore “security, law and order” in the former French colony.

French President Francois Hollande announced “immediate” action yesterday, deploying 250 new army troops to join an already existing 600 troops currently stationed in that country.

The UNSC also imposed an arms embargo on the landlocked, mineral-rich African state and asked the United Nations to prepare for a possible peacekeeping mission, presumably to rescue the country from chaos under its new Muslim leader Michel Djotodia, who came into power in March ousting the French-backed junta of President Francois Bozize.

AREVA AND CENTRAL AFRICA

French state-owned and government-friendly media, December 5, gave all-day headline coverage to President’s Hollande’s call for war in the little heard-of Central African Republic (CAR). So what’s the background on this?

This desperately poor former French colony in central Africa is known to French for its former dictator – “Emperor” Bokassa – who before being overthrown provided a large gift of diamonds to “his friend”, French president of the day, Giscard d’Estaing for helping organize the 1977 ceremonies enthroning the “Emperor” with a robe by Pierre Cardin and 100 000 pieces of gold and silver plate decorating the “imperial” palace. Although today’s white expatriate French population is small, estimated at no more than 600 – 1000, deaths among these expatriates would be as“unseemly” as in the imperial days of the colony.  More important in fact, apart from the very small amount of diamonds and gold produced by the CAR, the country was promoted by many players – especially French, Canadian, Chinese and British – to hold impressive, or possibly huge quantities of uranium.

The French state-owned geological bureau, the BRGM, alongside Swiss and German mining interests (notably Uranio AG) had since the 1970s identified the Bakouma region in north central CAR as holding “potentially large uranium resources” at low depths, easily mined by open pit techniques. Relatively nearby coal or lignite resources might also theoretically be developed to provide cheap (if not “low carbon”) energy to operate uranium yellowcake conversion, before export.

Reaching a peak in 2009-2010 but falling away very fast after that, with uranium prices and the fond hopes of the so-called “nuclear renaissance”, several global mining resource promoters and traders were active with the Bakouma play, and other uranium asset plays in southern Africa.

The Uramin (ou UraMin) Corp. founded by Stephen Dattels and James Mellon and listed in Toronto and London, in 2005, featured the Bakouma uranium play among its portfolio of African uranium resources. UraMin was unsurprisingly registered in the Virgin Islands, to avoid taxes, but more surprisingly was bought out by Areva’s then-CEO Anne (‘Atomic Annie’) Lauvergeon in a deal struck in 2007 but only finally executed in 2011. The amounts paid by Areva varied from the first airing of the deal in the press, at about $470 million, to the probably final sum paid by state-owned Areva of $2.5 billion, according to French newspaper ‘Le Monde’ in a 13 January 2012 report.

Shortly after the sums were finally paid in late 2011, Atomic Annie was unceremoniously sacked as Areva CEO by then-president Nicolas Sarkozy in the dying days of his regime. Parisian political gossip claimed that Atomic Annie had been “ungenerous” in the commissions or kickbacks paid to long-time Sarkozy dealmaker and close political friend, Patrick Balkany, who had flown with Lauvergeon in her Areva Gulfstream on several dealmaking visits to Bangui, capital of CAR in 2008, and to neighboring Congo DR, where French-backed CAR junta leader or “president” Francois Bozize (photo, left, with ex-President Sarkozy) operated numerous cross-border trades with the local dictator. Balkany, in December 2013 has been charged by the French justice system with bribery and corruption on affairs unrelated to the CAR.

Following the 2011 Fukushima disaster – fatal for the image of nuclear power as “clean, cheap and safe” – the bottom fell out of the uranium market. Lauvergeon, even in 2007, had paid an extreme high price for low-performing, or in Bakouma’s case non-performing uranium assets. She had to go.

AREVA RESOURCES SOUTHERN AFRICA

While still in power at Areva, and still in favour with Mr Sarkozy, Lauvergeon used the “large Bakouma prospect” as a key element in her corporate strategy to develop southern African uranium resources, and linked energy resources especially coal. With cheap coal to power uranium enrichment facilities – producing “almost zero carbon” uranium fuel – this can fuel dangerous and expensive nuclear reactors in “climate conscious” democracies, like France. Believing public opinion to be utterly stupid was a major help to the Areva strategy, promoted by France’s servile press and media as Areva’s “green energy” strategy.

Areva’s Trekkoppje mine in Namibia also purchased from UraMin, the same year 2007 as the Bakouma purchase, for the global sum of $2.5 billion, was developed on the basis of Areva’s belief that the mine’s huge water needs could be supplied by cheaply desalinated water, using coal energy for desalination, at a seaboard location for 200-kilometer inland pipeline transport to the mine site. Areva also believed that the very low uranium-content ores at Trekkopje could be efficiently exploited, and that world uranium prices would hold at more than $50 per pound (current Dec 2013 price, about $36).

In all cases Areva… was wrong.

By the end of 2011 it announced write-downs of 1.5 billion euros on its entire south African mining “portfolio” of operations, and specifically Trekkopje, as well as a 800 million euros loss on its nuclear operations. Areva’s losses on its wheeler-dealing in CAR were never disclosed, but no mine development of any kind ever started in CAR, whereas at Trekkopje some initial mine development work was started, before the project was abandoned or “mothballed”.

Areva’s southern Africa strategy was not only driven by the fond hope that uranium prices could or might attain $75 a pound, as world reactor orders and projects leapt into high gear, but also due to its intensifying security concerns at its two giant uranium mines in Sahel Africa, in Niger. Since 2009, and increasingly, hostage taking for ransom, and suicide attacks on Areva personnel and installations have incurred costs to Areva – denied by the corporation but reported in the French press – of at least 30 million euros simply for the “repurchase” and liberation of hostages. Spilling over to neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauretania, Algeria, Libya and Chad, Areva is opposed by regional and local insurgents ranging from irredentist Tuaregs to Al Qaeda jihadists and fundamental Christian bandit insurgents from as far away as Uganda. Areva’s relations with the local French-backed juntas controlling Mali and Niger, in particular, are also “troubled”. This resulted on October 27, 2013 in the Niger junta refusing to further cooperate with Areva, and the closure of its giant Arlit mine. The junta helped itself to 500 tons (1 million pounds) of uranium to “cover its expenses” but its booty has not yet been sold.

SAVING C.A.R. “FOR FRANCE AND THE WORLD”

CAR is comparable to another former French colony – Haiti – due to its extreme poverty and the extreme corruption and barbarity of its juntas and dictatorships, or “governments” ruling with French backing. CAR may have considerable agricultural potential, its mineral resources may be larger than so-far proven, but “saving the country” requires large-scale, long-term investment which is unlikely to materialize in a poverty-wracked country subject to anarchy, rebellion and near-genocide.

Hollande’s claim, on French government-owned and government-serving media, that France’s armed intervention in CAR was supported and encouraged by “other European countries”, meaning Germany when it concerns hoped-for payments to France for its gung-ho remake of French colonial history, is unlikely to be anything but political grandstanding by Hollande. Interest in a low population, if large land area country, with no infrastructures and landlocked in the interior of the African continent can only be low. Other European countries are very unlikely to provide troops, and US military involvement is very unlikely. This will be an all-French show, ending with another French-chosen and French-backed junta.

Almost certainly, the “patriotic minded” media of France will be whistling tunes about Bakouma’s vast reserves of uranium when they are not touting diamonds littering the streams and rivers of CAR. In fact the diamonds are few and far apart, and the reserves of uranium are low grade. Much of the data provided by Uranio AG and UraMin is criticised as “fantasist” by more-polite geologist who do not want to use other and harsher words to describe the material that was fed to Areva – for $2.5 billion of French taxpayers’ money. Straight down the drain!

There exist rigid criteria for a serious scientific journal to accept a peer-reviewed paper and to publish it. As well there are strict criteria by which such an article can be withdrawn after publication.

The once-respected  Elsevier Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology has apparently decided to violate those procedures and has announced it is  retracting a long-term study on the toxic effects of Monsanto Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)—GMO Maize–it published a year ago.

The bizarre announcement comes only six months after Elsevier created a special new position, Associate Editor for Biotechnology (i.e. GMO), and fills it with a former Monsanto employee who worked for Monsanto’s front-organization—the International Life Sciences Institute—which develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GM foods and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations. Sound like something wrong with this picture?

 Some Background

In its November, 2012 issue, The Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology published a paper titled, “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.” by Gilles-Eric Séralini and his team of researchers at France’s Caen University.[1] It was a highly important study as it was the first and, astonishingly, still the only long-term study under controlled conditions of possible effects of a diet of GMO Maize treated with Monsanto Roundup herbicide.

Seralini submitted his study results to the respected journal following a rigorous four month review by scientific peers regarding methodology and such. Seralini’s group tested more than 200 rats of a diet of GMO corn over a period of a full two years at a cost of €3 million. The study was done in absolute secrecy to avoid industry pressure.

 The publication created an atomic blast rocking the entire edifice of the GMO industry. Pictures of test rats with grotesque cancer tumors appeared in newspapers around the world.

Seralini’s group studied the effect of a Monsanto GMO maize diet on the rats for much longer than Monsanto had in their study submitted to the EU European Food Safety Authority for approval. They did their study for the full two year average life-time instead of just 90 days in the Monsanto study. The long time span proved critical. The first tumors only appeared 4 to7 months into the study. In industry’s earlier 90-day study on the same GMO maize Monsanto NK603, signs of toxicity were seen, but were dismissed as “not biologically meaningful” by industry and EFSA alike. [2]

 It seems they were indeed very biologically meaningful.

The study was also done with the highest number of rats ever measured in a standard GMO diet study. They tested “also for the first time 3 doses (rather than two in the usual 90 day long protocols) of the Roundup-tolerant NK603 GMO maize alone, the GMO maize treated with Roundup, and Roundup alone at very low environmentally relevant doses starting below the range of levels permitted by regulatory authorities in drinking water and in GM feed.” [3]

 Their findings were more than alarming.  Mammary tumors that developed in rats fed GMO corn and/or low levels of Roundup. From the paper “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” published in Food and Chemical Toxicology

 The Seralini study concluded, “In females, all treated groups died 2–3 times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was visible in 3 male groups fed GMOs. All results were hormone and sex dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls; the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments. In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5–5.5 times higher. This pathology was confirmed by optic and transmission electron microscopy. Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3–2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls…” [4]

 Monsanto on defensive 

Monsanto and the related GMO industry immediately went on a war footing to control the potentially fatal damage from the Seralini study. Suddenly, with worldwide attention to the new Seralini results, the EU Commission and its EFSA was under fire as never in their history. How they reacted was worthy of a bad copy of an Agatha Christie murder novel. They piously announced that they had passed the Seralini study on to their EFSA scientific panel for evaluation.

 The Brussels EU scientific food regulatory organization, EFSA, was under the gun from the damning results of the long-term Seralini study. EFSA had recommended approval of Monsanto’s NK603 Roundup-tolerant maize in 2009 without first conducting any independent testing. They admitted that they relied on “information supplied by the applicant (Monsanto).” EFSA also admitted that the Monsanto tests on rats were for only 90 days. Seralini’s group noted that the massive toxic effects and deaths of GMO-fed rats took place well after 90 days, a reason why longer-term studied were obviously warranted. [5]

The EFSA concluded at the time of its initial Monsanto NK603 approval in 2009 that, “data provided [by Monsanto-w.e.] are sufficient and do not raise a safety concern.” The Brussels body added, “The EFSA GMO Panel is of the opinion that maize NK603 is as safe as conventional maize. Maize NK603 and derived products are unlikely to have any adverse effect on human and animal health in the context of the intended uses.” [6] Oops!

Now comes this guy Seralini and puts EFSA and the entire regulatory control process for GMO under grave doubt.

 The EU Commission was on record stating that no independent non-GMO industry long-term studies were needed on animals to test their safety. The EU guidelines for testing stated, “Toxicological assessments on test animals are not explicitly required for the approval of a new food in the EU or the US. Independent experts have decided that in some cases, chemical analyses of the food’s makeup are enough to indicate that the new GMO is substantially equivalent to its traditional counterpart…In recent years, biotech companies have tested their transgenic products (maize, soy, tomato) before introducing them to the market on several different animals over the course of up to 90 days. Negative effects have not yet been observed.” [7]

The “up to 90 days” is the key statement. Seralini’s study only observed serious tumors and other effects after 120 days in their two-year study.

EFSA Coverup

On November 28, 2012, only a few weeks after the study was published, EFSA in Brussels issued a press release with the following conclusion: “Serious defects in the design and methodology of a paper by Séralini et al. mean it does not meet acceptable scientific standards and there is no need to re-examine (sic!) previous safety evaluations of genetically modified maize NK603.”   Per Bergman, who led EFSA’s work, said: “EFSA’s analysis has shown that deficiencies in the Séralini et al. paper mean it is of insufficient scientific quality for risk assessment. We believe the completion of this evaluation process has brought clarity to the issue.” [8]

EFSA argued that Seralini had used the wrong kind of rats, not enough rats and that the statistical analysis was inadequate. By these standards, all toxicity studies on glyphosate and GMOs should be retracted because they used the same type and approximate number of rats as those in the Séralini study.

At the very minimum, the “precautionary principle” in instances involving even the potential for grave damage to the human population would mandate that the EU Commission and its EFSA should order immediate further serious, independent long-term studies to prove or disprove the results of the Seralini tests. Refusal to re-examine its earlier decision to approve Monsanto GMO maize, no matter what flaws might or might not have been in the Seralini study, suggested the EFSA was trying to cover for the GMO agrichemical lobby at the very least.

 Many members of the EFSA GMO review panel had documented ties to Monsanto and the GMO industry, a conflict of interest to put it mildly.  Corporate Europe Observer, an independent EU corporate watchdog group noted about the EFSA response, “EFSA failed to properly and transparently appoint a panel of scientists beyond any suspicion of conflict of interests; and it failed to appreciate that meeting with Europe’s largest biotech industry lobby group to discuss GMO risk assessment guidelines in the very middle of a EU review undermines its credibility.” [9]

 New blood at Elsevier

 While the official EFSA statement seemed to take pressure off Monsanto, it clearly was not enough so long as the Elsevier journal study could circulate and be cited around the world.

Then, out of the blue, in May 2013, six months after the Seralini study release, Elsevier announced that it had created a new position, “Associate Editor for Biotechnology.” The person they hired to fill it was Richard E. Goodman, a former Monsanto employee who in addition was with the Monsanto pro-GMO lobby organization, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) which develops industry-friendly risk assessment methods for GM foods and chemical food contaminants and inserts them into government regulations.

As one critical scientific website posed the obvious ethical sham of hiring Monsanto people to control GMO publications, “Does Monsanto now effectively decide which papers on biotechnology are published in FCT? And is this part of an attempt by Monsanto and the life science industry to seize control of science?”[10]

Then on November 24, 2013, six months after Goodman took control of GMO issues at the Journal, Dr A. Wallace Hayes, the editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology decided to retract the study by the team of Professor Séralini.

The reasons for the extraordinary retraction a full year after publishing are in violation of the guidelines for retractions in scientific publishing set out by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), of which FCT is a member. According to the guidelines, the only grounds for a journal to retract a paper are:

•          Clear evidence that the findings are unreliable due to misconduct (eg data fabrication) or honest error;

•          Plagiarism or redundant publication;

•          Unethical research.

 Séralini’s paper meets none of these criteria and Hayes admits as much. In his letter informing Prof Séralini of his decision, Hayes concedes that examination of Prof Séralini’s raw data showed “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data” and nothing “incorrect” about the data, and that the retraction was solely based on the “inconclusive” nature of the findings on tumours and mortality.[11]

As Claire Robinson of GM Watch points out, “inconclusiveness of findings is not a valid ground for retraction. Numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, which are often mixed in with findings that can be presented with more certainty. It is for future researchers to build on the findings and refine scientific understanding of any uncertainties.” [12]

Elsevier, the publisher of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, is one of the giants in worldwide scientific publications. And they are apparently not so rigorous when it comes to making money over scientific principle. In 2009, Elsevier  invented an entire medical journal, complete with editorial board, in order to publish papers promoting the products of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck. Merck provided the papers, Elsevier published them, and doctors read them, unaware that the “Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine” was simply a PR vehicle for the drug giant Merck. [13]

Notes

[1] Séralini, G.-E., et al., Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem. Toxicol. (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2012.08.005.

 [2] Ibid.

 [3] Seralini et al., Op. Cit.

 [4] Ibid. 

 [5] European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms on applications (EFSA-GMO-NL-2005-22 and EFSA-GMO-RX-NK603) for the placing on the market of the genetically modified glyphosate tolerant maize NK603 for cultivation, food and feed uses and import and processing, and for renewal of the authorisation of maize NK603 as existing product, The EFSA Journal (2009) 1137, 1-50.

[6] Ibid.

[7] GMO-Kompass, Food Safety Evaluation–Evaluating Safety: A Major Undertaking, February 15, 2006, accessed in http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/safety/human_health/41.evaluation_safety_gm_food_major_undertaking.html

 [8] EFSA, Séralini et al. study conclusions not supported by data, says EU risk assessment community, EFSA Press Release, 28 November 2012, accessed in http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/121128.htm

 [9] Corporate Europe Observatory, Op. Cit.

[10] Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, PhD,  The Goodman Affair: Monsanto Targets the Heart of Science,

May 20, 2013, accessed in http://www.independentsciencenews.org/science-media/the-goodman-affair-monsanto-targets-the-heart-of-science/

[11] Claire Robinson, Journal retraction of Séralini study is illicit unscientific and unethical, GMWatch,, 27 November 2013, accessed in http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15184-journal-retraction-of-seralini-study-is-illicit-unscientific-and-unethical.

[12]Ibid.

[13] Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham, PhD,  The Goodman Affair…

Hollywood Without the Happy Ending  

Call it the Jason Bourne strategy.

Think of it as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) plunge into Hollywood — or into the absurd.  As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency’s moves couldn’t be have been more far-fetched or more real.  In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world’s most infamous jail.

The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.”

Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the CIA had selected a few dozen men from among the hundreds of terror suspects being held at Guantanamo and trained them to be double agents at a cluster of eight cottages in a program dubbed “Penny Lane.” (Yes, indeed, the name was taken from the Beatles song, as was “Strawberry Fields,” a Guantanamo program that involved torturing “high-value” detainees.) These men were then returned to what the Bush administration liked to call the “global battlefield,” where their mission was to befriend members of al-Qaeda and supply targeting information for the Agency’s drone assassination program.

Such a secret double-agent program, while colorful and remarkably unsuccessful, should have surprised no one.  After all, plea bargaining or persuading criminals to snitch on their associates — a tactic frowned upon by international legal experts – is widely used in the U.S. police and legal system.  Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence.

Hollywood in Langley

In July 2010, at his confirmation hearings for the post of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper explained the use of private contractors in the intelligence community: “In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War… we were under a congressional mandate to reduce the community by on the order of 20%… Then 9/11 occurred… With the gusher… of funding that has accrued particularly from supplemental or overseas contingency operations funding, which, of course, is one year at a time, it is very difficult to hire government employees one year at a time. So the obvious outlet for that has been the growth of contractors.”

Thousands of “Green Badges” were hired via companies like Booz Allen Hamilton andQinetiq to work at CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) offices around the world, among the regular staff who wore blue badges. Many of them — like Edward Snowden — performed specialist tasks in information technology meant to augment the effectiveness of government employees.

Then the CIA decided that there was no aspect of secret war which couldn’t be corporatized.  So they set up a unit of private contractors as covert agents, green-lighting them to carry guns and be sent into U.S. war zones at a moment’s notice. This elite James Bond-like unit of armed bodyguards and super-fixers was given the anodyne name Global Response Staff (GRS).

Among the 125 employees of this unit, from the Army Special Forces via private contractors came Raymond Davis and Dane Paresi; from the Navy SEALs Glen Doherty, Jeremy Wise, and Tyrone Woods. All five would soon be in the anything-but-covert headlines of newspapers across the world.  These men — no women have yet been named — were deployed on three- to four-month missions accompanying CIA analysts into the field.

Davis was assigned to Lahore, Pakistan; Doherty and Woods to Benghazi, Libya; Paresi and Wise to Khost, Afghanistan. As GRS expanded, other contractors went to Djibouti, Lebanon, and Yemen, among other countries, according to a Washington Post profile of the unit.

From early on, its work wasn’t exactly a paragon of secrecy. By 2005, for instance, former Special Forces personnel had already begun openly discussing jobs in the unit at online forums. Their descriptions sounded like something directly out of a Hollywood thriller. The Post portrayed the focus of GRS personnel more mundanely as “designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.”

“They don’t learn languages, they’re not meeting foreign nationals, and they’re not writing up intelligence reports,” a former U.S. intelligence official told that paper. “Their main tasks are to map escape routes from meeting places, pat down informants, and provide an ‘envelope’ of security… if push comes to shove, you’re going to have to shoot.”

In the ensuing years, GRS embedded itself in the Agency, becoming essential to its work.  Today, new CIA agents and analysts going into danger zones are trained to work with such bodyguards. In addition, GRS teams are now loaned out to other outfits like the NSA for tasks like installing spy equipment in war zones.

The CIA’s Private Contractors (Don’t) Save the Day

Recently these men, the spearhead of the CIA’s post-9/11 contractor war, have been making it into the news with startling regularity.  Unlike their Hollywood cousins, however, the news they have made has all been bad. Those weapons they’re packing and the derring-do that is supposed to go with them have repeatedly led not to breathtaking getaways and shootouts, but to disaster.  Jason Bourne, of course, wins the day; they don’t.

Take Dane Paresi and Jeremy Wise. In 2009, not long after Paresi left the Army Special Forces and Wise the Navy SEALs, they were hired by Xe Services (the former Blackwater) to work for GRS and assigned to Camp Chapman, a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. On December 30, 2009, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor who had been recruited by the CIA to infiltrate al-Qaeda, was invited to a meeting at the base after spending several months in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands. Invited as well were several senior CIA staff members from Kabul who hoped Balawi might help them target Ayman al-Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda’s number two man, who also hailed from Jordan.

Details of what happened are still sketchy, but the GRS men clearly failed to fulfill their security mission. Somehow Balawi, who turned out to be not a double but a triple agent, made it onto the closed base with a bomb and blew himself up, killing not just Paresi and Wise but also seven CIA staff officers, including Jennifer Matthews, the base chief.

Thirteen months later, in January 2011, another GRS contractor, Raymond Davis, decided to shoot his way out of what he considered a difficult situation in Lahore, Pakistan. The Army Special Forces veteran had also worked for Blackwater, although at the time of the shootings he was employed by Hyperion Protective Services, LLC.

Assigned to work at a CIA safe house in Lahore to support agents tracking al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Davis had apparently spent days photographing local military installations like the headquarters of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. On January 27th, his car was stopped and he claims that he was confronted by two young men, Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad. Davis proceeded to shoot both of them dead, and then take pictures of their bodies, before radioing back to the safe house for help. When a backup vehicle arrived, it compounded the disaster by driving at high speed the wrong way down a street and killing a passing motorcyclist.

Davis was later caught by two traffic wardens, taken to a police station, and jailed. A furor ensued, involving both countries and an indignant Pakistani media.  The U.S. embassy, which initially claimed he was a consular official before the Guardian broke the news that he was a CIA contractor, finally pressured the Pakistani government into releasing him, but only after agreeing to pay out $2.34 million in compensation to the families of those he killed.

A year and a half later, two more GRS contractors made front-page news under the worst of circumstances. Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods had been assigned to a CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, where the Agency was attempting to track a developing North African al-Qaeda movement and recover heavy weapons, including Stinger missiles, that had been looted from state arsenals in the wake of an U.S.-NATO intervention which led to the fall of the autocrat Muammar Qaddafi.

On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was staying at a nearby diplomatic compound when it came under attack. Militants entered the buildings and set them on fire.  A CIA team, including Doherty, rushed to the rescue, although ultimately, unlike Hollywood’s action teams, they did not save Stevens or the day. In fact, several hours later, the militants raided the CIA base, killing both Doherty and Woods.

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The disastrous denouements to these three incidents, as well as the deaths of four GRS contractors – more than a quarter of CIA casualties since the War on Terror was launched — raise a series of questions: Is this yet another example of the way the privatization of war and intelligence doesn’t work?  And is the answer to bring such jobs back in-house? Or does the Hollywood-style skullduggery (gone repeatedly wrong) hint at a larger problem?  Is the present intelligence system, in fact, out of control and, despite acombined budget of $52.6 billion a year, simply incapable of delivering anything like the “security” promised, leaving the various spy agencies, including the CIA, increasingly desperate to prove that they can “defeat” terrorism?

Take, for example, the slew of documents Edward Snowden – another private contractor who at one point worked for the CIA — released about secret NSA programs attempting to suck up global communications at previously unimaginable rates. There have been howls of outrage across the planet, including from spied-upon heads of state.  Those denouncing such blatant invasions of privacy have regularly raised the fear that we might be witnessing the rise of a secret-police-like urge to clamp down on dissent everywhere.

But as with the CIA, there may be another explanation: desperation.  Top intelligence officials, fearing that they will be seen as having done a poor job, are possessed by an ever greater urge to prove their self-worth by driving the intelligence community to ever more (rather than less) of the same.

As Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and defense secretary, told MSNBC: “If you’re looking for a needle in the haystack, you need a haystack.”  It’s true that, while the various intelligence agencies and the CIA may not succeed when it comes to the needles, they have proven effective indeed when it comes to creating haystacks.

In the case of the NSA, the Obama administration’s efforts to prove that its humongous data haul had any effect on foiling terrorist plots — at one point, they claimed 54 such plots foiled – has had a quality of genuine pathos to it.  The claims have proven so thinthat administration and intelligence officials have struggled to convince even those in Congress who support the programs, let alone the rest of the world, that it has done much more than gather and store staggering reams of information on almost everyone to no particular purpose whatsoever.  Similarly, the FBI has made a point of trumpeting every “terrorist” arrest it has made, most of which, on closer scrutiny, turn out to be of gullible Muslims, framed by planted evidence in plots often essentially engineered by FBI informants.

Despite stunning investments of funds and the copious hiring of private contractors, when it comes to ineptitude the CIA is giving the FBI and NSA a run for their money. In fact, both of its recently revealed high-profile programs — GRS and the Guantanamo double agents — have proven dismal failures, yielding little if anything of value.  The Associated Press account of Penny Lane, the only description of that program thus far, notes, for instance, that al-Qaeda never trusted the former Guantanamo Bay detainees released into their midst and that, after millions of dollars were fruitlessly spent, the program was canceled as a failure in 2006.

If you could find a phrase that was the polar opposite of “more bang for your buck,” all of these efforts would qualify.  In the case of the CIA, keep in mind as well that you’re talking about an agency which has for years conducted drone assassination campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Hundreds of innocent men, women, and children have been killed along with numerous al-Qaeda types and “suspected militants,” and yet — many experts believe — these campaigns have functioned not as an air war on, but for, terror.  In Yemen, as an example, the tiny al-Qaeda outfit that existed when the drone campaign began in 2002 has grown exponentially.

So what about the Jason Bourne-like contractors working for GRS who turned out to be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? How successful have they been in helping the CIA sniff out al-Qaeda globally?  It’s a good guess, based on what we already know, that their record would be no better than that of the rest of the CIA.

One hint, when it comes to GRS-assisted operations, may be found in documents revealed in 2010 by WikiLeaks about joint CIA-Special Operations hunter-killer programs in Afghanistan like Task Force 373. We don’t actually know if any GRS employees were involved with those operations, but it’s notable that one of Task Force 373′s principal bases was in Khost, where Paresi and Wise were assisting the CIA in drone-targeting operations. The evidence from the WikiLeaks documents suggests that, as with GRS missions, those hunter-killer teams regularly botched their jobs by killing civilians and stoking local unrest.

At the time, Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department contractor who often worked with Task Force 373 as well as other Special Operations Forces “capture/kill” programs in Afghanistan and Iraq, told me: “We are killing the wrong people, the mid-level Taliban who are only fighting us because we are in their valleys. If we were not there, they would not be fighting the U.S.”

As details of programs like Penny Lane and GRS tumble out into the open, shedding light on how the CIA has fought its secret war, it is becoming clearer that the full story of the Agency’s failures, and the larger failures of U.S. intelligence and its paramilitarized, privatized sidekicks has yet to be told.

The biotech sector often yells for “peer review” when the anti-GMO movement refers to analyses or research-based findings to state its case. Despite Professor Seralini publishing his research findings (rats fed on GMOs) that were critical of the health impacts of GMOs in an internationally renowned peer-reviewed journal in 2012, his methodology and findings were nevertheless subjected to sustained attacks by the sector. Personal smears came his way too (1). Now he finds that his paper has been retracted by the journal.

 Peer review or no peer review, it seems to matter little to the biotech sector when research findings have the potential to damage its interests. In any case, peer review is only for the sector’s critics. It doesn’t seem to apply much to it. For instance, in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) scientists had continually warned regulators that GM crops could create unpredictable and hard to detect side effects, including allergies, toxin production, nutritional problems, and new diseases. They recommended that long-term studies were needed to fully assess the effect of GM foods on other crops, the ecosystem, and animal and human health, but these warnings were ignored (2).

Commercial interest, political strategy and lobbying, not science, is what really counts for this industry. Much of the research it uses to back up its claims is after all carried out by itself and is not fully open to outside scrutiny. Certain negative findings that would be detrimental to its interests are suppressed. According to Open Earth Source in a 2011 article in Huffington Post, this is certainly the case where glysophate (Round Up) has been concerned (3). It is therefore disconcerting that policy makers willingly accept the industry’s claims and facilitate its aims, not least in the UK.    

GeneWatch UK has revealed how Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, and BASF (all biotech companies) under the guise of the ‘Agricultural Biotechnology Council’ held a meeting in June 2012 with government ministers and academics to formulate a ‘strategy’ to promote GMO in schools, to ‘educate’ the public and to ‘improve’ the regulatory framework favouring GMOs, while encouraging farmers to change their farming methods to fully accommodate the GMO products the companies produce.

Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK said that this shows breath-taking arrogance by these companies which seem to think that British farming must be destroyed to suit their own commercial interest and British children should be brainwashed to support their business strategies. She argues that ministers should not be pushing the GM sector’s propaganda in British schools at taxpayers’ expense (4). It begs the question: where is the role for independent science (not corporate/industry-backed science) in all of this? The sector seems able to secure political patronage or co-opt key players to its cause as and when necessary.

And the reason for this is clear. Writer Rich Murray highlights on Rense.com how top people from the GM sector have moved with ease to take up many top positions with various US government bodies, such as the FDA (5). William F Engdahl has described a similar effect in Europe (6). In both cases, the revolving door between government and biotech sector ensures the latter’s interests are served.

Seralini’s research team based its experiment on the same protocol as a previous Monsanto study but, importantly, were testing more parameters more frequently. And the GMO-fed rats were studied for much longer. The long time span proved critical. The first tumours only appeared four to seven months into the study. In the industry’s earlier 90-day study on the same GMO maize Monsanto NK603, signs of toxicity were seen but were dismissed as “not biologically meaningful” by industry and the European Food Safety Agency. It seems they were indeed very biologically meaningful.

 In his recent piece in The Ecologist, William F Engdahl argues Seralini’s research is valid and that biotech pressure has led to the journal’s decision to retract Seralini’s paper (7). Engdahl notes that the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, where Seralini’s paper appeared, has itself violated scientific standards by deciding to retract the paper.

  It begs the questions: when does science become ‘non-science’ and when can a journal decide to reinvent criteria for publication and retraction? On the Independent Science News website (8), Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham note that in the run-up to the retraction, the journal’s publisher, Elsevier, announced that it had created a new position, that of Associate Editor for Biotechnology. The person they hired to fill it was Richard E Goodman, a former Monsanto employee. Six months after Goodman took control of GMO issues at the Journal, Dr A Wallace Hayes, the editor of the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, retracted the study by the team of Professor Séralini, citing the ‘inconclusiveness’ of the research findings as the reason.

  However, Claire Robinson on the GM Watch site (9) notes that inconclusiveness of findings is not a valid ground for retraction because numerous published scientific papers contain inconclusive findings, which are often mixed in with findings that can be presented with more certainty. She rightly states that it is for future researchers to build on the findings and refine scientific understanding of any uncertainties.

There is something highly suspicious about all of this.

The public is having GMO food pushed on it with no say in the matter thanks to deceit and various forms of institutionalised corruption. Unfortunately, argument stemming from independent scientific findings is too often sidelined in favour of other means of influence. Recall how Dr Arpad Pusztai in the UK was effectively silenced over his research and a campaign was set in motion to destroy his reputation some years ago because his research findings were unpalatable to the biotech sector. Then there is the infamous WikiLeaks cable highlighting how GMOs were being forced into European nations by the US ambassador to France who plotted with other US officials to create a ‘retaliatory target list’ of anyone who tried to regulate GMOs.

In the meantime, evidence questioning the health impacts and efficacy or lack of agricultural benefits derived from GMOs mounts (10,11,12,13). But this is of little concern to the industry and its pressure tactics and global PR machine, which receives full and active support from the US State Department (14).

 Is science to fall victim to outside pressures? Claire Robinson and Jonathan Latham argue that unless radical reform is achieved, peer-reviewed publication, which many hold to be the defining characteristic of science, will have undergone a remarkable inversion. From its origin as a safeguard of quality and independence, it will have become a tool through which one vision, that of corporate science, came to assert ultimate control. They argue that Richard Goodman now has the opportunity to throw down the stairs only those papers marked “industry approved.”

 It’s a valid point. As Don Huber, Professor of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, has indicated, getting research findings published that do not coincide with the aims of key commercial interests can be difficult and comes with certain risks (15). With some hugely powerful players involved, many of whom have influence over journal content and have successfully infiltrated important government and official bodies, much of the science and the debate is being manipulated and hijacked by vested interests for commercial gain.

Notes

 1) http://www.countercurrents.org/todhunter301212.htm

2)http://www.nongmoreport.com/articles/october2011/FDAignoredscientistswarningsGMfoods.php

3) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/24/roundup-scientists-birth-defects_n_883578.html

4) http://orderoftruth.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/uk-government-patterson-calls-gm-food-concerns-complete-nonsense-and-humbug-we-take-a-closer-look-at-his-lies-monsanto-gm/

 5) http://rense.com/general33/fd.htm

6) http://www.globalresearch.ca/stench-of-eu-corruption-in-monsanto-gmo-whitewash

7)http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2185442/scientific_journal_retracts_study_exposing_gm_cancer_risk.html

8) http://www.independentsciencenews.org/science-media/the-goodman-affair-monsanto-targets-the-heart-of-science/

9) http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15184-journal-retraction-of-seralini-study-is-illicit-unscientific-and-unethical

10) http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/it-time-acknowledge-roundup-herbicide-contraceptive

11) http://www.responsibletechnology.org/gmo-dangers

12) http://vidarbhatimes.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/maharashtra-reports-btcotton-failure-in.html?m=1

13) http://www.globalresearch.ca/india-genetically-modified-seeds-agricultural-productivity-and-political-fraud/5328227

14) http://documents.foodandwaterwatch.org/doc/Biotech_Report_US.pdf

15) http://farmandranchfreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/don-huber-may2011-acres.pdf

The current wave of protests in Ukraine bears the label “Made in Germany,” “Made in the EU” and “Made in America.” The Western media has gone to great lengths to portray the demonstrations in Kiev as a struggle for democracy and the rule of law. In fact, they are part of a conflict over geostrategic issues. The aim is to repel Russian influence and subject Ukraine to the domination of Germany, the European Union and NATO.

Nine years ago, the Orange Revolution was organized with massive political and financial support from the US government and American NGOs such as the Open Society Institute of billionaire George Soros. These forces were able to annul the presidential election and ensure that the pro-EU and pro-US tandem of Viktor Yushchenko and Julia Tymoshenko took over as head of state and head of government in place of Viktor Yanukovich, who was considered to be in the pocket of Russia. The duo quickly fell out, however, and Yanukovich was able to assume the post of president in 2010.

Now another attempt is being made to bring a regime to power that will subordinate the former Soviet Republic and granary of the Russian Empire to the EU. An examination of the political leadership of the protests reveals their reactionary character. They are led by three parties, two of which have close relations with the conservative camp in the EU, while the third is openly fascist.

The Batkivshchyna (Homeland) party, led by the imprisoned Julia Tymoshenko, has observer status with the European People’s Party, the association of Europe’s Christian-Democratic and conservative parties. UDAR (Punch), headed by boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who is a resident of Germany, is a creation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its think tank, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The latter publicly advertises on its web site seminars devoted to the political education of UDAR members.

According to a study entitled “The Extreme Right in the Ukraine” by the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the third party, Svoboda (Freedom), is “the flagship of core extreme-right ideology.” The party’s original name was the Social-National Party of Ukraine. It used as its emblem a logo reminiscent of the Nazi swastika. On the advice of the French National Front (FN), with which it works closely, it decided on a less provocative name.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk (Homeland) and Vitali Klitschko appear at press conferences together with Oleh Tyahnybok from Svoboda. Tyahnybok is a neo-Nazi notorious for his ultranationalist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic outbursts.

Leading European and American politicians have expressed their solidarity with the protests in Ukraine. The same forces that have tacitly supported the brutality of police in mercilessly beating those opposing EU austerity policies in Athens, Madrid and elsewhere now proclaim their outrage at the brutality of the Ukrainian police.

US State Secretary John Kerry urged the Ukrainian government to “listen to the voice of their people,” while his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle, intervened personally on Wednesday to mix with demonstrators in Kiev. NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has demanded that the Ukrainian government guarantee the right to freedom of expression and assembly. The German government, which has just commenced new proceedings against the neo-fascist National Democratic Party of Germany, defends the right of Ukrainian fascists to demonstrate.

Though it is calling for the resignation of the president and new elections, the opposition does not enjoy the support of the majority of Ukrainians. A motion of censure against the government failed on Tuesday in parliament. The Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union that the opposition wants to implement would have a devastating impact on large sections of the Ukrainian population.

The EU Agreement excludes simultaneous membership in a Russian-led customs union and would thus cut off Ukraine from its main trading partner, with which Ukraine’s industry and transport routes are closely connected. The abolition of customs duties on European goods would also mean bankruptcy for many Ukrainian industries.

The terms of the agreement, which include the introduction of EU rules for labor market deregulation, the privatization of state enterprises and a reduction in the public debt, would have a social impact similar to the EU austerity programs imposed on Greece, Romania and other countries. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is already denying Ukraine a much-needed credit because the government refuses to hike the price of gas by 40 percent—a move that would inevitably result in the death of many unemployed people and pensioners unable to pay their heating bills.

The Association Agreement would turn the country into an extended workbench for German and European companies, which could produce at lower wage rates than those in China. At the same time, the country’s natural resources, its vast and fertile landmass, and its domestic market of 46 million inhabitants make Ukraine a mouthwatering prospect for German and European businesses.

The agreement would also strengthen the EU’s hand against Russia. A customs union or Eurasian Union comprising Russia and the Ukraine would have had a significantly stronger position in trade negotiations with the EU than an isolated Russia.

Germany, the EU and the US are pursuing not only economic, but also geopolitical, objectives in Ukraine. Given Russia’s loss of influence in Eastern Europe since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the incorporation of Ukraine into the EU would push Russia off to the edge of Europe.

Since the end of the 18th Century, Ukraine formed an important part of the Russian and Soviet state. Moreover, the Russian Black Sea Fleet is located in Crimea at a port leased to Russia by Ukraine.

Both the US and the EU have an interest in weakening Russia, which is considered to be an important ally of China. Immediately after his election in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Moscow to strengthen the two countries’ “strategic partnership.” Both countries feel threatened economically and strategically by the aggressive incursions of the US and its allies in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

China is also expanding its economic links with Ukraine, which currently conducts about 5 percent of its foreign trade with China. In October, theSouth China Morning Post reported that the Chinese state-owned enterprise XPCC had struck a deal with the Ukrainian agricultural company KSG Agro to gain access to 100,000 hectares of arable land for the production of food for China. This area is to be expanded to three million hectares—the size of Belgium or Massachusetts.

China has already given the country loans of $10 billion. Ukraine considers its economic relations with China to be so important that President Yanukovich set off on Tuesday for a four-day state visit to Beijing, despite the ongoing political crisis.

This is the background to the attempts by the EU and the German government to use the protests in Kiev to destabilize the Ukrainian government. Their initiative has been launched in tandem with the US, which is systematically expanding its military presence in Asia to encircle China and undermine its influence in the region. To this end, the US has massively intensified its pressure on China in recent weeks.

The offensive against Ukraine raises profound historical questions. In two world wars, Germany sought to bring Ukraine under its control and committed abominable crimes in the process. The current brazenness of the German government is fraught with new dangers. The growing international tensions can quickly turn into armed conflict.

This danger can be countered only by an independent movement of the international working class fighting for a united socialist Europe.

Terrorism is Largely US Imperialism’s Own Creation

December 6th, 2013 by Bill Van Auken

US Congressional Intelligence Chiefs Promote Terror Scare 

The US is less safe against a ubiquitous threat from global terrorism today than it was even one or two years ago, according to those who chair Congress’s intelligence committees.

Diane Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Senate panel, and Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the committee in the House, strongly concurred on this question during a television interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program last Sunday.

CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Feinstein, “Are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago?”

Feinstein responded: “I don’t think so. I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that, the fatalities are way up.” She added that there were “more groups than ever and there’s huge malevolence out there.”

Rogers enthusiastically concurred: “Oh, I absolutely agree that we’re not safer today for the same reasons.”

With the US now spending twice as much on its intelligence apparatus as it did in 2001—we now know, thanks to the revelations of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, that the “black budget” for these agencies topped $56 billion for 2013—such an assessment raises obvious questions.

Are the two intelligence chairmen lying? Are these vast sums being spent for purposes other than safeguarding the American people against terrorism? The answer to both questions is yes.

The claims about the number of terror attacks and fatalities being “up worldwide” constitute a deliberate and cynical distortion.

In point of fact, for 2012, the total number of terror fatalities in the US was nine. Six of these were inflicted by one neo-Nazi gunman who mowed down worshipers at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, hardly the focus of the US “war on terror.” None was caused by Al Qaeda-linked or inspired suspects.

During the same year, a grand total of nine alleged terror plots were reported, half as many as the year before. Virtually all of them involved undercover FBI agents provocateurs who ensnared unwitting Muslim-Americans in “sting” operations.

So what are the scare statistics invoked by Feinstein and Rogers? They are drawn overwhelmingly from a handful of countries where the US has engaged in neocolonial wars and occupations. Just four countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Syria—accounted for well over 70 percent of terror-related deaths in 2012, according to the US State Department’s own figures.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the targets of the Obama administration’s so-called AfPak War, the so-called terrorist attacks have taken place in the context of resistance to US occupation and continuous US drone assassinations and massacres. In Iraq, they are the result of a sectarian bloodletting that is the legacy of the US invasion and toppling of the country’s secular regime.

It was Syria that saw the sharpest growth in the number of attacks and by far the largest number of dead and wounded per attack. Here, as in Libya before it, terrorism has been a preferred weapon in a US-backed war for regime change in which Al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters have served as Washington’s main proxy force on the ground.

So, on a global scale, terrorism is largely US imperialism’s own creation—either through directly fomenting it as in Libya and Syria or provoking it through imperialist invasions and drone killings. While thousands have paid the price for these policies, they have for over a decade not been in any significant numbers in the US itself.

Of course none of these points were even hinted at by the CNN’s Crowley, who, like the rest of the media, served merely to facilitate and amplify the terror fear-mongering of the two officials.

It was Rogers who first touched on the main point of this attempt to breathe new life into the terror scare. “We’re fighting amongst ourselves here in this country about the role of our intelligence community that is having an impact on our ability to stop what is a growing number of threats,” said the Republican congressman. “And so we’ve got to shake ourselves out of this pretty soon and understand that our intelligence services are not the bad guys.”

While the name Edward Snowden did not cross the lips of Crowley, Feinstein or Rogers, it quickly became clear that his revelations of criminal domestic and international surveillance were not only the subtext of the interview, but its principal motivation.

Crowley turned sympathetically to the two legislators and stated: “It seems to me … both of you are saying you haven’t liked this focus on the NSA and the complaints about the NSA in terms of the breadth of what they’re collecting.”

Rogers responded by lamenting the “thousands of man hours” spent in answering the continuing revelations. He insisted that both his and Feinstein’s intelligence committees “take great pride in our real oversight function … to make sure they’re not violating the law.”

He concluded by warning that “all of that work over and over again every time there’s a disclosure” was taking the US intelligence apparatus “away from their focus, which is, what is Al Qaeda’s next event?”

Even lying should make some sense. Snowden’s revelations have clearly established that the congressional committees utterly failed to prevent the NSA and other intelligence agencies from violating the law and abrogating core democratic and constitutional rights. Just as with torture and the other crimes of the Bush administration, they have acted as co-conspirators of the US military and intelligence apparatus, working to conceal these crimes from the American people.

Those like Feinstein and Rogers represent not the American people, but rather the military and the spy agencies that form the core of the American state. Their loyalty is assured not only by ideology, but by definite material interests. It is no accident that the spouses of both legislators have made millions as executives of private security contractors for the US military and the State Department.

These revelations have also made clear that the war on terror is itself a fraud, with the “focus” of these agencies placed not on Al Qaeda, but on the population of the US and the entire planet.

The interview aired just days before the latest revelation that the NSA has been collecting roughly 5 billion records each and every day in order to track the minute-by-minute movements of hundreds of millions of cellphone users around the world, including in the US itself.

This follows the release of multiple documents showing that the agency has spied on the populations and governments of Europe, South America and Southeast Asia, going so far as to tap the office and personal phones of heads of state such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Other material has been made public making it clear that the NSA is engaged in extensive industrial espionage, targeting the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras and other international firms.

Neither Feinstein nor Rogers could even attempt to argue that such activities are part of the NSA’s “focus” on Al Qaeda. It is obvious that they are rather part and parcel of the aggressive drive by US imperialism to offset its economic decline with ever greater reliance on the might of its military and intelligence complex.

The US political system, based on the rule of a thin layer of corporate and financial oligarchs exercised through two capitalist parties and against the interests of working people, the vast majority of the population, cannot tolerate the defense of democratic rights or the exposure of the crimes of the state.

The warning by Rogers that Americans must stop “fighting amongst ourselves” over the massive domestic and international spying operations or, implicitly, face another Al Qaeda attack, must be taken as a threat.

It is well established that virtually every terrorist attack or supposedly foiled plot to take place on US soil, including that of September 11, 2001, has been carried out by individuals who were either acting under the direction of US agents or under their surveillance. The massive US intelligence apparatus clearly has the means to engineer or facilitate another terrorist provocation with the aim of silencing the exposure of its crimes.

Guantanamo: Twelve Years of Torture, Illegality, and Shame

December 6th, 2013 by Victoria Brittain

A litany of physical injuries, psychological deterioration, and illnesses caused by the conditions of the last 12 years are fully documented and are an indictment of all those responsible at every level of US government and military…

Twelve years have passed since the US government of President George Bush made the dramatic decision to ignore half a century of international law, abrogate the Geneva Conventions and bring us to a place today where 164 men who have never been tried and 84 of whom have been cleared for release, are still in Guantanamo Bay prison.

The horror of the place cannot truly be conveyed in words. Fifteen men are being daily force fed, in contravention of medical ethics. The current hunger strike has lasted since February and at one time involved two thirds of the prisoners. Men became skin and bones, according to their lawyers, one of who has an on-going court case to get an independent doctor into the prison to assess his failing client. Violence is a daily norm with invasive body searches and manhandling of prisoners in and out of cells by special teams of heavy soldiers in body armour. Solitary confinement for many has lasted months or years. A litany of physical injuries, psychological deterioration, and illnesses caused by the conditions of the last 12 years are fully documented and are an indictment of all those responsible at every level of US government and military.

Guantanamo is the symbol of the new normality imposed on our world since that reckless Bush-era phrase was coined – the war on terror. The notorious Abu Ghraib photographs of US abuse in Iraq in 2004 had their origins in the personnel and practices authorized by the Bush White House in Bagram, Kandahar and Guantanamo.

Key elements of US practice: prisoners held indefinitely and without charge or trial; the Geneva Conventions ignored; torture and abuse widespread; the judiciary politicized; are a step backwards for civilization as they encourage every other country similarly to normalize abuse of human beings. The results are visible daily in Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, for instance. And the killing of civilians by US drones in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia is part of the pattern where civilians are treated as if they are combatants.

There is however a lawyer-led fight-back in the US against all this, which is significant and in marked contrast to the apathy or vindictiveness of politicians who have not studied the issue and accept the unacceptable status quo. Over these nearly 12 years hundreds of US lawyers, as well as many elsewhere too, have worked tirelessly to get due process for Guantanamo prisoners, first under the Bush administration and then under President Obama, but have been knocked back again and again by appeals from the government lawyers over cases won. Back in 2004 the US Supreme Court gave the prisoners the right to habeas corpus hearings in US courts. A handful prevailed in the district court and the government did not appeal, instead sending the men home. But no district court decision in favour of a prisoner survived review by the higher court.

Since Colonel John Bogdan took over command at Guantanamo last year his men have been deliberately confrontational with the prisoners: with invasive searches of the bodies of prisoners who were meeting lawyers or making a phone call; ransacking of cells and removal of personal items; searching of Korans. The colonel’s harsh new regime sparked the last hunger strike, which was the men’s response of despair at their treatment and the continuing legal limbo they found themselves in.

Weeks into the strike lawyers for the prisoners went into action in the US to publicize the outrageous – and illegal – conditions in which all this was happening. And within a few weeks last spring powerful media like the New York Times called for the closing of Guantanamo. Leading members of Congress called for those men cleared to be repatriated. Hundreds of unknown American citizens donned orange jumpsuits, went on hunger strikes, demonstrated outside the White House. And dozens of nurses were sent by the administration to Guantanamo to carry out force-feeding twice a day and make sure that no prisoner could die. It seemed that perhaps the world had really woken up to the horror of Guantanamo, and that the men’s sacrifice of their health had succeeded.

Almost all of them were seized (and some bought for bounties) without evidence of wrong-doing. Some prisoners at least know why they are still in limbo. The Yemenis, for instance, 55 of whom have been cleared, had a new obstacle put up by the president himself. President Obama simply declared, after the 2009 failed underwear bombing in a civilian aircraft, that because of its origins in Yemen no one would be returned to that country. During the height of the hunger strikes in May he lifted that ban, but still no Yemeni has been returned home.  The US is discussing building a possible new prison for them in Yemen itself.

Meanwhile the topic of torture has dominated the current pretrial hearings of the five Sept 11 defendants held now at Guantanamo after several years in secret CIA prisons known as “black sites” in a number of other countries. All were tortured severely over years. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 and gave several false and misleading statements during that time. Walid bin Attash was subjected to stress positions and forced nudity. Ramzi bin al-Shibh also was subjected to stress positions and forced nudity, as well as torture with electric shocks, sleep deprivation and forms of sexual violence.

At issue is the US government’s obligations under the Convention Against Torture, an international treaty banning torture, to which the United States is a party.

Supporters of the CIA’s interrogation program, such as former Vice President Dick Cheney, argue that torture was necessary to obtain information that could prevent another terrorist attack on American soil – an unproven assertion and one that is contrary to fundamental law. And the convention states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Torture is recognized as a war crime and a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

President Obama’s fateful decision to take no action on the illegal acts of the previous administration and to defend the system has perpetuated illegality. Millions of dollars have been wasted on a charade of a legal system for all the Guantanamo prisoners. Hundreds of America’s best lawyers have been tied up in a process where they were largely impotent. The US has lost respect around the world. The torture past and present cannot be undone. Those responsible will not face US trials.

The damage to international legal norms, and to those who have been abused and suffered so gravely, could however be at least partially repaired by speedy releases from Guantanamo of all those cleared, apologies, payments of damages. The remaining 80 must be either charged and tried, or released. Those trials cannot be the illegal show trials now planned, but real trials in established courts where the prisoners can testify about their torture.

Victoria Brittain is a journalist who has written extensively on Guantanamo-related subjects for a decade. Her most recent book is Shadow Lives, the forgotten women of the war on terror.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday advising Kabul not to proceed with the signing of the proposed status of forces agreement [SOFA] with Washington leading to the establishment of the American and NATO military bases in Afghanistan comes at a defining moment.

The Iranian stance has also been articulated at the level of the powerful chairman of the Majlis foreign and security Policy commission, Alae’ddin Broujerdi, which bears the imprimatur of the highest level of leadership.

The MFA statement openly acknowledged that Tehran has made a demarche with  Karzai. Indeed, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Rahimpour visited Kabul a fortnight ago and was received by Karzai.

It is conceivable that Tehran decided to take an open stance after assessing that Karzai is coming under immense American pressure. The Iranian statement comes on the eve of a crucial meeting of the NATO foreign ministers at Brussels later today.

Clearly, the NATO has jumped into the fray, with secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen threatening that the alliance will exercise the “zero option” if Karzai didn’t sign on the dotted line.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council is also due to be held later today, which will be attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Moscow has too many pots boiling at the moment — Syria, Ukraine, missile defence — and often what happens during ‘East-West’ cogitations is that pragmatic trade-offs ensue.

Washington is taking a cautious line on Ukraine by taking care not to offend the Kremlin; it has manifestly made way for Moscow to take the lead on Syria; and it is keeping the missile defence on the backburner (for the present, at least.) although it ignores the Russian grievances.

Conceivably, Obama administration will expect some Russian reciprocity on the two issues that matter critically to the US geostrategy, namely, Afghanistan and Iran.

The MFA in Moscow has taken a partial stance with regard to the SOFA, highlighting merely the “need to ensure a proper international legal framework for the planned presence of NATO in Afghanistan” and promising that “The Russian party will point out the importance of setting up cooperation by the Organisation with the CSTO again.”

Clearly, Moscow is pursuing certain specific Russian interests in the Afghan situation. Having said that, Moscow’s actual influence on the Afghan situation is also debatable. Moscow’s ploy will be to play into the Afghan endgame through the backdoor of the UN Security Council where it is a veto-holding permanent member.

Whereas, amongst the regional players, what matters infinitely more to Karzai than the Russian stance will be the cooperation of Pakistan and Iran as well as China — and to an extent India. No doubt, against this backdrop, Karzai’s visit to India on December 13 assumes special interest.

Thailand’s Thaksin Regime and The Cambodian Connection

December 6th, 2013 by Tony Cartalucci

Trail from regime’s thugs leads back to ally and dictator-for-life, Hun Sen of Cambodia. 

Late last night, after Thais across the nation celebrated Father’s Day, armed thugs attacked several anti-regime protesters near the currently occupied Ministry of Finance.

They rode motorcycles, fired guns, and threw explosives. There were several injuries, including one protester losing his arm. Protest leaders demanded the regime investigate the incident, and have only been met by silent complicity.

Image: Cambodian dictator-for-life Hun Sen (left) stands next to deposed dictator of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra (right), during a round of golf. Cambodia has provided sanctuary for Thaksin’s most extreme political allies, and served as a base of operations form which to destabilize neighboring Thailand. Hun Sen even went as far as officially appointing Thaksin as Cambodia’s “adviser on economics” to bolster his sagging legitimacy. While Thaksin is widely believed to be in exile in Dubai, he divides at least part of his time staying in Cambodia. With militants and thugs from Cambodia turning up behind violence targeting anti-regime protesters, the trail of slime leads to Hun Sen and Thaksin’s door.

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The same night, 5 Cambodians were caught attempting to torch the main anti-regime protest stage at Democracy Monument, according to Thai PBS.

While the regime cannot openly confront the protesters with excessive violence in fear of justifying the army to mobilize and oust the regime, it has in the past, and is now resorting to the use of hired thugs and professional mercenaries to carry out deadly attacks in its stead. Regime gunmen have already been photographed and captured on video having triggered the first deadly violence of the protests last week.

With the capture of 5 Cambodians attempting to commit arson, admitting that they were hired to do so, it exposes what might be just the leading edge of a large campaign of violence being organized by the regime. The regime’s ties to the neighboring dictatorship of Hun Sen of Cambodia are well known within Thailand, however little, if ever covered by the Western press.

Cambodia: A Warning of What Thaksin’s Thailand Will Become

Cambodia is ruled by dictator-for-life Hun Sen, who has been in office since 1985, and re consolidated his despotic grip on power in 1997 after a bloody military coup that saw his opponents either killed or exiled. Those who failed to flee, according to Human Rights Watch, were brutally tortured and murdered. Since then, he has presided over a tragically failed state, the victim of the Khmer Rouge, of whom Hun Sen was a participating member, and since then squatted upon by his regime and a large collection of foreign backers.

He is by far one of the most detestable politicians alive on Earth, yet his utility to the West has provided him an international media blackhole in which his crimes and atrocities have been hidden for decades.

This can be explained by the literal selling-out of Cambodia from under the feet of its own people, by Hun Sen to foreign corporate-financier interests.

In the Guardian’s 2008 article titled, “Country for sale,” it is reported that:

Almost half of Cambodia has been sold to foreign speculators in the past 18 months – and hundreds of thousands who fled the Khmer Rouge are homeless once more.

The Guardian further elaborated:

Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have, in effect, put the country up for sale. Crucially, they permit investors to form 100% foreign-owned companies in Cambodia that can buy land and real estate outright – or at least on 99-year plus 99-year leases. No other country in the world countenances such a deal. Even in Thailand and Vietnam, where similar land speculation and profiteering are under way, foreigners can be only minority shareholders.

Today, the Cambodian military is literally being sold off to foreign interests now possessing wide swaths of land as mercenary forces to crush any local opposition. Surely displacing millions, and selling land out from under people is criminal, and an affront to humanity. But strangely enough, this story goes largely unreported, the UN remains eerily silent, and in fact, the United States, as of 2010 has begun training many of the most notorious land-grabbing military units involved in this ongoing atrocity.Indeed, Operation Angkor Sentinel kicked off in July 2010 as US Army troops trained with the local Cambodian troops. The United States shamelessly defended the exercises claiming that:

 “Our military relationship is about … working toward effective defence reform, toward encouraging the kind of civil-military relationship that is essential to any healthy political system.”

While the US’ training of Cambodian troops in and of itself does not directly indicate a conspiracy, it positions the US military well for any current or future operations that may be undertaken in support of the US-backed regime in neighboring Thailand.

Enter the Thaksin Shinawatra Regime

Like Hun Sen, Thaksin has a penchant for mass murder, human exploitation, and a proclivity for serving foreign interests. Unlike Hun Sen however, Thaksin’s opponents are stronger, better organized and still hold firmly in their possession most of Thailand’s indigenous institutions. While foreign interests have helped Thaksin by building up NGOs to augment his regime, these still hold very little sway in Thai society.

Back-to-back failed insurrections by Thaksin in 2009 and 2010, after a military coup that ousted Thaksin from power in 2006, saw many of his political allies flee to neighboring Cambodia.

In addition to harboring members of Thaksin’s political machine, Hun Sen went as far as appointing Thaksin himself as a “government adviser on the economy,” in an attempt to bolster his lack of legitimacy.

Amongst those who fled to Cambodia after the 2009-2010 violence was Jakrapob Penkair, a leader of Thaksin’s so-called “red shirt” mob. In an Asia Times report titled, “Plots seen in Thaksin’s Cambodia gambit,” it was stated that:

Before going into exile, Jakrapob told this correspondent that the UDD had clandestinely moved small arms from Cambodia to Thaksin’s supporters in Thailand’s northeastern region, where the exiled premier’s popularity runs strongest. He told other news agencies that the UDD was willing to launch an “armed struggle” to achieve its goals, which included the toppling of the government and restoration of Thaksin’s power.

The report went on to describe possible scenarios for an increasingly militarized attempt by Thaksin to eliminate his enemies, a cue assuredly taken from Hun Sen’s bloody exploits.

Worst Case Scenario – The Syria Model

The number of armed supporters Thaksin could possess in Thailand are minimal. Of the 10,000-30,000 supporters he is able to mobilize with cash payments and bus services at any given time, only about 1,000 could be considered fanatical, and out of that, fewer still who are of military age, willing, and physically able to take up arms against Thaksin’s enemies. Thaksin had clearly augmented this with professional mercenaries, drawn from paramilitary border units in the northeast, but these numbered only about 300 and were easily outmatched by the Thai military in 2010.

Thaksin’s grip on the nation’s police forces allows him to produce on demand thousands from across his north and northeast political stronghold, but even if these police were armed, they lack the training, organizational skills, and coordination to pose any threat to the nation’s armed forces. They have proven in recent days to be completely ineffectual against even unarmed protesters.

Image: From Thaksin Shinawatra’s “red” publications, left to right – “The Giant Wave of Democracy From Tunisia to Thailand,” “Asking to Die in the Seat of Power,” and “From the Nile to the Mekong, to the Chaopaya,” all indicate that Thaksin’s propagandists were likewise channeling the US State Department’s “Arab Spring” rhetoric as well as making the implicit threat that armed militancy was (and may still be) a desired option.

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The real threat would be an influx of Cambodian mercenaries, trained, armed, and directed from Cambodia, and sent into Thailand covertly to be staged and deployed at key points during Thaksin’s continued bid to consolidate his power. These could be used to augment police and small units of fanatics drawn from Thaksin’s “red shirt” mob, or in individual operations aimed at various elements of the opposition.

This follows the same model Thaksin’s foreign backers are using against Syria, where armed militants had been prepared and staged along Syria’s borders, years before violence erupted in 2011. While initial reports from Western media claimed Syria was engaged in a “civil war,” it is now abundantly clear it was instead a foreign invasion by mercenaries sponsored by a conglomerate of NATO and Persian Gulf nations.

However, unlike in Syria, Thailand commands tactical, strategic, economic, and numerical superiority over Cambodia. There are few if any regional mechanisms that would protect the regime in Cambodia from retaliation by Thailand should violence break out and Hun Sen found complicit in supplying mercenaries and/or material support. With Hun Sen facing growing opposition at home against his enduring despotism, he would likely fair poorly against an additional front opened up abroad.

The Thai “civil war” Western analysts have long been predicting with poorly masked enthusiasm, would most likely only materialize using the “Syrian-model” of covert invasion combined with a coordinated propaganda campaign carried out by the Western media. Instead of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and northern Iraq feeding militants into Syria, this new war would consist of Cambodia feeding militants and material in through northeast Thailand, with the resulting conflict appearing to be between Thaksin’s political stronghold there and the rest of the country.

Heading Off Trouble – Using the Egyptian Model

It appears that that Thai military has already been planning to checkmate this option by positioning its forces near the Cambodian border within the context of a long-running border dispute with Phnom Phen.

Exposing plans by the regime to use maximum violence if ousted by another peaceful military coup, and exposing the manufactured nature of this planned violence, diminishes attempts by both the regime and its foreign backers to portray the subsequent mayhem as “the people fighting to restore democracy.”

While the violence would stand little chance of actually defeating Thailand’s formidable military forces, it could serve as useful for securing more overt foreign backing (just as in Syria’s case). By exposing it as a premeditated fraud from the beginning, and comparing it to NATO’s already widely unpopular “covert” intervention in Syria, this option may become altogether distasteful – perhaps enough so to be abandoned entirely.

Other preparations the Thai military would be wise to be making are illustrated by the recent  coup in Egypt.

Image: While the Western media attempts to portray the military coup as an antiquated feature of failed states, it has been and always will be an essential “check and balance” of last resort. In Egypt, the military initially bent with the force of foreign-funded political destabilization as part of the “Arab Spring,” bid its time, and when the moment was right, overthrew the West’s proxy-regime of Mohamed Morsi. It did so with decisive and unyielding security operations to permanently uproot the regime’s power, and stem any attempts of triggering armed conflict backed by the West to reclaim power. The “Egyptian Model” may prove instructive for Thailand’s current political crisis.

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In the wake of NATO’s proxy invasion of Syria, and because Egypt’s establishment initially bent with the force of US State Department-backed protests during the so-called “Arab Spring,” when the Egyptian military decided to finally oust the resulting Western-installed regime, it quickly decapitated the leadership of its main support base, the Muslim Brotherhood, jailing leaders and ransacking its facilities nationwide, while they quickly severed foreign funding to the insidious NGOs constructed to subvert Egyptian sovereignty.

Attempts to trigger an armed uprising were quickly extinguished with decisive and unyielding security operations. By “tearing off the band-aid quickly,” Egypt was able to restore order. While protests and violence are still present in Egypt, it will never develop into what Syria is now facing, or what Thailand could possibly face.

Nations with any semblance of sovereignty left have surely been studying what the generals in Egypt have done.

 

The Legacy of Nelson Mandela: A Dissenting Opinion

December 6th, 2013 by Jonathan Cook

Offering a dissenting opinion at this moment of a general outpouring of grief at Nelson Mandela’s death is not likely to court popularity. It is also likely to be misunderstood.

So let me start by recognising Mandela’s huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid, and make clear my enormous respect for the great personal sacrifices he made, including spending so many years caged up for his part in the struggle to liberate his people. These are things impossible to forget or ignore when assessing someone’s life.

Nonetheless, it is important to pause during the widespread acclamation of his legacy, mostly by people who have never demonstrated a fraction of his integrity, to consider a lesson that most observers want to overlook. Perhaps the best way to make my point is to highlight a mock memo written in 2001 by Arjan el-Fassed, from Nelson Mandela to the NYT’s columnist Thomas Friedman. It is a wonderful, humane denunciation of Friedman’s hypocrisy and a demand for justice for the Palestinians that Mandela should have written. [http://www.keghart.com/Mandela-Palestine]

Soon afterwards, the memo spread online, stripped of el-Fassed’s closing byline. Many people, including a few senior journalists, assumed it was written by Mandela and published it as such. It seemed they wanted to believe that Mandela had written something as morally clear-sighted as this about another apartheid system, an Israeli one that is at least the equal of that imposed for decades on black South Africans. However, the reality is that it was not written by Mandela, and his staff even went so far as to threaten legal action against the author. Mandela spent most his adult life treated as a “terrorist”.

There was a price to be paid for his long walk to freedom, and the end of South Africa’s system of racial apartheid. Mandela was rehabilitated into an “elder statesman” in return for South Africa being rapidly transformed into an outpost of neoliberalism, prioritising the kind of economic apartheid most of us in the west are getting a strong dose of now. In my view, Mandela suffered a double tragedy in his post-prison years. First, he was reinvented as a bloodless icon, one that other leaders could appropriate to legitimise their own claims, as the figureheads of the “democratic west”, to integrity and moral superiority. After finally being allowed to join the western “club”, he could be regularly paraded as proof of the club’s democratic credentials and its ethical sensibility.

Second, and even more tragically, this very status as icon became a trap in which he was required to act the “responsible” elder statesman, careful in what he said and which causes he was seen to espouse. He was forced to become a kind of Princess Diana, someone we could be allowed to love because he rarely said anything too threatening to the interests of the corporate elite who run the planet. It is an indication of what Mandela was up against that the man who fought so hard and long against a brutal apartheid regime was so completely defeated when he took power in South Africa.

That was because he was no longer struggling against a rogue regime but against the existing order, a global corporate system of power that he had no hope of challenging alone. It is for that reason, rather simply to be contrarian, that I raise these failings. Or rather, they were not Mandela’s failings, but ours. Because, as I suspect Mandela realised only too well, one cannot lead a revolution when there are no followers. For too long we have slumbered through the theft and pillage of our planet and the erosion of our democratic rights, preferring to wake only for the release of the next iPad or smart phone. The very outpouring of grief from our leaders for Mandela’s loss helps to feed our slumber.

Our willingness to suspend our anger this week, to listen respectfully to those watery-eyed leaders who forced Mandela to reform from a fighter into a notable, keeps us in our slumber.

Next week there will be another reason not to struggle for our rights and our grandchildren’s rights to a decent life and a sustainable planet. There will always be a reason to worship at the feet of those who have no real power but are there to distract us from what truly matters. No one, not even a Mandela, can change things by him or herself. There are no Messiahs on their way, but there are many false gods designed to keep us pacified, divided and weak.

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

FBI Investigated Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for Espionage

December 6th, 2013 by Global Research News

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the infamous “Anti-Defamation League (ADL) files controversy“  in which the ADL was discovered infiltrating, spying on and otherwise violating the privacy rights of a large number of anti-Apartheid, civil-rights and peace groups through the unlawful acquisition of private data from corrupt local law enforcement officials.

The single best retrospective is from long-time Middle East analyst and broadcaster Jeffrey Blankfort, who was also among those targeted by the ADL (see, “The Strange History of the Anti Defamation League: ADL Spies“).

Many Americans were outraged in 1993 after reading mainstream press accounts of a vast national ADL spy network with organelles passing information not only to Israel’s Mossad but also Apartheid South African intelligence services—possibly resulting in the mysterious death of Chris Hani and the rushed deportation/detention of many Palestinians.  Declassified FBI files newly reveal not only the flood of constituent letters pouring into Congress and the FBI’s unfulfilled assurances that justice would be served, but the ADL’s use of proven tactics that the Israel lobby has deployed since the 1940′s to skirt accountability for major criminal violations.

The FBI f iles, originally scheduled for declassification in 2038, were suddenly released to IRmep under the Freedom of Information Act on November 20, 2013 and may now be browsed and downloaded from the Israel Lobby Archive. 

It is a timely release since one of Israel’s most harmful spies, Arnon Milchan, is openly boasting about his criminal exploits and Americans may soon demand not only that unsuccessful old law enforcement tactics be retired but new strategies be fielded to punish Israel lobby wrongdoers and end their long stint of immunity.

ADL stalls for time

A March 16, 1993 memo launched the ADL espionage investigation from the FBI’s Los Angeles office.  The FBI discovered “unidentified individuals at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in possession of [Federal] Bureau [of Investigation] classified information” along with “confidential police reports and files belonging to the San Francisco Police Department” after the ADL’s Los Angeles and San Francisco offices were raided and searched under warrant.  Until that time, Israel was interested in preserving close economic and military ties (including nuclear weapons sales pitches) to Apartheid South Africa. The ADL, in constant contact with the Israeli consulate which frequently tasked it for help, was eager to pitch in.

The FBI discovered one of its own files possessed by ADL’s Los Angeles division was “a summary of activities relating to the African National Congress (ANC).” The FBI immediately noticed the ADL—which had invested decades securing a forced relationship with the FBI by lobbying top elected officials—was suddenly “uncooperative” and stalling for time. By month’s end, Israel’s “heavy guns” had been drawn to snuff out the fledgling investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Israeli generals visit the U.S. attorney general

The FBI already had a long, unhappy history of outside interference in its Israel espionage and smuggling investigations, and the ADL files affair was no exception.  In the 1940s, the FBI had seen the sudden collapse of a pipeline of indictments against hundreds of Americans illegally smuggling conventional weapons to Jewish fighters in Palestine funded by Jewish Agency paymasters operating out of New York.  The intervention of Abraham Feinberg, a major campaign contribution bundler and Israeli government officials proved too much for the Justice Department, which even as evidence continued to pile up, it failed to prosecute and dodged civic demands for justice.

A March 31, 1993 FBI memo reveals “two persons, described as ‘Israeli Generals’ are in or are about to travel to Washington, D.C…the purpose of their travel is to try to visit the Attorney General to press for an end to the FBI’s investigations…The FBI’s investigations of these matters are causing a great deal of interference in the U.S. activities of the Anti-Defamation League…and so Israel is seeking to intercede on the ADL’s behalf.”

Americans urge due process

Mailbags of letters to Congress were forwarded to the FBI and attorney general urging the swift criminal prosecution of the ADL.  Robert Kerrey, John McCain, Richard Lugar, Hank Brown, Jill Long, Dennis DeConcini, and Ernest Hollings, while often distancing themselves from the substance of the complaints, dutifully forwarded the outraged letters.  The FBI’s Legislative Counsel Charles E. Mandigo reviewed demands to prosecute both the ADL and “a former San Francisco police officer and former CIA agent [Thomas Gerard]” who “sold police information on Arab Americans to agents of the Mossad.”  Mandigo assured them “the FBI will actively seek prosecution of any individuals or any enterprise discovered to be involved in illegal activity in violation of federal statutes….”  However, like earlier constituents that in the 1960′s demanded another Israel lobbying organization, the American Zionist Council, be registered as an Israeli foreign agent, they were all in for a huge disappointment.

Turnover

After interviewing a disgruntled former ADL “fact finder” librarian who had curated information and worked with long-time ADL undercover contractor Roy Bullock, the FBI quickly focused in on ADL Regional Director David Lehrer as the prime suspect for acquiring and passing classified FBI files throughout the ADL.  The FBI LA office requested several times that the FBI director authorize a formal interview with Lehrer. But FBI Director William Sessions, a holdover from the Reagan administration, left in July of 1993.  Acting director Floyd Clarke took no action before leaving on September 1. 

Not until September 23, 1993 did the Clinton administration’s new FBI Director Louis Freeh authorize special agent in command Edward J. Curran the only interview that could possibly lead to a prosecution:  “personally interview David Lehrer, Regional Director – ADL – Los Angeles….The interview is to be conducted according to FCIM 65-5.1 guidelines, and recorded on an FD-302 in the event this matter warrants possible prosecution.”

But it was much too late. Israel already had half a year to lobby for closure.

On December 1, 1993, Israeli Justice Minister David Libai met for an hour with Attorney General Janet Reno. Libai spent thirty minutes on a futile attempt to secure Reno’s recommendation to President Clinton that Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard’s sentence be commuted. 

What Libai did for the remaining thirty minutes of the “private” meeting was not disclosed, but on March 22, 1994 the FBI’s Los Angeles office indicated it was closing the ADL espionage investigation—apparently without ever having interviewed Lehrer. 

By April, Janet Reno was gushing over the ADL’s latest report on militias and the FBI-ADL uncomfortable “special relationship”—first ordered by J. Edgar Hoover and later renewed by FBI director William Webster—was seemingly back on track.

Fire “wrong-doers” but continue activities

Until this file declassification and release, it was never clear to outsiders whether the FBI had properly investigated ADL’s illegal circulation of its classified files.  Only now can the ADL “files controversy” formally enter the pantheon of “Israel lobby criminal investigations that were improperly closed.”  The 1993 incident bears uncanny similarities to the 2005 AIPAC espionage affair, in which a Defense Department official and two AIPAC employees where indicted under the Espionage Act for circulating classified national defense information in an unsuccessful attempt to foment a U.S. attack on Iran.  AIPAC jettisoned Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weismann for conduct that “did not comport with standards that AIPAC expects of its employees.”—despite the fact that the pair engaged in activities long rewarded by AIPAC.  Its actions suggest AIPAC wanted to prevent a fatal criminal indictment of the entire organization.  Obama administration Justice Department officials quashed the criminal prosecution shortly after taking office in 2009.  Like AIPAC, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman fired a “shocked and dismayed” Lehrer in 2002, but without explanation.  Although at the time many speculated that the termination was the ADL national office’s effort to prevent the increasingly autonomous West Coast offices from splitting off, it also could have been the delayed fulfillment of a non-prosecution agreement in order to finally close the “ADL files controversy.”  Only Abraham Foxman and the Justice Department know for sure. 

The ADL files controversy is not only similar to the 2005 AIPAC espionage affair but also an earlier 1985 espionage investigation of AIPAC for acquiring classified trade information.  The very solid FBI investigation was suddenly cut short and terminated, presumably after the capitulation of a heavily-lobbied attorney general. In the end, the Reagan Administration did not allow the FBI or public to know who in the International Trade Commission subverted due process by passing a compilation of secret industry data of seventy American groups opposed to unilateral trade concessions to Israeli Minister of Economics Dan Halpern and AIPAC. Yet another 1960′s effort to regulate Israel lobbying by properly registering front groups as Israeli foreign agents similarly collapsed after JFK’s assassination when the Justice Department leadership inevitably underwent rapid turnover.

De facto Immunity

It is little wonder that Israeli spy Arnon Milchan is now so openly boasting about his years spent pilfering American nuclear weapons technology while working as a successful Hollywood movie producer.  Yet another suspected Israeli spy, fugitive financier Marc Rich, benefitted greatly when Deputy Attorney GeneralEric Holder (today the attorney general) was successfully lobbied by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to recommend a 2001 Clinton presidential pardon.  History is unequivocal that all it takes is a few calls to the ever-compliant attorney general for a visiting delegation of Israeli government officials to subvert rule of law in America.

Copyright http://www.IRmep.org.2013

Whitewashing Human Atrocities in the Middle East and Africa

December 5th, 2013 by Keith Harmon Snow

A senior UN counter-terrorism official is to assess Edward Snowden’s revelations that US and British intelligence agencies are using specific software to retain and monitor telephone conversations, e-mails, and text messages. UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson said in an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian that his inquiry would seek to establish whether the British parliament had been misled about the capabilities of the G-C-H-Q, which is the British intelligence agency that specializes in electronic surveillance. He added that the media had a duty and right to publish stories about the activities of British and U-S spy agencies. The inquiry is expected to make a series of recommendations to the UN General Assembly next year. (www.corbettreport.com)

Press TV has conducted an interview with James Corbett, the editor of the corbettreport.com, about the United Nations launching an investigation into the massive surveillance programs of American and British intelligence agencies following revelations from US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: This inquiry will not have much power but it can make recommendations to the UN General Assembly. What kind of recommendations do you think it is going to be making?

Corbett: Well it is difficult to say what recommendations it will be able to make especially because the UN General Assembly is a body without any teeth as it has been demonstrated over the previous decades.

And again I am not sure what this new inquiry is going to uncover because I think only the most naïve in international relations have not understood already that they were being spied on by the US and Britain and other intelligence agencies. Besides, it is really just the Edward Snowden’s leaks [that] are bringing this to the forefront.

So I am not sure that this inquiry will really have really much effect other than a symbolic one and I do not think any recommendations other than the recommendations not to spy on allies will be the result of this type of inquiry.

Press TV: But does the symbolism of this go very far in putting pressure on governments like that of the UK and the US who have been pressuring the media like The Guardian newspaper to not publish these revelations?

Corbett: Well certainly the pressure is mounting not only from the political classes but perhaps more importantly from the average public which is now increasingly aware that these practices go on.

But I think if the UN was being serious about really investigating these claims, they would start by looking in their own backyard because of course the most egregious cases of spying have happened at UN summits or on UN premises in New York as has come out time and time again in the past and in fact just recent revelations from earlier this month, sorry earlier last month, showing once again for example Indonesia was spied on by the US at the UN Summit and we have had reassurances from the Obama administration back in October that they would not be spying on the UN anymore but given the track record of what has happened at the UN in the past, I think we can take those assurances for what they are worth.

So there certainly is a symbolic value in this and in any way it is good I think to put the pressure on these agencies to stop this type of spying activity.

Press TV: So then basically what you are saying is that we will see a lot of condemnation coming out of this for the US, for the UK and maybe even more revelations but it will be business as usual when it comes to our privacy online as far as telecommunications go?

Corbett: Very much so and in fact we see that the biggest political brouhaha is about the spying that is happening on politicians themselves, on governments, on government agencies but there is not that type of widespread condemnation of what is happening to the average citizens.

And as you mentioned there and as Snowden revelations and other leaks have made clear, basically communications across the board on the internet are being collected wholesale by the NSA and its adjunct in Britain and in other intelligence agencies across the world and I think there needs to be more outrage on that issue rather than specifically on spying on governments.


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 “Even, for a lack of a better word, on his deathbed, he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance.”

 Thanks to the release of the new epic movie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom starring Idris Elba and Naomi Harris, the public is learning other lessons about the freedom struggle that he led.

On Christmas day, it opens nationwide in the US on 2000 screens with a majority ofreviews very positive. It is already showing in France and England will be next in January.

 In South Africa, the movie that shows Mandela’s early days as a boxer broke all box-office records.

 At the same time, no one movie can hope to tell the full story of a life that has spanned 95 years.  Hollywood-style storytelling inevitably telescopes history, compresses characters, and seek to entertain more than inform

 Some of the critics make this point, even as most were laudatory. A few foundit too rushed, others too long, or dwell on missing context, and insufficient history, as does Simon Abrams on RogerEbert.com:”The prison guard insists that Nelson and his wife should not talk about politics, and “Long Walk to Freedom’s creators honor that request. Instead, they talk about how they feel about politics. So the raised tone of Winnie’s voice is more important than the content of her words.”

Critical nitpickingaside, many can agree with the LA Times’ conclusion: “This may be a familiar story, but it is one worth experiencing again and again. “ And, that’s also why the AP reviewer noted, “This is the perfect time for youngsters (or their elders) who don’t know enough about the man to go learn about him.”

And that’s also precisely why the film’s producers asked me to draw on many of the interviews I did for a companion documentary series on the making and meaning of Long Walk to Freedom for a book that seeks to tell some of the rest of the story.“Madiba A to Z”  (Seven Stories Press) is now out in the US, and in South Africa.

To supplement Mandela’s own autobiography and the many biographies about them, I look at what insiders realize but many in the adoring public do not. Quite a few who do know him well are loving but privately critical (and self-critical), most deeply aware of the limits of the changes in South Africa almost twenty years after the end of apartheid and the coming of democracy.

 I spoke to many key players and insiders, including two former presidents, DeKlerk and Mbeki and Deputy President Motlanthe, his prison comrades and fellow ANC activists including Archbishop Tutu, as well as thoughtful writers like Nadine Gordimer and Njabullo Ndebele.

Here are some highlights from an investigation that features intimate stories on 26 aspects of Mandela’s life and times.

•The key finding is how many of the “stalwarts” of the struggle including Mandela himself are privately disappointed with the “progress” that’s been made and have “regrets” with the ANC’s many failures in a way we haven’t seen before.

•Thabo Mbeki told me that the problems of South Africa have not changed very much from 1994 because of the greed of the white business community and its failure to invest in job creation.

 •Madiba A-Z explains that there were top-secret economic negotiations alongside the televised political talks that allowed the World Bank and global business leaders, especially powerful Americans,effectively to limit what South Africa could do to regulate industry and fight poverty. This is what led to the neo-liberal policies South Africa was pressured to adopt in the name of pro-market stability.

 Promised jobs and investments by an adoring world, fewwere forthcoming. Poverty in South Africa today is as bad as it was when Mandela was elected in 1994.

 Other points of special interest:

 • The armed struggle fought by the ANC’s guerilla army Umkhonto we Size was also aided by the Vietnamese army after the defeat of the U.S. led war in that country. The Cuban defeat of South African military forces in Angola helped spur negotiations.

 •While Mandela deserves credit for engineering a peaceful political settlement,it was external pressure including economic and cultural sanctions demanded by a global anti-apartheid movement that brought decisive leverage on political leaders to negotiate. His law partner, Oliver Tambo’s role as ANC leader was probably more decisive in orchestrating pressure when Mandela was behind bars.

 •While Mandela was hailed by a cheering world for his iconic role, he was often personally miserable because of the break-up of his marriage and the bitter internal battling inside the ANC. He survived long years in prison by “going inside,” and often had to do the same as President.

These are just a few of the disclosures as I dealt with the “many faces” of a leader so many think they know, butoften only one dimensionally,as I explored Mandela as a villager, bully, boxer, prisoner, lover and womanizer, peacemaker and legend.

 Throughout his political struggles, he rejected the idea that he was a “savior” and always embraced collective leadership even as the media lionized him and treated him as a “brand” or celebrity.

 The media and even the movie avoid deeper political debates and minimize the role of a bottom-up movement for the decisions of a top-down leader. News reports of pervasive corruption today rarely reference how corrupt the Afrikaner regime had been.

 The enormity of what he and South Africa achieved in resolving conflicts can best be seen when compared to other conflicts in the world that ended more violently, or not at all. 

 Recall what else was going on in this period — genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans, or today’s unresolved fighting in Syria and Egypt. If leaders in those countries had adopted Mandela’sapproach to reconciliation, the outcomes might have been different

How he helped guide a peaceful outcome in a racially explosive society is a story that even now is treated superficially by the press there and here, when at all.

 What emerges is a portrait of a man, and a troubled nation as well as the texture of a struggle that, despite many gains, is still fighting for true freedom. After his release from prison, Mandela was told, “Well now you’re free.” And he said: “No, we’re freed to be free.”

 News dissector Danny Schechter directed six documentaries about Nelson Mandela. More news about the book and its author, including a selection, can be found at Madibabook.com

He blogs at Newsdissector.net and edits Mediachannel.org,

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