Die USA und ihre Alliierten sind dabei, im Libanon eine neue Front im Konflikt in Syrien zu eröffnen.

Libanon befindet sich in einer Art Schwebezustand durch den Mangel an einer Regierung und die Verschiebung der parlamentarischen Wahlen. Erschwerend kommt hinzu, dass viele institutionelle Persönlichkeiten und militärische Kommandeure in Pension gegangen sind und die Interims-Regierung ist nicht in der Lage, sie zu ersetzen.
Hisbollahs Eingreifen in den syrischen Konflikt hat der syrischen Regierung einen Aufschwung gegeben gegen die anti-Regierungs-Streitkräfte.

Das hat die Aufmerksamkeit der USA und ihrer Alliierten auf den Libanon als ein neues Schlachtfeld gelenkt. Raketen werden von anti-Regierungs-Streitkräften von Syrien aus, aber auch innerhalb des Libanon auf Hisbollah Stellungen und gegen Dörfer mit Shia-Bevölkerung abgefeuert.

Foto: Hariri mit der Fahne seiner ‘Future Party’ und Al-Qaida und anti-Syrien-Regierungs-Fahnen geschmückt an der Straße nach Sidon (Foto: Nazemroaya)

Al Qaida im Libanon

Die Al Qaida Fahne sieht man seit Jahren im Libanon. Wenn man in der Nähe des Flughafens oder auf der Straße nach Sidon fährt, sieht man die schwarzen Al Qaida-Fahnen. Dasselbe gilt auch für Tripoli (Trablos) und einige Viertel in Beirut. Seit dem

syrischen Konflikt sieht man sie zuammen mit der Fahne der Aufständischen. Die USA und ihre Alliierten haben sich in der Tat blind gestellt gegenüber der Unterstützung, die die ‘Future Party’ von Saad Hariri der Al Qaida gibt. Der gegenwärtige Chef des UN-Sekretariats für politische Angelegenheiten, Jeffrey Feltman, der einst US- Botschafter im Libanon war, bevor er in das Verteidigungs-Ministerium befördert wurde, hat ebenfalls weggeschaut gegenüber der Unterstützung von Hariris Familie und ihrer ‘Future Party’ sowie ihrer ‘March 14 Allianz’.

Die Allianz der Hariri-Familie mit den takfiris und den Al Qaida-Anhängern reicht weit zurück. Sie ist politisch mit Gruppen alliiert gewesen, die offen Osama Bin Laden verehrten. Es war die Hariri-Familie und ihre’ Future Party’, die auch die Kämpfer importierte, aus der dann die Fatah Al-Islam wurde. Die Ausbeutung der takfiri-Milizen innerhalb des Libanon durch die Hariri-Familie hatte den Zweck, die Hisbollah anzugreifen. Regional wurde dieselbe Strategie von den saudischen Beschützern der Hariris und von der George Bush Verwaltung angewandt, die solche Milizen aufbauten und bewaffneten, um sie gegen Syrien und den Iran einzusetzen. Die Hariris waren wütend, als Seymour Hersh den Plan enthüllte und griffen ihn öffentlich an.

Wenige Monate später geriet die Fatah Al-Islam außer Kontrolle. Die Hariri-gelenkte ‘March 14 Allianz’ hat schändlicherweise versucht, Syrien und die Palästinenser zu beschuldigen, diese Gruppe gebildet und finanziert zu haben. Seymour Hersh wurde gerechtfertigt. Die Kämpfe im Libanon zwischen der libanesischen Armee und der Fatah al-Islam nahm die Armeen vorweg, die für den Regime-Wechsel in Libyen und Syrien zusammengezogen wurden.

Tripoli und Sidon sind Erweiterunge des Syrien-Konfliktes

Libanons zweitgrößte Stadt Tripoli hat intensive Kämpfe zwischen der Alawiten-Gemeinde, die von der Arabischen Demokratischen Partei repräsentiert wird, und den takfiri-Alliierten der Hariri-Familie erlebt. Harriris Alliierte in Tripoli sind offene Anhänger von Al-Qaida und der anti-Regierungs-Streitkräfte in Syrien. Die ‘Future Party’ hat dabei Koordinierungsarbeit geleistet.

Libanons drittgrößte Stadt Sidon ist auch Schauplatz von Kämpfen und Spannungen zwischen Ahmed Al-Assir, einem Verbündeten der Hariris, und den Hisbollah-Anhängern gewesen. Al-Assirs Leute haben sogar versucht, Sidons bedeutendsten Sunni-Kleriker zu ermorden, weil er seit langem sagte, dass es Versuche gibt, einen Shia-Sunni- Konflikt im Libanon und der Region zu schüren. Ein Kontingent der libanesischen Armee musste den Frieden in der Stadt aufrechterhalten.Al-Assir’s Leute griffen auch Leute der libanesischenn Armee an und töteten sie ohne ersichtlichen Grund am 23. Juni 2013. Das hat zu einer Schlacht in Sidon geführt. Dichter Rauch über der Stadt konnte aus weiter Entfernung gesehen werden. Es gab Berichte, dass sich ihm anti-syrische Regierungskräfte angeschlossen haben. Die libanesische Armee hat schwere Waffen eingesetzt, um gegen die Al-Assir Gruppe zu kämpfen.

Der Zweck der Übung ist, die Hisbollah zum Rückzug aus Syrien zu zwingen

Jetzt wird der libanesische Staat anvisiert. Seit die Hisbollah in Syrien intervenierte, gab es zunehmend Angriffe auf das libanesische Militär von der syrischen Grenze aus. Es hatte auch schon vor dem Eingreifen der Hisbollah Angriffe auf den Libanon gegeben, mit denen man aber bezweckte, die Hisbollah zu provozieren.

Jene, die jetzt den libanesischen Staat angreifen, nutzen die Gelegenheit aus, dass die Regierung führungslos ist, und wollen im Libanon Chaos verursachen. Es gab Angriffe sowohl auf shiitische als auch auf sunnitische Dörfer im Bekaa-Tal und damit begann ein Kreislauf der Gewalt.Deshalb bat die Hisbollah die Shiiten im Bekaa-Tal, sich ruhig zu verhalten.Auch Proteste sind im Libanon ausgebrochen.

Al-Assirs unprovozierte Angriffe auf die Arme bezwecken, Druck auf den libanesischen Staat auszuüben und die Shia-Sunni-Spannungen zu verschärfen.

Die Hisbollah weigert sich, in einen sektiererischen Kampf im Libanon hineingezogen zu werden.Während die Ama- Partei, Partnerin der Hisbollah ihre Milizen mobilisierte und begann, die südlichen und östlichen Straßen nach Sidon zu bemannen, hat sich die Hisbollah ruhig verhalten.
Im Grunde ist damit eine zweite Front im Syrien-Konflikt geschaffen worden. Die USA und die Saudis habe wahrscheinlich die Hariri-Familie gebeten, dass ihre Al-Qaida Freunde im Libanon Gewalt entfesseln und die Schwäche des libanesischen Staates auszunutzen.

Quelle – källa – source

Gli Stati Uniti e i loro alleati lavorano per aprire un nuovo fronte del conflitto siriano in Libano.

Il Libano si trova nel limbo per l’assenza di un governo e il rinvio delle elezioni parlamentari. A complicare le cose, molte figure istituzionali e comandanti militari sono andati in pensione e il governo provvisorio non è in grado di sostituirli.

L’intervento di Hezbollah nel conflitto siriano ha dato una spinta al governo siriano contro le forze antigovernative che tentano di invadere la Siria. Ciò ha portato l’attenzione degli Stati Uniti e dei loro alleati sul Libano come nuovo campo di battaglia. Razzi vengono lanciati dalle forze antigovernative dalla Siria, e persino dal Libano, contro le roccaforti politiche di Hezbollah e contro i villaggi sciiti. L’obiettivo è accendere le fiamme della sedizione tra sciiti e sunniti in Libano.

Al-Qaida in Libano

La bandiera di al-Qaida ha sventolato in Libano per anni. Recandosi all’aeroporto di Beirut o viaggiando sulla strada per Sidone (Saida) è possibile vedere le bandiere nere di al-Qaida sventolare. Lo stesso vale per Tripoli (Trablos) e alcune aree di Beirut. Dal conflitto siriano è possibile vederle accanto alla bandierina dei ribelli siriani. Gli Stati Uniti e i loro alleati hanno effettivamente chiuso un occhio sul supporto che il partito Futuro di Saad Hariri fornisce ad al-Qaida. Vale la pena notare che l’attuale capo del Dipartimento affari politici del segretario di Stato USA, Jeffrey Feltman, ex ambasciatore USA in Libano prima di essere promosso al dipartimento di Stato degli Stati Uniti, ha chiuso un occhio sul supporto ad al-Qaida del partito Futuro della famiglia Hariri e della sua Alleanza del 14 Marzo.

La famiglia Hariri ha una lunga alleanza con i taqfiristi e i sostenitori di al-Qaida. In Libano sono alleati politicamente con i gruppi che apertamente venerano Usama bin Ladin. Furono la famiglia Hariri e i membri del loro partito Futuro che fecero anche entrare i combattenti che avrebbero formato Fatah al-Islam in Libano. Tale uso delle milizie taqfiriste in Libano da parte della famiglia Hariri era volto ad attaccare Hezbollah. Sul piano regionale, la stessa strategia coinvolge i sovvenzionatori sauditi della famiglia Hariri e l’amministrazione di George W. Bush, che addestravano e armavano queste milizie nella lotta contro la Siria e l’Iran.

Gli Hariri s’infuriarono quando Seymour Hersh li smascherò, rimproverandolo pubblicamente. Mesi dopo Fatah al-Islam sarebbe andato fuori controllo. L’Alleanza del 14 Marzo di Hariri in modo disonesto cercò d’incolpare la Siria e i palestinesi del sostegno e della creazione del gruppo. Seymour Hersh si sarebbe vendicato. I combattimenti in Libano tra i militari libanesi e Fatah al-Islam prefigurava gli eserciti che si ammassavano per il cambiamento di regime in Libia e Siria.

Tripoli e Sidone come estensioni del conflitto siriano

La seconda città del Libano, Tripoli, ha visto intensi combattimenti tra la comunità alawita libanese, rappresentata dal Partito Democratico arabo, e gli alleati taqfiristi della famiglia Hariri. Gli alleati di Hariri a Tripoli sono aperti sostenitori di al-Qaida e delle forze antigovernative in Siria, hanno contrabbandato armi attraverso il confine libanese-siriano e inviato un gran numero di combattenti in Siria per rovesciare il governo di Damasco. Il partito Futuro venne anche coinvolto nel coordinamento di tutto ciò.

La terza città più grande del Libano, Sidone, è stata anche teatro di scontri e tensioni tra Ahmed al-Assir, alleato di Hariri, e sostenitori e alleati di Hezbollah. Gli uomini di al-Assir hanno anche tentato di uccidere uno principali religiosi musulmani sunniti di Sidone, perché ha sempre detto che v’è il tentativo d’innescare un conflitto tra sciiti e sunniti in Libano e nella regione. Un contingente di militari libanesi ha dovuto mantenere la pace in città.

Gli uomini di al-Assir hanno attaccato e ucciso membri delle forze armate libanesi senza nessun motivo apparente, il 23 giugno 2013. Questo ha acceso la battaglia a Sidone. Lo spesso fumo della città poteva essere visto da lontano. E’ stato riportato che membri delle forze antigovernative provenienti dalla Siria vi si erano uniti. L’esercito libanese ha schierato armi pesanti per combattere il gruppo di al-Assir.

L’obiettivo è costringere Hezbollah a ritirarsi dalla Siria colpendo il Libano

Lo Stato libanese è ora preso di mira. Vi è un crescente numero di attentati contro l’esercito libanese dal confine siriano, da quando Hezbollah è intervenuto in Siria. Vi erano già attacchi al Libano prima ancora che Hezbollahintervenisse nel conflitto siriano, ma erano per lo più destinati a provocare Hezbollah. Chi aggredisce lo Stato libanese, approfitta dell’assenza del governo e dell’assenza di leader in diverse istituzioni nazionali, per creare il caos in Libano. Vi sono attacchi contro villaggi sciiti e sunniti nella valle della Beqaa e violenze sono iniziate. E’ chiaro che l’obiettivo è far scontrare sciiti e sunniti. Questo è il motivo per cui Hezbollah ha chiesto agli sciiti della Beqaa di mantenere la calma. Proteste sono scoppiate in Libano.

Le violenze di Sidone sono parte di una strategia. L’attacco non provocato di al-Assir contro l’esercito libanese è destinato a far aumentare la pressione sullo Stato libanese e ad esacerbare le tensioni tra sciiti e sunniti. Hezbollah si rifiuta di farsi coinvolgere in una battaglia confessionale in Libano. Mentre il movimento Amal, partito politico sciita alleato di Hezbollah, ha mobilitato le sue milizie e ha iniziato a presidiare le strade del sud e dell’est di Sidone, Hezbollah mantiene la calma. I media di Amal hanno riferito ampiamente degli eventi, anche in modo settario, ma i media di Hezbollah hanno dichiarato calma e ne hanno parlato poco.

Il Libano è al centro del mirino, allo scopo di costringere Hezbollah a ritirarsi dalla Siria, ripiegando all’interno. Essenzialmente, ora è il secondo fronte nel conflitto siriano. Gli Stati Uniti e l’Arabia Saudita hanno probabilmente chiesto alla famiglia Hariri di chiedere ai loro clienti affiliati ad al-Qaida di avviare le violenze in Libano e approfittare della debolezza dello Stato libanese.

Global Research, 23 giugno 2013

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya è sociologo e ricercatore associato del Centro per la Ricerca sulla Globalizzazione (CRG). Attualmente riferisce dal Libano. Era a Sidone durante gli scontri e il dispiegamento delle forze armate libanesi.

Traduzione di Alessandro Lattanzio.

War and the New Nuclear Danger: Fukushima and Beyond

June 24th, 2013 by Michael Welch

Russia has over a thousand hydrogen bombs on hair-trigger alert. You’re all targeted—every town with a population of 50,000 or more is targeted with at least one bomb. There may be 60 targeted on Washington alone, or on New York.

And America’s got that many targeted on Russia, China, etc…

They’re ready to go with the press of a button by Putin or Obama and they have three minutes to decide whether or not to press the button. Computer errors happen a lot … people are hacking into the early warning system and they could start a nuclear war. Especially as tensions rise in the Middle East, this is very, very dangerous.

- Dr. Helen Caldicott

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One of the most severe industrial accidents in history occurred two and a half years ago when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan was crippled in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami that struck the island country.

Critically, electric generators which circulate coolant through the facility failed leaving the core vulnerable to a melt down.
There were three meltdowns within a week, four hydrogen explosions, and the release of radioactive material which continues to this day.

Project Censored lists the incident and the under-reported impacts including 14,000 deaths in the US linked to radioactive fall-out as among its top 25 most censored stories of 2011-2012.

One international figure sounding the alarm bells about Fukushima and other looming nuclear threats is Dr. Helen Caldicott. Caldicott is an Australia-born pediatrician who devoted much of her life to extolling the perils of nuclear war and nuclear power becoming the subject of an Oscar award winning documentary in the 1980s. She also became the founding President of Physicians for Social Responsibility. She has likewise founded other associations dedicated to opposing depleted Uranium, nuclear weapons and power, and militarism generally.

Caldicott has been tireless in her commitment and explains on this week’s show why the nuclear danger is just as bad if not worse today, than it was at the height of the Cold War. She further outlines nuclear power, nuclear war along with global warming as the biggest threats facing humankind.

Complementing Caldicott’s presentation, Michel Chossudovsky of the Centre for Research on Globalization contributes his own research into the new nuclear doctrine.

According to Chossudovsky, nuclear weapons are now considered as part of the arsenal of conventional warfare as opposed to a ‘doomsday’ weapon meant as a bluff to scare off a would-be attacker.

Both Chossudovsky and Caldicott agree that the wider public needs greater exposure to today’s nuclear danger which is the theme of this week’s show.

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The Global Research News Hour, hosted by Michael Welch, airs on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Thursdays at 10am CDT. The programme is now broadcast weekly (Monday, 5-6pm ET) by the Progressive Radio Network in the US, and is available for download on the Global Research website.

Government – Or Private Individuals – May Be Watching and Listening

We documented earlier today that -  if you are near your smart phone – the NSA or private parties could remotely activate your microphone and camera and spy on you.
This post shows that the same is true for our computer.

Initially, the NSA built backdoors into the world’s most popular software program – Microsoft Windows – by 1999.

And a government expert told the Washington Post that the government “quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type” (confirmed).

Reuters documented last year that the U.S. and Israeli governments can remotely turn on a computer’s microphone:

Evidence suggest that the virus, dubbed Flame, may have been built on behalf of the same nation or nations that commissioned the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran’s nuclear program in 2010 [i.e. the U.S. and Israel], according to Kaspersky Lab, the Russian cyber security software maker that took credit for discovering the infections.

Kaspersky researchers said they have yet to determine whether Flame had a specific mission like Stuxnet, and declined to say who they think built it.

Cyber security experts said the discovery publicly demonstrates what experts privy to classified information have long known: that nations have been using pieces of malicious computer code as weapons to promote their security interests for several years.

***

The virus contains about 20 times as much code as Stuxnet, which caused centrifuges to fail at the Iranian enrichment facility it attacked. It has about 100 times as much code as a typical virus designed to steal financial information, said Kaspersky Lab senior researcher Roel Schouwenberg.

Flame can gather data files, remotely change settings on computers, turn on PC microphones to record conversations, take screen shots and log instant messaging chats.

Kaspersky Lab said Flame and Stuxnet appear to infect machines by exploiting the same flaw in the Windows operating system and that both viruses employ a similar way of spreading.

***

“The scary thing for me is: if this is what they were capable of five years ago, I can only think what they are developing now,” Mohan Koo, managing director of British-based Dtex Systems cyber security company.

PC Magazine tech columnist John Dvorak writes:

From what we know the NSA has back door access into Apple, Microsoft [background], and Google. What kind of access we don’t know, but let us assume it is similar to what they did about 7 years ago to AT&T. They had a secret room at Fulsom St. in San Francisco and the AT&T engineers had no control and no access to a room full of NSA equipment that had direct access to everything AT&T could do.

Microsoft is the source of the operating system for Windows and Windows cell phones. Apple controls the OS for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Google controls the Chrome OS, Chrome Browser, and Android cell phones. The companies regularly push operating system upgrades and security updates to users on a regular basis.

Imagine however that the NSA has access to these updates at the source and has the ability to alter these update in order to install some sort of spyware on your phone, tablet, or computer. The software could turn on your camera or microphone remotely, read all your private data, or erase everything and brick your phone or computer.

Moreover – as documented by Microsoft, Ars Technica, cnet, the Register, Sydney Morning Herald, and many other sources – private parties can turn on your computer’s microphone and camera as well.

Cracked noted in 2010:

All sorts of programs are available to let you remotely commandeer a webcam, and many of them are free. Simple versions will just take photos or videos when they detect movement, but more complex software will send you an e-mail when the computer you’ve installed the program on is in use, so you can immediately login and control the webcam without the hassle of having to stare at an empty room until the person you’re stalking shows up.

The bottom line is that – as with your phone, OnStar type system or other car microphone, Xbox, and other digital recording devices – you shouldn’t say or do anything near your computer that you don’t want shared with the world.

Postscript: You could obviously try to cover your webcam and microphone when you don’t want to use them. 

But if you really want privacy, take a lesson from spy movies: Go swimming with the person you want to speak with … since electronics can’t operate in water.

I have now had the chance to read Obama’s recently released Report on Nuclear Employment Strategy of the United States, (June 21, 2013).  The critical passage can be found on page 5:

  “The 2010 Nuclear Posture Review established the Administration’s goal to set conditions that would allow the United States to safely adopt a policy of making deterrence of nuclear attack the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons. Although we cannot  adopt such a policy today, the new guidance re-iterates the intention to work towards that goal over time.”

In other words, “nuclear deterrence” is not now and has not been the policy of the Obama administration going back to and including  their 2010 Nuclear Posture Review as well. 

Since “nuclear deterrence” is not now and has never been the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons  policy from the get-go, then by default this means that offensive first-strike  strategic  nuclear war  fighting is now and has always been the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons policy.

This policy will also be pursued and augmented by means of  “integrated non-nuclear strike options.” (Ibid).

 Therefore the entire 2013 NPR and Obama’s recent nuclear arms “reduction”  proposals must be understood within this context of the United States pursuing an offensive, strategic first-strike  nuclear war-fighting capability as augmented by non-nuclear strike forces:

“After a comprehensive review of our nuclear forces, the President has determined that we can ensure the security of the United States and our Allies and partners and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent while safely pursuing a one-third reduction in deployed nuclear  weapons from the level established  in the New START Treaty.” Id. at 6.

And we know now for sure that all the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)  systems that Obama is currently in the process of deploying in Europe, Asia, and the United States, on land, at  sea and perhaps in Outer Space are designed to provide the United States with a  strategic,  offensive, first strike nuclear war fighting capability against Russia and China and Iran and North Korea and Syria  for starters. The latter three because the United States has taken the position that they are not in compliance with their obligations under the Nuclear  Non-Proliferation Treaty: “…the United States has relied increasingly on non-nuclear elements to strengthen regional security architectures, including a forward U.S. conventional  presence and effective theater ballistic missile defenses…” Id. at 9.

 So  the United States government  is currently preparing to launch, wage and win an offensive,  first-strike strategic nuclear war against Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and Syria.

All the rest is just palaver. Including by our Dissembler-in-Chief. An “honors”  graduate of Harvard Law School.

Professor Francis A. BoyleAuthor, The Criminality of  Nuclear Deterrence (Clarity Press: 2002)

When the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu first bragged about a red line regarding Iran’s nuclear program, the international observers assumed that the flames of an imminent war between Israel and Iran will be ignited soon and Israel will act unilaterally to launch a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities in contravention of the UN Charter. We already know that it’s far from reality to expect Israel to play the role of a committed and righteous member of the international community. Since its inception in 1948, Israel has been at odds with all of its neighbors and the countries that have challenged its legitimacy. Now, Israel feels that Iran is threatening its shaky foundations and that is why it’s using Iran’s nuclear program as an excuse to form an international union against Tehran. It has put immense pressure on Washington to convince the White House and Pentagon leaders that attacking Iran is necessary. However, it has failed to realize this inauspicious goal so far.

Former CIA executive and Georgetown University professor Paul R. Pillar believes that Israel is not in the position to question the legality of Iran’s nuclear program or resort to false excuses to attack Iran on its own or with the sponsorship of the United States.Paul Pillar is a 28-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency who had served as a U.S. Army officer in Vietnam prior to joining the CIA. He is currently a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies and a member of the Center for Peace and Security Studies. After graduating from the Oxford University in 1971, Pillar received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Princeton University in 1975 and 1978 respectively. In the second chapter of our interviews with prominent political scientists about the West and Israel’s red line for Iran, we have interviewed Prof. Pillar and asked him a number of questions about the future of standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. What follows is the text of the interview.Q: It was last year when the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu displayed a controversial cartoon before the UN General Assembly during his speech and talked of a red line which Iran will imminently cross if it continues to pursue its nuclear program with the same pace. We know that throughout the past decade, Israel has constantly threatened Iran over its nuclear program and continually issued war threats against Iran in contravention of the spirit of the UN Charter. Is this new red line a repetition of the old war rhetoric or a serious warning?

A: Netanyahu has agitated for a long time, and will keep agitating, about the dire threat he claims is presented by Iran and especially its nuclear program. It is basically the same message we have been hearing from him for years. It would be a mistake to focus on any one place he draws a line, either verbally or with his red marker. His cartoon bomb was a silly prop, but it succeeded in getting our attention; that made his speech at the UN a success.

Q: So you believe that Netanyahu’s complaints are outworn and unimportant. It seems that Obama’s conflict with Netanyahu over Iran’s nuclear program has come to surface and the fact that the U.S. President has refused to bow down to the demands made by the Israeli politicians that he should consider using the military option against Iran shows the deep differences between the two staunch allies. Although it should be noted that Obama has repeatedly said that Washington will not take any option off the table with regards to Iran’s nuclear program, he doesn’t seem to be determined in mulling over the military option. What’s your viewpoint on that?

A: President Obama does not want a war with Iran. Most Americans also do not want one, although there are elements within the United States that would welcome such a war. For Mr. Obama, talking about keeping the military option on the table is principally a way of assuaging the Israelis and reducing the chance that they will stage their own attack. The tough talk also builds for the president some capital with members of Congress whose cooperation he will need to implement the sanctions relief that would be part of any deal reached with Iran.

Q: There’s one question which Iran experts have been thinking about for a long time. Are the United States and Israel really afraid of a nuclear Iran? Don’t they know that Iran is ideologically and practically opposed to nuclear weapons? Is the nuclear program simply a pretext for confrontation with Iran?

A: For some people in Israel and the United States, hyping the Iranian nuclear issue serves purposes beyond the ostensible one. For Netanyahu’s government, for example, it serves the purpose of deflecting attention away from the continued occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory and the absence of a Palestinian state. But many, especially in Israel but also in the United States, have a genuine concern about a possible Iranian nuclear weapon.

Q: Let’s move on to the next question. What’s the general approach of the Western politicians toward the reports published by the influential intelligence agencies including the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate report which underlined that Iran does not pursue a nuclear weapons program? Do the U.S. officials intentionally overlook these reports to ramp up pressure on Iran and force it into making new concessions?

A: The U.S. intelligence community’s publicly stated judgment is that Iran has not to date decided to build a nuclear weapon, that it is keeping its options open, and that any future decision about building a bomb will depend on Iran’s reading of international circumstances and conditions. Current policy of the Obama administration, in seeking a negotiated agreement, does not contradict that judgment, however much one might quarrel with the particular mix of tactics used. There certainly are others, outside the administration, who tend to believe that Iran has already decided to acquire a nuclear weapon. And there are Western politicians who, even if they do not question directly the intelligence judgment, would say that we have to be mindful of the possibility that Iran will indeed decide to build a bomb.

Q: The U.S. administration and the Congress are unconditionally supporting the Israel and blindly following in its footsteps. They have increased their pressure on Iran simply in order to appease Israel and demonstrate their commitment to Tel Aviv. Why do the U.S. political institutions, high-ranking politicians and government support Israel in such a subservient way?

A: The lobby in the United States that supports the policies of the Israeli government has long been seen as the most powerful political lobby in the United States, certainly as far as foreign policy is concerned. The perception of power is itself an important basis for power. The power of the lobby could be broken if a critical mass of politicians all acted at the same time in defiance of the lobby’s wishes. But politicians don’t want to take that chance.

Q: What do you think about the future of nuclear talks between Iran and the six world powers? So far, the two sides have held several rounds of talks but little progress has been made and many observers have noted that no remarkable achievement has been reached during the talks. What do you think about the prospect of the negotiations? Will the West move toward winning the trust of the Iranians and easing the tensions?

A: A negotiated agreement between Iran and the P5+1 is certainly achievable, and the outlines of such agreement have been apparent for some time. The main ingredients that would have to fall in place would be a willingness by the P5+1 to provide substantial relief from sanctions in return for the desired restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, along with at least implicit acceptance of low-level enrichment of uranium by Iran. Iran will have to accept that it is not going to get everything it wants regarding sanctions all at once. An agreement will have to be implemented in phases, with each side giving something and getting something in each phase.

Q: It’s very promising that you’re hopeful about the future of nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1. But Iranian politicians and people have always complained that the United States and its European allies exercise double standards while dealing with the country’s nuclear program. They say that Israel, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, unrestrictedly develops nuclear weapons in violation of the UNSC resolution that call on it to bring its nuclear facilities under the IAEA safeguards. While not a single inspector has come to Israel to investigate its nuclear arsenal, several IAEA representatives travel to Iran frequently to monitor Iran’s nuclear program. Isn’t this behavior somewhat hypocritical and duplicitous?

A: The demands being placed on Iran do indeed constitute a double standard, especially when the country that has been most insistent and threatening in making those demands—that is, Israel—has long had an arsenal of nuclear weapons that are completely outside any international control or inspection regime.

Q: Will drawing a red line for Iran’s nuclear program prevent it from mastering the nuclear fuel cycle really commit the United States and Israel to attack Iran?

A: So-called red lines do not commit anyone to anything, and especially not to starting a war.

This interview was originally published on Iran Review website.

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s fall from grace has manifested itself in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Taksim Square now resembles Egypt’s Tahrir Square. What is interesting to note is that the timing of the massive protests comes a month after Turkey paid its debts off to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Taksim Gezi Park (or simply Gezi Park) was once part of Istanbul’s Armenian cemetery. Today, it is essentially the last green space inside Istanbul. The park is situated within Taksim Square, which itself is considered the heart of Istanbul, Turkey’s business centre and largest, most populous city.

As a gathering place, Taksim is the equivalent of London’s Trafalgar Square, the Place de la Bastille in Paris, Kiev’s Nezalezhnosti (Independence) Square, Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, and Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It serves a similar function as London’s Hyde Park and New York City’s Central Park for the residents of Istanbul. Aside from its ecological value and aesthetics, it has historically been an important and indispensable spot for political and social rallies and protests of all stripes and colours. Traditionally, Turkey’s largest May Day rallies take place in Taksim and it is an important gathering place for Turkish trade unionists and activists.

There should be little wonder as to why the plans to cut all the trees down in Gezi Park and build a brand new shopping mall for tourists—complete with an Ottoman theme—in its place have been bitterly opposed by many of the inhabitants of Istanbul. One of the last open spaces for public assembly and demonstrations in the city would be taken away with the destruction of Gezi Park. Angry residents of the city have actually been protesting the commercial gentrification and re-development of Istanbul for some time before the protests in Gezi Park erupted. One large protest was against the demolition of the Emek Cinema, a cultural heritage landmark with a mixed baroque and rococo design.

The cinema was finally destroyed in 2013 to build another shopping mall. Other protests have been against the destruction of the city’s disappearing green spaces. These events have led to the development of an eclectic urbanite movement united under what can be conceptualized and described as the banner of Henri Lefebvre’s “the right to the city.” Istanbul’s Right to the City Movement is actually part of a global phenomenon where urban dwellers are demanding the right to democratically and collectively control the development and resources in their cities. Yet, there is much more to the protests in Taksim. The demonstrations are no longer about the trees and development contracts, but about Prime Minister Erdogan and the AKP.

Re-development plans have ignored the opinions of local residents in favour of the business interests that the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) protects. Over the years there have been many evictions of people in poor and working areas. The residents of the working class and lower income neighbourhoods of Istanbul have actually been increasingly marginalized and put under pressure by urban projects.

It should come as no surprise that this type of development is increasingly a site of political contestation in Turkey and around the world. It is worth digressing to refer to the work of the Urban Studies Research Cluster at the University of California in Santa Cruz to put this into context. The Urban Studies Research Cluster points out that “social divisions are experienced increasingly in spatial terms—through gentrified housing markets and polarized job markets; unequal access to green space and unequal exposure to environmental risk; new modes of segregation and policing public space.”

 “Saving Gezi Park” turns into “Saving Turkey from Erdogan”

Occupy Gezi, the protest in Gezi Park, is the spark that ignited a fire across Istanbul and Turkey that has exposed Turkish society’s internal divisions and the growing discontent with Prime Minister Erdogan and his AKP government. It all started with the activists that began camping in Gezi Park to prevent its destruction. The Turkish police tried to use heavy handed methods to disperse the activists. Tear gas canisters were used to disperse the crowd and the situation began to escalate. The methods of the Turkish police, fully supported by Erdogan and Turkey’s AKP government, backfired and unleashed a political tremor.

More people began arriving to Gezi Park. Two Turkish Members of Parliament (MPs) also joined the ranks of the activists: Sırrı Süreyya Önder from the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party and Gülseren Onanç from the Republican People’s Party.  The Turkish Communist Party and other groups would throw their weight behind Occupy Gezi. Even though Erdogan’s AKP government enforced a media blackout and tried to prevent journalist from going to Gezi Park, word about the police siege against the activists began to spread as residents became increasingly upset by the liberal use of tear gas. The police would even resort to burning the tents of the protesters and attacking the activists with tear gas while they were sleeping. Water cannons would later be brought to Gezi Park and other protest sites in Turkey, including Ankara. Ahmet Sık, a Turkish journalist and author, would be hurt and rushed to the hospital with injuries.

As the police became more brutal, the protest attracted more and more people and began to take on a new set of meanings. This transformed Occupy Gezi into a demonstration against Erdogan’s arrogance, authoritarianism, and abuse of Turkish democracy in favour of crony capitalism. Soon more than a dozen other Turkish cities, from Ankara and Adana to Iskenderun (Alexandretta) and Trabzon, were ablaze with protests against the AKP government.

Occupy Wall Street activists would stage a rally in New York City in support of Occupy Gezi and demonstrations would appear in front of Turkish embassies across the world. The Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK), one of Turkey’s four major unions, would put its support behind the protests. Another major Turkish union, the Confederation of Public Workers Unions (KESK) would follow suit with strikes. Eventually DISK, KESK, the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB), and the Turkish Dentists Union (TDHB) would all hold strikes.

The Turkish police have systematically fired tear gas canisters at the heads of demonstrators. This has led to many injuries including fractured skulls and the loss of eyes. The Turkish Medical Association, which has condemned Prime Minister Erdogan for the violence, has said that thousands of Turkish citizens have been injured by the police. The president of the TTB, Dr. Ozbemir Aktan, has also complained that five doctors and three nurses had gone missing because they treated injured protesters.

Two young Turks, Mehmet Ayvalıtaş and Abdullah Cömert, would be killed in the early days of the protest. Ayvalıtaş, a member of the Socialist Solidarity Platform (SODAP), was run down by a car while he was demonstrating in Istanbul.  The group Redhack has implied that his death was the “intentional work of a fascist” supporting the AKP government. In Antakya, which is located near the Syrian border, Abdullah Cömert would die next. Most of the Turkish media reported that Cömert died of injuries sustained after being shot by “unidentified” gunmen, though many protesters used social media to deny the claim by blaming the police for his death.  An autopsy of Cömert, a member of the youth branch of the opposition Republican People’s Party, revealed that he died when a police tear gas canister hit him. By the start of the summer at least four demonstrators were killed and thousands of more people injured across Turkey. The Turkish police would eventually use rubber bullets at different protest sites and even begin to run out of pepper spray.

In Erdogan’s own words, “there are two Turkeys.” As the police became more brutal in their treatment of protesters, Turkey’s entire political spectrum, from left to right and from liberal to conservative, have condemned Erdogan and the AKP. Turkey’s second largest political party and main opposition party by way of parliamentary standing, the Republican People’s Party, has used the opportunity to denounce the AKP, rally its supporters, and to capitalize politically. The Republican People’s Party has used Occupy Gezi to portray the protests as a clash of cultural values, and its supporters have linked the protests to the issue of secularism and the AKP’s fresh restrictions on alcohol sales—which foreign media have picked up on—but this is not the real basis for the divisions in Turkey. The Nationalist Movement Party, Turkey’s third largest political party, has condemned the AKP government. The National Movement’s leader would go as far to say that the AKP was using such large quantities of tear gas—courtesy of the same American crowd-control industry that has been helping dictators around the world—that the AKP had “established gas chambers similar to the Nazis.” The Peace and Democracy Party, Turkish Labour Party, Turkish Communist Party, and Felicity Party all also denounced Erdogan for his reckless policies and autocratic behaviour.

Initially, Prime Minister Erdogan spoke in conspiratorial terms and called the protesters unruly extremists working to create sedition in Turkey. He promised that the project to build the shopping mall would not halt for “some old trees” and even tried to glorify the project by saying it was a tribute to Turkey’s imperial past during the Ottoman era. In thuggish language, the AKP mayor of Ankara on the other hand threatened that the AKP could crush demonstrators. The AKP and Prime Minister Erdogan, however, were forced to back down as the many misgivings of Turkey’s people undeniably surfaced. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was forced to make an apology for the violent police treatment of the protesters and the AKP government began backpedalling while Erdogan went on a tour of North Africa. The Turkish protesters have rejected the AKP government’s apology for using brute force as another insincere gesture by a dishonest government. Moreover, they have refused the appeal by Erdogan’s government to end the demonstrations.

Prime Minister Erdogan is now being equated with a fascist by the demonstrators. Referring to the deaths of two young protesters, one of the main Turkish unions turned Erdogan’s own words—which he used against Bashar Al-Assad—against the Turkish leader, asking him to resign: “A leader who kills his own people has lost his legitimacy.” In Istanbul angry crowds of five thousand people surrounded Erdgoan’s Istanbul office and hurled stones at it. The crowds have demanded that he promptly resign, chanting “Tayyip resign” and “shoulder to shoulder against fascism.” In Taksim Square over 100,000 people have gathered to demand Erdogan resign. A showdown between the demonstrators and Turkish security forces began, after Erdogan returned from North Africa. He began to call the demonstrators “terrorists” and in a threatening tone promised that they would all be individually targeted as police began to make house arrests throughout Turkey.

A Turkish Democratic Model for the Arabs?!

The tables have turned on Prime Minister Erdogan. The irony of the situation is that he is acting like an autocrat, which is exactly what he portrayed himself as opposing during the Arab Spring. Erdogan himself now resembles President Husni Mubarak, Egypt’s former dictator. He has even insisted that the protests are part of a foreign agenda and include foreign “mercenaries.” None of this has been lost on the Syrians either who have taken the opportunity to give Erdogan a taste of his own medicine. The Syrian government has issued several statements about the domestic situation in Turkey and the Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi has demanded that Erdogan resign, accusing him of “terrorizing” the Turkish people.

The Iraqi government has also taken the opportunity to make statements about the volatile situation in Turkey. Erdogan and the Turkish government have been officially accused by Baghdad of interfering in Iraqi internal affairs and seeking the division of Iraq, ethnically between Arabs and Kurds, and denominationally between Muslims. Under Erdogan the AKP has been busy trying to carve a sphere of influence in Iraqi Kurdistan and has even played with the internal legal status of Iraq’s Kirkuk by lobbying the local Turkoman population in the disputed city not to oppose the Kurdistan Regional Government’s jurisdiction claims. Refusing to recognize the Iraqi federal government’s sovereignty in Iraqi Kurdistan when it comes to foreign trade agreements and diplomatic relations, Erdogan even made a secretive deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government on oil and gas exports. It is in this context that the Iraqi government has taken the opportunity to tell Erdogan to show restraint against his own citizens. In reality, this is diplomatic tit for tat or payback for Erdogan’s confrontational public cries that have undermined the authority of the Iraqi government and essentially encouraged its toppling.

The flawed state of democracy that exists in Turkey has now come into view too. There have been attempts to enforce a media blackout in Turkey and the internet has been cut off in certain places. The Turkish mainstream media, which is tied to large business interests that support the AKP, has been embarrassingly caught collaborating with the AKP government in this regard. House arrests are being made and thousands of activists have been rounded up. Several people in the city of Izmir, a political stronghold of the Republican People’s Party, were arrested by Turkish police for the tweets they wrote on Twitter about the protests. In his anger Erdogan has condemned Twitter and all social media in general, stating: “To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”

The violations of civil liberties and media freedoms in Turkey have actually been ongoing. Turkish anti-war protesters that have been opposing Erdogan’s belligerent Syrian policy and Turkish involvement with NATO’s projects have been harassed and detained in large numbers. In 2012, the AKP moved forward with legislation restricting media freedoms. Turkey is actually the country with the most journalists imprisoned in the world according to the Committee to Protect Journalist. Journalists that have questioned official government narratives have been accused of treason and arrested. Artists that have created political art critical of Turkish officials have been arrested and charged with “insulting the dignity of a state official.” This was the “democratic model” that was being pushed on Arab societies after the so-called Arab Spring began.

Like their phony public gestures of support for the Palestinians, Erdogan and the AKP have never been interested in Arab democracy. They merely supported the toppling of Arab dictators to promote Turkish strategic and economic interests—essentially to fill their own pockets under the system of crony capitalism that dominates Turkey. It is precisely on the basis of these business interests that Erdogan and the AKP have kept silent about the democracy movements and protests against the Saudi and Bahraini regimes, which are close Turkish allies and partners.

An Economic Conspiracy Against Turkey?

Internationally, it ominously seems that a lot of Erdogan’s traditional supporters are turning their back on him, just as they did with Mubarak. The European Union and the US government have criticized Erdogan. The mainstream media in the US and Western Europe have not been reporting in favour of the AKP. Erdogan has slammed the foreign media for showing a distorted picture of Turkey and criticized the governments of some of Turkey’s allies for having double standards when it comes to Turkey.

The protests started after Turkey made its last loan repayment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in May 2013. There could be a link between the Turkish protests. Some may even accuse speculators of getting ready to siphon Turkey’s wealth, while others may suggest that soft regime change is being attempted with the intention of replacing the AKP possibly with a government by the equally corrupt Republican People’s Party. The Turkish government itself has mentioned that international banks are involved and Erdogan himself has said that the protests were tied to the planning of foreign circles that served the “interest rate lobby.”

Despite the fact that Erdogan has been praised for turning Turkey into an “economic miracle” and bringing the purchasing power of the average consumer up in Turkey, many families in Turkish society are heavily indebted. Under him crony profiteering has thrived with neoliberal economic policies that have supported corporations. Despite the fact that Turkey no longer has IMF debts, it has extremely high private sector debt, which is headed in an unsustainable direction if things do not change. Critics have accused Erdogan of hiding Turkey’s national debt by transferring it onto the shoulders of the average Turkish citizen. After the US economy, the Turkish one has one of the largest current account deficits. This says a lot, because a current account deficit happens when a country’s total imports of goods, services, and transfers is greater than its total export of goods, services, and transfers. This situation makes Turkey a net debtor.

The above factors and the anti-government protests in Turkey could have disastrous consequences for the Turkish economy. Already the demonstrations have now paralyzed large areas of Istanbul, Ankara, and other major Turkish cities. Erdogan has threatened to bring out the military. Tourism has been crippled and the Turkish economy has taken a dive. Turkish stocks and bonds have depreciated in value. In addition, the exchange rate of the Turkish Lira has dropped.

The country’s economy had already been starting to stagger before the protests due to the economic crisis in the European Union and the crisis in Syria that Erdogan has helped fuel with the US, UK, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The Turkish-supported NATO war in Libya also hurt Turkish trade with Libya. Aside from the bad relations with Armenia, Prime Minister Erdogan has managed to alienate Turkey and hurt trade with its three most important neighbours. Trade and ties with Syria, Iraq, and Iran have been affected negatively by his neo-Ottomanism.

The Turkish People Reject AKP Crony Capitalism and Neo-Ottomanism

The recent events in Turkey epitomize everything that Prime Minister Erdogan stands for. The battle over the future of Gezi Park exposes Erdogan’s championing of commercial interests and crony capitalism, which has always come at the expense of the interests of Turkish society. Even Turkey’s “Zero Problems with Neighbours” foreign policy was about supporting crony capitalism by promoting Turkish business and trade regionally.

The fact that a replica Ottoman barrack was going to be incorporated with the shopping mall project in Taksim Square represents the failed neo-Ottoman policy of Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Erdogan would ridiculously scold the Turkish protesters and say that they knew nothing about the history of the Ottoman Empire; otherwise the demonstrators would support the destruction of Gezi Park and the construction of the shopping mall. The protests in Taksim Square represents a rejection of Erdogan’s stillborn neo-Ottoman regional policy—which at its core serves the crony business interests that Erdogan and the AKP represent—by the Turkish people.

The anti-government demonstrations have yet again shown how much of a hypocrite Prime Minister Erdogan is in his deeds. He has been exposed acting in the same fashion that he took the personal opportunity to blast and vilify Arab leaders with during the Arab Spring. The Turkish leader now faces an Arab Spring of his own—actually a “Turkish Summer.” Yet, the world will still have to wait and see what direction the protest movement in Turkey takes and what its outcome(s) will be and if Erdogan is right about a foreign conspiracy involving the “interest rate lobby.” Whatever happens, the Middle East is need of a healthy and interactive Turkey that will have good relations with all its neighbours.

The Centre for Research on Globalization’s Research Associate Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya was in Istanbul in mid-June 2013 and is currently working out of Lebanon.

Legislation that gives the Canadian state draconian and arbitrary powers to suppress protests became law last week after approval from the Conservative Party-dominated federal parliament.

Bill C-309—the Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identities during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act—makes it a crime punishable by a ten-year prison term to incite a riot while wearing a mask or any face covering, including face paint.

Someone who merely participates in a riot or in an “unlawful” assembly with their face covered can, under the new law, be deemed to have committed an indictable criminal offense and jailed for up to five years.

These new offenses are in addition to the existing Criminal Code offenses of participating in a riot and participating in an unlawful assembly. Persons convicted of the former can be jailed for a maximum of two years, while the latter is considered to be among the lowest tier of criminal offenses known as “summary offenses,” which carry a maximum six-month jail term.

Under Canadian law, police and other authorities have very broad powers to illegalize protests by declaring them “unlawful assemblies.” The Criminal Code describes an “unlawful assembly” as a gathering that causes people “to fear on reasonable grounds” that it “will disturb the peace tumultuously” or provoke others to do so.

During last year’s six month-long Quebec student strike, police declared numerous protests “unlawful assemblies,” then violently set about dispersing the crowd with tear gas, baton-charges and mass arrests. In response to the tear gas, many demonstrators covered their faces with handkerchiefs. Had the new law been in force, they could potentially have been charged with concealing their identities and targeted for punitive jail terms of up to five years.

Critics of the new law have rightly condemned it as a flagrant attack on the right to free speech. Masks and face paint have been used for centuries to make political points, and there are many reasons, including fear of victimization by employers, that can cause protesters to choose to conceal their faces. Police, it need be added, have subjected political protests to blanket surveillance for years, systematically photographing and videotaping demonstrators.

Moreover, there is a long history of police instigating violence at demonstrations—through provocative crowd-control tactics and the use of agent provocateurs—so as to justify their suppression. In 2007, undercover Quebec Provincial Police officers were caught trying to incite people protesting at a trilateral US-Canada-Mexico heads of government meeting in Montebello, Quebec to attack the police. (See: “Canada: Police agent-provocateurs unmasked at Montebello summit protests”)

Bill C-309 began as a private member’s bill. Only rarely do such bills become law, but the Conservative government chose to make it a legislative priority. As the result of an amendment proposed by Robert Goguen, the parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and passed by the Conservative-dominated Justice Committee, the maximum penalty for the crime of inciting a riot while wearing some form of face-covering was increased from five to ten years.

In arguing for the legislation, the Conservatives said they wanted to give police an “additional tool” to deal with rioters.

In fact the most serious violence at political protests, to say nothing of the gravest attacks on democratic riots, have been committed by Canadian authorities. During the 2010 G-20 summit in Toronto—in a wholesale suppression of democratic rights that was abetted and supported by all three levels of government—police kicked, bludgeoned, tear-gassed, and shot rubber bullets at protesters, as well as numerous passersby. Journalists covering these unprecedented events were themselves arrested and assaulted.

In what the Ontario Ombudsman called the “most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history,” 1,100 people were arrested. Those apprehended in this dragnet were hauled into primitive detention cages, strip-searched and denied legal counsel. Subsequently, charges were dropped against the vast majority, with only a small fraction ever convicted of anything.

In Canada, as around the world, a ruling elite whose wealth and incomes have soared as a result of the a class war offensive on job, wages, and public services, has responded to growing opposition by moving to criminalize dissent.

In the past two years, the Conservative government has repeatedly illegalized strikes and impending strikes by Canada Post, Air Canada and CP Rail workers. Now Quebec’s Parti Quebecois government is threatening to criminalize a week-old strike of 175,000 construction workers.

In May 2012, the then Quebec Liberal government adopted an emergency law that effectively outlawed the Quebec student strike and placed sweeping restrictions on the right to strike over any issue in the province. On taking office the following September, the PQ made a show of repealing Bill 78, but it has endorsed repressive bylaws adopted during the student strike by Montreal, Quebec City, and many other Quebec municipalities. These bylaws make it illegal to demonstrate without the police’s express authorization of the protest route. In many cases, they also make it illegal to wear a mask, face covering or face paint at a protest even if the protest is legal. Police have already used the presence of masked demonstrators at protests to declare them “unlawful assemblies,” making all those participating liable to arrest and fines.

As a result of the new federal law, Montreal Police could potentially invoke the municipal bylaw against face-covered protestors so as to declare a protest illegal, then charge those who are face-covered with participating in an unlawful assembly while concealing their identities, making them liable to punitive jail terms

The criminalization of dissent goes hand in hand with the build-up of a secret state-within-the state. Under a series of ministerial directives, whose existence let alone content has been kept unknown to Canadians, Liberal and Conservative governments have authorized the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC)—a close partner of the U.S. National Security Agency—to mine the metadata of Canadians’ telephone, computer, and other electronic communications since at least 2005.

The “Friends of Syria” meeting in Qatar on June 22 ended with a communiqué announcing that Washington and its allies will “take all necessary practical measures” to arm the right-wing Sunni-based opposition forces, which have served as their proxies in a two-year civil war to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The announcement opens up a new stage in the war, and heightens the dangers of a regional sectarian conflagration.

The communiqué of the “Friends of Syria”—the Orwellian name given to the coalition of the US, its NATO allies, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Turkey, and the Sunni states of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar—can only be described as a criminal and reckless document. It proposes to supply sufficient weapons and supplies to the anti-Assad opposition to enable it to counter the Syrian military ahead of “peace talks” in Geneva. The document also hints at US and NATO military operations along Syria’s borders to prevent Shiite fighters from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran assisting the pro-government forces—even as imperialist aid pours in for the so-called “rebels.”

Once again, the imperialist instigators of the civil war assert that Assad and his close supporters have “no role” in Syria’s future. This is a transparent attempt to foment dissent among pro-Assad forces and trigger the collapse of the government.

Plumbing the depths of hypocrisy, the communiqué expresses “strong concern” over “increasing presence and growing radicalism in the conflict” and “terrorist elements in Syria”. The “terrorists” are Sunni extremist groups, linked to Al Qaeda, that have played the leading role in the fighting against the Assad regime and have been one of the beneficiaries of the weapons sent to Syria by US allies in the region. The stepped-up flow of arms now underway will further aid their sectarian attacks on Syria’s Alawite Shiite minority.

US Secretary of State John Kerry played the leading role in Qatar in pressuring participants to agree to the communiqué. It was adopted in defiance of sharp warnings by Russian President Vladimir Putin against the further arming of the Sunni extremists. Germany and several other countries reportedly raised concerns that the provision of arms would only further fuel sectarian Shiite-Sunni tensions across the Middle East. The US-led proxy war in Syria has already led to an escalation in fighting between rival Shiite and Sunni factions in both Lebanon and Iraq. The German government nevertheless signed off on the document.

The communiqué follows a June 14 declaration by the Obama administration that its unproven and highly dubious assertion that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons justified Washington’s provision of military aid to anti-Assad forces. In fact, as a Los Angeles Times report on June 21 indicated, US intelligence and military officers have been on the ground in Jordan and Turkey since late 2012, training rebel fighters.

Representatives of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) boasted last week that the US announcement had already resulted in the delivery of sophisticated arms, including armour piercing anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft missile launchers. FSA spokesman Louay Muqdad told Agence France Presse that the supplies, “will change the course of the battle on the ground.”

Khalid Saleh, a representative of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, told the Washington Post that the US action had sent “a very strong signal to the other countries” to step up their arming of the rebel fighters. Weapons shipments, paid for by the Gulf state monarchies, are allegedly coming in from Libyan arms dealers and include Russian-made Konkurs anti-tank missiles. Fighting has reportedly increased around the northern city of Aleppo as the opposition makes use of the new hardware to launch counter-attacks on Syrian military positions.

The Qatar meeting has been greeted in US strategic and political circles as an important step, but one that must be followed by more direct American military involvement in the Syrian war.

The Washington Post editorial on June 21 called for a Kosovo-style intervention against Syria, implying that an air war should be waged to support the anti-Assad opposition and that a “peace-keeping force”—including American troops—should be sent into the country once the regime fell.

In the USA Today yesterday, Brookings Institution strategic analysts Michael Doran and Michael O’Hanlon likewise called for open intervention to ensure Assad’s overthrow. “We can provide not only light arms, but also heavier weaponry and even air support if necessary,” they wrote.

Spelling out the logic of the regime-change operation, Doran and O’Hanlon asserted: “The calculus of Assad and his Iranian patrons will not change until Aleppo and Damascus are squarely and permanently under rebel control. These are the near-term strategic goals that the US must set for the opposition, and the United States must work to give the rebels the support necessary to achieve them. We cannot expect Assad and his inner-circle elite to accept exile until they are certain that the two major cities of Syria are beyond their control.”

What is being proposed is a bloodbath. The seizure of Aleppo and Damascus would require the bombardment of the two most densely populated urban areas in Syria and the bloody slaughter of the pro-government forces that have, until now, resisted the Sunni forces that Washington is seeking to install in power. Given the sectarian crimes already carried out by Sunni extremist militias, it would also lead to pogroms, particularly against Shiite Alawites.

The determination of the US ruling elite to realise its predatory ambitions to place the entire Middle East under its political and military dominance has produced atrocity after atrocity, above all the massive death and destruction inflicted in Iraq. In Syria, an estimated 90,000 people have already lost their lives. The stepped-up drive now taking place to reduce Syria to a US client-state portends yet more war crimes.

Presidente da Síria põe os pingos nos i’s

June 24th, 2013 by DR Bachar al-Assad

Damasco, (SANA) – O presidente Bashar al-Assad concedeu a seguinte entrevista ao jornal alemão Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ): 

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, como vê a situação no seu país? O exército sírio perdeu o controle de grandes partes da Síria, ou seja, ficaram fora do controle do governo central. Qual é a sua opinião sobre a situação? 

Assad: A sua pergunta obriga-nos a colocar as coisas no contexto: esta não é uma guerra convencional, com dois exércitos lutando pelo controle ou libertação de zonas ou partes do território. Do que realmente estamos tratando é de uma espécie de guerra de guerrilha.

E quanto ao exército sírio, não houve nenhum caso em que as nossas Forças Armadas tenham planeado entrar em algum lugar particular e não fossem bem sucedidas. Dito isto, o Exército não está presente – e não deve estar presente – em todas os cantos da Síria. O que é mais importante do que o controle de áreas no terreno são os ataques terroristas. Estamos confiantes de que podemos lutar com sucesso contra o terrorismo na Síria, mas o maior problema é o dano resultante e o custo. A crise teve um preço muito alto, mas os nossos maiores desafios virão uma vez que a crise acabe.

Os elementos estrangeiros visam prolongar a crise política e militar 

FAZ: Na sua recente entrevista à Al-Manar parecia querer preparar o público Sírio para uma luta prolongada. Foi essa a sua intenção? 

Assad: Não, isso não foi específico para a Al-Manar. Desde os primeiros dias da crise, cada vez que me perguntavam, eu disse que é provável que essa crise se prolongue devido à interferência estrangeira. Qualquer crise interna pode seguir de duas maneiras: ou é resolvida ou se intensifica em guerra civil. Nenhuma delas tem sido o caso da Síria; devido à componente externa, que procura estender a duração da crise política militarmente, eu acho que é justo dizer que as minhas previsões estavam correctas.

A genuína reconstrução reconstrói mentalidades, ideologias e concepções 

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, como espera superar a destruição em larga escala que foi infligida à Síria? 

Assad: Da mesma forma que a Alemanha ultrapassou a devastação da Segunda Guerra Mundial, e da mesma forma que muitas outras nações têm progredido e se reconstruído após as suas guerras. Espero que a Síria seguirá o mesmo caminho. Com as pessoas residentes, podemos reconstruir o país. Nós fizemos isso antes e podemos fazê-lo de novo, aprender com tudo o que passámos.

Em termos de financiamento, temos sido um país auto-suficiente desde há muito tempo. É claro que temos de ser mais produtivos do que antes por causa da situação. Países amigos que nos ajudaram no passado continuarão a oferecer o seu apoio, talvez sob a forma de empréstimos no futuro. Pode levar muito tempo, mas com a nossa determinação, nossa força e nossa solidariedade, podemos reconstruir o país.

No entanto, o desafio mais difícil é reconstruir, social e psicologicamente, aqueles que foram afectados pela crise. Não vai ser fácil eliminar os efeitos sociais da crise, especialmente as ideologias extremistas. A reconstrução real é sobre o desenvolvimento das mentes, ideologias e valores. A infra-estrutura é importante, mas não tanto quanto os seres humanos. A reconstrução é perpetuar ambos.

O mapa redesenhado da região será o das guerras Médio no Oriente 

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, durante a crise algumas zonas do país tornaram-se mais independentes ou mais dependentes da ajuda externa. Acha que isso poderia levar à redefinição das fronteiras? 

Assad: Você quer dizer, na Síria ou na região em geral?

FAZ: Na região – cem anos depois do Acordo Sykes-Picot. 

Assad: Cem anos depois de Sykes-Picot, quando falamos de redesenhar as fronteiras da nossa região, podemos usar uma analogia da arquitectura. Síria é como a pedra angular dos antigos arcos arquitectónicos. Eliminando ou alterando a pedra angular, o arco desmorona-se. Aplicando isto para a região, para o mundo, qualquer alteração dos limites da região levará a redesenhar os mapas de regiões adjacentes, já que isso vai ter um efeito de cascata que se pode descontrolar. Qualquer das grandes potências pode ser capaz de iniciar o processo, mas ninguém – incluindo a superpotência, será capaz de o parar, especialmente uma vez que existem novas fronteiras sociais hoje no Oriente Médio, que não existiam no Sykes-Picot. Essas novas fronteiras sectárias, étnicas e políticas tornam a situação muito mais complicada. Ninguém pode saber o que o Oriente Médio vai ser se houver uma tentativa de redesenhar o mapa da região. No entanto, o mais provável é que o mapa vá ser uma das muitas guerras que transcendem o Médio Oriente, que vão do Atlântico até ao Pacífico, e que ninguém pode parar.

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, na sua opinião como será a região no futuro? 

Assad: Se afastarmos o cenário destrutivo da divisão na sua última pergunta, posso imaginar um futuro completamente diferente e mais positivo, mas vai depender de como agirmos como nações e sociedades. Este cenário envolve uma série de desafios, o primeiro dos quais é o restabelecimento da segurança e da estabilidade; o nosso segundo desafio é o processo de reconstrução. No entanto, o nosso maior e mais importante desafio é em relação ao extremismo.

Tornou-se muito claro que houve uma mudança nas sociedades da nossa região longe da moderação, especialmente religiosa. A questão é: podemos restaurar estas sociedades na sua ordem natural? Podem as nossas diversas sociedades continuar a viver juntas como um todo natural? Neste ponto, eu gostaria de esclarecer alguns termos. As palavras de tolerância e convivência são frequentemente usadas para definir as nossas sociedades. No entanto, a definição mais precisa e adequada de como as nossas sociedades costumavam ser – e como devem ser, é harmoniosa. Contrariamente à percepção, a questão não é nem a tolerância – já que chegará um dia em que não se é mais tolerante, nem é a questão sobre a coexistência – já que coexistimos com os adversários, mas é o harmonia. O que já nos caracterizou na região foi a harmonia. Ninguém pode dizer que a sua mão coexistirá com, ou tolerará o pé, porque há uma complementaridade de ambos, são parte de um todo harmonioso.

Outro desafio é a reforma política e a questão de saber que sistema político manteria a nossa sociedade coerente: presidencial, semi-presidencial ou parlamentar, assim como decidir qual a legislação mais adequada para governar os partidos políticos. Na Alemanha, por exemplo, têm o Partido Democrata Cristão. Na Síria, não poderíamos fazer os feriados religiosos, nem cristãos, nem muçulmanos, porque para nós a religião é para a pregação e não para a prática política. Há muitos outros detalhes, mas a essência está em aceitar os outros. Se não podemos aceitar o outro não podemos ser democráticos, mesmo com a melhor das constituições ou as melhores leis.

Somos um Estado laico que trata essencialmente os seus cidadãos por igual 

FAZ: O Sr. Presidente, onde situa o secularismo no meio do crescente poder islâmico na região? 

Assad: Esta é uma pergunta muito importante, muitas pessoas na região não entendem essa relação. O Oriente Médio é um centro de diferentes ideologias. A sociedade árabe está baseada principalmente em dois pilares: o Pan-arabismo e o Islão. Há outras ideologias, como o comunismo, o liberalismo, o nacionalismo sírio, mas estes não são tão populares. Muitas pessoas entendem o secularismo como sinónimo de comunismo no passado, porque é contra a religião. Na verdade, o oposto é que é verdadeiro; para nós, na Síria, o secularismo é que trata da liberdade de confissão incluindo o cristianismo, o islamismo e o judaísmo, e as várias seitas dentro dessas religiões. O laicismo é crucial para a nossa unidade e sentido de pertença nacional. Portanto, não temos escolha a não ser fortalecer o secularismo, porque a religião já é forte na nossa região, e devo salientar aqui que isso é muito saudável. O que não é saudável é o extremismo, já que, em ultima instância, leva ao terrorismo. Nem todos os extremistas são terroristas, mas todo o terrorista é, definitivamente, um extremista.

Assim, em resposta à sua pergunta, nós somos um Estado laico que trata, essencialmente, os seus cidadãos igualmente, independentemente da religião, seita ou grupo étnico. Todos os cidadãos gozam de igualdade de oportunidades, independentemente das crenças religiosas.

A Síria está passando por situações difíceis, definitivamente não é uma estância turística 

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, como é que vê os dois anos e meio desde a chamada Primavera Árabe? 

Assad: Isso é um erro. A Primavera não inclui o derramamento de sangue, o assassinato, o extremismo, a destruição de escolas ou evitar que as crianças vão à escola, ou impedir as mulheres de escolher o que vestir e o que é bom para elas. A primavera é a estação mais bonita, mas nós avançamos através das circunstâncias mais terríveis; definitivamente isso não é primavera. A Primavera é compatível com o que está acontecendo na Síria – a matança, o sacrifício, a decapitação, o canibalismo? Deixo isso ao seu critério.

FAZ: Quais são as questões que a chamada “Primavera Árabe” supostamente deverá resolver? 

Assad: A solução não está na “primavera” ou qualquer outra coisa, a solução está em nós. Nós somos os únicos que devemos oferecer soluções, ser pró-activos ao invés de reactivos. Quando nos aproximamos dos nossos problemas de forma pró-activa garantimos que temos as soluções certas. Soluções impostas pela ‘primavera’ só podem levar a resultados distorcidos.

Como muitos países do Oriente Médio, temos muitos problemas de que estamos cientes e vemos objectivamente. Esta é a forma como esses problemas devem ser resolvidos, uma vez que as soluções são fabricadas internamente e não externamente, pois isso pode produzir uma solução distorcida ou morta. É por esta razão que chamamos ao diálogo e ás soluções, que devem ser cultivadas por nós, a fim de garantir que nos levam á Síria que aspiramos.

O que está acontecendo no Iraque, no Líbano, são consequências da situação na Síria 

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, o senhor rejeitou qualquer forma de intervenção estrangeira e alertou para que isso iria prolongar a batalha para áreas mais amplas. Isso já aconteceu? 

Assad: Vamos ser claros sobre isso; existem dois tipos de intervenção estrangeira: indirectamente através de intermediários ou agentes, e intervenção directa por meio de uma guerra convencional. Estamos vivendo a primeira. No início da crise, eu avisei que a intervenção na Síria – mesmo que indirectamente, é semelhante à manipulação de uma linha de falha, o que criaria ondas de choque em toda a região. Naquela época, muitas pessoas – especialmente nos meios de comunicação, entendia isto como o presidente Assad ameaçar espalhar a crise além das fronteiras da Síria. Claramente eles não entenderam o que quis dizer no momento, mas é exactamente isso que está acontecendo agora.

Se olharmos para a realidade à nossa frente, podemos ver claramente que o que está acontecendo no Iraque, no Líbano, são repercussões da situação na Síria, e isso vai-se espalhar mais e mais. Vemos essas ramificações e a intervenção ainda é indirecta, agora imagine as consequências de uma intervenção militar. A situação, claro, ficaria muito pior e, em seguida, o efeito dominó do extremismo generalizado, o caos e fragmentação.

As relações de cooperação com a Rússia e o Irão estão garantidas pelo direito internacional 

FAZ: Você critica países, como a Arábia Saudita, Qatar, Turquia e Reino Unido pelo seu envolvimento na crise Síria, mas não é verdade que a Rússia e o Irão também estão envolvidos? 

Assad: Há uma diferença significativa entre a cooperação de Estados contra a desestabilização de um país e a ingerência em seus assuntos internos. A cooperação entre países é concebida no conceito de vontade mútua, de uma forma que preserva a soberania, a independência, estabilidade e auto-determinação. Nosso relacionamento com a Rússia, o Irão e outros países que apoiam a Síria são relações de cooperação certificadas no âmbito do direito internacional.

Os países que você mencionou, adoptaram políticas que se intrometem nos assuntos internos da Síria, o que constitui uma violação flagrante do direito internacional e da soberania nacional. A diferença, portanto, é que a cooperação entre países tem por objectivo preservar a estabilidade e perpetuar a prosperidade das nações, enquanto a interferência estrangeira é destinada a desestabilizar o país, a disseminação do caos e a perpetuar a ignorância.

FAZ: O senhor falou sobre o impacto da crise da Síria no Iraque e Líbano, cujas sociedades são baseadas no que poderíamos chamar um sistema sectário. Acha que um sistema deste tipo com pilares sunitas e xiitas poderia ser estabelecido na Síria? 

Assad: Não há dúvida que os sistemas sectários em países vizinhos, os distúrbios sectários e guerras civis – como no Líbano há 30 anos, afectariam inevitavelmente a Síria. É por isso que a Síria interveio no Líbano em 1976 – para se proteger e proteger o Líbano. É por esta razão que estamos acompanhando de perto o desenrolar dos acontecimentos no Iraque – que nos irão afectar directamente. É também por esta razão que nos opomos fortemente á guerra no Iraque, apesar das tentações americanas e das ameaças ao longo do tempo. Rejeitamos perder a estabilidade a troco de apaziguar os americanos. Os sistemas sectários são perigosos e é por isso que insistimos no modelo secular no qual todos os cidadãos são iguais, independentemente da religião.

Jabhat al-Nusra é um ramo da al-Qaeda e tem a mesma ideologia 

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, está a lutar contra a “Al-Nusra Jabhat”. Pode dizer-nos o que é essa organização, quem os apoia, e lhes dá o dinheiro e as armas? 

Assad: Jabhat Al-Nusra é um grupo filiado na Al-Qaeda, com uma ideologia semelhante e cujos membros vivem na Síria, Iraque, Líbano e Jordânia e outros países árabes e muçulmanos, que estão bem financiados e têm um monte de armas. É difícil rastrear as suas origens devido ao facto de que o seu apoio está a ser feito secretamente através de indivíduos ricos e organizações que adoptam a mesma ideologia.

O seu principal objectivo é estabelecer um Estado islâmico de acordo com a sua interpretação do Islão. A ideia central do seu pensamento político é a doutrina Wahhabi – comparável a Al-Qaeda no Afeganistão. Essa ideologia está sendo sempre ministrada especialmente às mulheres. Eles alegam a aplicação da lei islâmica e da religião islâmica, mas, na realidade, as suas acções são uma completa distorção da verdadeira religião do Islão. Vimos exemplos da sua brutalidade nos nossos canais de satélite tiradas a partir de imagens que publicam sobre o assunto no You Tube para espalhar a sua ideologia; um exemplo recente foi a decapitação de um homem inocente, que foi transmitida pela televisão belga.

FAZ: Qual é a motivação da Arábia Saudita e Qatar para ajudar e armar terroristas contra si, o que eles estão tentando alcançar? 

Assad: Primeiro de tudo, eu acho que esta é uma pergunta a que eles deveriam responder. Vou responder levantando algumas questões. Eles apoiam os grupos armados por causa de sua crença apaixonada pela liberdade e democracia, como eles dizem nos seus meios de comunicação? Existe alguma forma de democracia nos seus próprios países, que permita apoiar adequadamente a democracia na Síria? Têm parlamentos eleitos ou constituições votadas pelo seu povo? A sua população decidiu em algum momento, durante as décadas anteriores, que sistema de governo quer? Seja monárquica, presidencial, principado, ou qualquer outra forma? Então, as coisas são claras: eles devem primeiro prestar atenção às suas próprias nações e, em seguida, responder à sua pergunta.

França e Grã-Bretanha procuram fantoches para levar a cabo os seus interesses 

FAZ: Nessa confusão, por que a Grã-Bretanha e a liderança da França, Arábia Saudita e Qatar? O que esperam alcançar? 

Assad: Não posso responder em nome da Grã-Bretanha ou França, mas posso dar a impressão geral aqui. Eu acho que a França e a Grã-Bretanha têm um problema com o papel ‘chato’ da Síria na região – como eles o vêem. Esses países, como os Estados Unidos, estão em busca de fantoches para cumprir as suas ordens e servir os seus interesses, sem dúvida. Nós sempre rejeitámos isso e vamos sempre ser independentes e livres. Parece que a França e a Grã-Bretanha não se esqueceram ainda da sua história colonial e persistem em tentar manipular a região ainda que através de “procuradores”. Na verdade, a Grã-Bretanha e a França podem dirigir a Arábia Saudita e Qatar sobre o que fazer, mas não podemos esquecer que as políticas e as economias da França e da Grã-Bretanha também dependem dos petrodólares.

O que aconteceu na Síria foi uma oportunidade para esses países se livrarem da Síria – esse estado insubordinado, e substituir o presidente por um “yes man”. Isso nunca vai acontecer, nem agora nem no futuro.

FAZ: A União Europeia não renovou o embargo de armas à Síria, mas ainda não aprovou armar a oposição. Qual é a sua avaliação desta fase? 

Assad: É claro que há uma divisão no seio da União Europeia sobre esta questão. Eu não posso dizer que a UE apoia o governo sírio, há países, especialmente Grã-Bretanha e França, que são especialmente hostis à Síria. Por outro lado, há países – a Alemanha, em particular, que estão fazendo perguntas lógicas sobre as consequências futuras de armar os terroristas. Bem, antes de tudo, isso iria perpetuar a destruição na Síria, forçando o povo sírio a pagar um preço ainda mais alto. Em segundo lugar, através do fornecimento de armas aos terroristas, e os europeus estão bem informados que se trata de grupos terroristas. Alguns estão repetindo a retórica americana de “bons e maus”, como fizeram há alguns anos atrás com o “bom e mau Taliban, a Al-Qaeda boa e a Al-Qaeda má”. Hoje há um novo discurso que está promovendo “bons terroristas e maus terroristas”. Isto tem lógica?

Se o terrorismo prevalece, ele vai-se espalhar até à Europa 

Eles estão cientes de que as armas enviadas para a região vão acabar nas mãos de terroristas, o que terá duas consequências. Primeiro, o quintal traseiro da Europa vai-se tornar um centro de terrorismo e caos, o que leva à privação e à pobreza. A Europa vai pagar o preço e perder um mercado importante. Em segundo lugar, o terrorismo não vai parar por aqui – se estenderá aos seus países. será exportado através da imigração ilegal ou através dos mesmos terroristas que retornaram aos seus países de origem depois de terem sido doutrinados e treinados fortemente. Estas questões prementes na minha opinião estão criando uma grande divisão ou discórdia no seio da União Europeia, embora não lhes agrade, mas não têm outra opção senão colaborar com o governo sírio, mesmo se não concordam com ele.

FAZ: Vossa Excelência afirmou que, se os países europeus enviam armas para a Síria, seriam efectivamente aos terroristas armados. Considera que todos os militantes armados são terroristas? 

Assad: Como cidadão europeu ou alemão eu vou-lhe fazer a mesma pergunta: no seu país permitem a alguém portar armas, intimidar ou matar pessoas inocentes, destruir e saquear? Qualquer indivíduo ou grupo, excluindo o exército e a polícia, que porta armas, mata pessoas, ameaça e intimida a segurança pública é terrorista por definição, é um padrão em todos os países. Independentemente de sua origem, se são extremistas, criminosos, ladrões ou delinquentes condenados, aqueles que carregam armas na Síria estão cometendo este tipo de actos essencialmente. Portanto, são terroristas. Nós diferenciamos terroristas de grupos de oposição convencionais, já que estes últimos são uma entidade política e têm uma agenda política. A matança e o sacrifício são terrorismo e mergulham o país em regressão anos para trás.

FAZ: Então, Sr. Presidente, o senhor vê o futuro como uma luta contra o terrorismo? 

Assad: Essa é a conclusão lógica, mas na Europa há muitos políticos ilógicos, irrealistas e irresponsáveis, que estão usando os seus sentimentos negativos em vez da razão. A política não deve ser alimentada pelo amor ou pelo ódio, mas por interesses. Como cidadão alemão, você deve questionar-se sobre o que podem ganhar com o que está acontecendo na nossa região? Basicamente, o que está acontecendo agora é contra os seus interesses nacionais, o seu verdadeiro interesse reside na luta contra o terrorismo.

FAZ: Alguns consideram o Hezbollah como uma organização terrorista, sabemos que lutou ao lado das tropas sírias em al-Quseir. Também ouvimos dizer que há combatentes da Guarda Revolucionária Iraniana consigo. Você precisa realmente dessas forças? 

Assad: A Comunicação Social está tentando retratar o Hezbollah como a principal força de combate e o exército sírio como fraco e incapaz de alcançar a vitória. Na verdade, nos últimos meses temos conseguido importantes vitórias em diferentes partes da Síria, e em todas estas vitórias – algumas mais importante do que a de al-Quseir – o exército sírio lutou sozinho. Nada disto é destaque na Comunicação Social. Uma das razões dessas vitórias são as Forças de Defesa Nacional – cidadãos locais a lutar ao lado do exército para defender suas comunidades e regiões. Al-Quseir tem recebido mais atenção internacional devido a declarações de autoridades ocidentais que a projectam como uma cidade estratégica, na medida em que alguns funcionários até mesmo alguns dos Estados da Nação afirmam compreender a situação de al-Quseir! Havia muito exagero mas havia também um grande número de armas e militantes. Esses terroristas começaram a atacar as cidades fronteiriças leais ao Hezbollah, o que justifica a sua intervenção junto ao exército sírio, a fim de restaurar a estabilidade.

O exército sírio é um grande exército capaz de cumprir a sua missão através da Síria, com o apoio das comunidades locais. Se estivéssemos com necessidade de tal assistência, por que não usar essas forças nos campos de Damasco, perto da capital? Damasco é certamente mais importante do que a al-Quseir, como é Aleppo e todas as outras grandes cidades, pelo que isso não faz qualquer sentido. Mas, como eu disse anteriormente, o objectivo desse frenesi é reflectir uma imagem do Hezbollah como a principal força para provocar confrontos e pôr a opinião pública ocidental e internacional contra o Hezbollah.

FAZ: Que força e dimensão têm as brigadas Hezbollah actualmente na Síria? 

Assad: Não há brigadas. Eles mandaram os combatentes que ajudaram o exército sírio na limpeza de áreas de fronteira libanesas que foram infiltradas por terroristas. Eles não mobilizaram forças na Síria. Como vocês sabem, as forças do Hezbollah estão posicionadas em direcção a Israel e não podem afastar-se do sul do Líbano. Além disso, se o Hezbollah queria enviar combatentes para a Síria, quantos poderia enviar? Apenas algumas centenas. O exército sírio dispõe de centenas de milhares de soldados em todo o país. Várias centenas faziam diferença numa área, mas não seria concebível que fossem o suficiente para fazer pender a balança em toda a Síria.

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, a Grã-Bretanha e a França dizem ter provas de que foram usadas armas químicas. A Casa Branca afirmou que tem informações de que se provocou a morte de 100-150 pessoas num ano, para além de se ter negado o acesso a investigadores da ONU para áreas na Síria, à excepção de Aleppo. Como se explica essa situação?

Assad: Vamos começar com o comunicado da Casa Branca sobre as 150 vítimas. Militarmente falando, é um conceito bem conhecido que durante as guerras, as armas convencionais podem causar este número de mortes, ou até mais, em um único dia, não num ano. Armas de destruição em massa geralmente matam milhares de pessoas em um determinado momento. Este elevado número de mortos é o principal motivo para a sua utilização. É contra a lógica usar armas químicas para provocar um número de mortes que poderia ser alcançado com o uso de armas convencionais.

Estados Unidos, França, Grã-Bretanha e alguns funcionários europeus disseram que se utilizaram armas químicas em uma série de áreas. Apesar de tais armas existirem ou não, nunca confirmamos ou negamos a posse destas armas.

Se tivessem obtido uma única ponta de evidências de que armas químicas foram utilizadas, não acha que teriam publicado e teriam feito uma música e dançado sobre elas em todo o mundo? Onde está a prova que os levou a um tal resultado?

Estas acusações são ridículas. Os grupos terroristas usaram armas químicas em Aleppo, e então nós enviamos uma carta oficial à ONU pedindo uma investigação oficial sobre o incidente. Grã-Bretanha e França bloquearam esta investigação porque teria mostrado que os ataques químicos foram levados a cabo por grupos terroristas e, portanto, isso fornecia provas conclusivas de que eles (a Grã-Bretanha e França) estavam mentindo. Convidamos a vir à Síria para investigar o incidente, mas em vez disso, queriam que os inspectores tivessem acesso incondicional a todos os locais na Síria, em paralelo com o que fizeram os inspectores no Iraque. Somos um Estado soberano, temos um exército e todos os assuntos considerados classificados nunca serão acessíveis nem á ONU, nem à Grã-Bretanha nem à França. Só permitiremos o acesso para investigar o incidente ocorrido em Aleppo.

Portanto, todos os pedidos relacionados com o uso de armas químicas são uma extensão da fabricação contínua dos EUA e ocidental da situação actual na Síria. A sua única finalidade é justificar as suas políticas para a sua opinião pública e o uso da reclamação como um pretexto para a intervenção militar e mais derramamento de sangue na Síria.

FAZ: Os protestos começaram na Síria pacificamente antes de se tornar uma luta armada. Os seus críticos dizem que poderia ter lidado com os protestos através de reformas políticas, o que o torna, em parte, responsável pela destruição na Síria. Qual é a sua opinião sobre isso? 

Assad: Nós começamos as reformas nos primeiros dias da crise e, talvez mesmo, para sua surpresa, direi que se iniciaram anos antes da crise. Emitimos uma série de novas leis, levantou-se o estado de emergência e até se mudou a Constituição através de um referendo. Este é um facto bem conhecido no Ocidente, mas o que Ocidente se recusa a ver é que, desde as primeiras semanas de protestos que tínhamos polícias mortos. Assim, como poderiam estes protestos têm sido pacíficos? Como poderiam aqueles que dizem que os protestos foram pacíficos explicar a morte desses oficiais na primeira semana? Poderiam os cantos dos manifestantes, na verdade, matar um policia? Não.

Desde o início da crise, temos sempre reiterado que militantes armados se infiltraram entre os manifestantes e dispararam contra a polícia. Em outras ocasiões, estes militantes armados estavam em áreas próximas aos protestos e dispararam contra manifestantes e forças policiais para levar a crer que foram mortos pelo outro lado. Isso foi demonstrado por meio de investigações e confissões, que foram anunciadas em larga escala nos meios de comunicação sírios.

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, é relatado que o exército sírio bombardeou algumas áreas. Não havia outra opção? 

Assad: Estamos perseguindo terroristas que se infiltram repetidamente em áreas povoadas. Tomando o exemplo de Al-Qseir, houve um frenesi da média ocidental afirmando que havia 50.000 civis, o que, na verdade, é mais do que a população original da cidade. Na verdade, quando os terroristas entraram na área, os habitantes fugiram, portanto, quando entrámos não encontrámos civis. Normalmente onde os terroristas se infiltram, os civis fogem e as batalhas ocorrem mais tarde. As evidências mostram claramente que a maioria das vítimas na Síria são parte das forças armadas. A maioria dos civis morre em atentados suicidas. Eles também morrem quando os terroristas entram em uma área, para realizar execuções e usá-los como escudos humanos. Os restantes casos são terroristas sírios ou estrangeiros.

FAZ: Depois do impulso alcançado em Al-Qseir, sente que é hora de estender a mão à oposição e considerar a reconciliação? 

Assad: Desde o primeiro dia que estendemos a mão a todos os que acreditam no diálogo, esta posição não mudou. No início da crise, tivemos uma conferência de diálogo nacional, lutando ao mesmo tempo contra os terroristas. Mas quando falamos da oposição, é preciso não colocá-los todos no mesmo cesto, é essencial distinguir entre terroristas e políticos. Na Alemanha, há uma oposição, mas não armada. A oposição é um acto político, e assim, quando nos referimos à oposição, referimo-nos aos políticos, com quem estamos sempre comprometidos para o diálogo, independentemente do que aconteceu em Al-Qseir.

Quanto à reconciliação nacional, penso que não se pode aplicar com precisão á Síria um cenário de guerra civil, como foi o caso no Líbano, ou do conflito entre negros e brancos na África do Sul. No nosso caso, trata-se de um diálogo nacional para determinar um caminho para sair da crise e para os terroristas deporem as armas. Em qualquer caso, estamos esperando a conferência de Genebra, que visa essencialmente a mesma solução política. No entanto, existem impedimentos externos, Turquia, Qatar, Arábia Saudita, França e Grã-Bretanha, que continuam a fazer todos os esforços para sabotar o diálogo, a fim de prolongar a crise síria e evitar uma resolução política.

FAZ: Como definiria a oposição política legítima? 

Assad: Essencialmente, qualquer partido da oposição que não apoia o terrorismo, não usa armas, e tem uma agenda política clara. Mas os grupos de oposição também estão vinculados a eleições; sua influência vai depender do que eles obtenham nas eleições autárquicas e, mais importante, nas eleições parlamentares. Enfrentamos muitos grupos que se auto-denominam de oposição, o seu sucesso será determinado por duas questões importantes: qual é a sua base popular? E qual é o seu manifesto político? Então se agirá em conformidade.

FAZ: Segmentos da oposição afirmam que não tomou medidas para formar uma frente unida com eles contra a intervenção estrangeira. Isto é verdade, Sr. Presidente? 

Assad: Pelo contrário, na conferência de diálogo nacional, em 2011, houve um convite aberto a todos aqueles que se consideravam na oposição. Alguns optaram por participar, enquanto outros optaram por boicotar e nos culpar por não tomar medidas para uma solução. Mas devemos perguntar: o que querem dizer? O que deveríamos estar oferecendo? Cargos ministeriais no governo? A oposição ao actual governo ganhou assentos muito disputados no parlamento. Quando uma oposição, formada por centenas, não tem nenhum assento no parlamento como se pode determinar quem merece fazer parte do governo? Precisamos de critérios claros que não devem ser negligenciados.

Dito de outra forma, o governo não é de propriedade do presidente para ele dar presentes aos outros na forma de ministérios. Exige-se um diálogo nacional e um processo político através do qual os eleitores possam escolher, entre outras coisas, o governo e a Constituição.

FAZ: Quais são os critérios para o diálogo entre governo e oposição? Poderiam incluir a oposição que vive no exterior? 

Assad: Nós não temos problemas com os grupos autónomos de oposição que servem uma agenda nacional. Quanto à oposição sediada no exterior, temos de ser muito claros, os seus membros vivem no estrangeiro e informam as chancelarias ocidentais e agências de inteligência. Eles estão baseados no exterior e são, em essência, manipulados pelos estados que fornecem o seu financiamento. A verdadeira oposição síria significa que representa o povo sírio e não países estrangeiros, o que significa ter a sede na Síria e compartilhar os fardos e preocupações do povo sírio. Essa oposição, inevitavelmente, será parte de qualquer processo político.

FAZ: Lutar contra o terrorismo tornou-se agora a prioridade. Na sua recente entrevista à Al-Manar TV, você disse que se se vai iniciar um diálogo, que melhor o faria com o senhor de que com os escravos. Até que ponto você está preparado para o diálogo com estas entidades, no futuro, uma vez que lutaram eficazmente contra o terrorismo? 

Assad: É precisamente por esta razão que vamos assistir à conferência de Genebra. Eu usei a noção do senhor e do escravo para explicar o que nós sabemos que vai acontecer na realidade. Negociar com aqueles que não têm autonomia sobre suas próprias decisões significa essencialmente fazer, de facto, a negociação com os decisores políticos que ditam como agir, o que aceitar e o que rejeitar. Viu-se recentemente na televisão as imagens do embaixador francês na Síria a dar ordens à oposição externa e insultar, ou o embaixador dos EUA na Síria, gritando e insultando-os. Portanto, na realidade, estamos negociando com os Estados Unidos, Grã-Bretanha, França e os seus instrumentos regionais, Turquia, Qatar e Arábia Saudita. Esses grupos que se intitulam oposição externa são apenas simples funcionários, por isso temos os amos e os escravos.

Esperamos que a conferência de Genebra sirva para impulsionar o processo de diálogo na Síria 

FAZ: Quais são as suas expectativas para a conferência? Será um progresso ou a estagnação? 

Assad: Esperamos que a conferência de Genebra promoverá o processo de diálogo na Síria, especialmente desde que, no início deste ano, apresentámos uma visão de uma solução política com base no comunicado I de Genebra. No entanto, mesmo indo participar na conferência com esta compreensão, temos de ser claros sobre os factos. Em primeiro lugar, os mesmos países que eu mencionei acima que estão apoiando os terroristas na Síria têm todo o interesse em que as negociações falhem. A pergunta lógica é: qual é a relação entre a Conferência de Genebra e o terrorismo no terreno? Simplesmente, se a Conferência de Genebra tiver êxito, como é a nossa esperança, para impedir o contrabando de armas e terroristas – há mais de 29 nacionalidades diferentes documentados na Síria – então isso seria um catalisador para a resolução da crise síria.

Mas se o contrabando de armas e terroristas continua, qualquer solução política não tem nenhum valor. Esperamos que a conferência de Genebra fará deste ponto o elemento mais importante nas negociações, que em última instância determinam o sucesso ou fracasso.

FAZ: Se Genebra II falhar, quais são as consequências? 

Assad: Os países que eu mencionei acima continuarão a apoiar os terroristas. Um fracasso em resolver a crise síria fará que se espalhe para outros países, e as coisas só pioram. Logicamente portanto, todas as partes têm interesse no seu sucesso. Quanto à oposição externa, se Genebra II for bem sucedida, eles vão perder o seu financiamento, e se você não tem dinheiro e não tem apoio popular, acabará sem nada.

FAZ: Poderia Genebra II propor um governo de diferentes entidades políticas? 

Assad: Isto é o que temos proposto na nossa iniciativa política. Propusemos a formação de um governo alargado de várias entidades políticas para preparar as eleições parlamentares, os vencedores destas eleições poderiam ter um papel no futuro. Esta é uma abordagem a que temos estado abertos desde o início.

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, alguns críticos argumentam que muito sangue foi derramado na Síria, mas culpam a direcção e vêem-no como um obstáculo que se interpõe no caminho do futuro da Síria. Consideraria renunciar, a fim de formar uma nova Síria? 

Assad: O presidente tem um mandato nos termos da Constituição; o meu mandato expira em 2014. Quando o país está em crise, espera-se que o presidente deverá assumir o peso da responsabilidade e resolver a situação, e não deixe seu cargo e vá embora. Costumo usar a analogia do capitão de um navio fustigado por uma tempestade; imagine-se o capitão abandonar o navio e fugir num bote! Se eu decidisse sair agora estaria cometendo traição. Agora se, por outro lado, o público decidisse que eu deveria renunciar, isso seria outra questão. E isso só pode ser determinado através de eleições ou de um referendo. A título de exemplo, no referendo constitucional anterior, houve uma participação de 58% – o que é muito bom, em tais circunstâncias, e a Constituição foi aprovada por 89,4%.

A questão nunca foi sobre o presidente, no entanto, trataram de apresentá-la como tal, a fim de forçar o presidente a vender-se aos países que apoiam a oposição, e instalar um presidente fantoche.

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, o senhor vive com sua família em Damasco. Qual é o apoio público que você e sua família desfrutam? 

Assad: Quando numerosos vizinhos e países da região e do Ocidente se estão opondo a si, você não poderia continuar sem o apoio popular. O povo sírio estão muito consciente do que está acontecendo e tem entendido a dinâmica da crise desde o início, por isso o seu apoio ao seu governo e exército nunca foram tão grandes.

FAZ: No próximo ano haverá eleições presidenciais; como vê estas eleições? 

Assad: Serão realizadas de acordo com a nova Constituição, ou seja, as eleições com vários candidatos. Será uma experiência nova, que não podemos prever neste momento.

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, qual é a sua visão para a Síria nos próximos cinco anos? 

Assad: Reitero que o nosso maior desafio é o extremismo. Se pudermos lutar contra ele, com uma melhor educação, novas ideias e a cultura, então podemos avançar para um estado democrático saudável. A democracia, como a vemos na Síria não é um objectivo em si mesmo, mas um meio para um fim – a estabilidade e prosperidade. As leis e as constituições também são apenas ferramentas, ferramentas para o desenvolvimento e o progresso das sociedades. Porém, para a democracia florescer, deve tornar-se um modo de vida – uma parte da nossa cultura, e isso não pode acontecer quando há tantos tabus sociais impostos pelas ideologias extremistas.

Além disso, há, naturalmente, o processo de reconstrução, um novo impulso às nossas indústrias nacionais e a restauração e a abertura da nossa economia. Vamos continuar a ser abertos na Síria, ainda estamos aprendendo e vamos tirar as lições desta crise. Uma dessas lições é que a ignorância é o pior inimigo da sociedade e é a base para o extremismo, e esperamos que a Europa tenha aprendido com essas lições.

FAZ: Sr. Presidente, muito obrigado. Fiquei muito impressionado pela sua personalidade e sua visão, espero que a Europa e o Ocidente beneficiem desta entrevista e possam vê-lo a si e ao seu país de forma diferente. 

Assad: Obrigado e seja bem-vindo de novo à Síria.

Ver também:

Presidential Rule by Deception: Obama, the Master Con-man

June 24th, 2013 by Prof. James Petras

Introduction

In an electoral system, run by and for a corporate oligarchy, deception and demagoguery are essential elements – entertaining the people while working for the wealthy.

Every US President has engaged, in one fashion or another, in ‘play acting’ to secure popular approval, neutralize hostility and distract voters from the reactionary substance of their foreign and domestic policies.

Every substantive policy is accompanied by a ‘down home’ folksy message to win public approval. This happened with President ‘Jimmy’ Carter’s revival of large-scale proxy wars in Afghanistan in the post-Viet Nam War period; Ronald Reagan’s genocidal wars in Central America, George Bush Sr.’s savaging of Iraq in the First Gulf War; ‘Bill’ Clinton’s decimation of social welfare in the US while bombing civilians in Yugoslavia and deregulating Wall Street; George Bush Jr.’s invasion and partition of Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempted coup in Venezuela and massive tax cuts for the rich; and Barack Obama’s staggering bailout of the biggest Wall Street speculators, unprecedented launching of five consecutive wars, and arrest and deportation of millions of immigrant workers. Each President has elaborated a style in order to ingratiate himself with the public while pursuing his reactionary agenda.

In rhetoric, appearance and in public persona, it is ‘de rigueur’ for US Presidents to present themselves as an ‘everyman’ while committing political actions – including war crimes worthy of prosecution.

Each President, in his ‘play acting’, develops a style suitable to the times. They constantly strive to overcome the public’s suspicion and potential hostility to their overt and covert policies designed to build empire as domestic conditions deteriorate. However, not all play acting is the same: each President’s ‘populist’ style in defense of oligarchic interests has its characteristic nuances.

 The Carter Feint: ‘Human Rights’ Wars in the Post-Viet Nam War Era

‘Jimmy’ Carter was elected President at a time of the greatest mass anti-war upheaval in US history. His campaign projected a soft-spoken, conciliatory President from humble roots reaching out to the anti-war electorate and solemnly pledging to uphold human rights against domestic militarists and their overseas despotic allies. To that end, he appointed a liberal human rights advocate Pat Derian to the State Department and a veteran Cold Warrior, Zbigniew (Zbig) Brzezinski, as National Security Advisor and foreign policy strategist.

Duplicity reared its head immediately: Carter openly criticized the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua – while privately telling the dictator to ignore the public criticisms and assuring him of continuing US support.[1] As the Sandinista revolution advanced toward victory, Carter convoked a meeting of Latin American leaders urging them to join in a joint military intervention with the US to ‘save lives’ and to prevent the popular Nicaraguan revolution from taking power and dismantling the dictator’s army. It soon became clear to the leaders of Latin America that Carter’s mission was a thinly- veiled ‘humanitarian’ version of ‘gunboat diplomacy’ and they declined. When Carter realized that, without the fig leaf of Latin American participation, a US-led invasion would arouse universal opposition, he abandoned the project. The political climate would not support a unilateral US invasion so soon after the end of the war in Indochina .

However, Carter soon re-launched the Cold War, reviving military spending and pouring billions of dollars into funding, arming and training tens of thousands of fundamentalist Jihadists from around the world to invade Afghanistan and overthrow its leftist, secular government.

Carter’s policy of re-militarization and launching of large-scale and long-term secret CIA operations in alliance with the most brutal dictators and monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan was accompanied by sanctimonious speeches about human rights and token appeals to protect ‘civilians’. In this regard, Carter became our founding father of the double discourse: a con man that publically condemned the jailing and torture by Pinochet of political opponents in Chile while orchestrating what would become a decade-long blood bath in Afghanistan with millions of victims.

 Reagan: Geniality with Genocide

Up until the ascendancy of Barack Obama, the avuncular President, Ronald Reagan, was acknowledged as the ‘master con-man’, by virtue of his Hollywood acting experience. Reagan was and remained a disciplined and hardened backer of policies designed to concentrate wealth while smashing unions, even as he entertained the flag-waving hard hat construction workers with his jokes about ‘limousine liberals’ and Cadillac welfare queens. The knowing wink and clever two-liners were matched by an adaptation of morality tales from his cowboy films. Reagan, in his role as ‘the righteous sheriff’, backed the mercenary contras as they invaded Nicaragua and destroyed schools and clinics and the genocidal military dictators in El Salvador and Guatemala who murdered hundreds of thousands of Indians and peasants.

Uncle Reagan’s friendly chats would describe how he had stopped the communist ‘outlaws’ (peasants, workers and Indians) of Central America from flooding across the Rio Grande and invading California and Texas. His tales resonated with mass audiences familiar with the racist Hollywood cowboy film version of unshaven Mexican bandits crossing the ‘ US ’ border. The clean-shaven, straight-talking, ‘stand-up for America’ President Ronald Reagan was elected and re-elected by a resounding majority in the midst of CIA-backed mujahedeen victories over the government and secular civil structure of Afghanistan, Pentagon- supported Israeli slaughter of Palestinian refugees in their camps in Lebanon and the mass genocide of scores of thousands of indigenous villagers in Guatemala.

When news reports seeped out about the mass graves of poor villagers in Guatemala , Reagan resorted to colloquial language right out of a Hollywood film to defend General Rios Mont : “He’s getting a bum rap”. In defending the brutal dictator of Guatemala , Reagan replaced Carter’s sanctimonious phrasing in favor of down-to-earth macho talk of a no-nonsense sheriff.

In substance, both Carter and Reagan were rebuilding the US war machine after the debacle of Viet Nam ; they were setting up a global network of client dictators, Muslim fundamentalists and hypocritical Anglo-American humanitarians interventionists.

Bush Senior: Uni-Polarity and the Ticket to Uncontested Imperial Conquests

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US and Western Europe re-conquered, pillaged and neo-colonized Eastern Europe . West Germany annexed East Germany . And a predator-gangster oligarchy in Russia seized over a trillion dollars of public assets, impoverishing millions and laundered the illicit funds via elaborate banking operations on Wall Street and in London and Tel Aviv.

President George Bush Sr. embraced the doctrine of a unipolar world – free from rival super-power constraints and independent Third World resistance. ‘Poppy’ Bush believed the US could impose its will by force anywhere and at any time without fear of retaliation. He believed he was heir to a new imperial order of free markets, free elections and unrestrained plunder. The first war he would launch would be in the Middle East – the invasion, massive bombing and destruction of Iraq . It was followed by an unprecedented expansion of NATO bases in the countries of Eastern Europe . The spread of neo-liberalism led to the naked pillage of public assets throughout Latin American and Eastern Europe . The Empire ruled the Muslim world through an arc of client dictators from Tunisia , Egypt , and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan .

Bush adopted the persona of the ‘happy warrior’ – the invincible American President who had triumphed over the Evil Empire. Meanwhile, the domestic economy deteriorated under the enormous costs of the massive military build-up and gave rise to a crisis that hurt the electorate. Bush’s personal rigidity and lack of theatricality prevented him from playing the con-man – unlike his predecessor, the actor Reagan. Even as he extolled the prowess of the US military, his career as an ‘insider’ corporate operative and CIA director did not provide him with the demagogic skills necessary for a successful re-election.

While Bush celebrated his overseas victories, he failed to attract a popular following: His pinched face and wooden upper-crust smile was no match for ‘Cowboy’ Reagan’s street corner geniality or even ‘Jimmy’ Carter’s pious intonations of human rights and Christian values … Deception and demagoguery are crucial elements in a re-election campaign – and so Bush, Sr. gave way for the next Presidential con-man-in-chief, Bill Clinton.

The Clinton-Con: Black Churches , Welfare Cuts and the Wall Street Warrior

Bill Clinton, like Ronald Reagan, turned out to be a Wall Street populist .With his folksy Arkansas intonations he preached messages of hope in black churches while diligently applying the free-market lessons he had learned from his Wall Street mentors. Tooting the saxophone and oozing compassion, Clinton told the poor that he could ‘feel their pain’, while inflicting misery on single mothers forced to leave their children and take minimum-wage jobs in order to retain any public assistance. He joined hands with labor union bosses at Labor Day festivities, while fast-tracking job-killing free-trade treaties (like NAFTA) that devastated the American working class. Bill Clinton enthusiastically sent bombers over Belgrade and other Yugoslav cities for several weeks, destroying its factories, hospitals, schools, power plants, radio and TV stations and bridges, as well as the Chinese Embassy, in support of the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army and its separatist war against Belgrade . Clinton bombed civilians and their vital infrastructure, a war crime in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention’, to the ecstatic cheers of many Western liberals, progressives, social democrats and not a few Marxists as well as many Jihadists. On the home front, this self-proclaimed ‘people’s candidate’ ripped to shreds all restraints on banking speculation by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, New Deal legislation enacted to protect against massive banking swindles. This opened the floodgates to massive financial manipulation, which destroyed the pensions of many millions of workers.[2]

Clinton’s policies laid the groundwork for the information technology and Stock Market crash of 2000-01. His appointee, Alan Greenspan, created the conditions leading to speculative financial frenzy and subsequent economic crash of 2008. Bill Clinton’s stand-up comic performances in black churches, his back slapping encounters with labor bureaucrats and his embrace of feminists and others just raised the rhetorical bar for future aspiring Wall Street warlords in the White House. It would take eight years and the election of Barack Hussein Obama to finally surpass Bill Clinton as Con-Man-In Chief.

Bush Junior: A Yale Man with a Texas Drawl

President George Bush, Junior’s regime launched two major wars and backed two Israeli assaults on Palestinian civilians trapped in Gaza – the world’s largest open-air prison. He virtually eliminated taxes on billionaires while overseeing the geometrical growth of the domestic police state apparatus; and he unleashed the biggest speculative bubble and crash since the Great Depression. He lowered the living standards for all Americans except the top 10% of the population – and despite these disasters and despite his lack-luster performance as a con-man, he was re-elected.

His handlers and backers did their best to market their boy: his Ivy League credentials and New England background was replaced by a transparently phony Texas accent; tinny, whiney sound bites, reminiscent of his father’s, were replaced by a Texas ‘ranchers’ homely drawl. His ‘just-folks’ grammatical mistakes may have been mocked by the liberals but they resonated deeply with fundamentalist Christians – who would never have recognized the Phillips Exeter Academy-Yale Skull and Bones boy in their Commander-in Chief.

President Bush, Jr. was decked out in the uniform of a ‘Top Gun’ fighter pilot to polish his military credentials tarnished by revelations that the millionaire-playboy had gone AWOL during his service in the National Guard. His silly ‘Mission Accomplished’ claim that the Iraq war had been won in the first months after the invasion was rudely corrected by the huge outbreak of Iraqi resistance against the occupier. Bush handed over foreign policymaking, especially pertaining to the Middle East , to a small army of Jewish Zionists, aided and abetted by notorious militarists, like Cheney and Rumsfeld. Most major political events were handled by his Cabinet thugs – Secretary of State Colin Powell shamelessly fabricated the ‘evidence’ of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in his performance before the United Nations. Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz invented Afghanistan ’s ties to the planners of 9/11.

Cheney and his Zionist troika of Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and ‘Scooter’ Libby trumpeted the ‘global war on terror’ while Michael Chertoff, Michael Mukasey and Stuart Levey conducted a domestic war against the Bill of Rights and US Constitutional freedoms, defending torture, jailing thousands of Muslims, punishing businesses trading with Iran and labeling US opponents of Israel’s war crimes as ‘security threats’. Bush, Jr. just nodded his approval, letting the “big fellas have a piece of the action”. With Junior, there was no peace demagoguery just plain talk to plain folks and- “Let the bombs fall and the Capital flow”. Bush did not have to go preaching to black churches (he had a black Secretary of State and National Security Adviser to do his dirty work without the cant); Bush never claimed that Israel got the ‘bum rap’ when it was charged with genocidal crimes. Under Bush, Jr., war criminals did not have to ‘sugar-coat’ their crimes. While occupying the White House, Bush signed off on the multi-trillion-dollar bailout for Wall Street and then just went off to tend his cows and chop wood at the Texas ranch.

Bush’s ‘style’ was a combination of ‘laid back’ and ‘straight forward’: he simply committed war crimes, protected Wall Street swindles and expanded the police state, without claiming otherwise. As the endless wars dragged on, as the stock market flopped under its own fraud and manipulation and the increasingly repressive legislation provoked debate, Bush just shrugged his shoulders and finished out his term in office without flourish or fanfare: “Y’all can’t win ‘em all. Let the next guy try his hand”.

Barack Obama: The Master of Deceit

From the beginning of his Presidential campaign, Obama demonstrated his proficiency as the master of all cons. He spoke passionately against torture while consulting with the torturers; he condemned Wall Street speculators while appointing key Street operatives as economic advisers. He promised a new deal in the Middle East , especially for Palestinians and then appointed a dual citizen, Israeli-US, Rahm Emmanuel (son of an Israeli Irgun terrorist) to be his most intimate Presidential advisor. Honolulu born and bred, Barack modulated his voice according to the audience, adopting a Baptist minister’s cadence for the black audiences while assuming the professorial tone of an Ivy League lawyer for his Wall Street contributors.

He hob-knobbed with Hollywood celebrities and Silicon billionaires, who bankrolled the fairy tale of his ‘historic breakthrough’ – the First Afro-American President who would speak for all Americans – nay for the entire world! Millions of giddy camp followers, white, black, old and young, the trade unionists and community activists alike were willingly deceived. They had chosen to disregard the fact that Barack Obama’s key advisers were rabid militarists, big bankers, corporate CEO’s, die-hard Zionists and Wall Street manipulators.

Indeed Obama’s supporters were enchanted by the phony rhetoric, the demagogy, the ‘populist style’, and the fake ‘authenticities’. Here was the man who promised to end the wars, close the torture concentration camp in Guantanamo , bring Wall Street to heel, repeal the Patriot Act and restore the Bill of Rights. And he was ‘their guy’ – shooting hoops in an urban playground – something Bush had never done! In truth, Barack Hussein Obama did a lot that Bush never dared to do – he surpassed Bush by far in committing war crimes against humanity – pushing for more military adventures abroad and police state repression at home. He exceeded by far any President in US history in assuming dictatorial police powers, in waging multiple wars while directing the massive transfer of state revenues to Wall Street bankers. President Obama, hands down, will be regarded as the greatest con-man President in American history. The Carters, Reagans and Clintons all pale in comparison: the enormous gap between style and substance, promise and performance, peace and war, capital and labor has never been greater.

It is President Obama’s hollow eloquence that raised the hopes of millions at home and abroad only to condemn them to an inferno of endless wars. It is the perversity of his rhetoric which attracts the Latino vote with promises of immigrant citizenship while his policy has been fill detention centers with hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers and their families. His soaring rhetoric promising justice for Muslims in Cairo was followed by the bloody bombing of Tripoli, the torture and slaughter of the Libyan patriot President Gadhafi; the broken promises to the Palestinians contrasts with the embrace of the bloody Israeli warlords.

Obama far out-paced President Bush’s drone attacks in Pakistan , Yemen and Afghanistan , bombings which targeted farmers, whole families and famished orphans in their schools. Soaring moral and ethical pronouncements accompany Obama’s arming and praising the 40,000 Muslim fundamentalist mercenaries sent to degrade and shatter the secular Syrian state. The pretexts for mass killing fall from his lips like maggots on a rotten corpse: his blatant lies about the use of poison gas in Syria as the government in Damascus confronts a foreign mercenary invasion; the lurid tales of fabricated massacres in Benghazi ( Libya ) and the false claims of stolen elections in Venezuela . Obama’s rhetoric converts executioners into victims and victims into executioners.

President Barack Obama promised a comprehensive health care overhaul for America and then presented the electorate with a confusing series of obligatory payments for plans designed by for-profit private health insurance companies. Obama ‘defended social security’ by raising the age of retirement, ensuring that hundreds of thousands of workers in hazardous occupations would die before ever receiving any benefits after a lifetime of obligatory contributions. Obama solemnly promised to defend Medicare and then proposed to reduce its budget by a trillion dollars over a decade.

Obama claims a presidential prerogative of ‘defending American interests’ by ordering the assassination of whomever his million-member secret police state apparatus designates as a security threat – including American citizens – without trial, without recourse to habeas corpus.

In the White House Rose Garden President Barack Obama strolls arm-in-arm with his wife and children, a family man, true to his promises… While in Aleppo a young teen, a street vendor, is beheaded before his parents and neighbors by fanatical ‘freedom-fighters’ praised and supported by the President. The boy’s alleged crime was blasphemy. The murdered teen has joined the scores of thousands of Syrians killed and the hundreds of thousands who will join them, as Obama has decided to openly arm the mercenaries.

Casual, open collar, President Obama jokes as he walks and talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sumptuous estate of a California billionaire, offering friendship and peace – shaking hands for the cameras with a scorpion in his palm. The smiling Obama has ceaselessly dispatched his envoys to Asia, Latin America, Oceana and Africa to incite claims and conflicts against Beijing . Obama believes that his own ‘personal magic’ will blind the Chinese to the fact that China is being encircled by US air and maritime bases. He seems to believe that the Chinese will ignore his efforts to forge US-centered trade pacts which specifically exclude China .

The master ‘confidence-man’ sincerely believes in his power to move and mystify the public, pick the pockets of his adversaries and make his victims believe they have been in the presence of a world-class statesman. In fact, Obama has been playing the role of a street hustler living off the earnings and lives of his people while handing them over to his corporate bosses and pimps for Israel .

Obama fills internment camps with hundreds of thousands of Latino immigrant workers while promising a ‘roadmap to citizenship’ to the cheers of Mexican-American Democratic Party vote hustlers!

Obama received 95% of the Afro-American votes, while the income gap between blacks and whites widens and unemployment and poverty figures soar. Obama, the first ‘Afro-American President’, has bombed and intervened in more African countries, backing mercenary armies in Libya and Somalia and establishing more military bases throughout the black continent than the last five ‘white’ Presidents … So much for the self-proclaimed “historic breakthrough of a Black President ending centuries of racism”.

It’s enough for Obama to appoint other black police state thugs and foreign interventionists, like Eric Holder and Susan Rice, to win the cheers of liberals even as their own security files grow in the data warehouses of the world’s biggest spying agencies.

One cynic, commenting on the long-standing love affair between Obama and white liberals, observed that ‘the more he screws them the better they like him … Even as he marches them off to jail, they would take care to note on his behalf, that the barred windows have curtains – something Bush would never have allowed.’

Conclusion

For sheer span of broken promises, of systematic lies in pursuit of wars and financial manipulation in the name of peace and social justice , of consistent and bold aggrandizement of executive power over the life and death of US citizens in the name of security, Obama has set the standard of political deception and demagogy far beyond past and probable future US Presidents.

The political context of his ascent to power and his deep links to the military-financial-Zionist networks insured his success as a premier confidence man.

President George Bush, Jr., the cringing, fading war-monger engaged in prolonged, costly wars and facing the collapse of the entire banking and financial sector, provided Candidate Obama with an easy target. Obama exploited the mass revulsion of the American people, longing for change. His soaring rhetoric and vacuous promise of ‘change’ attracted millions of young activists … The problem is that in their enthusiasm and blind adherence to ‘identity politics’ with its claims that all ‘blacks’ and ‘women’ are oppressed and therefore guaranteed to promote peace and justice — facilitated Obama’s con-game and political hustle.

Obama, once in office, not only deepened and widened the scope of President Bush, Jr’s wars, massive spy apparatus and corporate profiteering; he bamboozled the vast majority of his liberal-labor supporters in the Democratic Party! Barack Obama conned the Democratic Party Congressional liberals and they, in turn, conned their constituents into supporting this fraud.

The costs of President Obama’s two-faced policies are enormous: democracy has given way to a police state openly defended by the President and Congressional leaders; Wall Street’s recovery and corporate profiteering is fast destroying public health and social security. Barack Obama’s multiple endless wars and interventions are destroying vast cities, infrastructure, entire cultures while and killing and impoverishing millions of people from Libya to Palestine , from Syria to Iran . The economic sanctions against Iran , the provocative encirclement and isolation of China , and the campaign to destabilize Venezuela are the centerpieces of Obama’s ‘pivot to empire’. These policies portend even greater world-shattering catastrophes.

Unmasking the con-man is a first step requiring that we expose the tricks of the con-game. The politics of deception and demagogy thrives by directing popular attention to style and rhetoric, not substance. The solemn and pious cant of ‘Jimmy’ Carter distracted from his launch of the rabid Jihadists against the secular administration of Afghanistan . Uncle Ronald Reagan’s geniality and populist TV patter covered-up his blood baths in Central America and mass firing of the unionized air controllers and jailing of union leaders. ‘Bill’ Clinton’s show of empathy for the poor and embrace of ‘feel-good’ politics neutralized opposition as he bombed Yugoslavia into a pre-industrial age while his domestic policies kicked vulnerable single mothers from welfare programs. They all paled before the grand con-master Obama, billed as the ‘first black’ President, a community organizer (who disowned his sponsor into the black communities of Chicago, Rev. Wright, for his anti-war, anti-imperial stand) has capitalized on his racial credentials to garner the vote of guilty-ridden, soft-headed liberals and marginalized blacks in order to serve the interests of Wall Street and Israel.

Disarming these con-men and women requires exposing the nature of their demagogic populist styles and focusing on substantive politics. The decisive criteria need to be class politics that are defined by fundamental class alignments, between capital and labor regarding budgets, income, taxes, social spending, financing and property rights. ‘Shooting hoops’ in ghetto playgrounds is a con-man’s distraction while his budget cuts close hospitals and schools in black and poor neighborhoods.

The extravaganzas, featuring sports and entertainment celebrities to promote imperial wars, are the ‘con’ to undermine international solidarity for war victims and the unemployed. President Obama, the confidence man, is still performing while sowing destruction.

It’s time for the deceived, the disillusioned and the deprived to stand-up and shout! “We are deceived no more. Its time you were put on trial for Crimes against Humanity!”

Rarely has any American provoked such fury in Washington’s high places. So far, Edward Snowden has outsmarted the smartest guys in the echo chamber — and he has proceeded with the kind of moral clarity that U.S. officials seem to find unfathomable.

Bipartisan condemnations of Snowden are escalating from Capitol Hill and the Obama administration. More of the NSA’s massive surveillance program is now visible in the light of day — which is exactly what it can’t stand.

The central issue is our dire shortage of democracy. How can we have real consent of the governed when the government is entrenched with extreme secrecy, surveillance and contempt for privacy?

 The same government that continues to expand its invasive dragnet of surveillance, all over the United States and the rest of the world, is now asserting its prerogative to drag Snowden back to the USA from anywhere on the planet. It’s not only about punishing him and discouraging other potential whistleblowers. Top U.S. officials are also determined to — quite literally — silence Snowden’s voice, as Bradley Manning’s voice has been nearly silenced behind prison walls.

The sunshine of information, the beacon of principled risk-takers, the illumination of government actions that can’t stand the light of day — these correctives are anathema to U.S. authorities who insist that really informative whistleblowers belong in solitary confinement. A big problem for those authorities is that so many people crave the sunny beacons of illumination.

 On Sunday night, more than 15,000 Americans took action to send a clear message to the White House. The subject line said “Mr. President, hands off Edward Snowden,” and the email message read: “I urge you in the strongest terms to do nothing to interfere with the travels or political asylum process of Edward Snowden. The U.S. government must not engage in abduction or any other form of foul play against Mr. Snowden.”

As the Obama White House weighs its options, the limits are practical and political. Surveillance and military capacities are inseparable, and they’re certainly huge, but constraints may cause major frustration. Sunday on CNN, anchor Don Lemon cited the fabled Navy Seals and said such commandos ought to be able to capture Snowden, pronto.

The state of surveillance and perpetual war are one and the same. The U.S. government’s rationale for pervasive snooping is the “war on terror,” the warfare state under whatever name.

Too rarely mentioned is the combination of nonviolence and idealism that has been integral to the courageous whistleblowing by Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. Right now, one is on a perilous journey across the globe in search of political asylum, while the other is locked up in a prison and confined to a military trial excluding the human dimensions of the case. At a time of Big Brother and endless war, Snowden and Manning have bravely insisted that a truly better world is possible.

Meanwhile, top policymakers in Washington seem bent on running as much of the world as possible. Their pursuit of Edward Snowden has evolved into a frenzied rage.

Those at the top of the U.S. government insist that Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning have betrayed it. But that’s backward. Putting its money on vast secrecy and military violence instead of democracy, the government has betrayed Snowden and Manning and the rest of us.

Trying to put a stop to all that secrecy and violence, we have no assurance of success. But continuing to try is a prerequisite for realistic hope.

A few months before the invasion of Iraq, looking out at Baghdad from an upper story of a hotel, I thought of something Albert Camus once wrote.

“And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.”

Edward Snowden’s honorable course has led him to this historic moment. The U.S. government is eager to pay him back with retribution and solitary. But many people in the United States and around the world are responding with love and solidarity.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Raízes históricas da crise social no Brasil – O papel do FMI

June 24th, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Milhões de pessoas por todo o Brasil aderiram a um dos maiores movimentos de protesto da história do país. Ironicamente, o levantamento social dirige-se contra as políticas económicas de uma auto-proclamada alternativa “socialista” ao neoliberalismo conduzido pelo governo do Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) da presidente Dilma Rousseff.

O “remédio económico forte” do FMI, incluindo medidas de austeridade e a privatização de programas sociais, foi implementado sob a bandeira “progressista” e “populista” do PT, em acordo com elites económicas poderosas do Brasil e em estreita ligação com o Banco Mundial, o FMI e a Wall Street.

Apesar de o governo PT apresentar-se como “uma alternativa” ao neoliberalismo, comprometido com o alívio da pobreza e a redistribuição de riqueza, sua política monetária e fiscal está nas mãos dos seus credores da Wall Street.

Foto oficial da presidente Dilma.Ironicamente, o governo PT de Dilma Rousseff e do seu antecessor Luís Ignaio da Silva foi louvado pelo FMI devido a:

“uma notável transformação social no Brasil com base na estabilidade macroeconómica e na ascensão de padrões de vida”. 

As realidades sociais subjacentes são outras. As “estatísticas” do Banco Mundial sobre pobreza são grosseiramente manipuladas. Só 11% da população, segundo o Banco Mundial , estão abaixo da linha de pobreza. E 2,2% da população estão a viver em pobreza extrema.

O padrão de vida no Brasil entrou em colapso desde que o Partido dos Trabalhadores chegou ao poder em 2003. Milhões de pessoas foram marginalizadas e empobrecidas, incluindo uma parte significativa da classe média urbana.

Apesar de o PT apresentar uma imagem “progressista” orientada para o povo, oficialmente oposta à “globalização corporativa”, a agenda macroeconómica foi reforçada. O governo PT sistematicamente manipulou as suas bases, tendo em vista impor o que o “Consenso de Washington” descreve como “uma estrutura política forte”.

Os investimentos estruturais de muitos milhares de milhões de dólares orientados pelo lucro para a Copa Mundial em 2014 e os Jogos Olímpicos em 2016, forjados pela corrupção corporativa, contribuíram para um aumento significativo da dívida externa do Brasil, a qual por sua vez reforçou o controle da política económica pelos seus credores da Wall Street.

O movimento de protesto é em grande parte composto por pessoas que votaram pelo Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

O apoio das bases do governo PT foi rompido. A base do Partido dos Trabalhadores voltou-se contra o governo.

História: a traição do Partido dos Trabalhadores 

Foto oficial do presidente LulaO Partido dos Trabalhadores está no poder há mais de dez anos.

A crise social em curso no Brasil é a consequência da agenda macroeconómica lançada no início do acesso de Luís Ignácio da Silva à presidência, em 2003.

A eleição de Lula em 2003 corporificou a esperança de uma nação inteira. Representou uma votação esmagadora contra a globalização e o modelo neoliberal, o qual por toda a América Latina resultou na pobreza em massa e no desemprego.

A eleição de Lula no fim de 2002 por entendida como um importante ponto de ruptura, um meio de rejeitar a estrutura política do seu antecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Enquanto era abraçado em coro pelos movimentos progressistas de todo o mundo, a administração Lula também estava a ser aplaudida pelo principal protagonista do modelo neoliberal. Na palavras do Director Administrativo do FMI, Horst Kohler:

“Sou entusiasta [da administração Lula]; mas é melhor dizer que estou profundamente impressionado pelo presidente Lula … o FMI ouve o presidente Lula e a equipe económica, esta é a nossa filosofia”.

Não é de admirar que o FMI seja “entusiasta”. As principais instituições da administração económica e financeira foram oferecidas numa bandeja de prata à Wall Street e a Washington.

O FMI e o Banco Mundial têm louvado o governo do Partido dos Trabalhadores pelo seu compromisso com “fortes fundamentos macroeconómicos”. Tanto quanto o FMI está preocupado, o Brasil “está na trilha” em conformidade com as balizas do FMI. O Banco Mundial elogiou tanto os governos Lula como Dilma: “O Brasil está a buscar um programa social arrojado com responsabilidade fiscal”.

De acordo com o Professor James Petras:

A maior parte dos responsáveis políticos da Wall Street e de Washington, surpreendidos pela selecção de uma equipe económica ortodoxa liberal, ficou perfeitamente extasiada quando ele começou a promover vigorosamente uma agenda neoliberal radical, incluindo privatização da segurança social, rebaixamento substancial de pensões para empregados de sectores públicos e redução do custo e facilitação das exigências para capitalistas despedirem trabalhadores. ( Global Research, 2003 )

Segundo Marcos Arruda, do PACS, um centro de investigação não governamental no Rio de Janeiro:

“A equipe económica de Lula ao prosseguir políticas impostas pelo FMI está estripando pagamentos sociais não só para os aposentados como também para os deficientes e as famílias mais pobres”. O prosseguimento de políticas económicas ortodoxas também empurrou o desemprego oficial para 12%, ao passo que as taxas de juro internas posicionam-se nos 26,5%, entre as mais altas taxas do mundo. Em São Paulo, a maior cidade do Brasil, o desemprego atingiu os 20%. (Ver Roger Burbach, Global Research, June 2003 )

O Brasil sob o governo PT não endossou apenas o neoliberalismo “com um rosto humano”, ele também apoiou a militarização da América Latina e do Caribe conduzida pelos EUA.

Um abraço de amigos.Lula estabeleceu um relacionamento pessoal com George W. Bush. Se bem que fosse um crítico firme da guerra iraquiana conduzida pelos EUA e um apoiante de Hugo Chavez, ele tacitamente também apoiava interesses estratégicos dos EUA na América Latina.

No rastro do golpe de Estado no Haiti patrocinado pelos EUA-França-Canadá, em Fevereiro de 2004, contra o governo eleito devidamente de Jean Bertrand Aristide, o presidente Luís Ignacio da Silva endossou a ocupação militar do Haiti e despachou tropas brasileiras para Port au Prince, sob os auspícios da Missão de Estabilização das Nações Unidas (MINUSTAH).

artigo publicado por Global Research e resistir.info em Abril de 2003 , no início do governo PT de Luís Ignacio da Silva, descreve como, desde o início a liderança do Partido dos Trabalhadores traiu toda uma nação.

Não pode resultar qualquer mudança significativa de um debate sobre “uma alternativa ao neoliberalismo”, o qual na superfície parece ser “progressista” mas que tacitamente aceita como legítimo o direito de os “globalizadores” dominarem e pilharem o mundo em desenvolvimento.

O movimento de protesto social que tem varrido o Brasil é o resultado de 10 anos da repressão económica de “livre mercado” sob o disfarce de uma “agenda progressista”.

Michel Chossudovsky 21/Junho/2013

O original en inglês encontra-se em www.globalresearch.ca/…

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

Brasil: Neoliberalismo com um “Rosto humano”

 por Michel Chossudovsky [*]

Abril de 2003

Meirelles & Cavallo: As mesmas receitas podem levar aos mesmos resultados. A posse de Luís Ignácio da Silva (Lula) como Presidente do Brasil é historicamente significativa porque milhões de brasileiros viram no Partido dos Trabalhadores uma genuína alternativa política e económica à agenda dominante (neoliberal) do “livre mercado”.

A eleição de Lula corporifica a esperança de toda uma nação. Constitui um voto esmagador contra a globalização e o modelo neoliberal, o qual redundou na pobreza em massa e no desemprego em toda a América Latina.

Na reunião de Porto Alegre em fins de Janeiro, por ocasião do Fórum Social Mundial, a postura anti-globalização de Lula foi aplaudida por dezenas de milhares de delegados de todo o mundo. O debate no FSM 2003, verificado menos de dois meses antes da invasão do Iraque, foi efectuado sob a bandeira: “Outro mundo é possível”.

Ironicamente, enquanto aplaudiam a vitória de Lula, ninguém — entre os eminentes críticos do “livre comércio” e da globalização conduzida pelas corporações — que tenha falado no FSM 2003 parecia ter percebido que o governo PT do presidente Luís Ignacio da Silva já havia entregue as rédeas da reforma macro-económica à Wall Street e ao FMI.

Enquanto era abraçada em coro por movimentos progressistas de todo o mundo, a administração de Lula estava a ser aplaudida pelos principais protagonistas do modelo neoliberal. Nas palavras de Heinrich Koeller, Managing Director do FMI:

Sou entusiasta [em relação à administração Lula]; mas é melhor dizer que estou profundamente impressionado pelo presidente Lula, na verdade, e em particular porque penso que ele tem a credibilidade que muitas vezes falta um pouco a outros líderes, e a credibilidade está em que é sério para trabalhar afincadamente a fim de combinar política orientada para o crescimento com equidade social. Isto é a agenda certa, a direcção certa, o objectivo certo para o Brasil e, para além do Brasil, para a América Latina. Assim, ele definiu a direcção certa. Segundo, penso que o governo, sob a liderança do presidente Lula, demonstrou nos seus primeiros 100 dias que também é impressivo e não apenas de intenções aéreas pois elas funcionam ao longo do processo desta enorme agenda de reformas. Entendo que a reforma das pensões e reforma fiscal é prioritária na agenda e isto é correcto. O terceiro elemento é aquilo que o FMI ouve do presidente Lula e da equipe económica, e é a nossa filosofia, naturalmente, para além do Brasil. (IMF Managing Director Heinrich Koeller, Press conference, 10 April 2003, http://www.imf.org/external/np/tr/2003/ tr030410.htm )

LULA INDICA UM FINANCEIRO DE WALL STREET PARA A DIRECÇÃO DO BANCO CENTRAL DO BRASIL

Logo no princípio do seu mandato, Lula reassegurou os investidores estrangeiros que “o Brasil não seguirá a vizinha Argentina no default ” ( Davos World Economic Forum, January 2003). Mas se esta é a sua intenção, então porque indicou ele para o Banco Central um homem que desempenhou um papel directo (como presidente do Boston Fleet) na ruína argentina e cujo banco estava envolvido em actividades fraudulentas?

Ao indicar Henrique de Campos Meirelles, o presidente e director-executivo do Boston Fleet, como chefe do Banco Central do país, o presidente Luís Ignácio da Silva entregou essencialmente a condução das finanças e da política monetária à Wall Street.

O Boston Fleet é o 7º maior banco nos EUA. Após o Citigroup, o Boston Fleet é a segunda maior instituição credora do Brasil.

O país está numa camisa de força. As posições chave nas finanças e no sistema bancário da administração Lula são detidas por indicados da Wall Street.

O Banco Central está sob o controle do Boston Fleet,

Um antigo executivo senior do Citigroup, sr. Casio Casseb Lima, foi posto como responsável do gigante estatal Banco do Brasil (BB). Cassio Casseb Lima, que trabalhou para as operações do Citigroup no Brasil, foi inicialmente recrutado para o Banco de Boston em 1976 por Henrique Meirelles. Por outras palavras, o cabeça do BB tem ligações pessoais e profissionais com os dois maiores credores comerciais do Brasil: o Citigroup e o Boston Fleet.

A continuidade será mantida. A nova equipe PT no Banco Central é uma cópia a papel químico daquela indicada pelo presidente (cessante) Fernando Henrique Cardoso. O presidente cessante do Banco Central, Armínio Fraga, era um antigo empregado do Quantum Fund (Nova York), de que é proprietário George Soros, o financeiro (e especulador) de Wall Street.

Em estreita ligação com Wall Street e com o FMI, o indicado de Lula para Banco Central do Brasil, Henrique de Campos Meirelles, manteve a orientação política do seu antecessor (que também era um indicado de Wall Street): política monetária dura, medidas generalizadas de austeridade, altas taxas de juro e regime de câmbios externos desregulamentado. Este último encoraja ataques especulativos contra o Real brasileiro e a fuga de capitais, resultando numa dívida externa crescente.

É desnecessário dizer que o programa do FMI no Brasil será dirigido para o desmantelamento final do sistema bancário estatal no qual o novo chefe do Banco do Brasil, um antigo responsável do Citibank, desempenhará sem dúvida um papel crucial.

Não é de admirar que o FMI seja “entusiástico”. As principais instituições da administração económica e financeira estão nas mãos dos países credores. Sob estas condições, o neoliberalismo está “vivo e activo”: uma agenda macro-económica “alternativa”, modelada no espírito de Porto Alegre, é simplesmente impossível.

“COLOCANDO A RAPOSA COMO RESPONSÁVEL PELO AVIÁRIO”

O Boston Fleet era um dos vários bancos e instituições financeiras que especulou contra o Real brasileiro em 1998-99, conduzindo ao espectacular colapso (meltdown) da Bolsa de Valores de São Paulo na “Quarta-feira Negra” 13 de Janeiro de 1999. Estima-se que o BankBoston, o qual posteriormente fundiu-se com o Fleet, tenha ganho uns 4,5 mil milhões de dólares no Brasil no decorrer do Plano Real, principiando com um investimento inicial de US$ 100 milhões. (Latin Finance, 6 August 1998).

Por outras palavras, o Boston Fleet é antes a “causa” do que “a solução” para as desgraças financeiras do país. Indicar o antigo presidente executivo do Boston Fleet a chefia do Banco Central do país é o equivalente a “colocar a raposa como responsável pelo aviário”.

A nova equipe económica declarou que se compromete a resolver a crise da dívida do país e conduzir o Brasil rumo à estabilidade financeira. Contudo, as políticas que adoptou provavelmente terão exactamente os efeitos opostos.

REPLICANDO A ARGENTINA

Acontece que o presidente do Banco Central de Lula, Henrique Meirelles, era um firme apoiante do controverso ministro das Finanças da Argentina Domingo Cavallo, que desempenhou um papel chave sob o governo Menem, ao afundar o país numa crise económica e social arraigada.

Segundo Meirelles, numa entrevista de 1998, quando era presidente e director-executivo do Banco de Boston:

O acontecimento mais fundamental [na América Latina] foi o lançamento do plano de estabilização na Argentina [sob Domingo Cavallo]. Foi uma abordagem diferente, no sentido de que não era um controle de preços ou um controle do fluxo de moeda, mas sim um controle da oferta monetária e das finanças governamentais. (Latin Finance, 6 August 1998).

 Vale a pena notar que o chamado “controle da oferta monetária”, referido por Meirelles, significa essencialmente o congelamento da oferta de crédito aos negócios locais, levando ao colapso da actividade produtiva.

Os resultados, como evidenciado pela ruína da Argentina, foram uma cadeia de bancarrotas, levando à pobreza em massa e ao desemprego. Sob o choque das políticas do ministro das Finanças Cavallo, ao longo da década de 1990, a maior parte bancos nacionais e provinciais de propriedade do Estado, que forneciam crédito à indústria e à agricultura, foi vendida a bancos estrangeiros. O Citibank e o Fleet Bank of Boston foram os receptadores finais destas malfadadas reformas patrocinadas pelo FMI.

“Outrora, bancos nacionais e provinciais de propriedade do governo apoiavam as dívidas da nação. Mas em meados dos anos 90 o governo de Carlos Menem vendeu-os ao Citibank of New York, ao Fleet Bank of Boston e outros operadores estrangeiros. Charles Calomiris, um antigo assessor do Banco Mundial, descreve estas privatizações bancárias como uma “história realmente maravilhosa”. Maravilhosa para quem? A Argentina sangrou até 750 milhões de dólares por dia em divisas duras” (The Guardian, 12 August 2001)

 Domingo Cavallo foi o arquitecto da “dolarização”. Actuando por conta (on behalf) de Wall Street, ele foi o responsável por atar (pegging) o Peso ao dólar americano num sistema de currency   board em estilo colonial, o que resultou numa espiral de dívida externa e na ruptura final de todo o sistema monetário.

O sistema de currency board implementado por Cavallo foi promovido activamente pela Wall Street, com o Citigroup e o Fleet Bank na liderança.

Sob um sistema de currency board , a criação de moeda é controlada pelos credores externos. O Banco Central cessa virtualmente de existir. O governo não pode empreender qualquer forma de investimento interno sem a aprovação dos seus credores externos. A US Federal Reserve toma o controle do processo de criação de moeda. O crédito só pode ser concedido a produtores internos pela elevação da dívida externa (denominada em dólar).

ESTELIONATO FINANCEIRO

Quando a crise da Argentina atingiu o seu clímax em 2001, os maiores bancos credores transferiram milhares de milhões de dólares para fora do país. Uma investigação lançada no princípio de 2003 apontou não só para o alegado envolvimento do antigo ministro argentino das Finanças, Domingo Cavallo, mas também para o de vários bancos estrangeiros incluindo o Citibank e o Boston Fleet do qual Henrique Meirelles era presidente e director-executivo.

“Batalhando para ultrapassar uma crise económica profunda, a Argentina [Janeiro de 2002] apontou para a fuga de capitais e evasão fiscal, com a polícia a investigar escritórios de bancos americanos, britânicos e espanhóis e autoridades a pedirem explicações a um ex-presidente acerca das origens da sua fortuna suíça. Afirmações de que até 26 mil milhões de dólares deixaram ilegalmente o país só no último ano estimularam acções da polícia. À tarde a polícia foi ao Citibank, ao Bank Boston [Fleet] e a uma subsidiária do Santander da Espanha. (…) Os vários processos ligados à transferências ilegais de capitais citam, entre outros, o antigo presidente Fernando de la Rua, que se demitiu em 20 de Dezembro [2001]; seu ministro Domingo Cavallo; e Roque Maccarone, que abandonou a chefia do banco central…” (AFP, 18 January 2003).

 

Os mesmos bancos envolvidos no estelionato financeiro argentino, incluindo o Boston Fleet sob o leme de Henrique Meirelles, estavam também envolvidos em sombrias operações semelhantes de transferências de dinheiro em outros países, inclusive a Federação Russa:

“Até 10 bancos americanos podem ter sido utilizados para desviar da Rússia uma quantia de US$ 15 mil milhões, disseram as fontes, citando investigadores federais. O Fleet Financial Group Inc. e outros bancos estão a ser investigados porque eles têm contas que pertencem ou estão ligadas ao Benex International Co. o qual está no centro de uma alegado esquema de lavagem de dinheiro russo”. (Boston Business Journal, 23 September 1999)

 AS REFORMAS FINANCEIRAS DO BRASIL

Tudo indica que a agenda oculta de Wall Street é finalmente replicar o cenário argentino e impor a “dolarização” ao Brasil. A preparação do terreno para este desígnio foi estabelecida sob o Plano Real, no início da presidência de Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994-2002).

Henrique Meirelles, que integrou o PSDB, o partido de FHC, desempenhou um papel chave nos bastidores quanto à preparação do palco para a adopção de reformas financeiras mais fundamentais:

“No início da década de 1990 eu [Meirelles] era membro da direcção da Câmara Americana de Comércio e estava encarregado de fazer um esforço para começar a pressionar (lobbying) por uma mudança da Constituição brasileira. Ao mesmo tempo, era também presidente da Associação Brasileira de Bancos Internacionais e estava encarregado do esforço de abrir o país aos bancos estrangeiros e abrir o fluxo de moeda. Comecei uma vasta campanha de abordagem de pessoas chaves, incluindo jornalistas, políticos, professores e profissionais da publicidade. Quando principiei, toda a gente me dizia que não havia esperança, que o país nunca abriria os seus mercados, que o país deveria proteger as suas indústrias. Durante um par de anos falei com cerca de 120 pessoas representativas. O sector privado estava ferozmente contra a abertura dos mercados, particularmente os banqueiros. (Latin Finance, op cit)

EMENDANDO A CONSTITUIÇÃO

A questão da reforma constitucional era central para os desígnios financeiros de Wall Street. Isto era exigido para levar até ao fim o processo de desregulamentação económica e financeira.

No início da presidência de Fernando Collor de Melo, em 1990, o FMI havia exigido uma emenda à Constituição de 1988. Havia um alvoroço no Congresso Nacional, com o FMI acusado de “grosseira interferência nos assuntos internos do Estado”.

Vários artigos da Constituição de 1988 entravavam o caminho para atingir os objectivos orçamentais propostos pelo FMI, os quais estavam sob negociação com a administração Collor. Os objectivos do FMI quanto a despesas não podiam ser alcançados sem um maciço despedimento de empregados do sector público, exigindo uma emenda a uma cláusula da Constituição de 1988 que garantia segurança de emprego para servidores civis federais. Também estava em causa a fórmula de financiamento (estabelecida na Constituição) dos programas nível de estados e municípios a partir de fontes do governo federal. Esta fórmula limitava a capacidade do governo federal para cortar despesas sociais e mudar o destino das receitas para o serviço da dívida.

Bloqueada durante a curta vida da administração Collor, a questão da reforma constitucional foi reintroduzida logo após o impedimento do presidente Collor de Mello. Em Junho de 1993 Fernando Henrique Cardoso, que naquele tempo era ministro das Finanças no governo interino do presidente Itamar Franco, anunciou cortes orçamentais de 50 por cento na educação, saúde e desenvolvimento regional enquanto apontava para a necessidade de revisões na Constituição de 1988.

As exigências do FMI respeitantes à reforma constitucional foram posteriormente incorporadas na plataforma presidencial de Fernando Henrique Cardoso. A desregulamentação do sector bancário era uma componente chave do processo de reforma constitucional, à qual naquele tempo opunha-se o Partido dos Trabalhadores tanto na Câmara como no Senado.

Enquanto isso, Henrique Meirelles, que na altura estava à frente das operações do Banco de Boston na América Latina (com um pé no partido de FHC, o PSDB, e o outro em Wall Street), estava a fazer lobby nos bastidores em favor da reforma constitucional.

“Finalmente alcançámos um acordo que se tornou parte da reforma constitucional. Quando se supunha que a Constituição fosse reformada, em 1993, isto não aconteceu. Não houve votos suficientes. Contudo, depois de Fernando Henrique Cardoso ser empossado, ela foi reformada. Aquele acordo particular pelo qual eu trabalhei era um dos primeiros pontos na Constituição, que foi realmente alterada. Eu [Meirelles] estive pessoalmente envolvido numa mudança que, pensei no fim do dia, significava o começo da abertura dos mercados de capitais brasileiros. No Brasil havia restrições ao fluxo de capitais, à aquisição de bancos brasileiros pelo capital estrangeiro e à abertura de sucursais de bancos internacionais de acordo com a Constituição de 1988, tudo isso impedia o desenvolvimento dos mercados de capitais”. (Latin Finance, 6 August 1998).

O PLANO REAL

O Plano Real foi lançado uns poucos meses antes das eleições de Novembro de 1993, enquanto FHC era ministro das Finanças. A ligação fixa (fixed peg) do Real ao dólar americano, sob certos aspectos, emulava o modelo argentino, sem contudo instalar um sistema de currency board .

Sob o Plano Real foi alcançada estabilidade de preços. A estabilidade da divisa era, sob muitos aspectos, fictícia. Era sustentada pelo crescimento da dívida externa.

As reformas conduziram à morte de um grande número de instituições bancárias internas, as quais foram adquiridas por um punhado de bancos estrangeiros sob o programa de privatização lançado sob a presidência FHC (1994-2002).

Um dívida externa galopante precipitou finalmente um crash financeiro em Janeiro de 1999, levando ao colapso do Real (para mais pormenores ver Michel Chossudovsky, The Brazilian Financial Scam, http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/brazil/economy/financialScam.html , October 1998. Este artigo foi publicado três meses antes do colapso financeiro de Janeiro de 1999. Ver também Michel Chossudovsky, Brazil’s IMF Sponsored Economic Disaster, 12.February 1999, http://www.heise.de/tp/english/special/eco/6373/1.html )

QUE PERSPECTIVAS SOB A PRESIDÊNCIA LULA?

Enquanto o novo governo PT apresenta-se como “uma alternativa” ao neoliberalismo, comprometido com o alívio da pobreza e a redistribuição da riqueza, sua política monetária e fiscal está nas mãos dos seus credores de Wall Street.

Fome Zero, descrito como um programa “para combater a miséria”, em grande parte conforma-se às orientações do Banco Mundial acerca “redução da pobreza eficaz em termos de custos”. Esta última requer a implementação dos chamados programas “dirigidos” (“targeted”) , ao mesmo tempo que corta drasticamente orçamentos do sector social. As directivas do Banco Mundial em saúde e educação exigem redução de despesas sociais tendo em vista cumprir as obrigações do serviço da dívida.

O FMI e o Banco Mundial têm louvado o presidente Luís Ignacio da Silva pelo seu comprometimento com “fortes fundamentos macro-económicos”. Tanto quanto preocupa o FMI, o Brasil “está na trilha” em conformidade com os seus padrões de medida. O Banco Mundial também tem elogiado o governo Lula. “O Brasil está a prosseguir um amplo programa social com responsabilidade fiscal”.

A LÓGICA CRUEL DO FMI PARA RESGATAR EMPRÉSTIMOS

Os empréstimos do FMI são em grande medida destinados a financiar a fuga do capital. De facto, esta foi a lógica do pacote de empréstimo multibilionário concedido ao Brasil após as eleições de Outubro de 1998 que conduziram à reeleição de FHC para um segundo mandato presidencial: apenas uns poucos meses antes do colapso (meltdown) financeiro de Janeiro de 1999:

As reservas de divisas externas do Brasil caíram de US$ 78 mil milhões em Julho de 1998 para US$ 48 mil milhões em Setembro. E agora o FMI ofereceu-se para “emprestar o dinheiro de volta” ao Brasil no contexto de uma operação de resgate “estilo coreano” a qual finalmente exigirá a emissão de grandes quantias de dívida pública nos países do G-7. As autoridades brasileiras têm insistido em que o país “não está em risco” e que aquilo que estão a procurar é “financiamento preventivo” (e não a “salvação de um perigo” — “bail-out” ) para guarnecer-se contra os “efeitos contagiantes” da crise asiática. Ironicamente, a quantia considerada pelo FMI (US$ 30 mil milhões) é exactamente igual ao dinheiro “retirado” (“taken out”) do país (durante um período de 3 meses) sob a forma de fuga de capitais. Mas o banco central não será capaz de utilizar o empréstimo do FMI para tornar a encher as suas reservas de divisas duras. O dinheiro do bail-out (incluindo uma grande parte dos US$ 18 mil milhões da contribuição americana para o FMI aprovada pelo Congresso em Outubro) está destinado a permitir que o Brasil cumpra as actuais obrigações do serviço da dívida — ou seja, reembolsar os especuladores. O dinheiro do bail-out nunca entrará no Brasil. (Ver Michel Chossudovsky, The Brazilian Financial Scam, op cit.)

A mesma lógica fundamenta o empréstimo cautelar de US$ 31,4 mil milhões concedido pelo FMI em Setembro de 2002, apenas um par de meses antes das eleições presidenciais.   (Ver IMF Approves US$30.4 Billion Stand-By Credit for Brazil at http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2002/pr0240.htm ) Este empréstimo do FMI constitui “uma rede de segurança social” para especuladores institucionais e investidores de curto prazo (hot   money) .

O FMI despeja milhares de milhões de dólares para dentro do Banco Central, as reservas de divisas externas são reabastecidas com dinheiro emprestado. O empréstimo do FMI é garantido sob a condição de que o Banco Central mantenha um mercado de divisas externas desregulamentado a par de taxas de juros internas em níveis muito altos.

Os assim chamados “investidores externos” são capazes de transferir (em dólares) os rendimentos dos seus “investimentos” em dívidas internas a curto prazo (a taxas de juro muito elevadas) para fora do país. Por outras palavras, as reservas de divisas externas emprestadas do FMI são reapropriadas pelos credores externos do Brasil.

Devemos entender a história das sucessivas crises financeiras no Brasil. Com credores de Wall Street como responsáveis, os níveis da dívida externa continuaram a ascender. O FMI tem vindo “resgatar” com novos empréstimos em dólares multibilionários, os quais são sempre condicionados à adopção de medidas de austeridade abrangentes e à privatização de activos do Estado. A principal diferença é que este processo está agora a ser empreeendido sob um presidente que apregoa opor-se ao neoliberalismo.

Deve-se notar, contudo, que o novo multibilionário “empréstimo preventivo” do FMI concedido em Setembro de 2002 foi negociado por FHC, uns poucos meses antes das eleições. O empréstimo do FMI e as condicionalidades ligadas ao mesmo preparam o cenário para uma dívida externa galopante durante o mandato presidencial de Lula. (Ver Brazil — Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic Policies, and Technical Memorandum of Understanding, at http://www.imf.org/external/np/loi/2002/bra/04/index.htm#mep , Brasília, August 29, 2002.)

DOLARIZAÇÃO

Com o Banco Central e o Ministério das Finanças sob o controle da elite de Wall Street, este processo no fim das contas levará o Brasil a uma outra crise financeira e cambial. Enquanto a lógica subjacente é semelhante, baseada nas mesmas manipulações financeiras tal como em 1998-99, com toda a probabilidade será muito mais sério do que o colapso de Janeiro de 1999.

Por outras palavras, as políticas macro-económicas adoptadas pelo presidente Luís Ignácio da Silva podem bem resultar, no futuro previsível, em default da dívida e na morte da divisa do país, levando o Brasil ladeira abaixo para a “dolarização”. Um sistema de currency board , semelhante àquele da Argentina, poderia ser imposto. O que isto significa é que o dólar americano tornar-se-ia a divisa de substituição (proxy currency) . Isto representa a perda da soberania económica do país. O seu Banco Central está defunto. Tal como no caso da Argentina, a política monetária seria decidida pelo US Federal Reserve System.

Apesar de oficialmente não fazer parte das negociações do Acordo de Livre Comércio das Américas (ALCA), a adopção do dólar americano como a divisa comum para o Hemisfério Ocidental está a ser discutida por trás de portas fechadas em Wall Street a fim de estender o seu controle por todo o hemisfério, acabando por deslocar ou apoderar-se das instituições bancárias internas remanescentes (inclusive aquelas do Brasil).

A nota verde já foi imposta a cinco países latino-americanos, incluindo Equador, Argentina, Panamá, El Salvador e Guatemala. As consequências económicas e sociais da “dolarização” têm sido devastadoras. Nestes países, Wall Street e o sistema da US Federal Reserve controlam directamente a política monetária.

O governo PT do Brasil deveria retirar as lições da Argentina, onde os remédios económicos do FMI desempenharam um papel chave na precipitação do país numa arraigada crise económica e social.

A menos que a actual direcção da política monetária seja revertida, a tendência no Brasil é rumar para o “cenário da Argentina”, com devastadoras consequências económicas e sociais.

“UM OUTRO MUNDO É POSSÍVEL”?

Que espécie de “Alternativa” é possível quando um governo comprometido a “combater o neoliberalismo” torna-se um firme apoiante do “livre comércio” e dos “remédios económicos fortes”?

Abaixo da superfície e por trás da retórica política do Partido dos Trabalhadores, sob Lula a agenda neoliberal permanece funcionalmente intacta.

Os movimentos de base que conduziram Lula ao poder foram traídos. E os intelectuais brasileiros “progressistas” dentro do círculo próximo de Lula arcam com um pesado fardo de responsabilidade neste processo. E o que faz esta “acomodação da esquerda” é no fim das contas reforçar o domínio da elite financeira de Wall Street sobre o Estado brasileiro.

“Um outro mundo” não pode ser baseado em slogans políticos vazios. Nem resultará de uma mudança de “paradigmas” que não sejam acompanhados por mudanças reais nas relações de poder dentro da sociedade brasileira, dentro do sistema estatal e dentro da economia nacional.

Mudanças significativas não podem resultar de um debate acerca de “uma alternativa ao neoliberalismo” que acima da superfície parece ser “progressista”, mas que tacitamente aceita o direito legítimo dos “globalizadores” a dominar e pilhar o mundo em desenvolvimento.

 Unless You Know About This Spying Method, You Might Say Something Which Could Get You In Hot Water

Given that the NSA is tapping into your phone calls and spying on your Internet activities, you might have switched to a search engine which is more privacy-conscious.

You might have started using encrypted communications.  After all, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the leading electronic privacy group – the Electronic Frontier Foundation – say that encryption helps to protect privacy.   On the other hand,  Tech Dirt points out that the NSA might consider you suspicious if you encrypt information, and so hold onto your data until they can decrypt it.

The above are all issues about which you are at least somewhat aware.

But there is a giant type of snooping which you probably don’t even know about.  Specifically, ABC News reported in 2006:

Cell phone users, beware.  The FBI can listen to everything you say, even when the cell phone is turned off. A recent court ruling in a case against the Genovese crime family revealed that the FBI has the ability from a remote location to activate a cell phone and turn its microphone into a listening device that transmits to an FBI listening post, a method known as a “roving bug.”

Experts say the only way to defeat it is to remove the cell phone battery.

“The FBI can access cell phones and modify them remotely without ever having to physically handle them,” James Atkinson, a counterintelligence security consultant, told ABC News.  “Any recently manufactured cell phone has a built-in tracking device, which can allow eavesdroppers to pinpoint someone’s location to within just a few feet,” he added.

***

According to the recent court ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan, “The device functioned whether the phone was powered on or off, intercepting conversations within its range wherever it happened to be.” 

***

“The courts have given law enforcement a blank check for surveillance,” Richard Rehbock, attorney for defendant John Ardito, told ABC News.

***

“Big Brother is upon us…1984 happened a long time ago,” he said, referring to the George Orwell futuristic novel “1984,” which described a society whose members were closely watched by those in power and was published in 1949.

Fox News covered the story as well:

CNET noted the same year:

The U.S. Commerce Department’s security office warns that “a cellular telephone can be turned into a microphone and transmitter for the purpose of listening to conversations in the vicinity of the phone.” An article in the Financial Times last year said mobile providers can “remotely install a piece of software on to any handset, without the owner’s knowledge, which will activate the microphone even when its owner is not making a call.”

***

Because modern handsets are miniature computers, downloaded software could modify the usual interface that always displays when a call is in progress. The spyware could then place a call to the FBI and activate the microphone–all without the owner knowing it happened.

***

A BBC article from 2004 reported that intelligence agencies routinely employ the remote-activiation method. “A mobile sitting on the desk of a politician or businessman can act as a powerful, undetectable bug,” the article said, “enabling them to be activated at a later date to pick up sounds even when the receiver is down.”

Given that the American and British intelligence agencies are trying tap every single communication, some rogue agency or contractor might be tapping your phone … even when it’s off.

Indeed, even private hackers might be listening in. Specifically, private parties without security clearance may be activating your microphone or camera without your knowledge.

Indeed, commercially-available, off-the-shelf software allows people to spy on you:

Your iPhone, or other brand of smartphone is spying on virtually everything you do (ProPublica notes: “That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker“) … and sending the information to private companies.

And CNET pointed out 7 years ago:

Malicious hackers have followed suit. A report last year said Spanish authorities had detained a man who write a Trojan horse that secretly activated a computer’s video camera and forwarded him the recordings.

So the single most important step to protect yourself from government – or private – spying is to remember that your conservations might not be private when your cellphone is nearby … even if it is turned off.

Note:  If you have a microphone in your car, that might also open you up to snoopers. As CNET points out:

Surreptitious activation of built-in microphones by the FBI has been done before. A 2003 lawsuit revealed that the FBI was able to surreptitiously turn on the built-in microphones in automotive systems like General Motors’ OnStar to snoop on passengers’ conversations.

When FBI agents remotely activated the system and were listening in, passengers in the vehicle could not tell that their conversations were being monitored.

And Fox news notes that the government is insisting that “black boxes” be installed in cars to track your location.

And see this.

Amid the swirl of mysteries surrounding the alleged Boston bombers, one fact, barely touched upon in the mainstream U.S. media, stands out: There is a strong possibility that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers, was a double agent, perhaps recruited by the FBI.

If Tsarnaev was a double agent, he would be just one of thousands of young people coerced by the FBI, as the price for settling a minor legal problem, into a dangerous career as an informant.

That he was so coerced is the easiest explanation for two seemingly incompatible incidents in his life:

The first is that he returned to Russia in 2012, ostensibly to renew his Russian passport so he could file an application for US citizenship.

The second is that Tsarnaev then jeopardized his citizenship application with conspicuous, provocative — almost theatrical — behavior that seemed more caricature than characteristic of a Muslim extremist.

False Notes

While walking around in flashy western clothes in the Russian Republic of Dagestan, he visited his cousin, Magomed Kartashov, a prominent Islamist leader, already on the Russians’ radar.  The two reportedly spent hours discussing Tsarnaev’s wish to join a terrorist cell there in the Caucasus.  Later, Russian authorities asked Kartashov if he had tried to incite Tsarnaev with “extremist” views.  Kartashov said it was the other way around: he had tried to convince Tsarnaev that “violent methods are not right.”

Experts agree that Tsarnaev could not have expected such provocative activity to escape the notice of the vigilant Russian authorities.

Back in America, Tsarnaev again called attention to himself as a radical Muslim.  Just one month after he returned from his trip, a YouTube page that appeared to belong to him featured multiple jihadist videos that he had purportedly endorsed.

And in January 2013, he got himself thrown out of a mosque in Cambridge for shouting at a speaker who compared the Prophet Mohammed to Martin Luther King Jr. Tsarnaev rarely attended this mosque, but he must have known it was moderate. (He had done something similar the previous November at the same mosque.) Typically, jihadists are trained to blend in, to be as inconspicuous as possible. Did Tsarnaev go to this mosque with the express intent of smoking out possible radicals?

The key to Tsarnaev’s puzzling behavior may lie in the answer to another question: when exactly did Tsarnaev first come to the attention of the FBI?  The timeline offered by the agency, and duly reported in the mainstream media, has been inconsistent. One story line focused on the FBI’s response to an alert from Russian authorities.

Eric Schmitt and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times, wrote, on April 24, 2013,

 The first Russian request came in March 2011 through the F.B.I.’s office in the United States Embassy in Moscow. The one-page request said Mr. Tsarnaev  ”had changed drastically since 2010” and was preparing to travel to a part of Russia “to join unspecified underground groups.”

 The Russian request was reportedly based on intercepted phone calls between Tsarnaev’s mother and an unidentified person (The Guardian [London], April 21, 2013).  According to another source, several calls were intercepted, including one between Tsarnaev and his mother.

So was it the Russian alert in March 2011 that first prompted the FBI to investigate Tsarnaev? This conclusion seems undermined by another report in the Times—written four days earlier by the same two reporters plus a third– that dated the agency’s first contact with Tamerlan and family members at least two months earlier, in January 2011.

If the FBI interviewed Tsarnaev before the Russians asked them to, then what prompted the agency’s interest in him? Were his contacts here as well as in Russia considered useful to American counterintelligence?

The Canadian Connection

Although it’s not known why the Russians were intercepting phone calls involving the Tsarnaevs, one reason might have been Tamerlan’s connection, direct or indirect, with a Canadian terrorist named William Plotnikov. According to USA Today, a Russian security official told the AP that

Plotnikov had been detained in Dagestan in December 2010 on suspicion of having ties to the militants and during his interrogation was forced to hand over a list of social networking friends from the United States and Canada who like him had once lived in Russia, Novaya Gazeta reported. The newspaper said Tsarnaev’s name was on that list, bringing him for the first time to the attention of Russia’s secret services.

According to a slightly different version, Plotnikov, “while under interrogation in the militant hotbed of Dagestan, named Tsarnaev as a fellow extremist.

The similar backgrounds of Plotnikov and Tsarnaev make it likely that they had indeed been in contact.  Both were recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Both had successful boxing careers in North America, and both surprised their friends by converting to Islamist extremism.

Plotnikov was a member of the Caucasus Emirate, an al-Qaeda ally, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been searching for him since 2010. By 2011 the United States had joined the Russians in targeting this terrorist group as an al-Qaeda ally, and had offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of the group’s leader Dokka Umarov. (Moscow Times, May 27, 2011)

Plotnikov was killed in July 2012 in a shootout between militants and police in Dagestan. Tsarnaev left Dagestan for America two days after Plotnikov was killed.

US and Russia Share Concerns

Tsarnaev’s hopes for a Russian passport would have been put at risk by his openly provocative behavior in Dagestan –unless he was acting as an informant.  But for which government, the U.S. or Russia?

The United States and Russia have two shared concerns in the “arc of crisis” stretching from Afghanistan to the Caucasus – terrorism and drugs.  The two problems are interrelated, because drugs, especially in the Caucasus, help finance terror operations. This vitally affects Russia, both because it has one of the highest heroin death rates in the world, and even more because some of its member republics, like Dagestan, are up to 80 percent Muslim.  This shared concern has led to a successful joint US-Russia anti-drug operation in Afghanistan.

Was Tamerlan Tsarnaev caught up in a similar counter-intelligence operation?

The FBI’s Dysfunctional Informant Program

One of the more controversial features of the FBI’s informant program is the frequency with which FBI agents coerce young people into the dangerous role of informant, as a price for settling a minor legal problem. Tsarnaev fits the mold.  His successful career as a boxer was interrupted and his application for U.S. citizenship was held up (and perhaps denied) because “a 2009 domestic violence complaint was standing in his way.” This alone would mark him as a candidate for recruitment.

Thousands of vulnerable young people avoid our overcrowded prisons by agreeing to become snitches, sometimes wearing a wire.  In this way a person whose only crime may have been selling marijuana to a friend can end up risking his career and even his life.  And for what?

According to Sarah Stillman in The New Yorker,

The snitch-based system has proved notoriously unreliable, fuelling wrongful convictions. In 2000, more than twenty innocent African-American men in Hearne, Texas, were arrested on cocaine charges, based on the false accusations of an informant seeking to escape a burglary charge. This incident, and a number of others like it, prompted calls for national legislation to regulate informant use.

After 9/11, the coercive techniques of the FBI drug war, along with half of the agents using them, were redirected to surveillance of Muslims. The emphasis was no longer on investigation of specific crimes, but the recruitment of spies to report on all Muslim communities.

In 2005 the FBI’s Office of the Inspector General found that a high percentage of cases involving informants contained violations of the FBI’s own guidelines. Its report noted that since 2001 the rules had been loosened to reflect the new emphasis on intelligence gathering and. by extension, the bureau’s urgent need for informants.

According to the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, … nearly every major post-9/11 terrorism-related prosecution has involved a sting operation, at the center of which is a government informant. In these cases, the informants—who work for money or are seeking leniency on criminal charges of their own—have crossed the line from merely observing potential criminal behavior to encouraging and assisting people to participate in plots that are largely scripted by the FBI itself. Under the FBI’s guiding hand, the informants provide the weapons, suggest the targets and even initiate the inflammatory political rhetoric that later elevates the charges to the level of terrorism.

 A writer for Mother Jones, Trevor Aaronson, also investigated the FBI’s informant-led terrorism cases for over a year; he too found that in a number of cases, “the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity.”

Refuse the FBI and See What Happens

And what happens to Muslims who refuse to become spies?  The case of Ahmadullah Niazi is not atypical. Niazi was one of several members of a California mosque who sought a restraining court order against another member–actually an FBI informant–who was flagrantly advocating violence in their midst. When Niazi was subsequently asked to become an informant himself and refused, he was arrested on charges of lying to immigration officials about alleged family connections to a member of Al Qaeda. The charges were ultimately withdrawn, but by then both Niazi and his wife had lost their jobs.

Another Muslim, Khalifa al-Akili, when pressured to become an informant, complained to the Guardian newspaper in London that “he believed he was the target of an FBI ‘entrapment’ sting.” One day after the Guardian contacted al-Akili, the FBI arrested him on a felony charge for illegal gun possession, based on the fact that two years earlier he had used a friend’s rifle (at a firing range), something he was prohibited from doing since he already had a drug conviction on his record. Al-Akili was held without bail as a potential threat to the public, and ultimately convicted.

These recruitments were taking please in a climate of fear. In addition to the tens of thousands of Muslims in America who were interviewed or investigated after 9/11, there were also by 2003 (according to an American imam’s compilation of US Government figures), 6,483 detained or arrested, 3,208 deported, 13,434 in process of deportation, and 144,513 interviewed and then registered under a Special Registration program of the Justice Department.

It is instructive to study how the FBI handled drone victim Anwar al-Awlaki. Right after 9/11, Awlaki was the “go-to” imam for the U.S media, because of his willingness to denounce the atrocity as anti-Islamic.  But a few years earlier, while a Muslim cleric in San Diego, he had been twice arrested and convicted for soliciting prostitutes.  According to Awlaki, he had been set up both times, because the U.S. government had been trying to recruit him as a spy:

In 1996 while waiting at a traffic light in my minivan a middle aged woman knocked on the window of the passenger seat. By the time I rolled down the window and before even myself or the woman uttering a word I was surrounded by police officers who had me come out of my vehicle only to be handcuffed. I was accused of soliciting a prostitute and then released. They made it a point to make me know in no uncertain terms that the woman was an undercover cop. I didn’t know what to make of the incident. However a few days later came the answer. I was visited by two men who introduced themselves as officials with the US government … and that they are interested in my cooperation with them. When I asked what cooperation did they expect, they responded by saying that they are interested in having me liaise with them concerning the Muslim community of San Diego. I was greatly irritated by such an offer and made it clear to them that they should never expect such cooperation from myself. I never heard back from them again until in 1998 when I was approached by a woman, this time from my window and again I was surrounded by police officers who this time had go to court. This time I was told that this is a sting operation and you would not be able to get out of it.

Awlaki’s allegations may have been at least partly true. In 2002, when he came under suspicion in Operation Green Quest, an investigation of Muslim nonprofit organizations, the FBI reportedly did try to flip him, using prostitution charges.

According to U.S. News,

FBI agents hoped al-Awlaki might cooperate with the 9/11 probe if they could nab him on similar charges in Virginia. FBI sources say agents observed the imam allegedly taking Washington-area prostitutes into Virginia and contemplated using a federal statute usually reserved for nabbing pimps who transport prostitutes across state lines.

Were the FBI’s recruitment efforts successful?  Another Muslim “person of interest,” Ali al-Timimi, tells a strange tale about al-Awlaki’s unnaturally provocative behavior:

When Awlaki came to his home, Timimi said, he started talking about recruiting Western jihadists. “Ali had never, in his whole life, even talked to the guy or met him,” Timimi’s lawyer, Edward MacMahon, told me. “Awlaki just showed up at his house and asked him if he could assist him in finding young men to join the jihad.” MacMahon said that Timimi was suspicious of Awlaki showing up “completely out of the blue” (Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars, 71).

 Timimi’s attorneys argued that Awlaki was wearing a wire at the time, and asked that the US Government produce the tapes, which would show Timimi’s rejection of Awlaki’s terrorist request. The Government refused, on the grounds that “We are aware of no authority for this request.” Timimi, a promising research scientist, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Another glaring indication that Awlaki had been flipped is the ease with which he was able to return to the US from studies in Yemen in 2002, even though there was outstanding warrant for his arrest.

On October 9, 2002, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Colorado “abruptly filed a motion to have the warrant for Awlaki’s arrest vacated and dismissed.”

On October 10, Awlaki and his family arrived at JFK airport on a flight from Saudi Arabia.  After a brief period of confusion, Customs officials released them and recorded later that the FBI had told them “the warrant had been removed on 10/9.” In fact, documents show the warrant was still active, and was only vacated later that day.

Asked to comment on these anomalies, former FBI agents indicated there were only two likely explanations: either the bureau let the cleric into the country to track him for intelligence, or the bureau wanted to work with him as a friendly contact.

Does a similar analysis apply to the FBI’s curious “relationship” with Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

Despite Tsarnaev’s inflammatory behavior, as reported by the Russians and also in this country, a senior law enforcement official told the New York Times  that intelligence agencies never followed up on Tsarnaev once he returned to the U.S., because their investigation “did not turn up anything and it did not have the legal authority to keep tabs on him”

This claim sounds strange in the light of recent revelations about widespread surveillance of telephone and Internet traffic of ordinary Americans and the ease with which law enforcement officials obtain warrants to probe more deeply into the activities of anyone suspected of ties to “terrorists.”

The case of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, like that of Anwar al-Awlaki, leaves many unanswered questions. But one thing seems clear: the FBI’s informant program, especially when dealing with the War on Terror, has proliferated wildly out of control.

Originally Posted at WhoWhatWhy.com

Though not nearly as high profile, the annual World Food Prize award is often referred to as the “Nobel Prize” for agriculture, and this year’s winners – scientists with key roles in developing genetically engineered crops – may bring unwanted attention.

On Wednesday, the winners of the World Food Prize were announced at the US State Department, with Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance. This year’s award will be shared among three scientists: Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert Fraley, all pioneers in agricultural biotechnology.

Fraley is currently the chief technology officer at biotech giant Monsanto, while Mary-Dell Chilton is the founder of Syngenta Biotechnology, another prominent biotech company. In awarding the prize, which comes along with a $250,000 cash award, the Iowa-based World Food Prize Foundation reasons that genetically modified crops offer higher yields, and are more resilient to pestilence and adverse weather.

“These three scientists are being recognized for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing and applying modern agricultural biotechnology,” said Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation.

Though genetically modified foods are generally accepted within the US, as evidenced by the GMO varieties of soybeans and corn popular among US farmers, they are not approved for cultivation in Europe, and their introduction into other markets, such as India and China, has been limited. Countries in Europe such as Hungary have gone as far as destroying entire shipments of seed found to be genetically modified.

Likewise, there is a vibrant number of consumer groups in the US that strongly advocate against the introduction of other GMO crops such as wheat for direct human consumption (as opposed to use in animal feed) and also advocate for GMO food labeling.

Van Montagu, founder of the Institute of Plant Technology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium, has said he hoped “that this recognition will pave the way for Europe to embrace the benefits of this technology, an essential condition for global acceptance of transgenic plants.”

 

A woman holds up a poster during a protest against U.S.-based Monsanto Co. and genetically modified organisms (GMO), in New York May 25, 2013. (Reuters / Eduardo Munoz)

A woman holds up a poster during a protest against U.S.-based Monsanto Co. and genetically modified organisms (GMO), in New York May 25, 2013. (Reuters / Eduardo Munoz)

The World Food Prize Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1986 at the behest of Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, honored for his role in the “green revolution,” has been criticized in the past for its close ties to agribusiness.

If nothing else, a look back at the past winners of the prize seems to indicate the organization’s emphasis on technology, and the potential to alleviate mass hunger and increase crop yields.

Last year’s winner of the World Food Prize was Daniel Hillel, who pioneered food production in the Middle East with a radically new method of delivering water to crops in arid regions known as “micro-irrigation.” In the previous two years, the organization honored NGOs and political leaders that worked to alleviate hunger.

Regardless, this year’s inclusion of scientists with deep roots in the biotech field is sure not to sit well with opponents of GMO crops. Though genetically modified seeds are hailed as a solution to alleviate hunger and increase crop yields, critics worry about the legal repercussions of corporate control over food sources, as well as the loss of biodiversity and potential impact on the environment.

More controversial is whether GMO foods may produce adverse health effects by human consumption. Critics of genetically modified plants point to the possibility of transferring antibiotic resistance, or the creation of allergens that might impact both humans and animals.

Copyright RT, 2013

Despite a stream of mendacious twaddle from President Obama, congressional grifters and spook agency mouthpieces like Office of the Director of National Intelligence head James Clapper, FBI Director Robert Mueller and NSA chief General Keith Alexander, it turns out our guardians are listening in to America’s, and most of the world’s, telephone conversations after all.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, former FBI counter-terrorism agent Tim Clemente was asked by CNN whether there’s a way that investigators “can get the phone companies” to cough up audio of a particular conversation.

Clemente responded: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her [the alleged bomber's wife]. We certainly can find that out.”

CNN’s incredulous reply: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.”

Clemente: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

When questioned the next day whether he would confirm his previous statements, Clemente told CNN, “I’m talking about all digital communications are–there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past. I can’t go into detail of how that’s done or what’s done. But I can tell you that no digital communication is secure. So these communications will be found out. The conversation will be known.”

While there was scant media follow-up to Clemente’s assertions, recent revelations of NSA dragnet spying have confirmed what analysts, researchers and whistleblowers have been saying for years: the secret state has the technological wherewithal to digitally record the content of all electronic communications, including telephone calls, and store them in massive cloud computing server farms in the event they’re needed for future “reference.”

And as it turns out, according to Internet Archive founder, computer engineer Brewster Kahle, who has wide experience storing large amounts of data, the cost of doing so is incredibly cheap.

A spreadsheet created by Kahle estimates it would cost the government a mere $27 million to “store all phonecalls made in a year in the ‘cloud’.” To do so would require less than 5,000 square feet of space and $2 million in electricity costs to store the estimated 272 petabytes of data generated annually in the United States!

A Giant Blackmail Machine

Recent disclosures by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have done much to dispel remaining myths (government spying is “focused,” “legal,” etc.) surrounding the secret state’s privacy-killing surveillance programs.

It now seems likely that NSA is hoovering up far more than the “telephony metadata” revealed by The Guardian’s publication of the secret FISA Court Order to Verizon Business Services.

Following-up on PRISM program reporting, The Washington Post disclosed June 15 that the Bush administration’s “warrantless wiretapping” program STELLAR WIND “was succeeded by four major lines of intelligence collection in the territorial United States, together capable of spanning the full range of modern telecommunications, according to the interviews and documents.”

“Two of the four collection programs, one each for telephony and the Internet,” Barton Gellman reported, “process trillions of ‘metadata’ records for storage and analysis in systems called MAINWAY and MARINA, respectively.”

According to the Post, “Metadata includes highly revealing information about the times, places, devices and participants in electronic communication, but not its contents. The bulk collection of telephone call records from Verizon Business Services, disclosed this month by the British newspaper the Guardian, is one source of raw intelligence for MAINWAY.”

Dropping a bombshell, although withholding supporting documents, Gellman reports that the “other two types of collection, which operate on a much smaller scale, are aimed at content. One of them intercepts telephone calls and routes the spoken words to a system called ­NUCLEON.”

“MARINA and the collection tools that feed it are probably the least known of the NSA’s domestic operations,” the Post averred. “Yet they probably capture information about more American citizens than any other, because the volume of e-mail, chats and other Internet communications far exceeds the volume of standard telephone calls.”

“The NSA calls Internet metadata ‘digital network information.’ Sophisticated analysis of those records can reveal unknown associates of known terrorism suspects. Depending on the methods applied, it can also expose medical conditions, political or religious affiliations, confidential business negotiations and extramarital affairs.”

In other words, it seems likely that harvested data gleaned from phone calls, emails, video chats and credit card records are being used in ways that are as old as the spy game itself: political and economic blackmail.

Indeed, NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, the principal source for The New York Times exposé of illegal Bush administration spy programs, told Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post podcast that the secret state has ordered surveillance on a wide range of groups and individuals, including antiwar activists, high-ranking military officials, lawmakers and diplomats.

According to Tice:

“Okay. They went after–and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things–they went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the–and judicial. But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. All kinds of–heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House–their own people. They went after antiwar groups. They went after US international–US companies that that do international business, you know, business around the world. They went after US banking firms and financial firms that do international business. They went after NGOs that–like the Red Cross, people like that that go overseas and do humanitarian work. They went after a few antiwar and civil rights groups. So, you know, don’t tell me that there’s no abuse, because I’ve had this stuff in my hand and looked at it.”

“Here’s the big one,” Tice told hosts Sibel Edmonds and Peter B. Collins, “this was in summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator for Illinois. You wouldn’t happen to know where that guy lives right now would you? It’s a big white house in Washington, D.C. That’s who they went after, and that’s the president of the United States now.”

Other political targets revealed by Tice included all nine Supreme Court justices, Senate Intelligence Committee head Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and ousted CIA director General David Petraeus, who allegedly resigned over a sex scandal.

Is it any wonder then, that House and Senate leaders driving the “oversight” clown car are the ones now braying loudest for Ed Snowden’s head!

Like ECHELON, Only on Steroids

A new series of disclosures published by The Guardian, based on the Snowden files but, like the Post, without public disclosure of the actual documents, we learned that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) “has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).”

“The sheer scale of the agency’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible,” The Guardian reported.

Britain’s “Mastering the Internet” scheme was first reported by The Register and The Sunday Times back in 2009; Antifascist Calling published an analysis of NSA’s key role in the GCHQ program; a few months later, citing documents posted by WikiLeaks, AFC commented on the cozy relations amongst private intelligence contractors, the European Union and the secret state.

The architecture of these highly intrusive, illegal programs was created decades ago however, in intelligence-sharing arrangements in the English speaking world under the rubric of NSA’s global surveillance network known as ECHELON.

As one of the “Five Eyes” partner agencies of the Cold War-era UKUSA Security Agreement (US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) exposed by journalists Duncan Campbell and Nicky Hager in their ECHELON investigations, GCHQ, through a contemporary operation code named TEMPORA, has tapped into and stored vast quantities of data gleaned from fiber optic cables passing through the UK.

“This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites–all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets,” The Guardian reported.

But as we know from Campbell and Hager’s reporting, while intelligence and law enforcement officials in Britain and the United States are required to obtain an individualized warrant to target a suspect’s communications in their own nation, no such restrictions apply should one of the five “partner agencies” spy on another country’s citizens. One must assume this arrangement continues today.

“The documents reveal that by last year GCHQ was handling 600m ‘telephone events’ each day,” The Guardian disclosed, and “had tapped more than 200 fibre-optic cables and was able to process data from at least 46 of them at a time.”

That GCHQ did so on the basis of “secret agreements with commercial companies, described in one document as ‘intercept partners’,” should come as now surprise to readers of this blog.

According to Snowden documents “seen” but not published by The Guardian, “some companies have been paid for the cost of their co-operation and GCHQ went to great lengths to keep their names secret. They were assigned ‘sensitive relationship teams’ and staff were urged in one internal guidance paper to disguise the origin of ‘special source’ material in their reports for fear that the role of the companies as intercept partners would cause ‘high-level political fallout’.”

“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight,” Snowden told The Guardian. “They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.”

The latest revelations have certainly raised eyebrows in Hong Kong and China, long accused by US political hacks of waging “aggressive cyberwarfare” against US defense and financial networks.

On Sunday, the South China Morning Post disclosed that “US spies are hacking into Chinese mobile phone companies to steal text messages and attacking the servers at Tsinghua University,” according to documents provided to the Post by Edward Snowden.

The Post revealed that the US is “hacking” computers “at the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which owns one of the most extensive submarine cable networks in the region.”

“Pacnet,” the Hong Kong newspaper explained, “recently signed major deals with the mainland’s top mobile phone companies, owns more than 46,000 kilometres of fibre-optic cables. The cables connect its regional data centres across the Asia-Pacific region, including Hong Kong, the mainland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. It also has offices in the US.”

Talk about the (US) pot calling the (Chinese) kettle black!

NSA Data Fed to Main Core Security Index?

As sinister as these programs are, is there another component which taps “into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called ‘black programs’ whose existence is undisclosed,” as alluded to by The Wall Street Journal five years ago?

In a recent interview with the conservative web site, The Daily Caller, former NSA technical director and whistleblower William Binney said while he doesn’t think “they’re recording all of it,” what they do however, “is take their target list, which is somewhere on the order of 500,000 to a million people. They look through these phone numbers and they target those and that’s what they record.”

“500,000 to a million people”? Who are they? Foreign citizens, Americans? If the latter, is Binney’s statement confirmation of reporting by journalists Christopher Ketchum and Tim Shorrock about the existence of a secret “Continuity of Government” database of “suspect” Americans known as Main Core?

“One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect,” Ketchum reported. “In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.”

As we now know, US government intelligence agencies including the CIA, DHS, the FBI, military outfits such as US Northern Command and the 70-odd “public-private” fusion centers scattered across the country have spied on antiwar activists, Ron Paul supporters, anarchists, socialists, gun rights’ proponents and, as revealed by journalist Beau Hodai in his troubling report, Dissent or Terror, Occupy Wall Street.

Did all the data secretly scooped up on law-abiding Americans exercising their constitutionally protected right to free speech wind up in the government’s ultra-secret Main Core security index?

“Another well-informed source–a former military operative regularly briefed by members of the intelligence community” told Ketchum: “‘The more data you have on a particular target, the better [the software] can predict what the target will do, where the target will go, who it will turn to for help,’ he says. ‘Main Core is the table of contents for all the illegal information that the U.S. government has [compiled] on specific targets.’ An intelligence expert who has been briefed by high-level contacts in the Department of Homeland Security confirms that a database of this sort exists, but adds that ‘it is less a mega-database than a way to search numerous other agency databases at the same time’.”

A few months after Ketchum’s report appeared, Shorrock informed us that during an interview with financial consultant Norman Bailey, who headed “a special unit within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on financial intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela–the NSA has been using its vast powers with signals intelligence to track financial transactions around the world since the early 1980s.”

“After 9/11,” Bailey told Shorrock, NSA signals intelligence intercept capabilities were “instantly seen within the US government as a critical tool in the war on terror–and apparently was deployed by the Bush administration inside the United States.”

“In September 2001,” Shorrock disclosed, “a contemporary version of the [Reagan era] Continuity of Government program was put into play in the hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Vice President Cheney and senior members of Congress were dispersed to ‘undisclosed locations’ to maintain government functions.”

“It was during this emergency period,” Shorrock wrote, “that President Bush may have authorized the NSA to begin actively using the Main Core database for domestic surveillance.”

“If Main Core does exist, says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and an outspoken critic of the agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its likely home,” Ketchum averred.

“‘If a master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where there are no legal issues’–the CIA and FBI would be restricted by oversight and accountability laws–’so I suspect it is at DHS, which as far as I know operates with no such restraints’.”

“Giraldi notes that DHS already maintains a central list of suspected terrorists and has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable threat to domestic security. ‘It’s clear that DHS has the mandate for controlling and owning master lists. The process is not transparent, and the criteria for getting on the list are not clear.’ Giraldi continues, ‘I am certain that the content of such a master list [as Main Core] would not be carefully vetted, and there would be many names on it for many reasons–quite likely, including the two of us’.”

While we don’t know whether Binney is referring to the NSA component of Main Core, or some other highly illegal, hitherto unknown program, his statements seem to confirm Gellman’s reporting in The Washington Post that “spoken words” are routed “to a system called ­NUCLEON.” Again, without publishing supporting documentation supplied by Edward Snowden, the picture is far from clear.

Recent revelations however, building on scandals surrounding the interception of the sensitive communications of Associated Press and Fox News reporters, along with President Obama’s Nixonian obsession with stopping “leaks” as part of the administration’s war on whistleblowers, it should be clear by now that the police state Rubicon has already been crossed.

In 1976, during Senate hearings into earlier government lawbreaking, Senator Frank Church warned: “The National Security Agency’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If a dictator ever took over, the NSA could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.”

“I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge,” Senator Church cautioned. “I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

What should also be clear, is that the bipartisan consensus that seeks to criminalize the leak and not the illegality of the programs exposed, reflects the profound fear in elite Washington circles of the American people. As opposition to endless war and austerity continues to percolate below the surface, it is only a matter of time before the breaking point is reached.

Searching for Peace in Cold War Germany

June 24th, 2013 by Greg Guma

This is the twelfth chapter of a series excerpted from “Maverick Chronicles,” a memoir-in-progress. Previous stories can be found at VTDigger.

The interpreter warned us about getting into East Berlin. “They’ll probably hold you an hour,” he predicted. “Normally, it would be a half hour but they’re in a bad mood because of Brezhnev.”

The Soviet leader had died two days before and bleak predictions circulated about how the shock, along with West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s fall from power earlier in the year, would affect East-West relations. None of this changed our minds. A peace meeting would be starting at an obscure church on the other side of the Berlin Wall in a little more than an hour. We didn’t have the exact address and knew only a few German phrases. But the journey was worth the risk.

Harro, the lanky blonde interpreter who was squiring us around, gently discouraged the idea. The East Germans would scalp us each for 25 marks, force us to exchange them at par for Eastern marks worth only a quarter as much. Once we returned the money would be worthless. And if we didn’t make it back across the border by midnight, we could be thrown in jail.

Quite a way to spend our second night in in the country.

     

West Berlin squatters reclaimed abandoned buildings.

In November 1982, at the height of the Reagan era, in what felt like Cold War II, Robin Lloyd and I joined a delegation organized by The Nation. Despite a prediction by Sid Lens, one fellow traveler and senior editor of The Progressive at the time, that we would never even find our destination, crossing east seemed better than watching a transvestite nightclub act. That was the entertainment choice offered by our hotel. We set out for the train carrying only some money, passports, a map and a phrase book.

An East German journalist had brought up the meeting earlier that day. “You can only see the peace movement when people assemble,” he explained. The meeting was one of about 2,000 being held during a ten-day period called the annual “Peace Decade.” All the events were being held in churches, institutions that had become the motor for a new movement.

 

In response to a renewed militarization of daily life, thousands of East Germans were gathering. Some had signed the Berliner Appeal, a letter calling for an end to military training and a peace curriculum in the schools. Others wore pacifist armbands — even after they were banned by the state and replaced with government-circulated anti-NATO emblems.

The East German government showed open disdain for the pacifist drift of the activities, according to the journalist who gave us the tip. “In the GDR,” he said, “the official meaning of peace is ‘peace must be armed’.” Yet after the 1979 NATO decision to deploy more than 100 Pershing missiles in West Germany, both East and West Germans saw the threat.

“People felt that war was a real possibility,” explained the writer.  And so, reaction in the East grew within the only autonomous organizations in the country – churches.

With the border minutes away I reviewed what I’d heard over the last 24 hours. West Berliners were worried about the “tough words from the White House,” Alex Langolios said. Alex was deputy speaker of the Berlin Parliament and a Social Democrat. “We’re nervous when we hear about winning a nuclear war.”

He talked up East-West cooperation, a guarded interdependence in relation to trade, and the need to fight fear on both sides of the Wall. This Social Democrat sounded very much like an American Democrat. Echoing their warnings about the Reagan agenda, he suggested that relations could deteriorate further with the Christian Democrats taking the reins.

In West Berlin, the Christian Democratic Party had been in control since the recent local elections. Here and elsewhere, the attraction of Social Democratic liberalism had faded with the failure of Germany’s “economic miracle.” The economy had stopped growing, national unemployment was over two million, and the government was resorting to debt financing. In Berlin, unemployment was over 8 percent, and up to 15 percent among the young. There were over 10,000 vacant apartments in the city, a result of both speculation and years of neglect. Yet 50,000 people were looking for homes.

In recent years, the city’s population had dropped by about 300,000 to 1.9 million, despite aggressive attempts to lure new industry, subsidies from the national government, and even a legal loophole that allowed young people to defer military service as long as they lived in West Berlin. On the other hand, what had grown was the number of squatters and Turkish guest workers, the latter exacerbating the unemployment situation.

“Berliners think this city is the center of the world,” Langolios confided. Still, he had to admit that social stress was bringing the viability of the center into question.

The story was similar across the country. After 15 years with Social Democrats in charge, the consensus had cracked. Economic stagnation, combined with the cumulative strain of being a front line state in the struggle between East and West, became too much for Chancellor Schmidt. In late September, his coalition partners, the Free Democrats, had called for severe budget cutting. Before the issue was resolved, the small party — representing less than ten percent of the national vote, with support mainly from entrepreneurs and professionals – deserted the Social Democrats and joined with the Christian Democrats to topple the government.

 

The center split and the fate of the nation was up for grabs.

Getting through customs turned out to be no problem. The East Berlin officials barely glanced at our passports before issuing temporary visas and collecting a five mark entry fee. Minutes later we were on a windy street looking for directions to Auferstehung Kirchengemeinde, the Church of the Resurrection, where one of the peace meetings was already underway. About 55 similar gatherings had already taken place during the last week in East Berlin alone.

 

  Flags were at half-mast in honor of Brezhnev. Otherwise it felt like a “normal” night as we hailed a cab. For five marks the driver took us out of the neon-lit central district, past a 20-foot portrait of Lenin, to a dark street, and pointed to a barely visible building across the wide road.

     

Banned peace symbol

Inside the church, in a modest chapel, about 70 people were listening to a dialogue between a young pacifist churchman and a burly spokesman for the Christian Democratic Party – in this case an East German satellite of the Communist Party hoping to appeal to the religious. After a while Robin stood up to deliver a short speech in German. She offered good wishes, a peace button and a photo collection chronicling the massive disarmament march and rally in New York the previous June.

“Speak English,” someone yelled.

 

When we explained that we couldn’t follow the discussion, a young man volunteered to translate. Ret was a garrulous, worldly rebel, a self-described “anarchist not a terrorist,” and admirer of the guru Rajneesh. His main complaint about life under socialism was the inability to obtain books about his favorite topics.

After chiding the speakers for talking too long, members of the audience addressed the need to incorporate an ecological perspective in the peace movement and break down “ideological blocks.” One voice urged a “revolution of Christians, without weapons, a non-aggressive approach to break the circle.”

The churchman at the head table offered support. “There are many ways to the goal,” he said. “We must try to see every possibility. There are many faces of pacifism in this city.” But the Party spokesman objected that “the situation is too dangerous. We must work together, for there will be no weeping after a nuclear war.”

 The dialogue expanded, gradually revealing frustration with official resistance to the peace movement. Most people were in their twenties and thirties, sober-looking men and women dressed in work clothes. Sitting directly across from us, however, was a young woman who looked as if she had been airlifted in from downtown West Berlin. Chains and safety-pins adorned her blue jeans, going well with her orange hairdo. Her jacket featured a handmade version of the banned symbol of the pacifist peace movement, a man hammering a sword into a plowshare.

She and her boyfriend, wearing denim and a collection of Western buttons, were reminders of the influence of Western media on the East. Their wardrobes were statements of revolt that could easily provoke police persecution. There was no youth culture on this side of the Wall to provide cover for such defiance.

     

The group in the church wasn’t anti-socialist, but there were serious complaints about the government’s approach to peace. “We want one peace movement in all the world,” said one man, “but we want it to be creative.” Another challenged the party spokesman to explain, “Why are there lessons for war and not for peace?” This was a reference to the military curriculum in schools and the military camps youngsters had to attend during holidays.

     

The party man tried to steer discussion back to what he called “objective” issues, urging mutual respect and obedience to the law. It just isn’t possible for anyone to simply make a placard and parade in the streets, he advised. This increased the anger growing in the audience. In response, the church spokesman urged that his institution become “a forum for the whole society to discuss these issues.”

 

Sensing that things were careening out of control, the moderator called for a ten-minute recess.

     

As we headed for the hall, a silent observer at the back of the chapel handed me a calling card. It read: Lynn J. Turk, Second Secretary and Vice Consul, American Embassy. He was a diplomat, he said, assigned to study the East German peace movement, and offered to fill us in before providing an escort us back across the border.

     

At a comfortable apartment, with his South Korean wife listening, Turk traced the emergence of the East German peace movement to the 1979 NATO “double track” decision. The two “tracks” were a) negotiations for nuclear arms reductions, and b) deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles if those negotiations fell through. After the announcement, the churches had geared up to protest.

     

But the movement hadn’t blossomed until 1981, when about 6,000 people met across the street from a bombed out church ruin in Dresden on the anniversary of the devastating 1945 US attack on that city. West German television recorded the ‘81 event, beaming it back east. At about the same time Pastor Rainer Eppelmann initiated what became known as the Berliner Appeal.

     

The Appeal called for the prohibiting of military toy sales, the outlawing of military training, peace information in the schools — including study of peaceful solutions to conflict, ecology and psychology, no retaliation against those who refused military service, and no more military demonstrations at festivals or national holidays.

     

According to Turk, the Appeal campaign was being eroded by government repression. The plowshares symbol had been banned and replaced by the state, and non-Christian activists were being pressured into exile or silence. But the crackdown still stopped at the doors of the church. The reason for this tolerance, he theorized, was that “repression here would damage the West German peace movement, confirming the West’s view of the East.”

     

Though claiming he opposed first strike weapons, Turk viewed the East as a serious military threat and East Germany as a totalitarian society whose rulers only allowed peaceniks to meet for the most cynical of reasons. He meanwhile claimed that the Soviets had stationed tactical nuclear weapons in East Germany, a piece of likely disinformation I was unable to confirm in any with any government official or activist.

     

Minutes before midnight we arrived at Checkpoint Charlie. From Turk’s car I could see the eight-foot corrugated fence, and beyond it the cement-covered no man’s land known as the Wall. To make certain no one escaped, rumor had it, the East Germans even checked under the cars with mirrors.

     

Turk urged us to ask East German officials why the Wall was still up. “They’ll say it’s an anti-fascist wall,” he predicted, implying that the real reason was that most people would race across the border if given the chance. When I finally did question an East German bureaucrat about this, he said the wall had been erected – and was maintained – to prevent black market destabilization of the economy, along with an exodus of East German professionals lured by higher pay on the other side.

     

After 15 minutes the border guard returned our passports, but chided us for not returning by the same route we’d used to enter. On the other hand, he barely looked inside the vehicle before lifting the metal gate to let us pass and I could see no evidence of mirrors on the ground.

 

A New Political Culture

 

When an old West Berlin factory complex in Kreuzberg was slated for demolition in 1979, squatters moved into the empty front apartments to save it and an alternative community was born. Over the next few years the Kerngehause squatters held a consortium of speculators at bay and launched a variety of collective projects. By 1982, groups living and working out of the address were running food and taxi coops, a metal shop, language and alternative energy groups, a self-help health project, as well as a theater and a rock group.

     

The squatters, who paid rent into an escrow account used for renovations, were part of a citywide alternative culture. Kerngehause was one of many attempts to deal with unemployment and emotional alienation by developing a dual economic and social structure. Although not all squatter houses were as evolved, most shared a tradition of open revolt against conventional lifestyles and exploitative relations.

     

Berlin’s alternative movement developed in the ’70s as many college-educated young people realized that “over industrialized” Germany provided too few jobs while restricting personal choice. They formed collectives, started an alternative daily newspaper, set up their own bank, and gradually entered electoral politics. The squatters, about 2,000 clustered at more than 130 locations, dramatically illustrated the style of the movement. While police squads swooped down on some houses, groups liberated new locations, remodeling and improving their dwellings. When electricity was cut off, they surreptitiously tied into cables. 

     

The links between groups were informal, yet an attitude of solidarity brought them together for demonstrations, cultural happenings and mutual aid. They were part of a broad alliance of peace, anti-nuclear, women’s and cultural groups.

     

The movement’s center was Kreuzberg, a crumbling neighborhood that still showed scars of wartime bombing. It had since become a haven for the young and many of the city’s 120,000 Turkish guest workers, as well as a stronghold for the Alternative Liste, a new political movement with representation in the local parliament.

     

An enormous chasm separated the values of the Alternatives from the lifestyles of mainstream Berlin. The collectivist ethics, the desire to reintegrate life and work, the dedication to a no-growth, small scale economy were foreign to most Berliners. In some respects, in fact, West Berlin was more American than some US cities, a neon wonderland, a pumped-up conspicuous consumption society, and a high-tech haven where conservative feathers were ruffled mainly by the sex shops along the main drags.

   

 The Alternatives had nevertheless made a dent, here and elsewhere in Germany. Expressing its agenda mainly through the Green Party, the movement had effectively raised a variety of environmental issues, winning representation in a half dozen regions. It had begun with massive protests against nuclear power plants and unnecessary demolitions, mushrooming into a nationwide political alliance which aimed at halting nuclear weapons deployment and unlimited economic growth.

     

I’d seen some of the most visible signs — painted buildings in squatter zones. Before leaving the city I wanted to get behind the walls. A theater production at Kerngehause provided the opportunity; the Ratibor Theater was presenting “Banal,” a punk-rock collection of satirical skits about the foibles of middle class life.

   

 A youthful four-person cast played the instruments, performed pantomime, used high-tech toys as props, and displayed various symbols of mass society to demonstrate their apparent contempt for consumerism and the sexual games of the straight world. The music sounded a bit like Elvis Costello. After two hours the performance ended with a dreamy swimming sequence, possibly symbolizing a freer lifestyle. The actors glided in slow motion as the audience waved an enormous plastic canopy overhead.

 

A few days and hundreds of miles later, in the industrial city of Dortmund, a Green Party member put the alternative movement into perspective. “We’re trying to develop a new political culture,” said Lucas Lucasik. “Some of us say we can do something inside the existing system; others speak for fundamental opposition.”

 

Lucas said that neither the peace movement nor the Green Party had yet developed clear solutions to the economic and foreign policy problems confronting the country. But he reminded me that the party itself, only three years old at the time, was being forced to deal with issues that were often beyond the resources and expertise of such a young movement.

 

“We have problems explaining what we want to voters,” he admitted candidly, “especially when Christian Democrats say we aren’t democratic, that we don’t want to take responsibility, and would make the country ungovernable. We’re not running to make a coalition with any party, we are developing our own strong positions. We would lose our supporters if we changed. We don’t want to rule. We want to change the whole society.”

 

From Sachsenhausen to Bonn

 

On a cloudy day we bussed into East Germany for a tour arranged by the Communist government’s US Friendship Committee. At Sachsenhausen, a World War II concentration camp about 30 miles outside Berlin, we were greeted by former inmate Werner Handler, a news editor who recounted the horrors of Hitler fascism.

     

The camp’s grounds were crowded with German tourists, but not to take in the museum’s memorabilia. They had come instead for army induction ceremonies. Russian troops stood at attention beside German recruits in an open park where the barracks once stood. Handler explained how he had managed, at age 18, to get out of the camp alive, reach Britain, and join the Communist Party.

After the war he was expelled from West Germany for his political leanings and, taking a job at the Voice of the GDR radion station, became a true believer in socialism. When I pressed him about the government crackdown on peace activists and the banning of the Plowshares emblem, he evaded the issue but offered a ride back to town. In his private car, Handler admitted that the government may have been too heavy-handed. 
     

Pacifists are naive, he argued, but argument is preferable to police action.

     

A Russian soldier observed ceremonies at Sachsenhausen,
a concentration camp that became a memorial park.

 

At a public gathering two hours later, he reverted to the official line. “For us this pacifist position is an opening for morally disarming education,” he charged. The Americans touted the virtues of dissent, while the East Germans saw no need for an independent peace movement. Pointing out that many East German leaders were once in Nazi camps, Handler asserted that, “These men need no pushing to work for peace.”

After an exhausting day we piled onto an overnight train bound for the West. By morning we were in Dortmund, a cross between Detroit and Pittsburgh in the industrial heartland. At a nuclear power plant, public relations men treated us to meals, generous portions of statistics, and bureaucratese about the safety of the technology.

“We have plenty of salt caverns for the waste,” one expert said.

“Will you take ours then?”

“Sure.”

Later, I talked with Greens about the need for nukes and other baseload power sources. The answer wasn’t reassuring. “Too much energy is on the market,” said Siggie Kock, a chimney sweep. As he saw it, the real problem was the production of too many unnecessary items. Not the type of response geared to inspiring confidence among industrial workers.

Asking the radicals about economics was almost as frustrating as discussing pacifism with the East German authorities. With strong convictions but little more, most Greens argued simply that “neither the capitalist nor the socialist way will work.” They were searching for a “third way.” What was it? They weren’t quite sure yet.

In Koln, after a church/Communist Party peace rally held in front of the cathedral, I pursued the issue with some of the organizers. One of them, a Communist named Christine, offered a thumbnail critique of the Greens. “In ten years they may not exist,” she predicted. “They don’t relate to the workers. The women’s and other movements are strong, but you can’t change anything without the workers.”

Christine’s vision was that the peace movement would continue to transcend party lines, bringing on a “new moment in history.” But she also feared that the rightward drift of the nation might be too much to overcome.

Other Germans expressed doubts about the Greens. “They’re very green,” Werner Handler joked. “They’re very conservative,” said a PR man at the power plant. Maybe the critics were correct. Still, they’d managed to build significant local bases of power, define a fresh and revolutionary ecological perspective, and catalyze the nation. Blacklisting was clearly part of the reason that the Communist Party had been marginalized, despite its union ties. The Greens were different; their decentralized, holistic approach was both radical and conservative.

They wanted a fundamental change from a “profit-oriented to a life-oriented order,” explained Roland Vogt, a Party co-chair. Using electoral means, fusing the theories of E.F. Schumacher and Ivan Illich with the nonviolence of Gandhi, their goal was to influence the existing system while simultaneously swaying people with their ideas.

During a meeting at the Party’s Bonn headquarters, Vogt outlined the strategy: “Our main purpose is to get out of the vicious cycle of nuclear energy and prevent the deployment of Pershing 2 missiles. Representation in the Bundestag would help, but we wouldn’t form a coalition. As the weaker partner, I wouldn’t propose marriage.”

But would the party compromise?

“The base on which you make compromises is when something can be divided. But growth is no longer divisible. It’s an all or nothing thing.”

The time had come to hear from the other side. At the Konrad Adenauer House, home of the Christian Democratic Party, Deputy Speaker Walter Bruckmann was ready to oblige. The Social Democrats had failed, he said, because their state-oriented solutions were too socialistic. His party was ready to let the market work and free people to solve their own problems.

It sounded very Reagan-esque. “The best social security against a Soviet invasion is a strong military,” he said. Willing to pay lip service to the overall good intentions of peace activists at first, he was soon criticizing their “illusions” and pointing out some subversive tendencies — pacifism and communism –that undermined national security.

He ultimately defended the blacklisting of radicals. “We have to protect democracy against our enemies,” he explained.

A generation gap was clearly haunting the country. There wasn’t much room for dialogue between eco-radicals and Christian conservatives. Not even the peace movement transcended the barrier between older Germans, trapped in a fortress mentality, and a younger generation for whom power was part of the problem.

After listening to Bruckmann I could see the fractures growing, along with more demonstrations, civil disobedience, and perhaps even violence. Millions were coming to grips with the possibility that the birthplace of the last war also could be the flashpoint for the next.

In East Germany Werner Handler had warned, “Unimaginable things can happen.” The same realization was making the peace movement more than a single issue campaign. For many people it was becoming a matter of survival.

 Yuisa Gimeno

Student activist Anita Parker speaks on behalf of the Crenshaw Cougar Coalition at a press conference protesting the school district’s reconstitution plan, Jan. 28, 2013. Photo: Karla Alegria

Student activist Anita Parker speaks on behalf of the Crenshaw Cougar Coalition at a press conference protesting the school district’s reconstitution plan, Jan. 28, 2013.
Photo: Karla Alegria

 Crenshaw, an overwhelmingly Black and Latino high school in South Los Angeles, is on the front line in the national battle to preserve public education. The school was born out of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, when the community fought to get a public school in the neighborhood. Crenshaw is home to some of L.A.’s top academic awardees and athletes, as well as the first student-created cell phone app. Yet the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) calls the school a failure and is trying to destroy its community-based nature.

 The District’s divide-and-conquer tactics have separated many teachers and staff from the African American and Latina women who have defended Crenshaw for years. Principled collaboration between union workers and the community is desperately needed to save this vital community resource.

 Killing a school to save it. Crenshaw has been starved of resources for years and rocked by constant upheaval — 33 administrator changes in seven years. Naturally, this neglect has caused graduation rates and test scores to drop. Despite this, the school began to claw its way back up, largely through collaboration between an innovative principal, teachers and the Crenshaw Cougar Coalition (CCC). The CCC is a grassroots group led mostly by women of color parents, and includes some staff, teachers and community organizations. Among the innovations were the Extended Learning Cultural Model and Social Justice Academy programs, which engaged students through culturally relevant, community-based education. Crenshaw won the 2012 Hoodie Award for Best High School, a national competition among urban schools.

 Suddenly last October, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy announced plans to “reconstitute” the school into three arbitrarily selected magnet programs. Under reconstitution, existing staff and teachers are forced to reapply for their jobs, and many are displaced.

In December, the district held a meeting on the reconstitution. An outraged crowd of parents condemned the plan because it would further destabilize the school, remove popular teachers and eliminate successful programs like the popular gifted magnet. Students warned that the reconstitution process has not bettered academic achievement at other schools and has worsened conditions. Parents got no answers about the fate of special education and English language learner students.

 Parents launch a fight. The CCC had stopped district assaults on the school before, like the threatened loss of accreditation and attempted forced transfer of a popular teacher. The newly revived coalition invited RW, FSP, and other groups to join, and met over the winter break and weekly during the school year to strategize.

Their demands included: resources for the Extended Learning Cultural Model; not forcing staff and teachers to reapply for their jobs; providing money for social services, college counseling, positive behavior support, and parent engagement; and ensuring access, retention, and equity at the new magnets for current and future students.

 They raised the demands at press conferences, picket lines outside LAUSD headquarters and the district’s January board meeting. But despite compelling testimony against the plan from members of Crenshaw’s first graduating class of ’69, students, parents, teachers and groups like Radical Women and the Community Rights Campaign, the Board voted to reconstitute the school.

Fostering divisions. CCC-led protests had the potential to unite teachers, staff and parents. So the district worked to blunt their impact by announcing “Coffee with the Principal” meetings, promoted as opportunities to collaborate with the newly renamed “transformation.” LAUSD invited participation in teacher selection interview panels. This drew people into their game plan without power to change the outcome.

 To make matters worse, the teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), scheduled and then cancelled a protest over the reconstitution. Intimidated teachers stopped attending CCC meetings. The district tossed out a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representative called by staff who were being told they had to reapply for their jobs. The cops were called on a parent who tried to attend the same meeting.

 The district had orchestrated a split between the teachers and parents and left the community divided among themselves. Public protest disappeared, replaced by indoor meetings where community concerns were sidelined. Some CCC members insisted the interview panels were mere window dressing, some grudgingly remained on them.

The Coalition was fragmented into three camps. Radicals and some parents wanted to fight publicly. Other parents, fearful of reprisals against their children, opted to “give the process a chance.” Some influential Black leaders advocated participating in the panels because this fight was “about the students, not teachers.” But the two are closely interconnected!

This truth was proved in April, when the district announced the results of the panels. Almost half the teachers were displaced. Of 33 teachers rejected, 27 were teachers of color, 21 of them African American. They averaged over 12 years of experience at the school. The Special Education Department, Extended Learning Cultural Model and Social Justice Academy were dismantled. LAUSD disregarded demands to re-open the library, hire a nurse, lower class sizes and provide therapists and more counselors.

 Several CCC members and displaced teachers expressed outrage at the following “Coffee with the Principal.” Parent leader Angie Parker declared, “LAUSD is committing educational homicide.” But the coalition was split over whether to protest further.

 Now what? Crenshaw’s situation is precarious. To get the fight back on track and boost morale, the Cougar Coalition needs to resume its demands and public protests and reunite with students and staff. It needs to take on destructive high-stakes testing used as an excuse to starve schools of resources, and demand taxing the rich and corporations to fully fund quality multi-cultural public education.

UTLA and SEIU members need to pressure their unions to defend their members and the school. If the coalition reclaims its proud history, it can still win positive changes. Nothing else can.

 Yuisa Gimeno is a long-time South L.A. resident and represents Radical Women in the CCC. Send her feedback at [email protected].

 This article in Spanish / Este artículo en español

Events are fast-moving. On June 23, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s (HKSAR) press releasesaid:

“Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.”

“The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden.”

“Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government’s request can meet the relevant legal conditions.”

“As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”

“The HKSAR Government has already informed the US Government of Mr. Snowden’s departure.”

“Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies.”

“The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.”

According to The New York Times:

“A Moscow-based reservations agent at Aeroflot, Russia’s national airline, said that Mr. Snowden was aboard flight SU213 to Moscow, with a scheduled arrival there a little after 5 p.m. Moscow time. The reservations agent said that Mr. Snowden was traveling on a one-way ticket to Moscow.”

On June 23, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) headlined “SNOWDEN LEAVES HONG KONG ON COMMERCIAL FLIGHT TO MOSCOW.”

“He left Hong Kong on his own will.” He arrived at 5:15PM local time. It’s not his final destination. He’ll continue to an unnamed country.

WikiLeaks helped Snowden secure political asylum in a “democratic country.” It arranged travel papers and “safe exit from Hong Kong.”

WikiLeaks legal advisors accompanied him. A Moscow-based reservations agent said he traveled with someone identified only as Harrison.

Russia’s Beijing embassy neither confirmed or denied his departure heading for Moscow. Vladimir Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he doesn’t know his plans.

If he seeks asylum, he added, “(t)here is a procedure, and it will be applied. If there is an application it is going to be considered. If there is no application, we will do what is prescribed by law.”

Carnegie Moscow Center director Dmitri Trenin believes Snowden will stay in Russia. “I don’t think there is any other country that would stand up to US pressure, which will be tremendous, he said.

“The Chinese don’t want to spoil their relationship with the United States. Russia is sometimes embracing conflict with the US.”

“Russia is turning into a haven – virtually, intellectually and physically – for those who have an ax to grind with the West, who are whistle-blowers or have problems with Western authorities,” he added.

“It’s the only country in the world that at this point can afford it, or thinks it can afford it.”

If Snowden continues to another country, Russia will be centrally involved in aiding his flight from prosecution.

“The minute Aeroflot got the information that a certain person by the name of Snowden is about to buy a ticket, this information would be immediately transferred to the quote-unquote competent authorities,” said Trenin.

“It would be a political decision to give him a ticket or deny him a ticket.” Russia’s very supportive. Whether he stays or leaves remains to be seen.

The Financial Times cited Itar Tass saying he’ll fly from Moscow to Havana en route to Venezuela. FT said another possibility is he’ll seek asylum in Russia.

On arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, Ecuadorian embassy staff met him. So did its Russian ambassador Patricio Chavez. Russia Today said a doctor embassy officials  dispatched examined him.

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino confirmed via twitter that Snowden applied for asylum.

Julian Assange told Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald he’d be met by “diplomats from the country that will be his ultimate destination.” They’ll accompany him to his journey’s end.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum. It did so last August. It’s short of freedom to leave Britain unarrested. He’s been holed up in its London embassy.

It’s likely Ecuador would treat Snowden like Assange. Ahead of granting him asylum last summer, President Raphael Correa twittered “No one is going to terrorize us” to do otherwise.

On June 23, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) headlined “EXCLUSIVE: US spies on Chinese mobile phone companies, steals SMS data: Edward Snowden.”

He said Washington’s “stealing millions of text messages.” He has evidence proving it.

“Text messaging is the most preferred communication tool in mainland China, used widely by ordinary people and government officials from formal work exchanges to small chats.”

“Government data show that the Chinese exchanged almost 900 billion text messages in 2012.”

China Mobile’s the world’s largest cell network operator. Through May it had 735 million subscribers. Number two China Unicom has 258 million users. China Telecom is third largest. It has 172 million customers.

Fang Binxing is the Principle of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications. He’s called the father of China’s “Great Firewall.”

Last October, he called foreign equipment a serious national security threat, saying:

“China should set up a national information security review commission as soon as possible.”

At issue is known US spying. Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) operates the same way. It’s secret Tempora program accesses fiber optic cables.

They carry vast amounts of Internet and communications data. GCHQ’s “Mastering the Internet” initiative spies online. It does so intensively. The agency works closely with NSA. Information learned is jointly shared.

American, other Western, and Israeli technology companies work cooperatively with Washington. Chinese telecom companies began replacing foreign equipment. Changes are proceeding quietly.

On June 23, SCMP published another “EXCLUSIVE: NSA targeted China’s Tsinghua University in extensive hacking attacks, says Snowden.”

It’s China’s “top education and research institute.” NSA targets it intensively. In one day last January, “at least 63 computers and servers” were hacked.

Snowden provided evidence of “external and internal internet protocol addresses. (They) could only have been obtained by hacking or with physical access to the computers.”

“The university is home to one of the mainland’s six major backbone networks, the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) from where internet data from millions of Chinese citizens could be mined.”

“The network was the country’s first internet backbone network and has evolved into the world’s largest national research hub.”

“It is one of the mainland’s non-commercial networks, owned by the Ministry of Education, but operated and maintained by the university and other colleges.”

Snowden said NSA focuses on so-called “network backbones.” Vast amounts of data pass through them.

Following his revelations, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs “set up an office to deal with diplomatic activities involving cybersecurity.”

It’s the first of its kind on the mainland. A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Beijing will discuss cybersecurity issues with Washington. They’ll occur during July’s Sino-US strategic and security dialogue.

SCMP said “China calls US the world’s ‘biggest villain’ for IT espionage.

Xinhua is China’s official press agency. It called new and previous allegations “clearly troubling signs.”

“They demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyberattacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age.”

Before Washington accuses other countries, it “should come clean about its record first.”

“It owes too an explanation to China and other countries it has allegedly spied on. It has to share with the world the range, extent and intent of its clandestine hacking programmes.”

“The ball is now in Washington’s court. The US government had better move to allay the concerns of other countries.”

A Final Comment

Snowden’s targeted for doing the right thing. He exposed US wrongdoing. He did so responsibly, legally, and at great risk. He sacrificed financial security and potential freedom. He deserves praise, not prosecution.

Charging him with Espionage Act violations reflects rogue state governance writ large. The law’s long ago outdated. It’s grossly misused.

It’s unrelated to Snowden’s revelations. It pertains to aiding America’s enemies. It concerns interfering with military operations during a time of war. It was enacted during WW I.

It’s about disclosing classified secrets “with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”

Snowden didn’t harm national security. He didn’t commit espionage. He exposed it. Global US spying/hacking revelations reflect massive, intrusive lawlessness.

Americans are unconstitutionally spied on. Foreign government statutes are violated. Snowden provided a vital service. He revealed what everyone needs to know.

It’s the only chance to stop it. Snowden risked everything to try. He’s arguably the most important whistleblower of our time. Perhaps ever.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/edward-snowden-charged-under-the-espionage-act/

http://www.dailycensored.com/washington-v-edward-snowden-update/

The US and its allies are working inside Lebanon to open a new front in the Syrian conflict. Lebanon has been sedated into a state of limbo by the lack of a government and the postponing of its parliamentary elections. Complicating matters, many institutional figures and military commanders have gone into retirement and the caretaker government is unable to replace them.

Hezbollah’s intervention into the Syrian conflict has given a boost to the Syrian government against the anti-government forces trying to overrun Syria.

This has turned the attention of the US and its allies onto Lebanon as a new arena of battle. Rockets are also being launched by anti-government forces from Syria, and even from inside Lebanon, against Hezbollah’s political strongholds and against Shia Muslim villages. The goal is to ignite the flames of sedition between Shiites and Sunnis inside Lebanon.

Photo Below: Picture of the Hariris adorned with the Future Party’s flag and Al-Qaeda and anti-government Syrian flags by their followers on the way to Sidon. (Photo by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)

 

Al-Qaeda in Lebanon

Al-Qaeda’s flag has been flying in Lebanon for years. Driving near the airport in Beirut or on the road to Sidon (Saida) you can see the Al-Qaeda flags flying in black. The same goes for Tripoli (Trablos) and some areas inside Beirut. Since the Syrian conflict you can see the Al-Qaeda flag flying next to the Syrian insurgent’s flag. The US and its allies have actually turned a blind eye to the support that the Future Party of Saad Hariri provides to Al-Qaeda. It is worth noting that the current head of the UN Secretariate’s Department of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who was once the US ambassador to Lebanon before he was promoted in the US Department of State, also turned a blind eye to the support for Al-Qaeda by the Hariri family’s Future Party and its March 14 Alliance.

The Hariri family has had a long alliance with the takfiris and Al-Qaeda supporters. They have been political allies with groups in Lebanon that openly revere Osama bin Laden as a great leader. It was the Hariri family and members of their Future Party that also imported the fighters that would become Fatah Al-Islam into Lebanon. The exploitation of takfiri militias inside Lebanon by the Hariri family was intended to crush Hezbollah after Israel failed to do in 2006. Regionally, the same strategy involved the Hariri family’s Saudi patrons and George W. Bush’s administration, which were preparing and arming these militias as tools/weapons against Syria and Iran. The Hariris were furious when Seymour Hersh exposed them and had him publicly rebuked.

Months later Fatah Al-Islam would get out of control. Seymour Hersh would be vindicated. The Hariri-led March 14 Alliance would dishonestly try to blame Syria and the Palestinians for creating and supporting the group that they themselves had created. The fighting in Lebanon between the Lebanese military and Fatah Al-Islam foreshadowed the armies that were amassed for regime change in Libya and Syria by the US and its allies.

Tripoli and Sidon as Extensions of the Syrian Conflict

Lebanon’s second largest city, Tripoli, has seen intense fighting between the Alawite community of Lebanon, which is represented by the Arab Democratic Party, and the Hariri family’s takfiri allies. Hariri’s allies in Tripoli are open supporters of Al-Qaeda and the anti-government forces in Syria; they have smuggled weapons across the Lebanese-Syrian and sent large numbers of fighters into Syria to topple the government in Damascus. The Future Party has been involved in coordinating this also.

Lebanon’s third largest city, Sidon, has also been the scene of fighting and tensions between Ahmed Al-Assir, a Hariri ally, and Hezbollah’s supporters and allies. Al-Assir’s men have even tried to kill one of Sidon’s main Sunni Muslim clerics, Maher Hammoud, because he has constantly been working for Muslim and Lebanese unity and saying that there is an attempt to ignite a Shia-Sunni conflict in Lebanon and the broader region. A contingent from the Lebanese military has had stay in Sidon to keep the peace in the city.

Al-Assir’s men attacked and killed members of the Lebanese military in a village on the outskirts of Sidon for no apparent reason on June 23, 2013. This has ignited a battle in Sidon. Thick smoke from the city can be seen from a far distance. It has been reported that members of the anti-government forces from Syria have also joined them. The Lebanese military has deployed heavy weapons to fight Al-Assir’s group and to restore peace to the Lebanese city.

Photo Below: Lebanese military entering Sidon (Photo Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)

Photo Below: Lebanese Armed Forces checkpoint in Sidon. (Photo by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya)

The Objective is to Force Hezbollah to Retreat in Syria by Targeting Lebanon

The Lebanese state is now being targeted. There have been an increasing number of attacks against the Lebanese military from the Syrian border since Hezbollah intervened in Syria. There were already attacks on Lebanon even before Hezbollah intervened in the Syrian conflict, but those were mostly intended to provoke Hezbollah.

Those targeting the Lebanese state are now taking advantage of the lack of a functioning government and the leaderless status of several national institutions to create a state of chaos in Lebanon. There have been attacks on both Shiite and Sunni villages in the Bekaa Valley and a cycle of violence has begun. It is clear that the objective is to turn Shiites and Sunnis against one another and the Lebanese military has understood this too. This is why Hezbollah has asked the Shiite clans in Bekaa to stay calm after they have been attacked. Protests have broken out in Lebanon too.

The violence in Sidon is part of a strategy. Al-Assir’s unprovoked attack against the Lebanese military is intended to mount pressure on the Lebanese state and exacerbate Shia-Sunni tensions.

Hezbollah refuses to get embroiled in a sectarian battle inside Lebanon. While the Amal Movement, the Shiite political party that is Hezbollah’s partner, has mobilized its militias and started manning the southern and eastern roads into Sidon, Hezbollah has kept calm. Amal’s media has also been reporting on the incident profusely and even in a sectarian fashion, but Hezbollah’s media have inversely been calm and said little.

Lebanon is being lit up with the aim of forcing Hezbollah to pullout from Syria by turning inwards to fight an internal battle. Essentially, Lebanon is now a second front in the Syrian conflict.

The US and Saudi Arabia have probably asked the Hariri family to prompt their Al-Qaeda affiliated clients to initiate violence in Lebanon and capitalize on the lack of a government and the weakened state of the Lebanese state.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a sociologist and Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is currently working out of Lebanon. He was in Sidon during the fighting and the deployment of the Lebanese military.

 

“Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terrorism.” President Barack Obama, April 15th 2013.

Having learned nothing from the catastrophes of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, it seems President Obama, the equally clueless UK Prime Minister Cameron and his culturally challenged Foreign Secretary William Hague are cheer-leading another bloodbath in formerly peaceful, secular, outward looking Syria.

Having covertly provided arms and equipment to insurgents from numerous different countries for over two years, they have now moved to the overt stage, a move over which even arch hawks such as former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and former Republican Senator Richard Luger, six term leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged caution.

Luger said such action would boost extremists, with Brzezinski dismissing Obama’s talk of “red lines” as thoughtless and risking: “a large-scale disaster for the United States.”

During Brzezinski’s time as National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter the decision was made to finance the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in response to Soviet deployment there. He’s had a bit of time to reflect on blowback and perhaps the 2,243 wasted US lives in that “graveyard of empires” – so far.

It seems however, the Washington and Whitehall regimes remain increasingly disconnected from reality. In spite of the plethora of gruesome images circulating on the internet of grinning terrorists holding up severed heads, cannibalizing body organs and summarily executing, they are to provide further arms to insurgency’s Hannibal Lecters. This, also regardless of the fact that Riad al-Assad, founder of the so-called “Free Syrian Army” is quoted as saying that suicide bombing is: “ an integral part of revolutionary action, of Free Syrian Army action.”

Meanwhile, less than a month after the murder of a soldier in London’s Woolwich by wanna be jihadists (with reported relationship with hard drugs) Britain’s increasingly rudderless ship of state allows entry to a controversial Saudi preacher, Muhamed Al Arefe, alleged to have made anti-Shia and anti-Semitic exhortations and who argues that a husband: “may use beatings to discipline his wife” as long as he beats her “lightly.”(i)

Informed friends from the Middle East charge bluntly that he recruits jihadists, as last week in visits Riyadh and Cairo. One added: “David Cameron may as well stand at the gate (of the Mosque) and hand out arms for the ‘good freedom fighters’ who will be heading to Syria after hearing Arefe’s sickening lies, sectarian incitement and calls for jihad against the ‘infidel regime.’ “

This was not a low key occasion. Arefe, spoke at the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, built on land donated by King George V1 to the Muslim Community of Britain. The Cultural Centre was officially opened by the King in 1944. The Mosque, completed in 1978, which can hold over five thousand worshippers in the main hall alone, was designed by renowned architect Sir Frederick Gibberd. Quite a platform for any recruiter.

However, Obama and Cameron hardly need to arm terrorists, they are seemingly doing fine, via the US-UK-NATO last mega screw up: Libya.

This week it was reported (ii, iii) that weapons are flooding in to Syria from a Libya awash with weapons, “with spy chiefs saying” that the country has become a supermarket “of the world’s illegal arms trade.”

“Up to 3,000 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) have gone missing since the conflict” with more than “one million tonnes of weapons belonging to Colonel Quaddaffi” looted after his terrible death at the hands of NATO’s “allies.”

Potentially that is enough SAMs to down 3,000 airliners.

The Daily Mail understands that, unsecured: “ … there are now more weapons in Libya than in the entire arsenal of the British Army” according to MI6 estimates.

One internet video showed a stockpile of SAMs, which can hit an aircraft flying at 11,000 feet, in the hands of the Syrian insurgents. Used from airport perimeters anywhere, the result could be tragedy.

However, Akhbar Alaan TV reports(iv) Benghazi has been supplying weapons to the Syrian terrorists for “over a year.” With pictures they: “show the shipments from Libya, via Turkey to the Syrian opposition.”

The TV station’s reporter states:

“Their own Libyan revolution was supported by NATO … But these former Libyan rebels say the world is abandoning the Syrian opposition. And because of that Benghazi decided to act …”

Further:

“All these weapons are donated by former rebel units in eastern Libya … According to the Libyan organizer they also have shipped around 120 SAM 7 surface to air-missiles to Syria.”

Rebel units were, of course aided by US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, who arrived in a cargo ship loaded with arms (news, websites) and was murdered with colleagues in Benghazi on 11th September 2012.

According to the New York Times, Qatari C-17 cargo planes, capable of carrying a payload of over seventy tonnes, have picked up a weapons shipment at least three times this year, which were then delivered to the Turkish-Syrian border to be handed on to the “rebels.”

British-Libyan arms dealer Abdul Basit Haroun – who was a property developer in Manchester, UK for twenty years, until 2011 – has told Reuters that weapons are reaching Syria not alone by numerous flights, but on ships, concealed amongst humanitarian aid. Haroun has claimed that the authorities know about the shipment: “everybody knows.”

Further, Libyan Assembly Member Tawfiq Shehabi has said he supports the activities of people like Haroun, who was a brigade commander during the Libyan uprising: “After the end of the (uprising) he became involved in supporting the Syrian revolution … he does a good job of supporting the Syrian revolution.”

Claims are that permission for shipments is sought from and sanctioned by, Turkey. The UN has criticized Libya for proliferating weapons at an “alarming rate” and for “enriching the arsenals of a range of non-State actors, including terrorist groups.”(v)

Reuters interviewed Haroun and a reporter was taken to a container of weapons being prepared for delivery to Syria: “ … stacked with boxes of ammunition, rocket launchers and various types of light and medium weapons.”

Arms are flown in to “neighbouring countries on chartered flights”, several to Jordan as well as Turkey: “weapons were then transferred over the border.” (vi)

In Libya, the versatile Mr Haroun: “helps the government with state security, according to interior ministry spokesman Majdi al-Ourfi.”

Quite an own goal, NATO.

But no lessons have been learned. On Saturday (22nd June) the ridiculously named, eleven nation “Friends of Syria”, meeting in Qatar, agreed to supply: “all the necessary material” to the insurgents. Britain, with the US, is of course cheer-leading.

This in spite of warnings from such as Charles Lister, analyst at HIS – Jane’s Terrorist and Insurgency Centre – of the danger that weapons “almost invariably end up in the hands of” terrorists and extremists, and possibly even back in Britain.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the army, said last week he was: “very much in the camp of those who would not wish to be involved and intervene in any shape or form”, with Major General Julian Thompson, who commanded British forces in the Falklands War in 1982, saying it was: “absolutely ridiculous” to contemplate another intervention …and getting involved with something else” whilst still mired in Afghanistan after nearly twelve years.

“Our information from Doha says that five countries have decided to start arming us immediately, and four other countries will give us logistical and technical support and, at a later stage, arm the Free Syrian Army,” a spokesman for the opposition fighters, Loay Al Mikdad, said in an interview with Qatar’s Al-Jazeera TV.

Incredibly, with not a glance towards legality, the Doha plotters: “repeated their call for the establishment of a transitional governing body to which full executive powers would be transferred … Bashar Assad has no role in the transitional governing body or thereafter.”

However, Syria is a founding Member of the UN, one of the fifty one countries who signed to the Charter on 26th June 1945. Member States of the United Nations are bound by the UN Charter.

Article 2 (4) states:

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Article 2 (1) The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign      equality of all its Members.

Article 2 (2) All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful  means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

Further:

The UN’s 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States directs:

“No state or group of states has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other state.

“Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the state or against its political economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law.”

Recalling the duty of States to refrain in their international relations from military, political, economic or any other form of coercion aimed against the political independence or territorial integrity of any State,

“Considering it essential that all States shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations,

“In accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations, States have the duty to refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression.

Every State has the duty to refrain from organizing or encouraging the organization of irregular forces or armed bands including mercenaries, for incursion into the territory of another State.

“Every State has the duty to refrain from organizing, instigating, assisting or participating in acts of civil strife or terrorist acts in another State or acquiescing in organized activities within its territory directed towards the commission of such acts, when the acts referred to in the present paragraph involve a threat or use of force.”

End Note. Lest we Forget.

That Middle East “Peace Envoy” Tony Blair [left] who lied his way in to the destruction of Iraq, kissed his welcoming host Colonel Gaddafi then betrayed worthy of any Judas, had also entertained President Assad.

In 2002, when Bashar al Assad visited Britain, meeting the Queen, the Prince of Wales, and dined with Blair at Downing Street, it was considered bestowing an honor on the President.

“According to documents, on Nov. 14, 2002, a desk officer covering Syria and Lebanon at the Foreign and Commonwealth office wrote: “You should be aware that President Bashar of Syria will visit the U.K. as a guest of government … This will include an audience with the queen. I have been advised that we need to consider whether the queen should bestow an honor on him.”(ix)

Blair is, of course, cheer leading for Syria’s destruction:

“A spokesperson for Tony Blair defended the actions of the government under the former PM, stating: “Engagement with Syria and Assad in 2002 was absolutely right …  Mr. Blair has said many times since that the situation has changed and Assad now has to go.”

Notes

..

On June 19, 2013, US President Obama, hoping to raise himself above the developing National Security Agency (NSA) spy scandals, sought to associate himself with two iconic speeches made at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy pledged: “Ich bin ein Berliner”. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Obama’s speech was delivered to a relatively small, specially selected audience of invitees.  Even so, Obama spoke from behind bullet proof glass.

Obama’s speech will go down in history as the most hypocritical of all time. Little wonder that the audience was there by invitation only. A real audience would have hooted Obama out of Berlin.

Perhaps the most hypocritical of all of Obama’s statements was his proposal that the US and Russia reduce their nuclear weapons by one-third.  The entire world, and certainly the Russians, saw through this ploy. The US is currently surrounding Russia with anti-ballistic missiles on Russia’s borders and hopes to leverage this advantage by talking Russia into reducing its weapons, thereby making it easier for Washington to target them.  Obama’s proposal is clearly intended to weaken Russia’s nuclear deterrent and ability to resist US hegemony.

Obama spoke lofty words of peace, while beating the drums of war in Syria and Iran. Witness Obama’s aggressive policies of surrounding Russia with missile bases and establishing new military bases in the Pacific Ocean with which to confront China.

This is the same Obama who promised to close the Guantanamo Torture Prison, but did not;  the same Obama who promised to tell us the purpose for Washington’s decade-long war in Afghanistan, but did not;  the same Obama who promised to end the wars, but started new ones;  the same Obama who said he stood for the US Constitution, but shredded it;  the same Obama who refused to hold the Bush regime accountable for its crimes against law and humanity;  the same Obama who unleashed drones against civilian populations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen;  the same Obama who claimed and exercised power to murder US citizens without due process and who continues the Bush regime’s unconstitutional practice of violating habeas corpus and detaining US citizens indefinitely; the same Obama who promised transparency but runs the most secretive government in US history.

The tyrant’s speech of spectacular hypocrisy elicited from the invited audience applause on 36 occasions.  Like so many others, Germans proved themselves willing to be used for Washington’s propaganda purposes.

Here was Obama, who consistently lies, speaking of “eternal truth.”

Here was Obama, who enabled Wall Street to rob the American and European peoples and who destroyed Americans’ civil liberties and the lives of vast numbers of Iraqis, Afghans, Yemenis, Libyans, Pakistanis, Syrians, and others, speaking of “the yearnings of justice.” Obama equates demands for justice with “terrorism.”

Here was Obama, who has constructed an international spy network and a domestic police state, speaking of “the yearnings for freedom.”

Here was Obama, president of a country that has initiated wars or military action against six countries since 2001 and has three more Muslim countries–Syria, Lebanon, and Iran–in its crosshairs and perhaps several more in Africa, speaking of “the yearnings of peace that burns in the human heart,” but clearly not in Obama’s heart.

Obama has turned America into a surveillance state that has far more in common with Stasi East Germany than with the America of the Kennedy and Reagan eras. Strange, isn’t it, that freedom was gained in East Germany and lost in America.

At the Brandenburg Gate, Obama invoked the pledge of nations to “a Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” but Obama continues to violate human rights both at home and abroad.

Obama has taken hypocrisy to new heights. He has destroyed US civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.  In place of a government accountable to law, he has turned law into a weapon in the hands of the government.  He has intimidated a free press and prosecutes whistleblowers who reveal his government’s crimes. He makes no objection when American police brutalize peacefully protesting citizens. His government intercepts and stores in National Security Agency computers every communication of every American and also the private communications of Europeans and Canadians, including the communications of the members of the governments, the better to blackmail those with secrets.

Obama sends in drones or assassins to murder people in countries with which the US is not at war, and his victims on most occasions turn out to be women, children, farmers, and village elders. Obama kept Bradley Manning in solitary confinement for nearly a year assaulting his human dignity in an effort to break him and obtain a false confession. In defiance of the US Constitution, Obama denied Manning a trial for three years. On Obama’s instructions, London denies Julian Assange free passage to his political asylum in Ecuador.  Assange has become a modern-day Cardinal Mindszenty.  [Jozsef Mindszenty was the leader of the Hungarian Catholic Church who sought refuge from Soviet oppression in the US Embassy in Budapest. Denied free passage by the Soviets, the Cardinal lived in the US Embassy for 15 years as a symbol of Soviet oppression.]

This is the Obama who asked at the orchestrated event at the Brandenburg Gate: “Will we live free or in chains? Under governments that uphold our universal rights, or regimes that suppress them? In open societies that respect the sanctity of the individual and our free will, or in closed societies that suffocate the soul?”

When the Berlin Wall came down, the Stasi Spy State that suffocates the soul moved to Washington. The Stasi is alive and well in the Obama regime.

GREECE

Political Lessons From Greece: Fake Social Movements and the Role of “Alter-Summits”Sofiane Ait Chalalet and Chris Jones, June 23, 2013


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Stephen Lendman, June 23, 2013


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Patrick Henningsen, June 23, 2013


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Global Research News, June 23, 2013


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Colin Todhunter, June 22, 2013


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Eric London and Joseph Kishore, June 22, 2013


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Shamus Cooke, June 19, 2013


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Johannes Stern and Alex Lantier, June 17, 2013


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Jonathan Cook, June 17, 2013


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Stephen Gowans, June 17, 2013


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Ben Schreiner, June 17, 2013


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Washington’s Blog, June 16, 2013


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Rep. Ron Paul, June 16, 2013


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No one, anywhere, has been writing about the deeper and wider implications of the Snowden revelations than Arthur Silber. (I hope you’re not surprised by this.) In a series of powerful, insightful essays, Silber has, among other things, laid bare the dangers of the oddly circumscribed ‘gatekeeper’ approach of the journalistic guardians (at, ironically, the Guardian) of Snowden’s secrets, particularly their slow drip-feed of carefully self-censored tidbits from the famous Powerpoint presentation that Snowden secreted from the bowels of the United Stasi of the American intelligent apparat.

Eschewing the Wikileaks approach, the guardians at the Guardian have not let us judge the material for ourselves, opting instead to adopt, unwittingly, the same approach of the apparat: “we are the keepers of knowledge, we will decide what you need to know.”

As Silber notes, this doesn’t vitiate the worth of the revelations, but it does dilute their impact, leaving gaps that the apparat — and its truly repulsive apologists all through the ‘liberal media’ — can exploit to keep muddying the waters. He explores these ramifications, and others, in “In Praise of Mess, Chaos and Panic” and “Fed Up With All the Bullshit.”

In his latest piece, “‘Intelligence, Corporatism and the Dance of Death,” he cuts to the corroded heart of the matter, the deep, dark not-so-secret secret that our secret-keepers are trying to obscure behind their blizzards of bullshit: it’s all about the Benjamins.

After noting the gargantuan outsourcing of “intelligence” to private contractors like Booz Allen — the very firm that employed Snowden — Silber gives a quick precis of the essence of state-corporate capitalism (see the originals for links):

The biggest open secret all these creepy jerks are hiding is the secret of corporatism (or what Gabriel Kolko calls “political capitalism”):

There is nothing in the world that can’t be turned into a huge moneymaker for the State and its favored friends in “private” business, at the same time it is used to amass still greater power. This is true in multiple forms for the fraud that is the “intelligence” industry.

The pattern is the same in every industry, from farming, to manufacturing, to every aspect of transportation, to the health insurance scam, to anything else you can name. In one common version, already vested interests go to the State demanding regulation and protection from “destabilizing” forces which, they claim, threaten the nation’s well-being (by which, they mean competitors who threaten their profits). The State enthusiastically complies, the cooperative lawmakers enjoying rewards of many kinds and varieties. Then they’ll have to enforce all those nifty regulations and controls. The State will do some of it but, heck, it’s complicated and time-consuming, ya know? Besides, some of the State’s good friends in “private” business can make a killing doing some of the enforcing. Give it to them! Etc. and so on.

Silber then goes on:

… But that’s chump change. The real money is elsewhere — in, for instance, foreign policy itself. You probably thought foreign policy was about dealing with threats to “national security,” spreading democracy, ensuring peace, and whatever other lying slogans they throw around like a moldy, decaying, putrid corpse. The State’s foreign policy efforts are unquestionably devoted to maintaining the U.S.’s advantages — but the advantages they are most concerned about are access to markets and, that’s right, making huge amounts of money. Despite the unending propaganda to the contrary, they aren’t terribly concerned with dire threats to our national well-being, for the simple reason that there aren’t any: “No nation would dare mount a serious attack on the U.S. precisely because they know how powerful the U.S. is — because it is not secret.”

How does the public-”private” intelligence industry make foreign policy? The NYT story offers an instructive example in its opening paragraphs:

When the United Arab Emirates wanted to create its own version of the National Security Agency, it turned to Booz Allen Hamilton to replicate the world’s largest and most powerful spy agency in the sands of Abu Dhabi.

It was a natural choice: The chief architect of Booz Allen’s cyberstrategy is Mike McConnell, who once led the N.S.A. and pushed the United States into a new era of big data espionage. It was Mr. McConnell who won the blessing of the American intelligence agencies to bolster the Persian Gulf sheikdom, which helps track the Iranians.

“They are teaching everything,” one Arab official familiar with the effort said. “Data mining, Web surveillance, all sorts of digital intelligence collection.”

See how perfect this is? All the special people are making tons of money — and, when the day arrives that the U.S. wants to ramp up its confrontational stance with Iran, well, there’s the UAE helping to “track the Iranians” with all the tools that the U.S. has given them and taught them to use. And how easy would it be to get the UAE to provide the U.S. with just the right kind of new and disturbing “intelligence” that would get lots of people screaming about the “grave Iranian threat”? You know the answer to that: easy peasy. A wink and a nod — and off the U.S. goes, with bombing runs or whatever it decides to do. But whatever it does will be determined in greatest part not by a genuine threat to U.S. national security (there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Iran’s leaders are all suicidal), but by what will make the most money for the State and its good friends.

Silber then underscores once more the highly instructive principle laid out by Robert Higgs:

I remind you once again of what I call The Higgs Principle. As I have emphasized, you can apply this principle to every significant policy in every area, including every aspect of foreign policy. Here is Robert Higgs explaining it:

As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent “failed” policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the “peace process” never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.

….It’s all about wealth and power. Here and there, in episodes notable only for their rarity, “the intelligence world” might actually provide a small piece of information actually related to “national security.” Again, I turn to Gabriel Kolko:

It is all too rare that states overcome illusions, and the United States is no more an exception than Germany, Italy, England, or France before it. The function of intelligence anywhere is far less to encourage rational behavior–although sometimes that occurs–than to justify a nation’s illusions, and it is the false expectations that conventional wisdom encourages that make wars more likely, a pattern that has only increased since the early twentieth century. By and large, US, Soviet, and British strategic intelligence since 1945 has been inaccurate and often misleading, and although it accumulated pieces of information that were useful, the leaders of these nations failed to grasp the inherent dangers of their overall policies. When accurate, such intelligence has been ignored most of the time if there were overriding preconceptions or bureaucratic reasons for doing so.

Silber concludes:

…The intelligence-security industry isn’t about protecting the United States or you, except for extraordinarily rare, virtually accidental occurrences. It’s about wealth and power. Yet every politician and every government functionary speaks reverently of the sacred mission and crucial importance of “intelligence” in the manner of a syphilitic preacher who clutches a tatty, moth-eaten doll of the Madonna, which he digitally manipulates by sticking his fingers in its orifices. Most people would find his behavior shockingly obscene, if they noticed it. But they don’t notice it, so mesmerized are they by the preacher with his phonily awestruck words about the holy of holies and the ungraspably noble purpose of his mission. Even as the suppurating sores on the preacher’s face ooze blood and pus, his audience can only gasp, “We must pay attention to what he says! He wants only the best for us! He’s trying to save us!”

What the preacher says — what every politician and national security official says on this subject — is a goddamned lie. The ruling class has figured out yet another way to make a killing, both figuratively and literally. They want wealth and power, and always more wealth and power. That’s what “intelligence” and “national security” is about, and nothing else at all. When you hear Keith Alexander, or James Clapper, or Barack Obama talk about “intelligence” and surveillance, how your lives depend on them, and why you must trust them to protect you if you wish to continue existing at all, think of the preacher. Think of his open sores, of the blood and pus slowly dribbling down his face.

All of them are murdering crooks running a racket. They are intent on amassing wealth and power, and they’ve stumbled on a sure-fire way to win the acquiescence, and often the approval, of most people. They are driven by the worst of motives, including their maddened knowledge that there will always remain a few people and events that they will be unable to control absolutely. For the rest of us, their noxious games are a sickening display of power at its worst. For us, on a faster or slower schedule, in ways that are more or less extreme, their lies and machinations are only a Dance of Death.

There is much more in Silber’s essays; go read them all now, if you haven’t done already.

Syria, The View From The Other Side

June 23rd, 2013 by Stephen Gowans

His security forces used live ammunition to mow down peaceful pro-democracy protesters, forcing them to take up arms to try to topple his brutal dictatorship. He has killed tens of thousands of his own people, using tanks, heavy artillery and even chemical weapons. He’s a blood-thirsty tyrant whose rule has lost its legitimacy and must step down to make way for a peaceful democratic transition.

That’s the view of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, cultivated by Western politicians and their media stenographers.

If there’s another side to the story, you’re unlikely to hear it. Western mass media are not keen on presenting the world from the point of view of governments that find themselves the target of Western regime change operations. On the contrary, their concern is to present the point of view of the big business interests that own them and the Western imperialism that defends and promotes big business interests. They accept as beyond dispute all pronouncements by Western leaders on matters of foreign affairs, and accept without qualification that the official enemies of US imperialism are as nasty as the US president and secretary of state say they are.

What follows is the largely hidden story from the other side, based on two interviews with Assad, the first conducted by Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency on May 19, 2013, and the second carried out on June 17, 2013 by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Both were translated into English by the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Peaceful protests?

Ba’athist Syria is no stranger to civil unrest, having experienced wave after wave of uprisings by Sunni religious fanatics embittered by their country being ruled by a secular state whose highest offices are occupied by Alawite ‘heretics’. [1] The latest round of uprisings, the opening salvos in another chapter of what Glen E. Robinson calls “Syria’s Long Civil War,” began in March, 2011. The first press reports were of a few small protests, dwarfed by the far more numerous and substantial protests that erupt every day in the United States, Britain and France. A March 16, 2011 New York Times report noted that “In Syria, demonstrations are few and brief.” These early demonstrations—a few quixotic young men declaring that “the revolution has started!”, relatives of prisoners protesting outside the Interior Ministry—seem disconnected from the radical Islamist rebellion that would soon develop.

Within days, larger demonstrations were underway in Dara, where citizens were said to have been “outraged by the arrest of more than a dozen schoolchildren.” Contrary to a myth that has since taken hold, these demonstrations were hardly peaceful. Protesters set fire to the local Ba’ath Party headquarters, as well as to the town’s main courthouse and a branch of SyriaTel. Some protesters shot at the police, who returned fire. [2] One can imagine the reaction of the New York City Police to protesters in Manhattan setting fire to the federal court building, firebombing the Verizon building and opening fire on police. A foreign broadcaster with an agenda to depict the United States in the worst possible light might describe the protest as peaceful, and the police response as brutal, but it’s doubtful anyone in the United States would see it that way.

From “the first weeks of the protests we had policemen killed, so how could such protests have been peaceful?” asks Assad. “How could those who claim that the protests were peaceful explain the death of these policemen in the first week?” Assad doesn’t deny that most protesters demonstrated peacefully, but notes that “there were armed militants infiltrating protesters and shooting at the police.”

 Was the reaction of Syrian security forces to the unrest heavy-handed? Syria has a long history of Islamist uprisings against its secular state. With anti-government revolts erupting in surrounding countries, there was an acute danger that Syria’s Muslim Brothers—long at war with the Syrian state—would be inspired to return to jihad. What’s more, Syria is technically at war with Israel. As other countries in similar circumstances, Syria had an emergency law in place, restricting certain civil liberties in the interest of defending national security. Among the restrictions was a ban on unauthorized public assembly. The demonstrations were a flagrant challenge to the law, at a time of growing instability and danger to the survival of the Syrian secular project. Moreover, to expect Syrian authorities to react with restraint to gunfire from protesters is to hold Syria to a higher standard than any other country.

Meanwhile, as protesters in Syria were shooting at police and setting fire to buildings, Bahrain’s royal dictatorship was crushing a popular uprising with the assistance of Saudi tanks and US equipment. New York Times’ columnist Nicholas D. Kristof lamented that “America’s ally, Bahrain” was using “American tanks, guns and tear gas as well as foreign mercenaries to crush a pro-democracy movement” as Washington remained “mostly silent.” [3] Kristof said he had “seen corpses of protesters who were shot at close range, seen a teenage girl writhing in pain after being clubbed, seen ambulance workers beaten for trying to rescue protesters.” He didn’t explain why the United States would have a dictator as an ally, much less one who crushed a pro-democracy movement. All he could offer was the weak excuse that the United States was “in a vice—caught between its allies and its values,” as if Washington didn’t chose its allies, and that they were a force of nature, like an earthquake or a hurricane, that you had to live with and endure. The United States was indeed in a vice—though not of the sort Kristof described. It was caught between Washington’s empty rhetoric on democracy and the profit-making interests of the country’s weighty citizens, the true engine of US foreign policy. The dilemma was readily resolved. Profits prevailed, as they always do.

Bahrain’s accommodating attitude to US imperialism—it is home to the US Fifth Fleet—and its emphasis on indulging owners and investors at the expense of wage- and salary-earners, are unimpeachably friendly to US corporate and financial interests. Practically the entire stable of US allies in the Middle East is comprised of royal dictators whose attitude to democracy is unremittingly hostile, but whose attitude to helping US oil companies and titans of finance rake in fabulous profits is tremendously accommodating. And so the United States is on good terms with them, despite their violent allergic reaction to democracy. Aware of whose interests really matter in US foreign policy, Kristof wrote of Bahrain, “We’re not going to pull out our naval base.” Democracy is one thing, but a military base half way around the world (i.e., imperialism) is quite another.

That Bahrain’s version of the Arab Spring failed to grow into a civil war has much to do with US tanks, guns and tear gas, foreign mercenaries, and the silence of the US government. The Bahraini authorities used the repressive apparatus of the state more vigorously than Syrian authorities did, and yet virtually escaped the negative attention of responsibility-to-protect advocates, the US State Department, “serious” political commentators, and anarchists and many (though not all) Trots who, in line with their savaging of Gadhafi, preferred to vent their spleen on another official enemy of Western imperialism, rather than waste their bile execrating a US ally. What’s more, the ‘international community’ did much to fan the flames of the Syrian rebellion, linking up once again with their old friends Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brothers to destabilize yet another left nationalist secular regime, whose devotion to sovereignty and self-management was an affront to Wall Street. [4] Without naming him specifically, Assad says Khalifa is among the leaders who stand in relation to the United States, France and Britain as “puppets and dummies [who] do their bidding and serve their interests without question.”

Anti-imperialism

If Khalifa is the model of the Arab dictator Washington embraces, Assad fits the matrix of the Arab leader whose insistence on independence rubs the US State Department the wrong way. “The primary aim of the West,” Assad says, “is to ensure that they have ‘loyal’ governments at their disposal…which facilitate the exploitation and consumption of a country’s national resources.” Khalifa comes to mind.

In contrast, Assad insists that a “country like Syria is not by any means a satellite state to the West.” It hasn’t turned over its territory to US military bases, nor made over its economy to accommodate Western investors, banks and corporations. “Syria,” he says, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.”

 It’s not his attitude to multi-party democracy or the actions of Syria’s security forces that have aroused Western enmity, asserts Assad, but his insistence on steering an independent course for Syria. “It is only normal that they would not want us to play a role (in managing our own affairs), preferring instead a puppet government serving their interests and creating projects that would benefit their peoples and economies.” Normal or not, the Syrian president says, “We have consistently rejected this. We will always be independent and free,” adding that the United States and its satellites are using the conflict in Syria “to get rid of Syria—this insubordinate state, and replace the president with a ‘yes’ man.”

Foreign agenda

Assad challenges the characterization of the conflict as a civil war. The rebel side, he points out, is overwhelmingly dominated by foreign jihadists and foreign-based opposition elements (heavily dominated by the Muslim Brothers) backed by hostile imperialist powers. Some of Assad’s opponents, he observes, “are far from autonomous independent decision makers,” receiving money, weapons, logistical support and intelligence from foreign powers. “Their decisions,” he says, “are not self-governing.”

The conflict is more aptly characterized as a predatory war on Syrian sovereignty carried out by Western powers and their reactionary Arab satellite states using radical Islamists to topple Assad’s government (but who will not be allowed to take power) “to impose a puppet government loyal to them which (will) ardently implement their policies.” These policies would almost certainly involve Damascus endorsing the Zionist conquest of Palestine as legitimate (i.e., recognizing Israel), as well as opening the country to the US military and turning over Syrian markets, labor and resources to exploitation by Western investors, banks and corporations on terms favourable to Western capital and unfavourable to Syrians.

Russia and Iran

Criticism of the intervention of a number of reactionary Arab states in the conflict, and the participation of Western imperialist powers, is often countered by pointing to Russia’s and Iran’s role in furnishing Syria with weapons. Assad argues that intervention of the side of the jihadists (‘terrorists’ in his vocabulary) is unlawful and illegitimate. By furnishing rebels with arms, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United States “meddle in Syria’s internal affairs” Assad says, “which is a flagrant violation of international law and our national sovereignty.” On the other hand, Russia and Iran, which have supplied Syria with arms, have engaged in lawful trade with Syria, and have not infringed its independence.

Hezbollah

According to Assad, Hezbollah has been active in towns on the border with Lebanon, but its involvement in the Syrian conflict has, otherwise, been limited. “There are no brigades (of Hezbollah fighters in Syria.) They have sent fighters who have aided the Syrian army in cleaning areas on the Lebanese borders that were infiltrated with terrorists.”

Assad points out that if Hezbollah’s assistance was needed, he would have asked for deployment of the resistance organization’s fighters to Damascus and Aleppo which are “more important than al-Quseir,” the border town that was cleared of rebel fighters with Hezbollah’s help.

Stories about Hezbollah fighters pouring over the border to prop up the Syrian government are a “frenzy…to reflect an image of Hezbollah as the main fighting force” in order “to provoke Western and international public opinion,” Assad says. The aim, he continues, is to create “this notion that Hezbollah and Iran are also fighting in Syria as a counterweight” to the “presence of foreign jihadists” in Syria.

 Democracy?

 The Assad government has implemented a number of reforms in response to the uprising.

First, it cancelled the long-standing abridgment of civil liberties that had been authorized by the emergency law. This law, invoked because Syria is in a technical state of war with Israel, gave Damascus powers it needed to safeguard the security of the state in wartime. Many Syrians, however, chaffed at the law, and regarded it as unduly restrictive. Bowing to popular pressure, the security measures were suspended.

Second, the government proposed a new constitution to accommodate protesters’ demands to strip the Ba’ath Party of its lead role in Syrian society. The constitution was put to a referendum and ratified. Additionally, the presidency would be open to anyone meeting basic residency, age and citizenship requirements. Presidential elections would be held by secret vote every seven years under a system of universal suffrage, with the next election scheduled for 2014. “I don’t know if (US secretary of state) Kerry or others like him have a mandate from the Syrian people to speak on their behalf as to who stays and who leaves,” Assad observes, noting that Syrians themselves can decide whether he stays or leaves when they go to the polls next year.

Despite Assad’s lifting the emergency law and amending the constitution to accommodate demands for a multi-party electoral democracy, the conflict continues. Instead of accepting these changes, the rebels summarily rejected them. Washington, London and Paris also dismissed Assad’s concessions, denigrating them as “meaningless,” without explanation. [5] Given the immediate and total rejection of the reforms, Assad can hardly be blamed for concluding that “democracy was not the driving force of the revolt.”

Elaborating, he notes:

It was seemingly apparent at the beginning that demands were for reforms. It was utilized to appear as if the crisis was a matter of political reform. Indeed, we pursued a policy of wide scale reforms from changing the constitution to many of the legislations and laws, including lifting the state of emergency law, and embarking on a national dialogue with all political opposition groups. It was striking that with every step we took in the reform process, the level of terrorism escalated.

The reality that the armed rebellion is dominated by Islamists [6] also militates against the conclusion that thirst for democracy lies at its core. Many radical Islamists reject democracy because they see it as a system for creating man-made laws and, as a corollary, for rejecting God’s law. Reportedly hundreds of jihadists [7]—members of a sort of Islamist International—have travelled from abroad to fight for a Levantine society in which God’s law, and not that of men and women, rules. Assad asks, “What interest does an internationally listed terrorist from Chechnya or Afghanistan have with the internal political reform process in Syria?” Or in democracy?

Good terrorists and bad terrorists

Syria’s jihadists have resorted to terrorist tactics, and appear to have little fear that they will ever be held to account for these or other war crimes. They are not mistaken. Their summary executions of prisoners, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, terrorist car bombings, rapes, torture, hostage taking and pillage—documented by the UN human rights commission [8]—will very likely be swept into a dark, murky corner, to be forgotten and never acted upon, while imperialist powers use their sway over international courts to shine a bright line upon war crimes committed by Syrian forces. While their ranks include the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra front, the jihadists have been depicted as heroes by Western governments and their media stenographers, a “good Al-Qaeda,” says Assad. Cat’s paws of the West, radical Islamists are good terrorists when they fight to bring down independent governments, like the leftist pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan, and the anti-imperialist governments in Libya and Syria, but are bad terrorists when they attack the US homeland and threaten to take power in Mali.

Chemical weapons

Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor, announced that Syrian forces have “used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year” killing “100 to 150 people.” [9]

Assad says the White House’s claim doesn’t add up. The point of using nerve gas, a weapon of mass destruction, is to kill “thousands of people at one given time.” The 150 people Washington says Syrian forces took 365 days to kill with chemical weapons could have been easily killed in one day using conventional weapons.

Why, then, wonders Assad, would the Syrian army use a weapon of mass destruction sub-optimally to kill a limited number of rebels when in a year it could kill hundreds of times more with rifles, tanks and artillery? “It is counterintuitive,” says the Syrian president, “to use chemical weapons to create a death toll that you could potentially reach by using conventional weapons.”

There is some evidence pointing to the use of chemical weapons by the rebels. Carla Del Ponte, a member of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria—a body created by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged violations of human rights law in Syria—says that the commission has “concrete suspicions” of the use of sarin gas by the rebels” but no evidence government forces have used them. [10]

Assad says he asked the United Nations to launch a formal investigation into suspected use of chemical weapons by rebel forces in Aleppo, but that the UN demanded unconditional access to the country. If Assad acceded to the demand, the inspection regime could be used as a cover to gather military intelligence for use against Syrian forces. “We are a sovereign state; we have an army and all matters considered classified will never be accessible neither to the UN, nor Britain, nor France,” says Assad. If he rejected the demand, it could be said—as it indeed it was by the White House [11]—that the ‘international community’ had been prevented by Damascus from undertaking a comprehensive investigation, thereby releasing the UN from any obligation to investigate the use of chemical weapons by the jihadists. At the same time, by rejecting the UN’s demand, the Syrian government would create the impression it had something to hide. This could be countered by Damascus explaining its reasons for turning down the UN conditions, but the Western media give little time to the Syrian perspective, preferring saturation coverage of the pronouncements of Western officials. In terms of Western public opinion, whatever US officials say about Syria is decisive. Whatever Syrian officials say is drowned out, if presented at all.

It should be noted that no permanent member of the UN Security Council, including the United States and Britain—indeed, no country of any standing—would willingly grant an outside organization or country unrestricted access to its military and government facilities. The reasons for denying UN inspectors untrammelled access to Syria are all the stronger in Syria’s case, given that major players on the Security Council are overtly backing the rebels, and could be expected to try to use UN inspectors—as indeed the US did in Iraq—to gather military intelligence to be used against the host country.

It would also do well to remember that the United States evinced no interest in investigating the use of chemical weapons by the rebels, immediately dismissing the allegations as unfounded. Following up on the allegations wasn’t an option.

Finally, Assad points out that the chemical weapons charges call to mind the ‘sexed up’ WMD evidence used by the United States and Britain as a pretext to invade and conquer Iraq: “It is common knowledge” he says, “that Western administrations lie continuously and manufacture stories as a pretext for war.”

Conclusion

The purpose of the foregoing is to offer a glimpse into the conflict in Syria from the other side, a side which the Western media are institutionally incapable of presenting, except in passing, and only if overwhelmed by the competing imperialist narrative.

Assad’s analysis and values are very much in the anti-imperialist vein. He speaks of Western powers seeking “dummies” and “yes men” who will pursue policies that are favourable to the West. The United States does indeed maintain a collection of “yes men” in the Middle East. Khalifa, the royal dictator of Bahrain, who used US tanks, guns, tear gas and Saudi mercenaries to crush a popular rebellion, is a model Arab “yes man” and a dictator, as many of Washington’s “yes men” are, and have always been.

Assad, in contrast, has none of Khalifa’s readiness to kowtow to an imperialist master. Instead, his government’s insistence on working for the interests of Syrians, rather than making Syrians work for the interests of the West, has provoked the hostility of the United States, France and Britain, and their determination to overthrow his government. That Assad’s commitment to local interests goes beyond rhetoric is clear in the character of Syria’s economic policy. It features the state-owned enterprises, tariffs, subsidies to domestic firms, and restrictions on foreign investment that Wall Street and its State Department handmaiden vehemently oppose for restricting the profit-making opportunities of wealthy US investors, bankers and corporations [12]. On foreign policy, Syria has steered a course sensitive to local interests, refusing to abandon the Arab national project, whose success would threaten US domination of the Middle East, while allying with Iran and Hezbollah in a resistance (to US imperialism) front.

For his refusal to become their “puppet,” the United States and its imperialist allies intend to topple Assad through accustomed means: an opportunistic alliance with radical Islamists who hate Assad as much as Washington does, though for reasons of religion rather than economics and imperialism.

Notes

1. Syria’s post-colonial history is punctuated by Islamist uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood organized riots against the government in 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969. It called for a Jihad against then president Hafiz al-Assad, the current president’s father, denigrating him as “the enemy of Allah.” By 1977, the Mujahedeen were engaged in a guerrilla struggle against the Syrian army and its Soviet advisers, culminating in the 1982 occupation of the city of Hama. The Syrian army quelled the occupation, killing 20,000 to 30,000. Islamists have since remained a perennial source of instability in Syria and the government has been on continual guard against “a resurgence of Sunni Islamic fundamentalists,” according to the US Library of Congress Country Study of Syria. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sytoc.html
2. “Officers fire on crowd as Syria protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011.
3. Nicholas D. Kristof, “Bahrain pulls a Qaddafi”, The New York Times, March 16, 2011.
4. For the West’s opportunistic alliances with political Islam see Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, Serpent’s Tail, 2011.
5. David M. Herszenhorn, “For Syria, Reliant on Russia for weapons and food, old bonds run deep”, The New York Times, February 18, 2012.
6. Adam Entous, “White House readies new aid for Syrian rebels”, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2013; Anne Barnard, “Syria campaigns to persuade U.S. to change sides”, The New York Times, April 24, 2013; 3. Gerald F. Seib, “The risks holding back Obama on Syria”, The Wall Street journal, May 6, 2013.
7. According to Russian president Vladimir Putin “at least 600 Russians and Europeans are fighting alongside the opposition.” “Putin: President al-Assad confronts foreign gunmen, not Syrian people,” Syrian Arab News Agency, June 22, 2013.
8. Damien Mcelroy, “Syrian rebels face war crime accusation”, The Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 2012; Sam Dagher and Nour Malas, “Lebanon militia kidnaps Syrians”, The Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2012; Hwaida Saad and Nick Cumming-Bruce, “Civilian attacks rise in Syria, U.N. says”, The New York Times, September 17, 2012; Stacy Meichtry, “Sarin detected in samples from Syria, France says”, The Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2013; Sam Dagher, “Violence spirals as Assad gains”, The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2013.
9. Statement by Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, on chemical weapons. The Guardian (UK), June 13, 2013.
10. “UN: ‘Strong suspicions’ that Syrian rebels have used sarin nerve gas,” Euronews, May 6, 2013; “UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’”, BBC News, May 6, 2013.
11. Rhodes.
12. For Syria’s economic policies and the US ruling class reaction to them see the Syria sections of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom http://www.heritage.org/index/country/syria and the CIA Factbook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sy.html .

Between June 7th and June 9th we had 3 contrasting experiences in Athens. One was attending the  European Alter Summit over 2 days;  another was marching with Gay Pride on the evening of June 8th and the third was meeting with a group of Somalian refugees in their apartment of 3 rooms where 11 of them lived.

Alter Summit

The Alter Summit was a two-day meeting of supposed social movements from across Europe held in the Olympic stadium in the outer suburbs of Athens. United in their resistance to austerity, deeply concerned and angry about the huge damage being done to the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women, children, refugees and undocumented peoples, they all shared a common concern and a motivation against injustice. But there was something missing, and it was mostly the presence of those on whose behalf they were meeting. 

 Like other social summits and similar events, some of those present represented real social movement from below; a stirring of the people in one way or another. But many felt strangely disconnected from the ‘movements’ on whose behalf they worked to expose and publicise, to organise petitions and protests and to persuade those in power to do something about a rapidly deteriorating situation. They did not feel like social movements as much as campaign groups.

And these campaigns have now been going on for years, and the situation gets worse, The truth is that those with wealth and power are not going to make things better; they’re not inclined to give up what they’ve got. They don’t need more information and reports: they already know perfectly well what social and economic devastation their actions have led to, and in the end probably care only for themselves and their interests. So what is the point of all this lobbying and pushing for crumbs from the table?

Episodic Events

The sessions we went to on refugees and then on poverty were on the whole disappointing. Too much ‘ego’ around in the sense that the sessions were dominated by representatives of various groups telling us about what they do. This seemed to be the main purpose of the summit. All of the projects were deeply committed to their activity, even though it was abundantly clear for some their prospects of success were non existent. This was especially true for those projects which were trying to force EU institutions to implement or shift policy towards providing a range of basic incomes to allow people to live in dignity. Such actions by the EU would fly completely in the face of its current and sustained neo liberal assault on the well being of the people. Change will not happen in this way nor from that quarter.. But sadly, the audience was too polite to ask such basic questions which in turn acts as a kind of sanction to continue with futile initiatives.

 It was also interesting for us to see that many of the groups tended  to focus on organising episodic events such as a day of action, organising a rally or similar event. Great energy is expended in organising these grandstand events that mark the core political activity of the group. And from what we heard in the meetings, they were assessed primarily by the numbers of people attending the event. This was reinforced during a lunch time conversation with a revolutionary socialist who had travelled from London. In answer to my questions about what was going on in England he gave details only of recent national demonstrations and strikes and the numbers involved. These events were for him what defined political activity and even then there was little apparent concern about what happened later as it was on to the next event. In his case, he was wondering about who and how many will join with the Peoples’ Assembly which was to hold its inaugural national meeting in June. 

 No one questioned this common strategy. At least not when we were present.

Disconnections

We view the disconnection between these organisations and those whom they want to help as a problem.  We might wish it to be otherwise. Indeed it is widely held and argued that only self-directed activity from the grass roots will secure the revolution. Yet there seems to be some distance between the rhetoric and the practice. We need to ask some hard questions.

 One thing we learnt at the Summit is that many of the groups are small and simply don’t  have the capacity to do very much. It doesn’t help either that some groups, as noted earlier, are simply wasting their efforts. With few resources, organising episodic events has clear attractions being more achievable than say more enduring and immediate acts of solidarity such as monitoring police stations and cells to simply being there in their neighbourhoods and having a coffee. So maybe there is a basic issue of capacity. We don’t know. But from what we heard from the refugees, one off events have virtually no lasting impact and don’t address acutely pressing survival needs.

Some of the processes which reinforce separation are more banal but no less devastating. During the session on refugees for example, we asked whether any thought had been given to locating the Summit more centrally so that it would have been possible for refugees and many of those most affected by austerity to join in the discussions. After all much was being made during this meeting of the statement of the World Assembly of Migrants…. in which it clearly stated that “we call for: a) The promotion of the migrants’ participation in social forums, especially the undocumented…….” And yet here in the Olympic velodrome there was an almost complete absence of those most hurt and abused.

The chair immediately responded by claiming that this Summit was for social movements, for their development and growth and when they were ready then that would be the right time to engage with the ‘grass roots’. This response was warmly received and suggests that the choice of location was deliberate to ensure seclusion to do their business. Should this be the case then more ferocious questions need to be asked!

When we discussed this with a small group of refugees one young guy questioned their authority to speak on his behalf but for the majority it was seen as a lost opportunity to share experiences and to build trust. Many told us that  it makes them feel stronger when they feel the solidarity of others sharing their pain, their concerns and their dreams. But what many took exception to was those who spoke on their behalf but knew nothing of their lives and histories.

Prior to the Alter Summit we had been with some of the refugee communities for the past few weeks. As we described in recent articles we experienced a daily, urgent struggle to survive. A survival that was more than staying physically alive but fighting for dignity, and humanity. And the key to their survival was the range and depth of their solidarities. For a variety of reasons (poverty, police harassment most prominently) the refugees spent many hours inside their homes or visiting friends. They had time to talk. They shared experiences. Above all, they struggled to understand their treatment in Greece. For many it was a huge trauma for them to discover that Europe, and Greece in particular, the home of democracy, could be so much like the places they had sought to escape with state violence, endemic corruption and above all where they were considered as garbage. There is a great deal of learning going on amongst the refugees as they work out why they face these intolerable situations.

This is crucially important activity which helps sustain the resistance of the refugees but set against episodic events it does not seem to register. Moreover the disconnections between the activists in the social and Left movements goes even deeper. In all our discussions with the refugees we came across no examples of ongoing links between themselves and refugee aid bodies, anti-fascist groups, Left political parties  and so on. As far as the refugees were concerned they were not on their radar in any shape or form. They were not part of their networks of and for survival. It seems to us that we need to ask why is this the case?

On the streets

By coincidence, in the middle of the alter summit was the Athens Gay Pride celebration and protest. For the Saturday evening the centre of the city was blocked in a riot of floats, banners, music and laughter. It was such a positive change from the usual political demonstrations here.

In the days preceding the Pride march there was much speculation that Golden Dawn would make its presence known and even attack Pride. The Somalians knew all too much about Golden Dawn and especially its presence amongst the police which made their daily routines hell. Athens Pride was resolute in its response saying that they would not be intimidated off the streets and that if Golden Dawn came then they were ready for them. The Somalians are no less resolute although in different ways. Their lack of documentation makes them immediately vulnerable to police harassment and endless messing about in police stations, but it does not stop them from going out. It does not stop them from creating free spaces on the streets where the police and or Golden Dawn fear to enter. The Somalian men play on the sexism of the police in that they are much less likely to be stopped when they go out with their wives and girlfriends. It is this sexism which ironically gives the Somalian women more freedom than their men to move in public with less fear of harassment.

Solidarity

Central to the resistance in both Pride and the refugee household was solidarity. The humour, music, sense of joy, friendship and inter-action between those marching in Pride was wonderful and in marked contrast to so many Left demonstrations. Claiming the streets and  taking over a plateia for dancing and great music, for standing up and saying we are not afraid, was liberating. Look what we can do!  The Somalian household was no less inspiring to us, as we talked about their experiences, their survival, their struggles and their ways of living together. There was much laughter as well as deep sadness for they feel terribly trapped in Greece and could see no easy way to get out.

But in the meantime they lived. Decisions were taken collectively, tasks shared,  although those with particular talents say in cooking took lead roles in those areas. We wondered if the household operated along traditional gender lines. This provoked some humorous outrage amongst the men and laughter from the women. At home they told us that power in the household went to the oldest usually male member, but they didn’t follow that pattern and were much more open and democratic. Moreover, in their home, if there was any one who they looked to in the final analysis it was to H, the youngest of the women who had a four year old son with her. This was in a current household of 5 women and 6 men. All tasks, whether washing, cleaning, cooking were shared as was the responsibility for finding the rent of 600 euros each month.

 Fighting for a better world demands solidarity which in turn depends so much on trust. The refugees are well aware of how they are continually demonised especially as Muslims and they know that this is not restricted to a racist minority. We told some of our friends  that we had received comments on some of our recent articles about the solidarities of the refugees that sought to explain it as a special ‘Muslim’ characteristic. These kinds of comments and the endless portrayal of Muslim men as sexists and Muslim women as passive and cowed, infuriates and frustrates. Why they asked are they constantly seen through a religious filter ? Why is this is not applied equally, so we would read about the Greek Orthodox thief/ thug/ Golden Dawn or whatever?

 It seems too obvious to say, but we need to hear the voices of the oppressed and victimised and to put an end to the notion that they have nothing to say.

Bottom-Up Pressures

Few of the proposals for action we heard at the Alter Summit seemed to be influenced from bottom up pressures. The time lines for action were more than enough to illustrate this absence.

The immediacy of trying to survive is overwhelming. It takes up most of your physical and emotional energy. It means daily uncertainty. Problems are acute and often demand immediate attention. It is a highly emotional experience with feelings raging from anger to despair. But these were not the sentiments that drove the initiatives we heard about. . Of course words were said about the violence of austerity on so many people now, but from the standpoint of the refugees at least, words are not enough any more. They want to see action. They want their ghettoes to be breached from the outside as people come and join them on the streets, in their cafés and in their homes. To stand with them and by them as they are rounded up by the police; to be there in the police stations. To talk with them. They no longer want to feel so alone. This would mean so much more than some periodic rally.

They want this solidarity. So many have learnt that the ‘system’ seeks to divide people and makes a lot of theatre about differences which builds hatred and confusion. Their discussions are full of reference to humanity and justice. Above all, they want to show the world that they are people, human beings, no more or less than anyone else.

But what the Alter Summit revealed to us is that the disconnect between the groups/movements and their actual bases will continue to persist unless the groups  look closely at themselves. We suspect that many activists have been (understandably)  influenced by the politics of expertise which was so prevalent as an instrument of social control throughout much of the capitalist world during the 20th century. It was a politics that brought with it arrogance and distance between the authorised knower and the plain ignorant. It sat easily with deeply sedimented views that saw those at the bottom of the social heap as garbage and those at the top as virtuous and talented. It also sits easily within some Left traditions where notions of vanguardism have given rise to autocratic leaderships which are disdainful of their base. Whatever their source, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that the whiff of arrogance has not yet been seen off amongst those from whom we expect more.

Embracing our sisters and brothers

Although we have focussed on the refugees, we believe that much of what we say applies to many of the most marginalised, impoverished and vulnerable.  They are too often left out in practice if not by intent. Without an unconditional embrace of all those who suffer most, the tyranny of the minority will continue. We need to be unrelenting in looking at what we do  and when we do it. In much of western Europe a catastrophe is engulfing ever larger numbers of people. It is a material attack on well being as lethal as any weapon. But it is made so much worse because it is  accompanied by an ideological onslaught which has all but removed any voices being heard from those most affected and has explicitly encouraged the victims to be reviled as the culprits.

 This needs to be stopped. For the refugees, there is a recurring observation that in Europe animals are far better protected from abuse and humiliation than they themselves. Why? they ask. Why? Is the question all of us should be asking.

The ghettoes must be breached, with humanity flowing in to embrace the refugees , the poorest, and most vulnerable  as fellow human beings. We must join them in their neighbourhoods, to stand by and with them, and build up the connections of solidarity and trust. We need to understand that political activism is much more than organising some one off event no matter how well attended. We must also understand that one of the most virulent aspects of neo-liberalism has been its impact on minds as well as bodies. It has above all else massively extended and deepened individualism with all its virulent anti-social dimensions. It makes real sense therefore to recognise the importance of what the refugees are saying about the kinds of solidarities that need to be encouraged and deepened now. As they repeatedly say, all we want is to be treated as human beings, and that includes being able to dance and sing on the streets.

Edward Snowden Charged Under the Espionage Act

June 23rd, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

On June 21, Obama’s Justice Department charged Snowden with espionage. It did so ruthlessly, irresponsibly and unconstitutionally. It wrongfully accused him of violating 1917 Espionage Act provisions.

It was enacted during WW I. It’s long ago outdated. It has no current relevance. It belongs in history’s dustbin.

It was about interfering with military operations, supporting enemies, promoting insubordination in the ranks, or challenging military recruitment.

At stake are fundamental First Amendment rights. Without them all others are at risk. In Texas v. Johnson, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan wrote the majority opinion, saying:

“(I)f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.”

Justice Hugo Black once said: “Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.” America fails the test.

Snowden committed no crime. He acted responsibly. He did so under provisions of the 1989 Whistleblower Protection Act.

It protects federal employees who report misconduct. Federal agencies are prohibited from retaliating against those who do so. Acting otherwise violates federal law. It spurns constitutional protections.

On June 21, a federal complaint was unsealed. An accompanying affidavit remains secret.

United States v. Edward J. Snowden charges:

  • “Theft of Government Property
  • Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information (and)
  • Willful Communication of Classified Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person.”

Hong Kong legislators responded. They urged Beijing to intervene on behalf of Snowden. Washington wants him detained. It wants Hong Kong officials playing by US rules. It wants a provisional warrant issued. It wants him extradited for trial.

Hong Kong legislator Leung Kwok-hung urged Hong Kong residents to “take to the streets to protect Snowden.”

Labor party vice chairman Cyd Ho said China “should now make its stance clear to the Hong Kong SAR (special administration region) government” about doing so.

A Government Accountability Project statement said:

Snowden “disclosed information about a secret program that he reasonably believed to be illegal, and his actions alone brought about the long-overdue national debate about the proper balance between privacy and civil liberties, on the one hand, and national security on the other.”

Justice Department prosecutors have 60 days to file a formal indictment. Official extradition steps would follow. Snowden wisely chose Hong Kong. It’s an excellent safe haven refuge. According to MsExPat:

Six reasons explain why.

(1) Justice moves slowly and deliberately. It’s transparent. Cases typically take “a year from the Court of First Instance to the Court of Appeal, and another 3 years to the Court of Final Appeal.”

Snowden’s case is special. It’s not typical. Hong Kong authorities may “easily drag (it) on longer.”

So-called “Milkshake Murdress” Nancy Kissel “dragg(ed) out for 10 years.” Proceedings included a trial, appeal, re-trial, and another appeal.

“Word has it that Beijing may ‘solve’ the problem of what to do about Snowden in the easiest way possible – by encouraging the Hong Kong courts to take their time.”

“Not that Hong Kong courts ever need any encouragement to take their own good time – even a decade – making absolutely, positively sure that justice is served.”

(2) Snowden will feel right at home in Hong Kong. It’s “the Geek-friendliest city in the world.”

Besides excellent telecom connections, residents have wazoo and fiber optic broadband. It’s state-of-the art. It’s far cheaper than anything in America. It’s unaffected by censorship.

(3) Hong Kong residents support Snowden. Leung Kwok-hung led a protest on his behalf. He did so in front of the US consulate. Others followed. Expect more. Expect them to grow in size.

Snowden has growing numbers of friends. He hopes Hong Kong’s legal system will protect him. Russia may offer him asylum. Perhaps China and other countries.

Russia Today said Reuters quoted Icelandic businessman Olafur Vignir Sirurvinsson, saying:

“A private jet is in place in China and we could fly Snowden over tomorrow if we get positive reaction from the Interior Ministry.”

“We need to get confirmation of asylum and that he will not be extradited to the US. We would most want him to get a citizenship as well.”

“We need to play it as it comes, so we are basically ready for anything. We might need to go by boat for a bit, cars and planes will be involved.”

Icelandic Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson confirmed ongoing “informal talks.” Icelandic journalist/WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson’s involved on Snowden’s behalf.

According to Iceland’s Interior Ministry spokesperson:

“To apply for asylum in Iceland, the individual in question must be present in Iceland and make the application in his or her own name.”

US citizens may enter Iceland with no visa. They can immediately request asylum. The process can take a year.

Enormous US pressure could force Iceland to extradite him. It could happen well before his case is decided.

Snowden understands. He fears Washington could push Iceland “harder, quicker before the public could have a chance to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current US administration.”

Hong Kong justice operates deliberately. Snowden’s best chance is there. He chose it for that reason.

(4) Hong Kong’s “one of the most ambiguous political spaces in the world.”

It’s a “Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic.” It reflects one country, two systems. They have different political and legal structures.

They have separate police, immigration and customs procedures and currencies. No one wins by acting hastily on Snowden, said MsExPat. Expect a long deliberative process. It could drag on for years.

(5) Hong Kong’s one of the world’s safest places. It’s the safest major city. It’s gun-free. Murders are so rare they capture headlines for weeks when they occur.

(6) Hong Kong’s the main haven for Chinese dissidents. Many human and civil rights lawyers reside there. Excellent representation is available.

“(M)ost of these lawyers will be salivating” to defend Snowden. Because of his high-profile status and what’s at stake, they’ll do it “pro bono.”

He likely sought counsel on arrival. He probably did so before exposing NSA lawlessness. He’s less concerned about his own welfare than if what he did changes nothing.

Obama’s waging war on freedom. He wants truth and full disclosure suppressed. He wants all whistleblowers silenced. He targeted more than all his predecessors combined. He did so ruthlessly, irresponsibly and lawlessly. He menaces everyone in the process.

A previous article called revealing vital truths exemplary patriotism. Snowden follows a noble tradition. He represents America’s best. He’s Obama’s eighth whistleblower charged under Espionage Act provisions.

Earlier ones included Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) founder Bill Haywood, social justice advocate Emma Goldman, journalist/author/socialist activist John Reed, political activist Max Eastman, civil rights leader Philip Randolph, and Social Democratic Party of America and its successor Socialist Party of America co-founder Victor Berger.

Previous Obama targets include Bradley Manning. He faces 22 charges. He pleaded guilty to 10 lesser ones. He denied 12 greater ones. Most serious is aiding the enemy. Doing so is treason. It’s a potential capital offense.

Crimes of war, against humanity and genocide demand disclosure. Manning was legally obligated to reveal them. He acted responsibly doing so.

Prosecuting him mocks rule of law justice. The ACLU called doing it unconstitutional. At issue is posting alleged intelligence information online. Prosecutors say doing so aids Al Qaeda. They don’t claim Manning did so intentionally.

They claim he “indirectly” did because documents he supplied appeared on WikiLeaks’ web site. Anyone can access it. So can Al Qaeda.

Manning, they say, knew that. They charged him with violating Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

It states that “any person who gives intelligence to or communicates or corresponds with or holds any intercourse with the enemy, either directly or indirectly; shall suffer death or such other punishment as a court-martial or military commission may direct.”

Article 104 isn’t limited to sensitive or classified information. It prohibits all unauthorized communications or contacts with the enemy – direct or indirect.

“The implications of the government’s argument are breathtaking,” said ACLU. Everyone is potentially vulnerable.

Included are whistleblowers, journalists, sources they use, editors they report to, lawyers they consult, others advising them, anti-war activists, bloggers, and anyone challenging government policies.

Sunshine’s a national imperative. Fundamental freedoms are threatened. They’re gravely compromised. Manning’s trial and others like it reflect Washington’s attempt to end them altogether.

Thomas Drake’s a former NSA official. He was indicted on multiple charges of “willful retention of classified information, obstruction of justice and making false statements.”

Charges alleged he gave Baltimore Sun reporter Sibohan Gorman classified NSA documents. She focused mainly on its “Trailblazer” project. She discussed illegal spying, waste and other abuses.

She called the scheme “the biggest boondoggle going on (at the time) in the intelligence community.” She said people have a right to know.

Drake said profiteers are incentivized to hype fears. Doing so benefits their bottom line priorities. Justice Department prosecutors tried to prosecute him.

They failed. Charges were dropped. He refused to “plea bargain with the truth.” He accepted a minor misdemeanor count for exceeding authorized use of a computer.

In January 2012, Obama’s Justice Department charged former CIA officer John Kiriakou. It did so for disclosing classified information to journalists, violating Intelligence Identities Protection Act provisions, and “lying” to CIA’s Publications Review Board.

He potentially faced longterm incarceration. In October 2012, he accepted plea bargain terms. They’re sought and/or accepted for lesser sentences. Innocent victims take them to avoid harsher treatment.

Kariakou pled guilty to one count of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Other Espionage Act charges were dropped. He got 30 months in prison.

Before sentencing, US District Court Judge Leone Brinkema asked if he had anything to say. He declined. Brinkema added that “Perhaps you have already spoken too much.”

Separately, Kiriakou thanked supporters. He came “out of court positive, confident and optimistic,” he said.

“I’m headed to prison while the torturers and the lawyers who papered over it and the people who conceived it and the man who destroyed the proof of it, the tapes, will never face justice.”

“And that’s the saddest part of the story,” he added. Unconscionable crimes reflect official policy. Police states operate that way. America’s by far the worst.

Stephen Kim’s a former State Department contractor. In August 2010, he was charged with revealing classified information. He did so on North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen.

He was called an “aider, abettor and co-conspirator.” His phone records were monitored. They were obtained for a defined period. His emails were read. His personal movements were tracked. His constitutional rights were violated.

James Hitselberger’s a former Navy linguist. He worked as an Arabic translator. He’s charged with Espionage Act violations for providing classified information to Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

Smamai Leibowitz’s a lawyer/blogger. He was a contract FBI Hebrew linguist. He monitored Israel’s Washington embassy wiretaps.

“During the course of my work,” he said, “I came across wrongdoings that led me to conclude this is an abuse of power and a violation of the law.”

“I reported these violations to my superiors at the FBI who did nothing about them. Thereafter, to my great regret, I disclosed the violations to a member of the media.”

He was concerned about a potential Israeli attack on Iran. He also learned about illegal Israeli influence-peddling. He told journalist Richard Silverstein.

He got 20 months in prison for doing so. His trial proceedings were so secret, the presiding judge didn’t know what he leaked.

Jeffrey Sterling’s a former CIA officer. He was charged for unauthorized communications with New York Times journalist James Risen.

He was indicted for allegedly providing him classified information. Risen provided detailed accounts of extraordinary rendition, torture and other type abuses.

Candidate Obama promised transparency, accountability, and reform. President Obama targeted more whistleblowers than all his predecessors combined.

He did so unconstitutionally. He prioritizes police state harshness. Everyone’s vulnerable everywhere. There’s no place to hard. It bears repeating. He menaces humanity in the process. It may not survive on his watch.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.  It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/edward-snowden-charged-under-the-espionage-act/

by Ming Jinwei

BEIJING, June 23 (Xinhua) — Edward Snowden, a U.S. intelligence contractor who divulged some of the most secretive spying activities of the U.S. government, has put Washington in a really awkward situation.

In the past few months, U.S. politicians and media outlets have thrown out Internet spying accusations one after another against China, trying to make it as one of the biggest perpetrators of Internet spying activities.

And those claims were even highlighted during a highly anticipated summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama held earlier this month in California, which had been designed to help the world’s two biggest economies to build a new type of major power relations.

All this has seemed to go relatively well until the revelation of the U.S. National Security Agency’s PRISM surveillance program.

According to Snowden, the U.S. government has engaged in wide-ranging dubious spying activities not only on its own citizens, but also on governmental, academic and business entities across the world.

Latest reports from Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, which seems to have access to Snowden after he fled to the Chinese territory, revealed that Washington has hacked into the computer systems of major Chinese telecom carriers and one of the country’s top universities.

These, along with previous allegations, are clearly troubling signs. They demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyber attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age.

At the moment, Washington is busy with a legal process of extraditing whistleblower Snowden.

But for other countries, Washington should come clean about its record first. It owes too an explanation to China and other countries it has allegedly spied on. It has to share with the world the range, extent and intent of its clandestine hacking programs.

The drama around Snowden also tends to support China’s stand on the issue of cyber security.

Both the United States and China, together with many other countries, are victims of hacking. For the uncharted waters of Internet age, these countries should sit down and talk through their suspicions.

With good intentions, they can even work for the establishment of certain rules that help define and regulate Internet activities and mechanisms that can work out their differences when frictions do arise.

The ball is now in Washington’s court. The U.S. government had better move to allay the concerns of other countries.

It’s no surprise that this latest announcement hardly registered on the US media who were busy covering Obama’s latest flip-flop on Syria, and the US royal family’s visit to Ireland. It’s deception on a grand scale this time, and here’s how it’s done…

For the second time in as many years, Iran has once again made the right moves towards proving to the world that it is not, and will not be pursuing a nuclear weapons program. This time it announced it’s halting its 20% enriched uranium, and has a solid partner in Russia to help make this happen. As one would expect, the US-led axis bloc has completely ignored this important development, opting instead to soldier forward on a predictable war path which the bellicose Israeli lobby running the US Congress and Senate has been campaigning for all these years.

When lawyers become Presidents

You can see why Obama was the candidate of choice for the Democratic Neoliberal machine in the US. As a lawyer-cum-salesman, he is a master in NLP, and casting verbal smokescreens – very generous with words, but very stingy when it comes to conclusions. White House spin doctors and focus group pollsters have already established that Obama’s core supporters don’t actually listen to the content of his speeches, most will suspend critical thought in favour of the joy they receive by simply hearing the sound of his voice. This allows the President to deliver a style, featuring a well-rehearsed cadence, rather than any specific meaning.  By the time you finish listening to one of his long-winded conversations, it’s hard to actually recall what’s actually been said. Another aspect of this technique is to stretch out the answers to questions, before eventually contradicting one’s self, leaving the average TV viewer in an induced state of intellectual paralysis.

During the President’s recently staged interview with the CFR, Trialteral Commission and Bilderberg’s own embedded ‘journalist’, Charlie Rose, Obama was asked directly whether or not he thought that Iranian voters choice of moderate President-elect Hassan Rowhani, was significant and could this a be positive development in terms of US diplomacy with Iran. In typical Obama style, he gave a verbose, highly vague, nonspecific answer, followed by:

“Our bottom lines have been: show the international community that you are abiding by international treaties and obligations – that you are not developing a nuclear weapon, based on that, there are a whole range of measure that can be taken to normalise relations between Iran and the whole world, but we don’t know yet if they are going to take up that offer, they have not been during my entire my first term when we showed ourselves open to these discussions.”

“My general view is we are open to discussions, both through the P5+1, and through potential bilateral channels, and we recognise that you’re not going solve problems all up front as a pre-condition for talks, but  There has to be a serious recognition that the sanctions we put in place against Iran – the most power economic sanctions  that have ever been applied against Iran, that those will not be lifted in the absence of significant steps in showing the international community that Iran is not pursuing a  nuclear weapon. As long as there is an understanding about the basis of the conversation, then I think there is no reason why we should not proceed… “

Incredible. The ambiguity in Obama’s answers and the classic NLP ‘anchoring’ techniques used throughout the interview are not accidental, they’re intentional. Constant fuzziness and communicative misdirection. This has become the hallmark of nearly every Obama public statement. Unfortunately for Americans, Iranians and the rest of the peace-loving world, this is what we are stuck with as a President in America for now.

Obama is a microphone for K Street

Not surprisingly, the White House has completely ignored the significant announcement that  Iran has confirmed it will halt its enrichment of 20-percent uranium, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov still urging the West to end their sanctions against Tehran. Still, no answer from the west. Maybe Obama’s speech writers need a few weeks to figure out ‘what it all means’. They should have a statement ready by the time the Obamas return from their $100 million African safari vacation.


General thinking in the neocortex of Washington, which takes place within the CFR,  neoconservative think tanks and on the kosher end of K Street, is that Iranian claims  are all lies, made up as part of Iran’s campaign of international propaganda designed to conceal its evil plans to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.

Sounds like a comic book plot, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

So we have lawyers making deals with lobbyists. This is how they don’t want you to see the Iranian narrative…

The brains of Washington might pretend to not fully understand the idiosyncracies underpinning the fact that Iran’s having nuclear reprocessing capabilities does not automatically imply a nuclear weapons program, but of course, you should know by now that the facts of this matter are of little concern to them. They are merely shilling for an international energy and financial cartel who seek total dominance in their sectors.

The International Nuclear Mafia

The other huge issue in all of this that might be too deep, and too complex for the brains of Washington and its media surrogates to get their heads around, is the international nuclear energy lobby, a powerful cartel, who is more or less dictating Anglo-Franco-American foreign policy regarding anything to do with the nuclear industry.

After being burnt in business trying to deal with countries like France
in the past, Iran is seeking total energy and technological independence.

The timing of Iran being declared as “Axis of Evil” amazing coincided with their movement forward in breaking the international nuclear monopoly stronghold currently being held between the US, Great Britain and France. The nuclear industry operates like a global cartel with three main players who divide the trade amongst themselves exclusively. Production material is handled by France. Production systems are handled by the United States. Reprocessing is done by the British. There are some minor exceptions to these, but overall, that’s how it has worked over the years.


PHOTO: For Tehran, a nuclear program is a matter of national pride.

On the oil and gas front, here another reason why Iran are persona non grata: the US agenda remains to somehow force Iran to accept a private central bank and sell all of their oil only for US dollars. Again, it’s an issues of operating outside of the monopoly.

Anglo-Franco-American dominance over the UN and the IAEA also mean that these agencies can be manipulated in order to frame the conversation only in terms of the threat of nuclear weapons in the future, and completely divorced from the real economic battles taking place. In addition, the UN has a built-in blind spot for Israel who is somehow exempt from any jurisdiction regarding nuclear weapons.

Of course, you have never heard the White House answer a question on any of that, nor will you ever hear Charlie Rose ask those questions, and you probably never will.

US ‘diplomacy’ based on public deception

President Obama and his advisers are well aware that Iran is not on track to produce any nuclear weapons, so Obama’s line that he understands that ‘you’re not going solve problems all up front as a pre-condition for talks’ is disingenuous at best, and a cynical lie targeting American voters at its worst. Washington is afraid of diplomatic talks with Iran because it would force the west to voice their true demands in public which appears to be something along the lines of, “Shut down your nuclear power program first, and then we can begin talking.”

The reality, of course, is that the Anglo-American foreign policy on Iran has never been and will never feature (under the current rulings powers anyway) any real political diplomacy, or “bilateral discussions” as Obama refers to them. Obama’s intentionally ambiguous comments should reiterate this obvious fact. Rather, the policy is, was, and will be that of its two client state powers in the region Israel and Saudi Arabia – which is a policy of war, designed to maintain hegemony by either eliminating or severely crippling their chief economic and political rival in the region.

The US, its allies and Israel have already declared war on Iran by imposing binding economic sanctions in the absence of any actual evidence of Iran having a nuclear weapons program. Yes, you heard that right  - the war has already begun. The timing of their game in Syria is design to cripple each of Iran’s remaining allies in the region, Syria, and then Hezbollah in Lebanon – all in advance of their final push towards Iran.

It’s also worth pointing out that the loud mouth on Iran’s still nonexistent nuclear threat is Israel – a country who have refused to allow nuclear inspectors into its country and who, unlike Iran, refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, making Israel’s leading role in all of this highly suspect to say the least.

Understand when you watch this tedious interview (below), that all of Charlie Rose’s questions were vetted in advance, and those that weren’t, were given to Rose by the White House. After nearly an hour, nothing conclusive could be determined from the President of the United States. That, is this administration in a nutshell.

In short, this was nothing more than a staged a corporate interview with CEO Obama…

(The first reader who you can correctly count how many times Barack Obama says “Uhhhh….” during Barack’s interview, could win a T-shirt. Please leave your guess in the comment section below)
-

What now Barack? Iran ready to halt 20% uranium enrichment, West must reciprocate.

A recent report from RT explains:

Iran has confirmed it is prepared to halt its enrichment of 20-percent uranium, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, urging Western nations to end their sanctions against Tehran.

“For the first time in many years, there are encouraging signs in the process of settlement of the situation with the Iranian nuclear program,” he said in the interview to Kuwait’s KUNA news agency, that was published on  Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.

“Without going into details, the Iranians confirm the most important [point]: Their readiness to stop 20 percent uranium enrichment at its current levels,” Lavrov said.“This could become a breakthrough agreement, significantly alleviating existing problems, including concerns about the possibility of advanced uranium enrichment to a weapons-grade level.”

Such a move “implies significant reciprocal steps by the Six,” the minister added, referring to the group of world powers seeking to peacefully resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.

“The international community must adequately respond to the constructive progress made by Iran, including gradual suspension and lifting of sanctions, both unilateral and those introduced by the UN Security Council. It would be a shame not to take advantage of this opportunity,” Lavrov concluded.

News of Iran’s possible concessions over its nuclear program comports with promises made by Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani, who vowed to make the program more transparent.

Still, the moderate cleric stressed on Monday that Tehran would not consider halting the country’s uranium enrichment activities entirely. Rowhani insisted that Iran’s nuclear activities are“within the framework of law,” and dubbed the international sanctions “baseless.”

Despite numerous accusations by Israel and the US that it is secretly conducting military nuclear research, Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes.

At his first media conference since winning the presidential elections, Rowhani – who previously headed Iran’s delegation during  nuclear talks with the six world powers – said that Tehran’s nuclear activities “are already transparent,” but “the only way to end the sanctions is to increase the transparency and trust” between Iran and the international community.

Washington has been expecting changes in Iran’s hardline stance on the nuclear issue following the country’s presidential elections. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday on ‘Face the Nation’ that Washington is ready to work with the new administration in Tehran, “If he lives up to his obligations under the UN Security Council resolution to come clean on this illicit nuclear program.”

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained unconvinced: “The international community must not become caught up in wishes and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program,” he said.

President-elect Rowhani will assume office in August. He believes that he can heal the “old wound” of troubled US-Iran relations if Washington stops interfering in Tehran’s internal affairs and permanently ends its “bullying” practices towards Iran.

Updated

The US Government requirements did not comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong Law.  As the HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.” (see HKSAR press release below)

The Guardian has reported that Snowden has left Hong Kong on an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, in transit to a third country.

Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong has touched down in Moscow, according to the New York Times correspondent in Moscow.

The Reuters report intimates that “his final destination may be Cuba, Ecuador, Iceland or Venezuela”, according to various unidentified and unconfirmed reports.

“Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a source at the Aeroflot airline as saying there was a ticket in Snowden’s name for a Moscow-Cuba flight. Itar-Tass cited a source as saying Snowden would fly from Havana to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.”

The South China Morning Post said his final destination may be Ecuador or Iceland.

The latest Reuter’s report states that Edward Snowden “will fly from Moscow to Cuba on Monday and then plans to go to Venezuela“, according to a source at the Russian airline Aeroflot
According to the  HKSAR Government Release (see below):

“The U.S. government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden,”

“Since the documents provided by the U.S. government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR government has requested the U.S. government to provide additional information … As the HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”

Michel Chossudovsky contributed to this report

 

One of the nation’s best-known charities is paying disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour, thanks to a 75-year-old legal loophole that critics say needs to be closed. Goodwill Industries, a multibillion-dollar company whose executives make six-figure salaries, is among the nonprofit groups permitted to pay thousands of disabled workers far less than minimum wage because of a federal law known as Section 14 (c). Labor Department records show that some Goodwill workers in Pennsylvania earned wages as low as 22, 38 and 41 cents per hour in 2011.


“If they really do pay the CEO of Goodwill three-quarters of a million dollars, they certainly can pay me more than they’re paying,” said Harold Leigland, who is legally blind and hangs clothes at a Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana for less than minimum wage.

“It’s a question of civil rights,” added his wife, Sheila, blind from birth, who quit her job at the same Goodwill store when her already low wage was cut further. “I feel like a second-class citizen. And I hate it.”

Section 14 (c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which was passed in 1938, allows employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor. The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage.

Most, but not all, special wage certificates are held by nonprofit organizations like Goodwill that then set up their own so-called “sheltered workshops” for disabled employees, where employees typically perform manual tasks like hanging clothes.

For more on disabled workers and sub-minimum-wage pay watch ‘Rock Center’ tonight.

The non-profit certificate holders can also place employees in outside, for-profit workplaces including restaurants, retail stores, hospitals and even Internal Revenue Service centers. Between the sheltered workshops and the outside businesses, more than 216,000 workers are eligible to earn less than minimum wage because of Section 14 (c), though many end up earning the full federal minimum wage of $7.25.When a non-profit provides Section 14 (c) workers to an outside business, it sets the salary and pays the wages. For example, the Helen Keller National Center, a New York school for the blind and deaf, has a special wage certificate and has placed students in a Westbury, N.Y., Applebee’s franchise. The employees’ pay ranged from $3.97 per hour to $5.96 per hour in 2010. The franchise told NBC News it has also hired workers at minimum wage from Helen Keller. A spokesperson for Applebee’s declined to comment on Section 14 (c).Helen Keller also placed several students at a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Manhasset, N.Y., in 2010, where they earned $3.80 and $4.85 an hour. A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman defended the Section 14 (c) program as providing jobs to “people who would otherwise not have [the opportunity to work].”

Most Section 14 (c) workers are employed directly by nonprofits. In 2001, the most recent year for which numbers are available, the GAO estimated that more than 90 percent of Section 14 (c) workers were employed at nonprofit work centers.

Critics of Section 14 (c) have focused much of their ire on the nonprofits, where wages can be just pennies an hour even as some of the groups receive funding from the government. At one workplace in Florida run by a nonprofit, some employees earned one cent per hour in 2011.

“People are profiting from exploiting disabled workers,” said Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “It is clearly and unquestionably exploitation.”

Defenders of Section 14 (c) say that without it, disabled workers would have few options. A Department of Labor spokesperson said in a statement to NBC News that Section 14 (c) “provides workers with disabilities the opportunity to be given meaningful work and receive an income.”

Terry Farmer, CEO of ACCSES, a trade group that calls itself the “voice of disability service providers,” said scrapping the provision could “force [disabled workers] to stay at home,” enter rehabilitation, “or otherwise engage in unproductive and unsatisfactory activities.”

Harold Leigland, however, said he feels that Goodwill can pay him a low wage because the company knows he has few other places to go. “We are trapped,” he said. “Everybody who works at Goodwill is trapped.”

Leigland, a 66-year-old former massage therapist with a college degree, currently earns $5.46 per hour in Great Falls.

His wages have risen and fallen based on “time studies,” the method nonprofits use to calculate the salaries of Section 14 (c) workers. Staff members use a stopwatch to determine how long it takes a disabled worker to complete a task. That time is compared with how long it would take a person without a disability to do the same task. The nonprofit then uses a formula to calculate a salary, which may be equal to or less than minimum wage. The tests are repeated every six months.

Copyright: Rock Center with Brian Williams, 2013

Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.

Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives at his final destination his request will be formally processed.

Former Spanish Judge Mr Baltasar Garzon, legal director of Wikileaks and lawyer for Julian Assange has made the following statement:

“The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person. What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange – for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest – is an assault against the people”.

Over the past week, Brazil has witnessed its largest protests since the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. This eruption of mass struggles has exposed, above all, the crisis of revolutionary leadership in the working class.

The initial trigger for the escalating protests was an increase in bus fares, which was subsequently rolled back in an attempt to dissipate social unrest. Nonetheless, Thursday saw somewhere between one and two million people take to the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and dozens of other cities across the country, pressing demands for greater investment in education and health care and venting popular anger over the billions being lavished on World Cup stadiums at the expense of the people.

In many instances, demonstrators were met with brutal repression, including tear gas, rubber bullets and cavalry charges.

Popular mobilizations of such sweeping dimensions cannot be explained merely by the immediate events that triggered them—in this case, a 20-cent rise in bus fares; in the case of Turkey, the move to bulldoze Istanbul’s Gezi Park. They are rooted in the deep-going contradictions of these societies, which have been immensely sharpened by the historic crisis of global capitalism.

Brazil, like Turkey, has been hailed in recent years as an economic success story. Yet the “Brazilian miracle” appears to have hit the wall.

While it has created some 50 billionaires and over 150,000 millionaires, it has proven incapable of resolving the legacy of imperialist oppression and economic backwardness in relation to the basic social infrastructure. Limited social assistance programs that have been hailed for reducing the rate of extreme poverty and creating a new “middle class” have done little to alter Brazil’s status as one of the most socially unequal countries on the face of the planet.

There are growing signs of economic crisis, with the growth rate falling to 0.9 percent in 2012 and 0.6 percent for the first quarter of this year. Industrial production has fallen 0.3 percent, bringing with it layoffs and hiring freezes. Consumer spending is falling, as the majority of the population faces mounting debts. Inflation has risen to an official rate of 6.5 percent, with the cost of basic necessities rising far more steeply.

While the number of university graduates has doubled in the last decade, the majority of those leaving university are unable to find jobs that require their degrees or pay decent salaries.

These young people, university students and recent graduates, made up a substantial portion of the demonstrators who poured into the streets across Brazil this week, with the bulk of them participating in mass social action for the first time in their lives.

The inevitable political confusion of such a mass spontaneous movement was exploited, particularly on Thursday, by forces of the extreme right. Bands of thugs set upon groups of left-wing marchers and a small number of union members who joined the demonstrations, tearing down and burning their banners, attacking them with pepper spray, stun grenades and metal pipes, and ultimately forcing them out of the march. This happened in Sao Paulo, Rio and a number of other cities, indicating a well-organized campaign, undoubtedly coordinated with the police and possibly the military.

The right wing sought to steer the political direction of the protests away from a struggle for social equality, chanting the slogan “no parties” and denouncing political corruption, high taxes and crime.

While the majority of those who marched were unaware of these sinister events, the fact that the fascist thugs could act with impunity is politically significant.

Most of those who demonstrated have lived all of their politically conscious lives under the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores—PT) governments of former union leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his handpicked successor as president, Dilma Rousseff. The Workers Party has been in power for the entire last decade.

Formed in 1980 in the wake of tumultuous mass strikes that shook the military dictatorship, the Workers Party and the trade union federation with which it was affiliated, the CUT, served from the outset as a means of diverting this militant movement of the Brazilian working class back under the domination of the bourgeois state.

Nonetheless, a whole range of pseudo-left organizations dedicated themselves to sowing illusions that the PT could be turned into a revolutionary vehicle for establishing socialism in Brazil.

As the PT won elected office on the municipal and state level, its politics shifted further and further to the right, until ultimately Lula was elected president in 2002 based on a guarantee to continue the IMF-dictated economic policies of his predecessors. Brazilian and international capital came to see the PT as the best instrument for protecting their interests against a revolt from below.

Some of the pseudo-left outfits were expelled from the PT, while others stayed, with their members rising to leading positions. In the case of the Pabloite United Secretariat, both things were true.

Part of its Brazilian section was expelled, going on to set up a new party along the same lines as the original PT, the PSOL (Socialism and Freedom Party), while others stayed, with one member, Miguel Rossetto, becoming minister of agrarian reform and a stooge of the big landed interests.

Others who had previously proclaimed themselves Trotskyists included Antonio Palocci, who became finance minister, and Luiz Gushiken, who was the director of the Lula government’s office of social communication. Both have since been criminally charged in connection with the wave of corruption and vote-buying scandals that surround the PT government.

The criminal political role played by these pseudo-left elements, all of them thoroughly nationalist in their orientation, was to provide a “socialist” veneer to a right-wing capitalist party that worked systematically to subordinate every social struggle to the interests of big business and the Brazilian state. They did so, in part, by promoting the trade unions, which have long since ceased to be seen by the population as a vehicle for social change and have been noticeably absent from the current mass protest movement.

This has provided political space for the Brazilian right to engage in the kind of reactionary populism seen in the recent protests, exploiting popular anger against the corrupt, pro-capitalist political apparatus of the PT. The dangers posed by this development in a country that was ruled for two decades by a military dictatorship, where none of those responsible for the killings, torture, illegal detentions and other crimes it committed have ever been charged, are all too real.

As in Turkey and elsewhere, the limits of spontaneous mass actions, no matter how large, will soon become apparent in Brazil. The decisive political task posed by these events and by the crisis of Brazilian and global capitalism is a turn to the working class and the building within it of a new revolutionary leadership based on the program of socialism and internationalism.

This means a ruthless political criticism of the PT and the pseudo-left groups and trade unions that are in its orbit. This is necessary to rearm the Brazilian workers with a revolutionary perspective and forge their political independence from all sections of the economic elites.

The Stunning Hypocrisy of the U.S. Government

June 23rd, 2013 by Global Research News

The Government’s Hypocrisy Is the Core Problem

Congress has exempted itself from the prohibition against trading on inside information … the law that got Martha Stewart and many other people thrown in jail.

There are many other ways in which the hypocrisy of the politicians in D.C. are hurting our country.

Washington politicians say we have to slash basic services, and yet waste hundreds of billions of dollars on counter-productive boondoggles.  If the politicos just stopped throwing money at corporate welfare queens, military and security boondoggles and pork, harmful quantitative easingunnecessary nuclear subsidies,  the failed war on drugs, and other wasted and counter-productive expenses, we wouldn’t need to impose austerity on the people.

The D.C. politicians said that the giant failed banks couldn’t be nationalized, because that would be socialism.  Instead of temporarily nationalizing them and then spinning them off to the private sector – or breaking them up – the politicians have bailed them out to the tune of many tens of billions of dollars each year, and created a system where all of the profits are privatized, and all of the losses socialized.

Obama and Congress promised help for struggling homeowners, and passed numerous bills that they claimed would rescue the little guy.  But every single one of these bills actually bails out the banks … and doesn’t really help the homeowner.

The D.C. regulators pretend that they are being tough on the big banks, but are actually doing everything they can to help cover up their sins.

Many have pointed out Obama’s hypocrisy in slamming Bush’s spying programs … and then expanding them  (millions more).

And in slamming China’s cyber-warfare … while doing the same thing.

And – while the Obama administration is spying on everyone in the country – it is at the same time the most secretive administration ever (background).    That’s despite Obama saying he’s running the most transparent administration ever.

Glenn Greenwald – the Guardian reporter who broke the NSA spying revelations – has documented for many years the hypocritical use of leaks by the government to make itself look good … while throwing the book at anyone who leaks information embarrassing to the government.

Greenwald notes today:

Prior to Barack Obama’s inauguration, there were a grand total of three prosecutions of leakers under the Espionage Act (including the prosecution of Dan Ellsberg by the Nixon DOJ). That’s because the statute is so broad that even the US government has largely refrained from using it. But during the Obama presidency, there are now seven such prosecutions: more than double the number under all prior US presidents combined.

***

Please read this rather good summary in this morning’s New York Times of the worldwide debate Snowden has enabled – how these disclosures have “set off a national debate over the proper limits of government surveillance” and “opened an unprecedented window on the details of surveillance by the NSA, including its compilation of logs of virtually all telephone calls in the United States and its collection of e-mails of foreigners from the major American Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and Skype” – and ask yourself: has Snowden actually does anything to bring “injury to the United States”, or has he performed an immense public service?

The irony is obvious: the same people who are building a ubiquitous surveillance system to spy on everyone in the world, including their own citizens, are now accusing the person who exposed it of “espionage”. It seems clear that the people who are actually bringing “injury to the United States” are those who are waging war on basic tenets of transparency and secretly constructing a mass and often illegal and unconstitutional surveillance apparatus aimed at American citizens – and those who are lying to the American people and its Congress about what they’re doing – rather than those who are devoted to informing the American people that this is being done.

The Obama administration leaks classified information continuously. They do it to glorify the President, or manipulate public opinion, or even to help produce a pre-election propaganda film about the Osama bin Laden raid. The Obama administration does not hate unauthorized leaks of classified information. They are more responsible for such leaks than anyone.

What they hate are leaks that embarrass them or expose their wrongdoing. Those are the only kinds of leaks that are prosecuted. It’s a completely one-sided and manipulative abuse of secrecy laws. It’s all designed to ensure that the only information we as citizens can learn is what they want us to learn because it makes them look good. The only leaks they’re interested in severely punishing are those that undermine them politically. The “enemy” they’re seeking to keep ignorant with selective and excessive leak prosecutions are not The Terrorists or The Chinese Communists. It’s the American people.

The Terrorists already knew, and have long known, that the US government is doing everything possible to surveil their telephonic and internet communications. The Chinese have long known, and have repeatedly said, that the US is hacking into both their governmental and civilian systems (just as the Chinese are doing to the US). The Russians have long known that the US and UK try to intercept the conversations of their leaders just as the Russians do to the US and the UK.

They haven’t learned anything from these disclosures that they didn’t already well know.  [He's right.] The people who have learned things they didn’t already know are American citizens who have no connection to terrorism or foreign intelligence, as well as hundreds of millions of citizens around the world about whom the same is true. What they have learned is that the vast bulk of this surveillance apparatus is directed not at the Chinese or Russian governments or the Terrorists, but at them.

And that is precisely why the US government is so furious and will bring its full weight to bear against these disclosures. What has been “harmed” is not the national security of the US but the ability of its political leaders to work against their own citizens and citizens around the world in the dark, with zero transparency or real accountability. If anything is a crime, it’s that secret, unaccountable and deceitful behavior: not the shining of light on it.

 

It has gotten so blatant that even New Yorker comic Andy Borowitz is lampooning the hypocrisy coming out of Washington:

At a press conference to discuss the accusations, an N.S.A. spokesman surprised observers by announcing the spying charges against Mr. Snowden with a totally straight face.

“These charges send a clear message,” the spokesman said. “In the United States, you can’t spy on people.”

***

“The American people have the right to assume that their private documents will remain private and won’t be collected by someone in the government for his own purposes.”

“Only by bringing Mr. Snowden to justice can we safeguard the most precious of American rights: privacy,” added the spokesman, apparently serious.

Similarly, journalists who act as mere stenographers for the government who never criticize in more than a superficial fashion are protected and rewarded … but reporters who actually report on government misdeeds are prosecuted and harassed.

Further, the biggest terrorism fearmongers themselves actually support terrorism. And see this.

In the name of fighting terrorism, the U.S. has been directly supporting Al Qaeda and other terrorists and providing them arms, money and logistical support in Syria, Libya, Mali, Bosnia, Chechnya, Iran, and many other countries … both before and after 9/11. And see this.

The American government has long labeled foreigners as terrorists for doing what America does.

Moreover, government officials may brand Americans as potential terrorists if they peacefully protestcomplain about the taste of their water, or do any number of other normal, all-American things.

This is especially hypocritical given that liberals like Noam Chomsky and conservatives like the director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan (Lt. General William Odom) all say that the American government is the world’s largest purveyor of terrorism.

As General Odom noted:

Because the United States itself has a long record of supporting terrorists and using terrorist tactics, the slogans of today’s war on terrorism merely makes the United States look hypocritical to the rest of the world.

These are just a couple of ways in which the D.C. politicians are hypocrites.

Michael Hastings Sent Email About FBI Probe Hours Before Death

June 23rd, 2013 by Global Research News

By Melissa Jeltsen

Hours before dying in a fiery car crash, award-winning journalist Michael Hastings sent an email to his colleagues, warning that federal authorities were interviewing his friends and that he needed to go “off the rada[r]” for a bit.

The email was sent around 1 p.m. on Monday, June 17. At 4:20 a.m. the following morning, Hastings died when his Mercedes, traveling at high speeds, smashed into a tree and caught on fire. He was 33.

Hastings sent the email to staff at BuzzFeed, where he was employed, but also blind-copied a friend, Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, on the message. Biggs, who Hastings met in 2008 when he was embedded in his unit in Afghanistan, forwarded the email to KTLA, who posted it online on Saturday.

michael hastings email

Here’s the email, with the recipients’ names redacted.

Subject: FBI Investigation, re: NSAHey (redacted names) — the Feds are interviewing my “close friends and associates.” Perhaps if the authorities arrive “BuzzFeed GQ,” er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.

Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit.

All the best, and hope to see you all soon.

Michael

Copyright: Huffington Post, 2013

The Government Actually DID Spy On the Bad Guys Before 9/11 … and the Boston Bombing

Preface: The Bush and Obama administrations both claimed that spying on Americans was justified by 9/11. Specifically, they said that they could have caught one of the 9/11 hijackers living in San Diego if they could have spied on phone calls on American soil.

However – as demonstrated below – that claim is totally false.

ProPublica notes:

In defending the NSA’s sweeping collection of Americans’ phone call records, Obama administration officials have repeatedly pointed out how it could have helped thwart the 9/11 attacks: If only the surveillance program been in place before Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. authorities would have been able to identify one of the future hijackers who was living in San Diego [named Khalid al Mihdhar].

Last weekend, former Vice President Dick Cheney invoked the same argument.

***

Indeed, the Obama administration’s invocation of the Mihdhar case echoes a nearly identical argument made by the Bush administration eight years ago when it defended the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program.

The reality is different.

Initially, an FBI informant hosted and rented a room to Mihdhar and another 9/11 hijacker in 2000.

Investigators for the Congressional Joint Inquiry discovered that an FBI informant had hosted and even rented a room to two hijackers in 2000 and that, when the Inquiry sought to interview the informant, the FBI refused outright, and then hid him in an unknown location, and that a high-level FBI official stated these blocking maneuvers were undertaken under orders from the White House.

As the New York Times notes:

Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who is a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused the White House on Tuesday of covering up evidence ….The accusation stems from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s refusal to allow investigators for a Congressional inquiry and the independent Sept. 11 commission to interview an informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been the landlord in San Diego of two Sept. 11 hijackers.

So mass surveillance of Americans isn’t necessary, when the FBI informant should have apprehended the hijackers.

Moreover, the NSA actually did intercept Mihdhar’s phone calls before 9/11.

We reported in 2008:

We’ve previously pointed out that the U.S. government heard the 9/11 plans from the hijackers’ own mouth. Most of what we wrote about involved the NSA and other intelligence services tapping top Al Qaeda operatives’ phone calls outside the U.S.

However, as leading NSA expert James Bamford - the Washington  Investigative Producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings for almost a decade, winner of a number of journalism awards for coverage national security issues, whose articles have appeared in dozens of publications, including cover stories for the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine, and the only author to write any books (he wrote 3) on the NSA – reports, the NSA was also tapping the hijackers’ phone calls inside the U.S.

Specifically, hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi lived in San Diego, California, for 2 years before 9/11. Numerous phone calls between al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in San Diego and a high-level Al Qaeda operations base in Yemen were made in those 2 years.

The NSA had been tapping and eavesdropping on all calls made from that Yemen phone for years. So NSA recorded all of these phone calls.

Indeed, the CIA knew as far back as 1999 that al-Mihdhar was coming to the U.S. Specifically, in 1999, CIA operatives tailing al-Mihdhar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, obtained a copy of his passport. It contained visas for both Malaysia and the U.S., so they knew it was likely he would go from Kuala Lumpur to America.

 

We asked  top NSA whistleblower William Binney – a highly-credible 32-year NSA veteran with the title of senior technical director, who headed the agency’s digital data gathering program (featured in a New York Times documentary, and the source for much of what we know about NSA spying) – what he thought of the government’s claim that mass surveillance of Americans would have caught Mihdhar and prevented 9/11.

Binney responded:

Of course they could have and did have data on hijackers before 9/11. And, Prism did not start until 2007. But they could get the data from the “Upstream” collection. This is the Mark Klein documentation of Narus equipment in the NSA room in San Francisco and probably other places in the lower 48. They did not need Prism to discover that. Prism only suplemented the “Upstream” material starting in 2007 according to the slide.

Details here and here.

Indeed, widespread spying on Americans began before 9/11 (confirmed here, here, here  and here.

And U.S. and allied intelligence heard the 9/11 hijackers plans from their own mouths:

  • The National Security Agency and the FBI were each independently listening in on the phone calls between the supposed mastermind of the attacks and the lead hijacker. Indeed, the FBI built its own antenna in Madagascar specifically to listen in on the mastermind’s phone calls
  • According to various sources, on the day before 9/11, the mastermind told the lead hijacker “tomorrow is zero hour” and gave final approval for the attacks. The NSA intercepted the message that day and the FBI was likely also monitoring the mastermind’s phone calls
  • According to the Sunday Herald, two days before 9/11, Bin Laden called his stepmother and told her “In two days, you’re going to hear big news and you’re not going to hear from me for a while.” U.S. officials later told CNN that “in recent years they’ve been able to monitor some of bin Laden’s telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded.” Indeed, before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother.
  • And according to CBS News, at 9:53 a.m on 9/11, just 15 minutes after the hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon, “the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin Laden’s operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia”, and secretary of Defense Rumsfeld learned about the intercepted phone call in real-time (if the NSA monitored and transcribed phone calls in real-time on 9/11, that implies that it did so in the months leading up to 9/11 as well)

But even with all of that spying, the government didn’t stop the hijackers … even though 9/11 was entirely foreseeable.

ProPublica notes:

There were plenty of opportunities without having to rely on this metadata system for the FBI and intelligence agencies to have located Mihdhar,” says former Senator Bob Graham, the Florida Democrat who extensively investigated 9/11 as chairman of the Senate’s intelligence committee.

These missed opportunities are described in detail in the joint congressional report produced by Graham and his colleagues as well as in the 9/11 Commission report.

***

Mihdhar was on the intelligence community’s radar at least as early as 1999. That’s when the NSA had picked up communications from a “terrorist facility” in the Mideast suggesting that members of an “operational cadre” were planning to travel to Kuala Lumpur in January 2000, according to the commission report. The NSA picked up the first names of the members, including a “Khalid.” The CIA identified him as Khalid al Mihdhar.

The U.S. got photos of those attending the January 2000 meeting in Malaysia, including of Mihdhar, and the CIA also learned that his passport had a visa for travel to the U.S.

***

Using their true names, Mihdhar and Hazmi for a time beginning in May 2000 even lived with an active FBI informant in San Diego.

***

Let’s turn to the comments of FBI Director Robert Mueller before the House Judiciary Committee last week.

Mueller noted that intelligence agencies lost track of Mihdhar following the January 2000 Kuala Lumpur meeting but at the same time had identified an “Al Qaida safe house in Yemen.”

He continued: “They understood that that Al Qaida safe house had a telephone number but they could not know who was calling into that particular safe house. We came to find out afterwards that the person who had called into that safe house was al Mihdhar, who was in the United States in San Diego. If we had had this [metadata] program in place at the time we would have been able to identify that particular telephone number in San Diego.”

In turn, the number would have led to Mihdhar and potentially disrupted the plot, Mueller argued.

(Media accounts indicate that the “safe house” was actually the home of Mihdhar’s father-in-law, himself a longtime al Qaida figure, and that the NSA had been intercepting calls to the home for several years.)

The congressional 9/11 report sheds some further light on this episode, though in highly redacted form.

The NSA had in early 2000 analyzed communications between a person named “Khaled” and “a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East,” according to this account. But, crucially, the intelligence community “did not determine the location from which they had been made.”

In other words, the report suggests, the NSA actually picked up the content of the communications between Mihdhar and the “Yemen safe house” but was not able to figure out who was calling or even the phone number he was calling from.

***

Theories about the metadata program aside, it’s not clear why the NSA couldn’t or didn’t track the originating number of calls to Yemen it was already listening to.

Intelligence historian Matthew Aid, who wrote the 2009 NSA history Secret Sentry, says that the agency would have had both the technical ability and legal authority to determine the San Diego number that Mihdhar was calling from.

Back in 2001 NSA was routinely tracking the identity of both sides of a telephone call,” [9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow] told ProPublica.

***

There’s another wrinkle in the Mihdhar case: In the years after 9/11, media reports also suggested that there were multiple calls that went in the other direction: from the house in Yemen to Mihdhar in San Diego. But the NSA apparently also failed to track where those calls were going.

In 2005, the Los Angeles Times quoted unnamed officials saying the NSA had well-established legal authority before 9/11 to track calls made from the Yemen number to the U.S. In that more targeted scenario, a metadata program vacumming the phone records of all Americans would appear to be unnecessary.

 

And see this PBS special.

 

In other words, the NSA had the technical ability and legal authority to intercept calls between Midhar and Yemen before 9/11 … and it actually did so.

 

In addition,Wikipedia notes:

 

Mihdhar was placed on a CIA watchlist on August 21, 2001, and a note was sent on August 23 to the Department of State and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) suggesting that Mihdhar and Hazmi be added to their watchlists.

***

On August 23, the CIA informed the FBI that Mihdhar had obtained a U.S. visa in Jeddah. The FBI headquarters received a copy of the Visa Express application from the Jeddah embassy on August 24, showing the New York Marriott as Mihdhar’s destination.

On August 28, the FBI New York field office requested that a criminal case be opened to determine whether Mihdhar was still in the United States, but the request was refused.  The FBI ended up treating Mihdhar as an intelligence case, which meant that the FBI’s criminal investigators could not work on the case, due to the barrier separating intelligence and criminal case operations. An agent in the New York office sent an e-mail to FBI headquarters saying, “Whatever has happened to this, someday someone will die, and the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’” The reply from headquarters was, “we [at headquarters] are all frustrated with this issue … [t]hese are the rules. NSLU does not make them up.”

The FBI contacted Marriott on August 30, requesting that they check guest records, and on September 5, they reported that no Marriott hotels had any record of Mihdhar checking in. The day before the attacks, the New York office requested that the Los Angeles FBI office check all local Sheraton Hotels, as well as Lufthansa and United Airlines bookings, because those were the two airlines Mihdhar had used to enter the country. Neither the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network nor the FBI’s Financial Review Group, which have access to credit card and other private financial records, were notified about Mihdhar prior to September 11.

***

Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Congressman Curt Weldon alleged in 2005 that the Defense Department data mining project Able Danger identified Mihdhar and 3 other 9/11 hijackers as members of an al-Qaeda cell in early 2000.

Similarly, even though the alleged Boston bombers’ phones were tapped  – and NBC News reports, “under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, the government has been collecting records on every phone call made in the U.S.”mass surveillance did not stop the other terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11.

In reality – despite the government continually grasping at straws to justify its massive spying program – top security experts say that mass surveillance of Americans does not keep us safe.   Indeed, experts say that mass surveillance interferes with catching bad guys.

The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) between the US and EU is currently being negotiated. The deal plans to create the world’s largest free trade area, ‘protect’ investment and remove ‘unnecessary regulatory barriers’. All well and good for big business, but the treaty poses a serious threat for ordinary people as it could weaken labour, social, environmental and consumer protection standards. Given the issues at stake, just how much transparency and democratic accountability is there regarding these negotiations and who is driving the agenda?

The deal has been masterminded by the ‘High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth‘ (HLWG), which was set up in 2011 and chaired by European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and the then US Trade Representative Ron Kirk. In its final report, the Group not only recommended entering into the negotiations, but went into some detail as to what should be put on the table, with the far-reaching aim of moving towards a “transatlantic marketplace.”

With so much at stake, the public should know just who sat on the HLWG which set the whole process in motion. According to the European Commission (EC), the group has no identifiable members. The EC has also stated that “several departments” contributed to the discussion and the reports of the (memberless) group, but added that “there is no document containing the list of authors of the reports.”

A request by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) to disclose membership/report authors was met with the response: “Unfortunately we (the EC) are not in a position to provide you with the information requested.”

CEO argues that the group should be subject to the transparency requirements set up in EC’s rules on ‘expert groups’, including transparency about who participated. But it is patently not.

When asked about the ‘outside expertise’ (as the EC calls it) that had influenced the reports produced by the HLWG, CEO was told that the impact assessment of the proposed EU-US trade deal contained a summary of the expert evidence gathered since its inception. CEO was also directed to the Commission’s overview page for public consultations, where it is stated that more than 65 percent of the input to the first two consultations on the proposed EU-US deal came from companies and industry associations.

CEO has also requested information about the EC’s contacts with industry lobby groups wanting to influence the trade pact. It asked for a list of meetings with such lobby groups, minutes and related correspondence. The Commission responded that this “concerns a very large number of documents” and asked CEO to “narrow down the scope of your request, so as to reduce it to a more manageable amount of documents.” Six weeks after CEO’s request and after several email exchanges, CEO was told that the Commission was “currently in the early stages of assessing your request and [...] not yet in a position to give a detailed estimate of the number of documents potentially covered.” The Commission official added: “Our best guess for the moment is that we will only have a first overview of the situation during the middle of June and will update you at that point.”

While still waiting for more information on what seems to be hundreds of documents related to big business lobbying around the EU-US trade deal, CEO fared better with an access to information request to the United States Trade Representative.

Based on the information provided, CEO discovered that the authoritative-sounding ‘high level working groups on growth and jobs’ was nothing but a bunch of unelected and unaccountable, notorious pro-free-trade bureaucrats from both sides of the Atlantic.

Of course, even without access to various sources of information, we already know who supports the negotiations. CEO notes that in addition to the biotech sector, groups lobbying for the deal have included Toyota,General Motors, the pharmaceutical industryIBM and the Chamber of  Commerce of the US, one of the most powerful corporate lobby groups in the US. Business Europe, the main organization representing employers in Europe, launched its own strategy on an EU-US economic and trade partnershipin early 2012. Its suggestions were widely included in the draft EU mandate.

An increasing number of politicians and citizens groups are demanding that the looming EU-US negotiations be conducted in an open way, not least because there are concerns that the deal will open the floodgate for GMOs and shale gas (fracking) in Europe, threatens digital and labour rights and will empower corporations to legally challenge a wide range of regulations which they dislike. One of the key aspects of the negotiations is that both the EU and US should recognize their respective rules and regulations, which in practice could reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator. The official language talks of “mutual recognition” of standards or so-called reduction of non-tariff barriers. For the EU, that could mean accepting US standards in many areas, including food and agriculture, which are lower than the EU’s.

The US wants all so-called barriers to trade, including highly controversial regulations such as those protecting agriculture, food or data privacy, to be removed. Even the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, made it clear that any agreement must also reduce EU restrictions on genetically modified crops, chlorinated chickens and hormone-treated beef.

Demands include an “ambitious liberalisation of agricultural trade barriers with as few exceptions as possible”. Similarly, food lobby group Food and Drink Europe, representing the largest food companies (Unilever, Kraft, Nestlé, etc.), has welcomed the negotiations, with one of their key demands being the facilitation of the low level presence of unapproved genetically modified crops. This is a long-standing industry agenda also supported by feed and grain trading giants, including Cargill, Bunge, ADM, and the big farmers’ lobby COPA-COGECA.. Meanwhile, the biotech industry on both sides of the Atlantic is offering its “support and assistance as the EU and the US government look to enhance their trade relationship.”

As with the EU-India Free Trade Agreement*, it is easy to conclude that there is a deliberate ploy to bar the public from any kind of meaningful information about or input into the world’s biggest trade deal ever to be negotiated. Europeans could well end up becoming the victims of one of the biggest corporate stitch ups ever. As CEO notes, the trade deal appears to be a unique opportunity to achieve through closed and non-transparent negotiations what hasn’t been possible so far in a transparent and democratic way.

Little wonder that many millions throughout Europe now regard the EU an unaccountable proxy allowing powerful private  private interests free rein to dig their profiteering snouts into the trough of corporate greed at the expense of ordinary people.

Notes

* http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-eu-india-free-trade-agreement-corporate-driven-neocolonial-plunder/5338049

Information source for this article: http://corporateeurope.org/blog/who-scripting-eu-us-trade-deal (Trade and Agribusiness website sections)

To prevent GM crops in Europe, visit ‘stop the crop’ campaign at: http://www.stopthecrop.org/about-stop-crop-campaign

Will the biotech companies ever give up on trying to sell Europe their genetically modified crops?  Their latest PR man is the UK’s Minister for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Owen Paterson.  His website (very bland and uninformative apart from his list of engagements) says he is “a passionate supporter of localism, free enterprise and less interference in people’s lives”.  But he also loudly supports Monsanto et al, and wants all of Europe to grow and eat GM foods.  I would say that thoroughly destroys any localism, interferes in the most basic way with our lives, and any enterprise is freely handed to big corporations that already have far too much power over people.

Paterson has had environmentalists tearing their hair out since he became Minister.  As I wrote in Unnatural England, he’s promoted the destruction of buzzards and supports the killing of badgers.  He’s also greatly in favour of fracking for shale gas regardless of the damage it would do.  His statements on environmental matters display strongly-held views that are disastrous for the environment but kind to big business.  To that end he will only look at the facts as presented by companies such as Monsanto.

He failed to persuade Europe that neonicitinoid pesticides (as produced by Monsanto et al) are good for bees; he said that the scientific evidence linking the decline in bee numbers to neonicotinoids was faulty; and that Europe should see the results of Defra’s own field trials.  The UK Parliament’s environmental audit committee said the government was relying on ‘fundamentally flawed’ studies to push its case for preventing the Europe-wide precautionary ban of these pesticides.  It turned out these studies were not peer-reviewed or published in any reputable scientific journal, merely published on Defra’s own website – for which the EU Commission criticized the British government.

Paterson’s online information is remarkably devoid of detail: he went to school and university; his family had a background of farming and leather; he went into the leather business; he is married, with children; he became an MP, and so on.  No business interests or links of any kind are listed yet he is acting as cheerleader for the GM companies. And he made a small Freudian slip during his speech.  He used the word ‘we’, as in “We have not come up with any evidence of human health being threatened by these products.”  Just what Monsanto and Syngenta say.

On more than one occasion he has tried to persuade the public that we should all accept a diet of GM food and we stubbornly refuse to be converted.  But his speech  last week on the wonders of GM crops topped them all.  He said he was ‘certain’ that GM crops are safer than conventional varieties because “These products go through the most rigorous system.  It is extraordinarily closely regulated…”  Do I hear hollow laughter from all those independent researchers into GM foods?

He went on: “…you have the biggest field trial in human history when you think of the colossal volume of GM material that has been eaten in all those countries growing GM food.”  Sorry, Mr Paterson, but the biggest field trial in human history took place over millennia when the world was growing and eating organic food.  And perhaps he hadn’t read, or was ignoring, the very recent Friends of the Earth Europe-wide study that found weedkiller residues in over 40% of human urine samples (glyphosate, the biggest producer of which is Monsanto).

Mistake after mistake was recited as fact, and faithfully reported by most of the right-wing media – except for the Daily Mail.  Normally great supporters of all things Conservative, the Mail pulled his speech to pieces.

One of his most outrageous claims was this: “Over the last 15 years… every attempt to deploy Golden Rice (modified to boost Vitamin A) has been thwarted and in that time seven million children have gone blind or died.”  The Mail struck that down with this riposte: “Earlier this year, the International Rice Research Institute, which is working on the Golden Rice project, denied reports that it was available for commercial planting, saying it has yet to pass safety tests or prove it could reduce vitamin A deficiency.

The Channel4’s FactCheck Blog had this to say: “(Paterson) can’t claim that by not providing the rice the blindness and deaths have occurred, as we don’t know what would have happened had the rice been provided.”  Health experts say the problem is a lack of Vitamin A, not Golden Rice – a problem solved by educating mothers how to feed their children on easily available foods containing Vitamin A.

Paterson claimed GM food was safer; “There is no substantiated case of any adverse impact on human health.”  The Mail pointed out that: “In May 2011, independent doctors in Canada reported that toxins implanted into GM crops to kill pests were reaching the bloodstreams of women and unborn babies.”

Paterson claimed that GM was good for the environment.  He said: “There is a very strong environmental case for GM,  We can farm more efficiently, using new technology and using less land. It gives a wonderful opportunity to free up land for wilderness and forestry.”  And presumably for pheasant shoots as well, that being another of Paterson’s passions.

He said there is no evidence of GM crops harming the environment but ignored, among other problems, ‘superweeds’ that are resistant to the herbicides designed to kill them.  Farmers across North America could have told him.  Farmers could tell him too of the dangers of feeding GM to their animals, but as the biotech companies dismiss such evidence, so too will their mouthpiece.  The Mail said the evidence showed real damage to the environment.  Following GM crop trials in the UK, where fields had been heavily sprayed with a powerful weedkiller, the result was that it not only wiped out weeds, but also wild plants and insects.

He insisted that GM crops produce higher yields than conventional crops.  He could ask Indian cotton farmers, the ones that haven’t committed suicide that is, after seeing their livelihoods ruined.  And the Mail pointed out that recently published research showed that “increases in crop yields have been much greater in countries which have not adopted GM.”

 When asked by the Daily Mail he said (with some hesitation) that he would be happy to feed a GM tomato to his family, not that one tomato shared between his wife and three children would go that far.  But when the Mail contacted 17 government ministers, none of them would own to being comfortable with GM food.  They also found that all the restaurants in the Houses of Parliament have had a ‘no GM food’ policy for quite some years.  Customer choice rules, even in Westminster, despite government ministers wanting the public to eat the foods they refuse to.

This constant dishonest pressure on the public from people like Paterson to accept something they do not want must stop.  It is dishonest because their ‘facts’ are at the least unproven, and at worst, untrue.  Nor do they really care about feeding the world.  If they did they’d stop the waste of so much food and ensure people had equal access to what the earth can provide.  This is all about giving the biotech companies control over the world’s food.

Why do I personally care so much about stopping GM food?  I live in a rural area of great natural beauty.  There is a strong organic presence here, in local growers, producers and shops.  The village is full of gardeners.  We grow our own vegetables and fruit.  And we love our environment.  My own garden is full of weeds.  I call them wild flowers.  They plant themselves, helped by the birds.  They grow happily among the ‘cultivated’ plants and they provide a rich environment for bees and all the other pollinating insects.  I don’t want this rich celebration of natural life turned into the kind of wasteland that comes from growing GM crops and the accompanying heavy use of pesticides and herbicides.

This garden, this land, is my home.  I value every tiny flower and fly.  This is their home too, and they are important.  If I’m honest, I have to admit they have a more important place in the cycle of natural life than I or any human does.  If anything has to disappear from this beloved countryside it should be Owen Paterson.

“The innocent have everything to fear, mostly from the guilty, but in the longer term even more from those who say things like ‘The innocent have nothing to fear.’” Terry Pratchett (British author), in Snuff (Doubleday, 2011).

For many people, personal privacy vs widespread surveillance has been a major issue for decades. However, some thought it might have been happening but chose to downplay it. Others didn’t want to know and just didn’t care. Edward Snowden’s recent revelations indicate it is happening and that we should all care.    

Former National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has now turned his attention to the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the NSA. On Friday, Snowden released documents to The Guardian newspaper in the UK to back up his claims that GCHQ has secretly accessed fibre optic cables carrying huge amounts of internet and communications data. According to The Guardian, the agency is able to tap into, analyse and store data. Snowden told the newspaper that the NSA has a more prolific British ally in GCHQ. (GCHQ is one of three UK intelligence agencies, alongside MI5 and MI6.)

“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight… They (GCHQ) are worse than the US.” Edward Snowden

Although it is physically impossible for the intelligence agencies to read everyone’s emails, for instance, GCHQ can apparently record phone calls, read email and Facebook postings and review website traffic if they so wish. It can also access entire web use histories on individuals. Although GCHQ can only store certain data for 30 days, the Guardian says the practice is subject to little scrutiny. GCHQ operation can tap cables that carry global communications with the potential to carry 600 million daily ‘telephone events’.

“If GCHQ have been intercepting huge numbers of innocent people’s communications as part of a massive sweeping exercise, then I struggle to see how that squares with a process that requires a warrant for each individual intercept.” Nick Pickles, Big Brother Watch director, as reported in The Guardian, 22 June.

This massive interception effort operates under two programmes: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation. GCHQ is tapping 200 internet links, each with a data rate of 10Gbps, and the agency has the technical capacity to concurrently analyze 46 of these 200 streams of data at a time.

The revelations come alongside reports of the NSA snooping on US and international citizens via the metadata held on them by telecommunication companies, and secret data-sharing agreements between the NSA and consumer-web giants, such as Facebook, Google, Apple and others under the PRISM scheme.

GCHQ is able to capitalize on the UK‘s position at the edge of Western Europe, by tapping into the vast quantity of data flowing through cables around the UK and abroad. Over 300 GCHQ and 250 NSA analysts sift through the data, which they use to identify communications relating to security, terror, organized crime, and economic well-being.

Britain and the US are the founding members of the Five-Eyes intelligence sharing agreement. The Five-Eyes are members of a special club of former British colonies that gather and intelligence with each other. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are the three other members.

 

According to The Guardian, Britain‘s ability to tap these fibre-optic cables makes it the web eavesdropping powerhouse of the Five-Eyes, with the documents provided by Snowden saying that of the five, Britain has “the biggest Internet access.”

 

The Guardian reports that British personnel on the team of 300 GCHQ and 250 NSA analysts sifting through the data have “a light oversight regime compared to the US

 

The newspaper reports that 850,000 NSA and employees and private American contractors have been able to access to the information gathered by CGHQ. One of the documents quotes NSA boss Gen. Keith Alexander as urging British spies to collect everything they could.

“Why can’t we collect at the signals, all the time? Sounds like a good summer homework project for Menwith,” is written at the top of a slide shown by the Guardian that supposedly quotes Alexander during a 2008 visit to the UK. The slide is titled, “Collect-it-all.”

Menwith refers to RAF Menwith Hill, a secret signals intelligence gathering facility in the Yorkshire countryside run by the US.

GCHQ operatives tapped the fibre-optic cables over the last five years at the point where the transatlantic cables reach British shores – these cables move Internet and telephone data from North America to Western Europe.  All of this was done with agreements with the communications companies, described by the document as “intercept partners.”

Last week, Deputy U.S. Attorney General Robert Cole defended bulk collection of cellphone data and other business records to US lawmakers:

“If you’re looking for a needle in a haystack, you’ve got to get the haystack first,” said Cole during a June 18 House intelligence committee hearing on the matter. “That’s why we have the ability under the [FISA] court order, to acquire . . . all of that data, we don’t get to use all of that data, necessarily.” As reported by John Reed in Foreign Policy on 21 June.

Britain and the US are rapidly perfecting the system to allow them to capture and analyse a large quantity of international traffic consisting of emails, texts, phone calls, internet searches, chat, photographs, blogposts, videos and the many uses of Google.

Writing in The Guardian on Friday 21 June, Henry Porter states:

“Mastering the Internet treats the rights of billions of foreign web users, the possible menace to the privacy of British and American citizens and the duties of their legislators with equal contempt. After Iraq and the banking crash, the world may come to see MTI as further evidence of a heedless delinquency in two of the world’s oldest democracies.”

Porter talks about the lack of meaningful oversight in both countries, the use of commercial companies in the surveillance process and the wholesale disregard for the fundamentals of both countries’ democratic principles. Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights organisation Liberty, says that GCHQ are exploiting the fact that the internet is so international in nature and that what’s holding them back from going further is technological capability, certainly not ethics (1).

Why it matters, really matters

For too long, the majority in Britain has been led to believe that governments in major western liberal democracies operate with benign intentions, that the government acts on our behalf and in our interests and that only those with something to hide have anything to fear. The belief is forwarded that the loss of liberty and intrusions into our personal privacy are small prices to pay for ensuring our safety in a barbaric world that wants to attack and inflict terror on us.

It’s all part of the dominant narrative. It’s all part of a dominant narrative that seeks to mislead and to mask the real essence of power and the true nature of intent behind notions of patriotism, nationalism, bowing down to the flag, militarism and that ‘we’, ‘the nation’ are in united in cause and belief.   

What Snowden’s revelations illustrate is the unaccountable face of power. And this should concern us because it’s not the greater good of humankind, queen, flag or country that this power serves. It ultimately serves capital and the extremely wealthy, whose interests are diametrically opposed to those of ordinary people across the world (2).

Look no further to see who funds the major political parties or individual politicians to do their bidding. Look no further than the backgrounds of many of these politicians. But, most important, look no further to see who owns the major corporations and banks and who sits on the bodies that hammer out major policies (3)(4)(5). It is the powerful foundations and think tanks headed or funded by private corporations that drive US and British policies, whether at home or abroad, and that includes the Project for a New American Century (6) and the resultant ongoing war of terror waged on countries across the world.

Western liberal democracy has been quite successful in making many at home blind to the chains that bind and which make them immune to the falsehoods that underpin the system. However, with the economic meltdown, ‘austerity’, increasing public awareness of corporate crimes, disillusionment with mainstream politics and the ramping up of wars, paranoia and the stripping away of civil liberties, social control is no longer able to operate on the relatively benign level that it once did. The collapse of the economic system and its propping up has laid bare just who that system is set up to benefit. State violence and mass surveillance is now part of the changing agenda of liberal democracy that is no longer able to hide behind the pretence of being liberal or democratic. The mask has slipped and we are right to be concerned.

“The world has evidence of the totally monitored future that GCHQ and NSA plan for us and that political establishments turn a blind eye to…. fear still trumps everything. On Tuesday, the head of NSA, General Keith B Alexander, and the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, insisted that many terror plots had been stopped by surveillance. In Britain, the foreign secretary, William Hague… was joined by three former home secretaries, Jack Straw, Lord (John) Reid and Alan Johnson, to reassure us that mass surveillance was indeed necessary to make interdictions and… that further powers were needed… The point about these latest revelations is that they show there are more than adequate powers for interception on both sides of the Atlantic and that the terror agenda and, to a lesser degree, the fear of paedophilia, may well have been used to elaborate a huge system of espionage and domestic surveillance.” – Henry Porter, The Guardian 21 June.

 Notes

1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23012910

2) http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2005/07/live-j01.html)

3) http://landdestroyer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/tipping-balance-of-power.html

4) http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-four-horsemen-behind-america-s-oil-wars/24507

5) http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2011/10/22/the-147-companies-that-control-everything/

Israel is concerned over the Syrian War’s reach into the Golan Heights which they have been occupying since Six-Day War of 1967.  The Golan Heights is a strategic territory for Israel’s security and it is an important source of its water supplies.  An attack on Syria could occur if they crossed into Israel’s occupied land. 

It was reported in an NBC news report that correspondent John Ray interviewed top Israeli air force officials about Israel’s monitoring of the Golan Heights of the Syrian border:

The spillover of violence from the Syrian conflict into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is threatening to jeopardize the decades old cease-fire between the two countries and spark a regional conflict. 

A series of mighty Israeli airstrikes, apparently on weapons convoys heading from Syria towards President Bashar Assad’s allies in the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, has shattered the fragile truce that has existed along the border since 1973   

The Golan Heights, rightfully known as the Syrian Golan is a center of dispute between Syria and Israel since the 1940’s.  On June 19th, 1967 Israel offered to return the Golan Heights to Syria if the Arab world would recognize Israel as a state.  The Arab world refused such agreements with the Khartoum Resolution that same year.  The 1967 occupation of the Golan Heights and the Upper Mount Hermon allowed Israel to seize the entire Upper Jordan River giving Israel access to the Upper Jordanian waters.

Then another conflict developed in 1973 called the Yum Kipper War or the Arab-Israeli War between Egyptian and Syrian forces who invaded the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, both territories occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War.  The United States supplied Israel and the former Soviet Union supplied Egypt and Syria with weapons during the conflict as both superpowers were fighting the cold war against each other during that time.  After the Yum Kipper War, Israel returned 5% of the Golan Heights to Syrian control with a demilitarized zone along the area that is declared a ceasefire zone that extends east under the United Nations Peace Keeping forces.

When an Israeli Air Force official was asked about the situation in the Golan Heights, he said “It’s the kind of thing happening more and more,” one of the uniformed escorts explained.” As he continued “We have for 40 years been training for this exact moment. And we are ready for anything,” said a pilot that can be identified under Israeli military rules only as “Major L.”

The Israeli Air Force official had no comment on whether Israel has been flying missions over Syria,  “We are searching for peace, but preparing for war,’’ is all Pilot L would say.

When asked if he had already flown missions across the border, he shook his head slowly:  no comment.” If Israel decided to attack Syria based on the Golan Heights, then the US and NATO would support Israel’s incursion into Syria’s borders.  It would be a perfect excuse to attack Syria.  The Golan Heights is a strategic military location and one of the most important water resources for the state of Israel.  Israel would protect its interests with the United States as its principal supporter.  The United States Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations under Ban-Ki Moon want the remaining UN Peacekeepers who are from the Philippines to stay.  According to an Associated Press report:

The United Nations and the U.S. have separately asked the Philippines not to withdraw its more than 300 peacekeepers from the Golan Heights, warning of “maximum volatility” in the region after several other countries decided to pull out their peacekeeping forces amid escalating violence, the Philippines’ top diplomat said Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to him in recent talks. He said he told them security for the forces should be bolstered for the Philippines to consider keeping them in the volatile buffer zone between Syria and Israel.

If the UN Peacekeeping Forces pull out of the zone then Israel will send in their troops antagonizing the Syrian government.

Last month, del Rosario recommended to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III that the peacekeepers be withdrawn from the Golan Heights following two separate abductions of Filipino peacekeepers and the wounding of another in fighting between Syrian government and rebel forces.

The Philippines Foreign Secretary knows that an Israeli strike into Syria is near; therefore his recommendation to remove forces is being challenged by both the US and the UN.  According to del Rosario:

“This, of course, will create a vacuum in the Golan, that separation stretch which keeps Israel away from Syria,” del Rosario said in a news conference in Manila. He said Kerry and Ban told him that if the Philippines also withdraws, that would “create maximum volatility for the area. Albert del Rosario did stress that “Aquino said last week the changes he was looking for included additional equipment and enhanced security for the peacekeepers, and different rules of engagement.  He continued “If there is no change in the conditions, it might be an undoable mission and our poor troops will be in the middle of two potentially clashing forces and they cannot defend themselves.

Israel’s concern with the Golan Heights would allow it to launch a definitive strike that would try to cripple Syria’s military capabilities.  With the Obama administration willing to supply the Anti-Assad rebels with weapons it would allow Israel to enter a full-fledged war into the Golan Heights.  Any artillery shells that lands on the occupied territory would allow Israel to launch a full scale war into Syria with America’s blessing.  The Obama administration would support Israel and the rebels with supplies and possibly even US troops already on Jordan’s northern border.  The Golan Heights has been an area of tension that resulted in numerous conflicts between Israel and Syria for decades.  The Golan Heights has numerous interests for the state of Israel that involves a military advantage over its enemies including Hezbollah and an important commodity for its citizens, water.

If Israel feels that its occupied territory is threatened, it will respond with its military power to remove the Assad government.  But Syria will respond to any attack by Israel with full-force along with the Hezbollah forces based in southern Lebanon.  The Golan Heights dispute can ignite World War III if the Obama administration aids the rebels on one-side allowing Israel to attack Syria on the other.  It was also reported in The Jerusalem Post that the Israel Defense Forces just completed a drill combining the Air Force, Army and Naval forces against possible conflicts against Syria, Hezbollah and even Hamas in the Palestinian territory:

On Wednesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon addressed an end-of –training event for IDF officers at a base in Mitzpe Ramon, “At this time, the IDF is dealing both at home and abroad, near and far, with a considerable number of fronts of uncertainty,” he said.

Ya’alon cited the Lebanese front where Hezbollah continues to arm itself and plans on harming Israeli civilians in a future conflict, and the front with Syria, “where a civil war continues to exact a heavy price of human lives, and a (civil) war is nearing our borders, placing us before a complex test that is full of significance.”

He added that there was “a front of uncertainty with the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas terrorist group continues to rule, and which has placed as its goal the destruction of the state of Israel.”

Israel is preparing to launch a war starting with Syria, Palestine and Hezbollah which will last for a very long time.  Israel is the occupying force  that is waging war across the Middle East.  It would result in mass civilian deaths on both sides of the conflict.

A criminal complaint indicates former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden has been charged with three felonies. Two of the felonies are charges under the Espionage Act.

The complaint, filed on June 14, shows he was charged with “unauthorized communication of national defense information”—an Espionage Act violation—and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” a violation of United States Code 798 prohibiting the disclosure of classified information and an offense under the Espionage Act.

Each charge carries a ten-year maximum sentence if convicted.

The Washington Post further reports that the complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia. Not only is this jurisdiction where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, happens to be headquartered, but it is also where key prosecutions for espionage have been filed under President Barack Obama.

Snowden is the eighth person to be charged under the Espionage Act under Obama. This is more than all previous presidential administrations combined.

NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake was charged for espionage in April 2010 after he communicated information on surveillance programs to a Baltimore Sun reporter.

For disclosing classified information on FBI wiretaps to a blogger, FBI translator named Shamai Leibowitz was charged under the Espionage Act.

Pfc. Bradley Manning was charged with multiple violations of the Espionage Act in July 2010 after disclosing US government information to WikiLeaks.

Stephen Kim, a former State Department contractor, was charged in August 2010 for revealing classified information on North Korea to Fox News reporter James Rosen. (Rosen was labeled an “aider, abettor and co-conspirator” in the leak.)

In December 2010, a former CIA officer, Jeffrey Sterling, was charged under the Espionage Act after he communicated with New York Times reporter James Risen about Iran’s nuclear program in the 1990s. (The Obama Justice Department has fought in the courts to have a judge require Risen to testify against Sterling.)

John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, was charged under the Espionage Act in January 2012 after he shared information related to a rendition operation with reporter Matthew Cole.

A much lesser-known individual, James Hitselberger, a former Navy linguist, was charged with violating the Espionage Act for providing classified documents to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

The Espionage Act charges were dropped in the cases of Drake, Kiriakou and Leibowitz. Manning has pled guilty to lesser offenses but not the espionage charges. Hitselberger, Kim and Sterling’s cases are all still pending. [Kiriakou's serving a 30-month sentence in a prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania, after pleading guilty to violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.]

Both Drake and Kiriakou’s cases went through the Eastern District of Virginia. Sterling’s case is pending in the same jurisdiction.

“The Eastern District of Virginia is the most conservative court in the country,” according to Jesselyn Radack, a director of the Government Accountability Project’s national security and human rights division who has defended national security whistleblowers. “My experience with espionage cases there is that, even if you get assigned a progressive judge, the deck is still stacked against you.”

This jurisdiction is also where a grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks has been empaneled. The investigation has been broad and, as Sam Knight reported for The Nation, it has used “subpoena powers rarely wielded against bloggers and journalists.”

The Espionage Act is a law from 1917 that was intended to criminalize individuals who engaged in spying, not leakers or whistleblowers. It was not initially used to prosecute government employees who passed on information to a reporter or a media organization. But, under Obama, the Justice Department has exercised wide discretion and interpreted the law as one that can be used to criminalize government employees who blow the whistle on corruption or share information on operations, policies or programs with the press. They have used to prosecute them as if they are “insiders,” “informers,” or “spies.”

President Barack Obama came into office committed to “protecting” whistleblowers.

Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process.

However, when Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, the White House coordinated with Congress so that employees at national security or intelligence agencies would not be covered. That means, when Obama had the opportunity to make it easier for employees to go through proper channels when exposing corruption or wrongdoing, he did the exact opposite.

Radack and her colleague at GAP, Kathleen McClellan, have written:

These “leak” prosecutions send a chilling message to public servants, as they are contrary to President Barack Obama’s pledge of openness and transparency. The vast majority of American citizens do not take issue with the proposition that some things should be kept secret, such as sources and methods, nuclear designs, troop movements, and undercover identities. However, the campaign to flush out media sources smacks of retaliation and intimidation. The Obama administration is right to protect information that might legitimately undermine national security or put Americans at risk. However, it does not protect national security interests when it brings cases against whistleblowers who divulge information that communicates important information to the public; sparks meaningful dialogue; or exposes fraud, waste, abuse, illegality, or potential dangers to public health and safety. A free and open democratic government welcomes debate. Stifling information violates that democratic principle.

The Justice Department does not have to identify or prove that any harm to national security has occurred. They only have to prove that a person had ”reason to believe” information could be used to the injury of the United States.”

The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer highlighted, when Drake was still charged with violating the Espionage Act:

…Because reporters often retain unauthorized defense documents, Drake’s conviction would establish a legal precedent making it possible to prosecute journalists as spies. ‘It poses a grave threat to the mechanism by which we learn most of what the government does,’ [Mort] Halperin [of the Open Society Institute] says…

That shows what these “leak” prosecutions can do to freedom of the press.

Now, the “theft of government property” charge falls under United States Code 641 or a code against the “embezzlement of government property.” This is also a code that Manning is accused of violating multiple times.

The defense in Manning’s case has argued that the prosecutors must prove that the information disclosed without authorization was a “thing of value” and Manning intended to deprive the government of the use or benefit of this “property” in order for him to be convicted of this offense.

Snowden is still in Hong Kong. He has reportedly considered seeking asylum and/or citizenship in Iceland. There have been reports about a businessman connected to WikiLeaks being willing to fly Snowden on a private jet to Iceland. However, Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir has urged Snowden not to board any private jet to Iceland.

“I have worked with asylum seekers in Iceland. I would not recommend that path for #Snowden. Citizenship offers the only real protection,” she tweeted. She added that Iceland had a “terrible track record when it comes to turning back asylum seekers.” And, “There is much general support for Snowden among the general public in Iceland, thus it is still an option to seek citizenship.” But she hoped he would not take any risks with jets.

Going forward, the US has asked the Hong Kong detain Snowden but a very real problem the United States government may have is that Snowden has been charged with espionage.

The extradition treaty the United States has with Hong Kong happens to have an exception for political offenses. Espionage is considered a political offense. So, Hong Kong is more likely to push back on an extradition request because the charges are not limited to the charges of theft and conversion of government property.

Update 

The three individuals charged under the Espionage Act prior to the eight under Obama were Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower charged under President Richard Nixon, Samuel T. Morison, a Navy civilian analyst who was charged under President Ronald Reagan and Lawrence Franklin, a Pentagon analyst charged under President George W. Bush.

Morison leaked photographs of Soviet ships to alert America to what he perceived as a new threat. Franklin leaked information on Iran to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

These are not the only people charged under the Espionage Act under previous presidents. These are just the ones charged with leaking information.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed on Friday that the UK intelligence agency GCHQ and the NSA record the content of phone calls, email messages, Facebook posts and browser histories of tens of millions of people. By tapping into fiber-optic cables—the infrastructure through which all Internet traffic must pass—the two agencies have created a systematic procedure for procuring, filtering and storing private communications.

The leak is the latest in a series that have left the US and UK governments scurrying to cover up their deeply antidemocratic maneuvers with scripted lies. It comes one day after the release of secret FISA Court documents showing the NSA has almost complete latitude to monitor the communications of US residents (See, “NSA monitoring US communications without a warrant, documents show”)

Hours after the release of the latest documents, the US government announced that it was filing charges against Snowden under the Espionage Act, which contains a possible penalty of execution.

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” President Obama said in a public speech two weeks ago. UK Foreign Minister William Hague told MPs last week that there is “a strong framework of democratic accountability and oversight” within the national intelligence apparatus.

According to documents leaked to the Guardian, and reported by Glenn Greenwald, however, GCHQ and the NSA have set up a complex scheme by which the intelligence agencies collect data and content from the communications of at least tens of millions of people. Officials monitor the data and content of those communications and then store what they deem valuable.

Described by GCHQ with the revealing titles “Mastering the Internet” and “Global Telecoms Exploitation,” the programs expose the repeated claims of President Obama and his coconspirators as outright lies.

Through the “Tempora” program, the two agencies have been tapping and storing hundreds of petabytes of data from a majority of the fiber-optic cables in the UK over the past 18 months. The NSA has a similar program in the US, as revealed in an Associated Press report last week.

First, GCHQ handles 600 million “telephone events” each day by tapping over 200 fiber-optic cables, including those that connect the UK to the US. According to the Guardian, GCHQ is able to collect data at a rate “equivalent to sending all the information in all the books in the British Library 192 times every 24 hours” by processing data from a minimum of 46 fiber-optic cables simultaneously.

The data is then transmitted to a government database and shared with the NSA, which is given top clearance. Lawyers for the GCHQ told their American counterparts that it was “your call” as to what limitations should be in place for data sifting and storage.

According to the leaked documents, these massive databases have been built up over the past several years through widespread corporate collaboration. GCHQ colludes with an array of companies it calls “intercept partners,” and sometimes forces them to hand over huge quantities of data for inspection and storage. The corporate agreements were kept highly guarded under fears that public knowledge of the collusion would lead to “high-level political fallout.”

Once the data is collected, the agencies then filter information through a process known as Massive Volume Reduction (MVR). Through this process, information is pared down to specific individuals, email addresses, or phone numbers. The NSA identified 31,000 “selector” terms, while GCHQ identified 40,000. The leaked documents reveal that a majority of the information extracted is content, including word-for-word email, text and phone recordings.

Through Tempora, GCHQ and the NSA have set up Internet buffers that allow the agencies to watch data accumulate in real-time and store it for less than a week for content or 30 days for metadata.

“Internet buffers represent an exciting opportunity to get direct access to enormous amounts of GCHQ’s special source data,” agents explained in the leaked documents. Valuable information is presumably removed from this temporary buffer and kept on file in intelligence storage facilities.

This information filtration system is not aimed at eliminating the possibility of storing the data of innocent people. In fact, this is precisely the purpose of the surveillance programs. Rather, unnecessary information is sifted out because the governments do not yet have the ability to store such vast quantities of communications content and metadata.

Despite these technological limitations, the immensity of the Tempora program was best described by GCHQ attorneys who acknowledged that listing the number of people targeted by the program would be impossible because “this would be an infinite list which we couldn’t manage.”

GCHQ officials bragged that its surveillance program “produces larger amounts of metadata than NSA,” and were told by GCHQ attorneys that “[w]e have a light oversight regime compared with the US.” The latter statement is extraordinary given the fact that the FISA Court allows the NSA to operate almost entirely without constraint.

Friday’s revelations highlight the international character of the global surveillance programs. Far from being satisfied by storing the content of the communications of its own residents, the US and UK governments are working together to create an unprecedented database of international intelligence.

The intimacy of the two spy agencies is evidenced by an order given by NSA head Keith Alexander in 2008: “Why can’t we collect all the signals, all the time? Sounds like a good summer homework project for [British and American spy center] Menwith!”

Snowden noted Friday that “it’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight. They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.”

Just like their American counterparts, the GCHQ attorneys have attempted to place a legal veneer over the facially illegal spying operations of the government.

GCHQ lawyers have invoked paragraph four of section 8 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to run around the legal requirement that intelligence officials acquire a warrant before performing a wiretap. Since this would have required GCHQ to acquire a warrant for every person in the UK, the attorneys instead have claimed that they can perform indiscriminate data mining operations with a “certificate” from a minister.

In a briefing document released by Snowden, GCHQ attorneys claim that these certificates “cover the entire range of GCHQ’s intelligence production.”

Under Ripa, GCHQ officials may also seek a Sensitive Targeting Authority (STA), which would allow them to spy on any UK citizen “anywhere in the world” or on a foreign person in the UK.

A lawyer for GCHQ also noted in the secret documents that the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, which oversees the intelligence agencies, has “always been exceptionally good at understanding the need to keep our work secret,” and that a tribunal set up to monitor the agencies has “so far always found in our favor.”

Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the UK is a signatory, states: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence,” and that “[t]here shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society…”

In Britain as much as the United States, the ruling class is engaged in activity that is in flagrant violation of these democratic principles.

On Friday evening, the Obama administration announced that it had filed three charges under seal on June 14 in US District Court in Alexandria, Virginia. The charges are stealing government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified information.

These charges carry, in aggregate, a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. In the course of any indictment, however, additional charges can be added. Prominent Democrats and Republicans have denounced Snowden for “treason,” an offense that carries a potential death sentence.

Since Snowden’s initial revelations of massive and illegal government spying on millions of people in the US and around the world, the American ruling class, abetted by the media, has carried out a systematic campaign of vilification. After revealing himself to be the source of leaks to the Guardian and Washington Post concerning secret National Security Agency (NSA) spying programs, Snowden has gone into hiding, quite justifiably fearing for his safety.

There is not a shred of legitimacy in the charges against Snowden. He is not a criminal. He is an individual who, at immense personal risk, has sought to reveal to the population of the United States and the world a state conspiracy against the democratic rights of the people.

The real criminals are the accusers. No amount of mudslinging or lies can cover up the criminality that Snowden has exposed. The young whistleblower is being charged as a spy for revealing the biggest spying operation in American history.

The documents released to date by Snowden expose spying programs that seize the records of all phone calls made in the US, allowing the government to quickly determine the social and political connections of every person in the country. Other programs intercept and store billions of Internet communications, which are made accessible without a warrant to US spy agencies.

These programs directly violate the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, which bans warrantless searches and seizures.

On Friday, the day the charges were filed, the Guardian reported new documents showing that the UK government is directly accessing the communications, emails, Facebook messages and Internet history of tens of millions of people for examination by government agencies in both the United States and Britain.

These revelations show that top government officials in both countries—including President Obama himself—have lied deliberately and repeatedly. There is more than enough evidence for impeachment proceedings.

The government has rushed to extradite and jail or kill Snowden because it knows he has thus far revealed only a portion of the vast police state apparatus it is concealing from the population.

The administration bringing espionage charges is the same administration that kills American citizens without warrant or trial, indefinitely detains prisoners without due process, and spies on the communications of the press and the public.

In being charged under the reactionary Espionage Act, Snowden joins other targets of state repression such as Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Victor Berger, Jacob Abrams, Daniel Ellsberg, Anthony Russo, Thomas Drake and Bradley Manning. He is the seventh person to be tried for espionage by the Obama administration—more than all previous administrations combined.

Underlying the assault on democratic rights in the United States are powerful historical and social processes. Democratic forms of rule are not compatible with endless war and historically unprecedented levels of social inequality.

In preparation for mass working class opposition to its reactionary policies, the American ruling class, under the cover of the bogus “war on terror,” is effectively declaring the US Constitution and its Bill of Rights null and void.

The Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site call on workers and youth to come to the defense of Snowden, along with Bradley Manning, who is currently facing potentially capital charges of “aiding the enemy,” and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been taking refuge for more than a year in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain.

All sections of the political and media establishment—“liberal” and conservative, Democratic and Republican—have joined in witch-hunting Snowden and defending the NSA, CIA and Pentagon. Their complete indifference to massive violations of constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties underscores the absence of any serious commitment to democratic rights within the ruling class.

CIA Secretly providing Training for Syrian rebels

June 22nd, 2013 by Global Research News

The following report was published in the News Pakistan Online

The CIA and US special operations forces have been training Syrian rebels for months, since long before President Barack Obama announced plans to arm the opposition, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Training for rebel forces covers the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and has been carried out at bases in Jordan and Turkey since late last year, the newspaper reported, citing unnamed US officials and rebel commanders.

The two-week courses, for about 20 to 45 fighters at a time, began last November at a new US base in the desert in southwest Jordan, it said.

The report came days after the Obama administration announced it had approved the arming of Syrian rebels, though analysts said the United States likely would avoid providing sophisticated guided anti-tank or anti-aircraft weapons.

The Central Intelligence Agency typically leads covert training and arming of fighters in foreign conflicts, while military special operations forces can be assigned to covert missions overseen by the spy agency.

The CIA and the White House declined to comment on the report.

Rebels from the Free Syrian Army were being trained on Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter anti-tank rifles, anti-tank missiles, and 23-millimeter anti-aircraft weapons, according the report, citing an unnamed rebel commander in the Syrian province of Dara helping with weapons acquisitions.

“Those from the CIA, we would sit and talk with them during breaks from training and afterward, they would try to get information on the situation,” the commander was quoted as saying.

US special operations troops selected the rebels to be trained as the American military was setting up supply lines in the region to channel non-lethal items, such as uniforms and radios, to the opposition forces.

The rebels were promised powerful anti-tank weapons and other arms but shipments from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states took months to arrive and failed to live up to the expectations of the opposition, the commander told the paper.

But on Friday a rebel spokesman said the opposition fighters have received new types of weapons that could “change the course of the battle.”

The announcement came a day before a meeting in Qatar of the “Friends of Syria” group of nations that support the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“We’ve received quantities of new types of weapons, including some that we asked for and that we believe will change the course of the battle on the ground,” Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Muqdad told AFP.

Copyright The News Online Pakistan (2013)
On March 21, Obama received Israel’s Medal of Distinction. It’s also called the President’s Medal.

It’s Israel’s highest civil award. It’s for individuals “who have made an outstanding contribution to the State of Israel or to humanity, through their talents, services, or in any other form.”

In 2012, Henry Kissinger won. His rap sheet includes decades of crimes of war, against humanity and genocide. Israel rewarded his New World Order ruthlessness. It didn’t surprise.

Obama replicates his viciousness writ large. Bill Clinton has his own cross to bear. He’s Israel’s newest honoree. Shimon Peres established the award.

One war criminal honored another. Peres bears direct responsibility for decades of colonialism, apartheid, militarized occupation, and regional wars of aggression.

His rap sheet includes no-holds-barred state terror. He helped institutionalize it. He ordered innocent victims slaughtered on his watch. He’s a serial killer multiple times over. He’s a menace in his own time.

For eight years, Clinton was Wall Street’s man in Washington. He’s a corporate America tool. He’s a war criminal multiple times over.

Michel Chossudovsky exposed his sinister Rwanda agenda, saying:

Rwanda’s civil war raged from October 1990 – August 1993. Bush I and Clinton bear full responsibility.

“(E)thnic massacres were an integral part of US foreign policy,” said Chossudovsky. They “were carefully staged in accordance with precise strategic and economic objectives.”

“From the outset of the Rwandan civil war in 1990, Washington’s hidden agenda consisted in establishing an American sphere of influence in a region historically dominated by France and Belgium.”

“America’s design was to displace France by supporting the Rwandan Patriotic Front and by arming and equipping its military arm, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).”

Clinton continued what Bush I began. Both men bear full responsibility for ethnic massacres. Rwanda’s civil war “set the stage for the participation of Ugandan and Rwandan RPA in the civil war in the Congo.”

Washington funded and trained their militaries. US special forces were involved. Ethnic rivalries were exploited for profit and dominance. Rwanda’s genocide served US “strategic and geopolitical interests.”

Clinton remains unaccountable for war crimes. He’s got much more blood on his hands. He’s responsible for genocide against innocent Iraqis. He did so by intermittent bombings.

He maintained lawless sanctions. They caused about 1.5 million deaths. Most were young children. Up to 7,000 died monthly. Former UN humanitarian coordinator Dennis Halliday resigned in protest. He refused to be part of what he called “genocide.”

Hans von Sponek quit the same post. He denounced the sanctions, saying:

“It cannot continue that (UN authorities) punish the most vulnerable and the most innocent.”

Jutta Burghardt also stepped down. She headed the World Food Program’s Iraq operations.

“It is a true humanitarian tragedy what is happening here,” she said, “and I believe any human being who looks at the facts and the impact of the sanctions on the population will not deny that (von Sponek) is right.”

James Rubin was Clinton’s Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. He also served as chief State Department spokesman. He denounced von Sponek and Halliday. He did so disgracefully. He called them unsuitable humanitarian coordinators, saying:

Their “job is to work on behalf of the Iraqi people and not the regime. The United States is, and will remain, second to none in enforcing sanctions.”

Rubin dismissively ignored US sanctioned mass murder. It’s one of history’s great crimes. Clinton bears full responsibility. He remains unaccountable.

So do stooges like Rubin. He’s a Columbia University adjunct professor. He poisons young minds. Hopefully students wise enough to know better avoid him. He represented the worst of rogue governance. He shames legitimate academia.

He fronted for Clinton’s ruthlessness. His rap sheet reveals shamelessness. He helped institutionalized extraordinary renditions.

In June 1995, his Presidential Directive (PDD 39) authorized “all legal means available to exclude from the United States persons who pose a terrorist threat and deport or otherwise remove from the United States any such aliens.”

Black site torture prisons followed. Guantanamo’s one of many. They exist globally. They hold innocent victims. Few, if any, committed crimes. They’re brutalized for political advantage. At issue is unchallenged imperial dominance.

In 1999, Clinton waged war on Yugoslavia. He did so lawlessly. He ravaged it for 78 days. He massacred and displaced thousands. A humanitarian disaster followed.

Homes and communities were destroyed. Around two million people lost livelihoods. Environmental contamination was extensive. Imperial priorities alone matter. Much worse lay ahead.

At home, Clinton served Wall Street crooks. He helped institutionalize grand theft.

He facilitated public misinformation, deregulation, market manipulation, insider trading, Ponzi schemes, false accounting, embezzling, bilking investors with impunity, and practices leading to housing bubble disaster for millions.

He ended Glass-Steagall. It prevented commercial/investment banks/insurance company combinations. He signed into law the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.

It legitimizes swap agreements and other hybrid instruments. It permits some of the worst financial crimes. It ended regulatory oversight over derivatives and leveraging.

It turned Wall Street more than ever into a casino. It lets banksters speculate on financial derivatives and an alphabet soup of securitized garbage.

It includes asset-backed securities (ABSs), mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs), collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), collateralized bond obligations (CBOs), credit default swaps (CDSs), and collateralized fund obligations (CFOs).

They’re combined, sliced, diced, packaged, repackaged, and sold in tranches to sophisticated and unwitting investors. Doing so continues unabated. Who said crime doesn’t pay?

Clinton’s telecommunications deregulation let media and telecom giants combine. Doing so destroys competition. TV owners got new digital television broadcast spectrum space. The public lost out hugely.

His 1994 Reigle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act let bank holding companies operate in more than one state.

On January 1, 1994, NAFTA became US law on his watch. It’s hugely destructive. It supersedes national laws and sovereignty. It violates fundamental rights. It avoids environmental responsibility.

On January 1, 1995, the World Trade Organization was established. Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch director Lori Wallach called it a “slow motion coup against democracy.”

It’s a supranational trade authority. It established one size fits all rules. “Humans are either labor or consumers,” said Wallach.

“Water, trees, animals-basically all of nature-is a resource to be exploited. To exploit these human and natural resources most efficiently, all barriers breaking up this single world market must be eliminated-so as to maximize efficiency of scale.”

So-called “free trade” permits grand theft, plunder, exploitation, ecocide, and virtually anything goes unrestrained for profit.

Level playing fields don’t exist. High pay/good benefit jobs are offshored and destroyed. Menial low pay/part-time/temp/low or no-benefit ones replace them.

Clinton waged war on social safety net protections. Thirdworldizing America became policy. Welfare reform punishes disadvantaged families.

In 1996, Clinton’s Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) became law. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) ended.

Time limit harshness replaced it. Five years and out became policy. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) mandates it. States are given diminishing amounts of federal funding.

Fixed block grants provide it. They’re free to administer policy freely. They take full advantage during harder than ever hard times.

To qualify, recipients must work or train for jobs. Single mothers with small children are cheated. Millions are left on their own out of luck. Bush II and Obama hardened what Clinton began.

He established “managed competition” healthcare. It reflects the worst kind of marketplace medicine. It sacrifices health for profits. Obamacare raised it to a higher level.

Clinton called himself a “New Democrat.” He helped found the Democratic Leadership Council. It’s hard-right agenda reflects neoliberalism harshness.

It’s corporatist, anti-populist, anti-labor, anti-welfare, and anti-government serving everyone equitably. It supports the worst of imperial America’s ruthlessness. Wealth, power, privilege and unchallenged global dominance matter most.

Clinton’s reflects shamelessness. His record speaks for itself. On June 19, one war criminal honored another. Shimon Peres awarded Clinton Israel’s Medal of Distinction.

It reflects shame, not honor. Ceremonies were a celebration of lies. Lawlessness and immorality substituted for virtue, integrity and righteousness. Illusion replaced reality.

Peres’ 90th birthday was celebrated. He was presented as a man of peace and vision. He represents the worst of institutionalized state terror. Clinton has his own cross to bear.

“Let us pray together for tomorrow’s peace, said Peres.” He deplores it. He waged war for decades to prevent it.

“It’s nice to receive an award,” said Clinton. “I accept (it) because I feel like a poor pilgrim on a constant journey to expand the definition of ‘us’ and shrink the definition of ‘them.’ “

Peres responded saying:

“You are receiving just as much out of office as you did in it. You really are the most loved leader and a friend of all human beings and the Jewish state.”

Both men reflect the worst of rogue leadership. Honoring them reflects hypocrisy writ large.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/another-israeli-war-criminal-of-the-year-award/

Historical Roots of the Social Crisis in Brazil. The Role of the IMF

June 21st, 2013 by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

More than a million people across Brazil have joined one of the largest protest movements in the country’s history. Ironically, the social uprising is directed against the economic policies of a self-proclaimed “socialist” alternative to neoliberalism led by the Worker’s Party government of president Dilma Rousseff.

The IMF’s “strong economic medicine” including austerity measures, the privatization of social programs have been implemented under the “progressive” and “populist” banner of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), in consultation with Brazil’s powerful economic elites and in close liaison with the World Bank, the IMF and Wall Street.

While the PT government presents itself as “an alternative” to neoliberalism, committed to poverty alleviation and the redistribution of wealth, its monetary and fiscal policy is in the hands of its Wall Street creditors.

Official portrait of Dilma RousseffIronically, the PT government of Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luis Ignacio da Silva has been commended by the IMF for:

“a remarkable social transformation in Brazil underpinned by macroeconomic stability and rising living standards”.

The underlying social realities are otherwise. The World Bank’s “statistics” on poverty are grossly manipulated. Only 11 percent of the population, according to the World Bank are beneath the poverty line. 2.2 percent of the population  are living in extreme poverty.

The standard of living in Brazil has collapsed since the accession of the Workers Party in 2003. Millions of people have been marginalized and impoverished including a significant part of the urban middle class.

While the  Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) presents a “progressive” people’s oriented image, officially opposed to “corporate globalization”, the macro-economic agenda has been reinforced. The PT government has consistently manipulated its grassroots, with a view to imposing what the “Washington Consensus” describes as “a strong policy framework”.

The multibillion dollar profit driven infrastructural investments pertaining to The World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016,  wrought by corporate corruption, have contributed to a significant increase in Brazil’s external debt, which in turn has reinforced the control of economic policy by its Wall Street creditors.

The protest movement is in large part made up of people who voted for the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

The PT government’s grassroots support has been broken. The base of the Workers Party has gone against the government.

History: Workers Party Betrayal

The Workers Party  (Partido dos Trabalhadores) has now been in power for over ten years.

Portrait of Luiz Inácio Lula da SilvaThe ongoing social crisis in Brazil is the consequence of the macro-economic agenda launched at the outset of Luis Ignacio da Silva’s accession to the presidency in 2003.

Lula’s election in 2002 embodied the hope of an entire nation. It represented an overwhelming vote against globalization and the neo-liberal model, which has resulted in mass poverty and unemployment throughout Latin America.

The election of Lula in the Fall of 2002 was perceived as a major breaking point, a means to repealing the policy framework of his predecessor Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

While embraced in chorus by progressive movements around the World, Lula’s administration was also being applauded by the main protagonists of the neoliberal model.  In the words of the IMF’s Managing Director Horst Kohler:

“I am enthusiastic [with Lula's administration]; but it is better to say I am deeply impressed by President Lula … the IMF listens to President Lula and the economic team, and that is our philosophy.”

No wonder the IMF is “enthusiastic”. The main institutions of economic and financial management were handed over on a silver platter to Wall Street and Washington.

The IMF and the World Bank have commended the Workers Party government for its commitment to “strong macroeconomic fundamentals.” As far as the IMF is concerned, Brazil “is on track” in conformity with IMF benchmarks. The World Bank has also praised both the Lula and Dilma governments:  “Brazil is pursuing a bold social program with fiscal responsibility.”

According to Professor James Petras:

Most Wall Street and Washington policymakers, surprised by Lula’s selection of an orthodox liberal economic team, were perfectly ecstatic when he began to forcefully push through a radical neo-liberal agenda, including privatizing social security, substantially lowering pensions for public sectors employees and reducing the cost and easing the requirements for capitalists firing workers.(Global Research, 2003

According to Marcos Arruda of PACS, a non-governmental research center in Rio de Janeiro:

“Lula’s economic team by pursuing IMF-imposed policies is gutting social payments not just for the retired, but also for the disabled and the poorer families as well.” The pursuance of orthodox economic policies has also pushed up official unemployment to 12 percent while domestic interest rates stand at 26.5 percent, among the highest rates in the world. In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, unemployment has reached 20 percent. (See Roger Burbach, Global Research, June 2003)

Brazil  under the PT  government not only endorsed neoliberalism “with a human face”, it also supported the US-led militarization of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Lula had established a personal relationship with George W. Bush.  While he was a staunch critic of the US-led Iraqi war, a supporter of Hugo Chavez, he was also tacitly supportive of US strategic interests in Latin America.

In the wake of the US-France-Canada sponsored coup d’Etat in Haiti in February 2004 against the duly elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide,  President Luis Ignacio da Silva endorsed the military occupation of Haiti and dispatched Brazilian troops to Port au Prince, under the auspices of the UN Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH).

The article below was first published by Global Research at the outset of the PT government of Luis Ignacio da Silva.  It describes how,  from the very outset, the presidency of Luis Ignacio da Silva, the leadership of the Worker’s Party betrayed an entire nation.

Meaningful change cannot result from a debate on “an alternative to neoliberalism”, which on the surface appears to be “progressive”, but which tacitly accepts the “globalizers” legitimate right to rule and plunder the developing World.

The social protest movement which has swept Brazil is the result of 10 years of  “free market” economic repression under the disguise of a “progressive agenda.”  

Michel Chossudovsky, June 21, 2013


Brazil: Neoliberalism with a “Human Face”

by Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research

http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO303C.html

April 3, 2003

The inauguration of Luis Ignacio da Silva (Lula) to the presidency of Brazil is historically significant, because millions of Brazilians saw in the Workers Party  (Partido dos Trabalhadores), a genuine political and economic alternative to the dominant (neoliberal) “free market” agenda.

Lula’s election embodies the hope of an entire nation. It constitutes an overwhelming vote against globalization and the neo-liberal model, which has resulted in mass poverty and unemployment throughout Latin America.

Meeting in Porto Alegre in late January at the World Social Forum, Lula’s anti-globalization stance was applauded by tens of thousands of delegates from around the World. The debate at the 2003 WSF, held barely two months  before the invasion of Iraq, was held  under the banner: “Another World is Possible”.

Ironically, while applauding Lula`s victory, nobody  — among the prominent critics of “free trade” and corporate driven globalization– who spoke at the 2003 WSF, seemed to have noticed that President Luis Ignacio da Silva`s PT government had already handed over the reigns of macro-economic reform to Wall Street and the IMF.

Koehlerhorst08032007.jpgWhile embraced in chorus by progressive movements around the World, Lula’s administration was also being applauded by the main protagonists of the neoliberal model  In the words of the IMF’s Managing Director Horst Koehler (left)[who later became President of Germany]:

I am enthusiastic [with Lula's administration]; but it is better to say I am deeply impressed by President Lula, indeed, and in particular because I do think he has the credibility which often other leaders lack a bit, and the credibility is that he is serious to work hard to combine growth-oriented policy with social equity. This is the right agenda, the right direction, the right objective for Brazil and, beyond Brazil, in Latin America. So, he has defined the right direction. Second, I think what the government, under the leadership of President Lula, has demonstrated in its first 100 days of government is also impressive and not just airing intention how they work through the process on this huge agenda of reforms. I understand that pension reform, tax reform is high on the agenda, and this is right. The third element is that the IMF listens to President Lula and the economic team, and that is our philosophy, of course, beyond Brazil. (IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler, Press conference, 10 April 2003, http://www.imf.org/external/np/tr/2003/tr030410.htm)

Lula appoints a Wall Street Financier to lead Brazil’s Central Bank

At the very outset of his mandate, Lula reassured foreign investors that “Brazil will not follow neighboring Argentina into default” ( Davos World Economic Forum, January 2003). Now if such is his intent, then why did he appoint to the Central Bank, a man who played a role (as president of Boston Fleet) in the Argentinean debacle and whose bank was allegedly involved in shady money transactions, which contributed to the dramatic collapse of the Argentinean Peso.

By appointing Henrique de Campos Meirelles, the president and CEO of Boston Fleet, to head the country’s Central Bank, President Luis Ignacio da Silva had essentially handed over the conduct of the nation’s finances and monetary policy to Wall Street.

Boston Fleet is the 7th largest bank in the US. After Citigroup, Boston Fleet  is Brazil’s second largest creditor institution.

The country is in financial straightjacket. The key finance/banking positions in Lula’s administration are held by Wall Street appointees:

  • The Central Bank is under the control of Boston Fleet,
  • A former senior executive of Citigroup Mr. Casio Casseb Lima  has been put in charge of the State banking giant Banco do Brazil (BB). Cassio Casseb Lima, who worked for Citigroup’s operations in Brazil, was initially recruited to BankBoston in 1976 by Henrique Meirelles. In other words, the head of BB has personal and professional links to Brazil’s two largest commercial creditors: Citigroup and Boston Fleet.

Continuity will be maintained. The new PT team in the Central Bank is a carbon copy of that appointed by  (outgoing) President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The outgoing Central Bank president Arminio Fraga was a former employee of  Quantum Fund (New York), which is owned by Wall Street financier George Soros.

In close liaison with Wall Street and the IMF, Lula’s appointee to the Central Bank of Brazil, Henrique de Campos Meirelles,  has maintained the policy framework of his predecessor (who was also a Wall Street appointee) : tight monetary policy, generalized austerity measures, high interest rates and a deregulated foreign exchange regime. The latter encourages speculative attacks against the Brazilian Real and capital flight, resulting in a spiraling foreign debt.

Needless to say, the IMF program in Brazil will be geared towards the eventual dismantling of the State banking system in which the new head of Banco do Brazil, a former Citibank official, will no doubt play a crucial role.

No wonder the IMF is “enthusiastic”. The main institutions of economic and financial management are in the hands the country’s creditors. Under these conditions, neoliberalism is “live and kicking”: an “alternative” macro-economic agenda, modeled on the spirit of Porto Alegre is simply not possible.

“Putting the Fox in charge of the Chicken Coop”

Bailing Out BrazilBoston Fleet was one among several banks and financial institutions which speculated against the Brazilian Real in 1998-99, leading to the spectacular meltdown of the Sao Paulo stock exchange on “Black Wednesday” 13 January 1999. BankBoston, which later merged with Fleet is estimated to have made a 4.5 billion dollars windfall in Brazil in the course of the Real Plan, starting with an initial investment of $100 million.(Latin Finance, 6 August 1998).

In other words, Boston Fleet is the “cause” rather than “the solution” to the country’s financial woes. Appointing the  former CEO of Boston Fleet to head the nation’s Central Bank is tantamount to “putting the fox to in charge of the chicken coop”.

The new economic team has stated that it is committed to resolving the country’s debt crisis and steering Brazil towards financial stability. Yet the policies they have adopted are likely to have exactly the opposite effects.

Replicating Argentina

It so happens that Lula’s Central Bank president, Henrique Meirelles was a staunch supporter of Argentina’s controversial Finance Minister Domingo Cavallo, who played a key role under the Menem government, in spearheading the country into a deep-seated economic and social crisis.

According to Meirelles in a 1998 interview, who at the time was President and CEO of Bank Boston:

The most fundamental event [in Latin America] was when the stabilization plan was launched in Argentina [under Domingo Cavallo] . It was a different approach, in the sense that it wasn’t a control of prices or a control of the flow of money, but it was a control of the money supply and government finances.(Latin Finance, 6 August 1998).

It is worth noting that the so-called “control of the money supply” referred to by Meirelles, essentially means freezing the supply of credit  to local businesses, leading to the collapse of productive activity.

The results, as evidenced by the Argentina debacle, was a string of bankruptcies, leading to mass poverty and unemployment. Under the brunt of Finance Minister Cavallo’s policies, in the course of the 1990s, most State owned national and provincial banks in Argentina, which provided credit to industry and agriculture, were sold off to foreign banks. Citibank and Fleet Bank of Boston were on the receiving end of these ill-fated IMF sponsored reforms.

“Once upon a time, government-owned national and provincial banks supported the nation’s debts. But in the mid- Nineties, the government of Carlos Menem sold these off to Citibank of New York, Fleet Bank of Boston and other foreign operators. Charles Calomiris, a former World Bank adviser, describes these bank privatisations as a ‘really wonderful story’. Wonderful for whom? Argentina has bled out as much as three-quarters of a billion dollars a day in hard currency holdings.” (The Guardian, 12 August 2001)

Domingo Cavallo was the architect of “dollarization”. Acting on behalf of Wall Street, he was responsible for pegging the Peso to the US dollar in a colonial style currency board arrangement, which resulted in a spiraling external debt and the eventual breakdown of the entire monetary system.

The currency board arrangement implemented by Cavallo had been actively promoted by Wall Street, with Citigroup and Fleet Bank in the lead.

Under a currency board, money creation is controlled by external creditors. The Central Bank virtually ceases to exist. The government cannot undertake any form of domestic investment without the approval of its external creditors. The US Federal Reserve takes over the process of money creation. Credit can only be granted to domestic producers by driving up the external (dollar denominated) debt.

Financial Scam

When the Argentina crisis reached its climax in 2001, major creditor banks transferred billions of dollars out of the country. An investigation launched in early 2003 pointed not only to the alleged criminal involvement of former Argentinean finance minister Domingo Cavallo, but also to that of several foreign banks including Citibank and Boston Fleet of which Henrique Mereilles was president and CEO:

“Battling to surmount a deep economic crisis, Argentina [January 2002] targeted capital flight and tax evasion, with police searching US, British and Spanish bank offices and authorities seeking explanations from an ex-president about the origins of his Swiss fortune. Claims that as much as 26 billion dollars left the country illegally late last year prompted the police actions. Later in the day, police went to Citibank, Bank Boston [Fleet] and a subsidiary of Spain’s Santander. (…) The various lawsuits in connection with illegal capital transfers name, among others, former president Fernando de la Rua, who stepped down December 20 [2001]; his economy minister Domingo Cavallo; and Roque Maccarone, who quit as central bank chief…” (AFP, 18 January 2003).

The same banks involved in the Argentinean financial scam, including Boston Fleet under the helm of Henrique Meirelles, were also involved in similar shady money transfers operations in other countries including the Russia Federation:

“[A]s many as 10 U.S. banks might have been used to divert as much as $15 billion from Russia, sources said, citing federal investigators. Fleet Financial Group Inc. and other banks are being investigated because they have accounts that belong to or are linked to Benex International Co.which is at the center of an alleged Russian money-laundering scheme.” (Boston Business Journal, 23 September 1999)

The Brazilian Financial Reforms

Everything indicates that Wall Street’s hidden agenda is to eventually replicate the Argentinean scenario and impose “dollarization” on Brazil.  The ground work of this design was established under the Plan Real, at the outset of the presidency of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994-2002).

Henrique Meirelles, who had integrated FHC’s party the PSDB, played a key behind the scens role in setting the stage for the adoption of more fundamental financial reforms:

“In the early 1990s, I  [Meirelles] was a member of the board of the American Chamber of Commerce and in charge of an effort to begin lobbying for a change in the Brazilian Constitution. At the same time I was also chairman of the Brazilian Association of International Banks and was in charge of the effort to open up the country to foreign banks and to open the flow of money. I started a broad campaign of approaching key people, including journalists, politicians, professors and advertising professionals. When I started, everyone told me it was hopeless, that the country would never open its markets, that the country should protect its industries. Over a couple of years, I spoke to about 120 representatives. The private sector was fiercely against the opening of the markets, particularly the bankers.(Latin Finance, op cit)

Amending the Constitution

The issue of Constitutional reform was central to Wall Street’s design of economic and financial deregulation.

At the outset of Fernando Collor de Melo’s presidency in 1990, the IMF had demanded an amendment to the 1988 Constitution. There was uproar in the National Congress, with the IMF accused of “gross interference in the internal affairs of the state”.

Several clauses of the 1988 Constitution stood in the way of achieving the IMF’s proposed budget targets, which were under negotiation with the Collor administration.  IMF expenditure targets could could not be met without a massive firing of public- sector employees, requiring an amendment to a clause of the 1988 Constitution guaranteeing security of employment to federal civil servants. Also at issue was the financing formula (entrenched in the Constitution) of state and municipal-level programs from federal government sources. This formula limited the ability of the federal government to slash social expenditures and shift revenue towards debt servicing.

Blocked during the short-lived Collor administration,  the issue of constitutional reform was reintroduced shortly after the impeachment of President Collor de Melo. In June 1993, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who at the time was Finance Minister in the interim government of President Itamar Franco, announced budget cuts of 50 per cent in education, health and regional development while pointing to the need for revisions to the 1988 Constitution.

The IMF’s demands regarding Constitutional reform were later embodied in Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s (FHC) presidential platform. The deregulation of the banking sector was a key component of the Constitutional reform process, which at the time had been opposed by the Workers Party in both the House and the Senate.

Meanwhile Henrique Meirelles, who at the time was in charge of BankBoston’s operations in Latin America (with one foot in FHC’s party the PSDB  and the other in Wall Street), was lobbying behind the scenes in favour of constitutional reform:

“Eventually we reached an agreement that became part of the Constitutional reform. When the Constitution was first supposed to be reformed, in 1993, it didn’t happen. It didn’t get enough votes. However, after Fernando Henrique Cardoso took office, it was reformed. That particular agreement I had worked on was one of the first points in the Constitution that was actually changed. I  [Meirelles] personally was involved in a change which I think at the end of the day meant the beginning of the opening of the Brazilian capital markets. In Brazil, there were restrictions on the flow of capital, on foreign capital acquiring Brazilian banks and on international banks opening branches in Brazil as mandated by the 1988 Constitution, all of which prohibited the development of the capital markets. ” (Latin Finance, 6 August 1998).

The Plan Real

The Plan Real was launched barely a few months before the November 1993 elections while FHC was Finance Minister. The fixed peg of the Real to the US dollar, in many regards, emulated the Argentinean framework, without however instating a currency board arrangement.

Under the Plan Real, price stability was achieved. The stability of the currency was in many regards fictitious. It was sustained by driving up the external debt.

The reforms were conducive to the demise of a large number of domestic banking institutions, which were acquired by a handful of foreign banks under the privatization program launched under the FHC presidency (1994-2002).

A spiraling foreign debt ultimately precipitated a financial crash in January 1999, leading to the collapse of the Real. (for further details see Michel Chossudovsky, The Brazilian Financial Scam, http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/brazil/economy/financialScam.html , October 1998. This article was published three months before the January 1999 financial collapse. See also Michel Chossudovsky, Brazil’s IMF Sponsored Economic Disaster, 12.February 1999,  http://www.heise.de/tp/english/special/eco/6373/1.html )

Cruel Logic of IMF Rescue Loans

IMF loans are largely intended to finance capital flight. In fact this was the logic of the multibillion dollar loan package granted to Brazil, immediately following the October 1998 elections which led to the reelection of FHC for a second presidential term. The loan was granted barely a few months prior to the January 1999 financial meltdown:

Brazil’s foreign currency reserves have fallen from $78 billion in July 1998 to $48 billion in September. And now the IMF has offered to “lend the money back” to Brazil in the context of a “Korean style” rescue operation which will eventually require the issuing of large amounts of public debt in G-7 countries. The Brazilian authorities have insisted that the country “is not at risk” and what they are seeking is “precautionary funding” (rather than a “bail-out”) to stave of the “contagious effects”of the Asian crisis. Ironically, the amount considered by the IMF (30 billion dollars) is exactly equal to the money “taken out” of the country (during a 3 month period) in the form of capital flight . But the central bank will not be able to use the IMF loan to replenish its hard currency reserves. The bail-out money (including a large part of the $18 billion US contribution to the IMF approved by Congress in October) is intended to enable Brazil to meet current debt servicing obligations, –ie. to reimburse the speculators. The bailout money will never enter Brazil. (See Michel Chossudovsky, The Brazilian Financial Scam, op cit.)

The same logic underlies the $31.4 billion precautionary loan granted by the IMF in September 2002, barely a couple of months prior to the presidential elections. (See IMF Approves US$30.4 Billion Stand-By Credit for Brazil at  http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pr/2002/pr0240.htm ) This IMF loan constitutes “a social safety net” for institutional speculators and hot money investors.

The IMF pumps billions of dollars into the Central Bank, Forex reserves are replenished on borrowed money. The IMF loan is granted on condition the Central Bank retains a deregulated foreign exchange market coupled with domestic interest rates at very high levels.

So-called “foreign investors” are able to transfer (in dollars) the proceeds of their “investments” in short term domestic debts (at very high interest rates) out of the country. In other words, the borrowed forex reserves from the IMF are re-appropriated by Brazil’s external creditors.

We must understand the history of successive financial crises in Brazil. With Wall Street creditors in charge, the levels of external debt have continued to climb.  The IMF has “come to the rescue” with new multibillion dollar loans, which are always conditional upon the adoption of sweeping austerity measures and the privatization of State assets. The main difference is that this process is now being undertaken under a  president, who claims to be opposed to neoliberalism.

It should be noted, however, that the new multibillion dollar IMF “precautionary loan” granted in September 2002, was negotiated by FHC, a few months before the elections. The IMF loan and the conditionalities attached to it set  the stage for a spiraling external debt during Lula’s presidential mandate. (See Brazil—Letter of Intent, Memorandum of Economic Policies, and Technical Memorandum of Understanding, at http://www.imf.org/external/np/loi/2002/bra/04/index.htm#mep , Brasília, August 29, 2002.)

Dollarization

With the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance under the control of the Wall Street establishment, this process will eventually lead Brazil into another financial and foreign exchange crisis. While the underlying logic is similar, based on the same financial manipulations as in 1998-99, in all likelihood it will be far more serious than that of  January 1999.

In other words, the macro-economic policies adopted by President Luis Ignacio da Silva could well result, in the foreseeable future, in debt default and the demise of the nation’s currency, leading Brazil down the path of “dollarization”. A currency board arrangement,  similar to that of Argentina could be imposed. What this means is that the US dollar would become Brazil’s proxy currency. What this means is that the country looses its economic sovereignty. Its Central Bank is defunct. As in the case of Argentina, monetary policy would be decided by the US Federal Reserve system.

While not officially part of the Free Trade Area of the America’s (FTAA) negotiations,  the adoption of the US dollar as the common currency for the Western Hemisphere is being discussed behind closed doors  Wall Street intends to extend its control throughout the hemisphere, eventually displacing or taking over remaining domestic banking institutions (including that of Brazil).

The greenback has already been imposed on five Latin American countries including Ecuador, Argentina, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala. The economic and social consequences of “dollarization” have been devastating. In these countries, Wall Street and the US Federal Reserve system directly control monetary policy.

Brazil’s PT government should draw  the lessons of Argentina where the IMF’s economic medicine played a key role in precipitating the country into a deep-seated economic and social crisis.

Unless the present course of monetary policy is reversed, the tendency in Brazil is towards the “Argentina scenario”, with devastating economic and social consequences.

What Prospects under the Lula Presidency?

While the new  PT government presents itself as “an alternative” to neoliberalism, committed to poverty alleviation and the redistribution of wealth, its monetary and fiscal policy is in the hands of its Wall Street creditors.

Fome Zero (“zero hunger”), described as a program “to fight misery”, largely conforms to World Bank guidelines on “cost-effective poverty reduction”.  The latter require the implementation of so-called “targeted” programs, while drastically slashing social sector budgets. World Bank directives in health and education require curtailing social expenditures with a view to meeting debt servicing obligations.

The IMF and the World Bank have commended President Luis Ignacio da Silva for his commitment to “strong macroeconomic fundamentals.” As far as the IMF is concerned, Brazil “is on track” in conformity with IMF benchmarks. The World Bank has also praised the Lula government:  “Brazil is pursuing a bold social program with fiscal responsibility.”

 ”Another World is possible”?

What kind of “Alternative” is possible, when a government committed to “fighting neoliberalism”, becomes an unbending  supporter of “free trade” and “strong economic medicine.”

Beneath the surface and behind the Workers Party’s populist rhetoric, the neoliberal agenda under Lula remains functionally intact.

The grassroots movement which brought Lula to power has been betrayed. And the “progressive” Brazilian intellectuals within Lula’s inner circle bear a heavy burden of responsibility in this process. And what this “left accommodation” does is to ultimately reinforce the clutch of the Wall Street financial establishment on the Brazilian State.

“Another World” cannot be based on empty political slogans. Nor will it result from a shift in “paradigms”, which is not accompanied by real changes in power relations within Brazilian society, within the State system and within the national economy.

Meaningful change cannot result from a debate on “an alternative to neoliberalism”, which on the surface appears to be “progressive”, but which tacitly accepts the “globalizers” legitimate right to rule and plunder the developing World.


The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order

by Michel Chossudovsky

 GOP .jpgIn the expanded second edition of Chossudovsky’s international best-seller, the author outlines the contours of a New World Order which feeds on human poverty and the destruction of the environment, generates social apartheid, encourages racism and ethnic strife and undermines the rights of women. The result as his detailed examples from all parts of the world show so convincingly, is a globalization of poverty.

This book is a skillful combination of lucid explanation and cogently argued critique of the fundamental directions in which our world is moving financially and economically.

In the enlarged second edition, the author reviews the causes and consequences of famine in Sub-Saharan Africa, the dramatic meltdown of financial markets, the demise of State social programs and the devastation resulting from corporate downsizing and trade liberalisation.

“This concise, provocative book reveals the negative effects of imposed economic structural reform, privatization, deregulation and competition. It deserves to be read carefully and widely.”
- Choice, American Library Association (ALA)

“The current system, Chossudovsky argues, is one of capital creation through destruction. The author confronts head on the links between civil violence, social and environmental stress, with the modalities of market expansion.”
- Michele Stoddard, Covert Action Quarterly

Click to learn more about The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order by Michel Chossudovsky

The corporate media are the megaphones of humanitarian death, as dispensed by the U.S. and its allies. If Obama says “Assad must go,” the high-paid press do all in their power to make the public crave his blood. “The media are loyal to the system, not to their profession, their readers, or their listeners.”

The existence of a compliant media plays a major role in allowing American presidents to create so much violence and chaos around the globe. Far from being a check on officialdom, the press are part and parcel of the machine which crushes so many lives in this country and abroad.

Long gone are the days of the Pentagon Papers, when media outlets competed with one another to break stories which officialdom wanted to keep hidden. Now the press lords work hand in hand with politicians to make certain that they have carte blanche whenever they want it.

President Obama has decided to send weapons to the coalition represented by jihadists, Gulf monarchists and regime opponents working to overthrow Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. The administration again makes the same claims which always explain away American aggression. A foreign head of state is accused of terrorizing his citizens, spreading said terror to other lands and bringing down modern civilization. We are then told that the foreign leader must be deposed from power for the sake of humanity. The country may be Libya or now Syria but the explanation is the same and so is the media modus operandi.

The press merely repeat what the president says and call it journalism. The public are left in the dark and in the absence of real reporting are forced to read tea leaves to figure out what is really happening.

If Obama and his NATO cohorts are all bellowing loudly that “Assad must go” they think they have him on the verge of defeat. If they propose a peace conference they have acknowledged that Assad’s forces are winning. If they give mixed messages about a peace conference and then claim Assad is using chemical weapons and also announce they are arming the rebels they are in full panic mode because their plans for easy conquest have gone awry.

The Obama administration, and any other presidential administration, ought to be afraid to tell such lies to the public. They should fear that their claims will be thoroughly examined and all facts will be exposed. But like his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama has no reason to feel any such discomfort.

A quick perusal of the major corporate media will show that the very premise of American intervention in Syria or anywhere else is accepted without question. Even worse, America’s role in fomenting war is rarely pointed out. There would be no carnage in Syria absent the machinations of the U.S. and its NATO allies. There are Syrians who want changes in their government, but their wishes alone wouldn’t bring about a civil war. Anyone aware of this important point certainly hasn’t relied upon the major broadcasters or newspapers for information.

The average American believes that the intervention is humanitarian in nature because the government and the corporate media have told them so. News talk shows debate whether the United States should choose sides without mentioning that the entire conflagration is the result of American plans to remake the region into a huge vassal state.

“Assad must go” is the mantra but no one on Meet the Press, the Newshour, MSNBC or the New York Times asks why this is so and why an American president has any right to decide the fate of millions of people. Once again Americans are kept in a state of disinformation, unaware that their government is responsible for the deaths of thousands even as it claims humanitarian motives.

The corporate media obediently recite the administration’s dubious assertions and report them as facts. Administration statements accusing the Syrian government of using sarin gas against the western backed rebels are reported as confirmation. On the other hand, there are quite reliable and easy to find reports showing expert skepticism about the administration’s claims.

The media are loyal to the system, not to their profession, their readers, or their listeners. They are cut from the same cloth, and value access to the people whose professional success depends on subservience to the corporations and individuals who also run the political world. We the people, even those of us who want to be aware of current events, learn nothing except politicians’ talking points. The result is that the government has been allowed to embark upon yet another plan to commit crimes against other nations. We are once again complicit and should never again ask why other countries hate us.

It is best to assume that presidents and members of congress are lying when they make justifications for waging war. The media must also be added to the liars’ list. They have little interest in giving us easily provable facts when there is favor in need of currying. History will judge not only our political leaders harshly, but every institution which aided and abetted them. The corporate media ought to be placed at the top of that ignominious list.

Margaret Kimberley‘s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well as at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com. 

Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

According to the Guardian, the documents—presumably obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—“show that even under authorities governing the collection of foreign intelligence from foreign targets, US communications can still be collected, retained and used.”

In their defense of the NSA surveillance programs, Obama administration officials—including Obama himself—have frequently and insistently declared that no communications of people in the US are monitored without a warrant. The documents released by The Guardian reveal these claims to be outright lies.

The FISA Court, the administration has claimed, provides oversight and “transparency” over the process. The actual procedures that the secret court has authorized have, until now, remained concealed from the population of the United States and the world.

Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) authorizes the NSA to engage in bulk data collection. Under this authorization, the NSA is supposedly only allowed to obtain communications without a warrant from “non-US persons.” This includes any communications between people outside the US, and any communications from someone outside the US to someone within the US—if it is the “non-US person” who is the target of the snooping.

As previous revelations have shown, the US government has sucked up billions of communications from all over the world under this authorization, rubber stamped by the FISA Court. This global spying operation is separate from another program that collects virtually all phone records on anyone living in the United States through secret subpoenas to telecommunications companies.

The official limitations on NSA communications monitoring, however, have so many loopholes that they effectively allow for the agency and its analysts to spy on anyone, including those in the US, without a warrant—precisely as claimed by Snowden.

According to the documents, NSA personnel, using their “reasonable judgment,” can keep and use “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if (a) the data contain “significant foreign intelligence information,” (b) the data are encrypted or “reasonably believed to contain secret meaning,” (c) the data contain “evidence of a crime,” or (d) the data contain information related to cyber security.

The court specifically states that encrypted emails can be kept for as long as needed to decrypt them.

According to the Guardian, moreover, while the procedures approved by the court require that interception stop if a communication is determined to involve only US persons, “these circumstances do not apply to large-scale data where the NSA claims it is unable to filter US communications from non-US ones.” These communications can be retained, and presumably accessed, for five years.

In collecting communications, the NSA is allowed to examine a range of data on telephone and internet usage to determine whether a target is located in the US or not. To collect the communication, the individual analyst must have a “reasonable belief” that the target is outside the US.

When the NSA analyst is not able to determine definitively the location of a target, he can simply assume that the target is overseas. “In the absence of specific information regarding whether a target is a United States person,” the FISA Court document states “a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States or whose location is not known will be presumed to be a non-United States person unless such person can be positively identified as a United States person.”

In other words, the presumption is that a communication can be collected and monitored. If the NSA wants to wiretap anyone, anywhere, without a warrant, it merely has to declare—to itself—that it either does not know where the person is or has a reasonable belief that that person is outside the US.

Decisions about whether a person is considered US or non-US are made, according to the documents, on the basis of the “totality of circumstances,” specifically whether “the nature and circumstances of the person’s communications rise to a reasonable belief that such person is a United States person.”

One example of a condition which can be used to assert that someone is a not US person, and therefore all of his communications can be monitored, is if he is in contact with members of a “foreign-based political organization.”

Moreover, in ambiguous cases, NSA analysts are authorized to examine the content of communications in order to determine whether that content qualifies for surveillance: “NSA analysts may analyze content for indications that a target has entered or intends to enter the United States. Such content analysis will be conducted according to analytic and intelligence requirements and priorities.”

US persons are thus “protected” from surveillance by having the content of their communications surveilled, supposedly to determine whether they are US persons.

In its final section, “Departure from Procedures,” the document on procedures for targeting non-US persons includes an escape clause, allowing the NSA to ignore all legal protections under exceptional circumstances, “If, in order to protect against an immediate threat to the national security, NSA determines that it must take action, on a temporary basis, in apparent departure from these procedures and that it is not feasible to obtain a timely modification of these procedures from the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence, NSA may take such action.”

This is a blueprint for universal accumulation and indefinite retention of all communications of everyone in the world.

Global stocks plunged Thursday in the biggest one-day sell-off so far this year, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the US central bank might consider paring back its cash infusions into the financial markets within the next six months.

The panic in stock and bond markets sparked by the remarks of Bernanke, who on Wednesday suggested the Fed might start winding down its $85 billion per month in asset purchases, was compounded by the release of data on Thursday showing that Chinese manufacturing activity hit its lowest level in nine months.

These developments point to two fundamental facts about the current economic situation: the continuing slump in the real economy and the extreme dependence of global financial markets on virtually free credit from the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 353 points, or 2.34 percent, in its biggest drop since November 2011. This followed a 206 point drop on Wednesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell by 2.5 percent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell by 2.3 percent. All ten sectors of the S&P 500 fell by more than two percent.

The drop in US financial markets followed a panicky sell-off in Europe and Asia earlier in the day. The United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 index lost 2.98 percent and the German Dax lost 3.28 percent. In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped by 2.88 percent and Japan’s Nikkei fell by 1.1 percent.

Asian markets declined further at their opening Friday morning, with the Nikkei down by 2 percent, the Hang Seng down by 1.75 percent, and the Australian All Ordinaries index down by 0.70 percent in early trading.

All major commodities were hit by Thursday’s sell-off, with gold futures dropping below $1,300 per ounce, the lowest level in two-and-a-half years. Silver dropped by 9.7 percent during the day before recovering slightly, hitting its lowest level since 2010. Prior to Thursday’s sell-off, gold prices were already down by 18 percent, in what may become the first yearly decline in the value of gold since 2000.

Every asset class, including bonds of every duration and quality, fell sharply. Yields on ten-year US Treasury notes went as high as 2.47 percent during the day, up from 1.61 percent in May, before retreating as the stock sell-off intensified.

Emerging market currencies continued to plunge against the dollar. The Indian rupee fell 2 percent to a new low, and the Turkish lira fell 1.8 percent. The US dollar rose more than one percent against the Korean, Russian, Polish and South American currencies.

A preliminary reading of HSBC’s Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for China, a measure of manufacturing activity, fell to 48.3 this month, down from 49.2 in May. This was the lowest reading in nine months. The Chinese economy slowed to a growth rate of 7.7 percent in the first quarter and is expected to continue slowing in the second.

The Markit Flash euro zone PMI, also released Thursday, while slightly improved, nevertheless indicates that the European economy remains stagnant.

The economic slowdown and bond sell-off have sparked a credit crunch in China, where overnight inter-bank lending rates hit 13.1 percent, the highest on record and up from the previous day by 5.98 percentage points.

Data in the United States was little better. The day after Fed Chairman Bernanke reported an improved outlook for the US economy and the jobs market, the Labor Department said initial applications for unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly last week by 18,000, to 354,000.

The plunging bond market hit junk bonds especially hard, raising the prospect of troubled companies becoming insolvent. The iShares iBoxx High Yld Corp Bond, the largest junk bond fund, fell 1.5 percent.

“All these people who lined up to buy high-yield bonds, only looking to get that extra yield and not paying much attention to the credit quality of these companies, are now just trying to get out,” Adrian Miller of GMP Securities told the Financial Times .

Bond prices have been plunging since May 22, when Bernanke indicated in congressional testimony that the Fed might slow asset purchases “in the next few meetings” if economic conditions continued to improve.

In revised economic projections released Wednesday, the Fed’s policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) lowered its 2013 unemployment rate forecast from 7.4 percent to 7.25 percent and concluded that economic growth would be 2.45 percent in 2013 and 3.25 percent in 2014, significantly higher than current market expectations.

While the Fed’s official projections were upbeat, significant sections of the US ruling class are increasingly concerned about signs of a global slump, particularly in Asia and Europe, and the specter of deflation in the US economy. Wall Street, on the other hand, looks with dread on any significant improvement on economic growth and employment prospects, for fear the Fed will turn off the spigot of limitless and ultra-cheap cash, which is subsidizing super profits and rising executive pay packages.

Behind the Federal Reserve’s hints that it may wind down its asset-purchasing program lie worries that the vast amounts of cash that have been pumped into the financial system have created a speculative bubble of vast proportions, threatening a financial collapse that could dwarf that of 2008.

The fall in global markets on Wednesday and Thursday is an expression of the fear and panic that predominate on financial markets amid mounting concerns that the asset bubble is beginning to burst.

The market panic of the past two days demonstrates that none of the underlying issues that led to the 2008 financial meltdown have been addressed, let alone resolved. Far from engineering any real economic recovery, governments and central banks have merely papered over the contradictions in the global economy while further enriching the financial elite, on the one hand, and brutally attacking the working class, on the other.

The response of the ruling class to the latest eruption of the financial crisis will be to intensify the assault on social programs and workers’ jobs, wages and pensions.

Field trials of genetically-modified (GM) Bt eggplant, also known as Bt talong, have officially ceased in the Philippines following a major ruling by the nation’s Court of Appeals. Representing a massive victory for food sovereignty, the Court found that Bt talong is a monumental threat to both environmental and human health, and has subsequently ordered that all existing plantings of Bt talong in test fields be immediately destroyed and blocked from further propagation.

Like in many other nations across the globe, the biotechnology industry has been craftily trying to sneak its genetic poisons into the Philippines under the guise of improving crop yields, reducing chemical use, and yada yada ad nauseum – all the typical industry propaganda and lies used to convince the more gullible among us that GMOs are some kind of food production miracle. But the Philippines is not buying all the hype. And unlike the U.S., the southeast Asian country is taking a bold stand against a technology that has never been proven safe or beneficial in any way.

According to the non-profit advocacy group Greenpeace, which has been working on behalf of humanity to stem the tide of GMO onslaught all around the world, the Court recently issued a “Write of Kalikasan,” which basically means that all field trials of Bt eggplant in the Philippines must stop. The Court also ordered that the biotechnology aggressors “permanently cease and desist” from conducting further trials, as well as “protect, preserve, rehabilitate and restore” all the land they have destroyed in the process.

“The field trials of Bt talong involve the willful and deliberate alteration of the genetic traits of a living element of the ecosystem and the relationship of living organisms that depend on each other for their survival,” states the ruling. “Consequently, the field trials … could not be declared by this Court as safe [for] human health and our ecology, [since they are] an alteration of an otherwise natural state of affairs in our ecology.”

Everything about this common-sense decision by the Filipino justice system makes perfect sense – GMOs definitively spread their poisonous traits throughout the entire ecosystem, contaminating other crops along the way, and thus have no place in agriculture, period. But sadly, such common sense no longer exists in the U.S., where corporate greed and fundamental corruption have essentially placed profits before people in every aspect of life.

“We commend the Court of Appeals for living up to its constitutionally-mandated role as protector of constitutional rights,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner Daniel Ocampo about the Philippines rejecting GMOs. “This landmark decision reflects that there are indeed flaws and lapses in the current regulatory process for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) such as Bt eggplant which exposes our environment and health to unknown long-term consequences and does not establish their safety in any way.”

Meanwhile, millions of acres of uncontested GMO crops in the U.S. continue to ravage both human and environmental health while the hordes of mindless puppets in the U.S. Congress ignore the issue or even pretend that GMOs are not an issue. But this new American pastime of greed and denial about reality will not last forever, as nature will eventually catch up and extinguish this agricultural scourge with “superweeds,” “superbugs,” and disease – that is if the American people do not take action first to forcibly cleanse their nation of GMOs. The question is, what will it take for the people to wake up and take action?

Sources for this article include:

http://www.greenpeace.org

http://www.businessmirror.com.ph

http://www.greenpeace.org

Obama’s Nuclear Arms Reduction Hoax

June 21st, 2013 by Stephen Lendman

Jack Kennedy was America’s last peace president. He underwent a spiritual transformation. He changed from cold warrior to peacemaker.

He wanted nuclear weapons abolished. He urged “general and complete disarmament.” He wanted force-fed Pax Americana ended.

He assumed great risk. Nearly all his top advisers disapproved. Pentagon commanders opposed him. So did most congressional members. CIA officials weren’t pleased.

Kennedy was vulnerable. He knew it. He accepted the risk. It cost him his life. He was assassinated weeks after signing the US/Soviet Russia Limited Test Ban Treaty and National Security Action Memorandum Number 263.

It called for removing 1,000 US troops from Vietnam by yearend. It mandated all American forces out by December 1965.

Obama’s no Jack Kennedy. On April 5, 2009, he spoke in Prague’s Hradcany Square. He did so duplicitously. He lied saying “clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

He pledged “concrete steps” never taken. They included:

  • reducing nuclear stockpiles enough to matter;
  • banning testing;
  • halting fissile material production;
  • preventing nuclear proliferation and use;
  • pursuing diplomacy with Iran and North Korea; and
  • resolving key security challenges to create conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.

America’s current arsenal includes state-of-the-art nuclear, chemical, biological, and other type weapons of mass destruction.

They’re more advanced, powerful and dangerous than ever. They’re deployed globally. They menaces humanity. America’s preemptive first-strike nuclear posture remains unchanged.

On June 19, Obama urged Russia to join America in reducing strategic nuclear arsenals by one-third.

A White House press release said:

“Today, the President announced new guidance that aligns US nuclear policies to the 21st century security environment.”

“This is the latest in a series of concrete steps the President has made to advance his Prague agenda and the long-term goal of achieving the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Obama’s so-called “new guidance” includes:

  • maintaining “a credible deterrent;”
  • aligning America’s military deterrent according to 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) provisions; more on them below;
  • strengthening non-nuclear capabilities;
  • “reduc(ing) the role of launch under attack (while) retain(ing) a launch under attack capability;”
  • achieving “more effective management of the nuclear weapons stockpile;” and
  • “maintain(ing) a safe, secure and effective arsenal that guarantees the defense of the US and our allies and partners.”

America “seek(s) negotiated cuts with Russia so that we can continue to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.”

On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. So-called Cold War friction ostensibly ended. Conditions today are the most perilous in world history.

America bears full responsibility. Wars without end rage. Obama has others in mind. He pursues them recklessly. Humanity’s survival is at stake.

Obama’s no peacemaker. He prioritizes war. He spends more on militarism than the rest of the world combined. He’s developing more powerful weapons of mass destruction.

He’s deploying them globally. He maintains a growing empire of bases. Hundreds are in over 150 countries. They encroach close to Russian and Chinese borders. They do so belligerently. They threaten world peace.

Obama’s nuclear reduction proposal lacks credibility. It does so for good reason. He broke every major promise made. He’s a serial liar. He can’t be trusted.

He’s a war criminal multiple times over. His nuclear policy prioritizes first-strike preemption. It does so against manufactured enemies.

His 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) reflects old wine in new bottles. Rhetoric changed, not policy. NPR 2010 said America “reserves the right” to use nuclear weapons.

Doing so “may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and US capacities to counter that threat.”

No threat whatever exists. More advanced weapons replace older ones. US nuclear policy menaces humanity. It prioritizes greater deterrent capability.

It unilaterally asserts the right to strike preemptively. It does without cause, justification or consequences.

Obama’s NPR reflects war-making, not prevention. It replicates Bush’s 2005 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations. It removes the distinction between defensive and offensive deterrents.

It prioritizes upgrading America’s destructive triad. It includes sea-based strategic bombers, land-based missiles, and ballistic missile submarines.

It maintains robust research, development, and industrial infrastructure. It continues to develop, build, and deploy unchallengeable offensive and defensive systems.

It exceeds deterrent. It calls for nuclear and non-nuclear preemption. It does so against unnamed adversaries.

It prioritizes permanent wars on humanity. At issue is resource control and unchallenged global dominance.

It calls for eliminating all independent governments. It wants no rivals. It wants pro-Western puppet regimes subservient to US interests.

On April 8, 2010, America and Russia signed New Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). On February 11, 2011, it became effective.

It’s more smoke screen than substance. Nuclear reduction is illusory. Proliferation continues.

Disarmament isn’t envisioned. America’s arms race continues. Unconscionable amounts are spent. Popular needs go begging. War-making priorities come first.

New Start leaves America unconstrained. It’s global strike capability is uncompromised. Developing upgraded humanity-destroying weapons continues.

Annual budgets include growing amounts to do so. Obama’s brave nuke world is unsafe to live in. He’s got lots more war-making in mind.

He prioritizes state-of-the-art capability to do so. It includes more destructive than ever nuclear weapons.

He asserts the right to use them preemptively. He does so unilaterally. He targets enemies created out of whole cloth.

NPR 2010 changed rhetoric. Policy remains unchanged. NPT’s three pillars are disregarded. They include non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use.

Reinstituting the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty isn’t envisioned. It was in force for 30 years. In 2002, Bush administration rogues unilaterally withdrew. America remains unconstrained to wage war.

The Pentagon’s 2006 Global Strike Command remains policy. It’s for war-making, not prevention. It’s for offense, not defense. It prioritizes first-strike capability.

So does the 2009 Prompt Global Strike initiative. It’s to attack anywhere in the world. It’s to do so on short notice. It’s to use conventional, nuclear and other weapons.

NPR 2010 states America “reserves the right” to use nuclear weapons “that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of the biological weapons threat and US capacities to counter that threat.”

It keeps nuclear missiles ready to launch in minutes. It asserts the unilateral preemptive right to do so.

It’s aggressive. It’s lawless. It threatens world peace. It assures permanent wars. It threatens humanity.

Bush’s December 2002 National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 17 (“Weapons of Mass Destruction)” remains unchanged. It states:

“The United States will continue to make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force – including through resort to all of our options – to the use (or threatened use) of WMD(s) against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies.”

Launching nuclear war is a presidential prerogative. Theater nuclear operations are at the discretion of commanders. They can use tactical mini-nukes preemptively. They can do so based on falsified threats.

Obama can invent them to wage nuclear war. He can do so globally. He can do it preemptively. Perhaps he’ll take full advantage. No greater threat exists.

On June 19, Ria Novosti headlined “Russia Skeptical Over Obama’s New Nuclear Reduction Proposal.”

Moscow officials distrust him for good reason. They do so “in light of US global missile defense plans and attempts by other counties to boost their nuclear arsenals.”

Obama’s proposed “bold reductions in US and Russian tactical weapons in Europe” don’t wash. According to senior Putin foreign policy advisor Yury Ushakov:

“The situation now is not like in the 1960s and 1970s, when only the United States and the Soviet Union held talks on reducing nuclear arms.”

“Now we need to look more broadly and expand the circle of participants in possible contacts on this matter.”

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin added:

“How can we take seriously this idea about cuts in strategic nuclear potential while the United States is developing its capabilities to intercept Russia’s nuclear potential.”

Arms issues involves offensive and defensive ones, he stressed.

“To show the lack of understanding of this (by proposing further nuclear cuts) – means either openly lying, bluffing and deceiving, or demonstrating a deep lack of professionalism.”

Putin addressed Obama’s proposal, saying:

“We cannot afford to disrupt the balance of the system of strategic deterrence, to reduce effectiveness of its nuclear forces. Therefore, the development of the system of space defense will remain a key direction for the military industry.”

Putin and other Russian officials express great concern about America surrounding Russia with so-called missile defense systems meant for offense.

“These weapons are approaching the level of strategic nuclear arms in terms of their strike capability,” said Putin. “States possessing such weapons strongly increase their offensive potential.”

Putin, Rogozin, Ushakov, and other officials know Obama can’t be trusted. He’s a serial liar. His pledges aren’t worth the rhetoric  explaining them. They’re not worth the paper they’re written on. They’re promises made to be broken.

Independent Russian military experts believe Obama’s proposal “could potentially destroy the existing nuclear parity and ultimately hurt Russia’s national security interests.”

Obama prioritizes it. Russia and China alone challenge America’s dominance. Washington wants both rivals neutralized.

Expect neither to bow to America’s will. They represent humanity’s best chance. United perhaps they’ll thwart America’s imperium. Hopefully they’ll take full advantage and succeed.

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

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

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

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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

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

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

http://www.dailycensored.com/obamas-nuclear-arms-reduction-hoax/

In August 2010, when Foreign Policy posted an article citing credible research and directly warning oil companies worldwide that their offshore oil rigs were highly vulnerable to hacking, few people took notice.

“Computer commands can derail a train or cause a gas pipeline to burst,” warned former Bush administration counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke in Cyber War, his book on the topic. Until recently, however, such scenarios seemed more like movie plots than foreign policy concerns, and the threat looked more domestic than foreign.

In early 2009, for instance, a 28-year-old contractor in California was charged in federal court with almost disabling an offshore rig. Prosecutors said the culprit, allegedly angry about not being hired full time, hacked into the computerized network of an oil-rig off the coast, specifically the controls that detect leaks. He caused damage, but fortunately not a leak.

After the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico the Christian Science Monitor reported that at least three US oil companies had been targets in a series of cyber attacks. The culprit was most likely someone or some group in China, and the incidents, largely un-reported for several years, had involved Marathon Oil, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips. But the companies apparently didn’t realize how serious their problem was until the FBI alerted them.
At the time, federal officials said that proprietary information – email passwords, messages, and information linked to executives – had been flowing out to computers overseas. Chinese government involvement could not be confirmed, but some data did end up on a computer in China. One oil company security staffer privately coined the term “China virus.”
The companies generally preferred not to comment, or even admit that the attacks had happened. But the Monitor persisted, interviewing insiders, officials and cyber attack experts, and ultimately confirmed the details. Their overall conclusion was that cyber-burglars, using spyware that is almost undetectable, pose a serious and potentially dangerous threat to private industry.
According to Clarke, many nations conduct Internet espionage and sometimes even cyber attacks. China has been one of the most aggressive, but Russia and North Korea are also among the players. Spying on defense agencies and diplomats has been a major focus, but strategically important businesses and even other countries have also been targeted.

In 2011, Google claimed that it had evidence of at least 20 companies infiltrated from China. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, logic bombs were being infiltrated into the US electric power grid. If so, they could operate like time bombs.

On oil rigs, the advent of robot-controlled platforms has made a cyber attack possible with a PC anywhere in the world. Control of a rig could be accomplished by hacking into the “integrated operations” that link onshore computer networks to offshore ones. Few experts will speculate that this may already have happened. But there is confirmation of computer viruses causing personnel injuries and production losses on North Sea platforms.

One problem is that even though newer rigs have cutting-edge robotics technology, the software that controls their basic functions can be old school. Most rely on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software, which was created in an era when “open source” was more important than security,

“It’s underappreciated how vulnerable some of these systems are,” said Jeff Vail, a former counterterrorism and intelligence analyst with the US Interior Department who talked with Greg Grant, author of the Foreign Policy article. “It is possible, if you really understood them, to cause catastrophic damage by causing safety systems to fail.”

The name of the article, by the way, was “The New Threat to Oil Supplies – Hackers.” It sounds a lot like “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the US.”

To be fair, the US government’s failure to address private-sector vulnerability to cyber attacks goes back decades. Until recently, however, the Obama administration hesitated to challenge the status quo. Given the vulnerability of crucial infrastructure and much of the private sector, surprisingly little was being done to prepare for what sounds inevitable.

The US Cyber Command attempts to protect federal infrastructure, while various branches of the military have developed their own offensive capabilities. But not even the Department of Homeland Security is officially responsible for protecting the private sector. According to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, legal and privacy issues get in the way of having the government monitor the Internet or business operations for evidence of potential cyber attacks. As you might expect, business interests are wary of the regulations that might accompany government help.

Though cyber attacks have clearly happened, many leave no obvious trace. As Clarke explains, corporations tend to believe that the “millions of dollars they have spent on computer security systems means they have successfully protected their company’s secrets.” Unfortunately, they are wrong. Intrusion detection and prevention systems sometimes fail.

As it stands, no federal agency is responsible for defending the banking system, power grids or oil rigs from attacks. The prevailing logic is that businesses should handle their own security. Yet their experts readily admit that they wouldn’t know what to do if an attack came from another nation, and assume that defense in such a case would be the government’s job.

In 2011, a US Senate bill sponsored by Democrat Jay Rockefeller and Republican Olympia Snowe sought to change that, but became another victim of DC gridlock. It would have required the president to work with the private sector on a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy, created a joint public-private advisory board, and led to a Senate-confirmed national security adviser position.

Rockefeller said the goal was “unprecedented information sharing between government and the private sector.”

James Fallows argues that the US suffers from “a conspiracy of secrecy about the scale of cyber risk.” His point is that many companies simply won’t admit how easily they can be infiltrated. As a result, changes in the law, the regulatory environment, or personal habits that could increase safety aren’t seriously discussed.  Sooner or later, however, “the cyber equivalent of 9/11 will occur—and, if the real 9/11 is a model, we will understandably, but destructively, overreact.”

The Rational Market Myth: “Financial Armageddon” without Nukes

June 21st, 2013 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

One of the myths of economics is that markets are rational. Theories are based on this assumption, and the belief that markets are rational fuels the argument against regulation.  The market response to the Federal Reserve’s June 19 statement that it will taper off its bond purchases if its forecast comes true is unequivocal proof that markets are irrational.

The Federal Reserve’s statement that it “currently anticipates that it would be appropriate to moderate the monthly pace of purchases [of bonds] later this year” depends on a very big “if.”  The ”if” is the correctness of the Fed’s forecast of moderate economic growth and employment gains.

The Fed has not stopped purchasing $85 billion of bonds each month. So nothing real has changed. Indeed, there was no new information in the Fed’s statement. It has been known for some time that, according to the Fed, its bond purchases will gradually cease.

In response to this old information, the stock and bond markets sold off in a major way on June 19-20. This market response to the Fed’s statement indicates that the Fed’s forecast is unlikely to come true. Low interest rates and a high stock market are totally dependent on the liquidity that the Fed is injecting by printing $1,000 billion per year. If this liquidity is not injected, what will sustain the markets? If the markets crash and interest rates rise, how can the Fed expect recovery?

In other words, the participants in the stock and bond markets know that the markets are bubbles created by the printing press. There is no real basis for the high stock and bond prices. The prices are an artificial reality created by the printing press.  Rational markets would take into account the printing press element and would price stocks and bonds at a much lower level.

Zero real interest rates mean that there are no risks.  But how can there be no risk in Treasury bonds when the debt is growing faster than the economy?

Normally, high stock values mean strong profits from strong consumer income growth and retail sales.  But we know that there is no growth in real median family income and real retail sales.

I suspect that the reason the Fed made the announcement, which seems to be derailing the Fed’s forecast of recovery on which the announcement depends, is to relieve pressure on the US dollar.  For several years the Fed has been printing 1,000 billion new dollars each year. There is no demand for these dollars. So far these dollars have inflated stock and bond prices instead of consumer prices. But the implication for the dollar’s price or exchange value in currency markets is clear. The supply is increasing faster than the demand. If the dollar falters, the Fed would lose control. Rising import

prices would soon drive domestic inflation and interest rates far higher than the Fed’s targets.

Washington has succeeded in getting Japan and the EU to print yen and euros in order to eliminate the likelihood of flight to other large currency alternatives to the dollar. Smaller countries have also had to print in order to protect their export markets. With so many countries printing money, the Fed’s statement implying that the US might stop printing makes the dollar look good, and, indeed, the dollar rose on the currency exchange markets.

Having neutralized the alternative currency threat to the dollar, the Fed and its agents, the bullion banks, the banks too big to fail, are still at work against the gold and silver threats to the dollar. Massive short selling of gold began at the beginning of April. Again on June 20 massive shorts of gold were sold at a time of day chosen to maximize the price decline.  Only those who intend to drive down the price would sell in this way.

Since QE began, the Fed has deprived retirees of interest income and has forced retirees to spend down their capital in order to pay living expenses.  Judging from the initial market response, the Fed’s latest policy announcement is adversely impacting bond, stock and real estate investors, and the manipulation of the bullion markets continues to wreak destruction on wealth stored in the only known safe haven.

How can a recovery happen when the Fed is destroying wealth?

The Fed’s irrational behavior could be seen as rational if the assumption is that the Fed’s intent is not to save the economy but to save the banks.  As the Fed is committed to saving the banks “too big to fail,” it is likely that the banks know of the Fed’s announcements in advance. With inside information, the banks know precisely when to short the stock, bond, and bullion markets. The banks make billions from the inside information. The billions made help to restore the banks’ balance sheets.

Guy Lawson’s book, Octopus (2012), shows that front-running on the basis of inside information has always been the source of financial fortunes.  In order to save the banks, the Fed now supplies the inside information.

How is this going to play out?  I suspect that the recovery, although officially a weak one, does not really exist. However, thanks to statistical artifacts that understate inflation and unemployment and overstate GDP growth, the Fed and the markets think that a recovery of sorts is in process and that the unprecedented money printing by the Fed will succeed in shifting the economy into high gear. 

No such thing is likely to happen. Instead, as 2013 progresses, a further downturn will become visible through the orchestrated statistics. This time the Fed will have to get the printed money past the banks and into the economy, and inflation will explode. The dollar will collapse, and import prices–as globalism has turned the US into an import-dependent economy–will turn high inflation into hyperinflation.  Disruptions in food and energy deliveries will become widespread, and a depreciated currency will cease to be used as a means of exchange.

I wouldn’t bet my life on this prediction, but I think it is as likely as the Fed’s prediction of a full recovery that allows the Fed to terminate its bond purchases and money printing by June 2014.

Americans, who have been on top of the world since the late 1940s, are not prepared for the adjustments that they are likely to have to make.  And neither is their government.

One incident of racism, though small in relation to the decades of massive, institutionalised discrimination exercised by Israel against its Palestinian Arab citizens, has triggered an uncharacteristic bout of Israeli soul-searching.

Superland, a large amusement park near Tel Aviv, refused to accept a booking from an Arab school on its preferred date in late May. When a staff member called back impersonating a Jew, Superland approved the booking immediately.

As the story went viral on social media, the park’s managers hurriedly offered an excuse: they provided separate days for Jewish and Arab children to keep them apart and prevent friction.

Government ministers led an outpouring of revulsion. Tzipi Livni, the justice minister, called the incident a “symptom of a sick democracy”. Defence minister Moshe Yaalon was “ashamed”. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that the “racist” policy be halted immediately.

Such sensitivity appears to be a reaction to an explosion of popular racism over the past few months against the one in five Israelis who belong to the country’s Palesinian Arab minority. Some Israeli Jews have started to find the endless parade of bigotry disturbing.

Israeli TV recently revealed, for example, that a group of children with cancer who had been offered a free day at a swimming pool were refused entry once managers discovered that they were Bedouin.

According to another TV investigation, Israel’s banks have a secret policy of rejecting Arab customers who try to transfer their accounts to a branch in a Jewish community, even though this violates banking regulations.

The settlers, whose violence was once restricted to setting fire to the crops of Palestinians or rampaging through their villages in the West Bank, are now as likely to attack Arab communities inside Israel. Torched mosques, offensive graffiti on churches and cars set ablaze in so-called “price-tag” attacks have become commonplace.

Similarly, reports of vicious attacks on Arab citizens are rapidly becoming a news staple. Recent incidents have included the near-fatal beating of a street cleaner, and a bus driver who held his gun to an Arab passenger’s head, threatening to pull the trigger unless the man showed his ID.

Also going viral were troubling mobile-phone photos of a young Arab woman surrounded by a mob of respectable-looking commuters amd shoppers while she waited for a train. As they hit her and pulled off her hijab, station guards looked on impassively.

However welcome official denunciations of these events are, the government’s professed outrage does not wash.

While Netanyahu and his allies on the far right were castigating Superland for its racism, they were busy backing a grossly discriminatory piece of legislation the Haaretz newspaper called “one of the most dangerous” measures ever to come before the parliament.

The bill will give Israelis who have served in the army a whole raft of extra rights in land and housing, employment, salaries, and the provision of public and private services. The catch is that almost all of the country’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens are excluded from military service. In practice, the benefits will be reserved for Jews only.

Superland’s offence pales to insignificance when compared to that, or to the decades of state-planned and officially sanctoned discrimination against the country’s Palestinian minority.

An editorial in Haaretz this month observed  that Israel was really “two separate states, one Arab and one Jewish. … This is the gap between the Jewish state of Israel, which is a developed Western nation, and the Arab state of Israel, which is no more than a Third World country.”

Segregation is enforced in all the main spheres of life: land allocation and housing, citizenship rights, education, and employment.

None of this is accidental. It was intended this way to guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish state. Legal groups have identified 57 laws that overtly discriminate between Jewish and Palestinian citizens, with a dozen more heading towards the statute books.

Less visible but just as damaging is the covert discrimination Palestinian citizens face every day when dealing with state institutions, whose administrative practices find their rationale in the entrenchment of Jewish privilege.

This week a report indentified precisely this kind of institutional racism when it found that students from the country’s Palestinian minority were confronted by a series of 14 obstacles not faced by their Jewish compatriots that contributed to denying them places in higher education.

The wave of popular prejudice and racist violence is no accident either. Paradoxically, it has been unleashed by the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric of rightwing politicians like Netanyahu, whose constant fearmongering casts Palestinian citizens as disloyal, a fifth column and a demographic threat to the state’s Jewishness.

So why if the state is so committed to subjugating and excluding Palestinian citizens, and Netanyahu and his ministers so determined to increase the weight of discriminatory legislation, are they decrying the racism of Superland?

To make sense of this, one has to understand how desperately Israel has sought to distinguish itself from apartheid South Africa.

Israel cultivates, as South Africa once did, what scholars term “grand apartheid”. This is segregation, largely covert and often often justified by security or cultural differences, to ensure that control of resources remains exclusively in the hands of the privileged community.

At the same time, Israel long shied away from what some call South Africa’s model of “petty apartheid” – the overt, symbolic, but far less significant segregation of park benches, buses and toilets.

The avoidance of petty apartheid has been the key to Israel’s success in obscuring from the world’s view its grand apartheid, most obviously in the occupied territories but also inside Israel itself.

This month South Africa’s departing ambassador to Israel, Ismail Coovadia, warned that Israel was a “replication of apartheid”. The idea that the world may soon wake up to this comparison deeply unnerves Netanyahu and the right, all the more so as they risk being identified as the party refusing to make concessions towards peace.

The threat posed by what happened at Superland is that such incidents of unofficial and improvised racism may one day unmask the much more sinister and organised campaign of “grand apartheid” that Israel’s leaders have overseen for decades.

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 new website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

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

Last month, a ComRes poll supported by Media Lens interviewed 2,021 British adults, asking:

‘How many Iraqis, both combatants and civilians, do you think have died as a consequence of the war that began in Iraq in 2003?’

An astonishing 44% of respondents estimated that less than 5,000 Iraqis had died since 2003. 59% believed that fewer than 10,000 had died. Just 2% put the toll in excess of one million, the likely correct estimate.

In October 2006, just three years into the war, the Lancet medical journal reported ‘about 655,000 Iraqis have died above the number that would be expected in a non-conflict situation, which is equivalent to about 2.5% of the population in the study area’.

In 2007, an Associated Press poll also asked the US public to estimate the Iraqi civilian death toll from the war. 52% of respondents believed that fewer than 10,000 Iraqis had died.

Noam Chomsky commented on the latest findings:

‘Pretty shocking. I’m sure you’ve seen Sut Jhally’s study of estimates of Vietnam war deaths at the elite university where he teaches. Median 100,000, about 5% of the official figure, probably 2% of the actual figure. Astonishing – unless one bears in mind that for the US at least, many people don’t even have a clue where France is. Noam’ (Email to Media Lens, June 1, 2013. See: Sut Jhally, Justin Lewis, & Michael Morgan, The Gulf War: A Study of the Media, Public Opinion, & Public Knowledge, Department of Communications, U. Mass. Amherst, 1991)

Design by Melanie Patrick

Alex Thomson, chief correspondent at Channel 4 News, has so far provided the only corporate media discussion of the poll. He perceived ‘questions for us on the media that after so much time, effort and money, the public perception of bloodshed remains stubbornly, wildly, wrong’.

In fact the poll was simply ignored by both print and broadcast media. Our search of the Lexis media database found no mention in any UK newspaper, despite the fact that ComRes polls are deemed highly credible and frequently reported in the press.

Although we gave Thomson the chance to scoop the poll, he chose to publish it on his blog viewed by a small number of people on the Channel 4 website. Findings which Thomson found ‘so staggeringly, mind-blowingly at odds with reality’ that they left him ‘speechless’ apparently did not merit a TV audience.

Les Roberts, lead author of the 2004 Lancet study and co-author of the 2006 study, also responded:

‘This March, a review of death toll estimates by Burkle and Garfield was published in the Lancet in an issue commemorating the 10th anniversary of the invasion. They reviewed 11 studies of data sources ranging from passive tallies of government and newspaper reports to careful randomized household surveys, and concluded that something in the ballpark of half a million Iraqi civilians have died. The various sources include a wide variation of current estimates, from one-hundred thousand plus to a million.’

 Roberts said of the latest poll:

‘It may be that most British people do not care what results arise from the actions of their leaders and the work of their tax money. Alternatively, it also could be that the British and US Governments have actively and aggressively worked to discredit sources and confuse death toll estimates in hopes of keeping the public from unifying and galvanizing around a common narrative.’ (Email to Media Lens, June 12, 2013. You can see Roberts’ comments in full here)

Indeed, the public’s ignorance of the cost paid by the people of Iraq is no accident. Despite privately considering the 2006 Lancet study ‘close to best practice’ and ‘robust’ the British government immediately set about destroying the credibility of the findings of both the 2004 and 2006 Lancet studies. Professor Brian Rappert of the University of Exeter reported that government ‘deliberations were geared in a particular direction – towards finding grounds for rejecting the [2004] Lancet study without any evidence of countervailing efforts by government officials to produce or endorse alternative other studies or data’.

Unsurprisingly, the same political executives who had fabricated the case for war on Iraq sought to fabricate reasons for ignoring peer-reviewed science exposing the costs of their great crime. More surprising, one might think, is the long-standing media enthusiasm for these fabrications. The corporate media were happy to swallow the UK government’s alleged ‘grounds for rejecting’ the Lancet studies to the extent that a recent Guardian news piece claimed that the invasion had led to the deaths of ‘tens of thousands of Iraqis’.

Syria – Dropping Del Ponte

A natural counterpart to the burying of evidence of ‘our’ embarrassing crimes is the hyping of the crimes of official enemies.

Thus, the media would have us believe that as many, or more, people have died in Syria during two years of war than have died in ten years of mass killing in Iraq (the favoured media figure is around 100,000 Iraqis killed). The Times reports ‘as many as 94,000 deaths’ in Syria. (Anthony Loyd, ‘War in Syria has plumbed new depths of barbarity, says UN,’ The Times, June 5, 2013)

Reuters reports:

‘The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR], an opposition group, said on Tuesday that at least 94,000 people have been killed but the death toll is likely to be as high as 120,000.’

Figures supplied by SOHR, an organisation openly biased in favour of the Syrian ‘rebels’ and Western intervention is presented as sober fact by one of the world’s leading news agencies. No concerns here about methodology, sample sizes, ‘main street bias’ and other alleged concerns thrown at the Lancet studies by critics. According to Reuters itself, SOHR consists of a single individual, Rami Abdulrahman, the owner of a clothes shop, who works from his ‘two bedroom terraced home in Coventry’.

As we noted last month, clearly inspired by the example of Iraq, Western governments and media have bombarded the public with claims of Syrian government use of chemical weapons. In April, the Independent’s Robert Fisk judged the claims ‘a load of old cobblers’.

The state-media propaganda campaign was rudely interrupted on May 6 by former Swiss attorney-general Carla Del Ponte, speaking for the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria. Del Ponte said, ‘there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities’.

She added:

‘We have no, no indication at all that the Syrian government have used chemical weapons.’

Lexis finds 15 national UK newspaper articles mentioning Del Ponte’s claims since May 6. There has been one mention since the initial coverage (May 6-8) on May 11, more than one month ago. In other words, this is a good example of the way an unwelcome event is covered by the media but not retained as an integral part of the story.

On May 30, local Turkish media and RT News also reported that Syrian ‘rebels’ had been caught in a sarin gas bomb plot:

‘Turkish security forces found a 2kg cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front who were previously detained, Turkish media reports. The gas was reportedly going to be used in a bomb.’

This was another badly ‘off-message’ story that was again given minimal coverage, not pursued and instantly buried. Lexis records no UK newspaper mentions. A senior journalist told us privately that he and his colleagues felt the story was ‘right’ but that the ‘Turks are closing [it] down.’ (Email to Media Lens, June 7, 2013)

Last week, yet more unsubstantiated claims of possible Syrian government use of sarin generated a front page BBC report with the remarkable headline:

‘World “must act” Over Syria Weapons’

And yet a BBC article indicated the lack of certainty:

‘There is no doubt Syria’s government has used sarin during the country’s crisis, says France’s foreign minister… But he did not specify where or when the agent had been deployed; the White House has said more proof was needed.’

A UK government statement observed merely: ‘There is a growing body of limited but persuasive information showing that the regime used – and continues to use – chemical weapons.’

Readers will recall that intelligence indicating the existence of Iraqi WMD was also said to have been ‘limited but persuasive’.

As Peter Hitchens notes in the Daily Mail, UK government policy is being ‘disgracefully egged on by a BBC that has lost all sense of impartiality’.

The Guardian quoted ‘a senior British official’:

‘Are we confident in our means of collection, and are we confident that it points to the regime’s use of sarin? Yes.’

 Is the case closed, then? The official added: ‘Can we prove it with 100% certainty? Probably not.’

The Guardian also quoted ‘A senior UK official’ who said it ‘appeared possible that Syrian army commanders had been given the green light by the regime to use sarin in small quantities’. ‘Possible’, maybe, but the Guardian failed to explain why anyone would trust ‘a senior UK official’ to comment honestly on Syria, or why anyone would trust an anonymous UK official after Iraq.

Adding to the confusion, the Guardian quoted Paulo Pinheiro, who chairs a UN commission on human rights abuses in Syria. According to Pinheiro it had ‘not been possible, on the evidence available, to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrator’.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC diplomatic correspondent, wrote:

‘This is potentially a game changer: The French government now believes not only that the nerve agent sarin has been used in Syria, but that it was deployed by “the regime and its accomplices”.’

 In a recent interview, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald commented:

‘I approach my journalism as a litigator. People say things, you assume they are lying, and dig for documents to prove it.’

 Perhaps the BBC’s Marcus could take a leaf from Greenwald’s book of journalism and dig for evidence to show that the French government is lying when it says it ‘believes’ that sarin has been used by the Syrian enemy. After all, the US, UK and French governments also ‘believed‘ Iraq was a ‘serious and current’ threat to the world.

Far less gung-ho than the relentlessly warmongering BBC, a Telegraph headline read: ‘US unmoved by French evidence of sarin use in Syria.’

Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, said: ‘I have not seen that evidence that they said that they had and I have not talked to any of our intelligence people about it.’

The US officials’ comments ‘appeared to expose a growing a widening gap between the US and France over how to respond to Syria’s two-year civil war,’ the Telegraph noted.

Libya – Slouching Towards Truth

If the record of government and media lying on Iraq fails to inspire scepticism in regard to claims made about Syria, then we might also consider the example of the Western war on Libya from March-October, 2011.

In his excellent book, Slouching Towards Sirte, Maximilian Forte of Concordia University, Montreal, recalls President Obama’s March 28, 2011 justification for Nato’s military intervention in Libya that had begun on March 19:

‘If we waited one more day, Benghazi… could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.’ (Forte, Slouching Towards Sirte – NATO’s War on Libya and Africa, Baraka Books, digital version, 2012, p.661)

But when French jets bombed Libyan government forces retreating from Benghazi, they attacked a column of 14 tanks, 20 armoured personnel carriers, some trucks and ambulances. Forte comments:

 ’That column clearly could have neither destroyed nor occupied Benghazi, a city of nearly 700,000 people… To date no evidence has been furnished that shows Benghazi would have witnessed the loss of “tens of thousands of lives”.’ (Forte, pp.662-663)

 Professor Alan J. Kuperman, professor of public affairs at the University of Texas, observed:

‘The best evidence that Khadafy did not plan genocide in Benghazi is that he did not perpetrate it in the other cities he had recaptured either fully or partially — including Zawiya, Misurata, and Ajdabiya, which together have a population greater than Benghazi.

‘Libyan forces did kill hundreds as they regained control of cities. Collateral damage is inevitable in counter-insurgency. And strict laws of war may have been exceeded.

 ’But Khadafy’s acts were a far cry from Rwanda, Darfur, Congo, Bosnia, and other killing fields. Libya’s air force, prior to imposition of a UN-authorized no-fly zone, targeted rebel positions, not civilian concentrations. Despite ubiquitous cellphones equipped with cameras and video, there is no graphic evidence of deliberate massacre. Images abound of victims killed or wounded in crossfire — each one a tragedy — but that is urban warfare, not genocide.

 ’Nor did Khadafy ever threaten civilian massacre in Benghazi, as Obama alleged. The “no mercy” warning, of March 17, targeted rebels only, as reported by The New York Times, which noted that Libya’s leader promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away.” Khadafy even offered the rebels an escape route and open border to Egypt, to avoid a fight “to the bitter end.”‘

 On February 23, 2011, just days into the Libyan uprising, Amnesty International sparked a media frenzy when it began condemning Libyan government actions, noting ‘persistent reports of mercenaries being brought in from African countries by the Libyan leader to violently suppress the protests against him’.

A few days later, Human Rights Watch reported that they had ‘seen no evidence of mercenaries being used in eastern Libya. This contradicts widespread earlier reports in the international media that African soldiers had been flown in to fight rebels in the region as Muammar Gaddafi sought to keep control’.

Genevieve Garrigos, president of Amnesty International France, later commented:

‘Today we have to admit that we have no evidence that Gaddafi employed mercenary forces… we have no sign nor evidence to corroborate these rumours.’ (Forte, p.685)

Garrigos repeated that Amnesty’s investigators never found any ‘mercenaries,’ agreeing that their existence was a ‘legend’ spread by the mass media.

Forte describes ‘the revolving door between Amnesty International-USA and the US State department’. In November 2011, Amnesty International-USA appointed Suzanne Nossel as its executive director. From August 2009 to November 2011, Nossel had been the US State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of International Organisation Affairs.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, caused more outrage when he told the world’s media that there was ‘evidence’ that Gaddafi had distributed Viagra to his troops in order ‘to enhance the possibility to rape’ and that Gaddafi had ordered mass rape. Moreno-Ocampo insisted:

‘We are getting information that Qaddafi himself decided to rape’ and that ‘we have information that there was a policy to rape in Libya those who were against the government’.

US Ambassador Susan Rice also asserted that Gaddafi was supplying his troops with Viagra to encourage mass rape. No evidence was supplied.

Forte notes that US military and intelligence sources quickly contradicted Rice, telling NBC News that ‘there is no evidence that Libyan military forces are being given Viagra and engaging in systematic rape against women in rebel areas’.

Cherif Bassiouni, who led a UN human rights inquiry into the situation in Libya, suggested that the Viagra and mass rape claim was the product of ‘massive hysteria’. Bassiouni’s team ‘uncovered only four alleged cases’ of rape and sexual abuse.

As Forte writes with bitter irony, the propaganda surrounding the Libyan war demands ‘vigilance and scepticism in the face of the heady claims of our own inherent goodness which can only find its highest expression in the form of aerial bombardment’. (Forte, pp.69-70)

Alas, vigilance and scepticism are in short supply within the corporate media.

by Kevin Grandia

Keystone is an “export pipeline” that would transport toxic tar sands from Alberta down to a tax-free zone in Texas and out to foreign markets.

In other words, the EU, China and Latin America get the oil, the foreign-owned oil companies get the profits and North Americans are left cleaning up oil spills and shouldering the pollution burden from extracting and refining the dirty tar sands. It’s a complicated issue for sure, so I’ve tried to break out the main points in an infographic. Please feel free to download and share it. All the information has been fact-checked and verified by energy policy experts.

Here is the high-resolution version for download.

Taking into account the fundamental data from the U.S. and global oil markets, the Texas refineries processing the diluted bitumen, and the commitment of oil companies to selling their product for the best price internationally, it is easy to claim that Keystone XL offers greater energy security and economic growth, just not in America.

Europe, China and Latin America will have more energy security thanks to a massive fuel pipeline they can tap as long as they’re willing to pay. Additionally, oil companies will have a new bounty of profit to play with.

Yes, some of that will fall back into American hands, but not as much as if the majority of the products refined in Texas were sold in America, or if the refineries were not located in a Foreign Trade Zone and had to actually pay a tax on their products. As for the promise of new jobs, there is a short-term influx of cash for constructing the pipeline, but the latest estimates find that there will only be about 35 permanent jobs over the long term.

These pipelines, once built, demand very little maintenance. That is, of course, until there is an oil spill.

In making the final decision on whether to approve the Keystone Xl pipeline, it comes down to whether President Obama is comfortable with further enriching big oil companies that are already the most wealthy companies in the world, for the long-term pay off of 35 permanent jobs and the oil spills that will inevitably occur.

With the significant costs to American public health from refinery pollution, threats to water supplies from oil spills, and the implications that tar sands expansion has for global climate disruption, it seems like a no-brainer to me.

Prisons Full of Innocents

June 20th, 2013 by David Swanson

There are probably more innocent men and women in prison in the United States now than there were people in prison here total — innocent and guilty — 30 years ago, or than there are total people in prison (proportionately or as an absolute number) in most nations on earth.

I don’t mean that people are locked up for actions that shouldn’t be considered crimes, although they are.  I don’t mean that people are policed and indicted and prosecuted by a racist system that makes some people far more likely to end up in prison than other people guilty of the same actions, although that is true, just as it’s also true that the justice system works better for the wealthy than for the poor.  I am referring rather to men (it’s mostly men) who have been wrongly convicted of crimes they simply did not commit.  I’m not even counting Guantanamo or Bagram or immigrants’ prisons.  I’m talking about the prisons just up the road, full of people from just down the road.

I don’t know whether wrongful convictions have increased as a percentage of convictions.  What has indisputably increased is the number of convictions and the lengths of sentences.  The prison population has skyrocketed.  It’s multiplied several fold.  And it’s done so during a political climate that has rewarded legislators, judges, prosecutors, and police for locking people up — and not for preventing the conviction of innocents.  This growth does not correlate in any way with an underlying growth in crime.

At the same time, evidence has emerged of a pattern of wrongful convictions.  This emerging evidence is largely the result of prosecutions during the 1980s, primarily for rape but also for murder, before DNA testing had come into its own, but when evidence (including semen and blood) was sometimes preserved.  Other factors have contributed: messy murderers, rapists who didn’t use condoms, advances in DNA science that helps to convict the guilty as well as to free the innocent, avenues for appeal that were in some ways wider before the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, and the heroic work of a relative handful of people.

An examination of the plea bargains and trials that put people behind bars ought to make clear to anyone that many of those convicted are innocent.  But DNA exonerations have opened a lot of eyes to that fact.  The trouble is that most convicts do not have anything that can be tested for DNA to prove their guilt or innocence.  Here are 1,138 documented exonerations out of that tiny fraction of the overall prison population for which there was evidence to test.  One study found that 6% of these prisoners are innocent.  If you could extrapolate that to the whole population you’d be talking about 136,000 innocent people in U.S. prisons today.  In the 1990s, a federal inquiry found that DNA testing, then new, was clearing 25% of primary suspects.  You do the math.

Of course you can’t simply do the math, because wrongful convictions could be higher or lower for the available sample than for all prisoners.  What we can be sure of is that we are talking about a large number of people whose lives (and the lives of their loved ones) have been ruined — not to mention the lives of additional victims of actual criminals left free.

One way to be fairly sure that the rate of wrongful conviction carries over, at least very roughly, to a variety of criminal prosecutions is to examine how those convictions came about.  Brandon Garrett’s Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong examines the prosecutions of the first 250 people exonerated by DNA testing.  Garrett finds broad systemic problems that could be remedied but largely have not been.

Of the 250, 76% were misidentified by an eyewitness — most of the witnesses having been led to that act by police and/or prosecutor, some of them badgered and threatened, others merely manipulated.  Invalid forensic science expertise contributed to 61% of the convictions, much of it willfully manipulated, some fraction perhaps attributable to well-intentioned but negligent incompetence.  Informants, mostly jailhouse informants, and most of them manipulated and bribed by police or prosecutor, helped out in 21% of the trials.  In 16% of the cases, the accused supposedly confessed to the crime, but these “confessions” tended to be the result of police intimidation, manipulation, brutality, and simple lying.  Garrett fears that similar problems infect the U.S. justice system as a whole.

Garrett focuses on problems in policy and perspective.  People who believe all eyewitnesses are correct and truthful can mean well and nonetheless get an important point wrong.  People who aren’t aware that false confessions exist won’t look for them.  But people unaware of such things are not typically part of the criminal justice system, where awareness of these problems is built in but steamrolled over.  Judges ask whether witnesses were improperly led to misidentify a witness, but care little for the answers they receive.  While Garrett begins and ends his book by claiming that pretty much everyone means well, the intervening pages grown under the weight of endless malevolence.  In reading the book, I found myself over and over again scribbling “Did this guy mean well?” in the margin.

Do police feeding a false confession to their victim mean well?  When they falsely report on that procedure to a court do they mean well?  When they use tape recorders but shut them off each time they feed the prisoner new facts, do they mean well?  When they hide evidence?  When they destroy evidence?  When they stack lineups and pressure witnesses to make identifications?  When they hypnotize witnesses?  When the prosecutor employs junk science and knowingly makes false claims about it?  When simple procedures to avoid bias are known but avoided?  When expert witnesses lie for a living?  When crime labs alter reports to coverup exculpatory evidence?  When police or prosecutors bribe other convicts or codefendants to testify and tell them what to say, but lie about that procedure?  When the defense is denied competent counsel or the ability to call witnesses?  When the judge effectively acts as part of the prosecution?  When jurors pressure and threaten a fellow juror to vote “guilty”?

“It is almost unheard of for prosecutors to be disciplined or sanctioned for misconduct,” writes Garrett, who is no doubt also familiar with this saying: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Garrett believes that serious reforms are needed, and points to North Carolina where a commission has been set up to aid in freeing and not convicting the innocent.  If you imagine that that’s what appeals courts are for, read how they handled these 250 cases.  In 23 cases, the victim was tried more than once for the same crime.  One in a blue moon the system works and frees an innocent — just often enough to keep hope floating out there like a lottery ticket in the distance.  Even when DNA clears a prisoner, a prosecutor may propose to try him again, and then do nothing for years while he rots in prison waiting.  North Carolina has passed legislation reforming procedures for eyewitnesses, requiring the recording of interrogations, enhancing the preservation of evidence and access to DNA testing, etc.

But one of the major reforms needed is clearly a reform of attitude.  And that probably will come more quickly if we recognize what current attitudes are.  Jurors and judges should be aware of how often many prosecutors and police officers pursue conviction at the expense of the truth.  They should not prejudge in that direction any more than in the other, but they should be aware of what they are up against.  If, as a society, we valued the freedom of innocents as much as the punishment of the guilty, we would treat judges and prosecutors and defense attorneys and police differently.  We would reward protection of the innocent as much as convictions.  A “successful” prosecution would be redefined as one that, first, did no harm.  The police officer who found an alibi for a suspect would be praised and promoted just like the officer who found evidence of his guilt.  A defendant might even someday find it possible to gain representation from an attorney who at least pretended to believe in at least the possibility of his innocence, and who behaved accordingly.

In the meantime, we are generating and compounding tragedies by the thousands.  When James O’Donnell was wrongly convicted, he exploded with anger and cursed the judge and jury.  Then he composed himself and said, “I am really sorry for my outburst.  I tried to be as civil as possible.  I would never do a crime like this.  And my life is over now as I know it, my wife and kids’ life.  I don’t understand how the jury did this to me.  It’s really not right, what they did.  I was home in bed.  I was sleeping.  I would never hit a woman.  I have a wife.  I never hit my kids, ever.  I never forced a woman to do anything in my whole life.  That’s the God’s honest truth . . . It’s just — I’m very sorry for my outburst.  Don’t take my life away, please.”

David Swanson’s books include “War Is A Lie.” He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook

Passed in 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) set the groundwork for surveillance, collection, and analysis of intelligence gathered from foreign powers and agents of foreign powers, up to and including any individual residing within the U.S., who were suspected of involvement in potential terrorist activity.  On October 26, 2001, a little over a month after 9/11, President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law. Two provisions, Sec. 206, permitting government to obtain secret court orders allowing roving wiretaps without requiring identification of the person, organization, or facility to be surveyed, and Sec. 215 authorizing government to access and obtain “any tangible thing” relevant to a terrorist investigation, transformed foreign intelligence into domestic intelligence.

NDAA 2014 builds on the powers granted by both the Patriot Act and FISA by allowing unrestricted analysis and research of captured records pertaining to any organization or individual “now or once hostile to the United States”.  Under the Patriot Act, the ability to obtain “any tangible thing” eliminated any expectation of privacy.  Under NDAA 2014 Sec. 1061(g)(1), an overly vague definition of captured records enhances government power and guarantees indefinite surveillance.

On May 22, 2013 the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, one of several Armed Services Committees, met to discuss the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014.  The main subject of the hearing was Sec. 1061, otherwise known as Enhancement of Capacity of the United States Government to Analyze Captured Records. This enhancement provision of   NDAA 2014 would effectively create a new intelligence agency, one with the authority to analyze information gained under the Patriot Act, FISA, and known spying programs such as PRISM.

Sec. 1061(a) authorizes the Secretary of Defense to “establish a center to be known as the ‘Conflict Records Research Center’” (Center). The main purpose of the center, according to the bill text, is to create a “digital research database,” one with the capability to “translate” and facilitate research on “records captured from countries, organizations and individuals, now or once hostile to the United States.” The authorization also says the Center will conduct research and analysis to “increase the understanding of factors related to international relations, counterterrorism and conventional and unconventional warfare, and ultimately, enhance national security.”

In order to make the Center run, and to accomplish such an incredibly broad scope of “research and analysis,” the Secretary of Defense needs the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to cooperate in coordinating “information exchanges important to the leadership of the United States Government”.   That coordination would require participation of all 16 member agencies and departments of the U.S. Intelligence Community.  This would leave James Clapper, the man accused of lying to Congress about the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program known as PRISM, in de facto direction of another federal surveillance and data analysis agency.  And while the Center would be officially directed and overseen by the Secretary of Defense, without unfettered access to secret and top secret information, the Center would be completely ineffective.  These information exchanges would most likely include data and records generated by the mass surveillance of everyday people under PRISM, as well as surveillance of those identified as “potential terrorists” or “high value targets” by any one of those 16 intelligence agencies now in operation.

The proposed Center’s information exchanges rely on captured government records.  Under the NDAA 2014, Sec. 1061(g)(1), a captured record is defined as “a document, audio file, video file, or other material captured during combat operations from countries, organizations, or individuals, now or once hostile to the United States.”  But considering that the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) allows the “War on Terror” to exist in a perpetual and permanent state of combat operations, and that the American public is already existing under an expansive surveillance state, any record may qualify as a “captured record.” Thus, any captured document, audio file, video file, or other material could potentially be submitted to this new intelligence agency for research and analysis, all in the name of national security and counterterrorism, as deemed appropriate by a swelling government surveillance class.

The NDAA 2014 enhancement provision extends and consolidates the government’s authority to further gather and analyze records and data captured during any national security or terrorist related investigation, not just combat operations. But it does so without creating any explicit restriction from violating an individual’s right to privacy, from being subjected to unwarranted searches and seizures, or due process of individuals guaranteed by the Constitution. That’s eerily similar to the NDAA 2013 Sec. 1021 that codified the indefinite military detention of American citizens without requiring they be charged with a specific crime, or given a trial.

Under NDAA 2013, Sec. 1021 allowed the military detention of civilians without a writ of habeas corpus, when a person “was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.” Under NDAA 2014, anyone is now subject to surveillance, not based on support of al-Qaeda or its associated forces, but based merely upon whether or not an individual is, or once was hostile to the U.S.  The question of what constitutes “hostility”, is left completely unanswered.

The new enhancement provision, as well as the previous NDAA’s indefinite detention mandate, goes to show how far the legislation has strayed from its stated purpose. According to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA), the NDAA “authorizes funding for military activities of the Department of Defense, for military construction, for defense activities of the Department of Energy, to prescribe military personnel strengths, and for other purposes.”

Instead, the NDAA has become the vehicle for the Executive Branch and Department of Defense to bypass Congress, and legislate away any perceived right, liberty, or privilege that conflicts with our current state of permanent war and indefinite surveillance.

In 2012, in an attempt to stop that “indefinite detention” provision, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced an amendment that would have prohibited the government from detaining citizens indefinitely using military force.  That proposed law, otherwise known as the “Feinstein Amendment” easily passed the Senate floor, but was later removed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI).  After removal of the only specific language that would guarantee the US Government would be prohibited from interpreting the act illegally; President Obama, also a Democrat, signed NDAA 2013 into law.

If passed in its current state, NDAA 2014 would authorize approximately $552 billion in total defense spending, with $86 billion going directly to war spending.  This amount exceeds what is allowed under the automatic austerity measures that went into effect as of March 1, 2013.  According to a report released in April 2013 by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, “[i]f personnel, operation and maintenance costs keep rising, they may consume the “entire defense budget” by 2024, leaving no funding for weapons procurement, military construction or family housing.”  Any program created by the Enhancement Provision of NDAA 2014 would necessarily burden an already overwhelmed working class, who are most affected by austerity.

While the National Security Agency swears that no citizen was spied on under PRISM, the very fact that cell phone metadata and online activity was gathered from millions of individuals guarantees that information was taken illegally from innocent people .  We’re told that the government is attempting to minimize the amount of information captured from Americans, and that all of that information is being kept in specialized and restricted servers in order to protect our constitutional rights.  But that’s difficult to believe when the Department of Justice is currently fighting the release of a secret FISA Court opinion that details unconstitutional government surveillance.

If indefinite detention became the primary reason for opposing NDAA 2013, then the enhance provision authorizing unlimited indefinite surveillance, may become the same issue for NDAA 2014.  If passed in its current state, NDAA 2014 will further guarantee that people exist not only under indefinite detention and permanent war, but also under indefinite surveillance by its government.

In his book, ‘Propaganda’, published in 1928, Edward Bernays wrote: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

The American nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays invented the term “public relations” as a euphemism for state propaganda. He warned that an enduring threat to the invisible government was the truth-teller and an enlightened public.

In 1971, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked US government files known as The Pentagon Papers, revealing that the invasion of Vietnam was based on systematic lying. Four years later, Frank Church conducted sensational hearings in the US Senate: one of the last flickers of American democracy. These laid bare the full extent of the invisible government: the domestic spying and subversion and warmongering by intelligence and “security” agencies and the backing they received from big business and the media, both conservative and liberal.

Speaking about the National Security Agency (NSA), Senator Church said: “I know that the capacity that there is to make tyranny in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law… so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

On 11 June 2013, following the revelations in the Guardian by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg wrote that the US had now fallen into “that abyss”.

Snowden’s revelation that Washington has used Google, Facebook, Apple and other giants of consumer technology to spy on almost everyone, is further evidence of modern form of fascism –  that is the “abyss”. Having nurtured old-fashioned fascists around the world – from Latin America to Africa and Indonesia – the genie has risen at home. Understanding this is as important as understanding the criminal abuse of technology.

Fred Branfman, who exposed the “secret” destruction of tiny Laos by the US Air Force in the 1960s and 70s, provides an answer to those who still wonder how a liberal African-American president, a professor of constitutional law, can command such lawlessness. “Under Mr. Obama,” he wrote, “no president has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police state.” Why? Because Obama, like George W Bush, understands that his role is not to indulge those who voted for him but to expand “the most powerful institution in the history of the world, one that has killed, wounded or made homeless well over 20 million human beings, mostly civilians, since 1962.”

In the new American cyber-power, only the revolving doors have changed. The director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, was adviser to Condaleeza Rice, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration who lied that Saddam Hussein could attack the US with nuclear weapons. Cohen and Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt – they met in the ruins of Iraq – have co-authored a book, The New Digital Age, endorsed as visionary by the former CIA director Michael Hayden and the war criminals Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair. The authors make no mention of the Prism spying programme, revealed by Edward Snowden, that provides the NSA access to all of us who use Google.

Control and dominance are the two words that make sense of this. These are exercised by political, economic and military designs, of which mass surveillance is an essential part, but also by insinuating propaganda in the public consciousness. This was Edward Bernays’s point. His two most successful PR campaigns were convincing Americans they should go to war in 1917 and persuading women to smoke in public; cigarettes were “torches of freedom” that would hasten women’s liberation.

It is in popular culture that the fraudulent “ideal” of America as morally superior, a “leader of the free world”, has been most effective. Yet, even during Hollywood’s most jingoistic periods there were exceptional films, like those of the exile Stanley Kubrick, and adventurous European films would have US distributors. These days, there is no Kubrick, no Strangelove, and the US market is almost closed to foreign films.

When I showed my own film, ‘The War on Democracy’, to a major, liberally-minded US distributor, I was handed a laundry list of changes required, to “ensure the movie is acceptable”. His memorable sop to me was: “OK, maybe we could drop in Sean Penn as narrator. Would that satisfy you?” Lately, Katherine Bigelow’s torture-apologising ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ and Alex Gibney’s ‘We Steal Secrets’, a cinematic hatchet job on Julian Assange, were made with generous backing by Universal Studios, whose parent company until recently was General Electric. GE manufactures weapons, components for fighter aircraft and advance surveillance technology. The company also has lucrative interests in “liberated” Iraq.

The power of truth-tellers like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden is that they dispel a whole mythology carefully constructed by the corporate cinema, the corporate academy and the corporate media. WikiLeaks is especially dangerous because it provides truth-tellers with a means to get the truth out. This was achieved by ‘Collatoral Damage’, the cockpit video of an US Apache helicopter allegedly leaked by Bradley Manning. The impact of this one video marked Manning and Assange for state vengeance. Here were US airmen murdering journalists and maiming children in a Baghdad street, clearly enjoying it, and describing their atrocity as “nice”. Yet, in one vital sense, they did not get away with it; we are witnesses now, and the rest is up to us.
This article first appeared in the New Statesman

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