World financial markets enter 2015 with a series of potential triggers for the eruption of instability and turbulence.

The year has ended with Greece back in the spotlight following the calling of an early general election after Prime Minister Antonis Samaras failed in his third attempt to win parliamentary backing for his chosen candidate for president.

The election will be held on January 25, with polls predicting that the pseudo-left SYRIZA party (Coalition of the Radical Left) will win the ballot. It has led opinion polls consistently over past months, though the gap has narrowed more recently.

The new government’s central task will be to finalise a bailout and austerity agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission. The so-called troika has already dictated savage spending cuts that have resulted in a 25 percent fall in gross domestic product since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.

In 2012 the prospect of a SYRIZA government and political instability caused considerable financial turbulence, raising the prospect of a Greek exit from the euro zone and financial contagion extending to other countries, most notably Spain, Portugal and Italy.

But financial markets appeared to take Monday’s announcement of a general election in their stride as SYRIZA has made it clear in repeated statements and assurances by its leader Alexis Tsipras that it is no threat to the ruling US and European financial elites. The party no longer talks about “debt default” but insists instead that it is for “debt renegotiation.”

Summing up the position of financial markets, the chief European economist of JPMorgan Chase in London, David Mackie, said: “Our judgment is that the region [meaning the troika] will take a tough line with the SYRIZA-led government. Ultimately SYRIZA, will trim its ambitions in order to ensure that it can remain in the monetary union.” Other analysts voiced the same opinion.

But there are concerns that all may not be smooth sailing. Bloomberg cited remarks by Holger Schmieding, the chief economist at the Berenberg bank in London, that there was “a risk of about 30 percent that Greece may descend into a new deep crisis with potential euro exit, beyond the inevitable bout of near-term uncertainty now.”

The ECB, which has played a central role in imposing poverty and misery on the Greek people through a series of diktats, responded to the election announcement with a cynical statement. “It’s now for the Greek electorate to decide about the future composition of the parliament and the government. We will not interfere in or comment on this democratic process,” it said.

While the prospect of a SYRIZA government in itself holds no fears for financial markets, there are concerns in ruling circles that its election could be the beginning of struggles by the working class, which SYRIZA would not be able to contain.

These concerns were voiced by Financial Times commentator Gideon Rachman in a column published on Monday describing the euro zone’s voters as its “weakest link.” He raised the prospect that if “voters revolt against economic austerity” then the “whole delicate house of cards of debt bailouts and austerity” could begin to wobble.

Another potential source of instability is the divergence between the policies of the world’s major central banks.

Next year, the US Federal Reserve is set to begin tightening official interest rates, although, as Fed chair Janet Yellen has made clear, it will be “patient” so as not to precipitously cut off financial speculators from their supply of ultra-cheap cash.

But while the Fed begins tightening, however slowly, the ECB and the Bank of Japan are moving in the other direction.

The ECB is due to meet on January 22, when it is expected to take further steps towards full-scale quantitative easing involving the purchase of government debt. The Bank of Japan will continue to expand its asset purchases—even higher relative to the size of the economy than those undertaken by the Fed—in line with the program of “Abenomics.”

Rising US interest rates are likely to be most keenly felt in “emerging markets” where dollar-denominated debt has risen sharply over the past five years. An increase in US rates and a rise in the value of the American dollar raises the real level of both debt and interest payments.

Bloomberg has reported that emerging-market distressed debt losses this month were at their worst level since the global financial crisis. An index compiled by Bank of America Merrill Lynch fell by 13.4 percent in its worst monthly performance since October 2008, with the decline in 2014 as a whole also the worst for six years.

The worst performing currency among emerging markets is the Russian rouble. It has declined 37 percent this year as a result of the halving of oil prices over the past six months and the impact of economic and financial sanctions imposed by the US and the EU.

The Russian economy contracted by 0.5 percent in November compared to the same month last year in what seems certain to be the start of a slide into recession. In the first 11 months of this year, the economy grew by only 0.6 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

The Russian central bank has forecast that the economy will contract by 4.5 percent if oil prices continue to remain at their present level of around $60 per barrel. And the recession will be even deeper if the oil price resumes its fall.

The chief economist at the ING Bank in Moscow, Dmitry Polevoy, told the Financial Times that the worsening situation was the result of sanctions, oil prices and the market panic, which saw a plunge in the rouble earlier this month. “There is no cause for optimism,” he said.

While there is something of an uptick in the US economy, the worsening situation in the rest of the world—continuing stagnation in Europe, recession in Japan and lower growth in China—coupled with financial instability in emerging markets could rapidly impact on both US and global markets in the near future.

“Ambush Recharges Debate,” declares the front page of USA Today (12/22/14), a headline over a story about the killing of New York police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The “debate” being recharged is presumably linked to the national protests against police brutality–protests that are in no way connected to this brutal murder.

USA Today‘s contribution to this debate is to encourage readers to think that murders of police officers like these is becoming more common. A front-page graphic is titled “POLICE DEATHS ON THE RISE,” and it shows that overall police deaths increased from 100 last year to 123 this year. The increase is more dramatic when isolating police deaths by firearms: 31 deaths in 2013 and 49 this year.

The paper is very much invested in this storyline; on page 3 the paper runs astory headlined, “Ambush Killings Are Not Uncommon,” citing the same statistics.

But these statistics are highly misleading–in part because police deaths are not the same thing as police murders. As Vox (12/22/14) points out, data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report show that felonious killings of police officers average between 40 and 70 per year; in most years, slightly more officers are killed accidentally.

Vox‘s chart on police killings looks much different.

In the year 2013, Vox notes, many fewer officers were killed than usual–so using it as half of a two-year comparison gives a false view of the overall trend, which is basically steady.

Indeed, USA Today appears to know that comparing just two years is problematic. It notes that officer deaths “have been subject to dramatic swings over the years.”

USA Today zeroes in on the last two years to suggest a trend.

The FBI numbers differ from the data the paper is using from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. But the trend is the same; the group counted 100 officer deaths in 2013, which was the lowest total in 50 years.

USA Today could have averaged several recent years to see if there was a meaningful trend. But they would have determined that this year was not unusually deadly for police officers; in the 10 most recent years (2004-13), the average number of total deaths was 150.

But instead of doing that, the newspaper decided to make a front-page graphic that only feeds the narrative that police officers are under attack.

The massive upsurge of Israeli violence against Palestinians is invisible to The New York Times. (Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Two recent stories in The New York Times involve violence against Palestinian and Israeli children. But it is striking how differently the stories are treated based on the identity of the victim.

The first, from today, is headlined “Israeli Girl Severely Wounded in Firebomb Attack in West Bank.” The second, from November, is headlined “Palestinian Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border.” Both are by Isabel Kershner.

Today’s report begins:

JERUSALEM — An 11-year-old Israeli girl was severely wounded on Thursday when a firebomb was thrown at the car in which she was traveling with her father in the West Bank, the Israeli military said.

Troops were searching for the assailants, believed to be Palestinians, in the area of the attack, near the Jewish settlement of El Matan.

The report names the girl – Ayala Shapira – and describes “third-degree burns on her face and upper torso” and says that her wounds were “life-threatening.”

 

Note how Kershner says the assailants are “believed to be” Palestinians – belief, not evidence. She also names the girl’s father and says he suffered light injuries, and quotes her mother.

The report then provides this, presumably as context:

There has been an uptick in Palestinian attacks against Israelis in recent weeks, including deadly assaults in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The violence has been fanned in part by a dispute over a revered holy site in Jerusalem.

Nowhere does the report state that there has been relentless violence by Israeli occupation forces and settlers against Palestinians.

The mention of a “revered holy site” also suggests the violence is religious and irrational in nature. It also erases the fact that Palestinians are subject to systematic Israeli violence, including ongoing home demolitions, forced displacement and land theft.

The tension over the “revered holy site” – Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque – is the consequence of incursions by Israeli extremists, backed by the government, whoseultimate goal is to destroy it.

Huge surge in Israeli violence

In fact, though you wouldn’t know it from The New York Times, there has been a huge surge in violence against Palestinians.

“Palestinian civilians across the [occupied Palestinian territories] continue to be subject to various threats to their life, physical safety and liberty,” says the United Nations monitoring group OCHA in a year-end summary.

This year “witnessed the highest Palestinian casualty toll since 1967, primarily due to hostilities in Gaza,” OCHA adds.

But in the West Bank, too, there was a huge increase in Israeli violence: this year to date 49 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, almost double the number from last year, OCHA reports.

Ten of those killed in the West Bank were Palestinian children shot with live ammunition by Israeli occupation forces.

A staggering 5,771 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank this year, two thousand more than last year.

According to OCHA, Israel carried out an average of 96 “search and arrest” raids every week during the year, up from 75 per week in 2013. These assaults often take the form of night raids on homes, terrorizing entire families and communities.

This huge “uptick” in Israeli violence is invisible to The New York Times.

Boy shot in face

On Wednesday, a Palestinian boy aged five was shot in the face by Israeli occupation forces with a rubber-coated steel bullet, causing serious injuries.

The shooting occurred when Muhammad Jamal Ubeid and his fourteen-year-old sister were getting off a school bus in the eastern occupied Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiyeh.

This tweet by Russia Today correspondent Paula Slier shows the boy in hospital with his parents, following surgery:

 

Just as this post was about to be published, Kershner filed a second report today, on an alleged stabbing of two Israeli police by a Palestinian in occupied Jerusalem.

It repeats the assertion that there has been a “recent increase in Palestinian attacks against Israelis.”

But Kershner found no room to mention the shooting of Muhammad Jamal Ubeid. (Update: shortly before this post was published, the Times published an AP report on its website about the stabbing of the Israeli police – the second on the same topic – which does mention the shooting of Ubeid. But it still does not appear in Kershner’s reports.)

“Palestinian” shot

Now let’s look at the other New York Times headline. It dates from 16 November: “Palestinian Shot by Israeli Troops at Gaza Border.”

Kershner’s report begins:

JERUSALEM — Israeli forces patrolling the border with the Gaza Strip shot and wounded a Palestinian as he approached the border fence on Sunday and took him to an Israeli hospital, according to the military. A spokeswoman for the hospital said the Palestinian was a 10-year-old boy.

Israel’s border with Gaza has remained tense but relatively calm since Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that dominates the Palestinian coastal enclave, agreed to an open-ended cease-fire in late August after a 50-day war.

When you read the report, you learn that the “Palestinian” is reported to be a young boy. But the headline doesn’t say “Palestinian boy” the way today’s headline states “Israeli girl.”

Kershner relays the myth – or lie, if you will – that the situation in Gaza had been “relatively calm” since the 26 August ceasefire. In fact, Israel has been violating the ceasefire and firing on Palestinians there almost every day.

The boy is anonymous and we do not hear from his mother or father. But we learn he was taken to a hospital in Israel. The report continues:

A military spokeswoman, speaking on the condition of anonymity under army rules, said the troops spotted “a suspicious figure” approaching the fence, called on him to stop, and when he ignored the warnings they fired in the air and then at his lower body.

Here’s what Kershner provides, again presumably, for context:

A number of Palestinians have been arrested after crossing the border in the months since the cease-fire came into effect, including one in September who was found to have a knife.

In Jerusalem on Sunday, the police said they were searching for the assailant who stabbed a 32-year-old Israeli man with a screwdriver. The Israeli was being treated at a hospital.

Searching in the weekly reports from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, I found this incident on 16 November, which seems to most closely match the New York Timesreport, except that the age of the boy is 15, not ten:

 At approximately 14:15, Israeli forces stationed along the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, opened fire at Atiyah Fathi Atiyah al-Nabahin (15) living in the camp when he tried to infiltrate into Israel via the border fence. As a result, he was hit by a bullet to the neck and taken to Soroko Hospital in Beersheba. His injury was described as serious and he is still at the hospital receiving treatment.

Why Palestinians flee Gaza

It’s very likely al-Nabahin was trying to get across the fence to find work, or simply escape the dire situation in Gaza.

But The New York Times report places the entry attempt in the context of threats to Israel and attacks on Israelis and not the catastrophic and unprecedented violence that Israel has visited on Palestinians in Gaza.

The massive death and destruction and the economic depression caused by the ongoing siege are forcing Palestinians to risk their lives to flee Gaza in ever larger numbers, as the Israeli daily Haaretz has reported.

They risk their lives to flee by sea, where hundreds have perished or been deliberately drowned this year.

And increasing numbers risk their lives to flee across the Israeli fortifications – where like other escapees from history’s ghettos and internment camps – they risk being shot from watchtowers and patrols.

Indeed, reports state that two more Palestinians were shot trying to escape Gaza today.

None of this context was mentioned in The New York Times’ report.

The Times has to keep telling itself and its readers that Palestinians in general and those in Gaza in particular are the “threat” and Israel is playing defense.

That an entire population is being kept in a ghetto in Gaza, sealed off from the world and subjected to an incremental genocide, just to protect Israel’s alleged Jewish character, is, for many, a reality too awful to contemplate.

Those wishing to shield themselves from such truths should continue reading The New York Times.

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a December 30th Oval Office interview with Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio, that, “wherever we have been involved over the last several years, I think the outcome has been better because of American leadership.” This statement from him was part of his answer when Inskeep asked whether the President had regrets about “overthrowing the Gadhafi regime” in Libya.

Obama answered:

“We are hugely influential; we’re the one indispensable nation. But when it comes to nation-building, when it comes to what is going to be a generational project in a place like Libya or a place like Syria or a place like Iraq, we can help, but we can’t do it for them.” In other words: the Libyan people failed, and the Syrian people failed, and the Iraqi people failed, according to America’s President — but he himself and his predecessor Bush did not fail by bombing those countries under false pretenses as they did.

Obama then pivoted into a direct criticism of Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. He started his attack here by praising himself for “having some strategic patience. You’ll recall that three or four months ago, everybody in Washington was convinced that President Putin was a genius.” Obama was suggesting that the real genius was himself, for his “strategic patience.”

Inskeep (who apparently was ignorant that the people of Crimea had always opposed the donation of Crimea from Russia to Ukraine by Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954, and who was also ignorant that Crimeans in March 2014 were delighted to be reunited again with Russia and had not been “taken” by Russia but were instead saved by Russia from the fate that befell Donbass) interjected, there, for clarification to his listeners, that Obama meant that Putin was thought to be a “genius” “for taking Crimea.” Inskeep was here trying to help Obama by clarifying Obama’s anti-Putin reference in his “genius” term; and, by doing so, Inskeep falsely assumed that Crimea had been seized, against the will of Crimeans.

The President skillfully built upon Inskeep’s ignorance, and anti-Russian bias, here, by playing along with Inskeep’s false intrinsic assumption, and by continuing directly from it in such a way as to present himself as being the real “genius”; he asserted, “And he had outmaneuvered all of us and he had, you know, bullied and, you know, strategized his way into expanding Russian power. And I said at the time we don’t want war with Russia [even though his February 2014 anti-Russian coup in Ukraine and actions afterwards show otherwise] but we can apply steady pressure working with our European partners, being the backbone of an international coalition to oppose Russia’s violation of another country’s sovereignty [as if it weren’t the case that two recent Gallup polls in Crimea showed an overwhelming public support there for leaving Ukraine and for reuniting with Russia, and as if it weren’t the case that America’s takeover of Ukraine on Russia’s border hadn’t been the aggressive act here], and that over time, this would be a strategic mistake by Russia [when, in fact, Obama knows quite well that the people he installed in his February coup in Ukraine had already been initiating the process to kick out of Crimea, Russia’s crucial Black Sea Fleet, which had been stationed there since 1783, and that this reversal of Khrushchev's 1954 gift of Crimea to Ukraine was crucial for Russia's own national security]. And today, you know, I’d sense that at least outside of Russia [such as among the trusting listeners to NPR], maybe some people are thinking what Putin did wasn’t so smart [when Obama knows quite well that what Putin did by his re-absorbing Crimea back into Russia was actually vital to Russian national security under the circumstances of Obama’s February coup in Ukraine].”

Inskeep responded to Obama’s distortions, with what he perhaps hoped his listeners would think to be a challenging question to the President: “Are you just lucky that the price of oil went down and therefore their currency collapsed or … is it something that you did?” Inskeep was apparently quite ignorant there that Obama’s Secretary of State had met in Riyadh with the Saudi King on September 11th is widely viewed as having actually produced the King’s decision to flood oil markets in order to drive oil prices so low as to cripple Russia’s economy, so that Inskeep’s question here was assuming a non-existent polarity, in any case (between the sanctions from Obama, vs. the falling oil-price, which was supposedly not from Obama).

Obama answered Inskeep’s ignorance there by triumphantly bragging against Putin:

“If you’ll recall, their economy was already contracting and capital was fleeing even before oil collapsed. And part of our rationale in this process was that the only thing keeping that economy afloat was the price of oil. [Actually,Russia’s economy under Putin had been growing much faster than had the U.S. economy under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama regime.] And if, in fact, we were steady in applying sanction pressure, which we have been, that over time it would make the economy of Russia sufficiently vulnerable that if and when there were disruptions with respect to the price of oil — which, inevitably, there are going to be sometime, if not this year then next year or the year after [which also is a lie from him because the current low oil price is the engineered price, and even the Saudis will have to quit doing it within a few years] — that they’d have enormous difficulty managing it. I say that, not to suggest that we’ve solved Ukraine [by producing the civil war there?], but I’m saying that to give an indication that when it comes to the international stage, these problems are big, they’re difficult, they’re messy [like America’s coups were in Iran 1953, Guatemala 1954, Chile 1973, etc.]. But wherever we have been involved over the last several years, I think the outcome has been better because of American leadership.”

So, the particular instance in which America’s President feels proudest of having produced an “outcome [that] has been better because of American leadership” was in Ukraine, where Obama’s policy produced a takeover of the Ukrainian Government by racist anti-Russian fascists, or nazis who hate Russians — nazis who are ethnically cleansing ethnic Russians away from Ukraine’s Donbass region, the region that had voted 90% for the President, Viktor Yanukovych, whom Obama had overthrown with the crucial armed muscle of those nazi snipers who carried out his coup. (And virtually no U.S. ‘news’ medium has reported that the actual person whom Obama placed in control of Ukraine is a longstanding leader of Ukraine’s nazis.)

With ‘news’ coverage like this, it’s clear why, as Gallup headlined on December 29th, “Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton Extend Run as Most Admired.”

That sort of thing — respect for people who are actually war-mongers — has become routine in the United States.In 2001, the most-admired man was George W. Bush, and the most-admired woman was his wife. In 2002-2006, the most-admired man was President Bush, and the most-admired woman was former President Bill Clinton’s wife.(Hillary Clinton is a big backer of all invasions and coups by the U.S.)

And, without ‘news’ coverage like that, it’s also clear why people outside the United States consider the U.S. to be the biggest threat to world peace. Internationally, Russia is way down this list. However, America’s President won’t need to ask those foreigners whether to launch a nuclear attack against Russia. All that he will need to control is America’s press — and he (and the aristocrats who placed him into power) do.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010,  and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

2014: The Most Popular Global Research Articles

January 1st, 2015 by Global Research News

It has long been known that currency markets are massively rigged. And see thisthis, and this.

But the banks not only share confidential information with each other … they also shared it with a giant oil company.

Bloomberg reports this week:

With revenue of almost $400 billion last year and operations in about 80 countries, BP trades large quantities of currency each day. Traders at the company regularly received valuable information from counterparts at some of the world’s biggest banks — including tips about forthcoming trades, details of confidential client business and discussions of stop-losses, the trigger points for a flurry of buying or selling— according to four traders with direct knowledge of the practice.

***

“The Cartel” that was set up by Usher [the former JPMorgan Chase trader at the center of a global investigation into corruption in the foreign-exchange market] and included dealers at JPMorgan, Citigroup Inc. (C), Barclays Plc and UBS Group AG. (UBSN)

The information offered an insight into currency moves minutes, sometimes hours before they happened.

***

Usher participated in at least one chat room with [Andrew White, a currency trader at oil company BP].

***

In the clubby, lightly regulated world of foreign exchange, traders passed around tips to their circle of trusted contacts like candyThe victims: mutual-fund investors, pensioners and day traders who took the other side of a transaction at a lower price than they would have if they had the same information.

***

Within hours of regulators announcing probes, the chats between BP and the banks were shut down, people with knowledge of the matter said. Soon after, a compliance officer was placed on the desk for the first time, one of them said.

***

[BP’s] trading unit’s primary role is to manage the firm’s exposure to financial risks, including fluctuations in interest rates and foreign exchange, according to the company’s website. Unlike at most corporations, it also is run as a profit center, which means that in addition to hedging risks, traders can place their own bets on the direction of markets.

***

In an undated message seen by Bloomberg News, a trader at a bank told BP he would be buying U.S. dollars against Australian dollars at the WM/Reuters fix at 4 p.m. in London, the one-minute window during which traders around the world exchange billions of dollars of currency on behalf of pension funds and asset managers. The message was received at BP about 30 minutes before the fix. By tipping his hand, the sender was telling BP about a potential fall in the Australian currency.

At about 3 p.m. in London on a different afternoon, BP traders were informed that banks were selling dollars against the yen at 4 p.m. In a third message, this one arriving as the oil company’s traders drank their first coffee of the morning, a trader at a bank said he had just sold a quantity of an emerging-market currency, to whom and the price he received.

The four banks in the Cartel controlled about 45 percent of the global spot-currency market, according to a survey by Euromoney Institutional Investor Plc, so information about their plans was valuable. Some days they worked together to push around the 4 p.m. fix, settlements with the banks show.

***

Sometimes they also agreed to work together to push exchange rates around to boost their profits –- something they called “double-teaming.”

The collateral damage of their actions and those of other traders was the $30 trillion held in investment funds around the world whose daily value is calculated based on the 4 p.m. WM/Reuters benchmark. Passive funds managing $3 trillion transact at the fix, so their investors lost or gained depending on how much the rates were manipulated.

Derivatives Are Manipulated

Runaway derivatives – especially credit default swaps (CDS) – were one of the main causes of the 2008 financial crisis. Congress never fixed the problem, and actually made it worse.

The big banks have long manipulated derivatives … a $1,200 Trillion Dollar market.

Indeed, many trillions of dollars of derivatives are being manipulated in the exact same same way that interest rates are fixed (see below) … through gamed self-reporting.

Reuters noted in September:

A Manhattan federal judge said on Thursday that investors may pursue a lawsuit accusing 12 major banks of violating antitrust law by fixing prices and restraining competition in the roughly $21 trillion market for credit default swaps.

***

“The complaint provides a chronology of behavior that would probably not result from chance, coincidence, independent responses to common stimuli, or mere interdependence,” [Judge] Cote said.

The defendants include Bank of America Corp, Barclays Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Citigroup Inc , Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG , Goldman Sachs Group Inc, HSBC Holdings Plc , JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and UBS AG.

Other defendants are the International Swaps and Derivatives Association and Markit Ltd, which provides credit derivative pricing services.

***

U.S. and European regulators have probed potential anticompetitive activity in CDS. In July 2013, the European Commission accused many of the defendants of colluding to block new CDS exchanges from entering the market.

***

“The financial crisis hardly explains the alleged secret meetings and coordinated actions,” the judge wrote. “Nor does it explain why ISDA and Markit simultaneously reversed course.”

In other words, the big banks are continuing to fix prices for CDS in secret meetings … and have torpedoed the more open and transparent CDS exchanges that Congress mandated.

And today, the managing director at Graham Fisher & Co. (Joshua Rosner) said that the big banks arefrontrunning CDS trades … and manipulating decisions on whether a the party “insured” by CDS has defaulted on its obligations, thus triggering an “event” requiring payment on the CDS.

By way of analogy, whether or not an insurance company pays to rebuild a house which has burned to the ground may turn on whether it finds the fire was arson or accidental.

This is a big deal … while hundreds of thousands of dollars might be at stake in the home fire example, many tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars ride on whether or not a country like Greece is determined to have suffered a CDS-triggering event.

Rosner notes:

The potential use of CDS to artificially manipulate corporate solvency, the imbalances in the amounts of CDS outstanding relative to referenced debt and ongoing allegations that ISDA’s Determinations Committee is deeply conflicted and “operates as a quasi-Star Chamber or cartel”, are finally being scrutinized.

As one source recently suggested, “It would be a surprise if determinations of default, made by a committee of interested parties, don’t lead to findings of manipulation similar to those found in LIBOR and FOREX”.

***

The fact that Pimco’s Chief Investment Officer criticized the determination that Greece had not triggered its CDS, even though Pimco was part of the unanimous vote making that determination, is profoundly troubling to say the least.

***

The fact that the [ISDA’s Determinations Committees] has no obligation to “research, investigate, supplement or verify the accuracy of information on which a determination is based” and members “may have an inherent conflict of interest in the outcome of any determinations” only adds credence to suggestions that the “CDS market is being manipulated and gerrymandered by the all-powerful investment banks”.

Energy Prices Manipulated

Energy markets are manipulated as well …

For example, oil prices have been manipulated for many years.

And the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission says that JP Morgan has massively manipulated energy markets in California and the Midwest, obtaining tens of millions of dollars in overpayments from grid operators between September 2010 and June 2011.

And Pulitzer prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston noted in May that Wall Street is trying to launch Enron 2.0.

Commodities Are Manipulated

The big banks and government agencies have been conspiring to manipulate commodities prices for decades.

The big banks are taking over important aspects of the physical economy – including uranium mining, petroleum products, aluminum, ownership and operation of airports, toll roads, ports, and electricity – to manipulate market prices.

And they are using these physical assets to massively manipulate commodities prices … scalping consumers of many billions of dollars each year. (More from Matt TaibbiFDL and Elizabeth Warren.)

Gold and Silver Are Manipulated

Last month, Switzerland’s financial regulator (FINMA) found “serious misconduct” and a “clear attempt to manipulate precious metals benchmarks” by UBS employees in precious metals trading, particularly with silver.

Reuters reports:

Swiss regulator FINMA said on Wednesday that it found a “clear attempt” to manipulate precious metals benchmarks during its investigation into precious metals and foreign exchange trading at UBS …

Gold and silver prices have been “fixed” in daily conference calls by the powers-that-be.

Bloomberg reported last year:

It is the participating banks themselves that administer the gold and silver benchmarks.

So are prices being manipulated? Let’s take a look at the evidence. In his book “The Gold Cartel,” commodity analyst Dimitri Speck combines minute-by-minute data from most of 1993 through 2012 to show how gold prices move on an average day (see attached charts). He finds that the spot price of gold tends to drop sharply around the Londonevening fixing (10 a.m. New York time). A similar, if less pronounced, drop in price occurs around the London morning fixing. The same daily declines can be seen in silver prices from 1998 through 2012.

For both commodities there were, on average, no comparable price changes at any other time of the day. These patterns are consistent with manipulation in both markets.

Interest Rates Are Manipulated

Bloomberg reported in January:

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc was ordered to pay $50 million by a federal judge in Connecticut over claims that it rigged the London interbank offered rate.

RBS Securities Japan Ltd. in April pleaded guilty to wire frauda s part of a settlement of more than $600 million with U.S and U.K. regulators over Libor manipulation, according to court filings. U.S. District Judge Michael P. Shea in New Haventoday sentenced the Tokyo-based unit of RBS, Britain’s biggest publicly owned lender, to pay the agreed-upon fine, according to a Justice Department statement.

Global investigations into banks’ attempts to manipulate the benchmarks for profit have led to fines and settlements for lenders including RBS, Barclays Plc, UBS AG and Rabobank Groep.

RBS was among six companies fined a record 1.7 billion euros ($2.3 billion) by the European Union last month for rigging interest rates linked to Libor. The combined fines for manipulating yen Libor and Euribor, the benchmark money-market rate for the euro, are the largest-ever EU cartel penalties.

Global fines for rate-rigging have reached $6 billion since June 2012 as authorities around the world probe whether traders worked together to fix Libor, meant to reflect the interest rate at which banks lend to each other, to benefit their own trading positions.

To put the Libor interest rate scandal in perspective:

  • Even though RBS and a handful of other banks have been fined for interest rate manipulation, Libor is still being manipulated. No wonder … the fines are pocket change – the cost of doing business – for the big banks

Everything Can Be Manipulated through High-Frequency Trading

Traders with high-tech computers can manipulate stocksbonds, options, currencies and commodities. And see this.

Manipulating Numerous Markets In Myriad Ways

The big banks and other giants manipulate numerous markets in myriad ways, for example:

  • Engaging in mafia-style big-rigging fraud against local governments. See thisthis and this
  • Shaving money off of virtually every pension transaction they handled over the course of decades, stealing collectively billions of dollars from pensions worldwide. Details hereherehereherehere,herehereherehereherehere and here
  • Pledging the same mortgage multiple times to different buyers. See thisthisthisthis and this. This would be like selling your car, and collecting money from 10 different buyers for the same car
  • Pushing investments which they knew were terrible, and then betting against the same investments to make money for themselves. See thisthisthisthis and this
  • Engaging in unlawful “Wash Trades” to manipulate asset prices. See thisthis and this
  • Bribing and bullying ratings agencies to inflate ratings on their risky investments

The Big Picture

The experts say that big banks will keep manipulating markets unless and until their executives are thrown in jail for fraud.

Why? Because the system is rigged to allow the big banks to commit continuous and massive fraud, and then to pay small fines as the “cost of doing business”. As Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitznoted years ago:

“The system is set so that even if you’re caught, the penalty is just a small number relative to what you walk home with.

The fine is just a cost of doing business. It’s like a parking fine. Sometimes you make a decision to park knowing that you might get a fine because going around the corner to the parking lot takes you too much time.”

Indeed, Reuters pointed out recently:

Switzerland’s regulator FINMA ordered UBS, the country’s biggest bank, to pay 134 million francs ($139 million) after it found serious misconduct in both foreign exchange and precious metals trading. It also capped bonuses for dealers in both units at twice their basic salary for two years.

Capping bonuses at twice base salary? That’s not a punishment … it’s an incentive.

Experts say that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t ever really stabilize.

But the government is doing the exact opposite. Indeed, the Justice Department has announced it will go easy on big banks, and always settles prosecutions for pennies on the dollar (a form of stealth bailout. It is also arguably one of the main causes of the double dip in housing. And there is no change in the air.)

Indeed, the government doesn’t even force the banks to admit any guilt as part of their settlements. In fact:

The banks have been allowed to investigate themselves,” one source familiar with the investigation told Reuters. “The investigated decide what they want to investigate, what they admit to, and how much they will pay.

Wall Street has manipulated virtually every other market as well – both in the financial sector and thereal economy – and broken virtually every law on the books.

And they will keep on doing so until the Department of Justice grows a pair.

The criminality and blatant manipulation will grow and spread and metastasize – taking over and killing off more and more of the economy – until Wall Street executives are finally thrown in jail.

It’s that simple …

On New Year’s Eve Ukraine has in fact imposed an economic blockade on the Crimean Peninsula, which last March re-unified with Russia. Last week Ukraine cancelled all train and bus services to and from Crimea. Apart from the passenger traffic suspension all cargo shipments have been banned. The local people have to put up not just with transport blockade, but also with many other challenges, such as repeated blackouts and water supply disruptions. Crimea is 80% dependent on Ukraine’s water and electricity.

The international payment systems VISA and MasterCard have stopped servicing the cards of Russian banks in Crimea. The United States’ sanctions against the peninsula are the reason, MasterCard’s press-service has explained. This circumstance will greatly complicate life not so much for local residents as for the crowds of tourists, arriving in Crimea for New Year and winter holidays. “Some 200,000 vacationers will be celebrating New Year in Crimea,” the republic’s minister of health resources and tourism, Yelena Yurchenko, has said.

The authorities in Kiev have explained the cancellation of transport links with Crimea by security reasons. Speaking at a news conference on Monday Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, when asked about the blockade of Crimea, said: “There is no blockade, but just measures to protect Ukraine.” The speaker for the headquarters running the crackdown on restive south-eastern regions, which Ukraine has all the way described as anti-terrorist operation, Andrey Lysenko, claimed there were risks of some groups of saboteurs penetrating into Ukraine from Crimea. At the customs checkpoints Ukrainian border guards have been searching all private cars and trucks of commodity providers bound for Crimea, which have to wait in long lines on the border for 24 hours and more.

Experts suspect that Crimea’s blockade by Ukraine is a gesture of blackmail addressed to Russia. “One may assume that this is related with the problems of coal and electricity supply from Russia to Ukraine,” senior analyst at the International Centre for Advanced Studies, Alexander Zhelud, told Gazeta.ru.

Last week Ukraine several times shut down power supply for Crimea. Russia agreed to make concessions and take certain steps in order to ease power shortages in Ukraine itself, which is experiencing a dire need for coal, as a majority of its mines are located in the territories of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics. In the near future Ukraine hopes to conclude a power supply agreement with Russia. In fact, the electricity is already being provided, President Petro Poroshenko said on Monday.

Russia will be supplying electricity to Ukraine at its domestic prices, and also up to one million tons of coal a month in order to ease energy problems, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said on December 27. The decision in favour of energy supplies was made in exchange for Kiev’s word of honour. It is to be hoped it will resolve problems with regular blackouts in Crimea.

Ukraine’s Energy and Coal Mining Ministry has said that his country is prepared to purchase electricity at Russia’s internal prices.

Ukrainian political scientist Igor Semivolos has told the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta that by blocking Crimea in various ways Kiev gets trump cards at negotiations on a settlement of the situation in Donbas. “Crimea is a very sensitive spot for Russia. It’s winter time and the weather is stormy … Those who wish to provide essential services and conveniences to the peninsula should be prepared to compromise on a wide range of issues, such as power supply, exchange of prisoners of war, ceasefire, etc.” Semivolos said.

An ex-speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, former Ukrainian parliament member Leonid Grach believes that the transport blockade is the most painful measure. He speculated that the idea of cutting Crimea from the outside world was prompted to Kiev by its US patrons. It is not accidental that Crimea’s transport and energy blockade happened alongside the termination of VISA and MasterCard payment services in the peninsula.

This is the sort of New Year gifts the West-backed authorities in Kiev have prepared for two million Crimeans – men and women, young and old. Too bad the gifts have very little to do with such universal values as humanism and tolerance.

A UN Security Council meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Dec. 22, 2014. (Photo: AP)

A proposal that called for a full military withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied West Bank and international recognition of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders within three years was rejected by the UN Security Council  Tuesday evening.

Though its failure was not wholly unexpected, the proposal, put forth by the Jordanian delegation, failed to gain the nine affirmative votes needed to pass the council. While both the U.S. and Australia voted against the measure, the eight nations who voted in favor were: Argentina, Chad, Chile, China, France, Jordan, Luxembourg, and Russia. Five nations—the U.K., Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Rwanda and Lithuania—abstained.

As summarized by Al-Jazeera, the Jordanian proposal called for:

  • Two sovereign states living side by side; Israel and Palestine
  • End of Israeli occupation and establishing the Palestinian state within a time frame of no more than three years
  • East Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Palestine which will be established on 1967 borders
  • Settle the refugees’ question according to UN resolution 194
  • End settlement activities in West Bank and East Jerusalem and to release all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails

Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the UN, chastised the council members for their collective failure to pass the resolution.

“The Security Council has once again failed to uphold its charter duties to address this crises and to meaningfully contribute to a lasting solution in accordance with its own resolutions,” Mansour said. “This year, our people under Israeli occupation endured the further theft and colonization of their land, the demolition of their homes, daily military raids, arrests and detention of thousands of civilians including children, rampant settler terrorism, constant affronts to their human dignity and repeated incursions at our holiest sites.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power defended her nation’s position by calling the proposal “deeply imbalanced” and said it did not do enough to address Israel’s ongoing “security concerns.”

As a permanent member of the Security Council the U.S. could have blocked the resolution’s  passage by asserting its veto power, but reporting indicates that intense lobbying preceding the vote as the U.S. attempted to convince enough nations to abstain so that such a move would not be necessary.

As the Guardian reports:

Palestinian officials and other observers had thought Nigeria would back a Jordanian-tabled resolution, thereby delivering a nine-vote majority on the council which would have required a US veto to be blocked. Washington had been working strenuously to avoid having to use its veto.

Until shortly before the vote on Tuesday, council diplomats had expected the resolution to get nine yes votes. But Nigeria abstained, with its ambassador, U Joy Ogwu, echoing the US position in saying that the path to peace lay “in a negotiated solution”.

One Palestinian source involved in the negotiations told the Guardian: “Even half an hour before the vote, Nigeria indicated it was committed to voting for the resolution. We knew that Rwanda, South Korea and Australia would not back it, but we believed Nigeria was on board.”

The apparent change by Nigeria, which is a rotating member of the council, came after both the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, phoned the country’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, to ask him not to support the resolution.

Though a disappointment for those who supported the Jordanian plan, not all backers of Palestinian rights believed the proposal was the right approach.

As a consistent critic of the Palestinian Authority’s position on a lasting settlement and the concept of the so-called “two-state solution,” outspoken Palestinian activist and editor of the Electoronic Intifada Ali Abunimah is among those who have repeatedly condemned the resolution because it would codify within the United Nations the same failed mindset that has for so long blocked the full aspirations of the Palestinian people.

“This was a terrible resolution which was unanimously opposed by every major Palestinian faction, it contained so many compromises in an attempt to avoid a US veto that it was weaker than existing UN resolutions,” he told Al-Jazeera English following the vote.

And in a recent blog post, Abunimah explained:

This resolution tries to [undo the death of the “two-state solution”], except in a more legally binding and therefore dangerous manner. It makes the claim that “a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means, based on an enduring commitment to mutual recognition, freedom from violence, incitement and terror, and the two-state solution.”

It insists that the entire question of Palestine be reduced to the question of the 1967 occupation and that merely ending this occupation would effectively end all Palestinian claims.

The resolution uses vague, deceptive and in some places outright dishonest language that would enshrine in international law the “liberal” Zionist two-state solution and deal a devastating blow to Palestinian rights, particularly the right of return for refugees.

Following Tuesday’s failed effort, the Palestinian Authority immediately turned towards new avenues of seeking justice against what it calls international crimes perpetrated by Israel.

According to various sources, PA President Mahmoud Abbas may sign official documents as early as Wednesday to join the International Criminal Court, a move that would allow it to file official charges against the state of Israel for war crimes related to its occupation of the West Bank and its attack on the Gaza Strip this summer which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians, a large majority of whom were children and other non-combatants.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters that Palestinian officials will hold a “very serious meeting” later on Wednesday in a bid to set a date for applying for membership to the ICC and other international agencies.

“There will be no more waiting, no more hesitation, no more slowdown,” Erekat said. “We are going to meet and make decisions.”

Last week, we saw how the U.S. Embassy hailed current Communications Minister Rudy Hériveaux’s evolution from a Lavalas Family deputy from Trou du Nord to a leader of a breakaway “moderate faction” of the Lavalas Family in 2005 which sought to move away from the party’s exiled leader Aristide and take part in U.S.-sponsored Haitian elections.

The first test of the “moderate Lavalas” politicians was the Feb. 7, 2006 election, the first polling after the Feb. 29, 2004 coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Hériveaux ran for Senator in the West department against a crowded field of 54 candidates from 28 parties.

Despite running under the “Lavalas” banner, Hériveaux did very poorly in the first round, placing a dismal seventh place with only 68,781 votes. That was only 22% of the 310,188 votes tallied by first place winner, Jean Hector Anacacis of Préval’s Lespwa platform, and 25% of the 269,562 votes won by second place Mirlande Manigat of the Assembly of Progressive National Democrats (RNDP). He even finished behind fellow Lavalas candidate Evelyne Cheron, former Duvalierist and Aristide minister Stanley Théard, Marie-Denise Claude of FUSION, and even Luckner Désir of the obscure Mobilization for Haitian Progress (MPH).

Luckily for Hériveaux, Manigat dropped out of the race in solidarity with her husband, RNDP’s presidential candidate Leslie Manigat, who lost in the first round (under conditions that the Manigats protested) to Lespwa’s René Préval. This allowed Hériveaux to advance to sixth place and therefore just squeak into the run-off.

Somehow, in the run-off on Apr. 21, 2006, Hériveaux managed to place second with 45.81% of the vote behind Anacasis’s 75.13%. Fellow “Lavalas” candidate Cheron took third place with 41.28% of the vote. Hériveaux’s four-year Senate seat made him the highest ranking “Lavalas” official in Parliament.In a May 11, 2006 cable, U.S. Ambassador Janet Sanderson reported that Hériveaux, along with newly elected “Lavalas” deputies Jonas Coffy and Sorel François “complain that

Préval has excluded Lavalas in his outreach to other political parties and the development of his 25-year plan” even while they “recognize the negative impact Aristide’s return [from exile in South Africa] would have for the country.”

“Hériveaux stated that Lavalas wanted to promote a democratic Haiti alongside Préval,” Sanderson wrote, “but admitted that Préval has shown no sign that he is willing to work with Lavalas, despite the obvious Lavalas and L’Espwa [sic] connection. According to Hériveaux, Lavalas and L’Espwa are the same, characterizing L’Espwa as ‘simply the branch of the Lavalas root.’”

In her comment to Washington, Sanderson commended Hériveaux and his confederates for showing “personal courage in breaking with militant Aristide supporters in committing to the electoral process” although she noted that “none of them were model democrats in the past.” She also devined that “they surely assume that they are out of Aristide’s favor and that their political futures depend on his absence.”

Her guess was right, and on Jun. 2, 2006, “Hériveaux and the parliamentary group  within FL [Fanmi Lavalas] appear to have undertaken an ambitious political maneuver in attempting [to] reunify Lavalas and establish their leadership,” Sanderson wrote in a Jun. 12, 2006 cable.

She explained to Washington that Hériveaux led “an opportunistic grouplooking to reconnect with the FL base” but was blocked by more radical currents championing struggle against the coup and for Aristide’s return from exile.

“Hériveaux, as the senior elected Lavalas official, convened the meeting in order to pick a new FL chairman ad interim,” Sanderson explained, but the more radical Lavalas members disrupted the meeting and denounced Hériveaux and the “moderate Lavalas” parliamentarians, including deputy Jonas Coffy, former Aristide chief of staff Jean-Claude Desgranges, and former Senators Gérard Gilles and Yvon Feuillé, “as CIA spies and lackeys of foreign masters (MINUSTAH),” the then 9,000-soldier military occupation force known as the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti.

But Hériveaux did his best to disguise his treachery. When popular organization leader René Civil, one of the radical current’s leaders, was arrested on Aug. 25, 2006 and accused of carrying an unlicensed firearm, driving a stolen car, and “association with troublemakers,” Hériveaux protested the arrest, “much to [the U.S. Embassy’s] dismay,” wrote Deputy Chief of Mission Thomas Tighe in an Aug. 29, 2006 dispatch.

“Hériveaux is a close embassy contact who has stressed in conversations with emboffs [embassy officials] that he and other FL moderates in parliament are opposed to Civil and the FL’s militant faction,” Tighe wrote, pledging to “raise Hériveaux’s defense of Civil with him at the first opportunity.”

Hériveaux never made much headway in his bid to take over the party, Sen. Simon Dieuseul Desras, currently the Senate’s president, explained to the U.S. Embassy’s political counselor in a Dec. 6, 2006 meeting. Desras told the embassy that there was a “leadership battle” taking place between Hériveaux and the FL’s Executive Committee, which at that time was composed of singer/activist Annette Auguste (So An), former Aristide advisor Dr. Maryse Narcisse, former delegate Jacques Mathelier, former deputy Lionel Etienne, and Dr. Serge Louis.

Desras told the embassy that “the Executive Committee and a good majority of the party are miffed at Senator Hériveaux for his arbitrary claim to party leadership following Aristide’s departure,” according to Tighe’s Dec. 20, 2007 cable to Washington.

Desras explained to the embassy that the Fanmi “Lavalas endorsed Senator Hériveaux after the Senator approached them in 2000 following his second-place finish in the first round” of elections for deputy, and “correctly believing Hériveaux’s  chances were better than the Lavalas candidate, and also believing that Hériveaux would do Lavalas’ bidding, Lavalas threw their support behind him and withdrew their own candidate. Hériveaux won the second round, and Lavalas subsequently endorsed him for President of the Chamber of Deputies,” Tighe wrote.

This back story was what allowed Sen. Desras to tell the Embassy that “Senator Hériveaux’s history shows he is not a true Lavalassian and has never been recognized as such.”

(To be continued)

US Drone Strike against Somalia

December 31st, 2014 by Bill Van Auken

A US pilotless drone carried out an attempted assassination Monday night of a leading member of Somalia’s Al Shabab, an Islamist militia opposed to the country’s US puppet government.

Pentagon spokesman Adm. John Kirby issued a statement acknowledging that the target of the strike, which took place in the vicinity of Saccaw, about 100 miles north of the port city of Kismayo, was a senior Al Shabab leader, but he did not name the intended victim.

Kirby said the Pentagon did not “assess” that there were civilian casualties from the missile strike, adding, “We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information, when appropriate.” Based on this account, there is no way of knowing whether the strike claimed the life of its target or how many others died in the missile attack.

Such tight-lipped statements are the norm for the drone assassination program, which has been condemned by the United Nations as a direct violation of international law and is hated by the populations forced to live under the constant threat of murder or massacre from the sky.

The Associated Press reported that the target of the attack was Ahmad Umar, who is alleged to have assumed leadership of Al Shabab after its former head, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a similar US drone strike last September.

In another operation last October, Navy SEALs raided the home of a third Al Shabab leader, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, in Baraawe, south of Mogadishu. This abduction/assassination attempt, however, proved a failure.

Somalia was officially proclaimed a front in the “global war on terrorism” under the Bush administration in 2008. It was then that Al Shabab was proclaimed a “specially designated global terrorist entity,” despite its having confined its actions to the civil war within Somalia.

Washington’s campaign against Al Shabab has consisted of drone strikes and special operations raids to decapitate the organization. As in similar drone assassination programs in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, this effort has shown no sign of curtailing the targeted group’s operations. At the same time, the US has relied on a foreign occupation army of 22,000 troops, known as AMISOM, mobilized on behalf of US and Western imperialism by the African Union.

On December 26, Al Shabab militants dressed in Somali government army uniforms stormed the AMISOM headquarters adjacent to the Mogadishu airport. Fourteen people died in the operation, including eight members of the Islamist group, five AMISOM soldiers and a civilian contractor. The gun battle raged for more than two hours.

While including troops from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Djibouti, AMISOM is operationally dominated by the military of Ethiopia, which functions as Washington’s cats’ paw in the Horn of Africa, providing it with both drone bases and CIA “black site” torture centers.

In December 2006, the US orchestrated an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to topple the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a group of Sharia courts that had united to form a governing administration that managed to wrest control of most of southern Somalia, including the capital of Mogadishu, ending the continuous clan warfare that had dominated the region for the previous 15 years.

After the defeat of the ICU, the more militant Islamist elements within it formed Al Shabab to combat the US-backed regime and the foreign troops supporting it.

In seven years of fighting, the US and its proxy forces have gained control over most of southern Somalia, but have not been able to crush Al Shabab. The regime they are propping up is dominated by corruption, crisis and clan rivalries. Last week, the country saw the appointment of its third prime minister in the space of one year.

As elsewhere in the “war on terror,” Washington is not carrying out military operations in Somalia out of concern for the safety of the American people, much less for the welfare of the Somalis, among the poorest populations on the planet, with a per capita gross domestic product of just $112 and a life expectancy of 52.

The country’s coastline is the largest in Africa and lies adjacent to the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, the narrow passage linking the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Fully 70 percent of global petroleum products and half of the world’s container traffic flow through the Indian Ocean, much of it bound for US capitalism’s rival, China.

Yemen, which controls the other side of this strategic seaway, is another front in the US “war on terror” and a frequent target of drone assassination strikes. Control over it and Somalia provides Washington with the ability to choke off China’s economic lifelines.

The latest strike in Somalia is part of a marked global escalation of the Obama administration’s illegal drone killing program as the year 2014 comes to an end.

Drone strikes in Afghanistan killed at least six alleged Taliban “militants” in eastern Nangarhar province on Sunday night, while another five people were killed and six others wounded in a similar attack in Logar Province last Friday.

Last Thursday, eight people died in a pair of drone strikes in Pakistan’s impoverished region of North Waziristan, near the Afghan border.

The criminality of these operations was underscored by a report released last month by the human rights group Reprieve entitled “You Never Die Twice.” It establishes that at least 41 individuals placed on “Kill Lists” personally drawn up by Obama—with no judicial or any other oversight—have each been reported killed multiple times, in one case on seven different occasions.

“This raises a stark question,” the report points out. “With each failed attempt to assassinate a man on the Kill List, who filled the body bag in his place? In fact, it is more accurate to say ‘body bags:’ many other lives are sacrificed in the effort to erase a name from the Kill List.”

In the case of the man killed seven times, Reprieve found, 164 other people were killed in the strikes, including 11 children. It found that in the multiple—on average three—attempts to kill the 41 individuals, a total of 1,147 people lost their lives, accounting for fully a quarter of drone strike casualties in Pakistan and Yemen.

In Pakistan, the report states, 24 men were reported killed or targeted on multiple occasions, with failed strikes against them accounting for the deaths of 874 people. In two failed strikes against Ayman al-Zawahiri, the CIA managed to kill 76 children and 29 adults. The Al Qaeda leader remains alive.

Children have born the brunt of the assassination program. In pursuing 14 targets between 2004 and 2013, according to Reprieve, the drone strikes took the lives of 142 children, only six of whom died in strikes that successfully assassinated their intended victims.

The SWIFT System is an integral part of a communication process that assists payment and clearing of financial transactions. The Corporate-to-Bank site defines it in the following manner and provides several examples ofPayment, Clearing and Settlement Systems.

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, Societe Cooperative a Responsabilite Limitee (limited co-operative society) (“SWIFT”) is a member-owned co-operative. SWIFT provides a telecommunication platform for the exchange of standardized financial messages between financial institutions and corporations. SWIFT is neither a payment system nor a settlement system though the SWIFT messaging standard is used in many payment and settlement systems. SWIFT’s customers include banks, market infrastructures, broker-dealers, corporates, custodians, and investment managers. SWIFT is subject to oversight by the central banks of the Group of Ten countries.

Now that Western Central Banks are coordinating with their puppet governments in a desperate struggle to preserve their financial preeminence, the pushback is heating up. The article, Moscow’s Response To Economic Warfare: Central Bank Of Russia Launches SWIFT Alternative For Domestic Payments, states:

The calls to disconnect Russian banks from the global interbank SWIFT system came amid the deterioration of relations between Russia and the West and the introduction of sanctions.

However, SWIFT itself does not intend to switch Russia off from the system, saying a number of countries put pressure on it, and insists it is not joining the anti-Russian sanctions.

Well, if the SWIFT members of their co-operative are not part of the effort to isolate un-cooperative regimes, why would Russia take the effort to organize an alternative? Russia Girds for Financial Nuclear War answers accordingly. “It will be tested with eight large banks, including VTB bank (#2 in the country), and SMP and Rossiya banks (both sanctioned by the west). Komlev said the new system should be up and running by May 2015.”

The natural response to sanctions has accelerated the need to circumvent a blackball threat that has Russia launches own SWIFT-style service. “There has been talk of blocking Russian banks from using SWIFT among some EU members as well.”

However, the latest pressure did not originate the planning for an alternative system. As reported in TASS, Russia, China in talks to make alternative to SWIFT,

“Russia and China are discussing setting up a system of interbank transactions which will become an analogue to International banking transaction system SWIFT, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov” announced back in September of this year. “According to Shuvalov, Russia has been also discussing establishment of an independent ratings agency with China. Concrete proposals will be made by the end of 2014, he said.”

Just how far will such new-found collaboration develop? The implications go far beyond the establishment of an alternative settlement system.

Examine the trade implications from the initiative that hasChina to Start Payments With Russia in National Currencies. “The China Foreign Exchange Trade System has announced that since December 29, China, Russia, Malaysia and New Zealand will start the usage of national currencies in mutual transactions. Beijing hopes to make the yuan an alternative to the US dollar in global trade.”

Now this development becomes far more interesting as the global financial tug-of-war plays itself out. From the flagship publication of the City of London, the Economist tells a very different tale.The pros and cons of a SWIFT response,

The impact of a reprise on Russia’s already fragile economy would be huge. Its banks are more connected to international trade and capital markets than Iran’s were. They are heavy users not only of SWIFT itself but also of other payment systems to which it connects them, such as America’s Fedwire and the European Central Bank’s Target2. Kommersant, a Russian newspaper, has reported that more than 90% of transactions involving Russian banks cross borders.

Foreign firms that do business in Russia would suffer, too. Countries that trade heavily with Russia, such as Germany and Italy, are therefore none too keen. Nor are many in the financial sector. SWIFT is less insulated from such pressure than its counterparts in other sectors, such as the International Telecommunication Union, a UN agency which is governed by an international convention. But it is a crucial part of the world’s financial plumbing system.

The tone of this analysis implies that it is in the interest of Russia to keep their current SWIFT relationship intact. Oh, how nice it would be if only international disputes could just exempt the banking system and continue functioning in its normal imperialist manner.

In a perceptive article, What Petrodollar: Russia, China To Create SWIFT Alternative, points out the irony in the viewpoint reflected in the Economist. “But wait: wasn’t it the UK’s desire to force Russia out of SWIFT just two weeks ago? Why yes, and the fact that Russia is happy to do so, and on its own terms, once again shows just who has all the leverage, and who really needs, or rather doesn’t, the US Dollar.”

And here lies the significance of this latest campaign to isolate any country that operates in their self-interest and bucks the commands of the almighty US Dollar reserve currency. These developments that fragment the globalist model of financial primacy should be viewed negatively.

A SWIFT conclusion to an international Paradyne that purports to be the ultimate state of financial being entry into central banking heavens, which guides the path to global enlightenment, is a much needed remedy.

Mixing oppressive foreign compliance demands with intimidation of isolating uncongenial regimes from conducting foreign trade seems to be a violation of the basic tenet of globalism. Of course the underpinnings that threaten one world economic rule requires any unreceptive country to be brought back in line.

The fundamental defect in operating any financial system is that political disputes usually override pure economic expediency. Russia, China, Iran and any other country that differs with the Rothschild banking model of debt credit money will always be under pressure to capitulate or expire. Such a paradigm is anything but swift.

James Hall is a reformed, former political operative. This pundit’s formal instruction in History, Philosophy and Political Science served as training for activism, on the staff of several politicians and in many campaigns. A believer in authentic Public Service, independent business interests were pursued in the private sector. Speculation in markets, and international business investments, allowed for extensive travel and a world view for commerce.  Hall is the publisher of BREAKING ALL THE RULES. Contact [email protected]   

In 2014, the problem of police brutality forced itself to the forefront of the national conversation following the brutal killing of Americans at the hands of the police. This increased attention has been a success for activists from all walks of life and for the well-being of citizens. The problem of racism and police murders that involve it is finally receiving widespread acknowledgment and opposition.

But as much as the issue of police abuse needs attention, it remains that injustice in America permeates layers of society that transcend law enforcement, race, and problems of direct violence against citizens.

Rather, police brutality is a symptom of much deeper decay in the concept and system of “justice” in the United States. As much as murderous cops escaping punishment is outrageous, here are other travesties that occurred in 2014:

The Senate attempted to stifle the free speech of any journalist it did not define as “press,” calling the bill a protection of the first amendment. Most of Congress cheered Israel on from June through the summer while it pummeled Gaza. They authorized hundreds of millions in material support. At the end of the summer, President Obama began illegally bombing Syria while drone attacks exposed for killing civilians and children continued.

In just the time since the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the government has committed a litany of offenses: it stole 2400 acres of Apache native lands to give to a foreign mining company that had been lobbying Congress for a decade. The FDA approved an addictive painkiller to combat addiction to painkillers. Congress moved to invalidate the electoral vote  in Washington D.C. that legalized marijuana. It further enabled the NSA to spy on Americans in spite of empty rhetoric promising reform.

Naturally, lawmakers continued the state of perpetual war by renewing the military funding bill, the National Defense
Authorization Act (where it gave away the Apache lands). It still guarantees the government’s right to indefinitely detain Americans without trial and it can still torture non-Americanshowever it likes.

All of these cruel, violative, and often violent instances prove that “justice,” which is supposed to mean “moral rightness,” is as dead as unarmed black men at the hands of police in America. But within the so-called “justice system,” there are more flagrant, direct examples of this lack of justice:

The government, via the IRS and DOJ, is authorized to confiscate the life savings of law-abiding Americans who are not suspected of crimes. There is little redress for the robbery committed against them (cops are also guilty of stealing possessions under the shelter of the DOJ).  At the same time, the IRS directly funds tangible, violent crimes by federally funding murderous police and military. Further, banks tied to illegal money laundering for drug cartels (a clearly illegal action) are given what amount to slaps on the wrist.

Take the problem of dogs murdered by police. While individuals who harm police dogs are viciously charged with assaulting an officer and sent to jail for decades, it is a rare occurrence to see a cop reprimanded for murdering a dog while on duty. In some cases cops have been put on paid leave, but police are rarely charged for killing family pets. The same can be said for a civilian killing a cop versus a cop killing an unarmed civilian: to kill a cop is capital punishment. To kill a civilian is a paid vacation and maybe some bad press for police.

At this discrepancy rages on, non-violent individuals are thrown in jail for possessing marijuana (fortunately in 2014, the tide began to turn) while pharmaceutical companies that produce lethal pills are not only emboldened by the FDA, but free from punishment in court.

While the government spies on all American citizens, collects their data, and cops create “threat ratings” based on social media posts,
there is zero transparency on the part of the state. On multiple occasions the DOJ has argued in court to keep documents sealed.
It took years for the government to release the legal “justification” for the president’s kill list. It did so only when pressed.

2014 made it clear that there is not only an utterly destroyed sense of justice in the United States, but that the justice system in particular is a sham.

While the problem of racist police forces and more systemically, universally violent cops (whose violence affects people of all colors more and more each day) is absolutely necessary to discuss, it is important not to forget the system that enabled such problems in the first place. Police are the enforcement class of the government and the more power a government exercises, the more power their foot soldiers will, as well.

This fact demonstrates that stopping police brutality will not solve the much deeper problems of corrupt institutions. Even if all racial profiling, police brutality and corruption were stopped, the justice system would still destroy lives. It will still favor the elites and war mongers.

In 2015, the fight against police injustice must continue. But that fight must not forget the multitude of other ways that justice is trampled.

In fact, if the system is allowed to continue, any small, superficial wins made in the fight against brutality will surely be reversed at the hands of a government whose foundational power is never questioned.

This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TheAntiMedia.org. Tune-in to The Anti-Media radio show Monday-Friday @ 11pm EST, 8pm PST.

During the course of 2014 there was much discussion about the phenomenal economic growth of various African nation-states. The Federal Republic of Nigeria was proclaimed by western financial publications to have attained the status of the largest economy on the continent. 

Inside the Republic of South Africa, where two decades earlier the masses of workers, farmers and youth had overthrown the dreaded apartheid system instituting a parliamentary structure with the African National Congress (ANC) being the dominant political force, the voters granted the ruling party another five years of governmental control. South Africa, according to these same financial pundits, is no longer the number one economic powerhouse in the region.

These assessments and efforts by the imperialist-based financial institutions are not only designed to signal to Wall Street and the Pentagon what the new avenues of interests should be but to also cause divisions within the African Union (AU) member-states. Europe and the United States held conferences during 2014 where they decided who the invited guests would be as opposed to the successor of the continental organization that was formed in 1963, the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

The April 2-4 European Union (EU)-Africa Summit excluded key leaders within Africa from Western Sahara, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Egypt and others. As a result of these actions other heads-of-state, such as President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa, refused to attend. Zuma noted that the time was over for Europeans deciding who should attend a conference and those that will not be invited.

Although the uprisings in Burkina Faso and the industrial strikes that impacted Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other West African states provided clear indicators that the African working class is challenging the contemporary neo-liberal approach to development and foreign policy, which we will examine in a later report, the impact of the challenges to Africa in 2014 provides ideas that can lead to programs aimed at the eradication of the post-colonial socio-economic quagmires plaguing the region in the 21st century.

Ebola: Its Continental and Global Impact

Overshadowing all other crises and triumphs, the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) pandemic has dominated the news about Africa. The disease is one of the lethal Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers (VHF) that has infected humans for centuries. Nonetheless, in this period such outbreaks have immediate international implications.

EVD has been present through various strains since 1976 in the former Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Named after a river in the DRC, the disease has become a profound illustration of the challenges facing the continent during the current period.

The lack of medical, educational, transportation and communications infrastructures can be attributed to the rapid spread of EVD in three West African states: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In the three most affected states there is the legacy of neo-colonialism, militarism and civil war.

Liberia as a nation-state has origins in the repatriation of Africans in the U.S. during the antebellum slave period of the 19th century. Sierra Leone was founded as a similar home for Africans who fought alongside the British during the so-called American Revolutionary War since London promised freedom to the enslaved Africans for their cooperation during the late 18th century.

Guinea, of course, is a former French colony whose people resisted colonialism and slavery during the 19th century. The Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) was one of the liberation movements that demanded immediate independence from foreign rule and struck out as a sovereign state in 1958 under President Ahmed Sekou Toure.

After President Toure’s death in March 1984 and a subsequent military coup, Guinea has suffered periodic rebellions and unconstitutional changes of government. Over the last thirty years, Conakry has seen instability and deepening underdevelopment.

The western imperialist approach to the EVD pandemic has been highly militarized. The Pentagon through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has deployed several thousand more troops to Liberia. AFRICOM already has projects in Sierra Leone as well.

Despite the sluggish response by the U.S., Britain and France, the Republic of Cuba has stepped up to the task sending physicians and other healthcare workers to assist in eradicating the outbreak. Cuba views the intervention in West Africa around the EVD crisis as a continuation of their decades-long solidarity with the peoples of the continent, who share a common bond with the region through heritage, politics and national culture.

There has been much criticism surrounding the response by the Western imperialist states to the EVD outbreak. The tabulation and projections related to the spread of the disease have been a source of disagreement but it is clear that this outbreak poses a monumental challenge to not only West Africa but the entire continent.

A report published by Time.com on Dec. 29 says “Cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have reached over 20,000. New numbers released from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday show Ebola has infected 20,081 people and killed 7,842. That’s nearly 400 new cases of the disease in just four days.

This same article goes on to note that “Despite missions launched by countries and international groups like the United States and United Nations in the last few months, the disease continues to spread. Sierra Leone has passed Liberia in number of cases. Many are anxiously awaiting a vaccine that’s been estimated to become available in the early part of the new year and researchers are also working on developing drugs to treat Ebola.”

Although other infectious diseases such as measles, polio, malaria, HIV-AIDs account for far more cases of sickness and death than EVD, the rapidity with which this form of VHF has struck the West Africa region is a cause for grave concern. In addition, the way in which the discussion around Ebola entered into the U.S. political framework is also instructive in regard to how the outbreak is perceived.

Due to the infection and eventual death of Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, Texas during October and the spreading of the disease to two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, EVD became a major news story leading up to the 2014 mid-term elections. Calls by politicians and news commentators for the banning of people from the most severely impacted West African states served as a mechanism to stigmatize not only those countries and their people but the continent as a whole.

However, the successful treatment of Pham and Vinson, along with other healthcare workers brought into the U.S. for specialized care after spending time in West Africa, resulted in the near disappearance of the issue from the corporate media radar. Nevertheless, the plight of the people of the affected West Africa states remains and must be addressed by both people on the continent and the international community.

Internal Strife and Militarism: The Republic of South Sudan and the Central African Republic

Even though the EVD pandemic became a cause for concern in the western industrialized and imperialist states, the situations in both the Republic of South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) also stems from the crises of post-colonial Africa. South Sudan came into being after decades of civil unrest and war within the Republic of Sudan based in Khartoum in the north.

In 2011, the U.S., Britain and other states hailed the partition of Sudan, once the largest geographic nation-state in Africa. Today, the government led by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Army (SPLM/A) in Juba is split between one faction aligned with President Salva Kiir against another headed by ousted Vice-President Riek Machar.

There have been hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese displaced since the fighting began in Dec. 2013. The presence of Ugandan troops in South Sudan has been a major factor in the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) negotiations aimed at a viable ceasefire needed to halt the fighting.

The now SPLM-In Opposition headed by Machar wants the withdrawal of Ugandan People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) from the country. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni says that the military presence in South Sudan is designed to ensure that the instability will not worsen.

Since 2013, the Central African Republic government has changed regimes three times. Ousted President Francois Bozize was forced to resign in April 2013 paving the way for the rebel Muslim-dominated Seleka Coalition headed by Michel Djotodia, who assumed the presidency.

Violence continued under the Seleka Coalition prompting the rise of the Anti-Balaka group consisting of Christian-based militias carrying out reprisals for the brutality inflicted on the population by the Djotodia regime. The minority Muslim population was targeted through the destruction of their businesses and the forcing of thousands of families from homes in the capital of Bangui and other areas of the country.

Up to 20,000 foreign troops from Africa, the EU and former colonial France were slated to occupy the CAR during 2014. The fighting has shifted to border areas near Chad where Muslim fighting groups are seeking to regroup for both self-defense and survival under such dire circumstances.

Both the Republic of South Sudan and the CAR are examples of the challenges facing the continent wracked by neo-colonialism and imperialist intrigue. Both South Sudan and the CAR contain natural resources such as oil, diamonds, gold and uranium among other strategic minerals making these countries a cause of concern for transnational corporations and banks which are still profiting from the world capitalist system and its overall international division of labor and economic power.

African Sovereignty and Genuine Independence Must Take Priority in the Coming Year 

The AU and other regional alliances combined with the popular organizations and labor unions should seriously address the implications of developments during 2014. With the inability of present-day African states to effectively address the internal conflicts inside these countries will only provide a rationale for the former colonial powers and the U.S. to militarily intervene to ostensibly resolve these security crises.

This same scenario is clearly related to the response to the EVD pandemic. Infrastructural development has to be a major agenda item for all governments and mass organizations throughout the continent.

AFRICOM has already spread and deepened its involvement throughout the region. This also holds true for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the State Department based in Washington. The U.S. response to the EVD outbreak has been largely militaristic and has lacked effectiveness in regard to building field hospitals, clinics, fostering technology transfers, research capacity and access to protective gear as well as medicines.

These same shortcomings apply to both Britain and France as it relates to the response to the EVD crisis. The imperialist states have their own economic and political interests which guides western foreign policy imperatives in regard to Africa.

Consequently, Africa and its people must rise to the occasion and break its dependency on the West. Only when the eradication of neo-colonial relations take center stage will the prospects for real growth and development be realized on the continent.

Missing Flight Syndrome: The Loss of AirAsia Flight 8501

December 31st, 2014 by Binoy Kampmark

As European flights lay freezing in airports across the capitals, with various de-icing procedures being implemented, the news about missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 began to makes its own way through the various channels.  That sent a different sort of chill through discussions about air safety.  The flight in question, with its 162 passengers, lost contact with air traffic control after take off on Saturday over the Java Sea heading to Singapore from Surabaya.

It has been a tragic year for air travel, and its promoters. The body count relative to other accidents or incidents in travel is always negligible relative to the actual loss of life in the air, but scale tends to be distorted in the context of the macabre and the spectacular.  Adding to that the zest of conspiracy, sweetened by cloudy narratives and apologias behind the demise of a flight, and one is already inhabiting a very different world of reasoning.

The conspicuous, heavily reported loss of the AirAsia  airliner craft adds to this troubling ledger, which already weighs heavily with the loss of Malaysian Airlines flights MH370 and MH17, the former a continuing vanishing act whose remains have yet to be found, the latter the victim of a missile over the troubled areas of Ukraine.

The loss has all the hallmarks of commentary that is running out of constructive breath, of speculation that is hugging, rather desperately, some reason as to why 162 people would perish without coherent, let alone obvious reason.  The search for some rational explanation seems to be a permanently flawed quest, much of it undertaken in the twenty-four hour news cycle of chatter.

The talking heads, centred around aviation specialists and safety analysts, bubble with speculation even as the search continues.  A host of theories always tend to make their noisy march in search of the vain truth, masquerading under the title of “known facts” however disputed those facts may be.  The AirAsia airline was likely at the “bottom of the sea”, claims the latest confetti line from cable television networks and self-designated official channels.

Then there is that of the troubled pilot, an almost caricature-like beast and product of undergraduate psychology who manifests power at the cockpit and afflicts an act of lethal madness.  The account from AirAsia is somewhat milder: the pilot in question had requested a “deviation” in response to bad weather, wishing to take the aircraft to a higher altitude.

Experience and skills are also thrown into the analysis, if one can call it that.  Again, it is the pilot who fronts the criticism, and brings a rather pointed accusation of prevalent incompetence in the Southeast Asian aviation industry. This is notwithstanding the remarks by AirAsia that the pilot was more than experienced, an observation that is casually dismissed by some critics.

Joshua Kurlantzick of Bloomberg Business (Dec 29) theorises that the pummelling to the region’s aviation industry was occasioned by its approach to the embrace of “low-cost carriers, leading to a proliferation of flights throughout Southeast Asia, stretching air traffic controllers, and possibly allowing some airlines to expand too rapidly.”

The conclusion to be drawn by Kurlantzick here is that safety regulations have been weakened even as the demand for pilots and personnel has increased.  While he concedes that AirAsia’s safety record till now have actually been near faultless, he takes note of specific pilot behaviour, a view that doesn’t shy away from a good lashing of innuendo.

Experience was what tickled his interest regarding the AirAsia pilot, who had 6,000 hours of flight experience on the Airbus he was flying. But did he have experience in flying at 34,000 feet or higher?  Then there were three pilots from the Indonesian charrier Lion Air – an unconnected matter, you would think – that the author proceeds to link by association.  They were arrested for the use of methamphetamine use, something not entirely unusual for those working long shifts.

Not that this suggests a good deal of imperiousness on the part of commentators who see superior, experienced staff in the airline companies of Europe and the Middle East. After all, pilots of other nationalities are not infrequent in the new budget airlines, and the missing AirAsia plane did have a French co-pilot, Rémi-Emmanuel Plesel.  What the Wall Street Journal (Dec 29) poses is a problem rather than a flaw in the argument.  Diversity does not defeat the argument on inexperience and skill, but instead suggests “a big management challenge”.  Innuendo again takes flight as truth puts its boots on.

Naturally, this necessitates the hunt for the holy grail – the black box, which has become something of a mystical solution.  (Little is said about the fact that a black box is only ever as useful as what is said on it, and unlocking its code is not necessarily a solution to anything.)

Then come the head numbing statistics about dramatic changes of course, dizzying fall in altitude, and such other disruptions, including faulty wiring.  “Let’s break this down for you…” poses the resident CNN weatherman, who merely proceeds to lard a table already heavy with presumptions.  This is where plausible officialdom retreats before salaried speculators on the fate of doomed passengers.

Turbulence is usually treated as a red herring, a childhood presumption that a plane will be knocked out of the sky by a bolt from Thor.  Weather alone is not deemed sufficient to direct the plane to an imminent doom, though in such cases, the lines between mythological surmising and supposed scientific speculation seem on common ground.

This is evident in Alex Davies’ account in Wired (Dec 29), which notes that, for all the strengths standard aircraft have against weather challenges, the old terror of the “thunderstorm” is still to be taken seriously.  “About 60 people in the US are injured by turbulence annually, according to the FAA, and three people died between 1980 and 2008.”

The disappearance of yet another airline has also provided ample, excruciating aviation speak, including that of such boisterous types as Richard Quest of CNN fame, whose observations act like a prophylactic against cognition.

The accounting types have also found themselves busy this year.  Flight companies risk going bankrupt, with a run being made on their stocks. There are plummeting shares and profits.  The insurance companies move into less than enthusiastic gear.

What such events seem to reveal is that, even as the state of technology in human life emphasises increased connectedness and identification, spectacular incidents of disappearance can still happen.  The contemporary age does nothing to upset the historical trend associated with grand and supposedly mysterious disappearances.  We are linked in an unprecedented way, but we are still unable to locate crash sites in open oceans. The missing flight syndrome is bound to continue in the new year.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was as Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: [email protected]

Freedom Rider: Cuba in the American Imagination

December 31st, 2014 by Margaret Kimberley

“There are no benevolent motives behind the Obama administration’s actions.”

On December 17, 2014, the Obama administration announced changes in relations with Cuba which broke with over fifty years of foreign policy decisions. The United States will open an embassy in Havana for the first time since 1961. All of the Cuban Five [5] political prisoners are now free. While Congress must approve a complete end of the trade embargo, some trade restrictions have already been loosened.

Of course, Yankee imperialism gave with one hand, and took with the other. The day after the Cuba announcement, president Obama signed legislation imposing sanctions against the Venezuelan [6] government. Instead of asking why the United States would help Cuba but punish its biggest benefactor, Americans are celebrating what they hope is a return to Cuba’s status as a de facto American colony.

Anyone who depended on the inane exultations from the corporate media and so-called leftists would think that Cuba ceased to exist from January 1, 1959 until now. They speak as if it has remained in a state of suspended animation, not waking up until the United States woke it with a kiss, as if in a fairy tale. While Americans think that Cubans exist as relics like cars from the 1950s, that nation has succeeded in achieving a number of accomplishments which Americans refuse to acknowledge. Of course that is easy to do if revolutionary Cuba isn’t thought of as a real nation, which is as much as the average American mind can fathom.

“The day after the Cuba announcement, president Obama signed legislation imposing sanctions against the Venezuelan government.”

Cuban soldiers hastened the end of South Africa’s apartheid system. The victory at Cuito Cuanavale [7] in Angola proved that the South African army was not invincible. While the United States sent troops to build only one paltry hospital during the most recent Ebola epidemic [8], Cuba sent over 400 doctors to treat patients in the affected areas. Cubans have an excellent health care system which compares quite well to the private and astronomically expensive system in the United States.

Cuba is a nation with its own interests and a history of fighting first against Spanish colonialism and then United States control. Yet in the popular mind Cuba is still a mafia outpost from the 1950s where Americans went to soak up sun and sin. The corporate media helps with ludicrous wishful thinking about expropriated property [9] being returned fifty years after the fact.

Even supposedly serious thinkers succumbed and revealed more about their own fantasies [10] than any insight about Cuba. Liberal pundit David Corn could only think of his stereotypes in a startling missive posted on twitter. “Cuba’s a swell place to visit. Beaches, rum, baseball, music. It’ll be great for more USers to visit-& that could counter repression there.” If there were a prize awarded for truly stupid twitter posts, Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin should win with these words, “Obama spoke with Raul Castro yesterday. The ice is melting. Mojitos for all!”

It is difficult to know where to begin in analyzing such nonsense. It isn’t clear what Corn means by repression, but surely the presence of Americans having fun has never made people safe anywhere in the world. As for Benjamin, anyone whose response to a foreign policy decision includes references to a cocktail should be ignored now and forever.

“Cuba’s history and its politics mean nothing to the right or to liberals who may espouse somewhat higher motives.”

The foolishly excited liberals are outdone by people who revel in vulgarity but who expose a lot by doing so. Blogger Matt Forney opined [11], “What Russia was to Generation X, Cuba will be for the Millennials: a land where the white man is God.”

That is the crux of the matter. Cuba’s history and its politics mean nothing to the right or to liberals who may espouse somewhat higher motives. Cuba is a dream for white people who want a place where they can be well, white. They can fantasize about having a good time while their government controls a largely brown skinned and subservient group.

The lovers of empire may have celebrated too soon however. While even a partial end to the embargo will benefit Cubans, their government made it clear they will not return to subservience. President Raul Castro stated in no uncertain terms that Cuba will remain socialist and will not extradite Assata Shakur or anyone else granted asylum by the government.

Obama said himself, “The whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government.” None of the cognoscenti dared ask what those words meant. Imperialism is on the march as never before. United States and Saudi Arabian machinations have succeeded in lowering oil prices and crippling Russia, Venezuela and Iran. Sanctions and market manipulations can succeed where sending troops cannot.

No one can argue against the end of a 16 year-long ordeal for the Cuban Five, but there are no benevolent motives behind the Obama administration’s actions. The United States did not suddenly give up its plan for unipolar domination. Indeed we must assume that these latest moves are part of the larger plan to bring every nation to heel.

Cuba is a nation which has suffered and struggled to be free from domination. It doesn’t matter if it is a psychological after thought for Americans. They may try to pretend that the last fifty years never happened but there is no turning back. People in the United States may have selective amnesia, but surely Cubans do not.

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 [12]. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

Notes:

[1] http://www.blackagendareport.com/category/americas/cuba
[2] http://www.blackagendareport.com/category/americas/venezuela
[3] http://www.blackagendareport.com/category/us-politics/democrats
[4] http://www.blackagendareport.com/category/us-politics/obamarama
[5] http://www.freethefive.org/
[6] http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11093
[7] http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/march-23-anniversary-beginning-apartheids-end-battle-cuito-cuanavale
[8] http://www.blackagendareport.com/node/14470
[9] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/22/world/cuba-seizures-now-present-opportunities.html?action=click&contentCollection=Americas&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&pgtype=article
[10] https://cienflamingos.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/diplomacy-is-shit-the-president-is-evil-the-left-is-trash/
[11] https://twitter.com/Mobute/status/545732150474321920/photo/1
[12] http://freedomrider.blogspot.com
[13] http://www.addtoany.com/share_save?linkurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.blackagendareport.com%2Fnode%2F14589&linkname=Freedom%20Rider%3A%20Cuba%20in%20the%20American%20Imagination

War on Black America

December 31st, 2014 by Stephen Lendman

Black Americans are in the eye of the storm. Militarized cops target them nationwide.

According to Operation Ghetto Storm, police, security guards, and other self-appointed enforcers kill black youths and adults on average every 28 hours.

“(S)tate-sanctioned killings.” Casualties of war. Ongoing daily against black Americans. Compounded by other systemic abuses.

Including judicial unfairness. Get tough on crime policies. Mandatory minimum sentences. Guilty unless proved innocent. Three strikes and you’re out.

Racist drug laws. Stop-and-frisk. Driving while black. Filling the world’s largest gulag. Mostly with people of color.

One in every eight black males is incarcerated on any given day. According to Law Professor Michelle Alexander:

“More black men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850 before the Civil War began.”

Mostly because of the racist war on drugs. Waged “almost exclusively in poor communities of color.”

In some inner-city ones, around 80% of Black youths can expect criminal injustice prosecutions one or more times in their lifetimes.

Around 70% return to prison within two years of release. If we returned to pre-1980 prison levels, “(m)ore than a million people working in the system would see their jobs disappear,” said Alexander.

Billions of dollars are at stake. America’s prison/industrial complex is by far the world’s largest. Bigger than China’s with four times the population.

Over 60% of black men born in 1965 or later without high school degrees have prison records. Marking them for life.

Vulnerable to re-arrest. Targeted by militarized cops. Arrested for any reason or none at all. Murdered by police unaccountably.

In big cities. Small ones. Urban areas. Rural ones. Militarized cops make their own rules. Operating extrajudicially. Killing with impunity.

On December 20, two police officers patrolling Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant community were shot and killed in their car.

NYPD deputy chief Kim Royster said Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were struck in their upper bodies.

The assailant fled to a nearby subway station. Identified as Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo condemned “this deplorable act of violence.” Ordered flags on all state government buildings lowered to half staff. Honoring Liu and Ramos. Saying:

“I join with all New Yorkers in mourning the loss of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.”

“Like all law enforcement personnel, Officers Liu and Ramos put their lives on the line in order to serve their communities, and it is with great sadness that we mourn their passing after a senseless and deplorable act of violence.”

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones of these two brave men. We will remember their service with pride and endless gratitude.”

“Tonight, we all come together to mourn the loss of these brave souls.”

On Saturday, thousands from New York and elsewhere gathered in and around Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens. Attending Ramos’ funeral. Honoring the slain men.

Including police and mourners. The Washington Post reported “a sea of police officers watch(ing) on big screens set up for the ceremony.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio attended. So did Governor Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden. “At the end of the day, we are one,” said Cuomo.

“One people, one state, one community, one family. Somos uno. Somos uno. Somos uno.” We are one in Spanish.

“Our hearts ache for you,” Biden told Ramos’ family. “Your husband, and his partner, they were a part of New York’s finest, and that’s not an idle phrase.”

“When an assassin’s bullet targeted two officers, it targeted this city and it touched the soul of an entire nation.”

Mayor de Blasio called the shootings “a particularly despicable act.”

“When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society. It is an attack on all of us.”

“It is an attack on everything we hold dear. We depend on our police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil.”

Obama issued a statement on the day of the killings, saying:

“I unconditionally condemn today’s murder of two police officers in New York City.”

“Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification.”

The New York Times headlined “Long Line of Blue, Mourning the First of Two Slain Comrades.”

Reporting “an overwhelming display of solidarity and sorrow.” Saying “tens of thousands of police officers from across the country joined with (their New York comrades) to pay their respects…”

Who mourns for killer cop victims? For Trayvon Martin. Unarmed. Threatening no one. Murdered by Sanford, FL neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman.

A killer cop equivalent by any standard. An earlier article discussing his acquittal asked when is killing a non-threatening unarmed teenager not murder?

When civil rights don’t matter. When Jim Crow justice prevails.

When victims are black. When mostly or entirely white jurors call cold-blooded murder self-defense.

When a jury of peers representing both sides fairly is verboten. When killing black males in America is OK when whites do it.

When a culture of violence prevails. When institutionalized racism is longstanding. When conventional wisdom says black males aren’t victims. They’re prone to violence.

When equity and justice are four-letter words. When human life has no value. When society doesn’t give a damn if a black male dies. When lawlessness is part of the national culture.

Cold-blooded murders is considered self-defense when killer cops are involved.

Who mourned for 18-year-old Michael Brown. Murdered by police officer Darren Wilson. Exonerated despite killing an unarmed youth. Posing no threat. With no criminal record.

An independent autopsy revealing six bullet wounds showed Wilson wanted him to die.

Who mourned for 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Playing in a park. With his sister and friend. Gunned down by Cleveland police.

What about Eric Garner. Father of six. Called a “neighborhood peacemaker.” A generous, congenial person.

Threatening no one. Deserving to live. Murdered by police officer Daniel Pantaleo’s chokehold. “I can’t breathe” cries for help were ignored.

What about Oscar Grant. Unarmed. Threatening no one. Oakland, CA transit officer Johannes Mehserle thrust him face-down on the ground.

Claiming he resisted arrest. Despite having committed no crime. Shot in the back. Murdered in cold blood. Five bystanders witnessed it. Videotape on at least four cameras confirmed it.

Convicted of involuntary manslaughter. A rarity. Sentenced to two years in prison. Reduced to 292 days. For time served in jail. Free since June 2011.

Grant’s family, relatives and friends were outraged. Demanded first-degree murder. His mother Wanda said “Oscar was murdered and the law has not held the officer accountable.” Jurors didn’t comment.

What about Amadou Diallo. New York cops fired 41 shots. Struck him 19 times. Killing him while standing unarmed in his apartment building vestibule.

What about Sean Bell. New York cops murdered him in cold blood. Celebrating the eve of his wedding. Struck dozens of times. As he emerged from a nightclub unarmed. Unthreatening. Prosecutions didn’t follow.

NYPD cops illegally entered unarmed Ramarley Graham’s home. With no search warrant or probable cause. Murdering him in his kitchen.

Similar incidents occur often. Killer cops are absolved. Occasionally, disciplinary reprimands follow. Cops lie.

Claiming self-defense. Deadly force used only when threatened, they say. Hundreds of cases annually show indiscriminate violence.

Black lives don’t matter. Cold-blooded murder is called justifiable homicide. Nearly one black victim daily proves otherwise.

Who mourns for society’s most vulnerable? Nameless, faceless victims. Blacks most often. Justice in America remains denied.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected]. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.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 three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

2014: The Year Propaganda Came Of Age

December 31st, 2014 by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

From just about as early in my life as I can remember, growing up as a child in Holland, there were stories about World War II, and not just about Anne Frank and the huge amounts of people who, like her, had been dragged off to camps in eastern Europe never to come back, but also about the thousands who had risked their lives to hide Jewish and other refugees, and the scores who had been executed for doing so, often betrayed by their own neighbors.

And then there were those who had risked their lives in equally courageous ways to get news out to people, putting out newspapers and radio broadcasts just so there would be a version of events out there that was real, and not just what the Germans wanted one to believe. This happened in all Nazi – and Nazi friendly – occupied European nations. The courage of these people is hard to gauge for us today, and I’m convinced there’s no way to say whom amongst us would show that kind of bravery if we were put to the test; I certainly wouldn’t be sure about myself.

Still, without wanting to put myself anywhere near the level of those very very real heroes, please don’t get me wrong about that, that’s not what I mean, I was thinking about them with regards to what is happening in our media today. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think Joseph Goebbels had anything on US and European media today.

That propaganda as a strategic and political instrument has been refined to a huge extent over the past 70-odd years since Goebbels first picked up on Freud’s lessons on how to influence the unconscious mind, and the ‘mass-mind’, as a way to ‘steer’ an entire people, not just as a means to make them buy detergent. These days, the media can make people believe just about anything, and they have the added benefit that they can pose as friends of the people, not the enemy.

But there is a reason why such a large ‘industry’ has developed on the web with people writing articles that don’t say what the mass media say. That reason for is, obviously, first and foremost that not everybody believes whatever they are told. The problem is equally obvious: not nearly enough people are being reached to make a true difference, and to question the official narratives.

Me, I have no claim to fame outside of the appreciation I get from first, my readers and second, from my colleagues and peers. I get a lot of both, and I thank you for that, but this certainly is not about me. If anything, it’s about trying to live up to the desire for truth in the face of odds squarely stacked against it, and against the people I try to reach out to. Trying to do just 0.1% of what the WWII underground press was about.

A few days ago, I wrote in About That Interview :

The FBI claims they are certain the hackers are North Korean, but they have provided no proof of that claim. We have to trust them on their beautiful blue eyes. I think if anything defines 2014 for me, it’s the advent of incessant claims for which no proof – apparently – needs to be provided. Everything related to Ukraine over the past year carries that trait. The year of ‘beautiful blue eyes’, in other words. Never no proof, you just have to believe what your government says.

And that truly defines 2014 for me. A level of propaganda I don’t recognize, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. 2014 has for me been the year of utter nonsense. To wit, it just finished in fine form with a 5% US GDP growth number, just to name one example. Really, guys? 5%? Really? With all the numbers presented lately, the negative Thanksgiving sales data – minus 11% from what I remember -, the so-so at best Christmas store numbers to date, shrinking durable goods in November and all? Plus 5%?

It really doesn’t matter what I say, does it? You have enough people believing ridiculous numbers like that to make it worth your while. After all, that’s all that counts. It’s a democracy, isn’t it? If a majority believes something, it becomes true. If you can get more than 50% of people to believe whatever you say, that’s case closed.

With well over 90 million working age Americans counted as being out of the labor force, and with 43 million on food stamps, you can still present a 5% GDP growth number, if only you can get a sufficiently large number of people to ‘believe’. And you do, I’ll give you that. As far as the media goes, we have achieved the change we can believe in. We may not have that change, but we sure do believe we have, don’t we? And isn’t that what counts? Are congratulations in order?

Well, not where I’m at, they’re not. I should do a shout out to the likes of Zero Hedge, Yves Smith, David Stockman, Wolf Richter, Mish, Steve Keen, Jim Kunstler, and so many others, we’re a solid crowd by now even if we’re neglected, and please don’t feel left out if you’re not in that list, I know who you are. The problem is, we’re all completely neglected by the mass media, even though there are a ton of very sharp minds in this ‘finance blogosphere’. And perhaps we should make it a point to break through that ridiculous black-out in 2015.

2014, in my eyes, has been the year of propaganda outdoing even its own very purpose, and succeeding too. We are supposed to be living in a time of the best educated people in the history of mankind, and everyone thinks (s)he’s mighty smart, but precious few have even an inkling of a clue of what transpires in the world they live in. Talk about a lost generation. Or two.

We really need to question the value of higher education, if all we get for it is a generation of people so easily duped by utter blubber. What do they teach people at our universities these days? Certainly not to think for themselves, that much is clear. And then what is the use? Why spend all that time raising an entire generation of highly educated pawns, sheep and robots? I can think of some people liking that, but for society as a whole, it’s devastating if that’s all higher education is.

And if you would like to raise doubts here, the very existence of finance blogosphere I mentioned before is proof that we indeed have raised a generation of sheep. If we had functioning media, there’d be no need for that blogosphere. We are the people who keep on pointing out where the mass media fail, let alone the politicians, simply by being there and being supported to the extent we are by the few people who escape the sheep mentality.

But that’s not nearly enough. Journalists, reporters, whatever they call themselves, working for Bloomberg, Reuters, CNBC etc. should at the very least quote Zero Hedge on a daily basis, and Mish, and Steve, and Yves, and perhaps even me – though it’s fine if they continue to ignore me, as long as they give the rest their rightful place.

There are many people in the blogosphere who are many times smarter than the people who write for the mass media, and that’s a very simple and hardly disputable fact that needs to be recognized. When you read something in your paper or at your online news provider, it should be second nature to ask yourself: but what would Tyler Durden say, or the Automatic Earth, or Naked Capitalism, or David Stockman?

But we’re nowhere near that, are we? We’ve been fooled with economic stats for years, not just in the US, not even just in the west, but all over, they all grabbed on to the potential of providing people with numbers that have little to do with reality, but that simply feel good. Or even just look good.

Still, boy, have we been, and are we being, fooled. Then again, most of you wouldn’t know, would you? We people tend to discount the future, to see today as more important than tomorrow, and in the same manner we find our children’s future much less important than our own. Because that feels good too. If we are comfy right now, screw them. Not that we’d ever put it into those terms.

But you know, that’s really all old hack by now. 2014 brought us a whole other class of nonsense. And we swallowed it all hook line and entire sinker.

2014 gave us Ukraine. And you just try and find anyone today who doesn’t think Vladimir Putin is and was the evil genius mind behind the whole thing, including the 4500+ people who died there over the past 10 months. Why is it so hard to anyone who doubts that narrative? Because our media told us Putin is the bogeyman. And ‘we’ never asked for any proof. That is, except for those of us in that same blogosphere.

Meanwhile, round after round of sanctions against Russia have been set up and activated by EU and US, causing hardship for both Russian people and European businesses. But why, what exactly is Putin allegedly guilty of?

The US/EU installed a government in Kiev in February (yeah, yap about it), which is still in place, with a bunch of US citizens recently added for good measure – and for profit-. The chocolate prince president was indeed elected months later, but the prime minister – Yats – was handpicked by America, and is still -amazingly – in place. That’s the same government that had it own army murder thousands of its own citizens, and not a thing has been resolved so far.

The whole thing came to a head when MH17 was shot down over the summer. That too was blamed on Putin. Or was it? Well, not directly, nobody said Putin ordered that plane to be shot. Nor did anyone say Russia shot it. There is the accusation that Russian speaking Ukrainian ‘rebels’ did it, but proof for that was never provided in the 6 months since the incident. And there must be a best before date in there somewhere.

Is it possible the ‘rebels’ did it? We can’t exclude it, but that’s for the same reason we can’t exclude the option that little green Martians did it: we don’t know. But even then, even if they did, there’s the question whether that would have been on purpose. Which seems really stretching it: nothing they want would be served by shooting down a plane full of European, Malaysian and Australian holiday goers.

But here we are: no proof and layer upon layer of sanctions. And nary a voice is raised in the west. If one is, it’s to denounce the Russians as bloodthirsty barbarians. Even though there is no proof they did anything other than protecting what they see as their own people. Something we all would do too, no questions asked.

Ukraine defines 2014 as the year western propaganda came into its own. Not just fictional stories about an economic recovery anymore, no, we had our politico-media establishment ram an entire new cold war down our throats. And we swallowed it whole. We may have had a million more years of higher education than our parents and grandparents, but we sure don’t seem to have gotten any smarter than them.

There is a lot of information out there, written by people inspired by things other than monetary incentives or job security or anything like that, people who simply want to get information out that your trusted media won’t give you anymore than Goebbels’ media did in occupied Europe in the 1940s. And you don’t even have to risk your lives to access that information. All you have to do is to get off your couch.

The Automatic Earth is but a small part of a very valuable and fast growing resource that warrants a lot more attention than it’s been receiving to date. A reported 5% US GDP growth print is one reason why, the entire Ukraine fantasy story is another. The blogosphere is full of functioning neurons, which is more than you can say for your papers and online MSM.

As far as media is concerned, 2014 has been downright scary in its distortion of reality. Let’s try and move 2015 a little bit closer towards what’s actually happening.

The Russian Lower House speaker wants to instigate an international investigation into the 1945 nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military – a possible crime against humanity with no statute of limitation.

“Next year we will have the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trial and also the same anniversary of the first and only nuclear bombings of two civilian cities – Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not incidental that I mention these events together. I think we should discuss this topic together with lawyers and specialists in international law – for crimes against humanity have no statute of limitation,” Sergey Naryshkin told the presidium of the Russian History Society.

The Russian parliamentary chief recalled that the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hardly justifiable from the pure military position, as the defeat of Japan was practically decided after the Soviet Army’s victories in Manchuria.

“The nuclear bombing of two peaceful cities was a pure act of intimidation resulting in the deaths of several thousand Japanese civilians. Let us get back to this issue within the next year,” Naryshkin said.

Russian State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin.(RIA Novosti / Mihail Mokrushin)
Russian State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin.(RIA Novosti / Mihail Mokrushin)

The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place in early August, 1945, and resulted in the deaths of between 150,000 and 250,000 people, most of them civilians. The US authorities said the demonstration of force sped up Japan’s capitulation and prevented a land operation on the island that could have inflicted heavy casualties to the US military. At the same time, the two attacks, especially the Hiroshima bombing, have been repeatedly denounced by the international rights community as fundamentally immoral and violating the spirit of conventions that banned the use of weapons of mass destruction against the enemy’s civilian population.

Japanese officials and international rights activists raise the issue of the bombings to this day, noting that the radioactive fallout damaged Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s children, causing various illnesses in some, and costly medical checks and constant fears for the health of the rest.

Did the FBI get it wrong when identifying who, or what entity, was responsible for the recent hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment?

Yes, according to cyber security experts who now say there is plenty of evidence suggesting that the hack was an inside job.

As reported December 30 by the New York Post, American cyber security firms have said they have concrete evidence that a former Sony worker helped to hack Sony Pictures computer system, and that the cyber attack was not masterminded by North Korean cyber terrorists.

The paper noted in online editions:

One leading cybersecurity firm, Norse Corp., said [Dec. 29] it has narrowed its list of suspects to a group of six people — including at least one Sony veteran with the necessary technical background to carry out the attack, according to reports.

That comes in direct conflict with earlier claims by the nation’s top federal law enforcement agency, which blamed the cyber attack on North Korea within days of it making headlines. The announcement by the FBI had a direct financial effect on Sony; the company decided to delay a planned Christmas Day release of its latest film, The Interview, a spoof about two reality TV figures landing an interview with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, only to be recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.

FBI is holding firm to its conclusions

The FBI’s claims appeared early on to make sense, given the vanity of the young North Korea leader. But, alas, it appears as though that claim is falling apart.

Kurt Stammberger, senior vice president at Norse Corp., a cybersecurity firm, now says that he used Sony’s leaked human-resources documents to cross-reference information with communications on hacker chat rooms, as well as the firm’s own network of web sensors, to conclude that North Korea was not responsible for the hack.

“When the FBI made this announcement, just a few days after the attack was made public, it raised eyebrows in the community because it’s hard to do that kind of an attribution that quickly — it’s almost unheard of,” Stammberger told Bloomberg News. “All the leads that we did turn up that had a Korean connection turned out to be dead ends.”

Politico Pro reported that FBI agents investigating the hack have been briefed by Norse. Stammberger said after the meeting the agency was “very open and grateful for our data and assistance” but would not share any of its data and findings with his cybersecurity firm, though that was what the company expected.

The federal agency is standing firm in its determination of guilt.

“The FBI has concluded the Government of North Korea is responsible for the theft and destruction of data on the network of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Attribution to North Korea is based on intelligence from the FBI, the U.S. intelligence community, DHS, foreign partners and the private sector,” a spokeswoman said in a statement to Politico Pro. “There is no credible information to indicate that any other individual is responsible for this cyber incident.”

“Strong evidence of an inside job

The virus linked to the Sony attack was coded in a Korean language environment, reports have said. The Post added that the malware virus is similar to one that targeted South Korean banks and media companies in 2013. However, that’s not enough to just link it to North Korea, according to Trend Micro, a software development firm, Bloomberg News reported.

The malware in question is available on the black market and can be used without a great amount of technical know-how.

“A lot of malware is kind of like a Roomba — it shuffles around the computer network, bumps into furniture and goes in spirals and looks for things kind of randomly,” Stammberger told Bloomberg.

“This was much more like a cruise missile,” he added. “This malware had specific server addresses, user IDs, passwords and credentials, it had certificates. This stuff was incredibly targeted. That is a very strong signal that an insider was involved.”

Sources:

http://nypost.com

http://www.politico.com

http://www.bloomberg.com

The Carter Center notes with concern the conviction of Republic of Korea incumbent lawmaker, Lee Seok-ki, a member of the National Assembly, by the Seoul High Court on a charge of insurrection conspiracy based on taped remarks he made to his political followers and for which he has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

The Carter Center will not comment on the merits of the facts presented in this case, which is currently on appeal before Korea’s Supreme Court or interfere in any other way in the internal affairs of the Republic of Korea.  We note, however, that Mr. Lee’s conviction is taking place under the provisions of a highly restrictive National Security Law, established during the pre-1987 era of autocratic military rule, that appears to contradict both the Republic of Korea’s international human rights treaty obligations and  the nation’s global reputation as a highly successful prosperous democracy.

“If Korea is to extend its essential role as a human rights leader in Asian and world affairs, there should be a  fully transparent democratic debate open to all Korean citizens about current and potential risks to human rights under the terms of the National Security Law,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

At a time when Americans are urgently debating congressional findings on the official use of torture, The Carter Center  believes all nations are capable of protecting their national security while remaining faithful to their commitments under international human rights law.

“Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.”

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care.  The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

KPFA Weekend News Anchor David Rosenberg: Rwanda and Uganda are threatening to send troops across their borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo yet again to, they say, eliminate the Hutu refugee militia known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR. Going after the Hutu refugee militia has been Rwanda and Uganda’s excuse for crossing into Congo for the past 18 years, since the outset of the First Congo War in 1996.

During those years, Rwanda and Uganda have driven one Congolese president into exile, assassinated another, started wars which left millions of Congolese people and Rwandan refugees dead, and developed an international criminal network for smuggling illegally extracted minerals and timber resources out of Congo. KPFA’s Ann Garrison spoke to Felicien Kanyamibwa, president of the National Democratic Coalition, which released a statement opposing military action against Rwandan refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Felicien Kanyamibwa said that, first of all, there are not only Rwandan Hutu refugees but also Rwandan Tutsi refugees in eastern Congo’s Kivu Provinces. Both have fled to eastern Congo to escape the repressive Rwandan government of Paul Kagame, and his coalition includes Tutsis who were once part of Kagame’s party. However, Kagame doesn’t like to talk about the Rwandan Tutsi refugees because that would negate and expose his 18-year excuse for crossing the border – hunting Hutus practicing “genocide ideology.”

Felicien Kanyamibwa: The problem really is that in Rwanda, there is a repressive regime that does not give guarantees to Hutu refugees, or even Tutsi refugees, to go back to Rwanda. That’s the major problem and that’s why those refugees stay in Congo.

KPFA: Kanyamibwa said that Kagame’s real motive for crossing the border into Congo yet again is to seize the resources and territory of the Kivu Provinces, which he believes to belong to Rwanda because the Rwandan Tutsi monarchy controlled them prior to the Berlin conference of 1884-85, which redrew African borders to create European colonies. The Organization of African Unity voted, in 1964, not to try to restore the precolonial borders of Africa after these colonies won their independence, but Kagame seeks to reclaim the Kivu Provinces nevertheless.

Kanyamibwa: The president at some point said, “Rwanda used to be bigger than what it is right now.”

Thousands of Rwandan refugees still languish in refugee camps in DR Congo.

KPFA: They want to annex the Kivus. They believe the Kivus belong to Rwanda?

Kanyamibwa: Yeah, Rwanda says that. At some point the Rwandan government was saying, “Actually Rwanda used to be bigger than what it is. Eastern Congo used to be under Rwandan influence before the colonization by Belgium. Then, it should come back to Rwanda.”

KPFA: Well, that’s what the ENOUGH Project seems to want to encourage, just like it encouraged the split of the Sudans, yanking South Sudan off of Sudan.

Kanyamibwa: Yeah, and in eastern Congo, there are almost 500,000 Tutsi. The majority of them came from Rwanda. So all those M23, all those guys, they may say, “You know, the federal government does not serve our interests; the government of Congo in Kinshasa does not serve our interests. We want to secede, like South Sudan,” as you said.

KPFA: The governments of Tanzania and South Africa and, not surprisingly, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are all opposed to another Rwandan and Ugandan offensive inside Congo’s borders. Since Tanzania and South Africa are the primary troop contributors to the U.N. Force Intervention Brigade, it cannot be mobilized against the refugee militias and neither can the Congolese Army.

Kanyamibwa said that a Rwandan Ugandan offensive across Congo’s borders would also violate the U.N. Security Council mandate, which named a date – Jan. 2 – for action by U.N. and Congolese forces, not a cross-border war of aggression.

Kanyamibwa: The mandate to launch operations on Jan. 2 was given to MONUSCO, which is the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in eastern Congo. If Rwanda and Uganda cross the border, it’s beyond the mandate given by the U.N. Security Council. They may do that, but I don’t see that if South Africa, Tanzania and DRC don’t agree to that crossing of the border.

KPFA: And they don’t agree, right?

This cartoon was originally published on Nov. 3, 2008, in the New York Times.

This cartoon was originally published on Nov. 3, 2008, in the New York Times.

Kanyamibwa: To my knowledge, they don’t agree, and they want a peaceful solution to the problem of Rwandan refugees in eastern Congo.

KPFA: Kanyamibwa also said that President Obama has enormous power to stop Rwanda and Uganda from starting another cross-border war of aggression.

Kanyamibwa: The good thing about President Obama is he has clearly stated that he’s not supporting dictators. He’s supporting strong institutions, not strong men. And in the case of M23, he clearly showed that by suspending the aid to Kagame, he showed that he can do something that is going to change the situation. Even now he can decide to suspend aid to Kagame and things are going to happen.

KPFA: OK, you think if he suspended aid or threatened sanctions, or did impose sanctions, there would be no military mobilization against these refugee groups in eastern Congo?

Kanyamibwa: Absolutely, and if there is a power, a world power, that Kagame’s afraid of and he’s ready to listen to, it’s the United States. If they tell him to do something today, I don’t think he’s going to ignore that. I know it’s a sovereign country, Rwanda, but it’s a Rwanda that depends on international aid.

KPFA: For PacificaKPFA, and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

KPFA/David Rosenberg: Statements by the FDLR and the Rwandan National Democratic Coalition have been posted to the San Francisco Bay View website. That’s at sfbayview.com.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News,CounterpunchColored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening NewsKPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at [email protected]. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.

The cyberattack on Sony Pictures unleashed a torrent of alarmist media reports, evoking the image of North Korean perfidy. Within a month, the FBI issued a statement declaring the North Korean government “responsible for these actions.” Amid the media frenzy, several senators and congresspersons called for tough action. Arizona Senator John McCain blustered, “It’s a new form of warfare that we’re involved in, and we need to react and react vigorously.” President Barack Obama announced his administration planned to review the possibility of placing North Korea on the list of states sponsoring terrorism, a move that would further tighten the already harsh sanctions on North Korea. “They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond,” Obama warned darkly. “We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

In the rush to judgment, few were asking for evidence, and none was provided. Computer security analysts, however, were vocal in their skepticism.

In its statement, the FBI offered only a few comments to back its attribution of North Korean responsibility. “Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in the attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed,” it reported, including “similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.” The FBI went on to mention that the IP addresses used in the Sony hack were associated with “known North Korean infrastructure.” Tools used in the attack “have similarities to a cyberattack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”

The major problem with the evidence offered by the FBI is that it is self-referential, all of it pointing back to the 2013 attack on South Korean banks and media that was carried out by the DarkSeoul gang. At that time, without supplying any supporting evidence, the United States accused North Korea of being behind DarkSeoul. In effect, the FBI argues that because the U.S. spread the rumor of North Korean involvement in the earlier attack, and some of the code is related, this proves that North Korea is also responsible for the Sony hack. One rumor points to another rumor as ‘proof,’ rendering the argument meaningless.

The logical fallacies are many. To date, no investigation has uncovered the identity of DarkSeoul, and nothing is known about the group. The linking of DarkSeoul to North Korea is purely speculative. “One point that can’t be said enough,” emphasizes Risk Based Security, “is that ‘attribution is hard’ given the nature of computer intrusions and how hard it is to ultimately trace an attack back to a given individual or group. Past attacks on Sony have not been solved, even years later. The idea that a mere two weeks into the investigation and there is positive attribution, enough to call this an act of war, seems dangerous and questionable.”

Consider some of the other flaws in the FBI’s statement. The IP addresses that were hard-coded in the malware used in the Sony hack belonged to servers located in Thailand, Poland, Italy, Bolivia, Singapore, Cypress, and the United States. The FBI implies that only the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – the formal name for North Korea) could have used these servers. The Thai port is a proxy that is commonly used in sending spam and malware. The same is true of the Polish and Italian servers. All of the servers used in the Sony attack have been previously compromised and are among the many computers that are widely known and used by hackers and spam distributors. Anyone with the knowhow can use them.

Whether or not these machines were used is another matter. Hackers often use proxy machines with phony IP addresses to mislead investigators. No hackers use their own computers to launch an attack. Vulnerable systems are hijacked in order to route traffic. For the FBI to point to IP addresses either reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of cybersecurity or a cynical attempt to deliberately mislead the public.

The Sony hack also bears similarities with the 2012 Shamoon cyberattack on computers belonging to Saudi Aramco. Those responsible for that attack have never been identified either, although the United States accused Iran without providing any evidence. Using the FBI’s logic, one could just as easily argue that the Sony hack was the work of Iran. One groundless accusation is used to buttress another. As evidentiary matter, it is worthless. It should also be recalled that in 1998, the United States blamed Iraq for the Solar Sunrise hack into Defense Department computers, only for it be ultimately revealed that it was the act of a few teenagers.

Nor do the similarities in code between the Sony hack and the earlier Shamoon and DarkSeoul attacks indicate a shared responsibility. Malware is freely available on the black market. Hackers operate by purchasing or borrowing, and then tweaking commonly available software, including both illegal and legal components. Code is shared among hackers on forums, and malware is assembled by linking various elements together.

One of the components used in the Sony cyberattack was the RawDisk library from EldoS, a commercial application that allows direct access to Windows hardware bypassing security. Anyone can legally purchase this software. There is nothing to tie it to the DPRK.

“There’s a lot of malware that’s shared between different groups, and all malware is built on top of older malware,” reports Brian Martin of Risk Based Security. “They’re also built on top of hacking tools. For example, you’ll find lots of malware that uses pieces of code from popular tools like Nmap. Does that mean that the guy who wrote Nmap is a malware author? No. Does it mean he works for North Korea? No.”

Robert Graham of Errata Security regards the evidence offered by the FBI as “complete nonsense. It sounds like they’ve decided on a conclusion and are trying to make the evidence fit.” Graham adds: “There is nothing unique in the software. We know that hackers share malware on forums. Every hacker in the world has all the source code available.”

Trojan-Destover, the malware used in the Sony cyberattack, included at least six components utilized earlier by Shamoon and DarkSeoul. “Even in such damaging scenarios, the cyber attacker’s tools are reused,” points out Sariel Moshe of CyActive. “For them, if it worked once, tweak it a bit and it will work again. The attack on Sony demonstrates quite clearly that this method works quite well.” Indeed, while Shamoon and DarkSeoul are the most commonly mentioned predecessors to the Sony hack, it is thought that this software has been used on several occasions in the past against multiple targets.

The software utilized in the Sony cyberattack is atypical for a nation state. “It’s a night and day difference in quality,” says Craig Williams of Cisco’s Talos Security Intelligence and Research Group. “The code is simplistic, not very complex, and not very obfuscated.”

Four files used in the attack were compiled on a machine set to the Korean language. That fact proves nothing, notes computer security analyst Chris Davis. “That is pretty weak evidence. I could compile malware code that used Afrikaans and where the timestamp matched JoBerg in about five seconds.” Any reasonably competent hacker would change the language setting in order to misdirect investigators. Had North Korean conducted this attack, it certainly would have taken the basic step of changing the language setting on the machine used to compile code.

What about North Korean resentment over Sony Picture’s tasteless lowbrow comedy, The Interview, which portrays the assassination of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un? It is doubtful that Americans would find themselves any more amused by a foreign comedy on the subject of killing a U.S. president than the North Koreans are by The Interview.

Among the emails leaked by the cyberattack on Sony was a message from Bruce Bennett of the Rand Corporation. Bennett was a consultant on the film and opposed toning down the film’s ending. “I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong-un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government,” he wrote, adding that DVD leaks of the film into North Korea “will start some real thinking.” In another message, Sony CEO Michael Lynton responded: “Bruce – Spoke to someone very senior in State (confidentially). He agreed with everything you have been saying. Everything.” Lynton was also communicating with Robert King, U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues in regard to the film.

The Western media portray North Korean reaction to The Interview as overly sensitive and irrational, while U.S. officials and a Rand Corporation consultant saw the film as having the potential to inspire the real-life assassination of Kim Jong-un. The scene of Kim’s assassination was not intended merely for so-called ‘entertainment.’

The mass media raced to attribute the Sony hack to the DPRK, based on its reaction to the Sony film. A closer look at the cyberattack reveals a more likely culprit, however. The group taking responsibility for the hack calls itself ‘Guardians of Peace’, and in one of the malware files the alternate name of ‘God’sApstls’ is also used. In the initial attack, no reference was made to the film, nor was it mentioned in subsequent emails the attackers sent to Sony. Instead, the hackers attempted to extort money: “Monetary compensation we want. Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as whole.”

In an interview with CSO Online, a person represented as belonging to Guardians of Peace said the group is “an international organization…not under the direction of any state,” and included members from several nations. “Our aim is not at the film The Interview as Sony Pictures suggests,” the hacker wrote, but mentioned that the release of a film that had the potential of threatening peace was an example of the “greed of Sony Pictures.”

For two weeks following the cyberattack, the media harped on the subject of North Korean culpability. Only after that point did the Guardians of Peace (GOP) make its first public reference to The Interview, denying any connection with the DPRK. Yet another week passed before the GOP denounced the movie and threatened to attack theaters showing the film.

It appears that the narrative of North Korean involvement repeated ad nauseam by the media and the U.S. government presented a gift to the hackers too tempting to pass up. The GOP played to the dominant theme and succeeded in solidifying the tendency to blame the DPRK, with the effect of ensuring that no investigation would pursue the group.

For its part, the Obama Administration chose to seize the opportunity to bolster its anti-North Korea policy in preference over tracking down the culprits.

There are strong indications that the cyberattack involved one or more disgruntled Sony employees or ex-employees, probably working together with experienced hackers. The malware used against Sony had been modified to include hard-coded file paths and server names. System administrator user names and passwords were also hard-coded. Only someone having full access with system administrator privileges to Sony’s computer network could have obtained this information.

The GOP could have hacked into the Sony system months beforehand in order to gather that data. But it is more likely that someone with knowledge of Sony’s network configuration provided the information. Arguing against the possibility that critical information had been siphoned beforehand through a hack, cybersecurity expert Hemanshu Nigam observes, “If terabytes of data left the Sony networks, their network detection systems would have noticed easily. It would also take months for a hacker to figure out the topography of the Sony networks to know where critical assets are stored and to have access to the decryption keys needed to open up the screeners that have been leaked.”

The most likely motivation for the attack was revenge on the part of current or former Sony employees. “My money is on a disgruntled (possibly ex) employee of Sony,” Marc Rogers of CloudFlare wrote. “Whoever did this is in it for the revenge. The info and access they had could have easily been used to cash out, yet, instead, they are making every effort to burn Sony down. Just think what they could have done with passwords to all of Sony’s financial accounts.”

Nation states never conduct such noisy hacking operations. Their goal is to quietly infiltrate a system and obtain information without detection. Sony had no data that would have been of interest to a nation state. Computer security blogger The Grugq wrote, “I can’t see the DPRK putting this sort of valuable resource onto what is essentially a petty attack against a company that has no strategic value.”

It would have been reckless for a North Korean team to draw attention to itself. Cybersecurity specialist Chris Davis says, “All the activity that was reported screams Script Kiddie to me. Not advanced state-sponsored attack.” Davis adds, “Well, the stupid skeleton pic they splashed on all the screens on the workstations inside Sony…is not something a state-sponsored attack would do…Would ANY self-respecting state-sponsored actor use something as dumb as that?” The consensus among cybersecurity experts is clear, Davis argues. “The prevalent theory I am seeing in the closed security mailing lists is an internet group of laid off Sony employees.”

Following his cybersecurity firm’s investigation, Kurt Stammberger of Norse echoes that view. “Sony was not just hacked. This is a company that was essentially nuked from the inside. We are very confident that this was not an attack master-minded by North Korea and that insiders were key to the implementation of one of the most devastating attacks in history.”

“What is striking here is how well they knew to exploit Sony’s vulnerabilities,” reports Nimrod Kozlovski of JVP Labs. “The malware itself is not creative or new; there are plenty of actors that could have manifested this particular attack.” The hackers “knew more about the company, Sony, and its vulnerabilities than they knew, or needed to know, about hacking.”

As an indication of the hacker’s real motivation, it should be noted that the first communications focused on a different issue than the Sony film. The content of an email sent by the GOP to the IDG News Service refers to Sony’s restructuring, in which thousands of employees lost their jobs: “Sony and Sony Pictures have made terrible racial discrimination and human rights violation, indiscriminate tyranny and restructuring in recent years. It has brought damage to a lot of people, some of whom are among us. Nowadays, Sony Pictures is about to prey on the weak with a plan of another indiscriminate restructuring for their own benefits. This became a decisive motive for our action.” In an email to The Verge, the GOP wrote, “We want equality. Sony doesn’t…We worked with other staff with similar interests to get in.”

Seeking to diffuse tensions, North Korea proposed to conduct a joint investigation with the United States into the Sony cyberattack. Predictably, the United States quickly rebuffed the offer. National Security Council spokesman Mark Stroh arrogantly responded, “If the North Korean government wants to help, they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages this attack caused.” North Korea can hardly be expected to accept blame for an act it did not commit. But getting to the truth of the matter was the farthest thing from the Obama Administration’s mind. Similarly, U.S. officials are ignoring requests from cybersecurity experts to be allowed to analyze the Destover code. “They’re worried we’ll prove them wrong,” Robert Graham concludes.

The Obama Administration’s outrage over the Sony attack contains more than a small measure of hypocrisy. It was the United States that launched the Stuxnet attack that destroyed many of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. According to a Washington Post article published in 2013, the United States conducted 231 cyber operations throughout the world two years before. The National Security Agency, as is now well known, regularly hacks into computer networks, scooping up vast amounts of data. The GENIE program, the Post reported, was projected to have broken into and installed implants in 85,000 computers by the end of 2013. It was reported that GENIE’s next phase would implement an automated system that could install “potentially millions of implants” for gathering data “and active attack.” According to former deputy of defense secretary William J. Lynn III, “The policy debate has moved so that offensive options are more prominent now.”

Contrast the mild treatment the media gave to the recent large-scale hacks into Target, Home Depot and JP Morgan, in which millions of credit cards and personal information were stolen, with the coverage of the cyberattack on Sony Pictures. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that political considerations are driving the media furor over the latter case.

After six years in office, the Obama Administration has yet to engage in dialogue or diplomacy with North Korea. It prefers to maintain a wall of hostility, blocking any prospect of progress or understanding between the two nations.

Already, North Korean websites have been targeted by persistent denial of service operations. Whether the attacks were launched by a U.S. government cyber team or independent hackers inspired by media reports is not known. In any case, President Obama has already promised to take unspecified action against the DPRK. Actual responsibility for the Sony attack is irrelevant. Backed by media cheerleading, U.S officials are using the cyberattack as a pretext to ratchet up pressure on North Korea. Any action the Obama Administration takes is likely to trigger a response, and we could enter a dangerous feedback loop of action/counteraction.

Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and the Advisory Board of the Korea Policy Institute. He is a member of the Committee to Defend Democracy in South Korea and a columnist for Voice of the People. He is also one of the co-authors ofKilling Democracy: CIA and Pentagon Operations in the Post-Soviet Period, published in the Russian language.

Are Student Loans Bringing Back Indentured Labor?

December 31st, 2014 by Ryan McNamara

Originally published by WhoWhatWhy 

The American system of financing higher education is broken. Instead of freeing students to use their talents in creative ways, it saddles them with a form of oppressive debt—to the detriment of themselves and of society.

Indentured servants made up a large part of the workforce in colonial America. These were typically young people from Europe who paid for their passage to North America by working for a set number of years (usually between four to seven) as virtual slaves.

This form of indentured labor disappeared from American society in the early 1900s. But the staggering burden of debt incurred by today’s college students—in which young people pay huge fees for the opportunity to work for a living wage—has been compared to a modern form of indenture.

In taking on such indebtedness, students are only trying to keep pace with the ever-rising cost of a college degree. Over the last 40 years, tuition and fees at U.S. schools have increased almost twelve-fold, far more than food, housing and even medical care.

***

Public colleges, traditionally the educators of working-class students, no longer provide an affordable alternative to high-priced private institutions. Sharp cuts in state funding in recent years have shifted more and more of the costs to students in state and city schools, with an inevitable rise in student debt.

The social costs of this relentless inflation in higher education are substantial.  At a time when so many new jobs call for college-level skills, the percentage of high school graduates enrolling in college has actually been declining: from 70.1 percent in 2009 to 65.9 percent in 2013.

An “investment” in a college education today will still pay off over the long run in terms of higher income. That’s something upon which economists who do cost-benefit analyses generally agree.

But borrowing to pay for college tuition isn’t like borrowing money to start a business. It has a much greater effect on society because of the kind of career choices it influences people to make. And because of the choice they must make, before they can choose a career.

Debt You Can’t Escape

To start with, the price of a college education is the charge people have to pay to gain access to a labor market. That makes it essentially a “transportation fee”—in labor studies, that’s a charge people have to pay to gain access to a labor market.

And here’s the rub: student debt cannot be discharged. Unlike most every other form of debt in the United States, such as credit cards and mortgage payments, you cannot declare bankruptcy to get rid of it.  The hang-time of student loans is effectively limitless. An estimated two million Americans 60 years old and over are still paying off student loans. And given the continuing rise in college costs, this number is sure to skyrocket in the coming years.

On top of this, collection agencies have extraordinary powers to collect on student loans—powers that far exceed their ability to extract payments from other kinds of debtors. They can garnish wages, take income tax returns, and demand a portion of Social Security checks. Such tactics can force those who fall behind on payments into a death spiral of inescapable debt.

***

Andrew Ross, a professor of sociology at New York University who focuses on labor issues, sees a clear parallel to traditional forms of indenture: “We have reached the point, in the 21st century ‘knowledge economy’, where a majority of skilled employees must go into debt in order to labor. Practically speaking, indebtedness is the condition of entry into the workforce.”

There are modern parallels as well.

In much of the Middle East a system of indentured labor, known as kafala, transports poor workers from countries like India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, to rich Gulf countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where they perform manual labor. These workers pay exorbitant recruitment fees that take years of labor to pay off. Frequently deceived about the size of the transport fee and the wages owed them, they often find themselves unable to break free of debt.

Like the kafala workers—or the Latin American migrants who pay large sums to be transported to work in the U.S.—the vast majority of American college students today must go into debt for a chance at decent employment, and then must spend years and even decades paying back the loans that afforded them entry into the labor market.

Debt’s For Sure, But Not A Job

In some ways, says Professor Ross, today’s students have a harder time than indentured laborers in the past. In traditional forms of indenture, employment was more or less guaranteed. “That is not the case with modern knowledge workers—which makes their condition even more precarious.”

In addition, the fear of defaulting keeps some workers from taking career chances that might benefit society but all but guarantee a lower income—think social worker, artist or teacher. Instead, people opt for the certainty of a bigger corporate paycheck to cover their student loan payments.

The current economic trends of education are perverting the traditional role of a college degree. Rather than boosting upward mobility, the crushing weight of college loans may be forcing millions of students into a stultifying life-sentence of indebtedness, while depriving society of the benefits of a flexible and creative workforce.

Solve the Ukraine Crisis Now

December 31st, 2014 by Jonathan Power

The vote last week in the Ukrainian parliament was a seriously disturbing move- it has made reconciliation with Russia near impossible. The parliament voted to work for Ukraine’s membership of Nato, a red rag to a bear.

The truth is this whole Russian-Ukrainian-Western confrontation could be largely solved if the Ukrainian and Western sides wrote on paper that they don’t want to see Ukraine in Nato. This is the key issue for Russia. But it must be written down.

Moscow no longer trusts verbal understandings that can be broken, as when the Reagan Administration gave President Mikhail Gorbachev the distinct impression thatthe US would not take advantage of the Soviet Union now that the Cold War was over. But it did. President Bill Clinton provocatively began the expansion of Nato which has now reached right up to Russia’s borders. Gorbachev too innocently believed the Cold War was totally over and the US would never contemplate such a move.

Of course there are other issues- the trade relationship with the EU, Crimea, the Donbas enclave and the price of gas for Ukraine. The EU issue is effectively on hold and could be easily solved if the EU said that it had no objection to Ukraine facing both ways and thus not penalised if it wants to join the Russian-sponsored Eurasian Economic Union. (After all the EU itself is negotiating a North Atlantic Trade Agreement with the US, Canada and Mexico.)

The gas payments issue is no longer, now that oil and gas prices have fallen dramatically.

On Crimea, ideally Russia should agree to a new UN-supervised referendum. But as far as I can tell unity with Russia is widely welcomed among Crimeans, so a bit of real politik by the West- shelving the issue- wouldn’t go amiss.

As for the dissident Donbas enclave, it has been anti-reform, anti-Western, pro-Russian since Ukraine’s independence. Allow it to secede and then watch. Donbas is paying a steep price for its effort to wrench itself away from Ukraine- 80% of its industrial production has fallen and coal mines, factories, the airport and other infrastructure have been badly damaged. Let economically-pressed Russia bear the burden of this, plus paying the pensions, social provisions and the water and electricity that needs to be imported from Ukraine.

Important strategic political thinkers in the US have made it clear that present Western policy towards Russia is flawed. The late George Kennan, architect of Cold War containment, said that to expand Nato would result in “a new Cold War, probably ending in a hot one”. As I found in Moscow, during my visits in October and November, nuclear war doctrines are being dusted off by a regime which has no experience of how to deal with the art of nuclear brinkmanship.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former presidential national security advisor, said earlier this month that Ukraine should have a policy of “non-involvement with Nato”- as Finland practices and did during all the years of the Cold War. Finland kept its geopolitical distance from the West while, at the same time, forging a strong democracy and close Western economic links.

Whilst critical of what Russia has done, Brzezinski understands that Russia is in the process of trying to regain its own national pride after the shattering of the USSR. He is optimistic for the future. He believes that Putin now does realise that the Ukraine imbroglio should be solved without the use of force, although if it becomes apparent that he doesn’t Ukraine should be provided with offensive weaponry.

Henry Kissinger wrote earlier in the year that “the West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began with Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there. Ukraine has been part of Russia for centuries. The Russian Black Sea Fleet- Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean- is based in Sevastopol, Crimea (with Ukraine’s longtime agreement). Even such famed dissidents as Aleksandr Sozhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russia”. He adds, “Ukraine should not join Nato”.

What good does it do for the US Congress to take the opposite tack? The Ukraine Freedom Support Act, as Jeffrey Tayler wrote last week in Foreign Policy, “is short on common sense and long on belligerent ultimatums and misstatements of recent history.”

How can the US dare to preach lawful international practice when it itself made an unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq, makes hundreds of lethal drone strikes across the Islamic world, made an illegal bombing campaign in Serbia, has a history that ended not long ago of supporting Third World dictators and withdraws from the jurisdiction of the World Court when it loses a case brought by Nicaragua over the mining of its harbour?

Let’s be straight about Ukraine and then the pieces could well fall into place.

 

“I do this job for the opportunity to kill the enemies of my country and also to get that boat I always wanted. . . . [W]hen engaged I will lay waste to everything around me.” – Contractor slogan.

“It’s the perfect war… everybody is making money.” – US intelligence officer in Afghanistan.

His bulging left bicep featuring a tattoo of a Panther and his right one of the Grim Reaper, Wolf Weiss was a heavy metal guitarist from Los Angeles with fifteen years’ military experience who embodied the new type of warrior for the 21st century. Styled “the Heavy Metal Mercenary” by Rolling Stone Magazine, Weiss was hired by a private contractor, Crescent Security, to drive truck convoys in Iraq and admitted to killing several Iraqis in four separate firefights. His team, the Wolverines, was known for provocative displays of force, going by the motto: “strike down thine enemies and vanquish all evil by the right hand of god, strength and honor to all who live by the code of the warrior.” In November 2004, en route to Baghdad international airport, Weiss’s vehicle was ambushed by U.S. soldiers who mistook him for an insurgent. He was shot in the head and killed. He had told Rolling Stone that “war was one of the few things in the world I can do really well…..A lot of people are calling us private armies – and that’s basically what we are. This is not a security company. This is a paramilitary force.”1

At the time, Weiss was one of at least 48,000 corporate soldiers working in Iraq for more than 170 private military companies (PMCs), with another 30,000 to 100,000 serving in Afghanistan at any given point during the war along with thousands more who performed menial tasks like cooking and cleaning for marginal pay.2 Though the Pentagon claims not to keep records on mercenary fatalities, over 1,000 mercenaries are estimated to have been killed in Iraq and another 2,500 in Afghanistan, including eight who worked for the CIA, with thousands more wounded.3 A 1989 UN treaty, which the U.S. did not sign, prohibits the recruitment, training, use and financing of mercenaries, or combatants motivated to take part in hostilities by private gain, with PMCs claiming exclusion on the grounds that they play a combat support role.4 This essay details the role of PMCs in America’s long Iraq War in light of a century-long history of U.S. use of mercenary and clandestine forces throughout the world. It shows the multiple ways of mercenary war as a means of concealing military intervention from public view. The Bush administration carried these practices to extreme levels, particularly in financing organizations which profit from war and hence are dedicated to its perpetuation.

Naomi Klein has commented that Iraq was more than a failed occupation, it was a “radical experiment in corporate rule.”5 Led by radical free-market ideologists, the Bush administration placed a primacy on deregulation, corporate tax cuts and privatizing state-run industry in Iraq, which was to be a shining model for the virtues of neoliberal capitalism. After Saddam’s government fell, Booz-Allen Hamilton, one of the Beltway’s biggest consulting firms, organized a conference which called for the rewriting of Iraq’s business, property and trade laws in ways conducive to foreign investment. The Bush administration ultimately tore down Iraq’s centralized, state-run economy without building anything to replace it while provoking civil war and putting in place a political system ensuring fierce regional and ethnic divisions.6

The war’s key architects believed with Erik Prince, founding CEO of Blackwater, that the privatization of war could ensure greater military efficiency while cutting out wasteful spending. Prince told a reporter that “we’re trying to do for the national security apparatus what fed-ex did for the postal service. They did many of the same services, better, faster and cheaper.”7Upon his appointment as defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld had set about reducing the wasteful Pentagon bureaucracy and revolutionizing the U.S. armed forces by moving towards a lighter, more flexible fighting machine and harnessing private sector power on multiple fronts. He wrote in Foreign Affairs that “we must promote a more entrepreneurial approach: one that encourages people to be proactive, not reactive, and to behave less like bureaucrats and more like venture capitalists.”8 These remarks were in-line with the philosophy initially honed in Rumsfeld’s days outsourcing government functions as head of the Office of Economic Opportunity under Richard M. Nixon. They were welcomed by defense contractors and PMCs ready to cash in on the new opportunities made available by the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

The Bush administration prioritized a war economy in which defense contractors and other corporate interests finance elections to ensure the proliferation of permanent war mobilization.9 In spite of well-developed propaganda techniques in selling military interventions, antiwar attitudes crystallize, particularly when wars drag on and official claims prove hollow.10 The 1960s anti-war movements engendered a deep culture of skepticism towards militarism, known as the “Vietnam syndrome,” which made revival of the draft a risky political option even amidst the jingoistic climate that followed the 9/11 attacks. The Bush administration’s support for mercenaries was one crucial weapon in an arsenal designed to distance the war from the public that included reliance on air power and eventually drones, Special Forces operations and the training of proxy units, and media censorship epitomized by the phenomenon of embedded reporters.11

After authorizing the attack on Afghanistan, George W. Bush told Americans to carry on business as usual and to “go shopping.” The insinuation was that the same public sacrifice would not be demanded as in previous wars.12Michael Ignatieff in Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond wrote that, “the American public and its military came away from Vietnam unwilling to shed blood in wars unconnected with essential national interests. The debacle in Vietnam brought the draft to an end and the result widened the gulf between civilian and military culture. Masculinity has slowly emancipated itself from the warrior ideal…. In a society increasingly distant from the culture of war, the rhetoric politicians use to mobilize their populations in support of the military becomes unreal and insincere. The language of patriotism is losing its appeal.”13

Much like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush attempted to revive the triumphalist attitude towards war characteristic of the post-World War II era (what historian Tom Engelhardt has called the “victory culture”) but largely in vain. His efforts crashed and burned after he gave a speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln with a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind him weeks before an insurgency developed against the U.S. occupation and Iraq descended into bloody sectarian war.14

A blueprint for American strategy in the War on Terror was the 1959-1975 secret war in Laos, where the CIA worked with hundreds of civilian contractors who flew spotter aircraft, ran ground bases and operated radar stations in civilian clothes while raising its own private army among the Hmong to fight the pro-communist Pathet Lao.15 Another prototype was Nixon’s Vietnamization program, which transferred the fighting burden to Vietnamese soldiers trained by Green Berets and third country nationals’ recruited from among tribal minorities and U.S. allies in South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.16 Vinnell, an L.A.-based construction company brought over by the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm with heavy investments in the defense sector, was contracted to run black operations against the “Vietcong,” as part of Operation Phoenix. A Pentagon official described Vinnell, which later won a $48 million contract to train the armed forces in Iraq, as “our own little mercenary army.”17

Civilian contractors generally played a crucial though unrecognized role in the Vietnam War, including in building and running military bases and national communication and transportation networks and training local military forces.18 After the 1968 Tet offensive, the United States could no longer rely on its own soldiers to fight. Colonel Robert Heinl reported in The Armed Forces Journal in 1971 that the military had disintegrated to a “state approaching collapse,” with “individual units drug ridden and dispirited when not near-mutinous,” avoiding or having refused combat and “murdering their officers and non-commissioned officer” through fragging, or detonating a grenade in their barracks. Following a fruitless offensive on the Dong Ap Bia Hill in the A Shau Valley, a group of veterans placed a $10,000 bounty on the head of Lieutenant Colonel Weldon Honeycutt, who had ordered the attack.19 This act testified to the breakdown in military morale which coinciding with the growth of large-scale antiwar protest forced the Nixon administration to wind down the war and necessitated the abolishing of the draft and a reliance on covert strategies that included the use of private contractors.20

After the Vietnam War ended, American strategic planners set out to keep a “light footprint” in overseas interventions, with private interests connected to the national security establishment making up for the manpower gap. When Jimmy Carter cut the CIA budget in half, ex-agency operatives formed what journalist Joseph Trento has called a “shadow CIA,” setting up private intelligence networks and procuring independent contracts with foreign governments to carry on espionage and covert operations in the service of U.S. hegemony worldwide.21 Hundreds of British and American mercenaries along with a few South Vietnamese recruited and trained by the CIA fought against liberationist forces in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and against the Cuban-backed MPLA in Angola where they were accused of torturing prisoners and massacring civilians.22 After leaving a booby trapped grenade at the site of a burned land rover with ten unidentified bodies in Mozambique, Bob Mackenzie, CIA Deputy Director Ray Cline’s son-in-law, quipped in his diary: “it’s easy to be a terrorist.”23

If the use of mercenaries reached a peak during the George W. Bush administration, they have long been part of American war making, employed particularly to carry out covert operations. Nineteenth century filibusters such as Confederate General Henry MacIver and William Walker established independent slave republics in Haiti and Nicaragua and laid the groundwork for the United States invasion of Cuba by fighting alongside Cuban rebels against Spain.24 In the Philippines, the U.S. built a native constabulary commanded by some soldiers of fortune, including Jesse Garwood, a Western gunfighter who placed bounties on the heads of nationalist insurgents.25 In 1911, the Department of State backed a coup led by Lee Christmas an African American mercenary hired by Samuel Zemurray, owner of the Cuyamel Fruit Company (later United Fruit), against Honduran president Miguel Dávila who had forced Zemurray to pay taxes and campaigned to limit the amount of land foreigners could own. Christmas was also head of the secret service of Guatemalan dictator Estrada Cabrera, a State Department favorite who “smiled benevolently on U.S. enterprise in the tropics,” and partook in efforts to overthrow Nicaraguan ruler José Santos Zelaya who worked for Central American federation and refused building of the Panama Canal.26 Mercenaries were crucial generally to the consolidation of an American informal empire in the Caribbean and the advancement of U.S. business interests there.

Throughout the Cold War, the U.S. relied on private corporations such as Civil Air Transport (CAT – later Air America) founded by General Clare Chennault and CIA-front companies to assist in clandestine operations. Following the murder of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, the CIA financed South African and Rhodesians likened by Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah to “thugs employed by the Klu Klux Klan,” to shore up the pro-western regime of Joseph Mobutu.27 After disbanding USAID’s Office of Public Safety (OPS), which trained foreign police forces, Vinnell won a $77 million contract for training and equipping the Saudi National Guard to defend oil fields. In 1979, when a rebellion rocked the kingdom, the company provided the tactical support needed by the Saudi princes to recapture the Grand Mosque at Mecca.28 Vinnell and a parent company, BDM, chaired by Frank Carlucci III, Reagan’s Defense Secretary, continued to oversee the kingdom’s internal security forces into the 21st century, with Booz Allen-Hamilton, a key government contractor in Iraq, taking control over the Saudi Marine Corps and Army Staff College and Science Application International Corporation (SAIC) developing a sophisticated intelligence and communications system for the Saudi Royal navy.29

Under the 1893 anti-Pinkerton law, the hiring of private quasi-military organizations by the U.S. government was outlawed, though there is ambiguity as to whether this law applied only to domestic strike breaking. In 1981, Executive Order 12333 gave U.S. intelligence agencies the right to enter into contracts with private companies for authorized intelligence purposes which need not be disclosed. This provided a basis for some of the arms smuggling operations using private airlines in the Contra war in Nicaragua.30 Backed by popular cultural portrayals like the film Rambo, Ronald Reagan was generally successful in reviving a vengeful cult of the warrior among white males who latched onto a betrayal narrative blaming liberal bureaucrats and peace activists for the American defeat in Vietnam.31 Soldier of Fortune Magazine, which ran full-page ads for mercenaries and promoted the cause of anticommunist “freedom fighters,” gained wide circulation at this time. Its editor Robert K. Brown, a Captain in Vietnam who had a banner in his office that read “kill ‘em all, let God sort ‘em out,” wrote about his exploits fighting alongside death squad operators in El Salvador. Contributor James “Bo” Gritz raised a private army to rescue alleged POWs in Laos (none were ever found) while reviving contacts with remnants of the CIAs clandestine army.32 As journalist James W. Gibson observed, Soldier of Fortune magazine and the right-wing militia movement that it inspired embodied a violent strain in American culture and a yearning for heroes and male bonding rites amidst the decline in respect for public authority after Vietnam.33 The young men who gravitated to its ideals would fight as corporate warriors in the GWOT.

From 1994 to 2002, the Pentagon signed more than 3,000 contracts with U.S. based firms valued at $300 billion.34 Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) one of the largest companies operating in Iraq was given the contract for ROTC training in almost 200 universities. The company’s Virginia headquarters displayed a plaque which read: “War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.”35 Harry E. Soyster, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) when it used private arms dealers to equip the Afghan mujahidin and Nicaraguan Contras, bragged, “we’ve got more Generals per square foot here than in the Pentagon.”36 MPRI trained the security forces of numerous authoritarian regimes, including Equatorial Guinea in a contract that was approved by the State Department after dictator Teodoro Obiang granted concessions for off-shore drilling to Exxon-Mobil. It also trained Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and Ugandan fighters linked to major human rights abuses in Congo. A senior embassy staffer described the program there as “killers training killers.”37

In Bosnia, MPRI won a contract to train and modernize the Croatian army, overseeing the rooting out of “communist dead wood”, which set the groundwork for ethnic cleansing by helping to create an ethnically pure army (many of those purged had served in the Yugoslavian integrated force). The State Department used MPRI to provide a secret conduit of heavy weapons, included artillery batteries used for shelling Serb towns, in violation of a UN arms embargo. An important conduit for these clandestine purchases was Cypress International Inc., a war-material supply firm of which MPRI president Vernon Lewis was an Executive.38 In July 1995, MPRI director Carl Vuono, former army chief of staff, met with General Zvonimir Cervenko at an island retreat to plot strategy for Operation Storm (named after Desert Storm), in which Croat soldiers killed several thousand Serbs in Krajina and expelled over 150,000 in the war’s largest act of ethnic cleansing.39 MPRI helped the Croat army to implement an “air land and battle doctrine” and provided real time coded and pictorial information from U.S. reconnaissance satellites over Krajina, training units directly implicated in war crimes. Serb victims sued MPRI for complicity in genocide, stating that the company was aware of the pro-Nazi sentiments of Croat leader Franjo Tudjman and his henchmen and that “there could be no doubt of what the training and armaments that MPRI was going to provide. During the contract negotiations, [Defense] Minister [Gojko] Susak told the MPRI representative: ‘I want to drive the Serbs out of my country.’”40

DynCorp International was another company that contributed to the defeat of Serb forces in the Balkans, though it brought embarrassment when two of its employees were accused of participating in the child-sex slave trade and illegal arms trade.41 First getting into the war business airlifting supplies to U.S. troops during the Korean War, DynCorp had worked to upgrade the FBI’s security network, trained police forces on the U.S.-Mexican border and assisted in counterinsurgency operations in Indonesia, Sudan, Kuwait and Haiti and drug war operations in the Andes.42 The chairman of DynCorp from 1988-1997, Herbert S. “Pug” Winokur, headed the finance committee of the energy giant Enron, where he allegedly approved the creation of offshore subsidiaries to hide losses from bogus transactions and money laundering.43 James Woolsey, DynCorp director from 1988-1989, was affiliated with the neoconservative Committee on the Present Danger and later Project for the New American Century and became CIA director under Clinton. Another board member, Michael P. C. Carns, was nominated to be CIA director after serving as a top aide to the Joint Chiefs during the Persian Gulf War.44 DynCorp’s importance to clandestine operations was revealed when the plane of an employee with links to the CIA, Robert Hitchman, was shot down by Sendero Luminoso guerrillas in Peru. Secretary of State James Baker asked Hitchman’s son to keep quiet, stating: “[The government] didn’t want the public to know the full extent of American involvement in drug wars in Latin America.”45

The GWOT was considered the “super bowl” for PMC’s who had made over $100 billion in Iraq alone by 2008. A senior officer in Afghanistan commented that “the Department of Defense is no longer a war fighting organization, it’s a business enterprise. Afghanistan is a great example of it. There’s so much money being made of this place…Would you ever think of cutting back?”46 As resistance to U.S. occupations intensified, the military become overstretched and began lowering its recruitment standards to include ex-criminals and even neo-Nazis in the absence of a draft.47 A number of soldiers refused redeployment for second and third tours.48 Private contractors filled an important void, performing key military functions such as protecting diplomats, transporting supplies, training police and army personnel, guarding checkpoints and other strategic facilities including oil installations, providing intelligence, helping to rescue wounded personnel, carrying out interrogation and even loading bombs onto CIA drones.49 A British mercenary pointed out that military commanders “do not like us, [but] tolerate us as a necessary evil because they know that if it wasn’t for us, they would need another twenty-five thousand to fifty thousand troops on the ground here.”50 And politically after Vietnam this was impossible to arrange.

A Congressional study found that private contractors made up 65 percent of the Pentagon’s military force in Afghanistan and 29 percent of the workforce in the intelligence agencies, taking up 50-60 percent of the CIA’s budget. The National Security Agency (NSA) employed 480 separate companies who came up with most of its technological innovations. Private contractors helped to revolutionize warfare by building unmanned Global Hawk surveillance drones equipped with light censors capable of seeing two hundred miles away, backpack surveillance kits, and a computer program making it easier to find makers of roadside bombs.51 They also contributed to the rise of a domestic surveillance state, with the Pentagon hiring Iran-Contra felon John Poindexter, convicted of lying to and obstructing Congress, to develop an IT system to counter asymmetric threats by “achieving total information awareness.” Poindexter proposed a national betting parlor that would harness the forces of market capitalism to predict the likelihood of acts of terrorism, much as commodity traders speculate on the future price of pork or electric power.52 This was the ultimate attempt by elements of the national security bureaucracy to profit from the climate of fear they themselves did much to help create by hyping the possibility of terrorist attack, as with the WMDs and Iraq.53

The Bush administration hired companies with known links to human rights abuses such as Wackenhut Services Inc., whose stock soared after it won contracts for protecting power-plants and convoys and taking on firefighting duties in Iraq. Founded by an ex-FBI agent, the company had compiled a database of over 2.5 million alleged communists, agitators, union militants and other dissidents during the cold war in collaboration with Christian far right organizations and was employed by Exxon-Mobil to spy on and harass environmentalists. After training death squad outfits in Central America during the 1980s, Wackenhut got into the private prison industry, running a facility in Jena Louisiana that according to the Justice department, “failed to provide reasonable safety or adequate medical care,” and one in Santa Fé where guards abused and raped female inmates.54

Aegis Defense Ltd., a British company awarded the so-called Matrix contract to protect the US Army Corps of engineers and to assist in intelligence gathering, boasted of the presence of Iran-Contra felon Robert McFarlane on its board. It was headed by Tim Spicer, a former Scots Guard with ties to large mining conglomerates who was involved in illicit arms deals and coup plotting in Africa, suppression of a rebellion in Papua New Guinea, and commanded a unit in Northern Ireland that shot a Catholic teenager in the back. In October 2005, Aegis employees put up an online video of colleagues firing on civilian cars in Iraq to the backdrop of Elvis Presley’s Mystery Train.55 Erinys, recipient of a $40 million contract to protect Iraqi oil pipelines and refineries, was founded by an intelligence officer in the apartheid-era South African military who later served as a political adviser to Angolan warlord Jonas Savimbi. It employed members of death squad units who had firebombed the homes of anti-apartheid activists. Its staff in Iraq included Ahmad Chalabi’s private militiamen.56

In October, 2005, after the Pentagon granted the legal immunity from prosecution, it authorized “the use of deadly force when necessary [by private military contractors] to execute their security mission.” Herbert Fenster, a lawyer representing several contractors, aptly described this measure as a “sea change that enabled civilians to assume combat roles with only vague limitations that they not perform preemptive attacks.”57 Mercenary units were called on several occasions as military reinforcements with some of them even winning Purple Hearts and other battlefield commendations. Many were deployed with M-4s, the same weapons as U.S. troops.58 Journalist Steve Fainaru saw this as a recipe for disaster as “they give them weapons . . . and turn them loose on an arid battlefield the size of California, without rules. . . . None of the prevailing laws — Iraqi law, U.S. law, the [Uniform Code of Military Justice], Islamic law, the Geneva Conventions — applied to them.”59

Again and again PMCs shot up civilians, sometimes just because they “felt like killing today,” as one Triple Canopy employee put it. Bronze Star recipient Bill Craun told NBC about how Kurds hired by Custer Battles, which was given the contract to guard the Baghdad airport (and was later accused of defrauding the US government of tens of millions of dollars), randomly shot unarmed Iraqi teenagers in the back and rolled over cars loaded with children.60 United States Investigative Services (USIS), a Carlyle Group company that trained police commando units, was accused of torturing and killing Iraqis in Fallujah and also defrauding the government. After reporting the abuses, Colonel Theodore Westhusing committed suicide, leaving a note which stated that he did not “volunteer to support corrupt, money grubbing contractors, nor work for commanders only interested in themselves [referring to David Petraeus who oversaw USIS operations].61

SAIC, an innovator in weapons systems whose board included three ex-CIA directors and three former defense secretaries, was given a contract to overhaul Iraq’s prison system, hiring prison executives implicated in domestic human rights violations such as Gary Deland who wrote a manual for conducting executions by firing squad and lethal injection while head of Utah’s Correction Agency. According to General Janis Karpinski, head of the Abu Ghraib prison, Deland went about his job in Iraq “like some kind of cowboy commando with a knife strapped to his leg, a side arm on his belt and an automatic rifle slung on his back.”62 Employees of California Analysis Center Incorporated (CACI), “the grandfather of defense technology firms” headed for a time by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (2001-2005), allegedly introduced some of the most brutal interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib including sleep deprivation, stress positions and sexual humiliation. It also let loose German shepherd attack dogs which they had had been trained to handle. An army investigation found two CACI employees culpable in “inhumane and sadistic misconduct.” Nevertheless, CEO Jack London praised them for doing a “damned fine job,” and the Pentagon rewarded CACI with a fresh $156 million contract to train instructors at an army intelligence school in Arizona.63 (CACI’s profits totaled $350 million in 2005 and $3.7 billion by 2012).64

The abuses by PMCs in the GWOT are far from an aberration, as atrocities have been endemic to American war making since the Indian Wars. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, U.S. troops tortured and killed tens of thousands of civilians as a product of an “atrocity producing environment,” in which nationalist insurgents easily blended into the civilian population.65 At No Gun Ri, up to three hundred refugees, including women and children, were strafed and killed by U.S. planes and shot by members of the Seventh Cavalry, George Custer’s old outfit, after being forced into an eighty foot long underpass.66 Journalist Keyes Beech noted that, “it is not a good time to be a Korean, for Yankees are shooting them all.”67 In Vietnam’s Operation Speedy Express, the Ninth Infantry Division under the command of Julian Ewell and Ira Hunt claimed an enemy body count of 10,899 at a cost of 267 American lives, with only 748 weapons seized. General David Hackworth acknowledged that “a lot of innocent Vietnamese civilians got slaughtered because of the Ewell-Hunt drive to have the highest count in the land.”68

The lives of “hadjis” in the GWOT have often been considered as cheap as “the gooks” of yesteryear. American forces have bombed wedding parties, gone on shooting rampages and urinated on the corpses of enemy fighters.69 A Senate Intelligence Committee report revealed a systematic pattern of torture by the CIA, with one prisoner dying from hypothermia after he was forced to sit naked on a cold concrete floor for 48 hours.70 The problem of atrocities and impunity ultimately goes far beyond the use of PMCs but relates to the institutional culture of the U.S. military. What is new is the financial reward being amassed by those responsible for carrying out some of the crimes.

Mercenary units throughout history have been known for their lack ofdiscipline in part because their main motivation is financial gain and because they attract a certain type of person.71 Contractors in Iraq had legal immunity and did not follow rigorous recruitment standards; people in some companies could get a job by simply sending an email. There was also a culture of militarized masculinity. Security guards working for Wackenhut engaged in nude homoerotic hazing rituals and sex trafficking and smuggled hookers into the American embassy in Kabul.72 Many contractors took steroids and sat around drinking beer during their off-hours bragging about the numbers they had killed. One Triple Canopy employee stated: “It was like romanticizing the idea of killing to the point where dudes want to do it…Does that mean you’re not a real man unless you’ve dropped a guy?” He added: “There was a certain group of guys who were always trying to measure their wieners based on how many times they fired.”73

While often touting their patriotism, money was indeed a key motivating factor for most of the men. At a pep talk, a KBR speaker forced a group of truckers to chant “FOR THE MONEY” after he asked them why they were going to Iraq.74 Chris Jackson was $20,000 in debt, and so took a job with Crescent Security shipping supplies in from Kuwait. “When I got to that point, I would have sold myself to the devil.” he said. “All you’re thinking about is the money. You have $50,000 in the bank and all you’re thinking is, another month and I’ll have $57,000….I’m in love with the money.” A week before being kidnapped and killed, another Crescent employee stated that “he’s always liked this kind of work” having been in the Marine Corps, and was also getting “caught up on some bills…And I heard they’re coming out with that new Dodge Challenger in 2008. I want that.”75

Jon Coté, a University of Florida student and army veteran who went to work for Crescent told a reporter: “This place [Iraq] is a money making machine…There’s just so much of it. It really amazes me: a war how it creates money, generates it; how a war can be profited off. All you have to do is look around: the amount of food, fuel and oil and shit that we use over here. All the companies that work over here are getting rich over here.”76 Coté was subsequently kidnapped by insurgents and killed one week before he was slated to return to college. His comments reveal a kind of political awakening as to his place in the system and the economic forces that had a stake in perpetuating the war long after its original purpose had receded.

The ascendancy of neoliberal economic philosophy since the 1970s has coincided with the growth of hyper-consumerist and individualistic philosophies in the United States embodied under the mantra promoted by Ronald Reagan that “greed is good.” Private contractors like Coté and their bosses were the ultimate embodiment of this value system. Like the gold-rushers and filibusters of yesteryear, they thrust morality aside in seeking to cash in on the war economy and thought little about the consequences for the Iraqi or Afghan people. And some paid the ultimate price. The war in Iraq and the way it was fought, however, exposed for the world the dark consequences of running a society guided by selfish principles. Mercenaries and the bad publicity that they generated led many people to recognize that “greed is not good” and will in fact lead us into a new dark age.

As in earlier interventions in Vietnam and Laos, cronyism in the rewarding of contracts helped to taint the U.S. occupations and fueled corruption throughout society. Bribery charges took down a sitting U.S. Congressman on the intelligence committee and the CIA’s number three executive. The rising tide of contractors became so overwhelming that the Pentagon was unable to account for billions of dollars, with Oxfam International reporting that vast sums of aid had been “lost in corporate profits of contractors and subcontractors which can be as high as 50 percent on a single contract.”77

Like its South Vietnamese counterpart under Nguyen Van Thieu and Nguyen Cao Ky, Hamid Karzai’s regime in Afghanistan evolved into a full-blown narco-kleptocracy, its banking and justice system operating as giant extortion rackets. Government officials accepted bribes from Taliban commanders and secured their release from prison to ensure the perpetuation of the war so they could continue to grow rich off of foreign aid money and the war economy. The son of the Defense Minister received a major contract for shipping fuel and military supplies to Western troops and aid organizations. Another leading contractor was a warlord known to Kandahar villagers as “the butcher.”78 PMC’s were forced to pay protection bribes to local police chiefs and also insurgent groups who kept offices to facilitate payment. The U.S. government was thus in effect financing its own assassins.79

Congressional investigations uncovered numerous cases of fraud and dangerously poor construction by PMCs, resulting in the deaths of at least eighteen troops including a Green Beret who was electrocuted in a shower installed by Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) whose war contracts totaled $39.5 billion. Over 25,000 soldiers got sick after KBR did not properly chlorinate the water at Camp Ramadi owing to cost-cutting measures and because they burned waste in environmentally unsound ways with little oversight. A police training academy built by DynCorp was so poorly constructed, urine and feces fell on its students.80 These occurrences show the delusions of neoconservatives in their belief in the inviolability of private business.

Many PMCs reinforced a colonial relationship by employing Third World peoples to do menial tasks sometimes under slave-like conditions, paying natives less than one tenth the salaries of Westerners.81 Crescent Security, for example, paid Iraqis only $600 a month compared to $8,000 for Westerners. Their Iraqi staff performed the most dangerous work, manning PX machine guns in the back of Avalanche trucks transporting equipment for U.S. troops and businesses, rolling down the highway for hours fully exposed, their faces covered to mask their identities while ex-pats sat in air-conditioned cabs listening to their MP-3 players. “Internally I can’t justify it,” owner Franco Pico, a former South African military police officer in Angola who was pulling in $10 million per month said, “but the market dictates it.”82

Staffed and run by ex-CIA operatives, PMC’s have been integral to the mounting of covert operations, including assassinations and possible black flag operations in which they planted terrorist bombs that they blamed on insurgents.83 In one curious case, a former Green Beret and con man Jonathan Keith Idema, ran a vigilante antiterrorism campaign and secret prison in which he tortured innocent Afghan suspects. Passing intelligence to Lt. Gen Jerry Boykin’s staff and foiling an assassination plot against the Afghan Education Minister, Idema went too far when he kidnapped a Supreme Court Justice. He was sentenced to ten years in prison, though given an apartment sized cell with satellite TV, Persian carpets and specially prepared meals, and was pardoned by Afghan President Hamid Karzai after three years.84

Michael D. Furlong, a former army psychological warfare expert, was another contractor to run his own private army to hunt Islamic extremists.85 Accused by the Pentagon of leading unauthorized intelligence operations and misleading senior government officials, Furlong helped to arrange a contract between ex-CIA operative Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, convicted of lying to Congress about Iran Contra, and American International Security Corps, a Boston company that financed private intelligence gathering efforts. A war-hawk who planned the mining of Nicaraguan harbors in violation of international law, Clarridge investigated Hamid Karzai’s alleged addiction to heroin and the-drug related corruption of his brother Ahmed Wali for the purpose of keeping them more pliable or to plot a coup. Clarridge also fed intelligence reports that were in some cases dubious to Fox News commentators, including his old comrade Oliver North, with the goal of supporting a more aggressive military policy.86 His actions epitomize the danger of privatizing intelligence in that private citizens can take advantage of the chaos of the war zone to advance their own agendas or feed misinformation to the military command and public.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill exposed how Blackwater helped develop plans for drone strikes and assassination as part of the secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The company, whose board included many ex-CIA operatives, oversaw black operations in Iraq and was at times hired directly by foreign governments, most notably Pakistan for counter-terrorism work, allowing the U.S. to deny that it had a military presence in the country.87 The façade was exposed when Raymond Davis, a Blackwater operative and CIA agent who ran a firm that sold surveillance equipment, was imprisoned after killing two Pakistanis whom he suspected were shadowing him, along with an innocent motorcyclist. Davis was likely part of a mission to uncover links between Pakistan’s intelligence service (ISI) and the jihadist organization, Lashkar-E-Taiba.88

Built in the image of Executive Outcomes, a PMC founded by veterans of South Africa’s Buffalo brigade, which financed death squad operations through illicit ivory and diamond smuggling, Blackwater’s name first became known after four of its employees were killed and their bodies mutilated by mob-backed insurgents in Fallujah, prompting a military siege of the city that left it in ruins. Company spokesmen claimed that the four men were providing security for army food suppliers though no food trucks were described as being even close to the scene. Considered at the time the “Cadillac” of the mercenary industry, Blackwater joined in the hunt for Osama bin Laden after 9/11 and received a $27 million no-bid contract to protect Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in May 2003.89 The company also received a $5.4 million contract for security in Kabul and later trained the militia of a ruthless Afghan warlord, Abdul Raziq, who tortured and murdered tribal enemies.90

CEO Erik Prince, was a former Navy Seal and proponent of Christian values and free-market economics who donated heavily to the GOP. He invested his family fortune in the creation of Blackwater in the late 1990s in order to “fulfill the anticipated demand for government outsourcing of firearms and related security training,” building up an airstrip, naval armada, fleet of helicopters and mock battlefields at its headquarters in Moyock, North Carolina. The front doors there featured barrels from .50 caliber machine guns and a glass case displayed replicas of guns used to assassinate presidents.91

Publicly, Prince took pains to present Blackwater as a “patriotic extension of the US military whose men “play defense in a dangerous war zone where they bleed red, white and blue as they heroically protect reconstruction officials trying to weave the fabric of Iraq, and other shattered nations, back together.”92 The company took greatest pride in its record of keeping alive all the people they were charged with protecting. “Those guys guard my back,” said Ambassador Ryan Crocker, “And I have to say they do it extremely well.”93 However, they shot scores of civilians, adopting the motto “we shoot to kill and don’t stop to check a pulse.” Brig. Gen. Karl Horst of the Third Infantry Division told The Washington Post that he had tracked at least a dozen civilian shootings in Baghdad just between May and June of that year, with six Iraqis killed.94 An Iraqi official commented that, “Blackwater has no respect for the Iraqi people. They consider Iraqis like animals, although actually I think they may have more respect for animals. We have seen what they do in the streets. When they’re not shooting, they’re throwing water bottles at people and calling them names. If you are terrifying a child or an elderly woman or you are killing an innocent civilian who is riding in his car, isn’t that terrorism?”95

On Christmas Eve 2006, Andrew Moonen, a firearms technician in Baghdad working for Blackwater got drunk in the Green Zone and then shot and killed a Guard for Iraq’s Vice-President. The State Department kept the whole case quiet, and within two months Moonen was back to work as a Pentagon contractor in Kuwait.96 There was a similar cover-up of water-boarding and torture by Blackwater contractors employed by the CIA and the murder of Afghan civilians, with the Pentagon’s Inspector General going on to work for Blackwater as a lead counsel.97 On September 16, 2007, four Blackwater contractors killed 17 unarmed civilians, including women and children, and wounded at least 24 in a shooting rampage in Baghdad’s Nisour square. One of the culprits, Paul Slatten, an ex-army Sergeant from Sparta, Tennessee, stated that he wanted to “kill as many Iraqis as he could as payback for 9/11.” Blackwater executives reportedly paid $1 million in secret bribes to Iraqi officials to keep the incident under wraps and the State Department gathered shell casings at the scene of the shooting to protect the firm, renewing Blackwater’s contract seven months later.98The victims eventually reached a settlement on a lawsuit by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and, in a rare instance of judicial retribution, Slatten was convicted of murder and three others of manslaughter in a federal district court in November 2014.99 The Department of Justice in this case showed a willingness to hold PMCs accountable for war crimes, though not the top-level officials who hired them and started the war.100 Blackwater retained its primacy as an agent for U.S. power on the ground in Iraq and elsewhere, including in the United States.

True to Mark Twain’s maxim that one cannot have an empire and a functioning democracy, Blackwater delivered training to domestic police SWAT units in the arts of sniping, hand-to-hand combat, and tactics appropriate to counterinsurgency warfare. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA contracted Blackwater at a rate of $240,000 per day to secure petrochemical and other government/corporate facilities in and around New Orleans. Showing stark continuity with Iraq, company employees were responsible for the shooting deaths of undetermined but potentially large numbers of civilians.101

In 2010, Blackwater was forced to pay $42 million in fines to the State Department for illegal weapons exports to Afghanistan, making unauthorized proposals to train troops in South Sudan and providing sniper training for Taiwanese police officers.102 In the same year, however, the company (renamed Xe then Reflex Response) was given a $220 million contract to guard the giant U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and after merging with Triple Canopy, a $529 million contract by the Abu Dhabi Sheikh to train the security forces of the United Arab Emirates, a key U.S. government ally.103 Blackwater veterans also went on to train rebel forces bent on toppling the Qaddafi and Assad governments in Libya and Syria. According to emails hacked by Wikileaks, James F. Smith, a former Blackwater director connected to the CIA, assisted in Muammar Qaddafi’s assassination while working for SCG International, a firm which also provided air cover for CIA agents engaging with Syrian opposition forces in Turkey.104

Blackwater’s main rival through the first decade of the War on Terror, DynCorp, also earned notoriety for shooting incidents and for its link to human rights violations after receiving contracts to Guard Afghan President Hamid Karzai and to train internal security forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.105 Bought by a Wall Street private equity firm in 2005, and sold five years later at a $300 million profit, DynCorp had a checkered history, having been sued by Ecuadorian peasants for spraying herbicides that drifted across the border, with its employees caught smuggling drugs while supposedly fighting a “War on Drugs” in Colombia.106 Its ill repute was only enhanced in Afghanistan where it helped to run counter-narcotic operations which special envoy Richard Holbrooke characterized as the “most wasteful program” he had seen in a forty-year career. CNN anchor Tucker Carlson reported that contractors with whom he was embedded in Iraq cut through long gasoline lines and beat a suspected kidnapper “into a bloody mound” before turning what was left of him “over to the police.”107

With such men in charge, Iraqi and Afghan police forces became infamous for their corruption and brutality and were a primary target of insurgent attacks.108 As in previous interventions, American advisers harbored racial stereotypes and had a paternalistic and colonial mindset. In a memoir of his year in Iraq, Robert Cole, a police officer from East Palo Alto, California, and a DynCorp employee, explains that these attitudes were ingrained in a mini–boot camp training session, where he was “brainwashed, reprogrammed, and desensitized” and “morphed” into a “trained professional killer.” One of the major lessons taught was that Iraqis understand only force. Cole was told to shoot first and think later and to instruct police to do the same. “If you see a suspicious Iraqi civilian, pull your weapon and gun him down,” he was instructed. “You don’t fire one . . . or two shots. . . . You riddle his sorry ass with bullets until you’re sure he’s dead as a doorknob.”109

This is an inversion not just of democratic police methods but even of Western counterinsurgency doctrine, which, at least in theory, advocates moderation in the use of force in order to avoid antagonizing the population and creating martyrs.110 No wonder the scope of violence has been so vast. Building on Clinton precedents, Bush privatized war as part of the attempt to distance the public from the GWOT. Martial values had declined considerably since the Vietnam era, especially outside the South, and the public had become more skeptical towards war, though also comfortable with its material living standards, and easily distracted by America’s media-entertainment complex.111 Bush administration planners thus knew that they could pursue their ambitions for regime change and the prying open of Iraq’s oil market while fighting in Afghanistan too, so long as they did not have to restore the draft. Private military contractors were crucial to the strategy. Though millions did protest on the eve of the Iraq War, once the war was under way no large-scale rebellion developed comparable to the 1960s despite the proliferation of war crimes comparable to those carried out in Vietnam. The campuses were quiet as students did not have a personal stake as they had facing the draft during the Vietnam War. Bush ultimately established a blueprint for the Obama administration, which has sustained an aggressive foreign policy by continuously subcontracting counterinsurgency operations, while expanding the use of air power and drones so that American combat fatalities are limited.112

The growth of the corporate war economy represents the logical outgrowth of a capitalist system which values “profits over people,” and has contributed to the erosion of democracy.113 The project on government oversight identified 224 high ranking government officials who moved through the revolving door to become lobbyists or high level executives of government contractors, and disclosed that at least two-thirds of the former members of Congress who lobbied for top 20 government contractors “served on authorization or appropriations committees that approved programs or funds for their future employer or client while they served in Congress.”114 The Center for Public Integrity reported that 14 companies that were awarded government contracts in both Iraq and Afghanistan donated almost $23 million in political contributions since 19990, with George W. Bush receiving more money from these companies than any other candidate.115 Blackwater gave $80,000 to President Bush a month before the 2000 election, and $66,000 to the Green Party in Pennsylvania during the 2006 cycle in the hope of siphoning votes from the Democrats and reelecting Republican Senator Rick Santorum.116

Under the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, corporations now have few restrictions on campaign financing. According to Open Secrets, a watchdog website, individuals and political action committees associated with the defense sector contributed more than $27 million to political candidates during the 2012 campaign cycle, with far more going to Republicans than Democrats: $16.4 million versus $11 million. In that year, DynCorp gave over $300,000 to Super PACs, 52 percent to Republicans, and CACI $137,000 to Republicans compared to $21,000 for Democrats. SAIC, which helped press the case that WMDs existed in Iraq and was the lead contractor on a $1.2 billion government surveillance program, gave over $200,000 and another $344,000 in 2014, 66% to Republicans. This was at a time when the San Diego based company known as NSA-West was taking control over the domestic drone market and developing biometric technologies adopted for social control purposes.117

Anticipating the fight against terrorism as the next big source of government revenue, SAIC in the late 1990s had established a Center for Counterterrorism Technology and Analysis that assessed and often inflated terrorist “threats,” exemplifying how the privatization of intelligence leaves opportunity for the manipulation of public opinion to ensure a permanent war mobilization. Founded in 1969 by J. Robert Beyster, a nuclear physicist who had worked on the Manhattan Project, SAIC ran a program that fed disinformation to the foreign press and set up a media service in Iraq which served as a mouthpiece of the Pentagon. SAIC’s chief operations officer from 1993-2006, Duane Andrews, was a protégé of Dick Cheney who provided fake satellite photos showing a build-up of Iraqi troops on the Saudi Arabian border as a staff member on the House Intelligence Committee in 1991. Another board member, General Wayne Downing, was a close associate of Ahmad Chalabi who proselytized hard on television for an invasion of Iraq. The FBI at one point even suspected an SAIC employee for the 2001 anthrax mailings, which did so much to create a climate of fear enabling support for the War on Terror and passage of the USA Patriot Act, a bonanza for SAIC which recorded net profits of over $8 billion per year by 2006.118

The ability of companies like SAIC who profit massively from war to finance elections, lobby the government and manipulate public opinion represents a dangerous evolution of the military-industrial complex from Dwight Eisenhower’s day.119 Beholden to its donors, the Bush administration budgeted $647.2 billion on “defense” in 2008, higher than at least the next ten countries combined.120 Obama has retained record military spending.121 One of his top contributors, Lester Crown, was a leading arms manufacturer, and his top intelligence official, James Clapper Jr., was an executive with Booz Hamilton (the same company that employed Edward Snowden) who lied to Congress about NSA surveillance. During Obama’s presidency, PMC’s have helped sustain and promote an array of conflicts including Libya, Afghanistan, Syria and again Iraq. They have taken over many CIA-functions such as efforts to infiltrate and co-opt social movements as in the Arab Spring.122 They have also been crucial to the War on Drugs and are invariably found at the forefront in lobbying to increase drone use including on the U.S.-Mexican border and for domestic policing as dystopian science fiction narratives of mass surveillance and killer robotic machines become a reality.123

Edward Gibbon in his monumental The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire attributed Rome’s collapse in good measure to the “abandonment of military service” and “dependence on the rude valor of barbarian mercenaries.”124While it is difficult to tell if the United States is headed the way of Rome, what is clear is that the use of mercenaries failed to turn the tide in the protracted U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and has paved the way for blowback. Warped spending priorities accentuated by PMCs and their lobbyists, together with political gridlock in U.S. politics have resulted in fiscal insolvency, decaying public services, declining educational standards and inability to confront environmental, immigration and social problems.125 Before it is too late, progressive forces should mobilize under the goal of reorienting American foreign policy in a more peaceful direction.126 Congressional investigations along the lines of the 1930s Nye commission on corporate war profiteers (“merchants of death” as they were then called) and 1970s Church committee hearings on CIA abuses would be a good start in raising public awareness about the threat to democracy bred by the privatization of military and intelligence functions. They could in turn lead to legislation that properly regulates or even outlaws PMCs along with the signing of the existing UN treaty. Journalist Tim Shorrock wrote in The Nation that, “in-sourcing national security functions [already] has wide political support and would go a long way towards restoring public trust in the military. And it might keep us from engaging in foolish wars that only create more enemies and make us less safe.”127 No doubt this is true but the interests that have a stake in keeping the world less safe will be difficult to dislodge, absent the emergence of a social movement capable of swaying public opinion.

Jeremy Kuzmarov is Jay P. Walker Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tulsa. He is the author of Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation-Building in the American Century and The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs. The author was influenced by the writings of Peter Dale Scott in putting together this piece, and would like to thank Mark Selden and an anonymous reviewer for their excellent advice.

Notes

1Col. Gerald Schumacher, A Bloody Business: America’s War Zone Contractors and the Occupation of Iraq (New York: Zenith Press, 2006), 175-187; “Heavy Metal Mercenary,” Rolling Stone, November 9, 2004. Weiss comes from a family with a long history of criminal activity. His father was a bookie murdered after skimming the top off of laundered money he delivered to gangsters. His sister was indicted for stabbing his mother, Rose Weiss, 69. Adam Foxman and John Scheibe, “Daughter Held in Fatal Stabbing of Simi Woman,” Ventura County Star, February 7, 2008.

2Steve Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq (Philadelphia: Da Capo Press, 2009), 22; Moshe Schwartz and Jennifer Church, “Department of Defense’s Use of Contractors to Support Military Operations,”Congressional Research Service, May 17, 2013; Peter Van Buren, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2012). PMCs can be defined as profit-driven organizations that trade in professional services linked to warfare.

3Suzanne Simons, Master of War: Blackwater USA’s Erik Prince and the Business of War (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 158; Rod Nordland, “Risks of Afghan War Shift from Soldiers to Contractors,” New York Times, February 11, 2012; Dana Priest and William Arkin, Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State (Boston: Little & Brown, 2011), 184.

4A list of 33 countries that ratified the treaty is available here. Notably absent are supposedly “civilized countries like Canada, Britain, France and Japan. See also José L. Gomez del Prado, Chairperson, UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries “Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies and International Law,” University of Wisconsin Law School.

5See Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007).

6Michael Schwartz, War Without End: The Iraq War in Context (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2007); Greg Muttit, Fuel on the FireOil Politics in Occupied Iraq (New York: New Press, 2012); Juan Cole, “The Fall of Mosul and the False Promise of Modern History,” History News Network, June 12, 2014; Timothy Shorrock, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008), 52.

7Simons, Master of War, 143; Jeremy Scahill, BlackwaterThe Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (New York: The Nation Books, 2007), 55. Blackwater was renamed Xe Services in 2009 and Academi in 2011.

8 Donald H. Rumsfeld, “Transforming the Military,” Foreign Affairs (May-June 2002); Stephen Armstrong, War PLC: The Rise of the New Corporate Mercenary (London: Faber & Faber, 2008), 80; Allison Stanger, One Nation Under Contract: The Outsourcing of American Power and the Future of Foreign Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), 86.

9See Carl Boggs, “The Corporate War Economy” in The Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination, ed. Steven Best et al. (Boston: Lexington Books, 2011); Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon Press, 1956); C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite (New York: 1956).

10 On U.S. public opinion and war, see Adam J. Berinsky, In Time of War: Understanding American Public Opinion From World War II to Iraq (University of Chicago Press, 2009). A recent poll showed that 58 percent supported significant reductions in military spending. On the growing democracy deficit, see Noam Chomsky, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and Assault on Democracy (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006).

11Nick Turse, The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012).

12See Andrew Bacevich, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (New York: McMillan, 2013).

13Michael Ignatieff, Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond (New York: Viking Press, 2000), 189.

14See Tom Engelhardt, The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation, rev ed. (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007).

15 See Fred Branfman, Voices from the Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War, with new preface by Alfred W. McCoy (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013); Peter Dale Scott, The War Conspiracy (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1972). In the PBS history of the Vietnam War, CIA Director William Colby bragged that the Hmong army kept the North Vietnamese at bay for over 10 years in a cost effective policy that aroused very little opposition because few knew about it.

16On the importance of Korean units, known for their brutality, to U.S. military operations in Vietnam see Frank Baldwin, Diane Jones and Michael Jones, America’s Rented Troops: South Koreans in Vietnam (American Friends Service Committee, 1971).

17The Carlyle Group’s board has included George H. W Bush and former British Prime Minister John Major. Tony Geraghty, Soldiers of Fortune: A History of the Mercenary in Modern Warfare (New York: Pegasus Books, 2009), 30. Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (New York: 1991).

18 See James Carter, Inventing Vietnam: The United States and State Building, 1954-1968 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

19See David Cortright, Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War, rev ed. (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005); Jeremy Kuzmarov, The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009).

20 On the strength of the antiwar movement and its impact, see Marilyn B. Young, “Resisting State Terror: the Anti-Vietnam War Movement” in War and State Terrorism: The United States, Japan, and the Asia-Pacific in the Long Twentieth Century, ed. Mark Selden and Alvin Y. So (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), 235-251.

21Joseph Trento, Prelude to Terror: the Rogue CIA, The Legacy of America’s Private Intelligence Network and the Compromising of American Intelligence (London: Carroll & Graf, 2005). For the case of Mike Echanis, a martial arts master who trained Nicaraguan commandos under Dictator Anastasio Somoza, see Jay Mallin and Robert K. Brown, MercAmerican Soldiers of Fortune (New York: McMillan, 1979), 164.

22Wilfred Burchett and Derek Roebuck, The Whores of War: Mercenaries Today (London: Penguin Books, 1977); John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story (New York: Norton, 1978), 220, 225; Mallin and Brown, Merc, 179; Carey Winfrey, “Texan in the Rhodesian Army Says He Fights for Love, Not Money,” New York Times, September 2, 1979. Daniel Gerheart, 34, was executed by the Angolan government who called him and his comrades “dogs of war with bloodstained muzzles who left a trail of rape, murder and pillage across the face of our nation.”

23Kathi Austin, with William Minter, Invisible Crimes: U.S. Private Intervention in the War in Mozambique (Washington, D.C.: Africa Policy Information Center, 1994), 16; Ken Silverstein, Private Warriors (London: Verso, 2000), 148. A cross-border raid by mercenaries affiliated with the Rhodesian Selous Scouts killed 1,184 “terrorists” in Manika Province, Mozambique compared to only four friendly casualties. A captain in the South African army, Mackenzie went on to work with death squad regimes in El Salvador and Sierra Leone, where his liver was eaten by RUF rebels after his capture. The Vietnam vet was part of a plan to assassinate Zimbabwe’s first president Robert Mugabe.

24 See Richard Harding Davis, Real Soldiers of Fortune (New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1912). MacIver’s storied career included time in India as an ensign in the Sepoy mutiny, in Italy as a lieutenant under Garibaldi, in Spain as a Captain under Don Carlos, in Mexico as a Lieutenant Colonel under Emperor Maximilian, a Colonel under Napoleon III, inspector of Cavalry for the Khedive of Egypt and chief of Cavalry under the King of Serbia.

25 Thomas A. Reppetto, The Blue Parade (New York: Free Press, 1978); Howard H. Elarth, The Story of the Philippine Constabulary (Los Angeles: Globe Print Co., 1949). On the history of the constabulary, see Alfred W. McCoy’s masterpiece, Policing America’s Empire: The U.S., the Philippines and the Rise of the Surveillance State (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009).

26 See Lester D. Langley and Thomas Schoonover, The Banana Men: American Mercenaries and Entrepreneurs in Central America, 1880-1930 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1997), 59, 72, 156. Davila’s replacement, Manuel Bonilla awarded Zemurray 10,000 acres of banana land, allowing Zemurray to become the “uncrowned king” of Central America. Cabrera donated $10,000 to Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential campaign. Christmas’ counterparts Guy Molony was a political fixer in New Orleans who provided information on Nicaraguan nationalist Augusto Cesar Sandino.

27 See Burchett and Roebuck, The Whores of War; and Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Havana and Washington in Africa, 1961-1975 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002); “Kwame Nkrumah Letter to British Prime-Minister,” November 19, 1964, PREM 13, 042, British National Archives, Kew Gardens, London.

28 William D. Hartung, “Mercenaries Inc.: How a U.S. Company Props Up the House of Saud,” The Progressive, April, 1996; Deborah D. Avant, The Market of Force: The Consequences of Privatizing Security (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 148; Tony Geraghty, Soldiers of Fortune: A History of the Mercenary in Modern Warfare (New York: Pegasus Books, 2009), 30. Vinnell served as a cover for CIA agents such as Wilbur Crane Eveland. On the special U.S.-Saudi relationship, see Robert Vitalis, America’s Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2007).

29Silverstein, Private Warriors, 181; Dr. J. Robert Beyster, The SAIC Solution: How We Built an $8 Billion Employee-Owned Technology Company (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2007), 49. On Booz Hamilton, which assisted CIA counterinsurgency operations in Philippines under Edward Lansdale, see Peter Dale Scott, American War Machine: Deep Politics, the CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010), 182, 186. Carlucci was Deputy Director of the CIA under Jimmy Carter and a consul in the US embassy in Congo during the early 1960s where he allegedly had a role in Lumumba’s murder. He was subsequently thrown out of Tanzania for plotting against the socialist government. See Francis Schor, “The Strange Career of Frank Carlucci”.

30Ward Churchill, “The Security Industrial Complex” in The Global Industrial Complex, ed. Best et al, 53 discusses the limitations of the anti-Pinkerton bill; Peter Dale Scott, Jonathan Marshall and Jane Hunter, The Iran Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert Operations in the Reagan Era (Boston: South End Press, 1987); Leslie Cockburn, Out of Control: The Story of the Reagan Administration’s Secret War in Nicaragua, The Illegal Arms Pipeline, and the Contra Drug Connection (New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1987). British and American mercenaries like Jack Terrell were sent into Nicaragua to perform sabotage operations. American mercenary pilots like Adler Barriman Seal trafficked in narcotics to finance the operations as they had done in the secret war in Laos.

31See H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000) and Susan Jeffords, The Remasculanization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989).

32David Holthouse, “The Dark Side of Soldier of Fortune Magazine: Contract Killers and Mercenaries for Hire,” Alternet, September 15, 2011; James “Bo” Gritz, Called to Serve (New York: Lazarus, 1991). Mitchell Werbel III, a veteran of Cuban exile missions and representative of the Nugan Hand bank which was involved in intelligence financing and drug smuggling, with Frank Camper, a Vietnam Special Forces and undercover FBI officer set up a paramilitary training camp in Georgia where mercenaries were schooled in the art of assassination. See Frank Camper, Live to Spend it: A Mercenary Guide for the 1990s (El Dorado, Az: Desert Publications, 1993). Graduates went on to fight in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Lebanon, South Africa and Afghanistan. Two Sikh terrorists who had been at the school also bombed an Air India flight after Camper sold them explosives in a botched sting operation.

33See James W. Gibson, Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America (New York: Hill & Wang, 1994). One subscriber was Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber and a Gulf War veteran. He was found with a copy of a white supremacist magazine after the attacks distributed by Brown, a former member of the Rhodesian Selous Scouts. For insights on the right-wing paramilitary culture, see also Jerry L. Lembcke, Hanoi Jane: War, Sex & Fantasies of Betrayal (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2010).

34 Peter Singer, Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), 15. Halliburton, contractor of Brown, Kellogg and Root (KBR), which built 85 percent of military infrastructure in Vietnam and hired former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as its CEO, was awarded a deal for base construction and maintenance around the world. See Pratap Chatterjee, Halliburton’s Army: How a Well ConnectedTexas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War (New York: The Nation Books, 2010).

35 Leslie Wayne, “America’s For Profit Secret Army: Military Contractors Are Hired to Do the Pentagon’s Bidding Far From Washington’s View,” New York Times, October 13, 2002, B1.

36Singer, Corporate Warriors, 50.

37 Lynne Duke, “US Military Role in Rwanda Greater Than Disclosed,” Washington Post, August 16, 1997, A1; Wayne Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999 (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1999), 197, 200, 439; Avant, The Market for Force, 154; Steve Coll, Private Empire: Exxon-Mobil and American Power (New York: Penguin, 2012), 147-148; Boggs, “The Corporate War Economy” in The Global Industrial Complex, ed. Best, 32. Initially, the State Department rejected the MPRI contract in Equatorial Guinea, but subsequently approved it after significant petroleum reserves were discovered which it was feared would be taken over by French oil interests.

38Avant, The Market for Force, 110;Genocide Victims of Krajina v. L-3 Communications Corp. and MPRI Inc., in the United States District Court Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

39 Wayne, “America’s For Profit Secret Army,” B1; Singer, Corporate Warriors, 126; Silverstein, Private Warriors, 172; Armstrong, War PLC, 73, 74. For a critical view of “humanitarian intervention,” see David Gibbs, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009).

40Genocide Victims of Krajina v. L-3 Communications Corp. and MPRI Inc., in the United States District Court Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. The judge said that he was not qualified to preside over the case because the crimes occurred in Bosnia. Croat army units trained by MPRI killed 185 Serb civilians in Mrkonjic in southwestern Bosnia. See also Geraghty, Soldiers of Fortune, 175.

41Singer, Corporate Warriors, 126; Robert Capps, “Outside the Law,” Salon, June 25, 2002; “Sex Slave Whistle-Blowers Vindicated,” Salon, August 6, 2002. DynCorp also played a role in training Kosovo’s police service following the NATO bombing.

42Singer, Corporate Warriors, 13.

43Uri Dowbenko, Bush Whacked: Inside Stories of True Conspiracy (National Liberty Press, 2003); Gretchen Morgenson, “Sticky Scandals, Teflon Directors,” New York Times, January 29, 2006, B1.

44Tim Weiner, “Clinton Chooses Retired General to be CIA Head,” New York Times, February 8, 1995, A1. A decorated Vietnam Air Force veteran, Carns was appointed to the Board of Thickol Corporation, a leading missile manufacturer, two weeks after his retirement. His nomination was blocked because he had violated labor laws in hiring a Filipino maid. Other DynCorp Board members included Russel E. Dougherty, a former chief of staff of the allied command of Europe and Dudley Mecum, former managing director of Citigroup. For a profile of Woolsey, see Laura Rozen, “James Woolsey, Hybrid Hawk” Mother Jones, May/June 2008.

45 Wayne Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1996 (New York: Edwin Mellen, 1999), 339; Silverstein, Private Warriors, 184; Ted Galen Carpenter, Bad Neighbor Policy: America’s Futile War on Drugs in Latin America (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2003), 54.

46Priest andArkin, Top Secret America, 188; Stanger, One Nation Under Contract, 2.

47See Matt Kennard, Irregular Army: How the How the US Military Recruited Neo-Nazis, Gang Members, and Criminals to Fight the War on Terror (London: Verso, 2012).

48 Cortright, Soldiers in Revolt, 278; Camillo Mejia, The Road from Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejía: An Iraq War Memoir (New York: The New Press, 2007).

49John M. Broder and David Rhode, “State Department Use of Contractors Leaps in 4 Years,” New York Times, October 24, 2007;Mark Mazetti, “Blackwater Loses a Job for the CIA,” New York Times, December 12, 2009; Robert Y. Pelton, Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006).

50Faniaru, Bad Boy Rules, 140.

51Priest and Arkin, Top Secret America, 182, 186; Shorrock, Spies for Hire; Anne Hagedorn, The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014); James Glanz, “Contractors Outnumber U.S. Troops in Afghanistan,” New York Times, September 2, 2009; Moshe Schwartz and Jennifer Church, “Department of Defense’s Use of Contractors to Support Military Operations,” Congressional Research Service, May 17, 2013.

52Shorrock, Spies for Hire, 52, 53; Shane Harris, The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State (New York: The Penguin Press, 2010). In 1995, in a second act of his career, Admiral Poindexter, a nuclear physicist by training, went to work in the private sector developing computer surveillance and data mining technology and was hired by the Pentagon after 9/11. Though pushed out of government by 2003 because his views were considered too extreme, his system became the basis for NSA warrantless surveillance programs. Poindexter continued to advise government leaders and sat on the board of Saffron, a Pentagon contractor which developed memory technology used to track the insurgency in Iraq and predict where IEDs would be located, and which Poindexter believes will help revolutionize intelligence analysis.

53For a historical perspective, see Jerry Sanders. Peddlers of Crisis: The Committee on the Present Danger and the Politics of Containment(Boston: South End Press, 1999) and Edward S. Herman and Gerry O’Sullivan, The ‘Terrorism’ Industry: The Experts and Institutions That Shape Our View of Terror (New York: Pantheon Books, 1989).

54Solomon Hughes, War on Terror, Inc: Corporate Profiteering From the Politics of Fear (London: Verso, 2007), 14-19; Herman and O’Sullivan, The ‘Terrorism’ Industry, 129, 130, 131. Wackenhut consisted of many John Birchers and had on its board Frank Carlucci III, William Raborn, former CIA director, and Clarence Kelley a former director of the FBI. Several members of the company engaged in a scheme to kidnap the US ambassador to El Salvador, Edwin Corr, and blame it on the leftist FMLN in a classic black flag operation. Jefferson Morley, “The Vanishing Kidnap Plot,” The Nation, July 30-August 6, 1988.

55See Steve Fainaru and Alec Klein, “In Iraq, a Private Realm of Intelligence Gathering,”Washington Post, July 1, 2007; Armstrong, War PLC, 43, 54, 160; Hughes, War on Terror, Inc., 103-105; Adam Roberts, The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs, and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an oil Rich Corner of Africa (New York: Public Affairs, 2006). Aegis also won a major contract to protect the Green Zone. Winston Churchill’s grandson, the conservative MP Nicholas Soames, was on its board. McFarlane admitted to obtaining millions from Saudi Prince Bandar to illegally finance Contra operations.

56Armstrong, War PLC, 151, 152; Hughes, War on Terror Inc, 149, 163; David Isenberg, Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq (New York: Praeger, 2008), 96.

57Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules.

58Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules, 19; Geraghty, Soldiers of Fortune, 199.

59Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules, 19.

60Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman, Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2008), 127; Isenberg, Shadow Force, 87.

61Bacevich, Breach of Trust, 132, 133. Some believe that Westhusing, a military ethicist was murdered as a means of keeping the allegations which the army denied secret much as they believe Pat Tillman, who had turned against the war in Afghanistan, was “fragged” by members of his unit to prevent him from becoming a whistleblower.

62Hughes, War on Terror, Inc., 24; Janis Karpinski, One Woman’s Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story (Miramax Books, 2006). According to Karpinski, Deland and his colleagues photographed themselves sitting on “piles of cash” about the size of a “barbecue” and holding a “fistful of dollars,” with more bills sticking out of their pockets. The money came partly from Iraqi oil receipts allegedly. On SAIC see Beyster, The SAIC Solution. One of the defense secretary’s on its board was Robert Gates.

63Shorrock, Spies for Hire, 15, 281; Isenberg, Shadow Force, 115; Mark Benjamin and Michael Scherer, “The Abu Ghraib Files,” Salon, March 14, 2006; “Big Steve and Abu Ghraib,” Salon, March 16, 2006. CACI employee Daniel Johnson allegedly directed a subordinate to abuse detainees and “put his hand over the month of [an uncooperative prisoner] to stop his breathing.” The other main culprit “Big Steve” Stefanowicz allegedly gave orders to Charles Granger which led ultimately to Granger’s prosecution though he himself was never fired from CACI, or prosecuted by the DOJ. Armitage was a former CIA agent linked to covert operations in drugs in Indochina and Central Asia and illegal weapons transfers to the Contras while serving as Reagan’s assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security affairs. In 1984, he was investigated by the national commission on organized crime for links to gambling and prostitution.

64See James Risen, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2014), 65, 66; Mike Unger, “How Jack London Built CACI into a Billion Dollar Defense Behemoth,” Smart CEO. Son of an Oklahoma Sooner, London served with U.S. Navy “hunter-killer” task forces arrayed against the Soviet Union’s strategic nuclear submarine threat during the era of the Cuban missile crisis, and was an aide to a top naval commander during the Vietnam War. He penned a defense of CACI after the Abu Ghraib scandal, Our Good Name (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2008).CACI was founded in 1962 by RAND Corporation analysts Herb Karr and Harry Markowitz who in 1990 won the Nobel Prize for economics. Operating under the slogan “ever vigilant,” CACI was awarded multi-million dollar contracts for developing censor technology for the U.S. army and digital mapping services and a $62.5 million contract for counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan in 2014.

65 See Robert Jay Lifton, Home From the War: Vietnam Veterans Neither Victims Nor Executioners (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973).

66See Charles J. Hanley, Sang-Hun Choe, and Martha Mendoza, The Bridge at No Gun Ri: A Hidden Nightmare from the Korean War (New York: Holt, 2000) and Sahr Conway-Lanz, Collateral Damage: Americans, Noncombatant Immunity, and Atrocity after World War II (New York: Routledge, 2006), 96-102.

67Bruce Cumings, Origins of the Korean War II: The Roaring of the Cataract, 1947-1950 (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989), 686, 707.

68Nick Turse, ‘Kill Anything that Moves:’ The Real American War in Vietnam (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2013), 206-207, 211; Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Political Economy of Human Rights: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism (Boston: South End Press, 1979).

69 See Iraq Veterans Against the War, with Aaron Glantz, Winter Soldier: Afghanistan and Iraq: Eyewitness Accounts (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2008); Chris Hedges and Laila al Arian, Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians (New York: The Nation Books, 2009).

70 Mark Mazetti, “Panel Faults CIA Over Brutality and Deceit in Terrorism Interrogations,” New York Times, December 9, 2014. On the historic adoption of torture by the CIA, see Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation From the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006).

71 An example would be the French foreign legion which was accused of burning Algerians in ovens during the brutal colonial war there among other transgressions. See Douglas Porch, The French Foreign Legion: A Complete History of the Legendary Fighting Force (New York: Skyhorse, 2010).

72Douglas Wissing, Funding the Enemy: How US Taxpayers Bankroll the Taliban (New York: Prometheus Books, 2012), 119.

73Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules, 23.

74Rasor and Bauman, Betraying Our Troops, 60.

75Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules, 51, 195.

76Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules, 73.

77Priest and Arkin, Top Secret America, 188; Shorrock, Spies for Hire, 21; Wissing, Funding the Enemy, 100; T. Christian Miller, Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives and Corporate Greed in Iraq (Boston: Little & Brown, 2006). Kyle Foggo was the CIA’s number three executive, and Randy Cunningham, the California Congressman taken down. Corruption was pervasive among U.S. army officers charged with handling millions of dollars flown in from the New York Federal Reserve on secret flights to Baghdad. Risen, Pay Any Price, 12, 13.

78Wissing, Funding the Enemy, 62, 244, 245; John Tierney, Warlord Inc.: Extortion and Corruption Along the US Supply Chain in Afghanistan, Report of the Majority Staff, Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, U.S. Senate, June 2010.

79Wissing, Funding the Enemy, 193; Aram Rostom, “How the U.S. Funds the Taliban,” The Nation, November 11, 2009; Rasor and Bauman, Betraying Our Troops; Jean Mackenzie, “Funding the Afghan Taliban,” GlobalPost, August 7, 2009; Tierney, Warlord Inc.

80Chatterjee, Halliburton’s Army, 192; Rasor and Bauman, Betraying Our Troops, 145; Stanger, One Nation Under Contract, 3; Hughes, War on Terror, Inc., 89.

81Van Buren, We Meant Well, 42; Risen, Pay Any Price. Ugandans, many of them former child soldiers, for example were subcontracted to guard US military facilities because they were paid far less than Americans, while Bangladeshis worked in food and laundry services.

82Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules, 55.

83Robert Mackey, “Taliban Blames ‘Blackwater’ for Pakistani Bombs,” New York Times, November 17, 2009. The CIA has long promoted these kinds of operations. See Daniele Ganser, NATOs Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe (New York: Routledge, 2005).

84Pelton, Licensed to Kill, 249; David Rhode, “Portrait of a US Vigilante in Afghanistan,” New York Times, July 11, 2004, N4; Peter Bergen, “The Shadow Warrior: Jack Idema: How Did a Convicted Con Man and Former Special Forces Soldier End Up in an Afghan Prison?” Rolling Stone, May 2005.

85 “Pentagon Boss Set Up His Own Army of Jason Bourne Spies to Hunt Islamic Extremists,” London Daily Mail, March 16, 2010; Dexter Filkins and Mark Mazetti, “Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants,” New York Times, March 14, 2010.

86 Mark Mazetti, “Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private CIA,” New York Times, January 22, 2011. See also Mazetti, The Way of the Knife: The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth(New York: Penguin, 2014). Now in his early 80s, Clarridge came to run his own intelligence agency from his comfortable home in San Diego and was at one point hired to assist in the recapture of New York Times journalist Daniel Pearl and to find POW Bowe Bergdahl in Taliban captivity.

87Jeremy Scahill, “The Secret U.S. War in Pakistan,” The Nation, November 23, 2009; Mark Mazetti, “CIA Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists,” New York Times, August 19, 2009. DynCorp was also given a contract to protect Pakistani diplomats, prompting concerns among local officials that it was being used as a cover for the development of a parallel intelligence structure. Jane Perlez, “U.S. Push to Expand in Pakistan Meets Resistance,” New York Times, October 6, 2009.

88Jeremy Scahill, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield (New York: The Nation Books, 2013), 415; Mark Mazetti, “How a Single Spy Helped Turn Pakistan Against the U.S.,” New York Times, April 9, 2013.

89Scahill, Blackwater, 59, 60; Chatterjee, Iraq Inc., 129. Receiving six figure salaries, employees were recruited from all over the world, including from the armed forces of repressive regimes like Augusto Pinochet’s Chile.

90Carlotta Gall, The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2014), 235; Matthew Hastings, The Operators (Blue Rider Press, 2012); Shorrock, Spies for Hire, 118. An Achakzai who targeted the rival Noorzai, Raziq profited from the regional opium trade and bragged about not taking any prisoners alive.

91Scahill, Blackwater, 13, 169; Simmons, Master of War; Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Dana Hedgpeth, “Building Blackwater,” The Washington Post, October 13, 2007.

92Scahill, Blackwater, 20.

93Scahill, Blackwater, 16.

94Scahill, Blackwater, 21; John F. Burns, “Risky Business: The Deadly Game of Private Security,” New York Times, September 23, 2007.

95Fainaru, Bad Boy Rules, 140.

96Simons, Master of War; “The Blackwater Verdict: Finally Some Accountability for a Massacre in Iraq,” The Nation, November 17, 2014, 4.

97Simon Chesterman, “Blackwater and the Limits to Outsourcing Security,” New York Times, November 13, 2009; Andrew Feinstein, The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade (New York: Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 2011), 409. Incredibly Joseph Schmitz, Blackwater’s General Counsel was in 2010 given a contract to monitor the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) efforts to alleviate deficiencies in its investigations division.

98“A Verdict on Blackwater,” New York Times, October 22, 2014; Scahill, Blackwater, 3, 56; Mark Mazetti and James Risen, “Blackwater Said to Pursue Bribes to Iraq After 17 Died,” New York Times, November 11, 2009.

99“The Blackwater Verdict: Finally, Some Accountability for a massacre in Iraq,” The Nation, November 17, 2014, 4.

100 On failure to hold Bush administration officials for torture and other war crimes and its consequence, see Alfred W. McCoy, Torture and Impunity: The CIAs Coercive Interrogation Doctrine (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012).

101Churchill, “The Security Industrial Complex,” in The Global Industrial Complex, ed. Best et al., 67; Scahill, Blackwater, 321, 327-330; James Ridegway, “The Secret History of Hurricane Katrina,” Mother Jones, August 2009.. On the militarization of domestic police forces generally, see Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (New York: Public Affairs, 2013).

102James Risen, “Blackwater Reaches Deal on U.S. Export Violations,” New York Times, August 20, 2010; Feinstein, The Shadow World, 409.

103Mark Mazetti and Emily Hager, “Secret Desert Forces Set up by Blackwater’s Founder,” New York Times, May 14, 2011. The UAE contract was supported by the Obama administration. A spokesman commented that “the Gulf countries and U.A.E. in particular don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense of they looked outside their borders for help. They might want to show they are not to be messed with.” A company run by former counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke also won several lucrative contracts to protect the kingdom’s infrastructure.

104Keith Johnson, “Mercenary Secrets Revealed,” American Free Press; Michael B. Kelley, “Hacked Stratfor Emails: The U.S. Government Sent Blackwater Vets to Fight in Libya and Syria,” Business Insider, March 20, 2102.

105See James Glanz, “Security Guard Kills Iraq Driver: Eyewitnesses Say Taxi Posed No Threat,” New York Times, November 12, 2007, A1 and on police training and its pitfalls, Jeremy Kuzmarov, Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation Building in the American Century (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012), conclusion.

106Risen, Pay Any Price, 65, 66. Robert McKeon, the owner of the private equity firm which bought out DynCorp, Veritas Capital, committed suicide in 2012 just two years after scoring one of the biggest paydays from the War on Terror. On DynCorp misdeeds, see Oliver Villar and Drew Cottle, Cocaine, Death Squads, and the War on Terror: U.S. Imperialism and Class Struggle in Colombia (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2011), 4; Silverstein, Private Warriors, 185; September 24, 2009, from the State Department in Washington to the US Embassy in Bogota, BLUE LANTERN: VERIFYING BONA FIDES OF REGISTERED BROKER FERNANDO LOPEZ – CASE NO. K-2547.

107Isenberg, Shadow Force, 91–94; Wissing, Funding the Enemy, 123; Kuzmarov, Modernizing Repression, conclusion. Between 2005 and 2009, DynCorp also received over $1 billion to help run the War on Drugs in Latin America, performing intelligence functions and training police and army units. At one point it employed as a subcontractor a company that had run arms to the contras for Oliver North. Counter-Narcotics Contracts in Latin America, Hearings Before the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, U.S. Senate, 111th Congress, 2nd Session, May 20, 2010.

108 Patrick Cockburn, The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq (London: Verso, 2007) 194; Robert Cole, Under the Gun in Iraq: My Year Training the Iraqi Police, as told to Jan Hogan (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2007), 60–61; (Enemy Action) Direct Fire RPT (Small Arms)_West/SE_IP:_ISF KIA_CIV KIA_UE KIA; “Drive By Shooting on Police, Vic Ar Ramadi,” January 3, 2004; “Attack on Police Chief and Bodyguard,” January 17, 2004; and “Attack on Haditha Police Station,” January 27, 2004, www.wikileaks.org. Over 100 DynCorp employees are estimated to have died in the Iraq and Afghan wars.

109 Cole, Under the Gun in Iraq, 60–61. See also Mark R. Depue, Patrolling Baghdad: A Military Police Company and the War in Iraq (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2007).

110See e.g. David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (New York: Hailer, 2005).

111On the latter point, see Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of the Spectacle (New York: The Nation Books, 2010).

112See Turse, The Changing Face of Empire; Risen, Pay Any Price.

113See Noam Chomsky, Profits over People: Neoliberalism and Global Order, rev ed. (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2011); Boggs, “The Corporate War Economy” in The Global Industrial Complex.

114Rasor and Bauman, Betraying Our Troops, 172.

115Rasor and Bauman, Betraying Our Troops, 168, 171. Since 2000, Halliburton has spent $4.6 million buying influence via donations and lobbying, with its board of directors and their spouses giving $828,701 to congressional and presidential candidate. They have gotten an important return on their investment: In 2005, the company received almost $6 billion in federal contracts.

116 Armstrong, War PLC, 83; J.P. Zenger, “Blackwater USA Funding PA Green Party,” Philadelphia Daily News, October 19, 2006.

117David Vine, “We’re Profiteers” How Military Contractors Reap Billions from U.S. Military Bases Overseas,” Monthly Review (July-August 2014), 97; Beyster, The SAIC Solution; 177; Harris, The Watchers. On the corruption of democracy, see Jonathan Nichols and Robert McChesney, Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America (New York: The Nation Books, 2013). Beyster, a Republican also worked as a physicist at General Atomic (GA – developer of drones). Employing major scientific brainpower, SAIC has had contracts with the DOD, Homeland Security, NSA, Department of Energy, NASA, British Petroleum (BP) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a descendant from the Manhattan project which studies nuclear technology. SAIC is involved in medical research, developed weather forecasting systems, pioneered nuclear disposal technology and created a robotic censor that can detect and destroy IEDs as well as iris scans and fingerprint readers among other innovations. An NSA inspector found that the surveillance program run by SAIC known as Trailblazer, which had built on John Poindexter’s system in mining personal records, was an abject failure; it suffered from “inadequate management” and oversight of private contractors and overpayment for the work that was done, and that SAIC did not provide the proper technical expertise.

118Scott, American War Machine, 184, 186; Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele, “Washington’s $8 Billion Shadow,” Vanity Fair, March 2007. See also Herman and O’Sullivan, The ‘Terrorism’ Industry. The employee Dr. Steven Hatfill had previously worked at the army’s biological warfare center at Fort Detrick, Maryland. SAIC also served as paymaster for a secret Pentagon program run by Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith that supported Iraqi exiles who backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Three company members including Gordon Oehler, an ex-CIA man, were later part of a Pentagon commission on the WMDs in Iraq which kept away from the issue of whether senior policymakers deliberately manipulated intelligence.

119 Nick Turse, The Complex: How the Military Invades our Everyday Lives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008) is an excellent study on the military complex though pays short shrift to PMCs and their unprecedented influence.

120William Hartung, “Bush Military Budget Highest Since World War II,” February 10, 2007, Common Dreams.

121Nicolas J.S. Davies, “From Ohlendorf to Obama,” Z Magazine, September 2013. Obama’s mother and stepfather may have had strong connections to the Pentagon and CIA during its operations in Indonesia under the Suharto dictatorship and Obama worked for a CIA outfit which provided research analysis after graduating from Columbia University. See Wayne Madsen, The Manufacturing of a President: The CIA’s Insertion of Barrack Obama Jr. Into the White House (self published, 2012).

122Hagedorn, The Invisible Soldiers, 246; Adam Weinstein, “Wikileaks Goes Inside Corporate America’s Wannabe CIA,” Mother Jones, February 27, 2012. Emails hacked by an affiliate of Wikileaks revealed the importance of one firm, Strategic Forecasting Inc. a geopolitical intelligence and consulting firm founded by neoconservative political science professor George Friedman which functions as a “shadow CIA.” Its wide ranging activities included spying on Occupy Wall Street activists under a contract with the Department of Homeland Security.

123On PMCs and the war on drugs, see Christopher Hobson, “Privatizing the War on Drugs,” Third World Quarterly, 35, 8 (December 2014).

124Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (New York: Everyman Library, 1994), 4: 117-127.

125Alfred W. McCoy, “Fatal Florescence: Europe’s Decolonization and America’s Decline in Endless Empire: Spain’s Retreat, Europe’s Eclipse and America’s Decline, ed. Alfred W. McCoy, Joseph M. Fradera and Stephen Jacobson (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2012), 3-43. The U.S. was at the peak of its power in geopolitical, economic and financial terms in 1945, and its hegemonic position in all these areas subsequently declined.

126For a future vision, see Francis Goldin et al. Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA (New York: Harper, 2013).

127“The Blackwater Verdict: Finally, Some Accountability for a Massacre in Iraq,” The Nation, November 17, 2014, 4.

The dangerous patriot: The one who drifts into chauvinism and exhibits blind enthusiasm for military actions. He is a defender of militarism and its ideals of war and glory. Chauvinism is a proud and bellicose form of patriotism, …which identifies numerous enemies who can only be dealt with through military power and which equates the national honor with military victory.” - James A. Donovan (1916-1970), American lawyer and Commander in the United States Navy Reserve

“Where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control.” - Lord Acton (1834-1902) (John E. Dalberg), English Catholic historian, politician, and writer

“If you want war, nourish a doctrine. Doctrines are the most frightful tyrants to which men ever are subject… ” - William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), American academic

“The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. … It is our true [foreign] policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.” - George Washington (1732-1799), First President of the United States, (1789-1797), Farewell Address, 1796

These days, militaristic Neoconservatives, or Neocons, have near complete control of the American government under the façade of whoever is president at the time. They direct U.S. policies at the State Department, at the Pentagon, at the U.S. Treasury and at the Fed central bank. They are thus in position to influence and frame American foreign policy, military policy, economic and financial policies and monetary policy.

This was not the case before the Ronald Reagan administration (1981-1989) when the latter adopted a neocon-inspired “muscular foreign policy” based on military intervention abroad, perpetual war, arbitrary regime changes, and imperial worldwide governance in any matters deemed to be in American interests and of that of its close allies. Even though they fared less well under the George H. Bush administration (1989-1993), when they were considered the “crazies in the basement”, they resumed their ascendance within the American government under the Bill Clinton administration (1993-2001) with the U.S.-led Kosovo war and with the irresponsible dismantling of the Glass-Steagall Act, thus paving the way for the 2008 worldwide financial crisis.

The Neocons’ greatest success, however, came with the George W. Bush and Dick Cheney administration (2001-2009) when they persuaded the latter to launch the (illegal) 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a war still with us and expanding today, twelve years later. They also drafted the so-called “Bush Doctrine” of (illegal) preemptive wars and of forced political regime changes in other countries.

This was an ideology that the Neocons had long advanced, both when Paul Wolfowitz was Deputy Secretary of Defense for policy in the George H. Bush administration (1989-1993), even though the latter publicly repudiated it, and in various essays published by a neocon think-tank dubbed “The Project for the New American Century (PNAC)” and founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan.

After the fall of the Soviet empire in 1991, the warmongering Neocons argued that there should not be any “Peace dividend” for American taxpayers but rather that the United States should seize the opportunity to become the sole world military superpower and should therefore increase and not decrease its military spending. The intention was to establish a military New American Empire for the 21st Century, along the lines of the British Empire in the 19th Century.

Indeed, after the events of 9/11 and the arrival of George W. Bush in the White House in 2001, Paul Wolfowitz, as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense under Donald Rumsfeld, was in a better position to push for increased U.S. military spending and for the adoption of a new aggressive U.S. foreign policy. What was most troubling is the fact that the PNAC produced a paper in 2000, titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”, (of which Paul Wolfowitz was a signatory), which enigmatically noted that only a “new Pearl Harbor” would make Americans accept the military and defense policy transformations that the neocon group was proposing. Then, in September 2001, the “new Pearl Harbor” coincidentally and conveniently morphed into the 9/11 attacks.

The war against Afghanistanwhere the 9/11 terrorists had trained (and who came from Saudi Arabia and a few other countries), and the war against Iraq, a country not even remotely connected with the events of 9/11, followed.

At the beginning of 2015, Neocons occupy key positions within the Barack Obama administration and it should be no surprise that U.S. foreign policy is hardly any different than it was under the George W. Bush administration. They are constantly pushing for provocations, confrontations, conflicts and wars. In fact, the year 2015 could be the year when many of the fires they have lit could turn into conflagrations.

Let us look at a few of them.

1. The danger of another major financial and economic crisis

On July 21, 2010, President Obama signed an already watered down version of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to reign in financial corruption that brought about the 2008 financial crisis. The new law was supposed to re-establish part of the provisions of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act gutted out by the Clinton administration in 1999, in order to prevent megabanks and insurance companies from using government-insured deposits to build for themselves a pyramid of risky bets on the derivatives market (credit default swaps, commodity swaps, collateralized-debt obligations and other risky derivative financial products, etc.).

But guess what! Only four years later, on December 16, 2014, lobbyists and lawyers working full time for the megabanks persuaded President Obama to sign a massive $1.1 trillion omnibus bill disguised as a Budget Bill and which contains a provision to remove a rule known as the ‘swaps push-out’ rule, the latter requiring insured banks to establish uninsured subsidiaries to conduct their speculative derivatives trading activities.

As a consequence, American megabanks are now back in business speculating with government-insured deposits. When the entire financial house of cards will blow out again is unknown, but you can be sure that it will, especially if a serious political or economic shock hits the economy.

I would call that ‘financial brinkmanship’ and I would call Obama’s caving in to the megabanks ‘political cowardice’. And who do you think will pay in various ways for the economic mess when it occurs? Certainly not the megabanks that transformed their insolvent asset-backed securities into newly printed cold cash after the 2008 financial crisis, but ordinary people.

The U.S. economy and many other economies are still reeling from the 2008 financial crisis brought about by corrupted politicians and bankers with their lax or nonexistent regulations and excessive speculation schemes. Such economies are vulnerable and sensitive to unforeseen financial shocks because debt-to-income ratios are still high in many countries, including in the U.S. where the indebtedness ratio reached a peak of 177 percent just before the 2008-09 economic recession and still now stands at a lofty 152 percent. (Historically, the debt-to-income ratio has remained well below 90 percent.) A sudden rise in interest rates could therefore wreak havoc with many economies.

For one, the European Union (EU), the largest world economy, is teetering on the brink of recession, suffering from various government-imposed austerity programs, from an overvalued euro currency (for those countries in the euro zone) and from the economic blowback of its conflicts with Russia over including Ukraine into NATO. Europe is indeed in the midst of a lost decade of high unemployment, low economic growth and deteriorating social conditions. And, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

China’s economy, the third largest world economy, is also slowing down fast, with excess manufacturing capacity while its exports are suffering from a 25 percent appreciation of the Chinese renminbi since 2004 and from weak world demand. Moreover, its financial sector is also vulnerable to the fact that China’s debt level is now at a lofty 176 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Chinese economy is also going through structural changes as the Chinese government pursues policies to reduce the country’s reliance on foreign markets and to shift from an export-oriented model to more domestic sources of growth.

As for the U.S. economy, it is still weak and unable to generate enough new jobs, despite a rebound during the last few months, while the labor force participation rate has declined from 66.5 percent before the 2008-09 recession to 62.7 percent today. The fact that millions of Americans have part-time jobs and would like to have full-time jobs, and that real wages of those who work are stagnant or falling are also indicators that things have not come back to normal.

Since there is no fiscal policy and no industrial policy originating from the U.S. government, the Fed central bank has been obliged to step in with the most aggressive monetary policy in its history. Indeed, the Fed has quadrupled its bank lending to $4.5 trillion since 2008 and it has pursued a policy of risky zero-rate and low-rate policies.

As a consequence, the Fed has created a gigantic financial asset bubble. The unwinding of such monetary prodigiousness won’t be an easy task. What’s more, the U.S. government will be paralyzed by a political gridlock over the coming two years, a republican-controlled Congress being pitted against a lame-duck Democratic president, thus making it difficult for the U.S. government to respond adequately to a new financial crisis.

Another ominous sign is the collapse of the velocity of money in the U.S., just as during the late 1920s, right before the start of the Great Depression, and it is now at a nearly 20 year low. That both the American political and financial sectors are unhealthy should be worrisome for the coming years.

2. The real danger of a nuclear war with the rekindling of the old Cold War with Russia

Brinkmanship in financial matters is one thing; brinkmanship with nuclear war is another. Sadly, the neocon-inspired U.S. government is today involved in both.

Indeed, for many years now, the U.S. government has been engaged in an aggressive geopolitical warfare against Russia, first in pursuing a policy of geopolitical and military encirclement of Russia by expanding NATO to its borders with the integration of Ukraine, and second, by implementing a policy of economic warfare against Russia in order to undermine its economy and, eventually, to provoke a regime change in that country. It’s a game of “dare you?”

Some of the more lunatic Neocons openly call for a new World War III, presumably with Russia a country against which they seem to have personal animosities. These are some of the lunatics President Barack Obama listens to.

Oil as a geopolitical tool

The 50 percent drop of oil price in 2014 may be part of a wider U.S.-led economic warfare plan to destabilize the Russian economy and provoke an Oil Slump, knowing full well that 50 percent of Russian state revenue comes from its export sales of oil and gas. Above all, policy-makers in Washington D.C. want to break the Gazprom-E.U. supply dependency to weaken Russia and keep control over the E.U. via American allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Such an artificial drop in oil price appears to be a complement to the already known decisions to saddle Russia with stiff American-led economic and financial sanctions designed by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, (an outfit created in 2004 after intensive lobbying by AIPAC) and other attempts by the U.S. government to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas.

Since September, Saudi Arabia, a country with excess oil capacity and low-cost production, (and in a position to manipulate the international price for oil), has suddenly and dramatically decided to sell crude oil at deeply discounted prices and to maintain its oil production at high levels in face of a declining world oil demand.

This is a reversal of what Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries did in the fall of 1973 when they suddenly quadrupled the price for oil and provoked a global economic recession.

This is, however, a strategy similar to what Saudi Arabia adopted in 1986 when it flooded the world with cheap Saudi oil, thus collapsing the international price of oil to below $10 a barrel, after an agreement with the U.S. government. The objective then was to undermine the economies of the Soviet Union and its then Iraq ally, even though other economies such as the Canadian economy suffered greatly from such a gambit.

This time, there seems to be a convergence of interests between the U.S. government and the Saudi kingdom. From a U.S. government’s point of view, the main objective is to hurt the Russian and Iranian energy sectors and damage the finances of President Vladimir Putin’s Russian government, while securing Saudi Arabia’s assistance in fighting the Islamist State (IS) in Iraq and in Syria.

From a Saudi point of view, a world oil price war meets its regional and global objectives in three ways. First, it is well known that the Saudi government wants to dominate oil and gas production in the entire Middle East region and is in opposition to Iran and Syria for securing the rich European market. Second, the Saudi government would also like to pressure Russia to end its support for the Syrian al-Assad government. Third, Saudi Arabia also wishes to regain market shares that it lost to more costly oil from shale oil and oil sands. By lowering oil prices, Saudi Arabia hopes to reduce or even put such competing oil production out of business by making their production less profitable.

However, such a move is bound to severely damage oil production from oil shale in North Dakota in the USA and oil-producing states like Texas may fall into recession, even though the overall U.S. economy will benefit from cheaper oil. Oil production from tar sands in Alberta, Canada will also badly suffer and this means a drop in the Canadian dollar, and possibly a Canadian recession. The shale and tar sands oil industries will be the main innocent victims of the overall geopolitical policy pursued by the U.S. government and its Middle East allies.

Indeed, since the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an American client state, it is most unlikely that such a move to flood oil markets and precipitate a stiff drop in oil price was decided without a tacit, if not an overt, approval by the U.S. government. In fact, there is wide speculation that when U.S. secretary of state John Kerry met with King Abdullah in September 2014, they allegedly struck an overall deal to that effect.

Ukraine as a geopolitical pawn

As to the destabilization of Russia’s neighboring Ukraine, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has pretty much confirmed that the U.S. government was deeply involved in overthrowing the legitimate elected Ukrainian government last February, with the avowed objective of installing a U.S.puppet government in that country. This makes a mockery of democracy and only demonstrates how deeply the U.S. government is involved abroad in power politics and in aggressive interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.

Neoconservative Victoria Nuland, appointed Assistant Secretary of State by President Barack Obama, has publicly confirmed that the U.S. government has “invested” $5 billion to destabilize Ukraine and create a conflict between the latter country and Russia. It is hard not to conclude that the Ukrainian crisis is a made-in-Washington crisis. Her famous and insulting remark about Europe [“f*** the E.U.”] is another clear indication that the U.S. government wished to provoke a crisis with Russian not to help Europeans but to serve its own narrow imperial objectives, whatever the costs to the Russian people and to Europeans.

What is most disturbing is the irresponsibility with which the U.S. House of Representatives passed Resolution 758, on December 4, 2014, that is tantamount for all practical purposes to a declaration of war against Russia, based on false premises, distorted facts and false accusations. With that kind of irresponsible leadership, the world is presently in very bad hands.

The truth is that if Soviet missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from U.S. territory, were unacceptable to the U.S. government in 1962, American missiles in Ukraine, on the Russian borders, are unacceptable to the Russian government in 2015. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. For whoever knows history, that should not be too difficult to understand.

Conclusion

If world affairs take a turn for the worse in 2015, the world should know where to point the finger at the culprits. Some people think that world events occur by pure chance and there is no planning behind them. They are wrong. Dead wrong. Bad government policies, misdeeds, false flag operations or simple miscalculations are often at the heart of many geopolitical crises, be they financial, economic or military. Sometimes, it just happens that the “crazies in the basement” are in charge.

It is becoming clearer and clearer, even for the uninformed and the misinformed among us, that the resurgence of the Cold War confrontation with Russia has been engineered in Washington D.C. and that Russia has not been the aggressor, (as the official propaganda wants us to believe), but has rather reacted to a whole series of U.S.-led provocations.

Why have there been so many destabilizing interventions by the U.S. government around the world and who profit the most from this man-made instability? This is a good question that ordinary Americans should ask themselves.

Domestically, should the U.S. economy continue to be run by bankers? Internationally, should the U.S. government pursue its policy of deliberately attempting to drive the Russian government into a corner and takes measures to destroy the Russian economy? These are acts of war. Are ordinary Americans in agreement with such policies? Who will profit the most and who will loose the most if there were to be a nuclear war with Russia? Since Europeans would be at the forefront of such a conflict, this is a question that has also to be answered in Europe.

What the world desperately needs now is a law-governed international environment, not a jingoistic and chauvinistic world empire that looks only after its narrow self-interests.

More fundamentally maybe, we should reject the false ideology of clash between nations. It is a grave and dangerous fallacy that can only lead the world to disaster.

To write to the author:
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Disclaimer: All quotes mentioned above are believed in good faith to be accurately attributed, but no guarantees are made that some may not be correctly attributed.

The imbroglio over the new Sony film The Interview is a sideshow that reveals that the Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration before it, has lost the plot with regard to North Korea. The real game is to stop, reverse and end North Korea’s nuclear weapons breakout. Its handling of The Interview has managed to distract the US government from this strategic imperative, increase the risk of war, including nuclear war, and made it harder than ever to advance American vital security interests in relation to North Korea’s nuclear threat.

The real video we should be watching is not The Interview but US Strategic Command’s deterrence symposium from August 14, 2014. At minute 23.35, recently retired US Major General John MacDonald who served until recently in US Forces Korea/Combined Forces Command/UN Command in Korea, advocates including assassination of North Koreans in STRATCOM’s policy options kitbag for dealing with Kim Jong Un over the next three years.

Unlike The Interview, this movie is not satirical, nor is it fictional. It is posted by US Strategic Command, the military command that plans for using nuclear weapons against North Korea. Cyber Command that may lead US retaliation against North Korea is a component of Strategic Command.

Stratcom.mil is the one website that we can be assured that the North Koreans monitor on a daily basis. This video is on a US government website. As Commander-in-Chief, President Obama owns this assassination video.

That it appears on-line today reveals the same attitude towards managing the North Korean threat as the Administration’s handling of The Interview. If Sony’s internal emails are to be believed, a senior US State Department official advised Sony CEO Michael Lynton that because the US-DPRK relationship was already so toxic, releasing a movie showing KJU’s head being blown off by a grenade removed from Seth Rogen’s rectum would not do any additional damage to US security interests in the region.

He was wrong. There were and are consequential and potentially catastrophic risks, and there was no reason to not tender sound advice to that effect to Sony’s CEO who at least asked for guidance. The careless advice reportedly given to Sony is an indicator of the Obama Administration’s attitude toward the DPRK which can be described fairly as negligent. Nothing can be done, so what we do doesn’t matter.

Many professional cyber-crime experts remain skeptical that the FBI could attribute the attack or threats to North Korea, especially given its apparent overnight change of heart from December 19 to December 20, 2014, leading some to speculate that this was driven politically. Perhaps the White House was driven by the need to divert journalists from focusing on the CIA torture story, or to counter accusations that by recognizing Cuba, President Obama is soft on dictatorships. However, I surmise that President Obama had some non-circumstantial, non-cyber evidence to link the North to the attack and the threat to theaters that he referred to as justifying his threat to retaliate. The reason to do so is that Obama would be well aware of the threat of political blowback if he had relied solely on unreliable, weak, or even deceptive cyber-evidence and would not have risked political capital in order to accuse North Korea of the attack.

This issue is peripheral to the topic of this essay, however. Even if the FBI’s attribution is completely accurate, it is still only some combination of cyber-vandalism and non-credible threat that is at stake which does not justify escalating the issue and not attending to the main game, the issue of nuclear war and proliferation in Northeast Asia.

It is also possible that the United States is multi-tasking by playing more than one game at a time. President Obama’s threat to retaliate against North Korean-controlled computer infrastructure that is physically located in or transiting China may be an attempt to pressure China to address its earlier request that it address Chinese hacking against American firms, using North Korea as the lever. The White House may also be counting on China to act unilaterally against North Korea’s cyber capacities in response to US requests to this effect due to the threat of American cyber-attack on this infrastructure located in China if they don’t, or simply because China may be upset that North Korea’s abuse of its access to China is drawing attention to China and can be ended at little or no cost.

Unfortunately, the US response to the Sony attacks does not offer China any evidence of a shift in the American attitude towards the DPRK or of how to solve the DPRK nuclear issue or to bring to an end the US-Korean War in the form of a peace treaty. In short, the US move is disingenuous, China knows it, the DPRK knows it, and the Sony-Rogen low point in American handling of the US-DPRK relationship will, like any protracted tempest in a teapot, eventually blow away—provided it doesn’t escalate into war.

The White House’s improvised exploitation of The Interview to try to undermine the North Korean regime is only the most extreme example of increasing American hostility towards the North. In the last year, the United States has also supported strongly a push to indict the North Korean leadership, including Kim Jong Un, for crimes against humanity and other human rights violations, documented in the Kirby report to the United Nations. These recall similar efforts during the Cold War. In the sixties, for example, the United States and its South Korean ally dropped millions of anti-regime pamphlets into the North. The United States also trained South Korean covert teams and agents to go to the North to try to destabilize and overthrow the North, as was revealed in Potshards (pp. 37-38), Don Gregg’s recent autobiography. None succeeded; as far as is known, none returned either.

During the Bush Administration, the US Treasury launched financial sanctions that were designed to prevent negotiated agreements to end the North’s nuclear weapons, and were aimed at regime change. As Robert Zarate, the architect of the sanctions declared in his recent book, Treasury’s War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare (pages 311, 352), these sanctions where a purposeful act of financial warfare. Thus, the DPRK has now confronted a Republican and Democratic Administration that has heightened American hostility towards the DPRK, and has increased North Koreans political and economic isolation. The Obama Administration has done nothing to implement Justice Kirby’s carefully crafted recommendations (summary report, sections 25, 92-94) that states facilitate increased civil society engagement with the North, and that they also recognize and act on their own contribution over the decades to the state of tension in the peninsula that makes it all but inevitable that horrific conditions will continue in the North given the risks associated with any structural transformation to a less oppressive, modernizing political and economic system. Indeed, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power turned up the vilification volume against the North in her December 22, 2014 speech at the UN Security Council.

Unlike the Sony sideshow, managing the national security dimensions of the US relationship with North Korea is an urgent, vital interest. The retaliation threatened by Obama, whether or not it comes to pass, will have counterproductive impact in Pyongyang. The North Koreans are fearful of pre-emptive nuclear and conventional strikes for many reasons. These include specific reference to North Korea as a candidate for preventive strike in the US 2010 announced nuclear declaratory doctrine, and the long trail of US hostility expressed in words and deed towards North Korea. Much of this hostility is deserved given North Korea’s own bad faith, outrageous actions, and inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric. Some is cultural, based on a realistic appreciation that North Korea embodies the antithesis of values that define what it is to be American. And some is purely ideological, based on American misreading of North Korea and responding to stereotypes and rabid fear-mongering.

But some of North Korea’s actions also respond to what Americans say and do. General MacDonald is not the only one to say that the United States should be in the business of assassinating North Koreans. RAND Corporation’s Bruce Bennett, for example, reportedly told Sony in June 2014 that the only way to get rid of the North Korean regime is to assassinate its leader. Moreover, Sony CEO Lynton asserted that a senior US official agreed with Bennett’s views (the State Department declined to clarify what this official said although it did say that he had not viewed the movie)Bennett also told Sony that the narrative of the rise of a “free North Korea” including the killing of Kim inThe Interview should be kept so that it could leak into North Korea as a samizdat DVD that would destabilize North Korea. (According to the leaked emails, Rogen later modified the killing imagery as follows: “We took out three out of four face embers,” Rogen writes of shrapnel set to hit Kim’s face. “Reduced the hair burning by 50%, and significantly darkened the chunks of Kim’s head.”).

It is urgent to correct the improvised United States response to the Sony attack and its aftermath. The situation is now spiraling out of control and is already beyond fair game in Washington’s partisan politics. The reality is that no-one knows who is responsible for the escalation dominance in the cyber warfare between the United States and the DPRK

According to Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, there are no clear international rules or even norms that demarcate commercial or vandalistic cyber-attacks from cyber-warfare, unlike in kinetic warfare in Korea where a military demarcation line is physically inscribed on the strategic landscape. President Obama has thrown down the gauntlet to the DPRK by suggesting that Sony should show the movie, thereby revealing at the same time his own estimate that the alleged DPRK threats to the safety of movie-goers was not credible. Sony has now released The Interview live on-line on Google Movies and YouTube movies, and in Christmas Day limited in-theater showings in the United States.

That the DPRK will respond is entirely predictable, especially since President Obama’s promised retaliation involves information warfare aimed at spreading anti-regime propaganda inside the DPRK or converting The Interview into some kind of DVD samizdat. Indeed, the DPRK has already threatened to respond. It is a short distance from the merely symbolic cyber-domain to kinetic and radioactive battlefields in a place as heavily armed as in Korea. Whether the DPRK Internet link outage on December 22 2014 was the first American retaliatory shot (or some third party denial of service attack) is anyone’s guess. Similarly, no-one knows if the hacking of two South Korean nuclear power plants on December 22, 2014 was by North Korea or other hackers. But these events show just how dangerous the game being played over a fictional assassination movie has become.

It is not obvious who will have the last laugh in this pathetic Sony sideshow. Certainly it will undermine US reputation for sound strategic decision-making and an ability to maintain stability in the Korean Peninsula, let alone facilitate negotiations to capture and reverse North Korean nuclear armament. Assuredly, the United States will not gain reputation abroad, especially in East Asia, by defending a movie that depicts the assassination of a living head of state, especially one as potentially dangerous as Kim Jong Un.

Each day that passes, North Korea is enriching uranium that can be used in nuclear weapons, it is improving its missile and other delivery systems, and it is reconstructing its plutonium-producing reactor. From this perspective, time is on North Korea’s side, not that of the United States. This is what matters in terms of vital national security interests, not the fate of The Interview.

The United States, which is still the world’s only superpower, can still shape Kim Jong Un’s strategic calculus, rather than merely imagine his denouement via its cultural industry. There is no shortage of small, medium, and large strategic options for the United States to reduce the danger of war and nuclear war involving North Korea.

Admittedly, it is not easy to negotiate with North Korea; but it has been done before successfully, and must be done again. Doing so means determining how to hold North Korea accountable for its alleged cyber-vandalism andreduce the probability of war, nuclear war, and nuclear proliferation at the same time. Everything else should be set aside.

There is simply no substitute for the tedious, painstaking work of constructing a meaningful diplomatic and security relationship with the North Koreans. Not doing so is strategically negligent.

Appendix 1:PRESIDENT OBAMA’S YEAR-END PRESS CONFERENCE, DECEMBER 19, 2014

On December 19, President Obama held a year-end press conference at the White House. Below are excerpts from that press conference related to U.S. foreign policy and international engagement. A full transcript of the press conference will be available on the White House website.

THE WHITE HOUSE 
Office of the Press Secretary
Washington, D.C. 
December 19, 2014

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. I’ll start on North Korea — that seems to be the biggest topic today. What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack? And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie? Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me address the second question first. Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage. There were threats against its employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.

In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector. Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place. When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks. We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done. We’re not even close to where we need to be.

And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.

But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too. Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors. All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage.

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like. Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.

So that’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.

…But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know. The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack. I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco]. (Laughter.) I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.

They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond. We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose. It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.

Appendix 2: FBI PRESS RELEASE UPDATE ON SONY INVESTIGATION

Update on Sony Investigation Washington DC December 19, 2014

Today, the FBI would like to provide an update on the status of our investigation into the cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE). In late November, SPE confirmed that it was the victim of a cyber attack that destroyed systems and stole large quantities of personal and commercial data. A group calling itself the “Guardians of Peace” claimed responsibility for the attack and subsequently issued threats against SPE, its employees, and theaters that distribute its movies.

The FBI has determined that the intrusion into SPE’s network consisted of the deployment of destructive malware and the theft of proprietary information as well as employees’ personally identifiable information and confidential communications. The attacks also rendered thousands of SPE’s computers inoperable, forced SPE to take its entire computer network offline, and significantly disrupted the company’s business operations.

After discovering the intrusion into its network, SPE requested the FBI’s assistance. Since then, the FBI has been working closely with the company throughout the investigation. Sony has been a great partner in the investigation, and continues to work closely with the FBI. Sony reported this incident within hours, which is what the FBI hopes all companies will do when facing a cyber attack. Sony’s quick reporting facilitated the investigators’ ability to do their jobs, and ultimately to identify the source of these attacks.

As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions. While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on the following:

  • Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korean actors previously developed. For example, there were similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks.
  • The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the U.S. government has previously linked directly to North Korea. For example, the FBI discovered that several Internet protocol (IP) addresses associated with known North Korean infrastructure communicated with IP addresses that were hardcoded into the data deletion malware used in this attack.
  • Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyber attack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.

We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this attack on a private sector entity and the ordinary citizens who worked there. Further, North Korea’s attack on SPE reaffirms that cyber threats pose one of the gravest national security dangers to the United States. Though the FBI has seen a wide variety and increasing number of cyber intrusions, the destructive nature of this attack, coupled with its coercive nature, sets it apart. North Korea’s actions were intended to inflict significant harm on a U.S. business and suppress the right of American citizens to express themselves. Such acts of intimidation fall outside the bounds of acceptable state behavior. The FBI takes seriously any attempt—whether through cyber-enabled means, threats of violence, or otherwise—to undermine the economic and social prosperity of our citizens.

The FBI stands ready to assist any U.S. company that is the victim of a destructive cyber attack or breach of confidential business information. Further, the FBI will continue to work closely with multiple departments and agencies as well as with domestic, foreign, and private sector partners who have played a critical role in our ability to trace this and other cyber threats to their source. Working together, the FBI will identify, pursue, and impose costs and consequences on individuals, groups, or nation states who use cyber means to threaten the United States or U.S. interests.

Appendix 3: SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY ON CYBER-ATTACK BY NORTH KOREA

STATEMENT BY SECRETARY KERRY Condemning Cyber-Attack by North Korea 19 December 2014

The United States condemns North Korea for the cyber-attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment and the unacceptable threats against movie theatres and moviegoers. These actions are a brazen attempt by an isolated regime to suppress free speech and stifle the creative expression of artists beyond the borders of its own country.

Freedom of expression is at the center of America’s values and a founding principle of our Bill of Rights. We’re a country where artists openly mock and criticize the powerful, including our own government. We don’t always like what they say about us or about others, and sometimes we’re even deeply offended. But those offenses have always taken a backseat to freedom of expression. That’s why the United States is and always will be a staunch advocate for and protector of the right of artists to express themselves freely and creatively. Whatever one’s system of government or views about free expression, there is absolutely no justification whatsoever for an attack like this.

We are deeply concerned about the destructive nature of this state sponsored cyber-attack targeting a commercial entity and its employees in the United States. These lawless acts of intimidation demonstrate North Korea’s flagrant disregard for international norms. Threats in cyberspace pose one of the greatest national security challenges to the United States, and North Korea’s actions – intended to inflict significant economic damage and suppress free speech – are well beyond the bounds of acceptable state behavior in cyberspace. This provocative and unprecedented attack and subsequent threats only strengthen our resolve to continue to work with partners around the world to strengthen cybersecurity, promote norms of acceptable state behavior, uphold freedom of expression, and ensure that the Internet remains open, interoperable, secure and reliable. We encourage our allies and partners to stand with us as we defend the values of all of our people in the face of state-sponsored intimidation.

Appendix 4: ADMIRAL KIRBY STATES THERE IS NO DEMARCATION LINE BETWEEN CYBER VANDALISM AND CYBER-WAR

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room December 19, 2014

QUESTION: Thank you Hey, general admiral [sic], a question about North Korea. There’s many reports out there about the speculation of them being behind cyber attacks here in the United States. I was just curious from a military perspective what the U.S. military understanding is of North Korea’s cyber capabilities? And are they a cyber threat from a military perspective?

KIRBY: Well, without speaking to anything specific with regard to Sony Pictures, as you know, we take cyber threats very, very seriously. Cyber threats come from any number of state and non-state actors. I won’t get into, you know, a laundry list here today, but this is something the secretary takes very seriously. It’s why he has devoted so much of his energy to the cyber domain. And, I mean, it’s something we’re constantly mindful of. But I — I don’t — you know, it’s also — it’s also a domain where, you know, you have to be very circumspect about the degree to which — the specificity to which you talk about both the threats, challenges, and of course whatever responses are available to you.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

Has the U.S. Cyber Command been tasked at all with assisting the FBI or any part of the government in its investigation into the Sony hack?

KIRBY: This is an FBI investigation. I’m not aware of any particular assistance rendered by DOD. That said, we have been part of the interagency discussions about — about this incident.

QUESTION: Just a follow-on North Korea. The FBI is blaming North Korea for the attack, and says it has evidence. At what point is it an act of war? And at what point does U.S. Cyber Command react?

KIRBY: First of all, I know of no official determination about the — that’s been made about the source of the attacks on Sony Pictures. So, I’m not in a position to speculate one way or the other. It’s an ongoing investigation and I wouldn’t get ahead of the FBI on that. As I said, we’re part of the interagency discussion about the incident and about options that may be available.

I’m also, you know, not — not able to lay out in any specificity for you what would be or wouldn’t be an act of war in the cyber domain. We take — it’s not like there’s a demarcation line that exists in some sort of fixed space on what is or isn’t. The cyber domain remains challenging — remains very fluid. Part of the reason why it’s such a challenging domain for us is because there aren’t internationally accepted norms and protocols. And that’s something that, you know, we here in the Defense Department have been certainly arguing for.

This is a revised and expanded version of an article that appeared at the Napsnet Policy Forum.

Peter Hayes is Co-founder and Executive Director of Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability; Honorary Professor at the Center for International Security Studies, Sydney University, Australia, and an Asia-Pacific Journal Contributing Editor. Recent publications include Extended Nuclear Deterrence, Global Abolition, and Korea and The Path Not Taken, The Way Still Open: Denuclearizing The Korean Peninsula And Northeast Asia (with Michael Hamel-Green).

Earlier this month, the Unified Progressive Party (the UPP), the third largest political party in South Korea, was dissolved by the Korean Constitutional Court as constituting a “threat to the democratic order”.

The UPP advocated for peaceful reconciliation with the North and immediate dialogue. It was accused of acting as a fifth column in South Korea.

The GuardianABC News and the Los Angeles Times have some good articles about the dissolution.

In November of this year, I flew to South Korea to provide assistance to the UPP in its efforts to avoid dissolution. I submitted papers to the Korean constitutional court and made the case that a free and open society should encourage political discourse. Nothing that I had seen substantiated any claims that the UPP was “in league with the enemy” or was conspiring against the South Korean government. Indeed, the UPP had representation in Parliament, which more than suggested that it was capable of achieving its political objectives through lawful, democratic means.

While in Seoul, I met with Representative Lee Seok-Ki of the UPP, who, even though a member of Parliament, had been jailed for 9 years for giving an anti-US speech, claiming that the US was the real problem in South Korean politics. Lee was convicted of (i) a law that makes it criminal to say things that could lead to violence in the future, and (ii) violating South Korea’s “national security law.”

At the time, his imprisonment seemed unjust. Now, after the dissolution, and within the context of media reports that other former members of the UPP are being investigated for treason, it is clear that Representative Lee is a political prisoner who should not have been jailed in the first place.

Some have accused South Korea’s current President, Park Geun-hye, a member of the conservative Saenuri Party and the daughter of the former dictator of South Korea, of harboring a personal vendetta against the UPP.

As of today, Amnesty International and the Carter Center have issued statements decrying the Korean government’s actions against the UPP.

Dorasan

Dissolution of a political party under international law requires a grave threat to the democratic functioning of a society

In the United States, it is almost impossible to dissolve a political party, and to my knowledge I cannot recall when a political party has ever been subject to a wholesale ban. Certainly, it is established history that the CIA and the FBI have engaged in “dirty tricks” campaigns against political parties, but they have had to do so because political speech is subject to strict protections in the US.

Why care about a small party in South Korea? I think the point is that political speech, once suppressed, paves the way to greater authoritarian control over civil discourse. Holding certain political views becomes a “thought crime.” Governments that have the ability to police political thoughts soon seek the power to punish such thoughts without oversight.

The dissolution of the UPP, from that point of view, becomes another attack on the basic order of a robust democratic dialogue.

Viewed in isolation, it may seem unimportant. But, considering that South Korea was itself ruled by authoritarian presidents for many decades, and considering also the growing conformity of political dialogue in many Western countries, the dissolution strikes me as another assault on democratic values supposedly enshrined in constitutions and treaties all over the world, yet which are increasingly under attack by powerful governments.

Inder Comar in the demilitarized zone

Imagine a sign pinned to the podium on the floor of the US Senate that reads Ferguson will be ours! Pictured on it is an armored personnel carrier with the United States flag driving over a mountain of corpses. This picture shown below says just that about Donbass. This is Kiev’s official statement on mass murder for the area. This was pinned to the podium on the floor of the Ukrainian Senate (Verkhovna Rada).

President Petro Poroshenko and his government have run out of wiggle room to deflect charges of genocide any more.

On December 18th the newly appointed Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Senate) deputy Semen Semenchenko, formerly commander of the battalion “Donbass” warned that Ukraine intends to pursue terrorists from Donbass anywhere in the world. The terrorists from Donbass Semenchenko wants to pursue is anyone that did not leave when the ATO began.

Andrey Biletsky, former “Azov” battalion commander, Ukrainian nationalist ideologist, and a favorite in Victoria Nuland’s circles ( Biletsky was made a Verkhovna Rada deputy by Arseni Yatsenyuk) made clear who those terrorists are in an interview with Foreign Policy .

“Unfortunately, among the Ukrainian people today there are a lot of ‘Russians’ (by their mentality, not their blood), ‘kikes,’ ‘Americans,’ ‘Europeans’ (of the democratic-liberal European Union), ‘Arabs,’ ‘Chinese’ and so forth, but there is not much specifically Ukrainian… It’s unclear how much time and effort will be needed to eradicate these dangerous viruses from our people.”

Biletsky, a new Senator who is being groomed for the Ukrainian presidency thinks even his American handlers are part of the virus infecting Ukraine.

Rape is Official Policy in Ukraine?

His Azov battalion (with Nazi insignia)  are showing their true American and European values in Mariupol by gang raping women prisoners at prison every night, torturing, and murdering some of them. This is someone that describes Americans and democratic values as a dangerous virus that need to be eradicated making sure your US tax dollars hard at work again.

According to an article that was published in the Kharkov News by Rita Samoilov on December 25th 15-20 women prisoners at penal colony #107 are taken to the military camp every night and raped by the Azov battalion. Earlier in the year I reported the same behavior at the mines in Lower Krynka by Aydar battalion which resulted in reports of mass rape, torture, and mass graves found on the site where over 5000 Ukrainian cleansing troops and national guard were camped. Upon checking the allegations the OSCE found them to be true. Kiev responded by making Aydar the new model of policing in Ukraine.

One of the nurses at a hospital that treats the torture victims after the fact is saying that they are working to save the lives of some of the women that are dropped off with expanding construction foam stuffed inside their vaginas and anuses. Originally it was an employee of the prison that brought this to light by calling Rita Samoilov about the story.

The women are treated this way because they are considered to be terrorists in a city where not having pro- nazi contacts on your phone is enough to get you arrested. Is it as ok for Ukrainian nazis to rape women prisoners as it is fellow soldiers?

In Mariupol the Ukrainian government is directly responsible for the welfare of the women in the penal system. Could a US governor walk away from this kind of scandal unscathed? If governor Rick Perry was suspected of even knowing (Ukraine is the same size as Texas) a state crime this big might be going on broadcast news would be all over it. The investigations would be swift and he would NOT be allowed to conduct them himself.

In Odessa, a city Poroshenko described as Ukrainized after the May pogrom; Ukraine is bringing in tanks and armored personnel carriers to hunt for separatists. The cleansing crews arriving on December 30, 2014 are going through social media lists arresting people that have done nothing against Ukraine.

Lets be clear; this isn’t State sanctioned rape and torture on Kiev’s part. This is the Ukrainian government providing the rape and torture victims. The women are kept in prison, many for the charge of separatism. This is State sanctioned rape of prisoners by every country and government outside of Ukraine that is supporting Kiev that won’t step in and investigate it.

Ukraine Where Murder is the base of your financial planning

Why would people volunteer to do this? One Ukrainian volunteer that was captured twice answered this question to a large degree. They asked him why he came back? The volunteer (not a conscript) said the first time he was in Donbas he made enough money to purchase a car. He came back because he wanted to make money and buy a house.

This murder for hire mentality is prevalent inside the cleansing battalions. These battalions are committing most of the atrocities and do so with definite rewards in mind. Look at the Rada in Kiev today. The more land they clear of people, the more property they are given. To do so the people that live in those cities, towns, and homes need to go one way or the other. If you can’t scare them, kill them.

According to an article in livejournal Since June 2014 members of ATU and family members of deceased servicemen in the territorial bodies Goszemagentstva ( Dept of Land Resources)was filed 15,582 applications for land .

These represent land grants given by the Ukrainian government for how effective they have been getting rid of separatists. The cleansing battalions don’t fight in the war. They murder and rob. They torture and rape. They fill tractor trailer loads with the possessions robbed from the murdered and displaced they want to keep or sell. They like their work.

Free Speech, law and order in Ukraine

The city of Kharkov is outside of Donbass. It is and has been under Ukrainian control this whole time. Kharkov has a strong anti-maidan movement in it. In the new democratic Ukraine on November 22 Victor a VK anti-maidan group editor was arrested and taken for questioning by the SBU (Ukrainian FBI). VK (V Kontakte) is the Russian version of Facebook. The group editor is the person that publishes the posts for the group on the page.

Victor who clearly wasn’t in Donbass and not a militia member was tortured for 4 days before being dumped on the side of the road in a coma. He never regained consciousness and died on November 26th. The official cause of death on the certificate from the hospital was pneumonia. Four days earlier Victor’s family says he was healthy.

Every one of Victor’s fingers were broken and bent to the back of his hand. His finger nails were pulled out. Every rib was broken. Alexander’s skull was split. This was just questioning. He was never charged formally.

This is the same Kiev government that promised amnesty for anyone that did not participate in the war and included amnesty for people that guarded warehouses for instance according to Andrey Lysenko the speaker of the National Security and Defense Council in Kiev.

This is happening today all across Ukraine from Lviv (Galicia, western Ukraine) to the Kiev controlled areas inside the neutral area outside Donbass. The only area the official Ukrainian style of questioning isn’t happening is Donbas.

Ukraine’s Official position on the Humanitarian Blockade

In Ukraine, news can’t be reported until it is cleared through official channels. Reporters that go against this on a good day find themselves out of work. On a bad day they are sent to the front lines in Donbass as conscripts in the army.

In an effort to shape public opinion popular news presenter Natalya Stanko stated bluntly that Kiev should bomb Donbass into oblivion because bombing them was nobler and starving people to death was to slow. Linguistically the word for “death” she chose referred to slimy undesirable creatures, not typically referenced for people.

In the video below Ukrainian senator Semen Semonchenko explains the reason why they won’t let humanitarian convoys into Donbass is that there is no humanitarian crisis there at all. According to him if the pensioners that had their payments cut off want to reinstate them all they needed to do was to go to a city in Ukrainian control like Slavyansk and apply there.

Semenchenko then stated that the humanitarian cargo they stopped was needed for a city that had a real humanitarian crisis- one in Kiev’s control since mid summer. If the people there were getting their pensions, utilities, or heat like he said Donbass pensioners could get what does this mean?

Semenchenko left out the fact that without having a living permit (Propiska) in a city, you can’t apply for anything.

The positions of the Ukrainian government are also clear in the tank battles that have been raging near Donetsk over the last few days. Towns inside the supposed neutral area have been attacked by Ukrainian tank battalions. Towns inside Donbass have been lost to Kiev and then won back over the last few days and nights. The attacks continue. Kiev never abided by the Minsk agreements or the cease fire.

All of this will seem small if Kiev is allowed to attack again. Since the peace started they kept the convoys of weapons and ammunition moving into Donbass. The probing attacks they have conducted point to a large offensive starting very soon, possibly within days.

Should American or European money be used to fund this?

The humanitarian crisis in Donbass continues to grow rapidly. Currently the only direct help coming in is from Russia. Please consider donating to humanitarian groups working directly in Donbass.

The Continuing US War in Afghanistan

December 30th, 2014 by Bill Van Auken

On December 28, the US-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, formally ended its combat operations in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama issued a statement declaring the step “a milestone for our country,” adding, “the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion.”

Like virtually everything else that comes out of the American president’s mouth, this is a lie. The shabby little ceremony in Kabul Sunday, in which a US commander hauled down one battle flag and ran up another, only confirmed that the murderous 13-year US war in Afghanistan continues.

The flag-changing ceremony was held on the floor of an indoor basketball court at the Western military’s Kabul headquarters. Non-resident staff were told to stay away for fear of the Taliban, which has carried out an unprecedented wave of attacks in the capital while retaking territory abandoned by US and other foreign troops.

Over 18,000 foreign troops will continue to occupy Afghanistan—about 10,600 of them American. While ISAF—created after the US invasion of Afghanistan to lend multinational legitimacy to the country’s occupation—is being wound up and its flag furled, Operation Resolute Support is being launched under a virtually identical green banner (with the letters RS substituted for ISAF).

Approximately 5,000 American troops will be deployed as part of Resolute Support, in what one NATO commander described as a “non-combat mission in a combat environment,” training and advising Afghan security forces. Another 5,500 of the US forces will be deployed as a “non-NATO” contingent that will be engaged in so-called “counterterrorism” operations. While previously, US forces formally operated under a UN resolution and as part of a NATO contingent, these troops will be answerable to no one but the Joint Special Operations Command, which in turn answers to no one but the US president.

Initially, Washington had insisted that these operations would be aimed solely at Al Qaeda, which by US accounts has for years had barely 50 members in Afghanistan. In the run-up to the formal end of the ISAF mission, however, the Obama administration announced that they would also be used to combat the Taliban and other armed groups opposed to the US puppet regime in Kabul.

While drawing down the number of uniformed troops, Washington is keeping over 20,000 military contractors, who will help man some 25 bases scattered around the country. Because of these plans, the Pentagon command has stated that there will be little reduction in the staggering cost of the war, which is estimated to have risen to over $1 trillion since 2001.

Far from begin concluded, the war is raging. This year has seen a record number of Afghan civilian casualties, topping the 10,000 mark, while Afghan security forces have suffered nearly 5,000 fatalities, more than all the 3,500 foreign soldiers—including over 2,225 Americans—who have lost their lives in the 13 years since the US invasion. US military analysts have described these losses—together with a closely related spike in desertions from the Afghan National Army—as “unsustainable.”

The US military is increasing its air strikes in an attempt to prevent a rout of the Afghan security forces. While on the decline over the last two years, these strikes, which have aroused intense popular hostility in Afghanistan, have sharply risen in the past few months. One of the more recent took place on December 25 in central Logar province. A local official told Pajhwok Afghan News that the bombing, while supposedly aimed at alleged “militants,” demolished two homes, killing five civilians and wounding another six.

With US backing, the government of neighboring Pakistan has launched a bloody new offensive in that country’s northwest, near the Afghan border. Washington, meanwhile, has stepped up its drone assassination program against targets in Pakistan. The country has seen more than 50,000 people killed over the last decade in fighting that was provoked by the US invasion of Afghanistan.

Just as Obama’s declaration that the war is over is a lie, so too is his explanation for its causes. He repeated the shop-warn claims that the deaths of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghans are all justified in the name of “devastating the core Al Qaeda leadership, delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, disrupting terrorist plots and saving countless American lives.”

This is all nonsense. By early 2002, Al Qaeda had been largely driven out of Afghanistan. It and related movements have since developed and evolved in large part with the support of Washington, used as proxy forces in wars for regime-change in Libya and Syria.

On October 9, 2001, two days after the US military began the aerial bombardment that would be followed by the US invasion of Afghanistan, the World Socialist Web Site firmly rejected the claims that the war was being waged for “justice and the security of the American people against terrorism.”

The WSWS warned:

“The US government initiated the war in pursuit of far-reaching international interests of the American ruling elite. What is the main purpose of the war? The collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago created a political vacuum in Central Asia, which is home to the second largest deposit of proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world.

“The Caspian Sea region, to which Afghanistan provides strategic access, harbors approximately 270 billion barrels of oil, some 20 percent of the world’s proven reserves. It also contains 665 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, approximately one-eighth of the planet’s gas reserves.

“These critical resources are located in the world’s most politically unstable region. By attacking Afghanistan, setting up a client regime and moving vast military forces into the region, the US aims to establish a new political framework within which it will exert hegemonic control.”

Whatever the US tactical changes, these geo-strategic aims remain and are at the heart of the continuing war in Afghanistan, just as similar objectives are the driving force in the renewed war in Iraq and Syria.

Today they are much more intimately bound up with the escalation of militarist threats and encirclement of both Russia and China, Washington’s principal rivals in the region.

All of Obama’s rhetoric about an end to war notwithstanding, Washington’s continuing aggression in Afghanistan is part of a growing eruption of American militarism, from Syria and Iraq, to Ukraine and the Baltic states, to the South China Sea. One or another of these military provocations will inevitably erupt into a nuclear third world war unless the international working class mobilizes itself as an independent revolutionary force against imperialist war and its source, capitalism.

General elections are to be held in Greece on January 25 after the parliament on Monday failed to elect Stavros Dimas, the candidate of the New Democracy (ND)-PASOK governing coalition, as president. The collapse of the coalition government testifies to a profound crisis of rule in Greece and heightens social and political instability throughout Europe.

Constitutionally, Dimas needed to obtain the votes of at least 180 of the Greek parliament’s 300 deputies to avert the collapse of the government and the triggering of general elections. In Monday’s final round of voting, after two previous rounds had failed to elect Dimas, the government was able to secure only 168 votes. This was the same figure it obtained in the last round, when it secured the votes of only a handful of non-aligned Independent deputies.

All the main opposition parties­—SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left, 71 deputies), the fascist Golden Dawn (16), the right-wing Independent Greeks (12), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE, 12) and the Democratic Left (DIMAR, 9)—voted against the government.

Six years of brutal austerity cuts imposed by successive ND and PASOK governments working with the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “troika” have devastated the Greek working class. ND and PASOK, the Greek bourgeoisie’s traditional parties of rule, are now widely hated.

The alignment of the opposition parties of all colorations against Dimas reflected the fact that broad sections of the Greek bourgeoisie had lost confidence in the government of Prime Minister and ND leader Antonis Samaras. They feared that it could not push through further, even deeper attacks on workers’ living standards without provoking an eruption of social opposition from the working class.

They are seeking a new political mechanism to push through further attacks on the working class, salvage Greece’s relationship with the EU and the banks, and prevent a mobilization of Greek and European workers against the EU’s deeply unpopular austerity agenda.

Events in Athens have further exposed the EU as a dictatorial entity, intent on looting the Greek people to bail out the banks and super-rich. Samaras himself had likened the prospect of new elections to terrorism, while stating candidly that “markets do not want elections.”

The presidential election occurred amid extraordinary interventions by leading EU figures. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker all but declared his support for Samaras’ presidential candidate, warning of the perils of the “wrong election result.” European Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici similarly stressed that what counted was the completion of the austerity programme and that Brussels preferred to deal with those committed to “preserving the integrity of the euro zone and to reforms.”

On Saturday, ahead of the final vote, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble was even more categorical, declaring: “The tough reforms are bearing fruit and there is no alternative to them. The upcoming elections will not change Greek debt. Every new government needs to fulfil the contractual agreements of its predecessors.” He added, “If Greece chooses another direction, it will result in a difficult situation.”

In response to the government’s fall, finance capital is again threatening to strangle the Greek economy. IMF spokesman Gerry Rice announced that the IMF would suspend loans to Athens. “Discussions with the Greek authorities on the completion of the sixth review of the program… will resume once a new government is in place, in consultation with the European Commission and the European Central Bank,” he said.

Samaras’ decision to call the presidential vote early came after his government failed to reach agreement with the “troika” for a further tranche of loans required to keep Greece from defaulting on its €319 billion debt. Instead, the troika authorised a two-month extension, until February, of its current loan agreement. In the words of the Financial Times, this was to ensure “further tough measures including tax rises and pension cuts.”

Samaras calculated that this timetable would leave his government—which had only a wafer-thin parliamentary majority—holding the presidential vote at the same time it was tasked with pushing through greater cuts in the face of overwhelming popular opposition. By holding the presidential ballot early, he hoped to scrape together enough of a parliamentary majority to avoid any recourse to the polls. This strategy has now failed.

Significantly, as part of this anti-democratic manoeuvring, the Greek state released seven Golden Dawn deputies from prison, where they were being held pending trial on charges of membership in a criminal association. Despite rumours of a possible deal in which the government would secure Dimas’ election with Golden Dawn votes, this failed to materialise.

Sections of the ruling class were concerned that the government’s reliance on neo-Nazi thugs to survive would further discredit the entire political set-up. In the event, Golden Dawn voted against the government.

Opinion polls currently show the pseudo-left party SYRIZA leading ND and poised to be the outright winner of the snap general election. Its margin of victory is not expected to be large, however, meaning it would likely have to govern as part of a coalition.

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras responded to the presidential vote by suggesting that a SYRIZA victory and a change of course for Greece were imminent, saying: “In a few days, austerity bailouts will be a thing of the past… Lawmakers proved democracy cannot be blackmailed.”

This is a cynical fraud. Whatever government emerges from the January elections, it will be implacably hostile to the working class.

The sharpest warnings must be made about reactionary pseudo-left organizations of the affluent middle class such as SYRIZA. It proposes to renegotiate EU bailouts with the troika, which only means repackaging the cuts under another name. Its sister parties—Rifondazione in Italy, the Left Bloc in Portugal, the Unity Lists in Denmark—have repeatedly joined government coalitions that imposed austerity measures against the working class and waged imperialist wars overseas.

Sections of the bourgeoisie calculate that a SYRIZA-led government could provide the best available instrument to deal with an escalating crisis—above all, to dissipate working class opposition to EU austerity. SYRIZA, which adamantly supports the EU, has spent the last two years ingratiating itself with the banks and the military-intelligence apparatus of the major imperialist powers. SYRIZA leaders, including Tsipras, have made numerous trips to Washington, Berlin, Paris and London.

The critical question now facing the working class in Greece and throughout Europe is how to intervene independently into this political crisis against the EU and all sections of the ruling elite, including parties such as SYRIZA. There is massive hostility in the working class across Europe to EU austerity, and class tensions have taken on explosive dimensions. The challenge facing the working class is to grasp politically the dangers posed by SYRIZA and the other factions of the political establishment.

In Greece, where as recently as 1974 a military junta was in power, backed by the CIA, the ruling class is prepared to use all means to smash working class opposition. Just prior to the presidential vote, Panayiotis Baltakos, Samaras’ former cabinet secretary, announced his intention to form a new far-right party, Rizes (Roots). He said it would be based on “our traditions, the Orthodox Church, the Security Services and the Armed Forces.”

The Future Is Local, The Future Is Not Monsanto

December 30th, 2014 by Colin Todhunter

The US as a nation consumes more than anyone else, virtually at the expense of everyone else. The petrodollar system has ensured that imports into the US have been cheap and readily available. Post 1945, Washington has been able to take full advantage of the labour and the material resources of poor countries.

Consider that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80 percent of world population but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. Also bear in mind that US citizens constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 24 percent of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians [1].

The US is able to consume the way it does because of high demand for the US dollar: it is the world reserve currency. This demand for the dollar is guaranteed as most international trade is carried out using it. The international monetary system that emerged from the Bretton Woods Conference near the end of the Second World War was based on the US being the dominant economic power and the main creditor nation, with institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund eventually being created to serve US interests.

Ever since, the US has been able to lever the trade and financial system to its advantage. For example, in the seventies the spike in the price of oil allowed a huge flow of Saudi Arabia’s oil profits to Washington through that country purchasing US treasury bonds. At the same time, countries that were attempting to escape from the yolk of European colonialism in Africa were hit hard by the rising cost of oil. It was a win-win situation for Washington. The US could lend the Saudi-invested oil profits to these cash-strapped nations and thus ensure their continued servitude (especially when interest rates increased), this time to Washington [2].

Despite the ongoing emergence of the BRICS and both Russia and China conducting bilateral trade and energy deals in their own currencies, the dollar retains a hold over the global monetary system, at least for the time being. Once the dollar loses this role, the US economy will experience a sharp decline and the cost of its imports will increase markedly.

How does the US try to avoid this? We can witness the answer to that question all around. From Syria and Iraq to Ukraine and current attempts to devastate the Russian economy, the powerful families and oligarchs that control the US are trying to destroy their rivals, including any attempt to move off the dollar. As a result, the prospect of nuclear war involving the US and Russia (and China) is a real and immediate concern.

The only real alternative is to move away from militarism and resource-driven conflicts by reorganising economies so that nations live within their economic and environmental means. Key to this involves a major reorientation regarding agriculture and food production.

However, Monsanto and the agribusiness cartel it belongs to continues to colonise areas of agriculture and offer ‘more of the same’ in terms of being tied to a military-industrial complex that fuels an imperialist US foreign policy. The ‘green revolution’ was exported courtesy of the oil-rich Rockefeller family, and poorer nations adopted petrochemical-dependent agriculture that required loans for inputs and infrastructure such as dam building. This was underpinned by the propaganda that these countries would earn dollars to repay the loans by adopting mono-crop, export-oriented policies. It entailed uprooting traditional agriculture and trapping nations into a globalised system of debt bondage, structural adjustment of economies and rigged markets. It ensured the dollar remained king.

Although this system is responsible for producing poverty, dependency and food insecurity [3], we are constantly informed that we must have more of the same if we are to feed an increasing global population. We are told that the solutions for feeding a projected world population of nine billion are more technical fixes: more petrochemical-dependent agriculture, more GMOs and more unnecessary shifting of food across the planet. Of course, throw in a heavy dose of ‘family planning’ (depopulation) for the ‘third world’ and we will be just fine.

Such solutions are based on the notion that we can just continue as we are, with an endless supply of oil, endless supplies of meat and the endless assault on soil, human and environmental well-being that intensive petrochemical agriculture entails. This short sightedness ignores the fact that oil will not last forever. Peak oil is on the immediate horizon, resource-driven conflicts are increasing, water is becoming scarcer, humans are becoming more ill due to the food production process and soil is dying.

The genuine answer is to adopt more organic and ecological farming systems that are locally based and less reliant on mechanisation and petrochemicals. This could also mean a shift away from an emphasis on producing meat that places a massive burden on the environment and is highly land, water and energy-input intensive [4].

Visit any supermarket in the US or Europe and there is an abundance of meat and exotic fruits from around the globe. Western consumers have been conditioned to expect this as the norm. What were once regarded as luxuries before are now seen as necessities. People and nations must return to being more self sufficient and not expect others in poorer countries to produce their food: farmers who are robbed of their capacity (their lands, seeds, markets, practices, food security, etc) to properly feed themselves and their local communities. What we see on those burgeoning supermarket shelves is often the result of structural violence arising from neoliberal economic policies in food exporting nations or outright violence arising from the forcible eviction of people from their lands. What we also see is tampered with items pumped with chemicals and hormones to boost profits. Consumers are also victims in the modern food chain.

Self-appointed purveyors of moral rectitude in politics and the corporate media are often all too keen to castigate welfare recipients within their own societies for being ‘spongers’ or ‘scroungers’, yet their moralistic bleating fails to obscure the fact that foodstuffs in their cupboards come courtesy of them sponging off the world’s poor and destitute who receive a pittance for their agricultural labour or who have now been forced to resort to rummaging on rubbish tips or begging for a living [5].

The current exploitative economic system and the imperialist model of globalisation and development suits the interests of Western oil and banking oligarchs, land and commodity speculators, global agribusiness and other power holders. People want solutions for hunger, poverty and conflict but are too often told there is no alternative to what exists.

There is. According to Daniel Maingi of Growth Partners for Africa, the solution ultimately lies in taking capitalism and business out of farming and investing in indigenous knowledge, agroecology, education and infrastructure and standing in solidarity with the food sovereignty movement [6]. In turn, this is based onrejecting big agritech’s current agenda and resisting the US strategy of using agriculture as a geopolitical tool. As is the case with Navdanya in India, it involves challenging the corporate takeover of agriculture and embracing sustainable agriculture that is locally owned and rooted in the needs of communities [7].

(See hereherehere and here for some background information concerning the issues raised in this article.)

Notes:

1] http://public.wsu.edu/~mreed/380American%20Consumption.htm

2] http://www.globalresearch.ca/controlling-the-global-economy-bilderberg-the-trilateral-commission-and-the-federal-reserve/14614

3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/jun/23/1

4] http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=stG942kAT_w%3d&tabid=1807

5] http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2267255/gm_crops_are_driving_genocide_and_ecocide_keep_them_out_of_the_eu.html

6] http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2014/10/14/gates-agriculture-farming-revolution-africa/29493

7] http://www.navdanya.org/attachments/Navdanya.pdf

“This [U.S-Russian conflict that’s being carried out in Ukraine] is a prelude to World War III. A lot of people know this.” So says Yuri Shcherbak, who was Ukraine’s Ambassador in Washington during 1994-1998.

Dr. Shcherbak was one of Ukraine’s few progressives ever to become an official of the Ukrainian Government. He now is speaking out publicly for the first time to express his concern about the movement toward a nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia, and about Ukraine’s dangerous current role in helping to bring that about.

In 1998, he authored a book The Strategic Role of Ukraine, published by Harvard University Press; so, this is a subject that he knows a lot about.

On Monday, December 29th, he spoke on Ukraine’s Channel 5 television, to warn his country about the direction of their newly installed Government, one which had come to power in a violent coup on February 22nd and has spent its time since then bombing the area of Ukraine that had voted 90% for the democratically elected Ukrainian President who was overthrown in the coup that brought this new Government to power.

Dr. Shcherbak is especially concerned about the issue because of his intensive knowledge of “the strategic role of Ukraine,” and also because of his having served in Washington as Ukraine’s Ambassador. Dr. Shcherbak also speaks here as being a rare person in his country’s recent political history: an anti-communist who also is anti-fascist.

In fact, unlike virtually all major current Ukrainian politicians, Dr. Shcherbak was never a communist, and he was also opposed to the nazism that is represented especially by Ukraine’s Right Sector Party, and by Ukraine’s Svoboda (or ‘Freedom’) Party that had called itself “The Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine” until the U.S. CIA advised them to change their name to “Svoboda.” (Ukraine’s political culture has still not gotten much beyond the two Ukrainian political polar viewpoints: that Hitler-was-good-and-Stalin-was-bad, versus Stalin-was-good-and-Hitler-was-bad; and almost all of the exceptions to that polarity, the supporters of democracy and opponents of anysort of totalitarianism, are in the region that is currently being bombed. The CIA has always supported the pro-Hitler Ukrainians.)

Shcherbak (despite his coming from Ukraine’s ultra-conservative northwestern half) is an authentic Ukrainian champion of democracy. As such, he also is a respected international expert on the topic of U.S-Russian relations and of Ukraine’s role in that. He’s not just another person who has an opinion on the matter.

His full statement on this issue, as quoted Monday at the influential Ukrainian website politnavigator.net, was:

“This is a prelude to World War III. A lot of people know this. For example, [consider] Zaporizhia nuclear power plant just 160 kilometers away from the [current] fighting. Can you imagine what a disaster might happen if it gets hit by a shell? Do we have an alternative to the Minsk talks [between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the leaders in the rebelling area]? Can we declare war against Moscow and conduct it by means of merely a swift operation? No. Because in this case the cruise missiles will fly from Russia tomorrow against Kiev.”

Channel 5 TV was owned by today’s Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko until he became elected by the voters (in the non-rebelling region) to become the President (over all of Ukraine) on May 25th. This channel, where Poroshenko had hired the producers, is generally regarded as still representing his viewpoints. Poroshenko is now being strenuously attacked by other Ukrainian oligarchs, especially by the U.S. White House’s friend Ihor Kolomoysky (a big financial backer himself of the extermination-campaign), as being insufficiently aggressive inexterminating the residents in Ukraine’s rebelling region. Dr. Shcherbak is saying, basically, that exterminating those people with increased intensity would be dangerous for all Ukrainians, not only for the ones in the southeast, whom the Government has been bombing.

When the European Union, immediately after the February 22nd coup, sent an investigator to Kiev to find out who was behind the massive bloodshed that had brought about the downfall of Ukraine’s democratically elected then-President Viktor Yanukovych and the installation of the new pro-‘Western’ regime which was replacing Yanukovych, the investigator found that even Petro Poroshenko himself privately admitted then to him that the masked gunmen were from their side, not from Yanukovych’s, and so the idea (being spread in Washington and Kiev) that Yanukovych was behind it was just a story for the public, not the actual truth of the matter. The EU’s Foreign Affairs Minister was shocked to learn this, then immediately changed the subject (since the EU is basically controlled from Washington).

Poroshenko is now trying to satisfy Washington and the American oligarchs who control it, at the same time as he is satisfying the oligarchs in Ukraine itself (of which he is one). Thus, for Dr. Ambassador Shcherbak now to appear on Poroshenko’s former TV station, when Poroshenko is quite possibly about to be replaced by a politician who wants to bomb the rejectionist region even more than Poroshenko has already been doing, might possibly reflect this intensifying political split among Ukraine’s oligarchs, regarding whether they really do want a nuclear attack by Washington against Russia — an attack from which Ukraine would be perhaps the major staging-area, and likely to suffer far more than America’s oligarchs. So, a split is opening within the international aristocratic order, as events proceed closer toward a nuclear attack.

The ultimate decision will be made by Barack Obama — or, perhaps (if after 2016), by whomever succeeds him. In any case, he has built the foundation for such an attack.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

A prominent climate scientist who’s actively involved in developing technologies to thwart the natural weather patterns of the globe says he’s disturbed by the prospect of having to make such drastic changes to the common order of things in order to fight so-called “global warming.”

Dr. Matthew Watson from Bristol University in the UK told the media recently that he’s “terrified” by many of the geoengineering projects currently in the works to thwart man-made climate change, which is still being hawked by many in mainstream science as a threat to humanity.

Speaking to the Daily Mail Online, Dr. Watson explained how futuristic technologies like spraying chemical particles into the sky to reflect sunlight back into space have the potential to disrupt how rain falls, how plants grow and how life lives.

Right now, Dr. Watson is working on a $2.8 million project of this exact nature. The plan is to inject sulfur particles into the earth’s atmosphere with the stated goal of blocking the sun’s rays from reaching Earth, ostensibly to keep the earth from getting too warm.

“Personally, this stuff terrifies me,” Dr. Watson told reporters. “Whilst it is clear that temperatures could be reduced during deployment, the potential for misstep is considerable.”

“By identifying risks, we hope to contribute to the evidence base around geoengineering that will determine whether deployment, in the face of the threat of climate change, has the capacity to do more good than harm.”

Geoengineering will likely cause irreversible damage to planetary ecosystems

The simplistic nature of such projects ignores the immense level of irreversible damage that could result from interfering with the normal functions of the planet. By blocking sunlight, plants won’t be able to engage in photosynthesis, for instance, which means no more oxygen and no more food.

Similarly, humans won’t be able to obtain natural vitamin D if the sun’s rays aren’t allowed to penetrate the atmosphere, triggering an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency and resultant disease.

One proposed method of mitigating excess carbon dioxide, which many would argue isn’t even a real problem, involves planting and irrigating millions of trees in the world’s deserts. But this would directly counteract the natural reflection of sunlight from desert sands back into space, contributing to more warming.

Another proposal involves dumping iron particles into the world’s oceans to supposedly improve the growth of photosynthetic organisms capable of absorbing carbon dioxide. But this concept would only further toxify the world’s oceans, harming sea animals in the process.

Sulfur particles will destroy ozone layer, leaving animals and humans exposed to deadly radiation

Building upon an earlier idea pioneered by Dr. Watson, climate scientists are also working on ways to pump sulfur particles into the sky in order to disperse and reflect sunlight back into space. But this process threatens to destroy atmospheric ozone, leaving plants, animals and humans exposed to harmful solar radiation.

“Geoengineering will be much more expensive and challenging than previous estimates suggest and any benefits would be limited,” maintains Professor Piers Forster from the University of Leeds, who has long tracked climate engineering projects of this type and determined them to be more threatening than beneficial.

Professor Steve Rayner from Oxford University, who specializes in the legal and ethical ramifications of geoengineering, seems to agree. He told the Daily Mail Online that too little is known about the long-term effects of geoengineering, including their impact on planetary ecosystems.

“Mostly it is too soon to know what any of these technology ideas would look like in practice or what would be their true cost and benefit,” he stated.

Sources for this article include:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk

http://www.cooperazioneallosviluppo.esteri.it[PDF]

http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org

There are reports that the Palestinian Authority will seek a vote in the Security Council on a resolution mandating Israel’s military withdrawal from Occupied Palestine no later than November 2016. Such a resolution has been condemned by the Israeli Prime Minister as bringing ‘terrorism’ to the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and this will never be allowed to happen.

The United States is, as usual, maneuvering in such a way as to avoid seeming an outlier by vetoing such a resolution, even if it has less stringent language, and asks the PA to postpone the vote until after the Israeli elections scheduled for 2015.

Embedded in this initiative are various diversionary moves to put the dying Oslo Approach (direct negotiations between Israel and the PA, with the U.S. as the intermediary) on track.

The French want a resolution that includes a revival of these currently defunct resolutions, with a mandated goal of achieving a permanent peace within a period of two years based on the establishment of a Palestinian state, immediate full membership of Palestine in the UN, and language objecting to settlement activity as an obstruction to peace.

Overall, European governments are exerting pressure to resume direct negotiations, exhibiting their concern about a deteriorating situation on the ground along with a growing hostility to Israeli behavior that has reached new heights since the merciless 51-day onslaught mounted by Israel against Gaza last summer.

A Post-Oslo Meditation

The horrendous events of the last several months in Jerusalem and Gaza have exhibited both the depths of enmity and tension between Jews and Palestinians and the utter irrelevance of American-led diplomacy as the path to a sustainable peace.

This is not a time for people of good will, the UN, and governments to turn their backs on what seems on its surface either irreconcilable or on the verge of an Israeli victory. The challenge for all is to consider anew how these two peoples can manage to live together within the space of historic Palestine.

We need fresh thinking that gets away from the sterile binary of one state/two states, and dares to ponder the future with fresh eyes that accept the guidance of a rights based approach shaped by international law.

Israel will resist such an approach as long as it can, understanding that it has gained the upper hand by relying on its military prowess and realizing that if international law was allowed to play a role in demarcating the contours of a fair solution it would lose out on such crucial issues as borders, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, and water.

A necessary step toward a sustainable peace is to overcome Washington’s blinkered conception of the conflict.

There is no better sign that the Israel-Palestine peace process over which the United States has long presided is unraveling than the absurd brouhaha that followed the magazine article written by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic [“The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations is Officially Here,” Oct. 28, 2014] that referenced an unnamed senior White House official who called the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ‘chickenshit’ because of his obstinate refusal to take risks for ‘peace.’

Supposedly, this refusal put Washington’s dogged adherence to the Oslo Approach of direct negotiations under American diplomatic supervision beneath a darkening sky, but since there is no alternative way to maintain the U.S. central role in the interaction between the governing elites of the two parties, there is an eyes closed resolve to keep the worse than futile process on ‘life support.’

It is worse than futile because Israeli land grabbing on the West Bank in relation to the settlements, the settler only roads, and the separation wall continuously deteriorate Palestinian territorial prospects.

The collapse of the Kerry talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in April were unquestionably a negative watershed for the Obama presidency so far as its insistence that the Oslo Approach was the only viable roadmap that could resolve the conflict.

Ever since the Oslo Declaration of Principles was sanctified by the infamous Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn in 1993, the U.S. Government has contended that only this diplomatic framework can end the conflict, and to this day it objects to any moves by governments to take steps on their own.

During the presidency of George W. Bush there was an interval during which ‘the roadmap’ was adopted as an elaboration of the Oslo approach in which a commitment to the idea of an independent Palestinian state was explicitly confirmed by Bush in a speech on June 24, 2002, and then formalized in a proposal made public on April 30, 2003; in this same period ‘the quartet’ was created at a Madrid Conference in 2002 that seemed to broaden diplomatic participation by adding the Russia, the EU, and the UN to the U.S., but in fact the quartet has been completely marginalized for the past decade.

The Oslo Approach consists of direct negotiations between the parties and designated the United States, despite its undisguised partisan role, as the exclusive and permanent intermediary and go between. Without the slightest deference to Palestinian sensitivities, U.S. presidents have appointed as special envoys to these negotiations only officials with AIPAC credentials such as Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk, and have proceeded as if their blatant partisanship was not a problem.

Evidently Israel would have it no other way, and the Palestinian Authority has meekly gone along either out of weakness or naiveté.

Not only was the Oslo framework itself flawed because it leaned so far to one side, but it was an unseemly tacit assumption of the process that the Palestinians would be willing to carry on negotiations without reserving a right to complain about the relevance of ongoing Israeli violations of international law, most conspicuously the continued unlawful settlement activity.

When on several occasions the Palestinians complained that this settlement activity was incompatible with good faith negotiations, they were immediately slapped down, informed that such objections interfered with the peace process, and that issues pertaining to the settlements would be deferred until the ‘final status’ stage of the negotiations.

The Palestinians were assured that these issues would be addressed at the very end of the peace process after the main elements of a solution had been agreed upon.

This was very detrimental to Palestine’s bargaining position as their only advantage in relation to Israel was to have international law in their favor in relation to most of the outstanding issues.

Besides to allow Israel to continue with settlement expansion, rather than freezing the status quo, was obviously disadvantageous to Palestine. If legal objections were excluded it is not surprising that diplomatic bargaining would tend to reflect ‘facts on the ground,’ which were completely in Israel’s favor, and would continue to accumulate month by month.

Despite this, Israel at no point seemed responsive to proposals for accommodation in accordance with the stated objective of establishing an independent sovereign Palestinian state.

After more than 20 years of futility Washington’s continuing public stand that only by way of the Oslo Approach will a solution be found is beginning to fall on deaf ears, and new directions of approach are beginning to be articulated.

Israel itself is moving ineluctably toward a unilaterally imposed one-state solution that incorporates the West Bank in whole or in large part. It has recently seized 1000 acres of strategically placed land to facilitate the largest spatial enlargement of a settlement since the early 1990s and it has given approval for 2,600 additional housing units to be built in various West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements that already have more 650,000 settlers.

In addition, the current Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, elected by the Knesset a few months ago is an avowed advocate of the maximalist version of the Zionist project involving the extension of Israel’s borders to encompass the whole of Palestine as delimited in the British mandate.

Rivlin couples this rejection of any Palestinian right of self-determination with proposals for equality of treatment for both peoples within this enlarged Israel, offering the Palestinians human rights, the rule of law, and unrestricted economic and political opportunity within Israel in exchange for renouncing their political ambitions for either a state of their own or a power-sharing arrangement on the basis of equality with Israel.

There is no prospect that the Palestinian people, or even their compromised leaders, would accept such a Faustian Bargain.

The Palestinians have their own version of a unilateral solution, although it is far more modest, and seems more fantasy than political project.

It is essentially establishing a state of their own within 1967 borders, taking an ambiguous posture toward the settlement blocs and even East Jerusalem, and relying on political pressures to coerce an Israeli withdrawal. Such a state claims 22% or less of historic Palestine, and includes the somewhat confusing contention that Palestine is already a state in the eyes of the international community, having been recognized as such by 134 states and in a resolution of the General Assembly on 29 November 2012.

It is currently reinforcing this position with this draft resolution that Jordan will submit on its behalf at some point to the Security Council proposing a resumed period of direct negotiations for a further nine months (accompanied by a freeze on settlement construction), followed by Israel’s mandatory withdrawal from the West Bank.

On balance, this Palestinian approach seems ill-considered for a number of reasons. It appears to reduce the parameters of the conflict to the occupation of the West Bank, and leaves to one side the fate of Gaza and East Jerusalem, as well as what is to happen to the several million Palestinians living in refugee camps in neighboring countries or in exile.

It also overlooks the structure of discrimination embedded in Israeli nationality laws that reduces the 20% Palestinian minority in Israel to a second class status in the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

Among the problems with these reactions to the breakdown of Oslo are the contradictory expectations.

What the Netanyahu unilateralism is seeking is utterly inconsistent with any kind of viable Palestinian state constructed within the 1967 borders, and those opposition forces to his right are seeking an even more defiant unilateralism.

Equally, what the Palestinian Authority is proposing would seem to require the elimination of most Israeli settlements, the dismantling of the security wall, and the abandonment of the Israeli-only network of roads, while ignoring those Palestinian grievances not directly associated with territorial issues.

Each of these versions of a post-Oslo solution is doomed to failure as it proceeds as if the behavior of others need not be taken into account.

The Israeli failure to do this is far more unacceptable as its claims are far more excessive than those of the Palestinians, which is really just a matter of wishing away the pattern of Israel’s unlawful encroachment on what is a minimalist Palestinian vision of a solution that it and the UN had long ago accepted in Security Council Resolution 242.

There is an evident unfortunate reluctance on the part of all sides to let go of the two-state conception of a solution. It is what Washington and even Tel Aviv and Ramallah continue to say they seek, although Netanyahu has been telling Israeli audiences that after its experience with Hamas rockets last July and August, it will never agree to allow the emergence of a neighboring Palestinian state in the West Bank that would bring Palestinian threats much closer to the Israeli heartland.

Ever since the 1988 decision of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO has agreed to a solution framed in relation to a state within of its own within the 1967 borders, and even Hamas has signed on since 2006 to the extent of accepting a 50 year plan for peaceful coexistence with Israel providing it ends the occupation of Palestinian territories, and lifts the Gaza blockade.

These are big concessions from the Palestinian side considering that the UN Partition Plan of 1947 awarded 45% of historic Palestine to the Palestinians and proposed the internationalization of the entire city of Jerusalem.

The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative is built along the same lines as the PLO proposal, and includes a commitment to establish full diplomatic and economic relations with Israel on the part of the entire Islamic world. This proposal of the Arab League by a 56-0 vote of the Islamic Conference, with only Iran abstaining, and a year ago as a result of American pressure was modified to make it even more appealing to Israel by its acknowledgement of Israeli security concerns.

Most recently, a letter to Netanyahu by 106 high ranking retired Israeli military and security officials strongly urged this same two-state solution, implicitly condemning Israeli unilateralism and Zionist maximalism as leading to a future for Israel of periodic warfare of the sort that occurred this past summer in Gaza.

These members of the Israeli security establishment argue that these expansionist policies are weakening security for the entire Israeli population. The letter emphasized Israel’s moral decline associated with keeping millions of Palestinians under prolonged occupation, which they argue is unnecessary from the perspective of security.

Again there is a lack of clarity about whether such encouragement assumes that the settlements can be retained, the rights of Palestinian refugees can be ignored, and Jerusalem can be kept under unified Israel control.

But what the initiative does express is this emergent consensus that Oslo style negotiations have consistently failed and something else must be tried. The letter appears to propose a unilateral partial withdrawal described as “an alternative option for resolving the conflict not based solely on bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, which have failed time and again.”

Europe has also, at last, exhibited a limited unwillingness to accept any longer the Oslo Approach that keeps the United States alone in the driver’s seat.

I interpret the recent Swedish recognition of Palestinian statehood, the House of Commons vote urging that the British government take a similar move, as well as similar moves by several other European countries as expressing both a loss of confidence in the Oslo Approach and a criticism of the manner in which Israel and the United States have dealt with the conflict.

This is a desirable development in these respects, but it is coupled with some regressive features. Such initiatives are coupled with renewed faith in the two-state approach as the only solution, and call with a sense of urgency for a renewal of negotiations without giving the slightest indication as to why a further round of talks would yield any different results than past attempts.

Such a prognosis seems more true at present than in the past given Israel’s moves toward a unilateral solution, which Netanyahu somewhat disguises so as not to affront the United States and Europe. It should be obvious to all who wish to look that Israel has created irreversible conditions that have all but ruled out the establishment of a viable Palestinian sovereign state.

The Way Forward

The expected controversy surrounding the PA initiative in the Security Council is a sideshow without any serious consequences however it is resolved.

There needs to be a clear recognition by the PA that direct negotiations are pointless under present conditions, and a general understanding that unless Israel changes behavior and outlook there is no hope to resolve the conflict by a reliance on diplomacy. This will make recourse to nonviolent militancy via BDS, and such other tactics as blocking the unloading of Israeli cargo vessels, the best option for those seeking a just peace. [“Protesters Block Israel-Owned Ship from Unloading Cargo at Port of Oakland,” CBS St Bay Area, Aug. 18, 2014]

I believe the Oslo Approach is discredited, and of no present interest to the political leadership in Israel, which plays along with Washington by not openly repudiating direct negotiations. The European governments that have shown some initiative by advocating recognition of Palestine should be encouraged to take the further step of rejecting calls for resumed negotiations unless Israel demonstrates its sincerity by freezing settlement activity and affirming its readiness to withdraw to 1967 borders.

The best, and in my view, only realistic hope is to forget traditional interstate diplomacy for the present, and understand that the Palestinian future depends on a robust mobilization of global civil society in solidarity with the Palestinian national movement.

The current BDS campaign is gaining momentum by the day, and is coupled with a sense that its political program is more in keeping with the wishes of the Palestinian people than are the proposals put forth by the formal representations of either the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.

When neither governmental diplomacy nor the UN can produce a satisfactory solution to a conflict that has caused decades of suffering and dispossession, it is past time to endorse a people-oriented approach. This is the kind of populist politics that helped end apartheid in South Africa and win many anti-colonial struggles.

We have reached a stage in global history in which it is people, not weapons nor international institutions, that have the resilience and patience to win the legitimacy struggle involving law and morality, and on such a basis eventually prevail in the political struggle despite being inferior militarily.

The challenge of living together on the basis of equality seems to be the only template that offers the parties a vision of sustainable peace.

Concretely, this would seem to require Israel to renounce all ethnocratic claims that Israel is a Jewish state as distinct from being a Jewish homeland. Israel’s leaders would also have to renounce the present unrestricted right of return for Jews throughout the world or create some equivalent right of return for the Palestinians, and possibly for the Druse minority.

How such a conception of a sustainable peace is given concrete form is necessarily a subject for diplomacy by suitable representative of both sides and carried on under neutral auspices and by authentic representatives of the two peoples.

We cannot foretell how much further suffering and bloodshed will occur before this kind of vision, seemingly a remote prospect at present, can be converted into a practical project, but do know that nothing that falls short of this deserves to be considered ‘a solution’ given the realities of the situation.

The Outlook for the New Year. The Insanity of Nuclear War against Russia

December 30th, 2014 by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

Dear Readers:  The conflict that Washington has initiated between the West and Russia/China is reckless and irresponsible.  Nuclear war could be the outcome.  Indeed, Washington has been preparing for nuclear war since the George W. Bush regime. 

Washington has revised US war doctrine in order to initiate conflict with a first strike nuclear attack.

Washington has discarded the ABM treaty in order to build and deploy anti-ballistic missiles that are intended to prevent a retaliatory strike against the US.  Washington is engaged in a buildup of military forces on Russia’s borders, and Washington is demonizing Russia’s government with false charges.  

As the Bush/Obama regimes dismantled the safeguards put in place in order to minimize the risk of nuclear war, no protests came from the American public or the media.  Washington’s European vassal states have also been silent.  

Washington’s drive for hegemony has brought nuclear insanity to the world.

Moscow and Beijing understand that they are Washington’s targets.  As Larchmonter explains, Russia and China are conjoining their economic and military capabilities in order to protect against Washington’s attack.  Read what Larchmonter reports.  Open the URL in my column below and run your cursor over the bottom of the page and click “page fit.” Choose 50% and readable text will fill your screen.

Washington’s demonization of Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, and Assad were preludes to military attacks on Iraq, Libya, and Syria.  In view of these precedents, it is reasonable to regard Washington’s demonization of Vladimir Putin as a prelude to military action.

Russia is not Iraq, Libya, or Syria.  Russian war doctrine states that Russia can use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear or conventional attack on Russia.  For the world to sit silent while Washington’s arrogance provokes armageddon telegraphs total political failure.  Where are the voices in behalf of humanity?

The Outlook for the New Year

Washington has shaped 2015 to be a year of conflict.  The conflict could be intense.

Washington is the cause of the conflict, which has been brewing for some time. Russia was too weak to do anything about it when the Clinton regime pushed NATO to Russia’s borders and illegally attacked Yugoslavia, breaking the country into small easily controlled pieces.  Russia was also too weak to do anything about it when the George W. Bush regime withdrew from the ABM treaty and undertook to locate anti-ballistic missile bases on Russia’s borders.  Washington lied to Moscow that the purpose of the ABM bases is to protect Europe from non-existent Iranian nuclear ICBMs.  However, Moscow understood that the purpose of the ABM bases was to degrade Russia’s nuclear deterrent, thereby enhancing Washington’s ability to coerce Russia into agreements that compromise Russian sovereignty.

By summer 2008 Russian power had returned.  On Washington’s orders, the US and Israeli trained and equipped Georgian army attacked the breakaway republic of South Ossetia during the early hours of August 8, killing Russian peacekeepers and civilian population. Units of the Russian military instantly responded and within a few hours the American trained and equipped Georgian army was routed and defeated.  Georgia was in Russia’s hands again, where the province had resided during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Putin should have hung Mikheil Saakashvili, the American puppet installed as president of Georgia by the Washington-instigated “Rose Revolution”, and reincorporated Georgia into the Russian Federation.  Instead, in a strategic error, Russia withdrew its forces, leaving Washington’s puppet regime in place to cause future trouble for Russia.

Washington is pushing hard to incorporate Georgia into NATO, thus adding more US military bases on Russia’s border.  However, at the time, Moscow thought Europe to be more independent of Washington than it is and relied on good relations with Europe to keep American bases out of Georgia.

Today the Russian government no longer has any illusion that Europe is capable of an independent foreign policy. Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated publicly that Russia has learned that diplomacy with Europe is pointless, because European politicians represent Washington’s interest, not Europe’s.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently acknowledged that Europe’s Captive Nation status has made it clear to Russia that Russian goodwill gestures are unable to produce diplomatic results.

With Moscow’s delusion shattered that diplomacy with the West can produce peaceful solutions, reality has set in, reinforced by  the demonization of Vladimir Putin by Washington and its vassal states. Hillary Clinton called Putin the new Hitler.  While Washington incorporates former constituent parts of the Russian and Soviet empires into its own empire and bombs seven countries, Washington claims that Putin is militarily aggressive and intends to reconstitute the Soviet empire.  Washington arms the neo-nazi regime Obama established in Ukraine, while erroneously claiming that Putin has invaded and annexed Ukrainian provinces.  All of these blatant lies are echoed repeatedly by the Western presstitutes. Not even Hitler had such a compliant media as Washington has.

Every diplomatic effort by Russia has  been blocked by Washington and has come to naught.  So now Russia has been forced by reality to update its military doctrine. The new doctrine approved on December 26 states that the US and NATO  comprise a major military threat to the existence of Russia as a sovereign independent country.

The Russian document cites Washington’s war doctrine of pre-emptive nuclear attack, deployment of anti-ballistic missiles, buildup of NATO forces, and intent to deploy weapons in space as clear indications that Washington is preparing to attack Russia.

Washington is also conducting economic and political warfare against Russia, attempting to destabilize the economy with economic sanctions and attacks on the ruble. The Russian document acknowledges that Russia faces Western threats of regime change achieved through “actions aimed at violent change of the Russian constitutional order, destabilization of the political and social environment, and disorganization of the functioning of governmental bodies, crucial civilian and military facilities and informational infrastructure of Russia.” Foreign financed NGOs and foreign owned Russian media are tools in Washington’s hands for destabilizing Russia.

Washington’s reckless aggressive policy against Russia has resurrected the nuclear arms race.  Russia is developing two new ICBM systems and in 2016 will deploy a weapons system designed to negate the US anti-ballistic missile system. In short, the evil warmongers that rule in Washington have set the world on the path to nuclear armageddon.

The Russian and Chinese governments both understand that their existence is threatened by Washington’s hegemonic ambitions.  Larchmonter reports that in order to defeat Washington’s plans to marginalize both countries, the Russian and Chinese governments have decided to unify their economies into one and to conjoin their military commands.  Henceforth, Russia and China move together on the economic and military fronts.  http://www.mediafire.com/view/08rzue8ffism94t/China-Russia_Double_Helix.docx

The unity of the Bear and the Dragon reduces the crazed neoconservatives’ dream of “an American century” to dangerous nonsense.  As Larchmonter puts it, “The US and NATO would need Michael the Archangel to defeat China-Russia, and from all signs Michael the Archangel is aligned with the Bear and its Orthodox culture. There is no weapon, no strategy, no tactic conceivable in the near future to damage either of these rising economies now that they are ‘base pairs.’”

Larchmonter sees hope in the new geopolitics created by the conjoining of Russia and China.  I don’t dispute this, but if the arrogant neoconservatives realize that their hegemonic policy has created a foe over which Washington cannot prevail, they will push for a pre-emptive nuclear strike before the Russian-Chinese unified command is fully operational. To forestall a sneak attack, Russia and China should operate on full nuclear alert.

The US economy–indeed the entire Western orientated economy from Japan to Europe–is a house of cards. Since the economic downturn began seven years ago, the entirety of Western economic policy has been diverted to the support of a few over-sized banks, sovereign debt, and the US dollar.  Consequently, the economies themselves and the ability of populations to cope have deteriorated.

The financial markets are based on manipulation, not on fundamentals. The manipulation is untenable. With debt exploding, negative real interest rates make no sense. With real consumer incomes, real consumer credit, and real retail sales stagnant or falling, the stock market is a bubble.  With Russia, China, and other countries moving away from the use of the dollar to settle international accounts, with Russia developing an alternative to the SWIFT financial network, the BRICS developing alternatives to the IMF and World Bank, and with other parts of the world developing their own credit card and Internet systems, the US dollar, along with the Japanese and European currencies that are being printed in order to support the dollar’s exchange value, could experience a dramatic drop in exchange value, which would make the import-dependent Western world dysfunctional.

In my opinion, it took the Russians and Chinese too long to comprehend the evil that has control in Washington.  Therefore, both countries risk nuclear attack prior to the full operational capability of their conjoined defense.  As the Western economy is a house of cards, Russia and China could collapse the Western economy before the neoconservatives can drive the world to war. As Washington’s aggression against both countries is crystal clear, Russia and China have every right to the following defensive measures.

As the US and EU are conducting economic warfare against Russia, Russia could claim that by wrecking the Russian economy the West has deprived Russia of the ability to repay loans to the European banks. If this does not bring down the thinly capitalized EU banks, Russia can announce that as NATO countries are now officially recognized by Russian war doctrine as an enemy of the Russian state, Russia can no longer support NATO’s aggression against Russia by selling natural gas to NATO members.  If the shutdown of much of European industry, rapidly rising rates of unemployment, and bank failures do not result in the dissolution of NATO and thus the end of the threat, the Chinese can act.

The Chinese hold a very large amount of dollar-denominated financial assets.  Just as the Federal Reserve’s agents, the bullion banks, dump massive shorts onto the bullion futures markets during periods of little activity in order to drive down the bullion price, China can dump the equivalent in US Treasuries of years of Quantitative Easing in a few minutes.  If the Federal Reserve quickly creates dollars with which to purchase the enormous quantity of Treasuries so that the financial house of cards does not implode, the Chinese can then dump the dollars that they are paid for the bonds in the currency market.  Whereas the Federal Reserve can print dollars with which to purchase the Treasuries, the Fed cannot print foreign currencies with which to buy the dollars.

The dollar would collapse, and with it the power of the Hegemon.  The war would be over without a shot or missile fired.

In my view, Russia and China owe it to the world to prevent the nuclear war intended by the neoconservatives simply by replying in kind to Washington’s economic warfare.  Russia and China hold all the cards.  Not Washington.

Russia and China should give no warning.  They should just act.  Indeed, instead of step by step, Russia and China could simultaneously use the counter-measures.  With four US banks holding derivatives totaling many times world GDP, the financial explosion would be the equivalent to a nuclear one.  The US and Europe would be finished, and the world would be saved.

Larchmonter possibly is correct. 2015 could be a very good year, but pre-emptive economic moves by Moscow and Beijing could be required.  Putin’s current plan seems to be to turn away from the West, ignore the provocations, and mesh Russia’s strategic and economic interests with those of Asia.  This is a humane and reasonable course of action, but it leaves the West untroubled and undistracted by its economic vulnerabilities.  An untroubled West remains a grave danger not only to Russia and China but also to Americans and the entire world.

Washington is determined to go to war with Russia. Its military industrial complex demands it. Its financial system – FED, Wall Street demand it. War is a debt machine. War brings insane amounts of profit. The European vassals go along with it. It is part of the PNAC (Plan for a New American Century) to take over the world.

After Russia, China would follow. That’s the plan. China is being encircled as we speak. Already 50% of the US navy fleet is stationed in the Pacific, from Japan to the Philippines to Australia. By 2016, Obama has promised, the navy war contingent in the Pacific will increase to two thirds.

In mid-2014, China had surpassed the US in economic power. China must be annihilated in any way possible. Never mind that Russia and China have recently concluded a pact, a close financial and military alliance – which to defeat will be next to impossible.

Unless – and here is the crux of the matter – unless Washington, a dying beast, pouncing wildly its tentacles all around the globe, initiates an all-out nuclear war, destroying the planet, including itself – but foremost Europe. After all, the US of A is far away. Protected by two Oceans. Starting wars from foreign bases is much safer.

Of NATO’s 28 member countries, 26 are in Europe, of which 12 – almost half – in Eastern Europe, countries that used to be part of or ‘dependencies’ of the former Soviet Union. And this happened despite Washington’s promise at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, not to expand NATO eastward. A lie and sheer affront on Russia.

This provocation is exacerbated today by the Pentagon’s further arming the NATO bases of Poland and Latvia, and by NATO’s considering Ukraine’s urgent call – or rather, the call of the Washington installed Kiev Nazi thugs – for NATO protection and to become a NATO member as soon as possible. Poroshenko declared that his government (sic) will do whatever it takes to implement the neoliberal NATO reform conditions, including give up the status of non-alignment (neutrality) under which it was created at the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “Neoliberal reforms” – akin to the IMF sledgehammer, meaning further privatizing and stealing Ukraine’s social safety system – reduced salaries, pensions, health and education benefits. A disaster for the people; spiraling into outright misery.

Imagine, NATO at Moscow’s doorstep. Would the Kremlin just bow and accept it? – Hardly. With NATO bases in 26 European countries – Guess – who would be the logical center of the next theatre of war?

Do the Obama stooges not realize this? – Do the vassals have no brains? Or would the coward leaders (sic) escape to Florida, while their people are smoldering to dust? – Wake up, Europe! Wake up! – People of Europe, take back your countries from the neoliberal puppets, from your spine and brainless coward leaders.

In fact, the West led by the naked emperor is waging war against Russia on several fronts: the bloody Ukraine coup and Maidan massacre in February 2014; arming and equipping the Kiev war criminals that has led to at least 5,000 savagely killed Donbass inhabitants most of whom civilians, women and children, and more than a million homeless refugees into Russia;  relentless anti-Russia, anti-Putin propaganda, by the Zionist-Anglo-Saxon controlled MSM; CIA instigated false flag operations, like the downing by Kiev’s air force of Malaysian Air MH17, killing 298 people; a salvo of countless economic sanctions which, albeit, hurt Europe more than Russia; and a currency war with an engineered fall of the ruble, combined with an ‘engineered’ drop of oil prices by conspiring with the Saudi clowns for hydrocarbon overproduction, a stab not only at Russia, but also at the economies of others who refuse to bend to Washington’s dictum, like Iran and Venezuela.

In addition, there is the indirect attack front – the Middle East – creating and arming the IS caliphate to destabilize Syria; and in an act of make-believe attacking IS troops in disguise of bombing Syria – a close ally of Russia – for ‘regime change’, an objective that has been on the State Department’s agenda for the last ten years. Iran, another ally of Russia and China, may be next. So it has been inscribed in the PNAC. The tail of the Zionist poodle that wags the empire (and largely authored the PNAC) knows no mercy.

Russia is taking it in with calm. Vladimir Putin is a chess player par excellence, out-maneuvering the west at every move. In addition to Russia’s large foreign exchange reserves – estimated at close to half a trillion dollars equivalent – Ms. Elvira Nabiullina, President of Russia’s Central Bank, entered into a currency swap agreement with China, pitting their combined economies, constituting about 27% of the world’s GDP (US$85 trillion, 2014 est.) against the western economic aggressions.

A few days ago Russia’s Central Bank started buying back cheap, down-graded rubles with its excess foreign reserves. The Russian currency gained 10% alone on 17 December, last day of trading before the weekend. With the fall of the ruble, foreign shareholders of Russian corporations, especially in Europe and the US, were afraid of losing out under a ruble collapse. They shed their shares – which Russia quickly bought and repatriated, thereby not only returning foreign holdings of Russian stock into Russian coffers, but also cashing in on the dividends of these stocks. According to some accounts (Spiegel Online), with this move alone Russia earned some 20 billion dollars.

It looks like the economic and propaganda war is progressively being won by Russia. On the political western front things are crumbling too. Hungary’s government, a member of the EU and of NATO, has just declared an alliance with Russia against Washington.  Turkey, once a contender to enter the EU, is disgusted with Europe and is instead aiming at membership in the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization). Turkey is a strategic key NATO member. Will others follow suit, as more and more are seeing the emperor’s nakedness and horrendous malignancy?

The veils are falling. Gradually. So-called allies of the empire are wary since long. Afraid of ‘sanctions’ or worse, of a possible take-over by the merciless killing machine, they have nodded and played along. So far. But, as they see the implosion of the beast, they increasingly dare jumping ship.

Europe – be aware! The center of the next war might again be Europe. A dying beast knows no mercy. It rather destroys the universe and itself than leaving survivors behind. – Unless its poisonous and killing tentacles can be paralyzed – terminally, by economic isolation; by destruction of its currency, the dollar; by making this worthless money irrelevant and obsolete. For good.

Europe – it’s not too late! Your economic future is in your autonomy; in a coalition of European sovereign nations with the east – an alliance with the promising new economic Silk Road. Mr. Xi Jinping’s offer to Madame Merkel this past spring is still open. Neoliberal thinking is short-term thinking. Instant profit for instant debt.

Europe, take the lead. Break loose from the corrupt debt-ridden dollar casino scheme. A new ruble-yuan based monetary system is in the making. The basket may soon expand by other BRICS currencies – and, who knows, maybe the Euro? – Our children, grandchildren and their children deserve a future of peace and harmony and wellbeing.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, the Voice of Russia, now Ria Novosti, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.

Biopiracy: Monsanto Tries Patenting Natural Tomatoes

December 30th, 2014 by Christina Sarich

Many individuals are aware that biotech has developed a seed monopoly largely by patenting genetically modified organisms, but not everyone realizes that Monsanto tried to patent a tomato that had no biotech traits. Now, the European Patent Office (EPO), with help from an international coalition, No Patents on Seeds!, has revoked Monsanto’s fraudulent patent and claim to tomatoes that are naturally resistant to a fungal disease called botrytis.

These natural, non-GMO tomatoes, like many healthy plants, have a natural resistance to certain pests. In this case, a fungal disease, but this is not a novel phenomenon. Why Monsanto would try to claim they created it is about as believable as Syngenta or Dow saying they invented the sun.

Though plant breeders can help plants develop this natural pest resistance, much of it is innate – the same as our own immune systems. When individual plants reproduce, they pass along exceptional combinations of genes to their offspring. Varying environments (such as cold, or dry, moist or breezy) favor individuals with different physical and behavioral traits. Individual plants with genes that improve their survival will be more likely to pass along these genes compared to the rest of the population.

There is no genetic manipulation via biotech technologies. None is needed. Mother Nature is pretty smart like that.

Of course, if the soil is replete with organic, non-industrial nutrients, the plants develop an even better immune system, and more resilient, and then pass these traits on to their progeny.

Though Monsanto has nothing at all to do with this process for a specific breed of tomato, they were able to get Patent EP1812575 – which has now been revoked. The tomatoes used to obtain their ‘monopoly’ on another seed were obtained from a gene bank in Gatersleben, Germany, and it was already common knowledge that these plants had a desirable resistance to botrytis.

Monsanto’s clever lawyers created wording in their patent application to give the impression that the seed was genetically engineered to produce this quality. They made the tomato look their “invention.” This is essentially biopiracy.

The revoking of this patent is important because it tells Monsanto and other biotech companies that the world will not stand down to its abuse of patent laws. It will also allow plant breeders and home gardeners access to a larger variety of naturally resistant plants.

Christoph Then, a coordinator of No Patents on Seeds!, states:

“The intended resistance is based on complex genetic conditions, which are not known in detail. So genetic engineering is clearly not an option in this case.”

The coalition of No Patents on Seeds! has filed further oppositions against patents held by the US company covering broccoli which can be harvested mechanically (EP 1597965), melons that are resistant to plant viruses (EP1962578), and a selection of plants for breeding soybeans (EP 2134870) adapted to climate change.

Activists are calling on the European government to review the way patents are obtained by biotech, and to make certain that existing prohibitions on plant patents is observed. This, in turn, should make those who grow our food less dependant on biotech creations, and more self-reliant, as more diverse seed becomes available for planting.

Hundreds of plant and animal varieties that are the result of a biological process and not GMO tinkering have been given patents by the EPO, and over 2400 patents for genetically modified seeds have been given to Monsanto alone. This single company controls more than 25 percent of the world seed supply, and they aim to control more. We simply cannot let that happen.

Additional Sources:

No Patents on Seeds

Australia Silences Criticism Of Vaccines, Benefits of Homeopathy

December 30th, 2014 by Brandon Turbeville

When the facts surrounding the safety and effectiveness of vaccines begin to be brought into the light, the only option left for those who manufacture, promote, and/or force vaccines onto the general population is to silence the presentation of those facts. Indeed, it is also imperative that those same forces prevent any alternatives to vaccination and financially incentivized medical dogma from becoming known amongst the general public.

Such was the mode of attack taken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in a case that dates back to 2013 against the homeopathic remedies company, Homeopathy Plus. In the early part of 2013, the ACCC instituted Federal Proceedings against Homeopathy Plus after claiming that the company was guilty of being “misleading and deceptive” after posting a series of three articles on its website that presented the Pertussis vaccine as being ineffective in preventing the disease and largely unreliable.

The Ministry of Truth also known as the ACCC also targeted the company due to their claims that homeopathic remedies are a safe and effective alternative to the vaccines. In addition, the ACCC has taken legal action against Homeopath Frances Sheffield.

The decision to take action against the company came months after the ACCC admits that the company removed the articles in question, yet the ACCC continues to push for an injunction to have the claims removed from the website. In other words, the ACCC is waging an expensive legal battle (ostensibly with taxpayer money) to forcibly remove claims from a website where they have already been removed.

In addition, other Ministries of Truth, the type of which Western society is replete, the Therapeutic Goods Administration Advertising Complaint Resolution Panel (CRP) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) have issued orders of retraction against the company. Apparently removing information deemed unsuitable for the field slaves was not enough. The serfs must be re-educated in the proper manner and be instructed as to the inaccuracy of the articles questioning the veracity of the all-knowing Australian government and medical establishment – two institutions which have, together, been responsible for numerous unethical experiments on indigenous Australian peoples and the utter destruction of their lifestyle and cultures.

Regardless, because Homeopathy Plus refused to comply with the retraction orders of one of the innumerable government “oversight” agencies of the Australian government, the ACCC filed its cased in Federal court.

Not surprisingly, the court sided with the “regulatory agencies,” i.e. the pharmaceutical companies and ruled that the claims of the article were indeed misleading and inaccurate.

While the evidence actually suggests that the Pertussis vaccine is neither safe nor effective in preventing Whooping Cough, facts never get in the way of Government/Corporate collusion or politicized science.

As ArsTechnica reported, the court ruled that “In fact, the Vaccine is effective in protecting a significant majority of people who are exposed to the whooping cough infection from contracting whooping cough.”

The court also criticized any claims that homeopathic remedies might help in preventing Whooping Cough. It stated that the articles posted on the companies’ website “made false or misleading representations that Homeopathic Treatments have a use or benefit” in preventing pertussis infection.

The penalties facing Homeopathy Plus will be decided after a hearing in February 2015 as will be the possibility of any future injunctive orders that might be issued.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 300 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

Iranian state media claims U.S. military aircraft have once again dropped weapons in areas held by the Islamic State.

Iraqi volunteers fighting against IS in the Yathrib and Balad districts in Iraq’s Salahuddin Province reported the air drops.

Iraq claims it now has the upper hand in the battle to regain territory from the terrorist group.

In October a purported errant airdrop of weapons fell into the hands Islamic State fighters outside Kobani in Syria.

In November Iraqi intelligence sources said the U.S. is actively supplying ISIS with weapons.

“The Iraqi intelligence sources reiterated that the US military planes have airdropped several aid cargoes for ISIL terrorists to help them resist the siege laid by the Iraqi army, security and popular forces,” a report stated.

“What is important is that the US sends these weapons to only those that cooperate with the Pentagon and this indicates that the US plays a role in arming the ISIL.”

The London-based organization Conflict Armament Research previously reported that ISIS fighters are using “significant quantities” of arms including M16 assault rifles marked “property of the US government.”

In June Aaron Klein, writing for WorldNetDaily, reported that members of ISIS were trained in 2012 by U.S. instructors working at a secret base in Jordan, according to informed Jordanian officials.

The U.S. does not admit arming and training ISIS terrorists, although General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that United States’ Arab allies in the Middle East fund ISIS.

General Thomas McInerney told Fox News in September that the U.S. “helped build ISIS” as a result of the group obtaining weapons from the Benghazi consulate in Libya which was attacked by jihadists in September 2012.

“We backed I believe in some cases, some of the wrong people and not in the right part of the Free Syrian Army and that’s a little confusing to people, so I’ve always maintained… that we were backing the wrong types,” McInerney said.

The U.S. claims it is arming “moderate” mercenaries in Syria to fight against ISIS and the al-Assad government in Damascus despite the fact there are no longer any moderate forces active.

The CIA has shipped weapons to al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria since at least 2012, a fact revealed byThe New York Times.

The shipments included more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military cargo planes landing at Esenboga Airport near Ankara and other Turkish and Jordanian airports. An effort to arm al-Nusra – now fully merged with ISIS – and other jihadist groups has been coordinated by American intelligence.

AirAsia Flight QZ8501

December 30th, 2014 by Global Research News

GR Editor’s Note

The Infowars article entitled AirAsia CEO Dumped Shares Days Before Flight Disappeared was mistakenly cross-posted by Global Research and has since been removed.

The article suggests a relationship between alleged speculative stock market transactions conducted on December 22-23 and the subsequent crash of AirAsia flight QZ8501. There is no evidence to that effect. Nor is there evidence of foreknowledge of the crash.  

The trade pertained to Tune Insurance Holdings (TIH),  a diversified insurance company which among other activities provides online travel insurance for AirAsia passengers.

On December 22 and 23, 944,000 TIH shares were sold by the AirAsia group chief executive officer in the spot market at MYR1.60, less than US$0.50 a share; the total value of the transaction was a modest US$440,000. In the immediate wake of the plane crash, no windfall gains: the price of TIH shares fell by 0.6%. On December 31st, the shares of TIH were trading at MYR 1.70. (at a higher price than sale at MYR 1.60 on December 22-23).  

December 31, 2014 

Should the federal government be spending billions of dollars to pump up Wal-Mart’s profits?  I know that question sounds really bizarre, but unfortunately this is essentially what is happening.  Because Wal-Mart does not pay them enough money, hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees enroll in Medicaid, food stamps and other social welfare programs.  Even though Wal-Mart makes enormous profits, they refuse to properly take care of their employees so the federal government has to do it.  And of course this is not just a Wal-Mart problem.  There are hundreds of other major corporations doing exactly the same thing.  And they will keep on doing it as long as they can because relying on the federal government to take care of their employees allows them to make much larger profits.  This gives these companies an enormous competitive advantage and it distorts the marketplace.  If you love the free enterprise system, you should be aghast at this.  Our big corporations have become the biggest “welfare queens” of all, and Wal-Mart is near the top of that list.

Does your local Wal-Mart store seem like it needs help from the federal government?

Of course not.

Wal-Marts all over the nation were absolutely packed this holiday season, but according to a recent Bloomberg article, the average amount of welfare that Wal-Mart employees receive from the government each year breaks down to about $420,000 per store…

Wal-Mart’s low wages have led to full-time employees seeking public assistance. These are not the 47 percent, lazy, unmotivated bums. Rather, these are people working physical, often difficult jobs. They receive $2.66 billion in government help each year (including $1 billion in healthcare assistance). That works out to about $5,815 per worker. And about $420,000 per store.

Does that make you angry?

It should.

Today, Wal-Mart employs approximately 1.2 million people in the United States, and it makes a yearly profit of about 17 billion dollars.

So why does it need 2.6 billion dollars of help from the U.S. government?

Wal-Mart is a colossal money-making behemoth.  Just consider the following numbers

The size of Wal-Mart is sometimes difficult to visualize. To put it into some context, consider the following: 100 million U.S. shoppers patronize Wal-Mart stores every week. Wal-Mart has twice the number employees of the U.S. Postal Service, a larger global computer network than the Pentagon, and the world’s largest fleet of trucks. Americans spend about $36 million dollars per hour at the stores. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other company in the world, capturing one of every four dollars spent on food in the U.S. The average American family of four spends over $4,000 a year there. Each week, it has 200 million customers at more than 10,400 stores in 27 countries. If the company were an independent country, it would be the 25th largest economy in the world.

Wal-Mart does well enough to be able to pay their workers a livable wage.

And yet they refuse to do it.

Shame on them.

Meanwhile, the six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the poorest one-third of all Americans combined.

This reminds me of something that I read in the fifth chapter of James the other day…

Come now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.  Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasures for the last days.  Indeed the wages that you kept back by fraud from the laborers who harvested your fields are crying, and the cries of those who harvested have entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts.  You have lived in pleasure on the earth and have been wayward. You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter.

But we continue to reward this behavior, don’t we?

100 million of us continue to visit Wal-Mart every single week, and we continue to fill up our shopping carts with cheap products that are made outside this country.

We refuse to support American workers and American businesses, and this is a recipe for utter disaster.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “National Economic Suicide: The U.S. Trade Deficit With China Just Hit A New Record High“.

The truth is that we cannot consume our way to prosperity.  When we consume far more wealth than we produce, we pile up debt and we become poorer as a nation.

And as a country we have become exceedingly cold-hearted toward our workers.  If you truly love free markets and capitalism, you should be encouraging big companies to pay their workers properly.  Instead, we are moving closer and closer to the slave labor model employed by China and other communist nations with each passing day.  Sadly, I am becoming increasingly convinced that many prominent “pro-business” voices in America today are actually closet communists.  They seem to want everything to be made in China and for American workers to be paid just like Chinese workers.

At this point, the U.S. middle class is well on the way to being destroyed.  As I have written about previously, 40 percent of all American workers now make less than what a minimum wage worker made back in 1968 after you account for inflation.

How is the middle class supposed to survive in such an environment?

And for any “pro-business” people that want to defend Wal-Mart, do you actually like paying suffocating taxes to support all of the people that are being forced on to the safety net?

What is our society going to look like as millions more Americans become dependent on the federal government each year?  Government dependence is already at an all-time record high.  How much worse do things have to get before we admit that we have a real problem?

Unfortunately, it looks like our problems are only going to accelerate in 2015.  Thanks tothe stunning decline in the price of oil, we are starting to lose good paying jobs in the energy industry

One company caught in the industry downturn is Hercules Offshore Inc. The Houston-based firm is laying off 324 employees, roughly 15% of its workforce, because oil companies aren’t renewing contracts for its offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico while crude prices are depressed.

“It’s been breathtaking,” said Jim Noe, executive vice president of Hercules, which was founded in 2004. “We’ve never seen this glut of supply and dislocation in oil markets. So we’re not surprised to see a significant decline in demand for our services.”

These are jobs that we cannot afford to lose.

Since the end of the last recession, the energy industry has been the leading creator of good paying jobs in America.

But now as the U.S. energy boom goes bust, it might lead the way in job losses.

In order to have a middle class, we have got to have middle class jobs.

Unfortunately, those kinds of jobs are disappearing and the entire U.S. economy is moving toward the Wal-Mart model.

In the end, we will all pay a great price for such foolishness.

Apache helicopters flying in Afghanistan in 2011. (Photo: DVIDSHUB/flickr/cc)

Newly revealed documents show that NATO’s “kill list” for Afghanistan operations included not just senior Taliban leaders but those suspected of being low- and mid-level operatives as well as drug traffickers, Der Spiegel has reported.

Some of the secret documents, which are from 2009 to 2011, are from the trove released by Edward Snowden, the German paper states.

“The documents show that the deadly missions were not just viewed as a last resort to prevent attacks, but were in fact part of everyday life in the guerrilla war in Afghanistan,”Der Spiegel reports.

As part of a strategy the White House called “escalate and exit” that started in 2009, NATO troops would start with a “cleansing” phase—killing insurgents. The paper cites Michael T. Flynn, the head of ISAF intelligence in Afghanistan, as saying during a briefing: “The only good Talib is a dead Talib.”

Among the documents cited and made publicly available by Der Spiegel is the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL). It lists, with names redacted by the paper, 669 targets, their code names and one of four priority levels.  The location for some of those on the list is across the border in Pakistan.

In contrast to claims made by the U.S. government regarding those targeted for assassination, one person who was put on the list in the summer of 2010 was an Afghan soldier named Hussein. Not a senior operational leader posing an imminent threat, Hussein was merely suspected of being part of an attack on ISAF forces, and his placement on the list was meant to use his death as a deterrent, the paper reports.

Der Spiegel reports that the search for the men on the list relied sometimes on only their cell phone signal, and that the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, maintained a list of these numbers. Voice recognition could be used to warrant an airstrike.

The paper quotes a secret British report from October 2010 as stating that the use of cell phone signals was “central to the success of operations.”

Risks of civilian casualties from strikes against those on the list were weighed, but seemed to be often accepted, and “civilian” only referred to women, children and elderly.

“The rule of thumb was that when there was estimated collateral damage of up to 10 civilians, the ISAF commander in Kabul was to decide whether the risk was justifiable,” Der Spiegel quotes an ISAF officer who worked with the lists for years as saying.

An example of civilian casualties caused by the hunt for those put on the list is given in another document cited by Der Spiegel, which reveals a botched missile strike at supposed mid-level operative Mullah Niaz Mohammed. It instead killed a boy and wounded his father.

The reporting also explains how the wide net of those targeted for assassination covered those deemed to be narcotics traffickers.

It cites an NSA document as saying insurgents “could not be defeated without disrupting the drug trade.” Drug traffickers’ names were added to the JPEL in October 2008.

This exposes a vicious death cycle. While the U.S.-led war purported to combat opium poppy cultivation, years of occupation have rendered record high cultivation levels.

As Matthieu Aikins exposes in a Rolling Stone article this month, Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State, “the Afghan narcotics trade has gotten undeniably worse since the U.S.-led invasion,” and the U.S. has “all[ied] with many of the same people who turned the country into the world’s biggest source of heroin.”

The new reporting comes a day after the United States and NATO formally ended the 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan, though President Obama announced the extension of that war just a month ago.  Thousands of troops are remaining, and, as the Los Angeles Times reports Monday, combat operations rules will allow continued U.S. airstrikes on the country.

Exactly one month ago we observed that, as expected in the aftermath of the Netherlands’ shocking and still not fully-explained gold repatriation from the NY Fed, the amount of foreign earmarked gold on deposit with the Fed had just experienced a 42 ton withdrawal: the single largest outflow of gold held at the NY Fed in over a decade, going back all the way to 2001. This had brought the total amount of YTD gold withdrawals from the NY Fed to a whopping 119 tons: the most since the Lehman collapse.

However, because this total was insufficient to cover just the Dutch repatriation of gold from the NY Fed (which amounted to 122 tons), we knew there would be more activity when the November data hit. Sure enough, earlier today the Fed reported the total amount of earmarked gold (or gold “held in foreign and international accounts and valued at $42.22 per fine troy ounce; not included in the gold stock of the United States“) for the month of November: at $8.184 billion, this was a $60 million drop from the previous month (or it would be at the $42.22/ounce “price”; at market prices the value of the withdrawn gold is about $1.7 billion).

In actual tonnage terms, this means that in November some 47.1 tons of gold were withdrawn from the NY Fed, bringing the Fed’s total earmarked gold to just 6,029 tonnes: the biggest single monthly outflow going back to the turn of the century. This is also the lowest amount of gold held at the NY Fed vault located at 33 Liberty street (and just across from the even bigger vault located at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza) in the 21st century.

 

But even more notable is that with the November data, we now know that all of the Dutch repatriated gold is fully accounted for.

Which brings up a far more important question: net of the Netherlands withdrawals, there is some 44 tons of extra gold that has been also quietly redeemed (by another entity). The question is who: is it now the turn of Austria to reveal in a few weeks that it too, secretly, withdrew some 40+ tons of gold from “safe keeping” in the US? Or was it Belgium? Or did the Dutch simply decide to haul back some more. Or did Germany finally get over its “logistical complications” which prevented it from transporting more than just a laughable 5 tons in 2013? And most importantly, did Germany finally grow a pair and decide not to let “diplomatic difficulties” stand between it and its gold?

We should have the official answer shortly, but we know one thing: it sure wasn’t Ukraine.

Крај америчког столећа

December 30th, 2014 by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Вашингтон води хибридни рат против Москве. Ако и постоји било каква сумња поводом тога, сад би требало да буде развејана. Геополитика, наука и технологија, спекулације, финансијска тржишта, информациони токови, велики пословни конгломерати, интелигенција, масовне комуникације, социјални медији, интернет, популарна култура, информативне мреже, међународне институције, санкције, аудиторијум, јавно мњење, национализам, разна владина тела и организације, цивилизацијска конфронтација, прокси ратови, дипломатија, стварање међународних алијанси, велики пословни уговори, невладине организације (НВО), људска права, углед, војно особље, капитал, психолошке тактике – све је то укључено у тај хибридни (вишестрани) рат. На дневном нивоу можемо видети како се ова борба одиграва у етру ратних позоришта Украјине и Блиског Истока, кроз изјаве и оптужбе дипломата, као и у економској сфери.

Такође би требало да буду прекинуте дебате и питања о томе да ли је ово нови Хладни рат – постхладноратовски хладни рат – или се стари Хладни рат никада није ни завршио. Хладноратовски менталитет никад није усахнуо у Вашингтон Белтвеју. Из перспективе руских званичника, јасно је да САД никад нису закопале своје ратне секире и да су наставиле офанзиву. Распад Варшавског пакта, пораз Совјета и Источног блока и гледање како се Совјетски Савез демонтира у 15 различитих република нису били довољни за америчке хладноратовске јастребове. По њима, новоформирана Руска Федерација морала је да буде утишана.

Петро-политика такође има велики удео у овом хибридном рату. [1] Нису само цене енергената биле фактор борбе већ и финансијска тржишта и националне валуте. Вештачки пад цена нафте, остварен преплављивањем глобалног нафтног тржишта, сад је додатно добио на значају опсадом руске рубље. Све ово је део нечега што изгледа као циљани двосмерни напад на Руску Федерацију, који има за циљ да смањи приходе Русије кроз манипулацију на тржишту путем економских санкција и обарања цена.

То је оно што бисмо назвали „дупли уздах“ (америчка узречица која означава двоструки проблем, углавном финансијске или економске природе; прим. прев.). Док САД и њихови савезници, укључујући Аустралију, Канаду, Европску унију и Јапан, руској економији уводе санкције, догодили су се напади на главни извор руских прихода (енергенти) и руску националну валуту.

ВАЛУТНИ РАТОВИ И ИНФЛАЦИЈА

Цена руске рубље почела је да опада у децембру 2014. као последица економских притисака на Руску Федерацију, пада цене енергената и спекулативних активности. „Судећи по ситуацији у земљи, ми смо усред дубоке валутне кризе, оне за коју чак и запослени у Централној банци кажу да је нису предвиђали ни у најгорим ноћним морама“, коментарише Вјечеслав Тереков из Интерфакса приликом разговора са руским председником Владимиром Путином током конференције за новинаре у Кремљу 18. децембра. [2] Сам Путин је ово признао на прес-конференцији. Одговарајући Терекову, Путин је објаснио да се „ситуација променила под утицајем одређених спољних економских фактора, примарно цена енергетских ресурса, нафте, самим тим и гаса такође“ [3].

Неки можда мисле да је пад руске рубље резултат реакције тржишта по његовим правилима, док други који признају да постоје тржишне манипулације могу да преломе и за све окриве руску владу и Владимира Путина. Ови процеси, међутим, били су навођени америчким махинацијама. То једноставно није резултат самосталног понашања тржишта или политике Кремља, већ америчких циљева и политике која свесно циља Русију са намером да је дестабилизује и опустоши. Због тога је Путин на Терековљево питање одговорио да је пад вредности руске рубље „очигледно изазван првенствено спољним факторима“ [4].

Помоћник државног секретара САД Викторија Нуланд – супруга једног од оснивача Пројекта новог америчког столећа (PNAC) и неоконзервативног адвоката империје Роберта Кејгена – и помоћник америчког министра финансија Денијел Глејзер у мају 2014. рекли су Комитету америчког представничког дома за спољне послове да циљ америчких санкција против Руске Федерације није само наношење штете трговинским везама Русије и ЕУ већ и покретање економске нестабилности у Русији, као и креирање валутне нестабилности и инфлације. [5] Другим речима, америчка влада циљано је ишла на девалвацију руске рубље и инфлацију у руској економији најкасније од маја 2014.

Изгледа да САД покушавају манипулацијом да наведу Кремљ да троши руске ресурсе и фискалне резерве на борбу против инфлације рубље, коју је покренуо Вашингтон. Кремљ, међутим, неће загристи мамац и тако дозволити да буде уплетен у црпљивање девизних резерви, које износе приближно 419 милијади америчких долара – што важи и за златне резерве које поседује Руска Федерација, или било који вид руских резерви које вреде приближно 8,4 трилиона рубљи – само да би покушао да спречи пад вредности националне валуте. С тим у вези, држећи конференцију за новинаре, Путин је 18 децембра изјавио да „Централна банка не намерава да их све (резерве) спржи без икаквог смисла, што је исправно поступање“ [6]. Путин је ово поново нагласио одговарајући на питање Вјечеслава Терекова када је рекао да руска влада и руска Централна банка „не би требало да разделе наше златне и девизне резерве или да их просто спрже на тржишту, већ да обезбеде изворе кредитирања“ [7].

Кремљ разуме шта Вашингтон покушава да уради. Америка са Русијом понавља стару игру. Манипулација ценама енергената, девалвација националне валуте, чак и амерички покушаји да увуку Русију у конфликт са братском државом Украјином – све је то понављање америчке тактике коришћене раније, за време Хладног рата, а и после 1991. На пример, увлачење Русије у Украјину било би понављање тактике увлачења Совјетског Савеза у Авганистан, док би манипулација ценама енергената и валутним тржиштима била паралела америчке стратегије коришћене да се дестабилизује батхистички (Батх партија је најважнија политичка странка с панарапском идеологијом, која игра важну улогу још од 1950-тих; прим. прев.) Ирак, Иран или Совјетски Савез током авганистанско-совјетског и иранско-ирачког рата.

Уместо покушаја да заустави даљи пад вредности рубље, Кремљ се изгледа одлучио да стратешки инвестира у људски капитал у Русији. Национални резервни фондови Русије биће искоришћени за диверсификацију државне економије и учвршћивање социјалног и јавног сектора. Упркос економском рату против Русије, баш то је разлог што су плате учитеља у школама, професора у високошколским установама за науку и развој, запослених у институцијама културе, доктора у болницама и клиникама, болничара и медицинских сестара – дакле најважнијих сектора за развијање људског капитала и капацитета у Русији – све редом подигнуте.

РУСКИ МЕДВЕД И ТУРСКИ СИВИ ВУК

Кремљ, међутим, на располагању има целу листу опција за контрирање америчкој офанзиви против Русије. Једна од њих укључује додворавање Турској. Руско приближавање Турцима укључивало је удаљавање од изградње гасовода Јужни Ток из Русије преко Црног мора и Бугарске.

Путин је изјавио да је Русија отказала пројекат Јужни ток 1. децембра. Уместо пројекта Јужни Ток, стигла је замена у виду гасовода који иде из јужног федералног округа Руске Федерације кроз Црно море до Турске. Овај алтернативни гасовод, који је популарно назван „Турски ток“, упарује руског енергетског гиганта Гаспром са турским Ботасом. Поред тога, Гаспром ће почети Турској да даје попуст на руски гас, који ће се повећавати како буде растао интензитет руско-турске сарадње. Уговор о природном гасу између Анкаре и Москве ствара добитну ситуацију и за турску и за руску страну. Не само да ће Анкара добити попусте на снадбевање енергентима већ ће Турски ток турској влади дати оно за чиме је чезнула годинама. Турски гасовод ће Турску учинити важним енергетским коридором и транзитном чвориштем са свим припадајућим транзитним приходима. У таквој ситуацији Турска постаје коридор за снадбевање енергентима између добављача Русије и потрошача у које спадају земље ЕУ и други купци са југоистока Европе. Анкара ће стећи додатни утицај на Европску унију, што ће јој донети нови аргумент приликом преговора са Европом јер ће Европска унија – будући да ће бити енергетски посредник – са Турском морати да се договара.

Што се тиче Русије, она ће отказивањем смањити ризике са којима је била суочена приликом изградње пројекта Јужни ток. Москва је могла да протраћи време и ресурсе градећи Јужни ток само да би на крају видела да је пројекат суспендован или опструисан на Балкану од Брисела и Вашингтона. Ако Европска унија заиста жели руски природни гас, онда ће гасовод Турски ток бити продужен из Турске преко Грчке, па до БЈР Македоније, Србије, Мађарске, Словеније, Италије, Аустрије и других европских земаља које желе да буду интегрисане у овај енергетски пројекат.

Отказививање Јужног тока такође значи и да ће бити један алтернативни енергетски коридор мање из правца Русије ка Европској унији, барем за неко време. Ово има позитивне импликације на дешавања у Украјини, која представља важну транзитну руту за руски гас који иде ка ЕУ. Да би осигурала проток руског гаса кроз украјинску територију, Европска унија ће бити одлучнија у притисцима на званичнике у Кијеву да окончају конфликт на Истоку Украјине.

На више начина се Турски ток може посматрати као реконфигурација пропалог гасовода Набуко. Не само да ће Турски ток обезбедити благонаклоност Турске и повећати руски утицај на ЕУ, за разлику од Набука, који је требао да га смањи, нови гасовод ће такође приволети Анкару да своје економске и стратешке интересе више усклађује са руским интересима. То је разлоз зашто, говорећи о Набуку и борби за успостављање алтернативних енергетских коридора, овај аутор у 2007. истиче да „стварање ових енергетских коридора и мрежа представља мач са две оштрице. Ови геостратешки зглобови и енергетске осовине могу да доведу и до размене међусобног утицаја. Интеграција у инфраструктури води и економској интеграцији“ [8].

Изградња Турског Тока и јачање руско-турских односа може да помогне чак и по питању смиривања крвавог сиријског конфликта. Ако ирански природни гас буде интегрисан у Турски гасовод путем још једног енергетског коридора који са иранске територије улази у Анадолију, онда би турски интереси били још више усклађени са интересима Москве и Техерана. Турска ће бити спасена од пораза своје неоотоманске политике и биће способна да се повуче из сиријске кризе. Ово ће дозволити Анкари да се престроји на сарадњу са два најважнија трговинска партнера – Ираном и Русијом.

Важност иранско-турске и руско-турске трговине и енергетских веза су разлог што је Анкара имала разумевања за Русију и Иран и што није дозволила да политика и размимоилажења поводом сиријске кризе стану на пут њихових економских веза и пословних односа, док је Вашингтон покушавао да те односе поремети, као што је учинио са везама између Русије и ЕУ. [9] Анкара, међутим, схвата да би, ако пусти политику да поремети њене економске везе са Ираном и Русијом, и сама Турска била ослабљена и да би то довело до тога да изгуби сваки вид независности који сада ужива.

Мајсторски објављујући руски потез док је био у Анкари, Путин се такође постарао да осигура вруће унутрашње разговоре у ЕУ. Неки би ово назвали стављањем соли на рану. Знајући да ће профит и потенцијална добит изазвати интерну дебату у Бугарској и ЕУ, Путин се реторички запитао да ли ће Европска комисија Бугарској да надокнад трошкови за губитке.

РУСКИ МЕДВЕД И КИНЕСКИ ЗМАЈ

Очигледно је да су руски бизнис и трговинске везе преусмерене на Народну Републику Кину и Источну Азију. Поводом кинеско-руског гасног мега уговора, ова аутор истиче да ово није био толико руски контрапотез на амерички економски притисак колико је то била стварна дугорочна руска стратегија која покушава да повећа трговинске и друге везе са Источном Азијом [10]. Владимир Путин лично такође је потврдио овај став током конференције за новинаре 18. децембра, помињући раније када је одбацио – као и овај аутор – утисак да је такозвани „руски заокрет на Исток“ највећим делом повезан са кризом у Украјини.

Према речима председника Путина, процес ширења пословних веза са Кином и Источном Азијом „произлази из глобалних економских процеса, јер Исток – тојест Азијско-пацифички рефион – показује бржи раст од остатка света“. [11] Ако ово није довољно уверљиво да је заокрет ка Источној Азији већ био у плану за Русију, онда је Путин категорички отклонио све сумње у наставку поменуте конференције 18. децембра. Говорећи о кинеско-руском гасном уговору и другим руским пројектима у Источној Азији, Путин је објаснио следеће: „Пројекти на којима радимо одавно су испланирани, чак и пре последњих проблема који су се појавили на међународном нивоу или по питању руске економије. Ми просто спроводимо наше дугорочне планове у дело“. [12]

Из перспективе руског председничког саветника Сергеја Глазјева, САД воде свој хибридни рат против Русије да би у коначници стале на пут кинеским партнерима Москве. У проницљивом интервјуу Глазјев украјинској новинарки Аљони Березовској – која ради за филијалу Расија Севодње, примарно фокусирану на информације у вези са Украјином – објашњава основе америчког непријатељства према Русији: банкрот САД, пад конкурентности на глобалним тржиштима и вашингтонска немогућност да у крајњој линији спасу свој финансијски систем сервисирајући страни дуг или привлачећи довољно инвестиција да успостави неку врсту иновативног економског пробитка – све су то разлози због којих Вашингтон срља на Руску Федерацију. [13] Према Глазјевљевим речима, САД желе „нови светски рат“. [14] Другим речима, Америци треба конфликт и конфронтација. То је разлог зашто се одржава украјинска криза у Европи.

Сергеј Глазјев само понавља неке тачке из интервјуа од пар песеци пре тога, затим у чланку од 23. септембра писаном за магазин Русија у глобалним питањима“, који спонзорише руски Савет за међународне послове, think-tank који су 2010. основали руски министар иностраних послова и руски министар образовања, и америчког магазина Форин афеарс“, који објављује Савет за спољне послове САД.

У том чланку Глазјев додаје да Вашингтонов европски изазов упућен Русији може на крају да користи Кинезима јер ће борба ослабити САД, Русију и Европску унију, што ће Кини донети предност. [15] Смисао објашњавања свега овога је да се каже да Русија жели избалансирано стратешко партнерство са Кином. Лично Глазјев Березовској у том интервјуу чак говори да Русија жели обострано корисне односе са Кином, који ограничавају могућност потчињавања Москве Пекингу. [16]

Без икакве сумње, САД желе да прекину стратешко партнерство између Пекинга и Москве. Дугорочна стратегија Москве о кинеско-руској сарадњи пружила је Руској Федерацији висок степен економске и стратешке сигурности од економског рата који се води против руске националне економије. Вашингтон ипак покушава да обавеже Кинезе да не пружају руку Русији, која је под економским нападом. У овом контексту пад цена на тржишту енергената такође може да буде усмерен на стварање трења између Пекинга и Москве. Једним делом, манипулација на тржиштима енергената и пад цена могу довести до слабљења и нарушавања кинеско-руских односа тако што ће приморати Кинезе да предузму кораке који би ставили мрљу на њихове одличне односе са руским партнерима. Валутни рат против руске рубље може такође да буде усмерен у том правцу. Другим речима, Вашингтон се можда нада да ће Кина постати довољно похлепна и кратковида и покушати да оствари предност из пада цена на енергетским тржиштима и девалвације руске валуте.

Шта год да су намере Вашингтона, сваки економски корак који САД предузму против Русије ће на крају нанети штету и америчкој економији. Такође, веома је мала шанса да су „мандаринци“ (назив за Кинезе изведен из назива мандаринског дијалекта на којем говори преко 730 милиона људи, прим. прев.) несвесни шта САД вероватно покушавају да ураде. Кинези су свесни да је Кина, а не Русија, крајњи амерички циљ.

ЕКОНОМСКИ ТЕРОРИЗАМ: АРГЕНТИНА И ЛЕШИНАРИ

САД воде економски рат против Русије и њене државне економије који је у пуном замаху. У крајњој линији, сви Руси су колективна мета. Економске санкције не представљају ништа друго него рат. Да се криза у Украјини није десила, био би пронађен други разлог за напад на Русију.

Помоћник америчког државног секретара Викторија Нуланд и помоћник министра Финансија Денијел Глејзер чак су у мају 2014. рекли Комитету за иностране послове америчког Представничког дома да је крајњи циљ америчких економских санкција против Русије да учине руски народ толико јадним и очајним да он на крају евентуално захтева да се Кремљ преда САД и да спроведе „политичку промену“. „Политичка промена“ може значити свашта, али оно на шта се највероватније мисли је смена режима у Москви. Уствари, циљ САД изгледа да уопште није усмерен на вршење притиска на руску владу да промени свој спољнополитички курс, већ на иницирање промене режима у Москви и потпуно обогаљење Руске Федерације кроз подстицање унутрашњих подела. То је разлог што мапе подељене Русије дистрибуира Радио Слободна Европа. [17]

Судећи по председничком саветнику Сергеју Глазјеву, Вашингтон „покушава да уништи и ослаби Русију, што ће изазвати њену фрагментацију, јер они требају ову територију и желе да успоставе контролу над овим комплетним простором“ [18] „Понудили смо сарадњу од Лисабона до Владивостока, будући да, у настојању да одрже њихово геополитичко преимућство над Кином, постоји потреба за контролом тог простора“, наводи он, наглашавајући да САД желе да господаре, а да нису заинтересоване за сарадњу. [19]

Алудирајући на речи бившег америчког високог дипломате Мелдин Олбрајт да је Русија неправедно обдарена огромном територијом и ресурсима, Путин је такође говорио на сличан начин 18. децембра на конференцији за новинаре, објашњавајући како САД желе да поделе Русију и стекну контролу над обилним природним ресурсима који се налазе на њеној територији.

Није ни чудо да у 2014. рекордни број руских грађана има негативан став о односима између њихове земље и САД. Анкета коју је провео руски Центар за истраживање јавног мнења показала је да 39 одсто руских испитаника види односе са САД као „углавном лоше“ а 27 као „веома лоше“. [20] Ово значи да 66 одсто руских испитаника има негативан став по питању односа са Вашингтоном. То је резултат истраживања на нивоу целе Руске Федерације. Штавише, ово је највећи пораст негативне перцепције о САД још од 2008, када је Америка подржала грузијског председника Михаила Сакашвилија у рату који је Тбилси водио против Русије и отцепљене републике Јужне Осетије; 40 одсто је тада односе видело као „углавном лоше“, а 25 одсто Руса је у том период односе видело као „веома лоше“. [21]

Русија може да третира економски рат који се води против њене националне економије и њеног грађанства као „економски тероризам“. Ако руске банке и финансијске институције буду ослабљене са циљем да се створи финансијски колапс у Руској Федерацији, Москва може да уведе помоћне фискалне мере својим банкама и финансијском сектору, које могу да створе економске шокове у Европској унији и Северној Америци. Говорећи хипотетички, Русија има много опција за финансијску дефанзиву или контраофанзиву које могу да се пореде са тактиком спаљене земље коју је применила против западноевропских освајача током Наполеонових ратова, Првог светског рата и Другог светског рата. Ако руске банке и институције не плате или одложе плаћање својих дериватних дугова и то оправдају економским ратом и економским тероризмом, догодиће се финансијски шок и цунами од Европске уније до Северне Америке. Овај сценарио има неке паралеле са корацима које је Аргентина повукла да би избегла лешинарске фондове.

Валутни рат ће на крају да се окрене против Вашингтона и Волстрита. Енергетски рат ће такође да промени курс. Већ сада Кремљ је јасно назначио да ће, заједно са другим земљама, узвратити Америци на валутним тржиштима кроз одговор који ће неутралисати америчке финансијске манипулације и петродолар. Речима Сергеја Глазјева, Москва размишља о „системском и свеобухватном“ одговору „усмереном на изношење на видело и стављање тачке на политичку доминацију САД и, што је најважније, подривању америчке војно-политичке моћи базиране на штампању долара као светске валуте.“ [22] Њихово решење укључује стварање „коалиције јаких земаља које заговарају стабилност – у суштини глобалну антиратну коалицију са позитивним планом за преуређење међународне финансијске и економске архитектуре на принципима обостране користи, поштења и поштовања националног суверенитета“. [23]

Надолазећи век неће бити „Америчко столеће“ као што неоконзервативци у Вашингтону мисле. Биће „Евроазијско столеће“. Вашингтон преузима већи терет него што може да понесе. То може бити разлог због чега је америчка влада објавила крај санкцијама против Кубе и разлог због чега се САД труде да обнове трговинске везе са Ираном. Упркос овоме, архитектура послератног (мисли се на Други светски рат; прим. прев.) света или, ако хоћете, архитектура светског поретка насталог након 1945, сада је у самртној постељи и можемо је сматрати окончаном. То је оно на шта Кремљ и потпарол руског председника Путина Дмитриј Песков мисле када кажу – као Песков 17. децембра у интервјуу за канал Русија 24 – да је 2014. коначно довела до „промене парадигме међународног система“.

_________

Упутнице:

[1] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Oil Prices and Energy Wars: The Empire of Frack versus Russia, Strategic Culture Foundation, December 5, 2014.
[2] Official Kremlin version of the transcribed press conference — titled News conference of Vladimir Putin (December 18, 2014) – has been used in quoting Vladimir Putin.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Psychological War In The Financial Markets And The Sino-Russian Gas Deal, Mint Press News, May 29, 2014.
[6] Supra. n.2.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, The ‘Great Game’ Enters the Mediterranean: Gas, Oil, War, and Geo-Politics, Global Research, October 14, 2007.
[9] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Oil Prices and Energy Wars, op. cit.; Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Turkey & Iran: More than meets the eye, RT, January 20, 2014.
[10] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Psychological War In The Financial Markets, op. cit.
[11] Supra. n.2.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Sergey Glazyev, Alyona Berezovskaya interviews Sergei Glazyev, Interview with Alyona Berezovskaya, Ukraine.ru, July 17, 2014.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Sergey Glazyev, The Threat of War and the Russian Response, Russia in Global Affairs, September 24, 2014.
[16] Sergey Glazyev, Alyona Berezovskaya interviews, op. cit.
[17] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, WWIII aimed to redraw map of Russia?, Strategic Culture Foundation, September 10, 2014.
[18] Sergey Glazyev, Alyona Berezovskaya interviews, op. cit.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Всероссийский центр изучения общественного мнения [Russian Public Opinion Research Center], Россия-США отношенияв точке замерзания [Russia-US Relations at Freezing Point], Press release 2729, December 4, 2014.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Sergey Glazyev, The Threat of War, op. cit.
[23] Ibid.

Махди Даријус Наземроаја (Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya) је познати геополитички аналитичар

Превео: Александар Вујовић

Извор: „Нови Стандард“

уторак, 30 децембар 2014

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“And if it does start a war, hopefully people will say, ‘You know what? It was worth it. It was a good movie!’” —Seth Rogen

“Wacky dictators sell newspapers, and magazines—for example, the 2003 Newsweek cover depicting Kim [Jong Il] in dark sunglasses over a cover line that read ‘Dr. Evil.’ …But demonization, and ridicule, can be dangerous. At its worst, dehumanizing the other side helps to lay the groundwork for war.” —Donald Macintyre

Representations of North Korea as a buffoon, a menace, or both on the American big screen are at least as old and arguably as tired as the George W. Bush-era phrase, “the axis of evil.” Along with the figure of the Muslim “terrorist,” hackneyed Hollywood constructions of the “ronery” or diabolical Dr. Evil-like North Korean leader bent on world domination, the sinister race-bending North Korean spy, the robotic North Korean commando, and other post-Cold War Red/Yellow Peril bogeymen have functioned as go-to enemies for the commercial film industry’s geopolitical and racist fantasies. Explaining why the North Korean leader was the default choice for the villain in his 2014 regime-change comedy, The Interview, Seth Rogen has stated,

“It’s not that controversial to label [North Korea] as bad. It’s as bad as it could be.”1 Indeed, one-dimensional caricatures of North Korea flourish in the Western media in no small part because “[w]acky dictators sell.”2 Yet when it comes to Hollywood’s North Korean regime-change narratives, the line between fact and fiction, not to mention the distinction between freedom of expression and government propaganda, is revealingly thin. Whether in Hollywood or Washington, the only permissible narrative for North Korea is what Donald Macintyre, former Seoul bureau chief for Time magazine, has called “the demonization script.”3

Not only have the dream machines of the entertainment industry long played an instrumental role within American theaters of war, but also, U.S. officials and political commentators often marshal the language of entertainment—for example, the description of U.S.-South Korea combined military exercises as “war games” and the Obama administration’s references to the Pentagon’s “playbook” with regard to North Korea—when describing U.S. military maneuvers on and around the Korean peninsula.

Beyond the American entertainment industry’s insatiable appetite for evildoers, how might we account for the anachronistic place of North Korea as a Cold War foe that outlasted the end of the Cold War within Hollywood’s post-9/11 rogues’ gallery? With the eyes of the world trained on various flashpoints in the Middle East, what mileage of any kind can be gotten from the North Korean “bad guy” in Hollywood? If American moviegoers might be depended on to possess a vague awareness of geopolitical context, perhaps even to have some sense of the history of U.S. “hot” involvement subtending Hollywood’s latest Islamophobic interventionist adventure, by contrast, North Korea, routinely depicted in the U.S. media as shrouded in mystery and beyond comprehension, can be counted on to draw a complete blank. Truth, we are often told, is wilder than our wildest imaginings in North Korea, therefore the rule-of-thumb when it comes to representing North Korea in Hollywood appears to be that anything goes—even films featuring Kim Jong Un’s head deconstructing and bursting into flames. Violent spectacle thus stands in for substantive treatment, leaving more complex truths about North Korea elusive. It is worth recalling that North Korea has been dubbed a “black hole” by former CIA director Robert Gates, “the longest-running intelligence failure in the history of espionage” according to ex-CIA Seoul station chief and former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg, and the “Heart of Darkness” in the words of congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.4 It’s against this backdrop of near-total ignorance about North Korea, a place about which Americans possess great conviction but little knowledge, that North Korea serves as a malleable screen onto which the entertainment industry’s fantasies can be projected—fantasies that reflect less reality about North Korea than commentary about Hollywood’s own murky ideological substratum.

Here, it merits considering two post-9/11, “axis of evil” films that move in opposite directions but intersect with U.S. policy in ways few critics have observed: Red Dawn 2, MGM’s 2012 reboot of the 1984 Cold War original, in which North Korean invaders vaingloriously attempt regime change on U.S. soil only to be outdone by a pack of suburban American teenagers who call themselves “the Wolverines,” and The Interview, Sony’s 2014 screwball comedy in which a fatuous American TV talk show host and his producer are enlisted by the CIA to “take out” Kim Jong Un as a sure-fire means of ensuring North Korean regime collapse.5 If Red Dawn 2, described by Wired as “the dumbest movie ever,” inadvertently descended into farce by expecting that American viewers would “take North Korea seriously as an existential threat,” The Interview, catapulted to unlikely world-historical importance, has become the focus of serious controversy and incessant Western media commentary.6

North Korea furnishes the central villain in The Interview—though, in this case, a rube of a “dictator” who has crippling “self-esteem and ‘daddy issues,’” according to leaked Sony emails.7 Yet, in the media-storm around the Sony hacking, North Korea has transitioned beyond the screen into an easy fall guy. At a juncture in which the White House has turned a new page with Cuba, even going so far as to describe a half-century of ineffectual U.S. isolationist policy aimed at Cuban regime change as a failure, North Korea, also long the target of U.S. regime-change designs, risks resuming its old place on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism from which it had been removed, by George W. Bush no less, in 2008.8 In other words, at a moment when Cuba stands to step off the four-country list, which also includes Iran, Sudan, and Syria, North Korea, accused of hacking into Sony and issuing terrorist threats over the release of The Interview, faces the prospect of stepping back on.9 At this moment, we are thus witness to two radically different dynamics: the prospect of long-awaited rapprochement, normalization, and engagement with Cuba in stark contrast to a war of words, threats of retaliation, and escalation when it comes to North Korea. In reference to the hacking of Sony, which the FBI has insisted can be traced to North Korea—an assertion of culpability that The New York Times dutifully reported as fact despite proliferating assessments and overwhelming opinion to the contrary in the larger cyber-security community—U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, on December 22, 2014, laid out an astonishing injury claim, on Sony’s behalf, against North Korea: “The government of North Korea has a long history of denying its destructive and provocative actions and if they want to help here they can admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damage, damages that they caused.”10

Yet missing in this lopsided discussion of reparations and national amnesia is any grappling, on the part of the United States, with the profound human costs of six decades of hostile U.S. intervention on the Korean peninsula, much less the fact that the official relationship between the United States and North Korea remains one of unfinished war. In the mid-twentieth century, the United States, which set the stage for bloodshed by cleaving the Korean peninsula in two with no Korean input in 1945, and by supporting separate elections in the South in 1948, then militarily intervened in 1950 on behalf of its South Korean ally Syngman Rhee (a ruthless dictator, no doubt, but “our guy,” in the parlance of the Cold War State Department) in a war of national reunification that followed. That war, the Korean War, remains tragically unresolved to this day. During the war’s battle-phase, the United States wielded near-total aerial superiority, an index of asymmetrical warfare, to devastating consequences, especially in the North. When the dust settled, an estimated four million Koreans has been killed, seventy percent of whom were civilians, millions more were transformed into refugees, and one in three Korean families was separated by a dividing line that had been hardened by war into an impassable, intensely fortified, militarized border, which U.S. presidents ever since have referred to as “Freedom’s Frontier.” As historian Bruce Cumings notes, memory plays out differently north of the DMZ: “What is indelible is the extraordinary destructiveness of the American air campaigns against North Korea, ranging from the widespread and continuous use of firebombing (mainly with napalm), to threats to use nuclear and chemical weapons, and finally to the destruction of huge North Korean dams in the final stages of the war.”11 This memory of ruin, so central to North Korea’s consolidation as a state, registers little, if at all, within the United States where the Korean War is tellingly referred to as “the Forgotten War.” Indeed, few in the United States realize that this war is not over, whereas no one in North Korea can forget it.

Yet, whether they realize it or not, Americans view and naturalize North Korea through a lens that is clouded by the fog of an unfinished war. In what has unfurled as one of the strangest PR campaigns for a Hollywood Christmas release ever, the FBI’s assertions that North Korea was behind the cyberattack on Sony—an intelligence assessment presented without evidence yet framed as self-sufficient fact by the Obama administration—highlights the centrality of intelligence as the filter through which we are urged to perceive North Korea and other historic enemies of the United States. It is worth remarking that the two primary ways that Americans “know” North Korea are through forms of intelligence—defector and satellite, precisely the two types of supposedly airtight evidence that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the UN Security Council in early 2003 as incontrovertible “proof” that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Then as now, information about a longstanding U.S. military target is not aimed at producing a truthful picture about that society or its leadership but rather at defeating the supposed enemy—in short, paving the way to regime change. It is precisely within this haze of disinformation about North Korea that Hollywood churns out films that walk in lockstep with a relentless U.S. policy of regime change.

With Obama stepping into the role of booster-in-chief for The Interview, we might examine the blurred lines between what both the U.S. President and Seth Rogen have insisted is an issue of freedom of speech and artistic expression, on the one hand, and government propaganda, on the other. The collusion between Sony, the White House, and the military industrial complex, as revealed by leaked emails, merits a closer look. Not only did Obama, in his final 2014 press conference, manage to avoid any discussion of the CIA torture report, but also he gave outsized attention to a film that Sony had reportedly shelved, in effect giving an invaluable presidential thumbs-up for The Interview. With the spectacle of North Korea implausibly rearing its head in the president’s remarks as “the biggest topic today,” the pressing issue of U.S. accountability for torture, with even major media outlets calling for a criminal probe into the responsibility of former Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA director George Tenet, legal architect John Yoo, among others, was deflected.12Instead, North Korea was launched to front-page news and Sony’s temporary, arguably savvy, PR decision to pull The Interview was framed, in accordance with Obama’s comments, as a capitulation to censorship by “some dictator someplace.”13 We might ask: what political capital stands to be gained from maintaining a hard line on North Korea, at a moment of détente with Cuba? As hacked emails from the head of Sony Entertainment, Michael Lynton, disclose, Sony’s tête-à-tête with the Obama administration over The Interview must be dated back to the production stage. Having screened a rough cut of the film at the State Department, Sony appears to have queried officials, including Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea, Robert King, specifically about what it worried was the over-the-top violence of the head-exploding assassination scene of Kim Jong Un (played by Randall Park). Harboring no such qualms, the State Department gave the green light.

 

Fig. 2. Obama Vows to Respond to Cyberattack on Sony at December 19, 2014 Year-End Press Conference.

Asked by The New York Times in a December 16, 2014 interview whether they were frightened by “the initial ambiguous threats that North Korea made,” lead actor James Franco stated, “They went after Obama as much as us,” adding in tongue-in-cheek fashion, “Because Obama actually produced the movie.” Seth Rogen, co-lead and, along with Evan Goldberg, co-director of The Interview, clarified, “They don’t have freedom of speech there, so they don’t get that people make stuff.”14 Within the space of the same NYT interview, however, Rogen offered a less innocuous account of the production process: “Throughout this process, we made relationships with certain people who work in the government as consultants, who I’m convinced are in the C.I.A.” Indeed, in addition to State Department officials, Bruce Bennett, a North Korea watcher and regime-change advocate at the Rand Corporation, the U.S. military-funded think tank, and a consultant to the government on North Korea, also served as a consultant with Sony on this film. His primary, albeit hardly novel, thesis on North Korea is that the assassination of the North Korean leader is the surest way of guaranteeing regime collapse in North Korea. In a June 25, 2014 email to Sony Entertainment CEO, Lynton, who also sits on the Rand Board of Trustees—an indication of Sony’s cozy relationship with the military industrial complex—Bennett implied that a North Korean regime-change cultural narrative, by dint of its politicized reception within the Korean peninsula, might oil the machinery of actual regime collapse. As he put it, referring to his 2013 book, Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse,

“I have been clear that the assassination of Kim Jong-Un is the most likely path to a collapse of the North Korean government. Thus while toning down the ending [the assassination scene] may reduce the North Korean response, I believe that a story that talks about the removal of the Kim family regime and the creation of a new government by the North Korean people (well, at least the elites) will start some real thinking in South Korea and, I believe, in the North once the DVD leaks into the North (which it almost certainly will). So from a personal perspective, I would personally prefer to leave the ending alone.”15

In their defense of the film’s creative integrity (prior to the email leaks), both Rogen and Goldberg claimed that their decision to explicitly identify the North Korean leader of the film as “Kim Jong Un” was met with “some resistance” at Sony, yet as The Daily Beast subsequently reported, the leaked emails “strongly suggest that it was Sony’s idea to insert Kim Jong Un in The Interview as the film’s antagonist” following consultation with “a former cia [sic] agent and someone who used to work for Hilary [sic] Clinton.”16

Perhaps none of this should come as a surprise. Hollywood, after all, has given us Black Hawk Down, Zero Dark ThirtyArgo, and other propaganda films. Yet it runs counter to a reading of The Interview as harmless entertainment, much less as a matter of freedom of speech or pure artistic expression. It might also remind us that culture, when it comes to U.S. enemies, has always been a terrain of manipulation and war. During the Korean War’s hot-fighting phase, the United States dropped a staggering 2.5 billion propaganda leaflets on North Korea as part of its psy-war “hearts and minds” operations. Throughout the Cold War, the CIA, as is well-known, funded American arts and letters in a kulturkampf with the socialist bloc, maneuvering behind the scenes to foster “democratic” cultural expressions that would, in turn, be held up as evidence of the superiority of the culture of American freedom. Today, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a supposedly non-governmental agency established in the Reagan era to do what the CIA did covertly during the Cold War and funded almost entirely by Congress, sponsors and disseminates defector narratives, what the CIA calls “human intelligence,” as the truth about North Korea.17 Central to NED’s objectives is the promotion of “second cultural” products about target or “priority” countries, for example, the “dissemination of books, films or television programs illuminating or advocating democracy,” as a means of delegitimizing and ultimately destabilizing the leadership of “closed societies.”18 In its work on North Korea, NED supports defector organizations in South Korea and Japan, which it mobilizes as an exogenous alternative to North Korean civil society—a second culture whose propaganda can be infiltrated via radio broadcast, balloon drops, smuggled USB drives, and other underground distributional means into North Korea. Although leaked emails indicate that Sony’s South Korean division opted early on not to screen The Interview in South Korea, citing an aversion to its caricature of the leader of North Korea and spoof of a “North Korean” accent, South Korea’s centrality as a site for a more sinister distribution of the film might give us some pause.19 Much along the lines advocated by Bennett, organizations like the U.S.-based, right-wing Human Rights Foundation headed by the self-professed Venezuelan “freedom fighter” Thor Halvorssen Mendoza as well as South Korean defector groups asserted their readiness, even prior to Sony’s temporary pulling of the film, to conduct illegal balloon drops of DVD copies of The Interview from South Korea into North Korea. We might note that one of the Korean subheadings on Sony’s promotional poster for the film reads explicitly to a North Korean audience: “Don’t believe these ignorant American jackasses.” Of the film’s propagandistic value, Halvorssen, who describes comedies as “hands down the most effective of counterrevolutionary devices”—here, echoing Rogen’s cavalier assessment of the film’s supposedly subversive potential, “Maybe the tapes will make their way to North Korea and start a fucking revolution”—toldNewsweek, “Parody and satire is powerful. Ideas are what are going to win in North Korea. Ideas will bring down that regime.”20

 

Fig. 3. Propaganda Balloon Drops Launched into North Korea by Human Rights Foundation.

Revealingly, those who profess to be so concerned about democracy when it comes to the release of The Interview rarely, if ever, consider the profoundly undemocratic implications of Obama’s militarized “pivot” toward Asia and the Pacific. Here, Hollywood’s North Korean “bad guy” merits critical consideration against the context of U.S. policy, past and present, within a larger Asia-Pacific region in which the United States seeks to ensure its dominance. Although Barack Obama’s foreign policy is unavoidably identified with the Middle East where he has continued and intensified Bush’s interventionist policies, his foreign policy vision from the outset has been explicitly oriented toward the Pacific. As Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton signaled the significance of Asia by making it her first overseas destination, bypassing Europe, the customary grand tour destination for her predecessors. Offering a blueprint of twenty-first-century U.S. power designs within the Asia-Pacific region, which he identified as America’s “future,” “the world’s fastest-growing region,” and “home to more than half the global economy,” Obama, in a November 2011 speech before the Australian Parliament, stated, “Our new focus on this region reflects a fundamental truth—the United States has been, and always will be, a Pacific nation.”21 As both Obama and members of his administration have taken pains to convey, the United States must be globally understood to be “a Pacific power.”22

Ripped from the script of Red Dawn 2, the bait-and-switch narrative Obama has adhered to with regard to Asia and the Pacific requires North Korea to fulfill a necessary devil-function. Here, it is worth recalling that in 2012, MGM, facing a barrage of criticism from news media in China—not coincidentally the second largest movie market in the world, one that brought Hollywood an estimated $1.4 billion dollars in the year of Red Dawn 2’s release—announced it had decided, at the eleventh hour, to replace the film’s Chinese bad guys with North Korean villains. North Korea, of little significance as an open consumer market in today’s global entertainment industry, could be pasted in as China’s proxy, with few financial consequences. Digitally altering PRC flags, military insignia, and propaganda posters to appear “North Korean” would cost the studio well over a million dollars in the post-production phase. Although Obama’s policy toward North Korea has officially been one his advisers dub “strategic patience,” or non-engagement, North Korea has served as a cornerstone in this administration’s interventionist approach toward the Asia-Pacific region. Although an expanded American military role in the region, including a “rebalancing” of U.S. naval forces to 60% (in contrast to 40% in the Atlantic), may be aimed at containing a rising China, the growing U.S. regional military presence, under Obama’s “pivot” policy, has been overtly justified by the specter of a nuclear-armed, volatile North Korea.

 

Not merely the stuff of Hollywood fantasies, North Korea, inflated as an existential menace, has been indispensable, for example, to “the deployment of ballistic missile defenses closer to North Korea,” not to mention sales of surveillance drone technology to regional allies.23

Indeed, central to the staging of U.S. forward-deployed missile defense systems—Aegis, Patriot, and THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense)—in and off the coast of Hawai‘i, Guam, Taiwan, Japan, Okinawa, and South Korea (including, eventually on Jeju Island) has been the purported dangers posed by an armed, dangerous, and totally unpredictable North Korea to both the western coast of the United States and regional allies in the Pacific. In recent years, this portrait of an unhinged, trigger-happy North Korea has justified the acceleration of the THAAD missile-defense system in Guam, a second U.S. missile defense radar deployed near Kyoto, Japan, the positioning of nuclear aircraft carriers throughout the Pacific, and lucrative sales of military weapons systems to U.S. client-states through the Asia-Pacific region. Albeit all key elements in U.S. first-strike attack planning, this amplified militarization of the “American Lake” is justified by the Pentagon as a “precautionary move to strengthen our regional defense posture against the North Korean regional ballistic missile threat.”24 As early as June 2009, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, in announcing the deployment of both the THAAD and sea-based radar systems to Hawai‘i, explained, “I think we are in a good position, should it become necessary, to protect American territory” from a North Korean threat.25 In early April 2013, in a press release announcing its missile defense deployment throughout the Asia-Pacific region, the Pentagon stated, “The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and stands ready to defend U.S. territory, our allies, and our national interests.”26 Advertised as safeguarding “the region against the North Korean threat,” the X-band radar system, which the United States sold to Japan “is not directed at China,” as U.S. officials were careful to state, but simply a defensive measure undertaken in response to the danger posed by Pyongyang.27

Fig. 4. The Chinese North Koreans Have Invaded. Still from Red Dawn 2 (2012) in which the original PRC flag was digitally altered to appear as a DPRK flag.

 

Fig. 5. Red Dawn 2 Redux? Lockheed Martin product page for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

 

As critics have pointed out, “There is…nothing ‘defensive’” about any of this, least of all the “B-52 and B-2 nuclear strategic bombers,” which the Obama administration put into play in early 2013 on the Korean peninsula.28 Indeed, such “flights were designed to demonstrate, to North Korea in the first instance, the ability to conduct nuclear strikes at will anywhere in North East Asia.”29 Yet, even as the North Koreans have had to hunker down, with “single-minded unity,” in preparation for the prospect of a David-and-Goliath showdown with the United States, the true audience of the U.S.-directed dramaturgy of war styled as the “pivot” policy unquestionably has always been China.

Claiming to have done conducted “a lot” of research on North Korea, Seth Rogen has insisted that The Interview holds up a mirror to North Korea’s reality: “We didn’t make up anything. It’s all real.” His conclusion about North Korea after conducting exhaustive research? “It was f–king weird.”30 Yet, even as the curtains go up in movie theaters across the United States for The Interview, the centrality of the North Korean demon to Obama’s pivot policy within Asia and the Pacific, itself a historic theater of U.S. war, may prove to be far stranger than fiction.

Christine Hong is an assistant professor at University of California  Santa Cruz. She is on the executive board of the Korea Policy Institute, the coordinating committee of the National Campaign to End the Korean War, and part of the Working Group on Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific.

Notes

1 Josh Rottenberg, “Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg Like that Kim Jong Un Doesn’t Get the Joke,” LA Times 3 December 2014 . As Rogen’s comments in this interview with the LA Times reveal, the biographical particulars of the North Korean leader did not matter; indeed, one leader was interchangeable for another. Rogen and his fellow filmmaker Evan Goldberg initially envisioned Kim Jong Il as the arch-villain of the film but, with his death in December 2011, simply replaced him with Kim Jong Un.

2 Donald Macintyre, “U.S. Media and the Korean Peninsula,” Korea Witness: 135 Years of War, Crisis and News in the Land of the Morning Calm, ed. Donald Kirk and Choe Sang Hun (Seoul: EunHaeng Namu, 2006), 404.

3 Ibid., 407.

4As quoted in Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (New York: Basic-Perseus Books, 2001) 60; “North Korea’s Heart of Darkness,” Dong-A Ilbo, 23 May 2012, available here.

5 Sandy Schaefer, “‘The Interview’ Red Band Trailer: Rogen and Franco Serve Their Comedy,” Screen Rant, September 2014 .

6 David Axe, “North Korea Invades America in Dumbest Movie Ever,” Wired 4 August 2012.

7 Sam Biddle, “Leaked Emails: Sony Execs Scared of ‘Desperately Unfunny’ Interview,” Defamer, 15 December 2014.

8 As reported in The Daily Beast, Obama, in clarifying a new U.S. policy approach to Cuba, stated, “‘I do not believe we can continue doing the same thing for five decades and expect a different result,’ said Obama in a none-too-subtle allusion to a popular definition of insanity.” See Christopher Dickey, “Obama Realizes What 10 Presidents Didn’t: Isolating Cuba Doesn’t Work,” The Daily Beast, 18 December 2014.

9 See Amy Chozick, “Obama Says He’ll Weigh Returning North Korea to Terror List,” The New York Times, 21 December 2014.

10 State Department, Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, 22 December 2014. Noting that a heavy regime of U.S. and international sanctions prevents direct financial dealings with North Korea, AP reporter Matt Lee asked Harf to clarify what she meant by “compensation”: “‘How could Sony legally accept compensation from North Korea? Is there an exception?’ Lee asked. ‘Because as far as I know, if you’re getting a payment, a direct payment, from the North Korean government, you’re breaking the law.’” See “Reporter Dismantles State Dept Suggestion that North Korea Pay Compensation to Sony,” Free Beacon, 22 December 2014. On skepticism from cyber-security experts that North Korea was responsible for the hacking, see Elissa Shevinsky, “In Plain English: Five Reasons Why Security Experts Are Skeptical North Korea Masterminded the Sony Attack,” Business Insider, 22 December 2014 and Marc Rogers, “No, North Korea Didn’t Hack Sony,” The Daily Beast, 24 December 2014.

11 Bruce Cumings, “On the Strategy and Morality of American Nuclear Policy in Korea, 1950 to the Present,” Social Science Japan Journal 1:1 (1998): 57.

12 “Remarks by the President in Year-End Press Conference,” The White House, 19 December 2014; The New York Times Editorial Board, “Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses,” The New York Times, 21 December 2014.

13 “Remarks by the President in Year-End Press Conference.”

14 Dave Itzkoff, “James Franco and Seth Rogen Talk about ‘The Interview,’” The New York Times, 16 December 2014.

15 Although purportedly an expert on the Korean peninsula, Bennett offers an assessment of South Korean receptivity to The Interview that is contradicted by Sony’s own internal emails. Fearing controversy, Sony’s South Korean division passed on opening the film in South Korea. For an account of how another “axis of evil” film, the Bond thriller, Die Another Day (2002), incited widespread protests in South Korea, see Hye Seung Chung, “From Die Another Day to ‘Another Day’: The South Korean Anti-007 Movement and Regional Nationalism in Post-Cold War Asia,” Hybrid Media, Ambivalent Feelings, ed. Hyung-Sook Lee, special issue of Spectator 27:2 (2007): 64-78.

16 Rottenberg, “Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg Like That Kimg Jong Un Doesn’t Get the Joke”; William Boot, “”Exclusive: Sony Emails Say Studio Exec Picked Kim Jong-Un as the Villain of ‘The Interview,’” The Daily Beast, 18 December 2014.

17 On this point, William Blum writes: “Allen Weinstein, who helped draft legislation establishing NED, was quite candid when he said in 1991: ‘A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.’” See William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (Monroe, ME: Common Courage, 2000), 180.

18 NED, “Statement of Principles and Objectives: Strengthening Democracy Abroad: The Role of the National Endowment for Democracy,” NED.

19 See Biddle, “Leaked Emails.”

20 Josh Eells, “Seth Rogen’s ‘Interview’: Inside the Film North Korea Really Doesn’t Want You to See,” Rolling Stone, 17 December 2014; Paul Bond, “Sony Hack: Activists to Drop ‘Interview’ DVDs over North Korea via Balloon,”The Hollywood Reporter, 16 December 2014; Katherine Phillips, “Activists to Send DVDs of ‘The Interview’ to North Korea by Balloon,” Newsweek, 17 December 2014 .

21 Barack Obama, “Remarks by President Obama to the Australian Parliament,” 17 November 2011.

22 Hillary Clinton, “America’s Pacific Century,” Foreign Policy, 11 October 2014.

23 Barbara Starr and Tom Cohen, “U.S. Reducing Rhetoric That Feeds North Korea’s Belligerence,” CNN 13 April 2013.

24 Department of Defense, News Release No. 208-13, 3 April 2013.

25 John J. Kruzel, “U.S. Prepares Missile Defense, Continues Shipping Interdictions,” U.S. Department of Defense, 18 June 2009.

26 “Department of Defense Announces Missile Deployment,” Press Release, Department of Defense, 3 April 2014.

27 Lolita Baldor and Matthew Lee, “US and Japan Revamp Defense Alliance to Counter North Korean Threat,” Business Insider, 3 October 2013.

28 Peter Symonds, “Obama’s ‘Playbook’ and the Threat of Nuclear War in Asia,” World Socialist Web Site, 5 April 2013.

29 Ibid.

30 Judy Kurtz, “FLASHBACK—Seth Rogen: No Regrets about Making ‘The Interview,’” the Hill, 17 December 2014.

On December 19, 2014, South Korea’s Constitutional Court delivered an unprecedented ruling to dissolve the opposition Unified Progressive Party and disqualify all five of its representatives from the National Assembly.

The ruling was in response to a petition filed by the Park Geun-hye government in November 2013 to dissolve the party based on allegations that it was under orders from North Korea to subvert the South Korean state through violent revolution. The government filed the petition two months after it arrested UPP lawmaker and National Assembly member, Lee Seok-ki, who is currently behind bars on charges of inciting an insurrection and violating the National Security Law (NSL).

This is the first time South Korea’s Constitutional Court has ordered the breakup of a political party since it was founded in 1988. Pro-democracy advocates state that the court’s ruling will set a dangerous and undemocratic precedent for state repression of other progressive parties, civil society organizations, and possibly even individual citizens.

According to South Korean public intellectual and long-time reunification activist Kang Jeong-koo, “The UPP has been the only political party fully advocating not only democracy but also the core values of peace, reunification, and social justice.” Kang further stated that the dissolution of the UPP will “not only destroy democracy, but also undermine peace, reunification, and social justice.”1

Indeed, more than simply seeking to uproot the UPP, the current South Korean administration, under the cover of anti-communism and anti-North national security concerns, aims broadly to delegitimize all progressive elements and values that it deems to be in opposition to its rule. At this juncture, what is on display in South Korea is the state’s erosion of the very democracy that the people of South Korea historically struggled for and continue to defend.

Park Geun-hye’s Campaign against Lee Seok-ki and the UPP

On August 28, 2013, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS), at the behest of President Park Geun-hye, raided the homes and offices of ten members of the opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP), including Assemblyman Lee Seok-ki.

Lee was detained and indicted on charges of conspiring to incite an insurrection under criminal law, as well as sympathizing with and praising the enemy and possessing materials aiding the enemy in violation of the National Security Law.2 Six other UPP members were indicted on similar charges.

The NIS based its accusations on a speech made by Lee at a May 2013 meeting which, it alleged, was a secret gathering of an underground subversive organization plotting the overthrow of the government.

Before they could defend themselves in a court of law, Lee and his colleagues were the targets of a sensationalized trial by state-aligned media, which made unfiltered leaks from, and unofficial allegations by, the NIS front-page news for over a month. Lee’s alleged connections with North Korea made headlines even as this charge was ultimately dropped by the NIS in the subsequent trial for lack of evidence.

The formidable array of forces lined up against Lee included both ruling and main opposition parties, which joined together in common cause, taking measures that had the effect of preemptively judging Lee to be guilty. The National Assembly, with full cooperation from the main opposition party, New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), stripped Lee of immunity and approved a motion for his arrest.3 On September 6, 2014, the ruling Saenuri Party sponsored a bill to expel Lee from the National Assembly.

On November 5, 2013, the Park Geun-hye government issued inflammatory charges that Lee and the other UPP members were part of an underground subversive organization with ties to North Korea called RO, or “Revolutionary Organization,” which had infiltrated the UPP in order to instigate an insurrection, and filed a formal petition requesting that the Constitutional Court dissolve the UPP. Ironically, its main argument was that the UPP platform and activities violated the democratic tenets of South Korea’s Constitution. In a sweeping move, the Park administration also called for the disqualification of UPP members currently holding seats in the National Assembly.

Critics of the Park administration’s draconian maneuvers to silence the UPP charge that the “Lee Seok-ki sedition conspiracy case” has all the trappings of political repression and in this regard recalls the authoritarianism of the military dictatorship period. They add that failure to counter the government’s attack on Lee and his party signals not only a major setback to democratic progress but also, more ominously, a return to the politics of fear that ruled South Korea only a few decades ago when government surveillance and unwarranted arrests of citizens were routine.

The 2013 NIS Scandal

As critics have pointed out, the sensationalized arrest of Lee Seok-ki was timed to deflect mounting public scrutiny away from the NIS following revelations of its central involvement in manipulating public opinion against opposition candidates and thus in favor of Park Geun-hye’s candidacy during the 2012 presidential election. Bolstering their claims is the fact that Lee was arrested in September 2013, four months after the alleged conspiracy plot came to light–precisely a moment when the NIS needed to deflect public attention away from its own scandal.

Throughout 2013, the NIS faced intensifyied public criticism for its role in illegally intervening in the 2012 presidential election. Former NIS Chief Won Sei-hoon, who had ordered an online disinformation campaign against opposition candidates, was indicted in June 2013 for interference in the 2012 presidential election.4 In January 2014, he was found guilty of graft and received a two-year jail term.5

Since its foundation, the NIS, formerly known as the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), and the National Security Agency have interfered both directly and indirectly in South Korean politics and civil society. Conservative former president Lee Myung-bak strengthened the NIS by restoring its anti-communist investigation and surveillance functions and by appointing Won, his right-hand man, to its helm in 2009. In this capacity, Won actively encouraged NIS manipulation of public opinion in favor of the ruling party.6

In the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, NIS agents, using aliases, posted 5,333 online comments on 15 public websites. The Prosecutor General’s office identified 1,704 of these comments as constituting “political involvement” and 73 comments as directly intervening in the election.7 This investigation also revealed that NIS agents used an automated program to retweet millions of comments about the election.8

Throughout the summer of 2013, as the public became aware of the extent of NIS interference in the election, the UPP was at the forefront of protests questioning the legitimacy of Park Geun-hye’s presidency. In other words, it was within the very juncture in which disclosures of NIS misconduct had significantly eroded public trust in President Park that her government, in a crude face-saving move, saw fit to arrest Lee and other members of the UPP.

In this way shifting attention away from the NIS role in manipulating democracy to its supposed function of safeguarding democracy against communist infiltration, the trial of Lee Seok-ki and other UPP members became the first “sedition conspiracy” trial since South Korea’s first democratic election in 1987.

The Trial of Lee Seok-ki and Other UPP members

The government’s case against Lee and other UPP members relied exclusively on two related pieces of evidence, the testimony of a government informant and the transcript of his audio recording of the controversial May 2013 meeting.

During the first trial, however, the defense noted and the NIS conceded that a large portion of the original audio transcript was full of errors–272 errors to be exact.9 The “errors” in the NIS transcript of Lee Seok-ki’s speech reveal a pattern of manipulation and distortion that itself calls out for careful scrutiny. Indeed, NIS transcriptions fundamentally altered the meaning of original phrases, discerning a radicality of purpose that far exceeded the actual language: for example, “carry out propaganda” was distorted as “carry out holy war,” and “Jeoldusan Catholic Martyrs’ Shrine” was ominously rendered as “shrine for decisive war.” Similarly, “specific preparation” was interpreted as “war preparation,” “Let us prepare specifically” as “Let us prepare war,” and “Let us be decisive” as “Let us carry out a decisive war.”10

Despite such discrepancies, the Suwon District Court found Lee guilty on all counts, sentencing him to 12 years in prison. This ruling was partially overturned in August 2014 when the Seoul High Court acquitted Lee Seok-ki and his co-defendants of the highest and most controversial charge of conspiring to overthrow the government.

The Seoul High Court found no evidence that the attendees of the May 2013 meeting arrived at a consensus to carry out a concrete plan of action, much less made preparations for violence either before or after the meeting. It found no evidence to substantiate the government’s claim that Lee and other UPP members belonged to an underground subversive organization plotting a government overthrow. It furthermore dismissed the testimony of the government’s key witness as mere speculation not supported by evidence.11

Lee and his co-defendants still remain behind bars, however, on the lesser charge of inciting an insurrection and violating the National Security Law. This is the first time in South Korean history that an “inciting an insurrection” charge has been brought to court. The case is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is slated to deliver a final ruling in January 2015.

Dissolution of the UPP

Elaborating on Park Geun-hye’s incendiary charges that Lee and the other UPP members were part of RO, the Ministry of Justice alleged that 80-90% of so-called confirmed RO members were part of the UPP and that RO was directly involved in the party’s decision-making. The UPP, it insisted, was a political party under orders from North Korea to subvert the South Korean state through violent revolution.

Despite the Seoul High Court’s ruling that the prosecution failed to demonstrate that the UPP had any intention to use violent means to overthrow the government or that it had any connection to North Korea–which thereby invalidated the evidentiary basis for the government’s petition to dissolve the UPP–the Constitutional Court delivered an 8 to 1 ruling on December 19, 2014 in favor of dissolving the party. The majority of the Constitutional Court found fault with “progressive democracy,” as expressed in the UPP’s platform, and ruled that progressive democracy coincided with North Korea’s aim of fomenting revolution in the South. The court also upheld the government’s charge that the UPP aims to install a socialist government through violent means.12

The lone dissenting voice was Justice Kim Yi-su, who wrote, “The respondent is a political party in which dues-paying members alone number 30,000. In the process of discerning the majority of its members’ political orientation, one must not regard the orientation of a small minority as reflecting the political views of the entire membership.” Kim added, “It’s hard to deny that the progressive policies proposed by the respondent, from its days as the Democratic Labor Party to the present, have resulted in many changes in our society,” and warned that dissolving the party based on the actions of a handful of members would have the effect of stigmatizing all 100,000 of its members as part of an outlaw party. Referring to the dissolution of the Communist Party by the West German Constitutional Court in 1956, he highlighted the undemocratic repercussions of such a draconian action, writing, “From the time the German Communist Party was dissolved until it reformed, 12,500 Communist Party personnel were investigated, 6000-7000 received criminal punishment and in the process were fired from their jobs or otherwise restricted in their social lives”; he further warned, “There is no guarantee that a similar decision will not produce similar results in our society.”13

Aftermath of the Ruling

Immediately following the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the Park Geun-hye government declared any protests by the UPP against the ruling to be illegal.14 The Prosecutor General has reportedly opened a criminal investigation based on charges filed by right-wing groups against the entire UPP membership, including Chair Lee Jung-hee, a rival candidate against Park Geun-hye in the 2012 presidential election, for violation of the National Security Law.15And a right-wing group calling itself the Freedom Youth League has filed a petition to the Central Board of Election to demand the release of the names of all UPP members. “The reason why we demand the release of the names is to ensure there are no government employees registered as UPP members in the interest of national security,” explained a spokesperson for the group at a press conference on December 24, 2014.16

 

Disqualified Unified Progressive Party National Assembly representatives. From left to right: Kim Mi-hee, Oh Byung-yun, Lee Sang-kyu, Kim Jae-yeon. Source: Voice of People.

The Park government and the ruling Saenuri party appear intent on ending the political careers of all former UPP National Assembly representatives, who have pledged to challenge their disqualification by the Constitutional Court. On December 26, 2014, the Seoul Central District Prosecutor subpoenaed former UPP representatives Lee Sang-kyu and Kim Mi-hee for questioning based on allegations that they received campaign funds from North Korea during the 1995-96 local and general elections.17 The allegations were made by Kim Young-hwan, a former democracy activist-turned-right-wing human rights activist of the Network for North Korean Democracy and Human Rights, during the Constitutional Court proceedings. Representatives Lee and Kim have filed countercharges against Kim Young-hwan for defamation.

Former UPP representative Oh Byung-yun faces a criminal trial starting January 2015 in the Seoul Central District Court for his alleged role in obstructing the arrest of labor leaders during a railroad workers’ strike against privatization in December 2012, a labor issue that garnered wide international solidarity. The court also issued a summary order against former UPP representatives Kim Mi-hee and Kim Jae-yeon, fining both $3000 each for the same violation.18 And, in a final coup de grâce, the Saenuri Party has stated that it is drafting a bill to bar the disqualified UPP representatives from running in any political election for the next ten years.19

Amnesty International’s East Asia Research Director, Roseann Rife, has stated that the ruling “raises serious questions as to the authorities’ commitment to freedom of expression and association,” adding, “The space for freedom of expression has been vastly diminished in recent years. The authorities are using the NSL to suppress dissent and persecute individuals with opposing political views.”20

Like the sensationalized arrest of Lee Seok-ki, which was timed to cover up exposures of the NIS’ illegal meddling in the 2012 presidential election, the government’s November 2013 filing of the petition to dismantle the UPP and the recent Constitutional Court ruling seem perfectly timed to deflect attention away from major crises facing the Park administration. When Park’s approval rating dipped in the fall of 2013 after her retreat on key campaign pledges regarding pensions and college tuition, her Justice Minister, to some degree, succeeded in diverting public attention by filing the petition against the UPP in the Constitutional Court.21 In the past month, Park had been embroiled in another crisis after controversial leaks exposed a power struggle among an unofficial group of people, including her own brother, who had been pulling the strings behind her administration.22 The Constitutional Court’s ruling on December 19 helped shift the public spotlight away from the precipitous drop in Park’s approval rating to an all-time low of 37%.23

We might be reminded that the last time the South Korean government forcibly dissolved an opposition party was during the Syngman Rhee dictatorship, when Rhee charged his political opponent, Cho Bong-am, with espionage and eliminated the Progressive Party.24 Cho was executed the following year, and Rhee himself was ousted shortly thereafter in the April 19 uprising of 1960.

In the wake of the 1960 uprising, the South Korean constitution was revised to include Article 8 in Chapter I to protect minority opposition parties from government suppression. Article 8 guarantees the freedom to establish political parties and outlines the legal mechanism for the dissolution of parties if their activities pose a clear and urgent threat to the Constitution.25 The Park Geun-hye government’s petition against the UPP was the first invocation of this mechanism since Article 8’s inception in 1960. The Constitutional Court’s ruling in this case therefore sets an ominous precedent for all opposition parties in the future.

Cold War Legacy of Silencing Political Opposition

South Korea has a long history of wielding anti-communist rhetoric to crack down on progressive political opposition by vilifying the latter as “pro-North Korea” or as North Korean agents.

On the eve of the Korean War, in 1948-49, under the pretext of eliminating “internal enemies,” the South Korean government carried out a scorched-earth campaign, killing an estimated 30,000 people, including women, children, and the elderly, on Jeju Island; in the summer of 1950 in the early stages of the war, it executed an estimated 100,000-200,000 in the Bodo League massacre; and in the course of the war, more than one million people were killed, many of them being innocent civilians massacred for having “communist tendencies.”26

Park Chung-hee, the father of the current president Park Geun-hye, ruled the country by military force for 18 years from 1961 to 1979, and established a vast intelligence apparatus primarily aimed at silencing dissent and eliminating political opponents.

Perhaps the most famous victim of such strong-arm politics was the late president Kim Dae-jung, kidnapped by the precursor to the NIS, the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, and charged with conspiracy and sedition. In 1973, in a dramatic incident that could be plucked from a movie script, the KCIA kidnapped Kim Dae-jung, the major political rival and most vocal critic of then-president Park Chung-hee. Kim narrowly escaped assassination after they took him, blindfolded, out to sea, where he might have met the fate of countless others who had been silently disappeared by the KCIA had they not been discovered at the eleventh hour by Japanese maritime authorities.27

Park Chung-hee’s successor, Chun Doo-hwan, who like his predecessor seized power through a military coup, arrested Kim Dae-jung for his role at the time of the Gwangju people’s uprising in 1980 and charged him with conspiracy to wage insurrection. Sentenced to death, he escaped execution due to international attention and calls for his release from pro-democracy forces, including from Pope John Paul II, who appealed to Chun for clemency.28 Kim was exonerated 25 years later in a retrial and later went on to serve as the president of South Korea and to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the country’s transition to democracy.

Today, South Korean courts have established greater judicial independence. Judges are no longer penalized for delivering decisions disagreeable to the ruling administration, as was commonly the case under South Korea’s military dictatorship. But South Korea has yet to escape the dark shadow of the National Security Law, which is often used to punish political opponents, including those who simply agitate for social progress and democratic rights.

Enacted on December 1, 1948 by the Syngman Rhee government to crush anti-government forces, the National Security Law gave new life to the infamous Public Order Maintenance Act established by Japanese authorities during the era of Japanese colonial rule on the Korean peninsula.29 The NSL was wielded by the Rhee regime to arrest, detain, and even execute thousands of opposition figures and dissolve social organizations and political parties. Subsequent military dictators, Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan, similarly used the National Security Law to fabricate countless espionage cases to suppress opposition parties.

Even after the ostensible end of military dictatorships and the inauguration of democracy in South Korea, the National Security Law continues to be used as a tool for suppressing progressive voices. It makes a broad spectrum of activities punishable by law. Article 7 of the law makes all activities that sympathize, praise, encourage, and/or promote the positions of North Korea punishable by up to 7 years imprisonment. Simply possessing materials that can be considered “benefiting the enemy” is also punishable. Most people accused of violating this law are punished under Article 7.30

The National Security Law directly breaches Article 19 of the International Covenant on Human Rights in so far as it fundamentally denies the right to freedom of thought and expression.31 For this reason, the UN Human Rights Committee as well as a host of international human rights organizations have repeatedly called on the South Korean government to abolish the National Security Law.

Born Out of the Struggle for Democracy

The UPP was heir to political formations that emerged out of the South Korean people’s struggle for democracy, namely, the People’s Victory 21 of 1987 and the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), founded in 2000.

After the decades-long South Korean struggle for democracy culminated in the June people’s uprising of 1987, thus finally putting an end to a succession of U.S.-backed military dictatorships, the forces at the helm of the democracy struggle, labor unions and social movement organizations, joined together to form the People’s Victory 21. Running its own candidate in the 1987 presidential election, the People’s Victory 21 became the foundation for the establishment of the Democratic Labor Party, which, in 2004, garnered 13% of the general vote and gained ten National Assembly seats to become the third largest political party in South Korea.32

Ahead of the 2012 general election, the DLP sought to unify all opposition parties into a coalition as the only viable strategy to defeat the ruling conservative party. But its hasty merger with other progressive and liberal forces to form the UPP was rocky from the start and eventually led to deep rifts from which the South Korean left has yet to recover. The UPP managed to gain 10.3% of the general vote and 13 National Assembly seats in the 2012 general election, but political infighting led to the defection of half of its National Assembly representatives and many of its party members.

Before the recent Constitutional Court ruling, the UPP held five National Assembly seats and was a membership-driven party with 100,000 dues-paying members, 30,000 of whom paid dues. This self-proclaimed “party for workers, peasants, and the common people” has been the most vocal opponent of Park Geun-hye’s policies on a range of issues, from privatization of public services to her hostile stance towards North Korea.

UPP Chair Lee Jung-Hee, who as a candidate in the 2012 presidential election publicly challenged and humiliated candidate Park in nationally-televised presidential debates,announced that she was running in order to make Park lose the election. Lee furthermore enraged Park by referring to her father, Park Jung-hee, by his adopted Japanese name, Takaki Masao, on national TV to remind the public of his dark past when he collaborated with Japanese colonialists. Many sense an element of revenge in Park’s assault on the UPP.

Lee Seok-ki, the Party’s most vocal critic of Park and the ruling party, has a colorful past like many pro-democracy activists in his generation. He was a student activist during Chun Doo-hwan’s military dictatorship, then served prison time from 2002 to 2003 for his activities in the outlawed People’s Democratic Revolution Party, and was eventually pardoned by former President Roh Moo-hyun. He went on to found a political consulting group, which helped to triple the DLP’s local electoral seats in 2010 and double the UPP’s National Assembly seats from six to thirteen in 2012. His success in helping progressive candidates win elections earned him the second position in the UPP’s party list for proportional representation in the 2012 general election.33

As a National Assembly member, Lee was a persistent critic of unequal South Korea-U.S. relations and called for dramatic cuts in South Korean subsidies for U.S. Forces in Korea.34 When Korea seemed on the brink of war in early 2013, he called for four-party talks among the two Koreas, China, and the United States.35 Lee also earned Park Geun-hye’s ire for his role in derailing her appointment of Korean American and former Bell Labs president, Kim Jeong-hoon, for the position Minister of Future Creation and Science by exposing his former connection to the CIA.36

In the summer of 2013, when the public began to learn about the illegal interference of the NIS in the 2012 presidential election, the UPP was on the streets, marching and organizing candlelight protests. Shortly thereafter, the Park Geun-hye government decided to raid and arrest Lee and other UPP members.

The Ongoing Fight to Defend Democracy

The entry of the Democratic Labor Party (later called UPP) into the National Assembly was heralded as a sign of South Korea’s progress as a democracy and a salutary acceptance of a diversity of viewpoints within the political arena. Today’s dissolution of the UPP reflects a marked retreat from such progress.

As MIT linguistics professor and political critic Noam Chomsky notes, “The courageous struggle of the Korean people for democracy has been an inspiration worldwide. The assault against the UPP is a serious blight on this record of achievement.37

The court ruling was followed by a series of denouncements by labor and civic groups, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, Citizens Coalition for Economic Justice, Professors for Democracy, Korean Alliance of Progressive Movements, and the Writers Association of Korea.

 

Roundtable to Oppose the Dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party and Defend Democracy. Source: Voice of People.

Under the banner of the “Roundtable to Oppose the Dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party and Defend Democracy,” pro-democracy forces that came together in the lead-up to the Constitutional Court ruling held an emergency meeting on December 22. The “Roundtable,” composed of leading intellectuals, elected officials, faith leaders, and civic society groups, as well as notable international figures, such as Chomsky and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, says the dissolution of the UPP will only further galvanize its forces.

“Remember the law of history: the more they trample on our desire for democracy and progress, the more extensively this desire will spread,” said UPP Chair Lee Jung-hee on the steps of the Constitutional Court after last week’s ruling, adding, “The outdated system of national division, buttressed through red-baiting, is destined to crumble. I am confident that the dream of progressive politics, shared by the UPP and the people, will only grow. Our people will rise up from this bitter moment and march onward.”38

 

Former Unified Progressive Party Chair Lee Jung-hee at a “Funeral for Democracy” after the Constitutional Court ruling on December 19, 2014. Source: No Cut News.

Pro-democracy forces in South Korea vow to mount a challenge to the current government’s assault on democracy. They have also launched an international campaign to demand the release of Lee and his co-defendants, awaiting a final Supreme Court ruling expected in January 2015. Their fight might very well be the most important one in recent South Korean history to defend the basic democratic principles that the South Korean people fought so valiantly to secure.

The author is grateful to Christine Hong of the Korea Policy Institute who provided encouragement and critical feedback and dedicated many precious hours for editing.

Hyun Lee is a member of the Working Group on Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific as well as a fellow at the Korea Policy Institute. She co-produces Asia Pacific Forum, a weekly radio show on culture and politics in Asia and the Asian diaspora.

Notes

1 Kang, Jeong-koo, Remarks at the Roundtable Meeting for the Protection of Democracy and against the Forced Dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party, November 6, 2014.

2 Kim, Hyung-Jin, S Korea lawmaker indicted over pro-NKorea charges, Associated Press, September 26, 2013.

3 Kim, Hyung-Jin, S Korea assembly votes to allow lawmaker’s arrest,” Associated Press, September 4, 2013.

4 Sam Kim, “South Korea’s ex spy chief indicted in election scandal,” Associated Press, June 14, 2013.

5 “Former spymaster gets 2-year jail term for graft,” Yonhap, January 22, 2014.

6 Lee, Kyung-mi, “NIS found to have shilled for conservatives on Twitter,” The Hankyoreh, March 11, 2014.

7 ([Gukjeongwon daetgeul susa balpyo] Gukjeongwon Simrijeondan 70yeomyeong jung 4myeong gisoyuye…nameojineun muhyeomui) [NIS Online Comments Investigation Report - Of the 70 Psychological Warfare Unit Personnel, 4 Receive Suspension of Prosecution...the Rest are Acquitted], Chosun Biz, June 15, 2013.

8 Lee, Kyung-mi, “NIS could have posted 22 million political messages online,” The Hankyoreh, December 6, 2013.

9 (“Gyeoljeongeul Naebonaeja” -> “Gyeoljeoneul Iruja”, Lee Seok-ki nokchuirok 272got yisang ‘oryu’) [“Let us decide” “Let us wage decisive war”, More than 272 ‘Errors’ in Lee Seok-ki Audio Transcript], The Hankyoreh, November 18, 2013.

10 Ibid.

11 Kim, Seon-sik, “Lawmaker Lee Seok-ki acquitted of plotting an insurrection,” The Hankyoreh, August 12, 2014.

12 (Tonghap jinbodang haesan cheonggu sageon seongo) [Pronouncement in the Case of the Petition to Dissolve the Unified Progressive Party], Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea, December 19, 2014.

13 Ibid.

14 (Beopmubu, daegeom “Tongjindang haesangyutan jiphwe bulbeop”) [Ministry of Justice, Prosecutor General “Protest against UPP Dissolution Illegal”], Donga.com, December 19, 2014.

15 (Geomchal, Lee Jung-hee deung jinbodang insa ‘gukbobeop wiban’ hyeomui susa chaksu) [Prosecutor General Opens Investigation of Lee Jung-hee and Progressive Party Personnel on Charges of ‘NSL Violation’], Voice of People, December 21, 2014.

16 (Bosudanche, jinbodang dangwonmyeongbu gonggaedo yogu) [Right-wing group demands release of UPP membership roster], Voice of People, December 24, 2014.

17 (Geomchal, Lee Sang-kyu, Kim Mi-hee jeon tonghapjinbodang uiwon sohwan josa) [Prosecution summons former UPP Representative Lee Sang-kyu Kim Mi-hee for Questioning], The Hankyoreh, December 26, 2014.

18 (‘Cheoldo nojo chepo jeoji’ Kim Mi-hee, Kim Jae-yeon beolgeum 300man) [‘Obstruction of railroad workers union arrest’ Kim Mi-hee, Kim Jae-yeon fined 3,000,000 won], Voice of People, December 24, 2014.

19 [Saenuridang, ‘Jinbodang uiwon 10nyeongan chulma jehan’ beoban chujin] (Saenuri Party pursuing bill to prevent UPP representatives from running in elections for the next 10 years), Voice of People, December 22, 2014.

20 “South Korea: Ban on political party another sign of shrinking space for freedom of expression,” Amnesty International press release, December 19, 2014.

21 Kwanwoo Jun, “Welfare Retreat Adds to Heat on President Park,” The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2013.

22 Choi, He-suk, “Allegations, accusations fly in probe of document leak,” The Korea Herald, December 11, 2014.

23 “Park’s approval rating hits record low: poll,” Yonhap, December 19, 2014.

24 Andrei Lankov, “Tragic end of communist-turned-politician Cho Bong-am,” Korea Times, January 9, 2011.

25 (Daehanminguk heonbeop) [Constitution of the Republic of Korea

26 Bruce Cumings. The Origins of the Korean War Volume II. Princeton University Press, 1990; Charles J. Hanley & Hyung-Jin Kim, "Korea bloodbath probe ends; US escapes much blame," Associated Press (San Diego Union Tribune), July 10, 2010.; Truth and Reconciliation, Activities of the Past Three Years, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of the Republic of Korea, March 2009.

27 Choe, Sang-hun, “Kim Dae-jung, Ex-President of S. Korea, Dies at 83,” New York Times, August 18, 2009.

28 “John Paul II's appeal saved future Korean president from death sentence,” Catholic News Agency, May 21, 2009.

29 Amnesty International, The National Security Law Curtailing Freedom of Expression and Association in the Name of Security in the Republic of Korea, 2012.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid.

32 Park, Mi, Democracy and Social Change: A History of South Korean Student Movements, 1980-2000, Peter Lang, 2008.

33 (Teukjip, Lee Seok-ki neun nugu? Silche eopneun ‘Sumeun silse Lee Seok-ki’) [Special feature - Who is Lee Seok-ki?], Kyunghyang Weekly, May 22, 2012.

34 Lee, Seok-ki, [Bangwibi bundamgeum hyepsang, migukui i-iki anira gukmingwa gukikeul wihan hyeopsangi dweeoya] (Negotiation for defense burden-sharing needs to be in the interest of the people and the nation, not the United States), July 24, 2013.

35 Lee, Seok-ki, (4jahwedaneuro jongjeonseoneon, pyeonghwacheje ikkeureonaeya) [The need for four-party talks for declaration to end the war and peace regime], Presented in the National Assembly of South Korea, April 15, 203.

36 Gregory Elich, “Political Firestorm in South Korea,” Counterpunch, September 12, 2013.

37 Noam Chomsky, Remarks at the Roundtable Meeting for the Protection of Democracy and against the Forced Dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party, November 6, 2014.

38 (Jinbodang haesansikindago jinbojeongchiui kkum haesansikil su eopda) (Dissolution of the UPP will not dissolve the dream of progressive politics), Voice of People, December 19, 2014.

The Main-Stream Media (MSM) is targeting a young and diverse population through Fusion, a new multimedia news service launched in 2013 and it is described as a “news, pop culture and satire TV and digital network.” Fusion is an American digital cable and satellite TV network that is jointly owned by the Disney-ABC Television Group, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company and Univision Communications Inc.

It is associated with ABC News and the Spanish-language news division of Noticias Univision. Fusion published an article featuring Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, a former bodyguard for Fidel Castro who was interviewed by the “Walter Cronkite of Hispanic media” Jorge Ramos called ‘Fidel’s Fortune: An Interview with Castro’s Former Bodyguard.’ It seems that there is a new media campaign to discredit Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution since the Obama administration and Raul Castro announced to the world that that their governments will restore diplomatic relations. Since the announcement, a divide among Cuban-Americans with those in favor of the embargo and those against it has taken place. However, Fusion with the MSM’s favorite “Hispanic journalist” (besides Geraldo Rivera of Fox News) Jorge Ramos has jumped on the opportunity to discredit the Cuban government on behalf of the anti-Castro Congress members, activists and Cuban-Americans who are mostly based in Florida and New Jersey. Ramos wrote:

The brothers Castro – Raul, the current president, and Fidel – still rule the island, and Obama’s momentous announcement has not changed that equation, nor will it. Many Cubans are well aware of this, especially Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, who for 17 years worked as Fidel Castro’s bodyguard, when Fidel was president. From 1977-1994, Sanchez protected the Cuban leader, and wrote about his experiences in a book, “Fidel Castro’s Hidden Life,” which was published earlier this year.

Ramos also mentions how loyal Sanchez was to Fidel Castro and the principles of the Cuban Revolution. He wrote

“Sanchez’s loyalty to Cuba and the communist regime was also impermeable. “I believed blindly in Fidel. To me, Fidel was the greatest – he was a god on a pedestal,” Sanchez told me. “I was not only willing to give my life for him, I was eager to do it.” According to Ramos, Sanchez claims that “he got to see firsthand how the communist dictator amassed a personal fortune, primarily through Cuban businesses whose profits, Sanchez said, went directly to the dictator.” And that “Castro has bank accounts in other countries, the central bank in Cuba maintains what officials call “the commander in chief’s reserves,” which not only include cash, but cars, trucks and other goods.” The article also said that Sanchez had applied for retirement in 1994 but was thrown in jail for two years as punishment because he tried to leave Castro’s security detail. Sanchez also said that he attempted eleven times to escape from Cuba but failed. Somehow he arranged for him and his family to come to the United States in 2008. Ramos asked him “why it took so long to tell his story” and Sanchez replied “I couldn’t talk about this in Cuba”, Sanchez said. “And it took me a long time to gather all the material [for the book].”

According to Ramos, Sanchez had told him that Castro is involved in drug trafficking because he overheard Castro and his Minister of the Interior, Jose Abrantes in a private conversation:

Sanchez also told me that part of Castro’s fortune came from drug trafficking. Sanchez said that in 1989, despite the fact that Castro would forcefully insist in public that the Cuban government had nothing to do with drug trafficking, the bodyguard overheard a private conversation between Castro and José Abrantes, then minister of the interior, that directly implicated Castro in the drug business. “That’s when everything fell apart for me, when everything crumbled” Sanchez said. “I spent more time with Fidel than I did with my own family, and after that moment I was in shock. I felt used, and angry.”

Ramos says that he met Mr. Sanchez at a summit in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1991 protecting Fidel Castro and was physically assaulted by his security detail, although not by Sanchez himself. Ramos wrote “when I approached Castro, microphone in hand, to try and ask a few questions. We walked a few steps, and when I started asking Castro about the lack of democracy in Cuba, I was punched in the stomach (though it wasn’t Sanchez who hit me) and was knocked to the floor. Castro and his guards kept walking, never turning their heads.” Sounds like something out of a Hollywood mafia movie when bodyguards protect their mob boss from the paparazzi. However, Jorge Ramos and Juan Reinaldo Sanchez are not alone when accusing the Cuban government of drug trafficking or any other illegal activities. In 2009, Rens Lee, President of Global Advisory Services and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) published an article titled ‘Cuba, Drugs, and U.S.-Cuba Relations’ which accuses the Cuban government of establishing relations with the Medellin cartel of Colombia:

Cuba’s relations with the international drug trade are historically complex and controversial and deserve some mention here. The Castro regime, on its accession to power in 1959, largely wiped out what had been a flourishing domestic market for cocaine and marijuana that was closely associated with the mob-run Havana casino-nightclub scene. Despite this achievement, opportunistic ties with foreign drug-trafficking organizations apparently persisted. Allegations of Cuban state complicity in the drug trade date to the early 1960s, although hard evidence of a Cuban drug connection did not surface until the 1980s.

Such cozy relationships reached a height in the late 1980s, when a group of Cuban Ministry of Interior officials, led by MC department head Antonio de la Guardia, together with representatives of Colombia’s Medellin cartel, coordinated some 15 successful smuggling operations through Cuba to the United States, which – according to Cuban officials – moved a total of six tons of cocaine and earned the conspirators $3.4 million.

Also complicit in these activities, though tangentially, was Division General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, a decorated hero of the Cuban revolution. An Ochoa emissary met with Medellin cartel chief Pablo Escobar in 1988 to discuss a cocaine-smuggling venture and also a proposal to set up a cocaine laboratory in Cuba. The discussions also touched on another topic – and this is what Escobar really wanted most – the transfer of some surface-to-air missiles to the cartel in Colombia. The trafficking schemes never materialized, but in early 1990 the Colombian National Police discovered an assortment of 10 ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles of French manufacture (apparently originating in Angola) in a Bogotá residence belonging to an assassin employed by the Medellin cartel.

Mr. Lee says that there was “no hard evidence” of Cuban drug trafficking until the 1980’s but was involved in the drug trade since the 1960’s. However, there is “hard evidence” that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was involved in the drug trade. Read “Dark Alliance”: The Story Behind the Crack Cocaine Explosion’ by Project Censored when it stated the facts on who was really behind the cocaine epidemic in the U.S. The article explains how Gary Webb’s investigative reporting led to the truth which the MSM wanted to bury. Mr. Webb was found dead from an apparent suicide with two (yes, two) gunshot wounds to his head. Project censored explained Mr. Webb’s findings:

A groundbreaking investigation at the dawn of the Internet age in 1996, the “Dark Alliance” series, like no other newspaper reportage had done before, documented the firm links between the United States government, Central American cocaine traffickers and a domestic U.S. cocaine epidemic that had ravaged entire American communities. It was a news story that shined the spotlight on U.S. government complicity in international drug trafficking and revealed the U.S. government’s much-vaunted “war on drugs” to be a sham.

But while the U.S. government agencies involved in those illegal activities — the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in particular — had plenty of reasons for wanting this story to go away, in the end it was elements of Webb’s own profession, the press, that had been offended most by “Dark Alliance” and worked hardest to not only debunk the findings reported in “Dark Alliance” but also to discredit and destroy the journalistic credibility of Webb himself.

The U.S. and Israel (who has consistently voted with the U.S. to continue its embargo) want “regime change” in Cuba. They want to remove Fidel and Raul Castro as do special business interests (both legal and illegal), the MSM and the Cuban-Americans in New Jersey and Florida because they say Cuba is a threat on many levels, including drug trafficking. However, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon’s own report in 1998 declaring that Cuba was not a danger to U.S. national security. In an article written by Steven Lee Myers titled ‘A Pentagon Report Now Belittles the Menace Posed by Cuba’ stated the following:

The Pentagon’s analysis, ordered by Congress last year, was no surprise, given Cuba’s economic implosion after the end of Soviet-era subsidies. But it still provoked anger among Cuba’s critics in Congress, who accused the Clinton Administration of softening its stand toward President Fidel Castro

Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Cuban-born Republican from Florida, said the Pentagon had ”blatantly minimized” what he called ”asymmetric threats” posed by Mr. Castro’s Government, including its support for drug traffickers.

Anti-Castro elements in congress were furious at the report as the New York Times explained what the Pentagon report had stated about Cuba’s military capabilities in comparison to the U.S. military:

The report said Cuba’s army could no longer mount ”effective operations” since most of its equipment is in storage. It said the navy could not operate in force outside of territorial waters, while the air force, with fewer than two dozen Soviet-era MIG jets still able to fly, could not even defend Cuban airspace against a large attack. In fact, the report said, the military ”must now grow its own food and raise money to pay for some of its own expenses.”

The report also offered what may be the most understated reason that Cuba’s military has never posed much of a threat to its big neighbor to the north: ”The Cubans almost certainly calculate that any attack on U.S. territory or forces would draw a swift, forceful U.S. reaction.”

The Cuban government is involved in drug trafficking and extortion according to Sanchez and other Anti-Castro activists. But I ask a few questions. First, how can the Cuban government who went “face to face” with the U.S. during the Cuban missile crisis (which was instigated by the Kennedy administration) with an embargo which began in 1960 manage to get “six tons of cocaine” into the US? How can the Cuban government ship a massive amount of drugs with U.S. intelligence agencies and the U.S. Southern Command’s (SouthCom) surveillance apparatus that constantly monitors Cuba’s actions?  Why would Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution betray their ideals and principals so that they can make a profit through illegal drug trafficking? How would that look in the eyes of the international community? These accusations by the Western media outlets are absurd.

Cuba has one of the most severe penalties for drug traffickers in the world. In fact, the MSM has been reporting that Cuba and the U.S. has collaborated together to fight the “War on Drugs” in recent years. BBC News reported in 2012 that “the US and Cuba severed diplomatic ties more than five decades ago. But officials on the ground acknowledge Cuba’s contribution to the common war on drugs” the report said. “[Without] a strong counter-drug stance, Cuba would be a prime area for drug smugglers, but its efforts are very effective,” says Louis Orsini of the US coastguard, adding that the US would find it “really challenging” if Cuba became a direct conduit for illicit narcotics.” The Associated Press published an article in 2013 titled ‘Under the radar, Cuba and US often work together’ and said:

The American government maintains a Coast Guard representative in Cuba, and the two countries work together to interdict suspicious boats. A U.S. diplomat involved in the process told The Associated Press that security officials on both sides are on a first-name basis, and that the Cubans happily accept FBI and Coast Guard baseball caps as gifts.

The report also said that Cuba has taken steps to work with U.S. counterparts against suspected drug traffickers in recent years according to Carlos Alzugaray, a former Cuban diplomat “He said Cuba has in recent years taken a pragmatic approach, more often than not cooperating on drug enforcement and judicial issues, something he hoped would one day lead to better ties.” The U.S. Department of State’s own analysis on Cuba’s War on Drugs released in 2013 is worth reading:

Despite its proximity to major transit routes for illegal drugs to the U.S. market, Cuba is not a major consumer, producer, or transit point of illicit narcotics. Cuba’s intensive security presence and bilateral interdiction efforts have effectively reduced the available supply of narcotics on the island and prevented traffickers from establishing a foothold. The Cuban Border Guard (TGF) maintains an active presence along Cuba’s coastal perimeter and conducts maritime counternarcotics operations and coastal patrols. Drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) frequently attempt to avoid Cuban and U.S. government counternarcotics patrol vessels and aircraft by skirting Cuba’s territorial waters.

Cuba’s domestic drug production and consumption remain negligible as a result of active policing, harsh sentencing for drug offenses, and very low consumer disposable income. Cuba’s counternarcotics efforts have prevented illegal narcotics trafficking from having a significant impact on the island.

This is an interesting fact based on the U.S. government’s assessment. The report also says that Cuba has a zero tolerance policy against corrupt government officials:

Cuba has strong policies in place against illicit production or distribution of narcotic or psychotropic drugs or other controlled substances, and laundering of proceeds from illegal drug transactions. Cuba professes a zero tolerance for narcotics-related corruption by government officials and reported no such corruption occurrences in 2012. As a matter of government policy, Cuba neither encourages nor facilitates illegal activity associated with drug trafficking.

It concluded that Cuba’s ‘War on Drugs’ has been a success from taking hold on the island:

Cuba continues to dedicate significant resources to prevent illegal drugs and their use from spreading on the island, so far successfully. The technical skill of Cuba’s security services gives Cuba a marked advantage against DTOs attempting to gain access to the island. Upgraded links between the United States, Cuba, and regional partners, along with improved tactics, techniques, and procedures, would likely lead to increased interdictions and disruptions of illegal trafficking.

Fusion is following Washington’s line along with the anti-Castro Cuban-American community to discredit and demonize the Cuban government. Although Cuba is not perfect, it has its principles especially when it comes to illegal drugs. Why would Fidel Castro risk his international reputation as fighter for human rights for the Cuban people by becoming a drug dealer? Why would Jorge Ramos make an accusation against Fidel Castro because a former bodyguard told him that he overheard a conversation about illegal drug trafficking? Ramos claims that he was punched in the stomach by Castro’s body guards in 1991, but there is no documented proof. Don’t you think that if it was true, it would have made international headlines? As for Sanchez’s claim that Fidel Castro is living like a king is not believable. British MP George Galloway has publically accused the media and in particular, Forbes magazine of propaganda against Fidel Castro when he said that “no responsible person in the world believes that Fidel Castro has a personal fortune of $900 million,” Galloway said, referring to the wealth Forbes magazine attributed to Castro”according to the Associated Press in a 2006 report.

The new U.S.-Cuba relations will be a battle in congress in terms of lifting the embargo. I would not be surprised that the “new diplomatic relations” will fail in the long term especially when both old and new accusations against the Castro government will continue to dominate headlines.  Jorge Ramos and the Fusion media network has already jumped on board to make sure that the propaganda they unleash on the American public would have them believe that Fidel Castro and the Cuban government were allegedly involved in drug trafficking and other crimes against the Cuban people throughout its history.  For the MSM, it makes sense.  Why would anyone trust a drug dealer who taxes his people for his own benefit?  As for the U.S. “War on Drugs” I guess the CIA and the DEA will continue to make sure that no illegal drugs reach U.S. Shores, after all that is what U.S. taxpayers expect from their government.

Despite being disproven as a strategy for reducing crime, the broken windows policing theory is still utilized in New York and throughout in the United States to crack down on disorder and nonviolent crime. To think that harsh enforcement of this type of “crime” would prevent serious crime like homicide and assault is patently absurd on its face. If you want to rid society of the most serious crimes, you should be enforcing the most serious crimes, like aggressive war. Call it broken countries policing.

In the United States in 2014, you may be arrested for selling loose cigarettes, jumping turnstiles, dancing on the subways, and having small amounts of marijuana, but not for assassination, torture, anal rape, illegal surveillance, or invading, occupying and bombing sovereign countries. 

The “broken windows” theory that you can nip violent crime in the bud by punishing minor “quality of life” violations like smoking and drinking in the street or sleeping on the subway is so transparently nonsensical it is hard to believe anyone could even consider it seriously.

It is equivalent to a diet to prevent obesity that consists of forgoing vegetables and grains because foods with the least calories are a gateway to fatty, fried foods with no nutritional value. Corn seeds are not twinkies, and sleeping on a subway train is not murder. 

Basic common sense and years of empirical data demonstrate that broken windows theory has no effect on preventing serious crime. When you understand this, it is easy to see that the broken windows theory put into practice is about something entirely different than its professed aims. 

There is a strong correlation between race and socioeconomic status in the U.S. Racial minorities suffer disproportionately lower socioeconomic status compared to whites, creating a racial caste system. With the drastic decline in recent decades of agriculture, manufacturing and other forms of manual labor, populations previously depended on for cheap labor have become disposable in the modern economy.

The state has undertaken a system of social control to prevent any solidarity and political opposition that would recognize and oppose unjust racial castes. Not coincidentally, broken windows policing has been carried out predominantly against African American and Latino citizens.

“The public is constantly getting out of control,” Noam Chomsky says. You have to carry out measures to insure that they remain passive and apathetic and obedient, and don’t interfere with privilege or power. It’s a major theme of modern democracy. As the mechanisms of democracy expand, like enfranchisement and growth, the need to control people by other means increases. 

This is accomplished by employing a police force that operates like an occupying army in poor neighborhoods of color under the guise of crime prevention. It would be impossible to admit publicly that the police mission in these communities is repression and subjugation. The idea of broken windows as a deterrent to violent crime provides cover to justify what is in reality a racist, punitive, paramilitary occupation.

As Henry Giroux wrote in a Truthout article on December 5 (State Terrorism and Racist Violence in the Age of Disposability: From Emmett Till to Eric Garner) we are living in “an age of disposability” which has seen “the rise of the punishing state as a way to govern all of social life.” 

“Under assault are those individuals and populations considered excess such as poor youth of color and immigrants” who are controlled by “fear of punishment, of being killed, tortured, or reduced to the mere level of survival,” Giroux writes. 

Raven Rakia describes in a Truthout article on November 20 (Subways Are an NYPD Hotspot in de Blasio’s New York) how low-level infractions have been disproportionately enforced against people of color, sweeping thousands into the criminal justice system and further marginalizing people already struggling economically.

“Arbitrary rules such as ‘no sleeping on a subway car in a way that is hazardous or interferes with others’ have turned into the NYPD brutally arresting a man on his way home from work in an almost empty subway car. He was later charged with resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and violating local law (the MTA rules),” Rakia writes. 

Repressive policing has long been used to maintain political and economic domination over minority groups in the United States. After African Americans were nominally liberated from slavery following the Civil War, southern states manipulated the legal system to replicate their control over freed slaves.

In his Pulitzer-prize-winning book Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From the Civil War to World War II, Douglas Blackmon describes how southern states criminalized black life, using the legal system to punish black and then lease them to corporations to work in coal mines, steel furnaces, farms, quarries and factories. This served the dual purposes of marginalizing blacks politically and supplying cheap labor to capitalist commercial interests.

“The original records of county jails indicated thousands of arrests for inconsequential charges or for violations of laws specifically written to intimidate blacks – changing employers without permission, vagrancy, riding freight cars without a ticket, engaging in sexual activity – or loud talk – with white women,” Blackmon writes.

The criminalization of black life has continued since the Reconstruction era, morphing into a new form. Whereas once there was convict leasing, now there is mass incarceration. People are warehoused in prisons at the highest rate in the entire world. Public prisons create jobs for construction workers and corrections officers in rural, mainly white communities, while private prisons turn prisoners into profit centers for corporations and their investors. 

One hundred years ago, African Americans were persecuted through the criminal justice system en masse. Today the system is remarkably similar. Besides exploitation for profit, criminalization of African American enables many of same types of discrimination as previously existed under Jim Crow.

Michelle Alexander notes in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindnessthat discrimination against African Americans today is arguably even more pernicious than under Jim Crow because it is carried out under a nominally colorblind legal system. However, the mindblowing numbers of imprisoned ethnic minorities who are imprisoned mostly for nonviolent crime make the racial aspect of the system indisputable. The result is eerily similar to post-Civil War discrimination against blacks.

“The ‘whites only’ signs may be gone, but new signs have gone up – notices placed in job applications, rental agreements, loan applications, forms for welfare benefits, school applications, and petitions for licenses, informing the general public that ‘felons’ are not wanted here. A criminal record today authorizes precisely the forms of discrimination we supposedly left behind – discrimination in employment, housing, education, public benefits, and jury service,” Alexander writes.

If we pretend for a minute that the criminal justice system was meant as a deterrent to prevent the most serious violent crimes then we could imagine the most severe punishment for such crimes. The worst crimes are those of violence – murder, rape, torture, assault, etc. – and white-collar crimes like fraud that rob people of their financial security.

While individuals can commit atrocious crimes on their own, states and corporations, by virtue of their size, money and influence, can magnify the size of serious crimes exponentially. International crimes are committed on a scale much larger than retail crime committed by individuals or local criminal organizations. The Holocaust is six million times worse than a single homicide in New York City.

As the enforcer of domestic law, the state has the obligation to lead by example and follow international law if it expects its citizens respect its law enforcement at home. It is not possible to break the law abroad while claiming moral authority inside the country’s borders. Why should anyone listen to someone who says: “Do as I say, not as I do?” 

Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated a damning indictment of the U.S. government – which at the time was engaged in a murderous war in Southeast Asia that killed 3 million Vietnamese – in his speech at Riverside Church in 1967 when he pointed out that one cannot oppose crimes of individuals while ignoring much larger crimes of the state:

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

King notes the dissimilarity of one person throwing a Molotov cocktail with the U.S. state using 30 billion tons of munitions in Indochina – including napalm, Agent Orange, cluster bombs, “pineapple” bomblets, daisy-cutter bombs, artillery shells, rockets, grenades and countless other weapons of mass destruction.

Aggressive war was deliberately defined Nuremberg Trials as the “supreme” crime “differing only from other crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

The U.S. government has been guilty of aggression multiple times since World War II, in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The President himself maintains a “kill list” that he uses in his extrajudicial drone assassination program that has killed thousands of people since the start of his Presidency. Among the victims have been at least two American citizens who were never convicted or even faced a single charge in any court of law.

Why should any U.S. citizen show indignation against a common street criminal who kills someone, but not against the President of the country who has executed people many times over? Since when did the President of what is supposed to be a democracy, where no one is above the law, gain the powers of judge, jury and executioner? 

Earlier in December, the Senate released the Executive Summary of its “Torture Report” (while the remaining 6,300 pages remain classified. The details of the summary are so horrific, they make crimes of Japanese general hanged for torture after World War II seem mild.

In addition to the many well-known cases of waterboarding, the Senate Report details instances of “rectal feeding and rectal hydration” which consisted of a detainee’s lunch “consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins, [being] ‘pureed’ and rectally infused. Additional sessions of rectal feeding and hydration followed.” 

These heinous, savage acts are anal rape. Never was the detainee tried or convicted of anything in a court of law. What makes this any different than a man who forces himself on a woman in a dark alley?

There is no one alive that would claim a rapist who violates a woman walking home from the subway would deserve to be let free because we need to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” yet that is exactly what President Obama said about rapists and other torturers after taking office in 2009. 

If there could possibly be any doubt morally about the actions described in the Senate Torture Report, legally there is not. The Convention against Torture makes indisputably clear that “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Furthermore, the state where torture takes place is obligated to “submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.”

There is no room under the law for someone’s opinion – a person on the street or in the White House – whether we should look forwards, backwards, or sideways. The law and the obligations of each party to the treaty could not be more clear: torture is never justifiable, and must always be punished.

As Tom Engelhardt explains in his book Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World: “Today, in the wake of the rampant extralegality of the Global War on Terror – including the setting up of a secret, extrajudicial global prison system of ‘black sites’ where rampant torture and abuse were carried to the point of death, illegal kidnappings of terror suspects and their rendition to the prisons of torture regimes, and the assassination by drone of American citizens backed by Justice Department legalisms – it’s clear that national security state officials feel they have near total impunity when it comes to whatever they want to do. They know that nothing they do, however egregious, will be brought before an open court of law and prosecuted.”

Since George W. Bush took office, the countries of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya lie in complete ruins. In Iraq alone, estimates run as high as 1 million deadas a result of U.S. military intervention. Many millions more have been wounded, displaced, widowed and orphaned. That is in Iraq alone. The situations in Afghanistan and Libya are equally as serious. Syria and Ukraine have been destroyed by destabilization and proxy wars encouraged every step of the way by the U.S. government. Millions cannot farm their fields in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia without fear of being incinerated by U.S. drones. 

Until the criminals who cause untold death and destruction abroad are held accountable, it is impossible to preach respect for the rule of law at home. The imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rash of unpunished police killings of unarmed black men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner, have made clear that the criminal justice system is not an impartial arbiter serving the nation to uphold justice but a weapon for those who control it, alternately enabling their own criminal actions and punishing others for actions that pale by comparison.

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. You can follow him on twitter.

Yugoslavia and the Betrayal of Democracy

December 29th, 2014 by Matthew Cooper

I have recently been reading a book by Czech economist Jaroslav Vaně kentitled The Participatory Economy: an Evolutionary Hypothesis and a Strategy for Development; it was written in 1971 and therefore at places feels a bit dated, but it contains many ideas which are both prescient and utterly profound, and perspectives which even at this late date came to me as surprising and counter-intuitive.

The book makes the argument for a market-based economic democracy in which the cooperative, worker-managed firm holds a central place, and asserts that this setup:

a.) would provide a basis for a larger number of firms in the market, better-proportioned in size with regard to one another;
b.) would reduce the most crass and cutthroat aspects of capitalistic competition in the market;
c.) would make full employment easier to attain;
d.) would significantly reduce inflation and runaway ‘growth for growth’s sake’; whilst at the same time it
e.) would operate very close to an optimal level of economic efficiency.

Though when Vaněk veers into social theory to make the cases for the equivalence of political and economic self-determination or for the ‘convergence’ of economies both planned and market, he heads out onto thin logical ice, the central argument itself is intriguing. Even more intriguing is the case-study he makes of the Yugoslav economy during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Vaněk’s sketch of Tito’s Yugoslavia is intriguing and appealing, and indeed counter-intuitive to most American audiences.

Vaněk’s sketch of Tito’s Yugoslavia is intriguing and appealing, and indeed counter-intuitive to most American audiences.

Vaněk asserts that Tito’s Yugoslavia in the wake of the Stalin-Tito split was the closest society in the world to his ideal of a worker-managed economy, and that as a result it was able to provide an example of a highly-efficient, humane and human-scaled economy, sporting near full employment, incredibly high educational standards and a high standard of living, which was the envy of many of the other nations in the region. He notes that the Yugoslav economy was built through a long process of trial-and-error, but that its income growth between 1951 and 1959 was unparalleled anywhere else in the world except Japan. Under the influence of Yugoslav economists Edvard Kardelj and Branko Horvat, it was, so it seems, a successful experiment in the flavour of economic democracy advocated by Vaněk (and before him, non-Marxist leftists in the British tradition, namely William Morris and G. D. H. Cole).

Vaněk’s sketch of Tito’s Yugoslavia is intriguing and appealing, and indeed counter-intuitive to most American audiences. It opens up a view to the possibility of a more humane economy, one with a greater eye to the organic participation of (as opposed to the state- or market-segregation of) the human person in his own work – an important theme which has been touched upon also by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Indeed, Vaněk is at his most beguiling when he begins to explore the decidedly non-Marxist, non-materialist – moralistic, spiritual, even religious – dimensions of his economic vision. He places a great deal of emphasis on man’s fundamental roles as creator and as co-creator, as participants, however imperfect, in the work of God. Vaněk is concerned – as indeed all religious men and women ought to be concerned – that the ontological disconnect in both capitalism and communism between moral man and the fruits of his work forebodes an exchange of the true for the merely expedient (as in advertising); an exchange of artistic and religious pursuits for mere accumulation; an exchange of meaning for mere diversion. The words Vaněk uses for this alienation under both capitalism and communism are not sparing: ‘purposeless’, ‘self-centred’, ‘incomplete personality’, even ‘mutilation’. It is little wonder indeed that he seeks after a more participatory model in which this systematic alienation between creator and created may be eased!

Much as I can sympathise with these aims and concerns, I do indeed have some deep problems with Vaněk’s political analysis, though. Vaněk is an idealist, as many Czechs indeed still are, and holds a burning zeal for political democracy which shines forth very clearly in his writing. There is not only charm and wit but also a thirst for truth in his reasoning, and it is difficult not to be swayed by it. And yet there is still a tragic dimension to the democratic project that he too-often overlooks; the Yugoslav experiment did not occur, and likely could not have occurred, in the context of Western-style liberal parliamentarianism. Given the recent history of my own nation, I believe it a highly incredible position also, that the adoption of a degree of political democracy (what he calls ‘inner’ self-determination) correlates in any meaningful way with a nation’s respect for the sovereign integrity (‘outer’ self-determination) of other nations. In fact, what ultimately happened to Yugoslavia in the wake of the Soviet collapse provides a highly tragic counterexample.

Once its usefulness as a geopolitical buffer between the West and the Soviet bloc evaporated with the dissolution of Soviet Union itself, the Yugoslav economy was deliberately sabotaged and broken by the political nexus of IMF-managed Western capital. As historian Michael Parentidescribes it, previously Yugoslavia had borrowed from the West in part to expand its domestic consumer production, and previously the IMF had obliged. But one of the preconditions of the IMF loan given to the Yugoslavs in 1989 was the imposition of what, by now, should look like an all-too-familiar prescription: austerity. Public programmes were slashed; wages were frozen; the currency was devalued and the system of worker-managed firms began to fray as their sources of investment began to dry up and as the legal framework which had supported them vanished under IMF ‘restructuring’. These reforms were pushed through at the beginning of the following year, to disastrous effect on the unique Yugoslav economy.

former_yugoslaviaAnd the following collapse of Yugoslavia’s now-fraying political institutions was given a hearty push by the Bush Administration in the form of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act of 1991, which denied aid to any regions of Yugoslavia which failed to declare independence within six months. The targets of this act were Yugoslavia’s industries and state assets, which Western capital interests were eager to acquire. Opportunistic politicians, encouraged both politically and economically to rebel against the Yugoslav government, began fanning the flames of nationalist ressentiment in every corner of the former republic – which already had ample grounds to grow in an economic environment where ordinary folk were now beholden to foreign interests, powerless, jobless, destitute and increasingly desperate.

The dismantling of Yugoslavia was a tragedy. It was a tragedy in part because of the hollow nature of the democratic idealism upon which the Yugoslav government was depending in the West. And it was a tragedy in part because the West viciously betrayed and stamped out not only the Yugoslavs – of whom over a hundred thousand were murdered and four million driven from their homes in the resulting fratricidal wars over the decade to follow! – but the Yugoslav model as well, which might have been instructive in some ways for political and economic practice in both West and East.

It is indeed necessary to continue to find ways of easing the alienation which occurs when the ordinary person is severed from the fruits of his work, the spiritual gulf that leaves, and the corrosions of induced passions and wants, of directionless work and of meaningless leisure. Vaněk’s participatory economy based on worker-managed firms – both in theory and in his example of 1950’s and 1960’s Yugoslavia – provides one interesting, and by no means wholly unconvincing, vantage point from which to do this. But it is also necessary, now as much as ever, to cast a critical eye upon the idealistic democratic language in which the geopolitics and finance of America and Western Europe are wont to cloak themselves. Here again the example of Yugoslavia is unfortunately instructive.

Matthew Cooper graduated University of Pittsburgh (International Development and Asian studies). He currently teaches English in China and serves as a contributing editor at Solidarity Hall thinkerspace.

Why? Evidence points to glyphosate toxicity from the overuse of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide on our food.

For over three decades, Stephanie Seneff, PhD, has researched biology and technology, over the years publishing over 170 scholarly peer-reviewed articles. In recent years she has concentrated on the relationship between nutrition and health, tackling such topics as Alzheimer’s, autism, and cardiovascular diseases, as well as the impact of nutritional deficiencies and environmental toxins on human health.

At a conference last Thursday, in a special panel discussion about GMOs, she took the audience by surprise when she declared, “At today’s rate, by 2025, one in two children will be autistic.”She noted that the side effects of autism closely mimic those of glyphosate toxicity, and presented data showing a remarkably consistent correlation between the use of Roundup on crops (and the creation of Roundup-ready GMO crop seeds) with rising rates of autism. Children with autism have biomarkers indicative of excessive glyphosate, including zinc and iron deficiency, low serum sulfate, seizures, and mitochondrial disorder.

A fellow panelist reported that after Dr. Seneff’s presentation, “All of the 70 or so people in attendance were squirming, likely because they now had serious misgivings about serving their kids, or themselves, anything with corn or soy, which are nearly all genetically modified and thus tainted with Roundup and its glyphosate.”

Dr. Seneff noted the ubiquity of glyphosate’s use. Because it is used on corn and soy, all soft drinks and candies sweetened with corn syrup and all chips and cereals that contain soy fillers have small amounts of glyphosate in them, as do our beef and poultry since cattle and chicken are fed GMO corn or soy. Wheat is often sprayed with Roundup just prior to being harvested, which means that all non-organic bread and wheat products would also be sources of glyphosate toxicity. The amount of glyphosate in each product may not be large, but the cumulative effect (especially with as much processed food as Americans eat) could be devastating. A recent studyshows that pregnant women living near farms where pesticides are applied have a 60% increased risk of children having an autism spectrum disorder.

Other toxic substances may also be autism-inducing. You may recall our story on the CDC whistleblower who revealed the government’s deliberate concealment of the link between the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella) and a sharply increased risk of autism, particularly in African American boys. Other studies now show a link between children’s exposure to pesticides and autism. Children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit phthalate chemicals, are more likely to have autism. Children whose mothers smoked were also twice as likely to have autism. Research now acknowledges that environmental contaminants such as PCBs, PBDEs, and mercury can alter brain neuron functioning even before a child is born.

This month, the USDA released a study finding that although there were detectable levels of pesticide residue in more than half of food tested by the agency, 99% of samples taken were found to be within levels the government deems safe, and 40% were found to have no detectable trace of pesticides at all. The USDA added, however, that due to “cost concerns,” it did not test for residues of glyphosate. Let’s repeat that: they never tested for the active ingredient in the most widely used herbicide in the world. “Cost concerns”? How absurd—unless they mean it will cost them too much in terms of the special relationship between the USDA and Monsanto. You may recall the revolving door between Monsanto and the federal government, with agency officials becoming high-paying executives—and vice versa! Money, power, prestige: it’s all there. Monsanto and the USDA love to scratch each others’ backs. Clearly this omission was purposeful.

In addition, as we have previously reported, the number of adverse reactions from vaccines can be correlated as well with autism, though Seneff says it doesn’t correlate quite as closely as with Roundup. The same correlations between applications of glyphosate and autism show up in deaths from senility.

Of course, autism is a complex problem with many potential causes. Dr. Seneff’s data, however, is particularly important considering how close the correlation is—and because it is coming from a scientist with impeccable credentials. Earlier this year, she spoke at the Autism One conference and presented many of the same facts; that presentation is available on YouTube.

Monsanto claims that Roundup is harmless to humans. Bacteria, fungi, algae, parasites, and plants use a seven-step metabolic route known as the shikimate pathway for the biosynthesis of aromatic amino acids; glyphosate inhibits this pathway, causing the plant to die, which is why it’s so effective as an herbicide. Monsanto says humans don’t have this shikimate pathway, so it’s perfectly safe.

Dr. Seneff points out, however, that our gut bacteria do have this pathway, and that’s crucial because these bacteria supply our body with crucial amino acids. Roundup thus kills beneficial gut bacteria, allowing pathogens to grow; interferes with the synthesis of amino acids including methionine, which leads to shortages in critical neurotransmitters and folate; chelates (removes) important minerals like iron, cobalt and manganese; and much more.

Even worse, she notes, additional chemicals in Roundup are untested because they’re classified as “inert,” yet according to a 2014 study in BioMed Research International, these chemicals are capable of amplifying the toxic effects of Roundup hundreds of times over.

Glyphosate is present in unusually high quantities in the breast milk of American mothers, at anywhere from 760 to 1,600 times the allowable limits in European drinking water. Urine testing shows Americans have ten times the glyphosate accumulation as Europeans.

“In my view, the situation is almost beyond repair,” Dr. Seneff said after her presentation. “We need to do something drastic.”

“We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’. – Harold Pinter

British playwright Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. His powerful acceptance speech exposed the United States for its fascist, imperialist policies since World War II. His speech (delivered three years before he died in 2008) was an important glimpse into – and a reasonable summary of — the innumerable documentable US imperialistic crimes that have been secretly facilitated by our multinational corporations, our national security apparatus, our military leaders, our wealthy elites and the craven politicians who are beholden to those four realities that have shaped American foreign policy over the past 60 years.

True American patriots, if they really love the United States, must be honest about the dishonorable, dark side of their nation’s history, a history that the rest of the world, especially Pinter, sees so clearly. Understanding that history will clear up any mystery about why the rest of the world fears and hates us.

Real patriots are courageous enough to hear painful truths.

Therefore I present below an extended excerpt from Harold Pinter’s acceptance speech. It was videotaped and posted at: http://www.nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=620. For the sake of the future of our children and the planet, please listen to it in its entirety, and then wonder out loud why none of our so-called leaders will ever bring themselves to utter such truths: 

“As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true.

“It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true.

“It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true, and it was not true.

“The truth is something entirely different. The truth has to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

“I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory for us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

“Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

“My contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded that it had carte blanche to do what it liked.”

“Low Intensity Conflict” in Central America

“Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued or beaten to death … the military and the great corporations sit comfortably in power, and they go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed.

“The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America’s view of its role in the world, both then and now.

“I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

“The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: ‘Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.’

In War, the Innocent People are the Ones Who Suffer the Most

“Ambassador Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.’ There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

“Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

“Finally somebody said: ‘But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?’

“Seitz was imperturbable. ‘I don’t agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,’ he said.

“As we were leaving the embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

“I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: ‘The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.’

“The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

“The death penalty was abolished by the Sandinistas. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

“The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self-respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.”

Reagan’s Tapestry of lies Covered up Gruesome Atrocities

“I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. But there was no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The ’totalitarian dungeons’ were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

“Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died.

“Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

“The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. ‘Democracy’ had prevailed.

“But this ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

Perennial US Support for Right-wing, Anti-democratic, Military Dictatorships

“The United States supported – and in many cases engendered – every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

“Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it because ‘it never happened.’

“Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

“The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a leash, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.”

The Invasion of Iraq was an act of Blatant State Terrorism

“The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

“We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’.

“How many people do you have to kill before you qualify as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is right and just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier finds himself in the dock, Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they’re interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

“Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don’t exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. ‘We don’t do body counts,’ said the American general Tommy Franks.

Full Spectrum Domination is the New American Foreign Policy

“I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

“The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don’t quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

“The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

“Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, ashamed and angered by their government’s actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.”

Dr Kohls is a retired physician who is involved in peace, nonviolence and justice issues and therefore resists – and writes about – fascism, corporatism, militarism, racism and all other violent anti-democratic movements.

The search operation for AirAsia flight QZ 8501, which allegedly crashed into the Java Sea Sunday, was resumed early Monday, Indonesian TV1 channel reported.

The search operation for AirAsia flight QZ 8501, which allegedly crashed into the Java Sea Sunday, was resumed early Monday, Indonesian TV1 channel reported.

AirAsia jet flying from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore, lost connection with air traffic control on Sunday morning. The plane carried 162 people on board, their destiny is still unknown.

This is the third Malaysia-linked airplane incident this year. Flight MH370 was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it went missing with 239 people on board on March 8. The search for the aircraft is still ongoing. Flight MH17 crashed on July 17 in Ukraine’s war-torn Donetsk Region. According to the preliminary investigation report, the plane broke up in mid-air as a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from the outside.

To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today’s Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of “evil” enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn’t change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public’s eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

This commitment to what the insiders called “perception management” began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

Image: President Ronald Reagan meeting with media magnate Rupert Murdoch in the Oval Office on Jan. 18, 1983, with Charles Wick, director of the U.S. Information Agency, in the background. (Photo credit: Reagan presidential library)

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others – depending on the U.S. government’s needs.

Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia’s supposed “aggression” in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today’s humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, many of these same U.S. foreign policy operatives – outraged over Russia’s limited intervention to protect ethic Russians in eastern Ukraine – are demanding that President Obama launch an air war against the Syrian military as a “humanitarian” intervention there.

In other words, if the Russians act to shield ethnic Russians on their border who are being bombarded by a coup regime in Kiev that was installed with U.S. support, the Russians are the villains blamed for the thousands of civilian deaths, even though the vast majority of the casualties have been inflicted by the Kiev regime from indiscriminate bombing and from dispatching neo-Nazi militias to do the street fighting.

In Ukraine, the exigent circumstances don’t matter, including the violent overthrow of the constitutionally elected president last February. It’s all about white hats for the current Kiev regime and black hats for the ethnic Russians and especially for Putin.

But an entirely different set of standards has applied to Syria where a U.S.-backed rebellion, which included violent Sunni jihadists from the start, wore the white hats and the relatively secular Syrian government, which has responded with excessive violence of its own, wears the black hats. But a problem to that neat dichotomy arose when one of the major Sunni rebel forces, the Islamic State, started seizing Iraqi territory and beheading Westerners.

Faced with those grisly scenes, President Obama authorized bombing the Islamic State forces in both Iraq and Syria, but neocons and other U.S. hardliners have been hectoring Obama to go after their preferred target, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, despite the risk that destroying the Syrian military could open the gates of Damascus to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Lost on the Dark Side

You might think that the American public would begin to rebel against these messy entangling alliances with the 1984-like demonizing of one new “enemy” after another. Not only have these endless wars drained trillions of dollars from the U.S. taxpayers, they have led to the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops and to the tarnishing of America’s image from the attendant evils of war, including a lengthy detour into the “dark side” of torture, assassinations and “collateral” killings of children and other innocents.

But that is where the history of “perception management” comes in, the need to keep the American people compliant and confused. In the 1980s, the Reagan administration was determined to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome,” the revulsion that many Americans felt for warfare after all those years in the blood-soaked jungles of Vietnam and all the lies that clumsily justified the war.

So, the challenge for the U.S. government became: how to present the actions of “enemies” always in the darkest light while bathing the behavior of the U.S. “side” in a rosy glow. You also had to stage this propaganda theater in an ostensibly “free country” with a supposedly “independent press.”

From documents declassified or leaked over the past several decades, including an unpublished draft chapter of the congressional Iran-Contra investigation, we now know a great deal about how this remarkable project was undertaken and who the key players were.

Perhaps not surprisingly much of the initiative came from the Central Intelligence Agency, which housed the expertise for manipulating target populations through propaganda and disinformation. The only difference this time would be that the American people would be the target population.

For this project, Ronald Reagan’s CIA Director William J. Casey sent his top propaganda specialist Walter Raymond Jr. to the National Security Council staff to manage the inter-agency task forces that would brainstorm and coordinate this “public diplomacy” strategy.

Many of the old intelligence operatives, including Casey and Raymond, are now dead, but other influential Washington figures who were deeply involved by these strategies remain, such as neocon stalwart Robert Kagan, whose first major job in Washington was as chief of Reagan’s State Department Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America.

Now a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, Kagan remains an expert in presenting foreign policy initiatives within the “good guy/bad guy” frames that he learned in the 1980s. He is also the husband of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who oversaw the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych last February amid a very effective U.S. propaganda strategy.

During the Reagan years, Kagan worked closely on propaganda schemes with Elliott Abrams, then the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America. After getting convicted and then pardoned in the Iran-Contra scandal, Abrams reemerged on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council handling Middle East issues, including the Iraq War, and later “global democracy strategy.” Abrams is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

These and other neocons were among the most diligent students learning the art of “perception management” from the likes of Raymond and Casey, but those propaganda skills have spread much more widely as “public diplomacy” and “information warfare” have now become an integral part of every U.S. foreign policy initiative.

A Propaganda Bureaucracy

Declassified documents now reveal how extensive Reagan’s propaganda project became with inter-agency task forces assigned to develop “themes” that would push American “hot buttons.” Scores of documents came out during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and hundreds more are now available at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

What the documents reveal is that at the start of the Reagan administration, CIA Director Casey faced a daunting challenge in trying to rally public opinion behind aggressive U.S. interventions, especially in Central America. Bitter memories of the Vietnam War were still fresh and many Americans were horrified at the brutality of right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador, where Salvadoran soldiers raped and murdered four American churchwomen in December 1980.

The new leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua also was not viewed with much alarm. After all, Nicaragua was an impoverished country of only about three million people who had just cast off the brutal dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza.

So, Reagan’s initial strategy of bolstering the Salvadoran and Guatemalan armies required defusing the negative publicity about them and somehow rallying the American people into supporting a covert CIA intervention inside Nicaragua via a counterrevolutionary force known as the Contras led by Somoza’s ex-National Guard officers.

Reagan’s task was made tougher by the fact that the Cold War’s anti-communist arguments had so recently been discredited in Vietnam. As deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, “the most critical special operations mission we have … is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us.”

At the same time, the White House worked to weed out American reporters who uncovered facts that undercut the desired public images. As part of that effort, the administration attacked New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner for disclosing the Salvadoran regime’s massacre of about 800 men, women and children in the village of El Mozote in northeast El Salvador in December 1981. Accuracy in Media and conservative news organizations, such as The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, joined in pummeling Bonner, who was soon ousted from his job.

But these were largely ad hoc efforts. A more comprehensive “public diplomacy” operation took shape beginning in 1982 when Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was transferred to the NSC.

A slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carré spy novel, Raymond was an intelligence officer who “easily fades into the woodwork,” according to one acquaintance. But Raymond would become the sparkplug for this high-powered propaganda network, according to a draft chapter of the Iran-Contra report.

Though the draft chapter didn’t use Raymond’s name in its opening pages, apparently because some of the information came from classified depositions, Raymond’s name was used later in the chapter and the earlier citations matched Raymond’s known role. According to the draft report, the CIA officer who was recruited for the NSC job had served as Director of the Covert Action Staff at the CIA from 1978 to 1982 and was a “specialist in propaganda and disinformation.”

“The CIA official [Raymond] discussed the transfer with [CIA Director] Casey and NSC Advisor William Clark that he be assigned to the NSC as [Donald] Gregg’s successor [as coordinator of intelligence operations in June 1982] and received approval for his involvement in setting up the public diplomacy program along with his intelligence responsibilities,”

the chapter said.

“In the early part of 1983, documents obtained by the Select [Iran-Contra] Committees indicate that the Director of the Intelligence Staff of the NSC [Raymond] successfully recommended the establishment of an inter-governmental network to promote and manage a public diplomacy plan designed to create support for Reagan Administration policies at home and abroad.”

During his Iran-Contra deposition, Raymond explained the need for this propaganda structure, saying: “We were not configured effectively to deal with the war of ideas.”

One reason for this shortcoming was that federal law forbade taxpayers’ money from being spent on domestic propaganda or grassroots lobbying to pressure congressional representatives. Of course, every president and his team had vast resources to make their case in public, but by tradition and law, they were restricted to speeches, testimony and one-on-one persuasion of lawmakers.

But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. “We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding,” Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.)

As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras.

At the time, the Contras were earning a gruesome reputation as human rights violators and terrorists. To change this negative perception of the Contras as well as of the U.S.-backed regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Reagan administration created a full-blown, clandestine propaganda network.

In January 1983, President Reagan took the first formal step to create this unprecedented peacetime propaganda bureaucracy by signing National Security Decision Directive 77, entitled “Management of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security.” Reagan deemed it “necessary to strengthen the organization, planning and coordination of the various aspects of public diplomacy of the United States Government.”

Reagan ordered the creation of a special planning group within the National Security Council to direct these “public diplomacy” campaigns. The planning group would be headed by the CIA’s Walter Raymond Jr. and one of its principal arms would be a new Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America, housed at the State Department but under the control of the NSC.

CIA Taint

Worried about the legal prohibition barring the CIA from engaging in domestic propaganda, Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983, so, he said, “there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this.” But Raymond continued to act toward the U.S. public much like a CIA officer would in directing a propaganda operation in a hostile foreign country.

Raymond fretted, too, about the legality of Casey’s ongoing involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was important “to get [Casey] out of the loop,” but Casey never backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss well into 1986. It was “the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in,” Raymond shrugged during his Iran-Contra deposition. He then offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics “not so much in his CIA hat, but in his adviser to the president hat.”

As a result of Reagan’s decision directive, “an elaborate system of inter-agency committees was eventually formed and charged with the task of working closely with private groups and individuals involved in fundraising, lobbying campaigns and propagandistic activities aimed at influencing public opinion and governmental action,” the draft Iran-Contra chapter said. “This effort resulted in the creation of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Department of State (S/LPD), headed by Otto Reich,” a right-wing Cuban exile from Miami.

Though Secretary of State George Shultz wanted the office under his control, President Reagan insisted that Reich “report directly to the NSC,” where Raymond oversaw the operations as a special assistant to the President and the NSC’s director of international communications, the chapter said.

“Reich relied heavily on Raymond to secure personnel transfers from other government agencies to beef up the limited resources made available to S/LPD by the Department of State,” the chapter said. “Personnel made available to the new office included intelligence specialists from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. On one occasion, five intelligence experts from the Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were assigned to work with Reich’s fast-growing operation.”

A “public diplomacy strategy paper,” dated May 5, 1983, summed up the administration’s problem.

“As far as our Central American policy is concerned, the press perceives that: the USG [U.S. government] is placing too much emphasis on a military solution, as well as being allied with inept, right-wing governments and groups. …The focus on Nicaragua [is] on the alleged U.S.-backed ‘covert’ war against the Sandinistas. Moreover, the opposition … is widely perceived as being led by former Somozistas.”

The administration’s difficulty with most of these press perceptions was that they were correct. But the strategy paper recommended ways to influence various groups of Americans to “correct” the impressions anyway, removing what another planning document called “perceptional obstacles.”

“Themes will obviously have to be tailored to the target audience,” the strategy paper said.

Casey’s Hand

As the Reagan administration struggled to manage public perceptions, CIA Director Casey kept his personal hand in the effort. On one muggy day in August 1983, Casey convened a meeting of Reagan administration officials and five leading ad executives at the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to come up with ideas for selling Reagan’s Central American policies to the American people.

Earlier that day, a national security aide had warmed the P.R. men to their task with dire predictions that leftist governments would send waves of refugees into the United States and cynically flood America with drugs. The P.R. executives jotted down some thoughts over lunch and then pitched their ideas to the CIA director in the afternoon as he sat hunched behind a desk taking notes.

“Casey was kind of spearheading a recommendation” for better public relations for Reagan’s Central America policies, recalled William I. Greener Jr., one of the ad men. Two top proposals arising from the meeting were for a high-powered communications operation inside the White House and private money for an outreach program to build support for U.S. intervention.

The results from the discussions were summed up in an Aug. 9, 1983, memo written by Raymond who described Casey’s participation in the meeting to brainstorm how “to sell a ‘new product’ – Central America – by generating interest across-the-spectrum.”

In the memo to then-U.S. Information Agency director Charles Wick, Raymond also noted that “via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds” to support pro-Reagan initiatives. Raymond’s reference to Rupert Murdoch possibly drawing down “added funds” suggests that the right-wing media mogul had been recruited to be part of the covert propaganda operation. During this period, Wick arranged at least two face-to-face meetings between Murdoch and Reagan.

In line with the clandestine nature of the operation, Raymond also suggested routing the “funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center.” (Freedom House would later emerge as a principal beneficiary of funding from the National Endowment for Democracy, which was also created under the umbrella of Raymond’s operation.)

As the Reagan administration pushed the envelope on domestic propaganda, Raymond continued to worry about Casey’s involvement. In an Aug. 29, 1983, memo, Raymond recounted a call from Casey pushing his P.R. ideas. Alarmed at a CIA director participating so brazenly in domestic propaganda, Raymond wrote that “I philosophized a bit with Bill Casey (in an effort to get him out of the loop)” but with little success.

Meanwhile, Reich’s Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America (S/LPD) proved extremely effective in selecting “hot buttons” that would anger Americans about the Sandinistas. He also browbeat news correspondents who produced stories that conflicted with the administration’s “themes.” Reich’s basic M.O. was to dispatch his propaganda teams to lobby news executives to remove or punish out-of-step reporters – with a disturbing degree of success. Reich once bragged that his office “did not give the critics of the policy any quarter in the debate.”

Another part of the office’s job was to plant “white propaganda” in the news media through op-eds secretly financed by the government. In one memo, Jonathan Miller, a senior public diplomacy official, informed White House aide Patrick Buchanan about success placing an anti-Sandinista piece in The Wall Street Journal’s friendly pages. “Officially, this office had no role in its preparation,” Miller wrote.

Other times, the administration put out “black propaganda,” outright falsehoods. In 1983, one such theme was designed to anger American Jews by portraying the Sandinistas as anti-Semitic because much of Nicaragua’s small Jewish community fled after the revolution in 1979.

However, the U.S. embassy in Managua investigated the charges and “found no verifiable ground on which to accuse the GRN [the Sandinista government] of anti-Semitism,” according to a July 28, 1983, cable. But the administration kept the cable secret and pushed the “hot button” anyway.

Black Hats/White Hats

Repeatedly, Raymond lectured his subordinates on the chief goal of the operation: “in the specific case of Nica[ragua], concentrate on gluing black hats on the Sandinistas and white hats on UNO [the Contras’ United Nicaraguan Opposition].” So Reagan’s speechwriters dutifully penned descriptions of Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua as a “totalitarian dungeon” and the Contras as the “moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers.”

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. “They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion … using the tools of Walt Raymond’s trade craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop,” the official admitted.

Another administration official gave a similar description to The Miami Herald’s Alfonso Chardy. “If you look at it as a whole, the Office of Public Diplomacy was carrying out a huge psychological operation, the kind the military conduct to influence the population in denied or enemy territory,” that official explained. [For more details, see Parry’s Lost History.]

Another important figure in the pro-Contra propaganda was NSC staffer Oliver North, who spent a great deal of his time on the Nicaraguan public diplomacy operation even though he is better known for arranging secret arms shipments to the Contras and to Iran’s radical Islamic government, leading to the Iran-Contra scandal.

The draft Iran-Contra chapter depicted a Byzantine network of contract and private operatives who handled details of the domestic propaganda while concealing the hand of the White House and the CIA. “Richard R. Miller, former head of public affairs at AID, and Francis D. Gomez, former public affairs specialist at the State Department and USIA, were hired by S/LPD through sole-source, no-bid contracts to carry out a variety of activities on behalf of the Reagan administration policies in Central America,” the chapter said.

“Supported by the State Department and White House, Miller and Gomez became the outside managers of [North operative] Spitz Channel’s fundraising and lobbying activities. They also served as the managers of Central American political figures, defectors, Nicaraguan opposition leaders and Sandinista atrocity victims who were made available to the press, the Congress and private groups, to tell the story of the Contra cause.”

Miller and Gomez facilitated transfers of money to Swiss and offshore banks at North’s direction, as they “became the key link between the State Department and the Reagan White House with the private groups and individuals engaged in a myriad of endeavors aimed at influencing the Congress, the media and public opinion,” the chapter said.

The Iran-Contra draft chapter also cited a March 10, 1985, memo from North describing his assistance to CIA Director Casey in timing disclosures of pro-Contra news “aimed at securing Congressional approval for renewed support to the Nicaraguan Resistance Forces.”

The chapter added: “Casey’s involvement in the public diplomacy effort apparently continued throughout the period under investigation by the Committees,” including a 1985 role in pressuring Congress to renew Contra aid and a 1986 hand in further shielding the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America from the oversight of Secretary Shultz.

A Raymond-authored memo to Casey in August 1986 described the shift of the S/LPD office – where Robert Kagan had replaced Reich – to the control of the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs, which was headed by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, who had tapped Kagan for the public diplomacy job.

Even after the Iran-Contra scandal unraveled in 1986-87 and Casey died of brain cancer on May 6, 1987, the Republicans fought to keep secret the remarkable story of the public diplomacy apparatus. As part of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join Democrats in signing the Iran-Contra majority report, Democratic leaders agreed to drop the draft chapter detailing the CIA’s domestic propaganda role (although a few references were included in the executive summary). But other Republicans, including Rep. Dick Cheney, still issued a minority report defending broad presidential powers in foreign affairs.

Thus, the American people were spared the chapter’s troubling conclusion: that a secret propaganda apparatus had existed, run by “one of the CIA’s most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert CIA operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration’s policies.”

Kicking the Vietnam Syndrome

The ultimate success of Reagan’s propaganda strategy was affirmed during the tenure of his successor, George H.W. Bush, when Bush ordered a 100-hour ground war on Feb. 23, 1991, to oust Iraqi troops from Kuwait, which had been invaded the previous August.

Though Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had long been signaling a readiness to withdraw – and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had negotiated a withdrawal arrangement that even had the blessings of top U.S. commanders in the field – President Bush insisted on pressing ahead with the ground attack.

Bush’s chief reason was that he – and his Defense Secretary Dick Cheney – saw the assault against Iraq’s already decimated forces as an easy victory, one that would demonstrate America’s new military capacity for high-tech warfare and would cap the process begun a decade earlier to erase the Vietnam Syndrome from the minds of average Americans.

Those strategic aspects of Bush’s grand plan for a “new world order” began to emerge after the U.S.-led coalition started pummeling Iraq with air strikes in mid-January 1991. The bombings inflicted severe damage on Iraq’s military and civilian infrastructure and slaughtered a large number of non-combatants, including the incineration of some 400 women and children in a Baghdad bomb shelter on Feb. 13. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Recalling the Slaughter of Innocents.”]

The air war’s damage was so severe that some world leaders looked for a way to end the carnage and arrange Iraq’s departure from Kuwait. Even senior U.S. military field commanders, such as Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, looked favorably on proposals for sparing lives.

But Bush was fixated on a ground war. Though secret from the American people at that time, Bush had long determined that a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would not be allowed. Indeed, Bush was privately fearful that the Iraqis might capitulate before the United States could attack.

At the time, conservative columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak were among the few outsiders who described Bush’s obsession with exorcising the Vietnam Syndrome. On Feb. 25, 1991, they wrote that the Gorbachev initiative brokering Iraq’s surrender of Kuwait “stirred fears” among Bush’s advisers that the Vietnam Syndrome might survive the Gulf War.

“There was considerable relief, therefore, when the President … made clear he was having nothing to do with the deal that would enable Saddam Hussein to bring his troops out of Kuwait with flags flying,” Evans and Novak wrote. “Fear of a peace deal at the Bush White House had less to do with oil, Israel or Iraqi expansionism than with the bitter legacy of a lost war. ‘This is the chance to get rid of the Vietnam Syndrome,’ one senior aide told us.”

In the 1999 book, Shadow, author Bob Woodward confirmed that Bush was adamant about fighting a war, even as the White House pretended it would be satisfied with an unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. “We have to have a war,” Bush told his inner circle of Secretary of State James Baker, national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and Gen. Colin Powell, according to Woodward.

“Scowcroft was aware that this understanding could never be stated publicly or be permitted to leak out. An American president who declared the necessity of war would probably be thrown out of office. Americans were peacemakers, not warmongers,” Woodward wrote.

The Ground War

However, the “fear of a peace deal” resurfaced in the wake of the U.S.-led bombing campaign. Soviet diplomats met with Iraqi leaders who let it be known that they were prepared to withdraw their troops from Kuwait unconditionally.

Learning of Gorbachev’s proposed settlement, Schwarzkopf also saw little reason for U.S. soldiers to die if the Iraqis were prepared to withdraw and leave their heavy weapons behind. There was also the prospect of chemical warfare that the Iraqis might use against advancing American troops. Schwarzkopf saw the possibility of heavy U.S. casualties.

But Gorbachev’s plan was running into trouble with President Bush and his political subordinates who wanted a ground war to crown the U.S. victory. Schwarzkopf reached out to Gen. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to make the case for peace with the President.

On Feb. 21, 1991, the two generals hammered out a cease-fire proposal for presentation to the NSC. The peace deal would give Iraqi forces one week to march out of Kuwait while leaving their armor and heavy equipment behind. Schwarzkopf thought he had Powell’s commitment to pitch the plan at the White House.

But Powell found himself caught in the middle. He wanted to please Bush while still representing the concerns of the field commanders. When Powell arrived at the White House late on the evening of Feb. 21, he found Bush angry about the Soviet peace initiative. Still, according to Woodward’s Shadow, Powell reiterated that he and Schwarzkopf “would rather see the Iraqis walk out than be driven out.”

In My American Journey, Powell expressed sympathy for Bush’s predicament. “The President’s problem was how to say no to Gorbachev without appearing to throw away a chance for peace,” Powell wrote. “I could hear the President’s growing distress in his voice. ‘I don’t want to take this deal,’ he said. ‘But I don’t want to stiff Gorbachev, not after he’s come this far with us. We’ve got to find a way out’.”

Powell sought Bush’s attention. “I raised a finger,” Powell wrote. “The President turned to me. ‘Got something, Colin?’,” Bush asked. But Powell did not outline Schwarzkopf’s one-week cease-fire plan. Instead, Powell offered a different idea intended to make the ground offensive inevitable.

“We don’t stiff Gorbachev,” Powell explained. “Let’s put a deadline on Gorby’s proposal. We say, great idea, as long as they’re completely on their way out by, say, noon Saturday,” Feb. 23, less than two days away.

Powell understood that the two-day deadline would not give the Iraqis enough time to act, especially with their command-and-control systems severely damaged by the air war. The plan was a public-relations strategy to guarantee that the White House got its ground war. “If, as I suspect, they don’t move, then the flogging begins,” Powell told a gratified president.

The next day, at 10:30 a.m., a Friday, Bush announced his ultimatum. There would be a Saturday noon deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal, as Powell had recommended. Schwarzkopf and his field commanders in Saudi Arabia watched Bush on television and immediately grasped its meaning.

“We all knew by then which it would be,” Schwarzkopf wrote. “We were marching toward a Sunday morning attack.”

When the Iraqis predictably missed the deadline, American and allied forces launched the ground offensive at 0400 on Feb. 24, Persian Gulf time.

Though Iraqi forces were soon in full retreat, the allies pursued and slaughtered tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers in the 100-hour war. U.S. casualties were light, 147 killed in combat and another 236 killed in accidents or from other causes. “Small losses as military statistics go,” wrote Powell, “but a tragedy for each family.”

On Feb. 28, the day the war ended, Bush celebrated the victory. “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all,” the President exulted, speaking to a group at the White House. [For more details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

So as not to put a damper on the post-war happy feelings, the U.S. news media decided not to show many of the grisliest photos, such as charred Iraqi soldiers ghoulishly still seated in their burned-out trucks where they had been incinerated while trying to flee. By that point, U.S. journalists knew it wasn’t smart for their careers to present a reality that didn’t make the war look good.

Enduring Legacy

Though Reagan’s creation of a domestic propaganda bureaucracy began more than three decades ago – and Bush’s vanquishing of the Vietnam Syndrome was more than two decades ago – the legacy of those actions continue to reverberate today in how the perceptions of the American people are now routinely managed. That was true during last decade’s Iraq War and this decade’s conflicts in Libya, Syria and Ukraine as well as the economic sanctions against Iran and Russia.

Indeed, while the older generation that pioneered these domestic propaganda techniques has passed from the scene, many of their protégés are still around along with some of the same organizations. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was formed in 1983 under the supervision of Walter Raymond’s NSC operation, is still run by the same neocon, Carl Gershman, and has an even bigger budget, now exceeding $100 million a year.

Gershman and his NED played important behind-the-scenes roles in instigating the Ukraine crisis by financing activists, journalists and other operatives who supported the coup against elected President Yanukovych. The NED-backed Freedom House also beat the propaganda drums. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow Foreign Policy.”]

Two other Reagan-era veterans, Elliott Abrams and Robert Kagan, have both provided important intellectual support for continuing U.S. interventionism around the world. Earlier this year, Kagan’s article for The New Republic, entitled “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire,” touched such a raw nerve with President Obama that he hosted Kagan at a White House lunch and crafted the presidential commencement speech at West Point to deflect some of Kagan’s criticism of Obama’s hesitancy to use military force.

A New York Times article about Kagan’s influence over Obama reported that Kagan’s wife, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, apparently had a hand in crafting the attack on her ostensible boss, President Obama.

According to the Times article, the husband-and-wife team share both a common world view and professional ambitions, Nuland editing Kagan’s articles and Kagan “not permitted to use any official information he overhears or picks up around the house” – a suggestion that Kagan’s thinking at least may be informed by foreign policy secrets passed on by his wife.

Though Nuland wouldn’t comment specifically on Kagan’s attack on President Obama, she indicated that she holds similar views. “But suffice to say,” Nuland said, “that nothing goes out of the house that I don’t think is worthy of his talents. Let’s put it that way.”

Misguided Media

In the three decades since Reagan’s propaganda machine was launched, the American press corps also has fallen more and more into line with an aggressive U.S. government’s foreign policy strategies. Those of us in the mainstream media who resisted the propaganda pressures mostly saw our careers suffer while those who played along moved steadily up the ranks into positions of more money and more status.

Even after the Iraq War debacle when nearly the entire mainstream media went with the pro-invasion flow, there was almost no accountability for that historic journalistic failure. Indeed, the neocon influence at major newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, only has solidified since.

Today’s coverage of the Syrian civil war or the Ukraine crisis is so firmly in line with the State Department’s propaganda “themes” that it would put smiles on the faces of William Casey and Walter Raymond if they were around today to see how seamlessly the “perception management” now works. There’s no need any more to send out “public diplomacy” teams to bully editors and news executives. Everyone is already onboard.

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is bigger than ever, but his neocon messaging barely stands out as distinctive, given how the neocons also have gained control of the editorial and foreign-reporting sections of the Washington Post, the New York Times and virtually every other major news outlet. For instance, the demonizing of Russian President Putin is now so total that no honest person could look at those articles and see anything approaching objective or evenhanded journalism. Yet, no one loses a job over this lack of professionalism.

The Reagan administration’s dreams of harnessing private foundations and non-governmental organizations have also come true. The Orwellian circle has been completed with many American “anti-war” groups advocating for “humanitarian” wars in Syria and other countries targeted by U.S. propaganda. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars.”]

Much as Reagan’s “public diplomacy” apparatus once sent around “defectors” to lambaste Nicaragua’s Sandinistas by citing hyped-up human rights violations now the work is done by NGOs with barely perceptible threads back to the U.S. government. Just as Freedom House had “credibility” in the 1980s because of its earlier reputation as a human rights group, now other groups carrying the “human rights” tag, such as Human Rights Watch, are in the forefront of urging U.S. military interventions based on murky or propagandistic claims. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]

At this advanced stage of America’s quiet surrender to “perception management,” it is even hard to envision how one could retrace the many steps that would lead back to the concept of a democratic Republic based on an informed electorate. Many on the American Right remain entranced by the old propaganda theme about the “liberal media” and still embrace Reagan as their beloved icon. Meanwhile, many liberals can’t break away from their own wistful trust in the New York Times and their empty hope that the media really is “liberal.”

To confront the hard truth is not easy. Indeed, in this case, it can cause despair because there are so few voices to trust and they are easily drowned out by floods of disinformation that can come from any angle – right, left or center. Yet, for the American democratic Republic to reset its goal toward an informed electorate, there is no option other than to build institutions that are determinedly committed to the truth.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon andbarnesandnoble.com). You also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

“Saudi oil policy… has been subject to a great deal of wild and inaccurate conjecture in recent weeks. We do not seek to politicize oil… For us it’s a question of supply and demand, it’s purely business.” – Ali al Naimi, Saudi Oil Minister

“There is no conspiracy, there is no targeting of anyone. This is a market and it goes up and down.” – Suhail Bin Mohammed al-Mazroui, United Arab Emirates’ petroleum minister

“We all see the lowering of oil prices. There’s lots of talk about what’s causing it. Could it be an agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to punish Iran and affect the economies of Russia and Venezuela? It could.” – Russian President Vladimir Putin

Are falling oil prices part of a US-Saudi plan to inflict economic damage on Russia, Iran and Venezuela?

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro seems to think so. In a recent interview that appeared in Reuters, Maduro said he thought the United States and Saudi Arabia wanted to drive down oil prices “to harm Russia.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales agrees with Maduro and told journalists at RT that: “The reduction in oil prices was provoked by the US as an attack on the economies of Venezuela and Russia. In the face of such economic and political attacks, the nations must be united.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the same thing,with a slightly different twist: “The main reason for (the oil price plunge) is a political conspiracy by certain countries against the interests of the region and the Islamic world … Iran and people of the region will not forget such … treachery against the interests of the Muslim world.”

US-Saudi “treachery”? Is that what’s really driving down oil prices?

Not according to Saudi Arabia’s Petroleum Minister Ali al-Naimi. Al-Naimi has repeatedly denied claims that the kingdom is involved in a conspiracy. He says the tumbling prices are the result of “A lack of cooperation by non-OPEC production nations, along with the spread of misinformation and speculator’s greed.” In other words, everyone else is to blame except the country that has historically kept prices high by controlling output. That’s a bit of a stretch, don’t you think? Especially since–according to the Financial Times — OPEC’s de facto leader has abandoned the cartel’s “traditional strategy” and announced that it won’t cut production even if prices drop to $20 per barrel.

Why? Why would the Saudis suddenly abandon a strategy that allowed them to rake in twice as much dough as they are today? Don’t they like money anymore?

And why would al-Naimi be so eager to crash prices, send Middle East stock markets into freefall, increase the kingdom’s budget deficits to a record-high 5 percent of GDP, and create widespread financial instability? Is grabbing “market share” really that important or is there something else going on here below the surface?

The Guardian’s Larry Elliot thinks the US and Saudi Arabia are engaged a conspiracy to push down oil prices. He points to a September meeting between John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah where a deal was made to boost production in order to hurt Iran and Russia. Here’s a clip from the article titled “Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia”:

“…with the help of its Saudi ally, Washington is trying to drive down the oil price by flooding an already weak market with crude. As the Russians and the Iranians are heavily dependent on oil exports, the assumption is that they will become easier to deal with…

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, allegedly struck a deal with King Abdullah in September under which the Saudis would sell crude at below the prevailing market price. That would help explain why the price has been falling at a time when, given the turmoil in Iraq and Syria caused by Islamic State, it would normally have been rising.

The Saudis did something similar in the mid-1980s. Then, the geopolitical motivation for a move that sent the oil price to below $10 a barrel was to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s regime. This time, according to Middle East specialists, the Saudis want to put pressure on Iran and to force Moscow to weaken its support for the Assad regime in Syria… (Stakes are high as US plays the oil card against Iran and Russia, Guardian)

That’s the gist of Elliot’s theory, but is he right?

Vladimir Putin isn’t so sure. Unlike Morales, Maduro and Rouhani, the Russian president has been reluctant to blame falling prices on US-Saudi collusion. In an article in Itar-Tass, Putin opined:

“There’s a lot of talk around” in what concerns the causes for the slide of oil prices, he said at a major annual news conference. “Some people say there is conspiracy between Saudi Arabia and the US in order to punish Iran or to depress the Russian economy or to exert impact on Venezuela.”

“It might be really so or might be different, or there might be the struggle of traditional producers of crude oil and shale oil,” Putin said. “Given the current situation on the market the production of shale oil and gas has practically reached the level of zero operating costs.” (Putin says oil market price conspiracy between Saudi Arabia and US not ruled out, Itar-Tass)

As always, Putin takes the most moderate position, that is, that Washington and the Saudis may be in cahoots, but that droopy prices might simply be a sign of over-supply and weakening demand. In other words, there could be a plot, but then again, maybe not. Putin is a man who avoids passing judgment without sufficient evidence.

The same can’t be said of the Washington Post. In a recent article, WP journalist Chris Mooney dismisses anyone who thinks oil prices are the result of US-Saudi collaboration as “kooky conspiracy theorists”. According to Mooney:

“The reasons for the sudden (price) swing are not particularly glamorous: They involve factors like supply and demand, oil companies having invested heavily in exploration several years ago to produce a glut of oil that has now hit the market — and then, perhaps, the “lack of cohesion” among the diverse members of OPEC.” (Why there are so many kooky conspiracy theories about oil, Washington Post)

Oddly enough, Mooney disproves his own theory a few paragraphs later in the same piece when he says:

“Oil producers really do coordinate. And then, there’s OPEC, which is widely referred to in the press as a “cartel,” and which states up front that its mission is to “coordinate and unify the petroleum policies” of its 12 member countries…. Again, there’s that veneer of plausibility to the idea of some grand oil related strategy.” (WP)

Let me get this straight: One the one hand Mooney agrees that OPEC is a cartel that “coordinates and unify the petroleum policies”, then on the other, he says that market fundamentals are at work. Can you see the disconnect? Cartels obstruct normal supply-demand dynamics by fixing prices, which Mooney seems to breezily ignore.

Also, he scoffs at the idea of “some grand oil related strategy” as if these cartel nations were philanthropic organizations operating in the service of humanity. Right. Someone needs to clue Mooney in on the fact that OPEC is not the Peace Corps. They are monopolizing amalgam of cutthroat extortionists whose only interest is maximizing profits while increasing their own political power. Surely, we can all agree on that fact.

What’s really wrong with Mooney’s article, is that he misses the point entirely. The debate is NOT between so-called “conspiracy theorists” and those who think market forces alone explain the falling prices. It’s between the people who think that the Saudis decision to flood the market is driven by politics rather than a desire to grab “market share.” That’s where people disagree. No denies that there’s manipulation; they merely disagree about the motive. This glaring fact seems to escape Mooney who is on a mission to discredit conspiracy theorists at all cost. Here’s more:

(There’s) “a long tradition of conspiracy theorists who have surmised that the world’s great oil powers — whether countries or mega-corporations — are secretly pulling strings to shape world events.”…

“A lot of conspiracy theories take as their premise that there’s a small group of people who are plotting to control something, to control the government, the banking system, or the main energy source, and they are doing this to the disadvantage of everybody else,” says University of California-Davis historian Kathy Olmsted, author of “Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11″. (Washington Post)

Got that? Now find me one person who doesn’t think the world is run by a small group of rich, powerful people who operate in their own best interests? Here’s more from the same article:

(Oil) “It’s the perfect lever for shifting world events. If you were a mad secret society with world-dominating aspirations and lots of power, how would you tweak the world to create cascading outcomes that could topple governments and enrich some at the expense of others? It’s hard to see a better lever than the price of oil, given its integral role in the world economy.” (WP)

“A mad secret society”? Has Mooney noticed that — in the last decade and a half — the US has only invaded nations that have huge natural resources (mainly oil and natural gas) or the geography for critical pipeline routes? There’s nothing particularly secret about it, is there?

The United States is not a “mad secret society with world-dominating aspirations”. It’s a empire with blatantly obvious “world-dominating aspirations” run by political puppets who do the work of wealthy elites and corporations. Any sentient being who’s bright enough to browse the daily headlines can figure that one out.

Mooney’s grand finale:

“So in sum, with a surprising and dramatic event like this year’s oil price decline, it would be shocking if it did not generate conspiracy theories. Humans believe them all too easily. And they’re a lot more colorful than a more technical (and accurate) story about supply and demand.” (WP)

Ah, yes. Now I see. Those darn “humans”. They’re so weak-minded they’ll believe anything you tell them, which is why they need someone as smart as Mooney tell them how the world really works.

Have you ever read such nonsense in your life? On top of that, he gets the whole story wrong. This isn’t about market fundamentals. It’s about manipulation. Are the Saudis manipulating supply to grab market share or for political reasons? THAT’S THE QUESTION. The fact that they ARE manipulating supply is not challenged by anyone including the uber-conservative Financial Times that deliberately pointed out that the Saudis had abandoned their traditional role of cutting supply to support prices. That’s what a “swing state” does; it manipulates supply keep prices higher than they would be if market forces were allowed to operate unimpeded.

So what is the motive driving the policy; that’s what we want to know?

Certainly there’s a strong case to be made for market share. No one denies that. If the Saudis keep prices at rock bottom for a prolonged period of time, then a high percentage of the producers (that can’t survive at prices below $70 per barrel) will default leaving OPEC with greater market share and more control over pricing.

So market share is certainly a factor. But is it the only factor?

Is it so far fetched to think that the United States–which in the last year has imposed harsh economic sanctions on Russia, made every effort to sabotage the South Stream pipeline, and toppled the government in Kiev so it could control the flow of Russian gas to countries in the EU–would coerce the Saudis into flooding the market with oil in order to decimate the Russian economy, savage the ruble, and create favorable conditions for regime change in Moscow? Is that so hard to believe?

Apparently New York Times columnist Thomas Freidman doesn’t think so. Here’s how he summed it up in a piece last month: “Is it just my imagination or is there a global oil war underway pitting the United States and Saudi Arabia on one side against Russia and Iran on the other?”

It sounds like Freidman has joined the conspiracy throng, doesn’t it? And he’s not alone either. This is from Alex Lantier at the World Socialist Web Site:

“While there are a host of global economic factors underlying the fall in oil prices, it is unquestionable that a major role in the commodity’s staggering plunge is Washington’s collaboration with OPEC and the Saudi monarchs in Riyadh to boost production and increase the glut on world oil markets.

As Obama traveled to Saudi Arabia after the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis last March, the Guardian wrote, “Angered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Saudis turned on the oil taps, driving down the global price of crude until it reached $20 a barrel (in today’s prices) in the mid-1980s… [Today] the Saudis might be up for such a move—which would also boost global growth—in order to punish Putin over his support for the Assad regime in Syria. Has Washington floated this idea with Riyadh? It would be a surprise if it hasn’t.” (Alex Lantier, Imperialism and the ruble crisis, World Socialist Web Site)

And here’s an intriguing clip from an article at Reuters that suggests the Obama administration is behind the present Saudi policy:

“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sidestepped the issue (of a US-Saudi plot) after a trip to Saudi Arabia in September. Asked if past discussions with Riyadh had touched on Russia’s need for oil above $100 to balance its budget, he smiled and said: “They (Saudis) are very, very well aware of their ability to have an impact on global oil prices.” (Saudi oil policy uncertainty unleashes the conspiracy theorists, Reuters)

Wink, wink.

Of course, they’re in bed together. Saudi Arabia is a US client. It’s not autonomous or sovereign in any meaningful way. It’s a US protectorate, a satellite, a colony. They do what they’re told. Period. True, the relationship is complex, but let’s not be ridiculous. The Saudis are not calling the shots. The idea is absurd. Do you really think that Washington would let Riyadh fiddle prices in a way that destroyed critical US domestic energy industries, ravaged the junk bond market, and generated widespread financial instability without uttering a peep of protest on the matter?

Dream on! If the US was unhappy with the Saudis, we’d all know about it in short-order because it would be raining Daisy Cutters from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, which is the way that Washington normally expresses its displeasure on such matters. The fact that Obama has not even alluded to the shocking plunge in prices just proves that the policy coincides with Washington’s broader geopolitical strategy.

And let’s not forget that the Saudis have used oil as a political weapon before, many times before. Indeed, wreaking havoc is nothing new for our good buddies the Saudis. Check this out from Oil Price website:

“In 1973, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat convinced Saudi King Faisal to cut production and raise prices, then to go as far as embargoing oil exports, all with the goal of punishing the United States for supporting Israel against the Arab states. It worked. The “oil price shock” quadrupled prices.

It happened again in 1986, when Saudi Arabia-led OPEC allowed prices to drop precipitously, and then in 1990, when the Saudis sent prices plummeting as a way of taking out Russia, which was seen as a threat to their oil supremacy. In 1998, they succeeded. When the oil price was halved from $25 to $12, Russia defaulted on its debt.

The Saudis and other OPEC members have, of course, used the oil price for the obverse effect, that is, suppressing production to keep prices artificially high and member states swimming in “petrodollars”. In 2008, oil peaked at $147 a barrel.” (Did The Saudis And The US Collude In Dropping Oil Prices?, Oil Price)

1973, 1986, 1990, 1998 and 2008.

So, according to the author, the Saudis have manipulated oil prices at least five times in the past to achieve their foreign policy objectives. But, if that’s the case, then why does the media ridicule people who think the Saudis might be engaged in a similar strategy today?

Could it be that the media is trying to shape public opinion on the issue and, by doing so, actually contribute to the plunge in oil prices?

Bingo. Alert readers have probably noticed that the oil story has been splashed across the headlines for weeks even though the basic facts have not changed in the least. It’s all a rehash of the same tedious story reprinted over and over again. But, why? Why does the public need to have the same “Saudis refuse to cut production” story driven into their consciousness day after day like they’re part of some great collective brainwashing experiment? Could it be that every time the message is repeated, oil sells off, and prices go down? Is that it?

Precisely. For example, last week a refinery was attacked in Libya which pushed oil prices up almost immediately. Just hours later, however, another “Saudis refuse to cut production” story conveniently popped up in all the major US media which pushed prices in the direction the USG wants them to go, er, I mean, back down again.

This is how the media helps to reinforce government policy, by crafting a message that helps to push down prices and, thus, hurt “evil” Putin. (This is called “jawboning”) Keep in mind, that OPEC doesn’t meet again until June, 2015, so there’s nothing new to report on production levels. But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to get regular updates on the “Saudis refuse to cut production” story. Oh, no. The media is going to keep beating that drum until Putin cries “Uncle” and submits to US directives. Either that, or the bond market is going to blow up and take the whole damn global financial system along with it. One way or another, something’s got to give.

Bottom line: Falling oil prices and the plunging ruble are not some kind of free market accident brought on by oversupply and weak demand. That’s baloney. They’re part of a broader geopolitical strategy to strangle the Russian economy, topple Putin, and establish US hegemony across the Asian landmass. It’s all part of Washington’s plan to maintain its top-spot as the world’s only superpower even though its economy is in irreversible decline.

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

A Political Mobilization of the American Police

December 29th, 2014 by Patrick Martin

The funeral Saturday for New York policeman Rafael Ramos, attended by an estimated 25,000 police from all over the United States, was a carefully orchestrated political event. With a list of speakers that included not only New York Governor Andrew Cuomo but also Vice President Joseph Biden, its purpose was to exploit the December 20 killing of two New York City patrolmen to mount a counteroffensive against the upsurge of popular anger over police brutality and murder. It provided an opportunity for a display of force aimed at intimidating and delegitimizing opposition to the wave of lethal police violence.

Prior to last week’s killing of the two New York City policemen, the police were on the political defensive. December began with coast-to-coast demonstrations against the rigged grand jury proceedings that allowed policemen in Ferguson, Missouri and New York’s Staten Island to go scot-free after killing unarmed black men. The whitewash of Officer Darren Wilson November 22, and the similar result for Officer Daniel Pantaleo December 3, underscored the reality that policemen kill with impunity in the United States.

These two cases resonated in the context of daily police violence, including the November 20 killing of Akai Gurley, 28, in the stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project by a cop who claimed his gun went off “accidentally,” and the November 22 execution-style killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, shot from a police car one second after it rolled up to the playground where he was playing with a toy gun.

Angered by these events, tens of thousands, including many youth and students, took part in protests demanding action. Many raised chants such as “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” and “I can’t breathe,” alluding to the last action of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. and the last words of 45-year-old Eric Garner, the victims in the Ferguson and Staten Island police killings.

The initial response to these protests by the political establishment was an attempt to co-opt them. Political agents of the Democratic Party such as Al Sharpton were assigned to give the protests a racial orientation, presenting the problem purely as one of white cops and black victims and thus disguising the deeper issue: the systematic buildup of state violence against all sections of the working class and the steady dismantling of democratic rights and constitutional procedures in the United States.

President Obama mouthed words of sympathy and appointed a commission to study police-community relations (packed with policemen and Democratic Party operatives). At the same time, he declared his support for the continued militarization of the police, keeping in place the Pentagon program that supplies local police departments with armored cars, machine guns and other advanced weaponry for urban warfare.

The demonstrations grew, with 25,000 turning out in Manhattan and at least 10,000 more in Washington DC on December 13.

The December 20 killing of New York patrolmen Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu provided an opportunity for the defenders and apologists for police brutality to push back. The two were gunned down by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a mentally disturbed Baltimore man who first shot his ex-girlfriend, then posted threats against police on the Internet demanding vengeance for the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and finally took a bus to New York City and shot the two policemen as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn.

There was no connection between Brinsley’s deranged action and the mass protests against police violence of the preceding weeks and months. But this did not stop fascist-minded cops and politicians, from the appropriately named police union leader Patrick Lynch to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, from declaring that all those who publicly opposed police violence had “blood on their hands.”

Perhaps the most politically significant statement of this slander came from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, in his address to the funeral service Saturday. “I frankly was amazed at the discipline and professionalism that the NYPD demonstrated,” he said. “The NYPD protected the right of freedom of speech even though they themselves were the target of false and abusive chants and tirades by some.”

Cuomo’s statement exemplifies the extent to which a thoroughly fascistic and police-state mentality pervades the ruling elite. The governor expresses his amazement that the police deigned to tolerate protests against its violent attacks on the civilian population. Apparently, Cuomo would have understood and sympathized with a bloody police crackdown on protesters.

The real attitude of the NYPD to constitutional rights was on display outside the church, where hundreds of police turned their backs when Mayor Bill de Blasio took the podium to deliver a eulogy. This action was a demonstration against de Blasio’s public posture of sympathy with the demonstrators against police brutality, and especially to his statement that he had counseled his biracial son to be cautious and avoid any possible provocation in encounters with the police.

The demonstration of contempt for de Blasio has a more far-reaching significance, however. It reveals the attitude of the police-military apparatus at every level to the civilian officials who nominally hold authority over them. From the cop on the beat to the CIA torturers and the military brass, those who carry out the dirty work of violence on behalf of the financial aristocracy are resentful of the restraints of legality and outraged when called to account for outright crimes.

The corporate-controlled media promotes this contempt for civilian authority. The New York tabloids have had one screaming headline after another aimed at glorifying the police and whipping de Blasio into line—quite successfully, as his meek performance of the past week has demonstrated.

No police department is less deserving of such praise than the NYPD, which has a filthy history of corruption and violence. As far back as the Knapp Commission (1970-71), triggered by the whistleblowing of detective Frank Serpico, the NYPD has been a watchword for bribe taking, shakedowns, and the virtual police takeover of criminal enterprises such as drug dealing. The names of victims of NYPD violence—from Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and Abner Louima to Eric Garner and Akai Gurley—mark its endless and ongoing brutality.

Democratic politicians like Vice President Biden, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio can be counted on to toe the line in defense of the police. But these efforts only expose the extent to which even the formal trappings of democracy are being eroded and the Bill of Rights trampled upon.

North Korea was hit by a second Internet shutdown on Saturday in what has all the earmarks of a US cyber-attack aimed at escalating its confrontation with Pyongyang. According to the Xinhua news agency, North Korea’s entire Internet access and mobile phone 3G network came to a standstill in the morning and remained “very unstable” throughout the day.

The Internet blackout follows unsubstantiated allegations by the FBI and the Obama administration that North Korea was behind the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment in response to The Interview a provocative film made in collaboration with the American intelligence-military establishment about a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

President Obama warned of a “proportionate response” against Pyongyang at “a time and place of our choosing.” He further inflamed tensions with North Korea by urging Sony to reverse its decision to withdraw the film from circulation. Just days later, on December 22, North Korea’s Internet access collapsed for the first time, blacking out the entire country. On both occasions, Washington refused to confirm or deny responsibility.

Every aspect of the intensifying confrontation reeks of a calculated US provocation. While the American and international media have presented North Korea’s alleged hacking of Sony as fact, the FBI “evidence” is so threadbare that many analysts have questioned its conclusion. Sam Glines, who runs the cyber-security company Norse, bluntly told CNN: “It’s clear to us, based on both forensic and other evidence we’ve collected, that unequivocally they [North Korea] are not responsible for orchestrating or initiating the attack on Sony.”

Pyongyang has denied any involvement in hacking Sony and proposed a joint investigation into the incident—an offer the US dismissed out of hand. Instead, the two cyber-attacks on North Korea appear to be directed at goading the Stalinist regime into a response that can be seized on to generate a major international dispute. On Saturday, North Korea hit back, accusing the US of disrupting its Internet operations and Obama of being “reckless in words and deeds.”

There is nothing “proportionate” in the US response to Pyongyang’s alleged hacking of Sony. The New York Times reported on December 20 that Obama had instructed the US military’s Cyber Command to devise “a range of offensive options” that could be used against North Korea, in addition to possible further sanctions, including measures aimed at isolating the country from the global financial system.

A comment published in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Time to End the North Korean Threat” demonstrates that powerful sections of the American ruling elite are pressing for a far more aggressive strategy directed at nothing less than regime-change in Pyongyang—a policy that threatens to trigger World War III. The article’s author, Richard Haass, is a central figure in the US foreign policy establishment—a former director of foreign policy studies at the Democratic Party-aligned Brookings Institution and former top-level diplomat, who is currently president of the semi-official Council on Foreign Relations.

After reviewing the options against North Korea currently being aired, Haass writes: “These ideas are fine as far as they go, but they don’t go far enough. The serious threat posed by North Korea far transcends cyberspace. Only one approach is commensurate with the challenge: ending North Korea’s existence as an independent entity and reunifying the Korean Peninsula.”

To justify such a dangerous course of action, Haass grossly magnifies the threat posed by North Korea’s very limited nuclear arsenal and its large but poorly equipped military. In fact, the capacity of North Korea to fight any military conflict has been seriously undermined by six decades of US-led economic sanctions, which have only escalated over the past decade on the pretext of halting the country’s nuclear programs.

Haass brushes aside the previous US approach, declaring: “There is no evidence that negotiations, sanctions or anything else have had or is having any effect on halting any of these [North Korean] activities.”

In fact, Washington’s negotiations with North Korea have never been in good faith. Offers to end Pyongyang’s isolation have always been accompanied by extortionate demands. When tentative deals have been reached, the US has sabotaged them. Since assuming office in 2009, Obama has never made a serious proposal to restart the six-party talks sponsored by China.

The US is not ratcheting up tensions with North Korea because the country poses a growing threat. Since taking over as leader following his father’s death in 2011, Kim Jong-un has hinted that the regime could be open to a rapprochement with Washington. Rather, the Obama administration’s aggressive policy towards Pyongyang is bound up with its far broader “pivot to Asia,” centrally targeting China and aimed at ensuring US hegemony throughout the region.

Haass’s comment was published just days after initial reports in the English language press that Beijing had decided to provide financial assistance to Moscow, threatening the US financial blockade of Russia. The WSWSwarned at the time that Washington would react aggressively to this challenge to its plans not only to dominate Asia, but the entire Eurasian landmass. By winding up tensions with North Korea, Obama is also threatening China, which has long regarded North Korea as a crucial buffer on its northeastern borders.

Given its strategic significance to China, Haass’s suggestion that Washington could enlist Beijing’s help in his proposal to eliminate North Korea as “an independent entity” is simply window dressing. While China has expressed concerns about the unstable Pyongyang regime, the last thing Beijing wants is a Korea unified by the US and South Korea, a long-time American client and ally, on its borders.

Haass himself makes clear that Washington should proceed with regime-change regardless of any assistance from China, writing: “Whether this is the case or not, the US needs to work with South Korea (and, if possible, Japan) to try to undermine North Korea from within.” His proposal to incite an internal rebellion along the lines of US-sponsored “colour revolutions” in former Soviet republics is utterly reckless and threatens to trigger a war on the Korean Peninsula that could draw the US into conflict with China and Russia.

The last time that US imperialism attempted regime-change in Pyongyang was in 1950. Having established a puppet police state in South Korea following World War II and encouraged its provocations against North Korea, the US and its allies seized on a North Korean military intervention into the South to launch a full-blown invasion. During the war, which cost the lives of millions of Koreans as well as many Chinese, US and allied troops, Washington seriously considered dropping nuclear weapons on China—as advocated by the top US commander, General Douglas MacArthur. A new war on the peninsula would have far more devastating consequences for humanity as a whole than the Korean War bloodbath.

by DroneWar.wordpress.com

See the video reporting allegations of over a hundred deaths in the last 24 hours:

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/12/23/391493/us-strike-kills-dozens-in-afghanistan/

23rd December: Press TV reports that dozens of people have been killed in airstrikes carried out by US-led forces in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Kunar. Washington claims the targets of its airstrikes are militants, but local officials and witnesses maintain that civilians have been the main victims of such airstrikes over the past few years.

US forces ‘mistakenly bombarded a house’

26th December: Agence France Presse reports from Afghanistan: Afghan officials said that a NATO airstrike Friday killed five civilians and wounded six others. District governor Mohammad Amin said, “At around 3:30 a.m., U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Aab Josh village of Baraki Barak district. The airstrike hit a residential house killing five and wounding six civilians.” Niaz Mohammad Amiri, Logar province’s acting governor, added, “U.S. forces were chasing down Taliban militants, but mistakenly bombarded a house. As a result, civilians were victims of the attack”.

Civilians protecting their land from nomads are killed

Associated Press reports another airstrike by US-led coalition forces on Friday which killed three Afghan villagers who were “heavily armed” but not part of the Taliban insurgency. The governor of eastern Logar province, Neyaz Mohammad Amiri, said the coalition told local authorities that the dead were Taliban insurgents, but villagers in the remote Ab Josh area disputed that claim, saying the dead were civilians who were protecting their land from nomads. Afghan security forces had been deployed to Ab Josh two days ago to mediate a clash between the villagers and Kuchi nomads, who have a reputation for violence and are often armed with machine guns and heavier weapons.

Meanwhile at an oceanfront Marine Corps base in Hawaii, President Barack Obama marked the end of more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan by paying tribute to America’s military, telling troops on Christmas Day that their sacrifices have allowed for a more peaceful, prosperous world to emerge out of the ashes of 9/11.

 In this anthology edited by Marjorie Cohn – law professor, Truthout contributor and human rights authority – the clarity of the case against drones used for assassinations is persuasively made. Get this book now, with an introduction by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The following is Cohn’s introduction to Drones and Targeted Killing, entitled “A Frightening New Way of War”:

In his 2009 acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, President Barack Obama declared, “Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war.” By the time Obama accepted the award, one year into his presidency, he had ordered more drone strikes than George W. Bush had authorized during his two presidential terms.

The Bush administration detained and tortured suspected terrorists. The Obama administration has chosen to illegally assassinate them, often with the use of drones. The continued indefinite detention of men at Guantánamo belies Obama’s pledge two days after his first inauguration to close the prison camp there. However, Obama has added only one detainee to the Guantánamo roster. “This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantánamo] they are going to kill them,” according to John Bellinger, who formulated the Bush administration’s drone policy.

On “Terror Tuesdays,” Obama and John Brennan, Obama’s former counterterrorism adviser, now CIA director, go through the “kill list” to identify which individuals should be assassinated that week. The Obama administration has developed a creative method to count the civilian casualties from these assassinations. All military-age men killed in a drone strike zone are considered to be combatants “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Brennan falsely claimed in 2011 that no civilians had been killed in drone strikes in nearly a year.

Obama orders two different types of drone attacks: personality strikes that target “named, high-value terrorists,” and signature strikes that target training camps and “suspicious compounds in areas controlled by militants.” In the signature strikes, sometimes called “crowd killings,” the Obama administration often doesn’t even know who are they killing. “But,” write Jo Becker and Scott Shane in the New York Times, “some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the C.I.A. for identifying a terrorist ‘signature’ were too lax. The joke was that when the C.I.A. sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued.”

Before taking the life of a person off the battlefield, the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires the government to arrest a suspect, inform him of the charges against him, and provide him with a fair trial. But like his predecessor, Obama defines virtually the entire world as a battlefield, ostensibly obviating the necessity to provide due process before execution.

. . . . .

The Bush administration took the position that neither the criminal law nor international humanitarian law – which comes from the Hague and Geneva Conventions and governs the conduct of war – protected the targets of the “War on Terror.” They existed in a legal “black hole.” Obama has apparently adopted the same position, although he has replaced the moniker “War on Terror” with “War on Al Qaeda.” But “there is not a distinct entity called Al Qaeda that provides a sound basis for defining and delimiting an authorized use of military force,” according to Paul Pillar, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

Both administrations have justified their targeted killing policies with reference to the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which Congress passed a week after 9/11.

. . . . .

This authorization is limited to groups and countries that supported the 9/11 attacks. Congress rejected the Bush administration’s request for open-ended military authority “to deter and preempt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States.” But deterrence and preemption are exactly what Obama is trying to accomplish by sending robots to kill “suspected militants.”

Obama has extended his battlefield beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, Yemen Somalia and Libya, even though the United States is not at war with those countries. U.S. drones fly from allied bases in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Italy, Qatar, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates. Expanding into West Africa, the United States has built a major drone hub in Djibouti.

Armed drones are operated by “pilots” located thousands of miles from their targets. Before launching its payload, the drone hovers above the area. It emits a buzzing sound that terrorizes communities. “The drones were terrifying,” observed New York Times journalist David Rhode, who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2008 and later escaped. “From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death. Drones fire missiles that travel faster than the speed of sound. A drone’s victim never hears the missile that kills him.”

After the drone drops a bomb on its target, a second strike often bombs people rescuing the wounded from the first strike. And frequently, a third strike targets mourners at funerals for those felled by the prior strikes. This is called a “double tap,” although it is more accurately a “triple tap.” U.S. drones have killed children, rescuers, and funeral processions “on multiple occasions,” according to a report written by Micah Zenko for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Obama’s administration has killed at least as many people in targeted killings as died on 9/11. But of the estimated 3,000 people killed by drones, “the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders,” CFR reported. “Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots.”

. . . . .

Drones are Obama’s weapon of choice because, unlike piloted fighter aircraft, they don’t jeopardize the lives of U.S. pilots. There are claims that the use of drones results in fewer civilian casualties than manned bombers. However, a study based on classified military data, conducted by Larry Lewis from the Center for Naval Analyses and Sarah Holewinski of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, found that the use of drones in Afghanistan has caused 10 times more civilian deaths than manned fighter aircraft.

“In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling ‘targeted killing’ of terrorists with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false,” according to the comprehensive report Living Under Drones issued by Stanford Law School and NYU Law School. Many killed by drones are civilians, or, as the administration says, “bug splat,” referring to the “collateral damage” estimate methodology the U.S. military and the CIA employ.

Targeted killing with drones is counterproductive. General Stanley McChrystal, architect of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, declared that drones are “hated on a visceral level” and contribute to a “perception of American arrogance.” Kurt Volker, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, concurs. “Drone strikes . . . do not solve our terrorist problem,” he noted. “In fact, drone use may prolong it. Even though there is no immediate retaliation, in the long run the contributions to radicalization through drone use may put more American lives at risk.” Mullah Zabara, a southern tribal sheikh from Yemen, told Jeremy Scahill, “The US sees al Qaeda as terrorism, and we consider the drones terrorism. The drones are flying day and night, frightening women and children, disturbing sleeping people. This is terrorism.” The CFR reported a “strong correlation” in Yemen between stepped up targeted killings since December 2009 and “heightened anger toward the United States and sympathy with or allegiance to AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula].”

Drone strikes breed increased resentment against the United States and lead to the recruitment of more terrorists. “Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants,” according to Becker and Shane. They quoted Faisal Shahzad, who, while pleading guilty to trying to detonate a bomb in Times Square, told the judge, “When the drones hit, they don’t see children.”

. . . . .

The Bush administration’s 2002 drone strike in Yemen that killed, among others, U.S. citizen Ahmed Hijazi, also known as Kamal Derwish, was the first publicly confirmed U.S. targeted killing outside a battlefield since President Gerald Ford signed a ban on political assassinations in 1976. “It means the rules of engagement have changed,” a former CIA official with knowledge about special operations told theLos Angeles Times after the strike in Yemen. “That would be the first time that they have started doing this kind of thing.”

It wouldn’t be the last. Scahill writes, “The secret war in Pakistan became largely a drone bombing campaign, described by CIA officers at the US Embassy in Islamabad as ‘boys with toys.’” By the end of Obama’s first year as president, he “and his new counterterrorism team would begin building the infrastructure for a formalized US assassination program,” Scahill added, with “an aggressive embrace of assassination as a centerpiece of US national security policy.”

. . . . .

In his 2013 speech to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Obama stated, “Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional – in part because we have shown a willingness, through the sacrifice of blood and treasure, to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interest, but for the interests of all.” But in addition to the U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of people in those countries have been killed and untold numbers wounded.

. . . . .

American exceptionalism also reared its head after the February 2013 leak of a Department of Justice (DoJ) White Paper that describes circumstances under which the President could order the targeted killing of U.S. citizens. There had been little public concern in the United States about drone strikes killing people in other countries. But when it was revealed that U.S. citizens might be targeted, Americas were outraged.

. . . . .

It is this double standard that motivated Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu to pen a compelling letter to the editor of the New York Times, in which he asked, “Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours?” The Archbishop elaborates on that observation in the Foreword to this collection.

In May 2013, as international criticism targeted Obama’s drone policy and the continued indefinite detention at Guantánamo where detainees were starving themselves to death and military guards were violently force-feeding them, the President delivered a speech. He explained that “the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces,” without defining who those “associated forces” are. Although he defended his use of drones and targeted killing, Obama proclaimed, “America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate and prosecute them.”

Obama referred to the killing of Osama bin Laden as exceptional because “capture, although our preference, was remote.” Yet it was clear when the U.S. soldiers arrived at bin Laden’s compound that the people there were unarmed and bin Laden could have been captured.

. . . . .

The month before Obama gave his speech, McClatchy reported that the administration had been misrepresenting the types of groups and individuals it was targeting with drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Citing classified U.S. intelligence reports, the McClatchy piece said that contrary to the administration’s claims that it had deployed drones only against known senior leaders of al Qaida and allied groups, it had in fact targeted and killed hundreds of suspected low-level Afghan, Pakistani and “other” militants in scores of strikes in Pakistan. At times, the CIA killed people who only were suspected, associated with, or who probably belonged to militant groups.” Micah Zenko, author of the CFR report cited earlier, said that McClatchy’s findings indicate the administration is “misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.”

. . . . .

In this interdisciplinary collection, human rights and political activists, policy analysts, lawyers and legal scholars, a philosopher, a journalist and a sociologist examine different aspects of the U.S. policy of targeted killing with drones and other methods. These contributors explore legality, morality and geopolitical considerations, and evaluate the impact on relations between the United States and the countries affected by targeted killings.

The book includes the documentation of civilian casualties by the leading non-governmental organization in this area; stories of civilians victimized by the drones; an analysis of the first U.S. targeted killing lawsuit by the lawyer who brought the case, as well as a discussion of the targeted killing cases in Israel by the director of The Public Committee Against Torture (PCATI) which filed one of the lawsuits; the domestic use of drones; and the immorality of drones using Just War principles.

International legal scholar Richard Falk explains in Chapter Two why weaponized drones pose a greater threat than nuclear weapons to international law and world order. He notes that nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945 except for deterrence and coercive diplomacy as the countries of the world have established regimes of constraint on their use through arms control agreements and nonproliferation. Drones, however, are unconstrained by any system of regulation. They will likely remain unregulated as “the logic of dirty wars” continues to drive U.S. national security policy.

In Chapter Three, policy analyst Phyllis Bennis describes assassination as central to U.S. war strategy due to the militarization of our foreign policy. She traces the program of assassination to the post-Vietnam era “Salvador option,” in which CIA and Special Forces developed assassination teams and death squads to avoid American casualties. Moving into the modern era, Bennis details how the war strategy shifted from counter-insurgency, with large numbers of U.S. troops, to counter-terrorism and targeted killing, using drones as the preferred weapon.

Chapter Four is an article published by journalist Jane Mayer in The New Yorker in 2009. This article was the first comprehensive exposé about the Obama administration’s escalation of drone use for targeted killing. It is also one of the earliest efforts at documenting civilian casualties from the use of drones. Mayer raises the legal, political, and tactical ramifications of drone warfare and asks troubling questions about possible unintended consequences of this new weapon.

In Chapter Five, sociology professor Tom Reifer examines America’s embrace of a global assassination program using the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA, which he calls “a paramilitary arm of the President.” He focuses on the effects of drone strikes on persons and targeted communities, as well as the drone pilots themselves.

Political activist Medea Benjamin, in Chapter Six, humanizes the victims of lethal drone strikes, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen. She includes personal stories about some of the victims and their family members. Benjamin describes how the drones, in addition to killing many innocent people, terrorize entire populations and destroy the fabric of local communities.

Chapter Seven is a comprehensive report by Alice K. Ross, of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, documenting civilian casualties of the drone strikes. She underlines the critical importance of publishing contemporaneous information on all casualties, civilian or militant, in a transparent, incident-by-incident manner – even where the information might be limited due to ongoing hostilities. Without such detail, Ross writes, it is impossible to effectively challenge casualty claims by officials and for victims of drone strikes to claim compensation.

The United States’ targeted killing through the use of drones and other methods violates international and U.S. law, human rights attorney Jeanne Mirer explains in Chapter Eight. Extrajudicial killing is not illegal in the context of a legally declared war on a battlefield. However, the United States wrongfully claims that “self-defense” gives it the right to execute anyone in any country, regardless of citizenship and regardless of the existence of a legal war. Mirer analyses how the United States is violating International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.

In Chapter Nine, Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriaei discusses the first legal challenge to the U.S. targeted killing program in Al-Aulaqi v. Obama. That case involved the Obama administration’s authorization of the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen in Yemen. She cites the imperative for accountability, including through judicial review, and discusses the obstacles constructed by the Obama administration that have effectively precluded judicial review thus far.

PCATI executive director Ishai Menuchin, in Chapter Ten, contrasts the discourse in Israel about the elimination of terrorists and preemptive action with the Palestinian discourse of “day-to-day acts of Israeli state-terror and repression.” He wonders how extrajudicial execution became official Israeli policy since Israel does not have the death penalty. Menuchin examines assassination petitions filed in the Israeli High Court of Justice, including the “Targeted Killing” case, PCATI v. Government of Israel, and he laments Israel’s lack of accountability.

In Chapter Eleven, philosopher John Kaag explains how drone warfare poses a serious challenge to Just War tradition and moral theory. He highlights the impact of drone use on the Just War requirements of proportionality and distinction, as well as on the definition of “collateral damage.” Kaag notes that the use of drone technology cannot be regulated by merely prudential concerns, but rather will turn on issues of legality and ethicality.

Legal scholar John Quigley analyzes in Chapter Twelve the impact of the policy of using lethal pilotless aircraft on relations between the United States and the countries in which the affected populations are located, in the context of a history of resentment against U.S. interventions and interference. He suggests that the policy redounds to the detriment of the United States by engendering resentment and the use of violence against the United States and its personnel. The chapter suggests that the Obama Administration is aware of these risks but continues its policy in spite of them.

In Chapter Thirteen, ACLU attorney Jay Stanley discusses policy issues surrounding the imminent arrival of domestic drones in U.S. airspace. The main concern is privacy. Stanley asks how the technology is likely to evolve, and how the First Amendment “right to photography” interacts with serious privacy issues implicated by drones. The national discourse about drone deployment has opened up a space for privacy activists and others to create a genuine public discussion of the issue before it is widely deployed.

Finally, in Chapter Fourteen, political activist Tom Hayden places the advent of the Drone Age into a historical context of U.S. military invasions and occupations. He discusses political and strategic considerations that animate the evolution of the military policies of President Obama, who is “in grave danger of leaving a new Imperial Presidency as his legacy.” Hayden advocates a transparent set of policies to rein in the use of drones and cyberwarfare, while protecting democracy.

Drones and targeted killing will not solve the problem of terrorism. “If you use the drone and the selected killings, and do nothing else on the other side, then you get rid of individuals. But the root causes are still there,” former Somali foreign minister, Ismail Mahmoud ‘Buubaa’ Hurre, told Scahill. “The root causes are not security. The root causes are political and economic.”

A Pentagon study conducted during the Bush administration concluded, “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” It identified “America, we ignore this admonition at our peril. Until we stop invading countries with Muslim populations, occupying their lands, torturing their people, and killing them with drones, we will never be safe from terrorism.”

It is my hope that this volume will provide information that can be marshalled to halt the illegal, immoral, unwise U.S. policy of assassination.

Full footnotes to the above excerpt can be found in Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. 

Copyright (2015) by Marjorie Cohn. Not to be reposted without permission of the publisher, Olive Branch Press.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, a former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general for scientific work of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law; and Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues. She testified twice before Congress about the Bush administration torture policy.

Third Malaysia Plane Crash in 2014

December 29th, 2014 by Global Research News

As authorities scramble to find out what happened to AirAsia flight QZ8501, so far believed to have crashed in the waters of Belitung, an Indonesian news portal Detik.com reported that there might still be hope.

It reported from Surabaya that a family of a missing passenger received a glimmer of hope via a Blackberry Messenger (BBM) text.

The portal quoted Intan, the sister of passenger Martinus Djomy as saying: “Kabarnya mendarat darurat di Belitung Timur, semua selamat. Tapi kita tetap butuh kepastian.”

(We got word that that the plane made an emergency landing in Belitung Timur, everyone is safe. But we still need to be sure.)

Intan said she learned about this from a friend who sent her the text message via BBM.

Her brother Martinus was travelling to Singapore with his wife, child and babysitter.

Detik.com reported that the piece of information was passed on to the authorities at the crisis centre in Juanda.

The news portal added that unfortunately, there remains no confirmation from relevant authorities whether the information was accurate or otherwise.

In a separate story, Detik.com also quoted Nasional Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) Jakarta chief Sutrisno as saying that the agency’s radar did not detect the flight’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT).

He said the ELT would go off if there was impact or if the plane had gone under water.

“If the plane landed smoothly on water, it wouldn’t have gone off, unless the device was not working. It didn’t go off so Basarnas doesn’t know its position now,” Detik quoted him as saying.

There are 155 passengers and seven crew members aboard the Singapore-bound jet, which had lost contact with the Surabaya air traffic control after it flew out of the east Java city at 5.20am Indonesian time. It was due to land at 8.30am Singapore time.

Indonesian nationals make up 156 of the 162 onboard, with the rest comprising three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Singaporean and one French.

Earlier this afternoon, reports quoted a National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas) official from Pangkalpinang, Supriandi, that the missing Airbus A320 was believed to have crashed at the location 03.22.46 South and 108.50.07 East, in waters around 80 to 100 nautical miles from Belitung.

Antara news agency reported that a rescue team had been despatched to Belitung.

It was reported that the missing flight had circled over the sea near Belitung to avoid a storm before it experienced severe turbulence and crashed into the ocean, reports said.